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Another Lawsuit Plagues EA from Suspicious Stock Trading After Battlefield 4 Disaster

posted Sunday Dec 22, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Another Lawsuit Plagues EA from Suspicious Stock Trading After <i>Battlefield 4</i> Disaster

Another game release, another lawsuit. This really should just be EA's tagline at this point. From problems with the NCAA (and canceling the game) to suing Zynga for being a look-a-like, the company is always involved in some sort of legal matter. Now, a class-action lawsuit has been filed, with EA coming under fire for both the still-broken state of Battlefield 4, as well as alluding to false success of the game, with EA employees then selling off stock to the tune of over $12 million.

The letter of complaint (PDF in the source link below) says EA knowingly hid the game-breaking issues in the online mode of the company's latest first-person shooter. Don't remember what was said? Here's a few excerpts from a July earnings and investor conference call prior to the game's launch.

We couldn't be happier with the quality of the games our teams are producing or the early reception those games are getting from critics and consumers...Two other games drew spectacular praise: Battlefield 4 coming this year from out DICE Studio...

In summary, EA is in very good shape. We are executing on a clear set of goals for leadership on mobile, PC, current-generation systems and next-generation consoles. The big bets we've made with blockbusters like... Battlefield 4... are resonating with critics and consumers.

We could say that at the end of July, perhaps the developers were unaware of some problems or even that the team could probably fix some issues before launch. Naturally, statements like that caused stocks to rise, and right before EA's annual meeting on July 31st, five EA executives sold off over 150,000 shares of stock, totaling $4.8 million. Perhaps the team was more aware of problems than previously thought.

Then, during a call later in the year, EA said that Battlefield 4, to date, was more successful than the previous iteration of the franchise, and also mentioned that "our team is battle-tested and ready, and today we are sending our ace, Battlefield 4, to the mound." EA's executive VP of games, Patrick Soderlund, toted the shooter as an overall positive experience, mentioning reviews from the likes of Machinima and Joystiq reaching 9 and 9.5. So on the close of day for October 29th, stocks rose to $26 per share, leading three more EA executives to sell off almost 325,000 shares over the next ten days, for nearly $8.5 million.

The suspicious trading aside, the mood of EA has changed from when the company was boasting about its game prior to launch. Earlier this month, noting all of the broken elements of the multiplayer mode of the game, EA said that it has stopped working on DLC content for both Battlefield 4 and Star Wars and that,

We know we still have a ways to go with fixing the game-it is absolutely our #1 priority. The team at DICE is working non-stop to update the gameā€¦ We know many of our players are frustrated, and we feel your pain. We will not stop until this is right.

To bring it full circle, the complaint also mentions that from back in August, after a high price of $27.97, EA's stock value has dropped more than 25 percent, with the majority of the loss coming within a month after the launch of the game. I can't fault investors for leaving, especially after one of the year's most anticipated games has succumb to server errors, disconnections, bugs causing consoles to freeze or crash, and game-breaking glitches. Some of the server issues even feel like the botched SimCity launch, and that's never a good feeling to get twice in a year, let alone from the same publisher.

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Aereo Expansion Delayed as Company Handles Legal Issues with Broadcasters

posted Sunday Dec 22, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Aereo Expansion Delayed as Company Handles Legal Issues with Broadcasters

Court cases seem to be the popular way to keep Aereo in the news as of late. Whether or not the next round, a push from the broadcasters to bring Aereo to the Supreme Court, will bode successful or not doesn't really matter right now. This is because legal issues also take up Aereo's time and prevent the company from expanding, which is what the networks want to happen anyway. This week, CEO and founder Chet Kanojia explained why some of the 24 markets promised still haven't seen Aereo appear. I'm sure you can guess why.

Having not opposed the broadcaster's petition to hear the case before the US Supreme Court, Aereo had this to say.

We have decided to not oppose the broadcasters' petition for certiorari before the United States Supreme Court. While the law is clear and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and two different federal courts have ruled in favor of Aereo, broadcasters appear determined to keep litigating the same issues against Aereo in every jurisdiction that we enter. We want this resolved on the merits rather than through a wasteful war of attrition.

The long-standing landmark Second Circuit decision in Cablevision has served as a crucial underpinning to the cloud computing and cloud storage industry. The broadcasters' filing makes clear that they are using Aereo as a proxy to attack Cablevision itself.

Aereo provides to consumers antenna and DVR technology. With Aereo, a consumer tunes an individual, remotely located antenna and makes personal recordings on a cloud DVR. The Aereo technology is functionally equivalent to a home antenna and DVR, but it is an innovation that provides convenience and ease to the consumer. The plaintiffs are trying to deny consumers the ability to use a more modern antenna and DVR by trying to prevent a consumer's access to these technologies via the cloud.

Consumers have the right to use an antenna to access the over-the-air television. It is a right that should be protected and preserved and in fact, has been protected for generations by Congress. Eliminating a consumer's right to take advantage of innovation with respect to antenna technology would disenfranchise millions of Americans in cities and rural towns across the country.

