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ArtsWatch: BMI Says Publishers Will Remain In PRO Fold

Pandora filing allays some concerns over music licensing marketplace

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

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BMI To Pandora: Music Publishers Are Still All In For Now
On Nov. 4 The Hollywood Reporter revealed that BMI informed Pandora that there is no news concerning "imminent publisher withdrawal at the end of 2014." This issue was raised in a rate court filing by Pandora, and stems from a rate court decision in December 2013 that ruled music publishers must be either "all in or all out" when licensing their catalogs through performance rights organizations. Music publishers have made strides in the digital organization of their catalogs, improving their ability to take on PRO duties for themselves so that "all out" could be a viable future option. When Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow testified before the House Judiciary Committee in June, BMI testified alongside him, arguing that an all-or-nothing mandate is overregulation under the "archaic restrictions" of the consent decree structure, and "threatens the entire licensing ecosystem that BMI services."

Notice-And-Takedown Working Group Shows Progress
The fifth public meeting of the Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force multistakeholder forum on DMCA notice-and-takedown was held Oct. 28. A discussion draft, webcast and transcript are now available. This work has been pursued under the department's "Copyright Policy, Creativity, And Innovation In The Digital Economy" efforts to update policy that began in summer 2013. Notably, the takedown group's first meeting was March 20, three days after GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy New York Chapter Board member Maria Schneider spoke on behalf of The Recording Academy to the House Judiciary Committee about her struggles as an independent artist who is both frustrated by and expert at operating the notice-and-takedown process (see Schneider's Advocate Spotlight interview at GRAMMYPro.com). Suitably, helping the process evolve so that it works for individuals and small businesses has been squarely within the scope of the working group's efforts. This is a gradual process, but the depth of detail now available about practices both good and bad is unprecedented. The plan to develop some standardized elements and recommended practices has a solid foundation in place as the working group looks forward to its sixth public meeting to be held Dec. 18.

Pirate Bay Co-Founder, Silk Road 2.0 Operator Arrested
On Nov. 3 Thai immigration police arrested Fredrik Neij, the last of the Pirate Bay's co-founders and convicted copyright infringers to have eluded capture. Neij's Pirate Bay co-founders are currently serving prison time. Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was first apprehended in Cambodia in 2012. Having now served his Pirate Bay jail time, on Oct. 31 Warg was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison by a Denmark court for crimes involving computer hacking. Peter Sunde was arrested in May in Sweden. The Pirate Bay remains one of the world's most popular rogue Internet sites as authorities continue to try to halt its operation, and Neij's arrest closes one chapter of this continuing drama. Separately, on Nov. 6 U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced the arrest of Blake Benthall for operating Silk Road 2.0's notorious Internet marketplace since December 2013. Silk Road was taken down by authorities in October 2013 and its copycat site sprang up a month later, accepting Bitcoin payments and using the Tor anonymity network to protect users' identities while they trafficked illegal narcotics, fake IDs and computer hacking support over the Internet. "Those looking to follow in the footsteps of alleged cybercriminals should understand that we will return as many times as necessary to shut down noxious online criminal bazaars," said Bharara.

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. To learn more, visit GRAMMY.org/Advocacy. To get more involved, visit GRAMMY.com/Action.

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Apple IPad Sells 300K

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Apple IPad Sells 300K
Apple announced first-day sales of more than 300,000 iPads for April 3, down from an estimated first-day sales figure of between 600,000 and 700,000 iPads by investment firm Piper Jaffray. IPad users downloaded more than 1 million apps and 250,000 eBooks during the first day. (4/5)

BMI Promotes Senior Executives
BMI has announced promotions for a trio of senior executives. Richard Conlon, formerly VP of new media and strategic development, is now senior VP of corporate strategy, communications and new media. BMI CFO Bruce Esworthy adds duties as senior VP finance and administration, and Michael O'Neill, previously senior VP of licensing, is now senior VP of repertoire and licensing. All three executives will report to BMI President & CEO Del Bryant. (4/5)
 

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ArtsWatch: Antigua's Piracy Gamble

WTO ruling raises the stakes in Caribbean nation's stand-off with U.S.

