Sunday, November 29, 2009

[Op Ed] Copyright piracy has made it expensive to produce our films; Sunday Monitor (Uganda), 11/22/09

[Op Ed] Alec van Gelder, Sunday Monitor (Uganda); Copyright piracy has made it expensive to produce our films:

"Africa’s creative industries could be great success stories but they are held back by weak copyright protection. While the wealthiest Western creators often shout loudest, it is the poorest African entrepreneurs who suffer most. In some important ways, copyright piracy makes it more expensive to make a typical African film than a Hollywood blockbuster.

Piracy makes it harder for film-makers and musicians in developing countries to recover their costs than for their counterparts in Hollywood or Nashville. Where piracy is high (up to 90 per cent in much of West Africa), a musician or movie producer has precious little time to recover the original investment before the rip-offs move in and make it impossible to compete. No African country has piracy levels below about 25 per cent of the market."

Online movie free-for-all; Chicago Sun-Times, 11/22/09

Kara Spak, Chicago Sun-Times; Online movie free-for-all:

"This weekend, you could pay $10 to see the cinematic vampire love story "New Moon," stand in line for overpriced snacks with your new tween buddies and then jostle for a seat in a crowded theater.

Or you could pop some microwave popcorn, open your laptop and log on to a Web site with the supremely blatant name watchnew, which was active 12 hours after the movie premiered in Chicago theaters. is but one place "New Moon" is popping up for free online. And it's not just movies and current season premium cable shows that anyone who knows how to search the Web can find.

On Nov. 14, 1.25 million pay-per-view buys of the Miguel Cotto vs. Manny Pacquiao fight were purchased for $54.95 each, the highest-performing boxing pay-per-view event this year, according to HBO.

The fight generated $70 million in revenue, as well as a prime opportunity for cheapskates to watch the streaming video live for free.

On fight day, some combination of Google searches for the words Pacquiao, Cotto, online, live stream and free made seven of the 40 spots on Google's Hot Trends list, which tracks the fastest-rising searches on a given day.

The entertainment industry is waging a mighty battle against online piracy, or the illegal distribution of copyrighted content online.

But copyright law hasn't evolved as quickly as the Internet. And a new generation that has grown up online doesn't see the harm in watching the latest theatrical releases on their home computers, a practice the Motion Picture Association of America estimated cost the industry $18.2 billion in 2005, the latest figure available.

"I don't think it's wrong," said 21-year-old online movie-watcher Ahmad Al-Ashqar of south suburban Palos Heights. "I'm sure the movie industry is doing a lot of harm to us, taking our money."

Al-Ashqar, a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he doesn't have spare cash for a night out at the movies.

"I'd rather just watch it at home," he said. "It's easier and cheaper."

'Complicated question'

Elizabeth Kaltman, spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Association of America, said in no uncertain terms that watching a current theatrical release online is theft.

"Nobody who isn't a criminal would walk into Blockbuster or Wal-Mart or Best Buy, wherever they're selling or renting DVDs, take it off the shelf, put it under their arm and not pay for it," she said. "For a generation that has grown up with the Internet . . . there is a perception that because it is there, it's available and it's free, I can take it."

The law, with regard to watching online movies, is a little more vague.

"It is certainly illegal to put online copyrighted content like a telecast of a fight or a motion picture without authorization," said Steve Englund, a copyright attorney at Jenner & Block who has worked with new media. "It is a little more complicated question whether it is illegal to watch it when someone else has put it online."

Mickie Piatt, law professor and interim director of the Intellectual Property Law program at Chicago-Kent College of Law, said that while watching new-release movies or pay-per-view fights for free online may not be illegal, it is enabling the illegal distribution of the content.

"There's a lot of tensions going on in the copyright world," she said. "Because of the Internet, people feel they should have access to a lot of things."

Federal law sets up steep fines for copyright infringement. There's also the possibility of damages from civil lawsuits. And those who distribute illegal content online could be prosecuted.

"There are some criminal penalties, but those have not been used as much," Piatt said.

It's costly and difficult to track individual viewers, so the movie industry is trying to strike at the source of these downloads: the camera-wielding pirate who is recording in a movie theater.

Brittany Parlour, 20, a UIC junior who lives in Little Italy, said she watched movies including "Stepbrothers" and "This Christmas" online when they were new releases in theater. She thought it might be illegal, but that's not the only reason she stopped watching movies online.

"I was really annoyed," she said of the often poor quality of the pirated films.

Kaltman said more than 90 percent of current theatrical releases that wind up online come from a person in a theater with a camera. Every movie released by a studio contains a watermark, she said.

"Through forensic analysis, we can determine where the theft took place -- what state, what theater, what auditorium," she said.

The MPAA has field offices around the country to track and stop illegal recording, she said. "We also have, along with the enforcement activities, litigation activities which involve trying to get stuff off the Internet once it's up," she said.

The entertainment industry is working on getting high-quality content to viewers online legally, through sites such as, which features current television episodes, Piatt said.

She predicted further changes to help consumers get what they want, when they want it, but also to protect copyrights.

"The music industry hasn't quite figured out how to do this, and neither has the movie industry or event industry," she said. "We have this real tension that exists in the business model that really comes from an era of being able to control the distribution of things instead of the distribution of information."",CST-NWS-online22s1.article

Pub fined £8,000 for customer's illicit downloads, ZDNet reports; Guardian, 11/27/09

Charles Arthur, Guardian; Pub fined £8,000 for customer's illicit downloads, ZDNet reports:

A pub owner has had to pay £8,000 after someone used its open wireless hotspot to download copyrighted material unlawfully, says the managing director of the hotspot provider The Cloud

"A pub owner has had to pay £8,000 after someone used its open wireless hotspot to download copyrighted material unlawfully, says the managing director of the hotspot provider The Cloud.
Graham Cove, MD of The Cloud, told ZDNet UK that the case, brought in the civil courts, is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

A legal expert told ZDNet UK that if the Digital Economy bill, proposed by the government last week, passes in its present form then the problem for hotspot providers could get worse, because under its rules the owner of the copyrighted material would simply target the internet address of the hotspot and look no further. In this case, that would be the pub.

Cove declined to name the pub involved in the case because the pub chain that owns is it is a client of The Cloud's, has not given its permission. Its clients include Fullers, Greene King, Marsdens, Scottish & Newcastle, Mitchell & Butlers and Punch Taverns.

Although copyright owners have brought infringement cases against individuals before in the UK, this case is believed to be the first where the operator of a hotspot - where people can buy or get free access to a high-speed wireless internet connection - has been successfully sued.

Professor Lilian Edwards, of the school of law at the University of Sheffield, told ZDNet UK that businesses operating a hotspot for customers or visitors would be "not responsible in theory" for users' unlawful downloads, under "existing substantive copyright law".

However the business would not be at risk of being cut off under the "three strikes" rule in the Digital Economy bill: it would have an exemption on the basis that it is not a "subscriber"."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Google's book-scanning deal is not sealed yet; LA Times, 11/28/09

Alex Pham, LA Times; Google's book-scanning deal is not sealed yet:

A revised settlement satisfies some objections, but questions over copyright and antitrust laws remain.

"By giving his blessing, Chin in essence restarted the clock for critics to lob their complaints, giving them until Jan. 28 to file additional objections. Foes include Google rivals Inc. and Microsoft Corp., as well as nonprofit groups such as Consumer Watchdog and the Internet Archive.

Both sides are set to square off before Chin at a Feb. 28 hearing in New York.

The hearing has already been postponed twice -- derailed first in June by authors who said they needed more time to review the complex agreement, and again in October after the Department of Justice weighed in with concerns over antitrust issues and whether authors were given sufficient notice of the settlement.",0,4869293.story

Friday, November 27, 2009

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Authorities target book piracy in raids across the country; LA Times, 11/18/09

Alexandra Sandels, LA Times; UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Authorities target book piracy in raids across the country:

"Fearing that the United Arab Emirates might turn into a haven for intellectual property scofflaws, authorities are implementing tough new measures to keep pirated book traders at bay.

