ArtsWatch: LoC Launches National Jukebox
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 May 10 the Library of Congress and Sony Music Entertainment launched the National Jukebox online library, initially featuring streaming audio of more than 10,000 music and spoken word tracks from 1901–1925 produced by the Victor Talking Machine Company. Chris Sampson, University of Southern California Thornton School of Music associate dean said, "Just in my small corner of the universe of teaching songwriting, the ability to be able to go to the source so students can see the tradition of American music and American songwriting, to see this lineage and to be able to draw upon it is going to be enormous." The National Jukebox includes GRAMMY Hall Of Fame titles by Nora Bayes, Fanny Brice, Arthur Collins & Byron Harlan, Vernon Dalhart, and Paul Whiteman And His Orchestra. Comprehensive metadata is provided by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the fully searchable jukebox includes interactive features as well as the ability to make playlists. The only licensing catch is that Sony reserves the right to take down tracks if some break out as commercially viable properties. The site also states, "Later this year, we will begin digitizing recordings from additional record labels, including Columbia and Okeh, along with selected master recordings from the Library of Congress Universal Music Group Collection." RIAA Communications VP Cara Duckworth Weiblinger said, "This historic initiative represents another great example of the fantastic benefit to consumers made by the marriage of music and technology. We commend Sony Music and the Library of Congress for this great effort that encourages music fans to dive deep into our musical history and discover the rich sounds of the early 20th century."
One thing that distinguishes S. 968 — this year's major Senate legislation to crack down on rogue websites — from last year's precursor legislation is a new PROTECT IP acronym, short for Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced S. 968 on May 12 with the support of most of his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including six Democratic co-sponsors and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). In his introductory remarks, Leahy said, "Protecting intellectual property is not uniquely a Democratic or Republican priority — it is a bipartisan priority." The precursor bill was introduced last September and approved by the SJC in November, but it expired with the end of last year's Congress. This year, the SJC held February hearings, seeking input to refine their approach to targeting rogue websites. For example, the new bill's definition of a website "dedicated to infringing activities" is more narrow. IP advocates Copyright Alliance compiled a list of the "chorus" of "voices from across the spectrum of intellectual property interests" who immediately praised the new-and-improved bill, including MPAA, NMPA and the RIAA. Consumer advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge declared themselves unimpressed by the changes. PK said, "This bill has a new name, but it's mostly more of the same." Leahy expects to schedule an SJC hearing on S. 968 soon — controversy and additional adjustments are likely.
On May 12 two other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee — Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) — introduced S. 978, a bill designed "to amend the criminal penalty provision for criminal infringement of a copyright" so that streaming content online can be treated as felony infringement in the same way as uploading and downloading content. The bill is in alignment with one of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel's legislative recommendations issued in March. MPAA Executive VP for Government Affairs Michael O'Leary said, "We thank Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn for introducing this important legislation to standardize the legal treatment of online content theft and helping ensure that federal law keeps pace with the changing face of criminal activity."
The jury trial to determine damages between record label plaintiffs and former file-sharing service LimeWire, which had previously been convicted of infringement, began earlier this month. On May 12 the RIAA announced that a $105 million out-of-court settlement was reached, including personal liability of the service's founder. RIAA Chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol said, "The resolution of this case is another milestone in the continuing evolution of online music to a legitimate marketplace that appropriately rewards creators." The size of the settlement is also an indication of how lucrative running a popular and infringing peer-to-peer website can be.
On May 5 Web browser Mozilla's General Counsel Harvey Anderson blogged regarding a phone call last month from the Department of Homeland Security requesting that a third-party browser plug-in called MafiaaFire be removed. The plug-in automatically redirects users to file-sharing or linking services that the government determined were infringing — a redirection made necessary by DHS court-ordered seizure of the websites' previously popular domain names. Critics of domain-name seizures argued that method was easily defeated and MafiaaFire was created in part to illustrate that point. Mozilla requested further information from DHS and in the absence of a court order was unwilling to remove the software. Mafiaa is the software developers' invented acronym for the "Music and Film Industry Association of America."
U.S. Copyright Group notified Washington D.C.'s U.S. District Court earlier this month that it is prepared to subpoena the personal information of more than 23,000 alleged infringers on behalf of plaintiff Nu Image, producers of the illegally downloaded film in question, The Expendables. The number is believed to be a record for the law firm's technique of suing thousands of John Doe defendants for infringement within a single lawsuit.