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November 2019
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Google's Stadia Game Streaming Service Arrives To A Collective 'Meh'

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As we noted last week, there's a laundry list of potential issues plaguing Google's attempted entry into the game streaming space via Google Stadia, not least of which is the US' substandard broadband networks and arbitrary broadband caps. Stadia eliminates the physical home game console and instead moves all game processing to the cloud. And while it's clear that this is the inevitable path forward and somebody is going to eventually dominate the space, there's no solid indication yet that it's going to be Google.Initial Stadia shipments went out this week (some anyway, many orders never shipped), and so far the press response has been a large, collective, "meh." Most reviews cite a fairly pathetic launch lineup filled with titles that were first released years ago. And while the service works in ideal conditions on good broadband lines, the $120 entry fee (plus $10 subscription cost) is being derided as largely a public paid beta:

"There's no reason anyone should buy into Stadia right now. Google has made sure of that, partly by underdelivering at launch and partly with a pricing scheme that sees you paying three times (for hardware, for the service, for games) just to be an early adopter.But the nice thing is that no one's forcing you to, either. Early adopters know who they are, and they'll hopefully be subsidizing a better experience for the rest of us while helping Google work out the kinks. The technology works reasonably well, and Google's gadgets can all be automatically updated over the air."
This is, of course, before you get to the fact that countless Americans not only have substandard broadband, but have been saddled with bullshit broadband usage caps and overage fees. The fact that Stadia can chew up to 20 gigabytes per hour at full 4K makes for a costly experience:
"This is by design, of course. That 1TB data cap is targeted primarily at people like me, who have cut the cord and now get their entertainment through a collection of streaming services. Of course, Xfinity allows me to have unlimited data if I pay an additional $50 a month, which isn't something I do because my overages tend to only be in the realm of $10-$20 a month when I happen to go over."
I remember being pitched on the idea of game streaming way back in 2001 at E3, so it's great to see the progress these efforts have made. But it remains abundantly clear that game streaming is going to be a work in progress for the better part of the next 5 years, and a continued headache in parts of the country where limited broadband competition has resulted in slow speeds and unnecessary restrictions. There are also other questions related to a shift to game streaming (like how do you preserve game history when the consumer has no ownership rights and doesn't own anything?) that will need to be hammered out in time.Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft, which both have new high-powered game consoles launching next year (hand in hand with their own streaming alternatives) likely have nothing to worry about. We're still years away from game streaming being a consistent and popular affair, and the competition to dominate the space remains wide open, thanks in no small part to Google's fairly underwhelming Stadia launch and US telecom dysfunction.

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posted at: 12:00am on 20-Nov-2019
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PSA: DirectTV Pushes Back By Mentioning All The Refunds For Blackouts Its Issued... To Customers That Asked

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Earlier this month, we discussed how DirectTV was one cable operator the Colarado Attorney General is investigating over how it extracts varied and confusing fees from customers and more specifically how DirectTV managed to continue charging customers for a regional sports station that had been blacked out. The overall tenor of the post was, first, that cable operators charging fees in as confusing a manner as possible is par for the course and, second, that even in that landscape continuing to charge customers for a channel it wasn't offering sure felt like a bridge too far.Well, apparently the folks over at DirectTV were listening in on our post and decided to email us with a statement. That statement said first that, by the time the story posted, the broadcaster had come to terms and was back on the air. Second came a claim that refunds had been issued... if customers specifically asked for one.

We are thrilled to once again provide our Colorado sports fans the ability to enjoy the NBA Denver Nuggets, NHL Colorado Avalanche, University of Denver Pioneers, MLS Colorado Rapids, National Lacrosse League Colorado Mammoth and other sports. We issued credits to thousands of our customers who asked about Altitude Sports while we worked toward getting it back on air. Customers who have questions about credits should visit tvpromise.com.
Let's first allow this to act as something of a PSA: if you're a DirectTV customer in Colarado with a subscription that includes Altitude Sports, go ask for your refund. You apparently have to, otherwise DirectTV will happily keep your money.Which, given how cable television invoices look less like a ledger and more like word-and-number jumble, likely means that a whole bunch of people didn't realize what they were being charged for, didn't realize that Altitude was in their package, and therefore didn't realize that they were owed a refund, and so didn't ask for one. In which case DirectTV keeps that money for a channel it wasn't providing... and now wants credit for that? Interesting stance on ethics you folks have there.What this really highlights is how cable operators construct their packages and invoices as though they were building ciphers to keep the Nazis from knowing where the troops were headed. Fix that and perhaps you'd have better informed customers who might ask for their refunds. Or, you know, DirectTV could do the refunds regardless of a request.

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Brooklyn DA's Office Latest To Release A List Of Cops It Doesn't Want Anywhere Nears Its Prosecutions

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The trickle of "Brady lists" continues, further enraging New York City's police unions. The last batch of cops considered too dishonest or crooked to be called on to testify in court led the Sergeants Benevolent Association to claim the Bronx DA's release of its "naughty list" was an attempt to "smear honest, hardworking cops."It was a super-strange claim to make about cops that were too dishonest to be allowed in court, suggesting the SBA felt misconduct and perjury were just part of everyday police work. It's a stretch to call a list of cops even prosecutors don't trust a smear attempt. These reputations are already besmirched. The only difference is that the public now knows, rather than just Bronx prosecutors.Another list of bad cops has been released to Gothamist. This one comes courtesy of a public records request sent to the Brooklyn DA's office.

