Pirates of the Caribbean

The title commemorate the famous saga of 4 movies by Disney, but this time is not a fiction, is reality.

It seems that the Government of the Caribbean island of Antigua decided to open a web portal to sell movies, music and software illegally downloaded.

The institutions of what was the “pirate’s land” want now to make a virtual pirate island.

According to many journalists this project is a sort of revenge against the US Authorities. Indeed in Us there’s a strict legislation against act of gambling so they blocked the access for the Us citizens to many specialistic websites of the Island. This meant the loss of million dollars for the caribbean Island. Althought the Us Authorities  tried to contrast the project with the explanation of “fight to piracy”, the project obtained the feu vert by the World Trade Organization.

The portal would like to propose a subscription for 5$US  a month  to access – without limits – to any kind of content. That would be the worst nightmare for the entire creative sector, audiovisual industry as well as phonografic industry.

A warning came even from the White House, obviously: let’s consider the key role of the major for the electoral campains “made in US”.

There are, in any case, many people who hope in the illusion of the “all for free”.

But, above all, such a news deserves a deep reflection. If the portal will be active, the loss for the creative sector can be apocalyptic and difficult to be quantified. We would like to remind that pay for original contents does not mean enrich those who had created that contents but, first of all, insert new resources for the re production of the system. Without new funds to be reinvested the productive eco-system would fail, as well as contents would disappear. And then, there will be nothing to joy for, not considering the dramatic loss for the cultural system at all.

The (ruinous) outcome of the Dubai Itu Conference

The stand-by situation of the first week of the Dubai Itu confernece forecasted a difficult solution of the meeting organized by the United Nations in order to modify  the tlc  International agreement and, more in general, the regulation of the Internet. In the end of the conference, that took place in Dubai, between 3 and 14 December, these are the main results:

- The Un approved an agreement with 77 votes in favour and 33 against;

- 89 Countries – among them China, Russia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia – signed the new treaty;

- 55 Countries didn’t sign the treaty. Among them Usa, Canada, United Kingdom. They accused the treaty to be against the Internet freedom and decided to abandon the meeting.

- Other Countries, including Italy, remained in stand-by, waiting to make a choice.

In the end, the Conference has been a substantial “flop”.

First of all the new treaty has been judged damaging to the internet freedom, despite Hamadoun Touré (Itu  Secretary General) reassurances. Moreover the treaty can have different interpretations, possibly leading to Countries ratifying the treaty through different applications.

According to many analists the “Internet war” has become a geopolitical affaire within a new “cold war”. Countries will be divided in two blocks depending on whether they
did or did not sign the treaty, which basically gives Governments more power in dealing with matters concerning the Internet.

And this worries Countries like US that strongly aim to maintain the multistakeholders approach. Likewise, obviously, Google that declared  to be “on the side of those who reject the Treaty, in favour of a free and open Internet.” Same position also for Robert Mc Dowell, Commissioner at the FCC – Federal Communications Commission “only an Internet isolated from governative’s regulamentations don’t undermine the success of the Internet governance based on the multistakeholder’s model”.

Even if it’s clear, on the one hand, that US tries to protect their own interests, it’s even more clear, on the other hand, that there will not be a shared treaty for tlc and the Internet.

The treaty will become law by 2015 so, in the next 2 years many thing could change. The next Itu meeting will be held in South Corea in 2014.

WCIT – Dubai 2012

During these days is taking place the decisive meeting over the future of the Internet, the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), organized by the ITU – International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations. Representatives from 193 different Country are right now in Dubai to attend the summit. The aim of the Conference is to revise the ITR – International Telecommunication Regulations treaty, adopted by Governments in 1988. The ITR focuses on telecommunication and currently does not mention the Internet that,  in 1988, was still in its “infancy”, used only by a small number of researchers. Nowadays, experimenting the big revolution of the digital age, a review of the ITR was largely felt as necessary and urgent.

The ITU’s 193 member States have offered their proposals for how to revise the ITR, which form the basis for the negotiations at the WCIT.

The out come of the Dubai Summit could change how the Internet works.

The WCIT is a two-week conference that started last Monday, 3rd December and will go on until next Friday, 14th December.

We’ve just passed the halfway point of the conference. The first week had a few surprises but little indication what the outcome on Dec. 14th will actually look like. And the situation seems to be a “stand-by point”.

We have two blocs. On the one hand, The United States and a number of Countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific want to keep Internet governance out of international treaties, a sort of  “no man’s land” (with all the consequences in terms of  privacy and protection), while others — namely, Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia — are pushing to extend governmental control over the Internet.

We look forward to the end of the Summit and the decisions taken and we’ll certainly write about in this column.

Avaxhome.ws seized on Italian territory

On November 28th, 2012, the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Milan, addressing a complaint lodged by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A. last June, ordered the pre-emptive seizure on the Italian soil of the website Avaxhome.ws, for years a reference point for piracy of newspapers and ebooks around the world, and that collected many daily publications from Italy as well as from many other Countries, along with videos, music and software in ten languages​​, all strictly without permission of the legitimate rightholders. The main Italian ISPs are already complying with the order, blacklisting the website and preventing their users to access it.

The so-called “DNS poisoning” and the blocking of data exchanges with the IP address of a certain web site are confirmed to be the favoured methods adopted by Italian
judges against digital piracy; for the first time, however, the operators of a piracy-dedicated website are not only charged with violation of copyright, but also with the crime of receiving stolen goods, as per article 648 of the Italian Criminal Code. This allegation allowed the Public Prosecutor to issue the pre-emptive seizure of the pirate portal, while waiting for the designated court to rule on the proposed case.

We will wait with interest, to see the findings of the court on such pre-emptive seizure, as well as the decision on the case.

Publishers vs Google: after France, Italy and Germany, Portugal and Switzerland gang up.

The war between European publishers and Google goes on and new players comes in the field. Alongside with French, German and Italian publishers, also Portuguese and Swiss publishers joined the battle.

The editors of the 5 Countries are coordinating themselves at the International level and are vehemently asking their governments adequate forms of protection for their content into this new “digital age” in order to get adequate remuneration for the exploitation of their works.

Meanwhile in Germany today began the exam of the Parliament of the so called “Lex Google” which is aimed at protecting intellectual property rights online. Meanwhile, “Big G” a few days ago, has launched a signature campaign against the law that would limit (Google said), the freedom of the internet.

Even within the German Parliament are, however, emerging splits on the question whether Google should or should not pay the so-called “ancillary copyright”, a sort of “auxiliary copyright” for few lines of
news available on the web on search engines or news aggregators.

All the publishers involved, including the Italian Fieg, agree that “Big G” has to redistribute to the printed publishers part of its huge advertising revenues. We would like to remind that data released by the World Association of Newspaper showed that, between 2005 and 2011, advertising revenues of newspapers, globally, have fallen from 195 billion to 76 billion US dollars but, at the same time, revenues of newspapers deriving from on online advertising grew just from 2 up to 3.2 billion dollars.

Meanwhile in France has been appointed a moderator in the controversy between publishers and “Big G” to find a solution by the end of the year. Otherwise the French Parliament will intervene with a specific law.

