New Zealand ISPs who defied TV company demands to switch off their VPN services have caved in following legal threats. CallPlus and Bypass Network Services faced action from media giants including Sky and TVNZ for allowing their customers to
access geo-restricted content. Their Global Mode services will be terminated by September 1.
Unlocking geo-restricted digital content is an activity carried out by millions every day, but the practice diverts revenue from local media companies in favour of the US.
In April, media companies SKY, TVNZ, Lightbox and MediaWorks told several Kiwi ISPs that if they didn't stop providing geo-unblocking services to their subscribers, legal action wouldn't be far ahead. Within days and following claims of breaches
of the Copyright Act, Unlimited Internet pulled its VPN service. However, CallPlus and Bypass Network Services stood firm and stated that they weren't going to be bullied .
Now, just two months later, both providers have caved in to the demands of the media companies. The news was revealed in the briefest of announcements posted to the NZX by Sky TV:
The legal proceedings against 'Global Mode' service providers have been settled. As a result, from 1 September 2015, the 'Global Mode' service will not be available to any person for use in New Zealand.
The news will come as a blow to users of the Global Mode service who will now have to find alternatives if they wish to continue accessing geo-locked content. While that will be extremely easy , Global Mode was a free product so it's likely
that additional costs could be on the horizon.
InternetNZ, the non-profit group that oversees the Internet in New Zealand, says it is deeply disappointed by the news. InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter said:
Global Mode was a great example of Internet-based innovation that challenged traditional content distribution models. It was by no means clear that the service was illegal, and we were keen to see the matter go before the courts to provide users
and the industry with clarity.
Withdrawing the service and settling before court seems a worse outcome for all concerned. The media companies have said that they wanted to clarify their own legal rights over content -- a settlement doesn't achieve this, and leaves us all none
The European Union is threatening the long-established principle of freedom of panorama -- meaning some major landmarks
in public spaces may have to be blocked out from videos and photographs for fear of infringing on the owner's copyright.
The principle -- which has been long-established in a number of jurisdictions across Europe and the United States -- is that works such as the London Eye, the Angel of the North, or sculptures displayed in public spaces may be photographed and
those photographs may be used for commercial use.
But the EU apparatchiks have stepped in to curtail the freedom, adding an amendment to a recent report that sought to enshrine the principle formally into EU law.
Germany's Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda submitted the original proposals to protect freedom of panorama in a report earlier this month, but the European Parliament's legal committee, while approving most of the report, implemented several amendments
-- one of these reading, The commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for
This means that photographers using images of major public spaces may have to consult with copyright owners before publishing images or video, even if the piece of work is not the primary subject of the image.
The rule mimics bizarre French and Belgian rules on taking photographs of the European Parliamentary buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg. Most Members of the European Parliament have at some point taken pictures of the buildings and are therefore
in breach of the law. Indeed in Belgium, pictures adhering to the law are blacked out, as can be seen on the Atomium's Wikipedia page .
The European Parliament is set to vote on the matter on July 9th, with the European Commission responsible for the final legislation.
Several groups representing the interests of big media companies have won a judicial review challenging the UK Government's decision to allow copying
for personal use. According to the High Court, there's insufficient evidence to prove that the legislation doesn't hurt musicians and the industry.
last year the UK Government legalized copying for private use , a practice which many citizens already believed to be legal.
The change was in the best interest of consumers, the Government reasoned, but several music industry organizations challenged the decision as they felt it harmed their own interests.
In November the Musicians' Union (MU), the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and UK Music applied for a judicial review of the new legislation. They disagreed with the Government's conclusion that the change would cause
no financial harm to the music industry.
Instead of keeping copies free, they suggested that a tax should be applied to blank media including blank CDs, hard drives, memory sticks and other blank media. This money would then be shared among rightsholders, a mechanism already operating in
other European countries.
The High Court largely agreed with the music industry groups. The Government's conclusion that copyright holders will not suffer any significant harm was based on inadequate evidence, Mr Justice Green claimed. The judge wrote:
In conclusion, the decision to introduce section 28B [private copying] in the absence of a compensation mechanism is unlawful.
