The $64 Question

What other clever ideas around these characters have been lost because of Disney’s claim on them, and because of its need for “brand management” through the use of cultural icons? The Line Between Homage and Parody

Yes, Disney made this movie. Creating a hit was the primary goal, but this $50 million film also serves the company’s continuing effort to find clever ways to make its animated icons more accessible. Since Disney doesn’t exactly lay out its playbook, “Enchanted” offers a rare window into the company’s thinking about how one of the world’s most powerful brands is best managed.

When Robert A. Iger took over as chief executive two years ago, one question was how his Disney would approach a portfolio of franchises spanning from the 1920s (Mickey Mouse) to today (Buzz Lightyear). Would he keep the classics in one corner and the new guys in another? Mix everybody up and give Tinker Bell a new hairdo? Or find a way to bridge the gap?

[…] Modifying the classics, much less poking fun at them, has long topped the sacrilegious list at Disney — something that has served the company well. Tight control of its characters has allowed Disney to build a $35.5 billion theme park, consumer products and cable television business on their backs. Cinderella, to put it mildly, is one hard-working woman.

[…] “You have to hand it to Disney for making fun of some of their iconic moments,” said Ms. Sarandon in a television interview.

BUT this is still Disney. The studio nixed scenes that it felt crossed the line into crass. For instance, a run-in between Giselle and a hooker was cut, Mr. Josephson said, and a scene where three poisoned apples magically appear in a toilet was rewritten; they now appear in a soup pot.

And Disney executives, it should be noted, do not necessarily agree with Ms. Sarandon’s word choice. “It’s not a parody and it’s not making fun of anything,” Mr. Cook said. “It’s a giant love letter to Disney classics.”

Catching Up ….

hoover dam and lake mead from the visitor's center

Hi, everyone:

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my in-laws in Las Vegas, a city that I haven’t been to in over 30 years. While I expected that there would be some changes, I was amazed by just how much.

We also took a trip to see Hoover Dam and, again, it’s amazing how much has been changed there — not so much the dam itself (although post-9/11 security does make for its own differences), but the Bureau of Reclamation has put a great deal into making it a quite entertaining tourist attraction, even for those not particularly interested in monumental engineering feats.

Anyway, I’ll be catching up on the news over the next couple of days (and it *is* nearing the end of the term!), so I hope you’ll bear with me.

The picture here gives you a sense of how much the southwest drought has affected the level of Lake Mead

Kevin Martin’s Uphill Battle

F.C.C. Chief Seeks Votes to Tighten Cable Rules

The five-member commission is set to vote on Tuesday on a report, proposed by Kevin J. Martin, the agency’s chairman, that would give the commission expanded powers over the cable industry after making a formal finding that it had grown too big.

After news reports this month that Mr. Martin supported the finding — along with the commission’s two Democrats — the cable industry heavily lobbied the commission and allies in Congress to kill the proposal. Those efforts may be paying off.

BSA In The News

And a hidden cost of using proprietary software is revealed: Software makers’ tactics against piracy questionedpdf

The BSA is well within its rights to wring expensive punishments aimed at stopping the willful, blatant software copying that undoubtedly happens in many businesses. And its leaders say they concentrate on small businesses because that’s where illegitimate use of software is rampant.

But technology managers and software consultants say the picture has more shades of gray. Companies of all sizes say they inadvertently run afoul of licensing rules because of problems the software industry itself has created. Unable or unwilling to create technological blocks against copying, the industry has saddled its customers with complex licensing agreements. In that view, the BSA amasses most of its bounties from small businesses because they have fewer technological, organizational, and legal resources to avoid a run-in.

In Gaertner’s case, some employees had been unable to open files with the firm’s drafting software, so they worked around it by installing programs they found on their own, breaking company rules, he said. And receipts for legitimate software had been lost.

“It was basically just a lack of knowledge and sloppy record-keeping on my part,” said Gaertner, who ended up with a settlement that cost him $40,000.

MoveOn Moves Into Some Really Deep Water

And some interesting questions about roles and expectations: Latest target of MoveOn: Facebookpdf

At issue is Facebook’s new advertising program that lets its members notify friends about movies they rent, items they auction and movie tickets they buy at partner sites elsewhere on the Web.

