UPDATE: Written Declaration 29 was finally
">adopted by 371 members of the European Parliament. The Declaration's author backpedaled on data retention for search engines, with a disjointed explanation that it is possible to have limited — and simultaneously blanket — search engine surveillance. Unsurprisingly, members of Parliament are still confused. Stay tuned for more on the fate of data retention in Europe.
A controversial, surreptitious proposal to compel search engines to store everything that European citizens search for on the Internet has been introduced by a few members of the European Parliament. The veiled mandatory data retention proposal was sneaked into a broader declaration called "Written Declaration 29," which ostensibly seeks to promote the protection of children by developing an early warning system (EWS) to fight against pedophiles and sex offenders. But hidden within the text of the Declaration is obscure language mandating the storing of searches on a massive scale:
Ask the [European] Council and the [European] Commission to implement Directive 2006/24/EC and extend it to search engines in order to tackle online child pornography and sex offending rapidly and effectively.
The Directive 2006/24/EC, more widely known as the European Data Retention Directive, is an unpopular framework that compels telecommunications service providers operating in Europe to store all communications traffic data between six months and up to 2 years, for possible use by law enforcement. European Privacy officials had previously stated that "search queries themselves would be considered content rather than traffic data and the Directive would therefore not justify their retention." But in spite of that advice, Written Declaration 29 seeks to extend data retention to search engines.
The campaign promoting Written Declaration 29 focuses only on the goal of protecting children online, and is otherwise silent on the extension of the Data Retention Directive to search engines. The successful hiding of this controversial provision is likely what led 324 European Parliamentarians to sign the Declaration, coming close to the member signatures that it would take for the Written Declaration to be adopted. Once adopted, members of the European Parliament can use written declarations to launch or relaunch a debate on a subject that comes within the EU’s remit.
But when Cecilia Wikström, a member of the European Parliament, learned that the Declaration, in fact, seeks to violate EU citizens' search privacy by extending the Data Retention Directive to search engines; she publicly withdrew her support, and boldly spoke out against the proposal, seeking to clarify any possible misunderstandings for her colleagues:
Both of the two e-mails sent to [Members of the European Parliament] focused on the early warning system and neither mentioned the Data Retention Directive. The website set up to support the written declaration also does not mention Data Retention, at least not in an obvious way. Even the written declaration itself does not mention the Directive by name, but only refers to its reference number.
Parliamentarian Wikström also said:
The Written Declaration is supposed to be about an early-warning system for the protection of children. Long-term storage of citizens’ data has clearly nothing to do with 'early warning' for any purpose. The 'data preservation' system established by the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention was designed specifically for cases requiring urgent preservation of data in relation to ongoing investigations.
We've heard from many people who have been distressed to learn that their identity is being sought by the US Copyright Group, which purportedly represents various independent filmmakers, for allegedly having downloaded a movie such as "Far Cry" over BitTorrent. These people may want to contact an attorney in their state or Washington D.C. to discuss their individual circumstances and to decide how to proceed. EFF cannot advise each of these defendants, but we have assembled a list of attorneys who are willing to help advise and possibly represent subpoena targets.
The attorneys on the Subpoena Defense list are not affiliated with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and by offering their names, EFF does not intend to endorse their services. Fees are negotiable on a case by case basis. Attorneys who are interested in adding their names to the Subpoena Defense list should contact Rebecca Reagan at email@example.com with their full names, the email address that they would prefer to see listed, and the states in which they are licensed to practice law.
At a time when users regularly turn to search engines to find information on the Internet, search privacy is of paramount importance. The search terms you give to search engines can be used to compose a telling portrait of your interests and concerns, a fact that has led privacy advocates to call for greater protection for individual users.
That's why it's great news that European privacy officials from the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party" (WP29), which is an influential advisory body to the European Commission, have recently taken decisive action to push for stronger search engine privacy.
Recently, WP29 told the major search engines Google,Microsoft and Yahoo that their methods of making users' search data anonymous still do not comply with the European Union's Data Protection Directive, a legislative mandate requiring governments and businesses to protect citizens from indiscriminate collection, use, and disclosure of personal information. WP29 further requested that the search engines change their search data retention policies to comply with the recommended maximum period of 6 months.
This builds on an opinion WP29 issued in April 2008, concluding that search engines' data retention practices are, in fact, subject to the EU Data Protection Directive. To comply with the law, WP29 has stated that search companies must delete or anonymize search log data, including IP addresses and search queries, no later than six months after their collection (if not earlier), and ensure that the anonymized data cannot be linked back to an individual.
