New Zealand ISPs who defied TV company demands to switch off their VPN services have caved in following legal threats. CallPlus and Bypass Network Services faced action from media giants including Sky and TVNZ for allowing their customers to access
geo-restricted content. Their Global Mode services will be terminated by September 1.
Unlocking geo-restricted digital content is an activity carried out by millions every day, but the practice diverts revenue from local media companies in
favour of the US.
In April, media companies SKY, TVNZ, Lightbox and MediaWorks told several Kiwi ISPs that if they didn't stop providing geo-unblocking services to their subscribers, legal action wouldn't be far ahead. Within days and following
claims of breaches of the Copyright Act, Unlimited Internet pulled its VPN service. However, CallPlus and Bypass Network Services stood firm and stated that they weren't going to be bullied .
Now, just two months later, both providers have caved
in to the demands of the media companies. The news was revealed in the briefest of announcements posted to the NZX by Sky TV:
The legal proceedings against 'Global Mode' service providers have been settled. As a
result, from 1 September 2015, the 'Global Mode' service will not be available to any person for use in New Zealand.
The news will come as a blow to users of the Global Mode service who will now have to find alternatives if
they wish to continue accessing geo-locked content. While that will be extremely easy , Global Mode was a free product so it's likely that additional costs could be on the horizon.
InternetNZ, the non-profit group that oversees the Internet in New
Zealand, says it is deeply disappointed by the news. InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter said:
Global Mode was a great example of Internet-based innovation that challenged traditional content
distribution models. It was by no means clear that the service was illegal, and we were keen to see the matter go before the courts to provide users and the industry with clarity.
Withdrawing the service and settling before court
seems a worse outcome for all concerned. The media companies have said that they wanted to clarify their own legal rights over content -- a settlement doesn't achieve this, and leaves us all none the wiser.
The European Union is threatening the long-established principle of freedom of panorama -- meaning some major landmarks in public spaces may have to be blocked out from videos and photographs for fear of infringing on the owner's copyright.
principle -- which has been long-established in a number of jurisdictions across Europe and the United States -- is that works such as the London Eye, the Angel of the North, or sculptures displayed in public spaces may be photographed and those
photographs may be used for commercial use.
But the EU apparatchiks have stepped in to curtail the freedom, adding an amendment to a recent report that sought to enshrine the principle formally into EU law.
Germany's Pirate Party MEP Julia
Reda submitted the original proposals to protect freedom of panorama in a report earlier this month, but the European Parliament's legal committee, while approving most of the report, implemented several amendments -- one of these reading, The
commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for them.
This means that
photographers using images of major public spaces may have to consult with copyright owners before publishing images or video, even if the piece of work is not the primary subject of the image.
The rule mimics bizarre French and Belgian rules on
taking photographs of the European Parliamentary buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg. Most Members of the European Parliament have at some point taken pictures of the buildings and are therefore in breach of the law. Indeed in Belgium, pictures adhering
to the law are blacked out, as can be seen on the Atomium's Wikipedia page .
The European Parliament is set to vote on the matter on July 9th, with the European Commission responsible for the final legislation.
Several groups representing the interests of big media companies have won a judicial review challenging the UK Government's decision to allow copying for personal use. According to the High Court, there's insufficient evidence to prove that the
legislation doesn't hurt musicians and the industry.
last year the UK Government legalized copying for private use , a practice which many citizens already believed to be legal.
The change was in the best interest of consumers, the
Government reasoned, but several music industry organizations challenged the decision as they felt it harmed their own interests.
In November the Musicians' Union (MU), the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and UK Music
applied for a judicial review of the new legislation. They disagreed with the Government's conclusion that the change would cause no financial harm to the music industry.
Instead of keeping copies free, they suggested that a tax should be applied
to blank media including blank CDs, hard drives, memory sticks and other blank media. This money would then be shared among rightsholders, a mechanism already operating in other European countries.
The High Court largely agreed with the music
industry groups. The Government's conclusion that copyright holders will not suffer any significant harm was based on inadequate evidence, Mr Justice Green claimed. The judge wrote:
In conclusion, the decision to
introduce section 28B [private copying] in the absence of a compensation mechanism is unlawful.
