Weekly News Roundup (17 May 2015)

May 17th, 2015

A nicely rounded WNR this week, with a little bit of everything included, from copyright stuff, to gaming, to 4K Blu-ray. Also a shout out to our new contributor Nick Harris (here he is on Twitter) – Nick will be helping me write a couple of news stories on Digital Digest and Streambly. Welcome to the team Nick!

I’m still looking for more contributors to help me find and write news stories. If you like the topics covered by this WNR and have an interest in writing (no experience needed), please contact me (use the admin/Sean email address).

Alright, the news stuff.

Copyright

HBO Now Devices

HBO Now – not quite good enough, or cheap enough, for many

While the first four episodes of the new Game of Thrones season has thus far avoided the unwanted distinction of breaking new piracy records, episode five, the first one that wasn’t leaked before the season even began, unfortunately could not escape the inevitable.

While most of the blame will go to the no good thieving pirates, especially now that HBO has given in and made available their standalone HBO Now product, HBO themselves are not without blame for this ongoing piracy crisis. The HBO Now app, based on ratings and reviews on the Apple App Store, is far from perfect and HBO’s poor track record with streaming goes back to even before HBO Now was launched. Those that used HBO Go, the company’s cable-account tied streaming service, will be familiar with the usual Game of Thrones rush, where HBO’s infrastructures fails to handle the demand of thousands of users all trying to stream the latest episode. On this front at least, HBO’s product falls short when compared to competitors like Netflix and Amazon.

And then there’s the price of HBO Now – $15 per month is very decent compared to the previous cable-tied arrangement, but it’s not when compared to the likes of Netflix. Considering that almost all users are there just to watch Game of Thrones, $15 a month for mainly just one show doesn’t sound like the greatest value.

So if HBO is serious about fighting piracy, then there are many other things they can do before playing the blame game.

Not living in a part of the world that HBO considers worthy of their presence, I’m not quite sure if their PC player uses HTML5. If they do already, or if they will eventually move in that direction (most likely), then the news that Firefox 38 now supports HTML5 DRM will be bittersweet news for subscribers of HBO Now that uses Firefox. This is because the latest version of Firefox has finally and reluctantly added Encrypted Media Extension (EME) support, which enables HTML5 playback of protected content from providers like Netflix, but also now means the open source browser now includes closed source DRM,

I say reluctantly because there’s a lot of complications involved with adding closed source “black box” code into an open source project like Firefox, even outside of licensing issues. Security, for example, is harder to verify if nobody can check the code for unintended bugs or intended spying. Firefox, for their part, has made a big effort to calm users of these fears, by providing a sandboxed environment for the EME, and also providing an EME-free version of Firefox for those that are concerned-bordering-on-paranoid (users can also disable or uninstall EME support in the standard version).

But without adding EME support, it would leave Firefox lacking in the compliance department when it comes to HTML5 support, not to mention eventually failing to support popular apps like Netflix. And that was a direction that even one of the major supporters of open source, Mozilla, wasn’t willing to make.

High Definition

Ultra HD Blu-ray Logo

Ultra HD Blu-ray specs are done, complete with new logo

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players this week moves a step closer to (commercial) reality, with the Blu-ray Disc Association announcing that the specifications are now completed. There weren’t any surprises in the finalized specs, so it’s mostly just confirmation of things we already know. Things like 66GB dual layer and 100GB triple layer discs capable of supporting resolutions up to 3840×2160 at 60fps. There’s also goodies for those looking to update their TV sets to one of those fancy ones that supports things like 10-bit color and High Dynamic Range, as UHD Blu-ray will support these too.

On the audio front, support for one or both of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X “object-based sound formats” will be there too, as is a new version of UltraViolet that allows one disc purchase to unlock playback and streaming on a wide variety of digital-only devices – something to keep discs relevant in the age of digital.

And oh, there’s also a new logo.

I have to say that there’s something I don’t really like about the marketing for Ultra HD Blu-ray. I can’t help but feel that people are being led to believe UHD Blu-ray is just a small upgrade on the Blu-ray format, much like how Blu-ray 3D was promoted. But looking at it, UHD Blu-ray has a new disc format (that’s not compatible on older players) with new video and audio codecs, and will require a new TV to take full advantage of the improvements. The changes here are just as big as when DVDs made way for Blu-ray!