After WP29 issued the opinion in April 2008, the world's three largest search engines met with the European authorities to discuss data retention practices and search anonymization policies, and the companies responded with various privacy improvements.
At the time, Google announced that it would anonymize IP addresses in its server logs after nine months, instead of the previous 18-24 months. Since then, Google has indicated that in practice it deletes the last octet of collected IP addresses. Google retains other information, like cookies, for a period of 18 months. Yahoo announced that it would anonymize user log data, page views, clicks, ad views, and ad clicks within 90 days of collection, with limited exceptions for fraud, security, and legal obligations. Yahoo also announced that it would delete full IP addresses, rather than deleting merely the last octet. And this year, Microsoft announced that it will delete IP addresses associated with search queries six months after their collection, a reduction form the previous practice of retaining that data for 18 months. Microsoft's announced data retention policy goes further by endorsing "de-identification" (separation of search queries and account information, as well as anonymization of cookie information) as soon as a Bing search query is received. After 18 months, Microsoft then deletes cookie information, and any other cross-session IDs associated with the search query.
Last week's letters from WP29 essentially responded to this first round of changes from the search companies. WP29 told Yahoo that "a partial deletion of the personal data contained in search logs does not constitute true anonymization," and told Google that "deleting the last octet of the IP-addresses is insufficient to guarantee adequate anonymisation."
WP29 also urged Microsoft and Google "to review [their] retention policy, to bring it in line with the recommended period of a maximum of 6 months;" and urged the three search engines "to review [their] anonymization claims and make the process verifiable, preferably by developing a credible audit process involving an external and independent auditing entity. The actual techniques of anonymization deserve an open debate, open to public scrutiny."
EFF has recommended that online service providers collect the minimum amount of information for the minimum time that is necessary to perform their search engines operations, and to effectively obfuscate, aggregate and delete unneeded user information.
WP29 understands the risks inherent in search engines holding vast collections of search log data of individuals. EFF hopes that search companies will now reduce the search data retention period and make public their methods for data anonymization to allow Internet users to make informed choices about which services they will use, and to encourage the development of more privacy protections for search engine users. Citizens should have the ability to make searches on the Internet without fear that their deepest secrets might be accessed by the government or private parties, published to the world, or used for secondary purposes without consent. By irreversibly anonymizing or deleting search log data no later than six months after their collection (if not earlier), individuals can have greater certainty that the government and private parties cannot gain access to their historical search data. That would be a very welcome first step.
Update June 7, 2010 Yahoo! has changed it's Profiles feature into Yahoo! Pulse. Since the layout and URLs are a bit different, we have updated our opt out instructions below.
Earlier this week, Yahoo! announced a plan to try to leverage its Yahoo! Mail users' contacts into a social network of friends who will receive your Yahoo! Updates. Once the most visited website in the world, Yahoo! now ranks fourth worldwide, reaching about a quarter of all Internet users each day. Like Google Buzz's ill-fated launch using Gmail contacts, Yahoo! wants to jump start its social networking plans with the hundreds of millions of people who already use its email and messenger services.
While Yahoo! made some effort to avoid the worst aspects of the Facebook and Google Buzz privacy controversies, ultimately the plan conflicts with two principles of the EFF Bill of Privacy Rights for social network users. The program will begin a roll out next week, and Yahoo! users need to opt out if they do not wish to participate.
What Are Your Yahoo! Updates?
Yahoo! Updates are similar to Facebook's news feed and Twitter's tweets. For people who receive your Updates (more on that below), they will be seen on the basic Yahoo! Mail screen, in a category called “Updates” just below where email messages are displayed.
Updates will "include things like comments on message boards, songs you’ve rated, movies you’ve reviewed, articles you’ve Buzzed, photos you’ve uploaded in Flickr, questions you’ve asked or answered on Yahoo! Answers and other similar activities." If you have customized your Yahoo! homepage with apps, these apps may also generate Updates. According to Yahoo!, "Because the majority of events listed within Updates are inherently public activities, our defaults are set to allow anyone to see them."
Here’s the problem: Even though many of these events are indeed available to the public in that they can be found if searched for (often by looking in specific places), this does not necessarily mean that users want all of these activities to be pushed onto the home email screens of other users. Whether or not users will want this publicity depends on who will see the Updates.
Who Will See Your Yahoo! Updates?
