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We’ve seen a lot of talk during the previous years about copyright infringement. Both major entertainment companies and individual artists have complained about their work being devalued due to legal loopholes and rogue websites. However, European lawmakers seem to be the first to act. Back in September, the European Union passed an all-new copyright directive that caused quite a stir online. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are now strongly opposing the new law and especially – Article 13. Does the new law affect you and in which way? Should you be concerned about your online freedom? Let’s take a look.

What is Article 13 & How it Affects Web Users?

When a new law finally comes into effect, not many are willing to dive deep into its consequences. In many ways, we trust our country’s lawmakers to make good decisions that are in our interest. However, this isn’t always the case. The EU’s new copyright directive has created a true chaos online, where even major tech companies are strongly opposing the new law. Therefore, let’s take a look at what the new directive is all about.

What’s the Main Goal of the EU’s Copyright Directive?

A set of new laws that should take care of copyright infringement was in the works for a long time now. European parliamentarians have finally voted on this law back in September, which is when it was finally made official.

Even though the new copyright directive is quite broad, its main goal is to protect copyright owners online. This means that from now on, major tech companies are held responsible for sharing copyrighted materials and they need to ensure that this doesn’t happen. In other words, companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter (and well as any other) need to have certain filtering mechanisms in place to prevent copyright infringing material from ever appearing online. These mechanisms were first mentioned in Article 13 of the new law, putting tech companies under additional pressure.

Why is Article 13 Such a Big Deal?

The core part of Article 13 is theoretical measures that companies need to use to prevent copyright infringement. These should be ‘effective content recognition systems’ that automatically detect problematic content and they remove it from the Web. Interestingly enough, particular attention has been paid to the status of ‘Internet memes’ as an example of how copyrighted material is used and shared across the Web.

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It’s not a secret that tech companies already have different kinds of filters to prevent certain kinds of content from appearing online. However, applying such system into the way that Article 13 proposes automatically raises plenty of questions. This is because ‘copyright’ is such a broad term and should not be used against free speech. This applies to memes, parodies, clips of people at sporting events, YouTube creators providing reviews of movies, and more. It’s easy to see that we’re now entering the world of censorship, completely changing the way that the Web works. In addition, this law goes against fair use of copyrighted material. This is precisely why Article 13 has the potential to change the way that user-generated content is shared online.

Why Are Tech Companies So Vocal Against Article 13?

Major tech companies have been very local about the new copyright directive. However, we’ve heard the biggest criticism from YouTube. This isn’t as surprising as this website relies on user-generated content and will be directly affected by Article 13.

In a recently published blog post, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki shared her company’s views of the new law. The post starts by saying that YouTube has never been as popular as today, with the number of 1+ million subscriptions increasing 75%, year over year. The media streaming service also has more than 1 billion viewers each month. At the same time, Wojcicki talks about the dangers of Article 13 and how the company is under siege in the European Union.

Wojcicki says that ‘this legislation poses a threat to both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world’. She also added that ‘if implemented as proposed, Article 13 threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs, European creators, businesses, artists, and everyone they employ’. It certainly looks like she is not overreacting, given that YouTube could soon be forced to use pretty rigorous mechanisms that would stop a large percentage of content from appearing on the platform.

YouTube isn’t the only one fighting against Article 13. In June of 2018, a Silicon Valley lobbying group called CCIA published an open letter against the directive. This group includes companies such as Facebook, eBay, Amazon, and Netflix. It’s also worth noting that GitHub is opposing the law even though this company (along with Wikipedia) is explicitly excluded.

Are VPNs the Only Way to Fight Back?

The simplest (and the most effective) way to circumvent the new law is by using a VPN. These applications let you connect to a server located in some other country, and therefore browse the Web like you’re physically located in that country. This means that if you use a VPN to connect to a server found in the USA, you will get to download and watch content not available in your country. Of course, plenty more could be said about VPNs, which is why we have a comprehensive guide to VPN applications.

It’s easy to see that we can expect a huge increase in VPN usage. This is already happening during major events such as the World Cup and similar. However, Article 13 will force you to use a VPN at all times which in turn means that you’ll have a new monthly expense.

We’ll have to wait and see if VPNs will do their job even after the new directive comes into action. At the moment, it looks like using a VPN to preserve your right to freedom and free speech should not be affected – so it’s good to know that you’ll still have a valuable tool to continue using the Web like you’re using it right now.

What’s Next for The New Copyright Directive?

As noted earlier, the new copyright directive already passed thanks to the European Parliament. However, the new law still needs to be approved by the European Commission, Council, and Parliament. This will happen once the final wording is ready.

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According to current plans, the directive should return to the European Parliament in January 2019. In case it passes, the EU members will have two years to fully implement the new copyright directive.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Article 13 could have grave consequences. Therefore, it’s time to take the matter into your hands and see how you, as an individual, can help. You can visit the Save Your Internet website to see how you can take action today.

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