by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 8:06pm
by Michael Ho
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Various economic figures can be used to try to predict how many medals each country will earn in 2012. The USA is expected to get somewhere between 99 and 113 medals, and China is predicted to come in second place with 67-98 medals. [url]
- The London Eye will be lit up like a mood ring during the Olympics, based on Tweets and a bit of sentimental analysis to gauge positive and negative commentary of the Games. The analysis is sponsored by an energy company, so it'll be watching for words like "Olympics", "London 2012" and the hashtag #energy2012. [url]
- Researchers from the Center for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK will be studying the 2012 games to look for significant changes in athletic performance. They've developed a "performance improvement index" to quantify things like: how sprinters are running faster than ever before or that javelin throwers are in a performance plateau. [url]
by Nina Paley
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 4:20pm
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 3:15pm
from the breating-new-life dept
When asked how ARMA 2 developer Bohemian Interactive felt about the mod, Dean had this to say:
They’re very happy. The sales have been huge, just massive. By our calculations based on player IDs, you’re looking at 300,000 in sales, which is a very significant chunk of total ArmA 2’s sales. So they’re obviously very happy about that and it’s a validation for their strategy and focus with modding.By embracing the mod culture in video games, the original creators were able to reach out to more gamers and make more money. This is a very powerful tool that game creators can take advantage of. Yet some developers seem to not want it, at all. Very strange. Perhaps as more developers look at successes such as this one, they will learn to be a bit more accommodating to fans.
But what is in it for the modder? Most mods are released for free and so there is little financial incentive to create them. Dean also has something to say on that front:
Yes, I think modding is really good because you go along someone else’s footsteps and you can learn a lot about how someone else has done something. It’s kind of like reverse engineering things. You figure out what they’ve done, how their data structure works, how their engine works and all these other things.As a developer myself, this is something I can certainly attest to. You can learn far more by following and altering existing code than you can by trying to create something on your own. As you become more comfortable with inner workings of the programming languages or other tools you are using, you gain more confidence in your ability to create something from scratch. What better way to promote progress than to provide new developers the ability to learn from your work?
I think it is a really good place to start because you’re using someone else’s framework. If you want to cut your teeth straight in there with C++ I think that’s a lot to chew off and you can end up not getting exposure to all those issues that if you knew them would make a lot more sense when building your engine from scratch or using someone’s toolkit engine from scratch.
It is really great to see more discussion happening in the games industry about modding—and especially its potential to launch the careers of new developers. We have seen many mods such as Defense of the Ancients, a Warcraft 3 mod, spawn very successful stand alone games, which is a goal that Dean and Matt hope to reach as a result of this very successful mod.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 2:11pm
Biggest Critic Of NBC's Awful Olympic Coverage Has Twitter Account Suspended For Tweeting NBC Exec's Email
from the questionable... dept
Adams, quite rightly, found this to be odd, noting that Zenkel's corporate email address is not private at all. As Deadspin shows in the link above, Adams let Twitter's PR folks know it:
I'm of course happy to abide by Twitter's rules, now and forever. But I don't see how I broke them in this case: I didn't publish a private email address. Just a corporate one, which is widely available to anyone with access to Google, and is identical to one that all of the tens of thousands of NBC Universal employees share.Adams also wonders if the suspension happened because of complaints from NBC -- a Twitter partner in this Olympics coverage, remember -- who is upset about Adams' constant berating on Twitter as well as in the publication he writes for, The Independent. In fact, NBC has put out a statement confirming that it filed a complaint about Adams' Twitter account, though Twitter did not need to then suspend his account.
It's no more "private" than the address I'm emailing you from right now.
Either way, quite worrying that NBC, whose parent company are an Olympic sponsor, are apparently trying (and, in this case, succeeding) in shutting down the Twitter accounts of journliasts who are critical of their Olympic coverage.
And, of course, as tends to happen in these sorts of situations, Gary Zenkel's email address is now much more widely available because tons of press reports are including it.
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 1:07pm
from the there's-a-'soylent-green'-joke-in-there-and-i'm-going-to-go-get dept
It's not much to look at from a distance:
But, fortunately, Huh Magazine has a selection of closeup shots to better show how piracy is swiftly turning musicians blue.
