Local books go online 28/04/2011

New Zealand authors and publishers have been given a leg-up in the emerging e-book market through a new $100,000 venture to format selected New Zealand works for e-book readers.

 

The digital publishing scheme was set up by the New Zealand collecting society Copyright Licensing (CLL), with matched funding from the government arts agency Creative New Zealand.

 

Publishers submitted over 500 titles for consideration – approximately 60 per cent non-fiction, 30 per cent fiction, and a small percentage of poetry. 236 titles have now been selected for formatting on the basis of cultural merit, literary merit or their ability to engage readers. Those publishers with a head-start in digital, who have already formatted New Zealand works for e-readers, can still benefit from the scheme by submitting their works to the website Great New Zealand Books, which will become a portal for local content.

 

With American companies leading the transition to e-book publishing, New Zealand is not the only small country looking at how to ensure a place for local content in an increasingly globalised, online market. Australia’s Book Industry Strategy Group (BISG) – a $50 million Government initiative designed to guide the Australian book industry’s transition to digital – is due to report to the Minister for Innovation, Kim Carr, in September 2011. The New Zealand scheme will no doubt be one of the measures the BISG committee has investigated during its deliberations.

Back to top | Permalink

YouTube copyright school says “make your own content” 28/04/2011

In last month’s feature we looked at the ways in which Google has, over time, introduced new features and policies to help combat copyright infringement associated with its services. The recently unveiled Copyright School for YouTube readers is the company’s newest endeavour.

 

Writing on the Official YouTube Blog, Justin Green says, “Education is critical to ensure that our users understand the rules and continue to play by them”. [1] Consequently, when a user is identified as having uploaded unauthorised content, the user will now be required to watch YouTube’s Copyright School video and then answer a series of questions correctly before they can upload further content.

 

Whether or not this new video will be an effective educational tool is still unknown. Copyright basics are presented to the user through a comedic cartoon that features Russell, a pirate-costumed rabbit. Some might argue that the approach mocks the notion of copyright; others might argue that it strips some of the complexity from a difficult area of law, and presents it in a simple and entertaining way.

 

In roughly 4.5 minutes, the video addresses key points about copyright law, including what’s protected, the different ways copyright can be infringed, the consequences of infringing, as well as US fair use. The video also suggests that the easiest way to avoid infringement is to make your own content, adding that original content is “what makes YouTube interesting”.

 

Watch the video at: http://www.youtube.com/t/copyright_resources

 

[1] Justin Green. “YouTube Copyright Education (remixed).” The Official YouTube Blog, 11 April, 2011.

http://youtube-global.blogspot.com/2011/04/youtube-copyright-education-remixed.html

Back to top | Permalink

Making content pay online 28/04/2011

By Jerome John and Mary Anne Reid

Australian Copyright Council

 

As creative industries around the globe wrestle with illegal file-sharing, and experiment with ways to make online content pay, some interesting new business models are emerging in the music and film industries. This month’s feature looks at the shape of things to come for online content.

 

It is a given that content has value for the consumer, but does that value depend on the consumer being able to own the content? Not to the extent that it once did, may well be the correct answer. New subscription services offering the consumer access but not ownership are springing up in both the music and film industries, although the models are largely exploratory at this stage.

 

One catalyst for the shift is that content owners are looking for ways to migrate consumers away from online infringement, where there is no payment for content, to legitimate services that are seen as valuable in some way by the customer. When competing with ‘free’, it is crucial to provide a point of difference, some kind of value-add, to get consumers on board. As ownership has been devalued by online piracy, the subscription model replaces payment for individual pieces of content (e.g. iTunes download) with immediate access to a vast content library that can be consumed on multiple platforms and devices. Several ducks have lined up in a row in recent years, to make this kind of service possible.

 

Convergence: this is something of a catch-all term referring to the convergence of the major communications platforms (broadcasting, telecommunications and online) so that their functions overlap, as well as the consolidation of multiple functions into a single device (e.g. a smartphone or tablet that operates as a phone/camera/music player/e-reader).

 

Speaking at the Australian Broadcasting Summit in March this year, Foxtel CEO Kym Williams described the value-add that people are seeking in the new converged environment: “People will want interoperability across the three screens…television, personal computers and tablets and, of course, mobile phones… They will want to be able to access what they want to watch in simple and intuitive ways. And they will want to watch what they want to anywhere and at any time with a seamless degree of integration between all of their devices.” [1]

 

The Cloud: In terms of online content, ‘the cloud’ means that instead of being stored locally (on a hard drive, a set-top box or a mobile device), content is stored on remote servers that can be accessed by a variety of consumer devices. The faster the internet access, the more functional and seamless the cloud becomes.

