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Posts Tagged ‘copyright’
June 18th, 2018 at 11:32 pm
CFIF Strongly Opposes Senator Ron Wyden’s “ACCESS to Sound Recordings” Act
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CFIF has long championed greater fairness for recording artists and protection of intellectual property (IP) rights in the music industry.   Among other problems, current law generally protects recording artists’ rights for post-1972 songs, but not pre-1972 classics:

Under byzantine laws, artists receive just compensation whenever their post-1972 recordings are played, but in many cases not for their pre-1972 recordings.  That’s an indefensible and arbitrary artifact that has persisted far too long.  Why should Neil Diamond receive payment whenever ‘America’ is played, but not classics like ‘Solitary Man?’

Fortunately, the opportunity to correct that unfairness has arrived.  Even better, legislation to correct the existing flawed system arrives alongside other music legislation that galvanizes the coalition to finally correct the situation.  As a result, a broad coalition of music organizations representing everyone from songwriters, composers, performers, publishers and labels supports three new pieces of legislation…”

Accordingly, CFIF strongly supports the Music Modernization Act, which passed the House of Representatives unanimously earlier this year:

Introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R – Virginia) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D – New York), the Music Modernization Act combines music licensing reforms outlined in the CLASSICS Act, Songwriters Equity Act of 2015, the rate standard parity provisions of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, and AMP Act into a single, consensus piece of legislation.  The MMA addresses specific music legacy issues such as establishing federal copyright protection for artists who recorded before 1972, creating a single licensing entity to administer music publishing rights for all digital music and ensuring producers and engineers receive royalties for their contributions to the music they help create.”

Unfortunately, Senator Ron Wyden (D – Oregon) has counterproductively introduced the so-called “ACCESS to Sound Recordings” Act.

Just as the Music Modernization Act claims nearly unanimous support among all stakeholders in the music industry, Sen. Wyden’s proposed legislation rightfully garners similarly consensus opposition:

Seven leading unions, membership organizations, and advocacy groups representing recording artists, performers, vocalists, musicians, producers, and songwriters today sent a letter to the U.S. Senate detailing the flaws in Sen. Ron Wyden’s so-called ‘ACCESS to Sound Recordings Act.’  The groups, which include American Federation of Musicians, Content Creators Coalition, Future of Music Coalition, The Living Legends Foundation, the Recording Academy (GRAMMYs Organization), The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, and SAG-AFTRA detailed how Wyden’s bill would undermine the retirement security of elderly artists before reiterating their support for the CLASSICS Act.”

The group’s letter, which is worth reading in its entirety of detail, highlights the flaws of Sen. Wyden’s proposal:

We are disappointed that the introduction of the ‘ACCESS Act’ was done without consulting any artist group, organization, or union who would have made it clear that the bill’s eleventh-hour introduction is not a viable solution.  The ‘ACCESS Act’ would undercut the goals of the MMA by cutting compensation for the older artists that it is expressly designed to benefit.  It would unfairly shorten the period in which pre-1972 recordings produce royalties for the artists and copyright owners, effectively shutting down a lifeline of payments to artists who need it most.”

There is simply no justification for Sen. Wyden’s proposed legislation.  The MMA received unanimous House support, which is incredible in this hyperpartisan era, and the Senate should pass it for President Trump’s signature at long last.

March 24th, 2017 at 11:48 am
Congress Introduces Much-Needed Copyright Office Reform Legislation
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This week, the Chairmen and Ranking Members of both the Senate and House Judiciary committees introduced important legislation – the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act – which makes the U.S. Register of Copyrights a position appointed by the president subject to Senate confirmation.

CFIF applauds this much-needed proposal to modernize the U.S. Copyright Office in order to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

Strong copyright protection constitutes a core component of our domestic economy, and our world-leading creative community in particular.  As we at CFIF have often emphasized, it is not by coincidence that the U.S. stands unrivaled as the most creative, innovative, prosperous and powerful nation in human history while consistently maintaining the world’s strongest copyright and other intellectual property (IP) protections.  That relationship is direct and causal.  Our Founding Fathers specifically protected copyright as a fundamental, natural property right in the text of the Constitution.  As a result, American copyright-related industries dominate the globe, from film to television to music to publications, and today those industries contribute over $1 trillion to the American economy, as well as accounting for 5.5 million jobs.  And in an era of increasing global competition, copyright-related industries remain a significant export sector that only keeps growing.

