Archive | Piracy
According to Hypebot, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) spent $16 million dollars on lawyers in 2008, much of it suing music fans for “copyright infringement.” The amount they recovered? $391,000. A blog points out that in 2008, the RIAA paid the firm Holmes Roberts & Owen, $9,364,901, Jenner & Block over $7 million and Cravath Swan & Moore $1.25 million to recover $391k. It gets worse, too. in 2007, they spent over $24 million on legal fees and investigative fees to recover $515,929, and $12.6 million in 2006 to recover $455,000. So if you look at those three years combined, they spent about $64 million in legal and investigative expenses to net about $1,361,000.
If it isn’t already obvious that the RIAA’s tactics of punishing their customers is an utter failure, others are weighing in on the inevitability of file sharing. Former Pink Floyd manager and emeritus president of the International Music Managers’ Forum (IMMF) Peter Jenner states that trying to prevent file sharing is a “waste of time,” comparing it to prohibition in the 1920′s. He suggests the industry think about rewriting copyright law and coming up with a new way to make money. One option he brings up is Rapid Share, the file sharing service that offers much faster downloads for paying subscribers. “If we can get £1 a month from every person on this island [Great Britain] for music… this is getting very close to the current level of revenue for recorded music,” he says.
As they did last year, Google has, without warning, deleted a number of established music blogs hosted on its Blogger service. The shutdown is due to alleged copyright infringement complaints, though at least one blogger claims his posts were all pre-cleared with labels or PR firms. You may have seen the controversy as the trending Twitter hashtag #musicblogocide2k10.
In an email sent to I Rock Cleveland, Pop Tarts, Masala, To Die By Your Side, It’s a Rap, Living Ears and perhaps others, Google said that it had been sent multiple copyright infringement notices from record labels. Each blogger awoke to find years of posts deleted and a notice from Google’s Blogger team, “We’d like to inform you that we’ve received another complaint regarding your blog.” said Google. “Upon review of your account, we’ve noted that your blog has repeatedly violated Blogger’s Terms of Service. Given that we’ve provided you with several warnings of these violations and advised you of our policy towards repeat infringers, we’ve been forced to remove your blog. Thank you for your understanding.”
“I do admit, I’ve been accused of infringement before, but in each and every case it happened after posting an mp3 pre-cleared by a label or pr-firm,” I Rock Cleveland blogger Bill Lipold tells Hypebot. “The IFPI, acting unknown to the label, would find me a couple months later and file a claim.”
“I like to think that me and my blog, I Rock Cleveland, were one of the good guys,” continued Lipold. “I worked closely with labels and pr firms, being careful not to step on anyone’s rights, careful not to post any audio which wasn’t approved for promotional purposes. I provided news and reviews for a small, dedicated readership in Cleveland. I Rock Cleveland wasn’t about free music or piracy, but about getting people to think about what they’re listening to and exposing them to new sounds. Still, I got caught up in this mess.”
Unfortunately these unwarranted (if they are, in fact, unwarranted) actions and similar cease & desist notices occur because the independent firms hired to police piracy are usually never in sync with labels’ promotion and publicity departments. Another layer of complexity is often added when artists, their managers and their publicists solicit coverage on their own, sometimes before checking with the labels. Without knowing more about the specific alleged infringements, it’s difficult to say whether Google acted appropriately or not in these cases.
Regardless, in this case, the labels probably aren’t the bad guys, but it’s shocking an effort hasn’t been made to create some sort of “safe” list for these DMCA enforcement services and to open up the lines of communication with the labels’ publicity channels. It’s not stopping or preventing piracy, and it’s not fair to the artists who need the publicity, the promotion people working their asses off for them or the sites kind enough to help promote them.
The first-ever P2P case against an individual is heading back to court. The RIAA announced last week that the case of Capitol v. Thomas-Rasset would go before the court again for a third trial after defendant Jammie Thomas-Rasset rejected a $25,000 settlement in January.
That first trial, in 2007, found Thomas-Rasset liable for copyright infringement with a $222,000 fine. A retrial was then granted after a mix-up with jury intructions. At the second trial, in 2009, Thomas-Rasset was again found liable, but with a more shocking $1.92 million fine. In January, federal judge Michael Davis decided that this was “monstrous” in its disproportionality and adjusted the damages to $54,000. The RIAA could either accept this decision or request a third trial.
The RIAA then sent a letter to Thomas-Rasset’s lawyers with an alternate offer. Thomas-Rasset could settle for $25,000, with all of it donated to a charity benefiting musicians. The entire settlement would be conditioned on the judge vacating the $54,000 order.
“We have done everything within our power to resolve this case on fair terms,” Cara Duckworth, VP of communications for the RIAA, said in a blog post on RIAA.com. “The defendant is someone who knowingly distributed hundreds upon hundreds of unauthorized songs without any regard for those who created them, likely bent on the brazen assumption that she’d never get caught. During both trials she lied about her actions while under oath.”
Thomas-Rasset called the latest comments from the RIAA, “the same vitriol they’ve been spewing about pirates destroying their business. Now we get to go back to court where the statutory damages have to bear some semblance to the actual damages and they are scared of that.”
Duckworth added in her blog post that “American taxpayers should not have to bankroll a publicity campaign that the defendant and her counsel apparently seek. But if another trial is what is needed to close the book on this case once and for all, then we are left with no choice but to reject the Court’s remittitur and proceed to a new trial on damages.”
Fun fact: one of the alleged infringements is a Morbid Angel song, and the defendant claimed to not even know Swedish Death Metal is a genre.
[via Ars Technica]
The Obama administration is backing the verdict awarding $675,000 in damages to the RIAA in the case of Sony v. Tenenbaum, the second-ever US case where an individual was tried for copyright infringement.
The Justice Department, in a memorandum in response to the defendant’s motion for a new trial, said copyright infringement “creates a public harm that Congress determined must be deterred.”
“The current damages range provides compensation for copyright owners because, inter alia, there exist situations in which actual damages are hard to quantify,” the Justice Department wrote. “Furthermore, in establishing the range, Congress took into account the need to deter the millions of users of new media from infringing copyrights in an environment where many violators believe they will go unnoticed.”
Among other requests, Joel Tenenbaum’s legal team wants the damages reduced to $750 per song.
The Obama administration and the Bush administration have supported file sharing damages of up to $150,000 per track. The Justice Department often weighs in on cases when the constitutionality of laws are at issue.
If you’re having trouble keeping track, this is the trial with the amazingly nutty defense lawyer.
Alan Ellis, the former administrator of the defunct, high-profile music sharing site OiNK, was acquitted by a UK jury Friday on charges of conspiracy to defraud. The verdict comes 2 years after British police arrested Ellis. This was the first trial in the UK where an individual was prosecuted for file sharing.
Ellis, 26, ran the torrent search engine which facilitated 21 million downloads from 2004 to October 2007, when it was shut down in a police raid.
During its operation, users were solicited for donations to the site, although it was not required for use of the site. The jury was told that police found almost $300,000 in Ellis’s PayPal account and that he received £11,000 (roughly $18,000) a month in donations from OiNK users.
Ellis defended that he never intended to defraud copyright holders, and the site was set up to “better [his technical] skills for employability.” He testified that the donations were to pay for the server’s rental and any “surplus” would eventually be used to buy a server.
OiNK did not host any music itself, but rather indexed the torrent files that would be used for file swapping.
Ellis declined to speak after the trial.
While only two highly pricey RIAA file-sharing suits against individuals concluded in court this year (Capitol V Thomas-Rasset and later Sony V Tenenbaum), four other trials were established, with the defendants failing to appear in court. The same judge who oversaw the Tenenbaum trial issued default judgments this week, to the insane tune of…minimum penalties.
The four defendants who failed to appear (and thus suffering an automatic loss) will have to pay damages of $750 per song, an average total of $7,500 each. Now while that would crush most twenty-somethings, it’s certainly not the terrifying price tag of $675,000 and $1.92 million issued to Tenenbaum and Rasset, respectively. Not to mention how much they spent on lawyer fees for their multi-year trials.
There you have it. Get called to court, don’t answer. It’s working great for Roman Polanski.
Just in case any of our readers are dumb enough to take my writing as serious legal advice, some of Ars Technica’s readers make a good point.
I was interested more in what happens within the federal court system for this article, but several commenters rightly point out that “not showing up” isn’t the cheapest way out of such situations. Settling with the RIAA usually leads to payments of between $3,000 and $5,000, lower than the default judgments issued here by Judge Gertner. Convincing a jury that you’re innocent could be cheaper still (if you find a pro bono lawyer), though it comes with certain obvious risks.
