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Old 02-06-21, 05:53 AM   #1
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - June 5th, ’21

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June 5th, 2021

Combine File Sharing and Tokenization with BitTorrent

Limited supply and interesting use cases could propel BitTorrent to a penny
David Moadel

Media and tech aficionados have known BitTorrent (CCC:BTT-USD) for years as a popular peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing platform. Nowadays, however, BitTorrent is also a tradable cryptocurrency.

It seems like almost everything in tech is represented by a cryptocurrency. Perhaps you might be starting to think that there are too many crypto tokens out there.

So, is BitTorrent a worthy cryptocurrency in its own right? Is there something that sets it apart from all the others?

And just as importantly, is there a compelling reason to add it to your crypto portfolio? As we’ll see, the bull thesis may be surprisingly strong for this up-and-coming digital coin.

A Closer Look at the BitTorrent Price

Reaching a full penny seems to be a significant goal of the BitTorrent bulls. But, is this a reasonable objective? It seems so far away.

According to InvestorPlace contributor Muslim Farooque, “Analysts on Digitalcoin believe that BTT will be worth about 1 cent this year.”

Not only that, but they’re expecting “an increase in its price each year until at least 2028.”

I’d say that this is entirely possible. Consider this: the BitTorrent price reached one cent on April 4 of this year. So, the buyers have demonstrated the ability to achieve the one-penny goal.

As of May 1, the price was down to $0.0072. Thus, the bulls still have to prove that they can clear the one-cent hurdle and stay there for the long term.

It’s probably just a matter of time before that happens. For all we know, the Reddit crowd might decide that they like the BitTorrent token, or Elon Musk might post a tweet about it.

Then, the token would undoubtedly move far beyond a penny.

A Crypto Newcomer

BitTorrent (the coin, not the file sharing network) was launched in early 2019 by the BitTorrent Foundation. Therefore, it’s fair to say that the BTT token doesn’t have a lengthy history.

If you’re seeking a very safe and well-established investment, this probably isn’t your best choice.

On the other hand, the BitTorrent token could be suitable for a small allocation in a risk-tolerant investor’s portfolio.

One reason to own the BTT token is because of its use cases. After all, I wouldn’t recommend buying a cryptocurrency unless it has real-world applications.

The token definitely has real-world uses for folks who like to share media files. Specifically, people who share files with strangers on the BitTorrent network can get rewarded with BTT for torrents (file sharing protocols) using their bandwidth and resources.

There’s practically an army of users involved in this. Reportedly, there were 100 million BitTorrent users in 2019 throughout 138 countries.

Moreover, the users can convert the BTT tokens into fiat money, or they can spend the tokens to unlock benefits on the network. So, it can be said that BTT tokens have monetary value.

Capping the Supply

Before moving on, I should add one more use case to the list. BitTorrent has a decentralized filing system for storing and sharing digital content, called the BitTorrent File System or BTFS.

Apparently, “Soon, BTT will be introduced into the BTFS ecosystem to incentivize a fair and abundant file system.” So, we can add that to the list of the token’s functionalities.

Finally, let’s talk about the supply of BTT. One of the features that separate some cryptocurrencies from fiat money, such as U.S. dollars, is the built-in cap or limit on the supply.

This is important because it helps to prevent inflation of the supply, which can cause the asset’s price to decline.

The total supply of BTT is limited to 990 billion tokens. That might sound like a lot, but these are very cheap tokens, so it’s really not an excessive amount of coins in circulation.

The Bottom Line

Since the BitTorrent coin is a relative newcomer, caution is definitely advised and position sizes should be small.

Still, the use cases and the limited supply add to the bull thesis for this interesting and unique crypto asset.

Your ISP Must Now Report You for Pirating Movies and TV Series
Jan Vermeulen

Under the Cybercrimes Act, which President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law on Tuesday, Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa must now report their clients if they commit any cybercrime using their networks.

This includes unlawfully downloading copyrighted content, according to Fatima Kader, a director in Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s technology, media and telecommunications practice.

Kader previously explained the new law places an obligation on network operators, service providers, and financial institutions to report any cybercrimes that are committed over their networks to the police.

This must be done “without undue delay and, where feasible, not later than 72 hours after having become aware of the offence”.

Should a network operator fail to report the offence, they may be given a fine of up to R50,000.

The Cybercrimes Act also explicitly states that theft of non-physical or virtual property must be treated the same as theft of physical property.

“The common law offence of theft must be interpreted so as not to exclude the theft of incorporeal property,” Section 12 of the Cybercrimes Act reads.

Kader argued that when these two sections of the new law are read together, it makes ISPs responsible for reporting any piracy they detect on their networks to the police.

In addition, ISPs are compelled to preserve any information which may help the South African Police Service in investigating the offence.

While the Cybercrimes Act makes provision for sentences of up to 15 years in jail, for an offence involving theft of incorporeal property the sentence will be in-line with common law theft.

However, it directs courts to consider several aggravating factors when a person is convicted of a theft perpetrated electronically.

Without excluding other relevant factors, these aggravating circumstances which must be taken into account are:

• The fact that the offence was committed by electronic means.
• The extent of the prejudice and loss suffered by the complainant or any other person.
• The extent to which the person gained financially, or received any favour, benefit, reward, compensation or any other advantage from the commission of the offence.
• Whether the offence was committed in concert with one or more persons.

