Copyright Notice & Notice is Flawed

You may have read about the Supreme Court of Canada deciding Rogers can be paid its costs for telling a copyright owner the identity of movie downloading customers. What isn’t talked about is the notice and notice system that puts this in motion.

A summary of the Rogers v Voltage decision is here. Omar has written about this on Slaw as well.

This is a complex and controversial issue. The essence is that sections 41.25 and 41.26 of the Copyright Act allow the owner of a copyright (eg a movie studio) to create a notice to send to people who breached copyright by downloading the movie, or by allowing others to then upload the movie. At this point the copyright owner only knows the downloader’s IP address and their internet service provider (ISP) – not the person’s name or contact information. The ISP is obligated to forward that message on – hence the term notice and notice.

The concept of notice and notice sounds good on the surface. But no matter whether you side with the copyright owner or the downloader – it doesn’t work in practice – and doesn’t help either side.

If a consumer saw a notice that simply said:

We own movie X, we know you downloaded it, and your sharing software is allowing others to download from you. Delete it, and we will leave you alone. If you don’t, we might sue you.

most consumers would comply.

But in what I’ve seen, the notice ends up being a long email with that message buried closer to the end than the beginning. So the consumer’s first inclination is to delete it assuming it is just another unimportant message from their ISP that they can ignore along with other marketing, scam, and quasi- spam emails.

Like any email, if you don’t get the message across immediately and bluntly, it won’t be read.

The email tends to be long as the copyright owner must explain who it is, why they are emailing, and what they know about the consumer’s behaviour to convince the consumer it is legitimate, and that the consumer needs to stop. ISPs tend to add their own message on top of the copyright owner’s email. They want to clarify what is happening, who it is coming from, that they are obligated to send it on, and they won’t reveal the consumer’s identity unless ordered by a court. And both of those messages might be in both official languages.

That is understandable, but until those messages are structured to start off simple and blunt, and explain all that below it, they won’t be effective.

Cross-posted to Slaw

US ISP’s adopt (futile) 6 strike approach to illegal file sharing

That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.  It reads as follows.

Last week I mentioned a survey about the proposed UK 3 strikes law that concluded that it would not significantly deter filesharing behaviour. And added my views on why such laws are not a good idea.

Here’s a Reuters article that starts off by saying:

“U.S. Internet service providers, including Verizon Communications Inc, Comcast Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc, Cablevision Systems Corp and AT&T Inc agreed to alert customers, up to six times, when it appears their account is used for illegal downloading. Warnings will come as e-mails or pop-up messages.

If suspected illegal activity persists, the provider might temporarily slow Internet speed or redirect the browser to a specific Web page until the customer contacts the company. The user can seek an independent review of whether they acted legally.”

It is touted as an educational vehicle that will help reduce online copyright infringement.

In my view, that assumption is wrong. Consider all the efforts taken over the last several years to sue music filesharers – which clearly hasn’t had that effect. And consider that every time a lawsuit ends a filesharing site, others immediately pop up to fill the void.

3 strikes – or however many more you want to add – is not the answer.

People download music, movies and TV shows from various locations for many reasons. Fundamentally, I believe its because they want the content, and they want it when they want it. The solution is not to beat people up for wanting to consume your product. The solution is to make your content easy to get, timely, safe from malware, and inexpensive. In other words – find a way to get it to people when and how they want it.

US bills introduced to wiretap the net, and arbitrarily shutdown alleged infringers

We get upset when governments outside of North America insist on being able to monitor internet based communications.   But we shouldn’t get too smug about it, as the same thing happens in North America.  See these posts that talk about a new attempt to legislate backdoor internet access in the US, why its a problem, and links to other commentary.  CircleID       Techdirt

The three strikes concept just won’t go away either.  Basically it allows or requires sites or internet access to be shut down based on unproven allegations they are used for infringement.  A new proposed US bill would do that.  See the CircleID link above for their take on that.

