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OPLIN 4Cast #299: Copyright alerts

Posted in 4cast

Administrators at many of the libraries served by OPLIN have received emails from OPLIN Support passing along complaints about copyright infringement, often tracing back to a public computer in a library being used to download a copyright-protected movie. Automated measures to stop such infringement have hit the news lately, as “copyright bots” blocked portions of the Hugo Awards and the Democratic National Convention broadcasts. For the past year, there also has been a system in place, called the Copyright Alert System, that tries to stop copyright infringement by sending notices of illegal downloads to participating Internet service providers (ISPs), in the hope that the ISP will take action against their infringing customer. And it’s possible that a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement may someday create meaningful legal incentives for ISPs to police the Internet. Meanwhile, what should a library know about the law if it receives a copyright infringement notice? These sites might help.

  • ISP copyright alerts: Your questions answered (PCMag/Chloe Albanesius)  “Most ISPs already issue copyright infringement notices to customers if they receive complaints from copyright holders. This Copyright Alert System is just an effort to get everyone on the same page in terms of how to notify customers and how to penalize repeat offenders. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), ISPs are required to respond to copyright notices if they want to be protected by the law’s safe harbor clause. In other words, if someone is using Comcast’s network to download illegal files, Comcast won’t get in trouble provided it responds to complaints and deals with the customer in question.”
  • Should you fear new ISP copyright enforcers? (CNET/Greg Sandoval)  “Those ISPs that have partnered with the music and film sectors have the option of issuing six warnings to a subscriber before moving to the ‘mitigation’ stage. Way down in the press release announcing the agreement is the bit about how the ISPs will hobble the connection speeds of those accused of multiple offenses or completely cut off their Web connection until they stop infringing intellectual property.”
  • What legal consequences can there be for illegally downloading movies or music? (New Media Rights/Shaun Spalding)  “It is against the law for the person who posted the video to have posted it. However, it’s not against the law for you to watch/stream an infringing video that has been posted. If it was, millions of people would be breaking the law just by watching videos on YouTube each day. Even though it’s not against the law to watch them, as soon as you do anything to reproduce or redistribute the illegal video yourself, then you actually are committing infringement. For example, if you try to download the video from the streaming site onto your hard drive, you have then independently broken the law and can be held responsible for that download.”
  • Stored Communications Act and internet service providers (Lexology/Winston & Strawn LLP)  “Magistrate Judge Brown found that while the plaintiffs could make a prima facie claim, they could not demonstrate that there was a reasonable likelihood that the requested discovery would lead to identifying information of the individuals who had downloaded the copyrighted material without authorization. He noted the widespread use of wireless routers and that multiple computers and multiple users can access the Internet from a single wireless router. Thus, while an IP address may lead to a particular wireless router, it does not establish a reasonable likelihood that it would lead to an individual who can be sued for copyright infringement.”

Notice fact:
OPLIN is not a participant in the Copyright Alert System. Nevertheless, we have received over 500 complaints since the beginning of 2012, which we forward on to libraries for their information.