Weekly News Roundup (April 2, 2017)

April 2nd, 2017

So April Fools went by and I didn’t take part at all. Partly because what with the war on fake news at the moment, it just didn’t seem very tasteful. But mostly it was because I forgot until it was too late (damn you time zones)!

So rest assured all news stories covered in this issue of the WNR are real ones. Or at least I think they are, it’s so hard to tell these days.

Copyright

Pornhub

Are pirates really resorting to using porn video sites to upload popular mainstream movies?

Okay, this one does sound like an April Fools joke, but it was posted days before, so it should be safe. Apparently, pirates are turning to porn sites to share popular mainstream movies, like ‘Rogue One’. With the usual streaming sites, like YouTube, under constant surveillance for pirated content, pirates have resorted to using tricks like changing the audio pitch, or creative cropping and mirroring, to escape the ever more vigilant anti-piracy scanners. And even if they achieve this, once the upload becomes popular, it will usually become noticed by the powers that be and get taken down faster than you can say “oh that’s a good quality upload”.

But by turning to porn video sites like PornHub, where automated anti-piracy filters don’t exists and the watchful eyes of rights-holders and their agents are not focused on finding pirated content (that’s not to say they don’t visit these kind of websites, hint hint), uploads stay uploaded for longer if not indefinitely.

Dailymotion

It’s a bit easier to find real pirated films on less popular video sharing sites like Dailymotion

But of course, since this story went public, sites like PornHub have gone on a cleaning spree and most of the mainstream pirated content has been removed. Even after extensive searching on the site by your truly, um definitely for research purposes only of course, I could not find any mainstream pirated content on PornHub even after hours of extensive searching. Did I mention it was for research purposes only?

After clearing my browsing history, I went to a few other video sharing sites (non adult ones), and also noted that other less popular video sharing sites like Dailymotion also seem to escape relative scrutiny.

The conclusion? There are plenty of options for people who want to watch pirated content. Some of which you may have to put up with some rather distracting ads and the occasional moaning sound, while you may only have to worry about buffering issues and the lack of a really usable mobile app with some of the other more sensible choices.

Censorship

Anti-piracy filters are a form of censorship, says tech startups

Which is why introducing a law that forces the use of piracy filters for Internet sites and services simply won’t work, because it’s easy for sites to escape the attention of rights-holders, especially if they happen to be in jurisdictions that don’t have to abide by the new law. The lobby group for Internet startups, Engine, are basically saying the same thing, and have commissioned a report that says filter schemes will place an unfair burden on startups, as the cost of implementing a filter can be tens of thousands of dollars just for licensing costs.

Engine are also concerned about the false positive rate of such a filter system. While the false positive rate is only 1 to 2 percent, this adds up to be quite a large number when potentially dealing with millions of files that wouldn’t be out of place for a file or video hosting site. It could literally means tens of thousands of legitimate files being blocked or removed for no good reason at all.

So an expensive, innovation crushing system that won’t work and may block thousands of legitimate files, is the one system that rights-holders are now pushing for all Internet sites in the U.S. to adopt. Yep, sounds about right.

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It also sounds like the end of another WNR. I know, another short one. There will be more next week, hopefully.

Weekly News Roundup (March 26, 2017)

March 26th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. Sorry for the little break last week, but things are back to normal now, and we actually have a bit of news to go through too.

They say that no news is good news, but sometimes having news is good news too.

Copyright

And sometimes piracy is a good things too, at least according to music superstar Ed Sheeran. In an interview with CBS, Sheeran opened up about his rise to success, and he wasn’t embarrassed to admit that piracy played a big role in his early successes.

Spotify Mobile

Legal streaming options means file sharing no longer exists, says Ed Sheeran

Sheeran says that is was university students in England, sharing his music on file sharing networks, that helped him get noticed. “I know that’s a bad thing to say, because I’m part of a music industry that doesn’t like illegal file sharing,” said Sheeran.

