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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

European MEPs vote to reopen copyright debate over ‘censorship’ controversy

A 318-278 majority of MEPs in the European Parliament has just voted to reopen debate around a controversial digital copyright reform proposal — meaning it will now face further debate and scrutiny, rather than be fast-tracked towards becoming law via the standard EU trilogue negotiation process.

Crucially it means MEPs will have the chance to amend the controversial proposals.

Last month the EU parliament’s legal affairs committee approved the final text of the copyright proposal — including approving its two most controversial articles — kicking off a last ditch effort by groups opposed to what they dub the ‘link tax’ and ‘censorship machines’ to marshal MEPs to reopen debate and be able to amend the proposal.

The copyright reform is controversial largely on account of two articles:

  • Article 11 — which proposes to create a neighboring right for snippets of journalistic content in order to target news aggregator business models, like Google News, which publishers have long argued are unfairly profiting from their work.

Similar ancillary copyright laws have previously been enacted in Germany and Spain — and in the latter market, where the licensing requirement was not flexible, Google News closed up shop entirely, leading, say critics, to decreased traffic referrals to Spanish news sites.

  • Article 13 — which makes Internet platforms that host large amounts of user-uploaded content directly liable for copyright infringements by their users, and would likely push platforms such as YouTube towards pre-filtering all user generated content at the point of upload, with all the associated potential chilling effects if/when algorithms fail to recognize fair use of a copyrighted work, for instance.

Article 13 is arguably the more controversial element of the two, and it is certainly where opposition campaigning has been fiercest. Though it has strong support from musicians and the music industry who have spent years fighting YouTube, arguing it exploits legal protections around music videos viewed on its service and pays lower royalties than they are due.

In the opposition camp, a broad coalition of digital rights organizations, startup groups, Internet architects, computer scientists, academics and web advocates — including the likes of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Bruce Schneier, Jimmy Wales and Mitch Kapor, who in an open letter last month argued that Article 13 “takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

This week several European language versions of Wikipedia also blacked out encyclopedia content in a ‘going dark’ protest against the proposals, though the European Commission has claimed online encyclopedias would not be impacted by Article 13.

A claim that is, however, disputed by opponents…

An online petition calling for MEPs to vote for the parliament to be able to amend the proposals had gathered more than 850,000 signatures at the time of the vote.

Right ahead of the vote, MEPs heard brief statements in favor and against fast tracking the proposal.

Speaking in favor, MEP Axel Voss — rapporteur on the legal affairs committee which voted in favor of the text last month — said the proposals are intended to end “the exploitation of European artists on the Internet”.

“We’re talking about the major US platforms like Google and Facebook that have been making huge profits at the cost of European creatives. We need to prevent that,” he said. “And I think it is inexplicable how some people want to support this Internet capitalism, while others are calling for America first an abusing data and exploiting our creatives. We should be standing at the side of our European creators, and otherwise there is a risk of creative insolvency.”

“Why would we be against wanting to prevent copyright violations, why would we be against fair remuneration of creatives, and getting these large platforms to take more responsibility,” he added. “The campaign that we’re subject to, from Google, Facebook, that are meeting with children of MEPs — all of this is based on lies. There are no limits being put for individual users, every person can continue to set up links and carry out their uploads with legal certainty.”

Speaking against the proposal being fast-tracked — to allow for what she described as a “broad, fact-based debate” — was MEP Catherine Stihler, rapporteur on the internal market and consumer protection committee, which had joint competency on Article 13 of the proposal but whose position she said had not been taken into account in the text agreed by the (Juri) legal affairs committee, saying their text “does not achieve the needed balance”.

“We are all united in our shared mission to protect artists and cultural diversity in Europe… In our committee we were able to reach a broad compromise that makes meaningful progress on the value gap but at the same time safeguarding the rights of European Internet users, SMEs and startups,” said Stihler.