In the following two closeups, a few details stand out, which we decided to highlight for discussion purposes:
 A man who looks suspiciously like Kim Dotcom as portrayed by Rex Ryan gestures wildly at the cowering musicians while unwittingly providing user names and passwords to the onlooking Anonymous member.
 Lyle Lovett is menaced by an eyeless worlock who uses his magicks to unsettle Lovett's hairpiece.
 A Hindu techie delivers a new monitor.
 A man requests a refund for his defective power strip, gesturing at the distinct lack of sockets.
 H8trs gonna h8.
A set of striking images to be sure, reminding each and every one of us John Q. Downloaders that your computer's hard drive is made out of people, and each download is slowly (depending on ISP) drowning them. Which is bad, because most of them own expensive electronic devices.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 12:07pm
from the this-will-not-end-well dept
If you look around, there are others selling Anonymous apparel, but trying to trademark the logo, and limit its use by others isn't just playing with fire, it's directly taunting a large group of people with weapons that shoot fire... and who have little hesitation in using them.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 11:09am
Yet Again, Netflix Class Action Shows That Class Action Lawsuits Are Mostly About Making Lawyers Rich
from the not-stopping-people dept
So it's interesting to see that with yet another class action lawsuit being settled involving Netflix, there are similar concerns. A whole bunch of folks sent in variations on the fact that Netflix will be paying out $9 million with a grand total of none of it going to the class (unless you happened to be one of the two named plaintiffs -- Jeff Milans and Peter Comstock -- who get to split $30,000). Most of the money is going to a charity. But somewhere around $2.25 million is going to the lawyers.
To be clear, I think the lawsuit itself is a bit silly anyway. It involves the fact that Netflix retained info on customers who quit. Big whoop. But whether or not you agree with the premise of the lawsuit, the end result seems even sillier: those supposedly "harmed" get nothing, but the lawyers walk away with over $2 million? It's this kind of thing that creates incentives for more such lawsuits driven by law firms in the hopes of cashing in.
UK Politicians Don't Seem To Mind That Every Web Page You Load Is Copyright Infringement Under Current Law
from the you're-breaking-the-law-while-reading-this dept
Last year Techdirt wrote about the almost unbelievable Meltwater decision in the UK, where the courts said that viewing a Web page without the owner's permission was copyright infringement. In November last year, leave was granted to Meltwater to make an appeal against the ruling to the UK's Supreme Court. However, that still leaves the inconvenient matter of the infringement by tens of millions of UK Web users hundreds of times every day in the meantime.
To rectify this ridiculous situation, the British MP Fiona O'Donnell has proposed some simple amendments to UK copyright law, as this post on Out-Law.com explains:
The act of downloading data required to view that copyright material "and any subsequent processing of that data, including processing for display, provided that it does not result in any publication elsewhere of the work or an adaptation of the work" should also be explicitly permissible, O'Donnell's draft amendment had proposed.
Given its frequent exhortations to the public not to infringe on copyright in any way, you would have thought the UK government would have rushed this amendment through in order to legalize what are, after all, absolutely indispensable actions when using the Web. But no:
Last week Business Minister Norman Lamb said the Government would not draft new copyright laws to make the act of website browsing explicitly legitimate and not in breach of copyright until the courts had ruled on the issue.
Since the Supreme Court is not expected to rule on this until the beginning of next year, that means another six months of blanket infringement for UK users of the Web. When even the British government seems not to care about the letter of copyright law, which is hard enough to understand at the best of times, how are ordinary citizens supposed to know what is legal or illegal as they go about their daily lives online?
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 9:00am
from the you-need-a-seriously-large-staff-to-get-nothing-done dept
When it comes to dealing with the "permission culture" that goes hand-in-hand with copyright these days, there's really no way to win. Certain rights holders claim they just want to be asked, but the actual process involved makes it seem like you'd save a ton of time just assuming the answer is "no."
Hugh Brown (a.k.a. Huge), an Australian recording artist and music business coach, experienced this circuitous process firsthand when he attempted to craft a parody of Adam Lambert's "If I Had You," entitled "If I Had Stew." Parodies are handled a bit differently in Australia, despite recent concessions in Australian fair dealing laws. According to APRA (Australasian Performing Rights Association), "lyric changes and parodies of works must [be] cleared directly with the copyright owner."
