The Global Cost of Piracy Breakfast

I’m a little late to this to say the least, but I recently ran across this 2011 video from one of the ‘IP Breakfast’ workshops that Drew Clarke used to run.  In it, you can find Bruce Lehman, Clinton point man on the major IP treaties of the 1990s; Loren Yager, main author of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the costs of IP infringment (which was notable for saying that nobody knew what they were); Steven Siwek, the copyright sector’s chief economist for maximizing claims of harm from piracy; Matt Robinson from anti-piracy outfit Attributor (now Digimarc); Morgan Reed from  software trade group the Association for Competitive Technology; and Sean Flynn from American University (and one of the contributors to the Media Piracy report).

Amusingly, it turns into a free-for-all about the Piracy report, with Siwek defending his methods, Lehman parsing what it meant for the US to be a pirate nation in the 19th century, and Sean parrying with both of them and also an angry guy in the audience  accusing the report of anti-americanism, anti-commerc(ism?), and–I think I heard this right– pro-Viking(ism), which has something to do with pillaging.  Sadly, Sean did not address our position on Vikings.  Anyway, it’s a nice time capsule of IP debates circa early 2011 (pre SOPA).


Confederate Copyright Policy and the Limits of Dickens’ Abolitionism

Most histories of copyright discuss Dickens’ frustration with the lack of protection for international copyright in the 19th century US.  This I didn’t know:

Charles Dickens was an abolitionist and wrote of his feeling of the uncanny when encountering his first slave, serving him dinner at his hotel in Baltimore in 1842. Yet, when senators from the slave states assured him of their support for international copyright, he warmed up. His intense dislike of the Northern publishers, who chiseled him out of his royalties, encouraged his eventual support for the Southern cause during the Civil War. One might have thought that the Southern states had more pressing concerns in 1861 than copyright (just as one might have thought this about the French revolutionaries in 1791). But the political implications of copyright were significant enough to justify such an investment by the rebel politicians. With few publishing interests the South stood to lose little to copyright. To distinguish itself from the North, cultivate an aristocratic and nonmercantile national identity, and appeal to the British, the Confederacy passed an international copyright law, protecting foreign authors whose governments extended reciprocal protection to Americans. Southern gentlemen, one Confederate journalist claimed, would rather pay quintuple the price for a British edition than buy a pirated Yankee one.

From Peter Baldwin’s excellent The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Transatlantic Battle.


NPD Confidential II: Die, Substitution Studies, Die

Following up our piece on music collections and the apparently surprising result that P2P users buy a lot of digital music, and also our piece discussing some pushback from NPD–the survey firm used by the RIAA–we offer a response to comments by the record industry association IFPI.  Here’s what they said:

While previous studies have shown that some unlicensed P2P network users also pay for music, and a few are serious fans who pay a lot, they are far outnumbered by the bulk of unlicensed P2P network users who pay little or nothing for music. Research by The NPD Group during 2010 in the US found that just 35 per cent of P2P users also paid for music downloads. P2P users spent US$42 per year on music on average, compared with US$76 among those who paid to download and US$126 among those that paid to subscribe to a music service. The overall impact of P2P use on music purchasing is negative, despite a small proportion of P2P users spending a lot on music. That finding was corroborated by a study in Europe by Jupiter Research in 2009. Continue reading “NPD Confidential II: Die, Substitution Studies, Die”

NPD Confidential

Well, the Music Collections post certainly got around. Among other places, NBC News’ tech blog picked up the bit about P2P users being the biggest buyers of music and sought comment from the RIAA. The RIAA sent the reporter to NPD, the firm that handles their survey work. At NPD, Russ Crupnick offered the following response:

“We hear this argument all the time and it makes no sense,” Russ Crupnick, NPD’s senior vice president, industry analysis, said in a phone interview. Continue reading “NPD Confidential”

Crime Inc. Inc.

Growing up in Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s, I have fond memories of watching Bill Kurtis on Channel 2 news. He was sort of a local Walter Cronkite–a personification of the news. At our house, he was on every night.

So I felt some nostalgia when I got a call from a staffer on Kurtis’ current show, Crime Inc., about an episode they wanted to do on media piracy. And also some apprehension, since we’ve been pretty adamant in our work that criminality–and especially organized crime–is the wrong way to look at piracy. But since I’m a regular complainer about press coverage of these issues and an optimist that the debate can be changed, I agreed to help. Continue reading “Crime Inc. Inc.”

Lazy Censorship: It Can Happen Here

Or, Free Moose A. Moose!

I’ll say this for jury duty in New York City: they’ve added WiFi in the waiting rooms!  Given how much time prospective jurors sit around waiting, it’s a major improvement.

And surfing around, one quickly discovers that the local network blocks certain websites.  With some cursory exploration, it’s clear that this is a very arbitrary list that encompasses many legitimate sites.   It blocks game sites but also game news sites.  P2P sites but also news sites that cover P2P and digital rights issues.  Porn sites but also sites like 4chan, that, ok, host a lot of porn but also a lot of legitimate speech.  There’s a mysterious BLKLST category which blocks–on my cursory surfing–an Apple news site.  Bandwidth management you say? It doesn’t block Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube.

The filter uses categories that are visible in the URL.  I found four. Continue reading “Lazy Censorship: It Can Happen Here”

The Tree of Life Must Be Watered With the Money of Patriots

In support of The Tree of Life‘s Oscar campaign, and in an effort to explain the broader rent seeking practices behind SOPA/PIPA , and in recognition of all the new visitors to the site because of Meganomics, and finally in the hope that we can collectively beat back the the threat of a publicly-subsidized Warhorse sequel…

We are re-releasing the underappreciated The War Between the States (to Subsidize Hollywood) Tetralogy, featuring:

Followed by deeper explorations of the growth of public subsidies for Hollywood in:

Many consider The Revenge of Swamp Shark, starring Brad Pitt, to be the most moving of the series.

And for those looking for solutions (to the problem of public funding of blockbusters), a modest proposal from a prior trilogy: