May 28, 2003

2003 May 28 [6:39 am]

(entry last updated: 2003-05-28 18:17:23)

  • The market push to get rid of MP3? AOL forms duet with Dolby

    As previously reported, AOL has been planning the switch to Dolby AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) for months, in the latest sign that the digital audio format is gaining momentum against competing technologies such as MP3.

    AOL’s decision comes at the expense of its longtime audio technology partner RealNetworks. Although AOL will continue supporting RealNetworks technology in other areas in its service, the longstanding relationship between the two companies has withered.

  • I remember when these came out: Bowie Bonds Under Review

    Moody’s Investors Service says it may downgrade about $55 million of bonds backed by music royalties of rock icon David Bowie in light of the sales slump in the recording industry.

    In 1997, Bowie was the first musician to sell bonds supported by future revenues generated from his record master and publishing rights….

    “The rating review was prompted by lower than expected revenues generated by the assets due to weakness in sales for recorded music as well as the recent downgrade of an entity that provides credit support to the transaction,” the bond rating agency said last week.

  • Cory Doctorow points to a weblog that certainly gives one credible explanation for the Starbucks picture policy. Give it a read just to learn about the evolution of coffee bars

    Eventually competitors started getting jobs with Starbucks just to take the classes and gain the expertise, then take it back to their stores. Few people know it, but there was a cutthroat coffee chain war going on from 1991-1996, many of Starbucks policies came from this period.

    Photography was a big thing. Most retailers have a similar policy to Starbucks, customers are not allowed to take pictures inside a Starbucks without the permission of Media Relations. The reason was that competitors were coming into the store, posing as customers with an accomplice, and taking snapshots of every angle of the store.

    I caught a few of them early on, you could spot them from a mile away, mainly because of their poor acting skills. They overemphasized everything, spoke loudly and tried too hard to be the perfect customer. Later as the no photography policy became strictly enforced, competitors just starting take picture from outside. It was funny, you were on bar, had a line out the door and someone is staring right at you taking pictures of you.

    Unfortunately this policy is still in place today.

  • Larry Lessig points out that the Democratic contenders are picking up some interesting notions: MediaCon: Edwards questions the FCC’s mandate and Joe Lieberman on End to End

  • With OSCOM going on, I thought I’d see Dave’s thoughts on interoperability of weblog formats when I stumbled across this:

    About APIs, I request others support the MetaWeblog API without reservation. If you want me reorganize and move the docs to a neutral place and put an IETF-like disclaimer on it, I’m happy to do so. Maybe this is something Harvard could help with. I ain’t going with MIT, they’re the competition.

    Really? <G>

  • CNet News is putting together a special report over the next three days: Digital remix. Today’s entry: A medium reborn. While there’s a lot of familiar background, it is a nice packaging of the current potentials and issues in digital distribution of music. I like this (admittedly optimistic) bit:

    “Content companies have put themselves through a lot of unnecessary pain. If these commercial solutions work, they will prove very much what happened in the Betamax case: that on the other side of lawsuits is a thriving industry,” said Kevin Bermeister, chief executive of Altnet, a distribution service whose alliance with Kazaa has put it at odds with entertainment companies. Apple’s service, he said, is “slowly turning this 50-year-old ship to a different path.”

  • Offtopic: Maureen Dowd’s op-ed piece today, In-a-Gadda Da-Vida We Trust [pdf] is worth reading, if only as a test of how long it takes us to take the step of formally making Iran the next target, but it also raises an etymological question for me - namely, how did “decimate” come to mean “essentially wipe out?”

    “Al Qaeda is on the run,” the president said in Little Rock, Ark. “That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely, being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top Al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they’re not a problem anymore.”

    But Al Qaeda, it became horrifyingly clear a week later in Riyadh, was not decimated; it was sufficiently undecimated to murder 34 people, injure 200 and scare the daylights out of Americans everywhere.

    The term derives from the Roman practice of punishing a mutinous group by killing one out of every ten (see the OED definition or the American Heritage definition), but the Romans must have looked upon this as a disciplinary action, rather than one meant to expunge the group - after all, they left 9 out of 10 members in place. Nevertheless, it is clearly common usage today to use it to mean “to eliminate almost completely.” The OED points out that this usage emerges in the late 1800s, and the American Heritage usage panel gives such constructions a 66% level of acceptability (vote of confidence?) today. It would be interesting to see how the change came to be.

  • Maybe this article is closer to what Larry Lessig was hoping for: Ideologically Broad Coalition Assails F.C.C. Media Plan [pdf]

    A broad coalition of both conservative and liberal organizations expressed deep criticism today of a plan by the Federal Communications Commission to relax the rules that have restricted the nation’s largest media conglomerates from growing bigger.

    …The meeting today illustrated that no issue has created more of a furor at the commission in recent years than this proposal, which would allow conglomerates to enter more markets and control both newspapers and broadcasters in more than 100 cities. In recent weeks, the commissioners have received hundreds of thousands of comments urging them to delay their action.

