After countless years of debate, there are now some significant changes coming to Europe. These affect online copyright all across the European Union.
These changes have been passed by the European Parliament with a final vote on the matter.
The problem is there are actually two articles passed. Even each of these has brought with it plenty of controversies, but the most significant one being Article 13.
Here we will take a look at what happened in Europe, how it will affect you, and ultimately, we will see what you can do about it as an internet user or content creator.
What is Article 13?
The EU Copyright Directive article 13, or its full name The European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is a set of directives that are detailed under Article 13. Now, it is the responsibility of content publishers to ‘take down’ any copyrighted material.
This is primarily aimed at content sharing services. In the word of the law, they state that these content sharing services stick to the Article 13 amendment definition:
“take, in cooperation with rights holders, appropriate and proportionate measures leading to the non-availability of copyright or related-right infringing works or another subject-matter on those services, while non-infringing works and other subject matter shall remain available.”
This has significant implications for services such as YouTube and the likes. At present, sites like YouTube work alongside copyright holders and remove content any material that infringes copyright if asked to do so.
Article 13 goes way beyond this because it means that services such as YouTube will need automated detection services to weed out this content before it is uploaded.
The Opposers and How Article 13 Impacts Publishers
Because this directive can impact YouTube more than any other service in the short-term, they have been rather vocal on the matter.
The CEO Susan Wojcicki quoted on their blog:
“Article 13 as written threatens to shut down the ability of millions of people — from creators like you to everyday users — to upload content to platforms like YouTube.”
What it appears she is trying to say is that this is only the beginning. Because there are to be filters in place that are used to block this content, it could be all copyrighted content is blocked from being published.
This even includes content that is deemed suitable to be published under the ‘fair use’ clause.
Even this is just the tip of the iceberg because there is also the question of any such filters being able to determine who the actual copyright holders of the content are.
The primary effect on a publisher of Article 13 coming into force will at the end of the day be their revenue.
With these nooses being tightened around any copyrighted content, there are numerous publishers along with YouTube who will be unable to present the same levels of service and breadth of material as they currently can.
As a result, consumers will be turning to other platforms which are already paying the copyright holders for their work.
One hope is that each member state decides on the exact rules which they will put in place or any punishment that will be handed out. As of yet, this isn’t a European Union Law, and there are two years for everyone to comply.
Who is Supporting Article 13?
The primary supporters for Article 13 are the known creators of content or the rights holders. Two of the best-known areas will be the movie and music industries who face a continual battle with copyright infringement.
Just in the first batch of signatories who are supporting this direct, 84+ companies are in full support. While a majority of these organizations are claiming their artists are losing out, there is
YouTube who claims that there is a fair deal of revenue that is passed back to these artists where it is duly deserved.
Either way, there are things which need fixing because superstar artists such as James Blunt are showing their support, so they do feel they are being mistreated.
How it Affects Users
The YouTube concerns were also echoed by the European commissioner for human rights. They state that the proposal is incompatible with the ‘1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.’ [Source]
To summarize the conclusion of this letter, it was saying publishers may err on the side of caution, and by doing so, they will be neutering freedom of expression.
Depending on how each country decides, the UK may see a dramatic downturn in the amount of content they can watch. In its most basic form, this will be a form of internet censorship but from a different angle.
Not only this, it could be that some services now become subscription based rather than being a free hosting service.
What Can Users Do?
A user will have a couple of options. They can wait and see if these services do cut content as they are ordered to, and if this does change these services to become subscription based. If this is the case, they may look elsewhere for their content.
However, there is one option which can solve everything in one swoop. This is the use of a VPN service. Users can carry on watching all the content they wish while bypassing any Article 13 legislation or directive.
This only applies to European countries so the full breadth of content can be accessed from other regions. This is also the same for content creators who do tread in the grey area of copyright infringement.
These publishers can publish their content with no restrictions or loss of revenue. As it stands, it appears memes are exempt at the moment.
There will be ways around it, but using a top tier VPN service is the most reliable way, and it will allow UK users to access the internet as if nothing happened. They can still retain their freedom of expression while not be dictated to what they can and can’t watch.