by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 27th 2012 6:31am
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Jun 25th 2012 10:06am
from the hang-'em-high dept
There's a fairly constant pattern in the world of copyright enforcement. The media companies claim that piracy is "destroying" their industries, although they never offer any independent evidence to back this up. They "demand" that governments "do something" -- by which they mean introduce harsher penalties for unauthorized downloads. Because of the hypnotic effect that musicians and artists seem to have on politicians, governments happily oblige, even though there is no evidence that such laws will help artists. After the laws come in to force, online sharing may dip for a while, but soon returns to previous levels, so the media companies start whining again, and demand yet tougher penalties.
Of course, if any of those participants in this never-ending cycle stood back and looked at what was happening, they would see that the very fact the copyright companies keep coming back for more and harsher copyright laws offers clear proof the current approach just isn't working. Instead, they seem to believe that even though it has failed to work every time in the past, if the penalties could just be made sufficiently cruel and painful, suddenly everything would be OK.
Unfortunately, it looks like it's Japan's turn to undertake this exercise in futility:
Japan’s legislature has approved a bill revising the nation’s Copyright Law to add criminal penalties for downloading copyrighted material or backing up content from a DVD. The penalties will come into effect in October.
An earlier article by the same author, Daniel Feit, on Wired, spelt out some of the insanely restrictive rules that will soon apply:
The Upper House of the Japanese Diet approved the bill by a vote of 221-12, less than a week after the measure cleared the lower house with almost no opposition. Violators risk up to two years in prison or fines up to two million yen (about $25,000).
it would be illegal in Japan to make any copies of any movies or games, illegal to upload the data, illegal to download the data, illegal to sell copies of the data and well as illegal to sell a device that enables playback of the copied data. All of these actions would carry stiff penalties.
The new law's effects might be even more ridiculous:
Japanese attorney Toshimitsu Dan told IT Media that even watching a YouTube video could be grounds for arrest "if the viewer is aware that downloading [such material] is illegal."
Since people will inevitably carry on doing all these things, Japan's legislation will simply crimininalize an entire generation. That means that some of them will probably end up in prison for completely trivial infractions; it will also lead millions more people to question their respect for laws that are so at odds with what they regard as normal and fair.
Perhaps dimly aware that tough sanctions won't work – or maybe just greedy – some music groups want Japanese ISPs to install a system that they claim can spot unauthorized uploads even before they reach the Internet. As TorrentFreak explains:
Once a match is found, rightholders want ISPs to automatically block the allegedly infringing content. But according to one report, there may even be requests to send out warning letters to uploaders. If implemented this would amount to the most invasive "3 strikes" style regime anywhere in the world.
To add insult to injury, ISPs are expected to pay for allowing the music industry to spy on their users 24 hours a day. Since that cost will inevitably be passed on, that means that customers will be forced to pay for the pleasure of undermining their own privacy, having their ability to upload legitimate material curtailed, and receiving unwarranted threatening letters. Sounds like the Japanese recording industry has been watching Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" too much.
This latest call for total surveillance on top of probably the harshest laws passed yet against unauthorized downloads raises an important question: when the current measures fail -- as they surely will -- what will the copyright industries demand next in a further forlorn attempt to deter file sharing? Life imprisonment? Amputation of the mousing fingers?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 15th 2012 3:41pm
central european media enterprises
TV Network Uses Questionable Copyright Claim To Take Down Report Criticizing Its Reporting On Copyright
from the full-circle dept
You can see why this might draw some criticism. Another journalist, Ivan Stamenov, did a rebuttal video, which he posted on YouTube, entitled "BTV and torrents: Shock Dose of Ignorance." BTV's response was to issue a takedown, claiming copyright. He does admit that there is a piece of the video that shows the BTV logo, but he insists that's about the only thing that might be infringing (and that would actually be trademark, not copyright). Either way, it seems pretty clear that this takedown has little to do with the copyrights (though it may have plenty to do with the fight over the concept of copyright), and was very much focused on trying to silence a critic.
The show went on to press the one-download-one-lost-sale mantra, suggested that a “3 strikes” regime should be considered to deal with infringement, and criticized local ISPs for providing high-speed connections used for pirating.
BTV also claimed to have contacted the operators of Zamunda so that their side of the story could be heard, but a source close to the site told TorrentFreak that after initially making contact and getting Zamunda’s attention (just 3 days before the show was aired), the show failed to respond to further contact from the site.
