Here We Go

Staving off EPIC 2014: Newspapers take aim at Google in copyright dispute

A group representing global newspaper publishers has launched a lobbying campaign to challenge search engines like Google that aggregate news content.

The move comes as the newspaper industry’s traditional business model is under pressure with advertising spending shifting away from print and towards the Internet.

The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers, whose members include dozens of national newspaper trade bodies, said it is exploring ways to “challenge the exploitation of content by search engines without fair compensation to copyright owners.”

Beyond Schadenfreude

Theater owners thrilled about burst ‘Bubble’

The dismal debut of Steven Soderbergh’s experimental film “Bubble” has sparked a gleeful response from the nation’s theater owners, who were less than enthused about its simultaneous release in both theaters and on cable.

In an unusual comment on the fortunes of a specific film, National Association of Theater Owners president and CEO John Fithian issued a statement Sunday saying “the movie has performed very poorly” and that despite media attention surrounding the film’s experimental release strategy that “generated tens of millions of dollars in free publicity … it failed in theaters.”

The movie, released through billionaire Mark Cuban’s 2929 Entertainment, earned just $70,664 from 32 theaters during its first weekend.

Yahoo Channeling a PCWorld Article on IPR

Hollywood vs. Your PC: Round 2 [pdf]

As we move to a world where all entertainment is delivered digitally, the battle over copyright protection is turning into a full-blown war. And consumer rights may end up being the biggest casualty as media companies hunker down and try to redefine what users can and can’t do with the content they’ve paid for and the hardware they own.

[…] [E]ach additional option brings a new battle, new restrictions, and even new dangers for unsuspecting users. Copy protection included in Sony BMG audio CDs allowed virus writers to co-opt the system and sneak onto users’ PCs. Satellite and HD Radio, which promise higher-quality audio and more content, may become difficult for listeners to record if the music industry has its way. And TV fans are finding that cable stations are limiting their ability to time-shift shows; pending federal legislation may curtail their rights even more.

Worse, since we last looked at this battle in 2002, technology firms, which once struck a balance between the rights of content owners and the rights of users, have sided more and more with Hollywood as they strive to secure the content they believe will help sell their products.

LATimes Net Neutrality Article

Web’s Fate May Hinge on ISPs’ Neutrality [pdf]

Courts and regulators, meanwhile, are taking a powder. The Supreme Court last year cleared the way for liberalized regulation of cable Internet service, and the FCC responded by taking the same position on DSL. Consequently, the battle has shifted to Congress, where critics of the phone and cable companies are trying to prevent a provision protecting network neutrality from being deleted from a revision of telecommunication law currently under consideration.

[…] Neutrality supporters were also unnerved when SBC Chairman Edward Whitacre complained that popular Web services were essentially freeloading on his network. “For a Google or a Yahoo or a Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes for free is nuts!” he groused to BusinessWeek in November. Whitacre, who is chairman of AT&T, evidently overlooked the charges paid by Web services for the bandwidth they consume, as well as connection fees paid by consumers.

An AT&T spokesman says Whitacre was simply arguing that AT&T is spending so heavily to build a high-capacity network that it needs new sources of revenue to help cover the cost. “AT&T is not going to block access to any service or degrade customer service in any way, shape, or form,” James Cicconi, the company’s executive vice president for external affairs, told me. But he says AT&T shouldn’t be barred from selling premium treatment to any service wishing to get digital bits to customers faster than its rivals.

Critics of this viewpoint say that allowing network providers to offer such preferential treatment leaves the system open to abuse: What would stop AT&T, which owns the broadband phone service CallVantage, from degrading Vonage’s service to make its own seem better? Vonage customers whose calls suddenly sounded lousy would be inclined to blame Vonage and move their business to AT&T instead. (To be sure, AT&T hasn’t been accused of such activity.)

It’s by no means clear that the phone and cable companies will win the coming battle on Capitol Hill, as well-equipped with lobbyists and war chests as they are. Vonage, EBay, Google, Amazon.com and other online companies have launched their own joint lobbying effort to oppose them. The Internet’s very future may hang in the balance.

Travesty

This should make for some interesting law review papers: Mich. court: Downloading porn is making it

MUSKEGON, MI, United States (UPI) — A Michigan appeals court has ruled that downloading child pornography from the Internet can be charged as ‘making’ the material.

Making or manufacturing child pornography is a felony in Michigan with a potential sentence of 20 years in prison. The court upheld the position of the Muskegon County prosecutor in the case of former Egelston Township Treasurer Brian Hill, the Muskegon Chronicle reported.

