Weekly News Roundup (22 November 2009)

Just a reminder that our Womble EasyDVD competition is still open for entries. Since the competition was posted, Womble has actually released a new version of their MPEG Video Wizard DVD software, and the first prize of this competition include this latest version, which has basically combined the features of all of Womble’s previous software titles (not including EasyDVD, of course) into the same package (so no more “DVD-less” version of MVW, and MPEG2VCR). Not a huge news week, but there were some follow-ups to previous news stories.


First up in copyright news, a recent trend has seen companies take advantage of the one sided copyright laws around the world to make money from “stopping” piracy. It’s actually not so much stopping, as that wouldn’t be good for business, but rather, using legal threats to get people to cough up. I posted about companies like DigiProtect and DigiRights Solutions doing exactly this sort of thing, and refining their business down to a fine art in terms of who to threaten, based on their ability and willingness to pay up, for example.

The funny thing was that most of the information I found in regards to these organisations were from interviews and presentations that people from these companies gave, quite openly. Obviously, there are still large parts of what they do that these companies would still rather keep secret. But secrets have a way to become well known facts thanks to the Internet, and now we have leaked documents showing us the inner workings of such an operation. One thing revealed was that, due to bad publicity, one law firm has already pulled out of this business, but it appears most of their staff went to a new law firm that obviously didn’t mind the bad publicity. Another thing revealed is the strategy to sue people who downloaded pirated porn, as the extra embarrassment and the instinct for most people to want to make the issue go away, whether they downloaded the porno or not, becomes extra incentive for people to pay the required amount. From everything that’s been released, leaked or public confessions, it’s clear that these companies prey on people’s fears of lawsuits, or public embarrassment, in order to maximize profit. But if these companies are acting within the law, then there’s nothing legally wrong with what they’re doing, even if it feels like bullying. It’s the laws themselves that allow for these things to happen, and it will continue to happen as long as these laws are biased towards one side.

And so the bullying goes on. Michael Fricklas, general cousel at Viacom,  has even admitted that suing downloaders is bullying. With the resources available to mega corporations like Viacom, suing individuals is the kind of one sided fight that really isn’t a fight at all. “Terrorism”, is what Mr. Fricklas called it. In the same candid discussion to a bunch of students at Yale, Mr. Fricklas also attacked DRM, at least the older kinds, as “really bad”, preferring fair use as the way forward. It’s all very nice to hear, but this is from the same company that is suing YouTube for people who upload videos that help to promote Viacom’s content, so you’d have to take all of this with a grain of salt. Obviously suing YouTube/Google is a bit more challenging and less like bullying than suing an individual, but YouTube now allows for “fair use” with its profit sharing programs, so why hasn’t Viacom dropped their lawsuit?

Verizon is the latest ISP to bow down to RIAA demands to pass on infringement notices

Verizon is the latest ISP to bow down to RIAA demands to pass on infringement notices

Speaking of lawsuits, the Australian AFACT vs iiNet trial continues, with closing statements by iiNet being made over last week. For those that haven’t been keeping track, the lawsuit centers around movie studios wanting to make ISPs responsible for their customer’s downloads, unless the ISPs act as copyright cops for the studios. The week 5 update thread for the trial is here. iiNet is at least making a stand, unlike ISPs in the US that have already bowed to the demands of the RIAA to pass on infringement notices to customers, the latest major ISP to do so is Verizon. The notices are designed to scare people enough so they stop downloading, but as such, Verizon and co have no plans to pass on customer details to the RIAA, and the RIAA has not indicated that they wish to pursue individual in court, something they’ve already said they would stop doing. So just how much fear these infringement notices will instill is debatable, unless the RIAA is really naive enough to think that some of the downloaders are actual unaware that what they’re doing is illegal, and that these notices serve as a timely reminder.

Oh, and remember that Lily Allen story from a couple of months ago where the singer publicly came out to support the industry’s attempts at copyright clampdown, and was subsequently, how would you kids say it, “pwned” in the process when it was revealed that she distributed pirated songs herself on her website? Anyway, the latest pearl of wisdom from Miss Allen is that she is absolutely fine with people downloading her songs illegally, as long as they burn the songs to CDs and then sell them on. Yes, that’s right, it’s not a typo. You see, if you sell these illegally obtained songs, and thus commit real piracy by profiting from it, you are actually just giving value to these songs, and so that’s alright.

