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  1. Every day thousand of Internet subscribers receive a piracy warning from their Internet provider. Increasingly, these notifications also include a settlement request ranging from $20 to hundreds of dollars. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ISPs should protect their customers from these invasive tactics. There are many ways copyright holders approach today’s “online piracy problem.†Some prefer to do it through innovation, while others prefer educational messages, warnings or even lawsuits. Another group is aiming to generate revenue by obtaining lots of small cash settlements. Rightscorp and CEG TEK have chosen the latter model. Their emails are sent as regular DMCA notices which many ISPs then forward to their customers, often with a settlement demand included. Both companies send millions of warnings to U.S. Internet providers every year, but how these are handled varies per ISP. Some, including Charter, forward the entire notice, while others such as Comcast strip out the settlement details. To find out more about the legality of these notices, and the options Internet providers and subscribers have, TorrentFreak sat down with Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) staff attorney Mitch Stoltz. According to Stoltz, Internet providers should carefully review what they’re forwarding to their users. Under U.S. law they are not required to forward DMCA notices and stripping out settlement demands is in the best interest of the consumer. “In the U.S., ISPs don’t have any legal obligation to forward infringement notices in their entirety. An ISP that cares about protecting its customers from abuse should strip out demands for money before forwarding infringement notices. Many do this,†he says. “An ISP can also choose not to forward notices at all if they are deficient, misleading, or inaccurate,†Stoltz adds. Misleading notices The notices these companies send are designed to threaten and pressure the recipient, who is often not the person who downloaded the allegedly infringing material. “The problem with notices demanding money from ISP subscribers is that they’re often misleading,†Stoltz notes. “They often give the impression that the person whose name is on the ISP bill is legally responsible for all infringement that might happen on the Internet connection, which is simply not true.†Some of the notices mention disastrous consequences, such as excessively large jury verdicts against file sharers who previously had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. However, they forget to mention that these type of piracy cases almost never go to court. Similarly, ISPs rarely disconnect casual copyright infringers. “Rightscorp, for one, has never sued an accused file sharer. Having an ISP forward a demand for money also makes it seem like the ISP will cut off the subscriber if they don’t pay, which is also not true– most ISPs don’t ban customers just because a penny-stock outfit in Santa Monica asks them to,†Stoltz says. Legal repercussions? As a result of the threatening language many subscribers fear that they might be made bankrupt. The reality, however, is that nothing usually happens if they opt to ignore the threats. Stoltz advises people who receive a notice not to reach out to the sender. Instead, they should carefully consider their options and consult a lawyer if needed. “Circumstances vary, and it’s always a good idea to talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. Be cautious about communicating with any company or lawyer that accuses you of copyright infringement – they will use anything you say against you. Stop, think, and read carefully before you decide to send money or information.†In theory ISPs do have the right to disconnect an account after a subscriber receives multiple notices, but this is relatively rare. The same is true for lawsuits. As far as we know neither Rightscorp nor CEG TEK have taken a file-sharer to court. “They would rather scare a hundred people into paying $20 than spend thousands on a lawsuit against one person,†Stoltz says. The problem remains that even a minuscule chance of getting in trouble is enough for some to pay up. Some people just want the whole thing to go away, that’s what the settlement model is based on. The only way to make this threat disappear is for Internet providers to either strip the settlement demands, or simply toss all notices in the trash.
  2. The shutdown of The Pirate Bay made big headlines when it happened during a raid by Swedish police. While it certainly is big news for file sharing, perhaps a more pertinent question is "what difference does it make?" The answer is it makes almost no difference at all. On Dec. 8, one day before the raid on The Pirate Bay, a total of 101.8 million Internet users torrented files being tracked by anti-piracy firm Excipio. These files including movies, music, games and other digital media. For the next three days, the number of users downloading these types of files dropped down to around 95 million, before bouncing right back to 100.2 million on Dec. 12. This highlights the fact that merely shutting down a file-sharing site will have almost no effect on online piracy. Not only that, but rival site IsoHunt said that it had copied The Pirate Bay's search engine catalog and links, effectively being able to recreate the service. It's important to consider the fact that shutting down The Pirate Bay did not improve anything or prevent anyone from being able to pirate digital content if they wanted to. While it may have provided a minor annoyance to those who regularly use the service, it's more than easy to find the same content online elsewhere. In 2012, the Netherlands persuaded Internet service providers to block access to torrent files, but research suggests that the ban resulted in increased torrent use. If blocking access to torrent sites isn't going to stop people from illegally downloading content, then removing one out of thousands of these services is going to do even less. Perhaps a more appropriate question to ask would be "how can we make legally purchasing content that costs money to make more attractive than illegally downloading it for free?" While that might seem like a useless question, in reality it is possible. Apple made purchasing music more attractive when it launched the iTunes Store because it was so simple to use that many were willing to pay the small price for the convenience. Spotify and other music-streaming services are doing much the same thing now. There will always be ways to illegally download digital content online. However, there will also be alternatives, and the more attractive those alternatives are to customers, the less likely people are to steal content. Did removing The Pirate Bay do anything for torrenting? Absolutely not, but maybe we're asking the wrong question.
