Yesterday, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs voted to approve articles 11 and 13 of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.
Article 11, which passed by one vote (13 to 12) requires sites linking to third-party content to comply with 28 different copyright laws, or pay to license the link.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has described the move as ‘wildly dangerous’ for the global internet, saying it “will hurt those who use the internet for sharing, punish projects like Wikipedia, and poses a significant threat to an informed and literate society, according to the research community.”
A similar “link tax” has been tried in Spain, forcing many sites to roll back online services. Rather than pay the fee just for showing links to other sites, Google opted to shut down its google news search in the country.
Article 13 (approved 15 to 10) imposes a burden on sites to screen content that users upload for copyright protection. This software could potentially flag memes or even original content that was featured on other sites, such as an original video that was featured by a TV station.
There is some good news:
Article 13 has been widely touted as marking the death of memes – although this needn’t actually come to pass. Member states have the right to establish exceptions in the case of caricature, parody or pastiche; and in any case rights holders will be required to justify any decision to refuse permission to access their works.
Even so, software that flags potential copyright is unreliable, as in the case of YouTube’s ContentID system, and could be abused by parties that allege copyright infringement with no real penalty.