Judge rules in favor of Pandora in important licensing case

pandoralogoBrian McAndrews, former head of aQuantive and Pandora’s new CEO got some good news today from the company’s law firm: it looks like the service won’t be losing music any time soon.

According to a report by Reuters, Judge Denise Cote, who has also presided over U.S. v. Apple, has issued a summary judgment that a licensing agreement Pandora made in 2005 with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) will continue to apply through 2015 while the two sides fight to determine licensing fees going forward. That means music controlled by rightsholders who wish to withdraw from the ASCAP agreement will remain on Pandora, at least for now.

The battle between ASCAP and Pandora doesn’t stop here, though. Now, the two sides will go to trial, and Cote will set the licensing rates for Pandora’s next contract with ASCAP, thanks to a precedent set in 1941 that gives the U.S. District Court of New York the ability to set licensing rates.

This case is important for streaming music services, which rely on groups like ASCAP and major labels to set licensing prices that continue to allow them to do business. Pandora contends that ASCAP is asking for too much money in its licensing talks, especially as major labels like EMI have removed their catalogs from ASCAP’s hoard in the interest of negotiating directly with streaming music providers like Pandora.

The rate that Cote sets may become something of a benchmark for other licensing contracts between rightsholders and other streaming services, like Rhapsody, Spotify and Apple’s newly-released iTunes Radio.

Via GeekWire


Netflix looks at torrent sites to decide which shows to buy.

>A Netflix executive said Prison Break, starring Wentworth Miller, was popular on downloading sites.

A Netflix executive said Prison Break, starring Wentworth Miller, was popular on downloading sites.  Photo: Getty

Video streaming giant Netflix has revealed that it looks at pirate downloading sites to work out which television series to buy.

The company will check the popularity of shows on file-sharing websites when considering whether to buy broadcasting rights, an Netflix executive said.

Speaking ahead of the company’s launch in the Netherlands, Netflix Vice President of Content Acquisition Kelly Merryman discussed the role sites such as BitTorrent have in purchase decisions.

“With the purchase of series, we look at what does well on piracy sites,” she said a recent interview with Tweakers.

Explaining the acquisition of rights to the show Prison Break in the Netherlands, she said: “Prison Break is exceptionally popular on piracy sites.”

Prison Break is an American television series starring Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell which was broadcast on Fox for four seasons between 2005 and 2009.

Traditionally Netflix, one of world’s leading video streaming sites, is seen as a rival provider to sites that offer films and television shows to download without the owners’ permission.

Yet recent comments from another Netflix executive, CEO Reed Hastings, suggest that the company can actually benefit from the additional demand created by so-called “torrent sites”.

“Certainly there’s some torrenting that goes on, and that’s true around the world, but some of that just creates the demand,” Hastings said.

Netflix can then attempt to upsell some of those users with the offer of better overall watching experience.

“Netflix is so much easier than torrenting. You don’t have to deal with files, you don’t have to download them and move them around. You just click and watch,” he said, according to TorrentFreak.

Indeed three years after Netflix launched in Canada there is evidence that traffic to BitTorrent has halved, according to Hastings.

While Netflix remains heavily reliant on broadcasting shows created by other production companies, it has begun creating its own programmes.

Earlier this year the website premiered the political drama House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey as scheming Congressman Frank Underwood.

The first season’s 13 episodes were released all at once for customers to watch immediately. A second season has been commissioned.

Via Telegraph


Is The Future Of Data Centers In Space?

We are just a few small advances away from storing your old Tweets high up above the clouds. There’s solar energy. It’s pretty secure. Why not?

As a general rule, it makes sense to store commodities that are used every day near big population centers. But data centers–those nondescript storage units for that magical place called “the cloud”–can be anywhere. In fact, data centers are often well-suited for remote locations, where energy and real estate is cheap and security is easy (you could build a data center inside a cave, for example). So why not take data centers to space–a vast landscape with virtually unlimited room to grow, little security risk, and lots of solar energy?

Advances in data center automation, which are trending towards a future that is almost entirely robotic and self-healing, could make it possible, according to Jack Pouchet, vice president of business development and energy initiatives at Emerson Network Power. Pouchet is always thinking about data center efficiency and the future of the industry–and he’s noticing the beginnings of a problem that will only get bigger.

“Look at what’s going on with mobile computing, mobile media, everything [being] on all the time, the next billion people connecting to mobile electronics and the Internet,” he says. Building data centers to deal with cloud computing needs won’t just be an energy suck–in some places, it will by physically challenging. “If you look at underserved markets, the population growth in Southeast Asia and Africa, and the cost of building a physical data center–bringing in roads, power, people, and broadband connectivity could be in the half a billion dollar range. You could put something in space for $100 million,” he claims.

