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The European Union’s copyright infringement laws, Article 11 and Article 13, will put a lot of pressure on user-generated platforms like YouTube, making posts with copyrighted material impossible to upload. Article 11 is intended to give publishers and papers a way to make money when companies like Google link to their stories, allowing them to demand paid licenses. Article 13 requires certain platforms like YouTube and Facebook stop users sharing unlicensed copyrighted material. On the other side, those that use copyrighted material to create interesting or viral content (such as memes) feel this kind of law could mark the end of a free Internet, moving towards the Net Neutrality Act that has already been voted upon in the US.

Net Laws with gavel
© Scott Maxwell LuMaxArt / Shutterstock.com

The European Union Parliament voted on Articles 11 and 13 yesterday, approving the revised and controversial legislation – legislation that was turned down back in July 2018. Is it really the end of free speech and memes? This and more information has been reported earlier in the week by TechCrunch

They Mean Well

Like most of these new laws regarding data usage, data security and the Internet at large, they are meant to protect the rights and/or security of individuals – whether they are on the giving or taking end of the stick. However, theory and practise are two very different things.

Whilst Articles 11 and 13 are indeed designed to make sure copyrights are adhered to, and that copyright owners get their royalties, it could also be used to filter anything and everything anyone posts. The law could be used as a control mechanism, allowing the powers-that-be to control what content is seen and shared. 

Tech Giants

So who really is profiting? The public post the copyrighted material, and no or very little royalty cash makes its way into the hands of the creative copyright holders. Even under Article 13, the Googles and YouTubes of this world probably won’t be paying out enough in the first place to make it worthwhile to the copyright holder. Ask any musician about royalties from the Internet.

In other words, the tech giants are the ones that make billions off of the copyrighted materials. Alphabet, Google’s parent-company, made €31.16 billion in revenues in this year’s first quarter. And simply offering a place for users’ free acts of expression isn’t even their main business (advertising is). Article 11 may be effective in forcing Google to pay license fees to copyright holders, but attempts to do this in the past have failed.

The Filternet

All this boiled down, those against Article 13 are afraid that these restrictions will most surely leak over into other areas like data security, user “policing” and the dismantling of free expression on the Internet. The following video, made by an Australian satirical film and media company, humorously describes what Article 13 COULD mean if it is voted into effect next January.

“By requiring Internet platforms to perform automatic filtering all of the content that their users upload, Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”