Try, Try Again

And, if past history is an indicator, ver 3 is going to be serious: Microsoft seeks Xbox touch for music

t’s not officially a corporate reshuffle, and he definitely isn’t giving up his duties launching the upcoming Xbox 360. But Senior Vice President Robbie Bach, a 16-year veteran of some of Microsoft’s most successful projects, is starting to look more closely at ways to improve the company’s position in the music business.

[…] Analysts say Bach and the rest of the company have a hard road ahead trying to catch up to Apple. Microsoft has already moved to simplify the bewildering array of often-incompatible options by introducing the “Plays for Sure” logo for music players, and helping to further streamline choices could help, some say.

But the software company’s best bet might be to focus on different platforms rather than trying to out-iPod the iPod, some analysts note.

[…] “As far as standalone hard-drive-based media players, Apple has pretty much locked up the market,” said Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff. “There are plenty of other opportunities, but the iPod dominates that very limited market today.”

JK Rowling and eBooks

J.K. Rowling Refuses E-Books for Potter – Yahoo! News [pdf]

J.K. Rowling has not permitted any of the six Potter books to be released in electronic form, not even during the peak of the e-book craze a few years ago. Neil Blair, a lawyer with Rowling’s literary agency, would only say that “this has not been an area that we have sought to license” and did not comment directly on whether pirated e-books, a common phenomena for Potter titles, were hurting sales.

[…] Rowling’s choice follows an industry trend. Young people are supposedly more open to new technology, but the e-book market works in an opposite way. Adult best sellers such as Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” and David McCullough’s “1776” are available electronically, but not books by Rowling and many other popular children’s authors, including Lemony Snicket, Cornelia Funke and R.L. Stine.

[…] Several reasons are cited, from authors preferring books on paper to concerns over digital piracy to competition from television and other media. But the greatest problem is the lack of a popular reading device, a handicap that has held back the whole e-book business from the start.

Boucher Interview

A deal made in Washington?

If the MPAA expects Congress to ratify a rule that would limit the ability of ordinary consumers to share lawfully acquired digital broadcast television programs with one another, then it shouldn’t be surprised if Congress insists that the MPAA accept in return a restoration of the fair use rights taken from consumers through the enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Speaking of Interop and DRM….

Sony BMG Tries to Limit Copying of Latest CD’s

The restrictive software Sony BMG is using on CD’s, like it did earlier this year with “Stand Up” by the Dave Matthews Band – is not compatible with Apple’s popular iPod. Owners of Apple computers using iPods are able to copy and transfer music on the restricted compact discs freely; the restrictions block PC owners from transferring music to their iPods. But it allows transfers to music players using Microsoft’s Windows software.

Thomas Hesse, president for global digital business at Sony BMG, said Apple could “flick a switch” to amend its programming to work with the restrictive software.

“Its just a proprietary decision by Apple to decide whether to play along or not,” Mr. Hesse said. “I don’t know what more waiting we have to do. We think we need to move this forward. Time is ticking, infringement of intellectual property is happening all over, and we’ve got to put a stop to it I think.”

Apple declined to comment.

[…] Music executives say the restricted CD’s the music industry has released so far – most prominently BMG’s sale of Velvet Revolver’s “Contraband,” last year – have resulted in virtually no consumer complaints. But analysts say that may be because consumers still have such an easy time breaking the restrictions or acquiring the music for free on unrestricted online file-sharing networks.

Still, Mr. Hesse said the introduction of limits on CD’s would set the stage for record companies establish new business models.

Research Exemption Broadened

Supreme Court broadens research exemption

Ruling in the case of Merck KGaA v Integra Lifesciences Ltd, the Court unanimously vacated the decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which had narrowed the research exemption doctrine.

For researchers conducting tests, the Court said, patent law provided that “exemption from infringement extends to all uses of patented inventions that are reasonably related to the development and submission of any [sic] information” to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other regulatory agencies.

“This necessarily includes preclinical studies of patented compounds that are appropriate for submission to the FDA in the regulatory process,” wrote Justice Scalia in the Court’s opinion. “There is simply no room in the statute for excluding certain information from the exemption on the basis of the phase of research in which it is developed or the particular submission in which it could be included.”

According to the Court, when Congress created the research exemption – known as the safe harbour – “it exempted from infringement all [sic] uses of patented compounds ‘reasonably related’ to the process of developing information for submission under any [sic] federal law regulating the manufacture, use, or distribution of drugs.” This standard is sufficiently broad to include Merck’s activities.

P2P Good; Piracy Bad

Internet Piracy Sails On

A report just released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), meanwhile, says that file-sharing networks are not the sole culprits in the recording industry’s problems, and that they could become effective music distribution channels.

The report: Digital Music: Opportunities and Challenges (pdf) (press release)

The study analyses the impacts of the availability of digital broadband content, and describe transformations in the music industry and impacts on artists and users. Part 1 of the study provides an historical analysis of the music industry in terms of market size and technological developments. Part 2 contrasts the traditional recording industry value chain and business models to the new online music services. Part 3 provides data and analysis on file-sharing and music. Part 4 provides an initial assessment of impacts on artists and users. Finally, part 5 concludes with an analysis of challenges and policy considerations.

Derek feels that the report is well-balanced.

I’m going to have to reserve judgment for now. What I have read of the report leaves me troubled, particularly by the extent to which it seems to suggest that the technology of P2P is separable from the set of activities that the record industry insists on calling “piracy.” The OECD seems to have taken as a given that the current IP regime and, in particular, its ideological underpinnings are just fine as is — otherwise, I cannot explain the extent to which so much of its conclusions seem to rest upon a universal DRM foundation.

But, maybe I’ll feel differently after I get a chance to read it over a couple of times.

The Wired News article, Come On Music Biz, Embrace P2P; CNet: Study: Falling CD sales can’t be blamed on P2P

Life with Comcast

Yes, I know, a single case doesn’t tell the whole story, etc. — but this story of one man’s trials with Comcast, and his solution, keeps me in the non-cable world: Six Weeks Stuck In Comcast Limbo [pdf]

After “the six-week debacle,” Gandhi says he found the names and e-mail addresses of Comcast’s board members online and e-mailed a complaint to them. “I tried to work this from the bottom up,” he says. But when that didn’t get the problem solved, he adds, “I decided to work from the top down.”

A Comcast regional vice president contacted him, apologized and said he would compensate Gandhi 12 weeks of credit for his Internet and cable service — twice the length of the outage. By early May, Comcast fixed Gandhi’s Internet connection.

Comcast wouldn’t address Gandhi’s problem fully on the record.

Missed the MediaCon Angle

In yesterday’s Supreme Court session: Limits on Media Ownership Stand [pdf]

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday let stand an appeals court ruling that limits the number of television stations, radio stations and newspapers a media company can own in a single market.

In issuing its decision, the court declined to enter the debate over whether the explosion in telecommunications, the Internet and cable television warrants an overhaul of ownership rules crafted in an era when news was dominated by daily newspapers and broadcast television and radio.

Rather, the high court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court’s ruling that the Federal Communications Commission had not adequately justified a set of rules that it issued in June 2003 that relaxed several of the ownership restrictions.

As a result, the FCC will have to consider whether to try again to draft new rules on media ownership, potentially setting the stage for an intense lobbying effort by media companies hoping to gain more flexibility, industry analysts and commission members said.

Also, missed this – Beastie Boys Sampling Infringement Case Ends