Tag Archives: Motion Picture Association of America

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.

A Glimmer of Hope in a Bleak Russian Music Market

Russia isn’t normally the first international location from which we expect positive news on copyright protection, so when it comes we’ll take it in almost any form.

Logo vkontakte.ru

Logo vkontakte.ru (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The positive in this instance is that the news involves VKontakte, the country’s largest social network and one that has come under substantial scrutiny from rights holders in other countries for its lax approach to preventing copyright infringement.

The negative is that the site is taking only the slightest steps towards rehabilitating its reputation, removing just one option that iPad and iPhone owners can use to access unlicensed content for free. The streaming function on the site allows any audio uploaded by users, including music that should be protected by copyright law, to be accessed across any device on which VKontakte is available.

Those Apple devices are now eliminated from that list, but it still leaves Android, Windows Phone, and any other computing device from which Russian citizens can log in to their main social network. That’s a lot of places they can still support pirated content, and not the most convincing move if VKontakte is trying to get in the good books of foreign rights holders.

The case itself is a microcosm of the wider piracy picture in Russia, where nods have been made to stricter copyright protection by the government but piracy remains a prominent activity.

As we reported late last year, the country made it onto the MPAA’s list of the world’s most notorious markets in terms of copyright infringement, and the International Intellectual Property Alliance has Russia blacklisted for similar reasons.

 

Vkontakte plays a large part in the country’s ongoing status as a rogue nation when it comes to piracy, providing a mainstream platform that presents content for free, without repercussions . If Facebook did the same thing in the U.S. it would be unthinkable, and we could only imagine the swift legal action that would bring a site of even that size to take swift action. To find a silver lining, though, we can at least say that VKontakte – and Russia as a whole – is slowly starting to move in the right direction.

Interestingly enough, the real motivation to become a legal player in a market that currently relies on piracy for its music and entertainment consumption, could lie just a fewborders to the west. In Scandinavia, the popularity of Spotify and other streaming services has coincided with a dramatic drop in piracy rates. Although it is early days for streaming, that success does seem to be slowly resonating in other markets around the world, pushing piracy to the sidelines in the wake of legal services that provide free and near-free access to unlimited music.

Flag of Russia

Flag of Russia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, with Spotify eyeing the Russian market to the point of an eleventh hour decision to cancel its planned launch early this year, other services may see the potential to profit, even where piracy rules.

Spotify’s hesitance seems to be based on concerns for Russia’s economic stability and other regional concerns, but VKontakte already has stakes in that game and will play whether or not it looks to streaming music as a source of revenue.

Rumors abound that the company, owned by Mail Ru Group, has been in negotiations with major music labels in the U.S., which points to a plan rooted in more legitimate content distribution.

So even though the news is only lukewarm for the moment, the potential for legitimate streaming services to rush in and wash away piracy in one of the world’s most notorious markets for unlicensed content is much more encouraging.

No Cold War-esque Quotas for US Movies in Russia

As many feathers as Russian president Vladimir Putin is ruffling around the world at the moment, Hollywood is not among them. On the contrary, the controversial leader is becoming something of a firm friend to the industry.

Following a commitment from Russia to block piracy sites last year,  Putin this week struck down a proposal limiting the number of U.S. movies allowed into the country. Describing filmmakers in the United States as “talented and successful people we can learn from,” Hollywood’s unlikely ally delivered an uncompromising commitment to giving Russian audiences what they want, without limitation.

Unfortunately, getting what they want when they want it is exactly the issue that president Putin must taken up with his domestic audience if his belief in creativity is to be fully realized. 

Russia ranks among the world’s “most notorious markets for piracy,” according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) own report. Sites based in the country include VKontakte, a domestic competitor to Facebook, and the less well-known but no less damaging Rapidgator.net, both of which are heavily used to share unlicensed content, including many of the American movies that president Putin so admires.