ISPs dispute requirement of Cybercrimes Act to report clients

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) has stated that ISPs cannot be put under any obligation to monitor the traffic of their subscribers, otherwise they would violate the Electronic Communications Act.

“ISPA does not believe that this is a correct interpretation of the Bill as it currently stands: rather it is an explicit provision of the Electronic Communications Act that ISPs are under no general obligation to monitor electronic communications conveyed over or stored on their networks — and they may be liable of a criminal offence if they do,” the organisation argued.

However, another legal opinion is that although ISPs may not monitor the traffic of their clients, should they become aware through different means of copyright infringement being done on their network, they will need to report it to the police and preserve any evidence which may help the investigating officer.

Woman is Sentenced to Prison in Spain for Pirating Windows and Office
Marco Lancaster

Microsoft’s race against piracy and gaining a new level in Spain. Recently, a woman was sentenced to prison in Spain for pirating Windows and Office. According to the released information, the accused maintained two of the eight machines in her establishment with pirated copies of Microsoft software.

The crime was first discovered in 2017. So far there is no information on how the authorities became aware of the illegal practice. Since then, the woman has twice appealed the court decision, but now she has not been able to escape. As a result, the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced the woman to serve six years in prison. In addition, she will need to pay a fine of € 3,600. That figure, however, does not yet include the amounts it will have to pay to Microsoft. It corresponds to the prices for the Windows licenses and the Redmond Giant program package.

This opens a precedent for people pirating Windows and Office

This is the first time that such a sentence has been given in the country. Now the conviction could set precedents for future cases of the kind. Until now, processes of this type have only involved cases of massively pirated file sharing. It involves things as movie distribution, for example. To reach this unprecedented decision, the Supreme Court of Spain based itself on the reform of the country’s penal code. It was carried out in 2015 and which considers illegal the commercial exploitation of products and services for which it does not have a license. So if you live in Spain and have any kind of business operating with illegal Windows or Microsoft software, be aware of the consequences.

The Operator Of The Mangamura Manga Pirating Website Was Sentenced To 3 Years In Prison

While the Japanese manga industry ranks in hundreds of millions each year, it's undoubtedly true that the industry misses out on a fairly sizable amount of revenue thanks to piracy.
Mark Julian

Manga is an important industry in Japan and abraod. In recent years the Japanese government has sought to crack down on illegal manga pirating websites. We covered these efforts nearly three years ago, when the Japanese government decided to go after the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for such sites.

It's taken a while but it seems attention has now turned to the operators of the illegal manga websites. It's been reported that 29-year-old Romi Hoshino, a.k.a. Zakay Romi, who was the administrator of Mangamura, has been sentenced to three years in prison and fined a grand total of ¥72 million ($656k USD).

It's thought that between Mangamura's launch in 2016, and its government takedown in April 2018, that Hoshino was able to amass about ¥62 million yen ($565k USD) in revenue. Hoshino was actually hiding out in the Phillipines in 2019 after the government crackdown but was eventually extradited to Japan in September of the same year.

A representative from Shuiesha commented on the sentencing, stating, "if the works that those who have given their all to create are given away for free, it damages the foundation for the creation of interesting works."

Japan's Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA) estimates that between September 2017 and February 2018, Mangamura alone accounted for roughly ¥319.2 billion yen ($2.92 billion USD) of lost revenue for the manga industry.

Manga piracy is still a problem in Japan and a study in January of this year estimated that the practice cost 41.4 billion yen ($400 million USD) alone, though it's thought that the effects of COVID-19 (everyone staying at home during Japan's state of emergency) may have inflated these numbers.

Live Streams go Down Across Cox Radio & TV Stations in Apparent Ransomware Attack
Catalin Cimpanu

Live streams for radio and TV stations owned by the Cox Media Group, one of the largest media conglomerates in the US, have gone down earlier today in what multiple sources have described as a ransomware attack.

The incident took place earlier this morning and impacted the internal networks and live streaming capabilities for Cox media properties, such as web streams and mobile apps. Official websites, telephone lines, and normal programming remained running but some live programming could not go on air as scheduled.

“This morning we were told to shut down everything and log out our emails to ensure nothing spread. According to my friends at affiliate stations, we shut things down in time to be safe and should be back up and running soon,” a Cox employee shared in a private conversation earlier today.

Live streams for some of the impacted TV stations have returned online, according to checks performed by The Record, but most of the Cox radio streams are still offline at the time of writing.

In the aftermath of the incident, some radio and TV stations had to cancel live programming, according to tweets shared by some Cox program hosts earlier today.

No stream today. Apologies. Gotta listen on ESPN690 today and we hope to have a podcast but not sure yet. Hoping it’s just a one day thing. @ActionSportsJax on @ESPN690Jax
— Brent Martineau (@BrentASJax) June 3, 2021

For the first time in (probably) a bunch of decades, @wsbtv is unable to be on the air for their three-hour afternoon news block due to a reported cyber attack against all of @CoxMG's radio and television properties.

The View running currently instead of Action News at 5.
— Will Bradley (@bradley_WP) June 3, 2021

Companies like Hulu, which pick up Cox streams, have also confirmed issues with the c live broadcasts earlier in the day.

Apologies for the trouble! There's currently an issue with the feed from WSB that's under investigation, and we hope to see this cleared up soon. We appreciate your patience in the meantime!
— Hulu Support (@hulu_support) June 3, 2021

Today’s ransomware attack has also been the main talking point of several private online communities dedicated to TV and radio reporters, who noticed that some of their colleagues have not gone on air earlier today.
Cox-convImage: The Record

While The Record has not been able to compile an exact list of impacted Cox radio and TV stations, we have been able to confirm issues with streams from News9, WSOC, WSB, WPXI, KOKI, and almost all Cox radio stations.