"If I Had You" wasn't written by Lambert, but by Swedish songwriting team Maratone (Max Martin, Shellback and Kritian Lundin). But Huge couldn't approach Maratone directly as its website indicated that all the trio's songs were owned by the writer's respective labels. So he emailed Maratone and sent another form asking RCA/Jive Records for permission to make this recording.
Huge heard nothing from Sony but did hear back from Maratone... who told him to contact Kobalt Music Publishing and clear it with EMI as well. Quick count of players involved: There's Maratone, the trio of songwriters behind Adam Lambert (who's likely off sleeping the undisturbed sleep of successful angels). Sony Music. RCA/Jive Records. Kobalt Music Publishing. And EMI. That's four labels and not a single person willing to discuss clearing Huge's parody.
A couple of weeks pass and Sony still hasn't responded. Kobalt UK and EMI Australia have... sort of. The two labels directed Huge to yet another set of forms to fill out, despite him having given them all this information in his initial emails. The new forms aren't even for requesting permission to record a parody. All they do is assist the labels in compiling a price quote on the as-of-yet unrecorded song. And even if permission is granted, it likely still won't be enough. EMI only owns one-third of the track in question. Songwriter Savan Kovetchka, an EMI signee, contributed to Lambert's track, along with Max Martin and Shellback. This means Huge still needs permission from the other two songwriters and some sort of answer from Sony.
It's now nearly a month since Huge first made contact and no progress has been made. Sony appears to be ignoring his requests. If anything, he's further behind than he was 27 days ago, when this whole thing kicked off. The "good" news is that Kobalt Media (representing Kotecha) said "yes," giving Huge one-third of a "permission" -- pending EMI's approval... and when it comes to getting written permission, one-third of a permission slip is worth approximately one-third of nothing. Huge did the right thing and asked (and asked... and asked) for permission, but despite the ever-growing list of interested parties, it looks as if "permission" might be something they simply can't give. And then... things go completely off the rails.
Huge opens his last post on the debacle with, "Well, I'm gobsmacked! No wonder the major labels are in so much trouble." Kobalt has given their blessing but EMI begins a long process of royalty-related correspondence so twisted it would make Joseph Heller proud.
It starts out with a simple request for clarification by EMI.
What is your main goal for this use?Huge responds:
In your original enquiry you have noted that you intended to make a video for the song but have said "maybe" in your request form. Is this principally for release as an mp3 single?
To be honest, my main intention is to make the song for my own amusement.Gauging the market before putting the song up for sale is just common sense and YouTube's a pretty good place to get quick feedback. But as soon as YouTube is mentioned, EMI fires off a preliminary standard contract for sync rights, showing that its share of any money generated would be 33.34% and a guesstimated one-time fee of $1000.
If I play it to few people who agree with me that it's fun and good, then I'll think seriously about making a video as cheaply as possible and releasing it on YouTube. I have a few people who are interested in helping with that, though they wanna hear it first.
If it gets any traction on YouTube, then I'll think about releasing it as an MP3 and via iTunes, etc ... I just wanted to clear everything properly first.
Huge forwards EMI his approval letter from Kobalt, which sends the label off on an entirely different tangent.
I just want to clarify with you that we are the licensing department of EMI Publishing, so we are quoting you on the synchronisation rights if you intend on using the work in a video clip. If you want to request approval to record and release this song you will need to get in contact with our copyright department.So, Huge has been talking to the wrong people. He sends a letter back acknowledging the fact that he (obviously) can't sync the video until after he's recorded the song. He asks EMI for a contact name in the copyright department and receives this in response:
Will you be getting a mechanical license from AMCOS before putting this song on youtube or will you be putting it on youtube before you get a mechanical license?This a question that can't be answered. According to APRA/AMCOS rules, Huge needs to secure permission before he can worry about uploading it to YouTube. He tries again to get EMI to follow his line of thinking: get permission, record, upload.
That depends on whether I am allowed to use Sony's backing music or whether I have to completely re-record it myself ... still no word from Sony.EMI takes this clear statement of ducks-in-a-row and it decides that the mechanical license question needs to be clarified before anything else can proceed, except that other stuff (getting permission) also needs to happen first and perhaps simultaneously.
