Monthly Archives: November 2014

International Anticipation Grows as TPP Heads to DC

The next round of talks toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) take place in Washington DC early next month and the general feeling seems to be that negotiations are progressing very well.

In our last look at the TPP we focused mostly on copyright protection, but the potential of this agreement is even wider than that, as a number of insightful articles this week reveal.

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Image Credit: Wes Peck

Firstly, an article by the Copyright Alliance explains how agreements such as this set the stage for creative expression around the world.

Citing the example of a Mexican journalist who uses her position to expose injustice and illegal activity in her country, Sofia Castillo uncovers how co-operative efforts like those that the TPP will commit national governments to actually fgo further and protect free speech. Or to use Sofia’s more eloquent term, trade agreements have the power to be “engines of freedom of expression.”   

In another high profile area of guarding intellectual property, a Forbes piece lays out how major trade agreements that encompass copyright stand to “meaningfully improve our nation’s economic future,” and raises the issue of patent protection.

Often linked to lucrative new technology, patents are among the most valuable protective measures that creators can put in place to protect their ideas. With international enforcement, however, inventions are still ripe for theft and “patent trolling,” a practice widely reported in recent years that has a similar effect of draining legitimate creators of their rightful revenue.

Both of these creative arenas (and more) stand to benefit greatly from the international co-operation contained within the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

By protecting intellectual property and creative expression across international boundaries we in turn open up an encouraging, collaborative environment for our most talented artists and inventors to make the most of their gifts. In doing so, trade agreements like the TPP offer unique opportunities to bolster our artistic and economic futures in one fell swoop.

 

 

Asia-Pacific Piracy Poses a Familiar Foe for Rights Holders

In the West the copyright focus may be shifting to illegal streaming services like Popcorn Time, but in some parts of the world it’s still file sharing and illegal downloads that occupy anti-piracy activists.

A new report from Sandvine suggests that activity on these types of torrent and file sharing platforms can be as high as one-third  of ALL traffic in peak periods, causing concern for rights holders around the world. 

torrent progress

A torrent in action | Image Credit: nrkbeta

The region in question is Asia-Pacific, encompassing major markets like China, Indonesia, and South Korea. The Global Internet Phenomena report. The company’s summary findings state:

Filesharing is dead? Not in Asia: As a percentage of traffic, Filesharing traffic continues to decline globally in almost all regions except Asia-Pacific, where it still accounts for more than 33% of total traffic.

While the equivalent U.S. figure of 5% is still too high for the comfort of the creative industries, it represents a more manageable challenge against the wider ecosystem of content theft. Combining more contemporary measures of copyright infringement with this more familiar foe, however, prompts real cause for concern.

The value of emerging markets in the East is often held up as the future of entertainment income, particularly for American movie makers as they court increasingly wealthy Chinese audiences. But those efforts face significant challenges because of both stringent bureaucracy, as we reported earlier this month, and the kind of unchecked piracy that the Sandvine report highlights.

Whether or not governments in the Asia-Pacific are willing to crack down on file sharing activity remains to be seen. Their actions will play a major part in just how far Western creators are able to not only expand into these potentially lucrative markets, but also how effectively they can protect their intellectual property as they go.

 

As India Replaces Media Minister, Its Courts Lead the Way Against Piracy

We took a look last month at the potential prosperity of international movie markets outside of Hollywood, including a nod to India’s rampant demand for its own films. As in any popular creative market piracy rears its ugly head, requiring authorities to come to the aid of creators.

Well, the high court in Bombay came to exemplify this action last week, following heavy piracy of the film  “Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans.”


A mixture of known and unidentified offenders, including two cable operators, flagged the film’s popular appeal and flooded the local market with illegal copies of the title, which didn’t go unnoticed by its producer Abis Rizvi. Returning to court with specific cases of infringement, following previous appeals based more on anticipation than actual fact Rizvi found immediate support from authorities.

The high court issued an injunction against all parties involved in illegal distribution of the film, coming just one week after its October 31st release and instructing police to assist the movie makers in shutting down websites and physical “hawkers” of pirated DVD copies. Although it puts the onus back on the filmmakers to work with police to catch offenders, the speed of the support is what marks it out as exemplary action on the court’s behalf.

Arun Jaitley at Indian Economic Summit

Arun Jaitley | Image Credit: World Economic Forum

The activity comes at a time when India has just announced a new Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Arun Jaitley. Jaitley returns to the ministry after fifteen years away and would be well served to follow the example his capital’s high court has set in pursuing piracy with immediate action.

Prevention is preferable to cure, of course, and the latter comes firmly under the court’s remit. The former is best addressed by the politicians who define the laws that the courts must uphold. With a movie business worth almost $2 billion a year to his country, Jaitley will have every reason to steer his peers in the direction of protecting the creative minds that clearly thrive within the Indian film industry.

China Walks the Line Between Celebrity and Censorship

When it comes to controlling content, the Chinese government is more vigilant than most. A familiar frenemy to most major U.S. tech companies, it frequently clashes with the likes of Google to filter our search results and content that it finds objectionable (which doesn’t take much).

While the country undoubtedly wants the connections and revenue that come with attracting such major brands and services to its shores, the commitment to freedom of information that they bring is far less appealing.

China flag in front of aerials

Can China continue to obstruct digital airwaves? | Image Credit: Mark Tollerman

Now it appears that TV and movies will be the next content frontier on which this China censorship battle will be fought.

Through a series of convoluted red tape measures, Chinese internet service providers who plan to air imported shows will be subject to increased scrutiny and editing before popular titles like “The Big Bang Theory” and  “Breaking Bad” can hit China’s screens. For companies who could otherwise immediately serve up these headline shows to an eager domestic audience the delays are likely to grate.

The piracy angle to this story is perhaps the most frustrating, given that availability is such a crucial part of the formula for convincing viewers to use legal services. When shows aren’t available via a legitimate platform, the chances are that they can be accessed through an illegitimate one. In this case everyone except the piracy site loses, as legal services are denied a paying viewer, revenue is lost to the original creator, and even China’s government fails in its mission to censor an imported show. Many titles on piracy sites simply run in their original, unedited form, potentially cutting the government out of the loop entirely.

This comes at a time when China’s curious mix of capitalism-backed Communism has its own media giants extending their reach into Hollywood. Alibaba, for one, is coming off the back of a hugely successful IPO and a strong financial quarter, with a significant part of its plans to capture new users lying in the U.S. creative industries. On the export side, American studios are showing huge interest in further exploration of the Chinese movie-going market, where imported films are already subject to quota yet make up a little less than half of the country’s box office.

With such a rapid acceleration of its entertainment industry on both the import and export front, China’s government is going to have to balance an increasing number of spinning plates as it seeks to censor incoming content, curb piracy that circumvents its efforts, and still exploit the economic value that the creative industries present.