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

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Permission Slip Granted: Antigua Allowed $21 Million In Infringement Earnings
On Jan. 28 the World Trade Organization advanced the long-running trade dispute between the U.S. and the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, authorizing suspension of intellectual property obligations as retaliatory sanctions for the U.S. refusal to permit its consumers to use gambling websites based on the islands. Colorful coverage included Associated Press emphasizing the notion of a "copyright haven," Reuters highlighting U.S. warnings against "government-authorized piracy," and The Hill quoting an Antiguan attorney's threats that putting their plan into effect would establish a precedent for other countries. All this publicity likely serves Antigua's negotiating strategy to extract substantial assistance from the U.S., but International Intellectual Property Alliance counsel Steve Metalitz argued, "We are of the firm view that suspending intellectual property rights is not the right solution, and that state-sanctioned theft is an affront to any society. Should Antigua determine to move forward in this manner, it would certainly interfere with the ability to reach a negotiated resolution, and would harm the interests of Antiguans." The WTO dispute began in March 2003, so even though things are speeding up, there could be a long wait before its final resolution.

Permission Slip Revoked: Chorus Of Complaints Over 'Jailbreaking' Rule Change
The latest round of Digital Millennium Copyright Act exemptions to the statutory prohibition on circumventing digital security became effective Oct. 28, 2012 and included a "90-day transitional period" for jailbreaking mobile handsets that expired on Jan. 26. This led digital rights advocates, including tech journalists, to trumpet the theme "Just a Few Hours Left to Unlock Your Phone!" PC World moaned, "As of Saturday ... [y]ou just can't unlock your phone yourself — at least, not legally. That decision was made not by voters, the courts, or even Congress. It was made by one man." This kind of oversimplification enjoys some popular support, partially because copyright law can be difficult and frustrating. The voters elect Congress, which passed the DMCA requiring the Librarian of Congress to identify exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions every three years. Many stakeholders, including the public, trade organizations, and digital rights advocates, are invited by the Library of Congress to suggest exemptions, and then the Register of Copyrights is tasked with producing recommendations based on this wide scope of considerations. The latest mobile phone interoperability rules are complicated but clearly influenced by the Vernor v. Autodesk court case that was decided in 2010 after the previous DMCA rules were finalized, tilting judicial opinion towards treating software use as a license rather than more comprehensive ownership. So this chorus of complaints should not be considered reliably accurate.

Promoting Spotify To The U.S. House Of Representatives
On Jan. 31 the RIAA responded to reporting by Politico that revealed the U.S. House of Representatives is currently blocking music service Spotify on its computer networks because of Spotify's peer-to-peer infrastructure. Writing to the House's Chief Administrative Officer, RIAA Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman encouraged using the Why Music Matters list of legal sites as a resource and said, "We appreciate your need to ensure that the House network is secure, and we would welcome the opportunity to work with you to develop a new policy that ensures that users of the House network will be able to gain access to these new legal services. All members of the music community who create, invest in, promote, market and distribute music appreciate your efforts to fix this problem."

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.

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ArtsWatch: YouTube Music Key's Big Beta Launch

New music subscription service hopes to leverage Google's scale and unique features

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

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YouTube Unveils Subscription Music Service
On Nov. 12 Google-owned YouTube announced the beta launch of its new Music Key subscription service. The initial monthly fee will be $7.99, mostly to avoid ads preceding videos, and includes a subscription to Google Play Music. YouTube now has licenses with the three major labels and a new indie deal through Merlin; however, on the day of Music Key's announcement, prominent industry figure Irving Azoff threatened to pull as many as 20,000 songs by artists he represents from YouTube. Apart from the subscription service, but benefitting it, YouTube has also put new interactive features online, particularly on mobile, including higher quality tracks, the ability to find and play complete albums easily, better access to discographic information, and better aggregation of artists' related content. This represents a licensing breakthrough by a tech giant, enabling better competition with Apple Beats and Spotify. With label support, YouTube's advantages as a top Internet destination grow beyond its boasts of 1 billion unique monthly visitors.

Senate Judiciary Chair Calls For Equal Treatment Under Copyright Law
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced S. 2919, the Copyright and Marriage Equality Act, on Nov. 12, proposing to amend the definitions of "widow" and "widower" under statutory copyright law so that the ability for surviving spouses to inherit intellectual property rights applies consistently to same-sex marriages. Penning a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter, Leahy wrote that S. 2919 "will ensure that the rights attached to the works of our nation's gay and lesbian authors, musicians, painters, sculptors, and other creators pass to their spouses the way they now do for heterosexual creators. Artists are the creative lifeblood of our nation, and our laws should protect their families equally." Companion bill H.R. 5617 was introduced in the House of Representatives in September. Because Republicans recently won control of the Senate, Leahy will relinquish his position as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year, reportedly to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). No one is certain what legislation can still move during the outgoing Congress' remaining term, but Leahy has focused attention on this issue by introducing the bill following his party's loss.

