Yes, we have no scarcity. – by “Nathan B”

It’s almost as if the law of gravity had stopped working.

For centuries, the law of supply and demand has been one of the foundational concepts of modern economics; it was the beginning of every high school econ class, a ubiquitous term as broadly-understood as the notion  that matter gravitates toward other matter. What, then, are we to make of a world where this fundamental tenet of the free market (or at least half of it) simply ceases to exist?

Demand for goods, services and information is unlikely to dissipate any time soon- supply, however, is another story. The entire notion of supply is built on scarcity, because  the limitations of resources and manpower mean that only so much can be produced and offered to consumers. Modern technology is changing that. Though it may sound ridiculous, the principle of a “post-scarcity” world is in some respects oddly intuitive, because when things like  information are reduced to ones and zeros and their cost to reproduce and distribute is virtually nil, why should it ever be in short supply or even have a cost at all?

The answer is an idea called “artificial scarcity,” a principle which says that even though we can produce more than enough of something to go around, we shouldn’t. This is nothing new, as it forms the basis for the entire notion of intellectual property- access to information must be controlled, because if anyone can have it for free, how can it ever turn a profit? Or, more simply, infinite supply and finite demand is a great deal for consumers, but not so much for producers.

One could go on at length (or perhaps even teach a seminar) about the ways in which access to artificially scarce information is regulated and monetized, but it goes further than that. For now, it’s primarily information which is subjected to this treatment, but what happens when you don’t need to buy a computer, a phone or even a sandwich, because your 3D printer can make them all for you? Is there a way to get out of this jam without placing untold restrictions on the spread of information?

Yes, but it might not be pretty. Welcome to the world of post-scarcity anarchism, a phrase coined by author Murray Bookchin in his book of the same name (available here and here, ironically in both artificially scarce and readily available versions, respectively) to describe a world where capitalism and the state have no purpose, as there are enough resources for everyone. Information is shared freely and services are provided in pursuit of prestige, not profit. Ridiculous? Possibly. Utopian? Definitely. Impossible? Maybe not.

The question comes down to consumers- will they continue to pay for goods and services which they can get for free with ever-increasing ease, or will they begin to break down one of the basic building blocks of capitalism? For now, it seems that a mixture of both is preferred, try though copyright-holders may to stem the tide of things like file-sharing. Still, online communities like Wikipedia, Slashdot and Reddit are growing at stunning rates as users elect to contribute to a communal, readily-available pool of information for free. If more and more of society really is moving online, perhaps freely-offered, user-generated content will come to replace the copyrighted materials of old.

Nonetheless, producers can and will continue to fight against the natural erosion of scarcity, but as they say: in the end, gravity always wins.

A Pirate’s Life in Sweden – by “Dennis H”

Gary Fung is no small potatoes, but the real big fish in the BitTorrent pond is The Pirate Bay. The Swedish site reached 25 million unique peers way back in November 2008, and now counts itself among the 80 largest websites on the entire Internet. Pirate Bay works just like any other BitTorrent site, allowing users to search the web for the newest torrent files of music, film, video games, and porn — but unlike other torrent sites, it has the good fortune to be stationed in the world capital of Internet piracy: Stockholm, Sweden.

Sweden: A Pirate’s Paradise

Pirate Bay founders Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij never tire of pointing out the differences between Swedish copyright law and its American counterpart. One of their favorite forums for doing so is their own website, where they routinely post DMCA takedown notices they receive from American-based law firms, along with their own hilarious and colorful replies. In response to this DMCA takedown notice from the legal counsel of DreamWorks (TPB users had been pirating an unauthorized copy of Shrek 2), Svartholm, who goes by the web alias anakata, had this to say, in an email dated August 2004:

As you may or may not be aware, Sweden is not a state in the United States of America. Sweden is a country in Northern Europe. Unless you figured it out by now, US law does not apply here. For your information, no Swedish law is being violated.

Please be assured that any further contact with us, regardless of medium, will result in

(a) a suit being filed for harassment

(b) a formal complaint being filed with the bar of your legal counsel, for sending frivolous legal threats.

