A new copyright directive in the European Union gaining traction as the “meme ban” has internet goers worried that memes will be made illegal under new copyright law. This new directive would enforce that “platorms will need to pay publishers when people link to their websites,” among other things.

While copyright laws have struggled for decades to know to keep up with the ever-changing accelerating pace of the internet, this new copyright directive (in full, the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market) aims to take the onus from copyright holders to enforce their own copyrights to the large platforms that host the copyrighted content, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Article 13 of this directive, nicknamed the “meme ban,” is the most controversial of date. It states that “online content sharing service providers and right holders shall cooperate in good faith in order to ensure that unauthorised protected works or other subject matter are not available on their services.” Full text here.

This essentially means that it will be the responsibility of the online platform to remove any copyright material that is uploaded by users, a huge task considering the sheer number of users uploading content. The issue is that memes are almost entirely based on copyrighted material, and there are worries whether all of this largely harmless memes with no monetary stake would be removed instantly, as monitoring the sheer amount of uploaded content would need to be an automated process..

The law still has many steps to go through before possibly being made reality, but no precedents have been set yet on what exactly constitutes each section. If this directive becomes law, only time (and many lawsuits) will be able to set the new standard for what is considered copyright infringement in the digital age. 

Critics argue that this directive threatens thousands of jobs currently in the new digital creative economy and that their attempt to update copyright still doesn’t take into account the digital world as it stands. 

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