by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 1st 2013 2:29pm
Fri, Feb 1st 2013 1:46pm
from the no-disruption-allowed dept
Sodastream is a cool new company that allows consumers to make their own carbonated beverages at home. Given its popularity, largely due to its ease of use, SodaStream’s stock has been on a run the last few months. It also possesses the potential to disrupt to established beverage companies like Pepsi and Coke.
Not surprisingly, SodaStream would like to advertise this fact. In fact, it is so keen on advertising the relative benefits of its product over the more traditional route of buying pre-made soda from the store that the company ponied up for a Super Bowl commercial. Unfortunately for SodaStream, the ad was rejected by CBS, not because it was too risque, but because it “disparages” other major advertisers (which is apparently more objectionable than borderline softcore porn a la GoDaddy and Mercedes). As Ad Age reported:
The content of its planned commercial seemed to have concerned CBS because it was a direct hit at two other Super Bowl sponsors and heavy network TV advertisers: Coke and Pepsi.
We’ve discussed elsewhere CBS’s newfound affinity for the ban hammer, but this isn’t even the first time this has happened to SodaStream. British regulatory authorities yanked Sodastream’s first major advertising campaign for “being too disparaging towards soda manufacturers like Coke and Pepsi.”
How disparaging was SodaStream that its ads were pulled from television? Well, it simply pointed out that SodaStream was more environmentally friendly than drinking off-the-shelf sodas because, with SodaStream, “you could save more than 2,000 bottles a year.” Wow, that is incendiary. Not safe for public consumption!
The majority decided that the ad could be seen to tell people not to go to supermarkets and buy soft drinks, [and] instead help to save the environment by buying a SodaStream. [SodaStream] was also told that it constituted denigration of the bottled-drinks market.
Hypocritically, U.S. broadcasters have allowed Pepsi to air Super Bowl ads that bashed Coke directly, as Ad Age also pointed out:
Interestingly enough, Pepsi has scored big points with viewers over the years by showing Super Bowl ads with Coke deliverymen abandoning their employer wholesale for a sip of a Pepsi drink.
Moral of this story: Pepsi and Coke can attack each other over trivial differences in their products, but don’t attack the business model of big incumbent advertisers.
Fortunately, there is an upside for SodaStream. All the controversy that these ads have stirred has generated a buzz around them. The SodaStream “banned Super Bowl ad” has already generated more than two million hits on YouTube in two days and generated a media buzz around the company itself. And that’s without having to splash $3.8 million worth of cash for a Super Bowl commercial. Another example of the Streisand Effect in action.
[SodaStream is running a commercial during the Super Bowl, but it was forced to replace Coke and Pepsi with fictional soda companies. However, that ad only has a little more than 17,000 YouTube views in the last two days.]
Cross posted from Project-Disco.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 1:55pm
from the ouch dept
You see, CNET's "Best in Show" award wasn't just for CNET itself, but for the official CES show. Part of CNET's deal with CEA was that its picks for "Best of CES" were the official awards for CES. Until now. CEA boss Gary Shapiro first slammed CBS in an editorial, and then CEA followed that up by officially ending CNET's position as the official picker of the "Best in Show" for CES. In trying to save face, someone from CBS told The Verge (in the link above) that it "had already determined it would not attempt to partner with CES for the awards again." Yeah, sure.
Oh yeah. CES also has now officially named the Dish Hopper with Sling as "Best of Show" saying it's now the "co-winner" with the Razer Edge gaming tablet that CNET chose after CBS suits stepped in and decimated their editorial independence.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 25th 2013 1:26pm
from the uh,-yeah dept
Note this recent article about the updated Aereo app. While it kicks off by saying that Aereo "just became a much more potent alternative to traditional cable TV" stuck right smack in the middle of the article is a big "disclosure":
Disclosure: CBS, the parent corporation of CNET, is currently in active litigation with Aereo as to the legality of its service. As a result of that conflict of interest, CNET cannot review that service going forward.In other words, "HEY EVERY BODY, YOU CAN'T TRUST US TO REPORT FAIRLY ON THIS BECAUSE OUR CORPORATE OVERLORDS INTERFERE WITH EDITORIAL!" The whole thing is a joke. As Rob Pegoraro correctly noted, CNET's claims that "news" reporting won't be impacted because these bans just apply to "reviews" is simply wrong, wrong, wrong.
Indeed. All that disclaimer does is remind people that CNET's coverage of any such topic is not to be trusted at all.
To say that there’s “actual news” and then reviews devoid of news value shows a basic misunderstanding of how journalism works.
