ArtsWatch: UK's 1.2 Billion Pirated Downloads

BPI report estimates massive illegal downloading
December 20, 2010 -- 8:05 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 Dec. 16 British recording industry association BPI released its comprehensive "Digital Music Nation 2010 report." BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said, "The Internet is an incredible technology for communication, and one of the things we use it for most is to listen to, share and talk about music. ... For the first time, this report provides a comprehensive picture of the digital music nation at play." The UK's good news includes an estimated 370 million digital tracks sold in 2010 and 67 legal music services now available online. Statistics provided by Harris Interactive offer a gruesome picture of the surrounding challenges, notably an estimated 1.2 billion music tracks illegally downloaded in 2010. Of approximately 7.7 million Brits who download illegal tracks on a regular basis, 44 percent believe what they are doing is legal. While only a small number of consumers use peer-to-peer services — 13 percent of 5,393 respondents — only 12 percent of this minority were influenced by worries about being caught doing anything wrong. The 3-to-1 dominance of pirated tracks over legitimate sales is an imbalance that will continue to damage the UK recording industry, but the progress made in the face of this challenge is worth celebrating.

A coalition of creative community organizations including the MPAA and RIAA responded on Dec. 10 to the Department of Commerce's Oct. 5 Notice of Inquiry for comments on how to balance online copyright enforcement with protection of innovation on the Internet. Other music organizations jointly submitting these comments include American Association of Independent Music, AFM and NMPA. Their filing argues that the comprehensive approach already being pursued needs to be broadened to include "players in the Internet ecosystem" who "are not doing their part, because the current framework provides the wrong incentives," or who "actively skirt the law, or even seek to undermine the cooperation that is needed." The submission concludes, "We believe that an objective examination of facts will amply demonstrate that the current system is not working to protect our creators, our economy, our culture, or our jobs. We hope that this proceeding will mark a first step toward re-striking the balance, with greater cooperation among the key players, better legal tools, and a more productive approach to this pervasive and pernicious problem." Other comments are posted on the website of the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration Internet Policy Task Force, including a sizable contingent of individuals responding to a call for action by the Entertainment Consumers Association.

On Dec. 16 Cnet News reported that Internet financial intermediaries and advertising services have recently expressed a greater willingness to cooperate with antipiracy efforts such as those laid out in S. 3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. Mitch Glazier, RIAA executive VP of government and industry relations, said, "MasterCard in particular deserves credit for its proactive approach to addressing rogue websites that dupe consumers. They have reached out to us and others in the entertainment community to forge what we think will be a productive and effective partnership." Interactive Advertising Bureau Senior VP and General Counsel Mike Zaneis said, "There's a commitment here to work with the content community and senators [Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)]. We want to find the best option and do what everybody wants, which is to cut off funding to the rogue sites." S. 3804 was introduced by Hatch and Leahy on Sept. 20 and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 18. There is little time left for it to pass before next year's Congress is assembled, but it has clearly demonstrated its value as a conversation starter.

Viacom filed its appeal of YouTube's lower court victory to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month, hoping to modify Internet service providers' "safe harbor" protections against copyright infringement lawsuits. Viacom was joined by an impressive array of creative industry organizations filing friend-of-the-court briefs, including AFM, ASCAP, BMI, CBS, and the MPAA.

On Dec. 15 President Barack Obama signed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, S. 2847, into law to prevent dramatic increases in volume on television ads. One blogger said, "The CALM Act is seriously one of the best things passed in the 111th Congress."

A federal magistrate judge in New York's U.S. District Court — overseeing the trial to determine damages caused by file-sharing service LimeWire — granted the defendant's request to make record labels demonstrate actual lost profits for infringed musical works. On Dec. 14 Judge Debra Freeman ordered the parties to agree upon a group of 80 singles and 20 albums for this demonstration, and another 80 singles and 20 albums will be randomly selected.

On Dec. 9 a California U.S. District Court judge granted EMI's motion for summary judgment against BlueBeat for unauthorized sales of songs by the Beatles. Regarding the defendant's unusual claim that the tracks were psycho-acoustic simulations, the judge said, "BlueBeat fails to provide any evidence...showing how or why its purported 'simulations' are anything but illicit copies of the copyrighted recordings."


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