Go Back   P2P-Zone > Peer to Peer
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Peer to Peer The 3rd millenium technology!

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 11-11-09, 08:09 AM   #1
JackSpratts's Avatar
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Posts: 9,927
Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - November 14th, '09

Since 2002

"We cleared the joint in about three minutes. The manager came wringing his hands saying, 'please, please, I'll pay you to stop.' We hadn't done it for the money anyway." – Mayo Thompson

November 14th, 2009

German Biz Loses Private Copying Case
Wolfgang Spahr

The German record-industry has failed to successfully fight against provision 53 of the country's copyright law at the German Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. That provision allows the digital copying of CDs for private use. The consequence of the decision is that digital private copies still remain legal.

The discussion about the legality of private digital copying was subject of the first revised copyright law in 2003. In the second revised version of the law that is still in force, the provision 53 was confirmed against the protests of the record-industry.

The claim filed at the German Federal Constitutional court in December 2008 by Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI among others was not accepted by the court for formal reasons because of time elapsing. The point by the court was that such a claim has to be filed within one year after the respective provision came into force. The third chamber of the German Federal Constitutional Court states in its decision of Oct. 7 2009, which has just been published, that the industry's claim is inadmissible because it was not filed in time.

The respective provision was part of the copyright law of 2003 so a claim against this would have been necessary at the beginning of 2004. The court stated that the record industry was already involved in the discussion about the provision 53 and that since it was not changed in the revised law, the time for the claim did not start after the new law came into force on Jan. 1, 2008.

Stefan Michalk, managing director of the association of the German music-industry (BVMI), commented: "The interpretation of the German Federal Constitutional Court is controversial, also among experts of German constitutional law. Before filing the claim we were aware of the risks, but we had to take our chance because the fact of whether private copying is legal or not is of such a big importance for the record business. For us it is still very questionable that the court refused our claim for formal reasons."

Ofcom Knocks Back BBC DRM Plans

BBC plans to copy protect Freeview high definition (HD) data have been dealt a blow by regulator Ofcom.

It has written to the BBC asking for more information about what the benefits would be for consumers.

Initially it looked as if Ofcom would approve the plans but, during its two week consultation, it has received many responses opposing the plan.

Critics say a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system for Freeview HD would effectively lock down free BBC content.

In its submission to Ofcom, the Open Rights Group argued that such a system was DRM by the "backdoor" and that it would prevent things such as recording HD content for personal use.

"Ofcom received a large number of responses to this consultation, in particular from consumers and consumer groups, who raised a number of potentially significant consumer 'fair use' and competition issues that were not addressed in our original consultation," the letter from Ofcom to the BBC read.

It asked the BBC to clarify the benefit to citizens, as well as outline how it proposes to address the "potential disadvantages" and offer alternative approaches to the issue.

In response to the letter, the BBC said it "remains committed to the launch of HD on Freeview as it will deliver choice in terms of platform and availability of HD content for audiences across the UK".

Under original plans submitted to Ofcom, the broadcaster had requested that it be allowed to encrypt certain information on set-top boxes.

Consumer choice

Only trusted manufacturers would be offered the decryption keys.

Because licensing rules prevent the BBC from encrypting the actual video or audio streams, it instead requested that it be allowed to encrypt the data associated with TV listings without which set-top boxes are not able to decode the TV content.

The BBC argues it will prevent piracy.

The BBC said it made the request to Ofcom in response to pressure from rights holders to offer copy protection on all its high-definition broadcasts.

"We are committed to ensuring that public service content remains free to air i.e. unencrypted.

"However, HD content holders have begun to expect a degree of content management on the Freeview HD platform and therefore broadcasters have recognised that a form of copy protection is needed," read a statement from the BBC.

Opponents, including Labour MP Tom Watson, say that, if the move is agreed, it will limit consumer choice.

Digital rights organisation the Open Rights Group, was one of those to submit objections to the the scheme to Ofcom.

It said the plans would give the BBC "absolute power to control who may access its HD services".

It added that third-party equipment makers would find it difficult to comply to the new licensing regime and that its proposal also threatened disabled access.

It welcomed the move by Ofcom to seek more clarification.

"The fight isn't over. We will continue to fight for peoples' rights to record material off of the TV for personal use as they have done for decades," said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.

There is a very limited amount of time left to agree the specifications for set-top boxes.

Freeview plans to launch its first HD services next month, from a transmitter which serves Liverpool, Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire and north Staffordshire.

Hollywood's Antipiracy Charm Offensive has FCC in Crosshairs

Can Hollywood and Big Cable get the FCC and Congress to give them carte blanche on their war against movie piracy? An impending decision on a proposal to block analog streams to HDTVs may show how much clout the studios have with the new FCC.
Matthew Lasar

Hollywood's new campaign for government permission to police the Internet for copyright theft began this month with a segment on, of all places, CBS's Sixty Minutes. Viewers expecting another of the shows' self-described "hard-hitting investigative reports" watched a feature called The Movie Pirates, in which a shocked Leslie Stahl disclosed what was apparently a revelation to her—that people go into multiplexes with camcorders, record the movie, then package and sell it on the street.

"Mobsters have moved into the piracy business, and it's bleeding Hollywood to the tune of billions of dollars a year," Stahl warned her viewers. The most prominent scofflaw shown in the program was an enterprising fellow from Illinois, who, to the journalists' horror, was caught recording the flick while watching it with his family. "He brought a child with him to do this?" Stahl asked the private investigator who collared the man, outrage in her voice.

But that's not all, Sixty Minutes fans learned on November 1. "Even more than organized crime, it's the Internet that has Hollywood's hair on fire," Stahl explained, thanks to a "gee-whiz computer technology called BitTorrent." An expert explained the protocol to a wide-eyed Stahl as if its one and only purpose was to let Tony Soprano steal movies. Then came an interview with director Steven Soderbergh, who suggested that The Matrix would never be made today, thanks to the billions lost by file sharing over the 'Net.

"I'll tell you Leslie," Soderbergh declared in all seriousness, "there are days when I really wish Al Gore hadn't invented the Internet."

We'll spare you the rest of the technology tutorial, but what Sixty Minutes only hinted at during the show was the extent to which the trade association that doubtless cheered this segment—the Motion Picture Association of America—is also pressing for the deployment of a wide variety of techniques to put "speed bumps" on the 'Net, as one of the program's interviewees called them. The piece came in the wake of a reshuffling of MPAA staff, reportedly in response to studio complaints that the group's anti-piracy efforts have not been effective so far. Even the group's boss Dan Glickman is stepping down.
Real streets

Copyright theft surveillance becomes synonymous with national broadband planning, since you want to make sure Hollywood retains the incentive to keep making the movies that drive consumers to the 'Net.

The Friday before that program, MPAA sent the Federal Communications Commission a 32-page filing submitted as part of the FCC's National Broadband Plan, which the agency must submit to Congress by mid-February. The statement called for the Internet to be "governed by laws, standards and rules, just like the real streets and communities inhabited all across America." The FCC and Congress "cannot let the anonymity of the Internet become a cloak behind which people think that unlawful conduct can continue unabated," MPAA warned.

In tandem with this came a commentary by MPAA member Paramount Pictures illustrating the extent of the problem. Over five million copies of Paramount's May release Star Trek have been illegally downloaded over the Internet, the company complained to the FCC. The studio blamed just about everybody on the 'Net for the development, from ordinary users through Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft's Bing.com—search engines that lead the public to illegal download sites.

"Today, literally anyone with an internet connection can do it," Paramount warned—"it" being copyright theft. "Clunky websites are being replaced by legitimate looking and legitimate feeling pirate movie websites, a perception enhanced by the presence of premium advertisers and subscription fees processed by major financial institutions."

So what does the MPAA crowd want? The commentary spoke favorably of France's new "three strikes" law, which allows a single judge to order Internet disconnections for illegal file sharers, the United Kingdom's "Digital Britain" report, which recommends that ISPs identify and notify such users "so that they can be subjected to targeted legal action," and Sweden's new law requiring ISPs to reveal content infringers' IP addresses.

But Hollywood emphasizes that it doesn't advocate any of these specific measures per se. What the studios really covet is FCC carte blanche to partner with ISPs to crack down on consumers in whatever ways they like. The filing favorably mentioned IP address blocking, subscriber bandwidth capping, digital fingerprinting, watermarking, and hash marking as effective solutions. MPAA wants the National Broadband Plan to recommend that "government policies [should] support these multiple efforts and not foreclose any particular anti-theft approach."

By now you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with an FCC proceeding about how to encourage greater broadband deployment and use. Here's the supposed link: The studios have glommed onto the "content is king" thesis, that online movies and "other professional video content" are "key drivers of broadband adoption," in Paramount's words. Thus, copyright theft surveillance becomes synonymous with national broadband planning, since you want to make sure Hollywood retains the incentive to keep making the movies that drive consumers to the 'Net.

Clogging and taxes

Aside from the fact that some scholars say the "content is king" line is bogus, that connectivity (e-mail, voice, texting, social networking) is what really ramps up high speed Internet use, much of what MPAA and Paramount have told the FCC is pretty seat-of-your-pants logic. Example: MPAA's filing contends that fighting content theft will also "substantially reduce or eliminate vast amounts of unlawful traffic that currently clogs the Internet and degrades service to law-abiding consumers." Illegal file sharing "undercuts broadband use and adoption, clogging already taxed network connections with illegal activity," the trade association adds.

In fact, what this observation also suggests is that file sharing, legal and otherwise, boosts broadband adoption, although it obviously presents challenges to network management. The question is whether MPAA's any-argument-we-can-throw-at-the-public approach will win over Congress and, more immediately, the FCC. The resolution of a controversy that you are far less likely to see covered by Sixty Minutes may serve as a test case here.

We need protection

Late last week, 13 public interest groups released an "action alert" warning that the FCC's Media Bureau is poised to offer the motion picture industry a waiver on "selectable output control." Goodness knows who Leslie Stahl would get to explain this to her, but Kyle McSlarrow, President of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association seems like a reasonable candidate. McSlarrow's latest blog post makes the case for FCC permission for movie studios to partner with cable companies to selectively shut down the analog cable input to HDTVs or similar home theater devices, which both industries say is more susceptible to copyright theft than digital inputs. The FCC has banned SOC for some years, but the studios and big cable argue that this green light will allow them to offer the public pre-DVD releases of movies on a video-on-demand basis.

"High-quality content (most movie productions take years from start to finish) is expensive to create and content owners rightly need adequate protection against indiscriminate and unauthorized distribution of their content to take this next step," McSlarrow warns. "While content producers already make some less expensive independent movies available to cable at the same time they are in theaters, it's clear that major studios will not release their blockbuster films early unless we can guarantee proper protection."

McSlarrow dismisses the concerns of Public Knowledge, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Home Recording Rights Coalition, and Ars Technica (which has reported their arguments sympathetically) that closing down analog inputs would leave some home theater owners without access to this new service, forcing them to buy new equipment. But, in fact, the MPAA in one of its recent FCC filings acknowledged this as well, even while casting doubt on Public Knowledge's estimate of 11 million consumers affected by the change:

"Even if accurate, the Public Knowledge figure is vastly overinclusive because it counts homes where consumers do have at least one television set with protected digital inputs (even though they also may have older sets in other rooms in the house). In fact, the vast majority of consumers would not have to purchase new devices to receive the new, high-value content contemplated by MPAA’s waiver request."

So the debate is not really about whether consumers would impacted by an SOC waiver, but how many, and if that would be in the public interest. To these questions MPAA brings flimsy historical analogies, such as this: "Under Public Knowledge’s approach, the Commission would have taken decades to permit television stations to broadcast in color," the organization told the FCC this month, "since millions of American homes already had purchased black-and-white sets when color broadcasts were introduced in the 1950s."

The problem with this comparison, of course, is that even with the rise of color broadcasts, black-and-white TV owners could still actually view the programs (this writer resentfully watched color TV in black-and-white throughout his Wonder Bread years).

Sure does

We contacted both the FCC and the MPAA to find out whether the Commission is, in fact, poised to give the FCC the go-ahead on SOC. The FCC didn't return our call; MPAA sent us the comments we've already written about here. But it seems likely that if the agency does grant the waiver—especially without offering a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or conducting any independent investigation—the action will be interpreted in some quarters as a nod not only towards Hollywood's VoD goals, but towards its designs on the Internet overall. The decision could also weaken support for the Commission's proposal to toughen its net neutrality rules, especially among FCC watchers already worried that enhanced authority could eventually be used to expand copyright surveillance as well.

All this is playing out beyond the earshot of a public that is largely mystified by these subjects—which is why that Sixty Minutes segment was so important. During the feature Stahl marveled at the demonstration of BitTorrent that she received from former Justice Department Attorney John Malcolm.

"And when we get that complete movie, the technology will rearrange all those little pieces into one complete film that is watchable," he explained.

"There's a technology that automatically puts it in the right order??" an amazed Stahl asked.

"Sure does," Malcolm replied.

What wasn't mentioned, of course, was a crucial detail—that the entire Internet works that way, its packet switching system breaking down the data sent by every protocol, from BitTorrent to hypertext to standard mail transfer (e-mail), and reassembling it at the end user point. And that's why giving Hollywood and the cable ISPs the right to unfettered surveillance has implications for a lot more than whether the next Matrix gets produced. Hopefully the public will figure that out before the fact, not afterward.

MPAA Shuts Down Entire Town's Muni WiFi Over a Single Download

The MPAA has successfully shut down an entire town's municipal WiFi because a single user was found to be downloading a copyrighted movie. Rather than being embarrassed by this gross example of collective punishment (a practice outlawed in the Geneva conventions) against Coshocton, OH, the MPAA's spokeslizard took the opportunity to cry poor (even though the studios are bringing in record box-office and aftermarket receipts).

Mike LaVigne, IT director, said the number of people who access the Internet using the connection varies widely, from perhaps a dozen people a day to 100 during busy times such as First Fridays and the Coshocton Canal Festival.

It's used by Coshocton County Sheriff's deputies who can park in the 300 block and complete a traffic or incident report without leaving their vehicle. Out-of-town business people can park and use their laptops to make connections.

During festival times, vendors find it a convenience to check the status of credit cards being used to make purchases, LaVigne said.

Because it's a single address used by many people, it's difficult to tell who made the illegal download, although the county plans to investigate the matter.

Illegal Movie Download Forces Shutdown of Free Wi-Fi
Kathie Dickerson

A free service enjoyed by hundreds has been shut down due to illegal activity conducted by one individual.

“It’s unfortunate that one person ruins it for those who use the service legitimately,” said Commissioner Gary Fisher.

About five years ago, the county made a free wireless Internet connection available in the block surrounding the Coshocton County Courthouse at 318 Main St.

It was disabled last week after someone used the wireless local area network address to illegally download a movie.

The county’s Internet Service Provider — OneCommunity — was notified by Sony Pictures Entertainment about the breach, and the county’s Information Technology Department was in turn notified by OneCommunity.

Elizabeth Kaltman, vice president of corporate communications with the Motion Picture Association of America, said movie piracy is something the industry fights everyday.

“It’s a very, very common occurrence all across the U.S., in towns big or small,” she said.

Part of it could be due to a generation that’s grown up with computers and the Internet. “They’re used to instant access and instant gratification,” she said. “They have the philosophy ‘if it’s there, I can take it.’”

It’s not true. There are many sites out there offering illegal movie and music downloads, but there’s also a growing number of sites that offer video streaming legally. Those are available on the MPAA’s Web site, Kaltman said. In addition to the recognizable names such as Netflix and Blockbuster, Disney Video, Fox on Demand, Cartoon Network and others have joined the instant download move.

“There are a growing number of ways to get the information they want legitimately,” she said.

The MPAA focuses most of its efforts on catching the source of the movies, like pirates who illegally use a camcorder in a theater.

“We target piracy at its source,” she said. “We really focus on keeping the product out of the market in the first place.”

Illegal downloads would be prosecuted as a civil matter, she said, and could be subject to fines up to $150,000.

Mike LaVigne, IT director, said the number of people who access the Internet using the connection varies widely, from perhaps a dozen people a day to 100 during busy times such as First Fridays and the Coshocton Canal Festival.

It’s used by Coshocton County Sheriff’s deputies who can park in the 300 block and complete a traffic or incident report without leaving their vehicle. Out-of-town business people can park and use their laptops to make connections.

During festival times, vendors find it a convenience to check the status of credit cards being used to make purchases, LaVigne said.

Because it’s a single address used by many people, it’s difficult to tell who made the illegal download, although the county plans to investigate the matter .

Each of the 270 to 300 computers in the regular county system have password protected secure log-ins, and so could be readily identified if illegal activity had taken place at one of those locations. Its firewall also prevents access to illegal sites, said Commissioner Dane Shryock.

LaVigne has done some homework and found a program that would prevent the illegal downloads from happening in the future; however, it would cost the cash-strapped county about $2,900 to implement, $2,000 for equipment and then $900 annually for the filtering program.

Commissioners questioned whether the investment would be justified for the free service, but LaVigne said it could be put to use on the entire county system to monitor activity.

“It would be beneficial to both realms,” he said.

This short-range service is entirely separate from the wireless broadband being deployed throughout the county by Lightspeed.

Lulu Introduces DRM

Lulu, the self-publishing platform through which I'm distributing some of my work, recently announced that now they're doing "eBooks." Interesting piece of "news," since they've offered electronic distribution right from the start of their operation, and I've been using it myself for years already. What's new? It turns out the actually new part is that instead of just allowing people to buy and sell downloadable PDFs, now they're going further to support commercial "eBook" devices... and they're claiming an additional $1.49 out of every download sold on top of their previous claim of 20% of the retail price (it's going to be interesting if they try to take $1.49 out of my Japanese syllabary flash cards, which are currently priced at $1.00)... and (for another $0.99) they'll let you apply DRM to your "eBook."

I'm inclined to think that at the very least, I shouldn't publish with Lulu again; and, probably, I should also withdraw my existing publications from their system and find some other print-on-demand outfit. Is that an overreaction?

It appears that the new pricing will apply to future items, and existing ones if and only if I update them (which I don't need to do). So I can continue collecting my existing royalty of $2.80 from every copy of Chessudoku and $0.80 from the flash cards. Nobody's bought either product in the few days since the change, so I don't know for sure that it still works, but it seems to be what the documentation says. My royalties change to $1.61 for downloads of Chessudoku (remaining at $2.80 for hardcopy), and "sorry, you have to discontinue these or raise the price" for the flash cards, if they become eligible for the new pricing.

If it were only the pricing issue, then I'd think twice about using Lulu for future projects, but I probably wouldn't pull my existing ones; it won't break if I don't fix it. I think $1.49 base price is too much for an electronic book download (because it's too big a fraction of $5.00 and I think few if any book downloads can reasonably be priced beyond $5.00); but if it were just the pricing, I might even continue to use Lulu for print-based future projects (on which the pricing hasn't changed).

However, it's not just the pricing. DRM is pretty much a show-stopper issue for me. Lulu is not requiring me to use DRM, but they're offering it to me and trying to sell it to me as a desirable thing. That's not the behaviour of the kind of outfit I thought I was signing with, when I signed with Lulu a few years ago, when they were endorsing Creative Commons. Right now I'm leaning towards taking all my print-on-demand business elsewhere.

Interesting hypothetical question: my current book project is intended for professional publication. Leaving Lulu is a lot easier than leaving a real publisher. If I manage to sell Kaago, there's a good chance the publisher will want to do an "eBook" release - especially given that that may be a year or two down the road, and the current rapidly-evolving technology will be that much more mature. And if a publisher picks it up and wants to do an "eBook" version, there's a good chance they'll want to put DRM on it. The only way I could stop them would be to instruct my agent to insist on a "no DRM" clause in my contract; and doing that would probably make it impossible to negotiate a publishing contract at all, because most publishers will not negotiate their standardized electronic-rights clauses under any circumstances. Authors with a lot more bargaining power than I have failed to get exceptions on that kind of point. Maybe vetoing DRM would cost me the possibility of "eBook" publication; more likely it'd cost me professional publication entirely. Will I really commit to taking the stand against DRM in that way? I don't need to answer that question today, but I will need to answer it soon.

Demonoid Rewrites Code, Comeback is Imminent

It’s been more than two months since the popular semi-private BitTorrent tracker Demonoid went offline due to hardware problems, but the site’s full return is now imminent. Demonoid’s tracker is already up and running again and according to an update from the site’s staff, the site will follow soon.

