TPP: Text on Copyright and IP Leaked

The Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to spook a growing number of people, and today Wikileaks dumped a ton of fuel on the fire by publishing the chapter of the TPP that covers copyright and intellectual property rights.  In addition to the Wikileaks bombshell, 151 house Democrats sent a letter to the President today, declaring their opposition to “fast track” trade negotiation authority on TPP.

Here are resources with further details.

WikiLeaks: Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

Public Citizen: Leaked Documents Reveal Obama Administration Push for Internet Freedom Limits, Terms That Raise Drug Prices in Closed-Door Trade Talks
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DeLauro, Miller Lead 151 House Dems Telling President They Will Not Support Outdated Fast Track for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Knowledge Ecology International: KEI analysis of Wikileaks leak of TPP IPR text, from August 30, 2013

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Last but not least, here’s a video on why all this business about the TPP should be important to you. (Discussion on TPP begins at 13:27, after drone warfare segment)

The Top Secret Trade Deal You Need to Know About / MOYERS & COMPANY Oct. 30, 2013

Trade Agreements Still Rolling

Negotiations on both the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) continue to roll along, despite the federal government being shut down.  Too bad; our current, truly epic storm surge of political bull crap could really use a silver lining.  I’ve posted below a few more resources on these trade agreements for you that help explain just how potentially harmful they could be to everyone’s rights and livelihoods.

If you were aware of the dangers of SOPA, or feel copyright law is important to your business, you should be paying attention to these trade deals as much as any other developments in U.S. law.

TPP: Corporate Power Tool of the 1%

PublicCitizen / Eyes on Trade

Democracy Now! Video: “A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws

Net Neutrality and Creators

My sense is that when artists think about or discuss their economic and political interests, copyright law is often the dancing elephant in the center ring that unfortunately draws too much attention from other issues that creators should also be worried about.  One very important issue is net neutrality, which has been in the news recently.

On September 9 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit heard arguments from Verizon, which is challenging FCC rules designed to keep the internet open and neutral.  If net neutrality hasn’t been on your radar, and you don’t know anything about common carrier rules, or how they affect the internet, I would recommend you catch up by reading this article by Timothy Lee in the Washington Post (Sept. 10, 2013).  Net Neutrality is on Trial in Washington.  Here’s What You Need to Know.  (See also the other resources listed below).

Net neutrality matters to all creators, if you consider what the marketplace for artistic services might look like if Verizon, AT&T, Time-Warner, and COMCAST win their fight to lock up internet access and content.  Increased costs just for access, plus arbitrary data caps with associated high fees and penalties, will mean fewer consumers buying less content; suppression of competitors will reduce the need for providing quality service and programming; fewer buyers of creative works will mean that the big players will have increased leverage over what they pay you for your work.  And that’s just looking at a loss of net neutrality from a purely business and financial bottom-line viewpoint; from an ordinary citizen’s vantage, allowing a handful of corporations to monopolize the internet and choose what content is favored, or even available, would be an unthinkable assault on the basic rights of all Americans.

It’s worth mentioning here that the Graphic Artists Guild, as an associate member of the Copyright Alliance, is actually in league against the interests of creators.  While the Alliance regularly sends out its clowns to keep everyone’s attention focused on the copyright elephant, its lobbyists are busy at their real day jobs representing Nickles Group LLC clients COMCAST and AT&T, not to mention a slew of other corporate interests that are very unfriendly to the creative community.

Here are a number of other articles and resources for catching up on the issue of net neutrality, and what the telecoms are up to:

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Eli Clifton. The Telecom Astroturf Lobby. The American Independent. Sept. 11, 2013.


Michael J. Copps. The New Telecom Oligarchs. The Nation, April 3, 2013.


Michael Weinberg. If You Are Streaming Video, You Can’t Cap Your Rivals (Time Warner Cable Edition). PublicKnowledge.org, August 28, 2013


Timothy Karr.  Verizon’s Plan to Break the Internet.  Common Dreams, Sept. 21, 2013.


Moyers & Company.  Susan Crawford on Why U.S. Internet Access is Slow, Costly and Unfair.  Video interview, Feb. 8, 2013.

