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  1. General Counsel for Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has spoken today about how the DMCA process is being manipulated to stifle freedom of expression. During a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the limitations of copyright liability for online service providers, the blogging platform called for "clear legal consequences" for those who abuse the system. Although deceptively small considering its impact, Automattic is a company that touches hundreds of millions of Internet users every day. The company, best known for being behind the WordPress blogging and publishing platform, currently hosts more than 48 million sites on WordPress.com. Servicing 400 million visitors accessing 13.1 billion pages each month is no mean feat, and with so much user-generated content on-board it’s obvious why the company has a keen interest in the DMCA and the protections it offers service providers. Speaking today during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Section 512 of Title 17, Automattic General Counsel Paul Sieminski spoke about his company’s experiences with the notice and takedown provisions of the DMCA. Noting that the process works well overall, Sieminski said that shortcomings in the system negatively affect freedom of expression and adversly impact companies like Automattic. Sieminski says that significant resources are being diverted away from product development at Automattic in order to deal with overbroad and abusive DMCA takedown notices. On the one hand the company wants to ensure freedom of speech, but balancing that with its legal commitments under the DMCA is not an easy task. “At Automattic, we’ve seen an increasing amount of abuse of the DMCA’s takedown process. The DMCA’s takedown process provides what can be an easy avenue for censorship: simply send in a DMCA notice claiming copyrights in a piece of content that you don’t agree with. Regardless of whether you own the copyright, the service provider that hosts the content must take it down or risk being out of compliance with the DMCA,” the lawyer explained. Sieminski went on to detail several cases where the DMCA had been abused to stifle speech, including one elaborate scam in which someone tried to undermine the work of science journalists by copying their work, backdating it, and claiming copyright in order to take down the original content. Although the journalists filed a counter-notice, it took the full 10 days mandated by the DMCA to get it put back online. Another case involved a UK-based journalist who reported on a freely-given press statement. The source of the press release changed his mind on having it published, claimed copyright, and had the journalist’s work taken down under the DMCA. Concerned about submitting to the jurisdiction of a US court (those submitting a counter-notice are required to reveal their name and address and agree to be sued in federal court), the journalist chose to back down. His report remains censored to this day. As reported here on TF on many occasions, wrongful DMCA notices are sent on a daily basis, many the product of automated systems that lack the finesse to correctly identify infringement, much less consider fair use situations. Add these notices to the millions already being sent and they often go undetected, taken down by nervous service providers wary of becoming liable for the infringements of others. According to Automattic, a solution needs to be found. “The DMCA system gives copyright holders a powerful and easy-to-use weapon: the unilateral right to issue a takedown notice that a website operator (like Automattic) must honor or risk legal liability,” Sieminski explained. “The system works so long as copyright owners use this power in good faith. But too often they don’t, and there should be clear legal consequences for those who choose to abuse the system. I’d urge the Committee to add such penalties to the DMCA to deter and punish these types of abuses,” the lawyer concludes. Source: TorrentFreak
  2. Last year Finland wrote history after it became the first country to vote on a "fairer" copyright law, crowd-sourced by the public. Now that the vote is near, several lawmakers have warned against the disastrous effects of the proposal, by parroting a memo handed to them by the copyright lobby. The Finnish constitution allows citizens to draft and submit legislative proposals for Parliament to vote on. All proposals that get 50,000 supporters within six months will be referred. This also happened to a crowdsourced draft for a “fairer” copyright law which reached the required threshold last summer. Termed “The Common Sense in Copyright Act,” the proposal aims to reduce penalties for copyright infringement, increase fair use, ban unfair clauses in recording contracts, and ease the ability for people to make copies of items they already own for backup and time-shifting purposes. Last month the proposal was first presented in the Finnish Parliament. This piqued the interest of copyright lobby groups, who handed over a memo to Members of Parliament before the hearing, to inform them on their stance. Needless to say, the entertainment and media companies were rather critical of the public proposal. What was more surprising though, is that many MPs repeated the rhetoric that was put forward in the pamphlet. Member of Parliament Kauko Tuuppainen went as far as parroting from the memo word-for-word, which was noticed by fellow MP Oras Tynkkynen, and later picked up by the Finnish press. Below