Five Years Ago
This week in 2012, a worrying report from the White House suggested they were still seeking a legislative solution to piracy even in the wake of SOPA’s failure. Meanwhile, in an interview, the MPAA’s Chris Dodd suggested backroom negotiations were already underway on that front, though the association quickly tried to backtrack those comments. But our attention was already shifting from SOPA to another even more problematic set of proposed laws: the cybersecurity bill CISPA.
Viacom gained some ground in its lawsuit against YouTube when the appeals court sent the case back to the district court, though this wasn’t the big win that some people portrayed it as. And given recent revelations about the Copyright Office, it’s notable that five years ago this week that we were talking about its struggles to modernize and pointing out Maria Pallante’s questionable grasp of the purpose of copyright.
Ten Years Ago
This week in 2007, EMI — one of the few labels that occasionally showed signs of “getting it” — announced (with the help of Steve Jobs) that it would offer DRM free music through the iTunes store. Weirdly, other comments from Jobs showed that despite his anti-music-DRM stance, he was pro-DRM when it came to video (for some highly illogical reasons). Meanwhile, some record store owners were fed up and ready to point fingers at the RIAA for destroying the recording industry, the world of online guitar tablature was starting to go legit, and a judge declared DVD jukeboxes to be legal to the chagrin of DVD DRM groups. Also this week in 2007, Google and Microsoft were fighting to acquire DoubleClick while the internet advertising giant was trying to make itself even more valuable.
Fifteen Years Ago
Today the world frets over fake news and clickbait and propaganda and what to do about it, but this week in 2002 it was grappling with the basic early questions like how much can automated news curation and gathering replace human editors, and what happens with internet journalism in the middle of a major crisis. Courts were starting to recognize that computers were important enough to life that you can’t just stop people from using them, XM satellite radio was growing much faster than we expected, and employees at various companies were struggling to get their older bosses to understand why they need wireless technology. Canada got plenty of attention this week too. It beat the US to launching a good intercarrier SMS system, and made headlines with two April Fools pranks: one in which some radio hosts managed to keep Bill Gates on the phone by masquerading as the Canadian Prime Minister, and another in which a too-convincing joke about the Finance Minister quitting his job caused the Canadian dollar to take a hit.
Meanwhile, never one to shy away from colorful hyperbole, Jack Valenti called media consumers “devilish” and accused them of “terrorizing” the industry.
Sixty-One Years Ago
Between subscription-based specialty cable, streaming services like Netflix, and the rise of YouTube and internet video in general, the past few years have seen the a long-standing convention begin to get dethroned: standardized half-hour and hour runtimes for TV shows. This framework is going to stick around for a long time and still play a role on network television, but cable and streaming shows are starting to get much more flexible with their runtimes (Netflix’s The OA made headlines with episodes that vary wildly in length, from 30 minutes to as much as 71 minutes in the same season). But in the early 1950s and before, even the half-hour standard timeslot didn’t exist yet — serial shows were instead standardized at 15 minutes. It was on April 2nd, 1956 that soap operas As The World Turns and The Edge Of Night debuted in the US as the first serial shows with half-hour episodes. People didn’t like the format at first, but it would soon come to be the norm for a half-century of television.