It has been widely reported that the hacked Sony Pictures emails reveal that in early 2014, MPAA launched Project Goliath, a policy initiative to develop legal tools to block access to websites that facilitate infringement. The effort to develop such legal tools at the federal level failed spectacularly with the SOPA/PIPA debacle, so Project Goliath attempted to enlist the support of state attorneys general. The news reports about Project Goliath speculate that “Goliath” is a code name for Google, one of the most vocal opponents of SOPA/PIPA and a frequent target of entertainment industry complaints that its search engine directs users to infringing sites such as cyberlockers. Google in a policy blog expressed “deep concerns” about the revelations, and asked why the MPAA, an organization that claims to be committed to the First Amendment and artists’ freedom of expression, was “trying secretly to censor the Internet.” The MPAA responded that “Google’s effort to position itself as a defender of free speech is shameful.”
The Intellectual Property section of the American Bar Association has called on Congress to craft new legislation to fight infringement by “Predatory Foreign Websites” (PFW). In a white paper titled A Call for Action for Online Piracy and Counterfeiting Legislation, the group makes a number of recommendations, including the creation of a private right of action allowing rightholders to seek civil remedies. Specific civil remedies should include: “(1) injunctions directing financial payment processors to freeze the assets of PFWs and to cease doing business with such websites; (2) injunctions preventing online advertisers from paying PFWs or from displaying further ads on those websites; (3) injunctions requiring search engines to remove PFWs from paid, sponsored links; (4) injunctions requiring website hosts to cease hosting PFWs;
[Maira Sutton, EFF, Link (CC-BY)] The Supreme Court of British Columbia has ordered Google to remove entire domains from its search results—a decision that could have enormous global implications on free expression. This is the latest of several instances of courts exercising dangerous jurisdictional overreach, where they have applied local laws to remove content on the Internet. Not only did the Court order Google to delete the site from its search results on the Canadian “Google.ca” domain, it went even further by demanding it censor the domain worldwide by deleting every instance of the site from its global index.
Congratulations on your recent appointment as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. As technology companies with business models inextricably linked to the Internet, we admire your work as a staunch defender of users and online rights—most prominently when you led the fight against SOPA and PIPA in Congress.
Today we write about another emerging front in the battle to defend the free Internet — massive trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These highly secretive, supranational agreements are reported to include provisions that vastly expand on any reasonable definition of “trade,” including provisions that impact patents, copyright, and privacy in ways that constrain legitimate online activity and innovation. We applaud your prior efforts as Senator to bring transparency and public participation to trade negotiations. We strongly urge you to uphold and expand this dedication into your new role.
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!