Sunday, August 12, 2007

P2P RIAA and MPAA: redux

This is a good time to review the P2P problem again, as the concerns persist. I wrote about it on March 30.

I notice here at Electronic Frontier Foundation’s link “File Sharing: It’s Music to our Ears” It has a proposal for a new business model: Voluntary Collective Licensing of music, here. Artists could elect not to join but might not be effective in collecting royalties. It’s possible to imagine this for the movies and other media, and it is unclear if more established artists believe they would get their just due from downstream (given that there have been comparable squabbles – like in the National Writers Union -- about what happens when print goes online). Another idea would be Ad Revenue sharing. Another idea could be Individual Compulsory Licenses.

EFF also has a disturbing record of “MPAA” against “The People” here: Along these lines, we’ve noted in the movies blog that theater chains have sporadically started prosecuting moviegoers for camcording inside theaters. The movie studios have a particular grippe with BitTorrent.

EFF has a file of best practices for home users, “How To Not Get Sued for File Sharing (And Other Ideas to Avoid Being Treated Like a Criminal)”. They recommend either disabling sharing features of a home P2P application (and that would interfere with an artist sharing his or her own movies or music), or inspecting the “Shared Folder” and ensuring that there are no potentially infringing files, or even files with names similar to infringing files that might cause false litigation.

It’s a good idea to read carefully the criticisms of the 2003 RIAA “amnesty offer”.

A serious problem has been lawsuits filed against innocent parties, including one who did not own a computer. There is a gray area with parents and their kids. In many cases defendants have settled (for a few thousand dollars) because the cost of defending themselves could be more. An important case was Capitol v. Foster. It’s important that average home owners, not publishing or distributing anything, could get caught up in this if they have a P2P application and they are mistakenly identified, or they allow others (like roommates) to use their computers (a scenario that happens on campuses).

Of course, bloggers have to follow copyright law, and can get into serious trouble over this, or other issues: link. The Creative Commons license is an important concept. Deep linking (without framing) is becoming understood as acceptable, even if some old-line companies don’t like to see bloggers do it to them because of the “impression” it creates. It does not appear (as far as I can tell from what I can find on this) to violate copyright law to link to infringing material unless the blogger does so in bad faith – knowing that the material is infringing and intending to encourage infringement. There have been many videos on YouTube removed recently because of copyright infringement or other potential objections (the Van Gogh film “Submission”) but linking to them does not appear to cause a problem normally. The site will tell the visitor if a video has been removed. Films actually owned by companies or television stations (including overseas) must be purchased and licensed properly for distribution (usually to domestic distribution companies associated with studios) before third parties can post them on the Internet. YouTube has tightened its terms of service and will ban permanently parties who deliberately violate copyright law.

Music companies and motion picture studios have difficulty adjusting their business models to technology, which can give individual techies (like Shawn Fanning of Napster) the ability to overturn their practices with little capital. This was true with the VCR in the early 1980s. Some of the problem could be competition from legal, but low overhead artists (the “turf problem”) which DMCA can interfere with; but the actual threat to jobs from low-cost competition is essentially trivial (low cost competitors start new companies and are likely to create more jobs than they “destroy”), where the threat from piracy is quite significant. Likewise, “networked journalism” is seen by some unions and papers as a threat to the jobs of established journalists, while other papers go with the flow and start using it.

I have, in other postings, suggested that new databases and web applications could join the functionality of Wikipedia and similar sites with Amazon / BN and news organizations (AP, Reuters, UPI, etc), and provide a more efficient means for consumers to locate leading edge information and statistics (as on the health care debate), with a commons method of (with credit cards) paying original publishers and fact-checking sources, enlarging upon what Amazon already has.

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