The UK music groups are happy with the outcome and are eager to discuss possible changes with lawmakers.
The High Court scheduled a
new hearing next month to decide what action should be taken in response to the judgment, including whether the private copying exceptions should be scrapped from law.
PopcornTime is a recent phenomena in the field of illicit movie sharing and is now set to move into the business of porn via the PornTime service.
PornTime is implemented via an upcoming app that is open source. But the creators seem to have suggested
that there is still work to do. The creators write:
We would love to receive your help if you're into codes and stuff! Assist us with adding more great content from more great sources and improve Porn Time and make it
the best source for porn available on the internet!
The High Court internet censors have granted an application by The Publishers Association to have several major pirate eBook sites blocked at the ISP level. The action, a first for book publishers, requires BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and EE
to block sites including Ebookee, LibGen and Freshwap within 10 days.
The High Court handed down its ruling in favor of the publishers. The outcome was never really in question -- UK ISPs have long since given up defending these cases.
days The Football Association and Premier League Limited achieved an extension of the UK blocklist with the addition of popular sports streaming sites Rojadirecta, LiveTV and Drakulastream.
This brings the total number of blocked sites to 128 and
more domains are expected to follow in the months to come.
Depending on the outcome of a pending case there that calls the viability of open wireless networks into question. EFF and its partners have formulated an open letter presenting our views on why a result that threatens open wireless would be a serious
loss to innovators, small businesses, travelers, emergency services and users at large.
One of the legal protections that currently supports open wireless is the principle that Internet intermediaries, such as ISPs and wireless
hotspot operators, are not responsible for content that passes over their networks. In Europe, this principle derives from Article 12 of the E-Commerce Directive , which immunizes a so-called mere conduit from liability for communications over
their networks, only on condition that they did not initiate the communication, select its recipient, or modify it in transit. This provision, however, does not shield such providers from various type of enforcement measures in aid of rights holders,
such as website blocking. The permissibility of these measures then depends on a simple rule: are they good for the society at large?
The application of this legal framework to open wireless networks has come under challenge in
the McFadden reference (C-484/14) concerning a German shopkeeper whose free open wireless network was allegedly used to infringe copyright. In the preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Europe's highest court is asked
whether an enforcement practice requiring open wireless networks to be locked is an acceptable one. Germany's Federal Supreme Court in 2010 held that the private operator of a wireless network is obliged to use password protection in order to prevent
abuse by third parties. If the CJEU affirms this finding, the effect could be to extend this bad precedent throughout Europe, grounding the open wireless movement across the continent. If on the other hand it rejects that finding, German law could be
forced to return to sanity, allowing thousands of hotspot operators to open up their networks again.
The main question point in the case turns on whether locking of open wireless networks would be a proportionate enforcement
mechanism that advances the public interest. The open letter, co-written with Martin Husovec , Affiliate Scholar at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society (CIS), points out that prohibiting open wireless networks creates a serious
obstacle to legitimate trade, that cannot be justified by the limited potential benefits of locked-down networks to rightsholders. The letter highlights exact instances of social benefits that will be lost if locking of open wireless networks becomes a
standard. Holding wireless network operators anyhow accountable for content that passes over their networks thus should be against European law.
The open letter that we publish today has been supported by a coalition of other
organizations from both sides of the Atlantic who support the ideals of the open wireless movement, and concur with our conclusion that an adverse decision in the McFadden case that requires Europe to lock down its open wireless networks would be a blow
to human rights, economic progress and innovation across the continent. We will be updating this post as additional signatories join the call.
Hollywood is encouraging whinges about internet porn. Not because of porn concerns per se, but because it is useful to normalise the concept of website blocking, which they want to employ as an anti-piracy measure
Due to complicated licensing agreements Netflix is only available in a few dozen countries, all of which have a different content library. The same is true for many other media services such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, and even YouTube.
These geo-blocking practices have been a thorn in the side of the European Commission, who now plan to abolish these restrictions altogether.
The EU's governing body has just adopted the new Digital Single Market Strategy. One of the main pillars of the new strategy is to provide consumers and businesses with better access to digital goods and services.