The UK music groups are happy with the outcome and are eager to discuss possible changes with lawmakers.
The High Court scheduled a new hearing next month to decide what action should be taken in response to the judgment, including whether the private copying exceptions should be scrapped from law.
PopcornTime is a recent phenomena in the field of illicit movie sharing and is now set to move into the business of porn via
the PornTime service.
PornTime is implemented via an upcoming app that is open source. But the creators seem to have suggested that there is still work to do. The creators write:
We would love to receive your help if you're into codes and stuff! Assist us with adding more great content from more great sources and improve Porn Time and make it the best source for porn available on the internet!
The High Court internet censors have granted an application by The Publishers Association to have several major pirate eBook sites blocked at
the ISP level. The action, a first for book publishers, requires BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and EE to block sites including Ebookee, LibGen and Freshwap within 10 days.
The High Court handed down its ruling in favor of the publishers. The outcome was never really in question -- UK ISPs have long since given up defending these cases.
A few days The Football Association and Premier League Limited achieved an extension of the UK blocklist with the addition of popular sports streaming sites Rojadirecta, LiveTV and Drakulastream.
This brings the total number of blocked sites to 128 and more domains are expected to follow in the months to come.
Depending on the outcome of a pending case there that calls the viability of open wireless networks into question. EFF and its partners
have formulated an open letter presenting our views on why a result that threatens open wireless would be a serious loss to innovators, small businesses, travelers, emergency services and users at large.
One of the legal protections that currently supports open wireless is the principle that Internet intermediaries, such as ISPs and wireless hotspot operators, are not responsible for content that passes over their networks. In Europe, this
principle derives from Article 12 of the E-Commerce Directive , which immunizes a so-called mere conduit from liability for communications over their networks, only on condition that they did not initiate the communication, select its
recipient, or modify it in transit. This provision, however, does not shield such providers from various type of enforcement measures in aid of rights holders, such as website blocking. The permissibility of these measures then depends on a
simple rule: are they good for the society at large?
The application of this legal framework to open wireless networks has come under challenge in the McFadden reference (C-484/14) concerning a German shopkeeper whose free open wireless network was allegedly used to infringe copyright. In the
preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Europe's highest court is asked whether an enforcement practice requiring open wireless networks to be locked is an acceptable one. Germany's Federal Supreme Court in 2010
held that the private operator of a wireless network is obliged to use password protection in order to prevent abuse by third parties. If the CJEU affirms this finding, the effect could be to extend this bad precedent throughout Europe,
grounding the open wireless movement across the continent. If on the other hand it rejects that finding, German law could be forced to return to sanity, allowing thousands of hotspot operators to open up their networks again.
The main question point in the case turns on whether locking of open wireless networks would be a proportionate enforcement mechanism that advances the public interest. The open letter, co-written with Martin Husovec , Affiliate Scholar at
Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society (CIS), points out that prohibiting open wireless networks creates a serious obstacle to legitimate trade, that cannot be justified by the limited potential benefits of locked-down networks
to rightsholders. The letter highlights exact instances of social benefits that will be lost if locking of open wireless networks becomes a standard. Holding wireless network operators anyhow accountable for content that passes over their
networks thus should be against European law.
The open letter that we publish today has been supported by a coalition of other organizations from both sides of the Atlantic who support the ideals of the open wireless movement, and concur with our conclusion that an adverse decision in the
McFadden case that requires Europe to lock down its open wireless networks would be a blow to human rights, economic progress and innovation across the continent. We will be updating this post as additional signatories join the call.
Hollywood is encouraging whinges about internet porn. Not because of porn concerns per se, but because it is useful to normalise the concept of website blocking, which they want to employ as an anti-piracy measure
Due to complicated licensing agreements Netflix is only available in a few dozen countries, all of which have a different content library. The same is true for
many other media services such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, and even YouTube.
These geo-blocking practices have been a thorn in the side of the European Commission, who now plan to abolish these restrictions altogether.
The EU's governing body has just adopted the new Digital Single Market Strategy. One of the main pillars of the new strategy is to provide consumers and businesses with better access to digital goods and services.
