ArtsWatch: Internet.org Takes On The World

Philanthropic consortium aims to supply connectivity to the developing world
August 26, 2013 -- 6:42 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

Internet.org Blends Philanthropy With Business Development
On Aug. 20 Internet.org was launched by corporate partners Ericsson, Facebook, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm, and Samsung to expand the online world to the 5 billion people who currently lack Internet access. While promoting the concept of Internet access as a fundamental human right, the effort has even more potential to emphasize the benefits of developing best practices that will be well suited to the needs of the developing world and its semi-isolated regions. Examples of aims especially targeted at the 5 billion have-nots include an emphasis on wireless Internet, support for more foreign languages and efforts to reduce the data requirements of popular online activities. While these businesses clearly have much to gain in terms of new customers, Internet.org is premised on the development work that will transform commercially unappealing regions of the third world into full-fledged participants in one online world. The leading face of Internet.org has been Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said, "There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making Internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it."

IPEC's Number One Steps Down
Victoria Espinel ended her stint as U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator on Aug. 9, after becoming the first-ever to hold the position in 2009. Reflecting high regard for Espinel from the consumer advocacy community, Public Knowledge President and CEO Gigi Sohn said, "She understood the importance of balance and fair use in copyright policy — these were not merely buzzwords for her." RIAA Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman added, "She will be missed and we wish her the best of luck in her next endeavor. ... The job of intellectual property enforcement coordinator is more important than ever, and we hope the White House will move quickly to nominate a prominent and credible successor." Espinel's next step is unknown for now and the Office of Management and Budget's Howard Shelanski will assume the IPEC's responsibilities until the White House announces a successor.

GAO Recommends Patent Examiners Consider Litigation Trends
On Aug. 22 the Government Accountability Office produced a long-awaited report titled "Assessing Factors That Affect Patent Infringement Litigation Could Help Improve Patent Quality." BSA: The Software Alliance hailed GAO's focus on improving patent quality, but consumer advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation believed the GAO report should have advocated for more actions taken sooner. "The study did hone in on something we think is really important: the fact that low-quality software patents are the real culprit here," said EFF via a blog post. While much more remains to be done and remains urgent, GAO recommends patent examiners modify their procedures to take litigation trends into account, aiming to identify areas in which improved procedures are needed, such as vague and broad claims.

Court Finds Australian Radio Must Pay Separately For Simulcasts
On Aug. 16 the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia welcomed a High Court decision finding against claims by Commercial Radio Australia that its terrestrial broadcast license for music should also cover Internet simulcasts. PPCA CEO Dan Rosen said, "We hope to move quickly to work out a fair and proper licensing deal. We look forward to working with radio to establish equitable arrangements." Australian terrestrial radio license fees have been capped at 1 percent of a station's revenue, a limit that does not apply to Internet simulcasts.

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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