However, Sheeran says that musicians today may no longer need file sharing to get noticed and that fans no longer need to download illegally, all thanks to the availability of legal streaming platforms.

In other words, piracy has always been used as a discovery platform, and that’s its main redeeming feature. With legal streaming via YouTube and Spotify is taking on piracy in a big way, these platforms also now act as discovery platforms, both for musicians to get noticed and for music fans to find new artists to listen to.

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A little update on a story from a month ago when Google’s Chrome removed the ability to disable the controversial Widevine DRM. Thanks to “user feedback” (also known as angry and vocal complaints), Google has re-added the ability to disable Widevine, as well as other plug-ins that were made mandatory with the version 57 update. Who says complaining doesn’t work?

Gaming

With the PS4 back on top after a couple of months of Xbox One victory (thanks to the Xbox One S) in the hugely important U.S. market, the global picture still sees Sony on top, rather comfortably.

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

The PS4 is still comfortably beating the Xbox One

The PS4 is still enjoying almost a 2-to-1 sales margin over the Xbox One according to the latest IHS Markit report, with 53 million PS4s already sold compared to only 27.6 million Xbox Ones.

March’s NPD report will be extremely interesting, due to the introduction of the Switch. Nintendo seems to be onto a real hit with the hugely popular (and instantly out of stock) Switch, and it will give the Sony, Microsoft duopoly a real run for its money.

Will you switch to the Switch? Or keep on playing with the PS4, or keep on spending one on one time with your Xbox One?

Sorry for the lame play on words, it’s been a long week.

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What hasn’t been that long is the length of this WNR. But why waste words when you don’t need to. Especially when you’re not being paid by the word. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (March 12, 2017)

March 12th, 2017

So autumn is finally here in Melbourne, and the weather seems to be getting hotter, after our relatively mild summer. It’s getting harder and harder to make sense of the weather, I don’t know if it’s climate change or something else, but the weather here is almost a complete reverse of what it was like here fifteen years ago.

There’s finally some more news to go through this week, which means that the next week will probably be very quiet. Which is just as well, as weddings and other events means next week’s WNR might be delayed or cancelled entirely depending on how much news there is and how much time I have left. But I have time this week, and there are news this week, so let’s get at it.

Copyright

Microsoft Bing

Google and Bing now committed to jump through many hoops for rights-holders … Bing probably just happy to be included, to be honest

So this week, we know a bit more about the somewhat secret agreement between Google, Bing and rights-holders, thanks to freedom of information requests by digital rights groups EFF and Digital Rights Ireland. And the more we know, the more we don’t like about the so called “voluntarily” agreement.

So from sharing user data, to manipulating search results even for “neutral” search phrases, to domain registrant data spying, it’s got a bit of everything. Except everything is all about Google and Bing appeasing rights-holders so they won’t demand them implement some kind of “take down and stay down” regime. Good luck with that!

Meanwhile in crazy old Germany, it seems the job of educating today’s youngsters about the dangers of piracy still lies with parents, who if they don’t give their kids the old “piracy is bad, mmmkay” speech, they may find themselves liable for their kid’s downloads.

I mean, I just don’t see how this is enforceable in any way. How are parents supposed to prove that they’ve had “the talk” (well, the other talk) with their kids, in order to prevent liability? Should they record it, along with a time stamp, maybe with a live broadcast being shown in the background, but all of this is easy to fake anyway. And what’s to prevent parents from making the speech (and they having proof of it), and then when the camera is turned off, to tell their kids to download at their heart’s content now that liability has been removed as a threat.

Maybe the safest thing to do, from a copyright law perspective (and from the perspective of a rights-holder), is not have kids at all, or to give them up for adoption at your earliest convenience. It’s the (copy)right thing to do!

High Definition

VLC for the iOS

I never thought I would be writing about the CIA and VLC in the same news story

I don’t get the chance to write about the CIA a lot in this roundup, but when I get the chance, I plan to make the best of it. So a real opportunity came this week when it was revealed that VLC, the video player that everyone should have a copy of on their computer, has been used by the spy agency for other uses other than to play pirated Homeland episodes.