  3. The people behind the Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club have won a $14,000 consent judgment against an Oregon BitTorrent user. Why the defendant agreed to pay the unusually high figure is unclear, but it may have something to do with the sword that was hanging over his head. Movie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users. The company has pioneered mass-BitTorrent lawsuits in the United States and is estimated to have made a lot of money doing so. Earlier this year Voltage and Dallas Buyers Club LLC initiated lawsuits against alleged file-sharers of the Oscar-winning movie. Several hundred alleged downloaders have been targeted since. Most of these cases end up being settled for an undisclosed amount. This is usually a figure around $3,500, which is what the company offers in their settlement proposals. However, this week we stumbled upon something bigger. A few days ago a federal court in Oregon handed down a hefty judgment against a person who shared a copy of Dallas Buyers Club via BitTorrent. The order is a so-called consent judgment, the terms of which are agreed by both parties, for the sum of $14,000. “A Money Judgment in favor of plaintiff Voltage Pictures, LLC and Dallas Buyers Club, LLC and against defendant DOE- is awarded the sum of $14,000.00. This figure includes costs, fees and damages,†the order (pdf) reads. The amount is unusually high for a consent judgment especially since the defendant, who remains anonymous, hired a proper attorney. If others get the option to settle for $3,500 or less, why would this person agree to pay four times as much? It’s safe to assume that the defendant in this case never got the option for a cheaper settlement and a good look at the original complaint may explain why. As it turns out, the movie makers collected a whole lot more dirt on the defendant. In an attempt to beef up their case, the movie studio compiled a list of 118 titles (pdf) that were shared by the defendant’s IP-address. This includes several TV-show episodes including Game of Thrones, as well as popular movies, software and music titles. “As can be seen from Exhibit 1, defendant is a prolific proponent of the BitTorrent distribution system advancing the BitTorrent economy of piracy,†they wrote in their complaint. First page of exhibit 1 While it remains speculation, it’s likely that the Dallas Buyers Club makers used these collateral downloads to add extra pressure. In any case, it certainly didn’t hurt their negotiating position. This is not the only consent judgment won by Dallas Buyers Club recently. In a similar case in Oregon the company obtained $7,500 from another avid BitTorrent user who shared more than hundred other titles as well. Apparently, Voltage and Dallas Buyers Club LCC have found a rather effective way to increase settlement fees. TF asked Dallas Buyers Club’s attorney for a comment on the varying amounts, but we have yet to hear back. In any case, pirates are warned: Anything you download or share may be used against you in a court of law.
  4. "900p works perfect for us," says creative director of upcoming Xbox One exclusive. Back in September, developer Insomniac Games confirmed that upcoming Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive would run at 900p/30fps. Now, the studio has revealed that it had the game running at 1080p during development, but chose 900p in part because the lower resolution allowed the developer to create more on-screen mayhem. The end result, according to creative director Marcus Smith, is a game so stuffed with action thatTransformers director Michael Bay would be proud. "Why would you want less action on screen? That's insanity," Smith said when asked in an IGN video why the studio chose 900p over 1080p. "900p works perfect for us. We spent a lot of time comparing and contrasting. We had it running at 1080p, we'd play it; we had it running at 900p, we'd play it and they didn't look considerably different. But the things that you could draw on screen were a lot more, and we wanted to draw a lot more on screen. More action, more better. Michael Bay would be very proud." Also in the interview, Smith reveals that while Sunset Overdrive will not support free roam co-op at launch, this could be added to the game through a post-release expansion. If that doesn't happen, it could show up in a sequel. "Never say never," Smith said. Sunset Overdrive launches in the US on October 28 as an Xbox One exclusive. The game, which is published by Microsoft, will be accompanied by a $400 Xbox One bundle that includes a white system (and matching white controller) and a copy of the game. This is notable because it will represent the first time Microsoft will publicly offer the Xbox One in a color other than black. For more on Sunset Overdrive, check out GameSpot's previous coverage. You can also test-fire some of the game's over-the-top weapons through a special interactive website called Walter's Workshop. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  5. Ubisoft says "One Life" rule will emphasize teamwork, tactics, and tension. During multiplayer matches in 2015's Rainbow Six Siege, you will have one life. If you die, you won't get to play again until the next round. Now, developer Ubisoft Montreal has explained through an in-depth blog post why it decided on this approach for the game. "When designing the game, we found that above all else, the No Respawn rule touched the three main pillars of what we want in this game: teamwork, tactics, and tension," the developer said. "Not only are these three pillars at the heart of Tom Clancy's video game series, but they’re arguably absent from the FPS market today. Even when playing on a team, run and gun titles emphasize twitch reflexes while neglecting other skill sets, and you may feel disconnected from the action and all alone in your plight. With Siege, that's not the case." Ubisoft did experiment with allowing players to respawn in an earlier build of the game, but the developer moved away from this concept because it allowed very strong solo players to carry their teams. When the No Respawn rule was implemented, this changed, and the game became more balanced as a result, Ubisoft said. "When you're not allowed to respawn during a match, twitch reflexes aren't the only skills that keep you alive," the developer added. "Teamwork, map awareness, planning, adaptability, communication, and leadership become just as important to win. To be completely straightforward, the game became a lot more stressful… It went from everyone leaning back in their chairs trash-talking, to being on the edge of their seats carefully coordinating tactics." Game designer Chris Lee said that Ubisoft did not think at first that the No Respawn rule would work, adding that he thought it would only appeal to "the most hardcore players." However, the opposite turned out to be true. "It turned out that it really opened up the game to many different types of players," he said. "The developers who were longtime FPS players initially found it difficult because they were only good at reaction time. They weren't communicating, playing tactically, or thinking about the consequences. Their K/D ratio was high before, but after introducing One Life, they stopped thinking about K/D ratios and more about how each player could work together for the win." On the other side of the coin, Lee said: "Developers who weren't as good before played slower, thought carefully about the situation, and ended up doing better on the leaderboard. Because One Life rewards this kind of behavior, it puts well-rounded players at an advantage over pure run and gunners, which is what the Tom Clancy's franchise is all about. They utilize a complete skill set and the rest of the development team really liked that, since going back to its roots is what we wanted to do and the rule stuck. It wasn't something we predicted, and we were really happy with how it turned out." When you die in Siege, you'll enter what Ubisoft calls Support mode. From here, you can use visibility tools such as drones and security cameras, or even a helicopter, to help keep your team informed about where the enemies are. And you don't need to worry about being away from the boots-on-the-ground action for too long, as Ubisoft says Siege matches are "short." So even if you die right at the beginning of a match, you'll be back into the mix in around three mnutes. For more on Siege--which will run at 60fps across Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC--check out GameSpot's previous coverage. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  6. "Rather than any actual feedback from players, it's more accepting the realities of modern life," Junichi Masuda says. Part of the reason why Pokemon games are becoming more inviting is because they must compete against a raft of other products, many of which are given away for free on smartphones. That's according to veteran Pokemon developer Junichi Masuda, co-founder of Pokemon series developer Game Freak, and a person who has been involved with the popular brand since its inception. We recently caught up with Masuda to talk about the Pokemon series, and we asked him for his thoughts regarding why recent games have made things easier for players. "Rather than any actual feedback from players, it's more accepting the realities of modern life," he said. "Kids these days or even people who grew up playing Pokemon--everyone is a lot more busy. There are a lot more things competing for a person's time than there were back then. For example, there are so many free games you can play on your phone now, there's so many entertainment options, so making it a little easier to play is the reason for that." "Back when I was younger, someone would buy us a game and that was the only game we had, so we had to play it," he added. "I don't think that's really the case for many people these days." Our interview also touched on the upcoming Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire remakes for 3DS. Asked why Game Freak went down that route instead of creating, say, a "Pokemon Z" to follow 2013's X/Y, Masuda said the developer is always looking to surprise players. "For example, if after Black and White we came out with a grey, people would have been expecting that," he said. "Same thing with X/Y and having a Z straight afterwards. So we're always just trying to surprise people." "One of the main appeals of Pokemon over the years is the concept that even through all these games, you can have people 20 years apart but they can still talk about Pokemon" -- Masuda Another driving factor in working on the remakes is that it's what fans want, Masuda said. "There's been a lot of demand from people to remake Ruby/Sapphire on social media, for example," he said. "Right now really felt like a good time to do it, and instead of doing a direct sequel to X/Y we're tying it together in some unique ways." Finally, we asked Masuda if Game Freak might ever consider rebooting the entire Pokemon series, bringing it to life in a new way that potentially strays from popular convention. Masuda suggested that this is unlikely, as he said one of the hallmarks of the series is that it's relatable to a wide range of players and ages. "One of the main appeals of Pokemon over the years is the concept that even through all these games, you can have people 20 years apart but they can still talk about Pokemon," he said. "There's always the gyms, the elite four champions, a lot of the pokemon are featured throughout all the different generations. A lot of that shared experience, even if you're 20 years apart, is something that's really appealing about Pokemon. So right now, I think keeping that element of the series, and seeing all of these new Pokemon from X/Y treated equally with the previous generations, I think that's really exciting. And we really want to focus on that for the moment at least." "But if I leave Game Freak I can't speak to the future," he added. Pokemon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby will be released exclusively for 3DS on November 21. For much more on the remakes, check out GameSpot's just-published preview [LINK to Randy's piece]. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  7. In recent weeks various music industry groups have sent takedown requests targeting Kim Dotcom's album Good Times. IFPI and others claim that Dotcom's music infringes the rights of their artists, but it appears that they fell victim to a DMCA prankster. Earlier this year Kim Dotcom released his first music album “Good Times,†giving it away for free to anyone interested. An official copy of the album was posted on the cloud hosting service Mega, which is linked from Dotcom’s homepage. This has never caused any issues, until a few weeks ago, when various copyright holders started sending unusual takedown requests to have the content removed. IFPI, representing the major music labels, submitted several DMCA notices to Mega claiming that the file infringed the rights of various artists. This resulted in a game of whack-a-mole in which the album was removed and reinstated a few times. Currently it’s unavailable yet again. When we previously covered the issue, Mega stressed that the takedown requests were clearly mistaken. The company accused IFPI of not doing their homework and doubted the accuracy of their notices in general. However, since the takedown notices kept targeting the same link, there was a good chance that these mistakes were orchestrated in some way. Assuming that someone was making IFPI and others believe that the link pointed to albums of other artists, we decided to do some research. Eventually we stumbled upon a series of Pastebin pages where the URL of Dotcom’s album is linked to titles of other artists. Several of the artists mentioned in the pastes are the same as the one’s IFPI listed in their DMCA notices, so this would explain the mistakes. The above is concerning for several reasons. First of all, it shows that IFPI and others don’t verify the legitimacy of their takedown notices. This means that pranksters can easily get them to censor legitimate content. Secondly, Mega usually can’t check the validity of a claim, or it simply doesn’t know whether or not a user has permission to publish it. So they have very little options to stop the abuse. “Mega aims to process all takedowns promptly, within a few hours. It is impossible to verify the claims as the files are encrypted so we don’t know the contents (unless the full link is provided with the key included), and we can’t verify if the person has a valid ownership/license or not,†a Mega spokesperson told us. Despite these restrictions, the cloud hosting provider says it’s setting up a system where repeated takedowns can be flagged to prevent this type of abuse in the future. “We are improving our systems to monitor the takedown process and will eventually be able to identify repeated incorrect notices,†Mega says. Until then, Dotcom’s album will most likely disappear from Mega a few more times. Luckily for the fans, there’s also a copy hosted on the soon-to-be-released music service Baboom.
