STANFORD, Calif., May 25, 2010 — The digital television transition and the emergence of broadband networks have opened up intriguing new kinds of distribution channels for programming, but at a media ownership workshop held in Stanford late last week it was unclear how any of this affects the quality of local programming.
Eddy W. Hartenstein, publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times, several executives from media start-ups like set-top box maker Sezmi, internet radio programmer Pandora Media, low-power television station KAXT-CA and multi-platform rights management company FreeWheel Media, as well as several different independent analysts, participated in a Federal Communications Commission workshop on Friday that explored the question of how new media is affecting traditional forms of media.
In addition to trying to reach audiences through social media, broadcasters are also making new uses of the digital spectrum to provide new kinds of programming, and new ways to receive new forms of packaging of programming.
Sezmi, for example, enables consumers to receive free-over-the-air broadcasts along with a few select cable channels and internet video-programming all integrated through its set-top box. The service is currently being rolled out in Los Angeles, where consumers can buy the boxes at Best Buy.
The only consistent themes running through discussion at the workshop: New distribution channels are fragmenting the audience, and a migration of audience habits to on-demand programming and to the internet is making it hard to pay for quality programming. The executives from the broadcast industry did agree on one thing: That the commission shouldn’t even think about taking any of their spectrum away from them.
Other than that, the invited private-sector participants of the morning and afternoon panels disagreed about most things, with LA Times Publisher and CEO Eddy W. Hartenstein once again calling for a relaxation of local media cross-ownership rules, and others, such as Ravi Kapur, a local broadcast television reporter and vice-president of KAXT-CA, sharing stories of how his local low-power television station is struggling to survive and serve the many diverse ethnic populations of Vietnamese, Filipino and South Asian people in the Bay Area.
One of the most heated discussions occurred between Brian Greif, Young Broadcasting’s vice president of news and general manager of KRON-TV, and Jim Joyce, president of the National Association of Broadcast Employees, who differed on the benefits of sharing news teams’ coverage of local day-to-day events.
Greif said that engaging in the practice frees up other members of the news team to conduct more in depth investigative stories, while Joyce said it was a mere move to cut costs.
To emphasize the tough business environment, Greif noted that total spending on advertising in the local San Francisco television market has plunged by almost a third since 2004 to a projected $438 million in 2010.
James Hamilton, a Duke University professor, citing his own research and Pew statistics, said that “there’s a market failure in terms of local news coverage.”
The FCC staff, which included Media Bureau Chief William Lake, Associate Bureau Chief William Freedman, and advisors to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioner Robert McDowell, asked questions that focused on competition.
Rosemary Harold, McDowell’s media advisor, a former journalist, asked how influential local publications are, and whether they are still seen as the local agenda-setters. Sherrese Smith, Genachowski’s legal advisor, wondered how local news stations could generate original news reporting if they share all their resources. Lake asked whether internet video and free digital over-the-air broadcasts could eventually replace pay television services.
Scot Gensler, CurrentTV’s senior vice president of corporate and business development, said he thought that because of the costs associated with producing programming, most high-quality programming would remain behind pay walls of some sort.
The commission is undertaking its quadrennial review of its media ownership rules, with no deadline for its review. The 1996 Telecommunications Act requires the commission to re-examine every four years whether it needs to repeal its media ownership rules if they are found to be no longer in the public interest.
The rule changes have been the subject of extensive litigation. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit this March removed a stay on the FCC’s cross-ownership rules that prohibit a media company from owning a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market, but the legal proceedings regarding the rules are still underway.
Public Knowledge Celebrates 20 Years of Helping Congress Get a Clue on Digital Rights
February 27, 2021 – The non-profit advocacy group Public Knowledge celebrated its twentieth anniversary year in a Monday event revolving around the issues that the group has made its hallmark: Copyright, open standards and other digital rights issues.
Group Founder Gigi Sohn, now a Benton Institute for Broadband and Society senior fellow and public advocate, said that through her professional relationship with Laurie Racine, now president of Racine Strategy, that she became “appointed and anointed” to help start the interest group.
Together with David Bollier, who also had worked on public interest projects in broadcast media with Sohn, and is now director of Reinventing the Commons program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, the two cofounded a small and scrappy Public Knowledge that has become a non-profit powerhouse.
The secret sauce? Timing, which couldn’t have been better, said Sohn. Being given free office space at DuPont Circle at the New America Foundation by Steve Clemmons and the late Ted Halstead, then head of the foundation, was instrumental in Public Knowledge’s launch.
The cofounders met with major challenges, Sohn and others said. The nationwide tragedy of September 11, 2001, occurred weeks after its official founding. The group continued their advocacy of what was then more commonly known as “open source,” a related grandparent to the new “net neutrality” of today, she said.
In the aftermath of September 11, a bill by the late Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C., demonstrated a bid by large copyright interest to force technology companies to effectively be the copyright police. Additional copyright maximalist measures we launched almost every month, she said.
Public Knowledge grew into something larger than was probably imagined by the three co-founders. Still, they shared setbacks and losses that accompanied their successes and wins.
“We would form alliances with anybody, which meant that sometimes we sided with internet service providers [on issues like copyright] and sometimes we were against them [on issues like telecom],” said Sohn. An ingredient in the interest group’s success was its desire to work with everyone.
