Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (August 12, 2018)

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Hello again! Welcome to another edition of the WNR, where we look back at the week’s most important news stories. Or at the very least, the week’s most interesting stories. Or perhaps more succinctly, the most interesting stories that I managed to find in the week. Even more accurate, the most interesting stories that I managed to find and had to time write up this week.

So as you can guess, not a huge number of news stories to go through this week, but quality/quantity etc…

Copyright

Piracy Love

Those who pirate the most also buy the most, according to a new study

When you’ve covered copyright stories as long as I have, you start to see the same sort of news stories over and over again. So it was no surprise that this week, we had a story of yet another study that proves legal measures haven’t been at all effective, certainly not as effective as providing consumers with better legal options. The researchers found clear links between “piracy and the availability and affordability of content”, but failed to find similarly clear links between the use of legal measures and a reduction in piracy, or additional revenue for rights-holders.

The researchers surveyed more than 35,000 people and found even more striking links. Most notably, they found that pirates, far from being no good freeloaders, are actually the people that spend the most money on buying legal content. On the other hand, people that don’t pirate at all tend to spend far less on buying legally. Which is why the much touted plan to kick pirates off the Internet, via three-strikes or other means, will end up leaving the best customers unable to buy anything.

The study also found an interesting outlier in German, where piracy did not decrease as much as compared to the other studied countries, despite an increase in better legal options. The researchers theorize that this may be because German already had a low piracy rate that that there was some kind of floor to any potential decrease. In other words, there will always be a portion of the population that will resort to piracy, no matter what measures are taken to prevent it.

But some measures do seem to work, in that it works to put the fear into those not toeing the official line. Nintendo’s recent lawsuits against ROM download sites appears to have had the desired effect, and one of the biggest ROM sites, EmuParadise, has decided to take pre-emptive action by removing all ROM downloads from the site.

Crisis Force

Criminally underrated games are still being played via emulators and ROMs, but Nintendo has other plans

While it’s hard to argue against the dubious legal nature of ROMs in general, it’s sometimes hard to see where the harm is when you’re talking about obscure games that hardly anyone plays any more (and some games, weren’t even played that much when it came out). It’s true the likes of Nintendo and Sega are constantly republishing old games for release on their newer console platforms, but these are often remastered and reworked, and so it’s not quite the same as playing the original game on an emulator.

I guess it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for sites like EmuParadise to separate ROMs into these two categories, the ones that still have value commercially, and the ones that belong to the abandonware category, and only offer ROMs for the latter. But while possible, this might not be practical, as there are an awfully large number of ROMs to sort through.

I don’t know if other ROM sites will follow EmuParadise’s example and either close up shop or try and become a community about ROMs and legacy games, but not offer them for download. But I suspect more will follow, either that, or Nintendo will start suing more sites.

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And on that note, we come to the end of another WNR. I’ve asked my magic eight ball and it has told me that the next week will be filled with wonderful surprises, not just for me, but hopefully for all of you. Back this time next week see if I’m right.

Weekly News Roundup (July 15, 2018)

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

Welcome to another edition of the Weekly News Roundup. The World Cup is near an end, tears and cheers aplenty, but one can’t help but be disappointed at how things are run these days. Not to say that the World Cup isn’t an exciting event, it is, but it just all seems so sterilized and commercialized. The news about the English team being fined for wearing the wrong socks, from a sponsorship point of view, just proves something isn’t quite right with the game these days.

And what does that have to do with copyright, digital video and gaming news? Nothing really, but every WNR has to have an intro and, to be honest, I’m really struggling to write a “related” one this week.

And oh yes, there’s news to cover. There are a few stories to cover, but none are what you would call the most ground breaking news stories, so this WNR will still be rather short.

Copyright

Denuvo

Denuvo cracked again

Game crackers have won the latest bout with Denuvo, with well known game cracker Voksi cracking the latest version of the controversial anti-tampering system. Describing it as the “most bloated” version of Denuvo yet (with a 128MB game executable consisting of only 5-6MB of game code, the rest being Denuvo code), Voksi cracked the game ‘Puyo Puyo Tetris’ protected by v4.9++ of Denuvo, which then helped him to crack the bigger profile ‘Injustice 2’, which uses the same version of Denuvo.

This follows a recent trend of Denuvo failing to protect major titles after it had a great run, to be fair, over the last few years. It appears that a weakness has been exposed in Denuvo’s system and that Denuvo has not been able to effect a more permanent fix. Introducing more VM, encryption and obfuscation layers on top of Denuvo appears to only work in slowing down crackers, not stop them. And all of this is happening at the expense of resources.