It is the opinion of us and our lawyers that you are ……. morons, and that you should please go sodomize yourself with retractable batons.

Please also note that your email and letter will be published in full on http://thepiratebay.org.

Go fuck yourself.

Clearly, anakata and the gang believed themselves for quite a long time to be living under a rather benevolent copyright regime. Elsewhere, in response to a takedown notice from EA (for an unauthorized copy of The Sims 2), anakata responds, in September 2004:

Hello and thank you for contacting us. We have shutdown the website in question.

Oh wait, just kidding. We haven’t, since the site in question is fully legal. Unlike certain other countries, such as the one you’re in, we have sane copyright laws here. But we also have polar bears roaming the streets and attacking people :-(.

As Napster, Grokster, SuprNova, and LokiTorrent began toppling in the United States in 2004 and 2005, TPB just kept firing off these off-color replies to DMCA takedown notices, boasting about the state of “sane” Swedish copyright and inviting American lawyers to sodomize themselves. Secure in the presumption of Swedish sanity, TPB executives had no reason to think themselves vulnerable.

But Then Things Got Real

In retrospect, anakata’s confidence in the Swedish government had reached its peak in the summer of 2004. In July 2005, the Swedes began enforcing anti-piracy laws under the European Union Copyright Directive, which had made it illegal to distribute software with the purpose of promoting copyright infringement. On May 31, 2006, Swedish police raided the Stockholm offices of anakata and friends, confiscating TPB servers and detaining three TPB associates for questioning on the suspicion of facilitating violations of copyright law. “The actions taken today in Sweden serve as a reminder to pirates all over the world that there are no safe havens for Internet copyright thieves,” said MPAA chairman Dan Glickman after the incident. (Note: To TPB’s credit, the site was up again three days later: a quicker recovery time than for other catastrophes of similar magnitude.)

A few years later, in 2009, Svartholm, Neij, and two other TPB executives found themselves in trial for promoting copyright infringement. The plaintiff was a consortium of intellectual property groups, chief among them the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). When all was said and done, the four pirates were sentenced to a year in prison and tagged with a fine of 30 million Swedish kroner. That’s a lot of bottles of rum.

The state of Swedish copyright remains unclear after that decision. All four TPB defendants have appealed the verdict, alleging bias on the part of judge Tomas Norstrom — the same judge who had ordered the raid on TPB servers three years earlier. Swedish media soon uncovered the fact that Norstrom had connections to several intellectual property organizations, through which he had previously become acquainted with several of the representatives for the entertainment industry.

Pirates in Politics

Whether or not the verdict is ultimately overturned, however, Sweden seems to have a strong grip on its status as cultural capital of Internet piracy. One remarkable indicator of the robust culture of Internet piracy in Sweden is the birth of the international Pirate Party movement — an up-and-coming group since its foundation in 2006. The Pirate Party is now officially registered in 18 countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, and Canada. The Pirates control five city council seats in Germany, three municipal councilors in the Czech Republic, one city council seat in Switzerland, and — most importantly — two Swedish delegates to the European Parliament. The Piratpartiet stole more than 7 percent of the Swedish vote in the 2009 elections, winning the party its second seat and a strengthened claim to worldwide political legitimacy.

Amelia Andersdotter, now 23, assumed office in December of 2009, becoming the youngest member of the European Parliament. Captain Hook, Jack Sparrow, and Blackbeard would all be proud.

On Dodd @ the MPAA and COICA – by “Bill T”

Rumor has it that Chris Dodd will be taking over the leadership of the MPAA’s policy operations, despite his claims (and the legal obligation) that he’d not become a lobbyist after leaving his 30 year time in the Senate.

The MPAA’s agenda last year ended in a wash, as the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was stalled in the Senate. This bill would have made it easier for the government to shutdown websites which were “obviously” directed at distributing copyrighted material, though it also has the danger of unfairly targeting perfectly legitimate websites.

Dodd’s potential ascension leads me to wonder where the MPAA’s efforts will be directed next. Under interim leader, Bob Pisano, the priority has been very clear: stop piracy. The MPAA’s ardent support of the COICA is a clear reflection of that. But Dodd’s history as a legislator may indicate a much needed shift in the forthcoming MPAA legislative agenda. Dodd’s prior support of net neutrality is clearly at odds with the MPAA’s concern that a neutral internet is also a piracy-friendly internet.

Perhaps Dodd’s conflict with his potential future employers will lead both to consider a new approach to current issues in file sharing and copyright infringement. In focusing so much of its efforts on directly stopping filesharing, the MPAA has ignored the fact that the websites the COICA and other measures seek to eliminate are simply individual heads of a hydra, and without cauterizing the hydra’s wounds (by adapting to the new contours of the movie business), the problem simply won’t go away, and only the consumers will be left battered and bruised by overbroad protective measures.

The MPAA, and its counterparts in other industries need to understand that their industries have changed. They do not need to give up on the powers of copyright, but neither ought they hold on to the dominance of an increasingly obsolete top-down hierarchy. Regardless of the illegal origins of the new attitude toward creative works, consumers are simply no longer willing to pay nearly as much as they used to for movies and music. The businesses need to adjust their own models and meet the consumers where they are now, rather than hope that they can ultimately fix the problems with the free exchange of copyrighted materials on the internet. It’s hard to compete with free. But it’s not impossible.

Envisional Estimates Infringing Use – by “Wesley W”

Piracy Report 2011

NBC Universal commissioned Envisional, a business specializing in protecting other businesses from fraud and piracy, to analyze bandwidth usage on the Internet. Their goal was to determine what percentage of that usage infringed upon copyright. The report was released in January 2011. The report studied global internet usage and internet usage in the United States.

Blame it on the P2P

The report estimated that p2p traffic accounted for most of the copyright infringement on the Internet traffic. Specifically Bittorrent is estimated to account for 18% of all Internet traffic and of that traffic 63.7% was infringing material. This suggests that 11.4% of the global Internet traffic was non-pornographic copyright infringement conducted through bittorrent.

The bittorrent traffic was followed by cyberlockers such as MegaUpload and RapidShare. The infringing content of cyberlockers were estimated to account for 5.1% of all internet traffic. Other forms of P2P file sharing like Gnutella, eDonkey and Usenet were estimated to contain mostly infringing content. 86.4% of the content was infringing and non-pornographic and totalled 5.8% of global Internet traffic. Video streaming brought up the rear with a measly 5.3% of all video’s being infringing totaling 1.4% of global internet traffic. As you can probably tell from the charts above the numbers for Internet usage in the United States is about the same.

Of Porn and Piracy

For the most part, the report excludes data on pornographic content because they had difficulty discerning the copyright status of the content. When the top 10,000 torrent links were investigated and sorted by type the report found that 35.8% was porn, 35.2% were films and 12.7% were television shows. The remaining 16.3% was a combination of software, PC games, music, console games, anime, sports, books/audiobook and unknown content. This confirms that bittorrent P2P is mostly used for copyright infringment and porn videos.

Pirates anyone?

While the majority of content on p2p networks was found to be infringing it was interesting to note that music was no longer the most pirated material on the Internet. The numbers and chart above were for global Internet usage but the numbers for just the U.S. are pretty similar. The whole report can be read here.

IP in an Aggregation Age – by “Ryan W”

Aggregators are on the rise. It’s really nothing new— Google search is an aggregator after all. However there there is an important distinction between a massive, comprehensive search like Google and the new breed of content aggregators that are popping up as the go-to ‘portals’ for media and genre-specific consumption. As this occurs, places like Metacritic, Google News or Hype Machine, and their somewhat shadier contemporaries SurftheChannel, and Movie2k are organizing, analyzing and sometimes generating a host of copyrighted content and in turn a host of conflicts with content creators.

Why go to the NY Times website to read movie reviews when you can go to Metacritic and read every review by every source, an averaged rating, and reader reviews all in one place? Ideological affinity  with Steven Holden. Narrow mindedness?  It seems natural to want as many points of view as possible in order to build the most informed opinion you can about a film. However, when does the interest of the provider of such an index come into conflict with the indexee? A search engine or an aggregator is a commercial technology, not an altruistic venture. What rights does the aggregator have when it comes to displaying copyrighted content? And what if that content is explicitly intended for unauthorized, illegal access be it downloading or streaming?

