• chevron_right

      EU game devs ask regulators to look at Unity’s “anti-competitive” bundling / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 21 September - 19:44

    EU game devs ask regulators to look at Unity’s “anti-competitive” bundling


    In the wake of Unity's sudden fee structure change announcement last week , a European trade group representing thousands of game developers is calling on governments to "update their regulatory framework" to curb what they see as a "looming market failure" caused by "potentially anti-competitive market behavior."

    In an open letter published last week , the European Games Developer Federation goes through a lot of the now-familiar arguments for why Unity's decision to charge up to $0.20 per game install will be bad for the industry. The federation of 23 national game developer trade associations argues that the new fee structure will make it "much harder for [small and midsize developers] to build reliable business plans" by "significantly increas[ing] the game development costs for most game developers relying on [Unity's] services."

    The organization also publicly worries about "professional game education institutions" that may need to update their curriculums wholesale if there is a mass exodus from Unity's engine. "Many young industry professionals who have built their career plans on mastering Unity’s tools [will be put] in a very difficult position."

    Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      EU Study: Online Piracy Rebounds, but Not Due to COVID-19 / TorrentFreak · Thursday, 21 September - 08:34 · 5 minutes

    eu copyright The European Union Intellectual Property Office ( EUIPO ) regularly conducts studies to see how piracy rates evolve over time.

    These studies also identify the various barriers and drivers behind this activity, which helps to shape future policies.

    This week, EUIPO released the latest installment of its biannual report on copyright infringement in the EU and UK. This study aims to document various piracy trends and the socioeconomic factors that trigger them.

    The EU report is largely based on data from UK piracy tracking firm MUSO , which is widely used for these types of longitudinal studies.

    Piracy Rebounds

    In previous studies, a clear downtrend was visible, suggesting that piracy had seen its peak. While this may still be the case, the most recent data suggests that there was a notable increase in piracy levels over the past two years.

    Overall, the latest study shows that piracy traffic started to grow again at the start of 2021, after years of decline.

    “The main finding is that the declining trend seen in the earlier studies seems to be reversing, with piracy increasing again, mainly due to increases in piracy of TV content and publications,” the report reads.

    Current piracy levels are still nowhere near what they were five years ago. However, a trend reversal is notable and may suggest that we’re at a pivotal point in time.

    COVID Not to Blame

    The EU report is the first detailed multi-country piracy study to investigate the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is important, as many stakeholders maintain that this global event increased piracy overall.

    Earlier this month, for example, the Motion Picture Association presented the following conclusion in its advice on future anti-piracy strategies.

    “Studies show that piracy in the U.S. increased during the lockdown. These trends have continued past the pandemic, as consumers are now more comfortable with accessing copyrighted content through illegal piracy services,” the MPA said.

    The Hollywood group based its conclusion on an early week-to-week piracy traffic comparison from MUSO, which indeed signaled a temporary increase. However, a follow-up report by MUSO later clarified that this effect was short-lived, as online piracy declined in the months after.

    The new EU study now confirms that piracy was actually lowered during the pandemic, at least in the EU. While American trends are not included, these tend to be similar to those in Europe, at least in terms of direction.

    “The models confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to reducing film and TV piracy,” the research concludes, adding that there was no positive or negative effect on music.

    Film piracy dropped during COVID

    Indeed, looking at the graphs presented in the report, there is a clear COVID dip visible. According to the researchers, more people may have switched to legal services during the lockdowns.

    “One possible reason for this phenomenon is that users may have opted for legal platforms as a simpler way to access the type of content they are interested in, coupled with limited opportunities to spend money on outside entertainment.”

    While not mentioned in the report, another explanation is that fewer high-profile releases came out during the lockdowns. Fewer releases typically result in a piracy dip.

    TV Piracy is Booming, Music Not So

    Looking at the different content categories, we see that TV piracy remains dominant. According to the researchers, 48 % of the total aggregated piracy volume can be attributed to TV.

    TV is also largely responsible for the recent rebound, together with the new publishing category that was added to the report this year. The evolution of all content piracy shows that the piracy totals remain below the 2017 level.

    Piracy per Category

    This overview further shows that music piracy, which was once widespread, is now a relatively fringe activity in the EU. This is good news for the music industry, which has seen its enforcement efforts against streamripping platforms pay off.

    The EUIPO report also examined live sports piracy for the first time. While the available data is limited, there’s a significant increase of roughly 75% visible between the start of 2021 and the end of 2022.

    Regional Differences

    Previous studies have shown that streaming is by far the most dominant piracy vehicle today, beating alternatives such as torrents and direct downloads. This trend remains intact.

