Silicon Valley Hypocrisy: We Support Solutions To Piracy, Except When They Are Actual Solutions to Piracy…

You can’t make this up. Law 360 is reporting that the International Trade Commission (ITC) has been denied authority over digital goods.

The Federal Circuit said Thursday that it wouldn’t reconsider its decision that the International Trade Commission lacks the authority to block the import of digital files, drawing a lengthy dissent from one of its judges.

Keep in mind, the same people now opposed to the ITC having this authority are the same who argued in favor of the the ITC doing so as an alternative to SOPA called the Open Act.

Below is an except from an excellent post on this issue By Devlin Hartline & Matthew Barblan at CPIP.

When advocating for the OPEN Act as a good alternative to SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act, the bill’s sponsors touted the ITC as being a great venue for tackling the problems of foreign rogue sites. Among the claimed virtues were its vast experience, transparency, due process protection, consistency, and independence:

For well over 80 years, the independent International Trade Commission (ITC) has been the venue by which U.S. rightsholders have obtained relief from unfair imports, such as those that violate intellectual property rights. Under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 – which governs how the ITC investigates rightsholders’ request for relief – the agency already employs a transparent process that gives parties to the investigation, and third party interests, a chance to be heard. The ITC’s process and work is highly regarded as independent and free from political influence and the department already has a well recognized expertise in intellectual property and trade law that could be expanded to the import of digital goods.

The Commission already employs important safeguards to ensure that rightsholders do not abuse their right to request a Commission investigation and the Commission may self-initiate investigations. Keeping them in charge of determining whether unfair imports – like those that violate intellectual property rights – [sic] would ensure consistent enforcement of Intellectual Property rights and trade law.

Some of the groups now arguing that the ITC shouldn’t have jurisdiction over digital goods openly supported the OPEN Act. Back in late 2011, the EFF stated that it was “glad to learn that a bipartisan group of congressional representatives has come together to formulate a real alternative, called the OPEN Act.” The EFF liked the bill because the “ITC’s process . . . is transparent, quick, and effective” and “both parties would have the opportunity to participate and the record would be public.” It emphasized how the “process would include many important due process protections, such as effective notice to the site of the complaint and ensuing investigation.”

Google likewise thought that giving the ITC jurisdiction over digital goods was a great idea. In a letter posted to its blog in early 2012, Google claimed that “there are better ways to address piracy than to ask U.S. companies to censor the Internet,” and it explicitly stated that it “supports alternative approaches like the OPEN Act.” Google also signed onto a letter promoting the virtues of the ITC: “This approach targets foreign rogue sites without inflicting collateral damage on legitimate, law-abiding U.S. Internet companies by bringing well-established International trade remedies to bear on this problem.”

You can read the full post here (Strongly Recommended):

Digital Goods and the ITC: The Most Important Case That Nobody is Talking About


 

The Times They Are A-Changin | Guest Post by Marc Ribot

Guest post by Marc Ribot.

The deceptive premises of the NYTimes Editorial “Keep the Internet Free of Borders” 8/10, begin with the title, which leads one to believe that this ITC case will take something away that actually exists.   In fact, the Internet is not now and has never been,  “free of borders”. Copyright law prohibits unlawful distribution of copyrighted works outside national borders and has strict provisions on import and export of copyrighted works. The Internet has never been free of copyright law, because copyright  is nation-based. That’s why a new treaty was adopted to address the cross-border issue of distribution of works for blind and reading impaired persons- the Marrakesh Treaty adopted in 2012-, and why a global treaty for libraries is now under discussion: to make cross-border distribution legal in certain cases,  precisely because right now it’s restricted.  Even Google knows that the Internet has national borders.  It found a way to respect them for Google Books-  a mechanism to prevent export of copyrighted works to other countries. There are patent rules too.  All universities have policies regarding import and export of patented material. Export control rules and guidelines already cover patented material/trade competition and have NEVER  been restricted to physical goods.

When the editorial extrapolates its argument to the record industry, it goes even further afield.  ” The I.T.C. has long had the power to forbid companies from importing physical goods like electronics, books and mechanical equipment that violate the patents, copyrights and trademarks of American businesses…The commission’s order to ClearCorrect was the first time it had sought to bar the transfer of digital information.”

The Times takes the RIAA to task for supporting the decision: “Groups like the…Recording Industry Association of America are supporting the commission’s view… that, as trade increasingly becomes digital, the definition of “article” should include data.”

Yet when there was actually legislation on the table supporting the alternative remedies to ITC intervention that the editorial now claims to favor,  the NY Times took the exact opposite position ( Beyond SOPA 1/28/12), and supported empowering the ITC:  “By giving the International Trade Commission sole authority to determine infringement, [the OPEN Act] would…[give]  copyright holders powerful new tools to protect themselves [while] protecting legitimate expression on  the Web from overzealous content owners.

Funny how ‘Times’ change.

In any case, the alternate remedies proposed in last weeks editorial simply don’t apply to recording artists works.  “There are far better ways to [protect…patents and copyrights]….Align could sue ClearCorrect and seek damages for patent infringement. Or the company could ask a judge to order ClearCorrect to stop selling products made using the information contained in the files.”

Sounds great: but asking a judge to order an infringing company to stop selling [physical] products made using information contained in infringing files’ isn’t relevant for people whose product is the files themselves.  And  of course, suing companies profiting from infringement is precisely what musicians can’t do, thanks to the Safe Harbor Clause of the DMCA. That clause exempts online businesses from the normal responsibility of companies for violations of the law occurring on their premises.

Is the NY Times now going to support ending Safe Harbor protection for companies whose business models are based on aiding, abetting, and profiting  from infringement?  Such a position would be the only way musicians could have access to its suggested remedy.

We certainly hope so, because while congress has failed to effectively regulate the unfair black market destroying the value of our work, our industry has crashed and our livelihoods are suffering.

Our problem isn’t new technology itself, but the failure of government to regulate new and unfair forms of exploitation. The internet has borders: it is bound internationally by the laws of sovereign nations, and internally by laws which protect the rights of citizens. It also has hugely powerful corporations attempting to violate those borders on a massive scale in order to create consumer ‘facts on the ground’ which render those rights politically un-enforceable.

International borders aren’t the only boundaries threatened by big tech’s drive to profit from infringement: the consequences of the failure of government to stand up to this corporate manipulation won’t stay neatly contained within the music industry.  Nor will the effective nullification of citizens rights stop at those protecting artists.  Its a slippery slope, baby.

– M ribot