*Note* The Meeting below has been cancelled. Further information is available here.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced late last week that it will hold a public meeting on July 17, 2017 at its Alexandria, Virginia headquarters on measuring the impact of voluntary initiatives to reduce online intellectual property infringement.
As private online retail and social media platforms such as Amazon and Facebook are becoming the main channels in which people shop and socialize respectively, voluntary IP enforcement measures taken by these and other online parties are increasingly shaping how IP is enforced online—with both positive and negative reception. Google is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Google currently handles millions of online copyright and trademark takedown requests a day, up from merely dozens a day just a decade ago. Based on its heightened role as one of the Internet’s main search engines and online service providers, Google has developed its own voluntary initiatives to deter trademark and copyright infringement including removal of listings that have received repeated notices of IP infringement. While arguably taken to protect against any contributory liability (see 17 U.S.C. § 512(i)(1)(A)), Google’s voluntary enforcement measures such as its removal of repeat infringers is shaping how IP is protected online and how content rights holders address online IP protection. Despite such influence, Google has in the past also faced scorn by such rights holders for not going far enough with other voluntary measures, such as demoting search results of known infringers.
The July 17th meeting is a part of the USPTO’s recent outreach efforts to such interested parties concerning their voluntary online IP enforcement regimes, and is intended to evaluate how such private parties are addressing online IP enforcement—both and home and abroad. Topics to be discussed at the meeting include (among others) evaluating the effectiveness of self-regulatory regimes, presenting case studies of certain private sector initiatives, discussing the role of voluntary undertakings in raising consumer awareness and stemming revenue flows to bad actors (i.e. infringers), as well as others.
Further information about the meeting is available here.
It was reported in several news outlets this week that Singapore’s Ministry of Law and Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) are commencing a public consultation concerning reforms to Singapore’s Copyright Act. As detailed in a Consultation Paper released by both agencies, the consultation intends to obtain public feedback concerning multiple proposed reforms to the Copyright Act that will have a direct impact on rights holders and interested parties in Singapore and abroad including the establishment of a voluntary copyright registration system, expansion of copyright fair use exceptions and allowable technological protection measures, amending rights of attribution requirements, as well as several others.
The consultation will run from August 23, 2016 to October, 24 2016 and rights holders, impacted businesses, as well as the general public, are encouraged to submit feedback via designated online forms available here.
Last week, I had the privilege to be interviewed for one of my favorite podcasts, IP or otherwise, IP Fridays about online copyright enforcement implications under the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP; Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam). Particularly, I discussed the implications of the TPP’s proposed Internet service provider (ISP) safe harbor scheme, and how it will affect TPP member states’ current copyright laws, copyright rights holders, ISPs, and Internet freedoms, as will be further detailed in my article on the same topic for the European Intellectual Property Review to be released in March 2016.
A link to the podcast can be found here.
Intellectual Property (IP) Watch reported late last month that Nigeria was in the process of reforming its copyright laws for the digital age, including the adoption of its own notice and takedown Internet service provider (ISP) safe harbor scheme. As detailed in the Nigerian Copyright Commission’s (NCC) draft 2015 Copyright Bill (Draft Bill), the proposed notice and takedown scheme would create extrajudicial legal procedures in which an owner of a copyright protected work can petition a ISP subject to Nigerian jurisdiction to remove content hosted by the ISP that infringes the work. Like in the U.S. under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other countries that have notice and takedown safe harbor schemes, such an ISP would be required to remove such hosted content under certain circumstances in order to qualify for a safe harbor form contributory liability for copyright infringement.
If adopted, such procedures would make Nigeria one of the few countries in Africa with a notice and takedown scheme, giving copyright owners greater means of online enforcement of their rights in Nigeria, and potentially beyond. However, Nigeria’s draft notice and takedown scheme varies from its foreign counterparts. Further, it is uncertain whether it will be adopted, and if so, whether it will be adopted in its proposed form. To understand these issues, it is important to first understand the provisions of Nigeria’s proposed notice and takedown scheme.
