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Old 28-05-21, 06:33 AM   #1
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - May 29th, 21

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May 29th, 2021

Delhi High Court Directs WhatsApp to Suspend Services of Users Pirating 'Radhe'

The court has also directed the country's leading telecom operators to disclose subscriber details of the offenders

On the basis of a suit filed by Zee, the Delhi High Court has ordered WhatsApp users to stop circulating Salman Khan's latest film "Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai". This comes after the distributor alleged that the film has been a victim of rampant piracy through social media platforms.

The High Court has directed WhatsApp to suspend services to numbers that are being used to sell pirated copies of the film.

The court has also directed the country's leading telecom operators—Airtel, Jio and Vodafone—to disclose subscriber details of the offenders, with Zee to initiate further legal action against them.

The Delhi High Court order mentions: "The Plaintiff has filed the instant suit for permanent injunction, rendition of accounts and damages for the infringement of Plaintiff's exclusive license and exploitation rights in the cinematograph film 'Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai' (in short 'the film'). As stated in the plaint, the Plaintiff is the exclusive licensee and holder of various exploitation rights including Theatrical Rights, Satellite Rights, On Demand Rights, etc. in and to the film, including, inter alia, the exclusive right to distribute/exhibit/release the film and/or make the film available to the public through theatrical, internet, digital and online streaming platforms/OTT platforms, Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD) etc."

Talking about piracy, it further says: "The film was released on 13th May, 2021 on the Plaintiff's digital entertainment streaming service 'Zee 5' for public viewing on a pay-per view basis. The Plaintiff received information that the film was victim to rampant piracy through social media platforms, including the messaging service 'WhatsApp'. The Plaintiff became aware that several infringing/illegal copies of the film and also various video clips thereof have been made/created/stored and are being unlawfully copied, stored, reproduced, transmitted, circulated, shared, sold and/or being made available for illegal and unauthorised viewing, download and storage to public at large by individuals on several social media platforms, including 'WhatsApp'."— IANS

Redditors Aim to 'Free Science' From For-Profit Publishers

They aim to download website Sci-Hub's over 85 million scientific papers and make them open-source.
Chris Young

A group of Redditors came together in a bid to archive over 85 million scientific papers from the website Sci-Hub and make an open-source library that cannot be taken down, according to a report by Gizmodo.

Over the last decade or so, Sci-Hub, often referred to as "The Pirate Bay of Science", has been giving free access to a huge database of scientific papers that would otherwise be locked behind a paywall.

Unsurprisingly, the website has been the target of multiple lawsuits, as well as an investigation from the United States Department of Justice. The site's Twitter account was also recently suspended under Twitter's counterfeit policy, and its founder, Alexandra Elbakyan, reported that the FBI gained access to her Apple accounts.

Now, Redditors from a subreddit called DataHoarder, which is aimed at archiving knowledge in the digital space, have come together to try to save the numerous papers available on the website.

Mission to make science open source and 'uncensorable'

In a post on May 13, the moderators of r/DataHoarder, stated that "it's time we sent Elsevier and the USDOJ a clearer message about the fate of Sci-Hub and open science. We are the library, we do not get silenced, we do not shut down our computers, and we are many."

This will be no easy task. Sci-Hub is home to over 85 million papers, totaling a staggering 77TB of data. The group of Redditors is currently recruiting for its archiving efforts and its stated goal is to have approximately 8,500 individuals torrenting the papers in order to download the entire library.

Once that task is complete, the Redditors aim to release all of the downloaded data via a new "uncensorable" open-source website.

In 2019, a similar community of Redditors successfully completed an almost identical mission by downloading and releasing 33TB of scientific papers and books from Library Genesis, a site similar to Sci-Hub.

As the r/DataHoarder group would have it, this is by no means a mission aimed at allowing people to cheapskate their way to easy access for otherwise paid articles. Instead, they claim it is a "rescue mission for Open Science."

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, more than half of all academic publishing is controlled by only five publishers. Paywalls for the articles are justified on the premise that they compensate publishers for their investment in editing, curating, and publishing. However, the truth is that work is often peer-reviewed by scholars who get no compensation from the publisher.

Much of the science published in these articles is also publicly funded in the first place, leading many to argue that the results should be freely available to the public — instead, Harvard University warned in 2012 that subscription fees for scientific journals were becoming prohibitively expensive. As such, the poster from r/DataHoarder wrote that the group joins a mission to "free science from the grips of for-profit publishers."

What Is Megaupload? A Full History of Kim Dotcom’s File-Sharing Website in 2021

The tale of Megaupload and Kim Dotcom now stretches across three decades, with no apparent end in sight. Here, we’ll summarize the whole thing and try to make heads or tails of what’s happened, from the basics of what is Megaupload to what comes next in the tech industry.
Aleksander Hougen

There have been many dramatic stories over the years involving the internet and copyright infringement, but few are as notorious as that of Megaupload and Kim Dotcom. It’s one hell of a story, but one that’s complicated and often misunderstood. Join us for an answer to the question of “what is Megaupload?” as we look at what happened to the website and what comes next.

Key Takeaways:

• Megaupload was one of the leading file-sharing sites on the internet until its takedown in January 2012.
• The site’s founder, Kim Schmitz, legally changed his name to Kim Dotcom around the same time he founded Megaupload in 2005.
• Dotcom has waged an ongoing legal battle for more than a decade to avoid extradition to the United States for charges of copyright infringement, wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering.
• Despite sharing part of its name with Megaupload and being founded by the same person, MEGA.nz retains none of its ties to the now-defunct file-sharing site.

As with most legal matters, the details of the case against Kim Dotcom are dense and fairly complex. In this article, we’ll give you a quick explanation of what Megaupload is and the history of its founder before diving headfirst into the confusing world of legal jargon, arrests, convictions and appeals, as we try to make sense of it all.

What Is Megaupload?

If you’ve been using the internet for a while, chances are you remember Megaupload from the mid-to-late 2000s. The website was founded in 2005, with its headquarters located in Hong Kong. Throughout its seven years of existence, more than 175 million people registered an account, and the site received over a billion page views. [9]

At its peak, Megaupload was the 13th most visited website in the world and stored roughly 25 petabytes — or 25,000 terabytes — of data on its servers. Multiple countries blocked access to the site over the years, including Malaysia, India and — somewhat strangely — Hong Kong, where the company incorporated. [10][11][12][13]

Aside from the main sharing site, Megaupload also ran a number of other services, such as Megakey.com and Megabox.com, the latter of which was billed as an iTunes competitor that ran directly in the user’s web browser.

Megaupload: Copyright Holders’ Nightmare

For years, Megaupload was one of the most popular file-sharing sites in the world, as it required no account to either upload or download files. Obviously, this made it a popular spot for copyright infringement and piracy, with all sorts of copyrighted material like movies, music, TV shows, books and other video content being shared.

This made it similar to torrenting as an avenue for internet piracy, but without the decentralized structure to keep it safe from government interference. Inevitably, the U.S. government came knocking. In January 2012, the FBI filed an indictment against the site and its founder, Kim Dotcom, and seized its servers, shutting down the site for good. [14]

Keen readers might notice that January 2012 is just around the time that the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act was making its way through the U.S. Congress. Although the bill, known as SOPA, was effectively killed by public opposition, there was no saving Megaupload from its demise.

Megaupload & Leaseweb Servers

Megaupload’s servers were not located in the United States but rather leased through a European server company called Leaseweb and hosted in the Netherlands. This was no impediment to the FBI, though, as Dutch law enforcement helpfully confiscated a portion of the hardware and shipped it to the United States for analysis. [8]

The remaining 630 servers owned by Leaseweb but containing files from Megaupload were kept in storage for a year before the company wiped them, citing lack of communication from Megaupload as the reason for doing so. [8]

For what it’s worth, Kim Dotcom claims that his personal files were stored on these servers and that in wiping them, Leaseweb had deleted potentially exonerating evidence that he intended to use during the criminal proceedings against him. [8]

Although the case against Dotcom has stalled for close to a decade, Megaupload itself was irrevocably dismantled. However, given the name recognition of the website, a new service called MEGA.nz soon appeared.

