UPDATED: California state Attorney General Kamala Harris today announced criminal charges and the arraignment of three brothers who face up to five years in prison for operating an illegal website that allowed users to watch bootleg versions of copyrighted TV shows and movies. Hop Hoang, 26, Tony Hoang, 23, and Huynh Hoang, 20, were arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court today for allegedly operating the website mediamp4.com, which allowed users to illegally stream more than 1,000 copyrighted titles on computers and mobile devices. The three have each been charged with one count of conspiracy, four counts of receiving stolen property and one count of grand theft after their computers were seized. READ MORE »
There’s so much current programming that’s available for free from online pirates that it “could put the whole [pay TV] ecosystem at risk,” Macquarie Equities Research’s Tim Nollen warns today. His report follows what he says was a “quick and dirty Google search” to see what he could find. To his surprise “practically everything that’s popular on TV can be found instantly” from torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and cyberlockers listed in Letmewatchthis.com. For example, he found episodes of FX’s Justified, TNT’s Dallas, AMC’s The Walking Dead, History’s Vikings, and CBS’ The Big Bang Theory less than three hours after they aired. He also was surprised by how slick some of these sites have become. “In terms of usability, it’s difficult to tell the difference between iTunes or Netflix and the smoothest-looking illegitimate sites.” About 70% of U.S. homes have broadband service, giving them the ability to download an hourlong show in about 42 seconds — and lots of people already use that power to watch shows for free. Pirate Bay is more popular among U.S. Internet users than sites from The Washington Post, Best Buy, and dating service Match.com.
International law may soon allow the Caribbean island of Antigua to sell copyrighted movies, TV shows, music, games and software online without paying a penny to studios and other content owners. Antigua today accepted a World Trade Organization decision authorizing it to sell up to $21 million annually in U.S. intellectual property without paying royalties. WTO says the appropriation of U.S. copyrights is justified to compensate for U.S. trade sanctions that crippled the tiny island’s online gambling industry. In a statement to the WTO, Antiguan High Commissioner to the UK Carl Roberts paraphrased Bob Dylan: “[As] an American musician once said, ‘When you have nothing you have nothing to lose’”.
Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public & Media Affairs Nkenge Harmon tells me via email that any Antigua-aided piracy would hurt chances for a settlement and foreign investments in other Antiguan industries including high-tech. “To be clear, the United States will not tolerate theft of intellectual property and will take whatever steps are most efficient and effective to prevent this from happening.” A representative for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce adds this promise: “Violating international IP obligations would sour the business environment and reduce government revenues in the long term — the biggest losers would be the people of [Antigua]“. The MPAA had no immediate comment.
The MPAA is ramping up its efforts to combat movie piracy, appointing attorney Marc Miller as SVP Content Protection, Internet. Miller joins from Nintendo of America, where he was Anti-Piracy Counsel for Americas and Asia/Pacific. He …
The U.S. Trade Representative’s annual list of the countries on America’s official piracy radar was released today, with Spain and Malaysia dropping off the roster and Ukraine coming aboard. The highest Priority Watch List includes thirteen countries: Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela. The report says online piracy is “rapidly supplanting physical piracy in many markets around the world” and nowhere more so than in China, where 99% of all music downloads are illegal. Streaming sites with pirated content also have become the preferred venues to watch TV shows, movies, and live sports events. “Strong copyright protection and enforcement are vital to our industry’s ability to create U.S. jobs, grow our own economy, and expand U.S. exports,” MPAA chairman Chris Dodd said today in commending the Special 301 report.
Paul Brigner, whom the MPAA hired in January 2011 as its chief technology officer, has left the industry’s trade and lobbying organization, CNET reports. He’s now a major critic of legislation championed by the MPAA such as the Stop …
Film piracy has a very little impact on box office results in the U.S. but likely cuts into studio profits overseas depending on the time lag between a film’s American debut and rollout overseas. Those are the surprising conclusions of an extensive study titled “Reel Piracy: The Effect of Online Film Piracy on International Box Office Sales,” spearheaded by Brett Danaher of Wellesley College and Joel Waldfogel at the University of Minnesota and the National Bureau of Economic Research.
