BBC Open News Archive Goes Online

BBC's Open News Archive Goes OnlineThe BBC has announced its Open News Archive, making archive news reports freely available to the UK public to download and use for free in their own creative works.

Included amongst the initial offering of around 80 online reports will be footage from important events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square protest, the Poll Tax riots, the Piper Alpha disaster and Nelson Mandela’s release.

BBC's Open News Archive Goes OnlineMade available under the terms of the recently-launched Creative Archive Licence, the footage can be viewed, downloaded, edited and mixed by UK residents – so long as it’s for non-commercial programming (there’s also several other caveats that budding film makers should read first here.)

The clips will be made available in QuickTime, Windows Media, MPEG1 and MP3 formats to ensure a wide audience, and will cover stories from the past 50 years.

BBC's Open News Archive Goes OnlineHelen Boaden, Director, BBC News, said: “This trial is an important step in allowing us to share with our audiences the extraordinary news archive which the BBC has recorded over the years. We look forward to getting their reaction.”

Paul Gerhardt, project director of the Creative Archive Licence Group, added, “The BBC’s telling of those stories is part of our heritage, and now that the UK public have the chance to share and keep them we’re keen to know how they will be used.”

BBC's Open News Archive Goes OnlineThe BBC already offer nearly a hundred clips in their Radio 1 Superstar VJ archive, and are expected to be releasing further content over its websites in the coming months.

BBC Open News Archive

Warner Music To Launch E-Label

Warner Music To Launch E-LabelWarner Music Group has announced a new digital music distribution mechanism based on downloads rather than physical media like CDs.

Labelling the new mechanism an “e-label”, Edgar Bronfman Jr., Warner Music’s chairman and CEO, told the Progress & Freedom Foundation conference that they were “trying to experiment with a new business model” to “see where it goes.”

With music download services raking in the cash and sales of CDs slipping, Bronfman proposed that e-label artists could churn out music in clusters of three songs every few months rather than a CD every few years.

Warner Music To Launch E-LabelWith far lower production costs, Bronfman claimed that the e-label will give recording artists a “supportive, lower-risk environment” (I think this means “less cash from the record company”) without as much pressure for huge commercial hits – something that could benefit artists with a more “selective audience”.

Interestingly, Bronfman added that artists signed to the e-label will retain copyright and ownership of their master recordings.

“An artist is not required to have enough material for an album, only just enough to excite our ears,” Bronfman said at the conference.

Warming up to the theme of the relationship between technology companies and the entertainment industry, Bronfman reminded attendees at the conference that recorded music has long been influenced by the distribution technologies available – pop songs were traditionally restricted to around 3 minutes because that’s as much music as a 45 rpm record could hold, he said.

Hastily compensating for his brief bout of nostalgia, Bronfman let the gathered suits know that he was a 21st century guy, unleashing two buzzword laden bon mots in quick succession: “Technology shapes music;” “Music drives technology adoption.”

Warner Music To Launch E-LabelBronfman called on the technology industry to work on digital rights management (DRM) standards, arguing that compulsory licensing – with support from P-to-P vendors – would set a price for downloaded music while forcing music companies to make their products available online to P-to-P users.

“As a content company, we quite naturally want devices out there that permit consumers to seamlessly access our music without having to worry about the compatibility of operating systems or DRMs,” he said.

“The consumers’ digital music experience should be as seamless and rewarding as possible, but we would be hypocrites to suggest that the government should force interoperability standards on devices while at the same time insisting there is no need for compulsory licensing.”

The latest figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, reveal that around 180 million songs were sold online in the first half of 2005, up from 57 million in the same period last year.

Warner Music Group

Cell Phone Porn On The Way Up

Cell Phone Porn On The Way UpThrill-seeking mobile phone users around the world slapped out US$400 million on pornographic pictures and video in 2004 – an amount that is expected to rise to US$5 billion by 2010, according to a report by research group Strategy Analytics.

Surfers seeking saucy smut contributed to the fast growth of the adult entertainment sector on the World Wide Web.

Media industries were fast to take advantage of the new medium, with porn connoisseurs among the first to get high-speed Internet access for downloading X-rated films.

