Wednesday, December 8, 2010

America's All-Out War on Copyright Infringement

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, Lime Wire is permanently closing down by the end of the year. They are just one of the many casualties in the US’ all-out war on online copyright infringement brought about by the passage of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). COICA allows a Web site's domain to be seized if it "has no demonstrable, commercially significant purpose or use other than "offering or providing access to unauthorized copies of copyrighted works.”

The US government already launched a major battle, seizing dozens of Web site domains linked to illegal file sharing and counterfeit goods. A US district judge issued an injunction against Lime Wire holding that the company committed copyright infringement, engaged in unfair competition, and induced copyright infringement. Viacom, the parent company of MTV, sued YouTube for copyright infringement and for inducing it. Worse, Google (whose traditional position on the issue is that the job of policing the web for pirated content belonged to copyright owners) who had always favoured less restrictive copyright laws seems to have jumped sides.

Since I never used Lime Wire myself or the other file sharing sites (I’m using windows so I’m prone to virus attacks these sites are also popular for), I thought I would be mostly unaffected. I don’t download movies or shows, I watch them online via web streaming. Imagine my surprise when I went to CouchTuner and discovered that the latest episode of The Walking Dead wasn’t available. The domain hasn’t been seized yet, but it was clear – the war is getting stronger and I am affected. To add to my injury, when I went on YouTube to look for the official video of Taylor Swift’s new song “Speak Now” which I had just heard on the radio, all the uploads were blocked. I clicked on the links one by one, hoping that there was one which hadn’t been blocked but to no avail. When I tried searching for other links to the video on Google, a prompt appeared, reporting that several of the search results were blocked because of the suspicion of aiding copyright infringement. I then realized, GOOGLE BETRAYED US!!! :s

Personally, I favour less restrictive copyright laws. This is why these incidents reminded me of the case of Sony v. Universal (more popularly known as the Betamax case) which ruled that time-shifting is a substantial non-infringing use. My family and I are legitimate cable subscribers with access to both MTV and FX; I just can’t catch the shows because I am away from home most of the time. I am sure that I’m not the only one in a similar situation. If only for this reason, the streaming sites should be left alone! Otherwise, I would have to resort to the dibidi vendors on St. Francis Square to watch these shows J

Katrina Sy, 4th Blog Entry