Over the last months, the UAE's Ministry of Economy along with police forces in Dubai and Sharjah and the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance have carried out a series of raids suspected of book piracy across the country.

The task force is said to have so far busted three major traders and locked them up on charges of violating copyright law. Several book shops were shut down in the raids, while others were let off with fines, read a news release published by local media.

The raids turned out to be fruitful. A wide variety of pirated books were apparently retrieved in the operation...

International publishers have expressed delight over the UAE's determination to take on their archenemies.

"It is vitally important to combat book piracy in all its forms and we are delighted by the authorities' commitment to enforcing the UAE's copyright laws. Piracy undermines authors' livelihood, placing the future of high quality content under threat. Publishers add further value in bringing that content to market and if they cannot be rewarded for their role, they too will cease to exist,” said Emma House, international director of the Publishers Assn. in the U.K.

The drive to curtail book piracy is part of a larger campaign launched by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy earlier this month that aims to spur public awareness of intellectual property rights such as trademarks and patents, and industrial designs. The campaign is considered a first of its kind in the region and is reportedly advertised on various media outlets in English and Arabic. "

Fox CEO wants US to join France on Internet piracy; Sydney Morning Herald, 11/24/09

Sydney Morning Herald; Fox CEO wants US to join France on Internet piracy:

"The chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment said Monday the U.S. should join France in cutting off the Internet connection of users who repeatedly download copyright-protected films.

CEO Jim Gianopulos said Internet piracy is the single biggest threat to the film industry worldwide, and independent films are the hardest hit.

"The bad news is that the Internet is big, and it's anonymous," Gianopulos told a news conference in Athens.

But he said Internet service providers can track down subscribers whose IP address the unique number assigned to every computer that connects to the Internet has been spotted downloading films illegally and issue warnings.

Gianopulos said punishing repeat offenders would help create "a level playing field" for filmmakers.

"If we can do that, it would be a big victory against piracy," he said, cautioning that taking away the small percentage of profit many films make threatens the industry.

Gianopulos said that it is equally important to inform young people about the problem of piracy.

"It is important to show them that there is a connection between what they're doing and theft, and what they're doing and people's jobs," Gianopulos said. He was in Greece for a lecture, and talks with Greek film industry professionals.

France has already created what it says is the first government agency to track and punish online pirates.

The European Parliament initially opposed efforts by European Union governments to cut off a user's Internet connection without a court order but the two sides reached a compromise this month and EU lawmakers and governments agreed on new rights for Internet.

Film and record labels have heavily lobbied the 27-nation bloc, demanding better enforcement of copyright rules to protect profits that are shrinking in the face of online file-sharing, in which people swap music files without paying."

780,000 pirated DVDs shredded in police raids; Sydney Morning Herald, 11/25/09

Sydney Morning Herald; 780,000 pirated DVDs shredded in police raids:

"Several hundred thousand pirated DVDs seized in police raids across NSW have been destroyed, in a move the state government says will put a dent in associated criminal activity.

Following years of work by NSW Police and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, some 780,000 pirated DVDs were "shredded" in Sydney on Tuesday, said a spokeswoman for Police Minister Michael Daley.

"People don't seem to realise the seriousness of copyright crime and that criminals use movie piracy to fund a range of criminal activity in our communities," Mr Daley said in a statement.

"During film piracy enforcement, police have uncovered links between film piracy and a range of other serious criminal activity including drugs, weapons, fraud and the supply of child pornography."

Raids in which the DVDs were seized also saw a number of people criminally charged.

Also seized were 315 DVD burners set up to mass produce pirated discs, with the potential to create 7.9 million illegal DVDs each year.

At the time of seizure, pirated DVDs of new release films were being sold for about $10 at suburban Sydney retail outlets."

EU assembly adopts Internet, phone user rights; Sydney Morning Herald, 11/26/09

Robert Wielaard, Sydney Morning Herald; EU assembly adopts Internet, phone user rights:

"The European Parliament has endorsed new telecom rules that would give phone and Internet users more rights and allow them to appeal to national courts if they are cut off for illegal file-sharing.

The rules endorsed Tuesday are part of a broad telecommunications package that also aims to boost competition for Internet and phone services.

A new EU-wide telecoms authority also would be set up to ensure fair competition.
The EU's 27 nations must now implement the law by June 2011.

For consumers, the most visible part of the law are the new rights they get to switch cell phone or fixed line operators within one working day and to challenge disconnections, even if they are illegally sharing copyright-protected movies or music."

Why does Mandelson favour the Analogue Economy over the Digital?; Guardian, 11/26/09

Cory Doctorow, Guardian; Why does Mandelson favour the Analogue Economy over the Digital?:

Britons' love for filesharing is here to stay – and Peter Mandelson had better get used to it

"There's a lot to hate about Peter Mandelson's controversial Digital Economy Bill, but there's one provision that perfectly captures the absolute, reality-denying absurdity of the whole enterprise. That titbit is the provision that holds the Bill's most drastic measures in reserve, only to be used if Britain's illegal filesharing doesn't drop off by 70% within a year of the main part of the Bill coming into force.

The idea that, at some time in the future, the volume of unauthorised copying will somehow drop off at all (let alone by an astounding 70%), is, frankly, barking. For that to happen, Britain's general capacity for copying would have to decline faster than the increase in the British desire to make unauthorised copies.

Where does Britain's capacity to copy spring from?

First, from the increase in the speed of computers: faster computers can copy faster and better."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pirates find easy new pickings in open waters of e-book publishing; London Times, 11/21/09

Mike Harvey, London Times; Pirates find easy new pickings in open waters of e-book publishing:

"Digital pirates, who for years have tormented the music and film industries, have found a new source of plunder in e-book publishing.

With the words “dan brown lost symbol torrent” and a few clicks, anyone can download the American author’s latest bestseller free via any of hundreds of web links.

This Christmas, e-book reading devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader will be among the most popular gadgets. But there are fears that as consumers get used to reading digital books they will look for a free download rather than pay.

In the US, where the Kindle has been available for two years, digital book piracy is booming. The web has enabled thousands of sites to distribute pirated book content free. American publishers are estimated to have lost more than $600 million (£363 million) last year to piracy...

British publishers are taking action to stop the pirates. The Publishers Association has released a web tool that allows publishers to log the details of an infringement of copyright. It then sends a demand to the offending website for the link to be removed. The portal has been alerted to more than 4,000 cases of online piracy by more than 40 publishers and has succeeded in taking down 2,638 illegal copies of books.

Alicia Wise, digital consultant to the association, said: “There are a lot of holes in the dyke. We are surprised by the scale and spectrum of authors that are being pirated. We need to get to grips quickly with practical ways of tackling copyright infringement.”

Book publishers are determined to prevent their business from being undermined in the same way as the music and film industries have. The relatively small digital file sizes for e-books provide an added incentive for filesharers. A film can be up to 1.5GB whereas the typical e-book is no more than 3MB, making it much easier to download...

Until recently publishers thought that books were relatively safe because it was so labour intensive to scan each page to convert a book to a digital file. But they have discovered thousands of cases of piracy on hosting websites such as Rapidshare. Users can upload any file and then share it by posting the link on blogs, forums or in e-mails with their friends.

Ms Wise said that publishers needed to come up with better ways for readers to buy digital books. “We are at a delicate moment. We have a chance to get our distribution models right against a difficult backdrop of piracy. We have to encourage book lovers to make ethical choices. We would hope that people who love books would make supportive decisions about how they acquire them.”"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don't Disconnect Us petition surges after Stephen Fry endorsement; Guardian, 11/25/09

Mercedes Bunz, Guardian; Don't Disconnect Us petition surges after Stephen Fry endorsement:

"Don't Disconnect Us petition, asking the government to drop its proposed measure allowing the disconnection of illegal filesharers, has accumulated 22,793 signatures as of 9am today. After Stephen Fry used Twitter to express his lack of confidence in this law and tweeted a link to it, thousands of people signed the petition. Among the 4,550 petitions on the No 10 website, it is currently number six.

