Proposed changes to European Union copyright regulations may outlaw all memes.
Imagine a world without the Philosoraptor, the Distracted Boyfriend, “One Does Not Simply”, or the Expanding Brain. The internet would be a far more boring, uninteresting place if all these classic memes were to disappear with no new memes to come after them.
That’s just what might happen if Article 13 of the proposed Copyright Directive ever comes into law.
Article 13 would stipulate that all platforms, from YouTube to Reddit and even ISPs, would need to zealously guard against user-generated content and "take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rights-holders for the use of their works.”
What this means is that any digital platform would need to run algorithms that search for and delete anything that infringes on a copyright. Since most memes are born from some form of copyrighted material, even if it’s just somebody’s birthday photo from 1999, then those memes would be deleted.
Digital rights activists were quick to declare the proposed law draconian in its reach, using the tale of 1984 to describe an overreaching government that wants to stamp out free speech (and there’s nothing free-er than memes). There are even concerns that whatever algorithms are put in place to guard against copyrighted material might be too sensitive and start deleting content that doesn’t actually violate copyright laws.
A campaign to revoke the proposed Article 13 is already underway called #SaveYourInternet. The campaign allows all EU residents to email or call their member of EU parliament to express their dissatisfaction with Article 13 and demand that it be removed.
EU members will vote on the Copyright Directive, as well as Article 13, on June 20th. Only then will we know the future of memes!