ArtsWatch: Net Freedom In Party Platforms

Democratic and Republican platforms pledge to protect Internet freedom
September 10, 2012 -- 6:36 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

Coinciding with the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, both political parties' official platforms employed the rubric of "Internet freedom" to headline digital policy pronouncements. Released Aug. 28, the 2012 Republican Party platform situated "Protecting Internet Freedom" under the main heading "Reforming Government To Serve The People," stating, "The Internet offers a communications system uniquely free from government intervention. We will remove regulatory barriers that protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition." Released Sept. 4, the 2012 Democratic Party platform practically concluded with its "Internet Freedom" section, under "Advancing Universal Values," stating, "The Obama administration has led the world to recognize and defend Internet freedom. ... The administration has built partnerships to support an Internet that is secure and reliable and that is respectful of U.S. intellectual property, free flow of information, and privacy." Both parties' statements were commended by the Copyright Alliance and the MPAA. What the future holds in terms of specific policies and technologies remains to be seen, but it is evidence that Internet freedom has graduated from a general label to a dramatic banner that various advocates are likely to wave over contentious debates regarding online intellectual property enforcement and Net neutrality.

On Aug. 27 Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) tweeted that she added her name in support of the "Declaration of Internet Freedom." Consumer advocates Free Press said she "joined congressional colleagues Sen. Ron Wyden [D-Ore.], Rep. Darrell Issa [R-Calif.] and Rep. Jared Polis [D-Colo.], more than 1,800 groups and organizations and 75,000 individuals from more than 130 countries who have signed the declaration ... since its launch on July 2." These supporters are generally skeptical about online IP enforcement, fearing that government abuses could harm free Internet or restrict free expression.

New questions surround Operation In Our Sites domain name seizures after a second seized website was returned to its owners late last month after a lengthy delay. This activity was followed by a bipartisan letter to the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice from several members of the House Judiciary Committee requesting details of the enforcement initiative's procedures. On Aug. 29 a U.S. Attorney wrote to the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court requesting dismissal of the government's case against Rojadirecta, a Spanish website that linked to video streams of sporting events. On Aug. 30 Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano focusing on the comparable circumstances of formerly seized website Dajaz1. Consumer advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge commended both developments. Preferably, future domain name seizures will proceed based on lessons learned, avoiding the regrettable appearance of error or prosecutorial overzealousness.

On Sept. 3 Swedish authorities announced that Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, one of the original four defendants for the Pirate Bay who was sentenced in 2009 to a year in jail and charged a huge fine, was arrested in Cambodia. The following day, Cambodian police spokesman Kirth Chantharith confirmed Warg would be deported, but the details are not yet finalized. A Sept. 5 report stating Cambodia will receive more than $59 million in foreign aid from Sweden is believed to be unrelated to the arrest.

Online music service Grooveshark scored two on-again, off-again news stories and launched a new HTML5 mobile website that solves at least one of its problems. On Aug. 30 EMI sued the service in the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court for the third time this year, continuing its breach-of-contract dispute over payments — to be distinguished from the major labels' infringement action brought against the service late last year. The new lawsuit was sandwiched between Grooveshark's mobile Android app reappearing on the Google Play store for several days before being removed. The early-September launch of Grooveshark's new-and-improved mobile site should mitigate that pain considerably, rendering use of an app unnecessary.

On Aug. 27 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower District Court's preliminary injunction, imposed in February 2011, against unlicensed streaming video service ivi TV. Ivi launched in 2010 with the hopes of establishing itself as an Internet-based "cable system," thereby availing itself of statutory provisions governing the retransmission of television programming.

The Sacramento Bee reported preliminary results on Sept. 4 from a University of Cambridge study that administered a standard test for empathy to children between ages 8–11, finding that participation in group musical activity improved their scores. Researcher Tal-Chen Rabinowitch said, "Empathy is considered to be a precursor of pro-social behavior, a crucial ingredient in our daily social lives. Empathy keeps us 'together,' connected and aware for each other." Music educators were hopeful these findings will be replicated in further investigations because demonstrating such a quantitative benefit for music in the schools could have a positive impact on educational policy and funding.

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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