Categories » ‘Courts and law’

Did the UK give up on piracy?

July 22nd, 2014 by

This just in from VG247:

The British government has decriminalised online video game, music and movie piracy, scrapping fuller punishment plans after branding them unworkable. Starting in 2015, persistent file-sharers will be sent four warning letters explaining their actions are illegal, but if the notes are ignored no further action will be taken.

It’s a step forward that the government bodies of the UK makes it official that “pirates” will be victims of explanatory letters, and nothing else.

The scheme, named the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), is the result of years of talks between ISPs, British politicians and the movie and music industries. The UK’s biggest providers – BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky – have all signed up to VCAP, and smaller ISPs are expected to follow suit.

I could have told them this years ago, and saved them frustration, time and money!

VCAP replaces planned anti-piracy measures that included cutting users’ internet connections and creating a database of file-sharers.

Which would have been a relatively bigger harm to society than the filesharing itself.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of music trade body the BPI, said VCAP was about “persuading the persuadable, such as parents who do not know what is going on with their net connection.” He added: “VCAP is not about denying access to the internet. It’s about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice.”

I am sure those letters will be heavily coloured by government and industry propaganda.

Officials will still work to close and stem funding to file-sharing sites, but the news appears to mean that the British authorities have abandoned legal enforcement of online media piracy.

If piracy is not a crime – which it can’t be since the authorities choose not to prosecute (are they not forced to, if they are aware of it?) – why go after the content providers?

Figures recently published by Ofcom said that nearly a quarter of all UK downlaods were of pirated content.

Which does not equal to any significant losses. If I do not walk into a store to buy milk, that is not a loss. It is competition.

John


 

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Amazon patents table

May 10th, 2014 by

One of the most important areas of policy for the pirate movement is that of patents. You know, the protection of inventions through rights and legislation. A bit like copyright, patents gives the creator/inventor rights to exploit the process or the object, and copycats can be sued. This may sound fair enough, but patens also cause damage. For example, if a medical company invents a new life-saving medicinal drug, they can patent it and thus control the distribution of it, which in turn means they can decide how much to charge for it and who can buy it. That limits the drug from being used by as many people as possible. Many will even die because they can’t get it or it’s too expense. Have you ever been to a pharmacy and the clerk asked you if you wanted a different medicine that had another name, but was cheaper, and otherwise exactly the same as the more expensive drug? That’s your advantage – the patent isn’t in effect anymore, so anyone can make that drug! Competition is good for mankind.

Patents is a huge thing in the medical business, but some patents are just idiotic, even if they are not about “important things”. Idiotic, but they should not be laughed at, because they display the problems of patents very clearly.

This time I’m talking about Amazon trying to get a patent for shooting still images against a white background, with the camera put on a table.

Is that even an invention? If the patent is not overthrown (it’s already approved), will you need to pay royalties to Amazon every time you photograph something against a white wall?

The reputable website Ars Technica sums the patent itself up like this (the highlight is mine, to emphasize what Amazon wants to have sole rights to):

The white-backdropped photo and video studio layout, which looks and sounds similar to basically every other photo studio in existence, includes: “A front light source aimed at a background, an image capture position located between the background and the front light source, an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background, and at least one rear light source positioned between the elevated platform and the background.

The patent, granted in March, even describes the use of a table: “A subject can be photographed and/or filmed on the elevated platform to achieve a desired effect of a substantially seamless background where a rear edge of the elevated platform is imperceptible to an image capture device positioned at the image capture position.” (Look out yearbook pictures everywhere.)

WTF?????

Amazon now appears to have control over putting a camera on a table and using a white wall or cloth as background. Keep that in mind when you take pics of your kids, folks.

John


 

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Sherlock in the public

February 7th, 2014 by

We talk a lot about copyrights and intellectual property and what it could mean if laws are changed, added or enforced harder. But it’s not so often that we encounter a case from traditional media where a famous “property” changes its nature. I mean, what would it mean if Star Wars was in the public domain? Now there is such a case – Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective from sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books and numerous movies (he’s possibly the most filmed character in history) has entered public domain, at least to a large part.

But first, what is “public domain”? It is a term describing works of art where the copyright has either expired, or the creator has decided to let the work loose without traditional copyright attached to it. Wikipedia says it like this:

Works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. Examples include the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, The King James Bible, most of the early silent films, the formulae of Newtonian physics, and the patents on powered flight. According to the formal definition, the public domain consists of works that are unavailable for private ownership or are available for public use.

For example, copyright belongs to the author (or its descendants or publisher) of a book for 50 or 70 years after the person’s death, depending on which country the author lived in. This means that a company, organisation or foundation can handle the copyrights of Agatha Christie or Elvis Presley for a few decades more, and they can give licences for TV productions, movies or new records. However, in the case with sir Doyle, he died in 1930 and now it is 84 years since he died. In other words, his works should now be in the public domain.

holmes and watson on train, from strand magazine

Holmes and Watson on a train, as depicted in Strand magazine. This illustration is so old that it’s in the public domain too.

There’s some differences between US copyright law and European copyright law, so not everything and anything about the Sherlock Holmes stories are public domain. I’m not going to go into the legal details and differences now, but a judge in Chicago has decided that the characters in the stories are now in the public domain.

And what does that mean? It means that anyone who wants to write new books and stories about the characters no longer need  permission or pay license fees to the Doyle foundation. (A few exceptions exist due to extended copyrights in stories written after 1922, but those limitations will expire over the next 8 years too.) So for the first time, we can have brand new Holmes stories written by anyone! You, me, or famous authors.

This principle means that any work of art or litterature can be extended and expanded once copyright expires. A whole new Holmes world opens up! All of it may not be as clever as the originals, but that’s another debate. For some franchises, it is very sad that nothing new is produced to keep interest up, but now authors can write sequels to Sherlock Holmes, or produce movies and TV without being controlled by a few people. Fans can produce new Holmes stories and publish them on the web without being sued by the Doyles. I am not saying they are bad people, I’m just highlighting the principle. The Doyle estate plans to appeal the decision, of course.

It’s of course the same with the music of Bach and Beethoven and Vivaldi. You can record your own symphonies without paying any royalties or licence fees. But even though the compositions are in public domain now, recent recordings are not. If you buy a CD released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2010, the recording (the sound on the disc) is still copyrighted by them, so you cannot exploit it without getting a permission.

John


 

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    This blog is written by a media pirate, Long John Silver, and is published by an independent publisher to protect the identity of the pirate. If the blog is abruptly deleted, it has been killed by the host, the police or the media industry.