For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

New evidence-based copyright reform campaign launched in the US

Probably not the hat
Dior had in mind
As this Kat learnt from her own copy of seminal book A to Z of Style, legendary Christian Dior once said: "In town you cannot be dressed without gloves anymore than you can be dressed without a hat".
Transferring this basic rule to the equally fashionable realm of copyright, it seems that nowadays you cannot go around speaking of its possible reforms without mentioning that these have to be evidence-based (if you want to know what evidence means, you can learn it here and here)
Not a long time has passed since the publication of Ian Hargreaves's report entitled Digital Opportunity. As UK-based readers will remember,the need for an evidence-based approach to IP (in particular copyright) reforms was advocated therein. 
A month ago it was the turn of a report prepared by the Republican Study Committee (RSC, a caucus consisting of more than 170 members of the Republican Party in the US House of Representatives) entitled Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it (see 1709 Blog post here). Although the memo was recalled by the group's executive director one day after its release and the member of the staff who wrote it no longer works for RSC, similarly to the Hargreaves’s Report the document lamented that "most legislative discussions on [copyright], particularly during the extension of the copyright term, are not premised upon what is in the public good or what will promote the most productivity and innovation".
Now Fight for the Future ("A nonprofit working to expand the internet's power for good") has launched a campaign  entitled Copyright is Broken: Fix It!. This initiative, which enjoys the support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), intends to urge US Congress to engage in "a reality-based debate about [US] copyright policy", since current copyright system "is getting in the way of free speech, art, and innovation". The text of the campaign reads as follows:
"Instead of promoting free expression and innovation, [copyright] is impeding them. That hurts artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and the general public. I want my Congressperson to fix copyright now. The Republican Study Committee’s memo on copyright reform pointed out fundamental problems with copyright law -- problems that stand in the way of innovation and free expression. I am heartened to see that Republicans and Democrats are realizing that copyright policy needs to be consistent with their core values -- and I want my Congressperson to help lead the charge."
Merpel agrees that discussion about how to reform copyright is indeed needed. But while such debates heat up, what has been happening out there? There are two very recent pieces of news which IPKat readers may be interested in.
Firstly, it seems that copyright owners have been relying widely on the cooperation of internet service providers (ISPs) to combat online infringements. A couple of days ago Google reported on the progress of its copyright removal feature (data on removal requests can be viewed here) saying that, while the removal rate between December 2011 and November 2012 was 97.5% of all URLs specified in copyright removal requests, the number of requests has increased widely. When Google launched the copyright removals feature, it received more than 250,000 requests per week. That number has increased tenfold in just six months to more than 2.5 million requests per week. 
Secondly, judicial guidance from the US Supreme Court has been increasingly sought to clarify both the boundaries and consequences of copyright infringements. While at the end of October this year the Court heard arguments in a case concerning the scope of the first sale doctrine, a couple of days ago file-sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset asked the Supreme Court to review a jury’s conclusion that she pay $222,000 for downloading and sharing two dozen songs on the now-defunct file-sharing service Kazaa. In particular, the question presented to the Supreme Court reads as follows: "Is there any constitutional limit to the statutory damages that can be imposed for downloading music online?"
What seems certain is that 2013 is going to be a very interesting year for copyright, both in the US and Europe (see 1709 Blog posts here, here and here).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This post paints a partial picture.

1) The 'Three Myths' paper was prepared by a 24-year old member member of the RSC, and was never an official RSC document.

Copyright scholar Terence Hart has examined it in these two posts:

http://www.copyhype.com/2012/11/republican-study-committee-policy-brief-on-copyright-part-1/
http://www.copyhype.com/2012/11/republican-study-committee-policy-brief-on-copyright-part-2/


2) EFF is just one of many groups sponsored by technology companies, who lobby on behalf of the technology industry to weaken copyright. Google sponsors many groups who help advance its agenda.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19181172

The desire to weaken copyright even further takes various forms, such as widening exemptions, and weakening the ability of rightsholders to enforce infringement. Weaker, or 'reformed' copyright benefits the technology industry by lowering costs.

3) Matters of social responsibility are raised by this. We are entitled to ask who benefits from this, and what are the future social and economic costs where value is accrued by technology distributors.


4) Fight for the Future is the latest vehicle for a long-standing campaign against the music industry.

See http://thetrichordist.com/tag/fight-for-the-future/


Tiffiniy Cheng is a serial activist who has held a grudge against record labels since 2003, when she helped form Downhill Battle. (To read more about the chilling tactics used by the group, read this series of posts). Next came the Participatory Culture Foundation (whose board includes Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow), a group whose biggest accomplishments seems to be getting money from the Mozilla Foundation.

Her latest venture is Fight for the Future, a group whose hyperbolic headlines involving Justin Bieber — and a whopping $300,000 grant from the Media Democracy Fund (the organization, which has previously awarded grants to the New America Foundation and Public Knowledge, awarded less than $4 million total in grants for the previous five years) — helped it lead the charge against SOPA last winter. (According to this article, the key meeting between Fight for the Future and the other advocacy groups involved occurred November 9, 2011, at Mozilla headquarters.)


It would be helpful, before cliches such as 'evidence based', to remind us who is paying for the evidence to be manufactured - and what are the costs.

Anonymous said...

"1) The 'Three Myths' paper was prepared by a 24-year old member member of the RSC"

Why mention his age? Heres why.

Read as: "Another one of those youngsters meddling in things they dont understand"

Your methods are transparent. And the rest of your post is standard industry shilling. There are many people who are very ideologically against the music and film industries, and with damn good reason: because of the evil and strife they have wrought.

Subscribe to the IPKat's posts by email here

Just pop your email address into the box and click 'Subscribe':