November 13, 2007

Farhad Manjoo On Rowling’s Copyright Claims [7:51 pm]

Two posts in the Machinist blog to ponder:

  • J.K. Rowling’s Crucio curse on fan’s Harry Potter book

    In the past, [J. K.] Rowling has offered high praise for the [Harry Potter Lexicon]. “This is such a great site that I have been known to sneak into an Internet cafe while out writing and check a fact rather than go into a bookshop and buy a copy of Harry Potter (which is embarrassing),” she says on her site. She calls the HPL “a website for the dangerously obsessive; my natural home.”

    Thanks to such acclaim, Vander Ark recently landed a publishing contract with RDR Books to put out a printed version of the online lexicon. His book was to have gone on sale this fall.

    You might suppose that given her appreciation of the online HPL, Rowling would have encouraged the book’s publication and sale. But you’d be wrong. On Halloween, Rowling and Warner Bros., which produces the Potter movies, filed suit to stop Vander Ark and RDR from selling the book. Late last week, RDR agreed to halt publication of Vander Ark’s Potter lexicon pending a federal judge’s review.

  • More on why Rowling has it wrong about the Potter lexicon

    In response to my dig at J.K. Rowling for slapping down a fan’s “Harry Potter” reference book, several of you have asked, What if we copied your Machinist posts and tried to make money off of them? Wouldn’t you get mad?

    [...] So the question: Would I get mad if you did this? Would it upset Salon if you did this?

    I hope all of you know the answer is no. We wouldn’t care if you did this. Knock yourself out.

    Be aware, though, that someone’s already beaten you to punch. Someone comes to Salon every day — many times a day, in fact — and pulls down every word we write, and then stores it to his own hard drive.
    Then he analyzes our words and prepares lists of our articles full of items very much like the one above. Worse, this fellow sells ads alongside these lists, making money — a lot of money! — from my brilliant creations. And he has never given us a single dime in return. Were we to ask him for something, I bet he’d laugh at us.

    Who is this thief? Right, it’s Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google. [...]

Of course, the legality of Google’s strategies remain an open question

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Some Tentative Moves [6:23 pm]

It’s going to be really interesting to see how these restrictions translate — too effective and no one will read; too ineffective and Marvel will take its ball and go home: Marvel to give original comics new life onlinepdf

Marvel is putting some of its older comics online today, hoping to reintroduce young people to the X-Men and Fantastic Four by showcasing the original issues in which such characters appeared.

It’s a tentative move to the Internet: Comics can be viewed only in a Web browser, not downloaded, and new issues will not go online for at least six months after they first appear in print.

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EU Says “Wait” on Google/DoubleClick [6:18 pm]

Google Hits European Hurdle on DoubleClick Deal

European Commission competition authorities refused today to approve Google’s $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick, the Internet advertising company, and ordered an in-depth review amid opposition from rivals, publishers and consumer groups.

The commission, which rules on antitrust issues for the 27 countries in the European Union, said the merger raised competition concerns and required a more thorough review of its impact on the Internet advertising business.

[...] In Brussels, many of the mounting objections filed to the commission in recent weeks centered on privacy issues, rather than questions about how a Google-DoubleClick merger would affect competition. A commission spokesman said that by law the commission inquiry could not make an antitrust decision on anything but the market impact.

Later: Google Hits European Hurdle on DoubleClick Deal

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Yahoo! Suit Settled [6:14 pm]

Yahoo Settles Case Over Chinese Dissident E - Mailspdf

Yahoo Inc has settled a lawsuit alleging it aided Chinas prosecution of several dissidents, in a case that prompted criticism of the company for cooperating with an authoritarian government.

Terms were not disclosed in a joint court filing on Tuesday by attorneys for Wang Xiaoning, Yu Ling, Shi Tao and other unnamed parties and defendants Yahoo and its Chinese
affiliates.

The plaintiffs agreed to withdraw their suit in the U.S. federal court for the Northern District of California after the families of Wang and Shi reached a deal with Yahoo, the Internet company said in a statement.

“Plaintiffs and defendants hereby jointly stipulate to dismissal with prejudice of all claims made in this action, based on a private settlement understanding among the parties,” the court filing stated. Yahoo agreed to cover legal costs.

The suit, advanced by the Washington D.C.-based World Organization for Human Rights USA, maintained that Yahoo had benefited financially by working with Chinese authorities. China is the worlds second-largest Internet market.

The advocacy group said that in settling the case, Yahoo and its co-founder and chief executive, Jerry Yang, had bowed to stinging criticism of the company at a televised congressional hearing held in Washington D.C. on November 6.

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Murdoch Makes It Official [12:48 pm]

The ad-based model completes its ascendancy? Wall St. Journal to End Fee for Web - New York Times

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of the News Corporation, said today that he intended to make access to The Wall Street Journal’s Web site free, trading subscription fees for anticipated ad revenue.

“We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having one million, having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth,” Mr. Murdoch said, referring to The Journal’s online readership.

The News Corporation has signed an agreement to acquire Dow Jones & Company, and the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. A special shareholders meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13 in New York.

Mr. Murdoch said he believed that a free model, with increased readership for wsj.com, will attract “large numbers” of big-spending advertisers.

Later: Murdoch Said to Stress Free Access to Wall St. Journal’s Web Site

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An EU Telecom Initiative Announced [12:22 pm]

The APWire article is a little sketchy: EU pushes for more control over telecomspdf

The European Commission presented plans Tuesday to create a body with the power to separate telecom networks and access providers in order to foster competition and reduce costs for customers.

