Following the EU Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs voted to approve Articles 11 and 13 of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, alarm bells are going off all over the internet.
A letter signed by 70 leaders in the tech industry, including the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, implored EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani to stop Article 13 and an organized campaign, saveyourinternet.eu, is rallying popular opposition. On a more humorous note, a group of “EU compliant memes” has already emerged in anticipation (and protest) of the law that could bring on “the death of the meme.”
The two controversial provisions would require sites to comply with 28 sets of copyright law or pay a fee to link to other sites and screen for protected material uploaded by users, respectively. A law similar to the Article 11 “link tax” was tried in Spain, where the compliance costs forced Google to shut down its Google News service in the country. As a result, there was a 6% drop in traffic, with a 14% drop for smaller publications.
Article 13 would effectively reverse the current dynamic between content hosts with respect to copyright compliance. Currently, the legal burden is on uploaders to be copyright compliant, and hosts are responsible to remove content that has been brought to their attention as violating copyright. If passed, Article 13 would place the burden on hosts and open sites up to trolls that try to shut down sites by filing frivolous copyright violation claims.
Thankfully, public outcry is putting pressure on the EU Parliament and could turn the body away from the legislation that only narrowly passed in committee. The timetable for the final vote is unclear, but will likely be sometime between late 2018 and mid-2019.