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Archive for June, 2019

Fox Entertainment Group announced its intention to get into Internet broadcasting this morning through a partnership with Internet TV service Brightcove. The group, which carries Fox, FX, and SPEED, will be hosting targeted, ad-supported content on Brightcove, which will then allow users to share and embed that content wherever they please. The partnership also allows Fox to syndicate its content through affiliates' web sites as well as social networks. HangZhou Night Net

Brightcove, in some ways, is akin to a YouTube for major content providers in that it allows them to make content available via a web page and syndicate it through other sites. Unlike YouTube, Brightcove allows its partners to choose whether or not their content can be embedded by users and allows the providers to plant advertising in their videos. Although the companies don't specify whether the content from Fox will be in the form of full shows or clips, initial inspection indicates that clips will be the norm.

Fox Digital Media VP David Baron said in a statement that the partnership would help the company in its goal to deliver its content to consumers in as many ways as possible. "Brightcove's tools and services enable us to quickly and easily deploy broadband video on our network Web sites while retaining control over the quality, brand experience, and monetization of our content," he added.

Notice the word "control," for that's what this YouTube-ish plan is all about. Entertainment companies like Fox would prefer to keep as much control as possible, and that includes control over advertising placement. As streaming video grows online, Fox and others will always want the option of working ad deals across their distribution channels, as opposed to turning it over to another ad rep, such as Google's folks at YouTube.

Some of Brightcove's other broadcast partners include Sky Broadcasting, Discovery, National Geographic, and MTV. Brightcove also inked a deal with CBS last month that would make the company the main syndication platform for all CBS News online. Unlike the deal with Fox, however, Brightcove's deal with CBS does not involve a user-embeddable Flash player. Fox's move to include one signals a certain level of comfort in allowing their content to be rebroadcast nearly anywhere, outside of (some of) its control.

Brightcove VP of marketing and advertising Adam Berry told Variety that while other networks may be trying to offer Internet-based content through their own solutions, such an endeavor could be limiting. "They're basically limited by the capabilities of their tech team," he told the magazine. "What this does is let the media companies focus on what they do best, creating great content and marketing that content."

Fox's deal with Brightcove to syndicate content online in this manner is among the first from the major TV networks. The announcement also comes just before the launch of the much-anticipated video sharing network announced by News Corp. in March. Those plans also involve providing free, ad-supported TV content through a number of partnerships with various syndication channels, and will launch sometime late summer/early fall with a laundry list of popular TV shows and movies.

The FCC believes that television violence could be regulated in a constitutional manner, and a recent report on the issue laid out some possible ways this might be done. One of the popular solutions is "time channeling," or allowing certain kinds of content only during certain hours. But does time channeling still make sense in an on-demand world? HangZhou Night Net

Given that this was one of the FCC's major proposed solutions to the problem of violence on TV, it's a question worth considering. Robert Corn-Revere, a First Amendment legal expert, recently weighed in on the matter at a Progress & Freedom Foundation panel discussion in Washington, DC. The transcript from that event has just become available, and in it Corn-Revere draws a parallel between "time channeling" and the French Maginot Line.

The Line, as any student of World War II history can recount, was meant to stop a direct German invasion of France, but it did not cover France's border with Belgium nor the approach through the Ardennes Forest, which was considered impassable. Germany's attack, when it came, came through Belgium and the Ardennes; the immense fortifications of the Maginot Line were irrelevant.

"Requiring time channeling for broadcasting is a bit like an electronic Maginot Line," said Corn-Revere. "We live in a world in which people watching television at the time it's broadcast is an increasingly unrealistic phenomenon. In the age of TiVo, even in the age of VCRs, it isn't a solution to say you are simply going to make the program appear later in the evening if that means that people will simply watch it when they’ve taped it or recorded it on a digital video recorder to watch later."

Time-shifting has been possible for years, but the rise of the DVR, P2P file-swapping, and the willingness of networks to stream shows from their web sites has made the process much simpler than programming a VCR ever was. While this certainly doesn't mean that time channeling won't keep plenty of kids away from plenty of violent content, it does look like a solution bound to become increasingly ineffective.

