Heard about the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market?
No? Alright, let’s take a stroll.
You see, one of the biggest news in copyright so far in 2019 is the “European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market”. This law has gained serious traction, especially due to some controversial changes it proposes. The parts that have generated the most buzz are Article 11, which has been dubbed “the link tax” and Article 13, which is also known as “the meme ban”.

Essentially, Article 11 is essentially placing a restriction on how news aggregator sites such as Google News, Yahoo and Bing can publish articles on their websites. It requires such websites to pay publishers for using snippets of their articles on their platforms. In response, Google released a screenshot of what search results will look like when the laws come into place. The picture depicts a ghostly webpage with only links displayed. This is the option tendered by Google in order to avoid paying all the companies and individuals who own contents uploaded on their website for their intellectual properties. This law however, contains an exception for “legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users”.

Article 13 requires online platforms such as Facebook, Google and YouTube to filter or remove copyrighted materials from their websites. It seems to be the most controversial, generating negative responses and severe oppositions from individuals, States and companies especially American companies YouTube and Google who have spoken out vehemently on how the new laws will affect the users of their websites. YouTube stated that they will have to remove some content that have already been up for years and block new ones that do not pass their content ID. The content ID is a mechanism already in place to prevent YouTubers from infringing on the rights of owners who had already copyrighted their properties. However, with the new laws in place, contents such as music video reactions, reviews, criticisms and video games may be affected as the algorithms are prone to mistakes. It may not recognize what has been copyrighted as a product of effort spent on existing content from the original content, which will make the use of the website cumbersome and is likely to affect the use of the website.

Finally, the problem with this law is that it will not just affect Europeans but the entire world due to the interconnectivity of the global world. Contents uploaded in European countries where the directive has been ratified into law will be subjected to the dictates of the provisions of the directive which will in turn affect consumers who can be from any parts of the world. Presently, there is no clear cut way to apply this law and we all might have to see how a court case or two flesh up the application of the laws.

Yusuf Aishat

Research Team

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