Goliath Verizon et al Versus Users’ David – a Modern Day Story About People Fighting for Their Rights
In part two of my unfolding series of posts on how U.S. wireless carriers are ripping our content off, I will share the story of how a few creators of content in a modern day David versus Goliath way, challenged Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile over the carrier’s right to freely distribute “user generated” content for their exclusive financial gain.
In part one of my unfolding series of posts on how U.S. wireless carriers are ripping us off, I revealed the following:
“Most enlightening is if you put the wireless carrier’s system for mobile multimedia file-sharing under the same microscope it reveals a blatant flaw within their infrastructure because although the system totally relies upon “user generated” copyrighted works, there is no system for accountability for the works being shared. There is no system for fair compensation to the creators of the copyrighted works being shared and there is no system for standard measures of copyright protection (eg; Digital Rights Management). And although tens of billions of dollars have been directly generated to the carriers via this closed system that is separate from the Internet, they have not paid anything to the people generating the content necessary to their gains so basically they’re messing with our money – the victim is you.”
In the summer of 2010 a start-up multimedia producer named Luvdarts along with multimedia content publisher DigiPie, filed a federal lawsuit against the “big four” U.S. wireless carriers charging copyright infringement and unfair competition. The case was listed as Luvdarts et al v. AT&T et al (10-05442 & 11-55497).
Obviously, these Luvdart guys were attempting to play way above their league but as it turns out their charges were based upon some very basic copyright principles that had been over looked by the wireless carriers as they built out their multimedia file sharing system which they misleadingly called a multimedia “messaging” system.
Why would the carriers deploy another messaging system when they already have text messaging?
The truth is, the wireless carriers needed a “multimedia” file sharing system that could also include a message if the sender wished to include one. What began as “picture messaging” (btw copyright protection subsists in all images/pictures), also became a distribution method for music and videos via mobile devices.
In 2008 Luvdarts began producing greeting card type music videos that were geared towards motivating people to purchase them to share with a loved one or the like. Once the content was created multiple format versions were made for various mediums of expression like CDs, mp4s, .avi and .3gp to name a few. The 3gp version is the one compatible with mobile networks. Any multimedia content may be converted to a 3gp version in about 15 seconds if the duration is less than a minute or so.
According to a Luvdarts’ managing member, Mr. Floyd Crump, Luvdarts had a vision that the wireless carrier’s multimedia file sharing system was evolving in a manner that would make it a convenient and popular way to share multimedia from mobile devices. The only problem is, as Luvdarts found out later, there is nothing in place to account for the distributions.
What came to my mind was how is this any different than sending the multimedia in an email to someone? Here’s the answer:
(1) Email systems function via the Internet and there is no financial gain to anyone for the sending or receiving of the multimedia
(2) The carriers built their private mobile networks for multimedia file sharing to make money whenever customers access the system or send and receive multimedia separate and distinct from the Internet leading one to realize that Verizon wireless and other carriers are ripping off our content!
When Luvdarts were officially released for public consumption in the summer of 2008, Luvdarts immediately became one of the most popular subscriptions on MyWaves.com which was a world leader for mobile content at that time. In fact, at that time Luvdarts were beating lil Wayne and most other hot artists on MyWaves in terms of subscriptions per views!
“That’s when we first noticed something was wrong, said Floyd in a my recent phone interview with him. While we were smokin’ hot, the only ones making any money from our ‘user generated’ content were the wireless carriers.”
During this same time span, Luvdarts was publishing content on DigiPie.com for sale and also directly soliciting the wireless carriers to become partners with Luvdarts in the emerging marketplace for mobile to mobile sharing of multimedia on mobile networks.
“The wave of the future was upon us, said Floyd. However, we didn’t think this new system for distribution of content would mirror what happened with file sharing on the Internet. With all the technology the carriers have at their fingertips we never thought it would be a problem to account for or protect the distributions of a piece of content on mobile networks.”
Of the wireless carriers solicited at that time, Verizon expressed an interest in partnering with Luvdarts by adding Luvdart greetings to their “on deck” line up of content available for mobile downloading. Luvdarts had pointed out that their unique style of content would motivate people to share widely and therefore increase data revenue for the carriers that should then be shared with Luvdarts. At that time, wireless carriers were charging an average of 50 cents for sending and receiving multimedia content via mobile devices.
In September of 2008, when the time came to deploy the “partnership” Verizon changed its mind and instead offered an “expedited shortcode” for Luvdarts. While a shortcode does enable a partnership and revenue sharing for sales of content it does nothing to enable revenue sharing for further distributions of the content.
Hmmmm, Floyd is right, there IS something wrong with this picture.
Luvdarts did not go for the shortcode offer because their business model was built around monetizing the sharing Luvdarts’ content was designed to promote. Having no other recourse at the time, Luvdarts began adding notices that the content should not be shared beyond the original sender without permission from Luvdarts.
When Luvdarts requested help in the way of an SDK (software developer kit) to at least account for the sharing on mobile networks, Luvdarts was ignored by the carriers.
When Luvdarts requested an accounting of how many times their content was being shared upon mobile networks Luvdarts was ignored again.
Over 12 months later in December of 2009 Luvdarts sent DMCA notices to the four carriers and were again ignored by those four carriers.
Approximately 6 months later Luvdarts and DigiPie sued Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in federal court creating the backdrop for a modern day David versus Goliath story – or is it something deeper?
Next up: Part three – the wireless carriers are “outed” in federal court.
Read the Preamble
Read Part One