Kardashians Win Lawsuit over Pulling Out of Credit Card Sponsorship Deal

June 16th, 2011

The Kardashians managed to fend off a $75 million lawsuit, which claimed the girl’s caused the collapse of a credit card company by pulling out of a spokesperson deal and also making disparaging comments about the company.

Despite having a simple sponsorship agreement in place, the court looked to the important freedom of speech issues rather than addressing it as a traditional contract claim. The court granted the Kardashians’ anti-SLAPP motion, a California device that protects the right to comment on issues of public import, and also awarded them over $6k in attorneys fees. The decision noted that the credit card company’s services had garnered negative press from before the sponsorship deal, so the Kardashians were not to blame for the failure of the company.

Read more about the case here.

“But I’m a Dancer…”: Pole Dancing Is Not Art According to NY Court

June 15th, 2011

Nite Moves, an upscale juice bar and adult entertainment club located in Lathan, New York, made a heroic attempt for the aspiring dancers everywhere (and sought to avoid taxes) when it deemed itself ”dramatic or musical arts performances,” thereby qualifying for a tax exemption.

On June 9, the appellate division of the Supreme Court of New York 3rd District held In the Matter of 677 New Loudon Corporation d/b/a Nite Moves that the club did not qualify for the tax exemption because the dancing that takes place at Nite Moves is not “choreographed performance.” 

The Court did not find the Nite Moves expert witness’s findings conclusive because “at a bare minimum” (pun intended, Court?) the witness did not actually see any of the private dances taking place, only the general dances in the club and the club’s DVD.  It seems surprising that the expert witness, ”a cultural anthropologist who has conducted extensive research in the field of exotic dance,” didn’t request a private dance as part of her field research.

The Court also found that the door charges did not qualify for the exemption because the dancers were not required to have any formal dance training or education.

Last, the Court held there was no violation of freedom of speech because the exemption is facially neutral does not target exotic dancing as a form of expression.

In trying to distill the law the Court has outlined: Exotic dancing may be considered art.  Private dances will be tough to prove as art because they’re private so no one really knows whether the performance is choreographed or not.  Strippers need some sort of dance education to qualify as artists (and watching a Nite Moves DVD or learn from the other dancers does not count).

I watch So You Think You Can Dance pretty regularly and a lot of incredible dancers on the show never have formal dance education.  Does this mean that the crumpers’ dances aren’t art because they are natural talent and the performance may be improvised?  This is probably a non-issue because I’m guessing a lot of street performers aren’t declaring taxes on their busking income anyway.

Schadenfreude: “Let’s cheer up. This is not the music industry,” says Time Warner CEO

June 14th, 2011

At the NCTA Cable Show today, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes tried to rally positive thoughts about the state of the industry. 

“Let’s cheer up. This is not the music industry; this is the cable industry,” Bewkes announced.  The statement was in response to a question about how cable companies will deal with competing online services, such as NetFlix and YouTube.

While there certainly are differences between the industries, the cable industry could probably learn a lot from the struggles of the music industry.  For example, lawsuits against minor piracy infringements aren’t effective; while diversify and teaming up with online services is a good way to stay current in the market.


Joint Venture Created to Develop Deals for Superstar Artists

June 13th, 2011

Simon Fuller, creator of American Idol, and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell have teamed up to form a joint venture which will broker media and branding deals for established recording artists that are not currently signed to a label.

The venture – Blackwell Fuller, Inc. – promises to put established artists “in full control of their careers and their businesses for the first time.”

“There has been a need for a new business approach for artists and content owners for many years,” said Blackwell in a statement released today.  ”As the entertainment industry and media companies struggle to find new financial models, the arrangements struck with artists have become more and more restrictive and onerous. Our new approach will give artists the freedom to explore new paths to market with the kind of support and resources it takes to create real scale, control, and reach.”

MTV Cancels Skins

June 10th, 2011

After only ten episodes, MTV has cancelled its controversial new show Skins.   The TV-MA rated program lost numerous advertisers during the season due to its mature content, including Taco Bell, Wrigleys Gum, and General Motors.

In announcing the cancellation, MTV issued the following statement: “Skins is a global television phenomenon that, unfortunately, didn’t connect with a U.S. audience as much as we had hoped. We admire the work that the series’ creator Bryan Elsley did in adapting the show for MTV, and appreciate the core audience that embraced it.”

I never saw the show but checked out part of the premiere episode.  Here is the MTV synopsis: “Tony believes that he can get his best friend Stanley laid, and make a profit with a drug deal. The deal goes wrong and a stolen car, carrying the unpaid drugs, goes into the lake.”

