It’s no secret that Sony has never been shy about wielding trademark like a cudgel. That said, there seems to be something new brewing with the company in its recent attempts to trademark fairly common terms, worrying some that it would use those trademarks in the same heavy-handed way. The first of those attempts was the recent Sony filing for a trademark on the term “Let’s Play”, which any gamer will recognize as the term for popular YouTube videos showing games being played, often offered by well-known YouTube personalities. While the USPTO had already refused the trademark on the grounds that a prior mark for “Let’z Play” had already been registered, a law firm that specializes in gaming law jumped in to try and have the court instead declare that “Let’s Play” is now a generic term.
And here’s another one from the Sony archives, this time noticed by Parker Higgins. It involves an email thread between Sony TV’s Chief Marketing Officer Sheraton Kalouria and the company’s top intellectual property lawyer Leah Weil (with top TV exec Steve Mosko included in the cc: field). In the email, they’re discussing a new “reputational initiative” by the MPAA. From other emails, it appears that the MPAA finally realized that its reputation was toxic, and figured that rather than, maybe, figuring out why that is, it would put together a marketing campaign to improve the public’s view of the MPAA. Here were the four goals of the campaign:
- Fill the knowledge gap about our industry
- Change consumer perceptions
- Claim our rightful position as innovators
- Reframe our consumer message in a positive tone
I note that “stop suing our customers and biggest fans” and “stop trying to censor parts of the web or destroy innovations that challenge our business model” didn’t make the list. That’s too bad, as either of those steps might actually, you know, help improve the MPAA’s reputation.
But the really amazing thing about the campaign? Apparently at least some of the video involved unauthroized copying of content from… Google. The same Google that the MPAA and studios had dubbed “Goliath” and who they were hell bent on destroying because of the misleading belief that Google helped people infringe on their copyrights. Here was Kalouria’s email to Weil:
Also, I was somewhat horrified that their creative shop used footage from Google commercials in their “Swipe-o-matic”. I kid you not…some of those scenes of people being “moved” by movies are from a current Google campaign…!
Weil only responded with a single word:
Yes. If you’ve been following along with the home game, you know that the MPAA is really, really against copyright infringement (or at least that’s what it would have you believe). And it believes that Google is the single-biggest problem in the copyright world these days. And yet, when it’s time for the MPAA to put together some of its own propaganda to put some spit and polish on its down in the dumps reputation, what does it do? Make use of Google’s footage and pretend that the people being “moved” are actually being moved by the MPAA’s movies.
Apparently, infringing on the works of others is okay for the MPAA when it does it itself. And that’s leaving out the extreme irony of using Google’s ad footage as well. It’s unclear if this MPAA film ever saw the light of day, but it would be fascinating to see if anyone has it…
Back in December, when the Sony emails first leaked, we wrote about how Sony hired super-high-powered lawyer David Boies to send off ridiculously misinformed letters to media outlets warning them that they should not write anything based on information in the leaks. Boies took it a ridiculous step further, threatening to sue Twitter for not blocking screenshots of the emails. Both threats had no real legal basis.
Of course, now that the emails are in the news again, thanks to Wikileaks posting the archive online and making it searchable, Sony is apparently shelling out more big bucks to Boies to send around another version of the letter. You can see the letter here or at the bottom of the post.
Once again, the legal reasoning in the letter is… questionable at best. The included attack on Wikileaks is even more confused, arguing that freeing up this information helps North Korean censorship. It’s difficult to see how that’s really true, but okay. But the really ridiculous part is arguing that the media should not publish this information to support the First Amendment. Really.
Half a decade ago the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) ended legal action against local ISP Eircom when the ISP agreed to force a so-called “three strikes” regime on subscribers.
The agreement saw IRMA-affiliated labels including Sony, Universal and Warner tracking Eircom subscribers online and Eircom forwarding infringement notices to alleged pirates. It was envisioned that those caught three times would be disconnected from the Internet.
In a follow-up move IRMA tried to force another ISP, UPC, to implement the same measures. UPC fought back and over the past several years the matter has dragged on through the Irish legal system.
In January 2015 the case was again before the Commercial Court, with IRMA looking to force a so-called “graduated response” scheme onto UPC and the ISP trying to avoid one and its costs.
The High Court handed down its ruling Friday and it amounts to a massive victory for the labels, a depressing defeat for UPC, and a major concern for the rest of Ireland’s ISPs.
Brushing aside arguments by UPC that it’s not an ISP’s job to police its subscribers’ activities online, Justice Brian Cregan sided almost entirely with the labels.
“The current generation of writers, performers and interpreters of music cannot have their livelihoods destroyed by advances in technology which allow persons to breach their constitutional rights with impunity,” he said.
After ordering UPC to implement a “three strikes” system including the disconnection of repeat offenders, the Judge then informed the ISP it would be picking up most of the bill.
According to Independent.ie the system will cost between 800,000 euros and 940,000 euros to set up. UPC offered to pay 25% of these costs but the Judge disagreed and ordered the ISP to pay 80%.