Congress didn’t have a clue on digital rights
What drove the trio together was a shared view that “Congress had no vision for the future of the internet,” explained Sohn.
Much of our early work was spend explaining how digitation works to Congress, she said. The 2000s were a time of great activity and massive growth in the digital industry and lawmakers at the Hill were not acquainted well with screens, computers, and the internet. They took on the role of explaining to members of Congress what the interests of their constituents were when it came to digitization.
Public Knowledge helped popularize digital issues and by “walking [digital information] across the street to [Capitol Hill] at the time created an operational reality with digitization,” said Bollier.
Racine remarked about the influence Linux software maker Red Hat had during its 2002 initial public offering. She said the founders of Red Hat pushed open source beyond a business model and into a philosophy in ways that hadn’t been done before.
During the early days of Public Knowledge, all sorts of legacy tech was being rolled out. Apple’s iTunes, Windows XP, and the first Xbox launched. Nokia and Sony were the leaders in cellphones at the time, augmenting the rise of technology in the coming digital age.
Racine said consumers needed someone in Washington who could represent their interests amid the new software and hardware and embrace the idea of open source technologies for the future.
Also speaking at the event was Public Knowledge CEO Chris Lewis, who said Public Knowledge was at the forefront of new technology issues as it was already holding 3D printing symposiums before Congress, something totally unfamiliar at the time.
In Google v. Oracle, Supreme Court Hears Landmark Fair Use Case on Software Copyright
October 12, 2020 – The Supreme Court on Wednesday publicly struggled with the copyrightability of software in a uniquely contested case between Google and Oracle, the outcome of which could play a significant role in the future of software development in the United States.
The oral arguments were the culmination of a battle that started 10 years ago, when tech company Oracle accused Google of illegally copying its code. Oracle owns the copyright to the Java application programming interface that Google utilized to establish a new mobile operating system.
The company has sued Google for more than $9 billion in damages.
Yet Google claimed a “fair use” defense to its copying. Google copied less than 1 percent of the Java code. Even though the law generally treats computer programs as copyrightable, Google’s attorney before the Supreme Court, Thomas Goldstein, said that by adapting Oracle’s code to serve a different purpose, Google’s use was “transformational,” and entitled to fair use protections.
Goldstein said that this form of unlicensed copying is completely standard in software, and saves developers time and lowers barriers to innovation.
He referenced a famous Supreme Court precedent about public domain works, Baker v. Selden, which in 1880 declared that once information is published to the public, the public has a right to use it.
“Google had the right to do this,” said Goldstein.
Still, Oracle attorney Joshua Rosenkranz asserted that the Java code is an expressive work eligible for copyright protections. Rosenkranz further argued that Google’s use of the code was not transformational.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared to suggest that jurors in the lower court case properly found Google’s use to be transformational because it took the APIs from a desktop environment to smartphones.
“Interfaces have been reused for decades,” said Goldstein. Google had to reuse Oracle’s code to respond to interoperability demands.
“It has always been the understanding that this purely functional, non-creative code that is essentially the glue that keeps computer programs together could be reused, and it would upend that world to rule the other way,” he said.
Supreme Court observers said that the high court appeared leaning toward upholding the 2016 jury verdict vindicating Google’s fair use defense.
Fair Use is Essential But its Enforcement is Broken, Says Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee
July 28, 2020 — “Fair use” is an essential doctrine of copyright law that is unevenly applied, said participants in a Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee hearing Tuesday.
The hearing, “How Does the DMCA Contemplate Limitations and Exceptions Like Fair Use,” saw participants discuss whether the Digital Millennium Copyright Act still permits fair uses of copyrighted content that would be otherwise infringing.
The DMCA, passed in 1998, criminalizes the manufacture, sale or other distribution of technologies designed to decrypt encoded copyrighted material. This ban on anti-circumvention tools does not appear to account for fair use.
The fair use exception to copyright law allows the republication or redistribution of copyrighted works for commentary, criticism or educational purposes without having to obtain permission from the copyright holder.
However, Joseph Gratz, partner at Durie Tangri, said that fair use often clearly applies but is not enforced, leaving users of the legally obtained content to deal with automated content censors.
“Fair use depends on context, and machines can’t consider context,” he said. “A video, for example, that incidentally captures a song playing in the background at a political rally or a protest is clearly fair use but may be detected by an automated filter.”
When an automated filter detects a song on a platform like YouTube, it redirects advertising revenue from the creator of the video to the creator of the song, often erroneously.
Rick Beato, who owns a music education YouTube channel with over one-and-a-half million subscribers, said that he does not receive ad revenue from hundreds of his videos.
“One of my recent videos called ‘The Mixolydian Mode’ was manually claimed by Sony ATV because I played ten seconds of a Beatles song on my acoustic guitar to demonstrate how the melody is derived from the scale,” he said. “This is an obvious example of fair use, I would argue.”
Grammy-winning recording artist Yolanda Adams testified that she sees the problems of fair use employment as about more than simply receiving money.
“As a gospel artist, I’m not just an entertainer,” she said. “I see my mission as using my gift to spread the gospel — so for me, fair use is not just about money. It’s about access.”
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