Monday, 28 January 2019
The planned and now revised and re-revised EU copyright law reforms have been repeatedly criticised for bringing in new laws that will 'break' the internet due to provisions that Google in particular finds very worrying. But they are just one voice (albeit one very noisy and well funded voice) clamouring for the proposals to be watered down or ditched altogether. As reported by The Verge, Google has released an image showing the implication of the directive on its search engine. The image clearly shows how its “news segment” will look like. It involves an empty description area wherein the 'transformative' usage by Google of short snippets of news in its search web page would disappear. The screenshot showed that if a user in the EU searches “latest news”, Google would merely be able to provide links to the web sites which display such news, without any short summaries, stories, headlines, pictures or videos. This has been claimed to have a majorly adverse impact on the way Google perceives its users to use its platform. Why so? Well Article 11 of the Copyright Directive gives publishers the right to demand paid licences for using snippets of their stories, which definitely defeats the transformative use claim by Google. Google has claimed this will lead to two choices: Either paying for licenses - or no snippets at all. This would thus mean a massive change in the whole way Google is used and is expected to be used as a platform for the dissemination of information and Google says that surely this is definitely a regressive path. Google has further reportedly threatened to pull its operations out of the EU if the “link tax” (Article 11) provisions are passed. Another development came from the January 18th meeting when 11 countries (including Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland) voted against the reforms, concerned about the now near infamous Article 13 and the aforementioned Article 11. A direct implication of this was then the cancellation of the approval meeting which was scheduled to take place on the 21st of January. Another major opponent of this approval was Italy which didn’t seem to be very impressed with the strict copyright proposals. It's STILL all to play for!
But of course its not all one way PR traffic: 95 Leading European filmmakers including Alejandro Amenabar, Marco Bellochio, Cristian Mungiu, Pawel Pawlikowski, Alan Parker, Betrand Tavernier and Susanna White, have signed and sent an open letter calling on the European Union (EU) to honour a key part of the pending Directive - Article 14 - which calls for “fair and proportionate” payment for work throughout its commercial life. And CMU Daily reports that the global music industry has said proposed Article 13 compromises are a backwards step: An open letter says: “After years of hard work, the Copyright Directive is at a very critical point. The proposed text circulated ... falls below the standard of the three texts produced by the three European institutions and would not be an acceptable outcome of the negotiations” adding “The European Union cannot miss this unique opportunity to achieve one of the key objectives of the European Commission proposal, which was to correct the distortion of the digital market place caused by user-upload content services. Therefore, the undersigned call on negotiators to urgently make substantial changes to the 13 Jan proposal by the Romanian Presidency in order to get the directive back on the right track” with signatories including music industry organisations IAO, ICMP, IFPI, IMPALA and IMPF with support from the film, media, broadcast and book sectors.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's appointment of a former law professor as Minister of Justice and Attorney General has raised some eyebrows, not least as the appointee, David Lametti, once wrote in a paper that file sharing “is not necessarily theft, piracy or even wrong.” Lametti, is a founding member of McGill University’s Centre for Intellectual Property Policy (CIPP), where he served as director from 2009 to 2012 and although Music Canada and SOCAN provided only careful statements about Lametti’s appointment, some creators and music executives are concerned about the potential effect on the current Canadian copyright reform process, now in its final stages. In Lametti’s 2011 paper, The Virtuous P(eer): Reflections On The Ethics Of File Sharing, he wrote that his “strong ethical intuition is that one should never put up a digital barrier or fence around music, whatever the law might allow.” He also argues that “current normative structures ought to be adapted to reflect this more profound understanding of the impulse to share music.”
The Delhi High Court has restrained a website from putting on copies of The Times of India and The Economic Times on its pages. In an interim direction, Justice Manmohan barred the website and instructed the registrar GoDaddy to to lock the ownership of the domain name www.sscias.com. The law suit seeks a for permanent injunction for trademark infringement, copyright infringement and unfair competition.
Lucasfilm and Disney have lifted the copyright claim that they recently placed on Star Wars Theory’s Darth Vader 'Fan Film'. In fact the claim was driven by Disney as Star Wars Theory had released his Darth Vader Fan Film (which as of now, has been viewed over 7.2 million times on Youtube)_ with the permission of Lucasfilm who gave him their blessing as long as the film was made it without crowd funding and the video was un-monetized. But then Disney and music publisher Warner Chappell claimed that a rendition of the Imperial March score infringed copyright and seemed to be seeking to have the entire film taken offline. It seems pressure by Lucasfilm led to a change of heart by Disney, and the film stays up!
In Hong Kong, a Harry Potter-themed cafe is being sued for copyright infringement by film studio Warner Bros. The 9 ¾ Cafe in Mong Kok, which opened in 2017, is covered in paraphernalia from the hit books and movie franchise The Hollywood giant says the cafe’s owners are infringing on its copyright, even though the cafe does not claim any relation to the franchise. The South China Morning Post says the claim demands an unspecified sum of damages, a removal order plus multiple injunctions.
It seems that Google is looking for a final resolution in its ongoing legal battle with Oracle, with Google asking the Supreme Court to make the final call in the dispute. The company has announced it has filed a petition with the Court, asking the USA's most senior court to determine the boundaries of copyright law in code.
My thanks to our intern Akshat Agrawal for his assistance with this update