ArtsWatch: Baidu Under Fire

A declaration unites Chinese companies' antipiracy goals but not their lawsuits
November 18, 2013 -- 6:53 am PST
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

Chinese Internet Firms Form New Antipiracy Coalition
On Nov. 13 in Beijing, Internet giants Sohu, Tencent and Youku Tudou joined with the MPAA and several other local companies to announce a "declaration of joint online video antipiracy action." Suing search engine Baidu for copyright infringement was such a common activity among participants that some coverage mistakenly reported a joint lawsuit had been filed together with the MPAA as one of the litigants. This event seemed to symbolize the coming of age of China's online video industry and it unites legitimate Internet video publishers as a more coherent block of stakeholders. Sohu Chairman/CEO Charles Zhang said, "We've spent so much money buying online content, but half of our user traffic goes to Baidu video." Baidu issued its own statement later that day, reaffirming its commitment to copyright protection and to working together with other industry stakeholders.

NMPA Sends Takedown Notices To 50 Illegal Lyric Sites
The National Music Publishers' Association announced an antipiracy campaign on Nov. 11 against commercial websites that provide unlicensed song lyrics. "NMPA is targeting 50 sites that engage in blatant illegal behavior, which significantly impacts songwriters' ability to make a living," said NMPA President/CEO David Israelite. The targets were the result of research by University of Georgia lecturer and Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker guitarist David Lowery, who compiled an Undesirable Lyric Website List. Lowery invited websites to dispute their inclusion on his list, writing, "Based on the popularity of lyric searches, it is possible that unlike the sound recording business, the lyric business may be more valuable in the Internet age. Indeed, the vast majority of these websites seem to have well-established monetization schemes based on advertising." NMPA clarified that it was not pursuing fan sites or blogs and estimated that half of all online traffic for song lyrics has been going to unlicensed websites.

House Judiciary's Comprehensive Review Of Copyright Carries On
On Nov. 13 House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) announced their plans for new hearings on copyright through 2014. Goodlatte said, "Copyright ... has become a core part of our economy and society in ways the framers of our Constitution could never have imagined and so it is important that the House Judiciary Committee continue our extensive review of U.S. copyright laws to ensure that we continue to incentivize creativity and innovation in the digital age." The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 19 on "The Rise Of Innovative Business Models: Content Delivery Methods In The Digital Age." Subsequent topics will include copyright protection's scope, fair use, notice and takedown procedures, and a systematic survey of the Copyright Act's many sections. In related news, on Nov. 7 Rep. Coble announced he would retire for health reasons after the close of this Congressional session. Coble was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1984.

Senate Bill Seeks To Protect Online Video Services' Competitiveness
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced S. 1680, the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act, on Nov. 12 to protect Internet video services from anticompetitive behavior, for example by cable companies who provide Internet broadband and might prefer their subscribers to use a service affiliated with the ISP. Rockefeller said, "My legislation aims to enable the ultimate a la carte — to give consumers the ability to watch the programming they want to watch, when they want to watch it, how they want to watch it, and pay only for what they actually watch." Consumer advocates Free Press and Public Knowledge were delighted, while the National Association of Broadcasters expressed concern that the bill could "legitimize theft of copyrighted programming." Retransmission and carriage agreements have helped cable TV compete with network broadcast and have helped satellite services compete with cable companies, so in some ways it could be a natural progression to help broadband-based video services compete. The flip side from the broadcasters' perspective is a legitimate wariness about competition from aggressive business models such as Aereo, or from established services such as Hulu and Netflix. Legislation might have unintended consequences that could make it harder to produce the great shows everyone is clamoring for in the first place.

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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