  8. It’s been suspected for some time that Warner Bros. and DC Comics have bigger plans for adapting their superheroes than they’re letting on – plans set to become clear once Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters. But when the studio’s purported release schedule was leaked online, it packed one particular bombshell: it wouldn’t be a Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman film following just months behind the big screen team-up in 2016, but an unexpected magical heavyweight: Shazam. The idea of Shazam being released effectively alongside Dawn of Justice is a startling one; but with undeniable appeal, and possessing one of the best stories in DC’s New 52 universe, the property has all the makings of a cinematic hit. Even so, the hero formerly known as ‘Captain Marvel’ may not be as established as his “DC Trinity†colleagues. Allow us to present you with 5 reasons why Shazam could be THE next big DC/WB movie franchise. The Story Aside from the hero’s iconic phrase (“Shazam!â€), it’s safe to say that not much is widely known about Shazam’s backstory. With that in mind, DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns’ recent reboot (part of DC’s New 52) supplied a rough outline for what to expect from a live-action film. For starters, the hulking hero is actually fifteen-year-old Billy Batson, a street-tough Philadelphia orphan. The boy soon finds himself summoned to a mysterious tomb known as ‘The Rock of Eternity,’ where a mysterious wizard warns him that a great threat has returned to the world. While Billy is far from perfect, he possesses the potential for heroism needed to be named the wizard’s champion: simply utter the phrase ‘Shazam,’ and a bolt of lightning transforms Billy into a magical, godlike hero. With the role effectively split between a young boy and a grown man playing a young boy, this particular hero packs a twist that makes him one of a kind in a genre filled with familiar tropes (while also offering more wish fulfillment for young viewers than any other hero). The humor inherent in any big screen version of the ‘World’s Mightiest Mortal’ should be obvious, and how Billy uses his new powers is a story that could be taken in any number of directions. - The Characters Casual audiences may think that a caped hero powered by magical lightning more than earns a spotlight all to himself – but despite having lost his own parents, Billy Batson is far from alone. In both the classic comics and the New 52, Billy is accompanied by his friends Mary and Freddy Freeman – with Johns’ reboot adding three more foster siblings to the group: Pedro, Eugene, and Darla. With Shazam‘s obvious appeal to a younger audience, some might worry that the grim tone of WB’s approach to superheroes would be a poor fit. But the larger themes at play have the potential to be treated with respect and gravity (as adoption was in Man of Steel), and the ensemble cast of children spreads that potential farther, including minorities and women in a genre of film lacking both. The Action After Man of Steel, it’s understandable that audiences might not be excited by the idea of two men blessed with the strength of Superman going toe-to-toe. But with the realm of magic at both of their disposals, a showdown between Shazam and Black Adam could be as varied and awe-inspiring as the director chooses to make it (just ask the comic book fans how many different ways a lightning bolt can be used in combat). But the real promise in the action comes from the fact that Shazam has the ability to share his gifts with his family. As it stands, superhero movies tend to be categorized by eager fans into ‘solo’ or ‘team-up’ adventures. But with Shazam able to use all his power for strength, or turn his siblings into magical superheroes alongside him, the movie can split the difference. Warner Bros. and DC clearly aren’t afraid of having their heroes share the screen, so a full roster of the Shazam Family fighting as a unit may be in store. - The Mythology When it was first rumored that Shazam was not only in the cards for WB, but could be the studio’s next big franchise, many expressed doubt that its magic and mysticism could work in the world established by Man of Steel. But given that many doubted Zack Snyder could make Superman work in a world similar to The Dark Knight Trilogy, we would advise patience. Especially when the benefits outweigh the risks. To dive headlong into the fiction of Shazam is to introduce the ‘Council of Wizards’ – a collection of magical beings seemingly linked to the history of China, Australia, Egypt, North America, and more. Besides the international appeal, the blend of fantasy and history may be easier to accept than a simple supernatural force of ‘magic.’ Geoff Johns also made the decision to not just expand the mystical world behind Shazam, but to begin his story with magic essentially ‘returning’ to the world. So while Batman and Superman may be hashing out the destruction of Metropolis, audiences will know that a much larger threat may be looming. Yet that threat is one only Billy Batson is able to fight, meaning his place alongside DC’s biggest heroes would be ensured. - Continuity With all the momentum building around Batman V Superman, fans may have forgotten that Sandman was among the first films pitched by David S. Goyer following Man of Steel. And while the first arc in Neil Gaiman’s seminal graphic novel included both Batman and John Constantine, achieving the same blend of DC and Vertigo will be a tough task in the film universe – and trying to overlap them directly could fail entirely. But a character like Shazam changes all that. Shazam’s strength may make him an analogue to Superman, but his knowledge and mastery of magic makes him just as important to the world of Constantine, Sandman, or the rest of the cast of Guillermo Del Toro’s troubled Justice League Dark project. In many ways, Shazam is a walking solution: the realm of magic is no place for the Justice League, but stories like DC’s recent “Trinity War†(featuring Constantine and Billy Batson joning forces) show how both the mystical and superhero universes can coexist. It’s a tough trick to pull off, but confirming the existence of both worlds – made easier with Shazam’s ability to straddle the line – sets the stage for multiple crossover events down the road. - Conclusion Below you’ll find a quick recap of why we believe a Shazam movie could be the next successful superhero blockbuster for DC Comics and Warner Bros. Do you agree with our reasoning? Let us know in the comments! The Story – An origin story (with a message) that will be every viewer’s dream come true. The Characters – Varied, unique, and diverse enough to feature plenty of promising stars. The Action – A superhero movie with fantasy action, AND a superpowered fist fight. The Mythology – An ancient world of magic that cracks DC’s movie universe wide open (if they wish). Continuity – A way to link Justice League and Sandman/Constantine properties without overlapping them.
