ArtsWatch: The Perils Of Piracy On Unprotected Wireless Networks

Qwest's threat to suspend customer's Internet draws criticism
February 08, 2010 -- 10:06 am PST
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 Feb. 1 Cnet News covered the January travails of 53-year-old grandmother Cathi Paradiso, who was informed by her ISP Qwest that her Internet account was to be suspended because 18 instances of copyright piracy had been traced to her computer's IP address. (link) The previous ArtsWatch also led with Cnet News coverage critical of ISP antipiracy efforts. (link) Consumer advocates Public Knowledge compared the consumer's plight to the hero's exile from society in the movie Judge Dredd and said, "...the Internet is more than forums discussing cats. It is critical [to] civic and cultural life. Permanently cutting people off from the Internet is something that arguably should never happen. At a minimum it should require some level of real due process." (link) This angle on the problem has some validity but does not go far enough. Just as millions of consumers unknowingly engaged in infringing uploads because of their ignorance regarding P2P shared folders, many consumers are also ignorantly allowing pirates to piggyback on their unsecured wireless home networks — as a Qwest technician determined in this case after Paradiso protested her innocence. Pursuing the human interest storyline of ISPs caving to label-driven crackdowns against consumers makes for good reading, but the need to fight content piracy and the need to better educate digital consumers are more than just contextual — both are vital components of the Internet's future.

Federal Court of Australia Justice Dennis Cowdroy ruled against film company plaintiffs on Feb. 4 in favor of ISP iiNet, finding that provision of Internet service could not be considered authorization for customers to use P2P BitTorrent software for movie copyright infringement. (link) Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft Executive Director Neil Gane said, "...we believe this decision was based on a technical finding centered on the court's interpretation of how infringements occur and the ISP's ability to control them. We are confident that the government does not intend a policy outcome where rampant copyright infringement is allowed to continue unaddressed and unabated via the iiNet network." (link) Meanwhile, content owners pay the price for the gap between desirable policy outcomes and what is legally required. Justice Cowdroy said, "The evidence establishes that copyright infringement of the applicants' films is occurring on a large scale, and I infer that such infringements are occurring worldwide. However, such fact does not necessitate or compel, and can never necessitate or compel, a finding of authorization, merely because it is felt that 'something must be done' to stop the infringements.... The law recognizes no positive obligation on any person to protect the copyright of another."

On Jan. 26 the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court held search engines provided by Baidu and Sohu innocent of 2008 infringement claims brought by Sony BMG Music Entertainment Hong Kong, Universal Music and Warner Music Hong Kong. (link) The labels objected to the search engines deep-linking to pirated music files and wanted offending links removed from search results, but the court ruled that providing links to pirated files did not constitute piracy. IFPI said, "The verdicts do not reflect the reality that both operators have built their music search businesses on the basis of facilitating mass copyright infringement to the detriment of artists, producers and all those involved in China's legitimate music market."

Digital performance rights organization SoundExchange announced a partnership with MySpace on Jan. 23 to further expand the organization's outreach to unregistered artists entitled to a share of royalties received. (link) SoundExchange VP of New Media and External Affairs Bryan Calhoun said, "It can be a challenge notifying and convincing artists to register with SoundExchange because [they] don't know they're entitled to these royalties, or believe it's too good to be true." Previous outreach efforts have included partnerships with ReverbNation and iLike.

MPAA Chairman/CEO Dan Glickman is stepping down to take the helm of advocacy organization Refugees International on April 1. (link) President/COO Bob Pisano will serve as interim CEO while the organization searches for a replacement.

Bach Technology revealed details of its MusicDNA technology late last month at MIDEM, applying digital rights management security to metadata accompanying MP3 files so that the underlying MP3 might be pirated but the dynamically updated rich media experience accompanying it cannot. (link) A beta version is expected to be rolled out by early April and commercial launch is anticipated this summer. Tommy Boy Entertainment CEO Tom Silverman said, "MusicDNA will be a boon for artists and fans as it dynamically connects them long after purchase. It is a boon for fans as it can offer multiple levels of artist stuff based on the fan's passion level.... It's a boon for labels because this high-value consumer experience is not cloneable yet highly viral and gives them full content and pricing flexibility."

On Jan. 22 standards organization Digital Data Exchange announced adoption agreements with five music rights organizations including GEMA, PRS for Music and SACEM. (link) Use of standard formats for digital sales reporting is expected to reduce online distributors' costs.


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