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9/24/2008
04:53 PM
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Microsoft, NBC, Artists Join Improve Content Distribution

A coalition of tech companies is lending its hand to help develop and distribute content over safe and reliable networks where artists can earn fair compensation for their work.

Several technology companies and artists on Wednesday joined hands to work on issues surrounding the distribution of content on the Web.

Arts+Labs, a coalition of innovators and creators, launched during a news conference Wednesday, when its Web site went live. AT&T, Viacom, NBC Universal, Cisco, Microsoft, and the Songwriters Guild of America founded the group.

Representatives outlined the coalition's main objective: to encourage creation and sharing of legal, safe, and innovative content over the Internet. The group said it wants to allow artists and innovators to develop and distribute content over safe and reliable networks and earn fair compensation for their work.

Arts+Labs co-chair and former White House Press Secretary, Mike McCurry, said in an interview that the group doesn't have a stance on network neutrality, or protocol-agnostic network management, but the group did indicate it believes companies should regulate themselves in terms of network management.

The coalition plans to educate consumers about the availability of legal, safe, and affordable entertainment content, while raising awareness of problems like illegal file sharing, spam, viruses, malware, hackers, and other forms of what the groups call net pollution.

Mark McKinnon, a former songwriter and newspaper editor, as well as a Republican campaign advisor, said the group would try to encourage new business models for content distribution.

"We also strongly feel that every effort should be made to ensure that artists benefit from their creativity," McKinnon said. "Arts+Labs will work to ensure that consumers know where to access safe and legal online content while promoting artists' and innovators' ability to easily share their ingenuity through a range of new, online distribution channels with the confidence that their legal rights will be respected."

SGA President Rick Carnes said that artists and consumers share a common interest in protecting artists' legal rights.

"The Internet provides access to the largest possible audience, which is a real opportunity for songwriters," said Carnes, whose songs have topped country and western charts. "Arts+Labs supports an Internet environment that recognizes the vital role creators play, while offering consumers a digital concert hall of safe, legal and affordable music."

Chuck Sims, a copyright and First Amendment expert from the law firm Proskauer Rose, is an advisory board member for Arts+Labs. The group announced a three-city tour to raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges the Internet presents for consumers, artists, and technology companies. Representatives planned to visit Nashville and Los Angeles after their New York City announcement.

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