December 22, 2004

Dueling Formats, Platforms [3:26 pm]

Oh - and if you’re from the EU, your new Windows machine won’t work with it right out of the box either: HMV taps Microsoft for help with music service

British music giant HMV on Wednesday announced plans to launch a digital music service next year, using software being developed by Microsoft.

Music downloads from the service will be compatible with the Windows Media Audio standard and usable by more than 75 portable players currently on the market, HMV said. Portable players, as well as the service software, will be sold in the company’s stores and online. The service is slated to launch in the second half of 2005.

[...] HMV’s service will not be compatible with Apple’s iPod, and when the service is launched next year, HMV stores will stop selling iPods, a representative for HMV said.

Later: BBC’s HMV moves in on download market

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Documentaries and Clearing Copyrights [10:12 am]

Speaking of a dog in a manger: Bleary Days for Eyes on the Prize

Eyes on the Prize, the landmark documentary on the civil rights movement, is no longer broadcast or sold new in the United States. It’s illegal.

The 14-part series highlights key events in black Americans’ struggle for equality and is considered an essential resource by educators and historians, but the filmmakers no longer have clearance rights to much of the archival footage used in the documentary. It cannot be rebroadcast on PBS (where it originally aired) or any other channels, and cannot be released on DVD until the rights are cleared again and paid for.

[...] Securing clearance rights to archival footage is a growing problem for independent filmmakers — and documentary filmmakers in particular. Filmmakers must pay for the rights to use every song, photograph or video clip included in the film. Since many documentary films are made with small budgets, filmmakers often can only afford to buy rights for a limited amount of time. That leaves many filmmakers essentially renting footage, and rendering their work unusable after a certain number of years unless they can find more funding to clear the rights again.

[...] “Everyone wants worldwide rights in perpetuity,” Rabin said. “Then you have to come back to earth and say, ‘Oh, what do you really want to do?’…. (Filmmakers) start making compromises.”

[...] The licensing problem is “the hottest, most important issue going on in our (media) world right now,” said Matthew White, vice president of the film library for National Geographic Television & Film, which manages more than 1 million hours of footage.

“You need to be able to provide this material to the creative (community),” White said. “But there has to be a way, ultimately, to pay those people who are doing all the work to keep those archives afloat.”

The hurdles that filmmakers face will only get more complex as video expands over broadband and cell phones, and as more people work with digital video and editing tools, White said. The creative community and rights holders must find a way to make the rights process easier. Otherwise, people will resort to civil disobedience when making and using media.

Later: A link from Madisonian Theory points to an important report: Untold Stories: Creative Consequences of the Rights Clearance Culture for Documentary Filmmakers

Even later: Salon’s article and letters

Much later: a Copyfight pointer to further action: A New Kind of Civil Disobedience?Email This Entry

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Culture, Sharing and Expression [9:13 am]

From the NYTimes Arts section today, a look at what we mean when we say that the instruments of expression are embedded in a cultural heritage that we share, not just as a part of our lives, but to achieve our own expressions: Bodice-Ripping, Boldly, Between the (Book) Covers

For all the charts, footnotes and jargon-loaded lectures that Mr. Crichton packs into this thriller - glacio-hydro-isostatic modeling anyone? - there is one phenomenon he forgot to study: the effect of patently visual imagery on prose. Even if they are strictly limited to the use of words, some authors conjure up virtual pictures and exploit the shorthand they provide.

So in Chapter One of “Night Fall” (Warner Books), Nelson DeMille presents adulterous lovers on a Long Island beach, accompanied by allusions to “From Here to Eternity” and “Jaws.” He also throws in a homemade sex video that will, by chance, capture the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800. While the scene kicks off the book’s detailed investigation of that plane crash, it also hooks the reader in bluntly Pavlovian fashion. There might have been subtler ways to introduce this story, but Mr. DeMille chooses quite literally to begin his book with a bang.

Related: Entertaining Web Sites Promote Products Subtly

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Mashboxx-SnoCap Venture [9:08 am]

Mashboxx Aims to Make File Sharing Legit [pdf]

The big difference is that Mashboxx will be the first peer-to-peer network to use SnoCap, the music-licensing service founded in 2002 by Fanning. This makes it the first “real” legal alternative to popular free P2P networks such as Kazaa and eDonkey, as well as industry-supported downloading services like iTunes and Musicmatch.