A spokesman for the internet service provider TalkTalk, whose Andrew Heaney set up the petition, said: "The Don't Disconnect Us campaign has been given new momentum by Stephen Fry's tweets which have seen signatories on the Downing Street website go from over 1,000 to 18,000 in just a few days."

Fry, who has over a million followers now, had posted on Monday: "I'll keep at this till a million sign! We mustn't let Mandy do this WRONG thing. Please sign & RT: #webwar #threestrike". He reminded his followers the next day.

The comedian Alan Davies and the science-fiction author Neil Gaiman have also signed the petition and added their weight to the campaign.

While the website of the campaign makes clear that "copyright infringement through filesharing is illegal and the government is right to tackle the issue", the petition asks the prime minister "to abolish the proposed law that will see alleged illegal filesharers disconnected from their broadband connections, without a fair trial."

Instead of punishing it proposes to deal with the illegal filesharer in the proper way, in a court of law. "This guilty until proven innocent approach violates basic human rights."

It also warns that "illegal filesharers will simply hack into other peoples WiFi networks to do their dirty work. This will result in innocent people being disconnected from the internet."
If you want to sign the connection, go here."

Google bringing fee-based e-book service to Japan: report; Market Watch, 11/25/09

Market Watch; Google bringing fee-based e-book service to Japan: report:

Google Inc. plans to launch a fee-based service in Japan next year that will allow users to read complete books on their computers at a price, according to a report Wednesday.

"Upon the launch of its service, Google Japan aims to stock an online library of up to 10,000 books. It is already in talks with smaller publishers to sell their works on Google Edition, the report said.

But many leading publishers, such as Shueisha Inc. and Shogakukan Inc., remain wary. Their opposition stems from Google's book search, which has raised copyright issues, the Japanese newspaper reported."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Swedes start buying music; are anti-P2P laws working?; Ars Technica, 11/24/09

Nate Anderson, Ars Technica; Swedes start buying music; are anti-P2P laws working?:

Digital music sales in piracy-loving Sweden have soared this year. The music industry says that it's all about tough new laws and court prosecutions, but some major labels are seeing worldwide increases.

"Is Sweden, the only country to have sent a member of the Pirate Party to the European Parliament, finally giving up its swashbuckling ways?

When Sweden's IPRED anti-piracy law went into effect earlier this year, Internet traffic across the country plummeted overnight—a sign that P2P users, fearing exposure at last, were abandoning their existing copyright infringement tools. The Pirate Bay defendants were found guilty by a Swedish court earlier this year, and the site's ISP are now under assault by the music and movie industries.

The music business insists that the measure are working. Music's major labels say that sales of digital downloads are up 18 percent in the first nine months of 2009 in Sweden.

Ludvig Werner, head of the trade group IFPI Sweden, told the UK's Guardian newspaper that it didn't matter if people still wanted to pirate; the point was, they were doing less of it. "It's like speeding, put up cameras and people will start to ease off the gas pedal. Even if it doesn't change the attitudes, they find legal alternatives because they don't want to get caught," said Werner.

Dueling explanations
As with most statistics in the Copyright Wars, these are hard to evaluate. Digital music sales are up, but has copyright infringement also dropped?"

Publishers Getting The Wrong Message Over eBook Piracy; Tech Dirt, 11/24/09

Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt; Publishers Getting The Wrong Message Over eBook Piracy:

"Well, you just knew this was going to happen eventually. Suddenly publishers are starting to freak out over "ebook piracy," claiming (totally inaccurately) that they've lost $600 million to it. Of course, as some are noting the real problem isn't "piracy" but the industry's response to it".

The Computer Stole My Homework -- and Sold It Through an Essay Mill; Wired Campus, 11/23/09

Ben Terris, Wired Campus; The Computer Stole My Homework -- and Sold It Through an Essay:

"Without her knowing it, a paper that Melinda Riebolt co-wrote while getting her M.B.A. was stolen and put up for sale. And, according to an article that USA Today reported last week, that same scenario has played out many times before.

The article discusses how some essay mills -- Web sites that provide written works for students -- surreptitiously steal work and then sell it for others to pass off as their own.

For the first time, however, those who find unauthorized postings of their work online may have a way to seek legal retribution. The article says a class-action lawsuit filed in 2006 is making its way through the courts, and one judge in Illinois has found a provider liable on six counts, including fraud and copyright infringement. That site is called RC2C Inc. and hosts at least nine sites that sell term papers.

Essay mills often provide their own written works."

When piracy isn't theft; Guardian, 11/24/09

Alexandros Stavrakas, Guardian; When piracy isn't theft:

The argument over file sharing is redundant: creative businesses must change, and the social value of free must be recognised

"Stewart Brand, during the first Hackers' Conference in 1984, uttered the infamous maxim, "Information wants to be free". The implication was that any attempt to control and limit the free dissemination of knowledge and information would be met with resistance. That was yesterday's news. Today's is that the British government is seeking to tackle the problem of online piracy by passing a law disciplining those wishing to freely share intellectual property that is under copyright protection."

Senators Begin Questioning ACTA Secrecy; Tech Dirt, 11/23/09

Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt; Senators Begin Questioning ACTA Secrecy:

"Despite some sweet talk from Hollywood about how important ACTA and its secret negotiations are to America (and, once again, no, the secrecy is not at all "normal," as some industry lawyers would have you believe), it looks like some Senators are finally beginning to question how ACTA is being handled. Senators Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown have sent a letter to US Trade Rep Ron Kirk asking for ACTA documents to be made public. The letter points out that "the public has a right to monitor and express informed views on proposals of such magnitude" especially considering that "there are concerns about the impact of ACTA on the privacy and civil rights of individuals, on the supply of products under the first sale doctrine, on the markets for legitimate generic medicines, and on consumers and innovation in general." The letter also takes on the bogus claims of state secrets in protecting ACTA documents".

China backs writers in fight against Google Books; AFP, 11/24/09

AFP; China backs writers in fight against Google Books:

"China said Google has probably breached copyright laws by scanning Chinese books for its online library and supported writers to "defend their rights", state media reported Tuesday.

"I personally think Google is probably involved in copyright infringement," said Wang Ziqiang, a director-general of the National Copyright Administration, according to the Beijing News.

"We support Chinese writers, the China Written Works Copyright Society and the Chinese Writers' Association to defend their rights based on the law and facts."

Wang added that he had "failed to find any solid evidence" to support Google's claim that its scanning and browsing service was legal.

His comments came after the two Chinese writers' groups accused Google of scanning the works of members without authorisation and have demanded it pay compensation "as soon as possible".

According to the copyright society, at least 17,922 books by 570 Chinese authors have been added to Google Books, the US Internet giant's controversial project to digitise millions of books and post them online.

In an effort to resolve the dispute, Google sent a representative to meet the Chinese copyright last Friday, but the outcome of the discussions has not been released."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Britain's new Internet law -- as bad as everyone's been saying, and worse. Much, much worse.; Boing Boing, 11/20/09

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing; Britain's new Internet law -- as bad as everyone's been saying, and worse. Much, much worse.:

"The British government has brought down its long-awaited Digital Economy Bill, and it's perfectly useless and terrible. It consists almost entirely of penalties for people who do things that upset the entertainment industry (including the "three-strikes" rule that allows your entire family to be cut off from the net if anyone who lives in your house is accused of copyright infringement, without proof or evidence or trial), as well as a plan to beat the hell out of the video-game industry with a new, even dumber rating system (why is it acceptable for the government to declare that some forms of artwork have to be mandatorily labelled as to their suitability for kids? And why is it only some media? Why not paintings? Why not novels? Why not modern dance or ballet or opera?).

So it's bad. £50,000 fines if someone in your house is accused of filesharing. A duty on ISPs to spy on all their customers in case they find something that would help the record or film industry sue them (ISPs who refuse to cooperate can be fined £250,000).