Going to the EU site, we find these two initiatives:

Digging deeper, there are a host of initiatives. For example: 2007 EU Telecoms Reform #2

A POWERFUL NEW INSTRUMENT

The EU rules give national regulators a flexible toolbox of remedies to tackle market failures. They will give regulators a new instrument, functional separation, for overcoming the main network access bottlenecks in cases where standard remedies have failed. Functional separation would be a good way of combining investment security and the principles of competition.

[infobox]

FUNCTIONAL SEPARATION LEADS TO MORE COMPETITION

Functional separation requires an incumbent operator to separate its network infrastructure from the units
offering services on top of this infrastructure. Although operationally separate business entitities are created, overall ownership will remain unchanged. Functional separation allows network access to both new entrants and the incumbent’s own retail division on the same terms. Incumbents would therefore no longer be able to unfairly discriminate against new entrants. This would fuel competition and at the same time strengthen incentives for the incumbent and for new entrants to invest in networks and services. The United Kingdom has already introduced functional separation, which has in turn allowed for substantial deregulation. Following the announcement of separation, BT’s share price increased. When it began in September 2005, only 105,000 unbundled access lines existed. Since then the number has grown to 3 million. Italy ,Sweden and Poland are also considering introducing it.

The FAQ for the initiative.

Will citizens’ rights to access websites of their choice be guaranteed?

Especially in the United States there has been recently a great amount of discussion regarding the risk that telecoms providers would block access to certain websites for purely commercial reasons. In the EU, the reform will guarantee that your internet service provider must clearly inform you in advance if they impose limitations on accessing certain sites. This information will make it easier for you to decide whether you want to switch to another provider or not. National regulators will also have powers to intervene when the quality of service for transmission (which grants access to online services such as TV, telephony, internet, etc.) could be at risk.

So, that plus functional separation might help to ensure broadband competition — we’ll have to see

Later: some familiar complaints — Broadcasters condemn EU plan to share with phonespdf

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A New Thrust In The Media Consolidation Debate [8:39 am]

The FCC Chairman floats a trial balloon in the NYTimes: The Daily Show

If we don’t act to improve the health of the newspaper industry, we will see newspapers wither and die. Without newspapers, we would be less informed about our communities and have fewer outlets for the expression of independent thinking and a diversity of viewpoints. The challenge is to restore the viability of newspapers while preserving the core values of a diversity of voices and a commitment to localism in the media marketplace.

Eighteen months ago, the Federal Communications Commission began a review, ordered by Congress and the courts, of its media ownership rules. After six public hearings, 10 economic studies and hundreds of thousands of comments, the commission should move forward. The commission should modify only one of the four rules under review — the one that bars ownership of both a newspaper and a broadcast TV or radio station in a single market. And the rule should be modified only for the largest markets.

A company that owns a newspaper in one of the 20 largest cities in the country should be permitted to purchase a broadcast TV or radio station in the same market. But a newspaper should be prohibited from buying one of the top four TV stations in its community. In addition, each part of the combined entity would need to maintain its editorial independence.

Beyond giving newspapers in large markets the chance to buy one local TV or radio station, no other ownership rule would be altered. Other companies would not be allowed to own any more radio or television stations, either in a single market or nationally, than they already do.

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Massaging Numbers, Heading To Court [8:31 am]

Do numbers add up to reregulating cable?pdf

Whether the federal government will once again be able to regulate cable television comes down to a game of numbers.

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to approve a finding, long advocated by consumer groups, showing that cable companies now dominate the pay-TV market because 70% of people with cable lines outside their homes now subscribe.

That figure, placed as a safeguard in a 1984 law deregulating cable services, triggers new powers by the FCC to impose rules ensuring diversity of programming that could lead to lower rates.

[...] But the big cable companies say the FCC shouldn’t get the new power.

Several independent analyses show that cable hasn’t reached the 70% threshold in the face of competition from satellite TV. The cable companies even cite the FCC’s own data from last year that put their penetration at less than 60%.

[...] The high stakes for the cable industry and the FCC mean federal judges probably will be the ultimate arbiters of which numbers are accurate. “The numbers have always been elusive because the government has never tracked cable subscribership. We’ve been trying for ages to figure out how many households have cable service,” said Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal and international affairs at Consumers Union, which supports the FCC’s findings. “All of this will end up being thoroughly litigated.”

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Decrying A Defeatist Attitude [8:25 am]

Strike reveals a future fearedpdf

Whenever a new technology has arrived, Hollywood has seen it as a grave threat to prosperity, whether it was the coming of talkies, the growth of television or the arrival of the VCR, the greatest gravy train of all, which the studios immediately attempted to sue out of existence. The studios didn’t crumble — they reinvented themselves and continued to prosper.

[...] The studios’ problem is that they see the sweeping change represented by the Internet as more of a threat than an opportunity. For all the talk of how the industry needs a titan like Lew Wasserman to mediate the strike, everyone seems to have forgotten that Wasserman’s greatest coups, like buying the Paramount movie library for a song, involved a belief that entertainment would always have future value.

[...] We’ve become an entertainment-obsessed nation, often to a fault. And whatever shape the new entertainment takes, the media giants will find a way to get their share. Money will be made. Thats because Hollywood history has always rewarded the cock-eyed optimist. Every great power broker, from Irving Thalberg to Rupert Murdoch, has been bullish about the future, eager for new worlds to conquer.

If the studios really believe they can’t share a sliver of profits with the people who create what they sell, theyll be the losers. If you dont believe in the future, you shouldnt be in show business.

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