Pirate Bay Documentary Filmmaker on Politics of File-Sharing

Filmmaker Simon Klose released his documentary on the founders of The Pirate Bay last week. “TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard” follows the founders over a four year period of time, through their ongoing legal struggles, technical issues and battles with large corporations. In an interview with The Verge, Klose shares his thoughts about online piracy, file-sharing, Kim Dotcom, politics and international copyright laws. Continue reading Pirate Bay Documentary Filmmaker on Politics of File-Sharing

U.S. Copyright Office Says it is Illegal to Unlock Phones

It is now illegal for U.S. customers to unlock phones to enable them to work on different networks. “The U.S. Copyright Office is no longer granting unlocking an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA makes it illegal to ‘circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access’ to copyrighted material, in this case software embedded in phones that controls carrier access,” explains Wired. Continue reading U.S. Copyright Office Says it is Illegal to Unlock Phones

Kim Dotcom Debuts File-Sharing Service to Replace Megaupload

Kim Dotcom, the founder of defunct Megaupload.com, has launched a new website called “Mega.” The file-sharing site drew half a million users within its first 14 hours of operation. Dotcom, who has been battling prosecutors since Megaupload’s assets were seized, claims the new site is legal and compliant with copyright law. However, U.S. prosecutors declined to comment. Continue reading Kim Dotcom Debuts File-Sharing Service to Replace Megaupload

Aereo: Will AdWords Campaign Prove Copyright Infringement?

Do Aereo’s search marketing tactics prove that the TV service infringes copyright? A coalition of networks suing the company “says in court papers that it needs to examine records from Google about Aereo’s AdWords campaigns. That advertising information allegedly ‘bears directly’ on whether Aereo’s $8-a-month service potentially harms the market — which can be a factor in copyright infringement,” reports MediaPost. Continue reading Aereo: Will AdWords Campaign Prove Copyright Infringement?

Year in Review: Top Tech Policy Stories of 2012

From Kim Dotcom and the rise of patent troll lawsuits to Apple v. Samsung and the public outcry against SOPA/PIPA, 2012 was a dramatic year in terms of copyright law, tech-related legislation and Internet policy. Response to the SOPA/PIPA bills in January helped set the tone as the debate in Washington raged, and consumers and companies took to the Internet in protest. At one point, politicians were flooded with a record eight million e-mails from regular Internet users in just a few days. So what were the top tech policy stories for 2012 — and how will they impact us moving forward? Continue reading Year in Review: Top Tech Policy Stories of 2012

Aereo Pays for TV Content: Strikes Deal with Cabler Bloomberg TV

We’ve been following this year’s legal battles of Aereo as major broadcast networks have sued the online TV startup over copyright infringement. Since the service streams TV signals of New York stations for a monthly fee without paying for the right to carry signals, Aereo has created an uproar in the television industry. Now Aereo has begun paying for content, after adding Bloomberg TV to its program lineup.

“We believe that our members will see deep value adding in Bloomberg Television as their ‘go-to’ source for financial news,” said Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia in a written statement. The service also plans to announce expansion to 15 new cities early next year. Kanojia recently said that Aereo is pursuing additional content deals.

“Meanwhile, Aereo and major broadcasters are awaiting a critical decision from an appeals court in their legal battle,” notes the Wall Street Journal. “Last month broadcasters argued their appeal of a lower court’s decision in July denying the broadcasters’ request for a preliminary injunction shutting down Aereo’s service.”

The legal battle could take years to be resolved. “Without a preliminary injunction, Aereo has time to expand and streaming competitors also have a chance to emerge,” notes WSJ.

New York Appeals Court Seems Skeptical About Aereo Television Service

A federal appeals court panel is skeptical whether streaming service Aereo has the right to retransmit broadcast television content without permission, but has yet to issue a decision. Three judges of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals appeared ready to reverse July’s lower court decision that reluctantly gave Aereo approval.

ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are among the networks appealing the lower court judge’s decision that cited a Cablevision DVR case to allow Aereo to operate.

“Cablevision was a storage service, not a retransmission service,” says Bruce Keller, the networks’ attorney. “Aereo is a retransmission service by its own design. Without a license, it violates copyrights.” Paul Smith, another lawyer for the broadcasters, told the panel that the startup was trying to turn the Cablevision case “into a complete carte blanche where people can violate copyrights.”

Meanwhile, Aereo insists that it is complying with copyright laws and provides a legal, alternate platform for free TV broadcasts. Attorney R. David Hosp argued that Aereo lets customers “rent remotely located antennas to access content they could receive for free by installing the same equipment at home,” notes the Wall Street Journal.

