Quotulatiousness

September 10, 2014

Ontario’s bid to impose a Netflix or YouTube tax

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:28

Michael Geist reports on the Ontario government’s pitch to the CRTC to impose additional tax burdens on foreign online video services:

As CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais anticipated, the Government of Ontario’s call for regulation of online video services attracted considerable attention, including comments from Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover roundly dismissing the possibility. Glover stated:

“We will not allow any moves to impose new regulations and taxes on internet video that would create a Netflix and Youtube Tax.”

Last night, I received an email from a spokesperson for Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Coteau that tried to soften the call for online video regulation. The spokesperson stated:

“The presentation today provided important elements for CRTC consideration as it undertakes its review. The government is not advocating for any CanCon changes, or that any specific regulations be imposed on new media TV, until more evidence is available.”

I asked for clarification on what “more evidence” means. The spokesperson responded that there will be over 100 presentations at the CRTC hearing and that all need to be heard from before moving forward.

Yet a review of the Ontario government submission to the CRTC and its prepared remarks yesterday make it clear that the government strongly supported immediate regulatory reforms and that the need for “evidence” is actually a reference to revenue thresholds that would trigger mandatory payments by foreign online video providers.

July 15, 2014

The economic side of Net Neutrality

Filed under: Business, Economics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:41

In Forbes, Tim Worstall ignores the slogans to follow the money in the Net Neutrality argument:

The FCC is having a busy time of it as their cogitations into the rules about net neutrality become the second most commented upon in the organisation’s history (second only to Janet Jackson’s nip-slip which gives us a good idea of the priorities of the citizenry). The various internet content giants, the Googles, Facebooks and so on of this world, are arguing very loudly that strict net neutrality should be the standard. We could, of course attribute this to all in those organisations being fully up with the hippy dippy idea that information just wants to be free. Apart from the obvious point that Zuckerberg, for one, is a little too young to have absorbed that along with the patchouli oil we’d probably do better to examine the underlying economics of what’s going on to work out why people are taking the positions they are.

Boiling “net neutrality” down to its essence the argument is about whether the people who own the connections to the customer, the broadband and mobile airtime providers, can treat different internet traffic differently. Should we force them to be neutral (thus the “neutrality” part) and treat all traffic exactly the same? Or should they be allowed to speed up some traffic, slow down other, in order to prioritise certain services over others?

We can (and many do) argue that we the consumers are paying for this bandwidth so it’s up to us to decide and we might well decide that they cannot. Others might (and they do) argue that certain services require very much more of that bandwidth than others, further, require a much higher level of service, and it would be economically efficient to charge for that greater volume and quality. For example, none of us would mind all that much if there was a random second or two delay in the arrival of a gmail message but we’d be very annoyed if there were random such delays in the arrival of a YouTube packet. Netflix would be almost unusable if streaming were subject to such delays. So it might indeed make sense to prioritise such traffic and slow down other to make room for it.

You can balance these arguments as you wish: there’s not really a “correct” answer to this, it’s a matter of opinion. But why are the content giants all arguing for net neutrality? What’s their reasoning?

As you’d expect, it all comes down to the money. Who pays more for what under a truly “neutral” model and who pays more under other models. The big players want to funnel off as much of the available profit to themselves as possible, while others would prefer the big players reduced to the status of regulated water company: carrying all traffic at the same rate (which then allows the profits to go to other players).

June 21, 2014

ISIS displays mastery of modern social media recruiting techniques

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:09

Lara Prendergast on the successful techniques of recruiting-by-social-media being used by ISIS propagandists:

Yesterday evening, I returned home, made a cup of tea and slumped down to catch up on the day’s news. A piece on Twitter caught my eye. Posted by Channel 4, it was titled ‘#Jihad: how ISIS is using social media to win support‘. Click. Soon I was learning about how ISIS was calling for global support via a sophisticated social media campaign, branded the ‘one billion campaign’. Click, click. Onto YouTube, where I found graphic videos recorded and uploaded by ISIS members. Click, click, click. Ten minutes later, and I was on Twitter, being recruited by jihadis to come join them.