But that's just for starters. The real meat is in the story we broke yesterday: Peter Mandelson, the unelected Business Secretary, would have to power to make up as many new penalties and enforcement systems as he likes. And he says he's planning to appoint private militias financed by rightsholder groups who will have the power to kick you off the internet, spy on your use of the network, demand the removal of files or the blocking of websites, and Mandelson will have the power to invent any penalty, including jail time, for any transgression he deems you are guilty of. And of course, Mandelson's successor in the next government would also have this power.

What isn't in there? Anything about stimulating the actual digital economy. Nothing about ensuring that broadband is cheap, fast and neutral. Nothing about getting Britain's poorest connected to the net. Nothing about ensuring that copyright rules get out of the way of entrepreneurship and the freedom to create new things. Nothing to ensure that schoolkids get the best tools in the world to create with, and can freely use the publicly funded media -- BBC, Channel 4, BFI, Arts Council grantees -- to make new media and so grow up to turn Britain into a powerhouse of tech-savvy creators."

UK "Pirate Finder General" law innocuous now, could get ugly; Ars Technica, 11/22/09

Nate Anderson, Ars Technica; UK "Pirate Finder General" law innocuous now, could get ugly:

Just two days after the Queen announced that an online copyright enforcement bill was coming, it landed in the House of Lords. It has no sanctions, no "three-strikes" rules, and no fines—but it gives one official the power to levy them at any time in the future.

"The Queen announced on Wednesday that her government would deliver Internet piracy legislation; today it arrived in the form of the massive Digital Economy bill meant to modernize the UK's approach to everything from copyrights to broadband to video game ratings to domain names. The bill contains no sanctions against suspected P2P file-swappers, but it introduces a "reserve power" that can be deployed whenever the Secretary of State feels that it's time to bust out the switch and administer some beatings.

The bill implements the Digital Britain report, which was completed earlier this year and attempted to chart a course forward for Britain in a high-tech world. It initially imposes two obligations on ISPs: they must forward warning letters from copyright holders to their subscribers, and they must maintain an anonymized list of the number of such warnings received by each subscriber. If a copyright holder asks, they must be shown the list, at which point the rightsholder can go to court and seek to uncover the names of the top offenders, and then sue them.

There are no sanctions, but such sanctions could be coming. The government has written "reserve powers" into the law that can be deployed at a later date without needing Parliamentary approval. What powers are those? Here's how the bill describes them:

"The Secretary of State may by order amend Part 1 or this Part for the purpose of preventing or reducing the infringement of copyright by means of the Internet, if it appears to the Secretary of State appropriate to do so having regard to technological developments that have occurred or are likely to occur."

In other words, whenever the Secretary of State decides that speed throttling or Internet disconnections are a good idea, he can implement them with a simple order. The government insists that such power will be introduced only against the "most serious infringers" and only "in the event the initial obligations do not prove as effective as expected."

Public outrage
But the prospect is clearly on the table in this bill. That has kicked up furious opposition since the idea was floated back in April; public opinion was so against the idea—which came weeks after current Secretary of State Peter Mandelson vacationed with media mogul David Geffen—that the government had to publish a response called "Filesharing: some accusations and some answers."

Clearly sensitive to public outrage, the drafters of the Digital Economy bill go out of their way to explain that "introducing account suspension is by no means a given. If the initial obligations prove as effective as we expect, we will not need to introduce technical measures… We recognize that there is some concern over the proportionality of this measure [disconnection], and so we will ensure that the interests of consumers are properly recognized."

This is very much a "take our word for it" approach, since the bill does not appear to contain such safeguards. Indeed, the Secretary of State is given broad powers to give or remove rights and even to impose fines of his or her own choosing.

But there are two safeguards; the idea that the bill suddenly creates a totally autonomous Pirate Finder General who can go on a crazed seek-and-destroy mission and implement any rules he or she chooses has both a political and a Parliamentary limit. The political limit is that the bill requires any new order drafted by the Secretary of State to first be put up for public comment."

Google Books Row Explained;, 11/23/09

Claire Mcentee, Dominion Post, via; Google Books Row Explained:

"Kiwi authors and publishers could still strike a deal with Google to sell digital copies of books, but say any arrangement with the internet search giant will be on their terms.

New Zealand has been left out of a proposed deal that will see Google scan and sell digital versions of out-of-print copyright protected books to people in the United States and give authors and publishers a cut of the proceeds."

Appeal Court: Mod chips infringe game copyright after all; Register, 11/17/09

Register; Appeal Court: Mod chips infringe game copyright after all:

"A man who sold computer chips that enabled pirated video games to be played on consoles was rightly convicted of copyright offences, the Court of Appeal has ruled."

Bradshaw takes the gloves off; Guardian, 11/23/09

James Robinson, Guardian; Bradshaw takes the gloves off:

"On the eve of the bill determining Britain's digital future, Ben Bradshaw attacks the Tory leader's 'pact' with the Murdochs and defends the BBC, if not its Trust, from its 'circling enemies'. He speaks to James Robinson"

Call it by its name – this is theft; Guardian, 11/23/09

Richard Scudamore, Guardian; Call it by its name – this is theft:

The Digital Economy bill must pass safely or the creative industries will start to die

"Part of the strength of the British economy recently has been its ability to adapt as the world, and what consumers expect, have changed. Its flexibility, resilience and mixed nature should stand us in good stead as we, and the rest of the world, exit recession.

Nowhere should this be more so than in the UK's creative economy. We are leaders in film, music, publishing, TV production and sports rights – British popular culture, sport and production values are viewed as among the best in the world. This creative sector now accounts for more than 8% of our GDP and puts us in a good position to take advantage of the ever-increasing "new economy" – and of emerging markets as the takeup of technology advances.

There are threats as well as opportunities, not least the challenges presented by online copyright infringement, more commonly known as piracy. I prefer to call it by its real name – digital theft.
The reality is that unauthorised peer-to-peer filesharing, among other forms of illegal streaming, presents a very real threat. These burgeoning industries are based on a high-investment model, driving consumer demand – or in the Premier League's case, fan demand – by providing what the public want: a quality product. In football, this entails acquiring, or developing, the best possible talent and playing the matches in arguably the finest club stadiums in the world. The whole industry benefits.

It's the same with film or music – the investment model only works if you are giving consumers what they want. The very fact we are providing great content is the main reason people want to try to take it for nothing – if it wasn't very good, I doubt it would be of interest. There is not much of a market for the live streaming of the matches played on Sundays on Hackney Marshes.
There is much debate about how the creative industries should be reacting to digital theft – developing business models, educating their consumers, seeking regulatory intervention and legislative protection. That is why we have come together to form the Creative Coalition; we recognise that inevitably the answer is a mixture of all of these.

The digital economy bill demonstrates that the government is aware of the importance of these industries. It also sets out how the different areas of the creative economy can work together to tackle digital theft. The graduated response to repeat offenders, sharing the cost of enforcement and setting out responsibilities will be just as useful to the ISPs as the content providers.

The bill is a start, but it needs to stay in good shape as it progresses because digital theft is reaching epidemic proportions and shows no signs of abating. Currently, it is estimated that more than 6 million people illegally fileshare regularly, and the UK leads the world in illegal downloads of TV programmes, with up to 25% of all online TV piracy taking place here. This is a statistic that should fill us with little pride.

Without the safe passage of the bill – requiring ISPs to take firm measures against unauthorised filesharers who are currently streaming and downloading with virtual impunity – the marker that this is theft isn't even set down, educating consumers cannot begin in earnest, businesses cannot begin to develop new models because the market won't be functioning properly and, most importantly of all, the current levels of investment that create jobs as well as talent will be lost. And that is when the real cost of digital theft would become apparent.

• Richard Scudamore is the chief executive of the Premier League and a member of the Creative Coalition"

OpEd: Digital economy bill: A punishing future; Guardian, 11/23/09

OpEd, Guardian; Digital economy bill: A punishing future:

"The digital economy bill is misnamed. A more honest title for the legislation, recently introduced in the Lords, would be the copyright protection and punishment bill. It is less about creating the digital businesses of the 21st century than protecting the particular 20th century business models used in music and film.

