Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surfing the Wenatchee

Irene got a video of some of us surfing this past weekend in the Wenatchee @ 8000cfs. I'm the last kayaker in the video, yellow boat and green helmet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Are We on the Economic Mend?

The WSJ just released an article foretelling that small to mid size banks will be losing ~100 Billion in capital this year due to commercial real-estate investments. Joe Weisenthal of Yahoo's TechInsider goes on to say, it isn't just the big banks that make bad investments. 

Wow!  I think Joe has forgotten trickle down economics. When big banks royally mess up and send the economy into a whirlwind downfall shouldn't it be assumed that eventually the smaller banks will be impacted? It doesn't mean the small banks make bad investments, it means that everyone is affected.

This too big to fail philosophy has some holes. The impact on the smaller banks is a glaring one. We should be letting companies fail that deserve to fail and saving companies that have good business practices that will be adversely affected by the Mortgage crisis. Investing in commercial real-estate was only a bad investment because of the economic down-turn. But giving loans for commercial real-estate is critical and necessary for a functioning economy. The smaller banks shouldn't be penalized for keeping the economy going. Commercial real-estate will not be in a good place until consumer spending rebounds. Consumer spending is being impacted because of job losses and downturns of stock portfolios. It is all a vicious cycle. But right now, the big question is, where will economic stimulation have its biggest impact?

This is a time for disruption. We can't assume that everything will or even should go back to the way it was. There were things that were broken e.g. population decreasing, housing development increasing, housing prices overly inflated, commercial real-estate also inflated, loans overly accessible by people and businesses that do not have collateral or sufficient income. Oh and don't forget, our overall environmental impact and oil crisis. We needed something to shake things out. I just hope that we take this opportunity to build the economy of the future instead of trying to keep the status quo. Take the stimulus money and make it an opportunity for innovation and new leadership. I don't have any faith in the incumbents in the big banks. Nor do I have any faith in the incumbents in the US auto-manufacturing. Let's push for the new economy. Sustainability, fiscal responsibility and potentially even more small business.

Sadly, indicators tell me that the economy hasn't hit its low yet. Take a look at what Howard Davidowitz has to say. Unemployment is high and shows no true signs of decreasing, consumer spending has not mended, foreclosures are continuing, credit is unaccessible to the individual etc., the commercial real-estate is on the verge of depression, the dollar is finally getting hit by Brazilian and Chinese trade and we are likely to start seeing some major inflation. But I am positive that the economy will turn around; however, I expect another major dip before that happens.

What will the signs be of an economy on the mend?
  • Stop bailouts for companies that are failing
  • Start paying off our debt, not just the interest for our debt
  • Implement proper banking regulations and criminalize the behavior that made us get into this mess in the first place
  • Decrease unemployment
  • Increased consumer spending
  • Foreigners renew faith in US government (Obama has been helping here) and the dollar (Stimulus packages doing major damage here)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Warner's Music Group (WMG) kills your Home Videos

I'm nervous to the point of panic, the kind of panic that makes your mouth dry.  I realize as I am filming Bruno descend over the crest of the waterfall that there is no way for me to portage.  I am running that 25 foot waterfall in my kayak whether I like it or not.  I snuggle myself into my boat and Muse starts playing in my ear, a high beat music that is as intense as I feel right now. But suddenly... there is silence.

Warner's Music Group's (WMG) has turned off the sound!

Warning!!! If you are hosting home videos on the internet that you overlaid copyrighted music to, realize that your videos may already have been deleted or had all of the sound removed.

Since when is using music on a home made, personal use video a target for copyright infringement?

I'm recently home from a 1/2 year of travels in South America. I was contemplating music compliments for movies I will make to highlight my trips kayaking in Ecuador, packing in Patagonia, tango dancing in Buenos Aires, horseback riding across the Andes, and motorcycle riding to Machu Pichu when I found that none of my older hosted videos were working anymore.

Why would they remove all of the sound from my insignificant videos you ask?

Well, I am infringing on one of the oldest laws of capitalism, Copyright! And, YouTube was just one of the many companies out there willing to help me do it publicly. Sorry YouTube, but you were in breach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) when you helped my publish my video to my blog which states that it is illegal to aid in copyright infringement. The laws put in place are a result of World Trade Organization treaties and are seriously helping WMG in negotiations with YouTube.

My initial reaction was to yell, "WHY!?!?" when I feel am doing free advertising for them.

But I guess, they can't afford to see it my way. Highlighting new artists in my videos doesn't outweigh the potential piracy threats out there. I sit here and stir in my personal frustration while I listen to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on a Sideload playlist, another company targeted being sued by Britian's largest Music house, EMI. Sideload has a pretty cool new technology concept where you could upload your MP3s into a secure locker for access by all of your devices. The music companies have been levering DMCA to seriously threaten many new technology startups. The latest is against any passive MP3 search engines e.g. Seeqpod, Sideload, Songza, Skreemr, Google, and YouTube.

Since ~2003, EMI and WMG have been seen as victims losing their shorts in the 21st century where technology and piracy have reigned; however, recently, the losses impacting the big music players because of the likes of Napster and its descendants are no longing having the same effect. The law has leaned in their favor time and time again. EMI just announced triple gains in operating revenue last year due to both cost savings and digital content sales. Sidenote: Potentially a good stock market buy if you assume these lawsuits will continue to limit piracy.

We all understand why the likes of Bittorent are bad for the Music and Entertainment industry. When you can download an entire album in minutes and a movie in thirty, you know something is awry.

In all honesty, I believe in being paid for your work. I believe that one should pay for IP as long as it has value. Regardless, I hope that YouTube and others figure out how to play nice with the vendors and enable us to get to some middle ground so that the home "Wanna Be" movie directors can cross that fine line of copyright infringement, use our paid for music, and still make kick ass home videos without upsetting anyone.

In the meantime, the individual is SOL and any tech company that wants to make it in the music domain had better start out as good citizens and not enable bad behavior or they better be ready with strong legal defense.

I think there is a lot to be said for the technology leadership that all of these companies have brought to the table. I know that my music knowledge has increased as a result of the infrastructure they have put in motion. Perhaps now, all of my future music knowledge will be subject to advertising. The key to a good mucic tech biz is empowering the online listener is to broaden their musical taste and library while hiding the cost of the content. The current list of contenders playing with the music companies and leveraging advertising and other mechanisms to pay for the copyrighted content are Last.FM, Pandora, MySpace, Rhapsody, Napster, Imeem and Yahoo Music.