Clearly, I am not about to head to Syria or Iraq. But I was struck by how quickly I found material asking me to show support and help the cause. If I was an impressionable young Muslim man, perhaps I would have found it alluring. I came across a podcast uploaded by the British jihadi Abu Summayyah al-Britani, which suggested that fighting in Syria was better than playing Call of Duty.

The imagery ISIS promotes is also absorbing, in a dark, sinister way. The black and white flag is the new Jolly Roger; balaclavas and AK47s the new uniform. ‘Come fight with us, brother’ it screams. It looks dangerous and exciting. This belligerent propaganda has zipped round the world at an unprecedented speed. It’s a potent mix of graphic imagery and piratic behaviour blended with a fanatical message. It’s hard not to look, no matter how much you try.

April 19, 2014

Transaction costs, takedown notices, and the DMCA

Filed under: Economics, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:59

Mike Masnick reports on an inadvertent natural experiment that just came to light:

We’ve written a few times in the past about research done by Paul Heald on copyright and its impact on the availability of certain content. He’s recently published an interesting new study on how the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown regime facilitates making content available by decreasing transaction costs among parties. As we’ve discussed at length, the entertainment industry’s main focus in the next round of copyright reform is to wipe out the notice-and-takedown provisions of the DMCA. The legacy recording and movie industries want everyone else to act as copyright cops, and hate the idea that notice-and-takedown puts the initial burden on themselves as copyright holders.

However, Heald’s research looks at music on YouTube and concludes that the notice-and-takedown system has actually enabled much greater authorized availability of music, by reducing transaction costs. The idea is pretty straightforward. Without a notice-and-takedown provision, someone who wants to post music to YouTube needs to go out and seek a license. Of course, getting permission from all the various rightsholders is frequently impossible. The transaction costs of getting permission make it such that it’s way too high. Yet, with notice-and-takedown, the person can upload the content without permission, and then the copyright holder is given the option of what to do with it. On YouTube, that includes the option of monetizing it, thus “authorizing” the use. That creates a natural experiment for Heald to explore, in which he can see how much content is “authorized” thanks to such a setup. And the result, not surprisingly, is that this system has enabled much greater authorized (and monetized) access to music than an alternative, high transaction cost system, under which uploaders must first seek out permission to upload everything.

March 30, 2014

In which Tim Worstall admits that Karl Marx was right

Filed under: Business, Economics, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:37

Well, right in this particular analysis, anyway:

Which is where we can bring Karl Marx into the discussion. Wrong as he was on many points he was at times a perceptive analyst. And he noted that what determined the wages of the workers wasn’t some calculation of a “fair wage”, nor some true value of their production (although he had much to say on both points), but in a market economy the wages that were paid were a reflection of what other people were willing to pay for access to that labour.

If, for example, there were a large number of unemployed (that “reserve army of the unemployed”) then a capitalist didn’t have to raise the wages of his workers however far productivity grew. If anyone tried to capture a bit more of the value being created, say through a strike or other activity, then the capitalist could simply fire them and bring in some of those unemployed. No profits needed to be shared with the workers. However, when we get to a situation of full employment then the dynamic changes. It’s not possible to simply hire and fire to keep wages low. For the other capitalists are competing for access to that labour that makes those profits. The higher profits go the higher all capitalists will be willing to bid up wages to continue making some profit at all.

The obverse of this is if the employers collude in order to artificially suppress the wages of the workers which is why that case involving Apple, Google and so on is going to trial. That’s monopoly capitalism that is and we really don’t like it at all.

But in this case with Yahoo trying to challenge Google’s YouTube, it will be the workers who benefit. For the two companies are vying with each other for access to the content being made and thus the profits that can be made. Of whatever revenue can be made a larger portion will go to the producers of the content and a smaller one to the owners of the platforms. Which is excellent, this is exactly what we want to happen.

