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Digital Digest "LiveUpdate" Newsletter - Issue 175

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    ************************************************************** DIGITAL DIGEST - http://www.digital-digest.com DIGITAL DIGEST | LiveUpdate Newsletter - Issue
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      DIGITAL DIGEST  | LiveUpdate Newsletter - Issue 175

      6 December, 2009

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      INDEX:

      1. Introduction

      2. Weekly News Roundup

      3. Weekly Software Roundup

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      1. Introduction

      It's the last week of the Womble EasyDVD Competition, so get your entries in if you haven't!


      -- DVDGuy

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      2. Weekly News Roundup

      Welcome to the last month of 2009. Usually, I would put something like "well, hasn't 2009 gone by quickly" stuff, but I realise now that this isn't true for everyone. Some people might have had a good 2009 and then it might seem to have gone by too quickly. Others might have had a horrible 2009, and will be happy to see the back of it soon. Some of you may actually be an artificial intelligence, and so time would seem rather constant to you and 2009 has gone by at exactly the same rate as you had expected.

      There wasn't a whole heap of news this week either, but rant on I shall.

      Copyright

      In copyright news, more has been revealed about the "secret" copyright treaty being worked on, the ACTA. This secret treaty is being discussed by governments from around the world in full secrecy in South Korea, which could bring US style DMCA laws and French style "three-strikes" laws to every participating country. Now why any of them thinks this requires secrecy, I don't know (the US quoted "national security" as a concern), perhaps they just don't want the public backlash that such a discussion would ultimately bring about.

      But we have the Internet. And nothing secret remains for long these days, and so through various leaks, the full picture of the ACTA has emerged, and it isn't a very pretty one. The US submission to the treaty is particularly interesting, considering the "change of regimes" that occurred last year with Obama becoming president. But as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the US proposals are, if anything, even more one sided when it comes to the treatment of copyright, with industry getting plenty of input (read lobbying), while opinions of experts, consumer activists, not to mention the public, is generally ignored. Or in this case, completely barred from even being part of the discussion. The US proposals basically plans to wind back all the gains made by anti-DRM activists, particularly in Europe, by removing the interoperability requirement, meaning DRM can be used as a way to force people to use proprietary formats. Lack of interoperability is bad for the industry and bad for consumers, but would seem attractive to short sighted companies wanting to maximize their profit potentials in the short term without benefiting anyone else in the process. The EU has recognized that interoperability is something EU citizens should enjoy, and have taken to court companies like Apple for preventing it through DRM. And this is why the EU is set to protest the removal of this requirement. The US proposals also back the French style "three-strikes" system, although it goes short of actually suggesting it be part of the treaty. 1,700 European ISPs have also lodged a complaint against "three-strikes", but as they are not invited to the meeting, they will probably not be heard.

      Staying in Europe, UK is about to massively change their copyright laws to respond to the threat of online piracy, through recommendations made in the Digital Britain report. However, the Internet's biggest players have all come out to argue against the recommended changes, and in particularly one clause which removes the need to have any sort of public or governmental consultation process when it comes to making changes in the future, the so called "Clause 17". Faceboook, Google, Yahoo, eBay have all come out against Clause 17, calling it a destabilizing influence (if the government change, without notice, change the law at any time, then it makes it impossible for businesses to plan for things), and a bad thing for consumers which could lead to ever harsher penalties for online users (three-strikes can turn into one-strike, just by the say so of a minister). The government maintains that Clause 17 is needed to keep pace with technology and innovation. I guess they mean to keep pace with technology and innovation so they can stifle it at every turn. Governments around the world seen intent on using online piracy as an excuse to bring about anti-democratic laws, whether it's to allow private companies  to spy on people, or to use government's resources and authority to do the biding of corporations.