Brooklyn prosecutors, complying with a Freedom of Information Law request from Gothamist/WNYC, have released the names of dozens of officers whose credibility has been called into question.[...]The list includes 53 cases, some of which are sealed, between 2008 and 2019 in which officers had their testimony discredited or called into question by state and federal judges.
Unlike the release by the Bronx DA, no officers' names have been redacted, allowing Gothamist to retrace the shady footsteps of some of the officers listed in the document [PDF]. Some have already been named in multiple lawsuits. Others have had their truthfulness questioned by judges during prosecutions as their testimony diverged from official reports and narratives under judicial examination.The list given to Gothamist appears to be more complete than other versions given to Brooklyn defense lawyers, suggesting the DA's office hasn't been completely forthcoming about bad officers in the past.The DA's office also tried to get out ahead of the unavoidable police union blow-back by stating this release was not an "indictment" of "thousands of dedicated officers." It's a bad apple list, in other words. But this wasn't enough to prevent the head of the SBA from issuing another nonsensical statement.
Ed Mullins, President of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said the DA's priorities are misplaced. “The Brooklyn DA has a long history of bad prosecutions,” Mullins said. “What are they going to do about that? It’s hypocritical.
I guess whataboutism will have to do in lieu of a real argument.Even though this list is one of the more complete lists released to the public, it's still not everything. The DA's office withheld a bunch of documents that detailed further misconduct by additional officers the DA won't be allowing anywhere near a courtroom.
Citing the controversial state statute 50-a, which shields police misconduct records, and a consultation with the city’s Law Department, the Brooklyn prosecutors declined to release another list, containing Civilian Complaint Review Board complaints, NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau records, and other credibility findings by judges and Brooklyn prosecutors themselves. The DA said that list includes “attorney notes” and other records it considers to be forms of work product.
OK. Just redact/remove the "work product" and release everything else. Seems like a workable solution, even if it's going to result in there being far more than 53 cops on the shit list. Untrustworthy cops being relied on to put people in jail is enough of a "public interest" that it should overcome the office's presumption of opacity.It's not just the cop testifying against you in court. It's the cops that arrested you, booked you, and helped create the official narrative. There are plenty of enablers just as unworthy of trust as the cops that made the final cut on the DA's "naughty list." They shouldn't be shielded from public scrutiny just because their misconduct overlaps their personnel records. Unfortunately, state law covers up for bad cops with this exemption and it's unlikely the multiple, very vocal, and very powerful police unions in the state will ever allow this to be taken off the books.Still, it's a positive step forward for accountability. Prosecutors have almost always sided with cops by refusing to release these lists to the public. Many go further, refusing to create the lists in the first place, ensuring their prosecutions aren't impeded by judges or defendants questioning the honesty of the officers on the stand.

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posted at: 12:00am on 19-Nov-2019
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Narcos Defeats Yet Another Silly Copyright Lawsuit

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While Netflix's Narcos has certainly been a hit show for the streaming platform, it's still a bit surprising that there has been so much intellectual property strife surrounding the show. To date, the most notable IP dispute has been Pablo Escobar's brother's attempt to sue Netflix for one billion dollars. As Netflix was having Narcos actors pretend to threaten to shoot the public for pirating the show, Roberto Escobar was busy making no headway with his lawsuit, eventually dropping it.But another lawsuit had been filed against Narcos as well, by a famous Colombian journalist who had a years-long affair with El Jefe. Virginia Vallejo wrote about her time with Escobar and the affair she had with him in a memoir, scenes from which were depicted in the Netflix series. She went on to claim that such depictions constituted copyright infringement. Unfortunately for her, a Miami judge ruled for Narcos producers on summary judgement, finding that the Netflix show had depicted only facts that were similar to Vallejo's accounts, while the rest of the depictions in two scenes the journalist calls out were not substantially similar to her retelling in her book.The ruling itself is a rather, ahem, steamy read as far as these things go. The reason for that is that one of the scenes in question is a bedroom scene involving a revolver being used in new and creative ways.

Defendants argue that the only similarities are: (1) Plaintiff is blindfolded with a black blindfold; (2) Escobar uses a gun to caress her neck and chest while speaking in a menacing tone; and (3) she appears aroused. Defendants maintain that these similarities are not protectable because they are nothing more than facts; merely because Plaintiff’s Memoir was the first time that these facts were made public does not make them protectable.Plaintiff contends that there are additional similarities, including the elegant bedroom, thatboth Plaintiff and the Velez character are bound to furniture, Plaintiff and Velez are at the mercy of Escobar, Escobar engages in aggressive banter with Plaintiff and Velez and both respond in a submissive manner, Plaintiff and Velez are not afraid of Escobar, Escobar grabs both by the hair,Escobar touches their bare skin with a gun as sexual foreplay, and Plaintiff and Velez throw their heads back sighing and moaning with pleasure. However, comparing Plaintiff's Memoir and the Narcos Revolver Scene establishes that not all of these similarities actually exist and the similarities that do exist are ideas and facts.
The second scene in question is ruled on in the same way. Essentially what's happening here is that Vallejo claims that Netflix's depiction is so similar to her account in her book that it's copyright infringement. Netflix does not argue that copying didn't occur, but claims all examples of copying were of factual information, buttressed by Vallejo's claims that the accounts in her book are all factually true. The rest of the makeup of the scenes, the staging, scenery, exact dialogue, and feel of the scene all contain substantial differences with Vallejo's book.It's hard to see how the world could operate had the court ruled any differently. Is the expectation that an artistic work telling the story of an historical figure can't retell the factual occurrences surrounding that figure if some third party already put those facts down in a book somewhere? Were that the case, depictions of historical figures could almost certainly not exist.

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