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Epic Games, which made Fortnite, sides with Improbable against Unity

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Epic Games, the creator of “Fortnite,” has inserted itself into the middle of a back-and-forth feud between $2 billion British startup Improbable and $2.6 billion Unity Technologies.

The beef began on Thursday, when Improbable announced that SpatialOS, a cloud gaming service, was no longer compatible with Unity after a change to the latter’s terms of service.

This was a big deal: Unity, the flagship gaming engine from Unity Technologies, is the foundational software behind many modern video games — games like “Pokémon Go,” “Hollow Knight,” and “Cuphead” were all built with Unity at the core. Similarly, Improbable, a prominent British technology company, is the proprietor of SpatialOS, which helps developers quickly and easily deploy the underlying plumbing for online multiplayer features.

Improbable’s announcement created ripples throughout the industry — one Improbable customer, Spilt Milk Studios, reacted to the news by shutting down the online servers for its Unity-based game “Lazarus,” for fear of violating Unity’s terms of service.

“Hollow Knight” is powered by the Unity engine.
Dave Smith/Business Insider

Then, Unity responded, saying that Improbable had misrepresented the situation, and that developers using Unity with SpatialOS had nothing to worry about. It pledged to clarify its terms of service.

But then, later in the night, Epic Games, the $15 billion gaming giant, got involved. It announced that it had partnered with Improbable to create a $25 million fund for developers stuck in “legal limbo” over the situation. And Improbable issued its own “final statement,” calling on Unity to

Although the clash was between Improbable and Unity, Epic Games decided to jump in because it believes that game developers should have the freedom to use whatever tools they want. Of note is that Epic Games and Unity are long-time competitors: Epic makes the Unreal Engine, a direct competitor with Unity. Game engines are big business for both companies.

“The principle at stake here is whether game developers are free to mix and match engines, online services and stores of their choosing, or if an engine maker can dictate how developers build and sell their games,” Tim Sweeney, co-founder and CEO of Epic Games, told Business Insider via a Twitter direct message.

Here’s how things got to this point.

Where it started

The roots of the feud go back to December, when Unity updated its terms of service to exclude “managed service[s] running on cloud infrastructure” that “install or execute the Unity Runtime on the cloud or a remote server.” The meaning of this clause is what seems to be at the center of the dispute.

In its original blog post, Improbable said that it was informed by Unity on Wednesday that SpatialOS would be in violation of those terms. In other words, Improbable wrote, all Unity-based games using SpatialOS — including those in development, as well as those released to the world with paying customers — were themselves in violation.

Improbable also said that its own license for the Unity Editor software has been revoked.

“Fortnite,” meanwhile, is built on the Unreal Engine — which is built by Epic Games itself.
YouTube/Unbox Therapy

“Overnight, this is an action by Unity that has immediately done harm to projects across the industry, including those of extremely vulnerable or small scale developers and damaged major projects in development over many years,” Improbable wrote in its blog post.

At the time, Improbable said that it would set up an emergency fund to aid SpatialOS developers on Unity, as well as make its code for the SpatialOS Game Development Kit for Unity available as open source.

“Live games are now in legal limbo,” Improbable wrote.

Developers in limbo

Improbable’s blog post sent the gaming industry into a tizzy, with many expressing concern that Unity would seemingly make such an aggressive, sudden move to block developers from hosting multiplayer games in the cloud.

Sweeney himself questioned the logic of the move: “You couldn’t operate Fortnite, PUBG, or Rocket League under this terms,” he tweeted.

Unity developers expressed shock and dismay over the change, as well.

Spilt Milk Studios, whose game “Lazarus” uses both Unity and SpatialOS, briefly shut down its servers after Improbable published its blog post. Boss Studios, the proprietor of “Worlds Adrift,” came close to making the same move, though ultimately kept its servers online.

The move seemed to endanger in-progress projects, as well.

“I don’t know how many hours I’ve sunk into these projects and the plans to start a game company utilizing this technology but it’s a huge portion of my time over the last two years,” user AtomiCal posted on the Unity forums. “Today I woke up to a message essentially pulling the rug from under my feet saying that I can’t do that anymore. Unity won’t let it happen.”

Later, Improbable wrote another blog post apologizing for the uncertainty created by the situation, and suggested that the industry should standardize on some rules for how to handle situations like this.

“In the near future, as more and more people transition from entertainment to earning a real income playing games, a platform going down or changing its Terms of Service could have devastating repercussions on a scale much worse than today,” Improbable wrote.

Unity calls Improbable ‘incorrect’

Unity finally responded when CTO Joachim Ante wrote a blog post saying that Improbable’s blog post was incorrect, and pledged that the company was working on clarifying its terms of service around cloud-hosted gaming.

First of all, Ante said, Unity developers using SpatialOS won’t be affected, whether their games are in production or live.

