The UpStream

Amazon can be sued for products it neither makes or directly sells

posted Saturday Jul 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Amazon can be sued for products it neither makes or directly sells

Since Amazon got started its business model has changed significantly. Originally, the company sold only books, and only through its own distribution channel. As the company grew, it expanded its offerings, selling products other than books, and eventually opening the platform up to third-party sellers. That change took Amazon from being a traditional retailer and made it more like a flea market, where they provide the space and others use the space to sell their own products.

That virtual store concept has allowed the retailer to grow its product assortment while not having to grow its distribution network. It has also kept the company separated from potential lawsuits, especially in sales that are between a third party seller and a customer. That is until a recent court ruling in the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which stated that Amazon can be held liable for sales in which the company only acts as a payment processor.

The case revolves around an incident in which a customer, Heather Oberdorf, purchased a retractable leash through the Amazon Marketplace from seller Furry Gang. Furry Gang shipped the product directly from their facility in Nevada to the customer. The leash broke, and the cord struck the owner in the eye, blinding her. She sued Amazon in 2016 for the defective product after she was unable to locate any representative of the seller. Amazon was also unable to contact Furry Gang since they stopped selling on the Marketplace in 2016.

The ruling is a reversal of several lower court rulings, all of which have said that Amazon has no legal liability for products and sales that they are not involved with. The ruling was mostly based around the idea that Amazon's Marketplace allows the sellers to separate themselves behind a level of anonymity. This separation leaves customers with little or no recourse in the event of a defect. This reversal could potentially open other sites, like eBay or Craigslist, up to liability for sales that they broker. This will likely cause sites like Amazon to require sellers to identify themselves, either as individuals or corporations, giving customers direct recourse.

Refunds to be issued after Shenmue 3 signs exclusivity deal with Epic

posted Saturday Jul 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

It's not unusual for the details of a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to change between the funding and fulfillment phases. In most cases, the changes are minor, not affecting the usability or deliverability of the product. In the case of Shenmue 3, the change is enough to require refunds to backers.

During the funding phase of the campaign, the company promised that backers would receive a Steam key on the day of the game's launch. That promise was logical at the time, as Steam was really the only game in town. In the three years since the campaign ran, things have changed. Epic Games and Discord have both launched their own game stores, with Epic taking the approach of signing exclusivities.

Unfortunately for backers of the Shenmue 3, developers YSNET and publisher Deep Silver made a deal with Epic for a year of exclusivity on the Epic Games Store. This means that it is not possible for them to accurately fulfill their obligation, as there will be no Steam access to the game at launch. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney claims that the fault lies with Valve, who will not allow them to generate Steam download keys a year before the game will be available for purchase, though this is an insane claim. The fault lies with the publisher who has chosen to change the promised distribution method at the last moment. Plus, giving backers a key that they cannot use for at least a year would not have been a better situation than not fulfilling the obligation at all.

Because of this exclusivity deal, backers who are not interested in participating in the Epic Games Store ecosystem can request a refund from the company. The refunds will be paid out by Epic Games, as part of the deal. If backers are still interested in receiving their fulfillment via Steam, the keys will be sent out one year after Epic Games Store launch, but you must specifically request this option.

Australia claims Samsung misled consumers about water resistance

posted Saturday Jul 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Australia claims Samsung misled consumers about water resistance

Starting with the release of the Galaxy S7 in 2016, Samsung has produced all of its flagship phones with an IP68 water-resistance rating. This rating means that the device can survive for 30 minutes or less underwater at depths no more than 1.5 meters. As part of this addition, the company has featured the capability in its advertising, both online and on television. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) claims that the advertising has misled consumers on the reality of the phone's water response. According to ACCC Chair Rod Sims,

The ACCC alleges Samsung's advertisements falsely and misleadingly represented Galaxy phones would be suitable for use in, or for exposure to, all types of water, including in ocean water and swimming pools, and would not be affected by such exposure to water for the life of the phone, when this was not the case.

According to the claim, in many of the advertisements, Samsung featured people using their phones at the beach and in swimming pools, suggesting that the phone would be safe in these environments. Unfortunately, IP68 only applies to freshwater, not saltwater or chlorinated water, such as in pools. The commission claims that Samsung has rejected warranty claims because of water damage, and notes on its website that the phone is only rated for freshwater.

Samsung recognizes the complaint and plans to fight it in court. According to a statement,

Samsung stands by its marketing and advertising of the water resistancy of its smartphones. We are also confident that we provide customers with free-of-charge remedies in a manner consistent with Samsung's obligations under its manufacturer warranty and the Australian Consumer Law. Customer satisfaction is a top priority for Samsung and we are committed to acting in the best interest of our customers.

There is no timeline for the case, but it would appear that Samsung is not going to let the accusation stand. The company has had enough negative publicity in the past year, especially with the Galaxy Fold failures, and cannot afford additional controversy.