The bill is narrow in vision but dangerously broad in creating sweeping ministerial powers to punish digital pirates. It boils Digital Britain down to three Ms – media, music and movies – myopically ignoring the pioneers of new technology, and showing a blind spot for all creativity outside the so-called creative industries. Digital Britain is much more than digital media – there are the start-ups of London's Silicon Roundabout, the great success story of Cambridge chip designer ARM and the small businesses all over the land using the net to open up opportunities. Instead of empowering digital Britons, the bill follows the lead of music and movie corporations, who already apply a presumption of guilt to their customers. Instead of treating the web as a platform of possibilities, it recasts it as a tool for mass theft.

The only digital thing about this bill is the cut-and-paste facility it grants the secretary of state to redefine the copyright laws and increase maximum penalties. The government may argue, with some force, that it needs flexibility to ensure the rules keep pace with technology. But granting this administration – or any future one – such latitude to rewrite crucial laws on the fly, with only the merest figleaf of parliamentary oversight, is a dangerous precedent, and one sure to inspire future abuses – of democratic as well as digital rights.

Vague laws create opportunities for unintended consequences and offer an open invitation for aggressive lobbying. If it is understood that the secretary of state has it within his gift to change the rules on a whim, then Rupert Murdoch, for instance, could soon be advancing his war against Google in Whitehall.

While Finland enshrines web access as a human right, this bill legislates plans to deprive users of access. It will force internet service providers to become copyright police, obliging them to provide lists of violations to copyright owners. After warnings, violators will have their service crippled, or even cut off. All this will drive up the costs of web access, by piling duties on providers. Add the more defensible surcharges to pay for next generation services, and Digital Britain risks becoming a land beset by an even deeper digital divide. Instead of building on a positive vision of Digital Britain, the government has capitulated to the fears of music and movie moguls struggling to defend their multimillion-pound businesses."

Hollywood wants to outsource copyright enforcement: iiNet ; Australian, 11/20/09

Andrew Colley, Australian; Hollywood wants to outsource copyright enforcement: iiNet:

IINET yesterday accused Hollywood studios of trying to "outsource" its copyright enforcement to internet firms as it continued to battle in the Federal Court against claims it authorised illegal file-sharing on its network.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Suit Accuses Hartford Courant of Plagiarism; New York Times, 11/20/09

Richard Perez-Pena, New York Times; Suit Accuses Hartford Courant of Plagiarism:

"The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, Conn., has sued The Courant, the state’s largest paper, saying that it copied The Journal Inquirer’s work in articles published last summer, a time when The Courant was also, in a subsequent admission, lifting material from several other northern Connecticut newspapers.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Connecticut Superior Court in Hartford, cites 11 Courant articles it says were largely taken from The Journal Inquirer in August and September, and The Journal Inquirer has cited other examples taken from other papers.

Plagiarism has cropped up as an occasional transgression at many publications, but it is rarely exposed as a regular practice."

Hollywood tells lawmakers to back U.S. efforts in copyright trade talks; Washington Post, 11/20/09

Cecilia King, Washington Post; Hollywood tells lawmakers to back U.S. efforts in copyright trade talks:

"Hollywood urged key lawmakers Thursday to support trade negotiations that would set rules for policing copyright laws.

The Motion Picture Association of America wrote a letter to several lawmakers including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Va.) and House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, asking them to support the Obama administration's efforts in the trade talks, which are being conducted behind closed doors in Seoul. Other countries participating in the negotiations include the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea, along with European Union members.

In its letter, the MPAA said that new global rules are needed to protect films from Internet piracy. As more people illegally trade content online, the movie studios businesses suffer."

Is the Spirit of Competition in the Soul of Yoga?; New York Times, 11/19/09

Sara Eckel, New York Times; Is the Spirit of Competition in the Soul of Yoga?:

"The ultimate goal of the Choudhurys, who emigrated from India to Los Angeles, is to have yoga qualify as an Olympic sport. “It’s far away,” Mrs. Choudhury said in an interview. “A lot of work needs to be done before we really get into it, but this is our dream.”

One big obstacle may be the yoga community itself. To many people, the idea of competition goes against the philosophy of yoga, which emphasizes self-acceptance and inner growth. Although yoga does tend to attract people who are limber, the physical poses, or asanas, are only one aspect of the practice; others include chanting, meditation and reading Sanskrit.

“The initial reaction from most people is always the same thing: competition yoga? Those things don’t belong in the same sentence,” said John Philp, a filmmaker in New York who directed a documentary film, “Yoga, Inc.,” about the commercialization of Western yoga, and wrote a book with the same title.

Also in dispute is the extent to which the Choudhurys could benefit if Bikram yoga — also known as “hot” yoga, because it is usually practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees — were to become the accepted standard for competition yoga, which already takes place in India and more than a dozen other countries.

Mrs. Choudhury says that promoting Bikram yoga is not her intention. She said she had made a determined effort to keep the brand separate from the competition — for example, by forming the two nonprofits and encouraging event organizers to hold competitions in theaters and cultural centers rather than Bikram studios. She also noted that yoga competitions were not conducted in hot rooms.

“I don’t want the Bikram name on it,” she said. “I want something that is accessible to everyone.”

Her husband has a United States copyright on a sequence of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, and his efforts to use the legal system to protect his copyright have caused friction in the yoga community. Some people bristle at the notion that an ancient practice aimed at health and enlightenment can be governed by copyright and trademark laws.

Mrs. Choudhury notes that her husband has not copyrighted individual postures, only a very particular sequence, which is not used in the competitions."

Library group offers text search to 4.6M books; Sydney Morning Herald, 11/21/09

Sydney Morning Herald; Library group offers text search to 4.6M books:

"A group of major national research libraries says users now can search the full text of 1.6 billion pages from 4.6 million digitized volumes.

Last year, the University of Michigan and 24 other research libraries launched the HathiTrust Digital Library. The consortium said Thursday it's offering full-text search capability to all digitized works. Access to non-copyright books started in 2008.

The group says it adds hundreds of thousands of volumes monthly.

Participants include the University of California system; California Digital Library; Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue universities; and the universities of Chicago, Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin-Madison and Virginia."

Queen: We sank the Armada, we can sink some P2P pirates!; Ars Technica, 11/19/09

Nate Anderson, Ars Technica; Queen: We sank the Armada, we can sink some P2P pirates!:

The Queen opened the UK parliamentary session yesterday and announced that an Internet disconnection bill would be coming soon. But will it actually be legal?

"My Government will introduce a Bill to ensure the communications infrastructure is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting," said Her Majesty, an innocuous description of the about-to-be-introduced Digital Economy bill.

That bill will likely attempt to reduce Internet copyright infringement, as measured by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, by 70 percent from its current levels over the next two years. It's also widely expected that the bill will give the Secretary of State certain abilities to expand the enforcement regime and to introduce new sanctions, regardless of what happens on the piracy front. Still, we'd be a bit surprised if the bill opened the door to some kind of "Pirate Finder General" who can turn the recording industry into a legal, doorbusting militia, but Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing insists the current language in the bill (which should be available by the end of the week) is in fact this broad."

BlueBeat Beatles tracks gone for good after judge's beatdown; Ars Technica, 11/19/09

Nate Anderson, Ars Technica; BlueBeat Beatles tracks gone for good after judge's beatdown:

Who needs hearings? A federal judge has read enough to extend his injunction against, a site selling Beatles tracks online for a quarter each. And he has little time for the "vague" explanations of "pyscho-acoustic simulation" provided by BlueBeat's founder.

