Weekly News Roundup (20 July 2014)

July 20th, 2014

The World Cup has ended. For some reason, it seems like forever since the final was played out on an early and sleepy Monday morning (Australia time), and I had to actually double check to make sure it was actually the previous Monday, and not two weeks ago like it seems. I guess I just got used to being able to watch football almost every other day, and with a week without anything, it just felt like forever. Plus some really crappy news this week from all around the world, one of those weeks where you think back on the events and cannot do anything more than sigh and shake your head.

Well, there’s still the WNR, totally insignificant really compared to anything that has happened in the past week, but, as they say, the show must go on.

Copyright

Perhaps the most comprehensive study yet on piracy’s effect on box office revenue has revealed that file-sharing has almost a negligible effect on revenue. In fact, pre-release piracy may actually boost box office receipts, due to the promotional effect of piracy.

Movie Cinema Tickets

The most extensive study yet shows piracy has little effect on box office revenue. Photo credit: EvelynGiggles, CC

The study, conducted by economist Koleman Strumpf of the University of Kansas School of Business, looked at the top 150 most popular movies, over a 7 years period – sometimes with thousands of daily observations – and only $200 million in reduced revenue could be attributed to the release of pirated torrents. That may sound a lot, but it’s actually only 0.3% of all revenue recorded during the same period. Revenue data comes via the Hollywood Stock Exchange, so there is some degree of estimation and error in the data, but it certainly isn’t the “billion dollar a year problem” that Hollywood likes to portray piracy as. In fact, in the same period, Hollywood spent more than $500 million on anti-piracy activities alone. Good money wasted, if you ask me.

More interesting were the “consistent” results the study found in relation to pre-release piracy (that is when the pirated version is released on BitTorrent networks before the movie even hits the cinemas). The study found that there was actually a “modest positive effect” on box office revenue whenever a pre-release torrent was released. Not what Hollywood wants to hear. Or want you to believe.

What they do want you to hear is that it’s everyone else’s fault that movie studios are “losing” billions of dollars every year. And ISPs and search engines, these days, are at the top of their “public enemies” list. News Corp boss and the inspiration behind at least on Bond villain Rupert Murdoch says that ISPs should be held responsible for piracy. In submissions made to an Australian senate inquiry into a proposed free trade agreement with South Korea, News Corp says that current laws “do not provide rights holders with means to protect rights online”, and want ISPs to be on the front-lines in the un-winnable war on piracy.

It seems now that rights holders are totally convinced this is the way to proceed, just like they were entirely convinced that suing downloaders was the best way to deter others from doing so. The same strategy that the American Bar Association this week says is totally ineffective and even counter-productive. Their white paper says suing individuals is too costly, don’t yield any financial returns and can cause “public relations problems”. And it only took them a decade to figure all of this out!

So maybe a decade from now, News Corp and others will realise that picking on ISPs and treating all Internet users like criminals may not have been the best course of action, and neither is blaming Google for all their piracy woes. We live in hope.

Speaking of Google, TorrentFreak has been testing Google’s anti-piracy demotions and found that while legal music listening alternatives are now easier to find than pirated MP3s, the differences aren’t that significant. It usually only takes a couple of extra clicks and keystrokes to access pirated stuff, compared to legal options like VEVO.

Google Auto-Suggest

Google demotions have made legal music options easier to find, but there are so few legal options that most of the results are still piracy related

An interesting discovery made by TorrentFreak was that while the legal options are there, they are almost always YouTube or VEVO music videos. Other legal options, like iTunes, rarely rank (perhaps due to the way the iTunes website is set up), and TorrentFreak says that this is squarely the fault of the music industry. It’s no good for Google to keep on demoting piracy results when there are only a couple of actual legal results they can promote (and everything after these links become all pirated results again). The music industry will argue that removing the pirated results completely would solve this dilemma, rather than actually providing more legal options, or making legal sites more crawlable as Google suggests.

And it’s the lack of these legal options that seem to determine how many people pirate, and don’t pirate, from region to region. A new global survey has revealed that countries that have access to lots of legal alternatives have a much lower piracy rate than countries, like Australia, that have limited options. In the US, for example, 70% say they are unlikely to pirate, compared to just 40% in Australia. And even those that do pirate in the US, 90% say they only do it a couple of times a year.