“There are real concerns about the effect of Article 13 on freedom of expression, raised by experts ranging from the UN special rapporteur David Kaye to the inventor of the world wide web, sir Tim Berners-Lee. And real concerns voiced by our citizens, just yesterday I received a petition signed by almost a million people against the Juri committee mandate. And although there is consensus — and I do believe there is consensus about the goals behind this law — huge controversy still exists about the methods proposed, something’s not right here. We owe it to the experts, stakeholders and citizens to give this directive the full debate necessary to achieve broad support.”

The outcome of today’s vote means copyright lobbyists on both sides of the fence face a busy summer — ahead of debate, the chance for amendments to the text and another vote, now set to take place in the EU parliament in September.

European Consumer Organisation, BEUC, welcomed today’s vote in the parliament.

In a statement, its DG, Monique Goyens, said: “This is a big decision in the fight to prevent large-scale and systematic filtering of online content from becoming the norm. The legislative debate urgently needs re-direction. The Internet must remain a place where consumers can freely share own creations, opinions and ideas. MEPs have a chance to correct a heavily unbalanced report and make copyright work for both consumer and creators.”

In the not at all happy camp: The Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music (Sacem), whose secretary general, David El Sayegh, described it as “a set-back but it is not the end”.

“Sacem remains dedicated to ensuring that creators are recognised and remunerated for the value of their work,” he added in a statement. “We will not be discouraged by today’s decision and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world, in the hopes of reaching a fair agreement with these platforms that will safeguard the future of the music industry.

“We are confident that the European Parliament will eventually support a framework that fully acknowledges the rights of creators in the digital landscape of the 21st century.”

Source: TechCrunch

Nokia to build and test 5G apps in China with Tencent, leveraging 1B+ WeChat and QQ users

The world is still years away from wide-scale 5G networks — which proponents say will bring a new generation of services connecting people and objects in the Internet of Things — but those hoping to have a role in that economy are getting themselves in place now to capitalise on them for when they do arrive. Today comes the latest development on that front: Nokia and internet giant Tencent announced that they will work together on 5G R&D and applications, including leveraging Tencent’s billions of users — among other things, it owns messaging networks WeChat and QQ, which alone account for over 1 billion users — to test and roll out its services.

The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed but we have contacted Nokia to see if it can provide more detail. The two note in their announcement that the deal will include a lab in Shenzhen, and that apps will be created targeting sectors including transportation, finance, energy, intelligent manufacturing and entertainment. Technologies that will tested include Edge Computing, “Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything” and delivering cloud-based gaming and entertainment — areas that touch on what many think will define the next generation of hardware (connected cars) and architecture (cloud-based services becoming even more ubiquitous and therefore straining networks further).

China has so far proven to be a very lucrative market for building new tech services. Not only does its massive population (and subsequently large number of people using tech services) mean that you have a lot of scale, which is important for, say, training AI services or battle-testing new technologies; but also, the country is known for more relaxed policies when it comes to how user data is collected and stored, which can also be a significant attribute when working on new technologies. (Note: that last part might be changing down the line.) Tencent — as the owner of two of the world’s biggest messaging services — is an especially key partner in this regard.

This is a significant deal for both companies. For Nokia, the company today is not a direct, major player in mobile phones and subsequent consumer services: it lost market share years ago for its own handset business and ultimately ended up selling it off (it now licenses the name to HMD, and has many other licensing deals for hardware and software patents with other handset makers); it then it sold off its Here maps business; and it most recently pulled out of its efforts in health-related hardware and services.

5G presents an opportunity to revisit Nokia’s role once again, both as a network services provider as well as a developer of services to run on those networks.

“This collaboration with Tencent is an important step in showing webscale companies around the globe how they can leverage the end-to-end capabilities of Nokia’s 5G Future X portfolio,” said Marc Rouanne, president of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “Working with them we can deliver a network that will allow them to extend their service offer to deliver myriad applications and services with the high-reliability and availability to support ever-growing and changing customer demands.”

For Tencent, the company already has a huge number of users, and last year it was part of a consortium (with Alibaba, Didi and Baidu) that took at $12 billion stake in mobile operator China Unicom. That partnership will give the company — which has made its fortune in software — messaging apps, games and other services — a stronger place in building services that are more tightly integrated with networks. And this deal with Nokia will extend that kind of work specifically in the area of 5G.

