For those who may not be aware, the controversial Article 13 has been labelled one of the biggest internet sea changes in 20 years - if not THE biggest. Pretty seismic then, and its sights are set on nothing less than updating copyright law for the digital age.

The new directive will place the onus on technology platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Reddit to take responsibility for user-uploaded content and will effectively stop anything copyrighted from being uploaded and shared.  

While copyright is of course a complex area – and it’s worth noting that every EU country can interpret the new law in different ways – in broad terms, the platform itself will now be responsible for constantly policing content on its own site, and therefore will be accountable for any copyright infringement.

In effect, this means that those platforms will in future need to find a reliable way to moderate and filter all content uploads so as not to fall foul of the new directive and face penalties for failing to block copyright-infringing content.

However, with some 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube alone every minute, and one billion hours’ worth watched every day on the platform, clearly this has massive implications.

Indeed, under Article 13, platforms will need to create some kind of technology with algorithms and artificial intelligence powerful and complex enough to enforce the directive.

The real challenge for the required technology will be its need to be capable of deciding what represents parody content and what doesn’t, and sort through every bit of copyright content ever created – ever. No mean feat.

The problem?

No such technology currently exists, which is why there’s so much confusion around how this directive can be practically implemented. Critics, not without justification, say it will hamper free speech if content is blocked before it is even uploaded. A further likely outcome is that much legitimate content will be blocked by filters that can’t discriminate properly between what’s copyrighted and what’s not.

At Beattie, we are constantly creating content on behalf of our clients. Much of it is rich media like videos, animation, GIFs, and images.

Whilst copyright is always front of mind and our creative department is stringent in ensuring nothing is uploaded without required licensing, like many others we’re still keeping a close eye on how Article 13 will affect the way we distribute our client’s content and ensure it’s being seen by relevant audiences.

Furthermore, if the directive leads to a large number of videos on, for example, YouTube requiring removal due to copyright, that could decrease the number of marketing opportunities that we can convert. In turn, demand for advertising space would increase and that would ultimately result in higher advertising costs.

In many ways, it’s healthy that MEPs are voting to curb the powers of internet giants and backing the argument that this dynamic can too often help to line the pockets of big tech but cripples the music, photography, publishing, and film industries, while running counter to the interests of individual artists.

Will the new copyright measures succeed?

It’s certainly hard to imagine how platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Reddit can meaningfully address their requirements as they’ve been set out.

While some have claimed that Article 13 could harm Europe’s creative and digital economy and could even go so far as to destroy the internet, we’re taking a more measured view at this point.

Beattie will closely monitor how the debate progresses and will watch with great interest to see if the UK uses the flexibility built into the reform to allow a loose interpretation of the rules.

We believe that a healthy balance can be struck to ensure that creatives’ work is protected and remunerated, while quality content can still be accessed.