Archive for the ‘Internet’ category

“Copyfraud” Steals From the Public Domain

12-13-07

Here’s something I didn’t know:

Copyfraud is everywhere. False copyright notices appear on modern reprints of Shakespeare’s plays, Beethoven’s piano scores, greeting card versions of Monet’s Water Lilies, and even the U.S. Constitution. Archives claim blanket copyright in everything in their collections. Vendors of microfilmed versions of historical newspapers assert copyright ownership. These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the owner’s permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use.

Copyright law itself creates strong incentives for copyfraud. The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials. There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free. While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free. Copyfraud stifles valid forms of reproduction and undermines free speech.

This is from a paper by Assistant Professor Jason Mazzone of the Brooklyn Law School, which was linked by the popular site Boing Boing. The full paper can be downloaded from here.

In the paper, he cites a warning notice placed on an edition of the U.S. Constitution that many law students use: “No part of this may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means…without permission from the publisher.”  The Constitution! (more…)

“Off The Cuff” Internet Winners

12-08-07

You’ve got a room full of venture capitalists in Half Moon Bay, Ca., not too far from Silicon Valley.  What do you do?  Guy Kawasaki, tech marketer and a VC fund CEO himself, decided to torture them with the personal testimony of four hugely successful web entrepreneurs who did it all without any VC money! From Dean Takahashi’s blog on the San Jose Mercury News’ site:

The highlight of the AlwaysOn Venture Capital Summit was Guy Kawasaki’s panel, “Why Take Venture Capital At All.” It was hilarious from the get go as venture capitalists watched the young entrepreneurs on the panel inside the swanky Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay resort. Kawasaki rounded up four people who were at the right place with the right idea at the right time. By making money with virtually solo operations, they are the lucky ones who make it look so easy. So much so that they didn’t really need much funding at all. In other words, it’s the people everybody loves to hate because they make the rest of us look so bad and unlucky.

Kawasaki asked everyone at the outset how much traffic each of the young entreprenuers were getting. Drew Curtis, the founder of Fark.com, said he has managed to get 52 million page views a month from four million unique visitors. I enjoy Fark myself. It’s basically news of the weird that makes you laugh. People submit ideas for funny stories to him and he and his crew put the best ones on the site. Curtis lives in Kentucky, drinks beer, and plays a lot of soccer so that he counteracts the effects of the beer.

He got the idea for Fark.com as a “complete accident” back in 1999. “I did it because I was annoying the people I was sending the stories to,” he said. Curtis said the site is just a single page that you click on to go to the stories. Once it gathered momentum, the bottom had fallen out of the dot-com market so Curtis didn’t raise any money.

“Still, it was basically my own personal web site,” he said. “It’s almost on auto pilot.”

They get about 2,000 stories a day and then sort through them. He notes that every single late-night talk show and comedy show uses stuff from Fark.com but they don’t credit it. He reads through them from 7 am until 5 pm, when his soccer game starts. He says he is usually so drunk at night that he signs off early, he said.

“I’m having trouble feeling sorry for you, hanging out in Kentucky,” Kawasaki said.

Curtis said that four friends help him do the sorting because they have the same kind of sense of humor that he has. Sometimes he disappears and no one notices. Acting the social critic, Kawasaki asked, “What does it mean that a lot of people get their news through Fark? It’s not exactly NPR.”

“It comes down to the way the younger generation reads the news,” he said. “Most males 18 to 35 get their TV news from the Daily Show. It’s a different filter.” He is worried that Fark has been around nine years and it will be “screwed” if the younger readers don’t adopt it. But he said the younger readers are still coming.

(more…)

MSN Bets on Laziness

11-29-07

At the Consumer Technology Innovations conference in San Francisco yesterday, Joanne Bradford, Corporate Vice President & Chief Media Officer of Microsoft’s MSN, said the popularity of Facebook, MySpace and YouTube proves that web portals continue to be viable, despite the trend toward extreme individualism encapsulated in the expression “long tail.”

From CNET’s post about the conference:

For Bradford, who was interviewed on-stage at the conference by Wall Street Journal reporter Kevin Delaney, we’re in a new era where Web users want data and information filtered for them.

“People want you to do it for them,” she said. “They’re lazy. It’s a society of convenience.”

Fortunately, she suggested, MSN is here to help.

And in doing so, Bradford seemed to suggest, MSN is helping to create a dynamic where the most important and relevant information is presented to users, rather than relying on the long-tail to satisfy large numbers of users who want less popular information.

And by presenting the most important information in a way that is accessible and relevant, MSN is hoping it can benefit by similarly attracting top advertisers.

“The growth is still there,” she said. “Advertisers want the head. Advertisers will still pay 10x for the head instead of the tail.”

And from internetnews.com:

Asked if portals were “dying a slow death,” Bradford said quite the opposite. “Everything is looking more like a portal these days if you look at Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. I think there’s a reverse portal phenomenon going on where you stuff the tail back in the head and make it mean something.”

