Category Archives: International Law

Redefining Copyright Law on Both Sides of the Atlantic

If there’s one thing that most creators can agree on, it’s that copyright law could use a spit shine for the digital age. For all the good its underlying principles do in terms of protecting original creative works, technology is fast outpacing its application.

United States - European Union map

United States – European Union map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The practical ability of authorities to pursue piracy advocates and curb copyright infringement is limited by the outdated provisions of some areas of copyright law. Those laws were crafted for a time when consumers got online via a noisy modem and could barely download an album without dedicating a day to the activity, making illegal file sharing a major effort, and streaming unlicensed content completely out of the question.

Fast forward a little more than a decade and we have blazing fast connections with the bandwidth to access any form of content via all kinds of channels, legal or otherwise. Torrent sites and apps like Popcorn Time are the new challenge to rightholders, and it’s not a fight that’s easy to win with copyright enforcement as it stands.

English: Congressional portrait of Congressman...

English: Congressional portrait of Congressman Bob Goodlatte, 112th Congress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to dedicated advocacy from creative rights advocates, US lawmakers know this is an issue and have been working hard to better understand how they can craft copyright law for the digital generation and beyond.

Few are more prominent in this policy making endeavor than the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, whose name is now synonymous with the two-year-long review of US copyright law that condluded earlier this year.

This week Goodlatte was back in action, conducting a ‘listening tour‘ that stopped in both Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, with the aim of obtaining wider views on the myriad demands on US copyright law. Some excellent coverage of  the viewpoints heard can be found under the #CopyrightListening stream on Twitter.

A selection of those comments shows how important many creators view the modernization of copyright law:

Copyright Listening comments on Twitter

Over in Europe, things are even more complicated.

Flag of the European Union

Flag of the European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


With 28 member states that make up the European Union (EU), copyright must cross more than just borders, working with multiple languages, varying cultural values, and different approaches to creativity. Nonetheless, the EU is planning a broad review of copyright in 2016, encompassing everything from a single digital market to more coordinated anti-piracy efforts.

The latter is particularly timely, as studies continue to show that piracy sites are significantly motivated to conduct their operations by the profits received from advertising and subscriptions. A key paragraph in the leaked correspondence on the EU’s plans makes specific mention of targeting this problem:

“[Anti-piracy measures] can deprive those engaging in commercial infringements of the revenue streams (for example from consumer payments and advertising) emanating from their illegal activities, and therefore act as a deterrent.”

All of this is music to the ears of rightsholders, who must often feel like they’re protecting their work with one hand tied behind the back.

Even when a creator knows where their work is being taken without permission and where to report it, the hit-and-miss complaint procedure and temporary nature of takedown notices makes for a time-consuming process. That’s time that most creative folks will tell you they’d rather spend, well, creating!

None of which is to say that copyright law is ineffective, but that its authority and enforcement measures must adapt as quickly as the technology that defines content distribution. Creators on both sides of the Atlantic will be hoping that their elected representatives can find a way to craft legislation that safeguards their work for generations to come.

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.

The Sky Is Falling, At Least in the EFF’s Digital World

“What color is the sky in your world?” 

A polite and gently humorous way to tell another party that their reality may be a little different to the one the rest of us are experiencing. Unfortunately it’s Chicken Little, if you’re the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and you inhabit a digital world in which the sky is constantly falling.

 

Nowhere is that more evident than this week, as the organization that charges itself with “Defending Your Rights In the Digital World” channels the righteous efforts of its legal team towards supporting Movietube, a site that excels in ripping off the digital rights of creators.

The concept is simple, until you choose to complicate and obfuscate in the manner that the EFF has down to a fine art.

Movietube and the  sites that it associates with its service are operated to serve up stolen content, unpaid and unlicensed from its original creators. That content gives the site a selling point to attract its traffic, on the basis of which it sells advertising, subscriptions, or both. Less some minor hosting and maintenance costs, the gap between what the site should have paid for that content and what it can bring by providing it for free is pure profit. Profit that the creative talent behind said content can never see, of course, because Movietube and its ilk are ripping them off without compunction or a care for the law.

