Updates on copyright law

March 2011

All areas

A new survey in the US commissioned by NBC Universal shows that 23.8% of global Internet traffic involves “digital theft,” with the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol accounting for 11.4% of this figure. Brand and trademark monitoring firm Envisional’s analysis of the top 10,000 peer-to-peer swarms found that 99.24% of non-pornographic material being traded was copyrighted material. It also found that “infringing cyberlocker sites” accounted for 5.1% of global Internet traffic, while “infringing video streaming sites” made up 1.4% of global traffic.

Nearly 100,000 North Americans have been sued for suspected copyright infringement on file-sharing networks over the past twelve months according to details of a study published by TorrentFreak. Again the majority are alleged to have utilised BitTorrent, although some users of eDonkey were also targeted.

Chinese officials say they have arrested 4,000 people in relation to 2,000 separate cases of intellectual property infringement since last November. Gao Feng, Deputy Director of China’s Ministry Of Public Security’s Economic Crimes Investigation Bureau confirmed that the Chinese government had stepped up its efforts to fight commercial piracy operations. The USA estimates that US IP industries alone lose $3.5 billion a year to Chinese piracy.

It also appears that Google has responded pressure from the entertainment industries by implementing active censors for “piracy related” terms including BitTorrent, torrent, utorrent, RapidShare and Megaupload from its instant and autocomplete services. BitTorrent Inc., RapidShare and Vodo have all spoken out against “commercial censorship”. Among the list of forbidden keywords are “uTorrent” and “BitTorrent”. These keywords will no longer be suggested by Google when the first letter is entered, nor will they show up in Google Instant and all combinations of the word “torrent”

The Canadian divisions of the four major record labels have agreed to pay $47.5 million in damages to the country’s songwriters and music publishers to settle a lawsuit filed by the estate of late jazz great Chet Baker, which alleged the big record companies were routinely failing to pay royalties when their songs appeared on compilation albums.  In 2009, the Baker estate’s lawyers claimed some 300,000 unlicensed works were now on the four major’s collective “pending list” for already released compilations.  The Canadian publishing collecting societies CMRRA and SODRAC – who were initially named as defendants in the lawsuit – will now administer the distribution of the damages to songwriters whose works were on a pending list and the four majors have committed to review their internal processes for mechanical licences.

Terra Firma, the private equity firm headed by Guy Hands, is seeking to appeal a Federal District Court verdict that blocked its effort to recover as much as $8 billion from Citigroup. Terra Firma had sued Citigroup, accusing the bank of misrepresenting that there was another bidder for EMI meaning Terra Firma had overpaid. In November, a federal jury in Manhattan cleared Citigroup of any wrongdoing. Now Terra Firma’s lawyers, Boies Schiller & Flexner, have filed a notice to appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. TerraFirma have now lost control of EMI and Citi now have ownership and have restructured the group, reducing debt. It seems EMI is now for sale – alongside Warners, although the possibility of a merger remains.

MySpace, the news corporation owned entertainment portal, has confirmed reports it is preparing for a massive round of layoffs, announcing that it will cut 500 employees, nearly half (47%) of its total workforce. In other news, BlueTunes, the service that let users upload and store their digital music collections in an online locker, has announced that it will shutter its service saying “We have decided to pursue other opportunities and will be shutting down our service on January 31, 2011. Thanks for supporting us and for all you’ve done” in a note on the company’s website.

It seems that Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” is safe from any action by country music duo the Bellamy Brothers who were said to be upset over Britney song title’s resemblance to their 1979 hit “If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me“. Attorney Brian Caplan told MTV news “A title is not copyrightable” adding “The expression, either in lyrics or music in a composition is copyrightable, however if something has been used previously by multiple sources, one can argue that it is trite or commonplace and the latter user has no right to it.” David Bellamy also conceded that he first heard the title phrase, a favourite cheesy pick-up line for bar-trollers across the globe, while watching reruns of the classic Groucho Marx show “You Bet Your Life.” The mustachioed comedian used the line on the show one night in an attempt to sidle up to a buxom blonde. More on this and a claim against Lady Antebellum, accused of taking the melody of “Need You Now” from the Alan Parsons Project’s “Eye in the Sky” see the article ‘Sampling or Stealing?’ by Anthony Sandoval at  http://www.statepress.com/2011/02/15/sampling-or-stealing/

Russian prosecutors have filed criminal online copyright infringement charges against a 26-year-old accused of posting 18 tracks on Russian social network Vkontakte, Agence France-Presse reported. Russian police told AFP it’s believed the tracks in question were downloaded over 200,000 times. If convicted, the accused uploader faces up to six years in prison, and copyright infringement damages in the amount of $3,600.  Earlier this year, a Russian court found that Vkontakte was not responsible for copyrighted materials uploaded by users of its service.  Authorities told AFP they plan to initiate additional criminal cases against suspected online copyright infringers.

A court in Finland has ordered the operators of a file-sharing hub there to pay over $1 million in damages to copyright holders, and imposed suspended custodial sentences in an action brought by the IFPI, the international group that represents the major record labels. The unnamed 35-year-old man and 21-year-old woman operated a Direct Connect hub called Sarah’s Secret Chamber, which counted 1,600 users and some 50 terabytes of shared files.

The IFPI have launched their IFPI Digital Music Report saying that governments around the world can take effective action in the fight against music piracy. That the first actions by ISPs to stop  mass illegal file-sharing have been announced in France, Ireland and South Korea in 2010 and that progress is expected in UK, New Zealand, the EU and Malaysia in 2011. Adding that digital revenues up 6% to US$4.6 billion in 2010, with 400+ licensed services. Good news from the courts was that Limewire, the biggest source of infringing downloads in the US, has been declared illegal and Mininova, a major BitTorrent site, shut down its illegal activities.  The Pirate Bay was blocked by a court in Italy and its operators’ criminal convictions were upheld by the Court of Appeal in Sweden. BUT despite all of this the IFPI say that piracy is hitting jobs and investment with fewer new artists breaking through globally and traditionally vibrant  local music industries, such as Spain and Mexico, are especially hard hit.  In Spain, where music sales fell by an estimated 22% in 2010, no new home-grown artist featured in the country’s top 50 album chart, compared with 10 in 2003.
Following three similar actions, the U.S. government has seized 18 Internet domains believed to be associated with counterfeiting or piracy. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “Operation Broken Hearted” on Valentine’s Day targeted websites selling counterfeit bracelets, earrings, handbags, necklaces, rings, sunglasses, wallets and watches, bearing fake brands including Breitling, Burberry, Chanel, Gucci, Nike and Timberland.

IsoHunt, a search engine that helps users find files available for download from the BitTorrent file-
sharing network, has been sued by 26 record labels for facilitating copyright infringement in its home country of Canada, TorrentFreak reported. The suit against isoHunt and owner Gary Fung seeks a shutdown of isoHunt; related sites Podtropolis and TorrentBos; and over $4 million in damages. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) previously sued isoHunt in U.S. federal court last year, and in May the court handed down a permanent injunction against isoHunt.

IFPI Digital Music Report www.ifpi.org/content/library/DMR2011.pdf






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