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January 31, 2005

A Deal Struck [10:10 pm]

That Verizon/Microsoft deal is looking real nice now: Microsoft, Macrovision align on copy protection

Microsoft and copy-protection company Macrovision have struck a deal that will add a new layer of anticopying defenses to video content being swapped between home devices.

The two companies said that Microsoft had licensed Macrovision’s technology, which aims to stop people from making copies using analog connections between devices, such as those that typically link a set-top box to a television.

The deal could make it harder for consumers to make permanent copies of TV shows and movies without permission, if they use computers running the Windows operating system. It should also help convince movie studios and other content producers to release their products in new ways online, the companies said.

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Groklaw’s Paean to the GPL [11:48 am]

In response to Joe Barr’s latest and, more specifically, to a nonsense trolling, Groklaw’s posted a set of GPL resources: New GPL References Page

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Another Convergence? Or Time To Revise The Model? [8:18 am]

What high-definition will do to DVDs

For Rick Dean, director of business development for digital content company THX, a high-definition future is an exciting prospect.

[...] “There was a time not so long ago when the film world and the video world were two completely separate worlds,” he told the BBC News website.

“The technology we are dealing with now means they are very much conjoined.

“The film that we see in theatres is coming from the same digital file that we take the home video master,” he says.

[...] What high-definition revolution ultimately means is that the line between home entertainment and cinema worlds will blur.

With home theatre systems turning living rooms into cinemas, this line blurs even further.

It could also mean that how we get films, and in what format, will widen.

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Controlling the Lakoff-Style “Frames” In the Fight for Control [8:03 am]

Video Sales Abroad Are Good News in Hollywood. Shhh.

For the last two years, the Motion Picture Association of America, the lobbying group for the studios, has claimed that Hollywood loses $3.5 billion every year, almost all of it overseas, to the sale of illegally copied films, mainly on bootleg DVD’s and their cheaper Asian equivalent, video compact discs (VCD’s).

But the M.P.A.A. is far less forthcoming when asked how much money the Hollywood studios are making on legitimate foreign sales of home video (a category that includes DVD’s, VCD’s and VHS tapes).

“Those figures are confidential, and we don’t release them,” said Barbara Berger, a spokeswoman for the M.P.A.A.

[...] “For a long time, the film business was a single-digit business on investment return,” said Charles Roven, the producer of “Batman Begins” from Warner Brothers, a division of Time Warner. “Now, because of home video, it’s a low double-digit business, and the studios want to make sure it doesn’t go back into the single-digit business.”

Much later: The Framing Wars

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A Look At Creativity and Ownership [7:59 am]

Who Deserves the Credit (and Cash) for Dreaming Up Those Superheroes?

When a federal judge ruled recently that Stan Lee, a co-creator of many Marvel Comics characters, was entitled to 10 percent of the profits from Marvel Enterprises film and television productions, he renewed a long-simmering debate in comic book history: How much credit does Mr. Lee deserve for creating characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and how much was due to his collaborators?

“It’s amazing that he walks away with all the credit and all the money for some of the creation of these characters,” said Robert Katz, a nephew of Jack Kirby, the illustrator who worked with Mr. Lee on the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men and others. “The artists who did the lion’s share of the creation have walked away with absolutely nothing.” Mr. Kirby died in 1994.

[...] Lisa Kirby, Mr. Kirby’s daughter, agreed. “I don’t know how they live with themselves,” she said. “The estate gets no compensation from Marvel at all.”

[...] “The Stan Lee dispute is really a dispute about an employment agreement that’s very specific to Stan Lee,” said John N. Turitzin, executive vice president and general counsel at Marvel. “It’s not an agreement about his role as a creator of Marvel’s characters.”

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A German 2600 Case? [7:53 am]

Music biz serves writ on German IT site

German IT site Heise Online has received a writ preventing it from publishing links to Slysoft.com, a company that advertises software that can play, copy and rip protected audio CDs.

The writ was served on Heise Zeitschriften Verlag last Friday by Munich law firm Waldorf on behalf of several major record companies - BMG, EMI, Sony Music, Universal and Warner. The publisher is accused of violating the German Copyright Act which forbids the advertising of products which circumvent copy protection. Heise is also held responsible for providing “instructions on how to get around anti-piracy measures”.

Heise Zeitschriften Verlag rejects all the charges. [...]