Hill is awaiting trial. The court ruling has put his case on the docket, although the issue is likely to be decided by the state Supreme Court.

His lawyer argued that downloading pornography should be charged as possession, which carries a maximum penalty of four years.

‘It’s groundbreaking law in the area of computers and pornography,’ said prosecutor Tony Tague. ‘This decision will provide a tool to prosecutors across the state, particularly in curbing and prosecuting child pornography.’

Ugh — Makes Me Itch

Texas A&amp:M defends their trademark — one that I can’t find in the USPTO database (just DEAD entries), but what do I know: Trademarking your territory [pdf]

The Twelfth Man may have to work overtime going back and forth between Seattle and College Station to support two football teams.

With the Super Bowl approaching, the Seattle Seahawks’ own 12th Man flag caught the attention of Texas A&M fans who watched the Seattle team advance during the NFL playoffs.

A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne said the Office of Collegiate Licensing is working on having the Seahawks cease and desist their use of the trademark.

“We had similar situations with the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears, and they responded quickly with our requests to stop using our Twelfth Man trademark,” Byrne said in his weekly update address. “But Seattle has been slow-rolling us.”

“Threepeat, threepeat, threepeat.”

Whoops — there’s ser # 1948306, reg #74560726 for jewelry, and “entertainment services, namely organizing and conducting intercollegiate sporting events” — don’t see exactly where professional sporting events enters into it…”

Later, from a Seattle paper: Seahawks’ ’12th Man’ angers A&M

Look; Music Marketing Has Changed

My god. This is chilling — on the face of it, this is an article about how new distribution makes for reduced costs of marketing music; but the examples given are all about closed distribution architectures — who can’t make money with a monopoly channel? Music marketing gets digital tune-up [pdf]

While the music industry has suffered sales declines and been forced to reevaluate its business models, one area that has benefited is marketing, where costs have increasingly been underwritten by new partners in the technology sector.

“The overall marketing dollars may or may not be the same, but the money’s not just coming out of labels’ pockets anymore. There are many new partners who want exclusive content and are willing to pay for it,” one music executive said.

An Election Must Be Coming Up in LA

L.A. City Attorney Sues Video Game Maker [pdf]

The city attorney’s office has sued the makers of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” for allegedly hiding pornographic material inside the video game, officials said.

Rocky Delgadillo said his office sued Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive, for making misleading statements in marketing the game and engaging in unfair competition.

Later: Sex, boys and video games [pdf]

Another Modest Proposal

From Inside Higher Ed: Everything to Everyone

What I think we%u2019re after is something more straightforward, but nearly impossible to achieve. In this dream scenario, every author would make his or her work available in a digital form that is searchable but cannot be redistributed, in a widely compatible format, marked with the same kinds of metadata. We wouldn%u2019t need Google Book Search, because these book %u201Cfootprints%u201D would all be online and available for searches just as Web sites are. But this is certainly an unreasonable and prohibitive request to make of authors, at least right now. For all intents and purposes, this is what Google seems willing to provide for us, with the promise of some ad revenue in return. As a less than perfect version of that ideal, it%u2019s quite good.

Waiting for fair use to shield this expanding range of uses is slowing the innovation in information, knowledge, and culture the Internet seems ready to facilitate. And every time it does, we risk a court setting a retrograde precedent that cements digital culture into place for good. We need a new statute that acknowledges and accommodates the common sense recognition that search is good, that it requires incidental copying, and that it should not be left to individual, competing publishers to make their work part of the public trust.

In a moment when we are handing content owners much more control not only over the use of their work but over access to it, we need to make a parallel commitment to ensuring and expanding access of a different kind, as an aggregate collection of all things thought and written that can be easily explored. And, we need to let fair use protect the activities it%u2019s designed to protect, instead of letting it fray as it stands in as the only protection against a locked and licensed digital world.

Another Shakeout Prediction

Industry predicts online music consolidation

Music industry chiefs gathered at this week’s Midem conference in Cannes are warning that a ‘shakeout’ is looming in the digital music market.

There are currently around 355 downloads stores worldwide, but with Apple’s share of the market rising to 83 per cent, many of the smaller operators will soon be forced out or absorbed by a larger rival.

‘I don’t imagine all these services can last,’ said Gabriel Levy, head of music in Europe for RealNetworks. ‘Some will go out of business or be consolidated.’