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About Dark HelmetTechdirt Insider

I am a technology consultant, contributor here at Techdirt, and an author. I hope to someday get enough people reading the books I sell to garner a scathing review.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/112205

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Posted on Techdirt - 4 May 2015 @ 9:06pm

The Virgin Group Disputes Trademark Application Of Tiny Olive Oil Company Vasse Virgin Because Of Course They Did

from the oily dept

The Virgin Group, headed up by Richard Branson, has something of a reputation for being promiscuous when it comes to trademark disputes over the word "Virgin." At times, it seems like whatever lawyers are working for Virgin actually think that any business using the word needs a bit of slapping around, even when there is essentially zero chance of customer confusion. In one case, in which Virgin had targeted a small jeans maker called I Am Not A Virgin out of NYC, the founder of that company quipped in a video whether or not Branson would think that people walking by "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" would be confused into thinking that Virgin Group had something to do with it.

Hahahahahaha... Oh, shit. It turns out Branson does think that's the case. Well, sort of.

[Virgin Group] believes customers might get confused and associate Vasse Virgin products with its renowned global brand. The local company has 23 staff and produces olive oil-based food, soap and skin-care products. Co-owner Edwina Scherini said Vasse Virgin recently tried to register a logo using the same name since 2009.

"The Virgin Group has objected to the application, claiming the right to exclusive use of the word 'virgin'," she said.
Yes, a tiny Autralian olive oil company is now in a trademark dispute with the Virgin Group and we all have to watch what we say from now on, lest we give Mr. Branson any ideas. Now Virgin Group claims on the record that the two companies do indeed compete with one another within relevant industries that would be covered by the trademark, but I can't for the life of me figure out where that's the case. Looking through some information on what Virgin makes, I don't find foodstuffs or olive oil making the list. Regardless, I find it fairly unlikely that anyone is going to confuse Vasse Virgin's oils with something created by the enormous Virgin Group, considering there are no common features in the logos or the marks themselves, beyond the use of the word Virgin. Couple that with Virgin's reputation for being overly protective, and this seems to reek of a legal department with too much time on its hands.

But Virgin says this has nothing to do with olive oil. It's about transportation services contained in the application.
Virgin Group Asia Pacific brand public relations and digital communications manager Elizabeth Gain said the trademark application "covers a very broad range of goods and services, some of which fall squarely into the core activities of the Virgin Group, in particular transportation services".

"Our concerns do not relate to use of the name in connection with olive oil products," she said.
If that were the case, the whole dispute could be easily dismissed with Vasse Virgin assuring everyone that they didn't have enough time in between making olive oil containers to create an international airline. That doesn't seem to be the case, though, as the demands from Virgin Group have been numerous.
Mrs Scherini said lawyers for the two companies have discussed the matter since 2013.

"Vasse Virgin agreed to a number of demands, apart from one that we felt may have the capacity to cause serious damage to our business in the future," she said. Mrs Scherini said the process had been "extremely stressful" emotionally and financially.
Branson and his team bullying a small, unrelated business through trademark? I am so shocked!

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Posted on Case Studies - 1 May 2015 @ 10:50am

Tidal's Failure: A Reminder To Musicians That It's Not Easy To Build A Successful Streaming Service

from the seeeeee? dept

It's become commonplace in some parts of the legacy content industries to hate on basically any successful internet service that brings creative content to the public in a way that people actually like. We see attacks on Spotify, Netflix, Pandora and more for "not paying enough," and demands from those companies that they need to pay more. As we've noted, this often takes the form of trying to kill the golden goose. Almost always implicit in these discussions is the idea that the service itself is worthless and that all of the value comes from the content. That these services deserve to make any money at all is seen as some sort of insult to the copyright holders. The underlying belief here is that the service part is easy.

But, of course, that's wrong. Lots of services try and fail to capture the public's imagination. The content is important (and all of these services pay huge amounts of money -- often way more than half of their revenue to the copyright holders) but building a service people actually want to use is not an easy task. When those who think otherwise jump in and think they can simply "build their own" such service, you hope they would slowly start to understand this point.

You may recall that Jay-Z recently bought and relaunched a music streaming service, naming it Tidal. The whole rollout had severe issues, some of which Mike outlined in the post linked above (the lack of any free tier), and some issues I had myself that dovetail with Tidal's entire marketing platform. You see, Tidal's message was all about how artist-friendly it would be, working itself into a froth over being the anti-Pandora/Spotify/Whatever service, which were all demonized as not paying artists nearly enough money for their music. Which, fine, whatever, it's a message of a sort, I suppose. But to roll that message out with marketing ads featuring insanely wealthy musicians in designer clothes all getting together to talk about ushering in a new service designed to generate more money for themselves (and perhaps newer artists too)? Look, there's nothing wrong with being rich, but that's just bad PR.

And, after the first several weeks since its debut, it seems like Tidal is less a wave and more a ripple.

Tidal is now the 50th most popular music app in the iTunes store, and doesn't even crack the top 700 overall. Any hot new app will see a big drop in downloads after the hype from its launch dies down, but it doesn't look like Tidal was all that hot to begin with. It briefly peaked at #19 overall before falling out of the top 200 less than two weeks later.

Meanwhile, its competitors are surging: Pandora is at #7, Spotify is at #34, and Beats Music just broke the top 50. Even circa-2013 Spotify challenger Rdio is seeing more downloads than Tidal this week.
Not a good showing, especially given all of the star-power behind it. But let's not treat this by dancing on any freshly dug graves. That would be premature anyway, since we are only talking about a couple of weeks worth of market time here. Regardless of that fact, what this should do is teach some artists an important lesson about the difficulty of providing a music streaming platform, the market forces that decided the winners and losers, and the value that a good streaming service brings both to customers and to artists alike.

The whole campaign against Pandora and Spotify has been insane since the very beginning. Streaming services that provide a useful way for customers and potential customers to find, listen to, and to become fans of artists and their work were demonized as greedy technocratic regimes designed solely to make sure singers didn't have enough bus-fare to get home at night. That was silly, of course, as one look at the amount of income those streaming services generate versus what artists wanted in terms of royalties, but the whole thing was really begging for a "If you think it's so easy, come up with your own service" rebuttal. Jay-Z tried to take this on. It's starting to look like he failed.

Failure is okay, but only if you learn from it. The very thing that Tidal failed to offer is what makes the other services so popular.
Some of Tidal’s problems were apparent to anyone who is not a wealthy member of the illuminati or close personal friend of Jay Z: its main value proposition was that, for only 10 dollars a month more than you’re paying for Spotify—that’s just two Starbucks lattes!—you can feed and clothe the famous multimillionaires you see on your screen. But it also had some less obvious flaws, like a very shittily-designed app with broken search functionality and a marketing message—attacking those other, non-artist-benefitting streaming services—that seems to have helped Spotify more than it helped Tidal.
Combined with no free tier, the single selling point for Tidal appeared to be appealing to the masses to use a service that pays artists more money than the others. It didn't work. Not because people do not want artists to succeed, but because the other services work better than Tidal and the artists pimping Tidal did nothing to connect with customers. It was a plea, entirely one-sided, with nothing additional offered to the customer. That's the lesson: streaming services aren't as easy to do as these artists thought. Now let's see if they do anything with that lesson.

