Mister Copyright

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Warning: Minimal copyright takes below

One of my favorite artists is Edgar Degas. His ability to capture intricate movements—most notably in his renditions of ballerinas—dazzling use of color, and command of composition is unparalleled. While he rejected the Impressionist categorization, he was without question a master draftsman and painter who stood out amongst his late 19th century French counterparts.

My favorite painting of his is Four Dancers (pictured above). Completed in 1899, it’s considered one of his most ambitious works, and it’s also one of his largest at about 6x7 ft. framed. It depicts a group of dancers (just off-center) juxtaposed against trees and a pastoral landscape that rolls into the background. The sharp lines of the subjects’ upper bodies stand in stark contrast to their natural surroundings, complimented by vivid green and orange hues.

I first fell in love...

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Audible’s Planned Caption Service is Not Fair Use


Late last month, a group of publishers filed a complaint against Audible in the Southern District of New York asking the court to enjoin the audiobook distributor’s launch of a new audio-to-text transcription service. Though Audible has yet to file a response, a statement from the company—a subsidiary of Amazon since 2008—hints at a fair use defense based on the service’s supposed educational purpose. Unfortunately for Audible, its unauthorized reproduction, distribution, adaptation, and display of the publishers’ copyright-protected works is unlikely to survive a sound fair use analysis.

New Captioning Feature Infringes Publishers’ Rights

Audible is the world’s largest distributor of digital audiobooks and “spoken-word entertainment,” making available to its subscribers hundreds of thousands of audio programs based on works licensed from publishers, broadcasters, entertainers...

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Netflix’s Alliance with the MPAA Signals a Shift in Platform Priorities

Earlier this week, it was announced that Netflix would be joining the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as the film studio coalition’s first streaming platform member. It’s also been reported—albeit with less fanfare—that Netflix’s entrance into the MPAA will coincide with its exit from the Internet Association (IA), which is a trade group representing internet platforms and tech companies such as Google, Amazon, eBay, and Facebook. It’s big news for an industry that is steadily moving towards streaming models, and it’s a move that markedly captures a shift in priorities among tech platforms and content distributors as they transition into the creation of original works.

Though most associate the MPAA with its film rating system and recognize its logo from the beginning of movie trailers, the coalition’s nearly century-old mission is to advocate on behalf of the artists...

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Sometimes Fair Use Takes a Little Effort (and that’s a Good Thing)

Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) launched a series of “science fiction stories” as part of their ongoing crusade to invalidate Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits the circumvention of copyright technical protection measures (TPMs). Though Section 1201 provides exemptions to the prohibitions under certain circumstances, the EFF considers them to be “complicated” and “difficult to use” and advocates for broad exemptions that would allow anyone engaged in fair use copying to override TPMs. It’s a proposition that disregards legal alternatives to hacking digital protection mechanisms, and it’s one that promotes a fallacy that the fair use doctrine requires that a user have the most convenient access to the highest quality version of a work.

The Unicorn Scene

In an attempt to “illustrate the bad effects DMCA 1201 could have,” the...

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USTR Report Highlights Concerns over Canada’s Treatment of IP

Earlier this month, the United States Trade Representative (UTSR) released its annual Report on the global state of intellectual property rights, identifying a range of threats to worldwide innovative markets and calling out countries with insufficient IP protection and enforcement mechanisms. And while the Report’s inclusion of certain troublesome jurisdictions—such as China and Russia—should come as no surprise, a renewed focus on the US’s neighbor to the north has raised eyebrows.

The 301 Report

For the past 30 years, the USTR has published an annual review of the state of IP among the United States’ trade partners aimed at maintaining and encouraging a global environment that fosters innovation and investment. This year’s report describes its objective as making use of “all possible sources of leverage to encourage other countries to open their markets to U.S. exports of goods and...

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Usual Suspects Fight Effort to Impose Online Accountability in Europe

Last week, World Intellectual Property Day commemorated the role that intellectual property rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity, with a focus on the brilliant women who are driving change around the world and shaping our future. But while World Intellectual Property Day is a time to celebrate IP and the way it incentivizes and promotes the progress of the arts and innovation, it’s also an opportunity to recognize that some groups continue to advocate for weakened IP rights that would deprive copyright owners and creators of the ability to control and commercialize their works.

One of these efforts involves the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (“EFF”) relentless war against accountability in cyberspace, highlighted by its recent attempt to block updates to the European Digital Single Market Directive on Copyright aimed at reducing online infringement. Over the last...

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CASE Act Set to Empower Creators and Impose Accountability

Next week, the Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act is scheduled for markup before the House Judiciary Committee, promising long-overdue support for small creators and copyright owners in their fight against overwhelming infringement in the digital age. While the bill has bipartisan support and the backing of a wide array of individual creators, artist organizations, and the creative industries, some detractors are now raising questions of constitutionality in an attempt to interfere with the bill’s passage. But the constitutional argument is merely a meritless rhetorical refrain put forward to mask a steadfast resistance by certain companies to any effort to impose accountability for online infringement.

A product of years of advocacy on behalf of the creative community and a thorough report by the Copyright Office, The CASE Act would create a Copyright Claims...

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Panel on Streaming Media Boxes Explores the New Face of Piracy

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion organized by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation on the growing problem of stream-based piracy. The panel, titled Unboxing the Piracy Threat of Streaming Media Boxes, brought together representatives from the creative industries, as well as copyright and cyber security experts, to explore the recent shift from unauthorized, torrent-based downloading to stream-based piracy facilitated by illegal media boxes. While the discussion touched on many aspects of copyright infringement, as well as legitimate content consumption in an era of on-demand streaming, the message was clear that the rise of illegal streaming devices (ISDs) poses a serious threat to artists, copyright owners, and the creative ecosystem.

The panel began with a demonstration of an illegal streaming device by Neil Fried of the Motion...

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Updated TickBox Injunction and the Fight Against Add-Ons

Earlier this month, I wrote about a preliminary injunction handed down in favor of Netflix, Amazon, and six major studios in their case against the manufacturers of the set-top streaming device TickBox TV. While the order targeted the blatant language of inducement TickBox was using to promote the illicit capabilities of its streaming device, questions remained over what other steps, if any, TickBox would have to take to address boxes that were sold with built-in, piracy-enabling applications. In a significant update to the injunction, a Federal District Court in Los Angeles has ruled that TickBox must, among other things, implement a software update that will delete or disable previously installed applications associated with pirated content.

The New Injunction

The initial injunction, while certainly a step in the right direction, left unresolved questions surrounding devices that...

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TickBox Injunction Targets Blatant Inducement of Infringement

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Late last month, a preliminary injunction was issued in favor of Netflix, Amazon, and six major studios in their case against the manufacturers of the set-top streaming device TickBox TV. The order comes as use of piracy-enabling streaming devices is on the rise, and it represents an initial victory in the fight against stream-based infringement. But while the order is a step in the right direction aimed at ending TickBox’s brazen inducement of copyright infringement, it’s important to understand that the injunction will not disrupt distribution of the TickBox devices and that the ultimate effect on streaming piracy is unclear.

Rise of Illegal Streaming Devices

TickBox TV is a device sold by a Georgia-based company that, in many ways, is similar to the popular name-brand set-top devices such as the Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, or Apple TV. It’s an internet connected box that is easily...

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