We were just talking about Bahnhof, the Swedish ISP with a reputation for protecting its customers privacy, and its script-flipping battle with a copyright troll called Spridningskollen. At issue is that Bahnhof has for some time operated a website, Spridningskollen.org, and has applied for a trademark registration for it more recently. The copyright troll is new in town, so to speak, and Bahnhoff is relying on common law trademark rights while its application goes through the process, but that isn't keeping the ISP from continuing to give Spridningskollen a taste of its own medicine.
Previously they accused Spridningskollen of trademark infringement and this week they followed up this threat with a more concrete warning. Giving the “trolls” a taste of their own medicine, Bahnhof sent them an invoice for the exact amount they also ask from accused pirates, to settle the alleged trademark infringement.
“You’re infringing our trademark ‘Spridningskollen.’ Bahnhof filed for the trademark on 2016-08-31, with the launch of the website Spridningskollen.org,” the settlement invoice reads.
Now, Spridningskollen will almost certainly not take Bahnhof up on its offer, but that isn't really the point. The point is that a copyright troll that wraps itself in the flag of anti-piracy, but which actually simply looks to bully settlement money out of the public, couldn't be bothered to come up with a name for itself that wasn't already in use and has now been served with the exact sort of settlement letter it itself wants to send to others. It's response to the letter is going to look bad either way. Bowing to its demands will be a public acknowledgement that the "anti-piracy" group violated another group's intellectual property. Not a good look. Fighting back against the letter, as it surely will, casts doubt on the legitimacy of its own threat-settlement letters and provides the public with a role-model example for what to do if they receive such a settlement notice.
It's a checkmate move, in other words. That Bahnhoff is asking for the exact amount that Spridningskollen plans to ask for in its own letters simply layers on a bit of snark to all of this. Which makes Bahnhoff an early favorite for the ISP doing the most to protect its customers from copyright bullies while entertaining the rest of us.
This is a strange one, for sure. Often times when we discuss disputes from copyright licensing or collection groups, which will universally complain that they are not collecting enough money when given any opportunity, some will comment that the artists should just pull their music from all broadcasts if they're not happy with the arrangement. This kind of nuclear option is rarely, if ever, invoked for a whole host of reasons that include compulsory licensing arrangements and rules, the sincerity of the complaints from the licensing groups, and the simple business interests behind the benefits of having music heard on the radio.
But in Macedonia, one such licensing group has quite literally taken its musical ball and stomped home. This whole spat has been initiated by ZAMP, previously the sole music copyright collection organization in all of Macedonia, all because a second collection group has been started in the country, alongside more strict rules governing how much money ZAMP can collect for the artists it represents. As a result, ZAMP has informed Macedonia's broadcasters that they are henceforth banned from playing any music created by Macedonian artists, whom ZAMP claims to represent.
The ban came after the culture ministry gave a licence to the newly-formed SOKOM MAP association to collect songwriters’ and performers’ fees from TV and radio broadcasters.
“Their goal is to divide the authors and to put a hand on the money collected by ZAMP. Thus the new association, SOKOM MAP, has become an instrument in the culture ministry’s hands,” ZAMP said in a statement.
SOKOM MAP, the new collection group, has insisted that it is not in fact an arm of the Macedonian government, but another collection group representing artists. Based on a frustrating Google translation of SOKOM MAP's website, it appears to have nothing to do with the government at all, instead being a non-profit group representing songwriters.
Complicating all of this is a law in Macedonia that requires broadcasters to include 40% Macedonian-made music within their music broadcasts. Thus, broadcasters are currently screwed either way: they risk fines from ZAMP if they play Macedonian music, or risk fines from the government if they don't. To give you an idea of just who the broadcasters are afraid of most in this equation, they've pretty much universally bent to the demands of ZAMP.
“As of today, we decided to stop playing Macedonian music. Either way, we risk legal repercussions and steep fines,” one editor-in-chief of a regional radio station told BIRN under condition of anonymity.
