by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 18th 2013 6:42am
by Leigh Beadon
Fri, Jan 18th 2013 5:13am
from the celebrate-internet-freedom dept
It's January 18th, 2013, and that's a day worthy of note: the one year anniversary of the widespread protests against SOPA and PIPA. Not only did the massive reaction from the internet community succeed in stopping these dangerous bills that would have curtailed free speech and innovation online, the protests sent shockwaves through the world of politics. In a true manifestation of democracy, the combined voice of the people overruled the lobbyists and backroom dealers who, only weeks before, were smugly assured of the new law's passage.
To celebrate that victory, a bunch of groups involved in the ongoing fight for internet freedom have come together to declare Internet Freedom Day on January 18th. Here at Techdirt, we're marking the occasion with an infographic looking back at the day the internet community became a political force to be reckoned with:
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 18th 2013 3:15am
from the try-try-again dept
TorrentFreak reports on the latest anti-piracy bill being put forth in Norway, which includes site-blocking provisions:
In May 2011 the Ministry of Culture announced that it had put forward proposals for amendments to the Copyright Act which would “..give licensees the tools they need to follow-up on copyright infringement on the Internet, while protecting privacy.”The article quotes people who are quite worried about what this will mean in practice. When every copyright holder can seek to completely shut down a site, the likelihood of trouble is immense. Already, here in the US, we see regular abuse of the DMCA to take down specific content that people deem infringing, but which is often just content they don't like. Imagine the ability to do that on a larger scale, such that it doesn't just take down the content, but entire sites.
The key proposals included making it easier for rightsholders to identify infringers from their IP addresses and amendments to the law to allow ISP-level blocking of sites deemed to be infringing copyright.
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Jan 17th 2013 5:07am
from the serious-stuff dept
In the wake of the suicide of Aaron Swartz, there have been many fine tributes to the man and his work. Another growing class of posts that have flowed from this unhappy event are people reflecting on the important lessons he taught them. Here, for instance, is Jeff Jarvis recounting his journey from a fairly traditional position on copyright to one that recognized how the Internet had reshaped that landscape.
Ten years ago, Jarvis appended this "mock copyright notice" to his blog posts:
It's mine, I tell you, mine! All mine! You can't have it because it's mine! You can read it (please); you can quote it (thanks); but I still own it because its mine! I own it and you don't. Nya-nya-nya. So there. COPYRIGHT ... by Jeff Jarvis.
But gradually, under the influence of key thinkers in this area, he came to see things differently:
Lessig and company have taught me that content's value can lie in what it spawns and inspires. Locked away, unseen, unused, not discussed, not linked, it might as well not exist.
The tension between knowledge and content is no mere abstraction. As well as lying behind some of the most problematic sections of SOPA, ACTA and TPP, and the larger war on digital sharing they are part of, it was almost certainly a contributory factor in the death of Aaron Swartz too.
And Aaron Swartz has taught me that content must not be the end game for knowledge. Why does knowledge become an article in a journal -- or that which fills a book or a publication -- except for people to use it? And only when they use it does content become the tool it should be. Not using knowledge is an offense to it. If it cannot fly free beyond the confines of content, knowledge cannot reach its full value through collaboration, correction, inspiration, and use.
from the again-and-again-and-again dept
Now we're hearing stories that something similar may be happening down in Peru, where there's been an ongoing (if odd) debate about how to deal with copyright infringement. Apparently, there are growing concerns that the crux of the bill will be to put the liability on third parties, including ISPs, search engines and others, with the expectation that by dumping the liability on them, they'll somehow magically stop piracy. It's the same old story: because the entertainment industry refuses to adapt its business models, it wants to rope in third parties and make them legally liable for propping up the failing models. Of course, all that actually will do is lead to much greater costs for users, and will make it much harder for internet companies to operate in Peru.
Hopefully, the government there doesn't go down this particular path -- especially since there are reports that the industry is hoping to use what comes out of Peru as an "example" of what other countries in the region should do as well.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 26th 2012 9:53am
from the not-out-of-the-woods-yet dept
Historically, when the entertainment industry doesn't get its way in Congress, it just moves into international fora to seek the same thing. That's how we got the DMCA, of course. Congress hadn't been interested until copyright lobbyists went to WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization) and got it to create a treaty in 1996 that more or less required the DMCA. This is why we're constantly paying attention to various trade agreements and treaties, like TPP and others, which are really (among other things) about creating more ways for the entertainment industry to backdoor in new copyright laws. They'll get these agreements in place, and then point to them and insist that we have to change our laws due to "international obligations," ignoring, of course, that they were the same people who got those international obligations put in there in the first place.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 13th 2012 10:23am
from the why-help-yourself-when-the-government-can-do-it-for-you dept
Funny how much less they were using Google takedowns before SOPA failed, when they were complaining about all the front-page pirate results.Indeed. A big part of the argument in favor of SOPA was that it was apparently super easy to find infringing works via Google -- and (the copyright holders claimed) no easy way to get those works removed from Google. However, as the ensuing deluge of DMCA takedown requests shows, perhaps the real reason was that the big studios and labels (many of whom are near the top of the list of DMCA notice senders) apparently didn't want to have to actually do the work required of them under the law. In other words, as many people noted during the SOPA fight, it was a case of the big copyright players running to Congress to get them out of having to do some work. They pretended there were no existing remedies when the reality was they just didn't want to make use of them. It almost makes you wonder if they specifically chose not to make use of those remedies in an attempt to pretend that the situation was worse than it really is...
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Dec 3rd 2012 10:58am
from the good-luck-with-that dept
And now it's come out that ITU officials recently held a "secret" meeting to figure out how they were going to avoid getting SOPA'd, having the world rise up in protest as it tries to implement its internet regulatory regime. Following some bizarre and paranoid fantasy about how the anti-ITU, anti-WCIT efforts are really just because an unnamed "lobbying group" didn't like one proposal (the one mentioned above about diverting money from internet companies to telcos), the meeting got down to business: how could they use social media to prevent SOPA- or ACTA-like uprisings from the public:
In response to the anti-WCIT “campaign,” according to the September retreat’s preparatory materials, the ITU reluctantly launched a “counter-campaign,” which the agency believes “has been fairly successful outside the US and somewhat successful even in the US,” where “some of the statements made to denigrate ITU and WCIT are so extreme that they were easy to challenge and rebut.”Of course, the campaign doesn't really appear to be going that well -- especially since so much of it revolves around "deflect[ing] media questions from secrecy, taxes and censorship" to the blandly empty (and absolutely silly) statement that "the revised ITRs have the exciting potential to pave the way for a broadband revolution in the 21st century." I'm sure that sounds catchy on a tweet. The problem, of course, is that folks on the internet don't tend to believe that kind of bureaucrat-speak when they know it's not true. As Downes notes:
Going forward, the ITU focused at its meeting on the possibility of an “intensive anti-ratification campaign in OECD countries, based on the so-called lack of openness of the WCIT process, resulting in a significant number of countries refusing to ratify the new ITRs.” The ITU calls this possibility “the so-called ACTA scenario,” referring to sometimes violent protests against the secret ACTA treaty that took place this year.
To develop the next phase of its “counter-campaign,” the ITU hosted speakers from leading PR and advertising agencies to advise them on the use of social media. For example, Matthias Lufkens, Head of Digital Strategy for global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, gave a presentation on how his agency helped the World Economic Forum leverage tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr to fend off “occupy”-style protests that occurred both physically in Davos and on the Internet.
“There is a risk that [the ACTA scenario] will happen, but our communication campaign can mitigate this,” the internal document says.
Here’s the unvarnished truth, which no PR agency can help the agency talk, tweet, or prevaricate their way around: The commercial Internet emerged and matured entirely since the treaty was last reviewed. It developed in spite of the ITRs, not because of them.Once again, these bureaucrats really have no clue what they're doing.
There is a familiar pattern here of ambitious regulators who have no expertise and little experience with the Internet proclaiming themselves its benevolent dictators, only to find the peasants revolting before the coup has even started.
The ITU is no different than the sponsors of ACTA, SOPA, PIPA, and other attempts at regulating the Internet, its content, or its users by governments large and small. Like the media lobbyists who continue to see the successful fight to kill SOPA and PIPA as a proxy war waged solely by Google and other Internet companies, the ITU simply can’t accept the reality that Internet users have become their own best advocates.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 27th 2012 8:27am
from the just-saying dept
...recognizing the global nature of Internet crime, this year the IPR Center partnered with Europol, who, through its member countries, executed coordinated seizures of foreign-based top-level domains such as .eu, .be, .dk, .fr, .ro and .uk. This effort is titled Project Transatlantic and resulted in 31 domain name seizures.Yeah. Apparently it's possible for ICE to censor those sites if it actually does a little work and calls up its law enforcement pals. Another example of why SOPA was never necessary in the first place.
"This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center," said ICE Director John Morton. "Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world.
The other issue? ICE's own release shows that ICE appears to have no understanding of the intellectual property laws it's seeking to enforce. From that release:
During this operation, federal law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products; including professional sports jerseys, DVD sets, and a variety of clothing, jewelry and luxury goods from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. If the copyright holders confirmed that the purchased products were counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold these goods were obtained from federal magistrate judges.Note the confusion (or ignorance) here. Counterfeits are about trademarks, not copyrights. Most of what they discuss are items covered by trademark. But then they say "if the copyright holders confirmed that the purchased products were counterfeit." Yes, there may be some copyright claims mixed in here (especially with "DVD sets"), but for the most part this is about trademark. Why say "copyright holders" unless you're either willfully misrepresenting what's happening... or ignorant of the law you're supposedly helping to enforce?
