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    Saturday, June 27, 2009

    Reuters - Hello Goodbye: Jackson's Beatles rights at risk

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    Hello Goodbye: Jackson's Beatles rights at risk

    Saturday, Jun 27, 2009 10:29AM UTC

    By Gina Keating

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Beatles For Sale?

    The Fab Four's prized catalog -- specifically 267 songs mostly written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney -- is embarking on a long and winding road of ownership uncertainty following the death of Michael Jackson on Thursday.

    The pop singer and Sony Corp's Sony Music arm operated a lucrative joint venture that either owns or administers the copyrights to about 750,000 compositions written by the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Taylor Swift and the Jonas Brothers.

    Industry analysts estimate that Sony/ATV Music Publishing is worth at least $1 billion, making Jackson one savvy entertainer. His initial investment cost him $47.5 million in 1985. Music publishing is considered a license to print money. Not quite as exciting as the piracy-ravaged recorded-music side, it involves collecting royalties from such diverse avenues as downloads, radio airplay and videogames.

    But mystery now surrounds the beneficial ownership of Jackson's stake. According to a lawsuit filed in 2002 by a creditor, he secured bank loans totaling $270 million two years earlier using both his Sony/ATV stake and the copyrights to his own songs as collateral.

    Jackson lived an extravagant lifestyle, even as his commercial appeal dwindled amid damaging child-abuse allegations and changing music tastes. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2005 that his cash reserves ran so low earlier that year that he worried about paying his electric bill. The paper reported earlier this month that he had racked up about $500 million of debt.


    A clearer picture of his finances will emerge during the administration period of his estate that usually lasts about 18 months, said Renee Gabbard of the law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in Costa Mesa, California.

    Jackson's executors will evaluate his assets, file the estate tax return and invite creditors to submit invoices, said Gabbard, who has a number of wealthy clients with entertainment-related estates.

    The process of valuing estate assets, especially intellectual property like music copyrights, is "very complex" and often takes "quite a while," said Gabbard.

    "When you have entertainers and musicians they usually have quite extensive royalty contracts. It's very tough to put a value on a catalog of songs," she said.

    Jackson and Sony formed their joint venture in 1995, with the singer contributing ATV Songs, whose 4,000 tunes included most of the Beatles catalog. He had bought ATV a decade earlier from Australian businessman Robert Holmes a Court, famously outbidding McCartney in the process.

    Jackson was not involved in the day-to-day operations of Sony/ATV, but as a lover of the songwriting process was known to be "incredibly proud" of the company and its fast growth, according to a publishing industry source.

    A spokesman for Sony/ATV declined to comment.

    His stakes in both Sony/ATV and in Mijac, which holds his own copyrights, were owned by trusts. It was not clear if they were irrevocable or not. If they are revocable, then they could be dismantled to satisfy creditors, Gabbard said.

    The estate would first pay federal taxes owed on Jackson's assets, most notably the publishing companies. The remaining assets then would go to satisfy creditors and the balance probably would be placed into separate trusts for his beneficiaries, most likely his children, Gabbard said.

    But the publishing industry source said it was too premature to speculate about a possible change in ownership at Sony/ATV, which is run by music industry veteran Martin Bandier.

    Additionally, each side is reportedly entitled to make a counter-offer if the other side lines up a buyer, or to bid for the other half it does not own.

    The Beatles catalog, meanwhile, just keeps raking in money. The group's CDs will be reissued on September 9, the same day that a Fab Four version of the "Rock Band" videogame hits stores.

    (Additional reporting by Dean Goodman, Editing by Anthony Boadle)

    Reuters - U.S. seen opposing LiveNation, Ticketmaster deal

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    U.S. seen opposing LiveNation, Ticketmaster deal

    Friday, Jun 26, 2009 11:11PM UTC

    By Diane Bartz - Analysis

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ticketing giant Ticketmaster's <TKTM.O> deal to buy concert promoting giant Live Nation <LYV.N> will most likely be opposed by the Justice Department, which means that its fate would rest with the courts and the companies' willingness to litigate.

    The deal has been criticized by superstar Bruce Springsteen, politicians like Senator Charles Schumer, and legions of music fans commenting in Internet chatrooms.

