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Valve appeals $2.4M fine as Australian legal battle rages on

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Valve has bought more time in its fight against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) by filing yet another appeal. 

The video game juggernaut was sued by the ACCC back in August 2014 after the consumer rights organization took issue with the lack of a proper Steam refund policy.

After a protracted legal battle, the Federal Court found Valve guilty of breaking consumer law by intentionally excluding statutory guarantees and deliberately modifying warranties. 

As a result, the company was hit with a $2.4 million fine in what was declared a landmark victory by ACCC chairman, Rod Sims. 

Yet, despite having already lost one appeal, Valve has now applied to the High Court for "special leave" and will again attempt to overturn the Federal Court's decision. 

As noted by the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association's Jonny Roses on Twitter, that means the original decision and $2.4 million fine will be put on hold until the High Court moves forward with the appeal, or rejects it outright. 

"The Full Court found Valve carried on business in Australia, and was therefore bound by the Australian Consumer Law in its dealings with customers here," said Sims, commenting on the importance of the case after Valve's first appeal was dismissed. 

"This case sets an important precedent that overseas-based companies that sell to Australians must abide by our law. All goods come with automatic consumer guarantees that they are of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold, even if the business is based overseas."

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27 days ago
Being Aussie I very much hope valve will be seen off. Our consumer protection is just being fair.
Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia
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Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88

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Ursula K. Le Guin, the immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the Earthsea series, died on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore. She was 88.

Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, confirmed the death. He did not specify a cause but said she had been in poor health for several months.

Ms. Le Guin embraced the standard themes of her chosen genres: sorcery and dragons, spaceships and planetary conflict. But even when her protagonists are male, they avoid the macho posturing of so many science fiction and fantasy heroes. The conflicts they face are typically rooted in a clash of cultures and resolved more by conciliation and self-sacrifice than by swordplay or space battles.

Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Several, including “The Left Hand of Darkness” — set on a planet where the customary gender distinctions do not apply — have been in print for almost 50 years. The critic Harold Bloom lauded Ms. Le Guin as “a superbly imaginative creator and major stylist” who “has raised fantasy into high literature for our time.”

In addition to more than 20 novels, she was the author of a dozen books of poetry, more than 100 short stories (collected in multiple volumes), seven collections of essays, 13 books for children and five volumes of translation, including the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu and selected poems by the Chilean Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral. She also wrote a guide for writers.

Ms. Le Guin’s fictions range from young-adult adventures to wry philosophical fables. They combine compelling stories, rigorous narrative logic and a lean but lyrical style to draw readers into what she called the “inner lands” of the imagination. Such writing, she believed, could be a moral force.

“If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly,” she told The Guardian in an interview in 2005. “Little kids can’t do it; babies are morally monsters — completely greedy. Their imagination has to be trained into foresight and empathy.”

The writer’s “pleasant duty,” she said, is to ply the reader’s imagination with “the best and purest nourishment that it can absorb.”

She was born Ursula Kroeber in Berkeley, Calif., on Oct. 21, 1929, the youngest of four children and the only daughter of two anthropologists, Alfred L. Kroeber and Theodora Quinn Kroeber. Her father was an expert on the Native Americans of California, and her mother wrote an acclaimed book, “Ishi in Two Worlds” (1960), about the life and death of California’s “last wild Indian.”

“The Left Hand of Darkness,” published in 1969, takes place on a planet called Gethen, where people are neither male nor female.

At a young age, Ms. Le Guin immersed herself in books about mythology, among them James Frazier’s “The Golden Bough,” classic fantasies like Lord Dunsany’s “A Dreamer’s Tales,” and the science-fiction magazines of the day. But in early adolescence she lost interest in science fiction, because, she recalled, the stories “seemed to be all about hardware and soldiers: White men go forth and conquer the universe.”

She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1951, earned a master’s degree in romance literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance from Columbia University in 1952, and won a Fulbright fellowship to study in Paris. There she met and married another Fulbright scholar, Charles Le Guin, who survives her.

On their return to the United States, she abandoned her graduate studies to raise a family; the Le Guins eventually settled in Portland, where Mr. Le Guin taught history at Portland State University.

Besides her husband and son, Ms. Le Guin is survived by two daughters, Caroline and Elisabeth Le Guin; two brothers, Theodore and Clifton Kroeber; and four grandchildren.

