Article 13

March 30, 2019 Leave a comment

This week the controversial EU Copyright Directive Article 13 (or article 17 as it is now known) final text has been agreed, the next step is for the agreement to be endorsed by the Council of Ministers. This is likely to happen and once it has member states will then have 2 years to incorporate it into their own national laws.

Considering I am an avid internet user and consumer of content from the services that are likely to be impacted such as YouTube and Twitch I was surprised that before March 26th i had never heard of this. Having now heard about it, seen creators I enjoy tweeting about it on @Twitter and had headlines popping up on my news feeds I figured I should do some deeper digging.

The first thing that struck me as I waded through the sea of “information” on blogs, newspaper sites, technology sites and twitter posts, was how little “information” their actually was. There was huge amounts of opinion pieces mostly presented as fact, but once you scratched the surface it was clear that what was being said was at best a personal interpretation of the proposal, this was obviously frustrating as I wanted to get a genuine understanding of its impact beyond the usual clickbait head lines.

I eventually moved from frustration to mild concern, as a majority of the “information” even when presented from what you would assume were reputable sources then linked back to opinion pieces as source material, which in turn linked back to the reputable sources, I assume to increase the credibility of their own story and on and on the circle went. This in itself is a modern day news story problem and one I will most likely cover on a later blog, but I thought it important to mention as it potentially explains why people have the opinion of the proposal that they do.

Another concern is the fact that I don’t believe I found a single article that actually included the Article in question, there where many “summaries” like the below, but what this does not do is provide context and without that suggests something which at least in my opinion, is not the case.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-47239600

To be fair to many of the articles, finding the most up to date version of Article 13 does seem to be difficult, even a post by MEP Julia Reda sporting a “Final Text” image and talking to the “Final Text” fails to actually include said text but instead provides her opinion. It does include a link to the“Unofficial consolidated version: trilogue outcome Article 13 + related definition” but call me cynical I am not sure I would take this as gospel. The unofficial could simply mean it is not the official release from the EU itself, equally it could mean its someones interpretation of the latest amendments to the directive.

Before I continue, after my complaints above about opinion pieces I think it is important that I both state and clarify something. I don’t have an issue with opinion pieces, I think they can be useful and at very least interesting if not informative. I do however have issues with opinion pieces presenting themselves as fact hence I want to state that this entire piece is my opinion and interpretation, that does not mean it contains no facts but it is in itself not factual by virtue of containing them. I am not a lawyer, legally trained or have any special qualifications or knowledge of this matter that makes my opinion worth more or less than anyway one else.

Moving on, what does Article 13 (17) do? what is the impact? why are people so angry about it?

As I mentioned above its kinda hard to explain factually what it does based on the difficulty in being able to review the current version. To that end, based on what I have been able to find the above BBC is broadly correct, but as I mention it fails to provide context and I think that is important.

Whats the impact? Tough to say, there is an argument that it could lead to sites utilizing things like Youtube’s “Content ID” or producing more aggressive upload filters.

Why are people so angry? mostly due to their belief that due to these upload filters it will “censor” the internet.

Are they right? I don’t believe so.

The major change here (In my understanding) is who is liable. Right now if I managed to upload the entirety of Star Wars to YouTube with the current set up, Disney would come after me and due to the T&C’s of YouTube, they would be in no way liable. Were this situation to happen post Article 13, Disney would go after Youtube, who I am sure in turn would come after me. That’s it.

As far as I can tell if something wasn’t copyright-protected material before, its still not now. If you didn’t require a licence or permission from a 3rd party to post your content, then neither will Youtube etc. Unless there is a part of the Article that we haven’t seen yet it doesn’t in any way effect what is or is not Copyright protected material.

Another concern has been the belief that this new bill will in some way threaten “Fair Use” the thought being that in order to ensure that all legitimate copyright-protected material is prevented from being added to their platform, platform holders would have to impose more aggressive filters, therefore preventing acceptable works such as parody, critique or trans-formative works being uploaded.

