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European court rules 'fully loaded' Kodi boxes are illegal

European court rules ‘fully loaded’ Kodi boxes are illegal

A landmark verdict has found that using a streaming service to access pirated movies and TV shows is the same as downloading them, Joinfo.com reports with reference to MailOnline.

Kodi uses software that is legal to own and use, but boxes that are sold ‘fully loaded’ include plugins which can provide copyrighted material.

Streaming was previously a grey area but the new ruling should settle the debate once and for all.

Kodi is software that enables you to stream apps and on-demand services onto your TV.

Temporary files, like those created when media content is streamed, are technically exempt under copyright law.

People selling ‘fully loaded’ Kodi boxes exploited this legal loophole to provide illegal content.

But the new ruling, issued yesterday by the EU’s highest court, puts pirated streams on the same legal footing as illegal downloads.

The European Court of Justice found against a Dutch vendor, identified in court papers as Mr Willums, who sold fully loaded boxes over the internet.

And although the court recognised the equipment itself was not illegal, the way he had customised them was and was likely to be used to access copyrighted material.

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Amazon previously banned ‘fully-loaded’ Kodi TV boxes and other pirate devices from its global online store earlier this month.

A policy update from the company stated that anyone selling products that ‘promote, facilitate or enable’ illegal access to copyrighted TV will now have their accounts suspended.

Amazon has never permitted the sale of pirate TV players, but had previously done little to stop the sale of the devices on its site.

But the retailer said it would take ‘immediate’ action to stop the selling of Kodi boxes and similar devices.

‘It is your responsibility to source and sell products that do not promote, promise the facilitation of, or actively enable the infringement of or unauthorised access to digital media or other protected content,’ Amazon’s policy reads.

‘If you sell these products, we may immediately suspend or terminate your selling privileges and destroy inventory in our fulfilment centres without reimbursement.

‘In addition, if we determine that your account has been used to engage in fraud or other illegal activity, remittances and payments may be withheld or forfeited.’

The new stance came just weeks after the Premier League was granted a court order to crack down on web browsers that facilitate illegal football streaming.

The court order allows Premier League bosses to blanket block internet servers that are powering the illegal streams.

The league previously only had the power to block individual streams, which were easy for hosts to re-establish using a different link.

A spokesman said it could now target pirates in a ‘precise manner.’

‘For the first time this will enable the Premier League to disrupt and prevent the illegal streaming of our matches via IPTV, so-called Kodi, boxes,’ he added.

Football fans are being urged to buy a subscription to Sky Sports or BT, or watch matches at a venue that pays for access.

McDonald’s isn’t just a fast-food chain—it’s a brilliant $30 billion real-estate company

McDonald’s isn’t just a fast-food chain—it’s a brilliant $30 billion real-estate company
  • Apr 26, 2017
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About 85% of the company in 2016 was represented by franchisee-run locations—people who agree to operate individual McDonald’s restaurants with a licensed privilege to the branding. But rather than collect a lot in royalties or sell its franchisees cooking equipment, McDonald’s makes much of its revenue by buying the physical properties and then leasing them to franchisees, often at large mark-ups, according to Quartz.

The company keeps about 82% of the revenue generated by franchisees, compared with only about 16% of the revenue from its company-operated locations, which is reduced by the expenses of running those operations, according to the investment blog Wall Street Survivor.

In a 2015 analysis of McDonald’s franchising, Bloomberg cited estimates by Janney Capital Markets. The total sales for an average location clocked in at $2.7 million per store each year, with $1.7 million in gross profits after accounting for food and paper costs. But then there are also other expenses: rent, payroll, advertising, promotions, operating supplies, insurance, and more. Average operating income after accounting for all those expenses rounded out to a take-home of just $154,000 per year for a single franchisee.

