March 28, 2014

RIAA Demands Personal Details of Pirating YouTube Users

RIAA Demands Personal Details of Pirating YouTube Users
By Ernesto
on March 27, 2014
C: 68

Breaking

After focusing on P2P file-sharers in the past, the RIAA is now going after pirating YouTube users. This month the music group obtained a subpoena at a federal court in California and has asked YouTube to hand over the IP-address, email and all other identifying information related to user(s) who uploaded two leaked Chris Brown videos.

youtubesadsmallTo many, uploading a music video of their favorite artist seems to be a relatively harmless act, but the major record labels clearly disagree.

Up until now “pirating” YouTube users would only get a slap on the wrist by Google, and have their YouTube accounts terminated at worst. However, it appears that the RIAA has had enough and is now going after the uploaders of two leaked Chris Brown tracks.

The RIAA’s quest started earlier this month when Vice President Anti-Piracy Mark McDevitt contacted YouTube personally to demand the takedown of the leaked tracks “New Flame” and “Die it For You.”

“We are asking you for your immediate assistance in stopping this unauthorized activity,” McDevitt wrote in a letter to the video hosting service.

“Specifically, we request that you ensure the removal of the infringing files from your system, or that you disable access to the infringing files, and that you inform the site operator of the illegality of his or her conduct,” he added.

YouTube was quick to comply, as both videos are unavailable at the time of writing. However, the RIAA didn’t stop there. Instead, the music group went to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to obtain a subpoena for the personal details of the uploader, or uploaders.

In their request the RIAA explains that it requires a subpoena to identify those responsible for the uploads. Among other things, they are looking for the IP-addresses and emails associated with the accounts in question.

“The purpose for which this subpoena is sought is to obtain the identity or identities of the individual or individuals assigned to this URL,” RIAA writes. “This information will only be used for the purposes of protecting the rights granted to our members, the sound recording copyright owners, under [the DMCA].”

The RIAA’s request for a subpoena was granted by a court clerk on the same day. This means that YouTube now has until April 15 to hand over the requested information, unless it decides to appeal.

RIAA subpoena to YouTube

subpoena-riaa-youtube

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that the RIAA has gone after YouTube users. Whether this is an isolated incident has yet to be seen, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the record labels want to set an example.

The RIAA has been an active proponent of criminalizing those who “stream” copyrighted videos in the past. While that failed through the PIPA bill, this may be an opportunity for them to test the water under current copyright laws.

In any case, YouTube users should be aware that the RIAA and others can obtain their personal details on a whim.

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March 29, 2012

Graduated Response Deal Steamrollers On Towards July 1 Launch

March 21, 2012 | By Parker Higgins

Last week, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman confirmed that the country's largest ISPs will voluntarily roll out by July 1 a "graduated response" program aimed at discouraging unauthorized downloading. A Memorandum of Understanding published last summer outlines the program, which was developed without user feedback . Under the new system, a rightsholder accusing an ISP subscriber of infringment will trigger a series of ever-increasing consequences . The responses are graduated in the sense that they escalate after each accusation, beginning with steps aimed at educating users about copyright and culminating in the Orwellian-sounding "mitigation measures" — bandwidth throttling or account suspension.

As we said last year, this deal is tilted against subscribers . That's not surprising, given that no one solicited subscriber input in advance. In fact, some online commenters have expressed concern that the agreement runs afoul of antitrust law .

One key problem is the arrangement shifts the burden of proof: rather than accusers proving infringement before the graduated response process starts against a subscriber, the subscriber must disprove the accusation in order to call a halt to it. Worse, accused subscribers have to defend themselves on an uneven playing field. For example, they have only ten days to prepare a defense, and with only six pre-set options available. Of course, there's no assurance that those who review the cases are neutral, and the plan sorely lacks consequences for an accuser who makes mistaken or fraudulent claims.

There are still more problems. The plan calls for "education" after the first accusations, but based on the information now available on the website launched last year by the Center for Copyright Information (the entity charged with administering the system), it's likely to be both deceptive and scare-mongering. And the whole system lacks in transparency: while it includes some minimal reporting requirements, those reports need not be made public. 

The final rub: subscribers will doubtless be paying for their own "re-education," as ISPs pass on their portions of the administration costs in the form of higher fees.

