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ArtsWatch: New IP Talks With India Expected

This year's Special 301 review helps spark fresh copyright dialog with India

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

In recent news ...

Trade Rep's Annual Report Includes Notable Progress
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman released the 2014 Special 301 Report on April 30, ranking national trading partners based on the inadequacy of their protection for intellectual property. This year's priority watch list comprises 10 countries — Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela — but there is also good news. "I would like to congratulate the governments of Italy and the Philippines on their removal from the watch list," said Froman. "Today we acknowledge their accomplishments and encourage them to continue their progress. ... Likewise, we congratulate Israel on its removal from the watch list earlier this year." The most interesting strategic move was including India on the priority watch list and planning an out-of-cycle review for the country this fall. Two challenges are India's plans for compulsory licensing of some pharmaceutical patents and a current national election. India has an impressive expanding economy and a rich creative sector, but also suffers from what Froman described in a blog as "deterioration in India's environment for IP protection and enforcement." India could have qualified for worse treatment but the goal was engagement, and preliminary indications are that the strategy has paid off. On May 1 India's Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher, who expects to meet with Froman in June or July, praised his approach and said, "They know very well that India is in transition." The IIPA, MPAA and RIAA expressed their appreciation for this year's report. RIAA Executive Vice President of International Neil Turkewitz said, "These efforts are a fundamental part of maintaining U.S. economic competitiveness, job creation and realizing the potential of global digital commerce to enhance societal well-being, creativity and innovation."

Digital Rights Action In Brazil
On April 23–24 participants from 97 countries collaborated at the NETmundial conference held in Sao Paulo, producing a multistakeholder statement meant to influence future conversations on Internet governance. Kicking off the event, Brazil President Dilma Rousseff signed an Internet bill of rights into law for her country titled the Marco Civil. Brazil's MPAA representative appreciated being part of the action. Evaluating both the Marco Civil and the conference's outcome, on April 28 Turkewitz blogged that the metaphorical glass could be seen as half full. He wrote, "While I don't endorse the NETmundial statement, primarily given its failure to adequately reflect the importance of fundamental human rights in connection with the creation of original works, it is nonetheless encouraging to witness the maturation of debates in which answers will be found in nuance and not absolutes." In other words, it could have been worse, especially since many view the action in Brazil as a historic first step. Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice president for the digital agenda, said, "NETmundial has put us on the right track. ... I will continue to push all parties in the coming months ... to deliver on the concrete actions identified."

ASCAP Expo Call To Action
ASCAP held its annual "I Create Music" Expo, unveiling its new Music Advocacy Project and making a call for united pressure on Congress. Recent GRAMMY winner and ASCAP President/Chairman Paul Williams said, "We need a long-term solution that works better for the music industry as a whole. The future of songwriting — and perhaps, the future of music — depends on us working together to fix these problems. We know this. And we know that, right now, change is within our reach." Some observers heard a distinct echo of Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow's April 2 call for "MusicBus" omnibus legislation at The Academy's GRAMMYs on the Hill event as well as in a subsequent Roll Call editorial. Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Tom Marino (R-Pa.) also participated in a panel at the event, encouraging attendees to support H.R. 4079, the Songwriter Equity Act of 2014, and to make their voices heard. "Advocacy is of the utmost importance," said Marino. "We have talent in my district, where there are as many cows as there are people. I can only imagine the talent that exists all across America."

World Intellectual Property Day At The Movies
On April 26 the World Intellectual Property Organization celebrated World Intellectual Property Day with hundreds of events held in dozens of countries. This year's theme was "Movies — A Global Passion." "Think about the digital challenge which the Internet presents for film," said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. I believe it is the responsibility not just of policymakers but of each of us to consider this challenge, and to ask ourselves: How can we take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity to democratize culture and to make creative works available at the click of a mouse, while, at the same time, ensuring that the creators can keep on creating, earning their living and making the films that so enrich our lives?"

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 @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

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ArtsWatch: Antigua's Piracy Gamble

WTO ruling raises the stakes in Caribbean nation's stand-off with U.S.