  9. 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.
  10. Yesterday, Sylvester Stallone finally made good on his threat to release anExpendables movie with a PG-13 rating. Fans threw their hands up in protest, but too late is too late: you're just going to have to wait for an "unrated" DVD to rip you off later in the search for more headshots and curses. Of course, the fact that there was waffling regarding the rating calls attention to one of the industry's biggest issues: PG-13 is corrupt, pointless and should be abolished. The PG-13 rating originally was created as a response to the growing indecencies crawling into mainstream blockbusters that could be seen by kids. Previously, the delineation allowed for G films to be suitable for children, PG for older kids and adults, and R for movies with adult ideas and themes. PG-13 was essentially a more commercial designation that flattered the audience instead. Now adults could feel comfortable seeing fare meant for children, and kids could see something that was decidedly more "adult" in nature. What PG-13 did was actually bring the discussion of ratings to the forefront. Before PG-13's existence, PG films (previously GP) were common, meant to designate something more appropriate to a wider range of audiences. But there were still a large amount of adult-appropriate films carrying the R, just as there were many studios making R-rated films. Movies accommodated flights of fancy, but mostly they were being made for adults who didn't glance at the rating. But with the arrival of PG-13 (attached to Red Dawn and The Flamingo Kid) came the proliferation of the modern blockbuster, aimed at both the smallest in the audience as well as the biggest, creating watered-down product that has the same appeal to everyone. Now, studios use PG-13 as a creative tool, not a restriction. Films are designed to specifically be PG-13, based on what is rumored to be the MPAA's approach towards the ratings. Without the PG-13 rating, context was everything: the bare breasts in the PG-rated Airplane! were obviously a joke, not meant to be arousing, while Barbarella's embrace of sex and violence were obviously ludicrous fantasy elements. Now, the rules are as they have been for the last 30 years, even though the ratings were constantly revised in years prior: you get one bit of nudity (definitely not a sex organ), you get a finite amount of blood and gore, you get one "fuck" (maybe two if you're Entrapment!) and you get all the violence in the world, despite pretend-violence probably being the most influential and potentially damaging thing to see for an impressionable mind. The rumors were that the first two Expendables films were shot with a PG-13 rating in mind. The second film seems pretty graphic, so that may be unlikely, unless they planned on editing the blood and the few curse words out. But the first film is unquestionably meant to be a PG-13 rated film, given it's limited foul language and laughably fake last-minute blood squirts. But what do a PG-13 Expendables and an R-rated Expendables have in common? Big stars, sure. Neat stunts, maybe. Endless guns, gun fetishization and the deaths of dozens, maybe hundreds of extras. If you ask most people, they'd be in favor of getting rid of the ratings system altogether. But if you want to be a cultural watchdog, as the MPAA pretends to be, then wouldn't that be more concerning to you? Particularly after a rash of gun-related tragedies gaining mass media coverage, isn't it odd that a high schooler could buy a ticket to see The Expendables 3, but he/she couldn't see The Kings Of Summer? That film, released last year, is ABOUT young teenagers growing up, moving out of their houses to build their own home away from home in the forest. It earned an R-rating because these kids have occasionally, but not gratuitously, dirty mouths. Does this make any sense? Is this a great use of PG-13 and R-ratings? Does it have anything to do with The Expendables 3 earning a blockbuster release from a major studio, andThe Kings Of Summer being a small independent film quietly platforming through smaller venues? And we're not even going to talk about the double standards regarding sex. Yikes. The point being, we've been down this road already. Kirby Dick's This Film Is Not Yet Rated made this observation for us: that documentary depicted the shady MPAA as a draconian organization that needn't make explanations for their decisions, who request arbitrary cuts to films, and abide by what seems to be the prior restrictions involving limiting nudity, foul language and blood. But we're not going to get rid of them, mostly because they seem like an untouchable Illuminati of the movie industry. Even Dick had to hire a private investigator find out the actual identities of the people on the MPAA board. So here's what we do. We lobby to eliminate PG-13. What this does is force the MPAA to look at content differently. That means, no more arbitrary rulings or beliefs about one breast versus two, one headshot versus five. Whatever they think is a movie for "adults" will earn an R-rating. This means that anyone making a movie with a decent amount of violence and sex is going to get an R. Rather them limiting their audience (which is b.s. because tons of theaters don't enforce the ratings, and many teens or kids will still see an