The survey also shows pricing becomes an issue in countries with worse economic conditions than developed nations like the US and Australia. In Indonesia, for example, only 9% said they were unlikely to pirate, and out of those that do, 36% said that the high cost of buying content was the main reason they chose to pirate. In comparison, the main reason for Aussies was the lack of legal options.

Overall, the survey seems to show the many different reasons why people don’t want to go down the piracy route, including security issues and poor quality of downloads, and things like better availability, more options, fairer pricing all go towards helping people make the choice that they want to make in the first place.

But nah, just call all of them thieves and try to ban every one of them from the Internet.

——

That’s it for the week, all copyright stuff I know. Hopefully next week will have a bit more variety. See you then.

Weekly News Roundup (13 July 2014)

July 13th, 2014

Another short one this week as the World Cup is finally taking a toll on me (and my sleep patterns). So it’s Germany vs Argentina in the final, and I’m backing Germany (but only because they have three players from the club I support, Arsenal – more than any other country). The Germans have a real team, while most of the other countries only have great individuals. Still, if there was one individual that could make a difference it would be Argentina’s Messi. My prediction? Germany wins 2-1 thanks to Müller and Özil - Higuaín to get the consolation for Argentina. Don’t put money on it, but if you do, send me 5% of all winnings.

Alright, let’s get started because I’m heading for an early sleep.

Copyright

Popcorn Time

The MPAA is now going after Popcorn Time, or to be more precise, forks of the original project on GitHub

The MPAA is starting to turn its attention to a software tool that has been dubbed the “Netflix of piracy”, Popcorn Time. The MPAA has issued DMCA notices to GitHub for two forks of Popcorn Time, and GitHub has responded immediately by disabling the repositories of these projects. The DMCA notice also asks GitHub to take proactive action on any and all related forks of the project.

But it’s the open source nature of Popcorn Time will most likely save the software from the same fate enjoyed by other targeted tools in the past. After all, the original Popcorn Time has already survived being “removed” once. With the source code out in the open, it will almost be impossible to completely get rid Popcorn Time and its related developments, which is probably the main reason why the original creators chose to go down the open source route.

The MPAA may have won the first round, but it looks like this is going to be a long, and potentially un-winnable, war for them.

But fighting un-winnable wars is what anti-piracy is all about these days. And it’s a war being waged on from on-top, rather than by the people on the ground in Hollywood, who, according to director Lexi Alexander, don’t really care all that much about the piracy problem. Alexander, who directed the film ‘Green Street Hooligan’, also took to task Hollywood’s general attitude to a wide range of issues, from lack of diversity in hirings, to not giving people what they want.

Most interestingly, Alexander says that Hollywood’s woes, if they are in fact real, are mainly due to the lack of variety in the films they release and who they chooses to direct and star in them. Alexander points out several recent flops, including ‘Mars Needs Moms” and ‘Green Lantern’, and says that releasing crappy movies has cost Hollywood a lot more money than any perceived losses from piracy (both of these movies lost more than $100 million each).

But if you point out these and the dross that studios put on with such regularity, those “Fat Cats” (the only ones who regularly complain about piracy, according to Alexander) in Hollywood might lay the blame for these Box Office misses squarely at the feet of piracy.

New Netflix UI

With so many apps, games, and services competing for our time, and awesome platforms like Netflix to keep us occupied, crappy movies are flopping harder and harder at the box office – and it’s got nothing to do with piracy

What the Internet, and piracy, has managed to do is to provide ubiquitous availability of movies, even those that are still in cinemas. So once upon a time you might have had to pay some money to see if the criticism reserved for a flop that has been universally panned by critics is deserved or not, or you’re just curious (or a sadist), whether this means buying a cheap ticket at the cinema, or renting it on VHS – now, you can just download it. So perhaps piracy does have something to do with it.

