ArtsWatch: Dear Google, Antipiracy Please

Music groups request possibly nonexistent details about Internet content protection

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 up on Google and Verizon's recent proposal to confine open Internet principles to wired broadband, 13 music associations including The Recording Academy wrote to Google Chairman/CEO Eric Schmidt on Aug. 18 requesting details pertaining to intellectual property. Other groups signing the request include A2IM, AFM, AFTRA, ASCAP, BMI, NMPA, RIAA, SESAC, and SoundExchange. The letter said, "Our ability to invest in and create the next generation of music is grounded on crafting Internet policies and procedures that respect intellectual property. Accordingly, we are deeply interested in the details of your proposal as they may relate to the protection of content and to making sure that the distinction between lawful and unlawful activity has operational meaning." The negotiations between Google and Verizon appear to have centered on high-level considerations vital to the continued success of their respective business models, so the idea that their proposal has additional details might be wishful thinking. The proposition that their joint corporate vision includes anything to meaningfully address content piracy would be dubious, but the letter is likely intended as friendly pressure.

On Aug. 13 dozens of Net neutrality advocates protested the Google/Verizon proposal outside Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, led by ColorofChange.org, Credo Action, Free Press, MoveOn.org, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. MoveOn.org Executive Director Justin Ruben said, "Google's evil deal with Verizon and AT&T is a cynical power grab designed to enrich these corporations while killing the exact open Internet that allowed Google to flourish in the first place.... Google is threatening the very core of Internet freedom." Google made Nicklas Lundblad, senior policy counsel and head of public policy, available to several of the groups' leaders for a private meeting and acceptance of petitions that the protest's organizers claimed had 300,000 signatures. Lundblad said, "Google remains a fierce supporter of the open Internet. We're not expecting everyone to agree with every aspect of our proposal, but we think that locking in key enforceable protections for consumers is preferable to no protection." Separately, on Aug. 12 Google attacked what it claimed were misleading myths about the companies' proposal.

Four Democratic members of the House Commerce Committee sent a joint letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Aug. 16, urging him to move forward with his proposal to reclassify and regulate broadband access. Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) criticized the Google/Verizon proposal as overly restricting open Internet principles in order to benefit corporate interests. Doyle said, "I am concerned that the proposal put forward by Google and Verizon could have the effect of choking off much of the most important, creative and valuable contributions the Internet can make to the idea-driven economy of the 21st century. At a time when research shows that low-income Americans are the fastest-growing users of the mobile Web, it would be short sighted to wall off those users from the open Internet and all of its benefits."

On Aug. 17 Sweden's Pirate Party announced it would assist whistleblower website WikiLeaks by providing Internet hosting. In May the Pirate Party also provided hosting to the Pirate Bay. Sweden's legal system provides extensive protections for published speech — a substantial obstacle to the United States desire that WikiLeaks stop publishing classified U.S. Department of Defense documents and video. In order to go after the site's servers, the United States would need to show WikiLinks was involved in the commission of a crime in Sweden. Hopefully our government won't try to shut the site down by alleging copyright infringement — entertainment industry plaintiffs get enough flack as it is.

Chipmaker Intel announced on Aug. 19 that it will acquire security software firm McAfee through a stock purchase valued at $7.68 billion. Intel President/CEO Paul Otellini said, "In the past, energy-efficient performance and connectivity have defined computing requirements. Looking forward, security will join those as a third pillar of what people demand from all computing experiences." Trying to change the equation of more and more malware on Internet-connected devices is a worthy goal, but some observers are skeptical whether Intel will be able to make the most of its new acquisition's potential.

On Aug. 17 Aspiro Music released the results of a survey on streaming media consumption in Norway, correlating more streaming with a wide range of benefits including more new music discovery and less piracy. CEO Per Einar Dybvik said, "We believe that streaming is a giant step in the right direction, both for people in general and for the music industry, and it is definitely a part of the solution for the future."

Comcast released results from its "TV Pulse Survey" on Aug. 17, which showed a surge over the last year in time-shifted television viewing, defined as encompassing DVR, on-demand, Internet, and mobile viewing. VP of Entertainment Services Diana Kerekes said, "It is clear that time-shifting technologies have hit the mainstream and viewers want to watch shows when and how they want to view them."

On Aug. 16 Copyright Alliance Executive Director Patrick Ross began a 35-state road trip to add to his organization's growing collection of video interviews with the creative community in the United States. Ross said, "By documenting their stories, we can help policymakers in Washington and all Americans gain a clearer understanding of the diversity, talent and economic activity at stake."