Filed under: Announcements & Events, Downloads, Movies, MP3, Digital Audio & Games
Three years ago, specifically on April 2010, Pandora launched a program that is capable of sharing people’s listening habits via Facebook. In response, residents of Michigan filed suit against the service (on the 20th of September 2010), claiming that the music service is violating Michigan’s Video Rental Privacy Act, as well as Michigan’s Consumer Act.
In response to these allegations, Pandora had asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stick with the District Court Judge’s decision (which was issued last year), ruling that a class-action lawsuit against the music-streaming service is not possible.
The aforementioned program, called “instant personalization”, allowed Pandora to publish Facebook users’ information without their consent. Peter Deacon, a Michigan resident and also a Facebook user, claimed that Pandora is to be held responsible for illegally publishing his music preferences. To that, the District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ruled that the company does not fall under Michigan’s privacy law, as it only streams music and does not lend, rent or sell it.
Deacon was not pleased with the decision, so he appealed the decision. He argued that the District Court’s judge misinterpreted the Michigan privacy law by ignoring “the commonly accepted, everyday meanings of the terms rent and lend.” He went on by saying that Armstrong’s judgment is in contradiction with Michigan’s lawmakers’ intention to protect consumers’ “choices in movies, music, and reading material from unwanted public disclosure.”
In response, the music service argued that:
“Temporarily caching data on listeners’ computers to enable streaming is not ‘renting’ or ‘lending’ under any common definition of those terms.”
“Pandora asks listeners only for musical preferences and then selects and streams ‘songs containing similar musical attributes’ that Pandora alone controls,” the online music service argues. “It would be entirely novel to have a rental or borrowing arrangement where the user does not even know what songs will be borrowed,” the company concluded.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, Entertainment Industry, Movies, MP3, Digital Audio & Games
Ashwin Navin, co-founder of BitTorrent and entrepreneur, is currently collaborating with various TV networks and electronics companies, trying to perfect the way Smart TVs connect with the internet. This will be accomplished by a software program called “Samba”.
Due to his experience and insight with BitTorrent’s technology, Navin has decided to give it a try with the entertainment industry.
“You can get a lot of great press, you can get all the bloggers and social media folks really excited with statements like, ‘I’m here to kill cable,’”, he said.
“But that doesn’t actually work. It’s not productive, because cable and subscription television is subsidizing and paying for the programming we love.”
On that regard, Navin’s company (Flingo) is proposing Samba, a piece of software that turns your smart TV into an even smarter one. The purpose of Samba is to “see” the images produced by your telly’s screen and then access and search its huge database of content. Once the face-recognition program finds relevant information (based on your viewing experience), that content gets transferred to other screen-based electronic devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) right away. Moreover, the syncing is done automatically through the Internet.
“From a consumer point of view, [Flingo's] doing a nice job of stitching these things together based around a TV-centric experience,” Paul Gray, television research director for NPD DisplaySearch, said.
“And not trying to be a PC in your living room — which is the big danger.”
Flingo’s mission sounds hard, but the rewards could be worth all the trouble. Syncing your TV set with basically any other electronic device that has a processor and a screen sounds like an awesome step forward in terms of entertainment.
“If we can find ways to connect those screens, we can deepen the engagement with the show, we can remind people that they are watching TV,” Vice President of Platforms and Innovation at Fox, Hardie Tankersley, said.
“Being able to match the ads that you’re seeing on your laptop with the ads that are running on TV — that has tremendous potential for brands, who advertise both on TV and the Web. To be able to synchronize up is really powerful.”
The technology is already used by companies such as Zeebox, the Yahoo-owned IntoNow, and Shazam Entertainment Ltd. However, for each of these services to work you need to install an application (provided by them) to synchronize your TV habits with a smartphone or tablet. The gathered information – cast lists, plots’ synopsises, and various interactive activities – is then transferred to a smaller screen.
But Navin is driven to choose a much larger screen – the TV itself. Quickly growing in popularity, smart TVs are going nowhere else but up. According to NPD DisplaySearch, more than 43 million smart TVs are expected to be produced and shipped just this year, and more than double (95 million) by 2016.
