GOOGLE INVOLVED IN ILLEGAL PIRATED MOVIE SCANDAL
An ethics group is urging Congress to scrutinize Google Inc.'s copyright controls after finding hundreds of apparently pirated movies available on the Internet search leader's Web site.
In letters sent to several lawmakers Wednesday, the National Legal and Policy Center excoriated Google for allowing its video-hosting service to become an online theater for showing and promoting illegally copied movies.
The nonprofit group, which says it has no financial ties to the movie industry, is best known for helping to expose a 2003 corruption scandal involving the Air Force and Boeing Co. that landed two executives in jail.
The grievances made to Congress focused exclusively on content found on Google's Web site rather than the company's more popular YouTube subsidiary that is being sued by Viacom Inc. for alleged copyright infringement.
The harsh critique echoes similar complaints that have asserted Google is more interested in boosting its audienceand potential profitthan protecting the intellectual property of Hollywood studios, record labels, authors and publishers.
Google says it adheres to federal law by removing unauthorized content whenever asked by copyright owners.
But that method has proven to be woefully inadequate, said Ken Boehm, chairman of the nonprofit National Legal and Policy Center.
"They clearly have the technological and economic wherewithal to do something more about it," Boehm said. "Instead, they are making money off other people's intellectual property. That's wrong."
Google probably remains on solid legal ground, said Bruce Sunstein, a Boston lawyer specializing in intellectual property rights. "The law will favor Google as long as they are diligent in taking down videos, but they could be in trouble if they have a cavalier attitude."
'HOUSE' HUGE RATINGS HIT
New night, same results for broadcasters on Tuesday: A returning smash (this time Fox’s “House”) was afire, but frosh fare was greeted with a lukewarm reception.
Even Jimmy Smits’ television return in CBS’ “Cane” and some of the best reviews of the young season for CW’s “Reaper” couldn’t get auds excited for the nets’ new offerings.
Hopes remained high for last night, which pitted ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice” against NBC’s “Bionic Woman”two dramas with presold hooks. But if neither of those clicks, it could be a troublesome autumn for the industry.
According to “live plus same-day” DVR viewing estimates by Nielsen for Tuesday night, “House” opened to a 7.8 rating/19 share in adults 18-49 and 18.31 million viewers overall, dominating the night’s middle hour and delivering the show’s best rating to date for an episode that didn’t follow “American Idol.” It was up 32% in rating and 3 share points from last fall’s Tuesday bow (in the 8 o’clock hour).
It’s also the highest-rated series or season premiere for a Fox drama since “The X-Files” kicked off its eighth season in November 2000.
While “House” surged by 36% vs. the same night a year ago in female teens (5.3 vs. 3.9), it was flat among male teens (3.9 vs. 3.9)presumably due to the release of a much-anticipated videogame. Sure enough, Nielsen reported a 44% increase in primetime videogame usage by males 12-24 vs. the same night a year ago.
Fox opened its winning night with good numbers for “Bones” (3.3/9 in 18-49, 8.40m), which was up from its August 2006 season premiere and logged its best numbers since November 2005 for an episode that wasn’t paired with “Idol.”
At CBS, “Cane”a sudser revolving around a Cuban-American family that runs a rum and sugar businessaveraged a second-place 3.0 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 11.21 million viewers overall in the 10 o’clock hour, performing a bit better than its lead-in but coming in below the demo delivery of “Smith” in its timeslot preem a year ago (3.6/10).
It did deliver a larger preem aud than the four other dramas the net has bowed in the slot over the last two years.
Earlier for the Eye, “NCIS” opened its fifth season with solid numbers (3.2/9 in 18-49, 13.89m), and “The Unit” held onto most of its demo lead-in at 9 (2.8/7 in 18-49, 10.70m), but came in down from last year when “House” wasn’t its competition.
At CW, “Beauty and the Geek” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 2.98m) performed decently in its second week, and new drama “Reaper” followed with similar numbers in its premiere at 9 o’clock (1.5/4, 3.28m).
In the net’s target demo of adults 18-34, the slacker-meets-Satan comedic drama matched “Geek” with a 1.8/5 and was slightly better than the bow of CW’s “Veronica Mars” in the slot last fall.
Because “Reaper” skews both young and male, it’s reasonable to surmise that it was hurt by the vidgame release of “Halo 3” on Tuesday. The net may want to give it a second airing prior to next week’s second seg.
Elsewhere, ABC was strong from 8 to 9:30 p.m. with “Dancing With the Stars” (4.7/13 in 18-49, 18.51m), but “Boston Legal” fell off sharply after that with its fourth-season preem (2.5/7 in 18-49, 10.30m)losing about 25% vs. its year-ago premiere.
“Dancing” was Tuesday’s most-watched program overall, even if it wasn’t as potent as the previous night’s premiere.
NBC held in there with a two-hour “Biggest Loser” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 6.62m), which grew with each half-hour against tough competition. The net then won the 10 o’clock hour with vet crime drama “Law & Order: SVU” (4.8/13 in 18-49, 12.12m), which opened its ninth season well.
STARZ'S CLASEN: DOLLAR PARITY HAS NO BEARING
The Canadian dollar may have touched parity with the American dollar, but Starz Entertainment Group chairman and CEO Robert Clasen is still bullish about Canada.
"If you're going to do CGI, the dollar (exchange rate) has no bearing," Clasen said Tuesday evening as he cut the ribbon on Starz Animation Toronto, a 45,000-square-foot 3-D cartoon and visual effects factory.
"Toronto is where the talent pool is. They're highly skilled and represent a stable work force," he said, pointing to such world-class animation schools here as Sheridan College and the Ontario College of Arts.
The Toronto facility will produce proprietary theatrical and TV product that Starz can feed through its distribution pipeline, which now includes the Canadian release of Overture Films titles via local distribution powerhouse Alliance Films.
Starz already operates Film Roman as a 2-D animation facility, churning out TV series including "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill."
Starz parent Liberty Media bought the Toronto 3-D facility in 2006 as part of a bigger deal for IDT Entertainment. At the time, the Canadian dollar was worth about 93 cents to the U.S. greenback.
The Canadian dollar has since surged in relation to the U.S. dollar, achieving parity on Thursday for the first time since 1976.
Despite that shift, Clasen anticipates the Toronto cartoon facility will grow from about 150 animators to 300 by 2009.