But it just doesn’t feel big enough of an update, and maybe that’s intentional. Nobody really wants a brand new disc format to contend with, not when everything is digital-only these days, and I think the BDA knows this. The emphasis here has been on continuity, on how UHD Blu-ray players will still play all your current Blu-ray discs, and that things haven’t changed all that much (even though they have, in major ways). And it’s also why the familiar Blu-ray logo is still part of the new logo, even though no existing Blu-ray player will be able to do anything with these new UHD discs.

Gaming

Xbox One Forza 5

A win for the Xbox One finally

I didn’t see that one coming. The Xbox One has managed to beat the PS4 in April US sales, the first time the Microsoft flagship console has managed to beat Sony’s juggernaut outside of the holiday sales period. The Xbox One’s permanent price cut and good value bundles seems to be turning the tide, although it’s not easy to say whether this is the beginning of a new trend, or just a temporary blip for the PS4.

Microsoft was expectedly happy with the result, citing that Xbox One sales were 63% up compared to the same month last year.

Overall hardware sales are still down, about 4% compared to this time last year, largely due to Xbox 360 and PS3 sales dropping off a cliff.

On the games front, the PS4 did manage to beat the Xbox One, with several of the top selling titles, including Mortal Kombat X, all selling better on the PS4. The two major FPS titles in the top 10, the latest incarnations of Battlefield and Call of Duty, both did better on the Xbox One than on the PS4 though.

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And here we are at the end of another WNR. Hope you enjoyed this issue. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (10 May 2015)

May 10th, 2015

Happy Mother’s Day to my mum, as well as all mums around the world.

My Surface Pro 3 experiment is coming along well, I haven’t touched my old desktop all week. There are still some issues with my screen set up, as switching between the SP3’s screen and my monitor can sometimes make all the icons look weird (signing out and back in again is the only way to solve it). But largely, it’s great being able to take work with me around the house, as well as outside of it, and to switch between tablet, laptop and desktop without much effort at all.

Let’s get started with the news roundup …

Copyright

Roll of money

The MPAA is paying researchers for pro-copyright research

When MPAA prez Chris Dodd called for more unbiased research in the area of copyright, one might have thought that a new page had been turned by Hollywood’s copyright lobby, and that there might now be a genuine desire to find the root cause of the piracy problem. At least that’s what one might think, if one was not familiar with how the MPAA works.

So despite the publicly call for unbiased research, privately, the MPAA is doing the opposite – paying researchers for pro-copyright studies. We know what the MPAA are doing privately thanks largely to the leaked Sony emails (a goldmine of information on just how exactly Hollywood works, behind the scenes), but even if we didn’t, should we expect anything different?

The MPAA talks about trying to improve their public image, but it’s transparent stunts like these that give them a bad name. Instead of dealing with the very real piracy problem using facts and logic, it’s all rhetoric and scapegoating. Given that the MPAA has already decided who is to blame for the piracy problem (ie. everyone but themselves), do we really expect them to accept conclusions to studies that present a different view?

But just to show how far apart the MPAA is to the rest of the world, they’re the ones always complaining about how current copyright laws are not strong enough, when it’s clear that current laws are far too biased towards rights holders. The European Union, for example, understands that the problem with current copyright legislation is not that it’s too weak, but that’s it’s too anti-consumer, and they have a plan to make it fairer. Using geo-blocking as a way to control prices and maximize revenue will no longer be allowed, and content purchased within the EU will no longer be access controlled in EU member countries. For the MPAA, modernizing means putting in new copyright restrictions and penalties for new uses of content, but keeping pace with how consumers use content is the real meaning of modernization, and the EU’s plans are a step in the right direction.

The reason why the MPAA, the RIAA and others seems to be so far removed from the rest of us is because they have a fundamental misunderstanding of just why we have copyright. The copyright lobby believes copyright is solely a tool that helps to protect rights-holders earnings, but that’s not the end-goal of copyright at all. While the right for content creators to earn is important, the reason why creators should be rewarded is so they can keep on producing content. And not only do we want more content to be created, the end-goal of copyright is also to ensure the content is consumed, shared, debated freely (free as in freedom, not always in price), and that creativity is never stifled. Current copyright laws, in my opinion, fails to achieve these objectives, and major rights-holders are now using biased copyright laws to stifle consumption, sharing, debate and creativity.

