RealTime IT News

Will Copyright Alliance's Wax Trigger YouTube's Wane?

Major League Baseball, CBS nbsp;and Microsoft  have at least one thing in common: copyrighted content.

Leading entertainment, arts, technology and sports groups created the Copyright Alliance to promote the value of respecting copyrighted material at a time when YouTube and peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing over the Internet are impacting the way content is used -- and abused.

The 29 members of the non-profit alliance, which includes MLB, CBS and Microsoft, vows to disseminate creative works to citizens while upholding and enforcing copyright law.

Other goals include creating "educational programs that teach the value of strong copyright and its vital role in fostering creative expression... under the principles established in the First Amendment with copyright as an 'engine of free expression.'"

The group formally launched at an event Thursday in Washington, D.C., just three days after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sent legislation to Capitol Hill that would increase jail time for repeat offenders of copyright laws.

Congressional leaders welcomed the coalition's formation. Rep. Howard Coble, ranking Republican on the Courts, Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee, hit the impetus for the Copyright Alliance in a statement read at the event.

"Digitization and related technologies beg some changes to the copyright laws, and I wish you the best of luck and my support as you roll out the Copyright Alliance," Coble said.

The Copyright Alliance comes as controversy continues to swirl around Google's YouTube video-sharing site, and other social-networking sites such as MySpace and photo site FlickR, where users post and share copyrighted content.

Viacom , for one, is suing Google  and its video-sharing platform YouTube for "massive intentional copyright infringement." Viacom seeks more than $1 billion in damages, as well as an injunction prohibiting Google and YouTube from further copyright infringement.

But Copyright Alliance Executive Director Patrick Ross, a former journalist and senior fellow at The Progress & Freedom Foundation think tank, said there is no single court case or infringement instance driving this effort.

Ross said the coalition was formed to bring together pro-copyright parties in one united front, something that's been missing to counter the united front that exists to oppose copyright enforcement.

"On the pro-copyright side you've had different trade associations, guilds and unions and companies promoting the message but doing it separately," Ross told internetnews.com. "It can be easy to dismiss them by saying they're just advancing their own business interests.

"When you put together unions and companies that are otherwise at odds with each other and they're all united in copyright, I think that's going to be a more effective vehicle for getting our message across."

However, the Internet is still a West Nile virus-like breeding ground for copyright infringers.

Web-based copyright concerns were triggered in the late 90s with the arrival of Napster and other makers of software that enabled users to download and exchange music in a P2P social environment.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) cracked down, suing several college students for illegally downloading music. But illegal file sharing remains a pressing issue, especially at college campuses.

In March, U.S. Rep. Ric Keller introduced legislation to allow schools to apply for federal grants to help purchase anti-piracy systems.

The Curb Illegal Downloading on College Campuses Act of 2007 (H.R. 1689) would expand the allowable use of funds by the Department of Education to include technology solutions to piracy.

The Copyright Alliance should serve as a headquarters for discussion and action about these copyright-related actions.