Netcaster Wins License Fees Ruling – Personalized Internet radio stations were pleased last week when a federal appeals court ruled that the LAUNCHcast music service of Yahoo was not interactive enough to be forced to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in music licensing fees. The court said that LAUNCHcast did not offer users so much control over selection of songs that they would choose the webcasts over buying recordings of music. LAUNCHcast allows users to create “stations” of their own, playing songs based on how the user rated them, their artists and albums. The court said the random nature of such personalized playlists should not require LAUNCHcast to pay individual licensing fees to copyright holders for each song it plays for its users. They said that although a user has control over the genre of songs heard, that control is no different than a traditional radio listener expressing a preference for a jazz station over the rock station. LAUNCHcast is only required to pay a statutory licensing fee set by the Copyright Royalty Board, which tends to be cheaper and doesn’t require individual negotiations with the record companies. The fees go into a pool which is then split among copyright holders. LAUNCHcast was re-launched in February without offering webcasts based on individual preferences, but Yahoo said it is now working to relaunch that service. The suit was originally launched against LAUNCHcast by Sony Music eight years ago, and if it had been decided in Sony’s favor – that the company’s copyright were willfully infringed – would have awarded them over $100 million in damages.
Panasonic Blu-ray Player for Car – Panasonic has officially announced their CY-BB1000D, which is an in-dash Blu-ray player for vehicles featuring a 7-inch screen and 1280 x 720 resolution. It also has an HDMI input and Bonus View content compatibility. It will be available in Japan next month.
New Sony Wireless Line – Sony has launched four new products – ranging from $200 to $800 – available only at Best Buy, using a new wireless audio technology dubbed “Altus.” The ALT-SA31iR multi-room system has three components: an iPod/iPhone dock plus a pair of wireless speakers. Each component has a uilt-in FM radio and the remote control has a LCD display offering all the playback info on the iPod, so one is not blindly navigating from another room in the house.
Changes for Home Media Installers – New home building and sales of new homes are declined greatly and thus affected businesses that sell and install home entertainment and media technology. Some such firms are turning to retrofit work, using wireless and existing-wire solutions as better ways to approach the challenges than tearing out of walls. Revenues for AV installation firms were down almost 11% in 2008 over 2007, and dealers are looking for new avenues to expand their businesses. There is a move into multi-dwelling units, and sales for existing residential homes will account for almost two-thirds of dealer revenues in 2009. It is usually not option to run miles of new cables in an existing structure, and owners would find such an approach cost-prohibitive even if they could tolerate the intrusion. The leading technologies are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with more dealers getting into other technologies such as ZigBee, Z-Wave, INSTEON and HomePlug C&C. Such approaches allow dealers to add AV distribution capabilities in retrofit jobs in a relatively cost-effective and nonintrusive way. More dealers are seeking knowledge about the new solutions so they can communicate them to their customers and push up the number of wireless and powerline-enabled installations. Parks Associates forcasts that the number of wireless-enabled control installations will grow by 14 times from 2008 to 2012. 78% of dealers now sell media servers, rapidly replacing DVD/CD jukeboxes, and the product trend is going from audio-only models to AV systems. Currently 40% of the servers sold in the U.S. are audio-only, at an average cost of about $3000. The average cost of a video server is well above $9000. U.S. dealers cit over 40 different brands when asked to list their top sellers.