Weekly News Roundup (11 March 2012)

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. I hope you’ve had a good week. Me? I’ve been busy with a secret project for Digital Digest, something I hope I can unveil in a week or two. Well, it’s not really a secret, but it’s not ready for public consumption just yet. It will be a relatively small change on the scale of things, but hopefully one that will make navigating the website a little bit easier.

As such, I haven’t really been playing much Skyrim this week. I might also be playing the game the wrong way, because I now have quite a backlog of major and minor quests that’s going to be a pain to clear (and I keep on picking up new ones). Sometimes having too much to do in a game can be a frustrating experience too.

The New iPad

It's better, but what I want to know is what are the new things I'm able to do with the new hardware, that I couldn't do on the iPad 2

I suppose I should also mention the iPad 3, oops, I mean the “new iPad”. It seems I’m not the only one that’s under-whelmed by Apple’s new tablet offering (and not the only one to cringe at the “resolutionary” pun either). There’s really nothing wrong at all with the new iPad – it’s faster, it’s a little bit heavier than the iPad 2 but does not affect usability, the screen is a beauty and the price is right too. So why am I under-whelmed? For me, it’s the lack of “the new things you can do with it” that’s under-whelming – a sharper screen is better, but how does that translate into a new way to use the iPad?

Apple’s strength has always been in selling what you can do with its hardware, rather than the hardware itself (which traditionally hasn’t been state-of-the-art – see Mac vs PC debate). For example, Apple didn’t sell the fact that the iPad 2 had a front facing camera, it sold the concept of FaceTime. The iPod also wasn’t the first digital music player, but Apple sold it, alone with iTunes, as a new way to buy music. I won’t even need to mention what the iPhone meant, but even the incremental 4S upgrade introduced Siri, a new way to use your smart device that unexpected failed to make the transition to the new iPad (not yet, anyway). Imagine if Apple had launched the iPhone 4S without Siri – that, to me, is what the new iPad feels like.

With that said though, the new iPad still looks like a no brainer for people who want an easy to use tablet, so it will sell in droves regardless. But I just think Apple could have marketed it a bit better, to at least give us a glimpse of what the faster processor, better screen is capable of, that makes the iPad 2 obsolete. But maybe that’s not the strategy this time, as perhaps the major change this time is the introduction of a new budget iPad model – the old iPad 2. Good enough for most people, and at $399, it will offer serious competition to budget Android tablets.

Anyway, let’s get started on the news roundup.


The impact of the Megaupload seizure continues to reverberate this week, as the MPAA now wants to use the seizure as proof of guilt in its own court case.

Back when the Mega-seizure happened, I mentioned the MPAA’s civil lawsuit against Hotfile, and how Hotfile and Megaupload’s business models were very similar. I suggested that if no criminal case had been brought up against Hotfile, and that the matter was largely proceeding on civil grounds, then what makes Megaupload so different that the FBI needs to get involved. This week though, the MPAA made the same argument, but the one on the other side of the coin, that because Hotfile and Megaupload were so similar, Hotfile is just as guilty, and so the court should hand down a summary judgement on the matter. The MPAA is using the fact that because a court has granted federal prosecutors the right to take such drastic actions against Megaupload, that there is already enough evidence to suggest that their business model would not stand up to scrutiny in a court of law. There’s is some merit to the argument, but the government has yet to prove its case against Megaupload in a court of law, no matter how convincing their (one sided, it has to be said) arguments have been so far.

The curious thing is that if the MPAA is granted a summary judgement against Hotfile, then this decision could be used in the Megaupload trial as some sort of precedent, even though the summary judgement may have only occurred due to the Megaupload case. It’s a kind of circular logic that could very well have been orchestrated by the MPAA (since the MPAA are one of the key instigators of the Megaupload takedown), to kill two birds with one stone.

The scale of the Mega-takedown has also had consequences for other governments and law enforcement agencies not wanting to look weak on copyright (I’m sure the likes of the RIAA and MPAA have been pressuring them to match the efforts shown by the US government). The Swedish government has no doubt been under a lot of pressure to take action against “Swedish” website The Pirate Bay, particular now that the website has switched to using a Swedish .se domain name. What the Swedish government wasn’t aware of was that investigative notes were being leaked to the operators of The Pirate Bay. And from those leaks, it appears a new series of raids and arrests might be occurring soon. Having already been raided once, which took the website down for a whole three days, the new Pirate Bay seems to be designed to be much more resilient, much harder to take down (and easier to get back up again). The cat and mouse games between the authorities and TPB has only managed to create a stronger mouse – the cat simply hasn’t been able to keep up.

Hadopi Logo

French "three-strikes" has been working for two years now, but where's the evidence it's actually "saving" the music and movie industry?

Staying in Europe, last week, the UK High Court handed down a ruling that paves the way for ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay. This week, another ruling against ISPs paves the way for the UK’s own version of “three-strikes” to go ahead, as the Court of Appeal upheld the legality of such a system. Not that there’s any evidence to suggest that  graduated response, the technical term for “three-strikes”, actually works. I recently read that the French version of three-strikes, nicknamed Hadopi (after the government agency responsible for it) is costing as much as $90 million per year to run. Whereas the only evidence of the program’s success so far, that has been presented by rights holder, is a measly 5% increase in revenue for iTunes over a 2 year period. Considering that iTunes sales worldwide (and with most countries not having a three-strikes regime) went up 36% year-on-year based on Q3 2011 results, the measly 5%, over a 2 year period, seems quite insignificant, and might even point to the opposite conclusion if we’re being cavalier with our statistical analysis. To me, graduated response simply isn’t worth it from a financial point of view, and it’s definitely not worth it when you factor in loss of privacy and other rights.

Losses due to piracy has always been a debatable subject. Whether someone who pirated software ever intended to buy the same thing is almost impossible to predict, as it’s really hard to know what people are wiling and unwilling to pay for. Take Warner Bros. latest idea, their “Disc to Digital” program. The program asks DVD owners to drive to a retail store, hand their original disc to a clerk, who runs the disc through a special machine that eventually produces a purely digital version of the disc, for use on iPads and whatnot (complete with DRM, of course). WB thinks people are willing to not only go to the trouble of doing this, as opposed to simply ripping it at home, but that they’re also willing to pay for the same movie twice. And so if people are not doing it WB’s way, and they’re not making this extra profit, then WB will simply count this as “lost” revenue, and blame it all on home DVD ripping.

Public Knowledge - "Legal DVD Ripping" alternative

Warner Bros. "Disc to Digital" program vs traditional DVD ripping, compared

If you think WB’s legal DVD ripping solution is convoluted, then you’re not alone, because public interest group Public Knowledge also think it’s ridiculous to suggest that consumers would embrace this “alternative”. PK is currently petitioning the US Copyright Office to legalize DVD ripping, and one of the arguments put forward by movie studios, against the idea, is that legal alternatives exist – WB’s “Disc to Digital” being one of the examples referenced by the MPAA. There’s obviously a demand for DVD ripping, even the movie industry accepts this is the case, as otherwise, they wouldn’t be offering their own solution to the problem. But if this is the industry’s idea of adapting to consumer demand, then it really just highlights again how out of touch they have become, and how we really shouldn’t trust their idea of “lost revenue”.

And finally in copyright, a story about our good friends Righthaven, and possible one of the last ever stories on the infamous copyright firm. This week, a judge granted the request to auction off most of Righthaven’s existing copyrights, including the very rights they obtained for sue-for-settlement purposes. Without having any rights to the content they’re pursuing bloggers and non-profits for copying, it really puts an end to all of their pending lawsuits (and appeals), and this, more than anything, is a mortal blow for the firm. Unless Righthaven can manage a revival of Lazarushian proportions, I suspect the next story I write on the firm will be its obituary.


In gaming news, the NPD stats for February 2012 are out, and it looks like I *will* be able to write an analysis for it thanks to there being enough data.

The Xbox 360 won the month again, although both the PS3 and Wii recovered from the January lows. All are down compared to the same month last year though. The lack of any really good releases, and the fact that we may be getting towards the end of the current generation’s sales cycle (or at least well past the midway point), suggests that sales won’t be picking up until the next-gen comes out.

Speaking of next-gen, the latest rumour says the Xbox 720 or whatever may in fact be disc-less. So definitely no Blu-ray playback if that’s the case, although I think physical media are still very much needed to distribute multi Gigabyte games to millions of gamers given the current state of high speed (ie. 40Mbps or faster) broadband saturation. The same argument exists for HD movies, which is why Blu-ray discs will still be around for a while yet.

I think that covers everything for this week, so have a nice one and see you in seven.


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