A few weeks back, we wrote about the anti-piracy propaganda campaign that NYC has been running, paid for by taxpayer dollars, which spreads typical MPAA FUD, and concludes with the line: "There's no such thing as a free movie." However, in looking over the campaign, I just realized that the videos are hosted on YouTube... for free. In other words, while NYC and its Hollywood friends are claiming that if you get something for free, it must be illegal, they're making use of free online services themselves. Without YouTube, they'd have to pay for the hosting, bandwidth, streaming software, etc. themselves. But this way, they get it for free.
Now, it's absolutely true that YouTube could monetize the videos with ads (though, I don't see any on that video right now), but that sort of reinforces the point. There are all sorts of business models that allow you to offer something for "free" to the end user, but are monetized elsewhere. YouTube does exactly that. It offers what would otherwise be quite expensive (hosting, bandwidth, streaming software, etc.) and gives it all away for free, and has built a whole business around that. There's nothing saying that the movie industry can't do the same thing. Rather than falsely stating that there's no such thing as a "free" (to the consumer) movie, there are certainly plenty of ways that the movie industry could monetize movies that were offered free to consumers. It's just that the legacy players choose not to. And then complain. And get politicians to waste taxpayer money...
Taking down a site because it might possibly be subject to a DDoS attack in the future? How does that make sense? We were confused enough when EveryDNS claimed that getting hit by a DDoS violated its terms of service, but its even more confusing to think that the remote possibility that at some date in the future you might get hit by a DDoS is a terms of service violation.
Separately, I was quite surprised to see SoftLayer's name as being involved here, because I'm aware of other situations in which SoftLayer has been protective of customer rights and not prone to act rashly. So I'm curious if this was a miscommunication or if something else happened.
from the better-than-just-taking-them-down... dept
It seems like, as in the US with Senator Lieberman's desire for censorship, a French politician has also been looking to censor Wikileaks, which has been partially hosted by French firm OVH. However, rather than just folding, PrometheeFeu alerts us to the news that OVH notes that their job is to run infrastructure and they have no feelings one way or another about Wikileaks itself. However, due to all of the publicity and controversy, they're asking a judge if it's okay for them to do what they're doing (Google translation of the original French). They specifically state that they don't think it should be up to politicians (or the company itself) to decide but that a court of law should actually determine if it's legal. That certainly seems like a better solution than just taking it down...
A former ISP for The Pirate Bay, Black Internet, was told by a Swedish court that it had to stop hosting the site a while back. The Pirate Bay quickly switched to a different provider, but Black Internet went to court to challenge the legality of being told whom it can and cannot host. It appears that the Swedish appeals court ruling on the matter went beyond just telling Black Internet that it can't host The Pirate Bay, it also told the ISP that it must block all of its customers from reaching the site, even though the site is no longer hosted by Black Internet. It seems like yet another attempt by courts trying to play whac-a-mole in an incredibly ineffective manner that is likely to do more damage than good. Completely blocking people from reaching a site, even if they have legitimate reasons for reaching it, doesn't help anyone. Those who are interested in infringing on copyrights will still figure out plenty of ways to do so. They'll route around the blocks or go to other sites. So what does this do other than create an inconvenience and set a bad precedent for any ISP?Update: Thanks to folks in the comments for pointing out the update, where the court is claiming that Black Internet misinterpreted the decision, which says that Black is prohibited from providing "internet access" and there's a bit of a debate over what "internet access" means. It appears that Black interpreted that to mean "access" while the judge meant just hosting.
Many people who don't follow these issues closely have long assumed that The Pirate Party and The Pirate Bay were somehow connected. That's never been true, even if the people involved in each were philosophically aligned on certain issues (but not on all issues...). Either way, it's a bit of a surprise to find out that, following the injunction against The Pirate Bay's bandwidth provider, that The Pirate Party has agreed to become the new host for The Pirate Bay. It's unclear exactly what this means, as The Pirate Party must be getting its bandwidth from another provider, who, one would imagine, is also soon to be a target for an injunction. Still, it seems like the Pirate Party is basically begging for a lawsuit to challenge these types of fourth party injunctions...
I recently wrote about Simon Cowell's conflicting statements expressing anger that YouTube didn't pay him for showing the Susan Boyle video millions of times, while then being happy that the same video will result in 10 million album sales. In my latest column for The Telegraph, I explore how the legacy music industry made a huge mistake in attacking YouTube and having videos pulled down off the site for not getting "paid" enough, when just a few years ago if they had wanted to put up music videos of their bands, they would have paid an arm and a leg for software, hosting and bandwidth -- and the consumer experience would have been a hell of a lot worse (RealNetworks media player, anyone?).
In thinking more about this, I was realizing how hypocritical the recording industry is on this particular topic. After all, they go on and on about how bad "free" is, and how they must get paid for any use of their content or they can't survive. And, yet, when someone gives them something for free (and YouTube provides free software, free bandwidth, free community and a bunch of other benefits), they complain that they're not getting paid. It's an incredible double standard. If the recording industry were actually being intellectually honest (I know, I know...), wouldn't they be demanding to pay Google for providing such a service, since (as they claim) you "can't make money from free"?
Separately, I had wanted to mention this in the Telegraph column, but ran out of room. It is worth noting that at least some of the industry has, in some ways, "embraced" YouTube with the launch of Vevo a couple weeks ago (though, that launch was completely bungled by apparently not expecting anyone to actually visit the site). I still haven't quite figured out what Vevo is, however. It's a joint venture of Google and Universal Music, with EMI and Sony Music as partners (Warner remains the major label holdout). As far as I can tell, though, it just seeks to be a separate platform to give the labels some more "control" over videos on YouTube. I still can't figure out why this needs to be a separate company, other than to play financial games. Isn't this just a feature of YouTube?
