Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (June 17, 2018)

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

It’s another week here at WNR headquarters, and for the first time in a little while, we actually have some ripping related news. It’s not so much that people don’t care about ripping any more, but mainly because there hasn’t been anything new that requires a decrypting breakthrough, because DVD and Blu-ray ripping has become quite easy (and a quick glance at the piracy scene indicates that most rips come from web sources as opposed to BDrips, as web sources usually have new content arrive much earlier). Ultra HD Blu-ray appeared to be unbreakable when it first appeared, but this does not seem to be true these days (as you’ll see in the story below). Not that many people are lining up to download 50GB+ files when a 2GB looks perfectly fine.

Alright, let’s get started then.

Copyright

Fury Ultra HD Blu-ray

Pirates score a direct hit against Hollywood in the on-going battle to crack Ultra HD Blu-ray discs

The war between pirates and movie studios has raged for almost two decades now (ever since the days of DeCSS), and the recent battles have all been about Ultra HD Blu-ray and the so called “unbreakable” AACS 2 copy protection scheme. Just to prove that there really is no such thing as unbreakable, the latest version of the copy protection scheme, AACS 2.1, has been broken only a month after it first made its appearance on the UHD BD version of the movie ‘Fury’.

AACS 2.1 was a response to the series of UHD discs protected by AACS 2.0 that were somehow ripped and uploaded online during the back end of 2017. It appeared that a flaw had been found in AACS 2.0, which while strictly not a full crack, allowed users to achieve the same result – to obtain an decrypted version of the UHD files. According to Arusoft, the company that broke AACS 2.1, the new version added an encrypted m2ts file that contained “forensic information”, and it was a simple process to decrypt the file and remove any potential tracking information (although this part is not completely confirmed).

The problem with trying to update AACS is that the bigger changes required to re-secure the copy protection scheme may cause it to be no longer compatible with existing hardware, which is why a crack or workaround, once discovered, pretty much means the end of the copy protection scheme. With Arusoft’s DeUHD software now claiming to rip more than 1100 UHD titles (up slightly from the 30 titles that DeUHD supported at launch), it seems AACS 2.x has reached the end stage of its lifecycle.

High Definition

Apple TV 4K

Apple looking to ink more content deals as it signs WGA master contract

Media companies are starting to realise that having original content is more important than ever. Some non media tech companies, such as Apple and Facebook, have also realised that having original, unique content is key to keeping people “loyal” to your platform, even if media isn’t your main game. So Apple signing the Writers Guild master contract last week doesn’t really seem all that surprising, considering the company is already producing a couple of shows (including the new series of ‘Carpool Karaoke’).

The Writers Guild is keen to sign up companies like Apple and Facebook because, increasingly, these companies are producing “free to consumer” type of content that’s not quite the same as the content on pay per view or subscription networks. Having agreements in place means that in future rounds of negotiations, both sides have something concrete to point to when trying to find the most equitable terms.

Shortly following the announcement of Apple’s contract signing, Apple announced that it had reached an agreement with Oprah Winfrey’s OWN in a multi-year deal that will produce (as yet unannounced) original programming. Expect more of these types of announcements in the near future.

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Righteo, we’re at the end of another WNR. Short and sweet again. Maybe minus the sweet part. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (May 27, 2018)

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. Hope you’ve had a pretty good week, and now you’re ready for this pretty poor excuse of an WNR. Yes, once again, the news Gods haven’t smiled upon us this week, but there are still things to talk about. So let’s get started!

Copyright

Record Player

Copyright extension will endanger creativity and cultural preservation

Will it ever end? The US Congress is considering extending the copyright term again, this time to 144 years. This means that recordings from as old as 1923 won’t fall out of copyright protection until 2067. Worst of all, the extension will be applied across the board automatically, as opposed to requiring rights holders to apply for the extension. This is all and well for recordings for which the current rights holders are still receiving royalties for, but for “orphan works” where the owners have long given up practical ownership of the work, the extension to 2067 will hamper efforts to (legally) preserve and archive these works, and so many may be lost forever.