But the European battle against Google is not only focused on copyright. New controversies are attacking “Big G” on central issues: fiscal evasion as well as dominant position in the web search…

The European Court of Justice declares current Directives do not preclude identification of a pirate by means of IP address

In a recent ruling (Case C-461/10 – Bonnier Audio AB/ v Perfect Communication Sweden AB, available at http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf;jsessionid=?docid=121743&doclang=EN&mode=req&cid=1153798) the European Court of Justice has examined an important question of law, regarding online piracy: can Member States grant their national courts the power to order to ISPs the release of personal information of people illegally distributing copyrighted contents online through a certain IP address?

The main case involved a legal action filed by a collecting society (Bonnier Audio), which requested its national court to disclose the identity of the person who spread illegal copies of copyrighted audiobooks via FTP through a certain IP address, against the internet service provider (Perfect Communication Sweden) which provided connectivity to the alleged pirate.

Perfect Communication Sweden, which in fact had assigned the challenged IP address to the pirate, opposed the confidentiality of it’s
client’s communications, and strongly questioned the legality of the sweden law allowing judicial disclosure of personal data related to an IP address.

The injunction, granted by the court of first instance, was contested towards the Svea Court of Appeal, which finally raised the question to the European Court of Justice.

In the judgment under review, the Court of Justice makes a thorough survey of the rules contained into the EU Directives on copyright,
privacy and telecommunications, highlighting the many purposes addressed and the protections tools provided, and finally stating that, at the present date, nothing seems to preclude the recognition of such a power to national courts, and that indeed the Directives have so far taken care to leave room for Member States’ action on the matter, so to offer a correct balance of interests while enforcing copyright protection.

We shall follow the developments and the effects of this judgment on European law; at a first glance, however, we note that this ruling modifies the previous orientation of the ECJ, expressed in the
“Promusicae” case, where privacy protection was reputed as prevailing
against the judicial protection of copyright, and basically allows for the
first time the allocation of strong disclosing powers to national judges.”


European newspaper publishers against “Big G”

Few weeks after a law proposal, the German so called “Lex Google”,  currently at the exams of the German Parliament, the debate over online copyright seems to revive also in Italy.

“Lex Google” means a regulatory framework that introduces forms of remuneration for newspaper’s publishers whose news are enjoyed through indexing by the most popular search engine in the world, Google.

The issue is related, without doubt, to the editors of newspapers and magazines, but it is symptomatic of the need, now an urgent need, of a comprehensive regulation system of what happens in the “wonderful world” of the Internet.

On October 24Th, the Italian publishers gathered in Fieg (Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers), the French publishers of Ipg (Association de la Presse), those of the Germans Bdzv (Bundesverband Deutcher Zeitungsverleger) and the VDZ (Verband Deutcher Zeitschriftenverleger) have decided to come together to make a “common front” to defend the copyright of their editorial content online.

The editors of three of the major EU Countries require the inclusion in the regulatory framework of their Countries (but the phenomena seems to be “universal”) of a discipline that defines a system of intellectual property rights which can give rise to forms of virtuous cooperation between rights holders and content publishing giant network.

If on the one hand, in fact, the decrease in sales of paper copies of newspapers is partially “compensated” by the use of online news (grown strongly in the last two years), they complains, in all the three Countries, an overall situation of difficulty for the publishing industry newspaper. Publishing companies accuse, in addition to the general economic crisis (leading to a widespread reduction in consumption), an unfair use of their content by search engines (Google in particular), which continue to increase
their revenue through advertising.

It is interesting to quote some data related to Italy, France, Germany, supplied during a meeting held in Rome on October 24th, 2012:

- In Italy, every day more than 24 million people read a newspaper. Between 2009 and 2011, the number of users of newspapers’ websites, on an average day, rose from 4 million to 6 million users, with an increase of 50 %. Compared with the overall internet users, readers of online newspapers represent the 47 % of the whole market;

- In France, 97 % of French people read every day, at least, one paper (newspaper or magazine), 25 million of French people, every month, consult, at least, an information website. 8 million mobile users per month and 1.4 million people each quarter access to editorial content through their tablets. Even young people are attracted to it: 70 % of those who are between 25 and 35 years of age read newspapers on the internet.

- In Germany, 47 million people over 14 years of age read a daily newspaper every day (67 % of the total population) and the websites of German newspapers are visited every month by 27.7 million of unique users (40 % of the population). 92 % of the German population over 14 years of age – that is more than 65 million readers – read magazines. Internet sites and other applications of the German publishers count 13.8 million users, representing 72 % of the total traffic of the Internet. Finally, 66 % of those
who use an iPad has a newspaper’s subscription. The digital market now accounts 10 % of the German publishers’ turnover.

We would like to remind that for a similar problem of indexation of news by search engines the Associação Nacional De Jornais (Anj) of Brazil decided to come out of Google News.

Carlos Fernando Lindenberg Neto, President of Anj said that being on Google news is not a benefit for them. Google News has commercial benefits from their content but refuses any kind of remuneration. In Brazil Google News was abandoned by 154 newpapers’ publishers, representing the 90 % of the total newspaper market.

Google denies all accusations, with the usual thesis that the presence on the search engine increases the dissemination of news in the network, and then stimulates potential readers in buying the newspapers in the print edition or in the digital one.

The phenomena – in its opposing interpretations – has planetary features.

As it happened in the music industry, even the newpaper publishing sector is undergoing the same decrease of total revenues, year after year: a growing portion of revenues comes now from the Internet, but this increase does not compensate the decrease in revenues of the “phisycal” business.

We are assisting to a sort of “transfer of wealth” from publishers to aggregators. With
a small detail: publishers invest in quality content while aggregators don’t.

In economy, this phenomena is called “parasitic income”.

In other words, the Internet is leading to a continuous process of impoverishment of these cultural industries, reducing the chance of producing quality content.

If it’s true that the Internet multiplies the chances of universal access to content (with great benefits for democracy), it’s also true that it impoverishes content producers: this happens for newspaper publishers, as well as for television broadcasters.

We can summarize that people likes the news (on the internet), but this way doesn’t pay news’ producers. And that’s true for all the quality content, from music to audiovisual media.

According to some, the publishers of France, Germany and Italy aim to emulate what
happens in the United Kingdom, where the Newspaper Licensing Agency began to ask for money to news aggregators. The difference is that, in Germany and France, publishers are thinking of asking a commission not only for subscriptions services, but even for the free ones detected by Google.

The initiative of the French and German publishers is supported by their respective
Governments: Merkel has taken up the battle of the publishers because she considers it proper, to preserve employment and a material and immaterial wealth of the Country. The French Minister for Innovation and Digital Economy, Fleur Pellerin, stated that the “war against aggregators” must be fought together at a European level.

As far as Italy is concerned, there has been no position taken by Monti.

We would remind that in January 2011, the Italian Antitrust Authority concluded an investigation launched in 2009 against Google for abusing its dominant position. Google
took a series of commitments that were supposed to avoid the risk of distortion of competition.

In that occasion, The President of Fieg Carlo Malinconico declared: “The commitments taken by Google change, at a global level, some editorial and commercial policies related to Google News and AdSense, in a perspective of greater transparency and collaboration.”

This is a first response, which must follow, as noted by the Authority, the intervention of the legislation to regulate the remuneration of the companies that produce editorial content online, against economic exploitation of their works by others subjects.

Then Malinconico added: “At the same time, Fieg is watching with great interest what the Communications Regulatory Authority would take to protect the copyright”.

