2009 – A ZeroPaid Year in Review – Part 2 of 3

We continue with our 2009 year in review with part two of our three part review. Part one of three.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes


May started off with several stories pretty much happening at the exact same time. One of those stories was the increase in support for municipal broadband by major tech companies. Project Greenlight, the municipal broadband company that could in the US scored an uprising that caused more opposition toward the movement that would kill municipal broadband. The so-called “level the playing field” bills that would kill municipal broadband was ultimately sent to committee – that included the Senate version.

Another story was the story about how Canada’s presence on the priority watch list started to lead many into believing that watch list/wishlist for many countries held no water. Losing more and more support on the international stage as well as within Canada, the IFPI appeared to be going as far as to obstruct free trade in Canada in a bid to tighten copyright laws – a plan that never really panned out for the IFPI. Later on that month, the Conference Board of Canada suffered a major embarrassment when it was caught pirating a report to call for tough actions against piracy. If that wasn’t bad enough, revelations quickly emerged that the Digital Economic Report by the Conference Board of Canada ignored independent research as well. Ultimately, the Conference Board of Canada withdrew the report.

The constant drum beat of the so-called three strikes law continued throughout the month of May. The European Union re-opened a graduated response meaning the three strikes law was once again on the table. Later on, the three strikes law in Europe was once again killed – this time, for good. It dashed hopes for the major entertainment industry to have a three-strikes-and-your-out system in place for an entire continent. Meanwhile in France, in what seemed to be a very big point in the timeline of the Three Strikes Law in the country was one man voicing opposition to the three strikes law – an opinion that cost him his job, but gripped a nation with an interest in tech and political related issues. In spite of the political outcry, the French Three Strikes law was passed anyway. Then in Britain, a UK copyright group demanded that alleged file-sharers be disconnected from the internet, but the British ISPs stood firm and rejected the calls. Later back in France, there were revelations that the French Three Strikes law would see 1000 disconnections per day.

The MPAA’s overall success continued in May with the major success of Wolverine at the box office showing that movie leaks, once again, has no impact on cinema ticket sales.

The CEO of LimeWire was caught up in Congress trying to convince regulators that the program is safe for consumption. This happened while congress was debating a law that would prevent inadvertent file-sharing.

The RIAA, a few months in to an era they promised would be litigation free, filed even more lawsuits they promised they would never file. While they were making more enemies in that respect, they were also making enemies with an old ally – public radio. One of the RIAA’s members higher ups also made the comment that nothing good ever comes out of the internet – a comment that drew anger from many places around the internet.

The major political fallout of ThePirateBay guilty verdict continued to prove that there was political ramifications as The Pirate Party’s support continued to grow and was projected to win two seats in the EU Parliament. Meanwhile, a Swedish bank decided, in spite of an unsettled court case, decided to freeze the bank account of the admins of the BitTorrent site. The demands for a fair trial grew particularly when the admins demanded one. With a political backlash looming, the Swedish government did the unthinkable, push for more draconian laws affecting the internet – in this case, demand mandatory data retention for 6 months. After facing a major fine, prosecutors that miraculously managed to convict ThePirateBay admins demanded further fines and a gag order on the admins. They reiterated their demands saying a $3.6 Million fine was not enough. Supporting the conviction of ThePirateBay admins grew more challenging when news later broke about how the BSA admitted that losses due to piracy were entirely hypothetical – while obvious to most, a reaffirming admission nevertheless. Ultimately, ThePirateBay admins finally made things happen when it was decided that a three judge panel would decide whether or not the original judge that convicted the admins was biased. This happened at roughly the same time when polls continued to show that The Pirate Party was set to win at least one seat in the EU Parliament. Things continued to appear to be going in ThePirateBay admins favour when the courts rejected the demands for an additional fine and gag order. Things grew increasingly hairy when a Swedish minister was caught applauding the outcome of ThePirateBay trial. Meanwhile, The Pirate Party support gained a major supporter when a famousdish writer explained why he is voting for the party.

While the year is filled with studies, one study in particular seemed to reaffirm many observers of the copyright debate’s belief – a flat rate is, indeed, the way to go.

The RealDVD trial kept making occasional appearances in the headlines as Real accused the MPAA of anti-trust violations.

Privacy was also an issue that made headlines throughout the year. At one point, after France decided to push for three strikes law, the government took things a step further and pushed for legalizing the use of malware by police among other things. It was a law so draconian, few believed what they read when the story broke.

The Joel Tenenbaum case re-emerged in the headlines as the Harvard Professor defending an alleged file-sharer suggested that file-sharing is “fair use”. The Harvard Law professor later said that the RIAAs lawsuit campaign was an unconstitutional abuse of the law.

