ArtsWatch: Rhetoric Flares In Net Neutrality Battle

Verbal firestorms heat up as FCC considers tougher regs for Internet transmission
June 21, 2010 -- 10:56 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

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.

As expected on June 17 the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Notice of Inquiry regarding reclassification of broadband Internet transmissions under a stricter regulatory regime, soliciting public comments by July 15. Both Republican commissioners dissented. Commissioner Robert M. McDowell expressed concern that the proposal has already "caused harm in the marketplace," endangers 1.5 million jobs and "will be litigated in court for years." That's the calm take. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said, "This is a bureaucratic overreach of the first order. I am confident that my colleagues and I will act to overturn it." Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) went further when he called it a "blind power grab" and said, "the commission now inexplicably appears poised on Thursday to take another misguided leap toward its investment-suffocating attempt to regulate broadband providers as common carriers." Policy organization Chairman Scott Cleland stated the common opinion of many observers when he provocatively said, "Make no mistake, Google is the special-interest power behind the curtain pulling the strings here. This veiled FCC proposal is conveniently on path to deliver all the special regulatory favors Google has been seeking from the FCC in one rush-order, gift-wrapped package." Arguably the Democratic commissioners are not helping to calm tensions by characterizing the opposition's anger as a corporate-sponsored outcry. Commissioner Michael J. Copps said, "beware of all the slick PR you hear, and remember that much of it is coming from lavishly funded corporate interests..." Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn said, "If it were up to big business, the FCC would never get the opinion of consumers." In short, a war of words that is bound to continue. The challenge at the heart of the matter is how to define reasonable network management practices that will allow the virtues of Net neutrality to continue without stifling either the needs of network operators or innovative applications that require time-sensitive delivery of their data.

Efforts to open commodity trading on movie futures have been moving forward steadily with the latest favorable ruling by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on June 14 and another ruling anticipated on June 28. Meanwhile, the MPAA is leading a coalition of industry organizations opposed to the practice and rooting for language against it that was introduced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) into the financial reform bill that passed the Senate. MPAA President/Interim CEO Bob Pisano said, "It is unfortunate that the CFTC has now given the go-ahead to a new gambling platform that could be plagued by financial irregularities and manipulation.... We support banning them as the Senate bill does, and hope that the final bill approved by Congress and signed by President Obama retains the prohibition."

Embattled file-sharing service LimeWire is expected to respond as early as today to arguments that the site should be shut down — appearing before New York's U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood, who ruled in favor of the RIAA's summary judgment motion against LimeWire last month. On June 16 eight major music publishers filed a related suit in the same court. National Music Publishers' Association President/CEO David Israelite said, "The current suit from the music labels doesn't represent the publishers' interests to the extent there are damages. We have to file this so the publishers can be compensated for the massive theft that has gone on for years...we need to be at the table for any discussions about the future."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation published a list of attorneys on June 11 willing to represent the thousands of defendants sued for online movie infringement by the law firm behind Cnet News profiled one defense firm that guarantees its $249 price tag based on its ability to negotiate a settlement reduced by at least that amount. This unprecedented application of copyright law will continue to draw interest as some defendants refuse to pay up to a few thousand dollars in settlement and their cases go to trial.

On June 14 a six-month plan to develop a digital public media platform was announced, funded by a $1 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to be administered by NPR. Other participants include American Public Media, PBS, Public Radio Exchange, Public Radio International, and the membership of a diverse advisory council. The digital distribution platform is intended to provide a backbone for innovative ways to pool and share public media, including blogs and mobile apps.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum has launched an international online video competition in conjunction with YouTube and Hewlett-Packard to identify up to 20 outstanding video artworks of less than 10 minutes in length apiece, to be exhibited at an Oct. 21 event and online. Guggenheim Foundation Director Richard Armstrong said, "The Guggenheim, YouTube and HP share a view that creative online video is one of the most compelling and innovative opportunities for personal expression today." The submission deadline is July 31. A group of 200 semifinalist entries will be judged by an expert jury including filmmakers, artists, musicians, and designers.

U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel is scheduled to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on June 23. As the first oversight hearing for this recently created position, the event is a genuine landmark in the history of U.S. intellectual property law enforcement.


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