Saturday, March 31, 2018
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
After looking at some of the weaknesses of the current blockchain model in being applied to the rights industry, this part of the article looks at other considerations and put forward some technical approaches that may overcome these issues.
At Rights Tracker we have been working on these issues for over a decade and already have API and SSO solutions in place which can be used to develop blockchain type models for rights.
Before going into these technical solutions there are further issues that need to be considered.
Perhaps the most contentious of these is the accountability of blockchain. A distributed model has clear advantages, but a major element of this is hiding any transactions from relevant authorities. Over the past couple of weeks in the US, the IRS has been paying specific attention to cryptocurrency traders and it is likely, where they can be identified, some traders will be liable for significant tax bills (in the US cryptocurrencies are regarded as property and are therefore liable to capital gains taxes).
Another more sinister revelation that has emerged from an academic study of the Bitcoin ledger in recent days is that it contains child pornography. Yes, you read correctly: you can encapsulate URLs and even small files within the blockchain and, once there, is nearly impossible to remove.
And here's the rub. A decentralised, un-policed system is likely to result in bad people doing bad things with impunity.
As a result, we do not believe that a fully decentralised model is viable for rights management.
Rather we would propose an asynchrous two tier model made up of a distributed transactional model with a further certification network, made up of licensing authorities, law firms and other regulated and approved bodies.
This is not dissimilar to how internet security, such as SSL, is currently deployed with a network of certification authorities issuing licences to be used across a variety of applications.
This model could then be extended by using distributed blockchain to log usage. So, a musician could issue and manage their own contributions. After participating in a recording session, for example, they could sign the related blockchain and, assigning their rights and ensuring that these rights could then be tracked wherever the track was used.
If the track is subsequently used for a film soundtrack, the correct rights payment would filter back to the artist and could even be used for micropayments on a pay per play basis - something that is phenomenally difficult to track today as shown by the issues facing collection agencies.
As part of this there would need to be an agreed model for rights.
The model we have developed at Rights Tracker is a multi-tiered system with rights dimensions such as type, platform, window, language, territory, etc..
This can be used to ascertain the available rights and then construct a rights transaction.
The rights transaction would further contain details of any contributory rights, for example musicians or composers on a music track, and financial details.
Calculating the above takes considerable processing power, many, many times more complex than calculating cryptocurrency transactions. And, as has already been seen in the cryptocurrency world, a fully distributed model has given way to a specialised layer of processing (somewhat ironically called 'mining' in the funny money business) since the data processing is too much for an average home PC to tackle.
Rights Tracker already has a calculation engine and API for this model in place and we intend to commercialise this facility over the coming months offering both a cloud based, centralised processing facility and as a deployable model for organisations wishing to run their own processing.
We'd be delighted to hear from anyone interested in working on this with us.
Friday, March 16, 2018
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
I believe that the idea was to stop US Big Internet from stealing Europeans' data. A commendable objective. The reality is totally different. As usual, when you get a bunch of utter morons with no understanding of technology coming up with consensus dogma, it's an utter mess.
The legislation is aimed at companies using consumer data, giving them the right to 'own' their data (something I have long advocated via the 'mybot' concept), but it has had dreadful consequences which potentially could render the internet in Europe unusable if the law was applied to its letter.
As ever with this type of badly drafted law, there is no clarity on how it should impact unforseen areas like, er... a workplace, or companies offering business to business services.
Meanwhile, consultants are rubbing their hands with glee, taking sharp intakes of breath at every opportunity whilst watching the $$$ signs roll in their eyeballs whilst lawyers are pouring another glass of burgundy in sweet anticipation of the riches this will bring them. A whole new class of litigation!
I have personally utterly ignored the cookie directive, happy to go to court to prove how totally stupid it is if necessary.
However, GDPR has had a far more profound impact on my businesses.
It has resulted in our biggest clients (and we work for many of the world's largest and most successful companies) issuing stupid audits, directives and contracts. No doubt encouraged by the parasitical industry that surrounds such stupid legislation.
We have had to redraft every document we use, from employment contracts to acceptable user policies; we have run training; we are still awaiting compliance from suppliers such as Microsoft (we had one client, one of the world's biggest brands, based in the EU, who required written sign off on their GDPR policies from every supplier. Try getting that from the likes of Microsoft...)