But another factor to take into consideration is the sheer amount of choice we get these days in terms of content and activities, not just movies, but also video games, social media and other time wasters. There is no way you can do everything, watch everything, listen or play everything, and so we have to be choosy, not just with money, but with our time as well. There’s simply no room for watching a crappy movie on a Saturday night, which might have once upon a time been unavoidable due to the lack of entertainment choices. There’s also not enough money, so even if you have the time, why would you pay $20+ for ‘R.I.P.D’ when you can do so much more with that same $20?

But yeah, let’s just blame piracy.

One thing that I can blame piracy on, or rather the disproportionate response to the piracy problem, is this news where 30,000 people were sent notices of infringement. That in itself isn’t strange, except these notices were fake with a malicious payload attached to cause havoc. The trojan, sent to German Internet users, could steal credit card details and other sensitive information from the user’s computer.

In other short news, Aereo’s plan for survival has taken an interesting turn as the tiny-antenna company now wants a cable provider license. This would then allow Aereo to negotiate licensing deals with content providers and maybe, just maybe, re-launch their services.

High Definition

The Emmy nominations are in and Netflix has doubled the number of nominations they garnered last year. Once again, Netflix originals ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Orange is the New Black’ led the way in terms of nominations. Good luck to them for hopefully putting another nail in the coffin of the cable network hegemony.

I wish for Netflix’s success not just because they provide a kick-ass product at a insanely good price, but also because if/when they come to Australia, I would love to work for them doing this recently posted job. I order waste so many hours on Netflix already, so if I can get paid for do it, it would be just bloody awesome.

Gaming

And finally in gaming news, the PS4 isn’t doing so hot in Japan for some reason. This article tries to find the reasons for it, including the Japanese’s still strong love for last-gen consoles, including the PS3, and the fact that all the connected media services that the people are using the PS4 for in the west, like Netflix, isn’t really a thing in Japan. Worth a read if you need some arguments to fuel your PS4 fanboy fights with non-believers.

——

That was the news that was, for the week just ended. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (6 July 2014)

July 6th, 2014

Welcome to this week’s WNR. It’s another short one, and while the caliber of news stories is ultimately to blame, the lack of sleep I’m experiencing due to the World Cup cannot be discounted as a factor. It looks like my prediction last week has proved to be 100% correct, with the four teams I mentioned all making the semi-finals (even if it was by the skin of their collective teeth). In fact, I think I’ve managed to predict the result (but not the score) of all of the matches from the knock-out stage onwards (which is how I came up with the Brazil vs Germany, Netherlands vs Argentina semi-final line-up). I did not put money where my mouth is, unfortunately, because I don’t believe in betting and also because I’m an idiot.

Further proof that I’m an idiot comes from the fact that I nearly forgot to mention that this past Thursday was Digital Digest’s 15th anniversary, having been launched on the 4th of July in 1999. Having totally forgot about it until Wednesday night (I’m not in the US, so it’s not like I was bombarded with 4th of July stuff to remind me), I’ve only remembered it just now as I was about to hit the “Publish” button on this post. Anyway, here’s the obligatory Digital Digest in History photo album you can have a look at to see what Digital Digest looked like through the ages, including when it first launched in 1999 (check out the snazzy design!).

Alright, the news.

Copyright

Following last week’s copyright smack-down by Australian ISP executive Steve Dalby, Dalby was again on the attack this week when he took part in a Reddit AMA. Speaking in reference to the Australian pay TV monopoly owned by Foxtel, and the company’s deal with HBO to lock-up Game of Thrones from all other outlets (including iTunes), Dalby says that Foxtel is “on borrowed time”.

Dalby says reports prepared by rights holders about Australia’s piracy habits are “BS”, and says that Foxtel’s pricing (which is “447% of the price previously charged by iTunes”) is more to blame for people choosing not to pay. “Making content available in a timely, affordable away will go a long way to tapping into the Australian willingness to pay for legitimate content,” Dalby says.

HBO Logo

HBO much less worried about GoT piracy than almost everyone else

So what does HBO have to say about all of this? Surprisingly little. CNET spoke to HBO’s VP and GM Sofia Chang at the Game of Thrones exhibit in Sydney, and Chang’s comments were diplomatic, to say the least.

“Unfortunately, with this type of popularity comes this type of activity. However, I’ll say that in Australia you have one of the most liberal windows in terms of when it’s made available on the network and then when it’s made available on digital download,” Chang said.