“We have never communicated to any game developer that they should stop operating a game that runs using Improbable as a service,” Ante wrote.

Unity’s issue is specifically with Improbable, as a company — Ante writes that Improbable had been “making unauthorized and improper use of Unity’s technology and name in connection with the development, sale, and marketing of its own products.” As such, Unity revoked Improbable’s license keys for Unity Editor, one of its commercial products, such that the startup can no longer use Unity tech to build its services, he says.

Bossa Studios uses Improbable’s SpatialOS to power the multiplayer in its online game ‘Worlds Adrift.’
Bossa Studios

What’s more, Ante wrote that Improbable had already been in violation of its terms of service for over a year, and it had told Improbable this both in person and in writing months ago. In other words, this should not have been a surprise to Improbable, as it’s known about this for many months, Ante said.

Also, Unity said it had been clear with Improbable that no games currently in production won’t be affected.

“We would have expected them to be honest with their community about this information,” Ante wrote. “Unfortunately, this information is misrepresented in Improbable’s blog.”

Epic Games swoops in

The saga didn’t end with Unity’s blog. That same day, Epic’s Sweeney and Improbable CEO Herman Narula penned a blog post together saying that they were starting a $25 million fund to assist developers “who were left in limbo.”

“Epic Games’ partnership with Improbable, and the integration of Improbable’s cloud-based development platform SpatialOS, is based on shared values, and a shared belief in how companies should work together to support mutual customers in a straightforward, no-surprises way,” they wrote in the blog post.

Sweeney tells Business Insider that developers shouldn’t be locked into Unity-approved services just because of some changes in the terms of service.

“As a new operator of a store and online services, Epic’s ability to serve developers depends on whether they’re free to choose us, or if Unity can say they’re locked into Unity-approved services,” Sweeney said.

Improbable speaks out again

On Friday, Improbable made another blog post, saying this was its “final statement.” In the post, it clarified that it had received verbal confirmation from Unity that it was not in breach of Unity’s terms of service. It also said that although SpatialOS games based on Unity can stay live, the fact that Unity revoked its license keys means that Improbable cannot legally provide support to those games’ developers, which includes fixing bugs.

“We regarded this as the end of the matter and proceeded with commercial discussions. Until the recent change, neither we nor Unity had reason to believe there was any issue for developers,” Improbable wrote.

Improbable CEO Herman Narula
Improbable

It also said that the terms of service cast too wide of a net, as the terms could put any cloud-based multiplayer solution or cloud-based streaming solution at risk of being in violation. After Unity clarified that Improbable was in violation of its terms of service, Improbable decided to put a public notice, says the blog post.

Finally, Improbable said that Unity should either unsuspend its Unity Editor license, or else clarify its terms and conditions — something that, again, Unity has pledged to do.

“We urgently need clarity in order to move forward. Everyone requires a long term, dependable answer from Unity on what is and is not allowed, in a documented legal form,” Improbable wrote. “More broadly, developers are asking about other services, not just Improbable’s. This urgently needs resolution.”

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Wedding attack and tech: How OpenText’s investigations service beats the traditional approach

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At its heart, an investigation is a hunt for relevant facts in order to tell a story — a story that drives strategies for organizations, including law firms.

Tracy Drynan, head of OpenText Recon Investigations — a seamless end-to-end service that helps companies and law firms find evidence for all types of investigations including internal investigations, litigation assessments, compliance and regulatory investigations, c-suite vetting and more — says these stories are a more powerful tool than most people think.

The team led by Drynan arms both in-house and external counsel with the information needed to guide their corporate and outside lawyers with the information needed to guide their clients: an investigation empowers them. What differentiates OpenText Recon is the speed with which the team utilizes specialized tools and workflows to efficiently locate evidence. This approach gains insights into patterns, gaps and relationships in a fraction of the cost of a traditional eDiscovery review, and more quickly gathers the relevant facts to create that critical story.

“Whether it be litigation or a regulatory investigation or an internal audit, often time is of the essence,” Drynan says. “Being able to make decisions that affect your bottom line, your liability, your risks which ultimately challenge your resources, even public opinion, is critical.”

Too often, an archaic model is applied to investigations — one derived when we still existed in a paper society — that analyzes all available information but doesn’t actively hunt for relevant facts, and that produces a disconnect. An efficient model does not need to analyze every piece of information.

“It’s flawed for this reason,” Drynan says. “When you review a set of information, even when you apply advanced analytics and information retrieval science, it is still at the end bucketed for a team to analyze it contiguously. In a way, we are still following the pre-electronic paradigm — we are reviewing almost paper documents one by one, and that unfortunately is handicapping both the talent and the technology in the hunt for the facts.”

While lawyers may make a living hunting facts and building narratives, Drynan would argue their approach could be improved and points out that many of the companies hired by firms to help out during an investigation still apply that outdated model. OpenText Recon breaks that pattern and approaches the hunt differently — they don’t compartmentalize anything, which means the team can identify patterns more easily. Those patterns become the clues, which become the facts, that become the story that allow lawyers to make those critical decisions. The result is not a stack of documents, but a more nuanced report outlining the important facts to analyze.

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Canada takes aim at Netflix, Airbnb in $6.5B big-tech tax plan

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Canada’s federal government is planning to force foreign-based technology firms such as Netflix Inc. and Airbnb Inc. to charge their users a sales tax in a move aimed at boosting the government’s coffers by as much as $6.5 billion over the next five years. 

The new taxation plans, outlined in the government’s Fall Economic Statement, attempt to level the playing field between Canadian companies and foreign-based digital corporations that were largely exempt from paying federal sales taxes. Some provinces — such as Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Quebec — introduced taxes on streaming services like Netflix earlier this year. 

The government announced Monday that any foreign-based company selling digital products or services to consumers in Canada will be required to collect and remit the Goods and Services Tax or Harmonized Sales Tax. The new tax changes are proposed to begin on July 1, 2021. 

“Canadians want a tax system that is fair, where everyone pays their fair share, so the government has the resources it needs to invest in people and keep our economy strong. That is why we are moving ahead with implementing GST/HST on multinational digital giants and limiting stock option deductions in the largest companies,” said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, in prepared remarks. 

“And Canada will act unilaterally, if necessary … to apply a tax on large multinational digital corporations, so they pay their fair share just like any other company operating in Canada.”

Those taxes will include any sales on products or services made through digital marketplace platforms, sales to Canadians of goods that are located in Canadian fulfillment warehouses, as well as any companies whose platforms help to facilitate short-term rental accommodations in Canada. 

However, the new taxation moves wouldn’t see streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video, Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+, and Spotify Technology SA meet certain Canadian-content requirements, something the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission​ recommended be adopted rather than introduce new tax measures in a wide-ranging report released earlier this year. 

The CRTC estimates that those streaming services record annual revenue of roughly $5 billion, according to its most recent financial data. The federal broadcast regulator said in January that Ottawa should require foreign streaming services to invest in local programming rather than “digital taxes” that would likely get passed down to consumers. 

“It is more appropriate to establish a regime that requires such online streaming services that benefit from operating in Canada to invest in Canadian programming that they believe will attract and appeal to Canadians,” the report said. 

Ottawa will also consider new corporate-level taxes for foreign-owned digital corporations and is working with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to develop a framework it expects to provide further details on in the next budget. It expects the new measure will result in $3.4 billion in new tax revenue over the next five years once it is introduced sometime in 2022. 

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RevoluGROUP Canada Inc. RevoluPAY To Pursue Dubai Financial Services Authority PSP License

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia(GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — RevoluGROUP Canada Inc. (TSX-V: REVO), (Frankfurt: IJA2) (the “Company”) is pleased to announce that it has dispatched Company advisor Erik A. Lara Riveros to pursue the petition of a Payment Service Provider (“PSP”) Money Service Business License in the Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC”) from the Dubai Financial Services Authority.

Corporate Rational For a PSP License in Dubai

In May 2020, RevoluPAY was granted the European PSD2 license. In September, RevoluPAY received Pan-European passporting approval to operate in 27 E.U. countries. The Company has further expanded its international open banking reach through definitive agreements (“DA”) with BBVA, Flutterwave, and Thunes. Additionally, via direct PSD2 SEPA passporting, the Company added sixty-eight countries and territories to its financial operations roster. In November, the Company submitted petitions for both the analogous United States MSB licenses and the Canadian FINTRAC license. The MEASA region of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia is a significant financial hub that necessitates exposure for both financial operations and a strategic base for the region’s operations. The Company considers the DIFC an excellent regional hub, having introduced robust legislation for payment services providers (“PSP”) like RevoluPAY.

Furthermore, DIFC conveniently fills the timezone gap for a global financial center between London and New York’s leading financial centers in the West and Hong Kong and Tokyo in the East. Company advisor Erik A. Lara Riveros is duly accredited with the Dubai Financial Services Authority, which should aid the Company’s plans to obtain the Dubai PSP license and establish a corporate financial hub in the region. The Company has diligently prepared all required documentation, and Mr. Lara Riveros arrives in Dubai on the 4th of December 2020 to initiate the license petition process. The global operations of RevoluPAY expect to benefit from the multi timezone capability garnered from a supplementary and PSP licensed subsidiary domiciled in the MEASA region.

License Sought in Dubai

The Company intends to pursue the Category 3D license, which covers the following activities, “Providing or Operating a Payment Account, executing Payment Transactions or Issuing Payment Instruments, including creating and maintaining accounts for executing payment transactions, issuance of personalized sets of procedures agreed upon by the users and the provider, for initiation or execution of payment instructions.”

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