I remember Y2K audits, which invoked a similar level of hysteria in corporate land, stoked by fear and ignorance.
And that, dear reader, is what we get from Brussels.
I know that Google has shrugged its shoulders at this legislation, whilst I am scambling. Is that what the lawmakers in the EU intended - to handicap successful, global EU companies in favour of Big Internet ?
Once again, it's a massive argument for leaving the idiotic EU bureaucracy.
Friday, January 19, 2018
When you chord cut you really don’t miss the ability to schedule recordings since pretty much everything is available on demand within a few hours.
Everything except sports, that is. BT Sports takes the best part of a month to get full games up online, Now TV doesn’t provide any catch up at all for sports.
As the rugby season gets into full swing I therefore find myself missing games, since rights are spread over several services (BBC, BT, Sky).
So, I set about seeng if I could set up a cloud recorder.
The first step was to find a way of grabbing a stream. This proved pretty simple using a box intended to record video gameplay. Plug in the HDMI input from my Roku 3 and the output to the TV and boot up in the right order. The box even comes with the ability to schedule recordings. I was able to record any content off the Roku and Fire TV stick (I have yet to get Chromecast to work, but I’m convinced it’s possible).
The next stage was to be able to control all of this when I’m away from the house.
The solution was to use Logitech’s Harmony system to remotely control all the devices (I have it set up with Alexa so that it understands voice commands). You’re able to concoct recipes such as “turn on Roku, the TV on input 3 and the sound bar and go to iPlayer”.
The next step will be to add some visual control, probably by VPNing into a PC in my home network. An alternative would be to use a security camera to see the TV screen.
So, finally, I can do everything that you can on a traditional TV STB, but using the cloud.
It just remains to debate whether this is legal. (The setup does nothing that a VHS did thirty years ago and that any STB will do now. I pay for all the services I’m recording and I only use the recordings for consumption in my home.)
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
After installing a Logitech Harmony hub and linking it to Alexa I’ve found myself talking to my TV.
It switches the TV on and off and starts up services like Roku (although it did start playing “We Will Rock You” by Queen the first time I tried...). It also pauses and restart the telly on DVR and OTT.
This means that we can use Alexa (or can just use our mobiles or iPads) instead of five remotes and around twelve apps. Magic!
(As an aside, I’ve recently installed BT Whole Home mesh, which is utterly brilliant. We have nearly forty connected devices already to in our house - five Sonos, three Nest, seven PCs and Macs, four connected TVs, three Roku boxes, six tablets, a Fire TV stick, a transcoder and the Harmony remote and hub. Oh, and two or three mobile phones and some security devices to protect all of the above! (Plus, of course, a microwave operating at the same frequency as our wifi). A single router just couldn’t cope - now all the devices are getting at least 60Mbs, even down at the dock at the end of the garden it’s 25Mbs. Yes, for the first time on this blog I’m praising BT!)
You can also control and manage the devices remotely from anywhere in the world using the Harmony on your mobile, since it’s cloud enabled (easier than explaining how they work to your mum when she comes to stay - and a great way of entertaining the cat).
The next step, I guess, is to give programme makers and service operators instant feedback from Alexa. Forget Gogglebox, welcome to Alexabox...
Seriously, it does open up many new possibilities - playing along to game shows by voicing an answer (Pointless will never be the same again, and as for University Challenge...), even ordering items from commercials or calling up a web page. Imagine skipping through channels or UIs and telling your TV to ‘save for later’.
It also highlights how useless current remotes and their endless buttons are.
Forget 8K and curved screens, what TV manufacturers need to do is to integrate voice commands into their devices. It’s probably too late for them to develop their own, so expect Alexa or Google on your next TV.
And yet again, Apple are left behind. Siri remain a joke. Ask it the time and your garage door will open. It has not once ever understood a voice command for dialling or directions I have given it.
Until Microsoft release some cheaper products, the company whose business focus under Ballmer was to ‘own your living room’ are much better focused on their business and cloud computing efforts. Their voice assistant, Cortana, is a side show, although still much better than Siri in my experience.
Now that we’re rigged up, I’m pretty convinced that voice commands are the way to go for TV viewing, but it remains to be seen how Alexa will respond to my expletive viewing of rugby games at weekends.