In September, Demonoid was forced to go offline due to some hardware problems. It later turned out that the hardware issues had resulted in severe data loss.

Some user data and torrent files are unfortunately gone for good and the site’s code has been permanently damaged. This resulted in the extended downtime that persists through today.

Since Demonoid’s owners are not very talkative it didn’t take long before imposters created their own news about the site, causing wild rumors to spread among Demonoid’s fans. Some reported that the site would return under a new name and others claimed that the authorities had permanently shut it down.

In a rare update, Demonoid staff have informed their users that none of this is true. Demonoid will return and things will return to normal as soon as possible.

“There are some rumors about the site shutting down for good and we [sic] starting a new tracker next year. The rumors are of course, lies. There are no plans of shutting down or creating another site,” Demonoid staff write.

Aside from refuting those rumors, the staff update brings more good news. A full comeback of the Demonoid site is looming. Parts of the code had to be rewritten in order to get the site back up and this process is almost finished.

“The parts of the site code that got deleted are being rewritten and should be ready soon. We are also working to try and minimize the data loss as much as possible,” the Demonoid team adds.

As reported earlier, the tracker is already back up and running smoothly, and considering the latest update from Demonoid staff, it shouldn’t take long before the site itself is also recovered.

Positive Outcome Reached at WIPO Advisory Committee on Enforcement While ACTA Looms in the East

While the 6th Round of negotiations of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is taking place in Seoul, Republic of Korea from November 4-6, 2009, the 5th session of the WIPO Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE) met from November 2-4, 2009.

The three day meeting of the WIPO ACE concluded on a positive note with the Committee requesting the WIPO Secretariat to ramp up its work on undertaking an "an empirical assessment of the nature and extent of intellectual infringements" given the paucity of reliable data detailing the value of "international trade in IPRs-infringing goods".

The 5th Session of the ACE was chaired by Mrs. Rodica Parvu, Romania (Director-General of the Copyright Office). The two themes on the agenda included: 1) Contribution of, and costs to, right holders in enforcement, taking into consideration Recommendation No. 45 of the WIPO Development Agenda, and 2) Identifying elements for creating an enabling environment for promoting respect for intellectual property in a sustainable manner and future work.

Recommendation 45 of the Development Agenda states:

To approach intellectual property enforcement in the context of broader societal interests and especially development-oriented concerns, with a view that “the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations”, in accordance with Article 7 of the TRIPS Agreement.

The discussion of the Committee was guided by: 1) eight expert papers commissioned by WIPO for the 5th Session and 2) three papers by Member States including A) Pakistan: "Creating an enabling environment to build respect of IP", B) Brazil: "Future work proposal by Brazil" and C) Group B: "Elements of a General Framework for future discussions in WIPO ACE".

The country papers of Pakistan, Brazil and Group B provided a conceptual framework for the program of work assigned to the WIPO Chief Economist (Carsten Fink) including a "literature review of methodologies and gaps in the existing studies", and an "analysis of various efforts, alternative models and other possible options from a socio-economic welfare perspective to address the counterfeiting and piracy challenges'."

The ACE agreed that the papers of Pakistan, Brazil and Group B and other country proposals from the floor of the Committee would serve as a basis for "selection of topics for discussion by the Committee at its future sessions, to be agreed by consensus by the Members of the Committee, in line with the mandate of the Committee".

As mentioned earlier, WIPO commissioned eight expert papers including presentations by Professor Michael Blakeney (Policy Responses to the Involvement of Organized Crime in Intellectual Property Offences), Carsten Fink (Enforcing Intellectual Property Rights: An Economic Perspective) and Sisule Musungu (The Contribution Of, and Costs To, Right Holders in Enforcement, taking into account Recommendation 45).

On the reliability of statistics pertaining measuring levels of counterfeiting and piracy, Musungu noted,

In many ways, the success of global efforts to combat counterefeiting and piracy and
other IP infringements will turn on the credibility of the data and evidence that is used by
policy-makers to design enforcement laws and procedures. While studies, such as the OECD
one, offer some insights regarding the scale of the problem and there are on-going efforts to
develop models to measure the levels of counterfeiting and piracy, including the economic
impact, there is still along way to go in establishing globally accepted and/or credible models
or data sets.

Musungu suggested that title holders could do the following in light of Recommendation 45 of the Development Agenda:

– Supplying better data and information to public institutions;
– Providing better and fuller caveats to the figures that are generated for advocacy
– Using figures from international public institutions, such as the OECD or WIPO,
in the proper context and with due care to avoid misrepresentation; and
– Supporting public institutions in their legitimate efforts to develop credible
methodologies for studying the problem and generate better data to support

In Carsten Fink's paper (first published by ICTSD when Mr. Fink was Professor of International Economics, University of St. Gallen), he noted that upon closer examination, the oft-cited 200 billion dollar figure provided by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for the estimated value of IPRs-infringing goods in international trade in 2005 (2 percent of global merchandise trade) used methodology that revealed that the figures were "more an “educated guess” than a true estimate".
Essentially, OECD staff made use of seizure rates across different product categories and exporting nations to extrapolate what a given share of IPRs-infringing trade in one individual product category means for the overall share of trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. However, the share in the relevant “fix-point” product categories—wearing apparel, leather articles and tobacco products—underlying the 200 billion dollar estimate is not based on any hard data, but rather reflects the best guess of OECD staff.

While his observations should not be construed as a critique of the OECD's analysis, he raised concerns with the use of the $ 200 billion figure in the press (including a December 4, 2007 piece in the Financial Times entitled "World 'losing' war against fakes and piracy"). Fink remarked that the OECD analysis did provide some perspicacious insight into the "relative importance of IPRs violations across different product categories" with nearly 2/3 of all seizures relating to fashion apparel, AV recordings and software. Fink further assailed estimates lost revenues due to piracy produced by industry associations representing copyright holders. He referenced a critique by the Economist (May 19th, 2005)
entitled "BSA or Just BS?" and noted that,

BSA (2007) simply assumes that, in the absence of piracy, all consumers of pirated software would switch to legitimate copies at their current prices. This outcome is unrealistic—especially in developing countries where low incomes would likely imply that many consumers would not demand any legitimate software at all. Accordingly, estimated revenue losses by software producers are bound to be overestimated.

With respect to music, Fink referenced the more "nuanced approach" of an IFPI study (2007) disclosing the "value of pirated goods (presumably valued at pirated goods prices)"; however, its methodology was not disclosed. Regarding consumer behavior with respect to the pricing of legal products, Fink cited a study by Maffioletti and Ramello (2004) which concluded that "students’ willingness to pay is generally lower than the market price for legal products" resulting in the observation that

"increased copyright enforcement would not expand sales of legitimate copies on a one-for-one basis. At the same time, the study revealed that students’ willingness to pay for a pirated copy was significantly greater than its marginal cost. This finding suggests the possibility that copyright holders respond to stronger copyright enforcement by lowering their prices to capture a larger number of consumers."

Professor Blakeney characterized the existing metrics of counterfeiting and piracy as an imprecise science on account of three reasons: 1) the criminal and clandestine nature of counterfeiting and piracy shrouded their true extent, 2) the figures produced by trade associations "are inevitably biased upward" in order to "highlight the extent extent of the trade in infringing products" and 3) the statistics produced by policy and customs authorities were "likely to be exaggerated with a view to securing favourable future budget allocations if the problems with which they are dealing are magnified".

Blakeney, Fink and Musungu all raised questions on the veracity of estimates of the value of counterfeited and pirated goods with respect to its share of world trade. In his oral presentation, Blakeney cautioned ACE members against making uninformed policy choices on enforcement predicated on "foundations of sand". Blakeney recounted how:

[i]n 1988, following the launch of the GATT Uruguay Round, the US International Trade Commission estimated losses to the U.S. economy in revenue and jobs due to IPR violations to be in the region of $US 60 billion. In 1998, following a more than a decade of TRIPS enforcement, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) estimated that from 5 to 7 per cent of world trade comprised counterfeit goods, a market which it estimated to be worth USD 350 billion. This statistic was repeated in a 2004 report by Union des Fabricants on Counterfeiting and Organised Crime which stated that: “Globally, an OECD report published in 1998 estimated that counterfeiting was generating 250 billion in illegal earnings annually and represented 5 to 7% of world trade”. This group of statistics was repeated so often that it they have almost become factual. Whatever their veracity, they were undoubtedly influential in precipitating the TRIPS Agreement into existence.

As the TRIPS Agreement, with its dispute-settle mechanism, was designed to thwart international trade in infringing products, Blakeney observed that this aspect of the Agreement is a dismal failure if one were to take the estimates of the OECD (2007) at face value which concluded that figure for trade in counterfeit and pirated products at $US 200 billion in 2005. Blakeney provided a final set of statistics: 1) the 2005 International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) estimating $600 billion trade in infringing good and 2): the hyperbolic figures reported by the Gieschen Consultancy in 2005 in excess of $US 3 trillion to round the mark.

As evidenced by the papers from Blakeney, Fink and Musungu, the dearth in reliable empirical evidence on counterfeiting and piracy is not commensurate with measures to enact higher standards of enforcement whether it be in bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs), regional FTAs, the ACTA negotiation, WHO Impact or the World Customs Organization.

In an insightful footnote (Fink, footnote 43, page 21), Fink stressed that "there is a certain asymmetry in international enforcement obligations. Existing international agreements and current initiatives seek to strengthen the enforcement of private rights. By contrast, there are no international obligations to enforce laws against the abuse of these rights—for example, in the form of erroneous patent awards for subject matter already in the public domain or anti-competitive business practices associated with intellectual property ownership."

The presentations by Blakeney, Fink and Musungu provided academic buttresses to the interventions of Brazil, Egypt, India and Pakistan and the concept papers of Pakistan and Brazil. In Pakistan's paper on "Creating an Enabling Environment to Build Respect for IP", the paper noted on TRIPS plus enforcement demands being made on developing countries often linked to trade and investment decisions. However, Pakistan noted that while "stricter laws and capacity building of enforcement agencies" are perceived to be the "primary means to ensure enforcement", it is not a sustainable strategy. Pakistan asserted that a sustainable strategy for creating an enabling environment to build respect for IP would first need to identify the key reasons for IPR infringement.

Pakistan's submission reiterated the need for "impractical assessments of the extent of counterfeiting and piracy" before embarking on norm-setting for higher standards of enforcement. Pakistan identified nine factors precipitating IPR infringement including the following:

* Huge margins between the prices of original and pirated items offer significant profit incentives to individual and organized IP infringers. Quite clearly, business models are not adequately addressing the pricing-cost involved in selling products (especially pharmaceuticals, books, music, movies). Unreasonably, higher costs along with barriers to access, do provide some justification to the consumers to use counterfeit and pirated goods.
* Invariably, in bilateral trade agreements, higher standards of IPR protection are demanded in return for trade and market access. This reinforces the view that IPRs are an external imposition, rather than a domestic need.
* The IP enforcement agenda is pursued at different international fora such as WCO, UPU, WHO. Developing countries are increasingly concerned that the limitations of their diplomatic and technical resources and infrastructure, diverting resources from development and even other law enforcement requirements to the protection of IPRs is often difficult to justify.
* Technological breakthroughs have facilitated IPR infringements. It is now comparatively easier to copy, share, reproduce and reverse engineer the protected materials/works. For instance, despite all encoding efforts, infringement is still a very real issue in the digital environment.

As part of its recommendations, Pakistan suggested nine measures (four of them are included here): A) conducting "independent, objective and empirical assessments of the nature and extent of IPR infringements, B) address the "socio-economic welfare needs of countries particularly for access to medicines and educational materials at affordable prices through use of TRIPS flexibilities and alternate business models for price reductions...", C) "develop international guidelines for levels of IPR protection in the bilateral and regional FTAs, in accordance with TRIPS agreement. Such guidelines should be followed in the negotiations on FTAs", and D) [u]undertake independent socio-economic impact assessments of the existing and future IP norms".

Brazil's submission for the future work of ACE was indeed a call for action for a "qualitative change in the approaches to dealing with the subject of 'enforcement' of intellectual property rights within WIPO". Brazil cautioned against embarking on a "one size fits all approach" noting that violations of IPRs did not exist in a void. Thus, Brazil called for an approach that could combine a "plurality of instruments to combat intellectual property infringements" tailored made to the specific social and technical needs of countries. Echoing Pakistan's position, Brazil's paper requested that the work program of the ACE develop methodologies for measuring the economic and commercial impact of counterfeiting and piracy "taking into account the diversity of economic and social realities" and stage of development.

In conclusion, the ACE agreed that the papers of Pakistan, Brazil and Group B and other country proposals from the floor of the Committee would serve as a basis for "selection of topics for discussion by the Committee at its future sessions, to be agreed by consensus by the Members of the Committee, in line with the mandate of the Committee". This particular point, although rather bland sounding on first glance, was the result of nearly a half day's negotiation; originally certain developing countries including Egypt, Pakistan, Brazil and India suggested that future work of the ACE be modeled after the approach taken by WIPO's Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) by establishing an open-ended, non-exhaustive list of topics for future discussion. The country papers are annexed to the conclusions of the chair as part of the official record of the Committee.

The conclusions of the chair noted that the country papers of Pakistan, Brazil and Group B provided the impetus to the Chair to invite the Chief Economist of WIPO to respond to the questions of delegations "including with a view to the feasibility of undertaking an empirical assessment of the nature and extent of intellectual property infringements, and the availability of respective data". As a result of negotiation, the 6th session of the WIPO ACE would consider the following:

"Developing on the substantive study contained in WIPO/ACE/5/6 [paper of WIPO Chief Economist, Carsten Fink], to analyze and discuss IPRs infringements in all its complexities by asking the Secretariat to undertake:

1. A literature view of methodologies and gaps in the existing studies;
2. Identification of different types of infractions and motivations for IPR infringements, taking into account social, economic and technological variables and different levels of development
3. Targeted studies with an aim to developing methodologies that measure the social, economic and commercial impact of of counterfeiting and piracy on societies taking into account the diversity of economic and social realities, as well as different stages of development;
4. Analysis of various efforts, alternative models and other possible options from a socio-economic welfare perspective to address the counterfeiting and piracy challenges'.

The WIPO Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE), recognizing that informed policy choices on enforcement measures must be predicated on sound empirical evidence, has taken a positive step forward. Recommendation 45 of the Development Agenda instructs WIPO to approach the question of intellectual property enforcement in the context of a broader societal interest delineated by Article 7 of the TRIPS Agreement which states:

"[t]he protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations."

Recommendation 45 of the Development Agenda has clearly permeated the sinews of the ambitious work program of the WIPO ACE instructing the International Bureau to undertake a literature survey of existing methodologies, to develop robust methodologies for measuring the social, economic and commercial impact of counterfeiting and piracy, and to consider alternative models to address the twin challenges of counterfeiting and piracy. This work program, complements the conclusions of the Chair which noted that the expert presentations provided, inter alia, "suggestions for closer analysis to give meaning to Recommendation No.45 of the WIPO Development Agenda, such as the effects of seizures of goods in transit; safeguards in relation to provisional measures; the scope of criminalizing intellectual property infringements; and possible abusive enforcement practices, such as in the context of competition law, unjustified threats to sue, and the abuse of intellectual property enforcement measures". The deliberations of WIPO's 5th Advisory Committee on Enforcement stands in stark contrast to the shadowy conclaves of of the ACTA negotiations, an exercise in non-transparent, uninformed policy making.

Craigslist Brimming with Banned, 'Modded' Xboxes
Daniel Terdiman

There are literally hundreds of banned Xboxes for sale on Craigslist right now in the wake of a decision by Microsoft to kick as many as a million players off of Xbox Live for illegally modifying their consoles to play pirated games.

Want an Xbox 360 but don't care about playing online or taking part in any of the Xbox Live services? Then this is your lucky day.

Thanks to a recent decision by Microsoft to ban as many as a million players from Xbox Live for illegally modifying their consoles to run pirated games, there is now an absolute glut of "modded" Xboxes for sale on Craigslist.

And while a brand-new Xbox Arcade--the lowest-price version of the console--sells for $200 with no free games, it is now possible to spend as little as $100 for a used, modded Xbox that comes with a slew of hit titles. You just have to be willing to give up using Xbox Live and be OK with your new game collection including mainly pirated titles.

Running a search for "modded Xbox" on Craigslist's Bay Area site returned 35 listings from the past three days. A similar search on New York Craigslist resulted in 87 listings. And dozens and dozens more are for sale on other local Craigslist sites.

One listing promised a "banned/modded" Xbox 360 with a 20 gigabyte hard drive; 20 HD movies; and 13 games including Madden 2010, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, NBA 2K10, and others.

"Everything works perfectly," the ad reads. "The 360 was treated better than I treat most people."

The ad also reminded potential buyers that, "since the console is banned, you will not be able to connect to the Xbox Live service. Therefore, this posting is for those of you who don't care if you can play online or not."

One Craigslist poster named Danny Cuccovia, a 22-year-old student from West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., was actually looking to buy a modded Xbox 360, and despite the incredible deals available right now, wasn't interested in one that couldn't get him onto Xbox Live.

A gamer looking to potentially go pro, Cuccovia suggested that modded Xboxes are great because there is no end to the supply of pirated games and that sellers of those games put very realistic-looking labels on them.

He also said he was sure that many of the people selling their banned Xboxes on Craigslist were doing so because they want to get a new one.

That was certainly the case with Kevin, a 29-year-old from Manhattan's East Village who logged into Xbox Live a few days ago only to discover the bad news about his console.

"I logged in, tried to play a game online, and it said I had been banned from the service for violating the terms of service," Kevin, who wouldn't give his last name, said. "I cursed, put my controller down, cursed Microsoft, and then bought another Xbox."

But even though he bought another used console that was advertised as being unmodified, Kevin said that when he tried to log on to Xbox Live, he quickly discovered he'd been cheated: the new device had been banned, too. So on Tuesday, he bought another one.

"If you're interested in a modded Xbox," he said, "I've got one for you."

Interestingly, Kevin and another New Yorker with a banned Xbox, 16-year-old Muhummad Sheikh, both said that the ban seemed to apply only to the console and not to their Xbox Live accounts.

Kevin said that his account still works, and that he was able to keep all his achievements, but he lost all the saved games. "They've done something funny," he said. "They call it a corrupted profile."

For sellers like Kevin, the rush to sell their banned Xboxes in order to buy a new one is pitting them against dozens, if not hundreds of people in the same boat. That means that getting the price they want is going to be near impossible. Kevin said that he had originally asked for $175--with an available legitimate copy of Rock Band for an additional $50--but has now dropped his price to $150. And still he has no bites.

"Someone (offered to) buy it for $100," Kevin said, "but I haven't capitulated yet."

In a statement issued late Wednesday to CNET News, Microsoft suggested that players who buy used Xboxes should beware that the company doesn't necessarily stand behind the consoles.

"If you purchase a modified console second-hand, the warranty is not transferable and the purchaser assumes the risk for any previous modifications," the Microsoft statement said. "If you purchase a console that has been previously banned, you will not be able to connect to (Xbox) Live."

To Kevin, the fact that the consoles have been banned but players' accounts still work smells a little fishy since that means if someone buys a new Xbox, they'll be able to get right back into their Xbox Live account and pick up, more or less, where they left off. And that could well mean that for the Xbox Live obsessed, there's no choice but to buy a brand-new machine, especially since many of the other consoles for sale on Craigslist right now have also been banned.

"Well, the holidays are around the corner," Kevin said. "They know what they're doing when it comes to making money."

COFEE Forensic Tool Leaks To What.cd, Admins Ban It

Microsoft’s much sought-after COFEE law-enforcement forensic tool has leaked onto the Internet. One user uploaded it to private tracker What.cd to collect a huge 1.6tb bounty. However, in a sensible move, the admins of the site took action to remove the link and ban further sharing of the tool via the site.

cofee leak“Law enforcement agencies around the world face a common challenge in their fight against cybercrime, child pornography, online fraud, and other computer-facilitated crimes,” says the marketing blurb on Microsoft’s site.

“They must capture important evidence on a computer at the scene of an investigation before it is powered down and removed for later analysis. ‘Live’ evidence, such as active system processes and network data, is volatile and may be lost in the process of turning off a computer. How does an officer on the scene effectively do this if he or she is not a trained computer forensics expert?”