If Google's Book Scanning Violates Copyright Law, What About The AP's Book Scanning?; Tech Dirt, 11/20/09

Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt; If Google's Book Scanning Violates Copyright Law, What About The AP's Book Scanning?:

"Danny Sullivan does a great job calling out the hypocrisy of the Associated Press yet again. The organization, which has taken a very maximalist position on copyright, where fair use gets mostly ignored, apparently had no problem scanning Sarah Palin's entire book into a computer so that reporters could search it. Of course, this is no different than what Google is doing with its book scanning program (which, again, I still believe is a clear case of fair use). Yet, since the AP seems to take such a limited view on fair use (and has a habit of accusing Google of "stealing" content), it's amusing that it's now trying to defend its actions by claiming that it was legal because it was for the sake of journalism, and the scan wasn't for public consumption. Except, of course, Google's book scanning isn't for "public consumption" of the entire work either, but so people can do a search to find the relevant tidbit of info within the book."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mandelson seeks to amend copyright law in new crackdown on filesharing; Guardian, 11/19/09

Charles Arthur, Guardian; Mandelson seeks to amend copyright law in new crackdown on filesharing:

Labour colleagues are concerned business secretary could set precedent that would allow Tories to help Murdoch take on Google

"Lord Mandelson is seeking to amend the laws on copyright to give the government sweeping new powers against people accused of illegal downloading.

But Labour colleagues are concerned that if he succeeds it could give a future Tory government the ability that Rupert Murdoch wants to quash Google.

In a letter to Harriet Harman, the leader of the house and head of the committee responsible for determining changes to such legislation, Mandelson says he is "writing to seek your urgent agreement" to changes to the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act "for the purposes of facilitating prevention or reduction of online copyright infringement".

By writing to Harman, the business secretary is seeking to get the change made through a "statutory instrument" – in effect, an update to the existing bill that the government can push through using its parliamentary majority.

That can be done with the minimum of parliamentary time, which is already at a premium.

The letter, which is circulating inside the government, comes as ministers prepare to publish the digital economy bill at 7.30am tomorrow. That is expected to set out a "three strikes" policy under which people who are found to be illicitly downloading copyrighted material have their internet connections withdrawn after three warnings.

Internet service providers have warned that the scheme is unworkable and unlawful.

The proposed alteration to the Copyright Act would create a new offence of downloading material that infringes copyright laws, as well as giving new powers or rights to "protect" rights holders such as record companies and movie studios – and, controversially, conferring powers on "any person as may be specified" to help cut down online infringement of copyright.

The changes proposed seem small – but are enormously wideranging, given both the breadth of even minor copyright infringement online, where photographs and text are copied with little regard to ownership, and the complexity of ownership.

Mandelson says in his letter that he is concerned about "cyberlockers" – websites that offer users private storage spaces whose contents can be shared by passing a web link via email.

"These can be used entirely legitimately, but recently rights holders have pointed to them as being used for illegal use," Mandelson writes in the letter.

But the proposal to alter the Copyright Act in this way has caused alarm within government, where some fear that an incoming Tory administration could use it to curry favour with Murdoch, head of the News International publishing group.

"They've seen that file-sharing is essentially unpoliceable, but the net effect is that a future secretary of state could change copyright law as they see fit," said one Labour insider.

In his letter, Mandelson sets out the expected reaction from the three groups who would be affected by the changes: rights holders such as record companies, internet service providers (ISPs), and consumers.

"I expect rights holders to welcome this and to support it. ISPs are likely to be neutral until it is clear what effect it will have on them in terms of costs." Consumer groups "are likely to oppose [the move] but will see it may lead to further unquantifiable measures against infringing consumers."

He also expects "a great deal of scrutiny" of the idea in parliament.

Murdoch has recently said that he believes that copyright is being abused, particularly by organisations such as Google, which uses short extracts from online newspapers to create its Google News page, and the BBC, which he has accused of "stealing from newspapers".

Earlier this month Murdoch was vituperative about how search engines have aggregated news. "The people who simply just pick up everything and run with it – steal our stories, we say they steal our stories – they just take them," he said. "That's Google, that's Microsoft, that's, a whole lot of people ... They shouldn't have had it free all the time, and I think we've been asleep."

By giving the business secretary the power to amend the Copyright Act at will, Labour fears Mandelson could be creating a Trojan horse that under a Tory administration would allow Murdoch to be rewarded for his support for David Cameron over Gordon Brown, for example by making it illegal to use such extracts from a news site for profit.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business said the department could not comment on correspondence between ministers."

Why are cyberlockers suddenly such a problem, Lord Mandelson?; Guardian, 11/20/09

Charles Arthur, Guardian; Why are cyberlockers suddenly such a problem, Lord Mandelson?:

"The first question is simply: why? What's wrong with the existing copyright laws, and the powers that they offer, that Lord Mandelson think they need tweaking so that anyone can be given powers to hunt down someone thought to be infringing copyright, and new powers have to be given so that certain acts are deemed to be illicit?

If you're not up to speed, Lord Mandelson wants sweeping new powers, which involve changing the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act of 1988."

Digital divide over filesharing plans; Guardian, 11/20/09

Richard Wray, Guardian; Digital divide over filesharing plans:

"The government's planned crackdown on unlawful online filesharing has been attacked by privacy campaigners and internet service providers but welcomed by executives and artists in the music business.

Earlier today, the government published the digital economy bill, the result of more than a year's consultation and debate, which includes plans to send warnings letters to persistent unlawful file-sharers and paves the way for persistent illegal sharers to have their broadband cut off from 2011...

Some critics have already suggested that the wide definition of online copyright within the bill could leave the door open for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to use the new legislation to prevent sites such as Google News from linking to his online content.

But music and film companies warmly welcomed the digital economy bill. Christine Payne, general secretary of Equity and chair of the Creative Coalition Campaign, said: "The government is doing the right thing by introducing legal measures aimed at tackling widespread online infringement of creative copyright, such as by peer-to-peer filesharing or other technologies that may emerge in the future."

"Our creative sector provides 1.8 million jobs in the UK and produces world-class content, enjoyed by millions around the world, but simply put, this cannot be sustained and more jobs will be lost if illegal filesharing persists."

Chris Marcich, president and managing director of the Motion Picture Association for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, added that Mandelson's decision to include powers in the bill to further change copyright law in future, were to be welcomed as "safeguards built in that will ensure the effectiveness of the legislation in the long-term"."

Judge sets February hearing for new Google Books deal; CNet News, 11/19/09

Tom Krazit, CNet News; Judge sets February hearing for new Google Books deal:

"The judge overseeing the Google Books case has laid out the schedule for the second round of the final approval process, at the same time granting preliminary approval of the revised deal.

Like before, opponents of Google's settlement with groups representing authors and publishers will have a comment period in which to file objections, and books rights holders who want to preserve their abilty to sue Google for scanning their books will have an opt-out deadline. The final hearing is set for February 18 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

After numerous interest groups and the Department of Justice objected to Google's original settlement over digital books scanning, the parties submitted a revised settlement late Friday night that amended the size of the class affected by the deal and wrote into the document explicit guarantees regarding access to the scanned material that were previously mere promises.

This wasn't enough to satisfy Google's most persistent critics, however, who will likely fill Judge Denny Chin's mailbox with objections to the revised settlement much the same way they did prior to the original September deadline. After the DOJ filed its own set of objections, final approval of the settlement was delayed until the parties could work out something more amenable to the government.

Opponents will have until January 28th to file objections with the court. That's also the same date for affected class members to decide whether or not they would like to opt out of the amended agreement.

Rights holders who opted out of the previous agreement also have until January to decide if they would like to opt into the revised agreement, otherwise the court will assume they still wish to opt out. Those who missed the deadline the first time around have a second chance to opt out by January 28th.

Google released a statement regarding the court filing. "The preliminary approval order sends a positive initial message; this agreement promises to benefit readers and researchers, and enhance the ability of authors and publishers to distribute their content in digital form. We remain hopeful that the agreement will receive final approval from the court and will realize the goal of significantly expanding online access to works through Google Book Search, an ambitious effort to make millions of books searchable via the Web."

The Open Books Alliance, which has vigorously opposed the settlement, weighed in a little later with a statement of their own.

