Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Studios Continue Getting Piracy Wrong?

By now many of you have heard how The Dark Knight is shattering box office records. Almost every news story is about how much money Warner Bros. is raking in.

No story that I've seen has been about film piracy... until today.

One of the reasons I believe film piracy to be one of the most overblown "threats" out there (next to any and all warnings from Neo-Cons) is this...

...when a film tanks at the box office it was piracy that had a hand in hobbling it...

... if a film is a blockbuster, no one moans about piracy getting in the way of an even bigger opening weekend.

This must mean that piracy is only a problem for films with poor performances. At least that's what it seems to me.

Yet, Warner Bros. took extra measures to make sure piracy didn't hinder Batman.
"The film reels were delivered in staggered shipments so that a complete version was not available in theaters until the last moment.... The strategy, according to the (Los Angeles) Times, kept any print of The Dark Knight off the internet for 30 hours -- enough time to allow it to break box-office records in its first weekend."
Umm, really? Here's another misconception about film piracy. People who are going to download a film from the internet, a process that could take up to 24 hours depending upon your connection, WERE NEVER GOING TO THE THEATER IN THE FIRST PLACE. A 30 hour delay is only going to put off their downloading... not make them pony up to see it in the theater.

Dark Knight was an event film. Sure there are illegal copies on line and on poor quality Hong Kong DVDs, but I'm willing to bet these measures by WB didn't hinder these illegal transactions. Nor would they have effected Dark Knight's bottom line in any significant way. Dark Knight made all the money it was supposed to and rightfully so (It's a kick ass film!).

Still, I guess if you publicly behave like there's a threat... then the threat must be real.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Threat Of Many Arms

Wow, looking back over my recent burst of posts I've determined one thing...

.... I bitch a lot!

It's all for a good reason, though. I think more people should be engaged (and possibly enraged) in/at what's going on in their world. If we knew the truth, we'd never be content to let it slide.

Take this new threat... one that could endanger the lives of every seafaring nation in the world. A mutant octopus with 96 tentacles!!

Okay, it's not really a threat. More of a curiosity. This cephalopod has the normal 8 arms to hold you, but through some alleged abnormality in regeneration each tentacle branches off into a group of baby tentacles.

I point you to this post if you take this "threat" seriously. ;-)

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Internet & Hollywood Sitting In A Tree...


You gotta love big business these days. I'm talking the mega corporations and congloms. With the recession everyone is feeling the bite, but to listen to the corporations, you'd think they were having a bowel resection without anesthetic.

It reminds me of a line from The Sopranos (and I'm paraphrasing), "You got a Virginia ham under one arm and you're whining that you don't have any bread."

Never has this been more apparent than in Hollywood (my fair city!).

As some of you may know, we suffered a major writers' strike this year. The Directors almost went. The actors may go any day now. One of the many issues is what workers and talent should receive for work distributed over the internet. New Media is what everyone calls it.

According to the studios, the internet is unproven, untried, unreliable and not a viable format of distribution yet. They say there's no money in them thar hills. Yet, they seem to be spending a lot of time with new media. SAG (the Screen Actor's Guild) released a paper to illustrate just how real the internet is.... and how false the studios' protests were.

