Weekly News Roundup (26 June 2016)

June 26th, 2016

Exits are all the rage this week, so naturally, I had to take advantage with a story this week where the MPAA threatens a “MPAAExit” from Europe (kinda) if the EU bans geo-blocking. I also threw some eggs out because they were way past their used by date – “Eggexit”. I still have a running nose from whatever plague I was infected with last week: “Phlegmexit”? You get my drift.

A very quiet week again, so on to the news …

Copyright

Netflix: Not Available

Geo-blocking bad for consumers, good for movie studios?

Everyone is picking on the EU this week, the MPAA has joined in the fun as well. The MPAA has warned Europe not to outlaw geo-blocking, or else they will risk fewer movie productions and higher prices for consumers. This is apparently because without geo-blocking, and regional based releasing (even within EU countries), investors will be less likely to invest in films and somehow this will lead to higher prices for all. In other words, by not being able to gouge individual markets by making consumers pay higher prices for the same thing, and then using technical measures like geo-blocking to prevent true competition, investors may be less willing to invest in productions.

Now I don’t know much about movie productions, but if their business models is reliant on a bit of geo-blocking code that’s easily bypassed, then maybe they need to rethink things a bit. Especially considering how much a boost to piracy things like geo-blocking gives.

Back in the US, where geo-blocking really isn’t an issue (not when you get everything first, and very likely at the cheapest price too – Canadian Netflix occasionally excepted), it’s pretty clear to see that improving access to legal options (ie. making it cheaper, more readily available) is having an effect on piracy. The latest Sandvine report shows that BitTorrent usage is down again during peak usage times, while Netflix, iTunes, and especially Amazon Video usage in the last year have all become more popular, at least when it comes to bandwidth usage.

Netflix’s share of peak bandwidth is actually down a bit – now whether that’s down to declining market share, or more likely, due to bandwidth saving technology that has been implemented in the last year, it’s unclear. But Amazon Video’s share is up, rising above BitTorrent for the first time. Both services will probably see a rise in bandwidth usage next year, when high bandwidth 4K and HDR streams become more popular. BitTorrent usage is down to 3% during peak hours, from the almost unbelievable 31% it used to occupy (back in 2008 though).

The report noted that Hulu and HBO usage may not be indicative of each service’s popularity because the data captured by the report, in March, may not be when the most popular programming on these services are first released (think new seasons of TV shows on Hulu, and Game of Thrones on HBO).

But its clear that people are now watching more stuff through legal outlets than via illegal ones like BitTorrent, and that’s not because of DRM or geo-blocking (quite the opposite, I think).

Gaming

Xbox One S

Xbox One S to compete with the Neo?

The PS4 Neo could be coming in 2016, a full year before Microsoft’s Xbox One ‘Scorpio’. I don’t know about this. If the Neo is so close to being released, why didn’t Sony reveal it at E3 (I don’t buy the “we tried to keep our E3 purely focused on software” line)? But it also does make sense because how else would Microsoft be sure that it’s Scorpio would be the most powerful console on the market when it is released for holidays 2017 (if it’s coming a year after the Neo, they will have plenty of time to make sure their claim is true).

If the Neo comes this year (or early next year), why is Microsoft’s updated console coming so late then? It could be because Microsoft was caught off guard in regards to the Neo and couldn’t come up with their own version quickly enough. If Microsoft’s Scorpio is just a somewhat late reaction to the Neo, then this could explain why Microsoft’s console would be coming a year later, and why the company needs to release two new consoles – the S would compete in part with the Neo, at least in terms of 4K media support. Microsoft “beating” Sony to the punch by announcing the Scorpio a full year and a half before it’s even available, may also be just a bit of strategy on Microsoft’s part, to cover up the fact that they’re actually going to be way late to the game.

Don’t mind me, I’m just guessing out loud.

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And with that, we come to the end of another WNR. See you next week, when the WNR will most likely also have exited the EU (will last one out please turn off the lights).

Weekly News Roundup (19 June 2016)

June 19th, 2016

I’ve come down with a very annoying and distracting cough. So please bear that in mind as you read through this week’s WNR, and if things don’t seem to make much sense, you’ll know why (it’s either the fever, or the fact that I can’t see properly through my phlegm covered screen).

*cough cough cough cough cough*

On with this week’s news …

Copyright

The Walking Dead - Lucille

Who’s on the other end of this screenie from The Walking Dead is the subject of a copyright dispute

Can you file a copyright lawsuit against someone for posting spoilers? Especially if those so called spoilers are really just guesses based on deduction? Apparently you can, with The Walking Dead’s AMC suing a spoiler Facebook group for just that.

