Did you know making a meme technically isn't allowed in many parts of the EU? Did you know it’s illegal to share a picture of the Eiffel Tower light display at night? Did you know in some parts of the EU, teachers aren’t legally allowed to screen films or share teaching materials in the classroom? Think that’s absurd? So do we. It’s time our laws caught up with our technology. Here are three things that can help fix copyright:
Update EU copyright law for the 21st century
Copyright can be valuable in promoting education, research, and creativity — if it’s not out of date and excessively restrictive. The EU’s current copyright laws were passed in 2001, before most of us had smartphones. We need to update and harmonise the rules to create room to tinker, create, share, and learn on the internet. Education, parody, panorama, remix, and analysis shouldn’t be unlawful.
“In Mozilla's ideal world, EU laws would change so that education, parody, panorama, remix and analysis aren’t unlawful. — The Register
Today, our communication, creation, and conversations are facilitated through technology. But many of our normal activities — taking pictures in public while on holidays, or sharing learning materials with your classmates — are illegal in some member states. This means that if you live in or visit a country like Italy or France, you’re not permitted to take pictures of certain buildings, cityscapes, graffiti, and art, and share them online through Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Outdated laws are limiting the potential for growth, imagination, and creativity. It’s time to set our imaginations free across the EU.
Build in openness and flexibility to foster innovation and creativity
Mashups, memes, and GIFs are all examples of modern Internet culture. Copyrighted works are remixed, reimagined, and reused in new and creative ways every day. These elements build on existing ideas in a way that breathes new meaning into old content.
“You have us hooked. For meme’s sake, sign the petition.” — The Inquirer
Technology advances at a rapid pace, and laws can’t keep up. That’s why our laws must be future-proof: Designed so they remain relevant in 5, 10 or even 15 years. We need to allow new uses of copyrighted works in order to expand growth and innovation. We need to build into the law flexibility, through a UGC exception and a clause like an open norm, fair dealing, or fair use, to empower everyday people to shape culture and conversations online and keep the Internet awesome.
Don’t break the internet.
A key part of what makes the internet awesome is the principle of innovation without permission — that anyone, anywhere, can create and reach an audience without anyone standing in the way. That key principle is under threat. Some people are calling for licensing fees and restrictions on Internet companies for basic things like creating hyperlinks or uploading content. Others are calling for new laws that would mandate monitoring and filtering online.
“Meme, mashups and GIF’s play a major role in the Internet culture. In strictly legal terms violates the use of foreign content but of course against the copyright… one of many reasons for which urgently European copyright law is necessary to modernize.” — t3n
These changes would establish gatekeepers and barriers to entry online, and would risk undermining the internet as a platform for economic growth and free expression. We need to defend the principle of innovation without permission in copyright law. Abandoning it by holding platforms liable for everything that happens online would have an immense chilling effect on speech, and would take away one of the best parts of the internet — the ability to innovate and breathe new meaning into old content.
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