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Piracy

70 Percent of Young Swedish Men Are Video Pirates, Study Says (torrentfreak.com) 155

A new study from Sweden has found that just over half of all young people admit to obtaining movies and TV shows from the Internet without paying, a figure that rockets to 70 percent among young men, reports TorrentFreak, citing a study. From the report: According to figures just released by media industry consultants Mediavision, in January 2017 almost a quarter of all Swedes aged between 15 and 74 admitted either streaming or downloading movies from 'pirate' sites during the past month. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tendency to do so is greater among the young. More than half of 15 to 24-year-olds said they'd used a torrent or streaming site during December. When concentrating that down to only young men in the same age group, the figure leaps to 70 percent.
Sci-Fi

Lost Winston Churchill Essay Reveals His Thoughts On Alien Life (theverge.com) 183

"A newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill shows that the British statesman gave a lot of thought to the existential question that has inspired years of scientific research and blockbuster movies: are we alone in the University?" reports The Verge. "The essay was drafted in the 1930s, but unearthed in a museum in Missouri last year." Astrophysicist Mario Livio was the first scientist to analyze the article and has published his comments in the journal Nature. The Verge reports: Livio was "stunned" when he first saw the unpublished, 11-page essay on the existence of alien life, he tells The Verge. The astrophysicist was visiting Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, for a talk last year, when he was approached by Timothy Riley, the director of Fulton's US National Churchill Museum. Riley showed him the essay, titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?" In the essay, Churchill reasons that we can't possibly be alone in the Universe -- and that many other Suns will likely have many other planets that could harbor life. Because of how enormously distant these extrasolar planets are, we may never know if they "house living creatures, or even plants," Churchill concludes. He wrote this decades before exoplanets were discovered in the 1990s; hundreds have since been detected. What's impressive about the essay is the way Churchill approaches the existential and scientific question of whether life exists on other planets, Livio says. Churchill's reasoning mirrors extremely well the way scientists think about this problem today. The British leader also talks about several theories that still guide the search for alien life, Livio says. For example, he notes that water is the key ingredient for life on Earth, and so finding water on other planets could mean finding life there. Churchill also notes that life can only survive in regions "between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water" -- what today we call the habitable zone, the region around a star that is neither too hot or too cold, so that liquid water may exist on the planet's surface.
Media

Netflix Geoblocking Loosened Under New EU Law (thestack.com) 54

An anonymous reader writes: "The European Parliament is now finalizing legislation which will allow EU residents to access their paid subscriptions for online media -- such as video streaming, games and music -- while visiting other EU countries," reports The Stack. Under the new rules, companies will not be able to arbitrarily block subscribers from accessing the content catalog of their home countries while visiting other parts of the European Union, with country of origin to be established by various possible methods besides IP address, including payment details, public tax information and 'checks on electronic identification'. The issue was brought to a head last year when Netflix began blocking the known IPs of VPN providers, often used by subscribers to access the catalogs of their home countries while travelling.
Crime

Police Arrest Five Men For Selling Kodi Boxes 'Fully Loaded' With Illegal Streaming Apps (bbc.com) 105

Five people have been arrested in early morning raids for selling "fully loaded Kodi boxes," which are set-top boxes modified to stream subscription football matches, television channels and films for free. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) said it believed the suspects had made roughly $250,000 selling the devices online. BBC reports: Kodi is free software built by volunteers to bring videos, music, games and photographs together in one easy-to-use application. Some shops sell legal set-top boxes and TV sticks, often called Kodi boxes, preloaded with the software. The developers behind Kodi say their software does not contain any content of its own and is designed to play legally owned media or content "freely available" on the internet. However, the software can be modified with third-party add-ons that provide access to pirated copies of films and TV series, or free access to subscription television channels. The five arrests were made in Bolton, Bootle, Cheadle, Manchester and Rhyl.
EU

