COPYHYPE Counters Misconceptions about Senate Streaming Bill

by Howard Gantman 07/06/2011 12:20 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Great piece by COPYHYPE’s Terry Hart today clearing up some misconceptions that have been floating around about S.978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, a narrowly targeted bill aimed at criminals who steal and disseminate American-made movies, television shows, live sporting events, and other creative works.

Hart illustrates how the Commercial Felony Streaming Act will affect criminals engaged in massive copyright theft, and why fears that the bill will target users who post videos of lip-synching online are wrong.  “The bill is addressed toward only large-scale, commercial piracy, and the bill is drafted accordingly,” writes Hart. 

As Hart notes in his article, streaming copyrighted content is actually already illegal, but it’s classified as a misdemeanor, not a felony.  The Commercial Felony Streaming Act toughens the penalty for this behavior to close a loophole in current law that imposes weaker penalties for streaming illegal content than for downloading illegal content via peer-to-peer transfers.  Streaming and downloading are different technologies, but criminals are using them for the same purpose—stealing movies and TV shows made by the millions of men and women whose work in the entertainment industry helps support them and their families. 

Arguing the narrow scope of the bill, Hart asserts, “The language of the statute sets forth several bars to arbitrary and unreasonable application of the law, including its requirement of willfulness and the value necessary to trigger it.” 

Detailing the criteria used to determine “willfulness” and “value” in a criminal court, Hart concludes that only criminals will feel the impact of S. 978:

“To sum up, Bill S.978 can’t be used to prosecute the uses that many fear it applies to. It doesn’t change what conduct is legal and what conduct is illegal. It is designed to apply only to outright pirates who profit off the streaming of unauthorized copyrighted works, and the language reflects this design.”

Video Streaming Bill Targets Criminals, Not Lip-Syncers

by Howard Gantman 06/23/2011 15:29 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

We’ve seen a lot of suggestions lately that new legislation aimed at criminals who steal and disseminate American-made movies, television shows, live sporting events, and other creative works would lock up YouTube lip-syncing babies, including this editorial from DailyKos.

But it’s simply not true.  The Commercial Felony Streaming Act (S. 978) is intended for criminals engaged in massive theft that seek to profit off the hard work of others.

That’s another important point – this kind of streaming is actually already illegal, but it’s classified as a misdemeanor, not a felony.  The Commercial Felony Streaming Act toughens the penalty for this behavior to close a loophole in current law that imposes weaker penalties for streaming illegal content than for downloading illegal content via peer-to-peer transfers.  Streaming and downloading are different technologies, but criminals are using them for the same purpose—stealing movies and TV shows made by the millions of men and women whose work in the entertainment industry helps support them and their families.  Super 8 is actually a great demonstration of the power of the creative community to create jobs and generate millions of dollars in economic activity – the film was shot largely in Weirton, West Virginia, employing hundreds of local residents as extras and relying on local businesses to support the shoot, as Kate wrote earlier this month. 

This is a straightforward bill with a straightforward mission that we should all be able to agree on – ensuring that when we enjoy the movies or TV, it’s the people who make them that benefit, not the people who steal them.


Plaudits to PayPal for Cracking Down on Counterfeit DVD and Blu-Ray Disc Merchants

by Howard Gantman 06/22/2011 14:17 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Following a joint operation between PayPal’s Brand Risk Management department and Motion Picture Association (MPA) Asia Pacific investigators, PayPal today closed 33 accounts of merchants specializing in the sale of illegal counterfeit DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.  The investigation discovered that the majority of these merchants are based in mainland China, and that they market and ship their products directly to retail and wholesale customers worldwide.

This joint operation demonstrates the importance and effectiveness of rightsholders and payment processors joining forces to fight online theft.  Payment processors like PayPal recognize that their business models rely on gaining consumers’ trust, and that their brands are tarnished when counterfeit goods are available for sale through their payment system. 

