User:Pavithrans/Copyright and Law Seminar

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As a part of our Topic:Web Science seminar, Me and user:rouslan.kv have choosen the topic of Copyright and Law. Copyright and legal issues play a significant role in World Wide Web. We would like to introduce some copyright mechanisms on the World Wide Web, discuss the interplay of regional vs global laws and also explain basic censoring mechanisms prevalent on the Internet.

Learning Goals[edit]

This work is divided into two parts. One part deals with copyright issues like Collecting Societies,Scientific publishing and Digital Rights Management while the other part tells us about legal issues arising out of internet namely censorship. This part also explains various ways to counter Internet filtering.

Copyright Issues[edit]

Learning Goals[edit]

This section on copyright deals with collecting societies which act as a middlemen to collect royalities while scientific publishing with the advent of web rakes up the "Open access" debate about how publicly funded research should be open and accessible to everyone.

Collecting Societies[edit]

Collecting societies collect money on behalf of the copyright owners are pay them back. GEMA and VG WORT are the collecting societies in Germany for music and literature respectively.


GEMA stands for Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte in other words a society for collecting royalities for music works and public broadcasts.GEMA collects money for every public broadcast or display of copyrighted work in bulk and they distributed a certain agreed about percentage of the collected royalty to the copyright owner.

Legal challenge - Gema and youtube[edit]

Youtube blocks certain videos in Germany citing

 Unfortunately, this video is not available in Germany because 
 it may contain music for which GEMA has not granted the respective music rights.

Youtube and GEMA were on talks and youtube refused to pay a per song view price of 12 cents to GEMA which resulted in youtube blocking any video which it deems to be causing a copyright issue in Germany.[1]

Haunss, Sebastian (2013)[2] say that the conflict reflects the instability of a system which was established under certain conditions and there is an emergence of new practices, actor claims and is involving various stakeholders to shape the future. World Wide Web has introduced various distribution channels for music which spans across the national borders hence involving multiple jurisdictions.There has also been a introduction of "indie" music or in other words Independent media which took the advantage of the Internet to spread their media/music across nations and reach a fan base.

Nina Paley an independent film maker had uploaded (July 2011) a video lamenting how youtube & GEMA had censored her video for which she has every rights to release in a creative commons license. She even shows a copyright agreement with Sony Corporation which tells that the copyrights jurisdiction is "the World". Wouldn't Germany fall under the "world" for copy right jurisdiction ? [3] As a result currently(March 2014) the video on youtube plays well in Germany with a clear reference to CC by SA license in the first few minutes of the title[4].

As the technology evolves various methods of countering such censorship or blocking have evolved. In the case of youtube there are plugins for Mozilla like Proxtube[5] or Youtube Unblocker [6] which allow german users to watch such geographically restricted videos.Usage of proxies have been explained later in the Legal section.

VG Wort[edit]

VG Wort is the GEMA equivalent for "Words" or "text". It stands for Verwertungsgesellschaft WORT which is a non profit collecting society for scientific works and literature. Individuals are able to claim their intellectual property. VG WORT fights for intellectual property rights counting every word. The manufacturers of Photocopiers who paid for 35 % of the collections by VG Wort.The other sources for collection are

  • Library
  • Video Library
  • Magazine Subscription Service
  • Press Review

In 2003 VG WORT gave every author 380 euros for a publication of "Science Book". [7]

Legal Challenge-VG Wort and Google Books[edit]

Google has digitised books of American libraries citing Fair Usage policy while German Law doesn't have something as "Fair usage" policy. A similar law is to come on April 2014 according to VG Wort.[8]

Scientific Publishing[edit]

In scientific publishing authors pay journals to include their paper. The journals make sure the authors publication reaches wide audience. All the journals except the open access journals need a subscription fee for access.

Open Access debate reopened[edit]

The World wide web has reopened the Open Access debate. Open Access stands for open access to research publications irrespective of a users location or subscription. Digital publication involves no cost in terms of paper,ink or fuel to distribute the content when compared with the traditional printed journals[9]. Libraries follow a practice of subscribing to journals paying huge prices which went forward even in the digital age where a student can access a journal (Example: ACM) only if he or she has a University IP address. This practice clearly brings up a problem of digital divide where someone passionate about research but is not enrolled in a university program can't access the publications. There are quite a lot of journals which have opened up access so as to enable productive research without any boundaries. Its worth mentioning Aaron Swartz and his fight on freeing up scientific publications.After his suicide there was a huge outcry and it resulted in laws like Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act which claims that all tax payer funded research shouldn't be kept behind pay walls in other words should be put in an open access journal.

