January 10, 2006

We’ll See [8:04 am]

Since I can’t imagine that “drop the idea altogether” is on the agenda: U.S. Office Joins an Effort to Improve Software Patents

The United States Patent and Trademark Office plans to announce today that it will cooperate with open-source software developers on three initiatives that it says will improve the quality of software patents.

[...] Two of the initiatives would rely on recently developed Internet technologies. An open patent review program would set up a system on the patent office Web site where visitors could submit search criteria and subscribe to electronic alerts about patent applications in specific areas.

The third initiative is focused on the creation of a patent quality index that would serve as a tool for patent applicants to use in writing their applications. It is based on work done by R. Polk Wagner, an intellectual property expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

Some of Prof Wagner’s work: (Mostly) Against Exceptionalism; The Perfect Storm: Intellectual Property and Public Values; On Software Regulation; Patent Portfolios.

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Verizon’s VCast and DRM [7:57 am]

Verizon’s Music Service Hampers MP3 Ability [pdf]

Customers wanting V Cast Music who already own one of the two compatible handsets need to visit one of the company’s retail locations for a software upgrade.

The two phones, one from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and one from LG Electronics Inc., come with slots for removable storage disks and an application to play MP3 digital songs on those disks.

The V Cast upgrade disables that capability for now, though users still can convert music copied from CDs and other non-digitally protected MP3 files into a Windows Media format and then transfer them to the phone with a USB cable.

Verizon dismissed accusations on certain Web logs that this decision was made for any ulterior profit motive such as forcing users to repurchase music through the V Cast store.

Instead, the company said, the MP3 capability was temporarily disabled so that it can be integrated into the V Cast application, rather than appearing as a separate application that might confuse customers.

Slashdot’s Microsoft Deal Limits Verizon MP3 Phones; Is Microsoft Blocking MP3s From Verizon Wireless Phones?

Related: A Look at Google DRM; More ofn Google Copy Protection

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Band Revenue - 2005 [7:46 am]

The cash flow at the other end of the long tail is driven largely by touring, not record/CD sales: The Rolling Stones did make the biggest bang [pdf]

Glamorous Mariah Carey may have been queen at the record store in 2005, but she’s practically a handmaiden to the wrinkled old Rolling Stones in Calendar’s ninth annual Ultimate Top 10, which combines pop performers’ album sales and concert revenue.

[...] 1. The Rolling Stones. $168 million. Given the eye- and wallet-popping top face-value ticket price of $450 for the Stones’ “A Bigger Bang” tour, it’s not a big surprise that Mick, Keith and the boys shattered their own 12-year-old record (of $121.2 million in 1994) for highest-grossing concert tour of all time. That made up 96% of the band’s Ultimate Top 10 total this year, in keeping with the past in which album sales have been virtually irrelevant to the Stones’ total. Despite enthusiastic reviews, the group’s “A Bigger Bang” CD contributed only about $6 million to the total. One surprise the group did manage: Its average ticket price of $133.98 wasn’t tops last year, or even second or third place. More on that later.

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LATimes Grades the Studios [7:43 am]

Close-up on what went right, wrong [pdf]

For years, Hollywood had a virtual monopoly on our time. Having this cultural stranglehold made the studio proprietors heedless and, if truth be told, slightly contemptuous of their audience too. Making matters worse was a little-noticed sociological twist: Once the province of blue-collar entrepreneurs, the studios have been overrun by a generation of born-to-affluence Ivy Leaguers with lots of education but little instinct for storytelling and little emotional identification with their audience.

A business built on passion became a business of packaging. For years, studios knew, in a pinch, they could use their marketing muscle to buy an opening weekend. But people have their own playlists now. Suspicious of the studio’s marketing cons, eager to sample more enticing alternatives, the audience has rejected laziness and mediocrity with a vengeance.

[...] Here’s my 2005 Studio Report Card, which offers three grades: first for box-office performance, second for film quality, third for overall.

[...] SONY: When it comes to ineptitude, this studio belongs right up there with the 1962 Mets (who lost 120 games) and the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who went 0-14). Marketing chief Geoff Ammer got the ax, but he was a sacrificial lamb for an Amy Pascal-led production team that appeared out of touch with reality, consistently misjudging the marketplace (”Bewitched”), failing to exercise any fiscal restraint (”Fun With Dick and Jane”) and releasing movies (”Zathura”) on dates when they were doomed to fail. To add insult to injury, the Academy Award hopes of its costly “Memoirs of a Geisha” are evaporating, insuring it will be a money loser too.

Performance: D. Quality: D. Overall: D.

Related on movie industry trends: Hollywood’s New Zombie — The last days of Blockbuster

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