IIPA Wants Greece on Piracy Watchlist for Not Blocking Websites Fast Enough

By Drew Wilson

We’ve been covering what the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has been recommending for the Special 301 watchlist. While the 301 Watchlist isn’t really a credible source for reliable information, major corporate entities tend to lobby targeted governments demanding certain laws be implemented no matter how poorly conceived they really are. This time, we look at why the IIPA thinks Greece be placed on the piracy watchlist.

The submission for Greece (PDF) is about 8 pages long. This is notably shorter than the previous one we looked at with regard to Spain. One of the complaints about Greece appears to be that websites aren’t taken down fast enough. Here’s what the submission says:

In the absence of a comprehensive mechanism for cooperation among rights holders and Internet service providers (ISPs) to combat online piracy, copyright holders can only work through the courts to seek remedies against known infringing websites in Greece. Enforcement results have proven to be possible, but the enforcement tools available to rights holders are arduous and often inefficient – and therefore insufficient to effectively address the piracy problem. Working together, the local author’s music collecting society (AEPI), the audiovisual content protection organization (EPOE), the organization of script writers and film directors (Athina), and the local recording industry affiliate (Grammo) launched an action before the civil court of Athens under Article 8(3) of the EU Copyright Directive, against 11 Greek ISPs seeking an order blocking access to two infamous Greek linking websites (www.ellinadiko.com and www.musick-bazaar.com). The ISPs requested an adjournment at the initial hearing in May 2011. A further hearing was held on November 7, 2011, and the interim injunction was eventually granted by the Court on May 16, 2012, ordering all 11 ISPs to block access to the website in question. The blocks were never implemented as the site www.ellinadiko.com went offline shortly after the hearing, and www.musick-bazaar.com changed its IP address rendering the blocking order of the specific IP address futile. The case demonstrates that while the system is capable of responding to Internet piracy, it is not perfect and moves at a snail’s pace relative to the rapid developments online.

While this comment is rather long, the conclusion the IIPA draws from the experience isn’t really correct if the description here is taken at face value. It doesn’t necessarily show that the process is slow, it shows that website blocking – even blocking based on IP address – doesn’t work. Even if a website is blocked, a simple technical change like the changing of an IP address, defeats the blocking. We offered numerous examples of why website blocking is a bad idea in our previous analysis and this actually adds to the list of reasons why site blocking is either ineffective or generally causes more problems than it solves. Even if the process is sped up, it’ll never really solve anything because mechanisms will be put in place to circumvent such blocks (such as a plain proxy, TOR and VPN). While the real reason is a technical one, it seems the IIPA is directing blame on legal reasons (such as the pace of due process) and demanding change to the legal system instead.

Here’s another comment made by the IIPA:

Rather than coordinating and allocating additional enforcement authorities to increase expertise and effectiveness, resources are being cut back. A Cyber Crime Unit in Thessaloniki recently closed, and both the Police and the Tax Police (SDOE) in Greece’s central divisions lack needed resources. Several years have passed since the Government of Greece organized its IPR enforcement efforts under a coherent plan with top-level leadership. Prosecutors must place greater priority on copyright crimes, courts need to facilitate speedier cases with deterrent sentences, and government leaders need to establish the tools for ISPs and rights holders to cooperate against Internet piracy.

Just reading this, it makes one wonder if the IIPA has any idea what has been happening economically in Greece in the last few years. Just looking at the size of the Wikipedia entry covering the economic problems should be a bit of a hint. Something about debt levels reaching 189%, the constant threat of the entire country defaulting and the European Union unhappily bailing them out multiple times might be an indication that the Greek government has more to worry about than someone downloading a Justin Beiber album on The Pirate Bay. Either way, there’s not a lot of money and resources to go around for important things, let alone just being directed to a futile cause to make Sony happy.

