It's a score for media giants AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL) and Disney(NYSE: DIS) -- literally. The Supreme Court today granted a 20-year copyright extension to movie studios, authors, and composers.

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, named after the late entertainer-turned-congressman, extends exclusive rights to thousands of books, movies, and songs, including the beloved Gone With the Wind and early images of Mickey Mouse. A contrary ruling would have cost the entertainment giants hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties by releasing the works into the public domain.

Fiddle-dee-dee! And we were so ready to give our Elvis the Jester mouse ears and little red shorts, too.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Microsoft Shows Its Parts

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is going open source, at least for governments that want to inspect its Windows operating system.

Through an initiative called the Government Security Program (GSP), the company will give governments and governmental agencies controlled access to Windows' underlying code. For a company that has always zealously guarded its intellectual property, this is significant. Microsoft has opened up its code in the past, to some extent, but this program goes even farther.

The software giant will allow governments to review and judge Windows' security for themselves. Access will be free, and participants will actually make changes to the code, if necessary. Most of the changes are expected to be security-related and will vary from agency to agency. In addition, Microsoft will reveal technical documents and provide other support for the program.

Why is Microsoft doing this? Simple: competition. (And who said monopolies don't compete?) Some government agencies in Japan, France, and even the U.S., for example, are considering switches to cheaper, less buggy, more secure software, such as Linux. Some have already jumped ship: IBM(NYSE: IBM) signed a deal with Germany last summer to provide Linux-based systems to some governmental agencies there.

Microsoft wants to prove its software is trustworthy, since that's obviously a top priority for governments. It's a top priority for the company, too, as Windows routinely comes under fire for security flaws. Microsoft has focused more on improving security and the perceptions of its security over the last year.

This move is the company's most extreme yet, and will likely garner the response it wants. Already, Russia and NATO have signed GSP agreements with Microsoft. The company says it's discussing the program with more than 20 other governments, and it has a list of 60 with which it would consider signing agreements.

By opening up, Microsoft may just end up locking down the governmental software market.

Quote of Note

"Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible." -- Frank Zappa (1940-1993), musician

Intel's Chip Shot

If Intel(Nasdaq: INTC) were a running back, it would be a beefy force with a propensity to fumble. But it would also be deceptively shifty; a slippery master of misdirection that keeps even the most nimble of padded defenders lunging yet missing.

The chip giant scored on its favorite play -- the end around. Three months ago, fourth-quarter targets fell just short of last year's $7.0 billion in revenue. The bottom line was pegged at $0.14 a share.

But a sidestep here, a juke move there, and Intel produced a pretty good run this time, posting $7.2 billion in revenue on a $0.16-a-share showing. A strong close to the period on the strength of the company's high-end chips and gains in Asia helped introduce much-needed good news to a roughed-up sector.

But not every chip ship will rise in the ocean. The company also revealed it will slash capital spending from last year's $4.7 billion. That's grim news for chip equipment makers such as Applied Materials(Nasdaq: AMAT) and Tencor(Nasdaq: KLAC), which are at the mercy of Intel's tightened purse strings. However, when you couple that lower capex figure with a workforce reduction and a growing cash bounty (being put to good use in aggressive share buybacks), you're left with a lean company setting itself up nicely for the eventual economic recovery.

If companies commit to upgrading their equipment and consumers start stocking up on new desktops and laptops, Intel will indeed be that elusive running back -- its goal well within sight. Let's just hope it doesn't drop the ball this time.

Discussion Board of the Day: Intel

Is the two-year microprocessor drought finally over? With Intel upbeat heading into a seasonally slow first quarter, can 2003 really be the year of the chip stock? All this and more -- in the Intel discussion board. Only on

Big Books Mean Big Bucks

"The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive. ... The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four."

So begins a most eagerly anticipated new book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, slated for a June release. J.K. Rowling just delivered the fifth installment in her stupendously successful fantasy series after a long delay caused by... writer's block? Adjusting to massive success and wealth? Marriage and pregnancy? Does it really matter?

The first four books were published in the summers of 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. So this book, estimated to weigh in at around 900 pages (a third longer than the last one), has clearly been cooking for a while. So far, an estimated 192 million copies of the four books have been sold worldwide, in at least 55 languages and more than 200 countries.

Between installments four and five, two successful movies were released based on installments one and two -- with more on the way. Rowling, who recently surpassed both Madonna and the Queen to become England's wealthiest woman, has long said she plans for the series to consist of seven books.

What does this mean for investors? Well, it's good news for Scholastic(Nasdaq: SCHL), publisher of the book in the United States, and Bloomsbury PLC, its publisher in Britain. And it's good news for AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL), which is behind the series of movies. It's good for book retailers, too, such as Barnes & Noble(NYSE: BKS), Borders(NYSE: BGP), Books-a-Million(Nasdaq: BAMM), and AMZN).

It may also be good for the book industry in general, fueling an interest in reading by both children and adults. Some worry the fifth book's delay has dampened enthusiasm for the series. That may be true, but then each year brings a new crop of readers old enough to begin reading the books. And sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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Quick Takes

Give Continental Airlines(NYSE: CAL) credit. In the face of some of the toughest times the industry has ever, um, faced, the nation's fifth-largest carrier reported a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss today. Better still, revenue growth was solid and passenger traffic was up.

It was a good day for banks, led by the fourth-quarter results of Bank of America(NYSE: BAC) and Fifth Third Bancorp(Nasdaq: FITB). Both were helped by low interest rates, which have spurred a refinancing boom and increased credit card borrowing. Mortgage lender Fannie Mae(NYSE: FNM), on the other hand, was hurt by a decline in the value of derivatives it uses to hedge risk and saw profit fall by 50%.

In local news, the patent for Josh Rayburn's combination toilet plunger/milking machine expired yesterday. It doesn't matter, however, since his attempts to simultaneously serve the plumbing and dairy markets resulted in only one sale over the past 14 years.

And Finally...

Today on

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim