October 13, 2008

Christopher Sprigman and Siva Vaidhyanathan Get a (c) Op-Ed In the WaPo [8:19 am]

Cue ‘Barracuda’ (pdf)

We sympathize — to a point — with artists who object to the use of their songs by political candidates. Artists should speak up, loudly, when they feel the use of their songs misrepresents their views, particularly if such use could create the public impression of an endorsement.

But the one thing they should not do — and should not legally be permitted to do — is file a copyright lawsuit to prevent the political use of a song.

[...] There is an inherent tension between copyright law — which tells us what we cannot say, sing or perform — and the First Amendment, which protects against state censorship. In this case, the First Amendment must win. Rich and varied political speech — no matter how distasteful to recording artists or their fans — must prevail and stay free.

While copyrights should be respected, artists who abuse copyright to attempt to muzzle politicians’ speech are sacrificing the broader interest for their own feelings and agendas. This kind of conduct is not what copyright is about; copyright law exists to help artists get paid, and politicians who pay for a blanket license to use a song in a campaign are doing exactly what the copyright law says they should.

Artists’ copyrights are important, but the vibrancy of our political discourse is absolutely central. [...]

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Some FCC News [8:15 am]

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Speaking of Business Models [7:57 am]

Campaign Articles From Newsweek Become E-Books for Amazon Kindle (pdf)

This week, Newsweek will publish four books, one about each of the major presidential and vice presidential candidates — Senators John McCain, Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, and Gov. Sarah Palin — books that will not appear in print but will be available only as e-books from Amazon.com for download to Amazon’s Kindle device.

The books will contain versions of articles that Newsweek, owned by The Washington Post Company, has already published during the campaign. Turning this kind of collection into books is an old idea; what is new is to do it with such minimal production and distribution costs that even the most limited sales could be profitable.

Amazon says this is probably the first such venture by a publication, but it is not likely to be the last.

I would think so. The larger question is why Sony continues to stumble with their own eBook reader in making these sorts of deals. One would have hoped that they would have finally resolved the content/hardware factionalism that has dominated their moves in these areas, but the fact that other firms continue to outdo them suggests otherwise.

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The Business Model Still Needs Work [7:40 am]

Newspapers’ Web Revenue Is Stalling (pdf)

In the last few years, newspaper companies have been rapidly expanding their Web presence — adding blogs, photo slide shows and podcasts — in the belief that more features would bring more advertisers. But now, after 17 quarters of ballooning growth, online revenue at newspaper sites is falling. In the second quarter, it was down 2.4 percent compared with last year, to $777 million, according to the Newspaper Association of America. It was the only year-over-year drop since the group began measuring online revenue in 2003.

Overall online advertising, however, is strong. Display advertising, the graphics-rich ads that newspaper sites carry, grew 7.6 percent in the second quarter, TNS Media Intelligence reported.

[...] But the advertising glut, particularly in display advertising, on which companies had based their optimistic projections, has shrunk. As newspapers keep adding pages, they are forced to sell ads at cut-rate prices.

Large papers like The Washington Post or The New York Times can sell premium ad space on, for example, a newspaper’s home page, for $15 to $50 for every thousand impressions. But these and other papers of all sizes have increasingly relied on middlemen — known as ad networks — to sell less desirable space, typically for around $1 for every thousand impressions. The networks usually charge advertisers double that or higher, industry insiders said.

While some publishers rely on ad networks, others are devising strategies to avoid them. With networks, “unwittingly, I think, the publishers commoditize their own inventory,” said Paul Iaffaldano, the general manager of the TWC Media Solutions Group, which sells ads for the Weather Channel and Weather.com.

Related? Or the belated recognition of what it’s going to take? Mainstream News Outlets Start Linking to Other Sites (pdf)

See also this argument about the way that news outlets need to work: Couric Rebounds With Web and Palin (pdf)

After years of speculation about whether young (or even middle-aged) viewers will ever again turn on a dinnertime network newscast, Ms. Couric and her producers appear to have made an end run around the network itself. By getting their best programming (or at least excerpts of it) online, they may have seized on a template for the not-so-distant future, tapping into the Web as a neon road sign directing traffic to their network broadcasts and perhaps, eventually, as a destination in itself.

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A Broadband Leader Confronting A Consequence [7:35 am]

Korean Star’s Suicide Reignites Debate on Web Regulation (pdf)

In a monthlong crackdown on online defamation, 900 agents from the government’s Cyber Terror Response Center are scouring blogs and online discussion boards to identify and arrest those who “habitually post slander and instigate cyber bullying.”

Hong Joon-pyo, floor leader of the governing Grand National Party, commented, “Internet space in our country has become the wall of a public toilet.”

In the National Assembly, Ms. Choi’s suicide set the country’s rival parties on a collision course over how to regulate the Web. The governing party is promoting a law to punish online insults; the opposition parties accuse the government of trying to “rule cyberspace with martial law.”

The opposition says that cyberspace violence is already dealt with under existing laws against slander and public insults. But the government says that a tougher, separate law is necessary to punish online abuse, which inflicts quicker and wider damage on victims.

Related: Spinning a Web of Lies at Digital Speed (pdf)

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