EU

EU Opens Competition Probe Into Apple's Bid For Music App Shazam (reuters.com) 17

EU antitrust regulators opened an investigation on Monday into Apple's bid for British music discovery app Shazam, concerned the deal might give the iPhone maker an unfair advantage in poaching users from its rivals. From a report: Apple announced the deal in December to help it better compete with industry leader Spotify. Shazam lets users identify songs by pointing a smartphone at the audio source. The European Commission said it was concerned about Apple's access to data on Shazam's users who use competing music streaming services in Europe.
Music

The Music Industry Had a Fantastic 2017, Driven by Streaming Revenues (fastcompany.com) 79

An anonymous reader shares a report: Global recorded music revenues soared by $1.4 billion in 2017 largely due to the increased adoption of music streaming services among consumers, reports the Music Industry Blog. Global recorded music revenues reached $17.4 billion in 2017, putting it just a hair below 2008's $17.7 billion in revenues. That means that most of the decline in recorded music revenues over the past 10 years has now been reversed. Streaming was the largest driver of that growth, accounting for 43% of all revenues. In 2017 streaming revenues surged by 39%, topping out at $7.4 billion.
Apple

Apple Is Planning To Launch a News Subscription Service (bloomberg.com) 37

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple plans to integrate recently acquired magazine app Texture into Apple News and debut its own premium subscription offering, according to people familiar with the matter. The move is part of a broader push by the iPhone maker to generate more revenue from online content and services. The Cupertino, California company agreed last month to buy Texture, which lets users subscribe to more than 200 magazines for $9.99 a month. Apple cut about 20 Texture staff soon after, according to one of the people. The world's largest technology company is integrating Texture technology and the remaining employees into its Apple News team, which is building the premium service. An upgraded Apple News app with the subscription offering is expected to launch within the next year, and a slice of the subscription revenue will go to magazine publishers that are part of the program, the people said.
Piracy

Telegram is Riddled With Tens of Thousands of Piracy Channels; Apple and Google Have Ignored Requests From Creators To Take Action (theoutline.com) 49

joshtops writes: Instant messaging platform Telegram, which is used by more than 200 million users, has had an open secret since its inception: The platform has served as a haven for online pirates. The Outline reports that the platform is riddled with thousands of groups and channels, many with more than 100,000 members, whose sole purpose of existence is to share illegally copied movies, music albums, apps, and other content. The files are stored directly to Telegram's servers, allowing users to download movies, songs, and other content with one click. Channel admins told The Outline that they have not come across any resistance from Telegram despite the company, along with Apple and Google, maintaining a 'zero tolerance' stance on copyright infringement. This permissiveness on Telegram's part has led to the proliferation of a cottage industry of piracy marketplaces on the service.

[...] The Outline also discovered several groups and channels on Telegram in which stolen credentials -- i.e., the username and password for a website -- from Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, HBO, CBS, EA Sports, Lynda, Sling, WWE Network, Mega, India's Hotstar, and dozens of other services were being offered to tens of thousands of members each day. The Outline sourced nearly three-dozen free credentials from six Telegram channels, all of which worked as advertised.
The report says that content creators have reached out to Apple, requesting the iPhone-maker to intervene, but the company has largely ignored the issue.

In an unrelated development, a Moscow court cleared the way on Friday for the local government to ban Telegram, the messaging app, over its failure to give Russian security services the ability to read users' encrypted messages.
Music

'High Definition Vinyl' Is Coming As Early As Next Year (pitchfork.com) 330

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Pitchfork: In 2016, a European patent filing described a way of manufacturing records that the inventors claimed would have higher audio fidelity, louder volume, and longer playing times than conventional LPs. Now, the Austrian-based startup Rebeat Innovation has received $4.8 million in funding for the initiative, founder and CEO Gunter Loibl told Pitchfork. Thanks to the investment, the first "HD vinyl" albums could hit stores as early as 2019, Loibl said. The HD vinyl process involves converting audio digitally to a 3D topographic map. Lasers are then used to inscribe the map onto the "stamper," the part that stamps the grooves into the vinyl. According to Loibl, these methods allow for records to be made more precisely and with less loss of audio information. The results, he said, are vinyl LPs that can have up to 30 percent more playing time, 30 percent more amplitude, and overall more faithful sound reproduction. The technique would also avoid the chemicals that play a role in traditional vinyl manufacturing. Plus, the new-school HD vinyl LPs would still play on ordinary record players.
Businesses