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

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Permission Slip Granted: Antigua Allowed $21 Million In Infringement Earnings
On Jan. 28 the World Trade Organization advanced the long-running trade dispute between the U.S. and the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, authorizing suspension of intellectual property obligations as retaliatory sanctions for the U.S. refusal to permit its consumers to use gambling websites based on the islands. Colorful coverage included Associated Press emphasizing the notion of a "copyright haven," Reuters highlighting U.S. warnings against "government-authorized piracy," and The Hill quoting an Antiguan attorney's threats that putting their plan into effect would establish a precedent for other countries. All this publicity likely serves Antigua's negotiating strategy to extract substantial assistance from the U.S., but International Intellectual Property Alliance counsel Steve Metalitz argued, "We are of the firm view that suspending intellectual property rights is not the right solution, and that state-sanctioned theft is an affront to any society. Should Antigua determine to move forward in this manner, it would certainly interfere with the ability to reach a negotiated resolution, and would harm the interests of Antiguans." The WTO dispute began in March 2003, so even though things are speeding up, there could be a long wait before its final resolution.

Permission Slip Revoked: Chorus Of Complaints Over 'Jailbreaking' Rule Change
The latest round of Digital Millennium Copyright Act exemptions to the statutory prohibition on circumventing digital security became effective Oct. 28, 2012 and included a "90-day transitional period" for jailbreaking mobile handsets that expired on Jan. 26. This led digital rights advocates, including tech journalists, to trumpet the theme "Just a Few Hours Left to Unlock Your Phone!" PC World moaned, "As of Saturday ... [y]ou just can't unlock your phone yourself — at least, not legally. That decision was made not by voters, the courts, or even Congress. It was made by one man." This kind of oversimplification enjoys some popular support, partially because copyright law can be difficult and frustrating. The voters elect Congress, which passed the DMCA requiring the Librarian of Congress to identify exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions every three years. Many stakeholders, including the public, trade organizations, and digital rights advocates, are invited by the Library of Congress to suggest exemptions, and then the Register of Copyrights is tasked with producing recommendations based on this wide scope of considerations. The latest mobile phone interoperability rules are complicated but clearly influenced by the Vernor v. Autodesk court case that was decided in 2010 after the previous DMCA rules were finalized, tilting judicial opinion towards treating software use as a license rather than more comprehensive ownership. So this chorus of complaints should not be considered reliably accurate.

Promoting Spotify To The U.S. House Of Representatives
On Jan. 31 the RIAA responded to reporting by Politico that revealed the U.S. House of Representatives is currently blocking music service Spotify on its computer networks because of Spotify's peer-to-peer infrastructure. Writing to the House's Chief Administrative Officer, RIAA Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman encouraged using the Why Music Matters list of legal sites as a resource and said, "We appreciate your need to ensure that the House network is secure, and we would welcome the opportunity to work with you to develop a new policy that ensures that users of the House network will be able to gain access to these new legal services. All members of the music community who create, invest in, promote, market and distribute music appreciate your efforts to fix this problem."

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 @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

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ArtsWatch: YouTube Music Key's Big Beta Launch

New music subscription service hopes to leverage Google's scale and unique features

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

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YouTube Unveils Subscription Music Service
On Nov. 12 Google-owned YouTube announced the beta launch of its new Music Key subscription service. The initial monthly fee will be $7.99, mostly to avoid ads preceding videos, and includes a subscription to Google Play Music. YouTube now has licenses with the three major labels and a new indie deal through Merlin; however, on the day of Music Key's announcement, prominent industry figure Irving Azoff threatened to pull as many as 20,000 songs by artists he represents from YouTube. Apart from the subscription service, but benefitting it, YouTube has also put new interactive features online, particularly on mobile, including higher quality tracks, the ability to find and play complete albums easily, better access to discographic information, and better aggregation of artists' related content. This represents a licensing breakthrough by a tech giant, enabling better competition with Apple Beats and Spotify. With label support, YouTube's advantages as a top Internet destination grow beyond its boasts of 1 billion unique monthly visitors.

