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Old 13-06-07, 09:33 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2001
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - June 16th, '07

Since 2002

"They tried to scare me. They told me, ‘You’re a pirate!’ I said, ‘C’mon, guys, pirates are all at sea. I just work in a parking lot.’" – Caesar Borrayo

"AT&T is going to act like the copyright police, and that is going to make customers angry." – Gigi B. Sohn

"Now when customers come in, I'm like, 'Just buy it and leave.'" – Todd Clifford

"Theatrical revenue in Europe in 2006 matched 2004's record year of $2.1 billion, with significant gains in three smaller markets -- Italy (up 25%), Russia (67%) and Sweden (38%). The Asia Pacific region, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa also enjoyed double-digit growth for theatrical releases." – MPA confidential report

"So, congratulations to mininova, and I expect we will see the 3 billionth download by the end of summer." – Ernesto

"Windows XP doesn't bog down the rest of your Mac programs the way Windows Vista does." – David Pogue

"Q: Let's get political briefly. In 2000, you sang at the Republican National Convention."

A:"I'm trying to forget that."
– Chaka Khan

June 16th, 2007

Copyright Coalition: Piracy More Serious Than Burglary, Fraud, Bank Robbery
Ken Fisher

For the more than nine years that Ars Technica has been publishing online, we've been outspoken when it comes to the lack of balance between the threat of piracy (which is always overstated) and the "solutions" to piracy (which are often draconian) that some copyright holders demand. Whether it's laws that would turn the possession of software into a crime, completely baked piracy reports, or yet another law meant to criminalize civil infractions, we've cast a critical eye on an industry that defines solipsism.

And, everyone once and while, we're accused of hyperbole, of exaggerating our objections. That's why it's with both a grin and a lonely tear that I report to you the latest ridiculous claim from the copyright-trumps-all brigade.

NBC/Universal general counsel Rick Cotton suggests that society wastes entirely too much money policing crimes like burglary, fraud, and bank-robbing, when it should be doing something about piracy instead.

"Our law enforcement resources are seriously misaligned," Cotton said. "If you add up all the various kinds of property crimes in this country, everything from theft, to fraud, to burglary, bank-robbing, all of it, it costs the country $16 billion a year. But intellectual property crime runs to hundreds of billions [of dollars] a year." Cotton's comments come in Paul Stweeting's report on Hollywood's latest shenanigans on Capitol Hill.

There are two obvious rejoinders to such a ridiculous statement. The first is that "hundreds of billions of dollars a year" is a myth. The MPAA's own cherry-picked study from Smith Barney in 2005 put their annual loss at less than $6 billion, and while the music and software industries also like to publish trumped-up claims, the figures are nowhere near hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

The second objection, of course, is that the traditional crimes Cotton describes often involve the destruction of people's lives along with property. Burglaries can result in homicide, as can fraud (ask the preacher's wife), while bank robbery is without a doubt a dangerous game. Those crimes also typically involve real property. For better or for worse, real property should not be confused with intellectual property, which is not subject to the same rules of scarcity. Stopping a bank heist is, without a doubt, a far more important matter than stopping the bootlegging of Gigli or Spiderman 3.

Chances are you would prefer that the cops spend their efforts protecting people from rampant home burglaries than chasing down kids with pirated music on their iPods.

Regardless, Cotton and his Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy are seeking to change federal law enforcement emphasis so that intellectual property crimes are given priority over other kinds of crime... a realignment, to play off Cotton's statement. Battling organized crime is hardly objectionable, and we hope the coalition sees success in taking down the profiteers of piracy. Offending the public with yet more lies and hyperbole isn't going to curry much favor, however.

MPA Study: Brighter Picture for Movie Industry

All-media revenue from pics up 8% to $42.6 bil
Hy Hollinger

The motion picture industry is back on course.

After a disappointing 2005, the six major companies have received official confirmation from the MPA that their all-media revenue from filmed entertainment -- comprising money from home video, television, theatrical and pay TV -- expanded by 8% in 2006 to reach $42.6 billion.

The MPA confidential report sent to industry executives discloses that all-media sales in the U.S. grew by 10%, while the international market (top 25 markets) showed a 5% advance. Of the $42.6 billion, the U.S. contributed $24.3 billion and international $18.3 billion.

In 2005, all-media revenue tumbled 8.2% from $42.9 billion 2004, with the U.S. segment off 10% and international down 5.8%.

More good news for executive eyes indicated "positive growth" for all segments of the business last year, with revenue from worldwide theatrical exposure showing the biggest year-over-year hike at 21%.

The annual revenue summary covers the top 25 international markets, ranging from the U.K. at No. 1 to Ireland at No. 25. These markets, which comprise 39% of all worldwide all-media revenue, grew 4% in 2006, according to the MPA. Canada, covered as a foreign market by the MPA as opposed to studio positioning as domestic, showed the biggest international growth in terms of dollars in 2006 by adding $341 million, a jump of 23%.

Advancing at a sizzling pace since getting out of the communist yoke, Russia moved up two spots to become the 13th-ranked purchaser of U.S. filmed entertainment, showing a 50% hike year-over-year. All-media revenue from Russia amounted to $88.7 million in 2002, climbing to $124.3 million in 2003, $160.4 million in 2004, $196.6 million in 2005 and $295.7 million last year.

Theatrical revenue in Europe in 2006 matched 2004's record year of $2.1 billion, with significant gains in three smaller markets -- Italy (up 25%), Russia (67%) and Sweden (38%). The Asia Pacific region, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa also enjoyed double-digit growth for theatrical releases.

As part of the all-media mix, home video again recorded the biggest market share but continued to show signs of slippage as it fell three percentage points to 45%. The demise of the VHS format appears to be getting closer; the videocassette represented only 1% of the overall all-media market share in 2006, dropping 86% in Europe against DVD's slide of 5% in the region.

Home video lost ground in Europe for a second straight year, with drops in the U.K., Germany, France, Spain and Italy most noticeable, while the smaller markets of Belgium, Norway and Denmark displayed sizable increases. Home video sales also declined in the Asia Pacific region but showed an "upward trend" in Latin America and the Middle East and Africa, the MPA said.

Television revenue from Europe rose 18% in 2006, marked by the U.K. pickup of four market-share points. Asia Pacific showed a 5% increment as South Korea's 59% TV revenue boost stole market share from the region's two top buyers, Japan and Australia. Latin America, ending a four-year decline in television buys, grew by 4%. The Middle East and Africa, led by South Africa's 73% increase to $31 million, showed "strong growth" in program acquisitions.

Revenue from pay TV in Europe fell 7% in 2006 but remained above 2005 levels, with an 8% loss in traditional pay TV offset by a slight increase in pay-per-view, the MPA reported. Overall revenue from the Asia Pacific region dipped for a second year in a row, falling 7% as Japan's 16% loss contributed to the region's pay TV decline. Latin American rebounded a bit thanks to gains in the region's two largest markets, Brazil (18%) and Mexico (2%). The Middle East and Africa continued to move ahead in welcoming pay TV, moving up 13% as South Africa led the charge with a 23% hike.

The survey covers all-media revenue recorded by its six member companies -- the Walt Disney Co., Paramount Pictures Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Film Corp., Universal City Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Which ISPs Are Spying on You?
Ryan Singel

The few souls that attempt to read and understand website privacy policies know they are almost universally unintelligible and shot through with clever loopholes. But one of the most important policies to know is your internet service provider's -- the company that ferries all your traffic to and from the internet, from search queries to BitTorrent uploads, flirty IMs to porn.

Wired News, with help from some readers, attempted to get real answers from the largest United States-based ISPs about what information they gather on their customers' use of the internet, and how long they retain records like IP addresses, e-mail and real-time browsing activity. Most importantly, we asked what they require from law-enforcement agencies before coughing up the data, and whether they sell your data to marketers.

Only four of the eight largest ISPs responded to the 10-question survey, despite being contacted repeatedly over the course of two months. Some ISPs wouldn't talk to us, but gave answers to customers responding to a call for reader help on Wired's Threat Level blog.

Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says ISPs should be more circumspect about keeping user data. Maintaining detailed data for long periods of time makes any internet company a huge target for law enforcement fishing expeditions.

"From a user perspective, the best practice would be for ISPs to delete data as soon as possible," Rotenberg said. "(The government) will treat ISPs as one-stop shops for subpoenas unless there is a solid policy on data destruction," Rotenberg said.

The results:

AOL, AT&T, Cox and Qwest all responded to the survey, with a mix of timeliness and transparency.

But only Cox answered the question, "How long do you retain records of the IP addresses assigned to customers."

These records can be used to trace an internet posting, website visit or an e-mail back to an ISP's customers. The records are useful to police tracking down child-porn providers, and music-industry groups use them to sue file sharers. Companies have also used the records to track down anonymous posters who write unflattering comments in stock-trading boards.

Cox's answer: six months. AOL says "limited period of time," while AT&T says it varies across its internet-access offerings but that the time limits are all "within industry standards."

Comcast, EarthLink, Verizon and Time Warner didn't respond.

Some of the most sensitive information sent across an ISP's network are the URLs of the websites that people visit. This so-called clickstream data includes every URL a customer visits, including URLs from search engines, which generally include the search term.

AOL, AT&T and Cox all say they don't store these URLs at all, while Qwest dodged the question. Comcast, EarthLink, Verizon and Time Warner didn't respond.

When asked if they allow marketers to see anonymized or partially-anonymized clickstream data, AOL, AT&T and Cox said they did not, while Qwest gave a muddled answer and declined to answer a follow-up question. Comcast, EarthLink, Verizon and Time Warner didn't respond.

This question was prompted by hints at a web-data conference last March that ISPs were peddling their customer's anonymized clickstream data to web marketers. Anonymization of data such as URLs and search histories is not, however, a perfect science. This became clear last summer when AOL employees attempted to provide the search-research community with a large body of queries that researchers could mine to improve search algorithms. AOL researchers replaced IP addresses with different unique numbers, but news organizations quickly were able to find individuals based on the content of their queries.

Wired News also asked the companies if they have been in contact or discussions with the government about how long they should be keeping data. The Justice Department, along with some members of Congress, are pushing for European Union-style data-retention rules that would require ISPs to store customer information for months or years -- a measure law enforcement says is necessary to prosecute computer crimes, such as trading in child pornography.

ISPs were nearly universally reluctant to talk about any conversations or meetings they have had with federal officials. AOL had no comment, Qwest dodged the question, AT&T wouldn't say, but noted it would broach the issue with the government as part of an industry-wide discussion. For its part, Cox says it has not been contacted.

As for whether they oppose data retention: Qwest said that the market should decide how long data is kept, while Cox was "studying the issue"; AOL is working with the industry and Congress, and AT&T is "ready to work with all parties."

Internet surveillance recently got easier, as the deadline passed last week for ISPs to equip their networks to federal specifications for real-time surveillance of a target's e-mails, VOIP calls and internet usage -- as well as data like IP address assignment and web URLs. While law enforcement currently prefers to ask for stored internet records rather than get real-time surveillance, that balance may shift once the nation's networks are wired to government surveillance standards.

AT&T to Target Pirated Content

It joins Hollywood in trying to keep bootleg material off its network.
James S. Granelli

AT&T Inc. has joined Hollywood studios and recording companies in trying to keep pirated films, music and other content off its network — the first major carrier of Internet traffic to do so.

The San Antonio-based company started working last week with studios and record companies to develop anti-piracy technology that would target the most frequent offenders, said James W. Cicconi, an AT&T senior vice president.

The nation's largest telephone and Internet service provider also operates the biggest cross-country system for handling Internet traffic for its customers and those of other providers.

As AT&T has begun selling pay-television services, the company has realized that its interests are more closely aligned with Hollywood, Cicconi said in an interview Tuesday. The company's top leaders recently decided to help Hollywood protect the digital copyrights to that content.

"We do recognize that a lot of our future business depends on exciting and interesting content," he said.

But critics say the company is going to be fighting a losing battle and angering its own customers, and it should focus instead on developing incentives for users to pay for all the content they want.

Few doubt that piracy is a significant problem. The major U.S. studios lost $2.3 billion last year to online piracy and an additional $3.8 billion to bootleg DVDs, according to industry statistics. AT&T can help only with the online losses, which the industry said were growing faster than those from counterfeit DVDs.

Cicconi is in Los Angeles to talk at the Digital Hollywood Summit conference in Santa Monica this morning and hopes to discuss the initiative there.

Last week, about 20 technology executives from Viacom Inc., its Paramount movie studio and other Hollywood companies met at AT&T headquarters to start devising a technology that would stem piracy but not violate privacy laws or Internet freedoms espoused by the Federal Communications Commission.

Cicconi said that once a technology was chosen, the company would look at privacy and other legal issues.

"We are pleased that AT&T has decided to take such a strong, proactive position in protecting copyrights," Viacom said in a prepared statement. "AT&T's support of strong anti-piracy efforts will be instrumental in developing a growing and vibrant digital marketplace and will help ensure that they have a steady stream of great creative content to deliver to their consumers."

But public interest groups are wary.

"The risk AT&T faces is fighting the last war by spending money and energy plugging an old hole in the wall when new ones are breaking out," said Fred von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Freedom Foundation. The San Francisco digital-rights organization has sued AT&T, alleging it illegally released customers' phone data to the federal government.

Technology is putting unlimited copying power in the hands of consumers, Von Lohmann said, so the answer to piracy can't be trying to stop them from making copies.

"The answer should be to figure out how to turn them into paying customers," he said.

AT&T's decision surprised Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a digital rights advocacy group.

"AT&T is going to act like the copyright police, and that is going to make customers angry," she said. "The good news for AT&T is that there's so little competition that where else are the customers going to go?"

Verizon Communications Inc., which has fiercely guarded the privacy of its customers, has refused so far to offer a network anti-piracy tool. It defeated in court the recording industry's demands to reveal names of those allegedly involved in downloading pirated songs.

In mid-March, executives at Viacom and the Motion Picture Assn. of America separately approached Cicconi with the idea of a partnership. Content providers have long looked for a network solution to piracy, but no operator had been willing to join with them.

Efforts to date have focused on filtering and other technologies at the end of uploads and downloads of pirated material, but those have largely failed.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America has engendered a barrage of criticism for its efforts at suing people who download copyrighted songs illegally and who trade in bootleg music CDs.

"They've tried the whack-a-mole approach, and I don't think they're winning," Cicconi said.

Time Warner Officially Announces Packet Shaping for All Road Runner Users

From Time Warner's Help Desk


Time Warner today implemented a network management tool to improve the operation of the network for all subscribers. As a result, a small minority of users may experience slower speeds during peak hours when using certain applications that consume lots of bandwidth. You can address this situation by reducing your use of bandwidth-intensive applications during peak hours. "Peak hours" are generally in the evenings.

"Packet shaping" technology has been implemented for newsgroup applications, regardless of the provider, and all peer-to-peer networks and certain other high bandwidth applications not necessarily limited to audio, video, and voice over IP telephony. Road Runner reserves the right to implement network management tools for other applications in the future.

Customers are reminded of the terms of our Acceptable Use Policy at »help.rr.com/aup:

• The Road Runner service may not be used to engage in any conduct that interferes with Road Runner's ability to provide service to others, including the use of excessive bandwidth.

• The Road Runner service may not be used to breach or attempt to breach the security, the computer, the software or the data of any person or entity, including Road Runner, to circumvent the user authentication features or security of any host, network or account, to use or distribute tools designed to compromise security, or to interfere with another's use of the Road Runner service through the posting or transmitting of a virus or other harmful item or to deliberately overload or flood that entity's system.

Customers are further advised that efforts designed to circumvent our network management tools may be in violation of our Acceptable Use Policy and may result in account suspension without warning.

Yet another reason to call and write your congress critters

Make Sure They Support NET NEUTRALITY !!!!

This is a good idea in any case, but actually isn't directly related to this. It's more important to contact TW management and complain about packet shaping impacting your user experience.

What bemuses me about some of the earlier comments from those who seem pro-packet shaping is the short sighted thinking they have used to come to support this kind of activity.

I'm not for Bill up the street running his bittorrent client all day and night and slowing down the neighborhood either, but I am strongly against pitting user against user and worrying about what someone else in the neighborhood might be doing. I am worried about my broadband provider implementing technology that forestalls the necessary network investments that are going to be required to meet the growing bandwidth demands of customers in the future.

As someone who has reported on this industry since the 1980s, this is a pattern I've seen before. Management implements restrictions and punitive measures against customers who respond to their endless marketing campaigns promising "unlimited" usage, "blazing speeds"/"the fastest Internet in city x", and marketing campaigns that even wink wink at illegal online activities (especially peer-2-peer traffic), and then when users utilitze those services, they get all huffy.

Restrictions are sold in press releases as "improvements to the customer's user experience," and there are always some shortsighted folks out there who misunderstand the implications and accept that reasoning (if not applaud it because they now think their specific problems with their provider are solved because it was sold as entirely the fault of some kid up the street downloading adult videos).

But in the end it's always the same - those network management tools start to creep into other high bandwidth applications. Remember, RR itself says explicitly their priority is rendering web pages. So if you didn't care when p-2-p stuff got throttled because you don't use it, and you never bother with newsgroups, this is not relevant to you right now, but wait.

But when it expands to slow your iTunes downloads, restricts your ability to use legal movie or TV download services, makes Joost unusable, or whatever other future online applications that are bandwidth intensive, then you'll probably join the chorus, but by then management will have cemented the mentality that handicapping their network is more cost-effective than actually maintaining it to the standards that are going to be required to meet the demands of these services.

Yes, competition can play an important role in limiting one player from getting away with too much restrictive access, but most cities in this country face just one other choice - copper wire DSL, which has been having trouble competing with Road Runner for speed. FIOS is a great product that is either years away for many of us, or will never be available in our area, and is a unique offering from Verizon that some stockholders are upset is being offered at all.

I'd fight against packet shaping like this even if it only applied to peer to peer networks which I don't even use, because some applications rely on this technology to deliver their broadband content even if you don't realize it.

One example: In the UK right now, Channel 4 has discovered their efforts to deliver video on demand services to broadband customers have run right into packet shaping and usage caps imposed by many British ISPs, rendering the service totally useless for large numbers of people. It relies on a peer to peer distribution model.

I continue to encourage people to look beyond pitting user against user and instead focus on pressuring Time Warner to make the smarter choice for everyone on the network - take some of the enormous profits that TW earns from their cable division and invest them into building a broadband network that can easily meet the growing needs of broadband applications either now available or soon will be, some of which are being built in-house by TW itself. Then you won't need to spend money to implement technology which only reduces the customer's user experience.

Net Neutrality Comment Period Closing Friday
Ryan Singel

Friday marks the final day for citizens, corporations, and paid spinmeisters alike to file comments with government regulators on Net Neutrality, a principle that ISPs should treat internet traffic equally. As ISPs like Comcast and AT&T increasingly offer and bundle internet video and voice services, internet activists want rules to prevent the carriers from making their services run faster on their own network than external companies.

ISPs counter that packets are doing just fine, rules will prevent them from building really fast networks and the market will sort it all out. It's not the simplest battle, since one may be in favor of having all packets (or all kinds of similar packets like video, email, and IM) treated in the same manner, without believing that Congress should be writing rules. The market might be good enough, or maybe strong principles from government regulators who are willing to make examples of scoflaws is enough. Or maybe even ISPs should be filtering the internet on behalf of copyright holders.

The Federal Communications Commission wants to hear by Friday:
Whether network platform providers and others favor or disfavor particular content, how consumers are affected by these policies, and whether consumer choice of broadband providers is sufficient to ensure that all such policies ultimately benefit consumer [and] specific examples of beneficial or harmful behavior, and we ask whether any regulatory intervention is necessary.

And remember if nothing else, the net neutrality debate did bring us the Series of Tubes. Repeat after me, "the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes.

Send your "internet" to the gov regulators through this tube.

CellCarriers Fear Mobile VoIP Planet
Om Malik

Why is T-Mobile UK blocking calls to mobile VoIP start-up Truphone?

Mobile carriers are scared of one thing: becoming dumb pipes whose only utility is to carry voice and text. And it is one of the reasons why they are fighting tooth and nail with the mobile VoIP providers, using all sorts of tactics to make mobile VoIP a non-starter. (See video below the fold!)

The company bearing the brunt of this scorched-earth policy is Truphone, a UK-based start-up that has developed a mobile VoIP client that makes it easy to make cheap calls (cheaper than mobile minutes that is) over dual mode phone, like Nokia N95 and Nokia E-Series phones. Once again, the company finds itself in the cross hairs of a behemoth that wishes to see Truphone go away.

T-Mobile UK is refusing to interconnect with mobile VoIP provider Truphone. T-Mobile customers making a call to Truphone’s number range (07978 8xxxxx) will not be connected. T-Mobile told Truphone, that as a result of a policy decision, they don’t connect to VoIP-based low cost calling services. T-Mobile UK’s decision to block Truphone might have come as a response to the new and radically better Truphone 3.0 client that allows you to send Free SMS messages and allows VoIP calls over 3G. According to M:Metrics, nearly 86% of UK mobile users are heavy SMS users, and that means it is a cash cow that carriers like T-Mobile can’t afford to be slaughtered by IP-based SMS services. (Jesse Kopelman had discussed the impact of Mobile VoIP in his excellent post here.)

On the issue of Voice calls, Truphone CEO James Tagg says, “This affects every new entrant into mobile telecommunications because the only company that can facilitate interconnection with T-Mobile is T-Mobile. It amounts to T-Mobile being able to veto a new entrant into the market. This would put telephony back 100 years, to a time when interconnections were not assured.”

T-Mobile is offering to pay Truphone 0.21 pennies per minute, even though it charges its customers 35p per minute. Truphone claims that its call termination costs are 9p a minute. “T-Mobile is blocking our numbers unless we accept this loss-making offer and, since T-Mobile is the only company that can route calls from its customers it has a complete veto on the Truphone service,” Tagg says.

This is not the first time Tagg is fighting the big guys. A few months ago, the company got into trouble with Orange and Vodafone, which had prevented Truphone from working on devices that carried their own version of the operating system.

Since then, Vodafone has introduced a new policy which makes it more expensive to use data plans for anything other than browsing and email, a move that is designed to blunt the uptake of Mobile VoIP, especially over fast 3G connections.Fighting the incumbents is not the only challenge Truphone faces –Vonage and countless other VoIP providers have learnt the hard way that fighting the cheap minutes battle is an unviable strategy in the long term.

Opera Mini Beta Advances Mobile Web Browsing; Verizon Wireless Blocks it at the Door
Larry Dignan

Opera’s beta of its latest Mini browser is a vast improvement on mobile browsing. For starters, it renders a complete Web page as its meant to be viewed and fits it to your screen.

Opera’s latest mobile browser, which hits public beta June 19, could even get me to browse more on my dreaded Motorola Q. I wouldn’t need WAP addresses, URLs with “m” in them and navigation where you feel like an ant on an elephant. The latest Opera Mini replicates the browsing experience as you see it on a PC in many respects and advances the ball for sure. The browser also uses compression technology on the backend so all phones can browse the Web–even the kind that aren’t considered smart.

Unfortunately, Verizon Wireless won’t let me download the Opera browser even though it’s light years ahead of the mobile version of IE. Turns out U.S. carriers get into this walled garden thing where some third party apps are shut out. On Verizon, the Opera Mini is one of the applications blocked at the door. I just hate it when you get access to a private beta and your carrier shoots it down.

I’m currently using the latest Opera Mini on a loaned Cingular handset.

A Verizon Wireless tech support representative said the carrier doesn’t support third party applications. If it isn’t on your Q already Verizon doesn’t want to hear about it. She suggested I call Motorola. But it’s fairly obvious that this is a Verizon Wireless issue. The Opera Mini site notes that its browser isn’t available on Verizon Wireless.

Tatsuki Tomita, Opera’s vice president of business development in Asia Pacific who is relocating to Silicon Valley, says Opera runs into this a lot in the U.S. “In Europe and other places the operators are all on the same playing field,” says Tomita. “In the U.S. every carrier has its own standards.”

But Opera has wound up on other carriers. AT&T’s Cingular and T-Mobile are notable. Verizon Wireless is the hold out.

Why? It’s a race for dollars. Verizon wants to control the experience and profit from it. The rub: It would get more usage with a better browser. Of course, Verizon may be trying to limit data usage. All I know is not being able to try out this browser on my own phone is annoying.

After meeting with Opera executives in CNET’s New York offices my game plan was to review the browser a bit and see if someone like me–who absolutely hates browsing on a mobile phone–could get into the mini Web. I’m convinced I’d be more sold on mobile browsing with a better browser.

Globally, Opera’s baby browser is doing swell. It has 15 million downloads and has converts in Africa, Japan and a bunch of other locales.

Let’s hope U.S. carriers–notably Verizon Wireless–get a clue soon.

Is copper cable at the end of its line?

Critics Say Verizon Is Focusing Too Hard On Fiber Optics

The company is looking for lower phone service restoration standards as its infrastructure of copper lines is aging.
Chris Flores

Verizon's front-line employees say its old copper network in Virginia that much of the state's population relies on is "deteriorating badly" and "stretched to the limits."

The workers say they are being told to apply Band-Aid repairs to major problems or can't get them fixed at all. The preventative maintenance program has been abandoned. All the investment is going into a new fiber optics system going into select areas in Hampton Roads and elsewhere.

The testimony in a case before state regulators by Verizon's union is a blow to the company's quest to free itself from some state price controls. The criticism also comes as Verizon is arguing in a separate case that the state should lower its standards on restoring lost phone service.

Verizon has complained for years that competition has drastically changed the communications playing field. Even as the state's largest phone company is losing customers in droves, it still faces much more stringent regulations than its competitors who are taking the customers.

In response to losing consumers, especially to cable companies, Verizon is building an expensive new fiber network. But diverting that investment from the old copper system to deal with its competitors is putting Verizon into a vise where it is now drawing new regulatory attention just as it is trying to shed the oversight.

If Verizon isn't held to the historic regulatory standards, the customers still relying on the old copper phone network will face serious problems, the union said in written testimony.

"The condition to which it has deteriorated is no accident but a conscious business decision, since the examples we have given are not isolated problems, but hold true all over the commonwealth," testified Charles Buttiglieri, who runs the Communications Workers of America region that includes Virginia.

A System In Disrepair

The union represents 7,000 Verizon employees in Virginia who do maintenance work on the system and deal with customers. The union asked its members in May to pass along information about the current state of the Virginia network.

The CWA supports the new fiber efforts and is involved, said the union, but it doesn't want to abandon its customers on the old network and fears losing them to competitors. The union also objects to Verizon's strategy of only building fiber in certain profitable areas in each locality.

One Fredericksburg technician said that Verizon won't fix lines in some areas that have chronic problems, and permanently have noise on their line. The technicians say that fixes that were meant to be temporary in the past are now becoming permanent.

In some cases, the actual tools or cable needed to fix problems aren't even available, nor is the equipment to diagnose or prevent problems. The workers say the lack of supplies is because of the fiber optic initiative.

The union also said Verizon still will not provide DSL high-speed internet service to many rural areas of the state, even though it is the only option. In Surry County, for example, the phone system has deteriorated and the company says it is not profitable to sell DSL.

Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell said the company is shifting investment to fiber, but it tries to carefully balance that investment with the needs of the old system.

"In a competitive marketplace, service is one of the factors we win or lose on," said Mitchell.

Lowering Standards

Virginia state regulators made new rules for a minimum level of service in November 2005 for phone companies. One rule said a company must restore service within a day to 80 percent of the customers who lose it, but the state does not routinely check compliance.

If complaints rise to some undefined unacceptable level, the State Corporation Commission requires a company to file reports detailing how long it takes to restore service. Verizon had already been in violation of the prior rule, so it was reporting its service restoration numbers to the state.

The number of complaints about Verizon started to escalate in May 2006, and kept rising through September - when it was taking a week or two to do repairs. The complaints dropped back to historical levels by November.

It is not known how many complaints there have been or what is considered the historical level. The state and Verizon have agreed the information - resident complaints to a government agency - is considered a confidential trade secret.

Regardless of the complaint level, Verizon has been in constant violation of the 80 percent rule. The SCC finally filed its own complaint in May and proposed a fine. On the same day, Verizon filed for a waiver to the rule - saying that the minimum level of service is too high.

Verizon said there isn't a clear link between the number of SCC complaints and the 80 percent rule. The company wants a rule that more closely links the time it has historically taken to repair lost service to the number of complaints the state receives.

But do most customers know who to complain to, or how?

When the SCC opened a case recently on Verizon phone book errors, it was based on a relatively small number of complaints. But after the case was publicized, the SCC was flooded with stories of people who had problems and said they didn't know where to complain.

"The more we let people know we were doing the investigation, the more complaints we got," said SCC spokesman Ken Schrad.

Even though the company acknowledges that it signed off on the new standards in 2005, Verizon officials still believe there shouldn't be a set level at all because disgruntled customers can leave. That's the same basic point it is making in the price case.

"We're not the only game in town, and that's the whole point," said Mitchell.

Goodnight Irene

Massive Network Outage for AT&T-SBC
Posted by George Ou

1:00 AM, I’m working late night here in Silicon Valley and the Internet Naming service has gone dark which means I can’t get to the Internet. Not a single DNS server on the AT&T-SBC network functions which tells me it’s a bigger issue than just a DNS server problem. I even fired up my own test Windows Server 2003 virtual machine that has a full fledged DNS server installed and even that wouldn’t function. That means access to the Root DNS servers from the AT&T SBC network is being blocked.

2:30 AM, I finally get through to first tier tech support and they tell me that DNS is down for all of California. That of course doesn’t mean that DNS is down, just that none of California can get to main AT&T SBC DNS servers. Since my virtual server can’t even resolve names, that means access to most of the Internet and the Root DNS servers on the Internet are severed.

2:50 AM, I get forwarded to second tier tech support and the tech explains to me that the Pleasanton CA POP (Point of Presence) is undergoing “scheduled maintenance” from 12:00 AM till 6:00 AM central time and that there are outages throughout AT&T’s network as well as other ISPs that use AT&T’s network. If your network went down and you use AT&T as a carrier for part or all of your network, now you know why and who to “thank”.

If it’s scheduled, I guess AT&T saw fit to schedule 6 hours of outages without notifying its customers. But according to the technician, this isn’t actually an “outage”. But if this is scheduled, the network traffic could have been rerouted ahead of time but I guess AT&T figures we don’t need the service and nor do we even need to be notified. It sure looks like an outage to me since I had to do an hour or more of troubleshooting to track down the problem and waste all that time and spend another hour or more on the phone with tech support. ASI (Advanced Solutions Inc) which is a subsidiary of ATT is in charge of that network and they brought the entire network down by working on the routing infrastructure with no backup route in place. Those of us that are unfortunate to not have redundant BGP (Border Gate Protocol) paths are just out of luck but hey, 6 hours of downtime isn’t really an “outage”.

We can all “thank” AT&T SBC and ASI for having the customer in mind. We’ve been declared a “maintenance” zone which really isn’t an “outage”. We can also “thank” them for the fact that they felt that there was no need to alert and alarm anyone.

The only reason I can post this now is because my virtual server was able to figure out the IP address of CNET’s servers and I hacked my hosts file to be able to manually get here without the help of DNS.

Inside a VRAD Box

Video tour of the typical Uverse system cabinet now appearing in neighborhoods served by ATT.

Internet2 Network Deployment Reaches Major Milestone
Aviran Mordo

Internet2 today announced that the first East to West Coast span on its new nationwide 100 gigabit per second network has been completed and is providing production IP and circuit services. This deployment marks another major milestone in bringing leading- edge networking resources to the research and education community in the United States.

Since beginning its aggressive network build out plans in fall 2006, Internet2 has worked with Level 3 Communications, the Global Research Network Operations Center (GRNOC) at Indiana University, and the regional network connectors to rapidly deploy the enhanced optical and packet network platform. In April 2007, Internet2 announced that the first major phase of the deployment was complete which included nodes in the Northeast and Midwest regions.

With today’s announcement, Internet2 and Level 3 have now completed deployment of important nodes across the northern span of the network including those in Washington DC, Chicago, IL, Kansas City, MO, Salt Lake City, UT, and Seattle, WA. Additionally, network rings have been completed from the Washington DC to Atlanta as well as from Kansas City to Atlanta.

Broadband Spreads Across Globe
Richard Wray

Almost 300 million people worldwide are now accessing the internet using fast broadband connections, fuelling the growth of social networking services like MySpace and generating thousands of hours of video through websites such as YouTube.

There are more than 1.1 billion of the world's estimated 6.6 billion people online and almost a third of those are now accessing the internet on high speed lines.

According to internet consultancy Point Topic, 298 million people had broadband at the end of March and that is already estimated to have shot over 300 million. The statistics, however, paint a picture of a divided digital world.

While there are high levels of broadband penetration in Western Europe, North America and high-tech economies like South Korea, usage in developing countries and especially in Africa is pitiful.

Many of these emerging economies lack telephone services in many areas, let alone the sort of broadband internet access that has, in recent years, become available to every household in Europe.

In terms of total broadband users, the US leads the pack with over 60 million broadband subscribers. But second-placed China is fast closing the gap. From 41 million broadband users a year ago, China now has more than 56 million and based on its current growth looks set to over-take America as the world's largest broadband market later this year.

"What amazed me when compiling these figures, is that China has leapt ahead and actually had more people sign up to broadband in the first three months of this year than in any other earlier quarter," said Katja Mueller, research director at Point Topic.
China's rampant growth is a result of economic changes and government intervention. The country's economic boom has helped create an affluent urban middle class clamouring for the social aspects of internet access like chat rooms, while the government has been driving the roll-out of internet access in rural areas.

Next year's Olympics, to be held in Beijing, has already provided a fillip to the market with the government demanding that every household in the capital has high-speed internet access in time for the games.

Japan ranked third in the report, with 26.5 million broadband users as at the end of March this year, while Germany is fourth at more than 16 million. France scored the highest growth - 9% - in take-up among the top 10 broadband nations to leapfrog South Korea - at 14.1 million - to take the fifth spot with 15.3 million.

The UK came in sixth with just under 14 million broadband users at the end of March, up 6.4%. Demand in the UK market has been driven by fierce competition from satellite broadcaster Sky, which launched its broadband service last year, and the introduction of 'free' broadband offers from companies such as TalkTalk.

But in terms of broadband usage as a percentage of households, the UK's position in the global rankings slips to number 17, with 55.5% of households connecting to the internet at high speed.

Based on broadband penetration, South Korea is by far the world's top broadband user with nearly 90% of households online. Several small, economically vibrant and densely populated states are also high on the list such as Hong Kong, Monaco and Macau. The US - with broadband penetration at just under 53% - is in 24th place. Penetration in China, meanwhile, is 14.35% while in India - often mentioned in the same breath as China in discussions of emerging markets - broadband penetration stands at just 1.15% of the country's estimated 200 million households.

Penetration levels in Eastern Europe, meanwhile, may be low, but the region scored the highest overall level of growth in take-up, becoming the only geographic area to show growth of over 10%.

The region's economic rehabilitation, in part thanks to the inclusion of several states in an expanded EU, is driving take-up, according to Point Topic. Poland saw growth in new broadband connections of 9% in the first quarter, with Hungary at 10.38%, Bulgaria at 10.94%, Ukraine at nearly 15% and Croatia at a staggering 25%.

"Penetration of broadband in Eastern Europe was really low, but it is starting to catch up with Europe and we expect Eastern Europe to continue to grow," said Ms Mueller.

In fact, Indonesia scored the highest growth across the world in the first quarter - at almost 28%, but from a very low base. Greece, meanwhile was second with growth of over 26% due to the rather late introduction of broadband by incumbent operator OTE.
The figures, however, show just has large the gap is between the digital haves and have nots. Many Sub-Saharan African states do not register in the figures at all: only South Africa, Sudan, Senegal and Gabon make it onto the list, with household broadband penetration running from 1.79% in South Africa - with 215,000 users at the end of March - to just 0.05% in Sudan - with a mere 3,000. North African states fare slightly better with Morocco scoring 6.78% penetration with 418,000 users and Egypt at 1.55% or 240,000.

Many African states are now looking to the mobile phone companies to provide their populations with access to the internet, as they struggle to find a place at the digital table.

Wireless Internet Not Yet Flawless

Annapolis goal remains elusive
Bradley Olson

Every few days, Phil McQuade's cell phone rings, and an eager caller asks: "When, already, will your free Internet service be available at my house?"

He isn't sure, he tells them. Maybe soon, maybe never.

More than a year after McQuade joined state and local officials to celebrate his intention to blanket Maryland's capital with a free citywide wireless network, his company has barely managed to cover the downtown area.

Although McQuade is bucking one industry trend by actually making money, the promise of free, advertising-supported Internet service all over the city might be dead.

"I don't know that we were ever fully prepared to go citywide," said McQuade, president of Annapolis Wireless Internet. "The whole idea of free Wi-Fi is great, but somebody, at the end of the day, has got to pay for it."

Paying for it has become a problem for several cities that have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to build wireless networks, then found themselves struggling with low subscription rates and technical problems.

Portland, Ore., for example, has set out to cover 90 percent of the city, but community activists recently found frequent connection problems in the pilot area. Lompoc, Calif., spent $3 million on a network to boost economic development after cutbacks at area military bases but only gained a few hundred subscribers, far fewer than the 4,000 needed to finance the project.

"None of these networks really live up to the expectations - those of their business sponsors or the elected officials who are trying to sell them to the public," said Marc Kilmer, an analyst with the Buckeye Institute, a pro-free-market think tank in Ohio. "The technology isn't all that great - it's not all that reliable."

Still, nearly 400 jurisdictions - including Baltimore City and Baltimore County - are planning or developing wireless networks, spending $460 million in 2007 alone, according to industry Web site MuniWireless. Some say the networks will enhance economic development programs and provide more residents with cheap Internet access. Others expect to enhance police and fire communications.

For those jurisdictions, the Annapolis experience is a cautionary tale about the big promises, and sometimes small rewards, of new technology.

A municipal Wi-Fi network works through low-power radio transceivers, called "access points" or "hotspots," that can be hung from utility poles or installed all over a city. They link a central Internet service provider with personal computers that are equipped with wireless network adapters.

While this technology works well in small, controlled settings such as homes, coffee shops, hotels and airports, deploying it throughout a city has posed challenges.

Some free networks become overloaded with users and bog down. Elsewhere, because Wi-Fi signals have trouble penetrating buildings, home users get spotty reception and have to buy extra equipment to connect.

Kilmer noted problems in Portland, Ore. The city commissioned a company called MetroFi to build a network strong enough to allow users to connect within 500 feet of an access point. But when the first phase of the rollout was tested, community activists said they were able to connect only 31 out of 53 times. MetroFi disputes the findings.

In San Francisco, bureaucratic wrangling has tied up a joint Wi-Fi network proposal from Google and EarthLink for two years. The debate has included some bewildering requests from residents - such requiring Google to shuttle children back and forth to the zoo on buses.

Much of the excitement behind the proposal for annapoliswire less.com was its novelty. By generating revenue from advertising displayed on a Web page when users connected to the network, McQuade originally predicted that he could generate enough revenue to spread access points across the city - free of charge to users.

But early on, he said, he and business partner Vic DeLeon realized that extending access points to residential neighborhoods wouldn't increase use of the network enough to justify the cost.

"The rate of growth was slower than we originally thought," DeLeon said in an interview at the company's small office in Eastport. "Going into the residential market, we had to ask ourselves: What is the value of 1.5 users per household versus a $1,500 equipment cost?"

They decided to take the business in another direction, working out agreements with marinas, where Wi-Fi is popular among boaters, and a few of the city's new mixed-use developments.

Initially, they had trouble lining up local advertisers.

"A lot of people are skeptical about Internet advertising. I think they're just used to print ads or TV and radio," said McQuade, 34, who shares a background in computer engineering with his partner. "Internet advertising, in my opinion, is more quantitative, but a lot of people still have misgivings about it."

He said he has won over local businesses - restaurants, bookstores, car and yacht dealers and even plastic surgeons - by sharing data about their Web site traffic - including the number of unique users, how long they stay, and how many times their ads are viewed.

So far, he says, the model has been succeeding. Annapolis Wireless charges local businesses a flat fee of about $250 per month. With 50 to 60 customers, McQuade says, the business generates about $13,750 a month in revenue. McQuade has set a goal of 100 regular advertisers.

Although McQuade says he has made money in a market where others have failed, many analysts have cast doubt on the long-term viability of free, ad-based Wi-Fi networks.

According to a consumer survey published in August by JupiterResearch, just 27 percent of free wireless "hotspot" users - in coffee shops and airports - said they would log on to an advertising-based network. But because the majority of users want Wi-Fi to be free, advertising models still stand a chance, the analysts concluded.

"I think the jury's still out," said Barry Parr, a media analyst who contributed to the Jupiter report. "Part of the challenge is that it's a fairly small market, so the question is how to expose people to advertising without being intrusive."

McQuade still holds out hope for expansion. Last week, Annapolis Wireless unveiled new software technology at a Wi-Fi conference in Massachusetts that can help municipalities manage fledgling Wi-Fi networks at prices ranging from $9,000 to $19,000.

McQuade said the company has already made two sales of the product - dubbed WiDirect - to Greenville, N.C., and Sioux Falls, S.D.

They are also seeking a partnership with a firm that has developed software to target ads based on users' Web browsing habits and physical location - a product they believe will broaden the company's reach.

If that works, Annapolis Wireless might yet live up to the expectations it generated last year.

"This is the model's proving ground," McQuade said. "It has zero impact on the taxpayer and zero municipal involvement. It works.

"And the great thing about the free model is, if it comes down to it, when someone says, 'I don't get coverage, and I think I should,' they're not paying for it. I can always give them their money back."

Frontline Wireless Pitches Plan to Build "Third Pipe" Using 700 MHz Spectrum
Nate Anderson

84 MHz in and around the 700 MHz band are up for reassignment as analog television stations are replaced by digital broadcasts in 2009. The Senate Commerce Committee held hearings today on how best to make use of the spectrum, and the most positive thing to emerge from the hearings was that members of the committee actually understood what is at stake: the possible creation of a third broadband pipe. But they're also big on creating a nationwide, interoperable public safety communications network. A company called Frontline says it has a novel way to accomplish both goals.

Currently, the FCC has marked off 24 MHz for public safety use, leaving the remaining 60 MHz for auction to private companies. The agency is currently finalizing its auction rules, which are the subject of intense debate by incumbent carriers (like AT&T and Verizon) and consumer groups (like the US Public Interest Research Group and the New America Foundation). The consumer groups worry that the FCC will simply auction all of the spectrum off to the highest bidder, almost guaranteeing that it will end up in the hands of the deep-pocketed incumbents. Such incumbents might have little incentive to create a truly innovative, nationwide wireless network, but committee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) pointed out that the auction should be "a means to an end, not an end itself." Making money, he said, isn't the ultimate goal of the auction; serving the public interest is.

The hearing centered on a proposal by a new firm called Frontline Wireless, whose boss James Barksdale argued that his plan offered the government the best way of bringing wireless broadband both to consumers and to public safety workers. Under Frontline's proposal, the FCC would auction off 10 MHz from the commercially available spectrum and offer that to the highest bidder. The winner would also be given (free) 12 MHz out of the 24 MHz currently allotted to public safety.

The new network would have to be built to public safety standards, which are more rigorous than the carrier grade standards used in commercial cellular networks (more robust power supplies and backup systems would be needed, along with better coverage and reliability). It would have to be made available for public safety use at favorable rates, and public safety organizations would have the right to use as much of the bandwidth on the network as they need in an emergency. Network bandwidth would also be sold wholesale to any company that wanted to offer wireless services.

Frontline pledges to build out its system in 10 years and promises to reach 99 percent of all Americans. The company would spend at least $12 billion of private money building the network and would lease to public safety organizations at cost. The system would be "open access," meaning that Frontline would simply maintain the network but would not care how it is used by the resellers.

Several of those testifying today pointed out that state governments across the US have come up with plans to build a next-generation, interoperable public safety networks, but few have done so because of cost. A public/private system like the one proposed by Frontline would use private money to fund the up-front costs of building such network.

The proposal itself isn't new, but this is the first time the senators really had a chance to interact with it. It met with resistance from Ted Stevens (R-AK), who had a long and testy interchange with Barksdale over the company's plan. He seemed to be zeroing on criticisms that the Frontline proposal was simply a way for a new company to get a huge discount on a prime chunk of spectrum by playing the "public safety" card. Frontline is certainly a well-connected group with a former FCC chairman on board, but several committee members showed clear skepticism toward the plan and wondered if it would make sense to simply build a public safety network controlled and operated by the government.

YouTube to Test Video ID with Time Warner, Disney

Top online video service YouTube will soon test a new video identification technology with two of the world's largest media companies, Time Warner Inc. and Walt Disney Co.

The technology, developed by engineers at YouTube-owner Google Inc., will help content owners such as movie and TV studios identify videos uploaded to the site without the copyright owner's permission, YouTube legal, marketing and strategy executives said in an interview on Monday.

The so-called video fingerprinting tools will be available for testing in about a month, a YouTube executive said.

YouTube has come under fire from some traditional media companies, who say it has dragged its heels in offering reliable ways to identify video clips uploaded by regular users without permission.

MTV Networks-owner Viacom Inc. sued Google and YouTube for over $1 billion in March, charging the company with "massive intentional copyright infringement" after demanding the removal of clips of its popular shows "Colbert Report" and "Daily Show," hosted by comedian Jon Stewart.

Initially, YouTube said last year such tools would be made available to test by the end of 2006. But executives have said the reliable identification of content was a complex task that required it to develop its own technology tools.

Chris Maxcy, YouTube partner development director, said other media companies planned to test the technology, but he declined to name the other parties. "There are a couple. There are more that we can't talk about right now," Maxcy said.

YouTube has also been testing technology to help identify the audio tracks of video clips with major record labels using technology provided by privately held Audible Magic as early as the first two months of 2007, the company said.

These tools will be made available to all content owners later this year, YouTube executives said on Monday.

"It's typically not something we talk about," Maxcy said, adding, however: "We wanted to clear the air."

Hollywood Balks at Apple Online Movie Rentals
Bob Tourtellotte

Apple Inc.'s plans to enter the nascent online movie rental business drew skepticism on Monday from Hollywood executives who questioned pricing, copy protection and the timing of a possible launch.
Sources inside and outside the major movie studios confirmed news reports the maker of computers and iPods is considering online film rentals to complement digital movie downloads that are already sold at Apple's iTunes web site.

But the sources, who declined to be named because film licensing talks are preliminary, questioned Apple's desire to fight copy piracy and the reported $2.99 price per rental.

Some said that, because the film download market remains small, the studios do not need to rush into a deal with Apple. Several companies already rent digital movies to Web customers, including CinemaNow, Movielink and Amazon.com Inc..

"It just feels like the ball is in our court," said one source.

Apple declined to comment.

Two publications recently reported Apple was talking to all the major studios about licensing films for a rental service and the service could launch as early as this fall with movies available for a 30-day period at a cost of $2.99.

But that price raises questions for the studios because it would significantly undercut what consumers now pay for online rentals of new releases, which can cost up to $4.99. Moreover, the price might cannibalize pay-per-view revenues the studios already receive from cable and satellite TV.

Among several issues involving copy protection, some movie executives expressed concern that Apple's digital rights management software would not adequately protect against unauthorized copies made for the video iPod and other devices.

Given Apple's history, however, several sources said entering the movie rental market was likely just a matter of time, although autumn 2007 was too soon.

At iTunes, consumers already download and buy movies made by The Walt Disney Co. and Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures. Rentals would complement that service.

More important, Apple is now launching a digital set-top box for televisions, called Apple TV, which allows consumers to download and play movies, TV shows and other video content on television sets more easily. Being able to buy and rent movies at iTunes could help spur sales of Apple TV.

Early in the evolution of the iPod, the popular music listening device, Apple employed much the same strategy when it began offering downloads of songs at iTunes.

Behind-Scenes Action Led to Camcording Bill
Michael Geist

When Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda and Industry Minister Maxime Bernier stepped up to the podium on Parliament Hill 10 days ago to introduce new movie piracy legislation, the scene had an unmistakable Hollywood feel. Surrounded by movie posters and attendees munching on popcorn, the ministers were given a standing ovation from the assembled industry reps for their performance.

While the press conference had a few uncomfortable moments – Oda was forced to admit that the government had not conducted any independent research on the scope of the movie piracy problem and she implausibly told reporters that public pressure from U.S. politicians such as California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins had nothing to do with the new bill – the intended storyline was of ministers pleased to support the film industry and of an industry grateful for government action.

As with any Hollywood production, however, not everything took place while the cameras were rolling. According to documents obtained under the Access to Information Act and reported here for the first time, Oda held a private meeting in Ottawa with Canadian Motion Pictures Distributors Association president Douglas Frith one year earlier, at which Frith provided the government with draft legislation – legislation that the lobby group itself had crafted – that likely served as the basis for what is now Bill C-59.

Moreover, a briefing note prepared by department officials for Oda in advance of the CMPDA meeting help explain the barrage of lobby pressure on the camcording issue as the minister was advised that there was little evidence the industry's proposal would prove more effective than current Canadian law.

The CMPDA meeting focused on several issues, including counterfeiting and signal theft, yet it was a movie piracy amendment to the Criminal Code that was clearly top of mind. An advance CMPDA briefing document claimed that legislative reforms were needed to address the growth of unauthorized camcording in Canadian movie theatres.

Much like Bill C-59, which contains a maximum jail term of five years for the recording of a movie in a theatre for the purposes of commercial distribution without the consent of the theatre owner, the CMPDA draft bill similarly envisioned a maximum of five years imprisonment for "any person who knowingly operates the audiovisual recording function of any device in a public place while a cinematographic work is being exhibited."

In fact, the CMPDA bill arguably went even further than Bill C-59, as the industry also sought maximum penalties of $1 million per recording and an unspecified minimum penalty. Furthermore, it criminalized movie recording in any public place (C-59 only covers movie theatres) and did not require commercial distribution to invoke the toughest penalties (C-59 includes a lesser maximum sentence of two years in jail for movie recording without commercial distribution).

Department officials were not persuaded by the proposal, however, warning in the ministerial briefing note that the penalty provisions in the Copyright Act are already criminal offences and that "it is unclear how these measures would prove more efficient." That conclusion is consistent with comments from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who in February rejected the calls for movie piracy legislation by noting that "the country is not completely bereft of laws in this area."

In light of the tepid response, the industry went on the offensive, threatening to delay the release of movies to Canadian theatres, canceling Canadian pre-screenings, enlisting the support of U.S. officials and floating inconsistent claims of Canadian responsibility for global camcording that ranged from 20 to 70 per cent (the Oda briefing note stated that Montreal alone was responsible for 40 per cent of unauthorized film reproductions in the world market, twice what CMPDA now claims for all of Canada).

The industry's lobby efforts were clearly successful. Ignoring the inconsistent claims, the absence of evidence that Canadian films are being affected, the contrary internal advice, and the bracing reality that Hollywood has acknowledged that the U.S. is by far the largest source of illegal camcording worldwide notwithstanding its movie piracy legislation, Bill C-59 is expected to sail through Parliament.

In doing so, Ottawa is sending Canadians two messages. The first is what drew the industry standing ovation – unauthorized camcording will not be tolerated in Canada even if it means diverting law enforcement resources from health and safety issues to movie theatres.

The second is that private meetings, foreign pressures and lobbyist drafted bills is how law gets made in Canada.

Music Industry Puts Troops in the Streets

Quasi-legal squads raid street vendors
Ben Sullivan

Though no guns were brandished, the bust from a distance looked like classic LAPD, DEA or FBI work, right down to the black "raid" vests the unit members wore. The fact that their yellow stenciled lettering read "RIAA" instead of something from an official law-enforcement agency was lost on 55-year-old parking-lot attendant Ceasar Borrayo.

The Recording Industry Association of America is taking it to the streets.

Even as it suffers setbacks in the courtroom, the RIAA has over the last 18 months built up a national staff of ex-cops to crack down on people making and selling illegal CDs in the hood.

The result has been a growing number of scenes like the one played out in Silver Lake just before Christmas, during an industry blitz to combat music piracy.

Borrayo attends to a parking lot next to the landmark El 7 Mares fish-taco stand on Sunset Boulevard. To supplement his buck-a-car income, he began, in 2003, selling records and videos from a makeshift stand in front of the lot.

In a good week, Borrayo said, he might unload five or 10 albums and a couple DVDs at $5 apiece. Paying a distributor about half that up-front, he thought he’d lucked into a nice side business.

The RIAA saw it differently. Figuring the discs were bootlegs, a four-man RIAA squad descended on his stand a few days before Christmas and persuaded the 4-foot-11 Borrayo to hand over voluntarily a total of 78 discs. It wasn’t a tough sell.

"They said they were police from the recording industry or something, and next time they’d take me away in handcuffs," he said through an interpreter. Borrayo says he has no way of knowing if the records, with titles like Como Te Extraño Vol. IV — Musica de los 70’s y 80’s, are illegal, but he thought better of arguing the point.

The RIAA acknowledges it all — except the notion that its staff presents itself as police. Yes, they may all be ex-P.D. Yes, they wear cop-style clothes and carry official-looking IDs. But if they leave people like Borrayo with the impression that they’re actual law enforcement, that’s a mistake.

"We want to be very clear who we are and what we’re doing," says John Langley, Western regional coordinator for the RIAA Anti-Piracy Unit. "First and foremost, we’re professionals."

Langley, based in Los Alamitos, California, oversees five staff investigators and around 20 contractors who sniff out bootleg discs west of the Rockies. The former Royal Canadian Mountie said his unit’s on-the-streets approach has been a big success, netting more than 100,000 pieces of unauthorized merchandise during the recent Christmas retail blitz.

With all the trappings of a police team, including pink incident reports that, among other things, record a vendor’s height, weight, hair and eye color, the RIAA squad can give those busted the distinct impression they’re tangling with minions of Johnny Law instead of David Geffen. And that raises some potential legal questions.

Contacted for this article, the Southern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said it needed more information on the practices to know if specific civil liberties were at risk.

But if an anti-piracy team crossed the line between looking like cops and implying or telling vendors that they are cops, the Los Angeles Police Department would take a pretty dim view, said LAPD spokesman Jason Lee.

"I will not say it’s okay to be [selling] illegal stuff," Lee said. "That’s a violation of penal codes.

"But it doesn’t really matter what your status is. If that person feels he was wrongly interrogated or under the false pretense that these people were cops, they should contact their local police station as a victim. We’ll sort it all out."

For its part, the RIAA maintains that the up-close-and-personal techniques are nothing new. RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy says its investigators do not represent themselves as police, and that the incident reports vendors are asked to sign, in which they agree to hand over their discs, explicitly state that the forfeiture is voluntary.

Lamy and the RIAA are unapologetic about taking the fight against music piracy to the streets. Though the association has suffered a few high-profile legal setbacks in recent months — most notably when a three-judge panel ruled that Internet service providers do not have to squeal on their file-swapping customers — community action is extremely effective.

Langley says the anti-piracy teams have about an 80 percent success rate in persuading vendors to hand over their merchandise voluntarily for destruction.

"We notify them that continued sale would be a violation of civil and criminal codes. If they’d like to voluntarily turn the product over to us, we’ll destroy it, and we agree we won’t sue," he explained.

The pink incident sheets and photos that Langley’s teams take of vendors are meant to establish a paper trail, particularly for repeat offenders.

"A large percentage [of the vendors] are of a Hispanic nature," Langley said. "Today he’s Jose Rodriguez, tomorrow he’s Raul something or other, and tomorrow after that he’s something else. These people change their identity all the time. A picture’s worth a thousand words."

Though Langley says he doesn’t know what tack his new boss will take, the recent hiring of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Bradley Buckles to head the anti-piracy unit has some RIAA watchers holding their breath.

On its face, the move looks like a shift toward even more in-your-face enforcement. But don’t expect all RIAA critics to rally to the side of Borrayo and other sellers.

"The process of confiscating bootleg CDs from street vendors is exactly what the RIAA should be doing," said Jason Schultz, a staff attorney for the San Francisco–based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The EFF has frequently crossed swords with the record industry over its strategy of suing ISPs and individual listeners accused of downloading tunes from the Internet. A champion of copyright "fair use," the EFF says Buckles could bring a more balanced approach to the RIAA’s anti-piracy efforts. The more time the association spends rousting vendors, the thinking goes, the less it will spend subpoenaing KaZaa and BearShare aficionados.

Meanwhile, Borrayo will have to keep his eyes open for another source of income. Though he says he still sees nothing wrong with what he did, the guy who once supplied him records hasn’t been around in a couple months.

"They tried to scare me," Borrayo said. "They told me, ‘You’re a pirate!’ I said, ‘C’mon, guys, pirates are all at sea. I just work in a parking lot.’ "

RIAA Uses Local Cops in Oregon Bust

Fake cops employed by Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG, the venal members of the Big 4 organised music cartel, started acting like real police officers quite a while ago, one of the earliest examples showing up in Los Angeles in 2004.

"Though no guns were brandished, the bust from a distance looked like classic LAPD, DEA or FBI work, right down to the black 'raid' vests the unit members wore," said a feature in the LA Weekly.

"The fact that their yellow stenciled lettering read 'RIAA' instead of something from an official law-enforcement agency was lost on 55-year-old parking-lot attendant Ceasar Borrayo."

But it's also SOP for the so-called music industry 'trade' outfit to tout genuine officers paid for entirely from citizen taxes as copyright cops.

Police were used in an RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) inspired raid at two flea markets in Beaverton, Oregon.

"Sgt. Paul Wandell, Beaverton police spokesman, said officers seized more than 50,000 items worth about $758,000," says The Oregonian.

The emphasis is wholly on product produced by the Big 4 members of the organised music cartel, although also included were, "knockoff designer purses, sunglasses and clothing, and counterfeit brand-name toys," the story quotes Sgt Paul Wandell as saying.

Wandell said Beaverton police, "got a tip about counterfeit items being sold at a Beaverton market in December, and the investigation led them to the Hillsboro flea markets".

No prizes for guessing where the tip came from, and about "20 recording and movie industry investigators" arrived from California to "help" police identify counterfeit items, says the story.

But this is merely the tiny tip of an iceberg of absolutely mind-boggling dimensions. Under it, police forces across the United States are routinely used in purely commercial activities.

GrayZone says it provides "investigative, paralegal and research services" to members of the entertainment community, including the labels.

In an April, 2006, report slugged RIAA Anti-Piracy Seizure Information, for New York alone it lists:

New York

April 25, 2006 - The New York Police Department's 30th Precinct, assisted by the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a burner lab in New York City. As a result, five suspects were arrested and two towers containing five CD/DVD burners, 1,150 piratical CD-Rs, and 307 counterfeit music DVD-Rs were seized.

April 14, 2006 - The New York Police Department's 67th Precinct, assisted by the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a CD burner lab located on Church Avenue in Brooklyn. The enforcement action resulted in the arrest of three suspects and the seizure of eight CD-R burners, 10,396 piratical CD-Rs, 204 counterfeit CD-Rs, and 210 counterfeit movie DVDs.

April 13, 2006 - The New York Police Department, Midtown South, assisted by the RIAA, conducted enforcement action at a distribution location on West 39 Street in New York City. Seized in connection to the enforcement action were a total of 8,900 counterfeit/piratical CD-Rs and 7,400 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs.

April 6, 2006 - The New York Police Department's Midtown South Precinct, assisted by the RIAA investigators conducted enforcement action at a distribution location on West 35th Street in New York City. As a result, two suspects were arrested and 11,120 counterfeit/piratical CD-Rs and 5,750 counterfeit DVD-Rs were seized.

April 6, 2006 - Also on this date, the New York Police Department's 1st Precinct, assisted by the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a distribution location on Canal Street in New York City and arrested two suspects. Seized as a result were 6,880 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs.

April 13, 2006 - The New York Police Department's 40th Precinct, assisted by RIAA investigators, executed a search warrant at a burner lab located on West 146 Street in New York City. Resulting from the enforcement action were one arrest and the seizure of two DVD/CD towers containing 14 CD-R burners, 785 piratical CD-Rs, 1,518 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs, 100 master CDs, and raw materials.

April 3, 2006 - As part of an ongoing investigation into "Operation Deceitful Wares" the New York Police Department's Organized Crimes Investigations Division, along with the United States Secret Service ECTF, executed seven state search warrants at a building on Broadway in New York City. As a result, eight suspects were arrested and charged. Seized in total as a result of the enforcement actions were a total of 20,800 counterfeit CD-Rs, 71,428 counterfeit movie DVDs, 5,597 counterfeit handbags, 2,866 counterfeit sneakers, 900 counterfeit wallets, 770 counterfeit sunglasses, 206 counterfeit boots, 176 counterfeit shoes and $9,898 in US currency. Several of the trademarks violated included Coach, Louis Vitton, Kate Spade, Prada, Gucci, Fendi, Nike and Timberland.

April 2, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the New York Police Department's 13th Precinct in enforcement action on West 28th Street in New York City that resulted in one arrest and the seizure of 16,600 counterfeit/piratical CD-Rs and 4,000 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs.

March 16, 2006 -The Spring Valley Police Department, along with the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a burner lab located on North Main Street resulting in one arrest and the seizure of five towers consisting of 11 CD-R burners, two printers, assorted raw material, 1,300 piratical CDs, 1,200 pirated CD-Rs and 500 counterfeit CDs.

March 16, 2006 - At another location, also on this date, the Spring Valley Police Department along with the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a burner lab also located on North Main Street resulting in one arrest and the seizure of one tower consisting of eight CD-R burners, 1,245 piratical CD-Rs, and various raw materials.

March 14, 2006 - The 67th Precinct of the New York Police Department, along with the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a CD-R burner lab located on Church Street in Brooklyn resulting in two arrests and the seizure of seven towers containing 46 CD-R burners, 3,200 piratical CD-R, three computers, two laptops, one mirage printer, one laser printer and a loaded 9mm handgun.

March 13, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the New York police with enforcement on West 37th Street in New York City. This action resulted in two arrests and the seizure of 12,600 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs and 4,300 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs.

March 10, 2006 - The 70th Precinct of the New York Police Department conducted enforcement action at a retail store in Brooklyn. This resulted in one arrest and the seizure of 56 CD-R burners, 1,300 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs and 450 movie DVD-Rs.

March 9, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the Bronx District Attorneys Squad in the execution of a search warrant at a burner lab on Morris Avenue. This warrant resulted in one arrest and the seizure of 25 CD-R burners, 900 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs, 100 counterfeit music DVDs and 2,600 counterfeit movie DVDs.

March 9, 2006 - The New York Police Department's 25th Precinct, assisted by the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a storage unit acting as a distribution location on Park Avenue in New York City. Seized as a result were 4,000 counterfeit CD-Rs, 4,800 piratical CD-Rs and 2,800 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs.

March 8, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the Brooklyn District Attorneys Squad in the execution of a search warrant at a burner lab on Patchen Avenue. The warrant resulted in one arrest and the seizure of 80 CD- R burners, 5,850 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs, one rimage printer, 5,000 insert labels and 1,980 counterfeit movie DVDs.

March 8, 2006 - At a separate location, RIAA investigators assisted the Brooklyn District Attorneys Squad in the execution of a search warrant at a distributor location on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. This warrant resulted in the seizure of 5,600 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs, 2,600 counterfeit music DVDs and 14,500 counterfeit movie DVDs.

March 7, 2006 - RIAA investigators received information from the Suffolk County District Attorney's Rackets Bureau that a Queen's man pled guilty to a felony and was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in state prison. The suspect was arrested in August of 2003 with 725 counterfeit CD-Rs in his possession and again in July of 2004 with 48 counterfeit CD-Rs and 225 piratical CD-Rs.

March 2, 2006 - The New York Police Department's Organized Crimes Investigations Division, along with RIAA and MPAA investigators, conducted multiple search warrants in Brooklyn. This first enforcement action on Vernon Avenue resulted in the arrest of three suspects and the seizure of 69 CD-R burners, 1,200 piratical DJ mix CD-Rs, 1,606 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs, a laptop computer, one printer and several boxes of raw materials.

March 2, 2006 - A second operation was led on Fulton Street. This action resulted in the arrest of one suspect and the seizure of 28 CD-R burners, 16,900 piratical DJ mix CD- Rs, 1,900 music DVD-Rs, 9,909 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs and boxes of various raw materials. Also on Fulton Street, a further warrant led to the arrest of another suspect and the seizure of seven burners and 5,100 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs. A seizure at a third location on Fulton Street resulted in the seizure of 35 burners, 10,300 piratical DJ mix CD-Rs, 1,400 music DVD-Rs and 7,105 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs.

March 2006 - The enforcement actions in the state of New York resulted in the seizure of more than 70,895 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs, 56,350 counterfeit movie DVDs and 365 CD / DVD Burners.

February 20, 2006 - The Suffolk County Police Department's 1st Precinct Crime Section, along with the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a burner lab located at 325 Merritt Ave in Wyandanch, resulting in the arrest of one suspect who is known to be a gang member. Seized from the lab were five CD-R burners, 1,050 piratical CD-Rs, 255 counterfeit music DVDs, two printers, 111 master CDs, 200 blank CD-Rs, $20,000 in US currency and 140 counterfeit movie DVDs as well as other trademarks that included Duracell Batteries, Nike and Reebok.

February 16, 2006 - The New York Police Department's Organized Crimes Investigations Division Unit executed a search warrant on Broadway in New York City. As a result of this enforcement action, one suspect was arrested and 6,300 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs, 600 counterfeit music DVDs and 7,004 counterfeit movie DVDs were seized.