MEGA.nz vs Megaupload

Somewhat confusingly, a service bearing Megaupload’s name (or at least part of it) still exists. However, as of 2021, the connection between MEGA.nz (read our MEGA review) and the defunct Megaupload is practically nonexistent.

MEGA, like Megaupload, was initially founded by Kim Dotcom in 2013, but he quickly stepped down as CEO of the company. By 2015, he had no more connection to the file storage service, although he continues to promote MEGA on his website, kim.com.
kim.com website promotes MEGA

Kim Dotcom’s website still promotes MEGA, even though he is no longer associated with the company.

Unlike Megaupload, which functioned entirely as a file-sharing site, MEGA is a fully fledged cloud storage service. That means that while you can still use MEGA to share files, its primary focus is personal file storage, just like other cloud storage services such as Dropbox, pCloud or Sync.com.

Although MEGA has its roots with Megaupload, that connection has long since been severed.

Since the end of his involvement with MEGA, Kim Dotcom has made various claims about the service. This includes the assertion that the company was forced into a hostile takeover by Chinese investors, and that the New Zealand government has since confiscated the shares from said investors, now exercising direct control over the service.

The claims get more outlandish from there, with perhaps the most eyebrow-raising one being that the service is run by a shadowy collection of Hollywood executives. MEGA itself has repeatedly denied these allegations, and Dotcom has been unable to provide any proof.

Who Is Kim Dotcom?

As we mentioned briefly in the last section, Kim Dotcom is the notorious founder of Megaupload. Born to a Finnish mother and German father in Kiel, Germany, Kim Schmitz legally changed his surname to Dotcom in 2005, the same year that he founded Megaupload in Hong Kong. [1]

Early Legal Problems & Hacking Allegations

Dotcom’s first run-in with legal authorities was all the way back in the ‘90s as a hacker under the hacker handle “Kimble.” He entered the public spotlight in Germany for claiming that he had bypassed the security measures of NASA, the Pentagon and Citibank. [2]

His first arrest in 1994 was a bit less glamorous — he was arrested and held in custody for a month for selling stolen phone numbers. [3]

Seemingly unfazed, Dotcom was arrested again in 1998, this time for additional hacking charges and convicted on multiple counts of computer fraud and data espionage. Considered a minor in Germany at the time of his arrest, he was only given a two-year suspended sentence for what the judge called “youthful foolishness.” [4]

In 2001, he again ran into legal trouble when he purchased a large number of stocks in a company called LetsBuyIt.com, which was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Following his purchase, he announced that he planned to invest 50 million euros in the company, causing the stock price to soar and earning him a profit of 1.5 million euros on his stocks. [4]

To avoid prosecution for market manipulation, Dotcom fled to Thailand but was nonetheless arrested there and handed over to the German embassy. After being transported back to his home country, he pled guilty to embezzlement and spent five months in jail before receiving yet another suspended sentence. [2][5]

Move to Hong Kong & New Zealand

Probably fed up with the German authorities, he finally moved to Hong Kong in 2003, where he incorporated various companies, including Megaupload. He eventually moved to New Zealand in 2010, receiving residency status after investing 10 million New Zealand dollars in the economy. [2][6]

While living in New Zealand, Dotcom got entangled in a political scandal revolving around his financial contributions to John Banks, the mayor of Auckland at the time. Banks was initially convicted for this, though he was later exonerated. Dotcom faced no legal consequences for his involvement in the scandal. [7]

January 2012 Indictment

When the January 2012 indictment from U.S. authorities rolled around, Dotcom was still residing in New Zealand, and thus, protected from immediate arrest by the FBI. Nevertheless, local law enforcement raided his residence two weeks later and arrested Dotcom and several of his associates — including Mathias Ortmann, CTO and co-founder of Megaupload — though a judge quickly released them on bail. [15][16]

Local New Zealand law enforcement handed several of Dotcom’s hard drives over to their FBI counterparts, presumably to be used as evidence in a trial down the line — a move that was later determined illegal by the New Zealand high court.[17][18]

Through all the legal twists and turns in the following decade, Kim Dotcom remained in New Zealand, making periodic public appearances and headlines, usually regarding his case or the successor to his file-sharing website, MEGA.nz.