Flingo’s experience with creating smart TV apps for big networks like A&E, Fox, History Channel, Lifetime, Showtime, and TMZ, is going to be a major advantage for Samba’s future.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Movies, MP3, Digital Audio & Games, Tops
Music streaming services have quickly become popular among those who enjoy listening to their favourite tracks at demand. There are a couple of established names when it comes to this market share, including AOL Radio, Grooveshark, Last.fm, Pandora or Spotify, but also new ones that are worth mentioning. Here we go…
AOL Radio is amongst the most popular names when you talk about music streaming. In order to improve the listening experience, the company decided to introduce Slacker Radio, an idea which started from iPad’s Slacker app. Besides enabling a brand new interface with plenty of new features, AOL Radio also modified some of its core services. For example, you can no longer listen to music without creating an AOL account. There are also three plans to choose from. The free one lets you skip a maximum of six songs in an hour, while also promoting advertisements.
Also available for iPhone, iPad and Android-based devices, Jango sets itself apart by offering three important features: unlimited skips, artist promotion, and social networking. Moreover, the streaming service is coming with a complex interface (although not comparable to AOL’s) that incorporates social networking, categorized music, and a set of other useful features, including seeing what people are listening to, adding friends and sending them messages, and so on. With Jango, you get access to 15 different radio stations, covering all music tastes, from Rock to Pop, Country to Reggae, Rap to HipHop, and so on, and so forth. Yes, it’s free, but video ads can be a bit aggressive as they cover a hefty portion of your screen. Leaving that aside, the music experience is uncanny.
Another popular name that often made the news on our website is Grooveshark. The service’s interface is basically a music player (similar to Spotify), featuring a couple of needed areas – content, playback, and a sidebar showing what you’ve uploaded, playlists, and stations. The service is free, but you can also pay a minimum of $6 a month for Grooveshark Plus or $9 a month for Grooveshark Anywhere. Both are ads free, but the latter also allows you to take your music experience anywhere (on your mobile device), hence the name. Furthermore, for both of these plans users also get access to the Adobe Air-powered Grooveshark desktop application, Video Mode – that lets you watch YouTube videos for songs that you queued, Visualizers, Power Hour Mode – a feature that automatically skips between songs every 60 seconds, crossfade, share songs via popular social networks, and out of the oven skins. You can browse for songs, artists, or album. And you won’t be disappointed by the search engine – results are shown as you type. Grooveshark’s audio quality is excellent on both desktop computers and mobile devices. Last but not least, Grooveshark’s intuitive Music Recommendation feature may come in handy at points when you’re tired of your own collection.
Being accountable for millions of unique accounts, Last.fm is by far one of the greatest free music streaming services around. If you’re a newcomer to the service, a dialogue box will greet you, asking that you type the name of your favourite artists. As you do so, recommendations are suggested. Unfortunately, this is a one-time opportunity, meaning that you’ll never be able to see that box again. After creating an account, you’d need to add songs and artists, one at a time – which can be a bit frustrating for those of you who lack patience. Last.fm also enables four important features. The first is called New to My Library – a section box that shows your latest additions. The second is Last.fm Recommendations – a self-explanatory feature. Events keeps you updated with the latest shows that are about to take place in your area, while Free Downloads is offering, from time to time, samples of free music. But what really made Last.fm popular was this: the music streaming service allows artists to create their own page, showing photos of the band, biography, and pretty much everything one would need to promote his or hers band.
Slacker’s interface is just as good as any of the aforementioned services, enabling the user with access to a tab area containing four important categories – Home, Now Playing, Create Your Own, and Devices. Each of these four’s functionality is pretty obvious. As for browsing, you can lookup a song, album or artist by simply typing the name in the search box. You can also rate your music experience by either choosing to ban a song or favourite it. With a free account you can skip a maximum of six songs an hour, and listen to audio ads (unless you decide to mute). There are two other packages – the Slacker Plus ($3.99 a month) and Slacker Premium ($9.99 a month). The first is ads free, and you can skip an unlimited number of songs. The premium package is quite popular, and not so expensive, given its features – you can cache and create stations, view artists’ pages, play anything on demand, and so on. Moreover, Slacker gives you access to ESPN, and ABC Radio’s Men’s Life and Women’s Life channels. For example, with ESPN you can listen to live streams from different cities, including Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and NYC. Sporting events are also popular, so you get access to that as well.
