The government of Taiwan has backed down from plans to amend its copyright law to justify take-downs of foreign websites accused of hosting copyright-infringing material. The Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (IPO) had proposed legislation to create a blacklist and allow DNS blocking. A citizen backlash sprung up immediately, and the IPO initially claimed the public was exaggerating the issue. When it became clear that Taiwan would face an internet blackout, the IPO announced that it would withdraw the copyright amendment.
[For InternetNZ, (CC-BY)] The local copyright enforcement arm for the “Big Three” record labels (Sony, Universal and Warner*) has won two cases at the Copyright Tribunal. One account holder was a Telecom customer, the other with TelstraClear, and now they owe the Big Three $616.57 and $557.17, respectively. Both were caught illegally uploading songs. The specific “wrong” here according to the Copyright Act is that only the copyright owner can “communicate the work to the public”. The law appears to presume that when your BitTorrent client allows other P2P users to download from you, then you are communicating that work to the public, even though that “public” could in fact be one person — more on that one later.
Billboard Magazine has an excellent story about Eme Navarro, a musician who has asked his fans to upload illegal copies of his new song, “Nobody’s Death.” He then complains to the government under its newly enacted Sinde Law. Billboard calls it “a strategy meant to logjam enforcement of the law and to require that the government pick and chose what cases to pursue, ostensibly in order to expose the law’s pro-industry bias.” To date, Navarro has placed about 90% of the complaints the government has received. Click here for the full story.
The Spanish Supreme Court has agreed to review the Sinde Law, which the Association of Web Users has challenged as unconstitutional. The Sinde Law creates a government commission to review allegations of copyright infringement, which can order internet service providers to block access to websites hosting infringing content. The Association of Web Users argue that only a court should have this authority.
Paramount’s Vice President for Worldwide Content Protection & Outreach has sent letters to university professors regarding the SOPA/PIPA backlash, asking if the company can give presentations and hold the discussions at their schools. Says the letter: “our goal would be to exchange ideas about content theft, its challenges and possible ways to address it. We obviously think about these issues deeply on a daily basis. But, as these last few weeks made painfully clear, we still have much to learn.”
The controversy in the United States over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has profound implications for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. The SOPA debate underscores the importance of striking the proper balance in intellectual property laws to promote creativity and innovation. It demonstrates that over-protection can stifle free expression and the effective operation of the Internet as a medium of communication and commerce not only within a jurisdiction, but also extraterritorially. Additionally, the debate reveals the ability of the Internet community to mobilize quickly to defeat policies that it believes threaten its existence. TPP negotiators should understand the SOPA experience to avoid repeating its mistakes.
In the wake of the Stop Online Piracy Act/PROTECT IP Act (collectively, SOPA) Web protest, some commentators have pointed out that Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is even worse in both substance and procedure. The secretive process through which ACTA was negotiated is now well known, at least amongst those paying attention. Indeed, the very secrecy of the process has made paying attention both difficult to do and critically important, as ACTA seeks to create a new international framework for combating piracy. SOPA, in a profound way, has shown the value of transparency, albeit imperfect, when lawmakers are faced with pervasive and poorly understood technology like the Internet, and a new problem of scale like the distribution of intellectual property (IP) on the borderless Internet. The public’s access to actual texts of SOPA, combined with a relatively simple process for offering actual input about the bills, will hopefully create better law by allowing knowledgeable parties to explain technologies that are not well understood. No such opportunity existed with ACTA.
Now that we’re post SOPA/PIPA (for now), it’s important to develop a larger framework for how intellectual property law can best serve the public ends of maximizing innovation and enriching our common culture. Last August, we helped organize a Global Congress to do just that. The result was the “Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest.”
What’s in it? A lot of it is pretty obvious stuff, such as: policymaking shouldn’t be secret! And, take evidentiary standards seriously! Some of it is fairly technical, such as defending the first sale principle across borders to facilitate parallel importation. Not all of it is completely settled or specified–150 people contributed to this and we tried to do justice to their disagreements as well as agreements. The point is, it’s a very good place to start a larger conversation about how to make intellectual property law serve public ends–in both national and international law. If that matters to you, please give it a read and consider signing!
I have previously shared the American Assembly’s survey on copyright infringement and enforcement, but since it is relevant to the SOPA/PIPA debate, I would like to point to some of its findings once more. While much has been written about how tech companies and engineers oppose these bills, the survey shows that everyday Americans oppose the censorship and monitoring that the bills would require.
The White House has responded to online petitions against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT-IP Act, which together have received over 100,000 signatures, indicating it will not support the bills as currently drafted:
“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”
His statement: “After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision. We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers.”
On December 30, Spain’s new Popular Party government announced the implementation of the “Sinde Law,” which allows a government agency to order the takedown of websites based on allegations of intellectual property infringement by rightholders. The government will also be able to take action against service providers doing business with the sites. The former government led by Prime Minister Zapatero did not pass the bill, raising the ire of the United States.
Last week, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on a leaked letter from U.S. Ambassador Alan Solomont to the Zapatero government, in which he threatens “retaliatory actions” if the country did not pass the Sinde Law.