Mike Masnick of Techdirt puts that bill in perspective by saying that the same logic used by the proponents of the bill would have in the past banned Hollywood itself, the recording industry, radio, the DVR, and other ubiquitous things.

UPDATE: Also see the EFF take on the backdoor bill.

Ethics of downloading something you’ve already paid for – Techdirt

Techdirt has a post that’s worth a read that talks about a debate sparked by the NY Times and Computerworld about the ethics of downloading something you have already paid for.  Its an issue worth considering, especially in light of an expected new copyright reform bill in Canada.   It ties into issues about format shifting and whether copying is theft when it doesn’t deprive the owner of what they have.

isoHunt operator vows copyright ruling appeal

For the London Free Press – April 19, 2010

Read this on Canoe

n December 2009, isoHunt, a BitTorrent and peer-to-peer search engine, was found liable by a U.S. District Court judge for inducing copyright infringement. The operator of the isoHunt website says he will appeal.

IsoHunt was founded by Canadian Gary Fung in January 2003. According to Wikipedia, thousands of torrents are added to and deleted from the website each day. Users of the website perform more than 40 million unique searches each month.

The isoHunt website is a file search engine, but according to its creator, it does not induce copyright infringement. This distinction is crucial because over the last few years, a number of peer-to-peer service companies have been shut down because they were deemed to have induced copyright infringement.

These players include Napster, shut down in 2001, Grokster and Morpheus, shut down in 2005, and TorrentSpy, shut down in 2008.

BitTorrent websites allow users to download files of any kind directly from the computers of other users. Fung says the isoHunt website is similar to a search engine, such as Google, as the website itself does not store any contents and the files are not downloaded from the servers of the websites, and thus should not be liable for inducing copyright infringement.

The U.S. District Court said Fung had solicited infringement of copyrighted files by the way he has designed his website and by comments he made in interviews and online. For example, the isoHunt website allows users to access the top searches or the top files by category. The website also links users to websites that have torrent files or that invite users to upload copyrighted files. The judge felt Fung was aware of the copyright infringement and actively induced the infringement.

More recently, Judge Stephen Wilson of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ordered isoHunt to remove all infringing content from its website.

“It is axiomatic that the availability of free infringing copies of the plaintiffs’ work through defendants’ websites irreparably undermines the growing legitimate market for consumers to purchase access to the same works,” Judge Wilson said.

Fung said Wilson’s injunction “amounts to nothing less than taking down our search engine . . . We’re discussing the mechanics, the process that is reasonable for an injunction. We’re still trying to hope that the judge will do the right thing.”

IsoHunt has also taken the initiative and sued the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) to get a court ruling regarding the legality of the website. This came before the Supreme Court of British Columbia in March 2009 for a summary judgment, but the court ordered the matter proceed to trial.

The line where someone becomes liable for a copyright infringement of another is not clear. U.S. courts have found some peer-to-peer service companies liable for providing tools that were deemed to be intended to be used for unlawful copying. But others have created services that essentially allow users to do the same thing but in a way that avoids liability for copyright infringement

Make money with music: Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model

Mike Masnick of Techdirt has published a post that is a chapter he wrote for a book being presented at a conference for the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers (IAEL).

Its worth a read, not only for Mike’s thoughts on new ways for the music industry to make money, but also to consider how that business model might work for other industries. 

Here are some snippets to get a flavour:

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of concern these days about what the music industry will look like going forward — especially from those who work on the label side of the business and have been around for a bit. A variety of things have caused rapid change in the market. Competition from other forms of entertainment, such as the internet, movies and video games, have put more pressure on the industry, as consumers have been presented with significantly more options for their entertainment attention and dollars. And, of course, there’s the ever-present specter of unauthorized file sharing — or, as the industry prefers to call it (accurately or not), “piracy.”

However, there is another solution: stop worrying and learn to embrace the business models that are already helping musicians make plenty of money and use file sharing to their advantage, even in the absence of licensing or copyright enforcement.

