Category Archives: piracy

Netflix and the fine line between it and piracy

netflix-hemlock-groveTo the surprise of virtually no one, Netflix is raising prices. And soon – within the next few months in some places, according to financial results released by the company on Monday:

Our current view is to do a one or two dollar increase, depending on the country, later this quarter for new members only. Existing members would stay at current pricing (e.g. $7.99 in the U.S.) for a generous time period. These changes will enable us to acquire more content and deliver an even better streaming experience.

That “generous time period” could be two years, if the Irish experience is anything to go by. Netflix raised its subscription price in Ireland by one euro to €7.99 in January, which resulted in “limited impact.”

While few observers believed such low subscription costs could be sustained for long, Netflix does have to tread carefully. The streaming service straddles a fine line between expensive cable TV services at one end and free file-sharing at the other. It’s only been a few short years since the company emerged as Hollywood’s antidote to that perceived scourge. Over that time, it has converted more than 35 million potential file sharers into customers who are at least paying something for some of the shows and movies they watch. While file-sharing used to account for the largest share of Internet traffic, it’s now Netflix that accounts for about a third of all bandwidth usage.

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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in comcast, netflix, piracy


There’s no free lunch with online TV content

TheDailyShowOf all the great things the internet has given humanity, I didn’t know that an inalienable right to all television content for free was among them. But that seems to be the crux of a recent op-ed piece by Open Media director Steve Anderson.

In articles on both the Huffington Post and Open Media websites, Anderson relates a tale of how he recently tried to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart online, only to be thwarted by Bell Canada’s requirement that he subscribe to the company’s television service. That’s not how it should be, he says:

I’d much rather use online services than deal with a prescribed menu of channels on TV. Furthermore, I don’t see any reason why I should subscribe to multiple telecom services when at this point everything (voice, video, text) should be available through one open platform: the Internet.

It looks like the word “open” is being conflated with “free,” in that everyone should be able to watch The Daily Show without having to pay for it. You could apparently do that before, so why the clamp down now? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 11, 2014 in bittorrent, netflix, piracy, television


Bring on the Hollywood extortion… ahem, lawsuits

Voltage Pictures, producers of The Hurt Locker, just lost a lot of fans in Canada.

Voltage Pictures, producers of The Hurt Locker, just lost a lot of fans in Canada.

Well, that didn’t take long: Hollywood has come barging into Canada with file-sharing lawsuits aimed at people who may or may not have downloaded movies over BitTorrent, according to internet service provider TekSavvy.

The indie ISP reports that it has been served with a request for customer information by Voltage Pictures, the Los Angeles-based producer of The Hurt Locker. The company is seeking the release of the identities of 2,000 customers so that it can go ahead and sue them under the new copyright laws that recently came into force.

As copyright expert Michael Geist writes, the next step will involve a court hearing next week where a judge will determine whether TekSavvy will have to release the info. The ISP, to its credit, is resisting doing so. If the court does indeed force the company to divulge names, Voltage is expected to forge ahead with the lawsuits or offer settlements to alleged infringers. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on December 12, 2012 in copyright, piracy


Soundgarden blows it big time online

On Friday night, my favourite band of all time – the recently reunited Soundgarden – played the Phoenix Concert Theatre here in Toronto in support of their new album, King Animal. I wasn’t at the show. Instead, I was in my living room singing Nickelback.

Why? Two reasons. The first is that I’m a consummate professional. Nintendo’s new Wii U video game console was being released in two days, on Sunday, and I needed to get some time in with it in order to write my review. I had friends over play-testing some games, including the karaoke affair Sing Party. With the other song selections including the likes of Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen, Nickelback seemed like the best of a bad lot. A really, really awful best of a bad lot.

But the real reason I wasn’t at the Soundgarden show is because the band had done just about everything wrong in respect to its fans and its new album/tour, in light of the new digital age they’ve reunited into. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on November 19, 2012 in media, piracy


Kim Dotcom: a modern-day Robin Hood?

Kim Dotcom’s latest venture: undersea broadband cables?