Due to some licensing issues, Songza is only available for those living in the United States or Canada. Moving on, the service is packing a strong punch. Since it’s free, you’ll notice a couple of visual ads, which is better than audio ones, right? You can join Songza by creating a dedicated account or by signing in with Facebook. Also, the interface comes with three core options: Music Concierge, Popular, and Browse All. Each of these has its own purpose, but we’re going to talk a little about Music Concierge. This unique feature presents music options based on the time of day. As an example, Monday Afternoon comes with Work or Study (without lyrics), Work or Study (with lyrics), Easing the Tension, An Energy Boost, and Popular Genres, while the Saturday Late Night includes A Nightcap, A Sweaty Dance Party, Getting High, Getting Lucky, and Bedtime. Any of these mentioned options leads to a music genre/playlist that best suits your mood. There are plenty of other features to discover with Songza, such as creating your own playlist, add comments on different songs, and even share them on Facebook and Twitter.
Spotify needs no introduction, but we are going to say that this cloud-based service is free and full of surprises. Spotify’s database gathers more than 15 million tracks from United States’ most prominent music labels – Sony Music, EMI, Warner Music, and Universal Music. If you’re looking for a better experience with full-pledged features, then you should consider Spotify’s Unlimited and Premium accounts. The first is only $4.99 a month and lets you sync your own music, while also removing ads. Having a Premium account ($9.99 a month), comes with some really cool features: you can listen to an album before it’s officially released, cache songs for offline listening, and a crystal-sharp audio clarity (320 Kbps). What may upset some people is that, in order to use Spotify, you need to install a Windows or MAC client, depending on what you’re running. However, Android and iOS versions are also available. As far as interface is concerned, Spotify resembles iTunes, in the sense that it offers a main library view, playlists and radio links, and album art. Each of these features has its own subfeatures. For example, by clicking an artist’s name you get additional songs, organized by albums, top hits, and playlists from different members. Simply put, everything is neatly organized for easy access and listening.
Pandora is also amongst those popular names, and this title has not been easily earned. The service’s development team has worked hard to improve the overall music experience. Two notable changes are the HTML-5 powered design, and the new unlimited listening feature. Besides its change of look, Pandora Radio enables a plethora of options, from rating to easy access to basically any song, artist or album you can think of. However, this service truly shines when it comes to customization and the so called Music Genome Project. As such, you can create stations based on your music preferences, while also getting suggestions on that genre. Furthermore, lyrics are now shown on the same page (in the past a new tab was opened). Hovering the album art opens a menu that explains why the station is playing a particular track; even better, you can move the track to another station, if you’ve already created it. Pretty neat! And speaking of that, you can customize your station as you see fit. Prior to its upgrades, with a free account you could listen to just 40 hours of free music a month (“thanks” to the service’s contract with the RIAA), but now you have 320 hours of music. However, you can opt for Pandora’s One package ($36 a year) and get unlimited number of skips*, choose from a variety of skins, download a desktop application, and enjoy 192 Kbps quality sound.
*you are however limited to a number of six skips per hour.
Last but not least, is Turntable – a streaming music service that enables themed listening rooms. Each room enables a DJ-like feature, meaning that up to five people can mix music. Amusingly enough, each listener and DJ is represented by a South Park-like avatar. You can, however, choose a different image by going to the Settings area. Unique, and customizable avatars are available for those who have a verified account. If you think you’re talented enough, look for an open spot and play music for others. Turntable also enables clear quality sound, even over Wi-Fi networks. What comes as a drawback is that you don’t have lyrics, and you can’t listen to full albums on demand. Furthermore, a DJ can’t scratch, mix, or crossfade. Leaving that aside, if you’re looking for a great opportunity to either learn or launch yourself as a DJ, this is definitely the place to be.