Spotify Is Planning a New Version of Its Free Music Service (bloomberg.com) 64

An anonymous reader shares a report: Spotify Technology is developing a new version of its free music service, the first big product change since the streaming company went public last week, according to people familiar with the matter. The company is tweaking the free service to make it easier to use, especially for customers on mobile phones, said the people. An announcement is expected within a couple weeks. Spotify needs to attract large numbers of new listeners to satisfy investors who value the newly public company based on user growth. The free service generates customers that the company can steer into its paid offerings. The paid version accounts for less than half of Spotify's customer base, but generated about 90 percent of its 4.09 billion euros in 2017 revenue. [...] With the updated service, free mobile listeners will be able to access playlists more quickly and have more control over what songs they hear on top playlists, mimicking Spotify's ad-free subscription product. The basic package is $9.99 a month.
Youtube

YouTube Hack: Several High-Profile Videos Mysteriously Disappear From Platform, Some Defaced 158

Several high-profile music videos on YouTube were mysteriously deleted early Tuesday, in what appears like the result of a security compromise. Some of the videos that have been pulled from Google's video platform include Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" -- which is also the most popular video on the platform. Users reported Tuesday that the thumbnail of the video was replaced by a masked gang holding guns, who identify themselves as "Prosox and Kuroi'sh." Several songs from DJ Snake, Drake, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Shakira, and Taylor Swift have also been either deleted or altered with. On Twitter, a person who claims to be one of the hackers, said, "@YouTube Its just for fun i just use script "youtube-change-title-video" and i write "hacked" don t judge me i love youtube." Google has yet to acknowledge the incident. Further reading: BBC.
Classic Games (Games)

Original 'System Shock' Code Open Sourced, More Updates Promised (kickstarter.com) 39

"The folks at Nightdive Studios this week released the source code for a Mac version of Looking Glass Studios' 1994 classic System Shock," reports Gamasutra. Friday the game's new owners unveiled on GitHub "the original, unaltered source code that was discovered by OtherSide Entertainment and graciously shared with us a few months ago... We have been hard at work updating this code and plan to release a new version of System Shock: Enhanced Edition as well as the code in the near future." We've gone back to the original vision we shared with you at the start of our Kickstarter campaign -- this time with more reliable performance and higher fidelity visuals thanks to the Unreal Engine... We have been able to re-use the majority of work we've done over the past year and we're making significant progress in a very short amount of time. With that said we'll be inviting our highest tier backers to privately test the game beginning in September at which point we estimate that the game will be fully playable, from start to finish. The majority of the art won't be finished, but we'll be ready to start high-level testing.
Going forward there's even a Twitch component. "In an effort to remain transparent throughout development we're going to begin streaming on a regular basis and inviting the backers to join us." And the audio department has also revealed some of the music from the medical deck.

After their Kickstarter was funded, Nightdive had explored making a "bigger, better game" after receiving a verbal commitment from a game publisher, but then "were left high and dry after making crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope... We still have the funds necessary to complete the game, but the timeline will inevitably move back with our shift in direction..."

"This will be closer to a 1:1 remake with updates to the weapon/character designs but without altering the core gameplay of the original."
DRM

Ask Slashdot: What Would Happen If Everything On the Internet Was DRM Protected? 190

dryriver writes: The whole Digital Rights Management (DRM) train started with music and films, spread horribly to computer and console games (Steam, Origin), turned a lot of computer software you could once buy-and-use into DRM-locked Software As A Service or Cloud Computing products (Adobe, Autodesk, MS Office 365 for example) that are impossible to use without an active Internet connection and account registration on a cloud service somewhere. Recently the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) appears to have paved the way for DRM to find its way into the world of Internet content in various forms as well. Here's the question: What would happen to the Internet as we know it if just about everything on a website -- text, images, audio, video, scripts, games, PDF documents, downloadable files and data, you name it -- had DRM protection and DRM usage-limitations hooked into it by default?