Using COFEE, of course.

The Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor (COFEE) is a piece of software designed for the use of law enforcement agencies, and provided to the same free of charge by Microsoft. And, largely because of its mystique, has been a much sought-after piece of code.

Indeed, on the private tracker What.cd, users had offered a huge bounty (a reward for finding and sharing something) of 1.6 terabytes.

During the last day or so, a user – who had only been a member for a matter of weeks – uploaded COFEE.

However, What.cd then took the unusual step of removing the torrent. Not just an unusual step but, in my opinion, a very sensible step indeed.

“Suddenly, we were forced to take a real look at the program, its source, and the potential impact on the site and security of our users and staff,” said What.cd management in a statement.

“And when we did, we didn’t like what came of it. So, a decision was made. The torrent was removed (and it is not to be uploaded here again),” they added.

According to the site’s staff, neither them or their host was threatened by Microsoft or law enforcement. The decision was taken purely on the issue of site and member security.

Of course, the tool is now widely available from other sources and while some are saying that the tool is useless to regular Internet users, there are others who disagree. It certainly won’t take long for a detailed analysis to appear.

There will doubtless be lots of finger-wagging and complaints that this tool has become available in this way, but as with unexpected leaks of anything from software, to movies, to music, rarely is the finger pointed at the initial supplier of the material. That is usually way too embarrassing to reveal.

Siren.gif: Microsoft COFEE Law Enforcement Tool Leaks All Over the Internet~!
Nicholas Deleon

It was one of the most sought after applications on the Internet until it was leaked earlier today. And now that it’s out there—and it is all over the place, easily findable by anyone able to use a search engine—we can all move on with our lives. Yes, Microsoft COFEE, the law enforcement tool that mystified so many of us (including Gizmodo~! and Ars Technica~!), is now available to download. If only there were a “bay” of some sort where, I don’t know, pirates hang out…

I’m not mentioning any names, nor will there be any screenshots, but the resourceful among you will be able to find the application. Not that it’ll do you any good, since this is how Microsoft describes COFEE, which stands for Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor:

With COFEE, law enforcement agencies without on-the-scene computer forensics capabilities can now more easily, reliably, and cost-effectively collect volatile live evidence. An officer with even minimal computer experience can be tutored—in less than 10 minutes—to use a pre-configured COFEE device. This enables the officer to take advantage of the same common digital forensics tools used by experts to gather important volatile evidence, while doing little more than simply inserting a USB device into the computer.
To reiterate: you have absolutely no use for the program. It’s not something like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, an expensive application that you download for the hell of it on the off-chance you need to put Dave Meltzer’s face on Brett Hart’s body as part of a message board thread. No, COFEE is 100 percent useless to you.

Given that, what makes COFEE so mysterious, so special? The sole reason is because it’s never been available before (unless, of course, you’re a law enforcement official). People get a thrill by having something they’re not meant to have, and that effect is magnified online where you have chat rooms and message boards filled with people who get all excited over the idea of having some super-secret piece of software that was never meant to reside on their hard drive.

So that’s that then; Microsoft COFEE is out there. It’s not too big, either, at around 15MB. I’ve kept this post as cryptic as possible primarily to work y’all, and to put over COFEE as the most amazing thing to have never been leaked onto the Internet… until now~!

Microsoft Plugs 15 Holes, Including Critical Drive-By Bug

Expect exploits soon for Windows' embedded font flaw, says researcher
Gregg Keizer

Microsoft today patched 15 vulnerabilities in Windows, Windows Server, Excel and Word, including one that will probably be exploited quickly by hackers. None affect Windows 7, the company's newest operating system.

The 15 flaws fixed in Tuesday's six security updates were less than half the record 34 Microsoft patched last month in 13 separate bulletins. Of today's 15 bugs, three were tagged "critical" by Microsoft, while the remaining 12 were labeled as "important," the next-lowest rating in the company's four-step severity scoring system.

Experts agreed that users should focus on MS09-065 first and foremost. That update, which was ranked critical, affects all still-supported editions of Windows with the exception of Windows 7 and its server sibling, Windows Server 2008 R2.

"The Windows kernel vulnerability is going to take the cake," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security. "The attack vector can be driven through Internet Explorer, and this is one of those instances where the user won't be notified or prompted. This is absolutely a drive-by attack scenario."

Richie Lai, the director of vulnerability research at security company Qualys, agreed. "Anyone running IE [Internet Explorer] is at risk here, even though the flaw is not in the browser, but in the Win32k kernel mode driver."

Both Storms and Lai were referring to the one bug marked critical in MS09-065, which actually patched a trio of vulnerabilities. According to Microsoft, the Windows kernel improperly parses Embedded OpenType (EOT) fonts, which are a compact form of fonts designed for use on Web pages. EOT fonts, however, can also be used in Word and PowerPoint documents.

Hackers could also launch attacks by attaching Word or PowerPoint documents to e-mail messages, then duping users into opening those documents.

In lieu of patching the problem, users can easily block the most likely attacks by disabling IE's support for embedded fonts. "That's a low-impact mitigation," Lai said. "The worst that could happen is that some sites might look ugly." His advice would still leave PCs open to attack via malicious Word or PowerPoint documents, a point Microsoft also made in the vulnerability's write-up.

Because Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 were not affected by the MS09-065 update, Storms and Lai assumed that Microsoft caught the bug before it wrapped up the final code, or release to manufacturing (RTM) build, of the operating system, and is only now getting around to plugging the holes in Windows 2000, XP and Vista, as well as Server 2003 and Server 2008.

"Windows 7 Release Candidate [RC] is probably vulnerable," said Storms, citing Microsoft's policy of not providing security updates for preview versions of an operating system when the final has been released. "That's why you don't see Microsoft patching Windows 7 RC or Beta," said Storms. "For anyone still running RC, they should take heed and upgrade to the RTM."

But while Storms speculated that Microsoft knew the EOT font flaw was a security issue -- and waited until now to patch older Windows -- Lai thought that Microsoft didn't realize until recently that it was also a security vulnerability in editions prior to Windows 7. "I think they fixed this bug as part of the code sanitization during [Windows 7's] development cycle. It was actually only publicly disclosed recently, and then they patched it in other Windows."

Microsoft acknowledged that information about the EOT vulnerability had gone public before today's patch. "While the initial report was provided through responsible disclosure, the vulnerability was later disclosed publicly by a separate party," stated the accompanying advisory.

Storms expects to see attackers jump on the EOT vulnerability. "This is the one to watch in the coming weeks, not only because of its novelty, but also because it can be exploited through IE, which is the easy route, as well as through Word and PowerPoint documents," he said.

Microsoft also issued critical updates for Vista and Server 2008, as well as for Windows 2000 Server. On the latter, which harbors a bug in its implementation of the License Logging Server, a tool originally designed to help customers manage Server Client Access Licenses (CAL), Storms urged users of that aged operating system to apply the patch pronto, even though the machines are probably well-protected.

"Windows 2000 Server has the logging server enabled by default, but those systems are likely behind multiple firewalls, and people running [Windows 2000 Server] are pretty cognizant of the fact that it's an older version and will act accordingly."

Excel and Word also received patches today. Eight vulnerabilities were addressed in Excel in MS09-067 and one in Word with MS09-068. Both updates also affected the Mac editions, Office 2004 and Office 2008.

"These are the kind of file format vulnerabilities we've seen many times before," said Storms, noting in a follow-up instant message that the bugs are in the older, binary file formats, not in the newer XML-based formats that Microsoft debuted in Office 2007 for Windows and Office 2008 for Mac.

This month's security updates can be downloaded and installed via the Microsoft Update and Windows Update services, as well as through Windows Server Update Services.

Boffins Boast Newfangled Rootkit Blocker
Dan Goodin

Scientists are set to unveil a lightweight system they say makes an operating system significantly more resistant to rootkits without degrading its performance.

The hypervisor-based system is dubbed HookSafe, and it works by relocating kernel hooks in a guest OS to a dedicated page-aligned memory space that's tightly locked down. The researchers, from Microsoft and the computer science department at North Carolina State University, plan to present their findings Thursday at the 16th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.

The team installed HookSafe on a machine running Ubuntu 8.04, and found the system successfully prevented nine real-world rootkits targeting that platform from installing or hiding themselves. The program was able to achieve that protection with only a 6-percent reduction in performance benchmarks, making HookSafe "the first system that is proposed to enable large-scale hook protection with low performance overhead," the researchers said.

Rootkits that rely on a method known as kernel object hooking involve modifying kernel data hooks. Because they are scattered throughout the operating system memory, and often co-mingled with other kernel data, they are generally hard to protect. Scientists have dubbed the problem the "protection granularity gap" because effective protection requires byte-level granularity while commodity computers allow only for protection at the much broader page level.

The researchers worked around this limitation by relocating almost 5,900 kernel hooks scattered across 41 physical pages to a page-aligned central location. They then used a "thin hook indirection layer to regulate accesses to them with hardware-based page-level protection."

They tested the protected system against nine rootkits written for the Linux 2.6 kernel. Seven of them failed to install at all thanks to the memory protection, while the remaining two failed to hide themselves because of the hook indirection.

The researchers are Zhi Wang, Xuxian Jiang and Peng Ning of North Carolina State University and Weidong Cui of Microsoft Research. A PDF of their paper is available here.

Battle of the Anti-Virus: What is the Best Software?

AV-Comparatives.org recently released the results of a malware removal tests with which they evaluated 16 anti-virus software solutions:

* Avast Professional Edition 4.8
* AVG Anti-Virus 8.5
* AVIRA AntiVir Premium 9.0
* BitDefender Anti-Virus 2010
* eScan Anti-Virus 10.0
* ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0
* F-Secure AntiVirus 2010
* G DATA AntiVirus 2010
* Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2010
* Kingsoft AntiVirus 9
* McAfee VirusScan Plus 2009
* Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0
* Norman Antivirus & Anti-Spyware 7.10
* Sophos Anti-Virus 7.6
* Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 2010
* Trustport Antivirus 2009.

The test focused only on the malware removal/cleaning capabilities, therefore all used samples were samples that the tested antivirus products were able to detect. The main question was if the products are able to successfully remove malware
from an already infected/compromised system. The test report was aimed to typical home users. A further question was if the products are able to remove what they are able to detect.

Based on a scoring system that evaluated malware and leftovers removal capabilities, these were the results:

"None of the products performed “very good” in malware removal or removal of leftovers, based on those 10 samples. eScan, Symantec and Microsoft (MSE) were the only products to be good in removal of malware AND removal of leftovers", says the report. "Some products do not remove all registry entries on purpose (as long as they do not have any visible side effect for the user), e.g. if that helps to prevent reinfection by the same malware. Furthermore, in some cases it is not possible to know if the registry values (or the hosts file) were modified by the malware or by the user itself (or third-party utilities used by the user)."

To see which malware sample were use and why, and how the particular anti-virus solutions behaved, go here (pdf).

Brazil's 2 Largest Cities Hit by Blackouts

Brazil's two largest cities have been hit by a massive blackout that has also affected other parts of Latin America's largest nation.

Media reports say problems at a huge hydroelectric dam are to blame for the electrial outages affecting large parts of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other cities in several states.

The G1 Web site of Globo TV says Brazil lost 17,000 megawatts of power after an unspecified problem happened at the Itaipu dam that straddles the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

Officials did not immediately comment on Tuesday's outages. The blackouts came three days after CBS's "60 Minutes" news program reported several past Brazilian power outages were caused by hackers. Brazilian officials played down the report.

PeerBlock File-Sharing Safety Tool Clocks 100,000 Downloads

PeerBlock is a tool which can control who can connect to your computer on the Internet. In addition to hindering monitoring by anti-P2P companies, it’s also capable of blocking malicious software. As the team is currently celebrating more than 100,000 downloads, TorrentFreak caught up with the creators for the lowdown.

Peerblock is a piece of software which lets you control who your computer communicates with on the Internet. By utilizing lists of ‘known bad’ computers, it’s possible for it to block P2P companies from monitoring a user’s file-sharing activities, along with spyware and other malicious software.

Just over a month has passed since the first stable public release of the software and PeerBlock has now managed to clock up more than 100,000 downloads. To mark this milestone, TorrentFreak caught up with Mark from the project for the lowdown.

Mark told us that the creation of PeerBlock was inspired by him upgrading his PC from 32 to 64 bit in order to utilize 6gb of RAM. Everything worked fine – until he tried to get PeerGuardian (another IP blocker) to work.

Having hacked away and jumped through hoops to get around driver-signing it would still only work half the time and often crashed without warning. As a software engineer who has worked in the commercial sector for more than 13 years, Mark – who admits to being “an arrogant bastard who truly believes he can do just about anything better than just about anybody,” decided he could find a solution. It was “put up or shut up time,” he told TorrentFreak.

Noticing that the PeerGuardian code was open-source but hadn’t been touched for a couple of years, Mark contacted another developer who had the same thing in mind, but having heard nothing back, he went at it alone.

“I started setting up a Sourceforge.net project for it so we could get free source-control, but they took too long to set it up for me so I instead created a project over at Google Code where it was ready within minutes,” he told us.

Having heard from a few people who were interested in helping out with the development side – “night_stalker_z” who’d earlier started trying to hack the PG2 code into shape, “DarC” / “DisCoStu” who wanted to help out with fixing up the installer, XhmikosR who rewrote the installer, and some testers, things moved forward.

After facing troubles due to the lack of a “signed driver” for 64-bit versions of Vista (which resulted in Mark having to set up a registered company before they were allowed to buy a $230 code-signing certificate), a couple of blogs wrote articles on PeerBlock which attracted some much-needed publicity to the project. This resulted in 10,000 downloads in just one weekend.

“We’re still getting donations from people and we now have enough to pay for next year’s annual code-signing certificate, and we’re saving up to be able to rent our own VPS with full root access etc, upon which we’ll be able to build a ‘real’ online-update system, a custom web-app to tie our forums/issue-tracker/website all together, and some other neat things,” Mark explains.

The first stable release of PeerBlock came out on September 27th, and as of November 5th had clocked up an impressive 100,000 downloads. The site now receives up to 7,000 visitors each day.

Aside from fixing one or two bugs, the team has lots of new features planned for PeerBlock. Anyone that has tried to surf the web with a blocklist in place will know how painful that can be, so PeerBlock will have some new features which allow the “whitelisting” of certain apps, such as a browser, the creation of a proxy server to let users configure PeerBlock to listen on certain ports, possibly an integral “AdMuncher” style ad-blocking feature on a per URL basis (as opposed to just an IP-address), and an encrypted chat feature.

TorrentFreak asked Mark why users should choose PeerBlock over the competition.

“Well, first off we need to ask ‘Who IS the competition?’ The only ones I’m really aware of are: Protowall by the folks over at Bluetack which is closed-source and I don’t believe was ever updated for Vista, and Outpost Firewall, which is closed-source and basically just a hack add-on to a more professional firewall product,” he responded, while noting that uTorrent’s built-in IP-filtering feature only handles one manually-updated list.

“We protect your entire machine, and give you the option to try out any P2P app you want – this freedom of choice is a very important thing, I think. And since it does everything automatically, including list-updates, it’s one less thing to think about,” he added.

Another important question relates to the blocklists that have to be used in conjunction with PeerBlock in order for it to block anything.

He told TorrentFreak that he’s a big fan of iblocklist, who serve up a staggering 10TB of blocklists every month for free. The site doesn’t create the lists, but does offer those from Bluetack, including the Level1 list (renamed to ‘P2P’ in PG2/PeerBlock, which contains both Gov and Anti-P2P IP-addresses) and others.

Mark admits that even in a best case scenario, the available blocklists aren’t 100% effective. That said, there have been studies which show that using blocklists along with software such as PeerBlock can help speed up downloads, but no-one knows how many of the potential “bad IPs” are covered by currently available blocklists.

P2P aside, Mark says there has been feedback to suggest that PeerBlock discovered a Conficker infection on a user’s machine that their anti-virus programs missed, and can also stop ads appearing in browsers that lack in-built blocking.

One other exciting thing for the future of PeerBlock is porting it to the Mac. Mark says they’re saving all the donations for additional development and this is the most-requested request right now.

Users of PeerBlock are encouraged to give as much feedback as possible to Mark’s team, via their forums, IRC (#peerblock on freenode.net) or email.

PeerBlock can be downloaded here.

A Year Later: A Look Back at McColo
Brian Krebs

A year ago today, the Internet community witnessed a remarkable event: The unplugging of McColo, a Web hosting facility in Northern California that for a long time controlled a majority of the spam-sending operations on the planet. McColo's two main Internet providers abruptly yanked the cord after Security Fix presented them with scads of evidence collected by security researchers tying massive amounts of spam and other illicit activity to McColo's network.

The outcome, of course, is now well known: The volume of spam sent worldwide tanked overnight, and remained at diminished levels for many weeks. All sorts of other badness diminished as well (more on that later). But since then, the sizable chunk of virtual real estate previously occupied by McColo has remained eerily quiet.

A review of more than 3,000 Internet addresses previously assigned to the hosting firm reveals an Internet ghost town, as if the entire neighborhood had been contaminated by some kind of toxic sludge that frightened off any potential future occupants.

And maybe it has. The Internet community typically shuns networks known to harbor spammers and organizations that host malicious software and other nastiness, usually by including their numeric Internet addresses on "blocklists." Many organizations configure their e-mail servers to reject messages from addresses included on one or more of these blocklists. A heavily blocklisted network quickly becomes unattractive to legitimate businesses, since any e-mail sent out of that network will most likely be refused by the intended recipients.

"The problem is once an address block gets so polluted and absorbed into all these blocklists, it's difficult to get off all of them because there is no central blocking authority," said Paul Ferguson, an advanced threat researcher at Trend Micro. "That space won't be toxic for all time to come, but certainly it is going to be tainted for whoever ends up with it."

Don Bertier, chief security officer at Savvis Inc., a networking and managed hosting provider, said it's not uncommon for a once-blighted block of Internet addresses to remain unoccupied long after the abuse that caused the listing has gone.

"What you'll find is some blacklists out there are derivatives of other lists, and it's hard to get those cleaned up," Bertier said, recalling a case last year in which a customer was given a swath of Internet addresses, only to find it was impossible to send e-mail from that space. "Typically in those cases, we'll work with the customers to get them new space and mark that allocation as something that really shouldn't be used for e-mail."

Then again, perhaps there are other, less scandalous reasons why McColo's main chunks of Internet space remain unoccupied. In any case, a scan of the space shows that none of the addresses are currently listed on any of more than 100 blocklists.

The dismantling of McColo wasn't without precedent. A year before McColo's collapse, the notorious St. Petersburg based Russian Business Network was scattered to the four winds when its upstream Internet providers backed away, following investigative reports in The Washington Post, Security Fix and other publications about a massive concentration of badness there.

In September 2008, a half dozen Internet providers one by one pulled out of another Northern California hosting firm named Atrivo (a.k.a. "Intercage"), after Security Fix and others publicized research into the company's colorful history as a malware-friendly hosting provider. Atrivo's exit from the Internet also caused a major -- albeit brief --- drop in spam rates. That event also kneecapped the Storm worm botnet, which was once responsible for sending 20 percent of the world's spam. Storm was never heard from again.

In June, legal efforts by the Federal Trade Commission resulted in the closure of 3FN/Pricewert, a hosting provider that the agency said hosted everything from botnet control servers to child pornography and rogue antivirus products. Spam rates, particularly from the Cutwail botnet -- which had a sizable number of its control servers at 3FN -- fell measurably as a result, but for nowhere near as long as with McColo.

Depending on who you ask, McColo's demise reduced the volume of spam by between 40 and 75 percent for several weeks (see the SpamCop.net graphic at right for one view of that impact). By some accounts, spam levels did not return to their pre-McColo levels until five months after the hosting firm's demise.

Critics of targeting problematic ISPs and hosting providers say the tactic only forces the spam purveyors and botnet masters to make their operations more resilient, devious and distributed. As e-mail security vendor MessageLabs noted in its third-quarter 2009 report on spam trends, "botnet technology has evolved significantly since the end of 2008, and the most recent closures now have a seemingly limited impact on the botnet activity, with downtime and outages lasting for only a few hours, rather than weeks or months as before."

Indeed, McLess than 10 day's after McColo's shutdown, experts first spotted Conficker, one of the most aggressive and complex botnets ever devised, by most accounts. Conficker almost seemed built specifically to avoid putting all of its eggs into one basket, as many botmasters had in placing their control servers at McColo. Instead, it was designed to download itself from any one of 250 pseudo-random Web site names spread over five top-level domains. That strategy seems to have worked: Conficker has since infected some 7 million PCs, according to a recent count provided by Shadowserver.org, a nonprofit group that tracks botnet activity.

In the end, a more surgical approach to combating the different infrastructure points supporting massive spam botnets may prove to be the model for targeting spam operations going forward. Last week, Milpitas, Calif., based security firm FireEye took aim at the Mega-d/Ozdok botnet, once responsible for sending close to 30 percent of spam.

That effort involved working with domain registrars to take down all registered Web sites used to control the botnet, and working with ISPs to get those sites closed down. FireEye also cut Mega-d off from its fail-safe mechanism, by systematically registered dozens of domains that the botnet was configured to search out for new instructions should the existing control networks get shut down. At the end of that process, which FireEye says took about 24 hours, some quarter million PCs infected with Mega-d were no longer answering to the botmasters, but reporting to servers controlled by FireEye.

The result? So far, spam from the Mega-d botnet has ceased, according to M86 Security Labs, a company that tracks botnet activity.

Circling back to McColo briefly, the impact from McColo's demise was felt far beyond anti-spam circles: According to Microsoft, it also brought a large drop in the success of phishing Web sites.

In addition, at least one fraud expert who works with a number of big name retailers said online retail fraud rates fell from around $250,000 per day to zero for a short time following McColo's takedown.

How to Destroy a Botnet
Davey Winder

Botnets are, without any shadow of a doubt, one of the biggest scourges of IT security today. From sending spam to launching DDoS attacks and distributing malware, botnets can be found at the centre of most of the security problems facing computer users right now.

So wouldn't it be fun if you could take down, knock over and destroy a botnet? The good news is that it seems you can, with a little determination and a lot of inside knowledge.

Researchers at the FireEye Malware Intelligence Lab have been working hard at gathering the necessary knowledge with regards to one Botnet, known as Ozdok or perhaps more commonly Mega-D. Having got to grips with the command and control architecture, along with the fallback mechanisms used to keep the botnet alive should they come under attack, FireEye decided the time was right to strike. This meant moving out of the lab and the purely theoretical realm of botnet takedown and into the real world, which involves getting various agencies working together with an intent to destroy a botnet. So FireEye contacted ISPs, registries and registrars and set about the task in hand.

Atif Mushtaq writes that "all the major Ozdok command and control servers... have been taken down. As it turns out, no matter how many fallback mechanisms are in place, if they aren't all implemented properly, the botnet is vulnerable".

It wasn't easy, but within a 24 hour period it would appear that it is possible to shutdown a botnet by working against all the fallback mechanisms that have been identified, and doing so with such speed that the botnet herders are unable to mount any kind of defence strategy to keep running.

FireEye approached the challenge methodically, by first preparing enough evidence of botnet activity (including those domains and hosts responsible) to allow ISPs to take the abuse notifications that followed seriously. Apparently this initial work paid off with only 4 hosts not being taken down promptly as a result, and those have been reported to relevant authorities to try and get them investigated and removed. Registrars were also contacted to request domain were suspended so as to break the primary command and control chain. Some of these were successful, although many appear to be still up and running. So not so much success there, although FireEye has managed to reroute Mega-D zombies to a sinkhole server rather than the real Command and Control centres.

In itself this is good news as it means FireEye can collect data about those zombies and identify victims, who can then be given help to clean their machines. In the first 24 hours of this determined takedown effort FireEye has seen 264,784 unique IPs connect to the sinkhole server.

According to Mathew Nisbet, Malware Data Analyst with MessageLabs, the effort has been worthwhile. Nisbet says "our monitoring shows a huge decline in this previously prolific botnet’s activity" continuing "normally between 600 and 1600 IP’s are seen each day" but after the takedown attempt it "plummeted down to less than 50".

Sure, Mega-D was not obliterated by this attack and it is still spewing out a handful of spams every day. It should be remembered that Mega-D has been taken down before and bounced back. However, this time it has been effectively crippled and that's important given how fiercely competitive the botnet market is. Clients will move elsewhere and it is doubtful if Mega-D will be able to recover to anything like the position it previously held in the underground botnet for hire league tables.

Flash Flaw Puts Most Sites, Users at Risk, Say Researchers

'Frighteningly bad thing,' said Foreground Security, of flaw allowing hackers to hijack sites, attack users
Gregg Keizer

Hackers can exploit a flaw in Adobe's Flash to compromise nearly every Web site that allows users to upload content, including Google's Gmail, then launch silent attacks on visitors to those sites, security researchers said today.

Adobe did not dispute the researchers' claims, but said that Web designers and administrators have a responsibility to craft their applications and sites to prevent such attacks.

"The magnitude of this is huge," said Mike Murray, the chief information security officer at Orlando, Fla.-based Foreground Security. "Any site that allows user-uploadable content is vulnerable, and most are not configured to prevent this."

The problem lies in the Flash ActionScript same-origin policy, which is designed to limit a Flash object's access to other content only from the domain it originated from, added Mike Bailey, a senior security researcher at Foreground. Unfortunately, said Bailey, if an attacker can deposit a malicious Flash object on a Web site -- through its user-generated content capabilities, which typically allow people to upload files to the site or service -- they can execute malicious scripts in the context of that domain.

"This is a frighteningly bad thing," Bailey said. "How many Web sites allow users to upload files of some sort? How many of those sites serve files back to users from the same domain as the rest of the application? Nearly every one of them is vulnerable."
Bailey, who demonstrated how attackers could compromise a Web site and attack users in a post today on Foreground's blog, outlined how a hacker would leverage the Flash flaw. "It's relatively simple," he maintained. "All they need to do is create a malicious Flash object, and upload it to the [Web] server."

He used the example of a company that lets users upload content to a message forum to explain the process. "If the user forum lets people upload an image for their avatar, someone could upload a malicious Flash file that looks like an avatar image," Bailey said. "Anyone who then views that avatar would be vulnerable to attack."

Adobe has told Foreground that the flaw is "unpatchable," Murray and Bailey said. Instead, Adobe is trying to educate site administrators to close the hole on their end. But they've not had much success.

Brad Arkin, Adobe's director for product security and privacy, agreed that the problem can't be solved with a patch to Flash. "We see this as a generic problem that affects any site that allows active scripting, not just Flash, but things like JavaScript and Silverlight as well. Even if Flash figured out some magical safeguard, this would be true for all active content sites that allow users to upload files."

Instead, Arkin added, Adobe has tried to get the word out to Web application designers and site administrators about the danger of allowing users to upload content. "Sites should not allow user uploads to a trusted domain," Arkin argued. "The real issue here is that developers should be cautious about using techniques that can be misused maliciously. In general, this is a general challenge in managing active content."

Bailey and Murray echoed that, but said most sites haven't taken that advice.

"Some of the big Web properties have figured this out," said Bailey. "In a lot of cases, they're hosting user-generated content on another domain, perhaps for performance reasons." Among those site and services that have locked down their servers, Foreground cited Microsoft's Windows Live Hotmail and Google's YouTube. "But very few system administrators are even aware of this," Bailey added.

Even some of Adobe's Web properties are vulnerable to such an attack. "How can Adobe expect others to protect themselves when they can't do it themselves?" asked Murray.

Google's Gmail is also at risk from malicious Flash attack -- Gmail lets users upload and download file attachments -- although Bailey said that exploiting Google's Web mail service would be "extremely tricky" with "lots of hoops to jump through."

Although Foreground has not detected any in-the-wild attacks using the technique, Murray said that there's evidence hackers are moving toward such tactics. "We're starting to see Flash used in these ways," he said, and cited a recent worm that leveraged a similar vulnerability in Adobe's software, which is pervasive on the Web and on users' machines. "The worst-case scenario is that someone would figure this out, and launch silent attacks against the entire Internet."

That fear was a major consideration in Foreground's decision to go public with its information, even though Adobe can't fix the problem with a global patch of some sort. "We went back and forth on this a whole lot," said Murray.

The only current defense users can employ against such attacks is to stop using Flash, or failing that, restrict its use to sites known to be safe with tools such as the NoScript add-on for Mozilla's Firefox, or ToggleFlash for Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

"The best mitigation is to not use Flash," argued Murray, "but we know that that's impossible for most users, since Flash is so widely used on the Web."

"Almost everyone using the Internet is vulnerable to a Web site that allows content to be updated inappropriately," said Murray. "That's not hyperbole, it's just fact. This has the potential to affect any social media site, any career site, any dating site, many retail sites and many cloud applications. That's why this attack is so serious. End users would never know they got exploited."

Adobe was not immediately available for comment.

Framed for Child Porn — by a PC Virus
Jordan Robertson

Of all the sinister things that Internet viruses do, this might be the worst: They can make you an unsuspecting collector of child pornography.

Heinous pictures and videos can be deposited on computers by viruses — the malicious programs better known for swiping your credit card numbers. In this twist, it's your reputation that's stolen.

Pedophiles can exploit virus-infected PCs to remotely store and view their stash without fear they'll get caught. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you can tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal Web sites.

Whatever the motivation, you get child porn on your computer — and might not realize it until police knock at your door.

An Associated Press investigation found cases in which innocent people have been branded as pedophiles after their co-workers or loved ones stumbled upon child porn placed on a PC through a virus. It can cost victims hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove their innocence.

Their situations are complicated by the fact that actual pedophiles often blame viruses — a defense rightfully viewed with skepticism by law enforcement.

"It's an example of the old `dog ate my homework' excuse," says Phil Malone, director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. "The problem is, sometimes the dog does eat your homework."

The AP's investigation included interviewing people who had been found with child porn on their computers. The AP reviewed court records and spoke to prosecutors, police and computer examiners.

One case involved Michael Fiola, a former investigator with the Massachusetts agency that oversees workers' compensation.

In 2007, Fiola's bosses became suspicious after the Internet bill for his state-issued laptop showed that he used 4 1/2 times more data than his colleagues. A technician found child porn in the PC folder that stores images viewed online.

Fiola was fired and charged with possession of child pornography, which carries up to five years in prison. He endured death threats, his car tires were slashed and he was shunned by friends.

Fiola and his wife fought the case, spending $250,000 on legal fees. They liquidated their savings, took a second mortgage and sold their car.

An inspection for his defense revealed the laptop was severely infected. It was programmed to visit as many as 40 child porn sites per minute — an inhuman feat. While Fiola and his wife were out to dinner one night, someone logged on to the computer and porn flowed in for an hour and a half.

Prosecutors performed another test and confirmed the defense findings. The charge was dropped — 11 months after it was filed.

The Fiolas say they have health problems from the stress of the case. They say they've talked to dozens of lawyers but can't get one to sue the state, because of a cap on the amount they can recover.

"It ruined my life, my wife's life and my family's life," he says.

The Massachusetts attorney general's office, which charged Fiola, declined interview requests.

At any moment, about 20 million of the estimated 1 billion Internet-connected PCs worldwide are infected with viruses that could give hackers full control, according to security software maker F-Secure Corp. Computers often get infected when people open e-mail attachments from unknown sources or visit a malicious Web page.

Pedophiles can tap viruses in several ways. The simplest is to force someone else's computer to surf child porn sites, collecting images along the way. Or a computer can be made into a warehouse for pictures and videos that can be viewed remotely when the PC is online.

"They're kind of like locusts that descend on a cornfield: They eat up everything in sight and they move on to the next cornfield," says Eric Goldman, academic director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. Goldman has represented Web companies that discovered child pornographers were abusing their legitimate services.

But pedophiles need not be involved: Child porn can land on a computer in a sick prank or an attempt to frame the PC's owner.

In the first publicly known cases of individuals being victimized, two men in the United Kingdom were cleared in 2003 after viruses were shown to have been responsible for the child porn on their PCs.

In one case, an infected e-mail or pop-up ad poisoned a defense contractor's PC and downloaded the offensive pictures.

In the other, a virus changed the home page on a man's Web browser to display child porn, a discovery made by his 7-year-old daughter. The man spent more than a week in jail and three months in a halfway house, and lost custody of his daughter.

Chris Watts, a computer examiner in Britain, says he helped clear a hotel manager whose co-workers found child porn on the PC they shared with him.

Watts found that while surfing the Internet for ways to play computer games without paying for them, the manager had visited a site for pirated software. It redirected visitors to child porn sites if they were inactive for a certain period.

In all these cases, the central evidence wasn't in dispute: Pornography was on a computer. But proving how it got there was difficult.

Tami Loehrs, who inspected Fiola's computer, recalls a case in Arizona in which a computer was so "extensively infected" that it would be "virtually impossible" to prove what an indictment alleged: that a 16-year-old who used the PC had uploaded child pornography to a Yahoo group.

Prosecutors dropped the charge and let the boy plead guilty to a separate crime that kept him out of jail, though they say they did it only because of his age and lack of a criminal record.

Many prosecutors say blaming a computer virus for child porn is a new version of an old ploy.

"We call it the SODDI defense: Some Other Dude Did It," says James Anderson, a federal prosecutor in Wyoming.

However, forensic examiners say it would be hard for a pedophile to get away with his crime by using a bogus virus defense.

"I personally would feel more comfortable investing my retirement in the lottery before trying to defend myself with that," says forensics specialist Jeff Fischbach.

Even careful child porn collectors tend to leave incriminating e-mails, DVDs or other clues. Virus defenses are no match for such evidence, says Damon King, trial attorney for the U.S. Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

But while the virus defense does not appear to be letting real pedophiles out of trouble, there have been cases in which forensic examiners insist that legitimate claims did not get completely aired.

Loehrs points to Ned Solon of Casper, Wyo., who is serving six years for child porn found in a folder used by a file-sharing program on his computer.

Solon admits he used the program to download video games and adult porn — but not child porn. So what could explain that material?

Loehrs testified that Solon's antivirus software wasn't working properly and appeared to have shut off for long stretches, a sign of an infection. She found no evidence the five child porn videos on Solon's computer had been viewed or downloaded fully. The porn was in a folder the file-sharing program labeled as "incomplete" because the downloads were canceled or generated an error.

This defense was curtailed, however, when Loehrs ended her investigation in a dispute with the judge over her fees. Computer exams can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Defendants can ask the courts to pay, but sometimes judges balk at the price. Although Loehrs stopped working for Solon, she argues he is innocent.

"I don't think it was him, I really don't," Loehrs says. "There was too much evidence that it wasn't him."

The prosecution's forensics expert, Randy Huff, maintains that Solon's antivirus software was working properly. And he says he ran other antivirus programs on the computer and didn't find an infection — although security experts say antivirus scans frequently miss things.

"He actually had a very clean computer compared to some of the other cases I do," Huff says.

The jury took two hours to convict Solon.

"Everybody feels they're innocent in prison. Nobody believes me because that's what everybody says," says Solon, whose case is being appealed. "All I know is I did not do it. I never put the stuff on there. I never saw the stuff on there. I can only hope that someday the truth will come out."

But can it? It can be impossible to tell with certainty how a file got onto a PC.

"Computers are not to be trusted," says Jeremiah Grossman, founder of WhiteHat Security Inc. He describes it as "painfully simple" to get a computer to download something the owner doesn't want — whether it's a program that displays ads or one that stores illegal pictures.

It's possible, Grossman says, that more illicit material is waiting to be discovered.

"Just because it's there doesn't mean the person intended for it to be there — whatever it is, child porn included."

Bid to Block Paedophiles from Facebook Fails

Government plan to stop sex offenders using social networking sites would breach human rights law
Jamie Doward

Government plans to block paedophiles from using social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have been shelved because of fears that such a move would breach human rights laws.

The Home Office announced in April that it was taking steps to restrict registered sex offenders from accessing the internet sites used by millions of children every day. The new law would have applied to more than 30,000 sex offenders on the register. Failure to comply would have carried up to five years' imprisonment.

But it has now emerged that the Home Office has been forced to climb down amid concerns that the plan is incompatible with the right to privacy. There are fears that any move by the police to share the personal details and email addresses of registered sex offenders with the social networking sites would be open to legal challenges. The decision to shelve the new law followed a ruling by the Court of Appeal earlier this year. "We're seeking leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court," a Home Office spokesman said.

Concerns about paedophiles using networking sites to approach children are growing. In its annual report, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre noted there had been a marked increase in the use of webcams linked to instant messaging technology to incite a child to perform or to witness a sexual act.

The CEOP report states: "Cases in the past 12 months range from instances where offenders have infiltrated social networking and other online environments to collect pictures of young children to examples of sustained grooming and blackmail with offenders seeking to meet a child offline for abduction and sexual abuse. The online and offline worlds are truly converged: the 'virtual' environment is simply an extension of the real, physical world and that is as true for young people as it is for offenders."

Sex offenders are banned from accessing personal networking sites in the US, where the personal details of paedophiles are made public.

With Playboy Sale, an Icon Bows to Changing Times
Alex Dobuzinskis

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner changed American pop culture, one centerfold at a time.

With his Playboy Enterprises Inc in talks to be sold for about $300 million, the 83 year-old Hefner will be giving up control over the iconic adult entertainment empire he founded that was instrumental in shaping society's opinions on nudity, sex and free speech.

With $600, Hefner in 1953 published the first Playboy magazine with a partially nude photo of Marilyn Monroe at its center. The magazine would become not only one of the most successful publications ever, but also a brand that led many Americans to think about sex in a more carefree way.

"Hef" turned Playboy and its bunny head logo into a symbol for a lifestyle he embodied as bachelor extraordinaire, living in a mansion surrounded by wealth and beautiful women.

"This guy was one of the major players in the transformation of American culture in the second half of the 20th century and not just because he had a magazine with naked women in it," said Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University.

In 1972, Playboy had a worldwide circulation of 7 million, but that has been in decline ever since, as the liberalization of sexual attitudes Hefner promoted became more mainstream -- and more competitive.

But even as it grew ever more popular, the magazine created rivals such as Penthouse and Hustler. In the 1980s, adult videos grew into a major business and by the late 1990s, the rise of the Internet and free pornography on the Web became Playboy's greatest rival for an audience.

Reality Star

Hefner remains in the limelight today, showing up at media events with numerous girlfriends by his side. He enjoyed a role in reality television show "The Girls Next Door" on cable network E! and his dating life and break-up with model Holly Madison made him a staple of celebrity magazines.

Hefner has said that growing up during the depression he always looked back wistfully to the 1920s age of flappers as an era of freedom he had missed.

He has described himself as having liberated America from its Puritan past and experts agree he did make sexual images and content more acceptable to Americans.

But Playboy magazine also showed men how to enjoy stylish clothing, good liquor, sports cars and other luxuries, and became a standard bearer for that lifestyle -- real or imagined.

"All that kind of stuff just piled up issue after issue -- promoting that idea of consumer abundance as being synonymous with the good life in this country -- and Hefner is very important in promoting that idea," said Steven Watts, author of "Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream."

But as Playboy's fortunes waned, some of the symbols of wealth that surrounded Hefner became harder for him to hang on to.

In the early 1980s, he had to give up a private jet plane with a bedroom, a miniature disco and a kitchen, Watts said.

Through the decades and despite the loss of business, Hefner continued to live the good life and made sure everyone knew it.

"Hefner really tries to completely disengage the notion of guilt and sin from having a good time and, the last couple of generations, that has pretty much prevailed," said Thompson, the Syracuse professor. "Certainly, when I talk to my students, I don't get a sense they're feeling guilty about the good deal of fun they're having."

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Andre Grenon)

Murdoch: We’ll Probably Remove Our Sites From Google’s Index

Rupert Murdoch has suggested that News Corporation is likely to make its content unfindable to users on Google when it launches its paid content strategy .

When Murdoch and other senior News Corp lieutenants have criticised aggregators such as Google for taking a free ride on its content, commentators have questioned why the company doesn’t simply make its content invisible to search engines.

Using the robots.txt protocol on a site indicates to automated web spiders such as Google’s not to index that particular page or to serve up links to it in users’ search results.

Murdoch claimed that readers who randomly reach a page via search have little value to advertisers. Asked by Sky News political editor David Speers why News hasn’t therefore made its sites invisible to Google, Murdoch replied: “I think we will.”