“Aereo has grown from 100 users to more than 3,500 in the last year and has expanded from Apple devices such as the iPhone and iPad to devices including Windows computers,” reports WSJ. “It lets customers capture broadcasts from 29 local channels with subscriptions starting at $8 a month.”

Copyright Issues: Will 3D Printing Prove to be a Disruptive Technology?

  • 3D printers can reproduce objects by spraying layers of plastic, metal or ceramics into shapes based on photos or designs. Some models already cost less than a computer did in 1999.
  • The technology allows users to copy vases, board game pieces, protective covers for phones and even pieces of furniture. Imagine eventually being able to “print” parts for cars, bicycles, computers, cameras and much more.
  • “Call it the Industrial Revolution 2.0,” suggest The New York Times. “Not only will it change the nature of manufacturing, but it will further challenge our concept of ownership and copyright. Suppose you covet a lovely new mug at a friend’s house. So you snap a few pictures of it. Software renders those photos into designs that you use to print copies of the mug on your home 3D printer.”
  • “Copyright doesn’t necessarily protect useful things,” said Michael Weinberg, a senior staff attorney with Public Knowledge, a Washington digital advocacy group. “If an object is purely aesthetic it will be protected by copyright, but if the object does something, it is not the kind of thing that can be protected.”

Panel Notes from FoE 5: The Futures of Serialized Storytelling

The following are some notable comments from a panel at last week’s Futures of Entertainment conference at MIT.

Panel: “The Futures of Serialized Storytelling”

  • Science fiction is perfect for serialized storytelling because of a large story world that can generate.
  • Today’s distractions are forcing TV to focus on its best skill, large live events.
  • Serialized drama is really moving to time-shifted. About 50-60 percent of a drama (in theUK) is moving to time-shifted viewing.
  • The large challenge for storytellers is how to deal with asynchronous drama. Do writers and show runners still use mechanisms such as cliffhangers, when a large amount of viewing happens 6-12 months after the show?
  • Three types of audiences: skimmers, dippers and divers. Skimmers watch the show but offer no other engagement. Dippers will engage beyond the TV, and watch clips and other content online. And divers are the hardcore fans that engage with each other and all the content you put out.
  • You spend the most time and energy to produce content for divers. Even though divers are a small slice of the audience, they are the most active. They are the core of your “word of mouth campaign.”
  • TV producers are out of touch, they have been too focused on ratings. They have to get back into the crowd. They have to rebuild their skills of “listen and response.”
  • For the past five years dramas have been produced in a bubble, driven by executives and ratings. Or copying formulas that may have worked in the past. Very little has happened to create new stories.
  • It’s important to pace your engagement with the audience. It’s not always about putting out loads of content up front. You must fold in content for the hardcore fans but not alienate the regular fans.
  • The more we move into a digital world, the more important the physical tangible experience becomes. It can be a great tool to engage with audiences. For example, “Game of Thrones” food trucks. But on the flip-side, distribution is very difficult.
  • Twitter (social media) serves to amplify the liveliness of TV.
  • Dramas are not built for Twitter during the show; we see much more Twitter activity after the show.
  • “The X-Factor” seems to be designed for half of your attention. It allows for audiences to tweet during the show.
  • In social media, we know that the audience members aren’t directing their comments to the show, they are talking to their friends.
  • We’re going back 150-200 years ago, during the age of Shakespeare, when a story was told in front of an audience that reacted and talked and commented openly.
  • The TV or the movie screen should be the primary source of storytelling. The reason being, those sources will build the most attention from audiences.
  • The primary source has to be the best place that can cut into the audience’s attention. With time, that may shift away from the TV screen.

Laurie Baird (Georgia Tech)

Matt Locke (Storythings, UK)
Steve Coulson (Campfire)
Lynn Liccardo (Soap opera critic)
Denise Mann (University of California-Los Angeles)

