Memes and YouTube are in Danger, Here’s Why…

It may be the time for you to wave your favorite European YouTuber goodbye.

PeweDiePie, Kwebbelkop and Kurzgesagt-in a nutshell could be things of the past. Memes, parodies and gaming videos, created within the 28 EU member countries, might be blocked. Certainly, you are wondering why on earth could this happen? Global warming is enough already, right? Well, before digging into the answer behind this, we need to understand what “Copyrights” is.

What is ‘Copyrights’?

Taken from Casas-Asin website

To keep things simple, let’s imagine that Mr.X created a song. In order to reserve his intellectual or industrial property rights, he has copyrights of the song. In other words, anyone willing to use Mr.X’s song should legally take his permission and/or pay him as the copyright holder. Copyrights were created to avoid plagiarism and to protect the creativity/economical interest of any content creator. Sounds fair! Now, let’s get back to our answer.

The “Why”

In June 2018, the European Parliament proposed a new plan regarding copyrights, this plan is formally called the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.The proposed legislation is designed to protect copyrighted material on online platforms. Sounds like a prestigious legislation with good aims, yet, most internet users have been debating about a controversial part in this plan, which is Article 13.

What is Article 13?

Article 13 AKA ‘the meme ban’ cites that the online platform will be responsible and liable for any stolen copyrighted material, not the person who actually stole it. So, for example, if Mr.X’s song was used by a YouTuber without copyrights, YouTube will be the one responsible to take an action and block the video. What about the YouTuber? Nothing happens to him. Mr.X can even sue YouTube (or any online platform) because it is supposedly responsible to filter all the content and check if there is any copyright infringement in the uploads.

Where is the problem then? First of all, user-generated content platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, Sound Cloud, Word Press, YouTube….etc) might lose a huge part of their profits just to this copyright legibility, which hasn’t been the case previously. Secondly, in a post-Article 13 world, a ‘Havana‘ cover could be easily blocked for using the lyrics or the music of a copyrighted song. And to all the admirers of Friends, a meme with Phoebe dancing , could be blocked for using a scene from a copyrighted sitcom. The same goes for parodies, commentary videos and mash-ups, thus, limiting the material offered online and putting rigorous rules for content creators.

So what?

We are in Egypt. So what does a proposed European directive have to do with us? Well, my dear friend, if you are planning to upload a cover song on Sound Cloud, or if you suddenly decide to be a gamer on YouTube, there is a high chance that your content will not reach European audience. This problem will also be faced by current Egyptian YouTubers who target global audience. In addition, if your favorite European YouTuber has a large viewership in Europe compared to the rest of the world, he/she might quit creating videos in the first place. Harsh but true…

Lastly, Article 13 will affect virality. Huh? Remember last summer’s ‘Kiki challenge’? Well, this is a pure result of Drake’s song going viral on the internet. With Article 13, this scenario would have been different. Imagine if ‘Kiki challenge‘ wasn’t reachable or even known by residents in the 28 EU countries (which are in total nearly 512.6 million individuals), the outreach of the song would have certainly been affected. Therefore, Article 13 will affect virality and the creation of any future internet hit, both of which largely shape the culture of our modern day.

Online Reaction

Taken from Index on Censorship

YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki, asked content creators to take an action about this new legislation through a blog post. She, additionally, warned about the threat Article 13 puts on ‘the creative economy’. A hashtag  and a petition were created to fight against Article 13 under the title#SaveYourInternet. In addition, YouTube asked YouTubers to create videos using the same hashtag expressing their demand to modify Article 13. Most critics are not against the aims of Article 13 but rather how it is written by the European Parliament. Other critics argued that the European Union should focus on more important issues facing Europe like immigration.

The Directive is not yet a law, and the final version of it is expected to be voted upon this month.

At the end of the day, the most important question that we all should ask ourselves is whether Article 13 protects creativity or rather entangles it!