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Old 03-12-21, 09:25 AM   #1
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - December 4th, ’21

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December 4th, 2021

Big Tech Firms should Pay ISPs to Upgrade Networks, Telcos in Europe Claim

Over a dozen ISPs complain their networks are "monetized" by Big Tech platforms.
Jon Brodkin

The CEOs of 13 large European telecom companies today called on tech giants—presumably including Netflix and other big US companies—to pay for a portion of the Internet service providers' network upgrade costs. In a "joint CEO statement," the European telcos described their proposal as a "renewed effort to rebalance the relationship between global technology giants and the European digital ecosystem."

The letter makes an argument similar to one that AT&T and other US-based ISPs have made at times over the past 15 years, that tech companies delivering content over the Internet get a "free" ride and should subsidize the cost of building last-mile networks that connect homes to broadband access. These arguments generally don't mention the fact that tech giants already pay for their own Internet bandwidth costs and that Netflix and others have built their own content-delivery networks to help deliver the traffic that home-Internet customers choose to receive.

Today's letter from European ISPs was signed by the CEOs of A1 Telekom Austria Group, Vivacom, Proximus Group, Telenor Group, KPN, Altice Portugal, Deutsche Telekom, BT Group, Telia Company, Telefónica, Vodafone Group, Orange Group, and Swisscom. They wrote:

“Large and increasing part of network traffic is generated and monetized by big tech platforms, but it requires continuous, intensive network investment and planning by the telecommunications sector. This model—which enables EU citizens to enjoy the fruits of the digital transformation—can only be sustainable if such big tech platforms also contribute fairly to network costs.”

Growing calls for payments from Big Tech

The European telcos didn't mention any specific tech giants, but Reuters wrote today that "US-listed giants such as Netflix and Facebook are companies they have in mind." The letter also discusses other regulatory topics related to fiber and mobile broadband, saying that "regulation must fully reflect market realities... Namely, that telecom operators compete face-to-face with services by big tech."

The European ISPs' letter isn't the only recent example of ISPs claiming that tech giants should help them pay for network upgrades. "South Korean Internet service provider SK Broadband has sued Netflix to pay for costs from increased network traffic and maintenance work because of a surge of viewers to the US firm's content," Reuters reported on October 1.

The traffic surge was driven in part by the show Squid Game. The Seoul Central District Court ruled against Netflix in a related case in June, finding that it is "reasonable" for Netflix to be "obligated to provide something in return for the service" provided by SK, Reuters wrote.

BT annoyed by net neutrality

The CEO of BT Group's consumer division, Marc Allera, recently argued that net neutrality rules should be changed to let ISPs demand payments, as The Guardian reported on October 10:

Allera says the rules that stop companies such as BT from passing on some of the costs to the biggest drivers of the capacity growth—net neutrality rules that stipulate that all Internet traffic is treated equally—are outdated for the streaming era.

"A lot of the principles of net neutrality are incredibly valuable, we are not trying to stop or marginalize players but there has to be more effective coordination of demand than there is today," he says. "When the rules were created 25 years ago I don't think anyone would have envisioned four or five companies would be driving 80 percent of the traffic on the world's Internet. They aren't making a contribution to the services they are being carried on; that doesn't feel right."

The Guardian article said the companies driving 80 percent of the traffic were YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, and Activision Blizzard, but it isn't clear where that data came from or whether it's accurate. A May 2020 report by the vendor Sandvine found that YouTube accounted for 15.9 percent of home-Internet traffic globally during the first months of the pandemic, compared to 11.4 percent for Netflix and 3.7 percent for Facebook.

All video streaming combined accounted for 57.6 percent of traffic. Social networking accounted for 10.7 percentm and general Web browsing clocked in at 8.1 percent. The entire gaming category accounted for 4.2 percent, slightly less than the "marketplace," "messaging," and "file sharing" categories. Of course, those numbers are probably a bit different now, but it doesn't seem likely that four companies account for 80 percent of all Internet traffic worldwide.

FCC Republican claims Big Tech gets “free ride”

In the US, Netflix users suffered poor streaming performance in 2013 and 2014 until the streaming giant agreed to pay Comcast and other ISPs for direct connections to their networks (aka "interconnection"). Similar disputes between consumer ISPs and middle-mile network operators like Cogent and Level 3 pretty much ended in mid-2015 when the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission imposed net neutrality rules and common-carrier regulations on the broadband industry. The Trump-era FCC eliminated those rules when it deregulated broadband.

