Google Introduces Star Wars-Themed Customization for Its Apps

Google just debuted a tool that allows users to customize their Google apps with graphics related to “Star Wars,” in anticipation of the December 18 release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The user chooses the dark side or light side, and Google then redecorates Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Search and Android Wear with lightsabers, TIE fighters and other “Star Wars”-themed iconography. Google promises more “Star Wars” tweaks prior to the opening of the movie, which is expected to top “Avatar” in ticket sales. Continue reading Google Introduces Star Wars-Themed Customization for Its Apps

FAA Task Force Releases Recommendations on Policing Drones

The Consumer Technology Association estimates there will be 400,000 drones under the Christmas tree this year. Just in time, a task force created by the Federal Aviation Administration has come out with a report detailing recommendations on how to regulate them. The task force, comprised of drone makers, technology companies, an airline pilots association and the government, says drone owners need to be entered into a federal database and should display a government-issued registration number on their drone. Continue reading FAA Task Force Releases Recommendations on Policing Drones

Facebook Channels Realize Explosive Growth with Food Videos

Facebook hasn’t been promoting videos for that long, but it’s already found its killer content: food videos. Leading the pack is BuzzFeed’s Tasty channel on Facebook, which posts clips on such mouth-watering delights as “loaded cheese-stuffed mashed potato balls.” Launched July 31, Tasty generated more video views than anyone else on Facebook by October, according to analytics firm Tubular Labs. Coming in No. 2 was BuzzFeed again, which posts food videos galore on its main Facebook channel. Continue reading Facebook Channels Realize Explosive Growth with Food Videos

Hulu Gains Subscribers and Revenue, Plans Original Content

In October, Hulu reached No. 8 on the worldwide iOS Top Revenue chart and No. 10 on the worldwide Top Revenue chart for iOS and Android combined, a gain achieved after it made several moves to attract more subscribers. Among them, Hulu struck a deal with Epix when Netflix declined to renew its deal. It also debuted a commercial-free paid tier, the “No Commercials” plan, in September, priced at $11.99 per month. Pleased with the growth, chief executive Mike Hopkins says the company plans on producing original content. Continue reading Hulu Gains Subscribers and Revenue, Plans Original Content

Judge: Cox Not Entitled to Safe Harbor from Copyright Liability

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady ruled that Cox Communications is not, as it claimed, a mere conduit for those who infringe copyrights but instead has liability for not implementing a repeat-infringer policy. The suit originated with BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music, which both sought the help of Rightscorp, a company that tracks down online pirates and, controversially, demands they pay up or face lawsuits. Cox had asserted that Rightscorp’s demands were unreasonable and did not cooperate. Continue reading Judge: Cox Not Entitled to Safe Harbor from Copyright Liability

YouTube Stands Up For Video Creators Fighting Takedowns

YouTube, no stranger to copyright infringement battles, says it will pick up the legal costs of four video creators that are the focus of takedown demands. The company says it chose creators that used third party content legally permitted under the “fair use” provisions for commentary, criticism, news and parody. The company has stated it wants to protect free speech, but it is also signaling its support to video creators to help build loyalty in an increasingly competitive online video environment. Continue reading YouTube Stands Up For Video Creators Fighting Takedowns

MGM, Lionsgate Invest in Free TV Streaming Service Tubi TV

Tubi TV, a startup that aims to aggregate content for free TV streaming, added to its Hollywood studio support with new investments from MGM and Lionsgate. They join the $6 million Series B round of financing led by new investor Cota Capital and existing investor Foundation Capital. As part of the deal, MGM and Lionsgate licensed hundreds of titles from their catalogs to Tubi TV. Former Fox Television Entertainment Group chair Sandy Grushow, currently chief executive of Phase 2 Media, also just joined the Tubi TV board. Continue reading MGM, Lionsgate Invest in Free TV Streaming Service Tubi TV