    "This deal's not going through if antitrust laws mean anything," said David Balto, a former FTC policy director and antitrust lawyer.

    Some state attorneys general also have shown an interest in the merger, with Ohio leading the way, said a source who is familiar with the situation but reluctant to be named because of its sensitivity.

    Add to its woes, a promoter filed suit in Maryland accusing Live Nation of "unlawful anticompetitive, predatory and exclusory practices." The promoter, Seth Hurwitz, accuses Live Nation of booking artists only in venues that it owns or operates.

    Ticketmaster and Live Nation had no immediate comment for this story.

    And the Justice Department's new antitrust chief, Christine Varney, has said she would take a tougher look at mergers than her predecessors in the Bush administration.

    The best that Live Nation and Ticketmaster could hope for in the approximately $400 million deal is a tough fight with the Justice Department, said Marc Schildkraut, a former assistant director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition and antitrust lawyer with Howrey LLP.

    "I just always thought the merging parties had a tough row to hoe. The lawyers for those parties are going to have to be pretty good," said Schildkraut.

    Varney is taking a tough stance on vertical mergers, where one company buys another in the same supply chain. In this case, Live Nation primarily promotes concerts and Ticketmaster sells the tickets.

    But each company has reached into the other's area of expertise, so the merger also has elements of a horizontal deal. Live Nation launched its own ticketing service on January 1 after it ended a 10-year relationship with Ticketmaster and Ticketmaster last year bought Front Line Management, which manages the affairs of more than 200 artists.

    Live Nation chief executive Michael Rapino said last month that he expected the deal to close in the third or fourth quarter. Antitrust regulators outside the United States are also looking into it.

    Antitrust experts Steve Axinn of Axinn, Veltrop and Harkrider LLP and Andre Barlow of Doyle, Barlow and Mazard PLLC predicted that the Justice Department would sue to stop the merger, but could not agree on the outcome if Ticketmaster and Live Nation opted to battle regulators in court.

    "I think they (the Justice Department) probably uncovered evidence that Live Nation wanted to compete against Ticketmaster," said Barlow, who added: "I think Ticketmaster would win in court."

    Axinn didn't agree, saying. "I think that their odds of winning in such a challenge are impossible to predict."

    (Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Carol Bishopric)

    Reuters - VW gives Porsche ultimatum to accept merger: report

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    VW gives Porsche ultimatum to accept merger: report

    Saturday, Jun 27, 2009 1:38PM UTC

    FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Volkswagen and its key shareholder, the state of Lower Saxony, have confronted Porsche with an ultimatum to accept a tie-up of the two carmakers under VW's tutelage or else face more severe financial turmoil, Web site Spiegel online reported.

    Porsche Chief Executive Wendelin Wiedeking and Chairman Wolfgang Porsche have been urged to agree by the end of June that VW takes a 49 percent stake in Porsche's sports car business for 3-4 billion euros ($4.2-$5.6 billion), Spiegel magazine reported in its online edition on Saturday, without saying who provided the information.

    According to the proposal, the Emirate of Qatar would buy Porsche's stock options in VW, which would subsequently integrate the Porsche sports car business into its operations.

    VW would not comment on the report. Porsche was not immediately available for comment, neither was the Emirate of Qatar.

    The new merged carmaker would eventually be 40 percent owned by the Porsche and Piech families, 20 percent owned by Lower Saxony, 15 percent owned by Qatar with another sovereign wealth fund holding a further 5 percent, Spiegel reported.

    VW threatened it could insist on redemption in September of a 700 million euro loan it granted to Porsche, should Porsche reject the offer, Spiegel online said.

    Porsche racked up 9 billion euros of debt trying to swallow its much bigger peer Volkswagen before the financial crisis turned the tables and threatened to unravel the deal.

    Porsche, which owns 51 percent in VW, had abandoned plans to raise its stake to 75 percent but still owns options to buy VW shares.

    The tie-up proposal was devised by Christian Wulff, the state premier of Lower Saxony, which holds a blocking minority of 20 percent in VW, as well as Porsche co-owner Ferdinand Piech and by the CEO and CFO of VW, Spiegel online said.

    Qatar would only pursue an investment in a merged VW and Porsche if all major shareholders agree on the set-up, the Web site added.

