Movie Economics and Digital Distribution

Dumb Money

Since then, however, the digital revolution has radically changed the movie business. The video rental market, which had been the studios’ cash cow as late as 2000, is rapidly disappearing. It’s been replaced by the business of selling DVDs in which a handful of mass retailers, such as Wal-Mart, account for most of the studios’ revenues. Unlike the video chains that rented videos, the big retailers don’t simply peg their orders to a film’s box-office results. Instead, they view DVDs as traffic-builders: The stores use them to lure in the relatively well-heeled, plasma-screen-purchasing customers—who are usually not the so-called LICs (or low-income consumers) who are recruited by ads for movie openings. As a rueful Sony marketing executive pointed out, “Unfortunately, our teens are not always who they want.”

[…] Does Hollywood need to remain so out of synch with reality? At present, the studio marketing arms have become exceedingly efficient at stampeding weekly herds of teens to multiplexes and producing impressive numbers. But if that amazing trick turns out to be not worth its average $34.8 million price tag, studios will have to consider different strategies. The most obvious one would be to eliminate the long interval between a film’s opening and its release on DVD. Also, if the studios aimed at the much larger and more profitable DVD audience, they would not need to spend so much on the teen herd. In this regard, Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, who own the Landmark Theatres chain, the distributor Magnolia Films, and the high-definition cable channel HDNet, have announced just such a radical strategy. They will finance six movies directed by Steven Soderbergh and release each one simultaneously in movie theaters, pay-TV, and on DVD. To follow suit, the Hollywood studios might also need a different class of movies.

Another Approach in the Hit Song Science Market

Sensing what sounds sell – this one aimed at the retailers and their suggestions to customers

In a computer-crammed space at Savage Beast Technologies, divergent melodies seep softly from headphones worn by young men and women who listen to music with the intensity of submarine sonar operators.

Their job is to discern and define attributes in tunes by artists as diverse as teen diva Hilary Duff and jazz legend Miles Davis.

The listeners classify hundreds of characteristics about each song, including beat, melody, lyrics, tonal palette and dynamics, then plug the data into a music recommendation engine — software designed to find songs that share similar traits.

The goal is to help retailers suggest new music to consumers based on what they already like.

Hit Song Science posts: Artistic Creativity and Popularity

DVD Decrypter Takedown Order

DVD Decrypter – Gone, Forever! [via Slashdot’s DVD Decrypter Author Served With Take-Down Order]

Ok so it has taken a while (almost 2 years), but eventually “a certain company” has decided they don”t like what I”m doing (circumventing their protection) and have come at me like a pack of wolves. I”ve no choice but to cease everything to do with DVD Decrypter.I realise this is going to be one of those “that sucks – fight them!” kinda things, but at the end of the day, it”s my life and I”m not about to throw it all away (before it has even really started) attempting to fight a battle I can”t possibly win.

If 321 Studios can”t do it with millions, what chance do I have with £50?! As I”m sure most of you have already noticed, the site has been down for a few days. That surprised me as much as the next person (slight breakdown in communication), or I would have issued this statement on it directly.

So anyway, from this point forward, I”m no longer permitted to provide any sort of assistance with anything that helps people infringe the rights of “a certain company”.That means, no more emails, no more forum posts, no PM”s, no nothing! END OF STORY.The domain name will be transferred over to the company by the end of the week (9th June, according to the undertakings I have to sign) so don”t email it thinking “Oh, I”ll just ask LIGHTNING UK! for support on this”. You”ll not be getting the intended recipient and could be landing yourself in sh1t!

Creepy Story for Digital Photographers

The technology giveth, and Walmart (because of copyright “education”) taketh away — sound familiar? Snap judgments [pdf]

One of the benefits of digital photography – the fact that amateurs can take better-looking photos and doctor them using photo-editing software – is also becoming a bane. Photofinishing labs increasingly are refusing to print professional-looking photographs taken by amateurs.

The reason: Photofinishers are afraid of infringing on professional photographers’ copyrights.

