Month: September 2013

New heat for Google over movie, music piracy

Have Hollywood and the music moguls gone too far in asking search engines like Google to crack down on pirated content? To address the issue of online piracy of movies and television shows, officials of the mighty Motion Picture Association of America Inc. (MPAA)  recently presented results of a new study concluding that search engines play an important role in introducing Internet-surfers to pirated content. MPAA used its study to argue that search engines should share in the communal responsibility of preventing the online theft of movies and films. MPAA found that “74 percent of consumers surveyed cited using a search engine as a navigational tool the first time they arrived at a site with infringing content.” The study noted that the 58 percent of the searches that led to pirated content contained general key terms, like titles of TV shows and films. The industry group also found that 82 percent of searches that led to pirated content came from Google and suggests that the tech giant indirectly enables piracy. While Google has declined to comment, the movie moguls aren’t the only ones seeing search engines in the blame game about pirated content an how and how it should be dealt with. Officials of the powerful Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) also recently pointed fingers at net search engines, with Cary Sherman, RIAA chair and CEO, asserting that...

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Why Pandora may be whistling a happy tune

Pandora, the internet radio station, has won a small victory in its recent licensing battles, with a federal court in Manhattan granting it summary judgment in its suit against one of the giant music rights organizations, the American Society of Composers and Performers. The ruling allows Pandora to keep playing all compositions in the ASCAP repertory. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, in reaching her decision, had to interpret the anti-trust consent decree under which ASCAP has operated since 1941 and over which her court holds sway. Under her decision (posted online by the New York Times), publishers and their songwriters may not strike separate, market-driven deals with Pandora, if they  also are a member of a group like ASCAP that collects and pays them performance rights. Music publishers in recent years had started yanking their digital rights from ASCAP and the other big performance rights group, BMI — with the organizations’ assent — so they could negotiate directly with Pandora for more favorable deals, as occurred first with EMI and the largest player, Sony/ATV, which won a 25 percent higher rate in its new deal with the online streaming service. Pandora contended the performance rights groups and publishers had to stay all in — the digital rights could not be separated and ASCAP had to license to it. The result: less money for songwriters and lower rights fees and...

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‘Lively’ replay in dispute over Marley remix

Well, a federal court in Los Angeles may need to get up and stand up for a new music-related trial because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has fought for the right of Rock River Communications Inc. to get reconsidered its claims against Universal Music Group Inc. over a remix of early recordings by reggae giant Bob Marley and the Wailers. The appellate court remanded this lawsuit, reversing the lower court’s dismissal of the case on summary judgment, partly because  U.S. Judge Raymond C. Fisher found a lack of clarity as to who exactly owns the rights to songs including Lively Up Yourself, which was featured in the soundtrack of the recent film Dear John. Rock River produces, sells and distributes music. In 2006, the firm entered into a licensing agreement with San Juan Music Group Ltd., which, in exchange for a fee, granted Rock River a nonexclusive license to “sample” or “interpolate” 16 Marley-Wailers songs. San Juan is a music licensing company. Since 1980, it had licensed Marley’s music under an agreement with Lee Perry, who produced many of the Jamaican legend’s early recordings. Rock River further entered into an agreement for a remixed version of  Lively Up Yourself. But Universal, the music industry behemoth, claimed it had bought exclusive licensing rights for Marley’s tunes from JAD Records in 2003. Universal began calling and writing...

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Listing racy film titles? That leads to sanctions

The courts are catching onto and cracking down on those dubbed by netizens as copyright trolls. The latest outfit to incur judicial wrath for its online and legal actions questioned by many would be Malibu Media, an adult film producer. With the help of its lawyers at Lipscomb, Eisenberg, and Baker and other law firms, Malibu has been involved in more than 1,078 civil lawsuits against John Doe defendants in federal courts nationwide since May, 2012.  Malibu sues anonymous Internet users, accusing them of illegally downloading or sharing its adult films.  Those caught up in the legal action face the choice of potential red-faced exposure of their identities and their interest in blue movies or settling, often at set costs that can make the registers ring for plaintiffs.  But U.S. District Judge William Conley in Wisconsin recently grew suspicious of Malibu when it started attaching to its complaints lists of other movies, allegedly downloaded by defendants and which were not subject to its copyright. The lists have become infamous as “Exhibit C” — rosters of movie titles racy, profane and even more embarrassing and salicious than those of Malibu’s movies. The judge rebuked Malibu for its tactic and noted that “the lewd and obscene nature of the graphic titles and content are enough to persuade many initially anonymous defendants to reach early settlements out of fear of being ‘outed’ should the lawsuit proceed.” He also asserted that Malibu’s list was “calculated principally to harass defendants.” He ordered Malibu’s attorney, Mary Shulz, to explain why she...

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A troubling privacy claim sent back for trial

A&E and Gangland Productions, two television production comapnies, can’t find shelter under the First Amendment from a lawsuit by a police informant whose identity was disclosed in a documentary, possibly endangering his life, a federal appellate court has ruled. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Los Angeles waded into sensitive territory — the zone between privacy and free expression rights — before ordering a lower court to take the case back up of “John Doe” and what happened to him when he appeared on a televised documentary about a white supremacist gang. Doe was interviewed for the History Channel’s documentary series Gangland about Public Enemy Number 1, which started as a group of upper middle-class punk-rock fans and since has turned into a gang of white supremacist-affiliated, drug- and gun-trafficking and identity-theft criminals, authorities say. Doe was a police informant familiar with the gang.  He insists the production companies promised to protect his identity but they failed to do so. Saying his granting an interview was contingent on the firms’ shielding his identity, he notes that he came to his taping with a hat and bandana but wsas told this disguise was unncessary. Gangland’s producer says Doe signed a release, allowing for his on-air identification, though he says he is dyslexic, struggles to read and thought he was signing a receipt for payment. An episode that aired on April 21, 2010, disclosed Doe’s identity. He sued the production companies. A&E and Gangland...

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