The MPAA’s members include Disney, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal City Studios and Warner Bros. Last week they decided to drag our reputation through the mud by including us in their “Online Notorious Markets” report, generally reserved for the most egregious of copyright offenders. This is despite the fact that no MPAA affiliate ever sent us a single DMCA complaint in all our years of operation.
The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the basis of online copyright law in the United States. It contains an important “safe harbour” provision that is meant to ensure that online communities cannot be held responsible for the actions of individual users. Essentially it requires that rightsholders notify web site operators of potentially infringing content, that way the content can be removed and the situation resolved amicably. Since their entire operations are based on user generated content, sites like YouTube, Facebook and Reddit could never operate without the existence of the DMCA. Canada also has a similar takedown notice requirement.
For the sake of transparency, Bell Canada did enter into a Global Anti-Piracy Alliance with the MPAA back in June. Around the same time, they informed us of a grievance only after violating our founder’s rights and unlawfully seizing our domain names and social media accounts. Upon relaunching our site, the addons they claimed to be infringing were immediately removed. This means that we fulfilled our legal obligations in regards to that complaint. Despite a court judgement reprimanding them, nothing has been returned to us as of yet. They should be reported to the authorities, not us!
The MPAA’s notorious online markets report was submitted to the US Government, and is meant to address the worst offenders in online copyright infringement. This report is basically a “kill list” put together by the billion dollar movie industry. It puts pressure on law enforcement agencies to take action against web sites that the MPAA sees as operating beyond reason, beyond the law. The report also acts as a sort of blacklist, scaring companies away from doing business with those who’ve been included.
There’s only one problem: in the entire history of TV ADDONS, XBMC HUB and OffshoreGit, we only received a total of about five DMCA notices in all; two of which were completely bogus. None of which came from an MPAA affiliate. Anytime that we ever received a legitimate DMCA notice, we swifty complied (within six hours average). How can we be called a “Notorious Market” after having fully complied with copyright law for the entirety of our web site’s existence?
Naysayers are now going to come around and say that we should have known that certain Kodi addons could potentially be used to access protected content. At face value, that may seem like a valid argument, however it is mitigated by the following undisputed facts:
- There were over 1500 Kodi addons submitted to our index, many of which scraped dozens of online sources. The overwhelming majority of which have never been accused of infringement. How could we possibly go through all those addons to figure out which sources they were scraping? That could be millions of lines of code, tens of thousands of web sites, billions of licenses; impossible.
- Everytime you browse the web, you’re unknowingly exposed to hundreds of thousands if not millions of copyright licenses. Every image, sound and video has a copyright. You don’t know which sites owns what or who has the license to distribute what, there’s no central database that can be consulted for reference.
- Copyright isn’t only about movies. It’s about any type of media to which you are exposed (images, sounds, videos) and even text. We respect the importance of all forms of intellectual property. It would be impossible for any online community, no matter how substantial their resources, to pro-actively enforce all the intellectual property rights of others without ever receiving any sort of notification.
We have absolutely no control over any of the web sites which are scraped by Kodi addons, nor do we have control over the usage or misusage of addons. As far as we know, none of the developers here ever had anything to do with the sites which they scrape. In fact, online streaming web sites despise Kodi addons for the reason that the cost them extensive resources without giving any advertising revenue whatsoever. We’ve actually heard stories of cyberlockers closing shop because they couldn’t handle the traffic they received from Kodi users.
TV ADDONS has always had a strong policy against for-profit addon development. Firstly because we didn’t want our community to be corrupted by profiteers, and secondly because money creates unhealthy competition. Developers at TV ADDONS have never had any incentive to develop Kodi addons beyond tuning their software development skills, and certainly had no incentives to infringe upon anyone’s rights whatsoever.
It is important not to pass premature judgement on disruptive new technologies, doing so will only threaten innovation. Look at Uber as an example. If the establishment got their way, there would have never been an Uber, it would have been shut down long before anyone heard of it. Same goes for Airbnb and tons of other services that allow consumers to take back control of conventional industries. Big corporations don’t care about the little guy, and have a vested interest in eliminating disruptive technologies that threaten the status-quo.
Since respecting copyright law does not seem to have been enough to prevent the violation of our founder’s rights, we have imposed a strict but temporary policy on addon code submission. Until the courts formally enforce our rights as an online community, we will only allow the distribution of addons to which the content licensing can be “easily” verified. We’d like to make it clear that this is not at all a policy that we agree with. As we explained above, it is nearly impossible to ascertain the content licensing of the gross majority of online media. This self-imposed interim policy seriously threatens innovation and is frankly an insult to free speech and the open source movement.
We will be returning to a standard DMCA policy (as prescribed by law) as soon as we feel confident that our rights are protected. Having your rights frivolously violated by billion dollar corporations is no fun at all. When Dish Network sent us a DMCA notice, we complied within three hours. This didn’t stop them from suing us in Texas, a place we’ve never even visited.
According to their web site: “The MPAA was founded in 1922 to resist mounting calls for government censorship of American films.” It saddens us to see that in 95 years they’ve gone from advocating free speech to threatening innovation without ever having attempted to open any prior form of dialogue with us. We love movies and we love people, it was never our intention to violate anyone’s rights. All the movie business is trying to do is expand copyright law, at the expense of innovation.
If you’d like to support our cause, we could use some help with a few things: promoting our new www.tvaddons.co site address and social media pages, developing new addons, and donating towards our legal fees and operating expenses (only if you can afford it). Please share this article everywhere you can, as the same big corporations trying to kill us also own the most of the media, and they’re obviously choosing not to report on the truth.