September 18, 2007

The Shoe Drops (updated) [12:40 pm]

The Times has come to see that being the authority is worth more to them than the TimesSelect subscription revenue: Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site

The Times said the project had met expectations, drawing 227,000 paying subscribers — out of 787,000 over all — and generating about $10 million a year in revenue.

“But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site, NYTimes.com.

And others get ideas: Murdoch makes case for free WSJ onlinepdf

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Spin, Spin, Spin [12:37 pm]

And I call bullsh*t! — Microsoft Ruling May Bode Ill for Other Companies

“This ruling is certainly going to introduce a lot of uncertainty,” said Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, a Washington-based group that supported Microsoft in its legal case in Europe. “What the court is basically saying is that if you develop a successful product and get too big, the European Commission is going to force you to give away your intellectual property.”

Or maybe it’s going to convince companies that illegal use of monopoly power carries consequences, hmmm?

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SpiralFrog [5:51 am]

SpiralFrog offers free songs — with a catchpdf

In one of the bolder experiments to date, SpiralFrog.com, a service scheduled to open today, will let Web surfers download songs by U2, Timbaland, Amy Winehouse and other Universal Music Group artists free.

The catch: Consumers have to wait 90 seconds for each track to download, and they must answer questions each month about their buying habits.

In addition, the songs can’t be played on iPods or burned onto CDs as they can with 99-cent downloads from the dominant online music store, Apple Inc.’s iTunes.

[...] Although Universal and the other labels declined to discuss SpiralFrog on the record, executives at two labels said they had serious doubts about the company’s prospects. The executives said Universal and the others were interested in cutting a range of digital deals in hopes that some would pan out.

Hmm - sounds like more than one catch, as well as a potentially stupid feud between Apple and Universal.

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Kembrew McLeod on DMCA Abuse: Uri Geller [5:43 am]

Uri Geller’s YouTube takedownpdf

Those of us who grew up in the 1970s probably remember a popular psychic named Uri Geller, who was always on TV back then, bending spoons with his brain, correctly guessing the content of people’s doodles and generally blowing the audience’s mind. But who could have guessed that his powers would eventually warp free speech and copyright law in the 21st century?

[...] Using the DMCA, aggressive litigants like Geller and such copyright-hoarding companies as Viacom and Disney can simply make your work disappear if they do not like what you have to say, something that was much more difficult in the pre-digital world.

[...] These “copy fights” are first and foremost a free-speech issue. Sadly, many intellectual-property owners and lawyers see it purely as an economic concern. Another problem is that websites often faint at the sound of threatening language in legal nastygrams. It’s safer to cave to spurious demands than risk lawsuits from brand-name bullies or obsessives such as Geller.

If YouTube is our new public sphere, we are in trouble, at least when it comes to free speech. YouTube’s parent company, Google, is more concerned with its bottom line than anything else, whether it’s copyright censorship in the U.S. or political censorship in China.

But all is not hopeless. The DMCA contains a legal tool for resisting unreasonable copyright claims — the “counter-notice.” [...]

[...] As our culture increasingly becomes fenced off, it’s all the more important for us to be able to comment publicly on the images, ideas and words that saturate us on a daily basis without worrying about an expensive, if meritless, lawsuit. If we don’t defend ourselves, we’ll be complicit in letting our freedom erode. By standing up for fair use and against overreaching copyright claims, we can create havens for expression in the age of intellectual property.

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