August, 2010

First skirmish in DMCA overhaul coming ‘in the very near future’

Copyright U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke dropped a tidbit of news yesterday in remarks to a music-business crowd at Belmont University in Nashville  “In the very near future,” Locke said, according to the text of his prepared remarks, “the Department will be issue a Notice of Inquiry, seeking public comment on the challenges of protecting copyrighted works on-line and the relationship between copyright law and innovation” (h/t Ben Sheffner). Comments in response to the NOI, he said, will be used “to create a report that will help shape the administration-wide policy on copyright protection and innovation.” Read More »

More DMCA push-back from copyright owners

Copyright RIAA president Cary Sherman isn’t the only music industry figure willing to talk openly now about revisiting the DMCA. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Eagles front man Don Henley says the time has come to blockade the safe harbors:

Congress should amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), eliminating or dramatically limiting the Safe Harbor provisions so that ISPs [Internet service providers] and websites such as YouTube, MySpace and Facebook have legal liability for hosting infringing content.


Without this change, copyright owners are left with the unjustifiable and oppressive burden of constant policing of the online companies’ sites, which has little real effect on the continual problem of infringement of property, and serves mostly to embitter fans and the users of these sites. Read More »

Google in talks with studios for pay-per-view movies. No, really

Streaming Video Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: According to a report in the Financial Times (sub. req.), Google is in advance talks with the major studios about a pay-per-view movie streaming service via YouTube. The service will launch in the U.S. before the end of this year and eventually be rolled out globally, according to the report.

Actually, you have heard this one before. Just about a year ago to the day, the Wall Street Journal reported more or less the same story. That one turned out to be a false alarm. But enough water has gone under the bridge since that I wouldn’t write off the latest report as just a recurring, seasonal rumor.

What’s changed? Read More »

From devices to desires

Apple Apple watchers anticipating the big iTV announcement from Apple next month were disappointed yesterday when Cupertino sent out media invitations to a “special event” on September 1 in San Francisco that is pretty clearly not going to be a TV announcement.

The invitation was typically cryptic but featured a picture of a an acoustic guitar with an Apple logo cutout, pointing strongly to an music-related announcement. Speculation has now shifted to something iPod, with maybe a little iTunes news thrown in. Read More »

Is this Apple TV?

TV Apps One of the many unanswered questions surrounding Apple’s purported plans for an all-in-one, App Store-powered HDTV has been whether or how Apple’s touch-based iOS interface could translate to 46-inch screen in the living room. A European patent uncovered by the web site Patently Apple may offer a hint.

The filing describes an iMac-like desktop device with a touchscreen interface. The support stand is flexible to allow the height of the screen to be adjusted while a swivel mount would allow the screen to tilt  for optimal fingertip control and viewing. The device could operate either in OS X or iOS modes; switching between the two is done by touching advanced sensors embedded in the frame. Read More »

Time to reopen the DMCA? RIAA goes there (sort of)

Copyright RIAA president Cary Sherman broached publicly on Monday a topic that has quietly been gaining currency in some Washington copyright salons for a while now: the DMCA is broken and the time has come to fix it.

Speaking at the Technology Policy Institute’s Aspen Forum, Sherman said “the DMCA isn’t working for content people at all,” according to a report by CNet’s Declan McCullagh. “You cannot monitor all the infringements on the Internet. It’s simply not possible. We don’t have the ability to search all the places infringing content appears, such as cyberlockers like [file-hosting firm] RapidShare.”

The complaint isn’t new. Sherman’s willingness to speak publicly about a solution is at least semi-new. From CNet: Read More »

Will ACTA effort be wasted?

UPDATE: Intellectual Property Watch (reg. req.) has an excellent piece up on the intersection of the U.S. net neutrality debate, plurilateral trade agreements and the ongoing debates around the world over broadband policy and ISP liability.

Net Neutrality Negotiators wrapped up the 10th round of formal talks on the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) here in Washington on Friday and set the next round of talks for next month, in Japan. According to a statement issued by the U.S. Trade Representative, participants committed to resolving all remaining “substantive issues” at that September meeting.

I’m old enough to remember when they were going to be resolved by the end of 2008. And then in 2009. Read More »

Not Digging the latest Apple TV rumor

Apple TV Digg founder Kevin Rose got the blogosphere buzzing over the weekend with a brief blog item claiming Apple’s revamped TV set-top, now rechristened iTV, will arrive in September, at the previously reported price of $99. Rose didn’t reveal where he got this information, but “from what [he’s] told,” iTV will feature a full panoply of “Video sharing/streaming/recording apps, interactive news apps, and of course games,” and will “change everything.”

Hmm. Not impossible, I suppose, but even for Apple announcing and delivering such a revolutionary device by September, at this point, would be quite a feat.

