Weekly News Roundup (11 October 2015)

October 11th, 2015

A fair amount to go through this week, but I’d still like to keep things brief because it’s pretty hot where I’m typing this up, and it’s hard to concentrate. And given the PS4 related news this week, I’ve also been losing concentration to dreaming about buying a PS4, despite the fact that I would never find the time to use it other than as a glorified Netflix and Blu-ray player (which I already have the PS3 for).

Must. Finish. Writing.


It’s that time of the year again, and the MPAA and RIAA have submitted their list of notorious pirates to the government, to help them write their annual notorious markets list. No big surprises here, with the usual suspects (The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents) all included, plus Popcorn Time gets an honorable (or is that dishonorable) mention.

The Pirate Bay 'Hydra'

“Notorious” pirate The Pirate Bay named and shamed by the MPAA, RIAA, but the EFF is a new and interesting target

New, but again not surprising, both the MPAA and RIAA chose to spread the blame around for the piracy problem (once again failing to address their own responsibilities in making piracy what it is today). Everyone from “domain registrars, privacy/proxy service providers” to “advertisers and ad networks, search engines, content delivery networks and hosting services” were all targeted for being “enablers”. I’m honestly surprised that computer and consumer electronic manufacturers (true statistic: 100% piracy downloads and uploads occur on computers or consumer electronic devices), utility companies (websites need electricity to work), car manufacturers (I assume some pirates do drive) and snack food and soft drink makers (pirates need nutrition too) all didn’t make the list. Maybe next year.

Worse yet, the RIAA chose to strike out at piracy “apologists” like the EFF for making a big deal on on digital rights and freedom of expression. The RIAA says pirates as disguising their self-interest using the cloak of freedom of expression, when their real aim is about making money. Considering most of the groups that upload content or people that maintain piracy sites are doing it on a volunteer basis, I’m not sure this latest RIAA salvo has any merit. Sure, many sites are out there trying to make a buck, but these are usually the sites that don’t care about having any kind of cloak or disguise about their real motives, and the people that use these sites aren’t concerned about their motives either.

High Definition

Samsung may have been the standout performer at the IFA Berlin trade show with their “world’s first” UHD Blu-ray player (available in 2016), it’s actually Panasonic that will bring the first one to market next month, albeit in Japan only.

Panasonic DMR-UBZ1

Meet the world’s first Ultra HD Blu-ray player, available to buy in Japan in November

The DMR-UBZ1 will set you back more than USD $3,300, but that’s the early adopter tax for you, plus the fact that the UBZ1 is also a DVR with a 1TB HDD. The Samsung player will be much more affordable at under $500 when it’s available in early 2016.

Other than having support for HDR, and some nice photos of the player, there’s not a lot of other information on the UBZ1 (at least not in English), but I wouldn’t expect the UHD Blu-ray capabilities of the UBZ1 to be that much different (or better) than Samsung’s UBS-K8500.

Some will question that in the age of downloads and streaming, whether discs still have a place. Acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino would disagree, as he says he’s just not into streaming. Tarantino says he still prefers having something tangible to hold in his hands. I don’t completely disagree, especially when it comes to buying movies (because buying DRM protected digital movies can be very risky), but not everyone has the resources of Tarantino to buy and store the thousands of movies that he no doubt has in his collection (he admits to buying the inventory of a video store that went out of business – I think I prefer to pay $8.99, or $9.99 a month now thanks to the new price rise, even if it means not having anything tangible to hold).


PS4 with controller and PS Eye

A $50 cheaper PS4 is a great buy for this holiday

Looks like Xbox boss Phil Spencer was right – the PS4 just got a $50 price cut. This brings the PS4 back to the same price as the Xbox One, which should give Microsoft something to think about. At USD $350, plus a game, the PS4 is pretty good value for a current generation console that still has its best years (in terms of games) to come.

It’s definitely the console I would buy if I had $350 and the time to actually play some games. Also, a free HDMI port on my TV wouldn’t hurt either.


And I think that’s all I have for you guys and gals this week. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (4 October 2015)

October 4th, 2015

As is often the case, the previous week’s news-busy-ness is followed by this past week’s super quietness.

Being the start of a new month, there’s a whole bunch of happenings over at our sister site Streambly, where you can read the latest streaming news stories (such as what’s going to be new on Netflix, Hulu for October – sneak peak: lots of great new movies on Hulu).

So with not much to talk about, let’s get things started and finished quickly with our first and only story …


After lobbying the government to get it passed as a law, the RIAA is now no longer a fan of the DMCA. Apparently, they’ve noticed that the 23 DMCA take-down requests Google receives every second isn’t doing much to stop the piracy problem, and instead of doing a re-think on way to innovate out of the problem, the RIAA simply wants tougher laws and better tools to take on pirates (tools that probably includes domain censorship, criminalisation of copyright infringement, and other things that will make the good folks at the EFF pull out their hair).