“We are pleased to collaborate with Nokia to leverage the technologies, products and expertise of both our companies to fufill the growing demands of a digital economy driven by 5G,” said Zeng Yu, Vice President at Tencent, in a statement. “Tencent and Nokia are fully committed to delivering richer, more diverse, multi-level services and applications for enterprises, and individual customers. Furthermore, we will support each other in creating more financial and social benefits in our respective fields, to pursue success in the new era of digital economy.”

Recall that Tencent has had an extended connection to Nokia.

The company was among those we heard were interested in acquiring Nokia’s Here mapping assets, before they were ultimately sold to a car consortium in Europe. Later, Tencent yet again tried to acquire a stake in the Here business, although regulators thwarted those plans as well.

But Tencent’s interests in location-based services has remained: among other things, it has a stake in Sensewhere, an indoor mapping company. Forging a partnership with Nokia now on 5G — which has a strong mapping and location-aware component to it can help bring strategic investments like these into sharper focus.

We will update this post as we learn more.

Source: TechCrunch

Former head of UberEats in Europe has joined VC Atomico as Executive-In-Residence

When long time Uber employee and head of Uber’s food delivery business in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Jambu Palaniappan, quit the on-demand juggernaut, it was let slip that he planned to join a European venture capital firm, but it wasn’t clear who.

Until now.

TechCrunch has learned from several sources in the European early-stage investment community and from a number of portfolio companies that the former UberEats executive has joined Atomico, the London-based VC firm co-founded by Skype founder Niklas Zennström.

Specifically, Palaniappan will be joining Atomico as part of its Executive-In-Residence (XiR) programme. This sees the VC firm offer former founders and senior operators 12 month contracts to help mentor the next generation of Atomico portfolio company founders while those individuals figure out what they want to do next.

Sources have also told me that a senior executive from Deepmind may have also joined the European VC but the exact name is still to be confirmed. Atomico did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publishing.

Meanwhile, according to Atomico’s website, another of its Executive-In-Residence is former Spotify employee number 8 Sophia Bendz, who was previously Global Director of Marketing and Communications at the music streaming giant. In addition, eRepublik Labs founder and CEO Alexis Bonte, and Rdio founder Carter Adamson, were both XiR’s but have since chosen to stay on at Atomico as Venture Partners.

Source: TechCrunch

Fever gets $20M to delight more hipsters with A/B tested Madhatter’s G&T parties

London-based Fever, an urban events discovery app-cum-entertainment events business with an online media arm that it uses as marketing megaphone and data-gathering lens on its community of users, has closed a $20 million Series C investment to expand into new markets across Europe and North America — and win more hipsters over to its own brand “immersive themed experiences”.

The round was co-led by European media group Atresmedia and real estate company Labtech — because of course parties need venues — and with participation from existing investors Accel Partners and 14W Ventures.

The 2014-founded startup had raised $19.3M prior this round, according to Crunchbase, including a $3M seed for its original Fever event discovery app back in 2014.

Fever’s urban events discovery app uses a recommendation algorithm to offer personalized listings coverings activity such as music festivals, theatre, fashion, restaurants and pop-ups. But it also feeds and supplements that business via an online media network, called Secret Media Network, plus a series of branded social media channels (Secret London, Secret NYC etc) — using this cross-platform media operation to gather intel on what its community of urban users would like to do next for paid hipster fun.

In its main markets (London, New York, Paris, Madrid) it says the reach of this network is more than 12M unique users per week — allowing it to market upcoming events to millions of engaged eyeballs as well as power its own-brand ‘Fever Originals’ events, based off of the insights it’s mining from its community.

Specifically it says it’s using anonymised behavioral data-mining to algorithmically predict untapped demand for events that don’t yet exist — and then serving them up as an own brand event.

This community data driven events programming extends to testing the intent users have for different themed “immersive experiences” in different settings and scenarios — a process it likens to Netflix’s approach of using analytics to understand audiences to develop and market new content.