    There are notable regional differences between countries, however. As shown below, film pirates in Romania and Italy almost exclusively rely on streaming, while torrents and direct downloads remain fairly popular in Spain and the Netherlands.

    Piracy Preferences per Country

    Various countries also differ in the volume and type of content consumed. Piracy is most popular in Estonia and Latvia, while it’s relatively out of favor in Germany and Italy.

    Content per Country

    The bar chart above further shows different preferences for the type of content. In Greece, film piracy is good for 25% of the total piracy volume, for example, while in Poland it’s as low as 5%.

    Income and Legal Options

    In addition to providing dozens of descriptive graphs and charts, the researchers also analyzed the data to identify potential key drivers of piracy. This produced some interesting observations.

    The econometric analysis, which is limited to the movie, TV, and music categories, shows that the number of available legal alternatives reduces piracy. This means that the availability of more legal streaming services correlates to lower piracy numbers.

    The income level of a country has a significant impact on piracy rates. Low per capita income, a high degree of income inequality, and high youth unemployment are all associated with increased consumption of pirated content.

    A Massive Caveat

    All in all, EUIPO’s biannual report is a great way to measure and track how piracy trends develop over time. That said, it comes with a massive caveat.

    The study relies on MUSO’s data and is largely based on website visits. This means that IPTV piracy is not taken into account at all. The same is true for other types of piracy, such as apps and streaming devices.

    EU’s own research has shown that IPTV piracy is a billion-dollar industry . While it isn’t as easy to measure as web-based traffic, it would be good to see some more details on it in future reports.

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

    • chevron_right

      TikTok hit with €345 million fine over privacy settings for children / ArsTechnica · Friday, 15 September - 13:37

    TikTok hit with €345 million fine over privacy settings for children

    Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Contributor | Bloomberg )

    TikTok has been hit with a €345 million EU fine over the way it processes the personal data of children and teenage users, the first handed out by the bloc to the Chinese-owned social media platform.

    Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, the regulator responsible for holding TikTok Technology to EU data protection law, announced the fine on Friday after an investigation that began in September 2021.

    The DPC’s probe found TikTok had infringed EU data protection rules by setting the profiles of children aged 13-17 to default to a public setting, meaning anyone on or off TikTok could view their content and contact them.

    Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      More countries are concerned about the iPhone 12’s EMF radiation profile / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 14 September - 17:39 · 1 minute

    iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini, next to each other.

    Enlarge / The iPhone 12, a phone that Apple no longer actively sells, is under investigation in France for potentially violating one of two electromagnetic radiation standards. (credit: Samuel Axon)

    For many people, the iPhone 12 effectively disappeared from the market on Tuesday, when Apple introduced iPhone 15 models and stopped selling the 12, first released in October 2020. In Europe, however, the iPhone 12 remains a notable device, as a number of countries are following France's lead in looking into the device's electromagnetic profile.

    What kicked off the unexpected concern about a nearly 3-year-old phone was France's National Frequency Agency (ANFR). On the same day as Apple's fall product announcements, the ANFR informed Apple that the iPhone 12 exceeds European Union regulations for Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), the rate at which a human body would absorb radiation from a device. A translated version of the ANFR report has the agency calling on Apple to withdraw the iPhone 12, "quickly remedy this malfunction," and if not, "recall copies already sold."

    There are two measures of SAR for a device operating in the same frequency range as an iPhone, per EU standards . The "head and trunk" value, taken to protect against "acute exposure effects on central nervous tissues" when a phone is against the head or in a pants pocket, must not exceed 2 Watts of power per kilogram of body tissue, averaged over six minutes. When the phone is held in the hand or in clothing or accessories, for a "limbs" value, it's 4 W/kg.

    Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      “We’re not ‘gatekeepers,’” Apple and Microsoft tell European Union / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 5 September - 13:47

    Apple and Microsoft have argued with Brussels that some of their services are insufficiently popular to be designated as “gatekeepers” under new landmark EU legislation designed to curb the power of Big Tech.

    Brussels’ battle with the two US companies over Apple’s iMessage chat app and Microsoft’s Bing search engine comes ahead of Wednesday’s publication of the first list of services to be regulated by the Digital Markets Act.

    The legislation imposes new responsibilities on tech companies, including sharing data, linking to competitors, and making their services interoperable with rival apps.

    Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      Meta loses battle in EU, will ask for consent to show personalized ads / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 1 August - 20:20

    Meta loses battle in EU, will ask for consent to show personalized ads

    Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

    After five years of fighting legal battles to prevent this undesirable outcome, Meta has finally agreed to ask Instagram and Facebook users in the European Union for consent before targeting them with highly personalized ads, a Wall Street Journal report has revealed.

