ArtsWatch: Digital Culture's New National Team
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.
The Library of Congress launched a National Digital Stewardship Alliance on Aug. 3 — an outgrowth of its previous digital preservation initiatives and partnerships that is intended to serve as a leadership collective. Associate Librarian for Strategic Initiatives Laura Campbell said, "The Library of Congress is committed to leading a distributed approach to digital stewardship. This is the best way to sustain and extend the library's historic mission to make resources available and useful to the Congress and the American people. It is also the best way for all cultural-heritage institutions to sustain and extend their missions in the midst of a revolution in how knowledge and creativity is created and disseminated." Founding members include dozens of state agencies and leading universities, prominent organizations including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Internet Archive and OCLC, corporate participants such as Thompson Reuters, and public entities including PBS. Charged with developing best practices, education, outreach, identifying worthy target categories for preservation, and building a national collection of enduring value, it is hoped NDSA will proceed with vigor appropriate to the importance of its mission.
Sharp Corporation became the first manufacturer to sell 100 gigabyte Blu-ray discs and read/write drives, launching the products in Japan on July 30. The discs are formatted to the BDXL specification announced in April by the Blu-ray Disc Association. TDK announced it will begin selling writable discs in September, and Verbatim's line is anticipated next year. Targeted for archival backup and high-definition video uses, these BDXL offerings double the capacity of dual-layer Blu-ray discs. Considering an average compressed music track equals 3.3 megabytes, one 100 GB disc would store a collection of 30,000 songs.
The Performing Arts Alliance notified its members that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has begun processing visas for visiting artists and athletes within two weeks — without the $1,000 fee that was previously required for expedited handling. Aug. 4 coverage in The Washington Post described the arduous path traveled by cash-strapped arts organizations trying to bring foreign talent into the United States and too often failing to obtain visas in time, even with lead times of six months to more than one year.
Two recent stories highlighted trending good news for legitimate digital content. Cnet News reviewed Netflix's expenditures on streaming movie content, showing a substantial increase in how much was paid to movie studios. Netflix disputed Cnet's initial take on the raw numbers from their earnings reports, but the trend remains positive. Separately, The Hollywood Reporter revealed the shocking news that the youngest generation of consumers is now used to consuming legitimate paid content — thanks to their parents paying for it. For years now, legitimate online media has been readily available and it seems children who have grown up taking broadband Internet for granted also expect to pay for some online media. It seems too much to hope, but perhaps implied in the Reporter story is that the most piracy-friendly demographic could be a narrow and aging slice of consumers who grew up with too much illegal free content and hardly any legitimately licensed online media.
On Aug. 2 RightsFlow announced that the first nine months of its online mechanical licensing service Limelight has been used in all 50 states and in more than 46 countries (for licensing in the United States). RightsFlow SVP of Sales and Marketing Michael Kauffman said, "Our goal continues to be to provide a simple licensing platform for artists that also ensures that songwriters and publishers are paid 100 percent of royalties due."
The Bulgarian Association of Music Producers praised the shutdown of four unlicensed torrent sites after a months-long investigation by the Bulgarian Police Cyber Crime Unit. Investigators believe the sites were run by organized crime and received more than $3.3 million in fees from users. Servers seized by police stored more than 120 terabytes of unlicensed content. BAMP Executive Director Ina Kileva said, "It is only by such actions that Bulgaria can hope to develop a legitimate digital economy in the future."
Social music service Rdio emerged from beta on Aug. 3 offering a novel mix of interactive features and a robust music catalog including all four major labels and many indie labels. Designed by the inventors of Kazaa, Skype, and their more-recent failure, video site Joost, Rdio is among the latest contenders attempting to be a worthy competitor to iTunes. It offers a three-day free trial with unlimited song selection, a $4.99 per month Web-only service, and a $9.99 monthly subscription for Web and mobile access.
Best Buy's Carphone Warehouse partnered with B2B technology company Catch Media for the Aug. 3 launch of their Music Anywhere service in the UK — charging $48 per year to enable subscribers to access their personal music collection on any computer or smart phone. Although all tracks in a user's personal collection might not be properly licensed, legitimate rights holders will be compensated based on number of plays, and deals are in place with all four major labels. Thomas Hesse, Sony Music Entertainment president, global digital business, U.S. sales, and corporate strategy, said, "With the legitimate locker service model, music fans have a compelling and convenient new premium option for enjoying their personal music libraries regardless if they are at home, at the office, or on the go." Best Buy expects to launch a U.S. version of Music Anywhere later this year.