A SOPA opera

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It was a temporary victory for the power of the internet. On January 18th, in opposition to the proposed US anti-piracy legislation of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), huge websites such as Wikipedia, Google, WordPress, Flickr and an estimated 115,000 other sites either blocked access to their services or publicly opposed both acts. Wikipedia’s 24 hour blackout page was accessed by 162 million people worldwide, 2.2 million tweets with the hashtag #SOPA were sent and 3 million emails were sent via the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other digital groups. The result of the blackout was a huge shift in opinion against SOPA/PIPA in the US Congress.

It’s worth reading up on why SOPA and PIPA are not ideal (If you’re stuck for time, The Oatmeal’s animated gif at theoatmeal.com/sopa explains it pretty succinctly). Their heavy handed answer to online piracy gives a lot of power to large entertainment companies to shut down and block access to sites it suspects of listing copyright infringement whether the sites exist in the USA or outside it. This means that sites such as Youtube, Facebook, Tumblr, Soundcloud and thousands upon thousands of blogs and sites could not operate as they now do. In an extreme case, Twitter could be shut down because of a single infringing tweet. (more…)

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Is there a legitimate market for selling used MP3s?

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You’ve heard of getting rid of old CDs you don’t want but how about those pesky MP3s that take up hard drive space that you never listen to? Rather than send them to the recycle bin, Redigi.com asked a different question. What if you could sell them to others?

Redigi calls itself the “online music marketplace for used digital music” and offers music fans the ability to buy music from other users at a knockdown price and to sell MP3s that they don’t want. One big problem though… the music industry aren’t happy. Major label EMI have decided to sue and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have also sent a cease and desist letter to the company citing major copyright infringements.

It’s easy to see why. Redigi claims to be a legitimate service and that no copying takes place saying their technology is “far superior” to any others. But the copying of digital files certainly seems to be taking place in each transaction on the site. Whether a person uploads the MP3 to an intermediary server before it is bought, it’s still copied in one form or another and the law is unclear on digital goods. Redigi have said they will fight the lawsuit “vigorously’. Meanwhile, I would like to fight them for choosing that awful name.

Besides, social behemoths Facebook are continuing their plan to make music more social, so MP3s, nay recycled ones may be ripe for deletion in future. Last week, they launched the ‘Listen With Friends’ feature, which means if you use any of the current streaming music services like Spotify and Deezer, you can invite a friend to listen at the same time and shoot the breeze over chat. The move also challenges the popularity of Turntable.FM, the DJing chatroom that rose to prominence last year.

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The State Of Pressing Play

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2012 will be the year that music streaming convinces everyone it’s here to stay. There’s no going back now. Youtube is already the biggest music platform in the world and while iTunes will continue to assert its dominance in the download store arena, even Apple have conceded that streaming is here with the launch of iCloud and iMatch, two services that stream and share content to different devices. Elsewhere we have Amazon and Google with their own cloud-based streaming music projects, Netflix launching a badly-needed streaming movies and TV platform in Ireland any time now and Deezer, the latest streaming music service on the block, hit over 130 countries including Ireland last month and offers multi-device and mobile access to a claimed 13 million songs.

As ambitious as Deezer’s plans are, we’ve seen companies in the past year fall at the licensing hurdle. We7 launched last January with a similar offering and before the end of 2011 had shifted focus from a massive streaming music library to recommendation-based internet radio. No doubt that decision was informed by lower license fees for internet radio compared to on-demand streams.

Spotify is still the best hope for a major platform breakthrough worldwide. Its agreements with major labels bring with them lower license fees that allow them to expand, but not everyone is happy – independent labels have been pulling out of the service in protest at the small revenue payments offered in recent months.

Perhaps the most important thing for new services gaining ground this year will be Facebook’s Open Graph. You used to wear your favourite band t-shirt so the world knew your individual music tastes. No longer Sonny Jim! Zuckerberg’s company is already putting the songs you’re listening to on almost all of the above services right into your Facebook news stream, right in front of your friends’ eyes so maybe he holds all of the access keys to popularity already.

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The top 10 viral videos of 2011

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Tis the season to be jolly… and LOL and gasp “WTF? Spend some quality time ROFLcoptering with the family with Day & Night’s top 10 viral video countdown…

1. Rebecca Black
The modern story of a 13 year-old tween pop star. A Youtube-uploaded video for a song called Friday received over 60 million views in a month. The majority of people hated the auto-tuned track and its silly lyrics and thus, helped spread it even further. Black has so far had the last laugh, with an appearance in a Katy Perry video and healthy interest in her more recent music videos from a tween audience.

2. Fenton!
One owner loses control of his dog in London’s Richmond Park. As the dog herds some deer, the howls of a man who is also about to lose his mind were heard around the world, thanks to the internet. “FENTON! FENTON! JESUS CHRIST!”

