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Eyealike joins content-recognition field

Eyealike_logo_5 I wrote a couple of posts last year about the expanding field of companies offering content-recognition services to user-generated video sites, peer-to-peer networks and other businesses with inventories of uncertain provenance. At the DEMO conference this week, yet another firm joined the fray: Eyealike, a small company from Bellevue, WA, whose strength is in facial recognition technology.

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Copy-protecting video streams

Television networks have garnered a lot of attention in the past year for making their programs available for free online, be it through their own sites (e.g., cbs.com and comedycentral.com), joint efforts (hulu.com) or social networks (MySpaceTV). Many of these efforts rely on Adobe's well-nigh ubiquitous Flash format, which works on Macs as well as PCs. One consequence of using Flash is that the streams aren't encrypted, which means they can be recorded and redistributed. That's not necessarily a bad thing for advertiser-supported programming, but not a good thing if people routinely clip out the commercials before passing the video along. Where there is a vulnerability, there will be tech companies trying to exploit it -- and, inevitably, others trying to fend them off with tighter security.

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Seeqpod's turn to be sued

Seeqpod_logo Warner Music Group's lawsuit against Seeqpod, like Viacom's $1 billion claim against YouTube, raises intriguing questions about how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act applies to sites that rely on copyrighted media furnished by users. I'm going to skip the legal discussion, though, to ponder a related policy question: Should Internet-based music businesses be able to avoid paying copyright holders based on purely technological differences in the delivery of their product?

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Last.fm: free and on-demand

Last_fm_logo Eight months after its acquisition by CBS, online radio service Last.fm announced a significant new feature: on-demand songs, free of charge. What's the catch? I'm still trying to figure that out.

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Apple subtracts one advantage

Tuaw_logo Reader James Lubin of Los Angeles pointed out something I'd overlooked in my post Tuesday about Apple's new movie rental service. One of the differentiators between Apple and other downloadable movie sites is that rented films can be transferred to pocket-sized portable players in addition to laptops. Previously, that was something only DivX-enabled services such as Film Fresh could do with rentals, and until this month, no major studio had approved the use of DivX's DRM on its movies. But Lubin pointed me to a post on The Unofficial Apple Weblog reporting that movies rented from iTunes can be transferred only the latest iPods, i.e., the Touch, the Classic, the iPhone and the redesigned Nano.

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AOL parent revives usage-based billing

Time_warner_cable_logo_2The explosive growth of Internet use in the 1990s stemmed in part from the arrival of the World Wide Web, but also from the shift from pay-per-minute to all-you-can-eat pricing from Internet service providers. One of the leaders in that shift was America Online, which quickly became the dominant provider of dial-up Internet access. Now, AOL's parent, Time Warner, is flirting with a return to usage-based pricing as a way to reduce congestion on its cable-modem service. It could be a welcome development for consumers but not necessarily for content providers, particularly those offering video through the Web.

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The Times' editorial board mulls EMI

Emi_logo EMI Group's relatively new chairman, Guy Hands, announced a plan Tuesday to restructure the company's money-losing recorded music division, aiming to shift from the industry's high-risk, high-reward model to something more modest (and profitable). For starters, he wants to make smaller up-front investments in artists, lowering the amount of sales required before they break into the black. Doing so requires further cuts in EMI's expenses, which means 1,500 to 2,000 of the company's employees will be looking for new jobs this year. The layoffs notwithstanding, EMI's willingness to make fundamental changes in its business model struck me as something the LA Times should applaud on its editorial pages. So, in my role as an editorial writer here, I made the pitch at our editorial board meeting yesterday.

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Apple's version of Movielink

Apple_tv_movie_rentals Apple CEO Steve Jobs confirmed this morning its long-rumored entry into the online movie rental business, saying it had deals with all the major Hollywood studios to offer downloadable films for $2.99 (older titles in standard definition) to $4.99 (new releases in high definition). The company's approach is plagued by many of the same studio-imposed problems that have burdened pioneering download sites Movielink and CinemaNow, but it also has a couple of advantages unique to Apple.

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Gizmodo on journalism

In the aftermath of last week's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the trade group mounting that epic gadget-fest has banned a reporter from the Gizmodo website. The reporter -- one Richard Blakeley -- used a gadget modeled after the TV-B-Gone to turn off an assortment of display screens at the show, including ones used during a presentation by Motorola. He recorded the pranks and posted a short video on Gizmodo, with an intro by the site's editor, Brian Lam. ("It was too much fun, but watching this video, we realize it probably made some people's jobs harder, and I don't agree with that (Especially Motorola).")

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CES: Connecting the home with HD, Part 2

One of the trends on view at this week's Consumer Electronics Show was slimmer and slimmer flat-panel TVs. Pioneer showed a prototype that was a mere 9 mm (a little more than 1/3") thick, while several other manufacturers offered technology demos and production models in the 1"-2" range. The closer sets get to the wall, though, the more consumers will want to dispense with the tangle of wires typically needed to connect a set to peripheral devices, such as disc players and amplifiers. One approach is to hide those wires behind walls and under floors, but that typically requires a professional installer. Another idea, from Irvine-based OWLink Technology, is to make the wire all but invisible.

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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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