The Great Meme Wars II: Article 13

There’s an all out war over the internet copyright laws in Europe and worst of all… It’s attempting to kill all the memes.


If Donald Trump and the 2016 candidacy race gave birth to The First Great Meme Wars, then this is definitely the Second coming. 

There’s an all out war over the internet copyright laws in Europe and worst of all… It’s attempting to kill all the memes.

Fighting words

The European Parliament has just voted to pass a new European Copyright Directive which significantly changes the paradigm of free speech for internet users continent-wide.

The new directive contains two main Articles posing a tremendous controversy over Europeans.  Article 11 is being called the “hyperlink tax” and Article 13 named as the “upload filter”, or in the alternative, the “meme killer”.


Article 11, or the “hyperlink tax”, obliges internet companies to pay news outlets’ for content they use on their respective platforms.

Some news corporations are appreciative of the prospect that they would be paid by big tech companies for featuring nothing but a hyperlink to major news stories on their website. Some social media companies involved are Twitter, Google, and Facebook.  And, there have been a few amendments to the article to make exceptions for private and non-commercial shares.

Article 13 is arguably the more restrictive aspect of the new directive.  The “meme killer” forces internet web giants to filter copyrighted materials like songs, videos and images.  Images being the keyword here as this means that images with any formal creative content licensing are subject to being filtered… Goodbye memes.

Goodbye memes…?

Whether it is a modified picture of a popular artist, or a video edited for parodical purposes, as long as there is some type of punchline, and sometimes lack thereof, involved in the making of a satirical remixed art, then it is considered a meme.

The problem with memes, is that they mostly always contain a licensed image, video, or sound byte.  

What does that mean? Well, thanks to Article 13, it might mean that any licensed image, video, or sound byte shared is subject to filtration.  In other words, the meme will most probably be censored.

Against Article 13, YouTube appears

A bulky portion of the professional media industry lent their support for the Article.  A conglomeration of 84 music organizations, including Warner Music Group, among other professional media-related industries, gathered signatories in order to pressure the European Parliament to push the new directive forward with the Article 13 in tact, as it has been passed.

Surprisingly, memers had some very intriguing backup on their side.  YouTube!

According to YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl, who published on his “YouTube Creator Blog”:

“The open internet eliminated the barriers of traditional media gatekeepers and ignited a new global creative economy for creators and artists. It has given anyone with an idea the ability to share their passion, find fans all over the world and build a business.  Despite best intentions, I believe this may now be at risk as European policymakers prepare to vote on a new European Copyright Directive on September 12. In fact, some parts of the proposal under consideration – and in particular the part known as “Article 13” — potentially undermine this creative economy, discouraging or even prohibiting platforms from hosting user-generated content. This outcome would not only stifle your creative freedom, it could have severe, negative consequences for the fans, the communities and the revenue you have all worked so hard to create.”

As if it were a direct response to the organizations in petition for Article 13, this YouTube senior administrator believes that it is thanks to a free internet system that famous artists like Drake, that push for viral-songs to be spread internet-wide, such as “In My Feelings”, are the artists who create significant fan engagement, and generate a distinct economy that revolves around fan-based media.

One not-for-profit, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, teamed up with 56 other rights organizations to send an open letter, emphasizing Article 13:

“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.”

End game

What can be said for the Europeans except that they seem to be on the losing end of what looks like a really bad internet war.  

Reporter Paul Joseph Watson spins the story into making his audience believe that the EU’s move to ban copyrighted materials might just be the result of criticism for memes.  Whether this is true or not, he suggests that because memes have probably originated in relatively right-wing internet domains, this could be a motivating factor for the the introduction of Article 13.

Europeans not being able to meme is monumentous and even though it looks like Watson is reaching pretty far, the truth is, Article 13 really does harm people’s freedom of expression.  Producing memes is a way for people to connect, laugh together, and create dynamic viral trends.

Just for laughs, check out the Paul Joseph Watson video right here:


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Jonathan Wasserlauf
Jonathan is interested in the intersection between politics, pop culture, the media, and their audiences.
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