In the squinty-small screen of mobile communications, however, pornography might not do as well, with high telecommunications charges and tiny displays reducing the thrill.

“In 2010 we estimate that expenditure on mobile adult content will represent just 5 percent of total end-user spend on mobile content services,” said analyst Nitesh Patel.

“We expect services that are built around sports, music and media to perform better, because they appeal to a wider audience of users,” he added. In addition, there is value in offering news bulletins or a recently scored goal on a mobile screen.

Cell Phone P0rn On The Way UpThe US$5 billion forecast for 2010 represents a huge upward shift from Strategy Analytics’ earlier predictions, with the company noting that adult entertainment businesses are aggressively building services and customers appear happy to shell out for them.

Playboy and rival Private Media Group have ramped up their offerings, and many mobile phone makers are busy implementing strategies to make sure no subscribers aged under 18 years will be able to access X-rated services.

Additionally, the growth in colour screens (one in every two phones sold in 2005, predicted to rise to four out of five by 2010) along with enhanced video capability is expected to increase the ‘value’ of mobile-delivered porn.

Elsewhere, anecdotal evidence from countries that have a technological edge shows a throbbing interest from consumers, with adult content registering over 23% of the traffic over South Korea’s SK Telecom in late 2003.

AllOfMP3 Face Heat from Russian Copyright Cops

JVC announces its 2005 DVD recorder line upRussian prosecutors are considering filing criminal charges against a Web site that offers cheap music downloads, the music industry’s global trade group has said.

The computer crimes unit of the Moscow City Police has submitted the results of its investigation into Allofmp3.com to the Moscow City Prosecutor’s office on February 8, according to the London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

Allofmp3.com and its principals are alleged to be involved in large-scale copyright infringement by offering music for sale without authorisation from rights holders in Russia and internationally.

The prosecutor has 30 days to decide whether to proceed with a criminal prosecution.

Unlike the market-leading iTunes online music store, Allofmp3.com offers music in the popular MP3 format without troubling itself with pesky digital rights management, leaving users free to copying and share files to their heart’s content.

Songs are offered on the Web site for a mere 5 cents each, compared with 99 cents from most services in the United States, and the site offers music from groups like the Beatles who are famous for refusing to allow their songs to be sold online.

However, the site claims on its Web site that it’s doing nothing illegal because they pay a fee to a copyright group that represents songwriters, the Russian Organisation for Multimedia and Digital Systems.

The Russian music market is ranked 12th in the world and was worth US$326.2 million in 2003.

In most countries, payments must also be made to artists and record labels, but Allofmp3 says it is exempt because of what it describes as a “loophole” in Russian law.

Igor Pozhitkov, Regional Director, IFPI Moscow says: “We have consistently said that Allofmp3.com is not licensed to distribute our members’ repertoire in Russia or anywhere else. We are pleased that the police are bringing this important case to the attention of the prosecutor. We very much hope and expect that the prosecutor will proceed with this case, which involves the sale and digital distribution of copyrighted music without the consent or authorisation of the rights holders.”

Allofmp3.com has apparently declined to comment.

This latest copyright wrangle is symptomatic of the global tangle of music rights, which are licensed differently in every country.

Such confusion – and the continuing availability of free MP3 files from file sharing networks continues to hinder the global roll-out of legitimate online music stores like iTunes and Napster.

Allofmp3.com

Italian DJ Gets Huge Fine For Copied MP3s

DJ gets biggest ever fine for playing pirated MP3sA “well known” Italian DJ could be hit with a record-breaking fine of up to 1.4 million euros ($1.8 million, £968,000) for using thousands of pirate music files in a nightclub near Rome, police said on Wednesday.

Police in the town of Rieti, near Rome, said they raided a popular nightclub earlier this week as part of a king-size crackdown on piracy and seized 500 illegally copied music videos and more than 2,000 MP3 music files.

The get-tough operation, targeting radio stations and clubs around the region, was led by the Fiscal Police (Guardia Di Financa, that deal with financial crime), who also seized a large quantity of “audiovisual material” and software.

There are a lot of inaccurate reports floating around about this and we wanted to get the full story, so called up the FIMI in Italy. They told us that the copyright law in Italy dates back to 1941 but was most recently updated a year ago. Under the law the DJ was fined 100 Euro ($130, £69) per copied track, this figure was then doubled to 500,000 Euro. Only if the fine is not paid within 60 days, will it increase to 1.4m.