The end result, critics say, was an ‘investigative’ report biased towards rightsholders at a time when bTV is not only promoting its just-launched Voyo PPV service, but simultaneously running an anti-torrent site campaign of its own.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 15th 2012 1:05pm
from the copyright-trolls-gone-too-far dept
Plaintiffs should not be allowed to profit from unfair litigation tactics whereby they use the offices of the Court as an inexpensive means to gain Doe defendants’ personal information and coerce “settlements” from them. It is evident in these cases – and the multitude of cases filed by plaintiffs and other pornographers represented by their counsel – that plaintiffs have no interest in actually litigating their claims against the Doe defendants, but simply seek to use the Court and its subpoena powers to obtain sufficient information to shake down the Doe defendants. The Federal Rules require the Court to deny discovery “to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1). This case requires such relief.Now, of course, NBC Universal hasn't gone all the way to the level of pure trolling and forcing settlements out of people, but I've yet to see a single situation where the lawyers at NBC Universal were willing to support anything that might make it more difficult for them to go after people for infringement. Perhaps now that they're under the Comcast umbrella NBC Universal will have to tone down its aggressiveness on these issues?
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Jun 14th 2012 8:54pm
from the eat-your-heart-out,-china dept
As expected, the UK government has published its Draft Communications Bill (pdf) -- better known as the "snooper's charter," since it requires ISPs to record key information about every email sent and Web site visited by UK citizens, and mobile phone companies to log all their calls (landline information is already recorded).
Since this was only released a few hours ago, people are still trawling through it to find out what delights it holds, but an eagle-eyed David Meyer has already spotted something rather extraordinary: the UK government seems to be proposing to log not just every IP packet, but every physical packet -- and letter, and postcard -- too.
That's thanks to Section 25 of the Draft, which states:
Part 1 [the main requirements to log communications data] applies to public postal operators and public postal services as it applies to telecommunications operators and telecommunications services.
And if you were wondering what "communications data" means when applied to letters and postcards, it includes:
postal data comprised in or attached to a communication (whether by the sender or otherwise) for the purposes of a postal service by means of which it is being or may be transmitted
Letters, telephone calls, email and the Web -- this is a level of total surveillance that countries like China, North Korea or Iran can only dream of. What remains unclear is how the UK government will try to gather this incredible flood of information, and whether it can access it in real time. Here's what the site Privacy International thinks will happen:
The government today published a draft version of a bill that, if signed into law in its current form, would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile phone network providers in Britain to install 'black boxes' in order to collect and store information on everyone's internet and phone activity, and give the police the ability to self-authorise access to this information.
That article points out that two important questions on the Internet side of things remain unanswered:
However, the Home Office failed to explain whether or not companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter will be brought under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), and how they intend to deal with HTTPS encryption.
When an official was pressed on that last point, he gave a rather disturbing reply:
At this morning's Home Office briefing, Director of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism Charles Farr was asked about how the black box technology would handle HTTPS encryption. His only response was: "It will."
This is going to get very interesting.
by Leigh Beadon
Mon, Jun 11th 2012 3:33pm
from the weren't-they-paying-attention? dept
The Canadian IP Council, one of the country's biggest intellectual property lobbying groups, has just released its policy roadmap (pdf) for the coming years, and the list of goals and recommendations is disturbingly ambitious. The document focuses primarily on counterfeiting and trademark issues, but its list of remedies amounts to a Canadian SOPA that would see ISPs regulated, websites blocked and personal data shared with infringement-snooping private watchdogs. Michael Geist has posted a thorough, itemized takedown of the many ridiculous assertions in the document, which is well worth reading in its entirety, but here are a few key points:
There is a recommendation for new laws adding substantial secondary liability for copyright and trademark infringement, and laws encouraging the creation of private mechanisms of cooperation between rightsholders and service providers. The stated goals of these recommendations are clear in their SOPA-esque desire that rightsholders be able to quickly and quietly shut down anything they don't like online, preferably without having to go through the courts at all:
SOPA may be dead in the U.S., but the IP lobby is anxious to revive it in Canada. SOPA targeted ISPs with website blocking as well as measures focused on payment intermediaries and online advertising networks. In addition to the quote above that even targets resolving search queries, the report states:The existence of remedies that include blocking orders, domain seizure and contributory liability are useful tools to encourage the cooperation of intermediaries who do not wish to be involved in the illicit activity.It adds that:positive relationships between rights holders and these intermediaries, including online payment processors, search engines, Internet service providers, online advertisers, online retailers, web auction sites, web hosting providers, domain name system (DNS) registries and social media platforms, can provide the basis for cooperation in the prevention of counterfeit distribution. This relationship requires the support of government.
