Tag: BSkyB

Pirate Party UK: content industry wants a "music NSA"

The Pirate Party UK’s leader, Loz Kaye, has hit back at the British content industry pressuring top ISPs to introduce a database of suspected pirates for copyright breaches.

Speaking with TechEye, Kaye said the industry “seems intent on turning ISPs into the music NSA”.

Over the weekend, the Guardian revealed how BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB and Talk Talk are all being told to adhere to build a database of customers who illegally download content – with the purpose of proescuting persistent offenders at a later date.

The oft criticised Digital Economy Act – drafted to make fighting piracy easier for the content industry – was voted into law in 2010, but delays have meant it may not become active policy until after the 2015 general election. This has frustrated Britain’s content industry, represented by the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), which wants action soon.

It is expected that a database would be used to send letters to repeat offenders – at first. But it could later be used to target broadband customers by blocking them from using particular sites, temporarily disconnecting them, throttling web connections, or prosecution.

Prime minister David Cameron will sit down with the BPI, the industry group believed to be the driving force behind the measures, in mid-September. Piracy is expected to be a key area of discussion.

ISPs appear resistant to such blanket measures at the moment – with a Virgin Media spokesperson telling the Guardian that the current proposals are “unworkable”, while TalkTalk said customers’ rights “always come first” and would “never agree to anything that could compromise them”.

They would likely be met with criticism from the public in light of recent privacy awareness campaigns from activists. A voluntary code would also leave room for smaller ISPs to capitalise – as Andrew & Arnolds did after David Cameron announced his now infamous pornography filter.

The Pirate Party UK’s Loz Kaye suggested the proposals are in line with David Cameron’s current policy approach to internet censorship and urged the Coalition government for “clarity”.

“The content industry seems intent on turning Internet Service Providers in to the music NSA,” Kaye said. “Having failed with the democratic and legal route as the Digital Economy Act is a lame duck, they now want to skip that and get ISPs to do the policing on their own. “This will be an unwarranted intrusion, with no clear positive outcome.

“The BPI apparently wants to take advantage of Cameron’s current wish to blame the internet for everything,” Kaye said. “The government’s digital policy making is in chaos. We need clarity from the coalition – do they back site blocking or not?”

“Do they back throwing entire households off the Internet or not? Until there are some answers, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats can have no credibility on digital policy,” Kaye said.

Murdoch forces worldwide Microsoft Skydrive rebranding

Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB has successfully legalled Microsoft into dropping the name of its cloud service, SkyDrive, over a trademark dispute.

BSkyB runs ‘the Cloud’, a free wi-fi network with hotspots all over the UK. During the case, Sky complained members of the public could find the branding of ‘SkyDrive’ – the cloud storage product – with the British ‘Sky’ brand. Some respondents said “Anything with Sky in seems to remind me of Rupert Murdoch and I don’t like him”, while another said “It’s just SkyDrive so I would assume it is something to do with Sky the company”.

Ultimately BSkyB laid out the more convincing case and Microsoft was ruled against. Sky was only looking to prevent SkyDrive from using that name in Europe, but Microsoft, instead of appealing, has decided it will rebrand the service globally.

In a statement, Microsoft said through its teeth: “We’re glad to have resolution of this naming dispute and will continue to deliver the great service our hundreds of millions of customers expect, providing the best way to always have your files with you”.

BSkyB said it was pleased Microsoft agreed not to appeal the trademark infringement judgment.

Several years ago, BSkyB ordered a VoIP company, Cloudnet Telecommunications, to change its name. BSkyB was furious because Cloudnet was getting better placement on search engines, like Google, and accused the company of trying to pass itself off as the hotspot supplier. It was forced to change its name from Cloudnet to Birchills Telecom.

In another case, the Independent reports, BSkyB took a US company to court over the ‘Sky’ pen – now known to us as Livescribe.

Murdoch’s Revenge?
TechEye hears Sun Microsystems once tried to sue the Sun for similar reasons.

Businesses use Advertising Standards to grass each other up

Technology businesses are grassing up rivals left, right and centre in a bid to gain a competitive edge over each other.

Some companies are trying to discredit competitors by complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

A spokesperson tells TechEye: “We get lots of rival companies complaining about each other.”

“Most companies are happy to be named if they complain and a member of the public will remain anonymous unless they choose otherwise,” said the spokesperson.

We noticed that too, as the comments follow yet another potshot at Virgin Media from its nemesis Sky, which managed to get BT on side too.

