Monday 27 April 2015

The CopyKat

In the UK, and as the general election looms, there's not been much mention of copyright, but one party has come up with some new suggestions - the Green Party - but they may be forced to backtrack on proposals to limit UK copyright terms to 14 years after a "howl of protest" from prominent writers and artists including Linda Grant, Al Murray and Philip Pullman. The Greens’ manifesto said the party aims to “make copyright shorter in length, fair and flexible” but Kate Pool, deputy chief executive of the Society of Authors, told the Guardian that the change would be “appalling injustice” and that artists and writers would be first to lose out under the proposal, with more money being made by manufacturers or distributors.

Calling for US Congress to back an overhaul of licensing rules and a rewrite of the so called consent decrees that govern collective licensing in America, rapper Ne-yo has added some pithy common sense comments in the debate about royalties payable from streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify saying "Songwriters see the smallest fraction of royalty payouts because we are limited in how we can negotiate. Meanwhile, record labels and recording artists often earn twelve to fourteen times more than songwriters for a stream of the exact same song. As an artist who has experienced both sides of this split, I can personally speak to the nonsensical disparity between these different incomes".

Online music streaming service Grooveshark could potentially have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to major record labels after a U.S. judge ruled ahead of its trial starting today (Monday) that Grooveshark's copyright violations on nearly 5,000 songs were "willful" and made "in bad faith." Last september U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa,  ruled that Grooveshark's parent company, Escape, and its founders, Samuel Tarantino and Joshua Greenberg, were liable for the illegal uploads of thousands of recordings by artists such as Madonna, Eminem, Bob Marley and Jay-Z. Judge Griesa said the defendants had directed their employees to make the uploads in spite of the legal risk and said that the site's takedown procedures ere not robust and failed to prevent uploaders repeatedly posting infringing material. The remaining matter is now the quantum of damages Escape Media must pay in penalties for the infringement in the action brought by nine record companies including Arista Music, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, and Warner Bros Records in 2011. The maximum damages allowed under U.S. copyright law of $150,000 could potentially be awarded for each track infringed, and as Grooveshark has been accused of infringing nearly 5,000 tracks in the lawsuit - that's a massive $736 million (UMG Recording Inc et al v. Escape Media Group Inc et al).

In Russia, owners of 'pirate' sites have been given a final warning by the government. Augist 2013 amendments to the countries copyright law which will come into force May 1 not only protect more content than ever before, but also contain provisions to "permanently block sites that continually make unauthorized content available." Torrentfreak has more.

In NIgeria, the Nigerian Copyright Commission is proposing stringent new penalties for online infringement. The new Nigerian Copyright Act would, if passed into law, allow the NCC to cooperate with internet service providers to target infringing websites carrying illegal content. The NCC is also looking for a 2% levy on photocopiers, DVDs and mobile phones either manufactured locally or imported before the end of May, 2015. The levy is to compensate copyright owners but the NCC would retain a percentage to fund anti-piracy operations and promote creativity. Last year the NCC was involved in 202 anti piracy operations which resulted in 53 convictions. 

And China is clamping down on news webstes that harvest stories from other news providers.  WantChinaTimes reports that on April 22, the National Copyright Administration (NCA)  issued a set of new regulations governing news copyright, stipulating that if internet media outlets want to pick up any article from other sources, they should follow related regulations in China's Copyright Law. This means that these outlets should get advance permission from and make payment to the owner of the article reproduced and should clearly indicate the name of the author, as well as the title and source of the article.

Jean-Michel Jarre, songwriter, musician and now the President of CISAC, the global author rights collecting society body issued a statenent yesterday on World Intellectual Property Day in support of fair compensation for creators, saying  "Article 27(2) of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations' General Assembly in 1948, states that, 'Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author'. These words are as valid now as they were 70 years ago" adding "Culture is what brings people together" and. "And is the expression of the cultural diversity that is so cherished by the United Nations and UNESCO. Access to culture is paramount to the elevation of mankind. It goes hand in hand with freedom of speech and freedom to create. Equally important in our eyes are the rights of creators. Without these moral and economic rights, creators would be deprived of ways to sustain a living and continue to create freely, and would also lose control over the use of their works" and "But for this to happen, creators need to be granted fair remuneration for the use of their creative works. In the music sector, we have launched the Fair Trade Music project to address this issue. In the visual arts sector, we are asking for an international treaty on the artist's resale right under the aegis of WIPO" concluding with "Sustainable creative eco-systems depend on the recognition that creative works bring value to so many businesses that would not exist without them. In return, what we, creators, are asking is simple: to be fairly compensated for the use of our works and to be protected for our rights. We are calling upon all the countries represented at the United Nations to endorse our pledge, and work with creators all around the world to ensure a better future for authors".

And finally, and importantly, over on the IPKat Eleonora reports on a recent decision from the German Federal Court (Bundesgerichtshof ) that says that public libraries may now digitise their physical collections and may make available to their users the digitized works through terminals located in the respective reading rooms. They may do so irrespectively of whether the publisher offers a digital version of the book or not. Further, the library users may not only read the digitized works, they may also print out parts thereof or save those parts to USB sticks. Such reproduction, however, must stay within the boundaries of private or academic use according to Sec. 53 UrhG. In return, the publishers are entitled to receive fair compensation. It's all here - and well worth a read.

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