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Found 9 results

  1. Following copyright threats from large media companies a Kiwi ISP has taken down its VPN service. Lightbox, MediaWorks, SKY, and TVNZ had threatened legal action against services that bypass geo-restrictions on sites such as Netflix and Hulu. Other ISPs offering similar products are currently standing firm. While VPN services have always been associated with privacy, in recent years they have bloomed into tools providing much more than a simple way to stay cloaked online. For a relatively small fee, users of the most popular VPN services can tunnel out of their country of origin and reappear in any one of dozens of countries around the world. This opens up a whole new world of media consumption opportunities. Citizens of the United States, for example, can access BBC iPlayer just like any other Brit might, while those in the UK looking to sample the widest possible Netflix offering can easily tunnel right back into the U.S. This cross-border content consumption is not popular with entertainment companies and distributors. It not only undermines their ability to set prices on a per-region basis, but also drives a truck through hard-negotiated licensing agreements. Tired of dealing with ISPs including Slingshot who offer a dedicated ‘global mode‘ VPN service for customers, last week media companies in New Zealand ran out of patience. “We pay considerable amounts of money for content rights, particularly exclusive content rights. These rights are being knowingly and illegally impinged, which is a significant issue that may ultimately need to be resolved in court in order to provide future clarity for all parties involved,†Lightbox, MediaWorks, SKY, and TVNZ said in a joint statement. “This is not about taking action against consumers; this is a business-to-business issue and is about creating a fair playing field.†Before being granted limited local access to Netflix just last month, Kiwis were required to level their own playing fields by paying for a VPN service and an account at an overseas supplier in order to legally obtain a decent range of premium content. However, the media companies now want to bring an end to that free choice via legal action. Today they claimed their first scalp. This morning Unlimited Internet became the first ISP to respond to media company pressure by pulling its geo-unblocking service known as “TV VPN†after receiving a warning letter from a lawfirm. The letter, which has been sent out to several local ISPs, informs Unlimited Internet that its VPN service infringes the Copyright Act of 1994. Unlimited Internet director Ben Simpson says that while his company doesn’t necessarily agree with that assertion, it has taken down the service nonetheless. “Geo-unblocking services are a direct result of consumer demand for access to content that is not made available to the New Zealand market,†Simpson says. “To be on the safe side, we have taken legal advice on this matter and I have made a firm call that we will sit on the sideline until a legal precedent has been set.†Currently there are no signs that other ISPs intend to cave in to the media companies’ demands but even if all Kiwi companies cease their VPN activities, the problem will persist. International VPN providers, such as those listed here, will be more than happy to provide services to New Zealanders enabling them to tunnel into any country they choose. The other possibility is that consumers will shun paying for content and turn back to file-sharing networks instead. If they do those VPNs will still come in handy but for entirely different reasons, ones that will see entertainment companies missing out on the spoils altogether.
