ArtsWatch: Copyright Policy To Go Under The Microscope?

Blue-ribbon committee calls for funding coordinated copyright "research enterprise"
May 13, 2013 -- 6:26 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

Will Copyright Policy Become More Scientific?
On May 2 the National Academies published a unique report proposing an unprecedented and comprehensive program of empirical research into copyright to guide future public policy. The National Academies, private nonprofit institutions chartered by Congress, include the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council. Titled "Copyright in the Digital Era: Building Evidence for Policy," the report was initiated by the National Academies' Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy and was supported by the MPAA for its emphasis on research and efforts to quantify the effects of content piracy. Calling attention to the potential pitfalls of the report's empirical approach, Copyright Alliance Executive Director Sandra Aistars said, "I am troubled ... by the single-minded focus on economic measurement in prescribing policy choices for the arts." While calling for "a robust research enterprise," the report recognizes these limitations and notes, "Not all copyright policy questions are amenable to economic analysis. In some cases, it may be possible to determine only the direction of the effect of policy changes, not the magnitude." With Congress set to begin a comprehensive review of copyright policy, the creative community has limited time to respond to this research challenge and help ensure its results reflect the realities inherent in our creation and distribution of original creative works.

Presidential Picks For Top Posts And New Copyright Royalty Judges
President Barack Obama named his four choices for top jobs in his administration on May 1 and May 2. Tom Wheeler is Obama's pick to replace Julius Genachowski as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, with Commissioner Mignon Clyburn filling in during the interim until Wheeler is confirmed. Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) was named for director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority, which will take him away from the copyright-protection work he has been doing as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet. Mike Froman is the President's choice to replace Ron Kirk as the U.S. Trade Representative, and Penny Pritzker is his pick for Secretary of Commerce. Separately, on May 6 the Librarian of Congress announced the appointment of Jesse Feder and David R. Strickler as judges on the Copyright Royalty Board. Feder will leave the Business Software Alliance to fill the copyright royalty judge slot that emphasizes copyright expertise, and Strickler fills the economics specialist position.

Trade Rep Ranks National Intellectual Property Offenders
The U.S. Trade Representative released this year's Annual Special 301 Report on May 1, rating U.S. trading partners based on the inadequacy of their intellectual property protection and enforcement. Ukraine was singled out for Priority Foreign Country worst-offender status. Thanks to new legislation, Canada succeeded in moving off the Priority Watch List to regular Watch List status. Spain has been selected for out-of-cycle review and despite its national efforts, still presents acute challenges. "The Spanish music market has essentially been in a free fall, losing an additional 5 percent of its value in 2012 after having lost nearly 50 percent of its value over the preceding 4 years," said RIAA Executive Vice President of International Neil Turkewitz. "The dire situation affecting Spanish creators ... requires dramatic and urgent action." China remains a combination of improvements and serious challenges. In the contemporary cybersecurity climate it is noteworthy that the full report highlights theft of trade secrets in China as a "serious and growing problem" that lacks effective enforcement remedies. The International Intellectual Property Alliance, MPAA and NMPA praised the Office of the USTR for its ongoing commitment to the Special 301 process.

China's Video Streaming Consolidates, Could Help Call For Antipiracy Solutions
On May 7 Chinese search giant Baidu announced its acquisition of video-streaming portal PPS for $370 million. Merging PPS with Baidu's own iQiyi video portal makes the consolidated entity China's video-streaming leader, moving it ahead of Youku Tudou. In an interview earlier this month, Youku Tudou legal director Lu Changjun described the "very threatening" competitive pressure on his profits exerted by peer-to-peer pirate sites that can illegally offer a wider selection free of cost. The competition between these two streaming giants will likely be an ongoing aid to Internet antipiracy in China, as the companies pressure enforcement authorities while doing what they can on their own to give their legally licensed offerings an edge in the marketplace.

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.

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