October 29, 2008

Hmmm - Really? [5:07 pm]

Judge lectures RIAA on their ethics or lack thereof

In what may be news to RIAA lawyers, a federal judge has admonished the lawyers that they have ethical obligations. According to the transcript (PDF) of a motion hearing in a huge consolidated RIAA case provided to Ray Beckerman of Recording Industry v. the People, Judge Nancy Gertner said:

Counsel representing the record companies have an ethical obligation to fully understand that they are fighting people without lawyers… to understand that the formalities of this are basically bankrupting people, and it’s terribly critical that you stop it …

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Is It Really Possible? [8:09 am]

Sony is starting to get it? LittleBigPlanet - A Game for the PlayStation 3 With a Tawdry Look but Virtually Endless Possibilities (pdf)

[...] No matter: LittleBigPlanet is an infectiously endearing gem of high-definition entertainment, and one of the best indications of where mass media is headed.

[...] In basic story mode, the game shouldn’t take more than 8 or 10 hours, depending on your dexterity. But its dirty, wonderful element is that the scenarios provided by other players are actually much more fun than the polished levels from Media Molecule, the game’s developer.

[...] Frankly, I felt a little guilty at first for thinking LittleBigPlanet’s level-editing tools were cooler than the game itself. But then I realized that putting the power to make and share myriad visions — a haunted castle, a rocket race, a journey through the human body — is so much more interesting than celebrating one particular creation.

Of course, as with any such tool, even one as simple as a pencil, the mere fact that anyone can use it does not a genius make. It takes hours of effort and deep thought to assemble anything that other people find entertaining. [...]

You can then share your progeny through the PS3’s Internet connection. Sony has made it easy and intuitive on screen to find what other people have made, whether that is a fanciful Super Mario Bros. re-creation or a journey through someone’s sock drawer.

None of the major companies that make game systems — Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo — has been known to embrace user-created content. Instead all three have been overcontrolling and paranoid. That it is Sony that has opened the avenues of creativity is no small shock. I haven’t hesitated to call out Sony’s missteps. Sir Howard, this time your people got it right.

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More on Musicians, Politics and Copyright [7:57 am]

Some music lacks stump of approval (pdf)

Bon Jovi is among a growing number of artists - John Mellencamp, Heart, Foo Fighters, Jackson Browne, songwriter Gretchen Peters - who have voiced their dismay during this presidential campaign over the use of their music. Many, like Bon Jovi, have released statements admonishing the campaigns for using their music without permission.

But in most of these instances, no approval from the artist, record label, or publishing company was required.

At public rallies, candidates are free to play any song they might have in their collection. “If John McCain buys a CD, he can play that CD on a boombox at his event,” said David Herlihy, professor of music industry at Northeastern University and a Boston-based entertainment lawyer.

[...] With no legal recourse, some artists are choosing to protest with their pocketbooks.

Acknowledging that the McCain-Palin campaign was within its legal rights to use the song, “Barracuda” co-writer Roger Fisher chose to put his money to work for his candidate. “I’m going to give my royalties to the Obama campaign,” said the former Heart guitarist. “So now anytime they play the song, they’re supporting [Barack] Obama.”

Gretchen Peters, writer of the Martina McBride hit “Independence Day,” which was used by the Palin campaign, is donating her royalty check for the entire quarter to Planned Parenthood.

“I don’t think Sarah Palin is setting the cause of women and women’s rights anything but backward several decades,” Peters said. “I would have liked to have said stop, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to say stop. In lieu of doing that, I made something positive happen.”

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The CSM Goes All In [7:47 am]

Christian Science Paper to End Daily Print Edition (pdf)

After a century of continuous publication, The Christian Science Monitor will abandon its weekday print edition and appear online only, its publisher announced Tuesday. The cost-cutting measure makes The Monitor the first national newspaper to largely give up on print.

