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OPEN MIC: HEOA Provisions a Collaborative Success

October 29, 2009

As part of the congressionally-passed Higher Education Opportunities Act, federal provisions requiring schools to take proactive steps to reduce instances of illegal file-trafficking on their networks were recently issued as final regulations.  These education law reforms were the result of productive negotiations between stakeholders representing the higher education and entertainment communities.  As one of the stakeholders in these negotiations, we consider these provisions to be an example of the considerable progress that can be achieved when we sit down together and develop tools that mix the right level of accountability for illegal activity on campus networks with appropriate flexibility for university administrators.  Translation: it’s easier to come up with a solution when you’re working as a team.

And we’re already seeing examples of this progress occurring on campuses throughout the country. Since passage of HEOA, many schools have stepped up their efforts against illegal file-trafficking and experienced big results. For example, after implementing a robust plan to prevent music theft online, Bowling Green State University reduced the number of copyright theft notices its students receive from 39 per week to just four per week. (Check out other examples here, here and here.) These efforts reflect the growing trend among universities who want to cut costs, increase bandwidth and connection speeds and help their students avoid the pitfalls associated with illicit peer-to-peer file-sharing.

And the collaboration doesn’t stop there.  Because of these successful negotiations, the stakeholders agreed to continue working together on a set of best practices guidelines which will help schools determine -- according to each school’s unique system – how best to comply with these new provisions. We look forward to continuing our work with the higher education community to come up with further workable solutions to these important issues. 

Cary Sherman, President, Recording Industry Association of America

The FCC and ISPs

October 23, 2009

The public conversation about the role of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in addressing illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted works online is getting louder.  

Thursday marked the formal beginning of a rulemaking proceeding that considers the expansion and formal codification of guiding principles applying to the government’s enforcement of communications law online (http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-293567A1.pdf).  The proposed rules build upon an earlier speech by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski before the Brookings Institute (http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-293568A1.pdf).

The FCC Chairman made the case for a robust Internet economy, declaring:  

We want the Internet to continue flourishing as a platform for innovation and communication, with continued investment and increasing deployment of broadband to all Americans.

On that score, we could not agree more.  Our modern digital era has fostered the development and emergence of enriching, innovative platforms and services. Content providers like the music companies know that the future of our business relies significantly on bringing these services to fruition, in order to deliver our creative products to consumers in easily accessible and affordable ways.

Not to be overlooked in his Brookings speech was the FCC’s re-affirmation that ISPs can utilize policies to curtail the trading of unlawful content. As Chairman Genachowski noted:    

It is vital that illegal conduct be curtailed on the Internet. As I said in my Senate confirmation hearing, open Internet principles apply only to lawful content, services and applications -- not to activities like unlawful distribution of copyrighted works, which has serious economic consequences. The enforcement of copyright and other laws and the obligations of network openness can and must co-exist.

And again in comments introducing the rulemaking proceeding, the Chairman continued to reinforce that important distinction:

Open Internet rules should apply to lawful content, applications, and services.  They are not a shield for copyright infringement, spam, or other violations of the law.  They must honor the protection of users’ privacy.  And they must be consistent with public safety as well as homeland and national security.

That’s a significant marker. No governmental policy should interfere with the ability of an ISP to address the illegal transmission of copyrighted works or other illicit content.  

We’re encouraged by the Chairman’s comments regarding the treatment of illegal content, and along with our partners in the music community we look forward to working with the FCC to evaluate and determine appropriate ways to preserve the highest-quality Internet experience possible while maximizing the ability of the legitimate online entertainment marketplace to achieve its full potential.

Cary Sherman, President, Recording Industry Association of America

A Free Lesson

October 22, 2009

A column worth reading (“If the future’s worth having, it won’t be free”) appeared recently in The U.K. Times Online. It’s a well-crafted case for the simple proposition that people who create content that is used and enjoyed by others deserve to be compensated and that business models based solely on generating advertising revenues around free content cannot sustain investment in the creation of the product.  

It’s been fun: like a jammed fruit machine spewing free tokens or a whisky-galore shipwreck. But it’s got to stop. Content — whether music, films, pictures, news or prose — can’t be free and flourish. The music and movie industries are fighting: journalism, after the ego trip of gaining millions of online readers, is following. It has to. There is no alternative…

Content is not cost free. Writing is work. Musicianship involves cost and labour, art is not innately free, nor the infrastructure of news reporting. Until food, clothes, housing and transport are doled out free, content-makers need to be paid. The theory that advertising revenues will cover that, in any medium, is tosh.

The music community, of course, experienced these challenges before other industries, but the expansion of broadband deployment and advances in other technologies is rapidly forcing others to confront and grapple with the same issues. We’ve found there’s no easy, silver bullet answer. The most effective strategy remains offering consumers a compelling lawful experience, supplemented by educational efforts and targeted enforcement of rights. It’s a multi-faceted approach, but what connects it all is a respect for property and appreciation that those who create a product deserve to be compensated.   The good news is that this basic point is increasingly realized -- and becoming a rallying cry -- by other content industries as they too transition to this brave new digital world.   

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

October 08, 2009

Sometimes something is said so perfectly that it’s not worth summarizing or paraphrasing.  After documenting the extensive computer security and legal issues associated with illegal file sharing sites, an editorial entitled “Responsible Use of Eastern Network Every Student’s Responsibility” in the Daily Eastern News, the newspaper of Eastern Illinois University, concluded:

As far as we are concerned, this is not a risk worth taking, and considering the illegality of the copyrighted digital file sharing and the legal alternatives, there are few excuses.

Well put guys.  

Read the entire thing here.