Voksi’s grudge against Denuvo is well known and he (or she) has vowed to never stop cracking Denuvo (which he refers to as a “cancer”) until the protection is no longer feasible. With such bloat, and with the speed in which games are being cracked, it appears that particular moment may not be very far away.

High Definition

You know it’s a slow news week, for both us and Netflix, that they and us both report on this “new” download feature. The new “Smart Downloads” feature will automatically download new episodes for already downloaded shows, while deleting ones that have been watched to make room. It will only work via Wi-Fi and it will probably save you about 30 seconds of work if you had to do this manually, and some will probably turn it off because they don’t want Netflix to be downloading in the background without their knowledge.

Gaming

Dolby Vision

Dolby Vision comes to the Xbox One

Now here’s something slightly more interesting (emphasis on the word “slightly”), Dolby Vision support is coming to the Xbox One S/X. It’s already available for those that are part of the Xbox Insider program, as a preview, but if it works well, there’s no reason why it won’t be coming to a main update soon. Unfortunately, it only works with Netflix at the moment, and not with Ultra HD Blu-ray as you might expect it to, which is a bit strange.

For those interested, Dolby Vision is a proprietary, closed HDR format that offers several improvements over the more popular and open HDR standard, HDR10. There’s also a HDR10+, which aims to take on Dolby Vision, but in a “we don’t like to pay licensing fees” manner.

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So not too long, and not particularly important news stories, to be honest. But that’s all we have this week, so what can you do? See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (July 1, 2018)

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

Welcome to the second half of 2018. My oh my, didn’t it go by fast? Actually, I completely understand that for some, maybe even many, it hasn’t seemed that quick, or even not quickly enough. Which just goes to show that time really is relative, and that we are heavily influenced by our perceptions, even when our perceptions are wrong at times.

What isn’t wrong is that we do have a few stories to cover, and so there’s definitely no time to waste (regardless of how quickly or slowly it passes for you).

Copyright

Roku FBI Warning

Roku’s anti-piracy measures have worked according to the company

We have a trio of copyright related stories in regards, to apps, streaming and gaming, three of the largest arenas when it comes to the digital world. Starting in no particular order, Roku has announced that they’ve succeeded in taming the beast that is piracy on their platform.

Roku has had a piracy problem so bad that it got banned in Mexico, of all places, and they’ve removed more than 400 organisations that have links to piracy on their platform, and who knows how many channels that were run by these organisations. Of course, some of these actions have led to unfortunately collateral damage (like when the Netflix and YouTube channels were removed accidentally), but there is no doubt that Roku is now a much more legal platform than when it started (although my feeling is that people who are using their Roku for piracy are using it wrong, or rather, there are better ways to get pirated content than from a Roku!).

The positive PR message is much needed from Roku, what with the streaming device industry now firmly in Hollywood’s sights. These days, preemptive action is the perfect prophylaxis when it comes to avoiding the unwanted attentions of the copyright industry.

Nintendo Switch

Piracy on the Switch is possible, but dangerous

Nintendo is also taking preemptive action against what the company thinks might be a flood of piracy occurring on their Switch console, following the jailbreaking of the console earlier this year. The Switch now apparently has code that could ban an entire console from being able to connect to online services, if it detects that pirated games are being run on it.

It’s not the only thing that Switch pirates have to worry about, as apparently the custom firmware they’re using the run pirate games has its own copy protection mechanism that could brick their consoles. Apparently, even pirates are worried about piracy, in this case of their custom firmware that they’re selling (as opposed to being given away, like most of these types of things). As with most things piracy related, use at your own risk!

There’s also a risk that when you look at everything through the prism of copyright, that sometimes, you see more than what’s actually happening. This may have been the case with the story involving Google’s addition of metadata on Android apps that, some say, could be used as a form of anti-piracy DRM.

Never mind the fact that Android apps can already use a Google provided server based authentication DRM for paid apps, and that Google was pretty clear what the metadata is for. Of course, the cynic would say that Google would never say that their DRM was a DRM, because that would be met with a huge public backlash. But what Google says is also true and also an important point, is that by adding metadata support, it will allow offline distribution of Google Play store compatible apps. Previously, offline distributed apps would count as a separate entity to Play store downloaded apps, in terms of updates, licensing and tying into Google accounts.

So there’s definitely the possibility that metadata can be used by app publishers as a form of DRM, to restrict the sharing of “unauthorised” apps, but there are already means to do this, so perhaps the Google Play store aspect is the more important story here (as it would open the way for third party app stores to exist, that would be able to sell apps for developers and have those apps work in exactly the same way as an app downloaded from the Play store).

Perception matters.

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So that’s all we have for the week. All related, but all different as well. See you next week.

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!