The reason for the doubling was unclear. Under Italian law, the precise details of the case are not made public until the case comes to court.

The DJ is free to appeal against the fine. Once the fine has been finalised, the money can be paid off monthly.

“For the MP3 files, which were kept on the DJ’s personal computer, the DJ has received a fine of 1.4 million euros,” Rieti finance police said in a statement (the fine is subject to administrative recourse). The DJ may also be subject to further criminal sanctions.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said the fine was the biggest ever slapped on an individual for unlawful music copying and the use of copyrighted music in the MP3 format.

“We are pleased with the fine imposed by the Rieti Fiscal police,” said Director of the Italian Recording Industry Association (FIMI) Enzo Mazza.

He continued, “This deejay was touring clubs and making money out of the music he played – while those who had invested time, talent, hard work and money into creating the music in the first place did not get a cent. We hope this precedent will serve as a deterrent for those who are thinking of doing the same.”

Seeing as venues already pay money to the collection societies for public dance licenses we find the size of this fine a little baffling.

It could certainly be argued that DJs can act as ambassadors for new music (and therefore the music companies) with some high-profile DJs having a considerable influence on the record buying public.

After all, why else would record companies ply DJs with endless vinyl/promos and other inducements in the hope of getting their tunes played?

Perhaps now that times are more lean for the record companies, they’re cutting back on the freebies.

It appears the line between theft and promotion can sometimes be a blurred one, and we’re not convinced that punishing DJs with such enormous fines is the way the record industry should be protecting their sales…

Ofcom Strategic Review of Telecommunications Gets UK Parliament Inquiry

The UK House of Commons launched an inquiry into Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Telecommunications (SRT) yesterday.

Ofcom, the uber-regulator that among other things, oversees telecoms in the UK, started its SRT in January 2004. It was long overdue in the eyes of many, as it was the first comprehensive strategic review of the UK telecommunications sector for 13 years.

Now the UK House of Commons, Trade and Industry Committee will be looking into the workings and results of the SRT, in particular how it relates to the “extensiveness and competitiveness” of broadband in the UK.

The SRT is divided in to three phases; Current position and prospects for the telecommunications sector; Options for Ofcom’s strategic approach to telecommunications regulation; and Proposals; the first phase was published at the end of April.

Ofcom identified two key problems in Phase One; an unstable market structure in fixed telecoms, dominated by BT and with alternative providers that are, in the main, fragmented and of limited scale; BT’s control of the UK-wide access network hadn’t been addressed to date. They then posed some questions; primarily about the future of BT.

Phase Two was published in November 04 and used some relatively strong language (pretty diplomatic in the normal, non-Quango world), which we summarised as “Ofcom to BT: Equivalence or else”. It’s still open for public consultation until 3 February 2005.

Yesterdays announcement from the Trade and Industry Committee, said in the light of the Committee’s Report on the UK Broadband Market, the inquiry will be looking into OfCom’s STR process to date, the interim conclusions reached in the Phase Two document, and the direction of the remainder of the Review. They’ll be paying particular attention how it relates to the competitiveness of the broadband market in the UK, including local loop unbundling, and the “functional separation of British Telecom”.

A spokeperson at OfCom told us that they “had already briefed the Committee” and “welcomed their interest” in the SRT. When we asked about the previously expected Spring delivery of SRT Phase 3, we were told that they “still planned” to meet it. Frankly they were playing their cards pretty close to their chest.

We called the office of the Committee, but given the 21 enquiries they have on currently, no one was available for comment at the time of publishing the story.

If you have any view on the area covered by the Committee, they’re asking for written evidence on these or any other related issues by Friday 18 February 2005 via email (tradeindcom@parliament.uk). If you do write please CC (contact@Digital-Lifestyles.Info) us in, we’d be interested in see the issues raised.


Alerted by OfcomWatch
Trade and Industry Select Committee
Ofcom – Strategic Review of Telecommunications

Microsoft Media Player-free Windows in Europe from January

Microsoft has lost its appeal to block antitrust sanctions, originally imposed by the European Commission (EC) in March this year.