After almost two years, no sign of intervention came out by the Agcom. At the beginning of October 2012, during a conference organized by ConfindustriaCultura, the Sub- Secretary Peluffo claimed: “I renew the invitation to the “new” Agcom, which I had already turned to the previous Council, to quickly approve the Regulation against piracy.”

From the Agcom, now, all is silent. Although, few days after, the Commissioner Preto affirmed: “In this new scenario, the copyright on the internet is much more important. The protection of intellectual property on the web may not be a taboo, but it must
be a driving force for innovation, for the development of legal content and the
economy of the sector. We don’t want to gag the people on the network, but to ensure respect for the rights and rules. The network is not a no man’s land. (…)
In this direction, the Agcom enforcement must be based on the principles of
proportionality, effectiveness and promptness.”

In the following days, the French President Hollande met the Ceo of Google, Schmidt, leaving understand that, by the end of the year, a solution should have be found, and that if Google will not begin negotiations with publishers, the Government will intervene.

However there’s not a general agreement. The news websites that don’t depend on newspapers and magazines or large publishing groups have been formed in Spiil (Press Association Online), and do not share the introduction of a tax, regarded as a wrong choice and short-sighted in the long run, because will lead to the reduction of pluralism of information. The Spiil believes that Google should pay full taxes on profits, which, as many well know (and as we have reported on this blog), “Big G” avoids,
operating from Ireland.

For its part, to a threat, Google responds with another threat, that is to stop indexing the articles of the French papers (in other words: “will delete the links to the websites of newspapers”), just as recently happened in Brazil. The French Government, however, seems very fierce: especially the Minister of Culture, Aurélie Filippetti, who runs the file, does not seem willing to give. The standoff has only begun. Google says that it cannot accept such a measure, which “calls into question its existence”.

We hope that, beyond the rhetoric of the magic Internet, we’ll return to understand that the news in the papers are the result of someone’s work and, as such, something to be paid. Like a novel, a cd, a movie…

The “myth of the manna” of the free Internet should be debunked. It is urgent to develop a modern system of intellectual property rights.

There are not yet hard facts (also for the continuing lack of transparency in Google’s economy), but, according to some analysts, in 2012 Google exceeded Rai in advertising. In late September, at a conference, Antonio Pilati (Board Member Rai, former adviser Agcom and Agcm) has argued that “Google is now the second largest
advertising operator in Italy. He has exceeded Rai and is second only to Publitalia”.

We remind that last July, Fabio Vaccarono left Manzoni Advertising, advertising dealer
of L’Espresso-Repubblica, to become the Country Manager of Google Italy: a further confirmation of the vocation to growth of the giant in the business of the Italian advertising.

We will see what will be the outcome of this story, and certainly will be back soon to write on this blog.



Google accused of dominant position in the search market

The US Federal Trade Commission is looking to take anti-trust action against Google,  because there is belief that Google has abused its dominance of the search business.

The FTC is nearing a decision after 16 month of long investigation into Google’s search and advertising businesses, and sources say things are not looking good for the Mountain View–based company. The final decision will probably arrive next November or, at least, December.

Reuters reports that four of the five FTC commissioners are “convinced” that “Big G” abused its dominant position in the web search market to stifle its competition. Only one
commissioner remains “skeptical”.

For its part, Google, with its Chairman Eric Shmidt, has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

More specifically, The FTC is investigating on how Google act in the online travel industry, where it seems to be done that Google damaged competitors as Nextag or Yalp, positioning them in a bad quality ranking.

If the FTC will confirm that “Big G” has abused its market position, the search giant will be left with only two real choices: it can strive to reach a settlement, as it did with the European Commission, or it can prepare itself for a long and contentious legal battle.
Either option is sure to be costly.

We remind that a similar investigation was launched by the European Commission in 2010.

back to Europe, the attention seems to be focused on privacy.

European privacy regulators have found flaws in Google’s revised privacy policy, which may breach EU data protection laws.

A majority of the European data and privacy regulators have signed and sent a joint letter to the California-based search giant asking the firm to make changes to its revised policy. 24 of the 27 member states’ data protection regulators signed the letter, with the exception of Greece, Romania and Lithuania.

The regulators have asked Google to explain the firm’s intentions and detail methods for sharing user data across its services. The letter also said that Google must seek “explicit consent” when combining users’ data together.

We will back soon on this “delicate” issue.




Aliprandi’s survey and some thoughts

Few days ago, The lawyer Simone Aliprandi published the results of his survey, done in 2011 for his PhD thesis, titled “Copyright in the digital age. An empirical research about behaviours, social perceptions and level of awareness between internet users”. The
main tool used for this research study was an online questionnaire based on the CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interviewing) method.

The questionnaire was posted both in Italian and English version on the open source platform Limesurvey and remained available online for 4 months without any filter or limitations (from February 1 to June 1, 2011).

The survey is divided in two section: the first one is dedicated to Italy, and the second one to the rest of the world. Aliprandi interviewed about 1,800 people (1,300 for Italy and 500 for the rest of the world). More than anything else, the main pourpose of Aliprandi was to explore how copyright can be analyzed from a sociological point of view. This, as Aliprandi said, can be considered a sort of a “pilot research”.

Therefore, this study address three broader research fields:

  • most common behaviors of Internet users when they get, distribute, or otherwise deal with online content under copyright;
  • the average perception of Internet users about copyright itself, that is, whether they see it as a primary or minor problem, a useful tool or a useless burden, etc.;
  • the level of awareness of Internet users about mechanisms and principles currently governing copyright law, in order to expose their actual level of knowledge on related issues.

We would like to remind that Aliprandi chose to use open content licenses, both on the web and in open access journals.

Today we decided to analize the Italian part of the study, whose results gives interesting “food for thought”.

We would like to underline that the main part of the “respondents” are in the target 18-44 with a medium-high level of education (80%).

First of all we can say that emerges clearly the perception’s deficit still present in our Country about the copyright’s protection. Those who illegally download didn’t perceive
a sense of guilty for that action. The illegal downloading of programs, creative contents, music files is not perceived like stealing a cd, dvd or even a book from a store. Even if many of them knows that downloading file in that way is illegal, they already know that is generally accepted / acceptable. We can conclude that the main problem is the “social perception”, even because the great part of the repondents believe that the illegal download damages the companies that produce and sell the work, and not the entire creative and social-economic system.

For more information http://copyrightsurvey.blogspot.it/

Google / Youtube – two new decisions in France

At the end of September, the Court of Cassation, the Supreme French Court, issued
two important rulings on the subject of Copyright Protection Online.

These judgments involved two separate aspects of the ongoing fight against
illegal publication of intellectual property online.

- In the first case, the Supreme French Court ruled that, when a report has already been made against an illegal content uploaded online (and the consequent removal procedure has been throughly carried out), the host provider (in this case Google / Youtube) can not be held responsible if the content in question is again uploaded on its servers, but it is up to the copyright owner to report the presence of such content and ask again for its removal; in this case, the Court overturruled what had been held by the Court of Appeal, which had held that a single notice was sufficient against a specific content, but doing so indirectly called into question a surveillance obligation, seemingly
imposing Google to prevent a specific video (which had been already removed) from being uploaded again on Youtube.