You can never know the complete list of those who will receive Updates about your activities on Yahoo!. Previously, your Updates were shared with your Connections, an earlier Yahoo! effort at opt-in social networking that was not widely adopted. More recently, Yahoo! started sharing with your Yahoo! Messenger buddies. Starting next week, your Updates will get posted automatically to anyone who has you in their Yahoo! Mail address book, as opposed to, for example, the people in your address book. Thus, if someone wants to follow your Updates, they can just add you to their address book and you will not know.
What that means is that whenever your doctor, your ex, your stalker, or your plumber include your email address as a Contact in their address book, they will automatically see Updates about your activities on Yahoo!’s many, many websites whenever they log into Yahoo! Mail.
In an effort to avoid Google's gaffe in making Buzz user's email contacts public, Yahoo! Updates will not publicize who is in your address book or who has you in their address book. By publishing Updates only to people who have you as a Yahoo! Contact, rather than to those people whose addresses are in your Yahoo! Contact list, Yahoo! will avoid revealing any information about who is in your address book. This solves one privacy problem but creates another: you can’t make an informed decision about publicizing your activities because you don’t know who will see it.
The EFF Bill of Privacy Rights requires "a clear user interface that allows [users] to make informed choices about who sees their data and how it is used," and that "Users should be able to see readily who is entitled to access any particular piece of information about them." Yahoo!’s system fails to uphold these rights since it doesn’t let you know or control who is getting sent your Updates.
While implemented differently, Yahoo!’s strategy ultimately falls prey to the same underlying problem as Google Buzz: your email contact list and your social network are not the same thing, and in some cases may be quite different – and products that try to turn one into the other are doomed to hurt users. As Newsweek put it "Social networks are about sharing, and e-mail services are intensely private. Like lightning and swimming pools, they just don’t mix."
Red: Your social network Blue: People with your Yahoo! email address
Google Buzz incited controversy because its Gmail users' contacts were a poor match for their friends. One might email with doctors, lawyers, landlord, bosses, former spouses, and the like, and yet not want to share personal photos and links with them (nor receive updates from them).
Likewise, when it comes to Yahoo! Updates, there will likely be other Yahoo! Mail users who have your email in their address book, but are not actually your friends; you may not even know them at all or you may know them only as your doctor, your child’s teacher or your car mechanic. Yet all of those Yahoo! users who happen to have your Yahoo! email address will soon be getting a constant stream of your online activity, unless you opt out. (They could also choose to block your Updates, if they do not care to see your activities).
Can You Control Who Receives Your Yahoo! Updates?
Not on a person-by-person basis. You can control what categories of content are included in your Updates stream. For example, you can choose to include your comments on Yahoo! News stories but not include the photos you post to Flickr. You will also be able to decide whether or not a particular action is published to the Update stream at all, on a per-post opt-out basis. Or you can decide to just opt-out of Updates completely. However, as noted above, there are currently no controls over who receives your Updates. As a result, Yahoo! Mail users will soon find themselves automatically opted in to a new sharing program without control over with whom they are sharing.
This opt-out program conflicts with EFF’s Bill of Privacy Rights, which provides that "When the service wants to make a secondary use of the data, it must obtain explicit opt-in permission from the user." These contacts were provided to Yahoo! for the purpose of email and messaging, not social networking. If Yahoo wants to use that data for a new purpose, it should only do so on an opt-in basis.
How to Opt Out of Yahoo! Updates
You must opt out if you don't want to publicize your activities with anyone who has your email address in their address book. In the wake of the Facebook privacy settings controversy, Yahoo! has made the opt-out process fairly straight forward.
Yahoo! Updates Sharing Control
To opt-out of the new program, go to http://profiles.yahoo.com/settings/updates/ and uncheck the box next to Share My Updates. In addition, to opt out of sharing authorized by your friends, you need to go to http://profiles.yahoo.com/settings/permissions, and uncheck "Allow my connections to share my information labeled 'My Connections' with third-party applications." While on this page, you should review your settings, and adjust the privacy levels as appropriate. This page also allows to to hide your profile entirely.
Update June 7, 2010 To control your privacy on the newly introduced Yahoo! Pulse, go to http://pulse.yahoo.com/y/settings and click on "Manage privacy settings." A pop-up window will appear, with a list of checkboxes. Here you can opt out of sharing a variety of information, and choose to hide your profile. To maximize privacy, everything should be deselected, except the last option "Hide my profile."