The Cox Media Group owns 57 radio and TV stations across 20 US markets. A spokesperson did not return a request for comment sent earlier today via email.

Sources have told The Record that the company’s autonomous system, AS397123, has also disappeared from the internet DFZ (default-free zone) in what appears to be the company’s attempts to deal with the attack.

Today’s incident marks the second time a ransomware group has hit a major media conglomerate in the US. In September 2019, a ransomware gang hit CBS-owned Entercom, the second-largest radio broadcasting network in the States, taking some radio stations offline.

Ransomware attacks have also temporarily took down some big TV channels like France’s M6 and US-based The Weather Channel in isolated attacks in 2019.

Exclusive-U.S. to Give Ransomware Hacks Similar Priority as Terrorism, Official Says
Christopher Bing

The U.S. Department of Justice is elevating investigations of ransomware attacks to a similar priority as terrorism in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline hack and mounting damage caused by cyber criminals, a senior department official told Reuters.
REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo

Internal guidance sent on Thursday to U.S. attorney’s offices across the country said information about ransomware investigations in the field should be centrally coordinated with a recently created task force in Washington.

“It’s a specialized process to ensure we track all ransomware cases regardless of where it may be referred in this country, so you can make the connections between actors and work your way up to disrupt the whole chain,” said John Carlin, principle associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.

Last month, a cyber criminal group that the U.S. authorities said operates from Russia, penetrated the pipeline operator on the U.S. East Coast, locking its systems and demanding a ransom. The hack caused a shutdown lasting several days, led to a spike in gas prices, panic buying and localized fuel shortages in the southeast.

Colonial Pipeline decided to pay the hackers who invaded their systems nearly $5 million to regain access, the company said.

The DOJ guidance specifically refers to Colonial as an example of the “growing threat that ransomware and digital extortion pose to the nation.”

“To ensure we can make necessary connections across national and global cases and investigations, and to allow us to develop a comprehensive picture of the national and economic security threats we face, we must enhance and centralize our internal tracking,” said the guidance seen by Reuters and previously unreported.

The Justice Department’s decision to push ransomware into this special process illustrates how the issue is being prioritized, U.S. officials said.

“We’ve used this model around terrorism before but never with ransomware,” said Carlin. The process has typically been reserved for a short list of topics, including national security cases, legal experts said.

In practice, it means that investigators in U.S. attorney’s offices handling ransomware attacks will be expected to share both updated case details and active technical information with leaders in Washington.

The guidance also asks the offices to look at and include other investigations focused on the larger cybercrime ecosystem.

According to the guidance, the list of investigations that now require central notification include cases involving: counter anti-virus services, illicit online forums or marketplaces, cryptocurrency exchanges, bulletproof hosting services, botnets and online money laundering services.

Bulletproof hosting services refer to opaque internet infrastructure registration services which help cyber criminals to anonymously conduct intrusions.

A botnet is a group of compromised internet-connected devices that can be manipulated to cause digital havoc. Hackers build, buy and rent out botnets in order to conduct cyber crimes ranging from advertising fraud to large cyberattacks.

“We really want to make sure prosecutors and criminal investigators report and are tracking ... cryptocurrency exchanges, illicit online forums or marketplaces where people are selling hacking tools, network access credentials - going after the botnets that serve multiple purposes,” said Carlin.

Mark Califano, a former U.S. attorney and cybercrime expert, said the “heightened reporting could allow DOJ to more effectively deploy resources” and to “identify common exploits” used by cybercriminals.

Reporting by Christopher Bing; Editing by Grant McCool

U.S. Supreme Court Restricts Scope of Computer Fraud Law
Andrew Chung

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday limited the type of conduct that can be prosecuted under a federal computer fraud law, overturning a former Georgia police officer's conviction for misusing a government database to investigate whether a purported local stripper was an undercover cop.

The justices, in a 6-3 decision authored by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, sided with former Cumming, Georgia police sergeant Nathan Van Buren in an appeal of his conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, reversing a lower court ruling that had upheld a jury verdict against him.

Van Buren was charged after a 2015 FBI sting operation. The Supreme Court concluded that Van Buren could not be convicted for misusing the database to perform the investigation because the information had been available to him as part of his job.

"This provision covers those who obtain information from particular areas in the computer - such as files, folders or databases - to which their computer access does not extend. It does not cover those who, like Van Buren, have improper motives for obtaining information that is otherwise available to them," Barrett wrote in the ruling.

Three of the court's conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, dissented from the ruling.

Van Buren's attorney, Jeffrey Fisher, welcomed the ruling and said the computer fraud law "is now restricted to its proper reach." The U.S. Justice Department, which had defended the conviction, declined to comment.

The dispute centered on a 1986 U.S. law meant to target hacking and related computer crimes. The law prohibits accessing a computer without authorization and also exceeding authorized access.

At issue was whether a person with authority to access a computer can be guilty of fraud for then misusing it. Van Buren had argued that the law targets only those with no right whatsoever to access the computer, whereas he was entitled to use the law enforcement database, even if it was for an inappropriate reason.

The Justice Department argued that the law "aims directly at 'insider' conduct" like Van Buren's "forbidden use of his law enforcement credentials."

