Cocktail Time For Apple?

There’s nothing like a hot new batch of Apple rumors claiming the Cupertino company is on the cusp of changing your life … again.

This time the rumors come from Financial Times, which reports Apple is working with the major labels to promote more CD buying. What’s more, FT also reports the company is getting ready to ship a tablet computer that could change the way consumers purchase entertainment.

It’s been one of the paradoxes of selling music online. By offering songs as well as complete albums, the music industry offered consumers a choice they never received in brick-and-mortar record stores. If they don’t want the entire album, they can just buy individual tracks while leaving the rest on the virtual store shelf.

But many consumers preferred buying single tracks instead of complete albums, resulting in predictions of the “death of the CD” on the imminent horizon.

Although illicit song-swapping is partly to blame for falling CD sales, the simple fact that today’s music consumer is now accustomed to cherry-picking tracks while leaving the rest behind is also responsible for the decline in popularity of the album.

This year alone, CD sales are down 14 percent while digital track sales are up 13 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Now Apple is reportedly working with the major labels – Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI – on a new project dubbed “Cocktail” that will provide added value for folks choosing to buy the entire CD.

According to the Financial Times, Cocktail will bundle liner notes, album art and video clips with CD downloads.

Apple, or more specifically Apple head Steve Jobs, at one time refused to offer alternatives to iTunes’ standard 99 cents a song / $9.99 a CD pricing structure. That began to change in February when Apple and EMI began offering the “iTunes Pass,” a special package consisting of additional content, including videos, songs and remixes offered for a limited time for select artists, and priced less than $20.

In April, Apple relented and allowed the labels to price songs in three different tiers – 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29.
It looks as if Cocktail will be part of a one-two punch Apple is cooking up, with the second half based on a new piece of hardware – a portable, tablet-size computing device designed for entertainment.

According to reports, the new gizmo will sport a touch-sensitive screen measuring up to 10 inches diagonally.

The price? Somewhere in the rumored range of $600 to $1,000. And it may hit stores in time for Christmas.

Although Apple is believed not to have talked to the movie industry about the new device, or, for that matter, about Cocktail, Financial Times says Hollywood execs are willing to provide more content than what’s currently available on iTunes.

Of course, Apple is treating the latest round of rumors just like the company treated past ones – by not commenting.

Hollywood Sues Pirate Bay (Again)

You know that old line about kicking a dead horse? Evidently this particular beast still has some life in it as several Hollywood movie studios filed suit against Pirate Bay claiming April’s courtroom victory over the Sweden-based torrent site hasn’t stopped infringing activity.

One might think a verdict sentencing the site’s operators to a year in jail and ordering them to pay a hefty fine might be enough to satisfy the movie and TV industry, but 13 studios, including Disney, Columbia, Paramount and Universal, are back in court seeking an order forcing the site’s complete shutdown, according to news service AFP.

“We have filed a complaint against The Pirate Bay because they have not stopped their activities after they were sentenced to prison,” said the studios’ lawyer, Monique Wadsted.

The latest lawsuit also targets Internet operator Black Internet and focuses on approximately 100 films and TV shows the studios claim were illegally distributed through Pirate Bay.

On the surface you would think Pirate Bay would be dead in the water. In April a Swedish court ordered the site’s operators – Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and Peter Sunde – to pay a 30 million kronor (about $4 million) fine, and spend a year in jail.

The operators are free while seeking an appeal.

But the studios claim the infringing activities never stopped and they are now looking for a more explicit order from the court, demanding the operators to be banned from “continuing to carry out their activity.”

The lawsuit also names an outfit called Reservella, a company based in the island-nation of Seychelles and located near Madagascar. According to CNET, Pirate Bay operators say Reservella is Pirate Bay’s actual owner, but the Motion Picture Association of America says it’s merely a front.

Meanwhile, it’s starting to look as if the much-ballyhooed acquisition of Pirate Bay by Swedish software company Global Gaming Factory X may be sinking.

Global Gaming made headlines a couple of weeks ago when it announced it was going to turn the site into a legitimate operation where users and copyright owners would profit. Former Grokster president Wayne Rosso was hired to help acquire legal content.

However, Global Gaming’s announcement further confused the murky waters of Pirate Bay ownership. Global Gaming claimed it arranged the sale through “foreign lawyers” and that it didn’t know who actually owned Pirate Bay.

Furthermore, copyright holders consortium Stichting Brein, which is currently suing Pirate Bay, recently amended its lawsuit to target Global Gaming as well, putting the company in the unique position of being sued for the actions of one of its holdings before it actually acquires it.

What’s more, CNET reports Rosso quit this week, saying he had doubts Global Gaming could raise enough money to take Pirate Bay legit.

Global Gaming CEO Hans Pandeya denied Rosso’s claims, saying his company’s investors would vote on the acquisition sometime in August.