Tag Archives: ip

Varied Results for Organizations Who Want Off the World’s Notorious Markets List

Following on from the MPAA’s submission of international offenders who fail to respect American intellectual property to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the office today released its annual list of “notorious markets,” designed to name and shame those included into cleaning up their act. As has become the norm, it provided relief for some, and throws down the gauntlet for others to up their efforts in the year ahead.

The idea is simple enough: flag organizations and online platforms who facilitate the unlicensed use of American intellectual property.

Seal of United States Trade Representative Exective OfficeBy putting these companies and sites on show for all to see, the USTR forces them to choose a path; either commit to improving the legality of their site by removing content and practices that infringe upon intellectual property rights, or confirm that they have no interest in respecting the law and expect the appropriate authorities to come calling.

Marking the importance of protecting those IP rights, the office’s Ambassador Michael Froman had this to say about the 2014 out-of-cycle report:

“American innovation fuels our economy.  Intellectual property protects the contributions and livelihoods of the 40 million Americans whose jobs are supported by intellectual property-intensive and associated industries. The theft we’re shining a light on today is detrimental not only to creators and inventors, but also to consumers.”

The report singled out entities like Spain’s seriesyonkis.com, China’s Xunlei, and software provider Aiseesoft for their positive progress on curbing infringing content on their respective platforms, since appearing on the list’s 2013 edition.

Providing these positive results is an important element to the report, placed prominently at the front as an example to those who find themselves on the notorious list further in. A prominent example held up by the press is Alibaba, whose subsidiary Taobao facilitated counterfeit operations around the time the Notorious Markets list came into existence. Since then Alibaba has made significant efforts to clean house and went on to make a record debut on the New York Stock Exchange last year.

On the other side of the coin, companies that didn’t make it off the offender’s list must redouble their efforts. The gap between expectation and reality can sometimes be wide, however, as demonstrated in the case of VKontakte. The Russian social network remains on the list despite appealing its presence after it took steps to curb pirated content sharing. But as we discussed in February, VKontakte has made only limited attempts to deal with this illegal activity, and it will evidently take much more for it to reach legitimacy in the eyes of U.S. rights holders.

In the end, legitimacy is exactly what the Notorious Markets list is all about. It recognizes that the copyright economy is worth more than $1 trillion to the United States and a major provider of jobs around the country, and presents those that undermine that value for all to see.

If an organization that appears on the list has no interest in becoming a legitimate business in the eyes of the law, they will of course continue on their path of piracy, in which case more substantial legal power needs to be wielded to remove that threat.

For those who value their business credibility, however, the USTR is simply showing some tough love. Clean up your act, prove your commitment to valuing intellectual property, and next year perhaps your company can be held us as a positive example to follow, rather than an offender to avoid.

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.

As Legal Viewing Options Grow Globally, Excuses for Piracy Recede

Following a study by KMPG earlier this year that showed the vast majority of popular or critically-acclaimed movies are legally available online in the U.S., the same research criteria have been applied across the Atlantic.

The results? Very similar availability and an ever-expanding universe of outstanding entertainment for British viewers, all instantly accessible via legitimate online services.

Here are some of the report’s headlines for the UK market:

  • All of the top 100 movies at the 2012 box office are offered on at least one of the services;
  • 96% of the country’s all time box office hits are offered on at least one of the services;
  • 90% of independent films were available on at least one service;
  • 75% of top UK 100 TV shows were also available on at least one service.

In actual fact many of the numbers above could be higher as the study doesn’t take into account options like time-shifted viewing available from cable providers or similar services that act as content recorders.

All in all, the findings on both sides of the Atlantic mirror one another and encompass a trend that is inevitably going global. Thousands of services are available across Europe and the incentive for the most successful of them to expand into other international markets is clear. Legal options for the most in-demand and culturally valuable entertainment are coming online all the time, neutralizing one of the last lingering excuses for those who typically take it for free.

The hope for creative industries around the world will be that the rising popularity of legal online entertainment, which provide quick, easy access and improve the consumer’s experience compared to illegal options, will persuade those in more notorious markets to move away from piracy.

If the success of legitimate channels of content consumption continues to grow by turning torrents and illegal downloads into real revenue, the investment in that content and those who create it will be all the greater.

 

 

 

Cartier IP Case Poses Questions for Global Enforcement

Parisian luxury accessories company Cartier is set to test the waters of international intellectual property (IP) enforcement, as it goes after counterfeit goods sold online.

While this all sounds fairly standard for a luxury brand with trademarks to protect, the focus of its litigation is not. Rather than the going after the end-sellers and the websites that host them, Cartier has asked a London court to force the Internet service providers in between to block the offending sites outright. If upheld, the brand’s actions could give the green light for other international names to pursue similar action, potentially flipping the burden of enforcement to the middlemen rather than the distributors.

Unsurprisingly that’s a big “if,” as there’s plenty of opposition to this approach, and not only from ISPs.

Free speech activists and civil rights groups will also have a part to play, as whenever there’s talk of shutting down a site, there follow the claims that reckless accusations will be made and legitimate services or speech shut down without “a fair trial.” On the other side of the argument, brands and other rightsholders point out that when their IP is being infringed upon, value is lost with each passing day and their infringement claims are based on a sound knowledge of who is licensed and who isn’t. All ISPs need do to avoid being placed in the spotlight themselves is comply with block orders promptly.

site blocked notice

This approach to cutting off counterfeiting via its online middle men closely resembles a tactic being weighed by countries around the world to fight content piracy.

The so-called “number of strikes” legislation adopted by the likes of France and Great Britain calls on ISPs to warn customers about infringement that goes on through the connection they pay for, with a final threat of being cut off if the accessing of illegitimate content doesn’t stop. The same complaints are heard against this method of IP enforcement, calling the approach heavy-handed and denying the right to be online to everyone on that connection, in much the same way that blocking a site for hosting counterfeit goods would punish users doing nothing wrong, as well as those buying unlicensed products.

The path ahead is unlikely to be as clear as “block all sites upon any infringement,” but it’s obvious that something has to be done to empower rightsholders to control the way their intellectual property is used.

Bootlegging, piracy and counterfeiting are age-old concerns that have been given a whole new lease of life by being able to access consumers online. The problem has gone global and legislation now needs to rise to the occasion, not only by the countries in which the IP is owned but across international boundaries. There should be no safe haven for criminals intent on living off the creativity of others, and those who facilitate the connection to criminal activity must play some part, even if that doesn’t mean bearing the brunt of enforcement activities.