ArtsWatch: Information Wants To Be Stolen?

Corporate losses due to theft of intellectual property surge over past year

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.

Risk consultants Kroll released their annual global fraud report on Oct. 18, revealing a dramatic increase in companies victimized by electronic theft, from 18 percent in 2009 to more than 27 percent over the past 12 months. The report shows that for the first time incidents of corporate information theft surpassed the frequency of physical crime. Robert Brenner, Kroll regional VP for the Americas said, "There is a growing awareness among thieves of the increasing intrinsic value of an organization's intellectual property." In years past technology advocates enjoyed lecturing the music industry that "information wants to be free," but now technology companies themselves are among the industries most likely to be victimized by IP crime.

October's issue of Intellectual Property Spotlight was posted on Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel's website last week. The issue includes links to several requests for input from the public, including the recent request by the Internet Policy Task Force and a less-publicized request by the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. Among the many IP problems U.S. companies experience abroad, the ITA wants to hear from businesses encountering difficulties enforcing their copyrights in foreign markets. Comments are due by Oct. 29.

Open Internet and Net neutrality advocates were provided a good target when News Corp. blocked Internet access to its video content on Fox.com and Hulu for several hours on Oct. 16. The block was part of News Corp.'s retransmission dispute with Cablevision, and was designed to only affect Cablevision subscribers. Consumer advocates Free Press and Public Knowledge condemned the move as an abuse of power. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission that same day and said, "The tying of cable TV subscription to access to Internet fare freely available to other consumers is a very serious concern. Consumers are losing their freedom to access the Internet content of their choice — through no fault of their own — and this is patently anti-consumer." On Oct. 22 FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said, "For a broadcaster to pull programming from the Internet for a cable company's subscribers...directly threatens the open Internet. This was yet another instance revealing how vulnerable the Internet is to discrimination and gate-keeper control absent clear rules of the road."

On Oct. 19 Copyright Alliance called attention to the contrast between remarks made the day before by Attorney General Eric Holder, at the International Intellectual Property Summit in Hong Kong, and the fact that many state and local law enforcement officials in the United States continue to misperceive IP crimes as "victimless."

  • Holder went from the summit to meet with senior officials in Beijing last week, which coincided with China's announcement of a new six-month program to crack down on content piracy.
  • Meanwhile in the United States, the misperceptions Copyright Alliance referred to were reported by the Government Accountability Office in its Oct. 13 report on the implementation of the IP protection legislation that created the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator position. GAO took the IPEC mildly to task for not having completed two elements required under the legislation: 1) approximately one-third of the action items outlined in IPEC's 2010 Joint Strategic Plan are not assigned to specific departments for implementation, and 2) estimates of resources needed have not been finalized since data is still being collected and analyzed.

The latest target of denial of service attacks caused by their position against piracy is KISS bassist Gene Simmons. Simmon's site was hacked following his remarks at the MIPCOM Conference on Oct. 5 in Cannes, France. "Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars," said Simmons. Previous targets include the MPAA and RIAA and UK record label Ministry of Sound.

Cnet News has been closely following efforts to sue thousands of Internet infringers simultaneously with recent coverage of cases in progress brought by U.S. Copyright Group, new cases brought by pornography production company Third World Media, and opposition to these prosecutions by consumer activists Electronic Frontier Foundation. News of this new strategy to pressure illegal downloaders into quick settlements for thousands of dollars in damages first surfaced in The Hollywood Reporter in late March.

On Oct. 20 Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a case in which the U.S. District Court upheld a 1994 amendment to copyright law that changed the status of many works from the public domain back to being protected by copyright. FUP Executive Director Anthony Falzone said, "By restoring copyrights in tens of thousands of works that had been in the public domain for decades, the [change] represents a radical departure from...basic principles, and it affects a broad array of critically important public speech rights."

Creative Commons announced its public domain mark on Oct. 11 — the letter C with a circle around it and a slash through it. The mark has already been adopted by the Europeana digital library. The symbol can be conveniently used by anybody making electronic content available online to communicate to the public that the material is not subject to copyright restrictions.