Freelancers settle lawsuit on online databases

The National Writers’ Union has settled a case against some of the biggest news databases in the world including The New York Times, Dow Jones & Co., Reed Elsevier Group’s LexisNexis and ProQuest Co. from re-selling freelance writers’ works without the authors’ permission.

The case was supported by a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that said the principles of copyright protection also applied to online distribution.

The writers’ representatives said that publishers including The New York Times Company; the Time Inc. unit of Time Warner; and Dow Jones & Company, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, had agreed to pay writers up to US$1,500 for articles with copyrights registered by the writers.

Writers who failed to register their copyrights will receive up to US$60 an article, the writers’ group said.

The Times Company said in a statement that it was “pleased that this issue has been resolved and believes the agreement is fair to all parties involved.”

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HP: Hurd gets Golden Hello, Carly got Golden Boot

Hatchet woman Carly Fiorina got MORE money for leaving the HP than she would if she had actually performed.

Fiorina’s severance package was worth US$45 million.

Mark Hurd, is not just sailing in from NCR, he’s coming in on a Golden Yacht worth US$20 million. And that doesn’t even include his severance from NCR.[HP will reimburse Hurd for up to a 20 percent decline in the value of 850,184 NCR shares he owns]

From Washington Post, here’s the highlights:

• Signing bonus: US$2 million.

• Relocation benefit: US$2.75 million plus a mortgage interest subsidy for four years and temporary housing for one year.

• Stock grants: 1.15 million options valued by HP at US$6.9 million and 400,000 restricted shares valued at US$8 million.

• Free housing for a year and a four-year “mortgage interest subsidy.”

• No limit on the weight of household goods he chooses to ship to California.

• Annual salary of US$1.4 million, an annual bonus of at least US$2.8 million and as much as US$8.4 million, and long-term incentive payments of between US$4.2 million and US$12.6 million per year.

According to the employment agreement, Hurd will receive cash, stock and perks worth at least $20 million for simply walking in the door at HP.

Paul Hodgson, senior analyst at the Corporate Library: “This is exactly the same kind of contract they made for Carly when she started, and we saw what the result of that was,” Hodgson said. “Hurd is getting so much up front that is absolutely unrelated to his performance.”

Technorati

Technorati to pass a billion links.

Technorati Profile

Sneaky Clocky

The people of MIT Media Lab work on some of the most annoying things. This is Clocky. Project manager Gauri Nanda says it’s for people who have trouble waking up.

When the alarm clock goes off and the snooze button is pressed, Clocky will roll off the bedside table and wheel away, bumping mindlessly into objects on the floor until it finds a place to hide.

You get the idea. Minutes later, when the alarm sounds again, the sleeper must get up out of bed and search for Clocky.

An internal processor helps it find a new hiding spot every day. Gauri says he was inspired by kittens that chewed on his toes every morning.

“I’ve been known to hit the snooze bar for up to two hours or even accidentally turn it off….Having the alarm clock hide from me was just the most obvious way I could think of to get out of bed,” he said.

Now he’s working on linking up Clockies so two people with different sleep schedules can make their Clocky hush up the other. Or, maybe, he says, they can form an alliance and simultaneously target the offending over-sleeper.

Sounds like your worst nightmare?

Cellphone: The micropayment killer app

Back in the 90s, micropayment was a buzzword and touted as the key to e-commerce riches. The mistaken belief was that end-users, already used to getting everything free online, would pay tiny fees in exchange for, say, a daily dose of their favourite column, song, comic strip or porn.

Virtual currencies such as Flooz, Beenz, CyberCash and DigiCash came and went and are now being still persevered by players like BitPass and Peppercoin.

Micropayment’s failure on the PC then was a combination of:
1.platform,
2.volume of product and;
3.convenience.

Even security was the least of consumers’ worries.

Apple’s iTunes has proven that given the right software/hardware platform and volume of songs available, and the one-click convenience of purchase, that buying digital content a la carte can work.

iTunes’ runaway success hasn’t yet been replicated by others because the per transaction processing would be a nightmare for banks and credit card merchants outside the US.

However, we needn’t look far for the killer app that makes micropayment catch on in the rest of the world.

It is already here – in the form of the ubiquitous cellphone.

The cellphone is already become the “e-wallet” the experts have talked about for years. Kids and tweens use prepaid cellphones to download ringtones, games and multimedia pictures. They vote on Idol-type TV programmes, buy concert tickets and watch videoclips. They’ve even started to “pay” each other owed money by the new convenience of transferring prepaid minutes between cellphones.

A recent issue of The Economist states that sales of cellphones already exceed PDAs, and cameraphones far outsell digital cameras. Music playback is the next app that’s going into cellphones that’s cementing the post-PC era. The cellphone is already being touted as an “iPod killer”. Samsung has a phone that combines the camera with OCR and makes it a business-card scanner. The Japanese arm of Amazon has a service that allows you to snap a barcode while browsing in stores and have it instantly tell you whether the product’s cheaper on Amazon. One article asks “Will the mobile phone become the device that ate everything?”

Undoubtedly, there will always be a market for single-use, dedicated digital products, but the hybrid cellphone – coupled with its convenience of one-click payment – will be what everyone wants.

Casting bluejacking and security issues aside, cellphones will take on all-comers, and manufacturers will fall over themselves to put more speed, memory and hard disk space into them.

Like the early Internet days, this m-commerce charge is already being led by pornmeisters and 24-hour gambling promoters.

Strategic Analytics came out with the figures recently that cellphone users around the world spent US$400 million on pornographic pictures and video in 2004, an amount that is expected to rise to US$5 billion by 2010. Juniper Research earlier suggested mobile gambling revenues will exceed US$19.3 billion by 2009.

The micropayment killer app is already here. Thy name is cellphone.

Merger-craziness suggest bubble is on

Would you pay US$1.9 billion for an Internet company in the year 2005?

Apparently, Barry Diller thinks there’s still money to be made.

Diller, who was behind the rise of Fox TV in the 80s/90s, owns more than 40 websites including online travel agencies Expedia and Hotels.com, social sites Match.com and Evite.com, and services like Ticketmaster and LendingTree.

His company, New York-based IAC/InterActiveCorp, is buying online search engine Ask Jeeves Inc by swapping 1.2668 of its shares for each of the latter’s roughly 69.4 million outstanding shares.

The exchange ratio valued the takeover at US$1.9 billion, or US$27.40 per share, based on Monday’s stock prices.

Diller is betting he can transform a second-tier search engine into a more formidable threat to industry leaders Google and Yahoo and swipe a piece of their growing search engine advertising pie.

“We now have all the clay we need to do whatever we need,” Diller told analysts during a conference call Monday.

Ask Jeeves ranks a poor fifth in the search market behind Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL, according comScore Media Metrix, but it paid US$395 million last year to buy a family of websites that included Excite.com, iWon.com and Myway.com.

Couple that with what The New York Times Co. paid for About.com [US$410 million] and Dow Jones & Co.’s US$500 million acquisition of MarketWatch Inc and we are witnessing a wave of sheer nuttiness.

When did buying the survivors of the dotcom meltdown make any valuation sense?

HP, that just shed its CEO, has joined the fray as well. It just paid an undisclosed sum for online photo service Snapfish on Monday. That followed closely in the heels on Friday’s deal when Yahoo sprung for taggable photo service startup Flickr. Last summer Google grabbed Picasa.

Can anyone now doubt that the Second Wave is on, or that the bubble will follow suit?

Time to go get a reality check at Ghost Sites, Dotcom Dropout and F**ked Company.

Digital divide — do you get it yet?

From The Economist :

“…the digital divide is not a problem in itself, but a symptom of deeper, more important divides: of income, development and literacy. Fewer people in poor countries than in rich ones own computers and have access to the internet simply because they are too poor, are illiterate, or have other more pressing concerns, such as food, health care and security. So even if it were possible to wave a magic wand and cause a computer to appear in every household on earth, it would not achieve very much: a computer is not useful if you have no food or electricity and cannot read.”

“…Plenty of evidence suggests that the mobile phone is the technology with the greatest impact on development. A new paper finds that mobile phones raise long-term growth rates, that their impact is twice as big in developing nations as in developed ones, and that an extra ten phones per 100 people in a typical developing country increases GDP growth by 0.6 percentage points.”

Comment: Echoes my earlier rant.

MORE.

Understanding the long tail of online business

Found this intriguing article that explains the longtail of business [via Emergic.org]

Bnoopy expounds on Chris Anderson’s piece in Wired and in a few quick paras sums up why Google, eBay, Amazon, Rhapsody, Netflix and iTunes have radically changed the way we do business and how they reach out to small, specialized and niche markets/buyers in efficient ways.

He thinks we can apply the same to software dev, and sums it up thus: “Think about how to serve millions of markets of dozens instead of dozens of markets of millions. Serving the head isn’t a bad strategy. You can build a great business. But, figure out how to serve the tail of your market efficiently and you’ve got a blockbuster.”

Comment: The problem with the tail sometimes is that once you find it – and get to the end of it – it’s already a dinosaur.
MORE.

American Barbarian at the Japanese Gate

Sir Howard Stringer, a Welsh-born former journalist and TV executive of CBS, has taken over the reins of Sony.

The 63-year-old leader of Sony’s U.S. operations, who took up American citizenship in 1985, is the first non-Japanese leader for the Tokyo-based company.

He succeeds Nobuyuki Idei, 67, who is stepping down after five years and is only the second non-engineer to head the giant Japanese conglomerate.

Knighted in 2000, Sir Howard has quickly adapted to his adopted country’s butchering ways. As head of Sony’s U.S. operations he has eliminated 11,000 jobs. He has cut the number of TV pilots produced each year from 20 or more, to just a handful.

Stringer is credited for earning more than US$600m for Sony Pictures’ two Spider-Man films. Of course no mention is made on his resume of big-ticket duds such as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Ali, Jakob the Liar and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.

Neither is there a whiff in his bio of the ill-fated, colossal US$500m wreck of Tele-TV that Stringer presided over prior to his ’successes’ with Sony.

He is also lauded as a merger-man, being credited for marrying Sony Music with Bertelsmann’s BMG unit and pushing the company to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s valuable film library, which includes the lucrative franchises of James Bond, the Pink Panther and Rocky series, among others.

He, however, was not blamed for Sony’s triple-flops of PSX, Vaio tablet and Clie; completely missing the rise of iPod and iTunes in his own backyard; nor his continued proprietary obsession that ties the company up in knots as pointed out by one-time Idei successor Ken Kutaragi.

Worse-still he went after blogger-darling Jason Kottke for innocently posting an audio transcript of the Jeopardy guy who finally lost.

Stringer in this speech shows his lack of technological skills and makes no apologies for it. When a neighbour, in the Hamptons no less, asks him to come over and help fix a video player for then Governor Bill Clinton’s daughter, he instead “fixes it” by replacing it with his own.

With that, Howard The Fixer Stringer vaults himself from techno-ignoramus, to “technician”, and a million service engineers around the world shake their heads and breathe a collective sigh of disdain. Here’s a man who goes on to label ‘technology’ as “the fool…a merry prankster subverting the best-laid plans of dynasties and tycoons”.

He calls technology the “Court Jester” that has

“aided piracy, which descended on the music industry like a plague of locusts. The 10 billion dollars stolen from the music companies over the last five years make The Great Train Robbers look truly amateur. It shows every intention of stripping the profits off film and video content as well if it goes unchecked, and digital pirates rarely seem to go to jail. It’s a battle we need to win, the alternative is bankruptcy.”

Watch this American knight, slash and burn, in search of the Holy Grail.

Can Flash make news more palatable?

One of my gripes against Flash is how slow it downloads even with broadband. The waiting is very frustrating and sometimes designers can be more enamoured with the look than the content. I especially hate the way Flash sometimes makes fonts look so crappy and jagged and just plain unreadable.

I am glad the guru of usability Jakob Nielsen agrees with me on this point [Flash 99% bad]

But here are two examples that blew me away by the simplicity of the idea of how music, combined with text, by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, or blocks, by Michal Levy, can convey a new perspective on how news could be presented in future. Click on pics below to see their work. Somewhere between the two is a new medium about to burst out.

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