"Today, in an expected procedural move, Judge Denny Chin granted preliminary approval to the revised Settlement of Google's copyright infringement lawsuit. This is not a surprising development and is not any indication that the court will or will not accept the terms of Settlement 2.0. The same procedural preliminary approval was given to Settlement 1.0, and now sets up a court process that will allow those opposed to the revised settlement to let their objections known to the court. The U.S. Department of Justice has until February 4th to weigh in with the court, as their investigation into the matter continues.""

Thursday, November 19, 2009

French publishers slam new Google book proposals; AFP, 11/19/09

AFP; French publishers slam new Google book proposals:

"French book publishers gave a hostile reception Thursday to new proposals by the Internet giant Google to clear the way for millions of books to be sold online.

The proposals "do not mark any progress on the essential question of non-English language works pirated by Google," said a statement by the Publisher's Association (SNE), which groups most of France's publishers.

"The SNE is maintaining its position by asking Google to respect the essential principle of prior consent by authors and publishers for use of their works," it said.

The SNE noted that it has an ongoing court case against Google, seeking compensation from the US company which it accuses of counterfeiting French books by digitizing them and posting them online.

The Federation of European Publishers on Monday gave a cautious welcome to Google's new proposals.

"It is positive that the parties considered the concerns of European publishers and made some steps, however we want to analyse more thoroughly the new settlement before giving a final comment," it said."

[Podcast] Copyright Basics - The Video; Copyright Clearance Center

[Podcast] Copyright Clearance Center; Copyright Basics - The Video:

"This Program is made available for your use by the rights licensing experts at Copyright Clearance Center. We welcome you to view the video here and/or download it for non-commercial use in your organization (terms and conditions apply)."

Chinese Authors Turn up Heat on Google Over Book Scanning; PC World, 11/19/09

Owen Fletcher, PC World; Chinese Authors Turn up Heat on Google Over Book Scanning:

A Chinese authors' group late Wednesday demanded Google compensate writers whose books the U.S. company scanned without permission.

"A Chinese authors' group demanded late Wednesday that Google compensate writers whose books the U.S. company scanned without permission, cranking up tension in the country over Google's digital library project.

The demand marked the second time in just days that a U.S. company came under fire in China for intellectual property violations. A Chinese court this week ruled that Microsoft's use of certain Chinese fonts violated a local company's intellectual property rights and ordered Microsoft to stop selling versions of its operating system containing the fonts, including Windows XP.

The Chinese Authors Society demanded that Google present a resolution plan by the end of the year and quickly handle compensation for Chinese authors whose books the U.S. company scanned without permission. A local copyright protection group, co-founded by the authors group, has said it found at least 17,000 Chinese works included in Google's scanning plan...

Legal action by Chinese companies to protect their intellectual property rights is increasingly common, but piracy remains widespread in the country. Pirated books, DVDs and computer programs such as Windows 7 are widely sold in bazaars and on street corners."

We See Your 'Copyright Contributes $1.5 Trillion' And Raise You 'Fair Use Contributes $2.2 Trillion'; Tech Dirt, 11/18/09

Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt; We See Your 'Copyright Contributes $1.5 Trillion' And Raise You 'Fair Use Contributes $2.2 Trillion':

"The copyright industry lobbyists absolutely love to throw around the bogus and debunked stat that copyright contributes $1.52 trillion to the economy. That number is derived by taking any business that kinda sorta maybe touches copyright (including things like furniture and jewelry) and then assuming that all of the revenue they make is entirely due to copyright. Yes, that's ridiculous. But, if the copyright lobbyists are going to use such bogus methodology to push their agenda, it seems only fair for those on the other side to use the same methodology...

In response, Ed Black, from the Computer & Communications Industry Association wrote a letter to the editor highlighting those lawyers factual mistakes as well as the importance of fair use throughout the industry (thanks to Yano for sending this in). Most of the (short) letter discusses all the wonderful things that fair use allows, and then has this wonderful line at the end:

"Businesses dependent upon exceptions to copyright contribute $2.2 trillion to the U.S. economy. They are responsible for one in eight jobs, for a total payroll of $1.2 trillion in 2006. Fair use is serious business; it is the glue that holds the Internet and new technology together. It is worth protecting."

This is fantastic. Of course, the number is just as bogus as the $1.52 trillion used by copyright maximalists, but I think that if they're going to use their methodology to make such ridiculous claims, it's only fair to do the same for the contributions to the economy of exceptions to copyright".

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Argument for Free Classes via iTunes; New York Times Bits Blog, 11/17/09

Brad Stone, New York Times Bits Blog: The Argument for Free Classes via iTunes:

"Other universities say that limited resources, copyright concerns or the reluctance of old-fashioned professors are keeping them from recording and uploading lectures. But Mr. Bean challenges his peers around the world who are not participating in iTunes U at all, or who are making lectures available only to registered students who sign in with a password.

“There are still a lot of universities in the world that define the value of their experience as somehow locking up their content and only giving people access to the content when they enroll in the program,” Mr. Bean said. “The courage comes from taking the next leap of faith. Universities no longer define themselves by their content but the overall experience: the concept, the student support, the tutoring and mentoring, the teaching and learning they get and the quality of the assessment.”"

Google Books debate gets personal; Tech Chronicles, 11/17/09

James Temple, Tech Chronicles; Google Books debate gets personal:

"The increasingly acrimonious squabble over the Google Books legal settlement has officially slid past that threshold -- all too familiar during heated political campaigns -- where the debate becomes about the debate.

The Open Book Alliance issued a statement today complaining not about the terms of the revised settlement offering -- that press release was yesterday -- but about how Google rudely backed out of an opportunity to publicly wrangle over those terms. And how that means they're hiding things.

First, Google released the settlement's details at the witching hour of midnight on Friday. Then last night, Google refused to address the facts behind the book settlement on a widely respected national television news program.

Google continues to say they would like to have an open discussion on the merits of their revised settlement. However, the only discussions about the settlement seem to be occurring behind the closed doors of the company's Mountain View, Calif. campus.

According to TechCrunch, Google Books Engineering Director Dan Clancy had agreed to appear on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer to debate the topic with Harvard professor Robert Darnton. With little notice, however, Silicon Valley attorney Gary Reback was added to the line up.

Reback spearheaded the antitrust crusade against Microsoft last decade and, by the way, co-chairs the Open Books Alliance, whose members include Google competitors Yahoo, Microsoft and

Apparently Google didn't want an engineer to spar with a lawyer on national television, which doesn't seem as unreasonable to us as the incredulous tone of the Open Books Alliance statement would have one think.

As in politics, focusing on these sorts of trivial matters becomes a convenient stand in for the issues themselves because, of course, those issues are incredibly complex.

Besides, it's easier to incite consumer emotions by saying a massive company is hiding from a public debate than by explaining that, say, Open Books Alliance member is worried about how the deal will affect their own dominance over the book industry."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Revised Google Book search deal 'a massive disappointment'; Computer Weekly, 11/17/09

Warwick Ashford, Computer Weekly; Revised Google Book search deal 'a massive disappointment':

"The revised proposal does not fix the serious problems that led to widespread European condemnation of the settlement. Although some European works will technically now fall outside the scope of the settlement, Google appears intent to continue copying and engaging in "snippet" display of copyrighted European works through its existing arrangements with American libraries. To say the least, the revised settlement is a massive disappointment...

The revised provisions on orphan works are similarly a failure, as Google still gets to keep a significant share of any profits from orphan works and to maintain its grip on online access to orphan works.

If Google were serious about allowing meaningful competition, the settlement would allow any company to access copies of orphan works scanned pursuant to the settlement on the same terms as Google. This would have been a simple fix to make and would have alleviated many of the most serious competition concerns.

Equally disturbing is that this settlement will give Google inordinate influence over Europe's own efforts to develop online digital libraries. It will give Google overwhelming influence over how much consumers and libraries pay for access, and how much authors and publishers earn. It is clear that Google's pricing in the US will also have a strong influence on the pricing of any similar digital library project that emerges in Europe.

