Minefields and Timebombs: Glancing at Copyright

Net TV, Net Video, Video on Demand, MP3s ,peer to peer, streaming, decentralization of content, self-publishing tools, blogging, DRM, digital fingerprinting …all this convergence between entertainment, media and technology is changing the world.   It is also making Copyright Law issues like the rights of authors (creators), Fair Use, and distribution of content, increasingly relevant.  

copyright puzzleCopyright law, domestically and internationally (from Common Law, to the Copyright Act of 1976, to the Digital Millennium Act (DMCA), to the Berne Convention) is a complex patchwork of overlapping and frequently contradictory statutes.  Like many laws, the statutes have been woven together through countless legislative horse-trades in an ongoing effort to both anticipate and keep up with the way changing technologies do (and might) influence the rights and control of intellectual property.  Despite best efforts, the legislative process, even streamlined to its most efficient ideal, can’t begin to keep pace with the innovations of our digital age and changing communications technologies.  Much of Copyright law’s tenets were written before the digital age, and even those written recently, are hard pressed to keep up with the pace at which technology is changing.  

Navigating the laws can sometimes feel like walking through a minefield while blindfolded and on crutches.  As the ever observant Mark Twain once said of the subject:  “only one thing is impossible to God: to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.” (Mark Twain’s Notebook May 23, 1903).  Click to Read More

By the Numbers: stats from around industry

Late last night fans gathered in Fairbanks Alaska for the 102nd annual Midnight Sun baseball game. There, under the near all-day sun of the summer solstice, baseball rang in the start of summer. Summer brings baseball, and with baseball comes statistics. It’s a sport that records and tracks everything. In the same spirit, though unrelated to baseball, here are a few interesting recent stats from the media and entertainment world:

apple up     Apple is now the 3rd largest retailer of music in the United States. The Top 3 according to NPD Group are: Wal-Mart (15.8%), Best Buy (13.8%), Apple (10%), Amazon (6.7%)

headphones     72% of US online adults now listen to audio on their home computers according to a CEA survey.  But only 9% of the same survey respondents connect their PC to home audio systems.

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Amazon: archiving rare books

The commercial race to digitize the World’s libraries has, for the most part, been a two horse race with Microsoft and Google battling to sign up the worlds libraries and gain the rights to archive and index their rare, obscure or out of print titles.

da vinciYesterday, in what seems like a natural fit, online retailer Amazon (which started famously as an online book store) joined the race.   In partnership with high-speed scanning company Kirtas Technologies (the same company that has helped Microsoft), Amazon will begin to archive rare titles from public and university libraries special collections.   

Unlike Google and Microsoft, which are largely focusing on making the literary content available freely, Amazon will use the archives it creates to offer reproductions for sale.

The project will be administered through Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing service BookSurge which specializes in printing and selling out of print titles. Amazon bought BookSurge in 2005.

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Blackstone IPO: Litmus test for Private Equity?

Sometime today, underwriter Morgan Stanley is widely expected to price the initial public offering of shares in private equity firm Blackstone Group (with trading to begin Friday under the symbol “BX” on the New York Stock Exchange). 

private equityA lot could happen over the next few hours, or day, (tax issues and the questionable applicability of an exemption loom) but assuming the deal does move ahead as expected, the 133.33 million common shares to be sold (at an anticipated price of $29 to $31 a share) could raise as much as $5b. 

With an additional 20 million share over-allotment available for Morgan Stanley and Citigroup to place if there is excess demand, it will likely be one of the ten biggest IPO’s in US history.  The deal will be so large, in fact, it will likely give Blackstone a market-cap equal to about half the value of Wall Street institutions Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley

A lot of people will make a windfall. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman personally stands to make about $677 million as a selling shareholder and his retained holdings will have a worth upwards of $7b.  (He earned a staggering $400m in 2006).

While the deal is huge, and will unquestionably be the biggest offering since MasterCard Inc’s $2.4b offering about a year ago,   it is  interesting not just for its size but for bringing the focus onto private equity in general.  (Not that private equity is lacking the spotlight these days) but one of the world’s largest firms opening its books to SEC filings and the reporting requirements of being public will make for interest reading.

The focus on Private Equity from the offering, legislative concerns and other factors (including fears of what might happen to global economies if a Private Equity firm defaults on a loan) begs some questions:  

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Yahoo buys Rivals

Thanks to a time-zone related snafu, a story held in queue on a PR Wire in Europe leaked ahead of schedule.  According to the announcement, which was not meant for release before midnight Eastern Std Time but is now being reported, Yahoo acquired sports news and commentary network Rivals.com.


The acquisition is being billed as the first under Jerry Yang’s reign at Yahoo but that’s both immaterial and somewhat inaccurate. A deal with the collegiate sports-fan site has been rumored in the works for months.  In April, rumors of both Rivals being for sale and speculation (first reported on Tech Crunch) that a prior SEC investigation of Rivals CEO for securities fraud (when he was a principal at SGA Goldstar Research) might be in the way of his company’s sale, were picked up on various blogs and news sites.    

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Getty adds music to images

Getty Images is expanding its focus from images to other forms of licensed content, today adding Music. The Seattle photo agency announced it was acquiring Pump Audio, a specialist licensing agency for independent musicians, for $42m.

pump audio

Pump Audio was founded in 2001 as a form of agent for independent musicians. The New York based company allows musicians to upload tracks which are then made searchable for potential licensing. If an Ad Exec, for example, is looking for a soundtrack to run behind a new Television commercial, the Pump platform, allows the Ad Exec to find and work with Independent musicians who otherwise may not have been on their radar. Pump maintains a catalog of more than 100,000 songs many of which might have been recorded explicitly for advertising. Pump licenses all the music in its archive for a flat fee. Last year, Pump reported approximately 80,000 placements. Click to Read More

K2 Network Series B Financing

Online game developer K2 Network has announced the closing of a $16m Series B round of venture financing.  The round was led by Intel Capital and also included monies from Greycroft Partners, Khosla Ventures, Novel TMT Ventures, BV Capital and MVP Capital.

k2 mmog

The online gaming industry is estimated to reach $10 to 13b in revenue by 2011.  K2 Network, which was founded in 2001, and has a presence in the United States, Korea and India, is focused on so called Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG’s). The company has between  8m to 10m registered users 1 (their website and press releases have slightly different numbers) and a range of titles in its catalog.  The company provides both free to play games and premium subscription services.

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