It was just a few weeks ago that we were suggesting all the talk about YouTube's inability to be profitable was suspect, and there was increasing evidence not that YouTube was profitable yet, but that the claims of how much they were losing didn't take into account the real situation. Still, it comes as a bit of a surprise for Google to come out with a blog post that basically tells everyone that they are way, way, way off in thinking that YouTube is a huge money loser for the company. The reason it's a surprise is because it actually seemed like Google enjoyed having people think that YouTube was such a loser, since it held back competition. Perhaps there was some fear that it was also holding down the stock price or something. Either way, hopefully we can put to rest the silly idea that YouTube is some sort of blackhole for money.
We're seeing a bunch of folks pointing out that evidence collected by the Washington Post's computer security writer, Brian Krebs, is basically responsible for getting that company kicked off the internet. Krebs is a fantastic reporter, so I don't doubt the story -- but I'm always a little skeptical of stories claiming that a huge percentage of spammers have been knocked offline. We see such stories every few months, and it never seems to have any real impact on the amount of spam out there. Just last month there was a report claiming that the world's largest spam operation was shut down, but the actual amount of spam flowing across the network did not decrease.
This case is a little different, in that it didn't shut down the spammers themselves, but rather a hosting company that apparently many of the largest zombie botnets relied on. However, it seems quite likely that they'll find some other hosting company that will gladly take them on and everything will be up and running again. That's not to say it's bad that these guys get taken down -- but at some point people should realize this seems like a big game of whack-a-mole, and there may be better, more efficient ways to tackle the problem.
So, we were a little confused recently when Toyota sued a nude model for using the name Alexus, as it seemed difficult to believe there would be any "confusion" between the two. However, who knew that Lexus was getting into the entertainment business? We've talked in the past about BMW's famous BMW Films effort, as an example of how the future of advertising needs to recognize the blurring lines between content and advertising. In BMW's case, each film was directed by a famous filmmaker, starred actor Clive Owen, and included a BMW that tended to act as something of a co-star. The films were entertaining as pure content, rather than as traditional advertising.
Since then, we've seen plenty of other companies try similar things, with varying degrees of success. For example, the recent set of Microsoft ads involving Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates received a very mixed reaction -- in part because people expected them to be like traditional ads, pitching a specific product, rather than creating a story line that was entertaining in its own right.
Now, one of our readers, William Jackson, points us to an experiment apparently by the car company, Lexus (a part of Toyota). It's called L Studio, and appears to be something of a web video platform, showing a bunch of professionally produced videos. As Jackson notes, some of them do involve a Lexus, such as this documentary about an artist creating a piece of artwork out of a Lexus:
However, others seem to have absolutely nothing to do with Lexus automobiles at all, and often star recognizable actors, such as this video starring Famke Janssen trying to juggle her dating life with her dog:
I'm sure some will complain that these sorts of videos don't make any sense, as they do nothing to promote the vehicles -- but it may be worth seeing where this campaign goes from here. Some of the videos are entertaining and help put Lexus' brand around "lifestyle" content, and that could get people to start associating the Lexus brand with a certain type of lifestyle. Sure, it might not be as "in your face" as sponsoring a TV show or doing product placement, but if the content is good and gets people to seek it out rather than intrude on what they're doing, this could be a very effective branding campaign.
Way back in 2004, we started asking when Google was going to become "the web platform," finally opening up its infrastructure to build out new and useful applications. It seemed obvious at the time that the next real battle was going to be in that space, but time and time again, Google has missed opportunities to do so, opening up a window of opportunity for other players. Surprisingly, the closest to realizing the vision has been Amazon.com with its Amazon Web Services offerings -- which was something no one would have expected back in 2004. Back then, the questions were more about Microsoft, Yahoo and Google. Microsoft, however, can't seem to get past its desktop software DNA (though, it talks a good game) and Yahoo! (typical Yahoo!) has bits and pieces here and there but can't seem to pull together a comprehensive web platform strategy. For a brief period of time, it looked like Facebook might become a true web platform, but it's been too focused on locking apps in rather than enabling outbound efforts.
So, now, finally, nearly four years later, Google has come to its senses and announced its entrance into the web platform space with its aptly named AppEngine offering. In many ways, it's similar to Amazon's offering (which is a good thing!), though much more integrated, which could prove to be either a problem or a benefit depending on what you want to do. Amazon allows for a much more a la carte setup, which could appeal to many, while you have to really embrace Google to enjoy the benefits of its setup. A big open question is pricing. A huge part of the appeal to Amazon's Web Services platform is that it's crazy cheap. You really have to be working it quite hard to build up any sort of significant charges. Google hasn't released info on pricing yet, offering AppEngine up for free to the first 10,000 developers (who appear to have snapped up all the open slots in less than two hours). That free service has some limitations: initially 500 MBs of storage and enough bandwidth to serve approximately 5 million pages per month. There's some suggestion that the final service will always be free up to that level, with charges starting if you go beyond that. If so, that could certainly appeal to people who just want to try some stuff out for free.
While this may seem like something that will only appeal to serious techheads, this could be a really big deal. A lot is going to depend on how well AppEngine really works, and how open it really turns out to be. However, if it really does provide another super cheap (or even free at low levels) full service, highly scalable platform for all different kinds of applications, things could start to get very interesting pretty quickly. Between this and Amazon's Web Services, the very concept of developing online applications may finally start to change in significant ways for the better. The easier it is to develop and deploy highly scalable web applications, the more innovative and creative solutions we're going to start to see.