November 19, 2018
Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:18:12
By Alana Ballantyne
The European Union recently shook up the world of digital copyright with their sanction of the controversial new amendment; Article 13.
Article 13 amends and strengthens the current EU copyright law, already one of the strictest in the world. The passage of the amendment aims to stop the spread of misinformation, termed “fake news” and ensure that copyright violations are taken seriously by large multinational content engines. What makes this amendment so controversial? Article 13 would impose liability for the copyrighted material on the platforms that content is shared on, such as Youtube or Reddit. The effects of this amendment could chill content creation and dissemination online.
For example, say a private individual uploads a video on Youtube. Part of that video includes a song that is copyrighted by another individual or entity. Under Article 13, Youtube would be liable for the content of the uploader’s video. Even if the content is used currently (it substantially transformed or can be used under fair use, etc), if the party that holds the copyright decides to sue, Youtube could be brought in to the lawsuit. In order to avoid potentially expensive litigation or settlements, Youtube will now likely curate content more stringently and limit all content that could even potentially result in a copyright suit being filed against them.
Article 13 would also drastically limit the ability for content to “go viral”; meaning that content will be less likely to be seen and shared by large numbers of people across countries. It forces online providers who wish to operate within the EU to create databases of text, images, videos, code, games, etc that can be added to by anyone online. If a user, no matter their country of origin, tries to post something that may match or partially match a “copyrighted work,” in the database, the system will censor it.
Content creators in the United States who wish to attract a global audience may have to drastically curtail or cut off pushing their content to the EU. Large hosting platforms may also pull content from the EU which could violate the new amendment.
Article 13 not only limits the ability for funny videos and memes to be seen by millions online, but could also affect the way information is disseminated about protests, scandals, and violence. Critics of Article 13 say that it empowers elites to censor and stifle creativity and free speech in the digital world.
Large content hosting platforms like Youtube have been very critical of Article 13.
Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki took to Twitter to voice her stance, saying: “Article 13 could put the creative economy of creators and artists around the world at risk.”
Academics and proponents of creative freedom in Europe have also objected to the passage of the amendment. In October, leading academics published a set of recommendations on the proposed directive, saying that Article 13 is “incompatible with the guarantee of fundamental rights and freedoms and the obligation to strike a fair balance between all rights and freedoms involved”.
It remains to be seen whether the worst predictions of internet watchdog groups come true. One thing is certain; the first attempt to reshape and control the flow of information on the internet has been made.