How Article 13 Will Change Magic

By Andi Gladwin - Thursday, March 28, 2019


A few years ago, the US government almost passed the "Stop Online Piracy Act," which was a bill that would have ruined the internet as we know it. I wrote about how that could impact magic on my now-defunct personal blog. Magicians wrote to me to tell me that they didn't appreciate that SOPA would impact them until they read the article, but luckily the bill didn't go ahead, which is good news.

But there's bad news too — the European Union has just passed two similar bills (known as Article 11 and Article 13) that are as bad for the internet as SOPA would have been. In fact, when the two articles come into practice in approximately 2021, the internet as we know it will almost certainly be ruined as the draconian policies will make it almost impossible for search engines, social media sites, and more to operate.

How it will play out is yet unknown, as the requirements set about in Article 13, in particular, are almost impossible, technologically to implement. The bills target online platforms that turn over more than 10 million Euros per year, which will have quite an impact on magic. Therefore, just like I did with SOPA, I think it would be interesting to address how magic might change if Article 11 and 13 are not revoked or rewritten before 2021:

David Blaine

Online footage from magic TV shows will be gone
We've heard of how David Copperfield walked through the Great Wall of China, but how would you see it without having an old VHS copy of his TV special? YouTube, no doubt! How will you watch David Blaine apparently levitate? YouTube, of course. These videos, and all other magic TV clips will certainly be removed by the TV companies.

I should state quite strongly that I don't support piracy and I understand that many of these videos that are posted without permission should be removed anyway. However, many clips (such as my Next Great Magician clip on YouTube) were posted with permission from the TV company — but that would almost certainly be taken down as part of a wholesale removal of television content.

Magicians might not be able to post magic clips online either
Article 13 will require video sharing websites to prove that all uploaded content is original, and to buy licenses for content (such as music tracks) when it is not. Due to the sheer expense of this, it is possible that such sites will simply not allow new videos to be uploaded. Am I being dramatic? Not at all. Here's a direct quote from YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki: "The proposal could force platforms, like YouTube, to allow only content from a small number of large companies. It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content.”

Even if YouTube (and every other video host) does find a way to filter this content, any magician that uploads a video that uses music that they haven't purchased a license for could be removed. Hundreds of thousands of archived magic performances will be gone for good. (Admittedly, they really should have a license for that music — that's what we do for every video at Vanishing Inc. But I'm quite aware that many people aren't aware of the restrictions here. It's not just music either - it's every form of copyright.)

But what about posting a clip from your gig on Instagram or Facebook? Well, can you prove that you own the copyright? Nobody knows how the EU are expecting the video platforms to prove ownership, so at this point, we can't be sure that you could prove that it is you in the video, that you own the music that you are using, and that you own the video content. The same may apply to photographs posted online too.

We'll get fewer new magicians
It's these videos of the great famous magicians and aspiring YouTube magicians that have inspired a whole new generation of magic fans. If they can't see these videos, it's possible that far less people will start to learn magic.

Some big content sharing firms are even discussing the idea of blocking users from Europe, meaning that even if the content isn't removed, Europeans won't be able to see it. We'll have less access to watch and learn magic.

Article 13

Marketing our services will be more difficult
Article 11 states that reproducing more than “single words or very short extracts” of news stories will require a licence. They are even insisting that news outlets must charge for such a license. This means that magicians couldn't quote newspaper articles about themselves, or comment on published research on their social media, unless the media platform has paid for a license (spoiler alert: that won't be possible unless you're quoting the major news outlets). It's a small thing in comparison to some other issues, but it still might impact how some people market their services.

Magic piracy won't be affected in the way you might expect
The magicians amongst us might be pleased that piracy of magic books, DVDs and downloads could be stamped out by this act. However, it's my belief that we won't see a big reduction as this bill is all about helping the big companies protect themselves and not small magic producers. I'm pretty confident that this will be such a small change that magic producers won't notice a difference because it won't protect us any more than the Digital Millennium Copyright Act already does. Unlike big corporations, we likely won't be able to automate the process of claiming copyright — therefore nothing will change. (As an aside: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act already protects us quite well for services that support it, and I don't feel like we need to expand on that - that act is far from perfect, but we have used it to remove a lot of pirated content from places like eBay, Amazon, and AliExpress.)

Vanishing Inc. Facebook

Magic trailers won't be posted on Facebook or YouTube
It's possible that after reading this, you think that everything will be fine so long as magicians stick to the law. I wish that were true as very few magicians are copyright thieves (and those that are, seem to be more naive than deliberately trying to break the law).

But let's look at another use case: there's no way for that social media and video platforms to get licenses to publish magic trailers and therefore, the EU state that they must do everything in their powers to ensure that such content is not posted online. This will definitely mean that you won't be able to share clips from magic trailers, and magic shops won't be able to share them with you on social media (such as Facebook), and therefore it'll be harder to see the latest effects.

For example, the screenshot to the right shows us sharing Henry Harrius' latest effect, but how does Facebook know that he gave us permission to do so? How do they know that he paid to use the music in the track? They don't know and they can't know. They can ask us to prove it, but at this stage, I'm not even sure if would be possible for us to do that for every magic trailer out there. And let's remember: we're a company with a full-time social media expert and we're already worried about how we'll find time to generate all this evidence. Magicians just wanting to share a new trick on their social media have no chance.


Well, that's my view of how these bills could change magic. We're yet to see what will happen for sure, but I'll try to post updates as I learn them. It's worth noting that this is my personal interpretation of the laws and how they can change magic.

The apparent intention of these bills is to make the internet fairer for creators. My interpretation is that it might be better for large movie studios and musicians backed by large corporations (such as Paul McCartney, who publicly backs Article 13), but is certainly worse for independent creators like magicians, artists, and musicians. These new laws are set to seriously hinder creativity online. As Raegan MacDonald (Mozilla head of EU policy) said: “The EU institutions have squandered the progress made by innovators and creators to imagine new content and share it with people across the world.” I'm all for copyright reform, and protection for creative individuals — but sadly the European Union have done quite the opposite of that. And let's be honest, there's a lot more to the internet than magic, and so this will change our whole world; not just the magic world.


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