Senate Judiciary Chair Calls For Equal Treatment Under Copyright Law
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced S. 2919, the Copyright and Marriage Equality Act, on Nov. 12, proposing to amend the definitions of "widow" and "widower" under statutory copyright law so that the ability for surviving spouses to inherit intellectual property rights applies consistently to same-sex marriages. Penning a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter, Leahy wrote that S. 2919 "will ensure that the rights attached to the works of our nation's gay and lesbian authors, musicians, painters, sculptors, and other creators pass to their spouses the way they now do for heterosexual creators. Artists are the creative lifeblood of our nation, and our laws should protect their families equally." Companion bill H.R. 5617 was introduced in the House of Representatives in September. Because Republicans recently won control of the Senate, Leahy will relinquish his position as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year, reportedly to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). No one is certain what legislation can still move during the outgoing Congress' remaining term, but Leahy has focused attention on this issue by introducing the bill following his party's loss.

"Dark Market" Websites Shut Down By Law Enforcement
On Nov. 7 the Department of Justice announced that more than 400 "dark market" websites — using Tor anonymity technology to hide criminal commerce in drugs and guns and more — were seized and taken down by law enforcement in the United States and Europe. The ability to cut through Internet criminals' efforts to remain anonymous meant real progress in the previously reported Silk Road 2.0 arrest, and these hundreds of related website seizures suggest law enforcement has improved its technical capacity to shine light into the Internet's dark corners where piracy also thrives. Troels Oerting, head of Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, said, "This time we have … hit services on the Darknet using Tor where, for a long time, criminals have considered themselves beyond reach. We can now show that they are neither invisible nor untouchable."

Debates Put The Internet's Future In Focus
New developments highlight how the Internet is simultaneously something people love to use and a massive network overseen by government agencies, trade groups and a variety of stakeholder associations. On Nov. 7, the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union completed a three-week plenipotentiary conference, an event held every four years. The Department of State celebrated the accomplishment of the United States' major policy objectives, including maintaining the ITU's mandate, which many other governments oppose. A new working group will also hold consultations with all stakeholders to better develop "international Internet-related public policy." Likely timed to benefit from ITU conference coverage, the NETmundial Initiative announced its formation on Nov. 6, with founding participants ICANN, the World Economic Forum and Brazil's Internet Steering Committee. The new initiative, which follows NETmundial, an international Internet policy conference held in Brazil in April, hopes to make progress in the same open spirit. Separately, President Barack Obama surprised telecommunications industry observers on Nov. 10 by endorsing the strongest possible regulatory approach to achieve open Internet goals, such as prohibiting throttling and paid prioritization of data. Because the Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency, the president has no direct regulatory authority to craft Internet policy. Thus, his remarks stake out a strong but generally advisory political position as part of the ongoing debate. Obama endorsed applying these new regulations to mobile data as well, saying, "There is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible, and free Internet."

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. To learn more, visit GRAMMY.org/Advocacy. To get more involved, visit GRAMMY.com/Action.

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ArtsWatch: Warning: You're About To Be Warned

Verizon is first out of the gate with IP infringement consumer awareness alerts

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

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Verizon May Be First To Copyright Alert Program Party
The Internet service provider Copyright Alert System announced in 2011 and tweaked through last year has still not been formally launched, but Verizon has apparently soft-launched its version. Although Digital Music News described this infringement notification process as "one of the lightest wrist slaps imaginable," a more consumer-friendly approach is the whole point of how this is supposed to work. An internal Verizon draft document was first published online by TorrentFreak on Jan. 11, outlining the process and encouraging disgruntled customers to visit the Center for Copyright Information's website for more information. Verizon's Copyright FAQ now offers details of the 2011 agreement between ISPs and content owners. This voluntary collaboration between multi-industry stakeholders is historic and represents high hopes that most Internet users value personal convenience far more than breaking the law to get content for free.

New Law Allows Video Rental Customers To Share Via Social Media
On Jan. 10 President Barack Obama signed a video privacy amendment that was passed by last year's Congress as H.R. 6671 on Dec. 20, providing video rental services such as Netflix the ability to allow customers to share their rental activity on social media networks such as Facebook. The bill was originally introduced Dec. 17 by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "This new law is truly pro-consumer and places the decision of whether or not to share video rentals with one's friends squarely in the hands of the consumer," Goodlatte said.

