You Knew It Was Coming

Talent Agency Is Aiming to Find Web Video Stars

One of Hollywood’s top five talent agencies has created an online unit devoted to scouting out up-and-coming creators of Internet content — particularly video — and finding work for them in Web-based advertising and entertainment, as well as in the older media.

The move by the United Talent Agency — best known as the home of comedians like Vince Vaughn and Jack Black, filmmakers like M. Night Shyamalan and television producers like Dick Wolf and David Chase — amounts to a bet, albeit a modest one, that Web video is on a growth curve similar to that of cable television a generation ago. It is also a return by Hollywood’s core talent representatives to the sort of new-media business they tested, without great success, at the peak of the dot-com boom.

LATimes Playing To The Hometown Audience?

Just how central should AllofMP3 be to the US trade negotiations with Russia? Alternatively, is this a moment to rethink what IP policies ought to be? AllofMP3’s problemspdf

This is not a case of the U.S. entertainment-industry tail wagging the U.S. government-policy dog. The AllofMP3 case isn’t a problem just for copyright holders, and the United States isn’t the only country pressing Russia to do something about it. The website is emblematic of fundamental problems in Russia’s legal system that call into question its ability to play by the WTO’s rules, resolve important commercial disputes and integrate itself into global commerce.

Ultimately, the United States has much more at stake in these talks than reining in one of many global sources of bootlegged music. A successful Russian entry into the WTO would be a boon to world trade and to the former communist country’s transformation into a free-market economy.

Mediaservices argues that the site is fully licensed by Russian authorities and that it pays at least 15% of its revenue to Russian royalty collection agencies. But even if that’s the case, it just means that the agencies usurped the music industry’s rights and granted licenses they had no authority to grant. For instance, AllofMP3 offers more than 40 downloadable Beatles albums despite the fact that the band has never given permission for its songs to be sold online.

[…] If Russia wants to show that it’s ready to join the WTO and live up to international trade commitments, it should start by following the example of Italy and Germany and stop the global infringements by AllofMP3. The importance of intellectual property will only increase as the world’s economy becomes more connected. By taking a stand against the website, the United States is showing that it cares about everyone’s intellectual property, not just the entertainment industry’s.

Hmmmmm

Globe’s Second Life Profile

A comparable writeup to many others, with the addition of the educational experiments going on, like the Berkman Center’s program: Leading a double lifepdf

nched in 2003 by California-based Linden Lab, Second Life is a website where users create animated cartoon avatars to represent themselves — usually as humans ( often buff, busty, beautiful humans ) , and sometimes as fanciful or furry creatures. Linden sells land in this virtual frontier, and users (a.k.a. “residents”) design and make everything from virtual stores for the land to virtual sweaters for the avatars. They buy things and sell things that exist only “in world” — so many that last month $6.6 million in user-user transactions changed hands. They role-play, gamble, teach classes, make music, open restaurants, push politics — all as they guide their avatars through the elaborate virtual landscapes and cityscapes that give Second Life its stepping-into-Wonderland quality.

“Second Life is no more a game than the Web is a game. It’s a platform,” says John Lester, 39, of Somerville, Linden’s community and education manager. “This feels exactly like it felt when the Web was first coming out. I remember feeling the hair on the back of my neck standing up.”

Unlike such sites as Sims Online , Second Life’s content is created almost entirely by users. […]

Rebecca Nesson has never taught a class like “CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion,” a joint enterprise with Harvard Law School sponsored by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Here she is as avatar Rebecca Berkman, standing outside a virtual replica of Harvard’s Austin Hall before 30 avatars of Extension School students. A wolf sits in front , teaching fellow Buzescu is an android , and everyone can fly, all of which adds a touch of whimsy to even the most serious Second Life endeavors, in this case giving far-flung students a virtual place to meet and work on class projects. Gone is off-site education as simply posting videos of lectures online and communicating with students via e-mail.

“It’s better than anything I’ve seen in distance learning,” Nesson says.

Harvard is among some 80 academic institutions exploring Second Life. […]

Jon Johansen and iTunes

Hacker says he has cracked iTunes codepdf

Currently , songs purchased from Apple’s online iTunes Music Store can’t be played on portable devices made by other companies. Songs purchased from many other online music stores won’t work on iPods because they similarly use a form of copy-protection that Apple doesn’t support.

Johansen said he has developed a way to get around those restrictions. But unlike with his previous work, which he usually posts for free, the Norway native plans to capitalize on his efforts through his Redwood Shores-based DoubleTwist Ventures, said the company’s only other employee, managing director Monique Farantzos.

SeattleP-I has a more detailed APWire report: Hacker says he’s cracked iTunes, iPod restrictionspdf

Tackling Business Method Patents

(A TimesSelect article in today’s paper, so read it at the International Herald Tribune instead) Patent law is getting tax crazypdf

As the American tax law gets more and more complicated, lawyers have come up with one more way to make life difficult for taxpayers: Now you may face a patent infringement suit if you use a tax strategy that someone else thought of first.

