Tag Archives: Hollywood

Too sexy to be taken seriously: movie star’s invention story is a lesson for both men and women

In the 1930s she was called “the most beautiful woman in the world,” but screen star Hedy Lamarr was obsessed with how things worked.

An Austrian émigré in Hollywood, Lamar, intellectually curious and highly patriotic, and who was raised Jewish, wanted to do something to help her adopted country defeat the Nazis. This prompted her to develop a complex, secret communications system that would later serve as the basis for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, wireless phones, GPS, and other developments.

Problem was it took the Navy 20 years to take her and her co-inventor seriously. Both were high school dropouts and of Austrian and German extraction at a time of heightened suspicion and spying. This fascinating story is explained in greater detail in The Intangible Investor in the November IAM magazine, “Torpedo invention laid the foundation for Wi-Fi and more.” Subscribers can find it here starting October 1.

What drove Lamarr to invent is a focus of this fascinating and well-received documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (96% rated on Rotten Tomatoes). It is available on Netflix and on DVD from many public libraries. Even those familiar with the story will find the film worth watching. It illustrates that some of the best inventions derive from the most unlikely sources and can seem implausible.

For more on Lamarr’s background, go hereFor her patent, 2,292,387, “Secret Communications System,” go here.

“Bombshell” estimates that Larmarr’s invention, had it been widely adopted, would have been worth $30 billion.

Lamarr and her co inventor, George Autheil, a respected American avant-garde composer and concert pianist who spent a decade in Paris associating with James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, posthumously made it into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“If you do good,” Lamarr said, “people will accuse you of selfish motives – do good anyway.”

Image source: washingtonpost.com 


Big Media is Buying into YouTube Networks; IP Battles May Loom

New sources of content created independently, produced cheaply and distributed on YouTube are challenging network and cable TV dominance.

The impact on copyright and brand licensing is unclear.

If you are over 25, or so, you may be too old to notice it, but changes are taking place that are altering how and by whom television content gets developed and delivered to different audiences. It’s no surprise that YouTube, a once fledgling music video portal owned by Google, is at the center.

In a compelling cover story in the current Bloomberg Businessweek, “YouTube: Hollywood’s New Hit Factory,” the magazine looks as how new technology and shifting demographics (and shrinking attention spans) are changing television and content as we know it. The future of youth entertainment, the magazine reports, is not in broadcast or cable TV but in short-form digital videos, particularly on YouTube. The article steers clear of copyright and trademark issues, but those are sure to follow.

Several of the Top 30 YouTube Networks already are in play. AT&T, Disney, Warner Brothers, Hearst-Fox and Comcast all have either bought YouTube networks Fullscreen-Black-Logoor are considering it.

Just how popular are these fledgling networks? Maker Studios, for example, which was bought by Disney for $950M is ranked number three with more than 33 million total unique views. (See the Top 30 YouTube Networks guide here very worthwhile.)

It’s difficult to say whether MCNs (multichannel networks) will simply remain a “minor league” for the network, cable and even feature film industry, or it will be a viable medium of its own. If it can get organized and the revenue can be generated, I’m betting that it will evolve into a viable medium the way cable has.


Google bought YouTube for $1.7B in 2006 and focused on improving the sites technology and fending off copyright suits. Not it appears many of those who were fighting it are joining the party. YouTube has started to take an active role in original programming, encouraging entrepreneurs, producers, and established TV stars to start channels, which on YouTube refers to a collection of videos hosted by an individual or by a creative team.

“Rather than create all the programming themselves,” reports Bloomberg Businessweek,”the MCNs were recruiting tens of thousands of independent YouTube creators, from the semi-prominent to the obscure. Each of the MCNs offered a slightly different slate of services, but they generally promised aspiring YouTube talent that, for a cut of gross revenue (typically 30 percent), the MCN would get them more attention and make them more money. Sign up with us, kid, we’ll make you a star.”

Authors and some musicians, many prominent, also have been bypassing traditional distribution channels for self publishing. Controlling the rights to content will not be easy, but it maker-studios-disney-600x369can be done.

While it looks like more opportunities for artists and and content providers, such as writers, musicians and comics, it remains to be seen what these deals will look like for them and how much control will they maintain.


“With summer TV ratings falling, the domestic movie box office down sharply, and upfront sales of TV advertising surprisingly weak,” Businessweek continues, “a slew of mergers, acquisitions, and investment has shaken the YouTube cosmos. Big media companies, which a few years ago were furiously filing copyright lawsuits against YouTube, are jostling for a piece of the action.

“DreamWorks—the studio behind animated franchises such as Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda—has landed on Planet YouTube with a healthy respect for the native culture.”


With the early upfront costs defrayed by talent agencies, Hollywood studios, and Google itself, in exchange for a piece of the action, the rights on content and brand deals are important parts of the narrative yet to be told. Stay tuned.

