Tag Archives: copyright infringement

DMCA needs to actually enter the millennium

The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) of 1998 sought to give Internet Service Providers legal protection (a “safe harbor”) against copyright infringement claims should one of their users upload copyrighted material. The act made sense at the early stages of the Internet before broadband expansion lead to companies like YouTube and sites like the Pirate Bay.

The DMCA puts the burden of enforcement squarely in the hands of content providers by way of the “takedown notice” which is essentially a form sent to the ISP owner stating that there is some type of media or software on their site which they do not have the rights to be hosting. The takedown notice informs the ISP owner that further legal action will be taken if they don’t comply by removing the sited item(s).

The problem with the DMCA today is that content owners can’t keep up with the volume of takedown notices they have to file. YouTube has received over 100 million DMCA notices from the recording industry in just the last few years. Google’s own statistics show that 97% of these claims are valid.

The DMCA’s safe harbor is also the main defense used by pirate sites like The Pirate Bay, KickAssTorrents and Torrentz. These sites have earned millions by illegally hosting content for which they have no rights or licenses.

Unfortunately, rather than manage copyright, it [the DMCA] has provided a huge loophole through which a number of online pirate entrepreneurs sail blissfully through. Known as the “safe harbor” provision, this oft-abused language has served to shelter digital thieves at the expense of rights holders. ”Safe Harbor” has enabled the growth of a criminal cancer and it’s a cancer–that as of now–cannot be beaten, only kept (marginally) at bay. – See more at VoxIndie.org

The DMCA is Broken from fastgirlfilms on Vimeo.

Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business

In 2013, Digital Citizens Alliance set out to understand how content thieves operate and profit from the works of others. In an effort to determine how much bad actors earn through advertising, Digital Citizens commissioned MediaLink LLC to undertake a research project focused on the ecosystem’s revenues and profitability.

The findings, published in the report “Good Money Gone Bad: Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business” show that these sites are making incredible profits off of the works of others.

The highlights include:
• Content theft sites reaped an estimated quarter of a billion dollars in ad revenue alone in 2013.
• The 30 largest sites that make revenue exclusively through ads averaged $4.4 million in 2013.
• The most heavily trafficked BitTorrent and P2P sites, which rely exclusively on advertising revenue, averaged a projected $6 million per year in 2013.
• 30% of the most heavily trafficked content theft sites carried premium brand advertising and 40% carried secondary brand advertising
• The sites studied in the sample had a estimated profit margin of 80-94%.
This presentation includes screenshots from many of the sites reviewed by MediaLink.

Download Digital Citizens Alliance Report

Download More information (Media Packet)
mediapacket

digitalcitizensalliance-infographic

Postcards to Defend Copyright

We at UniqueTracks want to pass along this link to a very smart messaging program from copylike.org (Defend Copyright). These are online postcards displaying easy to understand statements about the damage to artists caused by piracy and file-sharing. The postcards can be sent directly from the copylike.org site.

See some examples below…

copylike.org_postcard_rightsandtheft

copylike.org_postcard_money

copylike.org_postcard_musicisfree

 

Spread the word at
http://copylike.org

Charlie Crist Apologizes to David Byrne for Copyright Infringement

Charlie Crist has issued a formal apology for using the Talking Heads’ song “Road to Nowhere” in his 2010 campaign for governor of Florida.

Byrne sued Crist for 1 million dollars after Crist’s campaign used the song illegally. Byrne and Crist settled out of court. This video apology by Crist was probably part of the settlement.

Crist lost his election bid. During the campaign, he left the Republican party to run as an independent after a strong push from Tea Party-backed candidate Marco Rubio. Rubio went on to win the election.

Road to Nowhere was released on Talking Heads 1985 album Little Creatures.

Year end sees crackdown on copyright infringement and online piracy

Here are 4 events that show what looks like a growing trend towards taking serious action against copyright infringement on the Internet.

1. LimeWire, the company that issued the popular peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software program is closing it’s doors
. LimeWire tried to retool as a legal music site similar to iTunes after the demise of its P2P service, but the company is now abandoning that effort and closing its doors for good on December 31, 2011. Last October a court-ordered injunction forced LimWire to disable ‘the searching, downloading, uploading, file trading and/or file distribution functionality, and/or all functionality; of it’s P2P file-sharing software,” the company said at the time.