Without competition, Google will face no pressure to innovate, to improve its services, or lower its prices. Online access to millions of books will remain locked up in the database of a single American company, and only Google will have the key. The world's literary heritage is simply too important to abandon to such a fate."

Monday, November 16, 2009

[Press Release] International Activists Launch New Website to Gather and Share Copyright Knowledge; Electronic Frontier Foundation, 11/13/09

[Press Release] Electronic Frontier Foundation; International Activists Launch New Website to Gather and Share Copyright Knowledge:

Anyone Can Track National Copyright Laws Globally with 'Copyright Watch'

"The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Electronic Information for Libraries (, and other international copyright experts joined together today to launch Copyright Watch -- a public website created to centralize resources on national copyright laws at

"Copyright laws are changing across the world, and it's hard to keep track of these changes, even for those whose daily work is affected by them," said Teresa Hackett, Program Manager at "A law that is passed in one nation can quickly be taken up by others, bilateral trade agreements, regional policy initiatives, or international treaties. With Copyright Watch, people can learn about the similarities and differences in national copyright laws, and they can use that information to more easily spot patterns and emerging trends."

Copyright Watch is the first comprehensive and up-to-date online repository of national copyright laws. To find links to national and regional copyright laws, users can choose a continent or search using a country name. The site will be updated over time to include proposed amendments to laws, as well as commentary and context from national copyright experts. Copyright Watch will help document how legislators around the world are coping with the challenges of new technology and new business models.

"Balanced and well-calibrated copyright laws are extremely important in our global information society," said Gwen Hinze, International Policy Director at EFF. "Small shifts in the balance between the rights of copyright owners and the limitations and exceptions relied on by those who use copyrighted content can destroy or enable business models, criminalize or liberate free expression and everyday behavior, and support the development of new technologies that facilitate access to knowledge for all the world's citizens. We hope that Copyright Watch will encourage comparative research and help to highlight more and less flexible copyright regimes."

"Details of copyright law used to be important only for a few people in creative industries," added Danny O'Brien, International Outreach Coordinator at EFF. "But now, with the growth of the Internet and other digital tools, we are all authors, publishers, and sharers of copyrighted works. Copyright Watch was created so citizens of the world can share and compare information about their countries' laws."

Funding to create Copyright Watch was generously provided by the Open Society Institute.

Copyright Watch:"

Viacom's top lawyer: suing P2P users "felt like terrorism"; Ars Technica, 11/16/09

Nate Anderson, Ars Technica; Viacom's top lawyer: suing P2P users "felt like terrorism":

Michael Fricklas, Viacom's general counsel, tells a group of Yale Law students that he's a huge fan of fair use, doesn't want to take down your YouTube mashup, and has no plans to start suing P2P users in federal courts—but he still loves DRM and "three strikes" laws.

"Michael Fricklas is Viacom's general counsel, and it's his job to oversee the company's legal efforts, including its $1 billion lawsuit against YouTube. When people talk about Big Content, they're talking about people like Fricklas.

So it might be surprising to watch him tell a class of Yale law students this month that suing end users for online copyright infringement is "expensive, and it's painful, and it feels like bullying." While the recording industry was big on this approach for a while, Fricklas certainly understands the way it came across to the public when some college student went up against "very expensive lawyers and unlimited resources and it felt like terrorism."

Customers "need to be treated with respect," he added, and that respect extends even to DRM—much of which has been "really bad."...

Kinder, gentler, but still lovin' DRM
Part of the answer is that "Big Content" is of course a convenient fiction; every creator and company has a different outlook, is staffed by different individuals, and relies more or less heavily on exclusive rights under the Copyright Act.

Viacom, for instance, creates copyrighted works every day, but it's also a heavy "fair user." Consider The Daily Show, for instance, and think about just how much of its daily show relies on video footage from other organizations. Fricklas even showed a spoof movie poster that Viacom had done years ago—for which it was sued by famous photographer Annie Leibowitz—and with which it eventually prevailed in court, claiming parodic fair use...

While bashing the experience of many earlier DRM schemes, Fricklas is a firm believe in the basic concept, saying that it allows consumers to have experiences they could not have without DRM (or not at the same prices)...

Graduated response
Another area of tension between consumers and rightsholders is graduated response, sometimes referred to as "three-strikes" policies that sanction those accused of repeat copyright infringement online. While the content industries like to tout graduated response as a kinder, gentler way to handle these issues, the worldwide public hasn't been sold on the plan. The European Parliament voted several times to ban such schemes unless they had judicial oversight, while France's attempt at passing a graduated response law was defeated once in the legislature and once by the Constitutional Council before finally being passed. New Zealand had to scrap its three-strikes plan and start over after resistance from users and ISPs, and the UK is in the midst of a furious row over the idea. Graduated response has never been introduced in Congress, and no major ISP has agreed to adopt the approach voluntarily.

Still, Fricklas is big on the idea. It's definitely a saner solution to the issue than hauling college kids into federal court, and feature sanctions "more proportional to the harm." (This is certainly debatable when it comes to France-style disconnections and blacklists, however, especially on family accounts.)

And Fricklas wants to make sure that there are rights of appeal, since the process can sometimes be a bit too "guilty until proven innocent."

Google Book Search Database Halved By Removing Most Foreign Texts; Library Journal, 11/16/09

Norman Oder, Library Journal; Google Book Search Database Halved By Removing Most Foreign Texts:

  • "Only Anglo-American works included
  • Issues of pricing, comprehensiveness
  • EFF: nothing new on reader privacy
  • Department of Justice still concerned

The Wall Street Journal added some crucial context to discussion of the revised Google Book Search Settlement announced late Friday: it "would cut the number of works covered by the settlement by at least half by removing millions of foreign works." (Only works from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada would be included.)

Librarian and consultant Karen Coyle commented, "This greatly changes the value of the institutional subscription for higher education, as well as the value of the 'research corpus' (essentially a database of the OCR'd texts that researchers can use for computational research)... As it is, too many Americans are unaware of the world outside of those Anglo-American borders. This will just exacerbate that problem.

"What about the DOJ?
LJ suggested Saturday that the relatively minor changes on the issue of orphan works—in-copyright but out of print—might draw continued interest from the Department of Justice (DOJ); the Wall Street Journal reported that "the Justice Department remains concerned that the fact the settlement gives Google immunity from lawsuits related to orphan works may be anticompetitive."

Privacy concerns remain
Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote, "Unfortunately, the parties did not add any reader privacy protections. The only nominal change was that they formally confirmed a position they had long taken privately that information will not be freely shared between Google and the Registry."

Timetable: resolution in February?
The proposed timetable sets January 28, 2010 as the deadline for opting out and filing objections or amicus briefs; February 4 for the DOJ response; and February 18 for the final fairness hearing"

New Google Book Settlement Tries To Appease Worries; Tech Dirt, 11/16/09

Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt; New Google Book Settlement Tries To Appease Worries:

"Separately, a lot of the focus on this new agreement, as with the old agreement, is over how Google treats orphan works. Again, I have to admit that I think most people are making a much bigger deal of this than it warrants. The orphan works stuff really covers a very small number of works. And giving rightsholders ten years to claim their rights seems more than adequate to me. I just don't see what the big deal is here. The real issue is that we have orphan works at all. Under the old (more sensible) copyright regime, you actually had to proactively declare your copyright interest. The only reason we have orphan works at all is that we got rid of such a system in the ongoing effort of copyright maximalists to wipe out the public domain.

Anyway, I think this is all something of a sideshow. I still stand by my original feeling towards the settlement, which is that I'm upset anyone felt it was necessary at all. Google had a strong fair use claim that I would have liked to have seen taken all the way through the courts. And, of course, this settlement really has nothing at all to do with the main issue of the lawsuit (that fair use question) and is really a debate over a separate issue: how to take the books Google scans and trying to turn them into a "book store" rather than more of a "library." And, in doing so, the important fair use question gets completely buried -- which I find unfortunate."