Digital news bytes
On-line privacy law compliance
To ensure early compliance with the new Internet kids privacy law that requires verifiable parental consent to be obtained prior to collecting, using or disclosing personal info from a child, Internet companies are creating programs to aid in safeguarding children. Microsoft will be introducing Kids Passport, a service guaranteeing that participating sites will secure parental consent, or restrict Kids Passport members from using services (chat rooms, bulletin boards, pen pal programs, etc.) in which kids might provide personal information. In a similar effort, Surfmonkey.com, a California-based kids portal, has completed a site audit to safeguard children’s personal information, as well as implementing a phone, fax and mail submission option for parents/guardians to provide verifiable consent for their children. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, is effective April 21.
Tim Burton on-line
Continuing a recent trend whereby animators give their material an initial trial run on the Web (while simultaneously retaining TV rights should small-screen success await), Nightmare Before Christmas creator Tim Burton will bring a series of downloadable five-minute animated shorts featuring his Stainboy character to shockwave.com starting in spring 2000. The charcoal-drawn protagonist originally appeared in Burton’s collection of poems, stories and illustrations entitled The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories. Shockwave has forged similar deals with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and comic book icon Stan Lee.
Alfy site grows
A new co-branded Web site (www.ALFY.LYCOS.com) has launched in a partnership between kids portal playground alfy.com and Lycos Zone, Lycos Network’s
own kids site. Geared to cybersurfers ages three to nine, the site will feature games and interactive stories provided by New York-based Alfy, such as three original, interactive animated vignettes in celebration of Space Day (May 4, 2000). The first short, entitled Communications Failures in Space, is already running on both alfy.lycos.com and on spaceday.com. The toon asks kids to design a non-verbal way to communicate with astronauts outside the space station when equipment malfunctions.
Interactive Scooby treats
Scooby-Doo where are you? Apparently in California with Calabasas-based THQ, which has acquired the worldwide video game license for the Scooby-Doo property from Warner Bros. Interactive through to December 2003. THQ will have the rights to feature Scooby in gaming titles for Sony, Sega and Nintendo consoles, and plans to release the first titles in the fall.
Web games for kids from NewKidCo
Children’s video game publisher NewKidCo International of New York and Boston-based developer Kaon Interactive have formed NEWKIDGAMES.COM. Expected to launch in Q3 or Q4 2000, the new dot.com will develop an interactive video game Web site and portal for kids ages 12 and under.
Gearing up for PlayStation 2
Effective April 1, Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) will consolidate its two operating divisions to prepare for the intro of the PlayStation 2 platform in September. The move will merge Foster City, California-based 989 Studios, SCEA’s publishing and developing arm, with SCEA. The company will remain HQ’d out of Foster City.