ArtsWatch: Creative America's New Push

Studios, networks and unions get behind nationwide antipiracy campaign

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.

Following its launch in July, on Oct. 18 grassroots intellectual property advocacy coalition Creative America announced new member organizations, a redesigned website and a supporter sign-up drive. Adding to its initial coalition of studios, networks and unions, new members include the AFL-CIO, National Association of Theatre Owners and Producers Guild of America, as well as IP advocacy organization Copyright Alliance. Besides its broad message against content theft, Creative America is focusing its attention on pushing passage of S. 968 , the PROTECT IP Act, rogue website legislation that has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is now awaiting a vote by the full Senate. A Los Angeles Times blog characterized the organization's newly launched industry outreach as coalition members planning to "prod their employees and union members." The prodding will include union representatives visiting on set, special events at offices and studio lots and a variety of other communications such as newsletter mentions or in-house video messages. The Recording Academy supports S. 968 and is an executive member of the Copyright Alliance but is not affiliated with Creative America. The organization currently reflects its film and television roots without noteworthy recording industry involvement. Their redesigned website helps to put faces behind the estimated 2 million Americans with creative industry livelihoods. Creative America certainly has room to grow as it adds to the 18,000 petition signatures collected in just two weeks and builds on its modest Facebook fans and Twitter follower totals. Since there are organizations opposing PROTECT IP that boast a half million newsletter subscribers, hopefully the prodding by studios, networks and unions goes well and produces some hefty results.

On Oct. 19 U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced questions submitted to China under World Trade Organization rules seeking details about how and why some commercial websites are blocked from China's consumers. The national system for filtering content has been jokingly referred to as the "Great Firewall of China" and currently makes many leading media and social networking websites inaccessible, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Computer & Communications Industry Association President/CEO Ed Black said, "The U.S. Trade Representative took a huge first step in the process of holding China accountable for imposing unlawful barriers to international trade. ... Chinese Internet restrictions are not transparent, lack procedures that provide parties due process and are often applied more broadly and arbitrarily against non-Chinese companies — all of which are violations of WTO law that has been agreed to by China."

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Oct. 11 that leading Internet service providers BT, Sky, TalkTalk, and Virgin agreed to require their customers to positively select whether they want their Internet unfiltered or with adult content blocked. The announcement was one of many at a summit intended to address the commercialization and sexualization of childhood. The Electronic Frontier Foundation called for greater transparency about which websites will be blocked, responding, "Time and time again, filtering based on blacklists has proven to be overbroad, blocking access to some offensive websites at the cost of many legitimate ones."

On Oct. 18 Viacom and YouTube appeared before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, contesting whether Viacom's defeat by summary judgment in its 2010 copyright infringement case should stand or be overturned. At that time, Viacom expressed anticipation for the appellate court fight, most likely because higher court judges have greater discretion to rule on unsettled issues of law. YouTube maintained it did everything it was required to do in order to qualify for safe harbor protection — an argument with which it won before the lower court. Countering with claims of the site's bad intentions, Viacom attorney Paul Smith said, "YouTube not only knew there was rampant copyright infringement on the site, but welcomed it. ... These people made this kind of money on somebody else's property." The case only covers infringing material that was posted before YouTube launched its content filtering system in 2008 — a system that requires content owners' active participation. The judges, who are not expected to rule for months, asked such pertinent questions as, "Is a jury going to determine YouTube's actual knowledge or awareness with regard to 63,000 clips?"

Google launched an online safety guide on Oct. 17 titled "Good to Know." It uses simple language and illustrations to convey important guidelines for security, privacy and family-content filtering. For example, its passwords section suggests how to generate hard-to-crack strings such as "2bon2bT1tq" from a song lyric or famous saying (hint: Shakespeare's "Hamlet").

The first movie titles using the UltraViolet digital rights management standard were released this month — Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern — in part because HBO relented on its exclusive electronic distribution rights. This development has been long-awaited; however, support for streaming versions of UltraViolet titles is patchy at the start, confined to each movie studio's independent streaming provider deals and efforts. If the standard's planned ecosystem grows over time, it is intended to encourage a sense of permanent digital ownership that could unleash a new round of consumer spending on personal media collections.

On Oct. 11 CTIA-The Wireless Association released its latest semiannual survey noting that mobile devices outnumber U.S. residents for the first time. Notably, wireless data traffic doubled over the past year, but the association expects bigger growth ahead. CTIA President/CEO Steve Largent said, "The consensus of experts is that demand will continue to skyrocket by more than 50 times within the next five years."

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