The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: Blu-Ray

Seeking to copy -- legally-- from Blu-ray discs and online media

One of the criticisms of the digital locks used by broadcasters and Hollywood studios is that, in trying to squelch piracy, they can interfere with fair uses of copyrighted material by other artists. And under federal law, it's illegal to circumvent those locks. Chicago-based Kartemquin Films (the subject of the video at top) and other documentary filmmakers won a temporary exemption from that law a year and a half ago, with the help of students at the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic and lawyers from Donaldson & Callif of Beverly Hills. Now the clinic and the firm are seeking to extend the exemption to all filmmakers and authors of multimedia e-books.

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act made it illegal to circumvent "technical protection measures" on DVDs and other digital media. That created a dilemma for filmmakers who wanted to use a snippet from an earlier movie on DVD: Even if the use wasn't infringing, they could still be sued for going around the locks. So even though circumvention tools are widely available online (despite the fact that they're illegal to make or distribute), filmmakers used them at their peril.

That's why documentarians sought an exemption from the Copyright Office in 2009. Recognizing the potentially chilling effects of the anti-circumvention provision, lawmakers had included in the 1998 law a requirement that the office consider granting relief every three years to those whose non-infringing uses were adversely affected. The exemption documentarians won in July 2010 applies only to DVDs, and it expires next year.

In seeking a new exemption, the filmmakers are focused on two problems, said Jack Lerner, a law professor at USC who directs the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic.

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CES: Sony putting 3-D on laptops and photo and video cameras; no tablet yet


Sony announced at CES that it is putting 3-D on just about every visually related product it makes, with a full line of 3-D point-and-shoot cameras, 3-D camcorders, 3-D laptops and someday 3-D screens that sit inches away from your eyes.

The electronics giant touted its product line for 2011, "a year in which 3-D becomes personal," with presentations by Sony executives, led by Chief Executive Howard Stringer at a news conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center as a part of the Consumer Electronics Show.

And Sony isn't just hoping you'll buy its 3-D movies and watch its 3-D TV channel -- called 3Net and launching in three months with assistance from the Discovery Channel and Imax -- it's hoping you'll make some 3-D content of your own, with its products of course.

Glasses will be required to see the 3-D images on Sony's Vaio F Series laptop, as well as the video and photos captured by its Cyber-Shot cameras. 

MHS-FS3_FrontLeft-1200_lg However, on the back of its Flip cam rival, the Bloggie 3-D, is a glasses-free 3-D screen 2.4 inches big, which plays back the depth-added videos and photos a user shoots. And one model of Sony's 3-D camcorders, the HDR-TD10, has a glasses-free 3.5-inch display.

The HDR-TD10 records in full high definition, with a 1080p resolution, and 3-D videos a consumer makes can be viewed on a 3-D TV via an HDMI cable. The camcorder will ship in April for about $1,500, Sony said. It will feature two lenses, two processors and two image sensors to record the 3-D images, and the camera packs a 64-gigabyte hard drive.

The 3-D Bloggie, which also records in full 1080p HD, will sell for about $250 and feature an 8-gigabyte flash drive and a 5-megapixel resolution and arrive in stores in April as well.

A Vaio laptop with a 3-D-compatible screen, dubbed the F Series, will arrive in stores later this year for about $1,700. The F Series will feature a full 1080p HD screen of 16 inches, with a TV-style 16:9 aspect ratio. Other features include a built-in Blu-ray drive and an Intel Core i7 processor. Pre-orders are being taken for the 3-D laptops at

Sony displayed a glasses-free 3-D screen on a portable Blu-ray player, but that was just a prototype, as was a 3-D head-mounted display that looked somewhat like the eyepiece worn by the comic book character Cyclops from X-Men.

The head-mounted prototype is made up of two OLED displays that send a unique image to each eye to create the 3-D effect.

Sony also showed off -- at its CES booth and not onstage -- three prototype glasses-free TVs for home use: a 24.5-inch OLED screen and a 46-inch and a 56-inch LCD set.

