Weekly News Roundup (29 March 2015)
The way I see it, how licensing works today is so inefficient. Someone like Netflix has to negotiate with the same studios (or at least studios with the same parent company) over and over again, in every country that it’s available in. And studios, forever trying to squeeze the last cent from distribution deals, are still using the old way of thinking in regards to release windows, exclusivity deals, and different licenses for different platforms (one for TV, one for pay TV and another for streaming) – I’m just not sure they can continue to do business this way in the age of the Internet and with piracy so rampant (exclusivity means nothing when it’s available 2 hours after broadcast on the regular torrent sites).
More on this later in this WNR, but first …
Don’t try to trick the court – that’s the lesson to be learnt from the latest ruling in the DVDFab trial. The company that makes the DVD ripping tool was the subject of a rather harsh preliminary injunction last year that saw domain name seized, social media accounts locked up, and online payment accounts frozen.
The company behind DVDFab, Fengtao Software Inc, responded to the injunction by promising to no longer sell their product to US customers. All that was fine, except it appears that unwilling to lose a huge share of their business, the makers of DVDFab tried to bypass the injunction by launching several sites targeting US patrons (sites like BluFab.com, TDMore.com).
When the complainants, AACS LA, got wind of this and notified the court, the court had no other choice but to issue further injunctions against a defendant whose action in continuing to try and sell to US customers, the judge in the case says, can only be classified as “recalcitrant persistence”. As a result, the judge ordered these other domain names seized, and for DVDFab’s new social media accounts, including Twitter account @dvdfabofficial, to be seized. The judge also barred payment processors in the US from working with DVDFab, which makes it almost impossible for DVDFab to do business in the US (and very difficult worldwide).
To make matters worse, Google’s Chrome browser is now listing both the download sites of DVDFab and the download itself as malicious (Firefox and IE downloads are unaffected). This is despite Google owned VirusTotal classifying the file as completely clean.
One possible scenario is that the same download servers used to host the DVDFab files are also hosting actual malicious or adware programs, and that DVDFab has been labelled as such by association.
Update: It appears the block on the download servers and the download itself has been removed, and that it was a false positive or the above described scenario of guilty by association. Google Chrome has been a bit over-active in blocking downloads lately, which I guess is what you have to expect from a search engine/browser maker trying to also be an anti-malware/security company.
Australia’s new ISP copyright policing regime has already been condemned by consumer groups, but some content holders are still not happy. Apparently, some want further action to be taken against VPNs and geo-unblockers. It seems in their eyes, users who want access and are willing to pay, but not in a way that’s “approved” by rights-holders (to allow them to maximize their profits) are no better than pirates and should be dealt with accordingly.
Netflix, on the other hand, sees it differently. Instead of castigating users that are clearly trying to do the right thing, Netflix wants licensing to be changed so that users will no longer need to use VPNs to get the content they want – a type of global licensing scheme that doesn’t discriminate against users just because they don’t live in the right country.
I understand why content holders want to maximize their profits via regional deals (because they’re greedy), but in this day and age where borders means nothing on the Internet, I find their way of thinking extremely outdated. This kind of wheeling and dealing is also one of the major reasons behind why people choose to pirate, with content locked up in expensive deals, which means higher costs to consumers, taking the content out of the reach of a growing segment of the consuming public. If the costs of piracy are so high, as rights-holders contend all the time, does making a few extra bucks in these kind of licensing deals really worth the cost in rising piracy rates?
And it’s not as if we’re talking about premium content like Game of Thrones – catalog and older titles are subject to the same restrictions, which is why Australia’s Netflix library only contains a fraction of what’s available in the US, despite most of these content being older stuff that nobody is paying for anyway. It’s just short-sighted greed, pure and simple!
That’s it for this week’s rather short WNR. See you next week.