ArtsWatch: Congressional Caucus Calls Out Notorious Web Sites

Lawmakers' list of countries with high rates of content piracy unchanged from last year
May 24, 2010 -- 10:51 am 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.

The Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus released its annual piracy watch list on May 19, with entertainment trade association leadership in attendance including the MPAA, NMPA, and RIAA. This year's worst-offending nations are the same as last year's list — Canada, China, Mexico, Russia, and Spain. For the first time, the caucus also listed six worst-offending Web sites, including China's Baidu and Sweden's the Pirate Bay. RIAA Chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol said, "The global challenge in the years to come will be to win the battle for a civilized Internet that respects property, privacy and security. An Internet of chaos may meet a utopian vision but surely undermines the societal values of safe and secure families and job and revenue-creating commerce." (More at the Copyright Alliance blog.)

On May 13 the MPAA announced that litigation in Germany's Hamburg District Court was successful in obtaining an injunction to compel the Pirate Bay's Internet service provider to disconnect the notorious torrent-linking site from the Internet. The site was down May 17–18, resurfacing with a new ISP. Credit for the replacement hosting was claimed by Sweden's Pirate Party — an actual political party. Site operators taunted content owners' efforts on the site's blog, resorting to 'Lolcat' slang in all caps, and said, "PLZ LEARN: TPB CANT BE SHUT DOWN... TEH PIRATE BAY IZ AN UNSINKABLE SHIP. IT WILL SAIL TEH INTERWEBS 4 AS LONG AS WE WANTS IT 2."

Consumer advocates Public Knowledge launched their Copyright Reform Act initiative in February proposing changes to fair use copyright law. Part two was announced on May 13, proposing changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's prohibition on circumventing technological measures to control access to content. Non-infringing uses of content have indeed been hampered by the DMCA's prohibition on bypassing digital security, but this legal approach has been extremely helpful to plaintiffs by reducing the scope of what needs to be proved to make a case. PK's new report said, "[the] anti-circumvention provisions have failed to provide copyright owners adequate relief from large-scale infringement" — a true statement reasonably stated but arguably not a justification to make things even worse for content owners.

The Hollywood Reporter has followed up on its March report regarding massive infringement lawsuits brought by the U.S. Copyright Group (at SaveCinema.org) on behalf of owners of film rights. On May 11 THR revealed that Voltage Pictures has signed on with the service, so now another 50,000 infringement lawsuits are in the works over its property The Hurt Locker. On May 19, Electronic Frontier Foundation blogged a call out "seeking as many attorneys as possible to advise the targets of these lawsuits..."

The European Commission released a digital competitiveness report on May 17 and an action plan for achieving its "Digital Agenda" on May 19. EC Vice President and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said, "...within a digital single market, citizens should be able to enjoy commercial services and cultural entertainment across borders. But EU online markets are still separated by barriers which hamper access to pan-European telecoms services, digital services and content. Today there are four times as many music downloads in the U.S. as in the EU because of the lack of legal offers and fragmented markets. The commission therefore intends to open up access to legal online content by simplifying copyright clearance, management and cross-border licensing." Separately, while in Shanghai Kroes described China's Internet firewall as a trade barrier that should be addressed by the World Trade Organization.

On May 19 Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to the Federal Trade Commission regarding Google's recent confession that its cars, which gather street view data, had also collected some personal Wi-Fi data. They requested a response to several questions by June 2, for example: whether this practice was legal and whether the FTC would investigate the matter. Separately, on May 11 the FTC responded to another inquiry from Markey that the agency is now taking action in response to an April CBS News report demonstrating that hard drives in digital photocopy machines retain recoverable, long-term copies of documents — a privacy risk that was barely known until CBS revealed it.

San Jose U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte found ISP Pricewert — aka 3FN and a series of other aliases — guilty of unfair practices in an action brought by the FTC, ordered its seized equipment to be sold, and ruled the defendant must hand over $1.08 million in illegal profits to the agency. The FTC won a preliminary injunction against the ISP last June, and when its computers were taken off-line, Internet spam was temporarily reduced by 15 percent. Many security experts assisted the government in its case against the offender, including NASA and Symantec. Its impressively nasty practices included playing host to software controlling thousands of programs on malware-infested computers, and the FTC presented evidence that senior employees assisted customers with the configuration of such botnets. It also hosted several varieties of pornographic material including child pornography. In June, a spokesman for the ISP accused the FTC of "blaming providers for bad customer actions."

On May 18 Dartmouth College researchers presented their new study of "Healthcare Data Hemorrhages: Inadvertent Disclosure and HITECH" at the annual IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. HITECH regulations went into effect last September requiring health care organizations to implement stronger protections for patient information to prevent such data from being spread on the Internet over peer-to-peer networks. The researchers compared their findings to a similar 2008 Dartmouth study and did not find a significant reduction since the new rules went into effect.

 

Email Newsletter