The latest update in The Pirate Bay saga (I still have no idea whether they’ve been sold or not) is that the tracker is now officially dead and won’t be rising again. But thanks to the active pursuit of the RIAA and MPAA, new BitTorrent technology means that trackers are no longer really necessary, which means the decentralization of BitTorrent is approaching completion. When it does, BitTorrenting will be practically unstoppable. And with Magnet links, you don’t even need .torrent files anymore, so really, sites like The Pirate Bay can now only need to provide a link consisting of what appears to be a random set of letters and numbers, and really, can they be sued for that?

High Definition

In HD news, Warner has a new offer that allows you to trade in your old DVDs for Blu-ray movies. You don’t get the Blu-ray movies for free, but they are discounted. It’s a nice idea in theory, but only a small range of less than spectacular Blu-ray movies are available, and the discounts don’t add up to much if you’re already getting them cheaply from Amazon.

Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy is becoming a very popular combination

Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy is becoming a very popular combination

It appears that the studio’s new weapon to promote Blu-ray is to try and kill of DVDs as soon as possible. The trade in offer is one thing, but Universal’s plans to introduce Blu-ray/DVD combos, just like Disney, will probably do more wean people off DVDs especially if their plan to discontinue the DVD only versions of these movies is true. It’s very likely though that these combos would come at a higher price than their DVD only cousins, and I’m not sure if that actually helps to put people onto Blu-ray or to put them onto piracy. It doesn’t really seem fair to “tax” DVD owners for the sake of promoting Blu-ray.

And following YouTube’s announcement that 1080p video is now available, and it is (hover your mouse over the HD icon and select between 720p and 1080p), there’s more good news on this front. I talked about the performance implications, in that 50% of an Intel C2D E8500 is going to be kept busy decoding the 1080p video, but the good news is that now both Nvidia and ATI will offer GPU acceleration support for Flash video, which should see that 50% fall below 10%. All ATI Radeon HD 4000 series cards and the new 5700 and 5800 (and newer) cards will be supported, as well as most Nvidia cards since the 8000 series. While we’re not talking about Blu-ray quality video, but it really is a significant step towards digital delivery of HD content. Once bandwidth becomes cheaper and connection speeds improve, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why Blu-ray quality video can’t be delivered online.

There’s a bunch of PS3 news, some of it HD related, but I’ll post them in the gaming section …


And lastly in gaming, PS3 firmware 3.10 has been released. This firmware adds Facebook support, which also came to the Xbox 360. But what’s a PS3 firmware without a chorus of complains, and this one seems to be particularly nasty from reading posts on the PS3 boards. I haven’t updated my firmware since 2.43, and don’t plan to unless some must have Blu-ray update arrives, or that Sony finally owns up to the problem and come up with some sort of solution that everyone is satisfied with, because I’m not paying $250 to repair it if things goes badly, which I suspect it will.

If the GeForce 3D kit is any indication, 3D Blu-ray will have quite a few hardware requirements

If the GeForce 3D kit is any indication, 3D Blu-ray will have quite a few hardware requirements

One of the “must have Blu-ray updates” might be for the 3D feature, which Sony says that PS3s will be able to support via a “simple” firmware update. Of course, you’ll still need a bunch of other equipment before you can have a 3D home theater experience, so it might be something to look out for if you’re buying a new TV (look for specific support for 3D, or failing that, at least 120 Hz refresh).

Another new to Blu-ray feature is a new Digital Copy feature Sony plans to introduce that copies the movie straight off the Blu-ray disc to your PS3 and then onto your PSP. The previous method required a PC, with a special DVD-ROM and unlock codes. Still, all these are just temporary solutions until Managed Copy arrives for Blu-ray on December 4th. There’s some confusion as to what December 4th means for Managed Copy, but the summary is that after this date, all new Blu-ray releases will have to support Managed Copy. What this means is a bit vague at the moment since the hardware (and software) for MC is not set to arrive until next year, but suffice to say that any movie released after December 4th should allow you to make a managed copy from them eventually. It is mandatory, meaning all discs must support it, and it took a fight to get MC being made as a mandatory requirement, so at least that’s some of the confusion out of the way. The news post for all three of these PS3 stories, none of which has much to do with gaming mind, can be found here.

And that was the week that was. Have a nice one.


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