Boocoo.com – a newspaper industry response to Craigslist and Ebay – launches next week with nearly 300 newspaper and broadcast partners, its developer, Ranger Data Technologies said. Boocoo.com is promoted on media sites, which share transactional fees from the online auctions. The site will be activated on newspaper and other media sites Monday prior to a national launch June 21. “Because of the explosive growth in Internet usage in the past decade, a new revenue opportunity has opened up for newspapers and other local media. Boocoo.com was designed in part to regain revenue lost to online classified advertising and auction sites while giving consumers a secure and competitive alternative rich in local content,” Ranger Data founder and Chairman George Willard Sr. said in a statement. Under the boocoo.com business model, ZIP codes are “licensed” to newspapers and other media partners who then have the exclusive right to split transactional fees generated by the auction site. If the buyer and seller are from different ZIP codes, the fee is split. If they are from the same ZIP code, the newspaper keeps the entire transaction fee. Ranger Data said it has licensed 20 percent of the approximately 29,700 residential ZIP codes in the U.S. “Besides obtaining a greatly needed revenue stream and the opportunity to compete with Ebay and Craigslist without incurring overhead costs, our partners have another way to interact with customers while further proving the value and strengths of the local media,” Ranger Data President and COO Tony Marsella said in a statement. Among the newspapers signing on to boocoo.com are the Boston Herald and Austin (Texas) American-Statesman.
Some of the biggest and most respected Web services have come to the aid of Google and YouTube, which are defending themselves against accusations that they violated copyright on a grand scale. Yahoo, Facebook and eBay on Wednesday filed a friends-of-the-court brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. That’s where Viacom, parent company of MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures, filed a USD 1bn copyright lawsuit against Google in March 2007. The three companies have urged District Judge Louis Stanton to dismiss Viacom’s suit, arguing that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects Internet service providers from liability for copyright violations committed by users. They say that a decision against Google could stifle the growth of important Internet services. Viacom alleges that YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006, encouraged users to upload unauthorized clips from Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, and MTV Networks to the video-sharing site. Those clips helped YouTube attract users as well as generate ad sales, Viacom claims. The amicus brief filed on Wednesday follows a similar type of filing made by NBC Universal, Warner Bros., Disney, the Screen Actors Guild, and Directors Guild of America on behalf of Viacom. That so many powerhouse companies are weighing in is testament to the importance of the case. The court’s decision will likely help establish copyright law as it applies to the Web
One study after another purports to chronicle how much intellectual property piracy hurts the economy, and contributes to every societal ill from terrorism to child porn and slavery. A new study unveiled Tuesday sets out to examine intellectual property in a different light: How fair use — which doesn’t require permission from the copyright holder — actually benefits the economy. The trade group, Computer & Communications Industry Association, in a follow-up to its 2007 report, asks: “What contribution is made to our economy by industries that depend on the limitations to copyright protection when engaged in commerce?” For the year 2007, the fair-use economy accounted for USD 4.7 trillion in revenue (.pdf) and USD 2.2 trillion in value added, roughly one-sixth the total gross domestic product of the United States, according to the study. The fair-use economy also employed more than 17 million people with a USD 1.2 trillion payroll. Fair-use-dependent industries include educational institutions, search engines, web hosting providers, software developers and device manufacturers, among others. The association’s membership includes Microsoft, Google, eBay, AMD, Yahoo, Oracle and others
The entrepreneur who created a virtual marketplace that connects sellers and buyers worldwide is launching an online news site where people will pay to exchange ideas and discuss issues affecting their communities. Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of eBay Inc., is entering the news business with a new online service in Hawaii. By charging a USD 19.99-a-month membership, Omidyar hopes to accomplish what newspapers and other media organizations nationwide have long struggled with — having readers pay for content and making local news profitable. Civilbeat.com is expected to go live Wednesday with the official launch scheduled for May 4. It promises to provide in-depth reporting and analysis, and be a civic plaza for island residents. “Reporter-hosts” will post articles, interact with readers, provide frequent updates and host discussions. Omidyar decided more than two years ago to launch a news service to cover local civic affairs, including the state, city, education, land and money. The site will feature a “topic page” for each issue. On the page, readers can find links to stories, history and background information. The other unique aspect will be the discussion section. Unlike traditional newspaper online comment sections that are often marred by hateful, obscene, racist or mindless commentary posted by anonymous readers, Civil Beat members will be identified and no anonymous comments will be allowed
US technology firms and privacy groups have called for an overhaul of privacy laws, saying the government has too much access to private online data. Google, eBay and others have launched the Digital Due Process coalition, seeking to update the 1986 privacy act, passed before internet usage exploded. It calls for warrants to be issued before e-mails and texts are handed over to law enforcement agencies. It seeks more protection of data stored online and mobile tracking information. The coalition is looking to re-write the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 that governs what kinds of private digital information the government has access to and how they may obtain it. The coalition – which includes over 30 members drawn from the worlds of industry, privacy and academia – said the ECPA is “a patchwork of confusing standards that have been interpreted inconsistently by the courts”. For example, law enforcement agencies can get access to some email information, instant messages, and other data stored online through simple subpoenas, not court-ordered warrants. The coalition has recommended that a warrant be required before internet providers must hand over the online information – just as a warrant is required for a physical search of a suspect’s computer or filing cabinets. It wants similar protection before mobile carriers turn over tracking information about customers. It also want courts to ensure any real-time information like texts and instant messages are relevant to an investigation. Members of the coalition acknowledged that law enforcement agencies were likely to resist any change and a long debate was almost certain before Congress would act.
