Another strike against three-strikes?

More from the be careful what you wish for files: As The Media Wonk noted in a previous post, there is more to France’s three-strikes law than just three-strikes. One less-discussed provision is the strict regulation of movie release windows by the government, taking a key strategic decision out of the hands of the studios. One early victim of that provision appears to be Twentieth Century-Fox, which has scheduled the release of Avatar on Blu-ray and DVD in France for June 1–several months earlier than ordinary business considerations would dictate but necessary to comply with the law.

That provision isn’t the only booby-trap in the law for content owners, however.

The Creation and Internet law, after all, which went into effect on Jan. 1, wasn’t passed only to crack down on digital piracy. It was also intended to promote the legal availability of “multimedia” content on digital platforms. As it turned out, content owners probably should have paid more attention to that end of the deal.

In the spirit of promoting availability, France’s Minister of Culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, ordered up a commission to study and make recommendations on ways to facilitate availability. To head the commission, Mitterrand named Patrick Zelnik, CEO of Naive Records, which happens to be the label for which French First Lady and pop chanteuse Carla Bruni-Sarkozy records (that’s just the way they do things in France).

The Mission Zelnik, as the commission came to be known, issued its recommendations in early January, and they included a number of surprises. Topping the list was a proposal to implement a collective rights licensing scheme for music on digital linear platforms (i.e. webcasts), in effect a compulsory license. The commission also recommended a “voluntary” collective licensing scheme for non-linear platforms (downloads and on-demand streaming), with the stipulation that if the industry can’t come up with a satisfactory “voluntary” scheme within a year the government should mandate one. Read More »

'Avatar' blogging blues

My post the other day on the Blu-ray Disc release of Avatar in France generated quite a bit of traffic and commentary on other web sites (thank you Engadget HD), as well as attracting a few comments here. Alas, most of it has been critical.

While it’s always tempting to blame the critics for missing your point, as a general rule if a large number of people appear to have missed your point you probably didn’t do a very good job making it in the first place. So: mea culpa.

Let my try to clarify some issues:

Notwithstanding Ben from Engadget’s diligent research in IMDB, there really aren’t other movies comparable to Avatar. True, there have been other blockbusters in the past five years, most or all of which may have been released on DVD/Blu-ray within six months. But there haven’t been others with a $450 million negative cost and an inherently longer theatrical cume period due to the still-limited number of 3D screens. Read More »

For 'Avatar,' three-strikes means a quick out

From the be careful what you wish for file: Twentieth Century-Fox’s Avatar, which is rapidly approaching the top spot among all-time global box-office grosses, and would likely be the biggest selling Blu-ray title to date when released at Christmas time, will actually be released on June 1st, at least in most of the world. Amazon France is already taking pre-orders, for 28.99 euros.

Why not wait until the most propitious time of year to release such a monster title in order to maximize sales? Because it would be against the law in France to wait beyond June 1. And if you release it in France, under EU rules, you’ve effectively released it throughout the EU. And if you release it in the EU, you’ve effectively released it throughout Blu-ray’s Region B, which includes Africa and the Middle East as well as Australia and New Zealand, where they speak a version of English. And if you’re going to release a movie with an English soundtrack in Region B, you might as well release it in Region A, which includes the United States, because it’s going to end up on the Internet sooner or later, probably sooner.

Welcome to life under France’s new three-strikes regime.   Read More »

Join me at the first Digital Breakfast DC on Oct. 1

The Media Wonk will be hosting the first Digital Breakfast DC conference on Oct. 1 in, not surprisingly, Washington, DC. The topic for the panel is Using Tech to Safeguard Content and IP. Panelists include Rick Cotton, general counsel of NBC Universal, Prof. Peter Jaszi of Washington College of Law at American University, Jon Baumgarten, partner with Proskauer Rose, Bill Rosenblatt of GiantSteps Media and the irrepressible Chris Castle an entertainment attorney from LA who is appearing on behalf of Arts + Labs.

digital-breakfastDebating points will include the implications of the FCC’s net neutrality rulemaking for filtering and other online anti-piracy efforts, the French three-strikes law, Veoh’s recent court victory and its implications for UGC and the over/under line on when we’ll see the new White House IP Czar named. All packed into a fast-paced one hour. Plus bagels.