The average rent per store amounts to about 22% of average gross profits each year for franchisees. The company has more than 36,000 locations across more than 100 countries, so that adds up quickly. Better put, McDonald’s has more than $30 billion in real estate assets, and annual profits that float around $4.5 billion, according to company financial disclosures.

The number of franchisee McDonald’s locations has been steadily growing, as the company-owned number has dropped slightly in the last decade.

The emphasis on real estate may also pay off for the company at tax time. The US tax code includes several provisions favorable to real estate investors and landlords (which US president Donald Trump also appears to have benefited from).

Consider depreciation. Some types of property—such as cars—lose value over time, so it makes sense to offer tax breaks for their lost value. Real estate, on the other hand, often increases in value over time, and yet the IRS allows owners to deduct depreciation from taxable rent. This is something that McDonald’s can very easily take advantage of, says Xian Sun, a professor of corporate finance at Johns Hopkins University. McDonald’s reported $1.39 billion in depreciation in 2016, but it’s unclear what portion of that was depreciation of real estate rented to franchisees. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Additionally, Sun pointed out, in the last two decades real estate values have increased, which means the overall collateral value of the company’s property has increased, too. So when McDonald’s wants to borrow money to make new investments, it can do so at relatively cheap rates.

The value of all that real estate also provides a lot of insulation when the company needs to weather fluctuations in the larger burger business, as consumer habits and larger economic headwinds shift. McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, is being paid handsomely—more than $15 million a year—to navigate the company through what’s becoming a rough patch, in which sales have shrunk in the face of a more competitive market for three years in a row.

McDonald’s has been making all sorts of changes in the last year to try and keep up with fast casual brands such as Chipotle, Panera Bread Company, and others. It’s about to roll out a mobile ordering platform; it began offering all-day breakfast (to much celebration and success); and it recently announced it will be using fresh beef patties across the US for some of its burgers.

But even if those big ideas fizzle, the corporate bigwigs at McDonald’s can still collect their rent.

See also: McDonald’s Tweet Blasts President Trump, And Is Quickly Deleted.

Tesla is making a big expansion to its Supercharger network

Tesla is making a big expansion to its Supercharger network
  • Apr 24, 2017
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Tesla will have more than 10,000 high-speed Supercharger electric car chargers by the end of the year, the company revealed today, a doubling of where it was at the beginning of 2017, according to The Verge.

It also will expand its Destination Charging network — where the company partners with hotels, restaurants, and parking garages to install chargers — from 9,000 to 15,000 connectors.

The information comes in a blog post as Tesla reveals more about its plan to double the number of its Supercharger stations in North America this year, something first hinted at in a letter to shareholders back in February. Currently, Tesla operates 830 Supercharger stations (which are distinct from individual chargers) in 31 countries. It has 5,400 charging connectors across those stations.

Perhaps the most interesting bit of information in the post is that Tesla wants to make charging “ubiquitous in urban centers,” where street-parking customers may not have easy access to reliable daily charging, like they might in the suburbs. This is especially important as Tesla gets closer to the rollout of its more-affordable Model 3 electric car.

“To better serve the needs of owners who are traveling or those who don’t have access to reliable home charging, we will continue to aggressively expand our public charging networks,” the post reads. This suggests a change in policy for Tesla, which has, in the past, discouraged day-to-day use of Superchargers, saying instead that the system is meant for long-distance travel only.

The company says it will build larger sites along its “busiest travel routes”, and is planning to dramatically increase the size of individual Supercharger stations to allow many Tesla vehicles to charge at once. The Supercharging technology being installed will be the same as the current Superchargers, but more of them will be installed in urban areas to address congestion at existing charge stations and help Tesla owners who don’t have their own garages.

Congestion at Supercharging points has been a problem for Tesla, and the company has rolled out a few changes over the past six months to help address the problem. Back in December, Tesla announced that it would begin charging owners $0.40 per minute for leaving car parked at a Supercharger after it was completed charging in an effort to increase turnover, and new Tesla buyers (including all Model 3 owners) will need to pay for electricity acquired at Superchargers after exhausting a yearly allotment.

