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Multinational record industry shill calls Canada's new copyright bill "a license to steal"

Michael Geist sez,
Canadian Recording Industry Association President Graham Henderson had some noteworthy comments on copyright reform in an article just published by Grammy.com. While unsurprisingly supportive of Bill C-32 [ed: Canada's new copyright bill], Henderson expressed specific concern about changes to the statutory damages provision. After the government faced criticism for its $500 cap on downloading damages in Bill C-61, it shifted its approach by rightly distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial infringement. The bill now proposes to establish a maximum statutory damages penalty of $5,000 for infringement that the court considers to be non-commercial. While $5,000 is still very significant potential liability for non-commercial infringement, it apparently is viewed as licence to steal by CRIA. Henderson tells Grammy.com:

"Once this bill is passed, you could go online and steal every movie that's ever made, every book, and every song, put them on your hard drive, admit liability, and write a $5,000 check. That would be the full extent of it -- and it would be the first rights holder who would get all the money. Nobody else would get a cent. It's close to saying that for people who want to steal stuff, there's a compulsory license of $5,000.

Henderson's organization represents the US labels that have sued over 30,000 Americans for file-sharing; none of the "damages" they've recovered from Internet users have been passed on to musicians.

CRIA President: C-32's Statutory Damages Reform a Licence to Steal

UK regulator turns over Internet policing standards to movie and record industries

When the last UK Parliament rushed the Digital Economy Act into law without debate, hours before it dissolved for the election, it appointed Ofcom, the telcoms regulator, to work out the details. Specifically, it charged Ofcom with sorting out some high standards for what evidence a rightsholder would have to produce in order to finger an online infringer (the DEA gives these rightsholders the power to eventually disconnect entire families from the internet on the strength of these accusations).

Now Ofcom has abrogated its duty to the public and announced that the record and film industry can "self-regulate" their evidence-gathering procedures; in other words, anything that the MPA or BPI say counts as proof that you've violated copyright goes. Since these are the same companies that have mistakenly accused dead people, inanimate objects (laser printers), and people who don't own computers of file-sharing, this doesn't bode well.

What's more, it's not legal. The Open Rights Group and Consumer Focus have pointed out that the Digital Economy Act instructs Ofcom to come up with standards, not throw its hands up in the air and give the entertainment industry bullies the power to act as judge, jury and executioner.

Ofcom's proposal denies us the ability to check whether the methods of collecting of the evidence are trustworthy. Instead, copyright holders and Internet Service Providers will just self-certify that everything's ok. If they get it wrong, there's no penalty.

The Act requires the evidential standards to be defined - but Ofcom are leaving this up the rights holders and ISPs to decide in the future. We ask, how is anyone meant to trust this code if we can't see how the evidence is gathered or checked?

After all, only last week, we heard about people have been apparently wrongly sent accusations of downloading tracks by the Ministry of Sound. We know things go wrong, and that's why the Act requires the evidential standards to be set out. What we need now is a new consultation on a new code, that is compliant with the Act.

Ofcom's code does not comply with Digital Economy Act (Thanks, Jim!)

Financial genius: US record industry turns $16M in legal spending into $391K cash

The title of this Recording Industry vs The People post says it all, really: "Ha ha ha ha ha. RIAA paid its lawyers more than $16,000,000 in 2008 to recover only $391,000!!!":
If the average settlement were $3,900, that would mean 100 settlements for the entire year.

As bad as it was, I guess it was better than the numbers for 2007, in which more than $21 million was spent on legal fees, and $3.5 million on "investigative operations" ... presumably MediaSentry. And the amount recovered was $515,929.

And 2006 was similar: they spent more than $19,000,000 in legal fees and more than $3,600,000 in "investigative operations" expenses to recover $455,000.

So all in all, for a 3 year period, they spent around $64,000,000 in legal and investigative expenses to recover around $1,361,000.

Ha ha ha ha ha. RIAA paid its lawyers more than $16,000,000 in 2008 to recover only $391,000!!!

Canadian copyright astroturfers own up: front for US labels

Remember Balanced Copyright for Canada, the shadowy "citizen's group" that encouraged members to send form letters to media outlets skeptical about Canada's new, US-style copyright law?

Turns out it's a front for the big US labels.

Michael Geist sez,

After several weeks of delays, the Balanced Copyright for Canada site which has been engaging in astroturfing on Canadian copyright reforms, revealed its funding and advisory board late on Tuesday night, hours before the Canada Day holiday. The primary source of funding is not a surprise: this is a Canadian Recording Industry Association production.

The composition of the advisory board is interesting. First, of the 13 members, more than half are either record company executives, former record company executives, or lawyers who represent record companies. No surprise given the site's backing, but not exactly the promised "employees, unions, artists and creators." In fact, it is notable that there are very few prominent creators and not many representatives from creator groups outside the music industry such as authors, performers, directors, or artists. In fact, despite an earlier claim that Loreena McKennitt would be on the advisory board, those plans apparently changed.