Twitter's Periscope

Periscope – a new way to innovate, and not the minor piracy problems, should be the focus for rights holders

Take Twitter’s Periscope. The innovative live streaming app opens up a whole new level of creative sharing, but all of the attention has once again been focused on the copyright issue. Yes, people use it to share copyrighted content, but just like YouTube back when Hollywood was seriously hating it, there’s much more to Periscope than what a few users choose to do with it. It’s a point the co-founder of Periscope Kayvon Beykpour was trying make. Rights-holders have tried to make Periscope out to be this new scourge that needs to be killed off, even during the highly publicized Mayweather-Pacquiao fight (a pay per view event that was a prime candidate for live piracy streaming), only 30 take-downs were needed on a platform where hundreds of thousands of streams were happening.

Periscope is a new way to consume, share and debate content, and a new platform for creativity. It’s the kind of innovation that the pro-copyright old guard don’t understand, and so fear – so it’s no wonder that it’s become public enemy number one for them.

Gaming

White Xbox One

Microsoft’s Xbox One DRM snafu may help the PS4 become the best selling console in history

The PS3’s lead over the Xbox One is still growing, but perhaps at a slightly slower pace. This is largely thanks to the price cuts Microsoft introduced for the Xbox One, price cuts that seems to have put quite dent into the Redmond firm’s profit margins. Hardware revenue was down 4%, and it was only due to the better than expected performance of their Surface range that hardware revenue wasn’t down more (and as someone who has now completely switched over the the Surface Pro 3 for all my desktop, laptop and Windows tablet needs, I’m not at all surprised that this great little device is doing so well).

With so many missteps by Microsoft during the launch of the Xbox One, something that former EA CEO John Riccitiello pointed out this week, this could allow the PS4 to become the best selling game console in history if current trends continue.

Companies these days are increasingly addicted to having more control, but just like that other much more serious type of addiction, there should only be one response when companies, like Microsoft with the Xbox One, feels the urge to experiment with DRM: Just Say No!

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Another WNR done, again all completely on the SP3. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (3 May 2015)

May 3rd, 2015

All of this week’s WNR, and most of this week’s news stories, were written on my new Surface Pro 3. It’s proving to be more than an adequate desktop and laptop replacement (with the tablet mode the least used of the three available modes, for me). All of the teething problems have more to do with the switch to Windows 8.1 (coming from Windows 7), than the actual SP3 hardware. And with the SSD (vs RAID 1 HDDs), faster CPU (i7-4650U vs Core 2 Duo E8600) and more RAM (8GB vs 4GB), it’s also a lot faster too (not to mention super quiet). I’ll keep you all update if I run into any serious issues with the transition.

Onto the news …

Copyright

WhereToWatch.com

The only worthwhile thing the MPAA has produced has now been blocked for usage by anyone outside of the U.S.

File it under the “yep, this will help make things better” category, the MPAA’s much publicized website that helps you find legal content (because obviously people only pirate because they don’t know about Netflix and iTunes) has now been blocked from being used by anyone outside of the United States.

WhereToWatch.com now displays a familiar “This content is not available in your region” message if you happen to not live in a part of the world that Hollywood and major rightsholders don’t feel is important enough (ie. anywhere outside of the U.S.). Those that can remember reading about the WhereToWatch.com story last year in the WNR will remember that, in a rare moment, I actually praised the MPAA for providing something that’s actually useful for once. It took them a while, but the MPAA eventually went back to form, and in an not-at-all ironic move (that was sarcasm, btw), has managed to highlight just why many people pirate.

By locking up the content people want, and forcing them to get it via a method that lines rightsholders pockets, as opposed to serving consumer needs, it’s no wonder people choose to go down the piracy route. Not only is piracy free, it’s also often easier and more timely than the Hollywood approved ways to watch. The other alternative is to use geo-dodging services, VPNs and smart DNS solutions, to access U.S. services – and WhereToWatch.com was an useful tool to help you find where things were available. The MPAA has now locked up the site, and although users can use geo-dodging services to gain access back the site, leaked emails from Sony shows the MPAA is also going after VPN and smart DNS providers (see last week’s WNR for more information).

Speaking of the leak, Sony is apparently going after any website that is reporting on the contents of the leaked emails. Sony says the leaked emails is considered stolen data, and “respectable” media outlets shouldn’t cross this moral border. This hasn’t stopped quite respectable media outlets from reporting on the emails, like the New York Times’ Eric Lipton, who just won a Pulitzer for his report on the influence of lobbyists, a report that used information obtained from the leaked emails. And of course, less than respectable media outlets such as this one has no problem reporting on it, and ignoring Sony’s toothless threats.

 

Censorship

Australian government set to give Hollywood the right to censor anti-copyright speech. Photo Credit: IsaacMao @ Flickr, CC

The leaked emails also revealed that much of the pressure to change Australia’s copyright laws are coming via Hollywood. Unfortunately, out super unpopular conservative pro big business government only has one agenda, and that’s to give Hollywood exactly what they want. So no surprises that the proposed changes as part of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, could go as far as outlaw the right to even say things or have opinions that Hollywood does not approve of.

The current language in the bill allows rightsholders to petition the court to block websites owned or operated by anyone who “demonstrates a disregard for copyright generally”. It essentially places a ban on any online speech that put outs an alternative view on copyright, a view that Hollywood and the MPAA does not approve of.

Of course, it won’t actually get to that point. No court in Australia will grant any such block merely based on expressed anti-copyright views, but what could happen is that sites that discuss ripping or geo-dodging or provides instructions and help on anything that Hollywood deems to “facilitate the infringement of copyright” could be blocked. And with no clear definition on what “facilitate the infringement of copyright” means, anything from VPNs to file hosting companies can get censored here in Australia. The language in the bill is so vague (and I definitely think that it’s intentional) that blocked sites are simply referred to as “online location”, which could either mean the blocking of a single webpage, a website, or the blocking of an entire server serving thousands of unrelated sites just because of one “bad” site on the server.

A wide ranging coalition of tech firms, like Google, and consumer rights groups, like Australia’s CHOICE and the EFF, have all criticized the bill in its current form. Google, in their submission, said that the whole premise of these changes relies upon the proven failed concept of content blocking, which not only has questionable efficacy, but could also have unintended consequences such as the blocking of legitimate content.

High Definition

Samsung Curved UHD TV

4K Ultra HD TVs starting to grab some market share

4K TVs are beginning to get into people’s homes, with 11% of LCD TV shipments in March belonging to Ultra HD TV sets. I wandered around the shops the other day, and it definitely looks like 4K TVs are no longer the product you only see at trade shows or in rich people’s homes. There are quite a lot of “affordable” 4K TVs at the moment, perhaps not all capable of delivering the best 4K quality, but it’s certainly more accessible to the average consumer than 4K content at the moment (despite Netflix’s best efforts). Ultra HD Blu-ray players and movies coming out later this year, so the relative content drought (and the expected double, triple … nonuple, or whatever the count is, dipping begins) should be over soon.

Gaming

More bad news for the Wii U. Whereas the last Call of Duty: Black Ops game, Black Ops II, debuted on the Wii U, the next one, imaginatively titled Black Ops III, will not be coming to the platform at all. To add insult to injury, Treyarch studio specifically dissed the Wii U as not being a current generation console, when giving out their reason for the decision to skip releasing on the console.

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Hope you enjoyed/found interesting/were terrified of the implications from this week’s news stories. More for you next week, so until then …

Weekly News Roundup (26 April 2015)

April 26th, 2015
Microsoft Surface Pro 3

The Surface Pro 3 – can it be my tablet, laptop and desktop all in one?

I got my Surface Pro 3 on Friday, so I haven’t had enough time to set it up yet as my primary work computer. My initial impressions are very positive though, it’s such a nicely built, lightweight and versatile device, and the Type Cover and the excellent kickstand means it’s more than capable in laptop mode. And with the separately sold dock, there’s no reason why it can’t be a desktop replacement as well. The negative? I still don’t like Window 8 (even with the 8.1 update).

