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The ‘war’ on memes

Posted on June 20th 2018

Could copyright law mean the end of internet memes?

User-generated online content, including memes, could disappear if the EU’s new proposed rules on copyright become law.

The new law would be called the Copyright Directive and European Parliament are set to vote on the issue today – June 20th. Wired is calling it a “bizarre war on memes,” but the law could force online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit to censor content.

What is the purpose of the Copyright Directive?

The legislation aims to protect the copyright rights of people in the internet age. However, it covers all copyrightable material which includes images, audio, video and much more. Article 13 of the proposed Copyright Directive states that platform providers should, “take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rights-holders for the use of their works”. The law wants large websites to use “content recognition technologies” to scan for copyrighted photos, music, text, and code.

What are the criticisms of the new legislation?

In effect, this legislation may require all internet platforms to filter content put online by users. It could result in an excessive restriction on free speech. The campaign against Article 13 is called Copyright 4 Creativity. It says that the proposals could “destroy the internet as we know it.” In an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, Technologists warn that this legislation could turn the internet into, “a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”

However, a European Commission spokesperson told Sky News: “The idea behind our copyright proposals is that people should be able to make a living from their creative ideas. The proposals to modernise EU copyright provisions will not harm freedom of expression on the internet.”

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