ArtsWatch: GOP House Kicks Off Against FCC Net Regs

House bill introduced to block FCC's Net neutrality efforts
January 10, 2011 -- 7:13 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 Jan. 5 Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) — a 2007 recipient of the GRAMMYs on the Hill Award — introduced H.R. 96, the Internet Freedom Act, to block the Federal Communications Commission's recently passed Net neutrality regulations from taking effect. Those new rules were originally opposed by the two Republican FCC commissioners and H.R. 96 has already received the support of nearly 60 co-sponsors, primarily Republicans. Blackburn said, "The only sector of our economy showing growth is online. In these times, for an unelected bureaucracy with dubious jurisdiction and misplaced motives to unilaterally regulate that growth is intolerable.... I agree that the Internet faces a number of challenges. Only Congress can address those challenges without compounding them. Until we do, the FCC and other federal bureaucracies should keep their hands off the 'Net." The bill was referred to the House Commerce Committee now chaired by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who previously committed to take numerous steps to block the FCC's new rules. Net neutrality advocates Public Knowledge said, "In fact, no one has suggested the FCC 'regulate the Internet'.... What the FCC want[ed] to do...was to reassert its traditional jurisdiction over telecommunications services so that it could protect consumers."

The new chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), announced the re-establishment of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet last month. Its independent jurisdiction was discontinued in the previous Congress two years ago. Smith said, "A separate IP subcommittee will ensure that the committee remains focused on all aspects of intellectual property, including patent reform and copyright protections." NMPA President/CEO David Israelite said, "The music publishing and songwriting community enthusiastically supports...Chairman Smith's decision to reconstitute a subcommittee devoted to intellectual property issues. As the digital marketplace continues to expand, the challenges and opportunities for America's creative industries will only multiply in number and complexity. Devoting a forum in the U.S. House of Representatives to these 21st century business issues is a forward-looking, pro-economy and pro-jobs decision."

New York and Los Angeles made noteworthy efforts to fight piracy last month. New York launched a widespread Piracy Doesn't Work In NYC awareness campaign, stressing the fact that it "kills jobs." Los Angeles announced a record-breaking tally for its Operation Chimney Sweep holiday raids — 10 arrests and seizures of more than $4 million in counterfeit merchandise.

On Dec. 22 the MPAA hailed the intellectual property recommendations submitted in a letter to President Barack Obama during a Dec. 9 meeting of the President's Export Council. A transcript of the high-level event gives special credit to Walt Disney Company President/CEO Robert A. Iger's leading role as having "sponsored" the letter and reveals remarkable exchanges between Iger and Obama. The president commented that "everybody gets a little nervous" when asked to be a witness to actual piracy abroad. Iger responded touting the effectiveness of having CEOs meet face-to-face based on facts of how their company has been victimized; however he said, "There has been retribution." Obama responded by suggesting that his administration might be able to discourage such retribution by being chaperones, "taking you in to have that conversation with the other country."

Good news and bad news from abroad. In France, approximately 2,000 warnings have been sent out daily to online infringers by the newly created HADOPI agency since November. Unfortunately, the warnings are just getting up to speed while daily reports of infringement exceed 50,000 complaints. In related news, on Dec. 21, Spain's Parliament rejected tougher antipiracy legislation, seemingly influenced by reports that the United States had pressured the government to adopt it. However, the legislation is expected to be considered by the Spanish Senate later this month.

On Jan. 4 California's Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Universal Music Group's position that CDs labeled "for promotional use only" could not be legally resold by their recipients. The lack of an explicit agreement not to resell the promotional CDs was a deciding factor in the court's ruling.

New York's Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted broadcasters' motion for summary judgment on Jan. 4 against an FCC determination that instances of scripted nudity were indecent. The court based the ruling on its Nov. 22 decision not to rehear a similar case in which it found the FCC's indecency policy to be unconstitutionally vague.

 

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