Social media without memes and parodies is like the royal family without Harry — devoid of humour and comic relief. Especially because a huge percentage of this generation’s humour is dependent on memes that circulate the internet.
This may present a frightening future for countries within the EU as the Copyright Directive has just been passed by the European Parliament. Its intention is to update copyright laws for the internet age. It is split into article 11 and article 13, both acts that will stifle the free-flowing of information.
So what are the consequences of this act?
It will require companies such as Facebook and Google to pay publishers every time they share an article. Furthermore, it will mean all tech companies will have to filter content before they share anything on the internet, thus drastically changing internet culture within the EU.
It is unlikely that huge companies such as Buzzfeed, Google, Facebook and Wikipedia will stand for this as it will cut massively into their profits. The law threatens to fundamentally change the way they operate, given that they are used to posting videos, articles, tweets etc., without much restriction. It will also hinder their social media presence within the EU.
Undoubtedly, the change will be quite disruptive for companies in the twenty-first century. There is even speculation that a ‘meme war’ will occur where big companies will lobby and fight for the act to be retracted.
For the everyday internet user, it means a person can be fined for creating a meme or post with an image that they haven’t taken themselves. This means fan accounts cannot post pictures of a celebrity from a website without authorisation.
The nature of entertainment nowadays largely relies on posts on the internet and YouTube videos, both of which often use pictures and clips that will now become copyrighted. Already a hashtag entitled #saveyourinternet has been created by those who are worried that the internet as they know it will change.
The new law is also a huge barrier to entry for smaller websites and companies as they won’t be able to afford the fine. One consequence of this would be an increasing lack of competition and the further expansion of large companies’ monopolies and power.
The internet used to be easy and accessible for anyone who wanted to set up a website and post content freely. This freedom gave people the opportunity to start a successful career through blogging and vlogging. For example, vloggers such as the ACE Family have created a huge business from the popularity of their vlogs. As have many Instagram pages by having a vast following from posting memes and sharing content.
Personally, I believe that this bill was passed by people who have underestimated the power of the internet and social media. For one thing, it will be very hard to monitor given that thousands of tweets and posts are created across Europe every minute. The internet is simply too big to monitor and control. There is also a complete underappreciation of the benefits of meme culture which is based on copyrighted material. For example, it has been beneficial in engaging kids on current affairs issues by making them more accessible whilst fostering a sense of community. Additionally, it is beneficial for companies to create relatable memes that will be retweeted or liked as these will indirectly advertise their brands, and gain them followers.
The internet is a creative and educational tool first and foremost — something which the supporters of articles 11 and 13 haven’t quite understood.
Will it be as bad as people believe?
There is hope that the bill may be defeated, as it has to go through a three-way negotiation process with the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.
Defenders of the bill believe it to be necessary, as it will give artists and musicians credit when credit is due. They believe that YouTube has exploited musicians and created a ‘value-gap’ where artists are paid much less than what their work is worth and what YouTube earns. European news agencies also believe that the lack of copyright has meant that Facebook and Google have destroyed their news and advertising revenues. So in their eyes, the bill will allow large companies to be more competitive. There are also those who argue that the bill has been misrepresented, insisting that it won’t be as restrictive as people have been led to believe.
Ultimately, if this act is passed it will fundamentally change the benefits one can gain from using social media and the internet. I’m also inclined to agree with the British tweets stating that the only benefit of Brexit is that this act won’t apply to us!