No, put away your pitch fork. This has nothing to do with Brexit and the pro’s or con’s there of; this is about the European Parliament’s passing of the Copyright Directive. But what does the EU Copyright Directive mean? Well put simply the EU Copyright Directive ensures that any material under copyright cannot be used unless royalties are paid to the copyright holder. On the face of it this sounds like a fair enough idea – but wait…
Why is the EU Copyright Directive controversial?
At the moment, the idea is that companies like Google who own YouTube would automatically scan content as it was uploaded. The same goes for social media and anywhere else you are able to upload content. Any existing content which broke the rules would be taken down retrospectively. This will include events like live music and sports – where anyone who is not the official organizer posts images or videos, images like memes that use films or images of celebrities, any content with music playing, sharing news articles and links to websites on Facebook, artwork by artists/galleries etc. would not be able to be uploaded. While the copyright owners think this is good, the vast majority of internet users should be alarmed as currently if you take a photo at a sports game, concert or event you can upload it to Facebook, Twitter YouTube etc. You can also use short clips from films and TV in your videos to illustrate points, make memes, or just share your favourite clips. This may all be coming to an end.
What does the EU Copyright Directive mean for me?
It will ultimately mean that you can’t share footage or images on social media of music and sporting events. You won’t be able to watch YouTube videos that feature clips from films/memes. Sharing a news article from the BBC website onto social media for example would be an infringement. This really is far-reaching and will have many unexpected consequences. It has sparked the hashtag #SaveYourInternet. Giphy, who feature on the Facebook messenger app send millions of GIFs every day like the one above most of which are taken from films or TV shows. These would not be allowed and this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much content in our pop culture which is technically owned. Those Will Farrell memes you send to people on their birthday, the YouTube videos that subvert our favourite films, the teenager remixing and mashing music and posting it to their friends, that short clip of a TV show from 1983 you’re referencing for an essay.
Who benefits from the EU Copyright Directive?
Well obviously the copyright owners will benefit (as they see it) as they can collect money from people who want to use clips and images from their films/music/content etc. However, the people who are currently using these clips and images are you or me. We are not going to pay to post an image on Facebook. Currently the big companies who own most of the copyrights benefit from the free advertising they are receiving from memes and YouTube videos. We are sharing content with each other and in doing so promoting them by proxy. Memes have become part of our global culture and if that were to end I think we all lose out.
So it’s fair to say that a few large multinational organizations will collect a couple of extra quid for their Christmas drinks, but I think we all lose. The Internet will become a less rich place and not in the monetary sense. The internet has always been a breeding ground for the subversive and creative. I fear this step may be the start of the end of user generated content as the copyright owners take ownership. When was the last time any multinational created a GIF subverting their own content?