How Article 13 will change digital marketing in the EU

  • Marketing

Written by: Action Digital

The Copyright Directive, a set of laws that aim to overhaul copyright legislation for the digital age in the EU, has to be one of the most debated pieces of legislation passed by the European Parliament in recent memory.

While nowhere near as impactful as immigration policy or Brexit, the Copyright Directive -especially Article 13- set the social media ablaze, with supporters from both sides hotly debating each other over the merits and the possible pitfalls of the bill.  

The goal, as stated multiple times by legislators, is to help content creators earn more money by giving them the tools to copyright their work and force tech giants to secure all necessary licenses before sharing content. The Directive marks a significant shift in the priorities of digital marketing, as marketers will need to adapt to this newly formed landscape.

What is it?

The Copyright Directive is a set of laws aimed at adapting copyright laws for the digital age. The European Parliament’s intention is clear: force major distributors of content to share some of their revenue with content creators by requiring them to pay for licensing fees. This is covered in arguably the most controversial article of the Directive, Article 13, also known as the “meme ban”.

Article 13 essentially states that content distribution platforms (such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, Google etc) will now be held liable if a user uploads content that is copyright protected. This shifts the responsibility from users to the platforms, exposing them to legal action in case of copyright violation. Platforms are now required to come up with a way to better monitor and regulate content upload, most likely in the form of an automated filter considering the sheer volume of uploads every day. It is estimated that 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute on YouTube, making manual oversight an impossible task.

Why is it called the meme ban?

In its initial draft, Article 13 considered every form of content as protected by the copyright law, with no exceptions. This line of thinking quickly hit a snag; memes, a dominant web trend, where images and gifs are captioned to be used to convey a specific meaning.

This popular internet trend would come to an end under the first draft, as most memes are screenshots from films or TV series or otherwise copyrighted images. This caused a furious uproar, forcing the rapporteurs to add amendments to the bill, allowing for the use of copyrighted material in cases of -among others- satire.

This effectively meant an end to the “meme ban” and allowed legislators to focus on their original intention: secure more revenue for independent creators.

Those in favor

Supporters of Article 13 claim that by making these multi-billion platforms liable, it will force them to go out of their way to make sure that they secure all necessary licensing for the content that is uploaded on their websites. Supporters of the bill point at the case of the seat belt as the best possible scenario: auto manufacturers had to be dragged kicking and screaming into including the seat belt as an added safety feature in cars, but its effectiveness and public support eventually convinced them to do so. Pressuring manufacturers to accept the seat belt set them on a path of improving the car’s safety features in general, much to the benefit of the consumer and, eventually, the manufacturers themselves. Proponents of Article 13 hope that pressuring companies to work on better monitoring content will result in content creators receiving more money for their work. YouTube, one of the platforms most affected by the new legislation, uses the Google-developed ContentID to flag copyrighted material, which will now be improved to reflect the need for more effective filtering. As of 2018, Google announced that it will be investing more on improving ContentID.

Those against

As expected, major platforms vehemently opposed the legislation and heavily lobbied and campaigned against it. Surprisingly enough though, a large number of content creators are also against the legislation, since they fear that platforms would rather block content with even a hint of copyright violation, than to risk being sued for copyright infringement. Content filters are notoriously unreliable when it comes to flagging content for copyright violation, and nowhere is that better demonstrated than in the case of this music teacher. The teacher tried to upload videos for his students, with copyright free music playing in the background, only for Youtube to take it down and suggest that the user contacts creators (in this case Beethoven and other long dead classical composers) for licencing.

Those opposing Article 13 claim that this will result in stifling free expression and make it impossible for content creators to work, as they will be forced to keep contesting wrongful copyright violations.

They also point out that copyright infringement can take forms that legislators cannot even fathom, let alone legislate for. For example, what if a Twitch streamer plays with movie posters in the background hanging on his bedroom wall? Since he/she is making money from the stream, isn’t that violating the rights of the artists who created the posters? The questions are many and complex which is why those opposing Article 13 claim that platforms will opt for a blanket ban instead of investing hundreds of millions in more intelligent filters.

How does it change the digital marketing landscape?

Digital marketers operating in the EU or those who want to market for an EU country audience, need to become extremely aware of possible copyright violations. From video to audio, marketers will need to be far more proactive when drafting their digital campaign and familiarize themselves with all content algorithms, so as to make sure that no post is taken down or flagged. In addition to that, digital marketing companies will need to set up internal procedures that fast track the process of contacting platforms directly to contest copyright issues, in bulk. This is to ensure that an action plan is in place to tackle the problem in a fast and effective manner, especially if the copyright dispute takes place while the campaign is running.

Since Article 13 allows for the use of copyrighted material, provided that the user can prove that he/she has done anything possible to secure licensing, digital marketers now will need to become adept in communicating and acquiring the required licenses to use that material.

Since contacting individual creators can prove to be an insurmountable task, it is highly probable that this will usher the need of mid-level licencing companies, legal entities that will handle licencing for individual content creators or creators. Digital marketers will need to know how to interact with these companies -should they emerge- or at least how to quickly get licenses and how much to pay for them.

Think that this is too complicated, the newly formed paths of this legislation too labyrinthian to navigate? Well then, maybe it is time for digital marketing companies to heavily invest in content creation! Animators, copywriters, video editors, musicians and designers might find themselves in demand, as it is far better to own the content than to have to pay for licencing fees!

Our experts at Action Digital know how to quickly and effectively adapt their digital media strategies. Let us help you take your business to new heights!

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