“So, for example, with season four — the finale was on June 16, and on June 17 we made it available on Google Play and our other digital platforms.”

Make of that what you will. From what I read, it’s HBO’s way of saying that they’re happy with the current Foxtel-monopoly arrangement, and they don’t really care that it is causing record piracy for the show in Australia. Basically, HBO has a premium pricing model in which they rely on a small percentage of users to pay a high price for their content, knowing full well this leads to increased piracy. It works for them, and they know they can’t really complain too much about piracy given that this is the business model they’ve chosen. And HBO’s past comments have reflected their stand on the issue.

In other copyright news, hackers in Argentina have responded to the country’s banning of The Pirate Bay website by hacking and turning the website of a music industry group into a fully functioning Pirate Bay proxy site. The site operated for a full 10 hours before it was eventually taken down.

And over in Switzerland, draft legislation could see pirated downloads from cyberlockers made legal, but BitTorrent (which has an upload component) becoming illegal. Site blocking could also happen as part of sweeping changes in a bid to modernize the country’s copyright laws.

High Definition

The digital transition gathers pace as Sweden, thanks to its super-awesome broadband, may be the first country in the world where digital video spending overtakes that of physical media.

According to the estimates of Futuresource Consulting, 2014 is when digital spending for video content in Sweden will top €153 million ($209 million). This compares to to the €146 million ($199 million) estimate for packaged media, which has fallen dramatically in recent years. With digital music already accounting for 75% of sales, when it was only 25% a couple of years ago, it seems digital video will be heading the same way, and not just in Sweden.

Release windows will help to artificially keep discs and subscription TV alive for the time being, and there will always be those (like myself) that still like to buy movies on discs, but it’s clear what direction consumers want distributors to head in. With Netflix maybe coming to Australian soon, it will be interesting to see what kind of effect it has on our one and only subscription TV provider.

Amazon, Netflix and Hulu Plus

Amazon, Netflix and Hulu Plus – which comes out on top for content?

While Australians are un-spoilt for lack of choice, it’s a different situation over in the US where Netflix, Amazon and Hulu Plus are all desperately trying to grab and hold onto market share. While Netflix has a huge lead in terms of the number of subscribers, the race to have the best content is a tighter affair. US based investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co has analysed the content being offered by these major streaming providers, and found that, at least for the top rated movies, Netflix was still on top.

For TV shows, Hulu Plus with its TV catch-up origins still has a clear lead (57% of the top 75 series from the last TV season, compared to Netflix’s 20% and Amazon’s 9%). But for movies, Netflix’s 12% of top 50 box office movies compares favorably to Amazon’s 6% (Hulu Plus is way back, with just 1%).

While Netflix has been concentrating on original content, Amazon has been desperately trying to sign up to deals with networks like Fox and CBS to get shows like ’24′ and ‘Under the Dome’. So expect the see the gap narrow over the next few years. Of course, here in Australia, we’d be happy just to have Netflix, but rumors suggest that Amazon and Hulu Plus may not be far behind either.

——

Well, that actually went longer than I thought it would be. Hope you enjoyed reading, and see you next week.

 

Weekly News Roundup (29 June 2014)

June 29th, 2014

Brazil vs Germany. Netherlands vs Argentina. Barring no surprise, this is how the semi-finals of the World Cup would line-up, based on my predictions. And then, it could be anyone’s cup, depending on a piece of magic, luck and the ref. The team that has the most hunger for the trophy, and I don’t mean the “I’ll bite that Italian defender, he looks tasty” kind, will win it!

Starting in 3, 2, 1 …

Copyright

Aereo Antenna Array

Aereo loses Supreme Coury case – Aereo and their tiny antennas deemed too clever for its own good

We start with this week’s big copyright news, and legally speaking, it doesn’t get any bigger than a US Supreme Court decision which could have a ripple effect on just how copyright law is interpreted. Aereo has lost its case, brought to the Supreme Court’s attention by a conglomerate of TV broadcasters.

