Article 13 – Did the European Union just ban memes?

Recently, the European union passed some very controversial legislation. If you’ve been on the internet, you know this as the EU banning memes. However, while people make playful jokes like the one in the thumbnail, this new directive is a very serious matter. The full name of the new directive is “The European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market” This is a new directive designed to protect the rights of copyright holders on online content sharing platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. The part of the legislation that has the most people worried is article 13, which forces online content creation platforms to “take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightsholders for the use of their works or other subject-matter or to prevent the availability on their services of works or other subject-matter identified by rightsholders through the cooperation with the service providers”(Sims).

This does not say is that individuals are allowed fair use. Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows content creators to use copyrighted works in parodies, news reporting, or other use that are generally considered fair. This allows people to make things like memes and news videos without being arrested. Fair use barely exists on YouTube, because YouTube is really bad at determining what is and isn’t fair use. This brings us into the main problem with the new legislation. Even if fair use is allowed, and there is nothing in the legislation saying that it is, there is no guarantee that the rights of citizens will actually be upheld. One solution to this problem would be to mandate online sharing platforms improve their methods of dealing with fair use issues, but that is nowhere to be found anywhere in this document.

Currently, the YouTube fair use system allows anybody to claim the revenue from any video. Then, the creator can file a complaint with YouTube, and the claimant can hold the claim for thirty days. After that, the claim is automatically released and the creator has rights to making money from the video. However, if someone wants their money back, they have to go to court, and not everybody can do that. With article 13 in effect, even if someone were to go to court to reclaim their money, they would lose. If the EU, or any government, is going to crack down on copyright, they have to make sure there is a system in place to protect the rights of citizens to fair use. The COMMUNIA said that the new measures “stem from an unbalanced vision of copyright as an issue between rightsholders and infringers”, and that the proposal “chooses to ignore limitations and exceptions to copyright, fundamental freedoms, and existing users’ practices”.

So, are memes banned? The answer to that question is yes. Memes are often copyrighted material, and the laws set into place by this directive doesn’t allow for the use of copyrighted material in anything, even as parody. Under these laws, if someone tried to claim fair use they wouldn’t be in the legal right. However, there are still several steps to go before this is an international law, even for the EU. Individual nations still have to make their own individual laws. Then, American politicians have to think it’s a good idea to bring to America. So you don’t have to worry, yet. Just meme the EU so they have to ban themselves. Until next time,

Make memes fairly



Sims, Emma. “Article 13 Approved: European Parliament Sanctions Controversial Copyright Legislation.” Alphr, 12 Sept. 2018.

Communia. “Updated Position Paper: Article 13 Remains a Terrible Idea and Needs to Be Deleted.” International Communia Association, COMMUNIA Association , 14 Sept. 2017.


Mufson, Beckett. “How Some Genius Memers Are Creatively Getting Around a ‘Meme Ban’.” Vice, Vice, 27 June 2018.