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SiriusXM Settles Pre-1972 Song Copyright Dispute for $210 Million

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

SiriusXM Settles Pre-1972 Song Copyright Dispute for $210 Million

While music streaming is becoming a hot topic, there is still a high demand and following in SiriusXM. However, SiriusXM currently settled a small copyright fiasco that is going to set them back $210 million. The dilemma may also prove a problem for music streaming companies in the future.

Before 1972, songs didn't really have a form of copyright attached to them. Once the popularity of radio took off, and people began using music in films, TV shows and for commercials, it was apparent that copyright would need to be applied to songs as well. States have granted copyright to these songs but not everyone was following the rules and playing fair.

This takes us to documents filed this week with the SEC against SiriusXM for playing those pre-'72 songs without paying out royalties or buying licenses. Instead of fighting through the courts on who's right and who's wrong, SiriusXM recognized the issue at hand and has agreed to pay out $210 million to record labels, settling the dispute.

Major record labels currently own the rights to about 80 percent of the pre-1972 music SiriusXM plays, so the settlement takes care of the majority of the problems. Still a lingering issue is the class-action lawsuit that is ongoing, filed by The Turtles, a 1960s band. The lawsuit was filed in 2013 and has yet to be resolved, however Florida has already thrown the suit out. The Turtles have also sued Pandora in 2014 and are currently seeking more targets to acquire.

As far as the multi-million dollar settlement, SiriusXM will be able to play the songs in question until 2017, at which time they will enter negotiations for a new five-year deal through 2022.

The Recording Industry Association of America is obviously happy about the ruling, but for once I can't say I disagree with them. CEO Cary Sherman said, "This is a great step forward for all music creators. Music has tremendous value, whether it was made in 1970 or 2015. We hope others take note of this important agreement and follow SiriusXM's example."

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Apple Fights Through Artist Pullout Over Free Period Policies

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Apple Fights Through Artist Pullout Over Free Period Policies

When Apple announced the rebranded Beats Music, now called Apple Music, a few weeks ago, they made a lot of waves announcing that the first 3 months would be free for all users. The problem for Apple was the waves were not all positive. In fact, very few of the talks surrounding the announcement was positive. Most tech sites and even Apple fans were pretty unimpressed with the rebranding, as well as the majority of the announcements that day.

Those who were least impressed, however, were musicians who were to have their music on the platform. As it turns out, Apple's genius idea for how to support a full quarter without revenue was to pass every penny on to the artists. That meant that for 3 whole months, artists were going to make absolutely no money from Apple. With Apple's plans to damage the plays from other services, this meant that artists were actually going to be hurt overall, rather than helped.

Taylor Swift, you remember her, wrote an open letter to Apple, complaining about the policy. Apple responded quickly by changing their policy and offering as much as 2 cents per listen. That is a lot of money, and certainly more than could have been decided upon in the short window between the letter and the decision. After Apple's reversal, Taylor Swift came out of her streaming isolation and announced that her most recent album would be available on Apple Music.

The natural line to be drawn here is that the initial policy was not true and that Swift's "open letter" was likely penned by Apple themselves, with Swift being paid to publish it. The result of the letter being published is that Swift looks tough on bullies, yet remains "America's sweetheart" and Apple looks like they are giving fans and artists what they want; everyone wins. Except, potentially consumers, who might be upset about what appears to be a paid publicity stunt to promote an exclusive streaming deal.

The Attorneys General of New York and Connecticut are crying fowl, launching an investigation into whether or not Apple is pressuring artists and music groups to sign exclusivity deals. In addition to the Swift announcement, which she ensures is not exclusive to Apple but is currently exclusive to Apple, other artists, including Pharrell, have announced Apple Music exclusivity deals. Unless Apple is offering A LOT of money, which could be possible, though not probable, or threatening the artists or music groups with overall delisting, exclusive deals like these don't make sense.

The best way for consumers to speak out against deals like these is to not support the platforms that are, ultimately, trying to hurt the streaming industry as a whole: consumers, artists, producers, etc. It will be interesting to see what the final finding from the states is, because another major suit against Apple on intimidation practices will likely not go well for them.

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Google Adds, Removed Extension to Chromium Browser

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google Adds, Removed Extension to Chromium Browser

If you are not an open-sourcer, you are unlikely to know about Chromium. Chromium is Google's open-source basis for their Chrome browser. The parts of the browser that Google does not necessarily care about get included into the base, and that code is released to the world for whatever purposes. I'm not sure why anyone would want it, but there it is in case you do.

Recently, Google began post-loading an extension into the browser: its OK, Google voice prompt feature. This extension was not directly included into the open-source release, but the call to install it was. Therefore, this does not EXACTLY violate general open-source policy, but it certainly rubbed the open-source community the wrong way. Mostly for two reasons: the code for the extension is not open-source, and the extension was always listening to you waiting for "OK, Google" to be spoken.

Now, it is important to mention that this community is interesting. They believe that data should be open, but are afraid of their privacy. So, information that is collected about you online should be shared with everyone, but not about them, I suppose. Because of this, and the lack of code for the extension, the community panicked about what Google might be storing and how it might be used. This is a good fear, as Google has never proven itself to be particularly trustworthy or ethical about its intentions.

