The UpStream

Disney Gets Government Approval to Purchase Fox Assets, Comcast Still Fighting

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Disney Gets Government Approval to Purchase Fox Assets, Comcast Still Fighting

What happens when two different companies, both bent on owning everything, bid on the same company? You end up with the epic three-way that is Fox-Disney-Comcast. It all started when Disney bid to purchase Twentieth-Century Fox. Their bid, which was the only one, was $52.4 billion, which seemed like a clear decision for Fox.

Once Disney got involved in this process, Comcast decided that they couldn't let that happen. Owning NBCUniversal wasn't enough for them, so they added a bid for $65 billion; more than 20% more than Disney had bid. Not to be outdone, Disney came back with a new bid for $71.3 billion, raising the bid by 10% over Comcast's and over 30% more than their original bid.

This week, some interesting new moves happened. First, the biggest hurdle in the acquisition attempt was cleared: the Department of Justice approved the merger, though it's not going to sound like it. The DOJ filed a lawsuit to block the purchase unless certain conditions are met. The only real requirement the government has for Disney is that they divest their newfound interest in the former Fox regional sports networks. According to DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim,

American consumers have benefitted from head-to-head competition between Disney and Fox's cable sports programming that ultimately has prevented cable television subscription prices from rising even higher. Today's settlement will ensure that sports programming competition is preserved in the local markets where Disney and Fox compete for cable and satellite distribution.

With this approval, Fox has reason to reject any future bids from Comcast, which is something the company wants to do. They believe that there is little to no chance that the government will approve the purchase if they go with Comcast because Comcast already owns a lot of content production. Owning the pipes and the content is something that scares a lot of people, and getting that approval would be a lot harder than the already acquired Disney approval. So, it appears likely that Disney will be the new owner of the Twentieth-Century Fox assets very quickly.

Conflicting Internet Regulations Could Kill Technological Innovation

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Conflicting Internet Regulations Could Kill Technological Innovation

2018 might just be the year of bad internet regulations being passed globally. A little over a month ago we had the implementation of GDPR, which requires that a citizen of the European Union can request that a company delete all personal data they have collected about that person. Conceptually, the law makes sense: you may not want a company like Facebook to know everything that you have ever done. And when you delete your account, you would like to know that it is actually gone.

Now we have new laws coming around that are going to implement different sets of regulations on internet traffic and usage. For example, California has passed what is being called CCPA, which is essentially California's version of GDPR. The law was rushed and never fully considered because it was a knee-jerk reaction to the Cambridge Analytica issue from earlier in the year. The law will certainly not be the last of its kind in the US and is a sign of a problem.

California is proof that not thinking about a law can cause drama, but the EU continues to prove that even long consideration can produce garbage. Between GDPR and their newest legal disaster, they show a complete misunderstanding about how the internet works. Even worse, they, along with California, are producing an environment in which technological innovation is going to come to a screeching halt.

GDPR had the unfortunate side effect of essentially making blockchain, which is designed to prevent centralization, a liability. Once you store profile information in a block, it is there. You can make adjustments, but you can never remove content from the ledger, or it will never validate. That means that whole parts of blockchain usage is officially illegal in the EU. However, the new law is about to make memes illegal. If you use any piece of content that is copyrighted, a platform will be required to autonomously remove it. So, no more Rick & Morty memes about a long day at work.

In addition, the wording of the law could also try to implement a link tax. This concept has been tried and failed spectacularly in the past because implementing it is impossible. Imaging the government trying to charge Facebook because you shared this article on the platform. Neither Facebook nor PLuGHiTz Live had anything to do with your actions, but both of us have to be involved now. Pure insanity.

If these types of laws continue to pop up around the world, we will see one of two results. Either we will see companies implementing different rules for each global area, which means only big companies with large legal departments, will be able to compete, or we will see companies block these regions entirely. We've seen the latter happen before when Google News pulled out of Spain for a similar type of link tax. I fear that we will see a result somewhere down the middle, where fewer startups will be able to succeed and the big companies will punish the EU in particular for their laws.

Fallout 76 Won't Have Cross-Console Play, Sony Says Solution Coming

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Fallout 76 Won't Have Cross-Console Play, Sony Says Solution Coming

The topic of cross-console play has been huge in the gaming industry for over a year. Microsoft committed to allowing Xbox owners to play their games with players on other consoles. Their first major project was allowing cross-play on Minecraft, a game that is all about interaction with others. As of this moment, the game can be played on every major platform, and players can all play with one another - almost. If you have an Xbox, PC, Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android phone or even Switch, you can play together. Unfortunately, PlayStation players are still forced to play in the Sony walled garden. Microsoft and Nintendo have gone so far as to run cross-branded ads promoting their cross-play capabilities.

Over the past year, various game developers have commented that it is easy to implement cross-play between Xbox and PlayStation in the games. One publisher successfully tested the functionality in their production code, until Sony forced the feature off. This week, another high profile developer said that they want cross-play, but Sony has prevented the feature: Bethesda. Fallout 76, the first online-focused game in the franchise, will NOT allow gamers to play cross-platform. According to Producer Todd Howard, it is all Sony's fault.

While Sony has always been pretty steady in their resolve to not bring cross-play functionality to the PlayStation Network, it seems like the walls to that garden are starting to crack. President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment America Shawn Layden told Eurogamer of player complaints,

We're hearing it. We're looking at a lot of the possibilities. You can imagine that the circumstances around that affect a lot more than just one game. I'm confident we'll get to a solution which will be understood and accepted by our gaming community, while at the same time supporting our business.

