Article 13 a.k.a. ‘meme ban’ gets passed in the European Union

Kolby Spomer
Staff Writer

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about Article 13, better known as the “Meme Ban”, and how bad of an idea it is. Tuesday, the bad idea was voted on and passed into law by EU Parliament. Does this mean that memes as we know them are going to die off? Well maybe. Nobody can really say until the law goes into effect two years from now, but it’s safe to say the outlook isn’t very bright. 

Now, in case you’ve forgotten (or just don’t know) what the “Meme Ban” is, here’s a refresher. Article 13 is one part of a larger amendment proposed to and passed in European Parliament. The amendment is officially called “Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market” and is essentially the European Union’s best attempt to adjust copyright law for the digital age. Article 13 of the directive (later changed to Article 17) stated that the burden of filtering and striking copyrighted materials should be shifted from the owners of the material to the source of the meme. So, if a meme of Thanos was posted on Instagram, instead of Marvel taking it down, the meme would be deleted in seconds by a bot. 

The bigger problem the directive presents, in the eyes of many across the world, is the splitting of internet law. Two options are being presented to tech companies. Either you apply the EU directive to everything and neuter the internet, or you split everything into two versions. One for the EU, and one for the rest of the world. If things are split, the EU version will be devoid of all memes and other copyrighted materials, while the other version will continue to have them.

Many in the EU have been protesting the decision to pass the law. An online petition to end the directive has garnered over 5 million signatures and protests have been performed outside government buildings across Europe. Reactions to the vote have been very negative, to say the least. A Reddit user wrote some advice in a thread on the directive. “The new elections to European Parliament are set in two months. Not a better way to show them what we think about this.”

Is there any hope left after this Tuesday? Kind of. As I previously mentioned, the law doesn’t go into effect for about two years. Within two years a whole lot can happen. Is it likely to change? No. But it could.

This whole debate might seem unimportant. Some people might think that since this is all happening in Europe, it won’t affect us Americans at all. Those people would be sorely mistaken. Many are speculating that since the U.S. already killed net neutrality, they wouldn’t hesitate to apply these new directive laws in their own way. Which would then mean all memes based on copyrighted material in the U.S. would be banned. 

Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that, but if the directive makes its way over seas our strongest chance to beat it is with our votes. Vote in congressmen opposed to the end of net neutrality and things of that nature. Our memes depend on it.

Header photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

Last edited: March 31, 2019 1:28:35 p.m. CST

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