US Senate passes bill modernizing music licensing and payouts


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The US Senate has unanimously passed the Music Modernization Act, which aims to bring the way the music business works in line with the digital age. Providing the bill is met with approval from the House, and is subsequently signed by President Donald Trump, the legislation — renamed the Orrin G Hatch Music Modernization Act in honour of the Republican senior senator responsible for introducing the bill — will finally be enshrined into law. It’s not expected to meet any opposition.

The bill, in three parts, ensures all music rights holders are compensated more fairly for their work. It will create a publicly-accessible database, detailing who owns a song, making it easier for publishers and artists to be paid royalties. Song reproduction charges have also been updated, to reflect market rates, and sound recording royalty rates will also be taken into account when considering performance royalty rates for songwriters and composers.

The bill has been a long time coming, with companies such as online radio SiriusXM and licensing organization SESAC creating issues along the way, but as SoundExchange CEO Michael Huppe said: “The future of the music industry got brighter today. Creators of music moved one step closer to getting paid more fairly. And industry forces that fought to maintain an unfair and harmful status quo were rebuffed.”

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Netflix comes to Sky Q boxes in November

Earlier this year, Sky announced that it would allow its customers to access Netflix through its set-top boxes. Now the company has revealed that the streaming giant will hit Sky Q boxes in November, and how exactly the whole thing will work.

Existing Sky Q customers get two choices, the first of which is to sign up for the Ultimate On Demand pack as a bolt-on to your existing subscription. For £10 extra a month, users can get Netflix’s standard plan, offering two streams of HD content.

Sky Q Premium users, meanwhile, will get the Netflix UHD package, offering 4K video where available and up to four simultaneous streams. The Ultimate On Demand plan is on a 31-day rolling contract, and will also include access to Sky’s own Box Sets offering, worth £5 a month on its own.

If you already subscribe to both Netflix and Sky Q, then you have to weigh up if you’d rather just input your Netflix login into the app. That, Sky tells us, will work, but you’ll lose the benefits of deeper integration into the Sky Q package, including universal search and curated discovery on the homepage (pictured).

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American Airlines offers free live TV through Dish


Dish

You might not be stuck watching a handful of mediocre movies (or your offline copies of streaming shows) the next time you’re on a long-haul flight. American Airlines and Dish recently started offering free live TV for domestic US flights aboard 100-plus aircraft with Gogo’s 2Ku satellite access. It won’t match your service back home, but you will have access to a dozen major networks including CNN, ESPN, NBC and Telemundo. And you don’t have to squint at a small seatback display — you can stream the channels directly to your laptop or mobile device.

The service will spread to AA’s fleet of over 700 mainline, narrowbody aircraft throughout 2019. The company is in the midst of an upgrade plan that will bring more power outlets to its aircraft, too, reducing the chances that you’ll reach your destination with a low battery.

This could make the airline more alluring if you’re not in the mood to read books or listen to podcasts in mid-flight. However, there’s also a decided advantage for Dish. This serves as a kind of ad for Dish’s satellite and streaming TV offerings. If it works well, you might be inclined to subscribe to one of those services when you’re back on terra firma.

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Capcom closes Vancouver studio behind ‘Dead Rising’


Capcom

Video game publisher Capcom is shutting down its Vancouver studio and around 158 employees will be let go. The company told Variety that operations were suspended Tuesday and a skeleton crew would remain on board until January in order to finalize the closure. “Capcom has been focused on increasing the efficiency and growth of its game development operations,” a spokesperson told Variety. “To support this objective, new R&D facilities and annual hiring have been underway at the Osaka headquarters. In consideration of this process, as a result of reviewing titles in development at Capcom Vancouver, Capcom has decided to cancel the development projects at this studio and will concentrate development of major titles in Japan.”

Capcom Vancouver, known for its Dead Rising series, was hit with layoffs earlier this year as well. While the company confirmed that a number of titles were now cancelled, it didn’t say what plans it had for Dead Rising.

“We appreciate the hard work and contributions of all the studio team members in creating unforgettable gameplay experiences for the Dead Rising series and Puzzle Fighter,” Capcom said.

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MCU heroes could get their own shows on Disney's streaming service

Director Anthony Russo, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Letitia Wright, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland and director Joe Russo attend the UK Fan Event for ‘Avengers Infinity War’ at Television Studios White City on April 8, 2018 in London, England.

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We still don’t have an official name for the streaming service Disney is working on to compete with Netflix, but a new rumor from Variety suggests there will be plenty of Marvel content on it. According to the report, Disney has similar plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it has already revealed for Star Wars: several spin-off shows.