- In the second case, Google was considered responsible for not having removed from its keyword list (meaning the words which are automatically “suggested” while typing a websearch), some terms that would facilitate the users in finding pirated material online (eg.: torrent, megaupload, rapidshare, and similar); in this case, the Court, reversing
the conclusions issued by previous judges, ruled that “the electronic communications service offered to the public by Google systematically guides internet users, by means of specific keyword suggestions, towards websites that contain recordings made available to the public without the permission of the respective artists / authors / performers or record labels, thus facilitating the infringement of copyright”.

The first of the judgments above seems in line with the most recent ones observed at European level, confirming that, even for French Courts, the host provider acts as mere conduit, and does not seem to have any obligation to oversee what its users post online, as long as it promptly acts for speedy removal, once asked to do so by the rightholders.

As for the second ruling, the most obvious point is that, in spite of the declarations made a few months ago, Google still does not seem to have cleaned up its autocomplete function from words which encourage and/or facilitate searching for pirated material online.

“Free Riding” of aggregators: two different types of Google-Tax under consideration in Germany and France

Recently, regulators of Germany and France are considering the adoption of measures designed to affect the profits of news aggregators on the internet. Although both proposals do not make express reference to the Mountain View giant, it is clear that the measures, if approved, would constitute some kind of “Google Tax”.
The two countries, however, are placing very different boundaries to their proposals:
- In Germany, the proposal of a so-called “Leistungsschutzrecht” (ancillary copyright law) mainly aims to place the aggregation of editorial contents online under a specific license, which may be granted by the author/editor of such contents, thus giving him the right to require payment of adequate remuneration for its issuance;
- In France, instead, a bill, advocated by some associations of publishers, is proposing to the Parliament a more radical approach: treat as ancillary copyright not only the news aggregating business activities, but also the entire online search engines’, thus considerably increasing the scope of such a hypothetical remuneration of authorship.
Both projects are obviously at embryonic stage, and shall therefore be discussed by the relevant institutions.
However, what seems to emerge, at this state, is the clear intention of the European editors to put a stop to the “free riding behavior of aggregators in general, and in particular to their chief representative on the Internet, Google: so far, in fact, all profits made by banner advertising and sponsoring of news contents and search results has escaped any form of fair compensation, only to increase revenues of the most important search engine on the web. However, if Google benefits (in terms of advertising revenues) from the aggregation of content produced by a publisher/editor/author, it seems reasonable to grant to the owner of the original contents some fair share of the economic benefit, just as it is already happening for music videos on youtube, by means of a network of agreements with many collecting societies.
At first glance, the German law proposal, whose content appears to sum up the experience gained by the cited YouTube agreements, has a good chance of being approved as it is, while we are not entirely sure about what the effects of a possible implementation of the French proposal might be: right now, whenever a publisher files a copyright notification to Google, requesting removal of illegal content from the Blogger platform hosting as well from the other products of the brand, the Mountain View company promptly acts to remove such content; the same duly happens to removal requests concerning search results: if properly motivated, they are carried on with diligence by Google (largely after the many legal proceedings it has undergone, during the last years).
What would happen, however, if, by law, a large number of search results suddenly became “payware” for Google?
There are two hypothetical scenarios ahead:
- In the first case, to avoid the fee, Google could introduce automated filters to remove results that involve economic costs: such a provision would, however, greatly deprive of sense the very notion of “global search engine”, and would also create a certain disaffection for the medium – not to mention that, so far, all requests regarding the adoption of such a method filed during legal proceedings have been discarded by Google as  “expensive, inefficient and against freedom of speech”;
- In the second and more likely scenario, however, Google may respond by appealing to the European Court of Justice against such a measure, complaining of unfair barriers to freedom of economic initiative.
We will, therefore, closely keep watch over the two proposals, to see if they are implemented, and what kind of measures will be adopted, against “free-riding” of editorial contents online.


The European Commission is proposing a Directive on multi-territorial licenses for musical works

Last July, the European Commission unveiled a proposal for a Directive in the field of collective management of copyright (COM (2012) 372 final).
This proposal aims to simplify the license management system and establish some base conditions under which it will be possible (and, in some cases, even mandatory) for collecting societies to provide the holders the chance to spread their music rights online, through a system of multi-territorial licenses.
The proposal is based on the principle of freedom to provide services within the EU and, on one hand, establishes the requirements collecting societies must respect, in order to be able to provide multi-territorial licenses; on the other hand, it states that, after a transition period without the collecting society to provide such services, the holders of rights shall be entitled to grant multi-territorial licenses directly or through another intermediary.
Overall, the Directive (if still a proposal) is convincing and correctly aimed to modernize the management of music rights.
However, we cannot fail to notice that similar proposals concerning collective management of audiovisual rights are still progressing at a slower pace than the one at hand, thus favoring the appropriation of such rights on the basis of contractual rules which are difficult to counter by sovranational entities, in the absence of clear and harmonized guidelines on policies for modern licensing, both at european and international level.

Copyright: old and new Hadopi and Kroes ask for modernization

During the 2012 Intellectual Property and Innovation Summit, held in Brussels last 10th September, the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, strongly underlined, during her speech, the need of a modernization of the Copyright Directive. That Directive was adopted in 2001. The Commission proposals it was based on date back to 1998. But, during this last 15 years, the sector underwent enormous changes. Let’s remind that a social network like Facebook (in 1998 Zuckerberg was fourteen, today almost 1 billion people around the world use Facebook) or YouTube (today, 1 hour video is uploaded every seconds), at the end of last Century, didn’t exist. And the same was for the music sector. At the end of the Ninetyes, music was listened on the radio or cd; today the phisical support is going to disappear thanks to innovation:
streaming and downloading. Kroes, concluded her speech encouraging to act: “Let’s
act right now: for artists, consumers, for our economy.

Meanwhile in the Usa, it seems to be ready what is defined “The Us Hadopi”. The measure is based on 6 strikes and aims to punish the illegal downloading and file sharing. Jill Lesser, head of the new “Center for Copyright Information” wants to underline that this measure will be useful only for educative purposes and so is very different from the French law Hadopi. At the moment is really difficult make a comment because it seems quite impossible have more information. The (declared) aim is to let young people understand the risks of the illegal downloading. But, obviously, there will be punishments for the violators, established by the different operators.

Back to Europe, the French Hadopi is still very discussed. When François Hollande
was elected as new French President, the Hadopi started to weaver. And the future of the “Haute Autorité” seems to be uncertain. But the controversy aroused again the day after the first sentence: 150 euros as punishment for a 40 years man accused of illegal music downloading. “What is the sense of a so expensive bureaucratic machine (11 million euros a year) if the results are so “weak”? is the question posed by the French Ministry of Culture, Aurelie Filippetti.

After the German “Lex Google” also France wakes up!

Last 30th August, the controversy  on the protection of intellectual property rights in the digital era has comed to the fore of International newspapers because of the new law, approved by the German Government, aimed at protecting the copyrights of publishers of online newspapers.

The so-called “Lex Google” will oblige search engines to pay a fee to publishers, mainly for Google News. The rule intended to ensure a fair share of the royalties that the Mountain View’s Giant gets, according to many, in a  ”parasitic” way.

As expected, the public opinion was split: on one hand, the broad support of the German publishers and those who wants a strong protection of the copyright; on the
other hand strong criticism from the “green party” and the “pirate party”.

Google, immediately after the approval, said that it was a “black day” for the net.

