Weekend news roundup

29 Mar 2010

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

Irish clicks on YouTube music videos mean money for musicians

The Sunday Times reported that every person in Ireland who clicks on a YouTube music video will now generate revenue for musicians after a landmark licensing agreement. Google, the owner of YouTube, has agreed to pay copyright holders a cut for every “view” of videos that contain their music even if it is only played in the background.

The deal has been agreed with the Irish Music Rights Organisation (Imro) and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society Ireland (MCPSI). It runs to the end of 2012 and follows a similar agreement that YouTube signed with collection bodies in Britain last year.

The collection companies will receive a lump sum payment based on the number of hits to videos. YouTube has agreed to provide data on the hits so that Imro/MCPSI can decide how to distribute the fee to its members. It is understood the deal includes a retrospective payment for content which has been accessed since YouTube became available in Ireland in 2005.

The parties have agreed that the value of the deal will remain confidential.

Vodafone ups Verizon talks over dividend payments

The Sunday Times also said Vodafone has stepped up talks with its American partner, Verizon, in an attempt to restart dividend payments from Verizon Wireless, their fast-growing US joint venture.

In recent weeks, the pair have held wide-ranging discussions designed to break the impasse over the future of Verizon Wireless, in which Vodafone has a 45pc stake.

Although it contributes a third of Vodafone’s operating profits, dividends have been blocked since 2005 by Verizon, which owns the remaining 55pc. The issue is becoming more acute as Verizon Wireless will be virtually debt free by the year end. Last November, Vodafone held out the prospect of a dividend being paid in 2011 — something that would lift its share price. Vittorio Colao, Vodafone’s chief executive, has made solving the problem a priority this year. Shareholders have questioned why Vodafone is hanging on to the stake if it is not producing a payout, even though it has strongly appreciated in value.

A merger of the two companies is thought to have been one of the options considered to resolve the standoff. Sources played down the chances of that happening

Eircom at risk of breaching banking convenants?

The Sunday Tribune reported that Eircom may breach its banking covenants in the next 18 months as it struggles to repay its debt, according to Standard & Poor’s (S&P). The credit ratings agency last week downgraded its long-term corporate credit rating on ERC Preferred Equity and ERC Ireland Finance, the companies behind Eircom, to B- from B.

The agency said there was a “high risk” of some of the group’s covenants being breached in the next 18 months as its capital structure is “unsustainable”. Eircom has been loaded up with debt by a succession of owners in the last few years.

Guardian’s app reaches 100,000 downloads

The Sunday Business Post has reported that 100,000 people have downloaded The Guardian app. As newspapers worldwide grapple with the challenge of making their content work on mobile phones, The Guardian newspaper is celebrating the successful launch of a paid-for iPhone app.

Introduced in mid-December, the stg£2.39 app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times. Unlike The Irish Independent’s €2.39 app, which offers only limited content, The Guardian’s app offers access to all stories in the newspaper.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years