|03-03-10, 08:47 AM||#1|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - March 6th, '10
"The mother of my father was such a fanatical Nazi that, like Magda Goebbels, she committed suicide at the end of the war and used poison to take five of her six children with her. Those dark, unsettling times never leave you alone. My hope is that you learn from our lesson in history." – Felix Moeller
"We need to look at noise as something that is dangerous, like sharp tools or a hot stove." – Nancy Nadler
"There is no cyberwar and we are not losing it. The only war going on is one for the soul of the internet. But if journalists, bloggers and the security industry continue to let self-interested exaggerators dominate our nation’s discourse about online security, we will lose that war — and the open internet will be its biggest casualty." – Ryan Singel
March 6th, 2010, 2010
Filesharing Becomes the Latest French Hobby
Outlawing something makes it wildly popular
THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT is facing a problem with filesharers after its hamfisted attempt to appease the entertainment industries backfired.
Ever ready to surrender to a powerful authority, the French handed over a huge chunk of its legal system to the big media industries and brought in all the laws that the music and movie mongols wanted to prop up their dying business models.
The only problem is that, rather than making peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing disappear it has made it all the more interesting for French teens to get around. Nothing makes anything cooler than making something that harms no one illegal.
Yep, P2P so-called 'piracy' is fast becoming the reefer and street racing event for teens of the 21st century.
According to The Times, studies suggest that 42 per cent of software programs are copied illegally in France, compared with 26 per cent in Britain and 27 per cent in Germany. In the southwest of France, the 'piracy' rate was 49 per cent.
Cerise Club, a French Internet company, said that illegal file sharing is a "national sport" and this is despite the fact that French copyright legislation is among the most repressive in the world.
"The French take a sly pleasure in getting round all the systems put in place, and it's very difficult to persuade them to do otherwise," a spokesman told the Times.
New Zealand Seeks to Restrain ACTA
New Zealand, Canada and others seek limitations on scope of secret copyright treaty
New Zealand appears to be at odds with the US in the secret international Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) talks.
According to Canadian internet law specialist Michael Geist a new leak from the negotiations has revealed a "significant disagreement on a range of issues" among the countries involved.
"For example, on the issue of anti-circumvention legislation and access controls, the US wants it included per the DMCA [Digital Millenium Copyright Act], but many other countries, including the EU, Japan, and New Zealand do not, noting that the WIPO [World Intellectual Property Organisation] internet treaties do not require it."
Leaked ACTA draft reveals plans for internet clampdownThe new leak is a European Union document dating from just weeks ago, unlike some earlier leaks which could have been months old. The new document discloses in detail the proposals from the US and counter-proposals from the EU, Japan, and other ACTA nations.
"The 44-page document also highlights specific concerns of individual countries on a wide range of issues including ISP liability, anti-circumvention rules, and the scope of the treaty. This is probably the most significant leak to-date since it goes even beyond the transparency debate by including specific country positions and proposals," Geist writes.
He says with respect to the requirement of a three strikes policy for ISPs as a pre-requisite for safe harbour, "New Zealand is opposed to the condition altogether".
The leak reveals the US, Japan, and the EU want civil enforcement powers to extend to any intellectual property right, while Canada, Singapore and New Zealand seek a more limited treaty that covers only copyright and trademarks.
Activists in New Zealand began Tweeting news of the leak this morning. One, the Tech Liberty group, asked: "Why do New Zealand citizens have to find out the New Zealand position in ACTA negotiations from leaked documents?"
Technologist Nat Torkington has further analysed New Zealand's positions on his website, saying he finds New Zealand to be a "voice of sanity" at the negotiating table. The treaty, he says, is going to need "a lot of close examination from people who can read the legal language and yet who are intimately familiar with the possibilities and opportunities of technology".
"This is why negotiation in secret is a bad idea — our country won’t benefit from the knowledge of experts until the text is set in stone. We’ll get something that likely has flaws, but we’ll have to approve or reject it 'warts and all'," he says.
He says the New Zealand negotiators are not keen on the catchall phrase "intellectual property" used in draft, preferring instead "copyright and related rights and trademarks". They also want to keep the Copyright Tribunal process, designed to replace the lack of due process in s92A, open. for that reason they prefer to use the the term "competent authorities" when talking about policing to "judicial authorities".
The local negotiators also want flexibility when it comes to awarding any damages for infringement and are questioning the scope of the term "online service provider" in line with recent changes to such expressions in proposed copyright legislation here.
The Ministry of Economic Development is also now seeking submissions on the negotiations, outlining key issues here. Submissions are due at the end of the month.
Major ACTA Leak: Internet and Civil Enforcement Chapters With Country Positions
On the heels of the leak of various country positions on ACTA transparency, today an even bigger leak has hit the Internet. A new European Union document prepared several weeks ago canvasses the Internet and Civil Enforcement chapters, disclosing in complete detail the proposals from the U.S., the counter-proposals from the EU, Japan, and other ACTA participants. The 44-page document also highlights specific concerns of individual countries on a wide range of issues including ISP liability, anti-circumvention rules, and the scope of the treaty. This is probably the most significant leak to-date since it goes even beyond the transparency debate by including specific country positions and proposals.
The document highlights significant disagreement on a range of issues. For example, on the issue of anti-circumvention legislation and access controls, the U.S. wants it included per the DCMA, but many other countries, including the EU, Japan, and New Zealand do not, noting that the WIPO Internet treaties do not require it.
A brief summary of the key findings are posted below, but much more study is needed.
Internet Enforcement Chapter
* Canada has expressed concern with the title of the chapter ("Special Measures Related to Technological Enforcement Means and the Internet") and the substance of the chapter
* On the ISP safe harbour chapter, the leak identifies three proposals (consistent with an earlier NZ comment). In addition to the U.S. proposal that was leaked earlier, there is a Japanese proposal and one from the EU. Moreover, many countries have raised specific issues about the U.S. language. For example, New Zealand notes that the safe harbour appears to cover Information Location Tool providers (ie. search engines), but that it wonders why there is a concern of liability to begin with.
* Japan's alternative proposal calls for ISP liability based on knowledge of infringement. It states that there may be liability if it is technically possible to prevent the infringement and the provider "knows or there is reasonable ground to know" that infringement is occurring. There are additional provisions on the inclusion of a notice system and industry cooperation.
* With respect to the requirement of an ISP policy that could include three strikes as a pre-requisite for qualifying for the safe harbour, New Zealand is opposed to the condition altogether. Meanwhile, Japan notes that its law does not contain a policy requirement and it would have to consider whether it can agree to that requirement.
* On the implementation of notice-and-takedown, Canada has noted that the relationship between third party liability and ISP limitation of liability is unclear.
* On the anti-circumvention rules, which involves a U.S. attempt to implement a global DMCA, the EU would like to exclude access controls from the ambit of the provision. They are not alone - New Zealand opposes their inclusion and Japan also takes the position that access controls are not required by the WIPO Internet treaties and is apparently concerned about the implications for its domestic law. There is no reference to a Canadian position, despite the fact that this goes beyond current Canadian law.
Civil Enforcement Chapter
* the U.S., Japan, and the European Union want the civil enforcement powers to extend to any intellectual property right. Canada, Singapore, and New Zealand seek a more limited treaty that covers only copyright and trademarks.
* the EU is seeking injunctive relief powers against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to infringe an IP right. The EU is alone in focusing on intermediary injunctions.
* on statutory damages, the EU seeks to limit damages to actual damages, while the U.S. is proposing statutory damages. There is also dispute on the scope of the IP rights (all vs. just copyright and trademark). Canada and NZ also want to limit or exclude damages in certain special cass.
* on the disclosure of information related to investigations, the U.S. is pushing for very broad language, while the E.U. wants to limit with specific kinds of information (and Canada has proposed further limiting language).
US Government Rescinds 'Leave Internet Alone' Policy
Strickling speaking, the Naughties are dead
The US government’s policy of leaving the Internet alone is over, according to Obama’s top official at the Department of Commerce.
Instead, an “Internet Policy 3.0” approach will see policy discussions between government agencies, foreign governments, and key Internet constituencies, according to Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling, with those discussions covering issues such as privacy, child protection, cybersecurity, copyright protection, and Internet governance.
The outcomes of such discussions will be “flexible” but may result in recommendations for legislation or regulation, Strickling said in a speech at the Media Institute in Washington this week.
The new approach is a far cry from a US government that consciously decided not to intrude into the internet’s functioning and growth and in so doing allowed an academic network to turn into a global communications phenomenon.
Strickling referred to these roots arguing that it was “the right policy for the United States in the early stages of the Internet, and the right message to send to the rest of the world.” But, he continued, “that was then and this is now. As we at NTIA approach a wide range of Internet policy issues, we take the view that we are now in the third generation of Internet policy making.”
Outlining three decades of internet evolution - from transition to commercialization, from the garage to Main Street, and now, starting in 2010, the “Policy 3.0” approach - Strickling argued that with the internet is now a social network as well a business network. “We must take rules more seriously.”
He cited a number of examples where this new approach was needed: end users worried about credit card transactions, content providers who want to prevent their copyright, companies concerned about hacking, network neutrality, and foreign governments worried about Internet governance systems.
The decision to effectively end the policy that made the internet what it is today is part of a wider global trend of governments looking to impose rules on use of the network by its citizens.
In the UK, the Digital Economy Bill currently making its way through Parliament has been the subject of significant controversy for advocating strict rules on copyright infringement and threatening to ban people from the internet if they are found to do so. The bill includes a wide variety of other measures, including giving regulator Ofcom a wider remit, forcing ISPs to monitor their customers’ behavior, and allowing the government to take over the dot-uk registry.
In New Zealand, a similar measure to the UK’s cut-off provision has been proposed by revising the Copyright Act to allow a tribunal to fine those found guilty of infringing copyright online as well as suspend their Internet accounts for up to six months. And in Italy this week, three Google executives were sentenced to jail for allowing a video that was subsequently pulled down to be posted onto its YouTube video site.
Internationally, the Internet Governance Forum – set up by under a United Nations banner to deal with global governance issues – is due to end its experimental run this year and become an acknowledged institution. However, there are signs that governments are increasingly dominating the IGF, with civil society and the Internet community sidelined in the decision-making process.
In this broader context, the US government’s newly stated policy is more in line with the traditional laissez-faire internet approach. Internet Policy 3.0 also offers a more global perspective than the isolationist approach taken by the previous Bush administration.
In explicitly stating that foreign governments will be a part of the upcoming discussions, Strickling recognizes the United States’ unique position as the country that gives final approval for changes made to the internet’s “root zone.” Currently the global Internet is dependent on an address book whose contents are changed through a contract that the US government has granted to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (ICANN), based in Los Angeles.
ICANN recently adjusted its own agreement with the US government to give it more autonomy and now reports to the global Internet community through a series of reviews. Strickling sits on the panel of one of those reviews.
Overall, this new approach could enable the US government to regain the loss of some of its direct influence through recommendations made in policy reports. But internet old hands will still decry the loss of a policy that made the network what it is today.
Spanish Indie Labels To Sue The Gov't For Not Stopping File Sharing
We've discussed recently how Spain seemed to be one of a very small number of countries whose legal system seemed to be doing a decent job in responding to copyright issues. It has rejected three strikes, said that broadband is a basic right, said that personal file sharing is legal and even fined "anti-piracy" groups for "bad faith actions." Of course, all of those reasonable moves have made Spain something of a target. Industry lobbyists have convinced the government to propose new copyright laws.
But it's not just the big entrenched players. Reader Tor sends over the troubling news that a group of indie labels in Spain are suing the government for "negligence" in failing to stop file sharing. Specifically, they're really upset about the rulings that have found personal, non-commercial file-sharing is legal. They want the right to sue their biggest fans. Apparently, they haven't been paying attention to how that's worked (i.e., it hasn't) elsewhere:
"The measure would not resolve the most relevant problem, which is the actual impossibility of us taking civil action against those final users who appropriate music without paying, and systematically violate intellectual property rights," he adds.
"We think the Administration is responsible for our plight," says Carton. "We demand that the government take effective measures imminently to protect the rights and interests of the record industry, as well as the intellectual property rights of the agents that intervene in the creative musical process within Internet."
This is pretty disappointing. Last year, I actually bought a bunch of CDs (yes, physical CDs) from an indie label in Spain that I only heard about after a friend sent me some MP3s suggesting I might like a couple of the bands on the label. After checking out their websites (and being able to listen to some of the songs) I ended up ordering a bunch of CDs from the label. Just last week, I bought two more albums (downloads, via CDBaby) from the same label. Yet, according to these labels (and I can't tell if the label whose CDs I purchased is part of the lawsuit), they would have been better off suing my friend. Indie labels should be leading the way here: focusing on giving fans real reasons to buy, rather than suing the government for not putting up more protectionist barriers to pretend it can hold back what the technology allows.
SXSW 2010 on BitTorrent: 3.35 GB of Free Music
The South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival is one of the largest and most popular in the United States. For the sixth year in a row, SXSW has released a DRM-free, RIAA-safe collection of hundreds of songs which can all be downloaded for free in a couple of clicks, thanks to BitTorrent.
Since 2005 the SXSW music festival has published thousands of free tracks from participating artists. For some of the previous editions, SXSW itself has offered torrents for the artist showcases, but since 2008 this task has been delegated to the public.
Since all of the MP3s are available for download on the festival’s site, it only takes one person to get a torrent up and running.
In 2008 it was Greg Hewgill who took the time and effort to put all the MP3s into one big torrent, and for the 2009 and 2010 editions Ben Stolt has done the same. Torrents of the previous editions have been a huge success and were downloaded more than 100,000 times.
All the tracks have been made available by the artists themselves which means that they are totally RIAA-safe. The first release of the 2010 SXSW edition contains 646 tracks totaling 3.35 GB. A second batch with another 200+ tracks is expected to be released in the near future.
The torrent includes tracks from upcoming as well as established artists in nearly all music genres one can think of. If you’re in for a musical journey at no expense it is absolutely a recommended download.
This year’s SXSW music festival takes place between March 17-21 in Austin Texas. All the tracks released for the previous editions are also still available for those people who want to fill up their iPod without having to invest tens of thousands of dollars.
WA Man Accused of Selling Counterfeit Software
A 44-year-old Battle Ground, Wash., man accused of selling counterfeit Microsoft software over the Internet for 10 years has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle.
Wayne Shu was charged Thursday with six counts of mail fraud, trafficking in counterfeit goods and trafficking in illicit labels.
The prosecution says the sales continued even after Microsoft Corp. sent Shu multiple cease and desist letters.
Prosecutors allege Shu owned and operated companies under such names as Micro Sharp, Micro Sharp Technologies, Microsharp.com and Meet Your Price.
The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $1.7 million, Shu's home and luxury car.
Conviction for mail fraud is punishable by a maximum 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Charles Nesson, Scourge of the Labels, Now Must Pay Them
Joel Tenenbaum, the second P2P defendant to take his case to trial in the US, may never pay the $675,000 judgment currently filed against him—but someone on his legal team will soon be paying something. Judge Nancy Gertner has ruled that both Tenenbaum and his lawyer, Harvard Law's Charles Nesson, are "jointly and severally liable" for some fees incurred by the RIAA during the trial. The ruling comes after the defense team inexplicably posted the very songs at issue in the case to the Internet, and Nesson posted a public link on his blog for anyone to download them.
This behavior prompted a discovery request from the record labels, which wanted to know more about why the defense was now doing the very thing it had been accused of doing in the lawsuit. Nesson didn't want to tell them. The labels then filed a "motion to compel" the information.The judge sums it all up:
[Nesson's] terse response to plaintiffs' motion to compel merely stated that, in his personal opinion, the plaintiffs' requests were not relevant to this litigation. As indicated in this Court's June 16, 2009, order, plaintiffs' request for information relating to the defense's unauthorized distribution of the very copyrighted works on which plaintiffs' claims were based was clearly relevant to such issues as the willfulness of the defendant's conduct and the amount of damages to be awarded by the jury.
Lawyers who win a "motion to compel" are entitled to have their costs for that particular motion reimbursed; it's a way to keep opposing lawyers from dragging their feet on discovery requests with no good reason. The labels have asked that these fees be paid by the defense, and Gertner on Tuesday agreed.
On June 18, 2009, the judge made clear her displeasure with Nesson's behavior in the case, so this week's ruling isn't a surprise.
The Court's indulgence is at an end. Too often, as described below, the important issues in this case have been overshadowed by the tactics of defense counsel: taping opposing counsel without permission (and in violation of the law), posting recordings of court communications and e-mails with potential experts (who have rejected the positions counsel asserts) on the Internet, and now allegedly replicating the acts that are the subject of this lawsuit, namely uploading the copyrighted songs that the Defendant is accused of file-sharing.
It also didn't help that Nesson filed no response to the record label motion against him. The labels have until March 8 to file with the court "an affidavit containing an itemized statement of the expenses they incurred in filing the motion to compel." Nesson, who took on the Tenenbaum case pro bono, may now being paying out of his own pocket for the privilege of defending Tenenbaum.
Peers Push for File-Sharing Sites to be Blocked
Two Lords have tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that will force ISPs to block sites accused of copyright infringement.
The amendment - which is was tabled by Conservative peer Lord Howard of Rising and the Liberal Democrats' Lord Clement Jones - would give courts the power to "prevent access to specified online locations for the prevention of online copyright infringement".
The amendment stipulates that courts must consider whether a "substantial proportion of the content accessible at or via each specified online location infringes copyright" and take into account whether the site's owner has taken "reasonable steps" to prevent infringement, before the site is blocked.
A further clause reinforces "the importance of preserving human rights, including freedom of expression, and the right to property."
Civil liberties campaigners claim the amendment is "dangerous". "This would open the door to a massive imbalance of power in favour of large copyright holding companies," writes the Open Rights Group's executive director Jim Killock on the ORG blog. "Individuals and small businesses would be open to massive 'copyright attacks' that could shut them down, just by the threat of action."
"This is exactly how libel law works today: suppressing free speech by the unwarranted threat of legal action. The expense and the threat are enough to create a 'chilling effect'," Killock adds.
ISPs Angry Over U.K. Anti-Piracy Amendment
The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has said it is "outraged" after the House of Lords voted through Amendment 120A to the U.K.'s Digital Economy Bill. It would allow the High Court to grant an injunction requiring ISPs to block Web sites with a "substantial proportion" of copyright-infringing content.
The opposition amendment replaces the unpopular Clause 17, which would have given the government substantial powers to amend the law to deal with any future piracy threat.
U.K. music industry trade body the BPI has welcomed the move, but ISPs have been unhappy with measures contained in the Bill.
In particular, ISAP said in a statement that clause 17 "has been hastily constructed and rushed through at report stage without due consideration of the implications or consultation with the interested parties that would be affected."
The ISPs' trade body added that legal, technical and practical issues have "not been debated in nearly enough depth" and that this was "negligent."
The courts already have powers to grant an injunction requiring ISPs to block access to sites that contain unlawful copyright content, but ISPA said this amendment introduces a "bias in favor" of rights holders and limits the court's discretion to judge each case on its merits.
"ISPA has been supportive of Peers' excellent scrutiny of the Bill to date," said ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman in a statement. "However, in this instance, our members are extremely concerned that the full implications of the amendment have not been understood and that the reasoning behind the amendment is wholly misguided. We would therefore urge the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to urgently reconsider their position."
A third day of the report stage on the Bill will take place at the House of Lords on March 8.
Government Tackled on Wi-Fi Plans
Libraries and universities are protesting about plans to make them police users of wireless networks.
The government's Digital Economy Bill includes plans to make them responsible for what is done over free wi-fi.
The plans imply that libraries, universities and cafes offering free wireless will be responsible if people use it to pirate movies and music.
Bodies representing universities want the law clarified so they are not hit with big bills for policing every user.
"We're very concerned about this," said Toby Bainton, secretary of the Society of College, National and University Libraries (Sconul). "We have been pressing them on this for quite some time."
Some fear that the provisions in the Bill will also spell the end for the free wi-fi services that many coffee shops and restaurants offer to patrons.
Mr Bainton said Sconul, which represents university and national libraries, wanted clarification on the responsibilities that the Digital Economy Bill introduces for its members.
The Digital Economy Bill contains many changes to existing laws governing use of the net and is currently being debated in Parliament.
One of the most divisive elements is the so-called "three strikes rule" that would give regulator Ofcom new powers to disconnect or slow down the connections of persistent net pirates.
DIGITAL ECONOMY BILL
# Legal framework for tackling copyright infringement via education and technical measures
# Ofcom given powers to appoint and fund independently funded news consortia
# New duties for Ofcom to assess the UK's communications infrastructure every two years
# Modernising spectrum to increase investment in mobile broadband
# Framework for the move to digital radio switchover by 2015
# Updating Channel 4 functions to encompass public service content, on TV and online
# Age ratings compulsory for all boxed video games aimed at those over 12 years
In a public document explaining the new changes, the government has said it will not exempt universities and libraries from ensuring that the networks they use are not used to infringe copyright.
"...this would in effect give carte blanche to infringement and would attract infringers to exploit these spaces," wrote Lord Young in a cover letter accompanying the document.
The confusion arose, said Mr Bainton, because the government had yet to decide whether Sconul members were to be regarded as subscribers or network suppliers.
As subscribers the burden of policing would not fall on them. Instead, it would fall on their network supplier. However, said Mr Bainton, dubbing them subscribers did not solve all problems because the UK's higher education institutions got their net access from one source - the Joint Academic Network (Janet).
