BY JULIA REDA, MEP
Last spring, 200,000 Europeans took to the streets to protest against a new EU copyright law that risks to restrict online culture and block vast numbers of legal online communications such as memes, reaction gifs, video game reviews or remixes. It is the latest clash between a generation that has grown up with the Internet as a means of cultural expression and a much older generation of lawmakers who prioritize the interests of entertainment companies over online culture.
BY GLYN MOODY ARS TECHNICA
Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, has admitted that EU copyright law is “pushing people to steal,” because they seek out illegal copies of works that are not available to them legally because of the widespread use of geoblocking in Europe. Ansip was interviewed as part of the music industry’s annual Midem event (available as a video, found via TorrentFreak). He pointed to Spotify as an example of how people could be encouraged to pay for copyright material: “if somebody is able to provide services with better quality, with higher speed, people prefer to act as honest people; they are ready to pay, they don’t want to steal.” A well-prepared Ansip reeled off a range of interesting statistics in the interview. He said that “20% of Internet users in the European Union are using a VPN to get access to digital content,” and gave two examples of countries that had successfully converted those resorting to unauthorised sources to paying customers. “In Norway some years ago, 80% said they are using so-called ‘free’ downloads,” he explained.
BY ERIQ GARDNER HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
The world’s most popular English-language song is potentially free from copyright after a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that filmmakers challenging Warner/Chappell Music’s hold on “Happy Birthday to You” should be granted summary judgment. According to the opinion on Tuesday from U.S. District Judge George H. King, “Because Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the Happy Birthday lyrics, Defendants, as Summy Co.’s purported successors-in-interest, do not own a valid copyright in the Happy Birthday lyrics.” The ruling means that Warner/Chappell will lose out on $2 million a year in reported revenue on the song. Unless something happens at an appellate court or unless someone else comes forward with a valid claim of ownership to the song, filmmakers like director Jennifer Nelson — who sued in 2013 over demands as much as six figures to license — will no longer have to pay to feature “Happy Birthday” in motion pictures and television shows.
BY STEVEN JOHNSON NEW YORK TIMES
On July 11, 2000, in one of the more unlikely moments in the history of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch handed the microphone to Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, to hear his thoughts on art in the age of digital reproduction. Ulrich’s primary concern was a new online service called Napster, which had debuted a little more than a year before. As Ulrich explained in his statement, the band began investigating Napster after unreleased versions of one of their songs began playing on radio stations around the country. They discovered that their entire catalog of music was available there for free. Ulrich’s trip to Washington coincided with a lawsuit that Metallica had just filed against Napster — a suit that would ultimately play a role in the company’s bankruptcy filing.
Seven websites that help users find unauthorised copies of eBooks are to be blocked in the UK by the country’s leading broadband providers. The Publishers Association has obtained a High Court order that requires the internet service providers (ISPs) to act by 9 June. The offending sites are based overseas. The movie, music and luxury goods industries have previously employed similar tactics to cause more than 100 other sites to be blocked. The Publishers Association said that more than 80% of the material it had found on the ad-supported platforms involved, had infringed copyright.
The purpose of public libraries is exactly the same as the effect of file-sharing. You cannot defend one while opposing the other. Public libraries started appearing in the mid-1800s. At the time, publishers went absolutely berserk: they had been lobbying for the lending of books to become illegal, as reading a book without paying anything first was “stealing”, they argued. As a consequence, they considered private libraries at the time to be hotbeds of crime and robbery.
BY MIKE MASNICK TECHDIRT
As we’ve noted many times in the past, the entertainment industry likes to take a multi-pronged approach to its quixotic efforts to “stop piracy” (which could be much better dealt with by simply giving the public more of what they want). Working on federal copyright law to continually expand it is one main strategy, but there are a lot of others as well, including pressuring private companies to voluntarily censor content, getting international trade agreements to force laws to change and… getting random state laws to force through big changes quietly. This last strategy has come into focus lately, especially with the rise of so-called “true origin” bills, that are almost certainly unconstitutional, but are rapidly popping up in a variety of states. This is actually a replay of an old strategy.
BY GLYN MOODY COMPUTERWORLD – UK
A remarkable report has just been presented to the United Nations by the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed. It’s called “Copyright policy and the right to science and culture” (.doc file). Here’s its summary:
In the present report, the Special Rapporteur examines copyright law and policy from the perspective of the right to science and culture, emphasizing both the need for protection of authorship and expanding opportunities for participation in cultural life. Recalling that protection of authorship differs from copyright protection, the Special Rapporteur proposes several tools to advance the human rights interests of authors. The Special Rapporteur also proposes to expand copyright exceptions and limitations to empower new creativity, enhance rewards to authors, increase educational opportunities, preserve space for non-commercial culture and promote inclusion and access to cultural works.
BY SEAN FLYNN INFOJUSTICE
I released a statement earlier today opining that the today’s leak of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) chapter proposed for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement (available at https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/WikiLeaks-TPP-Investment-Chapter.pdf) would give new rights to private companies to challenge limitations and exceptions to copyrights, patents, and other intellectual property rights in unaccountable international arbitration forums. This note gives further background and analysis supporting that statement. A.
Following a recent trend, explained below, the leaked ISDS chapter of the TPP proposes to give private companies the ability to enforce public international law whenever a local regulation “either directly or indirectly” expropriates any “investment.” (Art. 11.7). The term “indirectly” opens the process to consideration of what in U.S. constitutional law is referred to as a “regulatory taking” – that is a regulation or regulatory action that diminishes the value of property, even if the government does not take ownership of the property. The term “investment” is incredibly broad, including
every asset that an investor owns or controls, directly or indirectly, that has the characteristics of an investment, including such characteristics as the commitment of capital or other resources, the expectation of gain or profit, or the assumption of risk.
In January 2012 New Zealand and U.S. authorities shuttered the cyberlocker site Megaupload and arrested the site’s founder, Kim Dotcom. In the aftermath of the high-profile closure, a panic was sent through the entire cyberlocker system. Several sites voluntarily shut their doors, others stopped 3rd party sharing and still others ended their affiliate programs, winding down a policy of paying for downloads. But in the years since, Kim Dotcom’s extradition case has dragged on the cyberlocker scene has recovered at least some. Though cyberlockers may not have anywhere near the traffic they had during their pre-2012 heyday, at least one study showed that they are still very big business.
A federal court in California has ruled that Dish Network did not infringe the copyright of Fox Broadcasting by offering users services for skipping ads and streaming live or recorded programming over the Internet to their computers and mobile devices. Referring to a Supreme Court ruling on Aereo, a now defunct service which streamed broadcast television programming to subscribers, Judge Dolly M. Gee of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that Aereo neither owned the copyright to the broadcast works nor held a license from the copyright owners to perform those works publicly. “DISH does not, however, receive programs that have been released to the public and then carry them by private channels to additional viewers in the same sense that Aereo did,” Gee wrote in a decision on Jan 12 that was made public in a redacted form on Tuesday. “DISH has a license for the analogous initial retransmission of the programming to users via satellite,” the judge added. Once Dish subscribers receive the authorized programming, its Dish Anywhere service aids the transfer of those recordings in the set-top box or digital video recorder to the subscriber’s other devices, according to the judge, who added that the ultimate function of Dish Anywhere is to transmit programming that is already legitimately on a user’s in-home hardware to his Internet-connected mobile device.