On September 12, 2018 the European Union approved amendments to the controversial Copyright Directive. The directive is a piece of legislation that aims to update and modernize Copyright Laws to suit the internet age. The amendments seek to ensure that musicians, artists, journalists and media houses are paid for their work when it is shared or used on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube or Google News. The Directive consists of two amendments. The first, Article 11 forces tech giants like Facebook and Google News to pay a certain amount to news organizations while linking to their stories and showing news snippets. The second amendment, Article 13, requires all content uploaded to platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebok to be filtered for Copyright Infringement.
The directive has been proposed and implemented to make sure that artists and journalists get their fair share of remuneration every time their work is used on other platforms. It wishes to encourage creative expression among the users of the Internet and limit the extent of influence that tech-giants have over the web.
Article 13 in particular, has several far reaching implications. Prohibiting users to post any content that is not original means that Youtubers cannot include short pieces of copyrighted songs in their videos, Instagrammers cannot repost Vines and general users can’t repost reaction GIFs or even memes.
Opponents of the amendment include several internet presences and users who worry that this law would transform the face of the digital environment for the worse. They believe that the Internet runs on a collective consciousness, and this law would be a clear obstruction, thus limiting their freedom of expression. Hence, this law has been dubbed as the ‘law against memes’ or ‘the end of the Internet’. The CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki has taken a firm stance against the law. She writes on Twitter, “Article 13 could put the creative economy of creators and artists around the world at risk”.
However, there are still several ambiguities present with relation to the Directive. We do not know whether previously uploaded content violating the copyright will also be removed. The sheer bulk of data available on social media platforms can be filtered only through Bots powered by algorithms and artificial intelligence. However, no algorithm can ensure completely error free results.
According to the Article 11, a platform can share news articles from other news publishers if they include only the hyperlink and a few words, not giving away the crux of the article. It still hasn’t been specified what exactly constitutes ‘a few words’ to receive an exemption from the so called ‘link tax’.
This vote is not the end of the story. The European Parliament had undergone a vote regarding this Directive in June 2018 and would undergo another vote in January 2019. Although the directive is applicable only in the European Union, we would see its effects all around the global internet causing visible changes in the sort of content we consume.

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Shreyaa Balachandran

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