By , August 26, 2011.

Consumption is a Human Right? — Another great post from Faza, taking on the weakness of the “access to culture” argument. “As human rights go, access to culture is a rather weak one. I mean, seriously, whatever happened to food, housing and healthcare? Compared to a lack of any of those, not being able to listen to the new album from [X] is a minor tickle. So why aren’t we getting any of those for free?”

Bill would help combat copyright offenders on the Internet — The Washington Post weighs in on the PROTECT IP Act. “[It] takes pains to protect Internet service providers, search engines and others that may have done business with a rogue site … But there is a need for a legal tool that stops those who persistently leech off of the innovations of others.”

Ontario Court of Appeal Rules In Tucows v. Renner: Domain Names Are Personal Property — Before this, no Canadian appellate court had reached the issue. Matt Lonsdale of IP Osgoode examines the decision, which aligns Canada with the dominant view that domain names can be treated as property, a view shared by US courts.

HSI agents arrest website operator for illegally streaming copyrighted sporting events — ICE announced it had arrested the operator of one of the sites whose domain names had been seized as part of Operation in Our Sites. The owner of and has been charged with one count of criminal copyright infringement for allegedly streaming live sporting events through the website.

Hollywood Buzz in Cleveland, Ohio — Film production creates jobs and boosts local economies. Recent local news channels highlighted these positive effects in Cleveland, currently home for production of The Avengers and I, Alex Cross.

The Jobs Program — Rob Levine weighs in on Steve Jobs resignation and the success of Apple despite the company doing the opposite of what technology pundits consistently preach.

Petition of the Day: Pilgrim Films & Television v. Montz — SCOTUSBlog highlights this petition to the Supreme Court from Pilgrim and NBCUniversal, stemming from a dispute between them and a parapsychologist, who alleged the idea for the Syfy program Ghost Hunters was taken from him without compensation. The 9th Circuit ruled in favor of him; Pilgrim appeals to the Supreme Court on the basis that such a claim should be pre-empted by the Copyright Act.

Bestselling Self-Published Author Signs Deal with Simon & Schuster — John Locke, who became popular in the blogosphere after selling millions of copies of his self-released books, becomes the latest in the line of such authors to join forces with a traditional publisher.

Crowdfunding Concerns — It’s all fun and games till someone gets poked by the IRS. “Crowdfunding”, or micro-patronage, is becoming a popular alternative for raising money for a variety of creative endeavors. However, as Leslie Burns explains, creators interested in crowdfunding a project need to be careful to consider tax considerations and other legal issues before beginning.

The Potential Cost of PROTECT IP: Our Take — The MPAA comments on the Congressional Budget Office’s $47 million cost estimate for implementing the proposed legislation.

The Copyright Alert System — A couple of recent pieces exploring July’s announcement of an agreement between US ISPs and the music and film industry to fight online piracy. Songwriters Guild of America president Rick Carnes discusses the agreement at the Arts+Labs blog, while the Kluwer Copyright Blog looks at it in the context of similar international and European measures.

Book Review: Robert Levine, Free Ride — The Cynical Musician reviews Levine’s Free Ride. “Levine’s single biggest contribution to the debate on the future of online media is that he manages to demonstrate, very clearly, that rather than a question of morality or ideology, it is one of economics.”

Stop Criminalizing Our Kids: Google Drugs Pays Record $500 Million Fine to Avoid Jail … For Now — Chris Castle discusses the record forfeiture of Google’s profits in connection with ads for illegal importation of prescription drugs. The settlement agreement between the Department of Justice and Google is available here.

Documenting how a bill becomes a law — Many of the documents produced during the legislative process are available online, but compilations of a bill’s entire legislative history are not as readily available, meaning lawyers and researchers have to do a lot of legwork to piece together the reports, hearings, committee prints, and draft bills that shed light on the intent of a law. The US Department of Justice has just released a collection of compiled legislative histories for a number of landmark bills that its staff uses internally. Kudos to the DOJ for making this valuable resource available to the public.


  1. That first article has some truly breathtaking comments by one individual (the same individual whose comments initiated the article in the first place). S/he seems to argue that once the “costs” of a creative product are recouped that it should be free for the taking.

    First, the “costs” of, say, a movie, are predicated on the idea that the creative brains behind it will make money in royalties. Thus the screenwriter accepts $50,000 for his contribution with the promise of a cut of the profit that the movie makes. So he is not accepting his payment all up front, just the promise of more later down the line. Not only that, but there is a certain amount of risk involved, namely that he will not make any more money if the movie should flop. So were we to eliminate royalties, he would probably need to sell his script for $100,000 or even $200,000. So the example the commentator gives of a “$100 million movie” is false. If what we know as a $100 million movie that is allowed to make royalties existed in a world where there were no royalties, the actual cost would be much, much higher, perhaps even in the billions.

