ArtsWatch: Show Them The Money

First-of-its-kind survey gathering information about artists' revenue streams now online
September 12, 2011 -- 11:08 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.

On Sept. 6 the Future of Music Coalition's Artists Revenue Streams project launched its online survey. "By participating in this survey, you are contributing to something much bigger than simply providing us with some information about your life and musical work," said Kristin Thomson, the project's co-director. "The results will provide a rich snapshot of the complex nature of being a musician in the 21st century." Former Executive Director of SoundExchange and former Recording Academy Trustee John Simson is working with the FMC project and elaborated, "We can certainly look at compiled statistics from various trade associations and garner certain assumptions, but we don't have the empirical evidence from the artist's perspective. When artist advocates are fighting on Capitol Hill or overseas for greater protections for songwriters and recording artists, having these numbers would be a huge benefit." The survey will remain open through Oct. 28.

Google delivered a progress report on Sept. 2 for several steps it has been taking this year to better support copyright. Steps include streamlined and prompt responses to requests to take down infringing material, preventing the autocomplete search feature from suggesting piracy-friendly search terms, keeping infringers out of Google's AdSense advertising network, and highlighting legitimate content in search results. MPAA described these steps as "very encouraging" but blogged, "Here's the real question: can Google and the tools it provides be conveniently and easily used to locate illegal content online? Unfortunately, the answer is still 'yes.' Clearly more needs to be done."

Over the weekend of Aug. 27–28 a prankster criminally abused Google-owned YouTube's takedown process, falsely reporting that Vevo music videos by Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Rihanna were infringing. While YouTube's standard investigative procedure was underway, the content was rendered unavailable, temporarily eliminating Bieber and Lady Gaga’s content channels on YouTube.

A group of university libraries participating in the digital HathiTrust book repository — a backup copy of Google's massive library book scanning project with more than 5 million book titles — have banded together on an Orphan Works Project. The group will share research duties but confine access to individual orphan works to each separate university that holds a physical copy of the title in its collection. On Aug. 24 Cornell, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, and the University of California Libraries announced they joined the project, which was kicked off by the University of Michigan in May with the Universities of Florida and Wisconsin joining in the interim. The participants rely on a refreshingly sound fair use argument to justify their approach, which is particularly noncommercial (because these are orphan works), educational and authenticates users either through their standard university ID and password or because their access occurs within the physical library itself. Meanwhile the Google Books project is headed back to court on Sept. 15, having suffered its most recent major judicial setback in March.

Developers were given a chance to try a beta version of Apple's upcoming iTunes Match service late last month. Speculation included whether the service was susceptible to hacks, how it compares to competing services and semantic fine points about why the service's seeming ability to stream music is distinct from the legal definition of a streaming service. Whether this is all hype, moot or premature is pending the bigger question of whether Apple has another winner on its hands.

On Sept. 6 Sony announced the appointment of Philip Reitinger as senior vice president/chief information security officer. The announcement read, "He will oversee information security, privacy and Internet safety across the company, coordinating closely with key headquarters groups and working in partnership with the information security community to bring the best ideas and approaches to Sony." Having been embarrassed by hacks to its PlayStation Network this past spring, this is a meaningful step forward not only for Sony but also representative of the entertainment industry coming to grips with contemporary cyber realities. Among Reitinger's many accomplishments, he served at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as deputy under secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate until his resignation in June, and testified before the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees.

Two interesting conferences are coming up in November in New York. The first ever Antipiracy & Content Protection Summit will be held Nov. 14–16 and already has an outstanding schedule in place. The second-ever Copyright and Technology 2011 Conference will be held Nov. 30 and is still finalizing its speakers and panelists.


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