Everything, Everything - March 2009

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Slow News Day?
Monday 30th March, 2009 16:29
I caught BBC News over the weekend. It was the same couple of stories repeated every 15 minutes, although I wouldn't call one of them a "story" as I honestly don't care if Jacqui Smith or her husband watched porn. I can understand why people might be upset with her expensing movies, I'm just not sure why people care so much about two of them being pornographic. Oceans Thirteen is just as much a waste of public money (okay, technically it was £2.50 cheaper). I suspect she's telling the truth that she mistakenly claimed for the TV package while billing for an internet connection, and as long as she refunds the money (which presumably isn't very much at around £4 per movie) I'm quite happy. I certainly wouldnt call for her to resign over this fiasco. I also don't think she or her husband should be scrutinised or harrassed. Amongst other things, it's a relatively small amount. I'm sure a lot more of the public's money is wasted on taxi fares back and forth across London when they could take the tube (or even walk). It's amazing how a £67 bill can be a top story, but "tens of millions of pounds" is barely mentioned when phase II of Scope was scrapped. If people are going to be outraged, be outraged for a good reason. Not because of a bill for a few movies (a couple might have been pornographic, but they were also entirely legal), which were accidentally expensed.
The Pirate Bay Trial
Tuesday 3rd March, 2009 10:27
It's hard to get unbiased coverage of the trial, most of the sites covering it are going to be biased, but TorrentFreak has made me laugh a few times. I doubt they'll all escape without punishment, but I really wish the prosecution had pulled their act together and presented some decent evidence, rather than giving opinions that they can't backup with reliable (and often any) evidence.

Day 4

When the prosecution asked if advertiser Oded Daniel was involved in the technical aspects of TPB, Fredrik replied:

"No, he's not good at that. He uses Windows, so..."

Afterwards, Monique Wadsted began to introduce new evidence which had not previously been disclosed to the defence. Noting the breach of protocol, the judge asked if it was acceptable for the court to be considering evidence that was not already presented pre-trial. Monique Wadsted then tried to shout down the judge. Nice.

Day 5

According to multiple reports, the judge was annoyed at the prosecution's unacceptable actions and reprimanded Danowsky. The court adjourned for 10 minutes to discuss the situation, afterwards the judge declared that any new material the prosecution is planning to bring up needs to be submitted before the questioning has started. The prosecution then claimed to hand over all their surprise material they were holding and the court took another break so that Peter could read through everything. This was later confirmed to be 9 new documents.

Day 7

Magnus MÃ¥rtensson has apparently been working for the IFPI for 15 years, specializing in anti-piracy work. He explained that he worked gathering evidence against The Pirate Bay by downloading various music albums via .torrent files he obtained from the site using the Azureus client.

MÃ¥rtensson's evidence gathering consisted of screenshots. Just screenshots. MÃ¥rtensson's technological ability was quickly called into question and he acknowledged that it was difficult for him to answer some technical questions. When asked if he had any network equipment logging exactly what was going on "behind the scenes" of any of his sample downloads, he replied that he didn't. When asked if he verified in any way during the download process that he had any contact with The Pirate Bay's tracker, again the answer was negative.

Gottfrid: Before taking the screenshot, did you turn off DHT and Peer Exchange?
MÃ¥rtensson: DHT was obviously on. I wanted to be like an average user.
Gottfrid: So in other words, you can't check if the tracker was used?
MÃ¥rtensson: The tracker address was visible on the screen. From that I assumed it was used in some way.
Gottfrid: But since you had DHT on, you have no possibility to state to the court as to whether The Pirate Bay's tracker was actually used or not?
MÃ¥rtensson: No.

Nilsson also claimed that a majority of the content on The Pirate Bay was copyrighted. However, he had no evidence that supports this claim. The defence lawyers pressed him on this and he had to cave in:

"I have no documentation as to the claim that most material is copyrighted. It is just an opinion"

Day 8

IFPI's CEO John Kennedy said that the music industry spends more money than most other industries on research and development. It invests 20% of its revenue on finding new artists and although some suggest that this isn't needed in the Internet age, they are "wrong".

This strikes me as wrong. A lot of the popular artists have arrived from TV shows like X-Factor, Pop Idol and American Idol. Sure, there are some artists that have been discovered that are quite talented, but think about how many "artists" that are shockingly bad. You'd think it can't be that hard to discover some genuine talent. Perhaps they're just choosing artists that aren't to my liking; but perhaps everyone else feels the same way? Maybe that's why sales are dropping. That and the increased amount of money spent on computer games, and the ability to buy single tracks rather than waste money on a more expensive album with several filler tracks.

When asked if he understood BitTorrent, Kennedy said he did, but in "very vague terms" - when the defence lawyers asked more detailed questions, about uTorrent for instance, Kennedy said he'd heard of it but had no idea of the details.

Kennedy was asked if IFPI has taken any action against the actual sharers of the music made available via TPB, as detailed in this case. He said he couldn't say and didn't know who these individuals are. He then admitted to not knowing how The Pirate Bay works so the defence lawyers put it to him - if you don't understand how TPB works, how can you say they are to blame?

When pressed on the earlier reports that Kennedy referred to, the defence lawyers wanted to know if IFPI had commissioned any of them. Kennedy said he didn't know.

Bertil Sandgren, a board member of the Swedish film institute, then took the stand. He claimed that there is statistical evidence that illegal file-sharing has affected the number of seats sold per film. In Sweden, the ticket sales between 2002-2006 have fallen by 31%, Sandgren explained.

"The reason for this drop is that the number of premieres have increased but sales have decreased. File-sharing has somewhat made the market thinner. The difference between number of sold tickets on average has dropped 10,000 per film per year. That equals between 800,000 and 1,000,000 SEK per film"

According to the defence lawyers there is research showing this link is not that straightforward, while stressing that 2008 has been the best year for the Swedish movie industry ever. Sandgren said that he didn't want to comment on factors underlying the success year.

When Per Sundin was asked whether the decline is sales could be fully attributed to illegal filesharing, he said yes. Sundin went even further and claimed that 50% of the loss in sales the music industry has suffered can be linked to The Pirate Bay. He had to admit, however, that he has no evidence to back these claims up.

It'll be interesting to hear tomorrow's decision.

EDIT: http://xkcd.com/553/

Pirate Bay

I'm wondering if the subtitles thing is a subtle dig at all of the "swesub" content with hardcoded Swedish subtitles?
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