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Posted on Techdirt - 1 May 2015 @ 4:15am

ESPN & NFL Network Still Pretending Twitter Doesn't Exist During NFL Draft

from the on-the-clock dept

If you follow technology news long enough and you'll be imbued with a sense of wonder at how quickly most things technology-related progress. Social media rollouts blaze ahead and become dominant quickly. The specs inside our machines continue to balloon. Brand new tech comes out and is adopted by the younger generations with an ease that seems downright impossible. Companies, because they have to, embrace the speed of new technology as well. Everything is faster, more content-rich. It seems the early adopters these days are big corporations eager to gain an edge through the technology the public already is or soon will be using.

Which brings me to this question: have ya'll heard of Twitter? Yes, yes, I figured that you have, but I'd like to know whether any of you Tweeps out there happen to know anybody at the National Football League? Because they seem to think that Twitter is a thing that can be controlled when it comes to the NFL draft. It's been a couple of years since I first laughed at the NFL for forcing ESPN and the NFL Network, two of its broadcasting partners, to agree not to tweet draft picks before they were announced on television. Two years later, a lifetime in technological progress terms, and the NFL is stilll doing this, apparently.

ESPN and NFL Network both have rights to televise the NFL draft, and, as they have in the past, this year they will show the good and just Roger Goodell that they value the product he’s bestowed upon them by not allowing their reporters to tweet picks before the commissioner announces them at the podium. That NFL Network agrees to this makes sense. (It has no choice, since it’s a glorified PR channel for the league.) What’s ESPN’s excuse?
Well, some of us argue that ESPN has nothing to do with news and is instead a self-marketing institution built on the leagues for which it broadcasts. To that end, the "journalists" are actually marketing agents, doing the bidding of the ultimate customer, the leagues, including the NFL. Taken at face value, the agreement for ESPN reporters to refuse to tweet out much-sought information they've obtained is an abdication of any journalistic ethics they might pretend to have.

But the larger question is: who does the NFL think they're fooling? After all, this scheme would work wonders to control information about draft picks...if Twitter users only followed NFL Network and ESPN employees. That isn't how this works as a sports fan, of course, meaning that anyone who wants to get quicker information on the draft will certainly have it. That renders this whole exercise pretty damned meaningless for the NFL.

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Posted on Techdirt - 30 April 2015 @ 9:05pm

Fanboy Fight: How One Apple/Android Argument Ended In A Stabbing

from the stop-it dept

Every one of us has already had this fight at some point: Apple or Android? The two dominant players in the mobile space carry with them very loyal fanbases who, for some reason, like to spar off with one another over whose tech-daddy could beat up the other. The companies compete with the same level of petty at times, which doesn't help. Apple screws around with text messages from Android users, Android pokes back at Apple over the controlling hand it has in its app store, and the two companies spend a great deal of time in legal battles because of course they do. C'mon, guys, can't we all just spend our time pointing and laughing at Windows Mobile?

Apparently not, considering the report that one recent Android/Apple argument concluded with both combatants stabbing the hell out of each other with broken glasses.

Tulsa’s Channel 8 reports that police were called to a local apartment complex at around 1:00am on the morning of April 17 to investigate at least one report of a bloody person wandering around the parking lot. According to the Tulsa World, police found roommates Jiro Mendez and Elias Ecevo each in some distress—Mendez was the man in the parking lot and was covered in scratches and wounds, while Ecevo, similarly wounded, apparently had stayed inside their apartment.

The World indicates that Mendez told police that the wounds resulted from an argument between the roommates, which started over which roommate had the better smartphone—Apple or Android—and ended with both roommates allegedly stabbing each other with broken glass bottles, and Ecevo allegedly stealing Mendez’s car (police found the car near the apartment, with blood in the interior). Perhaps unsurprisingly, alcohol appears to have been a factor in the fight.
Yeah, no kidding. I have my brand loyalty, too, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't feel so offended at a roommate's opinion of my phone that I felt I had to avenge the inanimate object by getting all stabby. Both men ended up getting arrested and were sent to the hospital to have their wounds treated. In a perfect world, they would be laid up next to each other, Instagram-selfying from their beds with comments about how awesome the pictures from their respective phones looked.

Either way, I'm guessing there might be changes to their lease coming shortly.

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Posted on Techdirt - 30 April 2015 @ 2:23pm

Valve Announces It's Handing Its Banning-Keys Over To Game Developers

from the trust-us dept

In the wake of the recent flop that was Valve's attempt to create a platform for paid game mods, you'd have thought that the company would be on its digital toes when it comes to being gamer-friendly. I have no interest in piling on Valve or the Steam platform, given what a great example of how game developers can make money in the digital age, but I was a bit surprised to learn that the company just announced it won't be in charge of banning gamers from games any longer. Instead, it's turning the keys to banning gamers over to the game developers themselves.

Because nobody likes playing with cheaters. Playing games should be fun. In order to ensure the best possible online multiplayer experience, Valve allows developers to implement their own systems that detect and permanently ban any disruptive players, such as those using cheats. Game developers inform Valve when a disruptive player has been detected in their game, and Valve applies the game ban to the account. The game developer is solely responsible for the decision to apply a game ban. Valve only enforces the game ban as instructed by the game developer. For more information about a game ban in a specific game, please contact the developer of that game.
Now, when anyone, including the Steam announcement above, talks about reasons to ban gamers from games, cheating is always brought up. And, indeed, nobody would be wrong to suggest that gamers cheating in online games reduce the fun-factor for the rest of the gaming community. Would it be better to exclude cheaters from games? Yes, no doubt. Is Valve's announced plans above to turn the responsibility for banning games from its platform make for a good way to go about this? Hell no.

Why? Well, because giving that kind of control over to the game developers shifts the balance of power when it comes to being banned from games and the reasons why a player might be banned. The nice thing about Steam is that it has two sets of customers: both the gamers themselves and the game developers on its service. Therefore, when Steam is the one administering the ban-button, it essentially serves as an arbiter. It might be an imperfect arbiter, sure, but having all the power to ban customers from games residing in the hands of developers takes us from imperfect to completely broken. Whatever the developers say goes.

And developers haven't always proven that they can be trusted with lesser forms of this power. Imagine Derek Smart in this scenario, no longer having the power to simply blanket-ban gamers from the Steam forums over negative reviews and comments, but now also being able to ban them from his games. Other developers have already attempted to ban players from their own single-player games over forum issues, so imagine what's going to happen now that there is no "trying", only "doing" when it comes to bans.

Steam made its mark by being fairly friendly to gamers in a myriad of ways. Giving this much power over bans to game developers is a step in the opposite direction. It would be a strange decision at any time, but now it seems particularly odd.

