Pink Slip Watch: Viacom, AT&T and More

pink slip noticeThe deceleration of the economy and the utter implosion of both the banking and auto industries has officially tipped the dominoes of misfortune to the media industry.  The flow of advertising dollars has shrunk.  Car dealerships are spending less to promote their products.  Banks are buying fewer ads. Historically big spenders aren’t spending. Even celebrity endorsements are falling victim.   So…this year,  instead of holiday bonuses, many tech and media companies are handing out pink slips.  

It’s hard to say whether all the cash conservation and restructuring is truly necessary or if some is just opportunistically timed to squeeze the write-offs and one-time charges into 2008 fiscal year accounting.  For a lot of people, that’s irrelevant.  This season’s greetings are anything but cheery.

Today, it was  media giant Viacom that lowered the hatchet. The parent of MTV Networks, Paramount, BET and Nickelodeon, announced a workforce reduction of approximately 7%, or 850 jobs. Click to Read More

Project Kangaroo Runs Into Antitrust Issues

project kangaroo stopIn the U.S. NBC Universal and News Corp’s joint video on demand service, Hulu, has proven to be a big success, drawing both audience (Quantcast data) and advertisers.  In the U.K., BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4 had hoped to follow a similar path with their own web service, Project Kangaroo (also known as UKVOD).  Their route now looks complicated, if not potentially impassable.

Wednesday, after a prolonged review, the U.K antitrust authority, the Competition Commission (“CC”) issued a provisional finding that the joint venture would unfairly restrict competition. Specifically, the CC believes, as currently defined, Project Kangaroo will lessen essential competition in the supply of UK TV Video on Demand programming.

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EA Faces Two More SecuROM Lawsuits

spore suitsIn early September, EA began selling the hotly anticipated PC game title, Spore, around the globe.  The ambition was huge, the hype enormous.  Spore was to be a “sure thing” hit.  So far, it’s lived up to that expectation.  The game is a top seller in Amazon’s PC and Mac games categories (#1 in PC and Mac simulation games, #6 in PC games overall) and according to EA, near two million copies sold in the first three weeks of sales.  Unfortunately, with the sales and  high visibility have come another less desirable achievement: Spore has become a lightning rod for complaints over the SecuROM embedded digital rights management system EA is using to thwart piracy. 

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Google Settles Book Search Suit

goog settlesThroughout 2007, Microsoft and Google seemed locked in a race to digitize  and index the books of the world.  For months the companies seesawed back and forth with news of agreements granting exclusive access to world renowned library collections.

Google tied up the University of Lausanne in France and the University of Mysore in India.  Microsoft captured the British Library in the U.K. and the University of Toronto in Canada.  Google wooed Stanford and Harvard.  Microsoft snared Cornell and the University of California.

Back and forth it went in what seemed to be a small but important front in the companies’ ongoing competition for audience eyeballs and next generation search technology.  Then last spring, in May, abruptly, it stopped.

With little warning, and to limited fanfare, Microsoft pulled the plug.  Organizing all the world’s information wasn’t their mission.  Microsoft was interested in next generation search and a sustainable business model.  Creating a library instead of crawling existing ones apparently was no longer worth it, so they ceded the fight.  Copyright lawyers chasing Google’s Book Search project were less generous, until today.

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RealDVD Temporarily Restrained…Indefinitely

real dvd blockedNow you see it, now you don’t.  Real Network’s newly launched DVD copying software platform, RealDVD, has gone from controversial to contained in the blink of an eye. You could say the software has been sequestered.

Friday, days following the program’s launch, with litigation already pending from both sides,  U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel issued a temporary restraining order blocking all sales of the program pending a broader review of the software’s legality.

Tuesday, the TRO was extended.  The exact terms haven’t been made public but it appears the judge wants time to gain a more detailed understanding of how the software works and also, to allow the competing sides to prepare expert testimony.

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Legal Briefs: MPAA and Real Networks Battle Over DVD Copying

copyright realdvd suitsTuesday, the Motion Picture Association of America and Real Networks went at it head on, taking each other to court in separate lawsuits.  There may have been an effort at behind the scenes diplomacy but there was no shot across the bow, no public warning.  The fight came quick and fast with preemptive and counter strikes. 

The battleground is Real Networks newly released realDVD software, a software program designed to copy DVDs.  The question is whether it’s legal and how copyright law should be applied to its use.

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Poor Disclosure Gets EA in PR Mess over Spore DRM

sporeDigital Rights Management (“DRM”), and the assorted encryption techniques that fall under its moniker, has become industries’ primary preventative weapon for thwarting rampant content piracy.  It’s been their canon, their go-to machine.  Unfortunately, like any weapon if improperly used it has the ability to blow up in its user’s face.  Sony learned that lesson the hard way in 2005.   Now, the use of a different Sony developed technology called SecuROM, along with a questionable disclosure policy, has put video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) in the crosshairs. A lawsuit’s already been filed.

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