And so, if you happen to be reading this in Macedonia at the time of this writing, you apparently can't hear any music made within that country on the radio. ZAMP took a dispute over how much money it got to collect as the only collection group in the country and managed to reduce that amount of money to absolutely zero by banning that music from broadcasts entirely. Seems like a recipe for new legislation that will further neuter ZAMP, as one imagines the artists it represents will be screaming bloody murder any moment now.
But, yeah, copyright doesn't hinder culture at all.
We've been discussing for a while now about how the MPAA, with the help of the Copyright Office, has been propping up the complete myth that the FCC's plan to create more competition in the cable set top box space involves violating the copyrights of studios. It's a complete myth. The cable industry has been leading the charge here, mainly because it makes billions of dollars by charging people to "rent" its crappy boxes. But it found a strong ally in copyright maximalists who have repeatedly misrepresented the proposal. As we noted, the Copyright Office put out a report that flat out lied about what the FCC's proposal entailed and about how copyright itself works (arguing that contracts between two third parties could somehow eliminate the fair use rights of private citizens). And, incredibly, the basic argument being put forth by copyright maximalists, if taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that VCRs and DVRs are illegal too.
That's not how copyright law actually works -- but the message has caught on, and the FCC has already been forced to weaken its proposal -- and the industry is still bitching about it.
The MPAA’s argument that studios have the right to control the device on which you view your content reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of copyright law. Copyright gives its owner the right to control the making of copies and public performances of a work. But it does not give them control over any use of a work. That’s no accident. Once the copyright owner has been paid once for a particular copy, its control over that copy ends. That’s why I can lend a book to friends, or sell my used record collection outright.
True, there are some things I can ‘t do even with a copy of a movie or song I own. I can’t upload it on a file-sharing site, for instance, and I can’t play it on the radio. But that’s because doing those things either makes a new copy or makes a new, public performance of the work.
The studios have already been paid for the movies shown on a cable or satellite service. Indeed, they’ve been paid specifically for the right to publicly perform the work by transmitting it to my (and everyone else’s) home.
And here, copyright law says something very important to copyright owners: that’s all you get. Once the cable companies have paid the MPAA for the right to deliver their movie into my home, the MPAA loses control over how I choose to watch their movie in the privacy of my own home. I can record it on a DVR and watch it whenever I want. I can watch it on a big-screen TV or a small one, with the sound on or off, in one sitting or many, while fast-forwarding through parts I don’t like or rewinding to rewatch parts I do. I can watch it again and again. Most important, I can watch it on any device I want, including my computer, my iPad, or my phone.
And, while the MPAA and its supporters keep calling the FCC proposal a "compulsory license," Lemley points out that it's not a compulsory license that lets you record a TV program to your VCR or DVR, and neither is this:
That isn’t a “compulsory license” of copyrights; it’s a limit on the scope of those rights. That limit exists even if copyright owners try to declare that it doesn’t. This is the law. It has always been the law. Every effort by copyright owners to control how I watch a show in my own home has ended in failure.
Unfortunately, this blatantly false attack by Hollywood and the Copyright Office on the FCC's plan has been effective. It seems unlikely that the plan will go through, and what's troubling about it is that it's all based on flat-out falsehoods by Hollywood, the Copyright Office and its supporters.
FWIW, this is an old and a dumb and meaningless meme. It's not always Skittles, though. Last year failed Presidential contender Mike Huckabee used the same concept, but with Peanuts -- and John Oliver mocked him for it, noting that "peanuts themselves have killed far more people than terrorist refugees." Another version involved M&Ms, and it was used by a variety of groups -- including a feminist "Yes All Women" campaign. Some are arguing that the switch from M&Ms to Skittles is even more racist, because it's based on the fact that when Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman, Martin had a pack of Skittles in his pocket. And, of course, the Intercept argues that this meme goes all the way back to a top Nazi propagandist making sure that the meme is sufficiently Godwined.
But... of course, most of that has little to do with what we normally cover around these parts. But what we do often cover is copyright related issues -- so it's interesting to find out that the image used in that Skittles graphic that Trump Jr. posted was copied from Flickr, where it pretty clearly has an "all rights reserved" copyright notice on it. Oh, and the guy who took the photo, David Kittos, happens to be a former refugee himself, who is not at all pleased that his image is being used in this manner.
