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Schools Risk Losing Funds for Tolerating Piracy
Tuesday, July 6, 2010 2:13 pm | By Anthony Lizan

Copyright infringers can’t seem to catch a break this week, thankfully. As noted in the previous post, the government successfully launched an initiative that closed nine websites notorious for trafficking stolen movies. Just as important, new policies are being enacted to curb internet piracy on college campuses. Now, schools that don’t implement anti-piracy provisions risk losing money for federal student aid.

The provisions result from the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which states that schools must enact plans to, “ effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material by users of the institution's network.”

The new rules will make a huge impact in fighting illegal downloading, because college age students makeup the largest demographic of internet pirates. According to a study commissioned by the MPA, “The typical pirate is age 16-24...” and “44 percent of MPA company losses in the U.S. are attributable to college students.” Cheryl Asper Elzy, Dean of University Libraries at Illinois State University, found that more than 50% of dorm residents with broadband connections have illegally downloaded copyrighted material. Furthermore, the House Committee on Science and Technology found that, “In 2006, some 1.3 billion music tracks were downloaded illegally in the U.S. by college students, compared with approximately 500 million legal downloads.”

Yet, there is hope for the younger generation. In the same study, Dean Elzy found that most students will stop downloading illegally if warned or threatened by their school. Stricter anti-piracy laws do work. They can save thousands of jobs a year and protect whole businesses from going bankrupt. It is imperative to remain vigilant when it comes to copyright infringement. For the sake of the economy, we can’t afford not to.
 

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New Operation Sees Early Results
Thursday, July 1, 2010 5:31 pm | By Anthony Lizan

IP thieves have a new foe, and its name is “Operation in Our Sites.” The initiative announced yesterday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeks to further crackdown on copyright infringement, especially websites that distribute recently released movies.

Although it’s still young, the initiative has been successful so far. According to Variety Magazine, the “Initiative…has already seized the domain names of nine websites. They include Movieslinks.tv, Planetmoviez.com, ZML.com, Thepiratecity.org, Filespump.com, TVShack.net, Now-Movies.com, NinjaVideo.net and NinjaThis.net.” These sites were notorious for pirating.

The initiative comes on the heels of the new Joint Strategic Plan on IP Enforcement. The plan promised to “ensure the broad participation of Federal Agencies responsible for criminal intellectual property infringement investigations in cooperative efforts.” ICE, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, and Homeland Security all worked together on this specific case; giving hope to property rights advocates that the Obama administration is following through on implementing its IP policies.

Out of all of the intellectual property based industries, the entertainment business is especially vulnerable to piracy because of improved technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the motion picture and music recording industries—which employ over 354,000 people—have seen mass layoff events rise consistently over the past three months. Furthermore, the unemployment rate in the industries rose from 14.5% in February, to 17.5% in May. Harsher crackdowns on illegal distributions will save hundreds of millions in lost revenue and thousands of jobs a year.

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Creators Lose in Viacom v. YouTube
Tuesday, June 29, 2010 2:03 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

Last week we wrote about the appalling decision handed down by New York’s highest court in Kaur v. New York State Urban Development Corp. which allowed the state to confiscate 17 acres of private property for Columbia University’s planned expansion. By declaring the area blighted, the state was then allowed to seize control by using the power of eminent domain and hand it over to another private entity. That same week, another equally appalling decision was handed down by a Federal District Court Judge, this time concerning intellectual property. In Viacom v. Youtube, Judge Stanton ordered that Youtube (owned by Google) qualified for safe harbor protections under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) even though its founders "not only were generally aware of, but welcomed" pirated content.

This ruling flies directly in the face of the 2005 Grokster decision. The Supreme Court ruled in MGM Studios v. Grokster, that software developers can be held liable when their products foster the infringement of copyrighted movies and music. In a unanimous decision, the high court ruled against companies such as Grokster which base their business on the theft of intellectual property rights.

I am not a lawyer and don’t aspire to be one, but what I do understand is the implications this decision has on creators. (For a good analysis delving in the minutia of the case go here) Judge Stanton not only found that Youtube was not liable for copyright infringement since the site removed offending content once they were informed of its existence. So, this ruling not only sanctions and encourages start ups to acquire capital off the stolen works of others but puts the burden on copyright owners to find and serve takedown notices on their infringed works.

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