Among other things the
Commission plans to end unjustified geo-blocking, which it describes as a discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons. Europe, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said:
I want to see every
consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market -- wherever they are in.
Of course that's not to say that the EU won't dream up their own red tape nightmares instead. It has a pitiful track record with
its VAT Mess rules killing off small traders on the internet, and so driving even more sales to massive companies who can cope with the administrative burdens, such as the US companies, Amazon and eBay.
Rights-holders to Saturday's Mayweather v Pacquiao boxing match have been manoeuvering to oppose low quality recordings of the bout shared via the new video streaming app, Periscope. Streamed footage is often poor quality, but sufficient to follow what
is going on.
But for the moment, TV networks HBO and Showtime were unable to prevent the action being streamed live. The firms had charged the public a record $89.95 to watch the fight in standard definition and an additional $10 in high
definition. The fight was screened by Sky Box Office for the cheaper price of £19.95 in the UK.
Unlike other live streaming services, such as YouTube and UStream, Periscope does not provide tools to let content owners force the removal of
copyright-infringing content in near-real time. Instead, it requires that they file individual takedown requests, which take longer to process.
HBO has previously expressed its displeasure following reports of Periscope being used to rebroadcast
the opening episode of the latest series of Game of Thrones:
In general, we feel developers should have tools which proactively prevent mass copyright infringement from occurring on their apps and not be solely reliant
Periscope is owned by Twitter, from whom a spokesman commented:
Broadcasting content that is protected by copyright is a clear violation of our content policy. We received 66
reports from rights-holders and took action against 30 broadcasts in response to the reports. The remaining broadcasts had already ended and were no longer available. We were able to respond within minutes.
A German federal court has issued a default judgment against a law firm that sent out 20,000 copyright infringement letters to RedTube users who were notified that they had been viewing streamed porn illegally. This was a false claim as it is not illegal
to view streamed video with requiring the copyright holder's permission. (Although making a copy may cause issues).
In 2013, the now-defunct German law firm of Urmann and Colleagues had been able to convince a Cologne federal court that it needed the
names and addresses of users associated with IP addresses to commence infringement proceedings against them. The company then sent out the 20,000 letters to victims asking them to settle and pay up per alleged infringement.
Urmann and Colleagues
ordered users in Germany to pay up to 1,400 euros to settle copyright claims over adult videos watched on the RedTube website. A year later, in January 2014, Germany's Ministry of Justice gave judicial notice that the mere viewing of a copyrighted video
stream without permission is not in itself an act of copyright infringement.
A civil case asking for damages ensued, but Urmann failed to show up in court and the court ordered a default judgment. The next step is for another hearing, as yet
unscheduled, to determine the levels of damages.
Following copyright threats from large media companies a New Zealand ISP has taken down its VPN service. Lightbox, MediaWorks, SKY, and TVNZ had threatened legal action against services that bypass geo-restrictions on sites such as Netflix and Hulu.
Other ISPs offering similar products are currently standing firm.
For a relatively small fee, users of the most popular VPN services can tunnel out of their country of origin and reappear in any one of dozens of countries around the world. This
opens up a whole new world of media consumption opportunities.
Citizens of the United States, for example, can access BBC iPlayer just like any other Brit might, while those in the UK looking to sample the widest possible Netflix offering can
easily tunnel right back into the U.S.
This cross-border content consumption is not popular with entertainment companies and distributors. It not only undermines their ability to set high prices on a per-region basis, but also drives a truck
through hard-negotiated licensing agreements. Lightbox, MediaWorks, SKY, and TVNZ said in a joint statement:
We pay considerable amounts of money for content rights, particularly exclusive content rights. These rights
are being knowingly and illegally impinged, which is a significant issue that may ultimately need to be resolved in court in order to provide future clarity for all parties involved,
Unlimited Internet became the first ISP to respond
to media company pressure by pulling its geo-unblocking service known as TV VPN after receiving a warning letter from a lawfirm. The letter, which has been sent out to several local ISPs, threatens Unlimited Internet that its VPN service infringes
the Copyright Act of 1994.