Imagine trying to save a JPEG image you see on a website to your harddisk, and not only does every single one of your web browsers refuse the request, but your OS's screen-capture function won't let you take a snapshot of that JPEG image either. Imagine trying to copy-and-paste some text from a news article somewhere into a Slashdot submission box, and having browser DRM tell you 'Sorry! The author, copyright holder or publisher of this text does not allow it to be quoted or re-published anywhere other than where it was originally published!'. And then there is the (micro-)payments aspect of DRM. What if the DRM-fest that the future Internet may become 5 to 10 years from now requires you to make payments to a copyright holder for quoting, excerpting or re-publishing anything of theirs on your own webpage? Lets say for example that you found some cool behind-the-scenes-video of how Spiderman 8 was filmed, and you want to put that on your Internet blog. Except that this video is DRM'd, and requires you to pay 0.1 Cent each time someone watches the video on your blog. Or you want to use a short excerpt from a new scifi book on your blog, and the same thing happens -- you need to pay to re-publish even 4 paragraphs of the book. What then?
EU

EU's Long-Promised Digital Media Portability Rules Go Into Effect (wired.co.uk) 35

The EU's long-promised digital media portability rules have taken effect as of April 1st, letting residents access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other paid digital media services in other member countries as if they were still at home. From a report: The European Commission's 'digital single market strategy,' which last year claimed victory over mobile roaming charges, has now lead to it passing the 'portability regulation,' which will allow users around the EU to use region locked services more freely while travelling abroad. Under currently active rules, what content is available in a certain territory is based on the specific local rights that a provider has secured. The new rules allow for what Phil Sherrell, head of international media, entertainment and sport for international law firm Bird and Bird, calls "copyright fiction," allowing the normal rules to be bent temporarily while a user is travelling.

The regulation was originally passed in June 2017, but the nine-month period given to rights holders and service providers to prepare is about to expire, and thereby making the rules enforceable. From today, content providers, whether their products are videos, music, games, live sport or e-books, will use their subscribers' details to validate their home country, and let them access all the usual content and services available in that location all around the Union.

Businesses

Amazon's Music Storage Service Will Remove MP3 Files on April 30 (theverge.com) 64

Amazon announced last year that it intends to shut down its dedicated cloud music locker. Now, the company has elaborated on its thinking. From a report: In an email to Amazon Music users, the company says uploaded songs will be removed from a user's library on April 30th, 2018. You can however keep any music in the cloud by proactively going to your Music Settings and clicking the "Keep my songs" button. Back in December, Amazon stopped letting users upload new tracks to Music Storage, which holds up to 250 songs for free. The company said at the time that by January 2019, users wouldn't be able to download or stream tracks they've uploaded to Music Storage, so it sounds like you'll still have many months between April and next January to get your music downloaded and onto a different storage platform or hard drive.
Music

Google Home Can Now Control Your Bluetooth Speakers (theverge.com) 33

Google Home speakers can now play music and other audio on the Bluetooth speakers you might have around the house. "We brought this feature to life after hearing how much you wanted to amp up the sound with your Google Home Mini," the company said in a blog announcement. "Now any of your Google Home devices can connect to other Bluetooth speakers so you can control your entertainment experience simply using the sound of your voice." The Verge reports: You can also add your existing Bluetooth speakers to Google Home groups for multi-room audio, which is where this might prove handy for Home Max users. You can pair a Bluetooth speaker with Google Home in the device settings section of the Home app. Just set it as your default speaker. Your Home device will still listen for your commands, but will route all audio through the connected Bluetooth speaker. This doesn't magically give those paired speakers Google Assistant's smarts, though. "You'll still need to talk to your Google Home device -- not the connected Bluetooth speakers -- for queries like asking questions, getting weather updates, and using smart home commands."
The Courts

Pirate Music Site's Owner Sentenced to Five Years in Prison (torrentfreak.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares an update on Artur Sargsyan, who owned the music-pirating site Sharebeast as well as Newjams and Albumjams. TorrentFreak reports: Thursday a U.S. District Judge sentenced the 30-year-old to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and more than $642,000 in restitution and forfeiture... The RIAA claimed that ShareBeast was the largest illegal file-sharing site operating in the United States... "Millions of users accessed songs from ShareBeast each month without one penny of compensation going to countless artists, songwriters, labels and others who created the music," RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman commented at the time...

