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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Morning news: Jail terms, Grokster, and 99 cent downloads

Some items from today's papers:

- Chen Nai-ming, a Hong Kong man, was sentenced to three months in jail for using BitTorrent file-sharing software to allow anyone to download three movies from his computer. The movies? "Daredevil," "Red Planet," and "Miss Congeniality." This revelation of Mr. Chen's taste in films is perhaps more embarrassing than the jail term. Mr. Chen will appeal the sentence, giving him enough time to see "Miss Congeniality 2."

- File-sharing service Grokster conceded yesterday in its fight with the studios and record labels. But Streamcast battles on. Of course, piracy is a hydra-headed beast, as the CEO of the analyst firm BigChampagne observes in today's NY Times story:

    "I don't think, practically speaking, we're expecting to see much impact in the peer-to-peer landscape," said Eric Garland, BigChampagne's chief executive. "People moved on from tools like Grokster some time ago."

Garland says that an estimated 9.2 million people use peer-to-peer networks today, up from 8.8 million in June.

- NBC and CBS are working with DirecTV and Comcast to sell you TV shows you forgot to record with your DVR, like "Law and Order" and "CSI." (Disclosure: I have not seen either show, but am told they are quite appealing to people in the 50-and-over demographic.) The price: 99 cents.

This solves what strikes me as a minor problem: people who don't understand how to set their DVRs, or forget to do so. What strikes me as more appealing to consumers is the ability to put these shows on a laptop or portable device (which Dish Network and Apple's iPod video allow you to do); or to buy archival shows that aren't regularly broadcast. The only way I could see this NBC/CBS strategy working is if they start forbidding customers to use their DVRs to record shows for free, or start 'expiring' content off the DVR after a few days, so that they can then sell it to you for 99 cents. And I don't think consumers would take kindly to that.

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