ArtsWatch: Got gTLD?

Application period opens for top-level Internet domain names to the right of the dot

GRAMMY.com
Philip Merrill

In recent news ...

On Jan. 11 the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers announced the beginning of a three-month window to apply for new generic top-level domain names, ending April 12. These gTLDs are alternatives to .com or .net, such as the recently introduced .xxx. Parties interested in applying must visit the New gTLD page, be able to afford the $185,000 evaluation fee (or qualify for financial aid), and register in the TLD Application System by March 29. Listing the benefits and risks of operating a new gTLD, the organization warns, "When you apply for a new gTLD you are applying to run a registry business. ... The introduction of new gTLDs will affect most organizations. Whether or not you decide to apply for a new gTLD, you should still pay attention to the process." For rightsholders who see another IP protection nightmare brewing, trademark owners can object, after the application window closes, by complying with Module 3 of the Application Guidelines. ICANN President/CEO Rod Beckstrom said, "Why, in the wake of intense criticism, are we moving ahead? Because we believe this program will do what it's designed to do, which is open up the Internet domain name system to further innovation." Reuters reports that .canon, .deloitte and .hitachi are among the well-known trademarks for which applications are expected, and that a company, Top Level Domain Holdings, has already been set up to take advantage of Internet real estate investment opportunities and offer consulting services to potential applicants.

The Department of Justice announced on Jan. 6 that the lead moderator and co-founder of pirate site Ninjavideo.net — known as Queen Phara — was sentenced to 22 months in prison, two years of supervised release, 500 hours of community service, and repayment of nearly $210,000 of personal income she received from the site. Three other site administrators pleaded guilty last year and are awaiting sentencing. NinjaVideo.net was among the domains seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of its first Operation In Our Sites enforcement action against rogue websites in June 2010.

On Jan. 4 the EMI music-publishing entity, EMI Entertainment World Inc., sued the corporate parent of online music service Grooveshark for breach of contract and unpaid royalties of at least $150,000 under a 2009 license agreement. This is piled on top of last month's legal headache for Grooveshark when Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group joined the infringement lawsuit filed by Universal Music Group in the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court. Varied news coverage has lumped these together in multiple ways, especially regarding the label/publisher distinction, but for now this new litigation appears to be limited to a contract dispute brought within New York's state court system.

Cnet News reported on Jan. 6 that EMI Music sued used-MP3 marketplace ReDigi in a New York federal court, challenging the reseller's aggressive business model. When the RIAA sent ReDigi a cease-and-desist letter in November, the trade group said, "There can be no doubt that ReDigi's conduct constitutes willful copyright infringement." On the other hand, the company designed its software to mimic reselling a unique physical good, and even supervises deletion of the user's copy off the seller's hard drive as the service takes possession of the digital file. Even if lower courts considered this an empty pretense, the company likely has plenty of interesting arguments that could keep appeals going as long as ReDigi can afford the litigation price tag.

After years of efforts to stop rogue website the Pirate Bay from remaining accessible to casual Web surfers, antipiracy organizations in Finland and Sweden continue to gain ground in court but ironically, at the time of this writing three of the organizations' own websites are inaccessible due to denial-of-service attacks. In Finland, thanks to the work of antipiracy organization CIAPC and IFPI Finland, Internet service provider Elisa began blocking the Pirate Bay on Jan. 9 in response to a court order, which the ISP is appealing. Court rulings regarding Finnish ISPs DNA and TeliaSonera are also expected shortly. In Sweden, Brein achieved a legal victory on Jan. 11 as the Hague District Court ordered ISPs XS4ALL and Ziggo to block the Pirate Bay. The ruling gave the ISPs 10 days to comply, after which daily fines amounting to $12,750 will apply, and its ruling said, "The court considered it proven that 30 percent of the subscribers of Ziggo and 4.5 percent of the subscribers of XS4ALL have recently traded files via the Pirate Bay."

On Jan. 9 BBC 5 live Investigates reported that Google promptly removed advertisements linking to illegal products when notified by the broadcast news team. The investigative report was instigated by a UK Web user who purchased illegally resold Olympic Games tickets online in response to one such ad. "It was a sponsored ad at the top of the page, so we presumed it was a trusted official site," she said. A take-down request from London's Metropolitan Police had been pending with Google for more than a week when the BBC notified it. Calling attention to Google's practice of keeping ad revenues gained under such circumstances, the MPAA commented in a blog post, "This is all just a reminder that many of the opponents of SOPA and PROTECT IP, while they like to portray themselves as brave Internet freedom-fighters, are in reality doing little more than protecting their own business interests. They profit from illegal activities, and they will vigorously resist legislation that seeks to put this practice to an end."

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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