By the early 1960s Ms. Le Guin had written five unpublished novels, mostly set in an imaginary Central European country called Orsinia. Eager to find a more welcoming market, she decided to try her hand at genre fiction.

Her first science-fiction novel, “Rocannon’s World,” came out in 1966. Two years later she published “A Wizard of Earthsea,” the first in a series about a made-up world where the practice of magic is as precise as any science, and as morally ambiguous.

The first three Earthsea books — the other two were “The Tombs of Atuan” (1971) and “The Farthest Shore” (1972) — were written, at the request of her publisher, for young adults. But their grand scale and elevated style betray no trace of writing down to an audience.

The magic of Earthsea is language-driven: Wizards gain power over people and things by knowing their “true names.” Ms. Le Guin took this discipline seriously in naming her own characters. “I must find the right name or I cannot get on with the story,” she said. “I cannot write the story if the name is wrong.”

The Earthsea series was clearly influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. But instead of a holy war between Good and Evil, Ms. Le Guin’s stories are organized around a search for “balance” among competing forces — a concept she adapted from her lifelong study of Taoist texts.

She returned to Earthsea later in her career, extending and deepening the trilogy with books like “Tehanu” (1990) and “The Other Wind” (2001), written for a general audience.

Ms. Le Guin speaking in 2014 at the University of Oregon. She sought to draw readers into what she called the “inner lands” of the imagination.CreditJack Liu

“The Left Hand of Darkness,” published in 1969, takes place on a planet called Gethen, where people are neither male nor female but assume the attributes of either sex during brief periods of reproductive fervor. Speaking with an anthropological dispassion, Ms. Le Guin later referred to her novel as a “thought experiment” designed to explore the nature of human societies.

“I eliminated gender to find out what was left,” she told The Guardian.

But there is nothing dispassionate about the relationship at the core of the book, between an androgynous native of Gethen and a human male from Earth. The book won the two major prizes in science fiction, the Hugo and Nebula awards, and is widely taught in secondary schools and colleges.

Much of Ms. Le Guin’s science fiction has a common background: a loosely knit confederation of worlds known as the Ekumen. This was founded by an ancient people who seeded humans on habitable planets throughout the galaxy — including Gethen, Earth and the twin worlds of her most ambitious novel, “The Dispossessed,” subtitled “An Ambiguous Utopia” (1974).

As the subtitle implies, “The Dispossessed” contrasts two forms of social organization: a messy but vibrant capitalist society, which oppresses its underclass, and a classless “utopia” (partly based on the ideas of the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin), which turns out to be oppressive in its own conformist way. Ms. Le Guin leaves it up to the reader to find a comfortable balance between the two.

“The Lathe of Heaven” (1971) offers a very different take on utopian ambitions. A man whose dreams can alter reality falls under the sway of a psychiatrist, who usurps this power to conjure his own vision of a perfect world, with unfortunate results.

“The Lathe of Heaven” was among the few books by Ms. Le Guin that have been adapted for film or television. There were two made-for-television versions, one on PBS in 1980 and the other on the A&E cable channel in 2002.

Among the other adaptations of her work were the 2006 Japanese animated feature “Tales From Earthsea” and a 2004 mini-series on the Sci Fi channel, “Legend of Earthsea.”

With the exception of the 1980 “Lathe of Heaven,” she had little good to say about any of them.

Ms. Le Guin always considered herself a feminist, even when genre conventions led her to center her books on male heroes. Her later works, like the additions to the Earthsea series and such Ekumen tales as “Four Ways to Forgiveness” (1995) and “The Telling” (2000), are mostly told from a female point of view.

In some of her later books, she gave in to a tendency toward didacticism, as if she were losing patience with humanity for not learning the hard lessons — about the need for balance and compassion — that her best work so astutely embodies.

At the 2014 National Book Awards, Ms. Le Guin was given the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She accepted the medal on behalf of her fellow writers of fantasy and science fiction, who, she said, had been “excluded from literature for so long” while literary honors went to the “so-called realists.”

She also urged publishers and writers not to put too much emphasis on profits.

“I have had a long career and a good one,” she said, adding, “Here at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river.”

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.


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27 days ago
Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia
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40 days ago
Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia
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No Level of Copyright Enforcement Will Ever Be Enough For Big Media

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For more than ten years TorrentFreak has documented a continuous stream of piracy battles so it’s natural that, every now and then, we pause to consider when this war might stop. The answer is always “no time soon” and certainly not in 2018.

