A proposed law in the EU designed to fight online piracy could inadvertently make memes illegal.
The legislation has a clause that would force online platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to prevent copyrighted content being published by anyone who isn’t licensed to share it.
Activists say that the law could kill off memes that take their imagery from copyrighted TV shows and movies, with shows like the Simpsons and King Of The Hill having robust meme Facebook groups that may technically be breaching copyright under the new laws.
“It’s a blunt instrument and it’s going to lead to lots of over-censorship,” Jim Killock, head of the UK-based Open Rights Group, told Global News Canada.
“It could be disastrous.”
It’s Article 13 of the legislation that’s causing the angst — it would make internet platforms responsible for automatically censoring unlicensed content uploaded by users.
More than 70 internet personalities including Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, the man credited with inventing the web Tim Berners-Lee, and Doom co-creator John Romero wrote an open letter to Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, expressing concern over Article 13 and questioning the legality of the legislation.
Titled Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive Threatens the Internet, the letter argues that Article 13 would take the internet from an open platform into a tool for surveillance of users.
“The impact of Article 13 would also fall heavily on ordinary users of Internet platforms — not only those who upload music or video (frequently in reliance upon copyright limitations and exceptions, that Article 13 ignores), but even those who contribute photos, text, or computer code to open collaboration platforms such as Wikipedia and GitHub,” the letter reads.
There’s no suggestion the legislation would affect Australia, but given the global nature of the internet, Killock argues that it it would end up with a global effect.
“It’s just impractical to imagine that things would be filtered in one place and not another,” Killock said to Global News Canada.
“I think that bluntly, this will end up applying everywhere.”