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Posted on Techdirt - 30 April 2015 @ 1:11pm

Iranian Cleric Suggests The West Ban And Criminalize Negative Portrayals Of Muslims To Prevent Radicalization

from the how-about-no dept

As the nuclear talks between America and Iran continue, perhaps one inevitability is going to be cross-cultural diffusion of a kind. After all, should the deal lead to improved relations, one would expect influence to be peddled by both sides. Since there are very real issues our two nations have to discuss, this should be an overall good thing. But there are some cultural changes that just aren't going to happen.

Take the suggestion from Iranian cleric Ayatollah Salman Safavi, for instance, that Americans combat Islamic extremism by making sure our movies and video games include only favorable representations of his religion lest they cause the very radicalization at the root of the "constantly" negative current portrayals of Muslims and Islam.

"In the Western media be it in films, games or news, Muslims and Islam are constantly associated with terrorism, violence and backwardness, they are constantly portrayed as the "other" to the white European or American and in constant conflict with it," Dr. Safavi tells the Telegraph. "This causes alienation and isolation particularly for young people, who dream of having success in life and being contributing members of society but see their way of life, their beliefs, and what they hold sacred being constantly attacked and degraded. Islamophobia in media be it films or games or news should be considered as promoting and aiding terrorism and also being [a] hate crime."
You can see the cultural differences clashing against each other here. Self-censorship isn't how America does things, after all. Which isn't to say that misrepresentation of the larger Muslim public isn't a real thing, or that action shouldn't be taken by those in the know to combat that portrayal. But those actions must operate within the framework of free and open speech. Take the work of Aasif Mandvi, for instance. The correspondent from The Daily Show has put out a new series called Halal in the Family. The show dissects and highlights anti-Muslim portrayals, using comedy as a vehicle for the discussion. That's how bad or unfair speech is combatted in America, with other, better speech. Asking us to self-censor is a non-starter.

And through real, honest, and open speech, progress can be made. If the Islamic world is being unfairly portrayed, its denizens should feel welcome, if not obligated, to step into the ring of speech and ideas, and put up a fight. They get the same rights as everyone else, after all. Engaging in that way will push the discussion onto a higher platform. It's not like the media keeps its boogeymen around forever. Just ask the Communists. These things have a shelf-life.

The ideal of free speech, on the other hand, does not.

143 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 30 April 2015 @ 9:53am

Music Licensing Groups Argue That An Homeowners Association Playing Music At The Pool Is A Public Performance

from the no-it-isn't dept

Sometimes it feels like these copyright collections groups are in some kind of insane competition in which the winner is whoever can make the dumbest claim about something being a public performance in order to collect royalties for themselves artists no, seriously, the artists barely get anything. From stereos in rental vehicles, to any kind of cloud-music-streaming, to freaking ringtones, it's all been tried and most of it has failed.

The latest entry to this tournament of greed comes from licensing group Sesac, which has been targeting homeowners associations that have stereos and speakers at communal areas for homeowners, such as swimming pools and barbecues.

A neighborhood in Matthews got a letter from Sesac, which is one of the big three music licensing companies in this country, and the tone of the letter unnerved them. It wasn't the first letter from them suggesting they may want to get a music license to play music at their pool or at the clubhouse during holiday gatherings, or any gathering for that matter. The letter also pointed out that violating copyright law is expensive and, "under the law, damages up to $150,000 may be awarded for each copyright infringed."

What they're saying is, if you are playing music in a public venue, like a pool or a community club house, and you don't have the license to do it, you have to pay the royalties to the artist who wrote and performed the song originally.
The problem with all of this is that, of course, a communal swimming pool or clubhouse within a neighborhood under a homeowners association isn't a public venue. Put another way, there's an obvious difference between a public swimming pool and a communal pool to be used by a specific neighborhood or gated community. It's not...you know...open to the public. These are private gatherings among neighbors, more akin to a block party than a concert setting or a swimming pool open to the public.

At the link, Sesac claims they were just reaching out to "make an offer", an offer which just happened to come along with the helpful information that thousands of dollars might be coming in fines should its "offer" not be accepted.
We talked to John Nipp who is a patent and copyright attorney with Additon, Higgins, and Pendleton, P.A. in south Charlotte.

"What those groups are using to their advantage is the complexity of the copyright law. They're using that to their benefit by putting things in there like you could be liable for $150,000 in damages".
They're scammers, in other words, using threats and the complexity of the law to extract money from the innocent. It's damned time victims of these tactics had some kind of recourse for having to endure these threats.

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Posted on Techdirt - 29 April 2015 @ 2:45pm

A Gronking To Remember Is Immortalized In Lawsuit Against Apple/Amazon/Author

from the gronk-gronk-gronk dept

Turns out I owe the NFL an apology. Yes, at the beginning of the year, we discussed how an erotic novel that includes Patriots tight-end (heh) Rob Gronkowski had been taken off the Amazon eBook store, with heavy speculation that it was due to the cover imagery.


Much of that speculation, including my own, focused on the fact that a portion of the Patriots trademarked uniforms, as well as a commemorative team patch, appeared on the cover and wouldn't it just be so NFL of the league to get the book taken down over the images being used. Turns out that wasn't the case. A lawsuit filed by two anonymous folks from Ohio likely had it removed and have followed that up with a lawsuit against the author, Amazon, and Apple over the use of their images on the cover. Yes, I'm talking about the two people appearing in the foreground. Those are apparently two people from Ohio who had no idea that an engagement photo of them was being used on the cover of a novella about a housewife banging Gronk.

"The cover of the book contains a photograph of the Plaintiffs which was taken as part of their engagement journey leading toward their wedding," states the complaint. "The photograph was appropriated by the Defendants for commercial gain without the permission of the Plaintiffs nor with the permission of any lawful copyright holder."

The lawsuit targets Noonan, and also Apple, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble for allowing readers to access the work in iBooks, Kindle and Nook digital formats. The plaintiffs — captioned as "John Roe" and "Jane Roe" — are asserting violations of their rights of publicity under Ohio law.
And the inclusion of the service providers is where this lawsuit gets fun, because Amazon has already replied asserting section 230 protections, and I can't imagine that Apple and Barnes & Noble will be terribly far behind them in doing the same. Including the companies in the suit would obviously be advantageous from a monetary award standpoint, but that would rely on those companies being considered publishers of A Gronking To Remember. Are they?

No, I don't think so. In the context of books such as this, those companies do two things: they assist authors in self-publishing and they provide a platform where self-published works can be purchased. Neither of those actions are consistent with what a book-publisher does and have more in common with websites that allow readers to publish their own comments, which obviously falls under section 230 protections. The platform-providers, or service providers, didn't choose the cover images or create them, so I'm not sure where their culpability would lie. The inclusion of the service providers sounds like an attempt at a money-grab.

In any case, it looks like A Gronking To Remember will be remembered at the very least in court documents.

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Posted on Techdirt - 29 April 2015 @ 12:46pm

Valve Tries Out Paid Mods Platform; It Fails Completely

from the money-money-money dept

Honestly, when I first caught wind that Valve was going to suddenly make its platform available for game modders to sell their mods for good old-fashioned money, I initially thought it was great. However, it took only a couple of moments of thinking to realize what a mess this would all be. Taking a modding ecosystem, where talented modders create add-ons and alterations of original games that give gamers exactly what they want, or more of what they want, and injecting money into it represented a misunderstanding of the relationship between modders and gamers, and a failure to understand the gaming community's obvious reaction. Keep in mind that modders already have been making money on Steam, except that they've done so when their mods become desired enough or revered enough to warrant full and separate releases within the game store. This was to be different: modders selling smaller mods within the original game's Steam page. Mods, mind you, help make individual games and entire platforms like Steam more desirable to gamers, also known as Valve's customers. Injecting money this way had what probably should have been easy to predict unintended consequences.

First, the backlash by the gaming community was immediate, and it was strong.

It's not uncommon for people to ask for donations, a nickel or two going clink in the cup, but charging upfront? Definitely not the standard. Some, however, are worried that it could become the norm, not the exception, which would fundamentally alter the mod scene. Mods, they fear (and have, to a small extent, observed), will stop updating for those who don't pay, will abandon mod-centric services like Nexus for Steam's greener pastures.

And:


The feedback wasn't any better on Twitter, where the sentiment expressed seemed to be at its most optimistic when complaining about feelings of abandonment by the modding community, once thought to be simply a faction of the gamer-side of the larger ecosystem and now firmly placed in the sellers category with game-makers, and at its most pessimistic when predicting that Valve's move represents the beginning of the end of modding as a whole. The latter was never true, I'll say, and frankly nobody should be pointing fingers at Valve for this at all. If the market supported paid mods, it would have worked.

It didn't work and part of the reason it didn't does indeed have the tint of an IP issue at its heart. It turns out there was an IP issue over one of the early, if not first, mods offered in Valve's store, with all the accusations of infringement over the work of others that you'd expect — except the issue is between modders and doesn't involve the game-maker at all.

As Destructoid and PC Gamer point out, “Art of the Catch” was created by modders Chesko and aqqh. It also allegedly uses assets from another mod by a modder known as Fore without permission. Fore apparently confronted the Chesko (though, the original comment seems to have been deleted).
If you pay any attention to the modding space, you already know where this is going. It's very common for some mods to incorporate other mods within the larger distribution. This can happen when modders create total conversion mods, where a game is radically changed by implementing a plethora of previously-made mods, or it can happen when the aim of a mod is to drastically change an aspect of the game and a previous mod did part of the work already. What has always happened is that permission was attained to use the mod, credit was given in the release notes of the new mod, and everyone was happy because mods weren't charged for.

Now, we have two modders in a pissing match (though Chesko has reportedly been reaching out to Fore to clear this all up), all due to money exchanging hands. Not only that, but there have been complaints that Steam is punishing users who are raising their voices on the issue. In other words, Valve took a modding ecosystem that was working perfectly well, injected money into it, and the problems arose almost immediately. As for the overall effect these kinds of disputes can have on the modding community? Well, for what it's worth, Chesko is talking about quitting the whole scene entirely, so there's that.

Between that and the general customer reaction to the rollout of this paid mods scheme, it seems clear that Valve never really thought this through. What started off as a Twitter bitch-fest from upset gamers evolved into the kind of protest-comedy only the internet can produce. The end result was Steam's most popular Skyrim mod being a protest against paid mods, allowing characters to carry around a protest placard within the game. And, after the customers and fans had spoken, game developers will have their turn. One of them, Bethesda, makers of the afore-mentioned Skyrim, pulled all paid mods for the game entirely. The public comments from Valve, in conjunction with news that they will offer full refunds on all the Skyrim mods that had already been purchased, don't inspire much confidence, either.
"We've done this because it's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing," Valve said in a community update. "We've been shipping many features over the years aimed at allowing community creators to receive a share of the rewards, and in the past, they've been received well. It's obvious now that this case is different...But we underestimated the differences between our previously successful revenue sharing models, and the addition of paid mods to Skyrim's workshop. We understand our own game's communities pretty well, but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there's a useful feature somewhere here."
Look, I don't actually have a problem with modders trying to make money from their work, and I have zero problem with Valve providing a platform for that...I just don't think it will ever actually work. The modding community functions in a way that doesn't benefit from the injection of money-making opportunities for these more modest mods, which are among the most popular. But, as I mentioned at the open, it's not like modders can't make money from Steam. They do, and have. You've probably heard of some of them, like DayZ, or Team Fortress, and The Stanley Parable. All of those games started off as mods (in the case of Team Fortress — now one of Valve's most profitable properties — years before the Steam store even existed) and all of them now have full Steam game pages themselves. The gaming market worked that out on its own.

And you can bet that the smarter game publishers out there aren't going to get on board with allowing paid mods on their Steam pages now that the backlash is in full swing. Mods make games more buy-able, and a negative aspect in the modding community for a particular game isn't something a publisher is going to want to put up with (see: Bethesda).

Whatever Valve thought this was going to be, it isn't.

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 April 2015 @ 11:30am

NHL Bans Use Of Periscope Streaming By Media During Warmups And Intermissions

from the why? dept

Anyone interested in the business of professional sports already knows how important broadcasting rights and revenues are. One needs only look at the insane amount of money generated for Major League Baseball through broadcast contracts to see how lucrative they can be, or the relative indifference the NFL has over the surprising decline of game attendance to see where these leagues think their money is made. The story with the NHL is slightly different, in part because the lucrative television contracts just aren't there for the league (except in Canada, duh), and in part because if any major sport could benefit from wider distribution to become more lucrative it's the NHL.

But that doesn't mean the NHL won't play the fun-police when it comes to theoretically protecting its product. As some journalists have recently discovered, the league is going so far as to make sure credentialed members of the media aren't using apps like Periscope and Meerkat during warmups and intermissions. The way these apps work is to allow the user to produce snippets of live-streamed video/audio, perfect for formats like Twitter. Some enterprising media members found interesting ways to use them, such as Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski.

So the question then became how I could use this technology during coverage. At Game 1 of the New York Rangers’ series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, I did live Periscope intermission coverage. That seemed OK. Some of the other people in the press box that were Periscoping the pregame skate or postgame comments? That seemed a little more dicey, given the NHL’s rules about shooting video at events where big media companies held the broadcast rights.
It seemed like there was a gray area. I can promise you that credentialed media members covering a sport don't want to do much to hurt the leagues they cover generally, given that's where their money is made. But you can certainly see useful ways media members could use Periscope and Meerkat to cover games in ways that could only help the league through increased visibility. Commentary and stand-ups during warmups, for instance, or breakdowns from media members in between periods. Those would be quite useful.