The dissenting justices had a different interpretation of the law's text, finding that Van Buren's actions were illegal because he was not entitled to the information he was otherwise authorized to access.

"Using a police database to obtain information in circumstances where that use is expressly forbidden is a crime," Thomas wrote in his dissent.

Suffering financial difficulties, Van Buren had asked a local man, Andrew Albo, for money. Albo alerted law enforcement authorities and the FBI devised a sting in which Albo offered to pay Van Buren money to run a search for a license plate on a law enforcement database. Albo's fictional story was that he wanted to find out if a local stripper was an undercover cop.

Albo gave Van Buren $6,000 and Van Buren conducted the search. A jury convicted Van Buren in 2017 of violating the computer fraud law and a separate count of honest services fraud. The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 upheld the computer fraud conviction, but ordered a retrial on the other charge.

Barrett noted in the ruling that an overly broad view of the law would penalize commonplace computer activity such as an employee sending a personal email or checking sports scores on a work device. If the law "criminalizes every violation of a computer-use policy, then millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens are criminals," Barrett wrote.

Former President Donald Trump's three conservative appointees to the court - Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch - were joined by the three liberal justices in the ruling.

Biden’s Internet Plan Pits Cities Against Dominant Carriers
Todd Shields

After years of unhappy reliance on Comcast Corp. and other carriers, Pleasant Grove, on Utah’s Wasatch Front, is turning to a new broadband option: a municipally owned company called Utopia Fiber. The choice follows a pandemic year that showed just how much households need fast, reliable internet connections for jobs, schooling, and medical care.

To reach homes that lack good service, or have none at all, President Joe Biden has proposed funding networks such as Utopia Fiber that are run by cities and nonprofits. That’s not sitting well with Comcast, AT&T, Verizon Communications, and other dominant carriers, which don’t like the prospect of facing subsidized competitors.

Pleasant Grove shows why established carriers might be vulnerable. With 38,000 residents, it’s nestled between the Wasatch Range and the Great Salt Lake Basin, just south of Salt Lake City. When it asked residents about their broadband, almost two-thirds of respondents said they wouldn’t recommend their cable service. Almost 90% wanted the city to pursue broadband alternatives.

“We could sit and wait for the private sector to do this—we just didn’t really know when that would be,” says City Administrator Scott Darrington. Residents have complained of slow broadband, and Utopia’s fiber network holds out the promise of fast speeds that don’t lag as more households log on, Darrington says. It will also reach areas not served by current providers.

Utopia, owned by 11 Utah cities, builds the network and charges consumers $30 a month. To complete the package, they choose from a dozen other companies that offer internet and video service and charge about $35 monthly. That brings the tab near Comcast’s advertised rate of $70. Comcast has invested “to keep communities like Pleasant Grove City reliably connected with the fastest broadband speeds available,” says Sena Fitzmaurice, a spokeswoman for the company. She says it offers fast service across the city.

Still, when the city council voted unanimously to approve Utopia’s $18 million build-out in April, the mood was a mix of giddy and vengeful. “I’ll be your first customer that signs up and says goodbye to Comcast,” said one council member moments before the body voted. “I’m right behind ya,” another added.

The events in Pleasant Grove jibe with the rhetoric coming out of the White House. Biden says he wants to reduce prices and ensure that every household in the U.S. gets broadband, including the 35% of rural dwellers the administration says don’t have access to fast service. To connect them as well as others languishing with slow service in more built-up places, the president wants to give funding priority to networks from local governments, nonprofits, and cooperatives.

Established carriers are pushing back against the proposal; they have long criticized municipal broadband as a potential waste of taxpayer funds, while backing state-level limits on it. Almost 20 states have laws that restrict community broadband, according to a tally by the BroadbandNow research group. The carriers say the administration and its Democratic allies are calling for blazing upload speeds that have little practical use for consumers, who already get fast downloads for videos and other common web uses.

Assertions that Americans pay too much rest on faulty comparisons, according to NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, a trade group. Government-owned networks “can be part of the solution in certain communities,” says Brian Dietz, a spokesman for NCTA, which represents the largest U.S. cable providers, Comcast and Charter Communications Inc. “There have been more failures than successes.”

That’s not the case, advocates for municipal networks say. “These models have the best chance of finishing the job of connecting America,” says Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Local governments offer about 600 networks that serve about 3 million people, he says.

There’s “definitely a spike in interest” from cities in making their own broadband investments, says Angelina Panettieri, a legislative director for the National League of Cities.

Rules issued on May 10 by the Department of the Treasury seem to funnel the broadband portion of a $350 billion Covid-19 relief bill to rural areas. That’s “a little bit dispiriting” because it jeopardizes federal funding for new networks in cities and suburbs, says Kim McKinley, Utopia’s chief marketing officer. The administration wants to help areas that are suffering the greatest lack now, regardless of location, says a Treasury official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. Republicans want to bar spending on municipal networks and have criticized Biden’s broadband plan as too expensive. In response the administration scaled back its plan to $65 billion, from $100 billion.

In the meantime, some cities that had been discussing broadband projects suddenly developed cold feet, McKinley says. She says Treasury’s rules may show the administration is shying away from challenging the largest broadband companies: “When was competition ever a bad thing?”

Santee Cooper is Ready to Offer Broadband on its Extra Lines

Santee Cooper is taking applications from companies that want to use its extra fiber and transmission lines to bring broadband internet to rural areas.

The state-owned utility said it has 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometers) of extra lines, many in the most rural areas of South Carolina that currently don’t have broadband access.

