- The copyright yin and technology yang – Copyright has always had to change and adapt to new and disruptive technologies (which typically impact the extant business models of the content industry) and each time it usually comes out even stronger and more flexible – the age of digital disruption is no exception. As my 5 year old would say, “that glass is half full AND half empty”
- UK Copyright Hub – “Simplify and facilitate” is a recurring mantra on the role of copyright in the digital economy. The UK Copyright Hub provides an exchange that is predicated on usage rights. It is a closely watched example of what is required for digital copyright and could easily become a template for the rest of the world.
- Copyright frictions still a challenge – “Lawyers love arguing with each other”, but they and the excruciatingly slow process of policy making, have introduced a particular friction to copyright’s digital evolution. The pace of digital change has increased but policy has slowed down, perhaps because there are now more people to the party.
- Time for some new stuff – Copyright takes the blame for many things (e.g. even the normal complexity of cross border commerce). Various initiatives including: SOPA & PIPA / Digital Economy Act / Hadopi / 3 strikes NZ have stalled or been drastically cut back. It really is time for new stuff.
- Delaying the “time to street” – Fox describe their anti-piracy efforts in relation to film release windows, in an effort to delay the “time to street” (aka pervasive piracy). These and other developments such as fast changing piracy business models, or the balance between privacy vs. piracy and technologies (e.g. popcorn time, annonymising proxies, cyberlockers etc.) have added more fuel to the fire.
- Rights Languages & Machine-to-Machine communication – Somewhat reminiscent of efforts to use big data and analytics mechanisms to provide insight from structured and unstructured data sources. Think Hadoop based rights translation and execution engines.
- The future of private copying – The UK’s copyright exceptions now allow for individual private copies of owned content. Although this may seem obvious, but it has provoked fresh comments from content industries types and other observers e.g.: When will technology replace the need for people making private copies? Also, what about issues around keeping private copies in the cloud or in cyber lockers?
According to a BBC news report, it seems that a deal to tackle digital piracy is about to be realised between major UK ISPs and key content and entertainment industry organisations. Given that it took several years of wrangling to get to this point, the obvious question is whether this particular deal will work to the satisfaction of all concerned?
The report describes how the UK ISPs (i.e. BT, Sky, TalkTalk and VirginMedia) will be required to send ‘educational’ letters, or alerts, to users they believe are downloading illegal content. Among other things, the deal is predicated on the belief that increased awareness of legal alternatives will encourage such users away from illegal content acquisition, casual infringement and piracy. This voluntary alert system will be funded mainly by the content industry who in return will get monthly stats on alerts dished out by the ISPs. Overall, this deal is far removed from the more punitive “3 strikes” system originally mooted in the early days of the Digital Economy Act.
As with most cases there are 2 or more sides to the story, and below are some considerations to be taken into account before drawing your own conclusions, including:
1. Critics of this deal, i.e. presumably the content providers, will consider this too soft an approach to be effective in curbing the very real and adverse economic impact of piracy.
2. Supporters, including ISPs, will likely see this as fair compromise for securing their cooperation in tackling piracy, and a win-win for them and their customers.
3. Another perspective comprises the view of regulators and government intermediaries (aka brokers of this deal), who likely consider it a practical compromise which can always be tweaked depending on its efficacy or lack thereof.
4. There are probably many other viewpoints to be considered, but, in my opinion, the most important perspective belongs to the end-users who ultimately stand to benefit or suffer from the success or failure of this initiative, especially since:
- there is evidence that education trumps punishment when it comes to casual content piracy – e.g. the HADOPI experience in France which has effectively evolved into an educational campaign against copyright infringement.
- content consumers already have far too much choice over the source and format of content anyway, so punitive measures may not necessarily solve the piracy problem, if they can get content via other illegal means.
- any perceived failure of this deal, and its ‘educational’ approach, could lend support for more draconian and punitive measures, therefore it is in the interest of consumers to see it succeed.
5. Industrial scale piracy, on the other hand must be tackled head-on, with the full weight of the law, in order to close down and discourage the real criminal enterprises that probably do far more damage to the content industry.
In any case, regardless of how you view this and other similar developments, it is always worth bearing in mind that we are only in a period of transition to a comprehensive digital existence, therefore all current challenges and opportunities are certain to change, as new technology and usage paradigms continue to drive and reveal ever more intriguing changes in consumer behaviours. This battle is far from over.
Last month’s conference on copyright and technology provided plenty of food for thought from an array of speakers, organisations, viewpoints and agendas. Topics and discussions ran the gamut of increasingly obvious “business models are more important than technology” to downright bleeding edge “hypersonic activation of devices from outdoor displays “. There was something to take away for everyone involved. Read on for highlights.
