Tag Archives: Media Regulation

Greenlight? More Like Redlight…

Steam’s Greenlight has a few shortcomings. Steam is a multi-player platform created by Valve. It is used to distribute games and other media online. Steam offers media installation and automatic management of software for multiple computers, and communal features such as friends lists. Greenlight is platform for gaming distribution made for independent developers.

ValveThe idea behind Greenlight is to get the Steam community involved in the game selection process on Steam. Every Steam member has a vote, and games with many positive votes or promise will be added to the Steam store eventually. That’s the basic concept.

Overall Greenlight was suppose to help gauge people’s interest in a game or games, and to help democratize Steam’s game selection. This democratization has not worked out. There are too many games, too many community members, too many opinions, and too few Valve employees try to keep everything under control. This led to Valve approving games by the truckload, instead of in moderation, and they ended up flooding the market.

Steam GreenlightGreenlight uses criteria that focuses on communal feedback. For example, a game with a lot of likes are more likely to get the attention of Valve moderators, and therefore has a better chance of being published on Steam. But, there is a problem with this method. Some developers would offer product keys to anyone who would “like” their game. This could lead to a skewed view of a customer’s interests, and overall makes Valve’s job harder to pick out quality content.

Even Gabe Newell (Valve’s head honcho) said that Greenlight is a “bottleneck” in what should be a more efficient process, but he and the rest of Valve haven’t done anything about it. They haven’t even taken any incremental steps in a long time. Eventually it will get better, they claim, but in the meantime gamers and developers alike are left to sit here and watch as trash floats to the top while many good games sink. High-profile voices have spoken out against this. Some have even given up hope and packed their bags.

DynostopiaOne problem that recently arose from Greenlight was a game called Dystopia. On Steam’s Greenlight page Dynostopia may look like another India game that promises a variety of features, and even has a decent looking trailer (note: it has already been taken down by the developers). Developers usually provide a free trial version to people interested in providing an accurate rating of their game. But most indie developers usually have a website set up for their games distribution, and they use Steam as a form of networking, and advertising.

In Dynostopia’s case people would access a link on Steam’s Greenlight page, and download a RAR archive. When the RAR is unpacked and the .EXE is launched Dynostopia’s malware is already in effect has has made your Steam account rate Dynostopia, write a favorable review of it, and add the game to your favorites. This malware works though background programs and modifies your files without your knowledge, and eventually ends up installing keyloggers on your computer. And eventually will end up corrupting all your files.

While Steam remains the main juggernaut for online gaming it still has problems. Valves said that change was on the way for Greenlight, but nothing has happened. And now we can only ask: Can we try something else already?

Aven Helgerson

Tom Wheeler and Net Neutrality

Tom Wheeler is the 31st chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He has held the position since November 2013, and arguably the biggest issue the FCC has faced in this time is over whether to preserve Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality has been in the news a lot in the last few years, and it has become one of those phrases that people throw around. But what exactly is it?

Net Neutrality CartoonNet Neutrality is the principle that information sent across the Internet must be treated equally, or neutrally. Access to some data should not be prioritized over other data. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be able to charge certain companies more to transmit their data, and the ISPs should not be able to block any content or data either. Basically, Net Neutrality is what it sounds like: an open and neutral Internet.

What the ISPs would like to do is charge certain companies more to access an internet “fast lane” that would allow that company’s clients, users or subscribers faster download times for the data sent over those “fast lanes.” If a company was unwilling or unable to pay these extra charges their data would be sent at a slower speed making download times longer. The ISP’s would also like to be able to block certain content, say person-to-person torrent sharing sites like The Pirate Bay, from being accessed by their clients.

There was much debate as to whether or not the FCC would support net neutrality or if they would support the business interests of the ISPs. Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former cable company lobbyist, was thought not to support net neutrality; so many people thought the FCC would also not support it.

Net NeutralityHowever, on February 26, 2015 the FCC declared that they would classify the Internet as a telecommunications service instead of an information service. This will place it under the protections of the Communication Act of 1934 and the Telecommunication Act of 1996. They published a large document outlining the new rules for the broadcast of the internet, and Chairman Wheeler wrote a blog post on the FCC website saying, “the FCC today has taken an important step that should reassure consumers, innovators and the financial markets about the broadband future of our nation.”

And the Internet rejoiced! Well, except for Jeb Bush. And Fox News. And Rush Limbaugh. These technological masterminds are all very worried that the new regulations will staunch growth in the industry because what sort of company would want to fund expansion if they knew they weren’t going to be able to gouge their current customers and double charge the content companies?