Spain made it into the headlines when the record industry took P2P developer Pablo Soto to court over unfair competition.

The Australian web filtering debate grew when confusing language emerged that the filtering would be voluntary mandatory. That didn’t stop the Australian Christian Group from reiterating calls for a porn filter though.


June started off with Spanish citizens demanding internet civil rights. Probably facing huge pressure from the public, Spanish counterparts for the copyright industry later backed down from demanding a three strikes law for the country.

With questions swirling about the future of the RIAAs filesharing lawsuit campaign, the RIAA went public to say that file-sharing lawsuits are not about the money but a “fair and reasonable” campaign.

Things grew more tense around ThePirateBay trial’s outcome. One artist even put one of his albums on the site to protest his art being used against the admins during the trial. Later on, time was up and the admins for The Pirate Bay urged European citizens to get out and vote – though they didn’t exactly say for who, just get out and vote. Things seemed to just play in to Swedish The Pirate Party’s favour as the party then went on to win two seats in the EU Parliament. Meanwhile, things quickly went sideways for the admins of ThePirateBay when the three panel judge ruled that the original judge was not biased in making his guilty conviction. The Pirate Party’s success didn’t stop at the EU Election. The party proved to be growing in strength both nationally and internationally – many point out that the victory in Sweden inspired many others around the world to start their own national Pirate Parties. While the Pirate Party movement was growing stronger and stronger, the Swedish government decided to divert 15 police officials to investigating copyright infringement. Interestingly enough, shortly after that announcement, ThePirateBay formally launched its VPN service. Scrambling for some way to stop the overwhelming success of The Pirate Party, a Swedish politician made the unfortunate decision to equate Pirate Party Supporters with rapists. Bad news later emerged for ThePirateBay admins in the midst of all this when a court ruled that the original judge was not biased. By that point, many rumours circulated about the three judge panel being biased as well. Oddly enough, right after the ruling, the admins were issued a court summons via Twitter by Dutch anti-p2p organization BREIN. Also towards the end of the month, many in Sweden questioning the entire judicial system of Sweden. Things were going along smoothly PR-wise for ThePirateBay until news emerged that the website was sold. Many users then flocked to alternatives as a result, outraged and calling the admins “sellouts”. This was, perhaps, the first time the admins experienced negative publicity from the public.

Not to be forgotten, the Jammie Thomas trial took an interesting turn when lawyers moved to bar evidence provided by Media Sentry in the trial. The retrial of Jammie Thomas started later on that month. Unfortunately, in the same month, Jamie Thomas was also fined $1.92 Million for sharing a mere 24 songs.

The MPAA’s trial against RealDVD took a critical turn when the MPAA said that even making one DVD was illegal. Meanwhile, the MPAA found themselves admitting to losing the PR war to “the enemies of copyright”. One might observe that the language further signalled a sort of more mean spirited language that later seems to be part of a later PR war.

Controversy in Canada continued over the Conference Board of Canada’s report when the CEO spoke out to do some damage control only to have an ex-employee counter the CEO’s claims. Meanwhile, uncertainty about the Canadian government’s ability to handle internet related issues grew when the governing party introduced mandatory ISP level surveillance legislation. Sadly for many the governing party let Canadians down upon review of both surveillance bills. The response was swift as many Canadian newspapers responded by making mast-head editorials denouncing the surveillance legislation. Things started to look dicey on the political landscape in Canada when the Liberal party announced that they would combat piracy and ratify WIPO. The reason this was dicey because with the governing party and the Liberal party, there is enough votes to pass anything. Things looked dicey until the Liberal party, no doubt facing internal controversy, backtracked on calls to ratify WIPO and merely saying that their calls to ratify WIPO was merely to mark interest on the subject… honestly! While the copyright debate grew in Canada, news surfaced that BNN, a Canadian broadcaster, was accused of censoring the copyright debate by taking down several videos on the subject from YouTube.

A report out of Russia suggested that the Russian government wanted internet anonymity abolished.

A UK Minister, after the government faced even more pressure to change their minds on the three strikes law position, continued to defy the industry’s calls for a three strikes law saying that such a law was “too draconian”. One of the ways that the copyright industry exerted pressure onto the government was through a study that was cast in to doubt when reviewed. A UK ISP also said that the idea that one can stop file-sharing is “very naive”. Another study in the UK suggested that losses due to piracy were fictitious and that if losses occurred, it wasn’t due to file-sharing and piracy, but rather, gaming and DVDs. Undeterred by a botched PR campaign and growing scepticism about the anti-file-sharing movement, a copyright industry entity argued that a three strikes law was the way to go and that throttling was a waste of time.