In a change of direction, cable network saves a canceled Netflix show

posted Friday Jun 28, 2019 by Scott Ertz

With the rise of streaming video services has come a new way for traditional TV shows to get a second chance at life. Some shows have seen massive popularity through Netflix and Hulu long after their cancelation. The Office is the best example of this, continually representing the top show on Netflix. Others have been resurrected after a network has canceled the series. The Mindy Project was saved from oblivion by Hulu, while Arrested Development was revived by Netflix.

This week, the script was flipped, as Netflix original series One Day at a Time was saved by cable network Pop TV after being canceled by Netflix. This represents a first for the industry, as a series has never been canceled by a streaming service and picked up by a traditional appointment television channel. While at first, this appears to show the resilience of cable television, the reality might be a little different. Pop TV is owned by CBS, who has their own struggling streaming service. By picking up a popular former streaming exclusive series and potentially making it available only on CBS All Access after airing, they could be looking to bolster the subscriber count for their service.

For now, this is all conjecture, however. Neither CBS or Netflix has said what the fate of the original 3 Netflix seasons will be, or the future of season 4. It is possible that the two companies have an agreement to allow the original seasons, and potentially the new seasons as well, to stream on Netflix. The two do have an existing cooperative agreement, with Star Trek Discovery being available on Netflix outside of the United States. However, this would be the ideal scenario for CBS to try to lure some One Day at a Time loyal Netflix subscribers over to the CBS All Access dark side.

US officials want to pass a law outlawing unbreakable encryption

posted Friday Jun 28, 2019 by Scott Ertz

US officials want to pass a law outlawing unbreakable encryption

Over the past few years, one of the most important advancements in computing has been the availability of high-quality encryption. As online companies, governments, and hackers continue to expand their attacks on personal computing devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones, the need to protect your data has never been more important. While companies like Microsoft offer more and more options to protect your data, including BitLocker in Windows 10 and OneDrive Personal Vault in the cloud, the perceived threat to governments gets stronger.

Over the past few years, we have seen countries like Australia try to outlaw strong encryption under the guise of national security. This week, a report from Politico suggests that the current US administration is considering asking Congress to pass legislation to require all encryption be breakable.

Of course, this makes the practice of encryption useless if it is able to be bypassed. Any time there is a backdoor into a security system, the backdoor leaks and the security system is breached. The fear or frustration over encryption, in terms of governmental involvement, has been heightened since the attack in San Bernardino in 2017. Law enforcement had an iPhone that they believed had useful information on it, but an officer had screwed up, permanently locking the device. They asked Apple to bypass the security, but Apple refused, citing device security. They made the same claim, that once a hack was built, it would leak.

In response to Apple's refusal to create a special version of iOS that would bypass the security on this device alone, the Department of Justice began petitioning for "responsible encryption," which is a term which means that the only responsibility the encryption platform has is to the government, not to their customer. The extension of this misleading and incredibly dangerous idea is where we pick up the thread this week. If the administration, in particular, the DOJ and FBI, get their way, then encryption would no longer hold the value that it was designed to hold. All encrypted data would be required to have a backdoor that would be guaranteed to leak, exposing all of your personal data to hackers. On the other side of the argument has been the Commerce and State Departments, which have always fought on behalf of the consumer.

Unfortunately, this information comes from leaks of a black box meeting, whose content was not intended for public consumption. That means that until someone pitches the idea formally, this is all just rumor. Hopefully, it will remain that way.

Switch Online could offer N64 and GameCube games, says president

posted Friday Jun 28, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Switch Online could offer N64 and GameCube games, says president

When Nintendo released Switch Online, the company's online gaming service, one of the big draws was its included games. The company announced that, like Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus, Switch Online would come with games every month. Playing into the brand's long gaming history, the included games were announced to be Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games, titles from the company's original home console.

With the release of the SNES Classic console, it was expected that Switch Online would eventually begin offering games from later consoles - especially the SNES. Those expectations were confirmed this week, as Shuntaro Furukawa, president of Nintendo, said in response to a question about future retro hardware to go with the NES Classic and SNES Classic,

At this place we cannot tell new information about future classic hardware among others, but we are thinking about providing an extension of the online service which is currently providing Famicom (NES) software, as well as other methods of providing them.

This would be a popular move for Nintendo. While the original NES games are popular, expanding the catalog to include SNES, N64, and GameCube games would help appeal to a wider range of gamers. For some of us, we grew up on NES games, and are happy to revisit them on the go. For others, however, their introduction to gaming happened on later consoles. Bringing games from those consoles to Switch Online would allow younger gamers to experience the nostalgia that my generation has already had the opportunity for.

This is not the first time we have had evidence of slightly newer games coming to Switch Online. In January, a report suggested that 22 SNES titles were found within the service's listings, but were not currently available to the public. This leak would suggest that Nintendo has been planning this move for a while, and could even be close to releasing some SNES titles to the console.

Would SNES titles bring extra value to Switch Online for you? Let us know in the comments.

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