CIOs should fear the IP police ... have your get-out-of-jail files ready
Let's hope nobody wins this, it's disaster either way
Opinion The powers that be in the copyright world continually push for ever-stricter copyright with longer terms. They seek to externalise the cost of enforcement onto society at large. Society at large, on the other hand, wants easier, quicker access to content with fewer restrictions. Regular businesses can easily be caught in the crossfire.
Copyright theft has become so habitual that it has
become socially acceptable. Image via Shutterstock
A big problem with copyright infringement is that in many regions, general social acceptance of copyright is completely out of alignment with the current legal landscape. In many ways, it is no different than the many and varied other Wars On Stuff which have sought to fundamentally change society's habits, preferences and beliefs.
Alcohol prohibition famously failed. Marijuana usage certainly hasn't been eradicated here in Canada. Instead, a generation of Canadians are coming of age who simply don't understand what the big deal is in the first place.
So it is with copyright. Big Content spends billions on legal sticks: extending copyright terms beyond absurdity, lobbying continually for irresponsibly disproportionate damages and now waging a protracted international war on fair use. Half a century's stubborn resistance to change – and cemented unwillingness to try the carrot – has created a massive rift between Big Content and the audience upon which the industry relies.
If the war for legal control over our culture shows no signs of abating, what does this mean for you?
Copyright infringement at work
Alcohol in the workplace in many cases isn't technically illegal, but it is likely to get you fired. Marijuana is illegal; however the law typically punishes the user of the controlled substance, not the company upon whose campus that individual happened to be at the time.
Copyright infringement exists in a less well-trodden legal space. As corporate size increases, so too do the chances of infringing material existing on a corporate campus. Smartphone and MP3 player penetration is nearly total; anyone and everyone could be walking around with 75,000 American jobs in their pocket.
Your company may not be legally liable for this infringing material if it stays in people's pockets. But what if your staff plug their smartphones into the company computer? At every company I visit, there are mini-USB cords and iThingy cables attached to USB ports. Terrible battery life means we are constantly charging our toys, even when employers might wish otherwise.
Most phones and media players can be mounted and made visible to the operating system. What do the laws in your jurisdiction say about that? Big Content's War On Its Own Customers has tried to make educational institutions, parents and ISPs liable for the traffic crossing their networks; many of those battles are still ongoing. The argument of the day is that no company or individual should be considered a "dumb pipe". Anyone with a network must ensure infringing material never crosses it.
What about that network? If merely lighting up the $4bn iPod with power doesn't make your company liable in your jurisdiction, what happens when someone copies infringing material into their home folder? What if they use your corporate network to transmit this to another employee? What if they email it with the corporate mailer, or download new material from the internet?
Region restrictions are an even greyer area. Consider the Comedy Central/Comedy Network War On Canada. Canadians who are trying to view content (South Park clips, episodes of The Daily Show, etc) that is legally available to Americans are frequently met with a rude notification that this content isn't available in our area.
If I am VPNed into an American client's network, my IP address appears to be American. If I visit one of these websites and show a co-worker a South Park clip explaining why I call some people manatees... have I broken the law? Which law, from which country? Is the company whose network I am using liable? What about the website that allows me to view the content?
Attempts to bring clarity to intellectual property concerns on an international level have been horrible, and have been met with resistance from other nations. Even after the digital provisions are pulled.
There are more prosaic IP concerns as well; something as common and everyday as photocopying may be infringement. Using a photo in a presentation or on your website may be infringement. Playing music in the office or having a television in the break room may be infringement.
Anything you or your employees duplicate – in whole or in part – where you do not have express consent of the current copyright holder (which is rarely the actual content creator!) may potentially make you liable for various legal remedies regarding copyright infringement.
Copyright infringement isn't ever going to go away, but the crackdown is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. To avoid becoming a casualty in a War On Something, corporate computer systems usage policies need to be revamped with an eye to the new reality of copyright infringement.
The only way to be sure you aren't violating copyright is to have your employees create everything on their own, without utilising external resources. Even if you manage to do that, someone probably owns the patent on how it was done.
Open Source and Creative Commons
Companies with some awareness of the pitfalls of copyright infringement frequently turn to both open source software and creative commons media. Proprietary software is traditionally viewed as expensive, overly complex and restrictive; at a minimum you probably can't install multiple copies of anything off a single licence.
