Intellectual Property Risks

Defending the Digital Frontier

Insurance coverage and IP laws need to adapt, as publishing has moved to digital platforms.
By: | February 18, 2014 • 7 min read

Digital technology continues to transform the global publishing arena, from changes in copyright law to ways in which media and technology are insured.

Kevin P. Kalinich, Chicago-based global practice leader for cyber/network risk at Aon Risk Solutions, emphasized just how dramatic the transformation in global publishing has been in recent years.

“If you take a look at the top four or five publishers like Pearson, Reuters, Thomson, Reed Elsevier and Wolters Kluwer … in just the last five years they’ve converted from being 75 percent hard copy to being 80 percent electronic.

“It’s amazing, and here’s why it’s so important,” Kalinich added. “In the old world when hard copy ruled, the end user — the consumer — would not be liable because the publisher was liable for publishing it.”

Now, however, there are few limits to how an end user can use digitally published content. And it’s not always clear where the line is between fair use and infringement.

Kalinich and others said that publishers walk the tightrope of trying to protect the original content owner while protecting the end user from unintentional intellectual property infringement.

Advertisement




“End users need the appropriate legal rights to use copyrighted materials or they could potentially commit copyright or trademark infringement,” said Kalinich. “Typically, the IP rights are granted through a licensing agreement or ‘fair use exception’ to copyright violations. Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work.”

The Role of Intent

In the past year, there have been two landmark copyright decisions in the online publishing realm that have media/technology experts buzzing.

One is Authors Guild Inc., et al. vs. Google Inc., a decision rendered in mid-November. The other is the Associated Press vs. Meltwater U.S. Holdings Inc., a decision reached last March.

In the Google case, book authors and several major book author associations challenged Google’s reproductions of books and “snippets” of millions of books on its website. The book authors claimed this did not constitute “fair use” and violated their copyright protection.

The decision by U.S. Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan — if it survives an announced appeal of the ruling — lets Google continue expanding the online library. Chin ruled that Google’s product helps readers find books they might not otherwise locate.

The institutions that have provided works for scanning of snippets include Harvard University, Oxford University, Stanford University and the New York Public Library.

A key element in Chin’s “fair use” decision was that Google does not receive any monetary gain from posting whole volumes or snippets of some 20 million books in its electronic library.

In the Meltwater case, New York District Court Judge Denise Cote ruled that online aggregator Meltwater infringed upon AP’s copyright protection by using original content that AP had “labored to create.”

Not long after Cote’s ruling, AP and Meltwater entered into an agreement for AP to produce and Meltwater to electronically distribute content in a joint venture.

 Joanne Richardson practice leader, U.S. media and entertainment, E&O, Hiscox USA.

Joanne Richardson
practice leader, U.S. media and entertainment, E&O,
Hiscox USA.

“It’s encouraging to see collaborations like the one between the Associated Press and Meltwater aggregating service as they try to work together, because clearly this is what the future looks like,” said Joanne Richardson, New York-based practice leader, U.S. media and entertainment, E&O at Hiscox USA.

“Companies that find ways to bring content and distribution together are really going to be the winners at the end of the day,” Richardson added. “I think it’s the way things are going to have to go. They need each other. It’s a win/win for everybody.”

Eric Seyfried, New York-based senior vice president at Marsh & McLennan Cos.’ FINPRO group, makes a distinction between online aggregators that are in business for monetary gain, like Meltwater, and online aggregators like Google Books, which exist to serve research and other scholarly purposes.

“In Judge Chin’s decision, he talks about Google providing significant public benefit,” said Seyfried. “Are they making available information that has been buried in the bowels of libraries, for example? In the Google case you have to look at the purpose and character of the use. Are they bringing potentially long-lost volumes to light for scholarship and research?”

Seyfried believed that Chin was “growing the pie” of books available.

Aon Risk Solutions’ Kalinich noted that Chin said he believed the authors involved would get more sales because Google was cataloguing their work, and that Google wasn’t making any money off the arrangement.

