Weekly News Roundup (January 1, 2017)

Happy New Year! Happy 2017! Wasn’t expecting to put out a WNR today, but surprisingly, we had a few news stories, and so here we are.

Before we get to that though, I finally saw Rogue One and it was actually a lot better than I expected. Granted, my expectations were low, but it really does feel like one of the better movies in the franchise. It really could have come out very badly. Take the premise: mega-corp Disney trying to cash in on its Star Wars license by doing, God forbid, yet another prequel for a story whose synopsis is basically the opening crawl of A New Hope. And then emerged of a troubled production, massive reshoots, and a change of composer (neither of whom are John Williams) with only four weeks given to compose an entire new score for the movie. Almost everything was against the movie, but against the odds, they seems to have done it! Just like the protagonists in the movie, they’ve delivered a victory when defeat seemed inevitable.

Even the Michael Giacchino score was brilliant, and doesn’t take nearly as much time to become part of your humming ensemble as compared to The Force Awakens (which is brilliant in its own right) – you can listen to the entire soundtrack on Spotify.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One is better enjoyed if you’re already familiar with A New Hope

As much as it is a “standalone” Star Wars movie, it really isn’t, at least not for Star Wars fans. Think of it as an “extended universe” movie, just like how we have extended universe books and games – Rogue One just takes the same formula and applies it to the big screen. You won’t get as much out of the movie if you haven’t seen A New Hope or at least be familiar with concepts like the Force, so it’s not really a standalone and it shouldn’t be judged in isolation like this (the movie, for someone who knows nothing about Star Wars, might be no more than an average action sci-fi film, but for fans, it’s something completely different – and this perhaps explains the wide ranging views on the movie).

The correct viewing order for the Star Wars films was 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7. It’s a bit harder to fit Rogue One into the timeline – the story may be before A New Hope, but it wouldn’t be right for this to be the first Star Wars film to watch. If I could, I would pause A New Hope just after the group’s arrival on Yavin 4, watch Rogue One, and then continue on with the big conclusion to Episode IV. I think it would then provides the context needed to enjoy Rogue One, and allow Rogue One to do something prequels rarely do – to improve the original.

I watched it on the day we lost our Princess, and so the movie had an added touch of emotion for me and possibly for many in the theatre with me that day. R.I.P. Carrie Fisher.

Oh yes, the news … I’ll try to keep it short considering how much time I’ve just wasted above.



4shared can’t get a break – despite giving rights-holders what they want

It’s that time of the year again. Everyone is making merry, opening gifts, getting way too full and drunk, and of course, the USTR has to release an updated “notorious market” piracy list. There were all the usual inclusions, but the inclusion of 4shared and Youtube-MP3.org has the EFF concerned. Both sites have fair use on their side, according to the EFF, theformer also has one of the best anti-piracy systems around (despite the EFF saying they’re not being a fan of the system due to the way it could produce false positives). Many people use 4shared and Youtube-MP3.org for legitimate reasons, and just because some, maybe even if most, use it for illegal means, it shouldn’t automatically make these sites illegal. Especially not when one of them has a great system for preventing piracy.

Russian social media site vKontakte got listed again, despite the site working extensively with rights-holders to stamp out piracy. That’s what cooperation gets you, I guess. Chinese site Taobao is listed too, and if you’ve ever browsed products on there, you wouldn’t be too surprised at this listing.

What you might be surprised about are the complaints being raised against Spotify, despite the freemium platform almost single-handedly making music piracy irrelevant. The platform is so successful at defeating piracy because, according to the company’s top lawyer, stopping piracy is part of Spotify’s DNA.

Or rather, I think Spotify saw how attractive piracy was to many people and then found a way to make something even more attractive. It also clearly saw that not all pirates were unwilling to pay for music, and then went about creating a product that they were willing to pay for.

The only question is has Spotify’s popularity cannibalized sell-thru? On the reverse side, it’s also worth examining to see if Spotify’s effect of turning pirates into paying customers has had a net positive effect for the music industry even if it also causes sales to decline. According to Spotify, since the introduction of Spotify, music industry revenue has started growing again after 15 years of continuous year-on-year declines.

So maybe it’s not worth looking at the huge number of listens on Spotify and how little money this translates in terms of direct revenue from Spotify, and perhaps take a look at the big picture. Spotify may be changing user behaviour and making them shy away from illegal sources, it may also be helping with music discovery and helping to drive indirect sales. These effects are harder to quantify, but perhaps far more important than a extra couple of percent in terms of royalty from Spotify. If the music industry starts to work against Spotify, instead of working with it, then this may be a shortsighted way to look at things.


That’s that for this week’s WNR, and for 2016 as well. Hope you had a great 2016, and hope 2017 is even better for you!


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