February 15, 2006 - The New York Police Department's 28th Precinct, assisted by the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a CD burner lab and a distribution operation located on 7th Avenue in New York City. As a result of these enforcement actions, three suspects were apprehended and seven towers containing 44 (52X) CD burners were seized. Also confiscated during the search were 16,000 counterfeit CD-Rs, 11,800 piratical CD-Rs, a printer, one shrink wrap machine, one heat gun, two boxes of raw materials, inserts and one box of CD Masters.

February 13, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the New York Police Department's 13th Precinct in the execution of a search warrant on West 29th St in New York City. This action resulted in the seizure of 12,200 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs and 4,000 counterfeit movie DVDs.

February 9, 2006 - The United States Probation and Parole Department, while conducting a search on a supervised parolee, observed an active burner lab resulting in the arrest of one suspect and the seizure of 20 CD-R burners, 307 counterfeit music DVDs, 54 counterfeit CD-Rs, 74 piratical CD-Rs, 304 counterfeit movie DVDs, one computer, one printer and various raw material.

February 9, 2006 - The New York Police Department's 13th Precinct executed a search warrant on 5th Avenue in New York City that resulted in the seizure of 7,938 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs and 5,450 counterfeit movie DVDs.

February 8, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the New York Police Department's Organized Crimes Investigations Division execute a search warrant at 247 West 35th Street in New York City. This action resulted in one arrest and the seizure of 8,300 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs and 8,300 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs.

January 26, 2006 - The New York City Police Department Organized Crimes Investigations Division Unit with the United States Secret Service and assisted by the RIAA and MPAA, executed four search warrants on Broadway in New York City. As a result, three suspects were arrested and the seizure of 23,000 counterfeit CD-Rs and 32,000 counterfeit movie DVD-Rs.

January 18, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the New York Police Department's 79th Precinct in executing a search warrant at a retail record store on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. This action resulted in the arrest of 3 subjects and the seizure of 30,408 piratical and counterfeit CD-Rs. January 17, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the New York Police Department's 63rd precinct with the execution of a search warrant on Church Street in Brooklyn. This action resulted in the arrest of two suspects and the seizure of 4,734 piratical CD-Rs. It was later discovered that one of the offenders admitted to making the CD-Rs in the basement of his apartment. After giving consent to search his residence, 44 CD-R burners and other raw materials were seized.

January 10, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the New York Police Department's Organized Crimes Investigations Division Unit in the execution of a search warrant on West 27th St in New York City. Seized were a total of 8,100 counterfeit / piratical CD-Rs and 4,300 counterfeit movie DVDs.

January 5, 2006 - The New York Police Department's 13th Precinct assisted by the RIAA, executed a search warrant at a sandwich shop in New York City. The enforcement resulted in one arrest and the seizure of 13,000 counterfeit / pirated CD-Rs and 6,505 counterfeit movie DVDs. An additional search on 8th Avenue resulted in five additional arrests and the seizure of 33,600 counterfeit CD-Rs and 19,104 counterfeit movie DVDs.

January 3, 2006 - RIAA investigators assisted the New York Police Department's Organized Crimes Investigations Division Unit in the execution of a search warrant on Rosedale Avenue in the Bronx. The enforcement resulted in one arrest and the seizure of eight towers containing 74 CD-R burners (52x), 3,400 counterfeit / piratical CD-Rs and 2,304 counterfeit movie DVDs. A separate search warrant executed on West 36th Street in New York City resulted in the seizure of 12,400 counterfeit and piratical CD-Rs and 12,960 counterfeit movie DVDs.

The cost to New York taxpayers must have been, and no doubt still is, phenomenal, not to mention the fact they'd undoubtedly have been better employed serving and protecting New York citizens, not corporate music industry profits.

Peer-to-Peer Software Vendors Face Criminal, Civil Charges In French Copyright Test Case
Geoffrey Ramos

Three popular peer-to-peer software vendors have been sued by music companies in France for violations of the country's copyright law, which was recently amended to punish companies that create software designed for illicit use.

Creators of peer-to-peer software Azureus, Shareaza and Morpheus face a lawsuit filed by the French music industry group, Societe des Producteurs de Phonogrammes en France (SPPF). If convicted, the defendants face up to three years in prison and fines of up to $400,000.

The SPPF lawsuit is a test case for the newly-introduced "Vivendi Amendments" in France. The amendments, which was sponsored by then Minister of Interior and now current French President Nicolas Sarkozy, puts criminal and civil liabilities on companies that produce software that are used for illegal activities.

Critics claim that the new law does not distinguish a software that can either be used legally and illegally at the same time, such as peer-to-peer software, among others. The law puts pressure on software publishers to put in place mechanisms that will prevent users from using the software for illegal activities.

Warner Puts The Brakes on Imeem

Another week, another Hollywood lawsuit against a web sharing site. This time it's Warner Music and Imeem.

Imeem has attracted a lot of visitors for its user-content sharing service. It claims a user base of 16 million people. The success has attracted the notice of entertainment companies and Warner Music in particular.

The company says that it both warns users against using copyrighted content and promptly takes it down when notified.

Warner says that unauthorized music and video are rampant on the site and calls Imeem "no innocent infringer." In its claim Warner writes that Imeem encourages "millions of users to flock to its website to copy, adapt, distribute and perform unlicensed sound recordings and music videos."

No Plans to Block File Sharing
Zachary Posner

More than 70 universities around the nation currently use a technology to block or monitor peer-to-peer sharing of copyrighted material. The University of Texas at Austin is not one of those institutions and has no related changes planned for the near future, said William Green, UT's director of networking for Information Technology Services.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology held hearings last week to discuss the widespread problem of peer-to-peer file sharing on college campuses. One of the hearing's main focuses was to discuss CopySense Appliance, a program aimed to detect when students are sharing copyrighted material. File sharing, through the use of popular applications such as Gnutella and BitTorrent, has become as easy as point and click.

At the congressional hearings, testimonies were given for and against the effectiveness of CopySense. Representatives from Arizona State University backed the program, stating in their official testimony that it was easy to adopt, has worked effectively and has not caused any disturbance to their network.

Countering their argument was a representative from the University of Chicago, who, in their official testimony, said that network-based anti-infringement technologies fail within high performance networks and eventually will fail more generally. The University of Chicago representative stated that it may be easy for users to get through the system undetected, and in the future it will become increasingly difficult to differentiate between what is and is not copyright material.

UT discourages any illegal file sharing on campus. At orientation, new students are required to sign a document which outlines what constitutes piracy. Every time a student logs into UT Direct or UT's public network they are complying with UT's Acceptable Use Policy. There are also signs on library and dorm walls, as well as on University computer screen savers, that warn against illegal sharing and downloading.

This is as far as UT will currently go to curb file sharing on the campus network, Green said.

"At this point, the University's policy is that we don't monitor for content," he said. "That is not to say that the University couldn't change their policy."

Green, like representatives from the University of Chicago, expressed his doubts on whether the technology would actually work.

"While many of these programs are extremely clever and are evolving quickly, so are the programs to get around them," he said. "I am just not sure there is anything that can really be done."

Boston University Student Challenges RIAA
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes

"A Boston University student identified only as one of the 21 'John Does' in Arista v. Does 1-21 has challenged the RIAA's alleged right to get his or her identity from the school, bringing a motion to vacate the ex parte discovery order obtained by the RIAA, and to quash the subpoena served on the university. John Doe's court papers argue, among other things, that the RIAA's papers are 'based on a flawed theory that having copyrighted music files on an individual's computer or on an assigned folder on Boston University's server is a "distribution" of such copyrighted music files, where such folder is merely accessible by others.'"

Swedish Man Fined $2,843 for Sharing 4 Songs Over the Internet

A Swedish court of appeals on Tuesday upheld the country's first conviction for sharing music files over the Internet without paying in what the recording industry hailed as a victory.

The Appellate Court backed a verdict by a lower court in October last year that saw 45-year-old Jimmy Sjostrom fined 20,000 Swedish crowns ($2,843) for infringing intellectual property rights by sharing four music files.

The International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) hailed the conviction as a boost for intellectual property protection and said it could act as a deterrent. "The verdict only concerns four songs and it costs the one sentenced about 20,000 crowns in fines -- that is 5,000 crowns per song," IFPI said in a statement.

"Illegal file-sharing is thus expensive when there are legal and cheap alternatives available over the Internet today."

The legal action is part of a carrot-and-stick approach by the industry, which is pushing cases against illegal file-sharers while promoting legal music services such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes.

Sweden made downloading movie and music files from the Internet illegal only in 2005 after having been singled out for criticism by Hollywood. But the Pirate Party, a political group that wants Sweden to re-legalise file-sharing, also claimed the verdict as a success -- saying it meant Swedish police would have a hard time finding file-sharers since they could only access Internet records for a crime that carries a jail sentence.

"The verdict confirms that the penalty for file-sharing in Sweden today is a fine," it said in a statement. "For trifling crimes such as file-sharing, they are instead obligated to uphold their customer's right to anonymity."

Eddie Money: “If you truly like music, don’t steal it.”
Press Release

“Internet piracy of music and movies can be the kiss of death for both industries,” Actor Timothy Woodward Jr., “Grand Strand”

Rock legend Eddie Money has joined with other musicians and stars of the new teen music TV drama, “Grand Strand,” in a campaign against illegal Internet filesharing of music and movies.

Studies show that more than $2 billion worth of music and more than $20 billion worth of movie content was downloaded illegally last year.

"Music piracy is illegal and extremely detrimental to all of those who make a living creating original musical works," said Money, whose new Warrior Records CD, “Wanna Go Back,” was released in March. "If you truly like music, don't steal it. Support the industry by downloading your music legally."

Money is currently on tour promoting his new CD.

“Downloading or distribution of unauthorized copies of intellectual property such as movies, television, music, games and software programs via the Internet is costing production companies millions of dollars,” said Actor Timothy Woodward Jr., co-star of “Grand Strand,” being filmed in Wilmington, N.C., this summer and marketed by Reveille International – which produces hit shows such as “Ugly Betty” and “House.”

SafeMedia Corporation, based in Boca Raton, Fla., has developed technology -- “SafeMedia’s ‘Clouseau®’” -- that makes it impossible to send or receive illegal Peer-2-Peer transmissions or file sharing.

SafeMedia CEO & President Safwat Fahmy, who created “Clouseau,” has submitted testimony to Congress describing his company’s global “P2P Disaggregator” (P2PD) technology, which examines incoming and outgoing packets of information and destroys illegal P2P, while allowing legal P2P to reach its intended destination.

“The technology moves through multi-layered encryptions, analyzes network patterns and updates itself frequently,” said Fahmy. “The packet examinations are noninvasive and foolproof. Clouseau prevents the illegal back and forth flow of copyrighted files like you would find through LimeWire, Morpheus or eMule.”

The technology is offered globally in support of a variety of local, national and international bandwidth and customer requirements.

IFPI, an umbrella organization representing the international recording industry, has estimated that 20 billion songs were illegally swapped or downloaded in 2005. The market research firm NDP Group reported that illegal music downloads jumped 47 percent between 2005 and 2006.

Movie piracy costs U.S. industries $20.5 billion per year, thwarts the creation of 140,000 jobs and accounts for more than $800 million in lost tax revenue, the Institute for Policy Innovation reported in 2006.

Germany's Copyright Levy
Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

Based on the recommendation of its Patent Office and following fierce lobbying by VG Wort, an association of German composers, authors and publishers, Germany enforced a three years old law and imposed a copyright levy of $13 plus 16 percent in value added tax per new computer sold in the country.

The money will be used to reimburse copyright holders - artists, performers, recording companies, publishers and movie studios - for unauthorized copying thought to adversely weigh on sales.

This was the nonbinding outcome of a one year mediation effort by the Patent Office between VG Wort, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Germany's largest computer manufacturer and other makers. VG Wort initially sought a levy of $33 per unit sold.

But Fujitsu and the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom) - including Microsoft, IBM, Alcatel, Nokia, Siemens and 1300 other member firms - intend to challenge even the more modest fee in court.

They claim that it will add close to $80 million to the cost of purchasing computers without conferring real benefits on the levy's intended beneficiaries. They repeated similar assertions in a letter they have recently dispatched to the European Commission.

The problems of peer-to-peer file sharing, file swapping, the cracking and hacking of software, music and, lately, even e-books - are serious. Bundesverband Phono, Germany's recording industry trade association, reported that music sales plunged for the fifth consecutive year - this time, by more than by 11 percent.

According to figures offered by the, admittedly biased, group, 55 percent of the 486 million blank CDs sold in Germany last year - c. 267 million - were used for illicit purposes. For every "legal" music CD sold - there are 1.7 "illegal" ones.

Efforts by the industries effected are underway to extend the levy to computer peripherals and, where not yet implemented, photocopying machines. Similar charges are applied today by many European countries to other types of equipment: tape recorders, photocopiers, video-cassettes and scanners, for instance. Blank magnetic and optical media, especially recordable CDs, are - or were - taxed in more than 40 countries, including Canada and the United States.

Nor is Germany alone in this attempt to ameliorate the pernicious effects of piracy by taxing the hardware used to affect it.

The European Union's Directive on the Harmonisation of Certain Aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society, passed in 2001, is strenuous, though not prescriptive. It demands that member states ensure "fair compensation" to copyright holders for copies made by means of digital equipment - but fails to specify or proscribe how. It has been incorporated into local law only by Greece and Denmark hitherto.

In Austria, Literar-Mechana, the copyright fees collection agency, negotiated with hardware manufacturers and importers the introduction of a levy on personal computers and printers. The Swiss are pushing through an amendment to the copyright law to collect a levy on PCs sold within their territory. The Belgian, Finnish, Spanish and French authorities are still debating the issue. So do Luxemburg and Norway.

According to Wired, the Canadian Private Copying Collective, the music industry trade group, has proposed "new levies to be applied to any device that can store music, such as removable hard drives, recordable DVDs, Compact Flash memory cards and MP3 players".

Precedent is hardly encouraging.

The aforementioned Canadian Collective has yet to distribute to its members even one tax dollar of the tens of millions it inexplicably hoards. In Greece, a 2 percent levy on all manner of computer equipment provoked a hail of legal challenges, still to be sorted out in the courts. The amounts collected hardly cover the government's legal expenses hitherto.

The United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Denmark are against the levy, claiming, correctly, that hardware is used for purposes other than pilfering intellectual property digitally. The Italians, Portuguese and Dutch haven't even considered the option.

Hardware manufacturers are livid. In a buyers' market, their razor-thin profit margins on the commoditized goods they are peddling are bound to be erased by a copyright levy. The European Information and Communications Trade Association (EICTA) implausibly threatens to pass on such extra costs to consumers and recommends to stick to technological means of prevention, collectively known as Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems, or to novel CD copy protection measures.

Moreover, the fuzzy nature of the surcharge leaves a lot to be desired. Peter Suber, a prominent advocate of free online scholarship, analyzed the various post-levy scenarios in his FOS blog:

"What I can't tell is whether the copyright levy on hardware will come with universal permission to copy. If so, that's a big gain for a small cost... If the levy does not imply permission to copy, then which copying does it cover? If it covers copying without prior permission, then users will simply stop asking for permission, and convert all copying to pre-paid copying. If it covers copying without pre-payment, then that begs the question: what does the levy pre-pay? (It's not clear) how the plan would continue to distinguish authorized from unauthorized copying."

Yet, at this stage, it is difficult to see how to avoid the kind of rough justice meted out by Germany. Even the most advanced DRM systems lack a reliable model of remunerating copyright holders. Hence the conspicuous absence of DRM in the EU's Copyright Directive.

Suber raises some practical concerns, though he broadly supports a copyright levy on hardware:

"To make the system fair, we would need reasonably accurate measurements of the amount of copying. Otherwise we wouldn't know whether to bump up the price of a computer $35 or $350 or whether to give Elsevier 1% or 10%. Download counters wouldn't catch the peer-to-peer traffic. So would you put up with packet sniffers or other eavesdropping technologies to take random samples of the copy traffic, as long as your identity was not recorded?"

Even what constitutes copyrighted work is not entirely clear. The European Court of Justice heard arguments last week in a case pitting two American companies, IMS Health and NDCHealth, against each other. IMS Health vends aggregated German data pertaining to the sales of pharmaceuticals.

NDCHealth tried to emulate an organizational element of the IMS Health database. The Court is faced with seemingly intractable questions: Can IMS Health be compelled to license its database to a potential competitor? Is the structure of the database - the way Germany is divided to 1860 reporting zones - protected in any way?

In essence, copyright is a temporary monopoly on creative work granted to the authors, publishers and distributors of such products. It is intended to compensate them for their efforts and to encourage them to continue to originate in future. Yet, the disintermediation brought on by digital technologies threatens to link author and public directly, cutting out traditional content brokers such as record companies or publishers.

This is the crux of the battle royal. The middlemen are attempting - in vain - to sustain their dying and increasingly parasitic industries and refusing to adapt and re-invent themselves. Everyone else watches in amazement and dismay the consequences of this grand folly: innovation is thwarted, consumers penalized, access to works of art, literature and research constrained.

Big Radio Makes a Grab for Internet Listeners
Jeff Leeds

Last week a radio D.J. known as Vibegrrl, who works the midday shift on Hot 99.5, a Washington pop station, offered her listeners the chance to receive tickets to see the rock band Hinder.

But to win, they had to do more than dial in at the right moment. They first had to visit Hot 99.5’s Web site and identify the woman wearing a thong, as shown from behind, and then call the studio. (Unsurprisingly the answer was Britney Spears.)

“Everybody’s on the Internet all day,” said Vibegrrl, whose real name is Lara Dua. “It would be just kind of not smart if we weren’t making that part of what we do.” Interaction with listeners used to be “very limited,” she added. Now, though, “I’m chatting and blogging and doing research and answering phones all at the same time.”

After ceding ground (and potential advertising dollars) for years to an army of autonomous Internet radio stations, some of which are run from basements and spare bedrooms, the nation’s biggest broadcasters are now marching online, determined to corral the next generation of listeners. The result may be a showdown to define the future of the medium.

Confronted by a slow erosion of listeners who are turning to iPods, podcasts and other sources for entertainment, the radio corporations are trying to merge their over-the-air music and D.J. chatter with the Web, adding online streams of their broadcasts and features already found on many independent Web-based stations. These include live chat rooms, blogs and MySpace-style social networking features.

Late last month, CBS said it had paid $280 million to acquire Last FM (last.fm), a popular Web radio service where listeners can customize stations based on their personal taste, and also explore other users’ playlists. And Clear Channel, the biggest radio corporation, with a stable of more than 800 stations, has built miniature social networks into the Web sites of Hot 99.5 (hot995.com) and 7 other pop-music stations in major markets in the latest step in an ambitious digital initiative.

All of this comes at an inopportune moment for small, Internet-based radio stations, which are facing a sharp increase in the royalties they must pay to record labels (and artists) for playing their music. The online stations had previously paid a percentage of their revenue for music streamed to United States listeners, — in effect ensuring that their costs would not exceed whatever sales they received. But a federal panel, the Copyright Royalty Board, has set new rates effective July 15 that alter that structure so the Internet radio stations are charged a fee each time a user listens to a song.

Soma FM (somafm.com), a San Francisco-based Web site housing 11 stations specializing in genres like rootsy Americana and spy-movie themes, owed about $20,000 for 2006 under the previous rate structure, said the site’s founder, Rusty Hodge. But Mr. Hodge, who said the stations combined generally attracted a peak audience of 12,000 at any given moment, figures that the rates would translate to a bill of $600,000 for the same year.

Broadcasters of various sizes have been rallying support in Congress to supersede the panel’s decision. “If it stands, then we’re all done for,” said Ted Leibowitz, a software engineer and founder of BAGeL Radio (bagelradio.com), an online service specializing in indie rock that he runs from a bedroom in his San Francisco apartment. For listeners, he said, the loss of potential choices would be akin to what satellite TV subscribers would face if their satellite crashed. “What people will be offered will be one one-thousandth of what they’re offered today,” he said.

The cost of playing music online could become a deterrent for the traditional radio broadcasters too as more of them stream music on the Web. But it’s a price they may not be able to avoid; advertisers are flocking online. For the first time marketers are spending more money to advertise online than on the radio, according to TNS Media Intelligence, which tracks ad spending. Internet sites accounted for 7.7 percent of ad spending for the first quarter of the year, compared with radio’s 6.6 percent, TNS said.

Broadcast radio still commands a massive audience: An estimated 230 million people tune in each week. The trick for the big radio corporations, though, is that pursuing listeners online may mean developing a wholly different approach to programming.

Many Internet-based stations say their medium allows them to offer an abundance of genres far outside the boundaries of traditional over-the-air music stations, often with playlists that can be tailored to the taste of the individual listener. Pandora (pandora.com), one of the most popular Internet radio services with roughly seven million users, creates personalized stations based on the characteristics of users’ favorite songs. Live 365 (live365.com), which says it has four million listeners a month, is a searchable portal to thousands of tiny stations playing genres ranging from neo-soul to Christian blues.

Given the proliferation of wireless Internet access, many of the fledgling radio services hope that fans will soon be able to flip on an online radio stream while driving to work instead of tuning into the local morning radio D.J. “It’s just a matter of time before you can get Internet streams wherever you are,” said Tim Westergren, a co-founder of Pandora.

How far the traditional radio broadcasters will, or can, go to match the diversity of music found on independent Internet stations is far from clear. One effort at Clear Channel involves letting fans choose to hear songs posted by unsigned or other emerging artists, and company executives say some will be considered for on-air exposure.

The bigger focus is on developing features that can be rapidly promoted using the chains’ mass and reach. Clear Channel’s Hot 99.5 in Washington has said it would distribute $10,000 to listeners when its nascent social network (the “Hot Spot”) reached 10,000 members. On the company’s Z100 in New York, tickets to see a performance by Beyoncé were recently being given away in the station’s chat room. Fans could also join the pop station’s social network, the “Z-Zone.”

In the works are similar networks for rock and sports stations, said Evan Harrison, a former America Online executive who has overseen Clear Channel’s digital efforts since 2004.

“If we weren’t offering our listeners an opportunity to interact, they would simply choose somewhere else to go for it,” Mr. Harrison said.

The next battlefront may open in the mobile world: Clear Channel and Pandora have each begun to offer interactive features though cellular phones. Listeners of certain Clear Channel stations can receive notices alerting them before a specific song plays, for example, while users of Sprint phones can go online and build a unique Pandora station around their personal taste.

Nonetheless there is still a sense among some Internet broadcasters that the untamed online frontier where they have cultivated listeners is coming to a close — or at least becoming more crowded.

Mr. Hodge of Soma FM had been musing about creating a new online station catering to fans of laid-back 1970’s oldies, featuring artists like Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Doobie Brothers. But then a couple of weeks ago he heard that the same mellow music would be broadcast on a radio station in San Francisco, KFRC-FM, which is owned by CBS, and streamed on the station’s Web site.

Mr. Hodge said he decided to shelve his idea for the moment, figuring that CBS would grab many of his potential listeners. Still, “I don’t think most of us are intimidated” by the big radio companies’ push online, he said. “If you ask me again in two years, am I going to be worried, that’s probably going to be a different answer.”

Large Webcasters Ask Congress For Help In Royalty Battle

Four of the largest webcasters have sent a letter to every member of Congress, asking for their help in the ongoing battle over Internet radio royalty rates. The CEOs of Yahoo! (Jerry Yang), RealNetworks (Rob Glaser), Live365 (Mark Lam) and Pandora (Joe Kennedy) have all signed off on a letter on behalf of the Internet radio industry, asking that Congress take a close look at the results of the Copyright Royalty Board's decision.

The letter notes that the CRB decision "shocked the industry and neutral analysts" and says that "the CRB-imposed royalties will cause immediate bankruptcy of the majority of the Internet radio industry when it becomes effective July 15, and will actually reduce royalties to record companies and artists as services go dark and royalties are never paid."

They also note the new rates are 300 percent more for large webcasters and 1200 percent more for smaller ones, with another $500 per channel fee on top of that. "As interpreted by SoundExchange just this fee would cost only three companies well over $1 billion combined annually (and the CRB decision states that retroactive royalties are due immediately, so the July 15 invoice for just three services would exceed $2 billion)."

The companies add that "the CRB has taken [webcasters' business license] away by setting royalty rates that are not merely unprofitable, but will eliminate much if not all of the industry." They continue, "Internet radio competes against satellite and broadcast radio, but the competitive landscape is tilted by differing royalties rates among these platforms. For example, cable radio pays royalties of 7.25 percent of revenue, satellite radio less than five percent but Internet radio, which now pays approximately 30 percent of industry-wide revenues will be forced to pay between 60 and 300 percent of revenue plus $1 billion in administrative fees."

The letter continues, "Internet radio technology empowers consumers, artists and independent record labels by enabling more new music to be introduced to more fans than any preexisting medium. Internet radio is a marketplace solution to media consolidation and programming diversity concerns, but only if the Congress acts by July 15."

They conclude, "As a result of the CRB’s decision, the future of music, of technology and innovation, of small artists and independent labels and millions of music-loving consumers is at stake. While process is important, we submit that the end result, which threatens the viability of the smallest, most innovative, most artist- and consumer-friendly promotional radio industry, is most significant. We ask you for your help to restore balance and fairness so that this new industry can survive and continue to pay artists reasonable royalties."

Grass Roots Roared and Immigration Plan Collapsed
Julia Preston

The undoing of the immigration bill in the Senate this week had many players, but none more effective than angry voters like Monique Thibodeaux, who joined a nationwide campaign to derail it.

Mrs. Thibodeaux, an office manager at a towing company here in suburban Detroit, became politically active as she never had before. Guided by conservative Internet organizations, she made calls and sent e-mail messages to senators across the country and pushed her friends to do the same.

“These people came in the wrong way, so they don’t belong here, period,” Mrs. Thibodeaux, a Republican, said of some 12 million illegal immigrants who would have been granted a path to citizenship under the Senate bill.

“In my heart I knew it was wrong for our country,” she said of the measure.

Supporters of the legislation defended it as an imperfect but pragmatic solution to the difficult problem of illegal immigration. Public opinion polls, including a New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted last month, showed broad support among Americans for the bill’s major provisions.

But the legislation sparked a furious rebellion among many Republican and even some Democratic voters, who were linked by the Internet and encouraged by radio talk show hosts. Their outrage and activism surged to full force after Senator Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican who was an author of the bill, suggested early this week that support for the measure seemed to be growing. The assault on lawmakers in Washington was relentless. In a crucial vote Thursday night, the bill’s supporters, including President Bush, fell short by 15 votes. While there is a possibility the legislation could be revived later this year, there was a glow of victory among opponents on Friday.

“Technologically enhanced grass-roots activism is what turned this around, people empowered by the Internet and talk radio,” said Colin A. Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a conservative group.

Mr. Hanna suggested the passion and commitment were on the side of the opponents.

“The opposition to the amnesty plan is so much more intense than the intensity of the supporters,” said Mr. Hanna, speaking of the bill’s provisions to grant legal status to qualifying illegal immigrants, which the authors of the legislation insisted was not amnesty.

In the end, supporters conceded that they were outmaneuvered by opponents who boiled down their complaints to that single hot-button word, repeated often and viscerally on talk radio programs and blogs.

“It’s a lot easier to yell one word, ‘amnesty,’ and it takes a little more to explain, ‘No, it’s not, and if you don’t do anything you have a silent amnesty,’ ” said Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, a Democrat who backed the measure.

Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, which follows Hispanic immigration, described the bill as “born an orphan in terms of popular support.”

“You got the sense of a deafening silence from the supporters, and the roar of the opposition,” Mr. Sabatini said.

For Mrs. Thibodeaux and others on her side, the immigration debate was a battle for the soul of the nation because it seemed to divert taxpayer-financed resources to cater to foreigners who had not come to this country by legal means.

“This hit home with me because I knew it was taking away from our people,” said Mrs. Thibodeaux, 50, who works at Ruehle’s Auto Transport. “What happened to taking care of our own people first?”

Rosemary Jenks, a policy advocate at NumbersUSA, which calls for curbing immigration, said that 7,000 new members signed up for the organization in a single day last week. Other groups reported a similar outpouring as proponents of the Senate bill claimed to be gaining momentum.

“We had way more response than we could handle,” said Stephen Elliott, president of Grassfire.org, a conservative Internet group that called for volunteers for a petition drive and instructed people how to barrage lawmakers with telephone calls and e-mail.

The group gathered more than 700,000 signatures on petitions opposing the bill, delivering them this week to senators in Washington and in their home states.

Organizers described a new Internet-linked national constituency that emerged among Republicans, much like the one that Democrats pioneered during the presidential candidacy in 2004 of Howard Dean. But many of these Republicans are enraged at their party leaders, including Mr. Kyl and Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supported the bill, and they feel betrayed by Mr. Bush.

Opposition to the Senate bill brought together many Americans in states where immigration was not traditionally a fervor-inspiring issue, but where illegal immigration has become more visible in recent years.

“Every state is now a border state,” said Susan Tully, the national field director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has long supported a crackdown on illegal immigration. The bill’s opponents also objected to how it was handled, with the huge measure negotiated behind closed doors between White House and Senate lawmakers, without any hearings or other public input.

“Ordinary people like me rose up and put a stop to it,” said William Murphy, a retired policeman from Evansville, Wis., one of the Grassfire.org volunteers who delivered petitions to his senators. On Thursday before the vote, he said, he put in new calls to 15 senators.

Mr. Murphy said he felt strongly about the bill because he believed it would degrade the value of American citizenship.

“If I come from Mexico, I can jump the fence and get all those American benefits,” he said. “It’s outrageous when you can buy your citizenship for $5,000,” he said, referring to the fines that illegal immigrants would pay under the bill to become legal permanent residents.

When asked about Mr. Bush’s support for the bill, Mr. Murphy, a longtime Republican, had to pause to temper his words.

“I was stunned, really,” he said. Mr. Bush “has always been a person who stood for some basic human values, and now he’s going to give away the country?”

In Virginia, Allen Price, another Grassfire.org member who was formerly a talk show host in Richmond, decried the Senate bill as an attempt by corporate business to secure cheap labor.

“I called up everybody I knew and told them to make calls,” said Mr. Price, also a Republican. He delivered 15,000 petitions to the offices of his senators, John W. Warner, a Republican, and Jim Webb, a first-term Democrat, both of whom voted against closing debate on the bill on Thursday night.

In California, a challenge was started by “The John & Ken Show,” a popular talk radio show critical of the bill, for 30,000 opposition calls to Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, who supported the measure. All of Ms. Feinstein’s phone lines were clogged, with calls from opponents of the bill and from supporters seeking to undermine the challenge.

Here in Michigan, speaking at her neatly maintained home under hickory trees in Washington, a town north of Detroit that has been battered by auto company layoffs, Mrs. Thibodeaux said the immigration bill worried her like no other political issue. She believed it would reward undeserving immigrants who do not speak English and would soon become a burden on public services that Americans need in a time of economic uncertainty.

“A lot of our American people in Detroit are hurting,” Mrs. Thibodeaux said, noting that she has often done volunteer work in poor neighborhoods here. “It’s just not right.”

Her strong feelings about the immigration issue came gradually, she said. A nephew who works as a house painter had trouble finding high-paying work because of competition from illegal immigrants. Some Mexican teenagers hassled her on the street, seeming to mock her because she walks with a cane. She spotted immigrants shopping with food stamps at the grocery store.

Mrs. Thibodeaux said she favored orderly legal immigration, but did not think illegal immigrants should benefit from American generosity.

“I have a very hard time with illegal,” she said. She proposes that all illegal immigrants be given a 90-day period to leave voluntarily. After that, immigration agents, local police and the National Guard, if necessary, should be mobilized to deport them, she said.

Republican voters and organizers said they were ready for a long fight on the immigration issue, even if the debate is reopened in Congress.

“This bill represented something so big that people noticed,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a research group. He said the Senate debate was not “just stirring up the hornet’s nest, but is actually changing the dynamics of this issue for the future.”

Mrs. Thibodeaux agreed. If the immigration issue comes before Congress again, she said, “I’m going to get a microphone and start yelling.”

Randal C. Archibold contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

Senate Leaders Agree to Revive Immigration Bill
Robert Pear and Jeff Zeleny

President Bush and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, pledged today to work for passage of the suddenly revived immigration bill, with Mr. Reid saying Senate Democrats would sacrifice their Fourth of July break, if necessary.

“Each day our nation fails to act, the problem only grows worse,” Mr. Bush said at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast here. “I will continue to work closely with members of both parties to get past our differences and pass a bill I can sign this year.”

Mr. Reid, speaking the day after he and his Republican counterpart announced an agreement on bringing the bill back to the Senate floor, said: “We hope the president will work with us, and that Congressional Republicans will not stall our efforts to strengthen our national security and economy. If they do, Democrats are prepared to work through the weekends and the July 4 district work period to accomplish our goals.”

The term “district work period” is a euphemism for “recess,” and Mr. Reid’s willingness to sacrifice it is a reflection of his desire not to squander an opportunity to gain passage of comprehensive immigration legislation.

Mr. Reid and the Republican minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said on Thursday evening that they expected the bill to return to the floor before the Fourth of July recess.

In a joint statement, Mr. Reid and Mr. McConnell said: “We met this evening with several of the senators involved in the immigration bill negotiations. Based on that discussion, the immigration bill will return to the Senate floor after completion of the energy bill.”

The immigration bill, ardently sought by President Bush, would make the biggest changes in immigration law and policy in more than 20 years.

It would increase border security, crack down on companies that employ illegal immigrants, establish a guest worker program and offer legal status to most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

The agreement does not guarantee that the bill will be approved by the Senate. And even if immigration legislation is approved by the Senate, it will die unless the House also approves a bill and the two chambers can reconcile their differences. Supporters of the bipartisan Senate bill predict that some conservative Republicans will try to block a vote on final passage, because of concerns about the legalization program.

Predicting “procedural barriers,” Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership team, said on Thursday, “Three or four senators will try to block every amendment.”

Mr. Reid said today he had insisted on a process “to prevent endless debate and get the bill through the Senate.”

The House has held many hearings on immigration this year. House Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have expressed concerns about major provisions of the Senate bill, including one that would give less weight to family ties in deciding who can immigrate to the United States.

A White House spokesman, Scott M. Stanzel, said, “We are encouraged by the announcement from Senate leaders that comprehensive immigration reform will be brought back up for consideration.”

President Bush, in his remarks to the prayer breakfast today, went out of his way to praise two senators who have worked hard on the immigration bill, Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida.

Mr. Bush said, as he has many times, that immigration legislation must secure the country’s borders; create a lawful way for foreign workers to fill jobs that Americans are not doing, and resolve the status of illegal aliens in the United States “without amnesty and without animosity.”

The bill stalled on June 7, when supporters garnered just 45 of the 60 votes needed to end debate. Republican senators said that they had not been allowed to offer enough amendments.

Under the agreement reached on Thursday, the Senate will consider about 22 amendments, half from Republicans and half from Democrats.

Earlier in the day, trying to start the bill moving again in the Senate, Mr. Bush called for an immediate burst of $4.4 billion in spending to show that the government was committed to “securing this border once and for all.”

Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, described the call for $4.4 billion as “a good start.” But Mr. Isakson said Mr. Bush needed to do more to secure the border and to show that he was serious about enforcing immigration laws.

Comments by Republican senators on Thursday suggested that they were feeling the heat from conservative critics of the bill, who object to provisions offering legal status. The Republican whip, Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supports the bill, said: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”

At some point, Mr. Lott said, Senate Republican leaders may try to rein in “younger guys who are huffing and puffing against the bill.”

Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, welcomed the president’s support for more spending on border security, but said, “There’s no reason why we should be forced to tie amnesty to it.”

Mr. Bush said the $4.4 billion would “come from the fines and penalties that we collect from those who have come to our country illegally” and apply for legal status.

Representative Duncan Hunter of California, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, scorned such linkage.

“The idea that we will have border security only if it’s paid for by illegal immigrants is unacceptable,” Mr. Hunter said.

Matthew A. Towery, a political analyst in Atlanta who was once a campaign chairman for Newt Gingrich and is now chief executive of a polling firm, Insider Advantage, said: “Having George W. Bush come out and speak in favor of the immigration bill does not do any good for Republican senators. He just irritates the conservative base of the Republican Party, which has abandoned him on this issue.”

A new proposal floated on Thursday in an effort to deter the hiring of illegal immigrants would put biometric identifiers into Social Security cards. That change would make the cards more difficult to forge and counterfeit, Mr. Schumer said.

David Stout contributed reporting.

StealthNet 0.8 Build 2007.6.7.1 is Out Now
Posted by toni66

It is a great pleasure for us to present you the first release of StealthNet, a client for the anonymous RShare network.

1. Kudos

First off I will start with the kudos. They fly out to

- Lars, because without this guy neither the RShare network nor the StealthNet client would exist. He created the RShare client as well as the protocol for the RShare network and deserves our full respect Cool

- without a highly engaged developer team StealthNet would never have been born and for this reason a huge "thanks!" goes out to this guys. I am glad to be part of such a great team and want and want to let you know that it is a great pleasure for me to be involved in the StealthNet development process

- the Beta team. Without these guys a lot of bugs would never have been found and fixed and I can assure that they are great bug hunters Smiley

- our design department who created the new StealthNet splash screen and the StealthNet icon

2. New features

StealthNet 0.8 has a lot of new and funky features in comparison with RShare Chamäleon

- Download Resuming (allows resuming of interrupted downloads)

- Optimized bandwidth allocation when upload/download limit is activated

- Shared files and directories are now added or removed in real time

- Redundant downloads from multiple sources have been removed

- Multilanguage support (as of now Englisch and German is supported, French and Spanish will follow)

- Search filter for file types

- Pre-defined search for file extensions

The most important feature in particular is download resuming. From now on interrupted downloads can be resumed once a file source is available in the RShare network.

3. Future prospects

There are already a lot of further enhancements in the pipeline which I can´t talk about at the moment. However, I can assure that the RShare network is growing day by day and with language support for French and Spanish we expect even more new users.

4. Feedback

Due to the first release of StealthNet 0.8 it is very likely that this version contains some bugs. To give us some feedback you can use this thread. Do not hesitate to post error reports or suggestions there.

5. Download

Aware of the Planet Peer download section (for registered users only!) there are some other mirrors which provides free downloads of StealthNet without any registration.




Important: If you got StealthNet from a source other then the ones above I highly recommend to compare the SHA-1 hashes for the StealthNet setup program and the archive with StealthNet for Linux!

SHA1 Hash: 55BF97D293A2BF57DF9295DDC5BFF70C55C4499D stealthnet_setup.exe
SHA1 Hash: 52EEB27227CCF072D89F41392D998E88B937B87B stealthnet2007.6.7.1_linux.zip
http://board.planetpeer.de/index.php...topic=2 922.0

Mininova Breaks 2 Billion Downloads Barrier

Mininova, one of the most popular BitTorrent search engines, experiences a massive growth in the first half of 2007, and today they served the 2 billionth .torrent download.

In January, when mininova celebrated its second anniversary, they passed the 1 billion download mark. It wasn’t really a surprise that getting to 2 billion wouldn’t take another 2 years, but not many expected that it would happen this fast.

Niek, the founder of mininova is excited about reaching this milestone, and hopes to continue serving torrents at this rate. One of the factors that contributed to mininova’s continued success is the redesign of the front- and back end last December, that dramatically improved the search and browse speed.

In a response to the great news Niek told TorrentFreak:

“I never expected mininova to reach 2 billion downloads this fast. We’ve grown very fast over the past months, in users as well as downloaded torrents. At the moment we have approximately 2 million users, and 10 million pageviews every day.”

So, congratulations to mininova, and I expect we will see the 3 billionth download by the end of summer.

TorrentSpy Ruling a 'Weapon of Mass Discovery'
Greg Sandoval

It was a pro-copyright ruling that stunned nearly everyone dealing with the issue of online piracy. In a decision reported late Friday by CNET News.com, a federal judge in Los Angeles found (PDF) that a computer server's RAM, or random-access memory, is a tangible document that can be stored and must be turned over in a lawsuit.

If allowed to stand, the groundbreaking ruling may mean that anyone defending themselves in a civil suit could be required to turn over information in their computer's RAM hardware, which could force companies and individuals to store vast amounts of data, say technology experts. Roaming the Web anonymously was already nearly impossible. This ruling, which brings up serious privacy issues, could make it a lot harder.

"I think that people's fears about a potential invasion of privacy are quite warranted," said Ken Withers, director of judicial education at The Sedona Conference, an independent research group. "The fear is that we're putting in the hands of private citizens and particularly well-financed corporations the same tools that heretofore were exclusively in the hands of criminal prosecutors, but without the sort of safeguards that criminal prosecutors have to meet, such as applying for search warrants."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian issued the decision while presiding over a court fight between the film industry and TorrentSpy, which is accused of copyright infringement in a lawsuit filed last year by the Motion Picture Association of America. Following her decision, Chooljian ordered TorrentSpy to begin logging user information and allowed the company to mask the Internet Protocol addresses belonging to visitors of the Web site. TorrentSpy must then turn the data over to the MPAA. The judge stayed the order pending an appeal, which the company filed on Tuesday. It's not clear when the appeal will be heard.

The question now, of course, is whether Chooljian's ruling will hold up legally or technically. From a legal standpoint, Withers said he feared the judge's decision may mean a "tremendous expansion" of the scope of discovery in civil litigation. The trend in the courts lately has been to create what Withers called "weapons of mass discovery." Discovery is the legal process by which lawyers obtain documents and other materials to help defend their case.

He also said that the judge's order for a defendant (TorrentSpy) to create logs of user activity so they can be turned over to a plaintiff (MPAA) is unprecedented.

"There's never been a requirement that (defendants) must create documents that they wouldn't ordinarily maintain for the purpose of satisfying some (plaintiff's) discovery requests," said Withers.

But on the technical side, Dean McCarron, principle analyst at Mercury Research, said the judge erred by defining volatile computer memory as "electronically stored information."

RAM is a computer's ephemeral and temporary memory that helps it access data quickly. Think of RAM as the yellow post-it notes that people keep to remind themselves of tasks. Once completed, the note is tossed out. Data in a computer's hard drive is stored permanently and is more like filing documents away in a cabinet.

"RAM is the working storage of a computer and designed to be impermanent," McCarron said. "Potentially your RAM is being modified up to several billions of times a second. The judge's order simply reveals to me a lack of technical understanding."

A "tap" can be installed in a server, McCarron offered. But that means keeping a running log of IP addresses and other information. A tap would also require a company to store enormous amounts of data, an expensive process, he said.

But lawyers who represent copyright holders cheered Chooljian's decision.

"Unfortunately for TorrentSpy, Judge Chooljian's decision may herald the end of an era," Richard Charnley, a Los Angeles-based attorney, said in a statement. "The process, if affirmed, will expose TorrentSpy's viewer-users and, in turn, will allow the MPAA to close another avenue of intellectual property abuse."

Lauren Nguyen, an MPAA attorney, maintains that because TorrentSpy is allowed to redact IP addresses, nobody's privacy is in jeopardy. "The user privacy argument is simply a red herring," Nguyen said. She also said that the judge "broke no new ground in the case." The courts have long considered computer RAM as "electronically stored information," she said.

To understand the significance of the decision, one must consider that many Web sites promise to keep users' information private. Some, like TorrentSpy, do this by switching off their servers' logging function, which typically records visitors' IP addresses as well as their activity on the site.

While protecting its users' privacy, TorrentSpy also makes it easier for those who download pirated material to work in the shadows, MPAA's attorneys argued. The MPAA has estimated that the illegal downloading of copyright movies costs the six largest U.S. studios more than $2 billion annually.

To prove that TorrentSpy was making it easier to share files, the studios told Chooljian that it was necessary that they obtain records of user activity. They convinced her that the only way to do this was to obtain the data from RAM.

Ultimately, pulling user information off a server's RAM might be a bigger privacy problem than it's worth, said one file sharer, who asked to remain anonymous.

"To imagine my information being disseminated without my written or verbal consent is unnerving," she said. "Then again, if I'm doing something I know is illegal, can I protest?"

On The Download
Peter Lauria

In a move designed to upend the traditional record label business model, Downtown Records and Internet entrepreneur Peter Rojas plan to launch an online-only record label that will offer its music for free and generate revenue only through advertising and sponsorships, The Post has learned.

Dubbed RCRD LBL and targeted for launch this fall, the venture aims to merge free, exclusive music with niche blog content to offer advertisers highly targeted sponsorship opportunities. Or, to put it another way, the label marries Downtown's ability to identify cutting-edge artists - the label's roster includes blog-beloved bands like Gnarls Barkley and Cold War Kids - with the architecture of Rojas' weblogs to create a next-generation online music company.

One source familiar with the project described it as a "curated YouTube or MySpace for music with an editorially driven filter."

This source said RCRD LBL would feature a central destination site from which content for various genres of music from rock to electronica to urban can be accessed by consumers and branded or sponsored by advertisers.

"There's an urgency in the industry to find new ways to monetize content," said one source familiar with the project, "and the economics of the Internet facilitate this model because it allows for a leaner organization while letting fans dictate the process."

While the industry has been taking baby steps towards generating ancillary revenue through advertising, RCRD LBL is betting the house on a media-centric model that gives away its core product in return for being fully subsidized by advertising.

According to a preliminary business outline obtained by The Post, the venture offers advertisers three different levels of sponsorship packages that feature a combination of contest, podcast and "single of the week" sponsorships as well as advertising plug-ins that run over the course of several months.

Sources said the idea seems to have a lot of traction judging by initial conversations with Madison Avenue.

While these sources declined to provide revenue projections for the venture, they did say that they were "confident that the Web site will generate significant revenue early on."

The venture, which is being funded entirely by Downtown Records and Rojas, is so nascent that it has yet to negotiate contracts for artists to participate.

In employing a business model similar to broadcast television, RCRD LBL is trying to counter the continuing decline in physical music sales by capitalizing on the swelling flow of advertising dollars online as well as the enormous traffic on peer-to-peer Web sites.

With more than 5 billion songs swapped on file-sharing Web sites last year, finding a way to generate legal income from the trading of music has been the holy grail re cord labels have been in pursuit of for years.

"We live in a world in which kids are sharing music, so peer-to-peer Web sites aren't going away anytime soon," said one source. "But with this model you can use your copyright to monetize the traffic on these Web sites by generating advertising revenue."

Bon Jovi Bundles iTunes Album with Ticketmaster Sales

In what's being billed as a first, Bon Jovi is bundling a digital iTunes copy of the band's upcoming album, Lost Highway, with advance tickets for October concerts in Newark, N.J.

The stand, which begins October 25 and may be expanded beyond the initial five shows, will open the new Prudential Center in Newark.

The online presale program will be available exclusively to American Express cardholders beginning June 12 through June 14, and to the general public from June 15 through June 22. Tickets without the digital-album download will then be available for purchase by the general public beginning June 23.

Fans who purchase the Lost Highway Ticket Package will receive a code from Ticketmaster that enables them to download Lost Highway from iTunes beginning on its June 19 release. The ticket-album package will cost $9.99--the price of the album on iTunes--more than tickets later sold on their own. Album sales in the bundle will count toward the album's Billboard chart position, whose sales source is Nielsen SoundScan.

For those fans who have already preordered Lost Highway from Bon Jovi's Web site or iTunes, Bon Jovi and Ticketmaster have arranged for iTunes to provide a passcode that will enable them to purchase a single presale ticket for $9.99 less without adding the digital album.

The program is similar in concept to previous Ticketmaster initiatives with acts such as Bob Dylan, Maroon 5 and Daddy Yankee. The difference is that the other programs offered albums and tickets in two separate sales via two separate sites.

The Bon Jovi deal is the first "all-in" presale that bundles together a ticket and a digital album as a single transaction sold via Ticketmaster's Web site. In this way, the promotion is more a digital version of Prince's 2005 Musicology tour, which included with the ticket price a physical version of his new album, to be picked up at the venue.

The $375 million, 18,000-capacity Prudential Center will be managed by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and booked by its live entertainment division, AEG Live Events.

Amid the Shirts and Socks, a Concert Can Break Out
Craig R. Whitney

What do you do if you buy a famous downtown department store and find an organ with 28,482 pipes occupying thousands of square feet of perfectly good retail space?

If you’re Macy’s, you let devotees of the instrument put in 61 more pipes and give them thousands more square feet to set up an organ repair shop.

Diapasons, it would seem, are as much music to Macy’s as cash registers, coin counters and customers at its Center City store here, a Philadelphia institution that was originally a Wanamaker’s. So the company let the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, a private group of aficionados who have been helping to maintain the instrument for years, install another stop and set up a repair shop after Macy’s took over the store.

“Every lunchtime, people hear the organ and feel good — and people are in a mind to shop when they’re feeling good,” explained James Kenny, the store manager. “It’s the ultimate feel-good experience.”

The organ, the world’s largest operating musical instrument, has never sounded better, according to the store’s staff organist, Peter Richard Conte, who has been here 20 years and fills the place with warm waves of sound at noon and in the evening, daily except Sunday.

“In 1995 it was down to about 20 percent of the pipes being playable, maybe,” and only two keyboards working instead of six, Mr. Conte said. “Now it sounds loved again.”

With money from private donors and more than $100,000 from Macy’s this year, the staff curator, L. Curt Mangel III, with his assistant, the Friends and numerous organ groupies, now have 95 percent of the organ playing again. Next year they expect to have it all up and running for the first time in decades.

Today Mr. Conte and the Friends have the run of the store for the annual Wanamaker Organ Day, and Mr. Conte will play something new: his own transcription of Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations (Op. 36), at 11:30 a.m. Shoppers are welcome.

He has been working feverishly on the Elgar for weeks, with all-night practice sessions, alone in the store except for a guard. “It’s probably the most difficult piece I’ve ever done,” he said before trying out several movements at a Wednesday evening concert, his fingers slinking from keyboard to keyboard and darting restlessly over the 729 stop-control tablets as phrase seamlessly followed phrase and crescendo climaxed and faded into descrescendo.

The Elgar sounds impressively orchestral on this organ, with its 462 sets of pipes, including stops named for orchestral violins, cellos, flutes, orchestral oboes, clarinets, French horns, tubas and trombones. It has just about everything else imaginable — chimes and even a kitchen sink (for the curators to wash their hands) — in a forest of pipes ranging from 32 feet to less than an inch long, spread over both ends and multiple rooms and floors off the store’s Grand Court.

Next year a long, muffled section of 2,000 more pipes, now being cleaned and restored, will rejoin the rest in a more audible spot, and Mr. Conte expects to luxuriate in its liberated sounds, including three more French horn stops made by the Kimball Organ Company of Chicago.

“I love the sound of French horns and I will probably use them a lot,” he said.

The instrument started life at the St. Louis International Exposition of 1904, when the Los Angeles Art Organ Company built it along orchestral lines, rather than according to the baroque organ ideal, as Bach and Buxtehude knew it.

It was a smash hit at the fair, but bankrupted the company. Then it languished in storage until 1909, when John Wanamaker bought it for the Philadelphia store that he was planning to open two years later.

His son, Lewis Rodman Wanamaker, saw the vast, 149-foot-high Grand Court center space in the building Daniel Hudson Burnham had designed for them as the ideal place for “the finest organ in the world,” and 40,000 people and President William Howard Taft came to the dedication ceremonies on Dec. 30, 1911.

Until his death in 1928, Lewis Rodman Wanamaker oversaw successive expansions of the organ in the store’s own organ shop on the building’s roof. The changes were so extensive that the instrument’s “string” section finally had more pipes than most large organs do altogether.

Famous organists flocked to play it over the years, and both Marcel Dupré and Virgil Fox developed signature pieces on the organ, but when Lewis Rodman Wanamaker died, the organ’s importance faded. Wanamaker’s itself was sold to Woodward & Lothrop in 1986; then it became a Hecht’s; and in 1997 a Lord & Taylor store. Macy’s took it over last year.

Each of the owners recognized the unique historical value of the organ, and Lord & Taylor hired Mr. Mangel as curator in 2002. The difference now, as Mr. Conte sees things, is that “Macy’s gets it — it understands how to use this instrument and market it to the public.”

Martine Reardon, the Macy’s national headquarters executive overseeing holiday events, including now the annual Christmas organ and light show in the Philadelphia store, said, “The Wanamaker Organ’s legacy is as legendary as the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Fourth of July fireworks.”

Next year, Macy’s 150th anniversary, the store hopes to get the Philadelphia Orchestra to come and play Joseph Jongen’s “Symphonie Concertante,” a work for organ and orchestra commissioned by Wanamaker’s in 1928 but never performed at the store.

And the Friends, with a $150,000 donation from the Phoebe Haas Charitable Trust, have set up a spacious repair and organ-building training center on an unused floor of the store. Early this year the additional 61 new pipes, a rank of singing vox humana stops, joined nine others in a chamber rebuilt especially for them and brought the total to 28,543. To many their vibrato tones call to mind a choir of angels.

Mr. Conte patted the huge console that controls the pipes and said, nodding at Mr. Mangel, “Baby hasn’t been given such care and tending since John Wanamaker.” But he still hopes Baby will throw no tantrums at today’s performance.

T. Bone Walker Blues Fest Offers Some of the Best of Blues
Anthony Davis

Wes Jeans, Dan Sanchez and the Kings of Pleasure, Betty Lewis and the Executives, Diddley Squat, Buddy Flett and the Bluebirds are the first scratches on the rough surface of sounds setting the tone and flavor of the 2nd Annual T-Bone Walker Blues Fest set for June 15-16 at Music City Texas. The Linden, Texas, piney-hills hideout for stars burning bright and some just now twinkling will be aglow with two days and nights of nearly-constant entertainment by about two dozen proven blues musicians. Jeans has evolved from the teen gunslinger guitarist with national credentials earned before most kids are dating by getting his hands on the International Jimi Hendrix Guitar Competition in 1996. That honor, handed over by Hendrix’s father, Al, was accepted by a youngster who had picked up a guitar only nine months previous to the contest. He continues to be a dogged performer in venues across the South with his truly “electric” string-stretching command of his instrument, a natural.

Sanchez and the Kings are individually accomplished musicians who have found a blues groove with smatterings of jazz, swing and rock sensibilities. Sanchez plays a stylized and technically pure guitar, revealing evidence of his Left Coast musical education at the Los Angeles equivalent of Julliard. The Kings of Pleasure support Sanchez’s approach with a jive-tight rhythm section and a brilliant keyboardist. The band was hailed by the International Blues Festival in Memphis, Tenn. as best newcomers on the block last year. Another regional band with a big following and a first-class stage act is Diddley Squat. These guys look and sound the part of funky old blues cats trapped in a time warp, but they generally leave an audience wanting more.

Not much more can be said of the Bluebirds and slide blues guitarist Buddy Flett that hasn’t appeared in recent news. Buddy has a just-released solo CD, “Mississippi Sea” and it’s being enjoyed worldwide if initial airplay and sales are an indication. When your music is on the radio in New Zealand and Europe, you’re pleasing a lot of listeners. The bands and singers performing at this year’s T-Bone Walker Blues Fest are literally too many to detail the accomplishments of each, and this is just a sample of the regional talent—Bugs Henderson and the Shuffle Kings, T. Graham Band, Kesler Brothers, Gary “Whitey Johnson” Nicholson and more. And it’s safe bet you won’t be disappointed by any of them.

Festival-goers can expect a total experience of the jam, as each performer will take a turn at the Music City Texas Theater stage indoors and the Legion Field stage outside. Ticket-holders may venture in and out at will, but the opposite is not the case for the Woodstock types. Tickets for outdoor events are $20 per day. Theater seats are $50 per day or $90 for both days. For reservations and information call 903-756-9934.
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Controversy Dogs 40th Anniversary of Monterey Pop
Adam Tanner

Some bands that played Monterey Pop 40 years ago will return in July to the site of the first great rock festival, but the original promoter and others say the spirit of the Summer of Love is a long time gone.

The event at the County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California south of San Francisco, on June 16-18, 1967, helped boost the careers of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who and others and showcased 1960s counterculture to the world.

This year promoter Andrew Hernandez, who was 11 in 1967, is organizing a "Monterey Summer of Love Festival" on July 28 and 29, to include some of the original acts such as Jefferson Starship, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company and tribute bands filling in for Hendrix and others.

"I wasn't old enough to be a hippie and by the time I was, disco had kicked in and it was a big letdown," Hernandez said. This year "it's going to be magical because that arena in Monterey was the same as it was 40 years ago."

His reunion plan has ruffled some feathers.

"If he pulls it off and there is any resemblance to the International Pop Festival that we did, I think it's bad," said Lou Adler, who co-produced the original 1967 festival. "I don't think it will come close to what the Monterey Pop Festival was."

"He's doing it because he is wanting to make money."

Sam Andrew, guitarist for Big Brother and the Holding Company, which played Monterey in 1967 with Joplin, is slated to play the reunion concert. He said even in the fabled "Summer of Love" planning was not conflict-free.

"These bands from San Francisco all felt that they were going to be taken advantage of and they were," he said in an interview. "They all thought these really slick guys from Los Angeles, Lou Adler and Alan Pariser, there was this definite hustler vibe."

"LA came up to San Francisco and said ... 'hey, we'll show them how. We're going to hire them for nothing and have them come down to Monterey.'"

Shy About Filming

The now legendary bands did play for free -- with the exception of sitarist Ravi Shankar, who received $3,000 -- because the promoters made the event a fund-raiser.

Michelle Phillips, who closed the 1967 festival with The Mamas & The Papas, a band well known at the time for hits such as "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday," defended the original producers and won't be taking part in the revival.

"If there was some mistrust about the slick producers from LA, well, the slick producers from LA did an awful lot for the bands that decided to come to Monterey," said Phillips, the band's last surviving original member, whose then husband John co-produced the event. "They all got great exposure, they had a great time, they ate well."

Suspicion about exploitation prompted a number of bands to refuse to be in the movie about the concert. Joplin and Big Brother realized that was a mistake after playing earlier in the festival, so they added a second performance for the film that helped rocket their reputation.

"We were known in San Francisco only -- barely known in Los Angeles," Andrew said in an interview.

The band that opened the show, Moby Grape, declined to be in the movie, and never achieved the fame of some of those seen on the big screen. Band guitarist Peter Lewis said he would not participate in the July concert even if his bandmates do.

"The specter of it after being at the original Monterey Pop thing was kind of weighty," he said, saying he was put off by the idea of it being "whoever was left alive while the spirits of our dead comrades would be hovering over the stage like a black cloud."

"When you're 21 and you're good looking, that's where rock and roll is at," said Lewis, 61. "If you are out there bouncing around with the excess weight, it doesn't look the same as when you were 21."

The passage of time is on the minds of others too.

"It's kind of bittersweet. You know we're all like 65 now. It's all these people that say, 'Oh, you're still alive,'" said Andrew, who will be playing with a younger stand-in for the long-dead Janis Joplin.

He said the reunion concert is mostly about money.

"Probably the crass commercial part is maybe 80 percent," he said. "But we all need a job so we are glad to go and play the gig. But when we get there that 20 percent is genuine feeling about seeing everybody and this is great."

Paul McCartney is a Man on the Run

He has a new album, a new record label, new living arrangements and even a new plan about putting the Beatles' music catalog online this year.
By Kim Murphy

HE noticed it when his cellphone, stuffed with too many text messages, voicemails and phone numbers, started flashing at him: "Memory almost full." It was remarkably like his own brain, weighted down with half-written songs, daughter Bea's schedule, the lyrics to old Beatles B-sides, the blurring faces of long-buried loves and friends.

Delete? Re-record? Which parts go, and which — the carpets of bluebells outside Liverpool in spring, sitting on twin beds in a hotel room with John Lennon writing "She Loves You" — stay locked in the hard drive of time?

"Your memory is always almost full these days. There's so much going on, so I thought it was a poetic way to sum up modern life. Just overload, information overload," Paul McCartney says of his 21st solo album, "Memory Almost Full," which explores the persistence of memory, preparing for the settling of scores and a life too full to hold it all.

"It's been pointed out to me that since the album is heavy on retrospective stuff, there's a sort of finality about it. 'Memory almost full,' any second now it will be full, and, 'Goodbye cruel world.' It's not what I meant about it at all, but I can see that meaning, and I like, you know, people to have different interpretations. "Abbey Road" to us was a crossing outside the studio. I'm sure to some people, it meant Monastery Lane, and we liked that sort of quasi-religious feel of it too."

The album (out Tuesday) marks the 64-year-old McCartney's plunge into another kind of digital age. Ending his relationship with Capitol Records/EMI that began in 1962, McCartney has hooked up with Starbucks' new Hear Music Label and unlocks the new album (along with the rest of his solo catalog) for online downloads. McCartney also says the Beatles catalog is on deck for online release near the end of the year, although EMI has not announced a date.

The video for "Dance Tonight," the party-tune, mandolin-laced foot-tapper that opens the record, made its world premiere on YouTube, in a bid to charm a third generation with the kind of winsome songs their grandmother should know.

"I was bored with the old record company's jaded view," McCartney says, plopped on a sofa in the large, comfortable farmhouse that doubles as a rehearsal studio here in the rolling, tree-studded hills of rural East Sussex. Outside, there is an old windmill, and in the near distance, the hazy blue carpet of the English Channel.

"They're very confused, and they will admit it themselves: that this is a new world, and they're a little bit at a loss as to what to do. So they've got millions of dollars and X budget … for them to come up with boring ways — because they've been at it for so long — to what they call 'market' it. And I find that all a bit disturbing.

"I write it, I play it, I record it, and that's all fun. And you go to the record company, and it gets very boring. You sit around in rooms with people, and you're almost falling asleep" — he rolls his head down midchest —"and they're almost falling asleep.

"My record producer [David Kahne] said the major record labels these days are like dinosaurs sitting around discussing the asteroid. They know it's going to hit. They don't know when, they don't know where it's coming from. But it's sort of hit already. With iTunes, and all of that."

McCartney heard that Starbucks' content development guy, Alan Mintz, loved his music; better, he was a bass player. They arranged to meet in New York, along with Howard Schultz, the chief executive who turned Starbucks from a high-fallutin' bean roaster in Seattle into a multibillion-dollar global purveyor of expensive coffee drinks and cool ambience.

The vision from Starbucks and its Concord Music Group partner in Hear Music: Roll out "Memory Almost Full" across time zones on the in-store music systems at more than 10,000 coffeehouses in 29 countries (copies available as you pay for your latte, and at dinosaur record stores too, of course). That means an estimated 6 million people get a listen on the first day.

"We felt we were in a unique position to really transform the way music is discovered and delivered to the music consumer," said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment in Los Angeles.

"When we heard the album, we just knew it was really a landmark in a number of ways. Musically, it's the most personal and revealing album that Paul's created in his solo career. Thematically, many of the songs are a reflection of his life, his career, his jobs and the tragedies, a reflection of the remarkable journey his life has been."

McCartney had the same reaction to Apple founder Steve Jobs — with whose company Apple records was locked in trademark litigation for years — as he had to Schultz. "He too is very cool, very passionate, they really care about working with your music.

"I just thought, right, I'm going to put a package together on that side of things that will keep me and my producer excited. And that's what we've done. So we're working with websites, Internet things, young kids. Just people who are hungry. People who come up with ideas rather than people who've been at it too long and are frightened for their jobs."

Contrary to British media reports, he said, longtime Apple Corps chief Neil Aspinall's departure in April had nothing to do with clearing the way to the online music market.

"He wanted to retire. Simple as that. I've known Neil longer than I've known anyone in the music business, including all the Beatles. Neil was at school with me when we were 11, he was in my class. But he just wanted to retire. He's 65. So he did. So we have a new guy now [Jeff Jones], he's very good. Nobody considers he's going to replace Neil, you know, emotionally, because we grew up with Neil…. But there are new sorts of things, new openings, the online thing is a huge opening, and so it's a new chapter now."

McCartney and the band are rehearsing for an upcoming trio of "surprise" live gigs in the U.K., New York and Los Angeles, and there is a definite bachelor air around the place, now that wife Heather has split in the messiest divorce to hit the London tabloids since Chelsea soccer team owner Roman Abramovich dumped his wife for leggy young "Dasha" Zhukova.

The band is playing with enough volume these days that they're annoying daughter Bea, a frequent visitor. "We play a bit loud, just because we can," McCartney says with a sly smile. "We're allowed to, there's no grown-ups around. We're allowed to turn our amps up, you see?"

The off-limits topic

WHAT he won't talk about are Heather Mills McCartney's allegations about what went on during their four-year marriage: that McCartney slashed her arm with a broken wine glass, ordered her not to breastfeed Beatrice because "I don't want a mouthful of breast milk," and refused to let her keep a chamber pot in the bedroom, forcing her, because she is missing a leg, to crawl to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

"I don't like to talk about it, because we're still in the middle of a divorce," he says. "A somewhat public divorce. And you know we have a 3 1/2 year-old daughter. So I'm trying to make every effort to say as little as possible about it. I'm moving through it, hopefully with some kind of dignity."

It's hard not to find a hint of Heather and the apparent pride McCartney once must have felt in his determined and ambitious young wife in "See Your Sunshine" from the new album: "Step out in front of me baby / They want you in the front line / They want to see your sunshine."

But many of the songs were written even before 2005's Grammy-nominated "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard," and the memory files they plumb go deep into a boy's lush and lovely summers (on the exquisite "Tell Me"), McCartney's days as a Boy Scout, beaning his friends on the head with chestnuts. Then, less-ancient files: the Beatles "sweating cobwebs" and playing the Cavern Club in Liverpool. In a final, five-song suite similar in form to the "Abbey Road" medley but progressing through the milestones of a life, McCartney reaches the surreal and unsettling "House of Wax," where "poets spill out on the street / To set alight the incomplete / Remainders of the future."