R-rated film with older people), the studios will see this opportunity to actually engage with adult ideas and concepts. A superhero film can actually still be thrilling and feature politics and romance. A comedy can be as naughty as it wants to be. And The Expendables 3 can be filled with exploding heads everywhere. Instead of shaming adults into seeing a PG-rated film, embolden them to see an R-rated movie, knowing there's more adult content available for them. And parents won't have to worry about taking their child to a PG-13 movie and having to have a talk with them about content, or try to tamp down their hyperactivity after seeing a particularly violent film. The flipside could be true, of course. Maybe the PG-13 material just softens further and moves down to PG-level, saving G for strictly kids fare. That would be an unfortunate change, and you'd hope studios would seize the opportunity to make movies for older teens and adults (and the kids who rent them, stream them, or download them with zero adult supervision). As of now, not only is PG-13 specifically financially driven, dedicated to protecting no one from anything, but it's outdated. It's a decision created to make money, to water down films so that The Expendables 3 could be the same movie for a kid that it is for an adult. And it's not, and these decisions split the difference in a way that, right now, pleases nobody.
  11. This week's most exciting news in technology was undoubtedly that Tesla Cars declares that all their patent monopolies are free for anyone to use. What does it mean? Let's compare to BitTorrent. When Bram Cohen created the BitTorrent protocol, he had the legal option of filing for a patent monopoly on any computer program that used this protocol. (The mere existence of such an option is a very bad thing, but we’ll be returning to that.) Mr. Cohen chose to not monopolize the BitTorrent protocol in that way. Let’s examine what implications that would have had for the technology. If the BitTorrent technology would have been protected by patent monopolies, it would have been effectively limited to Mr. Cohen’s original BitTorrent client. Have you used that client? Do you know anybody who has used it? Didn’t think so, and neither do I. Instead, there is an enormous plethora of clients and servers that use the protocol today, and Mr. Cohen’s BitTorrent Inc. is valued at eight-digit dollars. Not to mention the fact that BitTorrent Inc. was subsequently able to buy one of the most prolific BitTorrent clients out there, µTorrent, which would not have existed had the technology been monopolized in the first place. I think most of us have used µTorrent – I know I have. This shows exactly why it makes so much sense for Tesla Cars to release all of their patent monopolies into the wild, and why the patent monopoly system as such is enormously harmful (the only industry to make a net profit from it is the pharma industry, and that’s because they’re heavily subsidized with taxpayer money). Tesla Cars relinquishing their monopolies means they see this mechanism, and that they realize they need an ecosystem to flourish around their technology – the electric car technology – in order to remain viable themselves. Put another way, it’s not about the size of the pie slice: monopolies are preventing the pie itself from growing exponentially, as they do with any new technology poised to disrupt the old ways. Just like BitTorrent. Patent monopolies are far worse than the copyright monopolies we deal with (and all break) on a daily basis. Imagine for a moment if copyright monopoly vultures didn’t care if you had made an actual copy, that you would be just as guilty of infringement even if you had never seen or heard of the original? That’s how patent monopolies work, and that’s the key difference between patent monopolies and copyright monopolies: the latter protect a specific expression against copying, the former protect an idea or a form from being utilized anywhere, even independently. It’s also why patent monopolies are much, much more harmful than copyright monopolies (and that’s saying a lot). But as the Tesla example shows, patent monopolies don’t stop at not making sense as a whole. They also don’t make sense to a single company in isolation, as they prevent an ecosystem taking shape. It’s one of the worst cancers in the economy, as investors describe them today. It’s easy to argue that patent monopolies don’t hit ordinary families in the same way that copyright monopolies, that patent monopolies have not sued families out of their homes merely for taking part in society’s culture. But that’s about to change with 3D printing, where rapid fabrication becomes available to the masses. It is – unfortunately – a safe prediction that people will soon be sued out of their homes merely for manufacturing their own pair of slippers, because it violated a design patent monopoly somewhere. Such a notion may seem ridiculous today. Then again, so did everything else we’ve seen with the copyright monopoly so far, and patent monopolies are guarded far more harshly. The BitTorrent legacy doesn’t just show us how to break the copyright monopoly in a specific case. It gives us a blueprint for how to disrupt old ways in general by ditching legal monopolies, a blueprint that Tesla Cars is now choosing to follow. The patent monopoly wars are coming, right on the heels of the copyright monopoly wars, as were they merely a logical extension. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see our tip-of-the-spear entrepreneurs denouncing and releasing their own monopolies right ahead of these battles with corporate lawyers. As a final note, it’s noteworthy that Tesla Cars isn’t the only company that Elon Musk is running. He’s also at the helm of SpaceX. Space technology has been ridiculously proprietary up until now, nothing cooperating with anything else and everything being custom-built single-use. That’s why it makes me enormously excited to see an entrepreneur who understands the damages of monopolies at the forefront of space technology today. It holds a promise of standardized, interoperable space technology. As in, “for all of usâ€. Like BitTorrent.