CoCo thoughts

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Other Threats to Hollywood? [7:47 am]

Important to remember that the Sundance Film Festival, in the end, is all about distribution - and the shape of and access to distribution continues to be the issue going forward for all content: Who needs Hollywood anymore? [pdf]

The movie industry is on the verge of a major technological transition — one that seems likely to be a jump cut, rather than a slow fade. Inexpensive digital video cameras, editing, and effects software that runs on a laptop, and a new set of Internet- and DVD-based distribution mechanisms are cracking open the clubby Hollywood scene. At Sundance this year, 6,500 features, shorts, and documentaries were submitted to the festival organizers for consideration — up from 5,874 last year. Of the 202 films that were picked to be shown at the festival this year, an astounding 51 were from first-time filmmakers.

”We’re at an inflection point,” says Stephen Saylor, a vice president of Adobe Systems who was in Park City to promote Adobe’s editing and effects software, which competes with Avid’s. ”What we saw with the desktop publishing revolution in the 1980s is now happening with cinema. Technology is making it easier and cheaper to make movies, whether you’re a hobbyist, a ‘prosumer,’ or an artist.”

[...] Like all technological shifts, the digital cinema revolution is threatening the dominance of establishment powers — in this case, the major movie studios. [...]

”As long as it was cost-prohibitive to make a movie, there was less competition for the studios,” [Jeremy] Coon says. ”The studios just want to keep releasing their crappy $80 million movies, and they expect people to go see them.”

Coon says that digital cinema lets people with different, non-studio sensibilities make movies. ”If you want to go make a feature film, there’s no reason not to do it,” he says.

Of course, the newly lowered hurdles to making a movie also mean that film festivals like Sundance and Slamdance are forced to sift through a lot of junk.

”The weeding-out process is gone, because anyone can get their hands on the technology,” says Coon, who helped to select films for Slamdance this year. ”But it’s worth it. You do get a few gems, like ‘Tarnation’ ” — an intensely personal documentary from last year’s Sundance made on an iMac for less than $250 — ”that never would’ve gotten made 10 years ago.”

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January 30, 2005

Norwegian Filesharing Conviction Upheld [6:39 pm]

Norway upholds ‘Napster’ ruling

Frank Allan Bruvik set up the napster.no website as part of a school project in 2001 while studying computer engineering in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer.

[...] Bruvik’s site was online between August and November 2001, and while it did not host any music, at its peak it was providing links to more than 170 free files on other servers.

As well as providing links, the site allowed those visiting it to submit links that could later be accessed by other visitors.

A legal complaint for copyright violation was filed by groups including Norway’s performing rights society, Tono, and the Norwegian branches of Sony Music and Universal Music, who saw it as an important test of principle.

[...] [T]he case was decided based on the responsibility for abetting an illegal act, and that Bruvik’s actions were premeditated.

Slashdot: Norwegian Student Ordered to Pay for Hyperlinks to Music; The Register: Norwegian student fined for MP3 links

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Business Models in the DIgital Age [5:44 pm]

Having attended a WEF in Davos once, I expect that the real talking is unlikely to have made it to the press, but Executives’ Thoughts on Financing Content in a Digital Age gives at least a sense of what might have been the basis for the discussions:

Imagine a future in which media consumers, empowered by new technology, demand everything for free. What they can’t get legitimately, they show no qualms about pirating. August names of film studios, television networks and newspapers lose their aura of trust and authority. TV viewers turn off advertising with nifty digital devices - or simply tune out apathetically, leaving marketers powerless and media companies with no way to finance their content.

Some media industries, particularly the music business, have already had to come to terms with such dystopian visions. Others may never have to, as new technologies offer more opportunities than threats.

The spread of broadband, for instance, provides video and interactive experiences of a quality unimagined a few years ago. Digital distribution of music and other media via the Internet creates a whole new business model, not just a vehicle for runaway piracy.

In public at least, some of the media chiefs who gathered here last week at the World Economic Forum dismissed talk of dangers to their businesses as overblown angst, like the paranoia of Hans Castorp, who sequestered himself in a Davos sanitarium in “The Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann. In closed-door sessions, however, the executives also examined darker scenarios, participants said.

See also Taking the Pulse of Technology at Davos

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“Roll-Your-Own” Tech for TVs [5:12 pm]

Here we go again - the end of television is nigh, according to Steal This Show. Yet, the author fails to reconcile these two points:

  1. Executives at the entertainment conglomerates and the Motion Picture Association of America argue that the industry and the government have to move - fast - to establish rules by which copyrighted television programming “cannot be moved around willy-nilly,” as Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal, puts it.

    Otherwise, television executives say, the very creation of television programming is placed in jeopardy. “It’s very expensive to produce and market, and people will be very reluctant to provide that content if it can’t be adequately secured,” said John Malcolm, the senior vice president and director of worldwide antipiracy operations for the M.P.A.A.