Twitter CEO Evan Williams took no time in getting to the juicy part of his keynote address at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival on Monday afternoon. He announced the “@Anywhere” platform, a way to pull Twitter links and data onto partner sites and media outlets. A brief demo of @Anywhere showed off “hovercards” that bring up Twitter information with a mouse-over, let readers or users connect with their Twitter accounts much like Facebook Connect, or explore more specific possibilities, like instantly following a newspaper columnist’s Twitter account by clicking on his or her byline. The company has 13 launch partners, including Digg, The New York Times, MSNBC.com, eBay, Amazon, and Bing. As Williams describes it, “it’s not an ad platform, it’s an ‘@’ platform,” referring to the syntax of using the ‘@’ symbol to denote communication between individual Twitter users.
An influential group of MPs and peers has said the government’s approach to illegal file-sharing could breach the rights of internet users.
The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said the government’s Digital Economy Bill needed clarification. It said that technical measures – which include cutting off persistent pirates – were not “sufficiently specified”. In addition, it said that it was concerned that the Bill could create “over-broad powers”. “The internet is constantly creating new challenges for policy-makers but that cannot justify ill-defined or sweeping legislative responses, especially when there is the possibility of restricting freedom of expression or the privacy of individual users,” said Andrew Dismore MP and chair of the Committee.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which oversees the Digital Economy Bill, said that government had “always been clear that [its] proposals to deal with unlawful file-sharing should not contravene human rights”.
The Select Committee only examined the parts of the Bill that focus on plans to tackle illegal file-sharing as well as a controversial amendment to copyright law. “The concern we have with this Bill is that it lacks detail,” said Mr Dismore. “It has been difficult, even in the narrow area we have focussed on, to get a clear picture of the scope and impact of the provisions.” The Digital Economy Bill was outlined in the Queen’s speech in November 2009.
One of the most hotly-debated elements is the so-called “three strikes rule” that would give regulator Ofcom new powers to disconnect or slow down the connections of persistent net pirates. The Committee said it had concerns about “technical measures” like these and how they would be applied. For example, the government has not specified whether a whole household could be cut off if only one member of a family was identified as a persistent file-sharer.
The committee said that measures such as this have “the potential to breach internet users’ rights” and had not been “sufficiently specified to allow for an assessment of proportionality”. Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group, which has campaigned against the measures, said that disconnecting alleged file-sharers was “draconian and unpredictably damaging”.
A spokesperson for BIS said: “slowing down or suspending peoples broadband would only be invoked following several clear warnings”. Any technical measures would require “secondary legislation”, he added. “There will be no technical measures imposed at all if the initial measures taken are as successful as we expect.”
The Committee also examined Clause 17 of the bill, which would give the government the power to amend the copyright law without passing further primary legislation. The clause has proved controversial. In late 2009, a consortium of web companies including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and eBay wrote to the business secretary Peter Mandelson objecting to the clause.
The web firms urged MPs to remove the clause, which they said could give government “unprecedented and sweeping powers” to amend copyright laws. The Select Committee said that it had been told that changes would be made to the clause to ensure that any amendments to copyright law would be “better scrutinised by Parliament”.
“Despite this the Committee remains concerned that Clause 17 remains overly broad and that parliamentary scrutiny may remain inadequate,” it said. The BIS spokesperson said that government had already tabled “a series of amendments which aim to clarify the breadth and scope of clause 17”. The Digital Economy bill is currently being scrutinised by the House of Lords. It was dealt a blow recently when Sion Simon, one of the MPs charged with pushing it through parliament, announced he was standing down