October 2, 2008
Yet Another Microsoft Pay-To-Search (And More) Attempt
Microsoft has announced yet another pay-to-search Windows Live promotion, called SearchPerks!. Even though MS didn't purchase Yahoo! they still managed to appropriate the ! for something associated with search, so that gambit wasn't a complete loss. SearchPerks! stands along side the Live Search Club and Search and Give, though none of the searches in those promotions can be used in SearchPerks!.
The program is simple for the user. Sign in with a Windows Live or other Microsoft generated ID at the SearchPerks! home page and earn up to 25 tickets per day redeemable for prizes at the end of the promotion. The promotion started yesterday and ends on April 15, 2009. The promotion is limited to the first million unique sign-ins, so get in before they are all gone.
The focus of the program (as all of the others) is to get people using Microsoft's search engine, but something else is going on here. People tally their tickets using the Perk Counter which is a piece of software that does a bit more than tally the number of tickets earned. From the SearchPerks! FAQ:
The Perk Counter is a piece of software that counts the number of Web searches you do each day on different search engines; the types of searches you complete, such as for news, images or shopping, etc.; and the number of online ads you click on. It also sends which search toolbars, if any, are installed on the computer. The Perk Counter doesn’t record the search terms you use, which websites you visit or the content of the ads you click on. The Perk Counter will send your search data to Microsoft on a daily basis. If the search data doesn’t get sent, the Perk Counter will try to resend. The Perk Counter data will be used for the SearchPerks! promotion and will not be associated with other personal information Microsoft may have collected; and we won’t share any information with third parties.
If this text is accurate, it seems that Microsoft wants to know what other search engines are searched by the same individual, what type of information is sought, exclusive of search terms, and the toolbar configuration. None of this really has anything to do with promoting a search engine. Oh,and there's a bit more. The program only works with XP or Vista and requires Internet Explorer 6 or higher. No Firefox, Chrome, or Safari allowed. To get something (tickets and prizes) you have to give up something (other web search information, the freedom to use non-MS products). At least they tell you up front.
October 1, 2008
Apple Threatens to Take Its iBall and Go Home if Artist Royalties Rise
The timing of Apple's statement to the Copyright Royalty Board regarding a proposed raise is royalty rates to music publishers is curious. Apple has said that it would likely close the iTunes Store if it could not run it at a profit, and a royalty rate increase for publishers may just do that according to its
threat statement. The curious part of the statement is that it was made 18 months ago and it's just coming to light now? The CRB will make a ruling on Thursday. You can read the statement here, courtesy of links from CNET.
The current rate is 9 cents per track. Publishers represented by the National Music Publishers' Association want the rate raised to 15 cents per track. The breakdown of that 99 cent iTunes purchase shows that Apple gets 21 cents, artists get their 9 cents, and the labels get 70 cents. One would think that the profit margin for the labels is a little greater in the digital age given their lack of production costs for physical media. No one has mentioned the breakdown for revenues based on the higher charges for songs with a better bitrate. It's just a better quality version of the same file, isn't it? Where does that additional 30 cents go?
Record labels for their part are actually urging a reduction to 8% of wholesale music sales. CNNMoney reports that the Digital Media Association is seeking an even lower rate, 6% of wholesale sales, or 4.8 cents per track under current calculations. Somehow, past talk about protecting the artist seems a bit hollow with these moves.
With 85% of the digital music market in its pocket, will Apple really follow through? Most pundits think not, that this is really a negotiating ploy to keep the labels in line the next time pricing tracks becomes an issue. The bluster that accompanied the last round of contract negotiations was filled with label talk of variable pricing. More popular tracks would be priced higher and older catalog would be priced less. Then the labels encouraged other stores to open. Amazon went with unprotected MP3s and now Wal-Mart is following suit by abandoning DRM in its store. Encouraging for consumers but the Apple market share has not dropped, nor has such a variable pricing scheme gone into general effect. Apple sells a ton of tracks through the iTunes Store. They are saying, in effect, that higher rates won't come out of their share of the music dollars.
Apple needs to keep prices low as do the other stores because the alternative is free, even if free is not legal. Piracy hasn't abated despite the RIAA's numerous lawsuits. Stopping piracy may be the real answer here, although the labels may discover that some music may not be worth owning even if they are the only (legitimate) game in town. [MG]
September 30, 2008
Real Sues Over DVD Ripping Software
Real is suing DVD Copy Control Association and a number of high profile studios over its RealDVD software. The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the software is legal, using the DVD Copy Control Association v. Kaleidescape case as justification. That California state trial case said that copying DVD content to a home server was legal because it did not break the copy protection, and hence the license issued by the DCCA. Real's software operates under the same principle when users copy DVDs to computers and even adds a layer of copy protection to the copy.
The press release with relevant links is here. [MG]
Update: The MPAA has filed its own suit against Real, calling the product StealDVD. Cute. The MPAA press release is here.
September 29, 2008
Jammie Thomas Gets A New Trial
Jammie Thomas won a retrial in the RIAA's file-sharing case brought against her in Minnesota. The Judge ruled that his instructions in the original trial were wrong. There he said files that could be shared (but weren't necessarily) was enough to show infringement. Now he reverses that portion of the case, saying the RIAA must show actual transfer. A legal victory of sorts, but added to his other change, that the RIAA can use downloads from their own investigators as proof, the result in this case will almost certainly be the same.
More in Wired.
Windows 7 To Go Public, Sort Of
Windows 7 is going to developers at next month's Professional Developer Conference. More details about the OS replacement should come out shortly thereafter, depending on the non-disclosure agreements in place. Ars Technica has the details.
TiVo Comes to the PC (Only)
Nero and TiVo are teaming up to create a hardware software combination that allows a (Vista or XP) PC to be used as a TiVo. The product is called Nero LiquidTV and it can do everything a standard TiVo box can do. Best of all, the product can be used without TiVo, though none of the TiVo services would be available. That would make it, what, similar to Microsoft Media Center? The subscription version is $199, and the software only version is $99. Then again, standalone Direct-to-DVD recorders that attach to a cable or satellite box are around $99 as well. The need to export recorded content to other devices may make the Nero product more attractive as those features are built in. Then again, personally recorded DVDs can be ripped and manipulated with other software.