When you’re GeoHot, you’re hot; when you’re Howard Stringer, you’re not

Hackers What a striking contrast in the fortunes of Sony chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer, and those of George Hotz, the hacker formerly known as GeoHot, who was sued by Sony earlier this year for cracking the PS3 security system.

Facing frustrated, and at times hostile, shareholders at Sony’s annual meeting Tuesday, Stringer acknowledged that the lawsuit against Hotz triggered a backlash from hacker groups that led to the devastating cyber-attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network and Qriocity network in May and June. Read More »

Media Sans Frontières

Licensing Before content owners get too excited about the possibility of mandatory Internet content filtering coming to Europe, highlighted in a Reuters story Monday based on leaked portions of a pending European Commission report on intellectual property rights, they might want to read through the full document now that it’s available on the EC website.

Any action that could involve stepped up enforcement of copyrights online by Internet service providers referenced in the report would be limited for now to studying “ways to create a framework allowing, in particular, combating infringements of IPR via the internet more effectively.” Any formal proposals to emerge from that studying,  moreover, which won’t even begin until 2012, will “not alter the existing rules on limited liability for certain types of ISP activities,” according to FAQ provided by the commission. Read More »

Do as I say, not as I do

Copyright National governments must operate in several different domains at once, both domestic and international. To expect absolute consistency in its positions across all of those domains is to misapprehend the role and process of government. Yet for all that, the contrast between current efforts in Congress to block U.S. citizens’ access to certain “rogue” web sites, and those of the U.S. State Department to help citizens of China to circumvent efforts by the Chinese government to block its citizens access to certain web sites, is striking. Read More »

A gift from Zediva

Copyright If online “DVD rental” outfit Zediva didn’t exist, incoming MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd might have wanted to invent it. Having taken on a nearly impossible job riding herd over a membership that has trouble agreeing on where to order lunch during board meetings, Zediva has handed him, for his first major project, a nearly gift-wrapped opportunity to rally his members around a righteous and beloved cause: suing the bejeesus out of start-up for copyright infringement.

All six of the major studios that make up the membership of MPAA are named plaintiffs in the complaint against Zediva and its CEO, Venkatesh Srinivasan, filed Monday in federal district court in California. The MPAA then put out a press release trumpeting the lawsuit, which no doubt felt good. Read More »

Cable apps and the FCC (Updated)

AllVid One potentially interesting wrinkle to the controversy over cable MSOs launching iPad streaming apps that hasn’t received much attention yet: the possibility that the FCC could have a say in the eventual outcome were the agency to go ahead with its proposed AllVid mandate.

So far, Time Warner Cable’s iPad app seems to be drawing most of the ire of the networks. The MSO was forced to drop 11 channels from its app belonging to Viacom, News Corp., Scripps and Discovery Communications after the networks threatened it with litigation. Cablevision’s iPad app, on the other hand, launched after TWC’s, has thus far escaped the cease-and-desist letters, at least as far as has been reported. Read More »

Will clouds block UV light? (Updated)

Cloud Amazon is the first major player out of the gate with a cloud-based digital media “locker” service but it’s a fair bet that Apple and probably Google won’t be far behind. The question is: how long can they wait?

Both Apple and Google are reported to be attempting to negotiate licensing deals with the record labels that would allow them to offer cloud-based music storage and streaming services without fear of legal challenge or litigation. But that’s a lengthy process and Amazon’s decision to launch without such licenses may for Apple’s and Google’s hands. Read More »

Nice try, Google

Copyright So now what? Judge Denny Chin has rejected the painstakingly negotiated settlement in the Google Books case, leaving the outcome of the six-year old litigation uncertain along with the legal status of millions of books already digitized by Google and archived by major libraries.