    In a separate article, daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Saturday that Qatar plans to buy Porsche's stock options in VW and is no longer interested in buying an interest in Porsche alone, citing unspecified sources.

    Porsche had said on Friday it was close to reaching a deal with Qatar that could help solve its financial problems.

    (Reporting by Ludwig Burger, Hendrik Sackmann and Arno Schuetze)

    Reuters - Microsoft, VivaKi team up in digital and TV advertising

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    Microsoft, VivaKi team up in digital and TV advertising

    Thursday, Jun 25, 2009 6:49PM UTC

    PARIS (Reuters) - Microsoft and VivaKi, the digital arm of Publicis, on Thursday unveiled a broad cooperation deal spanning the fast-growing digital advertising sector to targeted television advertising.

    The deal will lead to the creation of a customized VivaKi advertisement exchange for television advertising delivered via Microsoft's Admira software, the statement said.

    "This will enable more 'audience-specific' television buying by VivaKi, creating an audience on demand for television" it said.

    As part of the agreement, VivaKi's units Starcom MediaVest Group, Zenith Optimedia and Digitas, will use Admira technology to help clients plan and buy media ads when Admira goes live in the fourth quarter 2009.

    Admira, developed by Microsoft's Navic division, helps advertisers target specific television audiences, thus saving on the costs of placing ads in front of consumers who are unlikely to buy their products.

    Publicis, the world's third-largest advertising group by revenue, launched VivaKi a year ago.

    VivaKi, which pools the digital capabilities of various Publicis units, aims to help advertisers access a single target audience through a global campaign.

    Publicis aims to generate 25 percent of its revenue from digital activities by 2010 against 20.5 percent in the first quarter of this year.

    (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Jason Benham)

    Reuters - Sony eyes cellphone/game gear hybrid - Nikkei

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    Sony eyes cellphone/game gear hybrid - Nikkei

    Saturday, Jun 27, 2009 4:59AM UTC

    TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp is considering developing a cellphone-game gear hybrid in a bid to better compete with Apple Inc's highly popular iPod and iPhone, the Nikkei business daily said on Saturday.

    The Japanese electronics and entertainment conglomerate launched its first Walkman three decades ago, dominating the portable music player market, but it has been running far behind the iPod and iPhone in recent years.

    Sony plans to set up a project team as early as July to develop a new product that combines functions of its portable game player and Sony Ericsson's mobile phones, the Nikkei said.

    Sony Ericsson is a cellphone joint venture between Sony and Sweden's Ericsson.

    A growing number of game-makers including Capcom Co Ltd and Square Enix Holdings are now offering software for the iPod and iPhone to take advantage of the Apple products' popularity, posing a threat to Sony's PlayStation Portable and Nintendo Co Ltd's DS.

    A Sony spokesman declined to comment on the report.

    (Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

    Reuters - Google slammed as China and U.S. quarrel over Internet

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    Google slammed as China and U.S. quarrel over Internet

    Friday, Jun 26, 2009 1:0PM UTC

    By Chris Buckley and Emma Graham-Harrison

    BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday stepped up accusations that Google is spreading obscene content over the Internet, a day after U.S. officials urged Beijing to abandon plans for controversial filtering software on new computers.

    The growing friction over control of online content threatens to become another irritant in ties at a time the world is looking for the United States and China to cooperate in helping to pull the global economy out of its slump.

    China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday accused Google's English language search engine of spreading obscene images that violated the nation's laws, less than 24 hours after disruptions to the company's search engines and other services within China.

    Spokesman Qin Gang did not directly say whether official action was behind the disruptions, but he made plain the government's anger and said "punishment measures" taken against Google were lawful.

    "Google's English language search engine has spread large amounts of vulgar content that is lascivious and pornographic, seriously violating China's relevant laws and regulations," he told a regular news conference.

    A spokesman for Google in China declined to comment.

    Separately, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Wednesday voiced concerns over the "Green Dam" software in a letter to Chinese officials.

    "China is putting companies in an untenable position by requiring them, with virtually no public notice, to pre-install software that appears to have broad-based censorship implications and network security issues," Locke said in a statement.