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TPP and Telecom News

(NOTE: Originally published June 20, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013.  The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)

If you’re interested in the big picture of copyright and IP policy, and wish to know a little bit about the political sausage-grinding that will likely have an impact on the graphic arts industry, not to mention the U.S. economy and citizen’s rights, here are a few items you might want to dig into:

Why Should I Care About the TPP? (Video by PublicKnowledge.org)

There’s additional background information on Public Knowledge’s TPP page.  If you watched the video or are already aware of MPAA’s and RIAA’s support for SOPA/PIPA and now TPP, then you’re probably not very comfortable with the Graphic Artists Guild’s support for them through their front group, the Copyright Alliance.  While the Guild is very quiet about its membership in the Alliance, please note how the Guild’s logo is prominently displayed on the Copyright Alliance Members’ page.

In addition to the TPP continuing to roll along, there have been two noteworthy events in the past several days;

Michael Froman is Confirmed by Senate as the New USTR (U.S. Trade Representative)

(Huffington Post, June 20, 2013.)  Michael Froman, President Obama’s pick for USTR, will be overseeing negotiations on TPP and upcoming trade deals between the U.S. and Europe.  He was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate, with all Republican senators voting yes, and only 4 Democrats voting no.  However, the dissenters Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI) Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have some serious concerns about the current lack of transparency in trade negotiations and Froman’s lack of support for more public disclosure.

Confirmation Hearings for Thomas Wheeler, Nominee for FCC Chairman

I spent a couple hours watching C-SPAN’s coverage of the Senate confirmation hearing for nominee Thomas Wheeler on Tuesday. (C-SPAN Videos- Part IPart II)  While he appeared thoughtful and sympathetic to concerns across a wide spectrum of political viewpoints, (something all nominees have a tendency to do) I have more homework to do on him, since there will be some very large questions concerning copyright, net neutrality, corporate mergers, and god-knows what else coming before him as chair of the FCC.  His background as a lobbyist, investor, and corporate telecom executive has raised some eyebrows; see the New York Times editorial of May 08, 2013-  An Industry Man for the FCC.

More Alliance, Nickles, and Patent Troll News

(NOTE: Originally published Feb. 10, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013.  The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)

Geez, I didn’t have to lift a finger this weekend to find fresh news relating to our friends at the Copyright Alliance.  Within 10 minutes of sitting down with my coffee and the New York Times on Saturday morning, I came across Joe Nocera’s op-ed on patent trolls, Innovation Nation at War, a subject which I wrote about in my very recent post Copyright Alliance Update.

A short while later when I checked my e-mail inbox, I was presented with a link to Friday’s “Moyers and Company” program, Susan Crawford on why the U.S. Internet is Slow, Costly, and Unfair.    Bill Moyers interviews Susan Crawford, author of “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the Gilded Age” who provides yet another unsettling view of the mischief that the backers of the Copyright Alliance and its parent, the Nickles Group LLC, are into:

Susan Crawford:

“What’s happened is that these enormous telecommunications companies, Comcast and Time Warner on the wired side, Verizon and AT&T on the wireless side, have divided up markets, put themselves in the position where they’re subject to no competition and no oversight from any regulatory authority. And they’re charging us a lot for internet access and giving us second class access.”

Crawford discusses the role these companies have had in actually stifling broadband access across America, and how their efforts to preserve and increase their profits are doing great economic and social harm.  To remind you, these are the same corporations that pushed for SOPA  (Stop Online Piracy Act) that similarly would have done great harm to the internet in the name of corporate profits.  You helped them, by the way; the Guild’s executive membership in their proxy, the Copyright Alliance, gave substance to their claims of “grassroots” support for their pro-SOPA lobbying efforts.

The small amount of digging I did this weekend was to follow up on Susan Crawford’s account of municipalities trying to create their own independent broadband networks being stymied by corporate-sponsored legislation.  Efforts by town and city governments to treat the internet as a vital utility rather than merely a luxury commodity, have been met by state legislatures who’ve passed laws banning them from doing this, which of course might endanger the monopolistic power and profits of the big telecom service providers.  This sounded to me like the work of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), and a quick Google search turned up a number of articles confirming this, such as this one at ars technica, South Carolina Passes Bill Against Municipal Broadband.   If you’ve read my report on the Copyright Alliance, you might recall that its parent organization, the Nickles Group LLC, is a supporter of ALEC, and that ex-senator Don Nickles was a contributor to ALEC while serving in the senate.