Although he has previously talked at length about the role of aggregators, it is one of the first times Murdoch has discussed actually removing content from the search engines.

Murdoch’s interview was one of a string of conversations he had with the various News Corp-affiliated media outlets.

Murdoch told The Australian’s media editor Geoff Elliott that the company might be join the auction of digital spectrum.

And Murdoch confirmed to The Daily Telegraph that he’d like to buy Telstra’s stake in Foxtel.

WIPO Rules in Favor of Glenn Beck Parody Site
Chloe Albanesius

An intellectual property organization has denied a request by Glenn Beck to take down a Web site with a domain name that the talk show host claimed improperly used his name and defamed his name.

An arbitration panel for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency within the United Nations, found that Isaac Eiland-Hall registered the URL glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com as a political statement and not as a bad faith effort to profit from Beck's name.

Eiland-Hall "appears to the panel to be engaged in a parody of the style or methodology that [Eiland-Hall] appears genuinely to believe is employed by [Beck] in the provision of political commentary, and for that reason [Eiland-Hall] can be said to be making a political statement."

In a Friday letter to Beck, Eiland-Hall said he pursued the case simply as a means to "help preserve the First Amendment" and provided Beck with the username and password to his site so that Beck could remove it at his discretion.

The Web site was still live early Friday afternoon, but as of 4:30pm Eastern time, it appeared to be down.

A spokesman for Beck declined comment.

Eiland-Hall states on his Web site that Beck did not in fact rape and murder a girl in 1990, and that the URL is referencing an Internet meme as a means to poke fun at Beck's style as a talk show host.

Eiland-Hall pointed to Beck's interview with Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim.

"And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview because what I feel like saying is, sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies," Beck said to Ellison, according to court documents. "And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy. But that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."

Eiland-Hall's Web site takes a satirical jab at that type of commentary, referencing a meme started by comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who suggested during a Comedy Central roast that fellow comedian Bob Saget had also raped and murdered a girl in 1990. Gottfried's allegation was clearly not true, which was the point of the joke.

"Why won't Glenn Beck deny these allegations?" Eiland-Hall's site reads. "We're not accusing Glenn Beck of raping and murdering a young girl in 1990 – in fact, we think he didn't! But we can't help but wonder, since he has failed to deny these horrible allegations. Why won't he deny that he raped and killed a young girl in 1990?"

Eiland-Hall's attorneys claimed that "only an abject imbecile could believe that the domain name would have any connection to" Glenn Beck. "This is the price of celebrity – you just might wind up in a meme, and you might not deserve it." But "Mr. Beck has all but begged to become the subject of a meme," they said.

Beck's lawyers claimed the URL is "confusingly similar to the Glenn Beck mark," that Eiland-Hall did not have permission to use Beck's trademarked name in his URL, that the domain name is defamatory, and that the site does not accurately convey that it is a joke.

Beck also said that Eiland-Hall came up with the parody defense after the fact and did not initially envision the site as a joke.

The WIPO panel confined its investigation to whether Eiland-Hall participated in "abusive domain name registration and use."

In order to prove abuse, Beck would need to prove that the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to his trademarked name, that Eiland-Hall had no rights or real interest in the domain when he bought it, and that he registered it in bad faith.

The panel found that the URL is, in fact, confusingly similar to Beck's trademark and that people searching for legitimate information on Beck might stumble upon this site.

On the second point, however, the panel found that Eiland-Hall had an interest in the URL for political purposes, and that he did not benefit financially from Beck's name.

"While there is some evidence that at some stage third-party vendors of goods and services critical of [Beck] may have earned some income on sales of t-shirts and bumper stickers embodying political slogans based on click-throughs from [Eiland-Hall's] Web site, the panel does not believe this is sufficient 'commercial activity' to change the balance of interests already addressed," the panel concluded.

As a result, the panel did not consider the third point about bad faith, and ruled in favor of Eiland-Hall.

Pre-Release Music Piracy: Further Arrests, Exec Loses Job

During the summer, TorrentFreak learned that major online music piracy group DV8 suffered a serious setback after a music industry investigation led to arrests. In September our sources leaked information that a label executive had also been arrested. Now fresh details have emerged concerning his fate and news of yet more arrests.

Earlier this year, DV8, one of the busiest ‘Scene’ music piracy groups responsible for more than 3,000 single and album releases, suffered major setbacks.

A BPI investigation led to a police swoop on members of the group. They were subjected to searches, seizure of their computers and other assorted items, and later questioned at length.

The suspects were charged with Conspiracy to Defraud (the music industry), released on bail and ordered to reappear at later dates. One was later released with a police warning and told that charges would not be pressed against him.

In the meantime the alleged leader of DV8 had his bail pushed back to mid November pending further investigations. TorrentFreak’s previously-reliable sources positioned close to the case have now informed us that the individual answered his bail a few days ago and was subjected to another day of questioning. He has allegedly been charged with ‘defrauding the music industry’, although the conspiracy element appears to have been dropped.

Earlier we reported that two more arrests were made of suspected pre-release music suppliers to DV8. One of those individuals was an executive at a record label. Our information is that this executive has now lost his job, but no charges have been brought against him.

It was believed that the delay in charging the alleged leader of the group was due to the police needing more time to track down additional suppliers, one of which we were told works for a major media outlet. Indeed, we are now being informed that during the last few weeks there have been further raids on people linked to the group.

One is reportedly a writer at a music publication, who allegedly supplied music to the leader of the group. We are told he was raided 2 weeks ago.

Another is a US member of DV8 who left months before the first raid. He was arrested several weeks ago but is understood to have been released without charge.

Court dates are pending for those charged, but could arrive as quickly as early 2010.

iTunes Censors 'Doo Wop' Songs

Apple's automated censoring service confuses the 1950s genre for a racial slur, marking song titles with an asterisk
Camilla Chafer

An automated censoring service has left iTunes embarrassed after it censored "doo wop" to "doo w*p", confusing consumers, including Radio 2 DJ Jeremy Vine.

When Vine mentioned in passing to fellow DJ Ken Bruce on Wednesday that he was surprised to find iTunes had censored an album he wanted, it caused an on-air stir.

A search of iTunes reveals that the asterisk substitution does not apply only to the 1950s genre, but to any track or album that mentions the racial slur wop, including Lauryn Hill and, those famously inflammatory artists, Prefab Sprout.

Doo wop was originally performed largely by African-Americans, but was later popularised by Italian-American artists. It's the latter ethnic group that has borne the brunt of the racial slur in question, so in censoring the word, iTunes is being a little over-sensitive.

Adam Howorth, Head of Music PR at iTunes, says the asterisk is imposed by an automated database that checks words against a list but can't distinguish the context. "We have an automated system which looks for potentially off words and asterisks out certain ones based on the rules, and wop is one of those," says Howorth. "In the context of this music it is an error."

While the system may go too far in one direction, it also seems to have failings in the other. Honky, a term that mocks white people, derives from honky tonk music, played in American piano bars in the early twentieth century. There are still many tracks, by acts like Jools Holland, the Rolling Stones, James Brown and the Beach Boys with honky tonk in the title. But the word honky, despite being on iTunes banned list, remains uncensored. Howorth isn't sure why honky has passed censorship when doo wop hasn't.

It's not the first time iTunes has faced criticism for unnecessary censorship. Last year "a database glitch" was deemed responsible for censoring a plethora of artists and titles including Girls Aloud's Long Hot Summer and Avril Lavinge's Hot, the problem being "hot" was too, well, h*t to handle.

More Than Ever, You Can Say That on Television
Edward Wyatt

On many nights this fall, it has been possible to tune in to broadcast network television during prime time and hear a character call someone else a “douche.”

In just the last several weeks, it has happened on CBS’s “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” which are broadcast at 8 p.m., during what used to be known as the family hour. It has been heard this fall on Fox’s new series “The Cleveland Show,” which begins at 8:30, and on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” On NBC, its use has spanned the old and the new, blurted out on the freshman comedy “Community” and the seasoned drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

In total, the word has surfaced at least 76 times already this year on 26 prime-time network series, according to research by the Parents Television Council, which compiled the statistics at the request of The New York Times. That is up from 30 uses on 15 shows in all of 2007 and just six instances on four programs in 2005.

Ever since George Carlin laid out the “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” in 1972, television writers and broadcasters have been digging more deeply into the thesaurus, seizing on new ways to titillate, if not offend. And while the word “douche” is neither obscene nor profane — although this usage is certainly offensive to many people — it seems to represent the latest of broadcast television’s continuing efforts to expand the boundaries of taste, in part to stem the tide of defections by its audience to largely unregulated cable television.

As a result, words that previously were rarely heard on television suddenly turn up everywhere, while once unspeakable slurs become passé from overuse. The use of the word, “bitch,” for example, tripled in the last decade alone, growing to 1,277 uses on 685 shows in 2007 from 431 uses on 103 prime-time episodes in 1998.

The Parents Television Council is a conservative interest group that monitors (and opposes) profanity on television, but television writers themselves acknowledge that the language on networks has changed.

“As a writer, you’re always reaching for a more potent way to call somebody a jerk,” Dan Harmon, the creator of “Community,” said about the word “douche.” “This is a word that has evolved in the last couple of years — a thing that sounds like a thing you can’t say.”

It is not simply that the language is becoming more raw on broadcast networks but that the language, violence and sex that formerly was restricted to the 10 p.m. hour has migrated to earlier time slots.

Recent research by Barbara K. Kaye of the University of Tennessee and Barry S. Sapolsky of Florida State University found that in 2005 television viewers were more likely to hear offensive language during the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. hours than at 10 p.m. Technically, there has not been a “family hour” since 1976, when the United States Supreme Court struck down the imposition of such a policy by the Federal Communications Commission. But broadcast networks observed the practice long after that.

No more, it seems. At a symposium sponsored last summer by a group of 40 national advertisers known as the Alliance for Family Entertainment, the heads of the major networks said the idea of a family hour was antiquated and did not fit how families consume television today. Nina Tassler, the president of CBS Entertainment, commented that shows like her network’s “Old Christine” “merely reflect a different family dynamic.”

That dynamic includes the frequent use of profanities — broadly defined as anything from sexual and excretory words to milder words like “hell.” Ms. Kaye and Mr. Sapolsky found that their use on broadcast prime-time television jumped from a rate of 5.5 times an hour in 1990 to 7.6 in 2001 and 9.8 in 2005.

While the fastest growth was in the use of the stronger words, the term “jackass” has gained favor recently, appearing in 34 family-hour shows so far this year, up from 31 in 2007 and 27 in 2005. Other words have come in and out of favor: “sucks,” for example, appeared in 226 family-hour episodes in 2005, fell to 120 in 2007 and rose again to 232 so far this year, according to the council’s research.

The only time in recent years that the instance of profanity briefly declined, Ms. Kaye said, was in 1997, shortly after television ratings were put into place. Network officials say they continue to pay great attention to broadcast standards.

“We are still in the line-drawing business,” said Martin D. Franks, executive vice president for planning, policy and government relations at the CBS Corporation. “We may not have a formal family hour at 8 o’clock, but we are trying to be respectful of our audience and who makes up our audience at a particular time of day.”

Not everyone in the business agrees. Neal Baer, an executive producer of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” said that because the series was repeated in syndication and on cable at all times of the day, the producers could not worry about what time something was going to be viewed. “It’s hypocritical to say that you have to have shows on broadcast networks at 10 but they run at 3 or 4 or 5 in the afternoon on cable,” Mr. Baer said. “Kids have access to cable.”

Users of the recently popular word “douche” defend its use, noting that it was invoked, usually with the suffix “bag,” in the 1990s by the character Andy Sipowicz on “NYPD Blue,” an ABC series that frequently pushed the boundaries of network acceptability.

Timothy Jay, a psychology professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the author of “Cursing in America,” said the word has evolved to the point where it has lost much of its offensiveness. “Vulgar slang has a way of waxing and waning, where we become desensitized to a word’s earlier meanings,” he said. “I would bet most kids today couldn’t tell you what a douche bag is.”

UK Surveillance Plan to Go Ahead
Dominic Casciani

The Home Office says it will push ahead with plans to ask communications firms to monitor all internet use.

Ministers confirmed their intention despite concerns and opposition from some in the industry.

The proposals include asking firms to retain information on how people use social networks such as Facebook.

Some 40% of respondents to the Home Office's consultation opposed the plans - but ministers say communication interception needs to be updated.

Both the police and secret security services have legal powers in the UK to intercept communications in the interests of combating crime or threats to national security.

But the rules largely focus on communications over telephones and do not cover the whole range of internet communications now being used.

The Home Office says it wants to change the law to compel communication service providers (CSPs) to collect and retain records of communications from a wider range of internet sources, from social networks through to chatrooms and unorthodox methods, such as within online games.

Ministers say that they do not want to create a single government-owned database and only intend to ask CSPs to hold a record of a contact, rather than the actual contents of what was said.

Technically challenging

Police and other agencies would then be able to ask CSPs for information on when a communication was sent and between whom.

# More communication via computers rather than phones
# Companies won't always keep all data all the time
# Anonymity online masks criminal identities
# More online services provided from abroad
# Data held in many locations and difficult to find Source: Home Office consultation

In theory, law enforcement agencies will be able to link that information to specific devices such as an individual's smartphone or laptop.

The proposals are technically challenging, as they would require a CSP to sort and organise all third-party traffic coming and going through their systems. The estimated £2bn bill for the project includes compensation for the companies involved.

Home Office minister David Hanson said: "Communications data is crucial to the fight against crime and in keeping people safe. It is a highly technical area and one which demands a fine balance between privacy and maintaining the capabilities of the police and security services.

"The consultation showed widespread recognition of the importance of communications data in protecting the public and an appreciation of the challenges which rapidly changing technology poses.

"We will now work with communications service providers and others to develop these proposals, and aim to introduce necessary legislation as soon as possible."

Opposition and concern

The consultation results reveal that 90 of the 221 responses opposed the basic principles that the government should be seeking a method to retain or look at the data.

The Home Office said that there was a "widespread but not unanimous" recognition of the role of data in protecting the public. But many concerns related to the detail of what would be done with the information.

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner responsible for overseeing the protection of private information, told the Home Office that while he recognised that the police needed to use communication data to stop crime, this in itself was not a justification to collect all possible data passing through the internet.

"The proposal represents a step change in the relationship between the citizen and the state," said Mr Graham.

"For the first time, this proposal is asking CSPs to collect and create information they would not have previously held and to go further in conducting additional processing on that information.

"Evidence for this proposal must be available to demonstrate that such a step change is necessary and proportionate."

Justice Dept. Asked For News Site's Visitor Lists
Declan McCullagh

In a case that raises questions about online journalism and privacy rights, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day.

The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Indymedia.us Web site "not to disclose the existence of this request" unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization.

Kristina Clair, a 34-year old Linux administrator living in Philadelphia who provides free server space for Indymedia.us, said she was shocked to receive the Justice Department's subpoena. (The Independent Media Center is a left-of-center amalgamation of journalists and advocates that – according to their principles of unity and mission statement – work toward "promoting social and economic justice" and "social change.")

The subpoena (PDF) from U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison in Indianapolis demanded "all IP traffic to and from www.indymedia.us" on June 25, 2008. It instructed Clair to "include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information," including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers' Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and so on.

"I didn't think anything we were doing was worthy of any (federal) attention," Clair said in a telephone interview with CBSNews.com on Monday. After talking to other Indymedia volunteers, Clair ended up calling the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, which represented her at no cost.

Under long-standing Justice Department guidelines, subpoenas to members of the news media are supposed to receive special treatment. One portion of the guidelines, for instance, says that "no subpoena may be issued to any member of the news media" without "the express authorization of the attorney general" – that would be current attorney general Eric Holder – and subpoenas should be "directed at material information regarding a limited subject matter."

Still unclear is what criminal investigation U.S. Attorney Morrison was pursuing. Last Friday, a spokeswoman initially promised a response, but Morrison sent e-mail on Monday evening saying: "We have no comment." The Justice Department in Washington, D.C. also declined to respond.

Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, replied to the Justice Department on behalf of his client in a February 2009 letter (PDF) outlining what he described as a series of problems with the subpoena, including that it was not personally served, that a judge-issued court order would be required for the full logs, and that Indymedia did not store logs in the first place.

Morrison replied in a one-sentence letter saying the subpoena had been withdrawn. Around the same time, according to the EFF, the group had a series of discussions with assistant U.S. attorneys in Morrison's office who threatened Clair with possible prosecution for obstruction of justice if she disclosed the existence of the already-withdrawn subpoena -- claiming it "may endanger someone's health" and would have a "human cost."

Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of The Press, said a gag order to a news organization wouldn't stand up in court: "If you get a subpoena and you're a journalist, they can't gag you."

Dalglish said that a subpoena being issued and withdrawn is not unprecedented. "I have seen any number of these things withdrawn when counsel for someone who is claiming a reporter's privilege says, 'Can you tell me the date you got approval from the attorney general's office'... I'm willing to chalk this up to bad lawyering on the part of the DOJ, or just not thinking."

Making this investigation more mysterious is that Indymedia.us is an aggregation site, meaning articles that appear on it were published somewhere else first, and there's no hint about what sparked the criminal probe. Clair, the system administrator, says that no IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are recorded for Indymedia.us, and non-IP address logs are kept for a few weeks and then discarded.

EFF's Bankston wrote a second letter to the government saying that, if it needed to muzzle Indymedia, it should apply for a gag order under the section of federal law that clearly permits such an order to be issued. Bankston's plan: To challenge that law on First Amendment grounds.

But the Justice Department never replied. "This is the first time we've seen them try to get the IP address of everyone who visited a particular site," Bankston said. "That it was a news organization was an additional troubling fact that implicates First Amendment rights."

This is not, however, the first time that the Feds have focused on Indymedia -- a Web site whose authors sometimes blur the line between journalism, advocacy, and on-the-streets activism. In 2004, the Justice Department sent a grand jury subpoena asking for information about who posted lists of Republican delegates while urging they be given an unwelcome reception at the party's convention in New York City that year. A Indymedia hosting service in Texas once received a subpoena asking for server logs in relation to an investigation of an attempted murder in Italy.

Bankston has written a longer description of the exchange of letters with the Justice Department, which he hopes will raise awareness of how others should respond to similar legal demands for Web logs, customer records, and compulsory silence. "Our fear is that this kind of bogus gag order is much more common than one would hope, considering they're legally baseless," Bankston says. "We're telling this story in hopes that more providers will press back and go public when the government demands their silence."

Update 1:59pm E.T.: A Justice Department official familiar with this subpoena just told me that the attorney general's office never saw it and that it had not been submitted to the department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. for review. If that's correct, it suggests that U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison and Assistant U.S. Attorney Doris Pryor did not follow department regulations requiring the "express authorization of the attorney general" for media subpoenas -- and it means that neither Attorney General Eric Holder nor Acting Attorney General Mark Filip were involved. I wouldn't be surprised to see an internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility; my source would not confirm or deny that.

News Erupts, and So Does a Web Debut
David Carr

On Thursday afternoon, when word came about the shootings that left 13 people dead at Fort Hood, just up the road from Austin, it seemed like a made-to-order test for The Texas Tribune, a brand new 12-person Web-based newsroom.

They scrambled the jets, made plans, and then — stayed put.

The big coverage on the site, TexasTribune.org, on Friday was not about the aftermath of the shootings, but the 50 highest paid state employees and an exclusive about a state representative who had switched parties.

The Texas Tribune was conceived and devised to cover the politics and policy of Texas state government. During lunch on Friday at the Roaring Fork on Congress Avenue in Austin, seven staff members recalled the previous day, when the siren of a big story blew.

“We were all sitting around talking excitedly about what we were going to do with it,” said Elise Hu, who came to The Tribune from KVUE-TV. “And then you could see Matt,” she said, indicating her colleague Matt Stiles next to her at lunch, “was about to blow his stack.”

“It wasn’t our story. Should we have just been one more news organization rushing to Fort Hood? I don’t think so,” said Mr. Stiles, who joined the Web site from The Houston Chronicle.

It was one more lesson in a first week that was full of them. Led by Evan Smith, the former editor of the highly respected Texas Monthly, The Tribune is a nonprofit attempt to use a mix of donations, sponsorships, premium content and revenue from conferences to come up with a sustainable model for journalism that neither depends on nor requires a print product.