Among other things the Commission plans to end unjustified geo-blocking, which it describes as a discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons. Europe, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said:
I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market -- wherever they are in.
Of course that's not to say that the EU won't dream up their own red tape nightmares instead. It has a pitiful track record with its VAT Mess rules killing off small traders on the internet, and so driving even more sales to massive companies who can
cope with the administrative burdens, such as the US companies, Amazon and eBay.
Rights-holders to Saturday's Mayweather v Pacquiao boxing match have been manoeuvering to oppose low quality recordings of the bout
shared via the new video streaming app, Periscope. Streamed footage is often poor quality, but sufficient to follow what is going on.
But for the moment, TV networks HBO and Showtime were unable to prevent the action being streamed live. The firms had charged the public a record $89.95 to watch the fight in standard definition and an additional $10 in high definition. The fight was
screened by Sky Box Office for the cheaper price of £19.95 in the UK.
Unlike other live streaming services, such as YouTube and UStream, Periscope does not provide tools to let content owners force the removal of copyright-infringing content in near-real time. Instead, it requires that they file individual takedown
requests, which take longer to process.
HBO has previously expressed its displeasure following reports of Periscope being used to rebroadcast the opening episode of the latest series of Game of Thrones:
In general, we feel developers should have tools which proactively prevent mass copyright infringement from occurring on their apps and not be solely reliant upon notifications.
Periscope is owned by Twitter, from whom a spokesman commented:
Broadcasting content that is protected by copyright is a clear violation of our content policy. We received 66 reports from rights-holders and took action against 30 broadcasts in response to the reports. The remaining broadcasts had already ended and
were no longer available. We were able to respond within minutes.
A German federal court has issued a default judgment against a law firm that sent out 20,000 copyright infringement letters to RedTube users who were
notified that they had been viewing streamed porn illegally. This was a false claim as it is not illegal to view streamed video with requiring the copyright holder's permission. (Although making a copy may cause issues).
In 2013, the now-defunct German law firm of Urmann and Colleagues had been able to convince a Cologne federal court that it needed the names and addresses of users associated with IP addresses to commence infringement proceedings against them. The
company then sent out the 20,000 letters to victims asking them to settle and pay up per alleged infringement.
Urmann and Colleagues ordered users in Germany to pay up to 1,400 euros to settle copyright claims over adult videos watched on the RedTube website. A year later, in January 2014, Germany's Ministry of Justice gave judicial notice that the mere viewing
of a copyrighted video stream without permission is not in itself an act of copyright infringement.
A civil case asking for damages ensued, but Urmann failed to show up in court and the court ordered a default judgment. The next step is for another hearing, as yet unscheduled, to determine the levels of damages.
Following copyright threats from large media companies a New Zealand ISP has taken down its VPN service. Lightbox, MediaWorks, SKY, and TVNZ had threatened legal action against services that bypass geo-restrictions on sites such as Netflix and Hulu.
Other ISPs offering similar products are currently standing firm.
For a relatively small fee, users of the most popular VPN services can tunnel out of their country of origin and reappear in any one of dozens of countries around the world. This opens up a whole new world of media consumption opportunities.
Citizens of the United States, for example, can access BBC iPlayer just like any other Brit might, while those in the UK looking to sample the widest possible Netflix offering can easily tunnel right back into the U.S.
This cross-border content consumption is not popular with entertainment companies and distributors. It not only undermines their ability to set high prices on a per-region basis, but also drives a truck through hard-negotiated licensing agreements.
Lightbox, MediaWorks, SKY, and TVNZ said in a joint statement:
We pay considerable amounts of money for content rights, particularly exclusive content rights. These rights are being knowingly and illegally impinged, which is a significant issue that may ultimately need to be resolved in court in order to provide
future clarity for all parties involved,
Unlimited Internet became the first ISP to respond to media company pressure by pulling its geo-unblocking service known as TV VPN after receiving a warning letter from a lawfirm. The letter, which has been sent out to several local ISPs,
threatens Unlimited Internet that its VPN service infringes the Copyright Act of 1994.
