ArtsWatch: Genachowski's Hat Trick

FCC chairman lists three vital ingredients to fuel Internet growth

GRAMMY.com
Philip Merrill

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On March 22 Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowksi announced a public-private cybersecurity pact and formulated the following three-ingredient recipe for future efforts to guide and protect the evolution of the Internet.

  • Preserve Internet freedom and open architecture: The content industry has just seen the growth of a popular movement unwilling to compromise on this.
  • Protect individuals' privacy: Although consumers have not been up in arms on this one, personal data drives both legal Internet advertising as well as criminal hacking. Government agencies are committed to imposing limits.
  • Rely on multiple stakeholders working together: Even if grand compromises cannot be found, at least minimal amounts of agreement are the only way to prevent industry-versus-industry squabbles from stalling progress.

The occasion for Genachowski's speech was the release of three recommendations from the FCC's Communications, Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council, including voluntary commitments from Internet service providers AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Cox, Sprint, Time Warner Cable, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The problem of domain name fraud is approached by wider adoption of the existing DNSSEC standard that is familiar to many in the content industry because it was recently used as one of the main reasons to stall copyright enforcement legislation that targeted rogue foreign websites. The problem of botnets is addressed by the newly developed U.S. Anti-Bot Code of Conduct, which has several components such as consumer education and ISP information sharing. The problem of Internet route hijacking will be addressed by the development of a new industry framework. So, we have something old, something new and something yet to be — all consistent with Genachowski's trio of vital principles. Separately, on March 20 RIAA Communications VP Cara Duckworth Weiblinger blogged, "Search engines should come to the table and work with content owners to find meaningful ways to discourage ... unlawful activity that costs the creative community thousands of jobs and exposes consumers to harmful viruses and spyware." A commitment to Genachowski's principles might help bring about the urgently needed discussions that are prerequisite to achieving practical solutions.

Web security firm Incapsula released data on March 14 that Genachowski summarized in his speech by saying, "experts reported recently that the majority of all Internet traffic is non-human — it's bots, automated spam and hacking software." The data revealed that 51 percent of Web traffic is invisible, including hackers and spambots. "Website owners who think they know who is visiting their sites should think again," Incapsula co-founder Marc Gaffan said. "Anyone who relies on Google analytics to view site traffic is simply blind to a significant amount of business-damaging visitors and bots that hack your site, steal your customer's data including credit card information, share your proprietary business knowledge, and more."

On March 22 ecommerce trade association NetChoice published its latest iAwful list of what it considers to be the worst Internet legislation in the United States. Worst offenders included legacy laws to protect market incumbents, proposals to mandate warnings for geolocation apps and a bewildering multitude of possible local sales tax proposals. Cnet News noted the absence of rogue website copyright enforcement legislation from the list, speculating, "That may be because the bills were yanked from House and Senate calendars after January's historic online protest …." Another possibility is that those bills didn't make the list because they were unfairly demonized to attract popular opposition.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced Senate Amendment 1868 on March 19, proposing to amend the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act by requiring President Barack Obama to obtain congressional approval before intellectual property trade agreements — including the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — could be ratified or enter into force. The amendment failed, the JOBS Act passed and Wyden has again demonstrated his willingness to be the Senate's biggest obstacle to tougher copyright enforcement. Opposing rogue website legislation in November, Wyden said, "Our efforts should be to protect copyrights and trademarks, not outdated business models."

On March 17 creative works organization Artists' Bill of Rights blogged that Amazon confirmed it will accept copyright infringement notices on behalf of the photo collage social media site Pinterest, which uses Amazon's cloud-hosting service. Although this is straightforward in the sense that Amazon owns and operates the site's servers as an Internet service provider, it creates an additional layer of notice and liability unique to the cloud. The Artists' Bill of Rights said, "Amazon expressed a preference that [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] notices be submitted to Pinterest on the grounds that it would be more efficient. We are of the view that as the infringing material is actually hosted by Amazon that it is Amazon that should be responsible for dealing with it." Since cloud customers such as Pinterest can also be considered Internet service providers, this issue of cloud hosts and their customers will likely surface in future court cases.

Personal P2P file-sharing might be entering a potentially disturbing new level as indicated by the beta launch of the Pipe Facebook app. The app's developers have two good reasons not to be worried about liability for infringement. If friends want to share large files with each other by exchanging Pipe links, responsibility immediately attaches to the social media accounts. As for the bits and bytes traveling over the Internet, once those links are clicked, new techniques ensure that no traffic passes through either Facebook or Pipe's servers.

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.

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