New industry group takes aim at 'net pollution,' piracy

Technology and entertainment heavyweights are undertaking a public relations campaign to dissuade consumers from illegal file sharing.

A group of technology and entertainment heavyweights is undertaking a public relations campaign to dissuade consumers from illegal file sharing, something the group calls "net pollution."

The group, called Arts+Labs, includes Viacom, NBC Universal and the Songwriters Guild of America, all of which have exerted legal muscle against the sharing of music and content without permission of the copyright holder. Other members include Microsoft, AT&T and Cisco Systems.

Arts+Labs also lists its aim as educating consumers about "spam, malware and computer viruses." However, the Arts+Labs' Web site mostly emphasizes the protection of intellectual property rights for content providers. Its mission in part is to steer people to Web sites where content can be legally bought or viewed.

"Arts+Labs firmly believes that most consumers agree that artists should be compensated for their work and would prefer to purchase affordable, safe and legal content rather than reward those who illegally traffic in the hard work and creativity of others," the group said.

However, Public Knowledge, a digital rights advocacy group based in Washington, DC, called Arts+Labs "a big-money front group," saying its real goal is to make operators and ISPs (Internet service providers) monitor private Internet traffic.

"Combining the power and influence of AT&T and the entertainment industry means only that both are going to wage an all-out war for the right to filter every bit of data anyone sends across the Internet," the group said.

Arts+Labs' Web site promotes a host of legal download sites, including Netflix, a legal movie download site; Veoh Networks, a video-sharing site that also has content from major content providers; Blockbuster's Movielink; Joost, Microsoft's Xbox live and many more.

Despite efforts to sue individual file sharers and shut down file-sharing networks, illegal file sharing continues to be rampant.

Popular search engines such as The Pirate Bay index torrents, or small data files that coordinate the download of content from computers across the Internet using the BitTorrent protocol. Other file-sharing networks include eDonkey.

ISPs have sought to relieve the strain on their networks by slowing down certain kinds of traffic. The entertainment industry is pushing hard for ISPs to monitor content on their networks and disconnect high-volume file sharers.

Arts+Labs is employing power lobbyists: the group is co-chaired by Mike McCurry, former press secretary to U.S. President Bill Clinton and Mark McKinnon, who has been an advisor to Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Earlier this month, McCurry resigned as co-chair of Hands Off The Internet, a group that opposes regulations mandating net neutrality.

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