What can users do at this point? In some cases, they can vote with their feet. This agreement is voluntary for now, and while the participating ISPs include many major companies — AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable — there are other options. Users lucky enough to have a choice of providers for their Internet service should consider switching to a service that opted not to "cooperate." For example, companies like Sonic and Cox Communications have a history of fighting for their users where they can, and are notably absent from this arrangement.

Otherwise, users have little choice for now but to watch their ISP roll out this new system against their interests, and maybe familiarize themselves with the six pre-approved responses available to them after an accusation. EFF will continue to follow developments in this agreement closely, and will be offering users a way to speak out against it soon. Stay tuned to updates about these actions on our EFFector mailing list , or by following EFF on Identi.ca or Twitter .

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February 28, 2012

What Does It Mean to be “Pro-Technology and Pro-Internet?”

February 24, 2012 | By Mitch Stoltz

Ahead of the Academy Awards this weekend, Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, would like to assure you that "Hollywood is pro-technology and pro-Internet." But what does that mean? The comments filed at the Copyright Office this month by MPAA and RIAA, together with the Business Software Alliance, the Entertainment Software Association, and other copyright owners' groups, paint a clear picture of these groups' vision for the future of the Internet and digital technologies.

EFF is asking the Copyright Office for legal exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow jailbreaking (or "rooting") of smartphones, tablets, and game consoles, so that people can run their software of choice on the devices they own. EFF is also asking for exemptions that will allow noncommercial video remixers to use video clips from DVDs and online video services. Other organizations are asking for exemptions for various forms of digital video, accessibility for the disabled, and other important projects. Under the DMCA, exemptions expire every three years, and have to be justified all over again. Many of you sent comments and signed petitions in support of EFF's exemption requests, and the Copyright Office received almost 700 comments.

MPAA and friends don't approve of a single one of the exemption requests. "The risk associated with encouraging people to circumvent and test the limits of fair use is too high," they say, and the makers of computing devices should be able to stop "unintended uses" of their products. In fact, say the entertainment lobbies, giving you the ability to modify your own devices for your own use will "wreak havoc" on "markets for consumer access to works."

Let's unpack this. Almost everything we do on the Internet or with digital media makes a copy—even viewing a webpage. In many cases, the fair use rule of copyright law is what keeps these everyday activities from being copyright violations. But proving definitively that a use is fair often requires a courageous artist or entrepreneur to go to court and risk massive penalties for the chance of having a judge say that what they're doing is legal. According to the entertainment lobbies, the U.S. government should not encourage people to do this.

Ironically, most of the devices that let us create and experience movies, music, software, and so on "test the limits of fair use"—and many have wound up in court. If this were discouraged, we may never have had the VCR, the MP3 player, the digital video recorder, image-searching websites, or social networks—at least not without asking the entertainment industries' permission first. 

And speaking of permission, MPAA regrets that "the Copyright Office missed an opportunity to endorse" the custom of "asking permission" before innovating.

So what should the Copyright Office be doing? MPAA et al. humbly suggest that the Office should be protecting the "ongoing viability of business models" that create "predictability with respect to how works will be accessed and how copyrighted software and technologies used to facilitate such access will be used and manipulated." You won't find that in any law, although it sounds a lot like the goals of the now-defunct SOPA and PIPA bills. Again, let's look behind the euphemisms: the entertainment lobbies want the U.S. government to protect their members' bottom lines by regulating how digital technologies can be used. Only uses that receive Hollywood's permission, and are "predictable," should pass muster.

Apparently this is what Mr. Dodd means when he says "Hollywood is pro-technology and pro-Internet": technology that blocks "unintended uses" and an Internet subject to Hollywood's veto power. SOPA and PIPA may be dead, but the agenda behind them seems alive and well.

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May 23, 2011

Mass Copyright Litigation Roundup: Positive Trend for Due Process?

Judicial decisions are starting to come fast and furious in the movie copyright troll cases – and the trend is mixed but promising for those of us who care about protecting due process.

The good news is that judges continue to recognize the fundamental flaws in these cases. In the Northern District of Illinois, for example, Judge Blanche Manning recently severed Millennium v. Does 1-800, effectively dismissing the case against almost every Doe defendant. The court also suggested that the suit had been brought in the wrong place:

The plaintiff is a Hawaii corporation with its principal place of business in California. As far as the plaintiff knows, none of the defendants are located in Illinois and it merely alleged, without any basis the court can discern, that “on information and belief each Defendant may be found in this district and/or a substantial part of the acts of infringement complained of herein occurred in this District.” Amended Comp. at ¶7. Indeed, apparently none of the Doe defendants who have filed motions to quash are located in Illinois and it appears that easily accessible tools exist to verify the locations of the IP addresses of the other named Doe defendants, see, e.g.,http://whois.arin.net/ui/, many (if not all) of which are not located in Illinois.

