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Sezmi presents TV 2.0

Sezmi_logo We know what the second generation of the World Wide Web looks like -- a cornucopia of services and applications, not just text and graphics. But what might the Web 2.0 counterpart be for television? It will be digital, certainly, and offer far more programming from a greater variety of sources. It will make more shows available on demand, to meet the expectations of consumers who've been liberated by TiVo. It will be more interactive, to meet the expectations of advertisers spoiled by the Web. And it will be mobile. After all, every cell phone in the market will soon be able to show video, and TV flows inexorably toward any screen that can display it.

Today, a Silicon Valley start-up called Sezmi (formerly known by the more stealthy and Webster's-friendly moniker Building B) goes public with its version of TV 2.0. It may not succeed -- the landscape is littered with the empty offices of firms that tried and failed to compete with the local cable operators -- but its approach shows what's possible.

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UPDATED - More on the RIAA's latest loss

Copyright-law guru Bill Patry makes an intriguing point in his post today on the recent ruling in Atlantic v. Howell, which held that making songs available on a file-sharing network did not, in and of itself, constitute infringement. Although Patry welcomed that portion of the ruling, he took issue with a second key finding by Judge Neil V. Wake. If the courts ultimately side with Patry, it could be much harder for the RIAA to prove its claims.

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UPDATED -- Has HD DVD demise helped Blu-ray?

Bluray_logo2 The NPD Group released a report today showing that post-holiday sales of Blu-ray didn't exactly skyrocket after Toshiba folded the HD DVD tent in February. After dropping 40 percent from January to February, sales of set-top Blu-ray players (i.e., those not built into a PlayStation 3) crept up 2% in March, NPD said. HD DVD sales, meanwhile, fell off a cliff that month.

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Judge rejects claim RIAA previously won

Talk about a case going full circle: U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake has rejected the RIAA's motion for summary judgment in its claims against Pamela and Jeffrey Howell, completely reversing the ruling he'd made last August. The new ruling, dated Monday but released today, sets a high bar for proving infringement claims against file-sharers, potentially spelling trouble for Hollywood as well as the record companies. The decision won't control other courts, but it adds to the growing stack of rulings that make cases against file-sharers more difficult to win.

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MSN: the sound of silence

Eff_logo EFF Executive Director Shari Steele fired off a nastygram today to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, blasting the company for abandoning customers who bought 99-cent downloads wrapped in a soon-to-be-defunct DRM. Although I think the letter is unrealistic on some points, Steele hints at a step Microsoft could take that would be truly helpful to buyers stuck with song files that just won't play.

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CinemaNow phones in movies

Cinemanow_logo This morning, CinemaNow announced a mobile version of its downloadable movie site. Happily, the point isn't to supply movies to your cell phone (not that there's anything wrong with that). Instead, it lets people use their phones to order movies and have them delivered electronically to their PC or a variety of other devices.

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SpiralFrog keeps growing

Spiralfrog_free_music_downloads_log SpiralFrog's Joe Mohen was back in town Friday, and he reported a few new milestones. The advertiser-supported music-download service has more than doubled its registered users from 500,000 in mid-February to 1.1 million, and has increased its monthly unique visitors from 1 million in late January to more than 3 million this month. The numbers suggest that its growth is accelerating, which is a good thing, although the company is still well short of the 10-million-plus level that attracts the interest of major advertisers. The intriguing thing is that SpiralFrog is making this progress despite a number of non-trivial shortcomings, most notably the paucity of major-label content (only Universal Music Group has made its tracks available) and incompatibility with iPods.

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Paramount's Showtime

Iron_man_flying If you're like me, a single question bounced between your ears when you read that Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate had decided to start their own premium movie channel, in competition with Showtime, HBO and Starz: "What were they thinking?" In this morning's LA Times, Claudia Eller and Meg James (the Biz section reporters who cover the studios and the networks, respectively) provide some answers. Although the move still smacks of an effort to wrest more dollars from Showtime, the piece helps illuminate some of the logic behind the effort.

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Second-best set-top box ever

This post is meant for readers in the, oh, 17 million or so households that rely on over-the-air signals for their television programming pleasure. As you should know by now, analog TV signals from full-power stations are shutting off next February, when those stations go exclusively with digital TV transmissions. If you're wedded to your analog TV, you'll need a converter box that will cost about $50. The federal government, fearful of couch-potato riots, is offering one to two $40 coupons per household to subsidize those boxes. So far, more than 6 million coupons have been mailed out by the feds, but only about 10% of them have been redeemed. With the analog cut-off not due until February, you might think there's no reason to rush out and get a converter. Well, here's a reason: I got my box a couple of weeks ago, and I've never seen broadcast TV look so good.

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TVLand's trailers: a half-full cup

Tvland_logo Movie critic and blogger Bill Goodykoontz drew my attention today to a new feature on the TVLand website: an impressive collection of movie trailers, sorted by genre and (more interestingly, IMHO) year of release. The site is embellished a bit with a couple of extras, but the main draws are the trailers and the accompanying descriptions from All Movie Guide. The site is built for idle browsing only -- there's no way to search for a specific trailer. (UPDATE -- Oops, you can rummage through the catalog of trailers alphabetically. You just can't find them through the site's search box.) Still, after spending a few minutes flipping through trailers (Note to editors -- just a few, honest!), I had to wonder -- why not provide the movies, too?

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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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