The RIAA’s latest outburst comes after critics questioned the public’s perceived value of music, in that many are happy to pay $5 for a cup of coffee, but not $10 a month to access millions of tracks. The cause of this problem, Forbes’ Hugh McIntyre says, has to do with a decade of piracy, and now, things like free Spotify access to millions of tracks (in exchange for some ads).

The RIAA doesn’t completely disagree, but says that not being able to do more on piracy (despite having sued single mothers, college students, dabbled in DRM, and lobbied politicians every chance they get) is what’s lowering the value of music, mainly because companies like Spotify are using piracy as a leverage to negotiate better deals with the recording industry.

iTunes 10

Digital music sales have fundamentally changed how music is sold, and who profits from these sales

While there’s some sense in that, I don’t think it’s the only thing that’s lowered the music industry’s profitability over the last decade or so. Primarily, it’s the transition from physical media to digital that has hurt the industry the most. Not only has the revenue source changed from one largely driven by album sales to that of single tracks (good for consumers, as they no longer have to pay for tracks on an album they didn’t want), the entire supply chain has changed. Whereas the recording industry had control over everything (from manufacturing, to distribution to promotion) apart from the actual point of sale, and this allowed them to take a larger slice of the revenue pie, companies like Apple and Spotify are now doing much more than simply handling the monetary transaction. They’ve become essential promotional tools, and handles the distribution side of things as well. This shift of control has allowed the likes of iTunes and Spotify to start dictating terms, and also take much larger piece of the pie.

It didn’t have to be this way though. While the RIAA was busy trying to defeat piracy, tech companies were busy innovating and coming up with ideas on not how to defeat piracy, but to compete with it. In essence, while the RIAA was fretting about losing their income, they effectively handed over their bread and butter to a whole new industry, and now they’re trying desperately to save the situation.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out

Mobile gaming and other digital content may be making it harder for music to compete for people’s attentions, and for their wallet

Looking at this from another perspective, it’s probably true to say that people’s disposable incomes haven’t increased in the last decade, but where they can spend on their money in terms of entertainment options has increased. From casual and mobile gaming, to social media, to digital movies and streaming, and to iPhones and iPads to consume these content on, the modern consumer maybe just doesn’t have the money (or the time, for that matter) to spend on music to the satisfaction of the recording industry.

And all of this was happening, and would have happened even without piracy. The point I’m trying to make is that these are all things to consider before the recording industry calls for tougher copyright laws (and before politicians cave to their demands).

Well, I’m kind of glad there wasn’t much in other news to talk about, to give me the time and space to have the above little rant. It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity, and it feels good.


While it’s always nice to be able to rant, I still hope that there will be a little bit more interesting news next week (kind of tired of seeing the same headlines over and over again). So until then, have a great one!

Weekly News Roundup (27 September 2015)

September 27th, 2015

Finally a bit of news this week, with everything from The Pirate Bay to Netflix to Star Wars. Speaking of Star Wars, I’m almost to the point of hyperventilating with excitement whenever I think of the new movie, coming out in only 82 days. A new Star Destroyer, new X-Wing and Tie Fighters, new droids, villains, heroes, and rumours of teary eyed moments … cannot wait!


The Pirate Bay Cloud Hosting

The reasons for the Pirate Bay going offline for so long has finally been explained

A Swedish police raid last year on a hosting facility, where the police seized servers belonging to several top piracy sites, also took down The Pirate Bay for three months. But it has emerged this week that it wasn’t the raid that caused the servers to go down for the world’s most popular piracy site, at least not directly.

While one TPB server was seized during the raid (which also took servers belonging to EZTV), it was only used for moderator discussions and it being down did not affect TPB operations. What it could have affected, however, was the operational security of the site – with potentially sensitive information being stored on the server that was now in the hands of Swedish police.

The ever paranoid (with good reason) TPB team decided to move cloud providers, and it’s here that the team ran into a hitch, which turned into a code re-write, resulting in the three months hiatus.

The cryptic clues being left on the site’s home page, the team says, was just a joke, to drive the conspiracy theory nuts crazy.

All of this has been just made public, says the TPB team, because it’s only now that via internal audits and other security checks that they are absolutely certain nothing of importance was stored in the seized server. This is also why when the site first came back up, certain moderator features were disabled and most of the moderators were kept in the dark about the site’s plans.

In other Pirate Bay news, you might be seeing some different kinds of ads on The Pirate Bay and other piracy sites. Most likely ads that are less mainstream than right now (if that’s even possible, for some of the sites out there). This is because advertisers have started to boycott advertising on sites like The Pirate Bay, even though these sites are often the highest trafficked ones, and the best way for some advertisers to reach out to potential customers.