Here’s why the Copyright Office is so crucial in that realm.  It facilitates the thriving U.S. market by administering the registration and recordation systems, as well as advising Congress, our judicial system and other pivotal parties on both domestic and international copyright matters.  Unfortunately, under the current system created over 120 years ago, the Office is currently housed within the Library of Congress, which faces its own challenges and responsibilities.  Consequently, the Copyright Office has struggled to keep pace in the increasingly digital economy despite repeated calls urging modernization.

Accordingly, given the enormous and growing importance of copyright industries to the U.S. economy and exports, we applaud the long-needed legislative effort to modernize the Copyright Office in this way.  Although only a first step in broader Copyright Office reform, it is an important one.  It also offers a rare bipartisan opportunity for Congress in addition to how it helps American consumers and our creative and innovative community.  Every living former Register of Copyrights has urged Copyright Office restructuring, and CFIF agrees wholeheartedly with that broad consensus.  American consumers, our economy and export industries stand to benefit immensely from this important step.

November 4th, 2016 at 2:48 pm
Cronyism Within Obama’s FCC and Library of Congress Threatens U.S. Copyright and Intellectual Property Protections
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In today’s political atmosphere of Wikileaks and FBI investigation of potential collusion, the charge of government cronyism is perhaps more damning than any other.

For that reason, a blockbuster editorial in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal was particularly devastating:

Most Americans think of Google as a search engine doing unalloyed social good, but the company also wants to make money and wield political influence along the way.  So you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to notice that an abrupt change of leadership at the U.S. Copyright Office is good news for Google, which aims to pay less for profiting from the property of others.”

So what’s the backstory here?  In a nutshell, this tawdry ordeal centers on the suspicious demotion within the Library of Congress of Maria Pallante, who until two weeks ago served as U.S. Register of Copyrights.  In that capacity, Ms. Pallante advocated reorganizing the Copyright Office as an independent agency, but perhaps more significantly was too protective of people’s property rights, including copyright, for Google’s taste.

Chief among Ms. Pallante’s inconvenient heresies?  Her opposition to the malignant set-top cable box proposal from Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which we at CFIF have steadfastly criticized:

Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission proposed something known as the set-top box rule.  The thrust was to force cable companies to build a universal adapter so Google and others could broadcast content without paying licensing fees or abiding by carriage agreements.   Google supported the new rule.  Less pleased were creators, who wouldn’t be paid for their work.

A bipartisan group of House Members in July sent a letter asking the copyright office to weigh in.  Ms. Pallante replied that the rule ‘would seem to take a valuable good’ and ‘deliver it to third parties who are not in privity with the copyright owners, but who may nevertheless exploit the content for profit.’  Ms. Pallante suggested revising the rule, which the FCC did.

This prompted outrage from groups funded by Google.  Take Public Knowledge, whose website notes that Google is a ‘platinum’ supporter – chipping in $25,000 a year and probably more.  Public Knowledge’s senior counsel assailed the House letter, and in September it released a report claiming ‘systematic bias at the U.S. copyright office.’  Ms. Pallante was singled out as ‘captured’ by industry for the sin of focusing on ‘enforcement’ of copyright rather than rewriting it.  Something else happened in September:  Ms. Pallante got a new boss when Ms. Hayden was sworn in as Librarian of Congress, a presidential appointment.  Ms. Hayden formerly ran the American Library Association, which takes a permissive view of copyright law and accepts money from, you guessed it, Google.  A month later Ms. Pallante was pushed out.”

It all reeks of crony capitalism on behalf of Google, whose business model depends in part on exploiting others’ copyrighted artistic creations without compensation.

As The Wall Street Journal’s editorial concluded, “The guarantee to own what you create is the reason entrepreneurs take the risks that power the economy.”  Indeed, the U.S. maintains the world’s most protective copyright and intellectual property (IP) laws, which remains the driving force in our status as the most creative, inventive and prosperous nation in human history.  Americans shouldn’t tolerate cronyism in pursuit of such bad ideas as the FCC’s set-top box proposal that threaten that status.

