ArtsWatch: NYC Kids' Antipiracy Contest
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 Sept. 13 New York City's Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment launched its Create the Next Spot contest, offering young creators a chance to design the city's 2012 antipiracy campaign. Area high school and college students have until Oct. 19 to submit a video proposal. Judges, including GRAMMY winner Whoopi Goldberg and MTV News' Sway, will select 10 finalists. These entries will appear online Nov. 7–18 for public voting and the winner will team with a professional production company to finalize the campaign. The city's consumer awareness efforts have been growing since 2007, including the Get the Real Picture campaign and the still-current Piracy Doesn't Work in NYC campaign. The upcoming phase was announced by Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment Commissioner Katherine Oliver at the Creative NYC: Campaign Against Content Theft Summit, which was attended by representatives of IATSE, MPAA and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among others. "By encouraging teens to speak to each other about the issue of digital piracy in the Create the Next Spot contest, we hope to inform a new demographic and influence change in order to strengthen our entertainment industry for generations to come," said Oliver. At a minimum, students entering the competition will spend time reflecting on content piracy's potential impact on their own future job prospects.
While the Senate addresses other pressing business, entertainment industry hopes are high that it will pass S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act. The Copyright Alliance and MPAA used their blogs to rebut tech-friendly arguments made against the bill, supposedly on behalf of small businesses and entrepreneurs. Countering the assertion that the bill's definition of rogue websites is vague, both organizations pointed out that Internet service providers will not be expected to take action unless copyright infringement facts are specific enough to satisfy a federal court. Countering the argument that existing takedown procedures are sufficient, the groups responded that PROTECT IP is complementary to takedowns because it provides steps to be followed when infringing content is hosted abroad, beyond the reach of U.S. courts. As for burdening small businesses, Copyright Alliance Executive Director Sandra Aistars responded, "The majority of the creative community is composed of individual creators, entrepreneurs and small businesses. These are the businesses that are threatened, the jobs that are lost, and the new businesses that are stillborn when creators cannot invest resources in creating new work, but rather must spend their time endlessly battling rogue sites that illegally disseminate their work, funding it through subscriptions or membership fees, advertising and other profit-making schemes, without a return to the creators."
On Sept. 16 President Barack Obama signed the America Invents Act, the product of six years of effort in Congress and the first major patent reform in generations. The new rules are harmonized with international practice by granting a patent to the first inventor to file and then allowing other claimants to dispute the grant. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a massive backlog of pending claims and it is hoped that the new law will help the agency reduce the backlog by letting it keep all or a greater portion of the fees it takes in from registrants. While the large corporations that pushed for this reform come out ahead — especially under the new first-to-file system, which favors companies with large patent law legal departments — special provisions are also provided to benefit the individual inventor.
The Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Sept. 9 that five defendants have been indicted for conspiracy and copyright infringement related to the website NinjaVideo.net — one of the domains seized by the first Operation In Our Sites action against rogue websites conducted in June 2010. From February 2008 until the site's shutdown, the defendants are believed to have collected more than $500,000 through Web ads and the solicitation of $25 contributions for access to unlicensed video files, including prerelease films and movies still in theaters. MPAA Executive Vice President of Content Protection and Chief of Operations Mike Robinson said, "The action today marks one of the first such prosecutions of an illegal download and streaming site — indeed, one of the most notorious infringing sites on the Internet until it was shut down... These 'worst of the worst' rogue websites victimize not only the buyers of these products, but the more than 2.2 million hardworking Americans whose livelihoods depend on a healthy motion picture and television industry."
On Sept. 12 the Authors Guild — together with writers and other authors' organizations — announced a lawsuit against five of the universities involved in the HathiTrust Orphan Works Project and HathiTrust itself. Google gave HathiTrust digital backup copies of the millions of university library books it has scanned, and the Authors Guild asked the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court to impound these computer files. While the universities have likely been prepared for litigation over the Orphan Works Project's claims of fair use, the larger issues surrounding the massive digital repository are unsettled law. Authors Guild President Scott Turow said, "These books, because of the universities' and Google's unlawful actions, are now at needless, intolerable digital risk. Authors shouldn't have to trust their works to a group that's making up the rules as it goes along." Meanwhile, the Authors Guild and Google appeared before the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin on Sept. 15 in their separate ongoing lawsuit over the book scanning project and received an additional nine months to attempt to craft a settlement agreement acceptable to the court.
The European Commission adopted a report on Sept. 13 surveying member states' efforts to protect children online and found the results insufficient and inconsistent. Announcing that she will present a revised strategy later this year, Vice President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said, "We urgently need to step up a gear on what we do, and how we work together to empower and protect children in this ever changing digital world. We need to give parents and teachers the confidence to take on their responsibilities."