Pirate Bay Trial Update: A Flowery Witness

The reporters over at Torrent Freak have been tracking the Pirate Bay trial with great tenacity, and yesterday the trial took a unique spin just to round out the week with a little humor.

Media expert Roger Wallis was invited to the trial to act as a witness, primarily by attempting to expound on the link between peer to peer file sharing and the decline in retail album sales. Reportedly, when the judge asked if Wallis wanted to be reimbursed for his participation, he responded “You are welcome to send some flowers to my wife.” That night, a flower shop in Stockholm received 100 orders from listeners who have been following live feeds of the trial, all delivered to Wallis’ wife.

Despite the positive support from local users, the impetus behind Wallis’ snarky comment was anything but humorous. Wired correspondent Oscar Swartz has reported that prosecutors are attacking Wallis for claiming that entertainment industry exaggerates the impact of file sharing on album sales. “Digital technologies are weakening middlemen by allowing creators to market their work directly“, he claimed, adding that producers are at risk of losing protection of their IP with the shifts in copyright law. After prosecutors straw-manned Wallis by attacking his credentials, arguments got heated and the judge suspended protocol twice. When asked for reimbursement, the snarky comment was made, and the influx of flowers and chocolate began.

The trial will resume Monday. To learn more, brush up on your Swedish and follow the trial straight from the source.

The Future of the Music Game

Since the music video game trend has gone on a steady upward incline since the launch of Guitar Hero back in 2005, the sky has undoubtedly been the limit in terms of what boundaries could be pushed, both for software and hardware alike. The evolution of the plastic guitar, which once featured a simple interface of five color-corresponding buttons, has now developed into high-neck solo buttons, increasingly sensitive motion detection, and far more intuitive ergonomics. The games, which originally presented 30-60 hit-or-miss covers of a random assortment of songs, have now witnessed the incomparable advantages of music licensing.  With GH: Metallica awaiting a March release and GH: Aerosmith already on store shelves, the trend has even gained enough traction to get the Beatles talking.

Last year consumers became privy to far more choices in terms of their video game palette as the folks at Activision (Guitar Hero developers) challenged the drum and microphone’d prowess of Rock Band with Guitar Hero World Tour, which featured competing hardware to the Harmonix Brand. But such competition wasn’t nearly as feasible as it seemed; Konami made a feeble attempt to foray into the sector in 2008 with Rock Revolution, which was met with weak reviews and tanking sales figures.

But the true question is, what’s next for the titans of the music gaming world? We know that Activision is currently in development of their oft-rumored DJ Hero, which will hopefully open doors for the hip hop and electronica lovers in the gamersphere. However the real challenge may lie in the marketplace, as developers are testing more innovative ways of offering user-generated content available for mass download.  Considering the aforementioned evolution of the genre, the both sides of the competition better bring their A-game, because two turntables and a microphone just may not cut it for a finicky consumer base.

DRM and the iPhone

The folks over at TorrentFreak have been reporting on a new trend in iPhone hacking that’s on track to gain significant attention in 2009. When the earth-shattering mobile phone hit the shelves nearly two years ago, the process of jailbreaking was one of the only widely renowned ways techies and hackers alike could play around with Apple’s not-so-transparent technology. Now Crackulous, a piece of code that removes copy protection in applications, has been made available to the public.

The term “hacking” bears negative connotations to those that don’t understand technology, and the developers of Crackulous have a highly proletarian view on the whole issue. Quite simply, using Crackulous would allow users to share applications they’ve downloaded through Apple, all while contributing to new software developments via open source coding. This would lead to various advancements in the scheme of using the iPhone to its full potential.

Although code junkies were only recently given the opportunity to experiment with Crackulous, software developers concerned about the success of their IP have since become hot on their trail. Ripdev, the newest threat to software pirates, is the latest application of anti-DRM testing systems that has already undergone Apple’s software approval process. TorrentFreak quotes the Ripdev representatives, noting that “the Kali system is a server-side service which can take any App Store application and place it inside another protection wrapper which, Ripdev claims, will prevent it from being pirated.” While the technical side of the issue is sure to be far more complicated, the Ripdev team is essentially challenging hackers to break through an extra barrier of protection, all for a 1%-%5 cut of developer’s revenue depending on price. While this is nothing new to the code-crackers of the tech world, it is among the first steps towards the oft-told battle of software copyright protection in the digital age.