Next, select the link "my updates" from the first line of text in the pop-up. This will bring you to the Updates page, where you can uncheck "Share my updates." If you have previously followed our opt-out instructions, this should already be unchecked.
Today, we're doing a round-up of reactions to the Facebook news, ranging from the purely positive to the downright angry. Taken together, the reaction seems to be skeptical: the changes are good, but not good enough.
The most positive reactions to Facebook's announcement were helpfully provided by Facebook itself in its press release, which collected a bunch of pre-prepared quotes from non-profit consumer and privacy groups that were pleased by the changes. TRUSTe's quote was perhaps the most enthusiastic endorsement of the changes. Notably, TRUSTe is owned by Accel Partners, which is also a major investor in Facebook and appoints members to both companies' boards, a relationship that is the subject of of a recently filed complaint to the FTC.
Our friends at the Center for Democracy and Technology also appeared in Facebook's press release with the only quote to include a note of caution: "[T]hese changes are the building blocks to giving people what they want and deserve," but "more work still needs to be done..." CDT's full statement was even more cautious: "It has been a long hard slog, but we are cautiously optimistic that this ship has been righted and is beginning to make the necessary course correction to put users and their privacy rights back at the helm."
Meanwhile, our friends at the ACLU put out their own excellent analysis of the changes, concluding that "[a]lthough there are further changes users want and need, today’s changes are a significant and promising step in the right direction." The ACLU was even more positive in the San Jose Mercury News' story: "Facebook is finally friending privacy again," said Nicole Ozer of the Northern California ACLU.
The final sign that Facebook's privacy woes were far from an end came on Friday, when Chairman Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter of probing questions to Facebook (and to Google); such letters are often a prelude to a Congressional hearing.
So, it looks like the battle over Facebook's privacy practices hasn't ended, but has only just begun, the latest controversy serving as a "wake-up call" to social network users and policymakers. As our friends at CDT pointed out, "it has taken a full-throated revolt by Facebook’s users to put privacy back on the agenda of social networking giants." Jeff Chester put it even more bluntly in the Center for Digital Democracy's statement: "Facebook made some positive changes today, but only because of political pressure from policymakers and privacy advocates on both sides of the Atlantic."
With your help, we hope to keep that pressure on to ensure that Facebook's latest pro-privacy changes are not the last.
Plenty of folks, from copyright lawyers to Internet entrepreneurs to investment bankers, have been watching the long-running legal battle between Viacom and Google/YouTube carefully, well aware that a decision in the case could have a profound effect on the future of the Internet. But most YouTube users probably haven't given it the same attention. They should, and in an amicus brief filed in support of YouTube last week, a group of YouTube video creators explains why.
Calling themselves "The Sideshow Coalition" (because Viacom has called their interests a "sideshow"), these creators tell their own personal stories of how YouTube has helped them find a broader audience than they had ever imagined they could reach, with all kinds of unexpected effects. A few examples from the brief:
Barnett Zitron, who created "Why Tuesday," a political video blog focused on increasing voter turnout that has helped register over half a million college students to vote.
Mehdi Saharkhiz, who created a YouTube channel to spread awareness about government human rights abuses in Iran and frequently posts videos from contacts in Iran who record the videos on their cell phones.
Phillip de Vellis, who created and uploaded to YouTube a video supporting President Obama’s candidacy, hoping it would be viewed by a few thousand people. "Instead, millions viewed it and the San Francisco Chronicle described it as 'a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising.'"
Arin Crumley, who could not get conventional financing for a film he wanted to make, and decided instead to self-produce it and post it to YouTube. The first full length movie ever uploaded to the site, it was viewed more than a million times, and then the Independent Film Channel picked it up.
Dane Boedigheimer, who wanted to be a filmmaker since he was 12 years old and would spend hours each day with his parents’ 8mm camera. "In the conventional media, it would have taken years before he might even have a chance to direct films. However, with YouTube, Boedigheimer was able to create a series called 'Really Annoying Orange' whose episodes have been viewed 130 million times."
These creators praise YouTube for removing the gatekeeper between them and their audiences. “We can now be our own television and cable stations and our own record labels and record stores. We suspect that the threat that truly concerns Plaintiffs is not copyright infringement but just competition.”
