Say goodbye to Doge and Grumpy Cat.
The European Parliament legal branch voted to pass a new copyright laws today that could possibly kill internet culture as we know it: no more memes and no more GIFs.
The new set of laws dubbed the Copyright Directive is still a draft and awaits a vote from the full European Parliament, but internet experts and advocacy groups are concerned that it will become the first step of mass online censorship and surveillance.
The most controversial part of the proposoal is Article 13, which would require websites to monitor everything uploaded from the EU to ensure the content does not include copyrighted material. This is akin to YouTube’s practice of filtering every video for possibly using media that the creator did not give the uploader permission to use.
The proposed law’s wording remains vague, but it would include memes, GIFs, remixes, and any other form of shared internet culture.
There have, however, been debates over whether meme and GIF creators deserve credit for their creations, especially since the content often originates in one place and results in an uncredited coopting of people’s work. Many companies for example profited off On Fleek creator Kayla Newman’s viral phrase, but she did not receive any compensation.
But civil rights organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation oppose the new directive, because they say it is too restrictive and opens the door for even greater censorship. Today is memes and tomorrow is “ill-defined ‘hate speech'” the advocacy group wrote on its website.
EFF wrote an open letter last year with 56 other civil rights groups to European Commission leaders, which blasted the Copyright Directive. The letter titled “Article 13 – Monitoring and Filtering of Internet Content is Unacceptable” said that the proposed laws infringed on EU citizens’ fundamental rights.
“Article 13 introduces new obligations on internet service providers that share and store user-generated content, such as video or photo-sharing platforms or even creative writing websites, including obligations to filter uploads to their services,” their letter reads.
“Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications if they are to have any chance of staying in business.”