To sum up what Aereo is, basically, they’re a company that offered the online recording and streaming of TV broadcasts, for a monthly fee. The company tried to circumvent the need to license any content and pay re-broadcasting fees by reserving a tiny TV antenna for each subscriber, thus eliminating the “broad” in “broadcasting”. As users have the right to time and format shift TV broadcasts, Aereo used this to argue that they did not need a license for the streamed and stored content, as they were simply helping their customers exercise their rights by renting them tiny antennas.

If Aereo’s business model sounded too much like a gimmick, a loophole, then it appears you agree with the Supreme Court, who ruled this week 6-3 in favor of the TV broadcasters. Their opinion was basically that Aereo’s business model was similar to ones proposed by cable companies decades ago, in which they also tried to circumvent the need to pay licensing fees by using their own antenna systems. The court said that the Copyright Act of 1976 already refutes Aereo’s arguments.

The dissenting opinion did align itself with Aereo’s argument that, since each antenna was only used by a single subscriber, no re-broadcasting has actually occurred. Narrowcasting, maybe, but not broadcasting.

This probably means the end of Aereo, unless they can come to some agreement with the TV broadcasters – they’re not really in the best of positions to negotiate, you have to agree.

In another Supreme Court move, but this time in the Netherlands, anti-piracy agency BREIN has taken their Pirate Bay blocking case there to settle the matter once and for all. The lower courts have sided with ISPs and ruled that blocking The Pirate Bay is a big no-no, but BREIN, having spent a huge chunk of money already, wasn’t willing to just let it go. The Supreme Court will now have to decide whether the legal criteria applied by the lower courts was sufficient, or perhaps even order a new trial.

——

The MPAA wants more “unbiased” research on the issues of piracy, research whose topics they will determine, whose methodologies and directions they will choose, and whose funding they will provide. Yep, totally unbiased. It’s just like when research showed that movie box office took a hit following the shutdown of Megaupload, due to the reduced word of mouth effect that is a positive effect of piracy. The MPAA quickly produced their own research which showed the exact opposite.

With companies like Google, Netflix and Spotify all funding their own research to support their positions on everything from piracy to revenue sharing, the war of research papers will set to continue between them and the likes of the RIAA and MPAA. The truth is that, without proper parameters, you can obtain research results that supports pretty much any position you want, and when you’re also paying the researchers, it’s hardly the formula to obtain independent and unbiased data. Instead, it’s nothing more than just another propaganda tool, designed to fool those that don’t want to hear different in the first place.

Australian iiNet calls content holders "control freaks"

Australian iiNet calls content holders “control freaks”

It’s this kind of head-in-sand attitude that, I think, makes rights holders so fervent and righteous in their copyright crusade. Making them feel that what they are doing, even if it is against the interests of their own customers, their own industry and their very own futures, absolutely right. They are also “content control freaks”, a term that has been coined this week by one of Australia’s largest ISPs iiNet in relation to efforts by rights holders to introduce harsher copyright laws here. Rights holder, so paranoid about the threat of piracy, so coddled and protected by the political elite and so disrespectful of their own customers (preferring to think of them as “potential pirates”), have done some really crazy things, when you think about it, in relation to controlling how their content is consumed. I mean, McDonald’s don’t tell you how to eat a Big Mac, and then penalize you for “doing it wrong”. But Sony and Fox, and EA and Activision, and Warner Music and EMI can. And will.

Never mind that domain blocking and three-strikes have not work anywhere in the world where they have been implemented (unless you believe the “unbiased” research, paid-for and designed by the RIAA/MPAA), and yet, that’s exactly what rights holders are pushing the pro big business government here to implement. ISPs, you have to say do have a conflicting interest in this in that they don’t want to be responsible for being the Internet police, but their arguments – which you would think governments would listen to more considering they are the experts after all – are sound and logical. You can’t put a pad-lock on the Internet, not against those that are already technically proficient at the whole piracy thing.

Worst of all, the same rights holders are pushing for geo-unblocking and VPNs to be outlawed too here, mainly because of the quarter million of households here that use something like this to access superior and good value services, like Netflix. Instead of asking themselves why people are spending money buying overseas services, usually at a greater cost than say people in the US accessing the same services (so not just a matter of freeloaders who don’t want to spend a single cent on content), all they see is “lost revenue”. The extra money that, they believe, people will pay for overpriced, lower quality, less convenient local services if the overseas options are blocked – all because there’s less competition here to force content holders to provide more competitive pricing. It’s an artificial constraint on trade, says iiNet, something that should not be allowed under the free trade agreement between Australia and the US.