Santee Cooper won’t provide the service directly, but is asking companies that want to apply to offer broadband to visit its website.

The utility’s board agreed to the program last month after legislators passed a bill late in 2020 allowing the utility to join with private companies on the project. The need for broadband all over the state came to the forefront after schools closed their buildings and went to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The General Assembly and Gov. (Henry) McMaster quickly picked up on the critical need for better broadband access highlighted by situations created by the pandemic,” Santee Cooper President Mark Bonsall said in a statement.

Santee Cooper provides power for about 2 million of South Carolina’s 5 million people either directly or through selling power to 20 electric cooperatives across the state.

YouTube Says It Paid Out $4 Billion to Music Industry Over Past 12 Months
Jem Aswad

YouTube paid out more than $4 billion in royalties to artists, songwriters, and rights-holders, according to a new blog post from the streaming giant’s global head of music Lyor Cohen.

While the post was short on detail, Cohen did say that “YouTube has paid over $4 billion to the music industry in the last 12 months alone and has added more paid members in Q1 ’21 than in any other quarter since launch.” He also added that the money was derived from ads and premium subscriptions, and that more than 30% of that $4 billion came from user-generated content.

Cohen said YouTube’s aim is “to become the leading revenue generator for the music industry,” although it has a ways to go: Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek announced that his company paid out over $5 billion to the music industry in 2020.

YouTube — the world’s largest streaming service by far — has long been criticized by executives and artists for its low royalty rates, particularly compared with other streaming services.

The rest of his post is largely enthusiastic promotion of the company’s projects and offerings, although it does note that YouTube has been branching out into new sources of revenue, particularly paid livestreams.

“We’re continuing to innovate with direct-to-fan products such as ticketing, merch, memberships, paid digital goods, and virtual ticketed events. BLACKPINK’s paid virtual concert – THE SHOW – sold nearly 280,000 channel memberships across 81 countries and helped the group earn 2.7 million new subscribers to their official artist channel,” he wrote.

What Will Amazon Do With James Bond?
John Logan

Mr. Logan, a three-time Oscar nominee for screenplays, was a co-writer on the James Bond movies “Skyfall” and “Spectre.”

So, Amazon now owns 50 percent of 007.

With the acquisition of MGM and its movie catalog, the online retail giant bought into the James Bond franchise. When I heard this news, a chill went through me. Having worked as a writer on “Skyfall” and “Spectre,” I know that Bond isn’t just another franchise, not a Marvel or a DC — it is a family business that has been carefully nurtured and shepherded through the changing times by the Broccoli/Wilson family. Work sessions on “Skyfall” and “Spectre” were like hearty discussions around the dinner table, with Barbara Broccoli and her half brother Michael Wilson letting all the unruly children talk. Every crazy aunt or eccentric uncle was given a voice. We discussed and debated and came to a resolution, as families must, with no outside voices in the room. When you work on Bond movies, you’re not just an employee. You’re part of that family.

The reason we’re still watching Bond movies after more than 50 years is that the family has done an extraordinary job of protecting the character through the thickets of moviemaking and changing public tastes. Corporate partners come and go, but James Bond endures. He endures precisely because he is being protected by people who love him.

The current deal with Amazon gives Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, who own 50 percent of the Bond empire, ironclad assurances of continued artistic control. But will this always be the case? What happens if a bruising corporation like Amazon begins to demand a voice in the process? What happens to the comradeship and quality control if there’s an Amazonian overlord with analytics parsing every decision? What happens when a focus group reports they don’t like Bond drinking martinis? Or killing quite so many people? And that English accent’s a bit alienating, so could we have more Americans in the story for marketability?

If you think I’m exaggerating, consider some internal polling data that decreed that the movie adaptation of “Sweeney Todd” — for which I wrote the screenplay — would be much more popular without all those annoying songs.

From my experience, here’s what happens to movies when such concerns start invading the creative process: Everything gets watered down to the most anodyne and easily consumable version of itself. The movie becomes an inoffensive shadow of a thing, not the thing itself. There are no more rough edges or flights of cinematic madness. The fire and passion are gradually drained away as original ideas and voices are subsumed by commercial concerns, corporate oversight and polling data. I wonder whether such an outré studio movie as “Vertigo” would have survived if such pressures existed then. Not to mention radical films like “Citizen Kane,” “The Red Shoes,” “Cabin in the Sky” and “Bonnie and Clyde.”

Why worry about Amazon? It’s not that it’s a bad-faith company. It’s that it’s a global technology company with a more than $1.6 trillion market capitalization that produces on a mass scale and is obsessed with the “customer experience.” It’s not necessarily a champion or guardian of artistic creativity or original entertainment. In the context of the larger company, Amazon Prime Video is not chiefly about artists. It’s about attracting and retaining customers. And when bigger companies start having a say in iconic characters or franchises, the companies tend to want more, not better, and the quality differential can vary wildly, project to project (see: the rapidly expanding “Star Wars” franchise at Disney and the DC Comics franchises of Superman, Batman and others at Warner Bros.)

As a screenwriter, I’ve had the opportunity to work on several big studio movies. Those that emerge with meaning, with art and uniqueness intact, are always those that are protected from undue corporate influence — those occasions when the moviemakers can work in a protected environment.

In my case, films like “Gladiator,” “The Aviator,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Rango” and “Hugo” were all made from passion and without ever worrying about synergy or spinoffs or cross-platform marketing. Artistic control and stewardship are especially vital to big movies, where the voices are many and the stakes huge.

