Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (November 24, 2019)

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

Yeah, that it was another long break again. To be fair, I’ve been fairly busy with Digital Digest Trailers, and some of it isn’t even Star Wars related!

Thought it was time to do another newsletter, and so scrapped up some news, and here we are!

Copyright

If you’ve never watched a single episode of An Idiot Abroad, you should do yourself a favour and watch one now. You never know if the star of the show, Karl Pilkington, is actually just being himself or playing a character and in on the joke from the start. Either way, he is one funny guy.

Karl Pilkington wants people to know about his new show

I haven’t seen his new show, ‘Sick of It’ yet, but the fact that he plays two characters in it suggest that the “Idiot” was definitely more of an act. And if you haven’t seen an episode of this new show, maybe because it’s not widely available around the world at the moment, don’t fret, Karl has some suggestions for you: pirate it!

When people ask Pilkington where they can see his show, he’s sending them a link to a Vimeo video where they can watch a full episode. The only problem? The video is a pirate upload.

And he’s not just done that once, he’s done it multiple times, he’s done it every time someone has asked about how to see the show.

Not sure how the show’s network, Sky, will feel about this, but as the creator of the show, Pilkington must feel that informing people about the merits of his show is more important than silly copyright issues.

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That’s pretty much it for now. To celebrate both the 20th anniversary of Digital Digest and our new YouTube channel which just hit 1,000 subscribers, we’re going to be giving away some prizes soon. Check our Facebook page or Twitter feed for details soon.

Weekly News Roundup (July 21, 2019)

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

Welcome back to another edition of the WNR. Hope you’ve been keeping busy? I’ve been busying myself with this and that, include a few more trailers since we last talked (Spies in Disguise, Mulan, Onward, Playing with Fire, the hugely popular Top Gun: Maverick, and the stuff nightmares are made of in the form of the new trailer for Cats).

Please, Hollywood, stop making human-animal CGI hybrids. Learn the lessons from the Sonic trailer, I beg of you!

Oh yes, the news.

Copyright

Google’s DMCA take-down regime is in the news again, this time it has been co-opted by pirates and scammers to their own advantage. Apparently, people are pretending to be rights-holders and submitting fake take-down notices, to remove the URLs of competitor sites. One person recently pretended to be the MPAA to take down links from a Turkish piracy site.

A screenshot of Google's Copyright Transparency Report website
Google’s DMCA take-down regime under question over fake notices

It’s possible that it’s other piracy sites that are doing this, in order to knock off competitors and increase their own rankings. It could also be scammers trying to do the same thing.

And all of this is possible because Google often does not verify the identities of those submitting DMCA notices, and so anyone could pretend to be a rights-holder and get their submissions approved, as long as the sites they’re removing are genuine piracy sites.

High Definition

Things are getting more difficult for Netflix. Not only is Disney+ on the way Warner Media has now also decided to launch their own streaming platform, combining HBO’s premium content with Warner’s vast library to form HBO Max.

HBO Max logo
HBO Max may cost as much as Netflix and Disney+ combined, but will have all of HBO’s premium offerings along with everything Warner has to offer

Unlike the much cheaper Disney+, HBO Max goes for the other end of the market and will be priced higher than Netflix (and Disney+ combined). The premium-ness of HBO is the main reason for the higher price, although one could argue that shows like ‘Stranger Things’, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘When They See Us’ has the budget and quality to out-HBO HBO. It’s an interesting pricing strategy, but one that I’m not sure would work.

It’s also not great news for us consumers. HBO Max will increase fragmentation in a market that’s already becoming far too fragmented. With Disney (and Fox) pulling their stuff from Netflix, and now Warner possibly doing the same, it means you now have to subscribe to yet another service if you don’t want to miss out on some of the best content.

But it’s undoubtedly worse news for Netflix, and the most recent results for the company showed it actually went backward when it came to domestic (U.S.) subscriber numbers (our sister site Streambly will have more on this soon). This, coupled with ballooning content acquisition and production costs, means Netflix has some important decisions to make on what kind of service it wants to be.

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And that’s it for the week. Excuse me while I go and meditate to try and get the disturbing pictures of human-cat hybrids out of my mind. Until next time …

Weekly News Roundup (July 7, 2019)

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

So Digital Digest turned 20 this week. Being a major milestone, I made extra effort to ensure that I won’t forget the anniversary like how I’ve forgotten virtually every single one before. And I didn’t forget it, having remembered two whole days before the auspicious date.

Which means that I didn’t really have enough time to plan anything, despite the fact that I had been thinking about doing something ever since I realised, last July 4th, that this year was going to be the 20th (I did have time to design a new logo though). And this is also why I’ve decided to celebrate our 20th not just on one day, but throughout the year. That should give me more time to get my sh*t together!

