Dispatches from the DVD Format Frontlines

Battle rages for HD movie supremacypdf

Kushmerek, 39, a senior technical trainer at The MathWorks in Natick, said he wants no part of the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray battle until the industry settles on a unified standard used by all studios because the losing systems will “ultimately turn into glorified door stops.”

Kushmerek has lots of company. Research firm Adams Media Research Inc. of Carmel, Calif., says 35 percent of US households will have an HDTV set by the end of 2007, up from 28.6 percent last year. But a survey from Forrester Research in Cambridge found that less than 10 percent of people with HDTV sets have a high-definition video player. […]

[…] “This has been a very, very ugly market,” said Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder. He thinks the ugliness will continue for some time, because neither camp has much interest in compromise.

Studs Terkel on Wiretaps

The Wiretap This Time

EARLIER this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the White House agreed to allow the executive branch to conduct dragnet interceptions of the electronic communications of people in the United States. They also agreed to “immunize” American telephone companies from lawsuits charging that after 9/11 some companies collaborated with the government to violate the Constitution and existing federal law. I am a plaintiff in one of those lawsuits, and I hope Congress thinks carefully before denying me, and millions of other Americans, our day in court.

During my lifetime, there has been a sea change in the way that politically active Americans view their relationship with government. […]

I have observed and written about American life for some time. In truth, nothing much surprises me anymore. But I always feel uplifted by this: Given the facts and an opportunity to act, the body politic generally does the right thing. By revealing the truth in a public forum, the American people will have the facts to play their historic, heroic role in putting our nation back on the path toward freedom. That is why we deserve our day in court.

See also The Information Highway Patrol

Fighting Over Distribution

Apple in a Fight for Rights to TV Shows – washingtonpost.compdf

Apple’s Steve Jobs helped save a sinking music industry, with his iPod and iTunes digital music store. Struggling record labels swallowed hard and accepted his 99-cents-per-song pricing because they had little choice.

When it comes to video content, however — hit television shows such as “Heroes” and “The Office,” and movies — Jobs’s bargaining position isn’t as strong. For the second time in a year, he is getting significant resistance from a content creator that would rather turn its back on the mighty iPod than capitulate to Jobs’s pricing demands.

And now, some music companies are starting to reexamine their relationships with Apple.

[…] Perhaps more important is the issue of distribution. Television companies don’t need Apple as much as music companies did.

[…] Who has more to lose in the fight?

“I don’t see video as the driving force behind iPod sales,” Adam C. Engst, publisher of Apple news Web site Tidbits.com, wrote in an e-mail. “Music is why people buy iPods, and that won’t be changing any time soon — you can’t watch TV while jogging or driving.”

Bajarin called NBC’s move “a mistake.”

But NBC Universal spokesman Cory Shields said his company’s programs help drive the sales of iPods.

“The iPod is only as good as the content on it,” he said.

Yeah — but haven’t we already seen that the problem is not getting hold of content, but getting it in such a way as the copyright owners get paid? The iTunes innovation is far more about creating a distribution channel that at least deflects some of that motivation for infringement. Complicating distribution or, worse, playing games with excessively complex pricing doesn’t seem like a formula for success.

But, maybe media companies are no different from children — they’re just going to have to get burned to learn the lesson not to play with fire. You just have to hope they don’t burn down the house learning the lesson.

‘Red-band’ Film Trailers

‘Red-band’ Web trailers show all the nasty bitspdf

[I]ncreasingly, more uncensored versions, referred to as “red-band” trailers, are popping up on the Internet, with studios using them as a marketing tool to reach older audiences not as likely to be offended by super-violence, sex or use of the “F” word. In the process, the more provocative trailers allow them to telegraph to moviegoers the edgier content of their films.

“It is the only way to give the target audience a true sampling of what the film is all about,” said Adam Fogelson, president of marketing and distribution at Universal Pictures. He noted that with red-band trailers, audiences can more accurately judge for themselves the content of adult-oriented, R-rated comedies such as producer-director Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” which became big hits.

“Those films were made to be R-rated,” Fogelson said. “They didn’t accidentally slip into an R-rating. . . . I think Judd’s audience has come to expect they can find a true representation of the film online.”

But Fogelson said the studios have been having a difficult time persuading theater owners, who still prefer the sanitized versions, to run the red-band trailers.

An Amazing Assertion

Should ISPs take cue from post office?pdf

The post office forwards letters when a person moves, and telephone companies likewise forward calls. Should Internet companies be required to forward e-mails to customers who switch providers?

There is no mandate governing e-mail forwarding, and industry officials say imposing one would be costly and unnecessary. […]

“Costly?” An entry in the mail server database? It’s not like it’s about spam — I don’t think junk mail gets forwarded by the Post Office, so it seems like spam filtering before forwarding should be perfectly reasonable.