The NHL disagrees. Far from seeing any gray area, the league sent notice to media members that using the apps was banned completely.
We have been advised that certain individuals attending NHL games pursuant to credentialed access are streaming live footage from inside NHL arenas before, during and after NHL games using technology offered by companies such as Periscope and Meerkat. As a reminder, NHL media credentials prohibit any “unauthorized use of any transmission, picture or other depiction or description of game action, game information, player interview or other arena activity . . . without prior written approval of” NHL or the team as applicable.Without limiting the generality of the credential language, any streaming of footage in violation of the NHL’s Broadcast Guidelines (including, for example, live streaming inside the arena less than 30 minutes before the start of the game) and Media Access Policy is expressly prohibited.
So live-streaming warmups and intermissions is just as banned as in-game streaming. Why? Well, because some NHL teams are also using those apps and want to retain control. Control of the footage, the message, the information that gets released and the live commentary that might go along with it. Even during times when the NHL's product is ostensibly not in play, the ban remains in place. And that's too bad. For a sport and league that I truly love, it would be nice if they could see the opportunity in all of this, if only the league would relinquish just a bit of control. Unfortunately, when it comes to forward-thinking about the consumption of its game, the NHL never seems to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 April 2015 @ 7:39pm

FBI And United Airlines Shoot The Messenger After Security Researcher Discovers Vulnerabilities In Airplane Computer System

from the that-doesn't-make-me-feel-safer dept

At some point, the corporations and authorities in America are going to have to get over this knee-jerk reaction complex they have in going after citizens kindly pointing out technology and security flaws for them. You see this over and over and over again: someone notices a flaw in a system, points it out publicly instead of exploiting the flaw, and is thoroughly punished for his or her efforts. Often times there is a mealy-mouthed explanation for these punishments, which, chiefly, have to do with security risks in publicizing the flaw even though the ultimate goal should be fixing the exploit to begin with.

The latest version of this has gotten the EFF involved in defending a security intelligence expert who tweeted from aboard a United Airlines flight about his ability to hack into the flight's WiFi and access some level of the flight's communications.

It may not mean much to you, but he's talking about getting access to communications systems and even some level of controls within the plane itself. And if that doesn't scare you, it should. It scared the feds, too, but it didn't scare them into actually, you know, addressing the security concerns. But it did scare them enough that upon the plane landing Roberts was scooped up by the FBI, questioned for several hours, and had his encrypted computer, tablet, and drives snatched from him. No warrant for any of this, mind you, at least not at the time of this writing. As you can imagine, he's not pleased. Mostly, though, he's confused as to why the feds are picking on him at all.

Roberts told FORBES he was disconcerted by the actions of US law enforcement. “Feds have known about issues in planes for years, why are they hot now? I’m a researcher, that’s what I do, I don’t go out to harm or hurt, why pick on researchers? If not us then who will find flaws?”
Which is the entire point. The government should be thanking its lucky stars that a benevolent force such as Chris Roberts was the one who found this exploit, rather than someone who might actually wish to do harm. Tweeting about it may alert more nefarious folks that such an exploit exists, sure, but it also got the attention of the federal government who had damned well better be fixing this tout de suite. As far as anyone interested in actually fixing this exploit should be concerned, mission freaking accomplished. And yet Roberts is targeted, not because he's an actual threat, but merely for doing what people in his profession do.

And not just at the conclusion of that flight, either, I should add. The harassment continued afterwards.
Roberts was back at the airport on Saturday evening, headed to San Francisco to attend two high-profile security conferences, the RSA Conference, where he is scheduled to present on Thursday, and BSides SF. After Roberts retrieved his boarding pass, made his way through the TSA checkpoint and reached the gate, United corporate security personnel stopped him from boarding the plane. Roberts was told to expect a letter explaining the reasons for not being allowed to travel on United. Thankfully, Roberts was able to book a last-minute flight on another airline and has now landed safely in San Francisco.

Nevertheless, United’s refusal to allow Roberts to fly is both disappointing and confusing. As a member of the security research community, his job is to identify vulnerabilities in networks so that they can be fixed. Indeed, he was headed to RSA speak about security vulnerabilities in a talk called “Security Hopscotch” when attempting to board the United flight.
This should be seen as useful for the public, which now knows somewhat certainly that United Airlines would much rather attempt to achieve security through obscurity rather than seeing experts like Roberts as a boon to their own safety product. Should you need to fly anytime soon, do you really want to board a flight run by a company that has now demonstrated that it tolerates vulnerabilities aboard its flights and also would rather try to put its head in the sand than deal with those vulnerabilities? I sure wouldn't. Keep in mind, by the way, that United is getting this important information into its own security for free. But rather than be grateful, out come the cross hairs.

It's enough with this crap already. No amount of embarrassment is justification for harassing a security researcher who happens to be fault-testing technology on high-profile targets. And doing it free of charge, I might add. In the realm of security, Roberts is a helpful force, not a harmful one. It'd be nice if the Feds and United Airlines would behave gratefully, rather than targeting the man.

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 April 2015 @ 4:05pm

Microsoft Advertises The Witcher 3 On Xbox With Footage From The PC Version; Fans Not Fooled

from the bait-and-switch dept

Pay attention to the gaming scene and the way gamers interact with game companies and journalists and you'll see that times are a little tense these days. Without diving into any of the debates currently being had throughout Gamerdom (Gamerstan? Gaming Nation?), let's just all agree that there is a big fat trust vacuum at the moment and that this vacuum is being filled by all kinds of reactions, some of which are reasonable, some of which are silly and overreaching. What's happened since in the last year or so has exacerbated the distrust to the point where companies operate on tip-toes with their audiences or they suffer the consequences. What cannot be done in a time like this, if a company wants to make money and keep its fanbase loyal, is to further breach that trust.

Take Microsoft, for example. The Xbox-maker recently pimped The Witcher 3 for its Xbox console on YouTube...using footage from the PC version of the game.

Today, the Xbox YouTube channel released a rad new video for the upcoming role-playing game The Witcher 3. There’s just one problem: it’s not actually running on an Xbox. Whoops. Yep, despite that XBOX logo stamped on the bottom right corner of the above video, this is actually footage from the (presumably better-looking) PC version of the game. The easiest way to tell? You can run the YouTube video at 60 frames-per-second; the developers of The Witcher 3 (out May 19 for PS4/XB1/PC) have specified that the console versions are actually locked at 30 FPS.
Now, I can already hear every person on the planet who either isn't a gamer at all or is a casual gamer at most screaming, "There's no way this is a big deal!" And, ultimately, they're right, it's not the hugest issue in gaming today. Game-makers play these kinds of tricks all the time, whether it's showing the wrong version of the game, passing off cut-scenes as gameplay elements, or promoting features in games that aren't present upon release. But the tolerance for these tricks is completely gone. It's now common to see disclaimers that footage isn't actually of gameplay, or that the footage is from one version of the game or another. And, while the Xbox channel did eventually edit to include a disclaimer that the footage was from the PC version of the game, the bait-and-switch nature of all this seems more inexplicable when it appears on the YouTube page for the console itself.

Next thing you know, prospective customers are crying foul and the game developer, CD Projeck Red, a company that is generally awesome in terms of being customer friendly, suddenly has to scramble to assure its fans that it had no idea Microsoft was doing any of this. Again, no reason not to believe them, but in the trust vacuum everyone might be in on the conspiracy and blowback is done via carpet-bomb instead of in a measured way.

Is this false advertising or an inadvertent error? I have no idea, but I do know that gaming companies can't make these errors and think they can get away with it at the moment.

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 April 2015 @ 1:47pm

How It's Done: Rockstar Releases Video Production Editor For GTA So Fans Can Make Films

from the bizzaro-nintendo dept

Peruse the history of fan-film posts we've done in the past and you'll be met with depressing results. Too often the makers of movies and video games prefer a restrictive approach to fans using any form of their content. The approach tends to be of the blanket variety, where a default to protectionism often ties up fan-work that is either usefully creative in and of itself, or else beneficial to the original content producers if only it would be allowed to breathe. Nintendo has become famous for this kind of restrictive practice in YouTube recently, but it is hardly alone.

Rockstar, as it has so often before, breaks the mold on this kind of thing. Back when Grand Theft Auto 4 was the latest iteration in the GTA series, some enterprising fans had used video editing equipment, along with the game itself, to create their own brand of fan-film, using game footage as the vehicle for an admittedly simple but impressive story line. The whole thing was 2 hours long and has been viewed on YouTube over half a million times. Rockstar, for its part, not only didn't take the video down, but it went so far as to provide its own video editing software for fans in the latest PC version of the series, Grand Theft Auto 5.

When Grand Theft Auto V launches tomorrow, it will come complete with a video editing suite that will allow you to make movies from Story Mode and GTA Online footage you capture. The software, the Rockstar Editor, lets you do a number of things [like] record and edit footage and share them with the community. The editor features special camera modes, filters, depth of field and audio customization options, and a Director Mode feature that allows you to create movie-making sequences from a cast of characters from Story Mode.


This, quite simply, is how it's done. Rockstar/GTA fans expressed an interest organically in something they wanted to do with Rockstar's product, an emergent use that Rockstar may never have even considered, and, rather than getting butthurt over the use of the content and sending out the threat-letters, the company enabled its fans' behavior instead.

And why wouldn't they? After all, far from harm, it would be an absolute boon to Rockstar to see YouTube pages filled with fan-creations in the form of short or monstrously-long creative works, all done within GTA itself. It's just one more way to have fun within the game, one more way to be expressive with fellow fans of the game, and one more way for the GTA name to be etched into gaming history. This is pure CwF+RtB calculus at its finest.

Well done, Rockstar.

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 April 2015 @ 4:07am

HBO Shuts Down Bar's Game Of Thrones Viewing Party

from the no-fun-allowed dept

Winter is coming. Again. Or, it has come back already, or still, or whatever. Look, I don't know, I just love Game of Thrones. Lots of other people like it too, which means that lots of people watch on HBO...and a lot of others watch it through illegitimate sources, making it the "most pirated" of shows. Part of the reason it's so pirated is that access has traditionally been restricted to those with HBO cable subscriptions. Still, HBO being pissed over some fans pirating the show is understandable.

Less understandable is HBO going after non-pirate fans, such as a GoT viewing party at a local Brooklyn watering hole.

HBO recently sent a cease and desist letter to the owners of Videology bar in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, asking them to stop their Game of Thrones weekly viewing parties.

"As a pay subscription service, HBO should not be made available in public establishments," a spokesperson for the network told the Daily News "When it does happen, it is of particular concern when there is an attempt to profit off the programming. We have taken such actions for well over a decade."
Yes, HBO, you have indeed taken these kinds of actions for well over a decade. But things have changed over that decade that you might want to pay attention to. Cable subscriptions are in the decline, for instance, meaning that content producers are going to have to find other avenues to keep consumption at the same levels. Also, and you probably noticed this...Game of Thrones is insanely popular and profitable, even with all of the actual piracy going on. Targeting a bar that holds a party for fans of the show isn't just useless, it's plainly damaging to the brand, the fanship, and the spread of the fanbase. I mean, is anyone really suggesting that the patrons who attended this viewing party were all planning on immediately cancelling their HBO subscriptions, and instead planning to watch their beloved show at the bar every week? Or is it more likely that these patrons all probably are HBO customers who just want to get in a group once in a while and collectively watch their show? And how many new fans will miss on the opportunity to jump into the GoT fervor because this event isn't going to take place?

The bar in question seems to get what HBO doesn't, of course.
"Seeing that many other bars in the neighborhood and around the city were showing it, we made the assumption that HBO believed, as we do, that public screenings were in the best interest of both HBO and the fans, since GOT is enjoyed on a deeper level as a communal event," co-owner Wendy Chamberlain told the NYDN. "But in the end, it's not up to us."
And so HBO misses another opportunity to grow the show's fanbase and brand, if only it could just behave in a human and awesome way for once.

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 April 2015 @ 4:16am

UK Judges Take Their Robes And Go Home After Julian Assange Added As Speaker At Legal Conference

from the wigging-out dept

In case you were wondering about the current state of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder is still holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, evading an extradition request to Sweden and living the life of a fugitive. Of course, it's not like he can't communicate with the outside world and, given some of the impressive leaks Wikileaks has released these past years, it's not uncommon for news organizations, academics, and others to seek interviews and input from him. One group recently interested in Assange's take on surveillance and its implications was a conference in Glasgow. Assange gave a speech via video-conference from the embassy and the audience, which included many officers of many courts, including judges, listened.

But several UK judges, including several supposed to also speak at the conference, missed seeing Assange speak after deciding to walk away from the whole conference due to Assange's inclusion.

Judges from Scotland, England and Wales and the UK supreme court had agreed to speak at or chair other sessions but withdrew – in some cases after arriving at the conference centre– when they found out about Assange’s appearance.Among those to boycott the conference were the most senior judge in Scotland, Lord Gill, and two judges on the supreme court, Lord Neuberger and Lord Hodge. Representatives of the judges said it would have been inappropriate for them to have attended, because of Assange’s legal status.

A spokesperson for the Judicial Office for Scotland said: “The conference programme was changed to include Mr Assange’s participation at short notice and without consultation. Mr Assange is, as a matter of law, currently a fugitive from justice, and it would therefore not be appropriate for judges to be addressed by him. Under these circumstances, the lord president, Lord Gill, and the other Scottish judicial officeholders in attendance have withdrawn from the conference.”
I suppose I shouldn't, but I find it hard to imagine how people could attain some of the highest judicial positions in a country while being so thoroughly thin-skinned. It should be noted that Assange was not to be speaking on anything to do with why he's currently evading extradition, which is ostensibly about a sexual assault charge, or whatever authorities are drumming up for him these days. On the matter of surveillance and technology security, it's difficult to think of someone more qualified than Assange. The judges deciding to take a walk because of his fugitive status, failing to take part in a discussion about the laws around surveillance, only serves to do two things: make sure their point of view isn't heard and aggrandize Assange even more than he's already been.

So buck up, UK judges. Your takes on these issues are important. You may not like Assange. Hell, I don't like him either. But throwing a fit just because he was asked to speak at a conference isn't befitting your legal-y splendor.

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 April 2015 @ 3:52am

Australia Considers New Copyright Law That Could Be Interpreted To Ban VPNs

from the very-probably-nixed dept

Some months back, our own Glyn Moody wrote about the music industry in Australia and its attempt to basically broadly multiply copyright protections, routing around the public's representatives in government to get ISPs to act as judge, jury and executioner. Then, because Glyn Moody is a witch who turned my sister into a newt, he wondered aloud whether VPNs would be the next target in the copyright industry's crosshairs.

Well, it turns out that yes, yes they are. Only this time, the industry lobbyists are going right to the Australian legislature to act as their bullies with the Copyright Amendment Bill 2015.

If it is passed, copyright owners would be able to apply for a federal court order requiring internet service providers to block overseas sites whose primary purpose is infringing copyright or facilitating the infringement of copyright. While the bill is designed to target BitTorrent sites, such as the Pirate Bay, there are concerns other online services such as VPNs and digital storage lockers could fall victim.

The campaigns manager for Choice, Erin Turner, says at least 684,000 Australian households currently employ VPNs to bypass geoblocks and access overseas content at globally competitive prices.
No need to go half way here: if the bill is written and passed in its current vague iteration, VPNs and storage lockers absolutely will be under attack. Entertainment companies both foreign and domestic have been complaining for years about Australians using VPNs to route around geo-restrictions and get overseas content and it would be silly to pretend like infringers don't use VPNs to conceal themselves. All that said, there are a ton of legitimate reasons to use a VPN or storage locker. That's why crafting industry-specific legislation like this is so tricky, particularly when the target of the law is a widely used product of platform. There are simply going to be consequences that the public would consider unintended and that I consider specifically intended in the vagueness of the law. Copyright protection advocates always want more, never less, and they aren't exactly known for behaving reservedly when they feel they have tools at their disposal.

The enemy here is ambiguity.
Copyright expert Kimberlee Weatherall says it is difficult to predict if the bill will be used by copyright holders to argue for an injunction against a VPN service because it lacks clarity regarding services and sites whose primary purpose is not copyright infringement, although may be being used for that purpose.
Which means that the law cannot be allowed to pass as it is currently written. Legislation doesn't necessarily have to be specifically proscriptive, but a lack of clarity on a technology service so common and so tangential to the chief target of the bill means the bill sucks. Hell, it's not like I'm making this concern up, even. Already content providers are arguing for tightened screws on Aussie VPNs.
Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder managing director Nick Murray told Mumbrella the current arrangements are only benefitting international players like Netflix because under the current production deals content is sold by territories.

Asked if it should be illegal for Australians to access overseas platforms using a VPN he said: “It should be. It should absolutely be regulated somehow to make it so people in Australia shouldn’t use VPNs.”Murray defended the arrangement of selling content by territory saying “that’s how we get our money” adding: “The people people who say we should get rid of the geo-blocker, it’s just bizarre, as that is how content is sold.”
Yes, arguing that something should change is bizarre because that thing hasn't changed yet. Great argument you have there. But we can at least give Murray credit for being blatantly open and honest about his desire to take technology tools away from Australian citizens.

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Posted on Techdirt - 17 April 2015 @ 1:59pm

How The DMCA And Anti-Piracy Measures Conspire To Keep Video Games In Their Cultural Place

from the that-belongs-in-a-museum dept

For those of us that think certain intellectual property laws have become overbearing and overly burdensome, one of the fun little exercises is to try and figure out where the best battlegrounds are for the fight against them. For instance, if you think cable television has become expensive, unfriendly, and overtly insane, you want to pay special attention to how professional sports are broadcasted now and in the future. If you want to find ground to battle expanded trademark protections and the crazy ways some companies interpret their rights, perhaps the alcohol and beer industry is a good place to draw a line in the proverbial sand. And for copyright? Well, there has always been a ton of focus on music and movies, but we may be seeing the world of video games emerge as the best ground from which to push back against the restrictions of antiquated copyright in the digital age.

Recently, we covered the spiderweb of nonsense one company had to go through just to try to publish a decade-old game, an attempt that was ultimately given up because the web proved to be too convoluted to navigate. Now, a Consumerist post explains how the DMCA and game publishers have (perhaps) unwittingly conspired to keep video games from claiming their rightful place within our cultural lexicon. The focus in the post is on section 1201 of the DMCA.

Section 1201 of the DMCA prohibits consumers from circumventing copyright protection measures put in place on games or any other digital media. So even if you can figure out a fix that will make a game work offline — much like the Sim City player who discovered a work-around against the disastrous always-online requirement — it’s against the law to do so, even if you’re not otherwise violating the copyright and even if this is the only way to make an abandoned game viable again. Yes, somehow keeping it illegal to fix broken, abandoned games aids in this innovation; perhaps by forcing people to keep buying newer releases.
The piece then draws up two conflicting sides on section 1201 with regards to video games: the Entertainment Software Association on one side and the EFF on the other. The EFF has filed a request to have exemptions put in to section 1201 for gaming enthusiasts and, more importantly, for museums who would need to alter the game in order to make it in any way useful for exhibit. Take, for instance, any of the games that Electronic Arts, member of the ESA, decides to torpedo in whole or in part by shutting down game servers that support or check-in with the software. Or, perhaps more apropos, take any of the myriad of recent games that have been released as "always online," with copyright protections essentially amounting to a check in with servers not in the consumer's control. What happens when those servers are no longer worth supporting and are shut down? Well, some or all of the game becomes un-playable.

Now, let's leave aside the question of whether or not a consumer truly owns the game they buy under these scenarios. Let's also leave aside whether this kind of DRM or copyright protection is worthwhile at all. Instead, let's focus on how curators of games can handle this kind of thing in a world where DMCA section 1201 forbids the kind of tampering that would get around these restrictions. Should the ESA get its way and keep 1201 exemption-free, so-called abandoned games or abandonware becomes abandoned culture. And not, by the way, abandoned by the consumer or the public, which might include museums or academics with a strong interest in curating older games. No, the abandonment is committed by the game company itself, leaving a giant cultural hole that cannot be filled in because of a copyright law section those same companies are defending.

I've long argued that video games should be considered every bit the equivalent of movies and music. Try to find an equivalent to this problem with either music or movies, however, and you'll be at it quite a long time before you find anything meaningful. Netflix doesn't count, because you aren't buying a movie in Netflix. Same with music streaming services. The closest thing to it is probably how some e-readers can disappear books the consumer has purchased. The difference there is that the entire cultural deposit with a literary work likely isn't lost when that sort of thing happens, as it can be found and curated in other forms. That's not the case with old and classic games.

You want to find a place to take a stance against expanded copyright in favor of greater culture? That place is with games. The ESA knows this, which is why it is staunchly defending section 1201.
The gaming industry argues that allowing these modifications would “undermine the fundamental copyright principles on which our copyright laws are based,” and send the message that “hacking… is lawful.”

In fact, as the EFF points out, “hacking” in and of itself is completely legal.