2. In Sweden, the convictions of Pirate Bay founders are upheld on appeal
According to the Los Angeles Times, The Pirate Bay is “one of the world’s largest facilitators of illegal downloading“, and “the most visible member of a burgeoning international anti-copyright or pro-piracy movement”. The Pirate Bay website still exists. It has over 4.5 million registered users and is approximately the 89th most popular site on the Internet worldwide. In 2009, it’s founders were found guilty of assisting copyright infringement. The ruling was appealed. In November 2010 the convictions were upheld by a Swedish appeals court. They decreased the original prison terms but increased the fine to 46 million SEK (about 6.6 million dollars).

3. US Seizes 80+ Torrent and P2P web sites
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (a division of Homeland Security) has seized the web addresses of torrent-finder.com and about 80 other websites for copyright violation. The sites have been sharing copyrighted material for free download. The New York Times reported “By Friday morning, visiting the addresses of a handful of sites that either hosted unauthorized copies of films and music or allowed users to search for them elsewhere on the Internet produced a notice that said, in part: “This domain name has been seized by ICE — Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court.”

4. Google Upgrades it’s Copyright Infringement policy
A week after the US government’s torrent crackdown, Google issued its own policy changes regarding copyright infringement.

As the web has grown, we have seen a growing number of issues relating to infringing content. We respond expeditiously to requests to remove such content from our services, and have been improving our procedures over time. But as the web grows, and the number of requests grows with it, we are working to develop new ways to better address the underlying problem.

There are four key changes that will have some impact on how they handle copyright-questionable submissions.
1. Google will be trying to take action on takedown request within 24 hours of submission
2. They will prevent terms associated with piracy from showing up in the autocomplete feature of searches
3. They plan to improve AdSense anti-piracy efforts
4. They’ll look for ways to make authorized content more likely to show up in searches

Cook’s Source plagiarism fallout

A recent pilfering of a writer’s intellectual property has caused more than a bit of a stir in the online community. Response was so heated, in fact, that the guilty party, Cook’s Source Magazine, has ceased publishing as of its November issue.

The Story

The editor of Cook’s Source Magazine published a story in both the print and electronic versions of their magazine. But, as it turned out, the story’s author hadn’t given permission for Cook’s Source to publish the article. In reality, the author didn’t even know the article had been published until a friend asked her about it.

Apparently, the editor simply copied and pasted the article from the author’s website. The page is on a domain that the author owns and there’s even a copyright notice at the bottom.

Needless to say, the author wasn’t happy.

In a polite response, the author asked for two very reasonable things.

1. An apology on Facebook and a printed apology in the magazine.
2. $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism.

After a colossal blunder like that, one would expect the editor to humbly acquiesce to the author’s more than reasonable demands. Instead, the editor made it clear she would do nothing of the kind, claiming that she and her staff had to do so much editing to the article that the author should thank her for such a good portfolio piece.

However, the really frustrating part of the whole story is the editor’s assumption’s about things that are published on the Internet. Boasting that she had 30 years publishing experience, she actually claimed that the Internet was public domain.

As shocking as this story is, the concept of the Internet as public domain is far too pervasive. The fact remains that anything published anywhere has a copyright owned by its author until that author relinquishes their rights (usually through a transaction of money).

It doesn’t matter which medium is used (print, video, audio, Internet), a copyright is a copyright.

The Fallout

In this case, the general public rose to the aide of the offended author, filling Cook’s Source Magazine’s Facebook fan page with so many angry posts that Cook’s Source was forced to pull down their Facebook page.

Cook’s Source had worked hard to build their fan page to over 6,000 members and with one simple infringement, it was all gone. They appear to be trying to rebuild with a Facebook group, but I doubt it’ll work. After all, the third post is already a call to pick up the discussion where it left off on the old Facebook page.

In fact, because of all the bad publicity, the editor of Cook’s Source decided to pull the plug and cease publishing the magazine. The last issue was the November issue.

One of my favorite blogs is the Copyright Alliance Blog written by Patrick Ross. Here is his take on the closing of Cook’s Source and this whole series of events.

This story went viral on the Internet. Some video spoofs have recently appeared on YouTube…

The Tricky Task of Defining “Fair Use” in an electronic world

Copyright-imageAlmost every copyright infringement dispute regarding the Internet and electronic media comes down to the tricky task of defining what is Fair Use.

The Fair Use provision of US Copyright law was meant to ease the ways in which copyrighted material could be used to facilitate research. Teachers could reproduce portions of copyrighted material to illustrate a lesson, news reporters and broadcasters would not have to worry if copyrighted material was used incidentally during a news report.