We can only eradicate the scourge of online theft if all stakeholders in the online ecosystem work together.  We thank PayPal for partnering with us on this effort. 

Creative Community Responds to New York Times on PROTECT IP

by Howard Gantman 06/20/2011 07:20 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Saturday’s New York Times published several letters to the editor responding to a Times editorial on the PROTECT IP Act, including one co-written by MPAA’s Michael O’Leary and Susan Cleary of the Independent Film and Television Alliance.  A few highlights below:

Michael and Susan wrote that stealing TV shows, films, and other creative works threatens jobs:

Content theft hurts everyone except the thieves who profit from it, but it especially hurts the people and businesses who make a living, feed their families and put their kids through school by making magic onscreen. This year alone, eight new TV series will start filming in New York, creating 4,700 jobs, and maybe more in the future. But when rogue Web sites siphon away wages, benefits and investments in new productions, what happens to those jobs?

This bill would protect millions in the creative community by cutting off blatantly criminal rogue sites that steal their hard work. You should stand with them.

Mitch Bainwol at the RIAA emphasized the PROTECT IP Act’s narrow scope and noted its strong support from the Senate Judiciary Committee:

This bill targets only the worst of the worst sites — those that have no commercially significant use other than to offer pirated material and for which infringement is central to the activity of the site. This is not YouTube. This is the Pirate Bay, a Web site whose founders were convicted of criminal copyright violations by a Swedish court in 2009.

…We all agree that something meaningful needs to be done to stop the rampant theft of our products, and this bill is a thoughtful and measured step in the right direction. There’s a reason it won unanimous support from the Judiciary Committee, which reflects the broad geographic and ideological range of our nation, and that, of course, is that the bill does in fact strike a terrific balance.

And Robert Atkinson at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation stressed that even if the bill won’t prevent all content theft, it will still make a difference:

Your editorial suggests that because advanced users will be able to evade some of the technical countermeasures in the Protect IP Act, these provisions should be eliminated. As you acknowledge, allowing Internet service providers to block access to rogue sites by not resolving Web addresses will not stop all piracy. Likewise, locking the doors on your car will not stop all thieves. Yet we still lock our doors.

The point is that the legislation will deter some users from obtaining infringing content, leading to benefits for our economy. With piracy causing billions of dollars of harm every year, every effort counts.

We agree.  To learn more about the PROTECT IP Act, visit our web page dedicated to rogue websites and content theft.

Mike McCurry, in Politico, on Need for Congressional Action Against Online Theft

by Howard Gantman 06/15/2011 14:10 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Great piece in Politico today by former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry, co-chairman of Arts+Labs, on the PROTECT IP Act.

McCurry lauds the bill as an exemplary instance of Congress working together to craft bipartisan, measured legislation that combats a real problem facing the country: cyber crime, specifically online content theft. He notes that the bill cracks down on foreign websites dedicated to stealing American-made content, while offers a nuanced approach so that it only affects bad actors.

He writes:

Every marketplace needs rules to protect people from fraud and theft. But it’s also critical to strike the right balance to capture the criminals while also ensuring the free flow of information across the open Internet. That’s what PROTECT IP aims to do...if sponsors and skeptics can continue to move forward here, the act should provide the basis for a final measure that will support American innovators, protect U.S. intellectual property and propel our economy forward.

We will continue to push for commonsense legislative solutions to the economic scourge of online theft, and look forward to collaborating with members of the Senate and other supporters to advance the PROTECT IP Act.

We Don’t Freeze the Internet – Why Freeze the Law?

by Howard Gantman 06/14/2011 08:50 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Terry Hart over at Copyhype has a thoughtful post on the PROTECT IP Act and the Commercial Felony Streaming Act.  Terry emphasizes that just as we wouldn’t expect technology or the Internet to stand still, the laws that keep it secure and that protect speech online need to evolve, too:

Imagine if the web had not progressed past the technology available around the mid 1990s, when it made its way into the mainstream.