The pair approached the ASA with claims that a website and an internet banner ad, for Virgin Media, which appeared in December 2010, was inaccurate. And it also ruffled the ASA, which slapped it with eight counts of wrong doings.

The furore was down to a Virgin Media campaign that had a dig at its rivals, highlighting where they had failed to match their claimed speed promises.

It pushed a website – stopthebroadbandcon.org – which highlighted the speeds of ADSL broadband which it alleged didn’t match those advertised. It compared them unfavourably, it is alleged, with the rates offered by its cable service.

Even Richard Branson took some time out from adventuring to say: “Some internet service providers just aren’t keeping up with their promises.”

To rub salt in the wounds that little bit more, Virgin decided to make claims about other ISPs advertising superfast broadband speeds they can’t deliver. It also said the “up to” 20MB claims averaged at just 6.5Mb.

It said that when it came to its services, it offered twice the speed of others. Virgin had a dig at Sky’s current fairy story adverts, saying other ISPs should advertise real-world speed not the “fairytales and broken promises of current broadband advertising”.

It roped Ofcom in too, saying it “found Virgin Media broadband [was] twice as fast as other providers”.

Of course this ruffled the feathers of its competitors particularly BT and Sky, which complained that the ads were wrong on eight counts. One of the disputes by BT was that Virgin’s claims were misleading because it had not included BT’s Infinity fibre packages.

The ASA agreed and upheld all eight complaints. It said that the advert had pointed the finger at other ISPs with false claims that they treated their customers dishonestly.

Virgin was told to remove the ad and never show it again.

Like BT and Sky, Virgin has also badmouthed rivals to the ASA to stuff up their advertising campaigns. It has locked horns with BT as well as other ISPs by running to Ofcom with survey findings that were favourable to its services, and knocking others. 

Behemoth BSkyB has taken aim at Virgin before. Last year it took offence to a misleading national newspaper and magazine insert.

In September it also took a swing at Virgin over what it thought was an anti-BSkyB ad campaign it decided was misleading and denigratory.

More recent playground scraps have come from the likes of Dixon, which this month went running to teacher to complain about an advert by Comet.

3D broadcasting drought continues

Although every television maker in the world wants to introduce 3D as standard on the boxes, broadcast content is still looking a little thin since the first models arrived at John Lewis and sat on the shelf for a month.

Despite BSkyB launching 3D channels along with hefty marketing campaigns – which saw 3D football matches broadcast in pubs and gushing reports about the technology featuring in associated newspapers – there’s still little in the way of actual 3D broadcast content. 

That’s because there’s not much you can do with 3D telly on a day-to-day basis. We reported this last year, with Meko analysts telling us 3D will never be an everyday thing. It’ll be a couple of hours a week, at most, on the television. We imagine most punters don’t quite fancy watching Pat Butcher’s earrings swing out of the screen into their faces.

More obviously, creating regular 3D content for broadcast is very high-cost. Particularly with live content, say analysts at Ovum. There is a “lack of enthusiasm” for investing in 3D content production, according to Ovum’s The State Of 3D (Strategic Focus) report, and as such the whole situation is unlikely to undergo any swift change.

It will be up to packaged goods such as Blu-Ray, streaming, and above all console gaming to keep 3D afloat. Sony is pushing its 3D technology with the PS3, but then it would, having as it does something of a monopoly with 3D. Sony runs Blu-Ray, it knocks out 3D tellies, sells 3D studio equipment and it has heavy investment in the studios which create the content.

According to Ovum, which collared a shedload of execs to talk about strategic priorities, production of 3D content or the launch of 3D channels is at the very lowest rung of the ladder for investment. Over half said 3D content production was “not an important business consideration,” while broadcasters in Europe or North America didn’t give a hoot either.

Which isn’t great news for the future of 3D broadcasting. Many of the most popular shows here in the UK are imports from the States, and if the broadcasters aren’t able or willing to take advantage of the technology which was hoist upon us, it’s unlikely there will be any significant boost in the near future.

BSkyB, which really wants to flog its 3D services, recently pinned its hopes on a channel launch called Sky Atlantic, promising to air the best from the US. We shouldn’t expect a Sky Atlantic 3D launch any time soon.

As for sports, 3D can work sometimes, but reception has been generally less than enthusiastic.

Even 3D boffins agree that the format is not suited to sports that move at a fast pace. What does that rule out? Well, football, rugby, tennis, basketball for a start. 

Murdoch claims to own the Cloud

Media Mongol Rupert Murdoch has chucked a spanner into the works of all cloud-based computer systems companies by claiming he owns the word “cloud”.

