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Copyright Tiff Continues

2 Aug, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A trade group with members that comprise some of the biggest technology companies, including Google, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo and Microsoft, is asking the federal government to alter copyright warnings.

The non-legally binding complaint — filed Aug. 1 with the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. — alleges that copyright warnings displayed on packaged media (DVDs), published books, televised shows and sporting events systematically misrepresent consumer's rights to use legally acquired content.

Content owners named in the grievance include DreamWorks Animation SKG, Universal Studios, NBC Universal, Major League Baseball, National Football League, Harcourt Inc. and the Penguin Group.

Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), said the warnings represent an attack on free expression and coerce consumers into forgoing lawful activities to which they are entitled under federal law.

“Every one of us has seen or heard that copyright warning at the beginning of a sports game, DVD or book,” Black said. “These corporations use [the] warnings not to educate their consumers, but to intimidate them.”

For content holders, the warnings represent the first line of defense against copyright infringement, which they claim has become rampant with the rise of the Internet.

Media giant Viacom in March filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google's YouTube online video sharing site alleging copyright infringement of thousands of uploaded video clips by third-party users. Numerous content holders, including several European professional soccer organizations, have joined the suit.

Last week, a group of Japanese television, music and movie companies lambasted Google's announced intention to bow video recognition software (see page 19) later this year.

“YouTube has to stop how it runs its site and get rid of the illegal clips,” composer Hideki Matsutake told the Associated Press.

Provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, however, protect online service providers against copyright liability if they adhere to prescribed safe harbor guidelines, which include blocking access to alleged infringing material (or removing such material from their systems) if they receive a notification claiming infringement from a copyright holder.

In a statement, NBC Universal said there is nothing “unlawful, untruthful or inaccurate” in its copyright warnings on DVDs and suggested the identical warnings were used by CCIA members.

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