European Union leaders appear to believe they’re about to spell the end of the “meme” by passing a series of copyright protections for intellectual property holders known as the Copyright Directive.
The new laws aim to curb any use of copyrighted material, even if that material is made into a derivative work, or an internet meme — and the new protections would allow companies like Google and Facebook, who operate social media sites and can control content, to pull “questionable” material that could be subject to a copyright claim.
That means, critics say, that the European Union will force Google and Facebook to end the meme as we know it. And any speech that anyone in the European Union finds objectionable (or might find objectionable).
That could lead to a disastrous crackdown on online speech in a region where there are no First Amendment-type protections and where censorship is a burgeoning pastime for governments and social justice warriors alike.
“Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications if they are to have any chance of staying in business,” digital free speech advocates, Electronic Freedom Foundation said in a statement.
The European lawmakers insist that they’ll never use their newfound internet censorship power for evil.
“The proposals to modernize EU copyright provisions will not harm freedom of expression on the internet,” a European Union spokesman told MSN.
Even if the EU does succeed in passing strict new copyright protection laws, it may not be able to enforce them against the online purveyors of grumpy cats and angry Sean Bean quotes, or rid the internet of copyrighted material altogether (though it may make it easier for copyright holders to come after people who make and post memes for compensation).
If Spain, which tried to ban memes back in 2016, is any indication, however, what it will do is lead to a deluge of hilarious anti-EU memes that haunt legislators across the web.