The German Ministry of Culture, Bernd Naumann (of the christian-democratic party)
is deeply convinced that the Government has done an important thing for the protection of copyright in the digital era.

10 days after the France arose: French publishers pretend a law that oblige search
engines to pay for the use of their content. The heads of the newspapers “Nouvelle Observateur”, “Figaro” ed “Echoes” required a law to the French government, similar to the German “Lex Google”.

Frencis Morel, President and General Director of “Echoes” declared that this law will undermine mainly the Mountain View’s Giant, that wheighs on the market more than 90% on the “online search”. After that Morel criticized the fiscal evasion of “Big G” that, as well know, is based in Ireland.

Marc Feuillée, General Director of the Figarò Group precised that, differently from the German law, directed mainly against news aggregators like “Google News”, the proposed French law is aiming at the “web search”, in particular the content.

Feuillée argues that the text could be submitted to the Parliament and become law by the end of 2012.

Google to “move down ” illegal file sharing websites on its search results

A few days ago, the search engine based on Mountain View announced (through its official blog at the address: http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2012/08/an-update-to-our-search-algorithms.html) that, after the analysis on the state of the web taken some months ago, it will put online a new revision of its search algorythm, specifically designed to contrast audiovisual piracy.

Starting from next week, Google shall keep track of the number of valid copyright violation reports received against a specific website, and move it down the search results, should the number of such reports be relevantly high.

Theoretically, the method has been studied to reduce the visibility of most websites expressly dedicated to illegal file sharing.
However, it is still unclear the scenario that will outline, following a copyright infringement report:

- if the report is correctly filed, but its contents are wrong, an automated “downgrade” of the website in Google’s search results would cause severe damage to the website, both in terms of visibility and economic support from any advertising sponsors it might have;

- if the report is correct in form and content, instead, one might wonder why the penalty should be limited to “lowering” such website on the search results, instead of removing it entirely, as the search engine has been doing so far.

While awaiting to see how the online research giant will enact the announced actions, we can only note that the new mechanism seems to be set to deepen and speed up in some way the monitoring of search results, while at the same time avoiding to enact those pre-emptive and capillary measures requested by many players of the audiovisual market, which would deprive Google of its “mere conduit” role, on which it based all its defenses in front of European and international Courts so far.

Megaupload – an update on the case

After almost seven months from the international operation, led by the FBI, which led to the closure of the cyberlocker giant, along with all 16 domains connected to
it and to the arrest of its funder, we come back to take a look at the case, for some updates.

Mr. Kim Schmitz (better known by his nickname “Kim Dotcom”), father of Megaupload as well as prime suspect of the many alleged offenses brought
against the site (from the massive and repeated copyright infringement to
financial fraud, through a myriad of other serious charges), has recently been
placed under house arrest in his luxurious villa in New Zealand, and is waiting
for the New Zealand High Court to rule over the many requests for his extradition filed by the United States of America, but seems to be already back in business.

First, Dotcom has announced his return to the web with Megabox, a new
subscription platform still under development, which will be specifically designed to allow artists who publish their own content to sell such content with very low costs for intermediation (without resorting to audiovisual collecting societies). Continuity with previous projects shall be guaranteed by the offer of free subscription to Megabox, for the first year, for all former subscribers of Megaupload.

Dotcom takes his second initiative via his Twitter account: through this channel, he has repeatedly accused the FBI and the New Zealand authorities have seized all his properties (both online and real ones) on the basis of “grave procedural errors”, which, if properly evaluated by the judges, would lead, in his opinion, to the immediate declaration of invalidity of the seizure orders themselves. On this front, however, prosecutors have already held that procedural errors have already been fixed, so that nothing said by Dotcom may lead to release his properties from seizure, and that all such properties are being held as “evidences and / or proceeds of crime”.
Meanwhile, the hosting company Carpathia is still holding, by order of the court and despite the hosting contract expired in April, about 25 petabytes of materials pertaining to the Megaupload case.

Schmitz’s last initiative, however, relates to politics. He recently posted a video on YouTube, advertising it via his new website www.kim.com, in which he sings his complaints against the Obama administration, accusing the President of the United States of being “held hostage by the major labels” and fo having carried out projects such as ACTA, SOPA and PIPA to “enslave the web to Hollywood
producers”. “The War for the Web has begun”, states the website, while the video shows images of pro-Anonymous protesters.

Leaving aside the provocative style of the statements declared by the alleged
“file-sharing guru”, the content of the video and of the website themselves seem pretty ambiguous and does not seem to be a prelude to an actual entry in politics: it is difficult, in short, to understand whether the purpose of Schmits is really the one to stand up to become a “champion of freedom for a web without rules”, or if this is not the umpteenth staging orchestrated for the sole purpose of collecting donations to relaunch his activities on the web.”

Ue proposes a Directive to modernise online music licencing

On 11 July 2012, Michel Barnier, European Commissioner for the Internal  Market and Services, presented during a press conference, the proposal for a
Directive on collective management of copyright and related rights and  multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the  internal market. Michel Barnier said: “We need a European digital Single Market that works for creators, consumers and service providers. More efficient collecting societies would make it easier for service providers to roll out new services available across borders – something that serves both European consumers and cultural diversity.” He added “More generally, all collecting societies should ensure that creators are rewarded more quickly for their work and must operate with full transparency. This is paramount to sustaining investment in creativity and innovation which will in turn lead to additional growth and increased competitiveness.”

The project comprises two steps: a better functioning of collecting societies in terms of transparency and governance, imposing new rules and facilitating grants of pan-European licences by online music platforms in the Eu Countries.

“Today’s needs are different, collecting societies have to adapt to online demand that is developing at an incredible rate, as well as to the new requirements for transparency and governance. In the past, disc producers bought the rights and sold. Today, if iTunes want to put a song online in the whole of Europe, it has to get the authorisation from 27 entities, not to mention the rights holders. This is what we want to simplify,” the Commissioner explained.

We reminds that in 2010, the European digital music market grew by 22%, compared with only 4% in the US.

The rapporteur at the European Parliament, Marielle Gallo (EPP, France), pledged that this reform will “benefit first and foremost European artists and consumers”. Referring to the proposal, the collecting societies will also have to pay authors and rights holders their due within 12 months.

In Italy, Enzo Mazza, SCF President, declared “it’s an important innovation  in a sector that represent at least 25% of the entire music market in Italy. The Commission established rules of trasparency and governance concerning the
administration of rights that are fondamental in the digital age where rights  are much more fragmented and is even more important that every right’s holder could receive his due based on real use.

The proposals was welcomed by most of the interested parties: among others Sacem in France and Gema in Germany.

We remind that that this Directive is part of the 2011 UE strategy on Intellectual Property Rights.


Italianshare – piracy also arms privacy

Today, the Italian Financial Police applied an injunction of the Tribunal of Agropoli, thus arresting, after 6 months of inquiries, the founder of “Italianshare.net” and other notorious audiovisual piracy portals.

Among the crimes contested to “Tex Willer”, nickname of the arrested
49-years old person from Naples, not only the illegal supply of
downloads/streaming contents hosted on cyberlocking websites and P2P networks, but also the unauthorized and illegal sale of personal data of users registered to the seized portals, the illegal use of non-Italian PayPal accounts
registered in the name of unaware figureheads to receive donations and the illegal perception of profits by means of advertising banners over the websites, for a total amount of around 580.000 Euros, plus 83.000 Euros of eluded VAT.

