New wrinkle in DVD swapping

On their Web site, the programmers say they created the software because most movies available online were little better than digital VHS tapes, without the additional features that made DVDs interesting. Reached by instant message, one of the lead developers said the software could be used for archiving purchased movies on a home PC, but that people likely would use it to swap movies online as well.

“I don’t know what people will use it for; that’s an individual decision,” said the programmer, who asked to remain anonymous. “I don’t think the program does anything illegal, although it certainly could be used illegally.”

Released just a few days ago, the software has yet to prove itself as a lasting force in the critical world of the Internet underground. But it, or similar tools that will inevitably emerge, are likely to be bad news for Hollywood piracy-fighters trying to keep their wares off the Net.

What Kind of Product *Is* A Download?

A thorny piece of contract interpretation — is a download a “third party license” or is it the same as the sale of the CD?: Publisher sues Warner Music over Waits tunes [pdf]

Third Story Music, a Los Angeles-based music publishing firm and the successor to the production company that managed singer-songwriter

Tom Waits early in his career, has filed a federal suit against Warner Music Group, alleging that Waits has been shortchanged on the sale of digital downloads.

[…] According to the suit, under the terms of the two contracts, Waits was entitled to royalties of either 25% or 50% from revenues derived from third-party licenses. Third Story maintains that digital music downloads constitute a form of third-party license, and that Waits is entitled to payment at that level.

In 2003-04 royalty statements to Third Story, WMG computed royalties from Waits’ digital download sales at the same (and much lower) rate as royalties from the sale of physical product. Under the terms of the ’70s Asylum contracts regarding album sales, Waits would be entitled to either 9% or 13% of the 67 cents received by WMG from each 99-cent download.

The action says that in February, Third Story sent a formal notice questioning the accuracy of royalty statements to WMG. The music company replied in March that downloads “are sold to customers such as iTunes and Listen.com just as physical product is sold to…Best Buy and Virgin.”

Third Story seeks a declaration that compensation for downloads is governed by the third-party license provisions of the Asylum agreements, and damages in an amount to be determined.

Dealing With Indecency

A look at the post-Janet Jackson landscape for broadcast media (legislative initiatives, etc.): Indecent or not? TV, radio walk fuzzy line [pdf]

Sixteen months after the exposure of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl touched off a government-led crusade against indecency, broadcasters — from the bawdy to the buttoned-down — say it’s still exerting a chilling effect.

Many radio stations have dropped or edited songs such as the Rolling Stones’ Bitch. Some TV networks are covering cleavage and blurring the posteriors of cartoon characters. And even some cable channels, though free from indecency constraints, are reviewing programs more closely to try to stave off regulation.

[…] Kevin Martin, the new FCC chairman, is expected to be even tougher on indecency breaches than his predecessor, Michael Powell. But Martin’s ability to push his agenda will be shaped largely by the views of the two new appointees who are likely to fill vacancies on the five-member commission this year.

In Congress, a bill the House passed would boost indecency fines more than tenfold, to $500,000 per incident, and subject performers to the same penalties.

[…] Similar legislation has stalled in the Senate amid a debate about whether indecency curbs should be extended from broadcast media to cable and satellite TV services. The bill died last year when House-Senate negotiators failed to agree.

One reason consensus is so hard: The indecency debate doesn’t divide neatly along political lines. It has united conservative lawmakers such as Upton with liberals such as Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. And it has split conservatives such as Brent Bozell, head of the Parents Television Council, from others such as anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who opposes government intrusion in personal lives.

[…] Further complicating the issue: Americans tend to have mixed feelings. A poll released in April by the Pew Research Center found most people support higher fines on broadcasters and favor extending indecency rules to cable. But by 48% to 41%, Americans say they’re more worried about excessive limits on Hollywood than about offensive programming.

EMI Overcoming Inside Jobs?

New Coldplay album leaked to net

Coldplay’s hotly-anticipated new album has been illegally put on the internet a week before its UK and US release.

[…] The leak took place on Monday, the day copies were sent to UK radio stations and the day before it went on sale in Japan, its first country of release.

An EMI spokeswoman said tight security had successfully kept the album under wraps until then.

[…] Security measures included hosting album playbacks at venues such as Abbey Road Studios for journalists and industry figures instead of sending them copies.

A listening room in EMI’s headquarters was equipped with iPods in locked cabinets and CDs that were sent out were labelled with a false name – The Fir Trees – to throw would-be pirates off the scent.

Scandinavia Toughens Its P2P Stance

Scandinavia gets tough on file sharing

Scandinavia seems to getting tougher with those sharing illegal music files on the web. Sweden last week passed a law banning the sharing of copyrighted material on the web without payment of royalties. Until now, it was legal in Sweden to download copyrighted movie and music files, but making them available for sharing was unlawful.

[…] An Oslo municipal court this week sentenced a 36-year-old man for running an illegal file sharing service, the first conviction of its type in Norway. The man had made a significant number of film and music files available for at least 300 people at a time, daily newspaper Aftenposten reports. Norwegian police discovered more than 60,000 pirated film and music files, some of which sat on his employer’s server: the Norwegian telecom company NetCom.

MPAA Keeps It Up

MPAA files new round of swap suits

Hollywood studios filed a new round of lawsuits Thursday against individuals accused of trading copyrighted movies online.

This is the Motion Picture Association of America’s fifth round of suits against individual file-swappers, but the group has not provided details about the number or location of people targeted.

WebListen Loses and Closes

Record labels close Spanish song site

One of the oldest Web sites offering inexpensive music downloads has closed, after years of legal battles with record labels.

Weblisten.com, which has operated in Spain since 1997, offered subscribers the ability to download an unlimited number of songs for about $40 a month. It also offered shorter, cheaper windows of time that lasted a week or a weekend.

The company had long contended it had permission to offer major-label songs, without any kind of copy protection, after negotiating with Spanish licensing agencies. Record labels around the world disagreed and spent years in court suing the company.

This week, the legal battle ended. The site now contains a terse note in four languages saying it has been shut down, and the trade group representing international record companies says the company finally admitted to criminal copyright infringement in court