News
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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Sad Day for New York Property Owners
Thursday, June 24, 2010 5:39 pm | By Anthony Lizan

Property owners have good reason to fear if they live in New York. Today, the New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of Columbia University's expansion into West Harlem, overturning a lower court’s decision that formerly barred the expansion. Columbia’s developer, Empire State Development Corp, argued that eminent domain is appropriate because the property in West Harlem is blighted, and therefore redeveloping the area would serve a “civic purpose.”

New York has done this before. Earlier this year, the Court ruled in favor of Bruce Ratner, a developer who wanted to build an arena in the middle of a Brooklyn neighborhood. On March 1st, the Court gave Ratner the go ahead to start building; basically evicting citizens who’ve lived in their houses for years.

This ruling comes one day after the 5th anniversary of the despicable Kelo v. City of New London ruling, where private property was seized and given to the Pfizer Corporation for a project that never materialized.

Historically, eminent domain has been applied in very limited ways and for specific public purposes, i.e. to build new roads, schools, or hospitals. This ruling on the other hand, gives the government license to confiscate private property and give it to another private entity; a blatant infringement on individual property rights.

PRA strongly condemns the finding. New York has ignored property rights in favor of abusive government bureaucrats and highly-connected business owners.

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