September 27, 2006

Cory Doctorow on HDTV-DRM [11:59 am]

High-Definition Video–Bad For Consumers, Bad For Hollywood [via Berlind's CNet blog]

Most extraordinary is the relationship of HD DRM to the world’s largest supply of HD screens: LCD computer monitors. The vast majority of HD-ready, 1080i-capable screens in the world are cheapo computer LCDs. Chances are you’ve got a couple at home right now.

But unless these screens are built with crippleware HDMI or DVI interfaces, they won’t be able to receive high-def signals. DRM standards call these legacy screens, and treat them as second-class citizens.

All this may be enough to scuttle HD’s future. Let’s hope so, for Hollywood’s sake.

Because, you see, HD is also poison for the entertainment industry’s own products. The higher the resolution, the harder it is to make the picture look good. Standard-def programs on high-def screens look like over-compressed YouTube videos, and when you get a high-def program shot by traditional directors, it looks even worse, every flaw thrown into gaudy relief. Have a look at the HD-native episodes of Friends some days — it’s all gaping pores, running pancake makeup, caked-on hairspray, and freakishly thin bodies with giant, tottering heads.

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The Copyright Maze Leads To A New Direction [9:52 am]

Why use the Internet unless you can control the content, right? Deal to Put Live Concerts on Internet Is Dissolved

AOL and a group of entertainment entrepreneurs who created a venture to produce and distribute live concerts on the Internet and elsewhere have dissolved their partnership after just 14 months, executives in the venture said yesterday.

The move to unwind the venture, which was called Network Live, came as its co-founder and chief executive, Kevin Wall, announced that he had struck a new deal to produce live events to be distributed through Microsoft’s online service and, potentially, through products like Xbox. The venture with Microsoft will be called Control Room, he said.

No irony intended in that name, of course……..

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Wonder What “Progress” Is? [9:42 am]

Europe Makes Progress in iTunes Negotiations

European negotiators said they made “surprising progress” in talks today with Apple Computer over easing the restrictions it imposes on users of its iTunes service, by far the dominant seller of downloaded music.

But a full resolution of the dispute could require Apple to make major changes in the iTunes business model.

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House Education Committee Hearing Yesterday [8:21 am]

Press release: Higher Education, Entertainment Industry Witnesses Detail Impact of, Efforts to Combat Internet Piracy on College Campuses; webcast archive of the hearing; eventually, an electronic version of the testimony may be available here, but for now, I need to rely upon Inside Higher Ed’s House Panel Tackles Piracy which at least highlights Terry Fisher’s comments:

But William W. Fisher, director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, said that preventing students from illegally downloading is nearly impossible: Once a college has outlawed a filing sharing system, another one comes along that is harder to detect.

Colleges should focus their energy on providing legal alternatives for students, and more than 70 have, Fisher said. In 2003, Pennsylvania State University struck a deal with Napster so that students could have access to a catalogue of copyrighted music. Another option, he said, is for colleges to charge students a mandatory fee that goes toward purchasing music that students in the network can share for free.

[...] Still, Fisher said some colleges are reluctant to get involved in matters of Internet piracy because they are concerned about violating students’ privacy.

Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said entertainment industry executives aren’t asking colleges to spy illegally, but rather to work within their boundaries to weed out guilty parties.

I’m sure that’s what we’re all telling ourselves when we talk about warrantless wiretapping, too… (related: Deal Likely on Detainees but Not on Wiretapping)

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Lucky & Flo [8:02 am]

Pigs would have been more apt, particularly for this kind of PR nonsense: DVDs Smell, and That’s a Good Thing for Hollywood - pdf

“There is a scent that comes off the DVD that the dog is absolutely dead-set on finding,” said Neil Powell, a Northern Ireland sniffer dog expert who trained Lucky and Flo. If there’s a scent — whether it’s from DVDs, drugs or explosives — a dog can be trained to sniff it out.

Lucky and Flo can’t distinguish between legitimate and bootleg DVDs, but customs officials can identify smugglers by checking the declarations for the packages that the dogs point out, Malcolm said.

The dogs aren’t actually sniffing out DVDs in a real-world setting, just showing it’s possible. The MPAA, which hopes to loan them to customs officials or private shipping firms, is taking its dog show on the road, to Los Angeles, Mexico, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Britain.

The world tour even has a Hollywood touch: commemorative “Lucky & Flo K-9 Pirate Smackdown” T-shirts.

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Music Viral Marketing Strategy [7:47 am]

Rap’s Captive Audience - pdf

They have no hope of cracking mainstream radio or MTV with songs like “They Hate Us” or “I’m a Wood,” in which they rap menacingly about blasting enemies with shotguns. Further limiting their commercial prospects, their August album, “The Streets Will Never Be the Same,” boasts of the group’s affiliation with the Woods, a white power prison gang.

So the Arizona-based group’s label is using a viral marketing technique to create word of mouth. Its goal is to connect with an influential constituency of taste makers.

Namely, people behind bars.

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Someone Else Confused About GUBA [7:24 am]

In this commentary, Mark Hachman sees that GUBA’s continuing operation signifies that The MPAA Surrenders in War Against Piracy

It’s a high-profile war, and apparently no expense is being spared. But what about the Web? What if there was an easily accessible source of illegally copyrighted materials, with a search engine, on a site that had participated in a press release with the MPAA itself, touting new automated measures to prevent piracy? Wouldn’t the MPAA see the forest for the trees and quickly crack down on the offender?

As it turns out, apparently not.

I’m talking about Guba.com, which offers for-pay online rentals and purchases of licensed movies and TV shows, but also archives files published to Usenet, a collection of text-based newsgroups that can hide encodings of copyrighted material often spread across dozens of separate messages.

[...] But here’s the rub: in February, the MPAA filed suit against sites including TorrentSpy and BTHub, arguing that even links to copyrighted content encourage people to download illegally. Meanwhile, Guba happily provides copyrighted content to the public. And the MPAA has utterly lost the moral high ground, if it hadn’t already.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the Guba archive is an MPAA-sanctioned supply of copyrighted content. Maybe this is a social experiment, a quiet no-mans-land where users sick of paying $24.99 for a new DVD and studio execs burned out on the Hollywood lifestyle can swap a few bits with the average joe. Seriously, if a site provides downloadable content using an MPAA-approved filtering algorithm to weed out copyrighted content, isn’t that a safe argument that downloaders should be free from liability?

So apologies all ’round, then. I clearly have missed the gaping hole in the MPAA’s position, that of leniency to its partners.

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