The FCC might also find strict limits placed on any authority it gets to regulate violent programming. The agency currently has the right to regulate indecent material, but the definition of indecency appeals to contemporary community standards; as these change, it becomes harder for the FCC to enforce older rules. We saw this in the recent appeals court decision allowing fleeting curse words even on network TV. The court's argument suggested that if curse words are good enough for Bush and Cheney, they are good enough for Bono.

Any regulation will also need to pass constitutional muster, something that has been hard to do for legislation on violence in video games. Though the FCC is confident it can set up a constitutional system for TV shows, most video game laws have been struck down by courts around the country.

The FCC could run into similar problems with respect to regulating violence. Many parents do want to keep their kids away from violent content (FCC Commissioner Adelstein says in the report that his own children can be deeply troubled by trailers for horror movies), but the fact that so many people watch violent television shows and movies suggests that there's a pretty high tolerance for solving problems with a gun. That could mean that a "community standards"-based definition may actually regulate very little content.

Last week NBC/Universal general counsel Rick Cotton argued that law enforcement resources are "misaligned." Cotton says it's wrong to focus on real property theft and potentially deadly crimes when cops could be out enforcing intellectual property laws. HangZhou Night Net

Cotton wasn't finished. He filed a response on behalf of NBC Universal to the FCC's call for comments last week on the broadband industry and net neutrality which says, in effect, that net neutrality is a waste of time. The FCC should be focusing on… you guessed it, piracy!

Cotton had harsh words for the government's lack of involvement in shutting down P2P and BitTorrent file sharing. "It is inconceivable that the U.S. government would stand by mutely and permit any other legitimate U.S. business to be hijacked in this fashion," he wrote. "Would the government permit Federal Express or UPS to knowingly operate delivery services in which 60-70% of the payload consisted of contraband, such as illegal drugs or stolen goods?"

Cotton also argues that the entire net neutrality debate is essentially the result of unfettered piracy online, as he cites a study which claims that two-thirds of traffic online stems from piracy. Remove the pirates, and the congestion disappears, he suggests.

Cotton then argued that the DMCA, whose Safe Harbor provisions make sites like YouTube possible and also protects ISPs from piracy which occurs on their networks, is ill-equipped to handle today's P2P threat. Service providers apply the minimum amount of effort to meet the DMCA standard and sometimes even jeopardize that by failing to enforce their own user agreements, he argued.

The only solution, in Cotton's view, is to make ISPs take action against piracy on their networks, using any legal means necessary. "The Commission should make unmistakably clear, as part of its regulations governing broadband industry practices, that broadband service providers have an obligation to use readily available means to prevent the use of their broadband capacity to transfer pirated content," he wrote. Such efforts could include better takedown notification practices as well as "using increasingly sophisticated bandwidth management tools."

While Cotton didn't name AT&T in his filing, this kind of approach is exactly what AT&T is planning to implement at the behest of the nation's major entertainment trade groups, including the MPAA and the RIAA. Many people consider this to be synonymous with spying, and still others object to the notion that ISPs need to become copyright enforcement cops for the entertainment industry. One thing is certain: there is no "anti-piracy" switch that can be flipped. Technological means will snare innocent users and cross into very questionable privacy grounds.

Cotton is completely correct when he asserts that Congress didn't really know what they were getting into when they penned the DMCA. However, few in 1998 could have imagined that Congress would someday be asked to mandate that ISPs actively filter their network traffic for copyrighted material, yet this is precisely what Cotton seems to believe Congress should have done.

However, we need to look no further than US colleges and universities to see why this approach can be a big headache. College IT administrators already see themselves as starting a costly "arms race" with pirates who are always one step ahead of their technological tracking means.

The entire filing is available as a PDF.

Movie rental chain Blockbuster has decided to make Blu-ray the next-generation HD format of choice in its 1,700 corporate-owned stores. Starting in July, Blockbuster outlets will begin carrying over 170 Blu-ray titles and will add additional titles as they are released from the studios. HangZhou Night Net

Last November, Blockbuster began piloting HD rentals in 250 of its stores, offering discs in both HD DVD and Blu-ray format. According to the chain, Blu-ray rentals "significantly" outpaced HD DVD rentals. Rentals aside, HD DVD leads Blu-ray in terms of the number of standalone players sold so far, but when the Sony PlayStation 3 and its Blu-ray optical drive is added to the mix, the amount of hardware in the wild capable of playing Blu-ray outnumbers that of HD DVD. Combine the rental and hardware numbers with the greater number of studios backing Blu-ray, and it's an easy decision for Blockbuster.

