ArtsWatch: Creative America To The Rescue?

Film and TV entertainment leaders launch political pressure group to unite grassroots voices
July 11, 2011 -- 6:37 am PDT
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 July 6 major players in movies and television launched a new platform for intellectual property activism — Creative America. While showcasing the grassroots voices of industry professionals at all levels, Creative America is backed by:

  • Unions and guilds: AFTRA, Directors Guild of America, IATSE International, and SAG
  • Studios: MPAA and its members The Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Bros. Entertainment
  • Networks: CBS Corporation, NBC Universal and Viacom

MPAA Chairman/CEO Christopher Dodd said, "Creative America...will give the men and women of our community a new way to speak out in the fight against content theft. This grassroots campaign will help everyone across this country understand that content theft isn't a victimless crime — it hurts all of us." An initial focus for the newly launched organization is lobbying for S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act, legislation supported by The Recording Academy and awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

With 37 million members in the 50-plus demographic, AARP announced AARP Internet Radio on July 4, an online radio player and music portal featuring 18 genres ranging from oldies to modern hits. Soft-launched last month, this digital outreach venture is an ad-supported partnership with Concord Music Group using a simplified radio player provided by Slacker. AARP Senior VP of Media properties Hugh Delehanty said, "Our Internet radio is easy to use and makes new resources available to people who may not be used to getting their music online, as well as those who already are."

On June 27 Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced her 2012 candidacy for president and left the stage in Iowa with Tom Petty's "American Girl" as musical accompaniment. Within 24 hours, a cease-and-desist letter from Petty's management followed. The song was played again at an event on June 26, but only for 29 seconds, after which it was replaced by Katrina & The Waves' "Walking On Sunshine." This was shortly followed by online complaints from Katrina & The Waves. On July 6 consumer advocates Public Knowledge blogged a handy guide to help politicians avoid musical predicaments, describing it as "a crash course in how to avoid eliciting an angry public statement from a pop icon." The 2012 election season is just getting started and more instances of this long-standing problem are likely to occur.

States' efforts to regulate video games deemed violent is a long-standing effort consistently struck down by courts, and on June 27 the U.S. Supreme Court became the latest example. The court struck down a 2005 California law that attempted to fine retailers $1,000 for video game sales to minors of titles containing offensive player options of "killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." The Future of Music Coalition was among many groups applauding the verdict as a victory for First Amendment speech. FMC said, "The vagueness of the definition of violence could affect other forms of expression such as film, theater, literature… and music. Without having to take a side on the nature of video games, it's pretty easy to see that the limitations expressed in the California statute could eventually play out in the music community. We at FMC may not have much of a stance on 'Grand Theft Auto' or 'Halo,' but we are concerned about, say, Rage Against The Machine or Dead Prez's ability to freely express themselves."

On June 22 the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court approved a "standstill agreement" between Time Warner Cable and Viacom over TWC's iPad streaming app. The litigation began in April after TWC launched its app while maintaining its existing contracts were worded so that the iPad was just an additional screen in the home. TWC responded to Viacom's demands by removing the network's content from the app, and negotiations between the parties have apparently been productive. On the other hand, Viacom sued Cablevision in the same court on June 23 over Cablevision's iPad streaming app. Cablevision continued to stream Viacom's content to home users despite objections and said its streaming "falls within our existing cable television licensing agreements with programmers — including Viacom."

The Asia Academy of Music Arts & Sciences, an expansive effort to develop a music industry membership organization in Asia accompanied by an awards show, was announced on June 30. Based in Singapore, AAMAS claims 3,000 members so far. Its multinational scope includes Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Maintaining a unified database of members and music-entry metadata across these diverse regional markets and languages is an intriguing technical challenge, and the potential for meaningful community within Asia's music industry is even more interesting. For clarity's sake, note that AAMAS claims no relationship to China's recently announced Alliance of the Digital Music Industry and AAMAS' MusicDNA Pte Ltd entity appears to be distinct from better-known entities and (UK-based musicDNA Ltd).

The Library of Congress launched its digital preservation blog The Signal on May 31 and celebrated its active first month on July 6. More than two dozen blog posts cover a range from personal to institutional archiving. Although none focus narrowly on music, the posts all spring from the same well that brought us the LoC's National Jukebox in May and they explain techniques that are relevant to digital music archiving.


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