[WATCH] Malta’s biggest Youtuber’s impassioned plea on why EU copyright law ‘could kill Internet’

Doctor-turned-Youtuber Grandayy, followed by 2 million worldwide, says MEPs must vote against Copyright Directive’s Article 13

Grandayy avatar ‘Robbie Rotten’ (left) – the Maltese Youtuber says Francis Zammit Dimech has misunderstood the effects of the Copyright Directive
Grandayy avatar ‘Robbie Rotten’ (left) – the Maltese Youtuber says Francis Zammit Dimech has misunderstood the effects of the Copyright Directive

Malta’s biggest Youtuber Grandayy has released a music video taking to task the controversial Article 13 in the EU’s Copyright Directive, featuring YouTube’s most followed broadcaster, PewDiePie.

“As important as it is, it’s sadly not getting too much attention in Malta, unlike what’s happening in other European countries,” Grandayy, a qualified doctor who now makes a living from producing memes on YouTube.

“Article 13 will force websites like YouTube and Facebook to use automated bots or upload filters to scan all videos [and] images uploaded by every person. If the bots detect any copyrighted content in these media uploads, they will be blocked and censored before they get the chance to go public, unless the platforms and copyright holders can reach an agreement for a licensing deal,” Grandayy said – spelling out the threat to Youtubers who mostly use third-party content for what is called “legitimate transformative fair use”.

Most of this third-party content is essential for much of what gets uploaded to YouTube, like memes, parodies, reviews, critique, commentary, and educational content.

Article 13’s text says that a few exceptions, such as parody and criticism, are excluded, but memes are not specifically mentioned anywhere and doubts exist as to whether they can be legally classified due to their variability.

But Grandayy warned that all this broadcasts risk getting censored because of these automated bots.

“These types of transformative content typically make use of copyrighted content such as songs or movie clips, for example to make jokes out of, and because of this, automated bots may end up blocking them just as if they were the same as pirated re-uploads. Bots cannot distinguish between legitimate transformative uses and actual copyright infringement, they will just block any copyrighted content they detect no matter the context,” Grandayy said.

The Maltese Youtuber said the law will put the livelihood of several European online content creators that produce transformative content under threat. “My career depends on me being able to create and monetize memes freely. This is my life, and if my career is ruined because of this I would be devastated. While I don’t think it would ever come to that, it’s definitely a possibility.”

Grandayy also warned that the Copyright Directive could disrupt the way people on the internet share content like jokes and memes among each other on social media.

Thousands have taken to the street in protests in Germany and Poland, and on 23 March protests against the Copyright Directive’s controversial rules are planned to take place in multiple cities in several European countries.

“It’s just sad that certain MEPs keep living in denial and ignoring all this widespread criticism from the people,” Grandayy said. “Most MEPs have no idea about the issues we already face with copyright on YouTube. They think YouTube is some kind of free-for-all where people can upload copyrighted content without any trouble. This couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Only two out of the six Maltese MEPs, Miriam Dalli and Marlene Mizzi, have voted against Article 13 in the past votes. Nationalist MEP Francis Zammit Dimech has promoted it.

The final vote by the EU Parliament will now be held in the week of March 25th. “I strongly appeal to the Maltese MEPs to vote against the Copyright Directive, or at the very least against Article 13, in the upcoming vote. Protecting copyright is a good thing, but not at the cost of endangering the free and open internet.”

YouTube filters

YouTube already operates a Content ID system which scans all uploaded videos for copyrighted content, and either blocks the video or diverts all money generated from such videos to the copyright holder.

“This is good for pirated videos, but the system is heavily abused by music labels to steal money from Youtubers who upload transformative content such as memes, reviews and commentary videos. I have a long list of claimed meme videos on my channel, and with all of them, the money generated from these videos are going to the claimants while I get left with €0. This is despite these videos being memes and supposedly protected by copyright law exceptions. This is a very common issue with many other Youtubers, including PewDiePie,” Grandayy said.

Other opponents of Article 13 Wikimedia, the creators of Wikipedia, Frontier Foundation, a digital rights NGO, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Creative Commons, Human Rights Watch, Freedom of the Press Foundation, European Digital Rights, and many other digital rights organizations.

Francis Zammit Dimech reacts

The PN MEP justified his work on the European directive by saying that several Maltese artists had spoken about the importance of this reform.

"Joseph Calleja said that the music industry faces extinction without EU legislation," Zammit Dimech said, adding that Maltese MEPs and several local artists, including The Travellers, Jason Cassar, Richard Micallef, Wayne Camilleri, Marty Rivers and Ozzy Lino had signed the HT Manifesto for an open and fair internet without censorship.

"We all want artists such as singers and songwriters to keep creating content which we can enjoy and share with friends. To do this, we need to ensure that they are paid fairly," Zammit Dimech told MaltaToday.

The MEP said that at the European Parliament he had worked to safeguard the rights of workers and now, also, the works of artists. He did say, however, that the copyright reform had already been discussed before he was elected to the European Parliament and a report had been compiled. "I was not responsible in the drafting of this report," he said, adding that as a member of the Committee of Legal Affairs, he did however, hold several consultation meetings, including with Grandayy.

In comments to this newspapers, Zammit Dimech said that he had met with several underpaid artists. "This is unacceptable," he said. "This reform is not about link tax and filters. There will be no tax on internet use or distribution of snippets on Facebook. I have been given assurance that this is a misinformation campaign.

"On the contrary, this reform will strengthen use of satire through memes, gifs and parody," he said.

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