The most grave allegations are those concerning, obviously, the many violations
of copyright, for a total range from 3 to 32 millions of Euro.

The case at hand shows a new stratification of illegal activities, upon the grave one of audiovisual piracy: the user “Tex Willer” made money not only by means of advertising banners over websites created to allow illegal download/streaming of copyrighted material, but also used such websites to collect data from its registered users (usernames, passwords, email addresses, IP addresses) and sold them without any prior consent by the user themselves, totally disdaining copyright and privacy laws.

EU Parliament rejects ACTA . The reaction of the cultural industries

After many controversies of the last months and protests at the international level  (from those who fight for the freedom of the internet), the Acta – Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – has been rejected from the Eu Parliament last 4Th July. The vote revealed 39 in favor, 478 against, with 165 abstentions.

Many people said the agreement did not properly balance the rights of private citizens and those of copyright holders.

We remind that negoziations between the countries started in 2007 and the “last version” of the Acta has been signed in Tokyo last January between 22 of the 27 Eu member Countries and eight other Countries: the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea. The EU Parliament had to ratify the agreement on 26th June, but definitely rejects Acta on the 4th July.

“The vote against Acta”, said Karel De Gucth, “was not one against the protection of intellectual property. On the contrary, Parliament staunchly supports the fight against piracy and counterfeiting, which harm European companies and pose a threat to consumer health and European jobs”.

Many people thought Acta was too vague, “leaving the room for abuses and
raising concern” about its impact on consumers’ privacy and civil liberties,
innovation and the free flow of information. The aim of the Acta agreement is
to combat counterfeiting and piracy of goods such as clothing of luxury brands,
medicines, music, and films. All of this is a worthy enough aim, but Acta ignores what it was designed to achieve.

On the contrary the main cultural industries in Europe signed a press release, that we reproduce above, to explain the reasons of their displeasure to the decision of the Eu Parliament. The signatories to the press release are some of the more than 130 trade federations representing sectors employing over 120 million workers in Europe’s innovative, manufacturing and creative sectors and that have signed a letter of support for ACTA. More information can be found at www.actafacts.com

European manufacturing and creative industries react to European Parliament vote on ACTA

Brussels, 4 July – Europe’s innovative manufacturing and creative industries consider that today’s vote by the European Parliament will be damaging for European intellectual property, jobs and the economy. The decision on ACTA is a missed opportunity for the EU to protect its creative and innovation-based industries in the international market place. “ACTA is an important tool for promoting European jobs and intellectual property. Unfortunately the treaty got off on the wrong foot in the Parliament, and the real and significant merits of the treaty did not prevail,” says Anne Bergman-Tahon, Director of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), a member of a coalition of over 130 organisations supporting ACTA.

Many MEPs had hoped to wait for the opinion of the Court of Justice before taking a final decision. Frances Moore, CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), comments that “We now await the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU, and urge the European Parliament to make effective IPR enforcement a top priority in our external trade policy.”

Intellectual property rights remain the engine for Europe’s global competitiveness and a driver of economic growth and jobs. In the current economic climate, it is particularly crucial to protect these beyond the EU itself. “Europe could have seized the chance to support an important treaty that improved intellectual property standards internationally.
We expect that ACTA will move ahead without the EU, which is a significant loss
for the 27 Member States,”
says Alan C. Drewsen, Executive Director of the
International Trademark Association (INTA).

The ACTA discussions are the biggest multi-lateral negotiation to be concluded in the post-Lisbon Treaty constitutional framework. According to Thomas Boué, Director of Government Affairs for the Business Software Alliance (BSA), “the infringement of intellectual property rights is a huge problem in Europe and there is a clear need to advance international norms and best practices for the enforcement of IP. ACTA would serve as an important step forward in raising the global standard for the protection of IP rights. It was unfortunate that the treaty
was held back by inter-institutional differences and concerns over transparency.”

While we welcome the Parliament’s efforts to be seen as responsive to public concerns, organisations representing sectors employing over 120 million workers in Europe were calling for the adoption of ACTA”, says Jeffrey P. Hardy, Director for ICC’s initiative Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP).

“Parliament says no to ACTA but stresses that ’global coordination of IP protection is vital’. We respect their position,” says Johannes Studinger, Head of UNI MEI Global Union. “Indeed, in the global digital economy, sustainable growth of creative industries requires effective enforcement of intellectual property rights. Enforcement policies without a strong international commitment remain ineffective. We call on EU institutions to work together instead of opposing each other and to translate this mutual commitment into effective policies.”

Those debating ACTA have invoked a number of principles and concerns. “The debate around ACTA has unfortunately been framed in terms of censorship and ‘breaking of the internet’ rather than about protecting the economic basis for jobs in Europe,” says Dominick Luquer, Secretary General of the International Federation of Actors (FIA).

“Contrary to many of the statements made, the individual’s fundamental rights are fully respected by ACTA, and we look forward to the Court of Justice assessment in this regard,” says Dara MacGreevy, Anti-Piracy Director of the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), representing the European Video Games Industry.

Looking ahead, we believe Europe’s politicians should continue their efforts to protect the intellectual property that underpins our innovative and manufacturing sectors, at home and abroad, online and offline. “We are encouraged by the statements made in the European Parliament that today’s vote was not a vote against intellectual property rights enforcement. Europe’s innovative manufacturing and creative industries are now looking to the other ACTA signatories to protect our rights internationally,’ says Alberto Paccanelli, CEO, President of EURATEX-The European Apparel and Textile Confederation.

The signatories are:

- Acg (The Anti Counterfeiting Group)

- Act (Association of Commercial Television in Europe)

- Aim (European Brands Association)

- Bascap (Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy)

- Bsa (Business Software Alliance)

- Euratex (the European Apparel and Textile Confederation)

- Fep (Federation of European Publishers)

- Fia (The International Federation of Actors)

- Ifpi (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry)

- Inta (International Trademark Association)

- Isfe (Interactive Software Federation of Europe)

- Mpa (Motion Picture Association)

- Uni Global Union.



An interisting “preliminary ruling” of the European Court of Justice

On 9th of February 2012, the Court of Justice (ECJ) has issued a preliminary ruling on the request made by the Handelsgericht Wien (Vienna Commercial Court), regarding the rights of the director and the producer of a movie. At a national level, the case involved the director and producer of a german documentary movie on photography during World War II (“Fotos von der Front”). The two parties had concluded an agreement recognizing their respective roles and assignment of copyright and related rights to the film, with the exception of some methods of exploitation (such as broadcasting to closed user groups and pay-TV), which had been the paid separately. The contract did not specify anything for some levies (for example, the fair compensation or taxes on recording material). The controversy arose when the filmmaker made available the movie online and decided to assign the rights for its distribution to a video-on-demand platform. The director claimed that this method of exploitation had been reserved to him by contract, and that, therefore, the contract and its copyright had been violated. The filmmaker instead, claimed that all the exclusive exploitation rights had been assigned to him. Moreover, he asserted he had paid the above mentioned statutory levies. The court has determined that, according to Austrian law, the rights of exploitation are directly and originally attributed to the film producer. Therefore, any agreements to enact the opposite effect was to be considered as void. The law provided, instead, that the legal rights on revenues were to be split equally between the producer and film director, but such provision could be waived. The doubts concerning the interpretation of the Court, led to the question of a preliminary judgment to the ECJ.
According to the ECJ, Community law requires Member States to grant exploitation rights to the director of a film together with the right to fair compensation. National laws may, therefore, establish a presumption of transfer of exploitation rights to the film producer, provided that the parties can otherwise agree. However, fair compensation may not be subject to a presumption of transfer.

