Monthly Archives: October 2015

British High Court Blocks a Who’s Who of Piracy Sites

UK courts of justice

Royal Courts UK Crest – Photo Credit: Wikimedia

After three years in operation, a list of websites blocked by order of the British High Court reads like a who’s who of online copyright infringement.

Including such infamous piracy sites as Popcorn Time, isohunt, Bittorrent, and The Pirate Bay, the project has yet to hit 100 names, but still sums up the massive battle facing rights holders around the world.

As well as the hard work of the British Phonographic Institute (BPI), which makes up the majority of the block requests, further interest is to be found in claims from the likes of Cartier and Montblanc, clearly concerned about counterfeit watches being sold online, and the Football Association, which manages the viewing rights to Britain’s lucrative Premier League soccer games.

Both represent premium international brands, albeit in very different consumer markets, being undercut by sites that trade on their reputation but contribute nothing to its maintenance.

This diverse group of plaintiffs typifies the piracy problem; whether physical product or digital goods, any online intermediary that takes intellectual property without paying for the privilege damages the long-term viability of the brand and business that created it. 

The United Kingdom is, of course, a friend and similarly-minded market to the United States when it comes to intellectual property protection, so it comes as no surprise to see several claims from the Motion Picture Association of America upheld and enforced by British court order.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of many countries that host piracy sites, hence the ongoing  drive to “name and shame” not only the companies who play a major role in international copyright infringement, but the nations that let them get away with it.

The companies themselves also face a stark choice between legitimacy and piracy, as Alibaba is now finding out from its history on that same list of notorious markets. Facilitating counterfeit operations presumably did its growth no harm when it operated primarily to a domestic audience in China. Now that its hopes to continue the rapid expansion of the past year rest in the US, however, the ecommerce giant is having to lobby extra hard to erase that black mark(et) from its past.

Sadly, most piracy sites involved in content theft face no such problems. They hold no aspirations of becoming legitimate media sites, only a desire to operate outside the law long enough to make a name for themselves in piracy circles, attract enough attention to score some ill-gotten ad revenue, then disappear once they’re blocked, only to rise again under some alternative name.

The UK court’s list reminds us of both the progress and ongoing problems in the fight to protect intellectual property. Hopefully it won’t have to get too much longer to keep the major piracy sites out of business permanently.

 

 

Whether Carrot or Stick, Copia Is Using It to Flog a Dead Horse

It’s always entertaining to watch someone attempt to turn an old idea into a revolutionary one, so imagine our delight – or dismay, if anyone takes it seriously – to read a Techdirt article doing just that. Better yet, doing so under the guise of a carefully researched “report!”

If you don’t have the heart to wade through yet more head-in-the-sand, piracy apologist schtick, here’s the hypothesis: where legal streaming services launch, piracy drops.

 

Mind = Blown, right?

This unremarkable conclusion is communicated in a thoroughly clichéd way, within a report entitled “The Carrot or The Stick: Innovation vs. Anti-Piracy Enforcement.” The document is commissioned by The Copia Institute, a Google-backed think tank which appears to receive its thoughts from the tech lobby, pretty them up in Powerpoint with some clip art, before labeling them “innovative” and releasing them into the wild.

Less an innovative think tank, more recycled arguments from a stagnant thought pool.

To take this case directly, though, let’s neuter one false premise from the outset; enforcing intellectual property law and encouraging innovation are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the former supports the latter by giving inventors and artists some degree of confidence that they will be able to make a living from their groundbreaking ideas, without someone taking them without permission.

Nor does the fact that innovation makes exciting and legal new services available for our entertainment needs mean that there’s no place for anti-piracy initiatives. There will always be those who seek to profit from content that isn’t theirs to sell, and there will always be a niche of technologically-able users who have no qualms about circumventing legal safeguards to get take what they want for nothing. As we see in the cases of Kim Dotcom/Megaupload and The Pirate Bay’s founders, anti-piracy protection is key to bringing down the illegal side of the content equation. This actually aids legal services, who understand the need to compensate creators,  because they aren’t subject to unfair competition from those who feel no need to respect intellectual property law.

From there, the entire argument falls apart, because each area must be dissected on its own merits, with little or no correlation to the other. Yes, there must be a drive to innovate and launch new entertainment services. Yes, there should be legislation in place to prevent unauthorized services vying with those that legally source their content. But the two can live side-by-side, even symbiotically, without detracting from the other. Disagree with the effectiveness of specific anti-piracy programs, by all means, but don’t try to tell us that the existence of legal services means that all efforts to curb the illegal ones should be killed.