It’s often easy to forget that it is as important for copyright protection to exist as it is for it to expire. Big media and the copyright lobby has placed most of the focus on copyright’s ability to protect the owners from earning royalties, which is important. However, if this was the only goal of copyright, then why did it originally have a component which will see it automatically expire after a set term (usually the life of the creator, plus X number of years). In other words, why should copyright expire and simply not exist indefinitely?

The reasons why copyright should expire is also the reason the copyright lobby cites in their argument for the strengthening of copyright – creativity. When works expire into the public domain, these works can then be referenced, remixed, edited freely or otherwise used to create new works. It is the reason why Disney can take classic stories such as Pinocchio and Snow White and create new (copyrighted) works from them without the hassle of buying the rights to these stories. And without anyone owning exclusive rights on something, it is also the reason why studios other than Disney can take the same stories and create their own copyrighted works, such as Universal’s ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ or Relativity Media’s ‘Mirror Mirror’. It’s also the reason if the original Star Wars trilogy ever falls out of copyright, someone other than Disney/Lucasfilm can take a shot at it. But at this rate, you and I would be long dead before that ever happens, if it ever happens at all. Plus there’s that tricky thing called trademarks, that will prevent anything real from materialising. #Sad.

The other reason is much more for works that are less well known than Snow White or Star Wars, and it’s about the preservation of these works for future generations. With automatic copyright extension and orphaned works, any effort to digitize and archive these works may be deemed illegal until their copyright expires, by which time, it may be technically impossible to preserve them.

So let’s not be too shortsighted when it comes to copyright, as it’s most than just about money and protecting the interests of a few big corporations.

High Definition

Blu-ray Logo

Blu-ray sales for 2017 may disappoint despite gains made by Ultra HD Blu-ray

I know I’m a little late this year in publishing our annual Blu-ray: The State of Play report, but rest assured, it’s coming soon. And before that glorious day occurs, I thought I would just share with you a preview of what you might expect. As you might have guessed, things aren’t looking great for physical media. But how not great, I hear you ask.

Well, the last State of Play report saw Blu-ray revenue make a small comeback, rising slightly even. At that time, I put that down to the better caliber of releases for 2016 (compared to 2015), as well as the positive effect of Ultra HD Blu-ray. The same factors still applied for 2017, but unfortunately while UHD continued to grow, the caliber of releases was comparatively lacking, and these two factors failed to arrest the decline of physical media sales in general. As a result, Blu-ray revenue fell by more than 6%, and the majority of weeks in 2017 was poorer than the same week in 2016, in terms of sales.

The full report will have lots of other juicy details such as a list of the year’s best selling Blu-ray titles and a closer look at Blu-ray’s market share. Look out for the full report here in the coming days (although with my track record, it will be more likely weeks/months).

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Looks like we’ve reached the end of another WNR. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (May 20, 2018)

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

Welcome back from a “much longer than I thought it would be” hiatus. A combination of travelling, getting sick from travelling and then lack of news meant that the WNR had to be postponed. Until now!

So we finally do have news this week, not too much, but enough to get the old keyboard out and write up a WNR.

Copyright

Roku FBI Warning

Roku accidentally blocks YouTube and Netflix for suspected piracy

There’s been a bit of an unwanted copyright spotlight on Roku, with the company facing legal action in Mexico. This is probably why Roku has decided to take a more proactive strategy towards anti-piracy enforcement, and they have started to remove channels that aren’t solidly in the legitimate camp in terms of content.

This strategy appears to have caused some friendly fire last week, when Roku decided that both YouTube and Netflix were no longer on the right side of the (copyright) law, and blocked both channels with their now infamous “FBI warning screen” (where they explain why the channel was removed).

Facing a customer backlash, Roku quickly took to Twitter to explain the whole thing had been a mistake, and that the channels may have been inadvertently blocked during one of Roku’s anti-piracy actions (when they were trying to block another channel).

With the creative industry taking aim at all streaming related activity, I guess it’s only wise on Roku’s part to take proactive action. Just not so proactive that they start blocking the likes of Netflix and YouTube, obviously.