When we were making “Gladiator,” it took a giant like the director Ridley Scott to fend off the countless naysayers who predicted disaster would befall our “sword-and-sandal epic.” They questioned everything, especially the ending: Isn’t it a bummer? How can we have a sequel if you kill the hero? And is there any way we could avoid an R rating? But Ridley believed in the story we were telling and how we were telling it, so he resolutely kept the commercial concerns and noisy corporate voices outside the door.

So too Martin Scorsese with our Howard Hughes biopic, “The Aviator.” A subject like Mr. Hughes naturally invites controversy and high emotion. The push from outside the creative circle was for the lurid and sensational, but Marty stared down every challenge that threatened our more humane version of the story. He sometimes said, “Yes, that would make an interesting Howard Hughes movie, but it’s not our Howard Hughes movie.” Significantly, in the case of both “Gladiator” and “The Aviator,” we were working with brave producers who defended our choices. They cared more about the art than about the bottom line.

When you’re making a movie, you need a champion to fight battles like these. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are the champions of James Bond. They keep the corporate and commercial pressures outside the door. Nor are they motivated by them. That’s why we don’t have a mammoth Bond Cinematic Universe, with endless anemic variations of 007 sprouting up on TV or streaming or in spinoff movies. The Bond movies are truly the most bespoke and handmade films I’ve ever worked on. That’s why they are original, thorny, eccentric and special. They were never created with lawyers and accountants and e-commerce mass marketing pollsters hovering in the background.

This is also why they can afford to be daring. Here’s an example from “Skyfall” — my favorite day working on the movie, in fact.

Sam Mendes, the director, and I marched into Barbara and Michael’s office, sat at the family table and pitched the first scene between Bond and the villain, Raoul Silva. Now, the moment 007 first encounters his archnemesis is often the iconic moment in a Bond movie, the scene around which you build a lot of the narrative and cinematic rhythms. (Think about Bond first meeting Dr. No or Goldfinger or Blofeld, all classic scenes in the franchise.) Well, Sam and I boldly announced we wanted to do this pivotal scene as a homoerotic seduction. Barbara and Michael didn’t need to poll a focus group. They didn’t need to vet this radical idea with any studio or corporation — they loved it instantly. They knew it was fresh and new, provocative in a way that keeps the franchise contemporary. They weren’t afraid of controversy. In my experience, not many big movies can work with such freedom and risky joy. But with the Broccoli/Wilson family at the helm, Bond is allowed to provoke, grow and be idiosyncratic. Long may that continue.

James Bond has survived the Cold War, Goldfinger, Jaws, disco and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, several times. And I can only hope that the powers-that-be at Amazon recognize the uniqueness of what they just acquired and allow and encourage this special family business to continue unobstructed.

Bond’s not “content” and he’s not a mere commodity. He has been a part of our lives for decades now. From Sean Connery to George Lazenby to Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig, we all grew up with our version of 007, so we care deeply about him.

Please let 007 drink his martinis in peace. Don’t shake him, don’t stir him.

Gadgets have Stopped Working Together, and it’s Becoming an Issue

Our reliance on technology means ever more devices and apps and ever less interoperability – and the ubiquity of Apple hasn’t helped
Alex Hern

In 2001, if you listened to digital music, you did it with a large folder of MP3 files. How you acquired them is probably best left between you and a priest, but you may have ripped them from a CD, downloaded them from a file sharing service, or bought them from one of a few nascent download sites.

Whichever option you picked, you’d play them on your computer with a program built for the task. And if you were lucky enough to have an early standalone MP3 player, it was probably made by another company again.

Whether or not MP3s interested you, you probably bought your music on CD, and had a couple of players in the house – maybe a portable one and a hi-fi. Your headphones, of course, connected to whatever you were using, be that a simple Discman or a fancy Nomad Jukebox, with a normal 3.5mm plug.

Today, for millions of people around the world, all those companies have been replaced by one: Apple. You listen to Apple Music on your Apple iPhone through your Apple AirPods. Sure, competitors exist, but with each passing year they struggle to offer a service on parity. Want to use headphones made by a different company? You need to buy a dongle to plug them in if they’re wired, and you won’t have access to the fancy new “spatial audio” streams Apple now offers if they’re Bluetooth. Want to switch to Spotify? You can, but make sure you never accidentally hit “play” when nothing’s on, or Apple Music will start right back up.

Nostalgia is an ill-fitting emotion for the technology sector, where exponential growth rules. The phone in your pocket – possibly even the watch on your wrist – is substantially more powerful than the desktop computer you may have stashed those music files on, and is connected via a cellular connection a hundred times faster than the 56K modem you used to download your MP3s to an internet unimaginably larger and more useful.

But alongside those wild improvements have come other changes with a more mixed outcome. A concentration of power at the top of the industry; a focus on building easy-to-use gadgets over powerful general-purpose devices; and a shift from programs and files to websites and APIs: all have left us in this slightly run-down sci-fi future. Simply put, nothing works with anything else any more, and it’s starting to become a problem.

Interoperability is the technical term for what we’ve lost as tech has matured. Software can be interoperable, either through common, open file formats, or through different programs speaking directly to one another, and so too can hardware: open standards are what allow you to use any headphones with any music player, for instance, or buy a TV without worrying if it will work with your streaming set-up.

It was a hard-fought victory. Think, for instance, of the hassle of receiving a text document a few years back. Not only would you be lucky to be able to open it using a different program from the one that made it – you would frequently need to have exactly the same version of the program, or face issues.

Some of those difficulties were deliberate. Microsoft’s .doc file format, for instance, was used by MS Word for decades, with key details kept hidden behind a restrictive licence. The company very deliberately didn’t want competitors to be able to make software that could read and make Word files without paying it for the trouble. Microsoft’s market dominance meant that it could hamper competing software with the opposite approach: refusing to support their file formats on its own platforms, effectively limiting the ability to collaborate.

Even with the best will in the world, though, it’s a hard goal to achieve. A notorious instalment of the XKCD webcomic details one pitfall: “Situation: there are 14 competing standards,” says the caption to two people discussing how they need to come up with a better way to make all these things work together. The punchline is that “Soon: there are 15 competing standards.”

But by the dawn of the mobile era, there had been progress. The success of standards such as MP3 for music, JPEG for pictures and MPEG for movies had led to a blossoming of consumer tech that could display and play media, while the internet had helped push compatibility to the front of users’ minds: when your pool of collaborators is larger than the people you can walk a floppy disk over to, it’s more important than ever that your software work with everyone, to the point that even Microsoft switched Word over to an open standard.

And then the industry changed.

When the iPhone came out, it was a very different device from what it became. With no App Store, and a model that required a computer to sync to on a regular basis, it was firmly an accessory to the machines where the real business happened. But even as the App Store arrived and the mobile economy flourished, one limitation stuck around: the phones eschewed the old files-and-folders-based model entirely, in favour of each app having access to its own data and nothing else. It would prove consequential.

Sharing everything you have via Facebook or Google is interoperability of a sort. It’s certainly convenient

In the PC files-and-folders era, interoperability was, ultimately, down to users. Software may or may not be compatible, but the decision to try to make a file in one program and open it in another was entirely up to you. You could use two programs made by developers that had never even heard of each other and, so long as they worked with the same open file format, there was interoperability. That’s not true any more.

Even as updates to mobile phone operating systems have allowed apps more freedom to send data back and forth, the same freedom hasn’t been restored to the user. And when two apps are negotiating whether or not to work together, it’s more than just a simple question of technology.

“There’s a ton of issues here,” says Ari Lightman, professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “but I think one of the major ones is economics. As data becomes more of an asset, it becomes difficult to exchange that data across multiple different parties in an ecosystem, because they’re monetising that asset. And there’s also a lot of stipulations associated with what happens should there be a violation.”

For many companies, the obvious way around this is to give up on those tricky negotiations altogether – or to hand them off to a larger, more powerful third party. “One of the things that we’re seeing more of, because there’s a consumer push towards this, is using things like Google and Facebook as data sinks,” Lightman says. “Consumers are pushed to say, ‘Well, I want to use this other app,’ a dating app or a productivity app, ‘but I don’t want to fill in all this information, I just want a connection between the two, and I want to shove all the information that I have in Google into this app.’”

Sharing everything you have via Facebook or Google is interoperability of a sort. It’s certainly convenient to be able to log in to Tinder without typing a password, and to automatically populate your dating profile with pictures lifted straight from Instagram. But it’s necessarily limited, both to the services offered by these big companies, and by the fact that they’re not going to help competitors. Notoriously, for instance, Facebook blocked Twitter-owned short video app Vine from this sort of interoperability because, according to an FTC complaint, it wanted to kneecap its rival’s chances of succeeding in the field.

Better to funnel people down one supported service than have to train staff to deal with a myriad potential problems

There are exceptions. Perhaps the most famous service bucking the trend has the unwieldy name “IFTTT”, short for “If this then that”. The site’s goal is to be a sort of plumbing for the internet, letting users link together disparate services in all the ways they are normally barred from doing. You can use it, for instance, to send a tweet every time you like a YouTube video, to play the radio when you turn on the (smart) lights in the morning, or just to wire up a big button that orders pizza from Domino’s when you slam it.

But even IFTTT has simply smoothed over the difficulties with making things work together, rather than solving them completely. In fact, its very presence has hindered further openness, some users say: Amazon’s smart home devices, for instance, bar users from building automation using other tools, even if they’re more powerful. For a company of Amazon’s size, simplicity isn’t just a selling point to users: it’s also appealing for Amazon itself. Better to funnel people down one supported service than have to train staff on how to deal with myriad potential problems.

For some, there’s only one outcome that will properly fix things: regulation. Damien Geradin is outside counsel for the Coalition for App Fairness, an industry group that represents companies including Spotify, Tile and Tinder, and has been leading the charge to make interoperability a legal requirement.

“When it comes to Apple, they really like this vertically integrated business model,” Geradin says. “I don’t think that we can say that interoperability has been lost, because it’s never been there. It’s been like that from day one. They like to do everything in house, and they don’t like to make things compatible.

“Now, I think that nobody would challenge that when Apple was a very small company. But now it has become this giant. And it has become a bottleneck in the sense that if you want your app to be distributed on the on iOS devices, you have to go to the App Store. You cannot live without Apple if you’re an app developer. You can’t say ‘screw Apple’, but we want to be able to interoperate, we want to be freer.”

Geradin’s group is spearheading a complaint with the European Commission demanding that Apple restore some of that freedom. It’s just one of many such pushes across the world: in America, Epic Games is in the midst of a bruising legal showdown with Apple over much the same issues, while Amazon, Facebook and Google have been dragged into identical battles over their control of their own platforms.

