And the Verdict Is…

Guilty. The four men that made up the Sweden-based Pirate Bay filesharing site have been found guilty in the momentous trial today. According to various sources, “the court has found that by using Pirate Bay’s services there has been file-sharing of music, films and computer games to the extent the prosecutor has stated in his case.” The men have been ordered jail-time of one year, and $905,000 each equating to a total of about $3.6 million. The funds will be distributed to various entertainment studios and companies, including Warner Bros, EMI, Columbia Pictures, and Sony Music.

Although the verdict has been decided, the four men will be allowed to appeal, likely on the basis that the site never actually hosted the copyrighted material, just acted as a catalyst by providing the technology for its 22 million users to download content via torrents. While the judge in the trial noted that the court took into account the ad-driven nature of the site, the defendants argued that in no way was the site commercially driven, an argument that will certainly re-surface during the appeals process.

The Associated Press reported that ” Swedish authorities caved in to pressure from the U.S. when they launched the crackdown on The Pirate Bay in 2006.” Following that trial and the presently concluded case, a grassroots movement fueled by social networking and underground message boards cultivated a mass social a political zeitgeist, arguing the intrusion of the government on the public’s use of the Internet. New bills and laws are currently being developed across Europe in an attempt to define legislation paramaters of the largely polar issue.

France Says “Non” to Anti-Piracy Laws

Sarkozy speaks about the three-strikes anti-piracy law.

Trying to steal a bit of the spotlight from Sweden, are we France? To be fair, Sweden isn’t the only country undergoing significant changes in policy amidst anti-piracy laws. TorrentFreak is reporting this week that France has rejected the three-strikes copyright infringement penalty put forth by Parliament. The legislation, known as “HADOPI” (Creation and Internet), posits that infringers would eventually lose their access to the Internet after three warnings. On top of that, the law would allow ISP’s to essentially block certain websites known for harboring large torrent traffic.

Considering the ultra-liberal majority of France, the three-strikes law was naturally opposed by the public, but even more inflammatory is the consideration to block certain websites, which would be a precedented display of censorship. To the surprise of the public, the law was indeed passed by parliament and the senate, but did not make it through the National Assembly vote. TorrentFreak notes that “according to early reports, the Socialist deputies changed their initial position and decided to vote against the law after witnessing the mass opposition from the French public.” The Socialist party, always acting on behalf of the revolting populace, seemed to be the conduit in the vote, sensing the zealous opposition of the law via national polls and media.

On top of the messy backpedaling demonstrated by French government, TorrentFreak noted that last month European parliament had opposed the three-strikes law, calling the Internet a fundamental freedom. While movements to ramp up security were supported by parliament, cutting off the Internet for users was not.

Internet Use in Sweden Down 40% Amidst Anti-Piracy Laws

Ah Sweden. Home of beautiful scenery, beautiful people, and home to one of the highest standards of living in the world (due to the ridiculous taxes imposed, of course, but who’s keeping score.) 2009 put Sweden in the limelight for a little while thanks to the Pirate Bay trials, where media piracy took a dramatic turn in terms of actions and policy. After the trial concluded (verdict still pending until April 17th), strict anti-piracy laws were put into place for the northern European country, and guess what? Internet use in Sweden has dropped by 40% since then.

40%. That’s way more than a third, and almost one half. Almost one half of people have actually stopped using the Internet. Tech website Blorge is reporting that since the anti-piracy laws have gone into effect, ISP’s in Sweden are now forced to hand over IP addresses of those who have been red-flagged for downloading obscene amounts of copyrighted material.

“The law certainly seems to be having one effect, albeit not one that helps its aims: demand for anonymizing proxy services, which mask the IP address of users, is reportedly heavily increased this week with some providers struggling to cope,” Blorge reports.

Guess that makes good weather days in Sweden that much more special.

DJ Anywhere…Literally…With Urban DJ

Urban DJ

Add this to one of those gadgets that only the geekiest of audiophiles would add to their gadget repetoire. The UBDJ Fi-Hi Urban DJ Cassette Tape Cross-Fader seems to be just one of those tchotchkes that you passively pick up, but then it turns out to be way more entertaining than you originally thought. The UBDJ connects to any device with a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack, so those carrying around an iPhone, an mp3 player and any other music toys  can essentially crossfade content from both outputs.

The Fi-Hi also includes a headset jack so that all the DJ’s on the go will be able to cross fade their music without missing a beat. That essentially means that if you’re dropping tracks you’ll still be able to avoid the feared “trainwreck” (read: completely mismatching rhythms and beats leaving your audience distraught, peering back at your with a disturbing deer-in-headlights facial expression) While the Urban DJ isn’t exactly a Tonium Pacemaker, but at least it doesn’t claim to be. At around $30, the Fi-Hi is easily just another fun toy to add to gadget collection

New DSi Offering New Avenue for Piracy?

The third iteration of Nintendo’s popular hand-held video game console is set to release this week, and considering the momentum of the previous version, the DSi should be no exception in terms of sales. While the DS lite remains to be one of the best selling consoles on the market, Nintendo has upped the ante with their new hardware that makes gaming only one of several highlight features. Equipped with two cameras, a WiFi marketplace, and an SD card slot, the DSi certainly set the bar that much higher for future handheld systems to come.