That is a huge change in policy for the company, and one that is going to be welcomed for gamers of all types, but especially in games like Fortnight, which relies on the idea of a large number of players in a game together. This feature, if it actually comes to pass, will be a win for everyone, no matter their platform of choice.

Apple and Samsung Finally End Patent Debate

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Apple and Samsung Finally End Patent Debate

This story has been a long time in the works. In 2011, Apple sued Samsung, claiming that Samsung had violated a number of Apple's patents. While some revolved around interaction and OS design, which was mostly Google's doing, the most memorable aspect of the suit was definitely the design patent. It is one of the most mocked suits in technology history because Apple claimed that Samsung had violated a patent involving rounded corners on a rectangle.

While everyone in the industry thought that this would be a fast loss for Apple, it has been just the opposite. In fact, in 2012, a judge ruled that Apple was owed over $1 billion. Yes, with a B. The case has been disputed and won and lost so many times, that we are now 7 years later, and no one is quite sure who owes what to whom.

That changed this week because Apple and Samsung have filed a motion with the court stating that they have come to terms and the case is being closed. The judge in the case dismissed the case with prejudice, which means that no future cases can be filed on the same terms. That means that the case is officially over. Hooray! Because of the size and scope of this case, we obviously know nothing about the terms of the agreement. All we can say for sure is that neither company will need to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees to continue this battle that seemed to have no technological or legal point.

In reality, this case had nothing to do with a legal victory. Apple was trying to do damage to the company that they rightly saw as their biggest competitor in the Android marketplace. They had hoped to prevent Samsung from producing products that looked like Apple's products, forcing a wider visual divide between Apple's believed premium design and what Samsung, and other companies, could produce. In the end, Samsung became Apple's only real competitor in the smartphone space and their need to differentiate their products from Apple's actually led to some amazing handset innovations. If not for the design patent, we might not have ended up with the Edge screens, which might even lead to Microsoft's foldable Surface tablet.

The end of this lawsuit should not signal the end of a legal battle, but instead the end of Apple's fight to control a marketplace that they have accidentally inspired their competitors to take a bigger percentage share of.

Steam Introduces Creater Homepage to Improve Discovery

posted Friday Jun 22, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Steam Introduces Creater Homepage to Improve Discovery

One thing all gamers con agree on is that finding new games on Steam is... challenging. Following a creator has been a majorly manual process, and almost entirely off of the platform. If a published put out a new game, or new content for an existing game, it was actually easier to learn that information on Facebook or Twitter, or relying on press releases published on other sites, that it was on Steam itself. Those days are a thing of the past.

Steam has officially released Steam Creator Homepages into beta, allowing gamers to easily learn new information about their favorite publishers. If you find a creator that you like, and want to see updates and new content from them, you can follow their page and know when something happens in the future. You can also use the feature to find other titles from a creator that you recently discovered that you like.

Take for example an indie developer. They might have published 2 games in their entire history, and you were introduced to their newest by a friend. You like the game so much that you are interested in finding out what else they have worked on. You can head to your search engine of choice and look for the website, which they hopefully have, and look for previous projects. You can search the posts on Facebook, hoping to find something. None of it is good, yet that is currently the best process.

This is where the Steam Creator pages come in, making it easier to find out more about these publishers. As of right now, not everyone has a page. Creators have to take advantage of the new feature by setting up their page before it will be available. If a creator has yet to create their page, you will still be taken to the standard search page that has always existed. In the future, Valve plans to bring more capabilities to the pages, but for now the Beta is way better than what has been available previously.

Law Enforcement "Crippled" by Supreme Court Protecting Privacy

posted Friday Jun 22, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Law Enforcement

A Supreme Court decision this week enforced a law that has been on the books since shortly after the creation of the United States: The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. For anyone unfamiliar, this Amendment prevents unreasonable searches and seizures. In other words, law enforcement cannot collect anything that belongs to you without a judge's permission, ala a warrant.

Over the past number of years, it was believed by law enforcement that the usage of technology essentially meant that the user had given up their legal rights. Obviously, this is a conversation that has been had in both public and private among most people in the country, usually spurred by issues like Facebook privacy issues. However, it never seems to be something that makes enough of an impact within the government, especially the Executive branch, to change the landscape.

The case that re-enforced the Constitution revolves around an instance in 2011 in which law enforcement collected hundreds of days worth of GPS data about a suspect in a robbery in Detroit. This data was collected and compiled without a judge's permission, bringing up privacy and Constitutional law questions, which is how it finally ended up in the highest court in the land. The case got to the Supreme Court after a previous decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that location data was not protected data.

The ruling, which came in as a 5-4 decision, is a landmark decision which makes location data protected. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote,

The government's position fails to contend with the seismic shifts in digital technology that made possible the tracking of not only Carpenter's location but also everyone else's, not for a short period but for years and years.

It's important to note that the headline is sarcastic, as law enforcement is not at all crippled by this decision. This is no different from needing a warrant to enter a building or taking a computer suspected of containing criminal data. It's definitely a win for the country that the government is recognizing that using technology does not mean that you are giving up your legal rights, especially in a time when the usage of technology is far from an option. Printed media is nearly dead, whether we like it or not, and if the act of wanting to learn, or just owning a phone means you have no legal rights, then the Constitution would have no meaning.

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