Pouchet imagines that data centers could be launched into geosynchronous orbit, flying high–but not too high–above Earth. The data centers might not be lightning-quick to retrieve information for users, but they could be used for “cold storage” for when speed isn’t necessary (i.e. to store three-year-old Tweets).

Getting clean power wouldn’t be an issue; space-based solar panels are already used to power satellites (some use nuclear power instead). But making sure an orbiting data center is automated enough would be tricky. Even if a robot can take care of 99% of incidents, that 1% that requires a human touch could kill the idea.

“It could be up to a year before people can go to do an upgrade and make replacements,” admits Pouchet.

If self-healing technology gets to the point that it makes sense to put data centers into space, it will also make sense to put them in other extreme environments, like the deep sea. “There’s a lot to be said for dropping a data center into the ocean,” says Pouchet. “No one is going to be able to mess with it.”

Via Co.Exist


The Debrett’s guide to etiquette in the digital age

The mobile phone is killing British manners, according to Debrett’s. Here is its guide to rules for mobile etiquette:

1. Think what your ringtone says about you?

Think about what your ringtone says about you: head-banging rocker, fashion-conscious teenager, gamer, sci-fi nerd, smooth seducer, tv addict, ‘invisible’ (default)… Can you live with it?

If you’re embarrassed by your ringtone in certain situations (trains, office, when you’re visiting your mother) it’s almost certainly the wrong choice. Try again.

Monitor the volume of your ringtone; if it blares out and heads turn it’s too loud.

2. When in doubt use vibrate

Remember there’s always vibrate. It may surprise your companions when you lurch – seemingly unprompted – to answer an invisible, silent phone, but at least they’ll be spared the ringtone.

3. Take notice of who is around you

Ensure that your mobile phone conversation is not disturbing other people. Intimate conversations are never appropriate in front of others – try and respect your own, and other people’s, privacy.

4. Watch your language

Don’t use foul language, have full-blooded rows, or talk about money, sex or bodily functions in front of witnesses.

5. Respect quiet zones

Don’t use your phone in ‘quiet zones’ on trains. Even if you’re not in a designated zone, be aware that your voice will distract a peaceful carriage of newspaper-reading commuters. If the line is bad and conversations inaudible, explain that there’s a problem and hang up.

6. Never shout

Your mobile phone is not a megaphone, so don’t shout…

If you lose reception, live with it. Refrain from shouting into a dead device, and ring the other person back as soon as you regain it, even if it’s only to say goodbye.

7. People with you deserve more attention than those at the end of a phone

People in the flesh deserve more attention than a gadget, so wherever possible turn off your phone in social situations.

If you are awaiting an important call when meeting someone socially, explain at the outset that you will have to take the call, and apologise in advance. Otherwise, excuse yourself and withdraw somewhere private to make or receive calls. Do not have a mobile phone conversation in front of your friends. It is the height of bad manners…

8. Step away from the phone at meal times

Don’t put your phone on the dining table, or glance at it longingly mid-conversation.

9. Don’t carry on mobile phone calls when in the middle of something else

Don’t carry on mobile phone calls while transacting other business – in banks, shops, on buses and so on. It is insulting not to give people who are serving you your full attention.

10. Think about where you are calling from

Don’t make calls to people from inappropriate venues; a call from a bathroom is deeply off-putting.

Switch off your phone, or turn it on to vibrate, when you are going into meetings, theatres, cinemas and so on.

Only make or take calls in the car using a hands-free head set.

Via Telegraph


Vodafone, Verizon Agree on $130 Billion Deal.

Negotiators for Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC have agreed to a deal in which Verizon will pay about $130 billion for the U.K. company’s stake in their U.S. joint venture, a person familiar with the matter said.

The terms still needed to be approved by the companies’ boards, but if all goes well a deal could be announced as soon as Monday afternoon, the person said. Vodafone’s board was meeting Sunday to discuss the deal, and Verizon’s board was to meet after hearing the result, people familiar with the matter said.

Via AllThingsD


In historic vote, New Zealand bans software patents

A major new patent bill, passed in a 117-4 vote by New Zealand’s Parliament after five years of debate, has banned software patents.

The relevant clause of the patent bill actually states that a computer program is “not an invention.” Some have suggested that was a way to get around the wording of the TRIPS intellectual propertytreaty which requires patents to be “available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology.”

Processes will still be patentable if the computer program is merely a way of implementing a patentable process. But patent claims that cover computer programs “as such” will not be allowed.

It seems there will be some leeway for computer programs directly tied to improved hardware. The bill includes the example of a better washing machine. Even if the improvements are implemented with a computer program, “the actual contribution is a new and improved way of operating a washing machine that gets clothes cleaner and uses less electricity,” so a patent could be awarded.

