Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted to make huge changes to copyright legislation. The new directive could mean that Instagram will finally have to address the vast amount of freebooted content that proliferates on its platform.
The European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market contains one particular detail — Article 13 — that has drawn strong criticism for threatening to undermine the internet’s democratic principles. The changes mean that platforms will have to take greater responsibility for any content that is uploaded without the permission of the copyright holder. While critics argue that this has implications for memes, satire, and user-generated content, it could be good news for creators who are frustrated at seeing their copyright ignored and profited upon by the likes of Instagram.
If EU member states go on to approve the directive, changes could come into force in around two years. Platforms will have to filter content before it is uploaded as they will now be responsible for any copyright infringements, rather than relying on copyright holders to randomly stumble upon their content and file a complaint. YouTube already scans content to check whether it matches with existing videos, allowing creators to block or monetize the use of their videos and music. The Google-owned platform warns that increasing these measures will involve blocking and removing vast amounts of content and could have implications for citizens in EU countries accessing its site.
Will Instagram Start Paying Content Creators?
One company that should be particularly worried is Instagram as much of its ad revenue is generated by users viewing freebooted content. Not only has it consistently ignored available technology that would alert users to copyright infringements, it actively promotes freebooted photos and videos. If I head to the search tab on Instagram, typically three of the first eight recommended results are copyright infringements. In addition, I gave up following the #parkour hashtag as more than half of the posts appearing in my feed were freebooted. Instagram creates huge amounts of its advertising revenue by serving illegal content and the EU has just taken a huge step in bringing that to an end.
Under current legislation, liability for copyright infringement lies with the perpetrator, and Instagram conveniently evades any responsibility, ignores its own terms and conditions, and profits accordingly. With the changes, Instagram will suddenly be accountable for these infringements and seems to have a few options. It can prevent it from being uploaded, or it can decide to pay creators for giving their permission. If the photographs and videos stay online, the copyright holder needs to receive a licensing fee. Instead of Instagram making huge amounts of money from your freebooted images, some of that revenue would come to you.
A Threat to Freedom of Expression
Opponents fear that new levels of automated filtering to prevent uploads would be disastrous for the internet, stifling its organic evolution and restricting freedom of expression. As Wired.com describes, an open letter signed by the likes of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Web inventors Sir Tim Berners-Lee argued that the internet “could not have developed as it has if Article 13 had been in effect 25 years ago.” It also notes that fallacious copyright claims have been used as a tactic for silencing critical content.
The full implications of Article 13 remain to be seen. If you have further thoughts on how the changes could affect photographers and filmmakers, please make sure to comment below.