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Monday, January 15, 2007

MLK Day links: 'YouTube: Friend or Foe?' ... `High-Def Anxieties' ... Morganstern on HD Flat Screens ... YouTube Rivals Flagging

- From today's NY Times: `YouTube: Friend or Foe?' Laura Holson notes that lots of material owned by movie studios and record labels is being uploaded to YouTube. But the most interesting section of the story talks about mash-ups. Holson writes:

    Where studios and music companies see the most complicated copyright issue is in the posting of mashups — clips that incorporate video and music from various sources that has been “mashed up” to make something new. Most mashups are made by eager fans as a form of artistic expression or a demonstration of their editing skills.

    “I don’t consider any of this stuff piracy,” said Professor Litman of the University of Michigan. “Folks are taking snippets and making them their own.”

    One video posted last March, credited to Kusoyaro Productions, includes clips from the 20th Century Fox film “Napoleon Dynamite” that have been cleverly edited to create a new music video for Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” from “8 Mile.”

    ...Ron Wheeler, a senior vice president of content protection at Fox Entertainment Group, said that even though Fox was not being paid for the right to use the “Napoleon Dynamite” clips, the company had not asked that the video be taken down.

    “We are not in the business of just saying no, but we do consider it unauthorized use,” Mr. Wheeler said.

    He predicted, though, that the studio would be saying “no” more often in the future. Fox is working on a policy that will address the issue of mashups in a way that those creating them can understand.

    “We will offer as much freedom as legally able, but at the same time it will be less than some people are doing now,” Mr. Wheeler added. “It won’t be ‘anything goes.’ ”

    Brian Grazer, a producer of “8 Mile,” said some of the mashups he had seen were “pretty hip.” But he said he, too, viewed them as a form of piracy: “It bothers me artistically. Here’s this thing where you have no control; they are chopping it up and putting your memories in a blender.”

    Directors may have a tough time accepting the wild world of mashups, particularly those who have been given control over the final cut of their movies. Mr. Grazer said he believed that Curtis Hanson, who directed “8 Mile,” would not be pleased. “Something like this drives an auteur nuts,” he said. ...

- My last piece from CES is in Variety, written with Ben Fritz: `High (def) anxieties: Dueling formats bring twin headaches to CES.' From the piece:

    "I never thought this would happen, but things are actually more confusing now than when we came into the show," sighs Richard Doherty, director of consulting firm Envisioneering Group.

    Whether they support one format, two, or neither, most in Hollywood agree dual formats are inhibiting the development of the hi-def DVD market, which studios had hoped would bolster flattening revenue from standard DVDs. That didn't happen in 2006, when a paltry 175,000 HD DVD players were sold. More than 1 million Blu-ray devices were shipped, but almost all -- a million -- of them are PlayStation 3 consoles able to play Blu-ray discs. It's not yet clear whether most gamers are using their consoles to watch Blu-ray movies.

- Joe Morganstern had a piece earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal about the symbiotic relationship between high-definition flat screens in the home and the cinema. His conclusion:

    The truth is that theaters and home theaters depend on each other. It's all very well for funny little videos to be discovered on YouTube, but movies of substance need the validation that can only be conferred by theatrical openings and public acceptance. Otherwise they never make it to DVD. Though it's thrilling to be able to watch beloved films at home on cutting-edge displays that honor every nuance (while reproducing every blemish), the supply of exciting new movies has grown sporadic and undependable. Without a revitalized system of production and theatrical distribution, home theaters will become private museums, and those small, special films we treasure will become the cinematic equivalents of literary novels -- eloquent stories writ large on glowing glass panels.

- CNET covers the executive exoduses at Revver and GUBA, two rivals to YouTube, and offers some traffic numbers from Hitwise that identify YouTube, MySpace Video, and Google Video as the three biggest video players, with market share of 45.92%, 21.57%, and 10.46% respectively. The piece quotes a Yankee Group analyst, Josh Martin, predicting a shake-out among the smaller video sites this year:

    "I'd be very surprised if some of these companies don't go out of business this year," Martin said. "Too many of (them) are distributing the same kind of content."