    … Supporters of the proposal, who are led by Mr. Powell and include the major broadcast networks and some large news conglomerates, say that technology and the proliferation of competition have rendered the current rules unnecessary. They say that free over-the-air television may be jeopardized without changes as more expensive programming migrates to subscription services offered by cable and satellite companies.

    What’s particularly interesting is that the Times also has this article today: Commercial Time Selling Quickly for Cable, Too [pdf]

    The upfront market for broadcasters, now virtually concluded, is likely to total $9.2 billion to $9.3 billion, compared with $8.1 billion last spring. The deal-making for spots on the cable networks, being completed more quickly than usual, could result in increases of a similar or even larger percentage, reaching $5.4 billion to $5.6 billion, compared with $4.6 billion last spring; the negotiations are expected to wrap up in mid- to late June.

    There had been fears among some cable executives that the robust upfront market for broadcast networks, which is ending even more strongly than forecast a couple of weeks ago, could potentially cut into their take. But it seems that the rising tide - in the form of demand from marketers in large, important categories like entertainment, pharmaceuticals and restaurants - is lifting all boats.

  • David Weinberger’s Copy Protection is a Crime … against Humanity is back on the front page at Wired News. Check out the May 14 Furdlog entry, with an object example (at the bottom of the entry).

  • Cory Doctorow went straight to Starbucks to get the answer to the question of picture-taking: We’re allowed to take pix at Fourbucks, apparently. Larry Lessig went to BumperActive.com. (See Donna’s Copyfight entry for a good wrapup of the issue)

  • A couple of CNet NewsWired News articles:

    • The noxious effects of the so called business practices patent - eBay loses the first round of a patent fight over the “Buy it now” button: Jury: eBay guilty of patent infringement

      “I think it’s a red flag to the Internet commerce industry that there’s a whole slew of these patents that are issued that are basically what I would call well-known or common methods of doing business,” said Norm Beamer, a partner at Fish and Neave, a law firm specializing in intellectual property.

      “Right now it seems there is this looming problem of not very sensible patents that are nevertheless being used to threaten and extort people who are in business, and this appears to be one (being used against eBay) of them,” he added.

      Wired News has the AP Wire report: EBay Has to Pay in Patent Suit

    • RealNetworks pushes lower-cost Rhapsody

      RealNetworks on Wednesday will cease selling the music-subscription service MusicNet in favor of one from Listen.com’s Rhapsody, which also plans to charge a new low of 79 cents per track to rip CDs.

      … The RealNetworks’ product is the first major development following the company’s proposed $36 million acquisition of privately held Listen in April; the buyout is expected to be complete by the end of the third quarter. It is also a visible sign that RealNetworks has opted to back Rhapsody as its music service of choice at the expense of MusicNet, the rival subscription service it helped create in 2001 and in which it is still part owner.

      Wired News has something on this too: Listen Up: Songs Now 79 Cents

      Most online music retailers have been focusing on pushing subscription models, where users pay a set fee each month. But the success of Apple’s iTunes shows that “there is a demand for a la carte downloads and it’s important to know that people will pay for a high-quality downloadable file when the same file is most likely available through a free service as well,” IDC’s Kevorkian said.

  • Apple responds to SpyMac: Apple halts iTunes’ Internet sharing ability. Also see SpyMac’s announcement.

    Slashdot discussion: Apple Updates, Cripples iTunes; and CNet News’ article: Apple limits iTunes file sharing

    Cory Doctorow’s reaction: Apple force-feeds customers shit, calls it sunshine

  • NPR’s Morning Edition is running a three part series on the upcoming FCC vote on ownership deregulation - today’s first part was a history of the FCC and radio commercialization.

  • Today’s Globe has a nice rundown on Puretunes and the current licensing issues: New model for music on Net faces challenges [pdf]

    Madrid-based Puretunes, located on the Internet at www.puretunes.com, is a subscription-based service. But unlike similar services, such as Pressplay or Rhapsody, it allows customers to subscribe not just by the month, but also for as little as eight hours. This brief subscription costs just $3.99. And on Puretunes, subscribers can download all the music they want.

    …Puretunes’ press release says that what it’s doing is perfectly legal, because the company has struck a deal with the Spanish Association of Authors and Editors and the Association of Artists, Performers and Players, two of Spain’s major organizations for protecting the intellectual property rights of music producers. ”They pay a percentage to these organizations,” said Kelly O’Neil, a spokeswoman for Puretunes. ”The organizations, in turn, pay everybody associated with the song.”

    There’s just one problem, according to Allen Dixon, executive director of the London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the global trade group for the record companies. ”It’s only half the deal they need,” Dixon said.

    Despite any agreement with the two Spanish organizations cited by Puretunes, Dixon said the company still has to obtain permission from the recording companies.

    SFGate’s Benny Evangelista’s article on PureTunes is also very thorough: Spanish firm offers low-cost downloads:

    But music industry group calls it illegal

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