Click here to register today!

Down on strikes

french-flagThe copyright industries had high hopes for France’s three-strikes law. At the World Copyright Summit in Washington last week, speakers had nothing but praise for the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who championed the law and railroaded it through the legislature. And they were crushed when, on the second day of the conference, the French Constitutional Council threw out the new law’s critical third-strike–government-ordered banishment from the Internet for those caught repeatedly downloading copyrighted content illegally–on grounds that the extra-judicial  procedure the law created was a violation of  free speech, the presumption of innocence and due process.

Oops.

Now, however, things have gotten even worse for the content companies. In a bit of a face-saving move, the French government on Friday stripped out the portion of the law invalidated by the Constitutional Council, sent the rest to Sarkozy for signature and published it in the official record, allowing it to take effect this week. Read More »

Three-strikes strikes out

Well you can forget about that pontential showdown between Paris and Brussels over France’s three-strikes law. The French Constitutional Council on Wednesday struck down the provision allowing the government to order people cut off from the Internet for repeatedly downloading copyrighted material illegally, before the law could even be challenged in the European Court of Justice.

french-flag1According to the Council’s ruling, Internet access “is an element of freedom of speech and the right to consume,” and only a judge has the power to order someone cut off. The full text of the ruling is available here (French).

Under the law as passed, a new government agency would have the power to cut people off without first seeking a court order if they ignored at least two prior written warnings that they were infringing copyrights. Read More »

Vive la France?

french-flagAs often as the Pirate Party of Sweden was condemned at the World Copyright Summit Tuesday, speakers heaped praise on the French government for passing the Creation and Internet law implementing a system of “graduated response” (i.e. “three-strikes”) to policing illegal file-sharing.

“I strongly believe that if we’re going to be successful in this fast-paced digital age, a solid partnership between the copyright community and the Internet Service Providers is crucial,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said in a morning keynote. “Many countries have begun to take action by working closely with ISPs to curb online piracy. For example, France has adopted a three strikes law, which calls for ISPs to suspend a subscriber’s service if they are accused three times of pirating copyrighted material. Across the globe, from Japan to the UK, from Australia to Brazil, there have been engaging discussions within the industry on how best to proceed on this front.” Read More »

Morning read: Jobs is back; UK takes it slow

After nearly “starving to death,” Steve Jobs is set to return to Apple, according to the Wall Street Journal this morning. The news comes on the eve of next week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, where Jobs is expected to make an appearance to introduce a new iPhone, possibly one capable of recording video, according to the Web site TUAW.com.

disney_on_vuduOne thing we can be pretty sure Apple will announce at the conference is HD movies from Disney on a download-to-own basis on Apple TV, day-and-date with their DVD release. How can we be certain? Because on Thursday, Disney announced HD movies on a download-to-own basis, day-and-date with their DVD release, on Vudu’s set-top box, a move with all the earmarks of a hedge against charges of self-dealing once the Apple deal is announced (for those joining us late, Steve Jobs is Disney’s largest individual shareholder by virtue of Disney’s acquisition of Pixar in 2008). (Screen shot via Multichannel News). Read More »

French three-strikes: More "European-style socialism"?

french-flagSo French president Nicolas Sarkozy finally got his three-strikes law. The French Senate voted 189 to 14 last week, in a session boycotted by the  opposition Socialists, to approve de loi Création et Internet, ratifying an earlier, narrower vote in the National Assembly. File-sharing reprobates in France could now find themselves cut off from the Internet by up to a year if they’re fingered a third time for illegal downloading.

Getting the bill this far was no leisurely stroll down the Champs Elysee, however. In the government’s first attempt to get  it through Parliament the bill was ambushed by the opposition in the National Assembly when the majority of members from Sarkozy’s own NMP party ducked the widely unpopular allowing a handful of Socialist members to send to an embarrasing defeat. Stung, the Sarkozy government vowed to try again and this time sparing no effort would be spared to make sure it passed.

In a particularly vivid example of the government’s determination, the Ministry of Culture arranged to have an employee of French broadcaster TF1 sacked on the eve of the vote for having the temerity to write his member of Parliament privately to urge a non vote on the bill. Read More »