Don't you know, there's a war on?
If you don't lurk in the dark corners of the web where memes are born, you may not have heard about a controversial piece of European legislation that threatens the freewheeling process by which the internet's lingua franca is formed. But meme-makers have an unhinged plan to fight back.
Earlier this month, the European Union's Legal Affairs Committee voted in favor of the EU Copyright Directive. It's a sweeping reform designed to bring the full weight of the law down on people sharing copyrighted material, including the atomic components of memes: GIFs, screencaps from movies and shows, and stock photos. On July 5, the EU Parliament will vote on the law, and that's when a group of Redditors is planning to retaliate.
Memers have been protesting what's become known as the "Meme Ban" for weeks, remaking popular memes without copyrighted material (a.k.a. blank), or sketching hand-drawn versions of different formats to protect them against the law.
With the latest version of this joke, the internet is going on the offensive by grafting the EU flag on to memes, from Spongebob Squarepants characters to Drake to "Loss."
Experts say the EU Copyright Directive is dangerous because it's vague and essentially allows corporations to use the government as a weapon against people who are just trying to live their lives online. Internet advocate Cory Doctorow wrote for Motherboard that it's not only dangerous to memes, but all online media thanks to something called "copyfraud." Currently, there are no penalties for falsely crying copyright infringement. "The opportunities for mischief are endless," he wrote.
If you're American and wondering why this affects you, keep in mind that huge swaths of the internet will bend to the most draconian version of this law. It's a very different threat from the SOPA/PIPA and CISPA legislation many Americans fought against over the past half a decade, but it's just as worthy of their attention.
Turning the EU flag into a meme won't, as these meme activists suggest, make the governing body "ban itself." For one thing, the flag is already in the Creative Commons, so it wouldn't be subject to the new law. But the meme shows how nonsensical the side effects of the poorly-written legislation will likely be.
The EU Flag meme is picking up steam on Reddit and Twitter, with new memes popping up hourly. But it's just one part of the activist push to pressure the European Parliament to reject the new law. Mozilla is encouraging internet users to reach out to their members of Parliament to ask them to vote against the legislation.
If you don't have a member of parliament to contact, raising awareness is the next best thing, according to Doctorow. "Tell your friends. Whether its dating sites, online auctions, source code management, or social media, every service that lets people talk to each other is covered by this awful, looming proposal," he wrote. It seems like these Redditors could be onto something, because nothing spreads faster than memes.
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