After more than a decade of aggressive anti-piracy actions directed through the courts, the world’s largest entertainment companies are now looking to forge less confrontational partnerships with companies in the technology sector.
In the belief that voluntary agreements can help a great deal in reducing online infringement, the RIAA and MPAA are trumpeting their efforts to make content legally available and are asking a wide range of service providers to help give those official offerings room to grow.
Later today, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman will tell a House Judiciary Subcommittee that such voluntary agreements have a vital role to play.
“In order to make this digital marketplace truly work, we must ensure that these vibrant new legitimate and authorized technologies are not undermined by those engaged in illegal activity. Voluntary initiatives with Internet intermediaries are a key component of that objective,” Sherman will tell the hearing.
Copyright Alerts System
The RIAA expresses thanks to the Administration and Congress for the support given so far to initiatives such as the fledgling Copyright Alerts System. Sherman will state that it’s too early to say whether or not it has been a full success, but the signs are good.
“The CAS is still in the initial implementation stages and proper metrics are being determined. But feedback so far has been positive and it is worth noting that P2P content protection programs in other countries have been found to have an impact on either the amount of unauthorized P2P activity or on sales,” Sherman will note.
Payments, advertising and domain issues
Another area of cooperation highlighted are agreements with payment processors including Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover and PayPal, which sees processors terminate their relationship with a website if it continually offers illegitimate content. Sherman will cite figures from the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) that reveal the termination of more than 1,500 merchant accounts between 2011 and August 2013.
After highlighting progress in restricting advertising revenue to “rogue sites” and cautiously welcoming anti-piracy provisions relating to the rolling out of new Top Level Domains, Sherman will move on to the issue of User Generated Content.
The RIAA chairman begins by referencing an initiative signed by CBS, Disney, Crackle, Daily Motion, Fox, Microsoft and Veoh among others way back in 2007. The agreement, which Sherman says was one of very first voluntary online anti-piracy initiatives, sought to boost UGC services while protecting rights holders.
The RIAA hopes that it can breathe new life into the six-year-old deal which will see parties:
- Implement fingerprinting technology to filter out unauthorized video and audio
- Provide copyright holders with “enhanced searching and identification means.”
- Work to identify “predominantly infringing” sites and block their links
- Track, identify and ban repeat infringers while “accommodating fair use”
“The UGC principles serve as a model of intermediaries and content owners working together voluntarily to assure that the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have meaning and are adapted to new technological advancements,” Sherman will say.
“They should serve as a blueprint for new voluntary agreements between content owners and Internet intermediaries to carry out the intent of the DMCA to protect both copyright owners and intermediaries”
Search engines must do more – much more
Perhaps unsurprisingly the RIAA still has plenty of criticism for search engines such as Google, who it accuses of doing little to help with infringement. The music group says it wants engines to look at whether sites are “authorized” or not when it determines how they are placed in results.
“We believe it would be useful to see voluntary initiatives by search engines that take into account whether or not a site is authorized to provide the content at issue in determining search result rankings for searches to consume that content,” Sherman will say.
“This could take into account not only the absolute number of copyright removal requests sent about a site to trigger demotion of that site, but also whether the site is authorized to provide the content to trigger a higher search rank for that site.”
The RIAA also says that Google’s efforts to disappear links to child porn could be extended to infringing material and that tools such as Chrome could divert users away from certain sites and towards others.
“Google has tools in its Chrome browser to warn users if they are going to sites that may be malicious. Shouldn’t that technology be used to warn users of rogue sites?” Sherman will ask.
The RIAA doesn’t explain if this means blocking direct access to pirate sites, or if another warning system is preferred.
“Or better yet, can Google use similar technology to highlight or identify sites that are authorized? Imagine if links to content on legitimate sites were labeled – directly in the search result – with a certification mark indicating that the site is licensed and actually pays royalties to creators. That educational message could have a profound and positive impact on user behavior.”
The DMCA isn’t working – cooperation is needed
It’s no secret that the RIAA is disappointed with how the DMCA has panned out. The music group feels that scanning millions of websites and sending notices is an unfair burden for rightsholders and a position that needs to improve.
“As was done with the UGC Principles, there is an opportunity for intermediaries and content owners to sit down and negotiate practical solutions that will make the ‘notice and takedown’ system more meaningful and effective,” Sherman will say.
“From more stringent repeat infringer policies to takedowns that don’t automatically repopulate, many practical solutions can be adopted that would assure the intent of the DMCA is carried out. We hope the relevant parties will join together to start this process and we need Congress to encourage and facilitate such a process.”
What makes a good voluntary agreement?
In his summing up, Sherman will state that voluntary agreements mean the formation of a partnership in which both content and platform owners work to protect copyright and in which intermediaries understand that doing so is to their benefit.
“Initiatives must go beyond what is already done or expected of intermediaries under existing law,” Sherman will declare.
Update: An RIAA spokesperson informs TorrentFreak that while RIAA CEO Cary Sherman references Google’s malware warnings, they don’t propose to block any sites.
“Just to further make clear, Cary purposefully and explicitly twice referred to ‘warning’ users in his remarks about possible voluntary initiatives we could discuss with Google. There intentionally was no reference to ‘blocking’ and it is not something the RIAA would propose.”
The intro of this article has been updated to clarify the above.