So we’ll have special articles, some prize giveaways, and whatever I can think of in between.

Oh yes, the news (as in the singular version of the word).

Copyright

Over the years, especially the last decade or so, we’ve reported on a lot of copyright-related lawsuits, and so on the 20th anniversary, it seems appropriate to report on yet another one, this time against streaming operator SET TV.

A photo promoting SET TV
SET TV is no more, but it won’t stop the lawsuits from coming

Florida based SET TV offered for sale devices pre-loaded with apps that potentially allowed users to access pirated content, including via their own subscription service that promised hundreds of channels of content for a small fee. While SET TV marketed their device and service as legal, the fact that the fee was so small for so much content, meant that something wasn’t quite right.

And that something, according to Amazon, Netflix and several Hollywood studios, is piracy.

While SET TV was prepared to fight the case early on, it appears that money ran out, especially after the 90 million dollar judgement against them from a lawsuit brought forward by cable operator Dish, and now a new default judgement has been handed down against SET TV, despite the fact that the outfit no longer operating.

So it’s more money awarded to rights-holders and against SET TV that SET TV probably has no means to pay. But that was never the point – it was always about putting on a show of force, to scare others into line. It’s also to set an example so that their lobbying efforts in D.C. will have more teeth to it. Will it work? Well, the fact that I’ve probably written several dozen of these stories about “won lawsuits” over the last couple of years, and the amount of help the likes of the MPAA gets from the government, combined that with the fact that there have never been more piracy sites out there suggests that this strategy has some flaws.

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And on that rant, that’s the end of this pretty quiet week. Bound to be more next week, starting with a story that Netflix’s 4K encryption might have also have some flaws. Until then …

Weekly News Roundup (June 16, 2019)

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

And we’re back, and this time, it hasn’t taken more than a month since the last WNR.

And that’s largely thanks to the fact that we have news, and that was at least partially thanks to the gaming expo, E3.

Copyright

But before we get to that, we have a piracy blunder to talk about, this time committed by the Swiss arm of broadcaster Sky.

In releasing the final episode of the hit show Chernobyl, Sky Switzerland used not the official subtitles provided by HBO, but the fan-made version released by a subtitle download site often used by pirates. This error was revealed because whoever decided to use the inappropriate subtitle file forgot to reveal the credits that were added to the subtitles by its creator, which also referenced subtitle download site Addic7ed.

Screenshot of Sky Switzerland's incorrect use of subtitles
Good of Sky Switzerland to keep the credits for the fan-made subtitles

The closing credits were removed, and the subtitle was re-synced with the official Sky stream, suggesting the person or persons responsible for this blunder had intended to use the downloaded subtitles, and it wasn’t just a simple case of uploading the wrong file to the server.

As expected, the folks at Addic7ed were a bit bemused by the whole situation, giving Sky a thumbs up for keeping the credits intact. Sky themselves weren’t laughing though, having described this whole affair as “totally unacceptable”.

Just out of interest, the Addic7ed site is blocked here in Australia by several ISPs due to its association with piracy.

Gaming

There were lots of things being unveiled at E3, but the piece of news that probably has the greatest impact on the next few years of gaming would be Microsoft’s reveal of their next game console, currently only known as Project Scarlett.

I once read an article that suggested Sony and Microsoft should join forces and just release a single game console. The reasoning was that as consoles advance, the so-called “competing” hardware will become more and more similar, that there really isn’t much of a point to having separate consoles.

That prediction seems to have come true. No, not the part about a joint Sony/Microsoft console (the “Xbox Station 720”?), but the part about the two consoles become more and more similar is spot on.

Sony’s PS5 announcement pointed to an AMD powered console with GDDR6 RAM, backed by an SSD drive with support for advanced graphical features like ray tracing, 120 FPS gaming and 8K output (most likely for video only).

And Project Scarlett will be an AMD powered console with GDDR6 RAM, backed by an SSD drive with support for advanced graphical features like ray tracing, 120 FPS gaming and 8K output (most likely for video only).

Screenshot from Microsoft's Project Scarlett launch video
Project Scarlett and Sony’s PS5 – virtually identical in announced specs

Oh, and both console launches stressed the inclusion of backwards compatibility. Microsoft does have an advantage here due to its head start in this department – it has run a backwards compatibility program for the Xbox One since 2015, and so it has promised backwards compatibility with all Xbox generations for Project Scarlett, not just for Xbox One games.

And if I have to guess, the pricing for both consoles will be similar, if not the same. Microsoft does have a solid-ish launch date of holidays 2020, as Sony has not yet confirmed a release date (but probably holidays 2020).

