In a voluntary self-policing effort most likely intended to help safeguard their Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) Section 230 immunity from suit, several Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) have created a “Copyright Alert System” (“CAS”) to allow content owners the opportunity to report piracy, through which “strikes” can be issued to Internet service users as a warning for piracy. This YouTube user who I can’t identify as an authority, has a few generally accurate, and fairly informative videos about the CAS regime. It’s not clear whether this user is a representative of the ISPs or not. Comcast also has a pretty good set of faqs on the CAS.
Essentially, the CAS allows content owners to identify infringing IP addresses after verifying that infringement is taking place by P2P (“peer to peer”) file sharing. The ISP then sends a warning to the Internet service user who had that IP address at the relevant time. After multiple warnings the Internet service user may be required to view a video about piracy, and after several warnings that user’s service may be “throttled,” or slowed down to make piracy more difficult or time-consuming. The CAS includes an arbitration process for challenging warnings (Russell’s teapot: How do you prove you weren’t pirating?), but no circumstance under which an Internet service user’s account is to be terminated.
Earlier this week, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of record label Capitol Records LLC in its dispute against Redigi Inc., a facilitator of online music resale. The Court held that Redigi violated the Copyright Act when it facilitated the sale of used digital music files, even though Redigi’s program ensured that seller’s copies are deleted upon sale.
Before you read any further, go read and take note of this petition. You may want to sign it (I did), but context will help in reading this blog post. In case you’ve been studying really, really hard for the Bar Exam, or were suffering from a surprise case of “dead” over the last week, you inevitably heard that the process of “unlocking” cell phones, previously legal, is now illegal because of government fiat. For those who may not have understood or thought to ask, “unlocking” is not the same as “jailbreaking.” In a nutshell, jailbreaking involves making it possible for a device to run code either from sources the manufacturer did not intend the device to be able to use or to run code the manufacturer did not intend it to be able to run (though most people talk about Apple IOS devices, Sony, for example, will note that other devices can also be “jailbroken”). Unlocking, however, involves making it possible for a device intended for use on one wireless network to be used on a different network – wireless devices sold by a particular wireless company are generally, but not always, sold programmed so that they can only use that company’s network.
Regular readers of Internetbizlaw and the Centre Knowledge blog know that I am pro technology consumer, and very cynical about the “graying” of property rights. I am not going to spend a lot of time in this post discussing the “right and wrong” of legalizing unlocking, or not, but everyone should understand a few facts:
There was a time, long ago, when we bought something and it was ours. We could use it, give it away, light it on fire… whatever, but it was ours. Recently it came to be that something that was ours was also sort of somebody else’s (the recent Supreme Court Kelo case) – or something that was somebody else’s was kind of ours (the more venerable Supreme Court Sony Betamax case) (confused yet?). Today, things that are ours, aren’t really ours at all.
We’ve reported before on how technology oftentimes outpaces the law. But for the millions of people currently playing Diablo III™, Activision’s and Blizzard’s newest release, the opposite has occurred. Here we have older income tax laws catching up to technology in new, unexpected ways. In short, there is a serious likelihood that millions of online gamers are about to incur some federal income tax liability, and the vast majority of them seem not to know it yet. Whether you are a gamer yourself or whether you think gamers need a dose of reality, this post has something for you.
By now, most have us have heard about the massive MegaUpload raid in New Zealand brought on by a team of US and international law enforcement that resulted in the arrest of its founder (Kim Dotcom) and high-level employees (but not rapper/”CEO” Swizz Beatz), the shuttering of its website, and the forfeiture of assets belonging to the arrestees including luxury cars and mega televisions. The arrest of Mr. Dotcom was finally able to occur after New Zealand police cut him out of a safe room in his mansion.
Because MegaUpload.com was one of the most trafficked websites in the world, the shock waves have been reverberating around the Internet over the last few days.
As I visited The Boston Globe’s website to read about the stumbling Red Sox (I will not say which baseball team I root for right now), I came across a far more interesting story that highlights a growing problem US companies are facing.
Now that we are a more intellectual property (IP) based economy (we manufacture less, but develop more technology and software), we will rely more and more on the strength of IP laws around the world. Unfortunately, China has fallen short in that department (more so with enforcement than laws on the books) and the case of American Superconductor Corp. illustrates this issue perfectly.
The intersection of the Internet and business.
The importance of understanding, or at the very least, being aware of the ramifications of the Internet in your business can not be overstated. Like moths to a flame, everyone in the world utilizes the Internet to find out about you and your company. It is not only important that you have a solid understanding about how to market your business online, but it is even more important that you do not let competitors or others negatively define your business on the Internet.
In the coming days, months, and years we will post about the latest developments in Internet law and how it affects businesses from intellectual property (trademarks, copyrights, etc.) to defamation. We will also provide practical information for business owners about utilizing the Internet and what to do when an Internet maelstrom hits your business. It is important to note that none of this is attorney advice or advice that is necessarily applicable to your company or situation. If you have specific questions, I encourage you to contact me directly.