So what kind of events has this A/B testing-esque programming process resulted in?

Fever gives an example of an Alice in Wonderland themed experience it ran in a double decker bus in Brooklyn — saying this was a “clear winner” during its user analysis, when it tried out alternative theme options (such as Aladdin and the Lion King), as well as alternative city locations (in other parts of New York), and venues (rooftop, double decker bus, indoors). But its NYC community clearly wanted Alice in a bus in Brooklyn.

The resulting Madhatter themed G&T immersive experience amassed more than 12,000 people on the waitlist before the event went live. “At $60 per person, it sold out for the month of June in just a couple of days since it was released in early May, with only a sketch of what the venue would look like, and a brief story describing the experience,” Fever tells TechCrunch.

Another forthcoming own-brand event — to be announced later this month — is billed as the biggest escape room in Europe. TechCrunch’s Roman Dillet is bound to be interested in that — or at least if the event is bound for Paris.

Fever says it will also put on a music and art festival in Madrid in September which it’s called “Jardin de las Delicias” which it says is inspired by Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights — a late 15th or early 16th century painting that hangs in Madrid’s Museo de Prado.

When open, the triptych masterpiece in oils depicts a heaven to hell progression starting with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and ending in a highly detailed and nightmarish illustration of hell involving animals torturing and feasting on human flesh.

The large central panel illustrates a vision of life between those two moral bookends: Teeming with nude male and female flesh, animals, plants and some fantastical creatures. Presumably that’s where Fever’s themed event intends to focus. At least, we hope so…

El jardín de las Delicias, de El Bosco.jpg
By Galería online, Museo del Prado., Public Domain, Link

Fever says its data-driven, wait-list model allows it to mitigate financial risk for the events it programs and the partners it works with (such as drinks brands).

It does not use a booking fee model for Fever Originals — its platform is free for users, with no additional fees when they buy a ticket — rather it’s operating what it calls a “marketing fee monetization strategy”, which is describes as significantly more lucrative than a traditional booking fee.

“The organisers pay a commission fee based upon Fever’s ability to drive additional ticket sales and attendance to their event or experience,” it explains. “Fever is using its prescription power to get its users excited about experiences they were not originally considering, and as a result is offering a powerful marketing tool for organisers, in comparison with other traditional tools (billboards, TV ads, etc.).

“This is in contrast to a ‘ticketing fee’, which refers solely to a fee charged for the processing of a ticket sale transaction. Given that Fever/Secret Media creates significant financial and advertorial value for event organisers, the ‘marketing fee’ is around 3-5 times that of a ‘ticketing fee’.”

It adds that its current cities have been growing self-sufficiently over the last 12 months, at a rate of 100% year on year, since reaching break-even — which also happened a year ago.

At the same time, it continues to offer third party events discovery within its apps, saying the business model it started with hasn’t changed but that its growing audience (and the data it’s able to extract from them) has allowed it to supplement that by programming its own events.

With A/B-tested events like these, the world’s hipsters have probably never had it so good.

Commenting on the Series C in a statement, Javier Nuche, MD of diversification at Atresmedia, said: With this investment we are consolidating our presence in the fast-growing experience economy and digital marketing space. Fever’s ability to mobilize a digital audience together with its optimization technology has proven extremely valuable for advertisers and will create very significant commercial synergies with Atresmedia, in our goal to offer the best communication solutions to our clients.”

Source: TechCrunch

Entrepreneur First, the company builder backed by Greylock, expands to Paris

Entrepreneur First (EF), the London-HQ’d company builder that invests in individuals “pre-team, pre-idea” to help those individuals found new startups, is continuing to expand internationally. After adding an outpost and program in Singapore, Berlin and Hong Kong, in addition to London, the so-called talent-first investor is setting up shop in Paris. Quelle surprise.