If you know other free or paid music streaming services that are worth mentioning, don’t be afraid to use the comment section below.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Downloads, Movies, MP3, Digital Audio & Games
When it comes to quality music, there are some variables to consider. First, there’s the actual format of the track and, as far as I know, .flac files are the best. Then there’s the music player – probably the most important factor when it comes to high-quality sound. As such, we’ve compiled a list of five of the best music players available online.
Available for Windows, Foobar2000 is an excellent music player, in terms of both customization and flexibility. Besides the fact that it’s free, this music platform enables full unicode support, Replay Gain support, and native support for a whole lot of audio formats, including .flac. It also includes keyboard shortcuts for easy access. Furthermore, you can easily organize your music library and install various plugins & add-ons, without worrying that it will overflow your resources.
Winamp is one of the older music players, and the choice of many. It works for both Windows and Mac-based computers, not to mention that now there’s also an Android version available. When it comes to awesome skins, customization, and fast processing, Winamp is one of the best. Although it’s free, there’s also the Pro Version ($19.95), which comes with certain benefits, including faster ripping and burning. And speaking of that, Winamp enables you to rip CDs, play video and music files, and sync your music library with your mobile device(s).
Simple, powerful and fast, is what MusicBee is all about. This player’s platform is especially designed to handle massive music collections. Available for Windows-based computers, MusicBee is not only good looking, but also useful. In that sense, the player lets you download information about your favourite albums via Last.fm. You can add tags and organize vast collections, while also pin-pointing duplicates. Does it support various file types and formats? Yes, it does! You can also rip CDs and sync your playlists with your mobile device(s).
Next in our list is MediaMonkey- your personal jukebox and organizer. With it you can manage your podcasts, rip CDs, tag & rename, play audiobooks, and sync your music collection. It also automatically seeks information (online) about your music, including album art and tags. MediaMonkey is available for Windows.
Aimp2 is one of my favourites music players. The reasons are plenty, but I’m going to name the most relevant. It’s customizable, it supports more than twenty audio formats, the processing is done in 32-bits, and there’s also the 18-band graphics equalizer with extra built-in sound effects. Furthermore, Aimp2 supports hotkeys, and unicode. You can also convert audio tracks to .mp3, .ogg, .wav or .wma. The player’s interface is also good looking and easy to use. Need more reasons? Check out their official website.
If you have more suggestions please share them with us via the comment section.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Legal P2P News & Issues, Movies, MP3, Digital Audio & Games
The world’s most popular video website is using what they call Content ID – a program which helps the portal stay within the legal boundaries by automatically removing unlicensed content based on take-down requests.
YouTube is using Content ID since four years now, and the time for a change in its algorithm has come. The website decided to improve the appeals process to help uploaders fight gratuitous take-down requests.
Furthermore, according to YouTube’s statement, Content ID will now be able to detect false take-down notices, thus minimizing the risk of massive take-downs.
“Users have always had the ability to dispute Content ID claims on their videos if they believe those claims are invalid. Prior to today, if a content owner rejected that dispute, the user was left with no recourse for certain types of Content ID claims (e.g., monetize claims). Based upon feedback from our community, today we’re introducing an appeals process that gives eligible users a new choice when dealing with a rejected dispute. When the user files an appeal, a content owner has two options: release the claim or file a formal DMCA notification,” reads the portal’s blog post.
Ever since Content ID was put in place, more than 3,000 content owners made use of it, supplying YouTube with over 300,000 reference files. In other words, once the content owner uploads a song on YouTube, it can ask the portal to remove unauthorized copies of that song or monetize them by being part of YouTube’s advertising program.
Combine this with the DMCA and we have two effects: one is that of helping uploaders to protect their content, and the second is that of convincing content owners to embrace monetization rather than driving YouTube to be the bad guy.
You can read about all that’s changed here.