Archive for the ‘ Technology ’ Category

You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You [via SoulAssassins]

Now that the SOPA and PIPA fights have died down, and Hollywood prepares their next salvo against internet freedom with ACTA and PCIP, it’s worth pausing to consider how the war on piracy could actually be won.

It can’t, is the short answer, and one these companies do not want to hear as they put their fingers in their ears and start yelling. As technology continues to evolve, the battle between pirates and copyright holders is going to escalate, and pirates are always, always going to be one step ahead. To be clear, this is in no way meant to be a “pro-piracy” piece, it is merely attempting to show the inescapable realities of piracy that media companies refuse to acknowledge.

What’s clear is that legislation is not the answer. Piracy is already illegal in the US, and most places around the world, yet it persists underground, but more often in plain sight. Short of passing a law that allows the actual blacklisting of websites like China and Iran, there is no legislative solution. That’s what SOPA and PIPA were attempting to do, but it so obviously trampled on the First Amendment, it was laughed out of existence as the entire internet protested it. The only other thing you could get the internet to agree on was if they tried to institute a ban on cat pictures.

So, what to do? Go the other direction. Realize piracy is a service problem. Right now, from the browser window in which I’m writing this article, it is possible to download and start watching a movie for free in a few swift clicks.

(This is all purely theoretical of course)

1. Move mouse to click on Pirate Bay bookmark

2. Type in “The Hangover 2″ (awful movie, but a new release for the sake of the example)

3. Click on result with highest seeds

4. Click download torrent

5. Auto open uTorrent

6. Wait ten minutes to download

7. Play movie, own it forever

It’s not moral, it’s not right, but it’s there and it’s easy and there’s no one to stop you from doing it, and never will be. If after ten years and millions of dollars in legal fees they finally manage to kill the Pirate Bay, there are hundreds of other torrent sites that exist, and more will spring up. If they ban torrents altogether, the internet will invent something new.

Piracy is not raiding and plundering Best Buys and FYEs, smashing the windows and running out with the loot. It’s like being placed in a store full of every DVD in existence. There are no employees, no security guards, and when you take a copy of movie, another one materializes in its place, so you’re not actually taking anything. If you were in such a store, you’d only have your base moral convictions to keep you from cloning every movie in sight. And anyone who knows how to get to this store isn’t going to let their conscience stop them, especially when there is no tangible “loss” to even feel bad about.

It’s not a physical product that’s being taken. There’s nothing going missing, which is generally the hallmark of any good theft. The movie and music industries’ claim that each download is a lost sale is absurd. I might take every movie in that fictional store if I was able to, but would I have spent $3 million to legally buy every single DVD? No, I’d probably have picked my two favorite movies and gone home. So yes, there are losses, but they are miniscule compared to what the companies actually claim they’re losing.

This does not translate to 60 lost DVD sales (and not my collection, FYI).

The seven step, ten minute download process (which will be about ten seconds when US internet speeds catch up with the rest of the world) is the real enemy the studios should be trying to tackle. Right now, the industry is still stuck in the past, and is crawling oh-so-slowly into the future. They still believe people are going to want to buy DVDs or Blu-rays in five years, and that a movie ticket is well worth $15. Netflix is the closest thing they have to an advocate, but the studios are trying to drive them out of business as they see them as a threat, not a solution. It’s mind boggling.

The primary problem movie studios have to realize is that everything they charge for is massively overpriced. The fact that movie ticket prices keep going up is astonishing. How can they possibly think charging $10-15 per ticket for a new feature is going to increase the amount of people coming to theaters rather than renting the movie later or downloading it online for free? Rather than lower prices, they double down, saying that gimmicks like 3D and IMAX are worth adding another $5 to your ticket.

They have failed to realize that people want things to be easy. Physically going to the movies is hard enough without paying way too much for the privilege. Going to a store and buying a DVD instead of renting or downloading is generally an impractical thing to do unless you A) really love a particular movie or B) are an avid film buff or collector.

I saw an image on reddit the other day that had a concept for an online movie distribution tool that would be the movie industry’s greatest ally if they were to even consider it. Here it is:

“Movie Steam” would have its share of practical problems. It would be hard to get companies to agree to all use one service, and I sure as hell wouldn’t want “Sony Steam,” “Universal Steam,” and “Paramount Steam” all cluttering up my computer. It would also be hard for companies to agree to set prices this low, when they’re used to charging $15-30 for physical products. It would be almost impossible for them to not agree to some sort of ridiculous DRM, and god forbid if you ever wanted to share a movie with a friend.

It would also effectively kill off services like Netflix and Redbox (and of course finally put Blockbuster out of its misery) as well as hurt every retail store that sells DVDs. You could argue however, that DVDs will be gone completely within the decade, and retailers are going to have to brace themselves for that anyway. There’s always the crowd that circles around me when I bring this up to say “but people will always want physical media,” but there is just no possible way this is the case in 20, 10 or even maybe even five more years.

But with a distribution service like this, at least they’d be trying. At least they’d be going in the right direction. Trying to pass laws that stifle the freedom of the internet and piss off the entire population of a country is a terrible, terrible route to go. The millions of dollars they spent lobbying trying to get bills like SOPA and PIPA passed could have gone into R&D for new distribution arms like the one above.

And here’s something no one has stopped to consider: Maybe making movies is too damn expensive. Or rather, far more expensive than it needs to be.

After SOPA and PIPA, Hollywood now looks like a dinosaur, and as out of touch as someone trying to kill the radio or home video cassettes. Venture capital firms are actually now actively looking to fund companies with the aim of dismantling the industry, as the current model of movie making seems outdated. The internet is producing a talented crop of filmmakers working on shoestring budgets, hungry to get themselves noticed.

Perhaps A-list actors do not need multi-multi-million dollar salaries when there are thousands of hardworking amateurs trying to get noticed. Perhaps not every graphic novel and board game needs $100M or $200M thrown at it in order to become a feature film when there are hundreds of creative, original screenplays that get tossed in the trash. Perhaps you don’t need to spend an additional $100M marketing a movie when everyone is fast-forwarding through commercials and has AdBlock on their browsers.
The industry is crawling toward these sorts of realizations, and they’re suffering for it. Yes, it’s true that nothing will ever kill piracy. But it’s equally true that nothing will ever kill the movie, music or video game industries either. Projects with bloated budgets and massively overpaid talent might start to fade away, but that can only be a good thing creatively for all the industries. To threaten us with the idea that pop culture is going to disappear entirely because of piracy is just moronic.

I believe in paying money for products that earn it. I do not believe in a pricing and distribution model that still thinks it’s 1998. And I really don’t believe in censoring the internet so that studio and label executives can add a few more millions onto their already enormous money pile.

Treat your customers with respect , and they’ll do the same to you. And that is how you fight piracy.

Ten Reasons Facebook Stock Won’t Make Most Of Us Rich (via SoulAssassins)

Not everyone believes the social network will be a shrewd investment when it goes public.

If you’re a Robert Scoble follower, you know he believes Facebook will be worth a half-trillion dollars by 2015. But not everyone’s as confident as Scoble that the social network will be worth the investment when it goes public.

Financial Advisor, Rob Black, Wealth Preservation & Retirement Planning, points to a couple of red flags:

1. A slowdown in monthly/daily active users

2011 MAUs 845 million +39%
2010 MAUs +69%

2011 DAUs 483 million +48%
2010 DAUrs +77%

2. Facebook is having to pay an increasing amount of money to acquire new users. He points to this data:

2011 Profit of $1.76 billion +71% yr/yr
2011 Marketing and Sales +132% yr/yr
2011 Costs & Expenses +107% exceeds its revenue growth rate.

Black says, “This is in contrast to 2010, when its sales & marketing expense was up 60% but revenue was up 153%.”

Other concerns, both serious and not, which I’ve collected in a crowdsourcing effort from friends/followers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn:

3. Matthew Crowe, Founder/CEO, Ahhha.com: It’s time is short-lived. It provides no “real” value and while Zuck claims to bring people “together” on FB, it in fact is making people less and less connected in actuality.

4. Shelly B.: People are growing tired of Facebook. I think their user numbers don’t accurately reflect today’s active users. I see Twitter becoming more popular.

5. Kjetil Faye Lund, Business Analyst: Dropping popularity could be around the corner, advertiser will always move to channels where the action is.

6. Shaun Saunders, CEO, GraffitiPR: It makes you unproductive, fries your brain, ruins relationships, makes you say and do things in an open source environment that you wouldn’t normally say or do. What good are you to Procter & Gamble if any of above things are an issue?

7. Jason Blackburn: It’s more overpriced than LinkedIn’s IPO…Oh and I am waiting for MySpace to rehire TOM and make a comeback…

8. Carmen Hughes, Principal, Ignite Public Relations: They should have done an auction IPO. That move would have been very well received especially considering how unpopular investment banks are, given the near market collapse they helped instigate.

9. Rocco Chappie, Founder/CEO, CharityFire: A valuation at 100b has at least 2 years of growth priced into it (25x sales). Unlike Apple, I don’t think that Zuck has an iMac/iPhone/iPad up his sleeve. Netscape->Yahoo->AOL->Facebook.

10. Kym: Zynga makes up 12% of its revenue. What happens if Zynga succeeds in its efforts to break its dependency on Facebook for its users?

AKAI MPC FLY FOR IPAD2

Akai debutED its MPC Fly for the iPad 2 recently at the NAMM Show. It combines 16 backlit MPC pads into a built-in iPad 2 case, and is completed with an integrated iOS app that boasts an array of effects, a four-track mixer, sound library, sample editing and an EQ. Looks like the perfect toy for a producer on the go.

Social Media: Are You Making The Most of It? [via Joanna L. Ranson]

Jo Ranson, a freelance writer (the real kind, she actually works) wrote a really interesting and painfully obvious article about Social Media and how to properly use it to your advantage if you’re namely an MC, producer or singer. If you spend all day just spamming your Facebook friends and nothing much else, then you should really give this a read and sort it out.

“I haven’t written a blog post since before Christmas and seeing as though the New Year is generally a time when people try to find jobs and change careers, I’m paying more attention on tips on how to secure those graduate jobs that are so desperately hard to come by. Over the past two months, I’ve applied for nigh on fifty jobs in London. These range from social media consultants, press officers, PAs to receptionists and even basic admin positions, all of which I have been unsuccessful. Not only is this disheartening, (’cause you know I still absolutely love living with my parents at 23 years of age), it’s reinforced the idea that the graduate job market is even more competitive than I first thought, especially in the areas of my expertise: written content and social media.

Many people underestimate the importance of social media and how it can be beneficial in order to promote a product or even the work of someone like myself. Studying a Master’s degree in Interactive Journalism taught me not only is the Internet a great place for passing the time and driving home opinions (if something annoys you, you can always go on the Internet and complain about it) but is a powerful tool for communication and promotion.

If you look at any respected company today, you can almost guarantee that they will have a Facebook fan page and also a Twitter account. When I first joined Facebook in 2006, only users with university email addresses were permitted to create accounts but as time passed and as we are all aware of now, the layout and facilities on Facebook change on a near monthly basis. For example, the most recent change has resulted in many statuses from my university days coming back to haunt me, where I thought they were hidden in the archives of Facebook they were on show for all to see. After a rather swift removal and an update of my new fancy cover picture (some nice logo imagery of Real Playaz), my new timeline layout has become the norm whilst I await the next Facebook change for us to get used to using.

Fan pages are a great way of controlling information about a brand/artist/product without incurring the annoying spam mail and event invites that come with standard profiles. You can avoid constant friend requests by setting up a fan page which can have an infinite number of people ‘liking’ it rather than restricting yourselves to a mere 5,000 friends on your profile. There is also a possibility of having more than one admin on the page also so that all of the people connected to the product can control what is posted on the page, and in turn, viewed by the users who have ‘liked’ the page.

Twitter is also an important tool for communication, not only can you link your Facebook fan page posts to tweet automatically on Twitter, you can reach a wider audience through the ‘retweet’ facility. These increase the number of users that can read the information you want to promote and broadcast.

But what about LinkedIn? From what I’ve seen over the past two years or so, not many people seem to be aware of this social media platform and the importance that it has started to have on searching for jobs and promoting your brands. Whilst casually browsing the journalism.co.uk website, I came across an interesting post about how journalists can use LinkedIn for their benefit. Although the post details methods for finding news stories, managing contacts, networking and promoting yourself through groups and online communities, the ideas can be transferred to different areas of promotion.