March 7, 2014

Turkish government threatens to ban YouTube and Facebook

Filed under: Europe, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:56

After an embarrassing leak, Prime Minister Erdogan has threatened to ban the services that carried the leaked voice recordings:

Turkey’s prime minister has threatened drastic steps to censor the Internet, including shutting down Facebook and YouTube, where audio recordings of his alleged conversations suggesting corruption have been leaked in the past weeks, dealing him a major blow ahead of this month’s local elections.

In a late-night interview Thursday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told ATV station that his government is determined to stem the leaks he insists are being instigated by followers of an influential U.S.-based Muslim cleric. He has accused supporters of Fethullah Gulen of infiltrating police and the judiciary and of engaging in “espionage,” saying that the group even listened in on his encrypted telephone lines. The Gulen movement denies involvement.

“We are determined on the issue, regardless of what the world may say,” Erdogan said. “We won’t allow the people to be devoured by YouTube, Facebook or others. Whatever steps need to be taken we will take them without wavering.”

January 29, 2014

YouTube‘s formative nine-sixteenths of a second

Filed under: Football, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:19

Marin Cogan explains how less than a second of TV helped to trigger the development of YouTube:

You know what happens next. Justin reaches over, grabs a corner of Janet’s right breast cup and gives it a hard tug. Her breast spills out. It’s way more than a handful, but a hand is the only thing Janet has available to cover it, so she clutches it with her left palm. The breast is on television for 9/16 of a second. The camera cuts wide. Fireworks explode from the stage. Cue the end of halftime. Cue the beginning of one of the worst cases of mass hysteria in America since the Salem witch trials.

[…]

Michael Powell, then the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was watching the game at a friend’s house in northern Virginia. He’s a football fan and was excited to relax and watch the game after a rough couple of weeks. “I started thinking, Wow, this is kind of a racy routine for the Super Bowl!” he says, his voice pitching up in bemusement. “He was chasing her kind of with this aggressive thing — not that I personally minded it; I just hadn’t seen something that edgy at the Super Bowl.”

Then it happened. Powell and his friend gave each other quizzical looks. “I looked and I went, ‘What was that?’ And my friend looks at me and he’s just like, ‘Dude, did you just see what I did? Do you think she … ?’ And I kept saying, ‘My day is going to suck tomorrow.'” Powell went home and watched the moment again on TiVo. The same thought kept running through his mind: Tomorrow is going to really suck, he remembers thinking. “And it did.”

[…]

Of course, our children and our children’s children will never need to dig up an actual time capsule to find out about the wardrobe malfunction. As soon as they hear about the time Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed on live TV, they’ll watch it online. And the reason they’ll watch it online is that in 2004, Jawed Karim, then a 25-year-old Silicon Valley whiz kid, decided he wanted to make it easier to find the Jackson clip and other in-demand videos. A year later, he and a couple of friends founded YouTube, the largest video-sharing site of all time.

January 16, 2014

Facebook‘s business model and why your status isn’t gathering “Likes” anymore

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:36

Derek Muller has an interesting analysis of the different business models of Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites:

Published on 14 Jan 2014

Share this on Facebook ;)

Facebook is a complex ecosystem of individuals, creators, brands and advertisers, but I don’t think it serves any of these groups particularly well because its top priority is to make money. Now, I don’t think making money is a bad thing, in fact I hope to make some myself. The problem is the only way Facebook has found to make money is by treating all entities on the site as advertisers and charging them to share their content.

This business plan backfires because 1) not all entities ARE advertisers and 2) it was the content from these people, specifically friends, family, and creators that made the site worth visiting in the first place. Now the incentives are misaligned:
– individuals want to see great content, but they are now seeing more paid content and organically shared content which appeals to the lowest common denominator (babies, weddings, and banal memes)
– creators want to reach fans but their posts are being throttled to force them to pay to be seen
– brands and advertisers have to pay once to advertise their page on Facebook, and then pay again to reach the people who have already liked their page. Plus Facebook is not a place where people generally go to buy things.

