All posts in “Tech News”

The Epic emote debate: all the news about Fortnite’s ongoing dance lawsuits

So you think you can copyright a dance?

Since Terrence Ferguson, aka rapper 2 Milly, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against game developer Epic Games last month, the debate around whether copying a real-life dance move and turning it into a virtual good for sale has become a legal quagmire. Numerous other social media stars and celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon, including Fresh Prince actor Alfonso Ribeiro, aspiring hip-hop artist and floss dancer Backpack Kid, and most recently Orange Shirt Kid of viral YouTube fame.

Now, game developers are even pulling the dances from current titles, afraid of the potential legal risk. In the long term, the lawsuits may have a profound impact on both copyright law and the games industry. The cases could dictate whether dance moves do indeed constitute protected works of choreography, as well as whether game developers are liable for ripping them from pop culture as a way to earn money and stay relevant with fast-moving teenage audiences.

Verizon adds free Apple Music to its pricier unlimited data plans

Verizon has announced it is going to start including Apple Music in two of its unlimited phone plans, as first reported by 9to5Mac. An Apple Music subscription normally costs $9.99 a month, and the move could potentially instantly add millions of new users to the music streaming platform.

The subscription will be added at no additional cost for new and existing Verizon customers that have either the Beyond Unlimited or Above Unlimited plan. Those on Verizon’s Go Unlimited plan will also get an Apple Music perk — a free six month trial.

Verizon’s partnership with Apple launched last year, with the carrier offering six free months of Apple Music for customers with current postpaid unlimited data plans. Upping things to an outright free subscription is a big deal, especially since marketing documentation from Verizon indicates no raise in plan prices. Verizon’s press release says that taxes apply for the “free” Apple Music subscription, but a spokesperson said customers won’t see a higher bill because of it.

This certainly isn’t the first time a carrier has partnered up with a music streaming service to offer free subscriptions. Last year, Sprint introduced a plan called Unlimited Plus that included subscriptions to both Hulu and the standard version of Tidal. It’s hard to say how much that impacted Tidal’s overall subscription base — around the same time Sprint announced the new deal, The Verge reported that Tidal’s growth was still stagnant at about 3 million users globally. T-Mobile also offers free Netflix with certain unlimited plans — notably ones where the carrier handles taxes and fees automatically.

Verizon’s new plans with Apple Music included will be available to purchase beginning this Thursday, January 17th.

YouTube’s guidelines now address dangerous pranks following Bird Box, Tide Pod challenges

YouTube has a new message for creators looking to participate in dangerous or potentially harmful stunts, like the Bird Box or Tide Pod stunts: don’t.

The company revealed new policies that creators must follow when uploading content, and one of the biggest changes is a section dedicated entirely to dangerous pranks. YouTube has previously addressed pranks in its harmful and dangerous content category of its overall policies, but seems to have added the new section following a series of disturbing Bird Box challenge videos.

YouTube creators have a history of participating in dangerous challenges — including Jake Paul driving blindfolded to participate in the Bird Box challenge, teens eating poisonous Tide Pods for the Tide Pod challenge, and even some creators alluding to drugging their girlfriends on camera with natural sexual enhancement pills — all in the name of content. YouTube’s new policies state:

YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks, but we need to make sure what’s funny doesn’t cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous. We’ve made it clear that our policies prohibiting harmful and dangerous content also extend to pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury. We don’t allow pranks that make victims believe they’re in serious physical danger — for example, a home invasion prank or a drive-by shooting prank.

These types of pranks are popular among creators. While many of the pranks are often performed by stunt actors, or edited to appear real when the creator isn’t in any actual danger, that’s not always clear for viewers. These challenges are often reattempted by people looking to create their own videos, including one case where a woman shot her boyfriend and killed him while trying to perform a stunt.

One would think that simply uploading a dangerous video of this magnitude once would result in a channel being terminated, but that won’t necessarily happen unless there are repeat offenses in a short period of time. YouTube’s policy is to hand out a strike and remove the video, but that strike disappears after 90 days. While a creator may lose some privileges within those 90 days, including the ability to live stream, they could technically come back once the strike is removed and perform another dangerous stunt.

These aren’t the only updates YouTube announced for creators’ community guidelines. Thumbnails that include egregious content, such as pornography or graphic violence, will result in a creator earning a community guideline strike. This is true even if the video doesn’t contain any of the content teased by the thumbnail. YouTube has faced issues with grotesque, overtly sexual, and dangerous thumbnails for quite some time, as creators try to garner attention toward their videos.

