With the new GDPR data regulations coming into effect last month, the latest debate circulating the European parliament has us meme-lovers worried.

The new copyright reform, otherwise known as Article 13, proposes that any website or platform that publishes user-generated content will have to go through content recognition technology, which will determine whether the content infringes copyright.

These new rulings could change the internet as we now know it – a free space to share our creativity and opinion as we please (within reason of course).

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, alongside a long list of influential tech figures have composed a letter to the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, protesting against the proposed Article.

They wrote:

“As a group of the Internet’s original architects and pioneers and their successors, we write to you as a matter of urgency about an imminent threat to the future of this global network.”

While the creators agree that there should be a “fair distribution of revenues from the online use of copyright works,” they state that Article 13 is not the right way to do this. By implementing this rule, the internet would be transformed from “an open platform for sharing and innovation into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”

The letter also brings attention to the potentially detrimental consequences the new rulings could have on European startups and SMEs, as the cost to bring in the technology needed could be extremely costly and may even break a business just starting out.

Memes are essentially “remixes” of popular content that is currently relevant and being talked about online. This content is generally images that have been taken from another source (i.e film or tv show) and then remade into memetic content for entertainment purposes. It also provides those who publish them with a way of expressing their opinion on a particular subject, in a way that is visual and humorous.

Memes and meme culture have become a huge part of the internet. Images, GIFs and short videos coupled with witty captions have stormed the internet. In the last couple of years, meme accounts such as LADbible (32 million likes), The Fat Jewish (10.5 million likes) and Memes (13 million likes) have become some of the most followed accounts on social media.

Image source: Facebook

Their pages consists mainly of culturally-relevant references that gain thousands of likes, shares and comments.

If Article 13 was to come into action, it could threaten this meme culture as a lot of this content would probably not pass through the content recognition technology.

It would be a shame to see this type of content disappear from the internet, which has built a huge community of people scrolling the internet looking for the next meme that they can relate to and share with friends.

However, looking at the bigger picture, it would not just be memes that would be affected by this. It would mean any content created by a user would have to be thoroughly checked and approved before being allowed on the internet.

Whilst it is important that original creators are credited for their work, relying on technology to make this judgement could lead to further problems and debates as to what should be published and what shouldn’t be allowed.

Do you think the internet will be impacted by Article 13?

Will Article 13 affect freedom of expression?