Tag Archives: content theft

Live Streaming Apps Are the Latest Way for Piracy to Leap Borders

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.

 

 

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.

 

Does ICANN Hold the Key to International IP Protection?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is a not-for-profit organization based in California, but charged with activities of global importance.

Plaque on the ICANN (Internet Corporation for ...

Plaque on the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) head office, Del Rey, California, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With a remit to preserve the operational stability of the Internet and provide appropriate representation for the international Internet community, developing policies that reflect this broad mission.

If that scope sounds wide, it should. ICANN holds a great deal of responsibility, on a technical level especially, operating servers that underpin Internet standards and managing major developments, such as the recent roll out of new top level domains around the world (why you’re seeing New York firms jump the .com ship for .nyc domain, and many artists adopting a .music address).

Indeed, what ICANN should and should not be involved with is an ongoing debate, as evidenced by recent concerns over its ability to cut off domains facilitating copyright infringement and other fraudulent activity.

Letters from the MPAA and RIAA asking ICANN to do more were last month labeled as requests for the organization to start “policing the Internet.” Again, this is a huge overstatement, designed to instill fear in the general public that studios and record labels are out to get them.

But this is a general request to bring ICANN on the side of creators and help to protect their rights. The organizations that represent them have simply asked that ICANN react to the “use of domain names for illegal and abusive activities, including those related to IP infringement.”  Essentially, this is a request to enforce laws that already exist and leverage their position to do more across international boundaries, where individual nations can run into bureaucratic barriers, depending on which other the country is home to the site infringing upon IP.

There is no concrete action in place, but the ultimate threat of taking a pirate or fraudulent domain should be a real one, albeit used . This is a move to align the ability of creators to protect their work by flagging infringement wherever it happens in the world and taking steps to remove it, not to arbitrarily take offline any site that is accused of piracy.

Basically, creators are asking that they be allowed to raise the red flag to ICANN for closer review, not push the red button on any site they flag.

 

 

Parallels to the Advertising Industry

There are plenty of scare tactics employed by open Internet activists when it comes to measures designed to curb copyright infringement. The ability to remove a site from global access is of course a significant power, but it’s important to remember why this occurs in the first place: these sites are stealing content for their own profit.

In cases like The Pirate Bay, the aim is so clear it’s in the name, so perhaps the public is less tolerant of overt piracy. When the lines are blurred by a mixture of seemingly legitimate business and hosted files that infringe copyright, however, there is a tendency to claim that those who own the rights to that intellectual property are overstepping the mark.

The reality is that any instance in which an online business claims legitimacy, yet hosts a large amount of content without permission from the owner, that business has a responsibility to police its own servers. If they neglect that responsibility, or simply choose to ignore copyright claims, the only recourse of IP owners in any country is to threaten to cut them off. As an entity with global reach to that end, ICANN is a logical organization to work alongside rights holders to make infringing sites aware that their online status is at risk.

There should certainly be a review process for any site that ICANN is asked to remove from its registry, and parallels can be found in the advertising industry, which just introduced a new anti-piracy and anti-fraud initiative with broad support.  

In this system, sites that host advertising are subject to various tests of legitimacy by an independent consulting body, before receiving a risk score that empowers advertisers to cut them out of their ad network selection. Cutting off this source of income from big brands is a real enough threat that any legitimate site worth its salt will work to clean up its act and request a review of its risk status. Meanwhile, the illegitimate sites that have no business model outside of ripping off original creative works will see a crucial source of revenue dry up.

There is no panacea to cure piracy on a global level, but it can certainly be curbed from sites that occupy the middle ground and simply need a nudge in the right direction. This works in some cases for the US Trade Representative office, as we noted in the case of its “Notorious Markets” name and shame report, and it will take organizations with global reach to effect similar

These initiatives need not be draconian, as so many activists automatically try to imply, but they must have sufficient teeth to spur infringing sites into action. ICANN is one intermediary that has the bite to help creators protect their work, while first using its bark to warn sites that are on its complaint list, giving them an opportunity to turn things around.

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.