ArtsWatch: Copyright's Uphill Fight Ahead

Copyright advocates face a changed playing field with new Congress and Net activism
January 14, 2013 -- 7:54 am PST
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

Wyden Speech Illustrates Copyright's Uphill Fight On Capitol Hill
At the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 9, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) displayed strong rhetoric with which copyright advocates will have to cope as the freshly sworn-in 113th Congress begins its legislative work. "What chills the sharing of ideas and collaboration is the maximalist approach to copyrights and patents. Rights-holders are too eager to use their power to scare off challenges to the status quo, and this perpetuates stagnation," he said. Representatives of the MPAA and RIAA told The Hill they did not expect to reengage the last Congress' lost battles and would focus on progress through voluntary cooperation with the private sector. Left unsaid was the important role Congressional hearings and focused attention can play in convincing companies that the time to cooperate has arrived.

Internet Pirate Receives Five-Year Prison Sentence
The Department of Justice announced on Jan. 3 that Jeramiah Perkins, the leader of the Internet piracy group Imagine, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to a five-year prison term for his role in distributing camcorded theatrical releases over the Internet prior to their distribution on DVD, as well as distributing other infringing content. Of the four co-conspirators, one is still awaiting sentencing while the three others received terms of 40 months, 30 months, and 23 months respectively last year. Wired described the five-year term as "the nation's longest sentence in a file-sharing case."

Industrial Software Pirate Made $60k From Illegal Sales Worth $100 Million
On Jan. 8 Chinese national Xiang Li pleaded guilty to criminal copyright conspiracy in U.S. District Court for operating Crack 99, an Internet vendor of hacked software that counted NASA and military-contractor engineers among its customers. "I want to tell the court that what I did was wrong and illegal and I want to say I'm sorry," Li told the judge. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said, "Li mistakenly thought he was safe from the long arm of [Homeland Security Investigations], hiding halfway around the world in cyberspace anonymity. Fast forward to today, where he is now being held accountable in Delaware for illegally stealing, distributing and ultimately exploiting American ingenuity and creativity at a loss of at least $100 million to U.S. companies." After a year-and-a-half undercover operation, enforcement agents lured Li to the island of Saipan in a face-to-face sting and arrested him in June 2011. Li's revenues amounted to approximately $60,000 and he faces sentencing in May. Victims of his hacked software operation included Agilent Technologies, Microsoft, Oracle, Rockwell Automation, SAP, and Siemens.

Aereo's Legally Innovative Antennae Spread To 22 New Cities
Aereo announced on Jan. 8 that its antenna-based technology allowing Internet viewing of consumer-recorded broadcasts will expand beyond its New York launch to 22 new cities, making it available to 97 million Americans. Heartened by broadcasters' failure to obtain a preliminary injunction against the service from a federal judge in New York last summer, the company also announced it has raised $38 million in new capital investment. Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia said, "The court decision was the green light in our perspective." When the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard broadcasters' appeal last November, their questions reflected skepticism over the fact that Aereo's technology was inefficient and existed for the sole purpose of meeting the letter of copyright law. That appeal is still pending a decision. When tech-friendly speakers hail innovation and brand intellectual property owners as obstacles to progress, it is worth keeping in mind that finding elaborate ways to claim superficial compliance with copyright law now exemplifies some of the innovations to which they are arguably referring.

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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