You may have come across numerous artists using online platforms to voice their concern regarding the Article 17 drafted by EU to protect copyright.
The controversial laws were first approved in September 2018 by European Parliament members, with the final version receiving approval in February after three days of talks in France. It was officially passed on April 15 by the EU after 19 countries voted in its favour with only six opposing it. Three countries abstained from voting.
Article 17 explained
The Article 17 was formerly Article 13 till it was renamed on April 15. It is a component of EU’s new directive on copyright. It has been devised to better protect the rights of creators. The aim of the Article 17 to encourage cooperation between the right holders and online content sharing service providers to ensure that protected content is not available without proper authorisation.
The “online content sharing service providers” mentioned in Article 17 comprise the services which have existed in the EU for at least three years in addition to an annual turnover exceeding €10m (£8.8m). The platforms most affected by the laws would be the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The impact on creators and users
In theory, it’s supposed to be a move which protects original content. Yet, many fear that it could have unintended consequences on creators as well as users.
The passing of Article 17 means that platforms such Facebook will have to moderate its content and make sure no breaches occur. Even a video with a few seconds of copyright-protected music would be infringement.
If you’re a user of such content sharing platforms, the amount of content available for you to view would be severely limited, as per a great many creators, artists and organisations.
According to the YouTube, millions of pre-existing and new videos on YouTube would have to be blocked in Europe due to the new laws. The blocked content would include music covers, mashups, and more.
The laws would even affect creators and artists outside the European Union. Their content would be blocked for viewers in Europe if it’s found to have partial or disputed copyright information.
There was also a concern that widely shared ‘memes’ on social media would be an infringement since most of the pages who post these do not own the right to the actual image. However, modifications to the initial drafts of Article 17 mean that publishing memes for “purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche” would be legal.
How the world is reacting
Google and YouTube have been particularly vocal against Article 17. Google said that the it could damage Europe’s creative and digital economy, while YouTube has published videos explaining Article 17 as well as how it could hurt platforms which run on user-generated content.
YouTube’s Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said in a blog by the video platform: “The Copyright Directive won’t just affect creators and artists on YouTube. It will also apply to many forms of user generated content across the Internet.”
Numerous content creators have also banded together to produce a website known as Create.Refresh which harbours a plethora of quotes and videos from online artists who are against Article 17.
Wikipedia blacked out four of its volunteer editor communities on March 21 in protest. The four websites were Wikipedias in specific languages: Danish, German, Solvak and Czech.
These websites redirected the visitors to a banner which explained the directive and blocked all access to Wikipedia content for one full day.
A statement from the German Wikipedia volunteer community read: Each of these independent Wikipedia communities has been engaging in public online discussions as to their course of action, and voting on whether and how to protest. They have done this according to their own rules of governance.”
Some users feel that Article 17 could spell the end of free internet and is only the start of censorship for the web:
— CodedNations (@CodedNations) April 16, 2019
The EU parliament wants #Uploadfilter, #Article13, etc Lets show them that millions of people are against it to prevent us from this threat of censorship on the internet! #SavetheInternet https://t.co/8sHkgMBQXE
— Gabriel (@alienufoweird) April 16, 2019
While there’s a massive opposition to Article 17, many European media industry leaders are in its favour. “Publishers of all sizes, and other creators, will now have the right to set terms and condition for others to reuse their content commercially, as is only fair and appropriate,” stated president of European Magazine Media Association Xavier Bouckaert to BBC.
What happens next
Creators and platforms rigorously attempted to prevent Article 17 from coming to fruition but the laws have still been passed. There are different views regarding the need and effects of the laws.
The EU has two years for the full-fledged implementation of the Article 17. It’ll be crystal clear soon whether these laws were a necessity or they have unwittingly ‘killed the internet’ like many claimed they would.