Today, the EU will vote on a collection of laws called the Copyright Directive that may have a chilling effect on how we share content online. These laws impact more than just the EU – they may change how the internet works around the world.
Taken as a whole, the EU Copyright Directive is a largely uncontroversial law with admirable goals. It seeks to updates outdated copyright laws and protect the rights of content creators and artists to get paid for their work.
However, two problematic measures – Article 11 and Article 13 – have critics worried about their potentially disastrous effects on free expression online.
If all of this sounds familiar to you, that’s because we’ve written about it before. Unfortunately, the directive is back for its final vote. Despite hopes that the problematic articles would be removed, they’ve survived to this, the final stage of the law’s path to implementation.
Article 11, known as the “link tax,” would give publishers the right to charge money for linking to their content. Analysts claim that the law, as currently written, could potentially end up taxing links as simple as an article title and hyperlink.
Naturally, this would have a powerfully suppressive effect on online discourse. The links that can drive conversations on forums, independent blogs, and social media could disappear.
Article 13 would have the effect of making heavy content censorship mandatory. The article would make content platforms, rather than submitters, responsible for copyright violations that occur on their platforms.
There are plenty of cases in which using copyrighted material is legal, like satire or political commentary. However, only human reviewers would be able to discern the use of the content and account for fair uses. Because there would be too much content for human reviewers to check, content platforms would use AI filters, which cannot discern between satire or commentary and simple violation. As a result, any use of copyrighted content would be filtered out. This is where the claim that the law is a “meme-killer” comes from. Many memes are based on copyrighted photos, so they would be filtered out – along with legitimate satirical or political commentary content.
The European Parliament is going to vote on the Copyright Directive on September 12th. You still have time to contact your representative and ask them to vote against this directive until it’s altered to ensure that the internet as we know and love it is preserved.