EU Agrees To Cross-Border Access To Streaming Services (variety.com) 55

Putting in place the first piece of its hoped-for unified digital market, the European Union has agreed on new rules allowing subscribers of online services in one E.U. country access to them while traveling in another. From a report: "Today's agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans," said vice president in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, in a statement. "People who have subscribed to their favorite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe. This is a new important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market." Variety explain: That said, "portability" is the least contentious of DSM regulations being advanced by the European Commission. Reached yesterday, the agreement between the Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm, the European Parliament and the E.U.'s Council of Ministers, representing its 28 member states, will allow consumers to fully use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when traveling within the E.U. The online service providers who will be mandated to make these services available range from video-on-demand platforms (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Mubi, Chili TV) to online TV services (Viasat's Viaplay, Sky's Now TV, Voyo), music streaming services (Spotify, Deezer, Google Music) and game online marketplaces (Steam, Origin).
Piracy

Movie Industry Wants Irish ISPs To Block Pirate Movie Streaming Portals (torrentfreak.com) 55

The Motion Picture Association is trying to have three popular streaming portals blocked by Irish Internet providers. In a new court case, the movie studios describe movie4k.to, primewire.ag and onwatchseries.to as massive copyright infringement hubs, with each offering thousands of infringing movies. From a TorrentFreak report: RTE reports that the MPA's fresh blocking demands are targeting a total of eight ISPs -- Eir, Sky Ireland, Vodafone Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland, Three Ireland, Digiweb, Imagine Telecommunications and Magnet Networks. Based on yesterday's hearing it appears to be only a matter of time before the three sites will be blocked. None of the ISPs have raised principle objections against a court determination in this case. That said, reports suggest that there are still a few finer details that have to be worked out, which could include issues regarding costs and the technical implementation.
Patents

Patent Troll With Good Record in Past Sues Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Others Over Offline Downloads (arstechnica.com) 94

Netflix added the ability to download movies and TV episodes for offline viewing in November last year. Music streaming service SoundCloud, and video hosting service Vimeo have had this feature for quite some time, too. But they are all being sued now by a patent troll. From an ArsTechnica report: The plaintiff is a company few have heard of: Blackbird Technologies, a company with no products or assets other than patents. Blackbird's business is to buy up patent rights and file lawsuits over them, a business known colloquially as "patent trolling." Last week, Blackbird (who tells potential clients about being "able to litigate at reduced costs and achieve results") filed lawsuits against Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Starz, Mubi, and Studio 3 Partners, which owns the Epix TV channel. [...] The patent-holding company, which filed the lawsuits in Delaware federal court, has good reason to hope for success. The '362 patent already has a track record of squeezing settlement cash out of big companies.
Communications

IMDb Is Shutting Down Its Long-Running, Popular Message Boards After 16 Years (polygon.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Polygon: After 16 years, IMDb's message boards and the ability to privately message other users is shutting down, with many members of the community openly mourning the loss of the section. IMDb, which stands from the Internet Movie Database, is one of the world's biggest databases for film and television. According to the company, there is information on more than 4.1 million titles and 7.7 million personalities available on the site as of January 2017. The message board, which was introduced in 2001, reportedly remains one of the most used services on the website, but despite that, the company is getting ready to shut it down, citing a desire to foster a positive environment and serve its audience the best way it can. "After in-depth discussion and examination, we have concluded that IMDb's message boards are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide," a statement on the site reads. "The decision to retire a long-standing feature was made only after careful consideration and was based on data and traffic. Because IMDb's message boards continue to be utilized by a small but passionate community of IMDb users, we announced our decision to disable our message boards on February 3, 2017 but will leave them open for two additional weeks so that users will have ample time to archive any message board content they'd like to keep for personal use. During this two-week transition period, which concludes on February 19, 2017, IMDb message board users can exchange contact information with any other board users they would like to remain in communication with (since once we shut down the IMDb message boards, users will no longer be able to send personal messages to one another)."
Piracy

Film Industry's Latest Search Engine Draws Traffic With 'Pirate' Keywords' (torrentfreak.com) 73