is a translation of Tuuppainen’s address in Parliament: “The proposal could make Finland into a safe harbor for international piracy. Why? Because it encourages copyright infringement in many ways. One would be free to copy illegal content from the internet according to the proposal.” – MP Kauko Tuupainen in the initial hearing in Parliament. Now compare this to the language used by the copyright groups in their memo: “The proposal would make Finland into a safe harbor for international piracy. The proposal encourages copyright infringement in many ways. One would be free to copy illegal content from the internet according to the proposal.” – Joint announcement by the content and media industry organizations. The two descriptions of the law are nearly identical, with several phrases being read word-for-word directly from the memo. Open Ministry, the organization that coordinates the public law proposals, is not happy with the display of lobbyists’ influence. The whole idea of the public proposals is to hear the voice of the public and experts, but some MPs would rather parrot lobbyists’ opinions. “Since copyright issues can be complex, we asked MPs to first hear what the experts have to say on the suggested changes, before shooting them down based on industry lobbyists objections and exaggerated propaganda. They did not,” Open Ministry Chairman Joonas Pekkanen says. “The suggested changes are not that radical, since there is national room to maneuver within the boundaries set by the EU Copyright legislation,” he adds. The above shows that the copyright lobby has a strong influence on lawmaking, and that in some cases the voice of the public can be easily countered by a handful of lobbyists. While it doesn’t leak out in public very often, it’s not a big secret that industry groups have a strong say in the laws that are enacted worldwide. Just a few months ago it was revealed that 150 amendments to the EU data protection bill, submitted by Belgian Member of European Parliament Louis Michel, were copy-pasted from lobbyist paperwork. For the Finnish “fairer” copyright law there is still hope though. The proposal has now been referred to the Culture Committee, who will advise on whether to accept it later this year. Source: TorrentFreak
  3. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement aimed at deepening economic ties between the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and eight other countries in the region, has been largely shrouded in secrecy. Today, however, whistleblower outfit Wikileaks leaked a copy of the agreement’s “most controversial chapter” which has prompted immediate criticism of its SOPA-like provisions that have Internet freedom-limiting potential. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is currently working towards the creation of a regional free-trade agreement between several Asia-Pacific countries which together account for around 40% of the world’s GDP. The agreement aims to create deep economic ties between a dozen countries – Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, United States, Vietnam, Mexico, Canada and New Zealand – by easing trade in goods and services, encouraging investment, and forging understandings across a wide range of policy issues. Negotiations between the nations have been running for around two and a half years and the TPP agreement itself is now reportedly more than 1,000 pages deep. Overall the negotiations have drawn criticism for their secrecy but today Wikileaks announced that they had obtained a copy of the “most controversial chapter” from the TPP agreement which reveals the negotiation positions for all 12 countries on IP and copyright issues. Many topics are covered in the chapter including DRM and other ‘technical measures’, extended copyright terms, increased penalties for infringement and ISP liability, the latter with a proposal for “adopting and reasonably implementing a policy that provides for termination in appropriate circumstances of the accounts of repeat infringers.” Reception to the leaked agreement has so far been highly critical. Knowledge Ecology International notes that the TPP IPR chapter not only proposes the granting of more patents, expansion of rightsholder privileges and increased penalties for infringement, but also plans the creation of intellectual property rights on data. “The TPP text shrinks the space for exceptions in all types of intellectual property rights. Negotiated in secret, the proposed text is bad for access to knowledge, bad for access to medicine, and profoundly bad for innovation,” KEI concludes. Burcu Kilic, an intellectual property lawyer with Public Citizen, says that some of the proposals in the text evoke memories of the controversial SOPA legislation in the United States. “The WikiLeaks text also features Hollywood and recording industry inspired proposals – think about the SOPA debacle – to limit Internet freedom and access to educational materials, to force Internet providers to act as copyright enforcers and to cut off people’s Internet access,” Kilic says. Collectively the items in this version of the leaked draft reveal argument and opposition on dozens if not hundreds of points from one or several countries. In fact while there are many, many proposals, it is striking that there is a clear lack of final agreement across the board on almost all of the issues. Kilic describes the proposals as having reached a “negotiation stalemate.” His colleague, Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s global access to medicines program, lays the blame for that at the feet of the United States. “Given how much text remains disputed, the negotiation will be very difficult to conclude,” Maybarduk says. “Much more forward-looking proposals have been advanced by the other parties, but unless the U.S drops its out-there-alone demands, there may be no deal at all.” The full agreement can be downloaded here (PDF). Source: TorrentFreak
