Red Points examines 3 changes and trends in copyright law that attempt to combat the evolution of digital piracy for movies and TV.
Digital piracy is constantly evolving, and global governing bodies are racing to respond with innovative changes in copyright law that reflect the new environment. As pirates increasingly explore legal loopholes, crossing global borders and sharing unlicensed content, rights holders must stay atop of trends to work on solutions that protect content online.
Countries such as Australia and Singapore are reviewing VPNs in changes to copyright law, in attempts to limit access to torrent sites. Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, which are already banned in Dubai, UAE and Abu Dhabi, work by securing access over a public network. In piracy, they are often used to access unauthorised overseas content and can also be used to bypass rules set by internet service providers.
In the reviews by Australia and Singapore, the countries are initiating responses to changing technology which affects intellectual property. It is of course wise for governments to strengthen their IP laws, which have been shown to drive foreign investment, but the proposed VPN bans are highly controversial as they compromise on online user security. Netflix’s VPN ban this year met fierce opposal from VPN providers and users alike, who immediately responded by seeking ways to circumvent the change.
Speaking to the Guardian, Aria CEO Dan Rosen argued for a "three-pronged approach" in countering piracy: combining investment in legal protection, efforts to limit access to illegal services and education for consumers. But for rights holders aiming to protect content, technological approaches may prove the most effective as methods of pirating continue to evolve.
Understanding the liability of search engines in linking to pirated content is no easy task, as indexing and hyperlinking fall into a grey area within copyright law. Although Google and Bing are making efforts to show their stance against piracy - namely by demoting domains that receive many takedown requests, the millions of takedown requests that are filed each week imply that the search engines can do yet more. A European court recently ruled against a publisher linking to copyright-infringing
content, in a controversial move that potentially facilitates a need for search engines to determine the rights of indexed content.
However, the case was specifically implicating the publisher in question, GS Media, for its “full knowledge of the protected nature of the work” as well as its for-profit model. This means that search engines may still be able to bypass copyright law on the grounds of fair use. Nevertheless, the case shows that progress is being made in protecting intellectual property through linking to external sources.
Related to movie piracy, the LA Times argues that notice-and-takedown is an effective means of enforcing copyright law as it works on a case-by-case basis, and non-infringers can file ‘counter notifications’ to recover the distributed content. However, rights holders cannot hope to monitor the entire web for infringement, and therefore must rely on a systematic approach that targets key websites and pirating methods.
The European Digital Single Market Strategy
Part of the European Commission’s Digital Agenda for 2020, the European Digital Single Market Strategy aims to transform and improve Europe’s digital economy by facilitating a pan-EU system for online products and services. In terms of impacting copyright law, its major proposal - which was approved this week - is to end Geo-blocking in EU countries, so that consumers will be able to use video-on-demand subscription services (such as country-specific Netflix) all over the EU by 2018. The move has sparked much outcry from commercial TV companies as well as indie filmmakers, who fear that they have have difficulty generating sales in different European countries if their content is so widely available online on-demand.
The strategy will also work with rights holders to monitor for unjust use of copyrighted content over the web, comparable to Youtube’s automatic-takedown system, ‘Content ID’. However, the Content ID system has faced heavy criticism in its inability to detect lawful use of copyrighted content, and there are fears that the EU proposal will fare much the same, with a launched ‘Save the Meme’ campaign which aims to remove the controversial article.
The European commission itself points to a study that highlights a cross-border relationship with digital content. The results showed that compared to a third of Europeans overall, 58% of the 15-24 age group said they would want cross-border portability for subscribed-for content. This in itself points to the changing relationship that millenials have with digital content and intellectual property. As piracy continues to evolve with the increasing abilities of digital natives, global governments are slowly starting to instigate a cultural shift away from the practice by adapting IP laws to new online environments. Rights-holding companies and legal divisions, too, should do their part to protect content by staying in-the-loop on new ways of pirating, in order to judge where resources are best placed.