Hard-news stories (like search-engine results!) are never entirely objective; people made value judgments in assigning them, choosing sources to quote, and giving those pieces their spot on the page or in the paper. Reviews are never entirely subjective and ought to cite objective defects such as slow performance, poor battery life, privacy risks or missing features.
And in the evolving and sometimes fumbling tech industry, assessing the hardware, software and services it serves up is an especially important part of the work of journalism. We need to suffer through these products ourselves–unless you’d prefer that we waited to see you find their problems, then reported the controversy.
Readers, in turn, don’t view news and reviews as distinct entities. If they start seeing one part of a site’s work subject to a corporate overlord’s remote control, they will read everything there skeptically. If they stick around at all.
Update: And... things are apparently going downhill. According to reports and internal notes, reporters at CNET are pissed off and morale is falling. There was a meeting where some believed CBS was going to go back on its position, but the company did not. Reporters have been pushing back, but to no avail. The Romenesko link here includes an email from CNET reporter Declan McCullagh ticking off example after example of publications associated with other companies suing Aereo giving perfectly normal reviews of the product:
This has the makings of quite the business school and journalism school case study...
The Wall Street Journal’s Katie Boehret (who reviews products along with Walt Mossberg, as I’m sure you know) reviewed Aereo three months after the litigation began. Boehret concluded: “It has a thoughtful, clean user interface that works well on the iPad, where I tested it most.. If you’re a fan of TV and want a better way to watch it on the go, Aereo is a pleasure.” The WSJ is owned by News Corp., which is in active litigation with Aereo.
ABCNews.com published a review of Aereo this month. It said: “I’ve been trying out Aereo since September to record and watch all sorts of programs on Aereo — both highbrow shows such as ‘Downton Abbey’ and guilty-pleasure ones such as ‘Revenge…’ It makes cutting cable service tempting.” ABC News is owned by Walt Disney, which is in active litigation with Aereo.
The Chicago Tribune published a syndicated review of streaming services including Aereo, which said “the most exciting development might be a scrappy start-up called Aereo that lets you watch TV on any Web-connected device with a screen via a network of miniaturized antennas.” The newspaper is owned by the Tribune Company, which is in active litigation with Aereo.
It’s true that CBS has the right to set the editorial policies that CNET journalists must abide by. And it’s also true that this policy is prominently disclosed to our readers. But I’m not aware of other media companies that have enacted a similar policy.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jan 23rd 2013 4:29pm
from the CBS-asks-for-more-bullets;-notes-other-foot-'only-lightly-damaged' dept
The Consumerist reports that Dish is taking a well-deserved swing at CBS, this time on its own website where its touts the Hopper being named Best in Show, along with a very noticeable asterisk.
The wording after the asterisk reads:
*What’s an asterisk doing in our award? CBS will go to any lengths to keep you from enjoying ad-skipping technology – even censoring its own writers and throwing out their decision to name Hopper ‘Best In Show.’ Your vote is the only one that really matters.Dish is also doing its part to keep print journalism alive, taking out full page ads in several newspapers.
So, what did CBS gain from freezing its legal foe out of an award? Absolutely nothing.
The broadcaster was reportedly worried that having one of its subsidiaries give an award to a Hopper DVR would possibly hurt its case in court. However, now that it’s been revealed that the device did indeed win the award — even if will never receive the actual accolade — it has only turned into a public relations boost to Dish and the Hopper.If people weren't already aware of the product, they certainly are now. And for many of those, technology that time-shifts AND skips ads is right up their alley. In addition, more people are publicly aware of the legal battle, which seems to boil down to the networks' insistence that customers watch every ad. Bad news all around, and CBS needs look no further than the still-smoking gun in its hand to explain all the brand-new holes in its foot.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 15th 2013 2:33pm
from the a-bit-slow-out-the-gate dept
After the vote, we communicated the winners, as we always do, through normal channels. CNET immediately got down to the business of preparing for a massive stage show the following morning and preparing a press release.Of course, this is only coming out well after tons of other sources had reported on this -- and upstart competitor the Verge had already broken the story about how CBS didn't just tell CNET not to vote on the Dish device, but made them rescind the award that had already been chosen.
Later that evening, we were alerted to the legal conflict for CBS. All night and through to morning, my managers up and down CNET and I fought for two things: To honor the original vote and -- when it became clear that CBS Corporate did not accept that answer -- to issue a transparent statement regarding the original vote.
Ultimately, we were told that we must use the official statement and that we must follow corporate policy to defer all press requests to corporate communications.
