Teenagers – those great respecters of copyright

7 04 2008

It wouldn’t be a Monday without another digital media scare story from the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper: aside from its sister newspaper’s report that video-rich services such as YouTube and the BBC’s iPlayer are melting the internet, today’s shock horror ‘revelation ‘ is that 95% of U.K. teenagers are illegally copying music. Well fancy that.

The article shares findings from a survey commissioned by industry group British Music Rights, quoting the group’s chief executive and one-time popster Feargal Sharkey as the findings painting an ominous picture for the next generation of musicians.

Yet a significant number of those naughty teens polled are sticking to tried-and-tested means of copying, such as borrowing eachothers’ CDs or recording from a radio broadcast. Brits have been doing this for decades at it isn’t the underlying cause of lacklustre performance from the music industry. Has Mr Sharkey never heard of peer-based recommendation? It might, after all, introduce his music to a whole new generation.

Mr Sharkey clearly doesn’t buy the wise words of Glenn Merrill, poached by EMI from Google last week to stop the rot at one of the world’s largest labels: “file sharing is a good thing for artists and not necessarily bad,” said Merrill. “We should do a bunch of experiments to find out what the business model is.”

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TV nets face up to growing online competition

25 09 2007

Variety reports on the latest online video forecasts produced by market analysts Screen Digest: the U.K. market for online TV will be worth £181 million (US $362 million) by 2011, but growth of the online movies segment is predicted to be slower.

There’s no doubting that across the Pond, the competitive environment is really gaining traction, as observed by the Financial Times: in the two years since that watershed moment when iTunes first started offering download-to-own TV shows from Disney, all of the major networks have scrambled to not only beef up their own sites, but also to broker those all-important third party syndication deals.

In the last week alone, Walt Disney-owned ABC has agreed a deal to syndicate its shows, for free, via AOL. The net joins CBS, which has been aggressively pursuing its own syndication strategy for the past few months, while Hulu.com, the online video aggregator site JV between NBC Universal and NewsCorp. is due to bow next month.

Hopping back over the Pond to the U.K., the BBC, ITV, Channel Four and five all have online catch-up TV services: the BBC offers the broadest range and volume of hours, while ITV and Channel Four are increasingly bolstering their catch-up offers with back catalogue shows. Satellite broadcaster BSkyB is broadening its Anytime service, with different flavours of the catch-up service available both via broadband and Sky+ DVRs; the company’s recent pact with Sony will also see an extension of the service for Playstation PSPs.

The Screen Digest research referenced at the top of this post acknowledges that established players such as TV networks also face competition from non-traditional market entrants, such as Joost and iTunes. Significantly, it may be players such as Apple and Microsoft, which stand to gain the most if they can finesse their strategies to leverage consumer relationships through ownership of devices, such as iPods, or the world’s most uniquitous operating system.

Four predictions of my own:

  1. The last year or so has merely been about positioning and trying to establish which online video offers work, and which don’t. Note CBS is moving beyond merely offering full-length TV shows online and gradually ramping up 2.0 functionality: conversational content. 2008 will see the space grow up considerably. 
  2. Whether it’s aggregators or TV networks’ own sites, online video offers are principally restricted to ‘walled gardens’ of content, usually from the operating network or a select few content partners. This is wholly alien to the TV viewing experience: consumers don’t watch shows from a single network or producer. The walled garden approach smacks of protectionism and, over the fuller term, it won’t last for all but the smallest handful of players. The creation of Hulu.com is the first acknowledgement by two major players that hybrid partnerships such as thes, which broaden out the available content offer, are the way to go. YouTube is further evidence of a successful broad-brush aggregation model – albeit with some copyright complications.
  3. The market is already overcrowded: come further shocks to the world’s stock markets (an inevitability), watch the venture capital evaporate. Incumbent players looking to second or third round financing, against a backdrop of unproven business models (let alone profit) will shutter or consolidate. Viacom had better be hoping that it can pick up the assets of Joost for a song.
  4. Apple TV and Microsoft Media Center are the first two examples of mainstream PC/TV convergence: but neither has yet created a compelling enough content offer nor low enough price points to give the products a reasonable run at setting the market alight, beyond early adopters. Next gen games consoles from Sony and Microsoft will up the ante by gradually bolstering their IP-delivered VOD offers, but even these may struggle to break through beyond gaming loyalists. Either some boffin will come up with the cheapest and most elegant plug-and-play convergence-enabler – witness what Freeview set-tops did for the U.K. market – or new product categories, such as networked DVD player / recorders or DVRs will hit that magic tipping point of attractive pricing and mainline retail distribution.




YouTube may need to re-brand as SueTube

7 08 2007

First came Viacom’s US $1 billion action against YouTube, then the U.K. Football Association and music publisher Bourne piled in.

Now others including the U.S. National Music Publishers Association, the U.K. Rugby Football League and the Finnish Football League Association have joined the class action.

Rumblings from Japan too, where a consortium of television, music and film companies is saying that the video sharing site isn’t doing enough to counter copyright infringment. This time it hasn’t turned legal, yet, but the criticism adds to a growing clamour that Google is dragging its heels over the introduction of content-fingerprinting technology.





Online video copyright: the techies fight back

2 08 2007

copyright.jpg

Major content owners have been deceiving the public when it comes to the accuracy of statements about copyright [at least this time its not the content itself!!], states a complaint lodged yeserday with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a lobby group representing Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! among others.

The complaint argues that content owners have been abusing their market dominance by using copyright warnings “not to educate their consumers, but to intimidate them.” It alleges that named parties have been pursuing “a nationwide pattern of unfair and deceptive trade practices by misrepresenting consumer rights under copyright law,  In some cases, copyright holders threaten criminal and civil penalties against consumers who choose to exercise Constitutionally guaranteed rights.”

The group singles out Major League Baseball, the National Football League, NBC/Universal, DreamWorks, Harcourt Inc. and Penguin Group as the prime offenders. In its coverage, the Wall Street Journal notes “The conflict illustrates the shifting concept of fair use in the digital age. “Fair use” of intellectual property revolves around the question of how much, if any, of movies, books, music and other creations can be used without permission of the owners. As Internet platforms have made it easier to redistribute chunks of content without asking for approval, copyright owners have become more protective about enforcing their rights.”

Examples of ‘misleading’ copyright warnings, usually pre-roll on DVDs and online video:

— NFL telecast: “. . . . Any other use of this telecast or any pictures,
descriptions or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent is
prohibited.”

  — MLB telecast: “. . . the accounts and descriptions of this game may not
be disseminated, without express written consent.”

  —  Harcourt Inc. book: “No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing. . . .”   

The CCIA has also launched ‘Defend Fair Use’, a campaign which aims to make “big content come clean”.





YouTube copyright filters from next month

31 07 2007

YouTube is to introduce a new content-fingerprinting technology as early as next month, reports Media Post. The disclosure came during a preliminary hearing in Viacom’s US $1 billion copyright infringement action against Google/YouTube.

Viacom attorney Donald Verrilli applauded the initiative but said it wouldn’t be appeased by this promised cure-all, the report adds. “We’d have been a lot happier if they’d put this in place when they launched,” he said.

The technology will be as sophisticated as fingerprint technology used by the FBI, claims the Associated Press, adding that the technology will copyright owners to provide a digital fingerprint that within a minute or two will trigger a block from YouTube whenever someone tries to upload a copyright video without permission.