3. Chuck Testa
A hilarious advertisement filled with awkward acting for a taxidermist which spawned a catchphrase (“Nope! Chuck Testa!”) and a series of images based on the idea.

4. Mario
A real-life short film version of Super Mario Bros where the two plumbers are doing too many mushrooms and star pills and attempt to get the princess back.

5. Jetpack Fail
17 seconds of the best live news broadcast fail of the year. “And it starts right nowww….. nggghhhh (splash)”.

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The best memes of 2011

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With all the platforms available to us through technology, we often resort to cruder outlets of creativity in order to make our voices heard. Through Twitter hashtags, image macros, digitally altered photographs and captioned images, we disseminate our responses to the world. Sometimes, those voices are heard and helps fuel political change like the Arab Spring earlier this year. They are exceptional circumstances. Normally, these memes are just the mood rings of internet culture. With that in mind, here are some of the year’s best memes.

 

An idea that spread from Twitter hashtags and beyond over the course of a few years, First World Problems really came into its own in 2011 when it came into common lexicon. These tongue in cheeks sentiments highlight the trivial inconveniences of modern life in a self-aware fashion. Favourite whines include “I tried to spread butter on my toast and the bread fell apart”, “I’m so tired of eating at all of the restaurants near work”, and “I want to change the song on my iPod but it’s too cold to take my gloves off”. See more at whitewhine.com and knowyourmeme.com/memes/first-world-problems.

In the field of endlessly recyclable image macros, Hipster Ariel  came out on top. Pair an image of The Little Mermaid with some black-rimmed glasses and you’ve got hipster-baiting caption gold with Ariel saying things like “The sea was just too mainstream”, “I got legs just so I could wear skinny jeans”, and “Don’t call me Ariel, my name is Helvetica”. Other image macro series that shone include Business Cat, Conspiracy Keanu, Dating Site Murderer, Baby Kanye, Musically Oblivious 8th Grader, Sad Hipster and Hipster Dog. Are you seeing a trend? Special mention goes to Feminist Ryan Gosling, a clever flip on Gosling’s perceived sensitivity which pairs highbrow idealistic chatup lines from Gosling with photos of him looking dreamy.

 

Thank goodness for Photoshop and the many free image editing programs out there. Their common usage has given us some of the most enduring and hard to forget images of the year. Take Chicks With Steve Buscemi Eyes the pasting of the actor’s famously sunken peepers over the faces of many a famous female celebrity from Christini Ricci to Adele to Paris Hilton. Positively retina-burning. On a similar tip, Michele Bachmann’s wide-eyed stunned gaze which featured on the cover of Newsweek sparked off a slew of crazy looking cut and keep-in-your-memory-forever faces.

Stock photography also provided a well of inspiration this year with Women Laughing Alone With Salad and Women Struggling To Drink Water being favourites in highlighting the preposterous nature of stock photography catalogues.

 

Closer to home, the successful presidential campaign of Michael D Higgins was marked with edited campaign posters and many Photoshopped images taking advantage of his diminutive stature while Ireland’s win over Australia in the Rugby World Cup was celebrated with Keith Earls’ flying try placed into endless other scenes.

 

 

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The Twitterxmassingle, Napster finally dissolves & downloading isn’t killing the music industry?

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The news this week that Napster had finally disappeared into the digital ether was a prolonged and inevitable outcome. The file sharing program changed the world of digital music forever when it began to be widely used around the world in 1999. When it shut down just two years later, the service operated in limbo. It was bought out by software company Roxio and then American electronics retailer Best Buy. Both companies attempted to piggy back on the brand name but the users had long since moved on. Last week, Napster was merged into Rhapsody, a U.S. based service which offers streaming music subscriptions.

The digital music conundrum still lives on too but conflicting opinion is as strong as ever. There is often compelling evidence published that suggests those who download music regularly buy more music. The Swiss government are in agreement. They commissioned a study which found that most illegal downloading was complementary and that personal budget for entertainment has remained constant. So Switzerland concluded that no change to current law is required because unauthorised music and movie downloading has not had a negative impact on the production of entertainment in the country.

The report also examined the actions of other countries in the same situation, from the Hadopi law in France to the three-strikes rule that has been touted in Ireland and currently in effect on Eircom’s network. That particular anti-file sharing tactic is now in jeopardy. In a decision that has been hailed as a victory for internet freedom, The European Court of Justice last month ruled that the monitoring and logging of an Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) customers would breach privacy and violate the rights of both the ISPs and its subscribers. The ruling came from the outcome of a seven year court battle between Belgian music rights group SABAM and an ISP called Scarlet. The cost of putting filtering and monitoring system was deemed to be too much of an infringement on Scarlet’s business operations.
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