The Facebook group, The Spoiling Dead Fans (TSDF), uses aerial photography, cast sightings and other means to guess at key plot points in coming episodes of the hit zombie series. And with the latest season of The Walking Dead ending on a huge cliffhanger, in which an unrevealed key character was killed. With fans eager to find out just who got it at the end of a barb wire coated baseball bat (called Lucille), TSDF did its usual thing and promised to post information that could prove who the unfortunate victim was.

This, however, was a step too far for AMC, and they promptly issued a cease and desist letter to TSDF. TSDF backed down with hesitation (and some anger from its fans), because they simply couldn’t afford to fight a lawsuit against AMC, even if AMC doesn’t really have a case (based on common sense, and also based on expert advice). It’s legal bullying at its most obvious!

Adding to all of this is the fact that comic book readers already knows who most likely ended up having their head bashed in (and eyeball bashed out), and also the fact that most TWD TV show fans were incensed at the decision by producers not to reveal Lucille’s victim (having spent a whole season building up to the confrontation).

So are spoilers, especially ones based on nothing more than conjecture, copyright protected? So if I post here that Heath is the one most likely to get it, am I committing copyright infringement? (note, it’s most likely not Heath).

Gaming

E3 was interesting to say the least. Nintendo finally got solid information out about its long overdue Zelda game, Sony had a very exciting game line-up, but it was Microsoft that had the most up its sleeves. Microsoft unveiled not one but two new Xbox One consoles, and while one is 18 months away from seeing the light of day, the other was almost as exciting.

Xbox One S

The Xbox One S – best value Ultra HD Blu-ray player on the market?

The console 18 month away from release is the Xbox ‘Scorpio’, a souped up version of the Xbox One that Microsoft says will be the most powerful game consoles when it is released most likely in time for Christmas 2017. The rumours have mostly proven true, with the Scorpio being 4K capable for games, VR, and all sorts of other things.

But the console I most want to talk about is the other one, the one available as soon as August – the Xbox One S. The ‘S’ moniker does stand for Slim, but the S is more than just about a small factor (40% smaller to be precise). There’s no more power brick, for one, and there will be more storage (up to 2TB).

And most exciting of all, the new S will include a new Ultra HD Blu-ray drive that allows for 4K Blu-ray playback (as well as 4K Netflix and the like, but no 4K gaming until the Scorpio). There’s also HDR support, for both video and gaming. With the expected price of the Xbox One S to be $299, this would make the Xbox One S potentially $100 heaper than Samsung’s Ultra HD Blu-ray player!

But there’s even more. The new Xbox One will be more powerful than the original Xbox One, not quite Scorpio levels of upgrade, but enough to make the Gears of War 4 developers to add code to take advantage of the increase in GPU and CPU power.

Not bad for a minor upgrade!

The 2TB “special” edition of the S launches in August for a slightly inflated price of $399, but the cheapest 500GB edition won’t be here until the end of the year (a third 1TB edition, for $349, will also be available in the US at least).

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That’s it for the week. I’m off to cough up what’s left of my lungs. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (12 June 2016)

June 12th, 2016

Got lots of other work lined up, despite it being a nice and sunny (but still cold) Sunday for once, so going to have to get through the news roundup stuff pretty quickly today!

Copyright

Censorship

Take down, stay down is just censorship by another name, says the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is the latest to come out against the proposed “take down, stay down” changes to the DMCA, with the non-profit warning that such a regime could spell doom for sites like themselves. The Internet Archive, as its name suggests, archives content on the Internet for posterity, and while it endeavors to only store content with the right licensing terms (ie. public domain), the vast amount of data it archives means that some copyrighted content will get through. But under “take down, stay down”, sites like the Internet Archive will be made responsible for not only taking down such content, but also identifying it in the first place. This puts tremendous strain on the already limited resources of the Internet Archive, and also opens sites like them up to copyright lawsuits if they fail to implement a robust take down and stay down process.

It’s basically just the latest attempt by rights-holders to shift all work and responsibility to others when it comes to copyright enforcement, even though they themselves are the *only* party actually capable of identifying copyrighted content. And such as regime also mean sites must monitor and censor their own users actively, which is a serious privacy risk for users, as well as being a possible danger to freedom of speech on the Internet.

But if the copyright lobby greases the right wheels and “take down, stay down” becomes a reality, sites will have to get used to self-enforcement. But there will always be a group of sites that won’t be very much interested in self-enforcement, not even if you send them pre-piracy warnings. That’s what Sony did last week, in an attempt to preempt Euro 2016 piracy, by sending pre-piracy warnings to torrent and streaming sites before the first match has even been played. The attempt may have backfired, with many of the sites receiving the notices promising to not only ignore the warnings, but to also put extra focus on bringing pirated matches and clips to users. I guess they’re thinking if Sony are so concerned about piracy that they went to the effort to send pre-piracy notices, it must be anticipating a great demand for such content – demand that the piracy sites would love to meet.

High Definition

Metal Gear Solid V PS4

The PS4 Neo will include an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive

The worst kept secret ever is no longer a secret – Sony have confirmed that a new, upgraded PS4 is on the way. And the main reason this news story has been placed in this section instead of the gaming section is also the confirmation, for the first time, that the PS4 “Neo” will include a new Ultra HD Blu-ray drive for playing back Ultra HD Blu-ray movies.

If Sony can hurry up and get the Neo out before Christmas, this would mean the new PS4 would be Sony’s first and only Ultra HD Blu-ray player at that time (standalones are not expected to arrive until 2017). This could be an extra selling point for the new PS4, and I’m thinking a bundle offer with Sony’s own 4K TV range might be on the cards.

With E3 just around the corner, you might expect more details to emerge then about the Neo, but don’t hold your breath, Sony have confirmed there won’t be an official unveiling of the Neo there.

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That’s it, nice and short this week. See you in seven!

Weekly News Roundup (5 June 2016)

June 5th, 2016

I’m really enjoying the current season of Game of Thrones. It’s moving along rather quickly, perhaps as a result of not having to follow the books anymore. There’s also the obligatory shocking plot twist, senseless violence, and of course, the nudity (both female and the “in your face” male variety). More on the latter, later in the roundup.

A good amount of stuff to go through today (although technically, all of them are copyright stories), so let’s go for it.

Copyright

Porn. There, I got your attention. Game of Thrones. Bang, you’re now even more interested. Mix the two together and what you have? A lawsuit! HBO is taking on porn video site Pornhub over illegally uploaded clips from Got, and given the nature of Pornhub, you can guess which clips those were.

Game of Thrones - Shae

HBO going after porn sites

Pornhub have nobody but themselves to blame though, because they’re the ones who brought attention to the fact that Game of Thrones related porn searches rise dramatically just before the start of a new GoT season. Pornhub proudly publicized this fact, along with a list of the most popular GoT related keywords, only last month, and with HBO in the mood to take on pirates, the expected has happened. HBO is now taking legal action to get those clips removed.

And in case you’re interested in what the top GoT related keywords were, the top one was ‘Emilia Clarke’ (strange, considering how she doesn’t like to do nude scenes anymore, one episode this season apart), followed by ‘Natalie Dormer’ (who plays Queen Margaery). One name that may not be surprising is ‘Sibel Kekilli’, who played Tyrion Lannister’s one time love interest Shae. It isn’t surprising because not only did Sibel take part in several nude scenes, she is also a former porn actress with her previous works available to view on Pornhub. The Game of Thrones producers often cast porn actors and actresses in roles that require nudity or a sex scene (or a dozen), so the connection to sites like Pornhub seems quite natural to me.

And in case you were wondering, yes, there were also some searches for Jon Snow.

High Definition

Deadpool on Ultra HD Blu-ray

The Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Deadpool failed to make a huge impact

A new study shows that delaying disc releases in overseas markets may be causing piracy and sales losses. That’s not so surprising, but what is surprising is that the study may have been funded by MPAA money, and so the conclusion that studios themselves are sometimes to blame for piracy is indeed surprising.

There is definitely a strong moral component to the decision to pirate or not. And if people feel justified in doing it, because studios, in their infinite greed, decided to put in artificial release windows, then that justification will simply drive piracy. The same applies to outrageous regional based pricing, region control, and all the other things that studios do to squeeze some extra money out of a release.

Speaking of studios squeezing money out of us poor consumers, their latest effort in trying to make us re-buy everything again, Ultra HD Blu-ray, is off to a start. I can’t say it’s off to a great start because there was an opportunity to really lift the format a few weeks ago, and it didn’t really happen. I’m talking about Deadpool and how, being one of the biggest Blu-ray titles of the year, it was also made available on Ultra HD Blu-ray at the same time. Unfortunately, only 3.28% of all disc copies (or when removing DVDs from the equation, 4.6% of all Blu-ray copies) sold were for the 4K version of the film. I guess it’s still early days for the format, and hardly anyone has the TV or the UHD player for the discs, but I think it’s going to take a really long time before UHD discs start to make a real impact.