In simplest terms, the model can be defined as:

Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model

Sound simple? It is, if you understand the basics — and it can be incredibly lucrative. The problem, of course, is that very few seem to fully understand how this model works. However, let’s go through some examples.

This is a business model that’s working now and it will work better and better in the future as more people understand the mechanisms and improve on them. Worrying about new copyright laws or new licensing schemes or new DRM or new lawsuits or new ways to shut down file sharing is counterproductive, unnecessary and dangerous. Focusing on what’s working and encouraging more of that is the way to go. It’s a model that works for musicians, works for enablers and works for fans. It is the future and we should be thrilled with what it’s producing.

Three-strikes proposal divides

For the London Free Press – November 23. 2009

Read this on Canoe

INFRINGEMENT: It addresses concerns of creators and publishers of movies and music

The “three-strikes law” is a controversial proposal to address download infringement concerns of creators and publishers of movies and music.

The concept is that if someone alleges an Internet user is downloading copyrighted material, they can advise their Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP then tells the customer to cease this illegal activity. If this happens three times, the ISP must turn off the customer’s Internet access.

France recently approved such a plan, but not without a struggle. An initial version was ruled unconstitutional by the French courts. An amended version was approved this fall which calls on a judge, not a government actor, to sign off on account suspensions.

France is now viewed by supporters as a pioneer against piracy, leading the way by implementing this legislation.

The same proposal in Britain met with public backlash. Public consensus is these measures are too drastic and draconian. The measures will generate a bureaucratic nightmare while having little impact on the overall prevalence of file-sharing.

Other critics argue the increasing prominence of the Internet in everyday life makes suspending that privilege a limit on individual freedom of expression.

Even holders of copyrighted material are split on the subject. Artists, such as the music group Radiohead, argue that any effort to criminalize file-sharing is in vain. They believe artists would be better to embrace the potential of file sharing to share their work with a larger audience. This will allow them the opportunity to generate revenues through concerts and merchandising, and even the sale of their music.

Other artists are of an opposite view, believing that file-sharing restricts the ability of young artists to make a living, lessening the likelihood of success for emerging artists.

The three-strikes law is misguided, even if you believe such activity should be controlled.

Whether someone has violated copyright is often not a black-or-white issue. Copyright law is complex, and knowing in any given instance whether an infringement happened isn’t easy.

To implement these policies on a mass basis, in a similar manner to handing out parking tickets, ignores this complexity. And the penalty is more than paying a few dollars in parking fines.

The proposal is also open to abuse as sanctions imposed at the request of an alleged victim can be taken advantage of.

There are numerous examples of questionable takedown notices under the existing U.S. DMCA rules. In fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a Takedown Hall of Shame, which lists “bogus copyright and trademark complaints” which “have threatened all kinds of creative expression on the Internet.”

This points up another problem with the concept: violations need only be alleged, not proven. An individual may be accused and given a strike by their ISP with no proof of misconduct. Guilty till proven innocent is not something we should condone.

The issue of digital piracy will continue to be a contentious topic. The three strikes proposal is not a palatable solution.

Canadian bittorrent index site asks court if it is legal

A Canoe tech article says that the owner of the isohunt search engine for bitorrent files has asked the BC Supreme court to rule on whether it violates the copyright Act.

Seems that the Canadian Recording Industry Association has demanded that he take down the links – so rather than waiting for them to take action, he went direct to the courts to ask the question.

In essence, the issue is whether this site is no different than any search engine like Google, with no responsibility over what users search for and do with it when they find what they want – or does it somehow cross a line that makes it liable for any illegal or unauthorized copying that those that use it do.

This could prove to be interesting, and could have broader copyright implications affecting things beyond bittorrent search engines.  This is the type of case than can lead to unintended consequences, so one hopes that the court will take a considered look at the issues in general and the broader consequences of a ruling.