The CNET post, by reviews Editor in Chief Lindsey Turrentine, suggests that most of the staff had no idea that CBS was in litigation with Dish and they were just doing what they were supposed to do. She also pushes back against the idea that she should resign:
We were in an impossible situation as journalists. The conflict of interest was real -- a legal case can impact the bottom line of our company and introduce the possibility of bias -- but the circumstances demanded more transparency and not hurried policy.The thing is, if she had quit, I would bet that many on her team would not have seen it as being abandoned, but actually as real leadership of someone supporting their editorial independence.
I could have quit right then. Maybe I should have. I decided that the best thing for my team was to get through the day as best we could and to fight the fight from the other side. Every single member of the CNET Reviews team is a dedicated, ethical, passionate technology critic. If I abandoned them now, I would be abandoning the ship.
She then goes on to insist that she'll fight to make sure this doesn't happen again -- but that seems difficult to believe since earlier in the existing story it suggests that she and others gave up the fight when CBS told them what they had to do:
If I had to face this dilemma again, I would not quit. I stand by my team and the years of work they have put into making CNET what it is. But I wish I could have overridden the decision not to reveal that Dish had won the vote in the trailer. For that I apologize to my staff and to CNET readers.Of course, the decision to quit is one that every individual has to make themselves. But completely taking it out of the realm of possibility gives CBS the easy power to do this again and again and again. She's signalling to CBS that it can continue to walk over CNET's editorial independence, and while the editor-in-chief may protest loudly, in the end, she won't leave. That's only going to add to the cloud over CNET's reviews going forward.
The one thing I want to clearly communicate to my team and to everyone at CNET and beyond is this: CNET does excellent work. Its family of writers is unbiased, focused, bright, and true. CNET will continue to do excellent good work. Of that I am certain. Going forward, I will do everything within my power to prevent this situation from happening again.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 15th 2013 6:46am
from the didn't-think-about-that,-now-did-you? dept
We've written in the past a few times about Alki David's crusade against CBS, in which he sued the company, pushing a conspiracy theory about how CBS only went after his company FilmOn (the name of which was later changed, for pure publicity reasons, to AereoKiller) because it wanted to be the only one to profit from infringement. The argument was that because CNET was owned by CBS, and because CNET site Download.com had offered up software like Limewire, combined with CNET reviewers reviewing Limewire, it meant that CBS itself was guilty of infringement.
This was a silly legal theory, built more out of spite to annoy CBS. Unfortunately, since it was first brought up, we've seen many people passing it along (especially one particular YouTube video that calls out this "conspiracy theory" as fact, without any basis). However, knowing how independent CNET was from CBS, it always seemed like a particularly silly accusation, and the first version of the lawsuit didn't go very far, though a refiled version has done slightly better.
However, now that CBS has decided to rush headlong through that wall of editorial independence it may have totally undermined its own case. That's because, in responding to the case, CBS, in part, made the argument that a finding against it might chill free speech by encroaching on the editorial independence of CNET.
Except... in making this latest move, CBS is now making the argument that it has no problem butting in on CNET's editorial independence (or any CBS Interactive property), which may take away a key argument it has against secondary liability for any articles about infringement. Knowing the way Alki David has acted in the past, I'd be surprised if he didn't rush to use this in the ongoing case.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 14th 2013 10:36am
from the editorial-independence dept
Now it appears that Sandoval has made his decision, announcing that he's resigned from CNET due to this situation:
Hello all. Sad to report that I've resigned from CNET. I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence.— Greg Sandoval (@sandoCNET) January 14, 2013
CNET wasn't honest about what occurred regarding Dish is unacceptable to me. We are supposed to be truth tellers.— Greg Sandoval (@sandoCNET) January 14, 2013
The Verge has now learned that the facts of the case are somewhat different than the story CNET and CBS had previously shared with the public. According to sources familiar with the matter, the Hopper was not simply an entrant in the Best of CES awards for the site: it was actually chosen as the winner of the "Best of Show" award (as voted by CNET's editorial staff).The Verge report also notes that CNET/CBS Interactive folks fought hard against the decision from the top folks at CBS, but in the end were told they had no choice. While it's not too surprising that folks from the old gatekeeper system, like Moonves, would be so clueless as to think that such a move would not massively backfire, it's still stunning to see that he never appeared to think through the consequences.