Section 47 of the Draft Bill provides that an owner of a copyright-protected work or their agent (Complainant) may submit a notice of alleged online infringement of their work to an ISP hosting such infringing content. In order for such a notice to be effective, it must include the following information:
- A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right in a work that is allegedly infringed;
- Identification of each work claimed to have been infringed;
- Identification of the content that is claimed to be infringing such work(s), and information reasonably sufficient to permit the ISP to locate such content;
- Contact information reasonably sufficient to permit the ISP to contact the Complainant, such as an e-mail address, telephone number, and/or physical address;
- A statement under penalty of perjury that the Complainant has a good faith belief that use of the allegedly infringing content in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, their agent, or the law; and
- A statement that the information in the notice is accurate, and that the Complainant is authorized to act on behalf of a owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
Once a notice is submitted to an ISP, the ISP shall promptly notify their subscriber hosting the allegedly infringing content (Subscriber) of receipt of the notice. If the Subscriber fails to provide the ISP with information justifying their use of such content within ten days after the receipt of the ISP’s notification, the ISP must take down or disable access to such content. However, if the Subscriber provides information justifying their legitimate use of the content, or the ISP is convinced that the Complainant’s notice is without merit, the ISP will promptly inform the Complainant of their decision not to takedown or disable such content.
An ISP can restore access to taken down or disabled content if the ISP receives a written counter-notice from the Subscriber, which the ISP has forwarded to the Complainant immediately upon receipt; and the ISP does not receive, within 10 days, a subsequent notice from the Complainant indicating that no authorization has been granted to the Subscriber for use of the content.
Further, the Draft Bill states that an ISP shall not be liable for any action taken under the notice and takedown scheme that is taken in “good faith.” A copyright owner dissatisfied with a determination or action by an ISP may refer their matter to the NCC for further evaluation.
Evaluating The Proposed Scheme
Now that we know the NCC’s proposed notice and takedown scheme under the Draft Bill, what are its strengths and weaknesses?
Mandated Removal: The Draft Bill obligates an ISP to remove infringing content upon receipt of a Complainant’s notice. As such, it ultimately makes the Draft Bill’s notice and takedown scheme more robust than ISP safe harbors without mandated take down or disabling provisions. For example, the NCC’s proposed scheme is more robust that notification systems that solely require an ISP to notify a Subscriber of their infringing acts upon receipt of a Subscriber’s notice as in Canada, or national schemes that require multiple Complainant notifications and/or expedited judicial action in order for a ISP to be mandated to take action as in New Zealand or Chile.
Delayed Response Time: While the NCC’s proposed scheme mandates an ISP’s removal of hosted content under certain circumstances, it only mandates that an ISP remove infringing content 10 days after receiving a Complainant’s notice and upon receiving no response from a Subscriber. This contrasts from the DMCA that requires an ISP to act “expeditiously” to remove infringing content upon receipt of a Complainant’s notice. See 17 U.S.C. § 512(b)(2)(E). However, the NCC’s proposed scheme still mandates that an ISP eventually remove infringing content after the 10 day period, mirroring similar waiting periods in other countries (Japan (7 day wait period), and Malaysia (48 hours), among others), and without requiring any reposting of such content should no further legal action be taken by the Complainant (as in India).
Ambiguous Exemption: While the Draft Bill obligates an ISP to remove infringing content under qualifying circumstances as described above, its good faith clause may allow an ISP to evade liability for failing to remove infringing content should the ISP’s acts or omissions be considered in good faith. Without any further definition of “good faith” in the Draft Bill, it is uncertain what such a standard would be, nor how it will be interpreted.
What’s The Takeaway? It remains to be seen whether the NCC’s notice and takedown scheme will be adopted, and whether it will be adopted in its current proposed form. Its provisions offer multiple benefits, as well as some drawbacks, for copyright owners compared to its foreign counterparts. Those with current online copyright enforcement concerns in Nigeria should seek qualified Nigerian counsel.
After eight years of negotiations, it was reported on Monday, October 5, 2015, that a final agreement to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP; Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam) was reached. While a final text of the TPP agreement has yet to be released, and is reported to not be available for at least another month, some TPP member state governments have provided some details concerning the TPP’s IP provisions.