While Judge Chin indicated he might look more favorably on a revised agreement that allowed authors to opt-in to its terms, as opposed to the opt-out standard in the current agreement, such a change would upend the commercial logic behind the deal and therefore might not be acceptable to Google. Read More »

The price of policing piracy

Copyright Implementation of the U.K.’s already delayed Digital Economy Act is likely to be postponed again, this time until at least 2012. Two of England’s largest ISPs,  British Telecom and TalkTalk plan to challenge the law in court on Wednesday on grounds that it’s proposed curbs on file-sharing violate users’ basic rights and received inadequate Parliamentary scrutiny. Assuming the high court agrees to hear the challenge the legal process is expected to take at least a year and the whole process could take even longer if Parliament decides to make changes to the law based on the court’s decision. Read More »

Chris Dodd shows how not to make an entrance

Lobbying I’m not sure former-Senator Chris Dodd did himself any favors by giving an interview to the Times’ Maureen Dowd in his first week as CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. The Sunday op-ed piece that resulted opened with Dodd waxing whimsically about the job he really wanted (“just down the street” at the White House) and closed with him damning Hollywood with faint praise about its mild winter climate compared to Washington, DC and Connecticut. In between Dodd recounted a weird anecdote about Katherine Hepburn that made the legendary movie star sound snooty and boorish and described the movie industry’s business model as “nuts in many ways.” Read More »

Hulu, the FCC and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Online Video The FCC added a bit of an unexpected twist to its conditioned approval of Comcast’s bid to take control of NBC Universal announced Tuesday. According to the FCC press release, the order approving the deal will stipulate that NBC must give up all  involvement in the management of Hulu, the joint venture among NBC, ABC and News Corp. (Comcast will be able to retain its 30 percent equity stake). Hadn’t seen a lot of speculation around that prior to today’s announcement.

We might already have seen one of the effects of that stipulation, however, without realizing it at the time. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Hulu has shelved plans for an IPO, at least for the foreseeable future. The main stumbling block, according to the Journal, was the networks’ refusal to sign the sort of long-term licensing deals for their content that Hulu would need to secure a decent valuation in an IPO. Read More »

The MPAA gets dialed in

Lobbying You never know how much to read into a hire after a job has been hanging out there for a while, but it strikes me as potentially significant that the MPAA has hired a telecom guy as its new chief technology policy officer. After several months of being shopped around, the job went to Paul Brigner, who spent the previous eight and a half years at Verizon, first as a software engineer and more recently as a lobbyist representing Verizon before the FCC. His LinkedIn profile is here.

The title, chief technology policy officer, is a new one for the MPAA and represents an evolution in the position since the association began trying to fill it last year. Originally, it didn’t have a policy role, and most of the folks who were approached about the job had backgrounds in engineering, not policy. Brigner has both. Read More »

Forget net neutrality, broadcasters pose a bigger threat to OTT video

Online Video For all the dire warnings from net neutrality supporters that ISPs might block or degrade competing over-the-top video services unless restrained by the FCC, evidence that was actually happening (or even likely to happen in the near term) has been painfully thin on the ground (as opponents of FCC action never tire of pointing out). At the same time, scarce attention has been paid to the far-more immediate and concrete threat to the development of a competitive video delivery market posed by the traditional broadcast networks, despite abundant evidence of the danger.

Even as the FCC was adopting its new net neutrality rules this week that will restrain the actions of ISPs, the broadcasters were claiming two more, high-profile victims, with nary a peep from the FCC or net neutrality supporters. Read More »

New FCC rules leave online video stuck in neutral

Net Neutrality The full text of the FCC’s memorandum and order in its “open internet” proceeding hasn’t been released yet so the details of the new net neutrality regime are not yet fully clear. But from what was announced at the commission’s open meeting Tuesday where the new rules were adopted by a 3-2 vote they won’t provide much holiday cheer for online and OTT video providers, largely because the rules leave the most important questions unanswered, or at least unclear.

On the plus side for online video providers, the new rules will prohibit the blocking of any “lawful” content or application, and will bar “unreasonable discrimination” against third-party content or services by broadband access providers. That would include things like an ISP blocking Netflix because it competes with the ISP’s cable TV service. Read More »

FCC breakdown in the toll lane? (Updated)

Net Neutrality The Washington telecom circuit is buzzing with anticipation ahead of tomorrow’s FCC open hearing where the commission is scheduled to vote on a chairman Julius Genachowski’s proposal to adopt formal regulations on net neutrality.  Genachowski released a “framework” for the proposal earlier this month that included permitting “usage-based” (i.e. tiered) pricing for wireline broadband access as well as tacit approval of “managed services” over last-mile broadband networks including paid prioritization of bits. The latter could be a boon to content owners and distributors by enabling them to assure end-to-end quality of service for video streams even as total internet traffic grows.

Read More »