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Industry Report: Copyright and legal issue of the audiovisual sector

Online copyright enforcement: policies and mechanisms


- An examination of those copyright measures which enable Europe to protect its audiovisual content

Game of Thrones has just officially become the most pirated TV Show on the Internet for the fourth year running.  An estimated 14.4 million downloads via BitTorrent of the 2015 season finale place the series at the top of the piracy list. Hot on the heels of this news comes the latest free IRIS Plus report by the European Audiovisual ObservatoryOnline copyright enforcement: policies and mechanisms (download for free here). The Strasbourg-based Observatory, part of the Council of Europe, offers a timely examination of those copyright measures which enable Europe to protect its audiovisual content online. This new report provides invaluable background to understanding the significance of last year's announcement.

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Authored by Maja Cappello, Sophie Valais, Christian Grece and Francisco Cabrera, this report kicks off with an overview of the European audiovisual market in the digital era. The decline of physical video and the spectacular rise of on demand services in Europe have created new business models and market structures. Internet advertising is also showing a sharp upswing due to the increase in mobile devices and increased adspend of social networks, for example. The digital era has also brought with it a host of new copyright infringement schemes, some even taking the form of new business models such as ad-funded peer-to-peer communities or live TV gateways or indeed embedded streaming. This first chapter also analyses Europeans' mind-sets concerning the respect of copyright versus illegal downloading and offers some key figures concerning the progression of attitudes in Europe.

The report then moves on to the international and European provisions on copyright enforcement. An invaluable overview of copyright-related legislation is provided, covering, for example, the E-Commerce Directive, the Enforcement Directive, the InfoSoc Directive and the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime.

Zooming in further on the different national approaches to online copyright enforcement, the report takes the examples of the UK, France, Spain and Italy in order to compare and contrast different enforcement methods. The authors conclude that "the combinations of tools are very diverse". France and the UK both practice a graduated response to illegal downloading and both take action against end users, but only Spain and Italy take action against websites with the explicit mention of notice and takedown procedures.

One may wonder what steps the audiovisual industries themselves have taken to combat piracy, and indeed the next chapter focuses on self-regulatory initiatives from the industry. Chapter 4 analyses "follow the money" driven measures which aim at "draining the illegal websites of their economic sources; by capturing in a voluntary enforcement net all relevant intermediaries that play a role in generating economic revenues from illegal activities". The functioning of "notice and takedown" procedures, the promotion of legal offers and public-awareness measures are examined as a further means of fighting piracy on line.

An very topical chapter on current European case law follows, dealing with specific issues such as internet streaming of TV broadcasts, embedding and hyperlinking, for example. This section also looks at questions related to the identity of the infringers and the thorny issue of secondary liability if Internet service providers.

The authors round off with an overview of the state of play of the decision-making process. Europe is currently in a significant phase of decision making and putting anti-piracy measures into practice. The European Commission announced at the end of last year that it will 'take immediate action to engage, with all parties concerned, in setting up and applying "follow-the-money" mechanisms based on a self-regulatory approach." The Commission aims at reaching agreement by Spring 2016 and has indicated that legislation could be created in order to formalise codes of conduct at EU level.

Online copyright enforcement: policies and mechanisms: a brand new report which gives you the low-down on copyright and anti-piracy measures for on line content in today's Europe.

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