In the Meltwater case, Marsh’s Seyfried said, Meltwater used its proprietary technology to “scrape” the Internet for news stories and then processed the information into some sort of news digest for their subscribers.

“Is Google trying to further some level of scholarship and research, whereas Meltwater is looking to monetize content for its own benefit through selling subscriptions?” asked Seyfried. “It’s not some sort of academic or intellectual exercise, while Google is about building the brand rather than a subscription base.”

Louis Scimecca, Kansas City, Mo.-based senior vice president for AXIS PRO, which provides media and entertainment coverage, among other solutions, noted: “With the Internet and electronic communications flourishing and expanding, in a lot of cases the law hasn’t caught up with new technology. The technology comes and then the law follows.”

Scimecca said that the issue isn’t restricted to content aggregators. Any individual can find themselves in a legal tangle for using another party’s copyrighted material or trademarked digital matter without permission. “Generally right now, if a person or an entity is taking somebody’s else’s copyright material without permission or consent, that is a problem,” he said.

As in the Google case, Scimecca said, “fair use” might be a defense if material is used for educational, scholarly or teaching purposes.

Protecting the Business

In the realm of insuring risks at media/technology companies, Chad Milton, a partner at Kansas City, Mo.-based Media Risk Consultants LLC, said that as technology at media companies with innovative strategies change, these businesses threaten somebody else’s old business model.

“And the result more often than not leads to a copyright infringement claim,” said Milton. “The history of this kind of litigation is that it’s really about business practices rather than about individual bits of content. We’re not really talking about infringements in a writer’s product or work, we’re really talking about infringements in the way media companies do business.”

Advertisement




It wasn’t often that anybody cared about copyright infringement when content was free, Milton added. “But now that so many online publishers are trying to find ways to monetize their content, it now conflicts with the business models of the online aggregators who want to use other people’s content without paying for it.”

This environment creates interesting risks for insurers because formerly the insurers were asked to insure individual bits of media content: individual songs, individual films, individual stories and individual broadcasts, Milton said.

“They’re now being put in the position of insuring business models, and it’s harder for insurers to be able to insure the innovators,” Milton said. “And I think they need to find a way to convince underwriters that this is a manageable risk. I know there’s some resistance on the carriers’ part about this.”

But Hiscox USA is not one of those underwriters. As long as a decade ago Hiscox was creating product to address the merger of media and technology.

“We were able to put a form together that addressed both, so there was no gap in coverage because media companies now had technology exposure and technology companies had media exposures,” said Hiscox’s Richardson. “Today, there’s a lot more combined forms of media, technology and data privacy.”

Richardson said Hiscox tends to look at things on an individual risk basis, which means they want to understand how these new technologies work and function and be able to sort out exactly what some of the hiccups for them might be along the way.

“We will need a lot more case law to develop in some of these areas before we’re able to ultimately and completely understand all the exposures,” she added.

Observed Marsh’s Seyfried: “The key to insuring a media company is to try to come up with a comprehensive professional liability program. The foundation of that program is based on media liability insurance and making sure that a robust program covers a variety of media perils.”

The next step is finding a market that has the appetite to take on the risk. The other piece of the coverage is some sort of technology offering.

“I can say I do not have one significant media client in the whole risk management space that does not buy some combination of network privacy coverage and/or technology products and services coverage,” Seyfried said.

Steve Yahn was a freelance writer based in New York. He had more than 40 years of financial reporting and editing experience. Comments can be directed to [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 RIMS

RIMS Conference Opens in Birthplace of Insurance in US

Carriers continue their vital role of helping insureds mitigate risks and promote safety.
By: | April 21, 2017 • 4 min read

As RIMS begins its annual conference in Philadelphia, it’s worth remembering that the City of Brotherly Love is not just the birthplace of liberty, but it is the birthplace of insurance in the United States as well.

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin and members of Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire brigade conceived of an insurance company, eventually named The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.

Advertisement




For the first time in America — but certainly not for the last time – insurers became instrumental in protecting businesses by requiring safety inspections before agreeing to issue policies.