Facebook stands in contrast to other social media like Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram where all content is shared with all followers.

I don’t spend much time on Facebook, even though I have my blog posts automatically posted to my timeline. When the video ads start to arrive, it will provide me with even more of an incentive to avoid spending time there.

H/T to Cate Matthews for the link.

Update: Apparently the folks who “Like” their own posts are not egomaniacs (well, not all of them) … they’re rationally responding to how Facebook‘s algorithms rank posts for deciding what will appear to your friends. A post with a “Like” is much more likely to be shared than one that hasn’t been “Liked”.

October 23, 2013

Game company provokes a massive Streisand Effect

Filed under: Business, Gaming, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

In Hit and Run, Scott Shackford explains how Wild Games Studio learned (the hard way) about the Streisand Effect:

The game [Day One: Garry’s Incident] is getting terrible reviews, and YouTube is host to a ton of them. The reviews may actually be a little bit of a challenge to find now thanks to Wild Games Studio’s response to one particular review. A gentleman by the name of TotalBiscuit (no, really, that’s his … okay, fine, his real name is John Bain) is probably one of the most successful video game critics on the Internet. His YouTube channel boasts just shy of 1.3 million subscribers. He sampled the game on October 1 and did not find it enjoyable (Sample of response to the game: “Screw everything about this!”).

Video game reviews on YouTube allow critics to do something they can’t do through blog posts or print reviews: They can actually play and demonstrate the game in action in the video. This is a boon for consumers looking to spend their game money on a quality product as the game market grows and grows and grows. It’s also a boon for good game developers, as there’s nothing like the sight of a reviewer with a big audience enjoying your product to push folks off the fence in your favor. For bad games, though, it has the potential to devastate more than those old-fashioned reviews, as video watchers can actually see how terrible the problems are.

Wild Games Studio made their problems even worse by trying to retaliate against Bain. They made a copyright claim against him on YouTube, using a flimsy excuse that he monetizes the videos with advertising (Bain manages a living with his game journalism and announcing) and thus cannot use their assets without their permission. The studio succeeded. YouTube yanked the review. Furthermore, YouTube’s copyright-protection system threatens users that their channel will be deleted if they get three of these takedown claims. In Bain’s case, that would result in the removal of hundreds of videos.

I first encountered TotalBiscuit’s YouTube channel during the Guild Wars 2 beta period, and quite enjoyed his iconoclastic views of the game. I’m happy to hear that this particular thuggish attempt to shut him down has failed, and largely due to the response of gamers and his channel subscribers.

July 23, 2013

San Francisco TV station tries using DMCA to hide embarrassing clip

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:16

At Wired, David Kravets reports on San Francisco’s KTVU and their attempt to hide the newscast where they “identified” the pilot and crew of Asiana flight 214:

While many of the videos of the segment were still live on Google-owned YouTube, the reason why the Fox affiliate has been demanding their removal doesn’t concern copyright.

“The accidental mistake we made was insensitive and offensive. By now, most people have seen it. At this point, continuing to show the video is also insensitive and offensive, especially to the many in our Asian community who were offended. Consistent with our apology, we are carrying through on our responsibility to minimize the thoughtless repetition of the video by others,” the station’s general manager and vice president, Tom Raponi, told Mediabistro today.

More than 180 were injured and three were killed July 6 when the Boeing 777 slammed on the tarmac.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, owners of websites where the content is user-generated are obligated to remove copyrighted material at the rights holder’s request, or face the same potential penalties as the uploader. A successful copyright lawsuit carries damages as high as $150,000 per violation.