"We intend to meet the demands of our customers and based on the trends we're seeing, we're expanding our Blu-ray inventory to ensure our stores reflect the right level of products," said Blockbuster SVP for merchandising Matthew Smith in a statement. In so many words, Blockbuster sees a brighter future for Blu-ray and has a finite amount of shelf space available in its stores for HD content.

Blockbuster's decision is not a indication of the imminent demise of HD DVD, but it doesn't do the format any favors either. While both next-gen disc formats will be available via Blockbuster's mail rental service, spur-of-the-moment HD rentals at the chain will have to be Blu-ray only.

Blockbuster is keeping the door cracked open for HD DVD. "While it is still too early to say which high-definition format will become the industry standard, we will continue to closely monitor customer rental patterns both at our stores and online, so we can adjust our inventory mix accordingly and ensure that Blockbuster is offering customers the most convenient access to the movies they want, in the format they want," said Smith.

Blockbuster's decision is a win for Blu-ray and bad news for HD DVD. Consumers considering plunking down some dough for an HD player will be hearing the message that if they want to be able to rent HD movies, Blu-ray is the only option. If that message takes hold, HD DVD price cuts and rebates may not be enough to convince consumers otherwise.

The Dock could have been a contender. There could have been extended menus everywhere, like the iTunes Dockling that allows for control of the application without giving it focus. There could have been application notification like Mail and its red badge of e-mail totals. Back in the early days of OS X, there were also Docklings for system notification, like Airport signal strength, but then came the great Menuling Revolt. Mac OS Graybeards screamed their spatial heads off for a clock in the Menu Bar, as if that could make up for what was done to the Finder in the basement of The Campus in Cupertino. HangZhou Night Net

It didn't, of course, but Menulings did kill the Dock. At least that's my conspiracy theory.

For whatever reason, the most basic and obvious functionality remains missing from the Dock to this day. While you can add folders, navigate them, and even drop files into them, there are still no spring-loaded folders for the Dock. When you insert a disc or mount a volume, it can show up on the Desktop and screw with your layout or appear in the Sidebar of the Finder, even when it's not mounted, like the iDisk. However, if you want to see a volume appear and disappear from the Dock, you are out of luck.

Until now.

Greg Weston has done what Apple engineers could not—or were not allowed to do—simply because he could.

So I was reading Macintouch on the morning of May
16, 2007, and saw someone complain about the hassle of getting at
volume icons that may be hidden under other windows. I thought a
solution might be a fun project. Here's the result. It's fairly small
and very focussed.

Volumizer is a nifty System Preference that has exactly two checkboxes: one to display volumes in the Dock and one to display volumes in the Menu Bar. When it resides in the Menu Bar, it has that ugly, little drive icon and a drop-down menu that lists mounted volumes. Select one and a Finder window opens. Hover the pointer and a tooltip showing the path appears.

Unfortunately, you cannot eject a volume from the Menu Bar list. If you want that kind of functionality, you might want to look at Ejector. However, if you want to be reminded that putting your computer to sleep while a share is mounted and a clean desktop, then Volumizer could be functionality you've been waiting on from Apple for seven years.

To quote Steve Jobs, "Boom." Just like that, your disk images, optical discs, iPods, and shares will finally be where they should have always been, in the Dock. The extended menu of each volume has an eject option too. Unfortunately, volumes can neither be navigated like folders in the Dock, nor can files be dragged and dropped on to the them. Also, volumes always appear from the right, left of the dividing bar, just like applications. This means that volumes will be interspersed with applications as they are opened and closed. Arranging volumes and keeping them in the Dock isn't a solution, either. Moving the iDisk to the left and keeping it in the Dock after ejecting first produced a faded icon with a question mark, then a normal icon, but one that could not be mounted by clicking. Besides, the whole point is to clearly see what volumes are mounted. Perhaps a future version could place volumes on the left or right automatically—hint, hint.

Nonetheless, Volumizer is awesome, and it's donationware. This means you can be a person of questionable ethics and get it for free, or toss a couple of bucks the way of a developer who has done what Apple should have done years ago.