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May 21, 2007

So, What Does This Mean For DRM-Free Music? [10:14 pm]

Will the private equity firm see the point? Or will they just pump and dump EMI to Warner? EMI Accepts $4.7 Billion Buyout Offer

The EMI Group, the world’s third-largest record company, said today that it would recommend to shareholders that they accept a $4.7 billion buyout offer from a private equity firm, Terra Firma Capital Partners.

EMI, which releases music by the Beatles and Coldplay, has spent years in and out of merger talks with various suitors. If approved, the deal to sell to Terra Firma would remove EMI from the public markets, where its financial problems include two profit warnings this year. But Terra Firma itself could profit on the deal by subsequently selling EMI, in whole or part, to a rival, the Warner Music Group. EMI, based in London, and Warner had been in advanced merger talks last summer. They stalled after a European Union court ruling raised questions about the regulatory approval of a previous music merger between Sony and Bertelsmann.

Reuters has another take: EMI agrees $4.7 billion offer from Terra Firmapdf

Sources familiar with the situation had previously told Reuters that EMI had opened its books in recent weeks to Warner and three other private equity groups.

Details of Terra Firma’s strategic plans will also be a blow to Warner as it had been thought that any private equity buyer might only keep the cash-generative music publishing arm and sell the struggling recorded music division to Warner.

“It believes in the digital growth opportunity in the music market, in general, and so the expectation is that the business will be held together,” said the source.

Later: Buyout firm in accord for EMIpdf

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BBN Back On The Ground Floor [6:05 pm]

Internet pioneer to oversee its redesignpdf

The National Science Foundation announced Monday that BBN Technologies Inc. will get up to $10 million over four years to oversee the planning and design of the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI.

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Second Guessing Municipal Wireless [5:59 pm]

Cities struggle with wireless Internetpdf

Across the United States, many cities are finding their Wi-Fi projects costing more and drawing less interest than expected, leading to worries that a number will fail, resulting in millions of dollars in wasted tax dollars or grants when there had been roads to build and crime to fight.

[...] Lompoc’s backers, though, still claim success, “even if the whole network were to be written off tomorrow,” said Mark McKibben, Lompoc’s former wireless consultant.

“Prices dropped and quality of service went up,” he said. “That’s the way a lot of cities look at it. They don’t look at business profits and losses. They see it as a driver for quality of life.”

Of course, the point is that introducing wireless should have been about integrating it into the town’s mission of “roads to build and crime to fight;” assuming that it’s just about displacing Comcast/Verizon is just foolish.

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I See … [4:43 pm]

That recent spate of copyright-maximalist ink has the smell of Astro-turf: Backers of stronger copyright laws form lobby group

Some of the staunchest advocates for stricter copyright laws have formed a new alliance designed to pressure Congress into preserving stronger intellectual property rights.

The Copyright Alliance–which launched, complete with electric-green and white T-shirts displaying its logo at a morning Capitol Hill event here–consists of 29 national organizations and companies that purport to represent 11 million workers in copyright-related industries. Those members include the Recording Industry Association of America, the Association of American Publishers, the Motion Picture Association of America, Microsoft, Viacom and Walt Disney.

The group’s members aren’t expected to agree on all the nuances of policy debates, said Patrick Ross, the alliance’s executive director.

But according to a press release, they’re all committed to broad goals like promoting the “vital role” of copyright in the U.S. economy and job market, encouraging inclusion of copyright protection requirements in international agreements, supporting civil and criminal penalties for piracy, and advocating against “diminishment” of copyright law.

Both the membership and academic advisors list are instructive on any number of levels. But it’s the “For Educators” link that really sets you up:

For Educators

It’s never too early to learn the value of copyright. In fact, every time a child takes crayon to paper, he or she has created a copyrighted work, but how many know the rights they’ve just earned?

Educators across the country recognize the value of incorporating an understanding of copyright into lesson plans, but the resources haven’t always been readily available. The Copyright Alliance, as part of its educational mission, aims to identify valuable curriculum guides and other educational resources and make those resources available to educators.

You will find some materials here, and more will be added. If you are aware of valuable lesson plans or other worthwhile teacher guides, please let us know at info@copyrightalliance.org.

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“Think of the Children” [1:06 pm]

MySpace reaches accord with Attorneys Generalpdf

Last week, a coalition of U.S. law enforcement authorities criticized the News Corp.-owned (NYSE:NWSA - news) service for not divulging information from profiles of convicted sex offenders lurking on MySpace.

MySpace said it had identified, blocked and deleted “a few thousand” such profiles, but had declined to hand over the information, citing a disclosure law barring it from giving away the information without a court order. By last Wednesday, MySpace and the attorneys general group reached an agreement.

Later: MySpace to Share Data With States on Offenders

But on Monday, MySpace officials said their intent was always to share the information with prosecutors. “We had this information safeguarded and ready to hand over,” said Mike Angus, executive vice president and general counsel for Fox Interactive Media, which owns MySpace. “But we wanted to make sure that each state got the information through a legal process that allowed them to use it to prosecute and lock up these sexual predators. The last thing we wanted was for one of these predators to get off on a technicality.”

Connecticut’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, also sounded a cautious note of conciliation. “Our focus is not on whether MySpace rebuffed or rejected our demands, it is on how complete and accurate the information is now,” he said. “We’re satisfied that MySpace intends to cooperate.”

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A Power Shift [10:27 am]

And one that I welcome, myself having had more than enough problems with verbal interviews: Interviews, Going the Way of the Linotype?pdf

[I]n the digital age, some executives and commentators are saying they will respond only by e-mail, which allows them to post the entire exchange if they feel they have been misrepresented, truncated or otherwise disrespected. And some go further, saying, You want to know what I think? Read my blog.

“The balance of power has shifted,” says Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at New York University. “Everyone used to be landlocked, and the media was the outlet to the sea of public discussion. But now there are many routes. . . . Readers have more power because they have more sources, and sources have more power because they can go direct to readers.”

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Must Be Something In The Water [8:15 am]

First, yesterday’s piece from Helprin, and now this — more cutting off one’s nose to grab some quick cash, this time ending the notion of radio as promotion: Artists and labels seek royalties from radiopdf

With CD sales tumbling, record companies and musicians are looking at a new potential pot of money: royalties from broadcast radio stations.

For years, stations have paid royalties to composers and publishers when they played their songs. But they enjoy a federal exemption when paying the performers and record labels because, they argue, the airplay sells music.

Now, the Recording Industry Assn. of America and several artists’ groups are getting ready to push Congress to repeal the exemption, a move that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually in new royalties.

[...] It’s not the first attempt to kill the exemption. In the past, politically powerful broadcasters beat back those efforts.

But with satellite and Internet radio forced to pay “public performance royalties” and Web broadcasters up in arms about a recent federal decision to boost their performance royalty rate, the record companies and musicians have a strong hand.

Broadcasters are already girding for the fight, expected to last more than a year. In a letter to lawmakers this month, the National Assn. of Broadcasters dubbed the royalties a “performance tax” that would upend the 70-year “mutually beneficial relationship” between radio stations and the recording industry.

“The existing system actually provides the epitome of fairness for all parties: free music for free promotion,” wrote NAB President David Rehr.

You have to wonder if anyone is paying attention to this when promoting this change in radio performance royalties: Higher Music Royalties Create Static on the Netpdf

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