Friday, March 20, 2009

FMC: Win-Win When? Copyright and Innovation in the Digital Age

I am a big fan of the US organisation called the Future of Music Coalition. They are an artist focused association that lobby the US government and industry for changes to laws and practices that promote musicians welfare. They have been vocal supporters of Network Neutrality, payments for recording artists for terrestrial radio air play and frequently run conferences on topical issues.

Recently I viewed the panel discussion from their DC Policy Day held on 11 February 2009. The speakers were:

Rick Carnes President, Songwriters Guild of America
David Carson General Counsel, US Copyright Office
Zahavah Levine Chief Counsel, YouTube
Steve Marks Executive VP and General Counsel, RIAA
Hal Ponder Director of Government Relations, American Federation of Musicians
Gigi Sohn President, Public Knowledge
Walter McDonough General Counsel, Future of Music Coalition (moderator)

I was particularly interested to hear of the intentions of the new administration with respect to the role of the Copyright Czar, the potential to revisit the DMCA and the possibility of copyright reform with respect to sampling.

The close relationship and the campaign contributions made by the content industry to the Democratic Party was one point raised by Gigi Sohn, as was the need to be careful in making senior appointments to the new government. Discussion also turned to the policy reasons behind the inclusion of broadband infrastructure in the stimulus package.

Zahavah Levine
agreed with the panel that the current priorities of the administration may make it difficult to get much needed copyright reform, which for YouTube focuses largely on the difficulties in gaining publishing licenses for people to use sound recordings in their personal videos that are uploaded. The difficulties lie largely in locating the owners of the rights, the multiplicity of rights that apply and the lack of legislative clarity on fair use, with the best solution being the blanket licensing of these rights.

Hal Ponder speaks of the move to introduce terrestrial radio performance rights and notes the sliding scale of royalty payments designed to reduce the burden on small radio stations because of their importance in ensuring that niche artists retain access to public broadcasting.

I laugh at Steve Marks suggestion that the RIAA's approach is always balanced.

Take a look for yourself:

The clip goes for around 1.5hrs.

More Information
Future of Music Coalition <> 20 March 2009

Future of Music Coalition, DC Policy Day 2009 (11 February 2009) <> 20 March 2009

Future of Music Coalition, Network Neutrality Fact Sheet (May 2008) <> at 20 March 2009

Future of Music Coalition, Fact Sheet Public Performance Rights for Sound Recordings <> (March 2008) at 20 March 2009

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