When swapping files over the Internet first began it wasn’t a particularly widespread activity. A reasonable amount of content was available, but it was relatively inaccessible. Then peer-to-peer came along and it sparked a revolution.

From the beginning, copyright holders felt that the law would answer their problems, whether that was by suing Napster, Kazaa, or even end users. Some industry players genuinely believed this strategy was just a few steps away from achieving its goals. Just a little bit more pressure and all would be under control.

Then, when the landmark MGM Studios v. Grokster decision was handed down in the studios’ favor during 2005, the excitement online was palpable. As copyright holders rejoiced in this body blow for the pirating masses, file-sharing communities literally shook under the weight of the ruling. For a day, maybe two.

For the majority of file-sharers, the ruling meant absolutely nothing. So what if some company could be held responsible for other people’s infringements? Another will come along, outside of the US if need be, people said. They were right not to be concerned – that’s exactly what happened.

Ever since, this cycle has continued. Eager to stem the tide of content being shared without their permission, rightsholders have advocated stronger anti-piracy enforcement and lobbied for more restrictive interpretations of copyright law. Thus far, however, literally nothing has provided a solution.

One would have thought that given the military-style raid on Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload, a huge void would’ve appeared in the sharing landscape. Instead, the file-locker business took itself apart and reinvented itself in jurisdictions outside the United States. Meanwhile, the BitTorrent scene continued in the background, somewhat obliviously.

With the SOPA debacle still fresh in relatively recent memory, copyright holders are still doggedly pursuing their aims. Site-blocking is rampant, advertisers are being pressured into compliance, and ISPs like Cox Communications now find themselves responsible for the infringements of their users. But has any of this caused any fatal damage to the sharing landscape? Not really.

Instead, we’re seeing a rise in the use of streaming sites, each far more accessible to the newcomer than their predecessors and vastly more difficult for copyright holders to police.

Systems built into Kodi are transforming these platforms into a plug-and-play piracy playground, one in which sites skirt US law and users can consume both at will and in complete privacy. Meanwhile, commercial and unauthorized IPTV offerings are gathering momentum, even as rightsholders try to pull them back.

Faced with problems like these we are now seeing calls for even tougher legislation. While groups like the RIAA dream of filtering the Internet, over in the UK a 2017 consultation had copyright holders excited that end users could be criminalized for simply consuming infringing content, let alone distributing it.

While the introduction of both or either of these measures would cause uproar (and rightly so), history tells us that each would fail in its stated aim of stopping piracy. With that eventuality all but guaranteed, calls for even tougher legislation are being readied for later down the line.

In short, there is no law that can stop piracy and therefore no law that will stop the entertainment industries coming back for harsher measures, pursuing the dream. This much we’ve established from close to two decades of litigation and little to no progress.

But really, is anyone genuinely surprised that they’re still taking this route? Draconian efforts to maintain control over the distribution of content predate the file-sharing wars by a couple of hundred years, at the very least. Why would rightsholders stop now, when the prize is even more valuable?

No one wants a minefield of copyright law. No one wants a restricted Internet. No one wants extended liability for innovators, service providers, or the public. But this is what we’ll get if this problem isn’t solved soon. Something drastic needs to happen, but who will be brave enough to admit it, let alone do something about it?

During a discussion about piracy last year on the BBC, the interviewer challenged a caller who freely admitted to pirating sports content online. The caller’s response was clear:

For far too long, broadcasters and rightsholders have abused their monopoly position, charging ever-increasing amounts for popular content, even while making billions. Piracy is a natural response to that, and effectively a chance for the little guy to get back some control, he argued.

Exactly the same happened in the music market during the late 1990s and 2000s. In response to artificial restriction of the market and the unrealistic hiking of prices, people turned to peer-to-peer networks for their fix. Thanks to this pressure but after years of turmoil, services like Spotify emerged, converting millions of former pirates in the process. Netflix, it appears, is attempting to do the same thing with video.

When people feel that they aren’t getting ripped off and that they have no further use for sub-standard piracy services in the face of stunning legal alternatives, things will change. But be under no illusion, people won’t be bullied there.

If we end up with an Internet stifled in favor of rightsholders, one in which service providers are too scared to innovate, the next generation of consumers will never forget. This will be a major problem for two key reasons. Not only will consumers become enemies but piracy will still exist. We will have come full circle, fueled only by division and hatred.

