Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (February 12, 2017)

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. For those lucky enough to have a special someone that deserve special treatment on the day, I hope you’ve already got plans in motion, bookings made (or it’s going to be crazy trying to book something on the day). For those that feel happy to be alone on the day, I hope you have a relaxing night with a good movie (I recommend ‘Gone Girl’).

As for the news this week, it’s nice and short again this week …

Copyright

The LEGO Batman Movie

Decision to delay hit movie could see massive piracy surge

Not nice and not short is the delay us Australians have to put up with if we want to watch The LEGO Batman Movie. At least if we want to watch it legally. In order to release the movie closer to our school holidays, media company Village Roadshow decided to delay the movie from its original February 10th release date to March 30th, some 48 days after the U.S. release. 42 other countries will get to watch the movie before it’s available in the country, despite the fact that a large part of the movie was actually made in Australia.

Consumer group CHOICE wants ordinary Aussies angered by the delay to voice their concerns to Village Roadshow, a media company whose co-founder Graham Burke has been a vocal advocate of tougher copyright laws. CHOICE says that instead of lobbying politicians to introduce laws that would grant “excessive website blocking powers” to rights-holders, the same rights-holders should take a good look at themselves to see if there are simple actions that they can take to prevent piracy.

Simple actions such as not making us wait 48 days for an eagerly anticipated movie, might be a good start!

Denuvo

Denuvo in the news lately for all the wrong reason

Speaking of simple actions, content protection company Denuvo really should have taken the simple actions to protect their own website, that most web admins would have done straight away when setting up a new website. Without disabling directory listings, and having sensitive files web viewable without any sort of protection, Denuvo’s website was made wide open and several sensitive files, including confidential emails. A list of game companies (and their email, phone numbers) that wanted Denuvo’s services were obtained from the emails, which also surprisingly included a request from Google for more information on the company’s security products.

It’s an embarrassing, but so far not too damaging, development for Denuvo, who have suffered some major setbacks recently in regards to their gaming DRM-but-not-a-DRM. The company is said to be rolling out a more secure version of its game protection engine following the record five day cracking of the protection for the game Resident Evil 7.

======

And that’s about it for this nice and short week. See you in seven!

Weekly News Roundup (February 5, 2017)

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

How are you on this fine-ish Sunday? Hope the week’s been treating you well, but if not, hope things pick up again next week for ya. There’s a little bit of news of go through this week, so let’s get started shall we?

Copyright

It came, it saw, and it died with a whimper. The U.S. “six strikes” graduated response regime is dead, killed off by the very people that gave it life, the MPAA and RIAA (and top U.S. ISPs). There can only be two possible explanations as to why the copyright lobby, who lobbied and threatened ISPs so hard to get the scheme introduced, have now decided to kill it off. First, it must mean that piracy is dead, and that their little scheme worked and Internet users are now sufficiently educated (and scared) about piracy. Or, and perhaps this is slightly more plausible, that “six strikes” simply doesn’t work.

It probably didn’t work because finding an alternative downloading method, that that is not monitored by the regime, was easy. It also probably didn’t work out for the likes of the MPAA and RIAA because the high cost of going after pirates cannot be converted to increased revenue. In a perfect world where people have unlimited money and one where preventing piracy actually works, then yes, preventing piracy might increase sales. In reality, most pirates won’t spend money even if they’re denied the opportunity to pirate. Some may even spend less money if they’re unable to pirate, because they would have been denied the chance to discover new content.

So four years after it was first turned on, I can finally say what I’ve been waiting to say ever since the news broke about “six strikes” – told you so!

======

Google Chrome

Is it time to look for a new browser?

Is it me or is Chrome getting more and more annoying these days? It’s still my browser of choice, and the browser of choice for many, but what was once a lightweight, fast and stable browser has been steadily getting more processor intensive, slow and buggy (it seems every new version breaks something that worked great before – and still no native option to prevent the accidental closing of multiple tabs).