October 30th, 2015 at 10:06 am
CFIF in Wall Street Journal: Gov’t Shouldn’t Pick Winners in Music Creator/Digital Broadcaster Negotiations
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This morning, The Wall Street Journal kindly included CFIF’s take on the ongoing compensation rate negotiations between music creators and digital broadcasters.  Simply put, our position is that the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of favoring one side or the other.  In an optimal world, the free market would dictate rates and the federal government would play no role.  Because current law mandates that federal regulators at the Library of Congress determine the rate that music creators receive when digital broadcasters play their songs, however, it is critical that regulators remain neutral rather than unfairly favoring one side or the other:

We agree with Bartlett Cleland that free-market negotiation between music creators and Internet broadcasters, not federal regulators, should optimally determine broadcast compensation rates.  Until that time, however, we respectfully disagree that regulators should artificially favor the streaming services industry.  Digital broadcasters possess no inherently superior right to their business model than do musicians, but Mr. Cleland’s suggested course unjustifiably favors the former over the latter.  If anything, artists possess the superior claim, since without their creations digital radio wouldn’t have that product to offer consumers.  And if streaming services consider payment requirements excessive, then they can adjust what they charge advertisers or subscribers to sustain their model.

The federal government should not be in the business of playing favorites.

Timothy Lee

Center for Individual Freedom, Alexandria, Va.

September 30th, 2015 at 4:23 pm
GroupM, the Leading Global Media Investment Group, Announces Important Anti-Piracy Effort
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This month, GroupM, the world’s leading media investment management company, announced that it will now require its media partners advertising on websites to receive anti-piracy certification from the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG).  This new initiative will go far to keep its clients’ advertisements off of rogue websites, as GroupM summarized in its announcement:

‘We’re in the business of giving the world’s most valuable brands marketing advantages with smart media strategies.  This inherently means we’re vigilant for clients’ brand safety.  Our work with TAG in the development and full adoption of anti-piracy guidelines is a major leap forward,’ said John Montgomery, Chairman, GroupM Connect, North America and Co-Chair of the TAG Anti-Piracy Working Group.  ‘With IAB, 4As, and ANA, we’ve worked for years to make the digital ecosystem more trustworthy.  Fighting pirates of copyrighted content required every ounce of our tenacity and ingenuity, but with the advent of TAG’s Brand Integrity Program Against Piracy, we have powerful new tools and safeguards.'”

Such advertising on piracy sites accounted for an estimated $209 million in ill-gotten revenue in 2014 alone, so this constitutes a significant, voluntary private sector milestone.  Summarizing the nature of the problem, Mr. Montgomery observed:

There’s no brand in the world that wants their advertising to appear on a pirate site or wants to be seen as supporting piracy, even inadvertently…  A brand’s entire reputation is at stake – something that they’ve been nurturing for decades or, in some cases, centuries.  The people who create pirate sites are the same ones who perpetrate clickbait fraud – they’re the ones who spread malware and create armies of bots that generate most of the automated clicks in the business…  Which is why being worried about ad fraud without also being aware of the role piracy plays in its perpetration is like fretting over a flood in your apartment while neglecting to turn off the tap.”

Hopefully, other ad industry players will follow GroupM’s lead in utilizing TAG, but CFIF and anyone who supports the rule of law and property rights – including intellectual property (IP) rights – owe them an enormous “thank you.”  Accordingly, please click here to join us in thanking them.

June 5th, 2015 at 3:52 pm
Bipartisan Copyright Office Modernization Legislation Introduced in Congress
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The U.S. Copyright Office is in need of modernization, and this week brought positive news in that regard.

Congressman Thomas Marino (R – Pennsylvania) and Judy Chu (D – California) introduced draft legislation entitled the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy (CODE) Act to improve the way the office operates.  Although not typically in the headlines every day or in the forefront of public attention, the Copyright Office not only helps set policy as it relates to both domestic and international copyright matters, it administers broad aspects of existing laws.  Copyright-related industries – especially creative industries like entertainment that dominate the globe – constitute an estimated $1 trillion portion of the American economy, and account for an estimated 5.5 million jobs.  Moreover, it’s an export sector that continues to grow.  And with the constant transition to a digital world marketplace, the strain upon our Copyright Office only increases each day.

Among other things, the CODE Act would:  (1) establish the Copyright Office as an independent agency; (2) allow it to physically relocate from the Library of Congress into its own federal building;(3) transfer administrative functions and legal duties from the Library of Congress; (4) allow appointment of a director for one ten-year term following review by a bipartisan and bicameral commission and then consent of the Senate;  and (5) allow the Copyright Office to deliver any and all communications directly to Congress, free of mandatory White House review.

