news digest


UMG opts for monthly pact with iTunes

LONDON — Universal Music Group has refused to strike a long-term licensing arrangement with Apple's iTunes Music Store and instead will opt for "flexible" interim agreements, a source close to the negotiations said. In recent days, the music major is understood to have declined to sign a two-year pact, according to the source, but will enter into month-to-month deals carrying the same terms — meaning that UMG could withdraw its songs from Apple's online store on short notice. UMG's tough stance comes as the record industry awaits the arrival of Amazon's download service, which is expected to emerge as a legitimate contender to iTunes' market dominance.

Fox Animation nabs Toliver

Karen Rupert Toliver has joined 20th Century Fox Animation as vp production. Toliver, who replaces John Cohen, will focus on the development and production of animated projects and report to Fox Animation president Vanessa Morrison. For more than a decade, Toliver has worked both sides of film fence — live action and animation — most recently on the development of the "Curious George" movie for Universal Pictures. She also worked at Disney Feature Animation, serving as a production executive on "Brother Bear," "Chicken Little" and "Meet the Robinsons."

Goeske more technical in MESoft move

MESoft co-founder Freddy Goeske has been upped from vp technology to chief technology officer at the Burbank-based media technology company. In recent months, the company has brought on staffers in newly created positions, including vp services Steve Pitts and product manager Eric de Castro. A search is under way for a vp engineering as well as a CEO.

Magnolia gets 'Cashback,' closes 'Escrow'

NEW YORK — Magnolia Pictures is looking to make some quick cash on two indie comedies, releasing them nearly simultaneously in theaters and via its sister HDNet cable network and DVD label. The Todd Wagner/Mark Cuban-owned distributor picked up U.S. rights to Sean Ellis' "Cashback," a surreal look at a supermarket clerk's insomnia-inspired fantasies, adapted from Ellis' Oscar-nominated short. It will air July 18 on HDNet before hitting theaters two days later and DVD stores July 24. Armen Kaprelian's "Escrow," a broad satire of the fierce competition among real estate agents, will reach theaters two days after its Aug. 22 HDNet premiere, with a Sept. 4 DVD release set.

FX folks unionize at Disneyland

About 30 fireworks and special-effects employees of a pyrotechnics department at Disneyland have joined IATSE Local 44. Disney recognized the employees' new union status after a majority signed representation cards, which were checked by a neutral third party. The union expects to begin negotiations with management this month to reach a collective-bargaining agreement covering the employees.

Man pleads guilty to uploading '24'

A Chicago man has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of uploading copyright material after an FBI investigation into the posting of four current-season episodes of "24" before they aired on Fox. Jorge Romero, 25, admitted uploading the season's first two episodes to on Jan. 6 and to uploading the second two episodes to the same Web site Jan. 7, authorities said. Romero is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 10.