The Pirate Bay – When Big Business and the Judiciary Are One in the Same

24 04 2009

The Copyright Case Heard ‘Round the World
As you may have heard last week, a Swedish judge meted out Draconian punishments to four individuals accused of running The Pirate Bay website. What you may not have heard was that, according to a post in this week’s Torrent Freak, the verdict in one of the biggest online downloading cases in the world may have been tainted by a biased judge. Trying and punishing criminals is a necessary and proper function of any judicial system. In this case, however, according to several sources, it appears that the judge has stepped over the line, using inadequate legal support to further an agenda on behalf of the global mega media interests with which he sides.

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EU tells UK to “rePhorm” its e-privacy laws

20 04 2009

The European Commission has “opened an infringement proceeding” against the UK over Phorm’s ad-serving technology. In a statement this morning, Commission Viviane Reding called out Phorm and the UK, saying, “European privacy rules are crystal clear: a person’s information can only be used with their prior consent. We cannot give up this basic principle, and have all our exchanges monitored, surveyed and stored in exchange for a promise of ‘more relevant’ advertising! I will not shy away from taking action where an EU country falls short of this duty.”

Phorm’s business model is much like that of NebuAd here in the US: partner with ISPs, slurp up all that delicious user surfing data, then use it to toss users into various content silos.

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Queen Elizabeth II rules world’s worst copyright regime?

19 04 2009

Who has the worst “worst, by far” copyright laws in the world? According to a pair of consumer groups, the winner is—wait for it—the UK.

Yes, the country that brought us copyright, modern parliamentary democracy, chocolate Hobnobs, and both Shakespeare and Simon Cowell was rated the absolute worst of sixteen countries surveyed when it came to copyright. The abysmal rating came from the Open Rights Group and Consumer Focus, which dinged the UK for its lack of a broad “fair use” right and the continued existence of rules that prohibit (among other things) legally ripping a CD to one’s computer or iPod.

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The Pirate Bay on the politics of copyright

17 04 2009

While this story can be found in many places, the Globe and Mail has an interview with one of the defendants that is available as a transcript, streaming audio or downloadable MP3. This legal decision has potentially massive ramifications for file sharing and for copyright activism. Copyright and intellectual property law have increasingly been used to enrich corporations.

The Pirate Bay on the politics of copyright

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Online and anonymous: Swedish ISP won’t retain Internet data

16 04 2009

The Pirate Bay has always taken pains to store no data on its users and, as the verdict in its file-sharing trial draws near, at least one Swedish ISP is following suit. Jon Karlung, the head of ISP Bahnhof, says that his company won’t turn over any user data to authorities because it refuses to keep any log files. That decision is legal—for now.

Karlung is reacting to IPRED, the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive. The Swedish version of this European law went into effect on April 1, and it allows courts to force ISPs to turn over user data. The move stripped away the veil of anonymity that Swedish file-swappers have long enjoyed, leading to an immediate drop in Internet traffic and prompting people like Karlung to reiterate his decision to destroy user data.

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French “3 strikes” law suffers shocking defeat

9 04 2009

The French certainly have a flair for the dramatic, what with the recent kidnapping of bosses and the near-constant succession of transport and farmers’ strikes. Even last night’s “graduated response” vote featured its share of parliamentary theatrics, as the controversial Création et Internet law went down to a shocking 21-15 defeat.

That’s right—”three strikes” has struck out in France. At least for now.

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Ochoa on Golan v. Holder and Copyright Restoration

6 04 2009

By Tyler Ochoa

[Eric’s note: my colleague Tyler Ochoa is an expert on copyright law (among other things), and I’ve occasionally posted contributions from him before. This time, he weighs in on the Golan decision from Friday.]

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado has issued a decision in Golan v. Holder, No. 01-cv-01854 (D. Colo. Apr. 3, 2009), on remand from Golan v. Gonzales, 501 F.3d 1179 (10th Cir. 2007). Two years ago, the Tenth Circuit held that §514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (codified at 17 U.S.C. §104A) “altered the traditional contours of copyright protection” by restoring copyrights in works of foreign origin that were previously in the public domain in the United States, and that the law was therefore subject to First Amendment scrutiny. The Tenth Circuit remanded the case to the District Court to determine whether §514 violated the First Amendment. The District Court has now held that §514 is unconstitutional.

The parties agreed that §514 was a content-neutral regulation of speech, which will be sustained “if it advances important government interests unrelated to the suppression of free speech and does not burden substantially more speech than necessary to further those interests.” The parties also agreed that compliance with Article 18 of the Berne Convention, which requires the restoration of foreign copyrights that were in the public domain for reasons other than expiration of the duration of protection, was an important governmental interest. Therefore, the question was whether §514 was “substantially broader than necessary” to serve that interest.

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Court: Congress can’t put public domain back into copyright

6 04 2009

In 1994, Congress jammed a batch of foreign books and movies back into the copyright closet. They had previously fallen into the public domain for a variety of technical reasons (the author hadn’t renewed the rights with the US Copyright Office, the authors of older works hadn’t included a copyright notice, etc.) and companies and individuals had already started reusing the newly public works. Did Congress have the right to put a stop to this activity by shoving the works back into copyright? On Friday, a federal court said no.

“Traditional contours of copyright”

1994’s Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) brought US intellectual property law in line with that of other countries. Section 514 of URAA better aligned US copyright law with the international Berne Convention, one of the earliest international intellectual property treaties. Though Berne had first been signed back in 1886, the US hadn’t joined up until a century later, in 1988.

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G20 Pushing World IP Court

31 03 2009

Intellectual Property Watch reports that leaders at the G20 meeting in London have struck a deal to create an international court for intellectual property litigation:

“The so-called World Intellectual Property Litigation Court would be established by 2012, according to a copy of the communiqué obtained by Intellectual Property Watch.The idea for a global court arose at the UN World Intellectual Property Organization [WIPO], according to sources at the highly regarded blogs IPKat and IP Think Tank.”

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Canadian artists’ new/old plan: $5 to share music legally

26 03 2009


Back in 2007, the Songwriters Association of Canada floated a proposal for a monthly Internet music levy—pay CAN and swap all the music you want. The plan attracted criticism from every side, but SAC is now back with a revised version of the plan that addresses the concerns. While the idea might be risky, SAC members argue that it’s the only viable way to make sure that artists, songwriters, and rightsholders get paid for the huge amount of illegal file-sharing that takes place.

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