DVRs and Copyright

CNN, Cartoon Network sue Cablevision over DVR plan

Cablevision said when it announced plans to launch the service that the service would do away with the need for personal DVR boxes such as made by the likes of TiVo Inc. or Cisco Systems Inc. Scientific Atlanta.

But the networks say that because the proposed service allows subscribers to store television programs on the cable operator’s own computer servers, it would be breaking copyright agreements by effectively re-transmitting the programs.

Another Time Warner unit, Time Warner Cable, has been supportive of network DVRs in principle if proved legal.

Comics and Scanning

Menace to Comic Heroes? [pdf]

Digital scanning and sharing of comic books have begun to make a dent in the business, driven by easy-to-use file-sharing tools and a culture in which enthusiasts eagerly pass along their copies to one another.

[…] “Are there downloaders in the tens of thousands? Possibly,” said Todd Allen, an independent online media consultant and adjunct professor of e-business at Columbia College Chicago. “Are there millions? Not likely.”

It’s certainly not as widespread a practice as music file sharing, but the comic-book business is much smaller. Although the top 10 comic books may have runs of 100,000 to 150,000 copies for each monthly issue, even giants such as DC Comics and Marvel Publishing have books that sell about 20,000 to 30,000 copies. And many comics don’t even break 5,000 anymore, Allen said.

Running Your Own MP3.Com?

This looks like a fight in the making — if the record industry is foolish enough to make it one: Digital music finds some locker room

A number of companies have created online content “lockers” where users can upload their digital media files for storage that they can subsequently access from multiple devices.

Examples include Oboe, created by MP3Tunes founder Michael Robertson, and MediaMax, from Streamload. Oboe offers unlimited storage of music-only files for a flat fee of $40 per year, while MediaMax will store 25 GB worth of music, video and photos for free, with up to 1,000 gigabytes for $30 per month.

[…] Like anything else in the digital music industry, the concept isn’t quite as simple as those trying to sell it might like. Music wrapped in certain types of digital rights management (DRM) technology — such as Apple’s Fairplay — can’t be streamed from these lockers. Neither can tethered downloads acquired from subscription music services like Napster or Rhapsody.

Yet another digital locker company, Navio, is circumventing this with a different approach. Instead of marketing to consumers, Navio partners with content owners — including Sony BMG, TVT Records, Fox Sports and the Walt Disney Group — to create online sales portals. Consumers buying music through these outlets can download their purchases in new formats as they need to. If someone switches from an iPod to a Creative Zen Micro, they can get a new version of the still-copy-protected song without having to repurchase it. The service is like buying the rights to a file rather than the file itself.

NYTimes Sounds the Alarm

Editorial Observer: Why the Democratic Ethic of the World Wide Web May Be About to End

Sir Tim [Berners-Lee] argues that service providers may be hurting themselves by pushing for tiered pricing. The Internet’s extraordinary growth has been fueled by the limitless vistas the Web offers surfers, bloggers and downloaders. Customers who are used to the robust, democratic Web may not pay for one that is restricted to wealthy corporate content providers.

“That’s not what we call Internet at all,” says Sir Tim. “That’s what we call cable TV.”

Spy v. Spy

TorrentSpy suit accuses MPAA of hacking

MPAA charged TorrentSpy earlier this year with knowingly facilitating movie piracy. TorrentSpy operates a search engine that allows users to find files online that can be shared using the BitTorrent file sharing system. TorrentSpy argues that it doesn’t host any content and so can’t be charged with illegally distributing files.

The TorrentSpy suit says that the hacker, once an associate of one of the principals of Valence Media, improperly accessed Valence Media email accounts and had emails sent to and from the accounts forwarded to a separate email box that he could access. In doing so, he learned login information and passwords to TorrentSpy servers. Once in the servers, he allegedly copied information about TorrentSpy’s income, expenses, advertising orders and other information about the servers themselves, such as the way TorrentSpy indexes files.

TorrentSpy alleges that in July last year the MPAA paid the hacker US$15,000 for the information. TorrentSpy also alleges that the MPAA told the hacker it didn’t care how he got the information and that it would protect him from any liability in obtaining the information. The suit does not explain how TorrentSpy discovered the information breach.