[Via Ars Technica]
Oh my. This just keeps getting sillier and sillier. [Torrent Freak]
This Pirate Bay sale (and subsequent legalization) is really starting to annoy me. Rumors of the deal falling apart leaked out last month, claiming financial struggles and infighting at would-be purchaser Global Gaming Factory. Then yesterday saw an announcement that the deal was done. Now Torrent Freak reports that a key partner in the restructuring of the new Pirate Bay is also calling shenanigans:
Peerialism, the company set to provide the revolutionary P2P technology behind the new Pirate Bay, has announced that it is doubtful that it will do any business with Global Gaming Factory. GGF are supposed to buy Peerialism, but CEO Johan Ljungberg said that’s doubtful since the company has no money.
In addition to having little to no money to buy The Pirate Bay for 60 million kronor ($7.8m), GGF also has to find 100 million Swedish kronor to buy Peerialism, the company under agreement to provide the core technology behind the project.
However, Peerialism CEO Johan Ljungberg said today that he thinks there will be no business done between the two companies.
“The [shareholders] meeting gave us no direct answer at all, but based on declarations by GGF before and after the meeting, and the reporting that has taken place in recent days, we conclude that GGF will not succeed in obtaining any financing,” Ljungberg told di.se.
The agreement between Peerialism and GGF states that the full purchase price must be paid by September 30, which Ljungberg says is unlikely. I’ve said this before, but whodathunk a purchase of The fucking Pirate Bay would be mired in vague business practices? Despite insistence that the deal is done (done, done, done – swearsies), it seems that this whole thing could fall apart at any minute. At least I’ve had the fun of typing all these kooky European names.
The on again/off again sale of The Pirate Bay was finally pushed through today by Global Gaming Factory shareholders, after rumors swirled of a lack of funds. From TorrentFreak:
Earlier today the financing and legalization plan was presented to the shareholders, who unanimously decided to give the acquisition the green light.
The ownership of the site will be transferred inside a month, and within that period GGF will have to pay 60 million kroner ($7.8m) to the Pirate Bay’s current owners – Reservella.
After the domain has been transferred to GGF, the new Pirate Bay will be transformed into a pay site charging users for access. To please the entertainment industries, GGF will install a system that will allow the copyright holders to either authorize the ‘illegal’ torrents or have them removed from the site.
How pleased the copyright holders will be with this new legalization plan is seriously up for debate – Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN has already stated that it is insufficient.
There are currently no licensing agreements in place with the music industry or otherwise, but GGF still hopes to partner with most of the major labels and movie studios within a year. And then, of course, who knows if anyone will actually be willing to use a pay-version of The Pirate Bay when they could just use any other torrent site.
Hans Pandeya, CEO of Pirate Bay acquirers Global Gaming Factory, is still insisting the sale is good-to-go and restates his goals to legitimize the company in a recent interview with Torrent Freak. In fact, his talks to make agreements with US labels have gone so swimmingly, he thinks the notorious Swedish file-sharing site could be traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Which sounds kind of crazy and impossible:
“We are looking into the possibility to get the operation listed on the NASDAQ Small Cap Index,” Pandeya told TorrentFreak, adding that the first priority is to get the major music labels and movie studios on board. “The Pirate Bay is a strong brand in the US and most parties who have showed interest in the project are based there,” Pandeya said.
GGF is currently wrapping up the funding for the Pirate Bay acquisition and most of the investors are from the US, which is another argument in favor of moving operations from their current base in Sweden. Despite these ambitious plans, GGF will still have to move a few mountains to get copyright holders on board without losing the current visitors.
Without an unlimited library of music, movies and software the current users will leave the ship and move on to the next torrent site. With copyright infringing links still present, none of the copyright holders will agree to enter. The pirate’s dilemma.
Pandeya agreed that this is not an easy task to complete, but assured us that GGF is confident that they can pull it off, and that a NASDAQ listing is realistic once agreements with the major music and movie studios are in place.
Take all of this optimism with a grain of salt, as former executive Wayne Rosso has called shenanigans on Pandeya with cries of false promises and shady business. Obviously, legitimizing and monetizing a one-time illegal file-sharing site has yet to work (see: Napster, LimeWire et al), and those didn’t carry the notoriously indignant, shit-starting image of The Pirate Bay.