StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 04/19/01

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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 04/19/01

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The News – 04/19/01

Australia May Have Outlawed E-Mail Forwarding

Australia has recently enacted some changes to its Internet copyright laws that some critics claim would make forwarding an email without the writer’s consent a crime. Breaking the law could result in fines of AU$60,000 or five years in jail.

After the news broke in Australian papers, Australian Attorney General Daryl Williams said, "Contrary to alarmist media reports, sharing e-mail is not banned by law." When pressed by reporters, however, Williams equivocated: "For example, if the e-mail was simply a joke that everyone had been re-hashing for years, it is doubtful it would have the necessary originality to be protected by copyright. Similarly, a casual exchange of personal information or office gossip would probably not be original enough to have copyright in it."

Well, that clears it up, then.

As if that weren’t enough, Australia also has banned Web content that the police determine is offensive to children, no matter where it is produced. Fines of up to AU$10,000 can be levied with no outside oversight. Even worse: Web site producers can’t even get the content pre-screened to determine offensiveness. They have to wait to be cited.

While it may appear that our friends down under have gone completely mad, you should remember that our own Congress tried to accomplish pretty much the same thing recently with the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA), which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997.

Businesses should be aware that various countries have some pretty severe restrictions on electronic communications. For each country in which you do business, it is imperative to understand the laws regarding such seemingly innocuous activities such as forwarding email.

The Register

Video Downloading Already a Reality

Look out Blockbuster! Internet video rental company SightSound Technologies has been renting downloadable videos over the Web since 1999. The company offers “daily rentals” of films from Miramax Films, which will release twelve movies for download on Miramax websites, and Comedy Central, which is distributing episodes of “South Park” and “Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist.” SightSound is also distributing movies for Franchise Pictures, Unapix Entertainment and more than 40 other independent producers and special interest companies.

A recently featured movie, Miramax’s 1999 release, Guinevere, costs $3.49 to rent for a day and involves a 469MB download. With a 1Mbps home broadband connection, the 105-minute movie would take a little over an hour to download. You download the movie file, which you can play on your computer, as well as a decryption key needed to make the file viewable.

SightSound has added “direct to Net” to the entertainment lexicon that includes “direct to video” by offering the first movie made for the Internet, “The Quantum Project”, a $3 million 32-minute sci-fi drama starring Stephen Dorff and John Cleese. The company isn’t relying entirely on online distribution, however. They recently partnered with Microsoft to bundle a free copy of Quantum Project with downloads of Microsoft’s Windows Media Player 7.

SightSound currently has four patents issued and roughly 30 under review by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, and is aggressively going after other etailers selling audio and video recordings via online downloads.

Frankly, I’m amazed that the company, which started out life in 1995 offering secure audio downloads (record industry take note!), can find a big enough market in this bandwidth-starved world. The fact that they made the Microsoft deal and canceled their IPO in October indicates that they may truly be in advance of the market. Also, their release of the movie “pi” last year received only 128 downloads.

Indeed, not everyone is convinced of the promise of videos on the PC. “We like to use the ‘sitting forward versus sitting back’ analogy,” says Gene Klein, content VP for indie film site “If you’re watching a half-hour movie on a PC at your desk, that’s a long time to be sitting forward.” There are other, business-related, complications as well, not the least of which is the fact that the Internet is global, and movie companies typically sell rights on a regional basis.

Nonetheless, businesses that depend on revenue from forms of entertainment that can be digitized need to keep track of such developments. It’s entirely possible that someday soon you, and Blockbuster, may be Amazoned.


Can’t Get Enough of ME?

In the unlikely event that you want more of my opinions, I’ve started a Weblog. It’s the fashionable thing for pundits to do, and I’m doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page. If you’d like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP access, and the free software from . This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts to your Weblog.

I’ve dubbed my Weblog entries “Stratlets”, and they are available at . Let me know what you think.

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