This Change In Law Could Kill Off Memes For Good

26 June 2018, 12:31

Memes are under threat
Memes are under threat. Picture: Other

By Josh Lee

First Net Neutrality, now this.

Meme culture as we know it could come to an end soon, thanks to a new law proposed by the European Union.

This week, the European Union approved proposals for copyright laws that Google's head of global public policy once said "would effectively turn the internet into a place where everything uploaded to the web must be cleared by lawyers before it can find an audience." The new model for copyright law would make platforms, not users, responsible for copyrighted content published online, obligating platforms to take "appropriate and proportionate measures" to keep copyrighted material off their sites. Experts have hypothesised that this could result in content filters that would automatically detect if content is copyrighted before it is published.

This would have huge implications for memes, which are very often copyrighted images but usually go unpoliced as typically they aren't used for commercial gain. While only European publishers would be beholden to the changes, with the globalised nature of publishing and content its impact could reach further.

Some EU officials have played down the potential impact of the changes, with German Member of European Parliament Axel Voss, Rapporteur of the European Parliament for the Copyright Directive telling The Next Web that "claims of censorship, upload filters, and link tax are all a total exaggeration.”

However, others disagree. German Member of European Parliament Julia Reda has blasted the proposed changes, saying, "it is impossible to predict what copyrighted material users will upload in the future, and the proposal is in no way limited to particular types of copyrighted content.

"That means that in order to comply with the law, platforms would have to obtain a license for each of billions of copyright-protected works in the world, because they might be uploaded in the future and the platform would be liable for copyright infringement as soon as the material would become available.

"As this is impossible for even the largest platform, operators will have no choice but to try to mitigate their liability through automated filters."

The European Parliament will vote on the reform in July.