ArtsWatch: Fighting For Perspective On Piracy

IFPI, MPAA and RIAA challenge high-profile London School of Economics paper
October 14, 2013 -- 7:35 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

Creative Organizations Blast LSE Study Of Online Media Sharing
Three London School of Economics faculty members published a report on Sept. 30 defending individual Internet users from the UK government's planned antipiracy policies. The report disputed the recording industry claim that file sharing caused reduced revenue and argued against punitive measures based on the limited success these have had in other countries and the potential "social, cultural and political impacts." On Oct. 7 a Washington Post blog pointed out the report's use of overall music industry statistics, including concerts and publishing revenue, to mitigate the dramatic decline in revenues from recorded music. The MPAA countered the LSE paper's conclusions, disputing its approach to revenue and French antipiracy enforcement. Addressing the report's arguments in favor of the culture of sharing on the Internet, the MPAA said, "This brief highlights a few examples … to argue that exclusive ownership of intellectual works is not the only incentive that sustains their production…." On Oct. 9 IFPI joined the attack observing that increased concert revenues primarily benefit big name artists, that arguments against copyright licensing miss the powerful use of licenses to promote services that are free to the consumer, and that the LSE "brief" omits mentioning powerful technology companies' competing commercial interests and huge lobbying budgets. On Oct. 10 RIAA piled on with a pointed critique of the economists' music revenue statistics. RIAA Vice President of Strategic Data Analysis Joshua Friedlander said, "The most glaring issue is that the authors appear to double-count revenues to make them appear higher than they really are." The most common criticism of the newly published report was that it revealed nothing new, a shared impression that accounts for why ArtsWatch did not cover the LSE release earlier. The creative organizations' responses and disputes are noteworthy for being savvy about what's at stake, demonstrating that uninformed Internet bashing has been relegated to the historical past. As the IFPI statement concluded, "The recorded music industry is a success story in the digital world. It has turned itself around. … But that turnaround has been built on copyright."

BBC Launches Music-Free Playlister Product
On Oct. 8 the British Broadcasting Corporation launched Playlister, a track-listing product that they were careful not to describe as a music service. This so-called music "product" plays host to registered users' selected list of tracks, allows easy addition of new tracks while they are broadcast live for the BBC audience and is designed to be exported to services such as launch partners Deezer, Spotify and YouTube where users can listen to the music on the list. "We have a proud musical heritage that dates back to the very beginning of the BBC's history, and over the years we have found many new ways of bringing fantastic music to our viewers and listeners," said BBC Director-General Tony Hall. "Working with partners such as Spotify, YouTube and Deezer, we will once again transform our audiences' relationship with music and the BBC." This metadata-only approach is unhampered by copyright licensing concerns because it only serves as a facilitator between users and the actual music services. Playlister is launching exclusively in the United Kingdom and is initially only capable of maintaining a single list of tracks, but this music product and its underlying idea might be going places.

Broadcasters Petition Supreme Court in Aereo Case
Broadcasters including CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, Univision, Telemundo, and PBS are trying to take their dustup with antenna-based Internet-TV service Aereo to the biggest court in the land, seeking a final resolution in an ongoing legal battle. Broadcasters filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 11 asking the court to put a halt to Aereo. Broadcasters have not been able to win an injunction against Aereo in lower courts. Most recently, an Oct. 8 ruling in Massachusetts' U.S. District Court went Aereo's way. The petition "underscores our resolve to see justice done," a Fox spokesman said. Demonstrating the complicated nature of the matter, later in the day Cablevision took broadcasters to task for trying to elevate the case to the Supreme Court and risking the court overturning a 2008 Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld Cablevision's ability to offer a remote DVR service. Aereo has hinged its arguments of legitimacy on that case. With several responses and replies due from each party as part of the petition process, it could still be a number of months before the Supreme Court makes any formal decision on hearing the case.

NARM Renamed Music Business Association
On Oct. 7 the National Association of Recording Merchandisers along with its offshoot announced they will now be known as the Music Business Association at "More segments of the business than ever before now play an active role in the commerce side of the business, so the name National Association of Recording Merchandisers no longer reflected everyone who can participate in the organization," said President Jim Donio. "The Music Business Association makes it crystal clear — and for the first time in the organization's history, the 'M' stands for music."

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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