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On April 21 the U.S. Trade Representative issued a summary draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — an international diplomatic effort that was previously kept secret on a formal basis but routinely leaked to tech-friendly journalists. (more at Cnet News) Neil Turkewitz, RIAA executive VP of international relations, said, "We are encouraged that this blueprint clears a helpful path towards a brighter future for all those who love music, and we hope that the release of this document will help to dispel some of the concerns that have been expressed about what it might provide." Complaints that ACTA's antipiracy provisions are too tough and could harm U.S. technology interests have come from the Computer & Communications Industry Association and consumer advocates Public Knowledge. The Copyright Alliance questioned the motives of ACTA opponents and said, "Brace yourselves for hysterics from those favoring weak copyright and weaker copyright enforcement." Strong language regarding ACTA is nothing new and the release of the public draft seems well timed. Objections and pressure could result in fine-tuning and a more future-friendly approach to protecting intellectual property from infringement — but stricter international enforcement is sorely needed.
F-Secure Security Labs documented a noteworthy "trojan" scam on April 12 that claims to detect illegal file-sharing and then offers a legal settlement to the user for $400. No payment transaction occurs so this seems designed to collect personal credit card information. The logos of the Copyright Alliance, MPAA and RIAA are prominently displayed in the scam's art, associated with the fictitious intellectual property law firm "ICPP Foundation."
Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, respectively — formally requested two reports on infringement in China from the U.S. International Trade Commission on April 19. The first report is due Nov. 19 and includes laying out an analytic framework for quantitative analysis. The second report is due May 2, 2011, and requests the results of performing the quantitative analysis. Both reports are intended to be made public. Last week's ArtsWatch covered the hot debate questioning how to develop more rigorous quantitative estimates of piracy's economic impacts — so best wishes to the USITC as it tackles this challenging task.
On April 16 an Ireland High Court upheld a ruling permitting the settlement between recording industry organization IRMA and Internet service provider Eircom. The deal to send warning letters to users — followed by potential disconnection after three strikes — had been placed on hold because Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner demanded the court review the settlement. The worry was whether IRMA's retention of IP addresses that were associated with infringement violated regulations against storing personal user information, but the court ruled the computer network addresses were not the type of personal data subject to those regulations. IRMA is expected to sue other Irish ISPs on June 10, both to pressure them to reach similar settlements and to prevent Eircom customers from migrating to its competitors.
Major players across multiple sectors of France's music industry launched the All for Music Web portal on April 15 to raise consumer awareness of legitimate online music offerings and to provide a united front for government advocacy. Indie publisher and organization chairman Halit Uman said, "[All for Music] aims at defending the remuneration of the sector players, but also at supporting the exposure of music in the media and the development of all online offers that respect rights holders."
On April 15 the Future of Music Coalition announced Lissa Rosenthal will begin serving as the organization's new executive director on May 1. Rosenthal said, "FMC has been instrumental in helping musicians have a voice on the issues, and I look forward to building on their amazing work." Jean Cook had been filling the position on an interim basis and has been appointed director of programs.
Richard Humphrey, a pre-release Internet movie pirate in Ohio, received a prison sentence of 29 months on April 20, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Humphrey, 22, pleaded guilty last September to one count of criminal copyright infringement. Thousands of infringing movies had been accessible on his Web site during 2006–2007 in exchange for a $16 annual subscription.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is reconsidering the case involving Federal Communications Commission indecency fines imposed because of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime incident in 2004 involving Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court's previous ruling. The court has requested new briefs due May 18 addressing issues surrounding the broadcaster's willful intent and whether the FCC was applying a consistent standard.
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