The report also asks for the criminalization of all sorts of things involving counterfeiting, but as Geist points out, what this represents is an attempt to shift all the costs of what is traditionally a private action onto the public. They want the government to enforce their IP rights for them:
The report has several recommendations that would require the government to spend millions of dollars enforcing private rights. The criminalization of intellectual property discussed above is designed to increase public enforcement of private rights. Unlike the current system, which typically requires rights holders to assert their rights through civil litigation (an approach that has recently yielded million dollar awards), the move toward criminal provisions would require government prosecutors to act on behalf on rights holders. This represents a huge enforcement subsidy. Moreover, the report recommends:1. The government must encourage enforcement officials to seek strong remedies in the case of IPR infringements and ensure prosecutors exploit the full range of remedies available to them, including the proceeds of crime regime.The creation of new agencies, task forces, enforcement teams, and education programs are all part of a systemic effort to shift costs to the public.
2. Develop a team of properly funded and dedicated enforcement professionals in order to effectively face the challenges presented by counterfeiting in the digital age. In the absence of such a team, it will be impossible to respond to the challenges of small shipments of counterfeit product delivered online, and Canada will not be effectively positioned to partner with our international counterparts in tackling multinational operations.
3. Create an interagency intellectual property council consisting of senior officials from various government departments, including the Department of Justice and the RCMP, with the mandate to develop public education programs, initiatives for law enforcement and policy.
4. Establish a specialized IP crime task force to guide and lead anti-counterfeiting and anti-piracy enforcement efforts in Canada.
The document also leans heavily on ACTA, often misrepresenting its recommendations as requirements, and ignoring the fact that ACTA is facing significant backlash in the EU. In America, the SOPA protests and the growing internet movement have succeeded in getting a lot of intellectual property groups to back off from their most draconian requests for things like website blocking—but such is apparently not the case in Canada, if the IP Council isn't even the least bit bashful about pushing such an extreme position.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 11th 2012 5:05am
from the indeed dept
Of course, to some extent, iiNet is "responsible" for these meetings happening at all. If you don't recall, iiNet was chosen carefully by a Hollywood-run front group in Australia called AFACT -- the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft -- because the Hollywood studios thought that it was big enough to matter, but too small to actually fight back. They miscalculated. iiNet fought back (strongly) and won easily at multiple levels, leading to a nice precedent on the books that Hollywood hates. Of course, part of that ruling more or less said that iiNet had no responsibility to do anything under existing law. So now that's resulted in these meetings, in which the government hopes "an agreement" is reached, but where it also gets to suggest that if the ISPs don't appease Hollywood, regulations might be put in place.
iiNet, being at the center of all this, finds the entire thing ridiculous and is not shy about stating how it really feels, saying that negotiating with Hollywood is like talking to a brick wall. The blog post from iiNet covers a lot of ground that we've covered here for years, but it's nice to see an ISP speak out so publicly and so strongly on these points. First off, it covers the real problem: there's real consumer demand, but the industry sucks at meeting it. It also debunks the "can't compete with free" trope, yet again.
AFACT and other rights holder bodies don’t care much for consumers. As you may have read, Neil Gane of AFACT thinks consumers are “unreasonable” to tell their suppliers of entertainment what they want. Actually, AFACT don’t have any customers in Australia, they are all in California, which unfortunately means that consumer pressure is unlikely to have much impact on their strategies.Listening to actual consumers would be tremendously helpful, but the inability of the entertainment industry to do exactly that is a big part of the reason they're in this mess today in the first place.
iiNet have suggested that they focus on what the market is demanding, but it’s a waste of breath. Their masters have set the agenda and rights holders will only do their bidding.