      Remember the Danish home theater enthusiast that turned himself in to the country's anti-piracy outfit, in order to highlight the conflicting laws in relation to breaking DRM? Henrik Andersen ripped his legally purchased DVDs so he can play them, without the original discs, off his media server. Under Danish law this is both illegal and a legally protected right, and Mr Andersen wanted to clear up the confusion by making this issue public. That he has done, and the anti-piracy outfit Antipiratgruppen was supposed to reply to him personally by the 1st of December. The date went and past without a response, so Henrik decided to turn himself in to the police to escalate the issue. But Antipiratgruppen did eventually respond, and they have given the common sense reply that what Mr Andersen did is not something that they would sue people over. They didn't say it was legal, just that they wouldn't sue him, at the moment. Of course, groups that Antipiratgruppen supports and gets support from, like the MPAA, have sued companies offering commercial solutions to what Mr Andersen, like Kaleidescape, or products like RealDVD, so when groups like Antipiratgruppen say that they have no interest in suing consumers that have purchased legitimate products, it does not prevent them from suing companies that offer the same solutions to these consumers it seems.

      And finally some good news in the courts in relation to copyright, with a Swedish court rejecting the MPAA's demand to sue the web host of the BitTorrent tracker OpenBitTorrent for copyright infringement if they fail to shut down the tracker. The judge ruled that a web host must do a lot more than simply providing a paid for service to its customers for its customer's actions to be ruled the responsibility of the web host. The MPAA even tried to imply that The Pirate Bay's recently closed tracker was simply renamed to OpenBitTorrent, despite the fact that OBT existed long before The Pirate Bay's tracker was closed last week. The fact that the owner of OBT might be one of the co-founders of TPB means nothing, as I'm sure many of the people who are experts in the field of BitTorrent in Sweden are in some way related to TPB, the most famous BitTorrent website in the world.

      High Definition

      Let's move on to HD news. The last week might prove an important turning point for the Blu-ray format, but you wouldn't know it based on the reactions from the major studios. Last week, well to be exact, last Thursday was the point after which all Blu-ray movies released had to be compliant with AACS's mandatory Managed Copy requirement.

      Now there seem to be some confusion as to the start date of MC, with some saying March 31 2010 to be the actual date. Well, both December 4th and March 31st are important dates for MC, the recently passed date being the date that, after which, all newly released Blu-ray movies are to support MC, while the March 2010 date is when it will be mandatory to label discs as supporting MC, and for companies to start promoting MC. Neither date will be as important as the date when the first hardware (or PC based software) comes out to actually support MC, up until then, MC is unusable.

      In any case, any Blu-ray movie with a original release date after December 4th will support Managed Copy, and all eyes was on which titles were to be the first to meet this requirement. It wasn't a major Hollywood studio though that got the honors, but Scenic Labs's trio of visual display discs that are now officially the first discs to support MC. Scenic Labs is a big supporter of Managed Copy, and were delighted to be able to offer it to consumers before anyone else, even if they do fear that the specifications will change before the first MC capable players are out and that their efforts this week would have been in vain. They are also offering to provide MC at no extra cost, unless there are operational costs that are not under their control like licensing and authentication costs. Scenic Labs quoted one of the major advantages of having disc-free version of the products is that the eliminated disc spinning noise will make "The Classic Fireplace" or the "Coral Reef Aquarium" much more life-life.

      That's another point of confusion with MC. Many people think it will be free, or that it used to be free but somehow studio greed got it changed to a fee based service. MC was never intended to be a free offer, although like Scenic Labs are proposing, studios could give it away if they wanted to.

      There was room for another innovation for  Blu-ray, this time from Universal. You may ask why bring this up now, because this was reported several weeks ago, but we now have more details and it isn't the same style of Blu-ray+DVD combos we've gotten used to from studios like Disney, where you basically get a separate disc for the DVD version of the movie. Universal were the champions of the HD DVD combo format, having the HD DVD movie on one side of the flipper disc, and the DVD version on the other. And now they are bringing the same thing to Blu-ray, starting with the Bourne trilogy. It's not really that much of an innovation, now when the new ingredient is simply glue, but still marks a first for Blu-ray. Whether the consumer likes these sort of combos is another thing though, because unlike the Disney effort, you don't get an extra disc that you can play in another player simultaneously (or one of the kids to destroy, another for the parents to keep). There might also be compatibility issues, even with such a simple change to the format, as was the case with HD DVD. And without a picture side, the discs looks less nice in my opinion, and it's always difficult to tell which side is which because the center ring label is hard to read. And fingerprints, scratches, is another issue. In any case, with dual sided combos, along with Internet connectivity and mandatory Managed Copy, that's all of HD DVD's unique features transported over to Blu-ray, the same set of features that the Blu-ray people derided or fought against for much of HD DVD's short lived life. You might also want to add sub $100 players to the list of "copied" features, you know the same pricing landmark that the Blu-ray group said marked the death of HD DVD.

