Weekly News Roundup (September 30, 2018)

September 30th, 2018

Hello again! Hope you’ve been having a nice week. Me? I’ve been catching up on Battlestar Galactica again, the new re-imagined series (also known as the RDM version, named after its creator and Star Trek alumni Ronald D. Moore – the relevance of this little factoid will be revealed later on). I often have stuff on in the background while doing some of the more tedious work for the site, and TV series with completed seasons that I’ve watched before are great in that they’re long and familiar, which means it won’t distract me from working (too much). If you’ve not seen the RDM BSG series, you really ought to give it a go, especially if you’re a fan of good sci-fi. It’s one of those milestone shows that forever changed sci-fi, and now every second sci-fi show tries to emulate its “grittiness” and serial format (including one particular season of Star Trek: Enterprise, if I can remember), as opposed to Star Trek’s spotless, episodic nature. It’s also one sexy, if still quite tame by HBO standard, show.

Anyway, enough babble, on to the news!

Copyright

Vinyl record player

Old songs will finally start falling into public domain

Before we get to the Star Trek stuff, there’s a bit of copyright good news (relatively speaking) coming out of Washington DC, at a time when good news out of that place is a rarer commodity than modesty from President Trump. For once, Congress, rights-holder groups and digital rights activists have all come together in support of a new copyright bill that could finally set a limit on the copyright term of old music. Really old music.

Having sailed through the US Senate, the Music Modernization Bill will finally start putting music published from 1923 into public domain, starting this year. Songs made before 1946 will all have a set 95 year term, while songs published between 1947 and 1956 would get a 110 year term. Songs published between 1957 and 1972 would all expire by 2067, meaning that will be the year Bill Withers’s ‘Lean On Me’ will fall into public domain. It’s a compromise for digital rights groups like Public Knowledge, which supported the bill, but it finally puts and end limit on copyright terms for songs that were increasingly looking that they were never going to fall into public domain.

Now all we need is something similar for movie and TV content. Can’t wait for a public domain Mickey Mouse to exist, and also can’t wait to see how freaked out Disney will be by it.

Speaking of a media giant being freaked out, CBS has decided to use the nuclear option (or an antimatter explosion equivalent) to take out a promising fan project that will finally allow all of us Trekkies and Trekkers to live out a fantasy – to walk the decks of the USS Enterprise-D. CBS has ordered the fan project Stage 9, which has meticulously recreated the illustrious ship using the Unreal Engine, complete with working controls (yes, even saucer seps!), sound effects and crew members, to shut down or face a legal version of a photon torpedo attack.

Stage 9 USS Enterprise-D Engineering

CBS shuts down the antimatter containment field on the Stage 9 project

This is despite CBS Vice President for Product Development John Van Citters recently reassuring contributors to fan projects that “they’re not going to hear from us. They’re not going to get a phone call, they’re not going to get an email. They’re not going to get anything that’s going to ruin their day one way or another and make them feel bad, like they’ve done something wrong”. Except that exactly what the Stage 9 team got, and efforts to contact Mr Van Citters did not produce any results (as in, no response at all).

I’m sure the people behind Stage 9 would have made any changes that CBS would have requested, and even if CBS wanted them to pay for a license, I’m sure fans of the project would have loved to help. Unfortunately, CBS decided to not to play ball (or Parrises squares) with Stage 9, and us fans were left with no options, not even a paying one.

That last sentence wasn’t entirely correct. There is an option, one that’s obviously not legal now that CBS has stepped in. Downloads of the latest build of Stage 9 has been floating around Reddit and the usual torrent places, and lots of people are downloading. Not sure how long this will go on before the CBS take action on these links. A very sad state of affairs, if you ask me. Sadder than when Captain Picard opened the box containing “his” Ressikan Flute. Sadder than the end of “Lower Decks”.

======

And on that nerdy note, we come to the end of this WNR. Back to more fraking excellent BSG. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (September 23, 2018)

September 23rd, 2018

Welcome to another issue of the WNR. Many of you read this roundup via our newsletter, and if you do, you might have noticed that it was our 600th issue last week. There’s a pretty strong link between the newsletter and this WNR, as both became regular features at around the same time, some 11 years ago. To put that into perspective, when the WNR first started, the iPhone was only a couple of months old. That’s the original iPhone, the one without any numbers (or now, Roman numerals/letters) after it. 2007 was also the year that Netflix started their streaming business.

So suffice to say, a lot of things have changed since then. But as you’ll find out in this WNR, some things stay the same.

Copyright

Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker

Some Denuvo games are being cracked on the day of release

So 11 years later, DRM is still around and still a pain in the you know what. It used to be the controversial SecuROM that was causing all sorts of problems like constant reactivations, rootkits, these days it’s Denuvo with its potential performance problems. But publishers, just like back then, don’t care too much about the problems DRM like Denuvo and SecuROM bring, not if it protects their games. At least in Denuvo’s defence, it does actually work, for a while. That “for a while” is getting shorter and shorter though, and a new batch of games with the latest Denuvo version has just been cracked.

It’s kind of sad that publishers continue to use DRM even though there’s plenty of evidence that it’s actually making for a poorer user experience for their products, like how framerates for ‘Mass Effect Andromeda’ went up by 12%, in one test, after an official patch removed Denuvo protection from the game recently. There’s is also the negative PR for when a game is announced to use Denuvo, and that may even translate to lost sales.

But you take a look at ‘The Witcher 3’ from the one major publisher who is staunchly anti-DRM, and you look at its sales, and you wonder, is DRM really needed? Despite gamers knowing that the game, being DRM free, would be instantly piratable, 1.5 million people still chose to pre-order the game. And even after release (and after the pirated version was floating freely online), 6 million more copies were sold in the first six weeks. And the game continued to sell well two years after release, with sales in 2017 outnumbering that from 2016 – and all the while, the game was DRM-free and pirated everywhere. This made the ‘Witcher’ series more popular, sales wise, than the likes of ‘Fallout’, ‘Borderlands’, and the entire ‘Batman’ franchise.

The ‘DRM-free’ equals ‘piracy’ equals ‘lost sales’ equation doesn’t seem to compute.

High Definition

New Netflix Interface

Unique local content, interface improvements, key to being competitive for SVOD providers

The SVOD marketplace is getting very competitive. Even though Netflix has a huge share of the market, other players like Amazon, and here in Australia, Stan, are all vying for a slice of the, admittedly still growing, pie. This means that it’s more important than ever for SVOD platforms to be able to stand out from the crowd, to offer something unique. And plain old original content isn’t enough, increasingly, SVOD platforms are now offering localised original content.

Take Australia for example, the local SVOD outfit Stan has already released several original Australian series and even a movie, while Netflix has one in the works as well. And from Netflix, here in Australia, we can watch series from China, Brazil, Spain, France and many other countries.

And apart from unique content, there’s also the need to constantly improve the user experience. The apps for most streaming platforms are already pretty slick, but there are always room for improvement (even if it simply means removing certain features that are no longer useful, such as user reviews and star ratings).

Improvements to playback quality, in terms of 4K UHD, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and soon, HDR10+ are also an important way to keep things fresh.

======

And on that note, we come to the end of another WNR. I have no idea what issue this one is, since I haven’t been using issue numbers with the WNR. Probably somewhere just north of 500, is my guess. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (September 16, 2018)

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)

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)

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!


About Digital Digest | Help | Privacy | Submissions | Sitemap

© Copyright 1999-2012 Digital Digest. Duplication of links or content is strictly prohibited.