ArtsWatch: Blocking .XXX Trademarks

Window to block trademark availability will run from Sept. 7 to Oct. 28

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.

On July 17 ICM Registry announced details of their launch plans for new website registrations under the .XXX generic top-level domain. The "Sunrise B" period for trademark owners to opt out of the .XXX gTLD begins Sept. 7 and ends Oct. 28. ICM Registry said, "Sunrise B is aimed at applicants from outside of the adult sponsored community. These applicants are owners of a qualifying trademark registration, who seek to reserve names in order to ensure that those names are not registered as domain names by others in .XXX. At the close of the Sunrise period, if no conflicting application by a Sunrise A applicant has been made, these names will be reserved from registration [blocked]." So far the registry has received 900,000 expressions of interest for .XXX Web domains, so members of the music community with valuable brands to protect should make sure to benefit from this process. Individual registrars are expected to impose a one-time fee to opt out, but this is likely to be far more convenient and affordable than trying to take action after Sunrise B expires.

Several cases before the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court have made noteworthy progress:

  • U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska ruled on July 18 in the antitrust litigation against record labels that participated in the digital music joint ventures MusicNet and Pressplay — a reminder of life before Apple's iTunes Store arrived on the scene. Responding to the defendants' move to dismiss the (third amended) complaint from June 2010, Preska's opinion granted several of the labels' motions for dismissal but left many of the plaintiffs' claims standing — in other words, the litigation will continue. The parties must inform the judge how they plan to proceed by Aug. 1.
  • Last month Spanish firm Puerto 80 sued the U.S. government over the seizure of the Rojadirecta.com domain in February's Operation In Our Sites, and on July 11 U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara submitted the government's response. Bharara argued that Puerto 80's petition should be denied because the Web domain would be used for criminal copyright infringement if it was returned and that the plaintiff's factual disputes are better explored in the government's separate copyright litigation against Puerto 80. Consumer activists Public Knowledge commented that this meant Puerto 80 was being unfairly required to prove its innocence before its Web domain would be returned. Legal seizure of domain names is controversial and the filing was the first time the Department of Justice formally defended the practice in the context of a lawsuit.
  • Details are still emerging about indie music group Merlin jumping into the LimeWire litigation, which recently culminated in multimillion-dollar settlements with music labels and publishers. In a New York case reportedly filed in mid-July, Merlin is believed to allege that LimeWire encouraged the group not to file a lawsuit by agreeing to reach a proportional settlement with the indies after a numerical figure was reached with the major labels. Based on the $105 million settlement with the majors, Merlin is reportedly claiming that LimeWire should honor its agreement by paying damages to the group of $5 million. LimeWire counsel has said these allegations are without merit.

Billboard.biz has the most recent coverage of progress made by France's antipiracy agency HADOPI. Its graduated response third-strike program to get tough on Internet infringement has now narrowed down to 10 people who reached the third strike. The parties have not yet been before a judge nor punished, and (at least) one of them maintains he is innocent. The first warnings were sent out in October of last year, and HADOPI has had to go through some big numbers to weed out 10 third-strike culprits (other coverage crunching these numbers includes IDG News and PaidContent). The initial reported incidents of Internet piracy were over 18 million, narrowed down to more than 1 million requests for personal user information sent out to Internet service providers. In turn, the ISPs provided identification of more than 900,000 users and of these, more than 470,000 were sent first warnings. The number of second warnings is dramatically smaller — 20,598 — hopefully a sign of how well warnings work and not somehow a negative reflection on the difficulty of this process. HADOPI will report further progress in greater detail in September.

On July 19 Baidu announced a new partnership with One-Stop China, a joint venture including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group International and Warner Music Asia Pacific. The arrangement includes a minimum revenue guarantee and financial compensation for streams and downloads delivered through Baidu's music search or "ting" music service. Ongoing litigation between the parties before the Beijing High People's Court has been ended by a court-endorsed "conciliation agreement." The majority of China's 485 million Internet users search for music, and Baidu is China's most popular search engine. Higher revenues for copyright owners are expected but not overnight miracles. Cleaning infringing content off Baidu's platform will take time and is likely to remain an ongoing process, but meanwhile this agreement is a cheerful turning point.

China's efforts to crack down on copyright infringement and counterfeiting have been the topic of several systematic overviews this month. On July 12 Ministry of Commerce Vice Minister Jiang Zengwei reported China's past nine months of effort resulted in 9,031 arrests. "This time, the measures and effectiveness of the Chinese government's operations are unprecedented," said Zengwei. Separately, Web statistics from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences compared 2009 to 2010 and tallied a big drop in the number of websites but a big increase in the number of Web pages posted online. CASS spokesman Liu Ruisheng said, "This means our content is getting stronger, while our supervision is getting more strict and more regulated."