There haven't been any recent public demands for additional payments from US-based ISPs. But Federal Communications Commission member Brendan Carr, who was part of the 3-2 Republican majority that eliminated net neutrality rules, has been making a similar case. Carr wrote a Newsweek opinion piece in May with the title, "Ending Big Tech's Free Ride."

"Big Tech has been enjoying a free ride on our Internet infrastructure while skipping out on the billions of dollars in costs needed to maintain and build that network," Carr wrote. Carr made his claim that Big Tech gets a "free ride" without mentioning any of the large network projects that Big Tech companies have undertaken themselves, such as Google building data centers and direct connections to ISP networks around the world.

Carr urged Congress to "enact legislation that ensures Big Tech contributes an equitable amount" toward federal broadband-deployment grants that will pay ISPs to expand networks in unserved and underserved areas. Carr also urged the FCC to raise money for the Universal Service Fund by "shifting a fair amount over to Big Tech."

Online advertising tax discussed in US

The Universal Service Fund that distributes money to ISPs has been paid for by Americans through fees on their phone bills for decades. The model is widely seen as outdated, and there has been debate over the years about updating it to include fees based on broadband revenue.

Any proposal to shift fees from phone service to broadband would likely be controversial because ISPs would pass along cost increases to broadband consumers. Economists Hal Singer and Ted Tatos recently examined the options in a 53-page study. While Singer and Tatos did not echo Carr's claim that Big Tech gets a "free ride" on the Internet, they found that a tax on online advertising would raise the necessary funds without increasing the prices consumers pay for broadband.

"[W]e conclude that assessing a service fee on digital advertising revenues constitutes the best policy option according to our economic criteria," they wrote. "Digital advertising revenues are expected to grow significantly over the coming decade, which allows the contribution factor to be relatively modest. Moreover, unlike a fee levied on ISPs, digital advertising platforms are less capable of passing through the fees on end users... In any event, the digital advertising fees would be unlikely to raise the price of broadband service, as would a fee levied on ISPs."

But there is significant support for collecting Universal Service Fund fees from broadband providers. Today, over 250 organizations including various public-interest groups, trade associations, and small telco providers called on policymakers to make that happen. They wrote that "the USF fee has spiraled from about 7 percent to around 30 percent over the last two decades and could exceed 40 percent in the near future." Adding broadband revenue to the contribution base "would lower the USF fee to less than 4 percent for the foreseeable future" and fix the current problem that some users "pay a disproportionate amount compared to others, even when using similar services," they wrote.

Cable Giant Spectrum Endangered Its Employees And Screwed Its Technicians During COVID
Karl Bode

Most broadband providers saw a major uptick in both subscribers and revenue during the COVID crisis, as working and schooling at home exploded. But at the regional monopolies that dominate the U.S. telecom sector, revenue most assuredly didn't go to employees at most of these major companies. In fact, Gizmodo has a new report highlighting how cable giant Charter (whose broadband and TV services are sold under the Spectrum brand) doubled its revenues last year thanks to COVID, yet found a way to dramatically reduce pay for its field technicians:

"Like countless other corporations, Charter amassed new pandemic-era wealth— $3.2 billion, nearly double the previous year. Charter did so, in part, by widely expanding its “self-install” program, which it touted as a major “cost-saving” measure. But contract workers say the “savings” came straight out of their pockets through a systematic scheme to mislabel their jobs as lower-paying emergency fixes."

Charter was widely criticized for putting both the public and its own employees at risk in the early months of the pandemic. Workers whose jobs could be done remotely were blocked completely from being able to work at home -- despite repeated instances of positive COVID tests at the office (a stark contrast from Comcast). Meanwhile subcontractors complained consistently they weren't being given the PPE necessary to enter consumer homes safely. The company has also come under fire for exploiting an FCC COVID broadband discount program to drive customers to more expensive tiers.

At the same time, pay dropped significantly thanks to a procedural classification trick. During COVID, Charter's new self-install option reduced the need for an on sight technician visit, allowing the customer to connect and install the cable modem themselves. Inevitably cable technicians have to visit these homes anyway, either because the user screwed something up, or because there were inherent problems in the local building or block wiring that the customer couldn't fix. But Charter used this opportunity to classify these visits as somehow less important than traditional installs, reducing subcontractor pay significantly:

"Under William’s contract company, a TV, phone, and wireless hookup for Spectrum would normally pay a contractor about $64. But the same job reclassified as a self-install pays around $35 through his contract company. He and fellow contractors sent their managers emails with photos showing that they’d done four or five hour jobs for only $35, but it didn’t change a thing. William said that he’s lost 60% of his pay since Spectrum took over his local market five years ago."

