Europe’s largest ever petition wasn’t enough to convince the European Parliament that its proposed Copyright Directive is a bad idea. Officials have voted for the legislation by 348 votes to 274, meaning that Article 13, dubbed the “meme law”, has passed.
The controversial EU Copyright Directive proposes sweeping changes to copyright law to protect content creators from intellectual property theft and force online platforms to take action.
However, two parts of the directive, Article 11 and Article 13, have been widely criticised. Article 11 has been likened to a link tax, with online news platforms to be charged to link to news outlets. Article 13, the meme law, will force online platforms to monitor uploaded content and remove any copyrighted material.
Internet users have been particularly resistant to Article 13 due to the wide impact that it could have on internet culture, such as the sharing of memes. As those against the proposal have insisted, Article 13 has the potential to “break the internet”.
Tens of thousands of people protested across Germany last weekend, while a Change.org petition to “save the internet” has more than five million signatures. It was hoped that the backlash could force amendments. However, a second vote on debating changes to Article 11 and 13 was lost by just five votes today.
EU Copyright Directive meme law passed: So when does Article 13 start?
Don’t worry. Memes will continue to exist for the time being.
Under EU law, once a directive is passed by the EP, each member state has a set amount of time to implement the rules set out by the directive into their own laws. In this case, countries will have two years to put Article 13 into effect, so March 2021 will be the final deadline.
What exactly that means is unclear. Directives do not set out exactly what a country must change, but sets a number of objectives that must be achieved. Each member state is free to interpret the directive as they see fit, so long as its goals are achieved.
In this case, the objectives of the Copyright Directive are to “achieve a wide availability of creative content across the EU, to make sure that EU copyright rules continue to provide a high level of protection for right holders, and to maintain a good balance with other public policy goals, like education, research and innovation,”
Article 13 must be implemented, but it will be on each country to determine just how damaging it is to internet users.
What does Brexit mean for Article 13 in the United Kingdom?
Should the UK go ahead with its plans to leave the EU, it would not be required to implement the Copyright Directive into its own copyright laws.
However, given the UK’s willingness to implement other recent rulings, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it could still choose to act on the Article 13 directive regardless of the Brexit outcome.
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According to the Save Your Internet campaign group, some 36 UK representatives in European Parliament have supported the directive, compared to 30 who have voted against it, showing that despite the public backlash, there is still support in the UK political system.
However, there is some hope for those against the Copyright Directive.
The New Athens & Associates is pushing for the UK to reject the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD), which proposes significant new restrictions on cryptocurrencies and exchanges. It is argued that protecting the crypto industry from regulation could provide the UK with a competition advantage following its exit from the EU.
Taking a similar stand against the EU Copyright Directive could put the UK in good stead with the online platforms and social media companies that it threatens to harm.
Will Norway implement Article 13?
The Norwegian government has yet to comment on the Article 13 vote. However, while Norway is not an EU member state, as it is part of the European Economic Area it is highly likely that it will accept the EP ruling.
According to Politico, Norway implements about 75% of all new EU laws, and going against it on a ruling as big as this could prove damaging. Vetoing the ruling could be viewed as a breach of the EU’s four freedoms: freedom of goods, capital, services and labour, and threaten the agreement between two two parties.
However, while Norway is likely to follows suit, it won’t be quite as bound as EU member states.