Still changing some stuff……………………..but posting resumed
Archive for the ‘General’ Category
After torrent sites and streaming portals, U.S. authorities have now taken down three websites offering pirated Android apps. The FBI operation, which also involved police from France and the Netherlands, is the first to incorporate domain name seizure of sites offering mobile apps. It is unclear at this point whether any of the website operators were arrested during today’s actions.
With help from French and Dutch police, the FBI took over applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com. In their place visitors to the sites now see the familiar FBI seizure banner.
The domain seizures are the first of their kind against “rogue” mobile app marketplaces. The authorities have not announced whether any of the websites’ operators were arrested.
Leading up to today’s actions FBI agents downloaded thousands of popular Android apps from the websites without charge. FBI Special Agent Brian Lamkin who led the operation described this type of online piracy as a growing problem that can’t be ignored.
“These thefts cost companies millions of dollars and can even inhibit the development and implementation of new ideas and applications. The FBI, in working with its various corporate and government partners, is not only committed to combating such thefts but is well poised to coordinate with the many jurisdictions that are impacted by such activities.”
“Cracking down on piracy of copyrighted works – including popular apps – is a top priority of the Criminal Division,” Breuer said.
“Software apps have become an increasingly essential part of our nation’s economy and creative culture, and the Criminal Division is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect the creators of these apps and other forms of intellectual property from those who seek to steal it.”
Since 2010 hundreds of domain names have been seized by U.S. authorities as part of “Operation In Our Sites”. The majority of these domains offered counterfeit goods and around three dozen were linked to copyright infringements.
During previous seizures several sites operators were arrested, including five people connected to the movie streaming site NinjaVideo, four of which received jail sentences. Two alleged operators of other streaming sites that were seized previously are yet to be sentenced.
Responding to this wave of seizures, last year many BitTorrent sites changed their domain names. The Pirate Bay for example switched to the .se extension, one less prone to a seizure by U.S. authorities.
Whether a similar trend will emerge among sites offering pirated mobile apps remains to be seen.
The bid to have Kim Dotcom extradited to the United States suffered a significant setback today. US authorities had insisted there was no need for them to reveal the evidence they hold against the Megaupload founder. But today a New Zealand judge upheld an earlier decision and ordered the US to reveal the evidence they are relying on to have Dotcom and his associates shipped to the United States, including details of covert operations and confidential discussions with rights holders.
Responding to a request from Megaupload’s legal team, Judge Harvey at the North Shore District Court ruled in May on whether the United States government should be forced to reveal the evidence it holds on Kim Dotcom and other defendants in the case.
Megaupload said they have a right to see the case being built against them but the United States insisted that no right to disclosure exists. Judge Harvey disagreed with the prosecution and ordered disclosure of all documents relating to the alleged crimes of the so-called Megaupload Conspiracy.
“In my view there must be fairness and the hearing and balance must be struck, otherwise the record of case becomes dominant virtually to the exclusion of everything else and places the extradition process in danger of becoming an administrative one rather than judicial,” the Judge wrote. He later stepped down after allegedly describing the United States as “the enemy”.
Refusing to concede defeat, US authorities pushed back and sought a judicial review of Judge Harvey’s ruling. In a judgment today, the High Court upheld the earlier decision handed down in the North Shore District Court.
Justice Helen Winkelmann dismissed the application for a judicial review, noting that without disclosure of the evidence, Kim Dotcom and his co-accused – Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato and Bram van der Kolk – would not be able to mount a full and proper defense in their extradition hearing.
“Without disclosure [Kim Dotcom and associates] will be significantly constrained in [their] ability to participate in the hearing, and the requesting state will have a significant advantage in terms of access to information,” the ruling reads.
The documents to be disclosed are significant in their scope, encompassing all elements of the case from the allegations of infringement, through to information being held on the nature of the Megaupload rewards program. Interestingly, as part of a section marked Criminal Breach of Copyright, the ruling says that US authorities must disclose:
– All records obtained or created in connection with the covert operations undertaken by agents involved in the investigations related to these proceedings in transacting and uploading/downloading data and files on the Megaupload site.