"This was not done with my permission, I don't support his politics and I would never take his money to use it," Mr Kittos told the BBC.
"In 1974, when I was six-years old, I was a refugee from the Turkish occupation of Cyprus so I would never approve the use of this image against refugees."
So, yeah. But what can he do? Well, apparently he's considering taking legal action, though he (rightly) notes that that may be a hassle:
"I would like the Trump campaign to delete the image, but they are probably not interested in what I have to say," he said.
"I was thinking about getting lawyers involved but I don't know if I have the patience.
"This isn't about the money for me. They could have just bought a cheap image from a micro stock library. This is pure greed from them. I don't think they care about my feelings. They should not be stealing an image full stop."
While I might disagree on the use of the term "stealing an image" there, it certainly could create an interesting copyright legal battle -- raising serious questions about fair use in political discussions. Thankfully, though, it seems unlikely that any lawsuit will actually happen. Instead, we can just sit back and think about the number of meetings and conversations that must have happened before Mars Inc., makers of Skittles, decided to put out this statement:
Skittles are candy; refugees are people. It's an inappropriate analogy.
It's not like many of us haven't been saying this for years: but fighting piracy through greater copyright enforcement doesn't work. It's never worked and it's unlikely to ever work. A year ago, we released our big report, The Carrot or the Stick? that explored at a macro level what appeared to lead to reduced levels of piracy -- enforcement or legal alternatives -- and found overwhelming evidence that enforcement had little long-term impact (and a small short-term impact), but that enabling legal alternatives had a massive impact in reducing piracy. This should sound obvious, but it was important to look at the actual data, which backed it up.
The researchers say that in order to compete with unlawful file sharing (UFS), easy access to information about the benefits of legal purchases or services should be given in a way that meets the specific benefits UFS offers in terms of quality, flexibility of use and cost.
The team looked at the extent to which the unlawful sharing of music and eBooks is motivated by the perceived benefits as opposed to the legal risks. Involving almost 1400 consumers, the research explored people's ability to remain anonymous online, their trust in the industries and UK legal regulators such as Ofcom, and their downloading behaviour.
It's a very different approach to our own research, but the conclusions remain almost identical. In short, the researchers found that for people who really "trust" regulators, then the threat of punishment was effective. The problem, however, is that not that many people actually trust regulators. That leaves officials with two choices: increase trust in regulators, or... figure out ways to incentivize more legal, innovative alternatives. And, of course, one way to destroy trust in regulators is to support policies like expanding copyright enforcement.
Co-author Dr Piers Fleming, from UEA's School of Psychology, said: "It is perhaps no surprise that legal interventions regarding UFS have a limited and possibly short-term effect, while legal services that compete with UFS have attracted significant numbers of consumers.
"Our findings suggest that it may be possible to diminish the perceived benefit of UFS by increasing risk perception, but only to the extent that UFS is considered emotionally, and users trust industry and regulators. Increasing trust in industry and regulators may be one route toward encouraging UFS to be considered in emotional rather than rational terms. However, given the limited impact of risk perception upon behaviour, a better strategy would be to provide a desirable legal alternative."
So, that's common sense and two very different studies with very different approaches -- all suggesting the same thing. And yet, politicians, regulators and legacy industry folks still insist that ratcheting up enforcement is the way to go. What will it take for them to actually follow what the evidence says, rather than continuing with faith-based copyright policies?
Usually, when we see stupid and dangerous DMCA errors like Warner Bros. taking down its own website and Paramount taking down legitimate Linux torrents, it's the studios we call out first for their wanton abuse of the system. But of course that's only part of the story — there is a system of broken incentives both inside and outside the studios that has created an entire "anti-piracy" ecosystem. It started with the third parties that many studios and other rightsholders hire: self-styled copyright enforcement experts who charge a fee to piss an endless stream of DMCA notices into the wind of piracy. Some studios, like NBCUniversal (who we'll be talking about in a moment) choose instead to build this function into their internal structure with anti-piracy divisions staffed by the same kind of folks. Thanks to the willingness of copyright holders to pay out for this pointless service, it's grown into a whole industry — and it's an industry for which the never-ending, whac-a-mole nature of the takedown game is a plus, since it means the job will never be done. While there's plenty of blame to go around among media companies and lawmakers, it's these takedown "experts" who are the most directly responsible for the epidemic of botched and fraudulent takedown notices.
