June 11, 2009

Due Process Protections, En Français [1:41 pm]

French Council Defangs Plan to Crack Down on Internet Piracy (pdf)

The highest constitutional body in France on Wednesday defanged the government’s plan to cut off the Internet connections of digital pirates, saying the authorities had no right to do so without obtaining court approval.

The decision, by the Constitutional Council, which reviews legislation approved by Parliament before it goes into effect, is a major setback for the music and movie industries, which had praised the French law as a model solution to the problem of illegal file-sharing.

The council rejected the core portion of the measure, under which a newly created agency, acting on the recommendations of copyright owners, would have been able to order Internet service providers to shut down the accounts of copyright cheats who ignored two warnings to stop.

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Playing Games With DAnger Mouse [1:36 pm]

Danger Mouse’s New CD Has No Music, but Lots of Pictures (pdf)

It was classic teaser marketing. And yet when “Dark Night of the Soul” was finally unveiled a few weeks ago, it still left fans puzzled. The project, it turned out, is a large-format book-and-CD package that Danger Mouse was releasing by himself, with 50 photographs by Mr. Lynch intended as accompaniment to the album’s 13 songs. But the CD is blank and recordable, and a sticker on the shrink wrap explains cryptically: “For legal reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.”

Bloggers and journalists speculated widely about why Danger Mouse, whose real name is Brian Burton, had withdrawn the music from the book. A statement on the project’s Web site (dnots.com) blamed “an ongoing dispute with EMI.”

In response, EMI issued a statement that offered no greater clarity but hinted at a negotiation: “Danger Mouse is a brilliant, talented artist for whom we have enormous respect. We continue to make every effort to resolve this situation and we are talking to Brian directly. Meanwhile, we need to reserve our rights.”

In most cases this turn of events would signify defeat: an artist battles a record label, and his music vanishes down the memory hole. But in the peculiar way that Danger Mouse has built his career, “Dark Night of the Soul” seemed to be an oblique victory, in which failure at official business can generate notoriety and, ultimately, lead to success in other endeavors.

For fans the sticker’s winking reference to illegal downloading — “Dark Night of the Soul,” like most albums in the age of leaks, is widely if unofficially available free online — was amusingly familiar. [...]

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“Fixing” Copyright [9:05 am]

Another constituency heard from in the run-up to the 111th Congress’ hearings on S.379/H.R.848 in the effort, once again, to BROADEN copyright protections: Film, TV music composers urge copyright law change (pdf)

Nathan Barr has scored horror films like “Hostel” and the HBO vampire series “True Blood,” but what really keeps the composer up at night is fear he will not get paid for music distributed online.

“‘True Blood’ is my first big show for TV and it’s definitely going to see a lot of play on the Internet. It’s a big issue for me,” Barr, 36, told Reuters in an interview. “I don’t understand why composers don’t get paid if someone downloads it.”

The issue is the latest digital copyright debate pitting creators in the entertainment industry on one side and studios, broadcasters, cable operators and technology companies on the other. Barr underscores how a growing number of artists — writers, actors and, yes, composers — feel they are not fairly compensated for content distributed on the Internet.

[...] Actors and writers have aired their grievances and demanded Hollywood studios pay up. Now, composers, along with publishers, are urging Congress to change copyright law so that when music airs in an audio-visual download, it is considered a public performance that earns them royalties. [...]

The copyright issue, apart from being proposed legislation, is also expected to be the subject of a House Judiciary committee hearing in July, industry experts say.

At the center of the debate is a federal court ruling in April 2007, considered a victory for companies like AOL, RealNetworks and Yahoo! Inc <YHOO.O> that found that downloading a music file was not considered a “performance.”

[...] Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), a trade group for Hollywood studios such as General Electric Co’s Universal Pictures, Viacom Inc’s Paramount and Walt Disney Co, strongly opposes these efforts, arguing that a download is not a performance.

“The MPAA is opposed to amending the copyright law to require a double payment for music in movies and TV shows downloaded from the Internet,” Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA said. “We do not need to amend the Copyright Act to compensate these composers twice for the same activity.”

This is all clearly fallout from the CISAC Copyright Summit (PR1, PR2) that’s been held the last two days. Sen Orrin Hatch spoke (pdf), outlining his views of what needs to happen in this Congress. Robert Wexler also spoke (pdf), allowing me to add this ironic passage to the ones above:

[W]hen the Swedish Pirate Party talks about how music is universal and has always been available for everyone to enjoy for free, we end up with the unenviable task of explaining the finer points of copyright laws to a public that has no interest in the longer explanation, however accurate, responsible and correct it may be.

I found this out on a personal level, when I was in Congress during the original file-sharing debate about Napster. I remember unveiling a strongly worded statement against Napster and a defense of our intellectual property legal regime. I thought I sounded pretty good. I knew I wouldn’t be popular with high school and college students in my district. But I was shocked when my father called me and said I sounded like I was on the wrong side of the issue. I knew if I couldn’t even convince my own father – that we had a big problem.

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