It’s no secret that copyright holders are trying to take down as much pirated content as they can, but one anti-piracy outfit is targeting everything that comes into its path. Over the past week Copyright UNIVERSAL has tried to censor legitimate content from Netflix, Amazon, Apple, various ISPs, movie theaters, news outlets and even sporting leagues.
The Democratic Party has appointed a committee tasked with drafting the party’s platform. The 15-member panel includes MPAA lobbyist Howard L Berman, an attorney and former U.S. Representative who not only co-sponsored SOPA and tried to enshrine P2P network sabotage in law, but has also been funded by Hollywood throughout his career.
The UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft has received a major blow after the Motion Picture Association advised the anti-piracy group it will not renew its membership. The termination of the 30-year long relationship means that FACT will lose 50% of its budget and the backing of the six major Hollywood movie studios.
Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp says that it’s working on a new method to extract cash settlements from suspected Internet pirates. The company says new technology will lock users’ browsers and prevent Internet access until they pay a fine. To encourage ISPs to play along, Rightscorp says the system could help to limit their copyright liability.
Leaks from a confidential auditor report into the activities of bankrupt anti-piracy law firm Johan Schlüter suggest that the company defrauded its entertainment industry clients out of $25m. One lawyer was singled out for most criticism after enriching both herself and family members.
The best way for Hollywood to defeat piracy is by making content available, legally. To further this effort dozens of video on demand services have been launched throughout the world. However, not all of these services are happy with how the major studios treat them, and today we hear why.
The account below comes from an employee of a mid-sized video on demand (VOD) service in Europe.
To avoid repercussions from the major studios the author prefers to remain anonymous
For several years PayPal has been trying to limit how much business it does with sites involved with copyright infringement. Unsurprisingly torrent sites are high up on the payment processors “do not touch” list.
For that reason it is quite rare to see PayPal offered as a donation method on the majority of public sites as these are spotted quite quickly and often shut down. It’s unclear whether PayPal does its own ‘scouting’ but the company is known to act upon complaints from copyright holders as part of the developing global “Follow the Money” anti-piracy strategy.
This week Andrew Sampson, the software developer behind new torrent search engine ‘Strike‘, discovered that when you have powerful enemies, bad things can happen.
With no advertising on the site, Sampson added his personal PayPal account in case anyone wanted to donate. Quickly coming to the conclusion that was probably a bad idea, Sampson removed the button and carried on as before. One month later PayPal contacted him with bad news.
“We are contacting you as we have received a report that your website https://getstrike.net is currently infringing upon the intellectual property of Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.,” PayPal began.
“Such infringement also violates PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy. Therefore your account has been permanently limited.”
It isn’t clear why PayPal waited for a month after donations were removed from Strike to close Sampson’s six-year-old account but the coder believes that his public profile (he doesn’t hide his real identity) may have led to his issues.
“It seems someone at the MPAA realized I took donations using PayPal from some of my other LEGAL open source projects (like https://github.com/Codeusa/Borderless-Gaming) and was able to get the email of my account,” the dev told TF.
While Sampson had regularly been receiving donations from users of his other open source projects, he says he only received $200 from users of Strike, a small proportion of the $2,500 in his personal account when PayPal shut it down.
For many years, major U.S. entertainment companies have been trying to gain the power to make websites disappear from the Internet at their say-so. The Internet blacklist bills SOPA and PIPA were part of that strategy, along with the Department of Homeland Security’s project of seizing websites that someone accused of copyright infringement. Hollywood’s quest for more censorship power was on display again today at a House of Representatives committee hearing that was supposed to be discussing reforms at ICANN, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Internet’s domain name system. Amidst a discussion of new top-level domain names (such as “.sucks”), a lawyer representing the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and other groups told the House Judiciary Committee’s Internet subcommittee that ICANN should force the companies that register domain names to suspend domains based on accusations of copyright infringement.
If this sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s exactly the sort of system that the disastrous SOPA bill would have created—one where entire websites can be forced to go dark, without a day in court, because some material on the site is accused of infringing a copyright. We wrote about this strategy in March, when it appeared in the US Trade Representative’s “Notorious Markets List,” also at Hollywood’s request.
This new strategy to obtain censorship power is based on vague language in the agreements that ICANN made with the companies selling names in new top-level domains like .website, .ninja, and .biz. The agreements say that domain name registrars “shall take reasonable and prompt steps to investigate and respond appropriately to any reports of abuse.” The agreements don’t mention copyright, or require domain registrars to disable a domain without a court order. But that didn’t stop Steve Metalitz, the lawyer for a coalition that includes MPAA and RIAA, from arguing that “reports of abuse that are submitted to registrars by right-holders” should lead to “investigation” and “redress.” Of course, a registrar like Tucows or Namecheap has no control over the contents of websites—they simply register domain names. From a technical standpoint, the only “redress” a registrar can offer to a copyright holder such as a movie studio is to suspend a site’s domain name, making the entire site inaccessible to most visitors.
To most consumers it’s common sense that they can make a backup copy of media they own, but in the UK this was illegal until late last year.
After consulting various stakeholders the Government decided that it would be in the best interests of consumers to legalize copying for personal use.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, not all copyright holders were in favor of the legal changes. In fact, emails published from the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack reveal that Hollywood wanted to stop the plans by urging UK Prime Minister David Cameron to keep Hollywood’s interests in mind.
The first email mentioning the issue was sent January last year. Here, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton was informed that MPAA boss Chris Dodd wanted him to give Cameron a call.
“Essentially, Dodd thinks (and we agree) it would be helpful for you to call Prime Minister Cameron if you are willing in order to ensure our position is fully considered,” the email from Sony’s Keith Weaver reads.
According to Weaver it was still uncertain whether Hollywood’s concerns would be properly heard in Parliament.
“This is because prior interactions with the U.K. government over the last few months have left us with no certainty that our concerns will be addressed in the proposal that will be presented to Parliament for an up or down vote in February,” he explained.
Last year the MPAA started a new grants program inviting academics to pitch their research proposals.
Researchers are being offered a $20,000 grant for projects that address various piracy related topics, including the impact of copyright law and the effectiveness of notice and takedown regimes.
Last month marked the silent start of a new round of grant applications for the fall of 2015.
There’s no public announcement but MPAA boss Chris Dodd previously said there’s a need for better and unbiased copyright related research to find out how recent developments are affecting the film industry.
“We need more and better research regarding the evolving role of copyright in society. The academic community can provide unbiased observations, data analysis, historical context and important revelations about how these changes are impacting the film industry…,” Dodd noted.
While Dodd’s comments about unbiased research are admirable, there also appears to be a hidden agenda which until now hasn’t seen the light of day.
In an email leaked in the Sony hack MPAA General Counsel Steven Fabrizio explains to the member studios that they’re soliciting pro-copyright papers. The April 2014 email further reveals that the MPAA hopes to identify pro-copyright scholars who can be used to influence future copyright policies.
“As you know, as one component of our Academic Outreach program, the MPAA is launching a global research grant program both to solicit pro-copyright academic research papers and to identify pro-copyright scholars who we can cultivate for further public advocacy,” Fabrizio writes.
Needless to say, soliciting pro-copyright papers and spotting pro-copyright scholars for public advocacy doesn’t sound very unbiased.