Another Kind of Media Convergence

From Newsweek: MSNBC – I Want a Movie! Now! [pdf] [via Slashdot]

Netflix and Tivo ushered in an age of couch-potato bliss. Netflix lets its customers browse through its huge movie catalog on the Web and rent DVDs through the mail without having to worry about late fees. TiVo lets people digitally record their favorite shows and zoom through the ads. But now couch potatoes are perched on the cusp of true paradise. Soon they won’t even have to stand up to trudge to the mailbox; fat broadband pipes will let them directly download movies over the Net to their television.

Netflix and TiVo want this digital nirvana to arrive as soon as possible, and they are about to join forces to make it happen. Later this month, NEWSWEEK has learned, the companies plan to unveil a simple but significant partnership that could shake up the media world. Subscribers who belong to both services will be able to download their Netflix DVDs over the Internet directly into the TiVo boxes in their homes, instead of receiving them in the mail. Spokespeople at the companies refused to comment on what they called rumor. But an insider who was close to the negotiations says the straightforward partnership is all but a done deal, pending only the approval of the TiVo board this week: “You don’t need a lot of creativity to figure out the details,” the insider said.

Ahhh, The Advertising Music Biz

The sidebar to Products Slide Into More TV Shows, With Help From New Middlemen, This Song Is Brought to You by…, raises some new dimensions to the business of music distribution:

Television is not the only fertile ground for product placement. Record executives, plagued by falling sales and online piracy, are trying to blend brands with music. For instance, Rémy Red, a fruit and cognac mix from Rémy Martin, is sponsoring Angie Stone’s summer concert tour, where she has been performing her song “Rémy Red.”

[…] Certainly, brands have benefited from being included in songs and videos. “Pass the Courvoisier” by Busta Rhymes bolstered sales of the cognac, according to Allied Domecq, but Mr. Rhymes swears the company did not pay him.

The biggest obstacle is MTV. The network has banned explicit product placement in videos, fearing that it would dilute the power of its advertisers. That restriction forces dealmakers to be more imaginative. Mark Humphrey, whose company, Band Ad, links musicians and advertisers, struck a deal between Sheryl Crow and American Express: for Ms. Crow’s song “Soak up the Sun,” American Express licensed the music and created a 30-second commercial with content from the video.

Mr. Humphrey sees a future in branded music videos similar to the plans for TV. […]

While MTV’s actions might seem peculiar at first blush, it pays to remember that MTV is the progenitor of Lucky magazine and other “all advertising” entertainment channels — and they can’t afford to let anyone else in on their game.

More importantly, if music is going to be all about advertising and promotion anyway, the advertisers paying for product placement are likely to be in favor of cheaper, more rapid distribution — like MP3s on P2P networks……

OT: My Tax Dollars At Work

Nothing like running against an incumbent who sees no limits on strategy: Pentagon to check Kerry war record [pdf]

In a fresh blow to John Kerry’s flagging presidential campaign, the Pentagon has ordered an official investigation into the awards of the Democratic senator’s five Vietnam War decorations.

News of the inquiry came as President George W Bush opened an 11-point lead over his rival – the widest margin since serious campaigning began – according to the first poll released since last week’s Republican convention.

The highly unusual inquiry is to be carried out by the inspector-general’s office of the United States navy, for which Sen Kerry served as a Swift Boat captain for four months in 1968, making two tours of duty.

Revisiting the Definition of Wiretap

Feds try again for wiretapping conviction

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a full appeals court to review a controversial ruling saying an e-mail provider did not violate federal wiretapping laws by allegedly reading messages meant for customers.

In an unusual twist, civil liberties groups are joining the government’s request to the full 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit a three-judge panel’s decision in June that cleared Bradford Councilman, formerly vice president of online bookseller Interloc, of federal wiretapping charges.

Both legal briefs say that the 2-1 ruling sets an unfortunate precedent that effectively creates an unintentional loophole in Internet wiretapping laws–at least in the New England states that make up the 1st Circuit.

[…] In this case, Councilman provided his customers, typically dealers of rare or used books, with e-mail addresses ending in “@interloc.com.” Councilman allegedly ordered the creation of a simple computer program that surreptitiously saved copies of inbound messages from Amazon.com sent to those specialty book dealers.

The panel’s majority concluded that because the interception happened when the messages were stored on a hard drive–even temporarily–rather than in transit, Councilman did not violate the Wiretap Act. Depending on the number of messages being processed at one time, a mail server may take anywhere from a fraction of a second to more than an hour to deliver e-mail.