Facebook allows its members to opt out of the ad system, called Beacon. But MoveOn.org contends the program violates users’ privacy by requiring them to opt out rather than voluntarily opt in. “The sole reason for this new feature is to serve corporate advertisers and make it easier for them to micro-target Facebook users with ads,” MoveOn .org spokesman Adam Green said. “Breaching privacy is against the type of community Facebook should be striving for.”

MoveOn.org is buying ads, organizing a “protest group” and circulating an online petition to pressure Facebook to allow its more than 55 million users to change its opt-out method.

[…] Not everyone agrees. Longtime MoveOn.org member and online advertising network executive Scott Rafer is so enraged, he’s moving on from MoveOn.

“If they wish to go after consumer privacy rights legislation, then fine,” he said. “When they are trying to get a bunch of people together to stage a sit-in at a for-profit start-up in Palo Alto, then give me a break, get me off your e-mail list. Even if this does turn out to be the right cause, it’s the wrong organization.”

See also Anita Ramasastry’s first pass at Facebook’s “Fan – sumers”: Do Social Ads Violate Users’ Privacy?

A Horror Story

When *adults* play with matches: How to punish a cyber-bullypdf

Megan fell apart. She went to her room, tied a cloth belt around a support beam in her closet and hanged herself.

Perhaps the only shock that could rival Megan’s death was the news (given to her parents by a neighbor) that Josh had never existed — he had been created by adults who lived nearby. These neighbors, supposed friends of the Meier family, had apparently laid the trap in retaliation for Megan’s treatment of their own daughter, the girl who had created the secret MySpace page with Megan.

[…] There are many disturbing aspects of this story, but two are of particular concern to a lawyer. First, Tina and Ron Meier were told that they had no clear legal recourse — either criminal or civil. It is not a crime to be cruel and immature. […]

[…] A second disturbing aspect of the case is that the alleged culprits did not even face public scrutiny or stigma for their actions. The local newspaper refused to publish the name of the family responsible for the e-mails out of consideration, it said, for their young daughter. Other news outlets, such as Fox and CNN, followed suit, running stories that also withheld the names. In other words, simply because they had a child, the alleged perpetrators were given the benefit of anonymity.

[…] This week — more than a year after Megan Meier’s death — the names of the neighbors were finally disclosed in published accounts. The disclosure was largely the result of pressure from bloggers, who do not feel bound by the rules of mainstream newspapers and networks and who have been meting out their own form of Internet justice. The neighbors are Lori and Curt Drew, according to news reports.

The Drews’ daughter was certainly dealt a bad hand by her parents. However, the media puts itself on a slippery slope when it starts to protect accused wrongdoers on behalf of their progeny, offering a free pass for alleged predators who procreate.

It seems clear that the Drews did not want to kill Megan or even hurt her physically. They are not the first to be grotesquely transformed by a new technology that offers easy availability and anonymity to its users. Yet, if cyber-traps are to be deterred, there must be avenues to guarantee both forms of private relief and public record.

Megan never knew the true identity of those who trapped her, but the people of Dardenne Prairie have a right to know.

Related — a letter from the subject of an earlier article on the “scrubbing” of John Dillinger’s reputation via litigation over the “rights of publicity” — pdf:

My purpose in granting interviews is to bring attention to the fact that John Dillinger never killed anyone. Those individuals who take the position that he did, and who then try to prosper from it, are likely to find themselves facing litigation.

[…] Please don’t interpret this to mean I am upset with the writer of the article. She is an accomplished professional and did what she felt was necessary to provide both sides of an issue. Unfortunately, I felt I was placed in an unflattering light and appeared to be someone who was unreasonable and quick to resort to litigation. I always try to reason with individuals and explain both my position and the law before resorting to legal action. Lastly, I only resort to litigation when individuals refuse to stop calling John a murderer and/or to take corrective measures to clear up the harm they have caused. Thank you for your time.

I’m sure the Drews feel the same way

Later: The Boston Globe picks up another LATimes’ article (pdf): Girl’s suicide after online chats leaves a town in shockpdf

Second Thoughts

Pay Me for My Content

INTERNET idealists like me have long had an easy answer for creative types — like the striking screenwriters in Hollywood — who feel threatened by the unremunerative nature of our new Eden: stop whining and figure out how to join the party!

