Category Archives: Copyright & Law

Universal Music Boss Pushes New Worldwide Anti-piracy Initiative

Jean-Ren� Fourtou, the CEO of Vivendi Universal met in Paris last Friday with more than 70 business executives, brought together by the International Chamber of Commerce from a broad range of companies and trade associations to unveil a plan to create an international organization called BASCAP, or Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy.

Bascap, the new Global antipiracy initiative from the ICC and Vivendi Universal

Vivendi are the parent company of Universal Music Group who have had high profile battles against piracy and Fourtou’s message was stern, “”This illegal activity is spiraling out of control. It is a major threat. It’s like a cancer”. Fourtou and the International Chamber of Commerce are trying to initiate a global offensive to combat the darker side of commerce and promised that the new initiative would “take the fight against intellectual property theft to a new level”.

Globally, it’s hard to believe,” Fourtou said, “but two of every five recordings are pirate copies.” One of his ambitions, he said, is to explain to customers the devastating results, particularly in countries like Germany or Brazil, where the fakes have drained away local investment in music. Fourtou wasn’t just talking to music industry executives but an eclectic and global mix of industries. Piracy is practically the only issue that could draw a tobacco manufacturer and a music producer like Vivendi, to the same meeting.

Fourtou took over the helm of the then flailing Vivendi from the ousted Jean-Marie Messier in 2002 after the company recorded losses of 23.3billion euros ($30.8billion), a record for a French company.

more [International Herald Tribune]

Related Reading
Corporate Anti-Piracy Battle Goes International [GlobeandMail.com]
BASCAP Programme 16pg PDF [Iccwbo.org]
Who Owns What:Vivendi Universal [CJR.org]
Speaking of Music Piracy.. [Wired.com]
Federation Against Copyright Theft [Fact-UK]
What is Piracy? [IFPI.org]

Kazaa Copyright Trial Begins in Australia

The long running saga of the music industry’s copyright battle against the worlds most popular peer to peer file sharing software Kazaa moved to Australia today as case number NSD 110, Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd v Sharman License Holdings Ltd got underway in the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney.

Kazaa's Copyright Trial Begins in Australia

At the start of a trial over the legality of Kazaa software, the court was told today that Kazaa had 100 million users worldwide, sharing three billion music files a month. Five major Australian record companies-Universal, EMI, Sony BMG, Warner Music, Festival/Mushroom and 25 other North American, European and Australian record companies -are suing Sharman Networks, which develops and distributes the software, for copyright infringement.

The labels contend that Sharman was fully aware of how the software was used and did nothing to stop copyright infringements. Lawyers for Australia’s recording industry branded the popular Kazaa file-swapping network “an engine of copyright piracy to a degree of magnitude never before seen”. Kazaa’s owners, Sharman insist that while they urge users not to commit music piracy, they have no control over what people do with the popular “peer-to-peer” software they provide.

Tony Bannon, representing Australia’s major record labels dismissed Sharman’s defense, saying Kazaa’s owners actively take steps allowing users to filter certain files from the network such as those that could contain viruses or pornography but not the files containing copyrighted songs. Bannon said the owners of the P2P software were seeking to get rich from advertising revenue based on the volume of traffic on the Kazaa network, while painting themselves as crusaders for music fans. Mr Bannon said Sharman’s actions were “all a charade” because it was interested only in making money from the copyright-infringing behavior of its users.

Each file traded on Kazaa has a unique digital fingerprint in the form of an MD5 hash a mathematical signature produced by running an algorithm across the contents of a file. This signature allows Kazaa to identify how many users are sharing the same file so that it can be downloaded from many places at once with complete integrity. If Kazaa were really trying to become a legitimate service, an obvious first step would be to block the MD5 hashes for known pirated files, argues the music industry. The reliability of P2P filtering technologies are still conclusively unproven however and are still under constant development.

Kazaa already has one major court victory under its belt, with the Dutch Supreme Court ruling in December 2003 that Kazaa’s then Swedish owners could not be held liable for copyright infringement. A possible difference in the Australian case is the recording industry’s invocation of the controversial, Anton Pillar Law that allows litigants in civil copyright cases to gather evidence. An Anton Piller order is granted when a judge is persuaded that there are reasonable grounds evidence may be destroyed if advance notice is given.

In February, after a six-month inquiry by the Music Industry Piracy Investigation unit of the Australian Record Industry Association, the record labels, organized under a cloak of absolute secrecy secured the Anton Piller order permitting a surprise search of Kazaa premises, to avoid any potential loss or destruction of evidence and legal authority to gather evidence without police being present. The information gathered has yet to be revealed.

The true owners of Sharman remain a mystery. Although it has offices in Australia, Sharman was formed in the island state of Vanuatu, a no-tax haven where the secrecy of private companies is sacred, improper disclosure of financial information to others is subject to criminal prosecution and tax information is not shared with any outside jurisdiction.

The Federal Court case, before judge Murray Wilcox, is expected to stretch over three weeks.