Photo: Tesla.

See also: Tesla might have real competition soon—meet the Lucid Air.

Oregon teen sells $1 million in custom socks

Oregon teen sells $1 million in custom socks
  • Apr 24, 2017
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It’s no simple hobby: Agranoff is the founder and CEO of HoopSwagg, and he has already sold $1 million in custom socks, Joinfo.com reports with reference to CBS News.

“I have enough socks in this warehouse to wear every day until I die, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s shocking,’“ Agranoff says.

Agranoff gets about 100 new sock orders every day for the more than 500 designs that he comes up with himself. He has produced socks based on the Portland Airport carpet, socks with a galaxy theme and even socks printed with pictures of the goats his family owns.

“My ideas, they’re either really random or based on what is happening right now,” he said.

 

Agranoff came up with the idea when he was just 13 years old, while at a high school basketball game. He spent the next six months researching how to put together the company, teaching himself how to code and the basics of graphic design.

His dad, Brian Agranoff, invested in the business.

“Every day is kind of an adventure really,” Brian Agranoff said. “Never underestimate the power and ability your kids have to do something cool.”

Brennon Agranoff said he works about five or six hours a day after school, but he loves it. He plans to pursue a college education, but he said first he’s going to graduate from Sherwood High School early to work for his company full-time.

The next step for HoopSwagg is to branch into retail with traditional brick-and-mortar stores, he said.

Exxon Mobil denied permission to resume Russian oil work

Exxon Mobil denied permission to resume Russian oil work
  • Apr 22, 2017
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The US Treasury Department said that, after talks with Mr Trump, it would not waive trade sanctions on Russia for US firms seeking to restart work,Joinfo.com reports with reference to the BBC.

It had been reported that Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, had sought a dispensation.

The US and European Union imposed economic sanctions on Russia in 2014. It followed Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in 2014 and role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

On March 13, 2017, the EU Council prolonged the sanctions for a further six months, until September 15, 2017.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Friday: “In consultation with President Donald J Trump, the Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to US companies, including Exxon, authorising drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions.”

Exxon has a joint venture with Russia’s Rosneft in the Black Sea, Arctic Kara Sea and Siberia, projects that were to form a big part of the US company’s future growth.

But Texas-based Exxon was forced to wind down drilling after sanctions were imposed.

The company’s former chief, Rex Tillerson, has been appointed Mr Trump’s Secretary of State.

One of the controversies around this appointment was Mr Tillerson’s apparent closeness to senior figures in the Moscow government, including Vladimir Putin.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported that Exxon was seeking a waiver, said the company was concerned that its international oil rivals were gaining an advantage in Russia.

Rimmel mascara ad banned because it exaggerated Cara Delevingne’s eyelashes

Rimmel mascara ad banned because it exaggerated Cara Delevingne's eyelashes
  • Apr 19, 2017
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The advert promoted the brand’s Scandaleyes Reloaded promising “dangerously bold lashes” and “extreme volume”, Joinfo.com reports with reference to BusinessInsider.

A viewer complained to the ASA in December 2016 saying the ad was misleading.

In a statement the ASA said: “Because the ad conveyed a volumising, lengthening and thickening effect of the product we considered the use of lash inserts and the post-production technique were likely to exaggerate the effect beyond what could be achieved by the product among consumers.”

According to the ASA’s statement, Coty said it used lash inserts to shoot the ad and edited Delevingne’s eyelashes in post-production to “create a uniform line,” not to lengthen her eyelashes. After comparing before and after photos from the shoot the ASA found the changes to the ad made it seem like the actress’ eyelashes were longer.

Coty, the holding group which owns Rimmel, immediately stopped airing the ad and said in a statement provided to Business Insider: “Rimmel has worked closely with the ASA since the complaint was raised in December. While we regret the decision of the ASA, we will of course comply with the ruling and not air the TV commercial again in this state.”

