If a new set of laws is approved by the European Parliament next month, you might wonder where all the memes have gone.
Article 11 and 13 of a new copyright directive proposed by European legislators — the first since 2001 — are at the center of controversy after the new legislation was approved to advance by the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs on Wednesday, according to a report by Reuters.
The position taken by the legal affairs committee could represent the position Parliament will take when it begins closed-door negotiations with other European Union countries ahead of the general assembly meeting in July.
The last laws to address copyright in the information society date back 17 years. Parliament's legal committee adopted today its position on bringing EU-wide copyright rules in line with the digital age.— European Parliament (@Europarl_EN) June 20, 2018
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Article 11 passed with a 13-to-12 vote while Article 13 passed 15-10. But the new laws won't just affect EU countries, as many of the copyright holders who have stakes in the decision also do business in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Not to mention, content created in EU countries can be accessed in much of the world.
According to Reuters, Article 11, the "neighboring right for press publishers" law, would cause Google, Microsoft and other companies to pay publishers for news snippets.
Also, Article 13, the "mandatory upload filtering" clause, would force online platforms like YouTube and eBay to prevent user uploads, via algorithms, of materials that are copyrighted or for users to seek licenses to display content.
One example, offered by a Gizmodo report, of how this new legislation could affect the internet the world over is that photos used for memes would need to be created by each user who posts them. At the very least, users would need to secure the rights to use the meme photo before putting it on their Twitter feed or Instagram account. That means anything from Grumpy Cat to Rick Rolls could be blocked.
For those who create music remixes or video compilations, the new rules would limit use of much of that content, too. Gizmodo even suggests that wearing a copyrighted shirt in a photo on a Facebook profile could trigger algorithms to flag content and block it.
Several groups and individuals, including the Computer & Communications Industry Association, are criticizing the position taken by the Parliament members, Reuters reported. The CCIA is "an international not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to innovation and enhancing society’s access to information and communications" and includes the likes of Amazon, Google, Dish Network and Samsung among many others, according to its official website. The group has also condemned the U.S. decision against net neutrality.
According to an independent.co.uk article, a letter was signed by 169 academics and sent to Parliament to argue that if the new rule is approved, it could "impede the free flow of information that is of vital importance to democracy."
Full approval of the legislation will require a favorable vote from the entire Eurpoean Parliament, according to The Verge. Should the law pass in July, the new rules could go into effect as early as the end of this year.
There is always the possibility that the meetings leading up to the July vote could alter some of the language of the laws to make them less stringent.