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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