ArtsWatch: Christopher Dodd Goes To Hollywood

Former senator to lead MPAA as movies confront high-tech and global challenges
March 07, 2011 -- 7:29 am PST
By Philip Merrill /

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 @ and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

On March 1 the MPAA announced that former Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd will begin as chairman and CEO on March 17. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Dodd identified digital piracy and access to foreign markets as his main two issues and looked forward to working with studios' leadership to find unified approaches to these and other challenges. Dodd said, "I like the people. I love the issues. I think the digital threat issue is not just a limited issue for the film industry. It is one that cuts across intellectual property. We've got to deal with it. I think market access is going to be a huge issue and challenging. So to be involved in a great set of issues with great people, involved in a great industry, it doesn't get any better than that." With demonstrated expertise as a consensus builder, a strong background in foreign relations, and valuable experience with family and children's issues, Dodd seems a good fit for a job that could benefit the entire entertainment industry, U.S. exports and employment.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released the Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets on Feb. 28, listing 33 prominent worst offenders — in both online and physical markets — and encouraging foreign governments to take effective action. USTR Ron Kirk said, "These notorious markets not only hurt American workers and businesses, but are threats to entrepreneurs and industries around the world." Prominent Internet sites in the report include China's leading search engine Baidu, Sweden's the Pirate Bay and Russian successors to the once-popular that rushed to fill its place after it was shut down. RIAA Executive VP of International Neil Turkewitz said, "At present, the overwhelming majority of music downloads are illegal. Governments can effectively promote innovation and competition in both the communications and intellectual property sectors by enhancing responsibility and accountability in the online space, and we hope that this report will help to enhance this accountability.... For new legal online services to succeed, we must ensure that such services do not face unfair competition from unauthorized sources."

On March 1 the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet conducted an oversight hearing with testimony from Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria A. Espinel. Exemplifying bipartisan consensus on the importance of IP enforcement, members were eager to receive two upcoming reports from Espinel — the first U.S. government estimate of IP jobs and exports, and a white paper recommending areas where new legislation could improve enforcement. Commenting on the wide-ranging and vigorous questions, Copyright Alliance Executive Director Sandra Aistars said, "[The] discussion signaled that the lawmakers tasked with oversight on this subcommittee have a full grasp of the range of challenges faced by the creative community and other IP-dependent industries."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is on the campaign trail for the secure Web HTTP protocol — HTTPS. In a Feb. 28 letter, Schumer called on Amazon, Twitter and Yahoo to make HTTPS the automatic first option on their websites to better protect users. During a Feb. 27 press event at a New York coffee shop, the senator explained that the growing number of public locations offering patrons Wi-Fi connections to the Internet combined with the availability of programs such as Firesheep, which allow unsophisticated users to hack WiFi networks, means urgent action is called for to prevent casual Wi-Fi users from falling victim to identity theft. Schumer said, "It is scary how easy it is. Free Wi-Fi networks provide hackers, identity thieves and spammers alike with a smorgasbord of opportunities to steal private user information like passwords, usernames and credit card information."

On March 2 IFPI announced a collaboration between the City of London Police Economic Crime Directorate, MasterCard and Visa to crack down expeditiously on illegal Internet sites wrongfully using credit card payment services for copyright infringement. The services and participating banks are now using newly developed best practices, and details of 24 infringing websites have already been turned over to London police under this program. MasterCard Worldwide Chief Franchise Development Officer Eileen Simon said, "A coalition approach such as this will enable us to prevent our system from being used to carry out this illegal activity and will help protect the livelihoods of artists, legal rights holders and legitimate e-commerce merchants selling properly licensed material."

The Federal Court of Australia on Feb. 25 rejected the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft's appeal of a court decision last year that had denied the organization's claims against Internet service provider iiNet for copyright infringement on its network. Although unhappy with the loss, AFACT called attention to statements in the ruling that could be useful in future litigation. "While we did not prevail due to the finding of the court on a narrow, technical issue, we did succeed in terms of the court finding in our favor across a range of key issues that we raised," said AFACT Executive Director Neil Gane.

Speaking on the future of copyright late last month at the Queensland University of Technology, World Intellectual Property Organization Director General Francis Gurry suggested new ways to intelligently engage with the advantage digital technology gives to free availability of cultural works. Gurry said, "We need to speak less in terms of piracy and more in terms of the threat to the financial viability of culture in the 21st century, because it is this which is at risk if we do not have an effective, properly balanced copyright policy."


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