 

The next step is harnessing these different developments into a model that suits the particular content on offer. The music industry is the most advanced in this regard.

 

To have and to hold, or access only?

 

According to the Digital Music Report 2011, produced by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), there are over 400 legal digital music outlets globally [2].

 

Subscription music models, which are the newer of these models, tend to take one of two basic approaches: subscribers are offered something akin to a radio station, with curated music playlists; or they pay a monthly fee that enables them to search for and stream any music from the company's music library to a variety of devices – very much like having access to a whole music store with the ability to play anything in the shop.

 

EU-based Spotify, for example, has the motto “all the music, all the time” and offers access to its 13 million-plus library of songs. Spotify operates on desktop computers, set-top boxes and mobile devices and is now being integrated into hi-fi components and televisions. Subscribers can create playlists, which then can be shared with others. It also offers an “offline mode”, which syncs music to devices so that they can be listened to without an internet connection, but this is limited to 3 devices at one time and to 3333 songs [3].

 

Spotify has several price points for the customer. The “open plan” is a free, ad-supported service that streams to computers only (i.e. no streaming to mobile devices) and has no offline mode. The free plan also limits music streaming to 20 initial hours followed by five hours each week. The smallest payment plan (4.99 euros) removes the ads and removes time limits, and the premium subscription (9.99 euros) adds mobile streaming, higher-quality music playback and an offline mode.

 

Early indications suggest that the free advertising-supported service is proving difficult to sustain. In April, Spotify announced a number of changes to the free plan [4], which include reducing the time limits to 10 hours a month and limiting songs to five plays each. The company says that only heavy users of the free service will be affected and looks to be trying to migrate such customers to the paid models.

 

A number of subscription-based music models have also been launched in the US, including Rdio (with the motto “Your music. Everywhere”) and MOG (“Never pay for a single song again. All the music in the world is now yours”). Each operates in a similar way to Spotify but unlike Spotify, neither has a free option. Instead they offer tiered subscription pricing, with the basic subscription (US$5 per month) providing web-only streaming to computers, and premium subscriptions (US$10 per month) offering streaming access to mobile devices and offline modes.

 

Rdio co-founder, Janus Friis, provided some insight into the new environment in an interview late last year with the Wall Street Journal: “It did take us some time to get all of the licences done but remember, these types of licensing agreements weren’t around before. A few years ago you couldn’t create a service or form a business relationship where things were available on the web and on mobile and offline. It was really web-only then. Now, this is the way things are going.” [5]

 

There is increasing speculation that larger players in the US, such as Apple and Google, are developing similar streaming models.

 

On the domestic front, Sony launched Bandit.FM‘s streaming feature last year and the Music Unlimited service in February this year (with both featuring music licensed from the other major labels besides Sony). They offer streaming services on a paid-only subscription basis, currently set at $12.99 per month.

 

Film Models: pay per view or all you can eat?

 

Streaming is the method of delivery for a number of new online film services in the United States. Netflix, for example, charges its customers a monthly fee for immediate access to a library of movies and TV shows it has licensed from rights-holders and which can be accessed by the consumer on almost any device – television, computer, gaming console or mobile device – with the relevant Netflix software. Other similar streaming services include Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime Instant.

 

One might ask what’s new about this, because until consumers started purchasing DVDs in large numbers, the concept of owning the content wasn’t pivotal for the film business, as it has long been for the music business. The difference is that the practice of paying to watch an individual film or TV show – the principle behind cinema, DVD rental and pay-per-view TV – has been replaced by an ‘all-you-can-eat’ model, where consumers can effectively watch as much or as little as they want for the one monthly price. That’s similar to broadcast and subscription television, except that you get to program everything yourself in the new models (from a vast library of content) and are able to access the content at any time and on any device.

 

Licensing

 

From a copyright perspective, it is interesting to note that licence terms and conditions take on much greater importance in new subscription (and download for purchase) models than they did in the physical world.

