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Supreme Court Protects Personal Privacy

posted Saturday Jun 28, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Supreme Court Protects Personal Privacy

This week was a big one for the Supreme Court and technology. In addition to stepping on streaming service Aereo, they tackled personal privacy concerns in the smartphone age. Before the ruling for whatever reason cell phones were not covered under the Fourth Amendment. This meant that police could search your phone without a warrant.

Obviously this created a variety of privacy and security issues. For example, if you filmed police brutality, the cops could take your phone and delete the evidence. This has happened a number of times and only enhanced an already dangerous situation.

The case in question involves something far more important though: personal privacy. Imagine being pulled over for speeding and the cop demands to see your phone. It is a similar request to searching your car on the suspicion of drugs. Previously, you had no legal expectation of privacy for that phone.

The only thing you could do was to have your phone PIN locked, as police cannot legally force you to divulge any information. This has created a sticky situation with the iPhone. If your phone is locked via finger scanner they CAN force you to touch your phone.

But, modern smartphones hold all of our personal information and the Constitution is written to protect our personal privacy from the government. Luckily, the Supreme Court unanimously agrees and cell phones are now protected under the Fourth Amendment.

A decade ago, officers might have occasionally stumbled across a highly personal item such as a diary, but today many more than 90 percent of American adults who own cell phones keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives.

This means, before searching your phone, law enforcement is required to get a warrant, just like searching your home. This helps protect both the accused and bystanders who happen to film something happening with their phone.

How does this affect other devices though? Unfortunately, since tablets and wearables were not included in the suit, the Supreme Court could not rule on them. So, as for now, they are still searchable. This ruling however is a good start.

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Supreme Court Says Aereo Business Illegal

posted Saturday Jun 28, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Supreme Court Says Aereo Business Illegal

So, Aereo is dead. Yes, the innovative over-the-air video-streaming service that won us over with its edgy, boundary-pushing business model has been ruled illegal in the Supreme Court hearing this week. The decision, which was split 6-3 and overturned a lower court's decision, says that Aereo's business practices infringe on copyright law because the company acts almost identical to a cable company but Aereo hasn't been subjected to the same broadcaster fees as said cable companies.

This kind of affects the future of innovation in the TV and broadcasting spaces. Luckily, the Supreme Court maintained that only the current business practice for Aereo are illegal. The company could essentially negotiate rights with the broadcasters, but they probably won't considering both sides really haven't been seeing eye-to-eye.

Chief Justice John Roberts had this to say about the decision,

Your technological model is solely based on circumventing legal prohibitions that you don't want to comply with. There's no reason for you to have 10,000 dime-sized antennas except to get around the Copyright Act.

Technically speaking, he's right. However Aereo, even after shutting down on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern, maintains that it's not infringing on anyone's copyright laws by simply retransmitting over-the-air broadcasts. Customers are merely paying for the hardware required to do so, and not for the transmission itself.

How does this affect you? Well, if you were an Aereo subscriber, you're not any longer. The company issued refunds to every subscriber for the past month of service. The company is effectively shut down for right now as it evaluated what to do next. Aereo's CEO Chet Kanojia explained where Aereo stands right now.

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court reversed a lower Court decision in favor of Aereo, dealing a massive setback to consumers. As a result of that decision, our case has been returned to the lower Court. We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps.

What if you're not an Aereo subscriber? If you're not akin to the greatness that was Aereo, you still should be looking intently into this decision. That's because while not much will change to those who simply watch cable or satellite TV, the decision could mean that the same over-the-air broadcasts that right now are free to the public could no longer be free in the future. Konojia continued in his blog post to say,

The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud.

To that end, he's actually right. Who's to say that certain broadcasters could decide to go after bars and pubs for even higher rates for their transmissions? Or even still, those same broadcasters could start charging license rights to TV antenna manufacturers for simply making a product that allows you to view the content. I know it seems like a stretch right now, but those scenarios are completely possible.

The slightly good news is that the decision only actually applied to live signals and not recorded ones. CEO of the CEA, Gary Shapiro said that, "there is wiggle room in the Aereo decision" and that the Courts "do not like what Aereo is doing" which is why they made the decision they did. Shapiro added that it's not the end of cord-cutting but cable companies are becoming "increasingly irrelevant" and beating up on Aereo isn't going to change that.