Unlike most of the parties and amici who have filed in this case (including EFF), these friends of the court don't focus on the legal doctrines at stake in this case. Instead, they remind us why these legal issues matter, i.e., what's really at stake in a case that tries to hold intermediaries liable for what users post online:
It is pretty clear that on a scale of incentives to censor, the billion dollars that Plaintiffs seek in this lawsuit rates pretty high. If YouTube is made responsible for everything that we say, then naturally YouTube will want to exercise control over what we say. No online service would risk enabling the universe of users to speak in their own words if it faced liability for anything that anyone said.
Therefore, we ask that as the Court decides this case, it consider not just the interests of those who appear in the caption, but also our interests as creative professionals and the interests of the hundreds of millions of people who have viewed our work.
We are not a sideshow. We are what YouTube is all about and what this lawsuit should be about.
A warning to readers: you may not want to start at the beginning, unless you're really interested in the organization of pre-industrial printing in England in the 1700s. Because the book is organized chronologically, the first several chapters are, well, a bit less accessible.
So here's my advice: start with Chapter 13, which is about the rise of radio in the UK in the 1920s. Turns out that history is remarkably relevant today. Radio arose in the shadow of a patent thicket, became the province of tinkers, and posed a puzzle for a government worried that "experimenters" would ruin things by mis-adjusting their sets and flooding the ether with howling oscillation. Many will immediately recognize the parallels to modern controversies about iPhone "jailbreaking," user innovation, and the future of the Internet.
The momentum of Chapter 13 should carry you through to the end of the book. Along the way, you'll be reminded that today's debates have historical roots in controversies over computer hacking, phone phreaking, home taping, and ultimately the 1920s patent-law rebellions against AT&T. This is history every interested copy-fighter, patent reformer, and netizen needs to know. Prof. Johns ends his book by describing the unique thing about our current historical moment: the rise of what he calls an "intellectual property defense industry":
As piracy has grown and diversified, so a counterindustry has emerged, dedicated to combating it. The coherence and scope of this industry are relatively new and remarkable. In previous centuries, particular groups or industries mounted efforts against piracy; but they did not generally regard them as fronts in one common cause. Now they do. ... So the first implication is that we need to appreciate the historical significance of this industry of antipiracy policing and apprehend its consequences, at every social level. The second implication follows from that. Measures adopted against piracy can sometimes impinge on other, equally valued, aspects of society. Indeed, it is possible that they must do so, given the nature of the task. When that happens, however, they can trigger deeply felt reactions. The result is a crisis, with the potential to create a moment of genuine transformation.
If that's right (and I think it is), then opposing the "intellectual property defense industry" is not the same thing as opposing "intellectual property." Rather, it is about insisting on values like civil liberties, privacy, and autonomy, and not allowing antipiracy enforcement to trample them.
But don't stop reading at the end of the book. Go back for the earlier chapters. For example, Chapter 10 (Google Books excerpt) tells the story of how the term "intellectual property" arose as the byproduct of efforts in the 1870s to abolish the patent system altogether—patent advocates popularized the term to harness their cart to copyright ("literary property"), which was perceived as the more secure and legitimate institution. Chapter 8 reminds us how the United States was born as a "pirate nation," refusing to recognize the copyrights of foreign (mainly British) authors. Chapter 9 explains the early history of "legal deposit" as a requirement for copyright (and how publishers hated it), which in turn became an important foundation for many of our most revered national research libraries. Chapter 12 describes the origins of the first organized, industry-supported, private antipiracy enforcement operation (it was music publishers fighting against sheet music reprinters in 1903).
The file-sharing public faces yet another wave of predatory litigation, this time from the so-called US Copyright Group ("USCG"), which is suing BitTorrent users on behalf of various independent filmmakers. The Hollywood Reporter reports that more than 20,000 individuals have been sued, with more suits to come, and the producers of the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker have also signed up with the USCG to go after BitTorrent users.
USCG's infringement lawsuits are "Doe suits," much like the cases in the infamous Recording Industry Association of America litigation campaign. Just as the RIAA did for years, the US Copyright Group uses an investigator to identify IP addresses associated with allegedly infringing downloads, files copyright infringement suits against anonymous Does, and then tries to hijack the subpoena process to get ISPs to match the IP addresses to actual names. (We'll have more to say in a later post about USCG's abuse of the legal process.)
