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Cox: BitTorrent interruptus?

Broken_connection The public drubbing Comcast has received for interfering with BitTorrent uploads may not have been enough to stop other ISPs from doing the very same thing. The Associated Press reported today that a new study by the Max Planck institute found that Cox, a major cable operator, appeared to have taken a page from Comcast and was sending reset packets to disconnect BitTorrent uploaders. Of the 151 computers on Cox's network that ran the institute's test, 82 were blocked (you can read about the methodology here). That's 54%. The only other U.S. ISP to have such a high percentage of blocked uploads was Comcast, where 62% of the 788 hosts were blocked, the AP reported.

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New hope for accused file-sharer

Chasing_pirates The judge in Capitol v. Thomas -- the first of the RIAA's lawsuits against individual file-sharers to go to trial, it resulted  in a $222,000 judgment against a single mother in Minnesota -- threw the verdict into doubt today. Defendant Jammie Thomas had moved for a new trial on the grounds that the award was excessive and unconstitutional. In response, U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis issued an order calling for a hearing on a different issue: whether he erred in instructing the jury that simply making a song available for others to download violated copyrights. He gave that instruction at the request of the labels' attorney, Richard Gabriel, who has since left the case to take a seat on the Colorado Court of Appeals.

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Magnify: another approach to online video guides

Magnify_publisher_logoI wrote a post last month about the dearth of truly useful guides to the growing mass of video available online. Magnify.net is one of the companies responsible for creating that mass; its platform is home to 37,000 channels of niche online programming, including the Flavor Flav Video Network ("Return of the Romantical") and the Dermatology channel. "Lots of them don't get looked at," co-founder and CEO Steve Rosenbaum said in a recent interview. "Lots of them really do. The one thing I've been struggling with for the last six months, as more and more stuff pours onto the Web, who's going to sort it?"

The answer, Rosenbaum believes, is bloggers. "They help you organize the things you're going to see," he said, adding that if one blogger's recommendations don't pan out, you try another. "They become the micro road map around video content." With that in mind, Magnify decided to create tools to help bloggers find videos online and build posts around them.

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HBO's timid iTunes offer

Ituneshbo_screen_grab Time Warner subsidiary HBO has gotten a fair amount of credit today for persuading Apple to abandon its one-price strategy for TV shows at the iTunes Store. That's an interesting development, and it could open the door for NBC to bring its shows back to the store. But what many of the reports overlooked was how little HBO decided to put onto the virtual iTunes shelves. The network is making available downloadable versions of older shows only, and charging premium prices for many of them to boot. Rather than trying to attract new customers and chase incremental dollars, it seems to be designed to cause the least possible offense to HBO's existing markets.

HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson said the network's full offering on iTunes will roll out over the next couple of months, so it will be more extensive than the current selection -- six shows, most of which are represented by just a portion of their episodes. But no show will be available before the corresponding full-season DVD is released, Cusson said. That's consistent with HBO's digital strategy thus far: no full-length program or episode is available online to non-subscribers until long after its first run. The exception was "In Treatment," which HBO offered briefly in full-length form on YouTube earlier this year in a bid to drum up viewership. Now, though, even that show is available only as clips.

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Defunct TorrentSpy kicked while down

Torrentspy_logo U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper has handed BitTorrent index site TorrentSpy a bill it couldn't possibly pay. Having ruled in favor of the major Hollywood studios' lawsuit in December, Cooper awarded the studios damages of $30,000 per movie allegedly infringed with the assistance of TorrentSpy's site. The total for the 3,699 movies listed in the studios' complaint: $110,970,000. Wow. (You can download a PDF of the ruling here.)

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Disaggregating digital distribution

Ioda_logo The Independent Online Distribution Alliance, better known as IODA, launched itself in 2003 to help independent labels, artists and others in the music industry make the leap from physical to digital. One of its functions has been to act as a conduit to online retailers, such as Apple's iTunes Store, eMusic, Napster and Rhapsody. Now it's giving its members the option of being retailers, too.

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How much should music cost?

Three interesting developments today on the issue of music pricing and price elasticity, a subject close to my heart. While one label starts flirting with the idea of lower prices to stimulate demand, another backs away from it. And meanwhile, Trent Reznor gives away more songs.

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StreamCast's undoing

Streamcast_morpheus_logo Like David going 15 rounds with Goliath, StreamCast Networks Inc. battled the biggest companies in the entertainment industry for nearly six and a half years before finally dropping the slingshot and hitting the dirt. The file-sharing company filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition last week, sending it down the road to liquidation.

But the company's demise wasn't triggered by Hollywood studios or the major record labels, as much as they would have liked to have done so. Instead, StreamCast was felled by one of its own rocks: a lawsuit it filed in January 2006 against file-sharing rival Kazaa and a host of related companies. It proved to be a tactical blunder of the first order. Two of the defendants in that case counter-sued, won and locked StreamCast in a financial death-grip. And here's the delicious irony. StreamCast executives had long grumbled that Kazaa had sabotaged their business just as it was taking off in 2002, enabling Kazaa to dominate the second generation of file-sharing networks (i.e., the one that succeeded the original Napster). That may or may not be true, but there's no doubt that StreamCast's attempt to take revenge against the extended Kazaa family proved its undoing.

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Apple users: tossers?

The_unofficial_apple_weblog_tuaw_lo The Unofficial Apple Weblog unearthed (or rather, un-pixeled) some pungent commentary about Apple and its fans within Grand Theft Auto IV. Check it out here. Who says the GTA games have no redeeming social value? Guess Take Two won't be coming out with a Mac version of GTA IV anytime soon. But then, that's what Boot Camp is for. (Thanks to Sheigh for the tip!)

Apple, Hollywood and windows

Apple_itunes_store_movies_2008Apple closed two gaps today with its announcement about downloadable movies for sale through the iTunes Store. The one it emphasized was the agreement by six major studios to pony up their films the day they were available on DVD. This was a no-brainer for Hollywood. In fact, according to a publicist for Vudu, the studios have long been providing downloads for sale through other online vendors "day and date" with DVD releases. The more interesting element here is that Apple has finally persuaded Hollywood's largest studios to sell movies through iTunes.

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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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