Oregon senator may get rated X by Hollywood

Legislation Senator Ron Wyden probably isn’t invited to the MPAA Christmas party here in Washington this year. The Oregon Democrat single-handedly held up passage of the PROTECT-IP Act by placing a hold on bill, preventing it from coming to the floor for a vote, and is co-author, with Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, of the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act, a bi-cameral bill aimed at preempting both PROTECT-IP and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the MPAA’s two highest legislative priorities.

That alone would be enough to make Wyden unpopular around the Jack Valenti Building on Eye Street. But he’s also no going after one of the MPAA’s favorite anti-piracy enforcement programs: the Department of Homeland Security’s domain-name seizure program, Operation in Our Sites. Read More »

Why publishers should embrace Amazon’s Netflix for e-books plan

Copyright As a lover of used bookstores and delighted owner of many dusty old, out-of-print volumes plucked from $2 and 3-for$5, bins I hate to hear myself say this. But if I were a publisher I would leap at Amazon’s purported plans to offer Kindle users a Netflix-like subscription plan for e-books.

Traditionally, publishers have had only two bites at the apple: the hardcover/trade paperback window, followed by the mass market paperback release. E-books have introduced a new format but it has not yet created a new release window. Instead, the e-book release is wedged in awkwardly between or alongside the traditional windows, cannibalizing both. Read More »

Court makes a hash of online storage

Copyright Most of the initial post-game commentary on the U.S. District Judge William Pauley III’s long-awaited order in the  MP3tunes case (embedded below) has focused on the court’s finding on whether the online music locker service qualifies for the safe harbor protections in the DMCA, and its implications for other would-be cloud storage services (basically it does qualify, according to the court, although both MP3tunes and CEO Michael Robertson personally were found liable for contributory infringement, which is not covered by the §512). But the ruling’s most lasting impact may come from Judge Pauley’s almost cursory dismissal of the record label’s public performance claim. Read More »

Ripping yarns

Copyright The British government on Wednesday released its long-awaited set of proposals for updating U.K. copyright law for the twenty-first century. Sort of.

The actual report (PDF) might best be described as notional, or perhaps aspirational — a set of ideas the government is publicly endorsing but with formal legislative language to follow later, sometimes much later. In some critical areas, in fact, the report manages to raise more questions than it answers.

One such area concerns format-shifting, or what the report calls “private copying.” Here’s what the report has to say on the matter: Read More »

Zediva: The gift that keeps giving

Copyright If I were running the MPAA I might secretly offer to fund Zediva’s appeal of the federal judge’s order yesterday granting the studios a preliminary injunction against the DVD streaming service, if only to get its central holding affirmed by a circuit court. Apart from the order’s immediate effect of shutting down Zediva, the case could prove very useful to the studios (as I noted in a previous post) and the broader its legal authority the better.

The ruling is a complete victory for the MPAA. Citing case-law, Congressional committee reports and statutory language going back to before the 1976 Copyright Act, U.S. District Judge John Walter makes mincemeat of Zediva’s arguments that its service comprises anything other than an unlicensed public performance of the studios’ copyrighted works, as both a factual and legal matter. Read More »

EU wants to knock down digital borders

Streaming Video The European Commission on Wednesday kicked off a “consultation” (something like an agency rulemaking in the U.S.) that could fundamentally transform long-standing elements of film financing on the Old Continent.

The goal of the consultation is to gather views on “how Europe can seize these opportunities [for creators and distributors] and move towards a digital single market,” according to the press release. The comment period runs through mid-November, after which the commission will assess the need for Europe-wide legislation and make specific recommendations to the European Parliament. Read More »

Trans-Atlantic response to online piracy? (Updated)

Copyright Content owners should probably keep this in the wishful-thinking file for now but British communications minister Ed Vaizey hinted strongly this week at an emerging trans-Atlantic alliance to recruit ISPs more fully into the battle against online piracy.

Speaking at the Intellect Consumer Electronics conference in London, Vaizey called reports that a deal was in the works in the U.S. between leading ISPs and copyright owners to adopt a voluntary system of graduated response to online infringement a potential “game-changer” that could break a deadlock in similar talks underway in the U.K. Read More »

Site-blocking battle going global

Copyright From virtually a standing start in the U.S. last year the debate over blocking access to so-called rogue web sites that host copyright infringing content has escalated rapidly into a worldwide battle.