Comcast’s Stream TV Does Not Affect Subscriber Data Caps

Comcast just launched Stream TV, its live streaming TV service, in the Chicago and Boston areas (including eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine), and plans to debut the service in all its territories by early 2016. What makes Stream TV of interest is that its usage does not count against the 300GB data plans available in some Comcast territories or use a customer’s Internet bandwidth measured in bits per second. Stream TV is an IP cable service delivered over Comcast’s managed network rather than the public Internet. Continue reading Comcast’s Stream TV Does Not Affect Subscriber Data Caps

Site Offers Process for Reporting Online Content Takedowns

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), in partnership with Visualizing Impact, just debuted a new site called Onlinecensorship.org where consumers can post when Facebook or other social media platforms take down their content. The site came into being after EFF director for international freedom of expression Jillian York and Visualizing Impact chief executive Ramzi Jaber had a conversation about content takedowns, and then won the Knight News Challenge last year. The site also informs users how to challenge content takedowns. Continue reading Site Offers Process for Reporting Online Content Takedowns

Sprint Offers New Half-Off Promotion, Expanded LTE Network

Until January 7, any wireless customer switching to Sprint will get half-off the price of the plan offered by his current carrier, as well as $650 in switching costs. For existing Sprint customers, the company offers a free Alcatel OneTouch Pixi 7-inch tablet with 1GB of free data for signing a two-year contract. While Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure says the offer demonstrates the company’s confidence in its improved network, its competitors interpret the latest move in the wireless price wars as closer to desperate. Continue reading Sprint Offers New Half-Off Promotion, Expanded LTE Network

Nokia Initiates Share-Exchange Offer in Alcatel-Lucent Merger

Initiating its planned merger with Alcatel-Lucent, first announced in April, Nokia began its share-exchange offer with that company’s shareholders in Paris and London. Nokia is paying €15.6 billion ($16.6 billion) for Alcatel-Lucent, with the idea that combining the two companies’ expertise in telecom and Internet gear will help it better compete in a global economy. Nokia not only faces competition from new players such as China’s Huawei Technologies but from Ericsson, which just struck an alliance with Cisco. Continue reading Nokia Initiates Share-Exchange Offer in Alcatel-Lucent Merger

Drone Manufacturers Pursue Self-Regulation via Geofencing

Small-scale drone manufacturer DJI, a Chinese company that dominates the drone space, now offers a geofencing system built on flying restrictions it first introduced in 2013. The system already has built-in restrictions around airports and other locations such as prisons and power plants. The company plans to continually update airspace information, possibly including the ability to respond to an emergency request. The drone will not, however, be able to operate in areas deemed to be of national concern such as Washington DC. Continue reading Drone Manufacturers Pursue Self-Regulation via Geofencing

Pandora, Spotify Explore On-Demand Music and Ticket Sales

Pandora just acquired Rdio for its technology and talent, and Spotify is unrolling Fan Insights to offer its musicians a way to research its fan base and plan smarter tours. In both cases, these popular streaming music services are expanding beyond their core expertise — and their unstable revenue — by uniting radio, on demand and even live shows. As bigger players such as Apple, Google and Amazon create music services, Pandora and Spotify must offer more services to survive. Continue reading Pandora, Spotify Explore On-Demand Music and Ticket Sales

Companies Develop New Applications for Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is moving into the mainstream and the San Francisco-based Sentient is one example of how it’s working. The company most recently built a visual search service for an online footwear company, Shoes.com, and also worked with Saint Michael’s Hospital at the University of Toronto on tracking patient care. Rather than rely on history for recommendations, the technology looks at more than a hundred factors to make judgments. Microsoft is also building AI into its products, including its Azure cloud platform. Continue reading Companies Develop New Applications for Artificial Intelligence

NY State Attorney General Goes After Fantasy Football Sites

New York State attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman is on a mission to shut down daily fantasy sports websites FanDuel and DraftKings, calling them illegal. Most recently, he sought an injunction to prevent both companies from operating in the state. FanDuel says it will comply by temporarily banning New York consumers from playing. DraftKings, however, says it’s still open for business with New York clientele. Schneiderman is also focusing on other daily fantasy sports sites, subpoenaing Yahoo. Continue reading NY State Attorney General Goes After Fantasy Football Sites

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