Wednesday 28 October 2015

The CopyKat - Big Brother IS watching YOU

The EFF tell us that Senators Grassley and Leahy, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary, have published a letter to the Copyright Office asking it to analyse the impact of copyright law on “software-enabled devices” (such as cars, phones, drones, appliances, and many more products with embedded computer systems). This issue is "crucial because technology and the law have evolved in a way that no one could have intended when Congress wrote the present copyright laws, and that evolution has restricted customers’ freedoms to repair, understand, and improve on the devices they buy". And the Library of Congress has just agreed with the fair use advocates who argued that vehicle owners are entitled to modify their cars, which often involves altering software. Car makers including General Motors and other vehicle manufacturers such as tractor maker Deere & Co had opposed the ruling. They said vehicle owners could visit authorised repair shops for changes they may need to undertake - much to the annoyance of drivers and farmers - and somewhat hypocritically it seems to the CopyKat - given the recent VW diesel emissions scandal. More here and from Wired here.

Talking of hypocrisy (or here perceived hypocrisy), according to Torrent Freak, a man called Josh Hadley who was attempting to sell T-shirts featuring the phrase “1984 is already here” has been contacted by the London based Estate of writer George Orwell, author of the dystopian nightmare "1984",  for infringing their copyright and right of publicity. Hadley has taken the T-shirts off the original website, but has said he plans to still sell them in his own online store. Big Brother is indeed watching us all. Calling the Estate's actions 'Orwellian', TorrentFreak says "Ironically, the estate itself has gained a reputation for exerting tight control of copyrights and trademarks, surveilling the Internet for possible offenses.". 

Beyonce by Denis O'Regan
Husband Jay Z may have garnered all the publicity in his 'Big Pimpin' win, but wife Beyonce was also victorious the same day in a case brought against her by Ahmad Javon Lane, who claimed that Beyonce's song "XO" infringed on his song "XOXO."  TechDirt tells us "Except, it didn't. Not by a long shot. While both songs have "XO" in the title, that appears to be about where the similarities end":  The Court, after listening to both songs and reviewing their lyrics "finds that no reasonable jury could find the lyrics of XO and XOXO substantially similar. Indeed, aside from the fact that both songs’ lyrics use the letters “X” and “O,” there is virtually nothing common to the two songs’ lyrics." A representative for Lane issued a statement to ET, saying that the singer "is disappointed with the judge's ruling and is considering fighting his case with an appeal." Interestingly and somewhat confusingly Judge Engelmayer also took the time to ascribe different moods to the tracks, writing, "The two songs also have a different feel -- an appreciative fan would term Lane's track seductive and personal, and Beyonce's track joyous and uplifting." But surely its about the lyrics being copied ..... not the 'feel' being copied? The copyKat felt strange memories of Blurred Lines rising ......

YouTube claims to have paid more than $2bn to music rights-holders in the past few years. The news broke in a comment given by the service as it announced a global licensing agreement with Kobalt-owned collection society AMRA. Music Business Worldwide have done an interesting comparison with two other leading streaming platforms - Spotify and Vevo - saying the figure for YouTube works out very roughly, at $50m being paid by YouTube to music rightsholders a month. But based on recent figures, Spotify’s payouts to rights-holders would have been  $142m per month and in a very rough (and now slightly outdated) monthly payment from Vevo to music rightsholders of $12.5m. Which rightsholders were paid is another very interesting question. YouTube has asked video content rightsholders (here we presume record labels) to sign a new licensing deal, covering both YouTube Red and its traditional ad-supported version of the platform. This contract stipulates, amongst other things, that rights-holders will receive 55% of net revenues from video and display advertising.

After sending thousands of settlement demands to alleged pirates since last summer, a law firm in Finland, Hedman Partners,  is making good on its threats to sue. After initially being asked to pay between 600 and 3000 euros per offence, those targeted by the lawfirm now face demands of up to 10,000 euros plus court costs. Hedman Partners acts on behalf of a number of film, adult content and TV companies and has, perhaps unsurprisingly but perhaps unfairly, been labelled a 'copyright troll'

In our last CopyKat we noted that Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler had become the third musician to hit Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with a cease-and-desist letter for his use of music on the campaign trail. joining R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills and Neil Young, who both asked Trump to stop using their music. The Republicans have a long history of using songs they fit their political agenda without permission, and Law Street provide a useful analysis of both the annoyed musicians and the legal context here

Over 50 websites have been blocked by internet service providers in Portugal as a result of a voluntary agreement reached between government, the entertainment industry and the net sector's trade body, the Association Of Telecommunication Operators. In the Ukraine, legislation is being planned to introduce web-blocking laws alongside new financial penalties for companies who do not comply with anti-piracy efforts. 

CISAC, the global umbrella for collection societies has announced full year figures for 2014 from collections for songs - music, lyrics and compositions: collections were up 2.8% on 2013 - a 5% increase had exchange rates not changed - to 7.9 billion euros. Songs account for 87% of collected monies, and that income was up 2.4% year-on-year. Mechanical rights income, primarily from the sale of CDs and downloads, was down 9% year-on-year, but performing rights revenues were up 3.8% (streams are usually classified as exploiting both mechanical and performing rights). Societies in Europe accounted for 61.3% of collected revenue, while North America accounted for nearly 17%. The five BRICS emerging markets accounted for 5% of the monies collected.

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