In 2006 AP sued Google news for displaying images, headlines and copy from its articles. Upon pulling their content from Google, AP CEO Tom Curly said “We will no longer tolerate the disconnect between people who devote themselves — at great human and economic cost, to gathering news of public interest and those who profit from it without supporting it.” Google and the AP struck a deal in 2007. It was also decided in 2006 that thumbnails created by search engines qualify as fair use.

Take another example: HypeMachine. For its first few Years HypeMachine aggregated MP3 files from music blogs en masse. All you had to do was search for an artist’s newly leaked album and you’d instantly be linked through to a number of sites providing a track or two (or sometimes more). Last year HypeMachine signed a deal with Sound Cloud to detect streaming sound cloud players in blog posts. Sound Cloud is a centralized site that artists can use to provide authorized streams of their tracks while tracking details analytics about listeners. This year it announced it’s up to 3 million users. The deal with Hype Machine posed Sound Cloud for a major expansion of it’s blogosphere presence. Together the two companies are forging new methods of online music consumption. A hugely popular aggregator paired with legal, data mining content distribution — an ethical music consumer’s dream? Plus, analytics and data mining enable charts, which enable music discovery. The downside is that I generally don’t get to add the mp3 files to my iTunes library, which is traditionally the end game of online music consumption.

Much murkier are streaming television and movie aggregations sites like SurftheChannel, SideReel and Movie2k. All of these sites are arguably generic technologies, protected by Safe Harbor status, that aggregate user submitted links to content that is hosted through a litany of file transfer services. However, SurftheChannel and Movie2k explicitly induce visitors to access copyright infringing content. Movie2k for instance has a section dedicated to ‘Cinema’ movies and often features handheld camera recordings of movies the day they are released. Unlike the landscape of music consumption, where supply and demand are much more equally abundant, demand for film is asymmetrically proportioned to a scarce supply of high production film. 3rd party file hosts such as MegaVideo deliberately incentivise piracy by paying 1500 dollars for every 1 million views of content uploaded to its services which are registered in Hong Kong. iTunes movie rentals and network hosted TV show streams interspersed with ads cannot effectively counter the instantaneous pirating of movies— especially after inducing and seducing the public into desiring them through extensive and often intrusive marketing campaigns. In this case, the proverbial hype machine of the film and television industry is in fact an engine for piracy which provides immediate access to content.

Aggregation is important because it creates a more relevant internet. Aggregation sites use the traditional mechanisms of search paired with analytics and social driven ranking and organization to display content that has meaning for the visitor beyond the externally-curated content dashboards of web 1.0 portals. However, the tools and filters for generating relevance have a tendency to take on a life of their own and a problematic position in relation to content creators. If the Hype Machine is any example of a collaborative solution, then it shows a need for ethical partnerships between aggregators and content providers — be it music bloggers, or file transfer websites.

Liveblogging Students for Free Culture NYC – by “Max C.”

I’m here at the Students for Free Culture NYC Conference. Here are some of the speakers’ big ideas.

Pablo Ortellado

90~% of university students in Brazil have household incomes under $2800 a month, and a year of textbooks can cost them over $2000. People just can’t afford books, so they photocopy them. The publishers are pushing back, but Ortellado makes the argument that the publishers are benefiting off of public dollars and therefore should permit greater access. Most of the textbooks are written by professors working at public universities, and the publishing companies don’t pay any tax (under a free speech justification). Oretllado makes the case this is a public subsidy both in content and in production, and therefore the publishers’ desire for profit is outweighed by the public need for access to materials and education.

Open Access

The big idea: knowledge doesn’t fit a supply demand curve. Knowledge pricing set is arbitrary, supply is infinite, reproduction costs are near zero. Universities should put their materials online for free, for everyone. Why would a university want to put their material online for free? Open courseware doesn’t compete with the educational experience, and therefore are separate products that don’t cannibalize. “Transparency earns respect and trust.” Improves teaching: professors that put their materials online and are videotaped tend to produce better and more recent information.

Random aside: MIT Professor Lewin’s open courseware photo is hilarious.

