ArtsWatch: Antipiracy Ads "Get Real"

Federal IP awareness campaign will have consumers seeing spots
December 05, 2011 -- 6:08 am PST
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 Nov. 29 the "Get Real" antipiracy advertising campaign was unveiled by Attorney General Eric Holder at a White House event also attended by Department of Commerce Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca M. Blank, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, National Crime Prevention Council President/CEO Ann M. Harkins, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. Describing the program in a White House blog, Espinel wrote, "The new campaign will educate the public about the full range of intellectual property crimes we confront, from counterfeit consumer goods and fake pharmaceuticals laced with potentially dangerous substances to illegal downloads, while highlighting the potential threat these crimes pose to economic prosperity and public safety. The campaign will include a television PSA, materials delivered through social media and radio, Web and print ads." The Copyright Alliance, MPAA and RIAA welcomed the initiative. With video spots titled "It Hurts" and "Premonition," it is no surprise that the aim is to make consumers think twice about the serious harm caused by intellectual property theft. Reacting less than seriously to Holder's encouragement for consumers to report violators to federal agencies, Wired said, "Asking America to be on the lookout for terrorists and intellectual property infringers at the same time could be confusing."

Holder and Morton observed Cyber Monday on Nov. 28 by announcing the seizure of 150 domain names from online counterfeit merchandise vendors. This is the same way they observed this peak Internet shopping day last year, except last year's Cyber Monday seizure total was 82. This is now the eighth in the series of domain seizures called "Operation In Our Sites," which has now redirected a total of 350 Web addresses. Although this has been going on for more than a year — demonstrating how websites can be seized under current law — some observers are having a heightened reaction because of the legislative context of pending antipiracy bills. Others question the strict legality of displaying antipiracy messages hosted on the websites' new destinations. While these reactions continue, law enforcement has tallied a total of 77 million visits to the seized Web addresses that display the now-conventional "This domain name has been seized ... " image. National Crime Prevention Council "spokescartoon" McGruff the Crime Dog is well-known for his slogan "take a bite out of crime" and it is hard to deny that 77 million redirected Internet hits is likely taking a bite out of online counterfeiting and copyright infringement.

Boasting 30 million users internationally, music streaming service Grooveshark was threatened on Nov. 18 by a fresh Universal Music Group lawsuit for copyright infringement filed in the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court. While details have produced colorful coverage, Grooveshark General Counsel Marshall Custer said, "Universal's claims rest almost entirely on an anonymous, blatantly false Internet blog comment and Universal's gross mischaracterization of information that Grooveshark itself provided to Universal. While Universal has deliberately engaged the media prior to serving a copy of the complaint on Grooveshark, Grooveshark intends to fight this battle before the court, not in the press." The Internet blog comment has put Digital Music News in an interesting position as the news site finds itself covering how its previous coverage resulted in the comment that is now a part of the new lawsuit. The information Grooveshark says it provided to UMG includes emails obtained through legal discovery in the latter's previous lawsuit against the music site. Like a serial drama that eventually heats up and becomes more interesting, this has become a litigation hard to ignore as it slowly grinds toward answers to the two typical questions for this kind of legal theater: Will the parties reach a financial settlement? If not, will the defendant Internet service provider's actions disqualify it from protection under copyright law's safe harbor provisions? Stay tuned.

On Nov. 24 the European Court of Justice ruled that Europe's E-Commerce Directive doesn't permit a national court to enjoin an Internet service provider to monitor all the information on their network for infringement at their own expense for an indefinite period of time. This answered a Belgian appeals court's question as it evaluates a lower court's ruling in favor of collecting society SABAM against ISP Scarlet. That lower court ruling was made in 2007, when network filtering and content fingerprinting technology seemed like it could begin to provide a reasonably easy and affordable antipiracy solution. Commenting on the ruling, IFPI CEO Frances Moore said, "In this particular case, the court rejected the content filtering measure presented by the Belgian court as too broad. However, this does not affect the forms of ISP cooperation that IFPI advocates including graduated response and the blocking of rogue websites, which are already being implemented in countries across Europe." In other words, this ruling prevents European courts from imposing comprehensive and burdensome filtering but leaves room for courts to impose more narrowly targeted requirements.

European indie organization Impala and Dutch collecting society Buma/Stemra announced the formation on Nov. 28 of a one-stop-shop mechanical license covering physical product across Europe, giving smaller independents access to an advantage already enjoyed by major labels and just a few independents. Impala Executive Chair Helen Smith said, "We are confident that this will streamline the whole licensing process and add value for independent labels in helping them to sustain their position in the European music market, producing over 80 percent of all new releases."

On Nov. 29 leading music recognition service Shazam and performing rights organization BMI announced that Shazam is reacquiring its technology patents from BMI, although the two will continue to collaborate, with BMI acquiring stock in Shazam. BMI President/CEO Del Bryant said, "We are thrilled to enter into a new chapter in our long-term relationship with Shazam."

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