Copyright Alliance Update

(NOTE: Originally published Feb. 05, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013.  The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)

There just doesn’t seem to be an end to the mischief popping up in the news that keeps leading back to the Copyright Alliance and the Nickles Group LLC.  If you paid some attention to the high profile lawsuits involving Apple, Samsung, and other tech giants that made headlines this year, then you’ve likely heard the term “patent troll” which refers to companies that amass large libraries of patents, then proceed to make a tidy profit by suing manufacturers that arguably infringe on those patents.  Poorly defined, ambiguous software patents in particular have allowed trolls to threaten manufacturers with expensive lawsuits unless they agree to license the troll’s patents. In other words, trolls extort “protection money” from manufacturers in exchange for not suing.  NPR / National Public Radio’s “This American Life” has an excellent exposé of trolls in program #441, When Patents Attack.  There’s also a recent article posted by Mark Gibbs in Forbes, A Patent Troll Wants to Charge You for Emailing Your Scans!  that contains a summary of the business of patent trolling.

According to Mark Gibbs:

“From its original start as a rather sleazy extortion racket, patent trolling has evolved into a serious business model of which the biggest may well be Intellectual Ventures, a company founded by Microsoft’s former Chief Technology Officer, Nathan Myhrvold, and backed by a roster of the business who’s who to the tune of more than $5.5 billion.”

Now for the fun part.

Enter the Nickles Group, LLC, and their copyright boutique side-business, the Copyright Alliance.  

It turns out that for 5 years in a row, since 2007, Intellectual Ventures has been the Nickles Group’s #1 client.  And the Nickles Group has been Intellectual Venture’s #1 lobbying firm.  The primary contact listed on the lobbying reports for the Intellectual Ventures account is Cindi Tripodi, a founding partner of the Nickles Group, and the lobbyist who also represents the Copyright Alliance.  Cindi was actually listed as a Copyright Alliance staff member until September 2012, when her bio was removed from the Alliance’s website.  (This happened very shortly after my report ‘An Examination of the Copyright Alliance’ was distributed, which pointed out the connections between the Alliance and Nickles; but of course that’s merely a coincidence, . . )

Nickles Group top clientsBelow is a detail of the report filed by the Nickles Group on its lobbying for Intellectual Ventures; first quarter 2012.

lobby report; Tripodi and IV

Should any of this matter to you? Only if you care about where some of your dues money* to the Guild ends up, and who’s being consulted when Guild officers make decisions on advocacy.  Here is a detail from the Guild’s 2011 LM-2 Annual Financial Report to the Department of Labor.  Note the address, and where we’ve been sending $5000 every year.

Guild LM-2 shows Alliance addr=Nickles

Detail of the Guild’s 2011 LM-2, schedule 16, Political Activities and Lobbying.

 

(*National officers claimed that this statement is untrue, that the Graphic Artists Guild’s annual $5000 payments for membership in the Copyright Alliance have come from reprographic rights royalty money.  However, while I was a member of the Guild’s International Board of Directors, no document was ever produced that separated usage of dues from reprographic royalty funds.  This includes the official budget proposal documents presented to the International Board of Directors for the Guild’s November 2012 Annual Convention.  See my March 13, 2013 post Reprographic Royalties for some background information.)

Meeting Recap: The Copyright Jungle

Jungle with snake illustration

(NOTE: Originally published Oct. 26, 2012, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013.  The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)

If you’ve been around the Guild for any length of time, or are serious about making a living as an illustrator, then you are of course familiar with the basics of copyright. You probably know the drill when it comes to registering works with the U.S. Copyright Office, and likely have attended one or more lectures on copyright such as those hosted by our chapter. If you’ve been around the block as an illustrator, then maybe you’ve even hired an attorney to help solve a copyright-related business issue, and so experienced the thrilling complexities of the law first-hand.

The thing is, there’s a lot more to copyright than just those everyday aspects such as registering and managing the usage of your intellectual property. Of course there is; how could there not be?! After all, copyright law has everything to do with who owns stuff, who profits, and how business gets done around the globe. It is therefore tangled up in many of the other social, economic, and political controversies happening all around us; money in politics and corporate influence; erosion of free speech and other constitutional rights; complex and potentially dangerous global trade policies; control and abuse of technology; and disruptions to both domestic and international labor markets.

