What is Article 13? EU has passed a 'meme ban' copyright law

26 March 2019, 14:44 | Updated: 26 March 2019, 14:49

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Picture: Unsplash
Benedict Townsend

By Benedict Townsend

The situation that many YouTubers have warned you about has just happened - and it could change the way we use the internet forever.

You may have heard a lot of people online talking about Article 13. The European Union has now passed a new series of laws that will dramatically affect online content - and one that could affect the way we share videos and memes.

The Copyright Directive is designed to help protect creators of all kinds and to give them more control over how their content is used and shared, particularly online. But there are two Articles within the directive - Articles 11 and 13, which have been widely criticised by YouTubers and and even YouTube itself.

The Copyright Directive was passed earlier today (March 26) with 348 votes in favour and 274 against. (There were 36 abstentions.)

What is Article 11?

It has been dubbed a 'link tax' by critics because it adds a barrier into the free flow of news and information. This will affect publishers and platforms more than individual creators.

What is Article 13?

Article 13 will more directly affect online creators and YouTubers.

Under Article 13, platforms like YouTube will be held directly responsible when someone violates copyright on their platform. This means that any copyright violation that is committed by users is then held as the fault of the company.

When you consider how much copyrighted material is uploaded to YouTube and Twitter, this will be devastating for YouTube... meaning YouTube will have to clamp the hell down on all copyrighted uploads, or face massive fines.

Why do people not like Article 13?

The prospect of YouTube and Twitter doing massive copyright sweeps in order to avoid being fined presents a dire prospect for creators, who will find their resources very much cut down. Right now, you can post a widely spread image from a meme on Twitter, but if there is a copyright claim on the original image (whether it be from a TV show or a music video for example), that meme will be taken down instantly.

YouTubers tried to rally people to protest the directive ahead of the initial vote.

While it's pretty controversial and incredibly concerning, it's not going to happen straight away. EU members states now have two years to put the reforms in place.

Thanks to this whole Brexit thing, it's also not clear what the passing of the law would mean for copyright in the UK.