Questioning Fair Use: Artist Lawsuit Evaluates the Limits of Appropriation

  • Last March, a federal district court ruled that artist Richard Prince had broken copyright law by using a series of photographs without permission to create his own artwork, which was later sold for $2.5 million. The artist is appealing under Fair Use laws which allows for re-use if the new piece “adds value to the original,” reports The New York Times.
  • The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan filed papers supporting Prince based on “the strong public interest in the free flow of creative expression.”
  • The tradition of appropriation is evident in the art world over much of the last half century. One could argue that appropriation is becoming even more pronounced with the digital flow where one can access almost any image or clip and share it with the world.
  • Digital tools are evolving to encourage re-use. A new iPad app called Mixel, for example, allows you to grab images, create a collage and share with your social network.
  • The case centers on the intention of the artist. Fair use allows one to copy for the purpose of criticism, comment or news reporting. Should, in the words of the artist, “to make great art that makes people feel good,” be covered under Fair Use?

Make Way for New Hybrid Designs at CES: Hot Product of the New Year?

  • Industry analyst Tim Bajarin predicts hybrid tablet/ultra-thin laptops will be “the hot product of the New Year.”
  • “But unlike swivel-based laptop/tablet convertibles of the past, these devices will be ultra-thin laptops with tablet-based screens that pop off and turn into modern day tablets,” writes Bajarin in PCMag.
  • “The big change is going to come when Microsoft introduces Windows 8 for tablets and Windows 8 for Ultrabooks,” he explains. “The basic idea is that it will use Windows 8 when in notebook mode and Windows 8 tablet version in tablet mode. Both will have the Windows 8 Metro UI on them so that the user experience will be the same.”
  • Bajarin expects we will see as many as five hybrids at CES, but notes that none of them can be released until Microsoft launches the “commercial versions of Windows 8 on both platforms, which is currently slated for October 22, 2012.”

Maker Studios Produces Media for Internet Audience: The New Hollywood?

  • Maker Studios is an online media company and network of 250 channels that generate some 500 million hits per month on YouTube.
  • The Venice, California-based company produces 300-400 videos per month. Started with 8 people two years ago, the productions now involve 200 people (and growing).
  • They have created their own studio infrastructure — video production, editing, music, animation — to support the channels. Creators are provided a great deal of freedom.
  • According to one of the producers, discussing the motivation to break away from the traditional “gatekeepers” of film and TV: “I think when we found YouTube, it was just really exciting because it was like wow, this is a place where we can build and find a worldwide audience and create whatever we want, whenever we feel like it.”
  • Is Maker Studios the new model for an Internet content studio? Watch the 6-minute video tour with Carson Daly.

Stream TV to Intro Ultra-D Glasses-Free 3D Conversion Tech at CES

  • Stream TV Networks will showcase its Ultra-D technology at CES that converts 2D content to 3D in real time.
  • Their products are designed for TVs, converter boxes, tablets, PCs, smartphones, digital signage and picture frames.
  • The technology allows the user to increase or decrease the real-time 3D rendering effect. Glasses are not required.
  • “The biggest hindrance to consumer adoption of 3D technology thus far has been a lack of content, and price,” reports TechCrunch. “While I can’t vouch for their price tags quite yet, it would seem that Stream TV Networks has come up with some new 3D technology that could make that whole limited content thing much less of an issue.”
  • Where to see it: Central Hall #14815

Will Smartphones Soon Replace Consumer Cameras and Camcorders?

  • More people are using smartphones instead of point-and-shoot cameras for recording photographs. Smartphone share of photos rose from 17 percent last year to 27 percent this year, while camera share dropped from 52 percent to 44 percent.
  • Two rising camera segments include those with a detachable lens (average price $863), which rose 12 percent, and point-and-shoot cameras with optical zooms of 10X or greater, which rose 16 percent. These clearly appeal to hobbyists looking for better quality and features not available on smartphones.
  • Smartphones are offering “good enough” picture quality for most people while offering the advantages of constant accessibility and ease of sharing pictures with friends and family.
  • “A few clicks and the image is posted to Facebook, emailed off to a grandparent, or published in a blog,” reports CNBC. “And smartphone apps like Hipstamatic make it fun and easy to tinker with special effects on the image.”

