While the US struggles with Net Neutrality, a new enemy of the internet appears
If you watch the news, chances are you’ve run across an article or two talking about an extremely important topic here in the United States: Net Neutrality. The idea is to have a free and open internet, where users are able to access any content they want without fearing that their internet service provider will slow down their connection or charge them extra for access to services such as Netflix or Amazon Video. But while the fight over whether Net Neutrality should exist wages on in the US, our neighbors across the pond have recently passed a new law that is perhaps even more damaging to the idea of an open internet.
Article 13 (renamed article 17 just before the final vote in March) is, in essence, a new law passed by the EU to help curb rampant piracy on the internet. People who create things deserve to earn money off of those creations and have the right to stop other people from illegally profiting off of their own hard work. To make this a little easier to understand, imagine you have just uploaded a video to YouTube. In it, you use music from the movie Cinderella in the background. Disney, using automated tools to detect their music, finds that your video is using their songs without permission. As the system currently works now, Disney would then have to contact YouTube and ask them to take the video down or have YouTube redirect any money that the video is currently making into Disney’s pockets.
Once that is done, if Disney, for some reason, wanted to take further action to recoup lost money or punish the person who used their music without permission, they would have to directly sue that person. The person that uploaded the video with the stolen music is responsible, and any complaints have to be filed directly against them. Since large companies would be unlikely to gain any sort of monetary value from this sort of action, videos are usually just taken down and everyone moves on with their lives.
Article 13 (17) changes this. Now, the EU has declared that it is the companies’ responsibility if somebody uploads copyrighted anything to their websites. YouTube is now responsible (in the EU) for any song that is uploaded without permission. News aggregate sites, such as Google News, can now be charged for using small snippets of stories to lead readers to those articles. And if a company wants their content taken down and then some money on top of it? Now that the responsibility lies with the company rather than the user, they are allowed to sue those companies directly for infringing their copyright.
What does this mean in layman’s terms, then? It means that websites, such as YouTube, are going to be forced to heavily police anything their users upload so they cannot be sued. There will be a heavier restriction on all user-generated content. No longer will you be able to post funny photos to Imgur or Reddit. You won’t be allowed to. Many in Europe have called Article 13 the “War on Memes,” and they aren’t wrong. Unfortunately, it’s a war that proponents of a free and open internet seem to be losing.
Caleb Edwards is a senior studying professional writing with a focus in editing and publishing. When he isn’t working or writing you can find him tending his fish, taking care of his cats and dogs or trying to find free time that he can waste (there never is any). You can follow him on Twitter @CEdwardsSam