March 11, 2004

Digital Performance Rights Agreements Signed [6:42 pm]

ECast and Touchtunes have signed performance rights agreements with ASCAP and BMI:

[Via DigitalMediaWire]

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Something’s gotta be done about the Beatles [2:53 pm]

An excellent piece of Grey Album fallout: Life Goes On [via Ernest and Siva] [pdf]

[T]he collusion of exorbinant fees and copyright censure has made many of the musicians with the loudest cultural resonance into those whose music is only heard today as an echo from the past.

[...] These artists — all of whom learned and borrowed from other musicians — have pierced our collective heart, and their music is a living presence among us. They encourage musicians, and filmmakers, and writers, and creative people of all types to continue do what they love. They still soundtrack our precious, ridiculous, and inspired moments. And they do so not from a position in history, but in the here and now.

Maybe it’s time to let go of the clout granted to Beatles, and all these rock legends — that issue is one that’s up for debate. But to me, it is beyond question that it is certainly time to free ourselves of the cultural nostalgia and legal stagnation that have allowed their music to fossilize.

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NYTimes on Photography in the Digital Age [2:11 pm]

(Not in my UserLand RSS feeds for some reason) The Camera Never Lies, but the Software Can [pdf]

Faked photos are nothing new. Even with film and negatives, it was possible, with the right darkroom equipment and some skill and creativity, to remove people from images, for example, or to combine a jackrabbit and an antelope to create a gag “jackalope” postcard. Nor is photography for political purposes new. In 1840, Hippolyte Bayard, one of the earliest photographers, staged a picture of himself as a drowned man because he thought his work was not given proper recognition by the French government.

“But the scale of faking and manipulating is so much greater now in the environment of the pixel, which invites alteration,” said Fred Ritchin, the author of “In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography” (Aperture, 1999).

[...] Many doctored photos are just funny, like the one of a man hoisting what appears to be a 90-pound cat. But David Mikkelson, who with his wife, Barbara, runs Snopes.com, an online repository and debunker of urban legends and hoaxes, including some composite photos, said that sometimes fake images strike a chord because they reflect a certain reality. “People are making caricatures based on existing conceptions,” he said. “This helps them spread far and wide.”

[...] Owen Franken, 57, a photographer in Paris who took the original photograph of Ms. Fonda in 1972, was so incensed by the fakery that he said he was “trying to figure out how to sue people about it.” And officials at Corbis, which sells licenses for both of the originals, are investigating the possibility of copyright violations.

[...] Images can also create their own version of reality. David King, author of “The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin’s Russia” (Henry Holt & Company, 1997), said that point was brought home to him years ago by a well-known 1920 photograph of Lenin with the writer Maxim Gorky. “It’s just the two of them standing there together,” he said. In 1972, Mr. King found the original print of the photo in an antiquarian bookshop in Amsterdam and saw that it contained more than 20 other people. “They were all wiped out,” he said.

When Mr. King showed the original photo to Russian friends, they looked at him quizzically. “They thought I had put people into the picture,” he said “It had become such an imprint on the Soviet mind.”

[...] Indeed, a manipulated image, which is often more powerful than the sum of its parts, can affect not just visual perception but opinions as well. While declining to discuss the Kerry-Fonda composite specifically because the incident is under investigation, David Green, senior corporate counsel at Corbis, said that the company vigorously pursues all copyright violations.

To that end, the company, which is owned by Microsoft’s chairman, Bill Gates, places not only a visible watermark on the 3.5 million images available at its Web site, but also a digital watermark.

[...] As the Kerry-Fonda composite demonstrates, no amount of legal language or sophisticated tracking can deter someone who is determined to distort an image.

Related links - Speaking of Digital Photography; LawMeme on the Kerry/Fonda Fake Photo

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Mrs. Magnatune Meets Record Exec [10:30 am]

Major label executive doesn’t like being called evil

Exec: Well, I don’t see how this business model can work in the long term.

Jan: From what I read in the press your business model isn’t working out too well.

Exec: (smirk) But mergers like BMG and SONY are going to have an impact.

Jan: Oh good, then they can go bankrupt together instead of separately.

Exec: (frown)

Jan: I mean, your whole industry is based on stealing people’s music. It’s like running a restaurant and not paying the cooks. Eventually you’re going to run out of food and then the customers will stop coming. It seems they already have stopped.

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Two Register articles on Apple/SACEM [8:56 am]

The first, French music rights holders threaten to sue Apple, is the basic story already covered here. The second contrasts the French system with Terry Fisher’s proposal: Artists vow to sue Apple for dodging French music fees

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George Michael Announcement [8:41 am]

George Michael now free [via Fark]

British singer George Michael said today he was retiring from the music business and intended instead to put all his future songs on the Internet - for free.

The 40-year-old pop star told BBC radio he would never make another album for sale in record shops, because he did not need the money and wanted to be less famous.

Michael is currently promoting his latest album Patience, but revealed it would be his last.