  4. To draw attention to "broken" copyright law, the editor of a popular news site turned the tables on a leading German political party. Finding the government's Social Democratic Party using a Creative Commons work without permission, he sent them a troll-style settlement demand - and got paid. Over the past few years the copyright troll industry has grown from a few scattered companies trying to earn a few extra bucks into a huge machine with some very big players. The business is now widespread in the United States, is spreading into Canada and has been present in Europe for many years, Germany feeling the most pain. It seems fitting, then, that the government there should feel what it’s like to become a victim of an aggressive copyright holder. Sebastian Heiser is an editor at popular news resource Taz.de. Back in 2005 he attended a panel where he took a photograph of Manfred Stolpe, a politician with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), part of the current coalition government. So that anyone could enjoy his work, Heiser uploaded his photo to Wikipedia with just two Creative Commons CC-BY-SA conditions – the creator must be mentioned along with the fact the image is available under a free license. The SPD, however, didn’t feel bound by these minor restrictions, republishing Heiser’s work on netzwerkberlin.de and manfred-stolpe.de without the correct attribution. “Usually it does not bother me when other people distribute my text or images. If it still bothers me sometimes, I write a friendly e-mail or pick up the phone,” Heiser explains. But this case was different. Heiser saw an opportunity to turn the tables on the SPD, a party he believes is at least partly responsible for the “broken” copyright situation in Germany today. Why shouldn’t they suffer like everyone else? Mirroring the behavior of the trolls that have flourished under German copyright law, Heiser hired himself a lawyer who formulated a suitable threatening letter with the aim of getting compensation from SPD. Heiser asked them to declare for how long they had been infringing his rights, requested payment equivalent to that of an appropriate license to use the content, and doubled them up for failing to attribute him correctly. Of course, there would be legal fees on top. Perhaps surprisingly, without any fight Heiser received a letter back stating that copyright is important to SPD and as such they were willing to obey the law – and pay the ‘fine’. “After some back and forth, because there were two images on the two websites, 1,800 euros was remitted to me,” Heiser says. However, according to Heiser, things have not reached a happy conclusion. Underlining the state of today’s “great copyright”, of the 1,800 euros paid ($2,497) Heiser only pocketed 696 euros ($965) since the remaining 1,104 euros ($1,531) went into his lawyer’s bank acccount. Of course, SPD would’ve had to pay legal fees too, estimated at another 1,100 euros. Total outlay 2,900 euros ($4,023). Amount paid to copyright holder – less than a quarter of that. Heiser signs off with a call for SPD to fix the copyright situation, with a minimum requirement that the party understands it in future, and with artists getting paid more than lawyers. Source: TorrentFreak
  5. The American Bar Association has released a detailed white paper advising the Government on how to tackle online piracy. The lawyers recommend several SOPA-like anti-piracy measures including injunctions against companies hosting pirate sites. At the same time, however, they advise against suing file-sharers as that would be ineffective or even counterproductive. For more than a decade copyright holders and the U.S. Government have been trying to find the silver bullet to beat piracy. This week the American Bar Association joined the discussion with a 113-page white paper. With their “call for action” the lawyers encourage Congress to draft new anti-piracy legislation and promote voluntary agreements between stakeholders. Among the options on the table is the filing of lawsuits against individual file-sharers, something the RIAA did extensively in the past. Interestingly, the lawyers advise against this option as it’s unlikely to have an impact on current piracy rates. According to the lawyers these type of lawsuits are also financially ineffective, oftentimes costing more than they bring in. In addition, they can create bad PR for the copyright holders involved. “While it is technically possible for trademark and copyright owners to proceed with civil litigation against the consuming public who [...] engage in illegal file sharing, campaigns like this have been expensive, do not yield significant financial returns, and can cause a public relations problem for the plaintiff in addressing its consuming public,” the lawyers write. “The [American Bar Association] does not believe that legislative action directly targeting consumers would prove effective in reducing piracy or counterfeiting at this time,” the white paper adds. While the above may be true for any of the cases that go to trial, various copyright trolls might tend to disagree as they have shown that targeting file-sharers can be quite lucrative. Pirates