"Janet has codes of practice about acceptable use and individual universities are very good at spotting and stopping illegal downloads," he said.
"The way it usually works is that it does not get as far as infringement," said Mr Bainton. "Our house is quite well in order."
The technical measures the government had proposed to help Janet police users were not applicable to a network that used massive amounts of bandwidth and employed peer-to-peer technology for legitimate research purposes, he added.
Mr Bainton said university and national library networks could be "spared" the burden of oversight in the code of practice covering wi-fi that will be drawn up once the Digital Economy Bill has been passed. This is likely to contain thresholds beyond which responsibilities for policing infringement over wi-fi should come into force.
The thresholds could be set quite high for academic institutions, said Mr Bainton. Despite this, he said, national and university libraries wanted clarification of their status sorted out while the bill was being debated.
"We are still working on them," he said.
The UK's DMCA; Clause 17 Falls, But at What Cost?
During another intense session in the House of Lords this afternoon a vote was finally held on the controversial Clause 17 of the UK's Digital Economy Bill. This clause would have allowed the Secretary of State to amend the UK's copyright law with a lot less oversight from parliament than usual. The government did not hide the fact that this provision would be used to clamp down on unlicensed file-sharers in various ways as the industry demanded. However, there was a bright side; the clause would have permitted Lord Mandelson (or more likely his successor) to do as he promised back in October and relax the UK's copyright law by bringing in the 'fair use' exemptions it so desperately needs.
However, as most people are aware, both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties (and many from within the Labour party) made it clear that they objected to these excessive powers being given to an unelected official. Finally, a vote was called on a relatively minor amendment that sealed Clause 17's fate. The clause was removed from the bill by a vote of 140 to 165, supposedly marking a triumph of democracy over the government's attempts to gain even more power. Unfortunately, what replaced it has already raised alarm across the online world.
The new text that was strongly pushed by the Liberal Democrats adds a new section to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (the basis for the UK's copyright law) entitled 'Preventing access to specified online locations for the prevention of online copyright infringement'. This section allows the High Court to grant an injunction that would force any service provider (such as an ISP) to prevent access to any specified website, service or other location to help prevent online copyright infringement. It is worth noting that the website or location does not even need to be hosting allegedly infringing material, just that the material is "accessible at or via" the location. This is clearly designed to force ISPs to block any website a judge can be convinced is hosting or linking to copyrighted material but could easily include hosting sites such as YouTube or even those that link such as Google itself.
On the face of it, this might not seem too bad; a copyright owner would have to go to the High Court and plead their case, the ISPs and site owners would get a chance to defend themselves and it would be much the same as the current situation. Unfortunately, the debate made it clear that the provisions will work slightly differently. In practice, a copyright owner will first send a 'take-down' notice to the service provider (although it is not clear whether this will be the ISP or web hosting organisation) and the service provider will be expected to then censor the allegedly infringing content or fight the accusation in court. As we all know (and was mentioned in the Lords) legal action can be prohibitively expensive so it is likely that if this becomes law, we will see websites dropping or being blocked at the first sign of trouble.
The UK's DMCA
Does this sound familiar? At first glance this section would seem to closely resemble the provisions United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allow a copyright owner to send a take-down notices. Since this became law there has been a steady flow (or torrent) of examples where this procedure has been abused. Such notices have been used to shut down competing websites, silence critics or for other malicious purposes and with the burden on the accused to prove their innocence it is likely we will see the same in the UK if this Bill passes in its current form. Despite the similarities with the DMCA, there are also some significant differences. Due to the speed with which this amendment was drafted and pushed through there are many significant holes in it. Take-down notices under the DMCA are directed at those who host content, requiring them to take down the material. Under this law, the notices would go to the ISP, effectively ordering them to block access to the specified site, without requiring that the offending site be notified. Secondly, the ISP is forced to pay all the copyright owner's legal costs if they choose to resist. We have already seen how quick certain ISPs have been to bow to legal requests without examining the evidence or challenging the accusations so it is unlikely they will put up a fight in this case, and due to the general fear of legal action and ignorance of the law (as recently demonstrated by a Consumer Focus study on copyright) it is hard to imagine that many individual site owners will feel able to take any action other than simply removing the (allegedly) offending content.
The debate itself was rather heated. Lord Clement-Jones (LibDem) introduced his amendment with a passionate speech that demonstrated a lack of understanding. The Conservatives offered their support (led by Lord Howard) and the only defence that the government minister (Lord Young) found was that it might have negative effects on national security by driving file-sharers to encryption (which L Clement-Jones denied would happen). It was left to the Earl of Erroll (a cross-bencher) to stand up and explain, in great detail, the many flaws to this section. He repeated his call for a full review of copyright legislation - a call echoed by Baroness Miller, (LibDem) - and argued against both this new amendment and the original Clause 17, as usual, demonstrating a clear understanding of the issues and technologies involved. He was then 'corrected' (mistakenly) by L Clement-Jones who seemed unaware of the difference between an ISP and a website host (something reflected in the text of the amendment). The vote was finally called and the government defeated with Clause 17 being removed without a formal vote later. It its place now lies something that should be equally troubling to those who would have a free Internet.
What Happens Now
In response to the initial outcry Lord Clement-Jones published his justification for the amendment. The statement does little to remove the fears held by many opposing this and he demonstrates his lack of understanding; even the first sentence is factually incorrect - at no point in the Bill is P2P mentioned at all. While the initial consultations and debates only concerned the use of P2P software, by the time the Bill was published it had been generalised to all online activity. While advocates of sensible internet and copyright policy have been opposed to this Bill since it was first mentioned, today's debate has managed to do the unthinkable and make it even worse, causing confusion and outcry even from within the ranks of the Liberal Democrats. Today's events clearly demonstrate that we cannot rely on the front bench of any major party to respect or understand the internet and modern technology. More than ever, it is clear we must support the Pirate movement.
The full text of the amendment can be found on the bill site here under amendment 120A.
Lords Copyright Change 'Could Block YouTube'
One of the most contentious parts of the controversial digital economy bill was voted down by the House of Lords last night – only to be replaced by a clause that campaigners say is even more draconian.
The Liberal Democrats forced through a surprise amendment to the bill's notorious clause 17 on Wednesday – in a move that dealt a defeat to the government but troubled critics, who suggest it will have the opposite effect that its creators intend.
Instead of sweeping new powers that threatened sweeping alterations to British copyright law, the Lib Dems added a clause that gives extra oversight to the high court.
The new proposal – which was passed in the House of Lords by 165 votes to 140 – gives a high court judge the right to issue an injunction against a website accused of hosting a "substantial" amount of copyright infringing material, potentially forcing the entire site offline.
Putting forward the amendment, Lib Dem peer Lord Clement-Jones said that it would placate concerns over the so-called "three strikes" rule – which could see those accused of sharing files illegally online having their internet connections cut off – and added that it was a "more proportionate, specific and appropriate" way to approach infringement than the previous proposals made by the government.
"I believe this is going to send a powerful message to our creative industries that we value what they do, that we want to protect what they do, that we do not believe in censoring the internet but we are responding to genuine concerns," he said.
But instead of making the proposed system more transparent and accountable, critics say it will simply leave it open to abuse.
"This would open the door to a massive imbalance of power in favour of large copyright holding companies," said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. "Individuals and small businesses would be open to massive 'copyright attacks' that could shut them down, just by the threat of action."
"This is exactly how libel law works today: suppressing free speech by the unwarranted threat of legal action. The expense and the threat are enough to create a 'chilling effect'."
In particular, there are concerns that the amendment could follow in the footsteps of America's controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has been accused of encouraging companies to file bogus copyright claims to block material they dislike.
The high costs and dangers of dealing with copyright claims in court mean that many web hosts simply take down the material in question without checking whether the copyright case is legitimate – even going as far as shutting down entire websites in some cases.
Just last week the well-known whistleblower website Cryptome was taken offline when Microsoft attempted to suppress the publication of its so-called "spy guide" by issuing a copyright claim under the DMCA.
When the site's service provider received Microsoft's request, it not only blocked the document in question but also effectively removed the entire Cryptome site from the web.
Microsoft eventually retracted its claim in order to let the site – which had stayed online for years despite numerous run-ins with other companies and US government agencies – go back online.
The new amendment could also have dire implications for websites like YouTube, where users can upload copyright-infringing material without the knowledge of the site's owners.
The video sharing site, which is owned by Google, is already subject to a $1bn lawsuit by US media giant Viacom – but argues that it cannot screen every video that goes onto its site to check whether it infringes copyright. Given the large amounts of material hosted on the site, however, the whole thing could potentially be blocked by the high court.
Lilian Edwards, a cyberlaw expert at Sheffield University, said that the new proposals had some benefits but also had sweeping downsides.
"For the first time, Sony and the rest can now go to court and demand that every ISP in the UK blocks YouTube," she wrote.
"There will in reality be no, or few, court applications - just non-publicised notifications. This is essentially legislation for cover extralegal censorship for the benefit of entrenched private interests."
Such concerns mark only the latest controversy attached to the digital economy bill, which has caused upset since it was first proposed last year.
On Monday, Lord Puttnam said that the scheme was being rushed through parliament without sufficient scrutiny, and that legislators were subject to an "extraordinary degree of lobbying" from copyright holders.
The bill must pass through the House of Lords before it can be put before the Commons and turned into law. Reading continues in the Lords on Monday.
BBC's iPlayer Verification Blocks Open Source Software
The BBC seems to have started using a Flash player verification service that stops the iPlayer from streaming for more than a minute or two to unauthorised media players, hitting users of the open source XBMC
The BBC has reportedly started using the SWF Verification routine -- aimed at protecting copyright content -- with its iPlayer streaming video service. It could be an attempt to stop third-party software from downloading videos, which usually only last for seven days. However, it has the side effect of dropping the video stream after one or two minutes when used with unauthorised players. This includes open source media players such as XBMC.
H-Online notes that: "Some open source plug-ins get around SWF verification by transparently dropping the stream, reopening it and seeking to where it was before the 'ping' came in, though this is potentially punishing on servers."
The BBC supported Linux (OpenSuSE and Ubuntu) and Mac OS X by creating a desktop version of the iPlayer that uses Adobe AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) software. Windows users can also install it.
iPlayer content reaches a wide audience not just via PCs but through the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 games consoles and some mobile phones. But while the BBC aspires to universal access, it doesn't guarantee to deliver all its content to everyone in the UK (DAB radio coverage being particularly limited) let alone deliver it in the format that any particular group of users may choose for their own reasons.
However, as is often the case, the BBC's move may have unforeseen consequences. According to a report in The Register:
Reg reader, Tom Rouse, who alerted us to the SWF verification tweak to the iPlayer, wondered if the BBC was simply satisfying the demands of Adobe's content licence desires.
"It would seem that this move is likely [to] impact users of platforms not supported by Flash, with an unsatisfactory implementation (eg too resource intensive for the platform, with video tearing, etc.), or those who just wish to use an open source player," he said.
"Ironically, third party utilities that download files (which presumably the verification is there to prevent) still work fine. It is possible that this move will actually increase the occurrence of downloading files which will not be time limited, or torrenting of copyrighted material."
A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust told The Register: "The decision to block open source plugins is a matter for BBC Management. The Trust has not received any complaints on this issue and has no plans to look into it further at present."
There's no way of knowing how many UK-based iPlayer users have PCs but can't or won't run the Adobe AIR version, but it's probably not a large percentage of 61.4 million.
BBC Proposes Deep Cuts in Web Site
The British Broadcasting Corp. on Tuesday yielded to critics of its aggressive expansion, proposing sweeping cuts in spending on its Web site and other digital operations.
The proposals were published in a strategic review, only weeks before a British election that could usher in a period of austerity. Members of the Conservative Party, which is expected to make electoral gains at the expense of the governing Labour Party, have called for the BBC to be reined in, echoing commercial rivals who have complained about the public broadcaster’s growing reach in areas beyond traditional radio and television.
Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, said the plans marked a “step-change with the past” at the BBC, which is financed by a mandatory fee on all television-owning British households.
“After years of expansion of our services in the U.K., we are proposing some reductions,” he said in a speech. “The point of the reductions is not to diminish the service we offer to the public, but rather to focus the license fee and the creative energy of the BBC on delivering the highest quality and the maximum public value.”
The BBC has been evolving into a diversified media organization, with growing interests in areas like magazine and book publishing. It has moved successfully onto the Internet, with its Web site rivaling those of American imports like Google and Facebook in Britain.
But the BBC’s expansion has caused griping among book and newspaper publishers, which question the need for public investment on the Internet, already awash in private-sector businesses. Commercial television rivals, meanwhile, have criticized the BBC’s use of public money to invest in broadcasts of sporting events and popular American television series, saying there are plenty of private companies prepared to do this.
James Murdoch, chief executive of the European and Asian operations of News Corp., which controls the British pay television company Sky, last year accused the BBC of a “land grab.”
“The scale and scope of its current activities and future ambitions is chilling,” Mr. Murdoch said in a speech.
On Tuesday, the BBC proposed a 25 percent reduction in its spending on the Web, as well as the closure of several digital radio stations and a reduction in outlays on U.S. television shows. Among the Web services to go would be two aimed at teenagers, called Switch and Blast.
The BBC management also recommended that BBC Worldwide, a commercial arm of the broadcaster, should focus more of its operations outside Britain. And it proposed reductions in spending on overhead.
Over all, the BBC said the proposed cuts were aimed at freeing £600 million, or $900 million, a year to invest in higher-quality content, including journalism and children’s programming. That is close to a sixth of £3.5 billion that the BBC collected last year from the license fee.
“This strategy directs the BBC to put quality first; do fewer things better; guarantee access to all; make the license fee work harder; and set new boundaries for itself,” the broadcaster said in its review.
Questions over the boundaries separating public broadcasters from their commercial rivals have been growing across Europe, where private television companies have suffered during the recession because of their reliance on advertising. In France and Spain, governments have tried to bolster public television by moving to phase out advertising on public TV, holding up the ad-free BBC as a model.
The European Commission in Brussels, responding to concerns of commercial broadcasters, recently imposed a new requirement on public broadcasters, saying they must assess the effect on the market before starting any new service, such as a digital television channel. The BBC Trust has already been conducting such tests for new services.
For now, the BBC’s funding seems secure; under an existing agreement, the license fee is set to rise by up to 2 percent annually through 2013.
But some BBC employees fear that future governments will come under increased pressure to reduce funding.
The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union, which represents thousands of workers at the BBC, said that instead of appeasing critics, the proposals outlined Tuesday could backfire.
“The BBC will not secure the politicians’ favor with these proposals and nor will the corporation appease the commercial sector, which will see what the BBC is prepared to sacrifice and will pile on the pressure for more cuts,” said Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the union, in a statement.
The group fears that a move to cut services could result in hundreds of job losses. The union threatened industrial action if the BBC Trust, which oversees the BBC, adopts the proposals, which will be debated publicly during a 12-week consultation period.
“In the meantime, we will be lobbying hard to reverse the BBC’s stance, which in our view only positions the BBC as a target for those who wish to see the corporation cut down and the license fee eradicated,” Mr. Morrissey added.
Popular Science Puts Entire Scanned Archive Online, Free
Gadget nerds: Prepare to lose the rest of your day to awesomeness. PopSci, the web-wing of Popular Science magazine, has scanned its entire 137-year archive and put it online for you to read, absolutely free. The archive, made available in partnership with Google Books, even has the original period advertisements.
Head over to the site and you’ll see a simple search box. Of course, the first thing I typed in was “jet pack”. This, naturally enough, returned plenty of results, including a rather dangerous-looking hydrogen peroxide–powered contraption with a belt-mounted controller. The article was printed in the December 1962 issue.
You can’t go directly to an issue to browse, but once you have arrived somewhere by search, there are no restrictions on scrolling around. You’ll also find a properly hyperlinked table of contents in each magazine. The early years are a little dry: I browsed an issue from 1902, and it made the average math textbook look like a Dan Brown novel (only better paced), so I’d recommend starting in the optimistic, tech-loving 1950s.
Oh, and did I mention it works great on an iPhone? Good luck getting any work done today.
The Future Won’t Be Free
Fifteen years and two careers ago, I, like a lot of young, aspiring digirati, migrated to New York to be part of what was to become the dotcom revolution. I worked in the new-media division of a well-regarded communications agency, designing and building Web sites for big corporate clients. Many of these sites were intended to give away huge amounts of content, and I toured the world, making countless speeches extolling the virtues of free-for-all online access. I generally got a warm reception.
In those days I frequently spouted Stewart Brand's maxim that "information wants to be free." And, like almost everyone else at the time, I was quoting only half of what he said. "On the one hand," Brand explained, "information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other." A nuanced thought like this was harder to paraphrase, and selling "free" made us seem like visionaries—radicals even. The fact that the grown-ups looked quizzically at our (largely absent) business models only confirmed how smart we thought we were.
Unfortunately, as we've seen since, for companies whose core product is content—like every newspaper and magazine you read, including this one—the idea that we Internet visionaries sold is a total load of crap. We persuaded executives to compete with themselves online by setting up Web sites that offered for free the same content their staffs labored so strenuously to produce and sell in their print publications. The theory was that companies were supposed to make back the money by, uh, "monetizing the attention economy," or some other similarly vaporous concept, that meant either charging customers later on, or selling advertisements, or both.
They bought in, and now the Internet is pulverizing them. Notice I didn't say "infotech" or "digital media" are doing the pulverizing—it's the Internet, specifically. Following our lead, companies have now trained a generation of young people to never, ever, ever expect to pay for content on a laptop or desktop. But this is not quite the apocalypse. Many new digital platforms are brewing, and early on in the development of each one there will be a battle for the business model—a fight to figure out who will pay. The advent of every new device is another chance to turn it all around.
When I buy the dead-tree version of my local newspaper, I have no expectation that it should be free. If I pick it up and walk out of the coffee shop without paying, that's stealing. But when I walk upstairs to my office and log on to the Web site for the same paper, I feel a divine right to access the entirety of that paper—and 10 years of its archives—for free. Yet when I use another little computer invented more recently (Amazon's Kindle, say) to access that very same newspaper, I do pay. And I expect to pay. When the market floods this year with the iPad and its inevitable clones, I'll expect to pay on those as well.
In the long run, the first decade of the Web could come to be seen as a momentary aberration—an echo of '60s free culture when we all took the bad, digital acid. So, media companies, on behalf of all misdirected Internet visionaries, I'm sorry. We like you—we really do—and we don't want a world without you. If you can hold on until we all have new kinds of screens, and new sets of expectations, you'll be fine. You'll be different, but fine. Just, please, don't take my word for it this time. Ask around.
Writers Guild 2.0: The Message? Get Your Hustle On & Online
Anita Ondine, Mo Koyfman, and Mark Lukasiewcz rallied to discuss the economics of digital media as a kickoff to the WGAE's new digital media education program. The message? Pretty simple. It's time for writers in the guild to get their hustle on and online.
It's been two years since the Writer's Strike, and in those two years the entertainment industry has been revolutionized by technologists and entrepreneurs, many attempting to democratize media distribution, kill the old models (cable, primetime, and even advertising), and move to transform the experience of consumption into a deeply engaging and social one.
With ubiquitous connectivity, the result of broadband penetration and expansion of mobile platforms, consumers now count web video series, internet radio, podcasts, twitter, blogs, tumblogs, multiplayer gaming, and more, as additions to previously limited traditional choices of TV, radio, and feature films.
The integration of social interactions by these new media forms and the personal choice of distribution channel, model, and time of day, have required a rapid reinvention of an industry previously caught off guard by cable television nearly overnight. Even more complicated is that what's true today, what's available today, who is using it today, will likely not be true three months from now.
With the recent launch of HBO's online web channel, Hulu's evolving free-to-pay model, companies like Next New Networks, individuals like you and me with our LOL kittens, puppies, and kids, Tim Kress-Spatz, creator of popular beer drinking show Tap That and the advent of many others, alongside revenue generation, distribution, this is an industry in which change is now a constant variable.
It's surprising to learn that at the heart of the disruption is a union voice. It's no secret that unions are seen as bastions of the old guard and the old ways. What makes this series and exploration of the WGAE's strategy worth writing about is that it belies a movement towards encouraging and empowering writers to become evangelists for their own personal presences online, so that they are not only producers of content, but consumers and likely innovators for how that content and those technologies being formed.
But, really, writers as technologists?
Indeed! Writers have been writing for digital media since its inception, in fact last year the guild tripled its number of digital media signatories. Unfortunately, writers haven't always had a voice at the bargaining table and were long setback by the disruption caused by cable television. As writers do more and more work in digital media in both entertainment and news, it's undeniable that the industry needs to be nimble and profitable and not fall into the struggles that continue to plague print journalism.
Perhaps one reason we aren't yet seeing the kind of turmoil that journalists and newspapers are struggling with is that the video storytelling arm of the entertainment industry has long had a pay-for-play model. However, Mark Lukasiewicz aptly answered:
"It's a mistake to think all the rules of the game have changed. Facts still matter. Sharp analysis still matters. Strong narratives and compelling characters still matter. Almost all of the things that made great TV journalism a generation ago still make great video storytelling today."
I asked Lowell Peterson, executive director of WGAE and Elana Levin, Communications Director of WGAE, a few questions about the future, problems of the past, and the overall relevance of the union alongside rapid technology-driven innovation:
Q: What were some of the major downfalls and challenges and historical mistakes that were made when cable came out for writers and fair compensation?