In conclusion, iiNet opines “Years of ranting against piracy – while ignoring customer feedback – have got rights holders nowhere”. It seems to me that rights holders want to, and I mean really want to, continue going nowhere, because it feels safer than going to somewhere else, a place that’s new, innovative and where their customers are already heading.

Speaking of going nowhere, the RIAA this week surpassed the 50 millionth URL mark in their DMCA removal requests to Google. I don’t have any unbiased research to back up my claims, but I reckon far more than 50 million music piracy related URLs were created in the same time, most of it as a result of the removal of the old URL.

The MPAA also tried something this week too with their DMCA request, by trying to remove an entire subreddit from Google. The r/fulllengthfilms was one of the URLs that the MPAA asked Google to remove this week, something that Google has not yet taken action on. A new war on Reddit? This could be interesting.

Gaming

PS4 with controller and PS Eye

Sony almost had to do nothing to be the big winner so far, thanks to Microsoft’s missteps

Not much in terms of gaming this week, but this article caught my eye. When Sony heard about Microsoft’s big mis-step (number two), that the Xbox One was going to be $100 dearer than the PS4, everyone in the Sony camp was “dancing in the aisles and high-fiving”. I bet they were.

The mood must have been equally as good when they first heard Microsoft’s disastrous DRM plan, and then some more celebratory antics when the inevitable back-track occurred. All Sony had to do was to not make any big mistakes and they would have been head, but to their credit, they did release a console that did all the necessary things right (even if, perhaps, it wasn’t as revolutionary as it could have been).

—–

My mood is a bit less than celebratory. More sleepy and slightly annoyed. The World Cup, as hard as I tried to ignore it, has been hard to ignore and two live matches in the last week starting at 2 a.m. was just too much for me. In my younger days, I would easily be able to get up at 4 a.m., watch the match, and continue with the rest of the day, fatigued but still capable. The worrying thing is that these so called younger days were only two years ago!

See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (22 June 2014)

June 22nd, 2014

How are you then? Been keeping up with the World Cup? I must say as an avid football (or “soccer”) fan, I found it hard to give a crap at the start, but I’m starting to get the fever. Still not enough to get me to stay up at 2 a.m., or to get up in the early morning to catch a live game here in Australia, not even on the weekends.

A quick glance at this WNR and you might wonder where the “news that wasn’t” section has gone, where I cover the stories that weren’t really important enough, but are still worth a mention. They’re still here, but are now integrated into the main WNR below, which works best with the stories we have this week.

Time for kick-off …

Copyright

I’m not even sure if you can still call it news if it happens with such regularity and frequency, but in case you haven’t guessed, Game of Thrones broke yet another piracy record with the season 4 finale ‘The Children’. I’ll leave it to you to check the actual stats (hint: a lot of people downloaded it), but the reaction to this latest non-news was what interested me the most. Especially the reaction here in down-under-land.

Game of Thrones: Season 4

Does anyone still give a crap about how many times GoT is pirated?

So Australians were once again top when it came to downloading GoT, and our consistency in outperforming all other countries by once again lifting the World Cup trophy for piracy is, from a neutral point of view, quite impressive really. Unfortunately, it’s attracted the wrong kind of attention, from the kind of people our newly elected, right wing, pro big business government likes to take advice/orders from. So plans involving of thousand dollar fines and Internet suspensions have all been floated, to the opposition of Internet users, ISPs, consumer groups and pretty much everyone who is not in the entertainment industry or in government (so definitely will become law, then).

