March 15, 2007

Not So Fast! [10:28 am]

EU consumer chief sounds a softer iTunes note

The European Union’s consumer chief has downplayed her views on Apple, backing off the line that its iTunes online music store must become more compatible with other formats.

Meglena Kuneva said during a news conference Tuesday that there is no reason to talk about legal action against the U.S. computer and technology company and that she merely wanted to raise questions.

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One Assessment of What’s Behind The YouTube Suit [7:13 am]

A little analysis of the Viacom lawsuit for copyright infringement: YouTube suit is fight for control of content - pdf

Most of the video clips that TV networks are willing to share with YouTube aren’t the stuff people want to watch.

[...] So why is Viacom Inc. bothering to sue YouTube? It’s all about control, and money.

Networks won’t give YouTube much of their most-popular material because they believe that Google Inc., which owns YouTube, isn’t protecting their copyrighted content. What’s more, Google isn’t offering to pay them what they think is enough. And even if the networks could sort out the financial issues, they still want to dictate which ads would be placed around their clips — and not have their shows thrown into the mishmash of fistfights, karaoke performances or ladybugs having sex.

Most advertisers “want to be in the VIP section, the section that requires a higher price for admission,” said Tim Hanlon, an executive with French advertising giant Publicis Groupe. “YouTube’s audience is a polyglot and random. It’s one gigantic lowest common denominator.”

[...] “You’ve got a real issue here with the traditional programmers, the networks, who are starting to get concerned that they don’t own the distribution network anymore,” said Larry Kramer, former chief of digital media for CBS Corp. who now consults for the company. “They paid all this money to create great content, but it was the distribution system that helped them pay for all of this great content. Their position is that ‘We don’t produce content to give it away for free.’ ”

Some believe that Google represents the most serious threat to the television business since the remote control. The search giant was once viewed as an engine to drive traffic to the networks’ websites, but with its $1.65-billion acquisition of YouTube, Google became a rival.

Ultimately, it sounds like Google’s learning what it is to become a media company - to wit, learning how to play ball in the big leagues:

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, speaking to investors last week, said he wasn’t concerned about the tough talk. And he made light of the TV industry’s complaint that Google was acting too high and mighty: “I’m sure we’re arrogant. But I have learned that as part of being a player in the media industry, part of negotiations is that everything is leaked and you are sued to death.”

Viacom CEO Philippe P. Dauman said his company went to court to enforce its copyrights and protect its valuable brands, such as MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. That doesn’t mean Viacom won’t one day strike a deal with YouTube. “Certainly, Dauman said, “we could find ways to operate in a YouTube environment that would be compatible with our brands.”

The LATimes also has this editorial: Copyright still matters: Viacom’s message to Google: Copyright holders’ rights don’t dissolve in the age of the Internet. - pdf

Some Internet romantics view this kind of litigation as typical of lumbering, old-economy behemoths. Incapable of innovation and suspicious of technology, content conglomerates such as Viacom respond by filing lawsuits. But like the “useful arts” mentioned in the Constitution, the programs owned by Viacom and other entertainment companies cost money to produce. Companies have the right to protect that investment — even in the age of YouTube.

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Google Reshaping Its Policies [6:56 am]

Google to Tighten Privacy - pdf

Under the new policy, Google will continue to store search terms, but after 18 to 24 months it will remove the Internet protocol addresses, which can help identify the location of computers that conducted searches. Google will also erase cookies, which are bits of information that stay on computer hard drives after searches are conducted and might help an observer learn more about other Web sites visited by the person using the computer at a given time.

The LATimes’ Critics to Google: Privacy, please - pdf

The search-records issue hit the public consciousness last year when Google was locked in a legal battle with the Bush administration. A federal judge denied Justice Department officials access to most of the millions of search queries they had demanded, contending that handing over the records would violate people’s privacy.

On Wednesday, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google said it had good reason to keep records of who searched for what: It can help the company better understand what people are seeking, how quickly they’re finding it and what ads they’re clicking on.

Search records also help Google recommend related search terms based on the country or region where the user is.

And in Europe, the law mandates that such records be preserved. Last year, the European Union ordered phone and Internet companies to retain traffic data tied to individual computer addresses for six to 24 months to help police investigate crimes. The EU left the exact time frame to each member nation to decide.

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Missed This [6:50 am]

I am sure that I’m coming late to the party, but I did enjoy this from J. D. Lasica

screencap of opening to J. D. Lasica's

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Continuing the Erosion of Public Morality [6:37 am]

No wonder people like Alberto Gonzales and Jay Bybee get powerful lawyering positions; apparently, “my lawyer said it was OK” is now a viable “get out of jail free” card. Another demonstration of “the fish rots from the head,” I suppose: Charges Dismissed in Hewlett-Packard Spying Case

A California judge on Wednesday dismissed charges against Patricia C. Dunn, the former chairwoman of Hewlett-Packard, in a corporate spying case that gained national attention and prompted Congressional hearings on the protection of personal telephone records.

[...] Lawyers for the defendants argued that their clients did not commit a crime, in part because they acted without criminal intent. James J. Brosnahan, a lawyer for Ms. Dunn, said she consulted accomplished lawyers before approving an investigation that ultimately involved pretexting, and was told that she was acting within the law.

“She received the benefit of advice that what was being done was perfectly legal.” Mr. Brosnahan added. “She never had the slightest criminal intent.”

While ignorance of the law is not a defense, Mr. Brosnahan said there were other considerations, including the fact that the pretexting laws were in flux at the time of the offense.

Funny how that argument seems only to apply to a certain class of individuals. For example, these RIAA lawsuits seem to be just rolling along, even against those who have no criminal intent, either.

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