You may have heard a lot of buzz about the new European Union’s Copyright Directive, and that may have caused you to be concerned or at least to wonder about how it would impact your marketing strategy. There are certain sections of the Copyright Directive which will have an impact on how businesses and individuals make use of the social media, and you can find out what those impacts are by reading and understanding the information contained below.
Article 17 of the European Union Copyright Directive deals with the usage of protected content by service providers which share that content online, and it is one of the sections of the Directive which has companies scrambling to interpret its precise meaning and impact. Copyright laws in the European Union have not been updated in nearly 20 years, but for the past two years and more, the European Council has been diligently applying itself to working on this Directive, with the end result being the passage of Article 17.
This article completely alters the way in which social media platforms must deal with material that has been copyrighted. Currently in the United States as well as in Europe, all owners of videos, pictures, and other copyrighted materials are obliged to make a social media platform aware of any copyright violation, after which the platform must pull the content off-line. The owner of the copyright is within his/her rights to make an infringement claim against the individual who illegally uploaded that content. The platform itself is immune from any kind of legal action, since it is merely providing a host service, and is not party to the infringement.
This is exactly what changes with these new guidelines, because the social media platform itself would now also be potentially liable for infringement of copyright. This is a profound change to existing copyright laws, and it puts social media platforms squarely in line for potential legal action if any account holders were to upload content without the appropriate permissions from copyright owners. This means that anyone who decides to upload an illegally obtained version of the latest blockbuster movie could be sued for copyright infringement, and the platform which is uploaded to could also be held liable.
How social media platforms will react
As you might expect, all the social media platforms are appropriately horrified by this new law, because it exposes them to potentially serious litigation from a number of standpoints. Obviously, there could be a tremendous financial impact associated with being held liable by musical artists, movie studios, and other kinds of artists for copyright infringement. That leaves the social media platforms with only a few realistic alternatives, to help them avoid the serious exposure and potentially disastrous financial impact.
The first option, considered very unlikely by industry experts, is that platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook could pay artists and studios ahead of time for all copyrighted materials. This could be difficult to carry out, since it would involve trying to predict all potential content which might be uploaded to a platform by various individuals. A second option would be to completely relinquish the market for uploaded materials, and this is also considered to be quite unlikely by industry observers.
That leaves the most realistic option being some kind of system which uses filters to detect material which has been copyrighted, and then to require convincing proof of ownership or permissions before any materials will be allowed to be uploaded. This is considered to be by far the most likely option, although it will oblige the social media platforms to develop such a filtering system, so that copyrighted materials can accurately be identified prior to any possibility of being uploaded.
Some platforms already have at least the beginnings of this technology in place (for instance YouTube has ContentID), and those which lack the filtering technology at present should not have any trouble developing it. However, it still remains a huge impact when you take into account all the Internet platforms where copyrighted material could potentially be uploaded, and that means far beyond all the traditional social media platforms.
For the giants in social media, there won’t be any trouble developing the necessary technology to protect themselves, but smaller companies may find it cost prohibitive to develop and implement filtering capabilities. This is especially true of relatively new online platforms which are still fairly small and bring in only modest annual revenues. In fact, it’s entirely possible that these smaller companies will not have the resources to compete with the major social media platforms, and it could cause them to go out of business entirely.
Which copyrighted materials are affected?
A press release has been issued by the European Council which provides some guidance on which copyrighted materials are affected by Article 17. The press release states that some materials such as news article extracts, gifts, and memes can continue to be shared freely without copyright infringement. It also states that startup companies will be considered to have less stringent obligations with regard to copyright infringement, than will be more established and more lucrative platforms.
However, there seems little doubt that once the social media platforms begin to filter content for copyright infringement, the likely result will be that users have reduced access to online content. It’s also likely that users will no longer be able to share content with other individuals, even if they happen to be the owner of the material. Account holders who are operating businesses which depend on sharing content through the social media are very likely to have a good percentage of their content blocked, or alternatively they’ll have to re-situate themselves on platforms which have less restrictive regulations.
Ultimate impact of Article 17
A number of critics have been very vocal about describing Article 17 as the slippery slope which could easily lead to surveillance and pervasive censorship in the social media. It is no exaggeration to say that this new regulation will completely alter the face of social media throughout the countries of Europe, and that it will eventually be spread throughout the world. The legislation was passed on April 15, which gives European Union members up to two years to achieve compliance with the new regulation. At present, the Directive only affects members of the European Union, but it might very well spread around the world, and that’s what has American social media platforms deeply concerned about the future.