Friday, February 10, 2012

Pirated content at Sundance from the NFL perspective - will Rio Caraeff be arrested?

One of the arguments against SOPA and PIPA is that governments and companies already have considerable power to take down websites and persons that share illegally-obtained content.

Of course, it depends upon whether the governments or companies choose to exercise this authority.

Take the National Football League. The NFL has been known to be strong in enforcement of its copyrights, to the extent that around January, a lot of advertisements air references to something called "the big game" because they are afraid to use the words "Super Bowl." And it's not just the NFL - if a media company purchases the rights to air an NFL game, they want to make sure that they don't lose those rights to other companies that illegally share it. You know the drill - unauthorized use and all that.

So it is kinda sorta embarrassing that at the Sundance Film Festival, an event attended by a number of media content providers, someone ended up illegally pirating an NFL playoff game, displaying it on TVs at an event.

And it's really really embarrassing since the event was sponsored by VEVO, a media firm owned by Universal and Sony.

Today, VEVO addressed the issue and assured everyone that they took all the necessary steps to rectify the situation once it was discovered. This is what they said. This is what VEVO said:

While VEVO staff was in other areas of the venue, the game was put on – via a website transmitting ESPN’s broadcast of the NFL game – without our permission or knowledge.

As soon as we realized the game was airing to the room, we removed it and went back to playing VEVO videos. The game was not aired in its entirety. Rest assured, we rectified this mistake as soon as we became aware what was going on.

Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch characterized VEVO's response as "hypocritical."

[I]magine what the music industry would say were it on the other side of this. Is there any doubt it would dismiss these explanations and, lawsuits in hand, cry foul over such an overt act of piracy?

Furthermore, this seems no different than an accused pirate explaining that they left their Wifi open, only to have it used by someone else to download content illegally. Which happens to be a defense the RIAA has previously fought vigilantly against, when it sought to make owners of ISP accounts liable for any infringing activity, even if the owner had no knowledge of it.

Well, VEVO has been beaten to death over this episode. I'm interested in another aspect of this story - namely, the NFL.

After all, it was the NFL who was wronged by the unauthorized airing of its content at the VEVO event. And VEVO has pretty much admitted that it left the barn door open, implicitly facilitating the pirating activity.

So what will the NFL do? Will they argue that authorities should do what they did before the Super Bowl?

Three days before Super Bowl XLVI, U.S. prosecutors said they seized 16 websites that illegally streamed live sports and pay-per-view events over the Internet, and charged a Michigan man with running nine of those websites....

The defendant charged in the case is Yonjo Quiroa, 28, who faces one count of criminal infringement of a copyright.

Prosecutors said Quiroa, also known as Ronaldo Solano, operated his websites from his home in Comstock Park, Michigan, prior to his Wednesday arrest, receiving at least $13,000 from online merchants who advertised with him.

Lawrence Phelan, a lawyer for the defendant, said Quiroa was in federal custody and expected to be transferred to New York, after having appeared on Wednesday in a Grand Rapids, Michigan federal court.

Now I will grant that VEVO did not, to my knowledge, peddle counterfeit goods at Sundance. But they still violated the basic law, criminal infringement of a copyright.

So will Utah police issue a warrant for the arrest of Rio Caraeff? If you want to apprehend him, his picture can be found here (at a website owned by Time Warner).

But Caraeff had better watch out. Remember the last person who was wanted dead or alive? The Obama administration took him out.

And Osama wasn't dumb enough to tangle with the NFL.
blog comments powered by Disqus