Judge Posner posted a very insightful entry on the Becker-Posner blog concerning family control of voting stock in media companies, a topical subject given Rupert Murdoch’s overtures to the Bancroft family regarding the Wall Street Journal.

Of interest is this quote, which shows how well he “gets” the internet: (more…)

The Fairfax press reported a couple of weeks ago that TiVo, the “time-shifting digital video recorder” is coming to Australia in early 2008 courtesy of a deal struck with Channel 7. On the surface, this seems like a good thing for everyone – that is, everyone who cares about TV- competition between service providers, choice, flexibility and further integration with on-line media services and sources. These digital TV services are evolutionary and it’s good that they seek to move their audiences beyond the one-way flatscreen TV experience. Still, I’ll be interested to see how it pans out, given that the wrangle over the electronic programme guide (EPG) has been foreshadowed, including the “one EPG to rule them all” argument being raised yet again…now the EPG debate has been around for a while, both here and abroad, in respect of access to the subscription tv EPG…hmmm, interesting times ahead…

Crikey today is reporting that:

In a move thought to be unprecedented in global sport, photographers from international news agencies like Reuters, AFP, AP and Getty Images have been locked out of AFL games for season 2007. Their work has been replaced by an agency created by the AFL to manage the League’s press photography. Geoff Slattery Publishing, publishers of the AFL Record, has the contract to manage AFL photography. But the scheme has raised serious questions about press freedom and the right of news organisations to report on public events.

So this is bad, I’d agree, for all kinds of reasons that Crikey explores. But all I can think is – what a great opportunity for amateur photographers to take and sell photos to the press! Citizen journalists unite.

UPDATE:Crikey have another story about the AFL move today – which points out attempts by others – in particular, FIFA – to do something similar. Apparently, so far attempts to do this kind of thing have led only to tears (and rapid backdowns). I await the next development…

And another thing, about the November government draft of a new law for internet censorship (see my previous comments here and Pete Black’s comments here).

One thing that is fundamentally wrong with the government approach is the ‘cover everything, create specific exemptions’ approach. The government proceeds by creating a default position that everyone doing anything online (even vaguely related to commercial life) is covered, and then creates a long list of exemptions so that certain kinds of sites are free from regulation.

Three serious problems with this approach:

  1. The obvious problem: new kinds of sites are automatically censored. Since we don’t know what might happen online next, why make the default regulation? Why not single out the specific things you want to cover?
  2. The ‘bob each way’ approach: for most exempt categories, the definition states that the site must fit the definition AND ‘comply with other requirements in the regulations’. This would enable the government at any time to impose additional requirements on, say, user-generated sites or search engines – by regulations, which can only be DISALLOWED, not amended, by Parliament. Ick.
  3. Lawyers’ paradise. I foresee many arguments by people saying they fit within categories. That’s what always happens when you have a specific list. Again, ick.

Oh, and here’s a question. do you think massive multiplayer online games are covered by this regime?

Ah, censorship. What is it about censorship that brings out the silliness in legislators? Why is it that the idea of censoring the Internet gets people so excited they forget to work out whether the laws are at all sensible?

Crikey has today leaked a November draft proposed Australian Internet censorship law: the Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Bill 2006. I’ve had a look. It’s unbelievable.

Crikey report that the bill has been redrafted. It had better be. Better still would be to forget it altogether. Because this draft doesn’t pass the laugh test. Really. It is inconsistent with fundamental values like freedom of speech and freedom of information; it is broad, draconian, and wouldn’t work, it is completely out of step with the way the Internet works (it seems to require pre-emptive monitoring of content by hosts before it even goes online). I think I’m back in the year 2000 – the last time this same government tried to write an Internet censorship law. More on why this draft is so bad over the fold. [update: Pete Black has also commented, along very similar lines to me, here]