Frances LOPPSI 2 law that would allow police to upload malware received an expert review which had further insights and confirmation in the law. Meanwhile, fresh from passing the three strikes law, France went on to use military intelligence to shut down a private BitTorrent website. Later on that month, the French president was dealt with another embarrassing blow to his plans for a French Three Strikes Law when France’s Constitutional Court ruled that the three strikes law was unconstitutional. Fresh from the PR loss of having the three strikes law ruled unconstitutional, French authorities reiterated that they would be going after Snowtiger donators and uploaders. It was that point in time that a new face of the three strikes law would emerge – a judge had to order the third strike and consequential disconnection. This new version seemed to catch on in other countries later on – at least, that’s what other countries were pressured to adopt by the international copyright industry conglomerates. Interestingly enough, like the Swedish Pirate Party, the French Pirate Party was called a “hacker group”. The party refuted being called a “hacker group”.

In New Zealand, after being forced to back peddle on implementing a three strikes law partly due to the major blackout protests, New Zealand gave signals that it would re-introduce the three strikes law in that country.

Let’s not forget that during this month was also the tenth anniversary of Napster. On the anniversary, KFPA Radio interviewed both Jared Moya and myself to discuss the implications of Napster’s original release. Michael Geist marked the anniversary by debunking several file-sharing myths. CRIA, while still in possession of some PR credibility still at that point, freaked out about Michael Geist debunking the file-sharing myths and argued that the file-sharing problem was a “fact”.

Germany also made headlines when critics picked apart the mandatory DNS blacklist proposal. Civil unrest against the government, as a result of this, grew in the country. RapidShare, a German based company later in the month, was fined $33 Million for copyright violations. As a result, many started looking for alternatives to the one-click hoster though it never ultimately affected the services dominance in the one-click hosting industry.

Germany wasn’t the only country having political troubles trying to make ISP blacklists. Political tensions in Finland mounted when a Finnish transparency website was placed on the mandatory blacklist. With many internet related issues facing Germans and a government appearing to ignore their citizens, it might not be a surprise that after the success of the Pirate Party in the EU that the German counterpart managed to snag national seat from a defecting party member of another party. In spite of this, Germany passed surveillance legislation anyway.

The United States made headlines in other ways as well. One of those headlines was ASCAP demanding an additional performance tax for ringtones.

Curiously, Argentina made headlines for the first time this year here on ZeroPaid when the countries newspapers demanded to use data retention to go after alleged copyright infringers.

Banking on the success of the previous victory by the copyright industry getting one Irish ISP to bring in a three strikes law, Irish counterparts of the copyright industry moved to try and pressure more ISPs in Ireland to put in place a three strikes policy.

Australia continued to remain in the headlines with the governments plan to filter online video games as well. This was in the face of severe questions of how much of the internet the government was going to filter.

If there was one issue all countries had reason to worry, it was the continued negotiations of ACTA. During June, consumer groups demanded that ACTA negotiations be halted. One of the concerns of ACTA was a complete lack of transparency.

While artists supporting file-sharing is nothing new, another artist joined the ranks of many other artists who said that there were positives to file-sharing. Later on, Moby said that suing music fans is not a sustainable business model.


July saw what may be one of the biggest copyright related loss for the UseNet community. UseNet.com suffered a copyright infringement case loss.

In the US, controversy kept rolling over ASCAPs decision to demand performance royalties on ringtones, but the EFF slammed ASCAP for the demands saying that ringtones are like music being heard on a car stereo system with the car windows rolled down. Towards the end of the month, the hearings on allowing exceptions to the DMCA made headlines when one lawyer argued that a user cannot access legal content forever and it’s an over the top demand to say otherwise.

July also reconfirmed that ThePirateBay had changed. The site made headlines when ThePirateBay announced that it would pay seeders money – all part of a new business model apparently. The acquisition seemed to go as smoothly as one could hope, but just days after the acquisition, things started to fall apart for the deal. The buyer of ThePirateBay was accused of insider trading. Still, The Pirate Party on the other hand was still enjoying the euphoria of their major victories on the national and international stage. In the process, they wrote an op-ed saying that copyright laws endanger people’s digital freedom. The deal between ThePirateBay and Global Gaming Factory looked increasingly bleak as more questions were raised about the acquisition of the site – GGF refuted the questions, saying that the deal was going along smoothly. While the deal was going on, the MPAA echoed previous calls by other arms of the copyright industry to shutter ThePirateBay.