 

The consumer may find that a licence does not allow some uses that would otherwise be allowed under copyright law (e.g. fair dealing). On other hand, the scope and breadth of what is now technologically possible may result in licensing terms with greater latitude than ever (e.g. streaming to multiple devices or reading chunks of unpurchased books). In this sense, owners’ and users’ copying rights are determined somewhat less by provisions in copyright law and somewhat more by individual licences than in the past. The overall effect is to deliver into the consumer sphere some of the complexity that has previously been restricted to licensing for commercial use.

 

Making it pay

 

It is difficult to draw firm conclusions as to the viability of the new subscription-based models at this point, as they are in the early stages of implementation by distributors and adoption by consumers.

 

Cooperation between content providers and new digital intermediaries is likely to be a key factor in how successful they are in persuading people to shift from unauthorised, free alternatives. What will be the value-add that people are prepared to pay for, and how much will they be prepared to pay? In the long run the access models must be financially viable for content creators, content developers and content distributors, otherwise the capacity to finance new content will wane.

 

It is technological innovation that is delivering the ‘value add’ needed to make the content attractive for purchase. So while technology is the creative industries’ disruptor, it is also likely to be their saviour.

 

References

 

[1] Foxtel CEO Kym Williams speaks at the Australian Broadcasting Summit 2011 – 2/3/2011 - http://www.foxtel.com.au/about-foxtel/ceo-speeches/foxtel-ceo-kym-williams-speaks-at-the-australian-broadcastin-117765.htm

 

[2] IFPI Digital Music Report 2011 - http://www.ifpi.org/content/library/DMR2011.pdf Page 6

 

[3] http://www.spotify.com/int/about/features/offline-mode/

 

[4] http://www.spotify.com/int/blog/archives/2011/04/14/upcoming-changes-to-spotify-free-open/

 

[5] Goode, Lauren Q&A: Skype Co-Founder on His New Venture, Rdio, The Wall Street Journal 8/8/2010 - http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/08/06/qa-skype-co-founder-on-his-new-venture-rdio/

Back to top | Permalink

US white paper recommends focuses on enforcement 28/04/2011

The US Administration has released a White Paper on Intellectual Property Enforcement Legislative Recommendations, designed to “increase the effectiveness of US enforcement efforts”. [1]

 

The White Paper, released in March by IP Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, makes several recommendations for the consideration of Congress and covers all aspects of IP including copyright, trademark and patent law. The recommendations with most significance from a copyright perspective include:

 

(i) Increasing the US Sentencing Guideline range for repeat IP-offenders, IP offences related to gang or organised criminal activity and for people that knowingly sell infringing products “for use in critical infrastructure, national defence, national security, or by law enforcement” [2].

 

(ii) Establishing that unauthorised streaming of content is a felony offence in the appropriate context. The report highlights a concern over the unsettled legal issue of whether unauthorised streaming constitutes an unauthorised performance or an unauthorised distribution of that material. The distinction is important because the latter is a felony and the former is not.

 

(iii) The creation of a public performance right for sound recordings transmitted by over-the-air broadcast stations. The white paper notes that the US is the only industrialised nation not to have this right and that the absence of such a right means that US copyright owners cannot collect royalties on this right overseas.

 

(iv) Giving the Department of Homeland Security the power to share information relating to seized circumvention devices with rights holders.

 

The US Administration and Congress will decide whether to take on board the legislative recommendations and to what extent amendments may be needed.

 

The white paper comes at a time when the US government is developing its IP enforcement strategies in other areas, such as the regional negotiations taking place as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was reached between several countries and finalised last year. Australia took part in the ACTA negotiations and is currently taking part in the TPPA negotiations.

 

The full text of the white paper is available from: www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ip_white_paper.pdf

 

[1] White Paper on Intellectual Property Enforcement Legislative Recommendations page 1

[2] Ibid, page 7

Back to top | Permalink

The rise and fall of Canada’s copyright amendment Bill C-32 28/04/2011

With Canada set to vote in a federal election on 2 May, the fate of the proposed amendments contained in the high-profile Copyright Modernization Act (or Bill C-32) is uncertain.

 

Bill C-32 was an attempt to reform Canada’s present copyright law, which has not been amended since 1997 [1]. Some of the key amendments proposed in the Bill include:

 

• New fair dealing exceptions for education, and parody and satire purposes;

• New exceptions for format-shifting, time-shifting and backup copies;

• A scheme obliging ISPs to notify users of alleged infringements.

• New provisions against the circumvention of digital locks [2].

 

While it appeared that Canada was very close to reforming its Copyright Act, the Bill had not yet passed when the Federal Election was called on 26 March this year, halting its progress.