    China says the "Green Dam" filtering software is to protect children from illegal images and insists the deadline of July 1 for new computers to be sold with the software will not change.

    An official at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, which handles trade rows, said the ministry had no immediate response to the U.S. criticism and referred questions to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which also had no comment.

    Critics have said the program, sold by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co, is technically flawed and could be used to spy on users and block sites Beijing considers politically offensive.

    The proposed new rules raised fundamental questions regarding the transparency of China's regulatory practices and concerns about compliance with WTO rules, the U.S. officials said.


    The software plan coincides with criticisms of Google by China's Internet watchdog and access disruptions in China to the U.S. company's websites.

    The watchdog last week ordered the world's biggest search engine to block overseas websites with "pornographic and vulgar" content from being accessed through its Chinese-language version.

    Late on Wednesday evening, Internet users in China were unable to open several Google sites for around an hour, and some reported disruptions throughout Thursday.

    A company spokeswoman at Google in the United States said the firm was checking reports of problems with access in China.

    The disruption -- coming soon after Google was criticized by China -- "seems beyond mere coincidence," said Mark Natkin, Managing Director of Marbridge Consulting, a Beijing-based company that advises on telecommunications and IT.

    Google's problems reflect the difficulties of foreign Internet firms competing in the world's biggest online market while facing controversy over censorship.

    Chinese officials have said their Internet moves are driven by worries about exposing children to disturbing online images, but an official newspaper reported on Thursday that a plan to recruit volunteers to scour the Internet for banned content and report to officials also has a political element.

    The Legal Daily reported that 10,000 volunteers sought by Beijing would also search for "harmful content" that includes "threats to state security," "subverting state power," and "spreading rumours and disturbing social order."

    Natkin, the consultant, said the official pressure was most unlikely to deter Google and other Internet companies from continuing to operate in China.

    "Google has to be looking at China as a long-term play," he said. "The allure of the Chinese market, not just for Google and not just for Internet companies, is so compelling, so alluring."

    (Additional reporting by Doug Palmer and Mohammad Zargham in Washington, Emma Graham-Harrison in Beijing and Lucy Hornby in Shanghai; Editing by David Fox..)

    CNN - Jacksons rely on strength of family

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    Jacksons rely on strength of family

    There's a photo of the Jackson family on the cover of the September 24, 1971, issue of Life magazine. In it, Joseph and Katherine Jackson stand at the foot of a set of stairs, their star children -- known as the Jackson 5 -- arrayed behind them.

    They appear to be the all-American clan, gold records arranged behind them, the boys loose and smiling, the parents more awkward and serious in their demeanor.

    Over the years, that fa├žade crumbled. The brothers bickered; some made accusations of abuse. But the group remained tight-knit through crises, including Thursday's tragedy, when Michael Jackson collapsed at his house and later died at UCLA Medical Center.

    The journey began with music in Gary, Indiana. Joseph Jackson, the patriarch, played in a short-lived band called the Falcons (no relation to the Detroit-based group featuring Wilson Pickett) in the 1950s. His primary job, however, was as a crane operator at U.S. Steel.

    Katherine Jackson, the musical and devoutly religious woman who he married in 1949, tended to the couple's large family: Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Michael and Randy, all born between 1950 and 1961. Daughter Janet arrived in 1966.

    By that time, the three oldest boys -- Jackie, Tito and Jermaine -- had started their own group, which Marlon and Michael eventually joined. Joseph Jackson saw a chance for his sons to have the musical career he'd found elusive.

    Joseph Jackson admitted being a harsh taskmaster. He drove his sons hard, forcing them to rehearse with a James Brown-like intensity. He wasn't above emphasizing his feelings to his seventh child, Michael.

    "My father teased me and I just hated it and I cried every day," Michael told Oprah Winfrey in 1993. He said his father also beat him: "He was very strict, very hard, very stern. ... There's been times when he'd come to see me, I'd get sick, I'd start to regurgitate."

    He quickly said, imagining his father's reaction, "Please don't be mad at me."

    Joseph Jackson disputed the word "beat," but didn't question Michael's account.

    "I whipped him with a switch and a belt," he told the BBC in 2003. He added, "I never beat him. You beat someone with a stick."

    In a 2005 interview with CNN's Larry King, Jermaine defended his father's actions.

    "We grew up like any other black family. You did something, you got your butt tore up, and it wasn't tore up, it was just, you got a spanking," he said. "I will say this. He kept us off of the streets. He kept us away from drugs. He kept us away from gangs and ... we've been able to project a talent out there and have the support of strong people to entertain the world."

    By 1968, when Michael turned 10, the Jackson 5 was a professional musical machine. They'd won an Apollo Theater talent night the previous year and were working the "chitlin circuit" of black clubs when producer Bobby Taylor urged Motown to sign the group. Motown founder Berry Gordy was impressed and made them "the last big stars to come off my assembly line," according to a biography on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Web site.

    The group shot out of the gate with four No. 1 hits and gained a huge fan base, along with an animated TV show. But success took its toll, particularly when it wasn't so easy to come by.

    In the mid-1970s, the band -- minus Jermaine, who'd married Gordy's daughter Hazel -- moved to Epic Records, where they were produced by the Philadelphia soul-funk team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The two remember nothing but good times from the sessions, which produced two albums and the Top 10 hit "Enjoy Yourself."

    "It was a collaboration," Gamble said. "They all participated in creating. Tito was a great guitarist -- they were all great musicians."

    Huff said he visited the Jackson compound during a trip to California and remembered a warm family setting, complete with a "fantastic meal" cooked by Katherine Jackson.

    "I've got nothing but respect for the father," added Gamble. "He's a great man. He made something out of nothing."

    Even during that era, however, Michael was standing out. Gamble and Huff recalled him taking a keen interest in recording technology and the way he sounded. Going solo with Quincy Jones producing, as he did in 1979, was the right move, Gamble and Huff said.

    The family dynamics kept changing as the siblings grew older. After Michael's "Thriller" became the biggest album of all time, the brothers -- including Jermaine -- regrouped for a new album, "Victory," and accompanying tour. But Michael, now the undisputed draw, disagreed with some of the tour plans and ended up donating his earnings to charity.

    Michael's brightened spotlight boosted the careers of his siblings; even Rebbie had a hit. But it was Janet who broke out with the most success, including the No. 1 singles "Miss You Much," "Black Cat" and "Again" in the 1980s and '90s.

    With the increased interest in the Jacksons came tabloid scrutiny of the family's every move. When La Toya appeared nude in Playboy magazine, the story made headlines. She later criticized Michael and was on the outs for several years.

    Jermaine put out a song called "Word to the Badd," an attack on Michael, in 1991; he later changed the lyrics. Janet's relationships were probed in detail, as were the brothers' marriages.

    And Michael, of course, was seen as increasingly eccentric, his personality overwhelming his music.

    But for all their own bickering, the family closed ranks when a member was attacked. In 1992, Jermaine co-produced "The Jacksons: An American Dream," a TV miniseries based on Katherine Jackson's memoir, which chronicled their rise to stardom. When Michael faced molestation allegations in the early '90s and was tried in 2005, the family rallied around.

    "The Jackson family was groomed to be a team," said Linda Johnson Rice, president and CEO of Ebony and Jet magazines' Johnson Publishing and a longtime family friend. "As you can see through their performances, they were always there for each other."

    In recent years, La Toya has appeared on the reality shows "Armed and Famous" and the UK "Celebrity Big Brother." She originally had a scene in the forthcoming Sacha Baron Cohen movie, "Bruno," but CNN confirmed the scene has been cut, "out of respect for Jackson's family," the studio told The (UK) Guardian.

    Jermaine, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Abdul-Aziz, appeared on "Celebrity Big Brother" in 2007. Jackie runs a record label, Tito remains involved in the music business, and according to a 2008 article in the New York Post, Marlon and Randy have struggled financially.

    In the hospital emergency room Thursday, Randy and Jermaine were witnessed hugging and crying over their late brother.

    "We're a family," Jermaine told Larry King in the 2005 interview. "We're no different than any other family who has feuds and problems. ... But at the same time, we're united, and we have a united front that is very, very strong, and it's supported by God.

    "My mother and father did a great job in instilling the morals and principles in us from the very beginning. We feel that with that, that's all you need to go through life."

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