Our situation, compared to the rest of world, is also unique in that we have a virtual monopoly controlling exactly how Game of Thrones can be watched legally here. We only have one cable TV provider, Foxtel, and they’ve snapped up the exclusive broadcasting as well as online rights to the show. So no iTunes, no equivalent of HBO or HBO Go (where you can minimize your subscription to just basic cable and HBO – here, the cheapest pack that includes the HD version of the show will run you well into the $80+ per month territory) - just the overpriced bundles being advertised as part of a so called “freedom of choice” (the choice Foxtel or Foxtel). It’s as if we’re the world’s experiment in seeing if piracy is influenced by lack of choice, high prices and competition, and you have to say that results are pretty conclusive. An experiment and set of results that are completely ignored by those that have the power to reduce piracy by affecting positive changes (as opposed to changes that have already been tried in other countries with no success).

Oh well.

No DRM

Are game publishers starting to speak out against DRM?

It’s one thing to try and criminalize those that pirate stuff, but it’s quite another to treat everyone as criminals. Which, according to game publisher GOG, is exactly what DRM does. DRM assumes that the user is trying to do something untoward and then makes that user jump through hoops to prove that they’re actually trying to behave. Sometimes the hoops are so tricky that the user ends up not being able to use the product at all. So something that is only intended to prevent a very tiny minority of users that actually attempt to break DRM ends up affecting all paying customers. The proverbial trying to swat fly with a sledgehammer (if such a proverb actually does exist).

While GOG’s hatred of DRM is well documented, Ubisoft’s statement that DRM simply doesn’t work was, in my opinion, far more interesting. It’s the first time I think a major game publishers has so clearly outlined just how useless DRM is. Ubisoft’s VP of digital publishing Chris Early basically admitted that, given time, any DRM will be cracked (and after that happens, it becomes trivial for the layman to remove the DRM). What is more difficult to pirate, Ubisoft says, are the services that surround the game, mostly online services that enhance the gaming experience.

While it’s nice to see companies like Ubisoft give a red card to DRM, but as the recent Watch Dogs fiasco showed, these enhanced services must be well supported and resourced in order for them to become enhancements, and not just a fancy way of doing authentication and DRM.

But what if you want to deter pirates using something just as useless as DRM, but much easier to implement? How about a symbol for “no piracy” that you can display proudly on your products, whether it be a web page or on the box of the game? Now you can! The Unicode Consortium (had no idea that it actually existed) has released the latest version of Unicode, 7.0 (also had no idea that unicode had versions, and/or could be updated), which now features a “no piracy” symbol. There is no “yes piracy” symbol, but the classic skull and crossbones is in there, as is a extended middle finger that one can also use to thwart off the likes of the MPAA and RIAA. You can view the complete list of symbols here.

Gaming

The NPD stats for May have been released and the PS4 again was the best selling console in the US. No longer surprising really, but what was interesting was that Wii U sales were up 85% compared to last May, largely on the back of Mario Kart 8. The latest Mario Kart game was also the second best seller for the month, behind Watch Dogs, which is impressive given that it was only available one the one platform.

Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 lifts Wii U sales

Microsoft were surprisingly quiet about the performance of either of their consoles, so it must not have been great news on these fronts. With the $399 Xbox Ones now available, to atone for the own goal of forcing Kinect 2.0 on everyone, Microsoft will hope for a better June than May. The advertising blitz, starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, should also be hitting screens in the US right now to let everyone know about the new price, although for existing owners, the ad itself seems to have a few side effects.

These latest PS4 results seems to suggest that it is the console to beat in this generation, and Sony say they know why. Sony says that according to Nielsen stats, 31% of PS4 owners didn’t own a PS3, but did in fact own a Xbox 360 or Wii. Hmm, interesting. 17% didn’t own any last-gen consoles (PS2 holdouts?).

These results probably surprised Sony as much as anyone. Which explains why demand still outstrips supply in many parts of the world, including Europe - so sales might be even higher if Sony could keep up with demand for the console.

There’s no doubt that Sony is winning over gamers that were far from convinced about the PS3, both from a value proposition and other important factors such as online capabilities and quality of multiplatform games (better framerate, resolution and things like that). Whereas the PS3 was a (relative) pain to develop for, with online features that were sub-optimal, the PS4 seems to have addressed all of these issues. With Microsoft busy shooting themselves in their feet and other appendages, even some of the PS4′s flaws (such as scaled back media capabilities, compared to the PS3) are easily overlooked. And that price, as they say, is right!

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Alright, enough trying to cram football related terms into this week’s WNR. See you next week.


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