But it doesn’t end there. Yearly running costs are estimated to be between 200,000 and 300,000 euros or, to put it another way, close to one euro for each of UPC’s 360,000 subscribers.
Then, in a move apparently aimed at keeping costs down, the Judge ordered that the number of warning notifications going out to subscribers should be capped at 2,500 per month instead of the 5,000 originally proposed. That means that even if the staggering setup costs are ignored, each notice could cost 10 euros to send out.
The case was adjourned until next month to allow UPC and the labels to prepare submissions on how Justice Cregan’s order will be implemented. In the meantime the rest of Ireland’s ISPs will be nervously checking their bank balances in the event that they too are required to implement a similarly costly system.
More than a year has passed since the MPAA defeated Hotfile, but the case has still been stirring in the background.
Hoping to find out more about Hollywood’s anti-piracy policies the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) previously asked the court to make several sealed documents available to the public.
These documents are part of the counterclaim Hotfile filed, where it accused Warner of repeatedly abusing the DMCA takedown process. In particular, the EFF wants the public to know how Hollywood’s anti-piracy policies and tools work.
District Court Judge Kathleen Williams sided with the EFF and ruled that it’s in the public interest to unseal the information. The MPAA, however, argued that this may hurt some of its members.
Information regarding Columbia Pictures’ anti-piracy policies, in particular, would still be beneficial to pirates for decades to come, the Hollywood group argued.
“Defendants have cited two specific pieces of information regarding Columbia’s enforcement policies that, if revealed to the public, could compromise Columbia’s ability to protect its copyrighted works,” the MPAA’s lawyers wrote.
In addition, anti-piracy vendor Vobile feared that having its pricing information revealed could severely hurt the company.
Judge Williams has now reviewed these and other arguments but ruled that sealing records indefinitely is not an option. In this case, the public interest in the records outweighs the concerns of the MPAA.
About a year ago we noted how Comcast has a weird tendency to prevent its broadband users from being able to use HBO Go on some fairly standard technology, including incredibly common Roku hardware. For several years Roku users couldn’t use HBO Go if they had a Comcast connection, and for just as long Comcast refused to explain why. Every other broadband provider had no problem ensuring the back-end authentication (needed to confirm you have a traditional cable connection) worked, but not Comcast. When pressed, Comcast would only offer a generic statement saying yeah, it would try and get right on that:
“With every new website, device or player we authenticate, we need to work through technical integration and customer service which takes time and resources. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize as we partner with various players.”
And the problem wasn’t just with Roku. When HBO Go on the Playstation 3 was released, it worked with every other TV-Everywhere compatible provider, but not Comcast. When customers complained in the Comcast forums, they were greeted with total silence. When customers called in to try and figure out why HBO Go wouldn’t work, they received a rotating crop of weird half answers or outright incorrect statements (it should arrive in 48 hours, don’t worry!).
Fast forward nearly a year since the HBO Go Playstation 3 launch, and Sony has now announced an HBO Go app for the Playstation 4 console. And guess what — when you go toactivate the app you’ll find it works with every major broadband ISP — except Comcast. Why? Comcast appears to have backed away from claims that the delay is due to technical or customer support issues, and is now telling forum visitors the hangup is related to an ambiguous business impasse:
“HBO Go availability on PS3 (and some other devices) are business decisions and deal with business terms that have not yet been agreed to between the parties. Thanks for your continued patience.”
Since every other ISP (including AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable) didn’t have a problem supporting the app, you have to assume Comcast specifically isn’t getting something from Sony or HBO it would like (read: enough money to make them feel comfortable about potentially cannibalizing traditional TV/HBO viewers). It’s a good example of how crafting net neutrality rules is only part of the conversation. It’s great to have rules, but they don’t mean much if bad or outright anti-competitive behavior can just be hidden behind half-answers and faux-technical nonsense for years on end without repercussion.
Despite its current difficulties in maintaining an efficient online presence, The Pirate Bay remains the world’s most hounded website. Entertainment industry companies around the globe have made the notorious site their number one anti-piracy target and legal action continues in many regions.
Perhaps one of the most interesting at the moment is the action filed last November by Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry. It targets Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget (The Broadband Company) and effectively accuses the provider of being part of the Pirate Bay’s piracy machine.
The papers filed at the Stockholm District Court demand that Bredbandsbolaget block its subscribers from accessing The Pirate Bay and popular streaming portal Swefilmer. In December the ISP gave its response, stating in very clear terms that ISPs cannot be held responsible for the traffic carried on their networks.
Last month on February 20 the parties met in the Stockholm District Court to see if some kind of agreement or settlement could be reached. But the entertainment companies’ hopes have been dashed following the confirmation that Bredbandsbolaget will not comply with its wishes.
“It is an important principle that Internet providers of Internet infrastructure shall not be held responsible for the content that is transported over the Internet. In the same way that the Post should not meddle in what people write in the letter or where people send letters,” Commercial Director Mats Lundquist says.