To be fair, the VideoLan Team was quick to explain that, while the software did contain a vulnerability that allowed malware to piggypack on to its code, to allow the execution of a CIA made computer scanning program, the vulnerability no longer exists in the latest version and future versions will be more “CIA proof”.

I guess it’s also a testament to the popularity of the free, open source media player (that can play almost all video formats without the need for any installed codecs) that it’s a tool of choice for not only the CIA, but also for the targets of the CIA, which may include enemies like IS/ISIS/Daesh/Whateveritscalledthesedays, frenemies like Pakistan, and friends like Germany and Australia (or are we frenemies now? Can’t keep track with Trump’s foreign policy tweets).

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So the CIA, child rearing advice, rights-holder appeasement, a bit of everything really for this WNR. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (March 5, 2017)

March 5th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. As we start my favourite month of the year (birthday month!), things are happening all over the place. And by things, I only mean more and more copyright actions, whether it’s new lawsuits, or new site blockings. It all seems rather pointless considering how none of it has proven to work in the past, but I guess for some, doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

But that’s a dangerous line of thought. Because sometimes doing something but doing the wrong thing can take your focus off doing the right thing. If rights-holders want to spend all their time and effort in obsessing over these anti-piracy measures, and totally ignore trying to innovate, then that’s great news for the likes of Netflix and Google and Apple, or the next big tech company, who will all gladly fill the gap in consumer need left by the dinosaurs that are the movie and music companies.

With Netflix making movies, and YouTube getting into TV, it’s only a matter of time we will have to redefine just what is a movie studio or a music label, and what kind of value do they actually inject into the whole ecosystem.

Okay, enough ranting for now, let’s get to the news (which will ultimately lead to more ranting).

Copyright

Censorship

Rights-holders: censorship is the way to go

The piracy blockade in Australia is gathering momentum, with more sites now being added to the blocking list. The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and SolarMovie have already been targeted, and now in the second round of legal action (to get a court order to force ISPs to block sites),  ExtraTorrent, RARBG, Demonoid, LimeTorrents and dozens of other sites are now being added to the blockade.

If successful, this will lead Australians to one of three choices. To pay for the overpriced, under performing legal option to watch Game of Thrones; to get a VPN to bypass the blockade (or to access sites that haven’t been blocked yet); or to not watch Game of Thrones. The last option is obviously not realistic or acceptable, and the first option is hardly palatable (or even a realistic option for many), so … let’s put it this way, if I was operating a VPN company right now, I would be pretty happy with these developments. And if I was a copyright lawyer, I would also be happy and would start preparing the legal groundwork needed to start suing VPN providers. A win-win for everyone except for consumers and innovators.

Sweden is also getting in on the site blocking game (a little late if you ask me), with the Pirate Bay, and a handful of other sites, finally getting blocked in its home country. The ISPs are not happy and vow to fight future blocking attempts, with one ISPs boss even calling this latest development just a sign of the copyright industry’s “death throes” as the industry fails to grasp the need to reform and to evolve to become more customer oriented.

Meanwhile ExtraTorrent is coming under renewed pressure with its main domain name, extratorrent.cc, being seized by the domain’s registrar, although it does not stop the site from being accessed thanks to the myriad of backup domains. More death throes.

High Definition

Netflix Downloads

Netflix: Innovation is the key to success

So on the other site we have company like Netflix, and their CEO, talking positively about the future, and taking positive steps to innovate their way to success. With mobile data usage on the up and providers not so keen on the development, Netflix has seen the potential problem and has decided to take some steps to address it before it becomes a problem. The company is working on compressing its already efficient video streams to make it less data intensive for mobile users, with CEO Reed Hastings believing that 0.2 Mbps is all that’s needed to deliver good quality video. To put that into perspective, a typical 2 hour movie would only use up 180 MBs of data.

