If you’re a content marketer or content creator in the UK, you may have heard about a controversial EU directive known as Article 17 (previously referred to as Article 13 in draft).

Approved on April 15 2019, this law relates to the European Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. A quick Google search doesn’t really give you a synopsis but does return lots of long read articles, which are easy to ignore if you’re short on time.

But if you’re working in the creative digital space I think that understanding this Directive is important. The motivations of this law provide an insight into what the future of our regulated or unregulated internet might look like and its implications for those communicating online globally and locally.

So here is a bite-sized guide on what you need to know as a marketer about Article 17.

What does Article 13/17 mean?

In short, the objective of the Directive is to bring all member states into a single digital market, but there are some elements that are causing antagonism; Article 13 states that content-sharing services must license copyright-protected material from the rights holders. If that does not happen, then the company may be held liable.

This means that sites hosting user-generated content, like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and so on, will be responsible for copyrighted material that is shared illegally on their platforms.

So what’s the problem?

For YouTube, videos featuring copyrighted material make up a large part of the platform’s content, and the company is concerned the strong restrictions on content uploads would severely affect users’ freedom – and YouTube’s revenue.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has said:

“While we support the rights of copyright holders — YouTube has deals with almost all the music companies and TV broadcasters today — we are concerned about the vague, untested requirements of the new directive.”

“It could create serious limitations for what YouTube creators can upload. This risks lowering the revenue to traditional media and music companies from YouTube and potentially devastating the many European creators who have built their businesses on YouTube.”

Content creators are unhappy too

In the wake of Article 13 being introduced (and passing as Article 17), content creators have opened up a number of discussions about free speech because many of them (think vloggers, bloggers and influencers) feel that they should be free to create the content they want to make and not be governed by upload filters that are created by the technology giants.

It could be that as time passes, these companies will effectively be controlling what gets shared on the internet, as it becomes more difficult to get past these upload filters and creators will have fewer places to share.

A Change.org petition to ‘Save the Internet‘ as well as a campaign called #SaveYourInternet have been launched by opponents to the Article, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has even lent her support. At the time of writing, the petition has had more than five million signatures.

So, what happens next?

EU countries have until 2021 to implement the Directive into their national law but despite the article being passed, some countries are still raising concerns over the ambiguous language used in the Directive.

And with the UK set to leave the EU on 31st October, it may be that the Directive will not even apply to UK companies.

What does this mean for digital marketers?

Regardless of opposition to the Directive and Brexit, the EU Copyright Directive was voted upon and passed in the European Parliament in April 2019, so it’s clear that the dial will start moving. As different countries implement at their own pace, any digital marketer crossing international boundaries with global brands will need to ensure that they are aware of the cultural and legal barriers of communicating in that market.

The only way to succeed with content campaigns will be to ensure we continue to create original content for our brands and clients.

While some businesses may be getting away with posting copycat content today, it’s likely that this will get harder to pull off, and I can see one positive being that only truly great content will prevail. This will raise the bar, ensuring that brand marketing is the best it can be, which is great news.

It looks like upload filters will be coming in one guise or another. This means we will be fighting more complex algorithms and social media marketers will need to keep a constant eye on any changes announced by social networks that will impact the reach of our work.

Another consideration is fluctuating costs for YouTube advertising; they may increase as brands compete to beat the upload filters, or decrease if content creators leave the platform due to not being able to upload their content.

Working with influencers will also have another dimension, as being up-to-date on the latest platform filters may be important so that we can advise our brand partnership contacts on how to succeed with reach and views for co-branded content, always reiterating that originality is best.

Rest assured, though, I don’t think there will be an internet armageddon just yet. Article 17 does have some limitations including the fact that it shall, in the words of the Directive, “in no way affect legitimate uses” of online content-sharing services, and people will be allowed to use bits of copyright-protected material for the purpose of criticism, review, parody and pastiche.

I think that means our memes are safe – which makes me happy because I’d really miss @doggosbeingdoggos on Instagram.

Please note that this article represents the views of the author solely, and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

For more on EU legislation and its impact on marketers, read our in-depth briefing GDPR: A year on.