Weekly News Roundup (7 April 2013)
Maybe it’s the post-Easter lull, or I was just even lazier than usual (“that’s not even possible”, I hear you say), but it’s been a spectacular boring week in terms of news this week. After reading the 86th story on how many people illegally downloaded a Game of Thrones, and in the days after I wrote my piece on it, I mean, really?
So as you’ve guessed, this is going to be a really really short WNR. Not my fault. Not really. Maybe a little.
Before we get to the only story of the week (I know, I know), there were a few notable mentions – stories not good enough to warrant an whole article, but still interesting.
First up is the non story about Aliens: Colonial Marines being cancelled on the Wii U. Now, I could have spun into a story about how developers were abandoning the Wii, due to the poor sales figures. But I think it’s really just a case of developer abandoning poorly designed and implemented game. I wish more developers would do that, especially with games based on established franchises, and spare the rest of us the disappointment and frustration that comes from ruining our cherished memories of classics of days gone by.
This article in the WSJ is quite interesting, but has a bout of too-long-didn’t-read about it (to be fair, anything over 140 characters these days are labeled by some as tl;dr, but I do recommend you read this one). It’s about how content industries in the US come up with their controversial calculated losses due to piracy, and the debate surrounding just how much damage web piracy is having on sales. Even the MPAA has backed away from earlier studies that put the estimated cost to the economy at anywhere between millions and billions. I don’t think there’s any doubt that piracy is hurting sales, but how much is the million to billion dollar question. My estimate put losses at $275.5 million per year. It’s true that I pulled that number out of my @$$, but it’s probably no more or less accurate than any other figure out there.
The ever informative TorrentFreak this week has another wacky story about Google DMCA takedowns, this time a rights holder has asked the actual DMCA takendown notice to be taken down. Whenever Google receives a DMCA takedown request, a copy of it is posted at Chilling Effects, and Google’s search results will usually post a notice with a link to the relevant Chilling Effects page for the notice. But as TorrentFreak notes, it doesn’t take much effort to take the Chilling Effects database of infringing links, and create “one of the largest pirate search engines available” from the data there. So taking down the infringement notice is the logical thing to do, except that this creates another Chilling Effects page, which will need to be taken down again in due time, and on and on we continue until we’re stuck in the deepest level, Limbo.
And now onto the Game of Thrones news I talked about earlier.
Despite the best efforts of HBO, by shortening the artificial airing delays for the latest episodes of Game of Thrones outside of the U.S., the first episode of season 3 of the hit show has still managed to break piracy records.
At one point, the most popular torrent for GoT had more than 160,000 peers, and only a day after the show aired, it has already been downloaded more than a million times.
Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly if you actually live here, Australia was one of the top locations where the show was downloaded illegally. The show’s popularity in Australia isn’t the issue, and with only a 2-hour delay between the U.S. airing and the Australian subscription TV premier, access seems to be less of an issue as well (originally, subscribers had to wait 6 month for new episodes).
But pricing, I think, is still why so many Aussies turn to BitTorrent. Despite the country being a prosperous one by relative terms, the fact that we end up paying many times the price of people in the U.S. or even the U.K., means that many feel that the legal option cannot be considered as a reasonable option. The cheapest way to watch the latest GoT episodes, with “only” a two hour delay, costs at least $USD 63 per month, most likely double what people in the U.S. are made to pay (this gets you basic cable plus the movie channels, one of which shows the latest episode of HBO shows). Those that want to watch via the net, legally, are left with the option of an iTunes season pass at $35 for the HD version of the show, and a hefty 2-day delay for new episodes.
For now though, it seems HBO and the show’s creators, and even Australia’s subscription TV provider, are not pulling their hairs out over the piracy rate. The high piracy rate is a testament to the show’s popularity, and that’s something you can’t buy, and that’s a good thing. In the end, it all comes down to a simple formula: take the number of people who want to watch the show and subtract away the number of people who can actually afford to watch the show. With the first number really high, and the second number low because of cost and accessibility issues, it’s no wonder the piracy rate is so high, here in Australia, and elsewhere. Reducing piracy may end up lowering the first number without actually increasing the second number, which is totally not what you want (as the first one determines things like DVD and Blu-ray sales too).
That’s about it for this shortened edition of the WNR. Short and sweet. Like a Hobbit marinated in honey sauce. Hmm, soft and juicy Hobbitses.