Mister Copyright

by Kevin Madigan

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Small Claims Bill Aims to Empower Copyright Owners and Creators

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This month, Congress introduced a bill that would establish a long-discussed small claims court for copyright disputes. The legislation comes after a House Judiciary Committee proposal based on a four-year review of the US Copyright system and a 2013 report by the Copyright Office that recommended “the creation of an alternative forum that will enable copyright owners to pursue small infringement matters and related claims arising under the Copyright Act.” The bill represents one of the key reforms intended to modernize the US copyright system, hoping to finally empower creators of limited means in the fight against the unauthorized use of their works.

Dubbed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, the legislation was introduced to the House of Representatives by Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Tom Marino (R-PA), along with Representatives Doug

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New Report Highlights Danger of Stream-Based Infringement

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Published this week by the International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI), a new report on the way music is being consumed confirms what’s become apparent in recent years: Streaming is king when it comes to how people listen to music, and stream-based piracy has taken over as the most popular way to steal music. The 2017 Music Consumer Insight Report, titled “Connecting with Music,” highlights not only the rise in both legal audio streaming and stream-based copyright infringement, but also the “value gap” created by user-uploaded video services that fail to return fair value to the creative community.

The study looked into the habits of consumers across 13 of the world’s leading markets and found that while on-demand digital streaming service subscriptions continue to rise, more and more fans are turning to free, user-uploaded video websites to listen to music. Thanks in

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Stream Ripping Emerges as the New Face of Music Piracy

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As formats change and advances in technology continue to transform the way we listen to music, new methods of pirating content are never far behind. What started with the analog dubbing and bootlegging of cassettes forty years ago evolved with the digital age into CD burning and MP3 sharing, eventually leading to a chaotic illegal downloading landscape at the turn of the century that would force the music industry to develop novel anti-piracy efforts and distribution models. Digital streaming services have since taken over as the preferred way to consume music, boasting over 100 million subscribers in 2016—a number that recently surpassed the total number of Netflix streaming video subscribers.

A Fast Growing Threat

Despite this substantial base of paying customers and affordable monthly subscription rates, many are choosing to bypass legitimate services by “ripping” songs from

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Richard Prince and the Increasingly Permissive Treatment of Infringement

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Earlier this month, a federal judge in New York denied a motion to dismiss a copyright infringement suit against notorious “Instagram artist” Richard Prince, setting the stage for another transformative fair use showdown. The lawsuit is the latest turn in an ongoing debate—often involving Prince or similar artists—over what qualifies as transformative in the digital age, as more and more artists engage in acts of appropriation with questionable amounts of added expression. And while it appears the District Judge in New York may not subscribe to a broad interpretation of the limits of fair use, a significant win for Prince in the Second Circuit and the seemingly limitless application of the transformative purpose fair use theory represent a continuing slide towards an increasingly permissive approach to copyright infringement.

Whether an act of appropriation is sufficiently

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Judgment Against Sci-Hub is a Win for Authors and Publishers

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Last week, the United States Court for the Southern District of New York entered a default judgment against Sci-Hub, the Library Genesis Project (LibGen), and a number of related websites and site operators for the willful infringement of dozens of copyright-protected scholarly articles. The judgment comes two years after Elsevier—an international academic publishing company now part of RELX Group—brought suit against the websites and their operators for the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of numerous works to which Elsevier owns the copyright. In awarding the maximum in damages and making permanent a preliminary injunction against US domain name registries associated with the defendants, the decision is not only a win for authors and copyright owners, but represents a strong indictment against the infringement of scholarly works, no matter the purported public benefit.

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As Investment Moves Overseas, the US Must Restore its Gold-Standard Patent System

Venture capital investment in the United States has declined steadily for years, as investors abandon an uncertain domestic climate for more reliable opportunities in foreign countries. In a report on the current state of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the National Venture Capital Association emphasizes the extreme decline in the US share of global venture capital in the last twenty years, highlighting a drop from 83% of global share in 1996 to just 54% in 2015. At a time of decreasing investment, the US should be working to improve its innovation ecosystem, providing stable and effective property rights to inventors so that VCs can once again feel confident that investments in startups’ R&D—secured by patent rights—won’t just be stolen by established and better-financed infringers. Unfortunately, its doing just the opposite. Over the past decade, the US has continued to gut its patent

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Increase in IP-based Extortion Reveals True Nature of Piracy

Earlier this month, an unprecedented worldwide cyberattack nicknamed WannaCry debilitated computer systems in over 150 countries, with the virus’s architects demanding payments to reinstate victims’ access to their own computers and files. The same week, hackers claimed to have stolen a version of the soon-to-be-released summer blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and were reportedly blackmailing Disney under the threat of widespread online exposure. While the legitimacy of the Pirates of the Caribbean hack is now being questioned, it’s part of an alarming trend that recently saw hackers leak stolen Orange is the New Black episodes to piracy networks after Netflix refused to respond to coercive demands.

Some reporting on these brazen acts of extortion complain that they’re “damaging the image of piracy,” which they argue is dedicated to taking and distributing creative works for

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In Defense of an Inclusive IP Conversation

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In a recent essay responding to a divisive critique of his book, Justifying Intellectual Property, Robert Merges makes clear from the start that he won’t be pulling any punches. He explains that the purpose of his essay, Against Utilitarian Fundamentalism, is to address the misleading and polarizing conclusions of Mark Lemley’s 2015 article, Faith-Based Intellectual Property, recapitulate the arguments he makes in Justifying IP, and show that those who approach intellectual property theory through a nonstrict empirical lens can still make meaningful contributions to the debate.

Merges exposes the key hypocrisy of Lemely’s article: By flippantly dismissing theories that deviate from his own, Lemley ultimately champions the same inflexible exclusivity he purports to condemn.

The underlying dispute between Lemley and Merges turns on what place nonstrict empirical research has in

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Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act is First Step Towards a Modern Copyright Office

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Last Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. introduced the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act. The Act is the first legislative effort to follow a four-year review of U.S. Copyright law and aims to kick-start an overdue modernization of the United States Copyright Office (USCO). Focusing on the selection process of the Register of Copyrights, the concise bill requires the Register to be nominated by the President of the United States and subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate, rather than appointed and dismissed at the pleasure of the Librarian of Congress.

In 2013, the House Judiciary Committee began a comprehensive bipartisan review of the copyright system that included 20 hearings, testimony from over 100 witnesses, and a listening tour that invited input from copyright stakeholders across the

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Kodi Software Enabling Widespread Copyright Infringement

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Cross-posted from the CPIP blog

Awards season always seems to arrive with new stories about how piracy is affecting the film industry and the way we watch movies. Whether it’s a promotional screener that was stolen and uploaded to a torrent site, or the latest software that allows users to download or stream pirated content, the tales are reminders of the enduring problem of online copyright infringement.

This year, when talking to people (outside of the copyright law world) about whether they’d seen certain Oscar-nominated films, the same name kept coming up: Kodi. Specifically, users described downloading the Kodi app to an internet connected device, then adding “plug-ins” or “add-ons” that deliver an extensive library of streaming TV shows and movies, including Moonlight, La La Land, and other Best Picture nominees. Though Kodi’s controversial popularity in the UK has been

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