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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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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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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Bikini Kill's riot grrl punk is available to stream for the first time


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Prince, The Beatles and other well-known artists gave into the siren’s call of streaming music years ago, but not Bikini Kill — you still had to get the iconic riot grrl group’s music the old-fashioned way. Until now, that is. The feminist punk group has posted its small but influential catalog on streaming services, including Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal. Why now? If you ask singer Kathleen Hanna, it’s about accessibility.

In an interview with Tidal, Hanna acknowledged that the group wasn’t fond of the lousy royalty rates streaming services typically offer. However, that both made the music harder to find and would drive people to a “crappy third-rate version on somebody’s YouTube video.” Bikini Kill wanted to be sure as many people could hear the music as possible in the way it was originally recorded (which was admittedly still raw). “I just don’t think it’s right that everybody can’t have access to it,” Hanna said.

Simultaneously, it’s apparent that the group was faced with the same dilemma that has faced other politically active artists, such as Jello Biafra or Rage Against the Machine: they had to participate in the very system they opposed in order to be heard and make a living. Hanna blamed capitalism for creating arbitrary rivalries between fame seekers, but her band couldn’t just ignore it — streaming ensures that people will receive the message.

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Google Maps works with Apple CarPlay following iOS 12 update


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We’ve known since WWDC in June that iOS 12 would herald the arrival of Google Maps on CarPlay. Apple released the latest version of the iPhone and iPad software Monday, and after Google updated its app to support CarPlay, you can now use that navigation option on your car’s infotainment system.

Waze was also expected to add CarPlay support. However, Google, which owns that app too, has yet to update it to work on the system. You might expect that update to arrive soon, and more third-party turn-by-turn apps to add support as well, so you’ll have more alternatives to Apple Maps to help you get where you want to be.

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Instagram uses Stories to encourage voter registration


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The US midterm election is right around the corner, and Instagram is doing its part to encourage as many people as possible to register to vote. It launched a registration push Tuesday, helping ‘Grammers get the information they need to sign up to vote using ads in feeds and stories.

The platform and partner TurboVote are hoping to make the registration process as simple as they can. The ads will give you current information on topics including how to access your state’s voting rules, how to update your registration and, of course, how to register in the first place.

On Election Day, you’ll be able to slap an I Voted sticker on your stories; it links to Get to the Polls, a site that can tell others where their polling location is. Instagram says that it will reveal more details of its get out the vote efforts over the next few weeks, in the lead up to November 6th.

Instagram is one of several services that have helped voters sign up or even assist them in figuring out their preferred candidate based on their platforms. For the upcoming election, for instance, Lyft is offering free and discounted rides to polling stations.

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'Avatar: The Last Airbender' returns as a live-action Netflix series


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That sound you heard was legions of Avatar: The Last Airbender fans squealing with glee. Netflix has announced that it’s releasing a “reimagined,” live-action Avatar series on its service in partnership with Nickelodeon. Production will start in 2019, and the animated show’s creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko will executive produce the new run. Details are unsurprisingly scarce at this early stage, but DiMartino and Konietzko stressed that the Netflix production would include a “culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed” cast.

There’s no guarantee that this will prove as memorable as the animated series, even though it should retell the story of Aang and companions saving the world from Fire Lord Ozai. However, the involvement of its original creators provides some hope. This shouldn’t be a repeat of the mess that was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender movie, which both clashed with the original vision and tried to condense an entire series into a 90-minute window. As it is, you aren’t going to see the Netflix series for a while — finer details like the casting and direction might not be known for some time.

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Lyft marks its 1 billionth ride as it expands beyond cars


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Lyft may be an underdog relative to Uber, but it’s still huge in the transportation world. The ridesharing firm has officially provided 1 billion rides, including 233 million shared rides. That pales in comparison to Uber’s 10 billion trips. However, Uber also got a three-year head start (2009 versus 2012) and has focused on international expansion where Lyft only ventured outside the US last year. It’s doing well considering its scale.

The milestone comes as Lyft is in the midst of rapid growth. It added about 100 more US cities in 2017 on top of its fledgling international presence. More importantly, though, it’s expanding beyond the car rides that have dominated its business for the past six years. It just launched its first electric scooter services, and it recently bought the company behind CitiBike as part of a move to offer pedal-powered transportation. In other words, the next billion rides may look very different than the first — only some of them may involve a car and a separate driver.

It’s not all sunshine and roses for Lyft, however. Although it’s often portrayed as the kinder, gentler alternative to Uber, it faces some of the same criticisms. Governments and workers alike are concerned about driver pay, and accessibility remains a problem. There’s also the question of growth. Lyft predicted that it would finally turn a profit in 2018, but the jury’s still out on that figure. As far as Lyft has come with a billion rides, it didn’t reach that point with a sterling reputation.

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UNC Health Care offers free virtual appointments to hurricane victims


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UNC Health Care announced that it will give anyone in North Carolina free access to its virtual care service through September 23rd as the state works to recover from Hurricane Florence. Via phone, tablet or computer, UNC Urgent Care 24/7 gives users virtual access to physicians who can then diagnose them, recommend treatments and prescribe medications. The healthcare group initially waived its virtual visit fees over the weekend, but it’s extending the free access since many North Carolina residents have been displaced or can’t travel because of the storm.

“Post-storm, we recognize a continuing need for this delivery of health care service for non-acute conditions,” UNC Health Care CEO Bill Roper said in a statement. “We hope this will provide some degree of relief to folks who may not be able to leave their homes or access their usual providers.” Residents with relatively minor complaints can use code “UNCFLORENCE2018 to register for the service for free, but those experiencing an emergency should still go to a hospital, says the company.

Some areas of the state are suffering from severe flooding and 25 deaths in North and South Carolina have been attributed to the storm so far. “This remains a significant disaster that affects much of our state,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said today. “The next few days will be long ones as the flooding continues.”

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Trump will reportedly spare Apple products from latest China tariffs


Engadget

If you were scrambling to buy the latest Apple Watch out of concern that Trump’s next round of tariffs could lead to price hikes, you can likely relax. Bloomberg sources have claimed that the new tariffs don’t affect a technology category that covers many of Apple’s products, including the Watch, AirPods, the HomePod and Beats headphones. This is also likely to exempt comparable products from other companies, such as Fitbit’s activity trackers and Sonos’ speakers, but the scoop only mentioned Apple’s by name.

It’s uncertain what would prompt the exception, although Apple had staunchly opposed the earlier proposal. It sent a letter to Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer warning that the tariffs could increase costs, raise prices and put it at a “disadvantage” to some foreign competitors. Apple chief Tim Cook dined with Trump in August, but it’s not certain if anything resulted from that meeting.

The Trump administration is expected to list its new tariffs within the next few days, possibly as early as September 17th. If they do include an exception for companies like Apple, though, Trump’s dismissal of Apple’s objections won’t amount to much. The company might just get what it wanted all along, even if other American firms aren’t so lucky.

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