Labels to Make Cash on Every Zune Sold

Universal Music Group is assured compensation for the unknown number of pirated or file-shared tracks that are transferred/downloaded to a Microsoft Zune player after striking a revenue-sharing deal on sales of the player.

The record label will get over $1 for each $250 Zune sold and claims it will extend half of what it receives to the artists. The Zune digital media player hits stores next Tuesday and, yes, it’s available in doodie brown.

In trying to compete with iPod, Microsoft is turning the digital audio industry on it’s head — and once again Universal is saving itself from the costy litigation route.

Historically — and as decided in court — labels have never been compensated for the sales of digital audio players that can potentially play “illegally” acquired songs. In the case of Apple’s iPod, labels receive a percentage of every download via the iTunes Music Store. But clearly, this didn’t cutting it for the labels and Universal — the money-hungry bullies they are these days — threatened to give Microsoft hell (imagine that).

From NYT:

A recent study estimated that Apple has sold an average of 20 songs per iPod — a fraction of its capacity. The rest of consumers’ music files — 95 percent or more — come from ripped CDs, possibly including discs from their own collections, and illegal file-trading networks, the study said.

The article, complete with a lil’ nut graf referencing the 1999 Diamond Rio decision, includes “we make the rules now” sentiment from Universal’s whiny chairman, Doug Morris and even David Geffen. Microsoft will happily pimp the same buck n’ change to the other majors.

(A review in the same NYT Technology section harps on the Zune as an “unabashed copy” of the iPod.

Om Malik weighs in: “what a bunch of crap!”

Ring Them Bells Already: May Diebold-Gate Begin

Last week, former Maryland state legislator Cheryl C. Kagan was anonymously given disks containing source code to Diebold’s BallotStation and Global Election Management System (GEMS) tabulation software used in the 2004 elections.

A machine running on the same software version (4.3.15c) defined in the source code sent to Kagan was thoroughly hacked into and documented in September by Princeton’s Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten in the 26-page “Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine” (view PDF, “Internet Christian minister” Rev. Bill McGinnis summarizes it here).

Kagan’s story was first reported last Friday in Baltimore Sun by reporter Melissa Harris.

An accompanying letter refers to the State Board of Elections and calls Kagan “the proud recipient of an ‘abandoned baby Diebold source code’ right from SBE accidentally picked up in this envelope, right in plain view at SBE. … You have the software because you are a credible person who can save the state from itself. You must alert the media and save democracy.”

No matter how or even if Kagan’s story is true, a crime, or whatever — it remains both ironic and suspicious that the one company authorized to make electronic voting systems in this country has kept their source code bottled up as if it contained the ingredients for Coca Cola’s secret syrup. Opening source code to independent professional reviewers and critics who may find bugs and other flaws should be mandatory for a company that for months has represented itself with broken HTML code on their home page (see http://www.diebold.com/dieboldes/).

(Coincidentally 2 men pleaded guilty this morning in the FBI investigation into stolen Coke “trade secrets.”)

Joe Strupp, of the newspaper industry watchdog Editor & Publisher asks, “Is Press Taking Possible Voting Problems Seriously?” (ABC’s World News Tonight is devoting a fair amount of programming to the issue.)

Kagan, a Democrat, is the executive director of the Freeman Foundation — a philanthropic community-focused charity — and is a noted critic of her state’s election chief and the Diebold voting systems. She said she’s been in contact with the FBI and intends to cooperate with any investigation.

Maryland’s deputy elections administrator claimed the disks contain “nothing that’s being used in this election.” Which is quite a suspicious thing to say in and of itself.

In other election season news, hasGoogle Earth new layers and placemarks with useful 2006 election info.

Look Who’s Sleeping With You(Tube)

OMG! UMG is not gonna sue YouTube as threatened last month? Is YouTube pinned or just happy to share the bed? Today’s New York Times pulls back the covers:

Three of the four major music companies — Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Sony and Bertelsmann’s jointly owned Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and the Warner Music Group — each quietly negotiated to take small stakes in YouTube as part of video- and music-licensing deals they struck shortly before the sale, people involved in the talks said yesterday. The music companies collectively stand to receive as much as $50 million from these arrangements, these people said.

This payoff will certainly materialize faster than any potential compensation from a lawsuit would. But the possible catch — doesn’t part-ownership also entail liability for any future content-related lawsuits filed against YouTube?

Earlier this week, Universal sued video-sharing portals Grouper and Bolt, demanding 15 grand per infringement and telling the press:

“Grouper and Bolt… cannot reasonably expect to build their business on the backs of our content and the hard work of our artists and songwriters without permission and without compensating the content creators,” a Universal spokesman said.

Yeah, I’m sure they’re worried about 50 Cent appearing on a mini-YouTube or Mariah Carey being compensated (doesn’t she have like a $20M contract)?

Last month it seemed Universal woke up thinking it was still 1999, only big mama RIAA is at bay (or, more likely, abusing the courts and/or high school kids).

Will there be more juicy details on this YouTube + Big 3 of 4 so-called partnership? Or is the new YouTube opaque?

Future of Web Apps Summit Podcasts

MP3s and video of most of the speaker presentations from last month’s FoWA summit in San Francisco are now available for public consumption. Chow them down here.

Also: Here’s a collection of links to the great PowerPoint presentations of some of the speakers:

Speaker Presentation Slides

The Small Print Project

I launched my big school-related project today with the help of a posting from my instructor, Cory Doctorow, on Boing Boing.

Please visit the project and provide input, insight, and thoughts if you could!

What’s the Small Print Project?

I explain it briefly on the site’s About page, but Cory sums it up even better here:

looks to catalog all the “agreements” we find ourselves “consenting to” when we open a box, install a program, sign up for a service or visit a website. These “terms and conditions,” “terms of use” and “end-user license agreements” do terrible violence to the noble agreement, backing us into arrangements that no sane individual would ever agree to. Sony’s DRM made you promise to delete your music if your house burned down; Amazon Unbox lets them spy on your computer and shut down your videos if they don’t like what they see. And it doesn’t stop there. Think of the “agreements” on the back of your dry-cleaning tickets, on your plane tickets, in your credit-card statements, and your cellular phone contract.

Check out The Small Print Project! Thanks.