The latter is important, because these sites operate outside of national law, in the digital world that the EFF is so staunchly defending. This is a world in which the creator has no rights or respect, and serves simply to make the content that others can profit from. To confirm this, look no further than the site’s policy on content licensing:

“Luckily we are not a US company, so we do not need to respect US laws.” -Movietube

By running their sites from countries without the motivation or means to pursue them, the current legal framework makes it extremely difficult to protect intellectual property across some international borders. Productions that might cost hundreds of millions of dollars and countless creative hours to make are immediately released for free public viewing in this reality, which begs the question: how are creators supposed to live in this world the EFF is trying to mould?

 

 

But while it conveniently ignores the legal transgressions of piracy sites in favor of spouting its latest Doomsday scenario, the EFF simultaneously exaggerates the legal action being sought by rightsholders in their suit against Movietube.

Far from seeking “one court order to bind… the entire Internet,” as the rather Tolkien-esque language employed in a blog by EFF lawyer Mitch Stoltz proclaims, studios are in fact seeking injunctions based on infringement complaints that are well established in copyright case law.

Moreover, these actions are pursued in federal courts that fully respect our founding legal principle of due process. Action is only taken against defendants if and when an independent court determines that the legal rights of US creators have been violated, and only binds third parties that have direct ties with the infringing party, by actively aiding that copyright infringement.

With these details presented, the only recourse for those with a pathological fear of any legal action involving Internet content restriction is to muddy the waters. By painting the issue with broad strokes Doomsday scenarios and infusing the discussion with the fear-mongering so characteristic of technology lobbying.

The sky is falling…. again.

Which brings us back to SOPA; such a frequently used crutch of the technology lobby that its original context matters not a jot, so long as it supports that aforementioned skyline from falling to whatever is chosen as this week’s extinction level event.

The EFF and its well-positioned cronies around the tech sector keep returning to SOPA for one reason: it’s the perfect rabble-rouser. SOPA is to tech populism as Obamacare is to the political far-right in the US, a cultural shorthand guaranteed to raise the ire of your rank and file, regardless of how it is twisted or inaccurately applied as a comparison.

As effective as this tactic is, it tends to be rolled out whenever the underlying argument against the actual issue is inherently weak. After examining the content of Movietube’s character, and the exaggerated rhetoric of the EFF’s argument against penalizing it, we’ll leave you to decide which world is the better one for creators to live in.

 

Beware Your Webcam! Overseas RAT Hackers Invade U.S. Homes

Webcams are among the latest tools being used by hackers,  who literally peek into bedrooms. This from a report, Selling Slaving,  just released by the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), focusing on a subset of hackers known as “ratters.”

The name is an acronym for “Remote Access Trojans,” an easily accessible type of malware that enables hackers to take control of individual computers from afar.

The computers ratters enlist in their efforts are known as slaves. DCA found international hackers invading the privacy of devices in 33 states, as well as other countries, with many providing commentary in Arabic about the response of their victims.

 

A RAT victim unknowingly captured by her own webcam. The video ran on YouTube – not the advertisement.

The malware is loaded by unknowing, often young users who frequent pirates sites like Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents. Once loaded the malware opens the door to everything on a computer, including its webcam. The invasion of privacy is made even worse by the fact that many ratters post videos, including victims’ names and IP addresses on videos posted on YouTube.

In a disturbing twist, many ratters make money through YouTube’s partner program, running ads on the videos for major brands, and splitting the revenues with YouTube.

The Digital Citizens Alliance also found that a number of ratters engage in the practice of “sextortion,” requiring victims to make videos or else face humiliation online though the use of information that they have acquired from their computers.

Here is a summary of some of the most compelling findings:

  • “Ratters” are aggressively launching 1:1 attacks on consumers and “slaving” their devices, is a growing problem. It takes ratters little time to slave hundreds of devices. From there, they can gather private information off those devices, which they can then use to “sextort” the owners of the devices. Some of the ratters’ victims have been forced to make videos where they must do as the ratters say or be publicly humiliated.
  • On the hackers’ chat room, Hack Forums, there are more than 1.5 million posts that discuss acquiring, creating, and spreading RATs (as of 7/22/15). Digital Citizens found one post where a Hack Forums participant offered access to the devices of girls for $5 and guys for $1. We found repeated posts where ratters said the best places to spread RATs were YouTube and content theft sites, like Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents.
  • Digital Citizens went on to YouTube and scoured through hundreds of ratters’ videos with ads from well-known companies – running alongside the videos. Many videos had the faces of victims and IP addresses to hacked computers. In fact, Digital Citizens researchers found IP addresses potentially connected to devices in 33 states and dozens of other countries.
  • On Hack Forums, ratters talked about how content theft sites, like Pirate Bay, and KickassTorrents, were great places from which to spread RATs.  Researchers also found YouTube videos demonstrating how to use content theft sites to trick victims into downloading dangerous malware.
  • Ratters can make money through YouTube Partner Program. If a ratter joins the YouTube Partner Program, and, like the videos in our report, their video is “approved” then it starts to be monetized. In the Partner Program, YouTube promises to split ad revenues with that approved videos for their traffic. You start getting views on YouTube, you start making money – potentially thousands of dollars. In a survey of 200 RAT videos Digital Citizens researchers found ads running on nearly 40 percent.

 

Influential Coalition Calls for Global IP Protection

A coalition of 85 think tanks, advocacy groups, and organizations has written to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to push home just how vital copyright is for vibrant economies around the world. The collective spans 51 countries and represents a significant request to develop intellectual property respect on a global scale.

The group, headed up by the Property Rights Alliance, reaffirmed their support for strong IP laws in a letter to the Director General of WIPO, Dr. Francis Gurry (pictured below, right, with actor Javier Bardem).

 

The communication covers eight key areas that the collective organizations believe cut to the heart of copyright’s social and economic benefits. These are:

  • Rule of Law, Property, and a Transparent Political Environment are the Foundation of Fair and Prosperous Societies
  • Intellectual Property Rights are Affirmed in International Treaties as a Human Right
  • Intellectual Property Rights Promote Free Speech and Expression
  • Intellectual Property Rights are Integral to Consumer Protection and Global Security
  • Strong Intellectual Property Rights and Contractual Freedom Promote Free and Competitive Markets
  • Intellectual Property Rights are Vital to Economic Competitiveness
  • Intellectual Property Rights Must Be Protected Through Effective IP Provisions in Trade Agreements
  • Intellectual Property Rights Must Be Respected and Protected on the Internet

As a set of guiding principles and touchstones for a stronger society, this is a compelling list. It’s all too easy to limit our thinking around copyright and intellectual property to piracy of music and movies, but the reality is that IP lies at the heart of our culture.

This is because strong copyright law drives creativity.Local access, global network

Knowing that what we create is protected by law and, accordingly, that we can leverage it for economic gain if a market exists, develops an environment in which creative minds can flourish.

They understand not only that their work will be respected, but that it will be protected so that they can build a career upon it, rather than just dabble as a hobbyist.

The letter echoes this sentiment in its conclusion:

“Advanced societies have long understood that by protecting the proprietary rights of artists, authors, entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors, they were promoting the greater public welfare. “

Urging the maintenance and development of intellectual property safeguards for the next generation, the letter neatly sums up the challenge facing creators on a global scale. With such rapid advancement of technology as we have seen in the last few decades, protecting the core concepts of IP becomes more important than ever.

Doing so on a global scale is even more challenging, but equally offers enormous potential for developing and developed markets alike.

The World Intellectual Property Organization is uniquely placed to guide treaty discussion and policy on the international stage, and it can aid creative minds everywhere by heeding the guidance laid out in the coalition’s letter.

 

The Reality of Asking ICANN to Unveil the Anonymous

One of the greatest strengths of the Internet, its ability to operate without right or regard for international borders, is also one of its most troubling. This truly global nature opens up unique opportunities that no other channel can reach but can also used to bypass strong legal frameworks.

Intellectual property is one of those affected areas, and it is for this reason that rights holders and authorities are trying to add a layer of accountability to commercial operations online.

ICANN Logo

ICANN Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Standing against these efforts is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Dedicated to blocking any initiatives that it fears will alter the early days of an Internet without limits – and often without respect for laws – this is an organization with its fingers in a lot of pies. And with its friends in high (tech) places, the EFF also has the funds and associated lobbying power that it denounces in other activist groups.