At first the programs made for cable channels were pretty basic and low budget. The production models were fluid and writers were not paid much. As I understand it, there was a general consensus that the Guild should wait until the economics became more favorable. (And some of the cable television producers did not want to deal with the union.)
Unfortunately, this meant that basic cable grew up non-Guild; when the business and production models crystallized, we were simply not there. The high-quality shows on premium cable are all Guild, but there are large swaths of non-Guild programming on the basic channels.
Q. Have writers been as surprised and caught off guard as the newspaper, magazine, and print industry or have they been able to roll with the rapid change?
WGAE members are keenly aware of the shifts in their industries - broadcast news, public television, comedy/variety, dramatic television, film, and so forth. The rise of digital media was the central issue in the 2007-2008 strike.
People were focused, not only on getting paid when their material was streamed or downloaded from the internet, but on Guild coverage for material made for digital distribution in the first place.
Our members are eager to learn more about the creative and economic trends in digital media and to develop the skills they need to participate. We know the change is already happening and that it is fundamental, and we are positioned in this space.
Q: How is the Writer's Guild organizing to stay ahead of the technology? What will keep this union relative as writers become their own agents?
We are immersed in a digital media education program. We read everything we can get our hands on; we present seminars, workshops, and classes; and (perhaps most importantly) we talk with lots and lots of people who are active in digital media.
By that I mean people who create content and people who finance and distribute it. This helps us learn what is happening but it also helps us insert the writers' perspective into the conversation.
The business and distribution models are not set. The narrative structures and styles are still being developed. By becoming active in the digital world now, when it is still mostly unformed, the Guild can help shape it and make sure that the interests of the content creators are fully recognized.
It is true that, at this point, the traditional production and ownership structures have not taken hold in the digital realm. There are major studios and broadcasters producing original content for the internet, and we are representing the people who write that content.
But a lot of the work is done by writer-owned companies, some of which are quite small. We do have some experience with that model, particularly in independent film and to some extent in public television, but we think there will be a lot more of it in digital media.
The open structure of the internet makes this possible; creators do not have to work with major studios to get access to audiences. The Writers Guild will remain very relevant to writers in this model because the money is still coming from other sources - advertisers, sponsors, foundations, studios, distributors, whomever - and we will help maximize the amount of that money going to the writers.
Also, people get their health and pension benefits through the Guild including people who own their own companies. Their benefits are portable between Guild covered jobs because the benefits plan is already set up to accommodate freelance and independent writers. And the Guild is a creative community.
The educational and social events we present to our members are very important. Writers learn from each other, they network, they rely on each to think about style and structure and career. Fundamentally, a vibrant community of creators can improve conditions; working together, writers can improve compensation and can assert greater creative control over their work. That is what we are here to do.
We are still learning how to monitor the flow of Guild-covered content over the internet and mobile devices to make sure writers are getting paid properly. The monitoring technology is developing rapidly; web sites and other distribution companies rely on it to attract advertisers. So we will get this right, soon.
Digital technology has made it much easier for writers to bypass the majors and get their work to audiences directly. At the same time, getting audiences to pay attention requires people to do many different things -- putting themselves out in all the social media, taking on more production tasks, and raising money. We have a training program to help people do those things. The more work that Guild members do in the digital world, the better the conditions will be. And the more that people writing for digital media participate in the Guild, the stronger we will be.
I Was a Teenage Illiterate
At the age of 26, when I returned to New York after an inglorious stab at graduate work in medieval history on the frozen steppes of Chicago, I had a horrifying realization: I was illiterate. At least, I was as close to illiterate as a person with over 20 years of education could possibly be. In my stunted career as a scholar, I’d read promissory notes, papal bulls and guidelines for Inquisitorial interrogation. Dante, too. Boccaccio. . . . But after 1400? Nihil. I felt very, very stupid among my new sophisticated New York friends. I seemed very, very stupid, too. Actually, let’s face it, I was stupid, and it was deeply mortifying, as so many things were in those days. But I have since come to realize that my abject ignorance was really a gift: to be a literarily inclined illiterate at age 26 is one of the most glorious fates that can befall mortal girl.
Of course I could not know that then, and in a panicky attempt to rectify the situation, I slunk in shame to the Strand and stood, paralyzed by the yawning vastness of the store and of my ignorance. I have a very distinct memory of coming home, sitting on the mattress on the floor of my tiny apartment, and staring hopelessly at the forlorn little collection of books on my window sill. A fat Latin dictionary. A fat dictionary of Christian saints. To which I added the skinny gray novel I had just bought. Out of every book in the Strand’s famous miles of volumes, I had desperately, randomly, impulsively grabbed a beat-up Modern Library edition of Anatole France’s “Penguin Island.” Oy.
Anatole France? Not Balzac. Not Flaubert. I’d never heard of them. I didn’t know them from Maupassant. Or Anatole France, for that matter. As for English or American literature, I had never read Austen or Eliot or Dickens or Melville or James or Wharton or. . . .
I blame Dostoyevsky.
When I was a child, I was always allowed to stay home from school with even the flimsiest of maladies (had I known the word “neurasthenic” I would have employed it weekly) if I promised to sit quietly and read. I read “The Cricket in Times Square” and Beverly Cleary and books about horses and young Indian braves and biographies of George Washington Carver from the school library. At home, there were books by Albert Payson Terhune about collies (we had a collie) and my father’s Hardy Boys collection and my mother’s Louisa May Alcott novels. I read a lot. I was one of those children they used to call “readers.”
So what happened between “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “Penguin Island”?
“The Idiot” happened. In seventh grade I saw a copy of Dostoyevsky’s novel in the library and, thinking it would be a funny book about a stupid person, began to read it. I read and I read and I read. I developed a crush on Prince Myshkin. He seemed so sweet. I did not know what epilepsy was, and I was too lazy to look it up in the dictionary. I did not know what naïve meant and was, again, too lazy to look it up. But I kept going, in my own naïveté, fascinated and absorbing perhaps a tenth of what was there. A tenth of Dostoyevsky is plenty for a seventh grader, I think. The problem is that now, when as an adult I might understand the other 90 percent, I have no desire ever to read Dostoyevsky again. Ever. Dostoyevsky ruined Dostoyevsky for me.
Which is why I am grateful to him. My Dostoyevsky phase, in which I lugged one heavy volume or another everywhere (there are photos of me stubbornly pretending to read on a sailing trip, on a ski trip, on the beach), lasted through most of high school. If you spend all your time reading books that you only pretend to understand, year after year, there isn’t much room for anything else. In school, we were inexplicably forced to read “The Ox-Bow Incident,” I recall, and there was some Shakespeare. But it was the ’60s, and for one entire year I managed to get away with reading “The Forsyte Saga” (the television series, which was fantastic, was being shown on public television) as an independent study. I also wrote a paper on existential despair in “Crime and Punishment,” “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” (assigned to the class) and (my one foray into contemporary American literature) “Portnoy’s Complaint.” Look, I didn’t say I wasn’t pretentious; I said I wasn’t well read.
A few oddities cropped up on my high school reading list, some unfortunate (like Robbe-Grillet: I had never read Emerson, but I’d read Robbe-Grillet?); and others like gifts from the gods (a heavy dose of Colette, thanks to my mother). But these were tiny islets upon the great, heaving ocean of my ignorance.
So, that day, the day of my illiteracy epiphany, I came home from the Strand and sat shamefaced on my mattress staring unhappily at “Penguin Island,” which I had started and put down in confused boredom several times. Then I remembered a bag in the closet with stuff my ex-boyfriend had left behind, including a paperback copy of “Our Mutual Friend,” his favorite novel. A few days later I emerged from that exquisite book and cursed myself for wasting so much of my life doing things other than what God in all his wisdom clearly meant for me to do for the rest of my life: read Dickens.
This was a defining moment; it was my discovery of the English language. It could never have happened if I had not been blessedly illiterate.
Imagine the satisfaction, the exhilaration when, not long after, I stood as a newlywed surveying my husband’s bookcase. It reached from one wall to the other, from floor to ceiling. It had been culled and collected by a person of know#ledge and taste, a product of Columbia’s core curriculum, and . . . it was arranged alphabetically. I started at the upper left hand corner (Jane Austen! J. R. Ackerley!) and worked my way to the lower right (Waugh! Wodehouse! Woolf!). I got to read “Huckleberry Finn” for the first time when I was 35 years old. And when I eventually moved on to a different partner, there waiting for me was a new bookcase full of other books. I read “My Antonia” for the first time last month. That is a kind of grace.
If Dostoyevsky had not overwhelmed me at such a young age, and I had read “Huckleberry Finn” at 14, would I have reread it at 35? Maybe, but it wouldn’t have been the same transcendent experience as discovering it as an adult. And maybe I never would have gone back to it: it took me decades to recover from “The Old Man and the Sea” and try Hemingway again. On the other hand, I did just recently reread “Buff: A Collie,” and was stunned at how good the prose is. Italo Calvino, in “Why Read the Classics?,” said that a work read at a young age and forgotten “leaves its seed in us.” If that’s true, and I think it must be, then I thank you, Albert Payson Terhune, and I suppose I must thank you once again, too . . . Dostoyevsky. And, oh all right — even though just the sight of your name reminds me of a time when I thought it was O.K. to walk around Manhattan barefoot, I guess the day has come to give “The Idiot” another shot.
Redrawing the Route to Online Privacy
ON the Internet, things get old fast. One prime candidate for the digital dustbin, it seems, is the current approach to protecting privacy on the Internet.
It is an artifact of the 1990s, intended as a light-touch policy to nurture innovation in an emerging industry. And its central concept is “notice and choice,” in which Web sites post notices of their privacy policies and users can then make choices about sites they frequent and the levels of privacy they prefer.
But policy and privacy experts agree that the relentless rise of Internet data harvesting has overrun the old approach of using lengthy written notices to safeguard privacy.
These statements are rarely read, are often confusing and can’t hope to capture the complexity of modern data-handling practices. As a result, experts say, consumers typically have little meaningful choice about the online use of their personal information — whether their birth dates, addresses, credit card numbers or Web-browsing habits.
“There are essentially no defenders anymore of the pure notice-and-choice model,” said Daniel J. Weitzner, a senior policy official at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Commerce Department. “It’s no longer adequate.”
So if the current model is broken, how can it be fixed? There are two broad answers: rules and tools.
Rules would mean new regulations. And Congress and the Federal Trade Commission are looking at further rules that could limit how personal information is used. For example, the government might ban the use of recorded trails of a person’s Web-browsing behavior — so-called click streams — in employment or health insurance decisions.
Still, the next round of online privacy regulation needs to proceed carefully, policy experts warn. They say that online data collection and analysis is an economic imperative, and that the Internet industry of the future will involve adding value to the free flow of information — much of it created by individuals and their browsing activity. Google, Facebook and Twitter are evidence of the trend, and so are legions of start-ups seeking riches in fields like social networking, cloud computing and smartphone applications.
“Getting this balance right is critical to the future of the Web, to foster innovation and economic growth,” Mr. Weitzner said.
Whatever the future of regulation, better digital tools are needed. Enhancing online privacy is a daunting research challenge that involves not only computing, but also human behavior and perception. So researchers nationwide are tackling the issue in new ways.
At Carnegie Mellon University, a group is working on what it calls “privacy nudges.” This approach taps computer science techniques like machine learning, natural language processing and text analysis, as well as disciplines like behavioral economics.
The goal is to design software that essentially sits over your shoulder and provides real-time reminders — short on-screen messages — that the information you’re about to send has privacy implications. “It learns, helps you and occasionally prompts you,” said Lorrie Faith Cranor, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon. “When we go online, there are a lot of ways we can inadvertently give up our privacy.”
On a social networking site, Ms. Cranor says, people often type in their birth dates and widely circulate them, hoping to receive online birthday greetings. But a birth date posted online, she notes, can also be used for marketing profiling, identification and potentially identity theft. A software agent, she says, could inform the user of that before a birth date is typed.
An on-screen alert is a mild nudge. A stronger one might be automatically enrolling the user in an online lottery for cash prizes (perhaps financed by the industry, to avoid tougher privacy regulation), if the person doesn’t disclose potentially sensitive personal information. The stronger incentive, says Alessandro Acquisti, a researcher who specializes in the economics of privacy, may be needed to offset the bias toward immediate gratification in human decision-making — thinking only of the emotionally satisfying birthday greeting next week instead of the privacy risks down the road.
M. Ryan Calo, a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at the Stanford Law School, is exploring technologies that deliver “visceral notice.” His research involves voice and animation technology that emulates humans. When putting information in a personal health record, for example, a virtual nurse could explain to the user the privacy implications, and trade-offs, of sharing personal information with doctors, family members, insurers and drug companies.
Mr. Calo explains that people naturally react more strongly, in a visceral way, to anthropomorphic cues. He points to a sociological experiment that had people pay for coffee on an honor system. One box for depositing cash had a picture of flowers on it, while another had a picture of human eyes. Time and again, he said, people paid more often for coffee when the box had eyes instead of flowers. “Our brains are hard-wired to respond to images that look human, alive,” Mr. Calo said.
At Princeton, Edward W. Felten, a computer scientist, wants to re-engineer the Web browser for greater privacy. A key, he says, is to alter the software’s design so that information about on-screen viewing sessions is kept separate and not routinely passed along so a person’s browsing behavior can be tracked. His plan would push mainstream browsing toward anonymous mode, which can be done in the latest browser software, but only by opening a separate, specially designed window.
“The browser,” Mr. Felten said, “needs to be less promiscuous about revealing the information collected.”
Hello, Stranger: the Ups and Downs of Chatroulette
A new Web sensation called Chatroulette feels like a throwback to the early 1990s, when online chat rooms brimmed with lonely strangers looking for meaningful connections, meaningless sex, or something in between.
But this time, there's a twist: Everyone on the site has a webcam. Chatroulette randomly links users with strangers who could be anywhere in the world. If you don't like the person who pops up on the screen, just click "Next." Repeat.
The result can be unpredictable and raw, like a slap in the face, but also refreshing, a peek into someone else's life. It's far from the sanitized worlds we create for ourselves on sites such as Facebook, where we mainly connect with friends, family and people with common interests.
"Chatroulette is stark because it feels like television. It's like sitting in front of the TV flipping channels, except the people are real," says Hal Niedzviecki, author of "The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors."
A quick spin the other night yielded a pair of rejections — swift and brutal — from two male users, their faces popping up briefly before they moved on.
Next up was a blur of flesh-colored mass. A blanket? A person? It didn't seem worth it to stick around and find out. To be clear, Chatroulette bans "obscene, offending, pornographic material" and says it will block users who violate these rules, though that does not seem to trouble some people.
Then, a young woman wearing headphones popped up on the screen. Would she hit "Next," like the others before her? She didn't — she typed "Hi." She said she was from China, studying computer engineering. The conversation went something like speed-dating, a little choppy at first but kind of intriguing. She was eating a bag of potato chips.
Chatroulette's setup is simple: Two boxes on the left side of the page are for the webcam videos — one marked "Partner" and the other "You." A larger box to the right is where you type messages to the stranger staring back at you. To start, click "Play," and the site connects you to a random person until you, or the other person, hit "Next."
You can also enable audio. Some folks have used it to play music to their chat partners in hopes of getting them to dance.
People don't need to register to use Chatroulette, though the site asks they be at least 16 years old. It's free to use and has just one understated, text-only advertisement on the bottom of the screen.
The creator of Chatroulette did not respond to messages from The Associated Press. The New York Times identified the creator as a 17-year-old Russian teenager named Andrey Ternovskiy.
The site is no more than a few months old — its domain name was registered in November — yet it drew nearly 1 million unique visitors in January, more than 100,000 of them from the United States, according to comScore. At any given time, tens of thousands of people may be logged on, taking their chances on a finding a meaningful connection, just like a game of roulette.
As Chatroulette takes off, so are copycats and Web sites that collect screen shots showing the best, worst and grossest pairings of people. Some people record video of their sessions and post them on YouTube. A recent search yielded more than 1,200 "Chatroulette" results.
Niedzviecki says Chatroulette is yet another iteration of how we are slowly replacing scripted material with other people's lives as entertainment. YouTube, Twitter and even reality TV let us cruise through a real person's world instead of watching "anointed celebrities entertaining us through their 'talents.'"
But when we do, some troubling questions arise. Chatroulette, after all, is not TV. One widely circulated black-and-white image from the site shows what looks like a man who hanged himself. In some cases, people set up their computers to show prerecorded video rather than a live webcam feed, possibly to witness a stranger's reaction to, say, a man slapping a woman so hard she falls out of her chair.
"When you come across someone with a noose around their neck, and it looks like they are dead, you don't have the protection that this is a story, fiction filtered through a board room," Niedzviecki says. "On Chatroulette, that person waving a swastika flag may really be a Nazi trying to recruit you."
The concept of Chatroulette is not entirely new. Sites such as Omegle.com and gettingrandom.com connect strangers for one-on-chats, but without cameras. Justin.tv, meanwhile, lets users broadcast their own live video channels to anyone over the Internet.
And so the troubles that come up aren't new either. Justin.tv came into the spotlight in 2008 when a college student committed suicide with people watching and egging him on. While some viewers called police, it was too late to save the 19-year-old.
Chatroulette, like so much else on the Internet, is not for kids. Sit in front of it long enough and you probably will see a naked person. For people who don't normally seek explicit content on the Internet, this may even be one of the site's appeals, says Robert Thompson, pop culture professor at Syracuse University.
"It's like getting a 'Joker's Wild,' getting a 'Bankrupt' on 'Wheel of Fortune,'" he says.
As for meaningful connections? Chatroulette is kind of like striking up a conversation with a person next to you on the bus or in a bar. You'll probably never see him or her again, but that doesn't mean the talk was worthless.
"There is a great short story to be written about that," Thompson says. "Someone meets the person they were meant to be with ... and they accidentally hit 'Next,' never to find them again."
Jon Stewart Tries Chatroulette
The comedian takes a unique look at the latest fad, and finds a few surprises along the way.
Viacom Will Sue Bloggers Who Post Unauthorized 'Daily Show' Clips
Hulu announced yesterday that Comedy Central was pulling "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" from the popular video website. The decision will impact the many downstream websites that have relied on Hulu's embedded player to gain access to these shows.
We checked in with Comedy Central to see whether it will now target websites and bloggers who post unauthorized clips from the show.
"Yes, we intend to do so," says PR rep Tony Fox. "My feeling is if (websites) are making money on our copyrighted content, then that is a problem."
Fox says bloggers are free to use Comedy Central's embedded player to post clips, but they'll be restricted to the network's choices. If the network chooses not to post a particular clip, a viewer would be out-of-bounds to post their own digital copy.
This is sure to be somewhat controversial. As others have pointed out, "Daily Show" relies extensively upon "fair use" to take content from other networks such as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC for nightly commentary. We expect that whenever Viacom files its first lawsuit against a blogger for an illegal video posting, this will trigger cries of hypocrisy from those who don't understand how copyright law allows Jon Stewart to show another network's clip but prevents bloggers from doing the same.
ED. UPDATE: Viacom takes issue with our headline, saying it's not going to sue, just enforce its legal rights. We're not sure what the legal difference is but here's Viacom's statement: "We have always tried to be as permissive as possible when looking at what might be fair use, and we haven't changed our approach at all. Frankly, fair use works for us. I can't recall a time we've ever sued a blogger for the use of a Comedy Central clip, and there's no reason to believe that would be more likely today."
Five Best Music Streaming Services
The internet has revolutionized nearly every form of media, and music is no exception. This week we look at the five most popular music streaming services to see how people are getting their music fix.
Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite music streaming services, and now we're back with the top five contenders. Read on to learn about the services and then cast your vote in our poll at the end.
Grooveshark (Web-based, Free)
When you're ready to listen to some tunes online, Grooveshark allows you to jump right in. Unlike many services that require a subscription to use, Grooveshark lets you search for music and build a playlist as soon as the site loads. If you want to save the playlist, however, and access other session enhancing features like flagging songs to enable the music suggestion service, you'll need an account. Aside from manually building a playlist, you can also listen to Grooveshark Radio, their suggestion engine. One of Grooveshark's most unique features is that if you can't find a song or artist you love, you can upload the music from your own collection to build the Grooveshark database.
Spotify (Windows/Mac/Mobile/Web-based; Basic: Free/Premium: €9.99 month)
First the bad news about Spotify: as of this writing, 02/28/2010, Spotify isn't available in the U.S. due to various legal issues and licensing requirements. The good news is that Spotify is an incredible music service, and we're always hearing whispers that it'll soon be available in stateside. You can collaborate on and easily share playlists using the service—as easily as you share a link to a YouTube video for comparison's sake. A premium account adds more features, like commercial-free listening or the ability to listen to your playlists on your mobile phone. Premium service also enables offline mode for local storage of music, higher quality streaming, and travel access so should you visit a country like the U.S., where Spotify isn't available yet, you can still enjoy it.
Pandora (Web-based; Basic: Free/Premium: $36 per year)
Pandora is the easy-to-use front end for the massive database of attributes generated by the Music Genome Project. The Music Genome Project analyzes songs with up to 400 different attributes so when you tell Pandora "Play me something like the song Punkrocker by The Teddy Bears featuring Iggy Pop" it doesn't just return a song that people who liked "Punkrocker" also liked—it returns a song that is also "genetically" related to your suggestion. Pandora may not have the most bells and whistles of the music sharing services rounded up today, but the power of the Music Genome Project and ease with which you can create and rate personalized streaming radio stations has won Pandora many fans. Upgrading from free to premium service allows you to stream more than 40 hours a month, gives you access to a dedicated desktop client, and increases the quality of your audio stream.
