Tag Archives: international law

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.

 

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.

Spain Pushes Google’s Buttons Over News Content

Europe has long held a healthy concern about the power wielded by search giant Google. With more than 80% market share and increasingly influential in all areas of technology, from desktop to mobile, browser to cloud computing, the company has found opposition mounting around the European Union in various guises.

Now it’s the turn of Spain, but the country’s government appears to have gone too far with its attempt to squeeze Google over its News product.

The so-called “Google tax,” which was passed last week, intends to collect revenue from online news providers who aggregate headlines from Spanish media outlets. It goes into effect on January 1st, 2015, but Google chose to act preemptively to avoid charges and earlier today shut down its news item content from Spanish content providers.

The law has been widely criticized by journalists, especially in the technology sector, for being over prescriptive and getting its just desserts with Google pulling the plug on a product that provides valuable traffic to the country’s publications. That criticism largely fails to delve into the nuance of intellectual property, however, and present the other side of the argument that publishers should have a right to dictate how and when their content is used.

In some cases the news that Google presents may in itself stand as a piece of content, in which case it benefits the search engine but not the publication whose headlines it has pulled. Spain’s law does go too far in the other direction though, making payments mandatory and giving publishers no option to decide that they want to give away these snippets in exchange for the traffic that a search engine can send them.

For its part Google’s reasoning that it makes no money on news, while accurate in fact, seems somewhat disingenuous. Although its News section makes no revenue from ads directly, it’s certainly a factor that attracts users who go on to search the company’s other listings, building its brand and generating revenue on ad clicks in those paid sections. In that sense at least, Google is playing off the content of others – in this case snippets of their reports – in order to bring in the eyeballs that swell its allure for advertisers.

More than anything else this case demonstrates just how fine a line content creators now walk, in terms of monetizing what they create directly versus giving elements of it away for free in order to play the long game. For news sites that means traffic to sell its adverts or subscriptions for more. As that traffic is likely to dip substantially without Google in the weeks and months to come, it’s understandable why Spanish publishers are quickly backtracking on this attempt to push Google’s buttons.

TPP Trade Negotiations Re-open in Australia

The latest round of talks to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership began in Canberra, Australia yesterday, bringing the twelve participating nations back together to discuss wide-ranging trade issues.

The negotiations will have a significant impact on how the major nations handle intellectual property rights, among other things, and an early leak of the copyright proposals has stoked online opinion, even before any clear consensus has been reached by participants.

Canberra Australia

Canberra Parliament | Image Credit: Brenden Ashton

 

The provisions include a standard copyright term, generally mooted as life of the creator plus somewhere between 50-100 years, measures to prevent getting around Digital Rights Management systems designed to prevent piracy, and a form of penalizing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for illegal access that occurs through the connections they run.

On the latter point participating nations are being particularly careful. Despite feeling that ISPs have a supporting role to play in enforcing intellectual property law, the tendency towards draconian measures such as long term disconnections and jail time has long since passed. The desire now, as indicated by Australia’s attempts to put cost limits in place and the wider desire for some form of intermediary “safe harbor,” is to bring ISPs more effectively into the fight for copyright protection. This is something that their business depends on, given how much content is consumed online and the increasing popularity of streaming music and movies.

As early drafts of the proposal confirm, the end game here is to create “remedies for rights holders to address copyright infringement in the online environment.” This has to be a good thing for creative rights, but it hasn’t been a smooth ride for the TPP so far.

Even with opposition to the way the negotiations are being held behind closed doors (not at all irregular for early draft international treaties) and the concern that any legislation will overreach (though individual nations will still be responsible for how they integrate any requirements into their own legal systems), the outcome of the TPP should accomplish a long overlooked goal: to help creators take control of their intellectual property rights beyond their own borders.