See also: ‘SNL’ Mocks Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Commerical.

Tesco sorry for Good Friday beer advert

Tesco sorry for Good Friday beer advert
  • Apr 14, 2017
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The ad ran in some newspapers to promote “great offers on beer and cider” in the run-up to Easter. The supermarket said it would not run the ad again after it attracted criticism from some religious figures, Joinfo.com reports with reference to the BBC.

Vicar and broadcaster, the Reverend Richard Coles, said the advert was “extraordinarily and unnecessarily ignorant”.

Good Friday is when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Some choose to mark the day by fasting, which can include abstaining from eating meat or drinking alcohol.

There is some dispute about why it is called “good”, with some suggesting the day is “good” in that it is holy, and others that the phrase is a corruption of “God’s Friday”.

A Tesco spokesperson told the BBC: “We know that Easter is an important time of the year for our customers.

“It is never our intention to offend and we are sorry if any has been caused by this advert.”

Tesco “got it badly wrong” with the “crass” advert, Michael Wakelin, from the faculty of divinity at Cambridge University, told BBC 5 live Daily.

It was also a “decidedly poor way of treating such a holy day”, said Mr Wakelin, a former head of BBC religious programmes.

“I’m sure there was no attempt to offend, I’m sure that wasn’t in their mind.

“It is just religious illiteracy; ignorance if you like, around what religious people hold dear, and that is my main concern,” he added.

Rev Coles said on Twitter that the advert “causes unnecessary offence to many. It didn’t need to.”

However, other Twitter users felt the advert was not offensive.

“Like it or not the Easter is also a secular holiday as well as a religious one. Most are travelling to families rather than to church,” one user wrote.

It comes after Cadbury and the National Trust were criticised for apparently dropping the word Easter from their egg hunts.

Facebook launches first ‘Communities Summit’

Facebook launches first 'Communities Summit'
  • Apr 11, 2017
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Facebook is inviting hundreds of Group administrators from across the U.S., who, as Facebook described, have a “passion and dedication” in leading these communities. The event is free, including hotel and food, but attendees must pay for their own travel, according to Mashable.

Some of the more than tens of millions of administrators are highlighted in this promo video, made by Facebook from its Friends Day celebration in January:

Zuckerberg wrote in his community letter (read: manifesto) that Facebook’s “goal is to strengthen existing communities by helping us come together online as well as offline.”

Now, Facebook is betting that this summit will be an IRL opportunity to connect communities. The affair is not unlike Facebook’s Small Business Council meetings or its developer conference F8.

This isn’t just a Zuckerberg vanity project, though his letter did inspire the ideation of the Summit, Facebook’s director of product management of Groups Alex Deve said in a phone interview.

“We speak to community leaders all the time. That’s part of our job in a way. One theme that came back a lot is that they love to speak to us and that they want to speak with other administrators as well,” Deve said.

“We thought it would be a great thing to have all the communities talk to each other, be a two-way conversation type of event,” Deve continued.

Facebook chose Chicago as the host city in part due to its geographical location. “We wanted somewhere that would be easy for people to get to,” said Rebecca Maas, a Facebook spokesperson. “We didn’t want it to be right in our backyard.”

Chicago boasts an airport with plenty of flights every day and is driveable for a good chunk of the country. The event is limited to just Group administrators in the U.S.

Why so restricted, especially for a company that’s dedicated to connecting the world?

“There’s a thing about trying to keep it small and actionable,” Deve said. “We want them to connect with each other and doing a big conference might not have hit that goal especially with our first one.”

The agenda is still being put together, so TBD on whether Zuckerberg will make an appearance. Facebook engineers and product designers will be in attendance. Group administrators can request for an invite here.

