There’s been a lot of noise recently from the internet community, and they all appear to be shouting the same thing: stop Article 13! Whether or not they’re right to call for a stoppage of this EU legislation is one thing, however there’s certainly no doubt that it’s in the news for a reason.
The one thing we want to know is: how will Article 13 affect Twitch?
What is Twitch?
Twitch is the largest online live streaming video site that’s aimed prominently at video game players. Since its launch in 2011, it has quickly become the newest platform for internet fame and has given birth to a whole new generation of ‘gaming celebrities’.
The site is massively popular, registering around 15 million active daily users and an average of 1 million users on the site at any given time. These numbers are only set to grow too, as Twitch expands into other niche areas such as music, art, and online casino streaming plus other popular interests.
To many, Twitch represents a world of possibility. It is a platform for creation, expression, and competition to flourish. However, is it all under threat?
What is Article 13?
Article 13 is one part of a larger European Union directive aimed at regulating copyrighted materials online. The full version is known as the ‘Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market’.
Because the legislation is an EU directive, this means it is not immediately law. Rather, these directives set an aim or objective for EU countries to achieve at some later date.
Articles 13 and 11 are the most controversial parts. The former has come to be known as the ‘meme ban’, whereas the latter has procured the ‘link tax’ nickname.
Article 13 states that:
‘Online content sharing service providers and right holders shall cooperate in good faith in order to ensure that unauthorised protected works or other subject matter are not available on their services’.
In essence, this means websites such as YouTube and Twitch will be responsible for policing and removing content that infringes copyright.
The legislation is not clear on how this should happen. However, what is clear is that it moves the responsibility of copyright infringement from the content creator to the sites themselves. In other words, it used to be the streamers’ responsibility to not broadcast copyrighted material, but Article 13 will shift this to the likes of Twitch and YouTube themselves.
When will Article 13 happen?
The controversial draft of the legislation was first voted upon in September of last year, which quickly prompted a response from Twitch on Article 13.
However, the European Parliament this week voted upon the final draft of the legislation and it received significant backing from MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) – 348 in favour vs 274 against.
If the usual timeline for directives is followed, it should be fully ratified by 2021. During that time, it’s possible for amendments to be made.
Will Twitch be hurt by Article 13?
The issue with this debate is that it depends upon the side you see it from.
Twitch released a full press statement claiming that Article 13 would be bad because it would require creators to take steps to show they’re complying with copyright. In their eyes, this would likely lead to a reduction in the types of content available.
However, it’s not clear that any of these claims are unequivocally true. Firstly, the legislation appears to allow for the possibility that service providers could buy copyright licences from organisations – which has already been highlighted by Labour MEP Mary Honeyball here. Of course, the argument against is that astronomical fees could be charged for this. Also, there’s the very real possibility that the copyright holders are actually large multinational companies anyway – with very little benefit for independent creators.
Secondly, the purpose of the legislation (it is claimed) is to move responsibility from creators to the platform, so neither is it obvious that creators will have to prove compliance if another method can be found. An obvious issue with Article 13 and Twitch, in particular, is live streaming, as most automatic systems scan after upload. However, it is possible that some alternative can be conceived in the meantime.
In short, much of this depends upon how Twitch and others choose to respond and whether they can develop updated systems to comply with it.