ArtsWatch: Internet Association Is Ready To Rumble

Netco giants unite to "relentlessly represent" Internet freedom from government control
September 24, 2012 -- 7:47 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

On Sept. 19 the Internet Association formally launched, announcing its 14 members — Amazon, AOL, eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Google, IAC, LinkedIn, Monster, Rackspace, Salesforce, TripAdvisor, Yahoo, and Zynga — and a mission to "protect and preserve the free, innovative and decentralized architecture of the Internet." Blogging on Huffington Post, IA President/CEO Michael Beckerman described the origin of his new lobbying powerhouse as emerging from the widespread protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act. "The attempt to censor the Internet was a political wake-up call," wrote Beckerman. "Congress nearly altered the Internet's fundamental DNA without fully appreciating the perspectives and concerns of the engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and tens of millions of individual users that make the Internet what it is today." To paraphrase somewhat flippantly, if you thought it was hard to pass tougher intellectual property enforcement legislation before, you had no idea how easy you had it — it won't be that easy again. While IA stands for protecting the online environment as an engine of innovation, in many ways its bottom line is opposition to new regulation, defending the status quo. Its membership offers Internet services, but for the most part they are not Internet service providers active in the connectivity, hosting and network management sides of the business, despite AOL's past leadership and Google's current experiments with superfast networks. The creative community and the telecommunications industry also have online interests that will not always align with IA's "unified voice" so they will have to compete — in Congress, through the media and reaching out to the general public directly. However November's elections turn out, next year's incoming Congress seems poised to host some epic IP battles.

The Library of Congress launched a new online service for accessing federal legislative information, initiating a one-year public beta test for Congress.gov on Sept. 19. Somewhat sadly, that means the old service — Thomas, named after Thomas Jefferson — only has about one year to live. LoC Project Manager Tammie Nelson told the Associated Press, "I actually apologized to Thomas Jefferson at his memorial. But we'll do him right, and we'll have a tribute when we retire the name." Thomas launched in 1995 and receives approximately 10 million visits per year. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, "The Congress.gov website heralds a new era in presenting congressional information online, with tools and infrastructure unimaginable 17 years ago." Developed in-house using open-source components, the new service will add more features in the coming months, will use Web addresses that are stable and can be easily linked to from around the Internet, and is set up to be friendly for search engines to index all of it. The website makes it easier to access representatives and video of floor activity, search the Congressional Record, and receive useful results when searching by simple keywords. It is also designed for mobile devices. Site feedback from the public is welcomed.

On Sept. 20 the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet heard testimony from U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel on the topic "International IP Enforcement: Opening Markets Abroad And Protecting Innovation." The hearing emphasized areas such as patent enforcement, trade secrets protection and market barriers, with special emphasis on counterfeit pharmaceuticals and ongoing progress with China. Separately, Recording Academy Trustee Ruby Marchand detailed a briefing on intellectual property in China that delegates received from Department of Commerce specialists in Shanghai as part of the A2IM/Recording Academy Trade Mission in Asia.

The docket of submissions for the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 review of notorious markets closed on Sept. 14. Submissions included creative community contributions from the International Intellectual Property Alliance, MPAA, and RIAA. Neil Turkewitz, executive VP of International for the RIAA, wrote, "We want to take a moment to reflect on the fact that thanks in large part to the efforts of the U.S. government in highlighting illicit practices, some of the notorious markets that we identified in last year's submission no longer feature in this filing. In particular, BTJunkie, Demonoid, Megaupload, Spain's Vooxi and the Allofmp3.com clones in Russia and Ukraine."

On Sept. 17 research firm Musicmetric released its first Digital Music Index report, taking a "big data" approach to music consumption. Musicmetric tracked 750,000 artists globally, finding that 405 million music releases were downloaded in the first half of 2012. The report also found that 3 billion songs were downloaded via torrents during the same period. Even though illegal file-sharing and streaming still thrive in spite of efforts to fight piracy, the report focuses on the positive potential to grow legitimate revenue and strives to separate meaningful marketing signals from the digital noise.

European Parliament approved a legislative directive on Sept. 13, that will allow nonprofit institutions to distribute digitized "orphan works" to the public, provided a diligent search for copyright owners was conducted in good faith. The directive also enables rights holders to come forward and receive compensation, but damage awards are expected to be small because authorized uses are noncommercial.

On Sept. 19 streaming video service Vimeo launched online tip jar technology to support voluntary contributions and announced that pay-per-view business models will be supported by early next year. Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor said, "Empowering creators to make money from their videos is a logical next step for Vimeo ... Established creators and emerging talent alike can connect directly with their audiences without the need to conform to industry standards around video format, price or timing releases."

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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