In a world where data flows across international borders even more fluidly than the rivers and waterways that tend to form them, it’s hard for creators to control how and where their work is released.
Nonetheless, geographical restrictions do exist to provide some measure of regulation in the digital ecosystem; designed to maintain strategic release windows in the multi-faceted movie world, for example, or to allow artists to test the waters in certain markets before expanding their work to others. Whatever the reason, it should be enough to say that a creator has the right to release what she makes on her own terms, from which audience respect should extend to abiding by any restrictions included in that creative agenda.
As we recently examined with the geo-block hacking trend in New Zealand and Australia, however, that isn’t always the case. Next it could be the turn of live streaming services to curb creative rights, as apps like Periscope and Meerkat make it harder for international release schedules to be respected.
The potential for piracy across live streaming apps was raised almost immediately when they first rose to prominence earlier this year. After standing out at the annual technology tussle of South By Southwest, users were quick to corrupt the video streams with unlicensed broadcasts of the much-hyped Pacquiao-Mayweather fight in May. The event provided an instant audience eager to seek out any source for the bout, in real time, and with no free moment or motivation to verify the legality of the broadcaster — most were, of course, unlicensed and completely in breach of copyright law.
Live streaming piracy adds another layer of difficulty to tracking and taking down content thieves. By its very nature it is Immediate, tough to ; if the DMCA takedown process for permanently posted content feels like Whac-a-mole, this is the same game cranked up to full speed when it comes to live streaming
Unsurprisingly, rightsholders are rising to the challenge of curbing unlicensed use of their work on these new channels.
Twitter’s recent ‘Transparency Report’ reveals a groundswell of takedown notices against its new service Periscope, with the number only expected to surge if the company fails to keep its house clean. Already those request numbers are in the thousands, with the app having only a small, early adopter user base. Given the millions of takedown notices filed with Google in any given period, Twitter can hopefully see the value in preventing a more serious piracy problem before it begins.
What’s clear is that every new technological leap brings a new challenge to the protection of intellectual property and its release on the international stage. Live streaming apps offer users the opportunity to share their view of the world in real time, quickly and easily, which is an outstanding advance. It can be great fun and will undoubtedly add to the immersive experience of social networks.
What live streaming must not do is be allowed to bypass the compensation system for creators and rightsholders when their content is distributed via these new channels. In fact, a business and growth opportunity exists for the likes of Periscope and Meerkat, in that they could choose to negotiate official deals to broadcast such content and take advantage of their unique position to satisfy in-the-moment demand right from the outset.
Whether or not a service is willing to realize this vision remains to be seen, but all live streaming providers can be certain that creators will not sit on the sidelines if and when their work is offered without their permission, be it at home or streamed across international borders.