Weekly News Roundup (15 July 2012)

Happy belated Bastille Day. I’m not French. I don’t speak French, and I don’t really know anybody from France, but 14 is my lucky number, and so that’s the connection I have with the French. That and their fries are a personal favourite.

A couple of real eye openers that I will be covering in this week’s WNR, so without further ado …

CopyrightStarting with copyright news, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales has once against caught the ire of the MPAA by, well, not saying anything everyone else hasn’t been saying all along.

Wikipedia Blackout

Wikipedia went black to protest SOPA/PIPA, and founder Jimmy Wales says the site may do it again if Hollywood insists on censoring the web to solves its piracy problem

Speaking at the Wikimedia conference, Wales drew upon personal experience in trying to legally watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones and criticized content holders for not giving the people what they want (and not just to see Joffrey’s head on a spike). Wales also warned that Wikipedia might go dark again if the entertainment industry continues to see web censorship as the solution to everything.

None of Wales remarks were that controversial in my opinion, but anyone who doesn’t agree with the MPAA’s line about pirates being thieves will always be savaged by the lobby group, and the MPAA didn’t disappoint on this occasion. Once again, the MPAA compared downloads to “stealing”, but went one step further by attacking those who only pirate out of convenience (like say if I didn’t feel like jumping through a dozen DRM’d hoops just to satisfy the studio’s piracy paranoia, or I had to download something even though I had already purchased it, just due to ease of use issues). But look at it this way: when your own customers would rather break the law and be called “thieves” than buy your product due to the sole reason of convenience, then maybe, just maybe, you have some work to do before you take a sledgehammer to the Internet. Just a thought.

Of course, even if Hollywood can’t get the government that they’ve already paid for to pass pro-censorship legislation, they can always rely on the threat of legal action to force other private companies to self-censor. PayPal is the latest to demonstrate what a good boy it is when it comes to all this anti-piracy stuff, and it has created a set of new rules for file sharing/newsgroup websites that, effectively, prevent these sites from using PayPal services. In what is surely another nail in the coffin for the once thriving cloud uploading industry (a shame really, since the legitimate services they do provide are invaluable in my opinion), the new rules basically allow PayPal (not even content holders) to dictate what can and cannot be stored on any file sharing website that uses its services. One service provider that has been in talks with PayPal even suggests that PayPal wants full access to all the backend tools to monitor al file uploads, even legitimate, private and confidential ones – a demand that is frankly insane. It would be like if a bank wanted to read all pieces of mail going through private post office boxes (which the bank handles payments for), just so it can reduce its liability in case something dangerous or illegal was sent. Of course, the bank would never be held liable for anything like this, but on the Internet and with the copyright lobby pushing hard, PayPal can become liable (so I guess it’s not all their fault).

At this point though, nothing from PayPal surprises people any more, everyone has had bad experiences with PayPal, and it’s worthwhile to remember that they were the same people who enthusiastically dumped Wikileaks over the tiny bit of governmental pressure. Part of SOPA/PIPA was to give content holders even more power to force private companies like PayPal to do exactly this sort of stuff, but it looks like existing laws and corporate bullying tactics are more than sufficient to ensure exactly the same outcome. So between this and Megaupload, it just goes to show SOPA/PIPA isn’t needed at all.

Napster Logo

The death of Napster gave the RIAA the legal precedent and confidence to engage in a campaign of anti innovation in the years following, according to a new report

Speaking of Megaupload, the decision from this case could very well lead to the kind of landmark decision that will reverberate for years to come. And we don’t even need to look back that far to find how much of a hit on innovation such a decision, or a new set of biased laws, could be. A newly released report goes into detail on how the established music industry profited from now more than a decade ago’s Napster decision. Interviewing 31 leaders of digital music, including CEOs of some of digital music’s biggest firms, the report by Associate Professor Michael A. Carrier of Rutgers University School of Law attempts to show just how much of an effect a copyright decision can have on innovation.

On a high after the victory over Napster, the major music labels, represented by the RIAA, allegedly went on a crusade against all things Internet-y and innovative. By using the funds “earned” from one lawsuit, other websites and start-ups would be sued, until the funds, or suable start-ups, ran out. Not only that, the report alleges that labels strung along start-ups with “good” (and potentially status quo threatening) ideas by refusing to license content to them until these sites had enough traffic, and once they did, sued them for massive copyright infringement. But at the same time, labels were happy to receive huge up-front fees for start-ups they knew would never make it, or made licensing agreements that allowed labels to slowly bleed these new companies dry, the report further alleges. And instead of going after companies, labels would go after individuals associated with the companies, to perhaps add further intimidation for force a favourable outcome in any legal proceedings (although to be fair, everyone does this). Some in the rap business even spoke of physical intimidation,  “being hung out of windows” and things of that nature.

For me, this show why Apple was so bloody clever with the iPod. By making the hardware first, instead of the software/website, Apple made a device that people wanted, loved, and one that the music industry *had* to accept. Had they gone with opening the iTunes store first (and by allowing non Apple devices to buy and play songs), it’s very likely that they too would have been hindered in their attempt to innovate.

With both Hollywood and the recording industry now strongly supporting (if not leading) the case against Megaupload, perhaps both feel another major decision is required to chill the next round of innovation, such as Megaupload’s very own “music label circumventing” Megabox. This mustn’t happen, and I hope it won’t.

As for the actual Megaupload case, the extradition hearing against Kim DotCom, a German-Finnish citizen that ran a Hong Kong based business and currently living in New Zealand and is now being extradited to the US for some reason, won’t be heard until next year, so this one could take a while. DotCom has offered to go to the US voluntarily to avoid the need for an extradition hearing, but only if he gets access to his own frozen/seized funds to pay for mounting legal expenses.

High Definition

People who visit my house often complement, or make fun of, my “oversized” DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray collection, which I always explain is perfectly reasonable and nowhere near as big as a lot of other people’s.

And now, I finally have proof that my collection is actually perfectly reasonable and I’m not at all an obsessed movie nut that must buy movies even though I only ever watch most of them once. Having spent $500,000 Australian dollars (which is about the same in US dollars), avid collector Greg (you thought that I was talking about myself for a second there, didn’t ya) has now put his entire collection of 50,000 CD, DVD and HD DVD titles, and some 3,500 Blu-ray titles, up for sale for “only” $55,000. Just the storage systems cost Greg $5,000, covers and sleeves another $12,000, and he’s including it all as part of the sale, as well as a HD DVD player, and a region A Blu-ray player.

Greg's Movie Collection

Greg from Sydney Australia shows what a real movie collector is like, and you can be just like him if you pay $55,000 to buy his entire collection!

Greg is selling because his flat is no longer big enough for his, possibly still growing, collection. Ironically, the $500,000 he did spend on the discs could have gone a long way to buying a bigger house, which could have housed his collection in a more permanent fashion (or $445,000 on the house, and $55,000 to buy someone else’s 50,000+ title collection). But I’m sure Greg, like all collectors, regret nothing. Although, as one commenter, it looks like Greg might have spent $500,000 to do what an $8 per month Netflix streaming account can do. Ouch, but not really 100% accurate, since I’m sure he has tons of titles that Netflix doesn’t have, some of them in glorious high def that Netflix can’t provide (yet), but perhaps there’s a good point there too about a new more efficient way to have a movie collection ($8 per month for 50 years, the lifespan of DVDs and Blu-rays, still works out to be less than what Greg paid just for his shelves).

In any case, it does make my collection look rather small by comparison. I’m just hoping the saying “size doesn’t matter” also applies to movie collections!


Good news everyone. The NPD analysis will be back for June, as some intern somewhere probably screwed up and actually released some sales figures to allow for a proper comparison between the three major home based consoles, as well as a look at the sales figures for the new Vita portable. Will cover the results in detail in the next few days.

By my calculations, the PS3 sold just under 194,000 units in June, that’s almost 100,000 units more than the Wii, but also 63,000 units less than the Xbox 360. While the Wii has clearly dropped out of the race for the home console market, not by choice really, the PS3 still has a chance to compete with the Xbox 360 and get its user base up in time for the PS4 or whatever it will be called.

While the PS3 is actually pretty good value considering its media credentials, where the PS3 has really struggled though is in the lower end of the market, where the Wii used to dominate, and now the Xbox 360 with its cheaper 4GB console. So the news that Sony might release a 16GB version of the PS3, according to recently leaked photos and documents in Brazil, might not sound too surprising. Still very much a rumour at the moment, so I wouldn’t, say, bet your $500,000 movie collection on the news being true, but it would make a lot of sense if Sony really wanted to extend the life of the PS3. There’s still a market for the PS2 today, and that’s proof the low price strategy works.

What also works though is quitting while you’re ahead, which might be good advice for Sony, but I was talking more about this issue of the WNR to be honest. Any excuse to stop writing! See you next week.


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