And it's easy to see why: they need to pad the numbers. If we accept that the whole exercise is pointless (it is) and there's no actual end goal (there isn't) then what makes one anti-piracy outfit better than another? Why, sheer volume of pointlessness, of course! The executive who hired the firm that takes down two-million links can brag about his competence compared to the executive who only got one-million for the same price, and the executive who designed the internal division that hit three-million for even less is a damn hero — even though they're all just futilely pecking away at "infinity". And so, since there's no real penalty for abusing the DMCA, these groups have zero incentive to fret about only sending fair and accurate takedowns. But that's not all — they also have every incentive to actively pad their numbers with takedowns they know are bullshit, and as TorrentFreak discovered last month and recently demonstrated again in pretty undeniable terms, that's exactly what they're doing:
... this may look like a proper notice. However, upon closer inspection it’s clear that the URL structure of the links is different from the format Torrentz2 uses. The notice in question lists this URL:
The link NBC Universal reports has never existed and simply returns a blank page. TorrentFreak reached out to the operator of the site who confirmed that they have never used this URL format.
This ‘mistake’ can be explained though. The URL structure NBCUniversal uses comes from the original Torrentz site, meaning that NBC simply did a search and replaced the old domain with a new one, without checking if the URLs exist.
In other words, they fabricated these links.
And this isn't some isolated incident. TorrentFreak found plenty of new notices targeting URLs where the whole site had been taken down last year, and the URL didn't even exist when it was up. It's clear what's happening: they're just subbing out various known torrent domains into big lists of URLs that maybe, once, sorta, in a similar format on a different site, actually pointed to infringing material — and then billing their masters per URL targeted, regardless of whether it turned out to actually exist or not. Counting up all the fraudulent notices is next to impossible, but TF estimates there were tens if not hundreds of thousands of such URLs included in notices in the past few months alone.
Now, these takedowns of fake URLs might not seem as worrying or embarrassing as the notices that target legal material or a copyright holder's own website, but they are further evidence of just how stupid the whole system is, and how badly it needs to be fixed. In a world where takedown notices are automatically generated by the millions without concern for whether or not the URLs are even valid, can we ever expect them to stop targeting legitimate speech and legal distribution? No. The DMCA needs teeth when it comes to punishing abusers, but giving it those teeth means dismantling this entire automated, slapdash anti-piracy industry — and don't expect them to go without a fight.
For decades now, consumers have been lured into a sour deal: pay for a relatively inexpensive printer, then spend a lifetime paying an arm and a leg for viciously overpriced printer cartridges. As most have learned first-hand, any attempt to disrupt this obnoxious paradigm via third-party printer cartridges has been met with a swift DRM roundhouse kick to the solar plexus. In fact if there's an area where the printer industry actually innovates, it's most frequently in finding new, creative and obnoxious methods of preventing cartridge competition.
Hoping to bring this parade of awfulness to its customers at scale, HP this week unearthed the atomic bomb of printer cartridge shenanigans. HP Printer owners collectively discovered on September 13 that their printers would no longer even accept budget cartridges. Why? A firmware update pushed by the company effectively prevented HP printers from even detecting alternative cartridges, resulting in HP printer owners getting messages about a "cartridge problem," or errors stating "one or more cartridges are missing or damaged," or that the user was using an "older generation cartridge."
As Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing notes, this behavior is simply par for the course, with Lexmark engaging in similar behavior back in 2003. By embedding an "I am empty" bit in their cartridges, they were similarly able to ensure that users couldn't use third-party cartridges or they'd be told the cartridge lacked ink. Lexmark leaned heavily on Section 1201 of the DMCA to support its behavior, a tactic HP is likely to mirror but evolve:
"Lexmark invoked Section 1201 of the DMCA, which makes it a criminal and civil offense to bypass an "effective means of access control" for a copyrighted work. The DC Circuit court asked Lexmark which copyrighted work was being protected by its access control, and it argued that the checking routine itself was copyrighted, as well as the "Empty" bit. The court found that the DMCA could only be invoked where there was a copyrighted work apart from the access control, and that a single bit didn't qualify as a copyrightable work. Lexmark lost."
In this case, HP's DRM time bomb firmware update was apparently deployed back in March, but HP didn't activate the "improvement" until this month. And as is usually the case in this space, HP isn't saying much outside of a misleading quote proclaiming the company was simply protecting its "innovations" and intellectual property:
"HP said such updates were rolled out "periodically" but did not comment on the timing of the last instalment.
"The purpose of this update is to protect HP's innovations and intellectual property," it said in a statement."
But rejoice! HP claims that users can still refill cartridges, as long as those cartridges contain an HP-approved security chip:
"These printers will continue to work with refilled or remanufactured cartridges with an original HP security chip. Other cartridges may not function."
Well, at least until HP figures out a way to DRM the printer fluid itself, which surely can't be too far along on the horizon.
In the first six months of 2016, WordPress received 4,258 DMCA takedown notices, 9 percent of which were rejected as abusive, according to the company's Transparency Report. And though those numbers are nowhere near the volume of, say, Google, the costs of those abuses are high, Sieminski says. "There's really a big chilling effect on speech, especially controversial speech, because there's a very handy tool to use to remove that type of reporting from the internet," he says. "And as a company, we have to invest in the human resources … to sift through the mountain of notices we get."
There are some more interesting quotes in there as well. Having himself featured in Corporate Counsel Magazine seems like reason enough for a Facebook post, so Paul posted a link to the story on Facebook as well, with a little blurb noting how it was "fun" to be quoted, and how such automated takedowns "happen hundreds of times a day, but make the news only occasionally."
Can you guess what happened next? Of course you can...
Facebook's automated takedown algorithms decided that Paul's brief post and link about how bad automated takedowns are... got taken down, because irony lives.
Meta. Posted an article about erroneous, bot driven, internet takedowns. Post was just wrongly removed by Facebook. https://t.co/XSmX2weHf3
Facebook claims that posting about automated takedowns and how they're problematic somehow violates its Community Standards. Obviously, this is a mistake (yet another one) by Facebook's autotakedown system, but it really does help highlight the point of how problematic this kind of system can be, when perfectly legitimate speech is silenced, because a bot thinks it's bad.
* Full disclosure: Automattic recently sponsored & hosted our event on copyright reform, and Paul was our main contact there for that event.
Today is "International Talk like a Pirate Day." While it's a lot of fun to act like a pirate, drink rum and catch up on Errol Flynn movies, piracy is also a serious issue with real economic and legal significance. As electronic devices become an increasingly ubiquitous part of our lives, the content we consume has moved from analog to digital. This has made copying – as well as pirating – increasingly easy and prevalent.
Adding fuel to the flames of this rising "pirate generation" has been the content industry's recalcitrant and often combative attitude toward digital markets. Piracy, and the reactions to it, has had an immense impact on the daily lives of ordinary Americans, shaping their digital experience by determining how they can share, transfer and consume content.
As soon as electronic storage and communication technology was sufficiently developed, digital piracy became accessible. Whether it's a song, movie, video game or other piece of software, you could suddenly reproduce it without having to steal it off a shelf or obtain any specialized machinery to counterfeit it. Additionally, if you wanted to listen to an mp3 of the latest Britney Spears album on your computer, there weren't many lawful options. This led to a surge in online piracy and helped foster a culture of online file-sharing.
The music industry historically has a reputation for being hostile to, or at least slow to embrace, digital markets. Yet there were also some major artists who were early innovators in the space.
