The end of memes and remixes? What the new EU copyright law means for you

The end of memes and remixes? What the new EU copyright law means for you
New laws could severely limit what you see - and share - online (Photo: Shutterstock)

Experts have warned that new EU proposals on copyright law could cause “substantial damage” to the internet.

How will this affect you? Here’s what we know:

What’s happened?

Article 11 and Article 13 are new pieces of legislation within European copyright law which could have a significant impact on the way we use the internet.

Both Articles have been narrowly accepted by the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs.

They will now go to the European Parliament for a July vote.

What does this mean for the internet?

Article 13 puts more onus on websites, such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, to enforce copyright.

This would push companies to install filters to recognise and block any content which is deemed to belong to someone other than the person sharing it.

Lawmakers say even memes would be affected, as users would be required to take their own meme photos and give permission for others to use them.

It would also affect music online, with remixes and mashups likely to be outlawed.

What’s the ‘link tax’?

Article 11 meanwhile – dubbed the ‘link tax’ – is designed to limit the power over news publishers that huge tech giants like Facebook and Google currently have.

It would mean online platforms would need to pay publishers if they link to their content, with the aim being to support smaller news companies by driving traffic to their website homepages rather than only single stories.

However, when Spain attempted this in 2014 it resulted in the temporary closure of Google News Spain. A study the following year found that the link tax would ultimately cost publishers millions of dollars in lost revenue and that there was no “theoretical or empirical justification” for the scheme.

What are people saying about it?

The critics of Article 13 argue that no filter currently exists which would allow companies to monitor user content to the degree required. What’s more, should the law be introduced, it would block any image, text or meme online if it appears to have copyright material, even if it happens to be legal.

A number of people within the tech industry have publicly voiced concerns about both Articles, with 70 influential tech leaders, including the founder of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, having signed a letter opposing Article 13.

Opponents of Article 11 say it fails to clearly define what is meant by a link and could be abused by governments to limit freedom of speech.

It could also mean that social media sites such as Facebook would show less genuine news stories, creating space for fake news to spread.

Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler, speaking to holyrood.com, has warned that “this new directive could decrease traffic to websites for quality media outlets and harm journalism.

“The crackdown on memes and other online material could stifle creative talent, meaning artists, musicians, and writers who upload content might find it is deleted without their consent.”