ArtsWatch: The Bitcoin Connection

New criminal copycat website provokes tough questions about virtual currency
November 11, 2013 -- 7:37 am PST
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

New Dread Pirate Roberts Takes Payments In Bitcoin
On Nov. 6 the shuttered criminal marketplace Silk Road was revived by a copycat fan site, led by an operator adopting the pseudonym formerly used to lead its defunct predecessor — the Dread Pirate Roberts. Following the same pattern for Isohunt covered in last week's ArtsWatch, the new Silk Road mimics the look and feel of the website seized by the FBI on Oct. 1, the big difference being Silk Road's focus on illegal drug sales. On Oct. 25 federal authorities pursuing the case against Silk Road announced the seizure of more than $33 million in virtual Bitcoin currency, a form of payment that is also used by some infringing websites that sell unlicensed digital content, as recently noted by the RIAA. Responding to this latest news, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said, "This new website — launched barely a month after federal agents shut down the original Silk Road — underscores the inescapable reality that technology is dynamic and ever-evolving and that government policy needs to adapt accordingly. … We need to develop thoughtful, nimble and sensible federal policies that protect the public without stifling innovation and economic growth. Our committee intends to have that conversation … at our hearing this month on virtual currency."

Library Of Congress Shout-Out To "Give Fans The Credit"
In a review of current progress on improving audio metadata on Nov. 7, the Library of Congress' digital preservation blog The Signal highlighted the prominent roles played by The Recording Academy's "Give Fans The Credit" initiative and the Producers & Engineers Wing's extensive efforts developing recommendations and standards. The blog concluded with the words of P&E Wing Senior Executive Director Maureen Droney, who wrote, "Standardization of the collection and transmission of recording studio metadata is the goal. In the meantime, educating the music community about best practices, both for the collection of credits and other technical and descriptive information, and for the short- and long-term archiving of masters, are important first steps." This important digital stewardship work preserves the cultural context of audio treasures and is establishing methodologies likely to be influential far into the future.

FCC Chair Clocks In And Names Staff
On Nov. 5 incoming Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler authored an introductory blog outlining his aims and new staff appointments. "As networks change, those charged with the responsibility of overseeing those networks must also evolve," wrote Wheeler. Gigi Sohn's appointment as Special Counsel for External Affairs attracted sufficient attention to rate headlines from Broadcasting & Cable, The Hill and Variety. As co-founder, president & CEO of consumer advocacy organization Public Knowledge, Sohn navigated her sometimes controversial advocacy into a position of prominence. Aside from whatever influence she has on Wheeler, Sohn's presence will likely change the way her former colleagues at digital-rights organizations interact with the FCC.

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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