In a bizarre twist, SOCA, the Serious Organised Crimes Agency, has announced the reason for the seizure of the domain RnBXclusive yesterday: they were dealing in music files obtained by hacking.
The website in question specialised in RnB and enabled access to music obtained by hacking, including some which had not yet been released. - SOCA statement
Most pirate-type online operations usually obtain their files from their members, who upload the material which is then distributed. The question is, who did the actual hacking; was it members of RnBXclusive or the people who owned and ran the website?
IFPI estimates losses to legitimate businesses and artists caused by the site to be £15m a year. - SOCA statement
Who are the IFPI?
IFPI is affiliated with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the organisation responsible for the world's largest music market. Their stated mission is to
- Promote the value of recorded music
- Safeguard the rights of record producers
- Expand the commercial uses of recorded music
I'm sure we'd all be interested to learn how those statistics were arrived at. The next question is, how much money did RnBXclusive earn a year? Probably far less than £15 million from any advertising revenue and/or membership fees. Remember that melodramatic notice about music having been wrenched from the hands of weeping artists or whatever that I posted yesterday? Look again at the bullet points above. IFPI exists to safeguard the rights of record producers, promote the (dollar) value of and expand the commercial uses of recorded music, i.e. they want to milk us dry. Am I wrong to suggest that the estimated losses were more due to projected royalties revenue than sales of DVDs and Apple downloads?
The targeted SOCA activity, which lasted 32 hours, was part of an operational programme aimed at protecting UK businesses and the wider economy. SOCA statement
Uh, it seems to me to have been aimed at protecting the RIAA and its affiliates so they can squeeze as much money out of us for listening to recorded music as possible. And since RnBXclusive have been accused of hacking, shouldn't they have been arrested under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990?
The impact of the "activities"
Three more music sites have been affected, according to the notice. BT Junkie went down voluntarily on the 5th of this month but there's nothing about any others, and SOCA hasn't identified them. This is a bit disingenuous since the RnBXclusive website takedown happened on Tuesday, after the fact. The other two sites are either going fully legal or considering taking themselves down.
A look at UK copyright law concerning derivative works is well worthwhile; and this article on Wikipedia:
Essentially, N.W.A. sampled a two-second guitar chord from Funkadelic's tune, lowered the pitch and looped it five times in their song - Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films, Wikipedia
What does a two-second guitar chord sound like and how could anyone tell who created it AFTER it's been altered? If copyright laws are that tight, what CAN we do to be creative that's inspired by others without being called out for plagiarism or copyright infringement?
The limitations on copyright law
A section of the United Kingdom act on copyright is actually quite specific as to the rights to an abstract idea or a concept. It states, inter alia,
"in no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work..." by Andrew Field on ecademy
Short words or phrases, IF they are too common to be considered unique, can not be copyrighted. However, there are exceptions, according to the WASHINGTON JOURNAL OF LAW, TECHNOLOGY & ARTS VOLUME 6, ISSUE 3 WINTER 2011
In practice, similar or identical words or phrases, without more, generally qualify as de minimis and therefore not infringement.
8 However, courts have held works infringing based on single brief sentences when those sentences demonstrate particular originality or form the core of the protected work. For example, one court held it violated copyright law to use a sentence from the Night of the Living Dead screenplay—“When there is no more room in hell . . . the dead will walk the earth”—in the promotional material of a competing film.
The trouble with that is it's really subjective and a matter of a judge's opinion, so it's a bit of a roulette. The Limitations on Copyright article on Plagiarism Today is also well worth reading, though the blogger is not a lawyer.
One thing is certain, the copyright situation is going to get worse before it gets better. We need to have a good debate about this that protects the artists and ensures they are paid fairly; and make sure the rest of us aren't penalised for copyright violation for using similar words, phrases, or colours in our work. Not downloading torrent files may not be enough to protect you if the laws on copyright enforcement are tightened.
For further reading, check these links out:
- Computer Misuse Act 1990
- Data Protection Act 1998
- Freedom of Information Act 2000
- Intellectual Property Rights
- Digital Economy Act 2010
- Health and Safety at Work
- Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998
- Defamation Act 1996
- Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000
- A Cross National Perspective
Source for these links: http://knol.google.com/k/norman-creaney/legal-issues-for-it-professionals/1hzaxtdr9c09g/7#references