MP3 RULING Free online music just got a lot more expensive. According to the Associated Press, a judge ruled today that MP3.com willfully violated copyright laws, awarding Universal Music Group $25,000 per CD — a penalty that could total as much as $250 million. Online music distributors ”may have a misconception that, because their technology is somewhat novel, they are somehow immune from the ordinary application of laws…. They need to understand that the law’s domain knows no such limits,” the judge said. Universal had asked for as much as $450 million to cover the 10,000 to 15,000 CDs it says were illegally copied on the site’s MyMp3.com search engine. Just yesterday, MP3.com’s lawyer argued that any ruling which exceeded $500 per CD was a virtual ”death sentence” for the company. Today, CEO Michael Robertson said he was ”disappointed” by the ruling, and promised to appeal. Although MP3.com offers a different service than Napster (MP3 users must prove they own the CD by inserting it into their computer before being allowed to access it online), the financial future of such low budget, high traffic Internet music enterprises is, um, looking a tad grim.
PROBATION Forty-two-year-old New Jersey accountant Mark Bailey was sentenced to parole and counseling for stalking Brooke Shields for the last 15 years. Bailey, who was sending threatening letters to the ex ”Suddenly Susan” star, has been convicted twice before on felony charges relating to his contact with Shields. He was arrested Jan. 10 when police saw him pull a gun while staring at his reflection in a downtown L.A. office building, according to prosecutors. Later, officers found in his pocket two postcards in which he threatened to visit Shields’ home and signed off ”I’m not afraid of you, Mark.” Bailey’s defense attorney could not be reached for comment, but in the past she has argued that his missives to the actress did not constitute a threat.
SPLIT Let the tabloid mania begin. Oasis’ Noel Gallagher and his wife, Meg Matthews, are separating. ”Their relationship started when Oasis were still in their infancy, and the couple have lived through/ been together through the whole meteoric rise of the band and the turbulent years that followed,” a U.K. spokesperson told Reuters. The news comes just months after the announcement that Noel’s bro Liam Gallagher separated from his wife, actress Patsy Kensit. We knew the two had a bad case of sibling rivalry, but this is taking it just a bit too far.
BIRTH Pop singer Tori Amos and her husband, engineer Mark Hawley, today announced the birth of their first child, a 7 pound 1 once girl. A statement released by Amos’ record label Atlantic said that upon feeding her daughter for the first time the new mom said, ”An ounce of breast milk is even more potent than the finest tequila.” That would be one crazy margarita.
WEB NEWS It looks like even Hollywood bigwigs have no idea what to do with the Net. Pop.com — the high profile, high pedigree Web venture from DreamWorks SKG and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment — seems to have finally gone bust. Just weeks after assuring the Wall Street Journal that Pop’s long delayed launch was planned for the fall, the company has laid off nearly all of its staff and begun notifying some of its partners that the website will never be, insiders told the Hollywood Reporter. Pop did not confirm the layoffs and had little to say about its status except that the ”market has shifted dramatically” since the venture was announced. This news comes closely on the heels of the recent downsizing of two prominent sites, CBSNews.com and Salon.com. ”Content is clearly at the end of its rope,” an Internet analyst told HR. ”Three years ago, content was king; today, it’s a dog.” Does this mean we all have to start auctioning BTB networking strategies in order to promote the news?
RERELEASE Ah, remember the good old days, when Drew Barrymore snuggled up at night with a grotesque three-foot alien? (Insert your own Tom Green joke here.) Remember when Reese’s Pieces were the celebrity endorsed candy of choice? Steven Spielberg is betting we do. The director is planning to rerelease his family classic E.T. in theaters in March 2002 to mark the movie’s 20th anniversary. The updated version will include new footage; computer enhanced special effects and a digitally remastered soundtrack. Can it be long till E.T. signs a lucrative deal with AT&T?
TV NEWS NBC has decided that it needs even more Law & Order. The network is negotiating a 13 episode contract for a second spin-off of the hit crime series, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Details about the project are sketchy, but insiders say that the network has put development on the fast track because of a threatened strike by the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild in the spring. Right now, the new series is planned for the 2001-02 season. Maybe some of the nonunion advertisers would like to write the episodes.
PROTEST Eminem may be leading the pack with nominations at the MTV Video Awards, but that hardly endears him in the eyes of his opponents. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Organization for Women are planning to protest outside the awards ceremony this Thursday. ”These are the words that kids hear in school hallways before they get beat up,” a GLAAD spokesperson told SonicNet. ”We are very disappointed that [MTV] continues to support him as heavily as they do… including a plum spot on the video awards.” MTV should consider including a new category in Em’s honor: White Guy Who Best Creates a Multimillion Dollar Enterprise Out of Gay Bashing and Verbal Domestic Abuse.
CASTING ”Music of the Heart” it ain’t. Variety reports that Meryl Streep is in talks to join Nicolas Cage in Spike Jonze and scribe Charlie Kaufman’s (”Being John Malkovich”) upcoming pic ”Adaption.” The film is another self reflexive paean — this time about a screenwriter’s struggle to develop a movie from New Yorker writer Susan Orlean’s novel ”The Orchid Thief.” Cage will play the Kaufman character, while Streep would play Orlean.
POLITICS The networks are fighting for their prime time rights. ABC and CBS are up in arms over George W.’s proposal that Al Gore join him for a ”conversation” on CNN’s Larry King talk show and NBC’s ”Meet the Press” in lieu of a traditional presidential debate. The two nets have said that they will not air the rival networks’ shows. Word is that George W. wants to avoid a genuine debate because he’s heard about Gore’s rhetorical mastery (i.e. Bush would get clobbered). But who cares if we wind up with a dimwit prez? This controversy is delaying the networks’ fall TV schedule!