Article 13: Will the controversial new EU copyright regulation affect digital marketing?

27 March, 2019


European parliament has voted in favour of Article 13 by 348 votes to 274. The controversial new EU regulation has stirred up a lot of debate, and digital marketers in the UK and the EU should certainly be aware of what the new rules could mean for them.

What is Article 13?

Article 13 is a significant update to European online copyright law. It is the final version of a new law which Google says will “change the internet as we know it.” 

The new legislation aims to force digital platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Google to take greater responsibility for the third party content posted by their users.

In practice, it means if a YouTuber uploads a music video, movie scene or other intellectual property they do not have the copyright for, YouTube itself would be held accountable under the new rules.

The debate over Article 13

This vote and the build up to it has been highly controversial among online communities. Those in favour of the new legislation say it will make “copyright laws fit for the digital era” in an age where so much copyrighted material is republished and shared without a license. 

Key figures in the music and entertainment industries have also welcomed the decision, stating that Article 13 will help create a fairer market for creative works online. 

Wired magazine stated that: 

“The EU argues that up until now, online platforms such as YouTube and Google News have been making huge sums of money by hosting or directing people to creative content – but haven’t been funnelling much of that cash back to the people who the content in the first place.” 

Big record companies and copyright owners appear to be largely pleased at the ruling. This seems perfectly reasonable on the surface, but it gets more complicated. 

Julia Reda, an MEP from Germany, was one of many to express their concerns about the new legislation as the result was announced. She argued that the new rules would have a dramatic impact on online freedom.


YouTube themselves have been one of the most vocal Article 13 critics, and the platform set up a #SaveYourInternet campaign to oppose it.

They say that “the directive fails to clearly outline requirements for how rights holders should cooperate to identify their content. Instead, it introduces vague, untested requirements that could be imposed on well-meaning platforms, content creators and rights holders. This will likely result in online services over-blocking content to limit legal risk.”

Article 13 and viral content, memes and gifs

Critics of Article 13 have noted that the ruling does not just limit the unauthorised publication of complete works, such as songs, movies or TV episodes; it also includes screenshots, gifs and, of course, memes. 

Memes and gifs have become part of the very fabric of social media conversation.

This includes businesses and their digital marketing teams. Many social media marketers see these methods as a way to bridge the gap between themselves and their younger audiences. 

Article 13 has been labelled the ‘meme ban’ by its detractors. There is currently no consensus on whether memes, which are commonly based on copyrighted imagery, will be regulated. If they are, brands using them in order to connect with their web-savvy audience could find themselves in trouble.

Article 13 and digital content creators

Among the most concerned by the passing of Article 13 are online content creators, particularly vloggers on platforms such as YouTube. 

Content creators have argued that Article 13 threatens to impact, and possibly shut down, the ability of users to upload creative content to these platforms – including wildly popular ‘Let’s Play’ videos in the gaming community, as well as movie and music review, news and reaction videos.

Matt Koval, who is a content strategist at YouTube, claimed that Article 13 “threatens hundreds of thousands of creators, artists and others employed in the creative economy.”

What about digital marketers?

The impact of Article 13 on digital marketers will likely be less significant than those in the creative industries, but we should still be aware of what is happening – as the advertising platforms of these content sharing sites will inevitably see some effect.

For those using YouTube as a video marketing channel, the possibility of a YouTube video purge may be troubling, as the range of targeting options would decrease. 

The ruling may also see a large number of popular YouTube videos removed for breaching the rules. Fewer videos means fewer ad spaces. 

In essence, this means the number of marketing opportunities on YouTube could decrease – the demand for this advertising space would then increase. The result of that would be increased competition and ultimately higher costs for advertising. 

Article 13 is certain to develop and change over the following months, even years, and the true impact of the new regulations will become apparent in time. In the meantime, we would recommend digital marketers stay up to date with the latest news and developments. 

Written by Tom

Tom cites his key strengths as communication, writing and presenting. He enjoys working in digital due to the way it satisfies both the creative and logical sides of the brain.

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