Author: Joe Karaganis

The Copy Culture Survey: Infringement and Enforcement in the US

The U.S. House of Representatives is now debating the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—the counterpart to the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act.  If passed, the bill will expand criminal penalties for copyright infringement and give the government (and private parties) new powers to block access to websites accused of facilitating infringement. The bill is the latest in a series of efforts to strengthen copyright enforcement online. Earlier this year, Internet Service Providers and the film and record industries reached an agreement to expand the private policing of online infringement.  Search engines, social networking platforms, cloud storage providers, universities, and other institutions face growing pressure to monitor and filter Internet activity. This research note is an effort to bring American public opinion to bear on this vital conversation. The note excerpts a forthcoming survey-based study called Copy Culture in the U.S. and Germany. Drawing on results from the U.S. portion of the survey, it explores what Americans do with digital media, what they want to do, and how they reconcile their attitudes and values with different policies and proposals to enforce copyright online. Full Report (PDF: “Copyright Infringement and Enforcement in the USA.” Joe Karaganis, American Assembly, Columbia University. November 2011   The Copy Culture survey was sponsored by The American Assembly, with support from a research award from Google.  The content of the survey and its findings are solely the...

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Comment on European Audiovisual Policy

I’ve turned The European Strategy Trilogy into something a little more refined and submitted it to the European Commission’s public consultation on ‘Assessing State aid for films and other audiovisual works.’ Download it here.  Here’s the most radical suggestion: Modernize how public funding agencies conceive their mission, with an emphasis on much wider and cheaper distribution of EU movies. We propose: Making public funding contingent on creative commons commercial use licensing of the work after an initial period of commercial release (provisionally, five years). The CC license would allow works to circulate at no cost, without requiring permission from the rightsholder. Allowing production companies to buy out of this clause if they choose to do so (notably if a film is a hit) by paying back the funding agency. Collectively, these measures are designed to: Dramatically increase the legal availability of European film in international markets, allowing producers to focus on building audiences and creating a feedback loop between international reception and production. Slowly defuse the anxiety around piracy (as there are no starving auteurs with violated rights at the end of this process—only well fed ones). Create a probably permanent competitive advantage over Hollywood in regard to international transaction and licensing costs (for most work, after five years, the cost falls to zero). Provide an ex-post way out of the public funding of blockbusters (while protecting small market...

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The European Strategy: The Curse of Harry Potter (Part 3)

When we last left the European Commission, it was continuing its pursuit of  SMUS (Send Money to the US) based IP policies.  We raised some questions about the wisdom of this strategy.  But there is also a different EC conversation underway about revision of the rules governing public film subsidies.  And this one is more genuinely vexed and interesting. As I noted in the Send Money Pt.2 post a couple weeks ago, Europe produces a lot of movies–over 1100 in 2009–but very few that reach audiences beyond the national markets in which they are produced.  Because movies carry a lot of the burden of representing culture in Europe, this failure generates a lot of anxiety.  So what to do? The localism of the European cinema has an obvious linguistic component.  People want to see movies in their own languages.  But localism is also built into the elaborate system of public support for European film, in which dozens of national and regional funding bodies subsidize literally thousands of small production companies: 600 in France, 400 in the UK, 200 in Germany, and so on.  These subsidies are very unevenly distributed across the EU, but add up to roughly €1.3 billion in direct grants (see chart below) and about another billion in tax breaks.  According to the EC, roughly 80% of films receive some public subsidization. The chart below presents this...

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The European Strategy: Send Money to the US (Part Deux)

Most of the time, the international politics of intellectual property law are pretty easy to follow: countries that are large exporters of intellectual property usually favor stronger international IP agreements that help exploit international markets.  Countries that are large importers of IP, in contrast, generally favor lower levels of IP protection that minimize the outflow of royalties, licensing fees, and other payments for foreign-owned products and technologies–whether computers, drugs, movies, or books.  Whatever other rhetorics are in play, from the rights of authors to the right to development, political positions usually line up with those underlying incentives. The turn toward the use of trade agreements to set IP obligations–from the early bilateral agreements of the 1980s to the WTO’s TRIPS agreement in the early 1990s–more or less formalized this instrumental approach to IP law.  Trade agreements, at the end of the day, are about economic deals–not morality or even fairness.  For anyone clinging to a moral interpretation of these arrangements, it’s worth revisiting at the US and EU positions in the South African AIDS drug controversy from the late 1990s or more recent opposition to the proposed WIPO treaty for the visually impaired. I raise this not to attack trade agreements, but to ask some similarly instrumental questions about the European Commission’s position on IP rights and enforcement.  Over the past two decades, the EC has been a very...

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SSRC Releases “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies”

New York (March 7 2011)—Today, the Social Science Research Council released the first independent, large-scale study of music, film and software piracy in emerging economies, with a focus on Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Bolivia. Based on three years of work by some thirty-five researchers, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies tells two overarching stories:  one tracing the explosive growth of piracy as digital technologies became cheap and ubiquitous around the world, and another following the growth of industry lobbies that have reshaped laws and law enforcement around copyright protection.   The report argues that these efforts have largely failed, and that the problem of piracy is better conceived as a failure of affordable access to media in legal markets. “The choice,” said Joe Karaganis, director of the project, “isn’t between high piracy and low piracy in most media markets.  The choice, rather, is between high-piracy, high-price markets and high-piracy, low price markets.  Our work shows that media businesses can survive in both environments, and that developing countries have a strong interest in promoting the latter.  This problem has little to do with enforcement and a lot to do with fostering competition.” Major Findings Prices are too high. High prices for media goods, low incomes, and cheap digital technologies are the main ingredients of global media piracy.   Relative to local incomes in Brazil, Russia, or South Africa, the retail...

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