Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nikon's "BIG" Announcement

Photography Bay is reporting of a few upcoming Nikon announcements, including a "BIG" one. What's not clear is what is being announced when. There is a rumor of an October 22nd announcement, in Copenhagen Denmark, of all places. Forgive me, but I'm not clear what photo-centric event is taking place on that date in Denmark. I am clear that that date is the press preview night for PDN's PhotoPlus Expo in New York City.

(Continued after the Jump)

I had to do a re-read because I thought that the "BIG" announcement graphic was for October 22nd, but, in fact, it's not. It's for WPPI's conference in Las Vegas. In fact, Nikon is - if the invite is genuine - renting out the entire MGM Arena, which has hosted many a boxing title fight. I was there on assignment covering the historic Tyson-Holyfield fight where some inappropriate noshing took place. So, perhaps Nikon was inspired by this photo we made last year when the D3 was put head to head in a battle Royale (Nikon - a first look, 12/8/07):

Curious, no?

Anyway, it looks likely we'll wait for the "main event" in February. Now if only I can get myself a ringside seat for this showdown.

If what is past is prologue, Nikon's D3x will be a 20MP+ monster. Or, maybe not. We shall see.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Digital Railroad Likely Being Liquidated

In a move that was more of a “when will it happen?” than a “will it happen?”, Digital Railroad announced today a slew of seismic changes that illustrates that the wheels of the train that went round and round are slipping off their axles. Last August, we wrote about the DRR experience - (Digital Railroad - All Aboard?, 8/20/07), and began our summary with the sentence "Digital railroad of course, must serve itself (and it's investors)", and we've been following very closely what's been happening with them. So, what now?

DRR’s investors’ final action was to move CEO Charles Mauzy from the position of CEO to just another employee (no doubt with a decent retainer pay structure) to facilitate DRR’s liquidation strategies. Mauzy just changed his Facebook profile, writing "Charles left his job as CEO at Digital Railroad." - see here. Maris Berzins, changed his Facebook profile moments ago to read "Maris left his job as President at Digital Railroad. ", followed moments later by "Maris is looking for new opportunities. " The board has now retained Diablo Management, a firm known for liquidations, to shop the entire company, as is, around, or to sell off the company in parts.

(Continued after the Jump)

Investor Mike Brooks, a general partner at venture capital firm Venrock Associates is no doubt looking at his exit strategy. Brooks previously was with Morgan Stanley & Co., where he was a managing director responsible for the firm's investment banking activities. Hmmm, perhaps he brought Morgan Stanley’s failing high-risk investment strategies to Digital Railroad?

Also assessing his exit strategy is board member Ken Gullicksen. Gullicksen is a general partner at Morgenthaler Ventures, based in Menlo Park California. His eyeballing the closest exit door no doubt comes as good news to the boards imeem, Danal, Nominum, and Voltage Security, where he also serves as a board member. More time for them - but is that a good thing?

The late-comer to the party, with series B overseas funding, was Steven Schlenker, the chief investment officer ofDN Capital Limited, where he is responsible for overseeing the company’s compliance and financial responsibilities, looking after DN Capital’s early stage investment strategy. This failed investment no doubt serves as a bit of a stumble for Schlenker, and his upstart VC firm.

One thing is for certain - This is a huge blow to Evan Nisselson, founder of Digital Railroad, and his father Peter Nisselson, whom was the principle financier during the formative stages of Digital Railroad’s inception. The elder Nisselson is the Chairman of Star Struck Ltd (OTC: SRSK), which is a publicly traded company, and he has been investing in small companies like DRR since 1982, frequently as an officer. The younger Nisselson got his start with the highly regarded SABA Press Photos back in 1993 through 1995, under the tutelage of Marcel Saba, before SABA was aquired to Corbis back in March of 2000 (AllBusiness: Corbis Acquires Saba Press Photos, InternationalPhotography Agency, 3/2/00). Prior to that, Saba headed up Picture Group, and currently runs well-regarded Redux Pictures. Last November (Stepping Down, or Stepping Up? DRR's Nisselson Makes A Change, 11/21/07) we wrote about Evan's promotion to Chairman of the Board. It is rumored that Even has been serving on the board and as Digital Railroad’s public face since last January’s bloodbath of terminations, with over half of the staff being let go, without pay, as an effort to stem the flow of red leaking from the spreadsheets over the last year. DRR was Evan's Brainchild, and while well intended, has gone awry in recent years.

With the board likely out of the way, and Diablo running the show, let’s take a look at what Diablo’s roadmap looks like. Diablo, headed up by Richard Couch, who founded the company as a liquidation specialist, has likely been tasked with a few things - get back as much of the investor’s $15M that they have sunk into the operations of DRR, is no doubt priority #1. Priority #2, which will likely come in short order, is to slash – and I mean slash – the burn rate. Looking back at the $15M that DRR received last December 31st, which was followed by the laying off of over half of the company (Digital Railroad Makes Major Layoffs, 1/10/08), the remaining half will be likely halved again, to a skeleton crew charged with managing servers, resolving member technical issues, and collecting whatever sales that the Digital Railroad Marketplace (The Marketplace is now Open, 4/11/07) has generated. What isn’t known is whether or not those sales will be distributed to the member photographers who’s images generated the sales. With the restructing last December, and the additional funds that were probably internally deemed “bridge funding”, Mauzy was likely charged with reducing the burn rate as well as continuing the growth of the Marketplace and the number of members paying a monthly fee. This would explain the challenges faced by several trade organizations that DRR has committed to sponsorships with, in securing full payments for the balance of those deals.