Digger is apparently the first person to use the word to refer to a computer system and has forced a hosted VoIP company, Cloudnet Telecommunications, to change its name.

Cloudnet changed its company name to Birchills Telecom following legal action from BSkyB’s “The Cloud” Wi-Fi hotspot provider.

What apparently got Digger miffed was that its search engine optimisation (SEO) activity was driving it to a higher Google spot than Digger’s The Cloud Networks.

The Cloud promptly began legal action, claiming ownership of the word “Cloud” and was seeking a High Court Injunction at an early date to stop Cloudnet “passing themselves off” as the Wi-Fi hotspot supplier.

David Hill, founder and Chairman of Birchills Telecom, said he was told by The Cloud’s legal team to simply change the name in case The Cloud decided to sell telephone systems.

“We provide business phone systems and cannot be simply mistaken for the Wi-Fi hotspot provider, and were in no way trying to pass ourselves off as them. We have now had to invest in changing our branding, marketing materials, emails and more, while keeping our customers happy and informed of the changes.”

There are hundreds of registered trade names including the word “cloud” in the telecommunications category and no doubt Digger’s lawyers are chasing them too.

While it is unlikely that the Digger had a legal leg to stand on, the costs of defending such an action were beyond the scope of most small companies. Birchills Telecom has not been running that long.

The company’s new website can be found here.

Murdoch wants to buy Wi-Fi provider The Cloud

BSkyB is to buy Wi-Fi provider The Cloud, according to unnamed sources cited by Murdoch rag The Sunday Times.

The news is expected to be announced by BSkyB later this week, reports the UK newspaper.

If successful in its acquisition of The Cloud, BSkyB would instantly be able to launch a major competitor to BT’s Openzone, which has over two million hotspots in the UK. The Cloud’s presence in the UK isn’t quite reaching those numbers but there’s plenty of room for expansion.

For example, The Cloud is the company that has been in discussions with Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, about introducing a London-wide Wi-Fi network in time for the 2012 Olympics.

This is a potential goldmine opportunity which BSkyB could take, providing BT doesn’t make a similar bid to roll out the new London network.

The Cloud was launched in 2003 and has become one of the leading Wi-Fi providers in Europe, with a network of over 22,000 access points, all having a minimum of 8Mb/s DSL, a core network available of 99 percent, and an average download speed of 3.5Mb/s across the lot of it. Couple that with The Cloud’s large userbase and BSKyB has plenty of reasons to consider the takeover.

While the news is not confirmed yet by BSkyB, it’s interesting to note that the parent company of The Sunday Times, News Corp, has a 39.1 percent stake in BSkyB and is attempting to buy the remaining 60.9 percent, providing it receives approval from telecommunications regular Ofcom.

The shared link with News Corp is likely to be how this information was obtained. Financial figures for the rumoured buyout are not yet known.

Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB buy gets green light from EC

News Corp, the media conglomerate owned by Rupert Murdoch, has won approval by the European Commission to take over British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) further expanding Murdoch’s unholy media empire.

The European Commission said that the buyout would not “significantly impede effective competition”. The word “significantly” is pretty er significant here – it amounts to an admission that it will have some effect on competition. Hardly surprising considering the size and reach of News Corp and the dominance of Sky’s broadcasting services in the UK.

Despite the approval, the Commission said that the UK government is free to interfere with the decision to protect “media plurarlity”.

In addition to its stake of BSkyB, News Corp owns The Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times

Ofcom, the UK telecoms and broadcasting regulator, has launched an antitrust probe into News Corp’s expansion. It will make its decision before the end of the month, which could either back the Commission’s approval or reject it entirely.

News Corp already owns just over 39 percent of BSkyB and was offering £7.8 billion ($12.1 billion) to buy out the remaining 61 percent. BSkyB was not so keen, believing it is worth more, but negotiations were frozen until regulatory approval is completed. The Commission’s decision today is one further step in bringing Sky fully into Murdoch’s hands.

Church of England attacks News Corp over BSkyB bid

A fight of truly epic proportions erupted today as the forces of… something or other gather to stop the takeover of the British media from Rupert Murdoch.

The Church of England is the latest in a line of organisations that is making a stand for the sacred values of impartiality and objectivity that are fast ebbing away, while Rupert Murdoch risks the wrath of the Almighty by aiming to unite the country’s media under his rule. 

Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, a media spokesperson for the CoE, denounced the behaviour of News Corp, claiming that a takeover would mean a serious conflict of interests amongst news suppliers in the UK.