This definition was crafted before the Internet was even a speck on the horizon. At that time using copyrighted material posed a bit of a challenge but in today’s world, where copyright infringement is a right-click away, Fair Use has blown up into a political issue with lobbyists now attempting to stretch the initial intent of the law to fit in digital world.

So far, determining how to apply Fair Use to the Internet and electronic media has proven to be a complex task for the courts. In the mammoth Google/YouTube v. Viacom copyright infringement case, the final decision of the court revolved around an interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which addresses the liability of the online service provider, while dancing around the proverbial elephant in the room…the definition of Fair Use.

Cory Doctorow has an interesting post in which he discusses a very concise definition of Fair Use put forth by Tim Wu. Wu’s proposed definition of Fair Use is as follows:

If it adds new value, it’s Fair Use. If it substitutes for the original, it’s infringement.

It’s simple enough, to be sure, but it’s far more favorable to the users of content than it is to the creators of that content. It tracks along the lines of the ideas in Lawrence Lessig’s book Remix which argues that creative content should become something freely available to all for the benefit of moving the culture forward (how did our culture ever move forward before Lessig?). With Remix Culture, content can be used and turned into something else without the permission or remuneration of the original creator. Take a Beatles song, put some new beats on it and viola, you’re a composer.

Lobbyists now talk of the Fair Use Industries and a Fair Use Economy. I would ask – Fair Use Economy vs. what? The Copyright Economy? There is some heavyweight positioning going on trying to broaden the interpretation of Fair Use. To me this is almost always being done to restrict or remove the existing rights of content creators.

To see how the digital world can quickly skew the concept of Fair Use, one need only look at homemade videos uploaded to YouTube. Here you have a non-commercial, family video that uses a popular song as a soundtrack (obvious fair use). But then it gets uploaded to YouTube and becomes site content. Fair Use? It’s now an issue of interpretation. Is the content still Fair Use because the user created the content for private use, or does it infringe on copyright because that content is now an asset of YouTube, a money-making enterprise.

Yes, things get murky in an electronic world. Here’s my understanding of copyright and Fair Use. It’s also a simple definition but it’s one that is being rigorously challenged.

If the content in question is not original to your project (not created by you/in-house or work-for-hire) and its usage is contributing to a commercial enterprise then it is not fair use and the media should be legally licensed.

Dispelling Confusion About Classrooms and Copyright

33130_Hobbs_Copyright_72ppiRGB_150pixwIncorporating media into classroom presentations has become much simpler today. However, for educators, the vast array of materials online often creates confusion regarding the legality of its usage.

Media literacy expert Renee Hobbs’ great new book Copyright Clarity – How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning provides a complete and concise look at what is, and what is not, acceptable for classroom use.

The book explores:

  • What types of usage are permissible for classroom use
  • How to create class projects that follow copyright laws
  • Fair Use of digital materials such as images, music, movies, and Internet elements found on sites such as Google and YouTube
  • The latest trends in intellectual property law and copyright practices

“This long-awaited book relieves educators’ anxieties about the legality of using copyrighted materials during instruction and presentations. In addition to answering questions about fair use practice in an easy-to-understand manner, Hobbs offers examples of how technology supports essential literacy and communication skills in 21st-century classrooms.”
—Diane Lapp, Distinguished Professor of Education
San Diego State University

The book expresses legal concepts in a easily understandable fashion, allowing educators to confidently incorporate captivating media tools into their lessons and presentations without concern about infringing on copyright laws.

If you’re an educator, check out Copyright Clarity. It will settle any confusing issues you’ve experienced where you’ve not been sure if your usage of a given media was within the boundaries of copyright law.

The many angles of Fair Use in copyright

A recent article in the New York Times draws into focus the many differing interpretations and perspectives surrounding copyright law’s doctrine of Fair Use.

The article describes how three separate parties, a young musician, Google’s YouTube service and the Warner Music Group, became entangled over the use of the Christmas classic “Winter Wonderland”

The musician, Juliet Weybret, uploaded a video to YouTube that showed her performing the song. A few weeks later she was informed by YouTube that the video was being taken down because of objections by the Warner Music Group.  Warner Music Group owns the copyright for Winter Wonderland and currently has no licensing agreement in place with Google.

