Friday 10 January 2014

The CopyKat - its good to share - isn't it?

Bruno Mars
MusicMetric says that Bruno Mars appears to be the most-stolen-from singer of the year, with 5.8 million illegal downloads. Rihanna came in a close second with an estimated 5.4 million songs downloaded illegally, Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake and FloRida also made the top 10. With films, The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey, Django Unchained and Fast & Furious Six top the pirate charts.

Formats they are a-changin'
Interesting statistics from the USA and UK's recorded music sector show just how the legal market is changing: Sales of digital music dipped in the USA in 2013, the first time since iTunes launched in 2003. Nielsen say that US digital single tracks dropped from 1.34 billion in 2012 to 1.26 billion last year. The drop is being blamed on the success of music streaming sites. In the UK a similar pattern emerged: The British record industry achieved revenues of £1 billion-plus in 2013 according to statistics published by record label trade body the BPI and the Official Charts Company. The figures also reveal, for the first time, the value of the subscription streaming market in the UK which now generates £103 million a year, up from £77 million in 2012. The BPI/OCC say that in 2013 twice as many tracks were streamed overall than in 2012, totalling 7.4 billion. This includes music consumed on both subscription and ad-funded platforms - with Spotify, Deezer, YouTube and Vevo all included - though revenues generated by the advertising-based services are in addition to the £103 million in subscription sales. As with the USA, the number of digital singles sold in 2013 was down on 2012, with 175.6 million tracks downloaded, compared to the record breaking 183.3 million in 2012. But digital album sales were up again, by 6.8%, to 32.6 million units. Traditional revenue streams held up well, despite the downsizing of the UK's biggest high street retailer for music, HMV, and the closure of Amazon's main online competitor  CD sales did to decline, by 12.8% in 2013, but the decline has slowed and sales of this format still accounted for 64% of all albums sold during the year, some 60.6 million units. The UK's vinyl revival continued in 2013, with sales of seven-inch singles, twelve-inch singles and vinyl LPs up 34%, 60.3% and 100.8% respectively, although overall numbers of units sold is very small in comparison to CDs and digital.

Suddenly The Republic of The Gambia is in the in the CopyKat's sights. First off,  Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, The Gambia’s minister of tourism and culture, has said that copyright must be strengthened in the digital environment in order to prevent infringements. The minister told The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute that creative works such as music can now be easily exploited on the internet via downloads and streaming, posing great challenges to both content creators and users saying “Sadly, in many of our countries in the sub-region, creators still cannot benefit from the sweat of their creations,” she said. “It is only through initiatives such as the Observatory that the creative community in our ECOWAS sub-region can start to live in a dignity befitting creators, and to allow our governments to also get returns from the investments in cultural infrastructure.” She said that in 2004, her ministry managed to have a new copyright law for The Gambia to replace the colonial law of 1913, which was "grossly inadequate". And in separate news, The director of Culture, Education, Science and Technology of the ECOWAS Commission informed stakeholders that the ECOWAS Regional Copyright Observatory (RCO) will present some computers and other office equipment to the Gambian Copyright Office at the National Council for Arts and Culture, to strengthen their capacity. Professor Abdoulaye Maga made this disclosure Monday at the Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute  during the opening of a five-day training workshop for copyright administrators and members of the Collecting Society of The Gambia. On Monday a week-long training workshop for Gambia copyright stakeholders started at the Gambia Hotel School in Kanifing.

The training, organised by the National Centre for Art and Culture (NCAC) and funded by ECOWAS, is aimed at bringing a responsive copyright system in the country.

Wildly popular TV series The Simpsons have tackled copyright infringement and the issues surrounding the illegal downloading of movies - after Homer Simpson illegally downloads the movie 'Radioactive Man' from Bootleg Bay with the help of his son, Bart. Having been thrown out of the cinema as a paying customer during the said film, Homer takes to pirating movies so much that he sets up his own backyard movie theatre for friends and neighbours, showing them a pirated screener movie so they don’t have to pay a high ticket price and put up with rudeness and commercials while watching the movie! The episode is called 'Steal This' and it is in series 25 - there are some clips on the Simpson's Facebook page here. One reviewer called the episode "a perfect animated version of the great copyright debate on movie piracy".

A nest of sexy beasts?
In the USA, a Des Moines company is suing Google, demanding it remove a copyrighted photo from a private blog that mocks corporate headshots. ARAG North America and Ann Dieleman, a senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the insurance company, filed the copyright lawsuit  in the federal court and ARAG said Google has denied its requests to remove the photo, which was posted on in 2009. The author of the private blog is not known, but the blog is hosted through Blogger, a company owned by Google, just like the 1709 blog itself. 

And finally, in our globe trotting round up of all things shared, Germany’s highest court has ruled  that parents are, in principle, not liable if their adult children use the family Internet connection for file sharing. The decision follows a November 2012 verdict where the Federal Court of Justice ruled that parents are not liable for those aged under 18 who file share, as long as they warned their child that unauthorized downloading and sharing of copyrighted material online is illegal and they were unaware their child violated this prohibition. The court has now said that where children are adults (18+), parents don’t have to warn them in order to avoid liability: here the stepson of a home owner used the family's internet connection to share 3,749 music recordings on the Internet. Record companies had tried to recover €3,454 (about US$4,700) in damages from the stepfather who owned the connection, rather than from the stepson. Whilst the stepfather signed an agreement that his Internet connection would not be used for that purpose again, he refused to pay, saying that he was not liable for his stepson’s deeds: In 2010 the Regional Court of Cologne and subsequently the Higher Regional Court of Cologne in 2011 both ruled that the stepfather was liable for the copyright infringement. He was ordered to pay €2,841 to the record companies by the Higher Regional Court. The German Federal Court of Justice have now overruled this, although the court did say that if the owner of the Internet connection had a specific reason to suspect that family members are using the connection for rights violations, he or she should take necessary measures to prevent infringements.

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