The board also includes one lawyer who just three months ago argued in a paper that form letters carry little value in public policy process, yet is now on the board of a site that requires a form letter that cannot be edited in order to participate.

Balanced Copyright for Canada Board and Funding Revealed

Ireland's largest ISP begins disconnecting users who are accused of piracy

Eircom, Ireland's largest ISP, has decided to snuffle up to the entertainment industry's hindquarters and become the first European ISP to actively practice "3 strikes": if you are accused (without proof) of three acts of copyright infringement, they will take away Internet access from your entire household for a year.
Ireland is the first country in the world where a system of "graduated response" is being put in place. Under the pilot scheme, Eircom customers who illegally share copyrighted music will get three warnings before having their broadband service cut off for a year.

The Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma), whose members include EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner, reached an out-of-court settlement with Eircom in February 2009 under which the telecoms company agreed to introduce such a system for its 750,000 broadband users.

Eircom to cut broadband over illegal downloads (Thanks, David!)

Finnish record industry's regrettable new anti-piracy mascot

The Finnish record industry lobby has produced a series of excruciatingly bad videos to educate the general populace about the evils of piracy. Starring "Captain Nation," they combine moralizing, crummy CGI, bad irony, and worse music.

WIDE NATION - Episodi 1 (Thanks, Morris!)

Canadian record industry won't say what it wants

Michael Geist:
Last week, the Canadian Recording Industry Association appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage with discussion that focused largely on copyright reform (media coverage of the appearance here). While copyright was the key issue, what was striking was CRIA's reluctance to actually specify what reforms it supports. That may sound unusual, but a review of recent public statements suggests that it is actually quite typical. In recent years, CRIA has become very reluctant to provide specific views on reforms, seemingly relying instead on the sort of backdoor, lobbyist-inspired meetings that are the talk of Ottawa.

The transcript has not been posted yet, however, a review of the unofficial transcript shows that CRIA President Graham Henderson provided no legal specifics in his opening statement. During questioning, he was repeatedly avoided responding directly when asked what his organization wants.

This is hardly the first time CRIA has avoided taking a public stand on specific copyright reforms. During last summer's copyright consultation, it was one of the only major copyright organizations that did not even bother with an individual submission.

Why does CRIA say virtually nothing specific about what it actually seeks? Based on lobbying records, perhaps it is because it saves its real comments for what takes place behind closed doors. There are 19 records of meetings for CRIA representatives with a wide range of government officials including Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore - the iPadLock Minister - from the period of August 2008 to February 2010 (or 19 entries over a 19 month period). Even the content of those meetings may be kept secret. A recent access to information request on a presentation by Barry Sookman on ISP exceptions in Bill C-61 to government officials in 2009 excluded virtually all substantive materials on the grounds that it "contains commercially valuable information."

Why Is CRIA Reluctant To Provide Public Specifics About Copyright Reform?

Music industry spokesman loves child porn

A music-industry speaker at an American Chamber of Commerce event in Stockholm waxed enthusiastic about child porn, because it serves as the perfect excuse for network censorship, and once you've got a child-porn filter, you can censor anything:
"Child pornography is great," the speaker at the podium declared enthusiastically. "It is great because politicians understand child pornography. By playing that card, we can get them to act, and start blocking sites. And once they have done that, we can get them to start blocking file sharing sites".

The venue was a seminar organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm on May 27, 2007, under the title "Sweden -- A Safe Haven for Pirates?". The speaker was Johan Schlüter from the Danish Anti-Piracy Group, a lobby organization for the music and film industry associations, like IFPI and others...

"One day we will have a giant filter that we develop in close cooperation with IFPI and MPA. We continuously monitor the child porn on the net, to show the politicians that filtering works. Child porn is an issue they understand," Johan Schlüter said with a grin, his whole being radiating pride and enthusiasm from the podium.

IFPI's child porn strategy (Thanks, Thomas!)

UK record lobby has vehement feelings on Digital Economy Bill debate, won't say what they are

My latest Guardian column, "Does the BPI want MPs to debate the digital economy bill properly?" addresses the British Phonographic Institute's weird, vehement silence on Parliament's debate on its pet legislation, the dread Digital Economy Bill. Vehement silence? Oh yes.

Last week, the BPI sent me a vehement denial after I published a report that its spokesman had said that there was no need for further debate over the 24,000+ word bill, claiming he'd said no such thing (Parliament hasn't debated the bill at all, and at present it seems like it'll be rammed through with a mere afternoon's debate). But when I asked whether the BPI believed the debate to date had been sufficient, they just ignored the question.

One long-serving MP told me that under normal circumstances, "a bill of this size would probably have a one-day second reading debate and then about 60 to 80 hours in committee, where it would be scrutinised line by line, clause by clause". However, under the current accelerated schedule, "it will receive one day for second reading and at the very most, two hours in a committee of the whole house. The government will programme the debate so huge chunks of the bill might not receive any scrutiny at all..."

The BPI's member companies stand to gain enormous power and wealth from this Bill - including the power to decide which British families are allowed to participate in digital society. They've written sections of it. They produce a weekly, in-depth status report on the bill's progress (albeit these reports are somewhat loony: the leaked one suggested that the MI5 were behind the opposition!).

Are we to believe that they have no opinion on whether this bill has seen enough parliamentary debate?

Does the BPI want MPs to debate the digital economy bill properly?

Leaked UK record industry memo sets out plans for breaking copyright

In this leaked, six-page email, Richard Mollet, the Director of Public Affairs for the British Phonographic Institute (the UK's record-industry lobbyists), sets out the BPI's strategy for ramming through the Digital Economy Bill, a sweeping, backwards reform to UK copyright law that will further sacrifice privacy and due process in the name of preserving copyright, without actually preserving copyright.

Mollet's memo, entitled "Digital Economy Bill weekly update 11 March 2010," appears to be a weekly status report on the DEB's progress. On the CC list are executives from major record labels, staff at IFPI (the international record industry lobby), PR agents from The Open Road, and others I don't recognise (if you can identify others on the CC list, please post to the comments).

In the memo, Mollet identifies Britain's top spies as being a stumbling block to the bill's passage -- worried, apparently, that creating a Great Firewall of Britain will make it harder for spies to spy on naughty sites (someone should tell MI5 about Ipredator, the excellent proxy service from the Pirate Bay; after all, that's the same proxy that everyone else in Britain is likely to use to get at the blocked sites if the BPI gets its way).

Mollet also implies that Britain's spy agencies might have paid for a Talk Talk survey in which 71% of 18-34 year olds said that they would simply evade the DEB and go on infringing.

Mollet claims that Britain's ISPs have already caved into their duties to spy on and censor network connections, claiming that there is a sense of "settled will" in the "ISP community."

On the other hand, he identifies Members of Parliament as being "resigned" to the fact that they will not be allowed to debate the bill or give it "detailed scrutiny" (heck of a job, MPs!). He cites an expert on legislation as saying that the bill will likely die if MPs insist on their right and responsibility to examine this legislation in detail before voting on it.

BPI Digital Economy Bill weekly minutes (PDF)

Mirror

Music industry to musicbloggers: there's no point in obeying the law


Last week, several high-profile, much-loved music blogs disappeared from Google's Blogspot service, after they were targetted by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI -- the international version of the RIAA). IFPI defended its action by saying "Our top priority is to prevent the continued availability of the IFPI Represented Companies' content on the internet."

But IFPI didn't target pirate websites here. Among the sites it took down was I Rock Cleveland, a site whose author, Bill Lipold, painstakingly sought and received explicit permission to post every single track and excerpt he put up (though in many cases, he could have relied on fair use rather than going to the effort).

By using the law to annihilate labors of love like I Rock Cleveland, sites that obeyed all the rules and sought permission from the copyright holders at every turn, IFPI's message is simple: "Don't bother getting permission. Just take stuff. You're wasting your time trying to obey the law. It all comes out the same in the end -- we don't care whether you obey our rules or not."

IFPI will argue that it was just trying to help artists, that everyone makes mistakes, that copyright is complicated. But these are exactly the same arguments that the musicbloggers whose sites were vanished by IFPI's abusive lawyering would have made, if they'd been given a chance.

And the artists, the human shields in whose name IFPI is doing all of this? They don't want it, don't need it, and don't understand it. As one band's publicist wrote, "Just so you know, this is none of our doing...apparently, DMCA operate on their own set of odd rules, as they even requested that the (band's) official blog remove the song....What a headache..."

Targeted bloggers need to know these details, not only so that they can remove the file if it's indeed infringing, but so that they can file a DMCA counter-notice in the event that the file is not infringing.

Ordinarily, the party issueing the takedown notice would be required by US copyright law to specify which content is being accused. But, as an international organization headquartered in London, IFPI is arguing that it doesn't even need to play by the USA's rules. "We neither admit nor accept," they write, "...that Google is entitled to be served a notice in compliance with the DMCA." Translation: IFPI is essentially threatening to sue Google under some unspecified foreign law -- presumably one which lacks even the modest safe-harbor provisions available in the USA. It's no wonder Google felt the need to take drastic action to avoid liability, even at the expense of the resulting headaches and bad press.

Music Journalism is the New Piracy