High Definition

Star Wars: The Last Jedi 4K Ultra HD Cover

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is the only physical media format that’s not in serious decline

The latest DEG report on the state of the (US) home entertainment industry is out for Q1 2018, and it pretty much reads as you would expect it to read. Almost everything digital is doing great, particularly streaming, and that’s more than making up for losses in physical media sales and all kinds of rentals.

Of particular interest to loyal readers of this feature will be the near 29% increase in revenue for subscription streaming compared to Q1 2017, shows that there seems to be still room to grow for the streaming business. 4K Ultra HD sales are booming as well, with sales up 130% and now accounting for 12% of all Blu-ray sales. And 35 million households now have at least one 4K TV set.

So it seems that the home entertainment industry is moving towards digital, streaming and 4K and a rather rapid pace, and it seems this time at least, they are ready to take advantage (with a little bit of help from Netflix, Amazon, Apple and other tech companies).

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Short and sweet one this week. No idea if the next week is going to be better, or worse, or absolutely amazing. Hoping for the latter then!

Weekly News Roundup (April 8, 2018)

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Just a heads up that the next few weeks might be light in terms of news and roundups, as I’m going on a small trip. Luckily, there were a few things to talk about this week, as otherwise, it would be a rather long break without a WNR. The things that we talk about are rather related too, as you’ll find out.

So without wasting any more time …

Copyright

The problem of leaked screeners has gotten bad enough that the MPAA has finally decided to seek external help to get the problem under control. The MPAA has partnered with the Content Delivery & Security Association to created the Trusted Partner Network (TPN), a group that will try to ensure standards are being met in terms of the secure storage and distribution of entertainment content, including screeners.

TPN will set out to raise awareness of proper security protocols, and TPN approved assessors can provide auditing to content owners and vendors who wants to ensure they aren’t the weak link in the distribution chain.

You can’t blame them for taking some action though, because screener leaks and even major hacks have become so common, they’re no longer even news worthy. That’s not to say that the problem is so big that the revenue lost, and the jobs associated with it, has become news worthy as a result. If anything, it appears that the movie business has never been better.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was the top movie domestically

Don’t think that’s the case? Then why not check with the MPAA, who’s most recent report paints a very rosy picture of the film business. The last 3 years have been record years, domestically, for the movie industry, and globally, 2017 was a record breaking year.

Box office receipts are up, especially in emerging markets like in Asia, and not only that, home entertainment profits are up as well. The latter might be surprising because the same report paints a dire picture for physical media, with revenue down some 41% since 2013. But as luck would have it (or not luck at all, but just common sense), the rise of digital has more than offset the losses with physical media. This has meant an overall increase in consumer spending, meaning that despite some of the money going to the likes of Apple, Google and Netflix, digital is actually more profitable than physical (or maybe more precisely, the ease of use of digital now means people are consuming more content than ever). Who would have thought that innovation and user friendliness are the keys to success? I certainly didn’t in 2009 or even earlier if I had bothered to search through WNRs from before then.

But the focus on piracy still hasn’t decreased, because in the eyes of the MPAA and its members, it’s still “money lost” despite there being very little evidence that stopping piracy entirely (not possible anyway) would lead to a surge in profits. For me, the transition to digital would not have gone so smoothly had there not been pirate applications that had already gotten people used to consuming digital media. Kind of like how without MP3 piracy, Apple would have found it a lot harder to launch the iPod and iTunes, because there just wouldn’t have been a market for the entire ecosystem. And without the price pressures put on the industry by piracy, Spotify would have never existed for the same reasons Netflix might have never been.

Digital music player

Digital, more precisely, digital subscriptions, are helping the music industry recover financially

And as we’re on the topic of music, it’s a bit of a coincidence, or not, that the RIAA also released their own report on the state of the music in industry, and it’s starting to look brighter too. Again, digital is playing a key role in the “revival” of the industry (following it’s “collapse” due to piracy if you believe the RIAA, or more likely, the transition from CDs to digital). And within the larger physical to digital transition, and as we are also seeing within the movie industry, there is also a transition from ownership to subscription. From iTunes to Apple Music, or iTunes again to Netflix.

