Blindsided in Marrakesh

Hadn’t yet seen this when I was writing the previous post (h/t reader JB) but it certainly speaks to why the MPAA might be looking to bolster its connections with U.S. trade authorities and the Obama Administration. The studio group had worked hard to limit the scope of the WIPO treaty on copyright exceptions for works for the blind, pressing U.S. negotiators to keep references to “fair use” out of treaty. Yet no sooner had negotiators concluded a deal that included that language anyway,then the U.S. State Department put out a statement endorsing the treaty and vowing to move swiftly for its ratification:

On June 27 in Marrakesh, the United States was pleased to join more than 150 other countries in adopting a treaty to increase access to print materials for the world’s estimated 340 million blind, visually impaired and other persons with print disabilities at a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Diplomatic Conference hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco. The United States considers the agreement reached in Marrakesh to be an important achievement that will help reduce the book famine that confronts the blind — the lack of accessible formats of books for people with print disabilities — while maintaining the integrity of the international copyright framework.

Adoption of the treaty is the first step, and the Administration looks forward to working with Congress to secure advice and consent to ratification of the Treaty.


It’s not like nobody has noticed since that the MPAA got stiffed, either.


Copyright owners call in reinforcements

With the debate over copyright reform heating up both in the U.S. and abroad, copyright owners have been filling out their lobbying ranks. On Tuesday (7/16) the Motion Picture Assn. of America named former Democratic House staffer Shanna Winters to the new post of senior VP of global policy and external affairs, reporting to Michael O’Leary, senior executive VP of global policy. Winters spent eight years on the Hill, most recently as the Democratic Chief Counsel for the Foreign Relations Committee. Before that she was staff director for the House Judiciary Subcommittee for Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property.

The MPAA has its hands full internationally these days, where it’s trying to hold the line against a global push to carve out greater exemptions to copyright, but has suffered some significant setbacks of late. Winters contacts at both the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committee should come in handy as copyright reform has become a flashpoint in a growing number of trade negotiations.

Also on Tuesday, NBC Universal named former White House deputy counsel and deputy assistant to President Obama, Kimberley Harris, as its new executive VP and general counsel, where she will be responsible for coordinating NBC-U’s global regulatory and legislative agenda. Former general counsel Rick Cotton, who announced plans to step down in May, will become senior counselor to NBC-U on IP protection.



Given recent strains in Hollywood’s relations with the Obama Administration, including the MPAA’s needless dis of White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordination Victoria Espinel this week when it dismissed the new “best-practices” program adopted by online ad exchanges for combating online piracy as “not sufficient.” Espinel’s office helped coordinate the drafting of the program, which was announced on the White House web site.

Ironically, Espinel owes her job to Harris’ predecessor, Cotton, who spearheaded industry lobbying for the Pro-IP Act that created the office of IPEC in 2008. Presumably, Harris’ contacts in the West Wing will help smooth whatever feathers were ruffled there this week by the MPAA

Apple and ad-skipping

I stopped putting a lot of stock in TV-related Apple rumors awhile ago, so I don’t want to over-analyze today’s edition, by former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin, citing unnamed “media executives” that Apple is in talks with the networks about some sort of combined live-and-on-demand video service via Apple set-top box (or perhaps a TV). But for the sake of conversation, here are a few speculative thoughts on what they might be talking about.

Apple already offers ala carte downloads of TV content via iTunes, so presumably what we’re talking about here is a streaming service, probably via subscription. Recreating the full cable bundle wouldn’t make a lot of sense for Apple (and would likely be cost-prohibitive) so, again presumably, we’re talking about some sort of smaller bundle of channels or (less likely) an ala carte channel offering. For the most part, those deals would simply be a matter of price…

Read the rest at GigaOM Pro.