ArtsWatch: Google In The House

Subcommittee hearing focuses on concrete steps for new IP enforcement online
April 11, 2011 -- 7:38 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.

On April 6 the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet held its second of two hearings on rogue websites, featuring testimony from Google Senior VP/General Counsel Kent Walker. "We must work together to target the 'worst-of-the-worst' rogue foreign websites without unintentionally impeding legitimate interests of those innovating and using online services to drive economic growth and global freedom," said Walker. Go Daddy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Floyd Abrams, a noted expert on First Amendment law, also testified and participated in direct discussions with lawmakers about how anticipated legislation should be drafted — a contrast with the subcommittee's first hearing on March 14. At the Senate Judiciary Committee's Feb. 16 hearing on rogue websites, legislators criticized Google's absence. Cnet News recapped some of the complaints lawmakers were now able to make face-to-face with Google at the hearing and noted that Walker's supportive staff included Fred von Lohmann, well known for his previous work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In a blog posted after the hearing, RIAA President Cary Sherman noted Google's improved takedown speeds and said, "There are many other ways in which Google can make improvements that will substantiate Google's commitment to content protection, as its general counsel vociferously testified to today. We have appreciated the dialogue we have had with Google, and the progress we have made to date. But as today's hearing demonstrated, there is much, much more that Google must do." One challenge for rogue website legislation is to find effective language that enlists cooperation from the intermediaries online pirates rely on for profits — Internet service providers, online payment services and online advertising services such as Google's AdWords and AdSense. Last year's Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was a major step forward, and the stage is set for this Congress to improve on it. As House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said at the April 6 hearing, "Securing property rights and protecting IP is a matter that unites members on both sides of the aisle and on both sides of [Capitol] Hill." Illustrating that point, Smith was joined at an April 4 press event by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to publicize the need for improved IP protection.

In related Google news:

  • Music service Grooveshark's Android smart phone app was removed from Google's Android Market on April 6 for violating the company's terms of service, shortly before the House hearing. It had also been removed from the iTunes App Store last year following music industry complaints.
  • On March 31 Google-owned YouTube responded to Viacom's December appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals regarding its suit for copyright infringement. YouTube's brief emphasized the site's social benefits and its serious position on copyright issues.
  • Google announced on March 30 the selection of Kansas City, Kan., as the first of a limited number of communities where it will build 1 gigabit per second-Internet networks — experimenting in its upcoming new role as a high-speed Internet service provider.

On April 4 the MPAA announced its member studios filed a lawsuit against movie-streaming service Zediva in U.S. District Court for copyright infringement. Zediva claims it is a DVD rental store that makes its machines and DVDs available to customers through online streaming, and is therefore exempt from paying licensing fees to copyright holders. MPAA Senior VP/Associate General Counsel Dan Robbins said, "Zediva's mischaracterization of itself is a gimmick it hopes will enable it to evade the law and stream movies in violation of the studios' exclusive rights. Courts have repeatedly seen through the facade of this type of copyright-avoidance scheme, and we are confident they will in this case too."

Oral arguments were held before the First Circuit Court of Appeals on April 4 for record labels' appeal of the damages awarded in the case of convicted consumer file-sharer Joel Tenenbaum. Last July a U.S. District Court judge rejected the jury's $675,000 determination as excessive and reduced damages to $67,500. The appeals court judges treated arguments for both sides with seemingly equal skepticism, noting that many years of consumer online infringement have passed without congressional action — possibly favoring the larger amount — while also recognizing only a couple of consumer cases have reached the damages phase — possibly favoring the smaller amount.

In a March 30 blog Symantec exposed the discovery of Walk and Text, a malware Android app that disguises itself as a free version of a legitimate paid app. The malware sends text messages to a user's contacts that say, "Hey, just downloaded a pirated App off the Internet, Walk and Text for Android. Im stupid and cheap, it costed only 1 buck.Don't steal like I did!" A screen is presented to the user with a button to buy a legitimate version and a message that says, "Application Not Licensed. We really hope you learned something from this. Check your phone bill;) Oh and don't forget to buy the App from the Market."

On March 31 public and private British radio stations unveiled Radioplayer, an Adobe Flash application that can be displayed on any station's website and provides users with access to more than100 other stations' Internet radio streams. UK Radioplayer Ltd. Managing Director Michael Hill said, "Radioplayer represents a united industry investment in its digital future." This unified approach is available to any Ofcom-licensed station and will be extended to a broad array of platforms, including tablets and mobile apps.

 

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