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Stranger Things Fandom Brought to Tears by Copyright Directive

Written by Mark Reed on 24 January 2019

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We have reported previously about the potential meme crisis in relation to copyright infringement and the copyright directive. However, the warning from Brussels hit Instagram account users with such a bang that Stranger Things Fandom teens were left in tears.

Article 13 which refers to regulations on content sharing providers online has threatened the use of memes in the future. There are even lobbying campaigns to save the meme on a huge scale, with huge internet companies getting involved. A search of the Collins dictionary has the term meme as an image or video that is spread widely online, often altered for humorous effect. The issue is that this is arguably copyright infringement because it is the distributing of information without the consent of the owner.

Initial views on this were not very effective until now when the warning created a frenzy among young teenagers, with a large number of Instagram teen users joining the lobbying campaign to ‘save the meme’. The Guardian interviewed a 12-year-old named Julie who is part of the Stranger Things fandom, a group of Instagram users linked by their love of the Netflix teen horror series. They share “edits” – videos, stills and gifs based on footage from the show which they loop, cut with a new soundtrack or overlay with text. It is no secret that these sorts of groups are everywhere online and clearly built around creative but unlicensed reuse of copyrighted material.

The unfortunate deletion of the Stranger Things fan account turned out to have nothing to do with Article 13 because there are still negotiations in place between three possible versions of the draft directive. It was actually an internal issue that closed it down. The issue extends beyond the misuse on group pages such as Stranger Things and in fact puts altered but amusing videos uploaded to YouTube in to disrepute as well. The final decisions on the directive will certainly change the internet giants’ policies and hold even greater burdens on them to be more stringent on blocking videos that are shared on their site.

The biggest crack down will of course be towards companies who solely rely on the creation of memes and video like this. The Guardian also interviewed online content creators, who are concerned about the threat to their livelihoods, have also mobilised. Filmmakers such as Philip DeFranco, who provides a daily news roundup to his 6 million subscribers, and channels such as FBE, whose 18 million subscribers watch videos of people reacting to other videos, have produced their own videos explaining, in an activist fashion, the pitfalls of the proposed directive. There will certainly be an interesting few weeks ahead when the decision is finally made as to which version of the copyright directive for digital singe market will be approved.

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