ArtsWatch: Newt's Eye Of The Tiger

Newt Gingrich campaign accused of infringing '82 Rocky III theme by Survivor

GRAMMY.com
Philip Merrill

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As reported in "The Week In Music," songwriter Frank Sullivan's publishing company Rude Music sued Newt Gingrich's campaign and the American Conservative Union in the Northern District of Illinois' U.S. District Court for copyright infringement on Jan. 30, alleging unauthorized use of Survivor's GRAMMY-winning "Eye Of The Tiger." Apparently a favorite accompaniment for his stump speeches and included in his segments in ACU online videos of events from the past two years, the Rocky III theme song has been a featured fixture in candidate Gingrich's 2012 campaign, according to Sullivan's complaint. This brings back memories of Don Henley's 2010 District Court victory over California Senate primary candidate Chuck DeVore (for the latter's use of "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" and "Boys Of Summer"), and Jackson Browne's 2009 settlement with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over McCain's use of "Running On Empty." The Mitt Romney campaign struck a different note in response to rap artist K'Naan's protest that he had not given permission for the use of his hit "Wavin' Flag," which was used during the event celebrating Romney's Jan. 31 Florida primary win. Romney spokesman Rick Gorka told Associated Press that the song had been cleared through the campaign's blanket license but would not be used again, considering the artist's position.

On Feb. 2 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the 10th round of Operation In Our Sites law enforcement actions targeting Internet counterfeiting and copyright infringement. Building on last year's sports-themed actions, which were also timed to coincide with the Super Bowl, this year's was dubbed "Operation Fake Sweep" and as of Thursday's announcement had topped last year's $3.7 million in confiscated counterfeit merchandise with a haul of $4.8 million. The tally of website closures was 307 — 291 were distributing branded counterfeits and 16 were streaming infringing sports videos. Yonjo Quiroa was arrested Feb. 1 and charged with having operated nine of the 16 streaming sites from his home in Michigan. ICE Director John Morton said, "While most people are focusing on whether the Patriots or Giants will win on Sunday, we at ICE have our sights on a different type of victory: defeating the international counterfeiting rings that illegally profit off of this event, the NFL, its players and sports fans ... Our message is simple: abiding by intellectual property rights laws is not optional; it's the law."

Meanwhile, in Sweden, the Supreme Court chose not to hear the appeal of three of the original four the Pirate Bay defendants on Feb. 1, exhausting the former owners' legal efforts to avoid infringement sentences that combine jail time with multimillion-dollar fines. As usual for this bunch, the rest gets complicated. The three digital buccaneers are not currently in Sweden, though one, Peter Sunde, blogged, "I'll live with whatever sentence I'll get in the end," which accompanied other remarks that expressed feelings such as "I'm proud as hell of what I've done." On the other hand, the website that they supposedly no longer own just moved to Sweden's generic top-level domain, purportedly in order to avoid domain-seizure by U.S. authorities. The longest of the looming jail sentences was reduced to 10 months by Sweden's Court of Appeals in 2010. These super-infringers have a kind of international Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid reputation, with adoring fans.

On Jan. 31 Ukrainian police raided the premises of file-sharing site Ex.ua, shutting it down and confiscating more than 200 servers. Ex.ua was Ukraine's most popular infringing site with millions of users. Separately that same day, IFPI welcomed a decision by the Commercial Court of Saint Petersburg in Russia ruling that popular unlicensed online music service VKontakte is guilty of copyright infringement. IFPI CEO Frances Moore said, "This is a very important ruling for Russia. It shows that sites like vKontakte cannot build a business on making music available without licenses from content owners. Such services are directly liable for the unlicensed music they make available. They cannot avoid liability by shifting responsibility on to their users."

Twitter horrified censorship foes on Jan. 26 when it announced the technological capability to censor tweets on a by-country basis. The company was upbeat that its solution was far preferable to eliminating a tweet worldwide, and it has collaborated with the site Chilling Effects to provide users with a single Web address where every censored tweet will be listed — ensuring that the process is transparent. On Jan. 30 Thailand's technology minister Anudith Nakornthap welcomed Twitter's announcement as respecting "basic rights" such as his country's protection of its people from statements that improperly criticize Thailand's king.

On Jan. 30 the World Intellectual Property Organization released a summary of by-country statistics on how much copyright industries contribute to national economies. Copyright Alliance Executive Director Sandra Aistars said, "Of the countries included in the report, the U.S. creative sector is the leading contributor to GDP at 11 percent ... Of particular importance, the report shows that the creative community's contributions to the economy are strongest in countries with established copyright protections."

White-spaces solutions provider Spectrum Bridge announced the deployment of the first U.S. live network in Wilmington, North Carolina on Jan. 26. The Federal Communications Commision and Spectrum Bridge tested the company's TV white spaces database system late last year; it is intended to protect incumbent spectrum users, such as wireless microphones, from harmful interference. The technology's advocates believe the potential benefits outweigh the risks because radio frequencies are a limited resource and America's appetite for wireless Internet is huge.

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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