All About Copyrights

  • History of Copyrights

    printing press.jpgThe 1710 Statute of Anne established the principles of authors’ ownership of copyright and a fourteen year term of protection. The law prevented a monopoly on the part of the booksellers and created a “public domain” for literature after the expiration of the copyright and ensured that once a work was purchased the copyright owner no longer had complete control over its use. For the first time, the law provided for an author’s copyright.

    Then in 1787, the framers of the United States Constitution wrote in Article I, Section 8, “the Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

    victrola.jpgA major revision of the U.S. Copyright Act was completed in 1909, among other things to address the needs of the brand new recording industry. “The bill broadened the scope of categories protected to include all works of authorship, and extended the term of protection to twenty-eight years with a possible renewal of twenty-eight. The main object to be desired in expanding copyright protection accorded to music has been to give the composer an adequate return for the value of his composition, and it has been a serious and difficult task to combine the protection of the composer with the protection of the public, and to so frame an act that it would accomplish the double purpose of securing to the composer an adequate return for all use made of his composition and at the same time prevent the formation of oppressive monopolies, which might be founded upon the very rights granted to the composer for the purpose of protecting his interests” (H.R. Rep. No. 2222, 60th Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 7 [1909]).

  • The History of Digital Piracy

    bill gates open letter.jpgThe personal computer debuted on the cover of Popular Electronics in January 1975 and a year later Bill Gates of Microsoft was battling piracy as he was trying to get his fledgling company Microsoft off the ground. In his letter to software pirates of that era, he wrote “Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid?”

  • The Arrival of P2P

    Shawn  Fanning, while a student at Northeastern University in Boston, changed  the  music and media industry with his creation of a digital  file‐sharing program called  Napster. In 1999, he created a software program that allowed computer users to  share and  exchange files.  Napster had several hundred thousand users by the  spring of 2000, and had grown to over 50 million users by February 2001.  This technology is called Peer-to-peer or P2P because it allows “peers”, ordinary computers to exchange files between themselves.

    By 2008, P2P traffic had become 44% of all consumer internet traffic globally and according to “P2P Traffic to Grow Almost 400% over the Next 5 Years, as Legitimate P2P Applications Become a Meaningful Segment” from MultiMedia Intelligence, P2P traffic would grow by 400% by 2013.

    By 2010, according to “Verizon Gets Ahead of the Broadband Crunch” in The Wall Street Journal, file sharing accounted for approximately 35% of all global internet traffic, more than twice as much as web browsing and is forecast to nearly double from 2010 to 2013 to almost 10 Petabytes a month.

    growth of p2p.jpg

    The chart above was generated from data by Cisco in its “Global IP Traffic Forecast and Methodology, 2006-2011” and featured at

  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

    us capitol.jpgIn the United States, the law is strongly in favor of protecting the interests of copyright holders. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed in 1997, heightened the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet and established the liability of the providers of on-line services for copyright infringement by their users. The DMCA made illegal the manufacture, sale, or distribution of code-cracking devices used to illegally copy software, e.g. Limewire, eDonkey and BitTorrent. Additionally, the DMCA states that service providers may not allow the illegal downloading of copyrighted materials via their systems.

    The United States Code 17 U.S.C. 504. states as follows:

    “Remedies for infringement: Damages and profits (2) In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000.”

    The music industry has spent millions of dollars searching for a technology breakthrough to protect copyrighted works. These technologies were often referred to as Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM technologies attempt to prevent digital music player technology from allowing reproduction. These efforts failed to stem the tide of illegal downloading.

    • Beginning in 2002, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade group that represents the U.S Music Industry, filed the first lawsuits against individuals who were suspected of illegally downloading music.
    • In 2006, Free Peers Inc. closed its business due to a $30 million settlement with the recording industry.  Under the DMCA, the industry has won lawsuits against Napster, Grokster, Bearshare, Limewire and many others.
    • By October 2008, RIAA had filed 30,000 lawsuits against individual downloaders.

    Even with 30,000 lawsuits filed and millions of dollars collected, P2P traffic had still grown worldwide to represent more than 40% of all consumer internet traffic.

    ISPs Have Liability If They Do Not Act

    If ISPs are required to make a reasonable effort to curtail illegal activity on their networks. ISPs are given “Safe Harbor” protection as long as once the ISP is notified of a copyright infringement, they forward the notice to their customer.

    Additionally, the DMCA requires ISPs to suspend the service of “repeat infringers.”

  • How P2P Is Misused

    p2p network.jpgA February 2010 study done by Sauhard Sahi at Princeton University found that only 1% of files transferred on Bittorrent did not infringe on copyrighted material.

    P2P is Profitable for Pirates

    In 2008, it was revealed that just one BitTorrent hosting/tracker site was making $4 million a year on advertising.

    Additionally, these sites are making money scraping user’s data from their hard drives and selling it for marketing and even identity theft purposes.

    In February 2010, The Federal Trade Commission sent letters to almost 100 organizations notifying them that personal information, including sensitive data about customers and employees, had been shared from their computer networks and was available on peer -to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks to any users of those networks, who could use it to commit identity theft or fraud.

    How File Sharing Works

    First, a user downloads Frostwire software or any number of other free Gnutella Peer-to-Peer (P2P) applications, installs the application on their computer, and searches for a song, movie or game. The Gnutella application then sends a request to the Gnutella network, a voluntary network of all users of Gnutella applications.

    The application uses the network to create a list of all of the available versions of the requested content, which is then displayed. The user selects the version and source of the content that they want to download. The Gnutella application then sends a request for the content out to the network. Usually, the previous users who have downloaded the content have the content available on their computer for the next person who wants it.  After downloading, they would specifically have to disable the application from offering it back to the network. The Gnutella clients literally “talk amongst themselves” without any involvement from the user and the full piece of content gets sent to the requested user in many small pieces from many individual user’s computers. Very quickly, the user has the desired content in moments.  An entire discography can take as little as five minute to download on ordinary connections, for free.

    By contrast, the BitTorrent P2P network works in a different way.  First, the user locates a “torrent” file that contains the detailed location of the computers that have the source files. Think of almost any popular old or new recording artists or movie and enter the name into Google. Google will often display a drop down list that will contain the word “discography.” Within the first page of search results you will see the links to the torrent site for the artist or movie. These torrent pages also create revenue from serving advertisements.

    Public torrent hosting sites such as The Pirate Bay allow users to search and download from their collection of torrent files. Users can typically also upload torrent files for content they wish to distribute. Often, these sites also run BitTorrent trackers for their hosted torrent files, but these two functions are not mutually dependent: a torrent file could be hosted on one site and tracked by another, unrelated site.

    The industry has developed its own terminology. Seeders are people who have finished downloading 100% of a file and are sharing it for download. Leachers are people who are downloading the file and sharing a small part of it at the same time.

    In order to obtain and maintain rapid downloads; a user usually must allow their computer to upload desired content back to the network.

    BitTorrent Private host/tracker sites such as Demonoid operate like public ones except that they restrict access to registered users and keep track of the amount of data each user uploads and downloads, in an attempt to reduce leeching.

    BitTorrent search engines allow the discovery of torrent files that are hosted and tracked on other sites; examples include Mininova, BTJunkie, Torrentz, The Pirate Bay, Eztorrent and isoHunt. These sites allow the user to ask for content meeting specific criteria (such as containing a given word or phrase) and retrieve a list of links to torrent files matching those criteria.

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