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Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 10, 2006 1 comments
OK, let's tote up the recent wins for Steve Jobs. The trademark lawsuit from the Beatles is history. The music labels have renewed their 99-cent download arrangement with iTunes, amid much grumbling, even after Steve rejected their demand for variable pricing. The French parliament may be backing off its legislative requirement that iTunes downloads play on non-Apple devices. Disney is paying $7.4 billion for Pixar, of which Steve owns more than half, and he's got a seat on the board of directors, presumably alongside Mickey. The iPod is dominating the audio industry. Intel-driven Macs are being positioned for higher sales. Microsoft just can't seem to get its act together for the next generation of Windows. And whether or not Jobs ever gets to beat Bill Gates, he's already beaten an even meaner adversary, pancreatic cancer (God bless). I'll bet there aren't even any widows in his sock drawer.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 09, 2006 0 comments
Warner Bros. will distribute movies and TV shows through BitTorrent, essentially adapting a technology developed for file sharing to legal use. BitTorrent's "file swarming" technique does not download entire files from a central server. Instead it assembles a piece of content using bits from several other computers in an ad hoc network. The company's first step toward respectability came last year, when it removed illegal movie content and links from its site at the, uh, ah, request of the Motion Picture Association of America. Soon you'll be able to file-swarm new movie titles on the same date as the DVD release (price not announced) or TV shows for a buck. The download may either sit on your hard drive temporarily, for a single use, or be backed up to a DVD, though it would still play only on the PC that recorded it. Whether the rules will evolve is uncertain, and no one's given a start date, but the concept seems promising. The studios are already dipping their toes in other forms of digital home distribution.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 08, 2006 0 comments
Contrary to an earlier report, it looks as though France won't become the first nation to demand interoperability in music downloads and portable devices. A laudable copyright law revision has been not only watered down but totally negated. Among the key changes, the words translatable as "open standard" have been changed to "protected copy." If you're an attorney fluent in French, take a look at the proposed amendments from the Commission des Affaires culturelles. The committee's handiwork is already being cited as a victory for Apple, which had bitterly condemned the bill's original wording as "state-sponsored piracy" and a mortal threat to iTunes. The resistance is still resisting—see eucd.info and stopdrm.info—but the prospects for consumer-friendly legislation have deteriorated. The French senate is expected to vote by mid-month.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 05, 2006 1 comments
Like Adam and Eve, an iPod eventually nano comes to the realization that it must cover its nakedness. Guilt no doubt plays a role. After all, the nano feels embarrassed when scratched, knowing how its manufacturer rushed it into production without taking durability into account. And it must feel the glare of the bright spotlight of conspicuous consumption. Among the many products rushing in to clothe the modest little player is the iSkin Duo. Mine was a nano-sized case in turquoise and lime, but there's an iSkin to fit just about any iPod model, in a variety of bright colors, bringing touches of flamboyance to the white-or-black dichotomy of iPod design.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 04, 2006 2 comments
Blu-ray's official launch will be delayed from May 23 to June 20, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Prerecorded discs will be lying in wait by the original launch date. But Sony Pictures is holding them back to coordinate with the launch of Samsung's BD-1000 player. Samsung reported in April that the player was hung up on "compatibility testing." Sony's own BDP-S1 is not scheduled to come out until July, according to the Blu-ray website, though sonystyle.com is taking pre-orders for it. HD DVD got a lot of bad publicity for its stuttering launch. Looks like the shoe is on the other foot now, eh? Being a format war correspondent is fun!