Reel China: Hollywood Seeks Workarounds for Import Restrictions

  • Hollywood continues its frustration with the Chinese government’s limits on how many imported movies can play in its theaters in addition to how box office receipts are shared. Now, prominent American film producers are seeking change through ambitious deals that provide alternative routes into China’s market.
  • Success with the Chinese may prove crucial. With traditional distribution models such as DVD sales presently slumping, China could become a much-needed revenue source.
  • “It’s not about détente, it’s about making money,” suggests the Los Angeles Times. “The partnerships give the American firms better access to the country’s growing movie market.”
  • According to the LA Times report: “China’s box-office receipts surged 64 percent last year to a record $1.5 billion, and they will likely bring in about $2 billion in ticket sales this year. By the end of the decade, industry experts predict China will grow from the world’s No. 5 movie market to No. 1.”
  • Although lobbyists and the World Trade Organization have been unsuccessful in getting the Chinese to relax import restrictions, smaller American film companies such as Legendary and Relativity are partnering with Chinese-based companies in co-production and exhibition deals. Through the partnerships, companies are not subject to restrictions and find they can dramatically improve upon percentage of box office receipts.
  • Major Hollywood studios have not formed long-term partnerships to co-produce with Chinese firms, but have discovered other alternatives, such as making Mandarin-language productions in China and pushing digital product, including 3D: “To boost the rollout of high-tech projectors in the country’s theaters, China in 2007 began allowing several pictures per year into the country on a revenue-share basis if they played only in digital theaters.”
  • The ultimate goal is to eliminate the restrictions, but for the time being Hollywood is finding ways to work around them.

Judge Rules Against MP3tunes: Hollow Victory for Record Labels?

  • While a judge has ruled against MP3tunes and founder, Michael Robertson, for copyright infringement, the details of the ruling may provide online music locker businesses like those from Google and Amazon with a better legal foundation.
  • A key finding is that users, not MP3tunes, had the ability to determine which files were placed in their lockers.
  • Also, it was determined that DMCA does not require one to investigate potentially infringing activity without a specific complaint from copyright holders.
  • “The news is even better for Google and Amazon,” according to Ars Technica. “Those companies’ music locker services do not even offer the broad sideloading functionality that has caused Robertson legal headaches. So if Judge Pauley’s reasoning survives appeal, Google and Amazon will be on solid legal ground. Indeed, those companies may even want to start thinking about whether they’ve been too cautious. For example, they might save a lot of money by taking advantage of the deduplication part of the ruling.”

iOS Developers Unite Against Lodsys and Patent Trolls

  • Renowned iOS developer Mike Lee announced on Monday a new venture called Appsterdam Legal Defense Team that will band together the small developers to fight against patent trolls.
  • Ars Technica reports: “The goal, aside from the obvious one of being free from frivolous patent lawsuits, is to become ‘the ants of East Texas, minding their business until someone invades their anthill.'”
  • Apple has licensed patents from Lodsys, which it says covers third party developers — but the infringement claims against iOS developers are continuing.
  • The result is uncertainty that could imperil these smaller developers and the developer community generally, not only for Apple but for Android and other platforms.
  • “This is bigger than just Apple platforms,” explains Lee. “Apple has the luxury and history of moving very slowly — they accepted a 60 day discovery, for example. Dozens of app makers could be destroyed by then. There is also good chance Apple can’t actually sue Lodsys, since Apple is under contract by Intellectual Ventures and IV probably snuck indemnity in there.”
  • “We’re going after Lodsys for sure, but understand the ultimate target is Intellectual Ventures,” Lee added. “They are the Mordor to these trolls.”

Hollywood Studios Win Preliminary Injunction Against Zediva

  • A U.S. District judge in Los Angeles issued a preliminary injunction against Zediva, favoring the Motion Picture Association of America in its copyright infringement lawsuit.
  • Dan Robbins, senior VP for the MPAA, calls the decision a great victory for workers in the film and television industry.
  • Zediva streams recently released DVDs to customers and claims it is no different than a brick-and-mortar rental service but operates over the Internet.
  • Judge John Walter concluded that Zediva violates the “transmit” clause of the Copyright Act. Zediva will appeal the decision.

ISPs Agree to Voluntary Copyright Enforcement Plan

  • Hollywood studios and music recording labels announced an agreement with major ISPs including AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon in which the ISPs agree to send “copyright alerts” to consumers who have accessed pirated content.
  • The intention is to educate, not punish.
  • A 2007 study showed that a “large majority” of those who receive alerts will stop the illegal activity.
  • If the alerts have no effect, mitigation measures may be pursued. Consumers will have the option of an independent review for a $35 fee.
  • Mitigation measures begin with the fifth or sixth alert, and may include: “temporary reductions of Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information about copyright, or other measures that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter.”

Law Professors Argue that Protect IP Act is Unconstitutional

  • Some 90 law professors have signed a joint letter opposing the Protect IP Act which is intended to deal with copyright infringement. The Act is currently being reviewed by Congress.
  • The letter contends that the Act’s domain-blocking provisions can be viewed as Internet censorship, which is barred by the First Amendment.
  • “The Act would allow courts to order any Internet service to stop recognizing [a] site even on a temporary restraining order… issued the same day the complaint is filed” without allowing for an adversary proceeding, which has been required by the Supreme Court.
  • Moreover, blocking an entire domain when infringing material exists in a subdomain is equivalent to “burning the house to roast the pig.”

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