[…] There are a growing number of stories of amateur photographers being turned away by photofinishers for having photos that looked, at least in the eyes of a store clerk, too good to have been taken by anyone other than a professional.

Their photos have become collateral damage in the war on digital copyright infringement.

[…] The Professional Photographers of America sees education of consumers and photofinishers as key to preventing unauthorized copying.

The trade group sent a wake-up call to the photofinishing industry when, in 1999, it sued Kmart Corp., alleging that the discount store violated federal copyright law by copying images without the permission of the copyright owners.

In 2000, Kmart settled the case by paying $100,000 and agreeing to implement procedures to guard against the unlawful copying of professional photos.

[…] Wal-Mart has one of the toughest policies.

Spokeswoman Jackie Young said Wal-Mart is “a littler tougher than the copyright law dictates.”

“We want to protect professional photographers’ rights,” Young said. “We will not copy a photograph if it appears to be taken by a professional photographer or studio.”

Wendy Seltzer’s Copyfight post: A Photofinish for Copyright’s Unintended Consequences, which includes information about Gallery‘s legal problems as well (a tool that I use here on my WWW site)

BBC’s Thompson Experiences Lock-In

Architecture in action: Caught in the Windows to Mac rift

n a rational world Microsoft would provide me with a tool to do the conversion. And in fact it has released a program that will convert PST files into the format used by their new Macintosh mail program, Entourage.

Entourage is not so bad, and I could probably learn to live with it. Except that it will only read PST files that were originally created on a Mac, so it is no use for anyone like me who is trying to migrate from Windows.

Anyone with a suspicious mind would think that Microsoft wanted to make it hard for users to make the switch from Windows to Mac OS, and because they own the PST format they have decided to do this by failing to provide a migration tool.

Thunderbird and other tools have to work by reverse-engineering, figuring out how PST files work by examining them carefully, because the format is not published. And this makes it hard to get things to work.

Microsoft benefits, even if the reason for the lack of migration tools is simply that the PST files are too complicated and messy to be easily converted to industry-standard mail files that can be read by other programs.

My Goodness!!

It *is* going to be an Apple transition to Intel, if the notes from the MacRumors on the WWDC 2005 Keynote coverage are to be believed!!

11:02 am lots of great power pc products in pipeline

11:02 am

will continue with 3rd transition – will make best machines we know how to make

will not happen overnight

11:02 am

“we know transitions”

11:02 am

great time to start building for the future

11:01 am

important story with a very happy ending

11:01 am

“together at last”

11:01 am

brings together skills and opportunities of two great companies

play on respective strengths

Apple legendary in innovation of OS & Hardware design

Intel – legendary in delivering great processors – relentless persuit of better processors

11:00 am

Catch up – not every app will be easy to convert, so translate PowerPC code inline into tel – dynamic binary translator. Photoshop plugins for PPC binary translate without a hitch. Developer transition kit – 3.64Ghz P4, for select and premier developers only $999.

11:00 am

so happy the world’s most innovative computer company and world’s most innovative chip company have finally teamed up

One other note:

10:57 am Catch up – two major challenges – making OS X think on intel procs. Every release of OS has been compiled for intel x86 for the last 5 years – cross platform by design. All demos up to this point have been done on an intel proc.

Suddenly, the DRM question looks pertinent, despite Intel’s protestations to the contrary – (later: Ed Felten disagrees – MacIntel: It’s Not About DRM

Slashdot discussion: Apple Switching to Intel

Related: see Ernest’s (now quite relevant) post from Sunday – Apple + Intel: Where’s the Lawsuit Against C|Net?

Geist on the State of Canadian File Sharing Law

The State of File Sharing and Canadian Copyright Law (preceding article: File Sharing Decision States the Case for Privacy)

Although the court declined to articulate definitive conclusions on important copyright issues associated with file sharing, its decision will undeniably have a major impact on copyright policy. This impact is best addressed by analyzing three questions – can CRIA sue file sharers? Can it win such suits? And what legal reverberations might ensue if it does win?

The answer to the first question is relatively straight forward. CRIA can sue file sharers in Canada and it has indeed asserted that the decision provides a blueprint for future suits.