Gane has made repeated calls for legislative change over time and that’s where AFACT’s future efforts will focus on, not taking into account consumer demands. The attorney general’s departmental forum is not designed to contribute to such legislative change and so I’m not expecting the process to generate any satisfaction for consumers or distributors.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 8th 2012 5:05am
Australian Gov't Chooses 'Consumer Advocate' For Secret Anti-Piracy Meetings: The Chairman Of The Copyright Council
from the um... dept
The group has an active role in influencing copyright policy in Australia, and this role sees it advocate strongly for the rights of the creative industries. For example, in a submission to the Federal Government’s Convergence Review earlier this year, the Copyright Council argued that under proposed changes to Australia’s Safe Harbour scheme, it was an important element that Australian Internet service providers should “adopt and reasonably implement policies to avoid liability for authorisation” of copyright infringement, “including termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the accounts of repeat infringers”.That certainly raises significant questions about just how focused this group really is on consumers' best interests, rather than the legacy entertainment industry's best interests. The report at Delimiter notes that this guy, law professor Michael Fraser, has been involved in multiple other copyright-related issues, including running a copyright collection society:
Fraser also has an extensive background in copyright protection in general in Australia. He has been a director of the Australian Copyright Council since 2001, and was also a founder and CEO of the Copyright Agency Limited for 21 years. CAL is an organisation which seeks to collect copyright fees and royalties for copyright holders in Australia, including journalists (disclosure: Delimiter publisher Renai LeMay has received fees from CAL for re-prints of articles he wrote when employed by the Australian Financial Review).It's pretty cynical for the Australian government -- and others involved in these secret meetings -- to position themselves as being more open to "consumer advocates" when this is what they end up with. As Delimiter notes:
It’s hard to see what bigger conflict of interest there could be in these talks, than for the chair of the consumer group attending the talks to also be representing the creative industries, and I feel very strongly that Michael Fraser must recuse himself immediately from attending the talks held by the Attorney-General’s Department.Of all the possible groups representing consumer interests, the government just so happens to choose this one?
Fraser’s defence in this case would no doubt be that he is attending the talks in his role as director of UTS’ Communications Law Centre. However, it is my strong personal opinion that that it is impossible to separate Fraser’s role at UTS from his other roles chairing both the Australian Copyright Council and ACCAN. This is the same person, after all.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 4th 2012 3:31pm
from the but-what-about-the-pirate-bay? dept
Here, the court said that a neutral intermediary is not responsible for infringement done by users, and cited last summer's European Court of Justice ruling in the eBay/L'Oreal case. We found that ruling to leave open way too many loopholes that would make intermediaries liable, but thankfully, the appeals court in the Netherlands recognized the key issues, and insisted that Marplaats retains its status as a neutral platform even though it provides many more functions beyond just hosting. The court found that since the functions it performs don't favor either buyers or sellers, it still is considered a "neutral" intermediary.
The court also looked at whether or not certain remedies that Stokke was pushing for made sense, and noted that injunctions that required pro-active monitoring to prevent infringement did not make sense, in part because they seemed disproportionate and expensive. It similarly rejects a "notice and stay-down" provision (like a notice and take-down, but which also requires proactive blocking of any future attempts to post something infringing), noting that such a system would be costly and provide little real benefit.
Overall, this latest ruling seems to make sense, and properly focuses the liability question away from the intermediary tool provider. However, I do wonder how the court rulings against The Pirate Bay (and against neutral proxy services) make sense under a similar light.
by Glyn Moody
Tue, May 15th 2012 3:15am
from the isn't-this-how-it's-supposed-to-work? dept
Last week Techdirt wrote about the possible introduction of an "opt-in" license to view porn online in the UK. As we noted then, there is nothing to stop parents from installing their own filters to block access to certain kinds of Web sites now. But it seems that soon, they won't even have to do that:
There’s a report in today’s Sunday Times that ISP TalkTalk is planning to offer an "adult" filter to all its customers. The "HomeSafe" system will, according to the report, block websites that are considered unsuitable for the under-18s. That isn’t just porn, but also includes self-harm, drugs and violence. Other major consumer ISPs, such as BT, are working on their own systems but don’t have them ready yet.
This is precisely how the market is supposed to work: if there is demand for something that is not currently on offer, then businesses will develop new products to meet that demand.
What’s interesting about today’s report, though, is that a spokesman from TalkTalk is quoted as saying that offering filters to new customers has increased customer retention. It seems that their customers do want them, and are more likely to stay with TalkTalk if they’ve got them.
That means that rather than incurring costs for imposing censorship on everyone unless they opt out, as the UK government may require, ISPs could instead make money through reduced churn by giving customers something they want.
As the author of the article quoted above, Mark Goodge, points out:
It also gives the lie to two other common claims made by pro-compulsion campaigners: that ISPs are irresponsible and parents don’t care, and the only solution to both of those is legislation. In reality, a lot of parents do care about what their children are accessing on the Internet, and will choose to use a system which does screen out the worst of it if that option is available. And ISPs are responsive to consumer demand, so they’re choosing to offer that to their customers.
It's particularly ironic that it should be the UK's Conservative Party that is contemplating this move. It generally prides itself on promoting business and minimizing government interference in people's lives; here, it is doing the exact opposite.