If Sargsyan had responded to takedown notices more positively, it's possible that things may have progressed in a different direction. The RIAA sent the site more than 100 copyright-infringement emails over a three-year period but to no effect. This led the music industry group to get out its calculator and inform the Deparmtment of Justice that the total monetary loss to its member companies was "a conservative" $6.3 billion "gut-punch" to music creators who were paid nothing by the service... "His reproduction of copyrighted musical works were made available only to generate undeserved profits for himself," said U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak. "The incredible work done by our law enforcement partners and prosecutors in light of the complexity of Sargsyan's operation demonstrates that we will employ all of our resources to stop this kind of theft."

David J. LaValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said "His sentence sends a message that no matter how complex the operation, the FBI, its federal partners and law enforcement partners around the globe will go to every length to protect the property of hard working artists and the companies that produce their art."

Today if you visit ShareBeast.com or AlbumJams.com, they display an "FBI anti-piracy warning" image notifying visitors the domain has been seized, adding "Willful copyright infringement is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution." The image is surrounded by a red border with the word "seized" written over and over again.
Music

Spotify Says 2 Million Users Hacked Apps To Suppress Ads On Its Free Service (engadget.com) 62

Earlier this month, Spotify revealed that it had begun cracking down on people using hacked versions of apps. These apps allowed users with free accounts to suppress advertising and take advantage of paid features. Now, Spotify has disclosed just how many people have been taking advantage of this hack: around 2 million users. Engadget reports: That's not an insignificant number, and it's understandable why Spotify is cracking down on them. As the company explains in an amended F1 filing with the SEC this week, these users forced the company to adjust its metrics and key performance indicators. The disclosure notes, "Unauthorized access to our Service may cause us to misstate key performance indicators, which once discovered, corrected, and disclosed, could undermine investor confidence in the integrity of our key performance indicators and could cause our stock price to drop significantly." As a result, Spotify has adjusted its monthly active users from 159 million at the end of 2017 to 157 million.
Music

CDs, Vinyl Are Outselling Digital Downloads For the First Time Since 2011 (mercurynews.com) 136

Digital downloads had a short run as the top-selling format in the music industry. It took until 2011, a decade after the original iPod came out, for their sales surpass those of CDs and vinyl records, and they were overtaken by music streaming services just a few years later. Now, digital downloads are once again being outsold by CDs and vinyl, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. From a report: The RIAA released its 2017 year-end revenue report on Thursday, showing that revenue from digital downloads plummeted 25 percent to $1.3 billion over the previous year. Revenue from physical products, by contrast, fell just 4 percent to $1.5 billion. Overall, the music industry grew for a second year straight. And with $8.7 billion in total revenue, it's healthier than it has been since 2008, according to the report. Nearly all of the growth was the result of the continued surge in paid music subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music. Those services grew by more than 50 percent to $5.7 billion last year and accounted for nearly two-thirds of the industry's revenue. Physical media accounted for 17 percent, while digital downloads made up just 15 percent.
Media

KeepVid Site No Longer Allows Users To 'Keep' Videos (torrentfreak.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: For many years, KeepVid has been a prime destination for people who wanted to download videos from YouTube, Dailymotion, Facebook, Vimeo, and dozens of other sites. The web application was free and worked without any hassle. This was still the case earlier this month when the site advertised itself as follows: "KeepVid Video Downloader is a free web application that allows you to download videos from sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch.Tv, Vimeo, Dailymotion and many more." However, a few days ago the site radically changed its course. While the motivation is unknown at the time, KeepVid took its popular video download service offline without prior notice. Today, people can no longer use the KeepVid site to download videos. On the contrary, the site warns that using video download and conversion tools might get people in trouble. "Video downloading from the Internet will become more and more difficult, and KeepVid encourages people to download videos via the correct and legal ways," the new KeepVid reads. The site now lists several alternative options to enjoy videos and music, including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Pandora.
Music

YouTube Will 'Frustrate' Some Users With Ads So They Pay for Music (bloomberg.com) 191

YouTube will increase the number of ads that some users see between music videos, part of a strategy to convince more of its billion-plus viewers to pay for a forthcoming subscription music service from the Google-owned video site. Bloomberg: People who treat YouTube like a music service, those passively listening for long periods of time, will encounter more ads, according to Lyor Cohen, the company's global head of music. "You're not going to be happy after you are jamming 'Stairway to Heaven' and you get an ad right after that," Cohen said in an interview at the South by Southwest music festival. Cohen is trying to prove that YouTube is committed to making people pay for music and silence the "noise" about his company's purported harm to the recording industry. The labels companies have long criticized YouTube for hosting videos that violate copyrights, and not paying artists and record companies enough.
Education

Chinese Companies Are Buying Up Cash-Strapped US Colleges (bloomberg.com) 206

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Chinese companies are taking advantage of America's financially strapped higher-education system to buy schools, and the latest deal for a classical music conservatory in Princeton, New Jersey, is striking chords of dissonance on campus. Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co. agreed in February to pay $40 million for Westminster Choir College, an affiliate of Rider University that trains students for careers as singers, conductors and music teachers. The announcement came just weeks after the government-controlled Chinese company changed its name from Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Co. The pending purchase rankles some Westminster faculty and alumni, who question what a longtime maker of steel spans knows about running an elite school whose choirs sang with maestros Leonard Bernstein, Arturo Toscanini and Seiji Ozawa. Alumni are among those suing in New York federal court to block the sale, saying it violates Westminster's 1991 merger agreement with Rider and will trigger the choir college's demise.
EU

EU Wants To Require Platforms To Filter Uploaded Content (Including Code) (github.com) 110

A new copyright proposal in the EU would require code-sharing platforms like GitHub and SourceForge to monitor all content that users upload for potential copyright infringement. "The proposal is aimed at music and videos on streaming platforms, based on a theory of a 'value gap' between the profits those platforms make from uploaded works and what copyright holders of some uploaded works receive," reports The GitHub Blog. "However, the way it's written captures many other types of content, including code."

Upload filters, also known as "censorship machines," are some of the most controversial elements of the copyright proposal, raising a number of concerns including: -Privacy: Upload filters are a form of surveillance, effectively a "general monitoring obligation" prohibited by EU law
-Free speech: Requiring platforms to monitor content contradicts intermediary liability protections in EU law and creates incentives to remove content
-Ineffectiveness: Content detection tools are flawed (generate false positives, don't fit all kinds of content) and overly burdensome, especially for small and medium-sized businesses that might not be able to afford them or the resulting litigation
Upload filters are especially concerning for software developers given that: -Software developers create copyrightable works -- their code -- and those who choose an open source license want to allow that code to be shared
-False positives (and negatives) are especially likely for software code because code often has many contributors and layers, often with different licensing for different components
-Requiring code-hosting platforms to scan and automatically remove content could drastically impact software developers when their dependencies are removed due to false positives
The EU Parliament continues to introduce new proposals for Article 13 but these issues remain. MEP Julia Reda explains further in a recent proposal from Parliament.
Apple

Apple Buys Texture, a 'Netflix For Magazines' App (ft.com) 43

Apple said on Monday it will acquire Texture, a digital magazine app, as the iPhone maker looks to fill the gap left by Facebook's pullback from news distribution. From a report: The deal is Apple's latest move to build out its content and services platform, coming just three months after it announced plans to acquire Shazam, the music recognition app, for around $400m. First launched in 2010, Texture has been described as "Netflix for magazines," as its $10-per-month subscription service provides unlimited access to more than 220 publications including People, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, National Geographic and Vogue. Further reading: Recode.

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