House Of Representatives Computer Networks Still Used For Illegal Downloads
U.S. News & World Report's Washington Whispers column reported Jan. 14 that employees using House of Representatives computer network Internet addresses are still engaging in illegal downloading despite the fact that this behavior was first exposed in late 2011. Relying on information compiled by ScanEye, the columnist Elizabeth Flock wrote, "The illegal downloads haven't stopped. According to [ScanEye data], employees of Congress have downloaded everything from the reality TV show 'The Ultimate Fighter' to talk show 'The Ellen Degeneres Show' to the 3D family movie The Smurfs since early October."

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 @ GRAMMY.com 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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ArtsWatch: Mega Coming In 2013

Kim Dotcom announces plans for cloud storage service with upgraded immune system

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

In recent news ...

Megaupload's Second Coming
In a Nov. 1 interview with Reuters, the notorious Kim Dotcom announced plans for a January launch of Mega, a new cloud storage website. Arrested earlier this year in New Zealand for his Megaupload site's pirated content, Dotcom has maintained he was singled out as a target while following standard industry practices of taking down infringing material once notified. The limited details released so far regarding Mega include an emphasis on user-based encryption, purportedly to prevent the service from being held responsible for users' decisions. Dotcom also told Reuters, "The new Mega avoids any dealings with U.S. hosters, U.S. domains and U.S. backbone providers and has changed the way it operates to avoid another takedown." Since the new Me.ga is hosted in Gabon, one has to wonder whether its proprietor's name, Dotcom, is becoming out-of-date. Will next year also see the launch of Kim Dotga?

Copyright Alert System To Re-inspect Infringement Detection
On Oct. 30 the Center for Copyright Information responded with several pledges to accusations that its Copyright Alert System was tainted. Internet service providers have agreed to participate in CAS and provide subscribers with warnings and educational materials if they are detected infringing copyrighted content. CCI partnered with MarkMonitor to provide detection and contracted digital security consultants Stroz Friedberg to evaluate MarkMonitor. Critics voiced suspicions as reports surfaced that Stroz Friedberg previously provided the RIAA with lobbying services, and accused CCI of having failed to remain independent and impartial. CCI Executive Director Jill Lesser committed to a fresh evaluation of MarkMonitor and to make Stroz Friedberg's existing evaluation public. "We are ... sensitive to any appearance that Stroz lacks independence ... We are working to build a system consumers can trust," she said.

France's Three-Strikes Agency Trimmed, Not Chopped
Billboard.biz and the Copyright and Technology blog took a favorable close look at the section of last month's report by the French government that concerned HADOPI, the agency in charge of France's three-strikes antipiracy program. The report revealed the agency's budget will be reduced by 23 percent, a moderate reduction compared to August reports that it would be greatly reduced. HADOPI will be adding a handful of additional personnel and expanding its purview to include video games while trying to reduce costs. If the goal was to punish infringers, this graduated response program seems like a multimillion-dollar waste, but its goal is to reduce infringement while promoting France's digital music marketplace. Preliminary data has encouraged observers to hope that U.S. downloaders, who will be targeted by the Copyright Alert System, will respond as favorably as French downloaders have. It seems the warning and education model was more than 90 percent effective the first time warnings were sent, and in the cases where follow-ups were necessary, these second strikes have also become more than 90 percent effective. The job of cracking down on committed content pirates will call for a different approach, but for now, and for hopes of greater revenue from licensed digital content, French is the language of love.

After Years Of Pressure, Google Commits To Anticounterfeiting Partnership
On Oct. 31 Google and Rosetta Stone announced the settlement of the language software developer's long-standing suit against the search engine for trademark infringement and declared their intention to collaborate on anticounterfeiting efforts. The parties' press release announced, "By working together, Google and Rosetta Stone hope to improve detection methods, and better protect from abuse brands like Rosetta Stone, advertising platforms like Google AdWords, and ultimately consumers on the Internet. At the end of the day, both companies would rather cooperate than litigate, and we believe this agreement is an important step toward eliminating piracy and trademark abuse on the Internet."

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 @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

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