LATimes on Recent COPA Decision

Off-target on child pornpdf

THE FEDERAL government has a compelling interest in combating the social cancer of pedophilia and in shielding children from indecency. But a pair of recent court cases illustrate how Congress’ zeal to fight these battles has led it to restrict legal speech and overlook more effective ways to fight the problem.

The Latest Round On Digital Cinema Conversion

Showing at theaters: urgency of digital shiftpdf

The revolution in moviegoing will be digital, theater owner Bill Campbell knows.

But Campbell, who runs independent theaters in Sheridan, Wyo., and Miles City, Mont., isn’t ready to take up such an expensive cause just yet.

“I’m still using film projectors that were built in the 1950s and I can fix them myself,” Campbell said. “What if your digital server goes down? Dark screens are death to the theater industry.”

[…] Studios eventually could save a total of $1 billion a year in distribution costs. Producing and shipping 35-millimeter films costs roughly $1,200 per print, but sending digital files or satellite transmissions can slash that expense by 90%, according to industry estimates.

For now the savings are theoretical as studios make a long-term bet on the benefits of digital. They are subsidizing the installation of digital systems at U.S. theater chains by paying “virtual print fees” to the manufacturers, and they still must make thousands of film prints.

Cheaper distribution could enable smaller films to be screened more widely, said John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners. The high cost of distribution is a major impediment to independent films, he said.

Helping give the conversion a boost is the resurgence of 3-D films, which today are shown predominantly in digitally equipped theaters. […]

American Idol and The Health of the Music Industry

Music in its place on ‘American Idol’pdf

But is it just coincidence that “Idol’s” Nielsen conquest is reaching a crescendo while the music industry it purports to showcase is hitting the skids? Few people argue that the show isn’t good, even great, television. But could it be that as good as “Idol” is for network TV — or at least for the Fox network — it’s bad for music?

Art Commentary on Surveillance Society

For many, artwork is not a bright spotpdf

Already, Mojo is making people uneasy.

They don’t know what to make of this angular robot that stands like a sentry atop a 30-foot pole on a San Pedro street corner. When pedestrians walk by, it eventually will shine a roving light on them, following them along the sidewalk.

[…] It’s not so much that folks oppose an odd-looking sculpture in their midst. They are suspicious because Mojo, guided by two surveillance cameras, homes in on passersby with a light.

“Orwellian,” one critic wrote on the blog. Another called it the “perfect quasi-bohemian yuppie bait,” allowing condo owners to feel more artsy and, at the same time, more secure against car thefts.

Some have started to enjoy the sinister feel of it all.

“It’s creepy. I like creepy,” said another local artist, Daniel Nord.

Related: Fingerprint forebodingpdf

I WAS JOLTED to read last week that public schools in Taunton are planning to use a fingerprint scan as a way to enable students to pay for lunch. At the cash register, the student will simply tap a finger on an electronic reader, and a pre-stored mathematical formula derived from a fingerprint will bring up the student’s account.

Easter in Second Life

In Second Life, nobody knows you’re a lapsed Catholicpdf

f all goes well, the naked lady won’t show up this morning when Pastor Craig Groeschel preaches his Easter service. But several cats will probably drop in. A horned dragon might perch on the crimson seats. There could even, perhaps, be an emu strolling in.

Groeschel will deliver his sermon in an Oklahoma City church. It will also be streamed over the Internet to the virtual world called Second Life — a world populated by 5 million pixilated characters of every description.

Fan-Participation Viral Marketing

Buzz-word Bingo! Crowd Controlpdf

At this MySpace-obsessed moment in culture, the contest gambit provides a cost-effective, buzz-generating alternative to big-budget music videos or costly print-ad runs. Moreover, the contests virally generate publicity and result in virtual “communities” by getting music aficionados to communicate with one another in ways that yesteryear’s fan clubs could never dream of.

It’s an equation that the labels can’t help but love — fans pump in labor, attention and enthusiasm, and artists reap sales. And at least at this point in the cycle, when we’ve yet to see any significant contest backlash, scandal or cynicism, many fans seem energized by the proliferating attempts to pull them into the marketing loop. For Epic’s senior vice president of marketing Lee Stimmel, who was one of the minds behind “Hips Don’t Lie (Fans-Only Version),” enabling Shakira’s music to galvanize a worshipful fan populace meant more than the song’s pop-chart ranking or radio airplay.

“It’s very hard in the media matrix world that we live in to see how a song actually resonates with a fan base and makes that fan base grow,” Stimmel said. “We showed that it can virally and organically grow. That’s something you can’t necessarily buy with traditional media. That one-to-one relationship with customers became the most powerful part of the promotion.”

