The UpStream (Page 115)

Disney's Fan-Hammer Activated on Star Wars Fan

posted Sunday Dec 13, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Disney's Fan-Hammer Activated on Star Wars Fan

Disney's Fan-Hammer is well documented. They have gone after fan art of all types over the years with strong legal actions. The most surprising of these was their takedown notice against a Florida preschool that had painted a mural with Disney characters in their school. Disney made them remove it, which they did with the help of Universal artists who replaced it at no cost.

This week's story of Disney legal action falls into a similar level of insanity. Justin Kozisek, a member of podcast Star Wars Action News, posted a photo he took of a product he purchased on Facebook. He was excited, because the product was an action figure of Rey from the next Star Wars film, one he had never seen before, either in person or in photo. Shortly after posting the photo, it was shared wide and far, as fans of the podcast were just as excited about his Wal-Mart find.

Nearly as quickly as the photo went viral it also caught the attention of Disney/Lucasfilm's legal team. They immediately issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) notice to Facebook, demanding the photo be removed for violating copyright, since the product was neither public nor even announced. Show runner Marjorie Carvalho responded to Disney explaining exactly what had happened, and her efforts were rewarded with an email from Facebook stating, "The Walt Disney Company has retracted their intellectual property report." Carvalho told Ars Technica,

All we did was write a letter, and a few hours later, it was retracted. It pays to take the high road and get your facts in order, rather than overreacting. I feel good about it, and it's nice that they're recognizing they made a mistake.

Unfortunately, she spoke too soon. Within 10 minutes of the phone interview concluding, the entire post was removed, not just the photo. Disney had issued an identical DMCA notice, this time asking that the post be removed. It is possible that Disney's intentions were to remove the entire post, but couldn't because the infringing image had already been removed from it, hence revoking their initial request only to up the ante. In addition to the takedown, Facebook punished Kozisek personally, blocking him from any posts on the social network for 3 days.

The problem for Disney is that the image is now everywhere, including several eBay listings for "pre-order" products, as well as copies that have continued to spread over social networks, either out of excitement or protest against the takedown notice. It would seem that Kozisek has a good position for fair use, considering it is a personal photo of a legally purchased product that he now owns. He didn't sign an NDA before purchasing the figure from Wal-Mart, nor did he promise not to photograph it. He simply paid retail price and walked out of the store.

Has Disney and/or Lucasfilm overstepped their legal authority here? What is your take on the way they handled things? Let us know in the comments.

Microsoft Starts Putting Out OneDrive-Related Fires

posted Sunday Dec 13, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Starts Putting Out OneDrive-Related Fires

While one might see Microsoft over the past few years as a company who has made some unpopular decisions, I prefer to see them as the company in the tech world that is best at listening to its customers. When they announced the always-on requirement of the Xbox One to allow for the power of always-on worlds, Sony convinced gamers that this was a scary scenario despite the fact that reports suggest the PS4 was intended to have the same feature. When the feedback came to Microsoft, they listened to what their customers were saying and removed the feature before launch.

Personally, I think it is great to see a company as large as Microsoft so interested in what their customers think. Responding to the Xbox situation or implementing the Insider program for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Office and even Solitaire all show a company completely dedicated to producing products that people are interested in using.

Last month, Microsoft made another unpopular announcement: the removal of several OneDrive capabilities, effective soon. Even diehard Microsoft fans were shocked and disappointed in the decision to remove the unlimited storage option, as well as the storage bonuses that many regular users had accumulated for being dedicated customers. Once again, Microsoft heard their customers and will be making changes to their plans before they are implemented.

In this case, OneDrive users who have accumulated bonuses on their accounts for things like auto-syncing their photos can keep those bonuses as well as their 15GB basic storage, but only if you act now. To keep your storage bonuses, you will need to go here and claim your bonuses for Microsoft to allow you to keep them. I would, of course prefer that all customers automatically retain these capabilities, but something is better than nothing. Implementing it this way will allow them to still revoke those bonuses for customers who do not use their accounts regularly, while still making regular users happier.

The Problem with Crowdfunding: Project Phoenix Delayed Until 2018

posted Sunday Dec 13, 2015 by Scott Ertz

A number of years ago, I wrote about the problems with crowdfunding, and over the following 3 years we have seen a lot of crowdfunded projects go down the dark path of failure. Once a project is funded, there is no real guarantee that it will succeed as a business with your money. Even if the company does end up producing the product or service, there is no guarantee that it will be as expected.

This leads us to an announcement on a popular Kickstarter project for the Japanese indie game Project Phoenix. The campaign was run in 2013 and funded with a total of $1,014,600 from 15,800 backers. With that much money, you would expect a AAA-quality game, but this is an indie title with the PROMISE of a AAA title. The game was slated to be released mid-2015, but that date came and went with no game.

The company, Creative Intelligence Arts, announced in September that it was having trouble finding and/or keeping talented game designers and programmers to actually produce the game. That, of course, meant that the game was not close, since it suggested that the game hadn't really been started. So, what is this indie studio with AAA aspirations planning to do?

Announced this week, the game is delayed until AT LEAST 2018. That means that the 15,800 backers who gave their hard-earned money to Creative Intelligence Arts have nothing to show for it except an announcement that the company is in over their heads and have not started developing the product that was supposed to have already launched. Scenarios like this do not inspire confidence in the concept of crowdfunding for legitimate companies, like Double Fine.

