After having obtained a patent on a system to control the sales of “used” digital goods, according to ZDNet.com Apple
has been awarded a patent that would allow users to share music, video, and pictures directly with each other – without having to worry about piracy.
This patent is based on the idea that a user should be allowed to download an encrypted song from a legitimate owner and purchase a less costly license by Apple thus “squaring the circle” of the file-sharing legalization.
This patent, nevertheless, could hardly be enforceable within the EU.
The royalties of copying a digital copyrighted work are covered by the levy imposed on the blank media and storage (including those that aren’t destined to contain copyrighted stuff.) This means that once the user has purchased a USB dongle, a DVD or whatever the support, he has already paid for the right to use the digital content.
By imposing a further, though less costly, license, Apple is saving bandwidth and IT infrastructure costs turning these costs on the ISP’s shoulders and getting paid two times for the very same thing.
True, one can say that as soon as the user agrees with the license there wouldn’t be a problem. Nevertheless it is a fact that this patent clashes with the “first sale” doctrine that leaves to the user the right of re-sell, (legally) copy and (legally) lend a copyrighted work.
The Italian Minister of culture, Franceschini (Democratic Party) issued the decree – effective by July 17, 2014 – that makes the copyright levy skyrocket up to 30 Euros per multimedia storage device. This levy (technically called “fair reward”) is supposed to compensate in advance the authors for the copy made by a user of a copyrighted content. Even those contents – so long, entertainment industry – shared through the Internet. But the authors who don’t belong to SIAE (the Italian Royalty Collecting Agency) will never get paid for the (ab)use of their works.
So, how is it possible that online sharing isn’t illegal? Here is the catch: nothing in the Italian Copyright Law says that the copy must come from an ORIGINAL or legally owned content. The consequence is that if I download or share something through the Internet I’m not infringing somebody else’s copyright because of the preemptive payment made through the levy.
More than legally correct, this conclusion comes from common sense: the “fair” compensation exists way before the Internet and was designed in the VCR-era to allow copyrighters to get some money from the privately made TV broadcast recording. Of course somebody who recorded a movie didn’t have a “right” over this content that allowed him to put it on a video-cassette and this is where the levy jumps in. The equation is simple: pay your fee in advance and get the right to keep your favourite show at home.
As odd as it may sounds, this equation works for the Internet too but the entertainment industry refuses to even talk about the issue, claiming that the levy is designed for legally-owned content only. While – again – there isn’t such provision clearly stated in the law, this statement is counterintuitive since is a fact that as soon as a content is stored on a levy-burdened media, the author compensation’s has already been paid.
Instead of complaining, the entertainment industry should be happy of this unjust levy because it gets money from a huge quantity of Terabytes used for backups, business continuity and private storage that don’t contain copyrighted works and that – nevertheless – are still burdened by the “fair” compensation.
The only that have the right to complain are all the unknown authors whose works (music, words, pictures) are routinely abused (not only) on the Internet and that will never get their share of “fair” reward. Yes, because all the monies we pay fall into the SIAE that shares the cuts among its members.
Is this “fair” reward actually so?
In Italy the Codice delle comunicazioni elettroniche legally bind ISPs to guarantee the functionality and security of the network (both from a physical and logical perspective). This means that if traffic shaping is needed to handle traffic overload this can be done with no specific provision.
Every proposal of nailing down traffic shaping options is a trojan horse because – for instance – copyright lobbies might whistleblow that P2P is creating an international emergency thus forcing ISPs to violate the net neutrality “for security sake”.
The new episode of the Pirate Bay war leads to think that something is changing in judges’ mind in re: ISP liability. In the recent Swedish preliminary order neither is the final user the final target of a legal action, nor the ISP. The focus is on the sole and only possible defendant: the one who actually shares illicit contents (apart from the merit of the specific TPB case.) The ISP who provided the housing service for TPB torrent search engine has been ordered to “disconnect” the machine from the network and not, as in the previous episodes, to hijack users’ attempts to reach The Pirate Bay.
It is important to remark that in this trial the ISP is not involved as (contributory) defendant, but only as subject whose cooperation is – de facto – necessary to obtain the compliance to a court order. Thus, we face a situation where:
- rights of innocent end users are not endangered by the activity of the copyright majors,
- ISP’s role is not portrayed as those of an accomplish, supporter, or contributory violator,
- the target of the legal action is focused on the (alleged) culprit.
Again, I don’t want to enter in the legal quarrel about TPB responsibility. What I want to stress is that – should the Swedish approach be confirmed – a step toward and actual respect of legal principles set by dir. 31/00/CE is made.
Among the measures to fight the economic crisis announced by the Italian Government, sect. 15 para 1 lett. c) of the Anti-Crisis decree deserves a special mention: to put it short, the provision asserts corporate liability (under legislative decree 231/01) for copyright infringement committed by top management.
Although it may seems that the new law is of a little impact on corporate life (is highly unlikely that a top manager has time to waste doing file sharing) a second glance prove this first opinion not entirely correct.
The inclusion of copyright infringements into the list of crimes implying specific corporate liability forces a company to revise its (mandatory) prevention model to reflect new changes; thus – de facto – establishing a specific set of controls aimed at downloads, website surfing and file sharing. Failing to do so might lead some zealous prosecutor to think that the company actually allows copyright abuses.
A side effect of this regulation – when it will come into full force – is that workplace privacy will get another heavy blow. For the sake of copyright abuse prevention, indeed, all of employees’ Internet activity will be deeply inspected.
So long, Mr. Data Protection Commissioner…