Last week, a group of leading technology investors and venture capitalists sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress warning that the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, could stifle innovation and harm U.S. competitiveness around the world.

“The bill is ripe for abuse, as it allows rights-holders to require third-parties to block access to and take away revenues sources for online services, with limited oversight and due process,” the group said. “While we understand PIPA was originally intended to deal with “rogue” foreign sites, we think PIPA will ultimately put American innovators and investors at a clear disadvantage in the global economy.” Read More »

Net regulation tops G8 agenda in communique

Copyright While the European Commission may have punted for now on stepped up enforcement of copyrights online, the G8 countries have put the issue front and center on the global economic agenda. The official communique from Deauville, France, where the G8 summit was held this week, makes Internet regulation, including copyright enforcement, the lead item after a pro forma statement of solidarity with Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami there in March.

Here are the money grafs: Read More »

Media Sans Frontières

Licensing Before content owners get too excited about the possibility of mandatory Internet content filtering coming to Europe, highlighted in a Reuters story Monday based on leaked portions of a pending European Commission report on intellectual property rights, they might want to read through the full document now that it’s available on the EC website.

Any action that could involve stepped up enforcement of copyrights online by Internet service providers referenced in the report would be limited for now to studying “ways to create a framework allowing, in particular, combating infringements of IPR via the internet more effectively.” Any formal proposals to emerge from that studying,  moreover, which won’t even begin until 2012, will “not alter the existing rules on limited liability for certain types of ISP activities,” according to FAQ provided by the commission. Read More »

EU to put ISPs in piracy cross-hairs?

Copyright With political leaders and technology executives from the G8 countries set to gather in Paris this week to discuss global Internet policy ( the “e-G8”), the European Commission is apparently poised to unveil its own proposal for enlisting Internet service providers in fighting online piracy “at [the] source.”

According to a Reuters report Monday, the executive arm of the European Union “will propose amendments to the [EU] (IPR) Enforcement Directive in order to create a framework allowing, in particular, combating infringements of IPRs via the internet more effectively.”

Those amendments, a leaked document seen by the news agency said, “should tackle the infringements at their source and, to that end, foster cooperation of intermediaries, such as internet service providers.”

While the Reuters report does not elaborate on what exactly the commission has in mind for tackling infringements “at their source” — filtering? domain seizures? — it clearly sees ISPs as instrumental to the plan. Read More »

Do as I say, not as I do

Copyright National governments must operate in several different domains at once, both domestic and international. To expect absolute consistency in its positions across all of those domains is to misapprehend the role and process of government. Yet for all that, the contrast between current efforts in Congress to block U.S. citizens’ access to certain “rogue” web sites, and those of the U.S. State Department to help citizens of China to circumvent efforts by the Chinese government to block its citizens access to certain web sites, is striking. Read More »

A gift from Zediva

Copyright If online “DVD rental” outfit Zediva didn’t exist, incoming MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd might have wanted to invent it. Having taken on a nearly impossible job riding herd over a membership that has trouble agreeing on where to order lunch during board meetings, Zediva has handed him, for his first major project, a nearly gift-wrapped opportunity to rally his members around a righteous and beloved cause: suing the bejeesus out of start-up for copyright infringement.

All six of the major studios that make up the membership of MPAA are named plaintiffs in the complaint against Zediva and its CEO, Venkatesh Srinivasan, filed Monday in federal district court in California. The MPAA then put out a press release trumpeting the lawsuit, which no doubt felt good. Read More »

Will clouds block UV light? (Updated)

Cloud Amazon is the first major player out of the gate with a cloud-based digital media “locker” service but it’s a fair bet that Apple and probably Google won’t be far behind. The question is: how long can they wait?

Both Apple and Google are reported to be attempting to negotiate licensing deals with the record labels that would allow them to offer cloud-based music storage and streaming services without fear of legal challenge or litigation. But that’s a lengthy process and Amazon’s decision to launch without such licenses may for Apple’s and Google’s hands. Read More »