And there is the "End of the End" — a swan song so McCartney in its essential optimism: "It's the start of a journey to a much better place / And a much better place would have to be special," he reassures. "No reason to cry."

He has buried Linda McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison. By now, he is surely accustomed to partings. Yet he seems to remember, like the bluebell forests of England (that once formed the backdrop to a frolic in "Help"), the tender times, the days when it was easy to bend over a guitar with Lennon on the other rumpled bed and work magic on cue.

"We were writing 'She Loves You' because we'd been told by our manager that we needed a single. And we were just, 'OK.' It was great. We just responded well to direction. They'd say, 'You're going into studio next week, so you'll need to write the album.' And we'd go, 'OK.' Ha! Never once do I remember us going, 'A whole album in a week?' Which, you know, we should've thought.

"But we go, 'Yeah, great, OK.' We were just so innocent and enthusiastic. So yeah, that's what we did all the time. We wrote just under 300 songs, and that was done in about 300 sessions. We never had a dry session."

How could that be?

"Because we were bloody brilliant. Pure genius, that's all. 'We were very good,' he said modestly,' " and he smiles for his failure to conjure up the requisite humility. "The good thing is, now you can say that. People used to say, 'Don't you think you're a bit conceited?' And I'd say, 'I know what you mean, you could say it's conceited, but I really do know we're good. I can feel it every time we write a song.' Because John and I were very good collaborators. We really helped each other massively and admired each other greatly."

He thinks for a moment. "It was a joy," he says.

He trips into the rustic farm kitchen, where the band is swallowing whole a spread of mozzarella sandwiches and samosas before heading back to the studio. He cuts a few roses from the garden and rummages for a glass to put them in water, singing the trippy chorus of "The things I think I did / I di-i-di-i did" from "Ever Present Past" under his breath.

Almost time for the imperious and charming Bea to show up. Time to play "very, very, very quietly," he says.

Paul McCartney Plays a ‘Secret’ Show
Ben Ratliff

“I love you, Paul,” someone shouted, halfway through Paul McCartney’s “secret” set at the Highline Ballroom on Wednesday night. Well, more than one: A lot of people were shouting that. They couldn’t help themselves. He was right in front of them.

“I love you, too,” Mr. McCartney answered, but almost as a defensive block: he put on a Tony Soprano accent, and he kept a straight face. “It’s the beauty of these intimate shows, you know,” he followed, dryly. “You get to have intimate conversations with the audience. ‘How ya doin’?’ ‘You’re the man!’ ‘Naw, you’re the man!’ “

Cheery, but essentially trying to get his work done, Mr. McCartney struck a formal facsimile of intimacy: 90 minutes on stage in a 700-capacity room full of reporters, assorted V.I.P.s, contest winners and stand-in-line-for-a-long-timers who heard about the show only a day or two before.

The gig was a promotion for his new album, “Memory Almost Full” (Hear Music), and he put on the same show at the Electric Ballroom, a slightly larger club in London, last week. (He has not announced plans for a proper tour.)

It’s not unusual these days for big acts to play a promotional show at a club they’ve outgrown. The same night in New York, Franz Ferdinand played a “secret” gig at the Bowery Ballroom, and likewise with Interpol last week.

For Mr. McCartney, however, who can sell out stadiums at hundreds of dollars a ticket, this was unusual. He used no pyrotechnics or video backdrop, and the audience stood close enough to its hero that it could hold non-conversations with him. He played beautifully, in tight control of his voice (even in high range) and his musicianship, through a clutch of new songs and some of the oldest Beatles repertory.

But much of what was special about hearing someone like Mr. McCartney in a place like this was counteracted by the glibness of his touring band, almost the same crew that backed him on his stadium tour last year. These musicians—two guitarists, a keyboards and drums — were accurate, reliable, in the pocket and kind of flavorless.

Mr. McCartney is a fascinating alloy of raw and slick, eccentricity and efficiency. When you hear the tracks on “Memory Almost Full” in which he plays all the instruments — his drumming one step ahead of primitive, his bass lines so melodically inventive they’re almost evil — you wish he could just multiply himself for performances.

When the band replicated old parts, touching on the tiniest details of Beatles songs like “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Lady Madonna,” and “Hey Jude,” the show felt something like an homage to composition and production, rather than the great thing that performances can be: two-way rituals between band and audience.

But something about the joy and simplicity of the new songs made the set more special. There were five of them, including “Dance Tonight,” a naively sweet call for fun, with Mr. McCartney’s mandolin-strumming as the through-line; “Nod Your Head,” a slow, chugging rock song; and “That Was Me,” full of spry astonishment at looking back on a strange and notable life. (It went over big in the V.I.P. section, where people may be prone to similar thoughts.)

The onlooker’s stupid reflex, after decades of Beatlesology and Paul-versus-John studies, is to scrutinize Mr. McCartney for honesty, whatever that is. But all he had to do was play a few songs alone with guitar—”Blackbird” and “I’ll Follow the Sun”— and he seemed as guileless as the next guy. Later, alone at the piano, he sang “Here Today,” an elegiac song he wrote after John Lennon’s death, and dedicated it to “our fallen heroes: John, George and Linda.”

When he finished, he stopped the flow of his own efficiency, and thought out loud. “It’s good to play that song in the town John loved,” he said. “And where Linda was born in. And where we played the Ed Sullivan show.”

Beatles Online Deal Seen for 2008: Harrison Widow
Dean Goodman

Beatles fans will probably have to wait until next year before they can buy the Fab Four's tunes from online retailers such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes store, George Harrison's widow said on Friday.

A recent settlement to a lengthy trademark dispute between Apple and the Beatles' company, Apple Corps Ltd., has cleared the way for the band to distribute its catalog in cyberspace.

But Olivia Harrison told Reuters, "We just have a few things to work out elsewhere."

Specifically, all the Beatles CDs have been remastered -- good news for fans who have long complained about the poor sound quality -- and the organization wants to get the artwork ready for the physical packages.

Asked if the catalog would be available online by the end of next year, she said, "Oh God, yeah. Hope so ... I don't know if it would be the end of this year, but it would be nice. Imminent, let's put it that way."

Paul McCartney, who has adopted an aggressive digital marketing strategy for the release next week of his solo album, "Memory Almost Full," told trade publication Billboard last month that an online deal for the Beatles catalog was "virtually settled." But he, too, shied away from saying that anything would happen in the short term.

The Beatles are the highest-profile omission from digital retailers. While the dispute with Apple did not help, the band's organization has traditionally adopted a conservative approach to new technology, including CDs.

"I think we're a little bit behind," Harrison said, noting that it was "ridiculous" that properly remastered CDs of the band's catalog were not yet available.

"We (the band's members and widows) all agree. It's been done. It's just trying to now get it out there."

She said that Neil Aspinall, the recently retired businessman who oversaw the group's complex business affairs, had been busy in recent years on the remastering project.

"That's a big job. That means you have to go back through all the archives and find great photographs and really give a nice package to the fans."

Aspinall retired in April and was replaced by Jeff Jones, an American music industry executive who specializes in deluxe reissues of classic albums. Harrison said Aspinall's departure was voluntary, dispelling fan speculation to the contrary.

But she said Jones would "pick up the pace" now that the most recent project, a Beatle-inspired Cirque du Soleil stage show in Las Vegas, was underway after years of preparation initiated by her husband before he died in 2001.

Bill Pushed by Pacino, Ono, Others Would Protect Dead Celebs

The names and faces of famous New Yorkers including Mickey Mantle, Judy Garland and Malcolm X would be protected from advertising and promotion not authorized by their estates under a measure pushed by Al Pacino and Yoko Ono.

New York law already protects the unauthorized use of celebrities’ faces and names while they are alive, but there is no safeguard after they die despite a high concentration of entertainment, political and sports legends in and around New York City. The group said New York is among the last states to try to protect the famous dead from exploitation.

"I feel like one’s likeness and image should be protected in some way and not abused or denigrated for the sake of profit," Pacino wrote to legislators after the estate of Lee Strasberg started talking to him.

The effort follows a May U.S. District Court decision in New York City in which Marilyn Monroe’s estate lost it fight over unauthorized images of the actress on T-shirts.

The federal court ruled a 1994 law in Indiana, where the T-shirt retail company was based, did not protect Marilyn Monroe’s identity after her death. The Marilyn Monroe LLC, which brought the suit, is headed by Anna Strasberg, the wife of Monroe’s producer, Lee Strasberg, who received the bulk of the starlet’s estate. He died in 1982.

Other testimonials in support of the bill announced Monday came from other famous New Yorkers including Ono, on behalf of herself and her deceased husband, the ex-Beatle John Lennon; the estate of musician Jimi Hendrix; and relatives of baseball greats Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig and Mantle.

"This is not an abstract or theoretical problem," wrote Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, widow of tennis great and activist Arthur Ashe, citing several court challenges by estates dismissed in court. "Let me emphatically state that this statute is meant to in no way affect the inherent and explicit rights of others to make unauthorized biographies, art pieces and myriad other works protected by the First Amendment.

"I do, however, support the New York state Legislature enacting this statute ensuring that a celebrity’s unique character, persona and brand be protected from commercial exploitation," she wrote.

The bill has the support of veteran lawmakers in the Republican-led Senate and in the Assembly’s Democratic majority.

Singer Chaka Khan Embraces Funk, not GOP
James B. Kelleher

Pop diva Chaka Khan doesn't have a lot of regrets -- and little wonder with eight Grammy Awards on her mantle.

The 54-year-old singer, who has a wide-ranging catalog of recordings to her credit, including her smash hit "I'm Every Woman," is releasing a new album this fall with the tentative title "I-Khan Funk."

But when the Chicago native spoke to Reuters recently she acknowledged she does regret her appearance at the 2000 Republican convention, where she sang what was described as "a rousing finale" after George Bush captured the party's presidential nomination:

Q: Your catalog is fairly broad -- funk, R&B, jazz, soft soul -- but your new album is tentatively called "Funk." Does that say it all?

A: "It says it all. It's a funky album. But it's also eclectic. I covered, for instance, a Joni Mitchell. I funked up 'Ladies' Man.'... We did an equal amount of covers and an equal amount of original material. And I did some obscure songs like 'Foolish Fool,' which was done by Dee Dee Warwick in 1960 something. That was a song I sort of had to get out of my system. But it's a great song."

Q: Your last Grammy was in 2003, when you won with The Funk Brothers for "What's Going On?" Now I don't want to jinx you anything, but what's feeling around "I-Khan Funk?"

A: "You can't jinx me. A Grammy doesn't define me. It's nice to get a Grammy. It's beautiful to be appreciated by anybody. I'm honored. But that's not what I do what I do. For a Grammy."

Q: But has it got it?

A: "It's got amazing Grammy potential and American Music Award potential. It's got amazing potential. If done properly. It's got to get out there. People have got to hear it."

Q: Technology has transformed the business of selling records. You must have seen these changes?

A: "Yes, I have. (Over) 30 years. And I'm telling you it's the end of the big label, the end of the big pimp, you know, I'm so happy to see that."

Q: You feel empowered?

A: "Oh yeah. They had us tied up like cattle. It wasn't pretty. Look at Elvis Presley even. He had a lifetime contract. That's unheard of in the business world outside of music. It just wouldn't fly."

Q: Let's get political briefly. In 2000, you sang at the Republican National Convention.

A: "I'm trying to forget that."

Q: That was my question. In the intervening years, a lot of people have become disillusioned with the president the candidate and ultimately the president that emerged.

A: "Does that answer your question? I did it for my foundation for autism education. I did it to bring some attention to that."

Q: Did it at least do that?

A: "Possibly. It might have done more damage than good, for me anyway, for my spirit."

Chartz n Grafs

7 Nights of Bright Eyes (in as Many Colors)

BY nature rock bloggers are an obsessive bunch, but few take their fixations as far as the artist Andrew Kuo. On the blog earlboykins.blogspot.com Mr. Kuo meticulously dissects indie rock and hip-hop records and shows and then transforms the data into complicated, brightly colored charts and diagrams. The joke is, the more banal the information or sweeping the generalization, the more complex the graphics. “It’s a comment on fans’ short attention spans,” he said. “You think you can glance at a pie chart and decide whether or not to buy a record, but then you’re forced to work to figure it out.”

Mr. Kuo, 29, is a fan of the sensitive, folkie singer-songwriter Bright Eyes, a k a Conor Oberst, at left. To test his devotion, The New York Times sent him (alone!) to see all seven recent Bright Eyes shows at Town Hall in Manhattan, where Mr. Oberst performed with a mini-orchestra. There was plenty of spectacle to digest, from an elaborate video backdrop to two drummers to the band’s white outfits to a surprise special guest every night (Lou Reed, Norah Jones, etc).

Not only did Mr. Kuo pass the endurance test, he said he also came to look forward to each night as a “strange, romantic ritual.” A few days later he was spinning Bright Eyes songs at an East Village bar. “I’m listening to Bright Eyes more than ever now,” he confessed. “I know it’s crazy.”

Digital Music Will Renew Global Market Growth
David H. Deans

The following blog post is from an independent writer and is not connected with Reuters News. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not endorsed by Reuters.com.

Following six years of decline from a high of $39.7 billion in 2000 to just $32.1 billion in 2006, the value of the global music market is set to reverse and grow again -- back to $38.8 by 2011, according to a new market study by Portio Research.

In 2006 the major mobile handset manufacturers (Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, LG and others) have been shipping MP3 enabled handsets in some volumes. At the same time, many mobile network operators (MNOs) have started to distribute MP3 enabled phones and launch OTA (over-the-air) music download services (Vodafone, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Cingular, DoCoMo, SKT, O2, Orange and many more) thus creating a new digital consumption market.

Worldwide, the mobile services market dwarfs the music industry in revenue terms, and Portio believes that the music companies need to be taking a very, very serious look at mobile operators as they may possibly become one of the future's biggest channels to market.

In the portable digital music device market, Apple has continued to produce new models of its highly successful iPod, and while the iPod leads the market, alternative MP3 players have continued to proliferate world wide.

In November 2006, Microsoft launched its rival digital music player -- the Zune. Sales so far have not been outstanding, but this signifies a major move by a very major player, and this has brought further interest to the digital music player market. Portio expects to see in excess of 1 billion mobile handsets shipped worldwide in 2007, and almost half of these will be MP3-enabled.

With so many devices shipping out to consumers the MP3 player market will soon be totally dominated by the mobile handset vendors. On the Internet, the growth of social networking sites has been astronomical, and two of the most interesting new sites where new artists could promote their songs and videos were bought by global brands.

Analysts could not initially understand why News Corporation bought MySpace for $560m in 2005. However, this looked positively cheap compared to the $1.65bn that Google paid for YouTube in October 2006. Almost every major development in the global music industry in recent years has been with digital music.

As huge brand names -- music companies, consumer electronics manufacturers, mobile network operators, mobile handset vendors and of course all manner of advertisers -- meet and compete in this growing market, these players are positioned to build themselves presence in the digital music market over the next five years.

No doubt there will be winners and losers in this battle, but Portio says that the overall effect of the interest of so many major global corporations will be renewed market growth.

Warner Shareholders Opposed To Upping Bid For EMI

Shareholders in Warner Music Group (WMG) are opposed to chief executive Edgar Bronfman's plans to make a renewed offer for the EMI Music Group, according to the U.K.'s Sunday Times. Investors Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee are reportedly unwilling to back WMG in making a higher bid than the £3.7 billion deal that is already on the table from private equity group Terra Firma. However, WMG confirmed today in a statement that it continues to consider an offer for EMI Group.

"Such an offer would be pre-conditional on appropriate anti-trust clearances being obtained (or the pre-conditions waived) but not subject to any other pre-condition," reads the statement. "A further announcement will be made in due course. This announcement does not amount to a firm intention to make an offer or pre-conditional offer and accordingly there can be no certainty that any offer or pre-conditional offer will be made."

Terra Firma had previously offered EMI £2.4 billion, but then upped its bid to £3.7 billion in the face of competition from other potential buyers - a move that was seen by some as an aggressive stance to scare off other bidders such as WMG and other private equity firms.

The Sunday Times says that Bain and Thomas H. Lee believe that Warner will need to offer more than 300 pence a share to persuade EMI shareholders to move away from the deal with Terra Firma, especially since a sale to another music company would bring on tons of regulatory scrutiny form European anti-trust officials.

Previously, on May 31, Terra Firma set a June deadline for any counter-bids for EMI.

Viacom to Sell Famous Music to Sony/ATV
Yinka Adegoke

Viacom Inc. said on Wednesday it will sell its Famous Music publishing unit to Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the song-music catalog co-owned by pop star Michael Jackson.

The deal is estimated to be worth $370 million in cash, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Famous Music's catalog of more than 125,000 songs and sound cues includes music by Eminem and Shakira as well as movie soundtracks from "The Godfather" and "Mission: Impossible." Famous was founded as a unit to publish songs from movies.

The deal is the first major move by recently appointed Sony/ATV Chief Executive Martin Bandier, the former head of EMI Music Publishing, who left EMI earlier this year.

As part of the deal, Sony/ATV will be entering the production music business through the Famous Extreme division.

Sony/ATV is jointly owned by Sony Corp. and Jackson. Its catalog includes songs by The Beatles, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, making it the fourth-largest music publisher.

Bandier, who oversaw the growth of EMI Music Publishing from No. 4 publisher to the largest when he left, said he was appointed to expand the business through a mix of acquisitions and the addition of songwriters.

"We're in the hunt for great artists and people to build the team," said Bandier in an interview with Reuters.

"This deal announces that we're in the game. Our strategy is to become one of the more meaningful players in the publishing business," he added.

Sony/ATV bought the Leiber Stoller songs catalog last month in a deal industry experts valued at around $50 million. The songs, by iconic songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, include "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," Stand By Me" and Love Potion #9."

Music publishing has become one of the more coveted segments of the music industry as recorded music has been severely hit by piracy. It has been affected by the relatively slow transition of consumers to buying digital songs to make up for the downturn in sales of CDs.

Publishing is less vulnerable to the vagaries of music retailing as it generates revenue by licensing songs to a variety of sources, including television, advertising, radio and live performances.

Earlier this month, French media giant Vivendi SA's Universal Music Publishing Group unit became the world's largest music publisher after it bought BMG Music Publishing in a $2.19 billion deal.

Other music companies have also said they intend to expand their publishing catalog, including Warner Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Boy-Band Mogul's Memorabilia Auctioned
Travis Reed

Platinum and gold records, autographed posters and even a key to the city all went "Bye Bye Bye" at an auction as creditors liquidated the assets of boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman.

Hundreds of bidders packed a downtown building Tuesday for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy sale. The auction was populated mostly by middle-aged men, not the screaming young girls who drove Pearlman's bands to multi-platinum success.

Pearlman's assets included memorabilia from the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, the two boy bands he created in the '90s that made him famous, and several of his lesser-known acts.

Pearlman allegedly defrauded about 1,000 investors of more than $315 million by selling for years a bogus savings account plan, then using their money to cover his losses in other businesses. Banks are hounding him and his companies for more than $120 million, according to court documents.

He also is being investigated by the FBI, IRS and state authorities.

Pearlman's whereabouts are unknown. He hasn't been seen or heard from in months, nor has he responded to multiple subpoenas.

Pearlman doesn't have an attorney in either bankruptcy case against him or his companies.

Everything he left behind was on the block Tuesday, from the ordinary (first aid kits for $12.50 apiece) to the opulent ($18,000 for a five-piece Chihuly glass art series).

Stacey Karatzas, an Orlando jewelry designer, attended for the glass pieces but did not buy them. She was disappointed there was not more big-ticket art.

"It's less than I would have expected," she said.

Dozens of bidders stood elbow-to-elbow in the office where Pearlman used to court aspiring stars. They sweated while an auctioneer shilled.

"Eighty dollars, eighty dollars, gold record," the man said.

A man wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt paid $2,200 for a wall hanging commemorating the Backstreet Boys selling 7 million copies. He declined to be interviewed, but said he was still deciding whether to sell it.

The key to Orlando sold for $1,400 _ a big raise from the $300 bidding start.

Proceeds from the sale were to pay off Pearlman's considerable debt, though authorities are still trying to put the whole picture together.

Pearlman's home in a posh Orlando suburb was also to be sold, and listed for $8.5 million.

Pearlman already lost control of several companies in February, when a judge appointed receiver Jerry McHale to take over the books.

Four banks filed the involuntary federal bankruptcy cases against Pearlman and his Trans Continental companies at the beginning of March.

McHale has discovered few assets and considerable debt, but still doesn't know how deep it goes. McHale told the court Pearlman's former employees trashed and shredded mounds of documents in late 2006 or early 2007, when they believed investigators were closing in.

L.A. Indie Music Retailers Closing Their Doors
Todd Martens

The past few years have been bittersweet for music retail in Los Angeles. The opening of Amoeba Records in 2001 gave the city one of the stronger music outlets in America, but was followed soon by the closings of Aron's Records and Rhino Records.

Yet indie music fans not wanting to brave the Hollywood traffic to hit Amoeba had an outpost near downtown in Sea Level Records, run by Todd Clifford, merchandise man for the rock band Silversun Pickups. The store arrived as the city's Echo Park neighborhood was undergoing a revitalization, and stocked a heavily curated catalog (top sellers this month include Silversun Pickups, adventurous guitar rock act Electrelane and avant-folk duo CocoRosie). Yet come the end of this month, the 32-year-old Clifford will close up shop for good.

And across town in Santa Monica, Philip Smith will shut the doors of his collectors-focused House of Records, which bills itself as the oldest record store in the city. Smith has run the store since 1991, when he purchased it from owner Jane Hill, who opened the retailer in 1952 as a seller of 78s. She soon added 45s, with a portion of the store's sales generated by supplying music to customers of Hill's husband, who owned a jukebox rental company.

Entrepreneur's Burnout

Yet it's neither the advent of downloading -- nor the arrival of an indie superstore in Amoeba -- that Clifford and Smith cite as the reason for their closing. Clifford's store, in fact, is having a better sales year than last year, when sales were up over those of 2005. In reality, both owners are simply exhausted.

"Obviously, if I would have had tons more sales, I would have had employees and not have to be here all the time and wouldn't be burned out," Clifford said. "I wanted to close this a while ago, but I was torn because it should be here. And it should be here, but that doesn't mean I have to do it."

Clifford recently spent two months on the road with Silversun Pickups. He said he expected to come back feeling refreshed. Instead, within 15 minutes of walking back into his store, he "hated being here."

Clifford said that when he opened shop in 2001 he used to love customers. "Now when customers come in, I'm like, 'Just buy it and leave,"' he said. "This isn't a job where I should wake up and say, 'I don't want to go to work."'

Clifford has two friends who want to open a shop in the Sea Level model, but it will likely have to be in a different part of town. He's been told his $2,900-per-month rent will be raised to nearly $5,000 once he vacates the premises. "That's quite a lot of CDs to sell," Clifford said.

Smith, who didn't stock new product -- unless it was in the form of used advance copies -- admitted that sales are down in 2007. On top of that, he started to lack the drive to keep improving the long-beloved store.

"There's a Best Buy down the street, so we couldn't compete in new product," Smith said. "We were used, which is, in general, a strong market. Even when people are buying stuff online and burning, you can come here and buy a CD for $6 to $10. We noticed that sales were trailing off, but we were doing fine. There are just a lot of things working against the small business owner."

Smith's list of those things includes rent, electricity and insurance for employees, as well as his inability to raise CD prices without generating an outcry from consumers. He'll be selling stock at 50 percent off through the month of June at his store and online, and leaving the record retail biz to those who are better at "being a hustler," he said.

"You need to be good at marketing, promotion and PR, and making your store a hangout," he said. "It can't just be a shop. Some of the things might have to be gimmicky, but the business isn't going to walk in the door anymore. It has to be pursued."

CDs are Still Kicking and Screaming
Tony Sachs

Every time I read another article about the death of the compact disc and the end of brick-and-mortar music retail, I start to feel old and crotchety. I mean, what is it with these young record industry whippersnappers? You may have your iThis and iThat and your uploads and downloads, but you've also got a memory about as long as the average dung beetle. It's not like this sort of thing hasn't happened before. For Pete's sake, doesn't anyone around here remember Jack Kapp?

The troubles the record business had back in 1933, when Kapp was working at Brunswick Records, make today's troubles seem like a walk in the park. That year was the low point of an 11-year slide that erased more than 90 percent of the industry's total sales. During that time, radio had emerged as the hot entertainment medium, and the new technology had many convinced that the record as a viable commodity was doomed. After all, who would pay for music when you could hear it for free?

Sound familiar?

The Great Depression made the situation even worse. As a result, the major labels consolidated -- by '33 there were only two still standing. And in the face of declining demand, they steadfastly refused to lower prices.

Sound familiar?

Enter Jack Kapp. A former music retailer and record company A & R man, Kapp was the Ahmet Ertegun of his time, searching the dark corners of the United States to find blues singers, jazz acts, or hillbilly combos to record. In the worst possible climate for the record business, Kapp had the crazy notion to start his own label, Decca Records. He signed up friends from his A & R days -- obscure country and blues acts as well as big stars like Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers -- and sold their records for up to a third less than the major labels were charging, while promoting the bejesus out of them with heavy advertising.

Following Kapp's lead, other labels began to cut their prices, which dovetailed with a slow, fitful improvement in the economy, so more people could afford to buy records. The swing craze also exploded in the middle of the 1930s, which made people excited about buying records again. By 1941, with Decca leading the way, record sales had risen fifteen-fold to a new high.

Sales in 2007 aren't nearly as bad as they were 75 years ago. The economy is in relatively good shape. But there's no equivalent of swing that's galvanizing music lovers and getting them excited about buying music again, and hasn't been for years. CD prices have come down, but too little too late. People are now accustomed to getting their music for free -- whether from copying their friends' CDs or going to illegal file-sharing sites -- so expensive packaging or other innovations will be necessary to keep physical music viable.

But the biggest thing we're missing today is a Jack Kapp-type of visionary: that one person who's got good ideas, the money to implement them, and the guts to risk that money in order to save the industry. Both the pundits in the press and the record label execs are busy asking "What's the point in trying to sell CDs anymore?" when they should be asking "How can we get more people interested in buying CDs again?" Nobody's pretending that the revenue from paid downloads and ringtones will make up for the lost revenue from declining CD sales anytime soon. But rather than trying to save the CD, industry insiders are trying to bury it while it's still kicking and screaming.

Who knows if one maverick could ride into town and fix what the major labels and the RIAA have been screwing up for the last decade? But it's sad that we're not getting the opportunity to find out. While pundits and insiders line up to shed crocodile tears on the grave of the record industry, the ghost of Jack Kapp looms over the proceedings with a knowing smile.

The Bunny In Lala Land

What a difference a year makes.

It was only 12 months ago when record labels viewed used CD-trading company Lala.com as one big infringement machine, with some label execs refusing to even consider doing some kind of business deal with the upstart.

"This is a nudge-nudge, wink-wink way to get around the law," EMI's senior VP of digital development Ted Cohen told the Los Angeles Times in June 2006. "It makes it easier for people to copy CDs and steal music. Why would the music industry do anything to encourage a company like that?"

The Lala concept is simple enough. Users list CDs they already own as well as the discs they would like to acquire while Lala works the back end by hooking up those who have with those who want. For every used disc a member sends to the Lala brethren, a desired CD is sent in return.

So it was no surprise that record labels wanting to sell new CDs were ticked off about a Web site enabling people to trade used CDs. After all, it's hardly a stretch to imagine CDs being traded, ripped and then traded again.

But the recent news that Lala announced an "agreement in principle" with Warner Music Group to sell unprotected music downloads did catch a few people off guard. What's more, this isn't your typical online music store scenario.

First of all, Lala members can have any song covered under the agreement streamed to their computers at no charge. Lala picks up the tab by paying the label a penny for each song streamed.

Then there's the downloading part of the agreement. Instead of selling individual tracks for downloading to computer hard drives, Lala is selling only CDs, dynamically priced mostly between $6.50 and $13.50. Furthermore, those downloads bypass hard drives by loading directly from Lala's servers to iPods.

The philosophy behind direct-to-iPod is that, by cutting out the hard drive middle ground, the DRM-free Lala downloads will not contribute to music piracy. That's because most pirated tracks originate on hard drives and the iPod is supposed to be a one-way street where songs are only transferred to the music player, not from the player to a computer. However, there are plenty of third-party utilities that will transfer iPod files to computers.

But it's not the iPod factor that's picking up media traction. It's the concept that the labels need to give music away in order to boost sales that has everyone talking.

"The music industry is so desperate for new ways to make money that a Silicon Valley startup is trying a counterintuitive approach; giving the music away as a way to jump sales," said the Wall Street Journal, describing Lala's latest feature as a "music subscription service, but without the monthly subscription fee."

However, streaming Warner Music Group tunes and selling direct-to-iPod downloads was only part of Lala's busy week. The company also announced several other features, including online lockers where iTunes users can not only upload their libraries and then access the music from different locations, but also load music to their iPods from those lockers.

"The iPod is the greatest portable music device ever invented, and as avid iPod fans we wanted to create a service that blends the convenience of the Web with the portability and functionality of a truly universal platform," said Lala founder Bill Nguyen. "Lala unleashes the Web's power for playing music and safely sharing songs without the threat of PC viruses, spyware and other risks that are present on illegal P2P sites."

Apple Takes on Microsoft with Windows Web Browser
Scott Hillis

Apple Inc. is introducing a version of its Safari Internet browser for Windows, Chief Executive Steve Jobs said on Monday, taking on Microsoft Corp. in its key stronghold of Web access software.

The move by Apple, which has expanded beyond its Macintosh computer core with iPod media players and the upcoming iPhone, could let the company control how large numbers of people use the Web at a time when services and programs are increasingly Internet-based.

Jobs also said Apple would let outside developers create applications for the iPhone by tapping Safari, softening the company's previous position that the device would not support other software due to security concerns.

But investors were disappointed that Jobs -- known for his surprise announcements -- did not have bigger news to unveil -- and Apple shares sank nearly 3.5 percent, their biggest one-day fall in about four months.

"Apple always hits a home run, and when they hit a triple, it's a disappointment," said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co. who has an "outperform" rating on Apple stock.

Consumers and investors have been particularly hungry for any iPhone news ahead of the product's June 29 launch for use on AT&T's wireless network.

Apple shares fell $4.30 to close at $120.19 on Nasdaq. The stock has doubled over the past year and has risen 10 percent in the last month.

Speaking at Apple's annual developers' conference in San Francisco, Jobs put Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer browser squarely in his sights, saying that test versions of the new Safari 3 were twice as fast at loading Web pages.

"We would love for Safari's market share to grow substantially," Jobs said. Safari has 5 percent of the browser market compared to 78 percent for Internet Explorer.

A free test version of Safari 3 is available to the public now as a download and the final version will be available as a free download to users of both Mac OS X and Windows in October, the company said.

The focus on Safari sets the stage for a new browser war nearly a decade after Microsoft knocked off pioneering rival Netscape by including Internet Explorer for free in Windows.

Analysts said Apple clearly hopes to replicate its success in making a Windows version of its iTunes media program, a move that helped drive sales of its iPod media players as well as Mac computers.

Soleil Equity Research analyst Shannon Cross said the availability of Safari on Windows would boost popularity of the software and encourage Web site creators to make their sites compatible with the browser.

"It should also help increase Apple's exposure to the Windows community and potentially attract a larger audience of switchers," Cross wrote in a research note.

Addressing concerns that the iPhone would not support programs not created by Apple, Jobs said independent developers could write application software for Safari, which is included in the multimedia device.

"It's an innovative new way to create apps for mobile devices ... and it gives us tremendous capability, more than has ever been in a mobile device," Jobs said.

ThinkEquity analyst Jonathan Hoopes said developers writing applications to run on Safari could have their software run on either a Mac or Windows-based computer. "That same app should be able to run on the iPhone," he said.

The bulk of Jobs' speech was dedicated to showing off new bells and whistles in the updated operating system, such as the inclusion of a program to let Mac users run Windows.

"It helps with market share and helps with customers that are on the fence trying to move to the Mac," Phil Schiller, head of Apple's product marketing, said in an interview.

After the event, Goldman Sachs raised its 12-month price target on Apple stock to $135 from $120, saying the company was poised to outperform expectations.

"Software remains Apple's biggest competitive advantage," analyst David Bailey said in a report.

Apple Safari On Windows Broken On First Day
An anonymous reader writes

"David Maynor, infamous for the Apple Wi-Fi hack, has discovered bugs in the Windows version of Safari mere hours after it was released. He notes in the blog that his company does not report vulnerabilities to Apple. His claimed catch for 'an afternoon of idle futzing': 4 DoS bugs and 2 remote execution vulnerabilities."
Separately, within 2 hours Thor Larholm found a URL protocol handler command injection vulnerability that allows remote command execution.

Apple Reports 1 Million Safari for Windows Downloads
Jim Dalrymple

It took Apple just two days to reach 1 million downloads of its newest Safari Web browser for Windows. A beta of the newest version was released during Steve Jobs’ Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on Monday.

Apple said that Safari performed an iBench HTML performance suite test twice as fast as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer — 2.2 seconds to IE’s 4.6 seconds. The Apple-built browser turned in similar performance on iBench’s Javascript test, completing the suite in less than a second compared to IE’s 2.4-second time.

Earlier today Apple released an update to Safari for Windows that addressed some security issues.

Analysts believe Apple decision to move Safari onto the Windows platform was driven by a desire to improve the browsers market share and to introduce Windows developers to the technology so they could write applications for the iPhone.

Breaking Down the Walls Between Mac OS X and Windows
David Pogue

I'm a bi-platform kinda guy. Not just because I need to be conversant in both Mac OS X and Windows for my job, but also because my life revolves around certain Mac programs and certain Windows programs.

On trips, I literally used to pack two laptops: a Mac for creative stuff, and a Windows machine for the speech-recognition program I use to write books, Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

A year ago, that all changed. Apple started building its Macs around Intel chips. Using Apple's free Boot Camp utility, you can start up the one laptop in either Windows or Mac OS X (Windows not included).

There's a huge problem with that, of course: the business about restarting every time you want to switch. That's time-consuming, and you can't copy and paste between Mac and Windows programs, or refer to one while you're working in the other.

One solution is a program called Parallels Desktop for Mac ($80, Parallels.com). It lets you run Windows *in a window*, right on top of Mac OS X, so you don't have to restart when you want to run a Windows program. You can copy and paste between Mac and Windows programs, and you save a lot of time. Parallels can run any version of Windows back to version 3.1 (and even DOS, Solaris and so on), and it's about 90 percent as fast as running a dedicated Windows PC.

I reviewed Parallels in the Times last year. Today, however, the company has released version 3.0 -- a $40 upgrade -- that breaks down the walls between the two operating systems even further.

* You can drag and drop files from the Windows desktop to the Mac desktop, or vice versa. You can also right-click a document in either universe (a Word file, JPEG, PDF or whatever); the Open With pop-up menu, which lists programs that can open it, now lists both Mac and Windows programs. So if you're working on the Mac, you can right-click a Word document and have it open in Word for Windows.

* A feature called Coherence mode hides the Windows desktop and other trappings. Instead, each Windows program behaves exactly like a Mac program, floating right there in its own window among your other Mac program windows. (Coherence debuted in Parallels 2.5; in 3.0, it's been refined. For example, you can now specify when you want Windows programs' icons to appear in the Macintosh Dock while they're running.)

* A Mac program called Parallels Explorer lets you manipulate the contents of your virtual Windows "hard drive" even when Parallels isn't running.

* You can now set up shared folders in either direction. That is, you can plunk the icon of a Macintosh-world folder right there in your Windows world, for easy opening, or vice-versa.

* If you sometimes use Apple's Boot Camp program, Parallels can use the same copy of Windows, so you don't have to install Windows twice. In 3.0, this great, space-saving feature also applies to installed copies of Windows Vista, not just XP.

* Shared Networking. I love this one a lot. In Parallels 3.0, Windows "hides" behind the Mac's networking; it's completely invisible to hacks, pings and bots on the Internet looking to infect you. Your "Windows PC" is therefore much less likely to wind up becoming a "zombie" or "bot" that does the bidding of spammers behind your back.

* 3-D graphics. This is a huge one for gamers. People used to say that Parallels was great -- but that it couldn't handle the 3-D games. The new version, however, works with both DirectX and OpenGL 3D, underlying technologies that drive games like World of Warcraft, Half-Life 2, and Unreal Tournament. All of these are now playable on the Mac running Windows. (I haven't tested them, though.)

This feature also assists with 3-D drafting programs like 3DMark and video and sound editing software like Sony Vegas.

* Transporter. This utility can bring over your entire world -- programs, documents, settings, and all -- from a real Windows PC, or from an old Mac running Microsoft Virtual PC, either over the network or using a FireWire cable.

* USB 2. Parallels 3.0 does much better with high-speed connections to printers, scanners, flash drives, external hard drives, BlackBerrys and other smartphones -- and headsets.

That last improvement should mean that I can finally run my speech-recognition program on the Mac without having to restart in Windows. (In previous versions of Parallels, the computer recognized only bits and pieces of what I said, and with horrible accuracy.)

First I thought I would try the built-in speech recognition in Windows Vista. Unfortunately, it was a disaster. Words were dropped, words were misrecognized, and the whole thing was slow as molasses.

So I tried NaturallySpeaking -- and I got exactly the same results. No matter what I tried, I just could not get speech recognition working in Windows Vista.

My contact at Parallels told me that he had heard from a number of customers who were successfully using NaturallySpeaking on their Macs -- in Windows XP. (Nuance, the company that makes Dragon NaturallySpeaking, doesn't officially support its use on Macs no matter how you're running Windows. It has, however, received many requests and is exploring the possibilities.)

Fortunately, the cool thing about Parallels is that you can create as many "virtual machines" as you want, each one running a different operating system on your Mac. (Web designers in particular enjoy this feature, because it lets them test a certain Web design in every conceivable browser and operating system.)

So off I went to create another virtual machine, this time one that ran Windows XP -- and presto! I had true-blue speech recognition running on my Mac, complete with the ability to copy and paste my transcribed utterances into my Mac e-mail program, word processor or whatever.

Better yet, Windows XP doesn't bog down the rest of your Mac programs the way Windows Vista does. On a 2-gig Mac like my MacBook, Parallels is much, much happier running XP than Vista.

Remember, you're running two operating systems at once. Windows Vista, on my 2-gigabyte laptop, took a minute and a half to start up, and introduced serious sluggishness whenever I tried to switch from one Mac program to another. That's a sure sign that I've run out of real RAM and am forcing the Mac's virtual memory system to swap what's in memory to and from the hard drive in a frantic attempt to keep everything alive.

I recommend Parallels highly. Whether you're a Mac person or a Windows person, the point is that you can now run 100 percent of the world's computer software on a single machine, faster and more easily than ever.

(P.S.-- Parallels will soon have competition from programs like VMWare Fusion and CrossOver. I'll review them when they're available in final form.)

At Creative Artists, a Bit of Blushing After a Corporate Kiss-Off
Michael Cieply

For the powers at the Creative Artists Agency, Hollywood’s pre-eminent talent representative, the coming blockbuster “Transformers” has already brought a lesson in the cold-hearted ways of corporate entertainment.

The outsize robot adventure movie was born when the talent agency connected Hasbro — a client, and owner of the Transformers toy line — with DreamWorks, Paramount and another longtime associate, Steven Spielberg, among others. As the project grew, at least 10 Creative Artists clients picked up credits, including the writers, several stars and both Mr. Spielberg and Brian Goldner, Hasbro’s chief operating officer, who are executive producers.

But a scant month before the picture’s release on July 4, Hasbro decided to jettison Creative Artists and jump to the rival William Morris, which represents the director of “Transformers,” Michael Bay.

So it goes in the new Hollywood. Loyalty stops at the bottom line, and even the most powerful of agencies is finding it can be tougher to meet the needs of a corporate customer than to baby-sit for a temperamental star.

Wayne Charness, Hasbro’s senior vice president for corporate communications, credited Creative Artists for its “invaluable assistance” in hooking it up with DreamWorks and Paramount. “For that, we’ll certainly be eternally grateful.”

But, in explaining the corporate kiss-off, Mr. Charness added, “William Morris, from an entertainment point of view, is best able to deliver something for us now.”

For Creative Artists, the loss of Hasbro is hardly a show-stopper. But the embarrassment comes just as it is trying to prove that it can mirror, if not exactly match, the intricacy and reach of the media conglomerates and consumer and technology companies that have come to define the entertainment world.

In recent years, the agency has been quietly shifting its center of balance. It is fighting to protect core movie, television and music businesses that are confronted by changing technology and consolidation among buyers, even while adding new divisions that are meant — if they keep their footing — to ease the company and its clients toward the uncertain future.

Nested since January in a new glass-sheathed Century City tower, Creative Artists has doubled in size in the last five years to about 300 agents and executives, and roughly 700 employees over all. In that time, it not only raided competitors for agents and talent in the movie and television businesses, but began representing athletes and added dozens of marketers and licensing operatives who are supposed to keep pace with the likes of Coca-Cola, Delta, eBay and, until lately, Hasbro.

Whether brokering exclusive entertainment for Delta flights or setting up “lifestyle” tours on the skateboard circuit, the agency’s new businesses mostly involve transactions between talent or mainstream entertainment companies and a widening ring of customers.

To outsiders, the logic of that push has not always been clear. Competitors complain privately of what they often see as a simple urge for dominance. And the expansion has created new pressures within the 32-year-old agency, which is scrambling to keep its growing list of more than 2,000 clients employed and happy as it seeks to master new worlds.

In recent weeks, agency watchers have been intrigued by some belt-tightening at Creative Artists, which ordered agents to refrain from extras like first-class plane tickets. That measure, reported by the Deadline Hollywood blog, was widely viewed as a response to the added cost of the new quarters and the need to pay $1-million-plus salaries to agents snatched from William Morris, Endeavor, International Creative Management or the United Talent Agency.

Yet the agency’s basic challenges are no different from those of major competitors, who have been similarly reaching for the next rung, if not always on so grand a scale. And its success or failure is likely to tell whether talents as varied as Will Ferrell, Tom Cruise, Jerry Bruckheimer, Derek Jeter or Norah Jones — Creative Artists clients all — will maintain their leverage against evolving media giants like the News Corporation and Viacom or make new fortunes from the nonentertainment companies that are looking to Hollywood.

Citing a longstanding policy against public discussion of their affairs, the agency’s executives declined to comment for this article. Richard Lovett, its president, has joined fellow managing partners Kevin Huvane, Rob Light, Bryan Lourd, Rick Nicita and David O’Connor in maintaining official silence about the company’s inner workings since the late 1990s. (A rare public glimpse of ownership came in 2002, when a filing in Mr. Huvane’s divorce showed his stake at the time to be 7.9121 percent.) They were only a bit more talkative last decade, as they weathered a storm of agent and client defections in the wake of their 1995 purchase of Creative Artists from its co-founders: Michael S. Ovitz, Ron Meyer and Bill Haber.

Their adviser in the buyout was the mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer Martin Lipton. He has since helped to engineer a growth strategy meant to give Creative Artists a command over the talent world complete enough that clients, in theory, would find internal support for virtually any interest, while anyone approaching the entertainment business would find dealing with the agency an inevitability.

(A recent Web video, “The Wrath of CAAA,” catches the spirit: It is about a screenwriter whose assignment, mate, apartment, mother and dog are usurped by an all-powerful agency.)

Mr. Lipton’s counsel to the partners, he said in a recent e-mail exchange, was “to follow their instincts and engage in related areas that benefit from the great expertise that they have perfected in their basic business.”

Creative Artist’s new strategy, which superseded Mr. Ovitz’s earlier and limited foray into advertising, pushed the notion that corporations, talent and new technology would combine to create growth even as the recording industry faltered, television networks fractured and studios clamped down on costs.

Some of the initiative’s successes have been as obvious as the Coke cups in the hands of the “American Idol” judges. In one of its more triumphant gambits, Creative Artists’s marketers helped assemble the hit show for the producer and client Simon Fuller by lining up Coca-Cola, another client, as a backer even before the Fox network became involved.

In other forays, the agency’s marketers joined the music department to organize shopping mall concerts promoting Abercrombie & Fitch’s Hollister brand, and helped Delta reclaim its image as an upscale air carrier by associating it with “Project Runway.” More recently, Creative Artists took on Joost, the Internet entertainment provider, as a client, and connected Mr. Ferrell and his partner Adam McKay with backers from Sequoia Capital, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, to start FunnyOrDie.com, a comedy site.

Years ago, after rejecting a possible merger with United Talent as being too complex, Creative Artists instead undertook a buildup in the more traditional areas of Hollywood talent, picking off clients including Mr. Ferrell, Kate Winslet, Matthew McConaughey and Jim Carrey. Once smaller than William Morris and International Creative Management, Creative Artists now counts slightly more film and television clients than either, according to lists culled from Baseline StudioSystems, a data service owned by The New York Times Company. (None of the three agencies disclose exact client counts.)

At least some evidence indicates that less grandiose agencies are occasionally better able to find work for some clients. An assessment by TVtracker.com, for instance, found that during the 2006-7 television season, Endeavor had the most clients at work on broadcast and cable shows, with a total of 737, to the bigger agency’s second-ranked 667.

Yet a talent agency’s revenue comes overwhelmingly from its big earners, and Creative Artists has an abundance of those in all of its main businesses, including sports, where a rapid expansion over the last year brought Mr. Jeter from baseball, Peyton Manning from football and the basketball star Allen Iverson, along with about 350 others, into the fold.

Operatives who represent the agency’s huge list are for the most part layered into eight floors of its Gensler-designed headquarters, which is being called “the building with a hole in it,” for the 100-foot space between its bridged wings. (Outlying offices have spread to New York; Nashville; Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis; London; Beijing; Stockholm; and Calgary, Alberta, and Creative Artists has an ownership stake in Shepardson, Stern & Kaminsky, a New York-based marketing company.)

Interiors veer from the cold pallor of assistants’ rows outside the agents’ quarters to the day camp warmth of a patio where lowly players in red company T-shirts have been known to hand out treats at a midafternoon ice cream social.

And the inner sanctum is a vast, high-gloss and ultracorporate conference room.

Yet the contretemps with Hasbro points to some vulnerabilities that come with being the mightiest talent agency in Hollywood, not the least of them the difficulty of minding what has become a very large store.

According to Mr. Charness of Hasbro, the company initially came to Creative Artists for help in connecting its games and toys with a wide range of promotions. As things fell out, however, it did not always need the agency’s guidance in navigating worlds it had mastered on its own. When striking a deal for a mobile phone game based on the “Transformers” film, for instance, Glu Mobile dealt directly with the toymaker, without relying on Creative Artists’s gaming expertise. “We had a longstanding relationship,” said Jill Braff, Glu Mobile’s general manager of the Americas.

Mr. Bay’s agents at William Morris, meanwhile, detected Hasbro’s hunger for more movies. So they began shaking down clients — the agency term of art is “packaging within” — for ideas that are likely to surface as half a dozen projects for the toy company in the next couple of months.

In short, Hasbro wanted to go Hollywood. And Creative Artists, apparently, had become too busy — or too fancy — to make that happen. “We’re moving to William Morris as an entertainment client,” Mr. Charness said.

Moore Fears Film Seizure after Cuba Trip
Michelle Nichols

Filmmaker Michael Moore has stashed a copy of his latest documentary in Canada because he fears the U.S. government will try to confiscate it after part of it was filmed during an unauthorized trip to Cuba.

The U.S. Treasury Department is investigating Moore's trip to communist Cuba in March to film part of his documentary, "SiCKO," which takes a swipe at the U.S. health-care system and is due to be released in U.S. theaters on June 29.

U.S. citizens are generally barred from going to Cuba, unless approved by the government under a broad trade embargo imposed since 1962. But Moore says he has not broken any laws because he traveled to Cuba for a "journalistic endeavor."

"We brought back 15 minutes of the movie and we're concerned about any possible confiscation efforts," Moore told a news conference in New York.

"We took measures a few weeks ago to place a master copy of this film in Canada so if they did take our negative we would have a duplicate negative of this film in Canada."

Moore -- whose 2004 anti-Bush film "Fahrenheit 9/11" ranks as the most successful U.S. documentary -- and lawyer David Boies accused President George W. Bush's administration of discriminating against the controversial filmmaker.

Molly Millerwise, spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, declined to comment, saying in an e-mail that the department does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

Moore traveled to Cuba with three volunteers who worked in the ruins of New York's World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001, attacks. He said the volunteers were now suffering health problems after working at Ground Zero and struggling to get appropriate treatment under the U.S. health-care system.

Moore said that he took them by boat to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where Washington is holding foreign terrorism suspects, to see if they could get the same free health coverage as the detainees.

After they were refused, he said they decided to see what kind of health care they could get in Cuba.

Every Movie Marketer's Worst Nightmare Becomes Grim Reality for Weinstein Company
Claude Brodesser-Akner

Michael Moore's new documentary "Sicko" has been pirated and is now widely available for download on peer-to-peer content sites like www.thepiratebay.org.

Canada stash
Last week, the Oscar winning director announced that he'd decided to stash a copy of "Sicko" in Canada, in case the federal government decided to impound it over an apparently unauthorized trip to Cuba made during its filming. As it turns out, the hard part won't be getting the film released, but getting audiences to pay to see it now that its available for free.

If the breach is as wide as it appears -- and this reporter downloaded a copy and watched it late Thursday night with ease -- Mr. Moore and his distributor, Weinstein Co., have a every film maker's worst marketing nightmare on their hands -- how to persuade people to go to the theater to see a show that's available free on the Internet. (Officials at the Weinstein Company were unavailable for comment late Thursday evening.)

Al Gore steps in
Mr. Moore had recently hired Al Gore attorney David Boies, who has said he believes Mr. Moore is being unfairly harassed by the U.S. Treasury Dept. over his trip to Cuba because he'd criticized the current Administration in his penultimate documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11."

While it remains to be seen if that is simply Moore's famous showmanship and posturing, or actually true, what is clear is that the blogosphere isn't reacting to the leak with anything approaching apolitical neutrality: One pirate link encouraged potential downloaders to view the film online saying," Watch this free copy and keep $ out of that fat f---s hands."

"Sicko's" general release date is June 29.

Film Maker’s Nightmare? Hardly

Michael Moore's postion on the free file-sharing of his work is clear: He “doesn’t have a problem with people downloading and sharing it.” Not only that, but as long as pirates aren’t making and selling copies for profit he’s actually “happy it happens.”

It may be that the giant MPAA distribution companies have very dfferent opinions on torrents, file-trading and free P2P but Moore’s attitude is as refreshing as it is realistic. He’s basically saying go for it, “information and art should be shared.”

For a brief interview of Moore on file-sharing see this.

In Pennsylvania Hamlet, Much Ado About Goo
Franz Lidz

THIS July, as they have for the past seven, fright freaks will swarm into Phoenixville, Pa., a flyspeck steel town at the junction of French Creek and the Schuylkill River. It was here in a nearby field that a movie legend was born. After oozing from a meteorite, an amorphous alien — looking like the love child of a lava lamp and a Gummy Bear — attached itself to dogs, hermits and groping teenagers, literally sucking the life out of them.

Bloated with the blood of its victims, the mass grew larger and larger, and redder and redder. It crawled ... it crept ... it ate you alive! Or so said the taglines for “The Blob,” the creature classic from 1958 that chronicled the adventures of film’s most notorious slime ball.

On July 13 — a Friday, no less — the Blob makes a homecoming of sorts at BlobFest, a two-day rolling carnival of horror in downtown Phoenixville, where part of the movie was filmed. With about 5,000 people expected this year, attendance keeps swelling, much as the Blob once did.

The party will kick off at the Colonial Theater, the setting for the film’s most infamous scene. At the end of “The Blob,” the Blob seeps into the crowded movie house, whose marquee trumpets “Daughter of Horror” with Bela Lugosi.

As the unsuspecting audience gapes at Lugosi, the Blob squishes out of the projection booth and feast on some of the patrons. The rest scream and flee in terror. “We call that the running out,” said Shane Stone, a local Blobologist who is also a child psychologist.

Opening-night festivities begin with a re-enactment of the running out. Dressed in mad-scientist whites, Mr. Stone will take the stage of the Colonial and introduce the M.C., a chained guy in a gorilla suit. Then, as he does every year, the gorilla will break loose and rampage down the aisles, inspiring hundreds of BlobFesters to burst out of their seats shrieking and bolt through the frosted-glass doors onto Bridge Street.

To maintain the mood between screenings, enthusiasts are invited to face off in a scream contest, compete in a tinfoil hat showdown and enter their chimeras and bogeymen in a costume competition.

There’s also a fire extinguisher parade, which Mr. Stone calls a “tribute to the device that saved us all.” Nearly a half-century ago townsfolk stopped the Blob by training the extinguishers on it. As it turned out, the gooey interloper had an aversion to cold.

Among the luminaries scheduled to appear at BlobFest VIII will be members of the film’s cast and crew; its producer, Jack Harris; and Kyra Schon, the zombie girl who murdered her mother with a garden spade and then devoured her in “Night of Living Dead.” “The Blob” was the brainchild of Irving Millgate, a Northwestern University humanities professor. Mr. Millgate told his idea to Mr. Harris, a Philadelphia film distributor with a desire to produce, who then pitched the concept to Good Times Films, an independent company in the Philadelphia suburbs that specialized in pictures with religious and social messages. The studio’s resident director, Irvin Shortess Yeaworth, known as Shorty, saw “The Blob” as biblical parable.

“To Shorty it was about God’s wrath upon evildoers,” Mr. Harris, 88, said. “To me it was an investment.” A $130,000 investment that turned a $10 million profit, he added.

Mr. Harris rejects the popular notion that “The Blob” was intended as a cold war metaphor for creeping Communism. “Hogwash,” he said. “Then again, maybe that’s why it never played Russia.”

Mr. Harris said the working title was “The Meteor Monster,” which begat “The Molten Meteor,” which begat “The Night of the Creeping Dead,” which begat “The Glob That Girdled the Globe,” which begat “The Glob”.

“I suggested ‘The Glob,’ ” said Kate Phillips, who was paid $125 to collaborate on the script. At 93, she teaches screenwriting at Keene State College in New Hampshire. “I was looking for a word to describe an object that had no form.”

But “The Glob” was already the title of a children’s book illustrated by Walt Kelly of “Pogo” fame. So Mr. Harris substituted other letters in the alphabet. “I thought, “The Alob” doesn’t sound frightening,” he says. “On the other hand, ‘The Blob’. ...”

Mr. Harris said the name accounts for much of the film’s enduring appeal. “That and the catchy theme song,” he said.

Composed by the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “Beware of the Blob!” featured the evocative lyrics “It creeps and leaps and glides and slides across the floor/Right through the door and all around the wall/A splotch, a blotch. ...”

Somewhat grudgingly Mr. Harris also gives some of the credit to Steve McQueen. “The Blob” was the first star turn for Mr. McQueen, who, at 27, played a teenager who alerts skeptical adults to the gelatinous threat.

According to movie lore Mr. Harris offered McQueen $3,000 or a lesser sum and 10 percent of the profits. Figuring “The Blob” would bomb, the actor took the money.

“Nonsense,” Mr. Harris snapped. “McQueen got scale. He was an unknown who couldn’t get himself arrested. He’s lucky I gave him a job.” Mr. Stone said he believed that the Blob still resonates with moviegoers because it taps into their fear of the uncontrollable. “You could ward off Dracula with garlic,” he reasoned, “and Frankenstein was so slow, you figured you’d be able to outrun him. But the Blob is this jelly thing, and when it gets on you, you can’t get it off. You’re trapped. You’re smothered. You suffocate.”

Blobophiles will recall that the Blob was freeze-dried and shipped to a polar ice cap at the film’s conclusion.

But it is actually in the care of Wes Shank, a movie memorabilia collector who first saw the film at a Saturday matinee in 1965 at the Suburban Theater in Ardmore on the Main Line, outside Philadelphia.

During the closing credits he realized that the studio — renamed Valley Forge Films — was nearby. “When I got there, a man showed me around a bunch of old barns that had been converted into soundstages,” he says. “Before we entered Stage C, the man said, “The Blob is in there.’ ”

The man turned out to be Shorty Yeaworth. Mr. Shank asked him if the Blob was for sale. Mr. Yeaworth, who died in 2004, said, “Maybe.” After a few months of haggling, they agreed on a price, which even now Mr. Shank declines to divulge. “The Blob is priceless,” he said firmly. “Real, live movie monsters from the ’50s are impossible to find these days.”

The Blob still reposes in its original container, a five-gallon metal bucket that bears the label: “Union Carbide, Silicone Division, Sistersville, W. Virginia.” The can is only half-full. “Some of the Blob was wasted in production,” Mr. Shank lamented.

What remains is hard and tacky and the color of ripe cranberries. And it gives off a faintly musty odor. “If you lived in a can for 50 years,” Mr. Stone said, “you might too.”

A Bloody Cut Above Your Everyday Zombie Film
Jason Zinoman

HORROR movies have always provided a safe haven for indulging anxieties, whether they are about giving birth (“It’s Alive”), buying a home (“The Amityville Horror”) or having sex (almost all of them). So it’s probably no coincidence that teenagers who grew up with terrorist alerts and photos of war are flocking in large numbers to increasingly graphic, torture-filled films that make Freddy Krueger look like a sweetie pie.

In the 1980s and ’90s most horror films had become cartoonish, with endless sequels about unbelievably clever serial killers slicing up their incredibly dim victims in increasingly preposterous ways. These films often treated murder as an adrenaline rush. “It is that pact with the devil that we’ve made, that we’ll watch violence, but we will have fun with it and make it seem kind of inconsequential,” said Wes Craven, the dark, fertile mind behind “The Hills Have Eyes” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

But in the last few years films like “Hostel” and “Saw” have challenged audiences with the reality of extreme violence, and it has paid off in huge box office numbers. “We’re in a moment that is a real resurgence of the horror genre,” said David Schwartz, chief curator of the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. The museum (movingimage.us) will play its part beginning next Saturday when it presents a horror fan’s dream festival, “It’s Only a Movie: Horror Films From the 1970s and Today,” a selection of 33 features and shorts that will run for six weekends, through July 22.

The retrospective is based on the idea that the renaissance of scary movies, sometimes called torture porn, has been inspired by the golden age of horror, when mainstream directors like Brian De Palma and Stanley Kubrick made some of their finest work and genre masters like Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg and Mr. Craven (all of whom are represented in the festival) got their start.

“The new films are very similar to those in the 1970s in that they are merciless with the audience,” Mr. Craven said. “I think they are a cultural way of coming to terms with the horrible realities of everyday life.”

The festival emphasizes parallels between the two periods, made explicit in a tripleheader on July 7 that juxtaposes Vietnam War veteran zombies with Iraq war veteran zombies. It begins with Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” George A. Romero’s 1978 sendup of consumer society, followed by “Dead of Night,” Bob Clark’s antiwar film from 1974 that tells the story of an American soldier who returns home seeking revenge on his family and other townsfolk.

The last in the trio is the liberal fantasy “Homecoming,” with its similar conceit: undead soldiers return. But this time the director, Joe Dante, ignores the family and concentrates his anger at the ruling party. Originally broadcast in 2005 as part of Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” series, the movie imagines American veterans lurching home from Iraq to voting booths to kick Republicans out of office.

The festival’s title paraphrases the advertising slogan used in Mr. Craven’s debut, “The Last House on the Left” (July 22),which advised audiences: “To avoid fainting, keep repeating: It’s only a movie.” Released in 1972, this influential film, inspired by bloody newsreel footage of the Vietnam War, brought a gritty tone to horror that was a departure from the monster movies of old.

“Last House” was ignored or denounced by most critics, though Roger Ebert did call it a “guilty pleasure.” That shunning was the fate of most low-budget horror films of its day, and few broke out to a mass audience. The reception started to change with “Halloween,” Mr. Carpenter’s 1978 movie, about a bogeyman murdering teenage girls.

It was made on a budget of around $300,000 and became one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time, and one of the most imitated. The formula — which featured murderous psychopaths and teenagers who had sex at their peril — solidified through the 1980s when audiences were on a first-name basis with killers like Jason, Chucky and Freddy, who became less scary and more ridiculous with each sequel.

Horror had a brief revival in the 1990s when Mr. Craven turned the staleness of the form to his advantage, satirizing slashers in films like the “Scream” trilogy. These were smart satires, but to horror purists blurring the lines between horror and comedy got old fast. “Horror and comedy have nothing to do with one another,” said Rob Zombie, director of the remake of “Halloween,” which is scheduled to open Aug. 31. “It’s like saying, ‘How about a children’s movie — but with hard-core sex?’ ”

In the last few years Mr. Zombie and directors like Alexandre Aja (“High Tension”), James Wan (“Saw”) and Eli Roth (“Hostel”) have ushered in a deadly serious brand of horror that is too busy ripping out eyeballs to wink at the audience. The new films return the genre to the feral, relentless energy of the ’70s. But the difference is that these directors don’t need to make films on the cheap. While the early movies often seemed like snuff films made by maniacs, these new, slicker enterprises look like the work of maniacs — who’ve been to film school.

You only need to examine the lineup of films at the Museum of the Moving Image festival to see the reach of the genre today. The caving disaster film “The Descent” (July 22) and the slasher “High Tension” (June 24) come from Britain and France, respectively. Perhaps the most activity (and brutality) is in the Asian scene, including the Japanese exercise in sadomasochism “Ichi the Killer” (July 15).

As they see more and more horror films, audiences are increasingly difficult to shock. After you blow up someone’s head, rip people in two or burn off their faces, where do you go from there?

Mr. Roth isn’t worried. “They say there is more than one way to skin a cat,” he said. “Well, there are many ways to skin a human.”

Hard to Find Good Help? Not in This Little Town
Manohla Dargis

Much like zombies, zombie movies show no sign of rolling over and staying dead, really, truly, most sincerely dead. In recent years, they have run speedily amok in Danny Boyle’s spine-tingler “28 Days Later” and its sequel, “28 Weeks Later” (where the virus-stricken creatures are more zomboid than true zombies), as well as in the remake of George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.” Ever the classicist, Mr. Romero keeps his zombies moving slow but steady in his rollicking “Land of the Dead,” the 2005 chapter in the zombie epic that shuddered into existence with his 1968 masterwork, “Night of the Living Dead.”

In the ticklishly amusing satire “Fido,” the undead stagger along like stunned toddlers. With their shuffling, uncertain gait, their limbs slowed by the onslaught of rigor mortis, these zombies are thoroughly, satisfyingly old school. Lost in a twilight zone between life and death, gripped by a hunger that can only be satisfied with a mouthful of warm human flesh, they live, in a manner of speaking, to eat. The good news for their would-be snacks and treats, meaning everyone who’s nominally alive, is that these zombies are also in the grip of remote-controlled obedience collars that keep them as harmless as a neutered Rottweiler on a very short leash. One zap and they’re mewling like kittens or at least growling more quietly.

Directed by Andrew Currie, who wrote the guffaw-splattered, lightly bloody, bit too modest screenplay with Robert Chomiak and Dennis Heaton, the film takes place in the 1950s, or some freaky-fantasy variation on the same, in a small town washed in muted colors and occasionally rocked by a blast of angry red. In this perky Pleasantville, where father knows best except when he loses his head, zombies don’t feast on the living; they serve them. They mow the lawns, guard the crosswalks and deliver the daily paper. Every so often, they also dispense a little something extra, like the teenage zombie, Tammy (Sonja Bennett), whose tight curves and scarily chattering teeth keep her owner, Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson, a hoot), dementedly smiling.

Like his slower-moving characters, Mr. Currie exhibits distinct cannibalistic tendencies, starting with the clever black-and-white educational reel that opens “Fido” and lays out the back story (“the zombie wars” and what followed). Watching morosely from the last row in class is little Timmy (K’Sun Ray), the only, crushingly lonely child of Helen and Bill Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss and Dylan Baker). With his wide-pooling eyes, Timmy looks straight out of central casting, if also seriously ill at ease when squeezing off rounds during zombie-target practice. He’s not much of a shot, one of the few in the class who doesn’t raise a hand when a visiting containment expert, Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerny, excellent), asks: “How many of you have ever had to kill a zombie?”

Timmy would rather play catch, which he does soon after Helen decides to elevate her social standing by bringing a collared and apparently tamed zombie home. (Everyone else in the neighborhood has one, she whines.) Named Fido — and played by a wonderfully expressive, nearly mute Billy Connolly — the Robinson zombie soon becomes a mostly cherished member of the family, with Bill the sole dissenter. As Bill nervously twitches and Helen basks in the glow of consumer satisfaction, Timmy and Fido bond, first over a baseball and mitt, then over a little accidental bloodletting and later during one wittily shot scene in a sweeping field that summons up every boy-and-dog story that brought a tear to the eye.

Mr. Currie and his collaborators don’t push their slave-master allegory far; unlike Mr. Romero or the zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead,” where the living are so zombie-like they don’t initially notice the undead, the filmmakers remain content to graze and to nibble, skimming the surface rather than sinking in deep. They set up a divide between the light-skinned humans and the dark-skinned zombies that they never fully engage, shying away from anything heavy or dangerously downbeat. Mr. Currie and company are happy to make you laugh, which they do easily enough, especially with a beautifully slow-to-build joke that demands a familiarity with the typical story arc and climactic dialogue from the old “Lassie” television series. It won’t make you bleed, just howl.

