ArtsWatch: The Net Neutrality 'Zone'?

Google and Verizon propose pact to exempt wireless data and additional online services from Net neutrality
August 16, 2010 -- 9:59 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

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.

On Aug. 9–10 Google and Verizon praised Open Internet principles, Net neutrality, and their advocacy by the Federal Communications Commission, while jointly proposing a compromise (blog, Washington Post op-ed) seen by its opponents as a betrayal of those principles. Harsh criticism of the companies' concrete suggestions arrived swiftly, for example from consumer advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, and Public Knowledge. Many proponents of Net neutrality want the FCC empowered to protect an open Internet as we now know it — although EFF has reservations about giving the agency too much power — but for the time being, the FCC's enforcement authority is in doubt. Google and Verizon suggest these principles should be limited to wired broadband Internet with the FCC empowered to impose fines based on case-by-case oversight. In their proposal, wireless Internet would only be bound by a transparency requirement so consumers know what they are paying for, and additional online services could develop — a parallel online world that would provide consumers with networked data transfers unconstrained by Open Internet principles. Viewed negatively, this seems like Google caving in to the telecom companies' agenda while protecting its own business interests. Viewed positively, the proposal is a major concession from the telcos protecting the Internet as we now know it but placing the Net neutrality 'zone' in a wired-service enclave, while corporate investment and development of wireless data and real-time services such as telemedicine are unconstrained by government restrictions. A key point embedded in the two companies' Washington Post op-ed is that Verizon's emerging 4G network will be subject to Open Internet rules — in other words, it will be up to companies whether they want to sell Net neutrality to consumers as a feature of their wireless data network.

Market analysis firm eMarketer released estimates on Aug. 10 that mobile Internet use will double by 2013 — based on smart phone adoption — from its present level of 25 percent of mobile phone users to 50 percent. For the following year, the firm said, "According to eMarketer projections,...by 2014, 142.1 million users, representing 53.9 percent of the U.S. mobile user population, will access the Internet using mobile browsers or applications."

On Aug. 10 the Global Repertoire Database Working Group (at www.globalrepertoiredatabase.com) publicly announced that it had published a request for proposals on July 30, with a deadline for responses of Oct. 15. The press release said, "The goal of the Global Repertoire Database is to provide, for the first time, a single, comprehensive and authoritative representation of the global ownership and control of musical works." Global Repertoire Database membership includes Amazon, EMI Music Publishing, iTunes, Nokia, PRS for Music, SACEM, STIM, and Universal Music Publishing Group, and formed in response to a 2008 Online Commerce Roundtable organized in conjunction with the European Commission.

Republican candidate for California' State Senate Chuck DeVore apologized to Don Henley as part of the settlement agreement for damages in the rocker's copyright infringement case against DeVore, which was largely resolved in June. DeVore said, "We apologize for using the musical works of Don Henley, Mike Campbell and Danny Kortchmar without respect for their rights under copyright law. The court's ruling in this case confirms that political candidates, regardless of affiliation, should seek appropriate license authority before they use copyrighted works." Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Anticipation for this past weekend's Mile High Music Festival in Denver, Colo. took an unusual form as AEG Live filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against hundreds of John Doe bootleggers it expected to peddle knock-off concert merchandise. The second lawsuit of its kind this summer, the goal is to make it easier for law enforcement in attendance to impound unlicensed goods for sale bearing the festival's name.

The National Music Publishers' Association announced on Aug. 11 that a judge in central California's U.S. District Court ordered four LiveUniverse lyrics websites to shut down for failure to comply with his May order to remove infringing material. NMPA President/CEO David Israelite said, "Licenses are available from multiple sources and the legal marketplace is thriving. There is simply no excuse to fail to license music content."

On Aug. 10 a British High Court judge reversed the Copyright Tribunal's September 2009 determination in the video licensing case between CSC Media Group Limited and Video Performance Limited (at www.ppluk.com). The tribunal had decided in 2009 that a reduced royalty rate should be applied in this contentious and drawn-out case that will now be reheard before a reconstituted copyright tribunal. In its unsuccessful struggle to resolve the case last year, the tribunal said, "Though initially we expressed some doubt as to whether anyone could possibly sit viewing music video channels for a reasonable length of time without becoming either seriously sated or dazed or both, counsel invited us not to concern ourselves with such subjective considerations."

 

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