From an advertisers’s perspective, it’s isn’t always easy to pick the sites you want your ads to be displayed on. It’s often do so algorithmically, based on matching the right ads with the right users. Advertising networks can deny website publishers whose content doesn’t fall within their guidelines, but these same networks also include ads from third party networks that may not have such stringent policies (or do not enforce them). Advertisers (and publishers from the other side) can maintain some kind of a blacklist, but there are ways around that too.

The idea is that by removing ad revenue from piracy sites, it can make sites too expensive to operate, or take some of the motivation away from people who operate sites like these. But there are always advertisers seeking eyeballs (or click-throughs), and there are always plenty of less than scrupulous operators out there looking for ad space, meaning it’s unlikely that this latest plan will do any major harm to piracy sites.

Stop Spam

Spammers find a new way to promote boner pills – via Google’s DMCA tool

Speaking of unscrupulous operators, spammers have found a new way to spray paint their tainted links onto the world wide web canvas – via Google’s DMCA take-down request tool. Google publishes all DMCA requests, even the bogus ones, on their Chilling Effects website. So by filing fake requests, spammers can get a page on the Chilling Effects website that contains all the links and keywords they want to promote. Of course, almost nobody ever visits these pages, and search engines, at least the good ones, wouldn’t really take these pages into consideration when running their ranking algorithms. So just exactly what spammers get out of these, I don’t know.

I do know from my own experience running this site that spammers will pretty much fill in any kind of form that you publish, regardless of whether these forms actually lead to anything helpful for them. And I’m sure there are those that sell tools and scripts that promises to submit people’s links to 1,000’s of websites, with the Google DMCA request tool form being one of these submitted sites.

High Definition

Han Shot First

Will Disney give people what they want, and release us the theatrical cuts to the original Star Wars trilogy?

Could it finally happen? Ever since Disney bought out George Lucas for all the Star Wars stuff, there’s been hope that the theatrical cut of the original trilogy movies would see a Blu-ray and DVD release, something that Lucas would never have allowed. Rumours abound that Disney, keen to cash in more on Star Wars fever, is working to get the unaltered originals released. The rumour comes via director John Landis (yes, the Blues Brothers John Landis) that Disney are indeed working on restoring and releasing films, which might be tricky considering 20th Fox still owns the releasing rights to the already released movies until 2020 at least.

There are also rumours that the Star Wars films may be coming to Netflix, to Latin America only though. This rumour is what helps me segue into the next story about Netflix’s predictions that all TV will be on the Internet within 10 to 20 years. And not only that, most stuff will be on demand in lieu of linear broadcasting. The writing is definitely on the wall for linear broadcasting – letting some suits at a TV network pick and choose what you watch and when, just seems like such an outdated concept.


The PS4 is getting a price cut soon, according to none other than Xbox boss Phil Spencer. But far from panicking, Spencer says the Xbox One’s strong holiday line-up (including new Halo, Forza, Tomb Raider and Gears of War games) will help the Xbox One win one more holiday sales period (it won the last two, at least in the US). And even if the Xbox One doesn’t end up being number one, Spencer says all of this price competition will still be good for game companies, as the super deals on offers will drive sales up across the sector, even if the PS4 ultimately ends up on top.


That’s another week done and dusted. See you next week, when there will only be 75 days until The Force Awakens.

Weekly News Roundup (20 September 2015)

September 20th, 2015

Another pretty quiet week, so we should get through this one rather quickly.


The two main news stories this week are both about three-strikes, and while the stories cover two different countries, the conclusions from both may very well be the same.

The first has to do with New Zealand’s own implementation of three-strikes, and how rights-holders there have now been turned off on the idea due to the cost of it all. It costs about $25 for each warning to be sent, and $275 to go from the first warning to the third one and the actual complaint being filed with the tribunal.

Three Strikes

Three-strike laws around the world have yet to prove to be an effective way to help increase sales for rights-holders

It strikes me as rich that these same rights-holders that are now complaining about the high cost of it all are the same people who exaggerated the financial cost of piracy in order to make their case for a three-strikes. If a single downloader can cause $1.92 million in damages (or if running a piracy site is a worse crime than robbing a bank), surely $275 isn’t that much to spend in order to bring and end to this.

Or is it more likely that the true cost of piracy isn’t worth anywhere near $275 per downloader, that someone who is intent on not paying for something, will not pay for anything even if they’re prevented from downloading stuff.

And now, let’s take a look at the French three-strikes experiment, one of the longest running. France’s ‘Hadopi’ has just turned five, and after sending 5.4 million notices, it appears to not have had a dramatic effect on the piracy scene in the country. Actually, I don’t know what the piracy landscape is like in France, but I do know that if Hadopi had been successful in turning the tide on piracy, the pro-copyright lobby would be screaming about it from the top of every roof. Actually, there was some noises being made about the piracy rate being down, and Hapodi’s five year stats do back this up – only 10% of first time offenders continued to download to receive a second warning (and only 0.57% went on to receive a third warning). But there has been deafening silence on just what effect this “on paper” reduction in piracy has had on revenue, which from what I understand, continues to fall in a number of creative industries.

