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Freedom of Speech and the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market

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Title: Freedom of Speech and the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market
Author(s): Lempiäinen, Nikolas
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in Politics, Media and Communication
Specialisation: Media and Communication
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2020
One of the most debated legislations of the European Union addresses the questions of free speech on the internet and remuneration between the content creators and the content provider platforms. Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market came to force on 7 June 2019 and EU countries have 24 months to translate it into national law. The directive has been called one of the most controversial directive implementations in recent history. It has changed the rules of how content sharing platforms (social media platforms) can present and share content made by users. Thus it addresses questions of free speech and communication. The objective of the thesis was to understand how freedom of speech was presented in the news coverage regarding the directive and who supported and who were against the directive. It was important to understand how the new rules for social media age were argued to understand possible motives for these rules, which have an effect on social media communication and thus for the operating model of traditional media. The research method of the thesis is a thematic qualitative text analysis and the data was collected from online newspaper articles from Finland, UK, USA. Six themes were identified from the data: argumentation related to remuneration for content, discourse of power struggle, sharing of content, banning of memes and videos, “saving of the European culture” and lobbying. Most importantly free speech together with the economic aspects were the most underlying themes of the data. This is due to the fact that the sharing of content and remuneration are the main aspects of the legislation and thus it was logical that the discussion surrounded these topics. What resonated in the free speech context was the “meme ban” issue, which could be identified as the most populistic cornerstone in the discussion as it was the most concrete effect, which was argued to be realised from the legislation. Populist politicians seemed to oppose the legislation, while some EU politicians argued for it. Technology companies promoted the meme ban in a way that could be described as lobbying. Some famous artists also published columns in support of the directive, but it has to be noted that the directive most likely benefits them financially. The dichotomy of technology companies vs. EU, content creators such as newspapers was present. Mostly the directive was opposed due to its restriction on free speech and the directive was supported due to leveling the playfield financially. Free speech and financial benefit thus worked in a counterpoise to each other. Overall the argumentation proved interesting questions of the traditional media's role in the age of social media and how the agenda setting role of the traditional media has diminished to a point where a legislator finds it necessary to force rules to preserve the quality of public discourse, at the cost of freedom of speech. How much of the actual effects will diminish freedom of speech remains to be seen and thus could be a subject to a future research.

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