Before Spotify or iTunes, there was BowieNet. This music-focused internet service provider launched in July 1998 and gave users 5MB of space to create and share their own websites, content and chat. On BowieNet, according to Ars Technica: "[f]ans could get access to unreleased music, artwork, live chats, first-in-line tickets, backstage access, tickets to private, fan club-only concerts." David Bowie saw the potential to help his fan base access his content and discuss it in a social way in the early days of the internet, before Facebook or Myspace. He remarked at the time: "If I was 19 again, I'd bypass music and go right to the internet."
Bowie wasn't the only early music pioneer of the internet. Prince was also an early unsung hero. In the early 2000s, he created NPG Music Group, later Lotusflow3r. He even won a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Unlike BowieNet, NPG and later Lotusflow3r provided releases of full albums.
As musicians and users were experimenting with new ways to share content on the internet, the United States was working with other World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) member countries to create the most comprehensive "digital" update to the Copyright Act. In 1998, President Clinton signed into law the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which implemented U.S. WIPO treaty obligations, as well as several other significant titles (including the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act – which pirates of the nautical variety might care about). Of particular importance were the sections providing for "safe harbor" (Sec. 512), which protected service providers from infringing content generated by their users, and "anti-circumvention" (Sec. 1201), which was meant to stop pirates from hacking digital rights management (DRM) and similar restriction technologies.
Unfortunately, while the system worked when isolated incidents of infringement occurred on largely static web pages—as was the case when the law was passed in 1998—it is largely useless in the current world where illegal links that are taken down reappear instantaneously. The result is a never-ending game that is both costly and increasingly pointless.
While lawmakers were hard at work trying to find ways to quell online piracy, the courts weren't taking a nap. Indeed, going back to the 1980s, there were important judicial fights that would set the stage for how content would be handled on our electronic devices.
The U.S. Supreme Court's 1984 Sony Corp. of America v Universal City Studios Inc.decision coined what is known as "time shifting," referring to a user's ability to record a live show using the Betamax to watch it later. The court's decision set the precedent that a manufacturer would not be held liable for any contributory negligence or potential infringement where they did not have actual knowledge of infringement and their devices were sold for a legitimate, non-infringing purpose. As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the majority opinion:
One may search the Copyright Act in vain for any sign that the elected representatives of the millions of people who watch television every day have made it unlawful to copy a program for later viewing at home, or have enacted a flat prohibition against the sale of machines that make such copying possible. It may well be that Congress will take a fresh look at this new technology, just as it so often has examined other innovations in the past. But it is not our job to apply laws that have not yet been written.
But not everyone was so enthusiastic. Jack Valenti, former president of the Motion Picture Association of America said in a congressional hearing two years prior [regarding VHS technology]:
We are going to bleed and bleed and hemorrhage, unless this Congress at least protects one industry that is able to retrieve a surplus balance of trade and whose total future depends on its protection from the savagery and the ravages of this machine.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would take another approach in 2000s A&M Records v Napster. The court affirmed the district court's ruling that peer-to-peer services could be held for contributory infringement and vicarious liability. Even though their service merely facilitated the exchange of music as an intermediary, they were on the hook. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel wrote in the district court's ruling:
…virtually all Napster users engage in the unauthorized downloading or uploading of copyrighted music; as much as eighty-seven percent of the files available on Napster may be copyrighted, and more than seventy percent may be owned or administered by plaintiffs
Napster lodged several defenses, including fair use, but the most important (in lieu of the Sony decision) was the concept of "space-shifting," referring to the process of a user converting a compact disc recording to mp3 files, then using Napster to transfer the music to a different computer. Patel concluded Sony did not apply, because Napster retained control over their product, unlike Sony's Betamax, which was manufactured and sold, but not actively monitored.
The courts would continue ruling in a similar manner as other peer-to-peer services found themselves in the courtroom. At times, users would be targeted. And in the 2003 case of In re: Aimster, the pirates' bluntness for wanting to bring the music industry to its knees did not help the situation
What you have with Aimster is a way to share, copy, listen to, and basically in a nutshell break the law using files from other people's computers…. I suggest you accept aimster for what it is, an unrestricted music file sharing database – (posted by zhardoum, May 18, 2001)
Naturally with all of the music-sharing services were being shut down, the pirates found a new way to connect, share files and shape the industry. Which brings us to BitTorrent and websites like The Pirate Bay and Swepiracy. Torrenting does not require a central server, does not require direct streaming from one peer to another and the host does not contain any full file contents. All of the content received is from other users.
