Memes on the border of copyright
On July 1st, at the Webinar “Copyrights and Memes” in the 6th edition of IP Meetings, a series of virtual events promoted by ABPI and WIPO, the speakers highlighted that memes – a viral phenomenon of content (videos, images, phrases, music, etc.) aired on the internet – are at the limit of freedom of expression and copyright. The speakers of the webinar were lawyer Felipe Nunes Leite, Camila Vidal, founder of Moving Girls, and Rafael Ferraz Vazquez, member of the WIPO Copyright and Creative Industries Division, under the mediation of ABPI’s director Valdir Rocha. The virtual table was integrated by the ABPI’s president Luiz Edgard Montaury Pimenta, and the Regional Director of WIPO in Brazil, José Graça Aranha, in addition to representatives of other associations.
For the WIPO representative, the fundamental elements inherent to copyright concerning the memes are exclusivity, remuneration, and recognition. He raised issues that are still unclear in countries’ intellectual property laws. Is the meme considered a literary and artistic work? Under what conditions can existing works be used without infringing copyright? Vazquez recalled that some countries, such as Canada, already have some clauses that regulate the use of memes in their legislation, while in Brazil, the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) defined instructions for the use of parody, one of the most used forms by this type of communication. “The meme is a joke, but it can be a serious matter for those involved”, he stated.
So serious that Leite, an expert in the subject, recommends that when creating a meme and using an image on the internet, especially if for commercial use, it is good to have the authorization of the holder of these rights. According to him, there is no general legal rule for the use of Internet content, which may or may not go viral, and each case must be analyzed separately. “Many of the violations of rights do not happen in bad faith, but because of a lack of information”, he explained.
Misinformation in this specific case is a constant concern in the day-to-day life of the creator of Moving Girls, which triggers memes through its digital channels. Leader of a female entrepreneurship internet community with 336 thousand followers, Camila monetized some memes, which generate great traffic on her social networks. “There is a lack of objective information that is easy to apply in a business strategy”, she noted. “Memes, today, are more than a form of teasing or satire, and characterize a spread of ideas and behaviors, allowing for the company to show its culture”.
You can watch the full event on ABPI’s YouTube Channel.