ArtsWatch: The Anti-Antipiracy Chorus

Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act voice their objections

GRAMMY.com
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 @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

The House Judiciary Committee's Nov. 16 hearing on H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, resulted in extensive opposition to the bill. The Recording Academy supports this legislation. Addressing just one of the following list of objections, RIAA Senior Executive Vice President Mitch Glazier encouraged those in opposition to the bill to ask the question, "What specific legislative proposal do you have that would meaningfully address this problem?" For those who would appreciate a quick review of the problem of rogue websites, the MPAA recently released several helpful video spots. Among the opposing views:

  • In a statement submitted to the House Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) suggested, "Rather than frustrating the architecture of the Internet or establishing a censoring regime, consider instead promoting approaches that empower users and do no harm to the Net. ... Our efforts should be to protect copyrights and trademarks, not outdated business models." Wyden has been the most outspoken opponent of the Senate's S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act, and argues that both bills endanger the free and open Internet.
  • On Nov. 15 Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) was joined by 10 other members of the House in a letter to the committee warning that SOPA's language jeopardizes the safe harbor provisions that currently protect Internet service providers. A portion of the letter read, "The SOPA overturns this basic protection through broad, vague new standards of liability. The result will be an explosion of innovation-killing lawsuits and litigation." The members stress their support for more narrowly targeted rogue website legislation.
  • Google was joined by eight other top U.S. Internet companies in a Nov. 15 letter to the leadership of both the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressing concerns similar to Eshoo's. Google Policy Counsel Katherine Oyama testified at the hearing saying, "We are concerned that the bill sets a precedent in favor of Internet censorship and could jeopardize our nation's cybersecurity." Referencing Google Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker's April testimony before the committee, she concluded by encouraging "new remedies focused on removing the financial incentive for foreign rogue sites."
  • A viral effort was led by eight organizations, including Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, that declared Nov. 16 to be American Censorship Day and claimed supporting messaging online from hundreds of websites including Free Press.
  • On Nov. 15 The New York Times published "Stop The Great Firewall Of America," an outside opinion editorial by New America Foundation Senior Fellow Rebecca MacKinnon. Copyright Alliance said it "may have set new records for overblown rhetoric" and distinguished the law enforcement tools contained in SOPA from government efforts to stifle political dissent.

Those are just a few of the most prominent objections — EFF provides a longer list of the "explosion of opposition." On Nov. 15 Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said they were working on a rogue website bill that would take an alternative approach. The Stop Online Piracy Act has certainly focused attention on the problem and drawn a multitude of pledges to collaborate with lawmakers on more narrowly drafted alternatives. Meanwhile, Internet companies have benefitted from the online status quo and intellectual property owners have been hurt by it, so now is a great time for innovators to propose workable legal solutions to the ongoing piracy problem presented by rogue websites.

On Nov. 10 the RIAA sent a cease-and-desist letter to used MP3 marketplace ReDigi that read, "There can be no doubt that ReDigi's conduct constitutes willful copyright infringement." The service responded that its "method of managing the sale of a digital music file in the secondary market is far superior, in protecting the rights of copyright holders, to anything available in any other secondary market." ReDigi is relying on the untested Digital First Sale doctrine to protect its business model.

The RIAA complained to PCWorld that Google refused to remove the MP3 Music Download Pro app from its Android Market despite a takedown request in August. Although the app can conceivably be used for legal downloads, it facilitates illegal downloading and, although monitoring the Android Market for other similar apps would be a burden for Google, this app's popular status has earned it special attention.

Apple launched its iTunes Match cloud-streaming service as part of its Nov. 14 iTunes update. The service costs $24.99 a year — primarily intended for distribution to music rights owners — and imposes a capacity limit of 25,000 tracks. Tracks purchased directly from the iTunes Music Store do not count toward the limit.

On Nov. 10 the Copyright Office announced that the Library of Congress has begun a job search for the position of chief copyright royalty judge of the Copyright Royalty Board. Applications are due Nov. 28 and attorney candidates must have at least seven years of legal experience.

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