shouldn’t be too quick to cheer on the lawyers though, as the white paper also contains some pretty draconian suggestions. The American Bar Association says that future legislation should target infringing websites, and it names The Pirate Bay as an example. Since site owners are often unknown and therefore hard to prosecute in America, they advise a series of more indirect tactics. The lawyers are in favor of a “follow the money” principle where anti-piracy measures are targeted at strangling the finances of pirate sites. They call for legislation that makes it easier to cut off advertising, and to seize funds through banks or payment processors. In addition, the white paper calls for new legislation that would allow copyright holders to obtain injunctions against the hosting companies of pirate sites. The American Bar Association also considered similar injunctions against domain registrars and search engines, but it couldn’t reach agreement on these issues. Overall copyright holders will be pleased to see the recommendations put forward in the white paper, but it’s doubtful whether lawmakers will be quick pick them up. Several of the suggestions were previously listed in the SOPA and PIPA bills, so if these are ever drafted into legislation Congress can expect a lot of public backlash. Source: TorrentFreak
  6. Responding to a consultation of the EU Commission, various music industry groups are warning against a right for consumers to sell their MP3s. IFPI notes that people should be barred from selling their digital purchases because it's too convenient, while the quality of digital copies remains top-notch. Interestingly, the UK Government opposes this stance with a rather progressive view. To gather the opinions of the public and other stakeholders on copyright reform, the EU Commission launched a consultation a few months ago. The call resulted in hundreds of submissions, which were made public recently. One of the topics being covered is the issue of “digital resales.” In other words, whether consumers should be allowed to sell digital music files, videos and software they purchased previously. In the United States the ReDigi case has been the center of this debate, with a federal court ruling in favor of Capitol Records last year. In the EU, however, the Court of Justice previously ruled that consumers are free to resell games and software, even when there’s no physical copy. In the submissions to the EU Commission consultation numerous parties weigh in on the subject. Interestingly, the UK Government takes a rather progressive stance by stating that people should be allowed to sell “used” tracks bought in the iTunes store, or used videos they’ve downloaded from Amazon. “As regards the resale of copies, the UK notes that traditional secondary markets for goods can encourage both initial purchase and adoption of technologies, and the prospect of sale on the secondary market may be factored in to an initial decision to buy and to market prices,” the UK response reads “There seems to be no reason why this should not be the case for digital copies, except for the ‘forward and delete’ issue noted by the consultation,” it adds. In other words, according to the UK Government people have the right to sell any digital files they have bought, as long as the original copy is deleted. This stands in sharp contrast to the various record label groups who warn that digital resales may crush the industry. IFPI, for example, notes in its submission that allowing digital resales would hurt the entire music industry, and threaten the livelihoods of many artists. “In the recorded music sector, the consequences of enabling the resale of digital content would have very harmful consequences for the entire music market,” IFPI writes. “The notion that the exhaustion principle should apply to copies acquired by means of digital transmissions in the same way that it applies to physical copies ignores the many differences between the two kinds of copies and between the two distribution processes,” the music group adds. IFPI signals three main differences between digital and physical distribution that warrant a ban on digital resales. According to them, physical music is different because: the quality of these deteriorates with time, and often due to wear and tear or mishandlingpurchasing an item at a used record store requires traveling to the store and searching for a copy of the phonograph recordthe resale only concerns the original recording, not copies of that recordingIn other words, people shouldn’t be allowed to resell digital music because it’s too convenient, and because the copies don’t lose their quality. While it’s no surprise that the labels are against digital resales, these arguments do raise some eyebrows. After all, there are also many physical products that are easy to ship and keep their value over time, which are perfectly fine to resell. IFPI is not alone in their restrictive view on selling used digital files. The UK-based music group BPI also submitted a response to the consultation, using similar arguments, as did individual labels such as Universal Music and Sony Music. “The consequences of allowing resale of previously purchased digital content would be devastating to the music industry. It would compete directly with the sale of original digital files as they would be entirely substitutional,” Universal notes, for example. It is now up to the EU Commission to sift through all the submissions to see what the ideas of various stakeholders and the public are on the matter, and how this should impact future legislation. Source: TorrentFreak