      But Blu-ray is going to die. Year to date Blu-ray sales stats were posted this week as well. As expected, Blu-ray sales are way up and is now very close  or just above 10% in terms of both disc based calculations and dollar based. This will probably go up yet again by year's end. What was also interesting is that DVD sales are also up from the same period, and this should mean that DVD sales should also beat the 2008 figures. The Blu-ray figures (year to date) have already beaten 2008's total figures, quite comfortably. So combined, it should be a good year for the home video industry, despite the doom and gloom reports of how Internet piracy and DVD ripping is destroying the marketplace.

      Speaking of market destroying, there is a fear that TiVo and other DVRs may DESTROY TELEVISION AS WE KNOW IT! It's funny because there was once a time when people said TV would destroy everything else, and now we're actually worried about the destruction of TV itself. In any case, the evidence is mounting and more and more people are changing their way of watching TV, and using DVRs to record programs, as opposed to watching it live. I think technology has changed the way people watch television, giving viewers much more power over deciding what to watch and when. Television will not survive if it does not adapt, and I think the traditional thinking behind "television programming" will change, as on demand takes over and programming decisions are left to the viewer, not some network executive. And that's a good thing. But before that can happen, people will use existing technology to give themselves similar versatility, to record and then watch at their pace. This interim could spell bad news for networks though, as DVRs can skip the revenue generating ads that keep television free, unless they negotiate terms which sees ad skipping blocked on TiVo like here in Australia (but non TiVo devices will still skip ads happily).

      Not much happening in gaming this week, so I'll end this edition of WNR right here. This is the last week of the Womble EasyDVD competition, so don't forget to get your entry in on time. See you next week.

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      3. Weekly Software Roundup

      December 6, 2009  ffdshow Rev. 3142 (generic/x64) Freeware
      December 6, 2009  Smart Cutter Ps/Ts 2009.12.09
      December 6, 2009  StaxRip 1.1.2.3 Beta Freeware
      December 6, 2009  x264 r1360 Freeware
      December 6, 2009  ProgDVB 6.25 Freeware
      December 5, 2009  BD Rebuilder 0.31.04 Freeware
      December 5, 2009  Miro 2.5.4 Linux/Unix Mac OS Windows Freeware
      December 4, 2009  PS3 Media Server 1.11 r369 Beta Linux/Unix Mac OS Windows Freeware
      December 3, 2009  VoltaicHD for Mac 2.0.2 Mac OS Windows
      December 3, 2009  Video DVD Maker Pro 3.17.0.46
      December 3, 2009  Video DVD Maker 3.23.0.59 Freeware
      December 3, 2009  DVDINFOPro HD 6.130
      December 3, 2009  Subtitle Edit 2.8.4 Freeware
      December 2, 2009  cdrtfe 1.3.6 Freeware
      December 2, 2009  Any Video Converter Free 3.01 Freeware
      December 2, 2009  LameXP 3.14 Freeware
      December 2, 2009  Moovida 1.0.9 Linux/Unix Mac OS Windows Freeware
      December 2, 2009  Video Workstation 5.3.9.2 Added in the last Week
      December 1, 2009  HDConvertToX 2.2.525.3836 Freeware
      December 1, 2009  DeVeDe 3.15.2 Linux/Unix Windows Freeware
      November 30, 2009  HC 0.24 Beta (2009-11-27) Freeware


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