Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lessig moves on from Copyright fight

Lawrence Lessig, author of “Free Culture”, and CEO of Creative Commons, has announced his plans to scale back his work in Intellectual Property (IP) fields, including lectures and talks, to work on a new project – the 'corruption' of the political process.

Ten years ago, Lawrence Lessig started in the fight for fairer and more culturally sound IP laws. He gained great prominence for his work in Eldred v. Ashcroft, and is viewed by many as a true cornerstone on the fight to opposed the absurd copyright laws being implemented and enhanced worldwide.

His statement today (itself a clarification of what he had earlier announced at iCommons) about his stepping down and the redirection of his aims might come as a surprise to many. He claims it was brought about from a combination of Barack Obama's decision to run for the US Senate (described as “up or out”) and what Al Gore calls the corruption of the political system.

He'll continue to be CEO of the Creative Commons, and on the board of iCommons, but he'll be withdrawing from other similar groups in the near future. Lets hope he has as much success at his new area of conquest, as he has in highlighting the current problems in the area of “intellectual property”

Saturday, June 02, 2007

IFPI claims piracy is ‘Made in China’

If you were to take press statements made by the anti-piracy lobbyists, everyone in South East Asia is busy camcording movies, working in ‘illicit replication factories’ or smuggling people across borders to sell counterfeit CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes. They’re also responsible for global warming, the fall of society in general, and most importantly, the drop in profits by the media companies.

Being only able to milk Billions when they feel they should be making Trillions seems to have given them tunnel vision when it comes to reading reports such as the “Summary of Community Customs Activities on Counterfeit and Piracy Results at the European Border - 2006” (link) by the European Commission.

Reading the statement by the IFPI, for instance, gives you a certain sense of deja vu, in that you know what’s going to be in the press release, before its even been opened. It’ll include some few choice statistics, which may or may not be presented in context, and say how this “points to the increasing damage that piracy is doing to the creative industries in Europe and the European economy”. Of course, at the same time, it’ll take great care to avoid linking to such a damming document, because that will then put the figures in context.

A claim that 23 Million counterfeit CDs, DVDs and cassettes were seized at the EU borders might be a big story, if you write it that way. If you write that the report says that this is actually only 9.18% of all the goods we seized in that time period, it doesn’t quite have the same impact. To contrast, over 150 million packets of cigarettes, or their equivalent, were grabbed in the same time period, and accounted for some 62% of the haul.

Similarly, claim that its grown by 137% since 2005 also looks impressive, and then you contrast that with clothing, which was the number 2 biggest item which grew by 175%. More revealingly, the statistics in the report are broken down in the clothing and accessories category, into sportsware, other clothing, and accessories. More items of clothing accessories (such as bags, sunglasses, hats etc.) were stopped than CDs, DVDs, and cassettes – 24,887,263 versus 23,216,560, and which had a staggering 570% jump. Most telling of all though is the fact that overall, the total number of items seized went up by 234%, so in terms of percentage of goods, CD/DVD/Cassettes fell. Even the number of cases grew by 136%

Of course, no press release on this subject would be complete without a target. In this case, it’s China, claiming that since 93% of the relevant confiscations originated in china, that they’re the source of all this evil and must be stopped. Whilst the origins of the confiscated packages might be china, the report doesn’t give the actual location where the goods were created. It may be china, or it may be another country with China an intermediate point for warehousing.

Most telling of all, though, page 13 of the 15 page report, where it lists the rights broken as to why the goods were taken. It lists trademark violation as the reason for 87.13% of the cases, and patent violation for another 12.32% - leaving copyright infringement, designs and models, and unknown all fighting it out for the last 0.55%. Clearly, copyright infringement isn’t the big problem everyone claims it to be.

ben Jones