Has the EU just destroyed the internet?

Posted on April 4, 2019


While this headline may seem a little sensationalist, I assure you it’s not.

New laws have been passed within the EU that, quite frankly, make no sense and are wholly unenforceable. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re called Article 11 and Article 13. Each is as ridiculous as the other.

So, what are they are what do they mean for you?

Let’s start with Article 11. Article 11 is something that newspaper barons, like Rupert Murdoch, have been demanding for many years. Article 11 relates to links to newspaper reports on their website from news aggregators, such as Google News. When Google News features a title, a snippet of text and an image linking to a news source, such as the Telegraph or Daily Mail, then that is covered by Article 11. It has decreed that payment, renumeration, should be made by the aggregator (Google) to the publisher.

In short, if a news publisher’s content is used by a news aggregator, they should be paid. Now, as I said at the time Rupert Murdoch first moaned about this, it shows a basic lack of understanding of how the internet works. If a news publisher, such as the Daily Mail, expects Google to PAY them money for using a snippet of their content that then sends them traffic, they must have completely lost the plot.

I realise the printed media is dying in terms of the press, and everything is going online, but they need to find a better way to monetise their content than by expecting Google to pay them for sending them traffic.

Isn’t that more likely to be the other way round? If the Daily Mail earns money for adverts placed on its website, adverts which are seen when people land on the website to read its content, where do they think these people are coming from in the first place?

Google anyone?

If I was Google I would simply remove them from their index. Problem solved. I fully expect that to happen to any publisher who attempts to force payment for their content being seen in Google.

Additionally, a content aggregator could also be seen as a social media website, such as Facebook or Twitter. Does this mean anyone sharing links from news sites to their own social media would also be expected to pay for republishing part of it? The directive for Article 11 does apply an exemption to “legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users”, so that should mean you or I sharing content on social media should be OK, but what about influencers? What about those people who have hundreds of thousands of followers and receive money for sponsored posts? They’re not ‘non-commercial’. They could be forced to pay under these new ridiculous rules.

OK, now let’s look at Article 13 – as that’s even more crazy.

Article 13, at its heart, makes sense. It’s aiming to stop copyrighted material being shared on social media. This, in turn, ensures the creators of the content get paid for their work.

In theory this all sounds great. However, in practice, it’s an absolute nightmare.

Article 13 states that websites that allow users to upload content are responsible for the content being uploaded, and can be held financially liable for any content added. On the large scale, this applies to websites such as YouTube, where 400 hours of video footage are uploaded every 60 seconds by its users. YouTube would be responsible for policing every second of that footage to ensure it doesn’t contain copyrighted material, or face the consequences.

This, as you can imagine, is impossible. YouTube does have automated systems in place to identify copyrighted material and allow the rights holders to either force its removal, or monetise with adverts. However this doesn’t work very well. I, myself, had a video flagged for copyrighted material because it apparently contained the sound of a helicopter that was taken from a sound effects CD – even though the sound was recorded by me at the time.

As I say, it doesn’t work properly.

At the other end of the scale, the owner of any website where people can upload content would be held liable for the content uploaded. This includes comments on blogs, forums, image sharing websites and essentially anywhere that a person can upload something – which is pretty much anywhere on the Internet.

I can immediately see the potential situation where someone with a grudge could deliberately and maliciously upload a copyrighted photo or video to a website owned by a company or person just to get them into trouble.

There is another issue – memes. Memes all use copyrighted material, therefore they’re included in Article 13. Posting memes to social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, and posting them in forums, would be in breach of Article 13.

Fear not, as memes may actually be OK. There is no clear word as yet on whether or not memes would be outlawed as they are parodies and, if they are considered parodies, they may well escape the attention of Article 13, but who’s going to take that risk?

I hope that’s cleared everything up for you regarding the EU and the internet, and how Articles 11 and 13 will, or won’t, affect you.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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