One Member of Parliament who was deeply involved in the debate, Clare Curran, quoted several heads of software firms complaining about how the patenting process allowed “obvious things” to get patented and that “in general software patents are counter-productive.” Curran quoted one developer as saying, “It’s near impossible for software to be developed without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of patents granted around the world for obvious work.”

“These are the heavyweights of the new economy in software development,” said Curran. “These are the people that needed to be listened to, and thankfully, they were.”

The head of New Zealand’s Institute of IT Professionals, Paul Matthews, celebrated the passage of the bill, tweeting: “Software patents are now disallowed in New Zealand. #Historic #Awesome #Yay.” Matthews also noted that the new law will only apply to new patent applications, so existing software patents will continue to stand in New Zealand.

It’s an open question whether other countries will take up New Zealand’s example. An outright ban on software patents in the US seems unlikely given large corporations—in tech and other sectors—that would oppose such a move. However, this year has been one of unprecedented concern about “patent trolls,” with six bills introduced in Congress addressing that issue in the last several months.

Via Ars Technica


France defangs its anti-piracy law, removes disconnection penalty.

After years of questionable effectiveness, France’s notorious three-strikes anti-piracy law—known by its French acronym, Hadopi—has had its most controversial provision removed.

On Tuesday, the French Ministry of Culture announced (Google Translate) that it would be canceling the most severe penalty in the entire scheme: disconnecting someone from the Internet. How many times was this penalty actually enforced over the years that Hadopi has been on the books? Exactly once.

In September 2012, a man in Eastern France was convicted of a third strike after downloading unauthorized copies of two Rihanna songs, even though his soon-to-be-ex-wife was the one who admitted in court that she had done it. Frustrated with the entire Hadopi system, the unnamed man from Eastern France voluntarily took his entire household offline. It took until last month for a single user to be fined €600 ($771) and kicked offline for 15 days (Google Translate)—the first time disconnection had been ordered after the many millions of warnings that Hadopi has sent French Internet users. Only a small handful of French users have even made it to strike three.

Since the new administration of President François Hollande, who was elected last year, Hadopi has been on the ropes. Hollande campaigned in part on shutting Hadopi down (mostly), and later hisculture minister told a French magazine that Hadopi had “not fulfilled its mission.” The agency’s budgetwas eventually cut.

In its statement (Google Translate) about the change, the Ministry of Culture says that cutting someone off from the Internet is “totally unadapted to our world” and that the new approach illustrates a “change in orientation” for the government’s enforcement measures. Hadopi will now focus more on pirate andunauthorized streaming sites—and less on individual users.

Via Ars Technica

Sony and Disney take on piracy in Korea by streaming movies while still in the cinema

Piracy is such an issue in Asia that both Sony Pictures and Disney are trialling a new scheme whereby films will be available to rent digitally while they are still available in local cinemas.

Testing is under way in South Korea and represents the first time anywhere that viewers can opt to either stream the movie to their homes or visit a theatre.

Sony’s Django Unchained was one of those trialled. It was available to rent in the home either online or through a local cable operator only three weeks after its theatrical release in the country in April. Both Brave and Wreck-it Ralph were given the same treatment by Disney.

The Wall Street Journal reports that executives at each of the four other major studios are keeping a close eye on Sony and Disney’s tests and are considering whether to follow suit.

It is too soon to be able to tell if the tests have had an impact on piracy in the region, but Chun Yoon-soo, director of business development for digital-cable company HomeChoice, the largest video-on-demand supplier in South Korea, has revealed that revenues for the “super-premium” films have been positive: 30 per cent up on other rental choices.

“It’s way too early to say if this will be a policy for any studio or even a norm, but it seems to have potential,” a person familiar with the testing told the WSJ.

Cinemas, however, are understandably reticent.

Via Pocket-lint



EC votes to end roaming fees, wants single European telecoms market

In a bid to create a single European telecoms market, the European Commission voted on Tuesday to end roaming fees for voice calls, texts and Internet access.

The Telegraph reported on Wednesday that 27 European Commissioners voted to scrap the fees, with the changes going into effect by 1 July 2014. The vote is part of a broader effort to form a single European telecoms market and encourage competition among mobile networks.

Regulations for reining in pricey cellular bills already exist, but the new reforms would uniquely push European mobile network operators to end fragmentation and roaming fees. The European Commission will publish detailed proposals within the next six weeks.

The commissioners specifically look to “wipe 2pc off mobile operators’ revenues,” according to the Telegraph’s report, and consolidate the many companies and services offered across the 27-member states into a single market.

While banning roaming charges would cut mobile operators’ revenues, the networks will eventually benefit from customers using their smartphones abroad more often.

There are currently no plans to ban charges for mobile termination or connecting calls, another set of fees often under contention.


Via Pocket-lint