What sort of companies indeed. Chairman Wheeler writes from his blog again, “The ISPs’ consumer revenue streams tomorrow will be the same as they were yesterday. I believe this is why Sprint, T-Mobile, Frontier Communications, and Google Fiber, along with hundreds of smaller phone company ISPs have said they would continue to invest under the Commission’s modern regulatory approach.”

Will these new rules indeed inhibit development by our ISPs or, can we, as Chairman Wheeler thinks, look forward to, “a broadband future of investment and expansion?” Will these rules stand? For now, it seems so.

Sommer Darland

Women in the Media Industry

Media can be a man’s world, but women involved in media production are plentiful and powerful. The NAB Show in Las Vegas has dozens of panel discussions on everything broadcast related from online streaming and 4K broadcasting to cinematography forums hosted by film makers from movies like Gravity and Transcendence. Many of these forums and discussions are hosted by women or have women on the panels.

Women-in-TechOne of the general sessions at the NAB Show, hosted by a woman, Cali Lewis, is titled NewTek™ Presents: Broadcast Minds, and it includes Tom Green, Criss Angel and Norm MacDonald. Lewis is the co-star of GeekBeat TV which is a technology news website delivering daily video content. Their mission, to enlighten, educate, and entertain, can clearly be seen in their web videos, which are hilarious and informative. Lewis has over 400,000 followers on her various social media sites, including Twitter and Google+. You can watch a video of Lewis discussing Amazon’s newest product, Amazon Fire TV, a media streaming device similar to the Roku or Google Chromecast, below.

The CEO of Vubiquity, Darcy Antonellis, will also be at the NAB Show as a panelist on the discussion board at the Consumers “4K and Next Gen Home Entertainment — Which Experiences Will Most Excite Them?” panel. 4K resolution is the next generation of ultra high definition television, and it is moving into consumers homes. As of this post, there is not much content for 4K, but television and cinema are both starting production and release of 4K content. In Antonellis’ career she has held many positions including senior vice president of Warner Bros. in distribution technologies and operations, where she was promoted to executive vice president in 2003. Since then she oversaw the creation of the first anti-piracy operation which had locations in Burbank, CA, London, Germany, South America and Asia. She attained her current position as CEO of Vubiquity this year. Below is a video of Antonellis discussing content creation, one of her many areas of expertise.

Net neutrality is a topic that has been on the tip of every technophile’s tongue the last few months. The net neutrality debate is over whether or not broadband network providers should be completely detached from what information is sent over their networks and at what speeds specific information is sent. Amy Schatz is going to be moderating a forum on that very topic at the NAB Show titled “World Without Rules: Is This the End of the Open Internet?” Schatz is the senior editor of tech policy at Re/code, a technology news startup, formerly AllThingsD.com. Panelists from the forum will include a former commissioner of the FCC and the executive vice president and general counsel of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

There will be many more women at the NAB Show, whether they are moderators, award recipients or presenters, panelists, exhibitors or attendees. Women are not only content consumers, they are content producers, and the NAB Show is “where content comes to life.”

Sommer Darland

Droning Out to the Oversaturated Media Buzz

Over the last decade we’ve been hearing more and more media speculation about the many dangers people fear regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (or more commonly referred to as drones). Satire comedian, Steven Colbert, sums it up nicely in this mock news piece.

ColbertI personally feel that it is time to look at drones under more of a positive light. After all, there are many different great outcomes possible from this technology. One of the most enlightening aspects of drones is the ability for the average citizen to get aerial footage that was impossible 50 years ago. In this video, a news organization in Kiev was able to use a drone to capture eye-opening documentation of the extreme divide taking place in the Russian occupied territory.

At the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show, I will seek the latest and greatest uses of unmanned aerial vehicles. There are so many applications for these pieces of engineering genius that I believe we are on the brink of what the best uses may be. There have been ideas from Amazon’s founder to use the technology to implement an air service where you get a speedy delivery by a friendly drone rather than an angry delivery guy. I’m excited to see the new ideas put forth by the industry leaders at the NAB show April 5-10th.

So I would think that it’s long overdue for the news media to stop harping about the ill-use of possible drone attacks and tout some of the benefits of this great technology. The news audience may be more interested in what good things technology can do to inform us and create an environment where drones are thought of as a tool to help discover the amazing world we all live in. I’ll leave you with one of the commercial opportunities that could change the way your next pizza is delivered.

Robert Scott

Violence in Media: How Comic Books Faced the Fire First!

Recently, video games have faced an onslaught of critics denouncing the industry’s development of violent video games like the Grand Theft Auto or Gears of War franchises. In a recent Supreme Court Decision, Brown vs. EMA (Entertainment Merchants Association), the court upheld that California’s law to prohibit the sale of violent games to children under 18 was unconstitutional.

