ArtsWatch: Kim Dotcom Humbles New Zealand

Prime Minister John Key apologizes to Dotcom for breaking the law
October 01, 2012 -- 10:19 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

On Sept. 27 New Zealand Prime Minister John Key released a report on the surveillance activities of the Government Communications Security Bureau, revealing that shortcuts taken leading up to the arrest of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom improperly ignored his privileges as a legal resident. "I apologize to Mr. Dotcom, " said Key. "I apologize to New Zealanders because every New Zealander that sits within the category of having permanent residency or is a New Zealand citizen is entitled to be protected from the law when it comes to the GCSB, and we failed to provide that appropriate protection for him. ... My own view is the agency has let itself down very badly." Dotcom's arrest on criminal charges has been hailed as an aggressive high point for antipiracy enforcement. This type of publicity does not do any favors for a creative community that depends on intellectual property for its livelihood.

Police arrested Google Brazil President Fabio Jose Silva Coelho on Sept. 26 for failure to obey judicial orders to take down YouTube videos that violated the country's strict election laws. Judge Gilson Delgado Miranda also ordered that Google and YouTube shut down for 24 hours and said, "This type of jurisprudence cannot be confused with censorship." Google has been involved in several ongoing disputes in Brazil regarding objectionable content and Coelho's freedom is contingent on his agreement to appear in court at a later date. Google successfully won a reversal of a different Brazilian court's order also pertaining to mayoral elections to be held later this month. The Electronic Frontier Foundation responded that "these cases highlight the need for strong intermediary protections around the world."

On Sept. 25 in Germany Der Spiegel published a comprehensive overview of Google's regional thought leadership activities, coinciding with the search giant's opening of its new corporate headquarters in Berlin. The article reviews "a think tank, a research institute, interest groups and relevant conferences" supported by Google and suggests these combined will deliver a powerful message that presents itself as an educational explanation of the Internet while furthering the firm's corporate interests and outlook. One notable example was the Collaboratory 2011 final report's guidelines recommending that "intermediaries" such as Google rate equal consideration with Internet users and copyright owners. Several experts in the group felt shut out from its conclusions and complained that the term "intermediaries" only showed up in the final draft. Der Spiegel wrote, "The company sets noble goals for itself: Internet freedom, freedom of opinion and the struggle against censorship. But its overriding goal is to do its utmost to prevent political interference in its business affairs."

New legislation introduced on Sept. 21 could be considered an exercise in thought leadership, intended to provoke conversation and set the stage for similar bills to be introduced next year when a new Congress is sworn in. With the U.S. election looming and few legislative days left on this year's calendar, these bills are not expected to come up for a vote:

  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Internet Radio Fairness Act of 2012H.R. 6480 and S. 3609, respectively — to make Internet radio more competitive by replacing the current music royalty rate with a below-market rate, currently enjoyed by certain satellite and cable providers. Daryl P. Friedman, The Recording Academy's Chief Advocacy & Industry Relations Officer, has informed legislators of The Academy's opposition to the bill, noting, "the bill would only add insult to injury for music creators. The insult is that the bill claims to create fairness but fails to address the real inequity that while Internet radio services properly pay creators, terrestrial radio broadcasters pay nothing. The injury is that the bill would severely cut the royalties that digital music providers pay to creators to a below-market level, undermining their ability to make a living from their hard work."
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced the Global Free Internet Act of 2012H.R. 6530 — alongside separate consumer privacy legislation. The bill would set up a task force intended to alert the government and the public about threats to the Internet. Unfortunately, the main example of such a threat is considered to be the Stop Online Piracy Act which proposed tougher intellectual property law enforcement. Lofgren said, "We need proactive laws designed to preserve an open and truly global Internet from SOPA-like legislation, unduly restrictive treaties and trade agreements, and overbroad government surveillance," said Lofgren.

Sept. 25 was declared National Voter Registration Day by a wide variety of civic organizations. Consumer advocates opposed to SOPA participated by hosting InternetVotes.org. The Electronic Frontier Foundation commented, "It's important to remember that Congress spent much of 2012 attempting to pass misguided and rights-restricting bills affecting the Internet, despite the protests. Without your voice to counter the special interests, they'll continue to do so."

Creative community advocates Creative America launched a petition to the presidential candidates on Sept. 26, asking for "an Internet that works for everyone." The petition noted that, "any discussion of Internet freedom must also recognize the Internet's many, many stakeholders. The Internet is not just a small group of companies in one sector of the economy. No one person or group or corporation can speak for the Internet. The Internet touches all of our lives in ways large and small. That includes the creators and makers of creative and intellectual property. Like the Internet, creative and intellectual property is essential to the American economy."

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.

Click on the "ArtsWatch" tag for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.

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