So this week’s WNR is still bought to you by my old trusty (and a bit rusty) Core 2 Duo E8500, which, after nearly 6 years, is still more than adequate for work (and some games, courtesy of a mid-life Radeon 6850 upgrade). Let’s get started …

Copyright

While the pre-release leak of the first four Game of Thrones episodes prevented the season premier from breaking single swarm records, as people downloaded both before and after the first episode aired, and from different torrents, but after a week of downloads, there’s no escaping the fact that Game of Thrones piracy is still on the rise.

The leaked episodes, plus the post-broadcast uploads (and even a documentary on the show itself), when combined, totaled 32 million downloads in the first week alone, setting a new download record.

Game of Thrones: Season 4

It’s hard to upload a new screenshot for season 5 without the risk of spoilers, so here’s one from season 4

While at first this seems like bad news for HBO, the fact that official ratings for the show is up, meant that the increased downloads is more just a healthy sign of the show’s growing audience, rather than a slide towards piracy oblivion. Many of those that did download the new episodes were in the US, and are prime candidates for HBO’s new unbundled streaming platform, HBO Now. How to convert piracy traffic to paying subscribers may take some more tweaks in pricing and value, but I’m sure by this time next year, we’ll be looking at a different downloading paradigm.

Or maybe people will be watching the show, illegally, some other way. Twitter’s newly launched live streaming app Periscope has apparently been put to “good” use by enterprising pirates, to share the broadcast of new season premier with friends and strangers alike. HBO was not best please, issuing take-down notices and warning Twitter to get their act together and allow rights-holders to more efficiently remove streams.

With almost all anti-piracy efforts on torrents and direct downloads, it just goes to show that if people want to watch something for free, they’ll find a way to do it. The key is to convince people what you have is worth paying for, and at a price that they’re willing to pay.

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The next couple of stories all come via leaked Sony emails, more of which were recently published by Wikileaks. First up is the rather ironic story of the MPAA pirating clips from a Google commercial for their own promotional purposes. This is the same MPAA that has painted a target on Google, labeled them as public piracy enemy number one, and proceeded to attack the search engine (not always directly) whenever it can. The MPAA inserting themselves into where the general public feels they don’t belong is something that’s directly responsible for the group’s poor public image – the very same public image they were trying to repair with their pirated promo video. Oh, the irony!

Unblock-Us

Hollywood to go after users who are desperate to pay for content

The leaked emails also reveal other activities that won’t make the public like Hollywood much better. There seems to be a renewed effort from Hollywood to ban geo-dodging services, such as VPNs and smart DNS solutions used to access the likes of Netflix in places where there’s no Netflix (or access the international version of Netflix, which often yields a lot more content). This is despite a well known fact that if these services weren’t available, the same users would probably just rely on pirated streams and downloads. It’s Hollywood’s new way of punishing people that actually want to give them money (but just not as money as they want, or paid so in a way that allowed other companies to make some money too, both of which Hollywood find unacceptable).

The leaked emails exposes all the ways the MPAA has set out to put pressure on Netflix and others to ban VPN usage. The MPAA and their cohorts even went as far as threatening to sue ISPs that offered VPN services to their customers, despite VPNs being commonly used for many other purposes, including telecommuting. And even for things like watching Netflix, it’s still unclear if this even constitutes copyright infringement – a breach of the terms of service, yes, but the fact that people are paying (so it’s more like grey imports, rather than outright piracy) and that streaming is different to torrenting (as streaming does not have an upload component), means that Hollywood’s threats may not have a legal basis, in certain countries.

A blast from the past, here’s what the MPAA thought about the iPad when it was first released more than 5 years ago. There are some spot-on predictions made by the MPAA, both on the positives and negatives of the ground-breaking device. The MPAA liked the “walled garden” approach of the iPad, especially when it comes to DRM and difficulty in jailbreaking for novice users. The process of purchasing content and apps on iTunes and App Store, the MPAA argues, also serves to educate users about the value of digital content and the need to pay for stuff.

The things the MPAA didn’t like about the iPad was its ability to play ripped movies, stream illegal content, and also to wirelessly stream playback to external screens – something that wasn’t even possible when the report was written, but now quite common via Apple Airplay.

The MPAA also predicted that streaming video, like Netflix (its streaming app launched with the iPad), would take off.

So it seems to me that the Hollywood and the MPAA are more than capable of predicting the future and anticipating user demand. It’s just that they don’t actually want to serve the demand, if what their customers want do not align when their own short term self interest.