Business: When Jeff Bezos Talks Long Term, He Really Means It

  • In 1997 when Amazon went public, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO warned investors that they must have a long-term approach. Today, Amazon takes that same long-term approach where they are willing to sacrifice profits to invest in “seeds” like the Kindle Fire and let them grow over five to seven years (or more).
  • By taking a long-term approach, they can gain economies of scale similar to Wal-Mart and eliminate or weaken competitors like Borders, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy.
  • “Amazon, in particular, has been true to its word to manage for the long term,” reports The New York Times. “It remains one of the world’s leading growth companies and its stock has soared 12,200 percent since its public offering. In late October it reported quarterly revenue growth of 44 percent to almost $11 billion, which came on the heels of 80 percent growth a year ago.”
  • Investors tend to be less patient than Bezos, and the company has faced criticism and falling stock value over the years. “The stock has been bumpy,” explains Scott Devitt, a Morgan Stanley analyst. “Investor trust seems to go in cycles.”
  • Because of this, Amazon may have to “deliver on its promise of higher margins and profits, however long term that may turn out to be,” suggests the article. “To many investors, long term is a year,” Devitt said. “For Bezos, he’s looking at a 10- to 20-year time line. When he says long term, he means 2020 or 2030.”

Television Revolution: Apple Moving Forward with Plan to Re-Imagine TV

  • Apple is reportedly in talks with media companies to move forward with television plans originally envisioned by the late Steve Jobs.
  • “In recent weeks, Apple executives have discussed their vision for the future of TV with media executives at several large companies, according to people familiar with the matter,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
  • Apple is working on a TV that uses wireless streaming. For example, one might watch a program on a TV and continue watching on another device such as a smartphone.
  • Apple has also described future TV technology that recognizes a user across multiple devices. Users could control it using voice and gestures to make TV more personal and easy to use. The company is believed to be working on integrating iCloud so one could watch a saved or purchased program on different devices. A subscription-TV service has also been discussed.
  • The article cites the apps and services offered by the likes of Google and Microsoft as well as cable, satellite and phone companies. “The pace of change puts media companies that make TV shows and program TV channels in a dilemma,” suggests the article. “On one hand, they hope that they can increase their profits by selling new services on new devices. But they are worried that a proliferation of new services could undermine the existing TV business, which brings in more than $150 billion a year in the U.S. in advertising and consumer spending on monthly TV subscriptions from cable, satellite and telecommunications companies.”

Mobile Data Tsunami: U.S. Teens Triple their Usage in Q3 2011

  • While monthly data usage for teens nearly tripled from Q3 2010 to Q3 2011, usage for other age groups doubled.
  • Nielsen recently analyzed mobile usage trends among U.S. teens by evaluating 65,000+ cell phone bills. “In the third quarter of 2011, teens age 13-17 used an average of 320MB of data per month on their phones, increasing 256 percent over last year and growing at a rate faster than any other age group.”
  • For teens, messaging is the primary use, averaging seven messages each waking hour. Other data intensive activities for teens include mobile Internet, social networking, email, app downloads and app usage. Interestingly, voice use has declined as messaging is perceived as faster, easier and more fun.
  • “Teen females are holding the messaging front, sending and receiving 3,952 messages per month versus 2,815 from males,” reports MacDailyNews.
  • The post includes infographics and a link to Nielsen’s “State of the Media: The Mobile Media Report Q3 2011.”

Gracenote to Demo Second-Screen Content Recognition App at CES

  • Gracenote announced it will introduce its second screen content recognition platform at CES.
  • “The company, which became a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony three years ago, aims to compete with similar solutions from Yahoo’s IntoNow and social check-in services like Miso and GetGlue,” according to GigaOM.
  • Similar to IntoNow, the app listens to the program’s audio track to identify and link to program information such as actors, music and products. Gracenote’s technology “makes it possible to identify both on-demand movies as well as live TV content,” explains the post.
  • The company is looking to license its technology to CE manufacturers, broadcasters and developers.
  • Included in the post: Stephen White, president of Gracenote, provides a 2-minute video demo.

