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.

Read the rest

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!!!

Are RIAA lawsuit damages Constitutional? Law prof wants to webcast RIAA lawsuit Cracked vs. RIAA damages 20000 US BitTorrent users sued; 30000 more lawsuits pending ... RIAA's lawsuit against homeless man not going entirely smoothly ... EFF to judge: Let's webcast the RIAA's lawsuit Flowchart: RIAA Lawsuit Decision Matrix RIAA has to pay $107951 for court costs in failed suit against ... Read the rest

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

US record labels starts fake "citizen's group" to support Canada's ... Read the rest

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!)

Irish ISP will disconnect Internet users after three ... Ireland High Court gives entertainment giants the power to ... Dublin city council cancels free citywide WiFi: "Illegal under ... Read the rest

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!)

Movie/record industry rep says that you shouldn't expect to be ... Home Taping is Killing Music: funny video about UK record ... Is the UK record industry arrogant or stupid? Musicians record album in rebuttal to File Sharing is Killing ... Record company embraces use of its music in YouTube wedding video ... Read the rest

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).

Read the rest

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!)

Previously: Warners censors mashup album, fight back! Big Content's dystopian wish-list for the US gov't: spyware ... MPAA to Obama: censor the Internet, kick people off the Internet ... Music industry to musicbloggers: there's no point in obeying the ... Beyond breaking firewalls: how to fight net-censorship Read the rest

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!).

Read the rest

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." Read the rest

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. Read the rest