Given the enormous and growing importance of copyright industries, legislation to bring reform and modernization to the Copyright Office is to be welcomed.  The merits of the bill and its individual provisions must still be discussed and debated, but this is a positive first step.  To modernize the office would not only constitute a bipartisan accomplishment for Congress, it would amount to a victory for American consumers, creators and innovators.

May 29th, 2015 at 11:03 am
Pass Free Trade Legislation, But Ignore Calls to Insert “Fair Use” Provisions That Weaken American IP Protections
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We at CFIF strongly advocate both free trade and intellectual property (IP) protection.  Although typically distinct policy questions, they are currently intertwined as Congress finally and fortunately moves toward passing free trade legislation.

The pending legislation rightly demands that trading partners recognize American IP rights, but that has naturally drawn fire from some of the usual suspects (e.g., Google, the Internet Association, et al.) who tend to oppose stronger IP rights because those protections tend to run contrary to their own particular business interests.  Specifically, those interests seek to include copyright limitations in free trade bills, including mandatory “Fair Use” exceptions.

That would be a bad idea.

Among other problems, those voices misstate domestic law in suggesting that “generally, an Internet company in the U.S. is not held liable for the conduct or content of third parties who use its platform.”  While existing law provides a level of immunity for Internet companies, such immunity is limited and does not excuse violations in numerous circumstances, including:  (1) when the interactive computer service materially contributes to the illegal content; (2) when the interactive computer service itself engages in fraud/misrepresentation; (3) when the interactive computer service engages in, or aids and abets, criminal activity; or (4) if the illegal activity violates IP laws.  Accordingly, omitting discussion of an Internet company’s liability for copyright infringement is particularly and intentionally misleading.  American law regarding the liability of intermediaries is infinitely more complicated, and intermediaries may face liability under a variety of circumstances, including where they induce the infringement of third persons (the Grokster standard), and in other circumstances in which they meet the standards of contributory infringement or vicarious liability.  Additionally, “safe harbors” under applicable law remain conditioned on a number of affirmative acts on the part of intermediaries, such as promptly taking action once they learn of infringing content (rather than merely upon receiving formal notice), maintaining policies with regard to repeat violators and adoption of standard technical measures designed to prevent infringement.

Thus, domestic law does not extend some blanket, general exemption from liability for Internet companies with regard to the conduct of third parties, and the scope of liability in the U.S. continues to evolve, both from a judicial standpoint and a legislative one.  Furthermore, Congress is presently considering the appropriate contours of the safe harbors established in the 20-year-old DMCA, with many members expressing concerns about the levels of piracy that prevail, and the fact that “notice and takedown” has been largely ineffective in reducing piracy levels, with a particularly devastating impact on individual creators and actors who can ill afford to pursue takedowns only to have the same content immediately re-uploaded.  Accordingly, it remains unclear exactly what liability regime the US should be seeking to export.  But it’s absolutely clear that American interest in foreign markets remains primarily in promoting greater discipline and accountability to reduce piracy levels that deprive the US billions of dollars in earnings.

Furthermore, U.S. trade agreements already include provisions relating to exceptions and limitations.  They also already recite the relevant provisions of international law that define the scope of permissible exceptions and limitations.  Those binding provisions are contained in a variety of agreements, including the Berne Convention, TRIPS, the WIPO Treaties (WCT and WPPT), and each of our free trade agreements.  Other nations have employed different means to achieve what they believe is a proper balance between protection and limitations, but remain they bound by the provisions of international law.  A particularly wide variance exists in how common law and civil law nations approach exceptions and limitations.  More specifically, courts in civil law countries are not permitted to interpret general provisions, and legal standards that require the weighing of different factors are a poor fit.  As a result, legal provisions such as Fair Use are ill-suited to the jurisprudence of most countries across the globe.

Moreover, as the world’s leading producer and exporter of copyright protected materials, the U.S. maintains a tremendous economic interest in ensuring the effective protection of copyright works.  While all parties strongly endorse balanced copyright protection that both protects works and provides reasonable flexibility, the biggest problem in foreign markets is lack of discipline, and not overboard protection.

It is critical that Congress passes free trade legislation currently on its agenda, and those who seek to exploit it as a device to weaken American IP protections must be rejected.

September 26th, 2014 at 1:30 pm
In Property Rights Victory, Court Rules Digital Radio Must Compensate Artists for Playing Pre-1972 Songs
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Last June, we highlighted important legislation proposed by Rep. George Holding (R – North Carolina) by asking a straightforward question: “Is it fair that digital radio broadcasters pay royalties for the privilege of playing songs recorded after the arbitrary date of February 15, 1972, but not for pre-1972 recordings?”