It’s a natural response to reject monopolistic behavior and it’s a natural response, for most, to be fair when treated with fairness. Destroying freedom is far from fair and will not create a better future – for anyone.

Laws have their place, no sane person will argue against that, but when the entertainment industries are making billions yet still want more, they’ll have to decide whether this will go on forever with building resentment, or if making a bit less profit now makes more sense longer term.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

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46 days ago
Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia
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Why we need our hero, MacGyver, more than ever.


I’ve been rewatching old episodes of MacGyver on Hulu as I wrapped Christmas gifts. They’re just as thrilling as when I was a kid.

OK, fine, they’re often dopey. They are also in 4×3 and paced really slowly by today’s standards. But for heaven’s sake, each episode is a nitrous boost of charm and commonplace creativity.

Richard Dean Anderson played secret agent Angus MacGyver, a troubleshooter for the fictional Phoenix Foundation and an agent for the Department of External Services (DXS), a fictional United States government agency.

MacGyver was educated as a physicist and served in the Army Special Forces as a Bomb Team Specialist during the Vietnam War. The character was resourceful, possessing a Wikipedia-like knowledge of the physical sciences that he used every episode to solve complex problems by making things out of ordinary objects like paper clips and chewing gum.

Often in life-or-death situations, MacGyver would need to improvise clever solutions on the fly. The show was praised for generating interest in the applied sciences and engineering, and it swept through culture to the point that it became a verb. His feats have come to be known as “MacGyvering” or “MacGyverisms.”

Interestingly, all of MacGyver’s exploits on the show were vetted by consulting scientists to ensure a basis on scientific principles. Though the writers acknowledged they were of course dramatized for television and you’d have to be extraordinarily lucky for most of MacGyver’s ideas to succeed.

Before Life Hack memes tripped through Facebook, there was MacGyver with his ever-present Swiss Army knife and duct tape. But, notably, in the few cases where MacGyver used household chemicals to mix up poisons or explosives, essential components were altered, omitted, or left vague so they would not be accurately described to the viewing public.

Most notably, MacGyver always employed non-violent resolutions and didn’t use a gun. Apart from a couple of lapses, he never even handled one, and any firearm he took from a bad guy would be thrown to the side or repurposed for other, less violent uses such as creating a diversion.

Everyone wanted to see what MacGyver might come up with. Once a companion asked, “What are you gonna do now, make a bomb out of a chewing gum wrapper?” MacGyver stopped and said “Why, you got one?”, a winking nod to what viewers often thought.

During one episode, Mac was buried in an avalanche. Facing the danger of suffocation and hypothermia, writers came up with a clever way to put time pressure on him beyond the usual story beats of ticking bombs or pursuing thugs. He was also limited to what he was carrying on his person rather than what he could find in a room, and being buried under snow, he could barely move, which made the whole thing feel crazy claustrophobic.

Mac also once escaped a prison camp by building a two-man ultralight out of bamboo, garbage bags, and a generator. The show was obviously not a documentary. Yet there is a reason these gimmicks remain as charming today as they did when the show first aired: As silly as they are in practice, most of the ideas had a general basis in scientific fact, and that pure love of knowledge elevated MacGyver above most of his violence-crazed peers.

What’s more, there wasn’t an ounce of cynicism on MacGyver. Nor was their any moral ambiguity. MacGyver was good. He did the right thing. He won in the end. He didn’t use guns.

The other nerds at Nerds on Earth will make fun of me for this. They love their anti-heroes. Give them their Deadpools and their Punishers.

Me? I’ll take MacGyver every time.

The show wouldn’t have worked without Richard Dean Anderson. A Minnesota native, Anderson was on track to become a hockey player before a knee injury derailed his athletic career. That explains the hair.

As an actor, he came across as a kind of guy-next-door Indiana Jones. MacGyver could have been an insufferable “um, actually” know-it-all who constantly needed to show off his scientific acumen. But Anderson played everything in the earnest “Gosh, I hope this works!” kind of way that made the convenient nature of the gadgets part of the charm of the show.

Sure, the show could be sluggish, have hokey exposition, forced humor, laughably earnest melodrama and plot holes big enough to drive a panda through, but, gah, everybody knows you don’t “drive” pandas.

