ArtsWatch: Who Will Own .music?

Applications for more than 1,000 new top-level domains made public
June 18, 2012 -- 8:06 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

On June 13 the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers revealed its list of nearly 2,000 applications for new generic top-level domain names. Most of these are uncontested, such as .sony or .beats for Beats by Dr. Dre, but there is competition for many others, including, notably, .music. In addition to Amazon and Google, .music applicants include dot Music Limited, DotMusic, DotMusic Inc., .music LLC, and two others. Competition for this desirable domain suffix has been much anticipated. ICANN Senior Vice President Kurt Pritz said, "A 60-day comment period begins today, allowing anyone in the world to submit comments on any application, and the evaluation panels will consider them. If anyone objects to an application and believes they have the grounds to do so, they can file a formal objection to the application. And they will have seven months to do that." Amazon and Google — applying through Charleston Road Registry Inc. — are both pursuing many dozens of gTLDs, often without competition. Besides .music, other suffixes where Amazon and Google submitted competing applications include .app, .book, .buy, .cloud, .dev, .drive, .free, .game, .mail, .map, .movie, .play, .search, .shop, .show, .spot, .store, .talk, .wow, and .you. In other words, while some people may say Google owns search, it doesn't yet own .search, and for the time being neither Amazon or Google own .you.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that on June 7 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gave the parties in the case of Universal Music Group versus social media provider Veoh 21 days to submit supplemental briefs, even though the court had already ruled in Veoh's favor last December. That decision found that Veoh complied with the requirements of the safe harbor defense by taking down infringing material once they were notified by copyright owners. The applecart was overturned in April when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a comparable lower court decision in favor of YouTube against Viacom's claims of infringement. The Second Circuit called for a more complex factual examination of safe harbor compliance, including consideration of whether the hosting site had the right and ability to control infringing activity and whether it practiced willful blindness to specific infringements. The Ninth Circuit's reconsideration of its Veoh finding in light of April's Second Circuit ruling could have profound effects on Internet service providers' efforts to comply with copyright law. For example, Megaupload defendant Kim Dotcom has questioned why he is being criminally prosecuted for copyright infringement even though his hosting site was routinely processing notifications to take down infringing material.

On June 11 in an interview at the Personal Democracy Forum conference in New York City, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called on leading consumer advocacy groups and interested Internet users to collaborate on a digital Bill of Rights. In an online statement introducing his first draft and encouraging suggestions, Issa said, "The Bill of Rights is an American citizen's first line of defense against all forms of tyranny. But where can a digital citizen turn for protection against the powerful? ... We need to frame a digital Bill of Rights." Although this draft is phrased in emotionally uplifting language, some of its elements could be used for high-minded pushback against efforts to protect intellectual property from online infringement.

Consumer advocates Free Press and Public Knowledge welcomed June 13 news reports that the Department of Justice is investigating whether Internet usage data caps imposed by cable provider ISPs violate antitrust laws due to anticompetitive effects. Additional issues overlap with this, such as Net neutrality, whether cable ISPs can fairly exempt their private data networks from Internet caps, whether cable companies are guilty of illegal collusion in developing the TV Everywhere approach to online authentication of subscribers, and whether most favored nation clauses in contracts with content providers impede their ability to explore alternative distribution models.

The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association has asked for the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union to help enable ISPs to collect fees or taxes from online content providers such as Google. It is noteworthy that the 2006 arguments in favor of Net neutrality maintained the Internet would be less innovative if such fees were imposed.

On Jan. 11 Google announced a new joint venture with the French Publishers Association enabling it to market out-of-print scanned books that are still protected by copyright law. Although this is not tied to the Bibliothèque nationale subsidies that became law in March, the two arrangements combine to propel France to the forefront of efforts to ensure that all published books remain in circulation digitally and perpetually, unless the authors specifically opt out.

Berlin's House of Research reviewed documents on German piracy in 2011 to estimate total lost revenue at $200 million for the movie industry and $660 million for the music industry. It speculated that the bump in video rentals between early June and late July was caused by the June 8 shutdown of pirate site Kino.to and reflects the window pirates needed to get alternative rogue websites up to speed with consumers.

IFPI thanked customs authorities in Hong Kong and Macau for the June 7 raids that shut down commercial pirate site fdzone.org, resulting in four arrests and the seizure of equipment and documentation. The site's operators are believed to have begun charging users in 2009 and to have made approximately $1.5 million in profits, including $650 per day in advertising fees.

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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