Over two years since notorious cyberlocker Megaupload was shut down on January 19, 2012, Hollywood today has gone on the legal offensive. Disney, 20th Century Fox Film, Paramount Pictures, Universal, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. today …
Looks like not everyone in Hollywood is on the same page when it comes to combating copyright infringement. Specifically, the Writers Guild of America West thinks that the multimillion-dollar damages the Motion Picture Association of America wants extracted from file-sharing sites “has little additional deterrent effect” and “high statutory penalties are not only often unreasonable but unpayable.” The strong comments from the WGAW comes in a submission the guild made on January 17 (read it here) to the Commerce Department on its paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy. Citing that “television and film are controlled by a handful of media companies who decide what content consumers have access to,” the guild’s remarks are a clear slap to the MPAA and the studios from the representatives of more than 8,000 frontline content creators.
No surprise the MPAA does not agree with that POV. “The deterrence provided by the current range of statutory damages is of vital importance to MPAA’s members and other copyright owners, especially in the online environment,” says the studio lobbying group in its own submission (read it here).
Nearly two years and a half years after first filing their suit on behalf of several studios, the MPAA today scored a victory against file-sharing service Hotfile. A federal court in Florida has found the site and its boss Anton Titov liable for copyright infringement. Today is the first time a U.S. court has ruled that such cyberlocker sites can be held directly liable for their practices. “This decision sends a clear signal that businesses like Hotfile that are built on a foundation of stolen works will be held accountable for the damage they do both to the hardworking people in the creative industries and to a secure, legitimate Internet”, MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd in a statement today. “We applaud the court for recognizing that Hotfile was not simply a storage locker, but an entire business model built on mass distribution of stolen content.” With claims of “ill-gotten gains” and a list of hundreds of the thousands of TV shows and films that Hotfile had allegedly infringed, the original 2011 complaint had Disney Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios Productions, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros as its plaintiffs. As others have done, the stateside-based Hotfile tried to use the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as a defense — although ultimately unsuccessfully. Today’s full decision from Judge Kathleen Williams won’t be made public for two weeks until confidential and propriety details are redacted. However, lawyers for both sides were allowed to review the opinion before its gist was revealed.
The highest-grossing movie of all time is again the subject of a copyright legal battle. Artist William Roger Dean filed a complaint against James Cameron and 20th Century Fox on Thursday seeking more than $50 million in damages over Avatar. Unlike past Avatar plaintiffs, Dean has an established pedigree. He is a well known artist who has created album covers for such big-selling bands as Yes and Asia and exhibited his fantasy landscapes and other work around the world. In fact, it is the ubiquity of his work, as well as a movie proposal based on it that he took at the 2005 Cannes Film Fest, that has Dean convinced the look of the 2009 3D sci-fi film were derived from his images. “The similarities of each such work are substantial, continuing, and direct so as to rule out any accidental copying or similarity in scenes common to the genre. The infringing portions of Avatar are so similar to Plaintiffs Works that Defendants and others employed in the preparation of the film must have had access to the Plaintiffs Works,” says his 17-page complaint (read it here) filed June 27 in U.S District Court in New York. The filing cites numerous specific examples from the world of Pandora to the foliage and creatures that populate it where Dean sees his own work. Along with copyright infringement, Dean also is claiming contributory infringement, breach of implied contact, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.
27% Of Australians Admit To Illegal Downloads
Some 27% of Australians persistently or casually download screen content illegally and at a growing rate over the past 12 months, according to new research from the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation, a coalition of film and TV organizations. The report showed 86% of people who download or stream illegally at least once a week admit they do so because it’s free. Incongruously, 71% of the 1,654 adults surveyed acknowledge that piracy is stealing but 76% don’t think they contribute to the problem. Some 50% of respondents agree that Internet Service Providers should take more responsibility to prevent the illegal distribution of movies and TV shows online. — Don Groves
Univision Signs New Deal With FiOS
Univision Communications has reached a comprehensive multiyear agrement with Verizon FiOS to continue carrying the U.S. Spanish-language media leader’s Univision and TeleFutura network feeds and owned-and-operated broadcast stations, the cable network Galavisión. Multichannel News reports the deal also includes Univision’s new cable services sports network Univision Deportes, telenovelas network Univision tlnovelas and FOROtv, a Spanish-language news network. The FiOS agreement also includes plans for multiplatform authentication rights for Univision’s upcoming interactive digital video platform for existing and new networks. The FiOS pact is Univision’s third far-reaching affiliate agreement in 2012. Dish Network and AT&T U-verse reached deals in January and May.
Sylvester Stallone has been sued by a writer who alleges the hit movie The Expendables copies a script and short story he filed with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2006. Marcus Webb says he then made available …
Viacom and Google/YouTube were back in court Tuesday arguing over last year’s federal district court ruling that relieved YouTube and its parent Google of massive copyright infringement charges, Bloomberg reported. Viacom told a panel of three judges …