On the Internet, does Article 17 know you’re a dog?

4 cartoons:

On this day in 1993, the New Yorker magazine published a cartoon by Peter Steiner. A large dark dog sits at a desk in front of a computer; a smaller white dog sits on the floor beside him; the large dog says to the small one “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”.

On 14 November 2010, the Joy of Tech blog published a cartoon by Nitrozac and Snaggy. It’s very similar to Steiner’s; but, this time, the large dog is saying to the small one “It used to be that on the Internet, nobody knew you were a dog. Now, on a social network, everybody knows you’re a bitch“.

On 12 June 2013, the Joy of Tech blog published another cartoon by Nitrozac and Snaggy. It has two panels. The left panel, headed “In the 1990’s”, is a colourized version of Steiner’s original. The right panel, headed “Now”, shows two NSA agents in a control room. One says “Our metadata analysis indicates that he is definitely a brown lab”. The other says “He lives with a white and black spotted beagle-mix, and I suspect they are humping”.

On 23 February 2015, the New Yorker published a cartoon by Kaamran Hafeez. It’s very like Steiner’s, but a middle-aged man sits at the desk, and the two dogs are sitting on the floor beside him; the large dog says to the small one “Remember when, on the Internet, nobody knew who you were?”.

Unusually, there is no picture at the top of this post. Indeed, it probably would have much greater impact if I had shown the images themselves, but they are all protected by copyright; and the kind of fair use that permits the memification of Steiner’s original, and enables Nitrozac and Snaggy, and Kaamran Hafeez, to rework it, is a US doctrine that neither EU law nor Irish law has imported. Instead, we have Article 17 of Directive (EU) 2019/790 of 17 April 2019 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market. This provides that online content-sharing service providers can be held liable if they give the public access to copyright-protected works uploaded by its users. This site is not an online content-sharing service provider, but I have seen the above images being shared and re-shared on various social media platforms today; and, if I had added to the shares by uploading them too, then, not only would I be primarily liable for copyright infringement, but the platform on which I had uploaded the images would be secondarily liable pursuant to Article 17 DSM, unless it had taken the various actions required by that Article.