The Pirate Bay Will Keep Plundering…For Now

Big news out of Sweden today. Popular torrent tracker website PirateBay.org and counsel entered day three of litigation,  where an unprecedented 50% of the charges filed against them were dropped. As Channel Web reports, “The Pirate Bay’s counsel successfully argued that bit torrent files aren’t compelling as evidence to prosecute The Pirate Bay”, noting that the digital files exchanged between users “don’t demonstrate clear illegal activity on Pirate Bay’s part.” An interesting argument to say the least, considering some of the biggest names in the entertainment world are involved in the case, including the big five studios (Fox, Warner Bros., etc.), several music labels, and various other media-related companies.

The decision to drop half the charges allows those involved to focus on what they see as the primary issue, which is the act of making copywritten material available for download. While this argument is largely pursued on the prosecuting end, the line of defense used by most file sharing outlets is the hosting of links to said material versus the actual files themselves. The hosting of files is what ultimately led to Napster’s demise, whereas legal loopholes have allowed torrent channels to operate with only minimal recourse. This trial will undoubtedly set precedence for the future of torrent sites as media companies hurry to pursue those that they feel encroach on the legal boundaries of their content.

Korg Teams Up With Nintendo

Everyone knows that Korg sets the standard of preeminence in the fusion of music and technology. With products such as the highly affordable Kaossilator to the professional grade PA2XPro, the Japanese company has consistently figured out ways to integrate different hardware into the musical scope. Enter the Korg DS-10, undoubtedly one of the most exciting and innovative bits of music-related software of the new year.

Incorporating one of the highest grossing handheld video game system to date, the DS-10 features a lot of the similar technology you may find on various other Korg products, most notably the use of handheld’s touch screen. The DS-10 uses said screen to create an interface resembling that of a synthesizer, with full on equalization capabilties. With two dual oscillator synth parts and four synth/drum parts, users are able to visualize and fully customize their own beats. Along with a hefty range of effects, the 16-step sequencer makes efficient use of the tiny screen as dictated by the full-featured mixer.

Those with more elevated musical aspirations will be happy to know that the Nintendo DS features wi-fi capabilities, allowing up to 8 users can sync up and create an ensemble. Not only can data be transmitted wirelessly to other systems, the DS also allows fully functional multi-synth compositions to be created and further manipulated wirelessly. The DS-10 is one of the more celebrated pieces of music-based software for the Nintendo DS, and one can only imagine what Korg has in mind for the DSi, which will feature bigger, more high-definition screens, as well as an mp3 player.

Ruckus Closes Up Shop

PC World is reporting that subscription-based DRM-free music provider Ruckus is closing their doors. In the wake of a recent trend in digital music where providers offer a blanket deal for universities to download non-DRM material, Ruckus just couldn’t seem to get its act together in terms of technology and compatibility.

Ruckus was owned by TotalMusic, a niche licensing division of Sony/Universal BMG. At $15 per semester, students would have access to DRM-free digital music without having to worry about the RIAA monitoring easily targeted IP addresses.  However, students soon came to reject Ruckus due to its usability and compatibility issues with both software and external hardware. For one, the service was programmed to work solely with Windows-based machines, largely disenfranchising the arguable majority of students who use Macintosh machines.

VP of Product Management at TotalMusic Jason Herskowitz speculated that venture capitalists are becoming more and more eager to throw money at digital music world once the right formula is cracked and every party is satisfied. Ad-supported services like Ruckus, Pandora, or music social network sites like imeem are touching upon said technologies, yet it would appear that no one has yet to figure out how to ultimately appease the end-user. As the digital landscape transforms in tangent with the economy, it’ll be interesting to see just how users, producers, and licensing parties adapt to the changes occurring with the music industry.

iPhone Obsessions: iDrum

Image courtesy of Ministry of Sound

The iPhone app store has single-handedly become a choice distraction for those looking to max out their mobile potential on the go or at home. Any audiophile can tell you that the store is chock full of music software to satisfy all musical palettes, ranging from casual games to truncated production applications.

iDrum happens to be one such application, offering users the chance to visually produce originally manufactured beats as well as augment previously existing ones. Presented by legendary DJ label Ministry of Sound, iDrum features over 300 original samples for users to toy with, as well as 20 kits featuring different instruments to weave into various beats. With a completely unique interface resembling that of a sampler, iDrum allows users to zoom in to specific squares (that represent different instruments and effects), altering and editing to any style or taste.

While the app may seem a bit daunting at first, there is certainly a learning curve involved in creating music with such a tiny device. It may be instinctual to haphazardly tap the interface upon first glance, which will inevitably produce distorted and displeasing music. However, with a $5.99 price tag, iDrum is simply one of those applications that, no matter how quickly you learn, maintains its longevity and entertainment value long after it’s purchased.