ArtsWatch: IP Looms Over Obama/Xi Meeting

U.S. and China presidents meet this week with intellectual property on the agenda
June 03, 2013 -- 7:07 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

U.S./China Talks Could Impact Future Of The Global Internet
On June 7–8 President Barack Obama will meet in California with China's President Xi Jinping to "review progress and challenges in U.S./China relations over the past four years and discuss ways to enhance cooperation, while constructively managing our differences, in the years ahead," according to the White House. Summing up the IP challenges, a report released on May 22 by the Commission on the Theft of Intellectual Property identified China as "between 50 percent and 80 percent of the problem." Internet content piracy and counterfeiting join the broader issues of hacking and cybersecurity to create a package of IP troubles ripe for a top-level agreement between the world leaders. The IP Commission's report made numerous recommendations, including empowering the Secretary of Commerce "to serve as the principal official to manage all aspects of IP protection." Composed of seven former government officials and private-sector leaders, the IP Commission was misidentified by tech advocate Cory Doctorow as a call by the entertainment industry to use hacking counter-measures in support of antipiracy. Currently, the adversarial rhetoric of Hollywood versus the Internet has not done justice to this unique moment in history or to China's own potential to become an intellectual property powerhouse.

Meet Derek Khanna, The Hollywood-Bashers' Rising Star
Conservative thought leader Derek Khanna tackled the issue of copyright law revision on May 21 in a Washington Post editorial titled "Let Artists, Innovators And The Public Define Our Copyright System." Although inclusive, the phrasing deliberately excludes the content distributors who represent the interests of individual artists. A Public Knowledge blog recently used a similar formula, describing "the need to look at individual artists, creators, and users instead of the intermediaries and big incumbents." However, those major intermediaries do all the antipiracy heavy lifting. As RIAA Executive Vice President of Anti-Piracy Brad Buckles blogged on May 22, last year major labels sent 20 million takedown notices to Google without a big dent in music piracy. In a pair of articles last week that support Buckles' argument, Digital Music News examined Google's host of infringing search results for "Daft Punk Torrent" and described copyright law's takedown procedure as "ineffective for major labels, and useless for indies." But the catchiest counter-argument to Khanna's editorial came from filmmaker Ellen Seidler's blog on the Vox Indie website. "Hey Derek ... the Tech Industry is a 'Special Interest' too!" Seidler wrote. It's time to retire the old Hollywood-bashing. Now is a time for every voice to present fresh approaches as the House Judiciary Committee continues to hold hearings on comprehensive copyright law revision.

Ofcom Publishes Third UK Infringement Survey And Newly Crunched Numbers
On May 28 British regulator Ofcom released its third quarterly report on online infringement, detecting a barely significant bump in piracy by people older than 12 at 18 percent from November 2012 through January 2013, up from 16 percent in the previous quarter. Ofcom also commissioned a new "deep dive" into the numbers from the previous two quarters, May 2012–October 2012. Those findings were published May 9 and break down respondents who admit to online infringement into 10 even groups based on their infringement activity. The top 10 percent were found to commit 79 percent of all UK Internet piracy even though they only account for 1.6 of Britain's 12-plus population.

Amazon Empowers Fan Fiction Authors To Earn Licensed Royalties
Amazon announced its Kindle Worlds service on May 22, allowing authors of fan fiction (works written by fans inspired by book and TV series such as "Gossip Girl") to legally publish their derivative works online and receive royalty payments. The initial licensing partner is a teen-oriented division of Warner Bros. Television Group, which means the original rightsholders will also get paid and this business model can be extended to any creators of popular fiction willing to license through Kindle Worlds. The lack of any such commercial approach has previously been used in consumer advocates' arguments that all fan fiction is acceptable fair use. The move was likely inspired by the mega-success of Fifty Shades Of Grey, which began as fan fiction.

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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