Things in Canada got interesting when The Pirate Party of Canada landed on Canadian shores and began to establish themselves. Meanwhile, as BNN took heat for censoring the copyright debate, BNN responded to criticism saying that the videos were part of a broader round of takedowns and wasn’t targeting the copyright debate in particular. A little bit of a political turf war was seen in Canada on the news that the Pirate Party were entering the political stage. The Green Party said that there was no need for a Pirate Party given that there was already a Green Party willing to take the issues to task. The Pirate Party responded to those comments. It was then that things really turned around in Canada when the governing party held a copyright consultation. Some were sceptical, but most embraced the government initiative (how often does that happen on issues like this?) with open arms – the consultation wound up being the most successful consultation ever in terms of number of responses. During the month though, the consultation seemed to be the talk of the town with many talking about copyright in and outside the consultation. Access Copyright hit the panic button and said that the entire copyright debate will rob creators of their livelihoods.

The infamous Dream Pinball lawsuits in the UK took an interesting turn when wrongfully accused victims caught up in the lawsuit began to step forward. Meanwhile, the UK government started to show signs that they were weakening on their stance on copyright. The government said that they’ll need time to start reducing P2P activity. While it seemed that UK ISPs stood firm against a three strikes law, one ISP, Karoo, suddenly implemented a three strikes policy on their own. Critics called the decision a “KangKaroo court”. Interestingly enough, in the mean time, the UK music industry’s own economist, as if an echo to the major success the MPAA begrudginglyy admitted, said that UKs music revenues were up by 4.7%, a different take considering a while back, there was suggestions that the UK music industry was suffering thanks to competition by the movie and gaming industry.

Frances defiance of letting the three strikes law get away became more apparent this month upon word that judges would be given 5 minutes to rule on each disconnection – 5 minutes of work that required far more time to go through on a case-by-case basis. The PR war kept rolling on though when the French broadcaster that fired the employee for voicing his opposition to the three strikes law was sued over the incident. Meanwhile, the three strikes law was then delayed a few months.

The Jammie Thomas case roared back into the headlines proving that the case wasn’t over. After dealing with the blow of being fined millions, Jammie Thomas’ legal council announced that they would be appealing the court decision – one of the reasons would be based on constitutional grounds of the fine in question. The back and forth action continued in the courtroom when the RIAA demanded that Jammie Thomas be barred from P2P. Jammie Thomas’ legal council later confirmed that one of the reasons for appealing was because of constitutional questions being raised by the fine.

The Joel Tenenbaum case made headlines when the RIAA cried fowl over the idea that the Media Sentry evidence should be suppressed on the basis of the company violating wiretapping and private investigation laws.

When everyone thought that the EU-wide three strikes law was finished, there was word that one EU parliamentarian suggested that download regulations needed to be overhauled. Things got dramatic on the EU stage when one European anti-piracy group called The Pirate Party’s message “criminal”.

New Zealand made headlines in July again when the government revealed a newer gentler three strikes law. In fact, one MP suggested that there should be a blank tax for P2P so as to legalize it.

On a positive note, a Spanish judge in the same month ruled that not-for-profit P2P was legal.

On a more sad note, July saw South Korea’s three strike law go into force.

Things grew somewhat scary when Finland mulled banning the activity of talking about DRM circumvention.

It wasn’t always bad news throughout the year for Australia. The government suggested that maybe there was a more appropriate way to deal with P2P – possibly warming up to the P2P movement in a way. In an odd turn of events, Australian ISPs suggested that the controversial filtering plan by the Australian government would not slow down internet speeds – one of the major criticisms of the Australian internet filtering plan.

Creators continued to question the big copyright companies tactics with UK legend Stephen Fry comparing the RIAA to big tobacco companies. Lawrence Lessig weighed in himself on P2P saying that P2P is the new prohibition.

As if to show one more sign that the file-sharing movement was pretty much unstoppable, one small developer was developing one method of putting a song into a picture that would be readable and played back into audio. What was particularly fascinating was seeing how one could manipulate sound via Photoshop – not exactly a conventional software for modifying sound, but video demonstrations proved that it was possible.


News about Joel Tenenbaum rolled right from July to August when word came out that Tenenbaum was fined $675,000 for sharing 30 works. After the ruling, Tenenbaum set up a website that accepted donations that would go towards fighting the RIAA in court.

The Jammie Thomas case too made headlines when a revelation emerged that the US government was stepping in to demand that the judge throw out claims of unconstitutionality.