As for the prediction about a joint console – I don’t think that will ever happen. As similar as the next consoles will be from both companies, and as unprofitable the hardware will be (at least initially), there is still a “need” for separate consoles in order for both companies to have a chance to earn that lucrative licensing money. Puff Daddy was right.

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So we come to the end of this roundup. Have a great one until the next one!

Weekly News Roundup (June 9, 2019)

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

Well, that was a longer break than expected. A nice vacation was then followed by the need of a vacation for the vacation, and then a couple of slow news weeks, and here we are!

Even without much news, we’ve been busy adding new trailers to our YouTube channel. Now while we use real 4K content whenever possible, we’re still at the stage of 4K where most trailers are not released in the format. So we have a “special sauce” that we use to upscale it to make it look (and sound) great, unlike other channels that upload 4K trailers that look/sound no better (and often worse) than the original HD version.

Comparison between our "special sauce" upscaled 4K versus basic 4K upscaling
Our 4K quality (left) compared to your standard 4K upscaled trailer – click to enlarge

Of course, your output is only as good as your input, which is why we almost always use ProRes high bitrate (150 Mbps+) sources (not quite uncompressed quality, but close enough) for our trailers. So while we won’t be the first to upload a trailer, we’ll always try to upload the best quality version.

With this promo out of the way, let’s get to the news.

High Definition

So the big news this week, according to many in the press, is that Apple has shut down iTunes. But for those that read articles beyond the headline, you will have realised that Apple didn’t really shut down iTunes. For one, those of us who haven’t yet drunk the Apple kool-aid and still opting to use Windows will be stuck with the frustrating iTunes software to do everything from music downloads to software updates to backups (the fact that the software did so much, too much in fact, is one of the key complaints against the much-maligned software).

A screenshot of the iTunes software
iTunes 2001 – 2019: Will not be missed

Secondly, the iTunes store will remain the way it is, still allowing you to download and store your content locally if you still don’t trust the cloud. So the stories of “the end of downloads” are a bit exaggerated, which was never going to happen while Apple is still making money from them (about a billion a year – down a lot from its peak and a fraction of streaming these days, but hey, who says no to a billion dollars, right).

So what exactly are the changes? For one, on iDevices, the iTunes app will be replaced with three different apps: Music, Podcasts and Television. By splitting the bloated iTunes app into three separate apps, it allows each app to be better customized for the user’s needs, and to have an interface that’s better suited for the content in question. You got to remember that iTunes started out as a media player before it morphed into software that attempted to do everything. So it’s a great idea for the three iTunes sub-apps to go back to their roots.

As for how will Mac people do updates, backups and restores? They will find the same functionality that used to be in iTunes as part of the Finder app, which should have been the way from the get-go. I don’t know about you, but I think using a media player to do OS updates and system backups makes zero sense, and it’s something even the worst Windows versions (Me, Vista, in no particular order) didn’t force users to do. So it’s ironic that Windows people are still stuck having to use iTunes to do everything.

Moving quickly away from the beginnings of a Mac vs Windows flame war, and to the upcoming Netflix vs Disney+ flame war, it appears many in the U.S. are already aware of Disney+ despite almost zero promotional stuff so far.

And the awareness to sign-up ratio is actually pretty good, with 22% of U.S. households appear willing to sign up. And a great sign for Disney is that the group with the highest potential sign-up rate is households with kids, which surely has to be the Mickey Mouse company’s main demographic.

A screenshot of the Disney+ interface
Disney+: There’s something there for everyone, but probably not enough to seriously harm Netflix

Also interesting was seeing what kind of content each age group were most drawn to when deciding whether to sign up or not. 35 and older people (me!) were most drawn to the Star Wars stuff on Disney+ (that’s true for me!). 25 to 35-year olds, the group most likely to have young children and most likely to have grown up with Disney animated hits like The Lion King and Aladdin were most interested in Disney’s animated hits. And 18 to 24-year olds wanted to watch the Marvel stuff the most, the studio that has produced the biggest hits for Disney in recent times. It all makes sense!

But Disney+ is still no Netflix killer. For one, Netflix will have content from Warner Bros., Paramount and Sony, while Disney+ will obviously be limited to only Disney branded content. Disney has also said that Disney+ will be more family oriented, and so don’t expect to see series like Sex Education and You, or even the fantastic When They See Us. These would most likely end up on Disney’s other streaming platform, Hulu, if they ever get made. And that’s a big if because Disney’s original production budget is minuscule compared to Netflix’s ($500 million versus $15 billion). If anything, Hulu has a better chance of competing with Netflix than Disney+, especially if Disney decides to throw more content into the platform.

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Well, that’s all we have this week. Until next time!