[…] Why would Congress pass a law allowing such a thing? The answer is that it did not. But a U.S. appeals court ruled in 1998 that business methods could be patented, and since then the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued 50 tax- strategy patents, with many more pending.

[…] One can imagine lawyers and accountants rushing to the patent office as soon as a new tax law is passed, seeking to claim credit for dreaming up ideas that were made possible by the new tax law. Lobbyists who get tax breaks inserted into such bills would be in a preferred position to win the race to patent them.

In an article in Legal Times this week, Paul Devinsky, John Fuisz and Thomas Sykes, who are lawyers with McDermott, Will & Emery, suggested that a company might figure out a tax strategy that would save it a lot of money and then patent it. Then the company could refuse to license the patent to its competitors, thus raising their cost of doing business.

Tax patents, the lawyers wrote, amount to “government-issued barbed wire” to keep some taxpayers from getting equal treatment under the tax code.

Why limit this important reconsideration to tax policy? How about a revisiting of the entire notion of business method patents?

Related, from the software patent realm: I.B.M. Sues Amazon.com Over Patents

Video as Dialog

An interesting theory: YouTube users keep dialogue runningpdf

A clue to why Google Inc. spent a king’s ransom on YouTube Inc. this month can be found in a silly, two-minute clip posted to the video-sharing site hours after the $1.65-billion deal.

Standing outside a TGI Friday’s restaurant in San Bruno, Calif., YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley pronounced in a shaky video that “two kings have gotten together,” prompting co-founder Steve Chen to burst out laughing.

More than just the youthful swagger of millionaire twentysomethings, the clip was an inside joke: Hurley was lampooning a video by rapper Diddy announcing the debut of his own YouTube channel while ordering a Whopper at Burger King.

[…] The self-referential satire of the “Message From Chad and Steve” highlights what separates YouTube from the other online video sites: It’s a community where the videos are part of a running conversation between members.

To Google, that community is worth potentially far more than the bootlegged video clips and amateur movies that built YouTube’s audience of 63 million. Among fickle online audiences, loyalty is prized.

“What’s so unique about YouTube is that most of the content on the site is this conversation between people,” said Fred Stutzman, a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who has studied social networks. “The interesting thing is that the conversations are happening in videos.”

Related: Yahoo tests the power of packaging user contentpdf

Why Would Anyone Want To Read Your Credit Card’s RFID?

Sometimes, you just have to wonder if anyone’s paying attention: Researchers See Privacy Pitfalls in No-Swipe Credit Cards

Companies that make and issue the cards argue that what looks shocking in the lab could not lead to widespread abuse in the real world, and that additional data protection and antifraud measures in the payment system protect consumers from end to end.

“This is an interesting technical exercise,” said Brian Triplett, senior vice president for emerging-product development for Visa, “but as a real threat to a consumer — that threat really doesn’t exist.”

Yet …

As Expected…

We’re Google. So Sue Us.

As Google has grown into the world’s most popular search engine and, arguably, the most powerful Internet company, it has become entangled in scores of lawsuits touching on a wide range of legal questions, including copyright violation, trademark infringement and its method of ranking Web sites.

Any company that is large and successful is going to attract lawsuits, and Google’s deep pockets make it an especially big target. But as it rushes to create innovative new services, Google sometimes operates in a way that almost seems to invite legal scrutiny.

A group of authors and publishers is challenging the company’s right to scan books that are still under copyright. A small Web site in California is suing Google because it was removed from the company’s search results. And European news agencies have sued over Google’s use of their headlines and photos in Google News.

In these cases and others, potential legal problems seem to give the company little pause before it plunges into new ventures.

“I think Google is wanting to push the boundaries,” said Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University.

“The Internet ethos of the 90’s, the expansionist ethos, was, ‘Just do it, make it cool, make it great and we’ll cut the rough edges off later,’ ” Professor Zittrain said. “They’re really trying to preserve a culture that says, ‘Just do it, and consult with the lawyers as you go so you don’t do anything flagrantly ill-advised.’ ”

A great idea; but can they afford it?

A Question from the Founder of Wikipedia

From the Wikipedia listserve: [Wikipedia-l] Dream a little…

I would like to gather from the community some examples of works you would like to see made free, works that we are not doing a good job of generating free replacements for, works that could in theory be purchased and freed.

Dream big. Imagine there existed a budget of $100 million to purchase copyrights to be made available under a free license. What would you like to see purchased and released under a free license?

L.A. Boy Scouts new merit badge: ‘Respect Copyrights’

As a past scout, I’m speechless: L.A. Boy Scouts new merit badge: ‘Respect Copyrights’pdf

Boy Scouts in the Los Angeles area will now be able to earn a merit patch for learning about the evils of downloading pirated movies and music.

The patch shows a film reel, a music CD and the international copyright symbol, a “C” enclosed in a circle.

The movie industry has developed the curriculum.

A later APWire piece [pdf] includes an image of the badge….