The Mega Keynote interview: Mega’s CEO Vikram Kumar, discussed how the new and law-abiding cloud storage service is proving attractive to professionals who want to use and pay for the space, security and privacy that Mega provides. This is a far cry from the notorious MegaUpload, and founder Kim Dotcom’s continuing troubles with charges of copyright infringement, but there are still questions about the nature of the service – e.g. the end-to-end encryption approach which effectively makes it opaque to outside scrutiny. Read more about it here.
Anti-Piracy and the age of big data – Mark Monitor’s Thomas Sehested talked about the rise of data / content monitoring and anti-piracy services in what he describes as the data driven media company. He also discussed the demise of content release windows, and how mass / immediate release of content across multiple channels lowers piracy, but questioned if this is more profitable.
Hadopi and graduated response – Hadopi’s Pauline Blassel gave an honest overview on the impact of Hadopi, including evidence of some reduction in piracy (by factor of 6M-4M) before stabilsation. She also described how this independent public authority delivers graduated response in a variety of ways e.g. from raising awareness to imposing penalties and focusing primarily on what is known as PUR (aka ‘Promotion les Usage Responsible’)
Auto Content Recognition (ACR) and the 2nd Screen – ACR is a core set of tools (including DRM, watermarking and fingerprinting), and the 2nd screen opportunity (at least for broadcasters) is all about keeping TV viewership and relevance in the face of tough competition for people’s time and attention. This panel session discussed monetisation of second screen applications, and the challenges of how TV is regulated, pervasive and country specific. Legal broadcast rights is aimed at protection of broadcast signals, which triggers the 2nd screen application, (e.g. via ambient / STB / EPG based recognition). This begs the question of what regulation should be applied to the 2nd screen, and what rights apply? E.g. Ads on TV can be replaced in the 2 screen, but what are the implications?
Update on the Copyright Hub – The Keynote address by Sir Richard Hooper, chair of the Copyright Hub and co-author of the 2012 report on Copyright Works: Streamlining Copyright Licensing for the Digital Age, was arguably the high point of the event. He made the point that although there are issues with copyright in the digital age, the creative industries need to get off their collective backsides and streamline the licensing process before asking for a change in copyright law. He gave examples of issues with the overly complex educational licensing process and how the analogue processes are inadequate for the digital age (e.g. unique identifiers for copyright works).
The primary focus of the Copyright Hub, according to Sir Richard, is to enable high volume – low value transactions, (e.g. to search, license and use copyright works legally) by individuals and SMEs. The top tier content players already have dedicated resources for such activities hence they’re not a primary target of the Copyright Hub, but they’ll also benefit by removing the need to deal with trivial requests for licensing individual items (e.g. to use popular songs for wedding videos on YouTube).
Next phase work, and other challenges, for the Copyright Hub include: enabling consumer reuse of content, architectures for federated search, machine to machine transactions, orphan works registry & mass digitisation (collective licensing), multi licensing for multimedia content, as well as the need for global licensing. Some key messages and quotes in the ensuing Q&A include:
- “the Internet is inherently borderless and we must think global licensing, but need to walk before we can run”
- “user-centricity is key. People are happy not to infringe if easy / cheap to be legal”
- “data accuracy is vital, so Copyright Hub is looking at efforts from Linked Content Coalition and Global Repertoire Database”
- “Metadata is intrinsic to machine to Machine transactions – do you know it is a crime to strip metadata from content?”
- “Moral rights may add to overall complexity”
As you can probably see from the above, this one day event delivered the goods and valuable insights to the audience, which included people from the creative / content industries, as well as technologists, legal practitioners, academics and government agencies. Kudos to MusicAlly, the event organiser, and to Bill Rosenblatt, (conference chair), for a job well done.
Last year, I wrote a post on the above topic discussing, among other things, the approach proposed by Games organisers to tackle such sharp practices as “ambush marketing” and “unfair association with the Games”. They even produced a list of restricted words and phrases (including: Olympic, Paralympic, London Games, 2012 etc) to protect brand exclusivity and sponsorship preorgatives. However, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and when the world’s fastest 100M athlete cheekily commandeered a photographer’s camera to take pictures of the photographers, spectators and fellow athletes, a rather interesting debate was ignited in a popular photography magazine forum, mainly about copyright and ownership rights of those pictures, which were subsequently published by the photographer in his own newspaper.
The forum discussion can be found here, and it includes the following key questions:
- Who owns the rights to the pictures taken; Is it Usain Bolt, or the Photographer (i.e. owner of the camera and memory card)?
