ArtsWatch: A Fresh Agenda

Register of Copyrights sets sights on policy priorities and projects
October 31, 2011 -- 12:51 pm PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. ArtsWatch is a key part of an agenda aimed at raising public awareness of and support for the rights of artists. To become more involved, visit Advocacy Action @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

On Oct. 25 Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante released a report titled "Priorities and Special Projects of the United States Copyright Office, October 2011 – October 2013." "The 17 priorities and 10 special projects presented here reflect the commitment of the office to address current complexities in the copyright system and to prepare for future challenges," wrote Pallante. The two-year plan's agenda includes helping Congress design legislation to crack down on rogue websites (for example, the Stop Online Piracy Act introduced last week), helping educate the public about copyright and a spectrum of other items filled with critically important challenges that frequently appear in ArtsWatch. RIAA Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman said, "The report serves as a useful template as we look forward to a future where our copyright system incentivizes creators and innovators and fairly compensates rights holders. We commend Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante for this useful report and we look forward to working with her and her office on these thoughtful priorities and projects." A series of ongoing roundtable discussions between Pallante, members of her legal staff and copyright stakeholders is scheduled to kick off in November.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance submitted its recommendations for inclusion in the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets on Oct. 26, integrating filings from several of its member organizations such as the MPAA and RIAA. Covering both online and physical markets, the process highlights worst offenders — providing a rogue's gallery of rogue websites — and is not intended to be all-inclusive. The IIPA commented, "These lists of markets notorious for their connection to IP infringing activity are symptomatic of a larger struggle creators face to overcome years of lax attitudes and enforcement actions against piracy." The Internet collection covers diverse technologies including deep-linking sites, torrent trackers, cyberlockers, social networks, blogs, Usenet services, and online auctions. Several have already been subject to legal action. China's Xunlei currently has a court case pending against it. Both Sweden's the Pirate Bay and Canada's Isohunt have had noteworthy court losses but are still in operation. Opponents of new antipiracy bills in Congress use many colorful and inflammatory arguments to discourage government interference with Internet innovation, but shining a spotlight on notorious markets tells a different story — enforcement efforts require new legal tools to crack down on rampant intellectual property theft more effectively.

On Oct. 26 a British High Court ruling set out details for Internet service provider BT to block infringing website Newzbin2 within 14 days, at its own cost, and also to block new online identities constructed to work around the first block. MPAA won the legal victory that gave rise to the ruling back in July, when time was given to work out the technical specifics. BT's use of "Cleanfeed" technology to block child pornography on the Internet facilitated this resolution. MPAA is proceeding to pressure other UK ISPs along the same lines, but other companies' alternative blocking technologies could pose disparate hurdles. While this is not a legal precedent in the United States, it is a major international turning point for copyright enforcement.

Four of the five rogue website administrators indicted in September have now pleaded guilty to charges related to participating in NinjaVideo.net's criminal copyright infringement. On Oct. 25 the Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced guilty pleas from two site administrators. The site's founder pleaded guilty late last month. The fifth indicted co-conspirator remains at large with an arrest warrant outstanding. Their sentencing dates have been scheduled on various days between December and February. NinjaVideo.net was one of the first sites shut down by the Operation In Our Sites series of enforcement actions and illustrates the domestic effectiveness of law enforcement's tough new efforts to crack down on Internet piracy.

New Department of Commerce Secretary John Bryson was sworn in Oct. 21 after receiving Senate confirmation the day before. Congratulating Bryson, MPAA Chairman/CEO Chris Dodd said, "I look forward to working with him to protect the 2.2 million Americans relying on a healthy film and television industry and the nearly 100,000 small businesses involved in the production and distribution of movies and television. It is critical that the Commerce Department, along with the White House and other federal agencies, help protect the creative content of our industry against theft and illegal distribution." Bryson's predecessor, Gary F. Locke, was nominated to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China in March.

Earlier this month Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) introduced H.R. 3210, the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act, amending laws against the use of illegal wood products to protect people who did not know they were using prohibited woods or only used materials already in their possession before the prohibition became effective in May 2008. Multiple GRAMMY winner Vince Gill said, "From the perspective of guitar players, collectors and lovers of old instruments, I wholeheartedly support this bill." The prohibition is intended to prevent illegal logging. Cooper asserts his proposed amendments will not affect Gibson's legal efforts to demonstrate that it has properly complied with applicable rules.

Click on the "ArtsWatch" tag below for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.

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