Veterans of the file-sharing wars know that this story has no happy ending. The filmmakers — perhaps promised an alternative revenue stream in the form of settlements — are in for a bumpy ride. First, we'll see an abuse of the legal process to identify anonymous Internet users. Already, ISP Time Warner Cable (TWC) has pushed back against USCG's demand for hundreds of subscriber names and IP address lookups on short notice. If TWC succeeds — and it should — it will help put the brakes on USCG's effort to cut their own costs by serving mass subpoena requests. In other words, the lawsuits could get a little more expensive. Then, once identities are revealed, we'll inevitably start hearing about the "dolphins in the driftnet" — people who are improperly targeted but nonetheless forced to settle or defend. Meanwhile, despite the flurry of legal action, BitTorrent use will continue unabated and only the lawyers will see any increase in their bottom line.
This much should be abundantly clear by now: creators must move beyond suing the audience. File-sharers are characterized as shallow thieves, when in reality they're just fans who are using one of the most efficient technologies for distribution ever invented to explore creative works in the most convenient way possible. The majority of these fans would like to live in a world where there's an efficient, effective, modern framework for compensating the creators. That framework will be built through innovation and experimentation — not litigation.
Happily, some filmmakers and innovators are already working hard to develop better, more flexible models.
After initially failing to attract a distributor for the feature film Four Eyed Monsters — despite success at a number of festivals — filmmaker Arin Crumley and co-director Susan Buice embraced alternative, Internet-driven distribution strategies including in-depth "making-of" podcasts, fan-driven screening requests, and the posting of the film in full on YouTube. Crumley is hoping to embed the successful elements of these various experiments into OpenIndie, a website in beta that seeks to provide creators with a new way to distribute and screen films.
OpenIndie will allow filmmakers to post trailers and information about their films to the site, while film buffs can use the site to request screenings of films they like. Filmmakers can then get a roster of their fans, giving them the ammo they need to convince theaters to show the film in regions where there's guaranteed interest. OpenIndie also plans to make it easier for superfans to host a screening, collect donations, and offer merchandise on behalf of the filmmaker, creating a new level of creator-audience interaction and support that capitalizes elegantly on unique aspects of the film experience unavailable through infringement: seeing a film with others, being one of the first to support quality creative work, and so on.
Filmmaker and animator Nina Paley is another noteworthy creator finding success through alternative distribution of her animated feature Sita Sings the Blues. After critical acclaim, and after having to pay crushing licensing fees to copyright owners (since she incorporated blues songs originally written the 1920s into the film), Paley avoided traditional film distribution deals and instead released the film under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, writing:
You don't need my permission to copy, share, publish, archive, show, sell, broadcast, or remix Sita Sings the Blues. Conventional wisdom urges me to demand payment for every use of the film, but then how would people without money get to see it? How widely would the film be disseminated if it were limited by permission and fees? Control offers a false sense of security. The only real security I have is trusting you, trusting culture, and trusting freedom.
And how successful has Sita Sings the Blues actually been? The QuestionCopyright.org site has been tracking the results of her alernative distribution project and summarizes the findings thusly:
Best of all, her income stream is fairly steady. This is the opposite of the traditional "burst and fade" distribution model that so many works endure, dragged out of circulation prematurely to avoid competing with new releases from the same publisher. Because Nina's film is audience-distributed, it's in circulation forever, whenever and wherever people want to see it. And all those audience members are potential customers and donors, as the financial results bear out.
A less measurable factor than "profit" that many passionate creators will nonetheless find to be important is the emotional, creative impact of embracing alternative distribution. According to Nina Paley, the success and thrill of Sita Sings the Bluescan be felt in ways beyond the business model built around the work itself.
Overall, a prevalent theme for those leading the way in getting paid for creative work is an acceptance of copying as an integral aspect of modern life that gives creators unprecedented advantages and flexibility. In a recent interview, author (and former EFF staffer) Cory Doctorow said:
As a practical matter, we live in the 21st century and anything anybody wants to copy they will be able to copy. If you are building a business model that says that people can only copy things with your permission, your business is going to fail because whether or not you like it, people will be able to copy your product without your permission. The question is: what are you going to do about that? Are you going call them thieves or are you going to find a way to make money from them?
And to that end, innovative sites are stepping in to give creators new tools and diverse choices for fundraising, like Kickstarter's development of the crowdfunding concept, and Flattr's experimentation with social micropayments. These services seek to capitalize on the deep, direct engagement made possible by the Internet — enlisting the audience, rather than attacking it.
Independent filmmaking is extraordinarily challenging, and part of the challenge is getting compensated for your hard work. But the lessons from litigation in the music space could not be more clear: suing your fans is no way to meet that challenge. We urge filmmakers to learn from the creators profiled above, experiment with the new tools at their disposal, and to lead the way in finding better way forward.