Posts tagged ‘cloud’

Fool vs. US Copyright Czar


That was the theme of this year’s World Copyright Summit that happened this past week in Brussels.  Indeed, I am the Fool cannot claim familiarity within these circles, but I can’t contain myself from poking fun at one of the speakers.  Victoria A. Espinel, who reports to President Obama as the US Copyright Czar, made a speech that addressed the question: “Can cloud-based entertainment services help eradicate digital piracy?”  It’s a very provocative question indeed.  But, her follow up interview lacked any inspirational punch.

Keeping in mind I’m jaded and would like to disregard the “Respect” part of the Summit, I pretend below to join the interview with the NY Times and the US Copyright Czar:

NY Times: Do you see cloud services as primarily being legal alternatives to illegal file-sharing networks, or do they present other problems of copyright?

Czar: I hear it asserted that the cloud is going to cause huge increases in piracy; I’ve also heard that the cloud will be the savior. My own view is that the cloud is neutral. It’s not inherently predisposed to be legal or illegal….But you can build a cloud-based service that’s illegal, and you can build a cloud-based service that is legal.

Fool (to Czar): Who talks like that? That’s really not an answer in my book.

Fool (to NY Times) That’s a stupid question.  I don’t think cloud services will impact piracy one single bit. Piracy is never going to go away because people like free stuff that gives them value.  The cloud services are merely places to hold your stuff and then easily access it from your many devices.

NY Times. Are there particular concerns about copyright or privacy that come up in regard to cloud computing?

Czar: Generally it seems to me that the issues coming up are variations of issues that have already come up with the advent of the Internet. The cloud can intensify or accelerate the pace at which we as a government need to address those issues, and which the marketplace needs to address those issues.

Fool (to Czar): Shouldn’t they call you Czarina? Or is a Czar also like a Queen?  Anyways, you use lots of words but actually communicate zip.

Fool (to NY Times):  That’s a mildly better question.  I am an optimist sometimes, and actually see opportunity where others see concerns.  For example, cloud services like iCloud help labels recover some of the dough they’ve lost over the years.  By providing amnesty to pirates, they may just use cloud services to store their stuff and pay annual fees to keep it there.  These fees will be split up with the majority going to the labels.  So finally, labels now can recuperate a tiny bit of what they’ve lost to piracy.

NY Times: As you said, so much of the infringement happens beyond U.S. borders. How are you able to deal with foreign jurisdictions, and what kind of success have we been having in pursuing criminal activity in other countries?

Czar: It’s a big challenge. I would note three things. First, we in United States have a good and strong legal system, although we do think we can make improvements, and we sent recommendations to Congress for improvements….Second, even in countries where there are strong legal systems we need to have better and increased law enforcement by those countries.  The last thing is that we need to protect our own citizens as much as we can.

Fool (to Czar):  Nice structured response, but I kind of stopped listening when you said “I would note…”

Fool (NY Times):  That’s a really good question and damned if I know the answer to either.  Short of having an Internet United Nations that sets and enforces laws, there will always be rogue nations who have more important things to think about (like clean water, corruption or how to secure the next Olympics bid).  With regards to your question about the success in pursuing criminal activity, I’d say close to zero.  Seize one website and a mirror immediately pops up.

Fool from NY Times:  What day is it today?

Pretend Czar:  Today is before tomorrow and after yesterday. I would note that it isn’t really today everywhere because right now is tomorrow as well as yesterday in other places.

Fool (to Czar): What are you talking about?

Fool (to NY Times): It’s Thursday, all day.


Amazon’s Cloud

Cloud computing, cloud syncing, cloud services, cloud storage.  It seems like anything these days with that ambiguous (and overused) word is sexy.  And the Cloud got a huge jolt of tangibility from Amazon’s launch of Cloud Drive and Cloud Player this past week.  But, the content industry is not too thrilled; more on implications in a bit.

Suffice it to say that the Amazon Cloud Drive and Player are consumer-oriented services that allow users to back up their local music libraries and play them remotely from anywhere via the Web or an Android device.   For you and me, that means if our tablet, laptop or smart phone crashes, our music would be left untouched and ready to be accessed on another device.  We can expect that Apple and Google will follow shortly with their own cloud offerings, but Amazon wins the First to Market Contest. For a decent read, check out the New York Times for an overview.

In terms of the experience, user reviews are also beginning to land (here’s a good one, there’s a decent one).  The most consistent positive callout is about the interface and ease of use.  On the negative side is the fact that uploading your entire music collection takes a ton of time and is generally a pain in the derriere.  Costs seem reasonable enough (free 5GB and $1 per GB thereafter).

OK enough facts.  Let’s now riff on the impacts of Amazon Cloud services on the music and movies businesses.

The labels are annoyed

Record labels are pretty well pissed off at Amazon for going to market without really consulting them and seeking out the appropriate licenses to stream music from the cloud to your devices.  Labels are concerned because they feel that some music in your collection isn’t “legit:” some music is either stolen from file sharing sites or ripped from friends’ CDs.  Besides offering a service that cuts revenue from labels on inappropriately obtained music, labels are worried that Amazon Cloud services will encourage friends to rip – and share – their music collections.

As Copyright and Technology points out, Amazon’s likely attitude toward the labels is “So sue me.” Simultaneously Amazon will argue that the labels owe them a favor for offering a competitive service to iTunes.  All I can say is that lawyers are licking their chops on the ensuing litigation that will undoubtedly occur.

And how about the studios?

While Amazon Cloud services are limited to our music collections for use across our non-Apple devices, Amazon will likely allow you to put your movie and television shows in the Cloud in the not so distant future.  Studios will undoubtedly resist Amazon Cloud services without the appropriate protections in place to make sure we nasty customers don’t steal and share with our friends.  I think we should expect some interesting (and litigious) discussions to come.

What about current industry efforts with the Cloud?

In an interesting twist, Ultraviolet, which has studio backing from all but Disney, is now faced with a few interesting scenarios to consider as the Cloud space materializes.  On the positive side, with Amazon’s launch into the Cloud, Amazon is educating consumers to what life looks like with “up there.”  So an optimist could argue that Ultraviolet will benefit from drafting Amazon’s efforts.  Another outcome for Ultraviolet is if Amazon joins the consortium and then potentially leverages Amazon’s considerable Cloud infrastructure. Good for Ultraviolet, but bad for the only member company that has skin in the game.  Neustar will need to figure out how to avoid being squeezed out by Amazon.

Another scenario includes Ultraviolet being a potential competitor to Amazon’s Cloud.  If the studios get a sudden change of heart to license content to Amazon, Ultraviolet may just evaporate.

Wrap up

The Cloud is heating up, for sure.  Google and Apple will launch something, and soon the Cloud will become a must have feature in any content service.  But the content industry will not go quietly into this Cloud-based world.  And like the legions of lawyers out there, I’m grateful for the job security and the articles to come.

What do you think?  What are scenarios with labels, studios, industry consortia?


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