Meme ban considered by EU over copyright concerns

Photo courtesy of knowyourmeme.com | A meme that is being called into question under Article 13. The question remains: is it an original parody or copyright infringement?


The new copyright directive proposed by the European Union (EU) raise concerns among web developers and “meme lords” alike because of its potential limitations on free speech.

The EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market was previously proposed this past June. This resulted in an open letter criticizing the directive. Signatures including Tim Berners-Lee, a World Wide Web founder, and Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia. A flood of disapproval from the public unleashed itself on Twitter.

In the end, the proposal was rejected by the European Parliament. However, it is currently being reconsidered, and a final decision will be made in January 2019.

The directive consists of 17 articles, some of which raise concern with the citizens of the EU. The most concerning is Article 13, known as the “meme ban” which requires online platforms to filter or remove copyrighted material from their websites rather than rely on copyright owners to contact the platforms for removal of the content.

It can be incredibly difficult to monitor a place as vast as the Internet. Large sites such as Google, YouTube and Twitter might utilize automated filtering systems to remove copyrighted material.

This becomes an issue when considering parodies of copyrighted content, such as memes.

Parodied content is protected as original content, regardless of its use of material without consent from the holders of the copyright.

Despite this, automated filters have minimal capability to determine what is copyright infringement and what is a parody. This can lead to legally produced content being stripped from the internet unintentionally.

According to some, this is more than just a “meme ban.” Sophomore Jax Benson believes that Article 13 can be used against the public to spread fascism throughout the EU and beyond.

“It’s inherently a danger to free speech, and because of that, it is too dangerous to let actually happen, which is why many people in the EU are protesting against it currently,” Benson said.

He gives the example of limiting free speech expressed through protest, stating, “(Article 13) is a useful tool to censor a large majority of people because the automated filtration systems can search for key words and key images that are used by protestors and as such it can kind of limit the protestors’ exposure.”

If the Directive of Copyright passes, member states will be required to develop their own copyright laws following the directors guidelines within two years of its passing.

The fate of the new copyright directive lies in the hands of national lawmakers. Reform is based on their interpretation of the articles.

Thus, the directive is more of an objective for member states to accomplish.
Until a final decision is reached, the obscure, humorous and sometimes disturbing child of the internet known as “the meme” will live on.


By: Alana Harvey | Staff Writer