That’s the line I spouted when I was part of the birthing celebrations for the Web. I even wrote a manifesto titled “Piracy Is Your Friend.” But I was wrong. We were all wrong.

[…] To help writers and artists earn a living online, software engineers and Internet evangelists need to exercise the power they hold as designers. Information is free on the Internet because we created the system to be that way.

[…] Affordable turns out to be much harder than free when it comes to information technology, but we are smart enough to figure it out. We owe it to ourselves and to our creative friends to acknowledge the negative results of our old idealism. We need to grow up.

“Signature” Song?

Seriously — Red Hot Chili Peppers Sue Showtimepdf

Members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers have sued Showtime Networks and others over the new television show called “Californication,” the same name used by the band for their Grammy-nominated 1999 album.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today (Nov. 19), sets out claims under federal trademark law and state unfair competition law. The complaint alleges that the composition entitled “Californication” and the album achieved “extraordinary critical and commercial recognition.”

“‘Californication’ is the signature CD, video and song of the band’s career,” band frontman Anthony Kiedis said in a statement. “For some TV show to come along and steal our identity is not right.”

Later: the complaint [via TMZ]

Internet Obsession

In Korea, a Boot Camp Cure for Web Obsession

Compulsive Internet use has been identified as a mental health issue in other countries, including the United States. However, it may be a particularly acute problem in South Korea because of the country’s nearly universal Internet access.

It has become a national issue here in recent years, as users started dropping dead from exhaustion after playing online games for days on end. A growing number of students have skipped school to stay online, shockingly self-destructive behavior in this intensely competitive society.

Up to 30 percent of South Koreans under 18, or about 2.4 million people, are at risk of Internet addiction, said Ahn Dong-hyun, a child psychiatrist at Hanyang University in Seoul who just completed a three-year government-financed survey of the problem.

They spend at least two hours a day online, usually playing games or chatting. Of those, up to a quarter million probably show signs of actual addiction, like an inability to stop themselves from using computers, rising levels of tolerance that drive them to seek ever longer sessions online, and withdrawal symptoms like anger and craving when prevented from logging on.

To address the problem, the government has built a network of 140 Internet-addiction counseling centers, in addition to treatment programs at almost 100 hospitals and, most recently, the Internet Rescue camp, which started this summer. Researchers have developed a checklist for diagnosing the addiction and determining its severity, the K-Scale. (The K is for Korea.)

In September, South Korea held the first international symposium on Internet addiction.

Somehow, I’m not convinced that the problem lies with the network….

Living in a Surveillance Society (II)

The Picture Of Conformitypdf

All this surveillance, monitoring and eavesdropping is changing our culture, affecting people’s behavior, altering their sense of freedom, of autonomy. That’s what the experts say: that surveillance robs people of their public anonymity. And they go even further, saying that pressure for conformity is endemic in a surveillance culture; that creativity and uniqueness become its casualties.

While there are benefits to surveillance — the sense of security, the ability to view crime scenes — the loss of autonomy represents the downside of our surveillance-heavy culture, says Jeffrey Rosen, a George Washington University law professor and author of “The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age.”

“You need a sphere of immunity from surveillance to be yourself and do things that people in a free society take for granted,” says Rosen. Things like going to the park or to the market. The loss of such autonomy is one of the “amorphous costs of having a world where there’s no immunity from surveillance.

“This will transform the nature of public spaces in ways we could hardly imagine,” he says. “People obviously behave differently when they’re unsure about whether they’re being observed. We know this from personal experience.

“I’m not at all suggesting that Orwell’s ‘1984’ is around the corner,” he continues. “But things will change, and some of the changes will be good and others will be bad.”

[…] In fact, we can be watched and tracked from so many different angles in so many different ways that hints of the Panopticon are hard to ignore. That was the invention of the 18th century British economist Jeremy Bentham, who conceived of the Panopticon as a circular prison in which warders could see prisoners at all times.

The Panopticon would create in the inmate a sense of “conscious and permanent visibility,” and yet he “must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so,” wrote philosopher Michel Foucault in his 1975 book, “Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison.”

Today, says [Harvard social psychologist Shoshana] Zuboff, we operate within an “information Panopticon.”

“In our modern dematerialized world, you don’t have to build a building to have permanent surveillance over individuals and their behavior,” she says. “You can do it with an information system.”