That said, it comes as no surprise to see the EFF rallying its troops for a debate around the responsibilities of ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – which is the US-based entity charged with keeping the Internet “secure, stable and interoperable.” 

That would be fine if the EFF had any intention of making its case in a calm and measured manner. After all, it is ICANN’s stated goal to hear from multiple stakeholders and come to a balanced conclusion about what the wider online community wants to see from the organization. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in the past, tech sector-backed lobbying groups like EFF tend to take an extreme tack to their activism, rooting arguments in Orwellian language and playing on fear as a primary mode of influence.
That’s a requirement in this case, because there’s no reason to believe that legitimate online entities will be subject to some unprompted mass outing and stripped of their digital liberty by rights holders, as the tech lobbyists are beginning to paint this particular picture. ICANN president Fadi Chehadé  said as much last week in Washington, confirming that the organization will strictly avoid becoming any kind of “content police.”

The issue here is about identifying the bad actors online through ICANN, not molding the organization into judge, jury and executioner. That said, there is still a fundamental role for it to play in securing creative rights online, as its stated objective alludes to.

As a fundamental organizer of the Internet, ICANN cannot avoid its responsibility to aid authorities when a crime is committed. Where anonymity helps criminals, whether content thieves, data hackers, our worse, it should be lifted to help investigators shut down illegal operations.

As a side note, it’s worth remembering that this proposal is not yet final, but it being discussed by a working group at ICANN.  Despite being at such an early stage, EFF lawyers are already calling this idea “troubling,” citing a desire to prevent spam and other minor irritations, at least in comparison to the theft of creative works that anonymity can sometimes cloak.

“Respect our privacy” is the call on early EFF materials. This should really read “Respect Our Piracy,” as the organization once again lines up to fight the removal of a key provision for hiding those who own the domains facilitating content theft.

ISP Blocks Show EU and Russia Driving the Fight for Copyright

As creators and innovators across the country celebrate the 225th anniversary of the first U.S. Copyright Act, it feels counterintuitive to talk about other nations leading us in the fight against infringement.

Nonetheless, the inescapable fact is that most of the decisive action against piracy in 2015 has come from outside our borders, be it Canada’s uncompromising notice-and-notice system that we wrote about last week, or the ISP blocks that are rolling out in the Europe: notably in the UK and even Russia.

The United Kingdom is currently at the forefront of handling piracy through the pipes, rather than at its source. The latest effort saw the country’s highest court order major Internet Service Providers in Britain to block customer access to sites like Freebookspot and Bookfi, which contain several million titles that infringe copyright. The Publisher’s Association sought these blocks after hitting its own frustrating million mark, namely the vast number of DMCA takedown requests filed by the organization and its members.

As we all know by now, these attempts to permanently remove stolen content by directly targeting the sites that host them are ludicrously ineffective, generally seeing the same content popping up via a new link within days, if not hours of being taken down. Such was the case with the books offered up by these sites, forcing the court to authorize more extreme measures and require ISPs to prevent access to them altogether. While there were undoubtedly some titles on the services in question that were legitimate, it’s fair to call any site reputedly comprising as much as 80% unlicensed content a piracy site. The damage to authors was far more significant than the licensed content benefiting consumers, therefore the legal authorities had no choice but to take decisive action.

The case is just the latest in the UK involving more severe measures. The lucrative rights to the English Premier League have long been undercut by sites that live stream their soccer matches, leading the organization to wage an ongoing war on any such site that gains enough popularity. These ISP blocks date back several years and have been successful in kicking some major offenders out of of the game. The battle is continuous, but worth fighting for those who rely on income from the sport. A similar stance has been adopted by organizations representing movie makers and musicians across the pond, showing authorities and the British government that piracy is a wider economic problem, rarely confined to a niche audience.

Western Europe is not too far removed from North America when it comes to valuing creative rights, so exchanging ideas is not unexpected. In terms of Russia, however, the U.S. would expect to be far in front of its old rival when it comes to copyright protection measures.