[…] The answer to the second question — whether CRIA can win file sharing suits — is open to debate, particularly with respect to suits filed against individuals that solely download music from peer-to-peer networks. The complicating factor is the effect of Canada’s private copying system, which establishes a levy on blank media such as recordable CDs. […]

The third question – what might follow if CRIA is successful in its suits – raises the prospect for copyright reform. When the federal government established the private copying right in the late 1990s, it also created a statutory damages system. This enables a copyright holder to obtain specified damages of between $500 and $20,000 per infringement without the need to prove actual damages. There is, however, a saving provision that allows a court to order damages well below the statutory minimums if the total award is “grossly out of proportion to the infringement.”

[…] The net result of current Canadian law is that file sharing suits are a risky strategy from both a privacy and copyright perspective. The Federal Court of Appeal may have provided a roadmap for such suits, but it is apparent that traveling down that road raises many more questions than it answers.

OT: Time To Fix Federal Narcotics Laws

Or to reclassify marijuana — U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Use of Medical Marijuana

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a setback to the medical marijuana movement, ruling that federal narcotics laws make it a crime to grow and use the drug even when it never crosses state lines and is used only to relieve pain or nausea.

The justices today said Congress’s power over interstate commerce is broad enough to let it ban locally grown and used medical marijuana. The 6-3 ruling, issued in Washington, overturns a lower court decision that had let two California women use cannabis to treat pain, nausea and other symptoms.

California and nine other states exempt seriously ill people from laws banning cultivation and use of marijuana. Today’s ruling means people in those states nonetheless will face the risk of federal prosecution if they use or distribute marijuana.

The case is Ashcroft v. Raich, 03-1454.

(Note, it’s actually Gonzales v. Raich)

Also, High Court Allows Prosecution of Medical Marijuana Users; Lawrence Solum’s Gonzales v. Raich; Part II – Gonzales v. Raich, Part II: An Analysis of the Decision

Closed Source and FL Jurisprudence

DUI Defendants Skip Charge By Asking How Test Works [Via Slashdot’s Closed Source -> Charges Dismissed?] [pdf] (a more elaborate story – Technicality springs DUI defendants [pdf])

Hundreds of cases involving breath-alcohol tests have been thrown out by Seminole County judges in the past five months because the test’s manufacturer will not disclose how the machines work.

All four of Seminole County’s criminal judges have been using a standard that if a DUI defendant asks for a key piece of information about how the machine works – its software source code, for instance – and the state cannot provide it, the breath test is rejected, the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday.

Prosecutors have said they do not know how many drunken drivers have been acquitted as a result. But Gino Feliciani, the misdemeanor division chief in the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office, said the conviction rate has dropped to 50 percent or less.

[…] Judges in other counties have said the opposite: The state cannot turn over something it does not possess, and the manufacturer should not have to turn over trade secrets.

The opinion – State of Florida v. Timothy Muldowny and William E. Pitts

Also, from the Sentinel article:

The Intoxilyzer 5000 is perfectly reliable if properly maintained and operated, said Laura Barfield, manager of alcohol testing for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the agency that oversees all breath-alcohol testing in Florida.

But FDLE’s word is not good enough for defense attorneys.

CMI has changed the unit’s software and some parts during the years, so it’s no longer the same machine the FDLE approved in 1993, according to Stuart Hyman, an Orlando lawyer who makes his living defending DUI defendants.

“They’ve put different parts and pieces in it,” he said.

Those changes were substantial, he said. The machine may no longer be as accurate as it was, he said.

[…] Attacks on the Intoxilyzer are not new. Through much of 2002, 2003 and early 2004, hundreds of breath-test results were thrown out because the state refused to turn over trade secrets it did possess — the machine’s operating manual.

Then, as now, the state claimed the information was the private property of the manufacturer.

That battle ended last year when the 5th District Court of Appeal ruled the state had to turn them over.

That is where this latest skirmish may land, as well, Feliciani said. The issue is on appeal in the 18th Judicial Circuit, one step below the 5th DCA.

Much later: Florida DUI Law and Open Source