From Deadline Hollywood, the estimable Nikki Finke's daily show business news blog, come a recap of Hollywood's love affair with the internet. Someone is making money here or at least about to:
February 4, 2008—Cablevision offers Universal and Warner Bros. movies on demand the same day they debut on DVD, as long as viewers purchase the movies on disc.
February 20-21, 2008—CBS and NBC begin streaming classic shows from their libraries online in their entirety.
February 25, 2008—ABC and Cox Communications begin work on a video on demand (VOD) system that disables fast-forwarding of commercials.
March 11, 2008—Apple and Lionsgate agree to allow iTunes users to make digital copies of selected movies to watch on computer, iPod, iPhone or Apple TV.
March 12, 2008—Fox and NBC launch, a website that allows users to watch movies and TV shows for free with "limited commercial interruptions."
April 2, 2008—NBC announces it will produce short, original episodes of The Office, Chuck and Heroes specifically for the Web, beginning in Summer 2008, along with an original online-only show called Fears, Secrets & Desires.
April 13, 2008—Yahoo expands its online video presence and ties to big media and entertainment by acquiring for $160 million the online video platform Maven Networks, which has deals with CBS Sports, Sony BMG, News Corp.'s Fox News and other content providers to help manage, distribute and monetize their video platforms.
April 16, 2008—Over ten billion online video views in the U.S. in February
2008, a 66 percent gain versus February 2007.
April 17, 2008—Networks are acquiring the rights to new content to make the leap from Internet to television as NBC has signed up the series Gemini Division, and Channel Five has picked web drama Sofia’s Diary.
April 28, 2008— Warner Bros. TV Group says it is resurrecting its WB Network TV brand as an ad-supported video network that will offer a mix of new programming and old series aimed at women viewers.
April 30, 2008—Sezmi opens up a new set-top box with one terabyte of storage, a broadband Internet connection, and an antenna.
April 30, 2008—Time Warner says it will release all of its DVD titles on VOD on a day-and-date basis this year.
May 1, 2008—Hulu launches a YouTube channel of its own, bringing NBC back to YouTube.
May 1, 2008—iTunes goes “day and date” with DVDs with new releases and catalog titles available from 20th Century Fox, The Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Lionsgate, Image Entertainment and First Look Studio.
May 2, 2008—Disney-ABC Television Group begins research in collaboration with Nielsen Co. regarding inserting multiple commercials into ad breaks for primetime series on its broadband player.
May 7, 2008—NBC streams free, full episodes of The Office & 30 Rock to
iPhones in unprotected Quicktime format.
May 13, 2008 – Bob Iger states at a New York media conference that he expects Disney to pull in $1 billion in digital revenue this year.
May 15, 2008—CBS purchases CNET Networks making it one of the 10 most popular Internet companies in the United States, with a combined 54 million unique users per month, and approximately 200 million users worldwide.
May 19, 2008—NetFlix Web-to-TV set-top box debuts with a price tag of $99.
May 28, 2008—Blockbuster Inc. announces its intended launch of in-store kiosks that will allow consumers to download movies onto portable devices in two minutes.
June 1, 2008—CBS says it will unveil a new video player that has new ad
targeting (using a content and advertising engine CBS picked up in its acquisition of, content sharing and HD.
June 2, 2008—A study suggests marketers should adopt VOD sales as VOD ads are more effective than broadcast ads. The reason is viewers are more likely to recall a spot seen in an on-demand context than they would an ad on linear TV.
June 3, 2008—Sony PlayStation launches an original, unscripted monthly series.
June 4, 2008—CBS will stream its shows online at Yahoo TV, running pre-roll advertisements.
June 5, 2008—All BBC TV channels are being prepared to be made available online.
June 10, 2008—Disney to stream movies online, offering them for free based on an ad-supported revenue model.
June 10, 2008—HBO buys stake in Funny or Die, signing an additional
development deal as well.
June 10, 2008—NetFlix set-top boxes sell out in less than three weeks.
June 11, 2008— GoTV Networks, which produces and syndicates original and partner programming via mobile and broadband technologies, enters into a strategic partnership with talent agency CESD to combine GoTV's production studio with CESD's talent roster.
June 12, 2008—Warner Bros. Television Group announces that its content will be distributed through branded channels on Dailymotion, Joost, Sling Media, TiVo and Veoh Networks.
June 16, 2008—Weeds delivers 2.5 million Apple downloads.
June 18, 2008—YouTube experiments with full-length video, enabling YouTube to offer more ads per view and other ad opportunities.
June 19, 2008—Fox airs Rescue Me five-minute minisodes on FX and the Web in order to rekindle audience interest in the show due to the hiatus during the WGA strike. The minisodes don't connect to the new season.
June 23, 2008—British commercial broadcast giant ITV reports a surge in its Internet activities with a four-fold rise since its launch in video catch-up, which allows viewers to watch shows they've missed that week since its launch.
June 24, 2008—ABC syndicates content to Veoh and moves its prime time to the Web.
June 27, 2008—Sony to create new movie download service directly to TV that utilizes the Bravia Internet Link.
June 30, 2008—Google tests new ad-based content monetization model with Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy and uses its AdSense advertising system to syndicate the program to thousands of Web sites that are predetermined to be visited by the target audience.
July 15, 2008—Netflix and Microsoft announce a deal that will allow Netflix
subscribers to stream 10,000 movies and TV shows to Microsoft’s Xbox consoles for viewing on television sets, beginning in Fall 2008. The deal doubles the number of movies and shows available on Xbox for download.

Monday, July 14, 2008

1 Million Possible Terrorists?

Really? I mean, with a number like that shouldn't we all be dead or near death?

