March 17, 2005

Moving Product [9:36 am]

CNN working to move some product: The angry band with the scary masks [pdf]

Their gruesome masks, which include a clown face with a bloody head wound and one that looks like dead skin sewn together, are worn to make sure fans listen to the music and not watch the faces. They look so unsettling because, well, that’s how the music makes them feel.

Slipknot hails from Des Moines, Iowa — and they’re angry about it. Many of lead singer Corey Taylor’s lyrics are about pain and frustration growing up in the middle of middle America.

People can relate. By the time Slipknot finishes their current nationwide tour, their latest CD, “Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses),” should become the group’s fourth platinum album.

See Frontline’s The Merchant’s of Cool

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Paying The Protection Industry [9:26 am]

Hey, why educate? Legal Music Movement Hits Universities [pdf]

Universities, caught in the crossfire between litigation-crazy record companies and music-swapping students, are seeking to appease both by rolling out a bevy of new, legal file-sharing services.

[...] The two schools are among the three dozen or so U.S. universities offering free or deeply discounted music services to wean the next generation of music fans away from free song-swapping Internet services such as Kazaa.

Record labels have partnered with new music middlemen to license their songs at rates much lower than those available through existing commercial services. Some consumer services, including Napster and Apple’s iTunes, also are targeting colleges.

“We act as a carrot to get schools and students to do the right thing,” said Brett Goldberg, president of Cdigix.

[...] It’s those pesky lawsuits the Recording Industry Association of America keeps filing against file sharers, including many college students.

The RIAA has filed thousands of suits against people for sharing copyrighted material, including students on 11 college campuses last month alone.

[...] Both the AU and University of Maryland trials were funded by grants from anonymous donors whom the vendors and universities declined to identify. But you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the sugar daddies likely are connected to the record industry, which is partnering with legal services in a desperate attempt to give young people alternatives to illegal file sharing.

Other likely suspects are vendors trying to sell technology for thwarting piracy. Whoever gave AU the money for a music trial did so on the condition that it simultaneously test a program that blocks illegal file sharing. That trial, started last week, involves software from a company called Audible Magic Corp. that identifies copyrighted audio files through unique digital markings. When it finds a copyrighted file being requested from a peer-to-peer site, Audible Magic blocks access.

Most universities have resisted blocking peer-to-peer services because they view such moves as censorship. But AU’s vice president for campus life, Gail Hanson, said the school agreed to use Audible Magic through the end of next month because it was a temporary trial and seemed like a good trade-off.

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Some Patent news [9:20 am]

  • Mixed Verdict on EBay Appeal - this one makes me itch - I don’t know enough, but it sure looks like someone got a patent for a method in market-making — and got it upheld!

    The court in Washington threw out part of the patent-infringement verdict won in May 2003 by MercExchange , and let the company seek more damages on a third patent claim. MercExchange claimed eBay’s Half.com unit infringed patents related to “fixed price” sales. One patent lawyer predicted the ruling will lead to an order blocking some eBay functions.

    “They’re going to have to either severely redesign their system or shut down, or they could take a license if MercExchange is offering one,” said patent lawyer Brad Wright of Banner & Witcoff Ltd. in Washington, who wasn’t involved in the case. “I’m sure the price of a license went up after the appeal.”

  • What it’s worth not to go to court — under uncertainty: BlackBerry Maker Settles Patent Lawsuit

    Research in Motion Ltd., the Canadian maker of BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices, said Wednesday that it will pay $450 million to resolve litigation with NTP Inc., a Virginia company that said the devices infringed on its patents.

    NTP will grant the company and its customers the right to continue its BlackBerry-related wireless business without further interference from NTP.

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The Future of Admissions? [8:43 am]

After a bruising couple of months of my own, there are probably lots of ways to do it better — but is this really a good one? Who’s surprised that this sort of exercise into “marketizing” a process is being tried out at a business school? Bidding for a ‘Free Ride’ to Business School

In an effort to raise its profile and attract more foreign students, Nyenrode Business Universiteit, a relatively well-ranked but very tuition-dependent business school in the Netherlands, auctioned off full scholarships last week to a pair of eager bidders - one in China, one in the United States.

Now, one could hardly be blamed for wondering whether paying tens of thousands of dollars for a “free ride” to business school defeats the whole purpose, sort of like buying coupons. But Mr. Raap says he has done the math.

[...] Of course, there is one small hitch: Mr. Raap still has to get into the school. In fact, he says he has not even applied for admission yet, and herein lies his ulterior motive.

“To some extent I would get a leg up this way,” said Mr. Raap, a gardening supply company executive from Vermont who wants to study abroad and is confident about his chances for admission but keenly aware that “it’s still not a done deal.” By winning the auction, Mr. Raap reasons that he will at least get noticed by the university’s admissions office, and perhaps even stand out for his entrepreneurial spirit.

Should Mr. Raap fail to make the grade, Nyenrode says it will simply give the scholarship to the next highest bidder, probably in the mid-$30,000 range, and still consider it a pretty good haul. By comparison, the Chinese auction fetched $8,500.

“If someone bid over the price of tuition, we’d accept it, of course,” said Karel J. Samsom, professor of entrepreneurship at Nyenrode. “But then we might have to give him a lesson in economics once he got here.”

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Grokster Positioning [8:39 am]

As File Sharing Nears High Court, Net Specialists Worry

Some technologists warn that if the court decides in favor of the music and recording industries after hearing arguments in the MGM v. Grokster case on March 29, the ruling could also stifle a proliferating set of new Internet-based services that have nothing to do with the sharing of copyrighted music and movies at issue in the court case.