First its important to note that “Fair Use” relates specifically to the US. Other countries have various exceptions to their copyright laws, in the UK for example this is “Fair Dealing” but they are not quite the same thing. As with “Freedom of Speech” people often apply the US version to situations where it may not be correct. Second as with my previous comment, if it wasn’t copyright infringement before it isn’t now, so any “Fair Use” “Fair Dealing” or other copyright exceptions would still be applicable under the laws of the relevant country. Thirdly (I believe) the actual copyright laws would still be set by the EU member states themselves, it would just have to incorporate the above changes in liability. Last of all as far as I can tell there is no requirement for any site to implement upload filters, this may be the way that a company chooses to monitor content uploaded to their site but to be clear if this was the case the people to be angry at would be said website for their implementation rather than the law itself. You don’t

Youtube already has its Content ID program in place, it seems to me that technically Youtube doesn’t need to make any change what so ever and therefore there should be no change in how youtube works. When discussing this with a few people and pointing this out, one of the common responses has been the negative feeling towards Youtube’s Content ID program citing how often it makes mistakes and how often false claims are made, all valid complaints but equally nothing to do with Article 13.

The European Commission responded to the various headlines with a blog titled “The Copyright Directive: how the mob was told to save the dragon and slay the knight”, which has since been removed for not being appropriate. My personal opinion is that there was nothing wrong with it, when the headlines are talking about how the “EU just Destroyed the Internet” I don’t feel there is any reason that their response should not be allowed to be equally hyperbolic.

Could all lead to some dystopian future where the internet is censored, where free speech and creativity are dead, I mean I guess. If you put enough stepping stones in place and make enough leaps you could get there but could this Article itself lead to that, unless there is some fundamental part I am missing I just can’t see how.

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A new challenger approaches

March 25, 2019 Leave a comment
Image result for new challenger approaches

Over the last week we have now had two new Gaming “Platforms” announced. Importantly both these platforms are from new players to the Gaming market and ones that have the vision, creativity and most importantly money to challenge the status quo.

That being said I don’t think that they will.

I guess first I should touch on what the two new challengers are, i’m not going to go into huge details you can watch the press conference or read an actual games journalists article to get full understanding but in short.

Google Stadia

Google’s entry into the gaming market “proper” is a cloud based streaming service offering you (internet dependent), console quality gaming on any device. Think Netflix for games.

Apple Arcade

This shuns the Cloud based streaming and instead its service allowing you to install and download games from the App store for a monthly cost. Think Gamepass for IOS.

Right short and sweet descriptions out of the way I guess I should justify my thoughts on why I don’t believe that the console or gaming PC manufactures are scrambling to find an answer to these new challengers.

To start with I should clarify, I am not saying that these products will not in their own rights be successful, there is a market for both of these products, they have both approached their offering correctly by not producing expensive and often loss leading hardware and jumping feet first into the subscription model that is now the expectation of all other media.

But….

As companies that pride themselves on customer focus, neither of them seemed to have used the customer as their starting point. If I didn’t know better, I would think that the approach was simply a case of them not wanting to miss out on the sizable pie that is the gaming industry, but despite some of the biggest games bypassing their stores they are both making 30% on a vast majority of the mobile gaming sector.

Now you may ask why that’s my take, after all if most other media is now consumed via services such as Netflix and Spotify surely it makes sense that games must want the same thing for their games? I would say that yes they probably do, and the success of the likes of PS+, Games with Gold and most recently Gamepass have been great indicators of this.

Microsoft's first-party AAA new releases could be a big draw for Game Pass

In the case of both Apple Arcade and Google’s Stadia however I don’t really know who their target market is.

Lets start with the Stadia. Cloud gaming services them selves are not new. G-cluster fist demoed almost two decades ago and various other services like Gaikai (now PSNow), Onlive, Geforce Now and many others have come and gone in the last decade or so. Historically the reason for them not taking off or outright failing has been blamed on the technology of the time. Even now the biggest criticism of Stadia has been its internet requirements, which to be fair outside of the US are really not that challenging, but I don’t think that is the reason.

The real question is who is this for? The PC gamer who is hardcore enough to know what games they are missing out on, but not hardcore enough to own an up to date rig? The casual PC gamer who has 2/3 games that they play on their STEAM/Origin library, has a low to average PC but still has 1000’s of great games on STEAM they could play but don’t? The PC gamer who really wants to continue their save on their mobile, who has never heard of SteamLink

Moving onto the Apple Arcade I have the same question. One of the articles that I read about the service was taking the stance that this could be a way to “save” mobile gaming. Suggesting that the current trend for F2P titles was a negative thing for mobile and that these games were not “Fun, engaging experience” and suggesting that this shift in the industry was developer or publisher led, a common misconception. Those games, those mechanics, those monitision models exist because a majority of mobile customers want them, without any demand their would not be a supply.

So going back to my previous question who is this for? The hardcore gamer, who already snubs his nose at mobile gaming? The casual gamer who logs onto their game in 15 minute chunks? The Hyper casual who wants super simple “tap to play” mechanics?

Add to all of the above the fact that it is more than likely Microsoft will announce details at E3 this year, and you would like to think that SONY have some kind of expansion to PSNow to combat that.

Image result for project xcloud

Now I could be wrong, after all when it comes to these things technology is irrelevant, something I imagine that both these companies would struggle to understand.

Content is king so unless they find their God of War, Spiderman, Halo, Forza, Mario or MarioKart I cant see either of these projects impact the current gaming landscape.

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How to become an MEP

March 22, 2019 Leave a comment

At the point I started writing this, a longer term extension to Brexit was still looking like a possibility, this is currently does not look to be the case . However I had already written most of the below and didn’t want to waste the content so here it is anyway.

I was going to start with the “How to become an MP” version of this, but with the ongoing shitshow that is Brexit continuing and there being at very least a possibility that the deadline will be extended resulting in the need for the UK to partake in the EU Parliamentary Elections I thought this one might be more immediate. As I was writing it kinda morphed more into a info dump/rant about European Elections but if you want to become an MEP stick with it, there is some information on this at the end.

Now before we get started for those new to the situation, I just want to point out one huge piece of information that may surprise you. The EU are in fact not “unelected bureaucrats” as the likes of Nigel Farage would have you believe. Which he should really know, as for reasons I cannot fathom he has himself been elected to serve in the European Parliament 4 times.

When you look at the figures It’s not all that surprising that people believe this lie , the UK turnout for MEP elections has been below the EU average for the entirety of my lifetime.

That’s not great, it makes you at least kind of understand why people perhaps feel out of touch, like they haven’t got a say in the EU, I mean maybe they just didn’t realise they could have one. I’ll be honest I’m pretty good at voting, mostly because the Wife reminds me, but I couldn’t 100% tell you I voted in the last MEP elections and I definitely couldn’t tell you who I voted for.

To put it into perspective, more than double the most recent turnout voted in the 2016 Brexit referendum. That’s right, twice as many people cared about Leaving or Remaining in the EU, than cared about influencing it.

When you drill into these numbers it makes you ask some interesting questions, where have all the “remainers” been during MEP elections? Based on the representation, not voting, and based on that same representation how do “Leavers” think that the EUP is unelected considering it seems they have been the only ones voting.

The UK is “possibly” the most Eurosceptic of all the EU countries which is reflected by the fact that 60.3 per cent of its MEPs belonging to either the ECR ( European Conservatives and Reformists Group ) or EFDD (Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy). Ironically the 2nd of these is the group that Nigel Farage is a member of, despite opposing a 2nd referendum. Direct Democracy doesn’t mean what you think it means Nigel!

By comparison the second place is Poland, with 39.3 per cent. A full 10 countries have no MEPs in either party.

The disdain held for the very establishment within which they serve might explain why they don’t bother to show up, although it doesn’t really explain why they ran in the first place.

It does however explain why 3 of the 10 worst attending MEP’s are from the UK.

So now armed with with all this information what do you need to do to become an MEP and why would you want to.

Well lets start with the how. This bit is pretty easy. Full details can be found here but the cliff notes are below

You must be 18

Be a British or Irish citizen; an eligible Commonwealth citizen; or a citizen of any other member state of the European Union resident in the UK or Gibraltar

I mean that is kinda it, there are some disqualifications of course, but the above is a good starting point. Assuming you want to apply as an Independent Candidate the next step is a Nomination form and a £5k deposit. Done you are now in the mix.

On to the 2nd point. Why? Well lets be blunt and start with the practicals. A salary of €8757.70 a month before tax, a further €4,513 a month for expenses, various travel expenses and a 3.5% pension. Add to all off this the fact that there is nothing to stop you gaining an additional Job and using you new found status to help you secure it.