Wow, Open Michigan courseware is fantastic. Want to make your open courseware like theirs? They have tutorials. The tutorials look maybe a bit intimidating though. My take? Don’t sweat the details, just dig in and get started. Ask professors if you can put a course online, set up a video camera. Go wild.

Reputation: professors (and artists) can improve their reputation with freely available content. (My question: journals currently establish reputation, how do you convince professors that the number of people visiting their paper online is the same as being published in Nature?

Fashion
Fashion is a “limited intellectual property rights” atmosphere, like jokes or rules of games, or smells of perfumes, or chef specials. How do creative people feel about not owning their works?

What is it that makes an item authentic?

Best quote: “You can’t sue the vast shadow economy of China.”

Susan Crawford internet czar

The Big Idea: The Choice of One among ISPs is endangering our bits! Wireless can’t compete with wired. (Shannon’s Law) 60% of the country has no competition with cable.

The Internet is like the train system: a public good that needs to be regulated.

There has to be a business model, and some of the time government intervention is needed to allow new transport systems to fight off old transport systems.

Can Communities Better Police Copyright? – by “Daniel A”

Source: http://tctechcrunch.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/stealitshot.png

Six years ago today Youtube.com launched as a video dating site out of then-CEO Chad Hurley’s garage in Menlo Park, CA (you can see what it looked like here). In its early days the founders did everything they could think of to try to get people to start using the site, including offering money to girls via Craigslist to post videos and attract more male viewers.

After realizing that the market for video dating services wasn’t all that hot the company changed focus to a new model that centered on letting people share videos easily online. The site made a number of strategic decisions in its early days which led to enormous growth in its userbase including using Flash to encode videos on the site (making them accessible to users across browsers and operating systems), implementing social tools to better engage the community (commenting, video responses) and, probably most importantly, allowing videos to be embedded in other sites on the web.

While innovation in design definitely gave Youtube an advantage over competing video sites in its early days, another important reason for its growth was the massive amount of copyrighted content that it carried. As noted in the Viacom v. Youtube case, although the site put a number of controls in place to make sure it abided by DMCA regulations in order to qualify for safe harbor protections, early on it didn’t ban or remove content unless a copyright owner submitted a DMCA takedown notice which left policing the site up to copyright holders and allowed copyrighted content to remain on the site for extended periods of time.

Interestingly, a number of other video sites were cropping up around the same time, many of which were able to build just as active and vibrant communities as Youtube, but differed slightly in their approach. The most notable example is Vimeo.com which actually launched in the Fall of 2004. The site’s primary focus has always been on allowing people to share original content with family and friends. Although it lacked some of the features that Youtube implemented early on which prevented it from getting as wide of distribution and usage, the site also banned commercial videos from its inception and seemed more focused on curating a community of artists/videographers. As a result, the site built a community that was much smaller but also much less inclined to share copyrighted content.

The story of Vimeo seems to suggest that even though both Youtube and Vimeo had similar policies with respect to DMCA regulations that the nature of content actually changed as a result of design and community standards. Because Youtube sought broad rapid adoption, it optimized its site and its videos for getting as many views as possible across the web which may have actually hurt its ability to create a self-policing community of users to minimize copyright abuses. On the contrary, by fostering a small tight knit community with strong standards Vimeo was able to push users to share only original content.

Although Youtube arguably won the web video war it is interesting to note that, given the right incentives, a strong community-based approach to copyright management could actually lead to better outcomes for artists/creators than the caustic use of DMCA takedown notices.

Files Beware – by “Jennifer W”

Drama for files-storage sites has sharers worried about their cyberspace security. Sure Napster is long gone, and the DMCA is old news in regard to its take-down [left-hand-on-red-circle, right-foot-on-green-square] games and processes, but the saga of cyberspace control continues with the latest filings by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) against file storage and sharing sites like Hotfile.com.

After reading through a few articles, I feel that it’s important to recognize the mindset afflicting organizations like the MPAA. I’ll call it the ConFricDA [Copyright Control Freak Logic of the Digital Age] mindset.