Ars Technica reported that New Zealand government officials announced that the TPP agreement will require New Zealand to extend its copyright protection term from life of the author + 50 years to life of the author + 70 years, thereby requiring New Zealand to adopt copyright protections beyond minimum requirements provided in existing international copyright treaties such as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Despite the potential expansion of copyright protections under the TPP, such reporting also revealed that the TPP agreement will not require New Zealand to adopt stronger Internet Service Provider (ISP) enforcement provisions against repeat copyright infringers. According to the reporting, New Zealand will not be required to adopt a “six-strike” enforcement program, namely requirements mandating that a New Zealand ISP terminate an infringer’s Internet account after six cases of reported copyright infringement, as established amongst many U.S. ISPs.
It remains unclear whether all TPP member states will be required to adopt these copyright protections, as well as what other mandated IP protections are included in the TPP. Further information about the TPP’s IP chapter and its implications on TPP member states will be reported here once available.
Last month, Russia formally adopted multiple online copyright enforcement reforms to its Anti-Piracy Laws (Federal Law No. 364-FZ; “Reforms”). Including in these Reforms were streamlined Internet Service Provider (ISP) injunction procedures, the establishment of a digital fingerprinting system to allow for the online identification of copyright protected works, and the establishment of Russia’s first statutory notice and takedown procedures—allowing qualifying persons or entities who have rights to copyright-protected work(s) (collectively, “Rights Holders”) the ability to extrajudicially petition Russian-based website owners, and eventually their ISPs, to remove infringing hosted content.
On its face, Russia’s new notice and takedown procedures provide qualifying Rights Holders a highly needed extrajudicial enforcement tool to fight online copyright infringement in one of the world’s most infringing online markets. In April 2015, Russia was listed on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Priority Watch List in the USTR’s 2015 Special 301 Report, identifying countries who do not provide adequate protection for intellectual property. The 2015 301 Report cited Russia for having “persistent” online copyright piracy problems, as well as being the home of several piracy websites that “damage both the market for legitimate content in Russia as well as in other countries.”
While Russia’s new notice and takedown procedures in many ways mirror similar procedures in other jurisdictions, there are some important differences Rights Holders should be aware of concerning the new procedures. To understand these differences, it is important to first look at the actual notification procedures.
Procedures: Based on an unofficial translation of the Reforms, a Rights Holder must provide the operator of an infringing Russian-based website notification of an alleged infringement including:
- Name of the legal owner or authorized agent of the copyright protected work(s), including their location, address, passport information, telephone number, fax number, and email address;
- If an authorized agent, provide an attestation as to his or her representation of the owner(s) of the copyright-protected work(s);
- Identification of the copyright protected work(s);
- Identification of the domain name(s), network address(es), and other identifying information of the infringing website in question;
- Consent to use personal information included in the notification; and
- The Rights Holder’s claim that the copyright-protected work(s) and being used on the identified website(s) without the owner’s of the work(s) permission or any valid legal grounds.
Within 24 hours of receipt of a Rights Holder’s notification, the website’s operator will need to either:
- Request additional information from the Rights Holder concerning their notification;
- Remove the allegedly infringing content; or
- Provide proof that the website operator is authorized to use the allegedly infringing content.
If the website operator does not restrict access to the allegedly infringing content within 24 hours after receiving the Rights Holder’s notice, the website’s ISP will have three days to block access to that website. If the ISP restricts access to the website in question, the ISP must notify Russia’s telecommunication agency (Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor)) of the incident, and such data will be placed in a infringement registry.
Ok, now that we know the procedures, what are the main takeaway points?
Additional Steps May Be Needed: Unlike most national notice and takedown procedure systems, notices under Reforms are to be sent to website operators prior to sending to the website’s ISP. While a website operators and ISP can often be one and the same, e.g. Facebook or Google, Russia’s notice and takedown procedures may require submitting an additional notice to an ISP if a website operator fails to remove infringing content identified by a Rights Holder in a notice under the procedures.
