Industry News

Bad Idea:

Delaying the analog/digital transition to June 12.

Good Idea:

Investing in Netflix (yesterday)

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Another one bites the dust?

Another one bites the dust?

 A picture taken from the blog of ‘the Stranger’ in Seattle. The Seattle P-I is on it’s last legs. I’ve also got wind of layoffs at CBS radio in Seattle not to mention the potential massive layoffs that Microsoft is flirting with. The decline of the Seattle market is a cannary in the coal mine. We aren’t through this yet.

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The Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning. You can find a full list here. I would say nothing too surprising, Heath Ledger was nominated for beast supporting actor, and ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ was nominated in multiple categories including best Picture-Drama. There are several of these films I haven’t seen but that is my early pick for the movie to beat this upcoming award season.

On a totally weird and only at the Golden Globes note, Tom Cruise was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as well. What movie you might ask? ‘Valkyrie’? No, how about ‘Tropic Thunder’. It seems the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has tried to remain relevant and edgy but I think that nomination sticks out as bizarre. He’s up against his ‘Tropic Thunder’ co-star Robert Downey Jr., Ralph Fiennes (The Duchess), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight). Any guesses who will actually win that one?

As far as TV and other nominations go. I hope ‘Wall-E’ cleans up the animation category and Tina Fey and everything ’30 Rock’ takes home a statue. I’d be fine if ‘Weeds’ won but nobody else in their categories is worth my time. Lastly, a shout to Neil Patrick Harris for his nod in ‘How I Met Your Mother’, way to play it the other way.

Oh, and if anyone still cares the Grammy nominations were announced last week. Talk about an irrelevant award.

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RealNetworks has suspended selling the RealDVD software after Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of U.S. District Court in San Francisco temporarily barred the company from selling it. RealDVD is a program that allows users to copy DVDs onto the hard drives of their computers. The software has only been on sale for about a week and on the same day the product launched the legal fight began. In all, six major studios are suing the Seattle based company. This is not the first time RealNetworks has made waves in the industry, their Chief Executive Rob Glaser has danced with Steve Jobs and Microsoft, so taking on all of Hollywood would seem like the natural next move.

The Tuesday the product launched and the lawsuit was filed Glaser wrote “great products should not be bullied out of the market by people trying to misuse the law to suppress legitimate innovation.” So, what exactly does the law say? Well, for starters just pop in any DVD you have lying about and you’ll find out a pretty good interpretation:


DVD FBI Warning

DVD FBI Warning



“The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a find o $250,000.”

This isn’t a case where you have to capitalize on the copied product by selling a copy. The warning is clear, ANY unauthorized reproduction is illegal. Having “users [be] on the honor system” to not rent a movie from Blockbuster or Netflix, burn the DVD, and return it isn’t enough for Hollywood. While Glaser might consider there to be an alternative interpretation of that warning from the FBI, ‘The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998‘ tends to put any doubts to rest. While this product will certainly grab the attention of the film industry it could potentially set a precedent going forward as a way to clarify the law. Depending on the outcome it could either lead to RealNetworks stepping out of their recent slump within the industry or it could see them with a takeover offer to make this problem go away.

I for one hope the precedent is perfectly clear. The more ambiguous the law is in regards to digital copyright issues the harder it is to create solid foundations for future capitalist success. I fully support the film studios in this totally legitimate claim against RealNetworks. I’m tired of being the only person I know not willing to use BitTorrent, or something else to illegally download movies, music and computer software. While my friends and peers continue to take advantage of the film/music industry with no penalties I still harbor some sense of moral indignation for such actions. I don’t steal my music or my movies. In fact it pisses me off when people do. I’m obviously a huge supporter of future technologies and ways to provide content to consumers in easily accessible ways. There is no denying that big changes are coming to the music and film industry over the next 5-10 years. However, copying rented movies to personal hard drives is, to me, a clear violation of the laws as they stand now. As with most copyright laws I’ll be watching how this one plays out, they tend to be game-changers depending on the outcomes.

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… Has passed away. He was 83.

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After a bitter loss to Sony’s Blu-ray HD system Toshiba is looking to make their next move. Predicting that optical disc have their days numbered anyway they are skipping ahead to sell players employing the SD cards that you might find in your digital camera. While I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that digital SD cards are the future of receiving content, I’m not sure if the public is ready for this step. The wireless potential is huge as well, as seen in the Eyefi SD card. Good of Toshiba to be thinking super long term, but right now with the economy in the toilet people are having a hard enough time converting to Blu-ray players let alone an entirely incompatible new system.

The potentially not so distant future will see companies like Mod Systems, who provide digital kiosks, taking off and leading in content distribution. In the same way that Blockbuster wanted to reduce store sizes and move to a digital kiosk based platform, Mod Systems would provide retailers with a kiosks that can quickly download content onto an SD card. Toshiba recently invested $24-million into the company to ensure it’s future.