Moving on from the practicals lets look at the other reasons. The hypocrisy of those so adamant that we should leave the EU being so willing to take the aforementioned practicals is staggering. If you needed no other reason, just getting these guys booted out and off the “gravy train” that they are so keen to criticise.

Outside of that, do it because you think you can make a difference, in fact start there!

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Why Now?

March 20, 2019 Leave a comment

After a 3 year break since my last post, and a two year one since my last attempted relaunch you might be asking yourself “why James? Why come back to blogging now?”

In that since its strong 2012 run, fractured 2013 run and 2014,2015 & 2016 reboots this site has stayed dormant, whats the reason to revisit and try once again to revitalise it now?

I don’t belong to a writers group, attend a course or outside of steady encouragement from my wife have any other guiding force to pull me away from the shiny lights of procrastination and back towards writing BUT one motivating factor when it comes to writing has always been Anthony.

Ever since we where in English class together we would encourage each other to write, read and critique each others works and discuss in great details the contents of our favourite books. I don’t imagine its any coincidence that my last attempt was just before he self published his first book on Amazon.  Equally I am certain it is his recent foray into a new Blog  that has inspired me to start writing my own again.

That being said I don’t think its the only reason.

Despite my outward appearances I am often a pretty angry, opinionated and passionate person. It takes a lot to get my riled up, but in the modern world, especially over the last 2/3 years there is a shit tonne of stuff to be angry about. I have found myself engaging with twitter in a way that I didn’t really do before arguing with people from all over the world and all walks of life about all sorts of things big and small, but in the heat of the moment and with only 280 characters your point can often be lost or at least not made in the cohesive way that you could do with more preparation.

Prior to restarting to post I figured I would work my way through my previous posts and the topics that were covered, whilst not really all that political my posts were often “ranty” and it would seem they gave me a place to give some of those thoughts a little more breathing space.

So I figured having an outlet, one that wasn’t necessarily directed at a specific comment or individual would give me a better platform to get across the point I wanted to make.

I’ll warn you in advance this does mean that its likely that there might be some weighty and politically charged posts incoming at the same time I am sure there will plenty of TV, Games and other random geeky stuff that will get posted as well.

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Well its another one of those starting over posts…..Again…

March 17, 2019 2 comments

It is in fact its not only one of those “starting over” posts its a continuation of the draft of the post that I wrote back in May 2018. At that point (as you can see from the below) it was 856 days since my previous post, its now 1154 days, or about 38 months or just over 3 years.

So almost a whole year since the last attempt at a reboot whats changed?

Not a huge amount, at the time of writing that post as you can see there had been some pretty huge life changes, since then lots of things have happened both personally and in the world but I think they would be hard pressed to compete with those events mentioned back in May 2018.

I have continued at my new job and am now deep behind the curtain, learning and being involved in things that retail me just couldn’t have ever imagined. I have even had my name included in the credits of a number of releases, something that still kinda blows my mind.

I’ve now visited Japan 4 times and on at least one occasion I got to actually see some of it (i’ll write about that later) and take Wife along and experience Japan with her!

I finally (after I don’t remember how many years in the “Industry”) got to attend E3 and even had the opportunity to spend a few days sightseeing in LA.

I’m still watching broadly the same shows or waiting with baited breath for the latest iteration of Season/Franchise to start in the very near future.

Trump is still president, Brexit is an even bigger shit show than it was back then, yesterday (at time of writing) New Zealand had a terrible Terror Attack and unlike the US responded with something other than “Thoughts and Prayers,” immediately banning Semi Automatic Guns. And Russia still continues to slowly and not so quietly try and take over the world.

So as I said back then

with all that I must have a shit tonne of stuff to write about?

Right?

MAY 2018

So….. its been a while

In fact 856 days, that is 28.14 months or 2.3 years since my last post.

Well at least it was at the point I wrote this.

I’m trying to give myself a bit of a head start and get some content under my belt before I publish so by the time you read this it will at least be a few more days, maybe a lot more days/weeks/months/years.

A hell of a lot has changed since then.

Looking back through my post it seems that somehow I forgot to mention the birth of my second son, that’s a bit awkward so I might need to go back and edit some posts but for now highlighting it here should do the trick.

