1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Never mind the moral squalor .... its the CopyKat

AT&T has started sending letters to some of its customers, threatening to disconnect them because they've been accused ("without trial or a chance to rebut the evidence") of copyright infringement. AT&T is doing this voluntarily as part of the controversial Copyright Alert System, whose overseeing body is The Center for Copyright Information. You can see the letter here.

Former US presidential hopeful, 'hockey mum' and former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin is facing a copyright claim: the North Jersey Media Group have filed a law suit against Palin and her political action committee (PAC), alleging copyright infringement over the use of an iconic photograph of a flag at Ground Zero taken by one of their newspaper photographers on the politician's website and Facebook pages. In the photo, three fireman raise an American flag over the debris of the World Trade Center towers - and appeared on Palin's PAC’s website and Facebook page under the words “We Will Never Forget” though  it seems the image is no longer on either site

Mike Weatherley MP
In the UK, Mike Weatherley, the MP for Hove, and organiser of the annual 'Rock The House' talent competition, has been appointed as the Prime Minister's Adviser on Intellectual Property, with a particular focus on "enforcement issues relating to the creative industries".  Mike comes from a strong professional background in Intellectual Property for both music and film. Before his election to Parliament in 2010, Mike was the Vice President (Europe) for the Motion Picture Licensing Company and previously worked for music industry giant Pete Waterman. And this blogger can confirm from personal experience that Mike is a big music fan - cares about the creative industries - is a very approachable MP - actually knows something about IP - and is happy to help when he thinks he can make a difference.

It seems that Liberation Music has belatedly realized it chose the wrong adversary in Lawrence Lessig for a copyright dispute. Citing the need to protect a copyrighted song, the company had sought to block the work of Harvard law professor Lessig, after he posted a lecture that included amateur videos using the song  Lisztomania,” by the band Phoenix on YouTube, to demonstrate how individuals can create new content by blending homemade videos with popular music.  

After a YouTube take down, reinstatement and now the claim being withdrawn, one wonders why this was ever even started: I have to say "Fair use" springs to mind - as does "Egg on faces" at the record label. And what of the recording artist - the now very successful French band Phoenix comprising of Thomas Mars, Deck d'Arcy, Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz? It would be interesting to get their take on what their record label have been up to, not least as despite Liberation dropping it's claim, Lessig, aided by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, still plans to fight the takedown in US District Court in Boston, where Liberation Music had filed the complaint.

Philip Pullman
His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman has said that illegal downloading is a kind of "moral squalor" and copyright theft is much as reaching in to someone's pocket and stealing their wallet is theft, saying that authors and musicians work in poverty and obscurity for years to bring their work to the level "that gives delight to their audiences, and as soon as they achieve that, the possibility of making a living from it is taken away from them". In an article in the Index on Censorship he says that it is outrageous that anyone can steal an artist's work and get away with it" and adds "The principle is simple, and unaltered by technology, science, or magic: if we want to enjoy the work that someone does, we should pay for it"
Pullman is president of the Society of Authors and in the article Cathy Casserly, chief executive of Creative Commons, responds on the place of copyright in the digital age.

The US film industry has welcomed a paper published by the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies which questions earlier research that claimed that the shutdown of MegaUpload had had a detrimental effect on smaller independent film releases.
That research, from the University Of Munich and the Copenhagen Business School claimed that while the closure of MegaUpload had contributed to a slight increase in revenues for blockbuster movies, mid-sized films had probably lost out, because file-transfer sites enabled peer-to-peer promotion of films that couldn't afford massive advertising campaigns, and that could result in more tickets sold at the cinema. Now Dr George Ford of the Phoenix Center has suggested that the Munich and Copenhagen academics reached that conclusion because of "a poorly-designed statistical model" and a misunderstanding of the economics of the film industry. The study, therefore, Ford reckons, "adds nothing constructive to the debate - save a little excitement". Motion Picture Association of America comment here.

And finally, music creators and performers - and others - might find this article by  Kristelia Garcia of interest - How Private Copyright Deals Are Cutting Artists Out...Ms Garcia is a Visiting Fellow at Yale Law School, and a Visiting Associate Professor at George Washington Law School, and is also a former executive at both MySpace Music and Universal Music Group: the article reflects on the recent flurry of direct deals between record labels and/or music publishers with broadcasters in the USA - and the potential problems being faced by both the music collection societies - and composers, writers, performers and recording artists when labels and publishers 'deal direct'.

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