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  1. In a submission to the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network has addressed site blocking and potential threats to VPN use. While the former could descend into an expensive consumer-funded game of whac-a-mole, clarification is required to remove potential threats to VPNs. After Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked the Australian Cabinet to approve the development of a new legal mechanism allowing rightsholders to obtain site-blocking injunctions, legislation was introduced to parliament last month. What followed is a still-current six-week consultation period for additional submissions, with various groups invited to voice their opinions and concerns. While the site-blocking elements of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 are likely to please rightsholders, concerns remain that not only will the legislation fail to achieve its aims, but may also have unintended consequences that could stifle consumer choice. In its submission the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the body that represents the interests of consumers on communications issues including broadband and emerging Internet services, three key issues are raised – VPN use, efficacy and cost of blocking, plus consumer interests. The VPN problem ACCAN is concerned over some of the wording employed in the amendments. Instead of referencing “website blockingâ€, the legislation speaks about “online locationsâ€. While this appears to be an effort to future-proof the Bill, it also has the potential for additional consequences should rightsholders decide to exploit the ambiguity. “Our first concern relates to the scope of activities that may be picked up by an interpretation of an ‘online location’ which ‘facilitates an infringement’ of copyright,†ACCAN writes. “Without clear legal precedent, there is ambiguity under the Copyright Act about what constitutes infringement in relation to the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to gain access to geo-blocked products and services. If this ambiguity is not cleared up, this amendment may have the unintended consequence of blocking these services and in turn harm competition and consumer choice.†And confusion does exist. On his website Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull says that the Copyright Act does not make it illegal to use a VPN to access overseas content. On the other hand, the Australian Copyright Council believes that using a VPN to download content licensed overseas is “likely to be an infringement of copyright in Australia.†While it was previously reported that the Bill had been delayed due to modifications aimed at protecting VPN-like services, ACCAN says that it would prefer clarity on the matter. “While this ambiguity exists there is a risk that rights holders will attempt to use this injunctive power to block VPN websites and limit consumer access to paid content overseas,†the group writes. And the threat is real. As reported last week, New Zealand based media companies report that they are on the verge of suing local ISPs who provide VPN services designed to unlock overseas content. Avoiding the same thing Down Under is a priority for ACCAN. Protecting the public interest In most countries where rightsholders have demanded site blocking on copyright grounds, ISPs have refused to block voluntarily and have insisted on a court order. This has resulted in processes where movie and recording industry companies become the plaintiffs and ISPs the defendants. The sites themselves aren’t involved in the process, and neither are their users. “[We] remain concerned that a judge in an ex parte hearing will not have the requisite evidence at hand to weigh the public interest against those of rights holders,†ACCAN writes. “The amendment creates no right for legitimate users of a site to present evidence on any adverse consequences of an injunction. There should be a presumption in the Bill in favor of allowing parties to become interveners or amicus curiae in the context of these injunction applications.†Efficacy and costs of blocking Like many other similarly focused groups, ACCAN is concerned that not only will site / online location blocking prove ineffective when it comes to stopping infringement, but the bill for the exercise will ultimately fall at the feet of the consumer. Citing Dutch studies which found that blocking The Pirate Bay enjoyed only short-lived success, ACCAN voices concerns that once one site is blocked, users will simply migrate elsewhere. “This research confirmed the findings in other studies which found that legal action against file sharing often has an immediate effect, but this typically fades out after a period of six months as new sources for pirated content emerge. ACCAN’s concern is that this website blocking bill may devolve into an expensive game of ‘whack-a-mole’, which consumers will end up paying for through higher internet bills,†the group writes. Similar fears over consumers picking up costs for online infringement enforcement have been voiced across Europe and in the United States, but in no cases has that caused a court to deny rightsholders the opportunity to protect their copyrights. It is guaranteed that one way or another – via their Internet bill or through the cost of media – Aussies will eventually pay for the proposed enforcement measures The Bill is currently under review by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, with a report due in a little under a month. https://torrentfreak.com/vpn-and-site-blocking-attacked-by-consumer-group-150420/
