Archive for the ‘News Roundup’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (September 16, 2018)

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

Going by my site statistics, chances are that where you are, it’s probably nice and warm. It’s not so nice and warm here where I’m typing though. Early spring teased us with a couple of days of warm weather, but the bone chilling cold is now back for an encore. So. Bloody. Cold.

We do have a bit of news this week, not a lot, but enough. So let’s get started.

Copyright

The Pirate Bay Down

The Pirate Bay is down for a lot of users

There’s been increasing legal pressure on sites like The Pirate Bay, but while many sites have fallen, The Pirate Bay remains. I was going to say “remains strong”, but that’s probably not true. The Pirate Bay is currently in the middle of yet another extended downtime, and while access has returned for some, it remains problematic for others. Others including myself, as while writing the story and testing to see if I could access the site, I had to first deal with our court mandated piracy filter (easily bypassed with my VPN of choice), before getting the dreaded “Error 502 – Bad Gateway”, otherwise known as the can’t connect to the site, page.

There are reports that the site is working fine for others though, so it feels like there’s a bad pathway somewhere, or a few bad servers among good ones.

It’s not the only torrent site that has been experiencing technical problems of late. Demonoid, another site from the golden age of piracy, is still accessible for the most part (and not blocked here in Australia … yet), but certain parts of the site are not working. These include the all important torrent details page, although you can still download torrents from the search results/index pages.

Worryingly, there’s no real information on why these problems are occurring. It’s unlikely that these problems are the result of some specific legal action,

So not a great time for pirates looking for the latest downloads, but they already know that there are powerful forces working against pirate site these days, and if TPB and Demonoid’s problems are only technical ones and not legal ones, then that’s probably the “best” kind of downtime they can hope for.

High Definition

Amazon Prime Instant Videos

Amazon Prime not as popular as Netflix, but OTT as a whole doing extremely well

You don’t need to have being paying too much attention to realise that the future of video lies in OTT services. OTT stands for Over The Top, and it’s just another way of saying video delivery via the Internet (as opposed to cable/satellite and other traditional broadcast), and so things like iTunes and Netflix are all counted.

The latest research suggests that OTT is going to be the dominant video delivery method not just in the US but also in Western Europe. There are some interesting predictions in the last report by research firm Digital TV Research, like how dominant Netflix is (over twice as popular as Amazon Prime Video), and how dominant SVOD will be in 2023 (54% of all OTT revenue).

Showing that there’s still probably room to grow for the like of Netflix and Amazon Prime, currently 30% of all revenue comes from the UK alone. While Digital TV Research believes that this will still be true in 2023, with Netflix and others keen on adding more non English original content, the other markets might have more potential for growth than what Digital TV Research gives them credit for.

======

That’s all I have for you this week. Hoping for more next week, as always. Until then, have a great one!

Weekly News Roundup (September 2, 2018)

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

How are you holding up on this fine/rainy/cold/hot/windy day/night (scratch off any that don’t apply)? You know why I’m here. I know why I’m here. So let’s get started with the roundup.

Copyright

TorrentFreak

News website TorrentFreak gets blocked

The war on piracy has had its share of collateral damage, and I guess if you think about it, torrent news website TorrentFreak getting blocked by piracy filters isn’t the most surprising news story. I mean when copyright holders are having their own websites blocked by mistake, getting TorrentFreak, one of the most well known sites that cover torrent and piracy related news blocked by “mistake”, isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

Now, I’m not saying that TorrentFreak was gagged in an act of censorship abuse, but when a site covers so much torrent and piracy information, much like what we do here, getting blocked because of some not very smart auto-blocking algorithm, or worse, some human reviewers that fails to understand what the site is about, is fully expected. But that’s the nature of filters – they’re more right than wrong, but they’re not 100% right all the time.

I guess it would be asking too much for these blocking services to provide an easy way to appeal blocking decisions. Some of them do, but often the process is so lacking in transparency, that you don’t really know you’ll getting a proper review, or you’re just getting an auto-reply. Even the likes of Google is guilty of this, because it seems they make it deliberately vague as to whether humans, or an algorithm, make decisions on what’s allowed and what’s not (I suspect it’s most likely an algorithm though, as the other way would open them up to all kinds of lawsuits).

So all of this makes you want to say f*ck you to filters, site blocks and censorship. But that will probably just get you filtered.

FCK DRM

Say FCK to DRM

GOG has been saying f*ck you to DRM for a while now, but they’ve never had a website about it. They do now. GOG’s FCK DRM initiative is about educating people about why DRM-free is important and how they can get DRM-free content. If you’ve been reading this website, you already know the reasons. DRM-free means you’re not beholden to some publisher who may decide to one day to no longer support the DRM’s authentication servers, or the software used to decode the DRM’d content.

DRM also means you lose your rights as a consumer to back up content. You may also lose interoperability, meaning stuff you’ve purchased on one device may not work on another device.

None of this would be as big a problem except for the fact that DRM doesn’t even work, and so we’re essentially having to put up with all of these restrictions for no other reason than to give rights-holders a false sense of security.

In other words, FCK DRM!

======

And on that happy note, we come to the end of another WNR. More of the same next week, probably. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (August 26, 2018)

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

So here we are back again, talking about the latest happenings in the world of digital video. Hope you’ve had  a great week. And now we’re here to cap it off with our usual roundup.

And if there’s a word to describe the theme of the stories this week, then that word is irony.

Copyright

Disney supporting fair use? What’s the world coming to!

The irony train’s first stop is Disney, who has found themselves on the wrong end of a copyright lawsuit. The estate of Michael Jackson is alleging that the program ‘The Last Days of Michael Jackson’, produced by Disney owned ABC, has used at least thirty different copyrighted works without permission. Disney argues that that the program was a news/documentary program, and as such, they are allowed to use short excerpts for reporting purposes. It also argues, after turning off their irony sensors, that The Michael Jackson Estate is behaving like an overzealous copyright holder and that because of this very important thing called fair use, Disney should receive protection from such lawsuits.

Their exact words were:

“This case is about the right of free speech under the First Amendment, the doctrine of fair use under the Copyright Act, and the ability of news organizations to use limited excerpts of copyrighted works—here, in most instances well less than 1% of the works—for the purpose of reporting on, commenting on, teaching about, and criticizing well-known public figures of interest in biographical documentaries without fear of liability from overzealous copyright holders”

Had the above words come from the mouths of the EFF, then it wouldn’t seem out of place at all. But from Disney? This is the same Disney that sued a childcare center for having pictures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck hanging on the walls, the same Disney that sued children’s party entertainers for dressing as an orange tiger and a blue donkey, and the same Disney that took action against people posting photos of their Star Wars toys on Twitter. And these were just the examples provided by The Michael Jackson Estate, in their lawsuit.

The Jackson Estate has called hypocrisy on the whole issue, and they’re probably in the right. But Disney is fighting the good fight on this one, which makes it an odd sensation for those of us watching on the sidelines.

Netflix Remote

Is the MPAA trying to take credit for Netflix?

The next stop for the irony train as it blows smoke from its chimney (it’s an old train, apparently) is the MPAA. In a recently made speech, the MPAA’s boss Charles Rivkin tried to link the current dysfunctional state of the Internet, the fake news, hate speech and election meddling, to movie piracy. Apparently, it’s the broken window theory, where visible signs of simple crime leads to more crime and more serious crime. Piracy is the broken window, according to Rivkin.

This kind of grand theory, trying to link piracy to everything that’s bad, not just online, but in the real world, isn’t anything new. I mean from organised crime to child porn, it’s the kind of conspiracy theory that, ironically, wouldn’t be amiss among the fake news stories you read everywhere now.

That’s not the ironic part though. The irony comes later when the MPAA boss claims that the MPAA companies, aka major Hollywood studios, have already fully embraced the digital revolution and streaming and all that cool stuff. If by fully embrace, you mean trying to shackle endless amounts of DRM to everything they can get their hands on, then dragging their feet on downloads and streaming until the likes of Apple and Netflix showed them the way. And now, after much resistance, they have finally seen the way – coincidentally after the likes of Apple and Netflix started giving them hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue every year. If Hollywood had fully embraced the digital revolution, like they say, then how the hell did they let, again, the likes of Apple and Netflix, squeeze themselves into the equation and grab a huge (30%?) slice of the pie when they didn’t need to. Distribution is what gives studios power, but they gave that away to tech companies because their preoccupation with piracy blinded them to the opportunity that was present, and they were also blind to the demand of users who found piracy a more satisfying solution (not just due to the price).

The preoccupation continues though, as Rivkin’s main point of his speech was to point the finger of blame at “online platforms” for not doing enough to protect the film business’s outdated business model, and another finger at legislators for trying to protect innovation by limiting the liability of online platforms that, by their function, could not control or police (nor should they control, or police) the actions of their users.

It’s just so frustrating, sometimes.