So while the MPAA will undoubtedly applaud moves that keep popular movies flowing into Russia without restriction, it will simultaneously be urging the country’s lawmakers to focus on protecting the copyright of those films when they arrive. This is no less important to Russian filmmakers who would benefit from greater income and legitimate exposure of their work to an audience at home, which is often the launch pad for international acclaim.

Even so, during a period of history in which Vladimir Putin will almost certainly be cast as the villain, it’s an intriguing plot twist to see him going to bat for one of the Western world’s most successful cultural exports.

MPAA Flags Global Offenders in its “Most Notorious Markets” List

A new infringement list created by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) underlines the global commitment required if creators in every country are to be protected from piracy on an international scale.

In a press release on Monday, the MPAA listed a number of sites, particularly in Russia and the Netherlands, that it classed as especially problematic in terms of online piracy.

Piracy demonstration international issue

MPAA list underlines the global piracy problem. | Image Credit: Wikimedia

Rarely far from the headlines, it comes as little surprise that sites in Russia, like the country’s Facebook equivalent VKontakte and the lesser known Rapidgator.net, are at the heart of a trend towards illegal direct downloads and using streaming cyberlockers to access unlicensed content.

But sites based in Europe are no less to blame, with Dutch site Uploaded.net and even Germany’s Netload.in featuring among a shortlist of what the MPAA calls the “World’s Most Notorious Markets.” The list has been submitted to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, following the office’s request for input from those familiar with the matter.

While the MPAA’s focus is inevitably devoted to the impact on the U.S. creative economy, its findings speak to the wider struggle facing creators around the world. All too often the sites that take their work without permission are based in countries where their creative reach ends

In an age of global connections and widespread Western co-operation on a number of international issues, it seems unthinkable that no consensus can be reached to take down notorious havens for piracy in locations like Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand. With wider global concerns at play in Russia movement is perhaps less likely, although even there a commitment has been shown to clamp down on the theft of intellectual property. The country’s efforts have tended to fall down after the tough talk is done, however, as the case of major music labels being forced to take their own legal action against the aforementioned VKontakte demonstrates.

Though the global will may be present, it seems that effective action on the ground is not. It remains for the U.S. Trade Representative to escalate the issue, which requires not just national but international attention if creators in every country are to be effectively protected and receive the revenues they’re due.

More Countries Pursue Anti-Piracy Education

The British government is coming under increased pressure to pursue a multi-pronged approach to copyright infringement. That’s the finding of MP Mike Weatherley, the man tasked by Prime Minister David Cameron with finding more effective ways to protect intellectual property (IP) in the United Kingdom.

Pulling no punches as to the importance of early education when it comes to copyright law and the need to both understand and respect creative rights, Weatherley states in his report that:

“The school curriculum needs to prepare pupils – from early years through to the end of secondary school and higher education – for the 21st century knowledge economy.”

If pursued by the country’s Prime Minister, the initiative would see new training for educational professionals on the legal side of IP, as well as a slew of resources like online tool kits and classroom materials to support the underlying message of any additions to the curriculum.

Education has become an increasingly important counterpoint to broader anti-piracy strategy. Where site shutdowns and political lobbying form the main drive of copyright activists, public education is the quieter follow up, a reminder that laws exist for a reason and legal alternatives to piracy are readily accessible.

The UK is just the latest country to pursue a deeper angle on piracy education. Following a concerning study showing that 7 in 10 people in Singapore engage in illegal downloading, the country moved quickly to explore not only blocking illegal sites, but rolling out information campaigns to steer new generations away from piracy. This was around the same time that the influential Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) backed an anti-piracy curriculum module called “Be a Creator,” aimed at promoting IP rights in the classroom and keeping children from the clutches of illegal activity here in the U.S.

Education is only one facet of the fight against piracy, but it’s ever-more important on a global scale. Countries around the world are quickly realizing that punishment is one thing, but when it comes to curbing illegal activity for a whole new generation, helping children to understand the value of copyright and the property of creators is something best achieved with early and subtle intervention.