Comcast Corp., already under fire from consumer groups for blocking peer-to-peer transfers, says it wants to develop a file-sharing "Bill of Rights."
What made one of the largest Internet service providers in the United States suddenly stand up for P2P? Perhaps last year’s Associated Press investigation or currently having the Federal Communications Commission on the company’s back had something to do with it.
It was late last year when Comcast denied it was hindering P2P transfers. That is, until the Associated Press investigated and proved that the company was blocking certain file-sharing actions.
As detailed by the AP report, when a P2P transfer occurred between two Comcast customers and involved only one sender, or "host," the company’s computers would send both parties a notice effectively saying the other was disconnecting. Comcast eventually copped to this, saying it was doing so to manage traffic on its network.
But several issues arose over Comcast’s data management practices, such as the legality of ISPs intentionally interrupting user activity and how closely the providers monitor users’ actions.
There’s also the corporate side of the issue. While P2P is often to blame for entertainment piracy, legitimate companies also use P2P to distribute content.
And don’t forget the concept often referred to as "Net Neutrality," which calls for ISPs and network administrators to give equal treatment to all data. Net Neutrality became an issue a few years ago when there were rumblings that companies that use a lot of bandwidth, such as Amazon or YouTube, could pay for faster lanes on the Information Superhighway, leaving those employing regular connections behind in a cloud of digital dust.
Although Net Neutrality isn’t a law, the FCC is on record as endorsing the concept. In theory, at least.
And then there’s the customer’s viewpoint. As pointed out in several published reports since news of Comcast’s P2P actions surfaced publicly, many ISPs’ "terms of service" agreements, when boiled down from lawyer-speak into plain English, don’t really guarantee users any real rights, yet allow the ISPs to do anything they want.
And now Comcast wants a Bill Of Rights for both users and ISPs.
Of course, heavy P2P usage, or for that matter, any heavy usage that involves large data transfers, can bog down an ISP’s network. So there is some cause for concern that, left unmanaged, such usage could slow an ISP’s network to a crawl.
Comcast says it’s already working with one P2P company – BitTorrent – to arrive at a decision that’s beneficial to all concerned. What’s more, at least one company utilizing P2P for legal video distribution – Pando Networks – has joined with Comcast in calling for a P2P Bill of Rights.
But other than announcing it would back a file-sharing bill of rights, Comcast hasn’t been too keen on the details of such a bill, only saying the company would move toward an environment where all data is treated the same.
"By having this framework in place, we will help P2P companies, ISPs and content owners find common ground to support consumers who want to use P2P applications to deliver legal content," said Comcast’s chief technology officer Tony Werner.
PluggedIn & Turned On
When it comes to music, what do you like to see on YouTube? Amateur video of a guy playing "Bohemian Rhapsody" with his armpits or professionally produced music videos?
PluggedIn Media is betting on the latter, and on April 16th launched a beta of its new entertainment Web site – PluggedIn.com – featuring 10,000 high-definition, broadcast-quality music videos from three of the four major labels plus indie imprints.
Along with all the free videos, the ad-driven Web site is also grabbing headlines for the business company it keeps. On launch day, PluggedIn announced a strategic partnership with entertainment and artist management company Overbrook Entertainment, which counts actor / rapper Will Smith among its principals.
While video appears to be the main deal at PluggedIn.com, there’s an underlying feeling that the site might be aiming to impact the ever-growing social-networking Internet trend. In fact, the site’s own FAQ describes PluggedIn.com as "a place where [fans] can meet and interact with each other …"
What does PluggedIn.com have to offer? Music videos are the main attraction, and the company has licensed vids from Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and EMI as well as indies. Along with all those vids, the site also has artist profiles along with links for merch and concert tickets.
But music videos may not be the only entertainment content offered by PluggedIn. The company is considering other kinds of entertainment, a move that could place it in direct competition against other sites featuring professional videos, reports the Wall Street Journal.
But the professional videos on PluggedIn, while definitely a plus, might not be enough to entice the YouTube crowd to switch sites. Aside from the off-the-wall vids of people lip-syncing to their favorite songs, or playing "Stairway to Heaven" on kazoos, YouTube is also filled with bootleg concert performances, often shot with video-enabled cell phones. That, plus the countless, often unlicensed, TV and video clips from years past, makes YouTube an unofficial depository of virtually every performance ever filmed or videotaped. That’s a tough inventory to beat. Even when you’re touting high-def, state-of-the-art Web delivery.
"Until now, watching HD or even broadcast quality music videos on the Web has been nearly impossible," PluggedIn CEO Jeff Somers said. "Today we’re announcing a major step forward in the way that fans can connect with the high quality content and artists that matter most to them. We’re focused on building a unique experience for fans – a place where they can meet and interact with each other, and where they can enjoy, discover and share premium quality video content."
Mötley Crüe’s Rock Band Download
Announcing "Crüe Fest," the hard rock touring festival headlined by Mötley Crüe, wasn’t the only thing on the band’s mind when it convened a press conference at Hollywood’s Avalon April 15th. On that day, the band scored a first by releasing its latest single, "Saints Of Los Angeles," as a download for the MTV Games / Harmonix video game "Rock Band."
Released on Motley Records, the song became available on Xbox Live Marketplace April 15th and appeared on the PlayStation Store two days later. Price of the track is 99 cents.
But Mötley Crüe’s involvement with Rock Band doesn’t stop with the single. The game will be a part of "Crüe Fest" as an added attraction.
On each stop on the "Crüe e Fest" concert tour, the fold-out Rock Band Second Stage Experience will spring to life, giving fans the opportunity to form their own rock band in a real rock environment rather than at home in their basement.
But forming a rock band is just the beginning, for fans can then battle against other faux bands on the Rock Band Second Stage Experience.
By making their latest single available for the "Rock Band" video game, Mötley Crüe is exploring yet another way to distribute music outside traditional radio / record store channels. "Rock Band" is one of the most popular games on the market, and along with "Guitar Hero" is seen by the music industry as one of the few positives in an increasingly bleak future.
Like Radiohead’s name-your-price adventure last year, the Crüe’s "Rock Band" download shows there are different ways to sell music in a marketplace where many customers feel the products should be free. In the Crue’s case, the band isn’t just selling a song for a video game. It’s also selling some fun.