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Consumers Prefer Legal Content, New Study Suggests

WASHINGTON, February 9, 2011 – A recent report commissioned by NBC Universal shows that if given the opportunity, consumers prefer to obtain content online legally.

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WASHINGTON, February 9, 2011 –A recent report commissioned by NBC Universal shows that if given the opportunity, consumers prefer to obtain content online legally.

The report, by the Cambridge, U.K.-based internet monitoring and research group Envisional, examined four main methods of sharing copyrighted material online: BitTorrent, cyberlockers, video-sharing sites and other peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa or eDonkey.

The report showed that films make up the largest single category of pirated content at 69 percent, followed by television at 11 percent on the BitTorrent tracking site PublicBT, one of the most popular of such sites online.

BitTorrent is the most popular form of file sharing globally, with more than 100 million users worldwide, according to Envisional. It is so large that on its own BitTorrent traffic accounts for 14.6 percent of all internet traffic.

The protocol transfers bits of files between peers, or users, and the rate at which file transfers happen is correlated with how many people there are sharing the content — the more the better and faster the transfers.

It appears that if users are able to obtain their content in a simple way legally online they will do so rather than trying to find illegal copies that are of questionable quality:  In the United States, Hulu makes it easy for users to access a large amount of television for free viewing online, and purchasing content on iTunes or Amazon’s Video on Demand service is easy and cheap.

The data shows that music is not a big factor on BitTorrent, and that file sharing on networks like Kazaa has plunged. This suggests that piracy may not be as a big factor online as the music industry claims. This makes sense given the cheap and easy availability of music online via iTunes, or via internet radio services like Pandora.

One of the newest methods of file sharing is cyberlockers. They make up the smallest method  of sharing of pirated material. They only make up 3 percent of the internet’s traffic. These sites work by offering users a cheap place to host data and share it anonymously.

Individuals search message boards and cyberlocker index sites for files; these sites do not host the content but rather simply offer links to files which are hosted by cyberlockers.

While these sites are currently small, they continue to grow. The largest cyberlocker RapidShare currently gets more page views than The Pirate Bay, the most popular BitTorrent site. Hotfile, another popular cyberlocker, has recently been targeted by the MPAA.

Video sharing sites, which contain large amounts of user-generated content, have long been plagued with hosting illegal content. YouTube, the world’s most popular video sharing site, accounts for 5 percent of global bandwidth alone.

To prevent the sharing of copyrighted material, YouTube has implemented a number of preventative measures. These measures include the limiting of video length to 15 minutes and installing copyright filters that scan videos.

A number of smaller online video sharing sites such as LetMeWatchThis,  ZMovie,  and Movie2K appear to be geared toward the sharing of illegal content.

These sites have become the target for Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The two agencies have teamed up and have gone after a number of popular video sharing sites. Last week, ICE and HSI shut down 10 of the most popular sites including Atdhe.net, Channelsurfing.net, and HQ-streams.com.

In the wake of the fall of Napster and Kazaa, P2P networks that used to be the most popular forms of file sharing have dropped off precipitously, according to Envisional.

These sites now only account for less than six percent of all internet traffic — the smallest compared to the other three forms analyzed.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for BroadbandBreakfast.com since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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Copyright

Public Knowledge Celebrates 20 Years of Helping Congress Get a Clue on Digital Rights

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Screenshot of Gigi Sohn from Public Knowledge's 20th anniversary event

February 27, 2021 – The non-profit advocacy group Public Knowledge celebrated its twentieth anniversary year in a Monday event revolving around the issues that the group has made its hallmark: Copyright, open standards and other digital rights issues.

Group Founder Gigi Sohn, now a Benton Institute for Broadband and Society senior fellow and public advocate, said that through her professional relationship with Laurie Racine, now president of Racine Strategy, that she became “appointed and anointed” to help start the interest group.

Together with David Bollier, who also had worked on public interest projects in broadcast media with Sohn, and is now director of Reinventing the Commons program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, the two cofounded a small and scrappy Public Knowledge that has become a non-profit powerhouse.

The secret sauce? Timing, which couldn’t have been better, said Sohn. Being given free office space at DuPont Circle at the New America Foundation by Steve Clemmons and the late Ted Halstead, then head of the foundation, was instrumental in Public Knowledge’s launch.

The cofounders met with major challenges, Sohn and others said. The nationwide tragedy of September 11, 2001, occurred weeks after its official founding. The group continued their advocacy of what was then more commonly known as “open source,” a related grandparent to the new “net neutrality” of today, she said.

In the aftermath of September 11, a bill by the late Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C., demonstrated a bid by large copyright interest to force technology companies to effectively be the copyright police. Additional copyright maximalist measures we launched almost every month, she said.

Public Knowledge grew into something larger than was probably imagined by the three co-founders. Still, they shared setbacks and losses that accompanied their successes and wins.

“We would form alliances with anybody, which meant that sometimes we sided with internet service providers [on issues like copyright] and sometimes we were against them [on issues like telecom],” said Sohn. An ingredient in the interest group’s success was its desire to work with everyone.

Congress didn’t have a clue on digital rights

What drove the trio together was a shared view that “Congress had no vision for the future of the internet,” explained Sohn.

