UEFA scores goal against internet giants to prevent copyright infringement

Union Des Associations Européennes De Football (UEFA), whose members include 55 national football associations, organises some of the most famous and prestigious football competitions in Europe. Recently, UEFA obtained an injunction against the UK’s main retail internet service providers.

As a substitute for paid subscriptions to sport packages through Sky, BT and others, some football fans are instead using set-top box devices such as Kodi to connect directly to streaming servers via their IP addresses. A survey for the BBC found that 47% of adults have watched a football match through an illegal provider at least once, with 36% streaming matches at least once per month.

Infringement in this way is on the rise for two key reasons. Firstly, an increasing proportion of UK consumers mistakenly believe using devices to access unauthorised streams is lawful. Secondly, most people know they personally won’t face charges for pirating illegal streams.

UEFA therefore applied for an injunction against the internet companies themselves, relying on the principle of “online intermediary liability.” Online intermediaries are companies which provide the infrastructure and data storage to facilitate transactions over the internet. Examples of intermediaries are search engines, web hosts, and internet access and service providers (“ISPs”).

Rather than go after private users, copyright holders – such as UEFA, movie stuidos and record labels – consider corporate intermediaries to be more viable targets for lawsuits. Accordingly, if online intermediaries have actual knowledge of the copyright infringement, they may be liable for the illegal behaviour of their customers and viewers.

Services of intermediaries may increasingly be used by third parties for infringing activities. In many cases such intermediaries are best placed to bring such infringing activities to an end. — Recital 59, Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC)

Morality clauses and talent contracts

As the year draws to a close, most of us will think back on the people and events that shaped 2017. Considered by many to have been one of the biggest stories of the year, it would be difficult to ignore the social (and legal) discourse surrounding the more than forty high-profile men caught in sexual misconduct scandals.

Last month, Netflix removed Kevin Spacey from its hit show House of Cards after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct. However, Spacey claims Netflix cannot legally fire him because his contract did not contain a morality clause. Similarly, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s employment agreement may have only a very “loose” morals clause that does not allow for his termination, so long as he pays contractual fines and any costs incurred by his company due to his behavior.

A morality clause is a contractual provision that gives a party (usually a company) the unilateral right to terminate the agreement, or take punitive action against the other party (the “talent,” which is usually an individual whose endorsement or image is sought) in the event that such other party engages in reprehensible behavior or conduct that may negatively impact his or her public image and, by association, the public image of the contracting company (source).

photo Doran Hannes (500px)

Cyber security gets Hollywood makeover

Hacking is a major issue for many industries – but Hollywood is an especially tempting target. The new Entertainment Security Operations Center in Los Angeles hopes to provide a secure system for studios to control their valuable creative content.

HBO, Sony Pictures, and Netflix have all been hacked in major security breaches. In addition to embarrassing information being made public and loss of consumer confidence, infiltration can cost a film or television company big bucks. According to a Carnegie Mellon University study, films leaked online before official release can lose nearly 20% of their box office revenue. Furthermore, paid subscriptions for Netflix or HBO become less appealing to viewers if they can simply watch their favourite shows elsewhere for free.

Why is Hollywood so poorly equipped to safeguard itself from data breaches? Outsourcing may be partially to blame. Special effects, musical scores, set engineering, and technicians are often provided by independent contractors and freelancers. While workers could be brought in-house, doing so would be expensive and limit flexibility when sourcing the best talent. Unfortunately, many of these small firms and individuals simply lack the resources to defend against sophisticated attacks. As a result, the hundreds or even thousands of people working on a project’s creation and distribution become security risks.

Film workers’ rights to be restored as New Zealand announces repeal of controversial “Hobbit Law”

Has New Zealand been too friendly towards Hollywood, at the expense of its own workforce? New Zealand’s incoming Labour Government promises to restore certain employment protections for film cast and crew, by repealling the controversial “Hobbit Law” within the next 100 days.

New Zealand is famous for being film-friendly. Gorgeous landscapes provide dramatic settings not far from the city comforts, and generous financial incentives are available in the form of government grants. Since the 1990s in particular, the country’s film and television industry has participated in many large, complex international productions: such films include The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings franchises, The Chronicles of Narnia, the 2005 King Kong remake, Avatar, District 9, The Lovely Bones, and – a personal favourite of mine – The Piano (pictured above). 

Earlier this year, Statistics NZ announced that the country’s screen industry revenue had increased to $3.3 billion in 2016, with film production revenue doubling to more than $1 billion. In addition to direct revenues, film and television content also promotes and enhances New Zealand’s “national brand,” with many tourists visiting the country specifically because of what they’ve seen on screen.

But has New Zealand been too friendly towards Hollywood, at the expense of its own workforce? New Zealand’s so-called “Hobbit Law” came into force in 2010 as a direct result of actors on Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit threatening industrial action. Warner Brothers’ Studio suggested it would retaliate by relocating the US $500m production elsewhere, with Jackson mentioning the possibility of filming in Eastern Europe instead. To keep The Hobbit in New Zealand, Parliament passed the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill 2010 to limit screen industry workers’ rights.

Gunpowder on Primetime: were torture and execution scenes too violent?

The BBC’s new show has been criticised for being “unnecessarily gruesome and brutal,” with some viewers saying they became physically ill due to the graphic torture and execution scenes. Is portraying such violence necessary to better understand the historical context of 17th century England, or simply too much for Saturday night primetime television?

Tonight is Bonfire Night! The “Gunpowder Treason Plot” of 1605 was a failed mass assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland and the House of Lords. A group of English Catholics planned to blow up the Palace of Westminster, following which the Protestant King James would be replaced by a Catholic monarch. When Guy Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder beneath the palace, the plot was foiled and the conspirators were subsequently executed.

Londoners celebrated King James’s survival by lighting bonfires around the city, as a “public day of thanksgiving.” Although it’s no longer an official holiday, there are still bonfires and fireworks around the country to remember remember the fifth of November.

GDPR Spotlight on media platforms

Personal Data has been Hollywood’s rising star over the last few years. But will the introduction of Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulations steal the spotlight?

I had a bit of a migraine this weekend, so I spent the better part of the last two days on the couch watching Narcos and a few period costume dramas on Netflix. As I scrolled through the recommendations deciding what to watch, I smiled to myself thinking of how confusing my behaviours must appear to the algorithms used by Netflix. My tastes vary from watching FBI agents in 1970s Columbia, to Miss Elinor Dashwood in rural Georgian England.

Me Before You is apparently a 95% match to my preferences, despite being a film I have no desire to see. On the other hand, Blackfish, the whale documentary I’ve seen three times, is only a 54% match. Of course, Netflix only knows what my online behaviour reflects. And while it may not be perfect, when my behaviour is combined with my personal data, Netflix recommendations are fairly accurate most of the time. The advancement in behavioural analytics is big business in the world of media consumption – and it’s only getting bigger.

Lawyers with a sense of humour: Strange?

I don’t usually come across phrases such as “total wastoid” and “please don’t make us call your mom” in letters written by lawyers…

Earlier this summer, Chicago-based Danny and Doug Marks of the Emporium Arcade Bar organised a popup bar inspired by Netflix’s original series, Stranger Things. Named after the show’s spooky alternate reality, the “Upside Down” became extremely popular, as people would regularly queue out the door to sip themed cocktails while surrounded by TV-studio quality props. Although the popup was initially planned to stay open for only six weeks, the success of the venture led its organisers to consider extending its run.