Does open access journals have a higher impact? Antelman(2004)[10] performed an analysis on Web of Science citations of philosophy, politics, electrical & electronics and mathematics and found that open access paves a way for higher research impact. Malakoff(2003)[11] states that "Free online papers are likely to reach more readers, he figures, and therefore attract more citations."

DRM, Future of copyright[edit]

Digital Rights Management[12] is a software designed so that the digital rights of content producers such as authors, musicians, film makers etc. are protected. "Digital rights management (DRM) technologies are aimed at increasing the kinds and/or scope of control that rights-holders can assert over their intellectual property assets".[13]

DRM goes beyond copyright,[14] It compels users to use the media in a particular way intended by the media creator and is denied rights to "freely" use the media.

DRM Usage examples[edit]

DRM software can for example restrict a music video to be played only on a particular player or a particular device. Itunes store used to allow users to purchase songs which can be played on Ipod or Iphone . When Itunes used DRM it was possible only to play the song on that particular device. BBC also allows users to download TV shows using its Iplayer software but it offers the download only as a file with DRM technology[15]. Taking e-books as another example Adobe Digital editions software allows DRM to be incorparated into its books such that the user can't share or give away the book to anyone else. DRM could also be used in E-Books for "renting". E-books can be rented for certain no of days and after the date had expired the book can't be accessed.

Protests and Rollback[edit]

There were wide range of protests against DRM and this resulted in Apple rollbacking its decision to include DRM in the songs purchased via Itunes[16][17][18].

DRM clause in GPLV3[edit]

GNU Public License version 3 includes a clause to oppose DRM features in the GPLV3 software citing that its treacherous computing. Developers can circumvent a DRM system but inclusion would deny the "freedom" of the user to "copy" who may not be educated enough to tinker with the software system[19].

Breaking the DRM restrictions[edit]

With DRM restrictions on copying files, there has been a explosion of DRM breaking softwares/services which are available for free or via a purchase[20]. There is at least one software for every DRM format available. Circumventing DRM on a media accounts to violation of license agreements as per Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Dmitrty Sklyarov was arrested for breaking DRM restrictions in Adobe Ebook reader. He and his associates wrote a program called Advanced eBook Processor ("AEBPR") which removed any restrictions to copy,print and redistribute e-books[21]. Apple successfully pursued a legal case against an open source project called Ipodhash and got a court order to shut it down. IpodHash was designed to remove the ties between Itunes and Ipod thus allowing it easy access on non Itunes supported platforms such as Linux[22].
Trivedi, Priti(2009)[23] calls the ebook publishers to learn from the digital music industry when imposing DRM on e-books.She says "E-book publishers and retailers need to recognize the pitfalls of DRM and find new ways to combat digital copyright infringement and public apathy towards copyright law, or risk driving consumers to alternative and illegal means."


Privacy concerns are mentioned by Cohen and Julie(2003)[24] . DRM technologies monitor user behaviour to create records of media consumption aka how the media is being used by the user. This data is quite private and is for consumption only for the user. This data could be used to build up user profiles which can be sold to the advertising firms.

Free Software Foundation[edit]

Free Software Foundation uses the word DRM as "Digital Restrictions Management " instead of "Digital Rights Management" as they say that DRM takes away and limits your rights[25].

Legal issues[edit]

Learning Goals[edit]

This section deals with one of the major legal issues arising from citizens interaction with the Web which is censorship. Various types of censorship are discussed and also ways to counter censorship were explained.


World Wide Web was aimed to be a decentralised, free and open system by Tim Berners Lee. But the Web we see today is censored in various ways[26].

Internet regulation[edit]

By ISP[edit]

Internet Service Providers try to regulate the Internet by blocking certain sites which they deem to be inappropriate mostly under the pressure from state or state organisations.