Infographic: Finding the right sized TV

Infographic: Finding the right sized TV (Click to enlarge)

On piracy, Hastings confirmed the company’s strategy of not fighting pirates, but helping them. Helping them by giving them what they want (lots of entertainment options) at a price they’re willing to pay (so not $30 per movie).

Speaking of the future, 4K means that many people are going to start looking for a new TV soon, and one of the questions that’s always been asked, regardless of whether it’s looking for a projection TV, a plasma, a HD, or Ultra HD one, is how big should the TV be.

Based on my experience, there’s usually no such thing as too big unless you have a very small room. A TV that you think might be too big now, will seem small by the time you need/want to upgrade again. But if you do have limited space, or more precisely, limited distance between you and your TV, then maybe take a peek at this infographic (special thanks to Kagoo.com for the image). It uses science to determine what’s the optimal distance is if you actually want to be able to see those extra pixels from your new 4K TV.

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Okay, that’s enough for this week. Have a great one and see you in seven.

 

Weekly News Roundup (February 26, 2017)

February 26th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. As there’s no Valentine’s Day this week, we actually have a bit of news to go through. Just a bit though, not too much.

So without further ado, let’s get at it!

Copyright

It’s been coming, and with the government putting on so much pressure (after itself receiving pressure from rights-holders), Google and Bing have signed up to a “voluntary” code of ethics that will see pirate search results demoted in the UK.

Google Auto-complete BitTorrent

Google (and Bing) upping their game when it comes to piracy demotions in the UK

But wait a second, you ask, doesn’t Google already do this? They do, but apparently under the new agreement, things will be “intensified”, whatever that means. The one thing that isn’t included in the agreement is de-listing, the process of completely removing all references to a site from Google/Bing. Although with sufficient demotion, results may be shifted to page 2 and beyond, and the amount of traffic that will filter through will be insignificant.

But piracy sites, especially the big ones, already argue that the traffic they get from Google (let alone Bing) is already fairly insignificant, and most of their traffic is direct traffic, that is people typing the domain name directly into their browser. Of course, with site blocking also being implemented in the UK, rights-holders are also seeking to affect direct traffic for anyone not using a VPN or a proxy.

So there might yet be some success in reducing access to piracy sites, and that will lead to a reduction in pirated downloads. But will this actually help the film and music industry in any perceivable way, especially when it comes to the bottom line? Don’t bet on it!

So while piracy may be on the decline in the UK, the number of pirated content may be on the rise in the U.S., thanks ironically, to an over-enthusiastic anti-piracy firm. A Brazilian based anti-piracy outfit has filed more than 45 million URL take-down requests to Google for a MP3 site that receives almost no traffic, and where most of the pages on the site were created by the same Brazilian anti-piracy outfit in the first place.

Google DMCA Stats

There’s a new way for rights-holders to find new pages to remove on Google – by creating your own piracy pages!

So basically Brazilian anti-piracy outfit APDIF decided to lob song related search terms at MP3Toys’ search page. The search page dynamically generates content based on the search term, which means it’s APDIF’s efforts that actually creates the page and its contents. APDIF then submits the page to Google for removal, even though it was never indexed by Google in the first place (and didn’t even exist before APDIF made it exist). Repeat at least 45 million times.

Also, it has a Schrodinger’s Cat feel to it, doesn’t it? Schrodinger’s Piracy Page?

I also suspect someone has been charging rights-holders on a “per piracy page found and removed” basis, and found a way to easily make an endless amount of money.

Speaking of making money, it appears that when it comes to Japanese comics, sometimes piracy can help to increase revenue. The research found that piracy does hurt sales when it came to on-going comic books, but for completed sets, piracy can actually help to promote these sets and increase sales. Who would have thought?

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Righto, that’s it for this week. Sorry it’s a bit bland in that it was all copyright news, but what can you do? See you next week!


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