A reasoned look at their burn rate and $15M means that that funding is likely near depleted, so it’s reasonable to expect a very short period of time for the final resolution of DRR – no less than 30 days, and a maximum of 90, but I expect they will surely want everything either closed down or transferred to a new owner by December 31st at the latest. There is a glimmer of hope that Mauzy and Diablo will be able to find someone interested in picking up the company at a fire-sale price and retain it's normal operations, but that looks unlikely.

What would be the value of DRR’s underlying programming code (sans DRR interface) that could be repurposed? Would the sale of that core coding strip DRR of it’s core operations? At this point, that would gut DRR of it’s core, and is a highly unlikely sale – likely only in the waning days of a void of buyers. It can be reasonably assumed that the investors will never see their original $15m, but are hoping for between $5m and $10m. In this market, that’s also not likely. Capital is scarce, and getting back 50% of an investment in high tech these days just isn’t going to happen, and there’s a big “maybe” next to $5m, or a 25% salvage of the original investment.

What’s next? Well, there remains one platform in the field now (assuming DRR doesn’t remain as a platform and run by a new buyer) – PhotoShelter, who recently shuttered their image licensing operation – The PhotoShelter Collection (see PhotoShelter Collection To Shut Down October 10th, 9/11/08). If I were a Digital Railroad subscriber (and I am - Digital Railroad, PLUS, and A Stock Sale, 6/17/08), I would be making darn sure I was downloading all of my needed files immediately, if for no other reason than to have a backup of them (even if they remain in operation), but I would also be sure that any monthly or annual fees are not billing to your credit card in the coming weeks as they work to liquidate or sell.

As I said when PhotoShelter closed their collection, I am saddened by this turn of events too. I have been a supporter of both platforms, and this is one less capability that has served the photographers that used it well.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Intellectual Property Czar Authorized

In a move which clearly bolsters the protections and enforcement of violations of intellectual property rights, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino announced today that the President will now have an Intellectual Property Czar, who's responsibility will be to be a single point of authority amidst multiple executive branch agencies and departments.

This bill was seen as a pairing with Orphan Works legislation, with added protections being put in place at the same time as the flood gates were to be problematically opened on potential wide-scale infringements through legislative language that, while well meaning, casts a net of protection that is too broad and will allow for widescale infringements on current-day works that should not be eligible for orphan works protection.

Perino announced:

(Continued after the Jump)

On Monday, October 13, 2008, the President signed the following bills into law:
S. 3325, the "Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO IP) Act of 2008," which amends civil and criminal intellectual property laws; establishes the position of an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator appointed by the President in the Executive Office of the President; and authorizes Justice Department grants to assist in addressing intellectual property theft and infringement crimes;

Here are the nitty-gritty details of the bill, which will give those lobbying against the eventual Orphan Works legislation either happening during a lame duck session of Congress or next session a point person to encourage a veto of bad bills. The passage of this bill into law portends poorly for a last-ditch effort to get the Senate version of Orphan Works passed, to appease the copy-left, since both were seen by some to be complimentary, and each necessary for the other.

Whomever is appointed to this position should be immediately contacted by the ASMP, APA, PPA, NPPA, and every other trade organization representing creatives. Building that relationship early, and explaining how detrimental to the situation the current variations of Orphan Works legislation will be to intellectual property-rights holders (not just photographers, but corporations too) will be crucial to a fair and equitable OW bill moving forward.

Clearly, those who argue for less restrictive protections on copyright are not happy. When the bill passed the Senate, the group "Public Knowledge" wrote "...only adds more imbalance to a copyright law that favors large media companies. At a time when the entire digital world is going to less restrictive distribution models, and when the courts are aghast at the outlandish damages being inflicted on consumers in copyright cases, this bill goes entirely in the wrong direction."

Gizmodo - President Bush Signs Bill To Create Cabinet-Level Intellectual Property Czar
CNET - Bush signs RIAA-backed intellectual-property law

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ALIPR - Image Recognition for Keywording

Image recognition - that is - the automated determination of the visual contents of an image parsed into text, is the holy grail of search. Back in July, we wrote about it (Image Recognition and the Future, 7/2/08) and several very interesting advances - and for you bleeding-edge readers out there, a behind the scenes look at how.

With the speed of Moore's Law applied, fast-forward to present day, with the here-to-fore unknown "Automated Linguistic Indexing of Pictures Real Time" - or ALIPR. (note it seems to be missing a "T" in the acronym.) Now, it launched in 2006, but it's just hit my radar this weekend, thanks to the good folks at (Automatic image tagging gets smarter, 10/9/08), and LifeHacker (ALIPR Learns How to Auto-Tag Photos, 10/11/08), which also has other examples.

(Continued after the Jump)

Here's one example of a fairly successful (but by no means exhaustive) result return, where I've checked the applicable keywords (click each to see them a bit larger):

Here are several others with less than stellar results. Of particular interest is what it DID return. Stop and think about how it came to choose the keywords it did - patterns, colors, and so forth:

As this technology gets more effective, there will be an inverse law applied to the technology from a keywording perspective. Just as we are on the lookout for an amazing automated piece of software that will generate keywords for us (like this one, albeit in it's admitted infancy) so that our images can be more easily found by those needing to find them, we will not need keywording (or atleast need it less than we do now) because we will have search results that return the images we need, even without the keywording.

To give it a spin yourself, visit them here.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

[More: Full Post and Comments]
Newer Posts Older Posts