Trying Something Different

This should cause an uproar: EU plans overhaul of Internet download rules (pdf)

The European Union needs new rules for Internet downloads that would make it easier for people to access music and films without resorting to piracy, the bloc’s telecoms chief said on Thursday.

Mapping out priorities of the EU’s executive arm for the next five years, EU Telecommunications Commissioner Viviane Reding said it should consider new laws that would reconcile the interests of intellectual property owners and Internet surfers.

“It will therefore be my key priority to work… on a simple, consumer friendly legal framework for accessing digital content in Europe’s single marker, while ensuring at the same time fair remuneration of creators,” she told a seminar.

Current laws are ill-devised, she said, because they appear to force people, especially the young generation, to become Internet pirates, or download content illegally.

Later — on the other hand, we have this — European Publishers Call on E.U. to Protect Copyright

Copyright Pimping as Novel Business Practice?

I don’t think so. Who knows, maybe Harry Fox or ASCAP will file a business methods patent infringement suit:

Bertelsmann and K.K.R. in Music Rights Venture (pdf)

Less than a year after Bertelsmann, the German media giant, exited the music business, it is taking a novel approach to get back in.

The company said Wednesday that it would form a joint venture with the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company to license and administer music rights.

The new company will combine Bertelsmann’s existing BMG Rights Management unit with the financial muscle of K.K.R., which will own 51 percent of the joint venture, with Bertelsmann holding the rest.

And while BMG’s indirect competitors will be the music publishing titans of the world, like EMI, Warner Music, Universal and Sony — companies that market the immense catalogs they own — BMG is counting on signing artists who are seeking someone who will administer their intellectual property without actually owning it.

Also, we get this sign that the NYTimes is struggling to manage their own content: Partners Fancy a Trove of Songs (pdf). I mean, really — this should all have been put into a single article.

That has raised expectations that copyright owners like EMI, which is highly leveraged, may need to sell assets to pay down debt and fix their recorded music operations. Similarly, Warner may seek to monetize part of its library to finance a bid for the recorded music arm of EMI, should its owners at the buyout firm Terra Firma wish to sell.

And copyrights owned by the estates of Michael Jackson and Allen Klein, the former Rolling Stones manager, may come on the block. The Jackson estate’s share of its venture with Sony, which holds the rights to most of the Beatles’ music, was valued at $390 million in a 2007 audit.

Though Bertelsmann sold its music business last year, some of its executives stayed on and Bertelsmann kept some of its music rights. So the venture has the skill to build a rights business. Now it also has the cash. K.K.R. is contributing 50 million euros ($69.2 million) for a 51 percent stake and has earmarked another 200 million euros ($277 million) for future acquisitions.

Webcasting Royalties Deal?

Online radio stations strike big deal on royalties

The future of Internet radio appears more secure now that a handful of online stations have reached an agreement to head off a potentially crippling increase in copyright royalty rates.

The deal is the product of two years of negotiations between webcasters and copyright holders.

Later: Music Labels Reach Royalty Deal With Online Stations (pdf)

The new agreement treats sites differently depending on their size and business model. It applies to the period from 2006 through 2015 for big sites and through 2014 for small sites. The sites in question often provide customized streams of music, but listeners do not get to directly choose which songs they hear, and they are not permitted to store the music on their computers.

Webcasters with significant advertising revenue, like Pandora or AOL Radio, will pay the greater of 25 percent of revenue or a fee per song, starting at .08 cent for songs streamed in 2006 and increasing to .14 cent in 2015.

Webcasters also agreed to give more detailed information about the songs they play and how many people listen to them to SoundExchange, the nonprofit organization that collects and distributes digital royalties on behalf of artists and labels. They must also retain records of activity on their Web servers for four years.

Small sites with less than $1.25 million in revenue will pay 12 percent to 14 percent of it for the right to stream music.

The Long Arm of the Law

Reach out and touch someone, indeed: Cellphones Leave Electronic Tracks for Investigators, Raising Privacy Concerns (pdf)

The pivotal role that cellphone records played in these two prominent New York murder trials this year highlights the surge in law enforcement’s use of increasingly sophisticated cellular tracking techniques to keep tabs on suspects before they are arrested and build criminal cases against them by mapping their past movements.

But cellphone tracking is raising concerns about civil liberties in a debate that pits public safety against privacy rights. Existing laws do not provide clear or uniform guidelines: Federal wiretap laws, outpaced by technological advances, do not explicitly cover the use of cellphone data to pinpoint a person’s location, and local court rulings vary widely across the country.

In one case that unsettled cellphone companies, a sheriff in Alabama told a carrier he needed to track a cellphone in an emergency involving a child — she turned out to be his teenage daughter, who was late returning from a date.

[…] The frequency and ease with which law enforcement agencies access cellphone data to track people is difficult to assess. Civil liberties groups recently obtained data from the Justice Department through a lawsuit showing that in some jurisdictions, including New Jersey and Florida, courts often allow federal prosecutors to track the location of cellphone users in real time without search warrants.

Investigators seeking warrants must provide a judge with probable cause that a crime has been committed. But investigators often obtain cell-tracking records under lower standards of judicial review — through subpoenas, which are granted routinely, or through an intermediate type of court order based on an argument that the information requested would be relevant to an investigation. Loses Big Time

Judge throws book at in RIAA lawsuit

A federal judge yesterday found liable for just about every copyright infringement claim on the books: direct infringement, inducement of infringement, contributory infringement, and (just for good measure) vicarious infringement. Not content to be loud and proud about its pro-pirate agenda, also resorted to stonewalling legal questionnaires, sending employees to Europe to avoid depositions, wiping hard drives, and failing to turn over e-mail after being sued in 2007 by the music labels.

The recording industry’s high-octane litigation campaign has on many occasions suffered from “poor targeting,” but it’s hard to see any complexities in this case. When employees privately suggested that the service’s tag line should be “piracy, porno, and pictures —Usenet,” “Usenet is full of music and movies so get your pirate on!,” or “Bless the Usenet and all that it steals!,” it’s clear they knew why people were paying $4.95 to $18.95 a month for the privilege of accessing the newsgroups. And not only did they know, they allegedly took steps to encourage the infringement.

The CNet posting: RIAA triumphs in Usenet copyright case; the decision and order can be found here

A Bizarre Apologia

From Geoff Taylor of the BPI, via the BBC: Napster – 10 years of turmoil

Napster understood the internet’s potential for decentralised music distribution, and offered it to consumers in a way that was simple to understand and use.

Many critics have argued that the music industry could have avoided some of the problems it faces today if we had embraced Napster rather than fighting it.

That’s probably true, and I, for one, regret that we weren’t faster in figuring out how to create a sustainable model for music on the internet.

But this view also overlooks the formidable hurdles we faced in 1999.

See also Music industry ‘missed’ Napster