In other words, while a lot of social networking sites carry more personalized, user-generated and long tail content (referring to the theory of niche sites creating their own markets), they’re all trying to organize content like a portal does.

“People want things filtered for them and put together in a way that’s meaningful to their life, whether that’s around friends or items you want to buy,” said Bradford. “We really think people want you to do it [organize content] for them.” Bradford further claimed that most consumers don’t want to set up home pages, such as iGoogle, myYahoo or even feeds on Facebook. “There’s a great unanswered consumer need there,” she said, to automate the process of giving users the content they’re looking for.

To which I observe: Boy, that Microsoft culture sticks to its people like lint! Bradford’s head shot makes her look young and perky, but she already talks like an old-timer.

People are lazy?

People want things filtered for them?

MSN knows what’s “meaningful to (my) life?”

Really? (more…)

New Dolan Legal Blog — Not Just for Badgers

11-27-07

jean_nicolet-discovers-wisconsin.jpgOur roster of Dolan Media blogs is growing. Today, I’m pleased to point you to The Wisconsin Law Journal Blogs. What you get here are the thoughts of several area legal scholars and legal affairs reporters writing mostly, but not entirely, about matters of law in their home state.

So, for example:

Tony Anderson writes this about a state supreme court decision that would eliminate limits on how many times someone can take the Wisconsin Bar exam:

On Nov. 7, the state’s high court considered a petition from Arnold A. Moncada Jr., a Thomas Cooley Law School (Lansing, Mich.) graduate who has made five unsuccessful attempts to pass the Wisconsin bar exam. Audio of that public hearing for Petition 07-04 is available here. Moncada said that 31 states allow unlimited attempts to pass the exam. He also noted that some other professions within Wisconsin allow unlimited opportunities to pass their licensing examinations.

I understand wanting to level the playing field with Wisconsin law school graduates who receive diploma privilege. However, the solution is not to eliminate the safeguards we have in place to protect the public. Questions regarding the appropriateness of diploma privilege should be considered separately.

Note that Tony links you to both the petition and an audio recording of the hearing itself. Not too shabby.

Two other pieces cover matters that all lawyers, litigants and anyone else for that matter should find of great interest. Trial lawyer and jury consultant Anne Reed discusses recent research into the power of “gory materials” to influence juries:

Just over 100 subjects were assigned to read a summary of the murder trial. The facts were the same in each summary, but the researchers varied the amount of detail in the description of the victim’s wounds. In addition, some subjects got photographs of the victim’s wounds with their summaries, some got “neutral” pictures of the crime scene, and some got no pictures at all.

The photographs had a huge influence. Only 8.8% of the mock jurors who didn’t see pictures voted to convict the defendant, compared to 38.2% of those who saw neutral pictures and 41.2% of those who saw gory pictures. The level of verbal detail, on the other hand, seemed to have no effect. Why did the photographs make such a difference? Another finding suggests the answer: the jurors who saw gruesome pictures “reported higher levels of anger directed at the defendant” than the others.

Her post includes a link to an audio presentation of this study by its author, David Bright, an Australian graduate student in forensic psychology.

Meanwhile, Ray Dall’Osto, a criminal defense and constitutional law attorney analyzes the effect of British and Dutch government moves to shut down OiNK, a music downloading and peer-to-peer sharing service:

Wasn’t all this decided in the Napster case? Remember when Napster existed and how you could readily have a world of music brought into your home – you could download songs from Vivaldi, Johnny Cash, Crosby Stills, Nine Inch Nails and even the Bonzo Dog Band? How cool was that? In A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 239 F.3d 1004 (9th Cir. 2001), the Ninth Circuit ruled that Napster could be held liable for contributory infringement of record company copyrights and shut the free file-sharing service down. The court rejected arguments that peer-to-peer file-sharing was a fair use or allowable personal archiving, or that First Amendment rights to free speech and association protections were implicated.

This was the first major case to address the application of newer copyright laws to peer-to-peer file-sharing. And big business got what it paid for when the copyright laws were redrafted in the 1980s, with the substantial help of the recording and cable television industries to provide Draconian civil and criminal sanctions for personal use and file-sharers.

Our Wisconsin bloggers don’t shy away from the big issues. So — if you think you can take it — check out the Wisconsin Law Journal Blogs. And, while you’re at it, go over to my blogroll and check out the other excellent and proliferating Dolan blogs on business and law. Smart commentary, breaking news, curious episodes — we’ve got it all.

 

Will the Writers’ Strike Make Hollywood More Like Silicon Valley?

11-13-07

Legendary tech entrepreneur Marc Andreessen explains that the Silicon Valley way of creating businesses might be what its polar opposite, the entertainment industry, might turn into as a result of the WGA strike; and of the underlying issue behind the strike, the convergence of scripted movie and TV entertainment with the Internet.

