EU’s New Copyright Reform Law Will Ban Memes and Impose Tax on News Contents

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After a period of consultations and debates, the European Union (EU) looks set to fundamentally alter how the Internet works. The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs just voted ‘yes’ to a set of highly controversial parts of the EU’s new Copyright Reform.

Some controversial parts of the law – articles 13 and 11 – will likely impose very tight censorship on the internet and how we share contents on the Internet.

Article 11, also called link tax, concerns copyrights protection. It forces anyone using snippets of journalistic online content to get a license from the publisher first. This evidently destroys the current business models of most aggregators and news apps, such as Facebook, Flipboard, Google Newsstand and Apple News.

Article 13, also called censorship machines, presents the most formidable threat to the internet. The law holds platforms responsible for monitoring user behaviour to stop copyright infringements. Platforms are responsible for any content that their users upload, meaning invariably that the platform is liable if there’s a copyright infringement.

Article 13 forces platforms to use “upload filters” to monitor user uploaded contents for copyrights infringement. This effectively bans most internet memes, since they contain copyrighted images.

Of course, the new Copyright Reform laws appear to affect only EU-member states (27 countries in total, excluding the UK). However, they could have far-reaching consequences on other countries such as Nigeria.

Evidently, the Nigerian Internet laws are extremely weak and even non-existent in the case of data protection. For years, this has allowed copyrights infringement to thrive within the country’s internet. Videos, audio contents, images, and even books are shared illegally in Nigeria, with little or no penalties by the government.

Meanwhile, the social media platforms being used by Nigerians are mostly foreign. Only a few truly Nigerian platforms exist or are being used, with the most popular being Nairaland. This leaves Nigerians susceptible to the domestic laws where these platforms are based. For instance, Facebook is liable to US legislation more than it is to any African law.

And with since platforms like Facebook and Google host data centres in some EU countries, it places them within reach of the new copyright law.

Also, a large number of Nigerian websites are also hosted abroad, any in EU countries. This also makes them hugely vulnerable to whatever changes the copyright law forces on their web hosts.

The Reform Law Can Still be Stopped

Now, the good thing is that the Copyright Reform law is not yet actually law. It was only approved by the EU committee, and now enters the final stages of approval.

However, using the Plenary, an EU parliament tool, the law can still be dismissed. Plenary forces the committee allow the European Parliament‘s 751 members vote on the law. In effect, it takes the matters out of the hands of the 25-member committee. And if enough votes are mustered by proponents of internet freedom, the law can effectively be opposed.


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