Morning read: Jobs is back; UK takes it slow

After nearly “starving to death,” Steve Jobs is set to return to Apple, according to the Wall Street Journal this morning. The news comes on the eve of next week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, where Jobs is expected to make an appearance to introduce a new iPhone, possibly one capable of recording video, according to the Web site TUAW.com.

disney_on_vuduOne thing we can be pretty sure Apple will announce at the conference is HD movies from Disney on a download-to-own basis on Apple TV, day-and-date with their DVD release. How can we be certain? Because on Thursday, Disney announced HD movies on a download-to-own basis, day-and-date with their DVD release, on Vudu’s set-top box, a move with all the earmarks of a hedge against charges of self-dealing once the Apple deal is announced (for those joining us late, Steve Jobs is Disney’s largest individual shareholder by virtue of Disney’s acquisition of Pixar in 2008). (Screen shot via Multichannel News).

Across the Pond, meanwhile, the British government is set to release the final version of its Digital Britain report on June 16, which will apparently eschew the three-strikes approach to combating online piracy recently adopted by France (and strongly favored by content companies) in favor of choking the bandwidth of those caught repeatedly downloading copyrighted files illegally.

According to a BBC News report, culture minister Andy Burnham told a music industry conference Thursday that cutting people off from the Internet was not the government’s “preferred option,” now that Internet access has become as essential as other utilities such as water and electricity.

Instead, Burnham said, the report would back “technical solutions,” to “limit or restrict” file-sharing activity.

“It is likely to include an obligation on ISPs to send out letters to people who are infringing copyright,” a ministry spokesman later confirmed to the Beeb. “What Mr Burnham also said was there was the likelihood that [last year’s Memorandum of Understanding between content owners, ISPs and the government] would be backed up by new powers for [the Office of Competition] to impose ‘technical solutions’ for repeat offenders if that process of sending out letters was not effective enough.”

Why the shift from three-strikes to throttling? One reason could be that the European Council  is scheduled to vote next week on a final version of the EU telecommunications directive, which, as of right now includes a provision prohibiting member states from adopting three-strikes laws that do not provide for prior judicial review, a stipulation likely to set up a clash with Paris.

The provision has been in the directive, then out, then back in again, so things could still change before the vote. Either way, the British government appears to be taking no chances.

In any case, two of the largest markets in Western Europe will soon have imposed some sort of legal obligation on ISPs to enforce anti-piracy measures, which can only add to the ferment around the issue in the U.S.

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