Back then, along with a record-breaking near 500m Euro fine, the EC insisted that Microsoft should release two version of their Windows operating system, one without the media player built in and one without. The EC see Windows as the dominant computer operating system and want to try to ensure a more level playing field with the playback of digitally held audio and video. Some networking communication protocols were also opened up to compulsory licensing.

The ruling won’t be a surprise to Microsoft but an unhappy result all the same. When we spoke to senior European Microsoft people back in September, they felt this action was likely, but were spinning a line saying that two version of the OS would confuse the public.

It’s possible that the impact on the consumer may be close to zero. Philip Carnelley, research director with Ovum pointed out an interesting possible problem, “The way that part of the ruling was phrased doesn’t prohibit Microsoft from supplying Windows with Media Player at the same price as the version without, so there’s very little room for competition in the market place. If you can get something for free, why would you not take it?” The pricing issue was confirmed in a teleconference held with Microsoft general counsel, Brad Smith.

Smith revealed that company lawyers wanted to look more closely at the 90-page decision before deciding whether to appeal. Smith confirmed that Microsoft would begin complying with the decision immediately, with a version of Windows that doesn’t include Media Player software being made available to European PC manufacturers in January and to resellers by February. Outside of Europe they have no plans to offer a version of Windows without Media Player.

One long term worry for Microsoft could be that this ruling leaves it open for Europe able to question which extra bundled software could or should be included with Windows.

We’ve got a couple of question about the impact of this ruling:-

The Media player part of the ruling appears to only cover “Client PC’s” versions of Windows, not PDA’s or mobile phone version. We think the EC missed a trick here. If anything, the PDA or mobile player would be of more value to change, given its relative high market demand, than the less-than-furiously fought “Client PC’s” space. This oversight could be due to the age of the original legal action, instigated four years ago, when having media play back on a portable device wasn’t at the forefront of peoples minds.

It is not immediately obvious which media player company will benefit from the removal of Microsoft media player. The only major PC maker to currently install Apple’s QuickTime player is HP, following their iPod deal. As far as we’re aware, Real player doesn’t have deals with major computer maker. Perhaps given this ruling they will accelerate their efforts and other entrants will be stimulated to enter.

A confusing thought for you over the holiday period – will there be version of Windows Media Center Edition available Europe without Windows Media player! FYI – When we contacted the Microsoft team in Brussels said they didn’t think so.

Microsoft ruling, Court of First Instance Order on Interim Measures – Court of Justice of the European

Entertainment Now: UK 3’s Deal with APTN

3, the first 3G network in the UK, are further enhancing their content offering by announcing a deal with Associated Press Television News (APTN). APTN will provide the video show, “Entertainment Now” that will be released twice a week and cover ‘celebrity entertainment’. In their words, it will be “quirky and irreverent, poking fun at the rich and famous, and of course, the infamous.”

3 customers have two ways to pay for the content. At 50p per clip or they can watch as much video as they like by paying £5 per month for the “video value” add-on.

We spoke to Deanna Gullery, APTN’s New Product Marketing Manager about the deal. They currently sell a 24 minute version of Entertainment NOW (is it just us or is the capitalisation unnecessary?) that goes to air with a number of broadcasters in various countries on a weekly basis.

The 3 version will be a cut down version, primarily featuring celebrity interviews, calling on AP’s strong access to the stars. It will be edited in-house down to between 2 and 4 minutes, voiced over and releases on Tuesday and Thursday.

We think the 3 deal is an interesting example of a content creation company making the most of their assets – “Sweating your assets” as we believe the 80’s phrase for was. AP are all over the world (80 bureaux in 67 countries) shooting this type of material for ‘traditional’ media outlets anyway. Why not make the most of it and edit it together in to custom pieces? We’re strong believers in this type of approach.

We don’t think this is the kind of content that will drive people to join the 3 services, it’s more about maximising Average Revenue Per User (ARPU, in trade terms). Their current ARPU taking the first 7 months of this year is £43.22 per customer, per month.

