A Great Nickname

And not a bad set of observations, either: Will TheirTube work?pdf

Though this marks the most direct big-media response yet to YouTube, the venture is hardly a frontal assault on the video upstart. Instead, it’s a fundamentally different approach, one that cedes less control to consumers. YouTube does more than provide a forum for amateur and semi-professional video; it lets users act as the site’s curators, gathering and posting (and sometimes remixing) an array of clips they didn’t actually generate. They have turned the site into a digital memory bank for broadcast television — a Web-based VCR.

The new effort, by contrast, makes viewers more passive, accepting what the networks and studios have churned out. Users will be able to put the videos on their MySpace pages and other websites, potentially generating more advertising revenue. And they’ll be able to edit and mix at least some of the clips with their own material. But the real point is to help Hollywood rein in unauthorized use of its copyrighted content on user-generated sites.

[…] Of course, that strategy will break down if users don’t like the terms that Hollywood tries to impose. There’s no way to filter the entire Web, and Internet users have proved remarkably adept at finding what they want wherever it’s available. Still, it’s a welcome change to see at least some of the studios respond to YouTube in the marketplace rather than merely trying to bottle up their content through the courts.

Elsewhere in the LATimes, an article suggesting that TheirTube, based on online entertainment like Snowmen Hunters, is going to have a tough row to hoe: Hollywood’s big online rival: the little guypdf

Yet if I were running Viacom, I’d be nearly as concerned about shows such as “Snowmen Hunters” as I’d be about ensuring that my own stuff wasn’t misappropriated.

In the long term — which in Web time means, like, five years — these sorts of amateur offerings could wind up playing their own significant role in squeezing profits of the leading TV and film studios. […]

For Big Media, the real threat will emerge as more and more advertisers, attracted by the millions of viewers who genuinely enjoy this homespun programming, gravitate toward the sites hosting these productions and, in turn, more and more money starts finding its way to the talent behind them.

And the Washington Post offers up a less sanguine take, channeling Viacom’s desire to end the DMCA Safe Harbor provision: For YouTube, This Is a Testpdf

OT: Risking Your Pension

To tell it like it is: Leaving Iraq: The Grim Truthpdf. And, by risking pensions, I mean the last comment on possible Iraqi scenarios:

[Gen. Tony McPeak (retired)]: This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country’s international standing has been frittered away by people who don’t have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn’t make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.

Related from the LATimes, channeling a little Walt Kelly: The enemy and us are starting to look alikepdf

Only in retrospect, as the historian leafs through the documents that survive redaction and classification, will it become apparent how the war on terror turned a part of us into our enemy — and a part of our enemy into ourselves.

Another Try To Impose Penalties For Overreaching Takedown Notices

I wish them good luck, but I’m not going to hold my breath: Viacom sued over YouTube parody removalpdf

Activist groups sued Viacom Inc. on Thursday, claiming the parent of Comedy Central improperly asked the video-sharing site YouTube to remove a parody of the cable network’s “The Colbert Report.”

Viacom responded by saying it had no records of ever making such a request.

Although the video in question contained clips taken from the television show, MoveOn.org Civic Action and Brave New Films LLC argued that their use was protected under “fair use” provisions of copyright law.

With Viacom identified by YouTube as the source of the removal request, they said Viacom should have known the use was legal and thus its complaint to YouTube to have the video blocked amounted to a “misrepresentation” that is subject to damages under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FCC Starts In On Net Neutrality

FCC to look at future of Internet accesspdf

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission took a small step to address a growing debate on whether high-speed Internet providers like AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. should be barred from charging extra fees to guarantee access to the Internet.

The five commissioners backed a proposal on Thursday to start a “notice of inquiry” regarding broadband industry practices.

The notice has not yet been posted. Releases

The Continuing COPA Saga

Amazing to consider the scope of its influence: U.S. judge blocks 1998 online porn lawpdf

A federal judge on Thursday dealt another blow to government efforts to control Internet pornography, striking down a 1998 U.S. law that makes it a crime for commercial Web site operators to let children access “harmful” material.

In the ruling, the judge said parents can protect their children through software filters and other less restrictive means that do not limit the rights of others to free speech.

[…] The case sparked a legal firestorm last year when Google challenged a Justice Department subpoena seeking information on what people search for online. Government lawyers had asked Google to turn over 1 million random Web addresses and a week’s worth of Google search queries.

A judge sharply limited the scope of the subpoena, which Google had fought on trade secret, not privacy, grounds.

