ArtsWatch: Netcos Strengthen Voice In D.C.

Launching in September, new Internet Association anticipates district-by-district lobbying
July 30, 2012 -- 7:20 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

On July 25 the Internet Association announced its formation and mission to provide a "unified voice of the Internet economy" and advance "public policy solutions to strengthen and protect an open, innovative and free Internet." Media reports from anonymous sources listed Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google and others among the organization's members. Policy details and a formal member list are expected to be announced at a September launch. Meanwhile, the association named Michael Beckerman as president and CEO. Beckerman's Washington, D.C. background has been side-by-side with Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), formerly serving as his chief policy advisor and more recently as deputy staff director for the House Commerce Committee, which Upton chairs. Interviewed by Reuters, Beckerman said, "We want to educate [lawmakers] about the impact of the Internet in their congressional districts." The organization can be expected to dig beneath the national data compiled by studies such as Computer & Communications Industry Association's "Fair Use In The U.S. Economy" report to let legislators know why restrictive legislation should matter to them back in their home districts. Copyright owners have spent years developing arguments in favor of tougher copyright legislation using quantitative methods with a growing focus on local data — notably, Copyright Alliance's Creators Across America and this past May's state-by-state report on intellectual property jobs by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center. As November's elections loom ahead, the Internet Association's district-by-district counterpressure can be expected to argue that well-intentioned new laws could harm the economic interests of legislators' constituents.

Documents submitted earlier this year to New Zealand's Ministry of Economic Development, pertaining to the country's three-strikes program to better enforce copyright, were released online under New Zealand's Official Information Act. The three-strikes law, which includes a maximum $20-per-notice fee payable to Internet service providers, came into effect late last summer, providing the focus of a fee review launched in March that received the recently released submissions. The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand considers itself unduly burdened by that $20 fee and claims the high cost reduces the number of notices that can be made. An excerpt from their submission read, "The public will know that the chances of receiving a notice are minimal, effectively rendering the law impotent." The New Zealand Telecommunications Forum — representing ISPs providing connections to 90 percent of New Zealand — reiterated its preference for a maximum $32 fee, complained that members' set-up costs to comply with the law have amounted to more than $735,000, pointed out that only RIANZ is using the process, and said, "Even with respect to RIANZ...volumes of notices fluctuate wildly (by as much as a factor of ten over a month) making it very difficult to resource the regime effectively." Forum member Telecom New Zealand estimated a fee that matched its actual costs would be $83. On July 23 New Zealand news coverage of these economic counterarguments ran the headline, "Four in 10 Kiwis still flout piracy laws." surveyed the economic struggles of Spain's music sector on July 20 in a report described by Digital Music News as "the most depressing music industry article ever written." The nation's economic woes are widespread but its local music scene is sustaining a historic level of damage. Although Spain recently implemented a tougher antipiracy law, young people are suffering from extremely high unemployment and don't have money to spend. While the concert industry had been helping musicians survive, many performances were subsidized by the government or sponsored by banks, and neither are in a position to continue that support. Emilio Santamaria, president of concert industry group ARTE, said, "We are facing our worst year in half a century, a complete catastrophe." Gerardo Cartón, local director for Belgian label PIAS, said, "Nobody is investing. I've turned down more artists this year than in my entire career." The article observes that the worst permanent damage caused by these economic realities is hitting up-and-coming talent whose gifts the world may now never have a chance to hear.

A group of British music superstars, including GRAMMY winners Sir Elton John, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Robert Plant, and Pete Townshend capitalized on the media attention surrounding the Summer Olympics by writing a letter to the Telegraph promoting antipiracy. "We can only realize [Britain's] potential if we have a strong domestic copyright framework, so that British creative industries can earn a fair return on their huge investments creating original content. Illegal activity online must be pushed to the margins," the letter read.

On July 23 the European Commission launched a public consultation on Net neutrality with submissions due by Oct. 15. Vice President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said, "Today there is a lack of effective consumer choice when it comes to Internet offers. I will use this consultation to help prepare recommendations that will generate more real choices and end the Net neutrality waiting game in Europe." Separately in Britain, several ISPs, including wireless carriers, have resisted committing to the Broadband Stakeholder Group's voluntary code of practice for Net neutrality, and have expressed reservations about precise wording, (e.g., how the phrase "Internet access" is allowed to be used by signatories).

File-sharing developer BitTorrent and digital marketing firm Fame House launched a monetized file-sharing promotion on July 23 featuring a bundle of works by DJ Shadow. For every download, Media partners will pay BitTorrent, which will share the revenue with the artist. BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker said, "The DJ Shadow Bundle is the first of a number of new advertising experiments we'll be testing in-client, on our websites and other media properties in the next few months."

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.

Click on the "ArtsWatch" tag for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.

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