Under Article 13 of the legislation, sites that allow the public to post potentially copyrighted content would have to go through a copyright filter to see if it matches a copyrighted work.
The Copyright Directive is an attempt to redesign copyright for the internet and harmonize aspects of the law across Europe.
A proposed addendum, Article 13 states that platform providers should ‘take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rights-holders for the use of their works’.
This would cause internet platforms to filter user-generated content, including text, audio, photos and video to protect copyrighted works – which could spell trouble for the future of memes.
Digital rights groups have criticized the proposed legislations for risking excessive censorship.
Proposed European Union regulations threaten to ‘destroy the internet as we know it’, digital rights groups warn.
Critics also said that Article 13 misunderstands how people engage with material on the internet, and that popular materials such as memes or remixes will be put as risk as they could be seen as breaching copyright. They also argued ably that the step would be an excessive restriction on free speech. And, it could mean the end of memes, remixes, and other user-generated content that routinely brings joy to the internet.
‘Should Article 13 of the Copyright Directive be adopted, it will impose widespread censorship of all the content you share online,’ said Copyright 4 Creativity, a campaign against the proposed article.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and 56 other rights organisations sent an open letter to European lawmakers in October outlining their issues with legislation.
‘Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications if they are to have any chance of staying in business,’ it read.
The Copyright Directive first came into effective in the end of 2002 and was subjected to previously unprecedented lobbying.
However, it is not the only legislation that could potentially affect internet usage.
In December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed Obama-era ‘net neutrality’ rules, junking the longtime principle that all web traffic must be treated equally.