“Fido” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). In spite of some gnawed-off limbs and bloodied necks, the gore quotient is surprisingly modest.


Opens today in Manhattan.

Directed by Andrew Currie; written by Robert Chomiak, Mr. Currie and Dennis Heaton, based on an original story by Mr. Heaton; director of photography, Jan Kiesser; edited by Roger Mattiussi; music by Don Macdonald; production designer, Rob Gray; produced by Blake Corbet and Mary Anne Waterhouse; released by Lionsgate. At the Angelika Film Center, Mercer and Houston Streets, Greenwich Village. Running time: 91 minutes.

WITH: Carrie-Anne Moss (Helen), Billy Connolly (Fido), Dylan Baker (Bill), K’Sun Ray (Timmy), Henry Czerny (Mr. Bottoms), Sonja Bennett (Tammy) and Tim Blake Nelson (Mr. Theopolis).

Box Office for Horror Movies Is Weak, Verging on Horrible
Michael Cieply

Moviegoers put a nail in the coffin of a dying horror boom this weekend, as “Hostel: Part II” opened to just $8.8 million in ticket sales, far behind the crime caper “Ocean’s Thirteen” in a three-day period of relatively soft box office performance.

“Ocean’s Thirteen,” with a cast of stars led by George Clooney and Brad Pitt, ranked first with $37.1 million, slightly underperforming its predecessor, “Ocean’s Twelve.” That film took in about $39.2 million when Warner Brothers released it in December 2004 and went on to collect more than $125.5 million in domestic ticket sales.

Meanwhile “Hostel: Part II,” a torture-theme thriller from the director Eli Roth, placed No. 6 for the weekend and did less than half the opening business of the original “Hostel.” That movie made about $19.6 million in its first weekend when Lionsgate released it in January of last year and helped feed a wave of horror releases that have often come up short.

In the last few months the Weinstein Company’s “Grindhouse” failed its own hype as a hip event, Fox Atomic’s higher-browed zombie film “28 Weeks Later” undershot its predecessor, and a long string of less ambitious horror pictures sputtered as the audience for bigger, family-friendly pictures like “Spider-Man 3,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Shrek the Third” led a broad surge in ticket sales.

Lionsgate, although it releases films in a variety of genres, had done especially well with relatively low-budget horror in the recent past. Its “Saw III,” for instance, took in about $165 million at the worldwide box office last year, while the original “Hostel” had about $81 million in ticket sales around the world.

“It’s kind of like that Mark Twain quote, ‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,’ ” said Mark Burns, vice chairman of Lionsgate. “Everything takes a breather.”

Mr. Burns attributed the weakening performance of horror to a marketplace glut rather than to any growing revulsion to the genre’s excesses or a backlash against violence in the wake of the Virginia Tech killings, as some have suggested. He said his studio, which is co-releasing “Captivity” with After Dark Films in July and has a fourth “Saw” scheduled for October, had already de-emphasized its reliance on the genre because of too much competition.

Total business for the weekend’s Top 12 films was down 9.1 percent from the comparable weekend last year, when Disney’s “Cars” opened, according to the box-office reporting firm Media by Numbers. Disney’s “Pirates” fell 52 percent to finish second with $21.3 million for the weekend and a total of $253.6 million; Universal’s “Knocked Up” was third with $20 million, down 35 percent, and a total of $66.2 million; “Surf’s Up,” a new release from Sony Pictures, was fourth with $18 million; and “Shrek the Third,” from DreamWorks and Paramount, was fifth with $15.8 million, for a total of $281.9 million.

“We did our share,” said Dan Fellman, Warner Brothers’ president for theatrical distribution, noting that the year-to-date box office remains “very strong.” Revenue, thanks in part to higher ticket prices, is up about 5 percent — a significant amount — to almost $4 billion so far. Attendance meanwhile is up about 1 percent.

Susan Buice and Arin Crumley - Web Film Pioneers Become Youtube's First Feature Filmmakers
Nicol Wistreich

There are few poster-stars of the web-led film evolution quite like Susan Buice and Arin Crumley. The NY duo - who James MacGregor sourced for a Shooting People interview, and then for an interview for the new funding book (republished here) - have just seen their credit-card funded Four Eyed Monsters became the first feature film to be made available on YouTube (films are normally capped at 10 mins).

There's lots of things you can say about Arin and Susan - how the couple met online and agreed to communicate initialy without speaking, and then went on to turn their art into an expose of their relationship as feature film, how they built up a huge online audience with an ongoing series of video podcasts, and self-distributed their feature film in US cinemas (with DRM-free distribution on the small-screen), who use the latest software, tech, social networks and web services as ways to talk about their feelings. At times I wonder if they were dreamt up by a marketing executive at Apploogletubesoftabox, so brilliantly do they use potentially soulless tools to create something something at once both very personal and universal.

It's this, perhaps, that's their greatest achievement - they've laid their life and love bare, shaping it into a form a world of reality-tv-junkies can gorge on, but in a form altogether more tender, honest, delicate and just plain nakedly human than anything a big media machine could ever create.

The first time I watched the Four Eyed Monsters video-casts I collapsed on my bedroom floor in tears. I have not cried like that in a long time. In fact I wasn't sure I could get up, the films had managed to kick me right back to the most terrifying moments of a broken heart, and the (handwritten) creative explosions around that. It was only a bird, peering in at my window and chirping which made me get up and go for a recovering walk by the river. But it was the honesty of the video-casts which sent me there, and judging by their huge and growing fanbase - I"m not alone.

Its an interesting experience comparing the video episodes with the feature as it says much about the cross roads the world of moving image is at right now. There's the traditional(ish) feature, created with scripts and dollys and lights and actors; and the video-log, capturing life unfolding, framed with whatever artistry and technique suited the plot at that time. The difference between a celebrity, playing a part, pretending to love another celebrity, playing a part - and two lovers, playing themselves, with nothing to lose but their privacy and intimacy, which they've chosen to share with us. As well as the 'permission to be human' idea of Cluetrain, it reminded me of something poet Simon Armitage once wrote when reviewing 32 Short Films About Glen Gould: "the inevitableness of a lie, compared with the extravagance and endless possibility of real life".

Anyway, enough of my ramblings (there can be too much human sometimes), and on with an exert from James MacGregor's interview, which can be found in our new funding book.

Four Eyed Monsters Grow Their Own Audience : Romancing – and Distributing - the Web

James MacGregor interviews Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, creators of Four Eyed Monsters. The pair made a movie about the development of their real-life relationship, podcast it on the web to win a massive following and used their audience to decide which local theatres to screen the movie in. They did it on credit cards, racking up an $80K debt.

How did you meet up and decide to start the project and when did you realise your Four Eyed Monsters was going to have a life of its own, through the web?
As presented in episode 1 of our video Podcast (see below) and as portrayed in our film, we met through an online dating website. Our relationship began as sort of an experiment in dating and in communication. We decided to meet up almost immediately but created the rule that we would not speak to each other but could communicate with one another in any other format. We created hand written notes, drawings, and played music for one another. At certain point we began creating videos for each other. After 4 months of this lifestyle we finally began speaking. We were really inspired by the experiences we had during our non-speaking courtship. We wanted to turn our communication experiment outward and expand our audience from just one another to more people so we created the film to tell the story. The video podcast is a continuation of the same story and the video podcast just so happens to be in a format that can easily spread and be subscribed to.

The focus is on your relationship and how it grows and changes over time, but does it really reflect your real relationship? Is it art imitating life, or has it somehow become a case of art almost dictating life for the two of you?
Everyone who has watched the entire video podcast series to date is aware that it is a depiction of our real lives. Even though we are using a medium and style that is normally associated with fiction, the story we’re telling is true. To be fair it’s a highly expressive project so when the audience is looking at something that is very obviously constructed, it is an expression of our real experiences. The film works the same way but the film has an even more narrative feel because there is very little real life footage. What we are interested in is working on projects about real relationships; Making stuff up wouldn’t provide valuable insights to ourselves or anyone else.

No bust-ups over which way to go or which way to play things??
During the process of making stuff we, of course, disagree all the time but we always agree on the final outcome that becomes public.

There are a lot of people involved creatively – how many exactly?
Who we work with is always changing but we usually work very closely with one other person and for the duration of that time that person is an equal collaborator. The individuals we work with at any given time depends on what the project needs in that moment.

Are they all volunteers or have you had to pay for some things you needed?
We’ve had volunteers who have worked on basic things but for the most part everyone we have worked with has been a collaborator, some of them close friends and some we’ve met through working on the project. Other than certain stipends most people have worked in exchange for credit on the project.

Totting up the bills, what were the costs in time and money setting all this up for the web?
We don’t really distinguish between the video podcast and the film in terms of financial costs or time costs. The Web hosting of our videos has been donated by Cache Fly and the cost of our website is very little. What has been expensive is time. We’ve been working on the entire project for the past 3 years full-time and we’ve racked up a huge credit card debt on living expenses. Our debt to date is somewhere around $80,000.

When you decided you would go for a feature length movie as well as podcasts, how did that work exactly - did you edit pre-existing material together, shoot new stuff; how did you give FEMonsters followers a new and fresh experience?
The film was created first and most of the film is shot fresh, though much of it was based on old footage we had from early in our relationship. The video podcast is a continuation of the same story and it is all new content. Most of the video podcast is documentary footage, but every now and then will shoot something , animate or illustrate something and even use found footage to convey certain aspects of the story we’re telling. The video podcast is usually how people find out about the film since we’ve never had a distributor to release and market the film.

We hear about zero budgets, but we all have to spend on tape, bus fares, pencils and yellow pads… what did you lay out to get from web podcasts to a feature you could screen in theaters?
We owned almost all the equipment we needed for the film: camera, lights, Macs and Final Cut Pro for editing. We did rent a track at one point and for 2 days we rented a space to shoot a restaurant scene. Besides that we bought a lot of mini DV tape. The hard costs of the film totalled to less than $10,000 but like I said before, we worked full time on the project so we put our rent and the cost of food on credit cards, which is how we racked up so much debt.

How did you convince theatre owners that they should let your film into their program and did you have to pay hire charges or do a “house split” – how did that work?
On our website we allow people to request our film which means they give us their email and zip code and by doing this they are requesting that we screen our film in their area and that if we do we are free to contact them. Using this information we were able to see where there were people who wanted to see our film. We felt like if 150 people had requested the film in a given area it would be lucrative enough endeavour for us to propose and convince a theatre to arrange a screening. When we called the theatre we explained the request system and explained that we would contact all the requestors and let them know about the screenings and encourage a wider audience to go through our videos on our podcast. In the cities we were going for, we would sometimes hit resistance with a theatre. In that case we would call other theatres until we found the one that wanted to take a chance with us. With most theatres we arranged a 50/50 split of ticket sales. In a couple of cases we were able to negotiate a low four walling fee and all the ticket sales from those venues went straight to us.

You have just had (Dec 2006) a NYC opening week at Cinema Village – how did that go and what sort of box office did you manage to generate?
We opened on split screen with 2 other films. We weren’t playing at every slot on every day. Our box office was fairly weak. We did, however, end up the # 5 opening film in New York City that week and got reviewed in the New York Times, Village Voice as well as a slew of other press. We also lead a grassroots campaign using our New York supporters and distributed 4000 stickers, 500 posters, 5000 postcards, and 200 free DVDs which was a cool way to get to know people who have been watching our podcast for a long time. We also held interactive discussions every night after our 7 PM screenings on various topics ranging from net neutrality, to life logging, to internet dating.

Where do you take Four Eyed Monsters from here? I mean has it now got a life all of its own and could go on as pure fiction, or will it have to continue as episodic, waiting for developments in your own relationship?
Well we still have some story left untold which is what we’re currently editing into the next few episodes. As for continuing to follow our relationship in an auto-biographical way, we’re not going to necessarily continue doing that. We’re still interested in discovering things about real relationships, how we go about making those discoveries is something we’re currently navigating.

Does it ever feel strange that people you meet seem to know all about you in almost intimate detail, yet they are total strangers. Do you ever feel you have over-exposed yourselves? Are you completely cool about it?
We rarely get recognized in the street so we don’t interact with our audience in real life that often, but when we do it’s usually pretty cool because some of the introduction bullshit is out of the way. In meeting new people, you have to spend so much time making your first impression and nothing really gets communicated during that first interaction beyond surface things, such as ‘well this person seems on the ball’ or ‘what an idiot,’ but when we meet people who have seen the podcast we can quickly get to a point where we’re communicating with more depth. Because they know a lot about us, that’s less that we have to convey in a less articulate way by talking and they in turn are more apt to be less guarded and reveal things about themselves.

What advice can you give to anyone thinking of attempting the podcasts to features route – is it a good way to find an audience and is it sustainable long term.
If you’re releasing good compelling video on the web for free you will build an audience. If that is your only goal you are set. If your goal is to get that audience to do something else, that becomes challenging. We’ve been able to get our audience to petition for screenings of our film, come out to theatres and pay money to see the film and to help us promote it. At the centre of all this interaction is a community that we are building. The centre of that community is our video podcast. How financially sustainable this will be for us is the next chapter of this experiment. Our prediction is that having a dedicated community around a project has tremendous value that can be creatively leveraged into getting out of debt and lining up a budget for the next project.

In a world that churns out endless half-truths, spun and packaged as entertainment products, the honesty with which Susan Buice and Arin Crumley of FourEyedMonsters have offered their story to millions of web watchers is quite a gift. The simplest way to repay the pair - whose film is now free online (for a lowfi version at least) - is to sign up on Spout.com - who will pay them $1 for every signup.

Screener Ban Rare Loss for the Winning Valenti
Gregg Kilday

Leave it to Jack Valenti to have the last word. The longtime steward of the MPAA passed away April 26, but Harmony Books has just published his memoir, "This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House, and Hollywood."

A born raconteur and a man who clearly enjoyed the power of language, the Texas-born Valenti looks back over his life -- his stint as an Air Force B-25 pilot in World War II, his right-hand-man role as a special assistant to President Johnson -- before taking up the subject of the MPAA, whose chairman he became in 1966. His tenure saw the creation of the voluntary ratings system, with Sumner Redstone, then an exhibitor heading the National Association of Theatre Owners, proving a key ally in its creation. He writes of opening up foreign countries to American movies and of his long-running battle to postpone the repeal of the Fyn-Syn Rules that kept networks from entering production.

But inevitably, he comes to the great screener war. The MPAA's attempt to ban screeners ignited an uproar in September 2003, when Valenti announced the new policy. Resolved in a matter of months, it actually represented just a blip in his 38 years at the organization. But clearly, as he sat down to write his memoirs, the painful memories still rankled.

As Valenti reconstructs the controversy, he became galvanized when he learned in August 2003 that half of the 68 titles distributed via screeners in 2002 had given rise to illegal DVDs. He vowed to stop their distribution.

But because awards season was fast approaching, Valenti announced the new policy in September, having consulted only with studio heads. In retrospect, he admits, by not having spent more time consulting with the industry at large in advance of the change, he violated one of the basic tenants he'd learned from LBJ, "Never surprise your friends and allies."

Valenti had stepped on a tripwire. Filmmakers rose up to complain that without screeners, smaller movies wouldn't enjoy an equal playing field. On Oct. 10, more than 100 directors signed an open letter to Valenti opposing the new policy. "To say I was pained is to undershoot the mark," Valenti acknowledges. "I was sick at heart."

With the help of Frank Pierson, then president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Valenti tried to forge a compromise that would have seen screeners go just to members of the Academy. But the uproar continued. Valenti recalls a phone call with Harvey Weinstein, then of Miramax Films, along with Sony Picture Classics' Michael Barker and Focus Features' James Schamus, who all opposed the ban. Although the participants agreed to keep the conversation private, it was leaked to the New York Times the next day. Valenti blamed Weinstein, though Weinstein denied being the source of the leak.

Fearing an anti-trust lawsuit that ultimately did materialize, Valenti called another meeting of studio chiefs in November. He urged a new plan that would have seen a restricted number of screeners go to the Academy and several other groups. But by then, Valenti could not persuade the chiefs to reverse course.

Finally, the case went before a federal district court judge. Valenti contends that the judge did not appreciate the central issue he advanced -- the protection of creative property. The MPAA lost the case.

"To me, the whole enterprise was a sad piece of business," Valenti recalls about one of his rare defeats. "The only good news was that I was damn glad it was over. It was a bitch."

BitTorrent, Australia and TV Networks
Peter Wells

"It is better to be a pirate than to join the navy", said Steve Jobs, when rallying the troops who originally designed the first Macintosh. Twenty years later it seems odd that the same Mr. Jobs has done more to stem the flow of pirated material over the Internet than any single person. Apple and the iTunes Music Store dragged the record industry into the new market of the Internet. Before iTunes, music on the Internet was "shared" illegally through peer-to-peer networks such as Kazza and Limewire. Nobody believed that people would buy music on the net when the same files were available free of charge. One Billion songs later and iTunes is a word synonymous with success.

Now, a new network called BitTorrent has become the online pirates favourite weapon of choice. Its favourite download? Television shows.

Television networks see this as pure theft. They argue that shows downloaded illegally are hurting ratings in Australia and are responsible for lost revenue in advertising. They also claim that people will not download television at a price when free versions exist all over the web. Hmmm, doesn't that sound familiar?

First, some history. BitTorrent was created by Bram Cohen, as a way of distributing large files over the Internet, without burdening the original host with bandwidth costs. BitTorrent works by dividing the files into small chunks, where every user is simultaneously downloading a file while they upload to other users. This software was originally created to help distribute Linux builds, but quickly became overcome by "pirates" searching for TV shows, games, movies and all manner of digital wares.

BitTorrent was first considered to be a threat to the movie industry. In an excellent Wired interview in 2005 with the BitTorrent's creator, this threat was highlighted by the Motion Picture Association of America, who began suing individuals downloading movies, in order to, as the MPAA's anti-piracy chief John Malcolm put it, "avoid the fate of the music industry." But the reality is that most movies available on BitTorrent are usually bad quality, they are shot on low definition cameras at a cinema, and include people walking in front of the lens, talking and generally being annoying etc. Shows broadcast on television on the other hand are generally ripped from a Tivo like device, are easily comparable with broadcast images, are ad free, and available almost immediately.

When Wired Magazine asked Bram Cohen if he would use BitTorrent if he hadn't invented it, he replied "I don't know. There's upholding the principle. And there's being the only knuckle-head left who's upholding the principle." Asked later if he thought his invention will lead to the downfall of cinema and television, he replied: "Take this new platform and mine it for gold... Hollywood, which squawked about VHS, figured out how to make billions off video rentals." Traditional media shareholders are always scared of new forms of distribution which threaten their stranglehold on an established market. It's why the RIAA sued people who used file sharing networks to download songs. Its also why the MPAA started suing BitTorrent users. But creators of content need to realise that suing their customers is not the answer. For some reason, customers don't like being sued.

To take John Malcolm's analogy further, I would hope the television industry will "avoid the fate of the music industry", by not waiting till they have turned a generation into pirates before offering other options for free to air TV fans to watch the shows they love. Treat people like thieves and that's what they'll become.

A Nation of Pirates
BitTorrent usage in Australia is the worst kept secret on the Internet. Technology and television forums across Australia are filled with posts about “watching the latest episode of (insert show here) on a recent trip to America." My ISP says BitTorrent accounts for about 45% of its Internet traffic. Channel BT, as it is known, is the new reality.

Even The Bleeding Edge, Fairfax newspaper’s technology blog, has written many guides for setting up BitTorrent for the downloading of "Linux distributions". Fairfax, as a content producer and a major media player, can not be seen as supporting piracy. Yet they have even skirted the issue by suggesting "a friend of theirs" has used BitTorrent to catch up on missed episodes of Desperate Housewives. Missed episodes? Or new episodes that haven't aired in Australia?

According to piracy tracking site Envisional’s recent studies, Australians are the greatest BitTorrent users per capita in the world. Despite making up only 0.3 % of the world’s population, Australians account for 20% of BitTorrent traffic. This is only set to increase as more and more Australians begin to use broadband. In 2005 only 30% of Australians connected to the Internet had a broadband connection, by 2006, it was 51%. Critical mass of broadband has been achieved. This point is crucial in understanding "Channel BitTorrent's" sudden rise in Australia. An hour long television show is roughly 350MB, which would take around 14 hours to download on a dial up connection. A standard MP3 is about 3MB, or 12 minutes. It is for this simple reason, the size of the files in question, that music was the first battleground of Internet piracy. High speed Internet means television is the next major battleground.

While there is no other option available, could it be that illegal downloading of television will only increase? In 2006, with broadband adoption growing Australia, piracy was blamed for the drop in viewers of the early episodes of the two hit imports of 2005, Lost, and Desperate Housewives. Yet by the end of 2006, Desperate Housewives was actually rating better than it had in 2005. What can be gleaned from the implications of these ratings? Its hard to say, because comprehensive research has not been made in Australia that addresses BitTorrent's effect on ratings. My guess would be that the drop in ratings at the start of 2006 were from fans of the the show who had already downloaded the new episodes that Channel Seven were showing. The later peak in viewership could be due to the buzz the downloaders (and new fans) of the show had created. Is it possible that for every viewer the networks lose to BitTorrent, they gain three more from the 'water cooler" effect?

Channel BT
It sounds far fetched, but is it really? Battlestar Galactica is the show that defined BitTorrent. Battlestar debuted in the U.K. in October 2004, but was delayed in the U.S. by the Sci Fi Network until January 2005. That didn't stop the geeks in U.K hitting the Internet and proclaiming Battlestar as the best new show in a decade, and uploading Battlestar on the relatively new network. When it finally debuted in the US, the word of mouth created by those who had BitTorrented the show meant that Battlestar became the most watched show in The Sci Fi Channel’s history. This is a fascinating example because usually Americans, as the world largest producer of television, are normally the first audience in the world to watch new programs.

It seems that consumers downloading episodes of a series via BitTorrent create demand and are extremely loyal viewers. Downloading a torrent takes a bit of effort, first to discover new shows, then to locate the files and join a swarm. It is not something most people with small download limits and low Internet speeds can do on a whim. It also seems to me that BitTorrent increases sales of a series on DVD. How many people do you know with DVD box sets of Arrested Development, Firefly, The Sopranos, or Lost? Ok, now how many of those people discovered these shows via television or via the Internet?

Where BitTorrent is having major effects is on the serialised television shows, such as Prison Break, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica, that reward loyal viewers with in-jokes and gradual plot development. Show like Law and Order and CSI are safer, because it really doesn’t matter if you miss an episode. Miss an episode of Battlestar Galactica, Prison Break, or Lost, and you could quickly find yourself, well, lost.

We are entering a new phase in television where TV and the Internet converge. America, as one of the strongest producers of television content in the world, has been able to embrace the new albeit slowly, embrace this new reality. The major US networks offer downloads of their most popular shows the day after they have screened, at a small price through iTunes or Xbox Live, or free through streaming (ads included) on their websites. Neither service is available outside of the U.S.

The question is, would the average punter be prepared to pay a nominal fee for an episode that is guaranteed to be downloaded at the highest speed possible, or use a free BitTorrent service whose speed is subject to the activity of "the swarm", and could contain viruses. The US iTunes store suggests the answer is yes. Also, if a new method like iTunes becomes adopted by the majority, it will actually hurt Internet piracy by removing people from the "swarm", therefore slowing down torrent speeds. Sure, there will always be piracy on the Internet, because there was always piracy before the Internet. It is human nature. But iTunes has proven over a billion times around the world that when you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, more often than not they will.

Silly Season
So what can be done in Australia? Australian TV needs to adopt the current situation that is proving successful in the US, where episodes are available for streaming immediately after they have screened, or downloaded commercial free for a small price through iTunes. This would obviously require new contracts to be written between our local networks and the US studios to include the Australian rights to stream video on the Internet along with free to air broadcast rights. Tougher still would be working out who was entitled to any profits from sales made through iTunes, the Australia rights holders, or the US producers, or both. I don't pretend to know the deals that could be made, this is something for the lawyers to work out. Either way, this can only happen when Australian TV starts airing episodes as close to there original air dates as possible, and it is in the interest of our networks to make this happen as soon as possible.

Australian television networks need to embrace the new reality of the global market, to understand that consumers are no longer prepared to wait months on end for their favourite shows to be screened, when they don't have to. We are sick of finding out who killed Laura Palmer or who shot Mr. Burns months before we finally see the episode screened on free to air. Who in Australia would be prepared to wait for a new episode of Prison Break to appear on Yahoo7, if it was freely available 9 months earlier on channel BT? Fans of a show called Prison Break probably have a looser ethical compass than most!

Australian television networks could never "catch up" with the US schedule, because the US launches most shows in September, and traditionally Australia's Low Ratings period starts in November. So What? Most US shows reach a mid season climax for the November sweeps, then take a 'hiatus' over the Christmas season, only to return by mid February. That seems to coincide nicely with the Australian Summer, doesn't it? Another argument was that Australians benefit from the delay it takes imported shows to reach our shores, because it allows our commercial networks to screen a full series without these long interruptions. Anyone swayed by this argument needs to look at any Green Guide to read fans angry with our networks cutting up a series, playing episodes out of order, playing weeks of repeats of hit shows to 'stretch out' a season, playing 'fake' season cliff-hangers. The list goes on...

The truth, as these complaints show, is Australian Commercial television has little respect for its viewers. Seven, Nine And Ten have turned exploitation into an art form. They all rely heavily on expensive US hits that are cheaper to import than locally produced drama. Waiting months on end to debut a show allows them get a clear idea what imports will win or lose, so they can decide what to spend there marketing dollars on. Local content regulations (which ensures that 55% of prime time television is locally produced) are seen as a commercial burden, rather than important to the culture of Australia. The locally produced "hits" in this county are generally cheaper imitations of international reality formats, such as Big Brother, Australian Idol and The Biggest Loser. This cosy situation has made Australian television the most profitable in the world. But how much longer can this go on?

Hollywood had to deal with this global reality a few years earlier. Traditionally Hollywood films have had a ‘staggered’ release around the globe. For example, a blockbuster film released in the U.S. for the Thanksgiving weekend (America’s highest grossing box office weekend) would be delayed in Australia until Boxing Day (our biggest movie going day). Online piracy destroyed this model, as pirated copies of films were distributed to eager fans who chose instant gratification over image quality. By 2003, all major Hollywood films were released simultaneously across the globe. Hollywood realised that giving consumers what they want, when they want, was better than holding out for the traditional schedules that had worked so long in the pre-Internet era. Again, doesn't this sound familiar?

Lets look at BitTorrent's numbers again. The U.S, with a population of 300 million people, account for 7% of BitTorrent traffic. Australia, with only 20 million people, accounts for 20% of all traffic. Is this really a surprise, when U.S audiences are offered a legal option to watch their favourite TV shows via the Internet. CBS recently announced that the shows they offered as downloads or via streaming, had better ratings and more loyal fans. Surely the remarkable rise in ratings of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report can be attributed to their cult status on YouTube.

This doesn't just effect TV from the US. Tony Martin joked that the ABC delayed screening Ricky Gervias' Extras, because they wanted to wait until everyone who wanted to watch the show had either downloaded the series or bought the DVDs. Funnily enough, I heard this on the podcast of Get This. Why? Because I hate the music and advertisements Triple M plays, and I would rather download a Nickleback free version of the show than to listen to it live. In fact, I doubt I would have ever heard Get This had it not been released as a podcast. I think Tony Martin is Australia's greatest comedian, but I never listened to him while he was only available via Triple M. Even Roy and H.G., who are on a network whose music I enjoy, I still download as a podcast rather than listen to live. Why? Because I prefer to listen to them on Monday morning than Sunday afternoon. It is the simple fact that the Internet generation expects time shifting. Despite this, Get This is able to wrap their podcasts in sponsorship. And I am happy to hear their advertisements if it means I can listen to Tony Martin whenever I want.

Channel Ten seems to understand this new reality, screening new episodes of the O.C and Jericho soon after they have screened in the USA. They have also started selling episodes of locally produced “David Tench” and “Tripping Over” through Bigpond.com, for those who may have missed an episode. It is interesting to note that Channel Ten targets a younger audience, those who are Internet savvy, and may be willing to source their favourite shows through “non-traditional” channels. Ten have also released "best bits" podcasts of Thank God You're Here and The Ronnie Johns Half Hour, and rather than hurt the ratings, Thank God Your Here has actually been the highest rating show of 2006. Channel Seven can fill its schedule with "Encore Presentations" of Lost or Desperate Housewives, but that's really not the answer. What are the people that miss the encore presentation going to do? Or those who miss the first four episodes?

The key here is iTunes. Apple's juggernaut now owns 88% of the legal download market worldwide, thanks to the success of the iPod. If legal television downloads are to overtake BitTorrent usage in Australia, those shows need to be available through iTunes. It is, to date, the only successful business model that is cross platform.

The End of The World As We Know It
I really don't believe that BitTorrent will negatively effect Australian TV network ratings any time soon. In fact, for the time being I think us geeks will actually help network television by providing shows like Heroes a word of mouth buzz that no slick marketing campaign could ever hope to create. But television networks need to think closely about their long term future. Every angry fan that turns to channel BitTorrent for their latest fix of Lost will be much harder to coax back to free to air television down the track. The longer a viewer becomes used to BitTorrent - free to watch, on demand and without ads, they will be harder to convince that what they are doing is wrong. And every time a network representative defends this situation with word like "anyone using BitTorrent is simply impatient or a thief" offends a massive group of extremely loyal television fans. When BitTorrent finally starts to negatively effect network television ratings, it maybe too late. Treat people like thieves and that's what they become.

Measuring U.S. Mobile Media Consumption
David H. Deans

The Nielsen Company will begin measuring mobile phone users through a new service called Nielsen Wireless. This service will measure how many people use content services such as mobile Internet and mobile video and what impact this has on established media behavior.

Nielsen Wireless is designed specifically for the wireless industry and also complements Nielsen's Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement (A2/M2) initiative, which will measure television usage on all television and video platforms, including personal video devices such as mobile phones.

Nielsen already supports the wireless industry through customer segmentation, ringtone sales tracking (Nielsen RingScan), attitudinal and behavioral surveys and mobile polling. Nielsen Wireless will work in tandem with these existing Nielsen services.

Nielsen Wireless' first product -- Mobile Vector -- will launch in the U.S. in July 2007. It will use information culled from Nielsen's existing "National People Meter TV" sample to report on media behavior and audience demographics segmented by wireless carrier.

Later this year, Nielsen will expand Nielsen Mobile Vector to include a survey of mobile phone users that will provide information about their consumption of mobile media content. Through continued collaboration with wireless industry stakeholders, Nielsen's ultimate goal is to develop a system that will support a market-wide view of mobile media consumption.

I believe that this new service might provide valuable supplemental data to complement the research that exposed the issues that have led to the under-performing adoption within the U.S. market thus far -- such as walled-gardens that restrict usage, limited content, poorly designed media portals and of course, the perceived high price of mobile media-related services.

The Nielsen service is intended to provide the following benefits:

- Help wireless carriers develop more efficient advertising campaigns to reach their most valuable subscribers, while helping mobile content producers decide which mobile content distributor will be most effective in extending their brand.

- Help the mobile media industry establish competitive positioning and differentiation.

- Identify how the subscribers of different wireless carriers consume media in the home (i.e. TV viewing preferences, video gaming activity, media technology adoption).

TiVo Frets Over GPLv3, Torvalds Still Unconvinced

In its annual report filed with the SEC in April, PVR (personal video recorder) pioneer TiVo cautioned that, "If the currently proposed version of GPLv3 is widely adopted, we may be unable to incorporate future enhancements to the GNU/Linux operating system into our software, which could adversely affect our business."

TiVo's concerns revolve around an "anti-tivoization" provision in the final draft of the GNU General Public License Version 3 (GPLv3), which is nearing its end-of-June ship date.


The Free Software Foundation (FSF), which maintains the GPL licenses, is attempting to address the issue of "tivoization" of code covered by the GPL.

The problem arises from the fact that code in TiVo's popular Linux-powered DVRs performs signature checks in hardware to prevent anyone from modifying the device's software, and therefore its operation. Many device makers do not want customers to modify the operation of their devices, due to concerns over quality control, customer support, or legal liabilities.

Since a fundamental principle of the GPL is the right to read, modify, and re-use GPL'd code, the FSF reasons, such code-locking techniques fly in the face of the GPL's intent. Hence, the FSF has designed anti-tivoization language and included it in the final draft of the GPLv3.

Fortunately for TiVo, however, Linux founder Linus Torvalds currently sees little to recommend the controversial GPLv3 license for the Linux kernel, and does not consider tivoization to be a problem.

Torvalds's latest comments on the GPLv3

In an exchange on the Linux kernel mailing list (LKML), the Linux originator called GPLv2, the license that currently governs the Linux kernel and much other Linux-related software, "simply the better license," while still suggesting two situations in which he might reconsider.

The first involves the Linux kernel adopting a dual license policy, which would be "technically quite hard" but at least within the realm of possibility -- though unlikely -- Torvalds's posts suggest.

As for the second, Torvalds writes, "If Sun really _is_ going to release OpenSolaris under GPLv3 [story], that _may_ be a good reason. I don't think the GPLv3 is as good a license as v2, but on the other hand, I'm pragmatic, and if we can avoid having two kernels with two different licenses and the friction that causes, I at least see the _reason_ for GPLv3. As it is, I don't really see a reason at all."

In the LKML exchange, Torvalds also questions concerns regarding tivoization, "which I expressly think is ok," he writes. Additionally he objects to "overblown" and "panicked worries" regarding the recent Novell/Microsoft deal.

GPL-related statements in TiVo's annual report

In its annual report filed with the SEC in April, Tivo, one of the first device vendors to adopt Linux, listed the GPLv3 alongside SCO among the potential risks to its business. The statement reads, in part:

We could be prevented from selling or developing our TiVo software if the GNU General Public License governing the GNU/Linux operating system and Linux kernel and similar licenses under which our product is developed and licensed is not enforceable or changed substantially.

Regarding pending "anti-tivoization" changes to the GPL in the final draft of the GPLv3, TiVo's annual report cautions:

In addition, the GNU Public License is subject to occasional revision. A proposal for changing the license from its current form (GPLv2) into a newer, more restrictive version called GPLv3 has been proposed and is currently undergoing community review. If the currently proposed version of GPLv3 is widely adopted, we may be unable to incorporate future enhancements to the GNU/Linux operating system into our software, which could adversely affect our business.

With respect to SCO's challenges to Linux, the annual report adds:

Our TiVo software includes parts of the Linux kernel and the GNU/Linux operating system. The Linux kernel and the GNU/Linux operating system have been developed and licensed under the GNU General Public License, version 2 and similar open source licenses. These licenses state that any program licensed under them may be liberally copied, modified, and distributed. The GNU General Public license is a subject of litigation in the case of The SCO Group, Inc. v. International Business Machines Corp., pending in the United States District Court for the District of Utah. SCO Group, Inc., or SCO, has publicly alleged that certain versions of the Linux kernel contain unauthorized UNIX code or derivative works of UNIX code. Uncertainty concerning SCO's allegations, regardless of their merit, could adversely affect our manufacturing and other customer and supplier relationships. It is possible that a court would hold these open source licenses to be unenforceable in that litigation or that someone could assert a claim for proprietary rights in our TiVo software that runs on a GNU/Linux-based operating system. Any ruling by a court that these licenses are not enforceable, or that GNU/Linux-based operating systems, or significant portions of them, may not be liberally copied, modified or distributed, would have the effect of preventing us from selling or developing our TiVo software and would adversely affect our business.

The complete text of Tivo's Form 10K filing can be found here.

Media Innovations, Leaping From Lab to Screen
Denise Caruso

ONCE upon a time, before “the convergence” — of computer power with telecommunications and media — companies generally knew where their market stopped and someone else’s began.

But the flood of technology has effectively washed away those boundaries.

Today, I watch “Lost” on my laptop and “Veronica Mars” on my iPod, not on the TV for which they were first intended. I can browse the Web on TV or on a game console, instead of on my computer. I can Skype my friend in Sweden from my computer, and never touch my phone. Instead, I use it to listen to music, take pictures and read e-mail during meetings. And almost every day, there is new stuff vying for what is left of my attention — new media, new devices, new functions on old devices — that might inspire me to abandon whatever I was watching or using, yesterday.

As a result, running a media or entertainment company in the 21st century is not for the faint of heart. The change is relentless, the learning curve sharp, and the competition both fierce and seemingly infinite.

“Every day, there’s another set of revelations about who is doing what to keep up — how they’re handling games or broadband video, what’s their mobile strategy,” said Nick DeMartino, the senior vice president for media and technology at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

Mr. DeMartino opened the institute’s first computer lab in 1991 and has had a bird’s-eye view of the industry changes ever since.

“It’s fascinating as a spectator sport,” he says. But for the players, the question is this: “When it comes to innovation and new technologies, how do companies inform the decision-making process, so they can feel like they have some solid ground under their feet?”

While some go it alone, many of the best-known media brands turn to the institute’s Digital Content Lab for help. For nearly 10 years, the lab (once called the Enhanced Television Workshop) has provided companies with an opportunity to participate in a powerful research and development process that uses their own creative assets.

To date, participants include Animal Planet, America Online, Bravo, the Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel, MTV, NBC, National Geographic, Nickelodeon, PBS, Showtime and Turner Broadcasting System, as well as several small interactive and independent media production companies.

To begin, a company picks one of its media properties and applies to the lab, describing a problem it would like to solve. If selected, that property becomes the focus of a six-month, intensive collaboration. The institute chooses a group of consultants from the most innovative design, technology and production firms in the digital media industry, and teams them with professionals from television, films and games.

At the end of the six months, each team delivers a working prototype to the media company, which owns it outright and can use it in any way it chooses.

In the most recent round of prototypes, completed in late 2006, Cartoon Network New Media walked away with a prototype based on “Ben 10,” one of its top three series.

The Cartoon Network was aiming to expand its library of more than 150 games — which correspond to its TV cartoons — beyond computers and into game consoles, without spending a fortune rewriting all its software, said Suzanne Stefanac, a journalist, and longtime A.F.I. mentor who was recently named director of the Digital Content Lab. (Ms. Stefanac and I once worked together at ZDTV.)

In response, its team delivered a technical feat: a “build once, broadcast everywhere” game engine that allows the same application to run on a PC or on a PlayStation 3 and that players can navigate with a mouse, a keyboard or a game controller.

The Ben 10 prototype, the first game to use the PlayStation 3’s built-in browser, was such a hit that the network expects to commercialize the technology, which it calls a “megaseries,” for some yet-unnamed assets by year-end. “We look at this as an amazing new content window for distribution,” said Ross Cox, senior director for entertainment products at Cartoon Network New Media.

A New York documentary company, kontent real, presented its A.F.I. team with a very different problem. PBS had picked up its series on sustainable design, called “design: e2.” “But because we don’t have national distribution on PBS, the series airs at different times, on different dates and in different markets,” said Midori Willoughby, strategic entertainment producer at kontent real. As word spread, a following began to evolve around the series that included “a lot of people who became aware of ‘e2’ via different vehicles.”

Its video podcasts were quickly tagged as “new and notable” by iTunes, for example, and people began to find them on the Web as well. So kontent real asked its team to develop an interface and tools that would help these users manage and gain access to information across multiple devices.

The team took its suggestions even further, resulting in a sophisticated application that lets users upload and exchange information about “green” buildings and services, as well as events, by using the Web, TiVo, the G.P.S. functions and cameras of mobile phones and Blu-ray optical discs.

Ms. Stefanac said new teams are now working on the next cycle of projects. For example, Bravo has come to the table with its “Top Chef” series, looking for a technical solution to a problem that is plaguing the television and advertising industries: the fact that people with DVRs can speed past advertising. So far, viewers have strongly opposed any attempts by broadcasters to block this capability. “They know they can’t stop people from doing it, but they would like to figure out what the right solution is,” Ms. Stefanac said.

One of the most promising projects under way does not involve working with an existing property but with a new media genre called “machinima,” a mash-up of “machine cinema.” Today, machinima is allowing people to cobble together crude movies using 3-D games and creating their own soundtracks. Making a machinima environment from scratch “could save producers a lot of money, since you could repurpose them” for different projects, Ms. Stefanac said.

Digital Content Lab’s process to stimulate such creative problem solving has several noteworthy features. For one, the media owners do not pay to bring their properties into a project. A.F.I. is a nonprofit group, and all the work of the lab is sponsored by corporate donations.

And all consultants who work on the project, who are called “mentors,” donate their time. Sometimes the mentors and content owners are competitors in the outside world, but work together on project teams at the lab, an unusual détente in an industry where ideas are the coin of the realm and intellectual property is jealously guarded.

“The lab is a unique entity,” Ms. Stefanac said. “It’s allowed to be a kind of Switzerland, where even competitors will come together on the same team to work toward a goal and really share their expertise.”

MS. STEFANAC says the system works because her team selects problems for which the solutions do not benefit one company alone. “These projects are sponsored and the mentors donate their time because they are contributing to the greater good of the industry,” she said. “Our mentors come back year after year, project after project, because they get to address these larger issues.”

One such mentor is Dale Herigstad, chief creative officer at Schematic, a digital design firm based in Los Angeles. He has been steadily mentoring content owners at A.F.I. for several years.

“It’s a small industry but the collaborative spirit at A.F.I. has given a certain spirit to the business over all,” he said. “I’ve always liked the phrase, ‘Leave your guns at the door.’ That’s been the value, and one of the underlying directives of the lab. It’s still a new business, and a new industry that’s out there. And what A.F.I. has done has really affected that, and created a common sensibility for moving forward.”

MySpace Mini-Episodes, Courtesy of Honda
Stuart Elliott

YEARS after Volkswagen challenged drivers to “Think small,” another automaker, Honda, plans to run smaller commercials for a smaller car in smaller versions of television series.

Honda will be the sole sponsor of what Sony Pictures Television is calling the Minisode Network, which is scheduled to begin next week. Visitors to the MySpace Web site (my space.com) will be able to watch episodes of 15 vintage Sony series like “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Facts of Life,” “Fantasy Island” and “Who’s the Boss,” edited from their original lengths of 30 or 60 minutes each to an Internet-friendly 4 to 6 minutes.

To mirror the pared-down programming, Honda and its longtime agency, RPA, have agreed to run only eight seconds of commercials with each episode, appearing before the shortened show starts.

First, there will be an onscreen billboard lasting three seconds, declaring, “The Minisode Network, brought to you by Honda.” The billboard will be followed by a five-second commercial for the Honda Fit, the minicar that American Honda introduced last year, and its Web site (fit.honda.com).

“Minisodes are right up the Fit’s alley, so to speak,” said Tom Peyton, senior manager for advertising at the American Honda Motor Company in Torrance, Calif., which is part of Honda Motor of Japan.

The sponsorship, estimated in six figures, is indicative of the intensifying interest in online video among marketers. As broadband penetration increases, making it easier to watch video clips online, online video is becoming a significant advertising medium.

“As the Net becomes its own media channel, we continue to look for the right opportunities to access consumers and the right media formats,” Mr. Peyton said.

Shortening TV series to lengths more appropriate for watching on a PC “is a very innovative use of existing content,” he added, “and it’s another way to leverage MySpace,” the social networking Web site owned by the News Corporation.

The minisodes will appear exclusively on MySpace through the end of August. Initially, there will be three episodes of each series, with new episodes to be added each week. Sony Pictures Television announced the idea in April, describing it as a way to repurpose for the new media programming that was originally produced for the traditional media.

Other series that will be boiled down for minisodes include “Diff’rent Strokes,” “The Partridge Family,” “Police Woman,” “Silver Spoons” and “What’s Happening!!”

The minisodes are not intended as pastiches or excerpts; they are edited carefully so the plots can be followed from beginning to end. (It helps that many of the series are formulaic sitcoms or police dramas.)

The concept is comparable to the Condensed Books once sold by Reader’s Digest, which promised to provide readers with the essence of the original, longer versions.

“The new forms of media make lots of things possible,” said Amy Carney, president for advertiser sales at Sony Pictures Television in New York, part of the Sony Corporation of America division of the Sony Corporation of Japan.

For those who watched the full-length episodes of the series, “you’ll feel like your life is flashing before your eyes,” she added, laughing.

After the exclusivity with My Space ends, Ms. Carney said, the goal is for the minisodes to come to other Web sites while remaining on my space.com. Sony Pictures Television is looking at sites like aol.com, yahoo .com and youtube.com, she added, as well as posting them on a microsite, a special site of their own.

Plans call for the contents of the Minisode Network to eventually be available on mobile devices like cellphones, Ms. Carney said.

“As we roll out the minisodes to other distribution platforms,” she added, Honda “has the right of first refusal” on sponsorship.

Lauren Mehl, associate media director at RPA in Santa Monica, Calif., said the agency would evaluate the subsequent sponsorship opportunities based on how the commercials perform their run on MySpace.

The five-second Fit commercials that will appear before each episode are among several produced last year by RPA to herald the car’s arrival in the United States. Fit is a member of a class of smaller imports that also includes the Nissan Versa and the Toyota Yaris.

Honda said it sold 27,934 Fits from its introduction in spring 2006 through the end of the year. Through the first five months of 2007, sales totaled 18,156.

“We’re working on additional supply and expanding the car in the U.S.,” Mr. Peyton said.

Fit and minisodes are among examples of a trend that is gaining favor on Madison Avenue to reprise “Think small,” which was created almost five decades ago for Volkswagen by the old Doyle Dane Bernbach agency.

For example, the CW network, owned by CBS and Time Warner, plans to sell five-second commercials during the 2007-8 season that starts in September. Unilever makes a concentrated version of its All detergent, named All Small and Mighty, which comes in a smaller bottle.

And the July issue of Cosmopolitan, published by the Hearst Magazines division of the Hearst Corporation, carries a tiny brochure for the O. B. line of feminine hygiene products sold by the McNeil-P.P.C. unit of Johnson & Johnson.

The minibooklet, “The Book of Mighty Small,” urges women to “discover how little can be big” and promotes a Web site, mightysmall.com.

That would have made a nice Web address for the Minisode Network.
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New Presidential Debate Site? Clearly, YouTube
Katharine Q. Seelye

The quadrennial ritual of presidential debates has long followed a tried and true format.

A guy in a suit asks mostly predictable questions of other suits. The voter is a fixture in the audience, motionless until he or she gets to address the candidate, briefly and respectfully. Everything is choreographed.

Now imagine a kid in jeans and a T-shirt asking a question, less reverentially, more pointedly and using powerful visual images to underscore the point. Maybe he or she will ask about the war in Iraq — and show clips from a soldier’s funeral. Or a mushroom cloud. If global warming is the issue, the videographer might photoshop himself or herself onto a melting glacier. The question might come in the form of a rap song or through spliced images of a candidate’s contradictory statements.

The presidential debates are about to enter the world of YouTube, the anything-goes home-video-sharing Web site that puts the power in the hands of the camera holder. YouTube, which is owned by Google, and CNN are co-sponsoring a debate among the eight Democratic presidential candidates on July 23 in South Carolina, an event that could define the next phase of what has already been called the YouTube election, a visual realm beyond Web sites and blogs.

The candidates are to assemble on a stage in Charleston, S.C., at the Citadel (yes, the Citadel, the military school criticized by some Democrats a decade ago before it began admitting women). The questions will come via video submitted by ordinary people through YouTube. Moderating between the viewer and the candidates will be Anderson Cooper, the CNN anchor.

The video format opens the door for originality and spontaneity — elements usually foreign to the controlled environment of presidential image-making. Because visual images can be more powerful than words, the videos have the potential to elicit emotional responses from the candidates and frame the election in new ways.

“It’s one of the biggest innovations we’ve seen in politics,” said Mike Gehrke, director of research for the Democratic National Committee, which has sanctioned the YouTube/CNN event as the first of six official Democratic debates this year (which means the party has coordinated them).

User-generated video, he said, is changing the balance in campaigns. “It used to be a one-way street,” he said. “It would cost a lot of money for a campaign to put together a good TV ad, then you had to buy time, put it on the air and later on Web sites. Now it goes the other way too, and you have people talking to each other and to the campaigns.”

Just ask former Senator George Allen from Virginia, the Republican who lost his bid for re-election last year after an amateur video circulated all over the Web and broke through to the mainstream media showing him using the word “macaca” to describe a Democratic campaign worker of Indian descent.

On CNN, Mr. Cooper’s signature style is personal and informal, but the selection of him as moderator, as opposed to someone less established or more associated with the Web, suggests that the event will retain a mainstream air. CNN and YouTube are to release details soon on how they will choose the videos and other parameters.

Mr. Cooper has already made an appeal on CNN to viewers to be “creative” in their videos. No one knows quite what to expect.

The videos are likely to reflect the irreverence inherent on YouTube. But how far will CNN go in airing the site's often-subversive attitude, like the "1984" video portraying Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as Big Sister? If the videos shown are too bland, there could be a revolt on YouTube, where users are likely to post their videos anyway, whether they make it on the air or not.

More than 100 million video clips are viewed every day on YouTube. Andrew Rasiej, a co-founder of the nonpartisan Web site techPresident.com, which tracks the candidates’ use of technology and how much, or little, they are achieving online, said Internet video was changing the political landscape.

“We’re moving to a society that is video-based from one that is text-based, whether we like it or not,” he said. “Candidates are starting to recognize that the only way to fight the potential of the tsunami of voter-generated video is to produce lots of video themselves,” he said. “The Internet culture recognizes that Internet video is more authentic, more granular, less scripted than television, and it is an antidote to sound-bite politics.”

Michael Bassik, a Democratic consultant with MSHC Partners, who specializes in online political advertising and is not affiliated with any campaign, noted that YouTube offers an “exponentially greater opportunity to reach a young, active, passionate audience,” one that is far bigger than the combined audiences of the nightly newscasts and the five debates that have been shown on television so far this season. For those five debates, the majority of viewers were older than 55.

“The impact of the YouTube debate can’t be over-estimated,” Mr. Bassik said.

The political videos on YouTube, especially those offered by the campaigns themselves, are almost always less popular than random clips. The most popular video of all time, which has been up on YouTube for a year, is one about the evolution of dance, viewed more than 50 million times. One of the most-watched political videos, the "1984" anti-Clinton clip, which has been up for three months, has been watched about 3.4 million times.

But the ones on the debate may get more attention.

The footage will be available on the Web for anyone to mash up and create new videos. Through the viral nature of the Web, highlights from the debate are likely to get deep penetration in cyberspace. And videos being aired during this debate will likely magnify the audience because some of them will be picked up, linked to, replayed and commented upon by the mainstream media. (The debate will also be simulcast on CNN en Español.)

Mr. Bassik said one downside for the candidates would be if a negative video about them were tagged to show up when someone searches for a campaign’s own video. But, he said, “the campaigns are so risk-averse, they would be reluctant to engage in a YouTube debate if it weren’t perceived over all as a positive experience.”

Most of the presidential campaigns are now fully engaged with video. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic candidate whose campaign is perceived as being more advanced than most in using the Internet, views the YouTube debate as a chance to “extend the online dialogue,” his spokesman, Bill Burton, said.

The effect of video in a debate, Mr. Burton said, would be “like when the ‘talkies’ married the moving image with sound in the 1920s.”

Matt Lewis, director of operations at townhall.com, a large online source of conservative news and views, said he would recommend that the Republicans participate in a YouTube debate.

“Yes, there’s definitely opportunities for abuse here, for things to be shown out of context,” Mr. Lewis said. “But then you come back with your own video and show the full thing. Technology will happen, and the question is whether it will happen for you or to you.”

The huge popularity of YouTube is likely to translate into big ratings for the debate on CNN. So far, the 2.8 million people who tuned into the Democratic debate in New Hampshire on June 3 made up the highest number of people to have watched any of the five televised debates.

Whether the YouTube debate translates into a bigger turnout by the under-30 crowd at the polls next November is a different question.

In the last presidential election in 2004, about 49 percent of people aged 18 to 29 voted, according to Michael McDonald, an associate professor of government at George Mason University and an expert in voter statistics. That was up from the 40 percent of the under-30s who voted in 2000, but it was lower than the population at large. (In 2004, a relatively high 63.8 percent of all citizens over 18 voted, according to a survey by the United States Census Bureau. That was up from 59.5 percent in 2000.)

Still, Mr. McDonald noted, the under-30 crowd is accounting for an increasing share of the electorate — 16 percent in 2004, he said, up from 14 percent in 2000. (The Boston Globe recently examined the growing interest of young people in voting. The Times's Janet Elder wrote an analysis of the voting patterns of 18-24 year olds today.)

Mr. McDonald said he expected a high turnout in 2008 among both voters over all and younger voters because they are often motivated to the polls by big issues like war.

In trying to reach them, the candidates may be moved to do unusual things. Perhaps some will show up at the YouTube debate in something other than a dark suit. Some may even bring their own videos.


TV's 'Mr. Wizard' Don Herbert Dies at 89
Lynn Elber

Don Herbert, who as television's "Mr. Wizard" introduced generations of young viewers to the joys of science, died Tuesday. He was 89. Herbert, who had bone cancer, died at his suburban Bell Canyon home, said his son-in-law, Tom Nikosey.

"He really taught kids how to use the thinking skills of a scientist," said former colleague Steve Jacobs. He worked with Herbert on a 1980s show that echoed the original 1950s "Watch Mr. Wizard" series, which became a fond baby boomer memory.

In "Watch Mr. Wizard," which was produced from 1951 to 1964 and received a Peabody Award in 1954, Herbert turned TV into an entertaining classroom. On a simple, workshop-like set, he demonstrated experiments using household items.

"He modeled how to predict and measure and analyze. ... The show today might seem slow but it was in-depth and forced you to think along," Jacobs said. "You were learning about the forces of nature."

Herbert encouraged children to duplicate experiments at home, said Jacobs, who recounted serving as a behind-the-scenes "science sidekick" to Herbert on the '80s "Mr. Wizard's World" that aired on the Nickelodeon channel.

When Jacobs would reach for beakers and flasks, Herbert would remind him that science didn't require special tools.

"'You could use a mayonnaise jar for that,'" Jacobs recalled being chided by Herbert. "He tried to bust the image of scientists and that science wasn't just for special people and places."

Herbert's place in TV history was acknowledged by later stars. When "Late Night with David Letterman" debuted in 1982, Herbert was among the first-night guests.

Born in Waconia, Minn., Herbert was a 1940 graduate of LaCrosse State Teachers College and served as a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot during World War II. He worked as an actor, model and radio writer before starting "Watch Mr. Wizard" in Chicago on NBC.

The show moved to New York after several years.

He is survived by six children and stepchildren and by his second wife, Norma, his son-in-law said. A private funeral service was planned.

Felice Frankel: Photographing the Beauty of Science
Cornelia Dean

When people call Felice Frankel an artist, she winces. In the first place, the photographs she makes don't sell. She knows this, she says, because after she received a Guggenheim grant in 1995, she started taking her work to galleries. "Nobody wanted to bother looking," she said.

In the second place, her images are not full of emotion or ideology or any other kind of message. As she says, "My stuff is about phenomena."

Phenomena like magnetism or the behavior of water molecules or how colonies of bacteria grow - phenomena of nature. "So I don't call it art," Frankel said. "When it's art, it's more about the creator, not necessarily the concept in the image."

As first an artist in residence and now a research scientist at MIT, and now also a senior research fellow at the Institute for Innovative Computing at Harvard, she helps researchers use cameras, microscopes and other tools to display the beauty of science.

With her help, scientists have turned dull images of things like yeast in a dish or the surface of a CD into photographs so striking that they appear often on covers of scientific journals and magazines.

According to George Whitesides, a Harvard chemist and her longtime collaborator, "She has transformed the visual face of science."

One of her photographs, a vivid image of an iron-rich fluid under the influence of magnets, has been so widely reproduced that she is "sick of it," Frankel said.

Her crucial step in making it was typical. She slipped a yellow Post-It note under the slide holding the fluid. In her view, the move did not materially alter the laboratory conditions, but it snapped the image of the fluid into such arresting focus that the National Science Foundation made a poster out of it.

In her book, "Envisioning Science" (MIT Press, 2002), Frankel instructed researchers, in words and many pictures, in the kind of visual depiction of scientific processes and subjects she and Whitesides produced in an earlier book, "On the Surface of Things," (Harvard University Press, 1997). Now they are finishing a book about "small things," as Whitesides put it, things at the limit of what can be seen with light, even through the microscope.

Meanwhile, Frankel has been organizing conferences around the country on "Image and Meaning," and working to establish a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation on the uses of visual imagery in teaching science.

With colleagues, she is working to set up an online site where researchers can talk across disciplines about the concepts they want to convey in images.

But she does not feel that her photographs have to explain everything. "To me, the idea is to engage somebody to look at something, and they don't even know it's science," she said. "People are not intimidated by pictures. It permits them to ask questions."

To achieve this goal, she sometimes alters the images. For example, when she photographed bacteria growing on agar, "the agar was cracking," she said. "But I wanted the reader to pay attention to the bacteria pattern. So I digitally deleted the cracks."

Another time, she photographed rod-shaped orange bacteria, and her film was somehow unable to reproduce the orange she could see when she looked through the microscope. "I added it," she recalled.

These practices are acceptable, she said, because their purpose is not to disguise or twist scientific information, but to make it clearer. And when images like this appear in scientific journals, Whitesides said, the "untinkered original" is posted online with supplementary material.

For Frankel, the main point is that "I always tell the reader what I do when I manipulate an image." And she negotiates with her research colleagues about how far she can go.

"I think this should be part of every scientist's education, the manipulation and enhancement of images," Frankel said. "To just have a blanket statement - 'You cannot do anything to your image' - that does not make sense.

"You can get a little crazy with objectivity. If enhancing your image gets you to see something better," it's acceptable, she said, "as long as we indicate what we are doing."

That's what publications like Scientific American do when they use her work - they inform readers that the image in question has been altered, and how, said Mariette DiChristina, its executive editor.

But journal editors often have another issue with her. As DiChristina put it, if she gets a suggestion she does not like, "she has been known to balk forcefully."

In the end, Whitesides said, "what comes out of it is a result one can be very happy with."

For Frankel, 62, this work is a return to a major interest of her youth, when she studied science and aspired to a career as a chemist.

Born Felice Oringel in Brooklyn, New York, she attended Midwood High School and Brooklyn College, where she majored in biology. After graduation, she worked in a cancer research lab at Columbia University. "Science has always been in my soul," she said.

But life intervened. She married Kenneth Frankel. He was sent to Vietnam. When he returned, they moved to western Massachusetts, where he worked as a chest surgeon and they raised two sons.

When Frankel returned from Vietnam, he brought a gift. "It was a very good camera," Frankel said. "And that's not trivial, that it was good."

She started taking photographs. "Probably I was good," she said, but because the camera was good, too.

"Technically, it worked," she said. "So I was reinforced to continue taking pictures," first as a volunteer at a public television station and then for an architect.

"I had a knack for it," she said. "I didn't like taking pictures of people that much, because you are too dependent on them to make a good picture. With architecture, you have to rely on your own sense of composition."

Soon she began landscape photography, producing magazine photographs and, eventually, a book, "Modern Landscape Architecture: Redefining the Garden" (Abbeville Press, 1991). Then she landed a dream assignment, to travel the country photographing landscapes. It was a disaster.

"They wanted the Technicolor blue sky, the hot pinks, which was not what landscape was to me," she said. "I took pictures of rain so you could see the sensuality of the design."

She realized that she was, as she put it, "in the wrong spot," and applied for a Loeb fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she spent the academic year of 1991-2 sitting in on university courses. "I lived at the Science Center, because I was hungry to get back into science," she said.

One day, someone recommended a course in molecular biology, "and the fellow presenting the work was a terrific lecturer and very obviously visual in the way he presented the work," she said. She introduced herself, and he invited her to his lab.

The professor was Whitesides. "We started talking about how one represented science on the blackboard," he recalled, "and at some point she made the remark that she thought we did it badly and I said, 'Well, you show us how to do it better,' and we were off and running."

One of the first photographs she made in his lab, water droplets arrayed on a slide with a water-repellent grid, ended up on the cover of the journal Science.

Since then, Whitesides said, "her impact on scientific communication has been very large, in the way science talks to science and science talks to the world outside science."

Beyond that, he added: "She has a wonderful sense of design and color. It is hard to say she is not an artist."

Could Boy Archaeologist Be Next Harry Potter?

The publisher who first signed up J.K. Rowling believes he may have found another Harry Potter -- but this time it is a boy archaeologist.

In an industry that revels in hype and is always on the lookout for the next blockbuster, two unknown authors have amassed advances of over 500,000 pounds and pre-publication rights in 15 languages.

Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams were signed by Chicken House publisher Barry Cunningham after he tracked down an early version of their book "Tunnels" that was self-published.

"I knew from page one that Harry Potter was magic. Reading 'Tunnels' gave me the same thrill," said Cunningham, who has also achieved worldwide publishing success with the children's books of German writer Cornelia Funke.

"Tunnels has it all: a boy archaeologist, merciless villains, a lost world and an extraordinary journey to the centre of the earth," Cunningham said after first stirring up interest at the international children's rights fair in Bologna.

The authors originally met at university but then went on to follow very different careers -- one as an investment banker, the other as an artist.

They got together when Gordon was made redundant from his job in corporate finance. He then sold his house to self-publish a limited run edition of "Tunnels."

Cunningham, hearing of their success, signed the pair up for a series of fantasy tales seen through the eyes of 14-year-old Will Burrows and set in a hidden world deep below London.

When working with British publisher Bloomsbury, Cunningham transformed the publishing industry in the mid 1990s when he signed J.K. Rowling, whose Potter sagas have now sold more than 325 million copies worldwide and made her the world's first billion dollar author.

Pottermania is set to scale new heights in July with the last novel in her Potter saga hitting the bookstands and the latest film being launched in a deluge of global publicity.

When signing up Rowling, Cunningham famously did warn the struggling young writer who was a single mother at the time that she was unlikely to make any money from her tale of a teenage wizard.

Rowling has admitted "If it wasn't for Barry Cunningham, Harry Potter might still be languishing in his cupboard under the stairs."

Junior Sleuth Finds Her Way to the Screen, With Knee-Socks Pulled Up High

In “Nancy Drew,” the titular girl sleuth, a literary role model and crush object for generations of young readers, is decked out with air quotes and the full complement of knowing pop-culture accessories. At one point in the film a Southern California real estate agent appraises Nancy’s penny-loafer-and-knee-socks look and says, “With a little tweaking, you could be adorable.” Later a semi-reformed Mean Girl from Nancy’s school notes that Nancy’s retro appearance has become a fashion sensation called “the new sincerity.”

As far as I’m concerned, the old sincerity worked just fine, and too much tweaking has been done with the intention of bringing the girl sleuth up to date. The disappointment of “Nancy Drew,” which was directed by Andrew Fleming and written by Mr. Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen, is that it trusts neither its heroine nor its audience enough to approach its material with the confidence and conviction that Carolyn Keene, the pseudonymous author of the Nancy Drew books, brought to the franchise.

The movie turns Nancy, played with more pluck than brilliance by Emma Roberts, into an uptight goody-two-shoes, a prig who lectures her school principal on matters of policy and who won’t exceed the speed limit in the middle of a car chase. Worse, “Nancy Drew” corrupts the clean, functional, grown-up style of the books with the kind of cute, pseudo-smart self-consciousness that has sadly become the default setting for contemporary juvenile popular culture produced by insecure, immature adults.

Nancy and her father (Tate Donovan) move from River Heights, a hackneyed Hollywood image of an American small town, to an equally hackneyed Hollywood image of, um, Hollywood. There, the girls are vapid mini-fashionistas who wrinkle their noses at Nancy’s heartland earnestness and conspire to steal her cupcakes at lunch. Some people have tattoos. Back home there was a German housekeeper in a starched uniform, a population that dresses from the 1958 L. L. Bean catalog and a clean-cut boy named Ned (Max Thieriot), who hung around waiting for Nancy to notice that he’s madly in love with her.

In time Ned shows up in Los Angeles, where he must compete for Nancy’s attention with Corky (Josh Flitter), kid brother to one of the Mean Girls and perhaps the most annoying annoying-sidekick character in a movie since Robin Williams’s last cartoon voice-over.

Corky’s wisecracking distracts from what should be the movie’s main concern, namely the solving of a mystery. The great appeal of the Nancy Drew books (the first was published in 1930), as of any mystery-novel series, lies not in the static, predictable characters but in the intricate, well-carpentered plots. What keeps the readers’ eyes on the page is the chance to look over the detective’s shoulder as she puzzles over clues, and to feel the tingle of apprehension when her sleuthing begins to get her in trouble.

The greatest failure of “Nancy Drew” is that it denies viewers these pleasures, sacrificing the sturdy mechanics of a decent thriller in order to pursue tired jokes and second-hand atmospherics. At first the set-up seems promising. Nancy and her dad move into a crumbling bungalow once owned by a movie star whose death 25 years earlier has never been explained. Her fate gives the movie some intriguing intimations of Hollywood kiddie-noir. But this is not a child’s-portion “Chinatown,” or even a PG “Black Dahlia.” Instead the mystery has all the suspense and intrigue of a less-than-groovy episode of “Scooby-Doo.”

I wish it were otherwise. And maybe, if this movie spawns sequels, it will be. Ms. Roberts is certainly energetic and likable, and the character might regain her wide and durable appeal in spite of the obnoxious way she is written here. But as it is, “Nancy Drew” stands as an example of how to take a foolproof, time-tested formula — a young detective using smarts and determination to solve a case — and mess it up with superficial cleverness and pandering hackwork. How this happened is hardly a mystery; botched adaptations are as common as BlackBerries in Hollywood. But it is nonetheless something of a crime.

