Copyright Makes Strange Bedfellows

It’s probably fair to say that Donald Trump was not the first choice for president among the majority of those within the media and entertainment industries. Since his election last month, however, their official industry representatives have wasted little time trying to ingratiate themselves with the incoming administration and to press the industries’ policy agenda.

“So much of what you wrote in your platform this summer about intellectual property and private property rights resonated with many of us, including: ‘Intellectual property is a driving force in today’s global economy of constant innovation,'” a consortium of music industry trade associations wrote to Trump this week. “‘It is the wellspring of American economic growth and job creation. With the rise of the digital economy, it has become even more critical that we protect intellectual property rights and preserve freedom of contract rather than create regulatory barriers to creativity, growth, and innovation.’

“As partners, many in the technology and corporate community should be commended for doing their part to help value creators and their content,” the groups added. “Some have developed systems to promote a healthy market for music and deter theft. However, much more needs to be done…[T]here is a massive ‘value grab’ as some of these corporations weaken intellectual property rights for America’s creators by exploiting legal loopholes never intended for them – perversely abusing U.S. law to underpay music creators, thus harming one of America’s economic and job engines.” Read More »

Democracy On an iPhone: Why 2016 Could Be A Big Year For Meerkat and Periscope

All presidential campaigns send trackers to stalk their opponents. Armed with video cameras, or even just a smartphone, trackers follow opposing candidates around from whistle stop to whistle stop to document any unscripted moments that could be turned into an attack ad or used in a fundraising pitch.

periscope_logoAny candidate who makes it past the New Hampshire primary, conversely, quickly figures out they’re being stalked and learns to avoid, whenever possible, going off script. And if they don’t they don’t make it past Super Tuesday.

The spread of video-capable smartphones during the last couple of election cycles has made the stalking even more intimate, as Mitt “47 percent” Romney found out in 2012. Even at events that have been carefully screened for opposition trackers, what you say can end up on YouTube.

But as P.J. Bednarski points out in a post on the MediaPost Vidblog, the peril is likely to get ratcheted up even higher for candidates in 2016 thanks to the popularity of live-streaming apps like Meerkat, YouNow and Periscope: Read More »

Slippery SOPA

Copyright Critics of the failed Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act (SOPA/PIPA) have been having some fun with some internal RIAA and IFPI materials regarding the music industry’s anti-piracy efforts that leaked to TorrentFreak last week. Part of the cache includes a PowerPoint presentation delivered by RIAA deputy general counsel Victoria Sheckler to IFPI members back in April (pdf).

The critics are taking particular delight in Sheckler’s acknowledgment that the laws were “not likely to have been effective tool[s] for music.” Here’s the PPT slide summarizing the SOPA/PIPA debate:

While perhaps a bit embarrassing for the RIAA, I don’t find the revelation terribly surprising. The bills weren’t really crafted with music in mind; most of the online piracy the music industry is concerned about occurs over peer-to-peer networks, which were not the targets of the bills.

Rather, the bills were crafted by the MPAA, as a tool against movie piracy. Though P2P networks are responsible for a certain amount of movie piracy, more of it these days involves digital locker services, mostly based outside the U.S., like Megaupload, which were the main targets of SOPA and PIPA. As data contained elsewhere in Sheckler’s presentation show, digital lockers make up only about 6 percent of what the music companies regard as piracy, compared to 23 percent Read More »

Neutrality on net neutrality is not an option

Continuing its campaignagainst the FCC’s planned net neutrality regulation, the Washington Post launched its new Post Tech blog Thursday with an interviewwith Carnegie Mellon computer science professor and net-neutrality skeptic,  David Farber. According to Farber:

[I]t’s very hard to define [“neutrality” and “reasonable network management”]. The problem here is everyone talks about reasonable network management, but if you look at it from a technical perspective, someone trying to build new ways of operating networks is going to sit there saying, “I wonder if this new brilliant idea is reasonable or not. And if I go through all the energy of implementing it and testing it, will someone in Washington say that that violates some reasonable network management criteria?”

[snip]

It is also attacking a problem which doesn’t seem to exist. The one or two cases where things that I would say fall into network neutrality have been taken care of easily. The FCC looked at this and said “You aren’t doing things right, so let’s look at it.” Having a whole set of regulations for something you don’t understand hasn’t happened is sort of tricky.

comcast_fccFair enough as far as it goes. But as a practical legal and political matter we’re way past the point of debating whether we should or shouldn’t have net neutrality regulation. The question on the table in Washington is who’s going to write the rules: Congress, the FCC or the courts?  The issue for the ISPs is to pick their poison, because the status quo is not an option.