Much of our early work was spend explaining how digitation works to Congress, she said. The 2000s were a time of great activity and massive growth in the digital industry and lawmakers at the Hill were not acquainted well with screens, computers, and the internet. They took on the role of explaining to members of Congress what the interests of their constituents were when it came to digitization.

Public Knowledge helped popularize digital issues and by “walking [digital information] across the street to [Capitol Hill] at the time created an operational reality with digitization,” said Bollier.

Racine remarked about the influence Linux software maker Red Hat had during its 2002 initial public offering. She said the founders of Red Hat pushed open source beyond a business model and into a philosophy in ways that hadn’t been done before.

During the early days of Public Knowledge, all sorts of legacy tech was being rolled out. Apple’s iTunes, Windows XP, and the first Xbox launched. Nokia and Sony were the leaders in cellphones at the time, augmenting the rise of technology in the coming digital age.

Racine said consumers needed someone in Washington who could represent their interests amid the new software and hardware and embrace the idea of open source technologies for the future.

Also speaking at the event was Public Knowledge CEO Chris Lewis, who said Public Knowledge was at the forefront of new technology issues as it was already holding 3D printing symposiums before Congress, something totally unfamiliar at the time.

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In Google v. Oracle, Supreme Court Hears Landmark Fair Use Case on Software Copyright

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Photo of Tom Goldstein from the Peabody Award used with permission

October 12, 2020 – The Supreme Court on Wednesday publicly struggled with the copyrightability of software in a uniquely contested case between Google and Oracle, the outcome of which could play a significant role in the future of software development in the United States.

The oral arguments were the culmination of a battle that started 10 years ago, when tech company Oracle accused Google of illegally copying its code. Oracle owns the copyright to the Java application programming interface that Google utilized to establish a new mobile operating system.

The company has sued Google for more than $9 billion in damages.

Yet Google claimed a “fair use” defense to its copying. Google copied less than 1 percent of the Java code. Even though the law generally treats computer programs as copyrightable, Google’s attorney before the Supreme Court, Thomas Goldstein, said that by adapting Oracle’s code to serve a different purpose, Google’s use was “transformational,” and entitled to fair use protections.

Goldstein said that this form of unlicensed copying is completely standard in software, and saves developers time and lowers barriers to innovation.

He referenced a famous Supreme Court precedent about public domain works, Baker v. Selden, which in 1880 declared that once information is published to the public, the public has a right to use it.

“Google had the right to do this,” said Goldstein.

Still, Oracle attorney Joshua Rosenkranz asserted that the Java code is an expressive work eligible for copyright protections. Rosenkranz further argued that Google’s use of the code was not transformational.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared to suggest that jurors in the lower court case properly found Google’s use to be transformational because it took the APIs from a desktop environment to smartphones.

“Interfaces have been reused for decades,” said Goldstein. Google had to reuse Oracle’s code to respond to interoperability demands.

“It has always been the understanding that this purely functional, non-creative code that is essentially the glue that keeps computer programs together could be reused, and it would upend that world to rule the other way,” he said.

Supreme Court observers said that the high court appeared leaning toward upholding the 2016 jury verdict vindicating Google’s fair use defense.

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Fair Use is Essential But its Enforcement is Broken, Says Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee

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Screenshot of Grammy-winning recording artist Yolanda Adams from the hearing

July 28, 2020 — “Fair use” is an essential doctrine of copyright law that is unevenly applied, said participants in a Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

The hearing, “How Does the DMCA Contemplate Limitations and Exceptions Like Fair Use,” saw participants discuss whether the Digital Millennium Copyright Act still permits fair uses of copyrighted content that would be otherwise infringing.

The DMCA, passed in 1998, criminalizes the manufacture, sale or other distribution of technologies designed to decrypt encoded copyrighted material. This ban on anti-circumvention tools does not appear to account for fair use.

The fair use exception to copyright law allows the republication or redistribution of copyrighted works for commentary, criticism or educational purposes without having to obtain permission from the copyright holder.

However, Joseph Gratz, partner at Durie Tangri, said that fair use often clearly applies but is not enforced, leaving users of the legally obtained content to deal with automated content censors.

“Fair use depends on context, and machines can’t consider context,” he said. “A video, for example, that incidentally captures a song playing in the background at a political rally or a protest is clearly fair use but may be detected by an automated filter.”

When an automated filter detects a song on a platform like YouTube, it redirects advertising revenue from the creator of the video to the creator of the song, often erroneously.

Rick Beato, who owns a music education YouTube channel with over one-and-a-half million subscribers, said that he does not receive ad revenue from hundreds of his videos.

“One of my recent videos called ‘The Mixolydian Mode’ was manually claimed by Sony ATV because I played ten seconds of a Beatles song on my acoustic guitar to demonstrate how the melody is derived from the scale,” he said. “This is an obvious example of fair use, I would argue.”

Grammy-winning recording artist Yolanda Adams testified that she sees the problems of fair use employment as about more than simply receiving money.

“As a gospel artist, I’m not just an entertainer,” she said. “I see my mission as using my gift to spread the gospel — so for me, fair use is not just about money. It’s about access.”

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