- Does the fact that the camera and memory card (including photographic data) remain property of the photographer have any bearing on rights ownership to Bolt’s pictures?
- Should Bolt have any right to the art (or computerised data) that he created on equipment he does not own? (this one prompted comparisons with a Banksy grafitti art on someone’s wall)
- Does the photographer’s publication of the picture (presumably without permission) violate Bolt’s rights as ‘artiste’, or arguably as copyright owner?
- What about the venue / organisers rules and conditions regarding accredited photographers and their works?
All very good questions, and no doubt something a good IP lawyers can argue for and / or against, depending on who is paying the fees, but suffice it to say that the best comment, in my opinion, came from a forum member who reminded others that “copyright subsists upon the creation of the art…” and that it rightfully belongs to the individual creating the art, i.e. Usain Bolt, in this instance. Furthermore, I would add that the author of an original work, even if not the copyright owner, also has the moral right to seek redress against any objectionable use of the work.
*Images sourced, from left to right:
- http://www.petapixel.com/2012/08/09/usain-bolt-nabs-photographers-dslr-snaps-awesome-pov-shots/ (camera owner in red circle)
As promised in my last blog post, the focus this time is very much around the challenges of Intellectual Property, (esp. copyright), in a cloud context. Content protection is one thing, but establishing exactly what one can and can’t do with content in the cloud is equally as important, if not more so, in an environment where geographic location is almost irrelevant. The key question is if and how copyright will survive and thrive in the context of cloud.
The answer currently tends towards ‘not so well’. At least, not without a major overhaul of copyright, and its various regional incarnations, to work seamlessly in a global context. Last week’s Copyright and Technology 2011 conference (see great recap here by Bill Rosenblatt) provided much food for thought, and some insight on the key challenges facing copyright in the highly mobile, cloud enabled, information intensive content usage scenarios of today and tomorrow. Below are 3 highlights from the event, in my opinion:
- The brilliant keynote address by Microsoft’s Tom Rubin spelt out some key policy considerations for achieving what he describes as “copyright at the speed of light”, which addressed several vital topics including: clarity on orphan works; need for copyright registry / licence databases; improved metadata; better policies to address the divergent focus of copyright (i.e. territorial outlook) versus cloud (i.e. global outlook); as well as the need for frictionless cross border licensing. He concluded with 3 areas of focus for policies to help prepare and optimise copyright for the cloud, including: 1) appropriate enforcement; 2) robust metadata; and 3) streamlined licensing. These he claims will go some way towards realising the potential for “fantastic user experience with creative works in the cloud”, and I wholeheartedly agree.
- I moderated a panel session which focused on the lessons from real world implementation of DRM, and which provided some good insight from three speakers who already earned their stripes implementing DRM for clients. For example, my question about how to provide fine grained control over user access to specific content within a certain building/location elicited an answer, with examples, of how this was already being designed and implemented for clients in the airline and hospitality (e.g. hotel) industries. I imagine there are great opportunities here for events and venues (e.g. conferences, concerts, major sporting events, art galleries, educational and other public institutions). By the way, the simplest approach involves exclusive content access, via Wi-Fi and browser, which cuts out once a user moves outside the area of coverage. However, the level of sophistication can increase dramatically when this is also aligned with DRM secured content, and location based functionality (which is readily available on most smart mobile devices), plus a dash of Augumented Reality, for that added vavavoom. The possibilities are mind boggling.
- Finally, I found out some people were seriously creating real world applications for Digital Personal Property (DPP), which is probably best described as a way of making digital content to be more like physical property). DPP involves creating ‘unique’ digital copies of content (e.g. music, films or books) such that once a copy is lent, resold or otherwise given to another party, the original will no longer be accessible to the lender, seller or giver, respectively. Hmmm, whilst on the one hand this makes a certain kind of sense, particularly from the ‘property’ side of Intellectual Property (i.e. think digital property or currency in virtual worlds and online games e.g. Second Life or Farmville); on the other hand, it appears such a mind numbingly daft, futile and King Canute like venture to try and force digital content into an analogue world view, operating within a digital environment! It brings back to mind the spectacular failure of previous attempts to enforce highly intrusive DRM mechanisms over digital content. Having said that, I somehow get the impression that this will be a most interesting development to watch, mainly because of the potential for surprising outcomes from such apparently ‘foolish’ endeavours. A little lateral thinking never hurt anyone. For more information about DPP and the two interesting / controversial initiatives, just click on IEEE P1817 and/or Redigi (the latter is already embroiled in legal tussles with the RIAA, but then that is not surprising!). I’d be very interested to hear about any other DPP projects going on out there.