A key difference here is that the shows could be solo vehicles for heroes in the MCU like Loki or Scarlet Witch, and feature the actors from the movies, like Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, in six- to eight-episode runs.

While we shouldn’t expect to see top-tier stars that have already had solo flicks, these series will apparently feature the next rung of heroes, branded under Marvel Studios and under the oversight of its boss, Kevin Feige. The budgets may be large also, as Disney jumps in late battling Netflix, Amazon and the rest, it will reportedly spend up to $100 million on Jon Favreau’s Star Wars series, while also charging less per subscriber than Netflix when it launches in 2019.

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Amazon helps others make accessories for Echo speakers


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There aren’t many Echo-oriented accessories beyond Amazon’s own Echo Button, but that’s about to change very shortly. Amazon has released a beta Alexa Gadgets Toolkit that lets hardware brands make Echo-focused Bluetooth accessories that respond to Alexa commands. You can have a cuckoo clock that responds to your Echo’s wake word or a notification, a switch that releases dog food after an alarm, or a chime that sounds when time’s up. A future update will even allow visual interaction with music — it’s easy to see a lamp that pulses in sync with Amazon Music tracks.

Child-oriented updates will also let developers build gadgets that include compatible kid-friendly skills.

The toolkit is invitation-only and focused on businesses in the US, UK and Germany, so this isn’t available to absolutely anyone. Amazon does have big name partners like Hasbro, TOMY and WowWee , and the first products (including smart plush toys and Gemmy’s Big Mouth Billy Bass) are due before 2018 is over.

While the restrictions aren’t going to make do-it-yourself enthusiasts happy, this does promise to significantly expand the Echo ecosystem. Companies won’t need to implement sophisticated processors, audio capture or cloud services. Instead, they can let an Echo do the heavy lifting and focus on a gadget’s special features. Don’t be shocked if an Echo quickly becomes a must-have component for play time, or even around-the-house widgets like clocks and timers.

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Netflix picks up hit BBC drama ‘Bodyguard’


BBC One

Netflix has purchased the streaming rights to Bodyguard — a six-part BBC One series that has been raking in viewers in the UK. The show had a strong premiere, drawing in 10.4 million viewers, which is the highest launch figure for any new drama on any UK channel in the last 12 years. The fourth episode reportedly drew 11.1 million viewers and the series has consistently attracted more viewers than any other BBC show outside of World Cup coverage. Netflix now holds the rights outside of the UK and Ireland and will debut the show on October 24th.

The show centers on David Budd, a bodyguard played by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) assigned to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). Netflix picked up the series before it was filmed, The Guardian reports. The series will join other BBC titles streamed by Netflix, including Peaky Blinders, The Fall, River, Black Earth Rising, Collateral, Troy: Fall of a City, Wanderlust, Giri/Haji and The Last Kingdom.

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Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones review: Goodbye, Bose

Sony’s WH-1000XM3 headphones are the sort of dream gadget I can review succinctly in one sentence: They’re incredibly comfortable, and they sound amazing. That’s it. End review. When the first 1000XM pair debuted in 2016, they weren’t just another set of premium cans — they were a sign that Sony was ready to take on Bose for the high-end noise canceling crown. The company managed to deliver something that sounded better than Bose’s best headsets while matching them at their own game. Now with its third version, Sony is giving us little reason to look elsewhere. The $350 WH-1000XM3 are basically the ideal pair of wireless noise canceling headphones.

Gallery: Sony 1000XM3 headphones | 7 Photos

Engadget Score


Poor


Uninspiring


Good


Excellent

Key

from $349.00

94

Pros
  • Excellent sound quality and comfort
  • Noise canceling is best in class
  • Generous battery life
Cons
  • A premium price Google Assistant isn’t very useful
  • Touch controls are still finicky

Summary

Sony’s WH-1000XM3 aren’t just a great pair of noise canceling headphones, they’re quality cans period. While you used to have to choose between great sound quality and decent noise reduction, the 1000XM3 do both while being a blast to listen to.

While the previous model was a slight upgrade over the original, Sony re-built the 1000XM3 (Mark 3) from the ground up. In the process, it fixed most of the line’s lingering issues. For one, it’s significantly more comfortable, thanks to a generous amount plush cushioning around the pads and headband, as well as extra room for large ears (thanks, Sony). It’s also lighter, and it no longer leaves a noticeable gap around your head while wearing them. And despite all that, the 1000XM3 is actually more compact when it folds up, making it easier to travel with. (I had to look up directions to get them in the case correctly though — it’s not very intuitive if you’ve never done it before.)