For starters, you have Comcast’s litigation against the FCC over the agency’s reliance on its informal Broadband Policy Statementto order Comcast last year not to throttle BitTorrent traffic over its network. At this point, Comcast should probably consider dropping the case because there’s no plausible outcome that could benefit the ISP. Should the DC Circuit Court rule that the FCC’s “principles” have no legal force, or that the agency overstepped its jurisdiction — technically a “win” for Comcast in a narrow legal sense — the key committee chairs on the Hill would almost certainly move quickly to give the FCC to “correct” the jurisdictional problem. The FCC, meanwhile, would simply have more incentive to conduct a formal rulemaking so it wouldn’t have to rely on legally dubious policy principles. Read More »

The Washington Post's muddled view of net neutrality

The net neutrality debate, already heating up here in Washington since FCC chairman Julius Genachowski’s speech to the Brookings Institution last week, got additional fuel on Monday when the Washington Post weighed in with an oddly snide editorial opposing the chairman’s proposal to regulate the way ISPs manage their networks.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski promised that his agency’s plan for regulating Internet service providers (ISPs) will be “fair, transparent, fact-based and data-driven.”

That’s nice. But Mr. Genachowski failed to convincingly answer the most important question of all: Is this intervention necessary?Genachowski-Brookings

[snip]

He and other proponents of federal involvement cite a handful of cases they say prove that, left to their own devices, ISPs such as Comcast Corp. and AT&T will choke the free flow of information and technology. One example alluded to by the chairman: Comcast’s blocking an application by BitTorrent that would allow peer-to-peer video sharing. Yet that conflict was ultimately resolved by the two companies — without FCC intervention — after Comcast’s alleged bad behavior was exposed by a blogger. Read More »

Missing data points in the IIPA copyright study

A couple of data points I would have liked to have seen but could not find in the study released Monday by the International Intellectual Property Alliance on the copyright industries’ $1.5 trillion contribution to U.S. GDP:

1)  What portion of the economic activity in what the report classify as “non-core” copyright industries is being counted toward that $1.5 trillion? Following classifications established by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2004, the report divides Copyright-symbolthe copyright industries into four categories: Core industries (movies, TV, books, newspapers, recorded music, computer software); Partial copyright industries (industries in which a portion of their output is eligible for copyright protection, e.g. fabric, jewelry, furniture); Non-Dedicated Support industries (transportation, telecommunications, etc.); and Interdependent industries (CE manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, blank media etc.). Together, the four make up the report’s “total copyright industries.”

According to the report the core industries contributed $889 billion to U.S. GDP in 2007, the last year for which data are available, while the non-core industries contributed $636 billion. Not all economic activity in those related industries is related to copyrighted works, however, as the authors of the report acknowledge. So how much are they assigning to the copyright category? “A portion,” according the report. How big a portion? The report doesn’t say. Read More »

Selling the news

The most depressing, if least surprising aspect to the flap over the Washington Post’s now-abandoned plan to sell access to public officials and its own editorial staffers in the form of big-money “salons” for lobbyists was the Post’s naked fetishizing of “those powerful few” who “actually get it done” on Capitol Hill.

newspapersI live and work in Washington, so I know how it goes here. But for an organization at least institutionally committed to free and open debate it’s just sad that the Post would see its salvation in burrowing ever-deeper into its Beltway barrens by promising a “select” guest list–“typically…of “20 or less”–and trumpeting  it’s “off-the-record” solicitude.

It’s no answer to argue, as Media Memo’s Peter Kafka tries to do, that these are desperate times for newspapers calling for desperate measures:

This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that the Post has been at the nexus of power, money and influence. In fact, Weymouth’s grandmother, Katharine Graham, was famous for hosting gatherings much like these at her house. And publications of all stripes, including this one, as well as Dow Jones, which owns this site, frequently charge fees to attend networking events where their editorial staffs participate.

And you’re likely to see more of this stuff, not less, as publishers search for revenue streams besides advertising to stay afloat. Any tempest you see about this today is going to look quaint in a couple of years.

That’s taking a dive for the short-end money. If newspapers want to be contenders in the future, they should be looking for ways to bring more voices into the conversation, not fewer. They should be building applications to equip readers with their own tools for gathering and disseminating information, not looking for ways to exclude them with promises of “intimate” and “off-the-record” assignations.

Exclusivity is a one-way ticket to palooka-ville in the digital age. If that’s all the Post has got it might as well take the express and get their sooner. — TMW