Related: A Fictional Video on MySpace Puts a TV Show’s Promotion Into Hyperspace

An Indie Label Shuttered

Even the small is beautiful model is struggling these days in some circles:Long Gone John gets a long goodbyepdf

Artists and fans lined up to give thanks to a music mogul for years of support and cherished records upon his retirement from the business.

No, Clive Davis is not packing it in. If he ever does, the send-off will be a huge gala with the biggest names in the pop world paying tribute.

This event was at the tiny Silver Lake club Spaceland the musicians on hand last Friday for the most part hardly known outside of indie-hipster circles. The mogul-in-question — or anti-mogul, as he’s often called — was Long Gone John, the sole proprietor of the Long Beach-based Sympathy for the Record Industry label, which he is shuttering so he can move to a forested stretch of beach near Olympia, Wash. Sympathy, despite an astonishing 750 releases by 550 acts in the course of 18 years — including early albums from the White Stripes and Courtney Love’s Hole — racked up cumulative sales in its entire history that would barely make a slow week for Davis.

A Revolt In Bandwidth

Pursuant to this earlier post: Comcast Cuts Off Bandwidth Hogs

Customers across the country have been contacted by the telecom giant with a warning to curb excessive bandwidth consumption or risk a one-year service termination. Comcast, however, is refusing to reveal how much bandwidth use is allowed, making it impossible for customers to know if they are in danger of violating Comcast’s limit.

The move has driven customers to sign up with other service providers.

At least, those for whom there are alternatives. I used to get cable from Comcast; luckily, they refused to show up at a stated time to install it when I moved, so now I am happy to know that I don’t (directly) do anything to promote their corrosive hegemony.

With luck, this could even restart the discussion of what it means to have a competitive market in broadband ISPs, because it’s hard to see how current FCC policy is doing anything to promote that.

Slate Predicting A Fight?

Or merely validating the status quo? A question of closed architectures: The iPhone wannabes.

When Jobs touts the iPhone as three devices in one, he’s selling it short: It’s a computer, not some limited, specialized gizmo. That means that rather than a fixed set of applications—music, video, Web browsing, chat—it can, in theory, run any program that works on a Mac. The iPhone’s killer feature, then, is probably something that doesn’t even exist yet. It has the potential to spawn a mobile application as mind-blowing as the Web browser or Napster.

There’s just one big roadblock standing in the way of iPhone domination. Apple agreed to lock the phone so that third-party software applications can’t be installed and run over Cingular’s network. It’s a reasonable safeguard against Cingular being knocked out technically or legally by a phone Napster. But most of the coolest applications for desktop computers—most obviously, the browser—weren’t envisioned by the companies that sold the gear. Limit the iPhone to apps Apple approves of, and the thing will never take off like the Mac did.

Getting What You Asked For

It pays to think a little more carefully than the RIAA has — a story from the perspective of a record store retailer: Spinning Into Oblivion

The sad thing is that CDs and downloads could have coexisted peacefully and profitably. The current state of affairs is largely the result of shortsightedness and boneheadedness by the major record labels and the Recording Industry Association of America, who managed to achieve the opposite of everything they wanted in trying to keep the music business prospering. The association is like a gardener who tried to rid his lawn of weeds and wound up killing the trees instead.

In the late ’90s, our business, and the music retail business in general, was booming. Enter Napster, the granddaddy of illegal download sites. How did the major record labels react? By continuing their campaign to eliminate the comparatively unprofitable CD single, raising list prices on album-length CDs to $18 or $19 and promoting artists like the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears — whose strength was single songs, not albums. The result was a lot of unhappy customers, who blamed retailers like us for the dearth of singles and the high prices.

The recording industry association saw the threat that illegal downloads would pose to CD sales. But rather than working with Napster, it tried to sue the company out of existence — which was like thinking you’ve killed all the roaches in your apartment because you squashed the one you saw in the kitchen. More illegal download sites cropped up faster than the association’s lawyers could say “cease and desist.”

[…] The major labels wanted to kill the single. Instead they killed the album. The association wanted to kill Napster. Instead it killed the compact disc. And today it’s not just record stores that are in trouble, but the labels themselves, now belatedly embracing the Internet revolution without having quite figured out how to make it pay.

At this point, it may be too late to win back disgruntled music lovers no matter what they do. As one music industry lawyer, Ken Hertz, said recently, “The consumer’s conscience, which is all we had left, that’s gone, too.”

It’s tempting for us to gloat. By worrying more about quarterly profits than the bigger picture, by protecting their short-term interests without thinking about how to survive and prosper in the long run, record-industry bigwigs have got what was coming to them. It’s a disaster they brought upon themselves.

We would be gloating, but for the fact that the occupation we planned on spending our working lives at is rapidly becoming obsolete. And that loss hits us hard — not just as music retailers, but as music fans.