“Our model is regular peer-to-peer. You’re going to have all the content you’re going to get with all the major (file-sharing) networks,” Rosso said. “Unauthorized content will not be blocked. Instead, what we’re going to be doing is replacing unauthorized content with authorized versions.”

SnoCap won’t prevent Mashboxx users from downloading, uploading and swapping popular songs over the network, but it will force them to pay for their music.

Although SnoCap promises to clean up and legitimize Internet file trading, it won’t work unless peer-to-peer companies allow the San Francisco-based firm to scan the traffic that travels over their networks.

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EU Upholds MS Penalties [8:48 am]

EU upholds penalties against Microsoft

The Commission ruled in March that the software giant used its monopoly in operating systems to try to manipulate the markets for media players and work group server operating systems. It ordered the company to offer a version of Windows without its bundled media player and to share more technical detail with rivals–orders that will now go into effect.

“The evidence adduced by Microsoft is not sufficient to show that implementation of the remedies imposed by the Commission might cause serious and irreparable damage,” the court said in a statement.

While Microsoft has yet to say whether it will appeal Wednesday’s decision, the company will offer a version of Windows without a built-in media player to computer makers by next month, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said during a conference call Wednesday. It will be made available through other channels in February.

Washington Post: EU Court Rules Against Microsoft [pdf]; BBC: Brussels blow to Microsoft upheld

Later: Groklaw (more) with the decision; CNet’s continuing coverage: Microsoft: The EU appeal still matters, Don’t think Microsoft is down for the count and Microsoft readies scaled-back Windows

Groklaw includes this important bit of analysis:

Microsoft lost its patent argument with this judge, because he wasn’t clear that their patents covered the technology it has been ordered to share, as you can see in paragraphs 178 and 179, which raises the question, what might happen if a judge was convinced that the technology was covered by a patent? And, um, if Europe has no software patents currently, how is Microsoft applying for and being granted European software patents? To all those still thinking that “introducing” software patents in Europe will do no harm, this is your wake-up call. You will be handing a convicted monopolist the tools to become an even greater and more powerful monopoly, and this case shows they absolutely will try to use patents to maintain that monopoly status. Patents are, after all, a monopoly grant. How desirable does that sound?

Later: NYTimes’ Europe Rejects Microsoft’s Bid to Preserve Bundling Plan; Washington Post’s E.U. Orders Microsoft To Modify Windows [pdf]

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A Dog In The Manger, In Time For Christmas [8:33 am]

Mary Hodder, having recently had an unfortunate incident with her NetNewsWire (a product I highly recommend, but does apparently have limits), got a comment that touched upon a peculiar perception being expounded upon by the bloggers of Backup Brain, to wit — the claim that the use of the phrase “backup brain,” not to mention the notion that lies behind it, belongs to them - see “Backup Brain” is us.

I’m starting to see it more and more, and while I’m not a lawyer, my understanding is that we need to nip this in the bud. If you read our What is Backup Brain? page, you’ll see that we claim “Backup Brain” as a trademark, and have for quite some time.

If you want to use the phrase “backup brain,” and in particular to use it regarding weblogs, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d reference or link to this site in some way. For instance, this is the right way to do it. OTOH, this is not.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Of course, there is no such trademark registration at the USPTO and even if there were, it would be completely irrelevant to this noxious claim.

Why am I giving these people any further exposure of their claim? Because this sort of thing exposes the way that the notion of “intellectual property” has completely debased the vital policy discussions that do need to be held regarding the appropriate role of legal instruments like copyright, patents and trademarks in promoting innovation.

Increasingly, we see the idea that the realm of “intellectual property” afford the opportunity for a kind of “land rush” — an opportunity to stake a claim upon a particular bit of turf, and then to extract rents from anyone who happens to wander across.

Of course, this may also just be the consequence of the copyright industries efforts to “educate” people about intellectual property, with suggestions that students put the © symbol on their homework, rather than a “land grab” on the part of the Backup Brain bloggers — but it’s still a sad demonstration of just how peculiarly the ideas of intellectual property have been warped.

(Note, by the way, that there are lots of trademarks that employ the phrase “intellectual property,” yet I am perfectly within my rights as a user of the english language to discuss the notion, build upon its concepts and deconstruct its failures without the permission of anybody!)

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