What is Article 13 and What Does it Mean? Copyright Law Explained

08/06/2019     Author: Billy Gray

If you’re living in the EU then you’ve probably heard about Article 13. The directive is aimed at radically changing the makeup of the internet. Here’s how.


The internet has become a revolutionary place. If you ask a few teenagers what they want to be when they grow up, it’s fairly likely that one of them will say “I want to be a YouTuber.” It’s not the worst choice of career, either. YouTube channels that have a large following can make a decent salary off of subscriptions, ads, and other sources of income like donations through Patrion and other creator-supporting websites.

Many content creators online make their living through their YouTube channels, or even from Instagram, Facebook, and other social media websites. On top of that, millions of people make online content for free just for fun. Memes are a good example – no one is making their living off the back of making memes (at least, we don’t think they are…).

Content creators make videos, memes, music and more in a variety of styles and for a whole bunch of reasons. Many of them use music and video clips from TV, other YouTube channels, bands, and more. So, what does this have to do with Article 13?

What is Article 13?

Article 13 is part of the Copyright Directive set up by the European Parliament that aims to manage copyright on digital content. In other words, a lot of record companies have been complaining that content creators use music that is licensed to them without offering compensation.

In response to pressure from these complaints, the EU has drafted a bill that would mean that now content platforms like YouTube are now responsible for all the content on them. This means that they’re now legally responsible for any copyright violations, alongside the content creator. In other words, record labels, TV networks, online channels and more can now sure YouTube for millions of dollars if a single video uses a video clip, song or other piece of material that they don’t have legal rights to.

So, content platforms are now using algorithms to track down any video that possibly uses material without legal licenses. The problem here is that many content creators have agreements with artists and channels to use their content, but YouTube’s algorithms aren’t going to recognize this, because they’re robots.

This means that millions of videos could potentially be pulled off of YouTube and many other content platforms. It even means that memes could be banned.

Is Article 13 law yet?

No. It’s not been passed yet. The bill is currently in the pipeline to be discussed and there is some time left for content creators and their fans to lobby the European Parliament and raise awareness about the thousands of content creators who make their living online.


Article 13 has the potential to damage the livelihood of thousands of content creators and erase their content from the internet. This in turn will reduce the amount of independent content available online. In an age where online content creators are become increasingly popular – even given celebrity status.


There are many problems with Article 13. It’s essentially just a bad regulation put together by people who aren’t in touch with current online entrepreneurial trends and who are becoming mouthpieces for record labels and other declining industries. The fact that it could essentially result in a meme ban is pretty absurd.


As mentioned earlier, content platforms tend to have robotic algorithms that detect whether content is in violation of copyright law or not. These are very broad and very ineffective. Consider that more than 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute… of course no software can effectively sift through all of that and decide if it needs to be flagged or not.


On top of this, in order to root through all the content out there, content sharing platforms will have to take a much more invasive role and essentially police all the content on their sites. This gets invasive pretty quickly and the consequences could be pretty unsavory.

Pros of Article 13

While Article 13 does have many flaws that need to be address before it can be passed, the overall concept of what the EU is trying to do here does make sense.

They’re trying to make effective copyright laws for digital content – something that the current law is very behind on and really does need to take some steps to catch up with. Thing is, this is a classic example of policy makers jumping to regulate a market that they don’t have any grasp on and that they don’t understand.

If the EU can redraft the bill and make it more in line with the future of content creation, then it would be a good thing for everyone.

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