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Wal-Mart trips over PC-TV gap

Walmart_logo Wal-Mart probably had a lot of reasons to get out of the downloadable movie business, most notably the withdrawal of Hewlett-Packard, its technology provider. Underlying both companies' decisions, though, is the sense that it's still too hard for the masses to watch a downloaded movie on the big TV screen in their living room.

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Fox, Apple and FairPlay

Fox_home_entertainment_logo Studio executives keep saying they've learned from the mistakes made by the music industry, and yet many of their actions seem straight out of the major labels' playbook. Today, the Financial Times reported that 20th Century Fox's home video unit, Fox Home Entertainment, had agreed to offer new titles for rent through Apple's iTunes store and sell DVDs with an extra copy of the movie locked in Apple's proprietary FairPlay DRM. If the latter proves to be true (no mention of it in the NYT piece), it means the movie industry may be on its way to the same DRM incompatibility problem that has vexed the music industry.

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Warner goes DRM-free

Warner Music Group --home of Lupe Fiasco,  Faith Hill and a bunch of acts in between -- announced today that it would sell MP3 versions of its artists' songs on Amazon. Now, Sony BMG stands as the only major label still insisting on wrapping its downloads in DRM. WMG chief Edgar Bronfman Jr. said the deal with Amazon was the first of many to come in the weeks and months ahead, and he dropped an intriguing hint at a new approach to unauthorized file-sharing.

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A Slingbox "Entourage"

Although this blog is about Hollywood's love-hate relationship with technology, much of the time I'm writing about the hate side of the equation. I have a column at latimes.com today that looks at one instance of love: how the line producer of HBO's "Entourage" found a way to make his job -- and his life -- easier by using a Slingbox to monitor the day's shoots remotely on a palm-sized OQO computer. With any luck, the writers strike will end soon, allowing "Entourage" to film its third season early next year as scheduled. If not....

Fun with TV stats

Wga_on_strike_logo The rhetoric from both sides in the Hollywood writers strike has occasionally been entertaining, at least to those of us with no skin in the game, but more often it's just ... bewildering. Take, for example, the release today from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (i.e., the studios). It touts a survey by TNS Media Intelligence, which purportedly showed that almost 67% of the population hasn't taken a position on the strike. Those results stand in sharp contrast to the USAToday/Gallup survey cited in this release by the Writers Guild of America, which claimed that 60% of Americans are backing the writers. Just a guess here, but I'm betting TNS phrased their questions a bit differently from USAToday and Gallup....

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Endangered species on line 2

Rareearthtones Ringtone sales have been one of the few bright spots in the music industry's rocky transition to the Digital Era. Or rather, they were until this year, when revenue flattened. You might blame lower ringtone prices. I, however, choose to blame the blue-throated macaw.

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Berman, Leahy introduce radio royalties bills

Howard_bermanU.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-North Hollywood) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced a much-anticipated proposal today (download the PDF here) to require radio stations to pay performance royalties. Backers include several influential Republicans and Democrats in each chamber, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the RIAA and a host of recording artists. Just as notable, if not more so, is the team on the other side: the National Association of Broadcasters, a force that lawmakers have hesitated to oppose in election years. And the NAB cares very, very deeply about this issue.

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Court smacks TorrentSpy

Torrentspy_logoHere's a dog-bites-man story, albeit one with a twist: A federal judge handed the major Hollywood studios a victory last week in their copyright-infringement lawsuit against TorrentSpy, a popular BitTorrent index site. The case wasn't decided on the merits of the studios' claims, however. Instead, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled (read the PDF here) that the company deliberately destroyed so much evidence after being sued, the studios wouldn't be able to present the case they should have been able to present.

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Tougher copyright law?

Starting the legislative ball rolling, a House Judiciary subcommittee held its initial hearing today on HR 4279, a bill to crack down further on counterfeit and pirated goods. Subcommittee chairman Howard Berman (D-North Hollywood) used the occasion to fire a warning shot across the bow of critics who say copyright law is already too stringent. The not-too-subtle message to tech advocates who've railed against the bill: you're not the only ones who want changes.

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Running toward the Internet

CrookediI went to a youth center in Hollywood earlier today to watch Thoryn Stephens of Syncopate teach some of the digital music basics to some at-risk teens and young adults. Also on the event's bill was a rapper from Long Beach who goes by the stage name Crooked-I, who shared a bit of his life story in the hope it would encourage the aspiring musicians, actors and artists in the audience to persevere. It's a great story -- after a childhood pock-marked by poverty and homelessness, he built a career in the music business by tirelessly promoting his work and by networking adroitly.

He's now an executive as well as a rapper, leading his own label (Dynasty Entertainment) and carrying the title of senior vice president at another (Treacherous Records in Glendale). One of the organizers of the program asked him whether he felt threatened by the Web, noting that some of his fellow artists and execs were trying to distance themselves from it. No, the rapper said, "I'm running toward the Internet."

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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