Controversial 'Meme-Killing' EU Copyright Legislation Passes By Landslide
Both the 'Link Tax' and the 'Upload Filter' articles have been approved
After months of controversy, two articles which are part of the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market have now been approved. MEPs voted in favour of the adoption of both Article 11 and Article 13, with the latter having 438 votes in favour, 226 against and 39 abstentions.
These proposals, aimed at harmonising all of the member states' copyright laws, were designed to update the latest EU copyright law, which was enacted back in 2001, 17 years ago. Back then, of course, few people could foresee what the internet would become, creating the need for updated laws.
The vote came on the same day as the State of the Union 2018, where President Jean-Claude Juncker spoke about European sovereignty, safer external borders, improved asylum and free elections beyond the subject of cybersecurity.
PN MEP Francis Zammit Dimech, who has been vocally in favour of the introduction of Article 13, welcomed this decision. "Future of Maltese artists and creators cannot be secured without fair remuneration," Zammit Dimech tweeted out moments after the vote was announced. "Supporting artists crucial for citizens to continue enjoying cultural and creative content."
Article 13 is definitely the more controversial of the two
Known as the 'Upload Filter' amendment, Article 13 requires internet platforms to filter uploads for copyright infringement. However, the terms within the new directive have been criticised as too vague and too broad, which may lead to content creators receiving more strikes and takedowns of their content when they attempt to upload it.
With everything that anyone uploads onto the Internet being potentially scanned for copyright (similar to what already happens on platforms like Soundcloud and YouTube), internet natives are scared that content like memes and edited photos that is deemed to have broken copyright law might require them to pay someone to upload their edit.
Article 11, on the other, has drawn less of a public outcry, but has still been the centre of some controversy. The article imposes a tax on platforms for linking to news article, earning it the name 'Link Tax'.
A study in 2015 found that the link tax would ultimately cost publishers millions of dollars in lost revenue and that there was no “theoretical or empirical justification” for the scheme, but content creators have already been reassured that "all acts of hyperlinking are clearly excluded from the scope of Article 11".
"Not trolls, fake news, or Cambridge Analytica will decide about the future. Only the people of Europe, the Europeans will decide about the future." - MEP Manfred Weber
Partit Demokratiku, however, had called for Malta's MEPs to vote against the Directive earlier today.
"Article 13 in particular threatens to impose that websites create a content filter to avoid the proliferation of copyrighted material on the internet," PD said. "However, there are concerns this may lead to Fair Use online content being unfairly blocked. The potential limitations imposed on people's current ability to express themselves on the internet may threaten freedom of speech."
Numerous content creators have shown their wariness of the new amendments, but MEPs have myth-busted worries time and time again
A long list of influential content creators have been putting out statements and videos against what they called a "meme-killing" set of regulations. Malta's very own Grandayy - the most subscribed YouTuber in the country and a well-known figure in many international circles - had criticised Francis Zammit Dimech for "threatening free internet" with his vote earlier this summer.
"The legislation is a means to address the value gap that is currently working against creators," Zammit Dimech had answered. This had come mere days before a group of MEPs and European politicians released a paper aimed at disproving a number of myths related to what they called a 'False Spam Campaign on Copyright' currently being undertaken by the "technology sector" to try and tarnish the new EU-wide Copyright Directive.
However, numerous content creators from all over the continent (and beyond) have persistently criticised the adoption of both articles, and today's vote will undoubtedly attract even more controversy and complaints.