The majority opinion written by Justice Scalia compares the current video game argument to that of comics fifty years earlier. Justice Scalia writes:

The crusade against comic books was led by a psychiatrist, Frederic Wertham, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that ‘as long as the crime comic books industry exists in its present forms there are no secure homes.’ Wertham’s objections extended even to Superman comics, which he described as “particularly injurious to the ethical development of children. But efforts to convince Congress to restrict comic books failed.

Here is the historical context of Scalia’s statement. In 1954 Dr Frederic Wertham published the book, Seduction of the Innocent, which correlated reading violent depictions in comics with juvenile delinquency. Seduction was the capstone to Wertham’s attack on comics, and in 1955 a US Senate hearing was held to argue the validity of Wertham’s findings.

The Senate concluded that the comics industry should create a regulating body that identified violent content. To avoid government censorship, the industry reacted by creating the Comics Authority Code.

After the adoption of the code, the debate fizzled with the last comic book burning. That’s right folks! Here. In the United States. American Citizens were burning books. But I digress…

The code was implemented, like those of the MPAA or the ESRB, by affixing a stamp of approval on the comic, deeming the book appropriate for all readers. The difference between the Comics Authority Code and other media regulating bodies was that if a publisher, writer, or illustrator did not follow the guidelines, the comic in question was doomed to fail.

By the mid-1980’s, creators began combating the code by completely ignoring the guidelines and as a result redefined the industry. The Code has since died out completely, and publishers have created other rating systems.

As the debate over violence in media continues keep in mind that it is not a new phenomenon. The comics industry took its licks way before video games, and I would wager that the video game industry will thrive similarly to its comic book forefather.

– Jason Allen

Video Gaming Industry Battles Piracy

Global piracy plagues every area of the entertainment industry. Video games are no exception to that rule.  In fact, 73% of global video game revenues are lost to piracy. Between 2004 and 2009 the industry lost $41.5 billion dollars to illegal downloading.

The majority of the lost revenue comes from overseas, although piracy within the United States is an issue too.  Piracy is most popular in Japan where losses were estimated around $10.7 billion in 2010.

Why is piracy so prolific and how is it possible? The reason is the same around the world: the high cost of games and hardware and the spread of broadband Internet.

The cost of games and hardware varies from country to country. In the United States game consoles are $200 – $350 and new games cost around $60. With the high price of initial investment, gamers cannot always afford to buy all newest games they might want.

This predicament has lead to the creation of numerous videos and websites dedicated to helping consumers learn how to burn games and modify consoles to read those games. These website are allowed to exist because they have a disclaimer about “voiding the warranty of consoles” and instructions that these practices are only to be used to back up “personal game libraries.”

However, when a game’s copyright protection is overridden, the game can be copied and the files uploaded to peer-to-peer file sharing sites. Anyone can then download, burn, and play the game on their modified console. In the United States, “self-moding” consoles so they will read burned disks is the most popular form of piracy.

In other countries the cost of games and hardware is even more expensive than in the United States. Most big title games are imported by other countries and have taxes and tariffs on them that drive prices up.

An article from 2010 in The Velvet Light Trap explains that when you take into account the currency exchange rates, gamers in the United Kingdom will pay $30-$70 more than gamers in the United States. These extra costs can almost double the price of games. All countries buying games from the United States have this problem, not just the United Kingdom.

Given that games start out expensive, and are only more expensive outside the United States, is it any wonder piracy is so prevalent? The above article points out that “consumers are not choosing to purchase pirated or smuggled products over legal ones—they are often choosing to purchase a gray or black market product or nothing at all.”

Again, the Internet and its spread has been the key in facilitating piracy. With its spread through Europe and Asia, downloading and burning games has become the easiest way to illegally obtain games. Peer-to-peer file sharing makes it is hard for governments to accurately track and block illegal activity.

How are gaming distributors supposed to respond to these issues? It will take innovative copyright protection software or an entirely different strategy. One approach would be a firmer crackdown on peer-to-peer file sharing and the websites that distribute information on how to burn and mod games. Another approach would be to embrace digital downloading and lower the of cost of producing games.

The major problem with any crackdown on gaming piracy is the fact that this is a global issue. U.S. companies have chosen to avoid distributing or have limited distribution in some countries because of rampant piracy. The funny thing is, gamers still want the latest games and they will find a way to own them whether it is through legal methods or not. Perhaps combining lower prices and wider distribution is the key to limiting piracy losses.

– Amelia M. Torre