The idea that the entertainment industry is opposed to innovation and fails to launch services that consumers want is no longer just a tired argument, it’s on the side of the road, wheezing and, we have to hope, just about ready to quit the race.

Most mainstream consumers have not yet arrived at the streaming station, but everyone from cable companies to online-only startups is now introducing. From the MPAA itself, which so often bears the brunt of criticism , the Where to Watch initiative helps to guide viewers to the content . Such a sound idea that companies like Apple and Amazon, often held up as the height of tech innovation, are just now beginning to integrate Universal Search options into their streaming solutions!

The simple fact is that the entertainment industry is working hard every day to update its production and distribution to reach consumers when and where they want to watch. Most are willing to compensate them for this effort, be it in the form of subscription fees, one-time charges, or simply watching a few ads during their content.

There’s a section of the online environment, however, that tasted piracy early on and now refuses to give up the notion that they are entitled to take any content they want, without ever having to pay anything. As much as piracy apologists like Techdirt, appropriately named, try to sling mud on the creative industry for being dinosaurs and deliberately holding back innovation, real world products simply don’t let that stick.

Cheapskate (You Ain't Gettin' Nada)

An honest approach to piracy apologism? — Cheapskate (You Ain’t Gettin’ Nada) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rather than conduct “research” into the glaringly obvious to support their own ends, it would be refreshingly honest to hear something else we already know from this crowd: “we’re cheap and we don’t to pay people to create things that entertain us.”

It won’t make the attitude any more easy to stomach, but at least the arguments will finally come from a place that can be logically, if not legally justified.

 

 

After Marathon Negotiations, TPP Agreement is a Reality

If it seems like you’ve been hearing TPP this and Asia trade deal that every few months for years now, you wouldn’t be wrong.

A summit with leaders of the member states of ...

A summit with leaders of the member states of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) — (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have been ongoing for some five years now, but the agreement was confirmed by all 12 participants today, marking the largest trade deal ever signed. It now awaits ratification by governments in each country, which include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Taken together, the countries involved make up forty percent of global trade and a combined population of some 800 million people.

Viewed through those numbers – and understanding that the agreement covers everything from the agriculture and automotive sectors to pharmaceuticals and entertainment. The last two in particular have perhaps unexpectedly overlapping interests, with intellectual property rights at the forefront of negotiations for drug patents and movie copyright.

With such a vast marketplace in play and the potential to synchronize creative rights across some key countries, it’s no surprise that the agreement’s announcement is welcome news for North America’s creative sector.

Echoing the sentiments of movie makers around the country, MPAA Chairman and CEO, Senator Chris Dodd, had this to say about the agreement:

“Enacting a high-standard TPP is an economic priority for the American motion picture and television industry, which registered nearly $16 billion in exports in 2013 and supports nearly two million jobs throughout all fifty states. We look forward to reviewing the agreement’s final text.”

The proposed agreement creates a robust environment in which to ensure creativity is protected, and brings profits only to those who work hard to bring us the kind of movies and television productions that we enjoy every day. It sets a firm foundation for creators to sell and distribute their work, with less worry that international infringement will prevent them from taking the proceeds and channeling them into new productions.

Unsurprisingly, longstanding opponents of this landmark trade agreement are once again trotting out their familiar mix of hyperbole and confused hysteria. The myths are as many as those who believe the negotiating behind closed doors marks the TPP out as some kind of clandestine discussion, when in reality the final version will now face public and political scrutiny in every country that it will effect.

This is to say nothing of the many distributed earlier version that have already made the rounds after previous meetings between the participating nations, which have served to make the agreement a comprehensively reviewed document, even before it was anywhere near a reality.

As every media outlet explains, the TPP provisions will now face the full review that each respective member’s democratic process allows for. The negotiations were behind closed doors because they were just that, negotiations. If sufficient opposition exists in any participating nation, the agreement will not be ratified and will be forced to reconsider any sticking points.

If not, and if every government successfully explains to its citizens just how valuable the deal will be to their economic prosperity and protection of intellectual property, we will all witness an historic trade agreement that stands to secure and boost economies around the Pacific Rim for years to come.