Blown To Bits

Copyright News

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 by Harry Lewis

A couple of quick items.

1) The US has released a summary of the state of discussions about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, about which a FOIA request had been denied (or technically, granted) on perplexing “national security” grounds. The bad news is, the summary could have been written by pretty much anyone; it simply explains, in some detail, that they are talking about the things you’d expect them to talk about. And the most important issue, whether there will be a global system of Internet surveillance, watching for pirated music and videos but seeing all Internet communications in the process, receives very spare treatment:

This section of the agreement is intended to address some of the special challenges that new technologies pose for enforcement of intellectual property rights, such as the possible role and responsibilities of internet service providers in deterring copyright and related rights piracy over the Internet. No draft proposal has been tabled yet, as discussions are still focused on gathering information on the different national legal regimes to develop a common understanding on how to deal best with these issues.

Not helpful. I would love to see the US explanation of the US legal regime relating to searches without suspicion.

2) The Associated Press is threatening to go after news aggregators (like the Huffington Post) and search engines (such as Google) who link and quote from their content without paying them. Money is being made with their content, they protest, and they want a cut. “Fair use,” cry the aggregators, pointing out that the AP stories get more visibility because the sites link to them. Apparently the AP hopes that their worries can be resolved without a court battle; we shall see.

3) Added a little later: I should have mentioned yesterday’s report that the movie industry’s solution to digital piracy is to make the US ‚Ķ more like France! There they have a three-strikes law — if the industry complains multiple times to the ISP, you get disconnected, and placed on a national blacklist so you can’t move and get a connection in a new location. That would really be neat, says an industry rep at a Congressional field hearing in movieland — while acknowledging that he doesn’t know how it would work or if it would be legal. As the New York Times reported,

One of the strongest possible measures was offered by Steven Soderbergh, who testified as a vice president of the Directors Guild of America. He proposed that the entertainment industry be “deputized to solve our own problems,” under a model that is being tried in France.

Pressed later for details of the French plan, Mr. Soderbergh stumbled a bit and said he was not quite sure how it might work.

People who have worked closely on Hollywood copyright issues described a French-like solution as a plan under which those who believe their copyright has been infringed might ask an Internet service provider to send successive warnings to an illegal downloader.

If the warnings fail, the downloader might then be barred from using the provider for a time and be placed on a national registry that would block access to other providers.

To pass laws with similar steps in the United States “is going to be tricky,” Mr. Soderbergh acknowledged during the hearing.

That damned Bill of Rights again. Do any of these people understand that there is a reason why Americans can’t be searched without some reason to think they’ve done something wrong?

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