Restrictions can be more complex than simply "pay for every copy you use". You may not be allowed to take that copy of an application or operating system you bought and simply move it to another machine. You may not be allowed to use it on a computer that isn't made by a given company, or inside a virtual machine (VM).
If you are allowed to use a given piece of software inside a VM, making use of templates or cloning known-good setups may be prohibited. More confusingly, taking snapshots of a VM or doing live backups could potentially be a violation; you've essentially copied the whole "computer" in a usable state, even if you don't currently have the copy actively in use.
With the pandemonium of proprietary licensing as a backdrop, open source seems welcoming. Open source, however, does not necessarily mean "free." It means you can see the source code; that's about it.
Depending on the specific licence chosen, you may be allowed to modify said source code. You may be allowed to use the application for commercial purposes free, or for a fee. You may be allowed to copy it, under various circumstances and ... well, open source simply isn't the panacea for intellectual property ills it's usually billed as.
While it frequently comes with a lower sticker price, open source software probably isn't going to lower the costs involved with navigating the copyright infringement minefield that permeates the modern business landscape. That said, depending on the particularities of the licence, it's a great hedge against the developer going bust or getting Oracled.
Next page: Creative Commons? IT means nothing to me
If you want to see some real noncompliance, try a school.
Students and teachers alike make extensive use of google image search. Search, copy, paste into powerpoint. Instant flare. Do they check copyright? Hell, no! They don't even bother to note where the image came from. Remember that teachers are ridiculously overworked - they don't have time to sort out compliance with the materials they make for their lessons.
Teachers copy, all the time, for simple convenience. This is a school - discs get lost, or scratched, or broken. On many occasions we've caught teachers (English dept being by far the worst) using films clearly taken from torrent. They have the DVDs, but it's just so much easier to use a file than to keep track of which department member was the last to borrow that Holes movie and where they might have left it.
The legal side is an absolute nightmare of complexity. Yes, we do have some blanket licences... but just working out if they apply would need an expert lawyer. Some of them apply only to some copyright holders, or to content produced in the UK. I have on one occasion had to confiscate a teacher's video of MLK's 'I have a dream' speech because, in so far as I could determine, we had no license to even view it, much less to publicly play it for a class. In Performing Arts, they have licenses that cover playing music, but not photocopying it in sheet form - and in at least one case, they can copy it exactly once. In theory that would mean everyone clustering around their single sheet, in practice it means they defy the law and just run it through the photocopier anyway.
Practically every day I have to delete another big collection of pirate music that has appeared in some student area. We don't punish them any more - we'd run out of detention space. I delete (I have a program I wrote for just this purpose, checks for music/games/porn nightly based on a hash-list of forbidden files), and they put it back on the next day.
Then there is the copying-because-they-must issue. Science is running into this one right now: They have a big library of old VHS tapes and DVDs they use in lessons. But we have no more VHS players, and the DVDs have the same issue of loss/damage as English. From a technical perspective, a simple solution: We have a shiny new network media library system going in soon that is supposed to hold it all. And yet all that catalog of media, aquired over the years, is copyrighted - and in the case of the DVDs, largely copy-protected too. So our shiny new media library is useless, and Science is probably going to have to spend a few thousand pounds over the course of the next ten years replacing all of its educational media.
And, for the final touch: We're moving to application virtualisation soon too. Is that compatible with all our licenses, including the obscure stuff like the datalogger interface software? We've got hundreds of EULAs that we should be going through to figure this out, but realisticaly... no matter how closely we look, the IT team are not lawyers.
The more complicated and cumbersome the requirements, the less likely people are to adhere to them.
I am so drowning in paperwork that it has crossed my mind to just buy a cheap banger and not tax/insure it. I wouldn't do that, but it has crossed my mind just to avoid a small mountain of paperwork - and that's just for cars!
Make it simpler and people will honor it. Make it complicated and people will just get fatigued and finally say 'fuck that for a game of soldiers - I'm off down the pub'
So true, in my youth I was involved with a group not disimilar to Irving Welsh's train spotters. Always a good upstanding kid, my eyes were opened wide to a world where the law and social norms were ignored and jesus when I actually saw how thin our veneer of lawfulness was, it was scary. And worse still, there's not really a path back into legality once you punch through.
Criminalising routine activity without the active support of the citizens and pro-actively acting against their interests will not end well for our legal and political representatives.