  2. With the exclusive release of Thom Yorke's latest album BitTorrent developed itself into a paid music service. With over half a million downloads thus far the "experiment" has become a great success, and if it's up to BitTorrent the company will become an RIAA-certified music service in the near future. Last Friday Radiohead frontman Thom Yorkereleased his new solo album via BitTorrent. A few tracks were made available for free, but those who want the full album are charged $6. The new experiment is part of BitTorrent Inc’s bundles project, which allows artists to easily share their work with fans. While many artists tested the waters before Yorke, he is the first to ask for money directly from consumers. “If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of Internet commerce back to people who are creating the work. Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves. Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers,†commented Thom Yorke on his decision to join. Fast forward a few days and the album release has turned out to be a great success. At the time of writing the number of downloads surpassed 500,000, and at the current rate this will have doubled before the end of the week. These numbers are for both the free sample and the full album, which are both being counted by BitTorrent. Thom Yorke doesn’t want the sales figures to become public but judging from the number of people sharing the torrent this lies well above one hundred thousand. “When the Bundle is downloaded using one of our clients, it pings back with a torrent added event which is how these are being counted. Thom Yorke has asked that sales figures remain undisclosed, which is his discretion,†BitTorrent spokesman Christian Averill told TorrentFreak. Now that BitTorrent Inc. has become a paid music service, a whole new world opens up. Will there soon be a BitTorrent release at the top of the charts for example? We asked BitTorrent whether they are considering becoming an RIAA-certified seller, and the company’s answer was an unequivocal yes. “Our vision is absolutely that Bundles will count toward all the usual industry accolades and charts. Again, it will be up to the publisher of the specific Bundle. But the numbers certainly merit the recognition,†Averill says. If that happens, BitTorrent sales will be eligible for RIAA’s gold and platinum awards as well as other charts. While some music industry insiders may need some time to adjust to the idea of BitTorrent (Inc) as an authorized music service, the RIAA itself doesn’t see any reason why the company can’t apply. “Music sales … on digital music services that are authorized by and reported to the record labels, whether paid for by the consumer through a subscription or free to the consumer through ad-supported services, are accepted for RIAA certifications,†RIAA’s Liz Kennedy tells TorrentFreak. Becoming RIAA-certified doesn’t happen overnight though. BitTorrent would first have to request the certification and a full audit is then required to receive an Authorized service stamp and a possible listing on “, a joint initiative of the RIAA and Music Biz, lists the leading authorized music services in the United States,†Kennedy explains. For BitTorrent this would be a great achievement. The company has had to withstand a fair amount of criticism from copyright holders in recent years, and recognition as an authorized music service will surely silence some of it.
  3. Cloud technology could bring Xbox One and 360 games to web browsers. Microsoft could be close to releasing a consumer version of its internally tested cloud games service, according to one report, which would allow Xbox games to be played in web browsers. According to at least two purported inside sources speaking to Neowin, the unannounced service allows people to play both Xbox One and Xbox 360 games in certain web browsers, including Google's Chrome. One person supposedly familiar with Microsoft's plans claims that the streaming service can remotely display games at 60FPS. The Xbox 360 dashboard can also be streamed, offering access to an additional range of console features. Microsoft said "we do not comment on rumors or speculation" when approached by GameSpot. In July, the software giant's new chief executive, Satya Nadella, emphisised Microsoft's new direction by stating "we live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world". Game streaming technology works by running hardware and software at sophisticated server farms and streaming the data to customers remotely. Companies such as OnLive have bet their business on the viability of the technology, while Sony has invested in the area too by purchasing rival firm Gaikai and using its tech to establish the PlayStation Now service. Microsoft, which insists it still has a PC games strategy despite the general winding down of Games For Windows Live, could use the cloud service to reinvigorate its business in that area. Whether the internally tested Xbox streaming service is given clearance for commercial release is unclear. Neowin's report claimed "the product, as it stands right now, has Xbox branding and works outside the walls of Microsoft". However, it added that licensing issues with games publishers could become a challenge. Last year, Microsoft demonstrated Halo 4 running in the cloud on various devices at the company’s all-employee meeting. "This project is the on-going work from that demo to bring it to more users," Neowin's repot claimed. "Our understanding is that significant progress has been made from that demo and it is now being rolled out to more users." Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  4. Cloud storage and backup service Zoolz has terminated the account of a customer who stored a few .torrent files on his computer. While the company boasts of handling customer data with "zero knowledge," the provider frequently scans customer files for infringing titles and metadata. Most people who regularly use a computer know that it’s wise to have all critical data backed up. Whether it’s on a local hard drive or in the cloud, a copy can come in handy if something breaks. Zoolz is one of the many commercial backup solutions. The company services regular customers but also business clients including Microsoft, Dell, the BBC and the Washington post. Zoolz allows customers to backup their files in the cloud, including entire hard-drives. This is all done privately and securely, the company claims, with zero knowledge of what’s being transferred. This zero knowledge claim has been called into doubt recently as one of Zoolz’ customers, Ryan Gallagher, had his account terminated after the company found several .torrent files in his backups. Gallagher didn’t store any infringing media, but just 1 Megabyte worth of old metadata. Apparently, scanning for pirated filenames is standard practice at Zoolz, which is also explained in the product agreement. “If Metadata checking (i.e. file names) reveals that an account has content relating to video piracy, software piracy or any copyrighted data with the intent to distribute (i.e. torrents) the account will be immediately terminated,†it reads. And this is indeed what happened. Zoolz promptly notified the customer that his account would be terminated, and he was given a few days to transfer over a terabyte of data to a safer place. “My account and all data (1.3TB) was nuked, they would not budge on deleting specific ‘prohibited file names’ saying they had no way to do it. It’s a complete waste of time and bandwidth,†former Zoolz customer Gallagher comments. While there is nothing wrong with strict anti-piracy policies, deleting an entire account over a few small pieces of metadata goes pretty far. The .torrent files Zoolz found only reference pirated files, nothing more. And it got even worse. When Geoff Akerlund of the Backup Review site confronted the company with its drastic actions, he was accused of supporting illegal behavior himself. “We are sad to see you side with illegal behavior, the torrents could mean that the user has the actual media files, and downloading any media file without any proof of ownership is considered illegal,†Zoolz told him. The backup service claims that the torrents “could†indicate that the user has a copy of the files as well, and that without proof of ownership terminating the account is warranted. Aside from this rude behavior and terminating users accounts because they store non-infringing .torrent files, one has to wonder what business a backup provider has snooping through the computers of their customers. In any case, Zoolz has “zero knowledge†of proper customer service.
  5. Continuing its attacks on piracy-related domains, the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit has shut down the proxy service Immunicity and several torrent site proxies. The domain names have been suspended by their registrar eNom and now display a banner warning that the police are investigating the matter. Since last year City of London Police have been working together with copyright holders to topple sites that provide or link to pirated content. The police started by sending warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain namesof several “illegal†sites. A few days ago police sent out another round of requests to U.S.-based domain name registrar eNom, asking it to suspend the domains of several allegedly infringing sites. Although the requests were made without a court order or other authority, eNom has complied and effectively shut down the sites. Among the new targets is Immunicity, a general proxy server that was set up as a censorship circumvention tool. The police action against Immunicity is concerning as the service merely allows users to route their traffic through a proxy network, much like other anonimizing services such as TOR and VPNs do. The service itself doesn’t host or link to infringing content. In addition in Immunicity the Pirate Bay proxy and KickassTorrents proxies and were taken down as well. The same happened with, and several other sites. The DNS entries of the domains have all been replaced and now point at a PIPCU IP-address which displays a warning banner. Based on letters that were sent out to registrars previously, the police accuse proxy services and sites of running a criminal operation. While no court order has been obtained, PIPCU claims to have launched an investigation into the sites and has asked the domain registrar to cooperate. “The owners of the aforementioned domains are suspected to be involved in the criminal distribution of copyrighted material either directly or indirectly and are liable to prosecution under UK law for the following offences: Conspiracy to Defraud, Offences under the Fraud Act 2006, Copyright, Design & Patents Act 1988,†PIPCU states. “Should a conviction be brought for the above offences, UK courts may impose sentences of imprisonment and/or fines. PIPCU has criminal and civil powers in UK law to seize money, belongings and any property in connection with these offences.†It’s important to note that the City of London Police has no authority to order domain registrars to take action since there is no court order or other warrant underlying the request. However, it turns out that police letterhead is sometimes enough to throw due process concerns overboard. TorrentFreak has asked PIPCU for a comment on the most recent actions, but we have yet to hear back.
  6. amsung’s Milk Music radio service has been a Samsung exclusive for the company’s loyal customer base, similar to iTunes Radio’s exclusivity to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch customers. And, up until now, Samsung’s offered its internet radio service for free to its customers. Milk Music provides 6 skips on each radio station, and, after exhausting the skips on one channel, you can instantly switch to another and see a new set of 6 skips on the new radio station. Samsung claims that its radio service provides “expert curation,†but it does so most of the time. Sometimes, I find myself simply turning off the radio because every song seems to be those that I don’t know (and don’t like). Well, it’s been a rumor for a while now that Samsung would emerge with a premium service that would be ad-free, but Samsung finally decided to release the premium subscription service this week. If you own a Samsung device and have yet to update Milk Music, head over to the Google Play Store and look for the new Milk Music update under your list of apps. Once you update, you’ll be able to grab the new $4 monthly subscription.