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 03, 2006 2 comments
Today Bob Dylan makes his debut as DJ on XM Satellite Radio. He will host Theme Time Radio Hour, each installment organized around a different theme—today's theme is the weather. The New York Times ran a set list for next week's show, devoted to Mother's Day. More than a mere list of novelty songs, it demonstrates the deep and encyclopedic knowledge of roots music that has always informed Dylan's songwriting: Tommy Duncan, Buck Owens, Bobby Peterson Quartet, Ruth Brown, Carl Smith, Ernie K-Doe, Little Junior Parker, Jimmy McCracklin, and LL Cool J. The Times arched an eyebrow at LL Cool J. Perhaps the greying composer of "Positively 4th Street" is more sophisticated than the Grey Lady of West 43rd. Dylan will record the one-hour weekly show at home and on the road.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 02, 2006 2 comments
Daniel Barenboim is using his baton as a stiletto. The outgoing musical director of the Chicago Symphony has lashed out against Muzak in a BBC lecture series. Starting in the 1920s, Muzak pioneered the piped-in music that follows you around like a talkative acquaintance with bad breath. Barenboim called it "absolutely offensive" and declared, "active listening is essential." In response, the Muzak people compared their product to the works of Erik Satie, describing it as an "aural background" and a "mood enhancer." But the conflict here isn't between foreground and background listening. It's between music voluntarily perceived as music and music involuntarily endured as noise.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 01, 2006 2 comments
You order a DVD, then it's custom-made and shipped. That's the beauty of the new DVD on Demand service from Amazon, partnering with CustomFlix. Producers send DVD or tape masters, which are then placed on a secure server for ordering from the Amazon or CustomFlix sites. "Customers receive professional-quality DVDs in overwrapped, Amaray-style cases with full-color covers and lacquer-coated disc faces," says CustomFlix. There are two levels of distribution service: Independent Media Gateway for indies with fewer than 50 titles, and Enterprise Media Gateway for the big guns. The latter include NBC, PBS, A&E, the History Channel, and the Biography Channel. You'll be able to order Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show from NBC and Nova from PBS, among other announced titles. Current releases are standard-def but in the future CustomFlix will support HD DVD, Blu-ray, and WMV-HD DVD. On-demand distribution systems generally trade a greater manufacturing cost per copy for the flexibility of replicating one unit at a time, so they're most suitable for small projects, like DWL Video's lovely epic on the 17 Year Cicada. A parallel cottage industry has grown up around on-demand book printing, including both my home theater guide and my restaurant guide.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 28, 2006 1 comments
Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association—who often looks like he needs a shave but is otherwise a perfectly respectable individual—is making a renewed push for HR1201. The Digital Media Consumers' Right Act of 2005 was introduced by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) more than a year ago. The bill would directly write into law the Supreme Court's 1984 landmark Betamax Decision, which sanctioned recording for personal use. "For innovation and for consumer freedom, the doctrine originally announced in the Betamax case is the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence rolled into one," Shapiro declared in a press release from the Home Recording Rights Coalition. In a CEA press release based on Shapiro's remarks to a Cato Institute meeting, he also took some interesting shots at the presumed sacredness of copyright: "The content community has undertaken a slick public relations and positioning campaign to distort the law of copyright to make it seem as if it is a subset of the law of real property. What they totally ignore is that the United States Constitution accorded patents and copyrights a different treatment allowing Congress to grant patent and copyright terms for limited times.... It is not only intellectually disingenuous to treat copyright as a real property, it distorts the debate so that fair use becomes less relevant and consumer rights...become marginalized to the point of vanishing." If you'd like to put your oar in the water, please do.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 27, 2006 2 comments
As tired as I am of hyping HD DVD and, um, that other one, the Toshiba-championed format will take a huge step forward on May 9 with Warner's first dual-format title. Rumor Has It will have high-def HD DVD on one side and standard-def DVD-Video on the other. What's great about it is that you can start building your HD DVD library now without having to spring for first-generation hardware, which is both feature-light and probably destined for price drops before year-end. The backward-compatibility move is reminiscent of hybrid SACD, which includes high-res audio on one layer and standard CD audio on the other. That helped SACD trump DVD-Audio, and the horrible DualDisc hasn't done much to help DVD-A to catch up. Of course, the format war undermined both of those formats, and HD DVD and Blu-ray seem headed in the same downward direction. But I must add: Only one of my systems is SACD-compatible, so I play both layers of my dozens of SACDs quite often. So there!

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