A new search engine launched by the Dutch film industry is targeting 'pirates' specifically, reports TorrentFreak. Every movie or TV-show page lists legal viewing options but also includes pirate keywords and descriptions, presumably to draw search traffic. "Don't Wrestle With Nasty Torrents. Ignore the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story torrent," the site advises. From a report: Like other "legal" search engines, the site returns a number of options where people can watch the movies or TV-shows they search for. However, those who scroll down long enough will notice that each page has a targeted message for pirates as well. The descriptions come in a few variations but all mention prominent keywords such as "torrents" and reference "illegal downloading" and unauthorized streaming.
Television

Roku Owners: Comcast Is About To Sell You Cable TV Without the Cable Box (bloomberg.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Comcast is making its Xfinity TV service available to subscribers with Roku set-top players via a new app, paving the way for customers of the nation's largest cable provider to watch live programming without the cost or hassle of a cable box. Roku is the first set-stop box to offer the Xfinity TV service, Comcast said in a statement Tuesday. During a test period, subscribers will have to hang on to their cable devices. When the app formally rolls out later this year, they'll be able sign up without renting a cable box. While Comcast expects the majority of its customers to opt for the typical setup, traditional pay-TV providers are trying to be more flexible about where and how people can watch TV given the popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon and the boxes that offer them. Customers with Roku players will be able to watch live TV, browse on-demand libraries and record shows, just as they can with Comcast's boxes. Those who use the Roku as their primary device instead of Comcast's X1 device will receive a $2.50 monthly credit, the company said.
Sony

Sony Warns It Will Take $1 Billion Writedown, Blames Slowing DVD Sales (reuters.com) 157

Sony has warned investors that it will take roughly $978m writedown on its film business, blaming a goodwill impairment charge that dates back to an acquisition of a Hollywood studio almost three decades ago. From a report on Reuters: The impairment charge came as Sony cut its outlook for profits from DVD, blu-ray discs and other home entertainment operations in line with a broader market decline, the company said in statement on Monday. Sony has been working to revive its movie business. In November, the Japanese conglomerate's chief financial officer, Kenichiro Yoshida, said a turnaround was "progressing, but it takes time for the benefit to be realized."
Movies

Actor John Hurt Dies At Age 77 (hollywoodreporter.com) 50

Slashdot reader necro81 writes: A fantastic chameleon of the stage and screen has died. Sir John Hurt passed away at age 77. Slashdot readers should recognize him as the first person to have a xenomorph burst from his chest in the original Alien (a scene he later parodied in Spaceballs ). Others may recall he played the downtrodden protagonist Winston Smith in the film adaption of 1984 , then later played the tyrannical High Chancellor in V for Vendetta . Also: the titular character in The Elephant Man, Caligula in I, Claudius, Ollivander in the Harry Potter films and, more recently, Gilliam in Snowpiercer. But his career spanned decades and genres, and our world is a bit meeker and colorless without him.
Hurt also appeared as the War Doctor in five episodes of the new Doctor Who series, and provided the voice of Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi's 1978 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.
Piracy

ISPs Finally Abandon The Copyright Alert System (engadget.com) 113

"Major internet providers are ending a four-year-old system in which consumers received 'copyright alerts' when they viewed peer-to-peer pirated content," reports Variety. An anonymous reader quotes Engadget's update on the Copyright Alert System. It was supposed to spook pirates by having their internet providers send violation notices, with the threat of penalties like throttling. However, it hasn't exactly panned out. ISPs and media groups have dropped the alert system with an admission that it isn't up to the job. While the program was supposedly successful in "educating" the public on legal music and video options, the MPAA states that it just couldn't handle the "hard-core repeat infringer problem" -- there wasn't much to deter bootleggers. The organizations, which include the RIAA, haven't devised an alternative.
"Surprise: it's hard to stop copyright violators just by asking them," reads their article's tagline, which attributes the failure of the system to naive optimism. "It assumed that most pirates didn't even realize they were violating copyright, and just needed to be shown the error of their ways."
Android

Netflix Will Now Let Android Users Download Content Onto SD Storage (consumerist.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Consumerist: Now that Netflix has finally opened the doors to offline viewing, subscribers have the ability to download content and watch it later. That's all well and good if you've got plenty of space on your device, but not so useful if you don't. Android users will have some breathing room now, however, as Netflix's most recent app update lets users set their download location to either internal storage or an SD card. As The Verge notes, offline content has a time limit, so it's not like you can download all the movies and TV shows your heart desires and leave them there forever. The feature doesn't support any Android devices that have a microSD slot, either.
Movies

Amazon's Best Picture Oscar Nod Makes History For Streaming Media (fortune.com) 38

Hollywood is buzzing after Tuesday morning's long-awaited Oscar nominations announcements, finally revealing who will be competing for an Academy Award on Feb. 26. One of the biggest stories of the morning was the nominations haul scored by e-commerce giant Amazon and its streaming video arm, Amazon Studios. From a report: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Amazon's big Oscar contender, director Kenneth Lonergan's devastating drama Manchester by the Sea, six total nominations on Tuesday. Manchester by the Sea, which Amazon co-distributed with indie studio Roadside Attractions, is nominated for Best Picture, while Lonergan is nominated in both the directing and original screenplay categories. Actors Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges all also scored acting category nods. In total, Amazon has seven nominations, with the Iranian thriller The Salesman -- which Amazon is distributing in the U.S. -- up for Best Foreign Picture. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made no secret about his desire to win an Academy Award -- an accomplishment no streaming service has yet pulled off -- and the company has spent a lot of money building out its portfolio of original feature films as it looks to compete with more traditional Hollywood studios. Last year, Amazon saw its Oscar hopes dashed after the company's collaboration with director Spike Lee on the film Chi-Raq failed to garner any nominations. But Amazon also spent a reported $10 million on the distribution rights to Manchester by the Sea at last year's Sundance Film Festival.
Movies

FBI Is Probing Sundance Cyberattack That Forced Box Office To Close (hollywoodreporter.com) 37

Over the weekend, the Sundance Film Festival was hacked. "Sundance Film Festival has been subject to a cyberattack, causing network outages that have shut down our box office," said a spokesperson for the festival. "No further information about the attack is available at this time, but our team is working hard to get our system back up and running as soon as possible. All screenings will still take place as planned." According to The Hollywood Reporter, the FBI is now investigating the hack and is working with Sundance officials to identify the culprit. From their report: Although the festival was able to get its ticketing systems back online within an hour of the Saturday breach, multiple other denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Sundance's IT infrastructure followed. A DDoS attack works by flooding the bandwidth or resources of a targeted server. A Sundance Film Festival rep offers the following statement: "The FBI is reviewing the case. At this point, we do not have any reason to believe the cyberattack was targeted towards a specific film. No artist or customer information was compromised." At the time of the hack, the festival offered little in the way of explanation of what happened, but hinted that filmmakers at the annual celebration of independent cinema may have been the target. One producer of a Sundance documentary critical of the Russian government believes his film could have played a role in the attack. "There's been speculation that our film may have sparked retribution," Icarus consulting producer Doug Blush tells THR. "It does not paint a flattering picture of [president Vladimir] Putin." Icarus, which made its world premiere at the festival the day before the hack, centers on a Russian doctor who oversaw and then spoke out about Russia's widespread state-sponsored sports doping. The Bryan Fogel-helmed film, which is being pitched to distributors, has played throughout the weekend in Park City at screenings for both press-and-industry and the public. Icarus isn't the only Sundance film that could antagonize the Russian government and Putin. Evgeny Afineevsky's Cries From Syria -- one of several docs tackling the war-torn nation -- also takes a critical look at Putin and Russia's military intervention in Syria. Cries From Syria made its world premiere at Sundance on Sunday, the day after the initial box-office cyberattack.
Sony

Sony Is Weighing a Sale of Film, TV Business (nypost.com) 37

Sony could be exploring the sale of its film and television unit just a week after announcing the departure of Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. From a report: Tokyo's Sony Corp. is listening to bank pitches about a potential sale of its film and TV operations, several sources told The Post. "Every bank is pushing pitches," said one person familiar with the process. Another confirmed that banks have paid a flurry of visits to Tokyo to advise on a sale of Sony's film and TV business. The Post was first to report that the Japanese owners were ready to listen to bid proposals if they had the right number attached. CBS CEO Leslie Moonves has long signaled interest in acquiring the asset, though several Chinese bidders could be in the wings. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai has denied any intent to sell the firm during the five years he's been in the top slot at the company. Still, he has not appointed a successor to Lynton, despite knowing of his intention to depart for some time. That has sparked speculation that there may be no position to fill.
Movies

Star Trek Discovery Gets Delayed Again As Spock's Father Is Cast (hollywoodreporter.com) 164

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery has been delayed again as the series continues casting. The revival for the streaming platform has cast James Frain as Spock's father, producer CBS Television Studios announced Wednesday, as sources confirm that the show's planned May debut has been pushed. "Production on Star Trek: Discovery begins next week. We love the cast, the scripts and are excited about the world the producers have created," reps for CBS All Access said in a statement. "This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it's best for the show. We've said from the beginning it's more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn't beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows." Frain will play Sarek, the famed father of Spock who was first introduced in the original Star Trek and who has made several appearances throughout the franchise's many incarnations over the past five decades. The CBS All Access show features the franchise's Enterprise, now known as the U.S.S. Discovery. The drama will introduce new characters seeking new worlds and civilizations while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966. Star Trek: Discovery was originally scheduled to debut in January and was pushed back to May, with The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight now set to be the first scripted offering on CBS All Access, the network's VOD platform. This marks the second delay for the series, which saw former showrunner Bryan Fuller step down to focus on his Starz drama American Gods.
Television

3D TV Is Dead (cnet.com) 399

While Samsung dropped 3D support in 2016, LG and Sony -- the last two major TV makers to support the 3D feature in their TVs -- will stop doing so in 2017. None of their TVs, including the high-end OLED TV models, will be able to show 3D movies and TV shows. As a result, 3D TV is dead. The question is no longer when (or even why) 3D TVs will become obsolete, it's will 3D TVs ever rise again? CNET reports: The 3D feature has been offered on select televisions since 2010, when the theatrical success of "Avatar" in 3D helped encourage renewed interest in the technology. In addition to a 3D-capable TV, it requires specialized glasses for each viewer and the 3D version of a TV show or movie -- although some TVs also offer a simulated 3D effect mode. Despite enthusiasm at the box office and years of 3D TVs being available at affordable prices, the technology never really caught on at home. DirecTV canceled its 24/7 3D channel in 2012 and ESPN followed suit a year later. There are plenty of 3D Blu-ray discs still being released, such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," but if you want to watch them at home you'll need a TV from 2016 or earlier -- or a home theater projector. Those market trends are clear: Sales of 3D home video gear have declined every year since 2012. According to data from the NPD Group, 3D TV represents just 8 percent of total TV sales dollars for the full year of 2016, down from 16 percent in 2015 and 23 percent in 2012. Native 3D-capable Blu-ray players fell to just 11 percent of the market in 2016, compared to 25 percent in 2015 and 40 percent in 2012. As for whether or not 3D TVs will ever become popular again, David Katzmaier writes via CNET, based on his own "anecdotal experience as a TV reviewer": Over the years, the one thing most people told me about the 3D feature on their televisions was that they never used it. Sure, some people occasionally enjoyed a 3D movie on Blu-ray, but the majority of people I talked to tried it once or twice, maybe, then never picked up the glasses again. I don't think most viewers will miss 3D. I have never awarded points in my reviews for the feature, and 3D performance (which I stopped testing in 2016) has never figured into my ratings. I've had a 3D TV at home since 2011 and I've only used the feature a couple of times, mainly in brief demos to friends and family. Over the 2016 holiday break I offered my family the choice to watch "The Force Awakens" in 2D or 3D, and (after I reminded everyone they had to wear the glasses) 2D was the unanimous choice. But some viewers will be sad to see the feature go. There's even a change.org petition for LG to bring back the feature, which currently stands at 3,981 supporters. Of course 3D TV could come back to life, but I'd be surprised if it happened before TV makers perfect a way to watch it without glasses.

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