The Legal Saga of Kim Dotcom and Megaupload

Before we dive into the legal details of the story of Kim Dotcom and Megaupload, it’s important to point out that we are not lawyers; we can only collect and summarize the legal opinions of actual experts on both sides of the case.

The Prosecution’s Case

The charges brought against Kim Dotcom are varied, but the main thrust boils down to the allegation that Megaupload was fully aware that the website was used for copyright infringement and chose to do nothing about it. [19]

In fact, the charges claim that the website actively encouraged such behavior by incentivizing users with popular downloads while removing files that received little attention. [19]

The fact that the website was fully capable of policing the content it hosted is hard to dispute, seeing as it had systems in place to crack down on more nefarious file-sharing activities like child pornography. [19]

This combined with its apparent knowledge of the illegal activities happening on the site means that it doesn’t qualify for what’s known as the “safe harbor” provision of the DMCA (read our what is DMCA article for more info). The said provision protects websites that host copyrighted content so long as the websites either have no knowledge of it or act to remove the content once aware of it. [20]

Moreover, the fact that Megaupload’s business model centered around ads means that the company was making a direct profit off the distribution of copyrighted material. [19]

Aside from the general copyright infringement case, the U.S. prosecutors also included charges of wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering. The latter of which has been especially disputed by Dotcom’s attorneys and other defenders, as it seemingly includes standard web hosting fees paid to the companies from which Megaupload rented server space. [19][21]

Kim Dotcom Fights Back

Since Dotcom resides in New Zealand, but the warrant for his arrest is in the U.S., the legal battle boils down to whether or not he can be extradited to the United States to face his charges.

It took three years before this extradition request even made it in front of a judge. Then after two months of legal arguments, a district judge in New Zealand decided that the charges against Kim Dotcom made him eligible for extradition due to a “large body of evidence” supporting the case. Dotcom’s lawyers immediately filed an appeal, which resulted in another two years of legal limbo. [22]

The next major update came from the New Zealand high court, which upheld the previous decision that Dotcom could be extradited but with a pretty significant caveat. [23]

Since digital copyright infringement is not a crime in New Zealand, the judge concluded that this was not a basis for extradition. [23]

Dotcom and his legal team celebrated this decision, saying it was a step in the right direction for their case. Fortunately for the U.S. prosecutors, they had also charged Dotcom with fraud, racketeering and money laundering, which the judge said were extraditable offenses. [24]

As is generally the case with compromise decisions like this one, though, neither side was entirely satisfied, and both filed an appeal pretty much immediately. [24]

Bad News for Dotcom

That brought both parties to the court of appeal, which made its decision in July 2018. Disagreeing with the high court, the third judge to review Dotcom’s case determined that he could, in fact, be extradited for any of the charges levied against him, including the ones relating to copyright infringement. In what has become a recurring theme in this story, Dotcom’s lawyers filed yet another appeal, this time to the Supreme Court. [25]

His case wouldn’t be heard until 2020, but in November of that year, the Supreme Court decided to uphold the previous decision and agreed that Dotcom was eligible for extradition to the U.S. However, it also gave him and the three other defendants the opportunity to appeal this decision yet again through a judicial review. [26]

What Happens Next to Kim Dotcom?

Things have been quiet since the news of the Supreme Court’s decision back in November 2020. As mentioned, Dotcom now faces a judicial review, meaning he has the chance to appeal the decision on extradition. At the time of writing, there’s no set date yet for this, though. Your guess is as good as ours on when exactly this will go down.

