Death to the meme? Activists believe EU copyright law could destroy internet culture

Death to the meme? Activists believe EU copyright law could destroy internet culture
Internet interaction could forever be changed, according to digital rights groups, if the European Union passes revamped copyright legislation effectively banning memes, Wikipedia citation and other staples of the online world.

The EU is set to vote on the new Copyright Directive, a draft legislation regarding a digital single market, later this month. In the update to European copyright law, greater onus is being put on so-called “information society service providers” to protect creative work by artists, academics and publishers of original content.

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The legislation would force websites and online platforms to “take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders for the use of their works.” However, Article 13 of the proposal is being criticized by some digital freedom activists who believe it could destroy the fabric of the internet.

It’s being argued that memes, such a Grumpy Cat, Pepe the Frog and More Cowbell could be some of the more bizarre elements of the internet hit by the legislative overhaul.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights organization based in San Francisco, described the proposal as “unworkable and dangerous”. Citing Wikipedia as an example of how the law could have a negative impact, the EFF said the online encyclopedia could be forced to stop submissions of information and images.

The group said that if the law was applied in its strictest sense, videos of protests with music in the background, or even online adverts displaying the cover of a book, could be pulled offline. The group said the only country to embrace such a law is China, where online public discourse is routinely policed and inhibited.

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“The collateral damage they [the EU] will impose on every realm of public life can’t be overstated,” the EFF warned. “The internet, after all, is inextricably bound up in the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Europeans and an entire constellation of sites and services will be adversely affected by Article 13.”

With a vote on the article set to go ahead on June 20, Campaign group Save Your Internet has since set up a website to lobby members of the European Parliament. “Article 13 would restrict the ability of internet users to consume content. The days of communicating through gifs and memes, listening to your favourite remixes online might be coming to an end,” the group said.

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