Sony’s 1000XM3 (left) vs the 1000XM2 (right)
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Sony’s biggest upgrade for the WH-1000XM3 is a new noise canceling chip, the QN1. The company claims its four times better than the previous model at reducing external sound. Sony previously integrated noise canceling into the headphone’s DAC, but the QN1 is a completely standalone chip. That separation also gives each of the components more room to work without getting in each other’s way. It’s also why Sony is able to deliver 32 bit audio processing with the 1000XM3. While that won’t make a huge difference for typical compressed music files, it should console people dedicated to their lossless tracks. The headphones also feature Sony’s LDAC codec, which has three times the bandwidth of Bluetooth and supports high-resolution 24-bit/96 kHz music.

There’s something almost magical about a great pair of headphones — they make music come alive, no matter what you’re playing. The 1000XM3 are simply fun to listen to, with a healthy dose of thumping bass and sparkling clarity in the mid and high-range. They’re definitely not neutral headphones, which many audiophiles prefer. Instead, the WH-1000XM3 are loaded with personality — it doesn’t matter that the bass is sometimes overbearing. Dare I say it: enjoyment matters more than accuracy.

It really didn’t matter what I threw at it — Led Zeppelin’s discography, Tan Dun’s sweeping and bombastic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero scores, or Yoko Kanno’s classic ’90s anime soundtracks (I’ll never stop listening to Cowboy Bebop) — the 1000XM3 proved itself to be one the best headphones I’ve encountered. You know you’re hearing something special when you can unearth new details in songs you’ve listened to hundreds of times. There were moments when the 1000XM3’s sound stage was so transparent, as if I was listening to a live performance. I had to stop myself from clapping on more than one occasion.

I’ve tested plenty of high-end headphones that sound great, but for one reason or another, are a pain to wear for too long. Sometimes the headbands are too tight, or they end up hurting your ears. But in my dozens of hours wearing the 1000XM3 — including on most of an eight hour flight to Berlin from NYC — I never felt any discomfort. The earcups and head band are pillowy soft, and they’re breathable enough to keep my ears from getting sweaty. I also appreciated that these headphones are lighter than the last model, at times I forgot I was even wearing them. My only complaint is Sony’s touch controls on the right earcup. They work decently most of the time, but they occasionally skipped a track when I mean to turn up the volume.

What truly pushes the 1000XM3 into must buy territory is its noise cancelling. In a head-to-head comparison with the previous model, the new headphones managed to block out noticeably more noise from a loudspeaker playing directly in front of me. It wasn’t exactly night and day, but it was still enough of a difference to tell that Sony isn’t kidding about the advantages of its QN1 chip. During that flight to Berlin, the usual loud drone of the airplane cabin turned into a pleasant hum. And once I started playing music and watching in-flight movies, the cabin noise all but disappeared. Similarly, the headphones did a fantastic job during my subway commute, turning the noisy and crowded cars into a sanctuary of music and podcasts when I closed my eyes.


Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

I’m not one of those New Yorkers that enjoys walking around with large headphones, especially noise canceling cans. Situational awareness is an important thing when you’re dodging pedestrians, traffic and the daily surprises of city life. Typically, I just stroll with a pair of wireless earbuds, with one in my left ear. I felt less anxious moving around town with the 1000XM3, though, since its ambient sound modes did a fantastic job of bringing in outside noise.

You can access it by hitting a button on the left ear or by jumping into Sony’s Connect mobile app, which lets you adjust how much external sound you let in. There’s also a handy option to focus on voices, which is useful if you’re wearing the headphones in a noisy office but still need to hear your colleagues. And if you don’t want to deal with constantly changing settings, there’s Adaptive Sound Control, which tweaks the noise canceling based on your environment. It usually reduces all noise when you’re sitting still, but lets in ambient sound once you start walking around.

Sony’s app also lets you customize the noise canceling to your ear profile by playing back a series of tones while you’re wearing the headphone. And it can also tweak the feature based on your current atmospheric pressure, which should make it work even better on planes.I’ll be honest, it’s tough to tell if those app tweaks actually improved things. But it was enough a placebo to make me think the headphones were actually custom tuned for me. You can also integrate Google Assistant into the 1000XM3 through Sony’s app, which turns the noise canceling button on the left earcup into an Assistant prompt. While the feature works fine, I prefer having sound controls within easy reach. If Sony really wants to go all in with Google Assistant, it should at least have a dedicated button.