While it would be unfair to suggest that we lag behind Russia’s anti-piracy ideas – the country was after all labeled a “most notorious market” as recently as last year –  its government has been taking a much stronger stance in 2015. The latest order to block sites like The Pirate Bay stands in stark contrast to the U.S., where we can’t even convince influential American companies like Google to sink the pirates from its search results. Russia is far from being a flag bearer for free and creative expression, but it is showing the kind of uncompromising action that protects the work of those who do hold those values.

While it’s true that copyright infringement is an international problem that must be handled with cross-border co-operation, the value of U.S.-based creators is often disproportionately large compared to other countries. That’s not to denigrate the creative works of other nationalities, merely to show that the United States government has a vested interest in leading the world in the fight against piracy.

As it stands our country is doing far too much following, which does a disservice to the creative sector and those who work tirelessly to feed consumer appetite for entertainment and culture.

Supporting ISP blocks on sites guilty of flagrant infringement would be a good start to getting back out in front.

 

U.S. Looks North of the Border for Anti-Piracy Inspiration

Hollywood is the envy of the world when it comes to making movies. In terms of protecting them once they are made, though? Well, we might need to start looking to the Great White North for our anti-piracy ideas, as a new program in Canada proves to be rather successful in curbing infringing activity.

 

After just a few months in operation, the new Canadian notice system is showing drops in piracy between 50-70 percent on some of the country’s most popular network providers. The system is rooted in Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act, through which ISPs can be required to deliver copyright infringement notices to customers when they themselves are made aware of infringing activity.

Closing the loop between the makers and monitors, the firm behind the initiative – and posting these impressive numbers – is Los Angeles-based rights corporation CEG TEK International.

The results in Canada are all the more surprising because of the mixed results typically associated with notice-based systems, whether they come via ISPs or directly from rights holders.

We all know the limitations of the U.S. DMCA system, whereby rights holders flag infringing content links to the sites that host them, only to see a new link pop up with the same content and the original poster rarely taken to task for the act.

Also common are systems based on infringement “strikes,” where an ISP does notify the infringing party and/or those who access the content. But a strike system is based on escalating warnings and has generally proved too lenient, both here at home, and abroad in countries like France and the UK. The French law in particular, known as HADOPI, was reversed in 2013 after its more severe punishments were poorly enforced and users frequently found a way around the system.

So what makes the Canadian notices system more successful than those that have gone before it?

It is still early days, but it seems the threat of financial penalties are a key motivator in changing behavior north of the border. More importantly, these are not the mind-boggling fees that we saw in the early days of piracy litigation. Rather they are more manageable fines for non-commercial copyright infringement, which give the recipient pause for thought without coming across as a draconian measure.

Even with the maximum cap at $5,000 for these fines, those going out to ISP customers are significantly less. Ranging from the low to mid-hundreds of dollars, the price is not financially crippling for the user but certainly send a message that, even when it can be easily accomplished, content theft remains a crime.

How “Going Global” in New Zealand Hurts Legitimate Internet Providers

Last month we examined the issue of Internet providers in New Zealand being warned by the country’s broadcasters to take action against subscribers who use virtual private networks (VPNs) to get around geographical licensing restrictions. With these services, viewers around the country can access and view website content that might otherwise be restricted to other nations or regions.

Although this can sound harmless enough on the surface, when it comes to valuable content like movies, television, and music, there’s every chance it could mean the difference between business and bankruptcy for legitimate Internet providers in New Zealand.

 

Once you delve deeper it becomes clear just how intentional this practice is at a business level, not one driven by individual users. Several non-facilities based telecommunications companies – i.e. those with no central offices to pay for or networks to maintain – from New Zealand are engaged in the resale of broadband connections to residential subscribers. On its own this is of course a legitimate business model, much in the same way that non-network mobile providers in the U.S. make use of the main carrier networks to repackage and sell cellular services.

It’s the next step that has the major telecoms providers and rights holders up in arms, and with good reason.  As this article on Tech Policy Daily explains, the resellers are attempting to gain market share by bundling a DNS geo-block defeating mechanism into their broadband services. Essentially, they’re saying to customers that they can provide them with a way around those pesky viewing barriers, or “legal regional licensing agreements” to those of us who have some degree of respect for creative rights and control of content.

Where this particular article departs from fact is in suggesting that there is any argument that these non-facilities based resellers are promoting. One look at the marketing literature from these companies, or even the comments from those in charge, shows exactly where their intentions lie.

