We are all in this together

Earlier this month, Netflix made history with its original series “House of Cards” by garnering nine Emmy nominations, including best drama series – the first time that television’s leading award has recognized a program delivered exclusively online.  Many media outlets interpreted this nomination to mean that we had finally ushered in the Internet television era now that an increasing number of consumers access programming through the Internet. Just a week after the Emmy nominations, the House Judiciary Committee held the first of a series of hearings to better understand the role of copyright and technology.  During the first hearing entitled “Innovation in America:  The Role of Copyrights,” the committee heard from the content community.  While there was some recognition of the Internet’s benefits to users, the call for stronger copyright protection dominated the discussion.

In ending the contentious SOPA/PIPA debate, Congress has already considered and rejected the attempt to impose broad new regulations on the Internet industry, which now accounts for 21 percent of GDP growth.  Despite claims from the content community that stronger copyright protection reduces piracy and allows creative industries to thrive, statistics show something else.  In a 2011 study, Booz & Co. found that overly aggressive copyright laws harm investment and weaken the economy.  Rather, balanced copyright protection and exceptions advance innovation and creativity, and stimulate the growth of the $4.2 trillion Internet economy.

That debate served as a jumping off point for bilateral conversations between the content community and the Internet industry.  As the Judiciary Committee prepares for its second hearing this week, we must continue to recognize that the old lines and divisions that once separated content and Internet companies have blurred or vanished entirely; Internet companies are now in the content creation business.    Like Netflix, Internet companies such as Google, Amazon, and Yahoo! have invested heavily in original content, creating new opportunities for writers, directors and actors.

In today’s digital economy, significant changes have occurred in the marketplace as the Internet industry and Hollywood are collaborating in new and unexpected ways.

Internet companies and a vast majority of content creators are in agreement that the United States must maintain a balanced copyright system that protects rights holders without limiting the Internet's ability to innovate and grow the economy.  Such win-win outcomes have been plentiful in recent years:

*YouTube’s Content ID, which is used by major U.S. music publishers, record labels, network broadcasters, and movie studios on a daily basis, allows rightholders to categorize their content on YouTube.   The technology instantly identifies the content and affords rightsholders the opportunity to monetize their work;

*The Motion Picture Association of America and ISPs entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to implement a Copyright Alert System, under which some ISPs have agreed to alert customers, up to six times, when it appears their accounts are used for illegal downloading;

*Payment processors have entered into an agreement with rightsholders to implement voluntary best practices to terminate payment processing for websites that engage in widespread unauthorized dissemination of copyrighted works.

The market is working.  Internet companies are introducing new and improved, innovative products that not only enrich consumers’ viewing experiences but also protect rights holders.  The notion that Internet companies and content creators are strongly divided is outdated and inaccurate.  Our industries are converging, and we are working together to safeguard copyright protections while ensuring that enforcement never curtails creativity and innovation.

Recently, the National Research Council of the National Academies released a study where it found that the copyright debate lacks independent empirical research to properly inform the debate.  This lack of information coupled with the budding relationship between the content community and Internet companies should serve as the basis for a comprehensive review of our copyright system.

Consumers crave online content that is creative and cutting edge.  Our current copyright system allows for continued innovation, benefitting both creators and consumers.

Beckerman is president and CEO of The Internet Association.