In this particular case, however, it is easy to see in the task manager that the feature is disabled and that the microphone is not engaged, nor is any data being transferred, but that was not enough to satisfy them. Google has since decided to stop including the feature as part of the standard install, hoping to pacify the loudest of the loud, and possibly to try and do a little damage control.

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Apple Removes, Muddles Reasons for Removing Games Featuring Civil War Era Flag

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Apple Removes, Muddles Reasons for Removing Games Featuring Civil War Era Flag

This week has been a very weird one for flags. The strangest has certainly been the national outcry over the Battle Flag of the Army of Tennessee. This flag, easily identified by its rectangular design, red field and blue X with 13 stars, was used by one of the several state-sponsored armies during the American Civil War while in battle. For whatever reason, many have associated it with the Confederate States of America, which is an odd association.

Many retailers this week announced that they would no longer be selling products with the "Confederate Flag" on them, actually meaning the Battle Flag, as a reaction to a shooting in South Carolina. During this process, Apple decided to take it a step further and tried to alter history by pretending that the flag was never used. They did this by removing games from the App Store that are set within the Civil War era. These games, clearly, featured the Battle Flag, as it was actually used during said battles.

Apple claimed,

We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines.

However, Civil War: 1863 featured the flag in 2 places: on the main screen to differentiate the two playing teams, and on the actual game board, again to differentiate the two teams. The use of this flag is accurate and in historical context for the era and for the game, and is clearly not being used in an inflammatory way. In fact, it is an incredibly sensitive and accurate portrayal of a Battle Flag: in battle.

Another affected game, Ultimate General: Gettysburg, posted a statement on the game's website, saying,

Spielberg's "Schindler's List" did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical "Gettysburg" movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money.

Therefore we are not going to amend the game's content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple's decision will achieve the desired results.

We can't change history, but we can change the future.

That is truly a wonderful way to sum up the reality of what Apple is doing here. These games are not using the flag in "offensive or mean-spirited ways." Instead, Apple is trying to change the telling of history. What is interesting is that nearly identical games featuring the Nazi flag vs. the US flag have not been removed under the same policy.

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ARCHOS Enters PC Stick Market with Budget Windows 10 Computer

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

ARCHOS Enters PC Stick Market with Budget Windows 10 Computer

At CES this year, Intel showed off smaller Windows PCs. Following the NUC, they also unveiled the Compute Stick, a device that has prompted a new category of computing technology. Similar to devices like the Chromecast from Google, the big separator is that these devices run Windows, meaning you can use them for real work in a very small package.

After Intel's $150 Compute Stick came Lenovo's $130 ideacentre Stick 300 and BeeLink's $300 Pocket P2. While the BeeLink device has since dropped to $130, it is still above that $100 price point. That is where ARCHOS' new PC Stick comes in, priced at just $99. All of the new devices, including the newest from ARCHOS, have the same specs: quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735F processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot.

In addition to the price, ARCHOS differentiated itself from the pack by offering its computer in Windows blue instead of the generic black that everyone else is sticking with. While the company did not announce a release date, they did say that the device would ship with Windows 10, as opposed to Windows 8.1, meaning that customers will not be required to upgrade the device shortly after purchasing it, making it a far better experience.

As Windows 10 get closer to market, which is currently just a month away, it is likely we will see more companies find interest in announcing products in this category. Currently we have not heard from companies like Acer, Dell, Microsoft themselves or HP, though they are a little busy splitting the company. Hopefully, as some of the other companies get into the fray, we will begin to see a split in hardware specs giving more choice depending on needs.

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YouTube One Ups Twitch with New Gaming App

posted Sunday Jun 14, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube One Ups Twitch with New Gaming App

The battle for game-streaming supremacy has raged on for a while now, with armies increasing for all parties. After Amazon acquired Twitch for almost $1 billion, it was made known that YouTube tried to pick up the company but Twitch wouldn't go for it. Not long after, YouTube threw money at creators for exclusive rights and deals in the gaming space, and we knew then that it wouldn't be the end of the saga just yet. Now, Google has fired a warning shot from its bow with news of a new gaming app on the horizon.

YouTube Gaming will be centered around both a website and app featuring game videos and live streams. YouTube will have specific pages for almost 25,000 different games, along with pages for each partner and network.

With Twitch taking the lead in the gaming space for the time being, and MLG.tv, Hitbox and Vimeo making huge impacts as well, this is YouTube's full-push to prove its top spot as a video-streaming platform. YouTube already has some of the top celebrities in the gaming world, but giving those content creators a permanent and tailored home might be the thing that keeps them from leaving. You know, aside from the boatloads of cash they've been offered.

As of right now, a lot of this is just speculation, with the YouTube Gaming landing page simply saying that we'll see it launch sometime in 2015. However the implications behind the landing page are strong. YouTube has launched several different avenues for growth and is hoping one, or more, of them take off in a viral way. The prideful Twitch devs will have to find a way to respond, and it will probably have to start with a revamp of their curation, interface and features. Twitch is good at video quality and consistency but it has to compete with the deep pockets of Google's video baby, and that's a hard thing to do even if you do have Amazon backing you.

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