The Rise of the Robo Notice

Jennifer Urban and I just published a preview of our work on notice and takedown in the Communications of the ACM (currently paywalled but accessible through most universities).  Here’s the gist of it:

As automated systems became common, the number of takedown requests increased dramatically. For some online services, the numbers of complaints went from dozens or hundreds per year to hundreds of thousands or millions. In 2009, Google’s search service received less than 100 takedown requests. In 2014, it received 345 million requests. Although Google is the extreme outlier, other services—especially those in the copyright ‘hot zones’ around search, storage, and social media—saw order-of-magnitude increases. Many others—through luck, obscurity, or low exposure to copyright conflicts—remained within the “DMCA Classic” world of low-volume notice and takedown.

This split in the application of the law undermined the rough industry consensus about what services did to keep their safe harbor protection. As automated notices overwhelmed small legal teams, targeted services lost the ability to fully vet the complaints they received. Because companies exposed themselves to high statutory penalties if they ignored valid complaints, the safest path afforded by the DMCA was to remove all targeted material. Some companies did so. Some responded by developing automated triage procedures that prioritized high-risk notices for human review (most commonly, those sent by individuals).

Others began to move beyond the statutory requirements in an effort to reach agreement with rights holder groups and, in some cases, to reassert some control over the copyright disputes on their services.

Continue reading “The Rise of the Robo Notice”

NPD Confidential 3: In Which We Defend Ourselves Against Charges of Drunk Blogging and Practicing Math Without a License

Some weeks ago, we published a lengthy blog post called Where do Music Collections Come From?  which discussed findings from our Copy Culture survey of 1000 Germans and 2300 Americans.

Some of the data demonstrated that P2P file sharers (who own digital music files) buy more music than their non-P2P using peers (who also own digital music files).  Here’s the chart again:

To me, this was a fairly innocuous finding, well in line with other studies.  For my money, the more important findings were that personal sharing ‘between friends’ is about as prevalent and as significant in music acquisition as ‘downloading for free’, and that together they are outweighed by legal acquisition.

But the public spoke and the P2P finding went viral: the biggest pirates are the best customers.   Headlines like this generated pushback from record industry groups RIAA and IFPI—mostly centered around the work of NPD, their survey firm in the US.  The exchange, I think, is an interesting window on the state of the empirical debate around file sharing. Continue reading “NPD Confidential 3: In Which We Defend Ourselves Against Charges of Drunk Blogging and Practicing Math Without a License”

File Sharing and the Greek Crisis

What else is going on in Greece these days? Did you guess: a major crackdown on Greek file sharing sites?

On this subject, I’m very pleased to publish a guest essay by Dr. Petros Petridis of Panteio University in Athens.


File Sharing and the Greek Crisis

Petros Petridis
Panteio University
petros.petridis at
twitter: @petridispetros

According to the major copyright industry groups, Greece has among the highest rates of “piracy” in the European Union. The Business Software Alliance recently put this number at 61% of the software market—exceeded only by Romania and Bulgaria. The IFPI listed Greece in its top ten ‘priority countries’ for music piracy in 2006. The US Trade Representative’s office has kept Greece on its “Watchlist” of badly behaving countries since 2008.

It is easy to see file sharing through the lens of the larger Greek crisis—as part of the wider breakdown and circumvention of formal institutions. But the file sharing story in Greece is both simpler and more complicated than that.

Continue reading “File Sharing and the Greek Crisis”


As last week’s arrest of Megaupload owner Kim Dotcom emphasized, the main character in the SOPA/PIPA debate is the foreign thief.  He’s everywhere—robbing Americans of their creativity, jobs, and money.  Worse, he’s enjoying himself.  As the Chamber of Commerce put it:  “The criminals behind these sites are laughing all the way to the bank, stealing the best of American creativity and innovation at the expense of our jobs and consumers.”

[Strictly speaking, the top five pirated films of the year were Fast Five, The Hangover II, Thor, Source Code, and I am Number Four.  It’s not a ‘best of’ list, exactly, but that’s a different story.] Continue reading “Meganomics”

The Copy Culture Survey: Infringement and Enforcement in the US


The U.S. House of Representatives is now debating the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—the counterpart to the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act.  If passed, the bill will expand criminal penalties for copyright infringement and give the government (and private parties) new powers to block access to websites accused of facilitating infringement.

The bill is the latest in a series of efforts to strengthen copyright enforcement online. Earlier this year, Internet Service Providers and the film and record industries reached an agreement to expand the private policing of online infringement.  Search engines, social networking platforms, cloud storage providers, universities, and other institutions face growing pressure to monitor and filter Internet activity.

This research note is an effort to bring American public opinion to bear on this vital conversation. The note excerpts a forthcoming survey-based study called Copy Culture in the U.S. and Germany. Drawing on results from the U.S. portion of the survey, it explores what Americans do with digital media, what they want to do, and how they reconcile their attitudes and values with different policies and proposals to enforce copyright online. Continue reading “The Copy Culture Survey: Infringement and Enforcement in the US”