Copyright Industry: Fair and Foul

Michael In the News

A ruling in mid-August is forcing the copyright industry to find another route to go after suspected infringers of Dallas Buyers Club.

Justice Nye Perram was going to allow the release of nearly 4800 netizens’ information regarding the uploading and downloading of the movie contingent on a few conditions. One of those conditions was approval of the letters that Dallas Buyers Club LLC was going to send to their targets. In the ruling, however, the judge did not approve certain sections of letters and ordered DBC LLC to pay AU $600,000 in order to proceed.

The smartly imposed contingency was to protect netizens against ‘speculative invoicing’ that has become the norm across the entire spectrum of lawsuits filed by the copyright industry.

Instead of proceeding by paying the bond, or even filing an appeal, attorneys for DBC LLC have said that they might instead reword their lawsuit in order to stake out a different angle against netizens who allegedly violated their copyright.

One avenue reportedly being explored by DBC LLC is the ability to hold individuals responsible for further uploading of the film- which is a dubious task to say the least. Although you can order who downloaded the movie chronologically; the gray area arises when trying to make the point of what users facilitated the further downloading of the film.

This being the case, it seems probable that DBC will not pursue further legal action in Australia- but don’t hold your breath.

No Stone Unturned

Though the ruling in Australia may have been a setback- however temporary, or permanent- to DBC LLC’s lawsuit; the copyright industry has made it clear that it will cross international borders in order to hold those responsible for ‘pirating content.’

The music industry is following suit. On September 3rd, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in UK, arrested a so-called ‘prolific’ Pirate Bay and KickAssTorrents uploader after raiding his home in Everton, Liverpool.

Not much information is known at this point, other than a 38-year-old man is being questioned after being arrested and several computers confiscated. Preliminary investigation from TorrentFreak also suggests that the man ran his own website from which he generated significant advertising revenue.

Police allege that the man uploaded hundreds of files which mainly consisted of weekly UK Top 40 and Top 100 Billboard tracks. His website also had acapella versions of the singles.

As reports, Mick Dodge from the City of London Police said:

Today’s operation in Liverpool demonstrates how PIPCU are prepared to travel nationwide in the pursuit of those suspected of being involved in the illegal distribution of content online. This is a crime that is costing the UK creative industry hundreds of millions of pounds, money that not only supports the artists but the thousands of technical and support staff working in this sector, and PIPCU is committed to working with partners nationally and internationally to target those involved.

The Pushback against the Copyright Industry

Although tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft aren’t necessarily against the copyright industry- they do want to pull back on the reigns a bit. These companies- and many others, including ISPs- face a ‘damned if you do damned if you don’t’ situation with DMCA takedown notices.

This is important for the companies that receive these notices from the copyright industry because if they don’t comply then they lose their safe harbor status. By losing this status the companies themselves then become vulnerable to the same lawsuits issued against the alleged infringers. On the other hand, it is on the companies that receive these notices to sift through the bogus claims. This is no small, or inexpensive, task. The number of takedown notices by the copyright industry regularly reaches tens of millions weekly.

Abusers of the DMCA takedown system include a firm that was working on behalf of Columbia Pictures that flooded Vimeo with a unworldly amount of notices in early August. The justification? The use of the word ‘Pixels‘ in the title. Victims of this takedown abuse by the copyright industry included works that were published as far back as 2006. The movie ‘Pixels’ isn’t slated to be released until July of this year.

Of those that had their content taken down was an NGO called NeMe which describes itself as an “‘Independent Museum of Contemporary Art.” A stop motion animation video for the song Life Buoy by a band called The Pixels and a award-winning short film called ‘Pixels’ created by Patrick Jean, both published in 2010, are two other hapless victims.

Other abuses of the DMCA notices include efforts to hide consumer reviews, stymie critics, and suppress political speech.

One case of an attempt to silence a political critic was fought by WordPress in 2014 after a DMCA notice from the copyright industry told the blogging platform to take down an article that was written in response to a press release. An article entitled “Straight Pride UK” by Oliver Hotham was taken down simply because the organization’s press officer, Nick Steiner, didn’t like what he had to say.

The ironic thing is that the justification used for the notice was a quote from a press release.

WordPress ended up wining the case and was awarded over $25,000.

A report by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), of which some of the tech giants are members, released a report suggesting some changes to the DMCA takedown system. One of the proposals is to set statutory fines for those that abuse the system. They suggest that abusers should face the same consequences as copyright infringers.

The Digital Age and the Copyright Industry

Copyrights certainly have their place in society. Given the capitalist society that we live in, the creative industry of today must have some way to ensure that their investment of time and money into projects isn’t stolen or misused.

However, with the growth of the digital age we must also ensure we place sufficient checks and balances that reach an equilibrium between the weight of copyrights and that of freedom of speech and dissemination of information.

Personally, I am against the idea of ‘intellectual property’ and many of the fringe uses of copyrights. Furthermore, art- whether it be music, film, images, or anything else- was initially made for the consumption of the masses. There are few people who call themselves artists who want to limit the number of people they are able to reach. With the same token, there are very few people who want to take ownership of others’ art. Instead, most people simply want to share a piece based on the way it made them feel in hopes of connecting with another human being in the same way. This to me expresses the core foundation of the creation of art in the first place.

feature image courtesy of The Opte Project

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