ArtsWatch: Still Flunking Digital Gym Class

UK Hooper report charitably describes music copyright licensing as unfit for the digital age

GRAMMY.com
Philip Merrill

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On March 27 Britain's Intellectual Property Office published Richard Hooper's report "Rights and Wrongs — Is copyright licensing fit for purpose for the digital age? The first report of the Digital Copyright Exchange Feasibility Study." This is just one aspect of wide-ranging copyright law reform plans announced in August and Hooper consistently points out the bright side as he plans to move on to his second report, outlining recommended solutions, by summer. UK music industry participants in this first report's call for evidence include Association for Independent Music, Beggars Group, British Phonographic Industry, EMI Music Publishing, PRS for Music, PPL, and UK Music, and BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor was one of 12 members on Hooper's advisory panel. But the bottom line is that when it comes to streamlining British music licensing, there is a perception that there is a long way to go. In his report, Hooper said, "The modern music industry has embraced the digital age with some vigor. Yet the music industry is still perceived by its critics, more than any other creative industry, to have a copyright licensing regime that is not fit for purpose for the digital age." Despite the carefully worded bad news, UK Music Chief Executive Jo Dipple welcomed the report and said, "I think everyone involved in this feasibility study has appreciated Richard Hooper's thoughtful and methodical approach." Taylor said, "There is complexity to navigate in licensing. ... Creating a voluntary platform that identifies who owns rights in a range of media, where the owners can set out the terms on which they can be used, and enabling users to get a license with a click is the right way forward for digital copyright licensing." Hooper encourages copyright industries to streamline licensing as a means of encouraging politicians to support tougher copyright enforcement.

As March began, European Parliament's Committee for International Trade was expected to recommend that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement be referred to the European Court of Justice — possibly adding questions to the European Commission's referral — but on March 27 only five of the committee's 28 members voted in favor of that option. David Martin, the member in charge of the committee's ACTA recommendation, said, "Some thought that my proposal to refer ACTA to the Court of Justice was a political trick to delay the decision." The 21 votes against sending ACTA to court indicate a strong, negative consensus. Member of Parliament Bernd Lange said, "Today's decision not to ask for legal advice from the Court of Justice is the first sign that this Parliament is ready to reject ACTA. It was a mistake from the beginning to put counterfeit goods and Internet content in the same agreement. The European Parliament was not involved in the negotiations and now we are asked to say either yes or no, without the possibility of amending the shortcomings. We cannot support the text as it is. ACTA will probably be buried before the summer." The committee is scheduled to vote on its recommendation to Parliament in late May, and Parliament will vote in June. Separately, the Copyright Alliance busted myths about ACTA on their blog. As with recently stalled rogue website legislation, debunking these myths doesn't necessarily solve incorrect perceptions about them. A popular movement now supports the anti-antipiracy vision and is demanding that their political representatives vote accordingly.

On March 25 Politico profiled tech companies' "Gen X hiring spree" of bipartisan political lobbyists and tech evangelists — in other words, young guns. One anonymous source said, "They're just hiring as if getting ready for a massive battle, and the number of bodies they've got inside might be getting comparable to what the AT&Ts have." Describing their main advantage, Politico said, "Twitter, Facebook and Google, in particular, benefit from the fact that lawmakers and administration officials use them every day."

Research firm comScore released results from a study of its "validated Campaign Essentials" digital advertising product on March 26. The study took place in December 2011 and reviewed the online experiences of 12 major brand customers, including Allstate, Chrysler, Discover, E-Trade, Ford, General Mills, Kellogg's, Kimberly Clark, Kraft, and Sprint. Preliminary vCE findings were disclosed in January. The results are somewhat incredible, chaotic and more complicated than music licensing. For example, approximately one-third of these big brands' paid ads are never seen. PaidContent called attention to ads placed alongside objectionable content, including piracy sites and malware — although this is a small percentage of ads, it affected 72 percent of the advertising campaigns. ComScore co-founder/CMO Linda Abraham said, "The insights from the charter study represent a critical first step to improving the efficiency, efficacy and ultimately the economics of online advertising for all participants."

On March 23 the European Commission announced that its review of Universal Music Group's merger with EMI's recorded music business will enter a 90-day in-depth investigation, as was widely expected. Somewhat ironically, the threat of piracy was listed alongside legitimate market considerations as seeming to be an inadequate constraint on the combined entity's potential to abuse an increased share of the market. A Billboard.biz analysis explores several questions surrounding the review, including the sense that the EC is focused on traditional marketplace concerns "up and down the supply chain."

IHS iSupply released a market analysis of physical and online movie consumption on March 22, identifying 2012 as the "tipping point" when more titles will be obtained over the Internet than through the mail or in stores for the first time. This means subscription services — notably Netflix — are draining the more lucrative, physical side of the market. Although the revenue from subscriptions is starkly worse for studios on a per-title basis, there might be a ray of sunshine for movies that are strong favorites. IHS iSupply's Dan Cryan said, "Although it is declining, physical video this year will still command more viewing time from Americans, who will spend an estimated 4.3 billion hours on DVDs and Blu-ray discs, compared to 3.2 billion hours for movies online."

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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