 

Prior to the calling of the election, there had been extensive discussions between legislators, cultural/rights-holder groups and user groups about the merits of the Bill. Some of the key points of contention were:

 

1. The digital locks provisions, which some groups argued were too strict, and should not be imposed in specific cases such as for private format-shifting and making backup copies;

 

2. The expansion of fair dealing – some groups were concerned that this may lead to a significant rise in uncompensated copying;

 

3. The exception relating to non-commercial user generated content (such as “mash-ups”), which some believed was too vague and broad in scope [3].

 

Canada’s Conservative Party has reportedly confirmed that it will re-introduce the Bill in its present form if it is re-elected [4]. If not, it is unclear what will happen to the bill. The president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, Graham Henderson, has stated: "In the words of Monty Python, it is a dead parrot" [5].

 

At the very least Bill C-32 has been a catalyst for some healthy debate about current copyright issues in the digital age, which should serve as a good basis for making decisions about copyright reform when the new government comes into power.

 

[1] Sue Carter Flinn. “Publishing at the Polls – Copyright Reform”. Quillblog, 7 April 2011. http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2011/04/07/publishing-at-the-polls-copyright-reform/

 

[2] “Canada introduces long awaited Bill to modernise copyright law.”

http://www.copyright.org.au/news-and-policy/details/id/49/

 

[3] Michael Geist. “Liberals' copyright position may provide roadmap to C-32 compromise”. The Hill Times online, 17 January 2011. http://www.hilltimes.com/page/view/geist-01-17-2011

 

[4] Michael Geist. “Geist: ‘PlayBook’ tax means Apple wins”. The Ottawa Citizen, 18 April 2011. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/Geist+PlayBook+means+Apple+wins/4637237/story.html

 

[5] Karen Bliss. “Canadian C-32 Copyright-Reform Bill Dies (Again) With Election Call” Billboard.biz, 28 March 2011. http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/global/canadian-c-32-copyright-reform-bill-dies-1005097402.story

Back to top | Permalink

ARROW makes progress with European rights information system 28/04/2011

On 10 March this year, the ARROW group (a consortium of European libraries, publishers and rights management organisations) told a conference in Brussels about plans to expand the scope of its rights information project [1].

 

The goal of ARROW, which stands for The Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works towards Europeana, is to investigate ways to assist libraries and other users in clarifying the copyright status of works. It seeks to make better use of existing information by facilitating exchange between rightsholders, collective rights organisations, agents, libraries and users. The group envisages developing systems for information exchange, as well as a registry for out of print works and for orphan works [2].

 

The time and cost benefits of using the ARROW system for searching out rights information were demonstrated at the conference through data obtained in pilots carried out in France, Spain, Germany and the UK [3]. Head of the Arrow project, Piero Attanasio, also announced that the group, with backing from the European Commission, will now continue work through the ARROW plus project (ARROW was originally confined to book searches, while ARROW plus will extend to visual material as well as to other countries).

 

ARROW’s contracting and associated partners currently include key EU libraries, publishers and rights organisations such as as the Biblioteca Nacional de España, The British Library, the Federation of European Publishers and the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFFRO) [4].

 

European Commission Vice President Dr Neelie Kroes, who opened the March conference, expressed a view that “one search in ARROW should be all that it is needed to determine the copyright status of cultural works in Europe,” and that “ARROW could become the official portal in Europe where you can find essential rights information and do automated searches of right-holders and copyrights” [5].

 

ARROW was launched in November 2008 [5]. It is one of the projects selected in 2007 under the European Commission’s eContentplus Program to improve the accessibility and usability of digital content in Europe [6].

 

To read more about the ARROW project, see:

 

http://www.arrow-net.eu/

 

[1] ARROW Press Release 10 March, 2011.

http://www.arrow-net.eu/sites/default/files/ARROW%20Results.pdf

 

[2] ARROW website. “About ARROW”.

http://www.arrow-net.eu/

 

[3] The ARROW Project Results Presentation.

http://www.arrow-net.eu/resources/arrow-information-material.html

 

[4] ARROW website. “Partners”.

http://www.arrow-net.eu/partners

 

[5] ARROW website. “What is Arrow?”

http://www.arrow-net.eu/faq/what-arrow.html

 

[6] ARROW Press Release 10 March, 2011.

http://www.arrow-net.eu/sites/default/files/ARROW%20Results.pdf

Back to top | Permalink