ORG Birmingham Mozilla Maker Party helps fix copyright one meme at a time

On Tuesday evening we met at Centrala arts space in Digbeth to hold our first ever  held our first ever Mozilla Maker Party. The purpose of the evening was to make  people aware of EU plans to change copyright in ways that threaten creativity and freedom of expression on the internet. `Attendees worked with Birmingham-based digital artist  Antonio Roberts to create satirical memes and rebellious selfies to highlight the flaws in the EU’s plans and make the case for a copyright system which  is able to keep up with how we lives our lives now.

EU plans for copyright threaten creativity and freedom of expression

Local organiser Francis Clarke kicked off the event by outlining how the EU Commission’s plans to change copyright will hurt creativity and freedom of expression. In particular, Francis highlighted the following problems with the plans:

      • They fail to provide exemptions for user-generated content and remixes. This means making and sharing memes, GIFs other digital remixes will remain technically illegal across Europe.
    • They fail to provide a universal ‘freedom of panorama‘. That means in some EU countries it will be technically illegal to take and share photos of landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower – even holiday selfies.
  • The EU is expecting all online service providers to use automatic copyright filters to identify and remove infringing content. This has been dubbed ‘robocopyright‘. Requiring the use of automatic filters will make it more difficult for new startups to compete against the likes of Facebook and YouTube, who have the resources to operate these systems. Copyright claims are not always black and white and based on past experience, it’s likely auto-filtering systems over-block content, preventing citizens from sharing and commenting on legitimate content such as parody works.
  • The EU is also planning to bring in a ‘link tax‘ or ancillary copyright. This will require individuals and organisations to license (pay) to quote short snippets of text. Spain and Germany have brought in link taxes and this has resulted in services such as Google News closing down. A link tax is likely to benefit existing dominant media whilst creating barriers and legal uncertainty for independent media and bloggers.


Attendees discussing EU Copyright Plans. By Francisclarke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Take action now to oppose EU copyright plans

Sign Mozilla’s #fixcopyright petition

Send a selfie featuring an outlawed public landmark to your local MEP

Sign OpenMedia’s Stop the link tax petition

A different perspective on copyright and creativity


Artist Antonio Roberts (@hellocatfood) talking about how culture is created. By Francisclarke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

To help us better understand the need for a balanced and flexible approach to copyright artist Antonio Roberts delivered a talk on memes and what they can tell us about the way culture is created and subsequently appropriated by corporations.

Antonio Roberts at Pecha Kucha Birmingham vol 11 from Pete Ashton on Vimeo.

You can read the notes from Antonio’s talk on his blog:


Support the commons through open licensing

Wikipedian Andy Mabbett (@pigsonthewing) spoke about how inconsistencies in European copyright law create problems for Wikipedia and other collaborative projects. For example, the lack of freedom of panorama prevents Wikipedia from using photographs of public landmarks.

Andy explained that Wikipedia gets around copyright restrictions by asking users to ‘openly license’ their photos and videos. Under open licensing, a person agrees to license their work for anyone to reuse it, even for commercial purposes. In most cases, this means choosing a Creative Commons licence. He explained people can often be reluctant to openly license their work out of fear that they will be missing out on making more from their work, but in most cases the losses are miniscule while the benefits of contributing to the commons are huge.

Andy’s written a blog post on why you should consider openly licensing your media and how to go about doing it:

Open-licensing your images. What it means and how to do it

You can also find out more on the Wikipedia website about how to share your social media images with Wikipedia:

Wikipedia:Images from social media

Mozilla Maker Party Images on Wikimedia Commons

Photos from the Open Rights Group Birmingham Mozilla Maker Party to #fixcopyright displayed on Wikimedia Commons
Photos from the Open Rights Group Birmingham Mozilla Maker Party to #fixcopyright displayed on Wikimedia Commons

We were inspired by Andy’s talk to openly license photos from our event and upload them to the Wikimedia Commons. You can find them by clicking on the link below:

Open Rights Group Birmingham Mozilla Maker Party to #fixcopyright

Making memes

Andy Mabbett as Success Kid
Andy Mabbett as Success Kid

After listening to talks, we moved on to the ‘Maker’ party of our meetup.

First-up, Antonio helped us go beyond making memes to becoming a meme. Using a simple videocamera and the open source Open Broadcaster Software, Antonio transferred our faces onto popular meme images. We then added text designed to highlight the absurdities of current copyright rules, encourage open licensing and get people to oppose the EU’s copyright plans.


Antonio Roberts adding a person’s face to meme. By Francisclarke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Here are a selection of the memes we made. Please feel to share and remix them using the hashtag #fixcopyright.





Rebellious selfies


As well as making memes we also used Mozilla’s fun PostCrimes web app to send ‘rebellious selfies’ to our MEPs.

MEPs were sent an e-postcard. On the front was an image of our faces superimposed on a body standing next to a public landmark, creating an image which is technically illegal in some EU countries. The postcards also contained a message urging them to support a copyright system that supports creativity and a free and open internet.


To send your own postcard, please click on the link below:

Send a rebellious selfie to your MEPs


Take action now to oppose EU copyright plans

Sign Mozilla’s #fixcopyright petition

Send a selfie featuring an outlawed public landmark to your local MEP

Sign OpenMedia’s Stop the link tax petition

Please support Centrala

Our Mozilla Maker Party couldn’t have happened without the support of Centrala, who generously allowed us to use their venue free of charge.

Centrala was a great match for our Maker Party. The Centrala team were friendly and helpful – they even gave us a hand with setting up our event. They also stuck around and operated a licensed bar/cafe all evening, which meant guests were able to choose from a selection alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as well as tasty sandwiches and cakes. Centrala’s location in Digbeth within the Minerva Works cluster of creative and digital businesses also connected with our event’s focus and the Open Rights Group’s wider agenda on digital rights.

If you’ve not visited yet, why not pay Centrala a visit? Open Rights Group supporters might be particularly interested in the following event:

Yan Jun ft. Dirty Electronics. 9th December

Chinese legendary musician and poet Yan Jun is joined by Dirty Electronics in an evening of provocations, noise, text and collective contortions. £3 entry on the door.

To find out more, check out the What’s On page on Centrala’s website.

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