But one of the more interesting yet arguably unnecessary features of the new DSi is the music playback feature. While the hardware only supports AAC-formatted files (much to the chagrin of most people who own mp3’s), the real question is how the DSi will open an avenue for pirates. It would seem quite apparent that between integrated WiFi and SD card support would presumably beg for pirates to start manipulating the system. Seeing as the DSi was released in Japan late last year, pirates have already developed ways to basically rip games onto the hardware, which is pretty much expected for any medium released these days. But has Nintendo opened up yet another door for the music industry to panic about? The DSi is set to release in the US tomorrow (April 4th) at midnight, so only time will tell.

Vuze Update Aggregates Devices for Torrent Junkies

(Credit: Vuze/CNET)

CNET is reporting that popular torrent client Vuze (formerly known as Azuereus) has released an update that allows users to streamline their content through various devices, including iTunes, Apple TV, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The update features a transcoder that re-formats all downloaded content to work with external devices via a specific plug-in developed by the Vuze programmers.

Integrating the automatic conversion process allows content to be compatible with both televisions and mobile devices via the new Devices tab, which offers a drag and drop interface depending on which format the user chooses to export to. Whatever device is connected to the user’s computer will be recognized by the software wherein users can choose what downloaded content goes where. While iTunes will automatically sync up with Vuze, users will manually sync their portable devices without much effort. Those using video game consoles will see their content streamed onto their televisions directly from their computer.

Word around the tech-verse is that speed is an issue with Vuze’s latest update, but considering the utility of the program it would seem that the slow rate of conversion is a small price to pay. 25,000 people responded to a poll put forth by the Vuze team asking which devices they’d most like to see homogenized with their computer content (iPod was rated the highest), so clearly there is no shortage of a user-base. We’ll just have to wait to see what’s in store for the forward-thinking torrent client during the much-anticipated next update.

iPhone Obsessions: Intua Beatmaker – Worth the $20?

The Intua Beatmaker is not exactly new on the iPhone application frontier, but it is yet another means by which audiophiles can take their production obsessions on the go. A fully functional sampler, complete with music, sound effects and EQ, the Beatmaker definitely takes the cake for one of the most comprehensive music apps on the market.

Perhaps one of the highlight features of the Beatmaker is the recording property, where users can plug in a microphone or headset into the audio jack and record their own effects. That’s certainly something to be said for the $20 price tag; clearly some thought was put into its technology because few developers have found alternative uses for some of the iPhone’s biggest features. That being said, the Beatmaker bears several other features that music lovers will enjoy, particularly its multi-track sequencer, live pattern arrangement properties, and network sharing capabilities available for further download within the app.

The interface for the Beatmaker is far more intuitive than previous production apps on the market today,(namely iDrum, previously reviewed by AudioMicro.) The sampler, equalizer and control functions are easily translated onto a smaller surface making it accessible for casual music lovers and hardcore producers alike. Despite its intuition and all around entertainment factor, this is just one of those investments that may not be the wisest for the casual app-junkies out there. But for all the audio junkies out there, this is one that you may want to include on your  iPhone’s front page, right next to your Facebook app.

New iPhone Sims 3 Game Features Music Customization

At today’s iPhone 3.0 software media event, several announcements were made regarding the latest software upgrade for Apple’s mobile phone. Among copy and paste features, MMS, and other application-based announcements, Electronic Arts was able to show off the latest installment of their highly successful franchise The Sims. Like many other applications soon to be developed for the iPhone 3.0 software, The Sims 3 will be among the most immersive games to allow users to access their music while the game is being played, reports Kotaku.

This announcement comes in tangent with a broader feature that EA announced. Sims 3 will include an in-app store where players can purchase things for their Sim-environment, namely an avenue to play music already available on the users’ iPhone. This will most likely include something like a stereo or jukebox; in any case, instead of playing pre-recorded music provided by the developer, users will be able to customize playlists from their iPhone’s music library, leaving characters in the game dancing to familiar music. Even if players aren’t necessarily in a room with a jukebox, music may be played simply for ambiance. For more news on the iPhone 3.0 media day including new features and applications, click here.

Thanks Gizmodo/Kotaku for the image

Get Ready For The Gadget Orchestra Thanks to Rockstar

Never has an amalgamation of music hardware and software come together to produce such a resounding orchestral piece than this recent YouTube concoction. With an iPod touch, an iPhone (running the Bloom application), a Korg Kaossilator, a Nintendo DSi and a Nintendo DS (running Electroplankton), the Japanese media aficionado uses the Belkin Rockstar multi-headphone jack to connect all the hardware seen here.

The Belkin Rockstar is by no means new on the market, but with new iterations of all the latest mobile media reaching consumer hands at an unstoppable rate, the Rockstar seems to be the easiest solution for sharing entertainment with a buddy. If anything, all this guy needs is one more output to record his pieces onto. Either way, sharing media is always an issue, and even if you don’t happen to have everything seen in the orchestra, the Rockstar is a great bet.

Rock Band Beatles Due Out This Year

It was recently announced that Harmonix and Electronic Arts, developer and publisher of the successful Rock Band music video game series, will be releasing the Beatles edition of the record-breaking game on September 9th of this year. The game will feature tracks from every era of the band’s catalog thanks to Apple Corps., who recently opened up their library for the game’s development. What was assuredly a tumultuous story of music licensing issues and copyright ownership has now culminated in an actual release date. While pricing may range anywhere from $59.99 (for the standalone software) to $250 (for special limited edition hardware), several options will be availavle to the consumer. Keep track of updates and pre-order information at the game’s official homepage.