Weekly News Roundup (3 August 2014)

Hello everyone. Due to personal commitments, I’m writing this WNR on Saturday and schedule-posting this at the right time on Sunday. So if you’re reading this, it means the scheduler has done its work. If it didn’t work, then you’re not reading this, and so never mind, carry on.

Let’s get started.


I don’t like to get into politics, but I think it’s now a fairly mainstream opinion that the current government here in Australia is one of the worst ever. And for Net-active individuals such as myself, our opinions of this government might still get even lower, if that’s even possible.

Hollywood still bitter over court defeat to Aussie ISP iiNet, and now wants the government to step in and help them out

Hollywood still bitter over court defeat to Aussie ISP iiNet, and now wants the government to step in and help them out

The reason is simple. It’s this government’s fairly transparent plan to basically toe the Hollywood line and let the likes of Sony and Warner Bros. write our new copyright laws. Laws, that if becomes reality, would be one of the harshest in the world. Everything is on the table, from domain blocking, to censorship, to three-strikes, to making ISPs liable for user downloads … basically “a wish list from Hollywood” as one academic puts it. This is despite a 2012 High Court ruling that specifically said that ISPs aren’t liable for user actions, a defeat that still haunts Hollywood and their lackeys here in Australia to this day.

They lost that day, and since then, they’ve tried playing a different game. A game of politics that may start to pay off thanks to the election of a new big business friendly government.

Despite all the evidence pointing to the piracy problem here in Australia as one of access and availability, the government seems very keen to divert blame away from big business (not unusual for this government), and instead lay blame on those that don’t have the political clout or the lobbying power to have a real voice (again, not unusual for this government).

For me, it’s clear where the problem is. It could have been many things, and it was always inevitable, but in the end, it was the Internet (and perhaps not even piracy specifically) that finally exposed in the entertainment industry’s flawed and outdated business model. No other industry gets away with investing so much money in producing such awful products, time and time again. Hollywood gets away with it because, for years, they’ve not had any real competition. Sure, there is competition between studios, but if you wanted to watch a summer blockbuster, do you really have any choice other than a Hollywood movie (and often a crappy one)?

The Internet has brought us many things. It has brought us competing forms of entertainment that is cheaper and better, as well as new delivery technologies that are better for the consumer than the ones that Hollywood wants to force us to use. So the business model of making million dollar garbage after garbage and then cramming it down our throats in a process that Hollywood wants 100% control over, that business model, is no longer relevant today. They’ve bought themselves some time thanks to the 3D hype, and the fact that people still like going to the movies, but their reluctance to embrace change has seen companies like Apple and Netflix, and even ISPs, all establishing themselves as important cogs in the process that H0llywood once had total control over. The political lobbying, their only remaining and potent weapon, is now be deployed in the last throes of a futile attempt to hold on to the past.

And piracy is the convenient excuse that gives Hollywood’s political lobbying a purpose, a visible boogeyman for politicians to justify their thoughtless decisions. I’m not saying that piracy is harmless, but in my mind, Hollywood’s problems are much bigger than penniless teenagers and college students downloading movies.

It’s not that much different for the music industry, who’s territory is being encroached by the likes of Spotify, Pandora, and yes, Apple as well. Techdirt has an article this week that looks at the trouble legal streaming services like Spotify and Pandora has with revenue, troubles that are primarily caused by rights holder royalty demands. Spotify, for examples, spends 75% of their total revenue on royalty payments. Despite this, rights holders are demanding even more in royalty payments.

Techdirt’s Mike Masnick argues that this demand could be the undoing of services like Spotify and Pandora. Perhaps not these precise services, but certainly smaller players that would otherwise have offered more choice and competition in the same market space. Masnick argues that the music industry’s short term-ism could endanger the great potential of these services, and in doing so, endanger the industry’s own futures.

Again, I think this goes back to the point I was trying to make earlier, that the music industry, like the movie industry, has found itself on the outside of the Internet revolution and has allowed others (mostly tech companies) to come in and take a piece of the pie. But instead of accepting that they were too slow to embrace the Internet, they still want to operate, and to earn, in the same way they have before, when they controlled 100% of the production and distribution process. Or as Masnick notes, the industry seems to think all the value is in the content, their content, and there’s no or little value in the service. Consumers, on the other hand, may disagree. Especially those that are choosing to pay for Spotify over getting the same content for free via piracy.


Finger amputations to end piracy scourge once and for all?

For those that still choose piracy, there’s one proposed punishment for pirates that could end the piracy problem overnight: finger amputations. Nigerian singer Stella Monye says that “drastic measures” need to be taken to stop pirates, and cutting off their fingers might just do the trick. This “ten-strikes” regime would see pirates lose a finger for every song they download, and Monye says that it will only take two finger amputations before pirates start wising up.

The thing is, I’m still not quite sure if Monye was being serious, or whether this was a brilliant attempt at satirizing how rights holders perceive pirates. Or it could be that the original source of this news story is actually The Onion. I just don’t know. But you have to say, this is probably the most effective solution proposed so far!

And it’s also probably cheaper than the “six-strikes” regime that the U.S. currently enjoys. The organisation in charge of running the program has reported that it costs $3 million a year on its end to send the 1.3 million notices so far. This is just the cost of sending the warning notices, as costs for ISPs to implement the monitoring and the “punishments” is not included.

Kind of expensive for no real effect. Knives are much cheaper, you have to say, although the disposal of severed fingers may have additional costs, I’m not sure.


The success of the PS4 hasn’t just been a moral victory for Sony, after the dismal relative failure of the PS3, but it’s also helped the company become profitable this past quarter. Sales in the gaming division rose 96%, with an operating profit for 4.3bn yen, up from a loss of 16.4bn yen from the same quarter a year ago. Sony still expects a loss for the financial year, but with the PS4 looking stronger each month, things are looking up for Sony.


That’s it for the week. See you in 8 days (well, 7 from when you read this, but 8 from when I wrote this).


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