We've complained before about ICE boss John Morton's apparent deliberate conflation of copyright and counterfeits in the past -- but usually it's just lumping them together. To confuse the two here, in an official release from a government group that's enforcing the law, suggests some serious problems. ICE is either ignorant of the law it's supposedly enforcing... or maliciously misrepresenting itself. That seems like a problem.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Nov 16th 2012 7:39pm
from the congress-wakes-up dept
Right after the Presidential election last week, Chris Sprigman and Kal Raustiala penned an opinion piece suggesting that one way the Republicans could "reset", and actually attract the youth vote, would be to become the party of copyright reform. We had actually wondered if that was going to happen back during the SOPA fight, when it was the Republicans who bailed on the bill, while most of those who kept supporting it were Democrats. Since then, however, there hadn't been much movement. Until now. Late on Friday, the Republican Study Committee, which is the caucus for the House Republicans, released an amazing document debunking various myths about copyright law and suggesting key reforms.
If you're used to Congress not understanding copyright, prepare to be surprised. It's clear, thorough and detailed about just how problematic copyright has become and why it needs to change. To give you a sense of where the document heads, note the final line:
Current copyright law does not merely distort some markets -- rather it destroys entire markets.There is a lot in this document, and we can't go through it all, but I highly recommend reading through it. The three "myths" it attacks are:
- That the purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator. No, it correctly notes, it's about benefiting the public:
Thus, according to the Constitution, the overriding purpose of the copyright system is to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.” In today’s terminology we may say that the purpose is to lead to maximum productivity and innovation.
This is a major distinction, because most legislative discussions on this topic, particularly during the extension of the copyright term, are not premised upon what is in the public good or what will promote the most productivity and innovation, but rather what the content creators “deserve” or are “entitled to” by virtue of their creation. This lexicon is appropriate in the realm of taxation and sometimes in the realm of trade protection, but it is inappropriate in the realm of patents and copyrights.
- That copyright is a representation of free market capitalization. The paper properly notes that the reality is the exact opposite:
Copyright violates nearly every tenet of laissez faire capitalism. Under the current system of copyright, producers of content are entitled to a guaranteed, government instituted, government subsidized content-monopoly.
- That the current copyright regime leads to the greatest level of innovation and productivity. That makes no sense at all, the paper says:
Today’s legal regime of copyright law is seen by many as a form of corporate welfare that hurts innovation and hurts the consumer. It is a system that picks winners and losers, and the losers are new industries that could generate new wealth and added value. We frankly may have no idea how it actually hurts innovation, because we don’t know what isn’t able to be produced as a result of our current system.
Finally, it puts forth suggestions for copyright reform that go way, way, way beyond anything we've seen legitimately discussed in Congress, ever. Below I just show some snippets from the recommendations, so go read the full thing.
- Statutory Damages Reform:
Copyright infringement has statutory damages, which most copyright holders can and do use in litigation (rather than having to prove actual damages). The government sets a range – which is $750 to $30,000 per infringement – but that goes up to $150,000 if the infringement is "willful." Evidence suggests that the content holder almost always claims that it is willful. This fine is per infringement. Those rates might have made sense in commercial settings (though even then they arguably seemed high), but in a world where everyone copies stuff at home all the time, the idea that your iPod could make you liable for a billion dollars in damages is excessive.
- Expand Fair Use:
Right now, it's somewhat arbitrary as to what is legally fair use based upon judicially created categories. One example: parodies are considered protected by fair use but satire is not. There's an excellent book (and a shorter paper) called Infringement Nation that details how things you do every single day are infringing and leave every single person liable for billions in damages each year (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1029151).
- Punish false copyright claims:
Because there is minimal or nearly non-existent punishment for bogus copyright claims today, false takedown requests are common and have a chilling effect upon legitimate speech. While those filing a takedown request have to swear on the threat of perjury, that swearing is only in regard to whether the work is theirs but not whether the work is actually infringing. The court has said that their needs to be “subjective bad faith” in order to be sanctioned for false takedown requests. This often leads to de facto censorship.
- Heavily limit the terms for copyright, and create disincentives for renewal:
Current public policy should create a disincentive for companies to continue their copyright indefinitely because of the negative externalities explained in this paper. Unlike many forms of government revenue, generating revenue by disincentivizing activities with negative externalities is one way for the government to pay for its operations. This is a far superior way for the government to generate revenue rather than having a tax system that disincetivizes work.
- Expand Fair Use:
This document really is a watershed moment. Even if it does not lead to any actual legislation, just the fact that some in Congress are discussing how copyright has gone way too far and even looking at suggestions that focus on what benefits the public the most is a huge step forward from what we've come to expect. In many ways, this is the next logical step after the completion of the SOPA fight. Rather than just fighting bad policy, it's time for Congress to recognize that existing copyright law is bad policy and now is the time to fix it. It comes as a surprise, but kudos to the Republican Study Committee -- and specifically Derek Khanna, the policy staffer who wrote the document -- for stepping up and saying what needed to be said, but which too many in Congress had been afraid to say for fear of how the entertainment industry lobbyists would react.