My instinct is to clear everything before I do anything. If I know what it's all gonna cost me I can do up budgets and set targets and so on. I just figured that securing permission was the first step ...
So does this mean that you do not intend to release the song with a mechanical license prior to putting a video on youtube?At this stage, Huge is still waiting for permission from two more writers. EMI, however, only seems to be concerned with properly licensing a song that a.) doesn't exist and b.) quite possibly won't exist if permission is denied. It's also given Huge the "opportunity" to pay an upfront fee of $1000 for a track he might not even make. Huge (once again) points out his thought process: permission, record, YouTube/mp3. This repeated clarification makes no difference. EMI is still hung up on the mechanical license for syncing when it's not trying to just punt the whole thing over to the copyright department. EMI also insists that its previously mentioned $1000 "contract" is valid for only four weeks, after which it will need to issue a new contract. Huge points out (again) that he still is waiting on permission to record.
If you intend on getting a mechanical license first you will need to get approval to record and release an adaption but if you do not intend on releasing the song first you will need a synchronisation license.
EMI responds with this amazing statement, which baldly states that the label doesn't particularly care whether or not Huge ever gets a chance to record this parody if he's not willing to throw some cash its way:
We can not give you permission to do anything with the song until you commit to a sync license (internet video) or a mechanical license (release) so please confirm if and when you are ready to proceed.Huge attempts to wrap his mind around this:
OK, so let me get this straight: EMI will not contact the writer and ask for permission for me to make a parody unless I fork out $1000 upfront and possibly also a mechanical license ... for a song I might not be given permission to make and that might turn out to be unreleasable ...Precisely. If you want artists to play nice within the confines of your system, then you need to have a workable system, not just a set of loosely-related entities all acting independently and in their own best interests. Having multiple layers of corporate bureaucracy standing between two artists only hurts those who are actually trying to do the right thing. If Huge had gone the other way and decided that it was easier to ask forgiveness than permission, I can guarantee that any sort of takedown or cease-and-desist would come from a single source. When it comes to saying "no," you generally only need one person. But to get a "yes?" That's a "team" effort, apparently.
Alternatively, they won't ask for permission for me to record the parody until ... I've recorded it and know what I'm gonna do with it. No wonder people are just breaking the rules and doing what they want with recorded music!
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 7:41am
from the speak-up dept
Either way, this is the week to let your Senator know how you feel about all of this (and if you're a constituent of McCain or Huchison, please ask why they're so against protecting the privacy of the American public). The American Library Association has kindly set up a simple one-click tool to call your Senator and let them know how you feel.
The EFF has a page with some more info as well, noting that it's basically too late to email your Senators, so please call. If you want some more info, check out Fred Wilson's analysis of the situation, which matches almost exactly with mine. We still have not been given a compelling reason why any such legislation is needed. We keep hearing scare stories about mushroom clouds and planes falling from the sky if information can't be shared. But... what no one has done yet is explain which existing regulations block the necessary sharing of information. If they did that, we could look at fixing those laws. Instead, we're just told scare stories and given a massive 211-page bill that wipes out all sorts of previous laws, and adds all sorts of other things to the law. Given the length of the bill, it's quite likely there are some awful "easter eggs" in there that we'll only discover years down the road.
That said, if the bill is going to pass, it would be much better if it had very strong privacy protections in it, and the Franken/Paul amendment go a long way towards putting such protections in. The McCain/Huchison proposal do the opposite, and basically seek to take away privacy protections, while giving the NSA much more ability to access your data. Don't let the Senate trample your privacy rights. Go ahead and use the ALA's tool to contact your Senator today.
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 6:40am
NBC: We Have No Clue Who Tim Berners-Lee Is, But Without Our Commentary, You Wouldn't Understand The Olympics
from the brought-to-you-in-full-color-tape-delay! dept
First of all, seriously? Tape delay to the West Coast? You lock down coverage in order to take advantage of prime time and try to pass it off as some sort of "value added" service. Pay no mind to all the twittering and live blogging willing to fill in the gaps, while you do some sort of production magic behind the scenes. Live events don't need windows and real life shouldn't need **spoiler** warnings.
