ArtsWatch: Reward For The Capture Of IP Pirates

Department of Justice awards help support local efforts to protect intellectual property
October 08, 2012 -- 7:19 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

On Oct. 3 the Department of Justice awarded more than $2.4 million in antipiracy grants to local agencies through the Intellectual Property Theft Enforcement Program. Among the 13 recipients were Austin, Texas; Baltimore County, Md.; the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office; New York County District Attorney's Office; and Orlando, Fla. Speaking at the awards announcement in Towson, Md., Attorney General Eric Holder said, "Without question, these new investments are coming at a critical time. As our country continues to recover from once-in-a-generation economic challenges, the need to defend IP rights — and to protect Americans from IP theft — has never been more urgent." Holder detailed U.S. capacity-building efforts that have resulted in more than 370 specialized experts, prosecutors and agents, including more than 50 IP Special Agents in the FBI. This is the fourth year IP enforcement funds have been released through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, pursuant to 2008's passage of the PRO-IP Act. More than $13 million in grants has been distributed to date supporting a wide range of local needs such as reimbursement of IP-specific expenses and specialized training.

Google-owned YouTube announced upgrades to its Content ID program on Oct. 3. The program partners with video content owners, enabling them to upload reference files that are automatically compared against YouTube content to detect matches and issue claims of suspected copyright infringement. On the technical side, YouTube is continuing to improve the sensitivity and precision of matching content to its database of more than 10 million reference videos. The site has also developed new algorithms to identify when a match is likely to be a mistake; these are now being separated from Content ID's automatic procedures for individual manual review. On the legal side, YouTube added an appeals process that can be used to force a content owner to take a second look at a disputed video and either drop their infringement claim or send a formal legal takedown notice. Takedown notices are governed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and initiate the kind of procedures that involve lawsuits rather than computer algorithms. While a YouTube user who repeatedly disputes a Content ID infringement claim will be stuck with one strike against them inside of YouTube's automated system, the DMCA also provides them with rights and protections. For example, users can issue a counter notice to the content owner and formally argue that their video is a fair use. These finer points are important because automating copyright dispute management helps antipiracy and provides better protections to free expression online, all at the high speeds necessary to keep up with the volume of content published on the Internet.

On Oct. 4 Google and the Association of American Publishers announced an agreement regarding settlement terms for the search engine's massive book scanning project. This is separate from the Authors Guild's class action lawsuit, which is still pending in litigation. Both organizations first sued Google in 2005 and previously arrived at an earlier settlement with Google that was rejected in 2011 by New York U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin. Chin ruled that the claim was not fair and reasonable, in part because it required authors to opt out if they did not want to participate — the reverse of the traditional opt in approach under copyright law. Although most of the new settlement's terms are confidential, the parties' press release read, "U.S. publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its library project." Phrasing participation as an either/or proposition might make all the difference. Commenting on Google and the publishers' news release, the Authors Guild said, "The statement does not say whether Google is compensating publishers for its unauthorized uses of the books, nor does it address whether Google will continue scanning books without permission."

Swedish police raided Internet hosting provider PRQ on Oct. 1 and seized several servers. Although the precise purpose of the raid was not disclosed, PRQ was founded by two of the co-founders of notorious infringing site the Pirate Bay and continues to host many popular torrent sites. Hacker collective Anonymous warned the Swedish government to "expect us" and in retaliation launched denial-of-service attacks on official websites.

An Oct. 3 story by the Associated Press reported that Coca-Cola and Samsung removed advertisements from the popular Vietnamese file-sharing site Zing. The takedowns came after AP notified the companies that local artists were angered that the ads made Zing appear more legitimate. International Intellectual Property Alliance's Michael Schlesinger said, "It is essential that good corporate citizens refrain from spending advertising dollars on services that engage in or encourage infringement ... Breaking the chain of support for such notorious piracy services will erode the incentives for illegal services to operate."

Japan's strict new laws criminalizing copyright infringement took effect on Oct. 1. Passed in June, these provide for jail sentences of up to two years and fines up to $25,700 for illegal downloading.

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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