Last week was a good week for modern-day Robin Hoods, with a pair of very wealthy individuals announcing major philanthropic endeavours.

There was the whopping news from George Lucas, who said he will donate to charity most of the $4 billion he’s making from the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. The money will go toward education, which is one of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ pet causes. If you’ve seen the Oscar-nominated documentary Waiting For Superman, you’re probably aware of just how badly the U.S. education system needs such funding.

References to Lucas as a Robin Hood are made in jest, of course. Much of his existing fortune is well earned, since he’s given the English-speaking world one of its most profound cultural touchstones. The nerds who loved Star Wars, however, can be forgiven for feeling like Lucas has spent the better part of the past decade taking advantage of them, what with the prequel trilogy and his constant tinkering with the original movies. As some people joked on Twitter, the big donation just about makes up for Jar Jar Binks.

The Robin Hood appellation is probably more appropriate in the case of Kim Dotcom, the uber-rich internet entrepreneur who, as far as the copyright cops are concerned, is public enemy number one. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in internet, new zealand, piracy


10 technologies I’m thankful for

What’s more useful: Google’s Street View or Apple’s Flyover?

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving, which means that many of us here in the Great White North have spent the weekend in food-induced comas. In between bouts of overeating, some of us may also have taken the holiday to heart and reflected on the things we’re grateful for. Since technology is the operative theme in these parts, I spent the weekend thinking about the various gadgets, software and tech-related things that I’m thankful for.

What follows is a top 10 list of technologies – inventions that have made my life better, easier or more productive. I tried not to include the big, obvious things, like the internet, but rather focused on the specifics that have enhanced my particular slice of the world.

10. Amazon: Whenever possible, I buy my stuff on Amazon, mostly because it’s the epitome of how a business should operate: low prices, great service. I also dig the fact that the company is a purposeful disruptor, even this far into its existence. Its ongoing fight with publishers to lower the price of books while at the same time giving authors the power to disintermediate those same publishers makes it an easy company to root for, both as a consumer and as a writer.

9: Xbox 360: I play most of my games on the Xbox 360, mostly because I like its controller better than the PlayStation 3. If measured by the number of hours of pure joy delivered, no other machine or technology even comes close. Read the rest of this entry »


Piracy is the new porn

Another day, another attempt to stomp out piracy. This time, it’s the U.K. High Court ordering internet providers to block the Pirate Bay. Following an earlier ruling that said the notorious website goes “far beyond merely enabling or assisting” in the sharing of copyrighted materials, the court on Monday told five large ISPs to institute blocking measures. The ISPs, in turn, said they will comply within the next few weeks.

The Pirate Bay's Peter Sunde, a modern-day Hugh Hefner.

Watching such news on an almost daily basis, it’s hard not to get the sense that all of this has happened before. And, as they say on Battlestar Galactica, it’s likely to happen again.

For most of the second half of the 20th century, though, it wasn’t piracy that was the target of this large-scale judicial witch hunt, it was porn.

When the first issue of Playboy hit stands in 1953, Hugh Hefner was so afraid of obscenity charges that he didn’t even put his name on the magazine. It was a huge success regardless and the authorities soon came calling. The U.S. Post Office refused the magazine a mailing permit, the equivalent of a modern-day denial-of-service attack. It sure sounds similar to what the U.K. court has just ruled.

Hefner, however, claimed censorship and sued. He said the Post Office had “no business editing magazines” and that it should “stick to delivering the mail.” Presciently, he also added, “This isn’t a new fight. It never is.”

Hefner’s comments were in the context of obscenity, but they apply to piracy as well. The irony is, aside from a few crazies like Rick Santorum, hardly anybody is trying to stamp out porn anymore. It’s here, it’s pervasive and it’s not going away. It’s also one of the easiest things to get on the internet because of piracy, funnily enough.

It’s doubly ironic, then, that after a half century of fighting for their own rights, many porn producers are now on the side of The Establishment in cracking down on piracy. The Boogieman has become the Boogieman Hunter. Piracy, meanwhile, is the new obscenity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in copyright, piracy, playboy, sex


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