For one thing, Apple has only recently gotten its supply chain issues worked out sufficiently to meet runaway consumer demand for the iPad, and it’s still dealing with fallout from revelations that its senior supply-chain executives was taking illegal kickbacks from vendors. Those are not the best conditions in which to try to roll out an entirely new product. Read More »

iPad now (sort of) safe for subscriptions

Apple Time Inc. seems to have resolved its dispute with Apple over magazine subscription apps on the iPad, according to an item in Time-owned Fortune Thursday. Starting with this week’s issue of People, subscribers to Time Inc. mags will be able to access the digital editions on the iPad at no cost, via a subscriber-authentication process. Up to now, subscribers paid the same $4.99 per issue for People, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and Time as everyone else because Apple had refused to provide the publisher with the tools needed to create free-to-subscriber apps.

Some major publishers, like Condé Nast, have said they have no intention of letting subscribers access iPad apps for free. But plenty of subscription service providers do have such plans, including a growing number of pay-TV and other video service providers that are currently developing iPad apps. Thus, figuring out what the relationship is going to be going forward among Apple, service providers and the subscriber is going to be critical to a lot of business plans.   Read More »

VOD and pay-TV still locked and downloaded

TV Apps The quest to free pay-TV and VOD content from the set-top box is gathering force, but uncertainty over content rights is hampering efforts to translate that force into actual movement.

Verizon on Wednesday showed off its planned iPad app, called “What’s Hot,” which is meant to give Verizon FiOS subscribers access to their FiOS TV content on the Apple tablet. An Android version is said to be in the works, and a Chrome OS version for a yet unannounced Chrome-powered tablet is rumored to be in the works as well. Read More »

MPAA to Fifth Circuit: Now rehear this

Copyright The danger lurking in an opinion last month by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in an otherwise obscure DMCA case has apparently landed hard on the radar of the major copyright groups. Last week, the MPAA, RIAA, ESA, BSA and SIIA filed a pair of amicus briefs, the latter four jointly, the MPAA on its own, urging a rehearing en banc, the likely prelude to an eventual Supreme Court petition for cert.

The case, MGE UPS Systems v. Power Maintenance International (a company now owned by NBC Universal-parent GE), involved the use of a hardware security dongle to gain access to diagnostic software embedded in MGE’s uninterpretable power supply systems. PMI is a service company that performs maintenance on MGE’s systems on behalf of MGE customers. Somewhere along the way, PMI technicians obtained a working copy of the diagnostic software (from a source or sources unidentified), which they were able to use to service MGE systems without the use of the dongle. Read More »

Why HBO is no-go for Netflix

TV Everywhere No one should be terribly surprised by the “news” that Netflix is not in line for a deal with HBO to match its recent deal with EPIX. HBO and EPIX are not at all similarly situated with respect to either online or on-cable distribution.

EPIX is only available in about a third of cable/satellite homes. It needs distribution. It was also designed from the start to be a cross-platform channel that could support a number of different business models. HBO is the market-share leader among premium TV channels and is available in virtually every pay-TV home. It has exclusive rights to movies from three major studios and a highly regarded and highly rated lineup of original programming. Now, with HBO Go, there’s nothing much Netflix could do for HBO that it couldn’t do itself. Read More »

Google TV and the battle of the metadata

Metadata No surprise really that the networks are showing some wariness of Google’s intentions with Google TV, as reported this morning by the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal. They should be wary. Google has a history of disrupting markets, gutting them of near-term profit and leaving nothing of immediate commercial value in its wake. Just as a newspaper publisher. That’s not an argument for ignoring Google TV, or the implications of bringing search to the TV user interface. But wariness of its potentially disruptive impact on the TV advertising business is certainly in order.

What caught my eye in the reports was a bit of news buried at the bottom of Dawn Chmielewski and Jessica Guynn’s story in the LA Times: Google TV doesn’t work very well, at least at this point:

Right now, Google TV isn’t very effective in correctly identifying TV shows. In demonstrations with network executives, Google TV confused one network’s shows for a rival’s. On another occasion, it listed the several ways a popular prime-time show could be watched online and on TV — except on the network’s own website. Read More »

Chipping away at over-the-top video

Chips If you have an idea for delivering digital video to the set-top that involves content security, conditional access and/or specialized content management, now is the time to be wooing chip designers. Decisions are being made now regarding chip architecture and embedded software that could go a long way toward determining the type of delivery platforms and business models the next generation of connected CE devices can support.

On Monday, Intel announced the acquisition of Texas Instrument’s cable modem unit for an undisclosed sum. The move is intended to bolster Intel’s position in the CE and STB markets, where it has lagged behind ARM Holdings in providing the processors at the heart of connected devices. Intel said in a statement it plans to incorporate TI’s cable modem and residential gateway technology into Intel’s Atom-based SoCs for CE devices. Read More »