No Flash or JavaScript, no CSS, PHP, or XML, no widgets or APIs. Just plain vanilla HTML (and maybe some server-side scripting if you knew what you were doing).

It would be hard to imagine a web like this today. Today’s web allows a myriad of ways for people to engage in communication, commerce, social networking, entertainment, and learning. This is possible because the technology behind the web continued to progress, rather than being frozen in place.

Freezing the technology in place would make little sense. Yet, when it comes to the legal framework that protects copyright and content creators, there are some who call foul whenever new legislation is proposed, who believe it makes perfect sense for the law to be frozen in place while technology rapidly advances.

The underlying idea seems to be that unchecked, wide-scale copyright infringement is just how things are going to be from now on. Content creators need to get busy adapting or get busy dying.

But why shouldn’t the law continue to adapt as well?

The thing we like about Terry’s post is that it also gets at another argument we hear over and over again from the pro-stealing crowd – that any law aimed at putting reasonable safeguards in place online to protect the creators of content will stop the Internet in its tracks, killing all evolving and yet-to-be-developed technologies with no hope of future innovation. 

As Terry makes clear, the Internet will always be free to evolve – that’s what makes it such a terrific tool to connect us to one another and bring us face to face with new ideas.  But just like on a regular highway, the information superhighway still needs rules of the road.  That’s why this legislation is so important.

Follow the Money, Part II

by Howard Gantman 06/08/2011 16:15 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

File this under Three Cheers for Doing the Right Thing: GroupM, the unit of advertising, marketing and communications giant WPP, has announced that they will no longer place ads on websites illegally distributing stolen movies, TV shows or music.  As AdAge reported today:

"Great content fuels the web, and if that is being illicitly distributed, we feel it's a problem for the long term," said Group M Interaction Chief Operating Officer John Montgomery.

Some rogue websites do not sell the content they steal, and instead use online advertising to make money from their illegal activity.  If advertisers boycott these sites, their profits dry up and it becomes harder for the criminals who operate them to pay for server space and other costs. 

This means that any efforts to dry up rogue sites’ advertising dollars is one of the keys to stopping online content theft, not unlike working to get payment processors to refuse to handle rogue sites’ financial transactions.  Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante testified that cutting off advertising revenues to rogue sites “combat their very existence, or at least substantially decrease their impact on the market for legitimate copyrighted content.”

And GroupM is no drop in the bucket.  According to AdAge, its agencies spend $6 billion each year on digital advertising.  Working with content owners, some of whom are its clients, GroupM is assembling a list of rogue websites to ensure that none of that money will go to support content theft.  That's great news for creators.

Film and TV Workers to Wyden: Don’t Play Political Games with Entertainment Jobs

by Howard Gantman 06/02/2011 13:09 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The union representing film technicians, stagehands, projectionists and many other entertainment industry workers took Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to task yesterday for saying he plans to hold up the PROTECT IP Act. 

Here’s the statement from Matthew D. Loeb, international president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), courtesy of Oregon Film and TV Dollars, a website run by Portland-area actor Harold Phillips:

“We are disappointed that Senator Wyden has used a petty political maneuver in an attempt to derail a bill focused on foreign rogue websites that steal copyrighted content from US companies and cost tens of thousands of good middle-class American jobs every year. The Protect IP Act was voted unanimously out of committee and is co-sponsored by a dozen-and-a-half of the most distinguished members of the Senate. It’s one thing to oppose a bill, debate it vigorously and vote against it. But it’s another thing entirely to resort to a cheap parlor trick, to thwart the opportunity to debate and discuss the merits of a proposed law. We’re frankly baffled that Senator Wyden would pervert the democratic process like this, particularly knowing that his own constituents in Oregon working on “Leverage,” “Portlandia” and other shows are being victimized by rogue sites. This bill will also combat bogus medications and counterfeit auto parts from being unleashed on unsuspecting American consumers. Senator Wyden ought not to be playing political games with a bill with such widespread consumer safety and jobs implications.”

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