Kim Dotcom continues to have opinions about the tech industry, which he shares with his 709.6K followers on Twitter.

Considering the drawn-out nature of the whole ordeal, we wouldn’t be surprised if there is no closure on Dotcom’s judicial appeal for years to come. Should the said appeal fail, Dotcom’s fate will be in the hands of the New Zealand justice minister, currently Kris Faafoi, as any extradition request is ultimately his jurisdiction.

Amazon Buys MGM, Studio Behind James Bond, for $8.45 Billion
Brent Lang, Todd Spangler

James Bond has a new home: Amazon and MGM announced a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire MGM for $8.45 billion.

MGM, founded in 1924, complements Amazon Studios, which has primarily focused on producing TV programming, the companies said. Amazon will help “preserve MGM’s heritage and catalog of films” and provide customers with greater access to these existing works, the companies added.

For Amazon, snapping up MGM — which has more than 4,000 movies and 17,000 TV shows in its catalog — is a way to supercharge its Prime Video service with a slew of well-known entertainment titles. In addition, Amazon is anticipating being able to mine Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer properties like the Pink Panther, Rocky and, yes, the 007 franchises for new originals.

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of [intellectual property] in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said in announcing the deal. “It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.”

Hopkins noted that MGM productions collectively have won more than 180 Oscars and 100 Emmys. The studio has roughly 800 employees globally.

The MGM deal is Amazon’s second-largest acquisition, behind its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods in 2017. Amazon didn’t say when it expects to close the MGM acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approvals and other routine closing conditions; however, insiders believe the pact will be approved by the end of 2021. The purchase price includes the assumption of MGM’s debt. MGM will continue to operate as a label under the Amazon brand.

Kevin Ulrich, MGM’s chairman who had worked with Hopkins to hammer out the deal, said in a statement, “I am very proud that MGM’s Lion, which has long evoked the Golden Age of Hollywood, will continue its storied history, and the idea born from the creation of United Artists lives on in a way the founders originally intended, driven by the talent and their vision. The opportunity to align MGM’s storied history with Amazon is an inspiring combination.”

Among the film titles Hopkins called out in announcing the MGM deal were “12 Angry Men,” “Basic Instinct,” “Creed” and “Rocky,” “Legally Blonde,” “Moonstruck,” “Poltergeist,” “Raging Bull,” “Robocop,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “Stargate,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Tomb Raider,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Pink Panther,” “The Thomas Crown Affair” — and, of course, the James Bond series. On the TV front, the Amazon exec cited “Fargo,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Vikings.”

The pact comes on the heels of AT&T's decision to spin off WarnerMedia and combine it with Discovery, a deal that many entertainment analysts have predicted will spark a new round of mergers and acquisitions as media companies and streaming players scramble to lock up the most compelling content available.

Companies that kicked the tires on MGM when it was being quietly shopped in recent months had expressed shock over the price that Amazon was willing to pay for the studio. They believed the studio was worth more on the order of $5 billion to $6 billion with the assumption of some debt. That was due in part to the fact that MGM shares the rights to the Bond franchise with Eon Productions. That company, which is run by half-siblings Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, has an unusual amount of control over the spy series -- with rights to approve everything from marketing to casting and from distribution to ancillary projects. That means that Amazon may struggle to get their signoff on any move to, say, debut the next Bond film on its streaming service, Amazon Prime.

Under film chief Michael De Luca, MGM has lined up several promising projects, including Ridley Scott's "House of Gucci," Paul Thomas Anderson's "Soggy Bottom" and "Project Hail Mary," an adaptation of Andy Weir's novel that will star Ryan Gosling.

In recent years, Amazon's studio division has shifted its strategy toward more commercial fare such as "Coming 2 America" and "Without Remorse" and away from the awards-driven productions such as "Manchester by the Sea" and "Cold War." It's unclear if De Luca will move to Amazon, but Hollywood insiders believe he will likely play some kind of role at the streamer, possibly even running its film division.