Yeah, it was dopey. Yet Henry Winkler was the producer, so you’d be correctamundo in thinking the show was cool. Were some of MacGyver’s stunts jump-the-shark moments? Maybe. But mock the nostalgia of MacGyver at your peril, because at the end of the day, Fonzie jumped over a shark on water skis and you didn’t.

Because with a pure heart, it’s not difficult to shift standards and appreciate MacGyver for what it accomplished. Revisiting MacGyver is still worthwhile, as the charm of the show holds up. Personally, the show’s anti-gun stance remains one of my favorite aspects. MacGyver was always portrayed as a man’s man, yet he refused to be violent. His superpower was his brain. That’s revolutionary, even today.

MacGyver was my favorite TV show as a kid. And, surely, it deserves some sort of special award for making science seem cool.

I asked for a Swiss Army Knife for Christmas three years running and I carried a roll of duct tape in my backpack. MacGyver inspired me to endeavor in scientific experimentation. Thankfully, my mom recognized my geekiness and supported my love of MacGyver, even to the point of taking it easy on me when I rewired an alarm clock and inadvertently caught the house on fire. Sorry, mom.

Sure, this is a nostalgia piece. You caught us: Nerds on Earth might not be keeping up with the cool kids, but we have our finger on the important pulses. And the United States is the cultural, diplomatic, and moral leader of the world in terms of investment in science. Right?

No? Well, then we need more heroes like MacGyver. Now, more than ever, we need to acknowledge scientists as heroes so we can raise up the next generation of MacGyvers.

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54 days ago
Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia
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Things to Know About the Year 2018

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Whatever your grievances against 2016 as a year, it was a stellar number. Like a picnic with milkshakes and beer, this integer was fun for the whole family.

Just look at these equations:

1 new year

After this crowd-pleaser came 2017, a prime year, which engendered this brilliant Tweet from Matt Parker:

That brings us to 2018.

It’s not triangular, like 2016.

It’s not prime, like 2017.

Is it, then, worthless?

Well, I myself am neither triangular nor prime. But if the roles were reversed, I like to think 2018 would do its best to uncover my special qualities and catalogue them in a blog post. So I went to do “research” (my codeword for “Google searches”).

What secret mathematical properties and pleasures will our new year contain?

To 2018’s credit, there are a few special days to mark on your calendars:

3 new year

That’s just around the corner! And there’s another one coming:4 new year

And then in February, the first of our factor days:5 new year

The second will follow in March:6 new year

And the third in June:7 new year

With another special day in August:

8 new year.jpg

And the final factor day in September:9 new year

Exciting as these days are, they pale in urgency alongside the fact that 2018 is the year in which the film Iron Sky takes place. So if there’s a shadow civilization of Nazis living on the dark side of the moon, expect them to surface sometime in the next 12 months.

10 new year

In another dark turn, 2018 marks the 500th anniversary of the great Dancing Plague, in which four hundred citizens of Strasbourg danced for days without rest, some to their deaths. The cause remains unknown.

(Seriously. I’m not making that one up.)

Aside from that… I’m afraid 2018 is a rather bland number. Well, not bland; let’s go with “understated.” I can’t call it outright “boring” because of the classic proof that there is no uninteresting positive integer:

11 new year.jpg

Still, I have to confess that 2018 is below-average for mathematical swagger. The best I can offer is this little trifecta:

12 new year

Or, if you prefer strange conversions to and from binary:

13 new year

I’m afraid I’m not serving well as 2018’s advocate, since this is all rather arbitrary and numerological. We’d get similar answers from an astrologer or a fever dream.

The harsh mathematical truth of 2018 is that it is “semiprime,” i.e., a product of two primes—in this case, 2 x 1009.

That’s not the most exciting property. Other semiprime numbers include 6, 9, 10, 14, 15, 21, 22, 25, 26… and indeed, more than a quarter of all years that have happened so far.

Is that the best we can say for the forthcoming year?

14 new year

Luckily, no. 2018 has one last trick up its sleeves.

Although semiprime years are quite common, this is the first since 2005. That 13-year drought is rather impressive; it’s the longest since Shakespeare’s death.

15 new year.jpg

With any luck, that’s interesting enough to last us until the Moon Nazis show up.

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54 days ago
golden day might be June for the rest of the world
Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia
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53 days ago
So many celebrations. I shall have to update my calendar. And stock up on cupcakes.
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