"Dark Market" Websites Shut Down By Law Enforcement
On Nov. 7 the Department of Justice announced that more than 400 "dark market" websites — using Tor anonymity technology to hide criminal commerce in drugs and guns and more — were seized and taken down by law enforcement in the United States and Europe. The ability to cut through Internet criminals' efforts to remain anonymous meant real progress in the previously reported Silk Road 2.0 arrest, and these hundreds of related website seizures suggest law enforcement has improved its technical capacity to shine light into the Internet's dark corners where piracy also thrives. Troels Oerting, head of Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, said, "This time we have … hit services on the Darknet using Tor where, for a long time, criminals have considered themselves beyond reach. We can now show that they are neither invisible nor untouchable."

Debates Put The Internet's Future In Focus
New developments highlight how the Internet is simultaneously something people love to use and a massive network overseen by government agencies, trade groups and a variety of stakeholder associations. On Nov. 7, the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union completed a three-week plenipotentiary conference, an event held every four years. The Department of State celebrated the accomplishment of the United States' major policy objectives, including maintaining the ITU's mandate, which many other governments oppose. A new working group will also hold consultations with all stakeholders to better develop "international Internet-related public policy." Likely timed to benefit from ITU conference coverage, the NETmundial Initiative announced its formation on Nov. 6, with founding participants ICANN, the World Economic Forum and Brazil's Internet Steering Committee. The new initiative, which follows NETmundial, an international Internet policy conference held in Brazil in April, hopes to make progress in the same open spirit. Separately, President Barack Obama surprised telecommunications industry observers on Nov. 10 by endorsing the strongest possible regulatory approach to achieve open Internet goals, such as prohibiting throttling and paid prioritization of data. Because the Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency, the president has no direct regulatory authority to craft Internet policy. Thus, his remarks stake out a strong but generally advisory political position as part of the ongoing debate. Obama endorsed applying these new regulations to mobile data as well, saying, "There is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible, and free Internet."

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. To learn more, visit GRAMMY.org/Advocacy. To get more involved, visit GRAMMY.com/Action.

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ArtsWatch: Warning: You're About To Be Warned

Verizon is first out of the gate with IP infringement consumer awareness alerts

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

In recent news ...

Verizon May Be First To Copyright Alert Program Party
The Internet service provider Copyright Alert System announced in 2011 and tweaked through last year has still not been formally launched, but Verizon has apparently soft-launched its version. Although Digital Music News described this infringement notification process as "one of the lightest wrist slaps imaginable," a more consumer-friendly approach is the whole point of how this is supposed to work. An internal Verizon draft document was first published online by TorrentFreak on Jan. 11, outlining the process and encouraging disgruntled customers to visit the Center for Copyright Information's website for more information. Verizon's Copyright FAQ now offers details of the 2011 agreement between ISPs and content owners. This voluntary collaboration between multi-industry stakeholders is historic and represents high hopes that most Internet users value personal convenience far more than breaking the law to get content for free.

New Law Allows Video Rental Customers To Share Via Social Media
On Jan. 10 President Barack Obama signed a video privacy amendment that was passed by last year's Congress as H.R. 6671 on Dec. 20, providing video rental services such as Netflix the ability to allow customers to share their rental activity on social media networks such as Facebook. The bill was originally introduced Dec. 17 by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "This new law is truly pro-consumer and places the decision of whether or not to share video rentals with one's friends squarely in the hands of the consumer," Goodlatte said.

House Of Representatives Computer Networks Still Used For Illegal Downloads
U.S. News & World Report's Washington Whispers column reported Jan. 14 that employees using House of Representatives computer network Internet addresses are still engaging in illegal downloading despite the fact that this behavior was first exposed in late 2011. Relying on information compiled by ScanEye, the columnist Elizabeth Flock wrote, "The illegal downloads haven't stopped. According to [ScanEye data], employees of Congress have downloaded everything from the reality TV show 'The Ultimate Fighter' to talk show 'The Ellen Degeneres Show' to the 3D family movie The Smurfs since early October."

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.