June 20, 2013

The UK debate over online porn

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:04

Willard Foxton says that the real problem is that the two “sides” of the argument are not even talking the same language:

Claire Perry, the Prime Minister’s “special adviser on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood”, has three demands which she claims will save the world from the horrors of porn. First, that internet service providers and other internet companies block child pornography at its source; second, that any sort of simulated rape pornography is banned; and third, that pornography is banned from public WiFi.

On the face of it, these all seem like reasonable demands. I mean, if you oppose them, you must be some kind of filth peddler or mad porn obsessive, right? Or you might just be a person who understands how the internet works, and therein lies the problem. Let’s tackle Perry’s demands one by one and explain, patiently, why she is wrong.

Firstly, her request that internet service providers block images of child abuse “at their source”. It sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it? Indeed, it’s so reasonable that they already do, and indeed have been doing since 2007. It’s done through a system called Cleanfeed, which is a rare example of a British state-funded IT project that works like a charm. They way it works is, any time a website is reported as illegal to the police, it’s added to a list. Any sites on that list are inaccessible from British ISPs. It’s a very secure system, and very hard to work around – it works so well that we’ve exported it to Canada and Australia.

Perry also wants Google to “do more” to block child porn. As I’ve said before on these pages, Google (and other large search providers), already have enormous departments devoted to blocking it, with thousands of employees checking YouTube for offensive images. On top of that, very little of the material that so offends Perry is available though a simple Google search; most of the illegal stuff is hidden in Internet Relay Chat file servers or on the dark web, accessible only via anonymising browsers like Tor.

Update: At Techdirt, Tim Cushing addresses the common claim by grandstanding politicians that child pornography is easy to “stumble upon”:

How hard would it be to access child porn if you weren’t looking for it specifically? The Ministry of Truth puts your odds at 1 in 2.6 million searches. (MoT points out the odds will fluctuate depending on search terms used, but for the most part, it’s not the sort of thing someone unwittingly stumbles upon.)

All those demanding Google do more to block child porn fail to realize there’s not much more it can do. The UK already has an underlying blocking system filtering out illegal images at the ISP level, and Google itself runs its own blocker as well.

The above calculations should put the child porn “epidemic” in perspective. As far as the web that Google actively “controls,” it’s doing about as much as it can to keep child porn and internet users separated. There are millions of pages Google can’t or doesn’t index and those actively looking for this material will still be able to find it. Google (and most other “internet companies”) can’t really do more than they’re already doing already. But every time a child pornography-related, high profile crime hits the courtroom (either in the UK or the US), the politicians instantly begin pointing fingers at ISPs and search engines, claiming they’re not doing “enough” to clean up the internet, something that explicitly isn’t in their job description. And yet, they do more in an attempt to satiate the ignorant hunger of opportunistic legislators.

If Google is “the face of the internet” as so many finger pointers claim, than the “internet” it “patrols” is well over 99% free of illegal images, according to a respected watchdog group. But accepting that fact means appearing unwilling to “do something,” an unacceptable option for most politicians.

March 26, 2013

Tunisians troll their own government with memestorm

Filed under: Africa, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:38

Timothy Geigner on the Tunisian response to a government that fails to comprehend YouTube:

You will remember the nation of Tunisia for being a flash point of the Arab Spring revolution, in which social media and the internet played a massive role, as well as for the post-revolution government’s subsequent crackdown on those tools that brought them into power. There seems to be something of an ongoing problem within Middle East governments, in that they simply don’t recognize how to handle popular dissent, often taking on the very characteristics of the dissenter’s complaints to an almost caricature level. In that respect, while it may sound silly, any government learning to deal with the open communication system of the net is going to have to come to terms with memes and the manner in which they spread.

Which brings us back to Tunisia. They seem to have a problem with this Gangnam Style, Harlem Shake combo-video produced by some apparently fun-loving Tunisian students (the original was taken down due to a highly questionable copyright claim, by the way, because while even the Tunisian government wasn’t evil enough to block the video, a bogus DMCA claim had no such qualms).

