California Court Sides with Hollywood Studios in isoHunt Case

A group of Hollywood studios, including Disney (s DIS), Twentieth Century Fox (s NWS), Universal (s GE), Warner Bros (s TWX) and others in September 2006 brought a case against Canada-based torrent search site isoHunt and its owner, Gary Fung, alleging that they enabled and encouraged wide-scale copyright infringement. Well, earlier this week, a federal judge in California sided with the studios, issuing a summary judgment against Fung and his web sites.

It’s unclear whether isoHunt will appeal the decision, but for now the site is still up and running. In the meantime, though, the judgment is bad news for other torrent tracking and indexing sites. That’s because even though they might not host files themselves, by linking to Hollywood movies and TV shows, they — like isoHunt — could be found guilty of inducing users to infringe on copyrighted material.

And infringe isoHunt’s users did: according to one expert called, approximately 90 percent of all files linked to on the site, and 94 percent of all files downloaded, were found to be “copyrighted or highly likely copyrighted.” While the defendants attempted to dismiss the statistical sampling used, the court pointed to similar sampling used in other cases, including MGM Studios v. Grokster and A & M Records v. Napster. Furthermore, Judge Stephen Wilson wrote, “for the purposes of this case, the precise percentage of infringement is irrelevant: the evidence clearly shows that Defendants’ users infringed on a significant scale.”

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How the Web Is Changing TV’s Definition of a Hit

While revenue from time-shifted TV distribution can only account for part of a monetization strategy, the economics of television are changing for the cheaper, was the message from a group of production executives at the Variety Entertainment & Technology Summit yesterday.

“It used to be the hits would pay for the losers, now not so much,” said Marc Graboff, the chairman of NBC (s GE).

Instead, shows like The Office, The Biggest Loser, Prison Break and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are successful based on different factors: strong advertiser support, cheap production costs, online popularity, and international and DVD sales.

Of course, it’s not only increased flexibility of consumption that is driving TV economics down; advertisers just aren’t ponying up like they used to. However the TV execs on the panel said they are none too comfortable with the current state of digital and DVR distribution, especially since measurement techniques are lagging viewership.
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ZillionTV’s Set-Top Plan: Mix Ads, Paid Content, T-Commerce

To borrow from Morrissey — stop me oh-ho-ho stop me, stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before. A new startup wants to deliver premium content to your big screen TV over the Internet! ZillionTV formally took the wraps off its new TV set-top box/premium content delivery service today, promising to do just that. But is this well-connected startup scrappy enough to survive the cutthroat world of set-top boxes?
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It’s a tune we’re all familiar with by now, but the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Zillion does set itself apart in a few ways. First, as Zillion will tell you, it is not a set-top box company — it’s a service company. To Zillion, set-top boxes are a necessary stop-gap measure to get content to the TV via the Internet. As more TV sets become connected to the Internet, the service will migrate to a boxless solution.

Until that point, Zillion, like its set-top competitor Sezmi, will sell its boxes through ISPs and not through big box retailers. The “box” actually doesn’t look like much of a box. It’s long, sleek and slender. It sports the typical connections (RCA jacks, USB, HDMI) and uses a motion-sensing remote control (built using Hillcrest Labs technology). As is the fashion now, the Zillion will stream all of its content. Because the company is working with ISPs, it says its video streams will be more reliable than those of its competitors. Zillion says it has agreements with 16 ISPs that service 10 million homes.

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