Related stories: IBTimes – Why Big Media is Snapping up YouTube Networks; Forbes: Do All Big Media Companies Need to Up Their YouTube Game?


Image sources: turnstylenews.com; tubefilter.com

Music Pirate Kim Dotcom Schmitz Launches a (Tired) Second Act

File sharing kingpin hopes to evade authorities by using complex encryption scheme.

A year after being shut down for running Megaupload, an illegal music file sharing website, content pirate Kim Dotcom Schmitz (IP CloseUp, October 5) and IAM 56, “He’s No Robin Hood”) is back going live on Sunday January 20 with, Mega, a new effort to establish a cloud presence for music and movie file sharing, this time with encryption safeguards and “privacy” claims that he believes will allow him to evade authorities.

Mega uses symmetric key encryption in the browser, reports ZDNET. Every file has its own key, and only the uploader knows what it is. Users can share files, but only if they provide downloaders with the key to decrypt the file.

“Personal Use Only”

However, Mega’s terms and conditions implicitly recognize that users will upload copyright material such as back-up copies of their music files for personal use. To reduce storage demands, the system says that it will only store a single copy of files that it recognizes are not unique. How it knows they are not unique is not explained, nor is the system for handling different keys.

mega_silhouettes_small_1Schmitz, larger than life Internet pirate touts himself as a privacy champion. He has been under house arrest in his $30 million mansion in New Zealand awaiting trial for Megaupload. (The incarceration is no doubt a gesture to authorities and supporters alike.) He believes that Mega, launched one year after Megaupload was shutdown, will serve as an alternative.

From the look of Mega’s promotional illustration (right) and press conference, you would think that Schmitz and his crew were an aspiring rock band. They’re not. In fact, they are ripping many of them off, or helping others too.

In an exclusive interview in the Wall Street Journal (yes, WSJ) Schmitz talks about his company’s know-how or trade secrets being violated and his concern about child pornography. He believes that music piracy may be wrong but movies it is not, because through the industry’s business practices “they are forcing people into piracy.” See Schmitz’s Open Letter to Hollywood.

The WSJ interview conducted is worth reading. So is another good recent piece on Forbes.com, “Kim Dotcom’s New MEGA Encrypted Cloud Storage: See No Evil, Store No Evil.”

The copyright infringement case against Schmitz, billed as the largest to date given that Megaupload in its heyday commanded around four percent of global online traffic, could set a precedent for internet liability laws and depending on its outcome, may force entertainment companies to rethink their distribution methods.

Schmitz maintains that he is pro-innovation and the governments’ intrusion into individuals’ privacy and antiquated business models are the real villains. Previously, Schmitz, who is said to have a net worth of $200 million, was jailed in Germany for insider trading.

Schmitz, 38, faces years in jail if convicted of copyright infringement in the US. He is under house arrest in New Zealand awaiting a March hearing on whether to extradite him for trial.

*     *     *

Don’t be seduced by Schmitz’s bling life-style. He wants Mega subscribers to believe that he is a folk hero giving the people what they need and authorities to think that he is an an entrepreneur. He is neither.

Illustration source: cnet.com; bgr.com

Perfect Storm is Set to Slam IP Rights, Holders

Everyone Will Take a Hit

Broad and largely unfounded disdain for intellectual property rights and holders has gone beyond bickering between operating companies and NPEs, or Hollywood (old economy) and Silicon Valley (new economy). It  is starting to have an impact on innovation and investment, and how stakeholders view intangible property, like music, software and new drugs.

The perfect IP storm is about to make landfall. Those already dubious about the use of patents and other rights see an opportunity to cut them down further. Inducing broad audiences to see IP as casually issued monopolies in the best interests of a few is getting easier and, worse still, somewhat fashionable.

Technology and business media are joining with political organisations, such as highly successful Pirate political parties in Germany and Sweden, some tech businesses, law makers and an increasing number of academicians to challenge IP. Disdain for patents and copyrights is not new. Its political correctness is.

Rights or privilege? 

Nurtured by half-truths about IP abusers locking out competitors and shaking down businesses, many people believe that intellectual assets impede innovation and represent privilege; they are akin to bank bailouts and inflated CEO compensation. Having been dealt stiff body blows by the courts and recent legislation, IP is on the ropes.

I would venture to say that many, including some OWSers, believe IP is simply 1%-type control masquerading in sheep’s clothing.

Of greater concern (to me, at least) than naysayers are IP managers and attorneys (executives and investors, too) who know better, but remain silent about how IP works and who it serves. What are you waiting for?

Read the full story, “The Imperfect Storm,”  in this month’s The Intangible Investor in IAM magazine.

Image source: http://www.iphonasia.com

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