Remember just a few weeks ago when the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and became the beloved of Internet activists across the globe? In the wake of GDPR’s passage I saw a ton of European peasants claim that the passage of the law demonstrated that the European Union, unlike the United States government, actually represents and watches out for its people.
A rule I live by is if you see a government do something you like, stick around for a short while longer because it’ll soon do something you really don’t like. The European Union just proved this rule. Within a few short weeks it went from the beloved of Internet activists to their bitter enemy:
The EU has voted on copyright reform (again), with members of European Parliament this time voting in favor of the extremely controversial Articles 11 and 13. The 438 to 226 vote, described as “the worst possible outcome” by some quarters, could have significant repercussions on the way we use the internet.
The Copyright Directive, first proposed in 2016, is intended to bring the issue of copyright in line with the digital age. Articles 11 and 13 have caused particular controversy, with many heralding their adoption as the death of the internet. Article 11, also known as the “link tax”, would require online platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay media companies to link to their content, while Article 13, the “upload filter”, would force them to check all content uploaded to their sites and remove any copyrighted material. How this will affect regular internet users is still subject to debate, but it could seriously limit the variety of content available online — and it could pretty much spell the end of memes.
Excuse me for a minute while I laugh at all of the suckers who claimed that the European Union represents and watches out for its people.
The Internet started off as a strongly decentralized network. Eventually it turned into the highly centralized mess that we’re dealing with now. Soon it may return to its decentralized nature as international companies find themselves having to abandon regions because they cannot comply with all of the different legal frameworks. Google and Facebook make a lot of money off of Europe but do they make enough money to justify paying link taxes? Do small content hosting sites have the spare resources to scan every file that has been uploaded for copyrighted material?
Moreover, legislation like this will push more Internet traffic “underground.” As long ago as the Napster lawsuit it became obvious that people on the Internet weren’t going to comply with copyright laws. Instead when one system of bypassing copyright laws is destroyed by the State, another is created in its place. So sharing memes online, at least for European peasants, might require the Tor Browser in order to access hidden image sharing sites but they will continue to share memes.