While researchers in the study acknowledge an increase in piracy — especially for genres such as science fiction and action films — U.S. audiences still prefer the theatrical experience. The study found that Americans are heading to theaters in about the same numbers they would have otherwise in the absence of piracy, suggesting that perhaps people opt to see a film in a theater despite an initial pass online, or word of mouth from a pirated copy of a film may push others to the multiplex.
Freelancer Cari Lynn is contributing to Deadline’s coverage.
Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman acknowledges that it will take time before Congress revisits the anti-piracy bills that Hollywood supported: the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But the one-time lawyer says that studios and their representatives at the MPAA didn’t lose the recent lobby push on the merits of their case. There was “a lot of misinformation” from Silicon Valley, he said today at a conference sponsored by All Things D. Opponents including the tech industry said that the bills giving the government the power to block overseas sites that traffic in pirated content could be misused to stifle innovation and free speech. “It became almost religious dogma,” Dauman says. He still considers the proposals to be ”very reasonable”, adding that piracy “makes the standards more difficult in greenlighting a film.”
Looks like Wednesday’s massive Internet protest against the Hollywood-supported anti-piracy legislation worked. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this morning that “in light of recent events” he’s calling off the planned Tuesday vote for the Protect IP Act — which would give government officials the power to block overseas sites that traffic in pirated content. Shortly afterward, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said he will ”postpone consideration” of a similar bill — the Stop Online Piracy Act – “until there is wider agreement on a solution.” Both lawmakers claim the issue isn’t dead: Reid says that he’s “optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer tweets: “You’ve been heard. [The Protect IP Act] has been pulled so we can find a better solution.” But the general feeling is that supporters of the legislation will have a hard time getting the bills back on track — and certainly not with the enforcement muscle that Hollywood wants. Here’s Reid’s statement:
The Obama administration may not like the Hollywood-supported anti-piracy bills pending in Congress — but it showed today that it’s prepared to crack down on the pirates themselves. The Justice Department calls its attack on Megaupload — said to be the world’s largest file-sharing site — “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.” Megaupload allegedly made $175M in criminal proceeds and cost content owners, including music and movie companies, $500M in lost revenue. Officials say that seven people and two corporations were involved in “racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement.” New Zealand officials today arrested four Megaupload execs: founder Kim Dotcom (also known as Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor), marketing chief Finn Batato, CTO Mathias Ortmann, and programmer Bram van der Kolk.
It will be interesting to see the ripple effect: Hong Kong-based Megaupload had been endorsed by celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Alicia Keys and Kanye West. The ad-supported site served as a locker for files considered too big to be emailed; the MPAA says that most of the content there was pirated. But prior to today Megaupload denied the charge: “The fact is that the vast majority of Mega’s Internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay,” it said in a statement that had been posted on the site. “If the content industry would like to take advantage of our popularity, we are happy to enter into a dialogue. We have some good ideas. Please get in touch.” Here’s the Justice Department’s release:
The last remaining co-founder of NinjaVideo.net pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Virginia. The site facilitated illegal downloads of movies and TV shows and took in $505,000 in revenue from ads and donations from users. Justin A. Dedemko, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia. Dedemko’s fellow co-founders Matthew David Howard Smith and Hana Amal Beshara pleaded guilty separately to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement in September. Dedemko was responsible for locating infringing content on the Internet and uploading it to servers used by the NinjaVideo.net website, some of which were located in the Eastern District of Virginia. Dedemko subsequently focused on marketing and advertising, which resulted in the $505,000 in income. Dedemko admitted he personally received $58,004 and agreed to pay restitution. Sentencing is set for February 24, 2012. He faces a maximum of five years.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved legislation to provide the Justice Department with new tools to crack down on the theft and distribution of illegal digital movies, television shows and other counterfeit material by rogue websites on the Internet. The following is a statement by Bob Pisano, President and Interim CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA):
MPAA URGES TOUGHER INTERNATIONAL ENFORCEMENT OF IP PROTECTIONS AS CONGRESS UNVEILS 2010 PRIORITY WATCH LIST
WASHINGTON—MPAA President and Interim CEO Bob Pisano joined lawmakers today in unveiling the five countries on the 2010 priority watch list of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC), calling on governments around the world to
Today 15 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 20 FBI Special Agents were added to the U.S. Department of Justice’s intellectual property protection task force to expand its ability to respond to these crimes.Needless to say, the MPAA jumped for joy. Said …