Some of those innovations were on display here at the Emerging Technologies Conference, attended by about 750 hardware and software designers. [...]

[...] Innovative online services of those types could be harder to create in the future, if the court rules that technology creators are liable for any misuse of their systems, according to technology proponents here. “It could be a disaster,” said the conference’s sponsor, Tim O’Reilly, owner of the world’s largest independent computer book publishing company, O’Reilly & Associates.

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Which Side To Root For? [8:36 am]

Federal Court Is the Next Stop in Jets-Cablevision Stadium War

“I don’t know how far this lawsuit will go in the courts, but it surely looks like a sports monopoly is taking a shot at a cable monopoly,” said Harvey Robins, a former top aide to two New York mayors. “It’s another chapter in this continuing slugfest and, at this point, New Yorkers are well acquainted with the arguments for and against stadiums.”

The Jets’ action is in keeping with the team’s recently adopted two-pronged strategy to be as tough and combative as Cablevision, while portraying itself as a hapless victim of a monopoly. The two companies have spent millions on advertising campaigns, and their executives have jousted in public remarks. They have hired lobbyists in Albany, and their political supporters have pushed the stadium to the forefront of this year’s mayoral race.

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What Does “________ Idol” Have To Do With Pop? [8:31 am]

A couple of articles on the state of pop music and what role “(insert country name) Idol” has in it.

  1. As an Idol Deserts, Reality Pop Plays On (includes the kind of snotty phrasing that can make the NYTimes pop reviews a joy to read)

    But though the Vazquez affair might seem like evidence of a meltdown, the truth is that reality pop sounds healthier than ever. Three of last week’s five top-rated television shows were “American Idol” episodes. Two of the most appealing songs on radio are the adventurous - O.K., mildly adventurous - singles from “American Idol” winners: Kelly Clarkson and Fantasia.

    Miranda Lambert, a bronze medalist - O.K., loser - from USA Network’s “Nashville Star,” the country-music version of “American Idol,” has just released an excellent debut album, “Kerosene” (Sony BMG). And Ashlee Simpson, the leading light of reality pop, has settled into her role as young America’s favorite singer. At New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Tuesday night, Ms. Simpson preened and rasped through a short but mainly effective set, showing off her canny synthesis of kid-friendly genres.

    [...] While Ms. Simpson has slid smoothly into the teen-pop pantheon, “American Idol” stars have often seemed a bit adrift on the pop charts. Oddly enough, the show tends to turn out singers with better voices and less appealing personas than your average pop stars: the central misconception of “American Idol” is that selling records has a lot to do with belting out ballads from eras past. These days, 50 Cent rules the Top 40, but you won’t hear any “Idol” contestants who sound like him.

    To stick around, “Idol” winners and losers have to bridge the gap between the rather dull world of “American Idol” and the rough-and-tumble pop charts. Instead of competing against other balladeers, now they’re competing with bleeped-out songs about one-hour stands and pharmaceutical entrepreneurship.

  2. In the fame game,’Idol’ dropout shows he can play [pdf]

    This week’s raging speculation about why “American Idol” finalist Mario Vazquez quit the show reached its nadir when the tabloids linked the young singer to Michael Jackson. Having sung backup for Jackson in 2001, Vazquez was surely about to deliver racy testimony in Jackson’s child-molestation trial. Oh, blessed two-fer! Obviously, the Bronx-born “Idol” favorite was holding on to proof positive of Jackson’s pedophilia.

    But Vazquez, 27, who has been coyly evasive about why he rejected the “American” dream, may have left for the dirtiest “P” word of them all: Publicity. In what could be his terrific joke on the music, TV, and tabloid industries, Vazquez may be orchestrating a pre-emptive media move in order to avoid obscurity. He may be a neophyte stunt artist, outsmarting the ruthless publicity machine that has rendered a few dozen ”American Idol” hopefuls into forgotten nobodies.

    Later: ‘Idol’ dropout hires a lawyer [pdf]

    Vazquez has hired Aiken’s lawyer, Jess L. Rosen, who sprung Aiken from the contract binding him to 19 Entertainment, the company owned by the ”American Idol” creator, Simon Fuller.

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The “Market” Speaking? [8:19 am]

Developers looking at the value propositions for some of the new, proprietary WWW technologies are turning away: Web tools blaze trail to the past

Start-ups and industry giants such as Microsoft continue to devise newfangled systems for delivering desktop-like applications over the Web. But search giant Google has taken a different path, using older technology to build its newest applications such as Google Maps and Gmail.

That’s prompted developers to take a second look at old-hat technologies that have been kicking around on the Web since the 1990s, such as JavaScript and Dynamic HTML.

[...] The interest isn’t driven by some dot-com nostalgia. Proponents argue that these older technologies are good enough to do the job and that support for them is already embedded in common Web browsers.

,p>

[...] It isn’t just Google advocating the blast-from-the-past approach. Sentiment in favor of status quo methods erupted into a schism within the W3C, where a splinter group called the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHAT-WG) rebelled against the W3C’s XForms vision of Web forms–a crucial component of Web-based applications–and drafted its own specification to standardize currently widespread techniques

[...] The group formed last year in part to respond to the potential threat posed by Microsoft’s plans for the proprietary XAML/Avalon Web application coding system that, if successful, could marginalize standard approaches.

“Microsoft published an outline of what they were trying to achieve, which is using markup languages to build applications,” said Hakon Wium Lie, chief technology officer at Opera Software, that company’s representative on W3C’s advisory committee, and a WHAT-WG founder. “We thought we could do the same thing with existing Web languages. People were writing applications like Amazon and Hotmail and Google search, so why not have a specification for it?”

Related: Microsoft yielding to IE standards pressure?

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