In the end, the copyright laws were never intended to foresee this type of innovation and Shapiro did go on to say that it's currently being looked at in Congress to try and remove these ambiguous laws so that the Aereos, Airbnbs and Ubers of the world can actually grow and thrive. The Supreme Court also said that it will convene over these type of copyright issues on a "case-by-case basis" so that maybe another company can come along and will have the support of the Court if they handle business in a slightly different way. Still, all of this kind of feels like we hit a brick wall as a nation and it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It seems like there is those who favor copyright and content protection against those who favor advances in technology. Can't there be a balance between the two?

"The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress." - Charles Kettering, inventor, entrepreneur, innovator & philanthropist

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Mario Kart 8 Might Have Just Saved the WiiU

posted Saturday Jun 28, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

<i>Mario Kart 8</I> Might Have Just Saved the WiiU

Nintendo has not been doing well in this generation's console battle and has suffered huge financial losses as a result. Even last week the company lost a huge patent battle overseas that will likely have Nintendo further in the hole. Many people asked what Nintendo could do to bring itself back into better times and apparently the answer was Mario Kart.

Mario Kart 8, the game that cemented the Nintendo64 as one of the best consoles ever and the game that won our hearts as kids, sold over 2 million copies in less than a month for the WiiU. This essentially revived the Wii U as a console entirely as the latest Nintendo hardware has seen more use in the past month than in the past three months combined. What's key here is that this number represents the total amount of units actually sold through to the customer.

In the shareholder meetings, Nintendo went on to announce that Mario Kart 8 sold 1.2 million copies in the first week alone and even helped console sales because of its popularity. Nintendo America's President Reggie Fils-Aime said that Wii U sales have quadrupled during the first week of Mario Kart 8's release. We currently sit at 6.17 million WiiUs sold, but that figure is from exactly two months before the Mario-driven battle franchise hit shelves on May 30th.

Nintendo exec Scott Moffitt even said that the sales have been so monumental that it almost feels like the Nintendo 3DS revival, except Nintendo isn't slashing prices with this one. To give you some contrast, it took Super Mario 3d World a little over four months to reach 2 million sold worldwide and Nintendo's top seller on the Wii U, New Super Mario Bros. U sold just a bit over 4 million as of April 1st.

Could this be the game that finally brings Nintendo back to its glory days? I know the game makes me want to go pick up a Wii U myself, but how about you? Let us know in the comments section below.

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YouTube Announces 60fps Video, Tons of Other Changes

posted Saturday Jun 28, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube Announces 60fps Video, Tons of Other Changes

This year's VidCon brought some interesting news to the Internet and media spaces. For YouTube, a site that has been struggling to really stay competitive with Twitch and Vimeo, has tried for years to come up with new and exciting ways to remain at the number one spot. So at the convention, YouTube announced that it will be soon supporting videos at 48 and 60 frames-per-second.

This news is great for gamers, whose PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones are able to stream at 60fps. With YouTube allowing live streaming to consoles in the near future, being able to quickly upload game clips to the site, in the highest detail possible, might seal the deal for some content creators. YouTube did mention that in order to upload in 60fps, you will also have to upload your content in 1080p.

YouTube has already started a playlist with some 60fps content, beginning with a trailer from season two of VGHS, gameplay of Titanfall and the Battlefield Hardline multiplayer trailer. Check out the Battlefield and Titanfall videos because they really do look amazing in the higher frame rate. YouTube will be adding the ability to upload in 60fps to all accounts in the coming months.

In addition to better video quality for your subscribers, YouTube has also added the ability to allow your fans to give you some money if they like your work. Instead of using outside parties like Kickstarter or Patreon, the video site will bring what they're calling Fan Funding to your channel. Not only that, but YouTube has gone all out with a bunch of other upgrades, too. YouTube's Creator Studio will feature new and improved analytics that you can view from your mobile device. An audio library with added sound effects makes its way to enhance your videos. Creator credits will allow you to notate who helped and collaborated on your video. Fans will be able to contribute subtitles for those who live in other countries or are hard of hearing. This goes beyond the automatic speech recognition software which can sometimes be totally wrong. And that's not even all the new things that Google is bringing to YouTube; we have the rest in the source link below.

So, what do you think of all these changes and enhancements? Will this place YouTube back in the minds of content creators? Will they still look for other ventures? We want to know your thoughts in the comments below.

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The CEA Recommends New Guidelines for Ultra HD Displays

posted Friday Jun 27, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

The CEA Recommends New Guidelines for Ultra HD Displays

Standards are a big thing in the consumer electronics industry. When something new comes to market, manufacturers are quick to create whatever they can get out of the door, so associations recommending a set list of protocols to follow only help the consumer. And last year, when Ultra HDTV really hit the industry, companies followed a standard set by the Consumer Electronics Association in October 2012. This week, the CEA has announced an updated list of characteristics that are built upon the ones from two years ago.