Warner Bros. has joined a number of other television broadcasters in providing some of its programming for sale on Apple’s iTunes. A number of networks, including Fox (owned by News Corp.), ABC (Walt Disney Co.), NBC (Universal), CBS, and MTV (Viacom Inc.), along with Warner Bros., together offer more than 150 television shows for US$1.99 per episode. The shows may be viewed on a computer or a video iPod. And what’s really interesting — it’s possible to subscribe to a current season of a television show (and not just repeats). (more…)

Media regulation in Australia will be dramatically changed over the next year. Senator Helen Coonan announced the adoption of a new media framework on 13 July, including a substantial strengthening of media regulator ACMA‘s powers and the relaxation of cross-media ownership restrictions. (more…)

Australian reality television show Big Brother has sparked a debate on the regulation of Internet content. Earlier this month (see here and here), an alleged case of sexual assault caused two contestants to be taken off the reality television show. (See “2006 sexual assault controversy” on Wikipedia’s Big Brother entry for further details.) While the behaviour was not broadcast on television, it was shown live on the show’s Internet feed, provoking outrage from politicians, and causing Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan to issue media releases addressing the incident (2 July and 3 July).

I’m not going to weigh in on the appropriateness of content broadcast on reality shows or on the Internet, or the ethics of such shows generally, nor will I discuss whether certain conduct actually occurred on the Big Brother set. Plenty of that is being offered, from Opposition Senator Stephen Conroy (3 July and 5 July) to Germaine Greer. Instead, I’m going to consider why the content shown on the Big Brother website did not break any laws, and discuss the contemplated regulatory response. (more…)

Australia is not the only nation to be rethinking its media ownership laws — the United States Federal Communications Commission is also considering whether to lift the current restrictions on ownership of a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same market. (more…)

The Do Not Call Register legislation (previously noted on LawFont) was today passed in the Senate. There is no word on its date of commencement (and nothing on Senator Coonan’s home page yet either, although there is a release about government subsidising of internet porn filters that I noted noted the other day). Edited to update: ACMA now has a press release online stating that the register “is expected to be up and running in 2007”, and Senator Coonan also has a release stating that she “look[s] forward to being able to announce the start of the Register in early 2007”.

The text of the bill is also available online, and it looks to carry on the tradition of over-drafted and over-complex legislation. (more…)

There is an interesting thought piece in The Australian today about how the Australian digital broadcasting industry will be regulated relatively lightly, compared to the current analog environment.

According to journalist Mark Day, Senator Coonan has defended the current high-regulation regime as necessary because of the scarcity of analog broadcasting spectrum. But digital broadcasting does not have the same spectrum limitations. Accordingly, once the transition to digital broadcasting is complete, much of the current regulatory regime will disappear (including the anti-sihponing list, multi-channeling, and high-definition quotas). (Similarly, Senator Coonan suggested that the current regime would become “outdated” in her call for submissions on the Government’s digital media conversion. ) Where significant regulation is likely to remain is with respect to some content, particularly when that content furthers pornography or terrorism.

I found this article to be particularly interesting because of its overarching argument — namely that markets (and not regulators) are best-placed to select successful digital technologies.

A colleague asked me the other day: if a US company decides to offer its TV shows for free online, but limits the downloads to US internet users only (blocking out us poor sucker Aussies), are they doing anything illegal?

The question stemmed from Wall Street Journal reports that Disney plans to offer popular tv shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives for free online (see also Michael Geist on this)

I couldn’t think of anything that would make this illegal. Possibly stupid, given the reported levels of TV-show downloading in Australia, but not illegal. But then I thought, well, in recent times, people commenting on this blog, and more particularly on Weatherall’s Law have proven the old blog adage that the comments generated by a post are often more interesting than the post itself – and that commenters collectively are smarter than the blogger.

So help me out here guys. Is there anything illegal going on in that scenario?

This issue of “What is…?” provides a brief look at the emerging technology of datacasting, and considers some of the regulatory and legal issues that are raised by this new form of broadcasting. In Australia the ability to datacast is becoming a hot topic, not least because it is expected to be included in the upcoming media industry reforms. (more…)

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