Take Slingshot, for example, who make no bones about their “Global Mode” sales pitch:

Slingshot Global Mode Plan

This marketing push is enough to assure customers that they will gain access to overseas content services such as Netflix simply by signing up with services like Slingshot.

What’s more, the offering is pitched in such a way that it makes it sound like this level of access is not only legitimate, but something they should expect from all providers. When those who have invested in networks, offices, and content licensing agreements specific to their country fail to offer such a global service, it perversely reflects badly on the legitimate provider, rather than the likes of Slingshot who are skirting the rules and riding on the infrastructure of other businesses.

The bottom line is that established and respected service providers spend more than US $300 million every year for rights to the content they bring to New Zealand. Add this to the cost of providing a variety of traditional and Internet-based services to customers, with all the infrastructure and capital costs that brings, and it’s a significant investment in bringing that content to the country in the many ways viewers and listeners want to consume it.

While there may be some lag between release windows, the fact is that legitimate services are constantly evolving to meet customer demand and the licensing agreements in place ensure that creators are rewarded for each new market in which their work succeeds. This is the basis for continued revenue to the most in-demand creative talent, wherever it is in the world, and a keystone incentive to keep production flowing. Free riders, in this case the businesses who trade on the back of other providers’ networks and promote unlicensed content as a competitive advantage, only detract from that carefully constructed ecosystem.

An important point to note is that this is a battle against unfair business practices, not taking legal action against individual consumers who pursue their own viewing practices. John Fellet, CEO of Sky New Zealand, confirms this point, explaining that “this is a business-to-business issue; it’s about creating a fair playing field.”

When resellers are able to contribute little but gain a lot in terms of market share, it reduces the incentive for those providers with a major capital investment in the country, like Sky New Zealand and Telecom New Zealand, to continue bringing licensed programming from overseas and, more crucially, investing in home-grown creative talent. In that scenario the large American services like Netflix have an easier time dominating, even if they their revenue streams are diluted by geo-dodging, as they cut by far the biggest slice of the global pie.

In the long term this inhibits innovation and limits production diversity, which is exactly what customers want, and how free-riding resellers play on their trust to promote access to content that hasn’t been paid for.

U.S. Creators Will Benefit From Strong International Copyright Agreements

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and associated trade agreements took a step closer to becoming a reality last week, as a bill was introduced to the U.S. Senate that establishes negotiating objectives for the President.

As previously reported, talks between national representatives have been ongoing for some time, as negotiators lay the foundations for one of the most significant trade pacts of our time, covering everything from regulatory and currency practices to intellectual property rights.

It is the latter, of course, that much of our coverage has focused on, and which also has been an important talking point across media reports concerning the TPP.

A statement from Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars underlines this importance, expressing support for the approach adopted by senators in this legislation. Aistars explains:

“To meaningfully take advantage of the expanding opportunities presented by both technology and trade, creators rely on strong enforcement of copyright protections consistent with U.S. law.”

 

English: A North American Free Trade Agreement...

English: A North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the wider sense, expansive trade agreements have long held benefits for U.S. business, despite attempts to derail them at the time of negotiation.

1994’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, was criticized for its potential to see trade value leak from the country and cause an expected decline in key industries. Today it is credited with boosting the trade of U.S. goods and services with Mexico and Canada considerably, rising from $337 billion in 1993 to $1.2 trillion in 2011.
Despite opposition attempts to portray the negotiations as cloak and dagger, the Transpacific talks have been conducted no differently than any other major trade deal; the talking points, which are evisently public, are set up to frame the talks, after which details are thrashed out in private, as it should be, until the participants have the basis for an agreement that they can take back and present to their national authorities.

In the U.S. that means any potential agreement passing through a rigorous and robust legislative process, which from recent experience we all know to be a stern test of bipartisan support. If any proposal that emerges can win such support from both sides of the aisle, it would seem fair to suggest that its potential to boost the American economy is suitably convincing. We elect our officials to do this job and should trust their judgment when it comes to international trade just as we must in almost every other legislative matter.

If these negotiations – and resulting agreements – can strengthen international copyright protections and boosts long term trade at the same time, U.S. creators will be all the better for it.