Bandwidth Blockades: Net Neutrality, ISP Throttling and the Entertainment Industry

bandwidth blockadeIn February 2006, notable executives from Internet companies and Telecom giants converged on Capital Hill to lobby to consider revising a ten year old Telecom bill.   The issue at stake was the concept of Net Neutrality, a divisive idea suggesting that all internet content (regardless of format) should be treated equally.   

On one side of the debate fell Internet and software companies.  Businesses like Google and Yahoo wanted to insure that all websites – from blog to portal, could be accessed equally.  Even more so, they wanted legislation that would protect different types of content like video, or music, or the technologies that deliver them (like Peer to Peer) from arbitrary exclusion.  Their goal was to insure nothing was singled out and taxed by the ISP’s who control the supply pipeline, the network infrastructure over which Internet traffic flows.  The software and Internet companies wanted to insure their content would always flow freely without tax or toll.

The Telecom companies, on the other side of the stage, wanted the freedom of an unregulated market.  Click to Read More

The story of the Columbus Egg: thoughts on venture capital and entrepreneurship

“It’s rough out there. Anyone who tries to say otherwise has never taken money from a venture capitalist or candy from a child” Anonymous.

columbus eggNot long ago, out having a drink with some friends, I was treated to the unsolicited rants of a stranger at the bar. He was an entrepreneur and he was vocally unhappy with the direction his investors were trying to drive the company he helped found.  He was just making conversation but listening to his unsolicited rant inspired this unsolicited reply.

VC’s aren’t saints (and some are indeed sharks) but they sometimes get a bad rap because, like movie studio executives, talent agents, and publishers, they sit in a position where their job requires them to evaluate an idea’s odds of success, and the decision they come to in that evaluation effectively positions them as a toll collector on one dreamer’s bridge to success.  Click to Read More

Changing Weather: EA, Weather Channel Test Dynamic Games

With onboard Internet connections, large hard drives and extremely powerful CPU and graphics processors, today’s gaming consoles like the Xbox 360, or PS3 (and to a lesser degree the Nintendo Wii which emphasizes game play over game technology) house immense computing power.    gaming weather The Xbox 360, for example, runs a custom designed IBM PowerPC triple core 3.2ghz CPU chip.  Put in perspective, a high end 2006 configuration of Apple’s Power Mac G5 used dual core  PowerPC processors running 2.5ghz.   In plain English, that’s some serious horsepower.

The most obvious benefit of this power consolidation is the quality of the graphics.  (3d image processing is power and memory hungry. The bigger the box, the better the potential images.)  But as important as graphics may be to the quality of the experience, for gamer’s the ultimate payoff may lie somewhere else; it may lie not in visual renderings but instead  in the potential for a new kind of gaming, the potential for: “Dynamic Games.” 

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Introducing the Endorsement Sheet: Celeb Ad Tracking Lists

(Metue Celebrity Endorsement Lists are now live on the site. Read the article below or follow the links at the bottom of this article  for more information)

celebYou can’t legally download a Beatles song online yet but you can hear “All You Need is Love” play on TV in support of Luvs diaper sales.   Put off by that? Change the channel but beware, across the channels, TV and radio, famed songs, and new releases from Janis Joplin (Mercedes) to Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody) to John Mellencamp (Our Country) all play in marketing campaigns.   The song Our Country even debuted in advertising months before it was available as a single.

We live in Billboard Nation; a consumer culture.  Celebrities looking to stay in the public eye can do it by selling products. They can market themselves and get paid to do it at the same time. Popular songs can be soundtracks to a sale.   Turn on the TV and that voice selling cars may be one you know (Kevin Spacey, Gary Sinese). Similarly open a magazine and chances are you’ll see a recognizable face on the pages promoting a product.  The guitar riff in a commercial? Not necessarily a jingle.

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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

Kodak: Reinventing digital cameras?

Kodak, a company built on a foundation of innovations for photography and film, has struggled somewhat as the world’s transitioned toward a more digital environment.  Some product lines have thrived while others have been restructured.  The company has made large bets on technology, particularly efforts to push into ink-jet printing and now, a possible new breakthrough for digital photography.

kodakLate last week  Kodak unveiled a technology it claims will improve the images of digital camera’s by a factor of 2x to 4x without requiring an increase in the size of the camera’s image sensor.  If the technology is as promised, is cost effective to produce, and becomes widely adopted, Kodak could be in a position to generate substantial licensing revenue.  The breakthrough could,  even potentially, be big enough to redirect the course of the entire digital camera marketplace.

To understand the technology at stake requires a basic understanding of how digital cameras work.  So in basic terms: digital camera’s use a grid like array of sensors to simulate film and capture an image.  The grid (which is a semi-conductor technology)  is composed of thousands of small light sensitive sensors (called Pixels). Each Pixel recognizes a dot of light (like grain in film) as bright or dark.  The computer-brain of the camera then converts that information into its memory.   Repeating the pattern of dark and light dots of lights like a mosaic recreates the picture.   The more pixels on the grid, the more information the camera can record; and the more information stored, the better the picture.  (The same is true in film, larger format negatives captures more detailed pictures by storing more information in the form of more data about the pattern of light). 

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Photo Licensing for All: Microstock Photo Services

Have a camera? Consider yourself a decent photographer? … Want to earn a buck from your efforts; see your pictures on a web page or in print?  Increasingly all that and more are possible thanks to a concept called Micro-Stock Photo Agencies which are gaining popularity almost as fast as their archives of footage are gaining new pictures. 

photoThe premise is simple: anyone with a camera can take a picture and upload it onto some Micro-stock Agency’s site.  There, the images will be displayed for any members to see, and if they like, license for a nominal fee.  If I need a graphic for Metue, for example, and don’t have the time to create it myself, I can go to a site like iStockPhoto.  There, if something catches my eye, for a few dollars I can license the picture (subject to some limitations) for use on my site alongside my content.  In theory, an entire website could be populated for licensed footage for sums that might only break my piggy bank, but not my real budget.

The idea of this open-access, micro-stock agency is relatively new but their older sibling, traditional Stock Photo Agencies, are not new at all.  Big agencies have for years managed the portfolios of untold amateur and professional photographers.  In fact, Stock Agencies   are generally the most consistent revenue stream for many professional photographers. They act as cataloger, distributor and licensing agent for orphaned photos (e.g. images not shot for a specific assignment). 

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