ArtsWatch: Comcast's Real-Time Antipiracy Play

New method would immediately notify infringers of legal alternatives
August 12, 2013 -- 6:03 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

Proposing A Title-Specific Antipiracy Alternative
On Aug. 5 Variety reported that Comcast has built behind-the-scenes support for an experimental antipiracy approach that would offer illegal downloaders legal alternatives in real-time. The idea is not intended to replace the Copyright Alert System, which launched earlier this year and can issue warning notifications up to weeks after infringements occur. Engineers at Comcast's NBC Universal are among the conglomerate's staff who have presumably reassured management of the concept's technical feasibility. Performance considerations include the duration of delays to the near-real-time response as well as the number of legal alternatives that could be included during early trials. Additionally, Comcast is reportedly not seeking any revenue, at least not from its role as an Internet service provider. Arguably, the concept intrudes into the ongoing debate about context-sensitive advertising versus privacy. For example, if your smart phone knows you are parked outside a major retail outlet, then how about a promotional coupon? A walk across a mall has the potential to generate dozens of real-time messages, and privacy sensibilities still restrict the massive potential for such digital advertising. But ISPs serve as consumers' gateways to the Internet, giving them insight into everything users do. Additionally, the right to privacy arguments by those who are committing copyright infringement are not strong. Whether or not now is the time for a "try legal" approach to be tested as a multi-industry initiative, there will never be any time like the present.

CCIA Encourages Standard Digital Keywords For Legal Content
Computer & Communications Industry Association Vice President of Law & Policy Matt Schruers released a research paper title "The Search Fixation: Infringement, Search Results And Online Content" on Aug. 5 containing helpful suggestions to promote legal content online. Buried beneath language criticizing the RIAA's "fixation" with Google search results that could have been more effectively demoted, as promised, lie practical alternatives such as the ability for licensors to "contract with online platforms to ensure greater indexing, and utilize keywords in site content through a standard term in a licensing agreement." The paper also refers to the potential advantages of a "comprehensive government database" of licensed works and the importance of legal sites providing Web pages that can be indexed by search engines for specific media titles. Millions of Internet users regularly click their way to illegal content by means of search engines, and CCIA is a bit snide when it minimizes this based on low percentages of traffic using terms such as "minimal," "very low," "relatively little," and "a mere 15 percent." "Increasing the visibility of lawful content in search results" is an important issue, however, and CCIA's digital proposal to implement effective solutions deserves attention.

Music Publishers Sue YouTube MCN Publishers Of Cover Songs
On Aug. 6 the National Music Publishers' Association sued Fullscreen for failing to license compositions as part of its business, publishing thousands of cover songs on YouTube and receiving substantial advertising revenue. Fullscreen, described as a Multi-Channel Network, is estimated to account for 284 million monthly U.S. views on YouTube. The NMPA simultaneously announced it had reached an agreement in principle with the MCN Maker Studios. Although music publishers have reached a deal with YouTube regarding publishing rights for user-generated videos, this does not cover the liability of these separate MCN business entities. NMPA President/CEO David Israelite said, "The problem of copyright infringement and unlicensed use of music is endemic to the MCN industry. ... Ignoring the law should not be allowed as a business model."

Patent Enforcement Shakeup In Samsung Versus Apple
On Aug. 3 U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman disapproved a determination made by the U.S. International Trade Commission that would ban some Apple products from sale in the United States because they include unlicensed technology covered by Samsung-owned patents. Froman's stance is based on the public interest in interoperable technology based on international standards; however, since this is the first disapproval since 1987, the fact that it happened at all is a bit of an earthquake and dominates the policy considerations of why it happened. South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy released a statement saying, "We express concerns about the negative impact that such a decision would have on the protection of patent rights." CCIA President/CEO Ed Black added, "If Samsung is not afforded equal treatment by the USTR, this seemingly arbitrary and nonappealable decision on behalf of a giant American competitor threatens to undermine our relationships with our trading partners and international respect for national patent systems. This decision points to the need for comprehensive patent reform that applies to everyone and addresses problems proactively." Consumer advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation considered this a win for public interest concerns over strict intellectual property enforcement.

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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