ArtsWatch: International Antipiracy Treaty Made Public

Parties to the agreement commit to share enforcement statistics and best practices
October 11, 2010 -- 7:55 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 Oct. 6 U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the first public release of a draft of the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. "We must now work quickly with our partners to finalize the results achieved," said Kirk. "This work represents a significant victory for those who care about protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights." RIAA Executive VP, International Neil Turkewitz welcomed the draft and said, "It may not be a precise road map, but it is a powerful expression of a common vision and unity of purpose.... The implementation and execution of the treaty will be essential. We look forward to working with governments to turn this agreed-upon vision into a reality." Previous working drafts of the ACTA were commonly leaked and provoked public debate, but consumer activists Public Knowledge acknowledge the latest revisions softened most of the language that antagonized consumer groups. What is left in the full text of the document includes some aspects of a road map that could prove very significant in the coming years, including public awareness campaigns against infringement, and publication of enforcement procedures, efforts, statistics, and best practices — national commitments to transparency that offer unprecedented growth in shared information about international enforcement. As expected, civil and criminal provisions will put pressure on countries to bring their practices more in line with the strict approach favored by the U.S. and international IP treaties — especially when directed against commercial infringers. Although giving each country the flexibility to develop their own unique solutions, the ACTA should make it much more difficult for participants to cover up inaction.

A Department of Commerce Notice of Inquiry published in the Federal Register on Oct. 5 provides U.S. stakeholders with a potentially important opportunity to influence national policy — in particular, the balancing act between protecting innovation on the Internet and helping copyright owners crack down on the prevalence of infringing content online. Comments are due by Nov. 19, will be posted on the website of the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration Internet Policy Task Force, and will be analyzed in an IPTF report. Unfortunately, the questions posed by the NOI reflect the current stalemate in which Internet service providers are fully shielded by safe harbor provisions while copyright owners must pursue extensive takedown procedures against individual pieces of content. More recently, the focus of debate has shifted — for example, in Senate bill S. 3804 introduced last month — to questions such as how to interfere with pirate websites' revenues by going after financial services middlemen, and the looming debate over what evidence a court should consider when trying to determine whether a website's primary purpose is content piracy. Rather, the NOI seems to focus on approaches that have either failed or have been unfruitful so far, such as voluntary cooperation agreements between copyright owners and ISPs. Its best example of multi-stakeholder cooperation is the upcoming UltraViolet online movie platform — a technological fix that unites many major players but has not yet had a chance to prove itself. U.S. creators of intellectual property have been bullied and damaged by more powerful industries that profit from the Internet, but hopefully some comments to the NOI will suggest practical tools to better empower IP owners without battling against the freedoms of the online environment that have made the Internet such an important engine for economic growth.

The Department of Justice announced more than $2 million in discretionary awards for IP law enforcement at a Sept. 30 training summit titled Real Crime — Real American Jobs, Why You Should Care about Intellectual Property Rights. In addition to eight smaller awards, five grants of $200,000 each were announced for California's Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Sacramento County, City of San Antonio and Texas' Houston Police Department, and Virginia's Chesterfield County. Commending the year-to-date total of $4 million that has gone to assist local IP enforcement, MPAA President and Interim CEO Bob Pisano said, "We appreciate the Justice Department's continuing commitment to combat intellectual property infringement and its dedication to protecting the rights of American creators..."

On Oct. 5 Microsoft Corporate VP of Trustworthy Computing Scott Charney attracted some choice comments when he blogged about a research paper he presented in Germany proposing that malware-infected computers hijacked by zombie-network botnets could be disconnected from the Internet. Calling attention to several successful case studies, he said, "It is important to focus on building a socially acceptable model. While the security benefits may be clear, it is important to achieve those benefits in a way that does not erode privacy or otherwise raise concern." Using a social health metaphor, Charney noted how efforts to prevent epidemics focus on how people can know when they are infected and what they can do to help protect themselves.

In the UK cyber protesters shut down the website of record label Ministry of Sound on Oct. 3 using denial-of-service attacks, retaliating for copyright infringement lawsuits. One statement by the hackers said, "They have declared themselves our enemies by sending out thousands of blackmailing letters against innocents, seeking compensation for copyright infringements that don't exist." This follows similar attacks last month directed against the websites for the MPAA and RIAA.

On Oct. 6 advocacy group Copyright Alliance announced that it has begun a search process to replace its departing Executive Director Patrick Ross. His outstanding work since 2007 launched the Copyright Alliance as an important voice, but Ross said, "I've come to realize that I only have so much creative fuel in my tank, and if I'm ever going to write all of those books and stories that are knocking at my brain, I need to hand over the daily responsibilities...to another capable and passionate individual." The car metaphor ties into the summer road trip he concluded last month — traveling 6,800 miles across 35 states to conduct video interviews with 43 artists for the organization's Creators Across America campaign.

 

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