A Deal Struck

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.

Another Convergence? Or Time To Revise The Model?

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.

Controlling the Lakoff-Style “Frames” In the Fight for Control

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

A Look At Creativity and Ownership

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.”

A German 2600 Case?

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

Other Threats to Hollywood?

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.”

Norwegian Filesharing Conviction Upheld

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

Business Models in the DIgital Age

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

“Roll-Your-Own” Tech for TVs

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