copyright

Another Cash Grab?

The Copyright Act is being reviewed by the Canadian Government and some Canadians are of course concerned that this will include an extension of private copying levies to cell phones and the possibility of websites being blocked for minor copyright violations.

Unfortunately the government has been pretty quiet about this since their December 17th, 2017 press release and I didn’t want to speculate. But a line in the sand needs to be drawn, regardless of what is and isn’t being considered in the closed door meetings they might be having with foreign lobbyists.

I don’t think cell phones should be subject to the private copying levy because streaming is the preferred method of obtaining music on this device according to Music Canada, some customers listening to radio on these devices. And the possibility of having my site blocked because I accidentally linked a site that decided to offer pirated music is just absurd but these kind of proposals have been made in other countries.

This isn’t about giving artists more of their dues but giving labels more money. And streaming is where the improvements are needed when it comes to royalties for artists, so I see no point in levying cell phone storage.

The Copyright Board proposed levying hard drives and microSD memory cards in 2014 but that propose was rejected because a “recording audio medium” is defined by Part VIII, Section 79 of the Copyright Act as “a recording medium, regardless of its material form, onto which a sound recording may be reproduced and that is of a kind ordinarily used by individual consumers for that purpose”.

A cell phone’s primary function is communication, not the receipt, storage and playback of music. And this device is also used to take and view photographs and videos.

It makes no sense to levy this device for royalties for music and nothing else. And this slippery slope is not advantageous for consumers, who would object to paying levies for storing photographs, video and games on their new smartphone, or tablet.

I don’t like being gouged on data fees so I don’t listen to music, watch videos or play video games on mine now. And I seriously doubt i’d enjoy paying more for a newer model, for services I wouldn’t use.

Do we really want to burden the cell phone industry with this? And when it comes to blocking, this can be bypassed with Virtual Private Network services, so is the government going to go after those as well in the name of copyright?

VPNs are used by people who travel and use public wi-fi, for security reasons. Do we really want to loose access to this service over piracy? When a sharp decline in music piracy was observed in 2017 by Music Canada?

A form has been made available by Open Media to provide comments to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on these issues.

Please submit this form and share this link and your opinions on social media before September 17th, 2018. Thank you.

Save on Music, Books and DVDs at Indigo.ca

Rolling Up The Sleeves

So, the election results are in and now it’s time to start asking questions.

What parts of Bill C-51 will remain unaltered and what changes are to be expected under the new government ? Will Canadians be burdened with extra costs to implement these surveillance programs ? What measures will be taken to keep the data secure ?

Does the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement include further intrusions into our copyright ? Will the public be consulted in regards to the key provisions of this agreement prior to signing ? Will our recent reforms be bypassed and superseded by foreign entities and lobbyists ?

We will of course all need to wait until the next budget to know what investments the new government is planning for our digital strategy. But we should know who will be assigned to the key cabinet positions shortly.

Vimeo Not Exempt

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams has denied Vimeo’s request to be exempt from prosecution under the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and will now be subject to litigation by the major record companies.

This user generated content web site features lip dub videos, on which recordings can be heard playing whilst individuals lip sync to the lyrics found in these recordings. But the judge also claimed that 144 of the 199 videos should not be included in the legal action.

Of the 199 videos only 55 were confirmed that have been known about by Vimeo staff, who commented, liked or uploaded these videos. And Vimeo argues that this staff may not have realized that the content infringed copyright, also arguing that they should not be held responsible for the actions of their employees.

I’m also assuming that “fair use” will come into play if the videos are satirical or comical. But I guess we’ll be hearing more about this case as those 55 videos are slowly reviewed.

Good Morning or Happy Birthday ?

Say, did you know that you can’t sing “Happy Birthday To You” on Youtube ?

That’s right. The age old tune is still copyrighted and to use it you need to pay up.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an adult or group of children that sings it. And when a film production company called Good Morning To You Productions Inc made a documentary about the songs history, they were required to pay a $1,500 synchronization license fee to use it on their film.

Had this company not paid they would have been liable up to $150,000 in damaged for copyright infringement so they paid up. But of course they also decided to launch a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court representing the Southern District of New York, on behalf of all who were forced to pay to use this song.

The composition was originally entitled “Good Morning To All” and composed in 1893 by Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred Hill. And the copyright to that song of course expired in 1921 in the States. But a change in lyrics in 1924 and a different arrangement in 1935 caused the copyright to linger.

Fast forward to 2013.

