The News – 04/19/01
Australia May Have Outlawed E-Mail Forwarding
Australia has recently enacted some changes to its Internet copyright
laws that some critics claim would make forwarding an email without the
writer’s consent a crime. Breaking the law could result in fines of AU$60,000
or five years in jail.
After the news broke in Australian papers, Australian Attorney
General Daryl Williams said, "Contrary
to alarmist media reports, sharing e-mail is not banned by law." When
pressed by reporters, however, Williams equivocated: "For example, if
the e-mail was simply a joke that everyone had been re-hashing for years,
it is doubtful it would have the necessary originality to be protected by
copyright. Similarly, a casual exchange of personal information or office
gossip would probably not be original enough to have copyright in it."
Well, that clears it up, then.
As if that weren’t enough, Australia also has banned Web content
that the police determine is offensive to children, no matter where
it is produced. Fines of up to AU$10,000 can be levied with no outside
oversight. Even worse: Web site producers can’t even get the content
pre-screened to determine offensiveness. They have to wait to be cited.
While it may appear that our friends down under have gone
completely mad, you should remember that our own Congress tried to
accomplish pretty much the same thing recently with the 1996 Communications
Decency Act (CDA), which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997.
Businesses should be aware that various countries have some
pretty severe restrictions on electronic communications. For each country
in which you do business, it is imperative to understand the laws regarding
such seemingly innocuous activities such as forwarding email.
Video Downloading Already a Reality
Look out Blockbuster! Internet video rental company
SightSound Technologies has been renting downloadable videos over the Web
since 1999. The company offers “daily rentals” of films from Miramax Films,
which will release twelve movies for download on Miramax websites, and Comedy
Central, which is distributing episodes of “South Park” and “Dr.
Katz: Professional Therapist.” SightSound is also distributing movies for
Franchise Pictures, Unapix Entertainment and more than 40 other independent
producers and special interest companies.
A recently featured movie, Miramax’s 1999 release, Guinevere,
costs $3.49 to rent for a day and involves a 469MB download. With a 1Mbps home
broadband connection, the 105-minute movie would take a little over an hour
to download. You download the movie file, which you can play on your
computer, as well as a decryption key needed to make the file viewable.
SightSound has added “direct to Net” to the
entertainment lexicon that includes “direct to video” by offering the first
movie made for the Internet, “The Quantum Project”, a $3 million 32-minute sci-fi
drama starring Stephen Dorff and John Cleese. The company isn’t relying entirely
on online distribution, however. They recently partnered with Microsoft to
bundle a free copy of Quantum Project with downloads of Microsoft’s Windows
Media Player 7.
SightSound currently has four patents issued and
roughly 30 under review by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, and is
aggressively going after other etailers selling audio and video recordings
via online downloads.
Frankly, I’m amazed that the company,
which started out life in 1995 offering secure audio downloads (record
industry take note!), can find a big enough market in this
bandwidth-starved world. The fact that they made the Microsoft deal and
canceled their IPO in October indicates that they may truly be in advance
of the market. Also, their release of the movie “pi” last year received
only 128 downloads.
Indeed, not everyone is convinced of the promise of
videos on the PC. “We like to use the ‘sitting forward versus sitting back'
analogy,” says Gene Klein, content VP for indie film site Reelshort.com.
“If you’re watching a half-hour movie on a PC at your desk, that’s a long
time to be sitting forward.” There are other, business-related,
complications as well, not the least of which is the fact that the Internet
is global, and movie companies typically sell rights on a regional basis.
Nonetheless, businesses that depend on revenue from
forms of entertainment that can be digitized need to keep track of such
developments. It’s entirely possible that someday soon you, and
Blockbuster, may be Amazoned.
Can’t Get Enough of ME?
In the unlikely event that
you want more of my opinions, I’ve started a Weblog. It’s the fashionable
thing for pundits to do, and I’m doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped
collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page.
If you’d like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can
create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP
access, and the free software from www.blogger.com.
This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts
to your Weblog.
I’ve dubbed my Weblog
entries “Stratlets”, and they are available at www.stratvantage.com/stratlets/.
Let me know what you think.
to Mike’s Take