Lastly, YouTube has strengthened its enforcement around external links. Creators who use external links for websites that cater to content like pornography, hateful ideology, or content that can incite violence, will receive a community strike. Again, if a channel collects three strikes in 90 days, it will be terminated.

The company is giving creators two months to clean their channels up, but going forward, any video that violates these guidelines will be removed and creators could receive a possible community guideline strike against their channel.

Trump’s attorney general pick wants to investigate the Justice Department’s role in Big Tech

President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, said at his first confirmation hearing today that he would look into whether Silicon Valley social media companies were abusing their market position to stifle competition and what the Justice Department’s role should be on the issue of consumer data privacy.

The question that prompted the response came from junior Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) who dedicated his allotted time to asking Barr about issues surrounding data privacy and the centralized power companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have on the market.

“I’d like to have the antitrust [officials] support that effort to get more involved in reviewing the situation from a competition standpoint,” Barr said. “I don’t think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder [how] these big behemoths have taken shape in Silicon Valley.”

In December, William Barr was nominated by President Trump to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department, and today he sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about his long record as an attorney in both the public and private worlds.

Most recently, Barr was on the Time Warner board while the company initially sought to merge with AT&T in 2017. He advocated for the merger and voted on the initial $85 billion deal that eventually led to the creation of WarnerMedia. He met with Justice Department antitrust officials, along with other board members, to discuss the deal. In June, the merger was approved by a lower court, but the Justice Department filed an appeal. The appeal is still being litigated.

After pressure from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barr said he would “absolutely” recuse himself from the case, if he was confirmed.

In questioning, Barr said he would like to take a closer look at the role the agency should play on privacy, but did not discuss it at length. “I also am interested in the issue of privacy and the question of who owns this data,” he said. “It’s not an area that I’ve studied closely or become an expert in, but I think it’s important for the department to get more involved in these questions.”

Barr said he would also explore the alleged bias that big tech companies’ algorithms have on the dissemination of information online.

AT&T isn’t the only telecom Barr has worked for in the past. After serving as former President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general for two years, Barr moved on to represent corporate clients. In 1993, he served in positions at the telecom company, GTE and Verizon. His work focused primarily on the merger between GTE and Bell Atlantic, which eventually morphed into Verizon in 2000. Barr also worked on Verizon’s MCI and Alltel acquisition.

If Barr is confirmed, he would oversee the antitrust division at the agency, the same one he butted heads with at Time Warner, and would look into whether to break up social media giants like Facebook.

Apple’s now selling $129 Smart Battery Cases for the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max

The year has only just begun, and Apple’s first product releases are…Smart Battery Cases for the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.

Apple quietly introduced the new battery cases, which provide up two twice the amount of battery life for some some use cases, for $129 in its online store and through its Apple Store app. Retail stores will carry the accessories soon.

The new Smart Battery Cases feature a soft-touch silicone exterior with micro-fiber lined interior and come in your choice of white or black. Bummer there aren’t matching colors for iPhone XR owners, though.

Here’s the breakdown on how much extra juice these new battery cases get you:

iPhone XR

  • Internet use: Up to 22 hours (up from 15 hours)

  • Talk time: Up to 39 hours (up from 25 hours)

  • Video playback: Up to 27 hours (up from 16 hours)

iPhone XS

  • Internet use: Up to 21 hours (up from 12 hours)

  • Talk time: Up to 33 hours (up from 20 hours)

  • Video playback: Up to 25 hours (up from 14hours)

iPhone XS Max

  • Internet use: Up to 20 hours (up from 13 hours)

  • Talk time: Up to 37 hours (up from 25 hours)

  • Video playback: Up to 25 hours (up from 15 hours)

The best part about the new Smart Battery Cases is that they’re compatible with wireless charging. Most battery cases don’t support them, but these do.

As with the previous battery case for the iPhone 6 and 6S, Apple doesn’t specify how much milliamp hours (mAh) the case comes with. We’ll probably have to wait until a place like iFixit tears it open to see. 

It bulges in the back, but at least it's not as ugly as before.

It bulges in the back, but at least it’s not as ugly as before.

Image: Apple

Also like the old battery case, the new ones keep the XR, XS, and XS Max constantly charged up with a battery indictor within notification center.

Aesthetically, though, the case definitely looks less hideous than the old one with the battery “hump” extending all the way to the bottom edge of the case. Design snobs will appreciate it for sure.

In our review of the iPhone XR, we found the battery to last the longest compared to the XS and XS Max. In some cases lasting nearly two days with light to moderate usage. The Smart Battery Case is great if you’re on the go and have no time to plug in or you’re a power user who’s glued to their device.

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