Indecency Goes to Supreme Court
Tons of activity on the indecency front lately. Earlier this year, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals slapped the FCC's wrist for their unclear broadcast indecency guidelines, and for applying those rules in an erratic manner when they suddenly took an about face on the issue of fleeting expletives. The FCC has appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, and because the commission's guidelines are so shaky, I can't see how any rational judge would not uphold the 2nd Circuit's decision. Then again, the Supremes recently put the smack down on Bong Hits 4 Jesus... Predictably, there has been a backlash to the 2nd Circuit's decision in Congress. The House recently introduced the "Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act." Meanwhile, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is examining the 2004 Superbowl halftime fiasco (aka nipplegate); CBS is challenging the FCC's $550,000 fine. In the radio sector, Pacifica stations chose not to air a recording of Allen Ginsburg reading his landmark poem Howl, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the day a court ruled that the poem was not obscene. Fearing FCC indecency fines, the historic recording was webcast instead.
Performance Royalty Updates
Lately, the webcasting royalty negotiations have gone stale, with hardly even a rumor suggesting that any deals are close to being made for non-commercial webcasters. Meanwhile, there is talk of a performance royalty bill for broadcasters, and it could hit the Senate floor as soon as this month. For more on the recent discourse surrounding performance royalties, check out RAIN's coverage of the FMC Policy Summit, which I attended last month.
RIAA in Court
The RIAA's first filesharing trial hit a Minnesota courtroom this week, wherein a 30-year-old mother of two was accused by the RIAA (and 7 member record labels) of illegally distributing songs on the Kazaa filesharing network in 2005. The defendant was found guilty of copyright infringement, and must now pay $9,250 for each song that she made available via p2p ($222,000 total). You can read a play-by-play of how the trial went down right here. This woman clearly should have settled before she wasted money on a bad lawyer (who actually suggested to a jury of rational adults that his client was "victim of a zombie, a cracker, or a drone") who allowed her case to go to trial. An interesting side note: during the court proceedings, the RIAA admitted that its campaign against illegal downloading is costing them millions of dollars that are not recuperated by settlements.