The Former Queen of Buzz Conjures a Golden Heyday
Michael Kimmelman

Tina Brown, the once highly conspicuous editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and the short-lived Talk, has just written “The Diana Chronicles,” about the British princess who, like her, reigned as a golden girl over the transatlantic media world during the 1980s and ’90s.

“I felt the book had to hit a standard or I’d regret it,” Ms. Brown said over lunch the other day at the Beacon restaurant in Midtown. “It had to have some endurance, to enable me to make a quantum leap, to take me into a different area.”

And into the new century, which frankly hasn’t been so great for Ms. Brown’s career. Talk tanked. “Topic A With Tina Brown,” her little-seen show on CNBC, was canceled. For a time she wrote a column for The Washington Post. She contemplated a book about hubris, of all things. Now “The Diana Chronicles” (Doubleday), pegged to the 10th anniversary in August of the deadly car crash in Paris, is Ms. Brown’s latest attempt to reinvent herself and seize the limelight.

At lunch she seemed a little nervous about that. She bristled at the idea that the book might be perceived as “just a gambit for reinvention rather than the passionate literary exercise that it was.” Life, she said “is a process of reinvention, of moving on.” She is returning with pleasure to her “roots as a writer,” she added.

She is, as she knows, an easy target. The culture of celebrity, over which she presided for years, has neither scruples nor sentiment, and a new book by her is an invitation for detractors to gloat over the passing of her time. So far the reviews have been positive.

Trim, blond, doe-eyed, like her subject, she wore at lunch a smart black T-shirt and skirt, not quite the taffeta “drop-dead black décolleté number,” as she describes it in the book, that Diana, formerly the demure virgin, snatched off the rack from a London designer’s studio in 1981 and wore on her first public date with Prince Charles. (“Wasn’t that a mighty feast to set before a king?” Lady Diana Cooper said about the “sudden revelation of cleavage.”)

Comparing author with subject is inevitable, and not only thanks to the Di-like photo of the attractive 53-year-old Ms. Brown on the book’s back cover. She writes about a mix of monarchy, aristocracy and media: “a revisiting and valedictory of that whole world, which included my own early immersion in the London media,” she said. Princess Diana brought star power to British royalty, as Ms. Brown would also do within the more circumscribed but likewise clubby sphere of American editing.

The daughter of a British film producer and of Laurence Olivier’s former assistant, Ms. Brown arrived in New York in 1984 from London to save Vanity Fair. She had just resuscitated Tatler, the dowager magazine for the upper classes, whose transformation into something more broadly stylish and socially indispensable was linked with the princess’s public ascension.

“I felt an immediate bond with the Diana story,” she said. “Diana emerged blinking into the ’80s just when I took over the Tatler. Tatler had started as the 18th-century coffeehouse magazine of Swift, and it got more and more staid, rather as The New Yorker did after Harold Ross,” its fouding editor.

“I’d already done a lot of stories about society before I got to Tatler. And I’d grown up in a showbiz background, the bookish daughter in the household. So I got it.”

By “it,” she meant the dawning media and celebrity culture in Britain. She remembers attending “the definitive end-of-decade social events of the ’70s,” a 40th-birthday costume party for Nicky Haslam, the decorator, who dressed for the occasion in white silk like an Indian rajah, greeting guests like Cecil Beaton, Mick Jagger, Joan Collins and Camilla Parker Bowles’s brother, Mark Shand.

“There was a carnival of influences at that party,” Ms. Brown recalled, “and it crystallized the fact that society was no longer homogeneous. It was, I thought, what Tatler magazine should be.”

Eyeing high society now meant navel gazing too for the media mob that also joined in on the new aristocracy of celebrity. “The third story I did on Diana was about how she was being covered in the media. We saw something was happening that was as interesting as Di herself.”

What was happening, thanks to Diana’s media-exploiting instincts and looks, was the creation of the mythology of the People’s Princess. Years later at The New Yorker, Ms. Brown helped replace that mythology with a new mythology of grief. She recalls being awakened at 5 a.m. that August morning by a phone call from CNN. Within hours she conceived a Diana memorial issue and oversaw its publication three days later. Clive James, Salman Rushdie and Simon Schama wrote for it. On the cover a drawing showed a palace guard shedding a tear.

She exempts that issue of her New Yorker from the media frenzy, about which she’s critical in the book. “The death became a festival of inclusion,” Ms. Brown said. “It was the first great griefathon. Since then it’s become common — the pope, Terri Schiavo. I think a magazine has to mirror its times. The fever of a moment has to be captured. That Diana memorial cover was very effective. I still think it’s a very good issue.”

She added: “I’m not the sort of person who would have bought a Diana book, but I read all the articles. I’m writing this book for people who read the books but also for people like me.”

Some people, of course, loved what she did with The New Yorker; others hated it. But the magazine became impossible to ignore. She chafes now at the suggestion that she blew the institution up so that her successor could put it back together after she left. “We let go 79 people and hired 68,” she responded. “It was a total blood transfusion. To me the biggest problem for The New Yorker was how to get people to open something that looks like a safari in print. The idea was always to provide a story that they would read.

“The sweet and the low, the long and the short, it’s somewhat what Harold Ross did. His New Yorker was very topical. I related less to Shawn’s New Yorker than to Ross’s.” William Shawn, Ross’s successor, ran the magazine from 1952 to 1987.

When, to the surprise of everyone including S. I. Newhouse Jr., chairman of Condé Nast, owner of The New Yorker, she quit the magazine in 1998 to start Talk, she had become such a public figure and media magnet that her resignation was front-page news in The New York Times. With Talk, and its book and movie divisions, she began a doomed partnership with Miramax, whose co-founder, Harvey Weinstein, also now happens to be in the process of reinventing himself. Talk’s christening bash on Liberty Island was the late ’90s version of Mr. Haslam’s end-of-the-’70s affair.

Then Talk fizzled. Was she wrong to have left The New Yorker?

“Oh yes, it was a big mistake,” said Ms. Brown, who has for years lived on the East Side with her husband, Harold Evans. (They have two children.) Like Diana, she recognizes candor as a form of self-defense. “I believe we put out a good magazine,” Ms. Brown continued, “It was that dot-com moment. I drank the Kool-Aid. I loved my idea of combining Paris Match and The New Yorker. And I loved that glossy paper we used. But it had to be a weekly, not a monthly. And advertisers had to be brought around. The time wasn’t there because the money wasn’t there.”

Talk editors soon found new jobs at The Times and elsewhere. Ms. Brown began her stint at CNBC. “I got much better at it,” she said about the buzz-based show that exploited her dense Rolodex but never found the magic she showed before. “I liked everything except being on the air. And CNBC is a business channel. It was put on a Sunday night after a day of infomercials. Then again, I was a television novice.”

The Washington Post column kept her before the public. Meanwhile her hubris book was going to feature boldface crash-and-burn cases like Gerald Levin and Martha Stewart. “We’re living in an era of hubris,” Ms. Brown explained. “In the Bush era it’s all about overreach. But in the end I didn’t want to write a book on a notional subject. It wasn’t engaging me enough.”

So she turned to writing this book about a celebrity whose iconic glamour harks back to a period that was also Ms. Brown’s heyday, not so long ago, but somehow far away. Di, who never shaved her head, went to jail or took off her underpants in public, has been replaced by Britney, Paris and Lindsay. The panache, gloss, savvy and grace that Ms. Brown tried to bring to highbrow celebrity journalism has been marginalized too, by a growing avalanche of more tabloidlike coverage.

“The temperature has shifted,” Ms. Brown declared. “Now everybody’s famous and nobody’s interesting. Any celebrity will do.” Tabloids have become “fabloids,” she said. And bloggers are watching. With the Web, “you worry about saying something to somebody in Germany and finding it reverberate around the world. Now you’re supposed to love any publicity just because it’s great buzz and not mind whether it’s fair or true, says the erstwhile queen of buzz,” said the erstwhile queen herself.

“Yes,” she added, answering a question not asked, “it’s nicer to be on the other side.”

Was it also true, by the way, that she recently expressed her interest in the job of managing editor at Time? The post went to Richard Stengel. “I think I could have done a good job with that,” she replied. “It has great DNA.”

But it’s not a good time to start up new magazines, she said. Editors today “are a dying breed,” she added. “It’s all not about the content. In TV it’s only about logistics, ratings. It’s a very depressing moment in letters.

“Writing a book is one of the last chances to do what you want.”

A Publishing Quandary: Do Excerpts Help Sales?
Joanne Kaufman

When the July issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands tomorrow, those hungry for news and gossip about the British royal family may find sustenance in the magazine’s excerpt from “The Diana Chronicles,” Tina Brown’s evocation of the life and times of the Princess of Wales.

But will the 8,200-word excerpt prove the literary equivalent of an amuse-bouche, something to tide eager readers over until they can get their hands on the book, which comes out the same day? Or will those who plow through the article feel as if they have had their fill?

“The goal of any excerpt is to engage readers, to suggest that here is a book that will interest them,” said Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity for the Knopf Publishing Group. “But the key is not to sate them with the material. You want the hunger and thirst to still be there.”

Although excerpts from high-profile books routinely appear in national magazines, some publishers have been having second thoughts about the strategy. Frequently, an excerpt can offer a lift to a book’s sales, but there is always the risk that it might offer too much, thus stealing thunder (and revenue) from the book.

Alison Rich, the director of publicity at Doubleday, publisher of “The Diana Chronicles,” said she had no such concerns. “Tina’s writing is extraordinary,” Ms. Rich said. “The book is an incredibly rich textured portrait of Diana and all the royals, and it’s our belief that readers will be anxious for more.”

Even so, among publishers, “I see more and more of them interested in the TV interview for their author rather than the book excerpt because TV has a greater reach than magazines,” said Sara Nelson, the editor in chief of Publishers Weekly.

Magazine editors who five years ago would have reflexively bid for first serial rights to certain high-profile books are now exploring their options, choosing instead to run a feature about the book or an interview with the author. Some magazines — Time and Harper’s in particular — have turned to asking authors to write an article or essay that touches on issues raised in their book.

“I think the whole model needs to be rethought,” said Richard Stengel, the managing editor of Time. “I’m less interested in buying headlines than a great reader experience.”

Because the excerpt is just one weapon in the publicity arsenal, publishers are hard-put to assess its role in the campaign. Still, they can point to recent successes like “It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ ” by the restaurateur and Food Network host Paula Deen, which was serialized in Ladies’ Home Journal and hit the New York Times best-seller list immediately after publication.

On the other hand, Time magazine’s excerpt of “I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story,” by Rick Bragg, put a dent in book sales, according to Mr. Bogaards of Knopf. “The excerpt gave away too much — I think people felt they’d had their fill,” he said. “We sold 175,000 in hardcover but had expected to do twice that.”

The trick, publishers say, is to know just what they have got between those hardcovers. When leading administration figures or particular celebrities sign a contract to tell their stories, there is bound to be a conversation about selling first serial rights, the term used for an excerpt that appears in advance of a book’s publication.

But if such books “have just one revelation, one major thing that everyone has been waiting to hear, and they read it in an excerpt they’re going to think, ‘That’s enough. I don’t need to buy the book,’ ” said Kristine Dahl, a literary agent at International Creative Management.

For publishers, the problems include fewer magazines that run excerpts, and smaller sums available to pay for them. “There used to be The Saturday Evening Post, Look and Life, and it was big money,” said Lynn Nesbit, a literary agent.

In those palmy days, it was not unheard-of for $100,000 to change hands in excerpt deals, according to Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House.

But the interests of book publishers and magazine editors do not tend to dovetail. “What often happens with excerpts is that magazines pick the best stuff or they weave together an excerpt that uses pieces from all over the book so readers get the whole pruned story,” said Ms. Nelson of Publishers Weekly. “It’s great for the magazine but probably not great for sales of the book.”

To protect themselves while extracting maximum benefit, publishers may limit the size and scope of the excerpt and forbid cherry-picking. The publisher may also demand that the excerpt be kept off the magazine’s Web site to limit leaks, and require that the excerpt be heralded in a cover line.

Because big money is no longer on the table, it is not terribly painful for the publisher to walk away if the parties can’t come to terms, publishing executives said. “For $1,500, why risk exposure of all the juicy bits if it’s going to hurt sales?” said Ellen Archer, the publisher of Hyperion.

Some publishers are looking instead to place excerpts on the Internet. “Amazon.com has expressed interest in first serializations,” Mr. Bogaards of Knopf said. “There isn’t a silver bullet that delivers 10 million readers. This is just one way to bring awareness to your book and create interest from other media outlets.”

According to Mr. Bogaards, the well-chosen slice of a book in the appropriate magazine provides the framework for the initial publicity campaign. A cover in Time or Newsweek suggests weight and importance, perhaps a national dialogue; Vanity Fair, a certain fizz; Ladies’ Home Journal or Good Housekeeping, issues of importance to women.

The New Yorker? Well, it’s not as sought-after for excerpts as one might imagine. “Everyone thinks it’s lovely to have an excerpt there,” said Ms. Dahl of International Creative Management, but since there’s no special designation in the magazine, “it’s hard for readers to know it’s from an upcoming book.”

Google to Digitize Big Ten School Books

Twelve major universities will digitize select collections in each of their libraries -- up to 10 million volumes -- as part of Google Inc.'s book-scanning project. The goal: a shared digital repository that faculty, students and the public can access quickly.

The partnership involves the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which includes the University of Chicago and the 11 universities in the Big Ten athletic conference (yes, there are 11): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin.

"We have a collective ambition to share resources and work together to preserve the world's printed treasures," said Northwestern Provost Lawrence Dumas.

The committee said Google will scan and index materials "in a manner consistent with copyright law." Google generally makes available the full text of books in the public domain and limited portions of copyrighted books.

Several other universities, including Harvard and California, already have signed up to let Google scan their libraries.

But Google still faces a lawsuit by the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild over its plans to incorporate parts of copyrighted books.

Printing Books Online: an Author You Can't Refuse
Robert MacMillan

Lawrence Durrell and Henry Miller are among the world's most respected authors, but for a while they had a hard time finding a publisher.

Rather than seek a mainstream outlet for racy novels such as "The Black Book" and "Tropic of Cancer," they used the Obelisk Press, a French publishing house started by Jack Kahane to print his own novel.

That was the 1930s. Now, a young Henry Miller could use new Internet companies like Blurb.com, i-Universe, Lulu.com or Xlibris to print his book -- and even sell it through their online stores.

Gwen Fuller used Blurb (www.blurb.com) to publish her book, "Do Mallet the Suitcase," a collection of spam e-mail arranged as haiku.

Among them: "Dude, get all U need/And dragonhead by reckon/She will love you more," and "Just what all men need/C'Mon Baby, Light My Fire/Chat and meet women."

Avoiding traditional publishing was a plus for Fuller, 48, a life coach in Menlo Park, California.

"There was a process that I was sort of unwilling to get engaged in when there was something that could so immediately deliver a quality book," she said.

Blurb requires customers to download its software, which then lets them lay out text and photos. Then they send the specifications to the company, which prints the books in either hardcover or soft.

Rates start at $18.95 for one small softcover. Bulk-order discounts start at 10 copies, company founder Eileen Gittins said.

"If you order 10 copies, you get a 10 percent discount, 100 copies you get a 15 percent discount," she said. "Over 200, we encourage you to give us a shout."

Blurb also allows authors to sell their works on its in-house bookstore, printing copies as new orders come in, and to charge a markup so they can make a profit. The company sends out a check every time an author earns $25 or more.

"People Who Love To Write"

Many people use Blurb for personal projects as well. Michelle Flaherty and her husband Peter received a book made by their daughters with photos of Haunted Acre Woods, the large-scale Halloween display they mount each year at their home in East Falmouth, Massachusetts.

"It was the first Christmas gift in I don't know how many years that actually made me cry," she said. "It was so original, so different."

While a budding novelist could use Blurb, the company specializes in photo layouts with glossy paper and the look of a "coffee-table" book.

Some writers looking to print more literary works are visiting Lulu (www.lulu.com).

Lulu, founded by Bob Young, co-founder of software company Red Hat Inc., allows customers to publish school yearbooks, artwork, calendars and many other things -- but especially books. Lulu recoups expenses and takes a 20 percent cut of the profit on a book sale.

Mark Wilkerson's biography of Who guitarist and writer Pete Townshend has led him to the brink of a deal with a conventional publisher in Europe.

Wilkerson, 37, is an aircraft maintenance planner for UPS, and lives in Prospect, Kentucky -- about as far away from the mainstream publishing world as it gets.

Publishers that he pitched rejected him or asked him why he was qualified to write his book, the 618-page "Amazing Journey: The Life of Pete Townshend."

"Lulu has been fabulous for me, because what else would I have done?" he said. "I was completely ignorant of the many facets of the publishing industry."

Wilkerson sent his book to reviewers, and received positive notices in The Rocky Mountain News, the Chicago Sun-Times and influential music magazine MOJO. The book came to Townshend's attention, and the legendary musician tentatively committed to writing a foreword to the next edition, Wilkerson said.

Blurb and Lulu are not the only self-publishing options on the Internet. Xlibris (www.xlibris.com) is a self-publishing company that works in a partnership with Random House's investment unit, and iUniverse (www.iuniverse.com) offers similar services.

Both offer more services, with packages from about $300 all the way up to nearly $13,000.

Blurb and Lulu are better for enthusiasts, said Scott Flora, executive director of the Small Publishers Association of North America,

"If there are people who love to write and they want to see their book in print, this is a good option," he said.

To Sell Pictures, They Chase News 24-7
Marti Maguire

Carter Rabil's Chevy Suburban resounds with a ragged opera of dispatchers.

His multiple radio scanners monitor police, EMS and fire departments from Raleigh to the coast. He listens to the crackle of routine codes, waiting for that one longed-for soprano -- the urgent voice reporting a shooting, a crash, an officer in trouble.

When he hears it, Rabil gives chase, armed with his still and video cameras, seeking the scene and the image.

Rabil, 52, isn't on the staff of a news organization. Based in Smithfield, he scrambles for news pictures and hopes some newspaper or TV station will buy them.

It's an unusual job, but not a unique one. On the western side of the Triangle, Durham freelancer Julian Harrison also rushes to the scene, cameras in tow, when there's trouble.

They scramble so fast they have arrived at crime scenes before police. "Sometimes," Rabil said, "I get there so early, they think I'm a suspect."

And sometimes they think he's a nuisance. Both Rabil and Harrison have been accused of interfering with police.

Harrison makes no apologies. He sees getting there fast and getting close as his fundamental job and fundamental right.

"The lowest common denominator of news is to get ... down there at a scene while it's still happening," Harrison said. "There is no substitute for being there."

It's a rough-and-ready job that brings anywhere from $25 for a news tip to hundreds of dollars for video footage that goes national. The News & Observer has purchased photos from both men.

What it takes

The job takes sacrifice and an obsessive streak. Rabil usually drives separately from his wife and two daughters in case he hears of a car accident or violent crime. Last month, while photographing a bride-to-be on a beach, he heard news of a fatal surfing accident through his hand-held police scanner and took off, leaving the woman stranded in her wedding dress.

Both men sleep with scanners by their beds. Harrison said his personal relationships have suffered from his late-night bolts.

Rabil and Harrison are part of a flashbulb-popping tradition that persists despite the emergence of YouTube and camera phones. They're a throwback to the days when newshounds scoured the streets of big cities, said Kevin Barnhurst, head of the communication department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"You had kind of scavenger reporters who were paid by the piece to collect stuff at the docks, the shipyards, the courts and the police stations," said Barnhurst, who has written several books on the history of news photography.

And in an era of news media staff cutbacks and consolidation, roaming photographers such as Rabil and Harrison help fill local newspapers and TV stations with images of wrecks and crime scenes that their full-time staffs can't always capture.

The freelancers' dogged presence in tense moments has also put them at odds with police. Smithfield police arrested Rabil in April after accusing him of refusing to stop shooting photos and video of a fatal accident. He claimed police harassment. Local officials asked the State Bureau of Investigation to review the incident.

Harrison said an officer took his camera and assaulted him at a scene where police had shot someone in November. A Durham magistrate refused to charge Harrison with disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer.

This give-and-take among freelancers and police tests a question crucial to press freedom, said John A. Bussian III, a Raleigh lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases: "When and where can the investigating authorities stop the public and the press from being where they're lawfully entitled to be under normal circumstances?"

The watchdog

Rabil and Harrison took surprisingly different career paths to the same line of work. And they differ widely in how they view themselves.

Harrison sees himself as a watchdog, chronicling how police do their jobs while major media outlets often rely on police accounts of crime scenes.

Harrison, 57, moved from England to the Triangle in 1968 to work at a local television station. He was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam era and ended up working for Armed Forces Television in West Germany.

His freelancing has taken him from Nicaragua to Peru in Latin America gathering footage for British and American networks such as the BBC and the CBS national news. He still bears the scars of his time filming scenes of civil war in El Salvador -- a gunshot wound that partially paralyzed his left arm.

Harrison concedes that much of the footage he sells allows him to profit off mayhem and misery. But tragedy will happen, he said, and viewers want to know about it. And at times these images turn out to have a wider significance.

"It's life and death, what I do," Harrison said, talking on his cell phone as he cruised past an accident scene to see if it was worth shooting. It wasn't. "It may be down and dirty to see," he said, "but to me it's life."

The sharpshooter

While Harrison often turns the camera on crime scenes in the grittier parts of the Triangle, Rabil's stock in trade is the wrecks along I-95 and I-40. A few, including one image of a tractor-trailer that stuck upright, cab-first, in the Little River, have appeared on national television.

The grandson of Lebanese immigrants, Rabil grew up amid the sound of scanner chatter at his father's taxicab business, where the cab dispatchers used the same frequencies as the police and fire departments.

Rabil earned a degree in criminal justice and eventually began responding to emergencies as a volunteer medical technician.

He started tipping off a local news station when he was dispatched to a big accident or heard about a shooting on the scanners, sometimes for a small fee. Then a producer told him there was real money for pictures and video footage.

Rabil bought a camera. Within a few years, he had quit his day job, though he still shares the profits from the cab company he owns with his brother.

A fast talker who seems to be in constant motion, Rabil likes the action part of his job -- jumping into his Suburban at a moment's notice with his dog in the back and a point-and-shoot camera taped to the dashboard. In his trunk are his Sony 3CCD video cameras. He plans to go to high-definition video soon.

But Rabil sees himself less as a journalist than as the camera-toting equivalent of a Wild West gunman.

"I'm a sharpshooter," he said.

Even if he enjoys the outlaw persona, his recent arrest rubbed him the wrong way. Rabil carries copies of the Supreme Court ruling that allows him access to the scene of a crime, and says he stays behind the yellow tape police use to mark crime scenes.

Harrison also said he had long-running problems with the officer he says assaulted him.

In the past 20 years, Harrison has been charged with parking too close to police, resisting and obstructing an officer (three times), failing to obey an officer, and disorderly conduct. He was convicted once, in 1994, for resisting and obstructing a police officer.

Harrison said that the vast majority of police officers are respectful toward him but that a few resent his presence.

Both Harrison and Rabil insist they practice restraint in their work.

Rabil said he doesn't focus in close on dead bodies. And Harrison compares himself favorably to the Hollywood paparazzi, who also intrude into their subjects' lives but whose work serves no purpose, he said.

"I might chase someone down to get their picture, but not a celebrity," Harrison said. "I wouldn't chase Paris Hilton."

PenTile Display Could Make Batteries Last 50% Longer
Charlie White

LCDs are unbelievably inefficient, but Clairvoyante has figured out a way to fix that with its PenTile RGBW display. The company claims the display will help laptop and cellphone batteries last 50% longer. The "W" in RGBW stands for white, where in addition to the red, green and blue subpixels used in each pixel of a conventional LCD display, Clairvoyante has added a white one, giving you a brighter picture and lessening the need for so much backlight. It's also made each pixel 33% larger, letting more light shine through. These are some fancy new tricks. There's more.

Using these techniques allows the backlight to be dynamically adjusted according to the scene that's being displayed. Hey, less backlight, less power. Cool. Or a different application could use the same amount of power and have a much brighter picture.

But adding a fourth subpixel to each dot will result in lower resolution, won't it? Yes, but the human eye may not be able to tell the difference, so say Clairvoyante reps, and they talk of a sharpening routine that improves the quality as well. Maybe they could just make the pixels smaller.

Nice idea to save all that battery power, but will the quality be good enough? We'll believe it when we see it. The company says it will be shipping software that controls this hardware to manufacturers by the end of this year, and we may see the first PenTile screens in early 2008.

Putting Energy Hogs in the Home on a Strict Low-Power Diet
Larry Magid

I THOUGHT I was pretty good about energy conservation, but it turns out that I’ve been a bit of a hypocrite. I drive a reasonably fuel-efficient car, I work at home so I don’t use fuel to commute and I am replacing incandescent bulbs in my home with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs.

But I am also a prodigious computer user, and it looks as if that makes me an energy hog. I started checking how much electricity my electronics were consuming when I wasn’t using them. I used a Kill A Watt EZ energy meter (available online for about $25) and began measuring. My PC was continuously drawing 134 watts all night.

The more devices I checked, the worse it got. My TiVo digital video recorder was sucking down about 30 watts when it was not playing or recording a show. A Comcast digital cable set-top box made by Motorola that I tested was drawing about 40 watts. My DVD player was drawing 26 watts while idle, and my audio system — which I rarely turned off — was using 47 watts. This was in addition to the numerous power adapters and chargers, each drawing 1 or 2 watts, not to mention several other devices sipping energy to keep clocks running or to be ready to turn on at the push of a button.

I’m partly to blame for the audio system and DVD player. They do have on/off switches that I was failing to use. I had falsely assumed they were using relatively little power. But I tested DVR’s from Comcast, Dish Network and TiVo, and none went into a low-power mode. All of this wasted power was costing me money and pumping unnecessary CO2 into the atmosphere. My PC alone was contributing 2,000 pounds of CO2 annually. The DVR. was adding another 543 pounds.

Indeed, the Department of Energy estimates that in the average home, 40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Add that all up, and it equals the annual output of 17 power plants, the government says. In an effort to address that, a consortium of Intel, Google, PC makers and other technology companies this week announced their intent to increase the PC’s overall energy efficiency to 90 percent.

Products that idle in what the industry calls low-power mode, or lopomo, consumed about 10 percent of total electricity in California homes, according to a 2002 study prepared for the California Energy Commission by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A few of those devices, even those with Energy Star ratings that signal that they are less wasteful, still use a lot of power. “Some of the larger big-screen TVs consume as much energy each year as a new refrigerator,” according to Noah Horowitz, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

You do not have to use an energy meter to reduce your consumption. If you don’t turn off your PC when it is not in use, make sure it goes into a low-power sleep, suspend or hibernate mode. That doesn’t always happen automatically. Windows XP has both a suspend and hibernate option, but it isn’t always turned on by default. Computers running the Windows XP operating system can be configured by clicking on Power Options in the Control Panel to set the number of minutes before Windows will turn off the monitor and hard disks or put the system into standby or hibernate mode. (Hibernation uses the least amount of energy). If it is a notebook PC, there are separate settings for when it runs on the battery and when it is plugged in.

Microsoft says that it has overhauled energy management in its Vista operating system so that machines, by default, should go into a low-power state after 60 minutes of inactivity. The PC sips only a few watts until the user touches the mouse or keyboard. To configure a machine with Vista, type “Power Options” in the search box at the bottom of the Start menu and click on “Change when the computer sleeps.”

All of this, of course, assumes that the systems are working correctly. When I first installed Vista on my PC, I configured it to go to sleep after 30 minutes, but it has been unreliable. Sometimes it fails to go to sleep, and at other times it fails to wake up. Sometimes I experience the worst of both worlds: the drives and fan are spinning, but the monitor is blank, and I cannot get the machine to come back to life without powering it down and turning it back on.

I spent numerous hours trying to fix the problem, including updating the BIOS, installing up-to-date versions of all my device drivers, checking to make sure there were no unnecessary applications running in the background and, of course, scanning for spyware and viruses. The results were encouraging. After all that fiddling, the machine went to sleep most nights and woke up most — but not all —mornings.

I then installed Co2 Saver (co2saver.snap.com), a free program for Windows XP and Vista that seems to have solved the problem. It gives you a simple control panel to specify when to turn off monitors and disk drives and put the machine to sleep. It also adjusts some hard-to-configure settings. One option forces the machine to “Initiate sleep mode if system doesn’t sleep automatically.” This feature, according to its developer, Lee Hasiuk, defeats Windows attempts to keep a machine awake if it thinks (correctly or otherwise) that it is detecting a background task other than mouse or keyboard activity. Now my machine sleeps and wakes properly almost all the time.

Whatever machine you’re using, consider having it go into sleep, standby or hibernate after about a half-hour of inactivity. The shorter the period, the more energy you save. Graphic-intense screen savers can actually waste power.

Unplug unused external power supplies because they can draw energy even when they’re not connected to a device.

If you’re shopping for a new PC, be sure that it meets Energy Star requirements, ideally the ones that go into effect July 20. The new standards require that 80 percent of the power consumed is actually used by the PC.

Use an L.C.D. screen instead of an old-fashioned cathode ray tube monitor. L.C.D.’s are as much as 66 percent more efficient than C.R.T.’s, according to the Energy Department.

Consider buying a notebook PC, rather than a less-efficient desktop. Because notebooks are designed to run on batteries, they’re equipped with chips and drives that draw less power. Seagate’s 160GB 2.5-inch drive uses one-fourth the energy of the equivalent 3.5-inch drive, according to a Seagate product manager, Joni Clark.

And because the screen is integrated on notebooks, there is only one power supply. I tested several notebooks, and all consumed under 30 watts except when charging the battery.

Consider a machine with a low-voltage processor like the Intel Core 2 Duo or one with A.M.D.’s “Cool and Quiet” technology. Trim desktop models also tend to use less energy. The new Hewlett-Packard Slimline models use about 45 watts, which is considerably lower than many larger PCs.

Comparing Apples to Apples, the $1,199 2-gigahertz iMac with a 17-inch monitor uses only 45 watts, and the 20-inch model uses 80 watts. (Apple’s high-end Mac Pro desktop workstation consumed a whopping 220 watts, without a monitor.) The iMac, according to Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, is optimized for energy savings because all the computer components are housed in the same chassis as the monitor, allowing for more efficient power distribution and cooling.

Tweaking can pay off. Annually, my desktop PC is now using 73 percent less energy — saving me $119 a year and depriving the earth of 1,405 more pounds of CO2.

Technology Group Seeks to Save Power
Laurie J. Flynn

Google and Intel are leading a consortium of major technology companies in an effort to sharply reduce the amount of power wasted by personal computers and servers.

In a separate development, Intel is expected to cut prices on some of its higher-end processors in July to make room for new power-saving chip technology expected in the second half of the year.

The energy-saving effort, announced yesterday, is called the Climate Savers Computing Initiative. It will also include a large-scale campaign to educate consumers and corporate computer managers about technology’s role in the emission of greenhouse gases.

Companies agreeing to Climate Savers standards will try to build machines that are at least 90 percent efficient in their power use by promoting new technologies, setting new standards and encouraging more efficient use by consumers.

“I think we can make a very large impact very quickly,” said Larry Page, who founded Google with Sergey Brin.

“All of this is doable today,” he said. “We’re just taking the opportunity to shoot for a higher bar.”

The initiative has received the support of I.B.M., Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Advanced Micro Devices, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft, among others. It is also supported by the National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The group envisions better power management in computers, roughly equivalent to taking 11 million cars off the highway, according to Patrick P. Gelsinger, senior vice president in charge of Intel’s digital enterprise group.

Mr. Gelsinger said that the new technologies could result in price increases for consumers of about $20 a computer, but that customers would make up for the extra expense in energy savings within a year or two. Proposed rebates from utility companies will probably allow customers to recoup the additional expense even more quickly, he said.

Mr. Gelsinger declined to comment on the reports of impending price cuts, but company officials said that Intel routinely reduced prices throughout the year. Intel will cut prices of high-performance server processors sometime in July. The price cuts will come as Intel is preparing to introduce a new chip family this fall called Penryn, which promises a significant increase in performance without consuming more power.

But unlike the price cuts of last year, which set off a price war with Advanced Micro Devices, these price cuts are more routine, analysts say.

Henri Richard, executive vice president of Advanced Micro, said that his company had announced its own plans for price reductions.

Download Music, Share Bank Details on P2P

Researchers claim P2P cyber-criminals lurk to steal your data
Jaikumar Vijayan

It's not just the music industry that people need to worry about when downloading music from P2P networks.

A surprisingly high number of consumers sharing music and other files on peer-to-peer systems are inadvertently exposing all sorts of bank account and similar personal information on their computers to criminals lurking on the networks to harvest data. And its not just users at home that are exposing information about themselves; so are a large number of employees within banks, as well as their contractors and suppliers.

That's the conclusion of a study on the dangers of inadvertent data disclosure on file sharing networks that was conducted by Dartmouth University's Tuck School of Business.

The study examined data involving P2P searches and files related to the top 30 US banks over a seven-week period between December 2006 and February 2007. The university used a search engine technology from Triversa to gather and analyze all P2P traffic that mentioned these banks by name or mapped to a specific digital footprint that Dartmouth created for each financial institution. Data was gathered from P2P networks such as Gnutella, FastTrack, edonkey and Bittorrent.

The analysis showed that a large number of searches made on those networks were aimed at uncovering sensitive financial data from individuals, said study author Eric Johnson, a professor of operations management at the school's Center for Digital Strategies. "Our analysis clearly reveals a significant information risk firms and individuals face from P2P file sharing networks," he said.

When people use popular P2P clients such as KaZaa, Limewire, BearShare, Morpheus and FastTrack, they often are sharing far more than just media files, Johnson said. "In many cases they are sharing the contents of their entire hard drive with all sorts of information" with others on the file-sharing network, Johnson said.

That's because many of these client tools are designed specifically to quickly search for and share certain types of media files on a user's system. Johnson said, Normally, such P2P clients allow users to download files to and share items from a particular folder. But if proper care is not taken to control the access that these clients have on a system, it is very easy to expose far more data than intended, he said.

There are several ways this can happen, Johnson noted in his research paper. For instance, when a music file is accidentally dropped into a folder containing other data, the contents of the entire folder could end up being shared on a P2P network without a user's knowledge. Many P2P client software tools have confusing interfaces that could result in users sharing folders that they did not intend to. Similarly, some file-sharing apps feature wizards that scan an individual's computer and recommend folders containing media to share. If a sensitive file exists in one of those recommended folders, it could get exposed, Johnson wrote in his research.

The kind of information that can be exposed in this manner is astounding, Johnson said. "We found files containing all the information needed to commit identity theft. We found almost every kind of business documents from spreadsheets to performance reviews. In one instance, we found a bank spreadsheet with account information on 23.000 business accounts that was leaked. We even found a security evaluation done by a third party contractor" of a bank network.

Almost 80 per cent of the leaked information analyzed in the Dartmouth study came from home PC users. The rest came from systems belonging to bank employees or their partners, Johnson said.

While some of the information was inadvertently leaked, there are growing signs that cybercriminals are using P2P networks to specifically search for and harvest such data, Johnson said. A significant portion of the search terms that were analyzed during the Dartmouth study appeared to be looking for databases, account and user information, passwords, as well as routing and pin numbers, Johnson said.

Sometimes, sensitive data was accidentally exposed by the coincidental association of a search term with sensitive information. For example, users searching for songs containing the terms "Golden" Or "West" in the title pulled up files containing account information belonging to Golden West bank, Johnson said in his report. Similarly, users looking to download the song State Street Residential sometimes pulled in data belonging to State Street bank customers.

The Dartmouth study raises concerns similar to those contained in a report released in March by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). That report was based on an analysis of five specific features included in file-sharing software from Kazaa, Limeware, Morpheus, BearShare and eDonkey. The report concluded that the distributors of the software deliberately included these features in their tools, despite knowing that the features could cause users to inadvertently share sensitive data with others on P2P networks.

The report was sent to the US Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Attorneys General.

Connecticut AG Investigates Pfizer Security Breach
Bill Berkrot

Connecticut's attorney general said on Monday he is investigating the breach of confidential information of thousands of employees of drugmaker Pfizer Inc., including that of 305 state residents.

Richard Blumenthal said in a news release that he has sent a letter to Pfizer requesting that they take specific steps to protect their employees.

"My office will seek all relevant information from Pfizer about this security breach and fight to assure that its employees have as much protection as possible from the scourge of identity theft," Blumenthal said.

Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker, said prior to Blumenthal's request, it had already sent letters to some 17,000 current and former employees notifying them of the security breach and steps being taken to address concerns following the unauthorized disclosure of names, social security numbers and in some cases addresses and bonus information.

"Keep in mind that Pfizer has no indication that any unauthorized individual has used or is using your personal information," the letter, dated June 1, said.

The personal information had been stored on a company laptop computer that Pfizer provided to an employee for use in her home. It got out due to the unauthorized installation of certain file sharing software, the company said.

"Immediately after Pfizer learned of this incident we retrieved the laptop, disabled the unauthorized file sharing software, and conducted an investigation to determine which files, if any, were exposed," the letter to employees said.

"Although our investigation revealed that files containing names and social security number data were exposed to and, in some instances, accessed by one or more unauthorized persons over a 'peer to peer' network, we are unable to determine the identity or location of those persons, or whether any particular file was opened or examined. Our investigation is on going," the letter continued.

The letter also said the investigation has been unable to determine whether the sensitive data were copied.

Pfizer said it would provide affected employees with one year of credit monitoring at no cost and encouraged them to continue to use the service even if initial reports do not find any potentially suspicious activity.

The company also agreed to fund $25,000 of identity theft insurance for affected employees with no deductible provided by a designated, third-party insurer.

Pfizer said it has contacted the three major U.S. credit agencies to inform them of the incident.

"Please rest assured that Pfizer takes data security very seriously and we have already taken steps to minimize any risk from this incident," the letter said.

"In addition, we will continue to investigate and monitor this particular situation. Should there be any further significant developments in this matter, we will notify you."

The letter, signed by Pfizer privacy officer Lisa Goldman, ended with an apology for any inconvenience.

Huge Number of Police Files Leaked Through Winny File-Sharing Software

A huge amount of police investigation information including data on crimes such as rape and attempted murder has been leaked over computer networks through the file-sharing software program Winny, it has been learned.

Files obtained by the Mainichi show that more than 1.6 gigabytes of information and about 10,000 files were leaked, making it the biggest leak of police information to date.

Police confirmed the leak on Tuesday evening. They said about 10,000 files had been leaked from a personal computer used by a 26-year-old officer in the community affairs division of Kitazawa Police Station, and believed that some of the data included investigative information.

Sources said that the information, the equivalent of about 800 floppy disks worth of data, was likely to have leaked this spring. It included photographs believed to be of suspects under surveillance, calling records of suspects, police questioning reports and many other investigation files such as reports on criminal record testing results.

In addition, there were folders listed by crime types such as "rape related," "attempted murder" and "unnatural deaths." These folders included documents on incidents involving minors listing personal information such as their names and addresses.

Most of the data was produced between 2004 and 2005, and the information contained many files thought to be official documents containing the names of multiple police stations of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the names of police departments dealing with organized crimes.

Last spring, the National Police Agency sent out an emergency notice to prefectural police headquarters around the nation banning the use of Winny not just on computers used for work, but also on personal computers. The move came in response to leaks of information such as those involving Okayama and Ehime prefectural police.

The most recent announcement suggests that Winny is becoming a serious cause of information leaks in Japan. Police said they were working to control the situation.

"We are investigating the facts of the case and want to deal with the situation quickly," MPD official Hirofumi Kitamura said.

Winny was released in May 2002, and can be downloaded from multiple sites free of charge. It is designed so that it remains unknown which users possess which files, and what people are downloading.

FBI: Operation Bot Roast Finds Over 1 Million Botnet Victims
Layer 8

The Department of Justice and FBI today said ongoing investigations have identified over 1 million botnet crime victims. The FBI is working with industry partners, including the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University, to notify the victim owners of the computers. Microsoft and the Botnet Task Force have also helped out the FBI. Through this process the FBI may uncover additional incidents in which botnets have been used to facilitate other criminal activity, the FBI said in a statement.

The FBI and Justice Dept. have an ongoing cyber crime initiative to disrupt and dismantle botherders known as Operation Bot Roast. To date, the project has nabbed:

* James C. Brewer of Arlington, Texas, is alleged to have operated a botnet that infected Chicago area hospitals. This botnet infected tens of thousands of computers worldwide.

* Jason Michael Downey of Covington, Kentucky, is charged with using botnets to send a high volume of traffic to intended recipients to cause damage by impairing the availability of such systems.

* Robert Alan Soloway of Seattle, Washington, is alleged to have used a large botnet network and spammed tens of millions of unsolicited email messages to advertise his website from which he offered services and products.

Bots are widely recognized as one of the top scourges of the industry. Gartner predicts that by year-end 75% of enterprises "will be infected with undetected, financially motivated, targeted malware that evaded traditional perimeter and host defenses," and early reports from beta customers of a yet to be released product from Mi5 show how nefarious these infections can be.

Mi5 says it installed a Web security beta product at an organization with 12,000 nodes and in one month detected 22 active bots, 123 inactive bots and was watching another 313 suspected bots. That may not sound like a lot, but those bots were responsible for 136 million bot-related incidents, such as scanning for other hosts inside the firewall.

Google researchers recently said at least one in 10 web pages is booby-trapped with malware. Google's Ghost in the Browser study looked at over 4.5 million Web pages, and found that 10% of them were capable of activating malicious codes and 16% were suspected to contain codes that might be a threat to computers.

Most owners of the compromised computers are unknowing and unwitting victims. They have unintentionally allowed unauthorized access and use of their computers as a vehicle to facilitate other crimes, such as identity theft, denial of service attacks, phishing, click fraud, and the mass distribution of spam and spyware. Because of their widely distributed capabilities, botnets are a growing threat to national security, the national information infrastructure, and the economy, the FBI said.

"The majority of victims are not even aware that their computer has been compromised or their personal information exploited," said FBI Assistant Director for the Cyber Division James Finch. "An attacker gains control by infecting the computer with a virus or other malicious code and the computer continues to operate normally. Citizens can protect themselves from botnets and the associated schemes by practicing strong computer security habits to reduce the risk

China Aims to Top U.S. in Cyberspace: U.S. General
Jim Wolf

China is seeking to unseat the United States as the dominant power in cyberspace, a U.S. Air Force general leading a new push in this area said Wednesday.

"They're the only nation that has been quite that blatant about saying, 'We're looking to do that,'" 8th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Elder told reporters.

Elder is to head a new three-star cyber command being set up at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, already home to about 25,000 military personnel involved in everything from electronic warfare to network defense.

The command's focus is to control the cyber domain, critical to everything from communications to surveillance to infrastructure security.

"We have peer competitors right now in terms of doing computer network attack ... and I believe we're going to be able to ratchet up our capability," Elder said. "We're going to go way ahead."

The Defense Department said in its annual report on China's military power last month that China regarded computer network operations -- attacks, defense and exploitation -- as critical to achieving "electromagnetic dominance" early in a conflict.

China's People's Liberation Army has established information warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks, the Pentagon said.

China also was investing in electronic countermeasures and defenses against electronic attack, including infrared decoys, angle reflectors and false-target generators, it said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the U.S. report as "brutal interference" in China's internal affairs and insisted Beijing's military preparations were purely defensive.

Elder described the bulk of current alleged Chinese cyber-operations as industrial espionage aimed at stealing trade secrets to save years of high-tech development.

He attributed the espionage to a mix of criminals, hackers and "nation-state" forces. Virtually all potential U.S. foes also were scanning U.S. networks for trade and defense secrets, he added.

"Everyone but North Korea," he said. "We've concluded that there must be only one laptop in all of North Korea -- and that guy's not allowed to scan" overseas networks, Elder said.

In October, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff defined cyberspace as "characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures."

The definition is broad enough to cover far more than merely defending or attacking computer networks. Other concerns include remotely detonated roadside bombs in Iraq, interference with Global Positioning Satellites and satellite communications, Internet financial transactions by adversaries, and radar and navigational jamming.

Yahoo Says Beijing Likely Blocking Photo Site
Sophie Taylor

Flickr.com, one of the world's most popular online photo-sharing sites and owned by Yahoo Inc., is likely being blocked by the Chinese government, Yahoo's Hong Kong unit said on Tuesday.

Flickr -- popular among a growing class of digital photo enthusiasts in the world's second-largest Internet market -- has not shown photos to users in mainland China since last week, amid rumours Beijing took action after images of the Tiananmen massacre in early June 1989 were posted.

"It is our understanding that Flickr users in China are not able to see images on Flickr, and we have confirmed that this is not a technical issue on our end," a spokeswoman for Yahoo Hong Kong said in an email in response to a Reuters inquiry.

"It appears that the Chinese government is restricting access to Flickr, although we have not received confirmation from them," the spokeswoman said in the email.

"We are currently investigating this issue and hope that it is only a temporary one," she added.

Officials from China's Ministry of Information Industry could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The Communist Party has banned references to the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in state media, the Internet and books as part of a whitewash campaign, meaning most young Chinese are ignorant of the events.

Public discussion of the massacre is still taboo in China and the government has rejected calls to overturn the verdict that the student-led protests were subversive. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed when the army crushed the democracy movement.

A newspaper in southwest China sacked three of its editors over an advertisement saluting mothers of protesters killed in the crackdown, sources told Reuters last week.

Yahoo is also no stranger to challenges while operating in China, which has over 140 million Web users.

Press watchdogs accused Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. two years ago of providing details about e-mail communications that helped identify, and were used as evidence against, Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for leaking state secrets abroad.

Yahoo Inc. defended itself at the time by saying it had to abide by local Chinese laws.

Flickr also said on Monday it is moving to further internationalise its service by creating versions in seven major languages besides English, including Chinese.

Yahoo China -- which was absorbed by e-commerce company Alibaba [ALI.UL] in 2005 -- had a nine percent share of China's online photo-sharing market last year, according to IT consultancy iResearch.

Online services such as Flickr, Shutterfly Inc., Eastman Kodak's EasyShare Gallery and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Snapfish let users load digital pictures online, where they can be edited, shared with others, printed and mailed.

Yamaha Wins Piracy Case in China

China's highest court awarded Yamaha Motor $1.1 million in damages, the highest ever for a piracy case in China involving a foreign investor.

Yamaha's recent Supreme People's Court win ended a five-year legal challenge between the motorcycle maker and the Chinese company Zhejiang Huatian, based in Taizhou in Zhejiang province.

Zhejiang Huatian registered a shell company in a remote area of Japan in 2000 under the same three characters used by Yamaha to translate its name into Chinese, Forbes reported Wednesday. The shell company signed a licensing agreement with Zhejiang Huatian, allowing it to market scooters in China under that three-character name. Zhejiang Huatian translated and printed the three characters -- Yamaha's name in Chinese -- in English letters on its scooters.

On its Web site, Zhejiang Huatian claims to be China's largest motorcycle maker by sales, saying it produced the nation's first "luxurious scooter" in 1992.

Imported Toothpaste Recalled

Five-ounce tubes of toothpaste labeled Colgate and sold in discount stores in four states are being recalled because they may contain a poisonous chemical, according to the importer.

A Food and Drug Administration official, Doug Arbesfeld, confirmed that testing had found the chemical in a product with the Colgate label. But he said the agency is unsure if it is really Colgate or a counterfeit.

''We are aware that toothpaste is something that's been counterfeited in the past,'' he said. ''We don't want to alarm people unnecessarily.''

There was no immediate reply to an e-mail message left with a Colgate-Palmolive spokesman Wednesday evening.

MS USA Trading, Inc. of North Bergen, N.J., said the toothpaste may contain diethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze.

The company said the toothpaste, imported from South Africa, was sold in discount stores in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

''Made in South Africa'' is printed on the box and includes Regular, Gel, Triple and Herbal versions.

The company said the problem was discovered in routine testing by the Food and Drug Administration. It said no illnesses have been reported to date.

The same chemical has led to the recall of several brands of toothpaste imported from China in recent weeks.

Consumers who have purchased 5-ounce toothpaste under the Colgate label can return them to the place of purchase for a refund, MS USA Trading said.

Hindu Group Making Software to Partly Block Orkut
Krittivas Mukherjee

A right-wing Hindu group has asked public Internet centres in India to partly block access to Orkut, and is making a software to monitor abusive communities on the popular social networking site operated by Google.

The student wing of the Shiv Sena party said many Indians use Orkut to bad-mouth religious groups and disturb communal harmony, and also spread misinformation about India.

The group is part of a growing band of cultural vigilantes opposed to what they see as increasing mimicry of the West. It often stops St. Valentine's Day celebrations, attacks clubs and pubs and prevents screening of sexually bold films.

"Orkut is used by many destructive elements to spread canards about India, Hindus, our gods and cultural heritage," said Abhijit Phanse, president of Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena, the student group.

"We are gently telling Internet cafe owners that it is their responsibility to see that surfers do not use their facility to carry out such hate campaigns," he said.

"Or else, we will have to do that job for them."

Last week, dozens of Shiv Sena workers vandalised some Internet centres, saying they were not stopping their customers from accessing Orkut groups involved in sending hate messages.

"We are not saying all of Orkut should be shut. We are just saying stop access to those groups that indulge in hate campaigns," Phanse said.

Internet cafe owners said they had received a letter from the group saying that if they did not spot and stop people surfing Orkut to spread hate messages, their businesses would be attacked.

"The letter was pasted on our wall. But what can we do? It is up to the Internet service providers to block a site," said a cyber cafe owner who was too scared to be named.

Phanse said his group was developing a special software that Internet service providers could install to block any message containing certain words and phrases such as "I hate" or "I despise".

"The software should be ready in 2-3 months," Phanse said, adding that they were hoping to involve Orkut authorities in the discussions.

A Dog or a Cat? New Tests to Fool Automated Spammers
Brad Stone

On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a human — until you fill out a captcha.

Captchas are the puzzles on many Web sites that present a string of distorted letters and numbers. These are supposed to be easy for people to read and retype, but hard for computer software to figure out.

Most major Internet companies use captchas to keep the automated programs of spammers from infiltrating their sites.

There is only one problem. As online mischief makers design better ways to circumvent or defeat captchas, Web companies are responding by making the puzzles more challenging to solve — even for people.

They are twisting the letters, distorting the backgrounds, adding a confusing kaleidoscope of colors and generally making it difficult for humans.

“They are creating tests that a reasonably healthy adult can’t pass,” said Gordon Weakliem, a programmer and blogger from Denver, who says he failed to correctly discern the captcha code several times last week on the sign-up page for the Windows Live service of Microsoft.

With captchas getting easier for computers and more difficult for real people, several Internet companies, including Microsoft and eBay, are working on replacements.

“You can make a captcha absolutely undefeatable by computers, but at some point, you are turning this from a human reading test into an intelligence test and an acuity test,” said Michael Barrett, the chief information security officer at PayPal, a division of eBay. “We are clearly at the point where captchas have hit diminishing returns.”

If that is true, at least captchas had a good run. Though several researchers devised similar tests early in the decade, credit for inventing the technology usually goes to Carnegie Mellon University, which was asked by Yahoo in 2000 to create a method to prevent rogue programs from invading its chat rooms and e-mail service.

University researchers devised a collection of cognitive puzzles that they knew modern computers could not solve. They called their approach the Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart, or captcha for short. The reference was to the computer scientist Alan Turing, who did research into ways to tell man from machine in the 1950s.

Captchas quickly became popular online and soon expanded into new dimensions. When advocates for the visually impaired complained that some people could not read the puzzles, many sites added audio versions, where a computer voice recites a string of letters and numbers, often over noises in the background.

The emergence of the technology started a wave of research into ways to make computers smart enough to crack the puzzles.

Yet some of that activity can be ethically murky. Aleksey Kolupaev, 25, works for an Internet company in Kiev, Ukraine, and in his spare time, with his friend Juriy Ogijenko, he develops and sells software that can thwart captchas by analyzing the images and separating the letters and numbers from the background noise. They charge $100 to $5,000 a project, depending on the complexity of the puzzle.

Mr. Kolupaev said he had worked both for legitimate companies that want to test their own security and for spammers who seek to infiltrate Web sites.

“Nothing is unbreakable, and each system has its own weakness,” he said. “If you create a program that only recognizes one picture from a hundred, it’s not a problem. You just hit the site 100 times, and you break through.”

On his Web site, ocr-research.org.ua, Mr. Kolupaev boasts of cracking the captchas of companies like MySpace and PayPal; the site also ranks the effectiveness of each captcha. He says he believes that his work makes the Internet more secure because companies tend to improve the captchas that he critiques.

Internet companies have responded to these challenges by making their captchas more complex. On YouTube, for example, the letters and numbers in the captcha float on an uneven grid of colors. On the technology news site Slashdot, random squiggly lines slice through the letters and numbers, as if a child had scrawled with a pen on each puzzle.

All these tricks are attempts to disguise the boundaries of the characters, so that software cannot identify the numbers and letters.

But often these measures prove too tough for humans to decipher as well. On Ticketmaster’s site, the characters appear over a grid of diagonal lines that are so thick that they often obscure the puzzle. Jacob Hanson, the chief technology officer of HireVue, an online employment agency in Salt Lake City, estimated that he had failed to solve the Ticketmaster captcha once every four times.

“I can only imagine someone like my mom trying to go through it,” he said.

As a result, the hunt is on for puzzles that are friendlier to humans and more difficult for computers. Many researchers are focusing on expanding the test beyond the constrained realm of 26 letters and 9 digits.

Microsoft researchers have developed an alternative captcha that asks Internet users to view nine images of household pets and then select just the cats or the dogs.

“For software, this is wildly hard,” said John Douceur, a Microsoft researcher. “Computers are tripped up by all the photos at different angles, with variable lighting conditions and backgrounds and the animals in different positions.”

The project, called Asirra (for Animal Species Image Recognition for Restricting Access), uses photographs of animals from Petfinder.com, a site that finds homes for homeless pets and has more than two million images in its database.

Other companies prefer to keep their next-generation captcha research quiet. Mr. Barrett of PayPal will say only that the new breed of captchas might resemble simple image identification puzzles, like asking users to view pictures of a head of lettuce, a tree and a whale — and pick out the vegetable.

“Captchas have gotten as good as they are going to get, and it is likely they are going to be slowly supplanted with a different technology that achieves the same thing,” he said.

He added: “No single defensive technology is forever. If they were, we would all be living in fortified castles with moats.”

Not everyone feels that the traditional captcha is finished. Luis von Ahn, a professor at Carnegie Mellon and a member of the team that invented captchas, recently unveiled an effort to give them new usefulness.

His reCaptcha project (recaptcha.net) seeks to block spam while handling the challenge of digitally scanning old books and making them available in Web search engines.

When character recognition software fails to decipher a word scanned in a book — when the page is yellowed or the letters are smudged, for example — Mr. von Ahn’s project makes it part of a captcha. After the mystery word has been verified by several people, it is fed back into the digital copy of the book.

“I heard that 60 million captchas are solved every day around the world, which first made me quite happy for myself but then quite sad,” he said. “It takes about 10 seconds to solve a captcha, so that means humanity is wasting thousands of hours solving them. I wanted to do something good for humanity in that time.”

A Few Details of the iPhone Galvanize the Apple Cadre
Andrew Adam Newman

These days advertisers fret over DVR owners fast-forwarding through their commercials, but that was far from the case with the release by Apple last week of four iPhone commercials, which viewers pored over with Talmudic intensity.

The product was announced in January, and some teaser ads for it ran during the Academy Awards ceremonies in February. Last week, three new television commercials for the iPhone divulged the product’s release date — June 29 — and showed off a range of features that led Apple fans to seek more details.

While the ad campaign, by TBWA/Chiat/Day, highlighted some functions, the individual commercials are being parsed to determine precisely how the phone will operate. In a typical post, Erica Sadun on the Unofficial Apple Weblog (www.tuaw.com) extrapolated how the device’s e-mail and map search functions might work, based on the mere seconds that each function was shown in the commercials.

At Macenstein.com, a “Dr. Macenstein” wrote on June 3 that for a moment in one of the ads, the iPhone’s screen had 12 icons, each representing a function, where earlier promotional material featured only 11. What was this “mystery” application, he wondered, and then said four days later that the 12-icon shot had been edited out of the same commercial featured on apple.com.

Many bloggers also wrote that fine print initially appearing in ads — which said that iPhone purchasers would be locked into a "minimum new two-year activation plan" with AT&T — was absent from similar ads posted on apple.com, leading, of course, to speculation whether iPhone buyers would have to sign such a contract. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on an AT&T plan or any other aspect of the iPhone or its commercials.

It is typical for Apple to remain silent, even if speaking up would quash rumors, said Tim Beyers, who wrote about the iPhone ads for the Motley Fool (fool.com). “When Apple does nothing to stop rumors from circulating, the feeding frenzy gets more and more intense,” Mr. Beyers said. “They like to allow the pot to be stirred and not to disturb it, just like a fine sauce simmering. The nature of Apple is that by virtue of the fact that they talk sparingly, they get talked about — they create this almost audible buzz.”

After Apple’s initial announcement in January, “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” broadcast a fake iPhone commercial in which the device was used in myriad ways, including as a bottle opener, electric shaver, blow-dryer and condiment dispenser. In one segment, it helped give a pregnant woman a sonogram.

Forensics on the real iPhone commercials included sleuthing by Taylor Johnston, who writes about music on his Web site, musicforants.com. Mr. Johnston, who just finished his junior year at Illinois State University, focused on a segment of one ad where the user scrolls quickly through his music library, noting performers like Beck and Lily Allen.

“If you look closely, though, there’s a wealth of other good music that the iPhone is playing,” said Mr. Johnston, who praised Apple for featuring indie-rock darlings like Feist and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah over mainstream chart-toppers.

“I’m a huge Apple geek,” he said in an interview. “I don’t think there’s any product out there where people are so attached to the company. You can like Snickers bars, but you’re not going to be scouring the Internet for all the information you can get about a Snickers bar.”

Pacific Catch, a restaurant in San Francisco whose phone number appeared momentarily in one of the iPhone ads, averaged 100 extra calls a day the next week, the general manager, Rob Schechtman, said. Apple’s ad agency got the restaurant’s permission beforehand.

Calls came from as far away as Africa and included a collect call from a county jail; the restaurant did not accept the charges.

“I assume he saw the commercial and maybe wanted to know if we delivered,” Mr. Schechtman said.

Most callers are merely curious if it is a real restaurant, while others are more persistent. “Some people ask about the iPhone — when it was coming out and how much it would cost,” Mr. Schechtman said. “And I say, ‘We’re a restaurant, not an Apple Store.’ ” The restaurant’s computer system, he said, is actually PC-based.

Why You May Not Want An iPhone
Dan Frommer

Give Steve Jobs credit: He's managed to get the entire tech community--and much of the rest of the world--talking about a pricey gadget that only a handful have seen or touched.

Apple's iPhone finally goes on sale June 29, and for many potential buyers, the only issue is whether they'll be able to get their hands on one, as it's certain to sell out immediately. But whether you are a music lover, a business e-mail addict, a mobile power-user or just a normal consumer, there are several good reasons to think twice about dropping $500 for the first-generation iPhone.

Will that be enough to slow iPhone sales after the initial rush? There are, after all, plenty of other options for consumers who want a smart phone, which is essentially a high-end phone with the ability to do other functions, like e-mail. Previously just expensive toys for information technology nerds and executives, smart phones are gaining mainstream appeal. Research firm Yankee Group projects that smart phones will grow from 11% of this year's mobile-phone market to about 20% of phone sales in 2010.

Jobs hopes to pick up 1% of the market by the end of 2008. But consumers are finicky and have options. If Apple's iPhone doesn't stack up, numerous competitors, like Samsung, LG Electronics, Nokia and a host of phones running rival Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform, will be happy to take their business. (Elevation Partners, the private equity firm that has invested in Forbes Media, has announced plans to buy a 25% stake in iPhone competitor Palm).

The iPhone's battery is one example of a feature that could flop. By all indications--Apple is still being mum about almost all details regarding the device--the iPhone's rechargeable battery is sealed inside its case. That's what Apple does already with its iPod devices, presumably to save space. The company says the battery will last up to five hours of talking, watching video and browsing the Internet.

But it's not clear how those claims will measure up in the real world. What happens if you use the phone's wi-fi connection heavily? Or a Bluetooth earpiece? Without a midday charging pit stop, iPhone owners may have to consistently choose between using its Web and multimedia features or saving battery power for phone calls.

Other smart phones have similar battery drawbacks. Palm, for example, says the battery in its newest Treo 755p will last for up to four hours and 12 minutes of talk time. But when that's up, you can easily swap out the Treo battery for a charged replacement. Many people carry a spare, especially while traveling on business. With the iPhone, it seems you may be tethered to a backup-battery accessory, which is far from ideal.

Making matters worse, rechargeable batteries have a limited lifespan and can be charged only a finite number of times. This number varies, but Apple says a properly maintained iPod battery--whatever that really means--can retain 80% of its original capacity after 400 full charging cycles. Eventually, it will hold a charge so short that it must be replaced, which could at best mean a trip to an Apple or AT&T store, or at worst, an annoying, mail-in battery replacement service.

The iPhone's stripped-down data features could also provide incentive to wait for a better offer. Apple's boilerplate is that the iPhone is a "revolutionary" device for browsing the Internet on the go. To an extent, it has a point: Apple's Safari is arguably the most powerful mobile Web browser. And the iPhone's large display will surely make surfing the Web more enjoyable and functional than on a tiny Motorola Razr screen.

But for whatever reason, Apple decided not to allow the iPhone to work on AT&T's fastest, "third-generation" (or 3G) wireless network, opting instead for its slower "EDGE" network. The difference is apparent even on a small-screen device browsing scaled-down, mobile-edition Web sites. When you're surfing full-size Web pages, as Apple touts on the iPhone, the slow speeds could be a deal breaker.

During Apple's first-quarter earnings conference call, finance chief Peter Oppenheimer said the company is "very much sold" on the slower network because it is more widespread in the U.S. This is a valid point, sort of. AT&T says it has 3G coverage available in 165 major U.S. metro areas, with dozens more on the way, and EDGE coverage in 13,000 cities and towns. But a 3G device can seamlessly hop between the faster and slower networks. And many of the iPhone's competitors, like the 7-month-old Samsung BlackJack, do just that. So why did Apple skimp?

One reason may be the iPhone's built-in wi-fi capability, meaning it can connect to local hot spots and avoid AT&T's data network altogether. This is much faster than using the cellular Web, but imperfect. Wi-fi access is not as universal as you think, and often it's not free. Spending $10 to use a faster Internet at Starbucks doesn't sound practical on top of a $40-per-month, all-you-can-eat EDGE data plan. You may already have a wi-fi hot spot in your home or office--but chances are, you have a computer there, too, with a screen larger than 3.5 inches.

Then again, wi-fi may be a cool feature if Apple opens the iPhone up to developers to write interesting software like network or peer-to-peer games, on-the-go photo sharing software or any other mobile-friendly apps. Jobs is particularly fond of the iPhone's Google Maps software, which he says "blows away" any previous version, and the iPod music software, which he says is "the best iPod we've ever made." But it's not clear if Apple will let other people write software for the iPhone, at least right away, and that could be a reason to stay away.

For example, if you're looking to check your corporate e-mail with any ease, you may have to wait. It's not clear if the iPhone's e-mail software will initially--or imminently--support "push" e-mail from Microsoft Exchange e-mail servers or Research in Motion BlackBerry servers. Apple has a deal with Yahoo! to support real-time "push" e-mail delivery. But CrackBerry addicts should be iPhone-hesitant, at least until we get more information about compatibility. (RIM did not immediately return a request for comment.) Jobs said recently that Apple is "working to find a way to allow developers to build applications" but that security is a sticking point.

Rabid e-mailers or texters may also be skeptical about the iPhone's keyboard-free design. Jobs dislikes the tiny QWERTY thumb keyboards on many of today's smart phones, with good reason: Typing is slower and less accurate than on a normal, full-sized keyboard.

But it's not apparent that typing on a touchscreen will necessarily be any better. Many BlackBerry users, once familiar with the keyboard, can type without looking. Can you thumb out a text message on an iPhone screen without undivided attention? Will it work in the rain? Or if you're wearing a bandage? Will it scratch, as the iPod screens have been infamous for?

Lastly, one of the most anticipated, unknown iPhone features is its real price tag. We already know that it will cost $500 to $600, depending on storage capacity. But AT&T's contract requirements could easily quadruple that price. To qualify for the lowest pricing on many smart phones, carriers require that you subscribe to an all-you-can-eat data plan for around $40 per month, in addition to a $40-or-more-per-month calling plan.

So much for getting the cheapest calling plan and just using the wi-fi feature for the Internet. Add text messaging and taxes, and you're looking at a bill near $90 per month. Over the two-year contract period, that's more than $2,000.

Businesses manage that expense for executives' BlackBerrys, but will consumers happily pay that much? AT&T says existing customers will get the same deal as new customers switching from Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel--but subscribers will have to extend their contract for two more years. Will AT&T offer a version for prepaid service subscribers? Many consumers can justify buying a $500 smart phone/iPod hybrid. But AT&T's service terms could break the deal.

That iPhone Has a Keyboard, but It’s Not Mechanical
John Markoff

If there is a billion-dollar gamble underlying Apple’s iPhone, it lies in what this smart cellphone does not have: a mechanical keyboard.

