ArtsWatch: Passions Stirred By FCC Net Proposal

Plan to put open Internet enforcement on legal foundation sparks heated protests
May 19, 2014 -- 6:12 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

New Net Neutrality Comment Period Begins
On May 15 a closely divided Federal Communications Commission voted in favor of Chairman Tom Wheeler's revised proposed rulemaking to "protect and promote an open Internet." Commissioner Mignon Clyburn voted to support Wheeler, while the third Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel cast a more reserved "concurring" vote. As expected the two Republican commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Ajit Pai voted against, believing Net neutrality regulation is premature, a solution in search of a problem. Wheeler introduced several last-minute revisions to the proposal to placate fans of an open Internet who disapprove of his approach. Harsh reactions from opponents have been extensive. Sen. Al Franken's (D-Minn.) remarks give a sense of their intensity. "The FCC has taken a woefully misguided step toward handing the Internet over to big corporations who can pay boatloads of money for preferential treatment. Anyone who values a free and open Internet should be deeply troubled by the FCC's vote," he said. With riled-up lawmakers and open-Internet fans protesting outside the FCC and even inside the commissioners' meeting, the next few months will no doubt provide a remarkable airing of opinions.

Trio Helps Songwriters
Tennessee's Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker joined with Utah's singer/songwriter Sen. Orrin Hatch on May 12 to introduce S. 2321, the Songwriter Equity Act, companion legislation to H.R. 4079, which was introduced in the House in February by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.). The bills help ensure that royalties for the public performance and mechanical licensing of musical compositions are paid at a fair rate. The Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow said, "The Senate's introduction of the Songwriter Equity Act brings us an important step closer to our mission of 'Fair market pay for all music creators across all platforms.' We thank Sens. Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker and Orrin Hatch for joining their House colleagues led by Rep. Doug Collins to help establish a level playing field for all music makers." Accompanied by local songwriters and industry participants, including The Recording Academy's Director of Government Relations, Todd Dupler, the legislators took to the stage of Nashville's Bluebird Cafe to highlight this progress. "Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City, and their paychecks ought to be based on the fair market value of their songs — so that when they write a hit heard around the world, you can see it in their billfolds," said Alexander.

EU Court Demands Google Comply With Orders To Block Links
On May 13 the European Court of Justice handed down a personal privacy ruling compelling search engines to change the way they process their search results. The case rose to the court's attention because Google tried to annul an order issued by Spain's data protection agency, requiring Google to not link to a page about a private individual's debt issues. The court called for "a fair balance," giving enough protection to personal data so that a key EU directive on the subject is meaningful. The ruling allows anyone to request that links be blocked, compels the search engine to examine the merits of such requests, and supports appeal of a rejected request to public authorities. Then those authorities can reach their own determination and potentially order a search engine to block the requested links. Although the decision focuses on the rights of people who are not in the public eye and experience lasting interference from outdated data popping up in search results, tech-friendly critics allege that the ruling establishes a new censorship regime. "The balance that was struck was wrong," said Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Computer & Communications Industry Association President & CEO Ed Black summed up the tech-friendly position: "A more careful approach is needed to ensure this does not turn into the right to hide the truth from others." On the other hand, the decision basically leaves those determinations up to regionally established public authorities, so some of this resistance amounts to an objection to government interference with how search engines operate.

Chinese Search Engine Cracks Down On Counterfeits
As it heads toward an initial public offering on the U.S. stock market, China's ecommerce and search giant Alibaba has been aggressively taking down offers of counterfeit merchandise, Reuters reported on May 13. Putting investors on notice, the company's IPO statement said, "We may be subject to allegations and lawsuits claiming that items listed on our marketplaces are pirated, counterfeit or illegal." While commercial costs are involved in examining online stores for fakes and in defending lawsuits, Alibaba's main concern is the value of its brand. With its IPO approaching, the value of trust might be quantifiable in billions of dollars.

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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