ConFricDA minds process the current social landscape in a different manner than the rest of us. Their symptoms include believing that:

(re: the internet user)

…the internet is made up of infringers; constantly stepping on someone else’s toes in order to become famous in cyberspace.

…everyone wants to become famous just like in Hollywood & Nashville.

…internet users cannot become popular without help from professionals.

(re: the information on the internet)

…popular files become popular because they belong to professionals and professionals do not allow flagrant distribution of their intellectual property therefore popular files must also be pirated files.

(re: websites that host information on the internet)

…since websites have developed methods of profiting off of a user’s popularity, websites are interested in professional products being posted illegally because those  will obviously bring in more money for websites than anything else posted.

…as a result of the above, it is unhealthily for websites to promote files-sharers attempts to become popular because file-sharers will only become popular through the help of professionally owned intellectual property. Thus, encouraging users to create files that will become popular is equal to promoting illegal pirate activities.

(re: law suits)

…sue and ask questions later. Money talks and those without it shut-up and shut-down.

Editor’s note:** You should not perform business operations or surf the web while suffering from ConFricDa. If you are afflicted with ConFricDA seek the help of anyone possessing common sense immediately. Business activities conducted while affected by ConFricDA often include frivolous lawsuit filings against service providers, hosts, and other ‘enablers’ of user directed content creating headaches for dozens if not thousands of bystanders and the overall irritation of the cyber society.

Yet, businesses continue to disregard warnings over their ConFricDA driven actions due to the other major symptom of ConFricDA–a great, even overwhelming, desire for control over society’s knowledge of, and/or general awareness of, intellectual property and products.

In other words, organizations of people out of ideas have become control freaks in the digital age–afraid of the need for further idea creation for themselves to prosper. In an attempt to slow the need for their own generation of new ideas and developments, they desperately try to stop others from having progressive thoughts, claiming that new thoughts are constantly infringing on the intellectual property rights of those who have come before.

Now I know you might say, but MPAA is complaining about the distribution of its own products not derivative videos, mash-ups, etc. True, but the measures by which they are trying to enforce their rights will disrupt the ability for everyone, derivative makers, original makers, and viewers, to transfer information through digital file-storage sites. I mean if we related the MPAA’s latest suit to a physical library that found a counterfeit dollar bill on it’s third floor, we should sue and demand a closing of the library for having allowed the illegal dollar bill to sit on it’s floor–those hoping to go their for books be damned.

Who the heck would go for that? So then why are we standing for such paralyzation of our digital file-storage facilities?

The safe harbor measures of the DMCA were put into place to help elevate the ridiculous fear-mongering of organizations like MPAA who sue anyone that sneezes around something that could-possibly-maybe-in-some-way-kinda infringe on their copyrights or those of their members by even providing service to an infringer, whether they know it or not. Yet, we still have these suits being filed because the current copyright laws are so illogically distorted to fit an age that is nothing like that where they came from that we can’t avoid continuing to fight the same issues.

So have fun, legal bodies and attorneys that will chew on the endless grizzle that cyberspace provides to those who seek it. No matter how many safe harbors, procedures, or fair use generalities you generate, there’ll never be an elegant process to copyright in the digital age until the current copyright law is either expertly altered or simply abolished. But I guess for some, that means job security but for file storers, it means insecurity.

Offline Piracy, Online Security – by “Robert C”

The internet has dramatically altered distribution for all manner of information goods, and has greatly reduced the friction and cost of sharing content to nearly zero. The flow of communication, data, and commerce online travels through a vast array of applications and services controlled by countless entities. Such Interconnectedness is made possible because all of these entities adhere to similar technological standards for communication, and because the  organizations responsible for the backbone of the web act as agnostic conduits upon which packets can flow freely (the extent to which this will remain true is debatable, but the topic of net neutrality we must save for another time).

Jonathan Zittrain’s 2006 Harvard Journal of Law and Technology piece emphasizes the importance of the passive nature of the online network of gatekeepers and distributors to the growth and development of the internet as we know it. Zittrain focuses on legal battles with ISPs and applications, and the liability that service providers face for piracy and copyright infringement. What Zittrain fails to mention are the ways in which the growth of the internet has facilitated offline counterfeiting, trademark infringement, and copyright violations.

The U.S. District Court Decision in Viacom v. YouTube refers to the case of Tiffany v. eBay, where Tiffany, Inc. sought damages from eBay because as much as 75% of the Tiffany merchandise sold on eBay was counterfeit. The case was dismissed as the court held that generalized knowledge was not sufficient to compel action on the part of eBay, lending legal creedence to the defense assertion that online marketplaces are only an agnostic platform for connecting third parties, and therefore not responsible for the actual nature of the physical goods changing hands.

While eBay was able to dodge responsibility in the case of Tiffany, pressure continues to mount to crack down on counterfeit trade online. Industry organizations, particularly the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) have increased pressure a great deal in recent years, even offering rewards up to $1 million for reporting software piracy. The Anti-Piracy Year-In-Review 2009 from the SIIA, the association removed 90,000 online listings for illegal software, representing over $75 million of potential sales. While this may seem significant, to put these numbers in perspective, the Adobe, the software company best known for Acrobat, Illustrator, and Photoshop (and perennial favorite target for software pirates) booked 2010 revenues of $3.8 billion.

The CEO of Adobe, Shantanu Narayen, explains that for desktop software of the nature that Adobe sells, piracy rates can reach as high as 80% to 90% in emerging markets. Narayen sees the transition of Adobe’s products from the desktop to the cloud as a major advantage in combating piracy, as web based applications are not locally stored and require authentication for usage. Surprisingly, for at least some companies, it seems as though the movement of content into the cloud represents a way to combat piracy rather than to facilitate it.

DMCA: Weapon of Scientology? – by “JeeYoung K”

Even though in Lenz v. Universal, the court ruled that the copyright holder has to consider fair use before issuing takedown notices, it has not stopped DMCA abuses. One of the most amusing and disturbing abuses is one by the Church of Scientology.

Unlike other religions (I am mainly thinking of Christianity) which have much emphasis on spreading the words of their scriptures, Scientology is very protective of its “scriptures” both from its followers and its critics. For those of you who are not familiar with the myth of Lord Xenu, it goes as follows. (WARNING: Reading the following story without proper training, i.e. not having paid your dues to the Church of Scientology, may cause you to catch pneumonia!) The myth tells a story of Lord Xenu, who was a dictator of “Galactic Confederacy” of 75 planets 75 million years ago. After a political struggle he brought billions of people to Earth to destroy them and their floating fragments are the cause of our spiritual harm today.

Lord Xenu as depicted in BBC documentary Panorama: Secrets of Scientology (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l42UrHDx4lE)

The Church of Scientology keeps this information (available on Wikipedia) from its own members is by telling  them that the story is so powerful that the knowledge of it is dangerous. However, recently with more and more defectors it has been difficult to keep the information secret and Scientology has resorted to copyright and trademark laws. In September 2008 an alleged rights group called American Rights Counsel LLC issued 4,000 DMCA takedown notices to anti-Scientology videos on youtube. In order to protect its safe harbor youtube had to take down the videos until they received counter-takedown notices.

This example illustrates the loophold in DMCA. People can use it to suppress other people’s voices simply because they do not agree with them. It is true someone could file a suit against the people who have sent takedown notices without reasonable grounds to suspect copyright infringement, but more often than not the cost of litigation dissuades people from doing so. Moreover there are cases (think McCain campaign videos) where there is a window of time after which the information loses its value and the few days during which the information is unavailable can do considerable damage.

Having said that, most of anti-Scientology videos were back up following counter-takedown notices. While DMCA is not perfect, it does provide a procedure for the accused infringer to put back its content if he/she considers the accusation to be false. Jane Ginsberg makes a similar point in her essay “How Copyright Got a Bad Name for Itself” comparing the US system with that in the EU where the E-Commerce Directive allows takedown notices but no counter-takedown notices.

So what is the solution to be? How can we stop well-intentioned copyright law from being abused as a weapon to secure private injunctions? I do not know the answer, but ToryMagoo44, an ex-scientologist, says Oprah!

Click Oprah and Scientology Censorship to watch a video by ToryMagoo44 pleading Oprah to invite her to the show.