Three
Associated Press Television News

AtomFilms And CustomFlix: DVD compilation service

When I first used CDuctive in 1998, I was hugely excited. Using a Web browser, you could preview and select music tracks from different artists, pick the order of the tracks, pay for it and have it posted to you. The disks would arrive a short while later with a professionally printed cover, listing the selected tracks. I was so impressed with the idea, I thought the service was worth investing in.

These days the idea doesn’t seem that revolutionary. Indeed it appears a little old-fashioned, having been outdated by music downloads.

Today, AtomFilms and CustomFlix are announcing that they’ve got together to offer the video equivalent – DVD compilations of short films. Using CustomFlix’s Build-Your-Own DVD™ service (isn’t it amazing what you can trade mark these days), purchasers are able to choose up to 10 pieces, initially from a selection of 125 of AtomFilms’ shorts. There are a couple of limits – there cannot be more than a total of 90 minutes of footage onto one DVD and each video clip can be up to a maximum of 30 minutes long. In the same way that CDuctive worked, the disc’s content and packaging reflects the selected films. The disc then arrives in the post.

It’s a good idea, a DVD duplication service combined with a content company, opening the market to those who don’t have sufficient bandwidth to view films online. Posting DVD’s is a very efficient method of bandwidth delivery. 4.7Gb of data transfer costs a lot more than the price of an envelope and a stamp.

They label it a “major step forward in the distribution of on-demand”, which is stretching the concept of on-demand a little – with that logic anything you buy or rent is now on-demand.

After a quick look, it is encouraging to see that it looks like the service is deliverable outside the US. An advantage, I assume, of the contracts signed by AtomFilms for the original material being delivered via the Internet – by definition they are likely to have global distribution rights.

What is not clear is why there are only 125 films initially offered. Is it that Atom doesn’t have rights to physically distribute the other material or perhaps the material isn’t held, or even available in DVD quality?

It’s hardly worth mentioning because it’s too obvious, but clearly when broad-broadband is universal, online distribution will significantly reduce the demand for services like this. We’re not there yet, and clearly many parts of the world are far from close to that, so this service does have the ability to last a while.

There are advantages of buying it on DVD, over the future online delivery methods. The purchaser will own the DVDs content, free to play it on the device of their choosing and it will be DVD resolution, not a version compressed for download. If you go looking for CDuctive, I’m sad to see that it looks like it faded away – but that was six years ago.

CustomFlix
Atomfilms

Vodafone’s betting heavily on 3G this Christmas

Vodafone live! with 3G enhances Vodafone live! by providing customers with faster access to content and the ability to see more and share more with the use of video. The company’s 3G services will further add video calling, video messaging, a richer music experience, new games, as well as video clips.

A return on investment is critical for Vodafone, who has spent some £8 billion on top of the £14 billion it had to fork out for 3G licenses (Vodafone and its four UK rivals paid around £22.5 billion for the 3G licences). Of this investment, The Observer newspaper reckons that £8 billion has been spent on network infrastructure, with a little more going on R&D, and some £100 million earmarked for advertising. David Beckham will feature prominently as the mobile giant launches a pre-Christmas advertising blitz, promoting video downloads and other bandwidth-hungry services made possible by advanced colour-screen handsets and the higher connection speeds of 3G networks.

The new high-speed service uses a completely different network to the standard Vodafone live! service. The company has built it so that whenever you are outside a 3G service area, you will continue to access all the services, but the speed to access will be reduced. Video calling or streaming content will not be possible and the service will stop if moving off the 3G network. You should know when you’re in a 3G service area because a small 3G symbol will appear on the screen of your handset.

As well as content, 3G service providers will have to distinguish themselves with coverage. For instance, Vodafone claims about 60 per cent population coverage, but much of that will be in London and a few other metropolitan areas. Orange, which also plans to launch its 3G offering before Christmas, said its initial network deployment would be more extensive. Alexis Dormandy, Orange’s chief marketing officer, told The Sunday Times:: “We have a much larger, broader network because it’s supposed to be a mobile network rather than a ‘stay-in-one-place’ network.”

With such a big financial commitment to 3G, it’s vital that Vodafone has to get its 3G marketing right. Thankfully, it will be launching its service with no fewer than 10 mobile handsets (as we’ve covered), a problem Hutchison encountered when it launched its ‘3’ service a year or so ago.

Vodafone