Looking Back at 2006–Ahead to 2007

How Exciting Was 2006!

That introduction is not a question—it’s an exclamation! Buzz and viral marketing, branded entertainment, social networking, MMOG (that’s online, interactive, web-based gaming for those looking to impress their neighbors or their teenagers), and Internet gambling all made increasingly bigger news in 2006. Then came data protection, identity theft, data breach disclosure legislation, payment card industry data security standards, and gift cards on the top-10 list of technology related issues in 2006. Oh, did we mention virtual reality, digital music, DMCA (that’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take-down notices, streaming wireless video, user-generated content, and context sensitive advertising and product placements?

Some things won’t surprise you today, but if you thought about it only a few years ago—indeed, in some cases at the beginning of this year—it was an amazing year. The world’s largest licensor of personal computer operating systems delayed the launch of its new Windows Vista operating system—the traditional core of its business—but entered the digital music business. Some huge un-named search engine technology-driven company (that happens to derive its primary revenue from advertising), just bought a young company that made no profit but virtually created the buzz over user-generated content—YouTube—for more than $1.6 billion. Social networking companies were considered social and anti-social, depending on who you ask—kids, parents, regulators.

Laws and regulations took greater cognizance of the evolving interplay between advertising, technology and media. Identity theft and the compromise of data security became the basis for legislation in state after state in the United States. Obesity and the advertising and marketing of food to children became the soup du jour for regulators on both sides of the Atlantic, and potentially the world. Advertising regulators and marketing associations increasingly noticed the world was changing. Digital technology was not simply an enabler, an automation tool or business productivity tool—it invaded our schoolrooms, our playrooms, our automobiles (now I don’t have to stop and ask for directions) and our living rooms. New business models, new social models and new economic models. It’s just exhausting.

This has been an exciting year, one filled with change and challenge (did you know the Chinese word for “crisis” consists of two characters—one means danger and the other means opportunity). We hope you have enjoyed our year of Legal Bytes as much as we have taken joy in bringing it to you and highlighting some of these exciting developments. So let’s look at what’s ahead.

2007–ATM is Coming!

You have heard the term “convergence” and perhaps you thought about “The Perfect Storm.” Well we are talking about Advertising Technology & Media—our new ATM law group. Have you seen the ads? Product placements in the movies? In banks and on computer monitors? Watch the UGC, unauthorized digitally distributed version, the podcast, advercast, interstitial ad, webcast, streaming video, CGI, buzz and viral version—even the version playing in an embedded video player on my personal web page.

I’m not particularly great at predictions, but like everyone else, I’ll go ahead anyway and make some for 2007. Wireless applications will go through the roof. School children, workers, people at play and people on the go will carry their games, their assignments, their work and toolkit with them digitally and wirelessly–the toolbox of the 21st Century. Applications and content on demand—web apps gone wild! Why load up and clutter up your computers and devices with applications (and content) when you can order them “to go.” And speaking of orders to go, “Would you like fries broccoli with that…?” may be regulated into existence. Worried about the homeless? Advertisements have been feeling lonely on TV lately. Don’t worry—put them on vehicles, beam them wirelessly from your satellite to your car. Move them to the Internet—buffer and stream them before, in between and after news clips and someone else’s dumbest home videos. Better yet, put them in a virtual world and watch the real world virtually go by. Virtual reality will get real. Part play-acting, part gaming, part behavioral therapy and part social networking, virtual worlds will start making money, making waves and making a difference. Go look—start to notice real brands and real people playing in the virtual sandbox. Media will start to take digital seriously (again). Digital effects, digital distribution—did we say digital yet? Intellectual property will need to stop being so intellectual and figure out what to do with all of this “stuff.” The old rules still apply, but are being challenged. So where are the new rules? If content is king, user-generated content is queen, jack and possibly the Duke of Earl. I’m exhausted already.