In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that copyright in a cloud context brings to very sharp relief to some of the key challenges that need addressing for that next step in cultural and socio-economic evolution. This includes: the need for some fairly significant adjustment of the Intellectual Property mechanism within the digital environment; a rethink of physical geographical or territorial boundaries in a digital world; and perhaps an exploration of other, better ways to assess the true value of digital content, in light of usage and context. Like I said earlier, lots of food for thought indeed.
Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE
Following on from my previous post about storage in the cloud, the topic of content security, (aka how do you secure what is already stored in the cloud?), seemed like a natural next stop, hence this post. What does it take for content to be deemed secure in the cloud environment, and can it really be so?
Many months ago, I reviewed a book (for the BCS, Chartered Institute for IT), which dealt with the topic of cloud security, and I recall that although the book’s titular topics of Cloud Security and Privacy was very apt, it did not take a lot of reading to get the gist that security touches every aspect of cloud, right from initial login to choice of service provider and beyond. You may be forgiven for thinking that once your content is deposited in a secure cloud location, e.g. in a highly redundant, uber-secure, private cloud provided by a certified defence contractor, then it must be secure right? Wrong.
The content, and not just the location, is what needs securing. The age old concept of perimeterised security, such as can be found within firewalls, does not apply well to distributed cloud services, hence the need for the actual stored material to have it’s own inherent security (be it encryption, obfuscation, DRM etc.). What really matters is how the material is protected from intentional or accidental leakage.
Several methods or techniques are in use today by cloud service providers to secure the content stored within their services, and just like most things in cloud, you may even get a choice of how locked down you want it to be. Again, I mean locked down as in the actual content, and not the cloud. One of the more promising systems, spearheaded by the video content industry (and Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem), is the cloud based digital rights locker system known as Ultraviolet, which allows users to buy content once and allow playback across any supporting platform / device. More information about the alliance and partners can be found here.
The key challenge is typically around content usage, and perhaps more importantly, the users intent. The use of otherwise secured content once released / accessed can often introduce an element of risk of leakage which spans anything from intentional copy and distribute (e.g. via the so called analog hole), to accidental misuse or malicious hacking. The impact of content leakage in the cloud can be devastating for content industry players that rely on revenue from their content investments.
The next post on this series will be looking very closely at the challenges facing copyright in the context of the cloud, and I hope to be able to bring back some insight from the rather timely Copyright and Technology 2011 conference, which I am attending today.
Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE
Perhaps it’s the fine August weather, but the announcement of support by the UK Government for all ten fairly sensible recommendations on Intellectually Property reform (by the last independent Review of Intellectual Property), gives rise to some optimism about the future of copyright and other forms of IP, in the UK at least.
The press release, which can be found on the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) website, states that Ministers have accepted the recommendations “which estimate a potential benefit to the UK economy of up to £7.9 billion.” Who can argue with those numbers at a time of sorely needed economic growth, I wonder?
Anyway, it goes on to highlight some of the key recommendations including:
- A Digital Copyright Exchange – i.e. a market place where licences to copyright content can be bought or sold. The question to answer is how such an exchange will look and work.
- Limited Private Copying – also known as format shifting; whereby it will no longer be illegal to copy legally purchased content from one format to another (e.g. from CD to PC). This one is just a reality update, in my opinion.
- Copyright Exception for Parody – basically introduces a new exception to Copyright that will make it legal to parody someone else’s work without seeking prior permission.
- Copyright Exception for Text and Data Mining – another exception to legalise the use of existing search and analysis techniques for research (e.g. medicinal or pharmaceutical research)
- Clearance for the use of Orphan Works – Resolves a particularly vexing issue that prevents the legal use of Orphan Works (i.e. where no owner can be identified).
- Evidence Based Future Policy on IP – This makes the case for future IP policies to be backed by solid evidence. This is an interesting one which may well be decided by execution in spite of its noble sentiment.
Also, according to the press release, “a new intellectual property crime strategy and international strategy for intellectual property have been published”, to direct the enforcement of IP crimes and issues at home and abroad.
As you can imagine, there’s been lots of reaction to this and other interesting developments, (e.g. the decision, by OFCOM, to drop the Digital Economy Act provision for website-blocking which would compel ISPs to block sites that host copyright infringing content). But there’s always a certain amount of fear mongering and doom saying associated with any such announcement and, in my opinion, they don’t amount to much until the words are turned into action by their execution – which will effectively make or break original intentions. In any case, I sincerely hope this development will help to bring a new era for Copyright leadership, in the same country where it all started, with the Statute of Anne!