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CEA rolls with Zune?

The Consumer Electronics Association unveiled a proposed standard today for connecting portable media players to home and car entertainment systems. I'm probably reading way too much into it, but this strikes me as an attempt by Apple's rivals to undermine the iPod's dominance in the field.


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Here's a quick roundup of today's offerings from the LA Times:
Meezheadshot100x100 A column by yours virtually about price elasticity and the music industry;
Alex Pham and Bruce Wallace weigh in on Sony's unexpectedly slow start with the PlayStation 3;
Meg James and Dawn Chmielewski report on ABC's digital strategy, including its plans to stream shows online in high definition;
Richard Verrier writes about Michael Bay's bid to do for video games what he's done for feature films (and I mean that in a good way, honest); and
Michelle Quinn provides a view of Stanford University's "Entrepreneur Idol."

MySpace's DMCA enhancement

Leave it to a News Corp. subsidiary to offer a middle ground between YouTube and Viacom. Today, MySpace announced that it would use technology from Audible Magic to stop users from uploading videos that had previously been taken down at the request of the copyright holder. This is a major boost to the power that copyright owners wield, and who knows? Maybe it will be enough to shift their attention from the courts to the marketplace.


Continue reading MySpace's DMCA enhancement »

DRM by any other name

Why is it that entertainment executives can't talk about DRM without putting a foot in their mouth? This week it was HBO's chief technical officer, Bob Zitter, who generated headlines by saying DRM was a misnomer. To Zitter, "rights management" connotes restrictions, while DRM is really about allowing consumers "to use content in ways they haven't before" (quote courtesy of Broadcasting & Cable's Glen Dickson). This is coming from the same company that uses DRM technologies to ... stop consumers from using content in familiar ways. Zitter's already been thoroughly mocked online, so I'll try not to pile on. Instead, I'll give him points for being right -- kinda sorta.

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LAUNCHing bands on USA Network

Yahoo! Music, home of the most popular online radio service (LAUNCHcast), announced a deal today with NBC Universal's USA Network to provide music from selected indie-label and unsigned bands for use in the network's TV shows (e.g., "Monk" and "Psych") and promotions. The point is to take lesser-known artists who've gotten traction among LAUNCH listeners and give them an extra pop on cable. USA Network gets music from (relatively inexpensive) artists vetted in advance by LAUNCH's audience, and Yahoo earns points among artists and labels as a promotional vehicle -- something traditionally associated with big over-the-air broadcasters, not online stations.

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Drink or Die or Rot

Great story here from The Age in Melbourne, Australia, about Hew Griffiths, a purported leader of Drink or Die, which used to be one of the best known warez groups. (Among DoD's claims to fame: it developed and distributed the first program to copy movies on DVD, called DVD Speed Ripper.) After four years of trying, U.S. authorities finally succeeded in extraditing Griffiths from his native land to face trial in Virginia. He pleaded guilty last month to violating copyright law and is awaiting sentencing; he faces a maximum prison term of 10 years. He's already spent about three years behind bars in Australia, as he unsuccessfully fought extradition.

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Twisted's Internet Killer

Twisted Pictures, the production company responsible for the "Saw" movie series, and Break.com announced a deal Monday to create a movie whose first distribution window will be the Internet. The deal was put together by Ubiquity Partners, one of those only-in-LA firms that acts as a matchmaker for content creators, advertisers and websites. So far, so good. Break.com was launched during the dot-com bubble as a time-wasting haven for young men, offering short videos that tried to be racy, funny, outrageous or all of the above. Eclipsed by YouTube as a place to watch (or post) user-generated video, it has been striking deals with TV networks and other content providers for more professional-grade content to mix in with clips of kids kicking vending machines. Hence the partnership with Twisted Pix. The catch is, the movie won't be streamed in its entirety on Break.com. Instead, it will be chopped into three-minute segments and distributed as a serial. The approach may be time-honored, but seriously, three-minute segments? Is that any way to tell a story?

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Bittorrent_logo Ashwin Navin, president of BitTorrent (the company, not the protocol), writes a column today for News.com decrying the decision by Ohio University to block all peer-to-peer traffic. He makes good points about the importance of p2p as a communications technology, but pays little attention to the elephant in the room: the no. 1 use for p2p networks is illegal downloading. I'm fascinated by the problem this presents. It's far better to punish bad behavior than ban technology, particularly when the latter has potentially great applications. But what do you do when the public is interested only in the illegal ones? (And to answer a question Navin asks in his essay, this usage pattern is what makes p2p technologies different from e-mail, instant messaging, FTP and other tools that can be used for piracy, but are mainly used for legitimate purposes.)

More on this in a second, but first: Bit Player sticks another toe into the 21st Century by activating its Technorati Profile.

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AACS, DRM and Hollywood

The latest blow-up over efforts by AACS LA, the group that supplies anti-copying technology for Hollywood's high-definition movie discs, to suppress information about how to circumvent that technology reflects how much the debate over rights management has become a religious war. The sides are highly polarized, with Hollywood insisting that DRM is an essential element of its home video releases and movie hackers arguing that consumers are being treated like criminals. But as the weaknesses in AACS mount -- I'm particularly intrigued by the conversion of the XBox HD DVD drive into a machine that converts high-def movie discs into unlocked movie files -- it makes me wonder what happens to the rental market.

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TuneCore goes live

Tunecore_logo No company crystallizes the changing nature of the music business better than TuneCore, which launched today after about a year of beta testing. The company offers just one of the services provided by a record label -- it distributes its clients' songs to online retailers like iTunes, Napster and eMusic, then manages the receipts -- but its business model is orders of magnitude more artist-friendly than the typical label's. Rather than keeping most or all of the sales revenue, TuneCore charges artists one-time fees of 99 cents per song and 99 cents per retailer, plus $10 a year to store and monitor each album offered for sale. In effect, artists have to sell three albums to break even, after which the entire wholesale revenue stream is theirs to keep. With the customary major-label deal, most artists never collect any money from album sales.

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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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