On September 12th the European Parliament voted in approval of the Copyright Directive, a controversial reform of copyright laws in Europe that was spearheaded by Axel Voss, a German politician and member of the EU Parliament.
The reasoning behind the new law is to protect content creators from copyright infringements that have been prevalent on the Internet for years and to enable authors to collect royalties on their content being distributed online. While looking out for struggling creators and protecting the creative spirit in the digital age is in fact a noble cause, the consequences of the Copyright Directive are set to impact negatively everyone, from everyday social media users to the tech giants of Silicon Valley.
What Are Article 11 and Article 13?
The two sections of the new copyright law stirring the most controversy are captured in Article 11 and Article 13.
Article 11 calls for the creation of “link tax”, a fee which will be imposed on content sharing outlets such as Google News for distributing news content created by media companies. Proponents to the new law however claim that hyperlinks will be exempt and the fee will be applicable when actual snippets of content are being displayed.
Article 13 mandates that content hosting services such as YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, and even GitHub, the web-based code hosting platform popular among programmers, will be responsible for policing all content uploaded to their platforms against copyright infringements. YouTube has been dealing with copyright violations for years and although the system it currently uses to combat infringement on copyright was extremely expensive and took years to develop, users with ulterior motives continue to discover new ways to circumvent the filters. Creating and implementing similar safeguards by smaller platforms will be a financial burden many will not survive.
While we may not feel so sympathetic to the struggles of Big Tech, it is important to remember that the law will be equally applicable to everyone, including everyday social media users uploading movie clips and sharing memes with their friends and followers.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Copyright Directive is not quite the law of the land yet. Individual EU member countries are expected to vote on the issue domestically prior to a second vote in the European Parliament set for late 2018 or early 2019.
In the meantime, opponents of the new law have created several campaigns against Article 11 and Article 13. A Change.org petition titled “Stop the censorship-machinery! Save the Internet!” has gained more than 1 million signatures to date.