  2. Two separate publications claim CV1 could ship by April next year with a limited public beta. The long-awaited consumer version of Oculus Rift could begin to ship by summer 2015, according to alleged sources speaking to two separate publications. Both TechRadar and VRFocus claim that a market-ready Oculus Rift will launch in a "strictly limited" public beta half way into 2015. Though specs and release date plans for the consumer version of Oculus Rift (known as CV1) are not public, a limited supply of the latest prototype (known as DK2) is available to developers and hobbyists. Oculus VR, the company formed by creator Palmer Luckey, has urged gamers to hold out for CV1 and resist the developer version. That long wait for the consumer version could end as soon as April 2015, with a strictly limited test supply, although both TechRadar and VRFocus suggest that "summer 2015" (which runs from late June to August) could be the more realistic target for general release. Oculus exec Nate Mitchell recently claimed that the consumer version of Oculus Rift will be priced somewhere between $200 and $400. Palmer Luckey has also previously stated the consumer version would be a significant improvement on the DK2's 1080p display, with a 90Hz refresh rate. Oculus VR has declined to comment. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  3. The MPAA is concerned that innovation in the film industry will be ruined if consumers get the right to resell movies and other media purchased online. Responding to discussions in a congressional hearing this week, the MPAA warns that this move would limit consumer choices and kill innovation. mpaa-restrictedThis week the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing on the issue of “digital resales.†In other words, whether consumers should be allowed to sell digital videos, music files and software they purchased previously. Proponents of the rights to resell digital goods want the First Sale Doctrine to apply in the digital domain as well. However, this argument is meeting fierce resistance from the entertainment industries who see this right as a threat to their online business models. For example, the record labels previously pointed out that MP3s are simply too good to resell, as they don’t deteriorate in quality. Responding to the hearing in Washington, the MPAA also voiced its critique of the plans. According to the movie studios digital resales would hamper innovation, increase prices and decrease the availability of online film. In their view it would undo most of the innovation the Internet brought. “Critics say the movie and television industry was slow to embrace the Internet. But ironically, now that online video is ubiquitous, some of these same critics are trying to reverse time and drag the creative community—along with audiences—back into the pre-Internet era,†MPAA’s Neil Fried notes. The ability to resell movies bought on the Internet has the potential to create a huge secondary market. This would make it much cheaper for consumers to access media, and the MPAA believes therefore that content creators will be wary of making it available in the first place. “A new government mandate requiring creators to allow reselling of licensed Internet content would undermine incentives to create, reduce consumer choices, and deter innovation,†Fried argues. “Forcing creators to allow resale of Internet content they license would either require creators to substantially raise prices or discourage them from offering flexible, Internet-based models in the first place,†he adds. The MPAA believes that those who want to own movies and resell them should stick to the offline world. The physical ownership model doesn’t translate to the online world, which is better off with a licensing scheme that restricts resales. “This is a relatively new marketplace. Government intervention now, seeking to force the content community to return to a 1908 construct built around physical ownership, will only short-circuit the experimentation and innovation that is going on all around us,†Fried says. Of course there are also many people who object to the arguments of the copyright holders. John Ossenmacher, CEO of the MP3-reselling platform ReDigi, gave a testimony during the congressional hearing where he laid out a variety of counterarguments. According to Ossenmacher the content owners are trying to change consumer rights that have been in place for more than hundred years, only to guarantee maximum profit for themselves. “The First Sale doctrine is premised on a simple concept – you bought it, you own it – and it has never concerned itself with a specific format or technology, nor with the condition of the goods being resold. It establishes the commonsense principle that the creator deserves to be paid once, and then the owners, and subsequent owners, have the right to resell that good, to donate it or to give it away,†Ossenmacher said in his testimony. “It is not an extreme position to advocate that ‘you bought it, you own it.’ It is a logical, conservative position that adheres to the long-standing principles of law. It applies in every other type of good; it should apply here as well,†he added. It will be interesting to see how this debate plays out in the months to come. One thing is for certain, we haven’t heard the last of it yet. http://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-consumer-right-resell-online-videos-kill-innovation-140608/