April 23, 2007

A Win For Fair Use [5:23 pm]

Activist groups drop suit against Viacom - pdf

The Electronic Frontier Foundation declared victory in announcing that Viacom agreed to add information on its Web site about its stance on such parodies and to set up an e-mail address to receive complaints about possible errors in the future.

Viacom, however, sought to play down its concessions, saying the lawsuit’s dismissal was a recognition of “the effective processes we have consistently applied.” In a statement, Viacom said the lawsuit “could have been avoided” had the groups contacted the company ahead of time.

The EFF and Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project had filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of MoveOn.org Civic Action and Brave New Films LLC, which had jointly produced the parody.

EFF press release; EFF archive; Fair Use Project

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Cheaper Distribution, Specialization and New Opportunities [8:03 am]

A possible example of efficiency gains through lowered startup costs — consider what it took to start up the wire services (or, for that matter, Salon, which is certainly a competitor in this space): USA Today to Use Items From Start-Up News Site

Three months after two journalists left The Washington Post to start a new-media venture, their political coverage has found its way back to a national newspaper: USA Today.

USA Today said Friday that it would begin using articles produced by the start-up, The Politico, a mostly online news operation staffed by journalists who have worked for news outlets like Time, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press.

Also — interesting to note that the NYTimes article includes hyperlinks to USA Today.com, but not to The Politico.

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When Does Promotion Become Lying? [7:53 am]

A look at the culture of entertainment negotiation. Sounds like a lot of other claims — say, about lost sales? Cussler’s sales claims undermined in trialpdf

Anschutz and Cussler have been waging a fierce legal battle in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom over who is to blame for the financial failure of the movie “Sahara,” which starred Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz. The film has lost about $105 million since it was released in April 2005. A jury is expected to hand down a verdict in the trial next month.

Cussler is scheduled to take the witness stand for a fourth consecutive day this morning in the courtroom of Judge John P. Shook.

On Friday, Cussler offered myriad explanations for his accounting of the “Sahara” numbers. Asked if he pulled the numbers out of thin air, Cussler said, “Pretty much.” He added: “I honestly thought I probably did sell 100 million books. That doesn’t seem out of the ordinary to me.”

Cussler’s response, made during tense cross-examination testimony, “illustrates that he is perfectly comfortable lying about the number of books he sold,” said Alan Rader, one of several attorneys from the O’Melveny & Myers firm who represent Anschutz. “He was willing to say whatever it took to get the $10 million.”

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Participation Culture: Singing [7:45 am]

Why listening to music might not be enough — and the biochemistry of the teen music industry: SING OUT, SISTER - pdf

It makes intuitive sense that singing is psychologically good, that it can elevate one’s mood or provide an outlet for sadness. But a growing body of science shows that not only is singing mentally healthful, it’s also physically good for you. It can improve the body’s immune response. In elderly people, it can reduce the use of prescription drugs, doctor visits and emergency room care. The conscious breathing from the diaphragm involved in singing can itself reduce stress.

[...] Some researchers, including Walter J. Freeman, a neurobiologist at UC Berkeley, think that when people sing, oxytocin is released. A handful of small studies provide evidence to support the theory. Oxytocin is the hormone that surges through new mothers after they give birth and when they breast feed, through both men and women when they have sex and through couples when they gaze romantically into each others’ eyes. It increases bonding and it helps imprint memory. Oxytocin peaks during adolescence — probably one reason that the songs we hear and sing during teen years are the ones we always remember.

The hormone’s release is likely part of the reason that group singing forms bonds. “When we sing and dance together, our emotions are synchronized,” says David Huron, a musicologist at both Ohio State University’s school of music and center for cognitive science. “Everyone is on the same emotional page.” The military undoubtedly understands that, readying troops to act in unison in part through rhythmic marching songs.

It’s not just that singing fosters fuzzy feelings. It can boost the body’s immune response. [...]

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Parallels: Anti-Scalping Laws and Copyright [7:38 am]

This is an interesting editorial to come out of the LA Basin. And particularly notable in light of the article I posted yesterday about the rise of the live concert business over that of the record companies — the parallels are interesting to think about, particularly in the case of those jurisdictions where the state restricts the rights of resellers (i.e., scalpers): Ticketmaster’s crocodile tearspdf

Ticketmaster is in the resale business too — fans at selected venues who want to resell their tickets can do so, provided they pay another service charge that Ticketmaster splits with the venue. There’s no reason Ticketmaster can’t compete in the secondary market with StubHub, Craigslist, RazorGator and every other reseller out there, with no artificial constraints on what people do with their tickets.

Ticket prices, typically set by event promoters, tend to be inflexible. Plenty of people are willing to pay far more, which is one reason the resale market is thriving. Meanwhile, Ticketmaster has won no friends among event-goers, who resent the company’s ubiquity and multiple service fees.

The thriving resale market for tickets reflects how hard it is in the digital economy to constrain customers’ choices, no matter how dominant a company’s position may be. And with so much extra money in the resale market, is it any wonder the Rowdy Frynds wanted a piece of the action?

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