LinkedIn is more like a Facebook for professional people. All of the users have one thing in mind: to further their professional careers. You won’t find pictures of cats or status updates about how much people love their boyfriends on LinkedIn, you’ll find ways of networking with liked minded individuals with intelligent conversations taking place in the online communities and adverts for jobs that are relevant to your career path. You add information about your current and past positions, your education history and your key skills all of which can be viewed by potential employers.

LinkedIn was first created in 2003, a year before Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook but doesn’t seem to be as widely known, or indeed used by as many users looking to promote themselves. If one thing I’ve learnt from aiming to go freelance, is that surrounding myself in a social media environment has been nothing but beneficial. Fortunately for myself, I know how to work each platform for my own benefit and for my clients who employ me on promotion campaigns.

There is a distinct difference between online promotion and spam and as soon as this is understood and interpreted, your campaigns will become successful. So I’ll leave you with those thoughts whilst I log into my Facebook account and post some pictures of my cat.”

You can check her blog here: http://joannalouiseranson.wordpress.com

Anonymous Attacks Justice Dept as FBI Shuts Down File-Sharing Site

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted seven people and two companies which ran the file uploading site Megaupload.com. The site, which billed itself as “the leading online storage and file delivery service,” is now offline.

In the indictment, Megaupload and a company associated with it are accused of making $175 million while simultaneously causing approximately half a billion dollars in copyright infringement. Among the indicted are the site’s founder, Kim Dotcom (a.k.a. Kim Schmitz), who holds residency in New Zealand and Hong Kong. Employees Bram van der Kolk, aka Bramos, 29, Julius Bencko, Finn Batato, Sven Echternach, Mathias Ortmann, and Andrus Nomm were also indicted.

New Zealand authorities arrested Dotcom, Batato, Ortmann and van der Kolk. Officials said they have not yet captured Bencko, Echternach and Nomm.

According to the indictment, the accused are part of “the Mega Conspiracy, a worldwide criminal organization whose members engaged in criminal copyright infringement and money laundering on a massive scale.” They are being charged with participating in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement.

Should they be found guilty, the seven accused could find themselves behind bars for a maximum of 20 years.

The indictment and subsequent arrests come only a day after major websites blacked out and rallies were held to protest SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (PROTECT IP Act), two Internet piracy bills currently under debate in the U.S. Congress.

Some 15 minutes after the indictment, the online hacker group Anonymous tweeted from a Sweden-based account that it had retaliated against the DOJ

Megaupload Founder Hid From Cops In Panic Room

New Zealand police raided the fortified mansion of Megaupload founder “Kim Dotcom” today, and the arrest did not go smoothly. Police tell the AFP that when they arrived, Dotcom, who is also known as Kim Schmitz, “retreated into the house and activated a number of electronic locking mechanisms,” eventually barricading himself inside a safe room police had to cut their way into. Once inside, they found Dotcom, 37, near what looked like a sawed-off shotgun.

“It was definitely not as simple as knocking at the front door,” a detective said. Police arrested Dotcom, seized the gun and his pink Cadillac, and froze some $8.8 million in assets. Dotcom was denied bail, along with three other Megaupload employees. The arrests come at the behest of US authorities, who are seeking extradition. The FBI shut down Megaupload yesterday, accusing it of copyright violations.

So… Did the SOPA/PIPA thing just started? The bill wasn’t passed and yet still, arrests were made. Hm.

It’s Not Over: SOPA’s Chief Sponsor Isn’t Backing Down

And here we are again talking about SOPA/PIPA. Sorry about that. It’s just that in concerns us all. We’ll stop from now on.

Even though a co-sponsors of SOPA and PIPA pulled their support for the bills on Wednesday, SOPA’s lead backer says he’s not backing down and “expects to move forward” with the bill next month.

Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the House Judiciary Committee chairman, told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that the bill has already accommodated objections by the opposition.“It’s easy to engage in fear-mongering and it’s easy to raise straw men and red herrings, but if they read the bill they will be reassured,” Smith told the WSJ.

Smith also dismissed charges that the bill amounts to censorship.

“Obviously there’s no censorship in the bill and no one can indicate any censorship whatsoever. It’s not censorship to want to stop illegal activity,” Smith told the publication. “That’s all we do. We’re trying to impede illegal activity by foreign websites.”

Smith was apparently unmoved by a widespread Internet blackout on Wednesday protesting SOPA. Meanwhile, PIPA remains scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Jan. 24.

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