  7. The fundamental problem with the copyright monopoly today is that it can't coexist with private communications as a concept. Our sharing of culture and knowledge happens as part of the private correspondence that leaves our computer, and therefore, the monopoly cannot be enforced as long as private correspondence exists. When we share knowledge and culture in order to manufacture our own copies of it, this happens in private communications – it happens as part of the ones and zeroes that arrive at and are transmitted from our computers. However, some part of these transmissions may be in violation of the copyright monopoly. The only way to find if any are is to listen to them and break the postal secret; to open all the digital letters and violate the privacy of correspondence. There is no way to enforce the copyright monopoly without reading all the private communications in transit – mass eavesdropping and mass surveillance. There is no magic way to just wiretap the violations and ignore the rest; the act of finding which communications may violate the copyright monopoly requires that you sort all correspondence into legal and illegal. The act of sorting requires observation; you cannot determine if something is legal or illegal without looking at it. At that point, the postal secret and the privacy of correspondence have been broken. (Some proponents of the copyright monopoly would argue that the act of sharing knowledge and culture wouldn’t classify as private correspondence. This is irrelevant, as in any case, it is intermixed with private correspondence that must still be unpacked and looked at in the sorting process.) So we’re at a crossroads where we as a society must determine which is more important – the right to communicate in private at all, or the obsolete distribution and manufacturing monopoly of an entertainment industry. These two are completely mutually exclusive and cannot coexist. This is, and has been, the problem since the cassette tape. The copyright industry understands this perfectly, which is why they have been working hard, long, and tenaciously to eliminate the concept of private correspondence online and introduce ubiquitous mass surveillance. A few examples: In Ireland, the copyright industry (in the shape of the big four record labels) sued the country’s largest ISP, Eircom, for the right to install wiretapping and censorship equipment in the deepest of their core Internet switches: they demanded the ability to detect and prevent communications they didn’t like. Yes, you read that right: a private industry full-out demanded the right to examine all (and prevent any) private correspondence in the entire country. In Sweden, the copyright industry did a two-pronged approach to get their own access to ISP access logs through a ridiculous over-implementation of the IPRED directive, along with working feverently to get mandatory ISP logging in the shape of Data Retention passed (the mass surveillance mechanism that was just now declared in violation of basic human rights by the highest EU court). The copyright industry (in the shape of IFPI) even demanded independent, extrajudicial access to the mass surveillance data from the Data Retention mechanisms. Yes, you read that right: a private industry demanded independent and unfiltered access to surveillance records of practically every footstep and every correspondence you make in your everyday life. The copyright industry is very much a part of the mass surveillance industry. Mass surveillance is the only way they can maintain their crumbling monopoly on manufacturing copies. At the end of the day, these two mechanisms must be weighed against one another: do we prefer the ability to communicate in private at all, or do we prefer the distribution and manufacturing monopoly of an entertainment industry? As is today, they can’t coexist, and this has always been and still remains the key point of contention. One of the reasons that we’ve gotten to this point is that these two mechanisms are usually handled by different departments. The copyright monopoly tends to be under the Department of Commerce, whereas the fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and privacy of correspondence falls under the Department of Justice in most countries. This means that there has never been anybody with the responsibility of weighing them against each other, and coming to the obvious conclusion that the right to private correspondence far outweighs the distribution and manufacturing monopoly of an entertainment industry. We need to keep kicking politicians out of office until they realize this enormous blind spot of theirs. About The Author Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy. Source: TorrentFreak