That's right... it was estimated that the U.S. Terrorist Watch List has 1 million names on it. Does that seem a little hight to you?

It surely does to... well, any thinking human being. There could be a lot of reasons Homeland Security got this wrong. One of them is called the paradox of the false positive. This was beautifully illustrated by author Cory Doctorow in his recent book Little Brother (a book every American should read).

Allow Mr. Doctorow to explain (this passage is from his book):
Say you have a new disease, called Super-AIDS. Only one in a million people gets Super-AIDS. You develop a test for Super-AIDS that's 99 percent accurate. I mean, 99 percent of the time, it gives the correct result -- true if the subject is infected, and false if the subject is healthy. You give the test to a million people.

One in a million people have Super-AIDS. One in a hundred people that you test will generate a "false positive" -- the test will say he has Super-AIDS even though he doesn't. That's what "99 percent accurate" means: one percent wrong.

What's one percent of one million?

1,000,000/100 = 10,000

One in a million people has Super-AIDS. If you test a million random people, you'll probably only find one case of real Super-AIDS. But your test won't identify one person as having Super-AIDS. It will identify 10,000 people as having it.

Your 99 percent accurate test will perform with 99.99 percent inaccuracy...

This is the paradox of the false positive, and here's how it applies to terrorism:

Terrorists are really rare. In a city of twenty million like New York, there might be one or two terrorists. Maybe ten of them at the outside. 10/20,000,000 = 0.00005 percent. One twenty-thousandth of a percent.

That's pretty rare all right. Now, say you've got some software that can sift through all the bank-records, or toll-pass records, or public transit records, or phone-call records in the city and catch terrorists 99 percent of the time.

In a pool of twenty million people, a 99 percent accurate test will identify two hundred thousand people as being terrorists. But only ten of them are terrorists. To catch ten bad guys, you have to haul in and investigate two hundred thousand innocent people.

Guess what? Terrorism tests aren't anywhere close to 99 percent accurate. More like 60 percent accurate. Even 40 percent accurate, sometimes.

What this all meant was that the Department of Homeland Security had set itself up to fail badly. They were trying to spot incredibly rare events -- a person is a terrorist -- with inaccurate systems.

Makes you think, don't it?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Change Congress

It's becoming all too clear (especially after repeatedly caving in to Bush) that Congress is at the heart of a lot of our problems. No new president (progressive or not) will be able to fix a system that is rotting at its legislative, executive and judicial roots.

That's why Larry Lessig (Stanford law professor and champion of Creative Commons) is trying to Change Congress (for those who slept through Civics class, that's the legislative branch - don't mean to be snarky, but you'd be surprised how few seem to remember this - see my previous post).

Congress is corrupt and not in the typical Tammany Hall kind of way. I'll let Lessig explain.

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My Rant About the Second Amendment

I remember when the Supreme Court upheld that the Right To Bear Arms is indeed legal, a lot of gun control advocates felt like it was a body blow. If you remember your Civics class though, the Supreme Court did exactly what it was supposed to do.

As a judicial body, they aren't supposed to deem a law good or not. They are merely supposed to ensure the letter of the law is being followed. They upheld the laws that were on the books as measured against the Constitution. It's the legislative body (Congress) that makes those laws.

In other words, just because the Supreme Court said people are allowed to own guns doesn't mean laws can't be drafted to regulate how they go about arming themselves.

5 Day Waiting periods are still constitutional. Washington D.C.'s handgun ban sadly is not. That doesn't mean D.C. doesn't have options. It also doesn't mean Congress can't come up with new legislation (i.e. new laws and yes, Virginia, new amendments) to reverse the Second Amendment if need be.

If you believe in gun control, start writing to your Congressman (or woman). If they don't want to do anything about it, replace them. They work for us, you know.

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BFO's Weekend Catch Up

And now a few weekend items worth noticing...

In true Bush-ian fashion, his administration's folly is being left for the next guy to clean up.

According to the Washington Post:
U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have abandoned efforts to conclude a comprehensive agreement governing the long-term status of U.S troops in Iraq before the end of the Bush presidency... the failure of months of negotiations over the more detailed accord -- blamed on both the Iraqi refusal to accept U.S. terms and the complexity of the task -- deals a blow to the Bush administration's plans to leave in place a formal military architecture in Iraq that could last for years.

There were some rumblings earlier this week about Viacom's pressuring YouTube to reveal people's viewing habits and track records. All this is an effort by Viacom to prove that the bulk of YouTube traffic involves some type of copyright infringement.