Outside the Box: USC Student Competition Draws Video Game Innovation

  • The electronic game industry is looking to student projects for innovation.
  • Nearly 160 students showcased eight semester-long game projects to an audience of industry professionals at USC’s Demo Day.
  • “It was the 13th time students have publicly exhibited their work but the first jointly planned effort between USC’s School of Cinematic Arts’ interactive media division and its Viterbi School of Engineering’s department of computer science,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “The two schools have offered an advanced games class together since 2007.”
  • “The great thing about having students make games in academia is that they can think outside of the boxes that the commercial industry is bound by,” explains Michael Zyda, director of USC’s GamePipe Laboratory. “When the commercial industry invests in a new title, they have to get a huge return. Students can take big risks. It’s an interesting model for innovation.”
  • Zyda keeps track of his students after they leave GamePipe and “estimates that alumni have developed games that have reached more than 375 million players.”

Louis CK Live at the Beacon Theater: New Online Distribution Model?

  • In a compelling example of an artist successfully producing and selling his own material, comedian Louis CK recently put his self-produced show online and earned $200,000 in three days.
  • The cost of the six camera shoot at the Beacon Theater was around $170,000, largely paid for from ticket sales for two shows.
  • The comedian developed his own website to sell his video at a cost of $32,000.
  • In the three days his video was offered online, he has sold over 110,000 copies at $5 apiece for a profit of $200,000. Interestingly, his video was NOT copy protected.
  • In addition to collecting the profits himself, Louis CK was able to do exactly the show he wanted, without outside influences.

Kindle Fire Usability Findings: Good if You Have Muscles like Popeye

  • Usability expert Jakob Nielsen says the current version of Amazon’s Kindle Fire offers a poor user experience.
  • The “fat finger” problem is quite evident on a 7-inch screen, especially for full websites. The Fire is also heavy and unpleasant to hold for extended periods, “unless you have forearm muscles like Popeye.”
  • Magazine reading is “miserable” since the content is not tailored for the device. “Page View is unreadable and Text View has the worst layout I’ve seen in years,” he writes. “Illustrations are either too big or too small and are usually located far from the place they’re discussed in the copy.”
  • Moreover, screen updates tend to be slow, which breaks the illusion of direct manipulation.
  • Nielsen suggests that for 7-inch tablets to succeed, service and content providers will have to design specifically for these devices.

Mossberg on iTunes Match: Store Your Songs without Slow Uploads

  • Walt Mossberg favorably reviews Apple’s iTunes Match service. For $25/year, you can create a music locker in the Cloud that allows you to play your music collection on up to 10 devices.
  • In contrast to similar locker services from Google and Amazon, you do not have to upload your entire collection — iTunes Match scans your iTunes library and matches it with its 20 million song library.
  • The service only works for digital music currently, and not for movies, TV shows or audiobooks.
  • Your locker can include up to 25,000 songs. It’s worth noting that, “Match is an optional addition to an existing free service called iTunes in the Cloud, which covers only songs you bought from Apple’s iTunes store.”
  • “In all, I like iTunes Match, and can recommend it to digital music lovers who want all their tunes on all their devices,” writes Mossberg. “It’s another nice feature of iCloud, priced reasonably.”

Verizon Announces FiOS TV Content Coming to Microsoft Xbox

  • Verizon has announced a new feature and related promotion that suggests it is “taking a much more active interest in video games for both distribution and new customers,” reports Mashable.
  • “FiOS customers who subscribe to both FiOS TV and FiOS Internet and are Xbox LIVE Gold members can use their Xbox consoles to watch select live FiOS TV channels. No extra hardware,” explains a post in the Verizon Forum. “Plus, for the first time, Kinect for Xbox 360 will be integrated into the TV experience, allowing customers to use voice and gesture commands to control their TV viewing.”
  • Initially, only 26 channels will be available starting in December.
  • For $89.99, you can get triple-play service, a limited Xbox LIVE Gold membership and a sponsor spot for Machinima’s Gamers’ Choice Award.

Is the Carrier IQ Rootkit Tracking Everything on Your Smartphone?

  • As an Android, Blackberry or Nokia user, you may not know that an app called Carrier IQ is logging literally everything you are doing on your smartphone including keystrokes, SMS messages and HTTPS sessions. Other articles on Carrier IQ report that this information is being sent to the carriers.
  • Apparently, there is no way for a user to turn Carrier IQ off without replacing the operating system.
  • A former Justice Department prosecutor has told Forbes that this is “likely grounds for a class action lawsuit” as it violates federal wiretapping law. This story is beginning to get a significant amount of attention online.
  • To see Carrier IQ in action, watch the 17-minute video posted to the PC World article.