It seemed as though BREIN made some inroads in a Dutch court when a judge ruled that ThePirateBay was legally obliged to block users from the Netherlands. Amidst the commotion surrounding ThePirateBay, Brokep, an admin of the BitTorrent site, announced that he was leaving the website. Undeterred by repeated bad news about the deal between GGF and ThePirateBay, rumours surfaced that the company planned to acquire even more BitTorrent sites once the current deal was wrapping up. Along side that were rumours that a major record label was about to make a deal with ThePirateBay. Of course, The IFPI wanted GGF to pay for ThePirateBay fine if the deal were to go through. Not liking the earlier ruling in a Dutch court, ThePirateBay then said that it would challenge the Dutch courts decision to force the website to block Netherlands traffic. It was then that GGF made another bold move by announcing that it was negotiating a licensing agreement with a performing rights organization. Unfortunately, shortly after the announcement, GGFs stock . Trying to salvage the acquisition of ThePirateBay, GGF publicly disclosed their grand plan to legitimize ThePirateBay. Unfortunately for GGF, police began to suspect insider trading. Legal troubles for ThePirateBay continued when a Swedish court ordered a Swedish ISP to block ThePirateBay. Towards the end of the month, GGF investors abandoned ThePirateBay acquisition. The escapade wasn’t over though as GGF then said that GGF investors approved of the plan to acquire ThePirateBay. Things went south again when tax collectors seized GGF CEOs assets that would go to paying back taxes.

In France, steamed by the slow progress of the French Three Strikes Law, a special session was set aside to deal with the law as quickly as possible.

Stunningly, there was movement again to neuter provisions in the EU telecoms package that would once again revive the EU-wide three strikes law.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the copyright consultation continued to prove to be a hit amongst Canadians with more and more submissions continuing to pile up. Remarkably, while all this was happening, the copyright industry had the audacity to call for a Canadian three strikes law. It would prove to be one of the last calls to do so in the year as well. Coincidently, the Canadian Manitoba Music industry, during a round table, shunned CRIAs stance as if to re-highlight the rift between Canadian record labels and CRIA. Things continued to remain interesting in Canada’s copyright consultation when DOC supported the expansion of “fair dealings”. More calls to expand Canada’s fair dealings continued to roll in to the consultation. Adding fuel for the demands for a more liberal approach to copyright, the ESA pointed out that the Canadian gaming industry grew without the need of a Technical Protection Measure or anti-circumvention law in place. No doubt freaking out about the whole consultation process and where it turned, the copyright industry was probably scrambling for a plan. It got one, but stacking the town hall meeting in their favour didn’t exactly go over very well for Canadians. In an almost symbolic move, an American music group called the idea of a fair copyright law in Canada “disgusting”. The NDP, the political group that sparked that comment responded, saying that they make no apology for their stance on copyright.

With other countries having suggested that they would filter the internet, Malaysia suggested that it, too, plans to filter the internet.

Germany saw one MP renew calls to legalize file-sharing, saying that a neutral stance of a blank tariff was the way to go. At the end of the month, the German Pirate Party even won several government seats.

Things started to grow dark in Australia when ISPs essentially asked via proposed legislation to become copyright cops.

In the UK, the criticism about “KangKaroo Courts” gained momentum when UK ISP Karoo backed down from plans to implement a three strikes policy and, instead, require a court order. With all this uncertainty about the digital future of the UK, it was probably no surprise when news emerged that the UK managed to get their own Pirate Party. The timing of this couldn’t be better since it was just a short while later that the UK government turned around on its initial stance of not legislating in a three strikes law and seriously planned on a p2p crackdown. The British Pirate Party quickly built a name for themselves, writing a provocative piece on why the cost to fight file-sharing was “too high”. It was then that the UK government pretty much made it official that it would disconnect file-sharers after all. A British ISP was dismayed at the governments change of heart on the issue of disconnecting file-sharers and said that the war on file-sharing was futile. This caused the British government to be on the defencive with their plan to disconnect alleged file-sharers.

Things grew bleak for Mininova in August when a court ordered the site to remove all copyrighted content.

Things seemed to start to turn around in Finland upon news that a Finnish Pirate Party was officially registered in the country.

One Irish ISP went along with the idea of blocking ThePirateBay, but it turns out that it was the only ISP willing to do so at that time. The Irish Pirate Party announced its opposition to the ISP decision.

The MPAA’s war on RealDVD seemed to draw to a close in August when a judge barred the sale of RealDVD.

One artist in August said that P2P was a global word of mouth, becoming yet another creative that said that there were positive attributes for file-sharing.

Stay tuned for the final part of the review.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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