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Homage, fromage

The_pirate_bay_logo How's this for reverence? To honor the late Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, The Pirate Bay -- a controversial Swedish website that helps users find and copy movies, software, games and other digital goods, despite continual threats from copyright owners -- plans to shut down at 3 p.m. Wednesday (local time) ... for all of one minute. That's almost literally a moment of silence. In the meantime, The Pirate Bay's operators have cobbled together a tribute site, although it's probably not the kind of tribute that the Swedish auteur's estate would have requested. In addition to film descriptions cut and pasted from Wikipedia, it offers links to downloadable bootlegs of nearly 30 titles Bergman wrote and/or directed, which is a little more than half of his oeuvre (the number could rise if users contribute more links). True, the incentives provided by copyright law are irrelevant to dead men. And you can't count your residuals in the afterlife. But  Bergman leaves behind heirs and a foundation, as well as film distributors and other rights holders that (just guessing here) aren't ready to throw his collected works into the public domain. Under Swedish law, Bergman's copyrights won't expire until 2077.

Should local radio pay royalties?

Nab_logo_2 If you thought the battle over webcasting royalties was hard fought, just wait until the National Assn. of Broadcasters and the RIAA drop the gloves over the issue of performance royalties for over-the-air stations. Having gotten some of the preliminary sparring out of the way, the two behemoths face off Tuesday in D.C. in front of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property. Like the chairman of the full committee, Subcommittee Chairman Howard Berman (D-North Hollywood) is very protective of the entertainment industry. On the other hand, there aren't many lobbying groups in D.C. that can match the clout of the NAB, largely because of the role that TV and radio stations continue to play in lawmakers' re-election campaigns.

Continue reading Should local radio pay royalties? »

Webcasting royalties: indies v. majors

Live365_logo A bit of research released today by webcaster Live365 (download the news release here) adds meat to the argument that indie labels' interests diverge from the major record companies' when it comes to the looming increase in webcasting royalties. The company, which aggregates thousands of individual webcasters' stations, found that more than 55% of the music played on its channels came from independent artists. That's a hugely disproportionate share when compared to this year's CD sales, where major labels have controlled about 87% of the market.

Continue reading Webcasting royalties: indies v. majors »

EMI-DRM=Burger King premiums

Emi_logo Dang. I was poised to write yesterday about the EMI deal with VerveLife, but then got sidetracked writing an editorial about Michael Vick (which, I suspect, many of you would argue isn't worth the time spent on it). Then Coolfer beat me to the punch, making the point I was planning to make: that by making tracks available sans DRM, EMI will do more than simply add incremental sales on iTunes and other online stores.

But don't take it from me; here's what Justin Jarvinen, CEO and founder of VerveLife, had to say about EMI's willingness to offer tracks without electronic padlocks: "Our relationship will expand dramatically as a result of their opening up their tracks to MP3," he said in an interview late yesterday afternoon. "Our clients have been asking for major-label material for some time."

Continue reading EMI-DRM=Burger King premiums »

Google searches for Bourne

Bourne_ultimatum Search for "Bourne Ultimatum" on Google (hint: it's a movie) and you'll see, in a prominent blue-shaded box marked "Google Promotion," a link labeled, "Join in the Ultimate Search for Bourne." Clicking on the link takes you to a landing page for a Web-based game whose object is to (drumroll....) promote Google.

What, you thought it was to find Bourne? Well, there is that, too. But Google's primary aim with this effort was to show Hollywood more things it could do -- with Google tools, naturally -- to market its films online. It's a relatively new venture for the search giant, one that focuses not on placing advertisements but on generating content.   

Continue reading Google searches for Bourne »

Harry Potter spoiler count

Harry_potter_and_the_deathly_hallow Attributor, a company that I opined about back in April, has some interesting insights about the online leaks of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." As everyone in the civilized world knows by now, parts or all of the book (the seventh and final volume in the wildly popular series) have been popping up online for the past few days in advance of its release at midnight tonight. On Tuesday night, Attributor found a Potter spoiler site with excerpts from the book and summaries of each chapter, along with pictures of the actual pages. Rich Pearson, Attributor's senior director of marketing, said the company fed the excerpts and the summaries into its system, then went looking for other pages that had matching content Wednesday morning.

Continue reading Harry Potter spoiler count »

New hiccup in webcasting talks

Soundexchange Just when peace was starting to break out between commercial webcasters and SoundExchange, the talks have been roiled by a dispute over protecting copyrighted works. An agreement to cap the minimum annual fee at $50,000 per webcasting company is temporarily on hold. Webcasters balked at SoundExchange's demand that they implement technology to stop webcasts from being recorded, provided that the technology "is feasible and is available on reasonable terms." (Download the letter from SoundExchange to the Digital Media Assn. here; DiMA's press release and miffed reply here; and SoundExchange's retort here.)

Continue reading New hiccup in webcasting talks »

Late night online at NBC

Conan_obrien It's not "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," but it's a start: NBC announced Monday that is making it full episodes of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" available online the morning after they air, starting Aug 28th.  It's the first time any late-night TV has made it onto the Net, which seems odd -- you'd think that anything on the air after 11 p.m. would be a prime candidate for the Web's time-shifting magic. Vivi Zigler, EVP of NBC Digital Entertainment, explained in an interview that the problem was the cost of obtaining online distribution rights -- for the music on the shows, not the stars or the guests on the couch. Whaddya know -- yet another Internet deficiency to blame on music copyrights!

Continue reading Late night online at NBC »

A new day for WebTV?

I used to make fun of Microsoft's WebTV, the dial-up-Internet-on-TV product, as a service that was forever stuck at 1 million customers. Seemingly every time new subscribers came on, an equal number quit. But when I got my first DSL line, it occurred to me that Microsoft may simply have been way ahead of its time.  That time, in fact, may be now.

Research firm iSupply issued a report this week saying that more than 60% of the people surveyed said that they want to connect to the Internet through their TV sets.  This, I think, is a function of at least two factors: the insinuating effect of broadband, which makes users want to be online all the time, and the arrival of digital television monitors that can present the Web the way it should be seen.

Manufacturers certainly have picked up on this trend. For instance, on Thursday Sony unveiled nine new Bravia HDTV's that can connect to selected online video sites. That's not the ultimate solution -- people want to be able to go wherever they choose online, not where their TV manufacturer chooses to take them -- but it's a step in the right direction.

One problem for webcasters solved?

There's a good post here from Kurt Hanson on the latest olive branch offered by SoundExchange to webcasters on the thorny issue of administrative fees. According to Kurt, SoundExchange has offered to accept the $50,000 cap proposed by the Digital Media Association.  That's great news for Live365, Pandora, Yahoo and other webcasters with thousands of user-customized stations.  It's not so swell for webcasters with advertiser-supported business models, a hundred or so stations and not a huge number of listeners.  Hanson also reports that SoundExchange has pledged not to go after webcasters who keep broadcasting after the new royalty rates go into effect Sunday without paying what they owe -- as long as they are in good-faith negotiations with SoundExchange.

These signs may be encouraging, but the fact remains that the increase in royalty rates ordered by the Copyright Royalty Board -- the rates per song transmitted are due to triple by 2010 -- will drive many webcasters out of business.  So unless some deal can be struck to ease that increase, much of the industry the webcasting industry remains in peril.

(Forgive the dearth of links. I am still operating one-handed -- left-handed -- but am assisted to some degree by Dragon NaturallySpeaking.  Thank you, David Pogue and the LA Times HR crew.)

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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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