“I think it’s going to be my last commercial promoted release. I’ve been very well remunerated for my talents over the years so I really don’t need the public’s money,” he said.

Now, he added, he would “really like to have something on the internet with charitable donation optional, where anyone can download my music for free”.

See also the BBC article: George Michael shuns music industry and The Register piece: George Michael offers free songs on Internet

I wonder if he really has the kind of contract with his record company that will allow him to do this. I can’t imagine.

Update: Lawgeek points to the Rolling Stone article

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Wi-Fi Standards and Chinese Trade [8:26 am]

(see the earlier Open Architectures, Trade Policy and Competition)

The NYTimes (Intel to Miss China Deadline on Standard for Wireless) and CNet (Intel, others to stop shipping Wi-Fi to China) cover a continuing breakdown in standard-setting for wireless networking protocols. (CMI and MIT students will recall our discussions on this general topic in class.)

Intel’s not meeting the Chinese timetable reflects a larger objection on the part of Intel and other American technology companies, which have been up in arms since China announced last year that it wanted to develop a separate national standard for short-range wireless networks, known as Wi-Fi.

Last May, Beijing told foreign makers of computers and microprocessors that want to sell Wi-Fi systems in China that they would have to use a different standard for encrypting the signals and work closely with Chinese computer makers to produce goods for the Chinese market.

[...] American chip makers and PC manufacturers, joined by a number of other computer makers around the world, say that the Chinese plan amounts to an unfair trade barrier by requiring companies to comply with two vastly different standards. Foreign and American companies are also concerned about the potential loss of intellectual property rights if they are forced to work with Chinese PC companies that might become competitors in the Wi-Fi marketplace.

[...] American executives and trade officials have expressed fears that such an approach could fragment global markets in high-tech products in what they consider a misguided protectionist attempt by Beijing to give Chinese producers an edge.

But some industry analysts note that powerful nations, including the United States, have long exercised power in the global market by setting technical standards. With its huge population and fast-growing economy, China, they say, is merely trying to take its turn as a standard-setter. If the dispute cannot be settled and Intel stops shipments of its wireless chips for PC’s to China, the company stands to lose, at least temporarily, access to a huge market for its Centrino chips.

Intel won’t play by China’s Wi-Fi rules

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CAN-Spam Suits [8:03 am]

  • InfoWorld: Major ISPs sue hundreds of spammers

  • NYTimes: Internet Providers File Suits to Stop Spammer

    But David Kramer, an expert in antispam law at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm in Palo Alto, Calif., said that these suits were not likely to be very effective. He pointed out that Internet service providers have sued spammers before using state antispam statutes and federal computer crime law. Indeed, Microsoft filed 60 spam-related suits last year.

    “We have been operating under a regime where I.S.P.’s can sue spammers for eight years,” he said. “When you cut off one head of the hydra, two more heads pop up.”

Update: Findlaw’s coverage

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Some Modest Proposals [7:54 am]

March 14-15 at the Cardozo School of Law, NYC-

Five leading academics known for advocating specific, thoughtful ways to improve the U.S. intellectual property system will present ideas from their writings in the form of actual legislative proposals. Sessions will focus on patent and copyright laws and will have a scholarly and a political/policy commentator. A special session will look at the development and present state of legislation to create extra-copyright protection of databases. Discussions among professors, current and former Capitol Hill staff, intellectual property practitioners, and students about all that goes into intellectual property legislation and policy will be encouraged.

Presenters

  • F. Scott Kieff, associate professor of law, Washington University

  • Mark A. Lemley, professor of law, University of California at Berkeley

  • Arti Rai, professor of law, Duke University

  • Katherine Strandburg, assistant professor of law, DePaul University

  • Alfred C. Yen, professor of law, Boston College

[Via Tech Law Advisor]

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Broadcast Flag Lawsuit Coverage [7:50 am]

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NYTimes Editorial on Echostar/Viacom Fight [7:40 am]

(See yesterday’s A Telecoms Media Fight)

When Media Giants Bicker

The gravest danger is that media giants will seek to avoid all this irritation by gaining control of both popular programming and the cable wire or satellite antenna servicing your home — one of the possibilities in resolving the Viacom-EchoStar struggle. Time Warner, the nation’s second-largest cable operator and the owner of several cable channels, is already well on its way to becoming that type of vertically integrated conglomerate, which could pose a threat to competition and diversity in the dissemination of news and entertainment. The same can be said of the News Corporation, which owns the Fox network and a stake in DirecTV, the largest satellite system. The desire for such integration is also behind Comcast’s bid for Disney.

Congress and the Federal Communications Commission wasted a lot of time and energy last year haggling over an overhaul of clearly anachronistic rules for media ownership. Little effort has been made to draft sensible new rules for today’s media landscape. That is a shame. As lamentable as the showdown between EchoStar and Viacom has been, a future in which neither company needed the other would be far worse.

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