  7. Amazon Amazon introduced a new file storage and collaboration service calledZocalo that—on first blush, at least, looks like it might be a Dropbox killer. Much like Dropbox and other cloud storage services, Zocalo lets you sync files between the Amazon cloud and your phone or PC. It has a business twist too, helping IT staffers control who gets access to which files. The product must be making some Dropbox executives uneasy, because unlike its other big competitors—Google and Microsoft— Dropbox itself is a pretty big Amazon customer. The startup uses Amazon’s S3 storage service to store the more than 500 million files that get uploaded to Dropbox each day. That’s going to make it pretty much impossible for Dropbox to undercut Amazon’s pricing. Zocalo starts at $5 per user per month for 200GB of storage. Dropbox charges twice that for half as much storage. But price isn’t everything, and Dropbox still has a several advantages that Amazon will be hard-pressed to overcome. 1. Sync is incredibly hard to get right Dropbox’s greatest strength is that it makes syncing files with the cloud and sharing them with other users seem so easy. But it’s not. Behind the scenes, Dropbox has a vast system of software keeping track of which files have been edited when, and who has access to what. Sync is a particularly difficult problem, and one small bug can lay waste to years of important user data. Err the other way, and you’re constantly resurrecting long-deleted files. Amazon has the technical chops to build a reliable storage and synchronization system, but making it as invisible to the end-user as Dropbox is no easy task. Dropbox has a seven-year head start here. And customers have shown, again and again, that they’re actually happy to pay more money for a tool with fewer features as long as it’s easy to use. 2. Dropbox’s “users first†strategy Dropbox’s strategy has always been to win end-users over first, then sell to the business side. Amazon is taking the opposite approach, by appealing directly to businesses. The problem with this approach is that even if Amazon is successful in selling its service to a business, the managers of that business still have to convince their employees to use it. Employees who are already Dropbox might not want to make the switch — especially if Zocalo ends up being even slightly harder to use than Dropbox. Could Amazon appeal directly to end users in this space? It already tried that with Amazon Cloud Drive, which is still around, but has been largely forgotten since its 2011 launch. 3. Branding Amazon already has a dizzying number of services and features under the Amazon Web Services umbrella, and it can be hard to keep track of them all. And the company is always adding more. That means it could be easy for the product to be overlooked, much as Cloud Drive has. That’s made all the worse by the name Zocalo. In Spanish, Zócalo means “plinth,†which is a platform for pillars or statues. It can also refer to the Plaza de la Constitución, the public square in the center of Mexico City. Unfortunately, it’s not a word that means much to non-Spanish speakers, and it’s particularly hard to remember. Bu now, just about everybody knows about Dropbox. Independence Ahead? Of course it’s not all smooth sailing for Dropbox and other competitors. This move will put pricing pressure on Dropbox, and it may need to spend some of $1.1 billion it’s raised on gaining more independence from Amazon. Startups are always in danger of being squashed by larger companies and bigger marketing budgets and the ability to undercut them on cost. But that problem is magnified when you’re running your service on infrastructure owned and operated by the same big companies you have to compete with. We’ve already seen this with Amazon Prime, which competes with Netflix, another major Amazon Web Services customer. But Amazon is still a long way from killing Netflix, and that’s good news for Dropbox.