    One way to protect such content, according to the industry, is through the introduction of something called the broadcast flag. [...]

  2. Television DVD’s, an afterthought in the DVD market just three years ago, were an estimated $2.3 billion-dollar business last year, according to a recent Merrill Lynch research report. They now represent nearly 15 percent of total DVD revenue, with profit margins between 40 and 50 percent.

    Recent hit shows like “The Simpsons” can make a profit of $15 million - a season. And those are exactly the shows traded most online, according to Big Champagne. Although older shows are not quite as lucrative, the better ones can still bring in $1 million in profit for each season, the Merrill Lynch report found. So it’s no surprise that the studios and networks are emptying their vaults; “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Dynasty,” “The A-Team,” “Moonlighting” and “Remington Steele” are just a few of the DVD’s planned for release this spring.

Is it really the case that the copyright holder is supposed to be able to extract all the value of the copyright? Versus enough? How is this economic equation supposed to be balanced?

Slashdot: It’s Not TV, It’s MythTV

Related: the head of the U.K.’s OfCom says Net regulation ’still possible’; also the EFF’s (HD) Myth Becomes Reality TV

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January 28, 2005

Another Blast [10:19 am]

RIAA sues 717 file-swappers

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said Thursday that it had filed 717 new lawsuits against alleged file-swappers, including 68 unnamed people at universities.

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CNet’s Cooper on MGM v. Grokster [10:18 am]

Charles Cooper on the war on file sharing: Why punish the technology?

Why punish the technology because some people use it for unlawful means? Speaking as a consumer (and occasional file downloader–legally, of course!), it should be as easy to use content legally as it is illegally. [...]

[...] Ever since Napster got closed down, the content industry’s strategy for dealing with the peer-to-peer challenge can be summed up in three words: Sue the bastards. Everyone of sane mind can agree there’s a need to address digital piracy. But how about trying something more nuanced than a sledgehammer approach?

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Viral Marketing Games [8:45 am]

Fake Commercial Spots Spread Quickly on the Internet (CNet’s version) - Democratizing the semiotics of product promotion, or just a new way to be manipulated?

Viral marketing, in which low-profile ads spread quickly online as people share them, has become an intriguing strategy for many marketers trying to look beyond traditional 30-second television commercials.

But marketers are not the only ones taking the viral approach. Because the Web and cheap video technology keep making it easier for anyone with some knowledge and equipment to produce spots that look almost like real commercials, brand managers may find their carefully calibrated marketing messages increasingly being tweaked, teased, spoiled or entirely undermined.

Consumers, on the other hand, can now wonder whether each supposed hoax is an authorized, but deniable, below-the-radar marketing ploy.

The spoof Polo ad [QuickTime] that has revved up the discussion lately.
CNN Money: Report: VW to sue makers of bomb ad [pdf]; Lee and Dan’s WWW site

Later: Xeni says VW files complaint against makers of “suicide bomber” ad

Later still Fake Ad Creators Issue an Apology

“The creators regret the distribution of the film, will not publicize it further and apologize unreservedly for the damage caused to Volkswagen,” it said, adding that the company would now drop legal action against them.

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Media Consolidation Receives A Blow [8:40 am]

U.S. Backs Off Relaxing Rules for Big Media

Media companies hoping to expand their television station holdings and to own both TV stations and newspapers in the same markets suffered a setback yesterday when the Bush administration decided to abandon its challenge to a ruling that blocked the relaxation of ownership rules.

The Justice Department will not ask the Supreme Court to consider a decision last year by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia that sharply criticized the move toward deregulation and ordered the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider its action. The decision is a final slap to Michael K. Powell, the departing chairman of the F.C.C., who had advocated the changes. [...]

[...] Jonathan S. Adelstein and Michael J. Copps, the commission’s two Democrats, who opposed the changes to the rules, applauded the administration’s decision, which they suggested was a sharp rebuke of the agency under Mr. Powell.

“This is a recognition of the failure of the commission to adequately justify its rules and is a recognition of its failure to protect the public interest,” Mr. Adelstein said. “This is an historic decision for the media democracy movement.”

See also the Washington Post’s FCC Drops Bid to Relax Media Rules [pdf]

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“Droit du Shoveleur” [8:11 am]

Kelly’s parking pitch hits national arena [pdf]

Not since he was the angry voice of South Boston’s campaign against busing 30 years ago has [City Councillor James M. Kelly been such a hot interview. The fight he's picked with Mayor Thomas M. Menino over Southie's sacred you-shovel-it-you-own-it tradition of saving parking spaces after snowstorms has become a national story.