The CEA's Ultra High-Definition Display Characteristics V2 are voluntary guidelines that will go into place in September of this year. The idea was to continue addressing the various aspects of the quality of the screen, compatibility with formats and making it easier for consumers to understand what UHD really is.

The CEA has said for a projector, monitor or TV to be considered Ultra High-definition, it must meet the following standards:

Display Resolution - Has at least eight million active pixels, with at least 3840 horizontally and at least 2160 vertically.

Aspect Ratio - Has a width to height ratio of the display's native resolution of 16:9 or wider.

Upconversion - Is capable of upscaling HD video and displaying it at Ultra High-Definition resolution.

Digital Input - Has one or more HDMI inputs supporting at least 3840x2160 native content resolution at 24p, 30p and 60p frames per second. At least one of the 3840x2160 HDMI inputs shall support HDCP revision 2.2 or equivalent content protection.

Colorimetry - Processes 2160p video inputs encoded according to ITU-R BT.709 color space and may support wider colorimetry standards.

Bit Depth - Has a minimum color bit depth of eight bits.

The CEA also recommended a set of attributes to follow for those who wish to call themselves a Connected Ultra HD Device.

Ultra High-Definition Capability - Meets all of the requirements of the CEA Ultra High-Definition Display Characteristics V2 (listed above).

Video Codec - Decodes IP-delivered video of 3840x2160 resolution that has been compressed using HEVC* and may decode video from other standard encoders.

Audio Codec - Receives and reproduces, and/or outputs multichannel audio.

IP and Networking - Receives IP-delivered Ultra HD video through a Wi-Fi, Ethernet or other appropriate connection.

Application Services - Supports IP-delivered Ultra HD video through services or applications on the platform of the manufacturer's choosing.

Speaking on these lists of attributes, CEO of the CEA Gary Shaprio said,

Ultra High-Definition TV is the next revolution in home display technology, offering consumers an incredibly immersive viewing experience with outstanding new levels of picture quality. These updated attributes will help ensure consumers get the most out of this exciting new technology and will provide additional certainty in the marketplace.

The CEA is also working on creating a logo for UHD that will help consumers identify when a TV set they wish to buy is actually Ultra HD. Launching later this year, the logo would be voluntary for manufacturers to implement on packaging and marketing, but is said to be widely adopted. With all of the changes coming to televisions in the next year, it makes sense for the effort to educate the consumer to be one of the fore-fronts in the UHD movement. And hopefully manufacturers will follow the recommended attributes so that the customer experience doesn't suffer in the end.

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Rumors Swirling Around Spotify Launching Video-Streaming Service

posted Sunday Jun 22, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Rumors Swirling Around Spotify Launching Video-Streaming Service

What's Spotify doing lately? Well, after trying to single-handedly revolutionize the music industry, a little service called Beats Music came along and put some pressure on the music-streaming service space, Spotify included. So, to go one-up on Beats, the company might be looking to get into the video-streaming space to take on the Netflix' and Amazons of the world.

While this is still a rumor as of now, many sources are reporting that Spotify wants to shift into a music and video service that would have a heavy focus on original content and exclusive deals. Those close to the matter have said that the company is already looking at partners to both source additional funding, as well as produce exclusive content for the platform. As it stands, there is no word on if we'd see another round of investment offers in Spotify, but with a valuation of $3 billion thanks to $100 million of investment from Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola, it seems unlikely.

We also don't know if what type of video we'd see, whether it be movies, TV shows or even just music videos. When CEO Daniel Ek was questioned about it, he professionally danced around the topic. "I won't rule it out because we're a company that looks at what we're doing incredibly long term. But right now, we're all focused on music," he said in an interview.

Can Spotify hang with the established brands in the space? With a whole bunch of companies spinning up different types of video-streaming services lately, I can see why Spotify would want to try its hand in a related space since the company is already involved with labels and owns a good portion of the media market. However, with original content like House of Cards costing Netflix $100 million to make, a company with a lower valuation than the big boys might not be able to sustain. However, if the company chooses to literally own the music video space, something nobody else is really doing legally right now, it is possible that the blend of music and music videos would sit nicely with Spotify.

Again, all of this is a rumor for now, but it does open up some interesting discussion points and possibilities. Should a music company get involved in video or vice versa? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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