June 11, 2007

Control, Distribution and Profit [7:46 am]

Movie studios fear the sequel to iPodpdf

Some movie fans hope Apple TV will do for Internet video what the iPod did for digital music.

That’s precisely what some Hollywood executives are afraid of.

The device from Apple Inc., which debuted this spring, aspires to bring movie downloads from the geeky fringe to the living room. Touted as elegant and easy to use, Apple TV lets movies and TV shows bought through Apple’s iTunes online service — plus, later this month, videos from YouTube — pass from computers to television sets. It also lets users watch their digital photos and home videos on their TVs.

But despite Apple TV’s promise, some of the biggest movie studios won’t sell their films through Apple’s iTunes store. They fear that the Cupertino, Calif., company will come to dominate online distribution of movies as it now controls more than 70% of the digital-music market in the United States.

If it does, that could drive down the prices of newly released DVDs, which is great for consumers but bad business for the movie studios. Even more threatening to the studios is the possibility that iTunes could kill the premium they hope to collect for the new generation of high-definition movie discs.

[...] Their major gripe is with the iPod, which plays pirated versions of movies and television shows that can be obtained at illicit file-trading sites or transferred to computers using software that pries the content off DVDs. Piracy experts say Apple TV could work the same way to transfer bootlegged movies and shows from the computer to the TV.

Apple says it trusts its customers to do the right thing, but movie studios don’t think that’s enough. So some are holding up licensing deals, trying to pressure Apple to take more aggressive steps to combat piracy. For example, they want Apple’s devices to look for a unique identifying code, known as a watermark, on digital video to certify that it is a legitimate copy — and to refuse to play the film when that watermark is absent.

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Will 2nd Life Payoff? [7:10 am]

Awaiting Real Sales From Virtual Shoppers

Retailers and manufacturers like Reebok, Adidas, American Apparel and 1-800Flowers.com are setting up shop in Second Life, hoping that users will steer their avatars to these stores and buy goods to deliver to their real world addresses. So far, retailers say they have low expectations for their efforts, but some believe that the experiments could yield important lessons on how people might operate in the online realm.

[...] Either way, the sudden popularity of three-dimensional virtual spaces online suggests that consumers are ready for that sort of experience even if retailers are not. Mr. Schionning, for one, says they will have to be ready soon.

“There’s a gap between the current online shopping experience and the next generation,” he said. “A virtual world can at least bring you closer to the store experience without actually bringing you there. I’m not convinced Second Life is that answer, but it is a step along the path.”

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A New Front In The Spam Wars Is Overrun [7:07 am]

A Dog or a Cat? New Tests to Fool Automated Spammers

Most major Internet companies use captchas to keep the automated programs of spammers from infiltrating their sites.

There is only one problem. As online mischief makers design better ways to circumvent or defeat captchas, Web companies are responding by making the puzzles more challenging to solve — even for people.

[...] “They are creating tests that a reasonably healthy adult can’t pass,” said Gordon Weakliem, a programmer and blogger from Denver, who says he failed to correctly discern the captcha code several times last week on the sign-up page for the Windows Live service of Microsoft.

With captchas getting easier for computers and more difficult for real people, several Internet companies, including Microsoft and eBay, are working on replacements.

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When You Lie Down With Dogs, Your Problems Aren’t Restricted To Fleas [6:58 am]

Libby’s Supporters Who Wrote to Judge Learn That Letters Take on New Life on the Web

When representatives of the news media asked that the letters be released, Mr. Libby’s lawyers argued against that, saying it “needlessly risks undermining the fair administration of justice.

”Then, alluding to the sometimes combative world of online media, they added there was “the real possibility that these letters, once released, would be published on the Internet and their authors discussed, even mocked, by bloggers.”

The judge rejected these arguments on May 31, though, saying that “the court must strive to be as transparent as possible without compromising the fairness of the system or the ability of the court to acquire information relevant and helpful to the sentencing process.”

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