January 3, 2005

IP and Outsourcing Design [3:17 pm]

Companies, Focusing on Brands, Are Outsourcing Some Design Work [pdf]

But outsourcing design has also brought an array of troubling implications. For one thing, critics say, a certain sameness creeps into products when competitors turn to the same specialists for designs.

[...] David Reid, chair of international business at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Business, raises a potentially more worrisome issue. “The question of who owns the intellectual property remains a very muddy one,” he said.

Most manufacturers insist on written guarantees that designers working on their projects will not do similar work for competitors. But the designers counter that they can create low-cost, high-quality products only by building on every bit of expertise they develop.

[...] That kind of expertise is hard to patent, or to own. And even third-party designers concede that intellectual property fights could derail their fledgling industry.

“The intellectual property issue remains the most complicated thing we have to deal with,” said Pat Toole, general manager of I.B.M. Engineering and Technology Services. “If we can all figure it out, farming out design will be a common model in the future. If we can’t, it won’t.”

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German Levies on New PCs Set [9:19 am]

German court sets copyright levy on new PCs

The District Court of Munich has ordered Fujitsu Siemens Computers (Holding) BV to pay a copyright levy on new PCs.

The landmark decision, announced on Thursday, ends a nearly two-year dispute between the largely Germany-based computer maker and the country’s VG Wort rights society, which has sought compensation for digital copying.

[...] Germany is one of several European countries that, for decades, has been collecting special copyright levies on the sale of analog copying devices, such as blank audio and video cassettes. The levies are intended to compensate rights holders for lost royalties from private copying of music, images and moves.

The country is now poised to become the first on the Continent to impose a copyright levy, similar to a royalty collection, on new PCs.

Slashdot: German Court Sets Copyright Tax on New PCs

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Moving TiVo Files To PCs [8:06 am]

TiVo Untethered and Ready to Go

The long-awaited service feature called TiVoToGo, set to launch Monday, will give users their first taste of TiVo untethered.

No longer confined to TiVo digital video recorders in the living room or bedroom, subscribers will be able to transfer their recorded shows to PCs or laptops and take them on the road — as long as the shows are not specially tagged with copy restrictions. That’s also the case for pay-per-view or on-demand movies, and some premium paid programming.

Users also will be able to copy shows onto a DVD — soon after but not immediately at the service launch, company officials said.

The mobile feature is a key step in TiVo’s long-term vision of giving consumers more freedom with how and where they enjoy their favorite TV. TiVo plans to extend TiVoToGo so it will work on other portable media gadgets, as well.

[...] The recorded shows are transferred to PCs or laptops via a home computer network. Users would have to download free desktop software from the TiVo website onto the computers. A media access code and password is assigned to each user’s account, essentially restricting the transferring and playback of shows to household members with the same access code.

Slashdot: TiVo to Go Released; CNEt: TiVo goes mobile with new free service

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Escalating Warfare [8:03 am]

Risk Your PC’s Health for a Song? [via The Register]

PC World has learned that some Windows Media files on peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa contain code that can spawn a string of pop-up ads and install adware. They look just like regular songs or short videos in Windows Media format, but launch ads instead of media clips.

When we ran the files, we noted over half a dozen pop-ups, some attempts to download adware onto our test PC, and an attempt to hijack our browser’s home page. [...]

Using a packet analysis tool called Etherpeek, we determined that each media file loaded a page served by a company called Overpeer (owned by Loudeye). That page set off a chain of events that led to the creation of several Internet Explorer windows, each containing a different ad or adware.

Overpeer first made news in mid-2002 by offering its services to record companies looking to stop P-to-P pirates. It creates fake audio files that purport to be popular songs but play only a short loop of the track or an antipiracy message; the file then pops up a window offering the downloader a chance to buy the song. By flooding file-sharing services with spoofed files, Overpeer makes finding real music files more difficult.

Marc Morgenstern, Loudeye vice president and general manager of digital media asset protection, says the files we found come from a different division of the company–one that targets users with promotions or ads based on the keywords those users search for on P-to-P networks or in other venues.

Though the two businesses differ, the result is likely the same–a further reduction in the effectiveness of popular P-to-P networks.

Slashdot: RIAA/MPAA Contractor Deploys Malicious Adware Trojans; Ed Felten’s thoughts - Recording Industry Publishing Infected P2P Files?

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The Promise of Digital Distribution [7:58 am]

See the Movie, Buy the Song [via The Shifted Librarian]

Anyway, there’s a catchy song in the movie that my kids kept singing all the way home. Well, the first two lines, anyway; that’s all they could remember. So when we arrived home, although we had only ten minutes before bedtime, I thought I’d put all of this Internet digital-music stuff to the test.

I fired up the iTunes Music Store, typed in “Polar Express,” and had the song bought ($1) and playing on my computer within–no exaggeration–60 seconds. Now that I knew the name of the song, I hit Google, typed “When Christmas Comes to Town lyrics,” and clicked the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. Boom, I was looking at the complete lyrics.

[...] It was one of those truly magical moments that make you believe in the promise of superior technology. Everything worked, and the result was a delicious moment of sweet musical harmony that I’ll remember for a very long time.

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A Look At Micropayments [7:42 am]

The Penny-Wise Aren’t Foolish Anymore

More broadly, though, in politics, entertainment and even consumer products, some very large organizations that aim to profit by selling goods and services in tiny bites made significant headway.

Fueled by continuing advances in information technology and a relentless search for new consumers, the trend is likely to continue in 2005. And as more executives come to realize that piles of pennies can add up to significant dollars, segments of the public that have long been either ignored or excluded may find themselves being welcomed into the ever-expanding economic tent.

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A “Celestial Jukebox” Variant [7:23 am]

A real jukebox: Jukebox is reborn for the Internet age [pdf]

For the jukebox, digital technology and broadband Internet connections offer the hope of a comeback — and the possibility that, someday, for 50 cents or so, a customer could play any one of 2 million songs.

[...] One reason jukeboxes saw “an erosion in market share” was that they were infrequently updated, Vann-Adib said. Tired of hearing the same songs, customers played the jukebox less and less. Worse, they might even seek out a tavern with a better sonic atmosphere.

But a jukebox linked by the Internet to a database offers virtually unlimited choice. In Europe, Internet jukeboxes can theoretically access 2 million songs, Vann-Adib said. In the United States, where licensing laws are stricter, Ecast jukeboxes can dial up 150,000 songs, with more songs added every week.

[...] “A typical CD jukebox generates about $400 a month in revenue,” Vann-Adib said. “With our product, a jukebox generates an average of $1,000 a month.”

That extra revenue is a big plus in trying to convince a saloonkeeper that a jukebox is preferable to Muzak, Vara said.

[...] But in locations where both Muzak and jukeboxes could be suitable, the issue comes down to who should control the music, management or customers.

Muzak favors management.

“Muzak is about understanding what music is appropriate to a particular retail experience,” said Moore, before referring to a disco anthem of the late 1970s. “Everybody loves ‘YMCA.’ But you don’t want to be in a situation where someone can load up on the jukebox and play ‘YMCA’ 15 times in a row. To allow your customer to change your brand is a dangerous thing.

[...] Meanwhile, Ecast is experimenting with “genre-blocking,” which would prevent its jukeboxes from playing boisterous Saturday night music during the tender moment of a romantic dinner. One possibility is a filtering method that could be applied at different times of the day and on different days of the week.

Still, when it comes to determining what music should be played in public venues, ”power to the people” is Vann-Adib’s mantra.

Companion piece: On latest players, choice is unlimited [pdf]

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