2003 March 13

(entry last updated: 2003-03-13 17:56:51)

  • The Farechase case has hit Slashdot, so it’s important that you go directly to the source, Denise Howell’s postings, since it’s her firm that’s representing Farechase. She’s got all the relevant links.

  • Larry reports that, according to an editorial in the current Forbes, he has at least one prominent Republican supporter for the Eldred Act.

  • Arnold Kling’s comments on World of Ends are worth a look.

    Of his five respondent points, I really am only worried about “Intermediaries add value.” I think a more correct assertion is that “Intermediaries may add value;” but markets should be allowed to reveal whether consumers want what the intermediaries added – and consumers should be given appropriate opportunities to disintermediate. Without that guarantee, it may very well be that then Arnold’s 5th point would be wrong – such markets could indeed be quite exploitative.

    For example, consider this report on Office 2003 XML from Internet News (via Slashdot where violations of Kling’s rule 4 “Bashing Microsoft does not make you smart.” transpire daily [hourly? picosecondly?]). The article doesn’t reconcile the question it raises, but it clearly demonstrates that people do worry about how intermediaries might act to control, and why efficiency would suggest that alternatives ought to be allowed to develop (and what if an XML schema is declared IP?).

  • (Via Derek) – this outline is pretty good now, but should be great when the hyperlinks are added – OOPS! – they are there, just oddly formatted so you have to work at it.

  • Woo-hoo! $12.60 is coming my way in the CD price fixing settlement!

    Music buyers who applied for a share of a price-fixing settlement involving major U.S. record labels and retailers will receive about $12.60 apiece if a judge signs off on the deal.

    Roughly 3.5 million U.S. residents who purchased music between 1995 and 2000 registered for claims by the March 5 deadline, said Maine Assistant Attorney General John Brautigam.

  • See the faces behind some of the “blawgs” in this ABA Journal piece. Now I know how to recognize Denise!

  • KaZaA is being investigated for more than P2P distribution of MP3s; porn is also on the agenda, according to CNet’s Declan McCullagh. Live committee broadcast, Full Committee hearing on “Stumbling onto Smut: The Alarming Ease of Access to Pornography on Peer-to-Peer Networks”

  • Natalie Merchant’s decided to “step off the pop treadmill.” A very interesting look at record making outside the traditional boundaries.

    Ms. Merchant paid for recording and packaging “The House Carpenter’s Daughter,” including the $3.50 manufacturing cost of an elaborate box for the first 30,000 copies. (The CD will sell for $16.95.) The special package “was printed in America for three times the price in Hong Kong,” Ms. Merchant said.

    …Even so, “The House Carpenter’s Daughter” needs to sell only 50,000 copies to break even, less than 15 percent of what “Motherland,” her last album for Elektra, sold.

    “We’re not trying to recoup some enormous debt,” Mr. Smith said. “The economics of making this record are very prudent. When we sell 200,000 copies, we’ll be standing on our chairs, hollering. If we released this record with these kinds of goals on a major label, we would look like a failure. At Elektra, if you just sell 1.5 million, everyone goes around with their heads down.”

    More importantly, does Internet distribution/promotion mean that you don’t need the record companies – at least, if you’ve already “made it?”

    “For those already through the door, doing it on your own is incredibly viable,” said Jay Rosenthal, a music-business lawyer who represents the Recording Artists’ Coalition. “It’s going to be very attractive, and it’s going to be a viable alternative even for bands who are doing well. The only reason to go to the major labels is to get your songs on the radio, to go for the promo money. If you don’t need to get on the radio, and you’ve got a name, go out there and go for yourself. If there’s any moment that artists should do it, it’s now, before things get worse.”

    … They expect fans to learn about the album from Ms. Merchant’s Web site and through publicity and a small advertising campaign. To gauge demand, they may offer fans who order the CD in advance a downloadable file of a song from the sessions that is not included on the album. In an increasingly consolidated retail business, a handful of chain stores, like Borders and Barnes & Noble, have accounted for a large percentage of Ms. Merchant’s sales in the past; now her label is approaching them directly.