    This means that instead of requiring Meta app users in the EU to agree to invasive data collection used for personalized ads at sign-up, or else fill out a long form to request to opt out , EU users will soon be able to opt in or out by clicking simply yes or no.

    The Journal spoke to sources familiar with Meta's dealings who confirmed that Meta sent a proposal to EU privacy regulators agreeing to shift to this consent legal basis for data collection as early as the end of October.

    Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      EU wants “readily removable” batteries in devices soon—but what does that mean? / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 20 June - 20:52 · 1 minute

    Fairphone 4 disassembled on a table

    Enlarge / Very few modern smartphones can be considered to have a "readily removable" battery, but the Fairphone 4 is one of them. (credit: Fairphone)

    Whenever regulation passes that seems to herald the dawn of a new age of repairable devices, there is almost always a catch, a loophole, or at least an "it depends." In the case of recent headline-grabbing battery legislation out of the European Union, we're waiting to see what counts as "readily" when it comes to removing and replacing device batteries.

    Last week, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of new rules for handling batteries of all sizes in the EU , due to be implemented within 3.5 years of passage or as early as 2027. Along with measures addressing carbon footprints for electric vehicle and industrial batteries and stricter waste and recycling targets, there was a particular line in Article 11 regarding the "Removability and replaceability of portable batteries," that likely got smartphone, tablet, and laptop manufacturer lobbyists moving:

    Portable batteries incorporated in appliances shall be readily removable and replaceable by the end-user or by independent operators during the lifetime of the appliance, if the batteries have a shorter lifetime than the appliance, or at the latest at the end of the lifetime of the appliance.

    "Readily replaceable," as addressed in the next paragraph, is when, after removing a battery, you can substitute a similar battery "without affecting the functioning or the performance of that appliance." For all the things specifically defined, outlined, and estimated in the 129-page "COM(2020) 798 final," there's not much more about what the phrase exactly means.

    Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      EU votes to ban AI in biometric surveillance, require disclosure from AI systems / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 15 June - 17:04 · 1 minute

    The EU flag in front of an AI-generated background.

    Enlarge / The EU flag in front of an AI-generated background. (credit: EU / Stable Diffusion)

    On Wednesday, European Union officials voted to implement stricter proposed regulations concerning AI, according to Reuters . The updated draft of the " AI Act " law includes a ban on the use of AI in biometric surveillance and requires systems like OpenAI's ChatGPT to reveal when content has been generated by AI. While the draft is still non-binding, it gives a strong indication of how EU regulators are thinking about AI.

    The new changes to the European Commission's proposed law—which have not yet been finalized—intend to shield EU citizens from potential threats linked to machine learning technology.

    The changes come amid the proliferation of generative AI systems that imitate human conversational abilities, such as OpenAI's ChatGPT and GPT-4, which have triggered controversial calls for action among AI scientists and industry executives regarding potential societal risks. However, the EU's proposed AI Act is over two years old now, so it isn't just a knee-jerk response to AI hype. It includes provisions that guard against other types of AI harm that are more grounded in the here and now than a hypothetical AI takeover .

    Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      Biden admin wants Europe to reject forced payments from Big Tech to ISPs / ArsTechnica · Friday, 26 May - 16:26 · 1 minute

    A pile of money from the US and Europe, including 50 and 100-dollar bills along with 100, 200, and 500-euro notes.

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Alan Schein)

    The Biden administration urged Europe to reject the telecom industry plan to make Big Tech companies pay for Internet service providers' network expansions and upgrades. In comments submitted to the European Commission last week, the US Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said that mandating payments from online platforms to ISPs would "distort competition" and undermine net neutrality.

    "Mandating direct payments to telecom operators in the EU absent assurances on spending could reinforce the dominant market position of the largest operators," the US submission said. "It could give operators a new bottleneck over customers, raise costs for end users, and alter incentives for CAPs/LTGs [content and application providers and large traffic generators] to make efficient decisions regarding network investment and interconnection. It is difficult to understand how a system of mandatory payments imposed on only a subset of content providers could be enforced without undermining net neutrality."

    European broadband providers said in their comments that they should be allowed to demand new fees from online companies that account for over 5 percent of a telco's average peak traffic. Telco lobby groups claimed that Europe needs "a fair contribution based on a framework that allows balanced negotiations between telcos and large traffic generators who obtain the most benefit from telecom investment, while creating a high-cost burden with their traffic and exerting disproportionate power across markets."

    Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments