L.A. Times Defends Copyright Alert System and Editorial Endorsement

by Howard Gantman 07/12/2011 08:16 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Responding to negative reader feedback, The Los Angeles Times defended its editorial endorsing the Copyright Alert System, a joint venture announced last week by ISPs and content owners.

The Times’ positive review of this new partnership between studios, record labels and top ISPs to educate users about the effects of content theft and to direct them to legal content elicited vitriolic responses from some readers, which in turn sparked further commentary from the Times.

The Times indicated that remarks from readers “seemed to be saying that they have an inviolable right to download movies and songs from one another without paying for them.”

“The fact of the matter is that studios and labels are entitled to enforce their copyrights.”

Defending the Copyright Alert System as a tempered approach to content theft, the Times argued:

“This isn't a case of Big Brother watching your every move online. One of the good things about the deal is that it doesn't call on ISPs to comb through their customers' traffic for unauthorized copies of movies or albums.  Instead, it calls for copyright holders to do what their contractors are already doing, to wit, looking for copyrighted works that users of file-sharing networks are making available to the public.”

Singling out one commenter directly: “…if you're offering to share files with anyone and everyone online, you have no reason to expect to keep that offer secret.”

“The new framework avoids lawsuits and subpoenas. ISPs won't disclose to copyright holders the names of the account holders suspected of piracy; they'll simply pass along warnings to their customers about infringements being detected and offer advice about how to respond.”

The Times further maintained that sanctions imposed through the Copyright Alert System for repeated offenders “are geared toward educating Internet users about copyrights (and wrongs), not toward kicking infringers off the Net.”

We agree that this is a great educational tool that brings content and ISPs together to combat a serious problem that is jeopardizing the livelihoods of our creative workers.  The plan does not impose draconian penalties, nor is it intended to harm users.  The Copyright Alert System is meant to help people understand what is happening on their networks; how it affects the creative community; and where they can find legal, safe alternatives to illegal downloads – for a start, check out the list on our website here.

Red Herrings

by Michael O'Leary 07/12/2011 06:09 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Yesterday, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) released a report that aimed to measure the economic impact in the U.S. of what it describes as “fair use industries,” or “economic activity that benefits from copyright fair use and other limitations on the copyright regulatory regime.”

No surprise that the study turned up big numbers – Capital Trade, Inc., the firm that conducted it, found that one-sixth of economic activity and the jobs of more than 17 million workers in the U.S. could be attributed to these “fair use industries.”  

But what’s interesting is the us-versus-them language that’s all over CCIA’s announcement of the report, at least as it applies to the PROTECT IP Act and other efforts to prevent content theft.  This is from a statement by CCIA President and CEO Ed Black:

“Too often we hear about the cost of piracy without also considering the cost to legitimate sectors of the US economy of poorly targeted copyright enforcement measures like the pending Protect IP Act.  A better understanding of the costs of overzealous copyright enforcement should help policymakers make sure new rules, legislation and trade agreements protect rightsholders as well as innovation.” (emphasis ours)

Puzzling, because many of the “fair use industries” the report suggests would in some way be harmed by stopping the massive proliferation of online content theft include the people and organizations whose work and livelihoods are most at risk from that theft.  The version of CCIA’s report released last year, and we assume this one as well, counted the motion picture industry (that would be us) among the “fair use industries,” as well as independent artists, writers and performers; radio and TV broadcasters; software publishers; promoters of sporting events; and many others for whom copyrighted content is indispensable to their work.  (See Appendix I of the 2010 report.)  So what gives?
 
Here’s the real story.  Fair use and other recognized exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright owners are important – but there’s an enormous difference between fair use and the blatant, massive, wholescale taking of intellectual property occurring online.  That isn’t fair use nor any other legally permitted use; it’s theft that robs the millions of people working in IP industries of jobs, retirement savings, and earnings to invest in future creations. 

It’s one thing to celebrate the clearly enormous contribution to the U.S. economy made both by those who create intellectual property and those who use it fairly as part of legitimate business models.  It’s another thing entirely to turn fair use into a red herring, obscuring the very real harm of content theft to our entire economy.

Ultimately, fair use depends on the availability of rich, creative, original content that is protected from infringement.  We welcome the support of the fair use industries – or should we say the other fair use industries? – as we work to pass legislation protecting from that theft the very same content on which they rely.

Emerging Artists Are Silenced by Content Theft

by Howard Gantman 07/08/2011 15:11 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Sobering op-ed today in The Oregonian by Concord Music Group President and CEO Glen A. Barros regarding the devastation wreaked on the emerging artist community by online content theft, and what’s being done to address it. 

It’s no secret that the music industry has suffered untold losses due to online music theft, and when record labels’ bottom lines began to reflect those losses, music executives faced tough choices to keep afloat.  Investing in emerging musicians became too risky as rampant online theft put a stranglehold on the industry. 

“It’s tough to justify the resources it takes to bring a new voice to the attention of the world – especially in less commercial genres such as jazz – when you lose so much of the potential return on that investment to those who ‘share’ music for free, all the while thinking that there's no victim,” Barros wrote.  “Aspiring young artists who don't get their chance are the real victims of music piracy.”

Barros signaled his optimism regarding the PROTECT IP Act, which now shares the bipartisan support of 25 U.S. Senators:

“In a time when partisanship seems at a polarizing level, it's incredibly encouraging that these senators, from both parties, are joining together in an effort to protect our creative future.”

Barros also took issue with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden for indicating his plans to block the bill’s passage:

“I would ask why [Wyden’s] primary concern is over a theoretical threat to innovation and economic growth when there's actual damage being done to innovation and our economy by these foreign-based websites. Quite simply, thieves have stifled our creative output and cost us real jobs for some time now.”

Barros drove his point home with the case study of Esperanza Spalding – winner of this year’s Grammy for best new artist – a talented jazz musician who overcame staggering obstacles to achieve a successful music career. Raised in a single-parent home with limited financial resources, Spalding worked hard to hone her talents and landed a record deal.

“We were so moved by her artistry that we took a chance.  And in this case, it worked.  Now she's winning Grammys, performing for the president, generating commerce and inspiring communities everywhere. Hers is a rare success story.

“What if we didn't take that chance on Esperanza Spalding? What if no one did?…While Protect IP is certainly not a panacea, it sure will help. And that's a good thing for that next kid from the other side of the tracks who has the potential to become tomorrow's best new artist. In fact, that's a good thing for all of us.”

All talented creators deserve a chance to be heard.  We stand with American workers in support of the PROTECT IP Act and all other legislation aimed to protect artists’ content from online theft.

L.A. Times Editorial Supports Partnership of Creative Community and ISPs to Address Online Theft

by Howard Gantman 07/08/2011 09:45 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The L.A. Times was spot on in an editorial today supporting the Copyright Alert System launched yesterday by ISPs and content owners.  Calling the plan “a fair compromise” and “a sensible way for copyright owners and ISPs to team up,” the piece complimented the creative community and ISPs for joining forces to address the serious issue of online theft.

The Copyright Alert System is above all an educational effort meant to let people know that illegitimate file transfers are occurring on their network, explain how it affects creative workers, and guide users to legal alternatives to access content like movies, TV shows and music.  

The editorial maintained that this approach “has the right focus, which is to educate broadband users about what's happening on their accounts, what constitutes copyright infringement and where to find legitimate sources of movies and music online.”

We are pleased to be working with our partners in the online ecosystem to address the problem of online content theft.  Together, we can make a real difference to the millions of men and women who work hard to create the American entertainment enjoyed all around the world.

PROTECT IP Act Now Counts A Quarter of the Senate as Cosponsors

by Kate Spence 07/08/2011 09:18 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Thanks to U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Boozman (R-AR), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Tom Udall (D-NM) for adding their names as co-sponsors of the PROTECT IP Act (S. 968), and for standing with the more than two million men and women whose livelihoods are threatened by film and television theft.  

Their willingness to join this fight brings the number of cosponsors of the PROTECT IP Act to 25 – fully one quarter of the Senate.  It’s a sign of the crucial importance of this legislation to jobs and local economies all across our country, and of the momentum building behind the effort to stop content theft.

For more about the PROTECT IP Act, visit our rogue websites page.

New Consumer Education Center on Impact of Content Theft Unveiled Today

by Michael O'Leary 07/07/2011 11:07 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

If you knew that something you were doing was hurting someone else, you’d stop, right? 

Of course – it’s not even a question.  That’s why we think the real key to stopping content theft is information. 

Too many people in America don’t realize that bootleg videos and other forms of content theft hurt millions of people in all 50 states whose jobs are supported by the film, television, and music industries, and who rely on revenues from the movies, TV, and music to make a living or save for retirement.  These are the people whose names you see at the end of the closing credits, not on the posters in the lobby – people who often work job to job and whose livelihoods are seriously threatened by the wholescale theft of their creations. 

Internet users aren’t always aware of the increasingly sophisticated, global nature of content theft.  Websites that offer up stolen content are often based overseas.  Sometimes, these sites are so deceptively designed that users think they are legitimate, and don’t realize that they benefit criminals rather than the people who made the film or TV show or song to begin with.

Many people don’t recognize that downloading or streaming an illegitimate copy of a movie is just as wrong as stealing a DVD from the local video store – they’re just different kinds of theft.  Or a parent who owns an Internet account may not know that his teenager is using it to download unauthorized music or videos.

But we believe strongly that once people do realize those things, they’ll stop – and look for legitimate ways to watch and listen.  People want to do the right thing, and it always helps to make doing the right thing just a little easier.

That’s the thinking behind a new joint venture we’re launching today, in partnership with the music industry and Internet service providers.  We are different organizations with different interests, but we’re coming together because the problem of content theft is so enormous and so costly to our economy that it demands a collaborative, constructive solution.  To learn more about content theft and ways you can avoid it, visit CopyrightInformation.org.

One important element in the development of this agreement is a new Center for Copyright Information that will help educate consumers, more effectively than we’ve done before, on the importance of copyright and the impact of content theft.  The Center will provide Internet users with information and resources on a myriad of topics, including demonstrating the serious threat of content theft to the millions of jobs sustained by industries that depend on the protection of copyright and intellectual property and to the economy. 

Just as important, the Center will point consumers towards legitimate ways to watch movies and listen to music online.  According to a recent survey, 13 percent of adult Americans – 29 million people – have downloaded or watched unauthorized movies or TV shows over the Internet.  As Julia blogged this morning, there are more options than ever before to get movies and TV shows online safely and legitimately.  This new center will help consumers find them more quickly and easily, so they can keep watching and listening to the entertainment they enjoy. 

This new center will also help develop best practices for a new system of Copyright Alerts, messages similar to credit card fraud alerts that will make Internet subscribers aware that their accounts may be being used for content theft and help them identify ways to stop it.  It will benefit from guidance from consumer advocates and technical experts.

We’re excited about this new development and the ways we think the Center will help consumers and the economy. 

White House Commends New Collaboration to Fight Online Theft

by Howard Gantman 07/07/2011 10:40 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Victoria Espinel, the White House’s U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, blogged today that the new partnership between Internet service providers and entertainment companies is in step with the Obama Administration’s goals of job creation, export growth, and keeping America competitive in the global economy.

She wrote that the agreement, which produced the new Center for Copyright Information, “is a positive step and consistent with our strategy of encouraging  voluntary efforts to strengthen online intellectual property enforcement and with our broader Internet policy principles, emphasizing privacy, free speech, competition and due process.  As such, we will follow the implementation and outcomes of this arrangement with great interest.”

“To win the future and succeed in the global economy, it is critical to protect the intellectual property of America’s innovators and creators,” she concluded.

To learn more about this new joint venture and ways you can avoid content theft, visit CopyrightInformation.org.

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More and More Ways to Watch Legitimate Films and Television Shows Online

by Julia Jenks 07/07/2011 07:23 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The worldwide demand for online video is enormous and ever-increasing.  The digital measurement company comScore recently reported that 176 million U.S. Internet users watched online videos on their computers in May, engaging in a total of 5.7 billion viewing sessions. Unfortunately, much of the viewing of movie and television content is occurring on illegitimate websites, but today, there are more options than ever before to get movies and TV shows online safely and legitimately – the list just keeps getting longer – and many of them are now among the most popular online viewing destinations.

These services offer every type of viewing, whether ad-supported, rentals, download-to-own purchasing or subscription viewing – and they are offered by many different providers, including technology companies like Apple and Roxio; television networks like ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, and The CW and cable networks like Bravo, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Disney Channel, and FX; pay television channels like Epix and HBO; television providers like Dish; telecommunications companies like AT&T and Comcast; retailers and rentailers like Amazon, Blockbuster, Netflix, and Sears; video gaming companies like Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox; and new ventures devoted entirely to this space like Crackle, Fandor, Hulu, mSpot, and Vudu (which is now owned by Wal-Mart). Internet company YouTube, the top viewing site based on comScore’s measurement, recently announced that it has reached agreement with studios to add more movies to its streaming movie rental service.

Providers are racing to embed their online services – in some cases with High Definition video – into the majority of Internet-enabled electronics, including high definition televisions, Blu-ray players, set-top-boxes, and gaming consoles, which means they are available not only to those watching on their computers, but people watching on their home television screens. And studios are working to ensure that downloading is a simple, uniform experience, where digital video purchased at any outlet can be played anywhere, as they work with technology companies and online providers to develop services such as UltraViolet and Disney Studio All Access.

This all goes to show that when technology, innovation, and a little movie magic come together, the world gets more entertaining for all of us. If you enjoy watching videos online, there’s no time like the present. 

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