Harvard Student Paper Joins Fight Against Piracy
-- A staff-written op-ed at The Harvard Crimson, the university's student-run paper, calls for a "sensible compromise" with content owners in the fight against piracy. It seems the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has recently been sending letters to universities reminding them of their obligations to restrict piracy on their networks under the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Crimson is onboard with the MPAA. The op-ed extolled the importance of intellectual property rights in motivating entrepreneurs to create and characterized the issue as a "fundamental right." And it urged the university to take a more active role in enforcement. From the op-ed:
"This approach strikes the right balance between targeting individuals-who, in the end, are ultimately responsible for their online behavior-and universities, who provide the network resources that can be used to facilitate copyright violations. To that end, we hope that universities, rather than the MPAA's legal team, can serve a valuable role as an enforcer of sorts, by keeping chronic infringers off of their networks. In particular, we are concerned with the role of prolific 'uploaders' who host and share thousands or millions of unauthorized copies of copyrighted content through online peer-to-peer networks and Usenet."
This is a big change from previous articles at the Crimson. In May 2005, one writer outlined four ways to avoid getting sued by the RIAA, including using "closed-network downloading programs" and asking friends in other countries to download and e-mail music files to you. In May 2007, Wendy M. Seltzer, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and Charles R. Nesson, professor at Harvard Law School and founder of the Berkman Center, wrote a Crimson article that urged university administrators to "protect Harvard from the RIAA," referred to the university and students as "uninvolved parties" and blamed "19th- and 20th-century copyright law" for the music industry's problems.
So why would the Crimson change its tune now? Perhaps technology has changed to the point where the Crimson feels copyright infringers have viable alternatives. In the op-ed, the Crimson singled out Netflix, Pandora and Hulu as free or inexpensive options that "all but eliminates the excuses of media pirates." Maybe, but Pandora, as well as Napster, Rhapsody and a host of free Internet radio services, are not new to the market. Pirates have long had legal options.
Maybe the reason is because the op-ed was spurred by the actions of the MPAA and not the RIAA. The former is a newer arrival to campus piracy issues, while the former wore out its welcome years ago. Or perhaps the actions of the MPAA indicate to the Crimson that piracy is a legitimate concern to far more property owners than just the music industry. It really does seem that public sentiment against piracy has changed since film studios and book publishers became more vocal on the topic.
Student newspapers used to be filled with vitriol against the RIAA and contempt for record labels. The students who may have been more dismissive of piracy in the days of RIAA lawsuits against students have graduated and left. A new generation is currently at Harvard. And it appears this generation has a different and deeper understanding of the role universities play in copyright infringement. Let's see if students at other universities follow Harvard or take a more combative position. (Harvard Crimson)
Facebook Becoming New Launching Pad For Music
-- Move over, MySpace. Facebook is becoming a place to launch new music. On Tuesday, Lil Wayne released his latest song "Six Foot Seven Foot" on his Facebook page one day before it became available at iTunes. Lil Wayne used the BandPage app by RootMusic to offer his fans a music streaming player that allows people to listen to and share the new track. BandPage also lists blog posts at Lil Wayne's website as well as his Twitter feed.
On a side note, RootMusic CEO J Sider tells Billboard that BandPage will be added to course requirements at Berklee School of Music, Belmont University in Nashville and some other schools around the country. That's a good development for the company many people in the music business are excited about. (Lil Wayne at Facebook)
Buy a CD at Best Buy, Get Napster Free For a Month
-- Best Buy owns Napster, which allows the retailer to promote the music subscription service in ways not available to its competitors. Best Buy customers who purchase a CD until Dec. 26 will get one month of Napster for free, according to an e-mail sent by Napster on Wednesday. Customers sign up for that free month at the register when making the purchase.
Pandora Survey Offers A Look Into Listeners' Holiday Music Preferences
-- Pandora listeners prefer singing along to "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" at home in front of a fire because it makes them feel full of good cheer. These and other insights into listeners' preferences in holiday music were discovered in a brief Pandora survey. Pretty fascinating stuff. For example, did you know 11% of Pandora listeners like signing along to AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" and 14% said holiday music makes them feel "eggnoggy"? (Pandora blog)
Controversy Arises Over Forrester Report On Internet/TV Usage
-- The biases and problems of self-reporting in surveys is being exhibited in a mini-controversy over a new Forrester report that claims Americans use TV and the Internet an equal amount. In describing the report, the Forrester website proclaims that "for the first time ever, the average US online consumer spends as much time online as he or she does watching TV offline."
In reality, Americans feel like they spend the same amount of time watching TV as they do being online. That's because self-reported behavior can be quite different from objectively measured behavior. Nielsen and comScore, which do not rely on self-reported numbers, say time spent watching TV far exceeds time spent using the Internet. Nielsen puts weekly TV time at 39 hours and comScore puts weekly Internet time at about 7.5 hours.
Forrester's figures have confused ESPN. "Our fundamental concern is that, in a very confusing media landscape, we're trying to answer very important questions about the behaviors of consumers," the company's VP of digital media research and analytics told paidContent. Another ESPN executive noted that self-reported numbers are "something we're generally careful about."
Why does it matter? Take the debate over cord-cutting. Some analysts are warning that consumers are replacing their paid TV packages for cheaper -- or free -- Internet offerings. Other analysts have disputed those assertions and say that very few, if any, consumers are leaving paid TV. Proper measure of time spent with TV and Internet will help people determine the degree to which the Internet is taking over TV. In order to draw the correct conclusions and make the best business decisions, those measurements need to be accurate. (paidContent, Time)
Media Coverage of Google Music
-- At his Music Technology Policy blog, Chris Castle makes an interesting point in media coverage of Google Music. A Business Insider post about the planned music service referred to music publishers "further" increasing the cost of launching the service. As Castle points out, payments to music publishers are not some sort of non-core cost of running a digital music service. They're "probably the most important cost, and if not they are certainly equally important."
Business Insider may not have been dismissive of licensing costs, but the sentiment was definitely common when webcasters were negotiating for lower royalty rates last year. If only Pandora didn't have to pay those annoying royalties to rights holders, journalists often wrote, the company would have a profitable business on its hands. That's true. And if owners of NBA teams didn't have to pay those pesky multi-million-dollar salaries to their players, the league wouldn't be facing a possible work stoppage next season. But just as 7-11 pays for the goods it places on its shelves, and just as airlines pay for the jet fuel that helps transport their customers, digital music services also have to deal with the costs of doing business.
Of course, Pandora and other legal services don't share the same views as some tech journalists. They understand the importance of paying rights holders. They may try to haggle on the amounts to be paid, but they do pay. (Music Technology Policy, SF Gate)