“Most of the programmers that create games for Sony, Microsoft, EA, Nintendo, and other ESA members undoubtedly learned their craft by tinkering with existing software,” writes the EFF. “If ‘hacking,’ broadly defined, were actually illegal, there likely would have been no video game industry.”
And no cultural boon from games as a result. Section 1201, within the framework of gaming, can be said to be firmly anti-culture. No two ways about it.

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Posted on Techdirt - 16 April 2015 @ 9:11pm

MMA Fighter Upset Over Possible Homage In Mortal Kombat

from the FIGHT! dept

Publicity rights have managed to intersect with the video game world more frequently recently. Typically, what appear to be loose general characterizations and/or homages within games have, for a variety of reasons, ruffled the feathers of the celebrity elite. One needs only look back at the disputes raised by Lindsay Lohan over a character in the Grand Theft Auto series which she, wrongly, declared to be based solely upon her. The question I always have in these cases is one of motive. Are these celebrities unhappy about the portrayal they think they see in a character, is there some competing interest, or is it all just a mindless money-grab?

In the latest case we'll cover, I'm at a loss if this isn't a money grab. The whole thing centers on the latest iteration of Mortal Kombat and one character's likeness, perhaps, to a mixed marshal arts fighter name Felice Herrig, who thinks the Cassie Cage character is based off of her likeness.

Herrig, who fights on this weekend’s UFC on FOX 15 card, was first made aware of Cassie Cage a few months ago. Back then, she found the resemblance to be a bit odd, but she didn’t have a whole lot to go on. In recent days, however, more footage and promo materials have surfaced, and Herrig doesn’t like what she sees.
Her complaints, posted to her social media account, center on the Cassie Cage character notably chewing bubblegum and taking selfies. If you go hunting for side-by-side comparisons, they can be somewhat striking.


Except we need to keep a couple of things in mind here. Both women, one real and one fictional, portray combat fighters and there are only so many ways those folks are going to be portrayed. Flexing with clasped fists is a common posed shot in this world. As for chewing bubble gum and taking selfies, both of those are so common that entire industries are built around them, so that is about as unique as having blonde hair.

Is there an homage here? I don't know, maybe. If there is, it's a subtle one, and built off a real-life person who isn't exactly a household name outside of the MMA scene. But what's the point of getting upset over a maybe-possibly-kinda-sorta nod in your direction? I mean, it is an option to be flattered or to use it to promote yourself, whether the whole thing is an homage or not. What's to be upset about?

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Posted on Techdirt - 16 April 2015 @ 9:43am

Chess Grandmaster Exposed As App-Using Cheat

from the there's-an-app-for-that dept

I love chess. As the original multi-player turn-based strategy game, chess serves as the backbone for many a modern era game, for which it has my respect. Despite this love I have for the game, I happen to be quite horrible at it, but that only makes me all the more reverent of those that master its wily machinations. Kasparov is a name I know solely because he was a grand champion, one of those faces of chess that spurred on so much intrigue as people wondered just how he was able to dominate his opponents so completely.

Gaioz Nigalidze was one of those folks, too, having attained the title of grandmaster, but now he isn't. He might actually be as good as advertised, but we can't trust that he is any longer because he was found to be using a iPhone to cheat his way through a match. The plot begins and ends, as all good plots do, in the toilet.

On Saturday, Nigalidze, the 25-year-old reigning Georgian champion, was competing in the 17th annual Dubai Open Chess Tournament when his opponent spotted something strange.

“Nigalidze would promptly reply to my moves and then literally run to the toilet,” Armenian grandmaster Tigran Petrosian said. “I noticed that he would always visit the same toilet partition, which was strange, since two other partitions weren’t occupied.”
Yes, the strange part was which toilet Nigalidze used, not the fact that his bladder decided to punctuate each move with a potty trip. As it turns out, Nigalidze had hidden an iPhone in one of the restrooms, wrapped in toilet paper because there ain't no stealth in chess, and had been running the game he was playing through an application that analyzed and suggested moves. In other words, he totally h4x0red that chess tournament, ya'll!

It turns out that being the Barry Bonds of chess isn't great for one's career and Nigalidze's past and future have both been placed in jeapordy.
Nigalidze was expelled from the tournament, which is still ongoing and features more than 70 grandmasters from 43 countries competing for a first-place prize of $12,000. The Georgian’s career is now under a microscope. His two national titles are under suspicion. And under recently tightened rules against cheating, he could be banned for up to 15 years.
This has reportedly sent the chess world into some kind of insane tailspin over concerns that, now that someone has proved that cheating in tournaments with a small device such as a phone is doable, who knows how many other of our revered grandmasters are big, steaming, salty cheat-burgers? The ancient game is now understood to be relatively easy to master with something as common as a smartphone, which means chess tournaments are about to get way more TSA-like with security, I guess.

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 April 2015 @ 12:20pm

Koei Tecmo Goes DMCA On DOA Modders For Undressing Its Already Scantily Clad Characters

from the a-mod-too-far dept

I won't pretend to know every in and out of the Dead or Alive series. That's partially because I gave up fighting games once I hit junior high, and partially because my gaming habits tend to cleave to particular franchises generally and DoA wasn't amongst those I patronized. But I gather the series has been mostly about offering up characters, and setting them to beat the hell out of one another for fun and amusement. I can see where there might be fun in that.

What I can't see is why the creator of such a game series would want to make the kinds of moral arguments against modders that DoA producer Yosuke Hayashi made in conjunction with Koei Tecmo going all DMCA crazy on mods that removed the wardrobes of the fairer characters of DoA 5: Last Round.

"We have to deal with mod issues from an IP holder perspective," Koei Tecmo producer Yosuke Hayashi said in an interview with trade publication MCV. "We would like to ask PC users to play our game in good moral and manner. Otherwise, we won’t be able to release a title for PC again."
Now, is the dedication some modders show to making sure that female characters are disrobed a level 20 on the creepy scale? Sure, I think that's fair. But, from a business perspective, why is Tecmo interested in going the DMCA route on the modding community? Whatever you think of the mods themselves, it's difficult to mount a logical argument for going to war with the modding community, which is typically made up of either a game's fan-base or talented modders serving some portion of the fan-base. Either way, mods are strictly for the interested, meaning they can only make a product more desirable, not less. What good comes from the company trying to hide these mods using intellectual property law?

As for the moral argument, please let me just type "haha" here and imagine I kept repeating those two letters infinitely, because, seriously, c'mon. The DoA series only strayed form its chief thematic vehicle of human beings beating the ever-loving shit out of one another in order to tantalize dumb teenage boys by creating spinoff series in which the female DoA characters play volleyball in laughably small bikinis, spinoffs in which the female characters are photographed in laughably small bikinis, and spinoffs in which the female characters can play almost-strip-poker with the player. Let me see if I can draw you a picture of morality using DoA imagery.


The gravity-defying boob physics represent the necessity of a firm moral stance...or something...


The point is that there seems to be little sense in any of this from Tecmo's perspective. Moral arguments are for those with moral authority, and good gaming business is to let modders have-at-it, as it were.

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