Last.fm (Web-based/iPhone, Basic: Free/Premium: $3 per month)
Last.fm is another service that not only streams music but generates suggestions for new music based on what you like. In addition to building playlists and enjoying tunes on the web, you can "scrobble" your own music collection to Last.fm—which basically means you let Last.fm track the songs you're listening to and add them to your Last.fm profile, allowing you to both listen to them and use them to increase the scope of Last.fm's suggestion engine for better personalized picks. In addition to listening to streaming radio and building personalized stations, Last.fm also allows direct music download—when authorized by the copyright holder—so you can expand your personal collection as you listen.
Lala (Web-based, Free with per-song fees)
Lala's claim to fame is the ease with which you can listen to both your own music over the web and purchase new music inexpensively. Lala has a database 8 million songs that you can listen to once for free, purchase for online play for $0.10, or buy as a DRM-free MP3 for $0.79. If you have a song in your personal collection—on your computer at home—you can add it to the Lala database to allow unlimited play without paying a fee. Lala doesn't sport a hefty music recommendation engine like some of the other contenders in the Hive Five—although we didn't find the one they have lacking—but instead focuses more strongly on connections between people to drive music suggestion. As a result Lala supports easy rating and playlist sharing with friends to encourage organic music discovery.
Cute Baby Video Wins Battle Against Music Label
How much should a copyright owner pay for improperly telling a web site to remove content?
Stephanie Lenz got into trouble with Universal Music Group in 2007 after she posted a YouTube video of her toddler dancing to the Prince song "Let's Go Crazy." The label fired off a letter demanding removal of the clip and Youtube complied.
Lenz then teamed with online free-speech advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation to get a judge to declare that her video was a "fair use" of the song. She then sought damages against Universal, the world's biggest record company, for sending a meritless takedown request.
Universal fought back by raising affirmative defenses that Lenz had bad faith and unclean hands in pursuing damages. Now a California district court judge has rejected those arguments, granting partial summary judgment to Lenz and paving the way for Lenz to collect attorneys fees.
The case is important because it raises the question of whether a media company can be held liable for pursuing a takedown without a full consideration of fair use. The decision by the court last Thursday is very technical and examines damage claims under a statutory code that deals with liability when misrepresentations are made about infringing works online.
A preliminary read on the decision indicates that Lenz can recover legal fees associated with fighting the takedown, but not necessarily fees connected with the cost of pursuing Universal for damages in follow-up litigation. To really sock it to Universal, Lenz would have to make a claim under a code that awards fees at the court's discretion. To do that, she will likely need to show that Universal knowingly misrepresented its initial claim.
RIAA Claims File Sharers Are 'Undermining Humanitarian Efforts In Haiti', But Leaves Out The Facts
Wow. The RIAA is getting seriously desperate these days. In the past, at least, its arguments made a little bit of sense, if you didn't understand the details or have the data. But these days, they're really reaching. We've already covered Mitch Bainwol's bizarre attempt to link Chinese hackers breaking into Google with copyright law -- despite the two being totally unconnected. And, now, the RIAA is claiming that P2P file sharers are "undermining" humanitarian efforts in Haiti. Now that's quite a claim, and you would think the RIAA would have some evidence to back it up, but (of course), it doesn't. It's just making stuff up.
The claim is based on the fact that some musicians quickly put out a "Hope for Haiti Now" digital only album, with the proceeds going to help Haiti. It apparently did quite well, topping the Billboard sales charts. Considering there were tons of ways to donate to Haiti, this was basically a way to get some free music with your donation. Fair enough. But the RIAA noticed that the tracks also appeared on file sharing sites. This is hardly a surprise, nor is it meaningful. But, according to the RIAA's interpretation, this somehow "undermines" humanitarian efforts:
The album is now widely available on illicit BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and more. The posting highlights a truly ugly side of P2P piracy -- the undermining of humanitarian fundraising efforts via online theft of the "Hope for Haiti Now" compilation. So much for the notion that illegal downloading ("sharing") is an effort to help advance the plight of artists.
So much wrong in so few words. First of all, the album is "available" on the internet. The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and those other sites aren't hosting the album at all. They may be pointing to it, but so is Google. Is that also an "illicit" site? It's amusing, but the blog post the RIAA links to, in an effort to back up this claim, highlights how he found out about it being available via a Google search. But notice what the RIAA did here? Rather than focus on where the file actually is, it blames The Pirate Bay, even though their own source actually used Google to find it, and the files aren't hosted by The Pirate Bay. That's called being disingenuous, at best.
Next, how does this "undermine" anything? If someone wanted to donate to Haiti, there were countless ways to do so. If someone donated a bunch of money directly to the Red Cross, and then chose to get those songs via an unauthorized copy, is that really undermining humanitarian efforts? And for those who downloaded an unauthorized copy and didn't donate anywhere, does anyone at the RIAA seriously believe they would have bought the album otherwise? I recognize that the RIAA thinks music powers everything, but no one bought the album because it was the best way to donate to Haiti.
And that last sentence is a total non sequitur. What does humanitarian aid have to do with advancing the plight of artists? And who said that file sharing was "an effort to help advance the plight of artists" in the first place? No one. The RIAA is just setting up bizarre totally unrelated strawmen to knock down.
But the much bigger issue is that the whole premise of the RIAA post appears to be wrong. It turns out that, while the albums are available via these unauthorized means, almost no one is downloading them. MusicAlly saw the RIAA's blog post, and figured it would check in to see just how much downloading was going on to undermine those Haitian humanitarian efforts... and discovered that very, very, very few people are downloading the album. Considering the sales of the album topped the charts, a comparison was done between downloads of this album and Lady Gaga's hit album, and they found that the charity album is barely noticeable:
In terms of specific numbers, MusicAlly explains:
At its peak on 24th January, Hope For Haiti Now was being downloaded 2,680 times a day according to BigChampagne -- compare that to The Fame Monster's 63,845 downloads the same day. Meanwhile, by 23rd February, Hope For Haiti Now's daily downloads had dwindled to 820, compared to 47,971 for the Gaga album.
In other words, despite the claims of the RIAA, file sharers certainly weren't "undermining" anything. They certainly weren't particularly interested in downloading this album at all. Looks like the RIAA has been caught making up arguments that have no relation to fact, yet again.
I Bought a CD, Not a Licensing Agreement
It is sad but predictable to see John Prior (Letters, August 10) trotting out the old fallacy about music that we buy a product encumbered with a licence.
Let us walk through my most recent purchase. I strolled into the store, located the CD I was after, paid for it in cash and left. At no stage was I asked to sign a licensing agreement - not even a post-sale agreement like those for software. It was a simple transaction of cash for a physical product.
''No,'' cries the music industry, ''you are bound by the licensing agreement that you did not sign and that we cannot produce for inspection.''
Fine - let's suppose I now have a licence for personal use applying to all the CDs I own. I should be able to take advantage of that. A CD I bought 10 years ago now has a scratch down the middle so that five of the 10 songs refuse to play. Luckily for me, this problem is solely with the physical medium. After all, my licence for personal use should allow me to reacquire ''my'' content, especially since it is digital data and can be reproduced an unlimited number of times at virtually no cost.
''No,'' cries the music industry, ''you bought a product, not a licence. You are not entitled to a free replacement, you need to buy it all over again. And when you do, you will be covered by another identical licence. Until something happens to this new physical medium.''
David Jack, Leichhardt, Australia (Letter to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald)
Broadcasters Flock To Capitol Hill For NAB Conference
More than 400 radio and television broadcasters are gathering in Washington, DC this week for the NAB State Leadership Conference. The local station representatives will meet with lawmakers on a host of public policy issues, but the one that stands out the most for radio is the issue of the Performance Rights Act, which would force radio to pay royalties to artists for playing their music. Fifty percent of the new fee would be paid directly to record labels, says the NAB. Currently, a bipartisan coalition of 256 House members and 27 U.S. Senators stand opposed to the performance right. The latest lawmakers to sign the Local Radio Freedom Act, a resolution opposing the Performance Rights Act, were Democratic Reps. Travis Childers (MS), Mike McMahon (NY), Bill Owens (NY) and Mark Schauer (MI).
The week's events at the State Leadership Conference include a series of policy updates at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill today, with scheduled appearances from House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Emeritus John Dingell (D-MI) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Local broadcast representatives also will meet with their lawmakers in a series of meetings on Wednesday.
Virtual Musicians, Real Performances: How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Music
Ever wonder how Jimi Hendrix would cover Lady Gaga? The day is approaching when you should be able to find out.
Eliot Van Buskirk
Musicians’ opportunities to sell their recordings may be drying up due to cultural shifts brought on by changing technology, but other aspects of technology are creating a promising new market for music: the licensing of the musical style or personality of recording artists.
The concept goes well beyond basing the avatars in guitar-based videogames on famous performers, although the idea is similar. Using complex software, North Carolina’s Zenph Sound Innovations models the musical performances of musicians from Thelonius Monk to Rachmaninoff, based on how they played in occasionally old, scratchy recordings. Using that model, the company creates new recordings as they would be played by deceased musicians, if they were around to record with today’s equipment, to critical acclaim. And that’s just for starters.
Venture capital firm Intersouth Partners led a $10.7-million round of Series A funding in the company in November, a move that saw former Intersouth venture capital partner Kip Frey take over as the company’s CEO. He told us on Monday that Zenph has ramped up to 15 employees in preparation for new releases in its series of re-recordings.
Zenph also plans explore a variety of new markets, including licensing clear versions of muddy recordings to films and software that could eventually let musicians jam with virtual versions of famous musicians. Picture an Eric Clapton plug-in that reinterprets your solo to sound like it was played by “Old Slowhand” himself.
Zenph’s first application of artificial musical personality is its specially designed robotic pianos, which take high-resolution MIDI files created by software that simulates the style of classical and jazz performers from days gone by, and turns them into sound by literally depressing the keys using between 12 and 24 high-resolution MIDI attributes. So far, the company offers new albums by legends including Art Tatum, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Glenn Gould, and up next is jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.
These robotic pianos have wowed crowds in “live” settings at Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall and on the Live from Lincoln Center show. Zenph plans to take them on three tours later this year. Its engineers have nearly completed work on a playerless double bass, and plans to work on the saxophone model next, with the ultimate goal of creating every instrument in a typical jazz band — then guitar, and so on. However, due to the complexity of playing those instruments, Zenph plans to simulate them being played in software and reproduce the sound with speakers (updated).
As things stand now, Zenph’s technology looks at actual old recordings to find out how a performer played a certain song, and is not capable of figuring out how a musician would play a new part. “We hope — but we can’t demonstrate today — that after we’ve done several re-performances of a given artist, we will understand enough about that individual’s musical style to be able to suggest how that style might manifest itself in the performance of a work that the artist never actually performed,” said Frey.
Of course, causing a musician’s musical style to inhabit a device would require a new type of licensing deal. If Courtney Love blew her gasket when Kurt Cobain started rapping in Guitar Hero, just think how she would react to a virtual version of her ex-husband playing on albums without the proper permission.
Once Zenph secures the necessary rights to make these re-recordings through one-off licensing deals with an artist, or his or her representatives or estate, it creates a new sound-recording copyright, which won’t expire for decades. This creates the opportunity to license perfect-sounding recordings from the past for use in films and television shows. A scene featuring Thelonius Monk playing in a club, for instance, could feature newly recorded music reconstructed from a hissy live recording using Zenph’s existing technology.
Taking these pianos on tour, on the other hand, is no small feat. “The problem is moving the pianos around,” said Frey, “it’s not like you can just go grab any piano in any city.”
His long-term vision for Zenph involves solving one aspect of that problem by modeling instruments virtually, so that computers can generate music in the style of a variety of musicians all on their own, without expensive hardware. This would allow amateur musicians to play along with virtual versions of famous performers, and let fans choose which performer plays a certain part and even what mood they should be in as they play.
“It introduces a whole bunch of interesting intellectual-property issues, but eventually, you ought to be able to, in essence, cast your own band,” said Frey. “You should be able to write a piece of music and for the drum piece, have Keith Moon, and for the guitar piece, you can have Eric Clapton — that is a derivation of understanding each of those artists’ styles as a digital signature. That’s further down the road, but initially, you’re going to have the ability for artist to create music and have the listener manipulate how they want to hear it — [for example] sadder.”
Clearly, the licensing of musical personalities has the potential to create a new revenue stream for artists and their estates, but because there’s no compulsory license for this sort of thing — and there shouldn’t be, because artists or their estates should have control over what their personalities do — each deal must be negotiated individually.
But if Zenph and other companies succeed in are successful in the quest to create virtual musical personalities, the market will likely create licensing mechanisms that allow a wide range of artists and labels to license their personalities to interactive music formats, potentially resulting in even more complicated wrangling over music licensing. The problem has philosophical overtones: If a machine has to license a certain performer’s style, why doesn’t a human? Licensing the style or personality of performers would open a strange can of worms, even if the intent is just to fairly compensate those involved.
“The idea of extending copyright in general I’m not much in favor of, but the idea of extending copyright to style is incredibly distasteful to me,” said Eric Singer, creator of the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots, or LEMUR. “It basically means that the entire history of music, where people have listened to other musicians and been influenced by their style is basically up for grabs. Whether a brain is doing it or a computer is doing it, how are they going to make that distinction?”
Whatever licensing is involved, it would involve a new right that falls outside of current copyright law (updated). Frey clarified, “Copyright protection is reserved solely for original works of authorship that are fixed in tangible mediums of expression, such as books or recordings. From a legal perspective, there is no way that whatever rights might be relevant to this hypothetical notion about artistic style would fit within the logical framework of copyright, and Zenph would never propose that copyright be extended in this direction.” (We should also make clear that Zenph negotiates deals with artists or their estates for each re-recording and would be required to do so in the future, so it should not be seen as subverting copyright law or hijacking artists’ performances.)
For governing the use of artists’ personalities, perhaps the “right of publicity,” which governs how a person’s likeness and persona can be used, would be the place to start. However it happens, the laws will need to catch up in the years to come, because virtual musicians are already real, and they’re only getting realer.
Tribute Bands are Music to Fans’ Ears, Wallets
Crowds turning out to hear faux stars belt out hits - at a fraction of the cost
FOXBOROUGH - You couldn’t swing a microphone stand on Route 1 the other night without hitting a fake rock star. At Showcase Live, bands mimicking Kiss and Rush were promising to rock and roll all night for the packed house. Less than a half-mile away at Fusion 5, U2 copycats were regaling the crowd with a note-perfect “Angel of Harlem.’’
At a time when a pair of tickets to a concert by the biggest rock bands can run in the hundreds of dollars, tribute bands are gaining newfound respect, drawing big crowds, and earning more money than ever.
It used to be that tribute bands played bars for little more than free beer. Most paid homage to classic rock acts of the ’60s and ’70s - the Rolling Stones, the Beatles - and heavy metal bands like Judas Priest. But the sheer number and variety of tribute bands has exploded, branching out to modern-era acts such as Pearl Jam, the Dave Matthews Band, and even the Arctic Monkeys. And they’re not playing for drinks anymore. Today’s tribute bands are playing major nightclubs, concert halls, and in some cases arenas - earning thousands of dollars per gig.
“They’re definitely more successful,’’ says Dan Millen, who has been booking tribute bands into such venues as Harpers Ferry, the Hard Rock Cafe, and the Middle East for the past decade. “It’s kind of a bummer for [smaller-scale promoters] like me, because tribute bands were my little secret for a long time.’’
Showcase Live, in fact, has become something of a home base for the homage set. The Kiss/Rush show sold out the 1,050-capacity club in the shadow of Gillette Stadium, and the upcoming calendar includes a dozen groups copying everyone from Johnny Cash to the Who to Nirvana.
Concertgoers and industry watchers say there are several reasons this is happening. One is the economy - it’s a lot cheaper to see a fake U2 than the real thing - but other factors include a growing sense of nostalgia among baby boomers and Generation Xers as well as dissatisfaction with much of the rock music that the industry pumps out these days.
“You’ve got to blame some of it on the music business because we’ve been force fed such crappy music,’’ says John Kane, an artist from Salem who was listening to Lotus Land, the Rush tribute band at Showcase Live on a recent Friday night.
The shift is creating plenty of opportunities for tribute bands, especially for the best known of them. The Australian Pink Floyd show - an elaborate homage to the British progressive rock band that has played at the 2,800-seat Orpheum Theatre - sold $3.4 million worth of tickets in 2009, according to the concert industry trade publication Pollstar. The multimedia Beatles tribute show Rain made Pollstar’s list of top 100 touring acts, coming in at number 69 with $11.7 million in ticket sales.
“They sold over 260,000 tickets,’’ says Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni. “In many cases tribute bands are performing better than new artists that have record deals. There exists a real public demand for them, especially when it’s a group that you can’t readily see.’’
Even the band Badfish, a tribute to the ’90s ska-punk group Sublime, sold $1.2 million in tickets last year. Badfish will play Boston’s House of Blues, which holds 2,400 people, on April 24, and John Innamorato, who books the Lansdowne Street venue for LiveNation, expects it to sell well. “They usually do 2,000 people,’’ he said of Badfish. Led Zeppelin tribute Get the Led Out plays the Lansdowne Street club April 10; Captured: The Journey Show plays July 3.
Like many of the most popular tribute acts - Beatlejuice (The Beatles), Appetite for Destruction (Guns ‘n Roses), and Kashmir (Led Zeppelin) - Badfish has one important thing going for it: “The ones that seem to do really well are the tributes [to bands] that really don’t exist anymore,’’ Innamorato says, “because this is really the only way you’re going to get to hear that music live.’’
For the consumer, the savings are steep. Most of the faux groups charge $10 to $20 a ticket, whereas the bands on which those acts are based - from the Dave Matthews Band to the Eagles - can command ticket prices between $75 and $250. “This is a quick, simple, cost-effective night out,’’ says Showcase Live’s programming director, Kevin Mitchell.
And at a tribute concert, fans know they’re going to hear a band’s most popular songs.
Jennifer Hayes, 30, of Winthrop, who was at the Kiss/Rush tribute show, says she would be more inclined to see a Pearl Jam tribute act than the real McCoy. “I think a tribute band would play the Pearl Jam songs I know from the ’90s,’’ she says, “whereas Pearl Jam now is probably not playing the stuff that I know.’’
Today’s tribute bands also take their craft more seriously, dedicating themselves to replicating the music perfectly. Even the groups that don’t attempt to resemble their heroes physically make sure they have every guitar riff and drum fill down pat.
“We all study our parts,’’ says Chris Nelson, the Geddy Lee soundalike in Lotus Land. “And to do it as close to the record as we can is quite a high. It’s like rock-and-roll fantasy camp. If we dare attempt this tribute to Rush, we better do a really good job.’’
Even if they are only pretending to be rock stars, the rewards for the musicians in the tribute bands can be substantial. Three of the four members of Joshua Tree have quit their day jobs, due to the nearly 150 gigs they play every year. Singer Mike Golarz keeps his 9-to-5 gig - working on electron beam evaporators - but only because “it makes me comfortable to have a real job.’’
The members of Badfish, who formed in college in Rhode Island, never expected to be pretending to be Sublime nine years later. But it has become a full-time job, playing as many as 140 dates a year. “Things have changed,’’ said Joel Hanks, Badfish’s bassist and tour manager. “We’d all gone down the path of being in the original band that wasn’t really going anywhere, so we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll do a Sublime tribute show.’ At first it was just a little fun thing we did once or twice a month.’’
Badfish serves as its own opening act - as the band Scotty Don’t, playing original music - but Hanks knows most folks come for the Sublime songs. “We used to relate it to watching a good movie over and over,’’ he says. “You know how it’s going to go and how it’s going to end, but you still want to watch it again.’’
Gene Chenault, Changed Rock Radio, Dies at 90
Gene Chenault, who with his business partner, Bill Drake, reshaped rock radio in the 1960s with prepackaged programming that delivered more music and fewer commercials to hundreds of stations, creating the automated format common today, died on Feb. 23 in Tarzana, Calif. He was 90 and lived in Encino, Calif.
The cause was non-Hodgkin lymphoma, his wife, Susan, said.
The programming, using reel-to-reel tapes of tightly spaced Top 40 hits, was primarily designed by Mr. Drake and marketed and syndicated by Mr. Chenault. It raised ratings at station after station and brought a certain big-city sound to many small towns. At the press of a button a local D.J. could jump in with his own boisterous one-liner — no more yarns about teenage romance — or a station-identifying jingle. To maximize the music, the Top 40 were sometimes edited, speeded up and pared to 30.
The new format gave rise to the stock phrases “boss jock” and “boss radio,” which first took hold at KHJ in Los Angeles in 1965. (The word boss was derived from California surfer slang for good, as in “That’s a boss wave.”) Within a year KHJ leapt from 12th to first place in the Los Angeles ratings. Its slogan: “Much More Music.”
“The big idea is to unclutter and speed up the pace,” Time magazine wrote of the Drake-Chenault format in August 1968.
“The next recording is introduced during the fade-out of the last one,” the article continued. “Singing station identifications, which sometimes run at oratorio length elsewhere, are chopped to 1 ½ seconds. Commercials are reduced to 13 minutes, 40 seconds an hour — almost one-third less than the U.S. average.” By cutting down on commercials, the stations could sell advertising at higher rates.
Newscasts were scheduled at unconventional times, usually 20 minutes after the hour, so that when the competition was reporting a local crime, the syndicated station was running a “music sweep” — three or four recordings back-to-back to lure away dial switchers.
It worked. Besides the rise of KHJ in Los Angeles, KGB in San Diego went from last to first in its market in 90 days. In New York an upstart FM station, WOR, brought in Mr. Chenault (pronounced sha-NAULT) and Mr. Drake when it decided to go up against the Top 40 powerhouses WABC and WMCA. By 1967 WABC was still the leading New York station, but WOR-FM was No. 2.
Marc Fisher, the author of “Something in the Air: Radio, Rock and the Revolution That Shaped a Generation” (Random House, 2007), said in an interview: “What Drake and Chenault did in California and then exported around the country was the idea that you could virtually automate the combination of hit music, D.J.’s with bigger-than-life personalities and the overall sense of possibility and danger that the rock revolution was bringing to pop culture.”
Though boss jocks could be raucous, there was a certain homogeneity to the formula. “The positive spin is that they brought a more professional kind of entertainment to places that had been fairly amateurish,” Mr. Fisher said. “But if you look at their work from today’s perspective, they emerge as the founding fathers of predictable, automated music-radio formats.”
Still, by 1975, Drake-Chenault Enterprises, their consulting company in Canoga Park, Calif., was serving about 350 client stations with makeover advice and totally automated packages in six formats. In 1979 the company produced “The History of Rock ’n’ Roll,” a 50-hour documentary that met with phenomenal success. Stations clamored to schedule it, first as a blockbuster weekend special, then in repeat broadcasts of shorter segments.
Lester Eugene Chenault was born in Eldorado, Okla., on June 12, 1919, one of two sons of Leonard and Fannie Burnett Chenault. When he was 4 the family moved to Los Angeles.
Besides his wife, the former Susan Akiko, Mr. Chenault is survived by his son, Mark; his daughter, Carol Moore; and four grandchildren.
While in high school Mr. Chenault got an acting job at a radio station in Los Angeles. On graduating he was hired by KFRE in Fresno, Calif., but was soon drafted into the Army. After World War II he and a friend started a station in Fresno, KYNO; he eventually acquired full ownership.
In 1962 Mr. Chenault hired Mr. Drake, a brash up-and-coming D.J. who shared some of his new boss’s notions of rock ’n’ roll programming. As KYNO’s new program director Mr. Drake, who died in 2008, adopted a jampacked playlist and pared down the D.J. talk. Within a year its major local rival, KMAK, switched to country music.
“Gene Chenault’s name is less familiar than that of his partner, programmer Bill Drake,” the Museum of Broadcast Communications’s Encyclopedia of Radio says of the partners. “Yet behind the impact of Drake’s contributions to the Top 40 format were Chenault’s management skill and marketing concepts. The two men altered U.S. radio and American popular culture in the 1960s.”
John Reed, Master of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patter Songs, Dies at 94
John Reed, a silver-tongued Gilbert and Sullivan singer renowned for urbanity, verbal inanity, touching humanity, antic insanity and (a noteworthy trait in a world-famous player quite used to performing for crowned heads of state) a singular lack of theatrical vanity, died in Halifax, England, on Feb. 13, his 94th birthday.
His death was reported by The Press Association, the British news service.
From 1959 to 1979, Mr. Reed was the principal comedian of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, the London professional troupe founded in the 1870s to stage the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. With the company, he appeared often in the United States and around the world; in the 1980s he was a frequent guest star with the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players.
The D’Oyly Carte folded in 1982; though it later had a sputtering revival, it now appears dormant. Mr. Reed, whose work is preserved on its recordings from the 1960s and ’70s, was widely seen as the last significant link to the company in its Victorian-tinged glory days.
A butcher’s son from the north of England, Mr. Reed was a largely self-taught stage performer who fell into Gilbert and Sullivan by chance. He did not have a trained operatic voice and, in many interviews over the years, was the first to admit it. His light baritone was, fittingly, reedy and could sometimes fail him in the upper registers.
But for a generation of fans, Mr. Reed was the memorable embodiment of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “little man” roles, among them John Wellington Wells, the title character of “The Sorcerer”; Major-General Stanley, the very model of et cetera from “The Pirates of Penzance”; Ko-Ko, the nebbish turned lord high executioner in “The Mikado,” a part he also played in the 1967 film version.
Mr. Reed was only the fifth man to inhabit those roles regularly for the D’Oyly Carte, following the company’s celebrated comics George Grossmith, Henry Lytton, Martyn Green and Peter Pratt. Critics worldwide praised him for his bell-clear diction; dry, sophisticated humor; and nuanced portrayals of characters originally written as outsize satires.
Among the attributes that equipped Mr. Reed spectacularly well for the job were an elfin physique, fleetness of foot (he had been a prize-winning ballroom dancer as a young man) and, perhaps most important, the elocution lessons he had taken in his youth, which let him sail through the rapid-fire patter songs that are the hallmarks of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic baritone roles.
It is easy to fall in dactylic defeat when the words you confront — from “The Sorcerer” here — are a clatter of syllables jostling for space, borne by music that sends the text hurtling along at a speed that will leave you no time to draw breath:
Such is his knowledge, he
Isn’t the man to require an apology!
John Reed was born on Feb. 13, 1916, near Bishop Auckland, in northeast England. As a young man, he worked in an insurance office, among other jobs; during World War II, he was a tool fitter.
After the war, Mr. Reed performed straight plays with a local repertory troupe. One day in the early 1950s, a friend told him of an opening at the D’Oyly Carte.
Mr. Reed had little familiarity with Gilbert and Sullivan, an almost treasonous stance for a Briton. But his elocution served him well. He was hired in 1951 as a chorister and understudy to Mr. Pratt; in 1959, on Mr. Pratt’s retirement, he assumed the principal roles.
Before long Mr. Reed, a self-described shy man, became known for his subtle, surprisingly sympathetic characterizations of Gilbert and Sullivan’s buffoons. In 1978, in the course of a single interview with The Washington Post, he remarked, of the insecure Ko-Ko: “He’s so me”; of Reginald Bunthorne, the “fleshly poet” of “Patience”: “He’s so me”; and, of Jack Point, the tragic, lovelorn jester at the heart of “Yeomen of the Guard”: “He’s so me.”
Mr. Reed, who performed for the royal family many times, was appointed to the Order of the British Empire in 1977. After retiring from the D’Oyly Carte in 1979, he performed and directed Gilbert and Sullivan with opera companies in the United States and elsewhere. With the Washington Opera, he sang the role of Menelaus in Offenbach’s comic operetta “La Belle Hélène” in 1983.
Mr. Reed’s only immediate survivor is his companion of more than half a century, Nicholas Kerri, The Press Association reported.
Over his two decades as the D’Oyly Carte’s star, Mr. Reed acquired such a command of Gilbert’s clatter of consonants that even the most fiendish patter song became, if not quite routine, at least comfortably familiar.
“It’s funny how the brain works,” he told The Associated Press in 1988. “I can be standing there singing the Nightmare Song from ‘Iolanthe’ looking out at a woman in the audience wearing a hat and thinking, ‘My God, that hat is so big the man behind her can’t see.’ And the words keep coming with no problem.”
RIP Robert McCall, Picasso of the Space Age
…And the Van Gogh and the Monet and the Rembrandt.
You may not know his name, but you definitely know the artwork of Robert McCall, who died on Friday at the age of 90 in Arizona. His ecstatic visions of the past, present, and future of space exploration have graced U.S. postage stamps, NASA mission patches, and the walls of the Smithsonian, capturing and inspiring the farthest reaches of human endeavor.
Once described by author Isaac Asimov as the “nearest thing to an artist in residence from outer space,” McCall’s paintings first attracted the public’s attention in the 1960s on the pages of LIFE, illustrating the magazine’s series on the future of space travel. His vision drew the attention of Stanley Kubrick, who asked McCall to paint the advertising posters for his seminal 1968 science fiction film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” His painting, “Orion Leaving Space Station,” which shows a space vehicle darting from the lit bay of a wheel-shaped space station, was used for the “2001” movie poster.
Perhaps his most famous piece, the six-story “The Space Mural – A Cosmic View” greets visitors to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. Painted over the course of eight months in 1976, McCall’s depiction of the creation of the universe leading to astronauts walking on the Moon is seen by an estimated ten million annually.
Other large murals of his can be found at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, at the Dryden Flight Research Center in Lancaster, California, and at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson. A number of his paintings decorated the walls of the former Horizons pavilion at Walt Disney World Resort’s Epcot in Florida, and one remains on display at the entrance to the park’s iconic “Spaceship Earth” attraction.
But his paintings weren’t just for selling space operas or decorating exhibits. They stand for what’s so exciting about science-fiction: that impulse to take what’s possible and imagine what could be and what if. Between the subtlety and realism of his paintings and their more fanciful imaginations, he was drawing colorful maps for the future of science and space exploration.
What he couldn’t have imagined was the decade’s long retreat from deep space exploration, and recently, from NASA’s mission to the moon and Mars. McCall dies alongside the nebulae of space age dreams that his fantastic, technicolor artwork celebrated. The art just got a lot more nostalgic and more quaint too, like an old MVP card for a baseball player who ended up broke and in rehab.
More than ever, the art asks what could be—or perhaps what could have been.
“I think when we finally are living in space, as people will be doing soon, we’ll recognize a whole new freedom and ease of life,” McCall was quoted as saying. “These space habitats will be more beautiful because we will plan and condition that beauty to suit our needs. I see a future that is very bright.”
Nazi Film Still Pains Relatives
In the history of the cinema, the German director Veit Harlan occupies an especially ignominious position. It is his name that is attached to “Jew Süss,” perhaps the most notoriously anti-Semitic movie ever made, a box office success in Nazi Germany in 1940 that was so effective that it was made required viewing for all members of the SS.
But what motivated Harlan to write and direct such a film? Was he a Nazi true believer, an opportunistic careerist or just a filmmaker too fearful of retribution to say no to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief? Those are some of the questions that another German director, Felix Moeller, asks in “Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss,” a documentary that opens a two-week engagement Wednesday at Film Forum in Manhattan.
“Harlan may be forgotten, but he was an influential figure, frequently mentioned in Nazi documents and in Goebbels’s diary,” Mr. Moeller said. “That interested me as a historian, but I also wanted to know what the younger generation thinks of this. We think we know everything, but when you ask what your grandfather did on the Eastern Front, what went on in your own family, it’s a different matter, and that story is important to me.”
Mr. Moeller’s film includes some snippets from “Jew Süss,” whose commercial exhibition or sale as a DVD is still prohibited in Germany and several other European countries. Set in the 18th century, it claims to be a dramatization of the true story of how a sinister, cunning Jewish financier, Joseph Süss Oppenheimer, took control of the duchy of Wurttemberg while preying sexually on a pure Aryan maiden, played by Harlan’s wife, Kristina Söderbaum. The bulk of Mr. Moeller’s film, however, consists of interviews with descendants of Veit Harlan, forced to live with his surname and the stigma of “Jew Süss.”
At 70 years’ remove, the movie itself may feel like a bizarre historical relic, but Karen Cooper, the director of Film Forum, said she found Mr. Moeller’s focus on the original movie’s reverberations through three generations of Harlans to be compelling and contemporary.
“This is a film that deals with issues of guilt and responsibility, which makes it every bit as relevant to you and me as to a German audience,” she said by telephone from the Berlin Film Festival, where a new feature film about the actor who played the title role in “Jew Süss,” Ferdinand Marian, was shown this year.
Harlan was married three times, the first time to a Jewish actress who died in a concentration camp during World War II, and he left behind a large family when he died in 1964 at 64. Some of his children and grandchildren wanted nothing to do with his film, Mr. Moeller said, while a few try to defend him.
But many of them are clearly haunted by the actions of their patriarch. “Why did he have to make it so well?” a son, Caspar, says to Mr. Moeller, referring to “Jew Süss.”
Caspar Harlan’s three daughters, on the other hand, seem more baffled than uncomfortable, dismissing the movie as a bourgeois melodrama that is “so cheesy and really banal.”
One of Veit Harlan’s daughters, Susanne Körber, who took her mother’s surname and committed suicide in 1989, converted to Judaism after marrying a Jew whose parents perished in the Holocaust. The film includes footage of their daughter, Jessica Jacoby, trying to reconcile a horrible truth: that one of her grandfathers was complicit in the death of the other.
“As a German and a Jew, I believe it is important to look at this particular part of the past,” Ms. Jacoby, who plans to join Mr. Moeller in New York for the premiere, said in a telephone interview from Berlin. “Younger people have a different relationship to the past. It’s very far away for them, and some don’t even know who Goebbels was. But when I see a film like ‘Jew Süss,’ there’s still a huge amount of anger.”
Mr. Moeller said he also wanted to offer a more accurate portrayal of the German movie world during the Third Reich. Though most people think of Leni Riefenstahl as the leading filmmaker of the Nazi era, because of the renown of “Triumph of the Will” and “Olympia,” that was not actually the case.
“If you want to understand the movies that people actually paid to go and see, Veit Harlan is the one,” said Linda Schulte-Sasse, the author of “Entertaining the Third Reich: Illusions of Wholeness in Nazi Cinema” and a professor at Macalester College in Minnesota. “He was the Steven Spielberg or James Cameron of his era, and so you have to imagine ‘Jew Süss’ as a movie with Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Brad Pitt.”
Unlike overt propaganda films like “The Eternal Jew,” a notorious screed, “Jew Süss” was a commercial release, a hit that was seen by more than 20 million and featured some of the top stars of the day. So the issue of Harlan’s motivations has various possible answers, all of which Mr. Moeller’s film ponders without favoring one over another.
Mr. Moeller, 44, came to the “Jew Süss” project with an unusually broad set of skills and qualifications. He has a doctorate in history, has written several articles for scholarly journals on the arts during the Nazi period, served as a historical adviser to feature films, and also directed a pair of other documentaries on German film figures who lived through the Third Reich.
In addition, he is the son of a prominent German director, Margarethe von Trotta, and the stepson of another, Volker Schlöndorff. But that does not mean that he exempts himself from the historical burdens that are the subject of his film.
“You don’t have to dig deep to find these stories in German families,” he said. “The mother of my father was such a fanatical Nazi that, like Magda Goebbels, she committed suicide at the end of the war and used poison to take five of her six children with her. Those dark, unsettling times never leave you alone. My hope is that you learn from our lesson in history.”
One Quarter of Germans Fine with Microchip Skin Implant
It sounds like something from a creepy science-fiction film, but a poll published on Monday showed one in four Germans would be happy to have a microchip implanted in their body if they derived concrete benefits from it.
The survey, by German IT industry lobby group BITKOM, was intended to show how the division between real life and the virtual world is increasingly coming down, one of the main themes of the CeBIT trade fair that kicks off this week.
In all, 23 percent of around 1,000 respondents in the survey said they would be prepared to have a chip inserted under their skin "for certain benefits."
Around one in six (16 percent) said they would wear an implant to allow emergency services to rescue them more quickly in the event of a fire or accident. And five percent of people said they would be prepared to have an implant to make their shopping go more smoothly.
But 72 percent said they would not "under any circumstances" allow electronics in their body.
The results appeared to surprise even the high-tech sector.
"This is of course an extreme example of how far people can imagine networks going," said BITKOM chief August-Wilhelm Scheer.
The CeBIT, the world's biggest high-tech fair, throws its doors open to the public on Tuesday, with Spain, the current EU president, this year's guest of honour.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero were due to speak later Monday in an official opening ceremony before touring the exhibition early Tuesday.
A total of 4,157 firms from 68 countries are to unveil their latest gadgets, a decline of three percent on last year as many high-tech firms stay away amid strong competition from other events.
German High Court Overturns Anti-Terror Law on Keeping Phone, e-Mail Data; Orders Revisions
Melissa Eddy, Verena Schmitt-Roschmann
Germany's highest court on Tuesday overturned a law that let anti-terror authorities retain data on telephone calls and e-mails, saying it posed a "grave intrusion" to personal privacy rights and must be revised.
The court ruling was the latest to sharply criticize a major initiative by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and one of the strongest steps yet defending citizen rights from post-Sept. 11 terror-fighting measures.
The ruling comes amid a European-wide attempt to set limits on the digital sphere, that includes disputes with Google Inc. over photographing citizens for its Street View maps.
The Karlsruhe-based Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the law violated Germans' constitutional right to private correspondence and failed to balance privacy rights against the need to provide security. It did not, however, rule out data retention in principle.
The law had ordered that all data — except content — from phone calls and e-mail exchanges be retained for six months for possible use by criminal authorities, who could probe who contacted whom, from where and for how long.
"The disputed instructions neither provided a sufficient level of data security, nor sufficiently limited the possible uses of the data," the court said, adding that "such retention represents an especially grave intrusion."
The court said because citizens did not notice the data was being retained it caused "a vague and threatening sense of being watched."
Nearly 35,000 Germans had appealed to the court to overturn the law, which stems from a 2006 European Union anti-terrorism directive requiring telecommunications companies to retain phone data and Internet logs for a minimum of six months in case they are needed for criminal investigations.
Civil rights groups had fiercely opposed the law, arguing that even excluding the content of phone calls and e-mails could allow authorities too deep a view into their personal sphere.
"Massive amounts of data about German citizens who pose no threat and are not suspects is being retained," Germany's commissioner for data security issues, Peter Schaar, told ARD television.
Security experts argued the information is crucial to being able to trace crimes involving heavy use of the Internet, including tracking terror networks and child pornography rings.
While the court upheld the EU directive as necessary to fight terror, it took issue with how the German law had interpreted it and ordered further restrictions on access to the data.
Changes ordered by the court included granting access to the data only by court order and only in the event of "concrete and imminent danger." The court further insisted the information be stored in the private sector so it was not concentrated in one spot.
Germans, in particular, are sensitive to privacy issues, based on their experiences under the Nazis as well as the former East Germany's Communist dictatorships, where information on individuals was collected and abused by the state.
White House Outlines Secret Cybersecurity Plan
Ever since President Bush signed a secret cybersecurity directive two years ago, executive branch officials have been dropping hints about what might be in the highly classified document known as NSPD54.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff once likened it to a new "Manhattan Project," and The Washington Post reported that the multibillion Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative represented the "single largest request for funds" in last year's classified intelligence budget. A Homeland Security assistant secretary previously acknowledged there were "plans to expand" a network monitoring component, named Einstein, which has prompted protests by privacy advocates.
On Tuesday afternoon, the White House let slip a few more tidbits. It has not released the text of NSPD54, also known as National Security Presidential Directive 54, but a five-page PDF posted on Whitehouse.gov does feature a summary.
There's not much in the way of details, but those that are included are likely to raise questions about the role of the National Security Agency in network surveillance and how intent President Obama is on continuing some of the more controversial cybersecurity policies of his predecessor. After the Bush-era warrantless surveillance controversy, many politicians and civil libertarians have become wary of greater NSA involvement in network monitoring.
"We must all partner together to make sure cybersecurity is secure," Howard Schmidt, Obama's cybersecurity coordinator, said in a speech at the RSA Conference here on Tuesday. Schmidt used his speech to announce the publication of the five-page summary, saying that without transparency, "we can't ask industry to help the government."
One portion of the summary talks about "extending cybersecurity into critical infrastructure" used by the federal government, a category that appears to include the Internet as well as electrical power and telephone links. Another dealing with intrusion prevention says that a Homeland Security program called Einstein 3 will involve the NSA receiving "alerts" involving "detected network intrusion attempts."
While the initial purpose of Einstein was to monitor (and eventually prevent) electronic attacks on federal government networks, the parallel goal of protecting critical infrastructure operated by the private sector could blur that line. The White House's summary takes pains to reassure Americans that their privacy is being protected, saying "government civil liberties and privacy officials are working closely with DHS and US-CERT to build appropriate and necessary privacy protections into the design and operational deployment of Einstein 3."
"The government does have to protect its own networks, but it shouldn't try to take responsibility for critical infrastructure" owned and operated by the private sector, said Jim Harper, a policy analyst at the free-market Cato Institute, who is a member of Homeland Security's Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee.
Harper says this glimpse of Bush's cybersecurity plan, which includes an endorsement by Obama, shows that not much has changed between administrations in this area. "The bureaucrats run everything: the policies of the Bush administration are the policies of the Obama administration," he said. "I don't think there's much of a change of tone in cyberspace policy areas."
Homeland Security has published a privacy impact assessment for a less capable system called Einstein 2--which aimed to do intrusion detection and not prevention--but has not done so for Einstein 3. The Bush Justice Department wrote a memo saying Einstein 2 "complies with" the U.S. Constitution and federal wiretap laws.
Members of Congress have raised questions before about the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, including a secretive National Cyber Security Center created by NSPD54.
And the House Intelligence Committee, which tends to be hawkish on secrecy, has complained that details about NSPD54 "remain vague" because of "excessive classification" and said the 2009 budget request was "excessive."
FBI Director Warns of Growing Cyber Threat
Militant groups, foreign states and criminal organizations pose a growing threat to U.S. security as they target government and private computer networks, FBI Director Robert Mueller said on Thursday.
In a speech to an Internet security conference, Mueller said militant groups like al Qaeda had primarily used the Internet to recruit members and plan attacks, but had made clear they also see it as a target.
"Terrorists have shown a clear interest in pursuing hacking skills and they will either train their own recruits or hire outsiders with an eye toward combining physical attacks with cyber attacks," Mueller said.
He noted a cyberattack could have the same impact as a "well-placed bomb."
Mueller added that some foreign governments, which he did not identify, also posed a threat by seeking to use the Internet for espionage.
