Don't tread on memes

I'm in City AM today blasting a new EU law that will ban memes. 

"The law effectively bans memes, as even the best filtering systems will struggle to distinguish between the unauthorised use of a stock photo and a great meme. Rather than protect creators, this law will stifle them.

And it doesn’t just apply to big tech – any site that lets users post content is threatened too. Mumsnet, JustGiving, and City A.M. will all have to install new filter systems. The tech giants may have the budget to develop new filters, but smaller firms don’t."

Article 13 of the EU's proposed Copyright Directive will require online platforms to automatically filter out any copyrighted material uploaded. It's a shockingly badly drafted piece of legislation and has been criticised by academics, think tanks, and businesses.

The filtering systems that online platforms will be required to develop or purchase will be far from perfect. While it's straightforward enough to takedown video or audio content without accidentally harming fair-use in the process, it's much harder to do the same with images and gifs. As a result,  a filter designed to protect stock photo libraries will end up catching distracted boyfriend memes in the process. 

Of course, while Google and Facebook will be able to develop monitoring and filtering systems, smaller firms will struggle. By the EU's definition, online platforms will include forums like Mumsnet, JustGiving (where fundraisers upload videos), and even the Guardian comment section. The EU's simultaneously attacks Facebook and Google as monopolies and also passes laws that give them a leg-up over the competition.

I hope when the European Parliament votes tomorrow that they respond to the recent public outcry and scraps this provision.