ArtsWatch: New Copyright Blueprint

Consumer advocates launch online discussion of Internet-friendly legislative proposals
March 05, 2012 -- 7:05 am PST
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

On Feb. 28 consumer advocates Public Knowledge launched The Internet Blueprint, a website proposing to revise copyright law in order to make it more Internet-friendly. Staff Attorney Michael Weinberg blogged, "In the weeks since SOPA and PIPA, many people have been wondering 'what now?' Policymakers here in D.C. ask us a similar question: 'If you don't like SOPA and PIPA, where are your ideas?' Today, The Internet Blueprint is the first step in answering that question. If lawmakers want to pass laws to make the Internet a better place, this is where they should start." The site offers proposed legislative language to revise U.S. copyright law such as reducing copyright's term of protection, punishing copyright owners who abuse the takedown process, protecting good faith attempts at fair use from statutory damages, and requiring international copyright negotiations to be public. Leading Internet industry association NetCoalition applauded the proposals. "We are certain that PK's proposals will generate a robust and necessary national conversation — inside and outside the Beltway," said NetCoalition Executive Director Markham Erickson. The Copyright and Technology blog criticized the proposals for not including suggestions on how to reduce copyright infringement and accused PK of opportunistically pushing its agenda. The Internet Blueprint website is set up to enable a robust discussion of these and other ideas, providing a forum that could also include contrary viewpoints. Perhaps fresher ideas will emerge that could serve all sides, using the power of the Internet to protect speech, copyright and innovation.

RIAA Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman took to the organization's blog on Feb. 23 to respond to comments he received on his Feb. 8 antipiracy op-ed in The New York Times. Sherman thanked every commenter, said he had read every comment, and shared thoughtful reflections that advance the spirit of engaging in broader discussions about the road ahead. "The fact is, content and tech need each other. Our futures are intertwined, said Sherman. "And we must find a much better way to communicate with each other, respectfully and constructively. I will certainly do my part to reach out to those on the other side, and I hope others will too, so that we'll learn from the mistakes of the past and work together to make the Internet better for everyone." MPAA Chairman/CEO Chris Dodd gave a speech the day before at the Atlanta Press Club that also included conciliatory language; for example, "Let me be clear: Hollywood is pro-technology and pro-Internet." It remains to be seen whether the tech community will make the most of these open attitudes to come up with real answers. For too many digital business models, stalling progress against piracy keeps the money rolling in, so this discussion needs champions willing to innovate a new bottom line that helps copyright-protected content thrive on the Internet.

On March 1 indie rights organization Merlin reached an out-of-court settlement with former file-sharing service LimeWire, putting an end to the legal action Merlin launched in July 2011. Though the amount was not disclosed, estimated the settlement as at least $5 million and possibly as much as $15 million, generally based on Merlin's proportionate music sales compared with those of major labels. Merlin Head of Business Affairs and General Counsel Charlie Lexington said, "Whilst this is by no means the first settlement Merlin has delivered its members, it is clearly the most significant, representing, as it does, the successful conclusion of a high-profile, large-scale, global copyright infringement claim on an equal footing with the major labels. An unprecedented moment for independents."

President Barack Obama established the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center on Feb. 28 by executive order. First announced during his State of the Union speech on Jan. 24 and based within the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, ITEC will enable the government to address unfair trade violations more comprehensively. While copyright is largely on the sidelines here, enforcement-oriented engagement with China and Russia is likely to produce dividends for content owners.

On Feb. 28 Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox studios and tech manufacturing companies Sandisk and Western Digital announced the formation of the Secure Content Storage Association to design a storage device for consumers' high-definition, digital movie collections. The concept is that once a purchased show has been checked into the customer's main SCSA device, they will also be able to view it on a range of other SCSA-compatible devices. The challenge is to effectively protect the high-definition content from illegal copying and protect consumers from annoying digital rights management at the same time. The studios are also members of the UltraViolet tech consortium and see this as a complementary approach.

On Feb. 23 Nielsen released its "State Of The Media: U.S. Digital Consumer Report" for the last half of 2011, finding that 18–34-year-olds dominate the use of tablets and smart phones. The metrics firm proposed renaming this Generation Y group that comprises 23 percent of the U.S. population as "Generation C" because their digitally connected lifestyle keeps them almost constantly engaged and multitasking.

Kickstarter, which enables artists, musicians and others to raise investment money online for creative projects, notched its first three $1 million projects in February. An interview with Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler on the Talking Points Memo blog compared the $150 million Kickstarter expects to take in during 2012 with the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. Following up, TPM reviewed efforts to more precisely compare the two and interviewed NEA spokesperson Victoria Hutter. "Religious organizations and political campaigns have long recognized the power of creating a broad base of individuals giving relatively modest amounts of money. Kickstarter and the other platforms that crowdsource donations for arts organizations and projects are becoming increasingly important in helping the arts catch up," Hutter said.

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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