Wednesday 19 June 2013

The Copy Cat - marvellous mousetastic morsels to muse over

Hot off the press comes news regarding the litigants in Meltwater. A media monitoring company has referred the Newspaper Licensing Agency’s pricing structure to the Copyright Tribunal because it says charities are required to pay "spectacularly unfair" fees. Cutbot, which provides media monitoring services in the form of online links to news stories, said the NLA’s pricing structure, which Cutbot said is based on the number of employees organisations have, was unfair on charities, which pay a combined total of more than £1m a year to the NLA.

And in other copyright news, Walt Disney Co’s Marvel Entertainment must go to trial to defend itself against a copyright claim by Gary Friedrich, who claims he now owns the comic book character “Ghost Rider”, a motorcycle-riding superhero with a flaming skull. Friedrich claims he first came up with the idea for Ghost Rider in 1968, then assigned his rights to Marvel, which published the first “Ghost Rider” comic book in 1972. Friedrich claims in his suit that the rights to Ghost Rider automatically became his after the initial copyright term expired in 2000. Marvell argued that Friedrich assigned his renewal rights to it in a work-for-hire agreement he signed in 1978. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan have now reversed a lower-court ruling by Judge Katherine Forrest in favour of Marvel, allowing Friedrich’s claim to go to trial.

Chinese national Xiang Li has been sentenced to 144 months in US federal prison on charges related to a website which distributed more than $100 million worth of pirated software.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said this was one of the most significant copyright infringement cases ever uncovered. Between April 2008 and June 2011, Li engaged in over 700 transactions through which he distributed over $100 million worth of  pirated software to over 400 customers located in at least 28 U.S. states and over 60 foreign countries. These software products were owned by approximately 200 different American software manufacturers, ranging from large corporations to small businesses.  Li’s customers included those in embargoed countries in the Middle East, employees of foreign governments and federal government employees and contractors holding security clearances in the United States. More than one-third of the unlawful purchases were made by individuals within the United States, including small business owners, government contractors, students, inventors and engineers. Li will be deported to China after serving his sentence.

Pandora, the US based digital innovator that has just bought  FM radio station KXMZ-FM, in Rapid City South Dakota, seemingly for a seat at the table of the Radio Music Licensing Committee (RMLC) and presumably to attempt to reduced the online royalties it pays to the American music publishers via the music collecting societies, ASCAP and BMI, is facing a new legal challenge from BMI. Pandora itself launched legal action against ASCAP late last year when negotiations failed to go its way, and now Billboard reports that BMI has filed a lawsuit after Pandora terminated its licence with the collection agency in October last year, seeking a new agreement: BMI had proposed an increase in fees to Pandora that it felt were consistent with market rates and the growth in popularity of streaming music, and accounted for those music publishers which were withdrawing from the collective licensing system in the digital domain which included Sony who then directly licensed Pandora – but at higher rates than BMI.

Two Arab TV stations that allegedly broadcast pirated content have been taken off air by a major satellite provider, as legitimate media firms step up a campaign for better copyright enforcement in the region. Panorama Comedy is no longer broadcasting via the Nilesat satellite, while a related channel Panorama Action also came off the air this weekend. Industry figures allege that both channels, which are believed to be based in Egypt, are involved in illegal broadcasting of films to which they do not own the rights. 

As Russia braces itself for the introduction of a tough new anti-piracy law, the major labels have begun blitzing Russia’s social networks, including Russia’s main social networking site vKontakte, with copyright takedowns. The removal en masse of illegal music by the huge social networking site causing outrage among its users, who are now attempting to ‘encrypt’ their music uploads. Russian-hosted services – vKontakte included – will soon face a new legal environment due as responsibility for illegal uploads shifts towards them A new law approved by  the State Duma on Friday pushes the responsibility of swiftly removing infringing content to the services and service providers, who otherwise may find themselves blocked at the ISP level. VKontakte, with 40 million visits a day,  allows its users to upload music to their accounts for anyone to play and as a result the site has become one of the largest repositories of unlicensed music anywhere in the world. The scale of the takedowns become apparent when searches for popular artists such as Rihanna, Adele, Beyonce, Amy Winehouse and Coldplay all began to draw blanks. The user backlash was swift and vocal, with some complaining that their entire collections had been deleted. More on Torrent Freak.

The Screen Production Association of Australia has warned about a proposed easing of copyright laws with SPAA’s executive director Matthew Deaner blasting recommendations by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).  That “thinking is out of touch with commercial reality and shows no understanding of the issues facing our sector,” he told Screen Australia’s Jobs, Dollars, Hearts and Minds conference in Canberra. “These views, if left uncorrected, would undermine many legitimate sources of income.”

And finally - who can't resist this headline “This One Page Could End The Copyright War Over Happy Birthday” .

1 comment:

Andy J said...

The Cutbot/NLA dispute is not that new: in December 2012, Cutbot applied for special leave to refer the licensing scheme for online media monitoring (OMM) companies back to the tribunal within the embargoed period, namely within 12 months of the current OMM licensing scheme having been issued on 14 Feb 2012. Special leave was denied. (The decison can be found here (pdf))
The current application refers back to the same grounds, but as it now falls outside the embargo period, the Tribunal can hear the reference.