Friday 13 June 2014

The CopyKat - Friday's furballs of fun

The Australian internet service provider  iiNET, which has long resisted federal efforts to mandate copyright protection schemes, and which won an important High Court decision in April 2012 that confirmed that internet service providers are not liable for authorising copyright infringement by making their services available to people who do infringe copyright, has called on its customers to make their voices known by writing to politicians at the heart of moves to introduce legislation which the ISP says would require ISPs such as iiNet to send infringement notices to its customers while, at the same time, blocking certain websites which provide access for customers to download and share unauthorised content. Writing in the iiNET blog, Steve Dalby, Chief Regulatory Officer, notes what he describes as “recycled” claims suggesting Australia is the worst nation in the world for Internet piracy. “This may not actually be the case, but there can be no debate that work still remains to be done to effectively combat piracy,” he says. More on Advanced Television here.

With both the RESPECT Act (which would close the loophole that allows digital music services, like SiriusXM, to stream music recorded before 1972 without paying for the use of the sound recordings, and the Songwriter Equity Act, which if passed would give songwriters more leeway to argue for higher royalties when their songs are played by digital streaming services - facing scrutiny in the U.S. House of Representatives, alongside a new  push was for a comprehensive registry of music, with songs given unique identifiers, so that YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and others could easily determine who owns the various rights to any song in order to assure payment, arguments are mounting for one, combined bill to address music licensing reform. “Consumers don’t know the button they push on their car dashboard or smartphone dictates whether artists are paid,” for that song, said New York Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler during a hearing on copyright reform - with Nadler is referring to the patchwork of laws governing compensating music artists whether the song they produced is aired on satellite radio, terrestrial radio or Internet radio. Nadler confirmed he’s working on one "omnibus bill", to bring “fairness and efficiency to our music licensing system, and ensure that no particular business enjoys a special advantage against new and innovative technologies”  in an update to the  subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.

A gushing press release from the record label's trade body IFPI tells us that Plácido Domingo, the world renowned artist and chairman of IFPI, has addressed the International IP Enforcement Summit being held in London where he urged governments not to allow copyright to be eroded in the digital age and highlighted the importance of intellectual property enforcement for protection of creators and culture. He told the meeting that protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights “is one of the most important missions in our society and for our culture today.” Domingo added: “There is a view – mistaken in my opinion - that in the digital world copyright matters less than in the physical world.  It is emphatically not so.  In fact, copyright needs protecting as vigorously – if not more vigorously – on the internet.” He addressed the debate around copyright reform in the EU.  “Europe will this year have new Commissioners and a new Parliament.  I urge them, in their review of copyright, to promote and protect copyright, not to weaken it.  Please, do not allow artist and producers’ rights to be eroded.  Rather, look at how they can be better enforced.” Domingo stressed the need for collaboration to protect intellectual property rights in the online world.  “We, in the creative world, cannot protect our rights alone.  We need help from the bigger actors.  The search engines, for example. When someone uses a search engine to find music, they should not be directed to illegal sources of music. This directly hurts artists and other creators.” He also called for help from governments.  “Enlightened governments will understand that strong, properly-enforced intellectual property rights lead to a rich culture and economic prosperity.”

And America's National Music Publishers' Association has estimated that the country's music publishers generate about $2.2 billion in revenue each year, but this is only about half what they should be making because of "outdated copyright law and government regulations". The gripe is really with about the role of the two main collection societies in the USA, ASCAP and BMI, and the major music publishers now want to start negotiating the 'public performance' right with the main streaming services directly rather than through the collective licensing system. NMPA chief David Israelite told reporters: "We are finally able to capture what the industry is worth and, more importantly, what our industry is losing. The new digital marketplace is changing how songwriters and their music publishing partners can thrive. As the marketplace evolves, it is essential our industry no longer be hamstrung by outdated laws and government regulation".

Techdirt tells us about a fascinating court filing made by lawyers acting for Malibu Media who, depending on whose camp you in, are either quite rightly defending the copyrights it owns and represents - or copyright trolls out to extract unneeded dollars from unsullied individuals having filed thirteen hundred lawsuits in the US in the last year. To be fair one US federal judge did support the erotic film company saying “Malibu [Media] is not what has been referred to … as a ‘copyright troll’ ”. Judge Michael Baylson added, “rather, Malibu is an actual producer of adult films and owns valid copyrights.” But now Malibu attorney Mary K Schultz has filed papers that seems to suggest a massive conspiracy against the fikm company - and that conspiracy includes opposing counsel saying:  "Plaintiff is the target of a fanatical Internet hate group. The hate group is comprised of BitTorrent users, anti-copyright extremists, former BitTorrent copyright defendants and a few attorneys. Opposing counsel is one of its few members. Indeed, as shown below, opposing counsel communicates regularly with the hate group’s leader. Members of the hate group physically threaten, defame and cyber-stalk Plaintiff as well everyone associated with Plaintiff. Their psychopathy is criminal and scary"
and  "By administering and using the defamatory blog, “Sophisticated Jane Doe” (“SJD”) leads the hate group. SJD is a former defendant is a suit brought by another copyright owner... She is a self-admitted BitTorrent copyright infringer. SJD’s dedicates her life to stopping peer-to-peer infringement suits" and "Opposing counsel regularly Tweets with the other members of the hate group. Further, his Tweets are often part of a series of Tweets intended to harass Plaintiff and its counsel. Opposing counsel also Tweets about on-going litigation including this case and disparages Plaintiff... He even called Plaintiff a liar."  and "Opposing counsel is SJD’s and the other hate group members’ darling. They give him Kudos as he works toward trying to criminalize peer-to-peer copyright infringement suits."

Never publicity shy, Rightscorp Inc., the digital copyright protection service and of course the provider of copyright monetization for record labels and film companies across the globe, has unveiled brand new technology that could flood the Internet with millions of notices to alleged copyright infringers, according to Arts Technica. The strategy is based on telling the ISPs that they will face a high-stakes copyright lawsuit if they don't forward the notices that Rightscorp creates to their customers. If the ISP agrees, then they will have to forward Rightscorp's notices -  telling end users who have allegedly infringed the rights Rightscorp controls, that they could "be liable for $150,000 in damages unless they click on a provided link and agree to settle their case at a very low price." According to Rightscorp COO Robert Steele, asking for $20 per infringement is a fair way to create a deterrent. The company hopes to make the cost of infringement equal to a standard traffic ticket, while still keeping the threat of statutory damages. "Entertainers don't want to do that very often," said Steele. "They want to make people happy. For most people, a $10,000 judgment is a really tough thing. We're giving an opportunity for people to resolve the matter and recoup some loss to the creative, for a relatively small amount of money."

And finally, a US court has granted a request from MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom to put two lawsuits being pursued against him from the film and recorded music sectors on hold pending the ongoing criminal investigation into his former business. The stay will be reconsidered in August. Under the motion, the MPAA and RIAA are still free to add extra defendants and otherwise modify their lawsuits while the matter is on hold. Judge Liam O'Grady also agreed that the RIAA and MPAA  were free to take action to stop moves in New Zealand and Hong Kong to return previously frozen MegaUpload assets to Dotcom and his colleagues saying "[T]he court finds that each of the plaintiffs' proposed conditions are reasonable under the circumstances of this case because of the possibility that defendants' assets abroad may become unfrozen. Plaintiffs may institute and pursue any action in the United States or a foreign jurisdiction to preserve defendants' assets in the event that such action becomes necessary".

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