Gaming

GOG Connect

Get DRM-free copies of some of your Steam games – I managed to only get 3 games myself

Want a free DRM-free copy of some of your Steam games? Then head over to GOG Connect, and you may get just what you want. GOG is giving away free, and DRM-free, copies of selected Steam games, and all you have to do is to import your Steam game list into your GOG account, and the free copies will be added to your account. Your Steam games remain the same as before, except you’ve also got a DRM-free version on GOG that will never expire, and will always be playable.

GOG is making this happen by negotiating with these games’ developers, which means they are the one that may be paying for this transfer. As a result, this is strictly a limited time offer, and there are also only 23 games supported so far (mostly indie hits, but some commercial ones including Saints Row 2 and GOG’s own The Witcher).

This is great, but what I would like to see is game publishers guaranteeing that all who buy the game will get a DRM-free version of it some set time after the game’s release. If you buy something, then you should get to use it for as long as you need, and not as long as the publishers deems necessary (ie. when it cost them too much to maintain the DRM).

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And with that, we come to the end of another issue. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (29 May 2016)

May 29th, 2016

Another relatively quiet week, but we have a couple of quite interesting stories to go through, so let’s not waste any time on this very cold Sunday (brrr!).

Copyright

Game of Thrones - Bran Stark

Oh Bran, what have you done? Did you warg into an HBO intern’s mind to leak the new episode?

Starting with copyright news as always, HBO’s anti-piracy efforts took a step backwards this week with their Nordic branch decided that the world couldn’t wait another 24 hours (and a bit) to see the next episode of Game of Thrones. Someone at HBO Nordic decided to try their hand at pre-release leaking, and the new episode was put up online a day earlier than expected. To make matters worse, HBO Nordic has a 30 day trial for their online video services, meaning that anyone from around the world with a VPN were able to enjoy the episode titled “The Door”, and do it for many hours before HBO wised up, and more than a day before the official US premier.

It appears that despite all of HBO’s renewed anti-piracy efforts this season, this gaffe opened the door and held it open for pirates to take advantage – they promptly uploaded a (initially a poor quality version, and then a 1080p version) copy to all the usual piracy places, for all to enjoy. I’m sure HBO will be much more careful this week, when the sixth episode of the sixth season, “Blood of My Blood”, will be broadcast.

And yes, that was deliberate (don’t want to say too much than that – no spoilers from me, thank-you very much).

High Definition

US Netflix subscribers will have some great movies to look forward to, when Netflix’s exclusive deal with Disney starts in September. Under the deal, Netflix will have exclusive pay-TV rights, in the US, to all of Disney’s films, starting from 2016 onwards (so The Force Awakens just miss out … boo!). This includes all Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm films, as well as films released under Disney’s banner, all available shortly on Netflix after their initial Blu-ray/DVD release (the same release time-frame that pay TV operators used to enjoy). The exclusivity part ensures Amazon, Hulu and cable operators won’t get these films during the pay TV release window, which is a much needed boost to Netflix’s flagging (non original) movie line-up.

Gaming

Xbox One Halo 5 Edition

Microsoft will be bringing out own super duper Xbox One to take on the Neo

The Xbox One is getting not one but two upgraded models, and one of which will directly take on the PS4 Neo. Dubbed the ‘Scorpio’, the super powerful Xbox One is rumored to be targeting 6 teraflops of peak power, which compares rather favourably with the Neo’s 4.14 teraflop target (and much better than the Xbox One’s current 1.32 teraflops). Both companies appears to have embraced the iterative upgrade model (think iPhone), and will be releasing upgraded consoles at shorter intervals. I’m not sure I like this to be honest, and I’m not sure if it will even work. It’s one thing to upgrade a phone every year, but a game consoles that has severely reduced resale value (and not as easily passed down to family members)? I just don’t know …

But if it does work, then the PS4 and Xbox One could be the last major console release as we know it. The Neo and Scorpio are basically just new consoles with a healthy dose of backwards compatibility – both Sony and Microsoft can actually keep this up indefinitely if they wanted to. Microsoft Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s remarks about turning to the PC’s model for upgrades, is now starting to make sense. He wasn’t talking about opening up the Xbox One and plugging in a new GPU, but rather on the architecture and design point of view of incremental updates, and in regards to backwards compatibility. So instead of a major new architecture that destroys compatibility, the upgrades will be more minor, but more numerous.

Let’s wait and see how gamers react to all of these changes, especially when it comes to forking over their hard earned cash.

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That’s all we have time for this week. Actually, we have plenty of time, but we’ve run out of news, so that’s that. See you next week.


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