Related Reading

Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd v Sharman License Holdings Ltd (March-Copyright Suit) [Federal Court of Australia]
Anton Pillar Order [Wikipedia.org]
Kazaa Trial [Google News]
Trial to Unmask Kazaa Owners [Wired.com]
Net Music Swop Firm a ‘Pirate’ [the Australian]
Australian Music Industry Decries Kazaa [ABCNews]
Huge Music Piracy Encouraged [HeraldSun.com]
Kazaa Gears for Next Showdown [News.com.au]
Kazaa Heads to Court for File Swop Trial [CNet.com]
Hide and Seek (July) [APCMag.com]
Sharman Fails to Deliver Evidence Again:MIPI (May) [ZDNet Australia]
Kazaa Tripped up in Aussie Court (March) [Wired.com]
Telstra Attaks Music Industry Raids (Feb) [ZDNet Australia]
Kazaa Fights Court Order (Feb) [PCWorld]
Record Industry Commences Court Proceedings Against Kazaa for Breach of Copyright (Feb)[IFPI press release]
Inside the Kazaa Raid (Feb) [APCMag.com]

Hollywood P2P Lawsuits Get Underway

Little over a week ago rumours were circulating that the MPAA, which consists of seven Hollywood studios, were preparing lawsuits against file sharers of movies, in an action. Then ‘the Register’ claimed their source said that the MPAA were readying to file ‘John Doe’ suits against over 200 people seeking damages up to $150,000 for each movie placed online.

MPAA Start Anti P2P Lawsuits

Today the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed the first wave of legal actions against individuals they say are offering pirated copies of films using Internet based peer-to-peer file sharing programs. The film body also said it would soon make available a computer program that sniffs out movie and music files on a users computer as well as any installed file-sharing programs which would be available from their Respect Copyrights website, newly established to educate consumers about copyrights.

The trade group said it would also join with the Video Software Dealers Association to place educational materials in more than 10,000 video stores nationwide. Jason Schultz, an attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation said the MPAA messages seem contradictory: “They are placing these in locations where people are paying money for movies. They are sending the messages to people who are buying their products.”

MPAA Chief Executive Officer Dan Glickman said in a statement. “The motion-picture industry must pursue legal proceedings against people who are stealing our movies on the Internet. The future of our industry, and of the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports, must be protected from this kind of outright theft using all available means.”

In an earlier interview with USA Today (Nov 5) Glickman commented, ” We believe we’re losing $3.5 billion yearly. Someone sneaks into a theater with a camcorder, films a movie, puts it online for the world to see for free, and it gets duplicated into DVDs that are getting sold on street corners from New York and Los Angeles to China. If this is allowed to continue, it will sink our industry.”
In the same article it was pointed out by journalist Jefferson Graham that 2003’s box office figures were $9.5 billion, the second biggest in history.

Related Reading

Movie Studios Sue File Traders [Wired.com]
MPAA Touts Lawsuits, New P2P Fighting Software [ZDNet News]
Movie Studios Start Suing Web File Swappers [Reuters.com]
Film Industry Files Wave of Anti-Piracy Lawsuits [TechNewsWorld.com]
P2Pers Ask Supreme Court to Reject RIAA Ban Request [the Register]
Stealing Movies, Why the MPAA Can Afford to Relax [the Register]
New MPAA Boss a Comedian [P2PNet.net]
Exit Valenti [Lessig.org]
A Long Time Ago, in an Industry Far, Far Away [EFF Blogs]
Respect Copyrights [RespectCopyrights.org]
Federation Against Copyright Theft [FACT UK]

Music Activists Secure P2P

Music activist website Downhill Battle are developing their own ‘RIAA-proof’ P2P file sharing client. The ad free Open Source app is based on the multi protocol instant messenger client Gaim and plugs into instant messengers like AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, or Jabber.

DB say on the projects homepage that, ” Making a program that only geeks can use won’t cut it. The goal, after all, is to keep people out of jail. What’s great about integrating filesharing into an IM client is that the interface will be familiar and non-threatening to everyone. And the interface itself explains the security advantages of the program in simple terms: you share with friends. ”

Downhill Battle-Home Taping
They go onto explain: “We propose an extension to the GAIM chat client that lets users do Gnutella style search & download filesharing, where search requests propagate out to trusted buddies, buddies of buddies, etc. This approach has several advantages. First, people will be more altruistic sharing with friends and won’t be as worried about RIAA/MPAA lawsuits. At the same time, because they can share with friends-of-friends, and friends-of-friends-of-friends, they’ll often be searching a very huge library. This software will be just as simple as an IM client, and it will be easy for people to invite friends (so it spreads virally).”

The software is still in development. Downhill Battle sees P2P/IM-integration with Gaim as a way to stop US P2P file sharers from landing in prison. Proposed legislation is looming in Congress in the US. ( the Intellectual Property Protection Act ) that could see major file sharers jailed if passed.

Gaim is a multi-protocol instant messaging (IM) client for Linux, BSD, MacOS X, and Windows. It is compatible with AIM and ICQ , MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, SILC, GroupWise Messenger, and Zephyr networks.