The research I did on the Copyright Alliance brought home to me that there are serious and important battles being fought over copyright, going on right now in government offices, corporate board rooms, and in the courts. If you are a Guild member, pay attention; some of your dues money* has gone to the Copyright Alliance, allegedly to help strengthen copyright protections for artists and illustrators. However, since it turns out that the Alliance is a front group for corporate interests, namely big media and telecom giants such as the MPAA, COMCAST, and AT&T,  you might not be very happy when I tell you that your money also went to support a few things you’d be less likely to approve of: erosion of the FCC’s net neutrality policies that prevent Comcast and other major service providers from gaining excessive control over the internet; support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which might do further harm to democratic controls on international trade, already damaged by NAFTA, CAFTA, and other treaties; and support for SOPA, that thoroughly disgraced attempt to alter internet protocols for the purpose of increasing corporate control over web content.

The Copyright Alliance is only one of the many species of animals in the copyright jungle that are working hard to alter laws and policies to suit their interests. I’ve assembled below something of a scouting report on the critters and the terrain I encountered while researching the Copyright Alliance, and have also included a few links and resources to help you figure things out for yourself. Good luck with that!

THE CRITTERS.
While way too numerous and nuanced to list individually, they can be divided into a few general categories:

Maximalists. Corporate interests mostly, seeking rock-solid protections for what they currently own, control over the means to access both their stuff (and everyone else’s), the suppression of competition, and the ability to cheaply acquire all the stuff they don’t yet own.

Minimalists. Consumer-oriented interests that would like access to everything at no cost.

Economic Hybrids. Businesses that both use and produce creative works, or have multiple and competing interests affected by copyright: educational institutions, artists and graphics professionals, and a wide variety of companies in industries such as communications, design, and advertising.

Citizens. Everyone and anyone interested or concerned about free speech, corporate influence in government, the rights of employees, social values connected to technology, communications, and other elements affected by copyright law.

THE TERRAIN.
Here are some terms that relate to past battles fought over copyright, are still being fought, or might be coming soon to a jungle clearing near you. While some controversial proposals for copyright legislation have apparently come and gone, such as orphan works, there’s a chance that they could come back to life in the future; it all depends on circumstance and how much money is at stake. Yes, it does appear that this jungle is inhabited by zombies!

Berne Convention
Copyright Act of 1976
Copyright renewal Act of 1992
WIPO  (World Intellectual Property Organization)
DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act)
Copyright term extension
Orphan Works
DRM (Digital Rights Management)
DMCA takedowns*
SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)*
Fair Use*
Net Neutrality*
Digital / Internet Piracy*
ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)*
TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement)*

* Items you should pay particular attention to.

LINKS AND RESOURCES.

Resources 1. Maximalists

Copyright Alliance
MPAA
RIAA
ASCAP
Chilling Report
Center for Copyright Information
Creative America
Copyhype
Copyright Clearance Center
Global Intellectual Property Center
Book: Robert Levine. Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back.

Resources 2. Everyone Else: Hybrids, Minimalists, Citizens.
(You’ll have to decide for yourself who’s who!)

Copyright Society
Techdirt
Ars Technica
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Public Knowledge
Creative Commons
Chilling Effects Clearinghouse
Book: Peter Decherney. Hollywood’s Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet.
Book: Jason Mazzone. Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law.
Book: William Patry. How to Fix Copyright.
e-book: The Sky is Rising. (Suggests that online profit potential is rising, despite digital piracy fears).
Video online: Bill Moyers & Company. Elections for Sale.
(This episode includes a discussion on how non-profit organizations are distorting the democratic process. Relevant when considering the impact that non-profits are having in the battles over copyright).

Miscellaneous Links.  Research Tools, Technical and Government Resources to help you find stuff.

OpenSecrets.org  Look up data on lobbyists and campaign contributions.
Sunlight Foundation  Watchdog on government activities
Sourcewatch  Look up data on political groups and individuals.
WhoLobbiesUs  Data required to be publicly disclosed by lobbyists to U.S. Senate.
PR Watch  Center for Media and Democracy.
Thomas.gov  Look up information on specific legislation.
IRS Exempt Organization search  Find tax information on specific non-profit organizations.
Columbia University Libraries Copyright Quick Guide.  Good summary of copyright law and best practices.
U.S. Copyright Office  The official scoop on copyright.

-Chris

(*National officers claimed that this statement is untrue, that the Graphic Artists Guild’s annual $5000 payments for membership in the Copyright Alliance have come from reprographic rights royalty money.  However, while I was a member of the Guild’s International Board of Directors, no document was ever produced that separated usage of dues from reprographic royalty funds.  This includes the official budget proposal documents presented to the International Board of Directors for the Guild’s November 2012 Annual Convention.  See my March 13, 2013 post Reprographic Royalties for some background information.)