This week provided welcome news out of California, as a court correctly answered “no” to that question.

Here is the basic legal issue, as we wrote in June:

Recordings predating 1972 remain protected by a patchwork of state laws, whereas recordings after February 15 of that year going forward are covered under federal law.  That amounts to a historical idiosyncrasy, without any prevailing substantive logic.  But digital radio stations, some of which center entirely upon pre-1972 music, have capitalized on the legal aberration to simply stop paying for performance of the pre-1972 songs still covered by state laws…

Digital radio stations operate under privilege of federal license to broadcast, but take the position that they need not pay for pre-1972 songs that remain protected under state laws.  They profit from playing those songs, but refuse to pay accordingly.  Keep in mind that unlike contemporary performers, many of those older affected artists are no longer capable of touring, and sales of their records have diminished over the years, leaving royalties for performance of their songs as their only remaining means of continuing compensation.”

The proposed federal legislation to rectify that anomaly remains pending, but a court applying one among the patchwork of existing state laws referenced above ruled in accord with the bill’s goal.  In fact, the California court in question granted summary judgment, meaning that it didn’t consider the legal question worthy of going before a jury:

In the battle between today’s digital-music services and yesterday’s oldies artists, score one for the geezers.  The founders of the ’60s rock band the Turtles won a summary judgment on Monday against Sirius XM Radio Inc., in a lawsuit alleging that the satellite-radio company violated California copyright law by playing the band’s songs without permission.  The decision could entitle the band and other oldies acts to royalties from the satellite-radio broadcaster as well as from Internet radio companies like Pandora Media Inc.  Terrestrial radio broadcasters in the U.S. don’t pay royalties to performers of songs but the decision could affect their obligation to do so.”

This is a welcome and correct ruling, but the fact remains that artists shouldn’t have to sue across 50 various states, with inconsistent legal venues, to vindicate their property rights.  Digital radio is a fantastic technological advance, but that doesn’t justify exploitation of legal quirks to dodge compensation to artists who recorded songs prior to the arbitrary date of February 15, 1972.  Hopefully, federal lawmakers follow the court’s wisdom and streamline federal law to resolve this troublesome issue.

September 19th, 2014 at 2:43 pm
New Study: Online “Cyberlockers” Facilitating Piracy
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Happy “International Talk Like a Pirate Day,” which can make for a bit of harmless office fun on a Friday.

Unfortunately, real piracy of the online variety is no laughing matter.  It costs the American economy billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs each year, and even threatens life and health through such things as counterfeit drugs.

This week, a new report was released highlighting the role played by online “cyberlockers” in facilitating worldwide piracy.  Entitled “Behind the Cyberlocker Door:  A Report on How Shadowy Cyberlocker Businesses Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions,” the report from Digital Citizens Alliance cogently introduces and explains the nature of this problem:

Rogue ‘cyberlocker’ operators peddling stolen content are making nearly $100 million in annual revenues by operating as hubs for the for-profit distribution of infringing digital copyrighted content.  That is the finding of our research looking at the profitability of the leading cyberlockers.  Unlike legitimate cloud storage services whose clients are people and businesses that need to store, access, and share data, the cyberlocker business model is based on attracting customers who desire anonymously to download and/or stream popular, copyright infringing files that others have posted.  The cyberlocker business model is designed around content theft.  In fact, cyberlockers generally pay or provide various incentives to those who distribute popular infringing content and discourage the use of their services for reliable data storage.  As this study shows, the overwhelming bulk of files distributed by cyberlockers infringe copyright.”

For those unfamiliar with the term “cyberlockers,” here is DCA’s definition:

Cyberlockers are online services that are intentionally architected to support the massive distribution of files among strangers on a worldwide and unrestricted scale, while carefully limiting their own knowledge of which files are being distributed.  The link to a user’s file stored on a cyberlocker can be posted to any location for any user to access:  cyberlockers generally place no limits on who can download or stream a file.”

DCA studied 30 sites, and those alone accounted for some $96.2 million in total annual revenue, or $3.2 million per site (one site alone accounting for $17.6 million).  While we must avoid interfering with meritorious technological innovation and the legitimate online marketplace, we must at the same time recognize this emerging problem and advocate corrective social policy to remedy existing piracy threats and deter their spread. Legitimate market participants must therefore determine proper recourse, and elected officials must also begin to consider reasonable avenues to help put a stop to this growing form of theft.