  • IP blocking - Access to certain IP addresses is blocked by this kind of regulation. If a well known website which doesn't abide by the "rules" of the ISP then it is kept in a "Black list". No access is given to the services from that particular IP address. Sometimes IP ranges are also blocked.
  • DNS filtering - This happens by incorrect or non resolution of a website into its IP address.
    • Redirection - Some times the ISP's put up incorrect resolution such as "This page is blocked" which might be a small place holder page on the ISP's web server.
    • DNS hijacking - Sometimes there might be a rogue DNS server which would resolve the web address to an incorrect IP which might hold malicious content. There might also be phising attempts.This couldn't be called as ISP based filtering but there is a potential for middle men to spread malicious content.
  • URL filtering - URL strings are scanned for certain keywords, if a keyword is found in the URL string those URL's might be blocked by the ISP.
  • Packet filtering - The TCP packet traffic which goes via the ISP is inspected and checked for the occurance of the keywords. The TCP connections are then terminated by the ISP.

TalkTalk blocked some users from accessing Wordpress blogs and also a russia based social networking site VKontakte[27].

By State[edit]

State would want to control the access to the Internet , especially the states which want to silence individuals by violating their "freedom of expression".China and Iran are famously known for controlling the Internet. There were evidences found by Chaabane, Abdelberi, et al.(2014)[28] that syrian government was using filtering mechanisms such as IP based Filtering , Keyword or category based Filtering & DNS based filtering.

Another good reason a state gives for controlling the internet access is "terrorism" , Terrorism was used a ploy word for various spying activities[29] .

The state can control the Internet by content filtering or URL blocking at the level where the ISP network connects to the International gateway[30] . States which like to control the Internet hold a national backbone through which every 'packet' of data has to pass through to reach the Internet. Such backbones serve as an ample ground for a state to perform its spying or controlling activities on Internet.

State could also with its law sensor the search results. China had an agreement with Google to sensor the search results, but later had to drop its search engine service to operate from china as Google felt it was enough. David Drummond , Chief legal officer of Google wasn't happy with the negotiations they had with the chinese government, he says "We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement."[31] [32]

Measure to counter filtering[edit]

Using an alternative DNS[edit]

Some times blocking happens with certain URL's being redirected to either a Broken page or a notice page saying that the URL is blocked. This case happens when the user is using the default DNS server provided by his ISP.A DNS server could be specified in the user settings which would redirect the URL request to the correct page instead of what ISP's DNS server is showing.

Using a Proxy[edit]

Proxy stands for a machine in between the user computer and the Web. When a URL is requested via a proxy the request goes to the proxy and the proxy in turn makes the request to the web page and downloads the content. This content is in turn returned to the user computer. It is as if the proxy machine is browsing the internet.Proxies have a disadvantage of being very slow as the content is downloaded and re-transferred from proxy to the user computer. There are also some "scripts" which detect a proxy and will automatically redirected to the intended ( by the script) page.

Anonymous Proxies are the proxy servers which don't keep any logs of anyone connecting to the Web via their proxy and all the requests the user makes will stay anonymous. This kind of proxy helps a user who is afraid of jurisdictions or state control and state spying.

Tor Network explained

TOR is the name used for voluntary network offering anonymous proxy service using TOR Software and Onion routing where a request is encrypted and is sent back and forth though multiple servers located in diverse geographical regions and the request finally comes out via an exit node (can be configured) to access the web page. PWS - Private Web Search is a plugin for firefox and is also a client which connects to the TOR server. PWS plugin on firefox gives a search query box with which all searches get routed through the HTTP proxy and TOR client thereby hiding users location and other details which go in the user agent string.[33]

Using a VPN[edit]

VPN connectivity overview

VPN stands for Virtual Private Networking which means there is a point to point connection from the user computer to the VPN server. All the requests which the user computer makes through VPN happen as if the requests are made from the local network of VPN Server.

VPN is used in the scenario where an employee who is in a remote location and would like to access the local network of his office which is protected by firewall. He makes a VPN connection which gives him the connection as if he is location of the office. People can buy VPN access to computers located in countries where there is no censorship and can access the internet freely as if they are browsing from the country.

Typically VPN is offered as "Encryption only" service which means all the data which flows from the users computer to the VPN server is encrypted and can't be seen by third person unless if the encryption is broken. Just like VPN users can also tunnel their HTTP traffic over a Unix/linux shell connection if the server supports it.


Digital revolution did bring up changes in how we view copyright and also how the law behaves with respect to digital information and rights.Net neutrality,decentralised and open web is something many web pioneers hope for. As the big players like Music/Movie Industry or the state try to control the Internet via censorship or blocking the netizens have reacted to counter the censoring with various work around / tricks. There were also movements on the streets to protest against new laws like SOPA / PIPA which potentially could censor more which shows that there is a need for balance.There were also questions raised on appropriate business model to follow to sell the digital content. Some new startups have raisen to use the new model and set up a successful business while some haven't.


