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August 29, 2005

Missed This Milestone In Digital Music [5:09 pm]

The day Rio’s music died

The Japanese company that makes the Rio line of MP3 players is shuttering its portable digital-audio division.

Rio parent D&M Holdings said on Friday that the ultra-competitive business no longer fit its market strategy.

Although it has only a small market share compared to Apple Computer’s iPod, the Rio brand name has been linked with the early days of digital-music history since weathering a lawsuit from the recording industry that aimed to shut down the MP3 hardware business.

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We All Scream For Copyright Infringement [2:09 pm]

Follow That Truck! Mister Softee Shows Hard Side [pdf]

It was a surveillance job that would lead to car chases through side-street labyrinths. But the chases were all at very low speeds. After all, the target this day was not some elusive spy, desperate fugitive or stealthy adulterer, but rather a lumbering white truck stopping to sell soft-serve ice cream to sugar-crazed children, all while blaring the repetitive Mister Softee jingle.

“We’re lucky,” whispered one investigator named Joe, who, like his colleagues, would give only his first name because in his line of work, he makes a lot of enemies. “It’s a good ice cream day.”

He opened a leather portfolio and began scribbling notes in a packet titled, “Mister Softee Surveillance, Queens Location.”

[...] On this job, however, the sleuths were on the trail of ice cream trucks, specifically Mister Softee look-alikes. The company hired them to identify independent trucks that it says resemble the well-known Mister Softee franchise vehicles so closely that they deceive customers.

In the past several months, the investigators say, they have gathered enough evidence against 30 operators of “rip-off trucks” in New York City and on Long Island for Mister Softee to name them as defendants in a trademark and copyright infringement lawsuit that company officials say they plan to file this week in federal court in Manhattan.

They said they were preparing similar suits in Philadelphia and possibly northern New Jersey.

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VHS Obit [10:22 am]

Parting Words For VHS Tapes, Soon to Be Gone With the Rewind [pdf]

“I would think 2006 is the last year that there are major releases on VHS, and there won’t be many of those,” confirms Bo Andersen, president of the Video Software Dealers Association, a trade group for home video retailers.

[...] The following might be the ultimate proof of VHS’s demise, though: When “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” comes to home video on Nov. 1, it will be available only on DVD, marking the first time an installment in the Skywalker saga is not on VHS. As Yoda himself might say, the life of VHS clearly close to ending is.

[...] As we prepare to bury VHS, we can take solace in the knowledge that its memory will live on. In the current clash between the developing high-definition DVD formats Blu-ray and HD-DVD, we will still hear the echoes of VHS vs. Beta. At every yard sale where a neighbor tries to sell us an aging copy of “When Harry Met Sally” for $1, we will still see VHS’s black, plastic face. And on the streets of Manhattan, wherever bootleg videos are being illegally hawked, the wind will whisper the name: VHS, VHS.

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Ways To Buy Music [9:30 am]

How Do You Catch Your Tunes? [pdf]

“Nobody even knows that Tuesday is album release day anymore,” said Lucas Hayes, a music manager at the store, standing next to a promotional billboard for Ry Cooder’s new album. “Sometimes I have to explain that to people.”

[...] The choices and technologies in music-buying bring to mind the old saying about computers: As soon as you take one out of the box, it’s obsolete. In the case of music, as soon as you decide how to purchase tunes, a new way (or technology) comes along.

“It’s all very complicated, which is just crazy,” said Ted Schadler, a music industry analyst for Forrester Research. “Unless you’re a music lover, maybe you don’t bother with it. It’s hard to find your way around.”

[...] Many music fans find all the choices exhilarating. Many more find it a dizzying mess.

[...] Hayes has also noticed that many music shoppers have a particular affinity for the $8.99 bin — not for the price, though that’s important, but for its contents. He points out an old Ry Cooder album. There’s Billie Holiday. There’s a remastered version of “Ocean Rain,” released by Echo and the Bunnymen way back in time, in 1984.

“That’s a classic album that everyone should own,” Hayes said.

A classic album. That very description has gone classic, too.

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Moving Out Of Electronics Retailers [9:28 am]

And into everyplace else: DVDs and Fries: New Ways To Consume Technology[pdf]

Buying technology once meant having to trek to a specialty electronics store. But as the prices of laser disks and computer chips have plummeted and as gadgets have simplified, other types of outlets have begun to sell technology and entertainment offerings, turning sophisticated items into commodities like milk and eggs.

Josh Bernoff, a media technology analyst with Forrester Research Inc., said the idea of stopping by a retail food chain or other type of store to pick up technology appeals to a modern culture that’s obsessed with speed and efficiency.

[...] In some cases, retailers set out to target the last untapped high-tech market: technology laggards, people who might be somewhat intrigued by the new-fangled gadgets, but haven’t set aside the time and money to seek them out. An estimated 32 percent of Americans do not own cell phones, according to a 2004 survey by the Pew Research Center, and 38 percent don’t own computers, according to a 2003 U.S. Census Bureau estimate.

The surprise, retailers say, is that many of the customers who take advantage of the stores’ new high-tech offerings don’t fit the mold. These buyers are sophisticated about technology and looking for more seamless ways to integrate it into their everyday lives.

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P2P Escalation [9:16 am]

P2P users traveling by eDonkey

Last year, British company CacheLogic said BitTorrent–a peer-to-peer technology optimized for downloading large files–was accounting for more than half of all the file-swapping traffic on Internet service provider networks around the world.

A year later, peer-to-peer traffic in general continues to account for the majority of data traffic on ISP networks, usually between 50 percent and 70 percent of the total, the company said. But BitTorrent has been overtaken by usage of eDonkey, a rival with more power to search for content, but with similar speedy download features.

“That seems to be the trend most of the way around the globe, apart from Asia where there is a lot of BitTorrent,” said Andrew Parker, CacheLogic’s chief technology officer. “BitTorrent traffic levels are in decline.”

BBC: File-sharers move from BitTorrent

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Desperation Yields Inanity [9:13 am]

Oh, yeah — this should work: McCartney + Morissette Use Aliases To Fool Pirates + Thieves [via Fark]

Music industry bigwigs fear the bigger stars’ preview albums are being swiped by interns and pirated weeks before their release dates.

So, McCartney’s upcoming album has been credited to PETE MITCHELL, while Hill, Morissette and Depeche Mode are sending out their albums as FERN HOLLOWAY, ARTHUR MOORE and BLACK SWARM respectively, according to the Los Angeles Times.

[...] But the publicists admit their alias plan is far from flawless - some critics, who are inundated with albums to review, give unknown artists’ albums away or discard them.

Geffen Records publicist JIM MERLIS explains, “You can actually out-clever yourself in these situations.”

Ya think?

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