As of the end of the first quarter 2021, Amazon had $73.3 billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities on its balance sheet as well as $31.9 billion in long-term debt. When companies enter into "material definitive agreements," the SEC requires them to disclose details of such transactions in regulatory filings. As of 9:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, Amazon had not filed any disclosures related to the MGM deal, which suggests that Amazon does not consider the $8.45 billion purchase price to be material to its business.

Amazon's deal to buy MGM for nearly $9 billion comes a day after the attorney general for Washington, D.C., filed an antitrust lawsuit against the ecommerce colossus -- alleging Amazon engages in anticompetitive practices including price-fixing that have resulted in higher prices for consumers and "stifled innovation and choice across the entire online retail market."

How Product Placements May Soon be Added to Classic Films

Product placement is big business for movies and TV series alike, and items can now be added digitally to films and programmes both new and old.
Jonty Bloom

Fans of classic war flicks will know the scene - actor Steve McQueen revs his motorcycle furiously as he is chased by German soldiers.

Hoping to use the bike to jump over a barbed wire border fence, and reach safety in Switzerland, he pauses to gather his thoughts by a barn.

On the side of the building is a big poster advertising a best-selling beer.

You don't remember the billboard advert? Well it might not have been there the last time you watched The Great Escape, but it could well be the next.

Product placement in films is almost as old as the movie industry itself. The first example of the phenomenon is said to be the 1919 Buster Keaton comedy The Garage, which featured the logos of petrol firms and motor oil companies.

Fast-forward to 2019, and the total global product placement industry, across films, TV shows and music videos, was said to be worth $20.6bn (15bn) that year, according to a report by data analysis firm PQ Media. It is highly lucrative to get a show's leading actor to wear a certain item of clothing, or drink a particular coffee, or drive a specific car.

But while previously the product had to actually, physically be there when the shots were filmed, the advertising industry is now turning to technology that can seamlessly insert computer-generated images.

So items can be digitally added to almost any movie or TV show. For example, advertisers could put new labels on the champagne bottles in Rick's Cafe in Casablanca, add different background neon advertising signs to Ocean's 11, or get Charlie Chaplin to promote a fizzy drink.

And then a few weeks, months or years later the added products can be easily switched to different brands.

One of the firms that has developed the ability to do this is UK advertising business Mirriad. Its technology is now being used by a Chinese video streaming website, and the makers of hit US TV show Modern Family have also tried it out.

Mirriad's chief executive Stephan Beringer expects such digital product placement to become widespread. His firm came up with the process after previously making movie special effects.

"We started out working in movies," he says. "Our chief scientist Philip McLauchlan, with his team, came up with the technology that won an Academy Award for the film Black Swan.

"The technology can 'read' an image, it understands the depth, the motion, the fabric, anything. So you can introduce new images that basically the human eye does not realise has been done after the fact, after the production."

The technological development comes at a time when product placement is ever more important for advertisers, rising 15% in value globally in 2019, according to the PQ Media report. After all, most of us are increasingly streaming films and TV shows via services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, which do not have advertisement breaks.

But this high-tech product placement isn't limited to films and TV programmes. The music industry, hit by Covid-19 making touring impossible, and still recovering from the loss of CD sales, is keen to get in on the act.

James Sandom is the managing director of UK-based Red Light Management, which represents musicians and bands including Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand.

He believes that many musicians will leap at the chance to add digital product placement to their music videos both new and old. "The opportunity to carve open a new revenue stream is rare, and the ability to retrospectively use existing content and build new content with it in mind is exciting," he says.

So older musical groups could make new money from videos that might be decades old. And current artists who proudly sport the latest trainers, phones or bags, could have them changed a year later to the newest designs, without them having to actually put them on, or re-record a video.

Colombian singer Giovanny Ayala is one of the first artists to use Mirriad's technology, which has enabled him to sign a deal with Mexican brewer Tecate, to have its bottles and logo appear in his music videos.