Twitter launches ‘lite’ version for data-starved users

Twitter launches 'lite' version for data-starved users
  • Apr 6, 2017
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The company calls the version Twitter Lite and it will be aimed largely at users outside the United States. Twitter Lite works through a web browser, not a stand-alone phone application, but its appearance and functionality are nearly identical to what app users experience, according to a preview shown to Reuters.

The launch comes on the heels of similar products from other U.S. tech firms. Facebook released Facebook Lite in 2015 and on Tuesday, Alphabet’s YouTube unveiled a low-data mobile app designed for India.

San Francisco-based Twitter lags behind those companies in building a user base. It had 319 million average monthly active users at the end of last year, up 4 percent year-over-year but still a fraction of Facebook’s 1.9 billion users.

A primary reason in some parts of the world is how much data its app and earlier website consumed, Keith Coleman, Twitter’s vice president of product, said in an interview.

“We didn’t feel like we were reaching these other countries well enough, and this will allow us to do it faster, cheaper and with a better experience than we’ve had before,” he said.

The company estimates that, with several changes it is making to its mobile website, mobile.twitter.com, users will see their average data consumption on the browser version go down 40 percent.

With an additional data-saving feature users can turn on, data consumption will drop some 70 percent on average, said Patrick Traughber, a Twitter product manager. The reduction will come from differences such as initially displaying previews of pictures instead of full pictures.

Like YouTube, Twitter is eyeing India’s 1.3 billion people, and it timed the release of Twitter Lite in part to coincide with the start this week of a major cricket event there, the Indian Premier League’s Twenty20 tournament.

Cricket is the most popular sport in India and following sports in real time is one of the main ways people use Twitter, which unlike many other social media networks still has a chronological timeline to emphasize immediacy.

Other countries where the company said it expects Twitter Lite to be most useful include Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad criticized for co-opting protest movements for profit

Kendall Jenner's Pepsi ad criticized for co-opting protest movements for profit
  • Apr 5, 2017
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Pepsi faced a backlash on Tuesday after releasing an advertisement in which reality TV star and model Kendall Jenner uses a can of the sugary beverage as a peace offering to police during a protest, Joinfo.com reports with reference to The Guardian.

The ad has been criticized for seemingly co-opting the resistance movement while framing a privileged, white 21-year-old supermodel with a can of soda as a peacemaker between civil rights activists and police.

The two-and-a-half minute ad, soundtracked by Bob Marley’s grandson Skip Marley, shows the Keeping up with the Kardashians star walking out of a photo shoot decked in double denim to join a protest where breakdancing and headscarf-wearing activists of all ethnicities carry signs bearing peace symbols and messages like “join the conversation” and “love”.

As the march reaches a line of police officers, it’s impossible not to think about the violent clashes between activists and police in the wake of several killings of unarmed people of color and the use of excessive force at recent protests, including the pepper spraying of Black Lives Matter supporters.

No need to worry, however, as Kendall Jenner picks up a can of liquid corporate America and approaches the menacing line and hands it to the most photogenic officer. It’s a clear nod to iconic protest images such as the serene woman at Baton Rouge following the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by police and the anti-Vietnam war “flower power” protester placing carnations in rifles.

But the police officer does not pepper spray or shoot unarmed Jenner. Instead, he hesitates for a moment before accepting the peace offering and opening the can of soda. The moment is captured by a hijab-wearing photographer, who appears awed by Kendall’s radical act of bravery. The crowd goes wild, Jenner has clearly restored peace and justice to America. Finally, thanks to her and Pepsi, all is good in the world.

On Tuesday night, Pepsi said in a statement: “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”

At the time of writing, Pepsi was the top trending topic on Twitter for all of the wrong reasons.

 

 

It’s not the first time that a sugary drink brand has tried to capitalize on a message of peace and love at a time of protest. Coca-Cola’s 1971 “Hilltop” ad, made during the Vietnam War and immortalized in the Mad Men finale, pitched Coke as some kind of grand unifying beverage.