For many years cable and broadband companies have distanced themselves from a lot of dodgy dysfunction by outsourcing work to third-party contractors. These companies are often dodgy as hell, and the employees are treated even worse than traditional contract employees, Gizmodo notes:

"Rob claimed that he lost his house and can’t afford to date because he can’t pay for dinner. He has to cover all of his own work expenses, which include surprises like a $2,000 meter that his company, which has a contract with Spectrum, forced him to buy, only driving him deeper into debt. That’s on top of the $300 per month for required liability insurance and the $8,000 to $10,000 in annual fuel costs. This summer, he couldn’t go to the hospital when he suffered heat stroke, a potentially fatal illness that can lead to organ failure. He worries that he’s one accident away from breaking down. “I feel brittle,” he said."

Most regional broadband monopolies don't see enough real competition for the "free market" (which U.S. telecom decidedly isn't) to apply any real pressure to do better. Charter union employees have been boxed out and are currently engaged in the longest strike in US history because they wanted better pay and health care. And because for the last 30 years the U.S. has generally operated under the idea that mindlessly deregulating U.S. telecom somehow produces near Utopian outcomes (it's abundantly clear this isn't true), regulators have largely become defanged and feckless. Then there's Congress, which is so slathered with telecom campaign contributions as to be largely useless.

As a result, nothing meaningfully changes, and it's not that hard to exploit a pandemic to grab more revenue without ever seeing regulatory or policy accountability.

Who Owns a Recipe? A Plagiarism Claim Has Cookbook Authors Asking.

U.S. copyright law protects all kinds of creative material, but recipe creators are mostly powerless in an age and a business that are all about sharing.
Priya Krishna

In 2011, the cookbook editor Rux Martin noticed something unsettling on the cover of a women’s magazine: a vanilla cupcake decorated with yellow, cream and white jelly beans arranged to mimic corn kernels, a faux butter slice made from a yellow fruit chew, and black and white sugars to imitate salt and pepper.

The confection looked just like the corn-on-the-cob cupcake in “Hello, Cupcake!” a best-selling 2008 cookbook she had edited. Yet the accompanying recipe gave no credit to the authors, Alan Richardson and Karen Tack. “It was so specific, down to the corncob holders,” Ms. Tack said. “It wasn’t a twist on it. It was just like ours.”

Ms. Martin wrote to the magazine expressing disappointment, but never heard back. She asked a lawyer for her publisher whether they could do anything about the identical feature.

“He said the wording on the method isn’t the same, there is no similarity on the headnote — tough luck,” said Ms. Martin, who is now a freelance editor. “I think that pretty much encompasses the problem in a nutshell.”

U.S. copyright law seeks to protect “original works of authorship” by barring unauthorized copying of all kinds of creative material: sheet music, poetry, architectural works, paintings and even computer software.

But recipes are much harder to protect. This is a reason they frequently reappear, often word for word, in one book or blog after another.

Cookbook writers who believe that their work has been plagiarized have few options beyond confronting the offender or airing their grievances online. “It is more of an ethical issue than it is a legal issue,” said Lynn Oberlander, a media lawyer in New York City.

It was noteworthy, then, when in October, the publisher of the cookbook “Makan,” by the prominent British chef Elizabeth Haigh, pulled the book out of circulation, citing “rights issues.”

The author Sharon Wee had noticed that “Makan,” about the cuisine of Ms. Haigh’s native Singapore, contained recipes and stories nearly identical to ones in her own 2012 cookbook, “Growing Up in a Nonya Kitchen.” Ms. Haigh even replicated some of Ms. Wee’s personal recollections, in much the same language — material that could be protected by copyright laws in both Britain and the United States.

Ms. Wee alerted Ms. Haigh’s publisher, Bloomsbury. (Eater later reported that “Makan” included recipes and passages almost identical to those in two other cookbooks.)

“I am grateful that Bloomsbury has responded to my concerns by withdrawing ‘Makan’ from circulation,” Ms. Wee wrote in a statement on Instagram. (Bloomsbury and Ms. Wee declined to comment for this article, and Ms. Haigh, who has never replied publicly to the accusations, didn’t respond to requests for an interview.)

The news was breathlessly covered online, and readers took to social media to express outrage over Ms. Haigh's apparent borrowing from a fellow Singaporean author with a smaller following.

In the publishing world, it is well known and largely accepted that recipes, for the most part, can’t be copyrighted. But the “Makan” incident reinvigorated a debate about recipe ownership, leaving many writers and editors wondering how they can — or even if they should — protect their work in a genre that’s all about building on what came before.

“The whole history of American cookbook publishing is based on borrowing and sharing,” said Bonnie Slotnick, the owner of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, an antique bookstore in the East Village of Manhattan.