Gaim users can log in to multiple accounts on multiple IM networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on AOL Instant Messenger, talking to a friend on Yahoo Messenger, and sitting in an IRC channel all at the same time.

In the light of thousands of lawsuits by music industry watchdogs like the RIAA, file sharers are leaving high profile (and usually spyware laden) file sharing clients like KaZaa in their millions and looking at more ‘secure’ and trusted underground software networks like Mute, Ants and Waste which offer more secure, anonymous protocols.

Related Links

Downhill Battle Labs [DownhillBattle.org]
Downhillbattle.org Bounty For P2P Gaim Plug-in [Slashdot.org]
Block RIAA File Share Jail Plans [P2PNet.net]
Ants P2P A New Approach To File Sharing [Slyck.com]
Trusted Computing, Peer-To-Peer Distribution,and the Economics of Pirated Entertainment [Harvard.edu] 11pg PDF
Jail File Sharers Bill Passed [P2PNet]
Congress Moves To Criminalize P2P [Wired.com]
Instant Messenging Planet [InstantMessengingPlanet.com]
Instant Messenger [Wikipedia.org]

Canadian Music Industry Appeal File Sharing Decision

The Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) today appealed a court ruling in which a judge ruled that peer-to-peer file sharing was legal in Canada.

Like its American counterparts the RIAA, the Canadian group is trying to sue file-swappers who are trading copyrighted music online. But in March, a court blocked the label’s trade group from obtaining the identities of alleged file traders, saying that trading music over programs like Kazaa did not appear to be illegal.

The Federal Court of Appeal should set a date for arguments in the appeal in several weeks. CRIA said in its appeal that the lower court should have allowed its cases against alleged copyright infringers to go forward, and reiterated its stance that unauthorized file-sharing constitutes copyright infringement.

Full story:CNet News

Related Reading

Canadian Downloaders Less Likely to Buy Music [MusicBizNews24]

P2P File Sharing Still On The Rise

Despite entertainment industry attempts to curb online song and movie swapping with lawsuits and education campaigns, more people than ever are using peer-to-peer services.
BigChampagne, which tracks Internet file sharing, says 8.3 million people were online at any one time in June using unauthorized services like Kazaa and eDonkey — up 19% from 6.8 million in June 2003.

The majority of files being traded were music, BigChampagne says. Porn videos and images were the second-biggest category
Since September, the Recording Industry Association of America has filed 3,500 lawsuits against music sharers who uploaded songs to the Internet. It has settled about 600 of them for fines ranging from $2,000 to $15,000.

Phil Leigh, senior analyst at research firm Inside Digital Media, says the findings are the strongest evidence to date that the lawsuits aren’t scaring people away from so-called P2P programs. “Many just don’t think they’ll be caught,” he says. And users have become savvier about adjusting software so they can’t be traced.

After the initial wave of lawsuits, research firms released studies suggesting people were spending less time on the peer-to-peer services. “What people say and what they do are two different things,” says BigChampagne CEO Eric Garland. “People were not willing to be forthright and admit to something that might get them sued. The fact is, peer-to-peer usage is much more widespread than it was a year ago.”

Full story:USA Today

Related Reading

Poll Shows Opposition to Download Suits [MusicBizNews24]
Music Downloads Overtaken by Movies [MusicBizNews24]
RIAA vs. the People [Electronic Frontier Foundation]

Technology, Law, and the Future of Entertainment

William W. Fisher III is the Hale and Dorr Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

Next month Fisher’s book “Promises to Keep: Technology, Law, and the Future of Entertainment” is published by Stanford University Press and promises to provide the first comprehensive, accessible overview of the conflict surrounding music distribution and the emergence of digital communications networks.

The book looks at how changes in the technology used to make and store audio and video recordings,in the last 15 years, combined with the communication revolution associated with the Internet, have generated an extraordinary array of new ways in which music and movies can be produced and distributed. Both the creators and the consumers of entertainment products stand to benefit enormously from the new systems.

And how we have failed thus far to avail ourselves of these opportunities. Instead, much energy has been devoted to interpreting or changing legal rules in hopes of defending older business models against the threats posed by the new technologies. These efforts to plug the multiplying holes in the legal dikes are failing and the entertainment industry has fallen into crisis.

The provocative book chronicles how we got into this mess and presents three alternative proposals each involving a combination of legal reforms and new business models for how we could get out of it.

One of those is ‘An Alternative Compensation System’, which takes up the whole of chapter 6 and is downloadable as a PDF preview, pre publication (August 9th).

Further Reading

Chapter 1:Promises To Keep:Introduction (PDF)
Alternative Compensation Systems [CrossCommons.org]
A Better Way Forward: Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing (PDF) [Electronic Frontier Foundation]
A Full, Fair And Feasible Solution To The Dilemma of Online Music Licensing [Quicktopic.com]
Private Copying, Levies and DRMs against the Background of the EU Copyright Framework [Europa]