  12. Every now and then it's being questioned why the Pirate Party chose the political route to safeguard privacy and other liberties, as well as reform those monopolies that stand in its way, such as the copyright monopoly. The answer is simple: activism isn't enough. It can be very educational to watch the behavior of career politicians. They frequently have opinions about individual activists and activist movements. You can hear them praising the efforts to change society and participate in the democratic process, in the media, in articles, and in person. And then they move ahead with a bill that does the exact opposite. To wit: In Sweden, in the week after the European Elections, a temporary and controversial wiretapping bill was made permanent. It may look like a coincidence. Then again, Peter Sunde, the spokesperson of the Pirate Bay, was arrested in the same week. That’s another coincidence, just as when the Appeals Court hearings for The Pirate Bay mock trial which were slated for the week right after an election. And there was another coincidence when the evaluation of the illegal Data Retention Directive was to be presented right after the elections, rather than facing the music and abolishing it once it was declared illegal. There are many more examples. And then those career politicians usher more warm words over the activists for liberty – people who are personally responsible for you and me having some of our liberties we wouldn’t have otherwise. Let’s name a few of them. Assange. Brown. Svartholm-Warg. Hammond. Sunde. Manning. All of these have provided exemplary transparency and resistance to power grabs by overreaching and shameless governments. Each and every one of us owes a significant amount of liberty to each of these individuals. They also have another thing in common: They are all confined to a small room, their freedom of movement gone, their liberty shackled. There are many more who find it impossible to return to their home country after such exemplary civic duty. Snowden. Appelbaum. Many anonymous people who have chosen to leave. The list just goes on. Activism just isn’t enough. The fate of our best and brightest activists can be seen right here. As an activity, on its own, it’s not producing the necessary results. Not on its own. It’s at this point that we need to look closer at the behavior of career politicians. It’s important to realize that the first problem that a career politician tries to solve is how to get elected. The second problem a career politician tries to solve is how to get re-elected. Whatever comes in third place is so far behind the first two that it’ll never really surface. In short, unless you threaten politicians’ jobs over their dismantling of liberty, they’ll not notice in the slightest but just smile at your proposals, praise you for engaging in civic society, kiss some babies, and then introduce more surveillance. That’s why activism for liberty remains extremely necessary. That’s also why activism remains not sufficient. We absolutely, positively need to put politicians’ jobs on the line over Orwelling the world we live in. That’s why the Pirate Party chose the political route, putting Orwellian politicians’ jobs on the line. But the party as a movement can’t function without tens of thousands of activists who also help in the common cause. source
  13. Why Are Porn Perfomers Scared to Talk About Internet Piracy? Most people affected by piracy are very happy to point the finger at sites like The Pirate Bay, but what if people were too scared to talk about the sites where their content is being made available illegally? What if, in some strange world, the sites hosting the pirated videos were the ones paying for the content in the first place? Internet porn is big – extremely big – and one of the reasons often cited for the rapid growth of the Internet. Every second there is an average of 28,258 Internet users watching porn online, together accounting for an estimated 35% of Internet downloads. Over the past few years, porn industry claims that its very existence has become threatened by piracy have only increased. In addition to the hundreds of torrent sites offering content for no charge, a new type of site has emerged offering a staggering and immediately accessible range of content, at an entry price of absolutely free. Due to their similarity with YouTube, these sites are known as ‘tube’ sites. They operate in much the same way as YouTube, with content being uploaded by their users for viewing by others. The space is dominated by giants including YouPorn and Pornhub, sites which have been heavily criticized due to the endless quantities of unauthorized content they host. But in the ever-evolving adult industry, things are not what they seem. Tube giant takeover ‘Mindgeek’ may not sound familiar to everyone, but this is the new name for one of the biggest companies in the adult industry. Formerly known as Manwin, Mindgeek is a huge company that has scooped up some of the biggest tube sites in the world including YouPorn, Pornhub, Tube8, XTube, RedTube, ExtremeTube and SpankWire to name a few. All in all, Mindgeek is reported to be one of the top three consumers of bandwidth in the world. While Mindgeek sites act within the law by operating an efficient DMCA process that removes user-uploaded content at the request of copyright holders, many adult producers and performers feel that the sites are hitting their bottom line. But while that might be true for some, for others a much more complex situation is emerging. A report this week from ABC showed the news outlet attempting to solicit comments from adult industry performers. However, when the topic turned to piracy on tube sites, suddenly they didn’t want to talk. “I can’t talk about THAT part,†said one actress walking away from the camera. “I really don’t want to say anything because I don’t want them to ban me.