Here’s more from the submission:

Special IP Courts: Specialized IP civil courts have been established in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki. The copyright industries will continue efforts to promote expansion of such courts to additional cities, to encourage their judges to be relieved of other (non-copyright) duties, and to expand the scope of these courts to criminal copyright cases. While ex parte search orders are still granted without major difficulties, other delays in copyright cases, both in setting hearing dates and issuing orders, have reached untenable levels. Judges in typical cases are not adequately trained in IP matters. These concerns could be ameliorated with an expansion of the specialized IP courts throughout Greece.

These types of demands for copyright courts have been seen before. Most notably, there have been demands in the past that Russia implements courts solely devoted to copyright infringement cases. In reading this submission, there’s no suggestion that the industry pays for this. Again, Greece isn’t necessarily in a position to spend large amounts of money and resources on courts whose sole purpose is to keep the Motion Picture Association of America).

Like other submissions, the IIPA has a list of demands. Here’s a few:

Introduce clear incentives for ISPs to cooperate with rights holders, both regarding hosted and non-hosted content.

Consistent with the 2008 European Court of Justice (ECJ) Telefonica decision, amend data protection laws to allow disclosure of the identification of infringers and other necessary information for rights holders to protect their rights in court.

This would be consistent with the American law known as the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). In addition, this mirrors provisions found in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is known for demanding countries implement a sort of “global DMCA”. It’s one thing to see American corporate lobbyists bend the US government to implement any law they want, but it’s another thing to demand every other country in the world to implement those same laws and expect everything to be handed to them.

In addition, as many commentators have said before, an IP address does not always lead to the responsible individual for any alleged infringement. Someone, for instance, could have their WiFi hacked. Yet, this questionable “evidence” is still, to this day, seen as evidence enough for the copyright industries. So, a disconnect between how the industries believes things work in the technological world and how the world really works.

Another point to be made is that the RIAA has, for years, been responsible for the sending of an untold number of lawsuit threats (many of which demand settlement fees reaching into the thousands of dollars) to individuals. While the idea was that this was suppose to cause everyone to stop file-sharing and go back to the music store, this proved to be an abysmal failure. File-sharer’s were never deterred and rightsholders grasped onto a failed three strikes law in some countries (6 strike rule in the US). The three strikes law in France never improved music sales and the three strikes law in New Zealand proved to be a money draining exercise.

Another IIPA demand for Greece:

Coordinate at the highest levels a national enforcement campaign to involve rights holders, increase raids and prosecutions, allow cooperation from the Immigration and Municipal police in anti-piracy cases, encourage criminal non-suspended sentencing, and conduct public awareness and training.

This is a familiar refrain for a lot of these submissions. If a dedicated police force isn’t in place, it should be. If it is in place, there needs to be more money and resources put into it from the government in question. If the prosecution process is slow, it needs to be faster. If there are questions about the evidence, then the legal process needs to be reformed so that evidence is sufficient for an instant ruling. If the legal process can’t be sped up, then rightsholders should be allowed to play trial, jury and executioner in these cases and abandon the legal process altogether. This refrain was repeated in two later demands:

Direct prosecutors to bring cases more swiftly, and instruct courts to issue deterrent sentences without suspension, including imprisonment and fines as provided by the law.

Establish specialized IPR courts in more Greek cities and expand their jurisdiction to criminal copyright cases.

Like the Canadian submission, the IIPA is demanding tougher anti-circumvention measures:

Amend the copyright law to provide the same level of protection for technological protection measures (TPMs) utilized in software that is currently afforded to other classes of works.

The problem, of course, is that the tougher the anti-circumvention rules, the more consumers and content creators suffer. This demand is somewhat vague, so we can’t comment on the specifics beyond that.

Ultimately, the IIPA seems to be living in an alternate dimension when it comes to expectations of the whole world. They think that the whole world should bend to their wishes. In fact, as far as their concerned, the whole world would be a better place without the Internet. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they think that technology should not progress beyond what was seen in 1980 (or even earlier for that matter). Unfortunately, there appears to be no stopping them from thinking that a legal response is the best way to deal with technological advancement rather than adapting the business model to reflect the modern era.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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