Article 13 is here and it might just break the internet, literally…

In case you missed it, over the last couple of weeks the EU announced that it would be backing a controversial new copyright law adapted and appropriate for the digital age of content.The new law, which has been largely disputed by brands like Google and YouTube, is an aptly named directive called ‘Copyright in the Digital Single Market’. However, it has become better known by its most unpopular clause: Article 13.


In short, Article 13 will enforce tighter copyright laws around content produced online, and aims to protect intellectual property (basically, legitimately produced work by artists and avoid them getting ripped off by those who don’t own rights). There are some exemptions – meme’s technically being one (although more on that later) and non-profit sites like Wikipedia being another, but the worry by and large is that this could kill the creativity and borrowing culture the internet we know it depends on. Article 13 proposes that internet sites – and particularly user upload sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Soundcloud – should introduce upload filters, which basically do what they say on the tin. Upload filters, of which less sensitive versions are already in use by YouTube and now Facebook, screen content for copyright infringement and disallow it from being published if it is deemed intellectual property of someone else, which, despite its exemption, is why this particular law is still being dubbed ‘the meme ban’.


So, what’s the good news?

  1. If you’re a creator, this will protect your content from being duplicated and unlawfully used across the net, without your permission.
  2. It aims to champion those who create entirely original work, and it stops individuals, dedicated Regram accounts in particular, from piggybacking off others’ originality and creativity without proper credit to the original source.
  3. It will encourage the proper payment to those whose work is referenced and used for other purposes.


And, the bad news?

  1. The main concern with the new restrictions is hindered creativity. Borrowing has become part of internet culture and there’s a lot of concern that it could drastically limit virality.
  2. It will have a negative impact on the ability for new artists to become viral, discoverable and popularised – particularly within music, as lip syncing videos, dance routines etc. are essentially free advertising for new tracks.
  3. It will potentially be more challenging, for both brands and individuals to generate reach and cut-through on social media, as less and less people see their work through shareable means online.


But, what does it mean for influencer marketing?

As an influencer working with brands, it means keep doing you. Keep making content that is unique to you, with your own badge of creativity, and brands will continue to work with you for your USPs. For brands, it could make it harder to regram and champion the work created in order to promote you, if it already lives out there on the internet. You’ll have to work even closer with social networks than ever before and properly understand the upload filters and determine what can be leveraged and what can’t be. It could also incur extra costs as content that could previously be regrammed and reused due to brand affiliation and promotion, could end up being identified as intellectual property instead.


It’s not all doom and gloom. While the tight restrictions implemented do feel too narrow, the move to have greater protection for creators is one meant to be seen as positive, and the recent example of FuckJerry proves it. The infamous meme account that we all know and love, was getting stick for its recent starring role in the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix. Off the back of the docufilm, the creator of the account – and agency by the same name – decided to change his business’ regulations and delete a load of content from his feeds that wasn’t properly credited to the original proprietor. He issued a statement vowing to do better and never to publish content where the original creator could not be identified.


If a Brexit deal is agreed, the UK will fall under the jurisdiction of this new law until the transition period is over. It’ll be interesting to see the moves made in the coming months in order to follow the new laws, and the impact that has on changing the future shape of the internet.