The “Megaupload Effect” keeps going on: Rapidshare shall have to check and disable links shared on pirate sites

Copyright online keeps getting benefits, following the collapse of the file-sharing giant Megaupload.
In this case, an old date competitor of Megaupload is affected, although in a lighter way, by a court order: the company Rapidshare, based in Germany, among the first to provide its users with online storage at competitive prices.
The High Regional Court of Hamburg, with an order issued recently, declared Rapidshare’s activities as “legitimate” (in terms of a business model based on “public offering of online file storage”), but at the same time ordered the German company to enact an accurate monitoring of third-party web sites, and consequently block the access to all files that are shared among users on plain pirate websites.
We know that Rapidshare will surely appeal the latter part of the order, strong of the recognition of its behavior as quite different from the one of Megaupload, however, we can only applaud the change of perspective proposed by the German High Court: as the provider of online storage services is often unable to control in real time what is uploaded on its servers and therefore limits its responses to a mechanical removal of contents or individual accounts reported by visitors, imposing it an obligation to act preventively with a removal of content uploaded to its servers and shared on plain pirate websites seems a good start, to restore a balance with copyright owners.

Megaupload case – the MPAA opposes to deletion of data

The Motion Picture Association of America presented its request to the U.S. federal judge, asking to order the company Carpathia, main host in Virgina of the former filesharing giant Megaupload, to keep storing on its servers about 25 petabytes of data, including user account information.
In an interview with “Wired”, Howard Gantman, vice-president of the MPAA, has reassured ex-Megaupload users, specifying that the association would not be starting prosecutions against single users: the retained data would instead only be used to check the involvement of some intermediaries in the illegal activities of Megaupload. The association’s request is motivated by the recent events in the case: the federal authorities, in fact, have already copied – a long time ago- part of the said amount of data to government servers, so to be able to analyze its contents and search for related responsibilities. Carpathia, on the other hand, advocates the removal for reasons of cost (the company claims to spend about $ 9,000 a day to keep the data on their servers). Considering, however, that the government estimates the effects of the case – in terms of damage to copyright holders – of approximately 500 million dollars, the request of the MPAA does not seem excessive at all: after all, Gantman said, the only scope of such data preservation is to focus search for those users with peak utilization of their data capacity for illegal activities, so to reveal their economic gain, or at least their substantial interest in the continuation of Megaupload’s activities, and selectively bring them to face their responsibilities.

ANICA disapproves AGCOM’s step backwar

With a short note (published on its website at the address: http://www.anica.it/online/index.php/news.html), ANICA (the Italian National Association of Cinematographic Audiovisual and Multimedia) has bluntly disapproved the step back took by AGCOM over the possibility of exercising its powers regarding protection of Copyright, as expressed by AGCOM’s President, Corrado Calabro, in his recent hearing to the Senate.
The President of ANICA, Riccardo Tozzi, defines “farcical” the conduct shown by the Authority on the matter, criticizing the first announcement of intention to exercise such powers, the long consultations taken with the players of the market and the final abrupt denial of its prior intensions. The President closes his intervention expressing his sincerest hope that the Italian Government, casting aside the immobility shown in recent years, will finally intervene, and adopt the urgent measures needed in the audiovisual sector, to to combat piracy and to renew a culture of legality and quality of contents.

“Offshore Piracy” – Hi-Tech provocations from ThePirateBay

After removing the use of torrent files (deemed to be “too traceable”) and promoting the use of magnet-links only, after changing domain name and location to their servers almost a hundred times, the web-admins of the famous search portal and bittorrent tracker “ThePirateBay” have announced the start of a series of experiments to adopt a new “dynamic” hosting system for their mainframes: making use of  the latest micro-technologies, the web site
could soon be sent in low-altitude orbit, inside flying mini-drones, controlled by GPS, scattered on international waters, and placed in strategic latitudes, all around the globe.

This way, the administrators say, all attacks seeking to interrupt operations on ThePirateBay would have to be physical, and involve shooting down the drones in question, thus realizing something to be qualified as an “act of war” .

Looking beyond the obvious provocative statements by the spokesmen of the infamous search portal (which, only months ago, declared they were ready to drop the website itself, switching its distribution to multimedia keys containing a
miniaturized version of the portal, so to allow search for illegal files without loading ThePirateBay’s main interface), we can easily spot signs of a critical situation going on: after the collapse of the giant Megaupload and the closure of multiple portals and file sharing dedicated forums, it now appears that the flow of illegal downloading is mostly shifting back to the BitTorrent network. Nothing strange then, for those managing the main web portal dedicated to illegal downloads through BitTorrent, to seek to stimulate and “reassure” their users.

The truth is that, at least for now, no file sharing method can really be defined as “safe” or bear no consequences at all.

We will see if ThePirateBay will follow or not the route explained above.

Seizures of websites – the US administration is the undisputed recordman

In an interview with the popular magazine Wired (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/feds-seize-foreign-sites/),
Nicole Navas, spokesman of ICE (Immigration and Customs Department for the USA),  admits that the Obama administration has already seized, in recent years, a total of at least 750 Internet domain names, thus preventing access to the
relevant webpages.

The methodology, developed with expertise from the US State Department, is
actually very simple: through a complex bureaucratic maneuver, in 1999 the company Network Solutions acquired the management of “key” domain names  (basically, the most part of domain names ending in. com or. net). In 2000, Network Solutions was acquired by VeriSign, one among the most famous
validation and certification company of the web, based in the States, who was already active in the domain registrar busines: this operation granted VeriSign a quasi-monopoly situation on .com and .net domains; the company also manages and sublets these domains to other registrar companies around the globe.

This architecture ensures that, to obtain seizure (but also cloaking) of a website
using the domain name “.com,” the US State Department, in 90% of cases, be the website infringing or not, just has to file a motivated request to VeriSign, regardless if the domain itself has been registered through the main company or via one of its international partners/licensees, thus bypassing all traditional (and international) barriers to the operation.
The operation would be so simple and so immediate effect to be achieved with record numbers, during the Obama administration; this clearly explains why many popular websites performing “unorthodox” activities, including the well-known ThePirateBay, have gradually abandoned the suffix “.com”, opting for domain registrars which are different and unrelated to VeriSign.

The “Ghost Rider” case: sometimes, even comics loose their temper (and lawsuits)

In the wake of many other cases, involving, during the last decades, both the famous Detective Comics (better known as DC) and Marvel Enterprises publishers, and bringing to court the historical origins of cartoon characters (among the many, see the famous “Siegel and Shuster / v DC” case, regarding copyrights on Superman, whose outcomes are still uncertain, due to conflicting decisions between the various courts – and whose latest installment has been filed, recently, by the heirs of the cited artists), in January, the District Court for the Southern District of New York City has rejected the appeal by cartoonist Gary Friedrich against Marvel Enterprises, establishing the full rights of the latter on the comic book character “Ghost Rider”, also protagonist of a recent movie and of an upcoming sequel.

