Behind the Netflix-Warner Bros deal
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Behind the Netflix-Warner Bros deal

New York Times’ Bits Blog has the details:

He says that Netflix was willing to compromise on the issue because “our number one objective now is expanding the digital catalog.” Netflix’s streaming service won’t receive any newer movies from Warner – “it’s not that much of a breakthrough,” Mr. Hastings said – but it will get a larger piece of the Warner back catalog.

The issue at hand is Netflix agreeing to a waiting period before they start sending out new releases on DVD. Warner Brothers wants a window during which customers have to buy DVDs in order to watch them when they are initially released. In exchange, Netflix gets access to more movies that they can stream instantly, and better prices on DVDs.

I am a big user of the Netflix streaming feature and I almost never watch movies right after they are released, so this deal is a win for me. More than that, I think it’s a win for customers in general in the long term. It would be nice to have every movie available instantly online, but we’re a long way from there. Any deal that gets the studios more accustomed to streaming of their movies on demand moves us closer to that ideal.

This deal is bad for people who want movies from Netflix as soon as they’re released to DVD, but a good deal for pretty much everybody else. Even if you don’t stream movies now, you probably will soon.

Jan Chipchase on redbox DVDs
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Jan Chipchase on redbox DVDs

Jan Chipchase comments on the disruptive effect of redbox DVD vending machines:

American customers can browse titles in any given vending machine and make a reservation online – try it here (non-US readers might want to start with the zipcode 90210). Since one vending machine holds up to 500 DVD units you’re not going to find Delicatessen or Vanishing Point but that misses the point – it’s like complaining that the Flip is too simple to use. All of their movies including new releases are offered at flat cost of $1 + tax for one nights rental. Interaction is minimal – the vending machine has a touch screen, one slot for receiving/returning DVDs and a credit card swiper.

What comes next? My prediction would be a DVD burner built into the machines, so that you can get pretty much anything you want. The only question there is whether instant viewing over the Internet outpaces redbox. Some Blu-Ray players already include the ability to stream movies from Netflix, at some point most homes will have a device connected to their TV that enables them to get pretty much any movie they want, on demand. In fact, I’d say that I already get more value from movies I can watch instantly on Netflix than I do from the aspect of the service that sends me DVDs in the mail.

Aside from the impact on the movie business, though, Chipchase argues that redbox’s business model will have an even bigger impact:

For those of you glancing nervously into the future perfect redbox’s real impact goes far further than merely renting out DVDs: they have introduced new forms of interaction into the American urban landscape making it more acceptable to use touch screens to browse content in high-footfall, outdoor public spaces; it introduces non-beverage/non-snack vending machine use to a new demographic; and most importantly the value proposition provides sufficient pull for customers to take out a credit card and swipe to authenticate (for rental pick-ups) and complete transactions.

A shopping cart for reuse rights
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A shopping cart for reuse rights

PoliticalCartoons.com sells reprint rights to the cartoons they publish on the page where the cartoons themselves are published.

PoliticalCartoons_rights_sales.png

I wonder to what extent this prevents people from appropriating the cartoons without paying for them. This arrangement makes it perfectly clear that you are not entitled to use the cartoons without paying for the legal right to do so, and makes it convenient to pay for them right there. The prices seem reasonable.

I’d love to know whether this approach is working.

Links from January 24th
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Links from January 24th

Music DRM is dead
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Music DRM is dead

As Andrew Leonard notes, with Apple’s announcement today that the iTunes Store is phasing out DRM on the music sold there, we can say that music DRM is dead. It took longer than most would have hoped, but I’m so glad to see it happen. It makes you wonder what’s going to happen with the Kindle down the road. I’m still amazed that people are licensing books from Amazon.com instead of buying them for themselves.

Release windows
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Release windows

Apparently movies are disappearing from iTunes and Netflix because of a licensing arrangement between movie studios and broadcasters called release windows. Basically, once a network (premium or otherwise) pays for exclusive rights to air a movie, they can demand that customers no longer be allowed to view it over the Internet.

Fact checking the copyright industry
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Fact checking the copyright industry

Ars Technica has posted an investigative report looking into the numbers the copyright industry uses to justify the legislation it asks for to help fight piracy.

An excerpt:

By more conventional standards of empirical verification, however, the numbers fare less well. Try to follow the thread of citations to their source, and you encounter a fractal tangle of recursive reference that resembles nothing so much as the children’s game known, in less-PC times, as “Chinese whispers,” and these days more often called “Telephone.” Usually, the most respectable-sounding authority to cite for the numbers (the FBI for the dollar amount, Customs for the jobs figure) is also the most prevalent—but in each case, that authoritative “source” proves to be a mere waystation on a long and tortuous journey. So what is the secret origin of these ubiquitous statistics? What doomed planet’s desperate alien statisticians rocketed them to Kansas? Ars did its best to find the fountainhead. Here’s what we discovered.

It strikes me that the estimates bandied about to argue for and against various policies are almost never have any kind of legitimate basis in fact, and yet they are treated as though they are hugely important. I guess numbers just make people feel better. After all, Congress just approved a $700,000,000,000 bailout package with the knowledge that the amount requested was a total guess.