At this point, The Tribune has raised $3.7 million, including $1 million from John Thornton, an Austin venture capitalist, $1.6 million from other individuals, $500,000 from the Houston Endowment and $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

All of it is arrayed over the good-for-you, brussels sprouts journalism — education financing, lobbying, bureaucratic priorities, civics and state government. And as a niche site with a very narrow focus, it can’t afford to change its spots just because a national event erupts 90 minutes up the road.

“We’re about public policy and politics,” Mr. Smith said. “What I wasn’t going to do was send someone racing up the interstate to cover something, however important, that wasn’t ours.”

Various Web sites have carved out a business, or at least an audience, by shaving off some aspect of news, including crime, gossip or entertainment, but state government would not seem to be the sexiest corner of the realm.

“The business of state government is health care, education, immigration, the most important issues around, and there are plenty of people who have a stake,” said Mr. Smith, sitting in his second floor office in Austin with the Capitol visible just up the hill. “The reaction from the people at the statehouse about our launch has been gratitude and fear. They’ll say, ‘I’m so glad that you are doing this, and I hope you do a great job of covering everyone but me.’ ”

The theory is that a group of well-compensated editors and writers (including Mr. Smith, who makes $315,000, with 15 percent of it deferred for two years) will create valuable reporting shared by citizens and other news media outlets, a kind of digital version of public radio.

The site has all manner of blogs and an impressive array of databases, including spending by lawmakers, donations by PACs and lobbying outlays, offering visitors a simple, transparent look into their tax dollars at work. The Tribune has yet to find a voice that makes state politics seem more like, say, the Oscars, but these are early days.

What really sets the Tribune apart is not a workable design and good intentions, but its effort to build a durable model for journalism in the future. The idea for the site, which was hatched by Mr. Thornton, a successful venture capitalist and former McKinsey consultant who became interested in newspapers when he was shopping for distressed assets.

“I was initially looking to profit on the misery in the industry, but it was clear after even a little investigation that there was not the kind of venture returns that you would need,” he said, sitting in a conference room at the Tribune offices that also functions as a multimedia studio with cameras and microphones. “I began to see journalism as a public good, like national defense or clean air.”

“People have suggested that journalism is too important to be left to nonprofits, but I think it is too important to be left to market forces,” he said, standing up to the whiteboard and beginning to draw the kind of diagram a former consultant might understand. “Everybody likes to beat up on the newspaper guys, which is easy to do from the sidelines, but they have been facing a tsunami.”

One ally on the advisory board is Mark McKinnon, a policy and media adviser to former President George W. Bush and the vice chairman at Public Strategies, a public policy consulting firm based in Austin.

“There are a lot of conversations about the future of journalism where everyone wrings their hands and talks very passionately about the problem, but John is a business guy who thinks in business terms about the problem and has come up with something that could be sustainable,” Mr. McKinnon said.

Mr. Smith said there was certainly a need in Texas because the loss of reporting horsepower has made state government less accountable. “There are 150 representatives, and every election, there are maybe 10 races that are competitive,” he said. “That gap in reporting, which is growing, can’t be good for the state or the people that live here.”

Talk of “gaps in reporting” hasn’t made some of the people at the remaining newspapers happy, but no one I spoke to would say anything about it on the record. Not everyone is grumbling, though. Robert Rivard, editor of The San Antonio Express-News, sent his best wishes and a donation.

“The more journalists holding government accountable, the better off all of us are, so I welcome The Texas Tribune and hope Express-News readers end up reading some of The Texas Tribune’s best work reprinted in our pages,” he wrote in his paper.

At lunch last Friday, Emily Ramshaw, a rising reporter who came to The Tribune after breaking a number of big stories at The Dallas Morning News, said she was ready for a change of platforms. And atmosphere.

“I feel inspired for the first time in a long time in journalism,” she said. “What we are doing here is exciting, and I was tired of working at places where everyone was scared and worried about what was going to happen next.”

There were nods of agreement around the table, including from Brian Thevenot, the former special projects editor at The Times-Picayune of New Orleans who is now covering education for The Tribune.

When he notified his bosses that he was moving on, they recommended that he think twice. “My editor asked me whether I was worried about going to a risky start-up, when the much riskier move seemed like staying at a newspaper.” After a year of furloughs and benefit cuts, he left, and a week later, his old newspaper announced a big round of buyouts.

Like everyone else at The Tribune, he’s betting that readers will follow his lead.

“Of course, the $64,000 question is whether when we throw this party anybody will show up,” Mr. Thornton said. “But this is Texas, a place where people care a lot about their identity and their state. It’s a great place to try this.”

Universities Shun Kindle, Saying Blind Can't Use It
Rachel Metz

Amazon.com's Kindle can read books aloud, but if you're blind it can be difficult to turn that function on without help. Now two universities say they will shun the device until Amazon changes the setup.

The National Federation of the Blind planned to announce Wednesday that the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University in New York won't consider big rollouts of the electronic reading device unless Amazon makes it more accessible to visually impaired students.

Both schools have some Kindles that they bought for students to try this fall, but now they say they won't look into buying more unless Amazon makes changes to the device.

"These universities are saying, 'Our policy is nondiscrimination, so we're not going to adopt a technology we know for sure discriminates against blind students,'" said Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind.

Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said many visually impaired customers have asked Amazon to make the Kindle easier to navigate. The company is working on it, he said.

According to the National Federation of the Blind, there are about 1.3 million legally blind people in the U.S. Many more people have other disabilities such as dyslexia that make it difficult to read.

The Kindle could be promising for the visually impaired because of its read-aloud feature, which utters text in a robotic-sounding voice. For blind students in particular, the Kindle could be an improvement over existing studying techniques — such as using audio books or scanning books page by page into a computer so character-recognition software can translate it for a text-to-speech program.

But activating the Kindle's audio feature probably requires a sighted helper, because the step involves manipulating buttons and navigating choices in menus that appear on the Kindle's screen.

The federation says the device should be able to speak the menu choices as well.

Electronic books still make up a small portion of the overall book market, but it's a fast-growing segment. In hopes of getting even more people to try the Kindle, Amazon released the $489 Kindle DX this year, which has a large screen and is geared toward textbook and newspaper readers. The company then worked with several colleges to give out Kindles this fall with digital versions of their textbooks on them.

The Federation of the Blind sued one of the schools that participated in this pilot program — Arizona State University — in June, along with the American Council of the Blind and a blind ASU student, arguing it was discriminating against blind students. That case is ongoing.

The group also filed complaints with the Department of Justice against five other schools that are participating in the Kindle trial with Amazon. Wisconsin and Syracuse are not among those schools.

Ken Frazier, director of Wisconsin-Madison's library system, said the library bought 20 Kindle DX devices for use in a history class this fall. Though he's not sure how many blind students are at his school, he said many students have difficulties reading texts for various reasons, such as learning disabilities.

"Our experience is that when you make technology accessible, everybody benefits," he said.

Confusion on Where Money Lent via Kiva Goes
Stephanie Strom

Last month, David Roodman, a research fellow at the Center for Global Development, pressed a button on his laptop as his bus left the Lincoln Tunnel in Manhattan and started a debate that has people re-examining the country’s latest celebrated charity, Kiva.org.

Oprah Winfrey extolled Kiva on her TV show. Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times, sang its praises. “I lent $25 each to the owner of a TV repair shop in Afghanistan, a baker in Afghanistan, and a single mother running a clothing shop in the Dominican Republic,” Mr. Kristof wrote in a 2007 column.

Kiva, a nonprofit organization, promoted itself as a link between small individual lenders and small individual borrowers like Maryjane Cruz in the Philippines, who recently sought a $625 loan to support her family’s farm.

But Mr. Roodman’s blog post said that lenders like Mr. Kristof were not making direct loans. Borrowers like Ms. Cruz already have loans from microfinance institutions by the time their pictures are posted on Kiva’s Web site.

Thus, the direct person-to-person connection Kiva offered was in fact an illusion. Kiva’s lenders were actually backstopping microfinance institutions, and since Kiva and other online giving and lending models pride themselves on their transparency, Mr. Roodman and others suggested it might better explain what its lenders’ money — about $100 million over four years — was really doing.

“The person-to-person donor-to-borrower connections created by Kiva are partly fictional,” he wrote. “I suspect that most Kiva users do not realize this.”

“Little did I realize what that click would unleash,” he said in an interview, later adding that the post had attracted dozens of comments, more than 10,000 hits and thousands of Twitter postings.

Much of his long post is complimentary to Kiva — after all, the information he used to write it is largely tucked away on Kiva’s site — but it has brought scrutiny of the organization. It goes beyond complaints about its transparency to questioning whether the model it relies on is viable and, indeed, whether any organization can fulfill the promise it was making to directly connect people to people.

“There’s a whole new generation of socially connected nonprofits that use the Internet to make the illusion of person-to-person contact much more believable,” said Timothy Ogden, editor in chief of Philanthropy Action, an online journal for donors. “The problem is that they are no more connecting donors to people than the child sponsorship organizations of the past did.”

In the late 1990s, several child sponsorship organizations amended their disclosures after a series of articles in The Chicago Tribune revealed that while they were soliciting money to sponsor a specific needy child, that child was not necessarily receiving the money directly.

More recently, charities that ask donors for money to buy a farm animal have added disclaimers to their pitches, stating that money might not buy a cow or a duck but finance broader programs.

Now Kiva is the latest nonprofit group to have to overhaul its explanation of how it works. Where its home page once promised, “Kiva lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty,” it now simply states, after Mr. Roodman’s post: “Kiva connects people through lending to alleviate poverty.”

Kiva is not the only site with transparency problems. GlobalGiving, whose Web site allows donors to choose among various projects to support, has raised money for philanthropic projects of three or four profit-making companies, according to Dennis Whittle, its co-founder and chief executive. It did not, however, tell donors that their money would support a company’s philanthropic projects rather than one proposed by a nonprofit.

For instance, it raised $975 for SunNight Solar Enterprises, a small start-up that develops solar-powered consumer products, so it could distribute 500 free solar-powered lights to refugees in camps. After The New York Times raised questions about the issue, Mr. Whittle said in a blog post on The Huffington Post that GlobalGiving was considering whether to tell potential donors when it was raising money for a business rather than a nonprofit.

Premal Shah, Kiva’s president, said he could foresee a day when Kiva really did provide person-to-person connection, once some legal hurdles are cleared and when people in the developing world began using their mobile phones to use credit and make payments.

“That’s the future of Kiva,” he said, “when through that disintermediation process you can bring down the costs of these transactions and put them directly in the hands of people.”

For now, however, analysts are raising questions about Kiva’s model, which relies in part on its own data, offers lenders no recourse against default and deploys volunteers to do most of its auditing.

Mr. Ogden goes so far as to question Kiva’s role in the lending process. “Kiva’s new documentation explains, if you read it, that Kiva is a connector not of individual lenders to individual donors, but of individual lenders to microfinance institutions,” he said. “If Kiva’s users want to be connected to an individual borrower, Kiva doesn’t do that, and so the big question is, do Kiva’s users want to be connected to a microfinance institution — in which case, why do they need Kiva?”

Indeed, individual lenders can support microfinance institutions directly through, for example, Microplace, or make donations to support nonprofit groups like the Grameen Foundation and Acción that support microfinance.

Mr. Shah said he thought Kiva’s distinct advantage was in making it easier for small lenders to support microfinance than the other programs.

The difficulty is in engaging the person who wants to lend $25, a mother of three in Des Moines, for instance, “and create a simple way for her to participate in microfinance, which is what we do,” Mr. Shah said.

The question is, does the lender understand that his money may not be supporting the loan he picked on Kiva’s Web site?

The uproar has proven beneficial in an unexpected way. “If anything, it has drawn more people into the nuance and beauty of this model of microfinance,” said Mr. Shah, who joined Kiva from eBay. “It’s highly imperfect, but it’s like a 3 1/2-year-old child: it has a lot of potential.”

He said he had so far seen no impact on Kiva’s business, which set a record with $293,000 lent on the day he was interviewed and celebrated its fourth anniversary last month by announcing it had lent more than $100 million all told.

Sony to Offer Film on Internet TV, Then DVD
Tim Arango

In a nod to its vision of the future, Sony will make its animated hit “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” available to consumers directly through Internet-enabled televisions and Blu-ray players before the movie is released on DVD.

It is the latest experiment in Hollywood’s effort to find a way to compensate for the steep decline in profits from home entertainment.

The move is significant because it represents the latest tinkering with the movie industry’s release windows, something Hollywood has long been reluctant to do out of fear of upsetting the profitability of DVD sales and angering its most important retailer, Wal-Mart. But with the decline in DVD sales, off as much as 25 percent at some studios, finding new ways to distribute movies has become a necessity.

The price of the film, $24.95, is high enough not to alienate retailers, Sony said.

“We don’t need a war with Wal-Mart or any other organization, and I don’t think they’re hostile to this,” said Howard Stringer, the chief executive of Sony. “It will make televisions more valuable, and that’s a good thing.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment, the only Hollywood studio tethered to a major hardware manufacturer, is in a unique position to experiment with selling movies directly to consumers through television sets, in this case Sony’s Bravia Internet-enabled sets.

As part of this experiment, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” will also be available through Sony’s networked Blu-ray Disc players, which came on the market last month.

The experiment is part of a search in Hollywood for ways to capitalize on the Internet’s potential for film distribution.

“The time when a majority of consumers have Internet-enabled TVs is a long way off,” said Richard Greenfield, an analyst at Pali Capital. “But it’s moving the ball in the right direction.”

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” Sony’s biggest animated hit, was released in September and has generated almost $174 million in worldwide box office receipts, according to Box Office Mojo, which tracks movie ticket sales.

It will be available to owners of Sony Bravia sets and Blu-ray players with Internet capability from Dec. 8 to Jan. 4, the day before the movie is released on DVD. (On a smaller scale, Sony tried a similar experiment last year with its Will Smith movie “Hancock.”)

Eventually, Sony intends to distribute films over a wider array of devices, including its PlayStation system.

In addition to the industry ramifications, the experiment is important to the vision of Mr. Stringer for Sony’s two pillars — hardware and content — to work together profitably. “The process of moving to the next stage of content delivery is as inevitable as night and day,” he said. “And we’re the only company that can do this because we own hardware and content.”

Sony hopes later to entice other studios to make their films available to owners of Sony televisions, bypassing cable and satellite companies that offer their own video-on-demand services.

Hollywood and cable and satellite companies have been reluctant to offer films over video-on-demand before their release on DVD because of the threat that movies will be copied with digital video recorders and other devices. The Motion Picture Association of America recently filed a letter with the government seeking approval to block technologies that allow the copying of high-definition movies on cable set-top boxes.

Mindful of the music industry’s contraction after the collapse of compact disc sales, Hollywood is frantically trying to develop new sources of home entertainment revenue. In the third quarter, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, spending on home entertainment was about $4 billion, down 3.2 percent. But spending on DVDs, which has been the profit engine for the movie studios, was off 13.9 percent. Spending on rentals of DVDs, which provide smaller profit margins than sales, was up about 10 percent.

Meanwhile, at some studios the decline in DVD sales has been steeper. At Paramount, for example, which is owned by Viacom, movie ticket sales rose 16 percent in the third quarter, while home entertainment revenue was down 21 percent.

Lost Chaplin Film Sold on eBay for $5.68
Lesley Ciarula Taylor

Charlie Chaplin fans were seizing on the news Friday that a lost film of the comic genius had been found on eBay for $5.68.

Morace Park, who lives in Essex, England, bought the battered olive green film canister listed as "an old film" for £3.20, and found the title Charlie Chaplin in Zepped inside.

His neighbour, John Dyer, former head of education at the British Board of Film Classification, knew the legend of the lost seven-minute film that includes a Zeppelin bomb attack. Released in 1916, it was believed to be World War I propaganda to reduce fear in Britain of German airship attacks, but the film vanished years ago.

Most recently, a Russian film academic article reported in 2006 that "the film has not survived."

"It starts with live shots of Chaplin," Park told The Guardian newspaper. "It then turns into a dreamscape. We see a Zeppelin bombing attack. And then we see Chaplin taking the mickey out of the Zeppelin, at the time a powerful instrument of terror."

Michael Pogorzelski, director of the archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, told The Guardian: "It is an extremely interesting find" believed to be put together from outtakes of earlier films and shots of Zeppelins and other material.

The fragile 35 mm nitrate film should be transferred to film quickly to preserve it, said Pogorzelski.

After their discovery, Park and Dyer set out on what's now a month-long odyssey to Hollywood to piece together the story of Zepped, blogging and tweeting as they went. On Friday, they were in Los Angeles with filmmaker Hammad Khan, who was making a documentary about the discovery.

"We found a film. A lost film. But not just any old lost film," they reported on lostfilmproject.wordpress.com Oct. 9. "We think we might have made THE cinematic find of the last 100 years. It's something we feel compelled to get to the bottom of. And quick."

Later, they speculated: "Is it really that one in a million opportunity to grab a ride on what could turn out to be something quite remarkable and memorable – and not just for ourselves? These questions will persist, no doubt. But there's no turning back for sure. Of that I'm convinced. And that alone, is a little bit scary."

On Nov. 1 on Twitter, http://www.twitter.com/lostfilmproject, they disclosed what they had. Slowly word trickled out, first in Variety, the entertainment trade magazine, and then in several British newspapers on Friday.

As early as three weeks ago, fans at the online Charlie Chaplin Club started buzzing about the possibility Zepped still existed.

When an enthusiast with the screen name "Copper" at the Charlie Chaplin Club agitated to see a clip once the discoverer verified the news, Park doused him with, "Have patience. It's a little tricky getting nitrate film transferred."

The film was produced by the Essanay film company, to which the 25-year-old Chaplin was under contract in 1915 and where he established the Little Tramp character that would make him a superstar.

Start-Up Claims its DVDs Last 1,000 Years

The DiamonDisc uses standard DVD players and burn software
Lucas Mearian

If you really, really need to make sure those precious photos of yours last virtually forever - or at least longer than the average two- to five-year lifespan of consumer-grade DVDs, then start-up Cranberry LLC has the answer for you: a DVD that literally lasts a millennium.

Cranberry's DiamonDisc product holds a standard 4.7GB of data, which roughly amounts to 2,000 photos, or 1,200 songs, or three hours of video, but the media is unharmed by heat as high as 176 degrees Fahrenheit, ultraviolet rays or normal material deterioration, according to the company. DiamonDiscs contain no dye layers, adhesive layers or reflective materials that could deteriorate.

While only future generations may be able to prove DiamonDisc can last 1,000 years -- never mind that DVD players will probably have been long forgotten by then -- Cranberry claims its technology has been proved by researchers using the ECMA-379 temperature and humidity testing standards to outlast the durability of competitors that claim a 300-year shelf life.

The Ferndale, Wash.-based company this week announced their product, which it says uses the same format as standard DVDs to store data. However, instead of a silver or gold reflective surface, its disc is transparent, with no reflective layer.

According to the company, unlike standard recordable DVDs, which use a 650 nanometer wavelength laser diode to etch a small pit into a disc's media surface, the DiamonDisc uses a higher-intensity laser to etch data into the "diamond-like" surface of its synthetic stone disc.

The DiamonDisc technology was invented by researchers at Brigham Young University and was first brought to market by Springville, Utah, startup Millenniata.

While Millenniata performs the R&D on the product, Cranberry does the sales and marketing. Millenniata is in talks with the U.S. government and the military, which are looking for archival media.

"For the military, there's no heat, light, magnetic waves or environmental abuse that will have an impact on these discs," said Joe Beaulaurier, Cranberry's chief marketing officer. The company is planning on providing a Blu-ray version of their product, Beaulaurier said.

Photos, videos or other content that consumers want to store can be uploaded directly to Cranberry's Web site or mailed to the company. Cranberry performs the data-write for customers on the DiamonDisc they purchase.

When compared to other consumer archive DVDs, such as Kodak Gold Preservation Write-Once DVD-R, which costs around $6, DiamonDisc carries a premium.

A single DiamonDisc costs $34.95, two or more individual discs go for $29.95, and a five-pack is $149.75. Beaulaurier said prospective customers should factor in not only the longevity of the product, but the services provided. Cranberry checks the burn of each disc to ensure the quality of the finished product.

