We have frequently reiterated our core belief that protection of creative works is an issue of national importance to our economy and culture. It is not “content vs. technology,” nor is it “past vs. future.” It is an understanding of the interdependence between technology and content whose future will ultimately thrive or wither together. But the questions we are asked often is: how do we move toward that dynamic future? In the current political environment, is it realistic to advance any meaningful progress on measures to help the legal marketplace for music?
Just last week, we saw more evidence of a path forward and a clear answer to that question. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) announced a “best practices” agreement to encourage all marketers to take proactive steps to address the harmful and real problem of counterfeiting and online theft. Specifically, these best practices advise marketers on how to prevent their brands from being advertised on illicit ‘rogue’ websites that overwhelmingly traffic in illegal goods by including specific language in contract agreements and insertion orders given to ad agencies. The advertisements of well-known brands on these illegal websites often fool consumers into believing the sites are legitimate.
This is an incredibly important step forward and one that helps signify this new day and age where others in the Internet ecosystem are stepping up on a voluntary basis to help discourage the online theft of American goods and services and foster legitimate commerce. This progress is no doubt exactly what the Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) had in mind when it compiled its second annual report to Congress that highlighted voluntary best practices and partnerships of several technology and content participants.
Among other examples included in the IPEC report that underscore how some so-called intermediaries have stepped up to share responsibility is the recent voluntary agreement between ISPs, music labels and movie studios in addressing online theft. As we recently announced, this agreement moved closer toward implementation with the announcement of Jill Lesser as Executive Director of the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), the appointment of key consumer advocates to join CCI’s Advisory Board, and the retention of the American Arbitration Association to oversee the independent consumer review process.
Also among the noted accomplishments in the IPEC’s report are:
• In December 2010, eleven market leaders—American Express, Discover, eNom, GoDaddy, Google, MasterCard, Microsoft (Bing), Network Solutions, PayPal, Visa and Yahoo!—agreed to form a nonprofit organization to combat illegal online pharmacies. The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (“CSIP”) is expected to be operational by early 2012.
• In June 2011, American Express, Discover, MasterCard, PayPal and Visa reached an agreement on voluntary best practices to reduce sales of counterfeit and pirated goods.
We echo the IPEC in commending these partners who have stepped up to the plate and proactively undertaken voluntary marketplace efforts. This kind of cooperation helps serve as the building blocks for a bright future full of high-quality new content that benefits fans and creators alike. It also casts a glaring spotlight on search engines like Google who have yet to take the same kind of responsibility as other key online intermediaries. For example, while Google has delinked entire websites involved in spamming or of low quality, they refuse to do so for sites that predominantly traffic in illegal copies of copyrighted works, even when they have knowledge of the pervasive and repeat nature of the infringement occurring on that site. (Particularly strange practice for a company that touts itself as standing for the user when studies show that users want to be pointed to legal sites.) Such feet-dragging seriously undermines progress and the cooperative spirit we are working to achieve in today’s digital age.
We hope the recent best practices unveiled by the advertising community, along with the other examples included in the IPEC report, serve as a reminder that true progress is only achieved when we work together. We look forward to future progress and we commend the IPEC not only for highlighting these relationships, but for facilitating and fostering them. The IPEC and Congress on a bipartisan basis will undoubtedly continue to play vital roles in nurturing new industry agreements and we will continue to work with the White House, the Congress and our partners to build an online environment beneficial to everyone.
Senior Executive Vice President
Recording Industry Association of America