As the clearest expression yet of the Apple chief executive’s spartan design aesthetic, the iPhone sports only one mechanical button, to return a user to the home screen. It echoes Steven P. Jobs’s decree two decades ago that a computer mouse should have a single button. (Most computer mice these days have two.) His argument was that one button ensured that it would be impossible to push the wrong button.

The keyboard is built into other phones, those designed for businesspeople as well as those for teenagers. But the lack of a keyboard could be seen as a clever industrial design solution. It has permitted the iPhone to have a 3.5-inch screen. A big screen makes the phone attractive for alternative uses like watching movies and that could open up new revenue streams for Apple and its partner, AT&T.

The downside is that typing is done by pecking on the screen with thumbs or fingers, something hardly anyone outside of Apple has experienced yet. “The tactile feedback of a mechanical keyboard is a pretty important aspect of human interaction,” said Bill Moggeridge, a founder of Ideo, an industrial design company in Palo Alto, Calif. “If you take that away you tend to be very insecure.”

Mr. Jobs and other Apple executives argue that the keyboard that pops up onscreen will be a painless compromise. The iPhone’s onscreen keyboard has a dictionary-lookup feature that tries to predict the word being typed, catching errors as they are made.

That, of course, requires users to learn the new system, a task that Apple executives acknowledge may require several days. Last month at an industry conference, Mr. Jobs dismissed doubts about the decision to rely on a virtual keyboard, saying that users only had to learn to trust the keyboard, “and then you will fly.”

Yet in the days before the phone is scheduled to go on sale at Apple and AT&T stores around the country, designers and marketers of electronic devices centers are having a spirited debate about whether consumers will have the patience to overcome the hurdle that will be required to type without the familiar tactile feedback offered by conventional keyboards.

Apple is making other compromises. The AT&T Edge cellular network transmits data more slowly than those of rivals, but the iPhone will still be equipped with Wi-Fi for Web access. The phone will not accept memory cards.

The keyboard, however, is the biggest worry. At worst, customers will return the products. Currently AT&T gives customers 30 days to return handsets, but it is not clear whether it will maintain that policy for the iPhone. Any significant number of returns of the iPhone could conceivably undermine what until now has been a remarkable promotional blitzkrieg that culminates in the phone’s release June 29.

“There has never been a massively successful consumer device based solely on a touch screen,” warned Sky Dayton, chief executive of Helio, a cellular network service that has recently introduced an innovative handset that integrates Google maps with a G.P.S. system and another feature that physically locates friends using Helio phones.

Palm was successful, he noted, despite requiring the Palm Pilot’s users to enter text with a stylus using its own writing system called Graffiti. But the company eventually retreated and put a mechanical keyboard on its Treo smartphones.

“Texting” is central to an entire generation of people, Mr. Dayton argued, and Apple is taking a risk in not making that a central design feature. “There is a generation of users who are always online and who don’t communicate the way their parents did,” he said. “They’re e-mailing; they’re texting; they’re I.M.-ing.”

To be sure, Apple has had its share of product design hits and misses both under Mr. Jobs’s command and while he was in exile from the computer maker from 1985 to 1997. The Apple III was a well-designed computer, but was undermined by shoddy manufacturing. Several years later, the Lisa, the first commercial PC with a graphical user interface, and an infamously poorly designed “Twiggy” floppy disk drive, generated excitement but failed commercially. More recently, the Apple Cube, which was perhaps Mr. Jobs’s most daring design statement, drew critical praise and few sales.

But the comparison that could haunt the iPhone most comes from the specter of a former Apple chief executive, John Sculley, and his Newton. Billed as the original “personal digital assistant,” the Newton relied on a stylus for entering text. When users fumbled with its character recognition system, the machine went from hype to humiliation.

Although a small team of dedicated Apple engineers ultimately improved the technology, it was too late to save the Newton as a product.

Few industrial designers believe that the iPhone will suffer the Newton’s fate. Indeed, many leading designers argue that even before the iPhone has reached the market, it has changed consumer electronics industry standards irrevocably. Dispensing with a physical keyboard has given software an increased importance over hardware in product design, said Mark Rolston, senior vice president at Frog Design, an industrial design consulting firm.

A result, he said, has been a richer conversation between Frog’s designers and customers because the software presents a much wider range of options for features. “This is great for us because the carriers weren’t listening,” Mr. Rolston said. “They were slightly adjusting the soft-keys.”

Overnight that has changed and that has resulted in significant new business for design companies like Frog. “We’re being engaged by many more customers with more aggressive ideas about what to do,” he said.

Mr. Rolston believes that Mr. Jobs will get away with his gamble. “They took a risk and it’s a bold step for the industry,” he said. “This is a worthwhile risk.”

Indeed, the handful of users outside Apple who have been able to play with the hand-held device report that the quirky company has made an important step forward in the art of controlling computer systems. It may teach a new generation of technology users to use their fingers rather than a mouse — a four-decade-old technology — as a pointing and command device.

Apple’s multitouch technology — which permits control gestures with one or more fingers or thumbs — and which is now also being explored by a variety of other companies, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and others, is a much more direct way to interact with a computer. Software designers have injected virtual “physics” into the user’s experience. For example, sliding a finger along the screen in a directory will cause the index to slide as if it were a piece of paper on a flat surface.

Mr. Jobs’s new phone may resonate with a new kind of mobile user, said Donald A. Norman, a product designer who is co-director of the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

“Apple says, ‘We’re not selling to the person who lives on his BlackBerry, we’re selling to the person who listens to music and surfs the Web,’ ” he said.

And even Mr. Jobs’s competitors are rooting for him to win.

“When I first saw iPhone I was very excited,” said Benjamin Bederson, co-founder and vice president for client technologies at ZenZui, a Seattle-based mobile phone software company, which is commercializing technologies that were developed at Microsoft’s research labs. “It will raise the expectations. I think that consumers have had the central assumption that cellphone experiences are terrible and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

No iPhone SDK Means No Killer iPhone Apps
Jesus Diaz

According to Apple, "no software developer kit is required for the iPhone." However, the truth is that the lack of an SDK means that there won't be a killer application for the iPhone. It also means the iPhone's potential as an amazing computing and communication platform will never be realized. And because of this I don't think the iPhone will be as revolutionary as it could be. That's a real heart breaker.

Steve Jobs initially sold the iPhone as the Next Big Thing from Apple, just like the Macintosh was. The Macintosh really broke the mold. While not as groundbreaking, the iPhone is an intelligent and clean implementation of existing things. Really intelligent, really clean, like the Mac. Unlike the original Mac, however, developers won't have full access to its core features. Without them there won't be the equivalent of PageMaker, Photoshop, Word or Premiere in the iPhone, powerful applications taking full advantage of the unique capabilities of the hardware, the operating system and its frameworks.

Those applications spawned two revolutions: desktop publishing (including photo editing) and desktop video. It was the Mac and its third-party apps that brought radical changes that have deeply affected us, not the Mac alone.

On the iPhone, however, developers will be limited to developing Web applications based on AJAX, a set of Internet standards that make software like GMail, Google Maps or FaceBook possible. The iPhone is the real thing, a complete UNIX-to-go with stunning graphic classes, and developers will be limited to do stuff like this.

Mind you, AJAX is great for what it does on the Web today, but is limited. All we know is this, from the press release:
Developers can create Web 2.0 applications which look and behave just like the applications built into iPhone, and which can seamlessly access iPhone's services, including making a phone call, sending an email and displaying a location in Google Maps.

This is nothing new, however. We knew this from the very beginning because iPhone's Safari was already doing it. It's called auto-detection of phone numbers and addresses: you click on a phone or address in your web page and it gets passed by Safari to the operating system, which calls the number or shows the address in the Google Maps app. In other words, they are trying to sell us the same thing we already had when the iPhone was introduced and the same thing we already have in Mac OS X's Safari.

So unless they show something boomtastic in the sessions, this will not change. To see how powerful AJAX applications on the iPhone could be, a million questions will have to be answered this week. Questions like:

- Would I be able to access the iPhone databases from Safari and query them from my AJAX application? Looking at Jobs' stress on security, it doesn't look like this will be possible.

- Would I be able store data locally beyond cookies? Probably the same answer.

- How will these application perform over limited EDGE connections? Will I have to do a painful download for the whole app, instead of just the data?

- How will the connection limit the interactive possibilities?

- How is the access to iPhone's hardware? Would I be able to access iPhone's hardware to connect to an infrared scanner via Bluetooth and create an amazing sales or logistics application? How about Multitouch?

If AJAX is that good and the developers don't need an SDK, why has Apple built a dedicated Mail application or Google Maps software into the iPhone? Why not just reformat the CSS on the Web and open a special view to .Mac mail, Gmail or Google Maps made just for iPhone Safari users ?

Maybe because to do the cool stuff that iPhone's Maps do, you need to access all the cool Mac OS X classes that iPhones have.

Now, I'm sure that there will be great AJAX applications created for the iPhone, specially at the corporate level, like in the Keynote Demo. But what is important here is that we won't have sexy apps. This is what Apple needs to make the iPhone not just great, but huge. A true revolutionary product. Otherwise, we will keep asking where are we going to find the killer apps that made the Mac what is today; where is the next Delicious Library-equivalent for the iPhone; where are the games. Just think about those, as Apple stresses its relationship with EA and id software. There's a great potential for games in the iPhone, which with multi-touch could be a Nintendo DS 2.0 in the making. As Nintendo fans will tell you, a Flash game (which provides with even better flexibility than AJAX) is not a substitute for a real Wii game. And the next big games never come from the established big developers who may, at the end, be the only ones with access to the secret iPhone SDK at use in Apple.

So no SDK == no access to iPhone's cool frameworks == no revolutionary apps, no real new concepts coming from third-parties, no eye candy available for anyone but Apple and no possibility for some really crazy games that will fully exploit the graphic and multi-touch power of the iPhone.

In other words

[12:37AM 6/12/07, Edited by B.Lam.]

Update 10:00AM PST 6/12/07 Think Secret is speculating that, with full support for Google Apps in Safari 3, the iPhone may also have access to Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Many will say that this solves one of the main concerns about the iPhone's viability as a business platform, despite the lack of an SDK to make specialized applications.

However, and even assuming that these could be viable alternatives to potential users looking for both complete Word and Excel viewing and light editing, Google Apps are hardly the killer applications I am talking about in this article. They are just current (and blah) productivity software that will not take advantage of the iPhone's unique features. –Jesus Diaz

Unlocked iPhones a Reality Through Pure Digital?
Jacqui Cheng

Unlocked iPhones are going to be a major commodity once the iPhone finally gets released. Although no one is exactly sure of the "SIM card situation" (whether you will be able to change one out), everyone seems to be optimistic that there will still be some way to do so.

That's why when pro blogger and PodTech VP Robert Scoble pointed out that Pure Mobile is prepping to resell unlocked versions of the iPhone, my interest was piqued. The company claims on its iPhone web page that it will sell both 4GB and 8GB versions of the phone that will not be restricted to AT&T/Cingular; this would make the phones compatible with most major GSM carriers in North America, such as T-Mobile, Fido, and Rogers.

Pricing for the unlocked phones is, predictably, not available right now. However, we can reasonably expect that the phones will most likely go for a premium. The company told Scoble that they expect not to be able to meet demand upon the iPhone's launch, because demand is currently "off the scale" compared to any other product they've dealt with yet. The only prices currently listed on the site are shipping rates ($29 and $19 for Priority and Economy shipping, respectively).

If Pure Digital is truly selling unlocked iPhones, then I can see a great many users being interested in buying one through them, including me. Of course, features like visual voicemail won't be compatible with most other carriers, but just the freedom to be able to use it outside of AT&T will be good enough for most of us. We'll see soon enough whether the company is actually successful at doing what we all are hoping they can do.

Apple's Latest Trick to Enforce Digital Rights
Scott Shuey

One day. That's how long it took iTunes users to dismantle Apple's latest attempt to enforce Digital Rights Management (DRM) software.

DRM limits where and how your music can be played and has recently been under fire from consumers. Most iPod users have long known how to break Apple's DRM software. The process is known as download-burn-rip.

The name gets no points for creativity, but it's apt enough. Download a DRM-protected song, burn it to CD, and rip that CD to your computer. You now have an unprotected MP3 file, ready to be uploaded to the player (or file-sharing network) of your choice.

Technically, it's not even hacking. No law has been broken and no illegal process used. Apple could cry foul that the end user license agreement (EULA) - it's that box you mindlessly click without reading - has been violated, but so far Apple hasn't seemed inclined to engage its customers in lawsuits. Most music companies seem to have realised that suing your customers doesn't do much to increase sales.

But Apple tried to circumvent this well-established procedure with version 7.2, the same version that Apple released to play newly offered and much-hyped DRM-free songs.

With this version of iTunes, users were finding that music subjected to the old download-burn-rip would no longer load onto their iPods.

Ironically, Apple is now heftily promoting DRM-free that lets you play your music anywhere, and then prevents you from removing DRM protection. I didn't realise that it was possible to talk out of both sides of your mouth simultaneously.

iTunes users refused to take the "bug", as Apple labelled it, laying down. Within 24 hours, websites that gave full instructions on how to "fix" the problem on OSX, XP, and Vista began to appear. It's hard to find that kind of technical support from anyone today, let along pirates.

User information

Within days of this blunder, Apple was again called out for monkeying with the music.

Turns out that Apple has been embedding its files with user information. iTunes customers have been downloading files that contain both their names and their email address.

How long this has been going on and just why Apple has felt compelled to do so is still a mystery - the company so far has refused to comment - but the reason seems obvious.

The embedded data won't prevent anyone from listening to their music files, but it might deter them from uploading them to a file-sharing server.

The data is unencrypted, so uploading a file to LimeWire will be like writing your name and number on a bathroom wall. Who would do something so stupid? No one, that's the point.

But the message is clear: take our songs public, and we'll take you public.

This tactic will probably not help Apple in the long run. Defenders of the data claim there are legitimate uses for the data "water mark".

Certain iTunes features use the data to promote other music on the site. OK, fine, but then encrypt the data. Things happen. iPods get stolen, and once personal information is released on a file-sharing server, there's no getting it back.

No one so far has figured out how to remove or alter the embedded data in the tracks, yet, but the stopwatch is running. Give it a day.

Awaiting Real Sales From Virtual Shoppers
Bob Tedeschi

THE seven million or so inhabitants of Second Life, the three-dimensional online world, have spent millions of dollars on digital makeovers, clothing and other goods and services for their avatars.

But will the game’s players buy anything for themselves?

Retailers and manufacturers like Reebok, Adidas, American Apparel and 1-800Flowers.com are setting up shop in Second Life, hoping that users will steer their avatars to these stores and buy goods to deliver to their real world addresses. So far, retailers say they have low expectations for their efforts, but some believe that the experiments could yield important lessons on how people might operate in the online realm.

“What we’re doing reminds me of the early days of the online world,” said Christopher G. McCann, president of 1-800-Flowers.com. “The first site we launched in 1995 was in 3-D, because I said people wouldn’t want just two-dimensional photos. Here we are, 12 years later, back into this virtual world.”

The company’s Second Life initiative, which rolled out last week, is in a brick greenhouse bearing the company logo. There, users may browse various plants and cut flowers, including a collection of “Happy Hour” bouquets arranged to resemble cocktails. Avatars may take a free floral arrangement, or users may also click from the game’s 1-800-Flowers.com store to the company’s Web site to buy one directly.

Mr. McCann said that he expected to distribute more virtual bouquets than real ones. “This is more about relationship building for us right now, and exposing our brand,” he said.

The opening of virtual stores in Second Life raises interesting questions as virtual worlds mesh elements of both e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar retailing. How, for instance, does a company market itself?

As with many companies that opened stores in Second Life, 1-800-Flowers.com contracted an outside vendor. That developer, This Second Marketing, which is based in San Francisco, created avatars wearing 1-800-Flowers.com T-shirts. The team trolled popular areas of Second Life handing out virtual fliers about the greenhouse.

The team interacted with about 1,600 people in 60 hours, according to Joni West, president of This Second Marketing. In the first three days the greenhouse was open, it had more than 900 visitors, she said.

Joseph Laszlo an analyst with the online consulting firm Jupiter Research, said that building a store on Second Life will not come easily to many online merchants. “You actually have to think more like a bricks-and-mortar retailer than a virtual retailer,” he said.

Mr. Laszlo said retailers must still consider such things as store layout, shelf space and ways to help users find an item.

Location can also matter, but not as much as in the physical world. Rather than walk aimlessly through Second Life, people tend to navigate the realm by searching for specific services or landmarks in the search box and transporting themselves directly there.

One of the more successful commercial applications within Second Life has been Reebok’s virtual store, where users may create custom versions of Reebok shoes for their avatars, and for themselves.

According to Benjamin James, who leads the San Francisco office of Rivers Run Red, the agency that created Reebok’s Second Life store, the site distributed more than 27,000 pairs of digital shoes in its first 10 weeks.

Mr. James said he did not know how many of those people clicked through to Reebok’s Web site to buy physical reproductions of their avatars’ shoes, but he said the effort, which began in October, was indeed helping to sell the real items. “This allowed people to get comfortable with their product in the virtual world,” he said.

Other Second Life retailers said they had not seen results in their stores.

“I’m not really sold on it yet,” said Raz Schionning, who oversaw American Apparel’s entry into Second Life last year. Mr. Schionning said the store, allows people to buy digital versions of the company’s clothes, and also click over to AmericanApparel.net to buy the real items.

Mr. Schionning said he could not comment on the level of sales that have come from the company’s Second Life store, but he indicated that the numbers were quite small.

“The user interface is not particularly intuitive,” he said. “It took me a while to figure out how to buy something.”

One problem with selling on Second Life, Mr. Schionning said, is that it is so new that retailers have not come to a consensus on how to do it. As a result, buyers are not sure how to approach a transaction. “We’ve all become accustomed to how an e-commerce site works,” he said, “but on Second Life, those conventions haven’t really been established.”

“It’s not unlike the way it was on the Web initially,” Mr. Schionning added. “So there might actually be an advantage to waiting and watching to see what happens.”

Either way, the sudden popularity of three-dimensional virtual spaces online suggests that consumers are ready for that sort of experience even if retailers are not. Mr. Schionning, for one, says they will have to be ready soon.

“There’s a gap between the current online shopping experience and the next generation,” he said. “A virtual world can at least bring you closer to the store experience without actually bringing you there. I’m not convinced Second Life is that answer, but it is a step along the path.”

In the meantime, Linden Lab, the privately held San Francisco developer of Second Life, is enjoying the increased attention from businesses.

The company does not earn a commission on sales made on the site, but it charges rent to developers who want to create customized spaces on the service. Companies can lease a 65,000-square-meter parcel for $200 a month. But to develop that land, businesses typically pay technology companies between $100,000 and $5 million, industry executives said.

According to Christopher Mahoney, Linden Lab’s business development manager, the company has in recent months experienced a spike in interest from software developers. Those developers, he predicted, will be able to deliver photo-realistic renderings of offline stores and merchandise in the next five years.

“Imagine taking an avatar and walking around a house, painting the walls dynamically and furnishing it with products from Pottery Barn or Ikea,” he said. “There’ll be a point when a 3-D Internet solves problems in your real world.”

Wired to Sell
Lisa Keys

WHEN Parimal Pandya, a 32-year-old network consultant at AT&T, walked into the sales office at Liberty Harbor, a mixed-use waterfront development going up in Jersey City, the sales agent launched into a standard pitch: the layouts, the finishes, the amenities.

Mr. Pandya wasn’t listening. “I’m thinking, ‘I’ve heard this a million times,’ ” he said. “Then I notice the blinds going up and down, and I think: ‘Who’s controlling that? I want to know more about that.’ ”

What captured Mr. Pandya’s attention was the home automation system. Residents at Liberty Harbor — 10,000 in 250 buildings when the complex is fully built out in 10 or 15 years — will be able to do this from touch screens in their apartments or from any computer with Internet access, enabling them to make adjustments from miles away.

It may sound space age, but sophisticated smart-home technology is increasingly available and includes automation systems that allow residents to control lighting, raise and lower window shades and change a room’s climate, via computers. In many instances, they can manipulate a variety of audio and visual functions, allowing users to listen to different types of music in different rooms or transfer a movie from one plasma-screen television to another.

In apartment buildings, automation systems can link to concierge services, enabling residents to make restaurant reservations or reserve a Zipcar, without picking up a phone. Enhanced systems with integrated closed-circuit televisions allow residents to see what’s going on inside and outside their homes from another location. Such security applications provide convenience, too: diners can see if there’s s a line at the restaurant down the block, parents can receive text messages when their children arrive home and executives can admit repairmen to their homes via cellphone.

In some buildings residents can go online to see if there are washing machines available in the laundry room, or to monitor their off-site wine cellars and order up bottles.

This sort of technology may be most familiar to buyers of new houses in the suburbs, but it is now becoming the latest must-have amenity in condos at every price level that are being built in and around New York City.

At Liberty Harbor, smart-home technology is standard in all apartments, from the rentals and studios that start in the mid-$300,000s, up to the single-family town houses that cost as much as $1.6 million.

Mr. Pandya, who bought a two-bedroom apartment for $500,000, was so excited by the electronics that he said he forgot to consider anything else about the apartment. So despite leaving a deposit the day of his visit, he had to call the sales agent and ask for pictures of the kitchen and bathrooms.

“I didn’t know what the finishes looked like,” he said. “I figured it must have a kitchen for the price I paid.”

The plummeting cost of bandwidth — the amount of data that can be carried in a given amount of time — and of home technology components and an increase in the types of applications available are making electronic amenities much more common.

“Technology is the fourth utility,” said Herb Hauser, the president of Midtown Technologies in Manhattan, a company that designs and installs systems in new and existing apartments. “We wouldn’t move into a building that doesn’t have water or electricity. Within a relatively short period of time, we won’t move into an environment unless it has good information services.”

Call them “technomenities,” a term Mr. Hauser favors. In some cases, the technology is offered buildingwide. In others, the systems are available as optional add-ons, and they are usually showcased in model apartments to impress potential buyers.

“I think housing and technology are synonymous,” said Peter Mocco, the developer of Liberty Harbor. “The kinds of things that can be done with technology to enhance your quality of life are such that it’ll be like the transition from washboards to washer/dryers, from iceboxes to refrigerators.”

At an April open house in a model apartment at North8, a Toll Brothers building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, buyers checked out the spacious rear garden, they admired the white-oak floors, and they fiddled with the built-in iPod dock installed in a living room wall. Toll Brothers has offered some home-theater options in its suburban developments, but this is the first time it has included high-tech options like the iPod dock, which is part of an audio system that can broadcast music throughout the apartment.

“We wanted to demonstrate what people can do in terms of upgrades,” said David Von Spreckelsen, a vice president at Toll Brothers. “There was a really good response. Anyone who has been to that model really thinks it is a great idea. We’ll have to consider it in future projects.

“As there’s more and more product out there, and the competition is steeper and steeper, it’s something you can do to distinguish your project,” he added. “It shows really well — you hear it, you see it. When you walk into a model, it’s impressive.”

Shige Suzuki, the first person to buy an apartment at North8 after visiting the open house, chose a technological upgrade that cost about $7,000 and includes the iPod dock and a wireless touch screen that controls the speakers hidden in the walls, the lights and the heat and air-conditioning.

“I like clean and simple,” Mr. Suzuki, a 32-year-old brand manager, said in an e-mail message, noting that innovative technology was more common in homes in his native Japan. “I sometimes watch the celebrity show ‘Cribs’ on MTV. They have wonderful homes, but sometimes they show us messy wires and unprofessionally installed AV systems. I like wireless AV systems and invisible speakers.”

Happily for Mr. Suzuki, his preferences are becoming affordable enough for the noncelebrity market.

“The bar has risen in terms of people’s expectations of home entertainment systems,” said Cyrus Claffey, the president of Clareo Networks in Manhattan, the company that designed and installed the automation systems at North8. “With plummeting flat-screen TV pricing, advertising by Bose on TV, people’s expectations are completely different than they were five years ago.”

“No luxury developer would build a kitchen without a Sub-Zero fridge,” Mr. Claffey added. “It’s the same thing with technology. Our model is to align ourselves with real estate developers. Our goal is to help them sell units using technology.”

Other developments that have home automation systems include 995 Fifth Avenue, at 81st Street, once known as the Stanhope. Its touch screen will allow residents to control the heating and air-conditioning but also to make restaurant reservations and to ask the garage to deliver their cars.

At the Ikon, a condo rising at McCarren Park in Williamsburg, every apartment comes with a video intercom system that allows residents to communicate with the concierge. There are also optional upgrades, costing about $3,000 to about $18,000 or more, that include heating and air-conditioning controls, audio controls and a “nanny cam,” which allows parents to monitor what’s going on at home.

Though the technology may sound complicated, the operation is intuitive, users and designers insist. Most companies offer continuing support and service, and when things do break down, there are no moving parts to fix, they say.

As Mr. Hauser of Midtown Technologies put it: “It’s all application-based, which means that a problem is all inside the computer software. Correcting the problem is usually a matter of reloading the software or finding a virus. They’ll never have to tear up the wall — the plumbers will do far more damage to your walls.”

New technology is enabling new buildings to enhance their security systems, including keyless access, digital surveillance systems and in the not-too-distant future, biometrics, in which camera recognition of residents’ faces will be needed for entry.

“All the developers are doing this type of stuff,” said Jon Ecker, the president of Peace of Mind Technologies in Manhattan. “A lot of it ends up being a marketing solution and an amenity for prospective buyers and tenants. When they know there’s video intercom or card access, that’s looked at as a special feature of the building.”

Then there’s the wow factor that technomenities can provide. The Ritz-Carlton Residences in North Hills, on Long Island, will be chockablock with technological innovations, said Dan Pfeffer, the president of Midtown Equities, its developer.

Before his company begins a project, he said, he assembles his technologically savvy staff in his office. “We start by talking about things that bother them in their day-to-day lives,” he said. “We take these problems and try to create solutions.”

One such problem, Mr. Pfeffer said, is the seemingly interminable wait for the front gate to open — something that won’t happen at the new Ritz-Carlton. “There’s no reason to wait,” he said. “We’re going to give you a device, a chip, that goes in your car. As you get closer to the gate and enter the deceleration lane, it’ll judge your speed and open by the time you get there.”

Then, when residents enter that gate, the valet will automatically be notified. He or she will be there to meet them, along with the concierge, who will be ready to help with packages. As residents walk into the building, the elevator will waiting to whisk them to their floor, eliminating the need to push a button.

Such technology “differentiates our product from other products on the market,” Mr. Pfeffer said. “It’s not just about what the place looks like anymore. As developers, we spend a lot of time designing our units. I’d say we spend almost as much time now designing the technology that goes into our properties.”

The same goes for sales centers, which are increasingly high-tech, too. The soon-to-open sales center for the Ritz-Carlton in North Hills, for example, “has the ability to adjust the rooms based upon who you are and what you like — the style of music, the temperature, the lighting,” Mr. Pfeffer said. In the model’s media room, a single male may find baseball games and high volume, and older couples may get softer lighting and old movies.

Technology can also power special features, like the off-site wine storage available at the Element, a condo rising on West 59th Street. Residents will get a password to allow them access to a virtual cellar; they can buy wine online, request delivery and see real-time calculations of their “liquid net worth.”

And at the Archstone-Clinton, a rental building on West 52nd Street, a high-tech laundry room allows residents to log on to a Web site to see if a washing machine is available; it will also send an e-mail or text message when their washer or dryer has stopped. (When residents log on, the machines being used are shown in red and even vibrate a bit.)

Though technology like this may seem up-to-the-minute and urban, it actually grew out of a suburban phenomenon. “The trend started in stand-alone homes,” said Kunal Shah, the vice president for strategy and sales at Clareo Networks. “We found that when baby boomers sell their suburban homes, they want the same things they had there, here.”

That was a big selling point for Mr. Pandya, the buyer at Liberty Harbor, whose current home in Princeton, N.J., is tricked out with a remote-access climate control system he installed himself, multiple plasma-screen TV sets and digital picture frames, which are connected to the Internet and can be automatically updated with new pictures from friends and family. “I’ll have suburban convenience with an urban lifestyle,” he said. “I want to be a New Yorker, but I still want to have my toys.”

Are Computer Keyboards Dishwasher Safe?
Nell Boyce

Studies show that computer keyboards have more bacteria than toilet seats. But it's hard to clean all those keys. So some people advocate an extreme solution: Throw your keyboard in your dishwasher.

At first glance, this seems insane. But the computer-keyboard-in-the-dishwasher advice is all over the Internet. And don't we wish it were true? My keyboard is an old Hewlett Packard that's encrusted with a kind of mysterious black grime. I thought, "Well, why not try my KitchenAid?'"

I ran the experiment one night. I put the keyboard on the top rack, cord and all, key-side down. I used a little soap, and hit "normal wash." (I didn't want to pots 'n' pans it.)

I was encouraged to do this by Scott Moschella, a computer guy who runs a blog called Plastic Bugs.

"I think now when you type 'keyboard' and 'dishwasher' into Google, my site comes up as one of the first results," Moschella says. "Clearly, you know, all it takes is one geek to do something stupid, and you've got a whole bunch of lemmings who are willing to jump off a cliff with you."

His keyboard came with his beloved first Mac computer. It was one of those stylish keyboards made of transparent plastic. You could see the grime inside, and it was getting unbearably gross and sticky.

"I didn't want to throw away my keyboard," laments Moschella. "It was perfect — until the beer got spilled in it."

That's when one of his friends said, "Hey, why don't you just use the dishwasher?" Moschella found the idea oddly compelling.

"He said it as if I should have known, and it's something he had done before," Moschella said. "He had never, never done it. But he had that authoritative voice as some geeks get, where you want to believe."

Moschella had nothing to lose. So, like me, he put his keyboard in and waited.

He says it was an excruciating wait. I felt the same way as my dishwasher glugged and groaned. Finally, it quieted down and I heard a hiss as the drying cycle started. Moschella had suggested that the heat might not be a good thing, so I opened the door. Steam came out. My keyboard felt almost too hot to touch. It was dripping water. It was also absolutely spotless.

But forget how it looks. According to Microsoft's Sean Butterworth, I had just made a big mistake.

"We do not recommend putting our keyboards, or any keyboards for that matter, in the dishwasher," he says. "What will cause the problems first, is the short-circuiting in the wiring."

Butterworth should know. At Microsoft's hardware division, people check out every possible thing that might harm a keyboard.

"We test with everything from cracker crumbs, salt and pepper, hair," he explains. "We even create a special solution we call artificial sweat."

They have also submerged keyboards in plain water.

"And that gets you relatively close to what it would be like if you put it through the dishwasher," Butterworth says. "And typically that makes most keyboards lose functionality."

Other major manufacturers have the same party line. Robert Gulino, with Logitech, told me I could wipe the surface gently with a damp cloth. Or, blow out dust with a little can of compressed air.

"But, you know, in terms of washing it, we certainly don't recommend that," Gulino says. "If you did want to be able to do that, it would have to be a very different keyboard. The electrical components inside would have to be encased in membranes. But we just don't do that."

A few companies do. In fact, a Florida company called Seal Shield makes keyboards that are "dishwasher safe." It says so right on the box.

Brad Whitchurch says water is no problem.

"We have about a nine-foot cord, and I've taken it down to the bottom of a swimming pool, and it worked fine," Whitchurch says, explaining that he left the monitor and the actual computer on the side of the pool, of course. He typed in "The Seal Shield keyboard works when wet."

It really does — I tried it in my bathtub!

The company mainly sells these keyboards to hospitals, where cleanliness is a life or death matter — even though studies have shown that just wiping down a keyboard with disinfectant can do the trick. You too can buy this waterproof keyboard — if you're willing to pay about $50.

I was just hoping my keyboard wouldn't have to be replaced. After its ordeal in the dishwasher, I let it air dry for a week. Then I plugged it in and started to type. I tested the space bar, the return key, all the numbers and letters. It seemed perfect.
Still, my fellow washers, like Scott Moschella, point out that we may never really know. His Mac keyboard also seems fine, he says, but "honestly, there are some keys that I haven't ever hit, like the F6 key. I don't really know if that key works."

For him, it's good enough. But he says if you've got a fancy keyboard, with all kinds of bells and whistles you can't live without, you may not want to try this one at home.

Yahoo's China Policy Rejected

Yahoo shareholders have rejected plans for the company to adopt a policy that opposes censorship on the internet.

Proposals to set up a human rights committee which would review its policies around the world, specifically China, were also heavily defeated.

Yahoo has been criticized by human rights groups since 2005 for its role in turning over some political dissidents' e-mails.

The materials were used to prosecute and imprison them.

But Yahoo insists it must comply with local laws in areas where it operates.

De-listed sites

At the company's annual general meeting, the censorship proposal won only about 15% of support while only 4% backed the idea of a human rights committee.

Last year, Human Rights Watch, a New York based campaign group, accused Yahoo, Google and Microsoft for "carrying out censorship for the Chinese government".

Whole websites - including media sources - are eliminated from Yahoo and Google in China.

De-listed sites are skipped over when the search engine trawls the web for results.

Neither Yahoo nor any other company has released a list of websites that have been de-listed for their political and religious content.

The internet firms argue it is better to offer Chinese users some information than none at all.

Watchdog Group Slams Google on Privacy
Michael Liedtke

Google Inc.'s privacy practices are the worst among the Internet's top destinations, according to a watchdog group seeking to intensify the recent focus on how the online search leader handles personal information about its users.

In a report released Saturday, London-based Privacy International assigned Google its lowest possible grade. The category is reserved for companies with "comprehensive consumer surveillance and entrenched hostility to privacy."

None of the 22 other surveyed companies -- a group that included Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and AOL -- sunk to that level, according to Privacy International.

While a number of other Internet companies have troubling policies, none comes as close to Google to "achieving status as an endemic threat to privacy," Privacy International said in an explanation of its findings.

In a statement from one of its lawyers, Google said it aggressively protects its users' privacy and stands behind its track record. In its most conspicuous defense of user privacy, Google last year successfully fought a U.S. Justice Department subpoena demanding to review millions of search requests.

"We are disappointed with Privacy International's report, which is based on numerous inaccuracies and misunderstandings about our services," said Nicole Wong, Google's deputy general counsel.

"It's a shame that Privacy International decided to publish its report before we had an opportunity to discuss our privacy practices with them."

Privacy International contacted Google earlier this month, but didn't receive a response, said Simon Davies, the group's director.

The scathing report is just the latest strike aimed at Google's privacy practices.

An independent European panel recently opened an inquiry into whether Google's policies abide by Europe's privacy rules.

Meanwhile, three consumer groups in the United States are pressuring the nation's regulators to make Google change some of its privacy policies as part of its proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of online ad service DoubleClick Inc., which also tracks Web surfers' behavior.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is looking into antitrust concerns raised by the DoubleClick deal, but has not indicated if privacy issues will be part of the inquiry.

Hoping to placate its critics, Google has pledged to begin erasing the information about users' search requests within 18 to 24 months.

The company says its stockpiles data to help its search engine better understand its users so it can deliver more relevant results and advertisements.

As Google becomes more knowledgeable about the people relying on its search engine and other free services, management hopes to develop more tools that recommend activities and other pursuits that might appeal to individual users.

Privacy International is particularly troubled by Google's ability to match data gathered by its search engine with information collected from other services such as e-mail, instant messaging and maps.

"Under the microscope, it turns out that Google is doing much more with our data than we ever imagined," Davies said.

Founded in 1990, Privacy International said it reached its preliminary findings after spending the past six months reviewing Internet privacy practices with the help of about 30 professors, mostly in the United States and United Kingdom. The group plans to update the report in September.

Seven of the Internet companies and Web sites included in Privacy International's analysis received the second lowest grade of "substantial and comprehensive privacy threats." This group included: Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, Apple Inc., Facebook.com, Hi5.com, Reunion.com, Microsoft's Windows Live Space and Yahoo.

None of the companies or sites received Privacy International's top grade, but five rated as "generally privacy-aware." They were: BBC, eBay Inc., Last.fm, LiveJournal.com, and Wikipedia.com.

Google to Cut Back on How Long it Keeps Search History
Thomas Crampton

Faced with criticism from privacy activists and questions from the European Union, Google announced Tuesday that it would cut back on how long it keeps the Web search histories of users, to 18 months from 24.

Search information will now be made anonymous after a year and a half, the company said in a letter addressed to an EU privacy watchdog, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, and posted on the company's Web site.

The information, which is gathered every time a user searches the Internet using Google, gives information about the searcher's tastes and interests. Google shares general information on search trends, but says it does not release this personal information outside the company.

"We believe we can still address our legitimate interests in security, innovation and anti-fraud efforts with this shorter period," Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, wrote in the letter, adding that the company would "firmly reject" a retention period that was any shorter.

Fleischer said the company faced a great lack of legal clarity, with some of its services potentially falling under EU data retention rules that require companies to keep some records of electronic communication for up to 24 months.

The move was part of an exchange that Google had initiated with the European Union working party to clarify privacy issues.

Fleischer said that Google had been working to balance conflicting considerations in a zone where the industry, so far, has taken little action.

"We looked at what other companies in the industry do, and we were not able to find explicit and clear privacy policies," Fleischer said. "Google is a leader in our industry and it is appropriate for us to be taking this leading role."

Google is committed to following U.S. law and following EU data protection principles, Fleischer said in the letter. He added that there were many gray areas of how to deal with privacy issues.

"There is no single right answer to the question of how long server logs should be retained," Fleischer said in the letter.

"Retention of logs data is critical to our ability to operate and improve our services and to provide adequate security for our users."

Analyzing of log data is necessary for engineers to refine search quality to place the most clicked results at the top and build new services, the company said.

One such service from Google is its Spell Checker, which automatically looks at a query to see if the searcher has employed the most common spelling of a word. If a greater number of search results is generated by an alternative spelling, it will ask if the searcher really meant to use that other spelling.

The reduction in time that the world's leading search engine retains data comes days after Privacy International, a group advocating the privacy issue, gave Google the lowest privacy protection rating of all major Internet properties.

"We were disappointed with the report because it is full of numerous inaccuracies," Fleischer said Tuesday.

"Google is open to an ongoing dialogue with privacy and people interested in thoughtful reflection on these issues," he said.

Gravy train

Exclusive: Office of Nation's Top Spy Inadvertently Reveals Key to Classified National Intel Budget
R. J. Hillhouse

In a holdover from the Cold War when the number really did matter to national security, the size of the US national intelligence budget remains one of the government's most closely guarded secrets. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the highest intelligence agency in the country that oversees all federal intelligence agencies, appears to have inadvertently released the keys to that number in an unclassified PowerPoint presentation now posted on the website of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). By reverse engineering the numbers in an underlying data element embedded in the presentation, it seems that the total budget of the 16 US intelligence agencies in fiscal year 2005 was $60 billion, almost 25% higher than previously believed.

In the presentation originally made to a DIA conference in Colorado on May 14, Terri Everett, an Office of the Director of National Intelligence senior procurement executive, revealed that 70% of the total Intelligence Community budget is spent on contractors. (This was reported by Tim Shorrock on Salon.com.) Everett also included a slide depicting the trend of award dollars to contractors by the Intelligence Community from fiscal year 95 through a partial year of fiscal year 06 (i.e. through August 31st of FY06.) Because these figures are classified, a scale of the total number of award dollars was omitted from the Y-axis of the bar chart. The PowerPoint presentation was first obtained by Shorrock for Salon.com and it was later posted on the DIA's website where I downloaded it. Although it would not have been visible to the conference attendees, the data underlying the bar graph--the total amount of Intelligence Community funds spent on contractors--is readily available in the actual presentation. By double clicking on the bar chart, a small spreadsheet with the raw classified data appears:

(To view this spreadsheet in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's actual PowerPoint presentation, make sure you are opening the presentation in the PowerPoint program and not a web browser, view slide #11 and, depending upon your version of PowerPoint, making sure you're not on the 9/11 image object double-click on the chart or right click on it and choose Chart Object/Open.)

Here are the dollar amounts in tens of millions spent by the US Intelligence Community on contractors, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as embedded in the spreadsheet data underlying the bar graph (pictured above):

Note: FY06 data as of 31 August. (The numbers are in tens of millions of dollars, although this is not noted, but it is previously known that the amount spent on contracts is a double-digit billion plus dollar figure.)

This 70% of the Intelligence Community budget spent on contractors most likely includes all Intelligence Community direct acquisitions from contractors, including satellites and other very expensive hardware programs as well as more mundane supplies in addition to contracted services--(e.g. "green badgers" or staff contracted to the CIA.) The remaining 30% of the Intelligence Community budget most likely includes both personnel (i.e., civilian federal employee) and as well as intergovernmental operations and maintenance and supplies (e.g. payments by some Intelligence Community elements to GSA to lease office space and acquire government pens and office supplies.) By taking the 70% of the intelligence community budget that now goes to contractors in conjunction with the actual dollars spent on contractors, it is possible to reverse-engineer the budget using simple algebra.

This top line $60 billion figure is 25% above the estimated $48 billion budget for FY 08. It is quite probable that this total figure was not even known by the government until recently. Greater control and oversight of the Intelligence Community budget was a hallmark of the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 that created the position of the Director of National Intelligence and gave it the mandate to get an overview of the entire amount spent on intelligence government-wide. To this end, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has recently gathered all parts of the previously fragmented Intelligence Community budget together for the first time as part of its Intelligence Resource Information System (IRIS). In the report from the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence released last Thursday, the committee praised the Office of the Director of Intelligence for creating a "single budget system called the Intelligence Resource Information System." It also recognizes their efforts in helping create what "will be used for further inquiry by the Committee’s budget and audit staffs and will be a baseline that allows the Congress and DNI to derive trend data from future reports."

Earlier, lower estimates were most likely only included what fell directly under the Director of Central Intelligence and which would have omitted parts of NSA, NRO. A total Intelligence Community number, with the Intelligence Community as defined by 50 U.S.C. 401a(4), would also now include the various military intelligence services (e.g. Army Intel, Navy Intel, etc.), each with its respective weapon technology intelligence exploitation shop. A total budget would also include a large portion of the budget of the Department of Homeland Security which was previously fragment across multiple government agencies. A $60 billion government-wide Intelligence Community budget is not at all out of line with the post 9/11 organizational reality. It seems that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is just now getting a clear picture of the fragmented intelligence community budget.

The overall Intelligence Community budget has long been a well kept secret and this classification did once have relevance when a large shift in the budget could have indicated to the Soviets an addition or cancellation of a major defense program. Now that our greatest adversaries are stateless entities that run on a shoestring budget and strike soft targets, signals of changes in high-dollar defense systems hardly seem worth hiding. Nonetheless, the federal government has frequently gone to court to keep the amount of the national intelligence budget secret. Only the budgets for 1963, 1997 and 1998 have been officially revealed, largely in response to FOIA lawsuits. And in 2005 a US News reporter picked up an apparent slip of the tongue by an official of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence at a conference when it was stated the national intel budget was $44 billion, but it was not clear which fiscal year this was in reference to and the DNI refused to confirm if the figure was accurate or the release accidental. At this time, they would not have had total dollar figures through the new IRIS system. But with such a staggering budget, it does seem that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would be well advised to find some room in the Intelligence Community budget for a staff training on PowerPoint and OPSEC.

Court Says Military Cannot Hold 'Enemy Combatant'
Adam Liptak

In a stinging rejection of one of the Bush administration’s central assertions about the scope of executive authority to combat terrorism, a federal appeals court ordered the Pentagon to release a man being held as an enemy combatant.

“To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians," Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote, “even if the President calls them ‘enemy combatants,’ would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution — and the country.”

“We refuse to recognize a claim to power,” Judge Motz added, “that would so alter the constitutional foundations of our Republic.”

The ruling was handed down by a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., in the case of Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar and the only person on the American mainland known to be held as an enemy combatant.

Mr. Marri, whom the government calls a sleeper agent for Al Qaeda, was arrested on Dec. 12, 2001, in Peoria, Ill., where he was living with his family and studying computer science at Bradley University.

He has been held for the last four years at the Navy Brig in Charleston, S.C.

Judge Motz wrote that Mr. Marri may well be guilty of serious crimes. But she said that the government cannot circumvent the civilian criminal justice system through military detention.

Mr. Marri was charged with credit-card fraud and lying to federal agents after his arrest in 2001, and he was on the verge of a trial on those charges when he was moved into military detention in 2003.

The government contended, in a partly declassified declaration from a senior defense intelligence official, Jeffrey N. Rapp, that Mr. Marri was a Qaeda sleeper agent sent to the United States to commit mass murder and disrupt the banking system.

Two other men have been held as enemy combatants on the American mainland since the Sept. 11 attacks. One, Yaser Hamdi, was freed and sent to Saudi Arabia after the United States Supreme Court allowed him to challenge his detention in 2004.

The other, Jose Padilla, was transferred to the criminal justice system last year just as the Supreme Court was considering whether to review his case. He is now on trial on terrorism charges in federal court in Miami.

The decision does not appear to affect the rights of men held at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Judge Motz stressed that the court analysis was limited to those who have substantial connections to the United States and are seized and detained within its borders.

A dissenting judge in today’s decision, Henry E. Hudson, visiting from the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, wrote that President Bush “had the authority to detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant or belligerent” because “he is the type of stealth warrior used by Al Qaeda to perpetrate terrorist acts against the United States.”

Jonathan Hafetz, the litigation director of the Liberty and National Security Project of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and one of Mr. Marri’s lawyers, said of the court’s decision: “This is landmark victory for the rule of law and a defeat for unchecked executive power. It affirms the basic constitutional rights of all individuals — citizens and immigrants - in the United States.”

Writing for the majority, Judge Motz ordered the trial judge in the case to issue a writ of habeas corpus directing the Pentagon “within a reasonable period of time” to do one of several things with Mr. Marri. He may be charged in the civilian court system; he may be deported; or he may be held as a material witness; or he may be released.

“But military detention of al-Marri,” Judge Motz wrote, “must cease.”

Activist 'Plane Spotters' Try Documenting Aero Flights
Thomasi McDonald

Laura Marks stood before a group of about 20 people alongside U.S. 70 on Saturday and gave them a brief lesson on how to spot planes coming and going from nearby Johnston County Airport.

"Look for the tail number. Be able to identify the type of plane. Use your scanner. Any information you can get will be great," Marks told the group, many of whom had cameras and binoculars dangling from around their necks.

"Piddle around with the scanner," Marks brightly added. "Get to know it. Have fun with it."

For Marks, of Ayden, and the rest of the group, the Saturday afternoon plane spotting lesson was not a leisurely activity. Marks and her cohort, volunteers with N.C. Stop Torture Now, hope to glean information that can be passed along to other groups around the world that want to stop the use of planes they say are used by the CIA to whisk away terror suspects to countries where they can be legally tortured.

The owner of the planes, Aero Contractors, a private flight company at the airport, has drawn national and international attention over the past year because of reported ties to the CIA.

Company officials were unavailable for comment Saturday.

For two years, N.C. Stop Torture Now activists have tried to hold Aero accountable for what they describe as human rights abuses by gathering thousands of petition signatures, making formal appeals to government officials, lobbying for state and federal legislation and civil disobedience.

"We have been going at this for some time, pursuing it from every level we can," said Roger Ehrlich, another volunteer and organizer of the plane-spotting lesson.

But Saturday was the group's first go at plane spotting. The group plans to make it a regular activity but, in cloak-and-dagger style, won't disclose when.

Before settling about 500 yards from the airport, the volunteers put up a banner that read, "First In Flight, Not In Torture." A smaller sign read, "Tarheels Against Torture" while another asked, "Who Would Jesus Torture?"

The signs prompted some motorists to yell things like "Go home Yankees!" and profanities.

Large vultures flew over the runway as Marks continued her lesson.

"That seems appropriate," Ehrlich said.

The group does not think any terror suspects are flown out of Johnston County. Instead, they think the flights most likely depart for Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., to pick up CIA operatives. From there, they think, the planes head around the globe to snatch terror suspects before taking them to places where torture is legal, or to secret jails run by the CIA in places like Poland and Romania.

Marks handed out a brochure, "Torture Flight Watch Orientation," that instructed volunteers to keep an eye out for any plane movement around certain hangars.

But spotting planes trolling for the CIA in Johnston County may be about as easy as catching Osama bin Laden.

After nearly four hours in stifling heat waiting for a Gulfstream jet or some other suspicious aircraft, the volunteers spotted a small cropduster taxiing on one of the runways.

The members grew silent. Some peered through binoculars that turned upward as the plane took to the skies.

"He came in kind of low," Mia Austin Scoggins, the group's media director, said later. "I thought he was trying to intimidate us."

Don't Try This at Home

Garage chemistry used to be a rite of passage for geeky kids. But in their search for terrorist cells and meth labs, authorities are making a federal case out of DIY science.
Steve Silberman

The first startling thing Joy White saw out of her bedroom window was a man running toward her door with an M16. White’s husband, a physicist named Bob Lazar, was already outside, awakened by their barking dogs. Suddenly police officers and men in camouflage swarmed up the path, hoisting a battering ram. “Come out with your hands up immediately, Miss White!” one of them yelled through a megaphone, while another handcuffed the physicist in his underwear. Recalling that June morning in 2003, Lazar says, “If they were expecting to find Osama bin Laden, they brought along enough guys.”

The target of this operation, which involved more than two dozen police officers and federal agents, was not an international terrorist ring but the couple’s home business, United Nuclear Scientific Supplies, a mail-order outfit that serves amateur scientists, students, teachers, and law enforcement professionals. From the outside, company headquarters – at the end of a dirt road high in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque – looks like any other ranch house in New Mexico, with three dogs, a barbecue, and an SUV in the driveway. But not every suburban household boasts its own particle accelerator. A stroll through the backyard reveals what looks like a giant Van de Graaff generator with a pipe spiraling out of it, marked with CAUTION: RADIATION signs. A sticker on the SUV reads POWERED BY HYDROGEN, while another sign by the front gate warns, TRESPASSERS WILL BE USED FOR SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS.

Science experiments are United Nuclear’s business. The chemicals available on the company’s Web site range from ammonium dichromate (the main ingredient in the classic science-fair volcano) to zinc oxide powder (which absorbs UV light). Lazar and White also sell elements like sodium and mercury, radioactive minerals, and geeky curiosities like aerogel, an ultralightweight foam developed by NASA to capture comet dust. The Department of Homeland Security buys the company’s powerful infrared flashlights by the case; the Mythbusters guys on the Discovery Channel recently picked up 10 superstrong neodymium magnets. (These come with the sobering caveat: “Beware – you must think ahead when moving these magnets … Loose metallic objects and other magnets may become airborne and fly considerable distances.”) Fire departments in Nevada and California send for United Nuclear’s Geiger counters and uranium ore to train hazmat crews.

A former employee of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the 47-year-old Lazar radiates a boyish enthusiasm for science and gadgets. White, 50, is a trim licensed aesthetician who does herbal facials for local housewives while helping her husband run the company. When the officers determined that Lazar and White posed no physical threat, they freed the couple from their handcuffs and produced a search warrant. United Nuclear’s computers and business records were carted off in a van.

The search was initiated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency best known for instigating recalls of faulty cribs and fire-prone space heaters. The CPSC’s concern with United Nuclear was not the uranium, the magnets, or the backyard accelerator. It was the chemicals – specifically sulfur, potassium perchlorate, and powdered aluminum, all of which can be used to make illegal fireworks. The agency suspected that Lazar and White were selling what amounted to kits for making M-80s, cherry bombs, and other prohibited items; such kits are banned by the CPSC under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

“We are not just a recall agency,” explains CPSC spokesperson Scott Wolfson. “We have turned our attention to the chemical components used in the manu-facture of illegal fireworks, which can cause amputations and death.” A 2004 study by the agency found that 2 percent of fireworks-related injuries that year were caused by homemade or altered fireworks; the majority involved the mishandling of commercial firecrackers, bottle rockets, and sparklers. Nonetheless, Wolfson says, “we’ve fostered a very close relationship with the Justice Department and we’re out there on the Internet looking to see who is promoting these core chemicals. Fireworks is one area where we’re putting people in prison.”

In the past several years, the CPSC has gone after a variety of online vendors, demanding the companies require customers to prove they have a license to manufacture explosives before they can purchase any chemical associated with making them. Many of these compounds, however, are also highly useful for conducting science experiments. Sulfur, for example, is an ingredient in hydrogen sulfide, an important tool for chemical analysis. Potassium perchlorate and potassium nitrate are widely used in labs as oxidizers.

The CPSC’s war on illegal fireworks is one of several forces producing a chilling effect on amateur research in chemistry. National security issues and laws aimed at thwarting the production of crystal meth are threatening to put an end to home laboratories. In schools, rising liability concerns are making teachers wary of allowing students to perform their own experiments. Some educators even speculate that a lack of chem lab experience is contributing to the declining interest in science careers among young people.

United Nuclear got its computers back a few days after they were hauled away, and three years passed before Lazar and White heard from the authorities again. This spring, the couple was charged with violating the Federal Hazardous Substances Act and shipping restricted chemicals across state lines. If convicted, Lazar and White each face a maximum penalty of 270 days in prison and a $15,000 fine.

The lure of do-it-yourself chemistry has always been the most potent recruiting tool science has to offer. Many kids attracted by the promise of filling the garage with clouds of ammonium sulfide – the proverbial stink bomb – went on to brilliant careers in mathematics, biology, programming, and medicine.

Intel cofounder Gordon Moore set off his first boom in Silicon Valley two decades before pioneering the design of the integrated circuit. One afternoon in 1940, near the spot where Interstate 280 intersects Sand Hill Road today, the future father of the semiconductor industry knelt beside a cache of homemade dynamite and lit the fuse. He was 11 years old.

Moore’s pyrotechnic adventures grew out of his experiments with a neighbor’s chemistry set. He turned a shed beside the family house into a lab, stocking it with chemicals mail-ordered from San Francisco and filling an old dresser with beakers and funnels. Now retired, the 77-year-old Moore looks back on his days and nights in the shed as a time when he learned to think and work like a scientist. “The things I made, like nitroglycerin, took a fair amount of lab technique,” he recalls. “I specialized in explosives because they were fun, and I liked doing things that got results in a hurry.”

Many of Moore’s illustrious peers also first got interested in science by performing experiments at home. After reading a book called The Boy Scientist at age 10, Vint Cerf – who became one of the architects of the Internet – spent months blowing up thermite volcanoes and launching backyard rockets. Growing up in Colorado, David Packard – the late cofounder of Hewlett-Packard – concocted new recipes for gunpowder. The neurologist Oliver Sacks writes about his adolescent love affair with “stinks and bangs” in Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood. “There’s no question that stinks and bangs and crystals and colors are what drew kids – particularly boys – to science,” says Roald Hoffmann of Cornell University, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1981. “Now the potential for stinks and bangs has been legislated out.”

Popular Science columnist Theodore Gray, who is one of United Nuclear’s regular customers, uses potassium perchlorate to demonstrate the abundance of energy stored in sugar and fat. He chops up Snickers bars, sprinkles in the snowy crystals, and ignites the mixture, which bursts into a tower of flame – the same rapid exothermic reaction that propels model rockets skyward. “Why is it that I can walk into Wal-Mart and buy boxes of bullets and black powder, but I can’t buy potassium perchlorate to do science because it can also be used to make explosives?” he asks. “How many people are injured each year doing extreme sports or playing high school football? But mention mixing up chemicals in your home lab, and people have a much lower index of acceptable risk.”
The push to restrict access to chemicals by those who have no academic or scientific credentials gained momentum in the mid-’90s following the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. In the years since 9/11, the Defense Department, FBI, and other government agencies have strategized ways of tracking even small purchases of potentially dangerous chemicals. “The fact that there are amateurs and retired professors out there who need access to these chemicals is a valid problem,” acknowledges Rice University chemistry professor James Tour, who consulted with the Pentagon and the Justice Department, “but there aren’t many of those guys weighed against the possible dangers.”

A provision in the 2002 Homeland Security Act mandated background checks and licensing requirements for model-rocket enthusiasts on the grounds that ammonium perchlorate fuel is an explosive; the Justice Department argued that terrorists could deploy model rockets to shoot down commercial airliners. A bill pending in both houses of Congress would empower the Department of Homeland Security to regulate sales of ammonium nitrate, a common fertilizer that Timothy McVeigh used to make the Oklahoma City bomb. “We finally have bipartisan support and encouragement from the chemical industry on this, which is important, because we’ve seen what can happen when these materials fall into the wrong hands,” says US representative Curt Weldon (R-Pennsylvania), who is sponsoring the House bill. “As we move forward, we’re going to be taking a very close look at other chemicals that should be regulated.”

In the meantime, more than 30 states have passed laws to restrict sales of chemicals and lab equipment associated with meth production, which has resulted in a decline in domestic meth labs, but makes things daunting for an amateur chemist shopping for supplies. It is illegal in Texas, for example, to buy such basic labware as Erlenmeyer flasks or three-necked beakers without first registering with the state’s Department of Public Safety to declare that they will not be used to make drugs. Among the chemicals the Portland, Oregon, police department lists online as “commonly associated with meth labs” are such scientifically useful compounds as liquid iodine, isopropyl alcohol, sulfuric acid, and hydrogen peroxide, along with chemistry glassware and pH strips. Similar lists appear on hundreds of Web sites.

“To criminalize the necessary materials of discovery is one of the worst things you can do in a free society,” says Shawn Carlson, a 1999 MacArthur fellow and founder of the Society for Amateur Scientists. “The Mr. Coffee machine that every Texas legislator has near his desk has three violations of the law built into it: a filter funnel, a Pyrex beaker, and a heating element. The laws against meth should be the deterrent to making it – not criminalizing activities that train young people to appreciate science.”

The increasingly strict regulatory climate has driven a wedge of paranoia between young chemists and their potential mentors. “I don’t tell anyone about what I do at home,” writes one anonymous high schooler on Sciencemadness.org, an online forum for amateur scientists. “A lot of ignorant people at my school will just spread rumors about me … The teacher will hear about them and I will get into legal trouble … I have so much glassware at my house, any excuse will not cut it. So I keep my mouth shut.”

Ironically, a shadow of suspicion is being cast over home chemistry at a time when the contributions of amateurs to the progress of science are highly regarded. In recent years, citizen scientists have discovered comets and supernovas and invented tools for gauging Earth’s magnetic field. Peer-reviewed journals like Nature now welcome papers coauthored by auto-didacts like Forrest Mims III, who studies solar storms and atmospheric conditions at his home observatory in Texas. Personal computers, digital cameras, and other consumer electronic devices are putting more accurate means of recording and measuring phenomena into the hands of home tinkerers than were available in high-end labs just a few years ago. The Internet is the ultimate enabling technology, allowing amateurs to collaborate with their counterparts at NASA and other organizations.

Porting the hacker ethic to the nonvirtual world, magazines like Make and blogs like Boing Boing are making it cool for geeks to get their hands dirty again, offering how-tos on everything from building your own telescope to assembling an electronic insect army. DIY robotics-fests like Dorkbot (“people doing strange things with electricity,” according to the Web site) are taking off from Boston to Bangalore.

But the hands-on revival is leaving home chemists behind. While surplus lab equipment is available on eBay, chemicals are subject to the site’s filtering software, which tracks or blocks the sale of items tagged as hazardous by the US Postal Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. “There are very few commercial supply houses willing to sell chemicals to amateurs anymore because of this fear that we’re all criminals and terrorists,” Carlson says. “Ordinary folks no longer have access to the things they need to make real discoveries in chemistry.”

The heyday of home experimentation in the US coincided with the rise of the Porter Chemical Company, makers of the legendary Chemcraft labs-in-a-box, which contained enough bottles and beakers to perform more than 800 experiments. At the height of its popularity in the 1950s, Porter awarded college scholarships, mined its own chemicals, and was the biggest user of test tubes in the US. The company produced more than a million chemistry sets before going out of business in the 1980s amid increasing liability concerns.

One kid whose interest in science was sparked by the gift of a chemistry set was Don Herbert, who grew up to host a popular TV show in the 1950s called Watch Mr. Wizard. With his eye-popping demonstrations and low-key midwestern manner, Mr. Wizard gave generations of future scientists and teachers the confidence to perform experiments at home. In 1999, Restoration Hardware founder Stephen Gordon teamed up with Renee Whitney, general manager of a toy company called Wild Goose, to try to re-create the chemistry set Herbert marketed almost 50 years ago. “Don was so sweet,” Whitney recalls. “He invited us to his home to have dinner with him and his wife. Then he pulled his old chemistry set out of the garage. It was amazing – a real metal cabinet, like a little closet, filled with dozens of light-resistant bottles.”

Gordon and Whitney soon learned that few of the items in Mr. Wizard’s cabinet could be included in the product. “Unfortunately, we found that more than half the chemicals were illegal to sell to children because they’re considered dangerous,” Whitney explains. By the time the Mr. Wizard Science Set appeared in stores, it came with balloons, clay, Super Balls, and just five chemicals, including laundry starch, which was tagged with an ominous warning: HANDLE CAREFULLY. NOT EXPECTED TO BE A HEALTH HAZARD.

“It wasn’t really something you could use to teach kids about chemistry,” acknowledges Thomas Nikosey, head of Mr. Wizard Studios, which handles licensing for the 88-year-old Herbert.

Kits that train kids how to do real chemistry have yielded to innocuous science-flavored toys. At the Web site Discover This, one typical product promises lessons in making “rock candy, superbubbles, and molding clay … without blowing up the house.”

One of the few companies still selling chemistry sets worthy of the name is a German-American venture called Thames & Kosmos, run by former Adobe software engineer Ted McGuire. The company’s top-of-the-line kit, the C3000, is equipped with a full complement of test tubes, beakers, pipettes, litmus paper, and more than two dozen useful compounds. But even the C3000, which retails for $200, comes with a shopping list of chemicals that must be purchased elsewhere to perform certain experiments. “A lot of retailers are scared to carry a real chemistry set now because of liability concerns,” McGuire explains. “The stuff under your kitchen sink is far more dangerous than the things in our kits, but put the word chemistry on something and people become terrified.”
The chemophobia that’s put a damper on home science has also invaded America’s classrooms, where hands-on labs are being replaced by liability-proof teacher demonstrations with the explicit message Don’t try this at home. A guide for teachers of grades 7 through 12 issued by the American Chemical Society in 2001 makes the prospect of an hour in the lab seem fraught with peril: “Every chemical, without exception, is hazardous. Did you know that oxygen is poisonous if inhaled at a concentration a bit greater than its natural concentration in the air?” More than half of the suggested experiments in a multimedia package for schools called “You Be the Chemist,” created in 2004 by the Chemical Educational Foundation, are to be performed by the teacher alone, leaving students to blow up balloons (with safety goggles in place) or answer questions like “How many pretzels can you eat in a minute?”

“A lot of schools don’t have chemistry labs anymore,” explains CEF educational coordinator Laurel Brent. “We want to give kids lessons that tie in to their real-world experiences without having them deal with a lot of strange chemicals in bottles that have big long names.”

Many students are ill at ease when faced with actual compounds and lab equipment for the first time at school. A study of “chemistry anxiety” in the Journal of Chemical Education concluded in 2000 that “the presence of this anxiety in our students could be a contributing factor in the overall poor performance of high school students in science.” (Commonly reported fears included “lighting the Bunsen burner,” “fire,” and “getting chemicals on skin.”) Restrictions on hands-on chemical experience is “a problem that has been building for 10 or 15 years, driven by liability and safety concerns,” says John Moore, editor in chief of the JCE.

“The liability issues are a cop-out,” says Bassam Shakhashiri, the author of a four-volume guide to classroom chemistry who has taught for 36 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Kids are being robbed of the joy of discovering things for themselves.” Compared with students in previous generations, he says, undergraduates raised on hands-off science seem passive: “They want someone to do things for them. Even those who become chem majors and grad students are not as versatile in the lab, because their experiences in middle school and high school were so limited. This is a terrible shame. By working with real substances, you learn how to ask the right questions about the physical world, which is half the battle in science.”

Paradoxically, at a time when young people are particularly excited about technology, their enthusiasm for learning about the science behind it is waning. Thirty years ago, the US ranked third in the world in the number of science and engineering degrees awarded in the 18-to-24 age group. Now the country ranks 17th, according to the National Science Board. A 2004 report called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Education Study found that while fourth graders in the US rank sixth in basic science scores when measured against their peers worldwide, by the time they’re in eighth grade, they’ve slipped to ninth place. Prompted by concern that America is falling behind, President Bush proposed a $380 million “competitiveness initiative” this year that promises to train 70,000 new teachers of Advanced Placement science and math. By the time students have the opportunity to enroll in an AP course, however, many have already absorbed the message that science is best left to trained professionals.

“You have to capture kids’ imaginations very young or you lose them forever,” says Steve Spangler, a former protégé of Mr. Wizard who is now a science correspondent for the NBC affiliate in Denver. “But that’s hard when you have teachers required to check out vinegar and baking soda from the front office because something bad might happen in class. Slowly but surely the teaching tools are being taken away, so schools end up saying, ‘Let’s get a college professor to do this demonstration, and kids can watch the streaming video.’”

To Bill Nye, the “Science Guy” who hosted an Emmy award-winning series on PBS in the 1990s, unreasonable fears about chemicals and home experimentation reflect a distrust of scientific expertise taking hold in society at large. “People who want to make meth will find ways to do it that don’t require an Erlenmeyer flask. But raising a generation of people who are technically incompetent is a recipe for disaster.”