As an unreconstructed reader of newspapers in their physical form (notwithstanding this blog), this looks like a dangerous move. RSS reader/consolidators are nice and all, but the information access model is simply not the same as the one that I use when I read an actual paper. There’s room for a lot of improvement in the tools for online access, and it seems to me that this is where the print media in general should be looking — not just gambling that clickstream revenue is going to shore up their businesses.

<rant>
And let me also point out that newspapers are also probably mistakenly laying all of their woes at the feet of the Internet.

For example, I used to get The Boston Globe delivered to my house daily. It would arrive before 6AM, in time for me to grab it on the way to work. Then, roughly a year ago, it would, on occasion, arrive later in the morning — after I had left my home.

Moreover, despite the Internet-based subscriber services tools, I started coming home from business trips to piles of papers on my door step, saved from the untoward attentions of house thieves only by the intervention of the local US Postal Service, whose deliveryperson helpfully shoved most of them through the door slot with the mail.

Finally, I gave up and, though I wanted papers delivered on the weekends only, found that my only options were (a) daily, (b) Thursday through Sunday, or (c) Sunday only subscriptions. So, I went to Sunday only — and have never gotten a single inquiry from The Globe about my reasons for the change.

Because of the change in my subscription, I buy the Globe from their machines around town. Except that, increasingly, the boxes are not filled with the daily paper until AFTER 7AM — by which time I am already at my desk.

So, it seems to me that the newspaper business has more to work on than just figuring out how to make money online. Cost cutting has clearly led to the outsourcing of delivery to cheap hacks, and their inconsistency is undermining one of the key plusses of physical delivery.
<\rant>

Also Delivering the news without the paper (pdf); Christian Science Monitor to discontinue daily print edition (pdf); Monitor to End Its Daily Print Edition (pdf)

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Google Settles; Now The Fights Really Begin [7:20 am]

After all, this is quite an imposing barrier to entry: Google Settles Suit Over Book-Scanning (pdf)

Settling a legal battle, Google reached an agreement with book publishers and authors that clears the way for both sides to more easily profit from digital versions of printed books.

The agreement, under which Google would pay $125 million to settle two copyright lawsuits over its book-scanning efforts, would allow it to make millions of out-of-print books available for reading and purchasing online.

It outlines the framework for a new system that will channel payments from book sales, advertising revenue and other fees to authors and publishers, with Google collecting a cut.

The deal goes some way toward drawing a road map for a possible digital future for publishers and authors, who worried that they were losing control over how their works were used online, as the music industry has.

Also Google search starts new chapter with $125m deal (pdf); Google Settles Publishers’ Lawsuit Over Book Offerings (pdf)

From the LATimes article, Google settles copyright dispute with publishers and authors (pdf)

Of the $125-million payment, $34.5 million would be used to form a registry to store copyright information and arrange payments. Google also would pay about $60 per copyright holder for copyrighted books it has already scanned and would give 63% of all money from sales, subscription and advertising revenue to copyright holders.

“What this agreement does is, it provides a model for us to work together,” said Macmillan Chief Executive John Sargent.

The deal would give Google, which has scanned more than 7 million titles, more Web content to help pump up a book search business that has yet to gain momentum. Yet it has little competition: Microsoft Corp. ended a similar books search program in May, essentially ceding the business to Google.

Google has carved out a lucrative business selling advertising alongside digital content and splits the revenue with partners rather than selling access to the content.

Selling access to content is one of the new ways the company is exploring to make money, said Adam Smith, a Google director of product management.

David Carr also has a column: Mourning Old Media’s Decline (pdf)

For readers, the drastic diminishment of print raises an obvious question: if more people are reading newspapers and magazines, why should we care whether they are printed on paper?

The answer is that paper is not just how news is delivered; it is how it is paid for.

More than 90 percent of the newspaper industry’s revenue still derives from the print product, a legacy technology that attracts fewer consumers and advertisers every single day. A single newspaper ad might cost many thousands of dollars while an online ad might only bring in $20 for each 1,000 customers who see it.

The difference between print dollars and digital dimes — or sometimes pennies — is being taken out of the newsrooms that supply both. And while it is indeed tough all over in this economy, consider the consequences.

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