Currently there are no signs that other ISPs intend to follow suit.
US rights to express opinions online, for instance, to criticize copyright trolls and their demands for money in hopes of scaring them away, are protected by
the First Amendment. The Georgia Supreme Court correctly underscored these protections in a ruling late last week about the state's anti-stalking law. The panel overturned a trial judge's astonishing order directing a website owner to remove all
statements about a poet and motivational speaker who had a sideline business of demanding thousands of dollars from anyone who posted her prose online, a practice that had sparked plenty of criticism on the web.
The case, Chan v. Ellis, was initiated by Linda Ellis, an author of the motivational poem The Dash, which is freely available on her website. When others repost the poem, Ellis routinely sent copyright infringement notices, offering to settle the
legal dispute for $7,500. This earned Ellis notoriety on Matthew Chan's ExtortionLetterInfo.com (ELI) a website dedicated to providing information for recipients of settlement demand letters like Ellis' and featuring a message board used to expose
alleged copyright trolls and extortion letter schemes. The site included nearly 2,000 posts about Ellis and her settlement demands, from Chan and others.
In February 2013, Ellis filed a petition for a stalking ex parte temporary protective order, claiming that some of the posts amounted to stalking and cyber-bullying. (The message boards have been taken down, so we can't read what the messages
actually said.) A Georgia state court held that the online posts constituted contact with the writer tantamount to stalking and ordered removal of all posts about Ellis, not just threatening ones, n an overreaching ruling impeding freedom of
expression and ignoring the legal protections afforded to intermediary publishers of web content,
The case was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, where, because of the important free speech concerns, the UCLA First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic and Loyola Law School Prof. Aaron Caplan weighed in on the case on EFF's behalf. We emphasized the free
speech issues raised if contact under the state's anti-stalking law was interpreted to include online statements about an individual. The Georgia Supreme Court, in an opinion that mirrored our arguments, ruled that posting criticisms of the poet
wasn't the type of contact the anti-stalking law prohibits because the comments were for public consumption and not sent directly to her. T he court said:
That a communication is about a particular person does not mean necessarily that it was directed to a person The publication of commentary directed only to the public generally does not amount to 'contact' under Georgia's anti-stalking law.
While Ellis may not have liked what people said about her, that's not enough to stifle publication of opinions expressed to the general public. As the court ruled, Ellis failed to prove that Chan 'contacted' her without her consent and the trial court
erred when it concluded that Chan had stalked Ellis.
EFF has called for a federal statute that would nip this type of claim against commentary on websites and blogs in the bud. A federal anti-SLAPP law would provide bloggers and website owners with a defense against expensive legal threats targeting
legitimate online content, enabling them to file a request in court to get the cases dismissed quickly. At least 28 states already have such laws against strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs. A similar law at the federal level would
protect bloggers, website owners, and other creators across the nation, and discourage plaintiffs like Ellis from dragging their targets into court.
The Internet has turned into an unrivaled forum for discussion and debate, and people around the world use the Web to share information about people and businesses they don't think are dealing fairly with others. We are pleased the Georgia court
recognized this and protected free speech online instead of dangerously expanding the scope of the state's anti-stalking law.
A draft of new legislation aimed at stopping Aussie consumers accessing pirate sites
has been published. The amendments, which contain criteria that could see hundreds of sites blocked by ISPs, is believed to have been reworded to ensure that VPN services don't become caught in the dragnet.
Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull instiugated the process resulting in the legislation.
The site-blocking elements of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 are likely to please rightsholders with their significant reach.
In order to apply for an injunction against an ISP, rightsholders need to show that the provider in question provides access to an online location outside Australia and that the location infringes or facilitates infringement of copyright.
The location's primary purpose must be to infringe copyright, whether or not in Australia .
Once an injunction is handed down against an ISP it will be required to take reasonable steps to disable access to the infringing site. What amounts to reasonable will almost certainly be the subject of further discussion as any over-broad moves
could result in collateral damage and bad PR.
There will now be a six week consultation period for additional submissions and tweaks.