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March 12, 2007

In Case You’ve Never Gotten “The Letter” [11:16 am]

Here’s a look at what happens when you violate “acceptable use:” Not so fast, broadband providers tell big users - pdf

For Lee and an increasing number of people, a high-speed Internet connection is a lifeline to everyday entertainment and communication. Television networks are posting shows online; retailers are lining up to offer music and movie downloads; thousands of Internet radio stations stream music; more people are using WiFi phones; and “over the top TV,” in which channels stream over the Internet, is predicted to grow.

That means that more customers may become familiar with Comcast’s little-known acceptable-use policy, which allows the company to cut off service to customers who use the Internet too much. Comcast says that only .01 percent of its 11.5 million residential high-speed Internet customers fall into this category.

“Comcast has a responsibility to provide these customers with a superior experience and to address any excessive usage issues that may impact that experience,” Comcast spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said in a statement. “The few customers who are notified of excessive use typically consume exponentially more bandwidth than the average user.”

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More on ‘Net Addiction [10:11 am]

Game over for China’s net addicts - pdf

Combining sympathy with discipline, a military-style boot camp near Beijing is at the front-line of China’s battle against Internet addiction, a disorder afflicting millions of the nation’s youth.

The Internet Addiction Treatment Center (IATC) in Daxing county uses a blend of therapy and military drills to treat the children of China’s nouveau riche addicted to online games, Internet pornography, cybersex and chats.

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Copyright and The King Biscuit Flower Hour [8:11 am]

A phrase I never thought I would use again: Who Owns the Live Music of Days Gone By?

When it began in 1973, the “King Biscuit Flower Hour” was very much of its time. Bob Meyrowitz, who ran the show during its heyday, had the idea to start a weekly rock concert radio program as an alternative to chaotic festival shows after a fan was killed at the Rolling Stones performance at Altamont.

“I thought people would bring their cars into big parking lots and dance to the music,” Mr. Meyrowitz said. The first episode featured the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Blood Sweat & Tears and a barely known singer from New Jersey named Bruce Springsteen.

Back then no one thought much about what would happen to the King Biscuit recordings, which grew to thousands of hours featuring nearly every top act in ’70s and ’80s rock.

Now, more than 30 years later, the archives of radio and television shows like “King Biscuit,” “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” and “Later … With Jools Holland” have become valuable prizes in the desperate search for new content for Web sites, DVDs and video-on-demand services.

[...] But live recordings can come with thorny legal questions. They were often made outside the studio under contracts that did not clearly assign copyrights to a record label. Now the content owners are scrambling to get the permissions needed to sell the material in formats that did not exist when the music was recorded. And labels and musicians are also asserting their rights to such recordings — in one instance, in court.

The King Biscuit property, which has changed hands twice, is now owned by Wolfgang’s Vault, a company involved in a particularly important dispute about how such recordings can be used.

The company also owns the archive of the late San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham, and is being sued on charges of copyright infringement and bootlegging, among other things, by a group of musicians, including the Grateful Dead and members of Led Zeppelin and the Doors.

[...] The legal duel involves a number of issues, including the rights to sell reproductions of the items in the warehouse that feature the likenesses of the artists or the bands’ logos. But the most important issue, given the value of what is at stake, is precisely what Mr. Sagan owns. In a statement released when the suit was filed, Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead said that Mr. Sagan’s actions amounted to stealing.

“Just because you own the tapes doesn’t mean you have the copyright to the music on them,” said Ms. Beringer, who argues that Mr. Graham never had a copyright to this music in the first place. “The copyright act says that the performers are the presumed owners of the copyright.” Since some artists were under contracts that specifically granted live recording rights to the label, Sony BMG Music Entertainment has also joined the suit.

[...] At a time when music sales are declining, many expressed frustration that it was so complicated to find a way to make money on these kinds of recordings. In an odd twist, material by older artists is especially desirable, since their adult fans tend to buy music rather than download it illegally.

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The Future of News [7:44 am]

Media’s focus narrowing, report warns - pdf

“The consequences of this narrowing of focus involve more risk than we sense the business has considered,” said the report from the project, an arm of the Washington-based Pew Research Center. “Concepts like hyper-localism, pursued in the most literal sense, can be marketing speak for simply doing less.”

The review describes print, radio and television news operations as weathering “epochal” changes — with audiences splintering so radically that is has become difficult to accurately measure new viewing and reading habits.

Daily newspaper circulation declined 3% in 2006, for instance, but the increase in online readership is more difficult to quantify. The three television networks collectively lost an additional 1 million viewers — about the average in each of the last 25 years — but YouTube and other online services created a new delivery vehicle for the networks’ content.

Traditional newsrooms remain the primary source for information, and the report suggests that news organizations need to be more aggressive about mining revenue for their work. The old-line media may have to form consortiums to force Internet “aggregators,” which compile content from other sources, to pay licensing fees for news and information, the report says.

[...] Respected newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post have placed high hopes in replacing declining print advertising with ads on their websites. Indeed, as audiences online have expanded, newspapers have seen their online revenue grow by more than 30% a year.

But the Project for Excellence report suggests that the boom in online news audiences and income has begun to wane. A Pew Research Center study cited in the report found that the number of Americans who said they went online for news every day declined to 27% in June 2006, compared with 34% in June 2005.

The growth rate in online advertising is projected to slow and could drop into the single digits before the decade ends, according to the online research firm EMarketer. The report says growth online is therefore “not enough to clarify the future.”

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The Shrinking DVD Release Cycle [7:28 am]

Wait time on DVD releases shrinks - pdf

DVDs featuring new movies are coming out faster than ever.

The average time between the premiere of a movie at the multiplex and its appearance on DVD shrank an additional 10 days last year, further unnerving theater owners who believe that the tightening window threatens their business.

The revelation from a new study is likely to further shake exhibitors when it is formally unveiled this week by the National Assn. of Theatre Owners at the industry’s annual ShoWest convention in Las Vegas.

“The pace of the shrinkage is of concern to us,” association President John Fithian said. “Ten days in one year is a lot.”

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Revisiting the Business Model [7:26 am]

Rappers hear siren song of opportunity - pdf

In addition to the video game, the artist, known as the King of Crunk, is also featured in products such as an energy drink (Crunk Juice), a clothing line, Oakley sunglasses, as well as on a Comedy Central cartoon show that’s in development and, of course, a few albums.

“Once you get popular, you have a brand,” he said. “You have to market that brand.”

Lil Jon, born Jonathan Mortimer Smith, is hardly unique in the hip-hop world, which long ago established itself as a cultural enterprise that went far beyond CD sales.

But never before has it been so important for rappers to focus on their ventures outside the recording studio, and they know it.

Rap suffered a 20% decrease in album sales in 2006 (the second-largest slide of any genre, trailing only “new age” music), and rappers were shut out when it came to nominations in marquee categories at the Grammy Awards last month.

[...] “Hip-hop entrepreneurs have done a good job in things, like diversifying their income stream, that business schools tell you to do,” [author Tim] Leffel said.

Even the somewhat dubious business ideas — the pimp cup air fresheners, the Fallen Rapper Pez heads, the Ghostface Killah doll — have cleverly broken away from the saturated markets for clothing lines and ring tones, he said.

Some artists even hope to change the genre by branching out and bringing in different fans. Such is the case with Mele Mel, who, notwithstanding his DVD and children’s book, enrolled in professional wrestling school and is now trying to get a gig with World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

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