5 Copyright Themes to Watch in 2014

Happy 2014!Without a doubt, 2013 was a banner year for copyright. We saw the closure of ISOHunt and Hotfile, debates over streaming royalties, a ruling that placed Sherlock Holmes (mostly) in the public domain, another one that found Google Book Search to be a fair use and much, much more.

But it was also a year in which a lot of major issues went unresolved. The Kim Dotcom/Megaupload case was, mostly, at a standstill, Aereo’s various lawsuits against broadcasters were growing in number but still ongoing and U.S. copyright reform, though much touted in 2013, didn’t get much farther than a few preliminary hearings before the clock ran out on the year.

With that in mind, 2014 is shaping up to be a major year for copyright, one where we will be getting the answers to a lot of questions that have lingered since at least 2012 or longer. The stage has been set for a pivotal year that will will have a drastic impact on the copyright debates for years to come.

So what should be we be on the lookout for? Here are 5 key themes to watch for as we make our way through 2014.

1. U.S. Copyright Reform

As we discussed in the previous post, in 2013 the Register of Copyrights called for a complete rewrite of U.S. copyright law. She has also given reports on two major potential revisions to the law, one dealing with a small claims court for copyright and one dealing with resale royalties.

However, there wasn’t a lot of movement on those reforms in 2013. Instead, there were some preliminary hearings but not much else.

While the legislative process moves forward slowly, in particular in the U.S., it’s likely that 2014 will be the year that the battle lines are drawn and we will see which reforms are on the table and which are off. We’ll also get a feeling for exactly how expansive any reform will be, including whether it will be the complete rewrite the Register of Copyrights wanted, or just a debate about certain aspects of the law.

Though we won’t see any legislation passed, or likely even proposed in 2014, by January 2015, we should have a much better idea about what any such legislation might look like.

2. Aereo and the Definition of Retransmission

For nearly two years now, TV streaming service Aereo has been fighting a legal war with broadcasters over its service. In 2014, it’s likely that case is coming to a head.

Aereo uses a series of tiny antennas, one per customer, to capture over-the-air broadcast television and both record it and stream it to customers. Aereo argues that, since each antenna is provided to a single customer, this is a private viewing of the work and not a public retransmission. As such, they feel the service should be legal though the broadcasters, including NBC, ABC and CBS disagree.

So far though, no court has granted an injunction against Aereo and the case has been appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, with both sides agreeing they want the court to hear it.

But as Steven Fabrizio at the MPAA notes, this case has implications far beyond just broadcast television. On the Web, the definition of what is or is not a public display or performance of a work is a thorny issue and new services like Aereo challenge existing definitions.

If the Supreme Court takes the case, it could be heard this year and, when coupled with the other lawsuits against Aereo and its competitor FilmOn, the issue is going to be a hotly debated one in 2014.

3. Kim Dotcom and Megaupload

Despite all of the activity in early 2012, 2013 was a quiet year for Kim Dotcom and Megaupload. Other than the launch of his followup service, Mega and the unsealing of some of the evidence against Dotcom, 2013 was a year of delays and public relations battles.

In 2014, however, we’re going to likely get the answer to two key questions.

  1. Will Kim Dotcom be extradited to the United States?
  2. Will Copyright Holders, including the RIAA and MPAA, seek separate civil cases against him?

Kim Dotcom’s next extradition hearing is scheduled for April 2014. Even if it is pushed back again, it likely won’t be pushed out of 2014. Also, time is running out for copyright holders to file civil suits against Megaupload,

Some smaller copyright holders have filed civil suits against Megaupload, but those suits have been delayed pending the outcome of the criminal trial. Still, 2014 will likely be the year the larger players either join in or forever hold their peace.

4. YouTube and Content ID

Though many will remember 2013 as the year of the Great YouTube Copyright Shakeup, the truth is the matter is far from over.

What YouTube basically did was change its relationship with multi-channel networks (MCNs) so that members of MCNs were subjected to the same copyright rules as non-MCN members on YouTube. This meant MCN affiliates were subject to Content ID checks (YouTube’s automated copyrighted content detection tool) and checks before videos could be monetized. It also resulted in thousands of Content ID notifications on older videos as the automated system went back through the catalog of many channels previously protected by their MCNs.

But while the immediate impact seems to be settling down out, like any large explosion, the real challenge comes afterward.

There’s no doubt that 2014 is going to be a different year for YouTube than 2013, especially for the large and growing gaming community.

Consider the following:

  1. What service will MCNs provide now that one of their best features has been removed?
  2. Also, will there be a mass exodus away from MCNs now that they offer less value?
  3. Most importantly, how will YouTube change following these shifts?

While it is easy to see this as a YouTube-only problem, the truth is that YouTube is so dominant in the online video field that whatever happens to it will have major impacts across all sites and services.

After all, the challenges that prompted YouTube to create Content ID are not unique to it and will be felt by anyone else who tries to recreate what YouTube has done.

5. Site Blocking

SOPA and PIPA may have died in 2012 and there might be no follow ups on the table in the U.S., but the United Kingdom, Italy and Russia all either passed laws to block websites or saw their laws come to fruition in 2013.

The protests and outcries that were indicative of the SOPA/PIPA debates were largely silent in Italy and Russia as they pushed their legislation forward. They both will first try their hands at site blocking this year and it became more the norm in the UK.

2014 will be the year we see how many of these laws are implemented, how effective they really are and how many non-infringing sites are blocked. This will be a year of trial for that method that will likely either result in it being discarded or accepted more broadly.

Bottom Line

Of course, there are many other themes out there to watch. The Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty is still floating out there, waiting to either be signed or discarded, the Google Book Search case is heading for an appeal and there are several cases, including the Veoh and YouTube cases that could really shake up DMCA safe harbor (notice and takedown).

Then there’s the looming issue of pre-1972 sound recordings, which could completely change many areas of federal law and, of course, the ongoing cases against Grooveshark.

All in all, there’s a lot to watch in 2014 so keep your eyes peeled and keep visiting Plagiarism Today to find out what’s going on!

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