What Is The Copyright Directive And What Does It Mean For Marketers?

A new copyright directive passed by the EU this month is expected to affect the internet on the same scale as GDPR.

The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market hopes to bring copyright legislation in line with the digital era, but many argue that it actually puts the internet as we know it at risk. Both controversial elements, Article 11 and Article 13, are sure to impact digital marketing in some way or another. But to what extent?

Photographer: Lucas Schmidt | Source: Unsplash

Will the copyright directive 'link tax' kill backlinks?

Article 11 - the link tax - is designed to ‘protect press publications concerning digital uses’. While this is great for journalists and publications, it is likely to have a detrimental effect on digital marketing strategies across the board.

We all know that link building is essential in improving SEO, which means media giants’ ability to charge licensing fees for posting links is sure to hit marketers hard. Publications, the copyright holders, have been given the ability to charge other sites for sharing their content.

The Directive states that press publications “may obtain fair and proportionate remuneration for the digital use of their press publications by information society service providers”. But that means that even Google could be charged for linking to stories - can you imagine the size of that bill?

Google may close Google News because of the implications

The first of Google’s services to be affected may be Google News. Back in November, the company hinted that the future of its news search may be short if the directive passed. This instantly means less reach for PR, marketing and media.

To make things even more complicated, EU member states will have two years to pass its own legislation that actually puts the copyright directive into play. Meaning, although foundational elements will be the same, how this looks in practice will differ between countries.

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The upload filter will not #SaveYourInternet

Article 13 - or the upload filter - intends to better protect creativity. It looks for a way that copyright holders can protect their content online.

In practice, it’s much more problematic than its idealistic foundation, and completely disregards the nature of innovation and creativity. Nothing is original anymore.

This part of the copyright directive threatens hundreds and thousands of creators, artists, and others in the creative economy. Even marketers, after all, all ideas stem from and build upon existing ones. All social media platforms, including the big players like Youtube, Facebook, and Reddit, may have to block millions of content across the entire web.

Platforms would all be liable for copyright infringement content for anyone who uploads it.

Out of fear and cost-effectiveness, platforms will probably over-censor and block all new uploads in the name of compliance. At least while waiting for evidence of copyright to be given by the uploader.

Outside of the EU, websites will probably block content to users in the EU if you can’t prove that the content you’re sharing is all yours. This includes not only videos and music but it also applies to screenshots, gifs, and memes.

Under the legislation, memes are safe. For now

If you’re running an entire campaign, at least one element of it is sure to be impacted by this in some way. Even simple policy tweaks see marketers rethinking their content, but a shift of this magnitude is unprecedented. And this is why the copyright directive has been dubbed the meme ban, or the death of the internet (as we know it).

Memes and gifs have become central in social media posts, newsletters, and blogs. They lie at the core of modern, online conversations and help brands build authentic relationships with tech-savvy, digital audiences. Their importance in internet culture has, however, been recognised. The internet made itself heard: the legislation makes expectations for the “parody or pastiche”.

Alas, memes are safe (for now). But due to the fact they’re almost always based on copyrighted images, there’s no saying for how long. And at the very least, advertising platforms will inevitably see effects of Article 13 because of less content online, therefore less ad space and higher cost of advertising.

Search engines will likely also preview less information in results to avoid displaying chunks of content which they don’t have a copyright license for, meaning we’ll have to write tighter and smarter to convey the same information and grab attention.

Protesters took to the streets against the Copyright Directive

But we still don’t really know

All in all, while legislation will have a knock-on effect in marketing, it’s all just speculation at the moment. YouTube has encouraged users to contribute to the debate using #SaveTheInternet, in the hope of protecting creativity, innovation, and online freedom.

Perhaps if creativity is stifled, it’ll force the legislatures' eyes open and show that extensive copyright law, true to predictions of internet users around the world, is more of a hindrance than a liberation.

For marketers, it may not change things more than the latest algorithm in the grad scheme of things. If anything, it could drive us to be more creative and build bolder campaigns to make up losses. But day-to-day, things are bound to get more complex; be it trying to keep ad spend down or proving evidence that your assets are really yours.

It would be smart to use this two-year period, for EU member states to implement their own national law, as time to get your house in order.

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