You can guess how the Tunisians reacted…

January 29, 2013

Taking the fight against CCTV surveillance to the streets of Berlin

Filed under: Europe, Government, Liberty — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:00

TechEye looks at the “gamification” of resistance against CCTV surveillance in Berlin:

A group of German activists has come up with an intriguing campaign to counter state surveillance — turning the destruction of CCTV cameras into a game.

Dubbed ‘Camover’, the aim of the game is simple: destroy as many CCTV cameras as possible.

Once your target is destroyed, you can upload a video of the act to YouTube for internet points and kudos. The rules say players should come up with a name starting with ‘command’, ‘brigade’, or ‘cell’, followed by the name of a historical figure, then destroying as many CCTV cameras as possible.

“Video your trail of destruction and post it on the game’s website,” the activists suggest, but warn that the homepage is continuously being shut down. It’s recommended that players conceal their identities, but this is “not essential”.

December 9, 2012

Nigel Farage profiled in the New York Times

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:10

After all this time, Farage is starting to get serious media attention:

But for Mr. Farage, who has waged a 20-year campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, Strasbourg has become the perfect stage to disseminate his anti-European Union message by highlighting the bloc’s bureaucratic absurdities and spendthrift tendencies as well as by mocking with glee the most prominent proponents of a European superstate: the head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy. “I said you’d be the quiet assassin of nation-state democracy,” Mr. Farage has declared, as his target, Mr. Van Rompuy, squirmed in his seat just opposite, “and sure enough, in your dull and technocratic way, you’ve gone about your course.”

His speeches mix the pitch-perfect timing of a stand-up comedian — he once told Mr. Van Rompuy that he had the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a bank clerk — with a populist passion that critics say approaches demagogy, and they have become wildly popular on YouTube.

[. . .]

“All of us are selling a product,” said Mr. Farage, who before turning to politics worked as a commodities trader. He swallowed from his glass of Rioja, on his way to putting a sizable dent in the bottle, during a lunchtime interview this fall in the parliamentary dining room here. “But neither of these guys ever worked in the commercial sector where they had to sell something,” he continued. “They are ghastly people, and neither pass the Farage test: Would I employ them or would I want to go have a drink with them?”

The very thought of raising a pint with either Mr. Barroso or Mr. Van Rompuy elicits a cigarette-scarred chortle from Mr. Farage. With his dapper suits, cuff links and love of a wine-soaked lunch, Mr. Farage can come across as a caricature of a past-his-prime City of London financier — a loudish type that one frequently encounters in pubs in the wealthy suburbs, sounding off on cricket and the latest bureaucratic atrocity in Brussels.

November 13, 2012

Michael Geist on Canada’s new copyright law

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:52

If you’re not going to read the entire body of the law (and let’s face it, most of us would rather do just about anything other than that), here’s a thumbnail summary of what the new law says:

The good news is that the law now features a wide range of user-oriented provisions that legalize common activities. For example, time shifting, or the recording of television shows, is now legal under Canadian copyright after years of residing in a grey area. The law also legalizes format shifting, copying for private purposes, and the creation of backup copies. This will prove helpful for those seeking to digitize content, transfer content to portable devices, or create backups to guard against accidental deletion or data loss.

Canadians can also take greater advantage of fair dealing, which allows users to make use of excerpts or other portions of copyright works without the need for permission or payment. The scope of fair dealing has been expanded with the addition of three new purposes: education, satire, and parody.

Fair dealing now covers eight purposes (research, private study, news reporting, criticism, and review comprise the other five). When combined with the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decisions that emphasized the importance of fair dealing as users’ rights, the law now features considerable flexibility that allows Canadians to make greater use of works without prior permission or fear of liability.

The law also includes a unique user generated content provision that establishes a legal safe harbour for creators of non-commercial user generated content such as remixed music, mashup videos, or home movies with commercial music in the background. The provision is often referred to as the “YouTube exception”, though it is not limited to videos.

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