Currently there are no signs that other ISPs intend to follow suit.
US rights to express opinions online, for instance, to criticize copyright trolls and their demands for money in hopes of scaring them away, are protected by the First Amendment. The Georgia Supreme Court correctly underscored these protections in a
ruling late last week about the state's anti-stalking law. The panel overturned a trial judge's astonishing order directing a website owner to remove all statements about a poet and motivational speaker who had a sideline business of demanding thousands
of dollars from anyone who posted her prose online, a practice that had sparked plenty of criticism on the web.
The case, Chan v. Ellis, was initiated by Linda Ellis, an author of the motivational poem The Dash, which is
freely available on her website. When others repost the poem, Ellis routinely sent copyright infringement notices, offering to settle the legal dispute for $7,500. This earned Ellis notoriety on Matthew Chan's ExtortionLetterInfo.com (ELI) a website
dedicated to providing information for recipients of settlement demand letters like Ellis' and featuring a message board used to expose alleged copyright trolls and extortion letter schemes. The site included nearly 2,000 posts about Ellis and her
settlement demands, from Chan and others.
In February 2013, Ellis filed a petition for a stalking ex parte temporary protective order, claiming that some of the posts amounted to stalking and cyber-bullying. (The message
boards have been taken down, so we can't read what the messages actually said.) A Georgia state court held that the online posts constituted contact with the writer tantamount to stalking and ordered removal of all posts about Ellis, not just
threatening ones, n an overreaching ruling impeding freedom of expression and ignoring the legal protections afforded to intermediary publishers of web content,
The case was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, where, because of
the important free speech concerns, the UCLA First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic and Loyola Law School Prof. Aaron Caplan weighed in on the case on EFF's behalf. We emphasized the free speech issues raised if contact under the state's
anti-stalking law was interpreted to include online statements about an individual. The Georgia Supreme Court, in an opinion that mirrored our arguments, ruled that posting criticisms of the poet wasn't the type of contact the anti-stalking law
prohibits because the comments were for public consumption and not sent directly to her. T he court said:
That a communication is about a particular person does not mean necessarily that it was directed to a
person The publication of commentary directed only to the public generally does not amount to 'contact' under Georgia's anti-stalking law.
While Ellis may not have liked what people said about her, that's not enough
to stifle publication of opinions expressed to the general public. As the court ruled, Ellis failed to prove that Chan 'contacted' her without her consent and the trial court erred when it concluded that Chan had stalked Ellis.
EFF has called for a federal statute that would nip this type of claim against commentary on websites and blogs in the bud. A federal anti-SLAPP law would provide bloggers and website owners with a defense against expensive legal
threats targeting legitimate online content, enabling them to file a request in court to get the cases dismissed quickly. At least 28 states already have such laws against strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs. A similar law at the
federal level would protect bloggers, website owners, and other creators across the nation, and discourage plaintiffs like Ellis from dragging their targets into court.
The Internet has turned into an unrivaled forum for
discussion and debate, and people around the world use the Web to share information about people and businesses they don't think are dealing fairly with others. We are pleased the Georgia court recognized this and protected free speech online instead of
dangerously expanding the scope of the state's anti-stalking law.
A draft of new legislation aimed at stopping Aussie consumers accessing pirate sites has been published. The amendments, which contain criteria that could see hundreds of sites blocked by ISPs, is believed to have been reworded to ensure that VPN
services don't become caught in the dragnet.
Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull instiugated the process resulting in the legislation.
The site-blocking elements of the Copyright Amendment (Online
Infringement) Bill 2015 are likely to please rightsholders with their significant reach.
In order to apply for an injunction against an ISP, rightsholders need to show that the provider in question provides access to an online location outside Australia and that the
location infringes or facilitates infringement of copyright. The location's primary purpose must be to infringe copyright, whether or not in Australia .
Once an injunction is handed down against an ISP it will be required to take reasonable steps
to disable access to the infringing site. What amounts to reasonable will almost certainly be the subject of further discussion as any over-broad moves could result in collateral damage and bad PR.
There will now be a six week consultation
period for additional submissions and tweaks.