Apparently, executives at CBS learned that the Hopper would win "Best of Show" prior to the announcement. Before the winner was unveiled, CBS Interactive News senior-vice president and General Manager Mark Larkin informed CNET's staff that the Hopper could not take the top award. The Hopper would have to be removed from consideration, and the editorial team had to re-vote and pick a new winner from the remaining choices. Sources say that Larkin was distraught while delivering the news — at one point in tears — as he told the team that he had fought CBS executives who had made the decision.
Apparently the move to strike the Hopper from the awards was passed down directly to Larkin from the office of CBS CEO, Leslie Moonves. Moonves has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Hopper, telling investors at one point, "Hopper cannot exist... if Hopper exists, we will not be in business with (Dish)."
Kudos to Sandoval for standing up for his principles. As a top reporter in the space, I have no doubt he'll land on his feet -- hopefully at a publication with more credibility. Let's see if other CNET reporters follow suit.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 11th 2013 5:44am
from the count-the-ways dept
But, in a moment of pure stupidity, some very short-sighted suits at CBS made a really silly decision. As you may or may not have heard, CES -- the massive consumer electronics show -- has been going on all this week in Las Vegas. I just got back from there myself. At the show, Dish announced another merging of some of its products, adding its Slingbox (who they bought years back) to the same basic setup. Slingbox, of course, is for "place shifting" what the DVR is for "time shifting." You hook it up to your TV and it lets you access what's playing on your TV via the internet (so, via your computer, phone or tablet). It's hardly surprising that this is where Dish was heading.
And... the early reviews and buzz were definitely strong. For example, CNET wrote a glowing review in which executive editor David Carnoy suggested it may be the best DVR out there these days. The CNET crew liked the thing so much that they nominated it for their "Best of CES" award.
Editors' note: The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration for the Best of CES 2013 awards due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.This is monumentally stupid, for a variety of reasons. Let's see how many we can come up with.
- Hello Streisand Effect. There were approximately one gazillion articles this week about products coming out of CES, and the place was wall to wall with journalists -- probably half of whom were coming up with their own "best of" lists. Most people were completely saturated with CES stories and would barely glance at such a story. Except... now, tons of people are suddenly finding out about this awesome Dish DVR, the Hopper with Slingbox. In fact, they're hearing that the damn thing is so good that CBS is trying to block any news of it from getting out. Talking about increasing the awareness... I have no clue whatsoever what product CNET -- or any other publication -- awarded "best of CES" to. But I sure as hell am well aware of Dish's new DVR.
- Goodbye to the wall that separates the suits from the journalists at CBS/CNET. CBS execs have just confirmed that they don't want their journalists and reviewers to cover things based on the merits, but rather on what it means for their corporate masters.
- Hello slippery slope. Is it really that hard to see where this heads next? Is CNET still allowed to report on the lawsuit if CBS loses? If they can't talk about the products, what about the legal issues themselves?
- Goodbye journalists with credibility. Frankly, CNET has always had some of the strongest tech reporters in the business. For many years I've considered it one of the top tech news sites out there. I have tremendous respect for many of the reporters there. But, now I have to wonder how much the suits are interfering with their ability to report things accurately.
- Goodbye to principled journalists who want to work for CBS. If I'm a journalist at CNET right now, I'd be seriously considering quitting in protest. This move seriously harms the brand and reputation of the site, and this is the kind of thing that journalists should stand up against. Having the suits interfere with what they can write about is generally seen as a massive offense to journalists. I would bet this leads to some of the best, most principled CNET reporters jumping ship to elsewhere.
- Good luck to CNET hiring new journalists. Who wants to jump into that toxic situation?
Of course, they were probably thinking that Dish would likely use the reviews from CNET as evidence in the lawsuit, which very well may be true (and could still happen since the review did go out). But it's not hard to get around that, since the legal impact of a single review is near zilch. In the end, they didn't stifle the review, they made it more well known. They didn't do anything that helps them in their lawsuit. And they're left with an undoubtedly pissed off set of journalists who may now question how free they are to actually report the news.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 13th 2012 9:30am
from the scorched-earth dept
David regrouped and found a group of musicians to file a similar lawsuit -- led by Sugar Hill Music -- and so far that lawsuit has had slightly more success, though it has serious problems. The latest filing in the case, embedded below, involves the plaintiffs arguing that the court should issue an injunction blocking CNET/CBS from allowing any BitTorrent client from being downloaded. Yeah. The proposed injunction is full of complete crazy talk.