Gaming

While this story also pretty much falls within the copyright section of the WNR, it is also about gaming and about the things gamers have to do just to be able to play a game they’ve purchased. Yes, I’m talking about DRM and about how the gaming industry do not want any exceptions to the DMCA to allow the hacking of DRM, even if it’s just to bypass their poorly designed gaming DRM to allow allow their games to be played. This is especially true of older games that the publishers have ended support for.

No DRM

What do game companies have to gain to prevent gamers from bypassing DRM on games they no longer even support?

The EFF, as part of its submission to the U.S. Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress’s review of copyright laws, wants an exception to be made to allow gamers to bypass DRM to play games that are no longer supported by the publishers and developers. A very sensible and limited exception, but one that’s still being opposed by the gaming industry, as well as the MPAA and RIAA. These rights-holders argue that somehow allowing users to make modifications to something they own would “undermine the fundamental copyright principles on which our copyright laws are based” and send the message that hacking is legal.

Except that hacking is legal, and playing around with other people’s stuff is how many programmers, including those in the gaming industry, got their start. “If ‘hacking,’ broadly defined, were actually illegal, there likely would have been no video game industry,” correctly argues the EFF.

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That’s it for this quite busy week. Hope the next week is just as busy. See you again soon.

Weekly News Roundup (19 April 2015)

April 19th, 2015

My main workhorse computer (more and more just a glorified web browser these days, considering how ever app has moved online, and how little gaming I do these days) is starting to show signs of strain, and so it’s time to get something new. The matter is made more complicated by the fact that I also need a new laptop. So I thought, why not combine these two requirements, add in the (more want than) need for a new Windows tablet, and get the Surface Pro 3, plus the dock, and use that as my desktop replacement. It’s not going to play any serious games (games consoles are a much more economical choice for it these days, or a dedicated gaming PC for those that have the time and money to devote to such a beast and its time consuming ways), but it will be more than enough for work, and work can be taken away by me in both tablet form, or laptop form with the optional (but really should be standard) Type Cover accessory. Some light gaming may also be included.

I opted for the i7/256GB/8GB RAM model, since this is a business purchase and end of financial year, tax deductions blah blah blah – but most will find the i5/128GB/4GB RAM model more than adequate.

I may live to regret my decision, especially given the high cost of the SP3, but it’s hard to justify spending money on a gaming PC when my current 6 year old PC can still do a semi-decent job at medium quality levels, and when I haven’t played a PC game in about 6 months. And an Ultrabook or Macbook Pro with the same portability as the SP3 won’t cost much less, and does not transform into a tablet.

A gaming PC might still be on the table, but it will probably be one that I will build from scratch, part by part, just for the fun of it.

Time will tell if I’ve made the right decision.

Oh yeah, news stuff.

Copyright

Game of Thrones: Season 4

Game of Thrones continues where we left off last season … still sh*t load of piracy!

Dragons, nudity, death of a beloved character. These are things synonymous with HBO’s Game of Thrones. Piracy, record, smashed – these are also words associated with the hit TV show. And the season 5 premier is no different. Well actually, it is different, and it is a lot worse!

The good news is that the piracy record wasn’t broken this time, but that was only because the first four episodes of the show was leaked prior to the show’s debut, catching HBO and pirates alike off-guard. As downloaders slowly trickled into the swarms, it soon became a downloading frenzy, but the spread out nature of the downloads meant that, technically, no records were broken (and I’m sure if the download totals over a week from after the pre-release leaks were released was ever calculated, I’m sure records will have been broken).

So it’s bad to worse for HBO, which to their credit, tried really hard this time to reduce the incentive to pirate by making new episodes available worldwide simultaneously, and by launching the standalone streaming product HBO Now. The pre-release leak is particularly worrying, and it should prompt HBO to tighten up security for screener copies being sent to reviewers (unique visual and digital watermarks for each copy might be something HBO needs to consider).

One thing they could do is to make HBO Now available outside of the U.S. For example, in Australia, where users have tried to sign up using VPN/smart DNS services, but are now apparently being banned. This will be difficult not just in Australia but all around the world due to HBO’s deals with local pay TV operators, many of whom have locked up HBO programming in exclusive deals, in order to protect their premium pricing model. Piracy is the inevitable result.

Ironically, it’s this kind of piracy that is causing Netflix to drop their prices. Apparently, Netflix sets pricing for their international subscriptions based on that country’s piracy rate – the more pirated downloads, the cheaper their service will be. Netflix says that this is because they’ve positioned their service as a competitor to piracy, and as a result, they cannot ignore the reality of piracy. Or at the very least, they don’t treat piracy as something that can be easily eradicated and devote all their resources to combat piracy based on this false believe.

It’s this false believe that’s the driving force behind the urgency to change copyright laws in Australia to deal with the piracy scourge. Change that apparently is headed not by the local film industry, but by Hollywood lobbyists, many of whom have never set foot in Australia. According to the latest leaked Sony documents published by Wikileaks, much of the US based effort is being channeled via local Village Roadshow co-chairman Graham Burke. Local film studio Village Roadshow is infamously known as the company that compared movie downloads to “terrorism or paedophilia”, and believes in the possibility of “total eradication” of piracy as the end-goal.

Good luck with that!

High Definition

The Simpsons Season 17 Blu-ray

Do discs still have a place in our homes? Fox says no!

Changes are-a-coming for The Simpsons, and it could be the end of an era. No, Fox isn’t cancelling the iconic animated show, but they are cancelling the DVD and Blu-ray releases for it. Bad luck for collectors, who should have season 1-17, and season 20, on disc, but will no longer be able to continue adding to their collection.

Both Fox and Al Jean, the Simpsons’ showrunner, blames the “collapse of DVD market and rise of downloads” for the decision, with Jean also apologising to fans outside of North America for the digital option, such as Fox’s streaming service FX Now, being not available in most places.

Regular followers of our Blu-ray/DVD sales report will already know that DVD sales have been declining steadily for years, while Blu-ray sales have also started to stall recently. Most of the business is going to the digital side of things, from iTunes, to Hulu Plus to FX Now (all places where you can watch The Simpsons), so Fox’s decision is understandable, even if, once more, overseas fans lose out.

Gaming

Fox’s move may be signalling the end of discs, Nintendo may also be signalling the end of the Wii U. With the delay of Zelda that I mentioned here a couple of issues ago, the announcement of the Wii U’s successor, the Nintendo NX, barely 2 years into the console’s lifespan, and with the number of announced titles shrinking all the time, Nintendo may have finally decided that the Wii U isn’t going to cut it anymore in the face of stern competition from the PS4 and the Xbox One.

So the new Zelda game could very well end up having the same fate as the last Zelda game, Twilight Princess, which was originally meant for the GameCube, only to be delayed so that it could be simultaneously released on the Wii as well.

Wii U

The end is nigh for the Wii U? Maybe not, but Nintendo knows it doesn’t have long left …

And let’s hope Nintendo don’t mess up the NX the same way they “messed up” the Wii U. While the Wii U was by no means a complete failure, the fact that it wasn’t a huge improvement on the last gen, and clearly behind the current gen, arrived at a relatively high price with few third-party game support, and with Nintendo failing to properly demonstrate how gaming on the Wii U would be better and more fun (even though, albeit subjectively speaking, it should be). Release a console that’s more powerful than the PS4/Xbox One, had all the “family fun” stuff that Nintendo is famous for, add in a sprinkle of first-party must-haves close to release (Mario, Mario Kart, Zelda …), and then ensure there are plenty of third-party exclusive worth mentioning, and Nintendo may be onto another winner. And from the perspective of someone who writes this particular blog and its main topics of discussions, maybe ensuring the Wii U is also a competent media player would also be a good idea(Blu-ray preferred, but should at least support all the streaming apps, plus local/network based media playback/streaming).

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The March NPD results do not reveal any surprises at all. The PS4 once again beat the Xbox One for first place, with the Wii U in a distant third (probably). It’s probably not even worth mentioning the NPD results every month anymore, unless something strange happens, like the Xbox One finally managing to beat the PS4 (might happen, but Microsoft will need bigger price cuts and better exclusives to make it a consistent thing, as opposed to just during holiday discounting).

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It’s unlikely that, by this time next week, I’ll be writing the WNR on my new SP3. Unlikely because it will take a while to get everything installed, set up and transferred in time. Ah, the simultaneous joy and pain of a new PC setup. See you next week.


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