Friedrich, well-known author in the comics world, began working at Marvel in
the ’70s, and, like many of his colleagues, had the “misfortune” to sign a receipt of payment, proposed by the publisher around 1978 as a condition to the payment itself, thus relinquishing to Marvel any and all rights regarding characters and the stories produced during the period of employment.

Perhaps oblivious to that fact, in the wake of the popularity gained by his character in 2004, the author sued Marvel, claiming to have created the character with the intention to hand over all its rights of exploitation to Skywald Publications, publisher of some his books in those years, but had not been able to accomplish such assignment, since the publishing house shut down in 1975. At the same time, Friedrich said he had signed the 1978 agreement without even realizing it, due to its well-known problems of alcoholism.

The goal of his 2004 law case was, of course, to get back some of the profits
arising from the first movie about the character, staged by Nicholas Cage, and
released in theaters in 2007. Having failed the first attempt in front of the East St. Louis – Illinois Court, Friedrich sued once again Marvel in the Southern District of New York, to achieve some of the revenues deriving from the sale of comic books, toys, cartoons, movies and any other kind of Marvel-branded merchandise, related to the flaming biker character.
The District Court of New York, however, has thoroughly reviewed all circumstances against his claims, exposed in the counter-lawsuit filed by Marvel Enterprises (now a division of The Walt Disney Company, following the notorious acquisition occurred in 2009), and dismissed Friedrich’s claims, indeed condemning him to pay $ 17,000 to Marvel, for the unauthorized Ghost Rider merchandising he has illegally and independently produced and sold, during the last years.

All industry analysts have commented the case, pointing out the irony of the
situation: if Friedrich really had sold “Ghost Rider” to Skywald instead of Marvel, not only the character would not have achieved the fame it lives today, but neither would such an acquisition have avoided the bankruptcy of the independent horror publisher.”

SKY Italia vs. everybody – The TV remote battle goes on, not only on television

With its decision of February 10th, the Council of State (Italian Supreme Administrative Court) suspended ,as a precautionary measure, the enforceability of the judgment by which the TAR Lazio (first instance administrative court) declared illegal the LCN system (Logical Channel Number), imposed by the Italian Communications Regulatory Authority in its TV frequencies National Plan.
The TAR judgment, now appealed by RTI, RAI and numerous other television companies together, stated that the system imposed by AGCOM and implemented to manage TV frequencies would be illegal, since it would grant traditional TV operators “more visiblity”, by placing their channels on positions easy to remember, on the TV remote.

The first-degree appeal was brought on by SKY Italia, who has always lamented being discriminated, since the launch of its free thematic channel on digital terrestrial frequencies: as a result, the TAR declared void the automated
system imposed by AGCOM.

While we wait for the decision of the State Council on the merits of the appeal
brought by the rivals of SKY Italia, we can merely note that, in hindsight, the
disruption of the positions of the digital terrestrial channels on the remote
control will only further discourage the average viewer, whose patience has
been sorely tested by the continuous need to retune his TV each month, during
these three years of slow switch-off to digital terrestrial television.

Hoping the Council of State to throughly evaluate the interests at stake and
the issues underlying the case, we will keep a watchful eye – it is appropriate
to say – over it.

The “Megaupload Effect” goes on – DDLFantasy.net shuts down

The “Megaupload Effect” keeps going on, as we mentioned some time ago.

On the 1rst of March, the Italian portal DDLFantasy.net, which became very
famous for the huge amount of movies, videogames, video, music and ebooks
illegally distributed (thousands of registered users and thousands of content
published in both national and international copyright infringement), has decided to spontaneously cease its activities.

Last Thursday, following the closure of Megaupload and the “virtuous” behavior of other file-sharing services still online, as well as the capture of the hacker firm “SIDCrew” (as seen on Quintarelli’s blog: http://blog.quintarelli.it/
blog/2012/02/beccato-sid-crew.html), who specialized in illegal distribution of
movies for a fee, the Web Admins of one of the most popular portals for piracy
in Italy, whose servers were located in France to avoid seizures, decided to
close DDLFantasy, declaring they had to do so, to avoid becoming victims of a
“witch hunt” under way for copyright protection.

Leaving aside such a provocative statement, it might be interesting to ask these gentlemen how much have they actually earned from the activity of illegal distribution and files exchange, from both spontaneous donations from members
of the portal and advertising spaces’ revenues, during these years of activity of the portal.

SIAE – the Council of State ruled: media marketed without the prescribed SIAE label since 2000 are unlawful

In a ruling filed on February 2, the Council of State (the Amministrative court of Appeal in Italy) put an end to a court case, filed in 2009 by the company “Edizioni Master” SpA, against the mandatory SIAE labelling of all recorded medias attached to magazines (SIAE is the Italian collecting society for copyrighted works).

The story started in 2001: the Presidency of the Council of Ministers adopted
Decree n.331/2001 to regulate the request for SIAE label on these media (first
introduced as mandatory by Law n. 248/2000), but forgot the prescribed prior
notification of said act to the European Commission. For this reason, in its
judgment of 8 November 2007, the European Union Court of Justice declared the Decree unenforceable, pursuant to the Parliament and Council Directive no. 98/34/EC.

Following this judgment, “Edizioni Master” requested the SIAE and the Presidency of the Council the refund of all contributions paid for the labels from 2004 to 2008, and began to sell new medias without the SIAE labels on.

In 2008, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers drew up a new regulation
draft on the matter and, after several steps of evaluation in front of the European Commission, finally adopted the new regulation with decree 31/2009,
establishing, among other things, the illegal circulation of all media lacking
the label since 2000.

The Decree 31/2009 was immediately brought to court by “Edizioni Master”, that filed a case at the Italian Administrative Court (TAR), but didn’t succeed in obtaining the annulment of such regulation.

With its judgment, the Council of State, while declaring void the provision
contained in such regulation to retroactively claim payments before the year
2000, has confirmed the validity of all other prescriptions contained in Decree
31/2009, and thus reasserted the obligation to affix the SIAE label on all type
of medias attached to magazines.”

The EU defends the new antipiracy treaty – disproving 10 myths on the ACTA

In a document, published online at the address http://ec.europa.eu/italia/attualita/primo_piano/commercio/acta_informazioni_it.htm,
the European Commission answers to the protests following the signing by the
European Union of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (so called ACTA), that took place on January 26th.

It is interesting to note that, among the 10 most common misinformation about the ACTA treaty, most are related to privacy and to feared risk of penalties for
criminal behavior on the Internet, while few apparently show an interest over
the effects of the new Trade Agreement on the protection of copyright online.

In fact, as the European Commission patiently explains in the document above, the text of the agreement (also available at the same link), is the result of careful negotiation, and introduces adequate and flexible tools to facilitate development and trade of copyrighted goods online, along with measures to enforce and stimulate international cooperation against unlawful distribution of such works.

In any case, says the Commission, the text of the Agreement is made not to require any “invasive” harmonization of EU law, since it largely reproduces
contents and updates that were already present in the European legislative
framework, as a result of previous trade agreements.

Meanwhile, Slovenia, Poland and Lithuania have openly expressed their disagreement to the signature of the ACTA treaty.

The mass media are still confused about contents and purposes of the international convention, yet the feeling is that of a lost opportunity for a constructive dialogue on the measures to implement the agreement, so to ensure its uniform application.