These are the abbreviations used in this article.


  1. Von Konrad Lischka(March 2009) Retrieved May 8,2014
  2. Haunss, Sebastian (2013), “The changing role of collecting societies in the internet”, Internet Policy Review (30 September 2013) [1].
  3. Nina Paley(July 2011), GEMA censored my movie in Germany! Retrieved March 3, 2014
  4. "Sita Sings the Blues" Retrieved March 2014
  5. ProxTube
  6. YouTube Unblocker
  7. Dagmar Giersberg "Every Word Counts - VG WORT fights for intellectual property rights" August 2005 Retrieved Aug 7,2014
  8. VG Wort Google Settlement
  9. Fowler, Cynthia Twyford. "An Editor’s Opinion on the Ethics of Open Access." Ethnobiology Letters 5 (2014): 1-3.
  10. Antelman, Kristin. "Do open-access articles have a greater research impact?." College & research libraries 65.5 (2004): 372-382.
  11. David Malakoff, “Opening the Books on Open Access,” Science 302 (Oct. 24, 2003): 552
  12. Sinha, Rajiv K., Fernando S. Machado, and Collin Sellman. "Don't think twice, it's all right: music piracy and pricing in a DRM-free environment." Journal of Marketing 74.2 (2010): 40-54.
  14. Samuelson, Pamela. "DRM {and, or, vs.} the law." Communications of the ACM 46.4 (2003): 41-45.
  15. BBC DRM
  16. Schollin, Kristoffer. Digital Rights Management-the New Copyright. Jure,, 2008.
  17. "Apple to end music restrictions". BBC News. January 7, 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  18. April 2, 2007 Retrieved March 3,2014.
  19. David Turner "Reaction to the DRM clause in GPLv3 " March 07, 2006 Retrieved March 2014
  20. Remove DRM Protection Retrieved Aug 2014
  21. First Indictment Under Digital Millennium Copyright Act Returned Against Russian National, Company, in San Jose, California August 28, 2001 Retrieved Aug 2014
  22. Apple Shuts Down iPod Interoperability Effort December 4, 2008 Retrieved 1st Aug 2014
  23. Trivedi, Priti. "Writing the Wrong: What the E-Book Industry Can Learn from Digital Music's Mistakes with DRM." JL & Pol'y 18 (2009): 925.
  24. Cohen, Julie E. "DRM and Privacy." Communications of the ACM 46.4 (2003): 46-49.
  26. Freedom of connection, freedom of expression: the changing legal and regulatory ecology shaping the Internet, Dutton, William H.; Dopatka, Anna; Law, Ginette; Nash, Victoria, Division for Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris, 2011, 103 pp., ISBN 978-92-3-104188-4
  27. OpenrightsGroup Retrieved 29 July 2014
  28. Chaabane, Abdelberi, et al. "Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Web Filtering in Syria." arXiv preprint arXiv:1402.3401 (2014).
  29. Miller, Daniel. "Revealed: Hundreds of words to avoid using online if you don't want the government spying on you (and they include'pork','cloud'and'Mexico')." (2012).
  30. Freedom of connection, freedom of expression: the changing legal and regulatory ecology shaping the Internet, Dutton, William H.; Dopatka, Anna; Law, Ginette; Nash, Victoria, Division for Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris, 2011, 103 pp., ISBN 978-92-3-104188-4 :36
  31. Helft, Miguel, and David Barboza. "Google shuts China site in dispute over censorship." NY TIMES, Mar 22 (2010).
  32. Zittrain, Jonathan, and Benjamin Edelman. "Internet filtering in China." IEEE Internet Computing 7.2 (2003): 70-77.
  33. Saint-Jean, Felipe, et al. "Private web search." Proceedings of the 2007 ACM workshop on Privacy in electronic society. ACM, 2007.


Quiz questions to test the learning goals.

  1. Which of the below is a collecting society
  • GEMA
  • Youtube
  • Google
  • WG Vort
  1. Open Access
  • Free books/papers
  • Books accessible for everyone without any boundaries
  • Pay per cost of the book/paper
  • Subscription based access of books/papers
  1. How can you evade filtering?
  • By using TOR
  • By using a Proxy
  • By changing my IP address