Copyright Holders Acknowledge Losing Battle For Public Consciousness At World Copyright SummitPublished on 11 June 2009 @ 2:37 pm
By Liza Porteus Viana for Intellectual Property Watch
WASHINGTON, DC – Copyright holders on Wednesday acknowledged they have done a poor job of countering the “anti-copyright” lobby and demonstrating the creative community’s value to the world.
During the second day of the 9-10 June International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers’ (CISAC) World Copyright Summit here, some content creators also lamented that instead of fighting for compensation with the advent of new technologies, they fought the technology – like the VCR – itself.
“The enemies of copyright have really done a good job at creating the false premise that the interest of copyright holders and the interest of society as a whole are antagonistic, and they always talk about the need for balance,” said Fritz Attaway, executive vice president and senior policy adviser for the Motion Picture Association of America. “We have got to do a better job” at attempting approaches at copyright protection “in a way that we get paid but also that consumers can access our works,” he added.
He cited MPAA’s work with the technology industry in the introduction of the DVD. He also noted that via Hulu – a joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corp. that offers television shows for free, for now – almost all TV products can be legitimately available to consumers in the United States.
“We’ve got to do more of that. We live in an age where we cannot block access to our content,” he said. “People are going to get it one way or the other. We would like them to pay for it and we need to seek out ways where they can pay for it. But just saying ‘no’ isn’t the answer.”
“We live in an age where we cannot block access to our content. People are going to get it one way or the other. We would like them to pay for it and we need to seek out ways where they can pay for it. But just saying ‘no’ isn’t the answer.” – Fritz Attaway, Motion Picture Association of America
Eduardo Bautista, president of the management board of Spanish collective management group, Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, agreed, saying, “We’ve done a lousy job. We should have been fired.”
That’s also the message one of those referenced “enemies” tried to relay. Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association and president of the Home Recording Rights Coalition, said content creators cannot simply keep saying “no” – particularly with the next generation’s seemingly rebellious nature – because it will create more anti-copyright backlash.
“Recognise that kids today have been so turned off by the RIAA approach to litigation that they’re rejecting everything you say,” Shapiro said to National Association of Music Publishers President David Israelite.
Although Israelite made the comparison that if people were stealing computers from stores en masse, the technology industry would be up in arms, Shapiro argued that it is not the same, and that copyright and intellectual property rights are different than “real” property – a statement that received groans from the rights holder-friendly audience. “That’s hurting your case because you’re being rejected by anyone under 25 who is saying, ‘these guys are full of it,’” Shapiro continued.
One way to strengthen the creators’ case, particularly given the current state of the global economy, is to stress the economic value of their industry, particularly in developing countries, experts said. The World Intellectual Property Organization, for example, pointed out that the copyright industry is responsible for roughly 6 percent of a developing economy.
“When you bring those figures to the attention of the government of developing countries, they begin to see it differently,” said WIPO Deputy Director General Michael Keplinger. “There’s something in it for them … it’s not just something for America and the Europeans and the Japanese.”
Copyright Harmonisation; Performance Rights Introduced; Orphan Works Coming
One thing that could provide beneficial to the copyright industry is copyright harmonisation throughout the world, many panellists agreed. Harmonised laws could help all cultures – including those in developing countries – survive in the global marketplace, and that that system would encourage diversity of creative works. George Washington University intellectual property professor Ralph Oman cited Canada and India for not signing on to various internet treaties that could help on this front, and Brazil for criticising WIPO as too oriented toward developed country interests, but not constructively engaging in the debate.
There were also more calls to pass performance-rights legislation for sound recordings in the United States. Perry Apelbaum, staff director for Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said that issue is a priority for Conyers’ House Judiciary Committee. The House on Tuesday passed the Webcasters Settlement Act of 2009, which gives Web radio stations and artists more time to agree on a royalty payment system. The Senate is expected to take up the bill within the next month or so.
“At the end of the day, we want a bill that does not hurt any songwriters,” Apelbaum said.
US Copyright Register Marybeth Peters told Intellectual Property Watch that orphan works legislation is expected to be introduced within the next 10 days. It is her understanding there may still be some issues in the House version to be resolved, and there are some stakeholders – such as illustrators and other artists – “who are probably going to lobby pretty hard against it.”
Peters said this issue is important to her, and the fact it came so close to passing last year is almost bittersweet.
“What I hope it isn’t … is it’s one magic moment you get” to finally get it passed, then it doesn’t happen, she said.
French Three-Strikes Strikeout
Rights holders were dealt a blow Wednesday when a French court struck down the country’s “three strikes” law, saying that “free access” to the internet is a human right and cannot be withheld without a judge’s order, and that the new system presumes guilt, instead of innocence. It is anticipated that the government will introduce a new version of the bill with the same “graduated response” approach, but it may transfer some of the administrative powers to a court.
“This isn’t over yet in France by a long shot,” said Shira Perlmutter, executive vice president of global legal policy for IFPI – as well as a name said to be under possible consideration for President Obama’s IP “tsar.” “In general, the French approach was a very important step in just recognising we need cooperation by ISPs.”
YouTube – to which users upload 20 hours of video each minute – took a bit of a pounding the day before by rights holders, and has been sued by some artist groups and others. YouTube representatives noted that the service is losing money, and parent-company Google has invested a lot of cash and resources to try to make it a viable business.
YouTube currently has 4,000 licensing partners, and wants to acquire more, but one obstacle contributing to what YouTube chief counsel Zahavah Levin called “copyright gridlock” is that there are too many disparate licensing schemes to deal with. The company touted its “historic, first-of-its kind-deals” with rightsholders to obtain the licensing tools it has after Israelite blasted YouTube for practising the “Corleone business model” [referring to an American mafia figure] in which they launch first, then ask for permission from content holders later.
“We ploughed through, spent an inordinate amount of energy … we’re very proud of what we accomplished and if you’re serious about working with new media companies instead of killing new technologies, that’s what you guys should have done in the beginning and that’s what you should be doing now,” Levine told Israelite.
Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond defended his company’s business practises, noting that while there’s still a long way to go in perfecting its licensing regime, the company has benefited rights holders. He noted that in 2008, Google generated $6 billion for publishers via its Google Ad Sense program; the company’s net income was $4.3 billion. As for YouTube, the movie “Monty Python” saw a 23,000 percent increase in DVD sales in three days immediately after the launch of the Monty Python YouTube channel.
“We don’t want to shy away from the fact that Google’s been a disruptor, along with other internet companies” for artists, Drummond said. “But at the end of the day, I believe we’re all motivated by a common mission. …We can be partners, not enemies.”
Liza Porteus Viana may be reached at email@example.com.
Categories: Access to Knowledge, Copyright Policy, Education/ R&D/ Innovation, Enforcement, English, European Policy, Human Rights, Information and Communications Technology/ Broadcasting, Lobbying, US Policy, WIPO