It's just the kind of spectacle that resonates these days, featuring characters whose accents are straight from central casting, and with a story line played as both epic and ridiculous. The tales of ironing boards and household furniture reserving curbside spots has become a novelty in places where parking is not so scarce and winters not so snow-packed. And after a bitter presidential campaign in which the Northeast showed itself to be out of step with much of the rest of the country, this part of the the world offers another curiosity.

"By itself, it's not life or death, but it gets at this great cultural divide," said Bill Radke, cohost of "Weekend America," a slice-of-American-life radio show that has interviewed Kelly twice in the past month. "It's not just about saving your parking spot with a chair. It's something we can talk about when were really talking about a bunch of other values and approaches to life."

Besides, Radke added, "It's funny."

[...] Turns out a couple other cities have similar traditions, including Philadelphia and Chicago. (One Windy City newspaper columnist has called the local version “droit du shoveleur,” pidgin French for “the rights of the shoveler.”) But none has a mayor willing to take on the tradition as Menino has. And only Boston has Kelly, who rarely shies away from a fight.

Also in today’s paper: Menino guarded on law of the shovel: No crackdown yet on saving of spaces [pdf]

If only the stakes in the DRM fight were the same. (See It Snows, You Shovel, You Mark; OMG - Term Extension Proposals?! and DRM Is A Folding Chair)

Later: Not making a lot of progress, it appears, but some great pictures - X still marks spot [pdf]

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January 27, 2005

OSDIR.com on Hymn [5:43 pm]

JHymn Goes Behind Atoms and Apple To Bring DRM-Free Music

OSDir.com: What do you have to say in response to those who take issue with hymn? I’m thinking about end users, like iPod/Apple fans, who insist Apple’s DRM is “no big deal” and what you’re doing is “wrong” — not the music labels, who obviously don’t like things like hymn?

[FutureProof]: What I say is that all I’m trying to do is get the same flexibility to use my music that I’d have if I purchased a CD and ripped it myself, and that my efforts aid piracy no more than the existence of CDs aid piracy.

You run into problems using third-party products like EyeHome and Squeezebox and losing authorizations when computers break or crash.

As DRM schemes go, Apple’s is, I must say, one of the best for end users. But that’s like saying “the handcuffs are mighty comfortable handcuffs.”

Later - Slashdot’s Cracking iTunes’ DRM with JHymn

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Alternative Business Models [5:30 pm]

The sweetest music you’ve never heard [pdf]

“I don’t think you can go into the record business [today] and think you’re going to sell a million records,” says [Ken] Shipley, co-founder of the re-issue label the Numero Group, from his home base in Chicago, Illinois.

“The basis of our philosophy is to have loyal people [who seek out the brand]. That’s more valuable than selling a million copies of one record.”

[...] Shipley obviously cares a great deal, and sees Rhino as a model. “That level of quality is what I see [for Numero],” he says. To that end, the CDs are beautifully packaged and filled with informed liner notes.

So if Numero sells a few thousand copies of “The Capsoul Label” or “Camino Del Sol,” that’s fine with him. He just wants to do it right.

“The windfall will be on a karmic level,” he says. “We’re helping to change the lives [of the forgotten musicians]. It humbles you in a lot of ways.”

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The Music Industry Mindset [5:25 pm]

So, how to reconcile the music industry’s desire to use the latest and greatest technology to promote music, while complaining about the latest and greatest technology’s influence upon their distribution models? On the one hand, they love innovation; on the other, they wish it would go away. “Who is John Galt?”

This CNN article describes/promotes the Fraunhofer Institut’s latest MP3 variant, but the real issue is about more than just the delivery medium: Music’s future: Smaller, faster, richer [pdf]

[T]echnology is an increasing part of the business, especially as consumers show an unquenchable appetite for on-demand and on-the-go music.

[...] After a four-year slump, global sales of recorded music increased last year largely through the success of fee-charging online services and the expansion of portable music devices like Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod.

Now, music industry honchos hope gadget makers, software powerhouses like Microsoft and cell phone companies will help deliver tunes to a fee-paying public.

Perhaps the biggest debate is how listeners will receive their music. With digitized music increasingly delivered through the Internet or mobile phone, the CD could one day go the way of the 8-track.

Especially if it means that pesky RIPping can be taken out of the picture, right?