"So [the consumer doesn't] need to monitor the burn process and make sure it took," he said. "This is also very green technology. You burn a DVD once and it eliminates costs and energy down the road."

Of course, the company is also happy to sell you its burner, but that will set you back $4,995. But, for $5,000 you get 150 DiamonDiscs to burn away until to heart's content. The burner plugs into any standard USB port and uses any standard DVD burning software, Beaulaurier said.

Blockbuster Has Seen the Future (Again): Renting Movies Via Kiosk for $2 On an SD Card
Robert Wilonsky

Yesterday word started circulating that Elm Street-based Blockbuster had found yet another way to combat RedBox: by offering downloads via SD cards, which users can stick into a kiosk that's loaded with about 1,000 titles from which to choose. It's the second time in a little more than a year that Blockbuster's gone the kiosk route -- last year, you may recall, the company debuted terminals from which subscribers could download to an Archos player for a fee, assuming you had or knew what an Archos player was.

The kiosks are set to debut this week in a handful of Dallas stores for a test run, but some are wondering today why in the why Blockbuster would opt for SD card downloads. As in: "What can't you do with an SD card? I mean, it plays in my iPhone ... wait ... I mean my Blackberry ... wait... In case no one told you, Blockbuster, we can't play this shit back on our digital cameras." To which true believers point out that, look, most netbooks and laptops have SD card slots, so, yeah, not an entirely bad idea. And they allow for full DRM copyright protection. And, as Fast Company notes, "SD cards do represent a marked improvement over DVDs in durability and re-usability, so if they caught on it'd hardly be a step backwards for movie buffs." The pricing, though, is a little questionable: $2 per download ... or a buck more than RedBox. We've got a call into Randy Hargrove, Blockbuster's spokesman; we'll update when he calls back, as he usually does.

Update at 1:51 p.m.: Someone with NCR, the manufacturer of the kiosk, just phoned with an update: Fast Company yesterday incorrectly reported the price of the SD download. The price will not be $4, but $2 ... at least, for now. "This is just a test," he says. "Just a pilot. It's nothing final." And he reminds that Hollywood Video is also testing the kiosk as well. Still waiting on Hargrove.

Update at 4:49 p.m.: In a just-posted interview with Unfair Park, Alex Camara, vice president and general manager of NCR Entertainment, explains the thinking behind his company's partnerships with Blockbuster, which include the SD card kiosks and the self-service Blockbuster Express DVD machines.

Swedes Scramble to Join New Online Movie Service
David Landes

A new service for watching movies over the internet for free has attracted more than a quarter of a million Swedes since its launch two weeks ago.

In addition to signing up tens of thousands of subscribers in a matter of days, the company responsible for the service, Voddler, recently inked licensing deals with two major Hollywood studios, Walt Disney Company and Paramount, giving its users access to thousands of film titles.

Founded in Stockholm in 2005, Voddler offers users streaming on-demand videos free of charge. When it released a beta version of its technology in July, the service attracted 16,000 users on the first day.

Voddler launched an updated version of the service in late October, inviting customers of Swedish internet service provider Bredbandsbolaget to sign up.

“The launch was very, very successful, both in terms of how the service has been received in the press and in terms of the response from the public,” Voddler executive vice president Zoran Slavic told The Local.

He said Voddler now has 70,000 registered users, as well as a queue of more than 200,000 people who have requested an invitation to join the service.

“We’re adding about 3,000 users a day,” he said.

Often dubbed the “Spotify for movies”, referring to another Sweden-based service for digital music distribution, Voddler aims to provide a legal alternative to file sharing pirated films that still allows customers the chance to watch whatever they want, whenever they want, for little or no cost.

While Voddler isn't the only company in Sweden offering streaming movies over the internet, it has one very important difference from its competitor.

“We're the only service offering movies for free,” said Slavic.

He explained that Voddler believes that file sharing and internet piracy have changed consumer habits to the point that many expect to be able to see movies online without paying for them.

Free online movies are “the way of the future” he said, and that Voddler's approach helps penny-pinching movie lovers avoid many of the risks associated with downloading pirated films.

"Our customers can be sure that Voddler is totally legal, secure, and that there are no risks of computer viruses infecting their machines from downloaded files," he said.

While the service is currently only available in Sweden, Voddler plans to expand the service to Norway, Denmark, and Finland in 2010.

Slavic explained that Sweden is an ideal market for Hollywood studios to test new internet-based film distribution models.

“They like Sweden because we have a high internet penetration and a huge number of households equipped with broadband connections,” he said.

He added that while Voddler is certainly looking to bigger markets in other parts of Europe and North America, the company is taking a measured approach to its expansion plans.

“We want to prove the business and the technology before entering bigger markets,” he said.

Voddler is also being cautious about adding titles to its catalogue of currently available films. While the recent deals with Disney and Paramount give the company access to thousands of titles, Slavic said that users currently have access to between 500 and 800.

"It's important to keep adding new films. We add a few titles every day, instead of just putting everything out all at once," he said.

While Slavic is happy to have Voddler held up to the much-hyped Spotify, he said that comparisons between the two only go so far.

“We have a more complicated technology and it’s a bit more complicated to distribute movie content as opposed to music,” he explained.

“There are also differences in how you earn money from the content.”

While users of Spotify’s free service are forced to listen to advertisements every few songs, advertisements on Voddler are placed before the movie, similar to the way previews and advertisements appear before the start of a film at the cinema.

“People get to see the whole movie without any interruptions,” said Slavic.

Next week Voddler plans to launch a pay-per-view service which will allow users to pay to view premium content, and in January the company will start offering monthly subscriptions.

Voddler also recently launched a version of its service for Mac users, and Slavic said that an iPhone application is in the works.

“We have one but it hasn’t been released yet,” he said, adding that the Voddler iPhone application is expected to be launched sometime next year.

United States Box Office

Title/Distributor Wknd. Gross Total Gross # Theaters Last Wk. Days Released
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS $30051075 $30051075 3683 0 3
SONY PICTURES $13157944 $57013286 3481 1 12
OVERTURE FILMS $12706654 $12706654 2443 0 3
UNIVERSAL $12231160 $12231160 2527 0 3
PARAMOUNT $8278605 $97108475 2558 2 45
WARNER BROS. $7571417 $7571417 2635 0 3
UNIVERSAL $6129045 $95680555 2857 4 31
OVERTURE FILMS $6003737 $60704335 2474 3 24
WARNER BROS. $4177249 $69220584 2756 5 24
SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT $2626103 $15110804 1918 7 17
LIONSGATE $2031944 $26252386 2091 6 17
LIONSGATE $1872458 $1872458 18 0 3
FOX SEARCHLIGHT $1806626 $11346336 1030 10 17
SONY PICTURES $1800133 $27415203 1424 8 24
SONY PICTURES $1316832 $121027663 1126 11 52
SONY PICTURES $1295685 $73506107 1126 12 38
UNIVERSAL $1143905 $12988080 1421 9 17
FOCUS FEATURES $863750 $5833069 262 13 38
SONY CLASSICS $592407 $2307837 83 15 31
SONY CLASSICS $545146 $4107048 307

Hollywood Rethinks Use of A-List Actors
Alex Dobuzinskis

Hollywood studios are now thinking twice about splurging on A-list movie stars and costly productions in reaction to the poor economy, but also because of the surprising success of recent films with unknown actors.

After buddy comedy "The Hangover," a movie with a little known cast, made $459 million at global box offices this past summer, several films have shown that a great concept or story can trump star appeal when it comes to luring fans.

"District 9," a low budget movie in which the biggest stars were space aliens treated like refugees and the lead actor was South African Sharlto Copley, made $200 million. Thriller "Paranormal Activity," starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, has cash registers ringing to the tune of $100 million.

Next up, on November 20, comes Summit Entertainment's relatively low-budget ($50 million) franchise movie "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," a sequel to 2008 hit vampire romance "Twilight" which made global stars of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Online ticket sellers report "New Moon" is one of their highest pre-sale movies of all time, and box office watchers expect the film to have a smash opening.

"Nobody says that a big wonderful movie needs to be expensive, it's just that that's been the trend, and perhaps the trend is misguided," said University of Southern California cinema professor Jason E. Squire.

Last weekend, comic actor Jim Carrey's "A Christmas Carol" became the latest celebrity-driven movie to stumble at box offices, opening to a lower-than-expected $30 million.

Aside from Jim Carrey and "Carol," which cost at least $175 million, A-listers who suffered box office flops recently have included Bruce Willis ("Surrogates"), Adam Sandler ("Funny People"), Will Ferrell ("Land of the Lost"), Eddie Murphy ("Imagine That") and Julia Roberts ("Duplicity").

"The (major movie) machine didn't fly last summer, if you look at the movies and the names, they were not star-driven movies, they really weren't," said Peter Guber, chairman of Mandalay Entertainment and former head of Sony Pictures.

Hollywood insiders say A-listers currently are having trouble with salary demands in the $15 million range or participation approaching 20 percent of gross profits -- deals that were once somewhat common for top talent. Instead, they are being asked to take less money upfront and greater compensation only if a film breaks even.

Franchise On The Cheap

In "New Moon," actors Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart rekindle their romance between an immortal vampire and a high school girl that they brought to silver screens in last year's adaptation from Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" books.

At the time, Pattinson and Stewart were unknown stars but that did not hurt "Twilight," which made $384 million at global box offices and gave Summit a bona fide franchise.

It's not unusual for franchises like the "Harry Potter" movies to begin with unknown actors, but as the films' popularity takes root, production budgets relax and actor, producer and other salaries soar.

But in recent years, Hollywood has been racked by the recession, competition from videogames and the Web, declining DVD sales and fewer licensing deals with television networks

This week, Disney chief Bob Iger said in a conference call that the sluggish DVD market is one reason the major studio has altered its moviemaking. "It causes us to really reconsider not only what we're investing in our films, but how we market them and how we distribute them," he said.

For its part, fledgling Summit has positioned "Twilight" as a franchise for the recession era by keeping the pressure on the costs for "New Moon," and Hollywood producers are praising them for it.

"Good for them, they are really keeping the costs down. It is unusual," said Lauren Shuler Donner, a producer on the "X-Men" films and 2008's "The Secret Life of Bees."

Summit, whose executives declined to be interviewed, took a page from the playbook of "The Lord of the Rings" by shooting the second and third films back-to-back this summer.

When director Peter Jackson made his three "Lord of the Rings" films simultaneously 10 years ago, it was a novel idea that reduced costs because actors, sets, costumes, locations and other items only had to be assembled and paid for once.

Similarly, by shooting the next two "Twilight" movies together, Summit kept the cost of the third film, "Eclipse," due out June 30, around $60 million, one source said.

"What I like is they didn't have a long window (between films), they went in to make a franchise, they didn't go in to see if they had a franchise," said Warren Zide, producer on the "American Pie" and "Final Destination" movies.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

Time to Ditch Your Cable Company? New Internet TV Announcements
Peter Smith

Yesterday was a big day for anyone considering canceling their cable service in favor of viewing television and movie content via the web. Several unrelated announcements should help make internet TV a more viable alternative to paying the high cost of cable.

First, let's talk about YouTube. Yesterday they announced that they'll start offering full 1080P HD streams; better than your cable company can offer. This new option will be available within the next few days. YouTube says it stores all content in its native resolution, so any 1080P content that has been uploaded to the service in the past will only need to be re-encoded (by YouTube) in order to be available in its high-def glory. For more details, check out CNET's story.

Next, Boxee, the application that gathers web-based content and delivers it via a remote-friendly portal, had a big day. It announced a "Boxee Box" will be coming soon. One of the obstacles to using Boxee (for average users) is getting the content off your computer and onto the TV in your living room. The Boxee Box should make that easier. We'll learn more about this device on December 7th when Boxee holds its "Boxee Beta Unveiling" event in Brooklyn, NY.

If a dedicated Boxee Box doesn't sound appealing, Dell has you covered. Yesterday they launched their Inspiron Zino HD. This is an 8" x 8" PC running Windows 7 (with an option for Ubuntu) that you certainly could use as a desktop machine, but the form factor just screams "Hook me up to your TV!" via its HDMI port. The most basic model lists for a mere $229 (though in all honesty you'll want to add some options to beef it up a little). Wired has a nice look at the Zino, calling it a 'Candy-colored Mac Mini Killer'.

So say you skip the Boxee Box and go with the Zino. One of the frustrations of internet TV is finding what you want, when you want it. This show is only on Hulu, that show is only on the network's portal, and you're on the web...what do you care which network produced what show? Can't someone else keep track of that?

Well another launch yesterday was Clicker, a programming guide for internet TV. What's nice about Clicker is that it only offers full episodes of content, so you won't get dozens of hits that lead to 15 second clips. Clicker catalogs content from both free and paid sources, such as Netflix Instant Streaming and Amazon Video-on-Demand, but it marks paid content clearly so you can skip over it if you wish. You can set up Playlists, and Clicker also offers some social features, such as Trends and connecting your Clicker account to your Facebook account.

With each passing month it seems like cutting the cable cord becomes a more viable alternative, but yesterday in particular seemed to be a Big Day for internet TV (most of these launches were probably due to the NewTeeVee event that took place in San Francisco, CA).

Clicker Aims to Be the Path to TV Online
Miguel Helft

The Web is increasingly filled with television shows, but finding them can be hard. Clicker, a well-financed startup, believes it can help. On Thursday, the company is rolling out its service, Clicker.com, which it calls a “TV Guide for the Web.”

“If you created TV Guide in 2009 instead of 1953, you’d create something like this,” said Jim Lanzone, Clicker’s chief executive, who previously served as the chief executive of Ask.com, the No. 4 search engine.

Mr. Lanzone said finding a show is not that hard if you know where it is. For example, if you are looking for an NBC, Fox or Disney show, search Hulu and you’re likely to find it if it is available. But video search engines that work across the Web and return thousands of clips for every search are not very effective, he said.

Mr. Lanzone said Clicker was fundamentally different. It limits itself to television shows and other professional content, created and published by a broad range of organizations, from The New York Times and Stanford University to TED, the organization that produces the annual Technology, Entertainment, Design conference.

Through partnerships with content creators and its own scouring of the Web, Clicker creates a database of programs. When users search, the results are clustered according to the network that produced the content. Clicker says it finds only content that has been uploaded legally, and it tries to locate its original source.

A search for “Seinfeld,” for example, will showcase a module from TBS, which Mr. Lanzone says has the only six authorized Seinfeld episodes on the Web. Other results include appearances by Seinfeld’s cast on shows like “Charlie Rose” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” The results are easier to navigate than the jumble of thumbnails that appear on video search sites like Truveo or Blinkx.

Within a single module, say one for “Charlie Rose,” users can browse by season or episode, or search for, say, an appearance by Warren Buffett.

Clicker has received $8 million in financing from Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures, where Mr. Lanzone was an entrepreneur in residence. Blake Kirkorian, the co-founder of Sling Media, recently joined the company’s board of directors. Mr. Lanzone said Clicker will make money from advertising.

Mr. Lanzone first introduced Clicker at a TechCrunch conference in September. The service, which has been available by invitation only until now, has already earned some positive reviews.

Never-Before-Seen 'Star Trek' Pilot Found
James Hibbard

"Star Trek" fans know there were two pilots for the original series.

The first, "The Cage," was rejected by NBC for being "too cerebral" (ah, some things never change).

The second, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," replaced the actor who played the captain with William Shatner and was more action driven. That pilot had an alternate version which was largely lost and has never aired. Apparently, a film collector in Germany acquired the print and "recently brought it to the attention" of CBS/Paramount. CBS is now releasing this version on Blu-ray Dec. 15.

The alternate version is in three parts with 1970s-style act breaks, an entirely different version of Captain James T. Kirk's opening monologue ("But now a new task. A probe out into where no man has gone before") and music that contrasts from the famous opening theme and an extended action sequence.

From the release:
This version of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was completed in 1965 and features archived footage that was not included in the pilot episode ultimately broadcasted. Never-before-aired, this newly recovered version is believed to be what was originally screened for NBC, and the basis for their decision to broadcast STAR TREK®. ... "When we first discovered the original film print existed, we jumped at the chance to give STAR TREK fans the opportunity to add this never aired pilot to their collections," said Ken Ross, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Home Entertainment. "It will be a real treat for fans to see and hear how it all could have begun."

The restored pilot will be included in the "Star Trek: Original Series - Season 3" Blu-ray release..

Historic Sounds of Newport, Newly Online
Ben Ratliff

As the future of the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals continues to unfold, its recorded past has suddenly been thrown open.

Recently the festivals themselves almost disappeared, amid the financial collapse of their producing company, the Festival Network LLC. They returned last summer in a new guise, at their usual site, once George Wein, the founder of both festivals, regained the right to hold music events there.

It’s a complicated story. But if you want to know why the Newport Jazz Festival has been so important to American music, it’s easy: you just have to hear the recorded evidence. Bits and pieces have emerged over the years, in live recordings by Ellington, Coltrane and others. Now Wolfgang’s Vault, the online concert-recording archive, intends to fill in the gaps.

The company, based in San Francisco, bought the archives of the Newport festivals from the Festival Network last year. Bill Sagan, founder and chief executive of Wolfgang’s Vault, says the archives include many, many tapes: 1,000 to 1,200 individual performances, dating at least to 1955, the festival’s second year, and continuing to the end of the century. It is not a complete audio record — certain years contain only a small number of performances, or are missing completely — but it is a major one nonetheless.

Since the purchase, Wolfgang’s Vault has spent almost $5 million, Mr. Sagan said, on making audio transfers and mixes of the tapes. (Neither Mr. Sagan nor Chris Shields of the Festival Network would reveal the amount spent on acquiring the archive itself.) On Wednesday the company will begin posting free streams of a handful of performances from the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival, at wolfgangsvault.com: the first offerings include Count Basie, Dakota Staton and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. By next Tuesday, when more are added, there will be 27 sets from that year’s jazz festival, including some by Ahmad Jamal, Joe Williams, Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver. The plan is to have hundreds more online in the coming months, from other years of Newport Jazz and from the Newport Folk Festival as well.

For jazz fans, this is serious business. There are chillingly good performances in the 1959 crop, from half-inch three-track tapes mixed for stereo, made with stage microphones that pick up the nuances of the drums and the growls of the band members. They’re strong enough in some cases to deepen our understanding of canonical artists, like Basie, or restore the reputation of nearly forgotten ones, like Staton. (The concerts can also be downloaded for $10 to $13 in higher-quality audio.)

Projects of this kind have in the past been plagued by questions involving copyright. When Mr. Sagan bought the archive of Bill Graham Presents six years ago, there was a lawsuit from performers and record labels, but it was eventually dismissed.

Mr. Sagan said he had done due diligence regarding copyrights with the Newport material and is paying the performers or their estates a generous royalty rate.

But there is uncertainty over who made the recordings. Mr. Sagan’s contract with the Festival Network says that Mr. Wein made the tapes and originally owned both the tapes and rights to them. Mr. Wein, for his part, says he never made recordings until much later.

“I never made tapes back then,” he said in a telephone interview. “I was never an archive person, either. I just didn’t pay any attention to it.” Speaking of the rights, he added, “If the tapes are from the ’50s, chances are they were owned by record companies.”

Fifty years ago, according to the jazz historian Phil Schaap, only record companies were generally willing to lug high-quality gear to a concert site. (It’s fair to assume, also, that the 1959 tapes were not made by the Voice of America, which did record a great deal of the festival, but made its tapes in mono.) Mr. Sagan said his agreement with the Festival Network is specific on the subject of the recordings. “In the agreement,” he said, “Festival Network represents that they or a predecessor company recorded these recordings. They secondarily represented that they owned these recordings, and they thirdly represented that they owned the intellectual property and copyrights to these recordings. And when they made those representations, George Wein was an employee of the company.” Mr. Shields, chief executive of the Festival Network, was unavailable for comment on Tuesday. Meanwhile, we have great and vivid jazz: Staton’s blue wails; the gruff, excited shouts of the Basie band’s brass section during an aggressive solo by the trombonist Al Grey; the masterful attack-and-release of the Ahmad Jamal trio on “Poinciana.”

Enjoy it while you can.

Web Site Shows Full Concerts, Free

A new Web site allows music lovers to watch concerts for free online, choosing from five different camera angles as they watch.