And hysterical claims from the RIAA about the lousy royalties from streaming, it’s actually paid subscriptions that’s driving industry profits forward – both digital downloads and physical media sales were down, but total revenue grew by 16.5% thanks to a 56% rise in the number of paid subscription.

Things will never go back to the heydays of CDs, but so many things have changed since then (um, the Internet, for one), so is it really realistic to expect business to stay the same?

You can’t blame everything on piracy.

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And on that note, we come to the end of another WNR. There might still be one next week before I leave for my trip, unless I run out of time packing, which is very likely. See you … when I see you again!

Weekly News Roundup (April 1, 2018)

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

I’m not getting into the April Fools game this year. If you follow this roundup, or just read news in general, you’ll already know how absurd real news stories can get these days, so anything I can come up with for April Fools will be lame by comparison. So if I you read a new story about the MPAA sending a representative to become a board member of the XBMC Foundation, the foundation that operates the Kodi project, or if the RIAA has decided to submit Spotify to the USTR to add to their global piracy blacklist, or if Australian media boss Graham Burke says Google’s perceived lack of action on piracy means kids are being lured into bad Internet neighbourhoods full of prostitutes and drug dealers, then you probably have no idea whether they’re real or if they’re an April Fools news story.

That last one was actually real news, BTW.

Here’s the real news (I promise) …

Copyright

'Kodi' has been filtered by Google

‘Kodi’ has been filtered by Google

Google has decided the term Kodi might as well be a synonym for piracy, and has banned the word from its Autocomplete feature. So instead, if you type “kod” into Google, you’ll get the suggestions like “kodak black” or “kodiak bear”, and nothing related to the media software.

The fact that the Kodi software is just a media interface, not too dissimilar to Microsoft’s Windows Media Center software that came with Windows versions from XP to 8.1, makes the banning quite strange. Especially when you consider that other legal software terms with even stronger links to piracy, such as “uTorrent” and even “Popcorn Time”, are perfectly fine by Google standards.

I do expect Google to reverse their decision in an embarrassing back down at some stage, and they will do what they always do, blame the algorithm (and so to theoretically remove the human element from the equation as a means to project themselves from lawsuits … never mind that algorithms are written, tested and monitored by human beings, and I believe that’s where the ultimate responsibility lies – anyway, getting off topic).

Does this all have an effect on Kodi? According to Google Trends, search traffic for the term “Kodi” dropped by more than 21% in the last week, so …

Spotify Logo

People are pirating Spotify. I really didn’t know that this was a thing until this week.

Another media software in the spotlight recently is Spotify, mainly due to its impending IPO on the NYSE. As part of that process, Spotify has had to audit themselves and present any irregularities. One irregularity that Spotify has identified is that approximately two millions of its users are using hacked versions of the Spotify app, which allows free accounts to access premium features, such as no ads. What this means is that there are two million users that aren’t generating profit for Spotify, and unfortunately, these users has been counted as normal users and included in Spotify’s previously published key performance indicators.

I personally believe it isn’t the ads that people are trying to bypass by using the hacked version. The free version of Spotify’s most annoying limitation, at least when it comes to the mobile app, is the inability to select tracks to play, and only being able to play a playlist on shuffle. Worst yet, and this is one of those badly documented limitations, the shuffle playlist play will only work for a number of tracks before Spotify will just play you random (but sometimes related) tracks not in your playlist. This is especially true if your playlist consists of tracks from a couple of different albums – this is Spotify’s way to prevent free account holders to listen to a single album on a loop, even if it’s on random shuffle. If it was just the ads, I think most people would just live with it.

Anyway, Spotify has notified accounts suspected of using the hacked version and also barred the hacked versions from accessing Spotify’s servers. There are however many hacked versions, and not all are blocked, and so I suspect many users are still using “pirating Spotify”.

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And on that note, we come to the end of another WNR. See you next week!