Thursday 5 December 2013

CopyKat - a Thursday typhoon of copyright titbits

The Seoul High Court has ruled that performers and copyright owners whose music is streamed to the public from a digital source can indeed protect their rights. The appellate court ordered Hyundai Department Store to pay 235 million won ($230,000) to the Federation of Korean Music Performers (FKMP) and the Recording Industry Association of Korea (RIAK) for streaming music of their members for a two year peiod between January 2010 and December 2012.  Hyundai had taken the recordings from KT Music, a digital musical source retailer, and used the music at retail outlets.  The court noted  “There is no difference between streaming music and albums, in terms of financial losses from possible performances and sales of music albums” adding  “Streaming music also should be considered as same as music albums because its digital sources were saved in the database of KT Music and they also temporarily stayed on computers of the stores while they were streamed.”  The Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said earlier this year that it plans to revise the IP Law to boost the legal status of digitalized musical sources to the level of albums.  

Back in July, Aimee Mann brought an interesting lawsuit over the possible existence of a massive amount of unlicensed music being streamed online against MediaNet, a company once backed by EMI, AOL, BMG and RealNetworks before being taken over by a private equity firm. MediaNet is essentially a white label that has served up more than 22 million songs to more than 40 music services, including Yahoo Music,, eBay and various online radio services. Mann sued the company for allegedly infringing 120 of her songs, saying that a license agreement signed in 2003 expired three years later. MediaNet maintained it had a valid license and argued that a provision of its agreement with Mann granted it an ongoing statutory license even after the agreement's termination and a Section 115 US Copyright Act compulsory licence. But District Judge George King disagreed, siding with Mann saying "This is a reasonable interpretation of the License Agreement, and MediaNet has failed to argue otherwise," writes the judge. "Accordingly, Mann has adequately alleged that MediaNet does not have a Section 115 compulsory license to use her pre-December 5, 2003 and post-December 4, 2006 songs and Judge King went further agreeing the MediaNet cannot escape a charge of secondary infringement for allegedly causing others to infringe Mann's works. 

From Italy - with  no love? The Court of Rome has blocked Italian resident's access to VKontakte the Russian social network (with over 160 million subscribers) after a successful complaint by Medusa Film, who said that a non authorised copy of their comic film Sole a catinelle had circulated among the users of the Russian media giant. The Public Prosecutor decided the effective remedy was to block access to Vkontakte from Italy and now an Italian - or a Russian living in Italy, cannot communicate with their friends in Russia on VKontakte. But how long will this blanket ban extend for? And is it a reasonable solution to the problem - not least as it seems The Public Prosecutor did not make any attempt to contact the Russian social network and ask for the removal of the illegal copy of the film? One commentator mused “It is right to protect copyright...but the [Italian] Constitution puts the right of expression and communication and authors right on the same level. It is not correct to have one right prevail over the other” and Marco d’Itri who runs Osservatorio Censura, a site dedicated to reporting on Italian web censorship commented that action was being taken before a hearing on the full merits of the case. Rapidgator has also been blocked.

Six days before movie studios were set to begin a jury trial over alleged copyright violations by the "cyberlocker" site Hotfile, the case has settled. Hotfile has agreed to pay $80 million and to stop operating "unless it employs copyright filtering technologies that prevent infringement," according to a press release sent out today by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Judge Kathleen Williams had already ruled that Hotfile was not eligible for the DMCA "safe harbor" protection and that it was going to be liable for the actions of its users. Hotfile employed an incentive system to encourage downloading and paid users who uploaded popular files, including copyrighted files. 

Chinese online video site Youku Tudou has won a number of copyright infringement cases brought against Chinese search giant Baidu. Baidu was found guilty of copyright infringement by a court in Beijing. It was ordered to pay 491,000 yuan ($101,107) for illegally hosting 18 Chinese television shows that Youku Tudou bought exclusive rights to. Since October this year Youku Tudou has 32 filed cases against Baidu for infringing it's copyrights. The remaining cases are awaiting verdicts.

A new study by Peter DiCola for Northwestern University's School of Law shows that the 'average' musician relies more on income from live music and teaching than from the copyright industries. A study of the revenue streams of 5,000 musicians found that the largest portion of musician earnings are from live gigs (28 percent). Teaching comes second with 22 percent, salaried musical work has a 19 percent, share along with session work, also 19 percent. Songwriting/composing fees and recording earnings - the two categories most tied into copyright, bring in 6 percent each with DiCola's saying "A hypothetical boost in revenue from more effective [copyright] enforcement would only increase the average musician's total revenue by a small amount today, in the short term," adding "Stronger copyright might provide them incentives to move up the income ladder in a winner-­take-­all kind of market. But it will not put more money in their pocket today; for the hypothetical legislation to help them in the future, they must get rich first."

A man who was found to be in possession of one of the largest hauls of hi-tech equipment for use in copyright theft ever found in the UK has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. 52-year-old Keith Tamkin from Bognor had pleaded guilty to six offences - one of distributing articles infringing copyright, two of money laundering (a total of £140,000), one of transferring criminal property - a computer - and two of possessing prohibited weapons, a pepper spray and a stun gun. At one of the two properties used by Tamkin the police found more than 100 full computer hard drives, an estimated 150,000 CDs and DVDs, computers and eight 'multiple bay burning towers' to copy music, films and software. A large catalogue of 25,000 titles distributed to an extensive client base was also seized. 

The Turtles
Sirius XM have failed in an attempt to move a $100 million class action lawsuit in California for distributing and performing pre-1972 sound recordings to New York, where the broadcaster is facing another action. The satcaster is also facing two more actions brought by major record labels and a fifth lawsuit from SoundExchange, the digital performance rights organization that collects royalties on behalf of sound recording copyright owners. The California lawsuit is being led by members of The Turtles who say that Sirius cannot rely on section 114 of the US Copyright Act for protection – as pre 1972 recordings are subject to state law – which may arguably mean that Sirius plays songs recorded before that date without permission. Sirius argued that the plaintiffs were playing "lawsuit lottery" alongside the actions in New York and the third in Florida and sought to have the case transferred to New York and perhaps consolidated. But U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez denied Sirius' motion saying "it seems at this point that although the three suits share a common factual core, they are legally distinct and will turn on the separate interpretations of California, New York, and Florida law, respectively."

Could Judge William Alsup's June 2012 ruling that APIs could not be covered by copyright.about to be overturned by Federal appeals court? There are rumours about that at least one appeals judge is  are sceptical of the decision and may be leaning towards overturning it which would no doubt cheer up Oracle.

Watch this space!


Ben said...

An interesting update on the appeal in the Google vs Oracle 'APIs' case here

Ben said...

And more comment here