BillboardLive.com says its new concert-viewing Web site offers visitors different perspectives on performances by Alicia Keys, Usher, David Archuleta, Daughtry and other artists yet to be announced.

Music fans can select from five different views as they take in full concerts by these artists, focusing solely on the drummer or guitarist if they choose.

The site also allows visitors to use Twitter or Facebook during the Webcast without leaving the show. The application is also available on the iPhone. New concerts will be added through February.

Founder Michael Williams says the site is "reconnecting artists with their fans, for free."

Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens, on Tour After 33 Years
Douglas MacLaurin

British folk singer Yusuf Islam takes the stage on Sunday on his first full tour since 1976, when he was still known as Cat Stevens and was famous the world over for hits like "Wild World" and "Morning Has Broken."

Now 61, Islam is about to seal his gradual comeback to the world of pop music after disappearing from the scene altogether following his conversion to Islam in 1977.

He has made sporadic stage appearances around the world in recent years, recorded a new pop album "An Other Cup" in 2006 and followed it up with "Roadsinger" earlier this year.

The singer said his recent recordings had encouraged him to embark on his first tour in 33 years.

"Thirty-three years is a long time, and I suppose I never imagined that I'd be going back on tour again," he told Reuters at Elstree Studios in London where he has been rehearsing for his four-date tour.

"But things change and when I started to make music again and making records the yearning came to ... do it for real. When you're live it's that much more vibrant, and you're that much closer to the audience ... You can't beat that kind of music."

Being on stage was an important antidote to recording, Islam said, noting the technological advances since his chart-topping heyday in the early 1970s.

"Everything has become a bit more digitalized. It's a cut-and-paste job now, you can do it on a laptop.

"The real material stuff and the physical stuff has become so kind of virtual that it's not real, quite simply, and that's why the road thing -- getting on the road -- is so important because it's real," he said in an interview.


Islam has had his fair share of controversy during the past decade, most notably when he was deported from the United States in 2004 after his name appeared on a "no-fly" watch list designed to weed out suspected terrorists.

He ran afoul of authorities who alleged he supported charities that ultimately funneled money to terrorist groups, but the singer has denied the allegations and has frequently spoken out against terrorism.

Despite the misunderstandings his conversion to Islam have brought, the singer said his life outside the pop world had given him experiences he otherwise would not have had.

"A writer writes from his experience, and the more you experience the more you can write. I suppose that's another good reason for the 33 years, because that gave me time to do a lot more than I could ever have done as a pop singer on the road.

"And having that chance to get a life means that my music and my words and what I put out now have that much more validity I suppose."

Islam's aptly-named "Guess I'll Take My Time Tour" opens in Dublin on Sunday and continues in Birmingham (November 23), Liverpool (December 5) and at London's Royal Albert Hall (December 8).

He has promised to perform old classics as well as music from his two recent albums, and the shows will incorporate elements of a musical he has been writing called "Moonshadow."

Writing a musical has always been a dream for Islam, who grew up in London's West End surrounded by theatres and shows.

"My songs have always been about telling stories and a lot of them are about journeys and that's what music, my music, is about," he explained. "Moonshadow is about a boy's journey from a dark world, a place where there is only night time, to another world of sunshine and glorious light and happiness."

(Additional reporting and writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

How a Dead Parakeet Changed the Course of Rock Music
Dave Graham

Few rock bands have been accused of killing a dog with sound alone. Probably fewer still would claim the death of a parakeet got them their first break in the music business. Not so Mayo Thompson's Red Krayola.

Though the band initially folded decades ago after the manager of a venue begged, then paid them to stop playing, they survived to become one of the world's most enduring underground acts thanks to a career built on a record made for $600 in 1967.

Dismissed by most critics upon its release according to Thompson, "The Parable of Arable Land" has since been hailed as one of the groundbreaking records of the 1960s.

"We crawled out on a limb and found ourselves alone," Thompson told Reuters in an interview. "The origin of the whole thing is that record. Knowing what I know now about music, I'm not sure I'm capable of conceiving something like that again."

The trio initially known as Red Crayola, with Thompson on guitar and vocals, bassist Steve Cunningham and Rick Barthelme on drums, set out to stretch the limits of music on their debut, he said after a concert in Vienna on Tuesday.

Their LP featured a handful of songs interwoven with the band's signature sound called Free Form Freak-Outs -- random blasts of sound cut with the aid of the Familiar Ugly, a motley troupe of followers that included bikers and college students.

"A lot of people talked about Freakout. Then (Frank) Zappa came out with his Freak Out! record. But from what I now know about Zappa I'm sure he composed every note. Ours wasn't an image of chaos, it was chaos," said Thompson, 65, laughing.

The Texans' unusual approach was not confined to the studio.

Live, they were abetted by a "rhythm machine" made of an ice block suspended over a hot grill that dripped a beat down onto tin foil rigged to a speaker. A turntable cranked up to the max with the needle gouging the rubber was another favorite.

Paid To Stop

The internet has exposed the band to a new generation of followers and critics, and "Parable" is increasingly seen as a unique statement in experimental rock.

Modern reviews of the LP that was "recorded in a night and maybe two days" Thompson said, show why it remains an enigma 40 years on.

"It's a mind-milkshake where everyone's friends are dead in abscesses of lunatic incompetence at an epic pitch of stoner rock doom," online music site Pitchfork Media said, awarding the psychedelic opus one of its top ratings.

The eerie mix of garage rock, abstract lyrics and Freak-Outs was not recorded "under the influence," Thompson said. But it was inspired by everything from Frank Sinatra and saxophonist Albert Ayler to buckets hanging on the studio wall that Thompson sang about after running out of words for the opening track.

The LP also came to the attention of The Beatles, and was so unorthodox even John Peel, the late British DJ renowned for his eclectic taste, couldn't wait to turn it off, Thompson added.

"Peel didn't like us," he said. "His contribution to popular music is boundless. But I always wore it as a badge of honor."

Despite its detractors, the original pressing sold out, attracting the attention of promoters in California, who invited the band to play in the 1967 Berkeley Folk Festival.

By then the group -- which became 'Krayola' when the makers of Crayola crayons sued over the name -- had given up playing songs and was devoting its energy to ear-splitting feedback.

This did not prove a recipe for commercial success.

"I played sounds in those days I never heard. I could feel them going through my eyelids but I have no idea what they sounded like," said Thompson, who now lives in California, but spent much of the past 30 years in Europe, latterly Edinburgh.

In Berkeley, a man told the band "that noise you're making killed a dog," before guitarist John Fahey landed them a gig at the New Orleans House, "a sort of supper club," Thompson said.

"We cleared the joint in about three minutes. The manager came wringing his hands saying, 'please, please, I'll pay you to stop,'" he added. "We hadn't done it for the money anyway."

This proved the end of the initial combo's live career -- just a year after they were discovered at a "battle of the bands" in a Houston shopping mall by local record producer Lelan Rogers, brother of U.S. country music star Kenny Rogers.

"He told us he'd gone to buy a parakeet for his wife because 'the parakeet had died,'" Thompson said.

Thompson and Cunningham released a second album of stripped down, minimalist songs in 1968 before the band called it quits. A decade later, Thompson resurrected the Red Krayola, which has continued in a variety of line-ups up to the present day.

"The band has always been a sort of project: tentative, tenuous and trouble. It comes together when it can," Thompson said. "We have a career by cumulative default."

(Editing by Steve Addison)

Robert Rines, Inventor and Monster Hunter, Dies at 87
Douglas Martin

Dollars to doughnuts, Robert H. Rines will be mainly remembered not for holding more than 800 patents, starting a law school or writing music for the stage, but for his dogged pursuit of the Loch Ness monster.

But Dr. Rines, who died on Nov. 1 at his home in Boston at 87, may have outlived the fabled Scottish creature he pursued for more than a quarter century. He had come to suspect that the beast died during his hunt, leaving him to search for a skeleton.

Dr. Rines died of heart failure, said his wife, Joanne Hayes-Rines.

Dr. Rines took the most convincing underwater pictures of what might or might not have been the Loch Ness monster, so convincing that in the mid-1970s scientists from Harvard and the Smithsonian Institution expressed serious interest. Others were intrigued by his innovative search tactics: He hired a perfumer to concoct a scent to attract the creature and trained dolphins to carry cameras.

In the end, Dr. Rines, a lawyer, said that though he had failed to meet the standards of science, he was sure he could persuade a jury of the monster’s existence.

“They can just call me crazy, and that’s O.K. by me,” he said in an interview with Boston magazine in 2008. “At least I won’t go to jail for it, like Galileo.”

Dr. Rines was far more than a garden-variety monster hunter. He was spectacularly polymathic.

He developed electronic gear to improve the resolution of radar and sonar images that is used in Patriot missiles, found the wrecks of the Titanic and the Bismarck and helped pave the way for ultrasound imaging. His patented hinge for chopsticks is less noticed but quite clever.

“Few Americans have made such a sweeping contribution to the process and business of inventing as Robert Rines,” said a biography prepared by the Lemelson-M.I.T. Program, which recognizes outstanding inventors and is run by the engineering school of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As a prominent patent lawyer, Dr. Rines greatly influenced the Congressional rewriting of patent laws in 2000, according to Fortune magazine.

In 1973, Dr. Rines founded the Franklin Pierce Law Center to train law students in intellectual property law. It is the only law school in New Hampshire.

Dr. Rines’s first love was music, and his family cherishes his story of playing a violin duet with Albert Einstein at a summer camp in Maine when he was 11. He said he played better than Einstein.

As an adult, Dr. Rines combined with the director and actor Paul Shyre to form a theater company to stage plays by Eugene O’Neill and others. He wrote music for most of their dozen or so Off Broadway productions.

He wrote the campaign song for “Hizzoner!” — a one-man play about Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia of New York, written by Mr. Shyre and starring Tony Lo Bianco. The play was shown on public television in 1984 and ran on Broadway in 1989.

Robert Harvey Rines was born on Aug. 30, 1922, in Boston. His father, David, a patent lawyer, helped him try at 6 years old to patent a pocketknife with a fork, spoon and other things. But the idea was already patented.

Robert fell in love with music even earlier and began to play the violin at 4. By high school, he had formed a band, the Six Aces of Rhythm, and was taking composition classes at Harvard.

He left high school early to study physics and engineering at M.I.T., but soon decided he would rather go to Harvard. His father said no, and so he deliberately flunked out. His father kicked him out of the house. He reconsidered and graduated near the top of his M.I.T. class in 1942.

He joined the Army Signal Corps, where his experience in M.I.T.’s radiation laboratory proved critical in helping develop the Army’s top-secret Microwave Early Warning System. His radar and sonar patents grew out of this work.

He later worked as an assistant examiner at the patent office in Washington while earning a law degree from Georgetown in 1947. In 1972, he received a doctorate from National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, since he was there anyway to help Taiwan develop a patent system. He later helped the People’s Republic of China regularize its patent process.

Dr. Rines’s passion about the Loch Ness monster was kindled in 1972 when he was in Scotland on his honeymoon with the former Carol Williamson, his second wife.

They were enjoying tea with a friend whose home overlooked the loch. Their host remarked, “I say, is that an upturned boat?”

What they saw was a big, grayish hump with the texture of an elephant’s skin. It rose four feet out of the water and seemed to be about 30 feet long. They stared at it for 10 minutes.

“I don’t care what anybody thinks, you have to find out what that was,” Mrs. Rines said.

The obsession had begun. There were many trips to Loch Ness, with Dr. Rines applying his sophisticated sonar techniques to find “Nessie.” In 1976, the Academy of Applied Science, an organization Dr. Rines had founded, teamed up with The New York Times in 1976 in a joint quest. Results were inconclusive but made interesting newspaper articles.

Dr. Rines later found evidence that the loch may overlay what was once an ocean floor, suggesting to him that a seagoing dinosaur may have adapted to freshwater. But after the 1970s, Dr. Rines and other seekers stopped seeing monstrous manifestations. He thought his quarry may have died.

Dr. Rines taught at M.I.T., Harvard and Franklin Pierce, started a salmon farm and set up several companies to market his inventions. His Academy of Applied Science shifted focus from aiding unusual experiments, like hunting down Bigfoot, to encouraging students to invent.

Dr. Rines’s first marriage, to Dorothy Kay, ended in divorce, and his second, to Miss Williamson, ended with her death in 1993. He is survived by his wife, the former Joanne Hayes; his sons, Justice and Robert; his daughter, Suzi Rines Toth; his stepdaughter, Laura Hayes-Heur; and four grandchildren.

His inventions that live on include a way to use ultrasound radiation to treat cataracts that he conceived while having his own eyes examined several years ago. His dream of inventing something to stop tornadoes never materialized.

Facebook Provides Alibi for Robbery Suspect

A 19-year-old New York man who was arrested for armed robbery has been exonerated thanks to a status update he posted on social networking site Facebook.

Rodney Bradford was arrested and held for 12 days in connection with an October 17 armed robbery of two people in the Brooklyn housing project where he lives, prosecutors said.

But he insisted he was in Manhattan at the time of the crime -- a claim he backed up by an update he made to his Facebook page from a computer in his father's Manhattan building, prosecutors said.

A spokesman at the Brooklyn District Attorney's office acknowledged that Facebook played a role in the dismissal of charges.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Michelle Nichols)

Judge Rules Web Commenter Will Be Unmasked to Mom of Criticized Teen
Martha Neil

An Illinois judge has decided that an anonymous commenter on a newspaper website will be unmasked, even though the mother of a teen about whom "Hipcheck16" allegedly made "deeply disturbing" comments hasn't yet decided whether to sue over the posting.

The mother, Lisa Stone, is a trustee of Buffalo Grove in suburban Chicago. The comments on the Daily Herald's website were made just before an April 7 election in which she won a seat, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Stone calls the posted comments about her 15-year-old son "deeply disturbing," but they aren't specifically described in the article.

Attorney Michael Furling, who represents Hipcheck16, says he will talk to his client about whether to appeal today's ruling by Cook County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Lawrence.

Although Lawrence ruled that Hipcheck16's identity must be revealed to Stone—and to a process server, should she decide to sue—he said it should remain confidential to others, according to the newspaper.

Duke Professor Finishes Yale's Job, Prints Mohammed Images in New Book; FIRE Co-signs Statement of Principle
Adam Kissel

Duke University Professor Gary Hull has just published Muhammad: The "Banned" Images, which dares to publish images that Yale University and Yale University Press censored from Jytte Klausen's The Cartoons that Shook the World earlier this year. Hull calls the book "a statement of defiance against censors, terror-mongers, and their Western appeasers." FIRE joined with the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Association of University Professors, and nine other signatories on a Statement of Principle stating that "The failure to stand up for free expression emboldens those who would attack and undermine it."

Here is the Statement of Principle, which points out that Yale's censorship is just one of many serious threats to free expression we have witnessed in recent years.

Free Expression at Risk, at Yale and Elsewhere

A number of recent incidents suggest that our long-standing commitment to the free exchange of ideas is in peril of falling victim to a spreading fear of violence. Not only have exhibitions been closed and performances cancelled in response to real threats, but the mere possibility that someone, somewhere, might respond with violence has been advanced to justify suppressing words and images, as in the recent decision of Yale University to remove all images of Muhammad from Jytte Klausen's book, The Cartoons that Shook the World.

Violence against those who create and disseminate controversial words and images is a staple of human history. But in the recent past, at least in Western liberal democracies, commitment to free speech has usually trumped fears of violence. Indeed, as late as 1989, Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses continued to be published, sold, and read in the face of a fatwa against its author and in the face of the murder and attempted murder of its translators and publishers. In 1998, the Manhattan Theater Club received threats protesting the production of Terrence McNally's play Corpus Christi, on the ground that it was offensive to Catholics. After initially canceling the play, MTC reversed its decision in response to widespread concerns about free speech, and the play was performed without incident.

There are signs, however, that the commitment to free speech has become eroded by fears of violence. Historical events, especially the attacks of September 2001 and subsequent bombings in Madrid and London, have contributed to this process by bringing terrorist violence to the heart of liberal democracies. Other events, like the 2004 murder of Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh in apparent protest against his film Submission, and the threats against Hirsi Ali, who wrote the script and provided the voice-over for the film, demonstrated how vulnerable artists and intellectuals can be just for voicing controversial ideas. Under such threats, the resolve to uphold freedom of speech has proved to be lamentably weak: in the same year as Van Gogh's murder, Behzti, a play written by a British Sikh playwright, was cancelled days after violence erupted among protesters in Birmingham, England on opening night.

In response to rising concerns about fear-induced self-censorship, in 2005 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published an article, "The Face of Muhammad," which included twelve cartoon images. The cartoons became the focus of a series of violent political rallies in the Middle East in February 2006 and a subject of worldwide debate pitching free speech against "cultural sensitivity."

For all the prominence of Islam in such debates, threats of violence against words and images are not the sole province of religious extremists. In 2005, a politically controversial professor's scheduled speech at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY was cancelled in response to alleged threats of violence. In 2008, the San Francisco Art Institute closed a controversial video exhibition in response to threats of violence against faculty members by animal rights activists. Later that year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln canceled a speech by former Weatherman and education theorist William Ayers, citing security concerns.

The possibility of giving offense and provoking violence has entered the imagination of curators, publishers and the public at large, generating more and more incidents of preemptive self-censorship: in 2006, for instance, London's Whitechapel Gallery declared twelve works by Surrealist master Hans Bellmer too dangerous to exhibit because of fears that the sexual overtones would be offensive to the large Muslim population in the area; and publisher Random House canceled the 2008 publication of Sherry Jones' The Jewel of Medina because "it could incite acts of violence." The suppression of images in Jytte Klausen's book is the latest, but not likely to be the last in the series of such incidents.

Words and images exist in complex socio-political contexts. Suppressing controversial expression cannot erase the underlying social tensions that create the conditions for violence to begin with, but it does create a climate that chills and eventually corrupts the fundamental values of liberal democracy.

A Call to Action

The incident at Yale provides an opportunity to re-examine our commitment to free expression. When an academic institution of such standing asserts the need to suppress scholarly work because of a theoretical possibility of violence somewhere in the world, it grants legitimacy to censorship and casts serious doubt on their, and our, commitment to freedom of expression in general, and academic freedom in particular.

The failure to stand up for free expression emboldens those who would attack and undermine it. It is time for colleges and universities in particular to exercise moral and intellectual leadership. It is incumbent on those responsible for the education of the next generation of leaders to stand up for certain basic principles: that the free exchange of ideas is essential to liberal democracy; that each person is entitled to hold and express his or her own views without fear of bodily harm; and that the suppression of ideas is a form of repression used by authoritarian regimes around the world to control and dehumanize their citizens and squelch opposition.

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, will get neither liberty nor safety.
Joan E. Bertin, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Censorship
Cary Nelson, President, American Association of University Professors
Gary Hull, Director, Duke University Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
Sarah Ruden, Professor, Yale Divinity School
Michael Munger, Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, Duke University
Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law, UCLA
Steve Simpson, Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice
Flemming Rose, Opinion and Culture Editor, Jyllands-Posten
Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law, New York Law School
First Amendment Lawyers Association (FALA)
American Society of Journalists and Authors

The above signatories agree with the ideas expressed in the Statement of Principle. However, they were not involved in the creation of Muhammad: The “Banned” Images, and have no responsibility for its contents.

Until next week,

- js.

Current Week In Review

Recent WiRs -

November 7th October 31st, October 24th, October 17th

Jack Spratts' Week In Review is published every Friday. Submit letters, articles, press releases, comments, questions etc. in plain text English to jackspratts (at) lycos (dot) com. Submission deadlines are Thursdays @ 1400 UTC. Please include contact info. The right to publish all remarks is reserved.

"The First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public."
- Hugo Black
JackSpratts is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - August 8th, '09 JackSpratts Peer to Peer 1 05-08-09 03:39 PM
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - February 28th, '09 JackSpratts Peer to Peer 1 26-02-09 04:25 PM
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - February 14th, '09 JackSpratts Peer to Peer 2 15-02-09 09:54 AM
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - January 24th, '09 JackSpratts Peer to Peer 0 21-01-09 09:49 AM
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - May 19th, '07 JackSpratts Peer to Peer 1 16-05-07 09:58 AM

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:25 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
© www.p2p-zone.com - Napsterites - 2000 - 2021