One of the more interesting coalitions to recently pop up on the tech policy scene is the cleverly named Arts+Labs. Launching a month ago, the group includes AT&T, Viacom, NBC Universal, Cisco, Microsoft and the Songwriters Guild of America as members. Support them or not, all involved are currently among the savvier players in DC. And, the folks running Arts+Labs aren't too shabby themselves.
Most of the focus around the launch of the coalition was centered on its stated intent to clean up "net pollution" -- a scorn that includes illegal file sharing.
No doubt that this priority will remain, but I am mostly interested in watching how their policy positions will evolve and what this will mean for who else comes on board. I do find the old yarn about the simplified Silicon Valley vs. Hollywood battle tired and usually false and will be curious what Arts+Labs can do to replace the "vs." with the "+" and demonstrate that most of us have moved on from the black and white days of the original Napster battle.
This is why I took interest in Arts+Labs statement on the Google book search settlement with publishers today. Normally, something like this would bore me to tears (and not just because I write these types of thing all of the time). But, it was interesting to see how Arts+Labs used the statement to represent itself in a way that softens how the content players usually speak in stark, tough lawyerly statements. An excerpt:
This settlement shows that creators' rights and consumer benefit can go hand-in-hand in the Internet age. It is a victory for consumers and creators alike...
...The framework established by this agreement, if approved by the Court, should open the door to additional innovation and may potentially provide a model for legal access to other types of artistic content. This type of collaborative problem-solving is part of Arts+Labs' vision and is far preferable to years of litigation that would delay a future for the Internet that is safer, faster, more reliable and more beneficial for every consumer.
Ironically (or not), Arts+Labs member Viacom, who is, of course, involved in a little suit regarding YouTube was a little more harsh in a separate statement:
"Copyright laws provide creators with the incentive to create the works consumers crave. It is unfortunate that the publishers had to spend years, and millions of dollars, for Google to honor that principle. We hope that Google avoids the wasted effort and comes more quickly to respect movies and television programming."
I'm all for the "collaborative problem-solving" that the Arts+Labs quote references. It will be interesting to watch how this manifests itself in the next year or so.