    So, the question becomes will a recording contract be a necessary stepping stone to the nirvana described here – i.e., all artists must endure a period of indentured servitude? Or can mechanisms develop that don’t yield the pitfalls of Kling’s Content is crap manifesto?

  • A reader (thanks, George!) sends a BBC link that points out that, while the US’ cellphones can’t get much in the way of music (see below), those in Europe have some real options (as noted in this Register article from the 11th) for their MP3-capable cellphones.

  • The NYTimes has an article on the new CD formats (SACD [FAQ] and DVD-Audio [rec.video.dvd FAQ]) that are trying to (a) recapture market and (b) block copying. Note that many audiophile magazines have noted in the past that, while the players designed to use these new formats do yield dramatically better sound, they also tend to do worse than conventional CD players when it comes to playback of traditional format CDs. I don’t know if that’s changed, but it’s certainly slowing me down….

    That audience is more inclined to embrace new hardware, which for both SACD and DVD-Audio is typically a DVD player with an additional chipset and six outputs for surround sound, or in many cases, a specially designed “home theater in a box” system. What the industry gets in return, besides the consumer’s money, is the peace of mind that comes with the latest in digital content security: most experts agree that neither format’s content will be pirated anytime soon.

    Derek asks the right questions in his weblog.

  • More on major league baseball’s internet webcasting plans

    About 1,000 major league baseball games will be broadcast on the Internet this season, though live feeds of hometown teams will be “blacked out” locally to preserve lucrative television rights.

    … To block hometown games, baseball will use so-called geolocation technology from Quova Inc., which matches computers’ unique Internet addresses to cities or ZIP codes.

    But the system is not perfect. America Online subscribers, for instance, will often appear to be coming from the company’s Virginia headquarters, regardless of actual location.

    … Anyone caught intentionally circumventing the system will be banned and fined $100, automatically charged to their credit cards, Bowman said.

    Slashdot discussion: Major League Baseball Releases Webcasting Plans

  • Here we go: in Analysis: Germany’s copyright levy, we find that:

    Based on the recommendation of its patent office and following fierce lobbying by VG Wort, an association of German composers, authors and publishers, Germany is poised to enforce a 3-year-old law and impose a copyright levy of $13 plus 16 percent in value added tax per new computer sold in the country.

    The money will be used to reimburse copyright holders — artists, performers, recording companies, publishers and movie studios — for unauthorized copying thought to weigh adversely on sales.

    … Nor is Germany alone in this attempt to ameliorate the pernicious effects of piracy by taxing the hardware used to effect it.

    The European Union’s Directive on the Harmonization of Certain Aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society (background, summary page), passed in 2001, is strenuous, though not prescriptive. It demands that member states ensure “fair compensation” to copyright holders for copies made by means of digital equipment — but fails to specify or proscribe how. It has been incorporated into local law only by Greece and Denmark hitherto.

    In Austria, Literar-Mechana, the copyright fees collection agency, negotiated with hardware manufacturers and importers the introduction of a levy on personal computers and printers. The Swiss are pushing through an amendment to the copyright law to collect a levy on PCs sold within their territory. The Belgian, Finnish, Spanish and French authorities are still debating the issue. So are Luxembourg and Norway.

    According to Wired, the Canadian Private Copying Collective, the music industry trade group, has proposed “new levies to be applied to any device that can store music, such as removable hard drives, recordable DVDs, Compact Flash memory cards and MP3 players.”

    Slashdot discussion: Germany Mulls A Copyright Levy + VAT For PCs

  • Recall that Germany and HP have been fighting about this for some time. HP told to pay three-and-half years’ CD-R royalties

  • Note also that, I think, this is the same legislation known as the “EU Copyright Directive” which most member countries failed to pass implementing legislation by the deadline.

  • OK, now there are cellphones that can work as MP3 players, except that, as CNet reports, there doesn’t seem to be anyone offering tunes to download.