Monday, September 21, 2009

Three Strikes and the Internet is Out

A Jurist posting last week reports that the French National Assembly (the lower house) approved a new version of a controversial three strikes Internet piracy law on downloading copyrighted material. The law would grant discretion to a judge to suspend a user's Internet services for up to one year. The determination to suspend access would be made on an infringer's third violation, after previously receiving two warnings. In addition to internet disconnection, the law imposes fines of hundreds of thousands of euros and even jail for repeat offenders. Consumers could be sanctioned for negligence for any illegal downloading unauthorized users conduct through their Internet accounts.

France is not alone in seeking to disconnect file-sharers. Last month, an agency of the UK government, introduced proposals “for adding suspension of accounts into the list of measures that could be imposed” for those who persistently share copyrighted material online. IMPALA, the Independent Music Companies Association, in a Memorandum to its members counts Ireland, Norway, Spain, New Zealand, Japan and possibly the US as countries where internet service providers have or will cooperate in a three-strike disconnection system to combat online piracy.

On the international level, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and 37 other countries are negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a new worldwide trade agreement that aims to reduce counterfeiting and copyright infringement. Despite Freedom of Information Act requests and a lawsuit from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, details about ACTA remain scant. The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), along with others, has expressed concern about the “Internet provisions” of ACTA. In a July 14, 2009 letter, AALL wrote “Based on negotiating documents that have become public – but not made available by the U.S. government – we have good reason to believe that the ACTA negotiations could harm a significant portion of the economy as well as consumer interests.” An earlier September 18, 2008 memo from AALL expressed concerns that ACTA provisions may have significant implications for U.S. law including the “best practices” idea of encouraging government-led discussions on a “graduated response” three strikes approach to termination of repeat infringers.

There have been five rounds of negotiation on ACTA, most recently in France in December. A press statement from the fifth round in Morocco announced “that the next round will be hosted by the Republic of Korea in November 2009. With regard to the progress of negotiations, participants confirmed their intention to conclude the agreement as soon as possible in 2010.”

On the subject of copyright infringement, the Law Librarian Blog links to RiP! A Remix Manifesto, Brett Gaylor's 90 minute documentary that explores "issues of copyright in the information age, mashing up the media landscape of the 20th century and shattering the wall between users and producers." The video is worth watching for those interested in the legal grey area of remixing existing works and the concept of copyleft as opposed to copyright. It will also appeal to those who like to listen to some outrageous music.

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