And so the news that Chrome has made it impossible now to disabled plug-ins, and in particular the Widevine DRM plugin, isn’t all that surprising to me. It might be an intentional decision to force DRM on us, or it might be an intentional decision from the developer to remove an somewhat unused feature, I don’t know, but it’s not a good thing especially when the plug-in is already so controversial.

Regular readers will remember the big brouhaha over the introduction of Encrypted Media Extensions such as Widevine into the HTML5 specs, and how it signaled the creeping in of DRM into the once unburdened world wide web infrastructure. Others will remember a more recent story about Google’s implementation of EME, Widevine, having had a major flaw for the better of five years without anybody doing anything about it (thanks to the chilling effect of anti circumvention legislation, which prevents security research into security flaws in DRM systems).

But Hollywood will get what it wants in regards to this DRM (which is used by Netflix, among others), even though, just like with “six strikes”, it will probably turn out to be something that won’t work or they won’t need in another four years or so (or sooner).

Because all good DRM gets cracked eventually (while all bad DRM gets cracked sooner than you can say “this DRM has been cracked”), which appears to be happening with Denuvo. The anti-tampering system (so a DRM, not but a DRM) has been difficult to crack to the point where some thought it was uncrackable, appears to be cracking under the pressure from groups keen to test their skills on breaking this tough egg.

Resident Evil 7

Denuvo protected Resident Evil 7 from being cracked for only 5 days

But even the best efforts previously took the better of six weeks, by which time Denuvo would have proven it’s worth by protecting a game from piracy during the crucial launch period (when most of the sales occur, and when most of the piracy happens as well).

That is until recently, when Denuvo protected ‘Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’ was cracked in a record five days after release. It harkens back to the bad old days of zero day cracks and pre-release piracy for PC games, something that many had thought would never occur again thanks to Denuvo.

To be fair, Denuvo has never said that it was uncrackable, just that it was hard to crack. While protecting a game for five days isn’t all that useful, there are still plenty of other games that are receiving weeks if not months worth of protection.

But as to whether this enhanced protection leads to increased sales, or whether it actually harms the game’s marketing efforts by denying a whole of people from trying out the game, I really don’t know.

======

OK folks, that’s it for now. I have tickets to The Book of Mormon this week, which just started playing here in Melbourne, and I’m really looking forward to being offended by everything that’s in the show. You would think I would get tired of being offended by things coming out of the U.S., especially in the last week here in Australia (bullying is not cool, especially when it’s done to our sensitive and precious Prime Minister).

Weekly News Roundup (January 22, 2017)

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Hello again on this lovely summer’s day in Melbourne. Been busy this week, so not as much news as I had wanted to bring you, but at least we’ll get through this quickly!

Copyright

Arrival

New award contention flicks have been uploaded to the usual places

With award season just starting to build up, we already have a good idea what this year’s most awarded films may be. What has been strangely lacking so far though has been the widespread availability of pirated versions of these box office and/or critically acclaimed hits.

All that changed last week when no less than five award favourites found themselves at the usual piracy hangouts, thanks to prolific groups such as ‘Hive-CM8’ and new comers like ‘4rrived’. The movies that have been made available are ‘Moonlight’, ‘Arrival’, ‘La La Land’, ‘Patriots Day’ and ‘Hidden Figures’, many of which are still showing in theaters.

The late arrival of these pirated downloads may be largely due to the fact that ‘Hive-CM8’ decided not to release movies before they’re released publicly, which is something they have done in the past and have regretted doing so. And while there is a crackdown on the proliferation of award season screeners, release groups do have ways to protect the identity of sources, and it seems many of them are already in possession of leaked copies. We will start seeing these copies being uploaded soon, I think.

Gaming

PS4 Pro

PS4 Pro not what developers wanted

Gamers have given the PS4 Pro a warm, if not exactly hot, welcome, but it seems game developers aren’t quite sure what to make of it and Microsoft’s effort to introduce a mid-generation console update. While very few developers, 5 percent, actually view the update as something completely negative according to the GDC’s survey, most remain neutral or undecided as to how they can best take advantage of it, and how it can lead to more profits.

