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Report on American U Copyright Conference

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Record industry going to have to learn to monetize downloading, say conference speakers:

    The one-day conference, sponsored by American University’s Washington College of Law, was meant to open discussion on how to protect the copyrights of music and other intellectual property in the age of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, which allow multiple users to download copyrighted songs and movies onto their computers free of charge from the machines of other users. Major players from the recording industry, experts on copyright law, songwriters, and consumer advocates spoke to a crowd of about 100 people.

    The recording industry and songwriters get no compensation when songs are distributed through these online networks. Some conference speakers said the recording industry needs to find a way to profit from the new technology instead of trying to shut down the file-sharing networks. The industry succeeded in using a lawsuit to close down the earliest such network, Napster, only to see others arise in its place that are much more difficult to control.

    Sarah Deutsch, a vice president and associate general counsel at Verizon, said that as more people get fast online connections, more people will be using peer-to-peer networks to find their favorite songs at no charge. “The only moat protecting copyright holders from total piracy is lack of broadband availability,” she said. “The key word is ‘evolve.'”

    Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said copyright holders need to be compensated for their work. The difficult part will be finding a system that lures users away from free file sharing to pay for online distribution of music.

    But he said no new business plan will end free online music sharing. “There’s always going to be some form of peer-to-peer,” Mr. Sherman said. “There’s always going to be a level of piracy.”

    The speakers presented a handful of proposals on how artists, songwriters, and musicians could be compensated fairly without robbing users of the convenience they have with peer-to-peer networks. Ideas included having companies that profit from the file-sharing technology, including makers of CD burners, pay a copyright fee that would be distributed to copyright holders.

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