The latest EF expansion follows a $12.4 million funding round in 2017 led by Silicon Valley’s Greylock Partners, which also saw Greylock’s Reid Hoffman join the company builder’s board. The capital — to be used for operational purposes and separate from EF’s multiple investment funds — was raised to enable EF to scale its program in multiple tech startup/academic hubs around the world, and where it deemed the EF “secret sauce” can bring the most value.

At the time of the fund raise, Hoffman told TechCrunch he could see the company builder expanding to “20 or 30 or 40 cities, maybe even 50“. And while EF hasn’t reached anything like that number — yet — and questions remain on how scalable a program like EF is when, by its very nature, it will only be as effective as the people who run it, the pace of expansion and quality of startups coming out the other end is nothing to be sneezed at.

In a call from Paris, EF co-founder Matt Clifford told me the French capital city is a natural fit for EF, given that it has both a high concentration of future founders and a well-established and supportive tech ecosystem. We talked about the Macron-effect, noting that the French president has most recently been on the money when talking about artificial intelligence, which is the kind of “deep tech” that EF excels in.

Unsurprisingly, he was also bullish on the quality of technical education in Paris, which will form a key part of the EF pipeline. Specifically EF is talking up the quality of teaching and research at the country’s science universities and Grandes Écoles. There are also new institutions like Ecole 42, the nonprofit and tuition-free computer programming school created and co-funded by French telecom billionaire Xavier Niel.

Meanwhile, the Paris program will begin in October and will pretty much follow the standard EF format. The sees the company builder fund individuals “pre-company,” recruiting them to the program before they have a team or fully formed idea, purely on the basis of their tech skills and/or domain expertise.

As part of this, EF pays a stipend of €2,000 a month for sixth months — the first three months covering the team forming stage and the second three months to support teams to develop business plans and be ready to pitch for further funding at Demo Day. EF also has a fund of its own, which newly founded EF startups can access.

I’m also told that the EF Paris office will be led by Coralie Chaufour. Coralie joins EF from McKinsey & Company after previously starting her own company and working as a corporate lawyer at Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP, a leading U.S. law firm. Coralie studied at Sciences Po Paris, Wharton and Harvard Law School.

Source: TechCrunch

The 18 best games on the Nintendo Switch – CNET

So you just bought a Nintendo Switch and you’re wondering what games you should pick up to go along with it? Here are our favourites…
Source: CNET

Samsung snags patent for biometric camera, just like Apple – CNET

The new camera would scan your iris for security and perform 3D face recognition.
Source: CNET

California’s new online cancellation law benefits many disgruntled subscribers in other places, too

A new California law that went into effect on July 1 will make it much easier for people to cancel subscriptions online. Since the bill, sponsored by State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), includes all services that have paying customers in the state, it will also benefit dissatisfied customers in many places outside California.

The legislation, California Senate Bill No. 313, covers “any business that makes an automatic renewal or continuous service offer to a consumer in this state,” so that includes a very wide range of services, including newspapers and magazines, subscription boxes, streaming services and more. Not only that, but if you made the subscription online, the law stipulates that you are also allowed to cancel it online. In other words, you can no longer be forced to call a customer service phone number to stop the service, a task that is usually much more frustrating and time-consuming than signing up in the first place.

The bill also requires more transparency in how companies present promotional offers. For example, if they lure in users with a free trial or gift, then they also need to include a “clear and conspicuous explanation” in the offer of how much customers will be charged after the trial ends or if the pricing will change. It also needs to tell you how to cancel (and actually allow you to do so) before you are charged.

If you sign up for a subscription at a promotional or discounted price that is only valid for a certain amount of time, the company must get your consent again before charging your debit or credit card when the price returns to its normal rate.

According to Nieman Lab, many news organizations in California are already making changes to their systems to comply with the new law.

Source: TechCrunch

Wikipedia's Italian, Spanish and Polish versions go dark in protest – CNET

The protest comes as an EU law goes to the vote later Wednesday that would make platforms liable for copyright infringements by users.
Source: CNET

Kim Dotcom loses appeal against extradition to the US – CNET

The owner of the now-defunct Megaupload file sharing site still has one more chance though.
Source: CNET