Sony claims the 1000XM3 gets 30 hours of battery life, and that’s not far off from my testing. It survived my flight to Berlin, as well as several days of constant use without needing a recharge. Sony also added a USB-C port for charging, which is convenient if you’re already gathering devices supporting that new standard. If you have a well powered USB-C connection (or Sony’s AC adapter), the headphones will have five hours of charge after just 10 minutes.

Bose has long been the king of noise canceling headphones, but Sony has put up a good fight over the years with the 1000XM line. This latest iteration is the knockout punch Sony needs (especially since Bose is still struggling to combine decent noise canceling with high quality sound in its headphones). The biggest downside with the 1000XM3 is its $350 price tag. That’s the same as Bose’s latest QuietComfort, so at least it’s competitive. If you want something that’s almost as good, though, take a look at Sony’s Hear On 2 headphones. They’re not as comfortable as the 1000XM3, but you can find them refurbished under $150.

Based on its fit and sound quality alone, the WH-1000XM3 is one of the best headphones I’ve ever used. But the addition of killer noise canceling integration also makes it one of the most useful pieces of gear you can have. During one particularly busy morning on my Brooklyn block, the 1000XM3 helped me keep my sanity as a semi-truck and row of cars honked outside my window for half an hour. It didn’t completely drown out the noise, but it reduced the truck’s horn from ear-piercing to minor nuisance. And once I started playing music, I was able to ignore it entirely. Sometimes, it’s just nice to have instant quiet on demand.

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The 2018 Emmys were a watershed moment for streaming TV

“The goal is to become HBO before HBO can become us.”

That’s what Netflix’s Ted Sarandos told GQ back in 2013, and it subsequently became a corporate mantra. Back then, it was hard to see how this upstart could supplant the bluest chip in TV’s firmament. It had money, sure, but nobody could have expected it to execute the change from being a DVD rental business to a ubiquitous TV platform. Just five years after launching its first original, House of Cards, Netflix has won.

The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, on September 17, 2018, was a watershed moment, as we saw streaming TV platforms stand equal to cable. For the previous 16 years, premium cable network HBO had received the most nominations and awards, an unprecedented streak. This year, however, Netflix received more nominations, and by the end of the ceremony it had tied HBO in award count — 23 each on the night.

The reason for Netflix’s rise, beyond harnessing its data, is its willingness to spend on content for its empire. Most networks have budgets that can accommodate a small number of new projects a year, a limit Netflix lacks. None of Netflix’s shows swallowed the awards whole, but it could instead overwhelm the competition through force of numbers. The Crown, Stranger Things, Ozark, GLOW and Black Mirror all shared the nods around.

It’s this volume that should scare more budget-conscious outlets, including HBO, which has been forced to pick and choose projects in the past. Famously, it was outbid for House of Cards by Netflix, arguably the moment when the threat of streaming became real. Perhaps that explains WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey’s comments about increasing HBO’s reach: writing a blank check and letting them commission every premium drama it can get its hands on.

Ironically, the biggest winner on the night was neither from HBO not Netflix, but Amazon Prime: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It won five comedy awards on the night, including Best Series, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Writing and Best Direction. And Amazon, which has struggled to make shows with broad appeal amid a shakeup of its leadership, will only devote more time and resources to getting better. The odds of its Lord of the Rings series vacuuming up at the technical awards should be pretty short indeed.

Sure, HBO only had Game of Thrones as its big awards beast of burden this year. And by next year, the network will likely broadcast new seasons of Veep and True Detective, not to mention new episodes of Westworld, The Deuce and Succession. That should be enough to give it a respectable number of nominations and wins, but I expect Netflix will become the apex predator at next year’s Emmys.

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Comcast's X1 set-top box helps you buy concert tickets


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Comcast isn’t stopping at offering movie tickets through the X1. It’s using Ticketmaster’s platform to sell Kelly Clarkson tickets with the help of its set-top box. Say “Kelly Clarkson Tour” to the remote and you’ll go to a promo screen that will show you nearby concert dates and start the ticket purchasing process if you just have to see a show. Unfortunately, you can’t complete the purchase on your TV — you’ll instead receive a text code on your phone that you use to finish the process. Still, it might be easier to browse on the big screen if you’ve already been curled up on the couch.

The real advantage may be when you can get tickets. Xfinity subscribers get access to a presale window for Clarkson’s tour between September 18th and September 23rd, including through the Xfinity website. Whether or not you’re inclined to start a ticket purchase through your TV, this may be the fastest way to score seats before general admission opens. Don’t be surprised if Comcast uses concert tickets as a lure on a regular basis going forward.

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