No opinion online, but here’s the WWW page for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where I expect it will turn up eventually. From Salon: ACLU v. Gonzales

Later: Federal Judge Blocks Online Pornography Law; Judge Rejects Law Aimed at Internet Porn (pdf)

MS Lobbying On Privacy

An advertisement on the NYTimes’ Op-Ed page caught my eye today. You want to get all warm and fuzzy about it, but it’s a text that can be read more than one way:

On the legal front, we at Microsoft believe the United States needs an all-inclusive, uniform privacy law that will give consumers more control over their personal data and more reason for confidence in providing information to legitimate businesses and other organizations. With the flow of information becoming increasingly global, we also see a growing need to align U.S. law with current and emerging privacy standards in the rest of the world.

[…] We urge Congress to act on comprehensive privacy legislation this year. Action is needed to keep America at the forefront of the amazing changes and great benefits still to come, as technology continues to advance.

“We Always Were Planning To Do This”

The complementary strategy to an infringement lawsuit – catching up with what the plaintiff is doing (and that you refused to do) so that you will get a more sympathetic hearing. Competition’s creative destruction in the context of big business and litigation. The question for the courts and legislatures will be, when the fighting is over, will there still be room for innovation in this space? Or will the winner get to define the boundaries of the playing field for all time? News Corp., NBC pull together to challenge YouTubepdf

Several media giants are teaming up to challenge Google Inc. and its YouTube video-sharing service, seeking to blunt their incursion into the entertainment business.

News Corp. and NBC Universal plan to announce as soon as today that they are creating an online video site stocked with TV shows and movies, plus clips that users can modify and share with friends, according to people close to the negotiations.

The two companies enlisted help from some of Google’s biggest Internet rivals. The News Corp.-NBC Universal partnership has deals with Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp., Time Warner Inc.’s AOL and News Corp.’s MySpace to place videos in front of their collective audience of hundreds of millions.

Despite Hollywood’s dismal track record in creating successful joint ventures, these players see little choice but to band together to compete against Google and Apple Inc., which are becoming powerful distributors of entertainment.

Later: News Corp. and NBC in Web Deal

Anonymity, A Short-Lived Commodity

Creator of anti-Clinton ad is identifiedpdf [earlier post]

A Democratic operative with ties to Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign claimed credit Wednesday for creating and posting a mystery video on the Internet that slammed Obama’s main rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama’s campaign repeated its denial of any involvement in the matter. The operative, Philip de Vellis, said he created the spot and posted it on YouTube while employed by a firm that is advising the Illinois Democrat on his Internet presence. The firm, Blue State Digital, said De Vellis, 33, was “terminated” Wednesday; De Vellis said he resigned.

[…] “The 2008 campaign is going to be dramatically different because of YouTube, because of citizen involvement, and because of people like Phil de Vellis doing an ad that becomes explosively viral,” said Arianna Huffington, who oversees the Huffington Post, which first disclosed De Vellis’ identity.

Huffington exposed De Vellis by urging her contributors to work their contacts to identify ParkRidge47. It took about a day. Huffington wrote Wednesday that she called De Vellis to ask him about the spot and invited him to explain himself, which he did later Wednesday.

Also, the WaPo is a little late to the story: Watching Big Sisterpdf

Straining Credulity

TechDirt relates a terrible tale: UK Judge Rules That Selling Consumers Cheaper CDs Is Illegal

[…] Just to be clear: CD-Wow was selling legitimate discs, not pirated copies. They’d simply found a cheaper supplier in another part of the world, and passed the lower costs onto consumers. The labels argue this is somehow a violation of their copyright, but it seems much more like a handy bit of protectionism. Many music buyers are familiar with “import” CDs that often feature different or additional material from releases in their own country, and record labels don’t really seem to have a problem with American buyers shelling out $30 for a Japanese version of a CD, or $12 for a UK import single. But when imports come at a lower price, then it’s a problem. […]

The articles from the BBC that come up from doing a search include this most recent one: Judge rules against cheap CD site

The High Court in London ruled that the site’s owners, Music Trading Online, were “in substantial breach” of a 2004 agreement to stop selling such albums.

Record companies complained that the site broke a deal not to buy cheap CDs in places like Hong Kong and re-sell them in the UK without permission.

CD-Wow said the judgement “spelled disaster for millions of music fans”.

The company will be fined in July after an inquiry into how much it owes the record labels who complained of copyright infringement.

*sigh* Violating the terms of an out of court settlement. This should be ugly. A little more detail from the Channel Register (?): CD WOW! fined for contempt of court

The recordings were not pirated discs but their sale in the UK broke copyright law. Record labels typically create regional companies to whom they licence the copyright in music for sale in those regions. Those companies can then match their prices to particular market conditions, and through copyright law the parent label can ensure that those markets which can bear a higher price are forced to pay that.

Though CD WOW! maintains that it has never deliberately engaged in parallel importing, it promised a court in 2004 that it would not conduct parallel importing in the future in order to settle its case with the BPI.