Qualifying Content: Prior to passage of the Reforms, the Anti-Piracy Laws only covered “movies, including movies, TV films”, thereby excluding many other works normally qualifying for copyright protection in Russia and other countries. The Reforms expands qualifying works to “objects of copyright and (or) related rights (except photographic works and works obtained by processes similar to photography.” While these changes expand protection under the Anti-Piracy Laws beyond solely movies to songs, written works and other normally copyright-protected works, it expressly excludes “photographic works.” Excluding photographic works from protection under the new notice and takedown procedures means Rights Holders of such works would need to seek a judicial order to remove infringe content hosted by a Russian-based website, subjecting such Rights Holders to potentially substantial enforcement delays and costs.
Prosecution Requirements: Like the U.S., Russia does not require prosecution (registration) of copyright-protected works in order to utilize the Anti-Piracy Laws’ new notice and takedown procedures.
Country-Specific Restrictions: Although not identified in the Reforms, notifications sent through the Anti-Piracy Laws’ new notice and takedown procedures will likely need to be sent in Russian. Further, to ensure compliance, foreign Rights Holders will likely need to work with qualified Russian counsel to effectively utilize the new notice and takedown procedures. This can have additional costs and time delays for foreign Rights Holders.
What’s The Takeaway? Absent prior statutory provisions, the Reforms’ notice and takedown procedures do provide Rights Holders greater means to protect their works online in Russia. However, due to limitations on qualifying works, and additional and country-specific procedures beyond similar notice and takedown procedures in other countries, it remains to be seen whether Russia’s statutory notice and takedown procedures will become an effective extrajudicial enforcement tool against cross-border online copyright infringement.
I am happy to announce that I have the honor of publishing an opinion article in the European Intellectual Property Review (EIPR) to be released this month. Titled “Improvement over the Rest or More of the Same? Australia’s Proposed Extraterritorial Online Copyright Injunctive Reforms,” the article examines Australia’s recently-implemented copyright injunctive reforms that will allow a rights holder to obtain an injunction against a foreign-based website, and evaluates the reforms in relation to its foreign counterparts in the United States and Europe.
For those interested in U.S. and Canadian IP protection issues, I will be giving a presentation at the April 2, 2015 King County Bar Association (KCBA) – Intellectual Property Section meeting in Seattle, Washington on U.S. and Canadian cross-border IP protection issues. Particularly, the presentation will cover IP protection issues that U.S. businesses should consider as they expand into Canada, and conversely, IP issues Canadian businesses should consider as they enter the U.S. market.
The April 2nd KCBA IP Section meeting will be held at KCBA’s headquarters at 1200 Fifth Avenue, Suite 700, Seattle, Washington 98101. A webcast of the meeting will be made available to KCBA IP Section members. Further details on the webcast are available here.
Hope you can make it!
It is that time of year again when the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) releases its annual report on Notorious Markets—The 2014 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets. As we reported on last year, this annual review identifies foreign physical and online markets reported by U.S. businesses and industry organizations as being engaged in substantial IP piracy and counterfeiting.
This year’s review identified several foreign social media and file transferring websites, as well as a number of Internet service providers (ISPs), as being notorious markets including those hosted or located in Argentina, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Russia, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. Additionally, physical markets in Argentina, Brazil, China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Thailand and Uruguay were also identified as being notorious markets.
The USTR also highlighted a number of recent developments including efforts by certain previously listed Chinese sites to curb piracy activities on their websites, as well as increased enforcement actions by rights holders and government officials to shut down physical and online markets in Brazil, the European Union and Ukraine among others.
What’s The Takeaway? As we have said before, every foreign market has its own IP protection challenges. U.S. businesses that operate abroad or are expanding into new markets should review the USTR’s 2014 Out of Cycle Review of Notorious Markets to help evaluate the IP protection risks associated with particular markets they wish to enter. Doing so can help to ensure that such businesses can better protect their IP assets abroad.
For those who did not have a chance to attend my January 20, 2015 presentation Online Copyright and Trademark Enforcement in the U.S. and Abroad, the Washington State Bar Association International Practice Section’s Blog, The Global Gavel, has provided a summary of my presentation. It overviews the main issues discussed and key takeaway points. Those with further questions should feel free to contact me.
A link to the presentation summary can found here.