The fact that people can simply switch to a different method of piracy that’s not monitored by Hadopi probably explains why a fall in piracy (the monitored kind) does not translate to more sales. That and Hadopi only being able to process around 50% of infringement, also means a lot of second and third offenders are not being caught.

But both stories this week prove one important point, that the only statistic that matters is the the one with the dollar (pound/euro) sign at the front. There should only be one goal when it comes to stopping piracy, and that’s to stem losses due to it and increase revenue for rights-holders. If anti-piracy efforts, whether it’s three-strikes, criminal prosecution, or site censorship, does not lead to a rise in sales that’s greater than the cost of the effort, then these efforts should be labeled a failure and discontinued immediately.


Sad to say that this is all I have for you this week. But nice and short isn’t always a bad thing though. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (13 September 2015)

September 13th, 2015

Not a lot of news this week, which might be related to the Labor Day holiday in the US. Or the fact that the quota for news stories might have all been used up (during the the very busy) last week.

So this won’t take long at all, I suppose …


The Norwegian Pirate Party is ready to counter the country's new censorship regime

The Norwegian Pirate Party is ready to counter the country’s new censorship regime

Norway has started blocking The Pirate Bay, but they’ve chosen to do it on the DNS level, which makes bypassing the filter as easy as changing from your ISP’s DNS servers to a public one (like the ones from Google – this is probably recommended even if you’re not subject to draconian censorship regimes, from performance, reliability and security points of view). And to make users aware of how easy it is to ignore this latest misguided censorship effort, the Norwegian Pirate Party has launched their own public DNS server.

Okay, I admit, this isn’t the most enticing of news stories. But I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, and this story about rights-holders pursuing an utterly futile course of action that sets a dangerous precedent at the same time as having no positive consequences for anybody involved, was the best I could do this week.

That was until yesterday, when I glanced upon this story about a new app called Aurous that’s set to make music piracy as easy as Spotify. Not that Spotify is hard to use, and of course, you can use it without paying – but it’s also not as perfect as it could be, with not all songs being available and no offline/download mode unless you pay. This is what Aurous promises to make up, that and to also be pain in the ass for the music industry.


Aurous wants to make music piracy easier than using Spotify

The early alpha versions of Aurous, available on pretty much all the major platforms including mobile ones, is still lacking many of the features that makes Spotify really cool – like discovery and radios, so from a usability perspective, Spotify does still have a few cards up its sleeve, even for the free version.

And there’s the “good enough” factor to consider. While Spotify may not be perfect, it might be “good enough” for most people to not have to bother going down the piracy route, even with something as easy to use as Aurous. The same cannot be said for movies and TV shows – as good as Netflix is, it just doesn’t have most of things you want to watch. This is why Popcorn Time, a similar concept except for video content, is such a hit and such a disruptive force for the industry, whereas Aurous may never achieve the same effect (and notoriety).

High Definition

Speaking of offline/download mode, and following last week story about Amazon Prime adding this feature to its streaming service, Netflix has responded this week by confirming that they’re not considering adding the same feature.

New Netflix UI

No offline mode coming, says Netflix

But I’m not sure I buy their reason for not adding this feature, which is that while users want the feature, most won’t use it because it’s too complex (since users will have to manage local storage, queue downloads, you lose the instant play ability, and since not all titles will support downloads, it adds to further user confusion). Users can always choose to not use the download feature if they find it too complex, so I don’t see what Netflix has to lose by adding the feature.

Actually, I do see what Netflix has to lose – money. Rights-holders will want more for the licensing rights to downloads, and licensing costs is something Netflix has been trying to reduce, either through producing their own original content and by ending content deals with the likes of Epix.

But users also have plenty of gain if they had access to an offline playback mode, even if it’s just for selected titles. Being able to queue up a few offline titles to watch could be a godsend for vacations to places with poor to non-existent Internet connections, for example. So perhaps Netflix should reconsider, and give users what they want (even if most might not actually use it, all the time).


The August NPD results are in and the PS4 has won yet again. As usual, all the companies spun the results into something super positive for themselves (Sony didn’t have to do as much spinning, to be fair). Microsoft bigged up the Xbox One’s sales increase and its big release slate for the rest of the year, while Nintendo talked about the 3DS, Amiibo and Splatoon, but failed to mention the Wii U at all, which is probably for the best.


So that was the week that was. A nice and quiet week, hopefully leading up to a nice and not so quiet week next week. See you soon.

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