To ensure that the tradition of home chemistry survives, self-proclaimed “mad scientists” are creating a research underground on Web sites like Sciencemadness, Readily Available Chemicals, and the International Order of Nitrogen. There, in comfortable anonymity, seasoned experimenters, novices, and connoisseurs of banned molecules share tips on finding alternative sources for chemicals and labware.

One key to working as a DIY chemist, says Matthew Ernst, the 25-year-old host of Sciencemadness, is realizing how many useful chemicals are still available as household products or items designed for specialized niches. Silver nitrate, for example, can be found at potters’ supply stores, where it lends raku glazes an uncanny luster. “Amateur chemists become compulsive label readers,” Ernst says. “Many compounds are available if the chemist is willing to split his shopping between the paint store, hardware store, ceramics supplier, gardening center, welding supplier, feed store, and metal recycler.”

Out-of-print texts like Julius B. Cohen’s 1910 Practical Organic Chemistry are being made available again in PDF form on file-sharing networks and the Internet Archive. To route around stigmatized chemical pathways, home experimenters are reviving 19th-century methods of synthesizing reagents from scratch. Shawn Carlson of the Society for Amateur Scientists calls this “embracing Grandpa’s chemistry.”

Carlson’s group acts as a virtual co-op for its nearly 2,000 members by facilitating small purchases of legal chemicals and equipment. The group is also launching an ambitious national program called Labrats to provide mentoring to the next generation of researchers by teaming students with working scientists.

The father of three young children, Carlson understands parental concerns about safety. But he believes that the exhilaration of risk has always been a powerful factor in engaging kids’ interest in science, and should be actively encouraged – while minimizing the physical hazards. “We can get rid of most of the actual dangers, but it’s important that we preserve the perception of danger in science,” he says. “When I do experiments with my own kids, I’m more than happy to let them believe that if they’re not careful, something could happen to them. It adds that extra element of ‘my fate is in my hands – but if I do this right, everything will be fine.’”

In March, Bob Lazar and Joy White were building a new two-story home for United Nuclear in a clearing behind their house, hiring three assistants, and weathering a nerve-wracking shortage of aerogel after Boing Boing posted a link. Then news of the Justice Department’s charges against them arrived, and they called their lawyer to begin planning their defense.

“Kids read about the great scientists and their discoveries throughout history, and marvel that people once did these things,” Lazar says. “But they marvel a little too much. Taking chemicals and lab equipment away from kids who love science is like taking crayons and paints away from a kid who may grow up to be an artist.”

FBI Finds It Frequently Overstepped in Collecting Data
John Solomon

An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.

The new audit covers just 10 percent of the bureau's national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI's domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand, bureau officials said in interviews. The earlier report found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling.

The vast majority of the new violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect. The agents retained the information anyway in their files, which mostly concerned suspected terrorist or espionage activities.

But two dozen of the newly-discovered violations involved agents' requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have, according to the audit results provided to The Washington Post. Only two such examples were identified earlier in the smaller sample.

FBI officials said the results confirmed what agency supervisors and outside critics feared, namely that many agents did not understand or follow the required legal procedures and paperwork requirements when collecting personal information with one of the most sensitive and powerful intelligence-gathering tools of the post-Sept. 11 era -- the National Security Letter, or NSL.

Such letters are uniformly secret and amount to nonnegotiable demands for personal information -- demands that are not reviewed in advance by a judge. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress substantially eased the rules for issuing NSLs, requiring only that the bureau certify that the records are "sought for" or "relevant to" an investigation "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

The change -- combined with national anxiety about another domestic terrorist event -- led to an explosive growth in the use of the letters. More than 19,000 such letters were issued in 2005 seeking 47,000 pieces of information, mostly from telecommunications companies. But with this growth came abuse of the newly relaxed rules, a circumstance first revealed in the Justice Department's March report by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

"The FBI's comprehensive audit of National Security Letter use across all field offices has confirmed the inspector general's findings that we had inadequate internal controls for use of an invaluable investigative tool," FBI General Counsel Valerie E. Caproni said. "Our internal audit examined a much larger sample than the inspector general's report last March, but we found similar percentages of NSLs that had errors."

"Since March," Caproni added, "remedies addressing every aspect of the problem have been implemented or are well on the way."

Of the more than 1,000 violations uncovered by the new audit, about 700 involved telephone companies and other communications firms providing information that exceeded what the FBI's national security letters had sought. But rather than destroying the unsolicited data, agents in some instances issued new National Security Letters to ensure that they could keep the mistakenly provided information. Officials cited as an example the retention of an extra month's phone records, beyond the period specified by the agents.

Case agents are now told that they must identify mistakenly produced information and isolate it from investigative files. "Human errors will inevitably occur with third parties, but we now have a clear plan with clear lines of responsibility to ensure errant information that is mistakenly produced will be caught as it is produced and before it is added to any FBI database," Caproni said.

The FBI also found that in 14 investigations, counterintelligence agents using NSLs improperly gathered full credit reports from financial institutions, exercising authority provided by the USA Patriot Act but meant to be applied only in counterterrorism cases. In response, the bureau has distributed explicit instructions that "you can't gather full credit reports in counterintelligence cases," a senior FBI official said.

In 10 additional investigations, FBI agents used NSLs to request other information that the relevant laws did not allow them to obtain. Officials said that, for example, agents might have requested header information from e-mails -- such as the subject lines -- even though NSLs are supposed to be used to gather information only about the e-mails' senders and the recipients, not about their content.

The FBI audit also identified three dozen violations of rules requiring that NSLs be approved by senior officials and used only in authorized cases. In 10 instances, agents issued National Security Letters to collect personal data without tying the requests to specific, active investigations -- as the law requires -- either because, in each case, an investigative file had not been opened yet or the authorization for an investigation had expired without being renewed.

FBI officials said the audit found no evidence to date that any agent knowingly or willingly violated the laws or that supervisors encouraged such violations. The Justice Department's report estimated that agents made errors about 4 percent of the time and that third parties made mistakes about 3 percent of the time, they said. The FBI's audit, they noted, found a slightly higher error rate for agents -- about 5 percent -- and a substantially higher rate of third-party errors -- about 10 percent.

The officials said they are making widespread changes to ensure that the problems do not recur. Those changes include implementing a corporate-style, continuous, internal compliance program to review the bureau's policies, procedures and training, to provide regular monitoring of employees' work by supervisors in each office, and to conduct frequent audits to track compliance across the bureau.

The bureau is also trying to establish for NSLs clear lines of responsibility, which were lacking in the past, officials said. Agents who open counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations have been told that they are solely responsible for ensuring that they do not receive data they are not entitled to have.

The FBI audit did not turn up new instances in which another surveillance tool known as an Exigent Circumstance Letter had been abused, officials said. In a finding that prompted particularly strong concerns on Capitol Hill, the Justice Department had said such letters -- which are similar to NSLs but are meant to be used only in security emergencies -- had been invoked hundreds of times in "non-emergency circumstances" to obtain detailed phone records, mostly without the required links to active investigations.

Many of those letters were improperly dispatched by the bureau's Communications Analysis Unit, a central clearinghouse for the analysis of telephone records such as those gathered with the help of "exigent" letters and National Security Letters. Justice Department and FBI investigators are trying to determine if any FBI headquarters officials should be held accountable or punished for those abuses, and have begun advising agents of their due process rights during interviews.

The FBI audit will be completed in the coming weeks, and Congress will be briefed on the results, officials said. FBI officials said each potential violation will then be extensively reviewed by lawyers to determine if it must be reported to the Intelligence Oversight Board, a presidential panel of senior intelligence officials created to safeguard civil liberties.

The officials said the final tally of violations that are serious enough to be reported to the panel might be much less than the number turned up by the audit, noting that only five of the 22 potential violations identified by the Justice Department's inspector general this spring were ultimately deemed to be reportable.

"We expect that percentage will hold or be similar when we get through the hundreds of potential violations identified here," said a senior FBI official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the bureau's findings have not yet been made public.

Judge Orders FBI to Release Abuse Records
By bean

A judge has ordered the FBI to release agency records about its abuse of National Security Letters (NSLs) to collect Americans’ personal information. The ruling came just a day after the EFF urged the judge to immediately respond in its lawsuit over agency delays. This is the same case in which an internal FBI audit found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years.

The EFF sued the FBI in April for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about the misuse of NSLs as revealed in a Justice Department report, and EFF urged the judge Thursday to force the FBI to stop stalling the release of its records on the deeply flawed program.

More evidence of abuse has been uncovered by the Washington Post (see above). They write:

“An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism. The new audit covers just 10 percent of the bureau’s national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI’s domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand, bureau officials said in interviews.

The earlier report found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling. The vast majority of the new violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect. The agents retained the information anyway in their files, which mostly concerned suspected terrorist or espionage activities.”

According to the judge’s order, the FBI is required to process 2500 pages of NSL-related records by July 5, and then 2500 pages every 30 days thereafter. See the EFF website for more information.

New FBI Guidelines Aim to Curb Abuse
Lara Jakes Jordan

The FBI warned its agents Wednesday to carefully review all personal data collected from Americans in terror investigations to protect their privacy rights and not to expect the evidence to remain secret.

The warning came in new FBI guidelines issued to correct abuses of so-called national security letters that were revealed in a Justice Department audit three months ago. The letters allow investigators to subpoena evidence, without court approval, in terrorism and spy cases.

Under the 24-page guidelines, which are effective immediately, investigators must request specific information -- and justify its need -- before the demand for data is sent.

Moreover, the strictly worded rules require all evidence received from the subpoena to be reviewed before it is uploaded into FBI databases to make sure that only the information specifically requested is used. Any irrelevant or extra material received will be locked away from investigators and, potentially, ultimately returned or destroyed.

''Receiving information beyond the scope of an NSL is a potential ... violation, regardless of whether the overproduction occurred as a result of an error by the FBI or the NSL recipient,'' the guidelines state.

Agents must lay out reasons the request must remain secret, as outlined in the USA Patriot Act, which governs the use of national security letters, when it was reauthorized in 2005.

''Non-disclosure is not required in all NSLs,'' the guidelines state. They note, however, that ''the statutory standard for non-disclosure will be met in most cases'' -- including when there is concern that revealing an investigation would tip off its targeted suspect.

A copy of the guidelines was obtained from the American Civil Liberties Union, which received them Wednesday evening in a fax from the FBI. Neither the FBI nor the ACLU had an immediate comment.

Under the Patriot Act, the national security letters give the FBI authority to demand that telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses produce personal records about their customers or subscribers.

The March audit, by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, found that FBI agents sometimes demanded personal data on U.S. citizens or legal residents without official authorization and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergencies. The audit, which looked at NSLs issued between 2003 and 2005, also concluded that the FBI underreported to Congress how often it used national security letters to ask businesses to turn over customer data.

The guidelines are a first step toward fixing the abuses and protecting privacy rights, as promised in March by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. They also:

--Eliminate use of so-called exigent letters to demand information from companies in emergencies without being authorized by an NSL. Agents may still ask for the information in cases of ''death or danger or serious physical injury,'' but companies cannot be forced to comply.

--Require that cover letters for NSLs not merely contain ''bare bones'' information to justify the need for the data. Typos and other erroneous information in the cover letter or NSL that, for example, could lead to unneeded data being released will be investigated and potentially penalized. Additionally, agents cannot request information on activities that are covered by the First Amendment, such as attending a mosque. While the cover letters are usually classified, the NSLs themselves and the data received in return are not necessarily.

--Require FBI attorneys to carefully review all NSL requests.

--Require special agents in charge of the FBI's 56 field offices to inform any employees working on national security letter cases of the guidelines and to participate in future training classes to make sure they are used properly.

States Rebel Against Real ID Act

Four states have passed laws that reject federal rules regarding a national identification system. This casts serious doubt on the future of the 2005 Real ID Act that goes into effect in December 2009. New Hampshire and Oklahoma joined Montana and Washington state in the passage of statutes that refute guidelines set forth in the Act. However, these actions could eventually lead to drivers licenses issued in these states to not be accepted as official identification when boarding airplanes or accessing federal buildings. In addition to these four states, members of the Idaho legislature intentionally left out money in the budget to comply with the Act.

The Real ID Act raises serious privacy concerns, but there is disagreement about whether the Act will actually institute a national identification card system or not. The new law only sets forth national standards, but leaves the issuance of cards and the maintenance of databases in state hands. Some claim that this does not constitute a true national ID system, and may even forestall the arrival of national ID. Yet others argue that this is a trivial distinction, and that the new cards are in fact national ID cards, thanks to the uniform national standards created by the AAMVA and the linking of state databases.

The actions by these states are increasingly putting pressure on Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to change or repeal the law. The Wisconsin State Journal has an incredibly good analysis of the mess. They write:

States have rebelled at the $14 billion in costs the act imposes on states, as well as worries that the new security system will invade residents’ privacy and create what amounts to a national ID card.

On Capitol Hill, two bills would repeal the law, one co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. However, an amendment to the immigration bill now being debated in the U.S. Senate would ratchet up the consequences for states that fail to comply with Real ID. The Senate’s proposed immigration law would require job applicants to verify their citizenship to employers using a driver’s license that meets Real ID standards or with a passport.

Disaffected Conservatives Set a Litmus Test for '08

Want vow to curb presidential power
Charlie Savage

A new political group recently asked Mitt Romney to promise not to wiretap Americans without a judge's approval or to imprison US citizens without a trial as "enemy combatants." When Romney declined to sign their pledge, the group denounced him as "unfit to serve as president."

Such rhetoric might be expected from liberal activists. But these critics, who call their organization American Freedom Agenda, are hardly leftists. They represent what they insist is a growing group of disaffected conservatives who are demanding that the Republican Party return to its traditional mistrust of concentrated government power.

"Mitt Romney's ignorance of the Constitution's checks and balances and protections against government abuses would have alarmed the Founding Fathers and their conservative philosophy," said Bruce Fein, one of the group's co founders and a Reagan administration attorney, in a press release last month attacking Romney for not signing the pledge.

The American Freedom Agenda, which intends to put all candidates in both parties to the same test, is aiming to revive a strand of conservatism that they say has been drowned out since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The conservative principle of limited government, they say, means not just cutting the budget, but imposing checks and balances on those who wield power.

"Conservatives have to go back to the basics," said co founder Richard Viguerie , a veteran direct-mail strategist and author of "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause." "We have to go back and re launch the conservative movement. And for traditional conservatives, it's part of our nature to believe in the separation of powers."

The other two co founders are Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, and David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union .

All four argue that Bush is not a true conservative, and they decided to join forces earlier this year to make the expansion of executive power a topic of debate in the 2008 presidential election. They have applied for tax-exempt status, created a website, and drawn up a 10-point pledge that they intend to ask every candidate to sign.

"I hereby pledge that if elected President of the United States I will undertake the following to restore the Constitution's checks and balances : to honor fundamental protections against injustice, and to eschew usurpations of legislative or judicial power," the pledge reads. "These are keystones of national security and individual freedom."

Other points in the pledge include renouncing the use of presidential signing statements to claim a right to disobey laws; ending threats to prosecute journalists who write about classified matters; and promising to use regular courts rather than military commissions to try terrorism suspects. The full pledge is posted on the group's website, AmericanFreedomAgenda.org.

The group also plans to lobby Congress to pass legislation imposing stronger checks and balances on the presidency. It is urging debate moderators to ask questions of the candidates about their views on the limits of presidential power, and it is planning to host events to raise voter awareness of the issue.

While the group's ambitions are large, it has yet to make a sizable impression on the race.

One presidential candidate -- Representative Ron Paul of Texas, the libertarian-minded Republican who trails far behind GOP front - runners Rudy Giuliani , John McCain , and Romney -- has signed the pledge. Paul called up the American Freedom Agenda and signed its pledge after it announced its existence in March, Fein said.

There are other ties with the Paul campaign. Fein has volunteered to help Paul if any legal fight arises over getting onto a state's primary ballot, and campaign consultant Mark Fitzgibbons, who is Paul's communications director, is also a volunteer adviser to the American Freedom Agenda. But Fein said there is no conflict of interest in the group vetting Paul's rivals.

"I understand you can get an optics problem here, but we have not said we are going to reserve applause to just one candidate," Fein said. "We told Romney that 'we'll single you out and hold a press conference to celebrate you if you sign it,' so I don't think we can be accused of slanting the playing field toward any particular candidate."

They approached Romney first, he added, because they thought he was likely to want such an endorsement by a conservative group. But through Gary Marx , Romney's liaison to conservatives, Romney said he was not going to sign their pledge for now -- prompting the scathing "Conservatives Say Mitt Romney Unfit to Serve as President" press release.

The press release caused some consternation at the Romney headquarters. A spokesman, Kevin Madden , said that Romney did not say he would never sign the pledge, as the press release implied, only that "at this point we're going to take a pass." He declined to comment further.

Some conservatives who have supported Bush's broad claims of executive power are skeptical that the group will get many candidates to sign -- or succeed in making the growth of White House power a topic of debate.

David Rivkin , an associate counsel in the Bush-Quayle administration, argued that neither Republicans nor Democrats mind the aggressive exercise of presidential power if their party controls the White House.

"The notion -- that assertive presidential leadership with a strong view of presidential power is inherently bad -- I think that just won't resonate with the American people," Rivkin said. "Democrats don't like various policies of Bush's, but they would feel quite comfortable if Hillary Clinton were doing it. Republicans are comfortable with Bush doing it, but not so much if Clinton were doing it."

And Charlie Arlinghouse , the president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a free-market think-tank in Concord, N.H., said that taxes, terrorism, and Iraq dominate GOP voters' thinking. He said it will require a lot of work for the American Freedom Agenda to raise awareness about the abstract issue of executive power among average New Hampshire voters.

"The notion of executive power is not anything that anyone thinks about while they're mowing their lawn," Arlinghouse said. "So there may be fertile ground here, but someone is going to have to start plowing."

But Fein argued the country would be more secure if the presidency adhered to checks on its power. Such Bush administration policies as authorizing harsh interrogation techniques despite laws and treaties forbidding torture, he said, "are making us more vulnerable" by inflaming anti-American sentiment and "creating new generations of jihadists."

And the group's founders argued that the 2008 election presents a good opportunity for a bipartisan debate about what they see as unchecked executive power. Democrats will view the issue through the prism of the Bush administration, while Republicans will be forced to think about a Democratic presidency, they said.

"As it becomes more and more clear that Hillary Clinton could be the president of the United States, this is going to get a lot of conservatives' attention in a way it hasn't done before in recent years," Viguerie said.

Video Recording Leads to Felony Charge
Matt Miller

Brian D. Kelly didn't think he was doing anything illegal when he used his videocamera to record a Carlisle police officer during a traffic stop. Making movies is one of his hobbies, he said, and the stop was just another interesting event to film.

Now he's worried about going to prison or being burdened with a criminal record.

Kelly, 18, of Carlisle, was arrested on a felony wiretapping charge, with a penalty of up to 7 years in state prison.

His camera and film were seized by police during the May 24 stop, he said, and he spent 26 hours in Cumberland County Prison until his mother posted her house as security for his $2,500 bail.

Kelly is charged under a state law that bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone's oral conversation without their consent.

The criminal case relates to the sound, not the pictures, that his camera picked up.

"I didn't think I could get in trouble for that," Kelly said. "I screwed up, yeah. I know now that I can't do that. I just don't see how something like this should affect my entire life."

Whether that will happen could be determined during Kelly's preliminary hearing before District Judge Jessica Brewbaker in July.

No one seems intent on punishing him harshly.

"Obviously, ignorance of the law is no defense," District Attorney David Freed said. "But often these cases come down to questions of intent."

According to police, Kelly was riding in a pickup truck that had been stopped for alleged traffic violations.

Police said the officer saw Kelly had a camera in his lap, aimed at him and was concealing it with his hands. They said Kelly was arrested after he obeyed an order to turn the camera off and hand it over.

The wiretap charge was filed after consultation with a deputy district attorney, police said.

Kelly said his friend was cited for speeding and because his truck's bumper was too low. He said he held the camera in plain view and turned it on when the officer yelled at his pal.

After about 20 minutes, the officer cited the driver on the traffic charges and told the men they were being recorded by a camera in his cruiser, Kelly said.

"He said, 'Young man, turn off your ... camera,'¤" Kelly said. "I turned it off and handed it to him. ... Six or seven more cops pulled up, and they arrested me."

Police also took film from his pockets that wasn't related to the traffic stop, he said.

Freed said his office has handled other wiretapping cases, some involving ex-lovers or divorcing couples who are trying to record former partners doing something improper for leverage in court battles, he said.

Such charges have been dismissed or defendants have been allowed to plead to lesser counts or enter a program to avoid criminal records, he said.

The outcome hinges on whether the person had a malicious intent, Freed said.

Carlisle Police Chief Stephen Margeson said allowing Kelly to plead to a lesser charge might be proper.

"I don't think that would cause anyone any heartburn," he said. "I don't believe there was any underlying criminal intent here."

But Margeson said he doesn't regard the filing of the felony charge as unwarranted and said the officer followed procedures.

John Mancke, a Harrisburg defense attorney familiar with the wiretapping law, said the facts, as related by police, indicate Kelly might have violated the law.

"If he had the sound on, he has a problem," Mancke said.

Last year, Mancke defended a North Middleton Twp. man in a street racing case that involved a wiretapping charge. Police claimed the man ordered associates to tape police breaking up an illegal race after officers told him to turn off their cameras.

That wiretapping count was dismissed when the man pleaded guilty to charges of illegal racing, defiant trespass and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to probation.

An exception to the wiretapping law allows police to film people during traffic stops, Mancke said.

Margeson said his department's cruisers are equipped with cameras, and officers are told to inform people during incidents that they are being recorded.

First Assistant District Attorney Jaime Keating said case law is in flux as to whether police can expect not to be recorded while performing their duties.

"The law isn't solid," Keating said. "But people who do things like this do so at their own peril."

Kelly said he has called the American Civil Liberties Union for help in the case.

His father, Chris, said he's backing his son.

"We're hoping for a just resolution," he said.

Google's Street View Could be Unlawful in Europe

EDITORIAL: Like a trigger-happy tourist, Google has shot almost every street in five US cities and added its pics to what might be the world's biggest holiday album. But if Google ever starts shooting the streets of Europe, courts here could fight back.

Google Maps Street View is the latest service from the search giant. Vehicles with multi-lens cameras travelled the streets of San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami and snapped everything in their paths. The images were uploaded to Google Maps and now, when you're looking at a location in Google Maps that has been photographed, you can see the pics. If you live in a featured city and you've been passed by a Google van or a car from its partner, Immersive Media, the cameras probably saw you too.

Privacy fears were first raised by New Yorker Mary Kalin-Casey. She told the Boing Boing blog that, when trying out Street View, she recognised her cat, Monty, through the window of her own home. She said that the experience made her shake (though she'd have more cause for alarm if the camera captured her Georgian silverware).

I haven't seen anything that has made me shake, at least not yet, though I'm still looking and hoping. I love Google Maps and Street View just makes it better. But if it comes to Europe, there could be complaints that have grounds for litigation.

Complaints could be triggered by the images that spread across the internet like wildfire – the celebrity entering rehab or the nude at the window. And complaints could be triggered by the images that have a more personal impact on lives – the malingerer in the park or the husband on his paramour's porch. It does not matter that the pictures were taken in a public place.

If you are caught on camera and complain to Google, Google will remove the pics. But that may not be enough for Europe's courts.

Our data protection regime lets us take holiday snaps, even of strangers, provided we're doing so for private purposes. But if we're taking snaps for commercial use, where individuals are identifiable, there is no such exemption. We need to notify the subjects, and that's hard for Google to do. Even a loudspeaker on top of the camera cars ("Hi, it's Google here, say 'cheese' everybody!") might not suffice.

The law sets extra requirements for so-called sensitive personal data: it demands explicit consent, not just notification. That means when taking pictures of someone leaving a church or sexual health clinic – which could reveal a religious belief or an illness – camera cars might need to pull over and start picking up signatures.

The need for individuals to be identifiable is an important one: Monty the cat looked like a blob to me. Cats can't sue, even in Europe, but humans are just as hard to identify in Street View from what I've seen because the resolution is too low.

It's not just those who are identifiable and caught in the act that can give Google a tough time. We Europeans could ask Google to ensure that no picture of us appears in Google Maps in the first place.

The nature of this rule varies across Europe, but in the UK we have a right to prevent the display of an image that would cause substantial distress. All we have to do is send an email to Google asking that it does not display a picture of us: "Dear Google, I think your camera caught me in Hyde Park this lunch time canoodling with my wife's best friend. Please make sure I can't be seen in Google Maps because this may cause me substantial distress. I've attached a pic of what I look like." If Google refuses or ignores you, you can go to the Information Commissioner and ask him to enforce the right. If there's damage and distress, you can sue.

Street View is rather like CCTV and the Information Commissioner has published a CCTV Code of Practice. The guidance is surely impossible for Google to follow: "Signs should be placed so that the public are aware that they are entering a zone which is covered by surveillance equipment … [These signs] should be clearly visible and legible to members of the public". The guidance adds that "individuals sunbathing in their back gardens may have a greater expectation of privacy than individuals mowing the lawn of their front garden". Perhaps the Information Commissioner will take a pragmatic view and say that footage of someone walking down a street is acceptable, but footage of someone entering rehab is not. Maybe a mashup of Google Search and Google Maps could locate abortion clinics etc. and delete the footage.

Then there are our human rights.

On an evening in August 1995, a 42-year-old called Geoffrey Peck attempted suicide by cutting his wrists with a kitchen knife while on Brentwood High Street in Essex, England. CCTV cameras caught the action, the council's CCTV operator alerted the police and the police intervened. Peck lived. But still images from the CCTV footage were sold by the local council to the media. Peck took his complaint as far as the European Court of Human Rights and won.

The court said that the disclosure of the footage was a "disproportionate and unjustified interference" with Peck's private life, in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court considered it significant that "[Peck's] actions were seen to an extent which far exceeded any exposure to a passer-by or to security observation and to a degree surpassing that which [Peck] could possibly have foreseen." Peck won damages of £7,000.

There's a qualification here: the Human Rights Act generally applies only to public authorities – and Google is not a public authority. But it does not escape completely. Courts are public authorities, and if someone sues Google for breaching the Data Protection Act in similar circumstances, courts will seek to protect a person's human rights in deciding the case. So human rights enter the case by a back door.

You can see Brentwood High Street in Google Maps, but not with Street View. Perhaps you never will.

Regulations on the Sale of Violent Games May be Coming to Europe
Eric Bangeman

Violent video games are a frequent target for politicians in the United States, but there are also similar discussions going on across the Atlantic. Today, European Union justice ministers met to discuss regulating the sale of violent video games to minors. According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries told reporters that the justices were not expected to come up with a plan of action during the meeting held in Luxembourg.
EU patent courts may cause more problems than they fix

As is the case in the US, video game ratings in the EU are voluntary. They are administered by Pan European Game Information and use a combination of age-based ratings and content descriptions much like those provided by the ESRB. Games are rated for bad language, discrimination, depictions of gambling and sex, drug use, and violence.

After a German gunman wounded several people at a secondary school before taking his own life last November, EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security Franco Frattini called for increased regulation of the video game industry. In response, two German states quickly drafted legislation that would make the production of games that feature "cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters" illegal. A motion for a European Parliament resolution introduced in March calls for EU governments to "put in place all necessary measures to ban the sale of particularly violent and cruel video games."

The differing legal standards of the EU's members makes drafting legislation difficult, according to Zypries, and her expectation is that member states will voluntarily restrict the sale of what she called "killer games."

The onus for enforcing whatever age restrictions may be enacted will likely fall on retailers. The European Commission plans to come up with penalties for retailers selling age-inappropriate games to minors, but it will be up to each country to define what material will be covered—differing country-by-country definitions on what constitutes age-inappropriate material is yet another obstacle any EU-wide directive will have to overcome.

AMA Chimes in on Gaming/Violence Connection, Gaming Addiction
John Timmer

Ars has covered a wide range of studies regarding the potential links between gaming and behavioral changes. The complex and confused literature would seem to preclude any practical action on the current state of the data, but the American Medical Association has waded in with a summary of the research and a set of recommendations for action. Despite the potential for disaster, the AMA recommendations are a measured call for further research and parental involvement.

Back at its 2006 meeting, the AMA decided to look into both the addictive potential and behavioral impact of video gaming content. In an oddly-worded resolution passed at that meeting, they noted that existing AMA policy called for games with violent and/or sexual content be made available only to adults, but that such a policy went against the self-interest of the gaming industry. For some reason, this conflict of interest was presented as a justification to call for an examination of the addictive nature of video games:

RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association Council on Science and Public Health work in conjunction with all appropriate specialty societies to prepare a report reviewing and summarizing the research data on the emotional and behavioral effects, including addiction potential, of video games (Directive to Take Action); and be it further
RESOLVED, That our AMA develop recommendations for physicians, parents and legislators based on the findings of this report. (Directive to Take Action)

The committee assigned the report has now released its findings. Despite its confused mandate, the report is an extremely readable summary of the state of knowledge. The committee did a literature search for all the relevant terms in publications from 1985 to 2007. That literature included information on areas of gaming research that are rarely emphasized. Cases of epilepsy and seizures induced by games are rare enough not to be a concern. Gaming technology can be readily adapted for positive uses in training and rehabilitation. Links with disorders such as deficit/hyperactivity haven't been explored in sufficient detail.

When it comes to more typical topics, the summary is cogent, if unsurprising. It concludes that "exposure to violent media increases aggressive cognition, affect, and behavior, and decreases prosocial behavior in the short term. There also appears to be agreement that definitive long-term studies are lacking." It also notes that this sort of response doesn't appear to be significantly different from the response to other forms of media.

In terms of "gaming addiction," the report suggests that it is likely to be a subset of Internet addiction, as it most frequently occurs in players of MMORPGs. In both of these addictions, the current definition is currently informal—the described symptoms actually most closely resemble pathological gambling, rather than an addiction. In either case, the report notes, "there is currently insufficient research to definitively conclude that video game overuse is an addiction."

Given this sort of ambiguity, the report's recommendations are reasonably cautious and recognizes that gaming is simply one form of a suite of related forms of media. It asks public science agencies to "fund research on the long-term beneficial and detrimental effects not only of video games, but use of the Internet by children under 18 years of age." The report calls for the AMA to work with pediatricians and family doctors to make sure the public is aware of their existing recommendations regarding media in general. In this regard, parents should be getting the message that gaming is simply a form of screen time, indistinguishable from TV viewing. Parents should be limiting the total of all forms of screen time, and monitoring the content that appears on screen.

Two recommendations stand out as going beyond reinforcing the obvious, however. First, the AMA is called upon to include Internet/video game addiction as a formally described disorder in its upcoming revision to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This description would include diagnostic criteria, which should improve not only the ability of physicians to treat it but also the ability of researchers study it in a formalized manner.

The other one is the recommendation that the AMA work with the ESRB and other interested parties in improving the game rating system. This call is supported by a citation of studies from Harvard researchers, which have shown the that games rated T(een) and E(veryone) may include thinly-disguised content that would normally limit the game to older audiences (one example given was splattering blood in which red pixels were shifted to a green color). Given that ESRB ratings will almost certainly evolve with changing gaming technology anyway, this recommendation seems to be little more than an attempt to nudge the process forward.

Overall, the committee seems to have produced a fine report that both accurately affects the current state of knowledge and puts the impetus for acting on it where it belongs: on parents, acting in consultation with family physicians.

Experts Advise on Combating Radicalization
Neil MacFarquhar

While the United States has expended enormous effort in fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has neglected the fight for the hearts and minds of young radicals in Internet chat rooms and other places where they cluster, experts on radicalization told a House panel yesterday.

“Unless we can impede radicalization and recruitment, then we are condemned to a strategy of stepping on cockroaches one at a time,” Brian M. Jenkins, a terrorism expert from the Rand Corporation, told the House Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment

The subcommittee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have held recent hearings on the possible threat from “homegrown” radicals. The general conclusion has been that although such a threat exists, it is small, especially when compared with Europe, because assimilation works so much better here.

Individual sessions have covered the possibility of terror cells forming in prisons, considered a ripe environment with little concrete activity, and countering the vision of extremists who use Islam to convince the young that suicide bombings are the righteous path to a better world.

“We have to stop attacking only the structure and start attacking their strategy,” the director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, Frank J. Cilluffo, said.

Terrorist organizations, for example, use the Web to glorify the people who carry out attacks as serving God. But, Mr. Cilluffo noted, there is no effort to use video from gruesome attacks like the slaughter of Russian schoolchildren or the bombing of a wedding at a Jordanian hotel to underscore that terrorists are cold-blooded murderers

The United States has had scattered arrests of bumblers who may have intended to carry out terrorist attacks, but none have had the capability to undertake the deadly violence seen on 9/11 or in London and Madrid, witnesses said. The treason indictment last year of Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a Californian who is a Qaeda spokesman, is a rarity. The United States has had about 30 treason cases.

But the Internet age can make moving from intent to capability rapid. So the goal is to block the path and undermine the desire.

“There is nothing wrong with people being recruited to become Muslims,” Representative Jane Harman, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the subcommittees, said in an interview yesterday. “What is wrong is when people who are becoming Muslims are manipulated by radical fanatics into a death cult.

“That small passage that very few of these people take is where we have to interfere. We have to understand how it happens and when it happens.”

Ms. Harman and a Republican colleague, Representative Dave Reichert of Washington, are drafting a measure that would direct Congress to form a commission to develop a strategy for preventing such radicalization. She said she hoped that a similar bill would emerge from the Senate.

Among the major recommendations of the experts at the hearing yesterday were greater involvement of Muslim-Americans in the antiradicalization effort; more aid for community policing, which is deemed most effective at nipping radicalization in the bud; and a smarter focus on countering what Al Qaeda and other groups do to win recruits.

“We need to isolate the extremists as opposed to isolating the mainstream community” of American Muslims, Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said in an interview.

E-voting Reform to be Voted on by the House
By bean

A bill in the House of Representatives threatens to create a major controversy over the conduct of the 2008 election. Several years after its introduction, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act looks like it will finally make it to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. At the time of this report, the bill has a whopping 216 bi-partisan cosponsors, and it came out of committee last week and is set for early action on the floor. Because of the shear number of cosponsors, the bill is expected to pass. The bill is written principally by Reps. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose and Rush Holt of New Jersey.

The bill is a response to problems that occurred during the 2006 elections, which included several disputes about the accuracy of new touch screen voting systems in many districts. This legislation would create a much-discussed and increasingly demanded paper trail for elections. The bill would also require a manual audit of every federal election, and it would require the disclosure of voting system source code in limited circumstances.

However, the bill has run into criticism from poll workers and state officials that manage and oversee elections. The National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Association of Counties have declared the bill’s proposed deadlines impossible and the funding inadequate.

The bill has also been criticized by advocates for the physically disabled. The American Association of People with Disabilities has said that the earliest the provisions of the bill could be effectively put into use would be 2014. The officials stated that until then, the bill would essentially be a step back from the 2002 Help America Vote Act that guarantees of equal access.

We at Lawbean strongly support the bill, although we agree that there are shortcomings that need to be addressed. The EFF also endorses the bill, and they have an excellent write-up of what the bill will do and common misconceptions regarding the bill. You can read the bill in its entirety here.

Microsoft Finds Legal Defender in Justice Dept.
Stephen LaBaton

Nearly a decade after the government began its landmark effort to break up Microsoft, the Bush administration has sharply changed course by repeatedly defending the company both in the United States and abroad against accusations of anticompetitive conduct, including the recent rejection of a complaint by Google.

The retrenchment reflects a substantially different view of antitrust policy, as well as a recognition of major changes in the marketplace. The battlefront among technology companies has shifted from computer desktop software, a category that Microsoft dominates, to Internet search and Web-based software programs that allow users to bypass products made by Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker.

In the most striking recent example of the policy shift, the top antitrust official at the Justice Department last month urged state prosecutors to reject a confidential antitrust complaint filed by Google that is tied to a consent decree that monitors Microsoft’s behavior. Google has accused Microsoft of designing its latest operating system, Vista, to discourage the use of Google’s desktop search program, lawyers involved in the case said.

The official, Thomas O. Barnett, an assistant attorney general, had until 2004 been a top antitrust partner at the law firm that has represented Microsoft in several antitrust disputes. At the firm, Justice Department officials said, he never worked on Microsoft matters. Still, for more than a year after arriving at the department, he removed himself from the case because of conflict of interest issues. Ethics lawyers ultimately cleared his involvement.

Mr. Barnett’s memo dismissing Google’s claims, sent to state attorneys general around the nation, alarmed many of them, they and other lawyers from five states said. Some state officials said they believed that Google’s complaint had merit. They also said that they could not recall receiving a request by any head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division to drop any inquiry.

Mr. Barnett’s memo appears to have backfired, state officials said. Prosecutors from several states said they intended to pursue the Google accusations with or without the federal government. In response, federal prosecutors are now discussing with the states whether the Justice Department will join them in pursuing the Google complaint.

The complaint, which contends that Google’s desktop search tool is slowed down by Microsoft’s competing program, has not been made public by Google or the judge overseeing the Microsoft consent decree, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court in Washington. It is expected to be discussed at a hearing on the decree in front of Judge Kollar-Kotelly this month.

The memo illustrates the political transformation of Microsoft, as well as the shift in antitrust policy between officials appointed by President Bill Clinton and by President Bush.

“With the change in administrations there has been a sharp falling away from the concerns about how Microsoft and other large companies use their market power,” said Harry First, a professor at the New York University School of Law and the former top antitrust lawyer for New York State who is writing a book about the Microsoft case. “The administration has been very conservative and far less concerned about single-firm dominant behavior than previous administrations.”

Ricardo Reyes, a spokesman for Google, declined to comment about the complaint.

Bradford L. Smith, the general counsel at Microsoft, said that the company was unaware of Mr. Barnett’s memo. He said that Microsoft had not violated the consent decree and that it had already made modifications to Vista in response to concerns raised by Google and other companies.

He said that the new operating system was carefully designed to work well with rival software products and that an independent technical committee that works for the Justice Department and the states had spent years examining Vista for possible anticompetitive problems before it went on sale.

He said that even though the consent decree did not oblige Microsoft to make changes to Vista in response to Google’s complaint, Microsoft lawyers and engineers had been working closely with both state and federal officials in recent days in search of an accommodation.

“We’ve made a decision to go the extra mile to be reasonable,” Mr. Smith said. “The discussions between the company and the various government agencies have been quite fruitful.”

Microsoft was saved from being split in half by a federal appeals court decision handed down early in the Bush administration. The ruling, in 2001, found that the company had repeatedly abused its monopoly power in the software business, but it reversed a lower court order sought by the Clinton administration to split up the company.

Google complained to federal and state prosecutors that consumers who try to use its search tool for computer hard drives on Vista were frustrated because Vista has a competing desktop search program that cannot be turned off. When the Google and Vista search programs are run simultaneously on a computer, their indexing programs slow the operating system considerably, Google contended. As a result, Google said that Vista violated Microsoft’s 2002 antitrust settlement, which prohibits Microsoft from designing operating systems that limit the choices of consumers.

Google has asked the court overseeing the antitrust decree to order Microsoft to redesign Vista to enable users to turn off its built-in desktop search program so that competing programs could function better, officials said.

State officials said that Mr. Barnett’s memo rejected the Google complaint, repeating legal arguments made by Microsoft.

Before he joined the Justice Department in 2004, Mr. Barnett had been vice chairman of the antitrust department at Covington & Burling. It represented Microsoft in the antitrust case and continues to represent the company.

In a recent interview, Mr. Barnett declined to discuss the Google complaint, noting that the decree requires complaints by companies to be kept confidential. He defended the federal government’s overall handling of the Microsoft case.

“The purpose of the consent decree was to prevent and prohibit Microsoft from certain exclusionary behavior that was anticompetitive in nature,” Mr. Barnett said. “It was not designed to pick who would win or determine who would have what market share.”

“We want to prevent Microsoft from doing those things that exclude competitors,” he added. “We also don’t want to disrupt the market in a way that will be harmful to consumers. What does that mean? We’ve never tried to prevent any company, including Microsoft, from innovating and improving its products in a way that will be a benefit to consumers.”

Prosecutors from several states said that they believed that Google’s complaint about anticompetitive conduct resembled the complaint raised by Netscape, a company that popularized the Web browser, that was the basis of the 1998 lawsuit.

Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general, declined to talk about the substance of the complaint, or which company made it. But he said the memo from Mr. Barnett surprised him.

“Eyebrows were raised by this letter in our group, as much by the substance and tone as by the past relationship the author had had with Microsoft,” said Mr. Blumenthal, one of the few state prosecutors who has been involved in the case since its outset.

“In concept, if not directly word for word, it is the Microsoft-Netscape situation,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “The question is whether we’re seeing déjà vu all over again.”

The administration has supported Microsoft in other antitrust skirmishes as well.

Last year, for instance, the United States delegation to the European Union complained to European regulators that Microsoft had been denied access to evidence it needed to defend itself in an investigation there into possible anticompetitive conduct. The United States delegation is led by Ambassador C. Boyden Gray, who had worked for Microsoft as a lawyer and lobbyist.

Robert Gianfrancesco, a spokesman for the delegation, said that Ambassador Gray had not formally removed himself from involvement in Microsoft issues but was not involved in the complaint to European regulators, which was handled by other American diplomats in the delegation.

In December 2005, the Justice Department sharply criticized the Korean Fair Trade Commission after that agency ordered major changes in Microsoft’s marketing practices in Korea.

And in 2004, the Justice Department criticized the European Commission for punishing Microsoft for including its video and audio player with its operating system.

Antitrust experts attribute the Bush administration’s different approach to Microsoft to a confluence of political forces as well as significant changes in the marketplace.

A big factor has been the Bush administration’s hands-off approach to business regulation. For its part, Microsoft, which spent more than $55 million on lobbying activities in Washington from 2000 to 2006 and substantially more on lawyers, has become a more effective lobbying organization.

“The generous and noncynical view is that there has been a fundamental change in philosophy about the degree to which antitrust should be used to regulate business activity,” said Andrew I. Gavil, an antitrust law professor at Howard University who is a co-author of the Microsoft book with Professor First, the New York University law professor. “In the Microsoft case, you can see how that change has manifested itself.”

Kamloops School District Gets an Education in Free Software
Bruce Byfield

The Kamloops/Thompson School District in British Columbia, Canada, is a free software success story. Gregg Ferrie, manager of information technology for the district, believes its infrastructure may be "the largest Linux on-the-desktop implementation in Western Canada" in public education. According to Ferrie, hardly a week goes by without another of British Columbia's more than 60 school districts consulting Kamloops. Currently, five other districts are considering or planning to implement the Kamloops district's custom-built thin client solution, and the department of education at the University of British Columbia is also investigating the possibility.

Kamloops' success did not come overnight. It represents a culmination of almost a decade of effort that includes resistance from both instructors and unionized technical staff. Ferrie's account of how he and his small team of system analysts managed to introduce free software to the district provides a case study of the challenges that others might face in making similar efforts.

Administration and elementary school conversion

The Kamloops district's transition to free software began in the late 1990s. As problems with the district's Windows-Novell system mounted, Ferrie began to look for alternatives to improve the centralized administration of the system. At the time, Ferrie had some experience with Xenix, and says that, "I loved the Unix command line. It wasn't pretty, but it was powerful." His investigation of GNU/Linux convinced him that it was "a little immature," but adequate for basic computing. With the help of a local service provider, and John Cuzzola, a systems analyst he soon hired, in the 2000-01 school year, he migrated the administration system.

Because the change occurred behind the scenes, Ferrie says, "It was an absolute non-issue, because no one knew anything about it." Besides, at the time, computers were considered enrichment rather than part of the core curriculum. "If a Web site went down," Ferrie says, "nobody cared, because it wasn't really a big issue."

Around the same time that this transition was completed, Ferrie's team began tackling the problem of providing services to all the elementary schools in the district. The elementaries suffered from a "huge variance of technology" ranging from no computers at all through to networked labs, and even those that were well equipped were suffering from frequent equipment failures. Ferrie remembers that if a teacher "brought in a whole class of 30 kids, if they had 26 computers they would be doing well. That meant that teachers had to double up kids or make other arrangements for some kids, which is always problematic."

Over the summer of 2001, Cuzzola worked on modifying the Linux Terminal Server Project to develop a thin client system for the district's elementary schools. The original plan was to run a pilot for a year at a couple of schools, but the solution was so successful that by October of the next school year, teachers at other elementary schools were coming to inspect it. By the end of the school year, the system was installed in 20 other schools. By the end of the next year, all the district's elementary schools had it.

"The software was a bit of a stumbling block, because it wasn't terribly mature in some areas," Ferrie says, "but it was reliable." This reliability "was better than what [some schools] had, which was nothing." But even for those schools that already had an IT infrastructure, a system that teachers could count on was more important than the imperfections of the software.

Resistance from teachers

Buoyed by these early successes, Ferrie and his analysts decided to migrate the secondary schools over to free software in 2002-03. Here, however, trouble quickly arose because, unlike in the elementary schools, in the secondary schools, the analysts were changing a well-established order.

The secondary schools used computers as part of their core curriculum, and some of the teaching staff saw the change as the IT department interfering in educational matters that its members didn't understand. Moreover, although secondary schools in British Columbia are supposed to teach skills rather than specific software, in practice, many teachers had developed courses that specified particular pieces of software. "You get a teacher who's been around 20-30 years, and they're not that keen on developing their course again," Ferrie says in wry hindsight. Also, many schools had already paid for textbooks that referred to specific proprietary software.

However, resistance among educators crumbled with the emergence of an advocate of the new system. In 2005, Dean Coder, a principal from the Prince George district with whom Ferrie had corresponded, transferred to the Kamloops district because he wanted to become involved in its transition to free software. Assigned to Barriere secondary school, Coder decided to convert all 110 computers at the school over to the thin client system. Systems analyst Dean Montgomery began work on a second-generation system, using state-of-the-art equipment.

By this point, applications such as OpenOffice.org and Scribus had evolved to the point that teachers were "awestruck" by the new pilot system. However, what really convinced teachers that the change was worthwhile, Ferrie says, was Coder's advocacy. "He put his own reputation on the line and said to the staff, 'I'm going to be there for you.'" A young principal at the district's largest school soon requested the new system, and several others quickly followed. Now, Ferrie says, "we're struggling to implement it at the rest of our secondaries." In the end, an advocate who was both an educator and an administrator, he maintains, made all the difference in getting the system accepted.

IT staff issues

Another serious problem in the Kamloops district was resistance from the technical support staff. Ferrie is reluctant to talk about this resistance, not wanting to reopen conflicts that have since been resolved. Still, he admits that at the time, "We had a lot of difficulty moving our Novell-trained technicians forward. For a start, they were skeptical that an open source project could do the job -- and that was understandable, since they hadn't been exposed to it. As well, they had a huge skill set that they had developed for years and years that suddenly became irrelevant, and they had to retrain. And there was a lot of anxiety about that."

One or two employees considered quitting. At times, resistance became so pronounced that some of the staff seemed to be passively resisting the changes, muttering in the background and dragging their feet when asked to cooperate. There were even union grievances filed about unnecessary system changes and the need for retraining.

"From a management perspective, it was debilitating and counterproductive," Ferrie recalls. However, looking back, he places the blame for the staff issues squarely on himself and the other administrators.

"We didn't do a very good job of promoting the system," he says. "We kind of just expected that [the staff] would see the wisdom of it without understanding it very well. We were dealing with people, not machines, and one lesson I learned is that people are still the biggest component, and you've got to engage them. In all fairness, we were asking them to do a lot."

As Ferrie and other administrators realized the problems their overenthusiasm had created, they began to work with the IT staff rather than seeking confrontation. And, slowly, the staff came around. The district paid $25,000 Canadian to bring in a trainer for two weeks, and paid for staff members to take the Linux Professional Institute Level 2 tests. "It gives them somewhere to hang their hat," Ferrie says, explaining why the district paid for staff certification. "It's something you can take to the bank" and use in other jobs. For a year and a half, staff also had half a day off every week for personal study to hone their skills.

With this level of support, resentment of the changes slowly diminished. In the end, no one quit. Now, the battles of the past safely behind, Ferrie has nothing but praise for his staff for working through the conflict and learning new skills."Even the technicians who struggled a little bit initially are very good," Ferrie says. "They're phenomenal now. Once we really got through all the angst and the problems and sat down and did some serious planning for them, everything started to go great."

Finding solutions

The second-generation system cost the Kamloops district about $47,000 to implement, as well as the cost of training and the release time for personal study and taking exams. However, Ferrie has no doubt of the savings overall. License costs are disappearing as the district phases out its Novell NetWare licenses, and the district no longer needs to purchase productivity software. Ferrie also figures that the increased reliability represents a substantial savings, although he admits that it is hard to quantify.

However, perhaps the greatest benefit of switching to free software is that the reliability of the new system frees up technical staff to do more than routine support. Where the district once paid 10 technicians to keep the district's computers running, many of those can now be freed for other duties. Since implementing the second-generation system at Barriere Secondary, the district has been able to create a new help desk position to work directly with teachers so that they can make better use of applications. Recently, too, the district has improved the new position of technology coordinator to offer teachers hardware support.

"We could never do any of that before," Ferrie says. "We're making much better use of the few resources we have." That, as much as anything, seems to make the effort of the last decade worthwhile for Ferrie and his team.

It's Time to Consider Open Source Software
Jay Pfaffman

Free software gives everyone the freedom to run, study, change and redistribute software. It is these freedoms, not the price, that is important about free software. Free software advocates make the distinction between free, as in speech, as opposed to free, as in beer. Though many people would gladly accept a free beer, it is not one of the fundamental principles of democracy.

The HP ProLiant DL360 G5 server pinpoints problems earlier with Systems Insight Manager software -- and Integrated Lights-Out Management lets you manage multiple operating systems remotely.

In 1985, Richard Stallman, a computer programmer, released "The GNU Manifesto," in which he proclaimed a golden rule: One must share computer programs. Software vendors required him to agree to license agreements that forbade sharing programs with others, but he refused to "break solidarity" with other computer users whom he assumed also wanted to use free software.

Many people are surprised to hear that Stallman's free software dream has been realized. This paper makes the case that using only free software has considerable economic, technical, political, pedagogical and moral advantages -- and surprisingly few frustrations. If you are a teacher, and especially if you train teachers, you should be aware that there are Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS) applications for common classroom uses.

F/OSS is the foundation of the Internet. The BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) name server that maps domain names to Internet Protocol (IP) numbers, the Apache Web server that serves most Web sites, the Linux kernel that drives Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) , and the MediaWiki software that powers Wikipedia are all free for anyone to use, change and redistribute.

These examples demonstrate that F/OSS tools can be the best solution in certain situations, but for those working in K-12 classrooms these server-based examples are easily dismissed as esoteric or unimportant. In recent years, however, open source software developers have released a wide range of end-user applications that can replace most of the applications currently used in K-12 classrooms.

The Power of the Source

A key aspect of F/OSS is the availability of the source code -- the human-readable text files used to create the program. Accessing the source code allows anyone to examine the program to see how it works, fix bugs or change it to suit personal needs. Like freedom of speech, one does not need to use source code to benefit from it.

Free software gives everyone the freedom to run, study, change and redistribute software. It is these freedoms, not the price, that is important about free software. Free software advocates make the distinction between free, as in speech, as opposed to free, as in beer. Though many people would gladly accept a free beer, it is not one of the fundamental principles of democracy.

Property Rights Turned Upside Down

Those of us who have long been familiar with open source software need to understand that the concept of free software is foreign to many people. The conventional notion of property rights is that I have the right to exclude you from using something that belongs to me.

Open source software is based on the opposite belief -- that everyone has the right to distribute and no one has the right to exclude further distribution. This paradigm shift can be difficult to make. For three years, F/OSS has been a central part of my course on using computers in the classroom, and I give conference presentations about F/OSS at least twice a year. I was getting good at it.

Recently I gave a conference presentation about the benefits of F/OSS for educators -- how all teachers and students could use these tools and that they were free and would remain so. I distributed copies of TheOpenCD and talked about the F/OSS programs that it includes. Near the end of the hour-long presentation, a participant raised her hand and asked, "So I can use this software for free?" Even after an hour, F/OSS still did not quite make sense to her.

On the Annoyances of Proprietary Software

Proprietary software is inconvenient. It is inconvenient to purchase additional licenses when you buy new machines. It is inconvenient to negotiate a new license agreement each year. It is inconvenient to support multiple versions of a package for machines purchased at different times.

It is inconvenient to be faced with an ethical dilemma when a friend or colleague asks to illegally copy the proprietary software that you support. It is inconvenient for students not to have the same software at home and at school.

It is inconvenient to decide what to do when a vendor starts charging for a proprietary program that was previously free. It is inconvenient to perform an audit to document that all software on every computer has a valid license. Thanks to the work of Stallman and thousands of others, these inconveniences are now avoidable.

Understanding Open Source Software

This section addresses questions and concerns that I hear from students in my instructional technology courses as well as from teachers and technology leaders that I meet in conference presentations.

Myth: You get what you pay for.

With traditionally distributed software you pay for packaging; you pay for manuals; you pay for marketing ; you pay for support, regardless of whether you receive it; you pay for programmers; you pay dividends to shareholders. You may get what you pay for, but someone else decides the cost. With open source software you can still pay for those things, but you control who and how much to pay.

Myth: F/OSS software is created by amateurs and must be inferior.

Two fallacies follow from this assumption. First, that open source applications are not developed by professional programmers. second, that amateur programmers produce inferior work.

Many F/OSS projects have teams of professional programmers. Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) software distributes a version of GNU/Linux, an open source operating system that for many people obviates the need for Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows. Other projects, like Firefox and OpenOffice.org, are based on commercially developed code (StarOffice and Netscape Navigator, respectively) that was subsequently released as open source. Both of these projects have improved dramatically since becoming F/OSS.

Economists are starting to recognize the impact of ProAms -- people who do high quality work in a field other than the one that earns them their money. Amateur astronomers regularly make new discoveries. Amateur musicians and songwriters generate money for coffee houses and bars. Einstein wrote several of his most famous papers while he worked in a patent office. So it is with software. Many people develop software because they enjoy it. Some do it for the respect they gain in online communities that form around the creation of open source applications.

Myth: With F/OSS I cannot get support.

This myth follows from the assumption that when you pay for something you have certain rights and expectations. Though this may be true for physical objects, most software licenses exclude you from such rights. For example, Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA) explicitly states that there is no warranty after 90 days.

Most often when one needs help to learn to use or configure a piece of proprietary commercial software, the best option is a third party. The first place most teachers go for support is to experts in the building. What happens, then, when the person being asked for help has a different version of the program in question than the person asking the question? F/OSS makes this situation unnecessary since there are no license restrictions keeping everyone from upgrading to the same version simultaneously.

Myth: Moving to F/OSS will require retraining and relearning.

Since Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) published user interface standards, many of which were quickly copied by Microsoft, most computer applications work similarly. For the most common operations, it makes little difference whether one uses ooWriter, AbiWord, Google Documents or any of several versions of Microsoft Word.

People are often reluctant to try new computer programs, though most users find only subtle differences between one program and another. In the course of giving conference presentations about F/OSS, two computer coordinators shared stories of upgrading some users' Microsoft Office suite with OpenOffice.org, leaving Microsoft Office icons as the means to start OpenOffice.org. In both cases, most users failed to notice that they were no longer using Microsoft Office.

Myth: Students need to learn the standard applications.

Schools have a responsibility to give students the skills they need to succeed. By the time high school students get to the job market, today's applications will be antiquated. Students need to know how to use word processors to communicate and spreadsheets to explore numbers and graphs. Their technical skills should transcend the particular idiosyncrasies of the applications. http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/57759.html

Training teachers and students to use a piece of software makes that software more valuable. Vendors know this. Business sense, not altruism, is what drives deep discounts on software for education. I once spoke to a vendor of an online grade book who, upon learning that I train teachers, was very interested in my using it in my classes.

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Educators Pay for Software - Twice

Unlike diamonds, software applications are more valuable when more people have them. This is among the reasons that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Office is so popular. Everyone uses it because everyone uses it. When enough of your friends upgrade to a newer version that makes files that you can't read, you upgrade too.

Training teachers and students to use a piece of software makes that software more valuable. Vendors know this. Business sense, not altruism, is what drives deep discounts on software for education. I once spoke to a vendor of an online grade book who, upon learning that I train teachers, was very interested in my using it in my classes.

"What does it cost?" I asked.

"It will cost you nothing. You can use it for free for as long as you like."

"And once I addict my students to your software," I asked pointedly, afraid that I was being rude, "what will it cost them?"

The vendor became excited. "That's exactly what we were talking about in our last sales meeting!"

When technology leaders train teachers and students to use proprietary software, it obligates those teachers and students to buy or steal that software or to have wasted their time on the training. A US$500 Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) computer costs another $150 (an additional 30 percent) with Microsoft Office Basic; the version for students and teachers is available for about $100 (20 percent).

When one considers how many students and teachers buy Microsoft Office because their school has standardized on it the costs are considerable. A medium-sized school district comprises about 20,000 households with children; if 10 percent of them spend $100 to help their students do better in school by buying the software that the school is using, the district has spent $20,000 of its constituents' money. Whether schools should be effectively taxing its constituents in this way is an issue that deserves more attention.

Training Teachers on Tools They Do Not Have

Though it is a safe bet that students will have the skills they need to access certain proprietary tools like an office suite wherever they go -- and that these skills are fairly interchangeable between competing applications -- software for photo editing, desktop publishing, Web editing, statistics and symbolic mathematics are not so widely available. There are dramatic advantages to arming students with tools that assure them access wherever they go.

Teacher educators cannot ensure that teachers will have the hardware that they need to integrate technology into their teaching, but we can provide them with tools that they will have the right to use in perpetuity. Teachers spend their own money for supplies like pencils and paper; encouraging them to spend money on software when free alternatives are available is unnecessary.

On the Allure of Free Proprietary Tools

Some proprietary applications have "free" versions with fewer features, allow "free" use for education, provide a "free" limited use version, or are simply available free of charge, but they are not Free. F/OSS licenses guarantee that the software will be freely available forever. When software is free, but not Free, things can change. My university adopted a file transfer program that was free for educational use, but the company later changed its policy and started charging for the software.

A free-of-cost program that I once used to control CD changers became unavailable when the company producing it was purchased by Microsoft. Some free-of-charge programs are likely to be free forever. Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) Reader, for example, will likely remain free since its large user base is what makes Adobe's PDF-producing applications marketable. Even these programs, however, restrict your rights to redistribute the software.

The following section includes examples of F/OSS that all technology educators should know about and make known to their students. Most of these can be used as drop-in replacements for their proprietary alternatives.

Productivity Applications

Perhaps the most important applications are those that allow students and teachers to create papers, pictures and sounds and manipulate numbers. The Microsoft Office suite is the de facto standard. In the past few years, however, OpenOffice.org's suite has matured considerably.

The feature that it lacks that is most likely to be a problem is a grammar checker; other than that for most tasks, it is quite capable. Computerworld suggests that it will be easier for many users to adopt OpenOffice.org than the forthcoming Office 12. For those with older slower computers or the need for a grammar checker, AbiWord, is a good option. It lacks some features of OpenOffice.org's ooWriter, but for most needs, it is quite sufficient.

The GNU Image Manipulation Program (the GIMP) is a very capable photo editing package. It has similar features to Photoshop, but a different menu structure. For those who already know how Photoshop has things arranged, another set of programmers has re-arranged the GIMP's menus in a program they call GIMPShop.

Inkscape is a vector-based drawing program that is not yet as full-featured as its proprietary counterparts, but is quite capable for a wide range of tasks. For those interested in 3-D modeling, rendering and animation, Blender offers many of the features provided by very expensive packages. Since such a specialized program is likely to be used by only a few students, it can be an attractive option. Tux Paint is a paint program with stamps and sounds for younger kids, somewhat similar to KidPix. It has an easy-to-use interface and saves files without the bother of file names.

Nvu is an HTML editor that is based on code from Mozilla . One of its best features is a simple tool for managing a remote Web site. Nvu is more than adequate for the kinds of Web pages that most K-12 teachers and students need to create. Like other HTML editors, it has multiple views, allowing users to edit HTML by hand or use word processor-like commands to effect the same results.

Scribus is a desktop publishing package that is quite mature. In addition to the expected desktop publishing features, Scribus can also create animated and interactive PDFs. PDFCreator installs as a printer driver for those who need to create simple PDFs, allowing any Windows program that can print to create PDFs. Audacity is an easy-to-use digital audio editing program that has become popular for podcasting, though it is also capable of doing multi-track digital recording work.

Freemind is a Java-based open source concept mapping tool. It does not offer as many pictures as its proprietary counterpart, but does allow publishing maps to a Web page. CmapTools is another free concept mapping package. It is not Free or open source, but is distributed by a university rather than a commercial entity; it could, therefore, become unavailable in the future.

Internet Applications

Firefox is a Web browser that includes features not found in Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE). It is also generally recognized to be less susceptible to viruses than is IE. Firefox has an easy-to-use mechanism for installing add-ons (or extensions), and the open source community has responded by developing hundreds of them. Adblock Plus, for example, will remove ads from Web pages, reducing download time and distractions.

Gaim is a multi-protocol instant messaging (IM) client. It can connect to all of the most popular IM networks, obviating the need to install separate clients for each. Adium uses some of the code from Gaim for a similar application for the Macintosh . Schools that would like to have teachers or students use IM but want control over who can use the service should investigate Jabber, an open IM protocol with cross platform server applications. This software enables schools to provide IM service with complete control over who can participate.

WinSCPand FileZilla are FTP and SCP clients for Windows. Unlike many other free FTP clients, they have no license reminders to annoy users or expirations that require reinstallation. Cyberduck is an FTP/SFTP client for the Mac that will also synchronize local and remote folders. Fugu is an SCP front end for the Mac with drag-and-drop support and the ability to upload entire folders.

Many of the applications mentioned thus far are also available as portable applications. These are special versions designed to run from a USB drive. This enables users to carry their data and their applications and their settings with them. For example, Portable Firefox allows users not only to use Firefox on computers that do not have Firefox installed, but also to have their bookmarks, add-ons and other settings with them.

Content-Specific Applications

Axiom and Maxima are computer algebra systems that will do symbolic calculations and create graphs. Yacas is another such system that can also be run in a Web browser. Sage will run in a Web browser and provides a bootable CD that will set up one computer as a server, allowing other computers in the school to use Sage via a Web browser.

For those interested in teaching or learning astronomy, Celestia and Stellarium are exciting programs. Stellarium is a computer-based planetarium that will show the stars just as they are in the sky. Celestia will simulate moving around the galaxy, showing planets and their orbits.

Server-Based Applications

Course management systems like WebCT and Blackboard are ubiquitous in colleges of education, but expensive to buy and cumbersome to maintain. Moodle provides an alternative that is easier and requires less training for the teacher, the student and the technology support department.

Though Moodle is designed as a platform for online courses, it also makes it easy for K-12 teachers to create Web sites for their courses, letting students, parents and other teachers know what is going on in their classes. Moodle is a Web-based application, so teachers can update their site anywhere without installing or configuring HTML editing software. Because Moodle is not only free but also requires little support, my university is able to provide Moodle sites for any school -- or teacher -- who asks. Students in my class who create course content in Moodle know that they can move it to their own Moodle server to use with their own students.

Because Moodle is easy to run and will work on Windows, Mac OS X and GNU/Linux servers, several of my students have introduced Moodle to their schools and had their school or district adopt it. Sakai, developed by a consortium of schools including Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , is another course management system that is somewhat more powerful but considerably more difficult to install and configure.

Other interesting server-based applications include Koha and OpenBiblio, integrated library systems capable of managing any K-12 school's collection. SquirrelMail is a very usable Web-based mail system.

In Short

Because it is the norm in most schools, businesses and homes, many of the costs of proprietary software are difficult to see. There are now alternatives to the most commonly used applications in schools. When these open source alternatives are nearly equal to -- or better than -- their proprietary competitors, the significant advantages of F/OSS make them the better choice.

When making the decision to license a proprietary product schools need to carefully consider whether their needs may be better met by open source alternatives.

Red Hat Linux Gets Top Government Security Rating

Red Hat Linux received a new level of security certification that should make the software appealing to government agencies.
Robert McMillan

Red Hat Linux has received a new level of security certification that should make the software more appealing to some government agencies.

Last week IBM Corp. was able to achieve EAL4 Augmented with ALC_FLR.3 certification for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, putting it on a par with Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Trusted Solaris operating system, said Dan Frye, vice president of open systems with IBM.

"This is the highest level of security function that anybody has," Frye said. "We have delivered LSPP functionality in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and we have certified that at the EAL4 level of assurance."

This rating is awarded by the government-funded National Information Assurance Partnership's (NIAP) Common Criteria Evaluation and Validation Scheme for IT Security program, which evaluates the security of commercial technology products.

Red Hat Linux has been certified EAL4 Augmented with ALC_FLR.3 on IBM's mainframe, System x, System p5 and eServer systems.

This level of security certification is not usually required for enterprise contracts, but it is mandatory for some programs within government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. National Security Agency, Frye said.

Linux had already been certified at the EAL4 level, but this is the first time that the operating system has received the Labeled Security Protection Profile (LSPP) certification, which relates to its access-control features.

Linux developers have been working to add these "SE Linux" access control features into the operating system for several years now. SE Linux shipped as part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, and now it has been certified for government use, Frye said. "You now have a level of fine-grained control for everybody," he added. "You can set security based on groups or based on individuals."

In addition to LSPP Red Hat Linux has also been certified with Role Based Access Control Protection (RBAC), and that too is noteworthy, said Red Hat Inc.

"Historically, OS vendors have required you buy a separate branched OS to get something that is LSPP and RBAC certified," the company said in a statement. "This is something completely unique for commercial operating systems because the support for multilevel security is native to the OS."

According to Frye, the certification is "big news for the Linux industry" because it shows that open-source software can be used for sensitive computing tasks. "If anyone had any doubts that you could do this with an open-source operating system, we've proved them wrong."

Wireless networks: The burning questions

What Impact Will 802.11n Have? Which Security Threats are Scariest? What of Wireless VoIP?
John Cox

Wireless networks might be mainstream across enterprise networks, but that doesn’t mean they’re no-brainers. Here, we’ve raised and attempted to answer some of the thornier questions you might still be dealing with.

How will 802.11n high-throughput wireless LANs affect the corporate net?

A surprising number of wireless LAN vendors have recently announced enterprise access points based on the draft IEEE 802.11n standard, promising throughput of 100M to 200Mbps per frequency band, or from three to six times that of today’s 11g and 11a nets.

Whether network managers opt for the draft 11n products, certified interoperable by the Wi-Fi Alliance, or wait for the final IEEE ratification in late 2008 or early 2009, they could face any of these four issues: overloading part of the wired infrastructure; overloading existing, older wireless LAN switches; forcing an upgrade to higher-powered Power-over-Ethernet; and repositioning and rewiring some number of existing wireless access points.

Most of the new access points will come with one or even two Gigabit Ethernet ports. “We’re mostly ‘100 meg’ to our buildings,” says Michael Dickson, network analyst at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “[For 11n,], we'll need gigabit switches in the closet with 10-gigabit uplinks. That’s a definite cost, almost a necessary cost for 11n.”

“11n adds an incentive to go to ‘gigE’ [in the wired infrastructure],” says Craig Mathias, principal with Farpoint Group.

One related issue with upgrading a cable plant, given the capacity of 11n, is whether to upgrade the Ethernet wall jacks, a decision about whether the wireless infrastructure becomes the principal means of network access.

If existing wireless LAN controllers also lack the net capacity, and the needed processing power and memory to handle the increased traffic, they’ll have to be replaced, especially if the vendor has a purely centralized architecture with every packet running from each access point to the controller. Vendors have been upgrading their controllers over the past year with 11n in mind, sometimes also offloading the packet switching functions to the access points, creating a distributed data plane.

“With this kind of distributed data plane, there’s no bottleneck at the controller,” says Mathias. “If you have Meru or Extricom, you have centralized data and control planes. But if you design the box to handle whatever is thrown at it, it’s not a problem.”

Benchmarking wireless performance to verify such things as workloads and traffic conditions is likely to become much more important for 11n nets. To do this, enterprises or systems integrators will use complex performance-testing tools, such as those from VeriWave and Azimuth Systems, which previously had been used mainly by radio chip makers and equipment manufacturers. “This will be a big thing down the road,” Mathias predicts.

The Power over Ethernet (PoE) issue may catch some users by surprise. “The PoE infrastructure may have its upper limits tested by 11n deployments [that are] used to their maximum capabilities,” says Chris Silva, analyst at Forrester Research.

PoE lets you run just one cable between switch and access point, instead of two, potentially a big cost saving. But the 11n access points draw more electricity than the 15.4 watts maximum provided by power injectors based on the IEEE 802.3af standard. That will at least double with a new standard, 802.3at, now being finalized. At least one vendor, Trapeze, has created new code that can let its just-announced 11n access point make use of existing PoE injectors, but there are tradeoffs in terms of performance.

“The promise of 11n is more than simply going faster,” says Phil Belanger, managing director for Novarum. “The increased range of 11n will make it more practical to deploy large systems using the 5-GHz band, which has many more channels than the 2.4-GHz and has not been used very much to date. That, in turn, will enable much higher capacity wireless LANs. For many enterprises, a wireless network that delivers hundreds of megabits of capacity everywhere will be good enough to be the only network.”

What's the biggest looming wireless/mobile security threat?

We’ve identified three, but we’ll treat one of them (denial of service)

The other two threats are emblematic of two very different human dynamics: one springs from the increasing cunning of attackers, the other from the continuing ignorance of users and even IT professionals about the nature of wireless threats.

Gartner says:

• Evaluate cellular data plans as alternative to public Wi-Fi hotspot access in hotels and coffee shops.
• Equip wireless laptops with a personal firewall that enforces security policies.
• Scan and update laptops with revised security settings, software patches, and updated antivirus and antispyware applications.
• Consider "connection agent" corporate packages, such as those offered by iBahn, T-Mobile, iPass, Fiberlink Communications and others: a small agent running on the laptop with advanced security protocols for two-way authentication.
• Protect access to corporate network by remote workers using personal PCs with on-demand security tools over SSL VPNs.
• Authenticate users with two strong factors. Ideally, one factor should be a one-time password.
• Use VoIP only over a VPN.

In 2006, researchers identified problems with wireless interface device drivers that could be exploited in various ways by attackers. Drivers function at the level of the operating system kernel, where malicious code potentially has access to all parts of the system.

Typically, these driver vulnerabilities involve manipulating the lengths of specific pieces of information contained in the wireless management frames, causing a buffer overflow where a malicious payload can be executed, according to Andrew Lockhart, security analyst with Network Chemistry.

“A driver will process these data elements whether or not [the adapter is] associated with an access point. So the combination of simply having a powered-on wireless card with a vulnerable driver can leave a user open to attack,” he says.

The obvious solution is to replace the vulnerable drivers. But that is an ad hoc process. “In the Windows world, most wireless drivers are part of a third-party software package, so they don’t get updated with a Windows update, which makes it troublesome to eliminate the problem, and it will likely be a problem for a while,” he says.

Attackers are becoming smarter about what and how they attack, increasingly using evasion tactics to sidestep or confuse wireless intrusion detection/prevention applications (IDS/IPS). The long-term solution is smarter IDS/IPS systems that can more comprehensively monitor and analyze wireless traffic and behaviors. But researchers, such as those at Dartmouth College’s Project MAP (for measure, analyze and protect) are only in the early stages of such work.

The second wireless threat is related to the fact that many mobile users seem to be not getting smarter about wireless security.

“The biggest threat is people who use open Wi-Fi access points and don’t use encryption or VPNs,” says David Kotz, Dartmouth professor of computer science and one of the lead Project MAP researchers. “They trust some random hot spot operator or open access point somewhere with their personal or professional data. People are careless.”

That’s putting it diplomatically.

Security consultant Winn Schwartau likes to tell how his then-12-year-old son used a Windows-based Palm Treo to wirelessly eavesdrop on business executives using laptops or PDAs on an airport or other public Wi-Fi net. He routinely collected username/password combinations to corporate nets. “My son had passwords to 40 of the Fortune 100 [nets],” he says.

The key vulnerability was these users, even if they used an encrypted VPN tunnel to access the corporate net, repeatedly used an unencrypted wireless link to access Internet mail or other Web sites in the clear, allowing the younger Schwartau to collect information to access the user’s Web mail account. He then used it to send the user an e-mail from his own account. “I can then infect that machine [with malicious code], and have access to your VPN account,” Schwartau says.

The inverse of this problem is allowing personal mobile devices, which have been exposed to the Internet in the wild, to connect to corporate nets. “Normal security standards and procedures are often ignored when users are allowed to connect their own devices,” says Lora Mellies, information security officer at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “For instance, there may be no scheme to regularly back up the information, no firewall or antivirus protection installed, and no use of encryption for confidentiality or [of] tokens/certificates for strong authentication.”

“No one can define the perimeter [of the corporate net] anymore,” says Schwartau. “The rule is: ‘Thou shalt connect nowhere except to the corporate network; once you’re there, you can do whatever you want, but we’ll be watching you.’”

This threat will only get worse as the number of ill-trained mobile users grows, along with the ballooning amount of sensitive or proprietary corporate data on their mobile devices.

Is wireless [Wi-Fi-based] VoIP worth the bother?

Judging from the market, where enterprises vote with their dollars, the answer so far is, “Generally, no” at least for large-scale deployments.

There are exceptions, though rare, and they tend to prove the rule. One of the most often cited is Osaka Gas, in Japan. The utility used Meru Networks’ WLAN infrastructure to support 6,000 mobile phones that were equipped with cellular and Wi-Fi network interfaces. The price tag for the whole project: $10 million.

VoIP over Wi-Fi market projections (North America)

2007 2012
VoIP access points for enterprises $442 million $1.75 billion
VoIP wireless LAN switch and mobility controllers $500 million $2.7 billion
VoIP over Wi-Fi handsets (Wi-Fi only) $93 million $600 million
Source: Juniper Research

The reluctance to embrace large-scale wireless VoIP isn’t suprising. Enterprisewide wireline VoIP deployments have only fairly recently found traction, and many of these have been angst-ridden. To be fair, often the angst is created by specific issues or problems at a given enterprise site.

But using a wireless connection in place of a wire adds lots of complexities, solutions to which are only slowly maturing. Access points have to be pervasively distributed to support voice traffic, while radio interference can easily affect voice quality or call sessions. Wireless eavesdropping on unsecured VoIP sessions is another worry for enterprise managers.

And it’s difficult to pinpoint savings, says Forrester’s Chris Silva. “Wireless VoIP has been positioned as a way to replace cellular minutes of use,” he says. “But corporate IT doesn’t have a good handle on what they’re actually spending on this: It’s often just expensed. So it’s hard to make a case for savings and hard therefore to make a case for investing in VoIP over WLAN.”

Over the course of three months we tested WLAN switches and access points from Aruba Wireless Networks, Chantry Networks (now Siemens), Cisco and Colubris Networks in terms of audio quality QoS enforcement, roaming capabilities, and system features.

Among his findings:

* With QoS enforcement turned on, and with only voice traffic on the net, calls nearly matched toll-quality audio.

* With even a small amount of data traffic, dropped calls became common and audio quality was poor, even with QoS still enabled.

* Roaming from one access point to another either failed or took so long, from 0.5 to 10 seconds, that calls dropped.

Those findings reflect some of the experience at Dartmouth College, which embraced a limited VoIP deployment on its pervasive Aruba-based campus wireless LAN four years ago. Initially, some college staff used the wearable mobile VoIP phone from Vocera. There were some problems with roaming, according to David Bucciero, Dartmouth director of technical services, who despite these teething pains is one who says wireless VoIP is worth the hassle.

More recently, the college has added just under 100 Cisco 7920 wireless VoIP handsets which “were flawless,” though latency was an issue early in the deployment, says Bucciero. Reducing those delays has been an ongoing tuning process, working closely with both Aruba and Cisco, the wireline net vendor for the college.

Things have changed in two years, including the advent of the 802.11e QoS standard, augmented by continued proprietary QoS tweaks, and faster handoffs between access points.

But the real change has been the growing interest in, and products for, shifting call sessions automatically between cellular and Wi-Fi nets. At the enterprise level, this convergence entails an IP PBX, usually a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) server, the WLAN infrastructure, new specialized servers from start-ups like Divitas and established players like Siemens, and accompanying client code running on so-called dual-mode handsets, which have both a cellular and a Wi-Fi radio.

Dartmouth is doing exactly this, running a pilot test with the Nokia E61i, a dual-mode mobile phone recently introduced in the United States as part of its convergence partnership with Cisco. The handsets use SIP to talk to the Cisco CallManager IP PBX.

“Cellular and Wi-Fi convergence is the real pull for VoIP over wireless LANS,” says Farpoint’s Mathias. “Once that [convergence] happens, then we can converge dialing directories, voice mail, other services, and have one phone that works everywhere.”

Will my organization need to change to support enterprise mobility?


A growing number of companies are moving beyond or even ignoring mobile e-mail in favor of mobilizing line-of-business applications.

“When you start rolling out these applications over a wider expanse, the questions become ‘how can I lower costs of existing operations’ or ‘how can I provide new opportunities to grow revenue,’” says Bob Egan, chief analyst with TowerGroup, a Needham, Mass., consulting company. “These questions force you into thinking in a strategic mode versus an ad hoc mode.”

In a 2006 TechRepublic survey, 370 U.S. IT and business professionals said they were targeting the following applications for mobilization (respondents could pick more than one answer): intranet access (chosen by 23%), field service/data entry/data collection (21%), personal information management (19%), customer relationship management or sales force automation (16%), supply chain management (12%), and ERP (nearly 10%).

The justification for making these applications mobile is increased worker productivity and efficiency, which was cited as “extremely significant” by 35% of the same respondents. The two other top justifications (“extremely significant”) were reduced costs, cited by nearly 30%, and improved data collection and accuracy, cited by 28%. In all three cases, larger percentages cited these justifications as “significant.”

Successfully exploiting such applications and achieving these goals requires changes in such diverse areas as employee and manager responsibilities and accountability, network access and authentication, mobile device management, end user and wireless networking tech support, and security and data-protection policies and enforcement.

“If you don’t actively manage [mobile] workforce issues, including human resources and psychological issues as well as technology, you don’t get the full value,” says John Girard, vice president for Gartner. “In the end, the most important parts are the human parts: How do you monitor work, how do you assign responsibility, and do you understand what your team is doing?”

To make this possible, Gartner recommends consolidating an array of mobile provisioning, management and security functions (such as vulnerability assessment, security configuration, standard software image control, security and performance monitoring), shifting routine functions from the security group to the operations group, and forging joint policy development between those groups. One goal of this approach is to minimize the number of individual software products that target subsets of mobility issues but can’t share information and aren’t part of a strategic mobility plan.

“If you have different policies for different platforms [desktops, notebooks, smartphones], how do you maintain consistency?” Girard asks. “Most companies have a software distribution plan that works well for the desktop but less well for notebooks, and even less well for smartphones.” Or a well-developed method for backing up desktop PCs may ignore mobile devices completely, despite the growing amount of corporate data on them and the greater likelihood of loss, theft or hacks.

“[Organizational changes] are all about controlling the flow of the company’s intellectual property – how to provision and protect the data on the net and on the devices - and all the responsibilities that go along with that,” says TowerGroup’s Bob Egan.
Mobility becomes a system, or a system of systems that has to be viewed and treated as a whole. “With more and more users being mobile every day, we are paying a lot of attention not only to the uptime but also to the health of the system,” says Daver Malik, telecom engineer at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “Careful watch on the system usage, capacity and trends is kept so as to prevent any undue disruption to the users.”

One related aspect in preventing undue user disruption is tech support and the enterprise help desk. “Very few companies do a good job in supporting mobile workers,” says Jack Gold, principal of J. Gold Associates. “Their support infrastructure today is for desktop support: You can’t send a technician into the field to fix a [mobile] problem.” The tech support team needs new training, new tools, new policies and procedures to be able to effectively and quickly respond to mobility problems.

One emerging alternative is to outsource some or all of these tasks to a new breed of managed services supplier. One example is Movero Technology, an Austin company that handles all aspects of cellular-based device and application deployments for an enterprise.

How do I control costs in an expanding mobile and wireless environment?

Get a grip.

There are lots of costs in mobility: wireless and wired infrastructures; cellular voice and data plans, including roaming charges; the usage patterns of those plans; mobile device purchases; applications; software for device management; training; tech support.

“Viewing this from a strategic perspective means these costs become more visible,” says TowerGroup’s Egan. A strategic mobility plan for the enterprise uncovers, identifies and quantifies the true costs of the typical piecemeal approach to enterprise mobility, and creates the possibility for systematically controlling and minimizing them, he says.

This can be a shock to organizations that have handled mobility in an ad hoc way, Egan says. “Viewed from a strategic viewpoint, costs become more visible, so it seems like they’re much greater,” he says. “But the ad hoc approach to mobility hid the real costs, and those costs are much greater in my view than they are for a strategic approach.”

A strategic plan can also make more visible the potential benefits of mobility, in terms of saving money or increasing revenues, an essential element in evaluating the needed investments.

Egan says one of his biggest surprises was talking with auto rental giant Avis, which was one of the first to have employees equipped with wireless handhelds, to meet customers in the parking lot as they returned their automobiles. “I said ‘what a great thing for customer service,’” Egan says. “The Avis guy started laughing.” The Week in Review is edited and published by Jack Spratts. The real benefit of the system was that it let Avis make an instant, on-the-spot decision about whether to keep the car for servicing, which costs money, or send it to auction. It was about where not to spend Avis’ cash.

With a strategic plan, centralized and standardized device and software purchases are possible, a key element in rationalizing and reducing mobility costs. At the same time, changes in network infrastructure and in business processes can be budgeted and planned for. A mobile deployment can be frustrating and investments wasted if, say, an increase in data or transactions overwhelms back-end systems.

“Utilize your fixed infrastructure to its maximum potential to support the expanding wireless/mobile environment,” says Hartsfield-Jackson Airport’s Malik. “A carefully developed plan for the fixed portion of the network (for example fiber) that is capable of supporting future expansions both in terms of size and technology is the key component of controlling the cost related to such expansions, as and when they happen.”

Acquisition costs have to be managed for mobility just as they are for corporate desktops. “It’s very important to know the costs and ownership implications of everything you buy [for a mobile deployment],” says Gartner’s Girard. “Figure out what platforms you’re willing to support, and provide business groups and users the incentives for adopting those.”

Girard recommends a thorough inventory of the relevant tools, systems and services you already have, including software licenses. “Where have you already spent money?” he says. “Then apply Occam’s Razor, simplify. Ask yourself, ‘How do I reach fewer products, both to reduce complexity and reduce costs?’”

A hidden element in cost calculations, according to Venture Development Corp. (VDC), is the impact of downtime and tech support if the mobile device, or some other part of the mobile system, fails. In an October 2006 report, VDC estimated that the failure rates of some consumer-grade mobile devices can exceed 20% per month. “In fact, the overall cost of downtime/lost productivity can represent up to 30% of the TCO (total cost of ownership) of a mobile device,” according to the report.

VDC notes that device vendors are introducing new features and technologies to boost the durability and ruggedness of laptops and other handhelds. This class includes the semi-rugged laptops, which can endure a lot more rough handling and accidents than their consumer-grade cousins, even though they can’t match the military-grade devices designed for the harshest conditions. The higher initial capital cost for such devices is worth it, because the company avoids the much higher costs of downtime due to equipment failures.

A strategic plan makes it possible to negotiate more aggressively with wireless carriers, refining cellular data plans tuned for various groups of users, minimizing overage charges in terms of rates and shared minutes or megabytes, and keeping international roaming charges in check, says consultant Jack Gold.

What can I do to stop wireless denial-of-service attacks?

Not much.

There are two kinds of DoS attacks emerging. One uses radio waves to jam a wireless LAN (WLAN) access point or network access card. The other, more sophisticated, manipulates the 802.11n protocols to accomplish the same thing – blocking a radio from sending or receiving.

A good example of jamming, though it’s unintentional, is caused by the microwave trucks used by TV stations covering the Boston Red Sox home games at Fenway Park. In some cases, the tightly focused beams are not a problem for the baseball park’s unlicensed band 802.11 WLAN because they’re aimed away from the park to one of several towers. But in one case, the beam shot across the park, bounced off a bank of newly installed metal bleachers, and reflected back into the park, wiping out the WLAN.

Red Sox IT Director Steve Conley says he could stand right next to a WLAN access point with a wireless notebook and still not be able to connect to it.

Few homemade or commercial jammers come with the power of these commercial microwave systems. But for short distances, they don’t need a lot. Products available include a $400 pocket-sized jammer that can disrupt three frequencies, including 2.4 GHz, up to 90 feet. It’s advertised as a way to disable “spy cameras” running on wireless links. Another palm-sized model with a range of about 30 feet costs about $290.

There’s even the Wi-Fi Hog project, complete with its own philosophical justification for “liberating” public wireless nets from the concept of shared use. The Hog, mounted on a notebook PC, uses selective jamming to lock out other clients from an access point and stake an exclusive claim on its use.

But a recent article on the Web site of the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society, a nonprofit professional group focusing in industrial automation, puts the jamming threat into perspective. The article, by Richard Caro, chief executive of CMS Associates, lays out several reasons why jamming is not as easy to pull off effectively as some claim and others fear.

(Caro mentions that the tactic of battlefield radio jamming by German forces in World War II led to the invention of frequency hopping spread spectrum communications as a countermeasure, an innovation patented by Hungarian-born Hollywood actor Hedy Lamarr and her associate George Antheil.)

“Interference is definitely an issue,” says Farpoint Group’s Craig Mathias. “We were able to construct some bad interference scenarios and show their impact. It was quite interesting to see how much damage could be done.”

“You’re toast,” says Winn Schwartau, of The Security Awareness Company, who wrote about the threat in his 2000 book CyberShock.

Currently, there’s no real countermeasure for a deliberate, focused jamming attack, except to quickly detect it, with a tool like Cognio Spectrum Analyzer, which Cisco is offering as part of its wireless LAN management tool set. Once it’s located, you can use “crowbar remediation, to beat the crap out of it,” says Mathias.

Less amenable to crowbars is the second type of DoS attack, the abuse of the 802.11 media access control (MAC) layer protocols by creating changes in drivers or firmware. “It causes the network card to misbehave with respect to the MAC protocols,” says David Kotz, professor of computer science at Dartmouth College, where this is one of the areas under study by Kotz’s MAP Project (for measure, analyze, and protect), a joint effort with Aruba Networks. “Because the card isn’t being ‘fair’ in following the rules, it makes the net unusable to others.”

One example would be to send de-authentication frames to a specific client, or broadcast them to all the clients, of a given access point. Obediently, the clients will disconnect from the access point. “Now most of them re-authenticate right away,” Kotz says. “But if the attack repeats, you’re getting these interruptions on your [Wi-Fi] phone or video stream.”

For now, the response is the same as for jamming attacks: detect the problem as quickly as possible, find the offender as quickly as possible, and send in “police with guns,” says Kotz.

“But fundamentally, the long-term solution is to fix the protocol itself,” he says.

Yer OUT!

Courier-Journal Reporter Ejected From U of L Game

Bennett removed for blogging super-regional
Rick Bozich

A Courier-Journal sports reporter had his media credential revoked and was ordered to leave the press box during the NCAA baseball super-regional yesterday because of what the NCAA alleged was a violation of its policies prohibiting live Internet updates from its championship events.

Gene McArtor, a representative of the NCAA baseball committee, approached C-J staffer Brian Bennett at the University of Louisville's Jim Patterson Stadium in the bottom of the fifth inning in the U of L-Oklahoma State game. McArtor told him that blogging from an NCAA championship event "is against NCAA policies. We're revoking the credential and need to ask you to leave the stadium."

Courier-Journal executive editor Bennie L. Ivory challenged the NCAA's action last night and said the newspaper would consider an official response.

"It's clearly a First Amendment issue," Ivory said. "This is part of the evolution of how we present the news to our readers. It's what we did during the Orange Bowl. It's what we did during the NCAA basketball tournament. It's what we do."

U of L circulated a memo on the issue from Jeramy Michiaels, the NCAA's manager of broadcasting, before Friday's first super-regional game. It said blogs are considered a "live representation of the game" and that any blog containing action photos or game reports would be prohibited.

"In essence, no blog entries are permitted between the first pitch and the final out of each game," the memo said.

Bennett had filed Internet reports from U of L's NCAA Tournament games at the Columbia (Mo.) Regional and did so from the first two games of the super-regional.

He was told before yesterday's game by U of L assistant sports information director Sean Moth that he was violating NCAA policy by filing periodic reports for The Courier-Journal's Web site, courier-journal.com.

After consulting with his editors, Bennett filed a report at 4:12 p.m. after the top of the first inning and added 15 more reports before he was asked to leave. U of L won 20-2 to advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

"It's a real question that we're being deprived of our right to report within the First Amendment from a public facility," said Jon L. Fleischaker, the newspaper's attorney.

"Once a player hits a home run, that's a fact. It's on TV. Everybody sees it. (The NCAA) can't copyright that fact. The blog wasn't a simulcast or a recreation of the game. It was an analysis."

During the middle of yesterday's game, Courier-Journal representatives were told by two members of the U of L athletic staff that if the school did not revoke Bennett's credential it would jeopardize the school's chances of hosting another NCAA baseball event.

"If that's true, that's nothing short of extortion and thuggery," Ivory said. "We will be talking to our attorneys (today) to see where we go from here."

Said U of L athletic director Tom Jurich: "As an NCAA institution, we must abide by all NCAA rules, including those in hosting NCAA events. Our staff sought an amicable solution to this situation from many angles.

"It's unfortunate that it led to the actions that were taken. This is not an issue that should mar the most fantastic day for college baseball in this state."

McArtor said he did not "think it serves any purpose" to answer questions and declined further comment.

U of L's associate athletic director for media relations, Kenny Klein, referred questions to Michiaels, who did not return a telephone call yesterday.

Firms Tidy Up Clients' Bad Online Reputations
Andrew LaVallee

• The News: Reputation-management services are trying to help clients downplay or remove negative Web information, in exchange for fees that can add up to hundreds of dollars.

• The Background: With employers increasingly checking Google, MySpace and other sites for information on prospective hires, people are becoming more concerned with how and where they appear in Web searches.

• The Pitfalls: Some targeted Web sites, which are protected by the First Amendment, have chosen to deny or mock requests to remove negative information, earning it even wider attention. Also, the reputation-management services are fighting a tide of Web sites that encourage users to offer opinions about other people.

As she puts it, Christina Parascandola has the bad luck of having an unusual name.

The 37-year-old attorney was mentioned in news reports and blog posts about a heated dispute between residents of her Washington neighborhood and a noisy local bar that hosted some gay-themed events. Ms. Parascandola was worried that she came across in the articles as homophobic, particularly to potential employers.

"When you Google my name, it looks like I'm some kind of monster," she says.

Ms. Parascandola set out to minimize the bad publicity. She hired a company called ReputationDefender Inc. that promises to help individuals "search and destroy" negative information about them on the Internet. Businesses and others have long employed so-called search-engine-optimization techniques to try to make themselves appear higher in Web-search results. Now services like ReputationDefender and DefendMyName are charging fees that can run into hundreds of dollars to help clients remove or downplay unflattering online information.

The companies cite success stories of customers who have buried snippy blog comments, embarrassing photos or critical mentions of their names. But, as Ms. Parascandola found out, the services can't wipe everything off the Internet, and their efforts can backfire. ReputationDefender sent a letter to political blog Positive Liberty asking it to remove Ms. Parascandola's name from a critical entry on the grounds the post was "outdated and invasive." Blogger Jason Kuznicki refused, and posted a new entry mocking the request. He says he "had a good laugh over it."

Michael Fertik, a 28-year-old Harvard Law graduate who founded ReputationDefender in October, said misfires represent a "tiny percentage" of the company's efforts to fight the "permanent and public" nature of negative online content. For fees starting at $10 a month, the 10-person Louisville, Ky.-based company scours blogs, photo-sharing sites and social networks for information about a client, then charges $30 for each item the user instructs it to try to correct or remove. The service won't say how many customers it has.

He declined to say how many times ReputationDefender has succeeded in having content removed. He cited recent examples including a man whose ex-lover posted revealing photos to a Web site; an identity-theft victim who had his personal information published on a blog and a medical student who had discussed his own clinical depression in an old newsgroup that he didn't know was public. Mr. Fertik declined to identify those clients.

Janel Lee, a mortgage loan closer in Minong, Wis., sought ReputationDefender out after her ex-boyfriend began posting her work and cellphone numbers in response to several questions on Yahoo Answers, including "What is 50 Cent's phone number?"

She got 15 to 20 calls a day, sometimes as late as 3 a.m. One after-hours voicemail, presumably intended for the rapper, was a lengthy rap performance. "I sing blues, jazz and rock. This was painful," said Ms. Lee.

Ms. Lee said she contacted Yahoo Inc. directly but was unable to get most of the information taken down. So she paid ReputationDefender about $240 for a two-year membership, plus about $150 for the posts that the company, over three months, got removed. "It was quite a great relief knowing that someone was working on it for me," she said. Mr. Fertik said Yahoo removed the information after being contacted by ReputationDefender.

A Yahoo spokeswoman said the company doesn't discuss individual customer-care cases, but that if someone's contact information is posted on Yahoo Answers without approval, the site will remove it.

ReputationDefender begins by sending emails on behalf of its clients to Web-site owners. The letters typically introduce the company, identify the client and the offending content, and ask the recipient to remove it. The letters don't make threats -- Mr. Fertik, despite his training, and others at ReputationDefender aren't lawyers -- but instead try to appeal to recipients' sense of fairness: "Like our clients, and perhaps like you, we think the Internet is sometimes unnecessarily hurtful to the privacy and reputations of everyday people," one such letter reads.

"The first thing we do is we just ask, very politely," said Mr. Fertik. "Thereafter, we can get less polite," including contacting a site's Internet service provider to complain about the site. When Web site owners don't respond to its letters, ReputationDefender sometimes suggests that clients hire a lawyer, though Mr. Fertik said that happens infrequently.

Mr. Kuznicki, the blogger, said he refused to take down the information about Ms. Parascandola because he merely included published information and expressed personal opinions. "I was surprised to get a notice like this, because I don't run an unprofessional or defamatory blog," said Mr. Kuznicki, a Bowie, Md., policy researcher for a think tank.

Ms. Parascandola criticized ReputationDefender for sending a letter directly to someone who had already written critical things of her -- an approach she considered clumsy. "I certainly would not have authorized that," she said. Mr. Fertik said he apologized to Ms. Parascandola and refunded her fees.

While Mr. Fertik said such problems are rare, takedown attempts that go awry can generate considerable unwanted attention. Stuart Neilson, a statistics instructor at a university in Cork, Ireland, claimed on his personal Web site that he was the victim of "academic bullying" by a colleague. After the other professor hired ReputationDefender to try to have the accusations removed, Dr. Neilson rebuffed the firm and posted his exchanges with the company on his site. Those posts received wider attention when they were republished on a blog devoted to faculty discord in academia. "It has merely generated additional publicity," he said.

ReputationDefender also sent a takedown request to Consumerist, a Gawker Media blog that had written about a man who was briefly jailed for harassment after repeatedly calling online travel agent Priceline.com Inc. for a refund. The letter asked the blog to remove or alter the archived post, saying it was "outdated and disturbing" to its client. Consumerist editor Ben Popken blasted the request with a profanely titled entry, calling it an attempt at censorship. "It's not like we're spreading libel," he said. "They were trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube."

ReputationDefender's Mr. Fertik said the company is no longer sending letters to irreverent blogs like Consumerist, which may be more likely to mock the company's efforts. "We are no longer taking those kinds of risks with those kinds of outlets," he said.

DefendMyName, a two-year-old unit of Portland, Maine-based marketing firm QED Media Group LLC, markets itself as a way to remove negative mentions from search-engine results. What it actually does, said founder Rob Russo, is attempt to bury them below promotional sites, blogs and forum postings it creates for clients. The company's rates start at $1,000 a month, he said, though he declined to say how many clients it has.

Adding positive content to combat negative mentions isn't against Google Inc.'s rules, a company spokeswoman said, as long as the content is original and the companies don't use manipulative techniques to push pages higher in search results. She declined to comment on individual reputation companies.

Chris Dellarocas, a University of Maryland associate professor who studies how reputations are built online, said the services are fighting a growing trend of sites that let users recommend, rank and opine on other people, from RateMyProfessor to Rapleaf, a site for people to rate each other after business transactions.

Reputation-management companies "have a place in this new ecosystem, but a limited one," he said. "Let's not forget that all of these mediums are protected by the First Amendment," he added. "The question is, what is defamation and what is a genuinely deserved negative comment?"

Dell Demands Takedown Of Our "22 Confessions Of A Former Dell Sales Manager"

from Tracy Holland
to ben@consumerist.com
date Jun 14, 2007 4:39 PM
subject Posting by former Dell employee

Dear Ben,

Please remove the posting located at the following link:


It contains information that is confidential and proprietary to Dell.

While not all aspects of the entry are accurate, ostensibly an ex-employee posted Dell's confidential information in violation of his or her employment agreement and confidentiality obligations (which prohibit the disclosure of such information both during and after the period of employment).

We would appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. Please confirm that the posting has been removed by the end of the day tomorrow.

Thank you, and please give me a call if you would like to discuss further.

Tracy Holland


Tracy J. Holland
Dell Inc.
from Ben Popken to Tracy Holland cc Gaby date Jun 15, 2007 12:58 AM subject Re: Posting by former Dell employee


I am forwarding your request to our legal counsel, who will communicate with you from here on.

- Ben


from Tracy Holland
to ben@consumerist.com
cc Gaby
date Jun 15, 2007 1:50 AM
subject RE: Posting by former Dell employee

Thank you. Note, though, it has been almost nine hours since we made the request, yet the posting is still up, with the number of hits growing logarithmically.

Also note, we do not make these requests often (as I'm sure you know, there are thousands of blogs and other online postings that relate to Dell and its products), and we do not make them without good cause. Therefore, while we wait to discuss this request with counsel (despite the source and the clearly confidential and proprietary nature of the information), we ask that you act in good faith to minimize the potential damage caused by this disclosure, and take down the posting immediately. Dell will not regard any such immediate action as an agreement regarding the merits of the request, or as an admission of any liability on the part of consumerist.com or any related person or entity.

If after any necessary discussion between counsel we cannot agree that this was indeed the appropriate course of action, you can always re-post the item.

Thank you,

Tracy Holland


from Gaby
to Tracy Holland
cc Ben Popken
date Jun 15, 2007 7:33 AM
subject Re: Posting by former Dell employee

Dear Ms. Holland,

Despite some suggestions to the contrary among some of our fellow beings, most humans need to sleep. Some of us also receive hundreds of emails a day and have to deal with every one of them. I received this email at 12am last night. It is 7am now. That's a pretty good turnaround.

Nonetheless, that's immaterial to the matter in hand. I've reviewed the post, and it appears to me that it is valid, useful and apparently overwhelmingly accurate. It's not bitter, angry or destructive. It is quite simply good and useful information for consumers. And it appears that a Dell rep has already provided updates to various sections, which we have published, which, since they have only corrected certain parts of this report, implies that the uncorrected parts must be true. If that's not the case, please feel free to send us more clarifications and we will update the post further with your additional notes.

We came by this material entirely legally: we were provided it by a third party voluntarily, we did not use any improper means to solicit any Dell employee to breach any agreement he may have had with you. Therefore, we do not believe we are in breach of any law in reporting on this material and, as such, cannot comply with your demands.

In addition, as I am sure you must realise - and there is certainly a history of this with Dell already - consumers tend to react far better when a company responds collaboratively to criticism, than when they act heavy-handedly or dismissively. Removing this story would be far far more damaging to Dell, I assure you, than responding to it on the Dell blog or elsewhere, since in telling our readers that Dell shut down our reporting, we would unleash a chaos of fury and acres of criticism in the press. Forget any legal position you may want to take, meritorious or not, I am deadly serious when I say that I simply cannot recommend this as a course of action. I've seen it happen before and it is really not pretty and I have no doubt that you will regret it.

Of course, it is your decision whether you want to pursue this matter, but I advise you to talk to the team that had to deal with the falllout from the Jeff Jarvis affair before you decide to try and silence your critics. Work for the customer, not against them.

Best regards,



IFPI Board Member Threatens University Lecturer Over RIAA Criticism

Andrew Dubber is the Degree Leader for Music Industries at UCE Birmingham, in the UK. His blog has carried some criticism of the RIAA in the past, just as many sites do these days. But when Paul Birch of the IFPI, BPI and Revolver Records read some anti-RIAA comments, it resulted in an amazing exchange of emails between him and Mr Dubber. We have them here.

Article reproduced in full with permission from Andrew Dubber

First a little introduction to Andrew. From his site, NewMusicStrategies.

My name’s Andrew Dubber. I’m the Degree Leader for Music Industries at UCE Birmingham, UK. I’m a senior lecturer and researcher with a particular interest in online music, radio and new media technology.

Originally from the city of Auckland, New Zealand, I’ve been based in the UK these past two and a half years.

My background is in both radio and the music industry, and I’ve written numerous articles, book chapters, and conference presentations about these sorts of new strategies and technologies in both of those sectors.

In the context of a blog about the online music world, I thought you might be interested in an email exchange I’ve had this evening with a board member of both the IFPI and the BPI.

I’ve had an email conversation with Paul Birch of Revolver Records this evening. Rather than comment on it, I’ll just post it here for your information, in full and unedited, with his permission.



Looking at your site I do think allowing indiscriminate criticism of the RIAA is inappropriate for a Government funded institution.



Hi Paul,

You might be right, but I’m not a government funded institution, and nor do I consider my criticism of the RIAA indiscriminate.

However, if you find something that’s factually incorrect, I’d be more than happy to amend it.

Thanks for checking out the site.




Let’s talk about it when we next meet-up, as I don’t intend to write a thesis on the subject.

However, I stand by my assertion.




Fair enough. But if you do happen to stumble across something that you have a particular problem with, if you could point it out to me, that would be most helpful.

Look forward to catching up.


Andrew, Well I am in regular contact with the RIAA and both they and the IFPI are subject to hate mail as a consequence of hubcap, our litigation against consumers for illegally downloading our copyrights.

This manifests itself into individual members of our RIAA management being singled-out for malicious statements and blogs on the internet. As an example you probably saw the case earlier in the week of a Chinese Laundry in the United States being sued for $54M for loosing a pair of trousers, belonging to a lawyer. If you take a look at the criticism on your blog of the RIAA by one of the contributors, they are engaging in a similar malicious prosecution in the US courts but go further and make a number of assertions through your blog that gives credibility to illegal downloading.

I am not concerned that people decide to take out law-suits against our organisations; we have the resources to deal with that. What does concern me however is the repeating of malicious falsehoods that occur in a number of internet blog, and are re-reported as having validity contribute widely to the assertion that right is on the side of wrong-doing.

You might argue that your professional blog is your opinion alone, however you are interwoven into the views and policy of the University of Central England and I think that puts you in an exposed positon Andrew.

It might not be nice to be sued by the RIAA and potentially put in a position of being made bankrupt; neither is issuing redundancy notices to hard working staff. People don’t have to download; they do however have to work. Consumers that enjoy music have a lot of options and enjoying it free on the radio is at least one of them, with last FM and You Tube there is near on demand service free at the point of use. But stealing isn’t clever, but presumably most people don’t really wish to steal, and only share because it is so easy and seems harmless/victimless. If people need to affirmatively hide their activities, then there is an understanding of wrongdoing. I feel that your blog underpins the misuse of our copyright and attacks our trade associations.

There are very serious allegations made in this anti-RIAA link on your blog, and I don’t think its appropriate that you link to them.


2 questions, then please Paul:

1) Which link?
2) Would you be willing for me to post this email to the blog to present a counterbalance to the anti-RIAA position?


Above is the link, I am not sure how I navigated to it from your blog.

I am willing for you to publicise anything I say here, but I think that what is more desirable is to take down links from your site that promote this hatred of the recording Industry, because the assumption is that by linking to them that you support the extreme view heralded. That might be unfair to you by the way as you may or may not hold those views. I can only seek to reason with those views but my argument about biting the hand that feeds it is I feel valid. I respect everyone’s right to dissent but I am anxious that Individual managers within our trade association have the right not to be publicly hounded.

Best wishes


I remember that article. I can see how it would be seen as undesirable PR for the RIAA, but I’m not at all convinced it either represents an extreme view or promotes the hounding of individual managers represented by the recording industry association.

In fact, from my time online reading articles about the music industry, I would say it’s about par for the course. Most independent commentators take the position that the suing of individuals by the RIAA has been a public relations disaster, and that rather than deter illegal activity, they have simply turned the record-buying public against them. If someone is taking a countersuit against the organisation, I’m afraid that’s comment-worthy. As it happens, I think I remember hearing that the case was thrown out, but I’d have to check the facts.

The way I see it is this: what I’m linking to is opinion about a news story. It’s genuine news and it’s legitimate opinion. You may not agree, but I don’t see anything there that warrants a take-down notice.

I would never endorse hate speech or the encouragement of the victimisation of any individual no matter what their job. That link doesn’t even come close to either of those things.

More importantly, as someone who comments about the industry, only linking to items that echo the official position of the major label organisations would pretty much make my site valueless to its readers.

Download Squad, the source of that article, is pretty much uniformly interesting, relevant and linkworthy. I don’t think this was an exception.

But I think it’s important that both sides are put, so I’ll post this email exchange up on the site. If there’s anything else you’d like to say on this, then pop it in a reply to this email, and I’ll leave it at that.

I think it’s great that you’re willing to have this discussion in public. Much appreciated.



It expresses opinion, it’s not factual. If you persist then I shall make a formal complaint to the University.

Your choice.



The End. Always good to end on a threat, RIAA-style….

The full post and comments can be found here.

Andrew has also kindly given every TorrentFreak reader the chance to download his eBook, The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online.

UPDATE:Seems like Andrew Dubber’s webhost (UKHost4U) has suspended his site. It’s unclear at this stage exactly why.
UPDATE2:Andrew’s site is now operational but clarification on the reason for the take-down is still being sought.

Kaplan v. Salahi and the Failures of the Justice System
Yaman Salahi

The judgment is in. What can be said? The courts make mistakes. How else should we explain the pro-slavery Dred Scott decision, or Plessy v. Ferguson, which gave juridical approval to racial segregation?

This case is nowhere near as monumental, damaging, or important. But the courts still made a mistake. The judge that presided over my appeal decided in Lee Kaplan's favor, ruling that I must pay Kaplan $7,500 in damages plus $75 in court fees. The great irony is that this comes on the same day that Kaplan proclaims his support for "freedom of speech" and decries a libel lawsuit against one of his allies.

Here, I will not focus so much on the details of this case, since it is an incredibly complicated matter that I may write about in detail in the future. Suffice it to say I am still 100% certain that I have done nothing wrong on this blog or elsewhere; I do not believe that I have overstepped my bounds, legally, ethically, or morally. On the contrary, I think we have taken exceptional measures to protect Lee Kaplan's welfare and reputation--or what can be salvaged of it, given the damage he has done to it himself. We have always corrected errors when they were pointed out and we have always addressed Kaplan's concerns in good faith, even while he was busy defaming us on his websites or calling the Dean of Students at the University. So, I will focus only on my reaction to this twisted experience.

I have lost almost all faith in the court system and its ability to protect normal citizens from abusive, intimidating, and politically-motivated lawsuits. I am shocked at the ridiculous number of lies that Lee Kaplan has gotten away with presenting to the court. What is clear to me now is that the state of California is in need of some serious reflection on how its small claims court procedures are shaped, and how cases are assigned. In California, there is an anti-SLAPP statute that protects victims of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, which are usually masked as defamation suits. I fully believe that Lee Kaplan's lawsuit against me was of this nature; however, because he sued me in small claims court, I did not have the protections of the anti-SLAPP statute. I initially did not have the protection of a lawyer, nor did I have the assurances that the trial would be conducted with consistency and integrity, ensuring me my due process rights, because the standards for acceptable evidence are much lower and more informal for small claims court than they are for real courts.

Furthermore, I will never know why I lost the initial hearing, or why I lost the appeal, because small claims judges are not obligated to release written opinions with their rulings. I will also never have recourse to object to the second ruling because small claims cases, when they are appealed, are simply heard before another judge in small claims court. It is more of a re-trial than an appeal. Having exhausted that route, I will never have the opportunity to take this to a real appellate court where my first amendment rights might be protected. Because of all these factors, I believe the burden of proof was put on me, rather than on the plaintiff, because the plaintiff was able to get away with making broad and convoluted accusations that I had to disprove. And, in this intensely complicated ordeal, in which every detail and attention to nuance matter in understanding truly what did or did not happen and in what way it happened, this proved to be a difficult task since a 20-30 minute hearing is simply not enough time to properly treat every issue that is in question.

As you can see, I am incredibly frustrated with this ordeal. I have no illusions about the unimportance of this fringe and unpopular figure, Lee Kaplan, on the activist scene and in the Israeli-Palestine debate in general, or about the waste of time that I feel this website and Lee Kaplan have become. The disgusted reactions I get from people when they are exposed to what Lee Kaplan writes and does are enough to tell me that this blog is not so useful in letting people know about him; for the most part, people are able to judge for themselves.

But, given the real threat that what has happened to me poses to other citizens of California and the United States in general, especially to our first amendment rights, and given the persistence of this problem, I can't simply put the entire matter aside to move on with my life, as much as I would love to. I will continue to criticize Lee Kaplan's writing and "activism," without giving it a central role in my life and in spite of the intimidation I have faced, and will no doubt continue to face. I will do everything in my power to investigate what can be done to reform the system that not only let me go through what I've gone through, but put a stamp of government approval on it all. My first task will be to look at what it takes to remove defamation cases from the jurisdiction of small claims court, as is the norm in many other states around the country. Imagine if every politician or journalist in California who was annoyed by their critics filed an inexpensive $50-75 lawsuit in small claims court, and, apparently, could have a strong chance at winning by dragging people through the court system which can't protect them and instead sanctions those abusive actions in the first place. Those who would suffer are those without the resources to protect themselves--by no means does this category exclude college students.

I have absolutely no doubt that had this lawsuit been filed in a real court, I would have won. I think any sensible person can review some of the filings we presented to the court to reach the same conclusion. If you are interested, I would specifically suggest looking at the SLAPP motion we filed by clicking here. Unfortunately, the judge refused to even consider the motion. Indeed, one individual I know claims that he heard Lee Kaplan explaining that he sued me in small claims court because he was advised that it would not succeed in a real court; he is also reported, by this individual, to have said that in filing this lawsuit he simply wanted to "shut him [me] up." I cannot confirm if these statements are accurate or true, given that I did not witness them; however, given the pattern of Lee Kaplan's interactions with me and this website, I do not think that they are improbable. In any case, even if the words did not come from his mouth, I think they accurately describe the nature of his lawsuit.

As for what I will do next with regards to this case, the simple answer is that I don't know. There is nothing stipulating that this website be removed, or that I cease to write about Lee Kaplan. There is nothing even suggesting that anything on this website was false (I was sued, after all, and at the insistence of Kaplan's lawyer, for tortious business interference, not for anything I had said or written), and as such everything will remain the same. Despite this, I hope that sufficient attention is paid to the great danger that what has happened to me poses to all of us. It is by all means a serious issue. My first amendment rights have been subverted with support from the courts, which only shows that everybody is in danger of facing these abusive small claims court defamation suits. My speech has been punished by a ruling with no opinion explaining why or advising me what not to do in the future. My credibility has been tarnished by a trial with incredibly low standards for admissible evidence and a messy, inconsistent court procedure. And, for me, worst of all: I will never know what element of Kaplan's claim, if any, the judge agreed with, though Kaplan will certainly continue to claim that all of them were accepted, though he knows well that this is not the case. Kaplan's lawyer even admitted that Kaplan was a public figure, meaning that he has to prove a statement I made was knowingly false or made in reckless disregard of the truth. He did not fulfill this requirement.

Furthermore, I wanted to make a special point about the following. I have no doubt that the subject matter of my writing, in addition to the plaintiff's enormous ego, had a prominent role in attracting this lawsuit. If I had been writing about pesticides, corn fields, and organic foods, this probably would not have happened the way it did. It is the very sensitivity of issues surrounding the brutality of Israel's apartheid occupation against the Palestinian people along with the incredible silence around this issue in the halls of Congress and the mainstream media that made me a vulnerable figure. However, it is because this silence is imposed, and now endorsed by a judge, that we must continue to speak out on behalf of the Palestinian people, despite the lowly tactics that those who oppose justice and support apartheid have resorted to. I will not stop my work in this regard, and I hope that others will not be intimidated by this audacious effort to chill political speech.

I believe that this case was lost not because Kaplan has any actionable claims, or because I have done anything wrong, but because of shortcomings ingrained into how the small claims court functions. I have been dealt an unjust hand and will continue to explore the options available to me. In the meantime, this website will remain here. If you or anybody you know has any advice, please do not hesitate to contact me at ysalahi@gmail.com.

I would also like to add that if you or anybody you know is ever sued by Lee Kaplan or his questionable affiliates, you should contact a lawyer immediately to explore any and all available options. The earlier the better. Some ideas you might want to look into: (1) countersuing in an amount that is sufficient enough to move the case out of small claims court (greater than $7,500 in California) and/or (2) removing the case to federal court on the grounds of a first-amendment defense.

While I want to thank the many friends, relatives, professors, and mentors who have shown their invaluable support for me in this ordeal, I want to especially thank my excellent lawyer, Adam Gutride, without whose generous moral and legal support I would not have been able to get through the past few months. He put himself at great risk by defending me and, despite this, he insisted on taking the case and invested many hours and much effort into it. His actions are courageous and commendable, and I will never be able to thank him enough for his support.

How Victim Snared ID Thief

She chased down woman who had given her 6 months of hell
Mike Weiss

If it hadn't been for the distinctive suede coat, there would have been no chase through the streets of San Francisco, no heroine and, in all likelihood, no justice. But when Karen Lodrick turned away from ordering her latte at the Starbucks at Church and Market streets, there it was, slung over the arm of the woman behind her.

It was, Lodrick thought, a "beaucoup expensive" light-brown suede coat with faux fur trim at the collar, cuffs and down the middle.

The only other time Lodrick, a 41-year-old creative consultant, had seen that particular coat was on a security camera photo that her bank, Wells Fargo, showed her of the woman who had stolen her identity. The photo was taken as the thief was looting Lodrick's checking account.

Now, here was the coat again. This woman -- a big woman, about 5 feet 10, maybe 150 pounds -- had to be the person who had put her through six months of hell and cost her $30,000 in lost business as she tried to untangle the never-ending mess with banks and credit agencies.

According to Javelin Strategy and Research, a Pleasanton firm that conducts an annual identity fraud survey, there were 8.4 million victims of identity fraud in 2006. But both a spokesman from Javelin and an agent who tracks identity theft for the Federal Trade Commission said they had never heard a story like Lodrick's. One irony, and there were many -- for instance, the woman posing as Karen Lodrick also had ordered a latte -- was that Lodrick was waiting at Starbucks on the morning of April 24 for the bank next door to open so she could pick up "her" driver's license. The bank had called to say it had been left there, but Lodrick had never been in that branch.

Lodrick's heart was pounding. Despite the expensive coat, the Prada bag, the glitter-frame Gucci glasses, there was something not right about the impostor she would later learn was named Maria Nelson.

"She had bad teeth and looked like she hadn't bathed," the onetime standup comic recalled recently. "I thought, 'You're buying Prada on my dime. Go get your teeth fixed.' "

When Nelson got up to leave, Lodrick, who is 5 feet 2 and 110 pounds but comes from what she calls "a fighting family," made an instant decision. First she called 911. Then she followed Nelson down Market Street.

The foot chase was on.

Nelson turned up Buchanan Street in front of the new San Francisco Mint with Lodrick after her. Lodrick felt an almost otherwordly calm and was entirely focused on not losing sight of this person who had made her feel so unsafe. Meanwhile, she was giving the 911 operator a play-by-play on her cell phone.

But as Lodrick turned the corner at the crest of the hill, Nelson was nowhere to be seen. Her heart sank -- until she spotted her skulking in the door well of the Hermann Apartments. They made eye contact, and Nelson fled. Lodrick went after her, glad that she had decided to wear sandals and not the heels she had almost put on.

She didn't really know what she would do if she caught Nelson. "She was a big girl," Lodrick recalled. She told the 911 operator she felt a little scared. The operator said: "If you in any way feel threatened, do not continue the pursuit."

Lodrick told the operator: "No, I'm OK."

Back on Market Street, Nelson hailed a cab. Lodrick ran up to the cabbie: "I have 911 on the line," she told him. "Please don't drive away. I think she's stealing my identity." The driver lifted his hands off the steering wheel in a gesture that said he would stay put. Nelson jumped out of the cab.

"Stop following me," she beseeched Lodrick. "You're scaring me."

"I'm scared, too," Lodrick answered. "Let's just wait for the police, and we can straighten this out."

"I can't," Nelson said. "I'm on probation."

Indeed, court records show that Nelson was on probation for one of eight previous fraud convictions and also had been convicted of theft. Later, the San Francisco police detective who worked the case, Bruce Fairbairn, said Nelson's statement about probation, relayed to the 911 operator by Lodrick, was a key to extracting a guilty plea.

Nelson took off again. In front of West Coast Growers, she dropped a wallet into an abandoned shopping cart. Lodrick, still after her, picked up the wallet -- also Prada -- and found an entire set of identification, including credit cards, a Social Security card and a debit card all in the name of Karen Lodrick. Later, when she returned to the bank that had been her original destination that morning and took possession of the lost driver's license, it was a perfect forgery -- with a hologram and a California seal -- and it had Lodrick's name but Nelson's photo and physical characteristics.

"You can buy the technology (to add marks and holograms) on your computer from companies that have legitimate government contracts and then make a lot of money selling the technology to people they must know are not legitimate," Fairbairn said. "Millions and millions of dollars." The black market, he said, is "a growth industry."

On they went, pursuer and pursued. Onto and off of a bus, onto Franklin Street, up Page Street, around a corner. But as Lodrick turned into the 200 block of Fell Street, she again lost sight of Nelson. A terrible sense of failure overcame her. She ran frantically through a darkened Walgreens parking garage and saw no one, all the time begging the 911 operator to hurry and get her a cop before it was too late.

When Officer Rickey Terrell arrived a moment later -- about 45 minutes after the chase began -- he, too, searched the Walgreens garage. He found Nelson crouched behind a car smoking a cigarette in front of an emergency exit.

A relieved Lodrick laughed out loud, surprising herself. "You idiot," she said to Nelson. "You should have run."

Then she was sick to her stomach.

In November 2006, her postal carrier told Lodrick that master keys to the neighborhood's mailboxes had been stolen. Soon afterward, Wells Fargo informed her that there was suspicious activity in her accounts.

Using the stolen keys, Lodrick believes, Nelson made off with an unsolicited mailing from the bank. Lodrick said it contained two debit/credit cards she had not requested and, worse, a statement for a certificate of deposit that included her Social Security number. Personal identification numbers for the cards were in a separate envelope.

It took only three days for Nelson to raid the accounts for about $9,000 through withdrawals and purchases, bank records show.

Dealing with the consequences of somebody pretending to be her and ringing up purchases of computers, jewelry, clothing, groceries, cigarettes and liquor took a day or two of Lodrick's time every week. There were the credit card companies to hassle with and credit agencies and banks, especially her own bank.

Lodrick calculates that as a self-employed consultant, she lost $30,000 in unearned income between November and Nelson's apprehension in late April. Wells Fargo eventually restored to her accounts all the money Nelson had withdrawn.

But Lodrick, an optimist by nature who normally has a quick and spontaneous laugh, said "the bank was horrible. I felt they thought I was comical. I kept dealing with different people. Three different times they told me I'd have to come in and ID the (security camera) photo, that I hadn't done it."

And there were nightmares. She said she dreamt she was in jail and woke up in a panic. It was clear Nelson had targeted her: Lodrick changed bank accounts and identification numbers, only to find that Nelson had again broken into her mail and stolen the new information and was still after her accounts.

The woman knew where she lived -- Lodrick felt unsafe. What Lodrick didn't know is that they were neighbors, living only three blocks apart.

In the end, that photo of Nelson in her distinctive coat was her undoing. On June 6, she pleaded guilty to one felony count of using another person's identification fraudulently. She was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn to the 44 days she had already served in county jail and three years' probation.

Nelson also was ordered to make restitution in an amount to be determined by the court and to stay away from Lodrick. Those were the terms of a plea bargain negotiated by Assistant District Attorney Reve Bautista with Nelson's public defender, Christopher Hite.

Lodrick, who made a statement at sentencing, was dissatisfied. "I can't believe it," she said. "I went through six months of hell, and she's going to get probation? She was on probation when she victimized me. Obviously, probation's not helping."

Nor did Nelson, 31, appear to be remorseful. When she entered the courtroom in her orange jail jumpsuit and saw Lodrick, she smirked and waved at her. Judge Kahn chastised her for her attitude.

Over the protest of her attorney, the judge also insisted that Nelson undergo psychological counseling in addition to the drug and substance abuse counseling that were part of the plea bargain. Nelson was delivered to the Yolo County sheriff on another outstanding fraud-related warrant after she was sentenced in San Francisco.

One unexpected outcome of having her identity stolen is that Lodrick was invited to become a San Francisco cop by Fairbairn, the inspector who handled the case.

"She's quite the detective," he said. "I was so impressed by her courage, her dogged determination and her savvy that I took her down to recruitment. She has the best natural instincts for a cop I've seen in years."

Lodrick's experience did give her an appetite for fighting crime. But in the end, she decided, "I just don't have the stomach for it."

New Bill Would Create Family Tier, Extend Indecency Standards to Cable
Eric Bangeman

A new bill introduced into the House of Representatives yesterday would force cable operators to offer a family tier of programming, along with an "opt-out" à la carte cable programming option. At the same time, it would apply broadcast indecency standards that restrict indecent programming to the hours of 10pm and 6am to cable and satellite networks.

The Family and Consumer Choice Act of 2007 is cosponsored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and would be the à la carte law that Federal Communication Commission Chairman Kevin Martin says is necessary. The bill has not yet appeared on the Library of Congress web site, but Ars was able to obtain a copy of the legislation from Rep. Lipinski's office.

Tiers and à la carte

The bill has something for everyone who has been advocating for à la carte cable. Those concerned by the amount of programming available on cable that's inappropriate for young eyes should be pleased, as there's a very real "think of the children" thread running through the bill. "Of those homes with children subscribing to cable service, the vast majority subscribe to expanded basic cable service," notes the bill. For that reason, the bill would mandate the creation of "real family tiers of programming," which the bill defines as all channels in the Expanded Basic Tier aside from those carrying programming rated TV-Mature or TV-14 between the hours of 6am and 10pm.

Those who are a tired of paying for channels that they never watch will like the bill's opt-out provision, which will give cable and satellite subscribers the ability to cancel channels on an individual basis. The legislation says that anyone electing to do so would receive a "credit on the monthly bill... for such blocked channels in an amount equal to the amount that such distributor pays for the right to provide such blocked channel."

That rumbling you're hearing is the heavy-duty lobbying machines of the cable companies being revved up and put into gear. Cable and satellite providers have consistently opposed à la carte programming, saying that it would raise overall programming costs while dooming niche networks that have a limited audience. A couple of cable companies—most notably Time Warner—have created family tiers, but those are the exception, rather than the rule. And despite all the discussion about à la carte cable, consumers are generally indifferent to it and unrealistic about its price.

Applying broadcast standards to cable

Moving beyond à la carte and family tiers, the legislation would extend indecent programming restrictions that are currently applied to terrestrial TV to cable and satellite networks. "In accordance with the indecency and profanity policies and standards applied by the [FCC] to broadcasters, as such policies and standards are modified from time to time, not transmit any material that is indecent or profane on any channel in the expanded basic tier of such distributor" except between 10pm and 6am.

Rep. Lipinski and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who has advocated for expanded indecency regulations, believe that parents need government help in protecting their children from objectionable content. "In today's culture, parents are increasingly worried that their children are exposed to obscene, indecent, and violent programming," Rep. Lipinski said in a statement. "While there is no doubt that parents are the first line of defense in protecting their kids, clearly they need more help."

With the parental controls built into every television set, set-top box, and DVR being sold these days, the need for such legislation seems questionable at best. Unlike broadcast television, which is available to anyone with a TV and an antenna, people subscribe to and pay for cable/satellite. Those who are concerned about the possibility of indecent programming during the daytime already have several options available to them, including not subscribing to cable or using some of the technological means available to block objectionable content.

Attention, Web Surfers: The Following Film Trailer May Be Racy or Graphic
David M. Halbfinger

Hollywood has been circulating movie trailers on the Web for years, but only now is the film industry retrofitting its rating system to give the studios a chance to showcase their racier material online.

No matter what the rating of the film, nearly all the trailers shown in theaters — and on the Web — have come with a so-called green band, or tag, saying they are approved for all audiences by the Motion Picture Association of America. For movies rated PG-13 or stronger, that often meant watering down the violence, sex, language and overall intensity of a trailer.

But in April a teaser trailer for Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remake, set for release on Aug. 31, became the first to display a new yellow tag signaling that it was “approved only for age-appropriate Internet users” — defined by the Motion Picture Association as visitors to sites either frequented mainly by grown-ups or accessible only between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.

And two raunchy comedies — “Knocked Up” and this August’s “Superbad” — are among a spate of recent films with R-rated, “red-tag” Internet trailers, which require viewers to pass an age-verification test, in which viewers 17 and older have to match their names, birthdays and ZIP codes against public records on file.

Together the yellow (for films rated PG-13 and above) and red (R or NC-17) tags amount to a colorful, albeit easily circumvented, attempt to adjust to a fast-changing advertising landscape where Internet audiences can do as much to build or hurt word of mouth as those watching the coming attractions with popcorn in hand.

“We want to protect children,” said Marilyn Gordon, head of the association’s advertising administration. “That is our job. We also want to be able to allow our distributors more flexibility in their marketing materials.”

The spike in red-tag trailers on the Web is a function of the surge in R-rated sex romps following the success of “Wedding Crashers” two summers ago, and the blessing the association gave in March to two companies offering age-verification services, which tap into public-records databases.

R-rated trailers have been permitted for decades, of course, but they all but disappeared from theaters in 2000, when the Federal Trade Commission blasted Hollywood for aiming violent and risqué content at children.

Many theater chains still refuse to run them, lest mistakes in the projection booth offend moviegoers. As a result, major studios like Warner Brothers won’t even make red-tag trailers. Universal Pictures, for one, last ran an R-rated trailer in cinemas in 1999 for “American Pie.”

Still, studio marketing executives acknowledge that they have been pushing the envelope on theatrical trailers — slipping stronger material into previews given green tags — for quite some time, and with the association’s help. They say the association has routinely worked to ensure that such trailers only run ahead of features with appropriately matched content.

A case of that envelope-pushing came in early April, when the Dimension label of the Weinstein Company worked out a deal to advertise “Halloween” as a green-tag teaser trailer ahead of “Grindhouse,” the retro exploitation thriller.

But when that trailer wound up on Yahoo, the film industry association insisted it be pulled. The “Halloween” trailer includes plenty of bare skin, slashing blades and women in peril — hardly worthy of a green tag in the context of a Web portal open to young children. Three days later the same trailer was back on the Web, though not on Yahoo and this time with a yellow tag.

Adam Fogelson, president of marketing at Universal, who pressed the association to adopt the new yellow tag, said he hoped it would be extended to theaters eventually. “There’s got to be something, if we’re being intellectually honest, between a trailer that’s appropriate for ‘Bambi’ and a trailer that would be appropriate to go up with ‘Hostel II,’ ” he said.

At Sony, Dwight Caines, an executive vice president for digital marketing, said yellow tags at least provided a way to show “some of the edgier PG-13 content we could never show before.”

A draft of the association’s guidelines reveals the middle ground it has staked out for yellow tags. Permitted, to name a few, are “some scenes of gunfire”; “some sexuality, some nudity, some less graphic sexual slang”; “some blood, wounds”; and “some limited depictions of minors using illegal drugs.”

Strictly off limits are “excessive scenes of violence or guns/weapons involving minors”; “graphic sexual scenes, including depictions of rape”; “stronger profanity”; and “excessive blood.”

That gunfire, slang and blood come at a price. For the studios’ movie sites, association guidelines limit access to yellow-tag trailers to the hours of 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. For third-party sites, the threshold is that at least 80 percent of users must be 18 and older, according to Nielsen’s Web demographic reports.

Not everyone is thrilled with the tweaks so far. Sanjeev Lamba, executive vice president of marketing at Dimension Films, praised the association for “stepping in to regulate the Internet,” but said the yellow tag for “Halloween” was doing little but “restricting my ability to reach an audience.”

“I can’t get it out in the major portals, and that’s where the major traffic is,” he said.

James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, which reviews entertainment products for parents, said the yellow-tag Web trailers represented a significant step, for the movie studios and for families. “Trailers have a huge impact,” he said. “The crux of it will be, how good are the safeguards?”

The association says it has asked software companies to improve the restrictions, but so far they are hardly foolproof. Beating the time-of-day limits requires adjusting a computer’s internal clock and time zone. The Nielsen ratings still won’t keep a youngster from Googling his or her way to a trailer on a site mainly frequented by grown-ups.

Even the R-rated, red-tag trailer for “Superbad” doesn’t pose much of a challenge, given that it requires users only to type in an adult’s name, zip code and birthdate to gain access. “It’s really an honor system today,” Mr. Caines of Sony said. Just as under-age moviegoers are expected not to switch auditoriums to R-rated films, he said, “the consumer’s agreeing that they’re being truthful in the process.”

That said, it took only a quick Web search to gain unfettered access to the R-rated “Superbad” and “Knocked Up” trailers at slashfilm.com, owned by Peter Sciretta of San Francisco, who said he was often sent studio-quality copies of trailers from people using Gmail accounts.

Twenty minutes later Mr. Sciretta called back. Sony, alerted by the association, had just asked him to remove the R-rated “Superbad” trailer. “We’ve been the top result on Google for months,” he said, “till the moment that you asked them about it.”

Until next week,

- js.

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Jack Spratts' Week In Review is published every Friday. Submit letters, articles and press releases in plain text English to jackspratts (at) lycos (dot) com. Submission deadlines are Thursdays @ 1400 UTC. Please include contact info. Questions or comments? Call 213-814-0165, country code U.S.. The right to publish all remarks is reserved.

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