“A News Corporation in full control of BSkyB would combine one of the three significant suppliers of TV news (BBC, ITN and BSkyB), one of the two suppliers of radio news (BBC, BSkyB) and the group with the biggest market share of national press in the UK. It would dominate both the television and newspaper landscape,” said McCulloch.

The statement follows an outcry from a number of organisations, with the BBC, British Telecom and newspapers signing a letter to the Business Secretary, arch-angel Cable, in the hope that he may yet smite down the denizens of News Corp before it is too late.

“Many critics of the bid have highlighted the potential dangers to the integrity of Sky News,” added McCulloch. “If BSkyB comes under the full control of News Corporation…the fear is that even though Sky News would still have to abide by requirements for due impartiality, there would always be the potential for the exercise of subtle editorial influence, not least in the process of selecting which news items are to be covered and which left out.”

“In the case, therefore, that the bid is allowed, the public have a right to expect, at the very minimum, an assurance that the independence and editorial integrity of Sky News will be preserved.”

Murdoch continued in his indomitable march to world domination today with the announcement that he will be joining forces with Apple man Steve Jobs to produce an iPad dedicated newspaper, probably called the Daily.

Virgin rushes to beat Sky to 3D broadcasting

Virgin Media has rushed out to beat Sky to the 3D game, offering an on-demand movie streaming service to the, er, tens of people who have a 3D set top box, 3D telly, 3D glasses and Virgin plus.

The first film available is modern classic StreetDance 3D. HD films cost more dosh and 3D even more – about £6 for a 24 hour rental. Lined up for the service are Garfield’s Pet Force 3D, Disney’s A Christmas Carol 3D, Step Up 3D and Despicable Me 3D. The film that kick started it all, Avatar, will probably be going to Sky as Murdoch’s Fox owns the rights.

When we asked Virgin if the move was to beat Sky to a 3D service we were offered a standard “on the record” response – about offering new technology to customers first, blah blah. There was no off the record response so we’ll take that as a yes.

While Virgin may consider it a minor victory to get ahead of the broadcasting pack, the fact is Sky dominates paid-for broadcasting and dictates where the industry will go. If Sky is doing something everyone else wants to do it too, first, or eventually. Just as the BBC rushed to get HD live before Sky did, even though no one had an HD telly at the time, Virgin has rushed to get 3D up and running, even though no one has a 3D telly except the one guy who bought one from John Lewis a couple of months ago. 

Analysts have told us that there will be 3D TVs in the home – but rather than genuine consumer demand it will be a case of keeping up with the Jones’. That’s how the market in the West works. Apparently that’s how broadcasting works too. 

Zuckerberg's minions attack pre-launch teaching community

Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy-melting, information harvesting network of evil, Facebook, has decided that it owns all the books in the world. It has decided to file an infringement lawsuit against a pre-launch website called Teachbook.com because it has “book” in its name. And it’s a community for teachers.

Facebook argues that if other websites could use a name with book at the end for online networking services, the suffix book could run the risk of being used as a general term for social media, taking away from the value of Facebook’s established brand. We kind of see Facebook’s point, here – but there’s no question it is being heavy handed.

Greg Shrader, managing director of TeachBook, has been quoted as saying: “We’re trying to understand how Facebook, a multibillion dollar company, feels this small enterprise in Chicago is any type of threat. Effectively they’re bombing a mosquito here.”

Comparing yourself to an annoying tiny insect with a bloodlust is perhaps not the best strategy to take.

Shrader also said that his company had been “working constructively” with Facebook but now feels forced to file an official response to the lawsuit in court. 

We recently reported on BSkyB having a pop at Skype because it felt it owned the “Sky” in Skype.

It’s August, it’s silly season – we will be launching BSkypeBook ASAP and waiting for the stories to roll in.

TeachBook managing director Greg Shrader told TechEye: “We were unaware that Facebook owned the Internet or the term “book.” We believe that they are wrong on the merits of their case, especially because the United States Patent and Trademark Office approve our trademark application for Teachbook and informed us that “book” is a generic term which cannot be trademarked. We believe this is why they elected to file a suit in federal court and take their opposition out of the trademark office. They simply can’t win on the merits of their trademark objection.

“Teachbook is a suite of productivity tools for teachers. It allows teachers to design and share lesson plans, instructional videos, online courses. It also allows teachers to keep online gradebooks, communicate with parents, and share ideas with one another. In short it is designed to allow teachers to improve teaching and learning in the classroom. We don’t know why Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg want to get in the way of that. 

“And we don’t believe that potential Facebook users who are looking to share pictures and socialize with their old high school buddies could be confused by a site designed for teachers.”