In the last post, I gave an overview of The European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (aka Article 13). I talked about how it is meant to help creators by tightening the copyright laws, such as making service platforms like Twitter responsible for making sure posted content is not infringing on copyright. I also talked about how even though the proposal doesn’t aim at memes, they could suffer. But in this part, I want to talk about the service platforms, the creators, and the customers.
While the proposal is meant to help creators, it could harm them. And I’m not talking about how things like gameplay walkthroughs or theory channels or possibly review channels would be affected–they wouldn’t be able to show clips from the movies or games they are talking about or show cut-outs of the characters. I’m talking about the same thing that’ll affect both creator and customer: the money.
Let me explain…
Right now, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and so on are free for customers to use. Those customers include creators who post their vlog on YouTube or tweet a link to their latest blog entry to authors who use Facebook to advertise their latest book. You can also include those who just chat and show pictures of their lunch as customers. These services are free because Twitter (et cetera) don’t really do much. They are there as a tool. They are just the place to store and distribute whatever it is that people are posting–much like eBay is a marketplace distributor. But unlike eBay, YouTube and gang don’t charge a fee when someone buys a product…yet.
If Article 13 passes, these sites will need some kind of system to monitor the posts (I gave a few option examples in the last post). As I stated in the last post, all the options cost money and time. That money has to come from somewhere. Right now it is mostly from advertising or from special memberships. If the proposal passes, the services will need to spend more money to meet the new regulations. At first, it is unlikely they’ll charge for their services, but as time goes on and the cost of business exceeds the money from advertisers, they’ll need something. It’ll probably start out as an ad-free membership service. The free service will probably be garbage compared to the membership, prompting others to use it. Eventually, you’ll have to use the paid-for service or suffer.
So, customers will have to pay. That includes both creator and traditional customer. Many small business owners, such as animators, artists, authors, and so on rely heavily on social media platforms in order to create, distribute, and advertise. Even if developers/creators, like Epic Games, allow the walkthroughs, many of the YouTube creators won’t be able to afford publishing the video anyway. If they have to pay YouTube to post their video, chances are they won’t be able to afford it.
So, the creators lose their jobs and there’s no more content. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not paying $9.99 a month (or whatever the subscription fee will be) to watch cat videos. So…there goes the platform and countless other jobs.
You don’t think it’ll happen? Well, it’s already starting. YouTube has had their streaming/cable service for how long now? Also, look at television. At first, advertising paid for the show. You watched the ads and the creators got paid (sounds sort of familiar doesn’t it). But as costs went up, the stations needed more money, so they began charging the customers. And now years later, streaming services have come along and charge less causing people to dump the cable and subscribe to Hulu or Netflix.
How about the old video rental places like Blockbuster? Netflix charged less and offered more by having the movie sent to the person. Eventually Blockbuster closed and Netflix started increasing their price. Or how at first, you could get an iTunes song for $0.99, but as more people switched to digital, the price went up!
Sorry, my train of thought derailed there a bit.
What I’m trying to say is that at first, I supported the proposal–copyright is a good thing: people should be getting paid for their work (the Society of Authors makes a pretty good argument). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if it passes no one wins. The people who make reviews and theories and such lose their jobs. The platforms like YouTube and Twitter have to pay more to keep up with the new regulations (and if they can’t, they either fail or have to start charging or charge more). The customers will have to pay service fees to use the platform. The creators that the whole proposal is supposed to be protecting lose too. They could lose the free advertising and word of mouth that they get from social media, reviews, and theorists theorizing. They could lose the places that distribute their work, regardless if they are “original” or “review.” And, of course, the memes would get caught in the overzealous algorithm that would need to be created to meet the proposal’s regulations.
But hey, that’s just a theory…a business and human nature theory. Sorry, I had to get one more meme in…while I still can.
But in all seriousness, the proposal is a not that horrible of an idea, they just need to rethink their wording. Right now, the language is vague and really opens itself up to those with nefarious plots who wish to exploit the loopholes.
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