What does the controversial European law change for art lovers and internet users? And why should we care?
Memes co-create our culture.
Why? Let’s think about it for a while. Have you ever posted or reacted to a funny photo with a caption on the Internet? Or maybe a video, or a gif? A set of photos? A collage of clips? Well, there you go.
We, who are students, YouTubers, politicians, teachers, children, writers, consumers, amateurs, artists, or even dogs, are all the internet users. And we all create our culture.
So, what is a meme?
A long, long time ago, as long as in the 60s, Andy Warhol said that
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
And you know what? This guy was bloody right.
Warhol made, if not was, pop art. He used to put dozens of famous figures into new contexts with almost amateur-looking style. Now we, the users, are just like him. We contribute to popular culture by making and disseminating thousands of parodies, films, remixes, and fanfictions. And memes are a great part of it (in fact, in 2017 in LA, for the first time, a meme exhibition took place).
History of memes is connected to the history of the internet. You know, a few spoons of freedom of expression, a pinch of democracy, and one full glass of jokes, pranks, and lulz.
But in general, creating new meanings using popular culture is nothing new. Amateur and grassroots works were there and often were in opposition to popular culture. The only difference is that before the internet they couldn’t be disseminated on a mass scale.
Memes are virtual and visual remixes or collages that are often, simply, funny. And that’s it. You saw it, you chuckled, you scrolled down. However, memes are also a kind of commentary on popular culture, mass media, politics. Just like art. They often point out modern standards of, for instance, beauty, and challenge our comfort zone.
The digital age encourages creativity and cometary, whether it takes a form of a Youtube video or a silly meme. Internet became a distribution channel open for anybody and accessible worldwide. Everybody can discover their creativity and become critics, comedians, or artists.
And then the European Union created a creepy-looking Article 13. And nothing was ever like before.
Article 13 comes from an EU Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Be honest, you haven’t read the title. Anyway, the content of this directive is was longer than its title. I mean, really way longer.
Thankfully, we have the BBC, where the Copyright Directive (especially Article 13 of the Directive) is described as
“(…) an attempt to reshape copyright for the internet, in particular, rebalancing the relationship between copyright holders and online platforms.”
As said in Knowyourmeme, it makes any platform with a “significant” amount of user-created content maintain a data system of this content and take down content that “breaks” the copyrights.
So, this directive gives more power and money to, mainly, big corporations. Or am I only exaggerating?
Well. Article 11, or rather a “link tax,” states that anyone who would like to link to a news website (on a blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) must first get a license from the publisher. So, as The Independent says , the big corporations (Facebook, Twitter) will have to pay the publisher because of users who link to a news website/article.
But wait, it’s getting better.
Article 13 is referred to as a “Memes Ban,” but it will concern every user on the Internet.
Article 13 is a censorship tool.
Article 13 suggests platforms to use “effective content recognition technologies,” which are basically filters that find copyrighted content (images, music, text, videos) and automatically remove them from the platform. Seems ok?
It’s not. According to Electronic Frontier Fundation, a group of over 70 prominent internet-related figures, like the inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, wrote a letter to the EU when the directive was first introduced in June. They said that the online platforms will become
“a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”
Nonetheless, some say that the new regulation is just what ought to happen. Two Youtubers, Colin and Samir, try to convince the viewers that Article 13 is a natural process and that it is okay.
The problem is that it is not okay. It takes away the freedom of creativity from the internet users. It gives power to machines that cannot get the context of parody or remix. It gives more tools for corporations and governments to filter out unwanted content – it gives legal tools to censor anybody. It takes our artistic expression and gives more money to big corporations. Does this sound okay? Maybe for those two guys who work on/with Youtube.
Jan Gerlach from Wikimedia Foundation also thinks differently from those optimistic fellows. He writes on the Wikipedia blog that
“First, filters are often too broad in their application because they aren’t able to account for the context of the use of a work.
Such filtering systems also fail to make good case-by-case decisions that would take into consideration copyright laws in various countries that may actually allow for the use of a work online.
In other words: they can be repurposed for extensive surveillance of online communications.
Art. 13 of the proposed copyright directive would actually lay the groundwork for mass-surveillance that threatens the privacy and free speech of all internet users”
Another opinion comes from Automattic, a group of people behind WordPress.com, Jetpack, Simplenote, Longreads, VaultPress, Gravatar, and many more. People from Automattic “believe in making the web a better place.” and they “don’t make software for free, we make it for freedom.” On their official blog called Transparency, they argued against Article 13:
“We’re against the proposed change to Article 13 because we have seen, first-hand, the dangers of relying on automated tools to police nuanced speech and copyright issues.
Bots or algorithms simply cannot determine whether a blog post, photo in a news article, or video posted to a website is copyright infringement or legitimate use”
So, rather than what Colin and Samir say, Article 13 is more-less like this:
Dr Grandyy, a Youtuber, also explains it in his post on Twitter:
Another creepy threat is that by implementing this directive, the European Union will cut off European users from the free content circulation on the internet. As this division occurs, corporations will have more reasons to push this directive across the whole internet, across the whole world.
Platforms will implement the filter and censorship machines, and the internet that we know, the free internet, will cease to be.
The final vote on the directive will take place around late 2018 early 2019.
So, what can we do now?
We will not let the internet die.
Let’s save the memes, let’s save the art, let’s save the freedom.
images used to create the featured image:
Star-Forming Region NGC 3603 by Hubble Heritage
Bonaparte sur “Google Art Project” by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
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