Archive for the ‘media regulation’ Category

This is a blog I originally wrote for SBS News

Modern sport means big business.

Long gone are the days when a few cents got you in the stadium to cheer on your team of part-time amateurs, who did it for love, in their spare time. Well, I’m not sure when it only cost a few cents. But just take a look at England’s bloated Premier League to see where money gets you.

Here in Australia, our sports are not as affected by the big bucks. For starters, noone else is really that interested in our multiple codes of football; even we can’t seem to agree on one.

But selling the rights to NRL and AFL football matches is certainly big money in local terms. And for the last few decades, it’s been all about TV rights.

With the latest landmark case, however, mobile streaming technologies are the new battleground.

Telstra’s deal with the AFL is worth $153 million. Well, strictly speaking it cost them $153m; what it’s worth is another matter entirely.

Nonetheless, the fact that Optus customers are able to watch the big matches just a few minutes behind their screening on terrestrial TV is obviously a  concern for Telstra, and thus came the court case.

And it was Optus that won this landmark proceeding against the AFL, NRL and Telstra in relation to its TV Now service. The app enables Optus user to  watch TV shows just a few minutes after they’ve gone to air (whether it should be called ‘TV just after’ is up for debate), and obviously,  there’s value in this for sports fans.

But value is what drives sports broadcasting rights. Why pay big money for mobile rights to a game if it’s not exclusive?

The judge in the case said it was not Optus making the ‘recording’, it was the individual who was ‘shifting’ their viewing, so 2006 amendments  to the 1968 copyright act held.

“Even though Optus provided all the significant technology for making, keeping and playing the recording, I considered that in substance this was no different to a person using equipment or technology in his or her own home or elsewhere to copy or record a broadcast”, he said.

So, even though the recording was done in the cloud, it’s the same as using your VCR to tape your favourite show; no copyright breaching here.

Naturally, there are big implications for sports. How can sports bodies establish a value for internet rights with rulings like this?

The football codes say they are likely to appeal, but, of course, victory is not guaranteed.

“If it ultimately is held, what will the major sporting codes do in response given sales of mobile rights is becoming an important revenue stream?” asked Ian Robertson, a Managing Partner at Holding Redlich lawyers.

“Running these sports is an expensive operation.”

And he’s right. You only have to look at the AFL’s recruitment of former NRL star Israel Folau. $4.3m was coughed up for a three-year deal. The average AFL player is set to earn over $300,000 a year by 2016,according to The Herald Sun.

Sport is becoming more, and more of a business. They’ll always be looking for new revenue streams.

It’s a vicious circle. A more entertaining match requires more money to fund it. But ultimately, that money comes from sports fans, with higher ground fees and ever bigger broadcasting deals, via whatever medium. Tack on to that more charges to watch and more Burger King advertising in your life (‘the Whopper has also celebrated being the Official Burger of the AFL ‘). Fantastic. Give me the leagues of 50 years ago.

In the strange universe of English football, television revenue has gone hand in hand with the fortunes of Russian oligarchs and Gulf Sheikhs to transform the league beyond recognition, catapulting average teams to the top of the league. Manchester City? Are you joking? A generation of  millionaires created while working fans cough up small fortunes to watch games in the stadium or at home.

Money has brought the world’s stars together to create beautiful football – but how much more beautiful, and bloated – can it get?

While we’re not there yet in Australia, for Ian Robertson, should the AFL and NRL not be victorious against Telstra in protecting their new cashflow portal – your mobile handset – there’s likely to be a knock at the government’s door.

“Sponsorship and sales is a very important part of their revenue stream…the question is what are they going to do about it? I’d say they’re likely to lobby the government”, he told SBS.

In the unlikely event that this new revenue stream is not protected for the money machine that is professional sport, revenue will be hit.

But you know what? I’m pretty sure those players aren’t going to go hungry any time soon.

They’re up to their necks in official burgers, for starters.

Amusing as they might be, attacks on the websites of supporters of tougher copyright legislation could tarnish the legitimate protests of Wikipedia and others.

“TANGO DOWN #Megaupload  Fight for Internet Freedom!” went the tweet from the LulzSecITALY account, and it was like the heady days of last year when the hacking group had every newsroom around the world wondering which organisation’s website was to go down next.

Read the rest of this post @SBS.

Reports from the UK today tell of a High Court judge setting a precedent in the mandatory blocking of websites by Internet Service Providers.

Does that ring any bells?

Latest blog on file-sharing and legislation for SBS News here….

I have a new blog feed-  or collection of thought processes – over at SBS News, my employer. I’m posting mostly on technology and media issues, including the changing landscape we all find ourselves in as we migrate from paper to digits. More inkybinary stuff, perhaps. Most recent posts include the UK getting ‘in a Twitter’ over free speech, microblogging and Ryan Giggs, as well as the rise of Google’s Android.

Here’s a link.

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I felt compelled to write a post this evening, following a long week in the newsroom. At the start of the week, Osama bin Laden died.

Osama bin Laden has long been known as the leader of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda, in turn, has long been regarded as a fearsome islamist terror cell.

In the minutes, hours and days following the rumour which stopped – and then quickly started the newsroom – a rumour which, even before it was confirmed (that’s the word we used) by President Obama, had everyone in the newsroom tingling with excitement, the news that bin Laden was dead, unverified information – and plenty of spin – was being hurled around at breakneck speed, and continues to be. Despite the myriad tweets, articles, packages and talking heads, do we now understand the story better?