March 21st, 2014 at 11:46 am
House Hearing Provides Progress in Combating Online Piracy and IP Theft through Voluntary Measures
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Last week, we highlighted an important House Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee hearing on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA’s) critical “notice and takedown” provisions.  The hearing provided the opportunity for lawmakers to promote a modernized, voluntary and necessary campaign to achieve the DMCA’s underlying goal of fighting Internet piracy and intellectual property theft while maintaining an open Internet.

Fortunately, there’s good news to report one week later.

Almost every member of the Committee, Democrat and Republican alike, concurred that private industry actors must undertake voluntary, market-friendly efforts to correct the massive and improper scourge of online piracy and IP theft.  That is, after all, the purpose of the DMCA structure itself.

Notably, the hearing featured persuasive testimony from Grammy-winning musical artist Maria Schneider, who shared her real-life experiences to illustrate the problem to be addressed.  Ms. Schneider explained how she actually often spends more time and effort removing pirated copies of her performances than she does in the creative process.  In fact, she testified that her battle has cost her over $100,000, and she provided a demonstration of how difficult it is to remove one’s own stolen property from rogue websites.  Ms. Schneider also noted that when YouTube actually agrees to remove pirated material, it unhelpfully posts a scowling frustrated-face icon with the banner “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Maria Schneider – sorry about that.”  That suggests that Ms. Schneider or others who simply seek to protect their hard work and property rights are somehow culpable for the situation, and it certainly doesn’t suggest respect for the rights of creators.

It is therefore critical, as Ms. Schneider noted, that websites, service providers and other market actors more effectively educate consumers and anyone uploading content about the dangers and costs of piracy and IP violations, and make greater efforts to confirm that content being uploaded is done legally.  The current “whack-a-mole” routine is neither effective nor justified.  But through voluntary, market-based, common-sense practices, we can collectively combat online piracy while protecting the rights of creators and consumers alike.

It was good to see the Subcommittee hearing result in steps toward that beneficial end.

March 12th, 2014 at 5:33 pm
House Hearing Offers Opportunity to Combat Internet Piracy through Voluntary Measures
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On Thursday, March 13, the House Judiciary Intellectual Property (IP) Subcommittee will conduct a hearing regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA’s) “notice and takedown” provisions.  It provides a critical opportunity for lawmakers to promote modernized, voluntary and much-needed initiatives to better execute the DMCA’s objective of sustaining the most open Internet environment possible while also combating piracy and IP theft.

Congress passed the DMCA over 15 years ago to simultaneously allow the Internet to flourish while ensuring that the IP rights of creators would be safeguarded, and wrongdoing prevented and punished.  The law’s notice and takedown provisions established the procedures for aggrieved creators to alert service providers that illegal content was being distributed by wrongful actors, and creating a “safe harbor” from prosecution for the service providers who follow the law.  When Internet entities receive takedown notices or discover violations themselves, they must remove the infringing material and terminate the accounts of flagrant actors when appropriate.  Seems fair enough.

Unfortunately, those provisions haven’t sufficiently fulfilled the DMCA’s goal of combating piracy.  In particular, Section 512 of the law, which sought “strong incentives for service providers and copyright owners to cooperate to detect and deal with copyright infringements that take place in the digital networked environment,” has instead too often provided shelter for violators because other actors haven’t taken sufficient efforts to stop infringement.  Property rights are no less sacred on the Internet than elsewhere, and theft is theft.

Fortunately, Congress can help correct the situation. Voluntary measures such as the 2007 User-Generated Content Principles, and the 2013 Copyright Alert System offer some helpful initiatives that ensure an open Internet while also protecting creators against rampant theft.  All stakeholders can pursue agreement on how to identify and address flagrant offenders, standardized technical measures such as filtering can be discussed, legitimate sites can be promoted in search results while illegitimate sites can be minimized and notice practices can be modernized and streamlined.  As another example, the Copyright Alert System (CAS) through which the music and film industries, along with the five largest Internet service providers, inform consumers about online piracy and direct them toward alternatives has received positive feedback to date.