  8. Soon, UK citizens are free to copy MP3s, CDs and DVDs for personal use. The copyright law revisions, which partially went into effect this month, legalizes this common form of copying. The changes, which will also broaden fair use rights, aim to close the gap between the law and public norms. Most people in the UK may not have realized it, but every time they backed up an MP3 or made a copy of a CD or DVD for personal use, they were breaking the law. Starting today this is no longer the case for the disabled, thanks to a revision of copyright law that just went into effect. Previously the Government also announced that all private copying for personal use would be legal starting in June, but this has apparently been delayed pending Parliament approval. Following a thorough inspection of local copyright legislation, the UK Government decided to change current laws in favor of consumers. The changes have been in the planning stage for a few years, but have finally be implemented. “Copyright law is being changed to allow you to make personal copies of media you have bought, for private purposes such as format shifting or backup,” the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) previously announced. “The changes will mean that you will be able to copy a book or film you have purchased for one device onto another without infringing copyright.” In other words, people will be free to rip CDs and DVDs or backup their MP3s to an online storage provider, without risking legal trouble. The Government emphasizes, however, that it is still not allowed to share these personal copies with the rest of the world. “You will be permitted to make personal copies to any device that you own, or a personal online storage medium, such as a private cloud. However, it will be illegal to give other people access to the copies you have made,” the IPO explains. It is no secret that several entertainment industry groups are wary of the new copying regulation. However, before implementing the changes the Government carefully researched the economic impact for copyright holders, concluding it to be minimal. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s expected that the technology sector will greatly benefit from the newly gained freedom. The revised copying rules are expected to generate an additional £31 million in revenue per year. This money will come from consumers who use services and products to assist their copying needs. “This measure will benefit technology firms by removing barriers and costs and improving entry to technology markets which rely on consumers being able to make private copies,” the IPO predicts. Besides new private copying rights, the upcoming amendments will also broaden people’s fair use rights. For example, people no longer have to ask permission to quote from or parody the work of others, such as a news report or a book, as long as it’s “fair dealing” and the source is recognized. A complete overview of the changes, and how they apply to the public, are summarized in a handy guide published by the UK Intellectual Property Office. Update: This article initially stated that the general private copying restrictions were also lifted, as announced previously. However, these still have to be approved by Parliament. The article has been updated accordingly. TorrentFreak asked IPO to clarify the confusion and we will post the response here when it comes in. Source: TorrentFreak
  9. This week's most exciting news in technology was undoubtedly that Tesla Cars declares that all their patent monopolies are free for anyone to use. What does it mean? Let's compare to BitTorrent. When Bram Cohen created the BitTorrent protocol, he had the legal option of filing for a patent monopoly on any computer program that used this protocol. (The mere existence of such an option is a very bad thing, but we’ll be returning to that.) Mr. Cohen chose to not monopolize the BitTorrent protocol in that way. Let’s examine what implications that would have had for the technology. If the BitTorrent technology would have been protected by patent monopolies, it would have been effectively limited to Mr. Cohen’s original BitTorrent client. Have you used that client? Do you know anybody who has used it? Didn’t think so, and neither do I. Instead, there is an enormous plethora of clients and servers that use the protocol today, and Mr. Cohen’s BitTorrent Inc. is valued at eight-digit dollars. Not to mention the fact that BitTorrent Inc. was subsequently able to buy one of the most prolific BitTorrent clients out there, µTorrent, which would not have existed had the technology been monopolized in the first place. I think most of us have used µTorrent – I know I have. This shows exactly why it makes so much sense for Tesla Cars to release all of their patent monopolies into the wild, and why the patent monopoly system as such is enormously harmful (the only industry to make a net profit from it is the pharma industry, and that’s because they’re heavily subsidized with taxpayer money). Tesla Cars relinquishing their monopolies means they see this mechanism, and that they realize they need an ecosystem to flourish around their technology – the electric car technology – in order to remain viable themselves. Put another way, it’s not about the size of the pie slice: monopolies are preventing the pie itself from growing exponentially, as they do with any new technology poised to disrupt the old ways. Just like BitTorrent. Patent monopolies are far worse than the copyright monopolies we deal with (and all break) on a daily basis. Imagine for a moment if copyright monopoly vultures didn’t care if you had made an actual copy, that you would be just as guilty of infringement even if you had never seen or heard of the original? That’s how patent monopolies work, and that’s the key difference between patent monopolies and copyright monopolies: the latter protect a specific expression against copying, the former protect an idea or a form from being utilized anywhere, even independently. It’s also why patent monopolies are much, much more harmful than copyright monopolies (and that’s saying a lot). But as the Tesla example shows, patent monopolies don’t stop at not making sense as a whole. They also don’t make sense to a single company in isolation, as they prevent an ecosystem taking