  8. After several years of development, Kim Dotcom's much-anticipated music streaming platform Baboom is gearing up for its public release. Baboom aims to disrupt the music industry by closing the bridge between artists and fans. This includes a higher revenue share for artists and free music streaming in a lossless format for fans. Last summer Kim Dotcom resigned as Mega director to focus on other projects, including his Internet Party and upcoming music service Baboom. The latter had its ‘soft launch’ in January featuring only one album, that of Kim Dotcom himself. A few months have passed since and Baboom is now gearing up for a full release. Dotcom has been clear about his goal for the music service ever since it was firstteased in 2011. By providing free music and compensating artists through advertising revenue, Dotcom believes he can decrease music piracy while giving artists proper compensation for their work. But is that really doable? This week two of Baboom’s top executives spoke out on Baboom’s mission and some of the unrivaled features through which it hopes to disrupt the music industry. Chief Technology Officer Marco Oliveira stresses that closing the gap between artists and fans is one of the main goals. One way to do this is by providing the best quality music possible, through lossless streaming of FLAC music files. “Baboom is the first music streaming platform to support FLAC streaming, which delivers lossless audio. What this means, is that fans get to listen to music exactly how the artist intended. No degraded audio experience, you get an exact replica of what the artist recorded,†Oliveira says. Streaming FLAC files will require a decent Internet connection, as a full music album can easily take up more than half a gigabyte. In addition to lossless streams, users will also be able to download tracks in FLAC format to listen to offline.But the music quality is only part of the offer. For artists, Baboom wants to make it as simple as possible to share their work with the public and make a decent living while doing so. No strings attached. “Artists should be in charge of their careers, instead of being locked in unfair agreements. Neither artists or fans care for this. All they care about is the music, and that’s what should matter,†Oliveira. This vision is shared by Mikee Tucker, Baboom’s Head of Content and Platform, who has worked with independent artists for over a decade. Tucker believes that Baboom can give artists full control over their music, and earn more than they would do through any of the major labels. “For me there are two driving factors behind Baboom’s vision. Firstly, the spirit of true independence and artist freedom which inspires our vision to empower the artist and give control back to the creator. Secondly, the need for a solution to tackle declining revenues and outdated business models which inspires our vision innovate and disrupt,†Tucker says. It may sound too good to be true, but Baboom believes it can generate enough revenue through its advertisement tool. This application works like an ad blocker, but instead of blocking ads it replaces a small percentage with Baboom’s own ads. Those who prefer not to install the app have the option to buy the music instead. Most of the revenue will then flow directly to the artists with Baboom keeping a small share, 10 percent. This fraction pales in comparison to the amounts held back by the major labels. While this may work in theory, in the end Baboom’s success will greatly depend on the content. Dotcom previously said that there are several “top artists†lined up for the launch, but who they are remains a mystery for now. It’s no secret that Dotcom has several prominent connections in the music industry and it will be interesting to see which artists join him. In any case, there will definitely be plenty of attention for Baboom’s launch later this year.
  9. It seems that the social network is ready to launch a money transfer service in Europe which would allow Facebook to compete with the likes of Western Union, while providing users the option to store money with Facebook or buy items online. Facebook is currently seeking regulatory approval in its EU base in Ireland for "e-money" status that would see the company issue digital credits convertible into cash by recipients. Facebook can make some forms of money transfer in the United States that allow payments within apps, from which the company takes a 30% cut. According to financial reports, Facebook facilitated $2.1bn in transactions in 2013, mostly to games publishers. Approval in Ireland would allow the company to operate an e-money service across Europe using “passporting†– in other words, digital payments can be used across EU member states without approval from each one. Although the company declined to comment on the development, this move highlights the scale of the global money transfer market. The social network has made mobile platforms the focus of its expansion strategy in developing markets like India – the latter accounts for over 100 million of Facebook’s 1.2 billion users. In addition, mobile broadband subscribers far outrun fixed-line users in developing nations. In developed nations, the social network competes with established technology platforms like Apple’s iTunes and Amazon, both having millions of customers with credit cards attached to the service. Since payment schemes are the equivalent to credit cards in emerging markets, Facebook can make progress here, particularly in places where banking infrastructure is not as mature as in EU or US. Regulatory approval from Ireland would subject the social network to the same controls as a bank, i.e. the company will be required to segregate funds equivalent to the amount of e-money it issues. Industry observers confirm that payments and e-money services are currently expanding in financial services and technology market. They also note that Facebook’s rivals are more focused on payment systems than money transfers. For example, Amazon’s CEO has made payment systems a priority focus, claiming that his company’s payments team should intensify its efforts to be successful in the space.