Within the first ten minutes of the show, I’ve seen teenagers do things and say things that certainly have never aired before on US television.  I’m not sure how realistic the depictions are (who actually talks on the phone while in the bathtub?), but I’m sure if I were a teenager this show would have had my full attention.  The first episode mirrors the plot in the first episode of the UK series, later episodes deviating.

The British version of Skins is currently on its fifth season and has been commissioned up to a sixth.  The UK show is more racy than the US version (because of MTV censorship practices) but nowhere near as controversial.  In fact, it has won numerous awards, including the Best Drama prize at the 2008 Rose d’Or ceremony, Best Drama Series in the British Academy Television Awards 2008, the Philips Audience Award at the BAFTAs 2009, and Best TV Show at the NME Awards 2011.

Kickstarter Campaign Tips

June 9th, 2011

Digital Music News published an article yesterday written by Caren Kelleher, band manager who raised over $10k using Kickstarter.

For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a service increasingly used by independent creatives to finance their projects.  Fans and supporters of the project, band, or organization pledge money to help the project reach its end goal (the pledges aren’t actually paid until the ultimate goal has been reached), often in exchange for incentives that increase the higher the donation amount.

For example, a recent kickstarter campaign that I supported, Mason Jar Presents, aims to raise at least $11,000 by July 16 and their incentives range from tshirts and stickers to an “executive producer” credit on the project.

However, the Digital Music News article notes that a significant percentage of supporters don’t cash in on the incentives, just wanting to be involved in the project and see it’s creation.  Also, surprisingly, a lot of loyal fans are unwilling to support financially.  The article mentions that only 1.3% of Kelleher’s band’s fan list ended up donating.

Anyway considering setting up a campaign through kickstarter should definitely check out the article.

Beyoncé’s New Album Leaks 3 Weeks Before Release

June 8th, 2011

Beyoncé fan are rejoicing right now.  The mega-popstar’s newest album 4 was leaked today in its entire 12-track glory.  While Beyoncé’s team is working around the clock to shut down all links to the album, Beyoncé is looking at the bright side.

In a comment to MTV, Beyoncé said, “My music was leaked and while this is not how I wanted to present my new songs, I appreciate the positive response from my fans.”

This is Beyoncé’s first album release since 2008′s I Am … Sasha Fierce.

US Copyright Czar Comments on Legality of Cloud Services

June 8th, 2011

United States intellectual property enforcement coordinator, Victoria A. Espinel, spoke today at the World Copyright Summit in Brussels.  Among other things, she discussed copyright and privacy issues involved in new technologies, including Cloud-based computer services.

The New York Times conducted a phone interview following her speech, where she elaborated on her views.

Quoted from the NYT Article:

Q. Do you see cloud services as primarily being legal alternatives to illegal file-sharing networks, or do they present other problems of copyright?

A. I hear it asserted that the cloud is going to cause huge increases in piracy; I’ve also heard that the cloud will be the savior. My own view is that the cloud is neutral. It’s not inherently predisposed to be legal or illegal. I think the capacity for storage in the cloud and the flexibility of cloud-based services mean that there is more scope now to develop truly compelling legal alternatives that consumers will really like. But you can build a cloud-based service that’s illegal, and you can build a cloud-based service that is legal. As the government, as the Obama administration, what we want to try to do is encourage the building of legal alternatives and try to get the illegal alternatives off the Internet.

. . .

Q. Are there particular concerns about copyright or privacy that come up in regard to cloud computing?

A. Generally it seems to me that the issues coming up are variations of issues that have already come up with the advent of the Internet. The cloud can intensify or accelerate the pace at which we as a government need to address those issues, and which the marketplace needs to address those issues.

One of the things that will be interesting is that the flexibility of cloud-based services, the fact that they allow consumers to access music, movies, whatever content they want, is that it may have an interesting impact of what our concept ownership is. It’s my opinion that there still a strong bias for consumers to own something, to own a piece of music or a movie. I don’t think that desire for ownership is going to go away. But I do think that the way cloud based services work may start to change our idea of what ownership means.

Her statements overall do not take a strong stance in either direction about the legality cloud services, as she notes that some may be illegal and others legal (which makes sense as these copyright cases would be largely based on the individual facts and services).  The fact that Espinola is already familiar with cloud services and their potential legal and social effects is significant in that it supports the Obama administration’s position on the importance of protecting intellectual property and keeping US IP law and policy current with evolving technologies.  Espinola is the first ever IP Enforcement Coordinator, a position created by the Obama administration.

Apple Announces iCloud, iOS5

June 7th, 2011

Why am I more excited about the new developments of iOS5 than iCloud? Probably because for once, with Apple, there was no surprise.  We all knew what Steve Jobs was going to say.  Maybe we didn’t expect him to demote the PC to just another “device,” but we new the cloud was coming.