Blockbuster CFO Tom Casey recently warned of this shift saying “”What you need to understand is we really have a market that we address that’s nearly $36 billion in size. Video-on-demand is actually pretty small.” In an apparent shift of strategy Blockbuster is going to increase fees in order to pay for store upgrades. This will include remodeling some of the stores to include gaming stations and cafes. Now I don’t know who would want to go to Blockbuster for a cafe experience aside from 12 year olds unchecked by their parents, but this doesn’t seem like their wisest decision. I full supported their move to go forward with kiosks and digital downloads but increasing their already alarming high rental prices in order to make their stores more of a destination seems strange.

Blu-ray does costs more for them to stock so I could see a higher rental fee for Blu-ray discs. If the future, as Toshiba likes to think, is in digital downloads to an SD card then this is the wrong move.

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The first market in the U.S. is making the change to digital-only broadcasting today.  Now don’t be fooled by the cheesy seven-foot switch that FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo toggled up. The switch was symbolic only and not actually connected to anything. Wilmington is the nation’s 135th-largest market and the five commercial stations in the region made the switch at noon EDT today.

Oh so corny

Oh so corny

Wilmington is intended to act as a guinea pig for the upcoming digital transition in February of 2009. This switch is estimated to affect 13 million households and only 8% of the population of Wilmington. If those people haven’t been paying attention, or watching TV at all recently, they will see the following message across their screen: “If you are viewing this message, this television set has not yet been upgraded to digital.” Hopefully though the last four months have reached everyone in the region and this first in the nation switch can go off without a hitch.

If you are one of those 13 million affected you can go here to get your $40 coupon for a converter box. Or,  upgrade to cable, I’m sure Comcast won’t complain.

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Woah. As we approach our 1 year anniversary here at Infinity and Beyond I seem to have fallen off the face of the earth.

First off the Olympics started last Friday and my breaks at work have now been filled with the Canadian Broadcast Channel and one of the many NBC/Universal channels carrying Olympic coverage.

Watching Olympics

Secondly, just like Jason T., I too have a white shiny new iPhone. As of right now our site isn’t iPhone capable (soon to change) so my remaining spare time has been spent on the phone which I can’t post from, yet.

Oh, and I’m in the process of renting out my house, also just a little time consuming. So, I apologize for the lack of posts as of late and hope I can get back up to speed.

It almost seems pointless to post about some of the stuff that has happened in the past few weeks just due to the nature of this industry. Once a day or two goes by it’s no longer new and exciting news and everyone has moved on but here are a few of the things I have been reading about in the past few weeks:

Digital Dead.

Olympics Coverage.

Facebook friends with your teachers.

Harry Potter film delayed… stupid writers strike ruining 2009 movie slate.

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Federal Judge Warren Ferguson, who presided over the 1979 Betamax case, died on June 25. The case was lost by Universal and Disney, who claimed that the new home recording device would cause copyright infringement to run wild, and changed the video market forever. Betamax eventually lost the platform war against VHS but Sony has now once again triumphed in revolutionizing the personal video market with the Blu-Ray player and discs. At least this time Disney was on the right side of the fight, as the market for their video market has brought in millions for the company.

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I gave news you could use on Friday, so for today here is an extended ‘Friday Review’ including some pictures of the recent fire at Universal Studios.

Universal Studios Backlot Fire

The building in the background is the current face of the clock tower from ‘Back to the Future’ you can see just how devastating this fire is to the back-lot.*

Kiosks Come to Life: Remember when we said that Blockbuster would be developing in-store kiosks to rival those of red-box? We’ll two of them now exist. You’ll need to buy an Archos Generation 4 portable media player to get it to work, but CEO Jim Keyes says the kiosks will be compatible with virtually any portable video device, including Apple’s iPhone and video iPod and the Zune. 

Universal Backlot Fire, film

Here firefighters carry film canisters out of the film vault on the back-lot. Some 50,000 negatives were stored in the building behind them. Incidentally I applied for a job working in that building a few years ago.

The Window Closes: If Disney CEO Iger and News Corp. CEO world dominator, Rupert Murdoch can agree on something it must be true. They both predict that movies will be released on video-on demand cable platforms as well as via digital technologies the same day they are released on DVD and Blu-ray.

Universal Studios Fire devestation

The devastation from the upper lot. On the right is the gutted-out ‘King Kong’ portion of the tram tour and the clock tower dead center.*

Radiohead- Denied: A few months ago now Prince covered Radiohead’s “Creep” at Coachella and naturally YouTube was the obvious place to find videos of the performance. Unfortunately for everyone, including the creator’s of the song, Prince’s label, NPG Records, had the clips removed citing copyright violation. When Thom Yorke found out about it from Ed O’Brien he said “Really?He’s blocked it? Surely we should block it. Hang on a moment… Well, tell him to unblock it It’s our…song.” As of now the videos have not returned to YouTube but this will for sure add to the debate over digital ownership. I guess if this does go someplace legally I’m glad to have internet pioneer’s, Radiohead, on my side. 

*Photos appear courtesy of David ‘Darkbeer’ Michael on

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