Ms Weybret rightly felt that she was using the song in a noncommercial way and therefore was within the tenets of fair use. She was not gaining financially in any way by performing the song. It was basically a home video that she put on YouTube. The performance is not a money making venture, it doesn’t compete or impede Warner Music Group from earning income from the song. If you look at the performance itself, it is certainly fair use and does not infringe on the copyright in any way. 

Warner Music Group, no doubt, feels the same way about the performance.  However, when that performance is uploaded to YouTube and becomes part of the content of a multi-million dollar enterprise, then the notion of the performance (the video) as fair use is challenged. In Warner’s view, the video now contributes to the income YouTube makes from showing videos on the web.  The use of the video by Google/YouTube is therefore not fair use.  

Use of third party copyrights without permission has dogged YouTube since it became a major Internet presence.  The company initially relied on Fair Use as well as the safe harbor provision of the DMCA as an argument for not removing video content.  That decision created a substantial amount of push-back from copyright holders and a slew of lawsuits followed. Google now has a very high-tech filtering system that will automatically remove videos that use unlicensed content from YouTube.  

From the NY Times article…

Referring to Ms. Weybret, Ben Sheffner, a copyright lawyer in Los Angeles who has worked on antipiracy at the 20th Century Fox movie studio, said, “From her persepctive it’s completely noncommercial because she’s not making a dime. But from another perspective it’s entirely commercial because Google is trying to make money off it”

Yoko Ono loses copyright suit over use of Lennon’s Imagine

On June 2nd, the judge in the copyright infringement case Yoko Ono brought against the creators of the film “Expelled” for their use of John Lennon’s song Imagine has ruled in favor of the filmmakers based on a the “fair use” doctrine.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein rule that “the doctrine provides that the fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes of criticism and commentary is not an infringement of copyright.”.

You can read the judges entire decision here. Those interested in the fair use doctrine should take the time to read the judges opinion because he very thoughtfully describes and then rules on each of the criteria that make up fair use.

  • The Purpose and Character of the Use
  • The Nature of the Copyrighted Work
  • The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used in Relation to the Copyrighted Work as a Whole
  • The Effect of the Use Upon the Potential Market for or Value of the Copyrighted Work
  • The judge’s decision seemed mainly to rest on a subsection of “The Purpose and Character of the Use”, namely Transformative Use. Here is the ruling.

    ii. Transformative Use
    A work is transformative if it does not “merely supersede the objects of the original
    creation” but “instead adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message.” Although transformative use “is not absolutely necessary for a finding of fair use, the goal of copyright, to promote science and the arts, is generally furthered by the creation of transformative works.” Thus, transformative works “lie at the heart of the fair use doctrine’s guarantee of breathing space within the confines of copyright.”

    There is a strong presumption that this factor favors a finding of fair use where the allegedly infringing work can be characterized as involving one of the purposes enumerated in 17 U.S.C. 107: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . ., scholarship, or research.

    Defendants’ use is transformative because the movie incorporates an excerpt of “Imagine” for purposes of criticism and commentary. The filmmakers selected two lines of the song that they believe envision a world without religion: “Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion too.” As one of the producers of “Expelled” explains, the filmmakers paired these lyrics and the accompanying music to a sequence of images that “provide a layered criticism and commentary of the song.” The Cold War-era images of marching soldiers, followed by the image of Stalin, express the filmmakers’ view that the song’s secular utopian vision “cannot be maintained without realization in a politicized form” and that the form it will ultimately take is dictatorship. The movie thus uses the excerpt of “Imagine” to criticize what the filmmakers see as the naivety of John Lennon’s views.

    Conclusion Regarding Fair Use
    The balance of factors clearly favors a finding of fair use. Defendants’ use of “Imagine” is transformative because their purpose is to criticize the song’s message. Moreover, the amount and substantiality of the portion used is reasonable in light of defendants’ purpose. Although “Imagine,” as a creative work, is at the core of copyright protection, and defendants’ use of the song is at least partially commercial in nature, the weight of these factors against a finding of fair use is limited given that defendants’ use is transformative. Finally, plaintiffs have not shown that defendants’ use will usurp the market for licensing the song for non-transformative purposes. In sum, allowing defendants’ use would better serve “the copyright law’s goal of promoting the Progress of Science and useful Arts . . . than [would] preventing it.”


    Ono’s position had been that she had the right to control use of the song by reviewing and choosing licenses. She also had the right to reject uses of the song. She brought the suit because she believe the filmmakers had “looted her of the ability to do so”.