“That included fire brigades and the knowledge that a brick house was less susceptible to fire than a wood house,” said Martin Frappolli, director of knowledge resources at The Institutes.

It also included good hygiene habits, such as not placing oily rags next to a furnace and having a trap door to the roof to help the fire brigade fight roof and chimney blazes.

Businesses with high risk of fire, such as apothecary shops and brewers, were either denied policies or insured at significantly higher rates, according to the Independence Hall Association.

Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina

Before that, fire was generally “not considered an insurable risk because it was so common and so destructive,” Frappolli said.

“Over the years, we have developed a lot of really good hygiene habits regarding the risk of fire and a lot of those were prompted by the insurance considerations,” he said. “There are parallels in a lot of other areas.”

Insurance companies were instrumental in the creation of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which helps create standards for electrical devices, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which works to improve the safety of vehicles and highways, said Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina and former president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Insurers have also been active through the years in strengthening building codes and promoting wiser land use and zoning rules, he said.

When shipping was the predominant mode of commercial transport, insurers were active in ports, making sure vessels were seaworthy, captains were experienced and cargoes were stored safety, particularly since it was the common, but hazardous, practice to transport oil in barrels, Hartwig said.

Some underwriters refused to insure ships that carried oil, he said.

When commercial enterprises engaged in hazardous activities and were charged more for insurance, “insurers were sending a message about risk,” he said.

In the industrial area, the common risk of boiler and machinery explosions led insurers to insist on inspections. “The idea was to prevent an accident from occurring,” Hartwig said. Insurers of the day – and some like FM Global and Hartford Steam Boiler continue to exist today — “took a very active and early role in prevention and risk management.”

Whenever insurance gets involved in business, the emphasis on safety, loss control and risk mitigation takes on a higher priority, Frappolli said.

“It’s a really good example of how consideration for insurance has driven the nature of what needs to be insured and leads to better and safer habits,” he said.

Workers’ compensation insurance prompted the same response, he said. When workers’ compensation laws were passed in the early 1900s, employee injuries were frequent and costly, especially in factories and for other physical types of work.

Because insurers wanted to reduce losses and employers wanted reduced insurance premiums, safety procedures were introduced.

“Employers knew insurance would cost a lot more if they didn’t do the things necessary to reduce employee injury,” Frappolli said.

Martin J. Frappolli, senior director of knowledge resources, The Institutes

Cyber risk, he said, is another example where insurance companies are helping employers reduce their risk of loss by increasing cyber hygiene.

Cyber risk is immature now, Frappolli said, but it’s similar in some ways to boiler and machinery explosions. “That was once horribly damaging, unpredictable and expensive,” he said. “With prompting from risk management and insurance, people were educated about it and learned how to mitigate that risk.

“Insurance is just one tool in the toolbox. A true risk manager appreciates and cares about mitigating the risk and not just securing a lower insurance rate.

“Someone looking at managing risk for the long term will take a longer view, and as a byproduct, that will lead to lower insurance rates.”

Whenever technology has evolved, Hartwig said, insurance has been instrumental in increasing safety, whether it was when railroads eclipsed sailing ships for commerce, or when trucking and aviation took precedence.

The risks of terrorism and cyber attacks have led insurance companies and brokers to partner with outside companies with expertise in prevention and reduction of potential losses, he said. That knowledge is transmitted to insureds, who are provided insurance coverage that results in financial resources even when the risk management methods fail to prevent a cyber attack.

Advertisement




This year’s RIMS Conference in Philadelphia shares with risk managers much of the knowledge that has been developed on so many critical exposures. Interestingly enough, the opening reception is at The Franklin Institute, which celebrates some of Ben Franklin’s innovations.

But in-depth sessions on a variety of industry sectors as well as presentations on emerging risks, cyber risk management, risk finance, technology and claims management, as well as other issues of concern help risk managers prepare their organizations to face continuing disruption, and take advantage of successful mitigation techniques.

“This is just the next iteration of the insurance world,” Hartwig said. “The insurance industry constantly reinvents itself. It is always on the cutting edge of insuring new and different risks and that will never change.” &

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]