Degrading the Copyright Debate

Among other things — “copyright infringement?”: Britney baby photos stolen, she says [pdf]

A statement released late Friday by Spears’ record label, Jive Records, said the photos were swiped from a private photo session.

“Anyone who publishes, sells or otherwise exploits any of these images in any way will be subject to liability and damages for willful infringement of copyright, and will be liable for invasion of privacy,” the statement read.

Trade and Culture: Distinguishable?

Dan Glicksman thinks so: Hollywood lobbyist concerned about protectionism [pdf]

Hollywood’s top lobbyist has fired a warning shot against countries that might be emboldened to use the newly approved UNESCO convention on cultural diversity as a means to block Hollywood movies.

“No one should use this convention to close their borders to a whole host of products,” Dan Glickman, the chairman of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, told representatives of an annual French film industry conference held Friday in the Burgundy wine capital of Beaune, in eastern France.

“If countries start passing laws that are in contravention of World Trade Organization rules, there will be conflict,” he warned.

[…] “It appears to be more about trade than the promotion of cultural diversity. The World Trade Organization is the place for (trade),” Glickman said. “What’s to stop a country saying that it’ll only take 20% of U.S. films, or taxing our films but not its own?” he asked.

Glickman was a lone voice in Beaune not heralding the U.N. convention as a major triumph for free expression as a way to affirm cultural identity.

The Joys of Entertainment Industry Accounting

‘Frasier’ back as legal drama [pdf]

How can a hit television series like “Frasier” gross $1.5 billion and yet be $200 million in the red?

That’s the issue at the center of a recent lawsuit filed against Paramount Pictures by two talent agencies seeking answers to how “Frasier” — the Emmy-winning NBC sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer that ran for 11 seasons — can claim that it never turned a net profit even though it was one of the most successful shows in television history.

[…] Such cases usually end in an out-of-court agreement, said attorney Pierce O’Donnell, who represented humorist Art Buchwald in the “Coming to America” case and went on to co-write a 1992 book titled “Fatal Subtraction: How Hollywood Really Does Business.”

“The studios typically do not want to air their dirty-accounting laundry,” he said. “Many a settlement of these kinds of suits occurs on the courthouse steps.”

But if the “Frasier” case goes forward, it’s sure to be followed by those who have long suspected that the industry’s odds are stacked in favor of the studio.

Balkanizing DVD Encryption

An object lesson in the importance of standards. I’m sure that the Cinea system is going to be embraced this time around — let’s see how well Disney does in the Academy voting (did they actually put out anything worthwhile this year?). Disney Picks Encryption Technology [pdf]

Opening the next round in the battle against pre-Oscar piracy, Walt Disney Co. today plans to become the first Hollywood studio to commit to using custom-encrypted DVDs for its Academy Award “screeners.”

The Burbank studio will announce its partnership with Cinea Inc., a Reston, Va.-based Dolby Laboratories Inc. subsidiary that has a system it says will protect the DVDs if they fall into the wrong hands.

[…] “Last year, pretty much every awards screener found its way to the Internet,” said Jeff Miller, an executive vice president at Disney who oversees post-production, explaining why the studio has made a long-term commitment to use Cinea’s technology.

“We’re committed to this system and it’s the first of many steps for the entire industry to get even more serious about theft than we have been,” Miller said.

[…] Last year, with the blessing of the academy, Cinea sent almost 12,000 of its high-end DVD players to academy members. Though the $500 machines were offered free of charge, members gave them a lukewarm reception.

Some grumbled about having to hook up yet another gadget. Some fretted about registering their players with Cinea, whose system marks each disc with a unique watermark that identifies the user. And because Cinea discs can be viewed only on Cinea players, many chafed at having to lug the 11-pound players to far-flung vacation homes in Aspen and Hawaii during the holiday screening season.