The internet, as we know it, is in jeopardy. There is an increasing possibility that memes, sweet delicious memes, may soon be in violation of new EU law. The EU's proposed Copyright Reform has two main articles, 11 and 13, which seems set to have an impact on people's internet usage, particularly with regard to memes.
Memes, and indeed most web content circumvents copyright restrictions through parody. Any copyrighted material suitably transformed means that the original copyright no longer applies and it allowed to be used without the copyright holders consent. Parody is perhaps the most common form of 'transformation' that enables this and it is by using this loophole that memes are allowed to use otherwise copyrighted content.
However, Article 13 in the proposed Copyright Reform, which was approved through by a pre-plenary vote of 25 MEPS, would make internet platforms responsible for the content that was shared on them by their users. However, this places an unrealistic onus on the majority of platform providers and while most memes would comply with fair use policy, that does not mean that all of them would, or indeed other content shared. This means that most content platforms, for fear of legal action were they found to be hosting copyrighted content, would have to have to place incredibly strict filters on the type of material that could be placed on them. Groups protesting the strictness of this article decry it as, among its other impacts, potentially spelling the end for the profligate sharing of memes.
Campaigners have come out to say that this will end the internet as we know it. They say it will allow big companies to control what we see and do online. They say it'll allow "all content uploaded to the internet to be monitored and potentially deleted if a likeness to existing copyright is protected".
This will include the use of stock images, such as the image of a man with his girlfriend peering back at another girl, in which so many memes have come from. It will also include the use of Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up', and image macros being used for memes. It will cause most websites to filter out any kind of media content posted by users in case of copyright issues. The fact that it has been voted through this initial stage does not mean that it has yet been ratified. It has been adopted as the EU's advised stance, but is not EU law and can yet be brought to a plenary vote where every MEP will get a vote on whether it ought be adopted as policy.
Here is a petition you can sign to help the campaign, and some of the reasons as to why different people are signing it.