Understanding Article 13: The Meme-Killer Law

In March of 2019, in a 348 to 274 vote ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ, the European Union’s ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡บ Parliament enacted Article 13, which has been renumbered Article 17 of the Copyright Directive

Article 13, or what YouTubers call โ€œthe meme-killing lawโ€ says the following:

If an online content-sharing โ†ช๏ธ service like YouTube or Twitch publishes a creator’s video that contains copyrighted material, then the platform itself can be held civilly liable to pay money damages ๐Ÿ’ธ to the original owner of that copyrighted material.

The previous law, or the law that’s in effect in most non-European countries, is a passive system. 

This law, as opposed to Article 13, gives platforms a safety net; they can’t be sued for copyright infringement by users. Additionally, the old law takes any dispute between the video creator and original copyright holder off of the platform. 

As a content creator, you might be tempted to ask whether itโ€™s a good thing that copyright owners can recover damages ๐Ÿ’ฐ from not only those who stole their material but also the social media platform that posted it.

As a fierce protector of copyright owners’ rights to their property, I canโ€™t deny that copyright owners deserve any damages owed from illegal use of their art. 

However, the words of Article 13 do not allude to its sweeping effects once in practice, and how many people will lose money as a result.

The true effects of Article 13

Oftentimes, content creators – especially those who post live stream gaming ๐Ÿ•น๏ธ – depend on fair use to avoid copyright infringement strikes

However, fair use is a subjective measurement that depends upon subtle decision-making by humans. Therefore, computers ๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ and their upload filters usually can’t distinguish between copyright infringement and fair use. 

As a result, if computers cannot pick up fair use, and social media platforms can be sued for publishing content that is not fair use, platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Google, will stop publishing any questionable content. 

youtube fair use

In other words, any content that is not obviously fair use will be blocked โŒ; no videos, audio clips ๐Ÿ”ˆ, memes, nor video game livestreaming that has any borrowed content will be published by the social media platforms. 

This change will have an enormous effect on European social media content creators, especially those on YouTube and Twitch. 

Without social media to pump up ๐Ÿ“ˆ the popularity of their work, they’re going to earn less ๐Ÿ“‰. 

Additionally, without the ability to use derivative works under fair use principles, artists’ creativity will be stymied. 

Some creators will be able to get their original works out there on the larger social media platforms in Europe. However, the smaller upstart social media platforms won’t exist in Europe because they wonโ€™t be able to afford the content ID filters and the large computers it will take to adequately protect them against #lawsuits ๐Ÿ’ผ.

What can we do?

Within the next few years, Article 13 will be fully implemented, so citizens of the EU are pretty powerless when it comes to any hope for change. 

However, if you live outside of Europe, itโ€™s imperative that you read the Copyright Directive, listen ๐ŸŽง to commentators and law experts, and keep yourself informed. 

Once the law is enacted in 2021, it will only be a matter of time โŒ› before movie producers, record ๐ŸŽ™๏ธ companies, and news ๐Ÿ—ž๏ธ corporations do their best to get a similar law on the ballot in your community.

As former EU Parliament member Julia Reda said, “Today was a dark day for Internet freedom.” Letโ€™s join together to ensure the dark days donโ€™t continue.