The plaintiffs claim that they have evidence dating the traditional lyrics to 1911. This would date both the composition and traditional lyrics to over 75 years, rendering both public domain.

They also dispute whether copyright was actually established in 1924 because Robert H. Coleman was only credited for compiling, editing and publishing “Harvest Hymns”, a songbook which featured the melody and lyrics to “Happy Birthday To You”.

The class action lawsuit also alleges that copyright for “Happy Birthday To You” had not been established in several subsequent publications and copyright registrations.

What’s annoying about this is that in Canada there’s no dispute whether this song is public domain with lyrics or not. But everything that is uploaded to Youtube is subject to American law so hold off uploading your birthday videos guys and gals until this is settled.

Doom & Gloom ?

Debate has recently heated up in regards to the effects of peer to peer due to a report published by The American Assembly at Columbia University.

Since its publication in October, arguments on whether the technology is detrimental to the industry have been going back and forth, some claiming that the users of this technology buy more music whilst others claim they do not.

This study found that peer to peer users purchased 30% more music whilst RIAA proponents claim they spend pretty much that same amount as non peer to peer users on music.

This is only one of the numerous reports that found that peer to peer users buy more music, concert tickets and artist associated merchandise. And numerous members of the industry have responded to this information by consolidating their operations into media companies like Live Nation. But one should notice quite a few issues with the industry’s response.

One has to wonder why peer to peer is being targeted when it’s usage does not result in a loss of sales :

“The truth is that P2P users spend about the same on the core music categories as non-users, on this basis. P2P users spend a bit more on digital downloads and subscriptions but it would be a tough argument that there is much of a difference. Six dollars extra on tracks is hardly half an album.” – NPD Group Blog Entry, dated October 18th, 2012

You will notice the last sentence on that statement emphasizes the industry’s preference when it comes to sales.

They prefer the sale of albums. And any argument in regards to concert ticket and merchandising sales fall on deaf ears because they haven’t secured those sources of income.

“There is a significant difference in spend on merchandise and concert tickets, where P2P users spend nearly twice as much as non-users. Are we saying that P2P file sharing promotes T-shirt sales, or show attendance? Of course not; that would be silly. What it says is that the people who download music illegally are generally more engaged in music, so they go to shows and they wear their favorite artists on their shirts. I have news for you: they would be doing this if P2P never existed.”

P2P is used to preview music for free and the operative word, free, also applies to new technologies that the blog entry also acknowledges.

The average P2P downloader spends $42 on these categories of music. No contest- P2P users spend more. Guess what- people who follow artists on Facebook spend more than that, as do people who use Twitter; and those who subscribe to Rhapsody or Pandora spend a whole lot more than any of these groups.

We are no longer in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. Numerous licensed services now offer free music, some of which do not require the installation of questionable software and/or the mass storing of music files. And individuals will not care in regards to the source of this music because it’s free.

The problem of course if that the music industry is slow to adapt and have not licensed their complete repertoire to the new services.

The labels failed to negotiate and obtain the rights to older recordings so people continue to use P2P for recordings that are not available for download through the legal services, some of which are not available on or have yet to be made available on compact disc.

These distribution issues are also what is driving people to use peer to peer networks to obtain films that are not available on or have yet to be made available on DVDs that are compatible with their home theater equipment.

Peer to peer services will likely be used less and less by people who are looking for music that can be found on the other free services but the above aforementioned rights issues will keep peer to peer alive until they are addressed.

Bill C-11 Is Now Law

Bill C-11’s amendments to our Copyright Act have come into force today.

This means we are now no longer able to perform private copies, copies for personal use, from copy protected recordings.

We can continue to make personal copies from legally purchased recordings that are not protected by digital rights management. But copy protected CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays can now no longer be copied, even for backup.

It should be noted that the vast majority of CDs are not copy protected anyway, copy protection having failed in 2005 because of the Sony BMG rootkit issues. And the music industry appears to have adopted the mp3, iTunesicon having included an ability to convert music into that format in their software. But some consumers are still concerned that they could be subjected to experimental copy protection schemes in the future.

To prevent music recordings from being leaked prior to their release date the labels could experiment with copy protection schemes within the industry and later attempt to adopt this format in their distribution to consumers, causing compatibility and security issues.

The technological protection measure provisions were primarily added to protect the film and software industries, but we have yet to see their interpretations in action. And as consumers we will need to remain vigilant.

I will be keeping an eye on these issues and will post additional information as it becomes available.