We suddenly lost my 34 year old Sister in Law in a passing that has shocked and dismayed the whole family.

I have changed jobs. After 15 years at the same company, i finally moved on to pastures new and am now working for a Publisher rather than a retailer. Getting to peek behind the curtain and its fascinating.

I have Visited Japan, a country that I have desperately wanted to go to ever since I first read Shogun and declared it one of the greatest books of all time. Although I did experience very little Japanese culture.

I have experienced some truly awesome entertainment in the shape of Avengers:Infinity War, WestWorld, Black Panther, Ready Player One (the Book, the film was good but it wasn’t a patch) , Making a Murderer (You know you were obsessed with it at the time!), Stranger Things, more Game of Thrones, finally watching Black Mirror, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Good Place, The Handmaids Tale, Lucifer and more that I cant think off right now.

Trump became president, Brexit happened, the Parkland Shooting threatened to finally tackle the US Gun problem and Russia is not so quietly trying to take over the world!

with all that I must have a shit tonne of stuff to write about?

Right?

Making the most of my hobby

January 17, 2016 Leave a comment

I didn’t set myself actual News resolutions this year, I have somewhat half heatedly done so in the past generally around writing in same shape or form.

Whilst I haven’t made official ones, there are a few things that I am making some degree of effort to adhere to. Putting something up on here once a week for one, cut down on my drinking, lose a bit of weight and as evidenced by last weeks post try and save a bit of money on shopping and meals.

The other thing I want to ensure I do this year is more recreational, as you may remember from some post way way back, I play and collect Magic the Gathering cards, well at this point mostly I collect them as I haven’t really taken a lot of time to do the playing part.

As I have spent a small (large) fortune on this hobby (for the 2nd time in my life) it would make sense for me to actually get out there and use the cards that I have invested in.

I got back into Magic just before Joe was born, a friend had retaken up the hobby and his enthusiasm convinced me and I now have an entire cupboard that is mostly full of “Cardboard Crack.”Not long after this I attended my first FNM (Friday Night Magic) at my LGS (Local Game Shop) and for a majority of the next 6/8 months attended most weeks. Since Joe’s birth and the following pregnancy and birth of Daniel I haven’t managed to attend a single FNM so I am planning on changing that this year.

Last year I also attended my first “big” event, the GP (Grand Prix) in London at the Excel. It was awesome, 2 whole days of competitive magic with 2149 other people from all over the world. Despite my total newbness I even won a couple of games and finished 1454th.

This weekend was the Oath of the Gatewatch pre-release, despite putting together what I thought was a pretty sweet Black/Red/Blue deck with plenty of evasion and removal I went 1-3, but I got some nice cards and learnt a lot from some of the mistakes I made.

Alongside getting back to FNM’s this year I am planning on attending at least one GP, as many pre-releases and Gamedays as I can.

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Saving on Food

January 10, 2016 1 comment

As is usual at this time of year I have been feeling the pinch financially, as is also usual at this time of year I have decided to try and lose a bit of weight and get myself a little bit more healthy.

These are two things that don’t really go all that well together, traditionally the belief is that eating healthy means splashing out on special foods etc and Gym memberships are not exactly cheap, not to mention the fact that chances are by February it will be a long forgotten goal.

One of my guilty pleasures over the last few months has been watching the BBC 1 show ‘Eat well for Less’. If you can get passed the cheesy presenters its actually a worth while watch and will get you thinking about what you spend on food.

The premise is simple, the tow presenters watch a family do their shopping, total it up and get a rough idea of their usual shopping spend. From there their goal is to save the family as much money as possible, this is achieved mainly through two things, changing branded products for much cheaper alternatives and getting rid of convenience food and getting people to make things form scratch.

The family will have all their products taken out of any branding and then spend a week eating those, at the end they find out what was changed, what was the same and how much they saved.

The average household spends £83.60 a week on food and drink, which in itself sounds like a lot, but having taken a look at what I was actually spending it was a lot more than that!

Since watching this it has massively changed how I do my shopping and I have been able to make noticeable savings on my shopping. I recommend watching it even just the once, I am pretty sure that the next time you do some shopping you will be saving yourself some serious ££.

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