"Apart from the terrorist threat, nation-states may use the Internet as a means of attack for political ends," he said.
"Nation-state hackers or mercenaries for hire" as well as rogue hackers or international criminal syndicates are targeting government networks, Mueller added.
"They seek our technology, our intelligence, our intellectual property, even our military weapons and strategies."
The comments came in the wake of several international Internet security incidents.
In January, Google Inc, the world's No. 1 Internet search engine, said it had detected a sophisticated online attack on its systems that originated in China and said it believed at least 20 other companies had been targeted.
According to Google, one of the primary goals of the attacks was accessing the personal e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
Earlier this week, Spanish police arrested three men accused of masterminding one of the largest computer crimes to date, in which more than 13 million PCs were infected with a virus that stole credit card numbers and data.
Mueller said international cooperation was essential to combating online crime like the so-called Mariposa botnet incident in Spain. He added the FBI had 60 "attache" offices around the world as well as special agents embedded with police forces in countries such as Romania, Estonia and the Netherlands.
He urged businesses targeted in cyberattacks to come forward to help track down the perpetrators, saying the FBI was attuned to the delicate nature of the situation for corporations.
"We will minimize the disruption to your business, we will safeguard your privacy and your data and where necessary we will seek protective orders to preserve trade secrets and business confidentiality," he said.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)
Cyberwar Hype Intended to Destroy the Open Internet
The biggest threat to the open internet is not Chinese government hackers or greedy anti-net-neutrality ISPs, it’s Michael McConnell, the former director of national intelligence.
McConnell’s not dangerous because he knows anything about SQL injection hacks, but because he knows about social engineering. He’s the nice-seeming guy who’s willing and able to use fear-mongering to manipulate the federal bureaucracy for his own ends, while coming off like a straight shooter to those who are not in the know.
When he was head of the country’s national intelligence, he scared President Bush with visions of e-doom, prompting the president to sign a comprehensive secret order that unleashed tens of billions of dollars into the military’s black budget so they could start making firewalls and building malware into military equipment.
And now McConnell is back in civilian life as a vice president at the secretive defense contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton. He’s out in front of Congress and the media, peddling the same Cybaremaggedon! gloom.
And now he says we need to re-engineer the internet.
The Washington Post gave McConnell free space to declare that we are losing some sort of cyberwar. He argues that the country needs to get a Cold War strategy, one complete with the online equivalent of ICBMs and Eisenhower-era, secret-codenamed projects. Google’s allegation that Chinese hackers infiltrated its Gmail servers and targeted Chinese dissidents proves the United States is “losing” the cyberwar, according to McConnell.
But that’s not warfare. That’s espionage.
McConnell’s op-ed then pointed to breathless stories in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal about thousands of malware infections from the well-known Zeus virus. He intimated that the nation’s citizens and corporations were under unstoppable attack by this so-called new breed of hacker malware.
despite the masterful PR about the Zeus infections from security company NetWitness (run by a former Bush Administration cyberczar Amit Yoran), the world’s largest security companies McAfee and Symantec downplayed the story. But the message had already gotten out — the net was under attack.
Brian Krebs, one of the country’s most respected cybercrime journalists and occasional Threat Level contributor, described that report: “Sadly, this botnet documented by NetWitness is neither unusual nor new.”
Those enamored with the idea of “cyberwar” aren’t dissuaded by fact-checking.
They like to point to Estonia, where a number of the government’s websites were rendered temporarily inaccessible by angry Russian citizens. They used a crude, remediable denial-of-service attack to temporarily keep users from viewing government websites. (This attack is akin to sending an army of robots to board a bus, so regular riders can’t get on. A website fixes this the same way a bus company would — by keeping the robots off by identifying the difference between them and humans.) Some like to say this was an act of cyberwar, but if it that was cyberwar, it’s pretty clear the net will be just fine.
In fact, none of these examples demonstrate the existence of a cyberwar, let alone that we are losing it.
But this battle isn’t about truth. It’s about power.
For years, McConnell has wanted the NSA (the ultra-secretive government spy agency responsible for listening in on other countries and for defending classified government computer systems) to take the lead in guarding all government and private networks. Not surprisingly, the contractor he works for has massive, secret contracts with the NSA in that very area. In fact, the company, owned by the shadowy Carlyle Group, is reported to pull in $5 billion a year in government contracts, many of them Top Secret.
Now the problem with developing cyberweapons — say a virus, or a massive botnet for denial-of-service attacks, is that you need to know where to point them. In the Cold War, it wasn’t that hard. In theory, you’d use radar to figure out where a nuclear attack was coming from and then you’d shoot your missiles in that general direction. But online, it’s extremely difficult to tell if an attack traced to a server in China was launched by someone Chinese, or whether it was actually a teenager in Iowa who used a proxy.
That’s why McConnell and others want to change the internet. The military needs targets.
But McConnell isn’t the only threat to the open internet.
Just last week the National Telecommunications and Information Administration — the portion of the Commerce Department that has long overseen the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — said it was time for it to revoke its hands-off-the-internet policy.
That’s according to a February 24 speech by Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence E. Strickling.
Add to that — a bill looming in the Senate would hand the president emergency powers over the internet — and you can see where all this is headed. And let the past be our guide.
Following years of the NSA illegally spying on Americans’ e-mails and phone calls as part of a secret anti-terrorism project, Congress voted to legalize the program in July 2008. That vote allowed the NSA to legally turn America’s portion of the internet into a giant listening device for the nation’s intelligence services. The new law also gave legal immunity to the telecoms like AT&T that helped the government illegally spy on American’s e-mails and internet use. Then-Senator Barack Obama voted for this legislation, despite earlier campaign promises to oppose it.
As anyone slightly versed in the internet knows, the net has flourished because no government has control over it.
But there are creeping signs of danger.
Where can this lead? Well, consider England, where a new bill targeting online file sharing will outlaw open internet connections at cafes or at home, in a bid to track piracy.
To be sure, we could see more demands by the government for surveillance capabilities and backdoors in routers and operating systems. Already, the feds successfully turned the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (a law mandating surveillance capabilities in telephone switches) into a tool requiring ISPs to build similar government-specified eavesdropping capabilities into their networks.
The NSA dreams of “living in the network,” and that’s what McConnell is calling for in his editorial/advertisement for his company. The NSA lost any credibility it had when it secretly violated American law and its most central tenet: “We don’t spy on Americans.”
Unfortunately, the private sector is ignoring that tenet and is helping the NSA and contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton worm their way into the innards of the net. Security companies make no fuss, since a scared populace and fear-induced federal spending means big bucks in bloated contracts. Google is no help either, recently turning to the NSA for help with its rather routine infiltration by hackers.
Make no mistake, the military industrial complex now has its eye on the internet. Generals want to train crack squads of hackers and have wet dreams of cyberwarfare. Never shy of extending its power, the military industrial complex wants to turn the internet into yet another venue for an arms race.
And it’s waging a psychological warfare campaign on the American people to make that so. The military industrial complex is backed by sensationalism, and a gullible and pageview-hungry media. Notable examples include the New York Times’s John “We Need a New Internet” Markoff, 60 Minutes’ “Hackers Took Down Brazilian Power Grid,” and the WSJ’s Siobhan Gorman, who ominously warned in an a piece lacking any verifiable evidence, that Chinese and Russian hackers are already hiding inside the U.S. electrical grid.
Now the question is: Which of these events can be turned into a Gulf of Tonkin-like fakery that can create enough fear to let the military and the government turn the open internet into a controlled, surveillance-friendly net.
What do they dream of? Think of the internet turning into a tightly monitored AOL circa the early ’90s, run by CEO Big Brother and COO Dr. Strangelove.
That’s what McConnell has in mind, and shame on The Washington Post and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for giving McConnell venues to try to make that happen — without highlighting that McConnell has a serious financial stake in the outcome of this debate.
Of course, the net has security problems, and there are pirated movies and spam and botnets trying to steal credit card information.
But the online world mimics real life. Just as I know where online to buy a replica of a Coach handbag or watch a new release, I know exactly where I can go to find the same things in the city I live in. There are cons and rip-offs in the real world, just as there are online. I’m more likely to get ripped off by a restaurant server copying down the information on my credit card than I am having my card stolen and used for fraud while shopping online. “Top Secret” information is more likely to end up in the hands of a foreign government through an employee-turned-spy than from a hacker.
But cyber-anything is much scarier than the real world.
The NSA can help private companies and networks tighten up their security systems, as McConnell argues. In fact, they already do, and they should continue passing along advice and creating guides to locking down servers and releasing their own secure version of Linux. But companies like Google and AT&T have no business letting the NSA into their networks or giving the NSA information that they won’t share with the American people.
Security companies have long relied on creating fear in internet users by hyping the latest threat, whether that be Conficker or the latest PDF flaw. And now they are reaping billions of dollars in security contracts from the federal government for their PR efforts. But the industry and its most influential voices need to take a hard look at the consequences of that strategy and start talking truth to power’s claims that we are losing some non-existent cyberwar.
The internet is a hack that seems forever on the edge of falling apart. For awhile, spam looked like it was going to kill e-mail, the net’s first killer app. But smart filters have reduced the problem to a minor nuisance as anyone with a Gmail account can tell you. That’s how the internet survives. The apocalypse looks like it’s coming and it never does, but meanwhile, it becomes more and more useful to our everyday lives, spreading innovation, weird culture, news, commerce and healthy dissent.
But one thing it hasn’t spread is “cyberwar.” There is no cyberwar and we are not losing it. The only war going on is one for the soul of the internet. But if journalists, bloggers and the security industry continue to let self-interested exaggerators dominate our nation’s discourse about online security, we will lose that war — and the open internet will be its biggest casualty.
Microsoft's Charney Suggests 'Net Tax to Clean Computers
The company recently used the U.S. court system to shut down the Waledac botnet
How will we ever get a leg up on hackers who are infecting computers worldwide? Microsoft's security chief laid out several suggestions Tuesday, including a possible Internet usage tax to pay for the inspection and quarantine of machines.
Today most hacked PCs run Microsoft's Windows operating system, and the company has invested millions in trying to fight the problem.
Microsoft recently used the U.S. court system to shut down the Waledac botnet, introducing a new tactic in the battle against hackers. Speaking at the RSA security conference in San Francisco, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Trustworthy Computing Scott Charney said that the technology industry needs to think about more "social solutions."
That means fighting the bad guys at several levels, he said. "Just like we do defense in depth in IT, we have to do defense in depth in [hacking] response."
"I actually think the health care model ... might be an interesting way to think about the problem," Charney said. With medical diseases, there are education programs, but there are also social programs to inspect people and quarantine the sick.
This model could work to fight computer viruses too, he said. When a computer user allows malware to run on his computer, "you're not just accepting it for yourself, you're contaminating everyone around you," he said.
The idea that Internet service providers might somehow step up in the fight against malware is not new. The problem, however, is cost.
Customer calls already eat into service provider profits. Adding quarantine and malware-fixing costs to that would be prohibitive, said Danny McPherson, chief research officer with Arbor Networks, via instant message. "They have no incentive to do anything today."
So who would foot the bill? "Maybe markets will make it work," Charney said. But an Internet usage tax might be the way to go. "You could say it's a public safety issue and do it with general taxation," he said.
According to Microsoft, there are 3.8 million infected botnet computers worldwide, 1 million of which are in the U.S. They are used to steal sensitive information and send spam, and were a launching point for 190,000 distributed denial-of-service attacks in 2008.
Typical Windows User Patches Every 5 Days
75 Microsoft, third-party patch events each year are a burden most users can't bear, says Secunia
The typical home user running Windows faces the "unreasonable" task of patching software an average of every five days, a security and vulnerability research company said today.
"It's completely unreasonable to expect users to master so many different patch mechanisms and spend so much time patching," said Thomas Kristensen, the chief security officer of Secunia. The result is that few consumers devote the time and attention necessary to stay atop the patching job, which leaves them open to attack.
According to Secunia, of the users who ran the company's Personal Software Inspector (PSI) the last week of January, half had 66 or more programs from 22 or more different vendors on their machines. PSI is a free tool that scans PCs to produce a list of vulnerable software, but does not itself initiate updates. Instead, users are directed to the approprite vendor patch site. Nearly 2 million copies of the tool have been downloaded since Secunia debuted it in 2007.
After comparing the software portfolios on each machine with the bugs Secunia tracked during 2009, Secunia determined that the typical user faced nearly 300 vulnerabilities during the year, and with the number of vendors represented on the PC, had to deal with approximately 75 patch incidents annually.
That averages out to a patch action every 4.9 days.
"It surprised us that there were so many applications on the systems," said Kristensen, "and that then there were so many updates they had to do in a year." Also important, he said, was that the typical user had to master 22 different patch mechanisms, one from each of the 22 software makers whose programs were on her PC.
"That's why we called for software vendors to create a unified patching standard last year," said Kristensen, referring to a pitch Secunia made at the RSA Conference in 2009. The company's offer didn't go over well. "A few vendors said 'We want to hear more,' but a lot just ignored us or turned down the idea outright."
Rather than wait on software makers to come up with a single patch mechanism -- something unlikely in any case -- Secunia has stepped up to produce a patching tool that will eventually handle 70% to 80% of the software on consumers' Windows machines.
In the next six weeks, Secunia will release a technical preview of PSI 2.0, which will include automatic updating functionality similar to what Microsoft provides for Windows and other software. Before the end of the year, Secunia should have PSI 2.0 wrapped up. "Updating is complicated, and we need to get it out to users so they can give us feedback," said Kristensen. PSI 2.0 will be free to consumers.
PSI 2.0 is based on technology in Secunia's Corporate Software Inspector with Microsoft's Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), which entered beta in January.
"We want to promote patching," Kristensen said when asked why Secunia is expending resources on a product it's giving away. People know Microsoft's patch service, Windows Update, but that's not the only updating mechanism they have to deal with, he continued. "They have to patch Adobe software three, four times a year, and QuickTime, which is frequently exploited. That's why we think this will make a difference."
Secunia has published a white paper that details its PSI scan findings (download PDF).
Microsoft: Don't Press F1 Key in Windows XP
Ignore sites that nag to press the Help key, says zero-day bug advisory
Microsoft told Windows XP users today not to press the F1 key when prompted by a Web site, as part of its reaction to an unpatched vulnerability that hackers could exploit to hijack PCs running Internet Explorer (IE).
In a security advisory issued late Monday, Microsoft confirmed the unpatched bug in VBScript that Polish researcher Maurycy Prodeus had revealed Friday, offered more information on the flaw and provided some advice on how to protect PCs until a patch shipped.
"The vulnerability exists in the way that VBScript interacts with Windows Help files when using Internet Explorer," read the advisory. "If a malicious Web site displayed a specially crafted dialog box and a user pressed the F1 key, arbitrary code could be executed in the security context of the currently logged-on user."
Last week, Prodeus called the bug a "logic flaw," and said attackers could exploit it by feeding users malicious code disguised as a Windows help file -- such files have a ".hlp" extension -- then convincing them to press the F1 key when a pop-up appeared. He rated the vulnerability as "medium" because of the required user interaction.
Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 are impacted by the bug, said Microsoft, and any supported versions of Internet Explorer (IE) on those operating systems -- including IE6 on Windows XP -- could be leveraged by attackers. Previously, Prodeus had said that users running IE7 and IE8 were at risk, but had not called out IE6.
Until a patch is ready, users can protect themselves by not pressing the F1 key if a Web site tells them to, said Microsoft.
"As an interim workaround, users are advised to avoid pressing F1 on dialogs presented from Web pages or other Internet content," said David Ross with the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) engineering staff in a blog entry on Monday.
"The prompt can appear repeatedly when dismissed, nagging the user to press the F1 key," Ross added.
The security advisory made the same recommendation: "Our analysis shows that if users do not press the F1 key on their keyboard, the vulnerability cannot be exploited."
Users can also stymie attacks by disabling Windows Help. The advisory explained how to entering a one-line command at a Windows command-line prompt to lock down the Help system.
The company took Prodeus to task for taking the bug public, something it regularly does when researchers disclose a vulnerability or post sample attack code before a patch is available.
"Microsoft is concerned that this vulnerability was not responsibly disclosed, potentially putting customers at risk," said Jerry Bryant, a senior manager with the MSRC, in an e-mail. By Prodeus' account, he notified Microsoft of the flaw Feb. 1, about four weeks before publishing his findings.
Microsoft has not set a timeline for a fix, saying only that, "Microsoft will take the appropriate action to help protect our customers." The next scheduled security patch date for the company is March 9.
Although it does not rate the severity of vulnerabilities in its advisories, Microsoft noted that hackers exploiting the VBScript flaw using Windows Help and Internet Explorer could grab complete control of a Windows system.
Customers running Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 are safe from such attacks, Microsoft said.
Researchers Find Way to Zap RSA Security Scheme
University of Michigan security researchers outline voltage-based attack on the RSA authentication scheme
Three University of Michigan computer scientists say they have found a way to exploit a weakness in RSA security technology used to protect everything from media players to smartphones and e-commerce servers.
RSA authentication is susceptible, they say, to changes in the voltage supplied to a private key holder. The researchers – Andrea Pellegrini, Valeria Bertacco and Todd Austin -- outline their findings in a paper titled “Fault-based attack of RSA authentication” to be presented March 10 at the Design, Automation and Test in Europe conference.
"The RSA algorithm gives security under the assumption that as long as the private key is private, you can't break in unless you guess it. We've shown that that's not true," said Valeria Bertacco, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, in a statement.
The RSA algorithm was introduced in a 1978 paper outlining the public-key cryptosystem. The annual RSA security conference is being held this week in San Francisco.
While guessing the 1,000-plus digits of binary code in a private key would take unfathomable hours, the researchers say that by varying electric current to a secured computer using an inexpensive purpose-built device they were able to stress out the computer and figure out the 1,024-bit private key in about 100 hours – all without leaving a trace.
The researchers in their paper outline how they made the attack on a SPARC system running Linux. They also say they have come up with a solution, which involves a cryptographic technique called salting that involves randomly juggling a private key's digits.
The research is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Gigascale Systems Research Center.
Authorities Bust 3 in Infection of 13M Computers
Authorities have smashed one of the world's biggest networks of virus-infected computers, a data vacuum that stole credit cards and online banking credentials from as many as 12.7 million poisoned PCs.
The "botnet" of infected computers included PCs inside more than half of the Fortune 1,000 companies and more than 40 major banks, according to investigators.
Spanish investigators, working with private computer-security firms, have arrested the three alleged ringleaders of the so-called Mariposa botnet, which appeared in December 2008 and grew into one of the biggest weapons of cybercrime. More arrests are expected soon in other countries.
Spanish authorities have planned a news conference for Wednesday in Madrid.
The arrests are significant because the masterminds behind the biggest botnets aren't often taken down. And the story of investigators' hunt for them offers a rare glimpse at the tactics used to trace the origin of computer crimes.
Also, the suspects go against the stereotype of genius programmers often associated with cyber crime. The suspects weren't brilliant hackers but had underworld contacts who helped them build and operate the botnet, Cesar Lorenza, a captain with Spain's Guardia Civil, which is investigating the case, told The Associated Press.
Investigators were examining bank records and seized computers to determine how much money the criminals made.
"They're not like these people from the Russian mafia or Eastern European mafia who like to have sports cars and good watches and good suits - the most frightening thing is they are normal people who are earning a lot of money with cybercrime," Lorenza said.
The three suspects were described as Spanish citizens with no criminal records. They weren't named and their mug shots weren't released, which Lorenza said is standard in Spain to protect the privacy of defendants. They face up to six years in prison if convicted of hacking charges.
Authorities identified them by their Internet handles and their ages: "netkairo," 31; "jonyloleante," 30; and "ostiator," 25.
Botnets are networks of infected PCs that have been hijacked from their owners, often without their knowledge, and put into the control of criminals. Linked together, the machines supply an enormous amount of computing power to spammers, identity thieves, and Internet attackers.
The Mariposa botnet, which has been dismantled, was easily one of the world's biggest. It spread to more than 190 countries, according to researchers. It also appears to be far more sophisticated than the botnet that was used to hack into Google Inc. and other companies in the attack that led Google to threaten to pull out of China.
The researchers that helped take down Mariposa first started looking at it in the spring of 2009.
Chris Davis, CEO of Ottawa-based Defence Intelligence, said he noticed the infections when they appeared on networks of some of his firm's clients, including pharmaceutical companies and banks.
It wasn't until several months later that he realized the infections were part of something much bigger.
After seeing that some of the servers used to control computers in the botnet were located in Spain, Davis and researchers from the Georgia Tech Information Security Center joined with software firm Panda Security, which is headquartered in Bilbao, Spain.
The investigators caught a few lucky breaks. For one, the suspects used Internet services that wound up cooperating with investigators. That isn't always the case.
Critically, one suspect also made direct connections from his own computer to try and reclaim control of his botnet after authorities took it down around Christmas. Investigators were able to identify him based on that traffic. They were able to back up their claims with records from domains he registered where he would eventually host malicious content.
It turned out that the botnet runners had infected computers by instant-messaging malicious links to contacts on infected computers. They also got viruses onto removable thumb drives and through peer-to-peer networks. The program used to create the botnet was known as Mariposa, from the Spanish word for "butterfly."
"I don't think there's anything about this guy that makes him smarter than any of the other botnet guys, but the (Mariposa) software, it's very professional, it's very effective," said Pedro Bustamante, senior research adviser with Panda Security. "It came alive and started spreading and it got bigger than him."
