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Money by Keith Cooper (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dK2oa7

Copyright For Sale: How the Sony Documents Illustrate the Link Between the MPAA and Political Donations

The linkage between political funding and the major copyright lobby groups is not a new issue as for years there have been stories about how groups like the MPAA and RIAA fund politicians that advance their interests. Sites like OpenSecrets disclose the spending, though it gets complicated given how much money comes from individual companies or corporate executives. While those sites tell the story of how much, the recent leak of Sony emails reveal the how. They demonstrate the coordinated efforts by the MPAA to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for certain politicians with direct efforts from MPAA CEO Christopher Dodd to solicit donations from among the Hollywood studios. This will not be news to those who have been following Lawrence Lessig in recent years, but the matter-of-fact tone of these emails is still revealing.

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April 21, 2015 4 comments News
TRAILER PARK BOYS INTRODUCING BRIAN SCOLARO by Pemberton Music Festival (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ow12W1

Race to the Bottom: Why Government Tax Credits For Film and TV Production Don’t Pay

The Nova Scotia government has been embroiled in a high profile controversy for the past week following its decision to slash tax credits available to film and television production in the province. The decision sparked an immediate backlash from the industry, which staged a major protest last Wednesday across from the legislature in Halifax.

While the government’s approach is certainly open to criticism – abruptly cutting the tax credits without warning may force the cancellation of long-planned productions this summer – the larger question of whether it should provide massive tax relief to the film and television industry is an important one. Eliminating or cutting the programs is politically difficult given the star power associated with film and television production, yet a growing number of studies have found that film and television tax credits do not deliver much bang for the buck.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the widespread use of film and television production tax subsidies dates back more than two decades as states and provinces used them to lure productions with the promise of new jobs and increased economic activity. The proliferation of subsidies and tax credits created a race to the bottom, where ever-increasing incentives were required to distinguish one province or state from the other.

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April 20, 2015 15 comments Columns
FAIL! by John Pasden (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/7w4eB3

Nobody’s Perfect: Leaked Contract Reveals Sony Requires Netflix To Geo-Block But Acknowledges Technology Is Imperfect

The Wikileaks release of tens of thousands of Sony documents includes revelations about opposition to the copyright treaty for the blind, political fundraising, concerns about fair use in treaties, strategies to fund screening rooms in embassies to create a stronger will to protect studio interests, and personal calls to Prime Ministers (UK Prime Minister Cameron in this case) regarding the copyright law. The documents also show that Sony lobbied Netflix to stop Australian users from using VPNs to access the service. Yet it would appear that Sony’s own licence terms with Netflix opens the door to general VPN use.

The documents also include a stunning array of commercial documents, including licensing agreements with broadcasters and online video services around the world. A general search for Canadian documents immediately uncovered parts of the licensing agreement between Sony and Netflix, including the content protection requirements and obligations. Netflix is unsurprisingly requirement to encrypt all programs, use only pre-approved digital rights management systems, and meet various technical requirements.  Of great interest to many Netflix subscribers, particularly those that try to access U.S. Netflix, are the requirements related to geographic filtering. The provision states:

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April 17, 2015 7 comments News
Początek marszu by Piotr Drabik (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ocTafz

Canada’s Non-Commercial Copyright Fail: Why Did YouTube Mute a Holocaust Memorial Video?

Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) starts tonight with events planned around the world. Last year, my daughter Jordan participated in the March of the Living, an annual event that brings thousands of people from around the world to the concentration camps in Poland. The experience had a profound effect and since her return she has become increasingly active within the March of the Living organization including joining the Ottawa board of directors. As part of tonight’s Holocaust remembrance event in Ottawa, she was asked to create a video to commemorate last year’s trip including interviews with participants, pictures, and video. She spent hours interviewing 18 participants on their experience and worked through hundreds of photos and hours of video to create a five-minute snapshot.

Last week, she posted the video to YouTube in anticipation of tonight’s event. Within hours, she received a message from the event organizer’s wondering why so few interviews appeared on the video. When she looked into the issue, she found that YouTube had muted the audio track with interviews after a couple of minutes (at 2:14 to be precise). The reason? The video includes some copyrighted background music. YouTube’s approach when it matches audio to a copyrighted work is to mute the non-music track, though it provides an option to fill out a fair dealing/fair use claim. Jordan did that, pointing out that Section 29.21 of the Canadian Copyright Act provides specific protection for non-commercial user generated content.  The provision states:

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April 15, 2015 10 comments News
back to drawing board by Michael Kötter (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dqQzTn

Back to the Drawing Board: Bell Drops Opt-Out Targeted Ad Program

Days after the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released its decision that found that Bell was violating Canadian privacy law with its targeted ad program, the communications giant advised that it is withdrawing its program and deleting all customer profiles. A company spokesperson stated yesterday that Bell plans to re-introduce the program using an opt-in consent approach. That would likely require more than just a change to the privacy policy since the company would need to provide customers with incentives or compensation to get much acceptance to be voluntarily tracked.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that Bell’s targeted advertising program, which creates customer profiles that include age, gender, account location, credit score, pricing plan, and average revenue per user, generated controversy from the moment it was announced in October 2013. The communications giant maintained that it complied with Canadian privacy laws, yet many clearly disagreed as the Privacy Commissioner of Canada received an unprecedented barrage of complaints.

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April 14, 2015 1 comment Columns