Kazuo "Kaz" Hirai, head of Sony Computer Entertainment, made some non-3-D teases, saying PlayStation-related products in the mobile space would be arriving later in the year, and he said Sony was working on a tablet.

But Hirai and Sony offered no details on the tablet, what it would look like or when it would arrive, just that it was being worked on.

Sony also announced a monthly subscription music streaming service called Music Unlimited, which will be offered this year through its Qriocity streaming media platform on its Internet-connected TVs and PlayStation 3. Just how much the service will cost, or an official release date, wasn't disclosed.

Aside from 3-D, Stringer said Internet-connected TVs were Sony's other main consumer push, estimating that more than 50 million TVs will be Internet-enabled worldwide through Sony's PlayStation 3, Wi-Fi Blu-ray players and Internet-connected TVs.

"This is a significant base of connected products," he said. "Size does matter."

Before getting into the flurry of 3-D-related announcements, the presentation was started with a scene in 3-D from the Sony Pictures movie "The Green Hornet," which hits theaters Jan. 14.

After the preview, which the crowd watched with 3-D glasses, a rotating platform on the stage showcased the Black Beauty car from the movie, with Stringer and "Green Hornet" stars Seth Rogen and Jay Chou.

Standing alongside the two Hollywood celebrities, Stringer said with little laughs, "You've got to think that this car makes James Bond's Aston Martin look sissy, doesn't it?"


CES: Sharp's Galapagos e-media tablet to land in U.S. in second half of 2011

CES: Samsung expanding 3D & Smart TV lines; 1 Foot Connect syncs tablets and phones to TVs

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photos: Top, the Sony HDR-TD10 and, bottom, the Bloggie 3-D. Credit: Sony

Sears launches new online movie rental site

Sears Sears Holdings, owner of Sears and Kmart, is hoping to edge in on the online streaming movie market with the launch this week of an online movie download service.

The Alphaline Entertainment site, powered by RoxioNow, a video streaming service owned by Sears' partner in the venture, Sonic Solutions, went live Tuesday. The site enables Sears and Kmart customers to download movies the same day they are released on DVD and Blu-ray.

A typical rental cost is $2.99 to $3.99. Customers also have the option to buy movies.

"Sonic is working with Sears on a multi-phase rollout that includes making the service available from a broad range of connected devices and ensuring compatibility with studio-supported digital programs," Sears said in a press release.

Sears Holdings announced its multiyear agreement with Sonic Solutions and its plans for the new site in June. The site is a bid to compete with companies like Netflix and Amazon, which offer movies online.


Western Digital beefs up its streaming media player

Apple iPad tops kids' Christmas wish lists in survey

-- Abby Sewell

Photo: A Sears store in Illinois last year. Credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Apple iPad tops kids' Christmas wish lists in survey


Preteens want an Apple iPad for Christmas more than any other item, according to a survey from the Nielsen Co. 

The iPad took the No. 1 spot in a 17-item list, with 31% of children 6 to 12 saying they wanted to find  one of Apple's blockbuster tablets under the tree. AppleiPad

Second place on the under-13 list was a tie between and Apple's iPod Touch and a computer (no specific brand), with each named by 29%

The Nintendo DS portable video game console was No. 4, on 25% of wish lists. Tied in fifth were the Sony PlayStation 3 video game console, any (non-iPhone) smart phone, and any mobile phone.

The Nintendo 3DS, which won't be released in the U.S. until next March, came in the 10th spot on the list.

And an e-reader was the item on the list that children seemed to want the least, coming in at 17th with only 11% of kids saying they want to embrace the digital book format.

Teenagers had slightly different wants.

The top spot in the 13-and-up group was a computer, with 20%. Second place was a tie between a television and a (non-iPhone) smart phone.

The iPad was next with 18%, followed by a Blu-ray video disc player with 17%.

At the bottom of the teen was the Sony PlayStation Portable video game system, with just 5% saying they wanted one.

The Nielsen Co. conducted its survey in October.


Apple AirPrint for iPad works with only 11 printers

Tablets coming for the holidays, but is it time to buy one yet?

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: The Apple iPad would make lots of kids happy this Christmas. Credit: Apple Inc.


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