EU Copyright Law Sparks Controversies Even As Brussels Saves Memes

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The European Union on Tuesday moved forward with the controversial copyright law that's been sparking fierce debates for some time now, voting to enact the Copyright Directive that it claims will benefit all citizens of the political bloc while still ensuring sensible usage rights to others.

The latter part largely refers to memes, i.e. the long-running meme about the EU killing memes, based on the original wording of the legislation.

Lawsuit bases. Lawsuit bases everywhere.

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That isn't to say all usage of someone else's work that's considered commonplace in the scope of today's Internet usage will be able to proceed as usual under the new law. Perhaps the most polarizing trait of the legislation is that it holds websites and platforms liable for all of the content they're hosting, including the one that's been uploaded by their users. While the aforementioned exception of memes also extends to GIFs, experts warn about the practical inability of any single service with a large number of users to police third-party content that ends up on its servers in real time.

The EU doesn't care, with its officials repeatedly saying as much.

Killing small businesses under the pretense of – saving small businesses

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While polarizing lawmaking is hardly a new sight in any part of the world, what's remarkable about the EU's Copyright Directive is how much what its authors are claiming is the spirit of the law is at odds to how critics expect the legislation to proceed.

For years, Brussels argued that by forcing the likes of Google and Facebook to pay for news, they will ensure small (media) businesses get a fair share of the traffic generated by their hard work, whereas those very same businesses are opposing the initiative, criticizing the EU lawmakers for being either idealistically naive or maliciously dishonest. Namely, despite their tens of billions of dollars in profits posted on an annual basis, Internet giants such as Google have no intention of paying for any news and will simply be omitting that type of content from their feeds, search results, and other aggregators moving forward, hence stopping the flow of traffic they've been able to count on until now.

The Copyright Directive does contain a provision that specifically allows for excerpts from news article to be shared with no payments being required, so long as that type of content is readily available via hyperlinks accompanying the snippets. The issue that remains is how much gray area the EU left for interpreting the rules and the industry consensus is that Google and co. will be aggressively avoiding any semblance of violations so as to let someone else be made an example of until the precedent is set for how the legislation is enforced.

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The EU's social media communications are now hence full of criticism from both individuals and companies alike, with Brussels being accused of killing innovation and indirectly benefitting big publishers, the kind of media businesses most likely to already have content agreements in place with what are without a doubt today's Internet gatekeepers, antitrust concerns notwithstanding.

Lingering uncertainty

What's left is a lot of uncertainty and fear that the Internet as we know it might be coming to an end,

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The harshly criticized text of the directive now has to receive approval from the Council of the European Union, following the green light given to it by the European Parliament this week and some two and a half years after the initiative was introduced, baffling countless organizations, experts, and advocacy groups.