– All records or information and/or material provided to or obtained by the investigation and/or prosecuting agencies by the investigating and/or prosecuting agencies in this case from holders and/or owners of copyright interests evidencing alleged infringement of their copyright and/or complaining of such infringement.
- All records and materials related to communications between relevant copyright holders and Megaupload and/or its employees regarding their copyright interest, the direct delete access provided by Megaupload to any such copyright holders, and any communications between the copyright holders and Megaupload and/or its staff regarding take-down notices.
Today’s ruling marks a significant victory for Kim Dotcom, his associates, and their legal team. Access to the evidence against them has been ruled crucial to the defendants being able to mount a proper defense, something that the US authorities have tried to deny. Last week Dotcom promised more revelations – they are now almost certainly on their way.
The extradition hearing is currently expected sometime early 2013.
Five years ago a composer created music for use in a one-off anti-piracy video. However, without his permission it was used time and again on dozens of commercial DVDs such as Harry Potter. Even in the wake of a huge controversy over “corrupt” and “mafia-like” practices, the local music rights group that got involved in the case failed to pay him the money he was owed. The case went to court and this week the music rights group lost.
However, when Rietveldt bought a Harry Potter DVD in 2007, he discovered his music being used in the anti-piracy ad without his permission. In fact, it had been used on dozens of DVDs both in the Netherlands and overseas.
In order to get the money he was owed, Rietveldt went to local music royalty collecting agency Buma/Stemra who had been representing him since 1988 but had failed to pay him any money for the anti-piracy piece previously registered with them.
Eventually Stemra sent Rietveldt an advance of 15,000 euros along with a promise to forward a list of all the other DVDs that the composer’s music had been used on. That list never arrived, but according to the Amsterdam Court this week it amounted to at least 71 commercial DVDs.
In January 2009, Rietveldt wrote to Stemra informing them that the amount paid thus far wouldn’t cover the amount owed. Despite much wrangling, by 2011 Stemra still hadn’t provided Rietveldt with the necessary data but did pay another 10,000 euros ‘advance’.
“This dispute lingered on for some years, but in 2012 Stemra arranged a settlement with BREIN legal parent NVPI for the unpaid royalties,” Arnoud Engelfriet, a lawyer specializing in Internet law at the ICTRecht law firm, told us.
“Under the settlement Stemra would receive 60,000 euros. Rietveldt sued because he had calculated he was due at least 164,974 euros.”
In June, Stemra paid Rietveld another 31,000 euros but this week the Amsterdam District Court ruled that Stemra had indeed been negligent in their handling of the case. They were fined 20,000 euros, ordered to pay Rietveldt’s legal costs, and told to continue efforts to pay all money due to the composer while keeping him fully informed of developments.
The case caused a scandal in the Netherlands last year following discussions Rietveldt had with Buma/Stemra board member Jochem Gerrits about getting the money he was owed.
Rietveldt’s advisor talking business with the Buma board member
In order to help, Gerrits suggested that the composer should sign his track over to High Fashion Music, a label owned by Gerrits himself and one that would take 33% of Rietveldt’s royalties for its trouble.
“This prompted TV news organization PowNews (who had recorded the conversation) to assert corruption, but Gerrits later claimed he was speaking as director of his record company, and it is standard that a record company gets 1/3rd of the mechanical royalties,” Arnoud Engelfriet explains.
Although Gerrits resigned his position, he later initiated a defamation lawsuit against PowNews. But the embarrassing ripples caused by the case didn’t end there.
“While traditionally these societies operate as private institutions (self regulation), this affair has prompted the under secretary of state Fred Teeven to announce regulations to forbid the conflict of interest that Gerrits was in. More regulations may also appear,” Engelfriet concludes.