There is a dominant narrative surrounding the cult of Osama bin Laden. It is nurtured by journalists, like myself, who are, when it comes down to it, ill-informed and pressed for time. The primary source of information on such figures as bin Laden, as was well-illustrated this week, is the US government and its multiple agencies. Spin, rumour, and plenty of conjecture abounded. You do not have to be Noam Chomsky, seeking the conspiracy, as some would have it, to find a problem here. A state actor cannot have a public enemy number one, but also be the prime gatekeeper of information on this individual or group, without a major distortion of the facts entering the public sphere of knowledge.

Most likely, the individual known as Osama bin Laden was, if you’ll excuse the phrase, a very bad man. Why, then, did the US, dutifully echoed in the media, state that he used his wife as a human shield? From the start of this affair, the misinformation was – or should have been – easy to spot. Yet countless journalists trawled it out. Respected anchors and correspondents mused over ‘the fact’ that he used his wife as a shield, showing us ‘what kind of man he was.’

Was he not bad enough already? I’m pleased to say I did not publish an article following this line in my role as an online producer. But I felt like pulling my hair out when I saw this very line at my and every other news outlet, treated as if it were a fact.

Was there a firefight? Perhaps so, in which case a journalist must report that there was, according to the US, a firefight. How would they know otherwise? This frequently did not happen – and the US, days later, conceded that bin Laden was not armed. Official sources are routinely taken as more reliable. I’d argue they often – but not always – don’t deserve this treatment.

Bin Laden was living in a million dollar mansion, they said. So say who said it. Do not report it as fact. The US government, in the fog of war – for they have always called it a war – is not a reliable source. How could it be? It is besides the point whether the US government is more or less reliable a source than its enemy. It is just a fact that it spends a lot of money, time and effort in winning the information war as well as the war of killing.Days later, it seemed that the house, dirty and unkempt, was perhaps worth $250,000. But who knows. Not me. And not half of the talking heads who spoke about al-Qaeda on 24 hour news channels as if it were now holding a board meeting on who to vote in as the new CEO.

Any journalist who does not take information as it is trawled out from a government with a pinch of salt, including a government fighting some very distasteful characters,  is a mug.  And there were plenty of them this week – I’m sure I failed my own tests once or twice.

The release of a photo of bin Laden’s body is another matter entirely. As one user-generated comment put it, they’d save themselves a decade worth of conspiracy theory documentaries if they’d just release one.

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Penned this article for SBS News after an interview with Joshua Rozenberg came in from Brian Thomson.

A British legal expert has told SBS that the cross-examination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is likely to have been hugely effective.

Joshua Rozenberg, a lawyer and BBC journalist, said it always going to be an uphill struggle for Assange’s legal team to persuade the court that Assange should not to face trial in Sweden, because of the arrangement between European countries, where the legal systems are mutually trusted.

He says one of Assange’s strongest arguments – that he wouldn’t get a fair trial on sex assault charges as the press would be excluded – the norm in a Swedish rape case – also proved ineffective during the cross-examination.

The cross-examination found that noone had ever challenged this custom in Sweden, which is largely deemed fair, Rozenberg said.

An expert witness also added that Assange was unlikely to be reaxtradited to the US, as Assange’s legal team had claimed would happen to the WikiLeaks founder.

Clare Montgomery QC, the lawyer representing Swedish authorities, ‘scored a number of powerful points’, Rozenberg said.

‘She even got Mr Assange’s Swedish lawyer to undermine the evidence given by a defence witness and expert witness called yesterday on behalf of Mr Assange.’

Blocking extradition was now unlikely, Rozenberg says.

‘I don’t think he has got home on any points that will enable him to achieve that.’

Rozenberg says the judge in the case knows that whoever loses in this court following the end of the hearing on Friday will appeal to the High Court.

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This week, Dedicated Denial of Service, or DOS attacks hit the mainstream media big time, with the news that supporters of the WikiLeaks website were, as they saw it, fighting back against companies which had dared shun the site.

I’m no ‘hacker’, as large parts of the press like to term these armchair activists, but I have been familiar with the concept of what a denial of service attack is for a number of years. I had the pleasure of attending the Chaos Computer Club’s Easter Hack in Cologne back in 2008, and have watched these shadowy free-speech absolutists with admiration for years.

To perform a DOS attack such as operation payback, or #payback, you get as many people, or simply computers, to head for the same website at once, and hey presto, said website can’t cope with the requests.

So today, I thought I’d look at how to join operation payback, indeed how to join in a DOS attack, from a technical point of view. There’s no immediate masking of IP addresses with the software in question, so you can get caught pretty easy if your ISP wanted to assist your local authorities in this legal grey-area, but as a journo, it’s my right to find out ;)

It’s hilariously simple – although not as simple as the the most simple method, basically visiting the site in your browser. First, it seems most of the ‘anonymous’ peeps and others are using LOIC – or Low Orbit Ion Cannon – a very easy to operatre desktop client that fires off requests to a certain website. It’s a tongue-in-cheek name for a very 21st century form of conflict – although I’d hesitate to call it war as ‘the media’, which I’m a part of, has done. Activism, it certainly is.

There are plenty of places hosting LOIC for download. There may be other pieces of software for DOS attacks for the not-too-tech-savvy punter out there, but this could not be easier. You load it up, put your URL in (in this case, Visa, Mastercard, Amazon et al), and press the big button which says something along the lines of ‘Imma fire mah lazer’, and hey presto, you’re sending oodles of requests to the servers, along with your comrades, who’ve presumably used Twitter or chat rooms to all do it at the same time.

It’ll be fascinating to watch this sort of activism develop in the coming years.

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