This is part of the reason why only qualified investors were legally permitted to get involved in legitimate corporate financing, until recently. Regulations were in place to prevent the general populace from getting fleeced on larger amounts of money than are involved in a general Kickstarter campaign. It is time that the companies that facilitate these campaigns, namely Kickstarter and Indiegogo, start creating scenarios to protect their customers, the backers, from getting fleeced on campaigns like this one or the Kreyos Meteor.

Ford Announces Plan to Invest Heavily in Electric Vehicles

posted Sunday Dec 13, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Ford Announces Plan to Invest Heavily in Electric Vehicles

Although many do not know this, electric vehicles have a very long history. Electric vehicles first hit the scene in the mid-19th century and was actually the preferred method of propulsion for quite a while. The internal combustion engine took over the market in consumer vehicles about 100 years ago, but electric has continued to hold a major stake in other types of vehicles, such as trains.

For consumer vehicles, electric came back into fashion at the end of the 20th century, when Saturn released the EV1. It was never mass-marketed, nor was it mass-produced. It did create mass buzz, though, generating enough interest in the state of California that Ford, Toyota and more got into the market as well. As the companies started producing the vehicles, the state got excited with the technology and created legislation demanding the mass production of these vehicles. The companies responded by stopping all production and revoking the leases in the wild.

The companies were able to crush the vehicles, but they couldn't crush the market interest in them. Eventually, these same companies began releasing hybrids, which began to ease the vehicles into the market. Over time they began releasing electric vehicles again, and new companies like Tesla got into the market, pushing the technology quicker.

This week, Ford has announced that they will dedicate $4.5 billion into electric vehicles over the coming 5 years. The company will use the investment to enhance their existing electric vehicles, as well as adding 13 new EVs to the lineup. Their first enhancement will be changing the charging process in the Focus Electric, allowing it to rapid charge to 80% in 30 minutes. That 80% will give drivers about 100 miles of drive time, easing some of the fears GM, Ford and Toyota tried to instill into the public during the last round.

Are you excited about Ford making 40% of their vehicles electric over the next 5 years? Let us know in the comments.

Dave Chappelle Teams with Yondr to Ban Smartphones at His Shows

posted Sunday Dec 6, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Comedian Dave Chappelle has always been known for doing things just a bit differently. The comic turned down a multi-million dollar gig with Comedy Central and retreated to Africa during his prime. Recently, he has returned to his joke-telling ways. However, with the advent of social media and pocket-sized digital cameras, Chappelle is working on trying to make sure his sets don't end up on the Internet.

For a few years now, Chappelle has banned the use of cell phones at his performances all over the country. If a comic goer is caught with one out, they were usually escorted out of the building. But now he is taking things a step further. For his 13 shows in Chicago that are sold out, the comedian has partnered with tech startup Yondr.

Yondr makes small pouches that lock when the pouch is inside a designated "no phone zone." When you leave the zone, the pouch unlocks, allowing access to your device again. For the venue who uses Yondr, customers go through a check-in process and are asked to place their smartphone into one of the pouches.

The idea of having phones and other handheld devices removed from a concert or performance is certainly something I would like to see. We were recently fortunate enough to attend a private concert with Maroon 5, and there were hundreds of people with their hands in the air, holding up iPhones and tablets, capturing the show. These people were spatially unaware to their surroundings and were watching the event through the device rather than looking 15 feet in front of them at the performers. Things like that have always been a pet peeve of mine.

And while I'd like to see a world where that didn't have to exist, the ability to access one's phone in an emergency situation is something that is crucial, and by law is non-negotiable in some states. Yondr may not be the perfect answer, but it certainly has tried to address the question. You can still sneak a second phone in, or put a burner phone in a pouch.

What do you think? Is Yondr going too far? Should performers simply ban devices and refuse to perform if they are out? Sound off in the comments below.

Facebook Tweaks News Feed Algorithm to Display More Relevant Content

posted Sunday Dec 6, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Facebook Tweaks News Feed Algorithm to Display More Relevant Content

Facebook's News Feed constantly undergoes changes and updates in order for the company to try and stay ahead of the curve and deliver relevant information to its users. Whether you like the new News Feed or not doesn't seem to matter, as Facebook continues to give the feed a makeover every couple of quarters. However it goes just beyond cosmetics, with the social networking giant also tweaking the algorithms that drive the content that is chosen to be displayed.

In this alteration of what you'll see, Facebook is trying to make it simpler for its users to ignore nonsensical "news" topics and unnecessarily viral posts. Over the past few months, they have polled tens of thousands of users per day in what they are calling "story surveys." Those surveys would pit two posts next to each other, and would ask the user which they would like to see more.

Facebook says that these surveys are greatly improving the user experience.

With this update, if a significant amount of people tell us they would prefer to see other posts more than that particular viral post, we'll take that into account when ranking, so that viral post might show up lower in people's feeds in the future, since it might not actually be interesting to people.

A big problem with Facebook's users is their sometimes blind sharing of hoaxes. Facebook says that the newly-configured News Feed should help keep those posts from being shown. Combined with the new algorithm and surveys, the company introduced a feature earlier this year that allows users to mark a post as false. These three tools together should prevent me from seeing that Derek Jeter has died for the fifth time this week.

Of course, another solution would be to choose which of your friends' posts you'd want to see in the first place, or even deciding which friends might need to be unfriended. There's also the ability to hide those annoying posts, but that requires a bit of effort: 3 clicks of a mouse.

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