shape. It’s one of the worst cancers in the economy, as investors describe them today. It’s easy to argue that patent monopolies don’t hit ordinary families in the same way that copyright monopolies, that patent monopolies have not sued families out of their homes merely for taking part in society’s culture. But that’s about to change with 3D printing, where rapid fabrication becomes available to the masses. It is – unfortunately – a safe prediction that people will soon be sued out of their homes merely for manufacturing their own pair of slippers, because it violated a design patent monopoly somewhere. Such a notion may seem ridiculous today. Then again, so did everything else we’ve seen with the copyright monopoly so far, and patent monopolies are guarded far more harshly. The BitTorrent legacy doesn’t just show us how to break the copyright monopoly in a specific case. It gives us a blueprint for how to disrupt old ways in general by ditching legal monopolies, a blueprint that Tesla Cars is now choosing to follow. The patent monopoly wars are coming, right on the heels of the copyright monopoly wars, as were they merely a logical extension. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see our tip-of-the-spear entrepreneurs denouncing and releasing their own monopolies right ahead of these battles with corporate lawyers. As a final note, it’s noteworthy that Tesla Cars isn’t the only company that Elon Musk is running. He’s also at the helm of SpaceX. Space technology has been ridiculously proprietary up until now, nothing cooperating with anything else and everything being custom-built single-use. That’s why it makes me enormously excited to see an entrepreneur who understands the damages of monopolies at the forefront of space technology today. It holds a promise of standardized, interoperable space technology. As in, “for all of us”. Like BitTorrent. About The Author Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy. Source: TorrentFreak
  10. The Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies has launched a class action lawsuit against Ford and General Motors over the CD-ripping capability of their cars. The music industry group claims that the car companies violate federal law and demand millions of dollars in damages. A quarter century ago the music industry was confronted with a new threat – cassette tape recorders. These devices were able to make “near perfect” copies of any audio recording and the RIAA and others feared this would be the end of the recorded music industry. The record labels took their fears to Congress, which eventually resulted in the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) of 1992. Under this law importers and manufacturers have to pay royalties on “digital audio recording devices,” among other things. The legislation also applies to some newer recording devices common today, which is now causing trouble for Ford and General Motors. Both companies ship cars with the ability to rip CDs onto internal hard drives and according to a coalition of artists and record companies this violates copyright law. The Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies (AARC), which lists major record labels and 300,000 artists among its members, filed a class action lawsuit on Friday in which they demand millions of dollars in compensation. TorrentFreak obtained a copy of the complaint (pdf) which states that Ford’s “Jukebox” device and General Motor’s “Hard Drive Device” allow consumers to rip CDs onto an internal hard drive. According to the music group these devices fall under the Audio Home Recording Act and the car companies are therefore required to pay royalties. Thus far, neither Ford nor General Motors has complied with any requirements of the Act. Both companies have sold cars with these devices for several years on a variety of models including the Lincoln MKS, Ford Taurus, Ford Explorer, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Volt, and GMC Terrain. In addition to the two car companies, the lawsuit also targets their technology partners Denso and Clarion. Commenting on the dispute the AARC notes that a class action lawsuit was unavoidable. “Twenty-two years ago, cooperation between music creators and device manufacturers resulted in legislation that led to a digital electronics revolution. But having reaped the benefits of this bargain, Ford, GM, Denso, and Clarion have now decided to ignore their obligations to music creators and declare themselves above the law,” AARC Executive Director Linda Bocchi comments “While no one likes litigation, Ford, GM, Denso, and Clarion have stonewalled long enough, and we are determined to collect the royalties our members – and all artists and music creators with rights under the AHRA – are owed,” Bocchi adds. The artists and record labels are looking for both actual and statutory damages, which could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition, they want to prevent the manufacturers from selling these unauthorized devices in their cars. The case will prove to be an interesting test of the legality of “recording” devices in car entertainment systems. As is usually true, the law is not as black and white as AARC’s complaint states. For example, the lawsuit doesn’t mention that the Audio Home Recording Act includes various exemptions for personal use and for recording equipment that’s part of a larger device, such as CD-burners in computers. It’s now up to the court to decide how cars fit into this picture. Source: TorrentFreak
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