Even worse is the fact that the opening ceremonies weren't even streamed live on the internet, where time and distance aren't factors. And you know it, too, because your official Twitter accounts were posting updates live, giving Americans the dusty old feeling that they're listening to a local broadcaster read off the ticker feed from a title match. So close, but so far.
But us poor internet denizens. If we weren't so damn stupid, we could be trusted with a live feed. NBC's official statement:
"They [the opening ceremonies] are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context, which our award-winning production team will provide for the large primetime audiences that gather together to watch them."Translation: our advertisers have paid us a literal shit-tonne of money to have a large primetime audience delivered to them, so fold your hands in your lap and stare blankly at your television until the broadcast begins.
I'm no social media maven but I'm pretty sure the internet does just fine adding "context" and is perfectly capable of "watching stuff" as it happens. For example, they seem perfectly find adding context to the fact that your hosts suck, as aptly pointed out via this collection of tweets asking Matt Lauer to shut up.
And what the hell is this about "expertise?" Did you even hear your own anchors?
As the London Olympic games honored World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, NBC hosts Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer admitted — almost bragged — that they didn’t know who he was.[There's video here of the ignorance if you're so inclined. Obviously, NBC would rather you not relive this moment over and over so it's tucked away in someone's Tumblr and not embeddable.]
It’s a shame, because it took attention away from a pretty cool tribute to the history of tech and the way it has transformed modern life and communications. Text messages, status updates, photo sharing and smartphones all played a part.
Indeed, every seat had an LED panel to create a stadium-wide megadisplay.
“One more thing I don’t understand,” Viera added.
Evidently someone handed them a memo, because Viera was able to correctly identify Berners-Lee several minutes later, as he typed out a message (on a NeXT cube) that was shown on that oh-so-confusing LED screen.
The inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, without whom a lot of this stuff you're botching wouldn't even be possible, makes an appearance and your talking heads act almost triumphant they've never heard of him. What the hell? Was Aaron Sorkin writing the cue cards?
There's "seizing the moment" and then there's "closing your eyes and sticking one arm out," hoping the moment trips over you on its way to the goal line. You're the placekickers of "complex entertainment spectacles."
On the bright side, I would imagine there's nowhere to go but up from the Opening Ceremonies. But I'm sure you've still got a few gaffes up your sleeve, especially if you stick with your "adding context with ignorant commentary" plan.
[Oh, never mind. It's happened already.]
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 4:38am
from the punishing-your-paying-customers dept
So would it come as any surprise that it may now be facing a "rootkit moment" of its own?
As a whole bunch of folks have been submitting, some hackers have figured out that Ubisoft's Uplay DRM appears to install an unsecure browser plugin. The details came out over the weekend, first on a security mailing list, and were then followed up with some test exploit code posted to Hacker News.
Basically, it appears that Ubisoft's DRM is installing an accidental backdoor that makes it possible for any website to effectively take control over your computer. That's... uh... pretty bad.
From the details, the real problem sounds to be one of exceptionally poor coding, rather than maliciousness. Basically, they wanted to let you launch the game via a website, but failed to limit it to just the game -- meaning that a site can make use of the plugin to basically do a whole bunch of stuff on your computer (including things you don't want it to do). The browser plugin is easy to remove (and you should, um, immediately, if you've installed any Ubisoft games), so it's not quite as messy as Sony's rootkit, which was pretty deeply buried. But it's still really bad.
Yet another case of DRM really making life difficult for legitimate customers who paid money for your product. When will companies figure out that DRM does nothing to stop piracy, but makes life really difficult for the people who actually give you money?
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 3:09am
time warner cable
Time Warner Cable Is Ready For A 'Conversation' About Rising Costs, But Not The One You Want To Have
from the choose-your-friends dept
So it's interesting to see that Time Warner Cable has set up a site, called Time Warner Cable Conversations, which they claim is a conversation with consumers about how to "fight rising costs." Except... they really only want the conversation to be about rising costs caused by what the TV networks charge to carry the channels. If you want to talk about fighting rising costs by arguing against broadband metering, well, too bad. The whole site is moderated and limited and it appears that only conversations about TV networks and such are allowed. That's not much of a "conversation" now, is it?