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MPAA Lawsuits, Again [4:31 pm]

Speaking of lawsuits, as well as more info about Parent File Scan (see entry immediately below) see: MPAA files new film-swapping suits

Hollywood studios filed a second round of lawsuits against online movie-swappers on Wednesday, stepping up legal pressure on the file-trading community.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) also made available a new free software tool so parents can scan their computers for file-swapping programs and for movie or music files which may be copyrighted.

Slashdot: Round Two for MPAA Lawsuit

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The MPAA Releases Their Dream Tool [3:46 pm]

Go to RespectCopyrights.org, where you can now download Parent FileScan

Parent File Scan software helps consumers check whether their computers have peer-to-peer software and potentially infringing copies of motion pictures and other copyrighted material. Removing such material can help consumers avoid problems frequently caused by peer-to-peer software. The information generated by the software is made available only to the program’s user, and is not shared with or reported to the MPAA or any other body.

Talk about cognitive dissonance. p2pnet reports that mostly it flags all media files as potentially infringing. And after all, aren’t most of the “problems frequently caused by peer-to-peer software” the lawsuits that one faces? Seems like there might be other ways to limit those pesky lawsuits.

Oops - wait a minute — that’s only supposed to be alluded to in the press releases about lawsuits and public “education,” not in writeups about “helpful” software.

Anyway, you might get that if you elected to read the EULA:

IN NO EVENT SHALL THE MPAA, ANY OF ITS AFFILIATES, ANY OF ITS MEMBER COMPANIES OR ANY OF THEIR OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, REPRESENTATIVES, INFORMATION PROVIDERS, SUBCONTRACTORS OR LICENSORS (COLLECTIVELY “MPAA PARTIES”) BE LIABLE IN CONNECTION WITH THIS WEBSITE OR ANY CONTENT, PRODUCTS, TOOLS OR SOFTWARE MADE AVAILABLE ON ANY WEBSITE TO WHICH THIS WEBSITE IS LINKED FOR (A) ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR OTHER DAMAGES, OR ANY DAMAGES DUE TO LOSS OF PROFITS, LOSS OF BUSINESS, LOSS OF USE OR DATA, OR INTERRUPTION OF BUSINESS (REGARDLESS OF THE FORM OF ACTION AND REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE MPAA OR ITS MEMBER COMPANIES HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES); OR (B) ANY AMOUNTS IN EXCESS OF THE ACTUAL, AGGREGATE AMOUNT PAID BY YOU TO ACCESS THIS WEBSITE. THE FOREGOING STATES THE ENTIRE LIABILITY OF THE MPAA PARTIES. THE LIMITATION OF LIABILITY CONTAINED IN THIS AGREEMENT IS A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF THE BASIS OF EACH PARTY’S BARGAIN HEREUNDER, AND NEITHER PARTY WOULD ENTER INTO THIS AGREEMENT ABSENT SUCH LIMITATIONS.

Click through to get to DtecNet Software, who tells us:

Thank you for choosing to Download DtecNet Parent File Scan.

Parent File Scan is brought to you by DtecNet Software ApS. This free program allows you to search your computer for installed P2P applications as well as movie and music files. You will then be given the option to remove the identified applications and delete infringing movie and music files in a few easy steps. The program does not distinguish between legal and illegal copies, as it is up to the user to determine, whether the files found by the program have been acquired legally, or whether the material should be deleted. Information generated by the program will be made available only to the program’s user and will not be shared with or reported to DtecNet Software or any other body.

Oh, yes - and it’s only for Windows boxes. The FAQ is quite a read, too.

Q: How do I recover deleted files?

A: You can’t. Once files are deleted, they cannot be recreated.

Q: Is it possible to hide files from the program, by changing their name or extension?

A: No. The program uses advanced binary recognition, locating all known multimedia file types and P2P applications, regardless of their name and extension.

Finally, from the About, a look at DtecNet’s business basis:

Copyright and the Internet. Two concepts, by many considered irreconcilable. How do you protect the free flow of information without breaking the financial backbone of the copyright holders?

All content on the web has an original source and a lot of the content is protected by laws of intellectual property rights or copyright.

Since the birth of the Internet as we know it, the debate has been going on. In just one year DtecNet has gained an advantageous position in the growing market for technical and legal protection of copyright considering content distributed on the World Wide Web. Through development of unique technical innovations and the ability to adapt the different perspectives of the stakeholders, this small Danish start-up has managed to create a way of seeing the possibilities of the web, rather than its limitations.

Really?

Later: Slashdot’s MPAA Releases Software For Parents; also, Ed Felten’s Review of MPAA’s “Parent File Scan” Software; BBC : Movie body targets children’s PCs

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