Weekly News Roundup (28 July 2013)

Well here’s a badly kept secret: introducing Digital Digest’s new sister site, streambly. streambly is an Australian based website dedicated to all things streaming. It features the latest news on the world of video, audio and game streaming, and also features how-to guides on how to get the best out of legal streaming options. I say it’s not a well kept secret because I’ve already linked to it here a couple of times, but only just remembered that I haven’t actually bothered to introduce it. Well, consider it introduced!

Which is just as well, as there are quite a few streaming related news in this week’s WNR.

CopyrightHere’s an idea: instead of getting lobbyists to write copyright laws, why not let the people that will be most affected by the laws to write them? That’s exactly what’s happening in Finland, with the country’s first crowdsourced copyright bill now submitted for review, and a potential vote in their parliament in early 2014.

More than a thousand people have helped to write and vote on the various provisions in this draft bill, and volunteer lawyers have gone over every inch of the document to ensure it complies with existing Finnish and EU regulations. And with 50,000 people publicly backing the proposed legislation, under Finnish law, the parliament will now have to vote on it.

While Finland isn’t exactly the center of the world when it comes to copyright law, those that have been reading this feature might remember a story involving a 9 year-old girl and her Winnie the Pooh laptop, seized during a police search of her home. Yep, that was in Finland, in the country where downloading a MP3 is felony in the same category as manslaughter and violent rioting. No surprise then that the current copyright laws introduced in 2006 were written with the “help” of the copyright lobby.

But these new proposed laws, dubbed the Common Sense in Copyright Act, will help to restore the balance by finally giving the people a say in the matter, not just industry interests. Of course, the new laws have to be voted in first, which will probably take place in early 2014. At that time, we’ll find out just how many Finnish politicians are in the pockets of the copyright lobby.


iPredator becoming the prey of financial providers, including PayPal, who suspended iPredator’s account last week

Lobbying politicians is only part of the copyright lobby’s job description – lobbying private businesses is the other, including the financial providers that help piracy websites to pay their bills. And these providers may be launching their own war against piracy, with iPredator the latest victim. Only weeks after one of their main payment providers ceased support for the Pirate Bay linked VPN provider, this week, PayPal suspended iPredator’s account and froze its funds.

While no explanation has been given, the VPN service’s links to The Pirate Bay may have played a part in the banning; iPredator was launched by the same people that founded The Pirate Bay. iPredator allows people in countries where The Pirate Bay is blocked to continue accessing the site, and to download torrents anonymously.

Speaking to TorrentFreak, co-founder of The Pirate Bay and iPredator Peter Sunde says that a secret blacklist may exist, and that iPredator may have been put on it, according to one payment processor that Sunde talked to. If true, this may be further proof of the existence of a secret war against piracy, waged by commercial interests outside of the purview of the legal system.

High Definition

A trio of Netflix related news this week, two of them having to do with Android. You’ve probably heard of Google’s Chromecast device by now, the $35 device dubbed “Netflix on a stick” by some, even though it actually does a lot more (or a lot less, depending on how you look at it). Our sister site Streambly covers the story in more detail, but think of Chromecast as an easy way to get videos that stream on your Android tablet or smartphone (or in your Chrome browser) to stream on your TV.

Google Chromecast

This little $35 device might make a big splash, as Google gets into the media streamer business (sort of)

It does a lot more than being “Netflix on a stick” because it also supports YouTube, Google Play and mirrors whatever your Chrome browser (even the desktop/PC/Mac version) displays on your TV. And that’s just for now, and as soon as more developers add Chromecast support to their apps, the $35 device will seem even better value.

It does a lot less than being “Netflix on a stick” because, unlike other media streamers, you’ll still need a compatible Android device or a computer running Chrome in order to actually get Netflix to run. You can simply plug and play with a Roku, for example, but you’ll need to do a bit more work to get Netflix running via Chromecast.

While it’s not available in Australia, I’m eager to get my hands on one. For one, this could be the cheapest way yet to get Netflix up and working in Australia – with Chrome and the free Hola unblocker extension, you save money by not having to pay for a geo-unblocker, or a media streamer if you don’t have one already.

Chromecast definitely got most of the spotlight last week, but it wasn’t the only Android/Netflix announcement. For those wondering why Netflix quality sucks on tablets and to a lesser extent, on smartphones, it’s because the resolution is limited to a sucky 480p. The culprit, unsurprisingly, is DRM and the lack of support for it on these portable devices. But with the rollout of Android 4.3, 1080p Netflix playback is finally coming to Android.

The new Nexus 7 device will be the first tablet to support Netflix 1080p, but only because it’s the first and only 1080p Nexus tablet, and only Nexus devices will have access to 4.3 in the short term. As 4.3 rolls out to more 1080p tablets (and smartphones), more and more devices will start to support 1080p too.

Breaking Bad Promo

Breaking Bad is breaking onto Netflix UK and Ireland, with the final episodes available on a next-day basis

It doesn’t really surprise me that DRM has been what’s holding back HD Netflix playback, even the 720p kind, and the DRM requirement will have been one that’s been placed on Netflix by Hollywood. It’s the kind of shortsighted and paranoid thinking Hollywood is famous for, as if somehow enabling 720p Netflix playback on tablets will somehow cause a piracy pandemic. Somehow.

And lastly, UK viewers will be happy to learn that the final season of Breaking Bad will be coming to Netflix UK and Ireland within a day of the shows original airing in the US. It’s quite a coup for Netflix, considering how eagerly awaited the final few episodes of Breaking Bad is. No luck for Netflix users elsewhere though, not unless you get yourself a Netflix region selector service like Unblock-Us (hint, hint). Australian BB fans can of course head over to streambly where you can find helpful guides on how to sign up and use Netflix (and also get access to Netflix UK/Ireland), just in time for the August 12/13 debut of the final season.

OK, that’s enough cross promotion for this week. See you in seven.


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