The whole, very long piece is worth reading, but here’s the nut of it:

What would a new entertainment media company, producing original content, look like in the age of the Internet?

  • Starting from the end of the process: you know distribution is now nearly free. Put it up on the Internet and let people stream or download it.
  • Marketing is also free, due to virality. Let people email your content to their friends; let people embed your content in their blogs and on their social networking pages; let your content be searchable via Google; let your content be easily surfaced using social crawlers like Digg. All free.
  • Production is very cheap. Handheld high-definition video cameras cost nearly nothing. You can do almost every aspect of production and post-production on any Mac. Hell, you can even score an entire movie for free — there are hundreds of thousands of bands on the Internet who would love to have their music embedded in a new entertainment property as promotion for the bands’ concerts and merchandise.
  • The creators of the content are the owners of the company. The writers, actors, directors — they are the owners. They have a direct, equity-based economic stake in the company’s success. They get paid like owners, and they act like owners.
  • Financing is straightforward: venture capital, just like a high-tech startup. We live in a world in which financing a high-quality startup is simply not difficult — not for a high-quality technology startup, and increasingly not for a high-quality media startup. Modern financiers love being co-owners of a new company with the talent that will make the company successful — and that’s how it will happen here.

This is not a difficult thing to envision. And in fact, it’s already happening. Will Ferrell’s Funny Or Die, in which I am a minority investor, is one early existence proof of this model. And there are a ton of other such new companies either already underway, or currently being incubated, or currently being negotiated.

(more…)

Following Up the Writers’ Strike: The Back Channel

11-07-07

On the last day before the Writers Guild of America went on strike, two of the most powerful entertainment executives offered a deal through a back channel. If the WGA stopped demanding DVD residuals, the producers would improve the residual formula applied to Internet downloads of movies and TV shows, according to Nikke Finke’s closely-watched blog, Deadline Hollywood Daily. The WGA instructed its negotiators to take the DVD issue off the table, and waited for the producers’ negotiators to take the promised answering step.

It never happened. And the writers now feel the executives, News Corp. CEO Peter Chernin and CBS President Les Moonves, “deliberately duped” them, Finke reports.

As a spitting mad WGA leader put it to me today: “All I can say is, if someone calls me and says, “You do X, and I do Y” and that someone doesn’t do it, then I’ve been lied to and I’ve been played. It’s a complete betrayal. I just don’t know what the studios’ game is.”

Finke’s post tick-tocks the final day of negotiations until

Finally, a little before 9 PM Pacific time just before the strike was to start at 12:01 AM Eastern time, “the producers came back to us with an answer to our DVD. It was all very calculated,” a WGA leader told me. “They said, ‘We are not going to make any concessions on the Internet. We stand by our former position that you will get the DVD formula on digital downloads. And we would like to ask if you guys would suspend the strike starting at midnight in the East. Are the pickets starting?’ [The producers confirmed to me they didn’t move off their electronic sell-through position to answer the WGA’s taking DVDs off the tables Sunday. “There wasn’t enough time!” one of their insiders claimed to me.]

“We told them what we’d said right at the beginning of the day’s discussion — that we had to see progress for the strike not to start. They said, ‘Well, that’s it, we’re walking out. Goodbye and good luck.’ Our guys shouldn’t have been shocked but they were shocked. They weren’t ready for the game that was being played. We had made every effort, thinking that if the other side sees you’re serious… and we were shaken that the promise to us had been broken.”

Finke says the two sides are now farther apart than ever, with mutual mistrust so high it might take months for the bargaining to resume.

Finke’s site is the one to monitor for the most up-to-date coverage from the reporter reputed to have the best sources.

(The Writers Mumble Inaudibly)

11-06-07

The Writers Guild of America‘s spokespersons are “potentially hurting their cause by being so slow to explain their side to the media,” according to Daily Variety, the showbiz trade publication.

The writers are “in danger of getting swift-boated,” the unsigned essay states — alluding to 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry’s refusal to defend himself against attacks on his integrity by a group of Vietnam veterans.

At CBS Television City Monday, a Writers Guild strike official shooed away a reporter who was trying to talk to a picket. The scriptwriter later admitted he was scolded for talking with the press.

Another reporter asked a question of a picket, who growled, “We’re not talking to you guys.”

Writers like to write. Apparently they don’t like to communicate, except for star writers who disregarded the instructions and talked anyway.

During the entire pact talks, the producers have shown a well-organized attempt to convey their point of view. But the Writers Guild of America reps are potentially hurting their cause by being so slow to explain their side to the media.

Many in showbiz don’t have a clear understanding of the writers’ demands or the reasoning behind these demands. And so far, the WGA leaders are not helping enough to get the message across.

The Wall Street Journal’s coverage also implicitly questions the guild’s “bold gambit.” (more…)