The petition; the FCC notice

Also note that Declan disagrees: FCC asked to mandate ‘e-mail address portability’

OT: MIT Marks The Start of the World Series

With a little light art using the Green Building. I got to hang out with several folks trying to get a workable shot from next to Walker (hope you got some good ones, Ramya!) [Set your browser window width just right and cross your eyes for a 3D look at the scene.]

MIT's Green Building Showing Its ColorsMIT's Green Building Showing Its Colors

Maybe it’s me, but I think the anti-aliaising effect might have been more effective when viewed from the other side of the river.

A Little Plagiarism-Copyright Primer

Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious is unoriginal, but it’s not plagiarism

Many people equate plagiarism with copyright infringement, yet these are different issues. Copyright is a technical, legal issue. It’s about ownership of work—whether written, musical, sculptural, or otherwise. If you copy this article, or a substantial portion of it, without permission, and you sell those copies (stop laughing), you’ve violated copyright laws. The same applies to audio, video, and other media. However, plenty of works are not protected by the copyright laws, such as the works of Herman Melville. Nothing published before 1923 is protected. Go ahead, make copies.

While Melville’s work may not be protected by copyright laws, it is entirely possible to plagiarize it. Just try to pass off Moby-Dick as your own and see what happens. Plagiarism isn’t about copyrights, it’s about dishonesty. It’s about pretending someone else’s ideas and work are your own, even if those ideas are paraphrased. (If you paraphrase, you’re no longer committing a copyright violation because copyright protection is about the form of expression, not the idea itself.) Plagiarism can’t exist, however, if you acknowledge your sources: As long as you say where you got your ideas from, it’s just called research. Moreover, it’s impossible to plagiarize common knowledge: You can’t steal the idea that the sky is blue, because everybody already knows that.

[…] Copyright protection is weak when it comes to recipes. The U.S. Copyright Office states, “Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds or prescriptions, are not subject to copyright protection.” Explanatory notes—like the paragraph before the recipe where the author reminisces about dinners on the family farm—are protected, but the recipe itself is not. That’s why Colonel Sanders has had to work so hard to keep his recipes a secret.

Plagiarism is another story, though. […]

The (R)Evolution Continues

Radiohead Said to Shun Major Labels in Next Deal

Radiohead, the British rock band that is regarded as the pre-eminent free agent in the global music business, is close to signing a series of deals to release its next album independently and leave the major record companies behind.

The band, which stunned the industry this month when it let fans set their own price for the digital download of its new album, is close to a deal to release the CD version of the album domestically through a pact with the music complex headed by Coran Capshaw, the impresario best known for guiding the career of the Dave Matthews Band.

OINK.CD Shutdown

Music piracy Web site closed after UK, Dutch raidspdf

British and Dutch police shut down one of the world’s largest sources of illegal pre-release music on Tuesday and arrested a 24-year-old man.

The raids in Amsterdam and the northeast English city of Middlesbrough followed a two-year investigation into a members-only Web site, www.OiNK.cd, which allowed users to upload and download albums before their release.

[…] British police said they arrested the 24-year-old on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and infringement of copyright law. Dutch police seized servers and other computer equipment.

Judiciary Showing Some Spine? Or Just Bellying Up To The Trough?

Senators Say White House Cut Deal With Panel on FISApdf

Senate Judiciary Committee members yesterday angrily accused the White House of allowing the Senate Intelligence Committee to review documents on its warrantless surveillance program in return for agreeing that telecommunications companies should get immunity from lawsuits.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican, said any such agreement would be “unacceptable,” signaling that legislation granting immunity to certain telecom carriers could run into trouble. Leahy and Specter demanded that the documents, which were provided only to the Intelligence Committee, be turned over to the Judiciary Committee as well.

Sorry — until this becomes a public debate, I don’t see how this posturing by Judiciary makes much of a difference. I want to know what my government is doing.

For example, imagine what “amnesty” would have done in cases like this one (assuming, of course, that we can trust the testimony given now): Papers Contradict Nacchio’s Defensepdf

The contract, valued at more than $2 billion and known as “Groundbreaker,” amounted to one of the most tantalizing aspects of Nacchio’s criminal defense. In essence, he argued that despite warning signals about waning demand for telecommunications services in 2001, he remained optimistic that Qwest would pick up millions of dollars in secret government contracts.

Those hopes were dashed, Nacchio contended, after he questioned the legality of an U.S. government plan in a February 2001 NSA meeting, he said in court papers.

Nacchio’s claims attracted substantial attention among privacy advocates and lawmakers as part of renewed debate over the boundaries of government eavesdropping and the possible financial liability of telecom companies that have been sued for their roles in the operations.

Arguments underlying Nacchio’s defense, with portions blacked out for security reasons, came into view this month. But the government responses only began to become public late yesterday.

“Qwest was not ‘left off’ the list of subcontractors for the Groundbreaker project,” prosecutors wrote.