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Pirate Party Plans for Copyright Reform

In recent weeks, copyright critics and author's rights aficionados in Germany have been waging a war of words in a multitude of open letters (eg here, here), newspaper articles (overview here) and at birthday brunches (or maybe that was just the birthday brunch I attended yesterday...). At the core of the debate is the political success of the Piratenparty ("Pirate Party") that runs, inter alia, on the slogan of "de-criminalisation of non-commercial file sharing". The Piratenpartei is keen to stress that they do not want to abolish copyright protection outright, but that they envisage a better deal for authors and users alike (at the expense of the much-loathed content industry). Others point out that "de-criminalisation" of file sharing amounts to much the same thing as the abolition of copyright.

This morning, the Piratenpartei published what they deem the ten most important issues that should be addressed in reforming the current copyright law (here). As it is only available in German, I have translated (and somewhat summarised) them below:

1) The term of protection shall be shortened to 10 years post mortem auctoris. Among other things, this would alleviate the orphan works problem.
2) Authors' shall receive stronger rights vis-à-vis right holders: authors shall regain their rights faster in case of non-exploitation and exclusive licences shall be limited to a maximum term of 25 years.
3) Beyond the initial purchase price, institutions of public education shall not be required to pay for using copyright works.
4) Libraries shall be entitled to store works in digital archives; free access for educational purposes shall be guaranteed.
5) The right to make private copies shall be defined and guaranteed; the creation of "remixes" and "mashups" shall be facilitated. Technological protection measures and digital rights management shall be abolished.
6) Basically the same as 2): reform of copyright contract law.
7) Private, direct, non-commercial file sharing and the passing on of works shall be de-criminalised.
8) New business models shall be developed (for instance "micropayment", crowd funding, levies). Authors shall receive equitable remuneration but data protection must be guaranteed; mutual trust and new distribution channels are essential.
9) The practice of sending warning letters to private individuals (asking them to cease and desist from infringing copyright and to pay the incurred attorneys' fees) shall be stopped; in order to have free WLAN networks, the concept of "Störerhaftung" ("disturbance liability" - secondary liability for someone else's infringement due to a breach of duty care) shall be abolished.
10) Copyright law shall meet the expectations of contemporary "media savvy" users and shall not restrict creative uses.

In addition, the Piratenpartei has appealed to authors, right holders and users to participate in a constructive dialogue on copyright law, with public debates concerning the following topics: collecting societies, rock and pop culture, classical music, authors/journalists, creators of films, software, and education/school (here). For each topic, there is a document on the Piratenpartei's website where anyone interested can add questions or comments to be discussed in the respective debate. The first two debates are scheduled for 6 June (on collecting society GEMA) and 7 June (on authors, journalists and photographers).

Sunday, 20 May 2012

ISPs' six strikes enforcement plan delayed

How disconnection works in practice
A couple of months ago this Blog reported that the ISPs' six strikes enforcement plan (on which see here) was due to enter into force next July. 
The plan is the result of an agreement between some major US ISPs (AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon) and music and film industries (through RIAA and MPAA), aimed at adopting and implementing policies directed at discouraging their customers from illegally downloading copyright-protected materials.
The plan envisages a system through which, when a copyright owner complains to an ISP, that ISP sends a (possible) series of online alerts to the subscriber that he/she is infringing copyright. After six warnings ISPs may take a variety of repressive measures, which include slowing down offenders’ connections and temporary disconnections.
In any case, when entering the agreement, ISPs made it clear that they would (1) protect their subscribers' privacy and not filter/monitor their own networks for infringements and (2) never terminate an internet connection entirely, or otherwise interfere with subscribers' ability to receive calls and emails.
During a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers, RIAA's CEO Cary Sherman announced that most of the participating ISPs would begin implementing the enforcement program by next July.
However, as reported by TorrentFreak and Tom's Guidenow the start of the program has been delayed until later in the year. 
As commented by a spokesperson for the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), which is supposed to engage in the tracking down of pirates as part of the enforcement plan, 

ISPs are busy preparing their model online alerts
The dates mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) are not hard deadlines but were intended to keep us on track to have the Copyright Alert System up and running as quickly as possible and in the most consumer friendly manner possible ... We do not intend to launch until we are confident that the program is consumer friendly and able to be implemented in a manner consistent with all of the goals of the MOU. We expect our implementation to begin later this year.”

In any case, participating ISPs remain in favour of voluntary and private enforcement solutions. For instance, Verizon has declared that it has 
"always said that copyright infringement is wrong and through this voluntary consumer friendly system, we believe we can educate our consumers and offer them access to legal alternatives ... [T]his  program offers the best approach to the problem of illegal file sharing and, importantly, is one that respects the privacy and rights of our subscribers. It also provides a mechanism for helping people to find many great sources of legal content.”
Apparently, as reported by TorrentFreak, the CCI has made it clear, that none of the ISPs has plans to terminate the accounts of subscribers. This does not mean, however, that temporary disconnection is no longer an option.


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