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MPAA’s Army of Straw Men

February 7, 2007 Blog Posts , Broadcast Flag , Fair Use

Hollywood yesterday (Feb. 6) did what it does best. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) brought all of their big shots together here in Washington to talk about the business of show business. They brought out the big names – Will Smith and Clint Eastwood, for starters, directors Taylor Hackford and Steven Soderbergh as well. Director Michael Apted shows an eight-minute film chock full of iconic Hollywood images from Henry Fonda to Henry Thomas (the kid in ET).

They brought out the friendly lawmakers, from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) to House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY). They packed the auditorium at the newly refurbished National Portrait Gallery with top-flight industry executives and with Federal employees ranging from the FBI to Justice Department, Secret Service, the State Department and the FCC.

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Record Companies Pitch Return to Age of Vinyl, Tapes and Typewriters

January 23, 2007 Blog Posts , Fair Use

It's just a guess, but it stands to reason the percentage of people reading this who used a typewriter for anything more than an occasional envelope or form is probably pretty small. Using a typewriter was much better than writing papers of essays by hand, but typewriters had their own challenges. Making corrections was a pain, using slips of white carbon or that white liquid that inevitably lumped up and couldn't be typed over anyway. Just think how much easier it would be if there were a way to correct misspellings, or to erase words, or to pick up and move a paragraph from one part of a document to another.

Thanks to newfangled technology, we can do all of those things. Consumers have reaped the benefits of a word processing and computers, which allow for the same task done before to be done easier and, one hopes, with better quality. Yet not everyone recognizes the benefits and advances in new technology. At the top of the list is U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts, who issued the opinion Jan. 19 turning down a motion from XM Radio to dismiss the case brought against it by the big record companies. The record companies are suing over the ability of XM customers to save music through new devices. There's good background on the case in our blog from Gigi, and from Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein.

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The Last Word on CES Is…

January 18, 2007 Blog Posts , Broadcast Flag , DRM , Fair Use

On the surface, the biggest name at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week seemed to say all the right things about consumer rights, and do all the right things when it came to promoting innovation.

CBS President Les Moonves talked about wanting to use technology to connect to his audience and brought out Blake Krikorian, one of the founders of Sling Media, to tout the virtues of the Slingbox, which allows viewers to watch their TV online from anywhere. The newest Sling feature allows users to clip video content, upload it and send it to a friend. Moonves even presented some funny mash-ups of CBS content, one from CSI: Miami and one featuring his wife, CBS personality Julie Chen while palling around with YouTube founder Chad Hurley.

Disney President Robert Iger also talked about how his company was using technology to bring content closer to consumers, whether on the ESPN site, or the revamped Disney site that will allow consumers to make their own mash ups and to play online games.

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The Price of Net Neutrality

January 5, 2007 Blog Posts , Network Neutrality

As Democratic legislators start the process of running the legislative branches of government, it's worth a moment to take a last look at the unusual statement on the AT&T/BellSouth merger issued by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his colleague, Deborah Taylor Tate. The merger conditions, approved Dec. 29, enshrined the concept that companies that offer service like AT&T can't discriminate in how they provide content. That's the shorthand for Net Neutrality. AT&T agreed not to sell as service that "privileges, degrades or prioritizes" any data transmitted over its network. Martin and Tate didn't like that condition, among others, and said so in a statement issued when the deal was approved.

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FCC Actions On Video Franchise Won’t Help Consumers

December 22, 2006 Blog Posts , FCC , Network Neutrality

Note: A version of this article appeared on tompaine.com

It's never over until it's over, and it's never over. That's a primary rule of thumb for those who try to follow the various policy debates in Washington, D.C. Exhibit A for that rule occurred Dec. 19 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a draft proposal to speed up the methods by which local governments grant franchises for video services, usually provided by cable.

The Commission's action is a reflection of what AT&T and Verizon failed to achieve during the last couple of years in Congress. Telecommunications legislation would have "streamlined" the franchise process for those two telecom giants who want, to one degree or another, to offer cable service. That legislation failed to pass, for some very good reasons. Of course, that wasn't the end of the debate. It's not even the end in Congress, but at least that next phase will wait to start up again in January.

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