Last month YouTube-MP3, one of the web’s largest YouTube conversion sites, was hit with legal threats from Google. Shut down in seven days, its lawyers ordered, or face legal repercussions. Now, after commissioning the legal opinions of two prominent German lawyers, the site’s owner is fighting back, and not without support. A Change.org petition which asks Google to allow conversion tools has already accumulated more than 220,000 signatures.
Mid-June, one of the web’s largest YouTube conversion sites was hit with threats from Google. YouTube-MP3, a site with more than 1.3 million daily visitors, was threatened with legal action over its service that converts YouTube videos into audio downloads.
Google’s lawyers gave YouTube-MP3 seven days to comply, but in the meantime the search giant took technical measures to severely restrict its ability to operate. But weeks on it’s clear that YouTube-MP3 owner Philip Matesanz believes he has a cause worth fighting for.
Philip, a 21-year-old applied computer science student, today gave us details of his structured fightback against the US search giant in the hope that Google will give him the fair hearing that up until now he says he has been denied.
“I have to admit that have previously never sought case studies on Google’s legal position. Until now I thought they would understand that they cannot stop their users from creating recordings of a public video and would simply tolerate it,” Philip told us.
In order to precisely understand the situation, Philip recently sought the opinion of lawyers on the legality of YouTube-MP3 in Germany and its functionality in respect of the YouTube Terms of Service, an agreement Google says YouTube-MP3 breached. Philip spoke with two lawyers – Philipp C. Redlich of HÄRTING Rechtsanwälte and well-known IT lawyer Christian Solmecke from the Wilde Beuger Solmecke law firm.
Solmecke sent us a copy of his report this morning. He is absolutely clear on one of the main points, that YouTube-MP3 does not use the YouTube API. As a result “..YouTube’s API Terms of Service do not apply here, as no contract has been created which would allow for the Terms of Service to come into effect.”
So ToS argument aside, what about the inevitable copyright-related questions?
“The infringement of YouTube’s Terms of Service brings with it no legal consequences for YouTube-MP3.org. YouTube-MP3.org is also not at fault so far as Copyright Law is concerned YouTube-MP3.org undertakes no copyright-relevant action.
“Also, liability of the user’s for copyright infringement is not incurred because their actions are covered by the right to make private copies under paragraph 53 sub-paragraph 1 sentence 1 Copyright Law. The demand for YouTube-MP3.org to bring about a cessation of its service is therefore unfounded,” Solmecke writes.
Credit: Ioannis Milionis (mycartoons.de)
The report from Redlich’s is also detailed, noting that there are “..strong arguments in favor of YouTube not being able [to successfully] object to either the user or the provision of the MP3 conversion service, YouTube-MP3.org, on the grounds of an infringement of its copyright or of unfair competition.”
As long as YouTube doesn’t implement encryption to prevent storage of streamed content, doing so would be legal, Redlich adds, noting that the downloading of streamed content from YouTube for private use does not require the permission of copyright holders.
In addition to trying to bring down his service this year, Philip says that Google has also undermined his ability to generate revenue in the past. In 2010, Philip says that Google closed down his Adsense account, kept several months of earnings, and then ignored letters sent to the company by his lawyer.
Then last year Philip said he signed an advertising deal with another company that Google was in the process of buying. The acquisition didn’t go ahead but Philip feels that Google had a hand in influencing the other company not to do business with him. The signed advertising deal was left unfulfilled.
Whether or not Google will be prepared to change their position considering the developments above remains to be seen – thus far they haven’t been responsive to Philip’s lone voice. But would a few hundred thousand more make a difference perhaps?
Philip recently started a petition on Change.org asking Google to allow third-party recording tools for YouTube. The response from his userbase has been huge.
“I didn’t expect such a great feedback. It is not based on any news coverage but on the strong will of my users who are spreading the word about it. I’ve already surpassed other petitions that received worldwide press coverage.”
So for now it’s over to Google to consider whether YouTube-MP3 is a potentially useful partner or one to be threatened and put out of business.
Interestingly, perhaps all is not lost.
Google already appears to have softened its stance on allowing users to download YouTube content for later viewing…..
An update from Philip is posted here.