Though federal wiretap prohibitions may arguably be “out of step with the technological realities of computer crimes,” the court said, making any changes to such prohibitions was up to Congress. One such bill already has been introduced.

New Rev of IICA/INDUCE

IP Newsblog reports that a New Draft of Induce Act is available. There’s a link given to the revision of S 2560, but I can’t find an original source. The original source for the story is this CNet News article: Copyright Office pitches anti-P2P bill

The new version is slightly narrower than the previous one, though many critics are still skeptical. The new language targets anyone who “intentionally induces” file swapping. “Intentionally” is defined as one or more “affirmative, overt acts that are reasonably expected to cause or persuade another person or persons” to violate copyright law.

Will Rodger, director of public policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association objects to the wide reaching language of the draft. “First it was the Hollings bill, then Induce, now the Copyright Office’s bill. They look different, but they all revolve around the same thing: Giving content (providers) veto power over all new technology,” Rodger said. “Who decided that holders of government-granted monopolies should determine the future of high tech? I don’t remember reading that memo.”

Donna talks about the draft here: What the Fox Proposes for the Henhouse

Talk About Beating a Dead Horse!

Or something. FCC Plans Record Fine For CBS – to what end?

The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote unanimously for a record-setting fine against CBS-owned stations for violating broadcast decency standards with the network’s January breast-baring Super Bowl halftime show, though some commissioners are expected to say the fines are not severe enough, FCC sources said.

The $550,000 indecency fine would be the largest levied against a television broadcaster. The decision could be released as early as next week but may come the week after, said the sources, who would not speak for attribution because the vote has not been made public. The amount represents a $27,500 fine directed at each of the 20 television stations owned by CBS, which in turn is owned by Viacom Inc.

Excluded from the fines are CBS’s more than 200 affiliate stations, which also broadcast the show. That exclusion is one source of disagreement among the five members of the FCC, according to the sources, who are familiar with the commission’s deliberations.

A Chilling Tale

Although the title of the article purports to be about Microsoft’s foray into the music e-tailing business, Microsoft Steps Into The Ring [pdf], it’s really a platform for David Card to push his vision of the future of music sales. It’s that there will be no sales at all — rather, it’s going to be (tethered?) subscriptions!:

Some analysts, however, believe the real money to be made will come from subscription services, which now lag behind the download stores in total sales. The reason has to do with the way people buy and use music.

With download services such as iTunes, users can hear a 30-second sample of a song before they buy it. Once they buy it, it stays on their computer or can be transferred to an MP3 player or burned onto a CD. (Songs purchased from iTunes can be played only on an iPod. Songs bought from MSN Music can be played on any of the nearly 100 MP3 devices for sale.)

The subscription model resembles how people watch cable TV. Services such as Napster, which charges $9.95 a month, give users the right to listen to the entire length of all the songs in the service’s library an unlimited number of times. They typically hook up their computer to speakers or run the songs through their existing stereo systems.

[…] The reason for the coming surge in subscription revenue, said Jupiter analyst David Card, has to do with which music consumers spend the most money.

“Downloads appear to us to be a sampling medium,” Card said. “We think subscription services appeal to the heavy spender.”

As many as half of all Americans spend no money on music, Card said. “They just listen to the radio,” he said.

About 25 percent of Americans spend more than $250 per year on music. Those customers are the audiophiles, customers who are “very eclectic and like to hear new stuff,” he said. Those people are prime customers for the subscription services that let users listen to an entire library of songs all the time, he said.

Converting the PC into a TV?

Or something better? No Need to Dress Up for This Preview; Just Log On to the Home Computer

On Aug. 31, the WB Network and Warner Brothers Television offered for the first time previews of one of its new shows, “Jack & Bobby,” to the several million subscribers of AOL’s high-speed Internet service. And from Sept. 13 and Sept. 20, people with Internet connections will be able to watch a preview of another new show, “The Mountain,” a “larger-than-life saga” about a wealthy family that runs a ski resort. The show, which will premiere on Sept. 22, will be available on Web sites run by the affiliates of the WB Network in 19 cities.

[…] AOL said the preview of “Jack & Bobby” was “off to a good start,” but provided no figures on how many subscribers watched the show. It is also unclear how long viewers watched the shows. If they watched for only a few minutes before clicking off, it might give new meaning to the phrase, “sneak preview.”