LATimes Supports National Telco Video Licensing, Sort Of

They also point out that their track record isn’t so great: Give the telcos a video hook-uppdf

The game here, broadly speaking, is TV service. The telecoms want to offer an alternative to cable and satellite TV. These are the same companies that persuaded Congress to rewrite telecommunications law in 1996 to let them compete in the long-distance market. Instead of vying for customers with the leading long-distance companies, however, the regional Bells gobbled up most of them. Meanwhile, the Bells abandoned the fledgling TV services they’d launched in numerous states, saying the effort was too costly.

[…] The prospect of providing more competition to the local cable TV operator is so enticing, it’s tempting to forget all those times the Bells yanked the ball away. They’re certainly right about the need to streamline the franchising process, which can stretch on for years as cities demand a profusion of public-access channels, TV studios and other perks. A better approach would be to create a package of public benefits that telecoms and cable operators would have to provide, tied to the size of the community served.

[…] Still, given the Bells’ track record, lawmakers should be careful not to give telecoms and cable operators carte blanche. With the issue bogging down in Congress, chances are that Sacramento will move on a bill, coauthored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), that would allow them into the market for TV services before Washington acts. Here’s hoping that Californians actually get to kick the football.

Clearing Copyrights

Rights renewed, ‘Eyes on the Prize’ returns [pdf]

“Eyes on the Prize,” which chronicles the history of the civil rights movement, was first shown in 1987 but has not been rerun since 1993, after which rights to much of the abundant archival footage in the series expired.

After an arduous process of renewing rights, the first part of the series is scheduled to run in two-hour blocks on Oct. 2, 9, and 16 on WGBH’s “American Experience.”

Henry Hampton and his South End-based Blackside Inc., the largest black-owned documentary film company at the time the film came out , produced the two-part, 14-hour series, which won numerous awards. The first six hours took 10 years to fund and produce. The second part will be aired at a future date, a spokeswoman for PBS said.

[…] The clearance rights for the astounding amount of material, which had originally been negotiated to be used for varying periods of time by Blackside, gradually expired.

It took four or five years to raise $915,000 for research, rights clearance, and post-production costs, said Sandra Forman, Blackside attorney and director of the “Eyes on the Prize” Renewal Project.

HR5417 Voted Out of House Judiciary Commitee

House Judiciary passes Internet access measure [pdf]

The measure, approved by a vote of 20-13, would amend U.S. antitrust law. It would also counter a rival bill from another House committee that wants to encourage network providers to preserve consumers’ ability to freely surf the Internet instead of adopting stricter rules.

“The lack of competition in the broadband marketplace presents a clear incentive for providers to leverage dominant market power over the broadband bottleneck to pre-select, favor or prioritize Internet content over their networks,” said Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

[…] “We are optimistic that the majority in Congress will see this legislation as an attempt to solve a problem that does not exist,” said Tim McKone, AT&T executive vice president for federal relations.The Judiciary panel has been tangling with the House Energy and Commerce Committee over jurisdiction on the Internet issue, dubbed “Net neutrality.” Many lawmakers were on the fence but voted for the Judiciary bill to preserve their control over antitrust laws.

HR5417 status from Thomas; webcast from the Judiciary Committee WWW site

Market Response!

Who’d have thought that there would be a market reponse? Database debate helping one local telecom provider [pdf]

While some telephone companies have taken it on the chin lately over allegations of sharing customer phone records with the government, one San Francisco telecommunications business is benefiting from the controversy.

Working Assets, a small long-distance and wireless provider known for its contributions to progressive causes, has enjoyed an increase in subscriptions and added attention lately because of its public promises of customer privacy and its vocal opposition to any sharing of phone records with the National Security Agency.

The company said it signed up more than 1,000 long-distance and wireless customers last week after the NSA phone database story broke, triple what it normally does in a week.

Is The US Propaganda Machine Really This Organized?

I would tend to doubt it, but it’s clear that the Venezuelans are sure.  And what does that say about how we are perceived? US video game angers Chavez allies in Venezuela – [pdf]

Venezuelan lawmakers are complaining that a video game to be marketed by a U.S. company next year provides a blueprint for violently overthrowing President Hugo Chavez.

The game, “Mercenaries 2: World in Flames,” simulates a military invasion of the oil-rich South American nation and will be released by Pandemic Studios of Los Angeles.

“A power-hungry tyrant messes with Venezuela’s oil supply, sparking an invasion that turns the country into a war zone,” Pandemic says of the game on its Web site.

Venezuelan lawmakers who back Chavez called it the latest example of a U.S. government-inspired propaganda campaign against Chavez that could even help lay the psychological groundwork for an actual invasion.