    Second, creative people rarely receive royalties. With all the work they do at below market value on the promise of royalties for successful projects, only a small percentage actually pay out. So the royalties they may receive for that successful project is also paying them for the 10 that aren’t. John Lee Beatty, a Broadway scenic designer, calculated that one would need to design 14 major Broadway shows per year to make a living wage. Now consider the fact that designing a show takes 2-3 months (with a bit of overlap with other shows), and that only about 40 shows open per year, and even one of the most prolific designers such as Mr. Beatty can only do about 8 shows a year, and you can see how royalties are necessary just to allow these hard-working individuals a decent salary; as another designer pointed out once one of his shows finally started paying out royalties, he was finally earning minimum wage. Imagine what would happen to the already-high ticket prices on Broadway if no royalties were ever paid out.

    The commentator has other strange arguments. S/he argues that “cultural works” should be free, and that companies who do not offer them should be prepared to accept piracy. But then when it is pointed out that legal piracy would cause these companies to go out of business and no new cultural works would be made, s/he argues that nobody wants any movies, books or music that isn’t freely available. If this were the case, than why is there piracy in the first place?

    It’s a shame too, because the other commentators are quite eloquent in their arguments.

  2. The MPAA comments on the Congressional Budget Office’s $47 million cost estimate for implementing the proposed legislation.

    I think the MPAA’s response is strange and misleading.

    Here’s what the CBO said: “Based on information provided by DOJ, CBO estimates that implementing S. 968 would cost $47 million over the 2012-2016 period. DOJ anticipates that it would need to hire 22 special agents and 26 support staff to execute its new investigative responsibilities under the bill. Once fully phased in, CBO estimates the costs of the additional employees under the bill would reach about $10 million annually, including salaries, benefits, training, equipment, and support costs. For this estimate, we assume the investigative positions would be fully staffed by 2014 and that future spending would be adjusted for anticipated inflation.”

    So it’s going to cost about $10M per year for the new special agents and support staff to implement the Act. The MPAA spins this though when they claim “it’s entirely possible that it won’t cost anything extra at all.” And then later they say that the “bill does not direct the government to spend money, which is enormously important.”

    If they have to hire an estimated 48 people to implement the Act, then how is it possible that “it won’t cost anything extra at all”? Surely they’re not saying they don’t want these 48 new people to be hired. And are they really arguing that some of the 51 new agents hired under the PRO IP Act should be used to implement this Act, in lieu of hiring new people? That makes no sense. Why would the MPAA want less government agents enforcing this law for them?

    And sure, the bill “does not direct the government to spend money,” but doesn’t the MPAA want the government to hire these 48 people? Don’t they want the government to spend this money? Imagine how pissed they’ll be if the government actually didn’t hire new people. Heck, they’re probably thinking that 48 people won’t be enough and $47M sounds too low.

    Give me a break. The MPAA would not be satisfied if the government spent zero extra dollars implementing the PROTECT IP Act. Why are they pretending: (1) it could happen, and (2) that it’d be great if it did. The whole thing just seems disingenuous to me.

    • @D.H.
      I don’t speak for the MPAA, but my understanding (and it’s explained in the blog post you’re referring to…) is that the extra revenue recovered by eliminating these rogue sites [in leiu of taxes on earned income] would be more than a wash.. so in fact, it would NOT cost the government money, in the long run. they’d probably gain moneys, if in fact, they did a good job at keeping the big pilfering sites at bay.

      • I get that in some indirect way the program should pay for itself. But it’s still gonna cost about $47M like the CBO said. The MPAA is saying that the “bill does not direct the government to spend money,” but rest assured, the government will spend money (about $47M) and the MPAA will approve (“we would welcome it if Congress chooses to devote even more resources to the fight”).

        • Most government programmes work like that, though: you spend money to achieve something that should bring you more money in the long run. Hell, business works like that, too. We call it “investment”.

          Moreover, what I think the MPAA are getting at is that the PRO-IP Act of 2008 already provides funding for an additional 51 FBI agents dedicated to IP enforcement. It is impossible for me to say, based on the available information, whether the COB estimates are to be understood as saying that 48 people over and above those 51 agents have to be employed, or simply that 48 people will be required to do the job of implementing PROTECT-IP. In the second case, the funding is already accounted for by a previous act, so no additional funds would be required.