Obituary Piracy Punished: Has Infringement No Bounds?

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A couple of months ago I put up a blog posting about copyright and its intersection with that most universal of human conditions, our finite time on this earth. OK, let’s call it by its real name, death, something that we all have to deal with sooner or later. In that blog, after discussing the issue of how copyright protection extends for a specified period of time after the passing of the author, a term of protection generating economic benefit for the author’s estate which can vary in length by country, I referred to the case of a website that was operating in Canada called Afterlife. If you can believe it, the operators of this site were running a business based on the unauthorized postings of obituaries that they harvested from newspapers and the websites of funeral homes. The business model consisted of selling virtual candles and other forms of remembrance for the departed, all without any authorization from the family of the deceased. Since most obituaries are creations (personal descriptions of a person’s life), they enjoy the protection of copyright, so Afterlife’s business model was not only tasteless and an invasion of privacy but also a violation of copyright law. Now the law has caught up with the operators of the site. Continue reading “Obituary Piracy Punished: Has Infringement No Bounds?”

Canadian Copyright Reform: “Shifting Paradigms” Report Released—An Important Milestone, But Not Yet the Final Destination

Source: http://www.ourcommons.ca

On May 15, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage tabled its report, “Shifting Paradigms”, in fulfilment of its mandate to study remuneration models for artists and creative industries. This study forms part of the legislative review of Canada’s Copyright Act being led by another Parliamentary Committee, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (AKA the INDU Committee). The Heritage Committee was composed of Members of Parliament from all major political parties, and was chaired, as is normal, by a member representing the government. The report’s conclusions and recommendations are bipartisan (there was no dissenting report other than commentary from a member of the New Democratic Party that the Committee did not go far enough in its recommendations to protect creators). In all 22 recommendations were made, most of them music to the ears of the copyright community. Lawyer Barry Sookman has done an excellent job of summarizing the findings and process here. Continue reading “Canadian Copyright Reform: “Shifting Paradigms” Report Released—An Important Milestone, But Not Yet the Final Destination”

Online Book Piracy: “An Offence Against Moral Justice”

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These were the words used by Philip Pullman, President of the Society of Authors in Britain, in support of a letter to UK Business Secretary Greg Clark, co-signed by over thirty other prominent British authors. The letter pointed out that one in six e-books read online in the UK, about four million books, was pirated annually, with the author receiving no remuneration for his or her efforts. The letter goes on to say that the growth of online book piracy will potentially damage the overall market for books in the UK and make it even more difficult for authors, who on average earn only around 10,500 Pounds (USD $13,700) annually, to make a living and will be a disincentive to the creation of new content. The Society of Authors letter stops short of calling for specific remedies but calls on the British government to “take action against the blight of online book piracy”. Continue reading “Online Book Piracy: “An Offence Against Moral Justice””

Pirate Streaming Boxes: An Abuse of Legitimate Technology…in Canada and Elsewhere

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The issue of pirate set-top boxes, AKA “Kodi Add-ons” or more accurately, “Illicit Streaming Devices” (ISDs) is back in the news. It is not a new issue (I wrote about it almost three years ago, here). In April of this year, Torrent Freak reported that a Canadian company, Infinity TV, charged with selling TV boxes “fully loaded” with add-ons that provide consumers with access to a wide range of pirated content, has agreed to pay several Canadian media companies, including Bell, Rogers and Videotron (all major telcos with content distribution platforms) $5 million in damages to settle the case. In 2016, the plaintiffs had secured an injunction from the Federal Court prohibiting several vendors from selling the pre-loaded boxes. The court allowed the plaintiffs to add more vendors to the lawsuit, which they did, , expanding the list to more than 125 according to Torrent Freak. Canada is not the only jurisdiction where sellers of legitimate boxes bundle (pre-load) them with unauthorized add-ons to give consumers direct access to pirated content, and then advertise the end product as “free TV” devices. Continue reading “Pirate Streaming Boxes: An Abuse of Legitimate Technology…in Canada and Elsewhere”

Sports and Copyright—Why Sports Fans are Cheating Themselves When They Stream Pirated Content

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Almost everyone in today’s society takes some interest in sports, whether as a fan or as a participant. It’s virtually inevitable—and unavoidable. It may be a sport that we played in our youth, and now follow, or a sport that we still play. It could be a team sport or a primarily individual one, like golf or tennis. If it’s a team sport, and you are Canadian you are expected to follow hockey. By this I mean ice hockey, not the equally rough version played on grass or turf. If you are an American, baseball is probably the sport of choice, although these days that is being challenged by basketball or American football. And of course football (which we call soccer in North America) is the team sport that dominates most of the rest of the world, with the exception of a few places like New Zealand, where you cannot not talk about rugby–or Bhutan, where archery takes pride of place! Sport has enriched our language and provided us with colourful metaphors, everything from “striking out”, to “stepping up to the plate”, to “slam-dunk”, “sticky wicket” and “scoring an own goal”. What would the English language do without sports? Continue reading “Sports and Copyright—Why Sports Fans are Cheating Themselves When They Stream Pirated Content”

Infringing Website Lists: Another Valuable Tool in the Anti-Piracy Toolbox

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In March the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), “an advertising industry initiative to fight criminal activity in the digital advertising supply chain”, released an update in its campaign against ad-supported pirate websites, called Winning the Fight Against Ad-Supported Piracy. This updates an earlier study about which I wrote last year in a blog on “Tightening up Online Advertising will starve Pirate Websites of their Means of Support”. TAG has continued its work to make reputable companies aware of the brand risk from advertising on websites that promote pirated content. Fifty-eight brands and ad agencies have signed the TAG anti-piracy pledge to take steps to reduce ad supported piracy, including by working with companies that have received TAG’s “Certified Against Piracy” seal. The program was originally designed for anti-piracy vendors but has since been expanded to include paths to certification for ad agencies, advertisers and publishers. This “follow the money” approach aims to starve pirate websites of one of their main sources of funding, namely legitimate advertising inadvertently placed on their sites as a result of insufficient care taken by ad agencies and company marketing departments. Continue reading “Infringing Website Lists: Another Valuable Tool in the Anti-Piracy Toolbox”

Google vs. Equustek: Unfortunate Precedent or Positive Development?

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I have written about the case of Google Inc vs Equustek Solutions several times over the past couple of years (for example, here, here, and here). This series of blog posts tracked the evolution of the case that resulted in a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold an earlier ruling by the BC Supreme Court requiring Google to de-index from global search results listings for a Canadian company, Datalink, that had been found by the courts to be infringing online the intellectual property rights of another Canadian company, Equustek. Continue reading “Google vs. Equustek: Unfortunate Precedent or Positive Development?”