ArtsWatch: Antigua's Piracy Gamble

WTO ruling raises the stakes in Caribbean nation's stand-off with U.S.
February 04, 2013 -- 7:32 am PST
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

Permission Slip Granted: Antigua Allowed $21 Million In Infringement Earnings
On Jan. 28 the World Trade Organization advanced the long-running trade dispute between the U.S. and the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, authorizing suspension of intellectual property obligations as retaliatory sanctions for the U.S. refusal to permit its consumers to use gambling websites based on the islands. Colorful coverage included Associated Press emphasizing the notion of a "copyright haven," Reuters highlighting U.S. warnings against "government-authorized piracy," and The Hill quoting an Antiguan attorney's threats that putting their plan into effect would establish a precedent for other countries. All this publicity likely serves Antigua's negotiating strategy to extract substantial assistance from the U.S., but International Intellectual Property Alliance counsel Steve Metalitz argued, "We are of the firm view that suspending intellectual property rights is not the right solution, and that state-sanctioned theft is an affront to any society. Should Antigua determine to move forward in this manner, it would certainly interfere with the ability to reach a negotiated resolution, and would harm the interests of Antiguans." The WTO dispute began in March 2003, so even though things are speeding up, there could be a long wait before its final resolution.

Permission Slip Revoked: Chorus Of Complaints Over 'Jailbreaking' Rule Change
The latest round of Digital Millennium Copyright Act exemptions to the statutory prohibition on circumventing digital security became effective Oct. 28, 2012 and included a "90-day transitional period" for jailbreaking mobile handsets that expired on Jan. 26. This led digital rights advocates, including tech journalists, to trumpet the theme "Just a Few Hours Left to Unlock Your Phone!" PC World moaned, "As of Saturday ... [y]ou just can't unlock your phone yourself — at least, not legally. That decision was made not by voters, the courts, or even Congress. It was made by one man." This kind of oversimplification enjoys some popular support, partially because copyright law can be difficult and frustrating. The voters elect Congress, which passed the DMCA requiring the Librarian of Congress to identify exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions every three years. Many stakeholders, including the public, trade organizations, and digital rights advocates, are invited by the Library of Congress to suggest exemptions, and then the Register of Copyrights is tasked with producing recommendations based on this wide scope of considerations. The latest mobile phone interoperability rules are complicated but clearly influenced by the Vernor v. Autodesk court case that was decided in 2010 after the previous DMCA rules were finalized, tilting judicial opinion towards treating software use as a license rather than more comprehensive ownership. So this chorus of complaints should not be considered reliably accurate.

Promoting Spotify To The U.S. House Of Representatives
On Jan. 31 the RIAA responded to reporting by Politico that revealed the U.S. House of Representatives is currently blocking music service Spotify on its computer networks because of Spotify's peer-to-peer infrastructure. Writing to the House's Chief Administrative Officer, RIAA Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman encouraged using the Why Music Matters list of legal sites as a resource and said, "We appreciate your need to ensure that the House network is secure, and we would welcome the opportunity to work with you to develop a new policy that ensures that users of the House network will be able to gain access to these new legal services. All members of the music community who create, invest in, promote, market and distribute music appreciate your efforts to fix this problem."

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.

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