Judge Manning has also ordered severance in Lightspeed v. Does 1-1000, on similar grounds.

Another Illinois federal judge has expressed not just skepticism but outrage at the tactics of one copyright troll. Calling the case of CP Productions v. 1-300 both “ill-fated’ and “ill-considered” he not only dismissed the case but read the riot act to the plaintiff’s attorney in open court, demanding to know why, if the case was properly filed in Illinois, he was getting motions to quash from defendants all over the country.

And, as we reported last week the judge in one mass copyright “reverse class action” in the Southern District of Illinois has stayed discovery while it considered whether the plaintiff should be allowed to subpoena the Does’ identities given the fundamental flaws in its case. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Monday.

These views are not yet universal, however. In late March, Judge Beryl Howell issued an unfortunate decision on motions to quash discovery in three cases filed in the District of Columbia (the plaintiffs are all represented by the US Copyright Group). EFF participated as amicus in one of the cases, Call of the Wild Movie v. Does 1,062. The judge denied the motions, concluding, in essence, that it was too early in the litigation to address deep the procedural flaws in the plaintiffs’ cases. We are particularly disappointed that Judge Howell (1) accepted the idea that using BitTorrent to download the same movie was enough to establish a logical relationship between defendants; and (2) suggested that the Doe defendants are not harmed until they are actually named in a lawsuit, not withstanding the efforts of plaintiffs to extract settlements based, in part, on the coercive effect of being sued far from home with the threat of statutory damages of up to $150,000.

Since then, however, Judge Howell has indicated that she is keeping a close eye on USCG. For example, in one of the cases, Maverick v. Does 1-4350, Judge Howell has ordered the plaintiff to dismiss hundreds of Does where the plaintiff either does not intend to name and sue the Does in D.C. and/or the information for those Does is no longer available. The court noted that “since plaintiff filed its Complaint, it has not named a single defendant in this action” and that while plaintiff had stated it would dismiss numerous Does, it had not bothered to submit a proposed order to that effect, leaving those Does in limbo.

We'll continue to monitor these cases, and to get involved directly where we can.

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Related Issues: Copyright Trolls

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Lawsuit Against YouTube Threatens Global Growth of Political Speech

April 7th, 2011

Legal Attack on Online Video Site Could Throttle Innovation with Fears of Litigation

San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of advocacy groups have asked a federal appeals court to reject attempts to thwart federal copyright law and saddle online communities with new litigation fears in the appeal of Viacom v. YouTube.

In an amicus brief filed Thursday, EFF argues that the infringement claims made by Viacom and the other plaintiffs threaten to undermine the "safe harbor" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) — safe harbors that have fostered free speech and innovation around the globe. Without the clear legal structure of the DMCA process, companies that host user-generated expression could be hit with potentially massive damage awards, which would encourage over-blocking of content or even the shutdown of services altogether.

"If the DMCA safe harbors are undermined in the way Viacom and the other content companies would like, the free flow of information will be seriously threatened," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Abigail Phillips. "Communications platforms like YouTube have enabled political and other speech to flourish online. We've all seen the critical role digital communications have been playing in protests across the Middle East. The safe harbors make posting of user-generated content like this possible."

At issue in this case is copyright infringement on YouTube before the online video service voluntarily implemented content filtering technologies in May of 2008. The district court correctly found that YouTube was shielded by the DMCA safe harbors, and Viacom and others appealed the ruling to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"All the online services you use every day — Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay — depend on the DMCA safe harbors in order to allow user-generated content on their sites," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "That's why Congress designed the safe harbors — to allow innovators to manage legal risk and develop new services without fear of devastating litigation, while offering copyright owners an expedited process for taking down infringing content. Viacom's arguments here misinterpret the law, with potentially disastrous results."

Also joining EFF's brief are the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/viacom_v_youtube/ViacomvGoogleAmicus….

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/cases/viacom-v-youtube

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Abigail Phillips
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
abigail@eff.org

Related Issues: DMCAIntellectual Property

Related Cases: Viacom v. YouTube

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