Artists, Athletes Fight for Cyber-Rights

A coalition of more than 70 recording artists have launched a national campaign to protect their exclusive rights to distribute and market copyrighted recordings on the Internet.

The group, “Artists Against Piracy,” unveiled the awareness effort on the same day the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee conducted hearings on the future of digital music. At issue are online music download services that enable users to obtain copyrighted recorded music without paying for it.

The hearings drew testimony from high profile recording industry professionals who share the concerns of the new coalition of artists over the business behavior of such Internet music services as Napster.com and MP3.com.

Familiar Names Sing New Tune

Led by singer-songwriter Noah Stone, the artists’ coalition includes such powerful names as Alanis Morissette, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Jon Bon Jovi, Herbie Hancock, Sarah McLachlan and Aimee Mann.

The coalition took out full page protest ads in major metropolitan newspapers including the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. The headline read, “If a Song Means a Lot to You, Imagine What it Means to Us.”

Making a ‘Brave Statement’

Stone, who is also an executive with an Internet recording label, said the artists are making a “brave statement” because many fans support the music file-sharing Web sites. According to Stone, the artists risk losing a segment of their fan base in the course of the conflict.

The conflict is viewed by some industry analysts as a watershed in electronic commerce, as it could set a precedent for how intellectual property rights on the Internet will be handled in coming years.

Stone said that his group does not seek to shut down Napster, but if the company intends to make money in the music business, it must share some of the income it derives with the artists who create the music. Current plans call for the coalition’s message to be delivered more widely in the fall, when Artists Against Piracy expands its advertising campaign to additional media, including television, print, radio and the Internet.

NFL Wins Court Battle

As recording artists were raising their voices against copyright infringement on the Internet, the National Football League won a court battle against a Web site over infringement of publicity rights of the league and its players.

According to the lawsuit, Gridiron.com violated the publicity rights held by the league when it used NFL team names and images of league players without permission and without paying license fees.

U.S. District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas ruled that Gridiron.com is in violation of the NFL’s rights and barred Gridiron.com from using six or more player images on its Web site. The site was providing information on more than 150 NFL players and allowing Web visitors to search for players by name, team and position.

The case began last summer, when the NFL sent a letter to Gridiron.com demanding that it stop its unauthorized use of players’ names and images on the Internet. Gridiron.com reportedly ignored the request.

Two similar lawsuits are pending against AthletesDirect.com and BigPros.com. At issue in all of the cases is income derived via the Internet, which the players’ union contends should go to the league.

“Gridiron.com’s Web site was a direct attack on the rights and resources the union uses to protect players through collective bargaining,” said NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw.

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