Mr Beringer says that the next leap forward will be the ability to digitally add product banners to live sports or concert broadcasts "in real time, or milliseconds after".

"There is huge demand for that," he says. "So a penalty or VAR decision in football could see a new advert pop up behind the referee."

Roy Taylor, the chief executive of Californian-based business Ryff, says his firm is taking digital product insertion one stage further.

It has developed the technology whereby the product placement is targeted at individuals, and changes depending on who is watching.

So if you like wine then the hero of a film could be drinking a particular bottle that you might be tempted to try. Or if you are teetotal the star might be sipping on a bottle of branded water.

Ryff can do this if you are watching a film on a laptop, smartphone or smart TV, by tracking what you previously bought or looked at online. It works in the same way that online adverts pop up on websites based on your past purchasing or viewing history.

"The technology is an attractive bridge between the demand for high-quality content free from intrusive advertising, and alternative sources of content provider revenue," says Mr Taylor.

Cleopatra Veloutsou, professor of brand management at the Adam Smith Business School at Glasgow University, says these technological developments come as movie and TV advertising firms are trying to catch up with their online peers. "They have lost a lot of income, they are trying to find creative ways to catch up," she says.

However, associating your product with a particular film, TV programme or musical artist comes with risk, says Tamsin McLaren, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Bath's School of Management. "Things can go awry if there is a scandal or PR backlash," she says.

And film critic Anne Billson cautions that digital product placement raises both legal questions and those of artistic integrity.

"I would be interested in finding out about the legal angle vis--vis digital reworking of a copyrighted work, or whether the advertisers would have to buy the film before they tampered with it," she says.

"It also calls into question the role of the production designer, who has put a lot of thought into the look of something, only for some random advertiser to come along at a later date and spoil it with changes or additions that might be anachronistic, or that might not mesh with their other carefully considered design choices."

So to return to Steve McQueen, the so-called "king of cool". While his image is still used to advertise everything from watches to cars, clothes and whisky, retrofitting product placements into his movies would be a step too far for some.

Charter Charges More Money for Slower Internet on Streets with No Competition

Spectrum costs $30 for 400Mbps on one street, $50 for half the speed on another.
Jon Brodkin

It's no surprise that cable companies charge lower prices for broadband when they face competition from fiber-to-the-home services. But an [/url=https://stopthecap.com/2021/05/26/a-tale-of-two-homes-in-spectrum-territory-what-competition-does-to-pricing/]article yesterday by Stop the Cap[/url] provides a good example of how dramatically promotional prices for Charter's Spectrum Internet service can vary from one street to the next.

In this example, Charter charges $20 more per month for slower speeds on the street where it faces no serious competition. When customers in two areas purchase the same speeds, the customer on the street without competition could have to pay $40 more per month and would have their promotional rates expire after only one year instead of two.

Stop the Cap said it examined promotional offers to new customers in the metro Rochester, New York, market, "where Spectrum faces token competition from Frontier's slow speed DSL service" and more robust competition in limited areas from Greenlight Networks' fiber service. Greenlight fiber is available in 23 percent of Rochester, while Charter cable is available to homes throughout the city, according to BroadbandNow. Greenlight prices start at $50 per month for 500Mbps.

"Charter's offers are address-sensitive," Stop the Cap founder Phillip Dampier wrote. "The cable company knows its competition and almost exactly where those competitors offer service. That is why the company asks for your service address before it quotes you pricing."

Dampier found that Charter offers 200Mbps service for $50 a month "[i]n neighborhoods where Spectrum enjoys a broadband monopoly." Charter charges $70 for 400Mbps service in those same competition-free neighborhoods.

But "[j]ust one street away, where Greenlight offers customers the option of gigabit speed over a fiber-to-the-home network, Spectrum's promotional prices are quite different," Dampier wrote. On the competitive street, Charter charges only $30 a month for the same 400Mbps service that costs $70 nearby. As previously noted, customers on the noncompetitive street have to pay $50 for 200Mbps.

