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Memes in Danger as EU Pushes for New 'Robo-Copyright Regime' - Campaigners

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The EU Copyright Directive, due to be put to vote soon, most naturally aims to protect the intellectual property of people who author material uploaded to the internet, but there are a number of potential repercussions that come with the move.

A new provision to the EU Copyright Law, titled Article 13, would lead to the banning of parody content on the world wide web, such as viral memes, campaigners are warning. They noted that the law would paralyze the internet "as we know it," adding it would allow IT giants to monopolize and monitor the online content, that is “control what we see and do.” Most importantly, memes, which fall under the article 13 provision, are also somebody’s original creative work, although derived from other people’s unique content, campaigners stated.

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"Article 13 will create a 'Robo-copyright' regime, where machines zap anything they identify as breaking copyright rules, despite legal bans on laws that require 'general monitoring' of users to protect their privacy," BBC cited Jim Killock, executive director of the UK's Open Rights Group, as saying.

Memes including those based on users’ personal archived pictures, have gained tremendous popularity in recent years, being universally shared online in most cases without the copyright holder's approval.

One of the most hard-hitting examples was a meme of a distracted man by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem, which rapidly went viral and developed a number of personal, social and political contexts.

The meme debate effectively prompted academics to publish an open letter to the EU Commission regarding the toughening of the intellectual property law.

The legislative drive was first introduced in 2016, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker remarking that he wanted "journalists, publishers and authors to be paid fairly for their work."

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The copyright protections, which the European Parliament will vote on later this month, are expected to stand on guard for all creative work conducted "in studios or living rooms, whether it is disseminated offline or online," according to the EU Commission’s spokesperson, who went on to conclude that the new provision would by no means harm the freedom of expression. Most particularly, it stipulates the use of certain technological methods to map copyright violations online, namely inform authors about the unsanctioned use of their content. The goal was, however, promptly questioned by campaigners:

"Unfortunately, while machines can spot duplicate uploads of Beyonce songs, they can't spot parodies, understand memes that use copyright images, or make any kind of cultural judgement about what creative people are doing. We see this all too often on YouTube already,” Killock concluded.

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