We are unwavering in our belief that Aereo's technology falls squarely within the law and we look forward to continuing to delight our customers.

As you would imagine, Kanojia said that he is completely sure that Aereo conducts business legally in all markets it's currently in. Partly summarizing the above statement, he also reiterated that so far Aereo has come out the victor in twice in court hearings, with the New York court straight-up denying an appeal from CBS.

However, because of the issues that have come to the surface every time Aereo tries to enter a new market, the over-the-air-streaming start-up has gone along with the decision by the broadcasters to have a federal ruling finally end the saga. But legal things tend to get pricey, and Kanojia said that time and money are two big reasons we haven't seen the expansion that the company initially had planned for. Since the plans to roll out in 24 new cities was announced, we've only seen 10 markets go live.

Another delay the CEO cited was transitioning the Aereo technology to adapt to other cities. Currently, the company uses indoor antennas to provide service to its customers and some areas have required outdoor antennas to function properly, which requires a different type of hardware and of course, permits and approval.

The good news is that the delays won't have those wanting service to wait much longer. For the promised markets, Kanojia said that Aereo should be available in a handful more by the end of January. So while we wait to know when and where we'll see even more markets available for Aereo, we'll be watching something else unfold: a potential Supreme Court ruling.

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Microsoft Enters the Documentary Business on Xbox Video

posted Friday Dec 20, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Enters the Documentary Business on Xbox Video

When Microsoft made clear its intentions for original programming in 2014, everyone knew it would not be long before we would hear details about some of this programming. This week, Microsoft made good on those desires, announcing a new original documentary series exclusive to the Xbox platform.

The series will be produced by two-time Academy Award-winning producer Simon Chinn and Emmy-winning producer Jonathan Chinn. Simon Chinn described the project saying,

Our collaboration with Xbox offers an unparalleled opportunity to make a unique series of films around the extraordinary events and characters that have given rise to the digital age.

Jonathan Chinn added,

Our goal is to produce a series of compelling and entertaining docs which will deploy all the narrative techniques of Simon's and my previous work. It's particularly exciting to be partnering with filmmakers like Zak Penn who come to this process from other filmmaking disciplines and who will bring their own distinctive creative vision to this.

To ensure the gaming community will buy into the series, the first documentary in the line will be about the spectacular failure that was Atari and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the game that ended it all. If this premise sounds familiar, you're right - this is the documentary of the excavation I wrote about in June, which will unearth what some believe is millions of copies of the disaster game.

In addition to the excavation, the film will feature all of the urban legends that have sprung up about the sudden and silent shutdown of the videogame company, along with the path that led up to the middle of the night burial of whatever is in the cement-covered Atari landfill. It will also highlight the ups and downs of the company that brought videogames into the modern common culture and the events that ultimately closed the doors.

In addition to this announced film, the series will feature many other films documenting the early days of our modern digital culture. What stories do you hope the Chinns will tell? Post your hopes in the comments section.

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BitTorrent Attempts to Hide You From NSA With New Chat

posted Friday Dec 20, 2013 by Scott Ertz

BitTorrent Attempts to Hide You From NSA With New Chat

Since Snowden originally revealed that, through PRISM and other programs, the US government has been spying on, well, everything that everyone does, security has become a hot topic. From encrypted email services to on-site cloud platforms, the fear of government snooping on the Internet has never been higher, and never before have so many people been trying to solve said problem.

One entry into the "Obama can't know what I'm thinking" line of products is from an organization known for wanting to keep their goings-on private: BitTorrent. The company has been working on a chat program which, rather than having a centralized chat relay server, BitTorrent Chat will use a peer-to-peer method. BitTorrent's Christian Averill explains,

With other chat tools, messages are sent through a central server, unencrypted as it passes through and stored before being re-encrypted and sent to it's final destination. Our key innovation is to build a tool for communications that does not need servers. A way for two people to connect directly with the threat of their privacy being violated.

Obviously he meant without the threat of their privacy being violated, but we will ignore that slight oversight. This will actually not be the first messenger to allow encrypted, peer-to-peer messaging, as Averill suggests; AOL Instant Messenger has allowed this for years. This will be the first time that accounts and initial contact will not be initiated through a centralized server, however.

According to the developer blog,

With BitTorrent Chat, there aren't any "usernames" per se. You don't login in the classic sense. Instead, your identity is a cryptographic key pair. To everyone on the BitTorrent Chat network at large, you ARE your public key. This means that, if you want, you can use Chat without telling anyone who you are. Two users only need to exchange each other's public keys to be able to chat.

Using public key encryption provides us with a number of benefits. The most obvious is the ability to encrypt messages to your sender using your private key and their public key. But in public key encryption, if someone gains access to your private key, all of your past (and future) messages could be decrypted and read. In Chat, we are implementing forward secrecy. Every time you begin a conversation with one of your contacts, a temporary encryption key will be generated. Using each of your keypairs, this key will be generated for this one conversation and that conversation only, and then deleted forever.

