June 16, 2004

Upcoming Cato Event [9:34 am]

Tomorrow there’ll be a free Cato Institute event in DC: The Law and Economics of File Sharing & P2P Networks - participants include Rick Boucher, Jack Valenti, Stan Leibowitz and Declan McCullagh. Cato promises a “balanced discussion of these questions and the future of copyright law in the post-Napster era,” but it looks like it’s really going to be a classic “dialog of the deaf.” With a Real feed available, it may be worth checking out at your leisure. Or not.

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Forrester Sticks Their Necks Out [8:08 am]

It should be interesting to return to this in about six months: Commentary: A tougher sell for iTunes. Of course, with consultant-speak like this, it’s going to be hard to tell how good an analysis this is:

But times have changed since the iTunes Music Store’s heady U.S. launch in April 2003–Napster, Sony and On Demand Distribution (OD2) already have multiple offerings, and hardware companies like Creative Labs now also offer cool hard-disk audio players. Apple will not repeat its staggering U.S. success, but new innovations like the AirPort Express and the iPod Mini will ensure that the company takes a large share of the European music download market.

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Digital Technology & Barriers To Entry [7:59 am]

Gun Group’s Radio Show Tests Limits on Advocacy

In a direct challenge to federal limits on political advocacy, the National Rifle Association plans to begin broadcasting a daily radio program on Thursday to provide news and pro-gun commentary to 400,000 listeners.

The group says its jump into broadcasting with its program, “NRANews,” means that it should be viewed as a media organization that does not have to abide by provisions of a sweeping campaign finance law from 2002. That law stops organizations from using unregulated “soft” money to buy political advertising that directly attacks or praises federal candidates in the weeks before federal elections and primaries.

[...] Mr. LaPierre said the program, to be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio, would be a step toward a larger media enterprise. The organization is looking to acquire radio stations in the Midwest, the Rockies and the South, Mr. LaPierre said.

[...] The new move is likely to set off a broad debate over what is a media company. Experts in campaign finance said the plan could open a major loophole in the law, which was intended to reduce the influence of money and special interest groups.

[...] Building a media enterprise can be expensive, but satellite radio offers the rifle association an instant means of reaching listeners nationally. Sirius, one of two nationwide satellite radio networks, offers 110 channels to its 400,000 subscribers, who pay about $13 a month. Company officials project that it will reach one million listeners by the end of the year. The company declined to comment on Tuesday about the plan.

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EU Hearings on Sony & BMG Merger [7:49 am]

Europe Hears Objections to Proposed Music Merger

In a 60-page analysis that focused largely on CD prices in Europe, the commission found that prices tended to move up and down together, a phenomenon that the regulators who drafted the analysis said was proof that the five major companies - Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, BMG and the EMI Group - exercised “collective dominance.”

[...] The concept of collective dominance is central to the commission’s objections to the Sony-BMG merger. People who have read the objections said that most of the document concerned evidence that the five giants, with 80 percent of the world market, were able to collude tacitly to set prices for CD’s.

[...] According to a music executive who attended the hearings, Sony and Bertelsmann told the panel that the major record labels did not have the power to manipulate prices. They offered data showing that CD prices in Europe fell more than 5 percent from 1999 to 2002, the executive said, and they argued that large retailers, including supermarkets, had gained leverage over the music labels when it came to setting prices.

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"Shagging Marmots?" [7:29 am]

Wired News on the BBC Creative Archive: BBC to Open Content Floodgates

The British Broadcasting Corporation’s Creative Archive, one of the most ambitious free digital content projects to date, is set to launch this fall with thousands of three-minute clips of nature programming. The effort could goad other organizations to share their professionally produced content with Web users.

The project, announced last year, will make thousands of audio and video clips available to the public for noncommercial viewing, sharing and editing. It will debut with natural-history programming, including clips that focus on plants, animals and birds.

[...] The BBC archive would only be available to British citizens who pay the yearly TV license fee. Anyone who tries to visit the site through a foreign IP address won’t be allowed to log on, Le Dieu said.

She said the BBC is working on ironing out various legal and contractual issues. The BBC plans to license its materials using a system similar to Creative Commons, an American organization that has developed a set of flexible copyright licenses for creators of digital content.

But clearing the rights is a significant challenge. Some clips contain elements like musical soundtracks, which may require getting permission from the copyright holders.

[...] Those technical and legal challenges may render the archive incomplete, some fear.

“We want to make sure that the archive is more than just shagging marmots,” said David Tannenbaum, coordinator for the Union for the Public Domain. “There’s been no public discussion of how they are going to get beyond these nature clips.”

See earlier posting: The Beeb And CC

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Acacia Technologies Announces Suits [7:20 am]

Acacia Technologies Files Cable and Satellite TV Patent Infringement Lawsuit

Acacia’s DMT patents cover the transmission and receipt of digital content via the Internet, cable, satellite, and other means, and as the Complaint alleges, apply to a variety of programming and activities engaged in by cable and sastellite companies including certain basic programming, pay per view, video on demand, and digital ad insertion. Acacia intends to continue its licensing discussions with cable and satellite companies and has the option of adding additional companies to the lawsuit in the future.

The lawsuit is separate from the patent infringement actions currently pending in the District Court for the Central District of California agains certain Adult Entertainment Companies that transmit digital content via the Internet.

Note that the PDF of this press release, appropriately enough, does not allow for copying and extraction of content from the file, so any typos (although not the excessive use of commas!) are my responsibility <G>

CNet: Patent suits hit cable, satellite giants

Later: Slashdot discussion — Profiting From A Vague Patent HOWTO

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