†“Them†in this context is Mindgeek, the operator of the tube sites offering unauthorized copies of porn movies uploaded by their users. So why are these actresses scared to talk about Mindgeek and what possible control could it have over them? Spending tube money After making huge quantities of cash via its tube sites, Manwin/Mindgeek bought up several top studios including Brazzers, Digital Playground, Mofos, MyDirtyHobby and Twistys. The company also sucked up the Reality Kings brand and became an online partner of Playboy. This means that some of the performers complaining about piracy on tube sites are actually being paid by the company running them. “Some people have asked me why i’m being a hypocrite and working for [Mindgeek companies],†one actress told ABC. “As a performer, boycotting these companies is not going to take any time, money or anything away from them because if I say no there are another hundred blondes who are willing to do it.†Providing yet another twist, the report also shows adult actress and outspoken piracy critic Tasha Reign arranging to have one of her illegally uploaded videos taken down from Mindgeek-owned PornHub. Reign then admits that she too works for Mindgeek. “It’s like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place in a way, because if I want to shoot content then I kinda have to shoot for [Mindgeek] because that’s the company that books me because they own…almost…everything,†Reign says. In the meantime, it’s reported that a new porn video is made in the United States every 39 minutes. How many will be produced by Mindgeek companies or distributed via their tube sites remains to be seen, but in any event the company could be making money at one end, the other, or intriguingly – both ends at once. ABC US News | ABC Business News
  14. Why People Pirate Game of Thrones, a Global Cost Breakdown Millions of people pirate Game of Thrones instead of paying for it. One of the prime reasons is the hefty price tag that comes with a premium subscription, which isn't really a surprise if you look at the costs in some countries. Honestly, would you pay $500 to follow the latest season? In a few hours a new episode of Game of Thrones will appear on BitTorrent, and a few days later roughly four million people will have downloaded this unofficial release. Those who pirate the show have several reasons for doing so. In some countries there is simply no legal option available, however, the price tag that comes with many of the legal services is almost as big of a hurdle. So what does it cost to access Game of Thrones legally in the countries where the show is most frequently pirated? We decided to take a look based on the list of countries that had the most Game of Thrones file-sharers last week. Below is a selection of the options people have in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands. Australia In Australia, Game of Thrones fans need a Foxtel subscription. When we look at the packages offered on the website the cheapest option appears to be the movie and drama combo, which costs $74 AUD (~ 70 USD) per month. However, the minimum subscription term is six months, which with the added costs adds up to $520 AUD (~ 490 USD). Assuming that someone’s only interested in watching Game of Thrones, an Australian fan will have to pay $52 AUD (~ 49 USD) per episode, which is rather expensive. While it’s not advertised as any of the standard options, there’s also the Foxtel Play subscription. This allows people to watch Game of Thrones on demand on a variety of devices. The regular cost of this plan is $50 AUD (~ 50 USD) per month, and there’s currently an offer to get the first three months for $35 AUD (~ 33 USD). The Foxtel website notes that there is no long contract, which makes this option considerably cheaper. The United States In the United States there are several options available, which vary per cable provider. The cost of most HBO subscriptions are between $15 and $25 per month, depending on where you live and what your current plan is. The downside, in addition to being locked in for several months sometimes, is that the HBO deals require a cable/Internet subscription. This makes the total package considerably more expensive, more than $100 per month in some cases. But then again, pirates need an Internet subscription anyway. The United Kingdom In the United Kingdom Game of Thrones is available via Sky Atlantic. The costs are £21.50 (36 USD) a month, but with a minimum contract period of 12 months. This means that for those who are only interested in Game of Thrones, there’s a price tag of £25.80 per episode. The good news is that UK viewers can watch the episodes simultaneously with the US broadcast, which 9,000 people did this past Sunday. Canada In Canada, Game of Thrones comes in a package of The Movie Network. The price is roughly $20 CAD (~ 18 USD) per month on both Bell and Rogers. This also requires a digital or satellite TV subscription, which drives the price up to over $60 CAD per month for those who don’t have one. Again, as with the previous examples, some plans require a several-months-long contract which makes it less interesting for those who only want to watch Game of Thrones. The Netherlands In the Netherlands HBO can be ordered as an add-on to most standard cable TV subscriptions. The standard price is roughly 15 euros (~ 21 USD) per month, and several providers allow subscribers to cancel after a month. The cheapest cable subscriptions in the Netherlands average around 10 euros, which brings the total package to roughly 25 euros (~ 35 USD) per month. Interestingly, HBO NL offers the first episode of season 4 for free, on YouTube. Of course, this is only available to people from the Netherlands. Conclusion The above shows that Game of Thrones certainly doesn’t come cheap, especially not for the true cable-cutters who have no interest in the other content it’s bundled with. While most people will agree that paying for content is the right thing to do, it’s not always an intuitive choice when a single episode is twice as expensive as a box office ticket for the average Hollywood blockbuster. So do all these pirates have a point or not? According to Bruce Meagher, corporate director of “$52 AUD per episode†Foxtel, they do not. “What we are left with is an argument at the margins about a few dollars. Yet some people still feel that they should be entitled to take this show for free without the consent of its creators rather than pay a reasonable price for an extraordinary product,†he says. “The Lannisters may not be a pleasant lot, but they, at least, always pay their debts,†he adds.