True to form, Defendants have enthusiastically embraced this new engine of piracy, distributing over 65 million copies of bittorrent applications and, again, shamelessly promoting their use for purposes of infringement. Defendants' inducement has sometimes become somewhat more sophisticated and subtle, in that, for example, Defendants now include a mild, disingenuous disclaimer about piracy on some of their web-pages and evidently no longer host certain P2P applications on their servers. Defendants, however, still expressly and explicitly show users how to use bittorrent programs to find copyrighted files to download. At all times, Defendants were aware that the bittorent programs they distributed were used overwhelmingly for infringing copyrighted works – primarily music, software, movies and video games. Although some court cases have found the proprietors of torrent websites liable for secondary copyright infringement,3 no court case has yet directly involved bittorrent applications and technology itself. Like a leopard that cannot change its spots and despite this Court’s clear admonishment that Defendants cannot simultaneously distribute software applications that they have encouraged to be used for purposes of infringement,4 Defendants continue to distribute bittorrent applications under the intentionally lazy and under-reactive guise that they cannot be held liable for this activity until a court order specifically prohibits the use of bittorrent technology to infringe Plaintiffs’ works. Although Plaintiffs believe it probable that courts will soon explicitly find the popular bittorrent applications to be secondarily liable for copyright infringement just as Napster and LimeWire were, it is beyond doubt that Defendants’ distribution of these programs and concurrent intent to induce infringement subjects Defendants to inducement liability, independent of any further inquiry. Bittorrent is a clear and present danger to copyrighted works. From evidence readily available in CNET’s own “news” articles, it is clear that bittorrent applications like uTorrent are growing explosively to fill the infringement vacuum left by Gnutella applications.Yes, despite the fact that BitTorrent itself has been around for many, many years, and the software/protocol has never been found to be infringing in any way, these musicians are now insisting that it's "only a matter of time" and that CNET should be forced to block downloads of any and all BitTorrent products. There are so many crazy points here. First, Download.com is just a platform provider, which software providers use to distribute software, not the creator of the software. Second, BitTorrent is just a protocol and is quite different than the apps that the lawsuit relies on as previous generations, which were often complete ecosystems. BitTorrent software has always been just about a tool to download or distribute content -- legal or infringing. And, yes, there are a ton of legal uses of BitTorrent, even if the plaintiffs here pretend otherwise.
There are some other howlers as well, including the rise of copyright trolls, filing over 250,000 lawsuits against people for copyright infringement -- which the filing here uses as some sort of weird evidence that BitTorrent must be illegal, apparently completely unable to distinguish between a tool and the actions that some use that tool to accomplish.
Even more bizarre, the filing uses the fact that CNET had an article highlighting a legal use of BitTorrent (by the band Counting Crows who purposely released some tracks via BitTorrent) as evidence that CNET encourages people to infringe:
Defendants also use the purported “news” arms of their websites to dress up the marketing of bittorrent applications as legitimate news reporting. For example, CNET editor Seth Rosenblatt (the same individual who authored the fivestar review of uTorrent), wrote a May 14, 2012 article published and available on Defendants website titled “Download This Mr. Jones,” ostensibly about how the recording artist the Counting Crows had partnered with the software publisher of uTorrent to release their music for free download via torrent.... In a portion of the article quoting the lead singer of the Counting Crows regarding the 150 million users of uTorrent, Rosenblatt included hyperlinks accompanied by the word “download” to the CNET download pages for uTorrent and BitTorrent.The idea that CNET's news operation deserves sarcastic "quotes" around it is ridiculous. News.com has been one of, if not the, leading tech news publication for at least a decade and a half. And the idea that this story wasn't actually newsworthy, as implied here, is simply ridiculous. Lots of publications covered it, not to push people to download BitTorrent, but because it was newsworthy. But much of the argument relies on news reporters talking about various issues related to BitTorrent, and then arguing that this is all some sort of front to push more people to download BitTorrent. To put it simply: this is insane. News.com and Download.com. I've known people associated with both properties, and the idea that they write articles about BitTorrent to try to drive more downloads is ridiculous.
But, even ignoring that, then arguing that all BitTorrent-related products should be barred from download isn't just overkill, it's pushing a rather scary and unique legal theory that sites should be barred from distributing software -- made by parties not even represented in the lawsuit -- just because one party doesn't like how some of the users of that software use it. If there's infringement it's on the part of some potential end users, but rather than going after them, this lawsuit doesn't just go one step back (to the software providers), but an even further level back to the platform that enables software downloads, and claiming that somehow they're all responsible for this.
It seems pretty clear that this lawsuit is really designed to be a nuisance for CBS, but the legal theories are highly questionable and the requested injunction is a massive overreach. Hopefully the court recognizes just how much an overreach this request really is.