Amelia Simmons’ “American Cookery,” published in 1796 and considered one of the first American cookbooks, is riddled with recipes copied from British cookbooks. In the ensuing years, white authors took recipes from Black cooks and passed them off as their own. Even the pioneering American cookbook author James Beard regularly published recipes taken from his colleagues, without giving credit.

As recipe development became a full-time profession in recent decades, authors started getting litigious about perceived plagiarism. In a 1996 lawsuit, Meredith Corporation accused Publications International Ltd., of publishing recipes from its cookbook “Discover Dannon: 50 Fabulous Recipes With Yogurt.” A court ruled that recipes and instructions were not covered by copyright law.

Twelve years later, Missy Chase Lapine sued Jessica Seinfeld, claiming that Ms. Seinfeld’s cookbook “Deceptively Delicious,” about hiding healthful ingredients in children’s meals, stole the concept of her cookbook “The Sneaky Chef.” A court ruled that Ms. Lapine’s concept was not protected.

Whatever the merits of those cases, Jonathan Bailey, a copyright expert in New Orleans, said the internet and self-publishing on platforms like Amazon have made borrowing more common. “It is easier to find stuff to plagiarize, it is easier to plagiarize and it is easier to publish whatever you plagiarize.”

Mr. Bailey said many cookbook authors are used to the free exchange of ideas on social media, and may not be conscious of the importance of giving credit. “It has become so tempting in this environment to just take rather than to create,” he said.

The law views a recipe merely as a factual list of ingredients and basic steps rather than as creative expression. The introductions, photography and design that accompany a recipe can be covered by a copyright, as can the cookbook as a whole, or a specific sequence of recipes, said Sara Hawkins, a business and intellectual property lawyer in Phoenix.

If the instructions are written with enough literary flourish, she said, they may be sufficiently creative to be copyrightable.

When the nation’s copyright law was first codified in 1790, cooking was seen as a woman’s domestic responsibility rather than as a professional activity, Ms. Hawkins said. Written recipes are a relatively new invention; many cultures passed down culinary traditions orally.

While the technology and music industries have pushed successfully to change copyright law in their fields, “there is not a big powerful lobby to push anything through for individual recipes,” she said.

As a result, some cookbook authors feel less willing to publish their treasured recipes.

“When you feel like your stories, your work, your investment ends up benefiting people who are already higher up in the hierarchy of fame, it tempts me to go to a place I don’t want to go, which is to hoard knowledge,” said Leela Punyaratabandhu, who has written three Southeast Asian cookbooks.

Ms. Punyaratabandhu said she felt more vulnerable to recipe theft as a Thai person documenting traditional Thai recipes. People see her as simply sharing long-held knowledge, she said, “although I spent the time and expense testing the recipes to come up with what I think is the best formula. My role has been reduced to just the translator.”

But when a white author develops Thai recipes, she said, “these people are considered scholars because they come from a different culture.” (On the other hand, they may be accused of another type of unethical borrowing — cultural appropriation.)

Recipes undergo “depersonalization” throughout the publishing process, she said, making it harder to argue that they should be protected. “The instructions have been standardized to the point where everyone is speaking the same voice,” she said.

To guard against recipe theft, the cookbook author Andrea Nguyen maintains a “Permission” section on her website, with clear instructions for how to republish her recipes with credit. Many others do the same.

Ms. Nguyen said publishers must bear some responsibility in ensuring their cookbooks are wholly original. “So many books are being pushed out right now that publishers are racing to the release line,” she said. “There is little time for, frankly, auditing the book. You have editors that may not be deeply immersed in the subject matter.”

But Michael Szczerban, the editorial director of Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, said it is not the editor’s job to be an authority on the cookbook’s subject. “It is my role, I feel, to read critically, to ask questions, to help illuminate for an author areas they might not have thought through,” he said. Authors are chosen for their expertise, and are contractually required to submit original work.

He said placing copyright protections on recipes would harm the genre.

“I think it is a good thing in the world that many people have different ways for making chocolate chip cookies,” Mr. Szczerban said. “I have more examples in my memory bank of people who have kind of furthered the culinary arts by engaging with other people’s recipes and bringing their own transformation to them than people who have ripped other people off.”

Mr. Bailey, the copyright expert, said the lack of legal protections for recipes may help explain why so many cookbooks now have creative elements like narrative essays and beautiful photography, both of which can be copyrighted. “I think this is a situation where the law has shaped recipes, far more than recipes have shaped the law,” he said.

Several cookbook writers said they simply didn’t think about copyright protections when writing recipes.

