August 20, 2007

The Gloves Are Off [6:10 pm]

And the fight over the next generation DVD format really begins: Paramount to Drop Blu-Ray HD DVDs

Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. will offer next-generation DVDs in the HD DVD format and drop support for Blu-ray, further complicating the race between the competing technologies.

[...] ”Part of our vision is to aggressively extend our movies beyond the theater, and deliver the quality and features that appeal to our audience,” said Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.

”I believe HD DVD is not only the affordable high-quality choice for consumers, but also the smart choice for Paramount,” he said.

[...] Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, said consumers seeking to switch to high-definition DVDs will be enticed by the movies available for HD-DVD players. He added the lower price for the Toshiba devices will appeal to the family market.

”It’s a game-changer, what they’re doing, and it’s why we decided to throw in with them,” Katzenberg said.

Standalone HD DVD players have a bigger slice of the market than Blu-ray players. But when you count Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console, which comes with a Blu-ray drive, there are more Blu-ray players in U.S. homes.

Later: 2 studios bet HD DVD will be a hitpdf

The format battle — which many had assumed was nearly over — could drag on for years, one analyst said.

“We don’t see an early winner in this,” said Jan Saxton of Adams Media Research Inc. in Carmel. “Most people are not aware that the original video format [battle] between Betamax and VHS lasted 10 years.”

Katzenberg and Rob Moore, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution, declined to comment on Internet reports that hefty payments were the motivating factor spurring the two studios.

Also Two Studios to Support HD DVD Over Rival

Later: A Director Sounds Off, but Is Soon Reassured

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More of the Same [1:44 pm]

Firefox blocking to protect ad revenue — nice theory, pernicious meme: Why FireFox Is Blocked

The Mozilla Foundation and its Commercial arm, the Mozilla Corporation, has allowed and endorsed Ad Block Plus, a plug-in that blocks advertisement on web sites and also prevents site owners from blocking people using it. Software that blocks all advertisement is an infringement of the rights of web site owners and developers. Numerous web sites exist in order to provide quality content in exchange for displaying ads. Accessing the content while blocking the ads, therefore would be no less than stealing. Millions of hard working people are being robbed of their time and effort by this type of software. Many site owners therefore install scripts that prevent people using ad blocking software from accessing their site. That is their right as the site owner to insist that the use of their resources accompanies the presence of the ads.

This isn’t going to end well for anyone.

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Testing the Expansiveness of the DMCA [11:53 am]

Coupon Hacker Faces DMCA Lawsuit

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, last month, Coupons Inc. accuses Stottlemire of creating and giving away a program that erases the unique identifier, allowing consumers to repeatedly download and print as many copies of a particular coupon as they want.

The lawsuit also charges Stottlemire with posting tutorials on bargain-swapping sites DealIdeal.com and thecouponqueen.net on how to manually defeat the print limit, which the complaint alleges “would allow users of that software to print an unlimited number of coupons from the coupons.com website.”

Stottlemire, 42, of Fremont, California, insists there was no encryption or hacking involved, and therefore he did not violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “I honestly think there are big problems when you are not allowed to delete files off of your computer,” says Stottlemire.

To be sure, Stottlemire’s work differs from the generic online copyright battles involving movies, music or even literature: He’s accused of liberating something that is already free. But Coupons Inc. argues the coupon hack is no different from cracks like “DVD Jon” Johansen’s program DeCSS.

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The Copyright Culture [11:20 am]

Hey, everybody’s doing it! Many L.A. County residents obtain pirated goods with ease, survey showspdf

Melanie doesn’t think of herself as a pirate.

The 28-year-old South Bay homemaker said she just wanted to listen to a song by country singer Brad Paisley.

But instead of buying the album, she downloaded a bootleg copy from the Internet. A few weeks earlier , she and her husband did the same thing to hear the Boston Pops play a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”

“I can totally afford to buy a CD, but it’s just so convenient,” Melanie said. “Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about it.”

Like Melanie, one in four people in Los Angeles County knowingly bought, copied or downloaded illegal goods in the last year, according to a Gallup Organization survey commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and scheduled to be released today. (One of the 892 survey respondents, Melanie didn’t want to provide her last name because she might get into trouble.)

[...] Justin Hughes, a law professor and piracy expert at Cardozo School of Law in New York, said Los Angeles might have a higher rate of counterfeiting than other cities because of the high volume of goods flowing through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. But, he added, the latest data reflect broad consumer behavior.

“Most Americans do understand copyright and trademark laws, but it’s a bit like speeding laws,” Hughes said. “We know they are there, and they’re a good thing, but we usually find ourselves going five to 10 miles over the speed limit.”

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Cellphone Contracts: Despair, and a Little Hope [10:45 am]

First we get this bit from the WaPo: Cellphone Contracts: Hard to Get off the Hookpdf

Fed up with dropped calls and a string of defective cellphones, Corey Taylor said he became irate when he learned he’d have to pay $175 to get out of his long-term contract with Verizon Wireless. So he resorted to a rather extreme measure. He faked his own death.

After reading on a blog that wireless companies would cancel the contracts of deceased customers, “I thought, ‘What have I got to lose, besides a cellphone I despise?’ ” Taylor said. The Chicago consultant fashioned a fake death certificate and had a friend fax it to Verizon Wireless, his carrier. He thought he was in the clear — until the company caught on.

But, according to this LATimes article, there is hope: A court victory for cell userspdf

Cingular Wireless can’t compel customers to sign away their right to file class-action lawsuits against the company, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

Calling the clause in Cingular’s contract “unconscionable,” the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco paved the way for a consumer class-action suit to go to trial in Los Angeles.

That’s important because disputes with cellphone providers don’t usually involve the kind of big bucks that would tempt lawyers to take up customers’ cases. By banding together, aggrieved consumers have a better hope of getting wireless providers to change disputed practices.

The ruling’s effect also could stretch far beyond Cingular, now owned by San Antonio-based AT&T Inc. and renamed AT&T. Virtually all of the nation’s major credit card firms and phone companies include similar clauses in their contracts, as do car dealers and many retailers.

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OT: Inching Closer to Dream Part [8:21 am]

Ahh, “neutral scent:” Sniff . . . and spendpdf

Stores and product designers devote countless hours and dollars to such matters as the color and shape of a package or the precise arrangement of items in the aisles of a store, the better to coax shoppers to linger, purchase and impulse-buy. Now, scent marketers say, it is time to turn to the nose. “Most marketing — 85% — is visual,” says Harald Vogt, founder and chief marketer of the Scent Marketing Institute in Scarsdale, N.Y. “Scent marketing is the last frontier.”

Already it is a $100-million business, and Vogt predicts it will reach $500 million or even $1 billion within the next seven to eight years.

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Mike Godwin Profiled [8:06 am]

And coping strategies for the online world: Defending Wikipedia’s Impolite Side

BEFORE Mike Godwin became general counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation last month, he was the subject of a Wikipedia article. And years before he was the subject of a Wikipedia article, his most famous insight — Godwin’s Law — had been given the Wikipedia treatment.

Mr. Godwin’s law is simply stated: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

As anyone who has read an unfiltered comment page of a favorite Web site can attest, this neat summation has the advantage of ringing true. But its genial, three-steps-removed attitude toward the rough-and-tumble of Internet debate also seems ideal for this lawyer hopping into the legal thicket that is the Wikipedia project.

His task is to defend an online encyclopedia created by tens of thousands of (often anonymous) contributors who comment freely on living people and businesses, armed with decades of scholarship, no knowledge at all, or something in between. Besides the potential for defamation, there is the question of copyright infringement, among other legal traps.

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