Most are worried about being forced to do more work in order to make the enhanced graphics on the PS4 Pro and Scorpio really stand out (and not just some lazy upscaling effort), and with more work and more features, it also means more room for things to go wrong. Basically, it means more uncertainty, and that’s not what developers and publishers want.

======

Sorry again for the shortness of this WNR. Normality to resume next week, hopefully.

 

Weekly News Roundup (January 15, 2017)

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Another pretty slow week, which wasn’t what I was expecting after CES, but I guess most of the stuff happened last week, not this week. So it’s pretty much a gaming only edition of the WNR this week, thanks largely to our first and main story …

Gaming

Which is all the stuff we learned about the Nintendo Switch from the special press event that was kind of the official launch event for Nintendo’s new console.

We learned that the Switch’s retail price will be $299.99, which took some by surprise as being on the high side. Add to that the high cost of accessories (thankfully, most of them being completely optional to the full enjoyment of the Switch), for example $79.99 for a spare Joy-Con controller (some games will need 2 more of these in addition to the 2 included with the console for multiplayer), it left others wondering if the Switch can compete with the PS4 and Xbox One, both of which have the same entry price point.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch may be $299.99, but it does come with a lot of innovation

But then others argued that with what you’re getting – a console that’s also a tablet, that can do local multiplayer without any other additional purchases, plus a dock for the TV – it’s actually not bad value. The high price of the simple looking Joy-Con controller (which plugs into the side of the console/tablet to become the Switch’s main controllers in single player mode) is also due to the fact that it includes a object sensing camera, as well as the oblig motion sensing capabilities, that enables some innovative game play with the announced ‘1-2 Switch’ and ‘Arms’ games.

Other things we learned include the expected battery life of 2.5 to 6.5 hours depending on the game, and how the console charges via USB-C (and can be played when charging).

Controversially, Nintendo is going down the paid route with regards to online services. The Switch will be launching with a free online service, but it will become a paid one later in 2017.

As for games, Super Mario Odyssey will launch later in 2017 and is set to feature levels based on the real world for the first time. Over 80 other games are in development by Nintendo and third party studios, the company announced.

Overall, the response to the Switch was both positive and negative. In regards to the console itself and all the innovation that comes with it, it was received very positively. The pricing and the announcement of a paid for online service didn’t go down to well, but only time will tell if gamers, and not critics, feel the same way about the Switch.

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

The PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro helped Sony win December’s US NPD results, but the Xbox One won the second half of 2016

Before the Switch comes on on March 3, we still have a couple of months where the Xbox One and PS4 have a free go in the marketplace. For the important month of December, it was the PS4 that beat the Xbox One in sales (in the US) according to the a statement from Sony. Microsoft still managed to find positives by announcing that the Xbox One had its best ever month in December 2016, and that it was the only console that managed to grow year-on-year, meaning the PS4 did less well in December 2016 than in December 2015.

Xbox One sales in the US managed to beat PS4 sales for the second half of 2016, which suggests that the launch of the Xbox One S really did help Microsoft, well not quite turn things around, but at least made it more competitive to the PS4.

The full NPD report comes out next week.

======

That’s that for this slow week. Hope you enjoyed reading. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (January 8, 2017)

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Hope the new year is treating you well so far? The start of the year is usually a bit quiet, and then boom, CES hits and there is this tech news explosion. This doesn’t necessarily translate to news that we cover here on the site, because there’s only so many stories you can do on company X’s new Ultra HD Blu-ray players, or company Y’s new super thin TV (if X != Y, then X in this case is Sony and Y is LG – more on this later).

Before we get to the CES stuff, there’s a bit of copyright news to go through as per usual.

Copyright

You don’t hear much about three-strikes much these days. Some countries have had it for years, and thousands upon thousands of warnings have been sent out, yet the creative industry has been particularly quiet about the positive effects it has had on piracy and more importantly, their bottom line. The reason they are quiet on the positives may be because there are none!