Sweden brought Pirate Bay to trial for both civil and criminal penalties. Per E. Samuelson, the site's attorney, lodged the now-famous (and familiar, for U.S. copyright scholars) King Kong defense:
EU directive 2000/31/EC says that he who provides an information service is not responsible for the information that is being transferred. In order to be responsible, the service provider must initiate the transfer. But the admins of The Pirate Bay don't initiate transfers. It's the users that do and they are physically identifiable people.
The defense was unsuccessful. Which brings many questions to mind for future cases — how will courts begin to rule with such complex systems of file transfer as fragmented torrents? Targeting users is widely unpopular, especially in the United States, where statutory penalties range from $750 to $300,000 per willful infringing use and $200 to $150,000 for non-willful infringement.
Efforts around the world have continually been made to combat piracy. But maybe it's time we take a fresh look at the market. As the Copia Institute observed in a recent report, whenever there are new ways to share content legally, users ultimately respond by employing those technologies.
On this International Talk like a Pirate Day, let's take a moment to remember the pirates and how they have helped shape the internet era. While CD sales and digital downloads may be declining, new streaming services are on the rise (vinyl records are also doing remarkably well). The digital revolution has, indeed, changed how we consume and access our music. It has given us access to (nearly) everything, through services like Spotify and Apple music, at a reasonable price and with unparalleled convenience.
From the consumer's perspective, you now carry hundreds of hours of music on your phone and listen to it whenever you want – no need for one of those bulky CD binders. The slot where the CD used to go in your car is now an auxiliary cable jack.
From an artist perspective's, these are new challenges that require adaptation. Particularly in the case of music licensing, our pre-existing laws are unnecessarily complex, cumbersome and antiquated. However, innovative technologies and services are not to blame. Instead, we should seek new and equally innovative ways for artists to be compensated through more direct and transparent payments (such as Ujo).
While our copyright laws are far from perfect, we still have substantial freedom to remix, repurpose and share creative content online in a social context. This is essential to online free expression, digital commerce and the proper functioning of the internet itself. As additional discussions in Congress and in the courts move forward, let's make sure we keep it that way.
Just a few weeks ago, we had lawyer Ira Rothken on our podcast (it's a really great episode, so check it out if you haven't heard it yet). Rothken has been involved in lots of big copyright cases, but is probably most well-known these days as Kim Dotcom's US lawyer. In that episode we talked a lot about the Kim Dotcom situation, but also spent a fair amount of time on the case of Artem Vaulin, who was arrested in Poland for running the search engine KickassTorrents. The US is seeking to extradite him to stand trial in Illinois. On the podcast, Rothken expressed some concerns that he hadn't been able to speak directly to Vaulin and noted that he was working on it.
Even though nearly two months have passed, the alleged KickassTorrents owner still hasn’t been allowed to meet with his U.S. defense team. A clear due process violation, according to Rothken.
“We still have not had an opportunity, nor have we been granted access, to meet with Artem Vaulin in prison in Poland. So we now believe that this has ripened into an international due process problem.
“We believe that Artem’s rights are now being impacted with his inability to communicate with U.S. counsel,” Rothken tells TF.
Vaulin is allowed to meet with his Polish lawyer, but since the charges against him are in the US, under US law, and the key issue involves extradition to the US, it's ridiculous that he's unable to consult with a US lawyer.
“There’s no way that there could be a fair trial in the United States, or a fair extradition process, without Artem being able to have access to U.S. counsel, to learn his rights, to be able to galvanize the evidence, and to do so in a robust and expedient manner,”
It seems quite bizarre that Vaulin is being denied access to his lawyer. Once again, as with the Dotcom case, it feels like a situation where officials are purposely stacking the deck against the person they're accusing, doing everything possible to make sure that they're pressured into cutting a deal, rather than actually being able to fight for their rights.