It has a slow rollout as well.  Some of the iCloud features are available now, as part of the iTunes 10.3 upgrade.  I can wirelessly sync my music (unclear about the other former-mobileme functions such as contacts and ical).

Then in the Fall more features will become available, including iTunes Match – the end result of the millions of dollars spent on securing licenses, where iTunes will match the users mp3s within minutes, avoiding having to spend hours or days uploading all of the files.

So why the change in marketing strategy? In previous years, Apple shocks and excites consumers by a sudden launch of a life-changing product.  With iCloud, the changes will be gradual.

My guess is that this announcement was precipitated by Amazon and Google launching their cloud services.  Apple is the latest to enter the field but for good reason.  Apple’s service is set apart from the others because it took the time (and money – $150 million to be more precise) to secure appropriate licenses for over 18 million songs.   Amazon and Google chose a more hostile approach, a middle finger to the labels and publishers, by going forward with their services sans licenses.  Now, securing licenses will likely be more costly for Amazon and Google as iTunes beat them to the punch.

Apple markets iCloud to be the cheapest, fastest cloud service – taking “minutes, not weeks,” “$25, not $200.”

iCloud wasn’t the only announcement though.  Apple also unveiled iOS5 and OS X Lion.  The Lion features aren’t too exciting – basically some things we already have are made better (app store) and some other features I’m not jumping out of my seat over.

iOS5 (iPhone software), on the other hand, is getting some pretty cool new elements, many of which will eclipse formerly popular apps such as kik, boxcar, readability, camera+, and groupme.  (Great article about that here.)

Here is a description of some of the new features, taken from a NYT article:

You can swipe down from top of screen to see a tidy list of notifications (e-mail headings, Twitter posts, appointments and so on), like Android does now. You’ll be able to post directly to Twitter from Camera, Safari, YouTube or Maps. The Web browser offers tabbed browsing, a read-it-later Web feature (start reading a Web page on the iPad browser, finish later on iPhone), and Reader mode (hides all ads and clutter and displays text large and clear).

A new Reminders app is a smart to-do list: it knows where you are, and pops up a reminder when you’re near the place in question. Photo editing is now built in: Cropping, red-eye reduction, color enhancing and so on. The Mail app now lets you search text in messages, flag messages and use rich-text formatting. On the iPad, there’s a new split keyboard option: half of the keyboard for each thumb.

Apple also introduced a new iMessages service, for iOS devices. It’s like a chat app for Apple gadgets; it lets you send text, photos, videos, contacts, group messages and receipts. When someone sends you a message on one device, it’s available on all your others. (Online, Twitterfolk thought it sounded like a stake in the heart of the popular BlackBerry Messenger service. “RIP RIM,” tweeted one.)

And you can now jump to the camera directly from the Lock screen, without even having to enter your password (the rest of the phone is off-limits in that situation). And you can use the volume key as a shutter button.

What’s even wilder is that Apple is moving away from the concept of the computer as the hub of your digital life, which it once promoted. For the first time, you don’t need iTunes to activate and use an iPhone or iPad. You can now activate it and get software updates, wirelessly, directly to the phone or tablet. For many people, an iPad will suffice as the one home computer.

But if you do want to sync with iTunes, the iPhone and iPad can now do that wirelessly, via Wi-Fi. You don’t have to plug in the USB cable.

iOS5 will be available this Fall, while Lion will launch in July.

I thought I updated my i-software but see no signs of iCloud so will try again and do a user review at some point.

Kaiser Chiefs Offer Customizable Album

June 6th, 2011

Creative approaches to selling albums seem to be a growing industry trend.  Largely popularized by Radiohead’s “pay-what-you-want” model, artists and labels continue to develop new approaches to selling music.

The latest emergence in creative marketing is from UK band Kaiser Chiefs.   Kaiser chief’s latest album, The Future is Medieval (released June 3), is exclusively being sold from their website as a customizable album.  For £7.50, listeners create their own version of the album: first, selecting 10 out of 20 tracks, which will make up the album, and  then choosing from a selection of artwork designs.   The customer has the option of presenting their custom album on a website hosted by Kaiser Chiefs.  For every copy of that album sold, the customer receives £1.

The band enjoyed the process of creating the music under this new model.  Drummer Nick Hodgson describes the difference in their creative process: “It was a great way of working, because you didn’t have to think about what you wanted to say so much. You could concentrate on making the song true to itself, rather than making it fit some bigger picture. You didn’t need to think where it would fit within a running order or a theme.”

For now, the new material can only be purchased from the band’s website.

As it’s a very new release, there has not yet been any reports on the success of the approach.