Gabriella Pinos/Staff Writer
In the next six months, the current state of the internet in the European Union may take a turn for the worst.
On Friday, June 20, the EU’s Legal Affairs Committee, or JURI, voted in favor of the Copyright Directive, a piece of legislation that includes a series of proposals on copyright law.
What concerns the masses about the directive are the threats to take control of the Internet away from the public.
Under Article 11 of the new legislation, online platforms would be required to purchase licenses from media companies before linking to articles and stories, according to The Verge. This link tax would discourage search engines such as Google from showing previews to articles, requiring them to compensate copyright holders for something that is currently free.
There’s also Article 13, which forces websites and social media platforms to incorporate automated filters that check for copyright infringement.
This technology would also consider memes, which include text and images from popular media, as copyrighted material, essentially banning the internet’s most basic form of communication.
For the EU, the Copyright Directive is more than just a way to police the web, it endangers user freedom to consume and interact with media.
While the memes we share on social media seem like a novelty, it represents one of the few ways communication transcends language and nations on the web.
Originally, the word “meme” was coined by author Richard Dawkins in 1976, which he defined as the basic unit of culture. Virtually any idea or behavior that can be shared within a culture is considered a meme, according to Merriam-Webster.
Over the years, the term has been used to refer to a humorous image or video on the internet, but its core message remains the same. Whether we’re aware of it or not, memes have shaped our society, influenced our politics and changed the way we perceive reality.
Article 13 threatens to dismantle all that by preventing users from uploading them in the first place.
The Copyright Directive not only has serious repercussions for the public, but for small websites who struggle to compete with Silicon Valley’s tech giants.
The upload filters websites would be forced to implement resemble YouTube’s Content ID system, which uses algorithms to detect copyright infringement when a video is uploaded. The video sharing platform has spent about $60 million dollars trying to perfect this technology, according to National Review.
While large corporations like Facebook can afford upload filters, smaller sites would struggle to create an AI that’s even half as elaborate as YouTube’s.
The worst part is, even with its complex method of automated filters, YouTube’s Content ID system is ineffective.
Unlike manual reviews, it fails at distinguishing between copyrighted content and parody, oftentimes lumping the two categories together. And, when the algorithm makes a mistake, the creators are often the ones who pay the price.
If Article 13 became law, this flimsy method of filtering would be required for websites across the board, forcing many to fork over millions of dollars they don’t have for a system that doesn’t work.
The JURI’s vote to approve the Copyright Directive poses serious threats to internet freedom in the EU, something that could indirectly affect users in the rest of the world. It unapologetically censors innovation from start-up sites and platforms, as well as stifles freedom of speech for users on social media.
As with net neutrality, the public is fighting against legislators to keep the current state of the internet alive, despite powerful opposition.
And while Americans can do little but observe from across the Atlantic, we can make sure that something like this doesn’t happen in our neck of the woods.
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