Article 13 has passed, could a copyright crackdown break the internet? | Veritent

Article 13 has passed, could a copyright crackdown break the internet?

Posted by Helena Vesty on 16th October 2018

The new EU Copyright Directive, including one of its most controversial elements, is another step closer to being a reality as it has fought through and passed in the European Parliament.

Popularly dubbed the ‘meme killer’ by members of the opposition, Article 13 hit headlines earlier this year as concerns developed about how it may change the use of copyrighted content online.

The statement which raised the most eyebrows read, “online content sharing service providers and right holders shall cooperate in good faith in order to ensure that unauthorised protected works or other subject matter are not available on their services.”

Crucially, it is feared this piece of the legislation would have the most impact on websites which host a large amount of user-generated content – video, blog, images and any kind of posts created by users of a public accessible online service.

EU lock graphic

Article 13 could change the way we share. Image by Timisu on Pexels.

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are all based on user-generated content and will therefore have to pay serious heed to the meaning of Article 13 in the future. The statement means that the websites are responsible for removing any posts featuring copyrighted songs, videos or images, if there is no specific licence to use the material. Some critics feel this could even cover memes, which are often based on copyrighted items and as a result has given the article the reputation of a meme ban.

Unfortunately, the article provides no clear advice on how sites should go about identifying infringing posts and taking them down. The lack of clarity has added more fuel to the fire, sparking suspicions that the article might impose an ‘upload filter’ – where the mammoth task would be carried out of websites scanning and assessing all content before it is even published.

Along with the impossible task of filtering through the hours upon hours of content before it hits the internet, the extensive resources needed to finance and maintain such a filter would price out smaller websites from being compliant. Add accidental blocking of non-copyrighted material, the potential for pretextual copyright claims and censorship, and the list of issues starts to look very long indeed.

There are some defenders of the clause, arguing that the directive will ensure the work of content creators is not taken without permission. A myriad of publishing groups, film directors and music labels, including Universal Music Group, have all pledged their support.

Veritent is, too, developing a platform to provide a personalised solution to this increasingly frequent issue. We will enable creatives and businesses themselves to know precisely how and where their content is being used, also presenting the options for taking the actions most appropriate in response. If you have had your content stolen, had your work used unfairly, or are concerned about how Article 13 will impact your website, check out our website to find out more.

Portrait of Robert Kyncl with YouTube logo behind

YouTube’s CBO Robert Kyncl fears Article 13 could undermine creative communities. Photo by Barry J. Holmes on Commons Wikimedia

The believers faced a hefty campaign against the legislation, launched by some of the internet’s leading figures, namely the founding father Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales and YouTube itself. YouTube’s CBO Robert Kyncl wrote in a blog post that the article could not only undermine creative communities, but go as far as “discouraging or even prohibiting platforms from hosting user-generated content.”

Following the backlash, MEPs put forth over 100 amendments, but seemingly not enough to end worries that the creative freedom of internet users will be harmed.

Nothing is set on screen, however. Each EU member state will get a chance to debate the amendments, ahead of the European Parliament’s final vote in January 2019.

Whilst it is unlikely the directive will fall at the final hurdle, every EU member has the power to choose how to implement the rule and interpret its words. And with 28 opportunities for changes to be made, the end result is far from predictable.

See how Veritent can help

If you’re concerned about where your images are being used online, I want to be able to find out which images you can and can’t do, click here to see how Veritent can help.


Helena is a journalist with News Associates. Currently for Manchester Evening News What's On, Mancunian Matters & Quillstreak. Former Floor Assistant for BBC Politics. HistPol grad

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