December 21, 2006
Australian Court Rules Links to Illegal Material are Illegal
An Australian Federal Court has ruled that links to copyrighted material which resulted in illegal downloads are also a copyright violation. The site, mp3s4free.net, acted as a search engine to illegal content as unauthorized by music publishers. The operator of the site claimed it was acting as a search engine similar to Google. The court said that that proposition was untested under Australian law. That logic should make more than a few businesses worried. The site was ordered to take down it's content and to pay court costs.
Details are available from the BBC.
Sony BMG Settles the State Lawsuits Over DRM
Sony BMG has settled the case with 39 states over the root kit fiasco that surfaced a little longer than a year ago. The settlement includes $4.25 million and reimbursement for consumers who had damaged computers as a result of trying to uninstall the DRM foisted on them by copy protected CDs. Saying the the programs were hostile to uninstallation is an understatement. Sony has been chastened a bit since the story broke. They haven't issued a DRM covered CD since the scandal and the suits. This settlement covers 39 states and is in addition to settlement on Tuesday with California and Texas for $1.5 million dollars.
The International Herald Tribune has the story.
December 20, 2006
MySpace Beats Yahoo in Traffic in November and Top 10 Searches on the Major Sites
Not exactly new news, but worth mentioning. MySpace gained more web traffic in November than Yahoo. MySpace hit 38.7 billion U.S. page views to Yahoo's 38.1. Yahoo responds that new technology where users interact with the site doesn't necessarily generate a page view and in any event, they had 130 million unique visitors in November.
Still, worth noting that Yahoo is not exactly the coolest web brand these days, what with criticism of their business strategy by one of their own (the "Peanut Butter Memo" reprinted in the Wall Street Journal); the recent executive shake-out; Google's way better ability to monetize search; the stock performance gap with Google (huge); the lack of investment in social networking sites; and the general blandness that Yahoo conjures up as a destination puts it on a par with the old AOL. Even AOL is starting to make more money for itself by being more Google-like with online advertising.
And while we're on the subject of comparing Yahoo with Google, check out the difference in top 10 searches on Yahoo, Google, and AOL. Yahoo users have a fascination with Britney Spears, while Google users prefer Paris Hilton. AOL's number one search is "weather." Go figure. More on that from SearchEngineWatch.
BBC Product To Be Available Via Filesharing, and Ricky Gervais on Television
The BBC is moving high definition versions of its television shows to the web via Zudeo software. Zudeo is made by Azureus which also created Bit Torrent software. Programs will be protected by DRM so there won't be a free-for-all in trading, at least until someone breaks the DRM.
The story about the BBC programming is on the BBC. While there, check out this story from funnyman Ricky Gervais on the future of television and the online world. He has a series of hilarious podcasts out there, some free and some for pay. He says that if he did an online show that was just as good as anything on television, then why not put it on television? Hard to argue, unless you want to reach people who get their entertainment from the web instead of television. Some day it will all be the same stuff anyway.
December 19, 2006
Texas Replaces Books with Computers: How the Move has Fared
A while back the University of Texas took the historic step of removing books from one of the Austin libraries there and replacing them with computer terminals. Well, removing, yes, but not completely. The books were transferred to various other libraries in the Texas system. Still, the move was seen as pretty radical from an institution with the reputation of UT. Library Journal takes a look at how the experiment has gone since the move. Everyone seems to be happy with the results. Read the story here.
Odds and Ends from the News
The tech world seems to quiet down as we get closer to the holidays. There are a lot of little pieces of news rather than blockbuster headline. With that, here are some pieces of news worth checking out.
Wired has a review of Windows Vista Ultimate as it exists in its released-to-manufacturing form. The bottom line is lots of good stuff in the OS (the usual pretty interface, of course), but nothing compelling. Yet another review that says to wait. The biggest problems are that drivers for common peripherals still aren't available. They will likely be available once the January 30th consumer release date shows up. The full story from Wired is here.
Cingular cut a deal with MySpace so that users can access their profiles through their (Cingular) phone. There's interactive stuff such as taking a picture with your phone and posting it on your MySpace page, all for $2.99 a month and standard data transfer fees. Stories are in the San Jose Mercury News and CBS News.
And while we're on the subject of phones, Google is in talks with Orange for a Google branded phone, which will likely access Google properties. Not much more than rumors out there on this one, but no one would be surprised if it happens. Here's the story in CNET and the Inquirer.
Our last bit of news concerns Microsoft settling a case with one of its replicators for counterfeit copies of Exchange and SQL Server. MPO, the French duplicator has licenses with Microsoft for duplication, and they say it was all a misunderstanding. That didn't stop multi-million dollars changing hands to erase the bad feelings. The story is in Computerworld.
December 18, 2006
Promotion Marketing Association Law Conference: Final Comments
The final comments on last week's Promotion Marketing Law Conference are that the programs were relevant to a broad range of topics in advertising law, especially as they relate to technology. Marketers are following the audience from entertainment in the living room to entertainment online. In this situation, online can mean via computer, the wireless laptop, cell phones, and portable entertainment devices. They are looking to methods of marketing that take interactive viewing and similar trends into account.
They are also looking to tie in to sports and other pop culture references to leverage their products in ads.
The conference not only featured speakers from sports leagues and major sponsors, but also speakers from the FTC, including Commissioner J. Thomas Roche who delivered the Keynote address. Virtually all the legal speakers expressed interest in ethical marketing practices and didn't necessarily reject the concept of new legislation on the subject. Standards are different from state to state with FTC rules as a national overlay. Any new legislation would be seen as a way to nationalize standards on how marketers deal with consumers. The only key concern was whether these standards would be reasonable. Members of this association are heavy hitters in the markets and would be sure to lobby hard as any prospective legislation works its way through Congress.
I found the conference to be a truly interesting experience and look forward to seeing the agenda for next year. Anyone who's done research in competition, trade regulation, and technology would especially find this meeting fascinating.
The iPhone (ahem) and the Sony PSP Movie Service
Most of the tech news lately is either about new products or old products doing new tricks. One new product that caught the eye of the press is the iPhone released by Cisco's Linksys subsidiary rather than by Apple. (Details on the phone here.) The latter company had been widely rumored to release such a product that combines phone and MP3 player, a la the Chocolate line from LG electronics. Not that it's never been done before. An Apple branded phone, however, may be a better seller to those who want to identify with Apple by buying their products. Apple is notorious for going after other companies who dare put a "pod" in their product name. Who knows how apoplectic they might get when someone puts a lower case "i" in front of a non-Apple product.
Another interesting attempt at synergy is Sony's attempts to leverage the PSP with a Sony branded movie download service. They sort of tried this once when they went with the highly restrictive (and pointless) UMD disc as a way of playing movies on the game system. These discs were not compatible with existing DVD players and held less features than a similar DVD for the same cost. How much of a market dud was the UMD? Tower records liquidated much of its stock over the last month or so as it went out of business. There were piles of UMD discs with a 70% mark-down left as the store dwindled down to nothing. That's how much of a market dud UMD discs were.
The new movie service will allow downloads to memory sticks that can be used with the PSP. There are no details as to how this will work in practice. If past history is any gauge, Sony will likely restrict the use via excessive DRM, use a format that is incompatible with anything else that exists, and charge at least as much as a standard consumer grade DVD while offering less than that same DVD. The product will literally be a UMD on a stick. How could that possibly be appealing. I hope the company can prove me wrong, but I doubt that it will. This service will not only not turn the PSP into a competitor of the iPod (at least for video), it won't turn the PSP into a competitor to the Zune, even with 20 million PSPs out there.