"Spectrum does not even bother offering new customers its entry-level 200Mbps plan in areas where it has significant fiber competition," Dampier noted, referring to the promotional offers that pop up when you type in an address. "For $20 less per month, you get double that speed."

For gigabit-download service, Charter charges $90 a month on the competitive street versus $110 on the noncompetitive street. These are the base prices without fees and taxes. Stop the Cap's article included these screenshots from Charter's promotional offers:

Charter prices on a street where the company faces no serious competition.

Charter prices on a street where it faces competition from fiber.

Longer price guarantee on competitive street

Charter also offers to lock in the monthly rate for two years in the competitive area, compared to just one year in the noncompetitive area. Prices can rise dramatically once promotional deals expire, so locking in a price for 24 instead of 12 months ensures that customers on competitive streets save even more money in the long run.

And that's not all. Charter "charges a hefty $199.99 compulsory installation fee for gigabit service in noncompetitive neighborhoods. Where fiber competition exists, sometimes just a street away, that installation fee plummets to just $49.99," Dampier wrote.

He added:

Note similar pricing variability exists in Spectrum service areas around the country, with the most aggressively priced offers reserved for addresses also served by a fiber-to-the-home provider or multiple competitors (e.g., cable company, phone company, Google Fiber or other [competitor]). Current customers typically have to cancel existing service and sign up as a new customer to get these prices.

Cable-company pricing varies widely, so the price difference between competitive and noncompetitive areas may be lower elsewhere. But the price differences show how valuable competition is to broadband subscribers.

Greenlight charges $50 per month for 500Mbps service, $75 for 750Mbps, $100 for 1Gbps, and $200 for 2Gbps. The company charges a $100 installation fee. It doesn't offer promotional prices, so there isn't a big automatic price hike after a set period like there is with many major ISPs.
Charter says it uses a “common” pricing strategy

When contacted by Ars, Charter said that "Spectrum Internet retail prices, speeds, and features are consistent in each market—regardless of the competitive environment." But "retail prices" are the standard rates customers pay after promotional rates expire. Stop the Cap showed that Charter's promotional rates vary between competitive and noncompetitive areas.

Charter told Ars that its promotional offers are affected by several factors, including "location."

"Any promotional offers available to new customers are time-limited and vary based on a number of factors, such as time of year, location and programming, or device opportunities, and testing different promotional offers concurrently is common in a subscription business," Charter said.

This isn't the first time we've written about major Internet providers offering lower prices in competitive areas. In 2015, we noted that AT&T was charging $40 more per month for gigabit service in cities without Google Fiber.

Charter has over 27 million residential Internet subscribers in 41 states, making it the second-largest home-Internet provider in the US after Comcast.

Charter far behind Greenlight on upload speed

Price isn't the only factor that a customer might consider when choosing between Greenlight and Charter. As a fiber provider, Greenlight offers far higher upload speeds than Charter's cable network.

Charter's upload speeds max out at 35Mbps, while Greenlight's start at 50Mbps. Greenlight currently lists upload speeds as being 10 percent of download speeds, so the 500Mbps-download plan has 50Mbps uploads, and the 2Gbps plan has 200Mbps uploads. But Greenlight plans to make its speeds symmetrical like other fiber providers do.

"In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are upgrading upload speeds for orders in Serviceable Greenlight Districts at no additional charge. Your upload speed will match your download speed (500/500, 750/750, 1000/1000, 2000/2000.)," the company's website says.

Charter's upload speeds start at only 4Mbps. Its 200Mbps download plan comes with 10Mbps upload speeds, and the 400Mbps download plan comes with 20Mbps upload speeds. You have to buy Charter's gigabit-download plan to get its highest upload speeds of 35Mbps, slower than Greenlight's lowest upload rate. Despite years of promising higher upload speeds through upgrades to cable's DOCSIS standard, Charter and other cable companies still lag far behind fiber in upload capabilities.

Until next week,

- js.

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