Again, a wide array of voluntary, beneficial measures can be addressed and pursued.  What Congress shouldn’t do, however, is follow the defective advice of so-called “libertarian” and “conservative” opponents of IP rights employing flatly false scare tactics while turning a blind eye to piracy.  By working together, all interested parties can ensure continued Internet growth and enjoyment, while better protecting creators and innovators against unfair theft of their works.

February 18th, 2014 at 4:57 pm
New Study: Digital Thieves’ Profits from Ad-Supported Content Theft Reached Quarter-Billion Dollars in 2013
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An alarming new report from the non-profit Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) calculates for the first time the sheer advertising revenue improperly gathered by online thieves who pirate copyrighted material:  a quarter of a billion dollars in 2013 alone.

These content thieves flagrantly steal others’ artistic creations and offer them on low-cost sites, making for a low-risk/high-reward crime that deprives creators of the fruits of their efforts and imagination.  It’s a large and growing racket, and the advertising revenue at the center of this study is merely one way that online thieves obtain profit.  Content theft sites in many cases also profit from subscription fees that often dwarf ad revenues illicitly obtained (the illegality sometimes unbeknownst to the advertisers).

Among the new study’s findings:

  • Content theft sites reaped an estimated quarter of a billion dollars in ad revenue alone in 2013.
  • The largest content-theft sites in the sample made more than $3 million in ad revenue in 2013
  • The 30 largest sites that make revenue exclusively through ads averaged $4.4 million in 2013.
  • The most heavily trafficked BitTorrent and P2P sites, which rely exclusively on advertising revenue, averaged a projected $6 million per year in 2013.
  • Even the smallest content theft sites were projected to average $100,000 in ad revenue in 2013.
  • 30% of the most heavily trafficked content theft sites carried premium brand advertising and 40% carried secondary brand advertising
  • The sites studied in the sample had a profit-margin of 80-94%.  Content thieves rely on stealing the rights-protected work of others, and distributing on low-cost sites.  It’s a low-risk, high reward business.”

Fortunately, solutions exist.  Legitimate advertisers can boost their existing best practice standards, as the technology used to identify and stop rogue sites already exists.  After all, legitimate companies and brands don’t place ads on pornography or racist/hate websites, and they can similarly increase efforts to ensure that they’re not advertising on thieves’ sites. Although no single, simple, foolproof, immediate solution exists (just as no such solutions exist to any other crime afflicting society), well-meaning and legitimate Internet participants should unite and implement voluntary, reasonable and technologically-feasible efforts to cut into online piracy.

As the new DCA report demonstrates, copyright thieves profit enormously from improper ad revenue.  The harm they inflict, however, stretches far beyond that particular method ill-gotten gain.  The works they steal cost billions to create, and such crimes deprive the innovators who pour their time, resources and hard work into creating them of the rightful rewards for their labor. Hopefully, DCA’s new data can help bring an end to that.

February 10th, 2014 at 5:00 pm
MPAA’s Ben Sheffner Sets the Record Straight on the Value of Copyright Protections
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Do America’s copyright protections stifle artistic innovation?

Obviously, that question answers itself.  After all, no nation in human history even approaches the United States in terms of sheer scale of musical, film and other creative innovation.  And that’s due precisely to our strong copyright laws that reward creativity and incentivize more.  Moreover, Americans’ ability to access a greater amount of artistic content, more easily, more cheaply and via more outlets increases daily.

Bizarrely, however, the contrary assertion remains regrettably fashionable even among some self-proclaimed “libertarian” and “conservative” circles.  Fortunately, voices of reason rebut the pernicious anti-intellectual property (IP) movement’s myths, and bring clarity to the debate.  One such voice of reason is Ben Sheffner, the MPAA’s Vice President of Legal Affairs.  In this abbreviated and this full-length debate video recently released, Mr. Sheffner clarifies the realities and refutes the curious claim that copyright laws inhibit innovation.  Quite the contrary, he makes clear, strong copyright laws not only preserve the fruits of creators’ labor, they incentivize the risk-taking and investment critical to spark additional creativity now and into the future.

Mr. Sheffner does an excellent job, and absolutely schools Derek Khanna multiple times on both the broader and finer points of intellectual property generally, and copyright more specifically.

January 4th, 2013 at 8:40 am
Podcast: The Impacts of Rampant Intellectual Property Theft
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CFIF’s Timothy Lee discusses increased enforcement activities against counterfeit goods and pirated music and movies, the detrimental impact such goods have on innovation, and the intellectual and historical roots of copyright law.

Listen to the interview here.