“The purpose of a recipe is for someone else to make it, not for you to have some trademark on it,” said Jenné Claiborne, the author of “Sweet Potato Soul.” Readers tend to step in if they see that a recipe is stolen, Ms. Claiborne said. Even if the cookbook stays in print, the offending author’s reputation will be damaged.

Klancy Miller, who wrote “Cooking Solo” and founded “For the Culture” magazine, questioned how original any recipe can truly be. “Isn’t there just one platonic version of X,” she said, “and we are all just making modifications, some of us better than others?”

Still, the furor over the cookbook “Makan” made her worry that at some point, she had been subconsciously influenced by another author without giving credit. “For people who have been plagiarized, I empathize with them,” she said. “But I also think, like, what if we have all done it a little bit?”

There have been attempts to set standards for borrowing recipes. As a student at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, Ms. Miller was taught she had to change six elements of a recipe before it could be considered a new one. In “Jubilee,” a 2019 cookbook about African American foodways, the author Toni Tipton-Martin explicitly tells readers to adapt the recipes, and includes historical versions of those recipes in the margins — attributed to the authors — so readers can understand how each dish evolved.

Judy Pray, the executive editor of Artisan Books, said she asks her authors to err on the side of crediting, in the introduction to a recipe, anyone who may have inspired the dish. “It is up to those of us who could be considered gatekeepers to try to create those norms,’ she said, “or start to enforce those norms.”

That includes the people cooking the recipes.

Thanks to the outpouring of support from cookbook enthusiasts, the British book “Growing Up in a Nonya Kitchen” is being reissued, and Ms. Wee is working on a 10th anniversary version to be released next year.

Ms. Nguyen said she hoped the public response taught those in publishing an important lesson: “It is still readers who hold the power.”

Hawkeye’, ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ Among Week’s Most Pirated Titles
Anthony D'Alessandro

Disney+/Marvel’s Hawkeye was the most shared TV series title among pirate networks for the week of Nov. 22-28 according to MUSO, while Amazon Prime’s The Wheel of Time ranked second.

Such are the calamities for an entertainment industry obsessed with streaming: If there’s a pristine copy of a movie or series available on the web, consider it feasibly available around the world for free. The first episode of Hawkeye according to Samba TV, was watched by 1.5M U.S. Smart TV households over the 5-day Thanksgiving stretch, repping a -40% decline next to the 5-day viewership of Disney+/Marvel’s Loki which pulled in 2.5M.

Also crowding the most-pirated series list of the last week are hot titles such as Paramount+’s Dexter: New Blood, Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Netflix’s Arcane and Disney+’s Peter Jackson documentary The Beatles: Get Back.

To that point, Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage is topping the most shared pirated title among movies worldwide. How is that? The movie, which opened on Oct. 1, respected a 45-day theatrical window and became available on PVOD and SVOD recently, which means clean copies are now available out there in the ether. The sequel has grossed close to $470M WW; Sony a big believer in the theatrical window and forgoing any type of hybrid strategy which other studios continue to play with. Again, the longer the theatrical window, the longer the delay that a clean copy of the film is made available.

On this week’s most pirated movies list from MUSO, four titles had a streaming launch at some point in the last five months: Red Notice (Netflix), Dune (HBO Max), Black Widow (Disney+) and Finch (AppleTV)+, while the remaining seven make the list on account of their availability on PVOD or SVOD; a new entry this week being NEON’s awards season contender Spencer.

Despite its theatrical day-and-date launch, Warner Bros’ Dune has become the studio’s second highest grossing movie of the year worldwide with $374.2M behind Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong ($467.8M), another title that was part of WarnerMedia’s HBO Max 2021 hybrid pandemic release plan. The Denis Villeneuve directed movie became the second to cross $100M at the domestic B.O. for Warners this year after GvK, proving there was a portion of the audience that wanted to watch it in its Imax-intended form (70 minutes were shot in Imax by Villeneuve). Dune is returning to Imax auditoriums this weekend, and is off HBO Max for another month, however, the damage is done: The sci-fi feature is still out there being pirated due to its original day-and-date availability in homes and theaters. Legendary and Villeneuve have ensured that Dune 2 will be exclusive to theaters when it opens Oct. 20, 2023.

The most-torrented movies and TV series is defined as the most-shared files between piracy peer-to-peer networks.

London-based MUSO is a data company that provides a complete view of global piracy and unlicensed media consumption. The analytics outfit measures global piracy, monitoring all major forms of piracy activity including streaming, web downloads, public and private torrents, and stream rippers. MUSO’s data drives content protection, audience measurement and monetization.

Until next week,

- js.

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