While arrests of people accused of running smaller botnets are fairly common, the biggest botnet leaders are rarely nabbed. That's partly because it's easy for criminals to hide their identities by disguising the source of their Internet traffic. Often, every computing resource they use is stolen.
For instance, there have been no busts yet in the spread of the Conficker worm, which infected 3 million to 12 million PCs running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system and caused widespread fear that it could be used as a kind of Internet super weapon. The Conficker botnet is still active, but is closely watched by security researchers. The infected computers have so far been used to make money in ordinary ways, pumping out spam and spreading fake antivirus software.
Spanish "Botnet" Potent Enough to Attack Country: Police
Spanish criminals who stole bank details from computers around the world did not realize the power of the illegal network they had created which could have paralyzed an entire country's computer systems, police said.
Police gave a news conference on Wednesday, a day after they arrested three people for what they believe to have been one of the biggest computer crimes ever detected.
They declined to identify the men, aged between 25 and 31, from small Spanish towns, whom they suspect of infecting more than 13 million computers with spyware.
Police believe the men were not expert hackers and bought their virus program on the black market before using it to take over other people's computers in order to create a "botnet," a network of enslaved computers.
"Fortunately this botnet of 13 million computers was controlled by someone who hadn't realized how powerful it was," Juan Salon, the head of the cybercrime unit of Spain's Civil Guard Police, told a news conference.
The network would have had much more computing power than the one used in a notorious "cyber-attack" on Estonia, police said, adding that it could in theory have been used for a similar assault on a nation's vital computer infrastructure.
Estonia accused Russia of being behind the 2007 attack, which swamped websites belonging to many of the country's institutions, putting them out of action. "Thank God, their criminal mentality wasn't very sophisticated," said Salon, who said the men apparently tried to offer their botnet to criminal gangs for hire, but do not seem to have made huge profits although they made a comfortable living.
The criminals used the virus to infect machines -- initially exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Corp's Internet Explorer browser -- which then allowed them to record key strokes and login credentials. This botnet was known as "Mariposa" -- the Spanish word for butterfly.
The leader of the gang was caught with personal details of 800,000 people, said the Civil Guard. Government institutions and companies had also been affected, it said, although it declined to give more details.
(Writing by Jason Webb; editing by Robin Pomeroy)
Wave of Ransom Malware Hits Internet
John E. Dunn
Criminals reused an attack from 2008 to hit the Internet with a huge wave of ransomware in recent weeks, a security company has reported.
In the space of only two days, February 8 and 9, the HTML/Goldun.AXT campaign detected by Fortinet accounted for more than half the total malware detected for February, which gives some indication of its unusual scale.
The attack itself takes the form of a spam e-mail with an attachment, report.zip, which if clicked automatically downloads a rogue antivirus product called Security Tool. It is also being distributed using manipulated search engine optimisation (SEO) on Google and other providers.
Such scams have been common on the Internet for more than a year, but this particular one features a more recently-evolved sting in the tail. The product doesn't just ask the infected user to buy a useless license in the mode of scareware, it locks applications and data on the PC, offering access only when a payment has been made through the single functioning application left, Internet Explorer.
What's new, then, is that old-style scareware has turned into a default ransom-oriented approach. The former assumes that users won't know they are being scammed, while the latter assumes they will but won't know what to do about it.
The technique is slowly becoming more common -- see the Vundo attack of a year ago -- but what is also different is the size of this attack, one of the largest ever seen by Fortinet for a single malware campaign.
Fortinet notes that Security Tool is really a reheat of an old campaign from November 2008, which pushed the notorious rogue antivirus product Total Security as a way of infecting users with a keylogging Trojan.
"This is a great example of how tried and true attack techniques/social engineering can be recycled into future attacks," says Fortinet's analysis.
According to Fortinet, the "engine" pushing the spike in ransom-based malware is believed to be the highly-resilient Cutwail/Pushdo botnet, the same spam and DDoS system behind a number of campaigns in the last three years including the recent pestering of PayPal and Twitter sites.
Wi-Fi Finders Let Thieves Track Down Hidden Laptops
The good news is that there's a relatively simple solution
Stuffing your company laptop into the car trunk or even a locker, without turning off its Wi-Fi radio, can be an open invitation to thieves, according to Credant Technologies.
Theives with increasingly sophisticated, directional Wi-Fi detectors can home in on the laptop's radio, tracking it down even when the PC is hidden away.
A statement by the mobile security software vendor highlighted a recent warning from a security specialist at University of Technology, in Jamaica. He said that it appeared crooks running a lottery scam on the island were using stolen laptops to do so. They tracked down the often out-of-sight computers using Wi-Fi radio detectors.
The detectors, sometimes called "Wi-Fi finders," are readily and inexpensively available. But many of them simply register the presence and strength of Wi-Fi signals, such as those from public hotspots. USBFever, for example, offers for $14 a ballpoint pen with a built-in radio detector for 802.11b/g radios. ThinkGeek.com offers the "Digital Wi-Fi Detector", which can scan signals over a 200-foot distance, priced at $50.
Depending on the features, the detector may not be very helpful in finding a precise location, for example, an active laptop radio in an automobile parked with a lot of others.But Hawking Technologies' Hi-Gain WiFi Locator Professional Edition includes a high-gain antenna that can more precisely locate a Wi-Fi radio. It is priced at $50.
Sean Glynn, Credant's vice president of marketing, said in a press release that some number of users close the cover of the laptop without realizing there may be a delay of 30 minutes before it shifts into sleep mode. The Wi-Fi radio remains on, detectable by a scanner.
The solution is simple, he says: make sure you shut off the radio.
Apple Removes Wi-Fi Finders from App Store
Apple on Thursday began removing another category of apps from its iPhone App Store. This time, it's not porn, it's Wi-Fi.
Apple removed several Wi-Fi apps commonly referred to as stumblers, or apps that seek out available Wi-Fi networks near your location. According to a story on Cult of Mac, apps removed by Apple include WiFi-Where, WiFiFoFum, and yFy Network Finder.
"We received a very unfortunate e-mail today from Apple stating that WiFi-Where has been removed from sale on the App Store for using private frameworks to access wireless information," WiFi Where-maker Three Jacks Software, wrote on its Web site.
There was no explanation as to what Apple meant by "private frameworks." Apple representatives were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNET.
TechCrunch says Tonchidot, a Tokyo-based developer, had its app Sekai Camera removed because of its use of Wi-Fi, too. Sekai Camera uses PlaceEngine as a way to determine a user's location over Wi-Fi.
PlaceEngine developer Koozyt says other apps that use its technology have also been removed, including Yahoo! Maps for the iPhone.
This isn't the first time Apple has gone after a category of apps. In late February, Apple targeted "overtly sexual" apps, removing almost 5,000 apps from the App Store.
Bill to Ban Social Networking for Sex Offenders
Sex offenders in California would be barred from using social networking Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace under a proposed law aimed at making the Internet safer for children as more and more of them flock to the Web.
Citing horrific cases in which children were sexually assaulted by men they met online, Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona (Los Angeles County) introduced the bill last month, which would make it a crime for Californian's 63,000 registered sex offenders to use any social networking site. The proposed law defines those as a Web site "designed with the intent of allowing users to build networks or connect with other people and that provides means for users to connect over the Internet."
Assembly Bill 2208 is similar to legislation passed last year in Illinois, but doesn't go quite as far as a New York state law that additionally requires sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and online aliases with state authorities, who can then turn over the names to the companies that run the social networking sites. After the New York law passed, 3,500 sex offenders were purged from MySpace and Facebook by the Internet companies.
All of the laws depend to some extent on the assumption that sex offenders will police themselves.
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who is sponsoring the measure, acknowledged that the proposed law isn't a fail-safe measure, but said it will offer a deterrent to sex offenders who do not want to return to jail. Harris, who specialized in child sexual assault cases as a courtroom prosecutor, said it will also create more public awareness around the issue and give law enforcement another tool.
"The carrot is don't get on these sites, and the stick is we will prosecute you," said Harris, who is running for state attorney general. "In my experience, these types of predators are a slimy group and they don't want to go to jail, and what we're telling them is that if you go online and start chatting with my 12-year-old niece, you're going to jail."
The number of users on social networking sites has doubled since 2007, Torres said, and many of those users are children. She noted that just last month, a 33-year-old man lured a 12-year-old girl to a hotel in Anaheim, where she was sexually assaulted.
Facebook attorney Chris Kelly, another attorney general hopeful, said the law is a good first step but noted that it is often difficult for social networking sites to identify sex offenders without knowing how they identify themselves online.
"It's a good start," he said. "But it needs to be strengthened."
Narus Develops a Scary Sleuth for Social Media
Hone technology works with NarusInsight to connect different profiles to one person.
Narus is developing a new technology that sleuths through billions of pieces of data on social networks and Internet services and connects the dots.
The new program, code-named Hone, is designed to give intelligence and law enforcement agencies a leg up on criminals who are now operating anonymously on the Internet.
In many ways, the cyber world is ideal for subversive and terrorist activities, said Antonio Nucci, chief technology officer with Narus. "For bad people, it's an easy place to hide," Nucci said. "They can get lost and very easily hide behind a massive ocean of legal digital transactions."
It's trivial to set up a Gmail or Facebook account under a fake name. The question for law enforcement then becomes, how does it connect different pieces of information to the same person? "It's very hard to connect these two pieces of information," Nucci said. "We're really asking [law enforcement] to become almost like magicians."
Narus is best known as the creator of NarusInsight, an network monitoring device that can analyze traffic on IP networks. AT&T allegedly used a Narus system to wiretap customer data on behalf of the U.S. National Security Agency as part of a U.S. domestic terrorist surveillance program.
Hone works in tandem with NarusInsight. By Nucci's own admission, however, it can do some pretty "scary" things.
The software's user creates a target profile, and Hone then proceeds to link what Nucci calls "islands of information." Hone can analyze VOIP conversations, biometrically identify someone's voice or photograph and then associate it with different phone numbers.
"I can have a sample of your voice in English, and you can start speaking Mandarin tomorrow. It doesn't matter; I'm going to catch you."
It uses artificial intelligence to analyze e-mails and can link mails to different accounts, doing what Nucci calls topical analysis. "It's going to go through a set of documents and automatically it's going to organize them in topics -- I'm not talking about keywords as is done today, I'm talking about topics," he said.
That can't be done with today's technology, he said. "If you search for fertilizers on Google... it's going to come back with 6.5 million pages. Enjoy," he said. "If you want to search for non-farmers who are discussing fertilizer... it's not even searchable."
Hone will sift through millions of profiles searching for people with similar attributes -- blogger profiles that share the same e-mail address, for example. It can look for statistically likely matches, by studying things like the gender, nationality, age, location, home and work addresses of people.
Another component can trace the location of someone using a mobile device such as a laptop or phone.
Bit by bit, it pieces together the subject's different identities on the Internet.
Narus is still testing the waters with Hone. Working with a consortium of universities, the company has used Hone to sift through massive amounts of public information. "We started to collect data three years ago and we've gone through several programs," Nucci said. "We have something like 75 million users in our system." With the permission of users, Nucci's team also analyzed data on about 50,000 private profiles.
Nucci will discuss Hone at the RSA Conference in San Francisco Friday.
The company is now talking to potential customers such as defense contractors and government agencies to see if there's enough interest to turn Hone into a product. "If the market is as big as we guess it's going to be, then we will start rolling this into products," Nucci said.
That day could be just a year away, he added.
Military Announces New Social Media Policy
Many months behind schedule, the Department of Defense on Friday issued a new policy that, on the surface, seems likely to expand access to popular social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter by troops using military computers.
The new policy, which can be found here, says that the default policy of the department will be to allow access to social networking sites from the military’s non-classified computer network, known by its acronym, NIPRNET (for Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network.)
The development is considered a step forward by advocates of social networking in the military. Those advocates have complained for years that local commanders, sometimes for vague or arbitrary reasons, have shut down personal blogs or restricted access to social networking sites that an increasing number of troops use to maintain contact with friends and families. A growing number of deployed units have also begun using Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other networking sites to share photographs, release official information and disseminate newsletters.
The new policy has its caveats. It says for instance that commanders shall “continue to defend against malicious activity,” namely to stop cyber attacks, safeguard missions and maintain adequate bandwidth. And it requires that access be denied to sites containing “prohibited content,” such as pornography, gambling and hate-crime related activities.
“This directive recognizes the importance of balancing appropriate security measures while maximizing the capabilities afforded by 21st Century Internet tools,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III in a statement.
While few troops would disagree with those caveats, the wording is broad enough to leave much discretion with local commanders to shut down access to Internet sites. And that means that commanders who are uncomfortable with social networking — and military bloggers say there are many of them — will be able to find ways to restrict Internet access by their troops.
Lindy Kyzer, who advices the Army’s Chief of Public Affairs on social media issues, said that while the new policy does leave much discretion in the hands of local commanders, it also opens up access to social networking in several significant ways.
First, she said, all military units will be required to open access to social networking sites at least initially. And when they restrict access, she added, those restrictions are supposed to be temporary. That means, for instance, that the Marine Corps must end its ban on access to most social networking sites. And the Army, which has a list of banned sites, including YouTube, must make those sites available.
“DoD is moving away from the silly notion of having ‘blacklisted’ social media sites and saying, ‘We’re not going to lay down the hammer and tell you where you can and cannot go, we’re going to mitigate risk as it comes,’” Ms. Kyzer said in an email message.
An interesting note, Price Floyd, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, broke the news of the policy announcement on his Twitter feed, not via the traditional route of a press release.
A postscript: Don Faul, Director, Online Operations at Facebook, who served six years active duty as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer before joining the company, issued this statement about the new policy:
U.S. Army – 175k fans
U.S. Navy – 83,775 fans
U.S. Marines – 261,412 fans
U.S. Air Force – 35,099
U.S. National Guard – 6,909
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen
Israeli Raid Canceled After Facebook Leak
Israel’s Army Radio reported on Wednesday that a raid on suspected militants in the West Bank planned for Wednesday was called off by the country’s military because a soldier posted details of the operation on Facebook.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz explained that the soldier posted a status update letting friends know that his unit was preparing to go to a West Bank village near Ramallah: “On Wednesday we clean up Qatanah, and on Thursday, god willing, we come home,” the soldier wrote.
Haaretz added that the soldier, who has been relieved of combat duty, “also disclosed the name of the combat unit, the place of the operation and the time it will take place.” After noticing his indiscretion, Haaretz reports, “Facebook friends then reported him to military authorities.”
According an Associated Press report from Jerusalem, “the soldier was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 days in prison.” The A.P. adds:
As the Pentagon acknowledges, “Prior to today, the Services and other DoD components developed and implemented their own ad hoc policies — some banning it all together.”
Last year, Wired’s Danger Room blog reported that some overzealous commanders had even blocked access to a very tame official site called TroopTube, after military personnel were directed away from YouTube.
Scientists Strive to Map the Shape-Shifting Net
In a dimly lit chamber festooned with wires and hidden in one of California’s largest data centers, Tim Pozar is changing the shape of the Internet.
He is using what Internet engineers refer to as a “meet-me room.” The room itself is enclosed in a building full of computers and routers. What Mr. Pozar does there is to informally wire together the networks of different businesses that want to freely share their Internet traffic.
The practice is known as peering, and it goes back to the earliest days of the Internet, when organizations would directly connect their networks instead of paying yet another company to route data traffic. Originally, the companies that owned the backbone of the Internet shared traffic. In recent years, however, the practice has increased to the point where some researchers who study the way global networks are put together believe that peering is changing the fundamental shape of the Internet, with serious consequences for its stability and security. Others see the vast increase in traffic staying within a structure that has remained essentially the same.
What is clear is that today a significant portion of Internet traffic does not flow through the backbone networks of giant Internet companies like AT&T and Level 3. Instead, it has begun to cascade in torrents of data on the edges of the network, as if a river in flood were carving new channels.
Some of this traffic coursing through new channels passes through public peering points like Mr. Pozar’s. And some flows through so-called dark networks, private channels created to move information more cheaply and efficiently within a business or any kind of organization. For instance, Google has privately built such a network so that video and search data need not pass through so many points to get to customers.
By its very nature, Internet networking technology is intended to support anarchic growth. Unlike earlier communication networks, the Internet is not controlled from the top down. This stems from an innovation at the heart of the Internet — packet switching. From the start, the information moving around the Internet was broken up into so-called packets that could be sent on different paths to one destination where the original message — whether it was e-mail, an image or sound file or instructions to another computer — would be put back together in its original form. This packet-switching technology was conceived in the 1960s in England and the United States. It made delivery of a message through a network possible even if one or many of the nodes of the network failed. Indeed, this resistance to failure or attack was at the very core of the Internet, part of the essential nature of an organic, interconnected communications web with no single control point.
During the 1970s, a method emerged to create a network of networks. The connections depended on a communication protocol, or set of rules, known as TCP/IP, a series of letters familiar to anyone who has tried to set up their own wireless network at home. The global network of networks, the Internet, transformed the world, and continues to grow without central planning, extending itself into every area of life, from Facebook to cyberwar.
Everyone agrees that the shape of the network is changing rapidly, driven by a variety of factors, including content delivery networks that have pushed both data and applications to the edge of the network; the growing popularity of smartphones leading to the emergence of the wireless Internet; and the explosion of streaming video as the Internet’s predominant data type.
“When we started releasing data publicly, we measured it in petabytes of traffic,” said Doug Webster, a Cisco Systems market executive who is responsible for an annual report by the firm that charts changes in the Internet. “Then a couple of years ago we had to start measuring them in zettabytes, and now we’re measuring them in what we call yottabytes.” One petabyte is equivalent to one million gigabytes. A zettabyte is a million petabytes. And a yottabyte is a thousand zettabytes. The company estimates that video will account for 90 percent of all Internet traffic by 2013.
The staggering growth of video is figuring prominently in political and business debates like the one over the principle of network neutrality — that all data types, sites and platforms attached to the network should be treated equally. But networks increasingly treat data types differently. Priority is often given to video or voice traffic.
A study presented last year by Arbor Networks suggesting that traffic flows were moving away from the core of the network touched off a spirited controversy. The study was based on an analysis of two years of Internet traffic data collected by 110 large and geographically diverse cable operators, international transit backbones, regional networks and content providers.
Arbor’s Internet Observatory Report concluded that today the majority of Internet traffic by volume flows directly between large content providers like Google and consumer networks like Comcast. It also described what it referred to as the rise of so-called hyper giants — monstrous portals that have become the focal point for much of the network’s traffic: “Out of the 40,000 routed end sites in the Internet, 30 large companies — ‘hyper giants’ like Limelight, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and YouTube — now generate and consume a disproportionate 30 percent of all Internet traffic,” the researchers noted.
The changes are not happening just because of the growth of the hyper giants.
At the San Francisco data center 365 Main, Mr. Pozar’s SFMIX peering location, or fabric, as it is called, now connects just 13 networks and content providers. But elsewhere in the world, huge peering fabrics are beginning to emerge. As a result, the “edge” of the Internet is thickening, and that may be adding resilience to the network.
In Europe in particular, such connection points now route a significant part of the total traffic. AMS-IX is based in Amsterdam, where it is also run as a nonprofit neutral organization composed of 344 members exchanging 775 gigabits of traffic per second.
“The rise of these highly connected data centers around the world is changing our model of the Internet,” said Jon M. Kleinberg, a computer scientist and network theorist at Cornell University. However, he added that the rise of giant distributed data centers built by Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and others as part of the development of cloud computing services is increasing the part of the network that constitutes a so-called dark Internet, making it harder for researchers to build a complete model.
All of these changes have sparked a debate about the big picture. What does the Internet look like now? And is it stronger or weaker in terms of its resistance to failure because of random problems or actual attack.
Researchers have come up with a dizzying array of models to explain the consequences of the changing shape of the Internet. Some describe the interconnections of the underlying physical wires. Others analyze patterns of data flow. And still others look at abstract connections like Web page links that Google and other search engine companies analyze as part of the search process. Such models are of great interest to social scientists, who can watch how people connect with each other, and entrepreneurs, who can find new ways to profit from the Internet. They are also of increasing interest to government and law enforcement organizations trying to secure the Net and use it as a surveillance tool.
One of the first and most successful attempts to understand the overall shape of the Internet occurred a decade ago, when Albert-László Barabási and colleagues at the University of Notre Dame mapped part of the Internet and discovered what they called a scale-free network: connections were not random; instead, a small number of nodes had far more links than most.
They asserted that, in essence, the rich get richer. The more connected a node in a network is, the more likely it is to get new connections.
The consequences of such a model are that although the Internet is resistant to random failure because of its many connections and control points, it could be vulnerable to cyberwarfare or terrorism, because important points — where the connections are richest — could be successfully targeted.
Dr. Barabási said the evolution of the Internet has only strengthened his original scale-free model. “The Internet as we know it is pretty much vanishing, in the sense that much of the traffic is being routed through lots of new layers and applications, much of it wireless,” said Dr. Barabási, a physicist who is now the director of Northeastern University’s Center for Network Science. “Much of the traffic is shifting to providers who have large amounts of traffic, and that is exactly the characteristic of a scale-free distribution.”
In other words, the more the Internet changes, the more it stays the same, in terms of its overall shape, strengths and vulnerabilities.
Other researchers say changes in the Internet have been more fundamental. In 2005, and again last year, Walter Willinger, a mathematician at AT&T Labs, David Alderson, an operations research scientist at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif., and John C. Doyle, an electrical engineer at California Institute of Technology, criticized the scale-free model as an overly narrow interpretation of the nature of modern computer networks.
