If you haven’t been paying attention, Europe has fallen. The once great continent has become a dumpster fire; Europe has become a case study for what happens when you allow moral relativism to devour the soul of your country, allowing ideological cancer to spread. The latest casualty to fall in this internal war against everything? Memes.
The European Parliament has passed Article 13, the new European Union Copyright Directive, more popularly known as the law that will possibly kill memes on the European continent. So what exactly is Article 13 and how is it going to do this? Two words: upload filter. Article 13 would require Internet sites to automatically filter copyrighted works as they are being uploaded. This means every song, picture, and/or video that isn’t specifically licensed for use is going to be blocked from being shared. Remixes? Forget it. Fan videos? Nope. Your favorite Internet meme? Blocked.
Article 13 and the closely related Article 11 have been extremely controversial, with an initial rejection happening back in July. However, this time around the legislation passed in the European Parliament with 438 votes for, 226 against, and 39 abstentions. Now the law moves forward to private negotiations between EU politicians and EU member states. The next vote is currently scheduled for January of 2019. Supporters of the law have claimed that the public is overreacting to the legislation, saying that all it will do is force websites to fairly pay for creative content being used on their platforms. However, this ignores the fact that most of the content on websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit is user-generated. It also doesn’t address other fair-use situations such as parody, forcing companies to utilize AI to automatically screen content. Smaller websites simply will not be able to afford such technology, which will basically force them out of the digital space in Europe.
Chief business officer for Google, Philipp Schindler sad that Article 13 is “Bad for creators, for entrepreneurs, and for innovators.” According to a letter from Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet, from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.” The letter was signed by such experts and innovators as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wale and World Wide Web inventor Sir Timothy Berners-Lee. It also warned that such laws could transform “the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”
European Internet laws have always been a bit draconian when it comes to the Internet, with many governments opposing free speech or at least tightly controlling it. You can quite easily be thrown into jail in many places in Europe for “hate speech” or other “illegal” speech online. In England, a hate crime is defined as “any criminal offense which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice [emphasis added].” I think we can all agree that some speech is hateful and ugly. However, a law like that should give anyone pause. You can end up in legal trouble in Europe based entirely on the perception of the “victim.”