======

And with that, we come to the end of another WNR. Hope you enjoyed this one as much as I enjoyed writing it (although I did get a bit angry towards the end, but that happens when you talk about the MPAA). See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (August 19, 2018)

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

So how did the last week treat you? All good, I hope. Things are as they are in the Digital Digest HQ, which means that, for this week at least, we do have some news stories to cover. So without wasting much time …

Copyright

Piracy site blocking is now more common than ever, and while Australia has adopted our own version of this, there has always remained a sense of skepticism about its effectiveness. Which is why Australia’s Department of Communications and the Arts has been tasked with carrying out a yearly survey that not only looks the state of the war against piracy, but also at how effective, or ineffective, piracy blocking has been. The result? A mixed bag, really.

Piracy Love

Fewer pirates are downloading more in Australia after piracy site blocking was introduced

While the piracy rate appears to have taken a big fall in the last year since piracy site blocking began on a mass scale, but that seems to be a odds with the calculated piracy download stats, which have risen dramatically in the same time period. In other words, there are fewer pirates, but the pirates are downloading way more than before, if the survey is to be believed.

While the report offers no explanation for this, one that comes to mind could actually see site blocking being to blame. We know that many are now using VPNs to bypass the site blocking, and pirates paying for a VPN and wanting to get what they paid for may be downloading more to make up for their “losses” – the fact that VPNs also offer some privacy protection to alleviate any monitoring concerns by pirates, could also help to explain the free-for-all downloading attitude. So site blocking equals more piracy downloads, possibly.

And the report also painted a big problem in the creative industry’s view on pirates – pirates are the biggest spenders as well. The report found that the people who say they use a mix of pirated content and paid for content, hybrid users, are actually far bigger spenders on average than those that only do things legally. Unfortunately, site blocking has reduced the number of hybrid users and increased the number of legal-only users, which is another way of saying that site blocking may have turned some big spenders into smaller spenders.

Now, that’s probably not what’s happening, but what does seem to be the case is that people are spending as much as they’re comfortable spending, and if they’re asked to spend more to consume more (due to the piracy route being blocked off), they would simply choose to consume less. Those that do pirate, based on the survey, are also big content consumers that will get their content legally and illegally depending on how much of their budget is left. Blocking access to pirated content won’t magically increase their spending budget and allow them to purchase, instead of pirate, the content they seek. Of course, there are those that do have the spare cash to spend and blocking piracy sites may force them to spend it, but I would think people like that are in the minority – most people would still want to do the right thing if given a chance, but will often do the wrong thing if they don’t see any other, affordable, legal option.

And the people who say they only use piracy to get their content fix – these people have no ability of no inclination to spend money on legal content, and so there really is no point stopping these people as they simply can’t or won’t spend money, at least from a revenue raising perspective.

But if you’ve been reading this blog on a regular basis, then you already know this.

Gaming

What you may not know is that the new fad that is game streaming may just be another layer of DRM for publishers to control how we play “their” games, at least according to GOG.

GOG.com

GOG’s anti DRM movement not getting traction among big game publishers

GOG, the game platform/store that specialises in classic and DRM-free games, truly believes that game streaming is just another way to rob gamers of the “ownership” of their legally purchased games. This instead turns gaming into a subscription model, where the publishers have full control of how, where to play their games, and how much you have to pay for the privilege.

They have a point. And while it’s a fun thing to be able to play the latest AAA games on platforms that were never designed for them, like a Chromebook, it’s hard to imagine that hardcore gamers that are willing to spend thousands on a gaming PC will be willing to put up with the deficiencies of game streaming, such as latency issues.

But what if publishers started monetizing classic games via the streaming format, which would then allow gamers to play old games on system that were never designed to play them, and doing so without any technical hassles or the need to re-engineer games. Would that represent a threat to GOG? GOG’s answer is both surprising, and also not, as they say publishers have never had an interest in monetizing old games, which has allowed GOG to create a niche space for themselves and to bring these publishers extra revenue without the publishers needing to do anything. It’s surprising that publishers would allow GOG to make the bulk of the profit, but also not surprising that publishers today only care about the AAA titles and have no respect for all the classics in their inventory. You can extend this to classic movies and TV shows, since there are so many that would love a home on Netflix, but aren’t there because rights-holders can’t be bothered (or are demanding too much in licensing fees to make the whole thing viable).

As for GOG’s crusade to get publishers to join the DRM-free movement, the big ones aren’t interested at all, according to them. This is despite GOG’s own AAA title, The Witcher 3, being released DRM-free and “the world didn’t end”, in their own word. It’s still selling well, despite it being DRM-free from day one. Sometimes it’s not about logic or facts, but all about fears and prejudices.

A lot of things are like this, these days.

======

And on that downer of the note, this is the end of another roundup. Have a good one and see you next week!

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.

======

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.