Maybe one simple solution is to never have copyright transfer into the hands of a "rights holder"... the original creator is the only one who can determine what happens with their creation. Preserves the rights of the creator but disempowers the shambolic media monoliths.
Re: Oh what sensationalist nonsense...
No company needs an IP lawyer in house: all they have to do is to create all their own content. Need a photo of people in the street - send someone out to take one. Need a sketch - find someone who can draw.
Need MLK's speech - fetch him from the grave and ask him to speak at your school.
Its not hard.
That is actually a really good article...
It just sort of skims the almost bottomless ocean of fucking bullshit masquerading as the cold mollassas of copyright / DRM management.
I don't agree with this bit:
"The business driver for adblock adoption is the desire to eliminate lag. Your sexy fibre optic internet connection is worth little if the 30 or so analytics/advertising servers embedded in websites each need to time out in turn before your staff can get at the content they need.
We need to work out an open, fast, stable, reliable advertisement and analytics system for the web. It must be a system that multiple advertisers – and brokers – can use; one which doesn't impact website load times, and prevents the distribution of malware through advertising networks."
There are many sites that are run by complete and utter fuckwits.... that just shove a shit load of badly placed adds in your face and over the screen and they flash and follow you as you scroll down the pages....... fuck you know.
And then add on all the fucking trackers and profiling and all this shit.....
These fucking people....
The advertisers and tracking companies and the arseholes that work in them and run these campaigns AGAINST the consumer... for instance, IF I wanted a car, I would go LOOKING for a car, and if I was to buy a car, I would usually get a good second hand one, and then sell it after 5 or 6 years... or when it broke down badly or got smashed....
But fuck it, these idiots in the advertsing agencies, are so stupid they think that shoving 500 adds a day in my face for new cars that I don't want or need or have no intention of ever purchasing is their god given fucking right.
And all these idiots play the "shove the all adds in your face we can to the max" routine.....
Free to air TV in Australia is one example - it seems like there are like 10 minutes of adds, for every 3 minutes of movie, and the "just so excited family" scream at you, as your warming the oven, chopping the vegetables, cooking the whole meal for 5 people, in one add break, just as your about to make and pour the REAL gravey.... "Oh Oh the Add Show is almost over, time for the movie break.!!!"
I tend to have stable systems that run for a LONG time and It's ONLY when I rebuild them and set up the browser and then blunder through a few favourite websites, that I go, "Fuck!" at all the adds and bullshit being shoved down the line.....
Then I just throw in all the add blockers, the java script blockers, and now the tracking software blockers...
My opinion is, if the site can't deliver content and SOME advertising on it's OWN fucking merrits, then they do not deserve the business.
As a case in point, now that Google has taken over YouTube, without add blocking (add block plus and element hider) that site is completely fucked.... It's just ADD SATURATED bullshit.
It's just OVER RUN with the satanic hordes, all screaming "Buy, Buy, Buy - Sell, Sell, Sell" adds....
It's social engineering going into the perverse.............
As far as the copyright / licensing / DRM bullshit - fuck them all.... I have just given up....
My major gripe against advertsisers really started with some Canadian internet advertiser that stuck a file into your system that put up an add on your computer screen every so often, with NO agreement to take it, and NO way to get rid of it - unless you trolled some obscure forum somewhere for info on how to get rid of it and these fucking arseholes, if I could have gone to their offices and dragged them across their desks and punched their faces in, I would have done it..
Nothing has changed, these fucking idiots in the advertising industry think that the free range unrestricted raping of your internet arse at every opportunity, through every means possible is their god given right.
My answer to that is "NO it's not and NO you don't".
Microsoft, they are getting the OS onto laptops without a system CD or DVD.... so when the Laptop breaks, your OS goes with it.... fucking arseholes.....
Buy another OS and then go through the BS of registering it? Not likely.
Kodak was another bunch of mongrels - register your ownership of a new camera and they then share your stuff with something like 80 or 800 other "affiliates" for targetted marketing campigns....
I threw out my TV... and have not regretted it since.
AND if I really want to see a MOVIE, I get a weekly rental for $2 and then invite all my friends over to see it and I make a point of lending it to all my neighbours as well - just to spite the movie companies and their DRM bullshit.
Advertisers are near the top of my hate list of stupid and unethical people and companies to deal with.
The people who think they ought to be employed run a close second.....