This means that, even if every chat is cached locally, each individual conversation would have to be decrypted uniquely. Since the chats will not be cached locally, the NSA or hackers would have to collect the conversations live, as they happen, and decrypt them with a unique key for each conversation. This is a great idea that leapfrogs the concept of Snapchat, which still stores all of the content that is transmitted, only hidden from the user, not the server.

Is a technology that is constantly changing to protect your data something you want or need? Is this a service you would start using if made widely available today? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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YouTube Addresses Gameplay Issues, But Not Well

posted Friday Dec 20, 2013 by Scott Ertz

YouTube Addresses Gameplay Issues, But Not Well

After last week's ContentID disaster, it was expected that we would hear from YouTube regarding the issue. We expected that we would hear an apology for over-regulating content, though a strong protection statement for their process. We also expected to have a bit of an explanation about the nature of the sweeping flags.

What we got was different, however. There is no apology, there is no direct explanation about the higher-than-average flag rate for gaming content, nor the odd nature of the seemingly unrelated content ownership claims. What we got, instead, was a detailed explanation of what ContentID is, which we already knew, and a few possible suggestions on who might own the content you are being flagged for, even though the content owners have already given full privileges for monetized videos.

For example, did you know you might have music on in the room in the background? Or that, possibly, the music which is licensed for the game might be your problem? You might want to turn off your game soundtrack to make the gameplay videos, because that will be natural, organic content that people will want to watch.

How to explain a video with only original music created by the same person who uploaded the video being flagged for copyright violation is still at question, even after reading YouTube's message, which is available for you right here.

Hi from YouTube,

You might have heard about, or been impacted by an increase in copyright claims made on videos over the past week. We're getting in touch to explain what's happening and how you can get back to creating and monetizing great videos.

What's happening

Content ID is YouTube's system for scanning videos for copyrighted content and giving content owners choices on what they want us to do with them. Last week, we expanded the system to scan more channels, including those affiliated with a multi-channel network ("MCN"). As a result, some channels, including many gaming channels, saw claims appear against their videos from audio or video copyright holders.

Understanding Content ID claims

Keep in mind one video may contain multiple copyrighted works, any of which could potentially result in a claim. For example a record label may own music playing in the video (even in the background), a music distributor may own a game's soundtrack, or a game publisher may own in-game cinematic content.

Also, online rights are often resold to companies like music labels and aggregators. While you might not recognize the owner, this doesn't necessarily mean their claims are invalid.

Deciding what to do

When a claim is made, you'll see what's been claimed, who's claimed it, what type of claim it is (audio or video), and you can play back the part of your video that it matched. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to act on Content ID claims, and you can find out all your next steps, dispute options, and other troubleshooting resources here.

It's also important to know that most claims won't impact your account standing.

Tips for new videos

If you're creating videos with content from other people, remember that rights ownership can be complicated and different owners have different policies. Be aware of music. Many games allow you to turn off background music, while leaving sound effects enabled. And if you're looking for music you can freely use (and monetize!), check out our Audio Library.

Whether gaming, music or comedy is your passion, know that we love what you do. We've worked hard to design Content ID and other tools to give everyone - from individual creators to media companies - the opportunity to make great videos and earn money. As YouTube grows, we want to make sure we're providing the right product features to ensure that everyone continues to thrive.

Sincerely,

The YouTube team

So, is this a confused company making excuses about a huge mistake, or does Google truly believe that a person creating a video about their own videogame doesn't have the right to monetize said video? Let us know in the comments below.

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LG to Debut Open webOS TV at CES 2013 2014 [Rumor]

posted Friday Dec 20, 2013 by Scott Ertz

LG to Debut Open webOS TV at CES <strike>2013</strike> 2014 [Rumor]

I can't quite believe I am writing this article again, but here it is. After last year's rumors of an LG webOS Smart TV at CES 2013 didn't pan out exactly as expected, LG decided to one-up the rumors. Rather than licensing webOS for their Smart TV line, they decided to buy the former mobile operating system outright.

Obviously, the belief was always that LG would use webOS to power their TVs, but little has been heard about the project since the purchase in February. All of that changed this week, however, with a few comments from LG researcher Hong Sung-pyo. We now know, unofficially, that LG has a webOS television that will be unveiled at CES 2014.

In addition to resurrecting the Palm project, the television will have a 2.2GHz dual-core processor and sport 1.5GB of memory. Other than that, we have no clear information, though it is easy to speculate that LG will try and make webOS's entry into televisions an inexpensive one, seeing as the TouchPad sold best on clearance.

To accomplish this, I expect an LCD display, as opposed to the more expensive OLED, though I would suspect that we will see the television premier larger, so as to gain attention on the CES show floor. It won't quite be the 105-inch 4K television LG has already confirmed will be on display in their booth, but it should be large enough to make its mark.

As a webOS fan from the beginning myself (sitting at my desk at this moment I can see 3 phones and a tablet) I really look forward to seeing how LG has taken the OS to the larger screen and how much of the original application catalog will be available on the revamped platform. For example, will owners be able to download the PLuGHiTz Live app, or will we have to recreate it for the newer platform? I suppose we will have to wait a few more weeks to find out.

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