Thursday 30 January 2014

The CopyKat - Chinese walls, blocks, strikes and a football focus

More than 845,000 publications were registered in China for copyright protection in 2013, up about 23% year-on-year according to official statistics. A spokesman from the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) told a press conference that more than half of registrations were made in Beijing.The growth  was put down to the increased awareness of copyright protection and the use of copyright as an important financing device. Photographs accounted for more than half of registrations, and applications for software protection rose by about 18% in 2013, to more than 164,000. Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang topped the list of growth regarding software, with applications growing by about 95% in Tibet.

Also in China, the popular video sharing website has been ordered to pay two companies a total of 370,000 yuan ($61,129) for violating their copyrights in a film and a television programme.The claimants, EDKO Film Co and, sued for copyright infringement with the case heard at the Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court. The court ordered Tudou to pay EDKO Film 125,000 yuan on January 17 for violating their agreement regarding the 2012 film Cold War. The production company, the sole copyright holder for Cold War on the Chinese mainland, pointed out that the film, which made 200 million yuan in the first 11 days of its release, was still playing in theaters at the time Tudou began showing it. In a separate case, the court ordered Tudou to pay 248,000 yuan for violating the latter website's exclusive rights to show a popular food documentary series, A Bite of China, online, The series was first aired on China Central Television (CCTV) in May 2012.

The author of two books about South Africa’s political transformation is suing the makers of the documentary Miracle Rising: South Africa, which aired on the History Channel,  for over R2 million (approx £110,000) damages for allegedly adapting or reproducing from his work without his authorisation. Geoffrey Heald won the first round of his legal battle against Randburg production company Combined Artists CC when a North Gauteng High Court judge ruled that his claim would have to be tested by a trial court. Judge Bill Prinsloo dismissed Combined Artists’ exception that Heald’s claim did not reveal any cause of action against them.

Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf is back in the news - with reports that a version, annotated with notes, will be published in 2016 following a reversal of a decision by the state of Bavaria which owns the copyright in te book and initially funded the annotated version,  to block any publications. The book itself will fall into the public domain in 2016. The Bavarian governor's chief of staff, Christine Haderthauer, had previously said that Hitler's anti-Semitic memoir amounted to incitement and the government would file a criminal complaint if anyone tried to publish the book. The state has now revised its ruling. “We have changed our minds,” said Ludwig Spaenle, the Bavarian Minister of Culture. He said Bavaria would not oppose the project because it was in the interests of “freedom of science” saying "the freedom of science to confront the topics which, in its view, are necessary is thereby not restricted". What would happen if the book was published in its original version in Germany remains unclear although the state stressed in a statement that it would seek to prevent any other full or partial publication of the 1924 book, written whilst Hitler was in prison.

Further to our update on possible criminal actions against 100 or more pubs in England and Wales who use foreign satellite services to show live Premiership football matches, the Telegraph reports that the Premier League is lobbying for an amendment to the Intellectual Property Act, currently making its way through the UK Parliament. FAPL has received backing from the record industry for an amendment to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 that currently allows many venues – such as pubs or gyms, that do not charge patrons to enter their premises – to show broadcasts of video recordings without a licence from the copyright holder. Commenting on the Section 72(1) defence under the CDPA ("The showing or playing in public of a broadcast to an audience who have not paid for admission to the place where the broadcast is to be seen or heard does not infringe any copyright..."  for the recorded music sector David Harmsworth, PPL’s director of legal and business affairs, said: “It’s a very strange technological anomaly in the law that if music videos are broadcast rather than played from a system in the gym, then the gym doesn’t need a licence. Actually, the UK is in violation of European law on this. The discussions we’ve had with the Government on this suggest something will be done, although it may end up that the Intellectual Property Bill is not the vehicle.” See here for earlier comment on the IPKat on s72. 

The Dutch High Court has overturned a lower court order forcing two internet service providers in the Netherlands - XS4ALL and Ziggo - to block their subscribers from accessing the ever controversial music file sharing site The Pirate Bay. Calling the blocks "ineffectual", the court stated that the blocks would "constitute an infringement of [people's] freedom to act at their discretion".Blocking orders have been upheld in the United Kingdom, France and Belgium and the AG's opinion UPC Telekabel Wien GmbH v Constantin Film Verleih GmbH und Wega Filmproduktionsgesellschaft GmbH (see Jeremy's blog here)  was that Member States are to ensure that copyright holders or holders of related rights are able to apply for an injunction against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to infringe their rights - and that specific blocking measure(s) imposed on a provider relating to a specific website are not, in principle, disproportionate.

And finally, the Writers Guild of America West has added its thoughts to the debate on reforms to US copyright laws, with TorrentFreak saying that not only calls for a balance in copyright law, but stresses that censorship, surveillance and chilling of critical speech have no place in copyright policy. Interestingly the writers oppose moves by the Hollywood studios and the recorded music sector to put in place new penalties in the digital age - the studios argue that high damages are needed as a deterrent, and are looking at a proposal which would make streaming of copyrighted videos a felony. Noting the 'chilling effect' of the latter, the WGAW warn that the current legislation stifles innovation as people may be hesitant to start innovating businesses, fearing that copyright holders may come after them. With regard to the DMCA, the WGAW suggests that the Government could set up a common template for takedown notices, making them easier for smaller copyright holders to issue and for websites to process and finally, the writers warn against the voluntary anti-piracy agreements that have emerged recently, including the six-strikes Copyright Alert System - saying that these initiatives are not always in the best interests of consumers.

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