There’s a real chance that we come out of this decade with some of tech’s largest players legally required to begin the painful process of opening up their platforms to the competition – and so, slowly, restoring some of that dream.

In fact, some of the change is coming already. In April, Facebook, seemingly to pre-empt regulatory enforcement, announced an expansion to its “data portability tool”, a feature of the site that lets users send their data from Facebook to other sites and services.

“The ecosystem we are building to support data portability will not come to fruition without regulation that clarifies which data should be made portable and who is responsible for protecting data once it has been transferred,” wrote Facebook’s Steve Satterfield, director of privacy and public policy, in a post announcing the company’s latest feat of interoperability: the ability to directly transfer text posts on Facebook into Google Docs.

Nobody said change was easy, but it’s a start.

Exclusive: Seagate 'Exploring' Possible New Line of Crypto-Specific Hard Drives

Seagate could be set for a foray into the crypto space
Joel Khalili

The emergence of storage-based cryptocurrency Chia has set the cat amongst the pigeons in the storage industry, causing a run on high-capacity hard drives and aggravating existing supply issues. One market player in particular has taken note.

In an email Q&A with TechRadar Pro, to be published in full tomorrow, storage hardware giant Seagate revealed it is keeping a close eye on the space, with a view to potentially launching a new line of purpose-built drives.

Asked whether companies might develop storage products specifically for cryptocurrency use cases, Jason M. Feist, who heads up Seagate’s emerging products arm, said it was a “possibility”.

Feist said he could offer no concrete information at this stage, but did suggest the company is “exploring this opportunity and imagines others may be as well”.

Storage-based cryptocurrencies

Unlike traditional cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, which pit miners against one another and are extremely energy-intensive, the Chia network operates under a system known as proof of space. By this method, so-called farmers (note the deliberate difference in terminology) set aside storage space to hold cryptographic numbers, called plots.

“When the blockchain broadcasts a challenge for the next block, farmers can scan their plots to see if they have the hash that is closest to the challenge. A farmer’s probability of winning a block is the percentage of the total space that a farmer has compared to the entire network,” the Chia website explains.

However, while proof of space does away with the need for compute-based mining, enthusiasm around the Chia project is said to have led to drive shortages in a number of regions. Reports have also suggested Chia is capable of ripping through consumer drives at an alarming rate.

In the same way Nvidia has resorted to launching a line of mining-specific GPUs to safeguard supply and improve mining performance, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that storage players might do something similar.

Asked for an opinion on the viability of storage-based cryptocurrencies, Feist explained that Seagate is ultimately impartial, but recognizes both demand and opportunity.

“We aren’t making the case for or against cryptocurrencies. We just understand there is a need,” he told us. “Since our mass-capacity storage drive is world class and very much in demand, crypto miners and farmers have been asking for guidance, and we can offer that.”

He also noted that there could be an opportunity for businesses to capitalize on the trend, by monetizing idle storage capacity.

“Whether or not this happens, the staying power of blockchain and decentralization is an inevitable reality. It’s time to make room for it - on our drives, transactions and in realms that are yet to be discovered.”

Adult Movie Pirating Disputes See Fox Rothschild Top US Copyright Case Ranking

Davis Wright Tremaine and Covington & Burling top-ranked for defendant work in Lex Machina copyright and trademark litigation research
Ben Edwards

Fox Rothschild was the most active US law firm in representing plaintiffs in copyright cases filed between 2018 and 2020, according to Lex Machina’s 2021 Copyright and Trademark Litigation report.

The Am Law 100 firm worked on a total of 1,993 cases, though that was heavily skewed by the 1,666 cases it handled in 2018 on behalf of Strike 3 Holdings – an adult movie company accusing defendants of pirating its content. Last year Fox Rothschild worked on just four cases after partner Lincoln Bandlow – dubbed a 'porn IP enforcer' by Bloomberg Law – left to start his own firm where he continued to represent Strike 3.

That bumper 2018 for Fox Rothschild helped the firm outpace the second most active US law firm over that period – Liebowitz – which worked on 1,834 cases. Its caseload was distributed more evenly, however: 555 in 2018, 795 in 2019 and 484 in 2020. Liebowitz often files against media companies for unauthorised use of photographs; name partner Richard Liebowitz has been described as a 'copyright troll' by a number of Southern District of New York judges.

Davis Wright Tremaine was the most active law firm in representing defendants in copyright cases, working on 208 while the most active law firm for defendants in trademark cases was Covington & Burling, taking on 129 cases.

Meantime, Greer Burns & Crain was the most active law firm in representing plaintiffs in trademark cases. It worked on 578 cases, more than double the next most active firm – Kohrman Jackson & Krantz.

Rachel Bailey, Lex Machina’s copyright and trademark legal data expert, said: “There is a unique trend in these two areas where law firms filing certain types of cases dominate our lists because of the massive amount of filing they do. In copyright, these were firms filing file sharing cases and cases filed by the Liebowitz Law Firm. In trademark, these were firms filing mass counterfeiting cases.”

Copyright filings peaked in 2015 and 2018, dropping off in 2020 likely due to the pandemic, Lex Machina said. Trademark cases were steady between 2017 and 2019, though filings fell to a decade low in 2020 of 3,778 – a 14% drop compared to a year earlier.

Copyright cases resulted in a settlement 82% of the time, while trademark cases settled only 56% of the time given the number of default judgments (15%).

Until next week,

- js.

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