Thursday 21 December 2017


In Canada, the House of Commons has triggered a parliamentary review of Canada's Copyright Act, first passed in 1921, which will be conducted by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. TorrentFreak comments that the music industry was quick to weigh in, congratulating government ministers and making it known that the so-called 'Value Gap'  - how the tech giants seem to be good at everything except removing infringing material, and why likes of Google don't seem keen to pay for what drives the likes of YouTube - be high on the agenda. The 2012 Act tackled a number of important issues, such as allowing time and format shifting, plus backup copies, fair dealing and caps on statutory damages for non-commercial scale infringement - and a review of copyright law every five years, a period that expired at the end of June 2017.

And talking of the Value Gap, YouTube has now just signed a second global, multi-year agreement with the Universal Music Group, amid mooted plans to expand its subscription businesses. Universal said the deal would provide its artists more flexibility and pay, and strengthen YouTube's commitment to managing music rights. YouTube reached a deal with the second of the three majors. Warner Music Group, in May. Bloomberg reports that the negotiations come in advance of YouTube's launch of a new paid music service that is expected to go live in March 2018. And not to be left behind, Facebook and Universal Music Group have signed an 'unprecedented global, multi-year agreement' under which UMG licenses both its recorded music and publishing catalogs for video and other social experiences across Facebook, Instagram and VR platform Oculus.

In good news for the recorded music sector, the US Copyright Royalty Board has determined that SiriusXM must pay 15.5 percent of it's revenue for the next five years (beginning in 2018 through to 2022, although the full determination has yet to be posted on the CRB's website while the participants scrutinize the document to make sure proprietary data is not publicly revealed. The rate represents a near 41 percent jump from the 11 percent the service is currently paying, although it's short of the 23 percent that SoundExchange was advocating for. But the Hollywood Reporter it's better than the static rate that SiriusXM was hoping for from the Court. However in a less palatable move, the Board has ruled that pre-existing subscription services (Music Choice and Muzak) will enjoy a reduced rate of 7.5 percent of revenue for the next five years. That is down from 8.5 percent of revenue in the current year that the two services are paying to the industry.

But the battle between the tech behemoths, and giants of the content industries, is in full spate.  Now the likes Google and Facebook are facing off against Hollywood studios and record labels over how to update the North American Free Trade Agreement to protect copyright in the digital age. Silicon Valley is pushing for exceptions to copyright rules for online platforms and Internet service providers it says are needed to keep content flowing on the web. Meanwhile, the U.S. government seems to be taking positions more favoured by companies such as Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Inc., which are lobbying for stronger protections for copyright owners. The new (US led) proposals for NAFTA would limit allowances for online use of copyrighted material, a position seemingly less supportive of online platforms than existing U.S. law, in particular a watering down of fair-use exceptions and a re-evaluation of 'safe harbor'.  More on Bloomberg here

T Bone
Back to music: A group of 41 recording artists is urging the US Congress to sort out the somewhat odd (and now much litigated) position of pre-1972 sound recording copyrights in US federal law with the new "Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service & Important Contributions to Society Act"  - or (wait for it, and a a drum roll please)  the CLASSICS Act. The CLASSICS Act would rectify the obvious problems with relying on state level copyright law to establish a performing right for sound recordings,  and create the basis for a royalty to be levied from broadcasters to pay labels (and hopefully recording artistes) for pre-1972 works.  The 41 signatories including T Bone Burnett, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt and Henry Rollins said  “Digital radio makes billions of dollars a year from airplay of music made before 1972. Yet, because of an ambiguity in state and federal copyright laws, artists and copyright owners who created that music receive nothing for the use of their work. The ‘CLASSICS Act’ would correct this inequity and finally ensure that musicians and vocalists who made those timeless songs finally get their due. We urge Congress to pass the CLASSICS Act and other pro-artist reforms quickly”.

The major national sports Leagues in Europe, including the English Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga  have won a reprieve from the EU who have agreed to exclude them from the scope of a copyright reform that would help make content more easily available online. The entertainment and sports industries have been fiercely lobbying against the European Commission’s proposed reform of EU copyright law to make films and TV programmes more available across borders, arguing it would undermine the financing model of the whole sector. The Commission has said it is not seeking to force anyone to make content more available online, but merely to make it easier for broadcasters to obtain the necessary rights. EuroNews reports that EU member states have now to exclude all sports events, TV programmes co-produced by broadcasters and other third parties, as well as content licensed to a broadcaster by a third party.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked the Librarian of Congress to limit the legal barriers people face when they want to repair and modify software-enabled products, so that they, and not manufacturers, control the appliances, computers, toys, vehicles, and other products they own. In comments filed in Washington D.C. today, EFF continued its years-long fight to enable owners and creators to repair, modify, and enhance products, or use snippets of films or songs, free of onerous threats that doing so somehow infringes companies' copyrights. Software-enabled devices and Internet-connected products and appliances are ubiquitous in modern life, and people aren't infringing anyone's copyright when, for example, they choose to permanently disable the embedded, on-all-the-time camera or microphone in their kids' toys, or send their car to their favorite mechanic, rather than high-priced dealerships, to be repaired. “It’s absurd that a law intended to protect copyrighted works is misused instead to prevent people from taking apart or modifying the things they own, inhibit scientists and researches from investigating safety features or security enhancements, and block artists and educators from using snippets of film in noncommercial ways," said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. "The exemption process is one highly flawed way of alleviating that burden."

Facebook has announced that it removed nearly 3 million posts, including videos, ads and other forms of content, from its services during the first half of 2017 following complaints of counterfeiting and copyright and trademark infringement. Aggregate data shows Facebook received about 377,400 complaints from January through June, with many referencing multiple posts. About 60 percent of the reports related to suspected copyright violations on Facebook.

The National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) has announced that during the 2017 Sword Campaign 1,655 infringing websites were shut down, 274,800 infringing links were deleted and 314 enforcement cases were dealt with (of which 37 transferred for criminal investigation). The Sword Campaign is a flagship initiative led by NCAC in partnership with other Chinese government departments and enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, NCAC released a list of the top 16 copyright enforcement cases for 2017. The leading case on the list was enforcement against the piracy service Youyueyingchuang Technology Ltd. by Beijing Municipal Cultural Enforcement Division (CED). The resulting enforcement action removed the service and imposed a fine of RMB400,000 (approx. £45,000). More here and here (in Chinese).

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