OVERNIGHT TECH: House to consider the future of audio


The Lead: A House subcommittee will examine the future of the audio industry at a hearing on Wednesday morning.

A number of executives in music, consumer electronics and wireless networks and even broadcasting will testify before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

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In a memo previewing the hearing, majority committee staff noted that the Internet "has all but obliterated technological and economic barriers to entry into the marketplace."

"Anyone with access to an Internet connection who can speak, sing, or play an instrument —no matter how well — can reach the world’s listeners for a song," the staff wrote.

But they said technological advances have "fractured audiences" and placed "strains on existing legal frameworks."

Recording Industry Association of America CEO Cary Sherman is expected to promote the rise of digital music, which was once feared as the death of the industry but has now all but replaced physical CDs for many music lovers.

Like Sherman, Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro is likely to be enthusiastic about the bevy of options available for music lovers, who were once limited to carrying boom boxes but can now listen to almost anything on their smartphones. Shapiro is known for his pro-innovation stances, and will likely discourage any sweeping new laws that could hurt development of new technologies.

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National Music Publishers Association CEO David Israelite is likely to take a different tack. Publishers reap royalties any time music consumers download a track or listen on a streaming service. But because royalties differ from service to service, he's likely to call for harmonization of those rates. 

Pandora founder Tim Westergren could also share Israelite's desire for a more harmonious copyright regime. But Westergren won't agree with Israelite's well-known desire for higher payments to publishers, which has almost put Pandora out of business numerous times without government intervention.

Other witnesses will be Ben Allison, governor of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan; Commonwealth Broadcasting Corp. CEO Steven Newberry; and Christopher Guttman-McCabe, vice president for regulatory affairs at CTIA-The Wireless Association.

This hearing follows a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last month on the "future of video" that hosted a clash between Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) as well as a platform for IAC Chairman Barry Diller to complain about the lawsuits facing his company, Aereo.

FBI, Senate probe cyberattack leaks: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing to examine national security leaks from the Obama administration.

The New York Times reported last week that the United States and Israel targeted Iranian nuclear facilities with cyberattacks, including the Stuxnet virus. The story cited unnamed U.S. and Israeli officials.

The FBI has also opened an investigation into who disclosed the classified program, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) criticized the leak of classified information, saying it harms national security. McCain also criticized the leaks, but added that he suspects administration officials planted the story to make President Obama look tough on Iran.


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