ArtsWatch: European Crackdown On Movie File-Sharing

Enforcement actions coordinated against file-sharing hubs in more than a dozen countries
September 13, 2010 -- 7:25 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 Sept. 7 police conducted raids across Europe based on a two-year investigation by Belgian authorities targeting Web servers and individuals involved in non-commercial file-sharing of movies in Dutch or with Dutch subtitles. Approximately 50 servers were shut down and 10 people were arrested — five in Belgium and the remainder in Norway, Poland and Sweden. Other countries coordinating raids include Austria, Britain, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and the Netherlands. The activities of Swedish authorities called additional attention to a series of raids made in late August as part of their growing efforts to address online copyright infringement and the use of the Direct Connect file-sharing protocol in particular. European legal systems have generally required infringing activities to have a motive of financial profit to be considered criminal, so this crackdown is a welcome development.

Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke toured Nashville's Music Row and gave a speech on intellectual property enforcement at Belmont University on Aug. 30. "In the very near future, the Department will be issuing a Notice of Inquiry, seeking public comment on the challenges of protecting copyrighted works online and the relationship between copyright law and innovation," said Locke. "I would invite any of you here today to throw in your two cents. We'll be using these comments to create a report that will help shape the administration-wide policy on copyright protection and innovation." Responding to his remarks, the RIAA focused on the importance of working with Internet service providers to solve the problem. The Tennessean quoted Locke as saying, "Nothing is going to happen until the public gets behind it and says this is theft." Politicians would have an easier time supporting improved antipiracy enforcement if most voters believed that, but the immediate challenge may be to improve piracy issues with or without more public support.

On Sept. 8 antivirus vendor Symantec released the 2010 "Norton Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact," surveying 7,000 computer users in 14 countries. In the United States 73 percent of respondents reported they had been cybercrime victims. Worldwide, 17 percent believe it is legal to download a music track without paying. The report quotes a computer user in Brazil who said, "I am not stealing...I'm only downloading what is open to the world. I would be stealing if I were taking something from the supermarket...the Internet is open, everybody downloads music, it's not only me."

The Federal Communications Commission issued a request for further public comment on Sept. 1 regarding two issues in its open Internet proceeding — how rules should apply to mobile broadband and to specialized or managed services. Recognizing that both areas are vulnerable to abuse, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, "As we've seen, the issues are complex, and the details matter. Even a proposal for enforceable rules can be flawed in its specifics and risk undermining the fundamental goal of preserving the open Internet." Separately, AT&T and consumer advocates Free Press have engaged in a contentious back-and-forth that began in their respective FCC filings — debating whether paid prioritization is always the opposite of Net neutrality and arguing over the relevance of standards body documents pertaining to differentiated services. The details matter so much that both sides make reasonable arguments that the other is being misleading, and Internet technology experts have disagreed on whether the accusation of being misleading is itself misleading.

On Sept. 1 ASCAP launched their free ASCAP Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and iPod and announced that versions for BlackBerry and Android are in development. CEO John LoFrumento said, "The free app offers our members and the industry a new way to stay connected with ASCAP while they are on the go, putting a secure connection to member access, the entire ASCAP repertory and industry news in the palm of their hands."

Reports surfaced that Apple hoped to announce the availability of 90-second free song samples in iTunes 10 during the company's Sept. 1 event. Apparently Apple had cleared the jump from 30-second samples with the major record labels but had not obtained licenses from music publishers. Negotiations are reportedly in progress.

On Sept. 7 the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York over border searches of digital storage devices, including laptop computers. The National Press Photographers Association is the primary plaintiff but musicians can also be affected by random border searches and temporary confiscation of devices without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Melissa Goodman said, "Unchecked government fishing expeditions into the constitutionally protected materials on an innocent traveler's laptop or cell phone interfere with the ability of many Americans to do their jobs and do nothing to make us safer."

Electronic Frontier Foundation has stepped up its opposition to more than 100 lawsuits brought by the Righthaven law firm against infringing online uses of Las Vegas Review-Journal news stories. Competing paper Las Vegas Sun recently published a detailed defense of its extensive coverage of these lawsuits. Meanwhile EFF described its progress to Cnet News in opposing mass lawsuits against thousands of IP addresses accused of having illegally downloaded the movie The Hurt Locker.


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