But why do you need private information about YouTube users to figure that out? Each post has a handy dandy view counter. Something else is going on here.

And we'll save the questionable Google practice of stockpiling user's private data for another time. This article from The Guardian kind of covers all the bases.


Far be it for me to give anything that drips from Fox News as... well, news. Still this bit about Homeland Security considering ID bracelets for airline passengers is worth noting. Especially considering these bracelets are also for behavioral control. Coffee, tea or... taser?

According to terrorism expert Neil Livingstone, who is trying to downplay the possible use of these shock devices:

"Flying is not a right, it is a privilege."

Really? You mean it's a privilege when I have to pay close to $500 to fly from L.A. to Portland, Oregon... while first flying to Phoenix... after being all but strip searched by TSA flunkies who are lost at sea as to what they should look for... and then having to pay for checking my baggage? See, I feel that when I PAY for something, I better get what I paid for as more than a privilege.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

It's called 'Net Neutrality'

Comcast. AT&T and Time Warner are trying to limit your access to the internet. They're doing this in ways that may soon become industry standard.

Citing a shortage of bandwidth (much like the oil companies cite shortage of oil for charging us more), these internet providers are looking to charge users based on their usage. That means if you use a lot of bandwidth for downloads or playing games you will be financially penalized for going over your allotted usage.

In my opinion, this is really just a backwards way of fighting what industry power-mongers call 'piracy'. P2P (peer to peer) downloads are a fact of the internet. It's how people share files which is another way of sharing culture and ideas. Sure, some copyrighted material is violated, but that's part of the cost of having a FREE exchange like the internet.

How do I know the actions of Comcast an others is meant to limit file sharing? Because this kind of tiered charging only effects people who need high amounts of bandwidth. It doesn't effect the basic surfer of the Web.

It also can backfire since a lot of the industry media corporations are developing to catch up with the P2P culture are download services like Netflix and

There's also this action from the FCC that tells me something is fishy... they're going after Comcast for another form of control which is limiting people's bandwidth without telling them.

"The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday he will recommend that the nation's largest cable company be punished for violating agency principles that guarantee customers open access to the Internet.

The potentially precedent-setting move stems from a complaint against Comcast Corp. that the company had blocked Internet traffic among users of a certain type of "file sharing" software that allows them to exchange large amounts of data.

"The commission has adopted a set of principles that protects consumers access to the Internet," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told The Associated Press late Thursday. "We found that Comcast's actions in this instance violated our principles."

Martin said Comcast has "arbitrarily" blocked Internet access, regardless of the level of traffic, and failed to disclose to consumers that it was doing so.

Company spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice on Thursday denied that Comcast blocks Internet content or services and that the "carefully limited measures that Comcast takes to manage traffic on its broadband network are a reasonable part" of the company's strategy to ensure all customers receive quality service."

Don't be fooled. These aren't the days of party lines where our internet is held hostage by the neighbor tying up the line. Bandwidth is for all intents and purposes a free commodity. Yes, the companies have to provide more cables, but that would warrant a one time price hike for ALL users. It's no basis for a tiered pricing structure.

Charging for bandwidth is like the banks charging you for using a foreign ATM. It doesn't cost them a dime to process that transaction since its all done over the internet.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

"I've Had All I Can Stands...

... and I can't stands no more." This was the battle cry for Popeye The Sailor right before he popped the top on a can of spinach and kicked some ass!

Well, with the Senate and The House passing Bush's version of FISA (and hereby stripping us citizens of our civil rights to unwarranted surveillance)... with everyone looking for a fight in Iran... with internet companies trying to choke the free flow of information by charging users for bandwidth (which is essentially free)... this blogger, who has been silent, is taking up his keyboard again.

From now on, this blog will be dedicated to pointing a finger at the shim-sham scams the government and the powerful are trying to pull over on us. We'll start with this...

Remember those missile tests Iran pulled the other day. It made people who buy into the whole terrorist fear mongering Bush-ites have been playing (don't get me wrong - there are terrorists in the world. They're just not at a threat level worthy of going all Orwellian on us - more on this in future blogs).

Back to those Iranian missiles... what would you say if those pictures spread all over major newspapers were 'Photoshopped'? Not only 'Photoshopped' but fed to the world media by Iran's own propaganda machine.



Read this bit on Boing-Boing affectionately titled "Iran: You Suck At Photoshop".

And this bit from the New York Times.

Afterwords, file this post under "Don't believe everything you see."