Subscriptions and Increasingly Intangible Intangibles: Where Does it Stop?

Without wanting to say too much about my age, I was part of the first generation to play computer games as kids. Yeah [says the guys adopting his Grandpa Simpson voice]: Back then, you bought it and could keep playing it ad nauseam, which included table-top games like Monopoly and console games like Pacman on my Atari 2600.

Well, the least one can say is that those days are gone… far gone. In today’s world, the way software and media are increasingly packaged basically did away not only with physical copies but with perpetual licenses altogether, rather turning everything into a something “as a service”.

You want a movie? Blockbuster’s gone, so are most DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, as most everyone turned to the likes of Netflix to watch movies and tv shows. Streaming is now the standard way to go about it. Heck, a friend was recently telling me Disney recently decided to do away with one of their stapes and stop selling copies of their movies on DVDs and the like. From now on (or soon anyway), you want to watch a Disney flick, you catch it in theaters or you stream it on Disney+. That’s it.

I think this speaks volumes about what’s been going on with media over the past 20 years or so. With the advent of the Internet, we collectively realized that no one needs to own… anything, really.

in today’s world, that even extends to software, of course. With quite a few companies discontinuing their apps and desktop software, rather opting to provide an equivalent that you can use through a browser, for example, the very concept of buying something that you control, call your own and can decide to keep around (or not) is quickly disappearing, software-wise anyway.

Of course, once you no longer own it, the producer of software can modify it at will, or even discontinue certain whole functionalities, at which point there’s fairly little you can really do about it. You really liked that cross-cell funky calculation function in that online application? Well, too bad, the producer elected to discontinue it, starting… oh yeah… yesterday. Don’t like it? Too bad for you.

Recently, I even saw this pushed one step further, when I realized a computer I was under the impression I had purchased (ah ah, fool) simply essentially disappeared overnight from STEAM, the widely used gaming platform. Yup, the game editor decided to pull that particular title and, of yeah, the effect was to essentially prevent those who had “purchased” it (or rather thought they did) to access or use it any longer. You liked that game? Too bad, it’s gone.

Heck, I’ve even read about certain car manufacturers abroad “innovating” (see those quotes?), by charging car “buyers” (see em’ again?) a monthly fee for the benefit of certain functionalities in their new vehicles, such as heated seats for $18 a month, etc. Yeah, seems in today’s world, businesses all want in on that subscription model. It’s just too good to pass on, it seems. Anyway, I don’t pretend telling anyone anything about this they didn’t already know. Just slightly amusing (if not outright tragic) to realize this is happening and that there precious little you and I can do about it. It’s just, as they say, the way it goes.

Online Censorship: Chloé Zhao’s and Nomadland’s Academy Awards Zapped from the Chinese Web

The New York Times reported this week that China recently tweaked its Great Firewall, systematically blocking and deleting any mention of Chloé Zhao’s win of an Academy Award, along with any mention of her movie Nomadland also winning an Oscar.

As everyone now knows, China has implemented technological measures that allow the country to control what its citizens see when looking at the Web, at search engines or social media. This allows China to sanitize the Internet, ensuring that Chinese citizens are not shown content contrary to the country’s and society’s interests as determined by the Chinese government.

According to The New York Times, Internet users who type a query about Zhao or Nomadland and Oscars in the Chinese search engine Weibo are simply shown a message that reads: “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the page is not found.”

The reason Chloé Zhao is thus targeted may relate to a 2013 interview during which she criticized her home country as one where lies were widely circulated.

This is another example of the perils of a country implementing any system allowing the control of information. Once a regime starts in such a direction, for example by eliminating information from enemies of the state, it’s virtually impossible not to keep going until, one day, you’re zapping news about a citizen winning the most prestigious award in cinema based on one interview she gave almost a decade earlier, in which she obliquely referred to this government’s questionable informational practices.

By the way, I saw Nomadland and encourage you to do so as well, not only for the quality of its direction but also for Frances McDormand’s performance.

Canadian Government Angling to Control Content Placed Online, including UGC and Even Apps

As you may recall, since last fall, the Canadian government has been working toward getting its bill C-10 enacted. The bill aims to allow taxing streaming services such as Netflix. Though this may have been the initial impetus behind the introduction of the bill, we’re now seeing that C-10 may also go so far as to allow the regulation of content placed online, including user-generated content, computer games and apps of all kinds. Yes, Canada seems to have decided to shed its laissez-faire attitude toward what’s placed on the Internet.

Indeed, it would now seem that the Liberal government may be trying to broaden bill C-10 so as to grant the CRTC additional powers to regulate whatever is placed online, including (the latest twist in this little legislative soap opera), apps—yes, you read this right: apps. This story is being disseminated by Michael Geist, further to a statement seemingly made by mistake by an MP while commenting on an amendment that has yet to be formally introduced. Apparently, the government may be in the process of making changes to C-10 that would allow the CRTC to regulate not only streaming services, but also some content itself, such as apps made available on the Internet.

Though the government stated it did not intend to try and regulate computer games, it now appears C-10 may, on the contrary, end up allowing the CRTC to regulate software made available through the Internet, a prospect that has many cringing.

From a bill initially justified as a way to simply allow the taxation of streaming services (such as Netflix) in Canada (to level the playing field vs. other ways of making content available to Canadians), we’re now faced with a bill that seems to be transmogrifying into a bill meant to empower the government (through the CRTC) to control what is placed or made available by and to Canadians online. This may end up being extended and/or applied to computer games, content placed on social networks, blog posts, podcasts, etc. Hmm, so much for the CRTC’s 2000 position that it wouldn’t mess with the Internet.

Is it just me or are we faced with a slight drift in the federal government’s recent efforts to try and better control the Internet in Canada? Hmmm—to be continued, unfortunately.