Three Strikes

Three-strikes has not proven to be successful in raising revenue

According to a new study, three-strikes and other types of warning regimes does not seem to have had any positive effect on box office revenue. Earlier studies and reports seems to suggest that piracy rates do drop on the pirating platforms that are monitored as part of these regimes, but it appears this drop in piracy is not translating into increased profits. In fact, when Megaupload was shuttered, the box office take actually dropped in a few key regions.

Either people are still pirating and they’re just not being caught because they’re using VPNs or an alternative, un-monitored downloading source, or maybe piracy simply doesn’t translate to lost profits that, once piracy is removed from the equation, magically re-materialise.

And all the while during the scare campaign about piracy, the movie industry has been doing much better than it has ever been. Funnily enough, even the so called piracy stricken music industry appears to be recovering (even though it’s decline may have had nothing to do with piracy, and its revival has nothing to do with anti-piracy).

Take the UK for example, where the music, movie and video game industries all recorded profit growth over the last year, much of the change, both the good and bad, has more to do with the digital transition than piracy. The fact that the digital transition started at around the same time as the surge in piracy (and think for a moment and you’ll see that both of these things are actually related) may have confused these industries as to the root cause of their woes. Their obsession with destroying piracy may have also cost them valuable time and resources that could have otherwise been used to innovate and adapt to the digital transition. Instead, tech industries frustrated with being blamed for the piracy problem developed their own innovative solutions that gave consumers the legal digital platforms they sorely wanted. This changed the distribution landscape dramatically, and shifted revenue away from the traditional industries and towards the few tech companies that had the vision to fulfill a consumer need. This is why the music industry isn’t profiting as much from say streaming as they should right now, and why they now have much less of say in how their product is distributed.

The movie industry suffered less because the digital transition occurred at a slower pace than with music, possibly due to the fact that movie files are bigger and Internet speeds just weren’t good enough back then. This allowed the industry more time to adapt, and they’ve been able to negotiated better deals with the likes of Netflix and others (as well as to launch their own platforms, such as Hulu). The gaming industry’s digital transition is further delayed, again possibly due to the file size issue, and they are perhaps even better equipped to deal with the transition.

I would like to think lessons have been learnt, but the way the music industry is still going on about Spotify, I fear it hasn’t.

High Definition

Sony UBP-X1000

Sony finally releasing an Ultra HD Blu-ray player

So CES was dominated by 4K stuff once again, and now with Ultra HD Blu-ray being the format of choice for 4K (the digital transition appears to have gone backwards here, and again file size is the main issue), there are related products all over the place. Surprising is the fact that Sony and LG have only now announced their first Ultra HD Blu-ray players, despite Samsung, and even Microsoft, having had a player out for ages.

As always trying to shoot itself in the foot, the consumer electronics industry’s latest gamble is that consumers won’t mind a pseudo  format war in term of HDR. With HDR10 and Dolby Vision already confusing things for consumers, they may have to contend with Hybrid Log Gamma and Technicolor HDR, both of which are being pushed by LG (but are open formats, so anyone is a free to adopt them). I used the term pseudo because it’s unlikely that a full blown format way will develop, mainly because CE manufacturers will simply adopt support for all of these formats (just like LG has already done) and the content distributors can pick whatever format they want to use.

LG UP970

LG also has an Ultra HD Blu-ray player coming

Not great news for early adopters with equipment that can’t be upgraded via firmware though, but isn’t that always the case?

Just more more thing on the CES before I sign off, it’s interesting to see so many new products that now fall into the category of “consumer electronics”. It used to be just TVs and tape/disc players, and now we have cars, hairbrushes and basically anything you can stick Wi-Fi into. The tech industry is expanding into other traditionally non tech industries, just like how it has made inroads into movies and music – these other industries should heed the experiences of the music industry especially, if they don’t want to be left behind.

======

Looks like that’s it for the week. Hope you have a good one, and see you next week!