They argued that the mathematical description of a network as a graph of lines and nodes vastly oversimplifies the reality of the Internet. The real-world Internet, they said, is not a simple scale-free model. Instead, they offered an alternate description that they described as an H.O.T. network, or Highly optimized/Organized tolerance/Trade-offs. The Internet is an example of what they called “organized complexity.” Their model is meant to represent the trade-offs made by engineers who design networks by connecting computer routers. In such systems, both economic and technological trade-offs play an important role. The result is a “robust yet fragile” network that they said was far more resilient than the network described by Dr. Barabási and colleagues.
For example, they noted that Google has in recent years built its own global cloud of computers that is highly redundant and distributed around the world. This degree of separation means that Google is insulated to some extent from problems of the broader Internet. Dr. Alderson and Dr. Doyle said that another consequence of this private cloud was that even if Google were to fail, it would have little impact on the overall Internet. So, as the data flood has carved many new channels, the Internet has become stronger and more resistant to random failure and attack.
The scale-free theorists, Dr. Alderson said, are just not describing the real Internet. “What they’re measuring is not the physical network, its some virtual abstraction that’s on top of it,” he said. “What does the virtual connectivity tell you about the underlying physical vulnerability? My argument would be that it doesn’t tell you anything.”
EU to Limit Mobile Internet Bills
A new Europe-wide rule to prevent mobile phone users from building up large bills for surfing the internet via their handset has come into force.
Customers can now require their phone firm to cut them off when their bill reaches a certain level after accessing the internet in other European nations.
If users do not put in place a limit by 1 July, it will automatically be set at 50 euros ($65; £45).
The phone firms will have to warn users when their bill hits 80% of the limit.
Accessing the internet via your mobile phone while abroad is called "data roaming".
European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, said: "Protection against data roaming bill shocks is a useful step towards building customers' confidence to use mobile networks to surf the internet when travelling around Europe.
"Such confidence is essential if people and businesses are to use the internet to its full potential."
The Commission added that if service providers did not honour people's set spending limits, national regulators would deal with complaints and impose any necessary sanctions.
Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said the move was likely to reduce the cost of data roaming across Europe.
"This measure is likely to bring down the cost of data roaming, because if people stick to their own cash limits and find they don't get much access to the internet for their money, the tendency will be to bring down prices so you get more surfing for your money," he said.
The Mobile Phone That Could "Read Lips"
Researchers at Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a method for mobile phones to convert silent mouth movements into speech. The technology is based on the principle of electromyography, that is the acquisition and recording of electrical potentials generated by muscle activity. This muscle activity is measured in the face and converted into speech.
Want a Better Listener? Protect Those Ears
For football fans, the indelible image of last month’s Super Bowl might have been quarterback Drew Brees’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass that put the New Orleans Saints ahead for good. But for audiologists around the nation, the highlight came after the game — when Mr. Brees, in a shower of confetti, held aloft his 1-year-old son, Baylen.
The boy was wearing what looked like the headphones worn by his father’s coaches on the sideline, but they were actually low-cost, low-tech earmuffs meant to protect his hearing from the stadium’s roar.
Specialists say such safeguards are critical for young ears in a deafening world. Hearing loss from exposure to loud noises is cumulative and irreversible; if such exposure starts in infancy, children can live “half their lives with hearing loss,” said Brian Fligor, director of diagnostic audiology at Children’s Hospital Boston.
“This message needs to be conveyed to parents over and over again,” Dr. Fligor said. “If a child attends only one loud sporting event, it isn’t a big deal. But for those kids who will be going to football games throughout their lives, as Drew Brees’s kids will, it’s a very big deal. A young, tender ear may not be able to withstand damage.”
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, more than 15 minutes of exposure to 100 decibels is unsafe. The noise in a football stadium can reach 100 to 130 decibels.
And noise that is potentially dangerous to an adult is even more dangerous to a child, said Levi A. Reiter, head of the audiology program at Hofstra University, who also has a private audiology practice in Brooklyn.
Because a young child’s ear canal is much smaller than an older child’s or an adult’s, Dr. Reiter said, the sound pressure entering the ear is greater. An infant might perceive a sound as 20 decibels louder than an older child or an adult. The shorter length of the ear canal increases dangerous noise levels in the higher frequencies, which are crucial to language development.
Awareness of the problem is spotty, audiologists say. Even if concertgoers know about damage from loud music, few children are wearing protective gear at sporting events, parades or fireworks displays, or around high-decibel motorcycles and snowmobiles.
It’s a hard message to convey. Hearing loss, which accumulates slowly over a lifetime, is neither painful nor disfiguring, so it goes unnoticed. Stephen Glasser, an audiologist in Great Neck, N.Y., says the stigma attached to hearing aids — often considered a sign of age or weakness — seems to carry over to hearing protection.
And while adults may be able to escape from uncomfortably loud noise, “when you are a toddler in your parents’ arms or a stroller, you can’t walk away,” said Nancy Nadler, assistant executive director of the Center for Hearing and Communication, formerly the League for the Hard of Hearing. Nor are they likely to articulate it if they are feeling aftereffects of loud noise exposure, which include sensations of fullness or muffling, or the ringing sounds known as tinnitus.
But protecting the hearing of very young children is not easy. Earplugs are too big for tiny ear canals and too easy to put into the mouth, where they pose a risk of choking. They are also hard to insert — even adults do not always insert their own earplugs correctly.
Enter protective headgear, like the earmuffs worn by Baylen Brees. Sold by a number of companies (Baylen’s came from Peltor), they include lightweight foam-filled ear cups, weigh less than half a pound and typically cost $20 to $30.
Most are not meant for infants, but Baby Banz sells earmuffs for babies 6 months and older. Though they are adjustable, they may still be too loose for younger babies, said Shari Murphy, the company’s North American operations manager, adding that earmuff sales rose 40 percent after the Super Bowl.
More than half of customers have special needs, like autism or sensory disorders, Ms. Murphy said. For other children, the purchasers are typically grandparents, who sometimes say that their grandchildren cover their ears at fireworks or air shows, or that they themselves suffer from hearing loss.
The use of hearing protection “can make the experience enjoyable instead of having the baby crying and you don’t know why,” said Ms. Nadler, of the Center for Hearing and Communication.
Often, she added, limiting a child’s noise exposure is a matter of common sense. It might be best to leave the baby home with a sitter.
“We need to look at noise as something that is dangerous,” Ms. Nadler said, “like sharp tools or a hot stove.”
Bogus Copyright Claim Silences Yet Another Larry Lessig YouTube Presentation
from the not-this-again... dept
Nearly a year ago, we wrote about how a YouTube presentation done by well known law professor (and strong believer in fair use and fixing copyright law), Larry Lessig, had been taken down, because his video, in explaining copyright and fair use and other such things, used a snippet of a Warner Music song to demonstrate a point. There could be no clearer example of fair use -- but the video was still taken down. There was some dispute at the time as to whether or not this was an actual DMCA takedown, or merely YouTube's audio/video fingerprinting technology (which the entertainment industry insists can understand fair use and not block it). But, in the end, does it really make a difference? A takedown over copyright is a takedown over copyright.
Amazingly enough, it appears that almost the exact same thing has happened again. A video of one of Lessig's presentations, that he just posted -- a "chat" he had done for the OpenVideoAlliance a week or so ago, about open culture and fair use, has received notice that it has been silenced. It hasn't been taken down entirely -- but the entire audio track from the 42 minute video is completely gone. All of it. In the comments, some say there's a notification somewhere that the audio has been disabled because of "an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG" (Warner Music Group) -- which would be the same company whose copyright caused the issue a year ago -- but I haven't seen or heard that particular message anywhere.
However, Lessig is now required to fill out a counternotice challenging the takedown -- while silencing his video in the meantime:
While you can still see the video on YouTube, without the audio, it's pretty much worthless. Thankfully, the actual video is available elsewhere, where you can both hear and see it. But, really, the fact that Lessig has had two separate videos -- both of which clearly are fair use -- neutered due to bogus copyright infringement risks suggests a serious problem. I'm guessing that, once again, this video was likely caught by the fingerprinting, rather than a direct claim by Warner Music. In fact, the issue may be the identical one, as I believe the problem last year was the muppets theme, which very, very briefly appears in this video (again) as an example of fair use in action. But it was Warner Music and others like it that demanded Google put such a fingerprinting tool in place (and such companies are still talking about requiring such tools under the law). And yet, this seems to show just how problematic such rules are.
Even worse, this highlights just how amazingly problematic things get when you put secondary liability on companies like Google. Under such a regime, Google would of course disable such a video, to avoid its own liability. The idea that Google can easily tell what is infringing and what is not is proven ridiculous when something like this is pulled off-line (or just silenced). When a video about fair use itself is pulled down for a bogus copyright infringement, it proves the point. The unintended consequences of asking tool providers to judge what is and what is not copyright infringement lead to tremendous problems with companies shooting first and asking questions later. They are silencing speech, on the threat that it might infringe on copyright.
This is backwards.
We live in a country that is supposed to cherish free speech, not stifle it in case it harms the business model of a company. We live in a country that is supposed to encourage the free expression of ideas -- not lock it up and take it down because one company doesn't know how to adapt its business model. We should never be silencing videos because they might infringe on copyright.
Situations like this demonstrate the dangerous unintended consequences of secondary liability. At least with Lessig, you have someone who knows what happened, and knows how to file a counternotice -- though, who knows how long it will take for this situation to be corrected. But for many, many, many other people, they are simply silenced. Silenced because of industry efforts to turn copyright law into something it was never intended to be: a tool to silence the wider audience in favor of a few large companies.
The system is broken. When even the calls to fix the system are silenced by copyright claims, isn't it time that we fixed the system?
Netflix Gauging Interest in an iPhone App
If a new survey sent out to Netflix subscribers is any indication, the iPhone might be the next device that its streaming service rolls out on in the coming months. According to a tip sent to Hacking Netflix, the subscription video company is now asking users how likely they would be to use an iPhone app to view movies via its online streaming service.
According to the survey, an iPhone app would give users all the same functionality that they have when streaming on a PC or other device, including all the same movies and TV shows without advertisements or trailers. If the app is rolled out, the ability to watch on the Apple mobile device would be offered at no additional charge to existing Netflix subscribers.
There is one potential downside to such a release: Based on the survey questions, it appears that the app would require users to be connected to a Wi-Fi network, so they wouldn’t be able to stream from AT&T’s wireless network. This has been a sore point for the wireless carrier, which until recently had restricted video streaming applications from using 3G or EDGE wireless network connections. That is slowly changing, however, as a rash of live streaming apps from Ustream, Qik and others were released late last year.
Netflix streaming has become nearly ubiquitous on consumer electronics devices in the past few years, and the company expects to have its streaming service on more than 100 different CE devices in 2010. But all of its initiatives in that arena have so far been aimed at getting the streaming service to the television through Blu-ray players, gaming consoles or other devices, or embedding the service onto HDTVs themselves. The release of an iPhone app would mark the first time the company takes aim at the mobile market.
Such a move would also fly in the face of statements made by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings late last year and on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call in January. Last September, Hastings told Reuters that the company didn’t have plans to get onto the iPhone or other mobile devices “in the short term.” Then on Netflix’s most recent earnings call, Hastings said that iPhone and iPad streaming was “not a huge priority” for the company because it is “focused on the larger screen.”
Netflix surveys have tipped off the company’s plans in the past, including one that gauged subscriber interest in streaming on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming consoles. But not all surveys end up resulting in new products or features; take, for instance, one that Netflix conducted last spring asking if consumers would pay to add HBO content to their Netflix streaming options. That service never went anywhere, possibly due to low subscriber interest.
Full text of the survey is below:
“Imagine that Netflix offers its subscribers the ability to instantly watch movies & TV episodes on their iPhone. The selection availability to instantly watch includes some new releases, lots of classics and TV episodes. There are no advertisements or trailers, and movies start in as little as 30 seconds. You can fast-forward, rewind, and pause or watch again. The movies & TV episodes you instantly watch are included in your Netflix membership for no additional fee. Whenever you want to instantly watch content on your iPhone, your iPhone must be connected to a Wi-Fi network (such as one you might have at home or at work, or in public places like coffee shops, book stores, hotels, airports, etc.) If this functionality were available, how likely would you or someone in your household be to instantly watch movies & TV episodes on your iPhone via a Wi-Fi network?”
TiVo to Offer Boxes That Go Beyond the Recorder
TiVo, the Silicon Valley pioneer of digital video recorders, is once again trying to get consumers to pay for another set-top box that combines traditional television programming with a vast array of content from the Web.
At an event in New York on Tuesday night, TiVo said it would soon begin selling a new set-top box, called TiVo Premiere. The new device, more slender than previous hardware from TiVo, will put regular program listings from cable and satellite on the same page as related material from the Web.
For example, a prominent search box on the service allows users to look for, say, “The Office,” and quickly find the regular TV listings of forthcoming episodes as well as older episodes for rent on Netflix and Blockbuster, outtakes and deleted scenes from YouTube, and merchandise related to the show for sale at Amazon.com.
“This takes broadband and broadcast and puts them all together as a single experience,” said Tom Rogers, TiVo’s chief executive.
“You have your cable box, your movie box, your music box, your Web box and your DVR all in one.”
TiVo, based in Alviso, Calif., has been struggling for years as cable and satellite companies offer set-top boxes with their own digital video recorders that allow people to pause and digitally record live television.
In November, TiVo said its subscriber base fell by 21 percent, to 2.7 million, from 3.5 million the year before.
The new TiVo Premiere, which will go on sale in April, is aimed at reversing that trend. The basic version of the box can store 45 hours of high-definition programming and costs $300. A premium version called TiVo Premiere XL can store 150 hours and will cost $500.
The company charges additional monthly fees for the service, starting at $12.95.
TiVo will sell the new devices on its Web site and through retailers, including Best Buy. RCN, a cable provider on the East Coast, will make TiVo Premiere boxes available to customers in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.
With the Premiere, TiVo is also presenting new opportunities to advertisers — while taking some away.
Companies can promote themselves prominently from TiVo menus, which include a bar of suggested programs that appear prominently at the top of each screen.
But the TiVo Premiere remote control also has a new scan button that allows a user to easily zoom through a 30-second ad in just one second — which will give viewers a quick “impression” of the ad, but not much more.
The challenge for TiVo, as always, is to persuade consumers to spend the extra money for a premium service, when they can get a free, if inferior, set-top box from their cable or satellite company instead.
The new device “is of course elegant and wonderful in all the ways TiVo has historically been able to deliver,” said James L. McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research.
“The question is, do people need that well designed of a product? That’s got to be very painful for TiVo.”
TiVo Prevails in Patent Rights Case Against Dish
TiVo Inc. prevailed yet again in a long-running dispute with Dish Network Corp. over patents for digital video recorders, as a federal appeals court cleared the way Thursday for TiVo to collect hundreds of millions of dollars. TiVo shares jumped more than 50 percent.
Despite repeatedly losing, however, Dish said it will seek a review of the three-judge panel's decision by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
TiVo said the decision, if it stands, would let it collect at least $300 million from Dish -- about $100 million in damages and interest, and the rest in contempt sanctions that TiVo already has been awarded. That would be on top of about $100 million in damages that Dish had already paid TiVo in earlier litigation.
TiVo has struggled with being consistently profitable, and being able to collect such an amount would help get it into the black. TiVo came out with its DVR in 1999 and ''TiVo'' became a verb synonymous with recording TV, but it has faced intense competition from generic DVRs offered by Dish and other subscription TV providers.
The company also has sued AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., charging them with infringing on certain DVR patents. Microsoft Corp. has waded into the fight on AT&T's side.
''The courts have ruled in TiVo's favor numerous times over the past five years, which should help ... in the company's litigation against AT&T, Verizon, and Microsoft,'' Tony Wible, an analyst from Janney Montgomery Scott, said in a research note.
At issue is a TiVo patent on technology for storing and retrieving video on DVRs, which lets viewers pause, rewind and replay live TV. TiVo sued Dish in 2004 for patent infringement for using a similar technology on its DVRs, a case Dish lost on appeal. Dish paid TiVo $104.6 million in damages and interest and was barred from using the technology.
While the case was going on, Dish crafted a redesigned technology that it said did not infringe on TiVo's patent. But the U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas, disagreed and ordered Dish to pay TiVo additional damages -- this time at $103 million plus interest, along with about $200 million in contempt sanctions.
Dish appealed again, losing that bid on Thursday. Dish said that it is planning a second redesign of its technology and will seek approval from the district court to use it.
Dish said in a statement that it's disappointed in the ruling but gratified that one of the three appellate judges sided with its position and issued a dissenting opinion Thursday.
Two of the judges found that the lower court applied the right standard in analyzing whether Dish's redesigned technology still infringed on TiVo's patent. But the dissenting judge, Randall Rader, said the court is punishing a company that has made a good faith effort at a redesign.
Dish is counting on a better outcome if the entire appeals court grants the review it has requested.
Wible believes Dish would lose before the full appeals court as well and would end up paying a license fee to use TiVo's technology on Dish's DVRs or face having to disable the boxes. Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. already license TiVo's software.
Analysts have been perplexed at Dish's intransigent stance on TiVo, which Dish has repeatedly. But Dish has refused to give up.
TiVo said the $300 million it was awarded covers Dish's infringement through July 1. The Alviso, Calif.-based company said it will seek damages for Dish's continued infringement since then.
Last August, TiVo sued AT&T and Verizon over the same patent and two others that allow multiroom viewing and correct overshooting when viewers fast-forward TV. Microsoft, whose Mediaroom software is used in AT&T's set-top boxes, sued TiVo in January, alleging that TiVo has violated Microsoft patents related to such things as an on-screen TV guide.
Shares of TiVo rose $5.62, or 55 percent, to $15.83 in afternoon trading Thursday. Dish Network, based in Englewood, Colo., lost $1.01, or 4.7 percent, to $20.70.
Livestream: Zero Tolerance On Piracy
March 2, 2010: An Open Letter to Content and Event Owners Selecting their Live Streaming Partner
Livestream’s mission is to provide the premiere interactive live streaming platform for every event owner, broadcaster and premium rights holder in the music, movie, newspaper, radio and television industries.
The Piracy Problem
The availability of free live streaming services is unfortunately abused by many users broadcasting live, copyrighted content such as live sports, feature films and more (often rebroadcast from their television or cable box).
Such broadcasters infringe on the copyright of other individuals and corporations. Their actions are unlawful and hurt creative industries. In addition, they often monetize these streams through illegal pay-per-view, donation and subscription schemes on their websites.
* Livestream proactively prevents copyright infringement on its platform. This approach is a key differentiator in the way Livestream conducts its business and the reason why we have published our “Zero Tolerance on Piracy” policy.
* Livestream is not interested in artificial growth from illegal content.
* Livestream does not hide behind the pretense that due to content volume there is no practical solution other than the Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown process.
* The Livestream Content Verification Program is one of the ways we put our commitment into practice. Launched in February 2009, it limits all new free channels to 50 simultaneous viewers until they are manually authorized. This resulted in a temporary 40% traffic drop in 2009—which we quickly overcame by replacing illegal media with legitimate content. The Content Verification Program is an effective, scalable system for fighting piracy and led to a dramatic drop in infringing content.
* In 2008, Livestream pioneered the automated takedown tool used daily by rights holders such as Fox, Disney, NBA, MLB, NFL, UEFA, International Olympic Committee, WWE, UFC, Warner Bros., English Premiere League and British Sky Broadcasting. Under pressure from these and other rights holders, our competitors followed and now offer a similar tool.
Our objective in releasing the "Zero Tolerance on Piracy" policy is to inform our customers, advertisers, partners, policy makers and competitors about the real issues and practical solutions for copyright protection in an age of ubiquitous free live video on the internet. We bring a fresh approach to the table with proven, measurable results.
We sincerely hope that our competitors will follow our thought leadership to implement the same processes to prevent copyright infringement on their platforms, either with their own initiatives or under pressure from their users, rights holders, advertising networks and elected officials. We also extend an open invitation to our competitors to work together to further evolve piracy control processes and best practices.
Ultimately, our efforts will enhance the quality and value of the live streaming industry, as we support the content creators.
Choosing a Live Streaming Partner
Often, large rights holders such as movie studios, television networks or brands will see the content side of their business working with a live platform while the legal side is fighting preventable content infringement on the same platform. When the two sides of the company connect, the business side usually has to stop doing business with the competing platform under pressure from their internal legal department.
We strongly encourage rights holders to demand that their live streaming partner uphold similar or more stringent copyright infringement policies with demonstrable results.
The Incentive to Tolerate Illegal Content
Live streaming platforms can directly benefit from illegal streamers by hiding behind the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or implementing limited effectiveness "detection technologies," while continuing to benefit from the traffic this content generates in the following ways:
* revenues from viewer subscription fees to remove ads or get guaranteed access on a popular illegal stream,
* revenues from advertising on large-volume streams driven by illegal content,
* brand exposure for the platform logo in the player,
* links back to the platform website to increase traffic, exposure and Search Engine Optimization
* and mislead investors or content partners with inflated traffic numbers on measurement services such as Comscore/Quantcast/Alexa/Compete.
Some competitors have also gone as far as allowing popular illegal channels to be hidden from their guide so that the infringing channels are harder for rights holders to discover. We hope that they will react to this letter by implementing similar piracy control policies, instead of enhancing any hiding mechanisms. At Livestream, it is our policy not to hide popular channels. Please note that paying Livestream Premium customers can unpublish channels from our guide to create private broadcasts or exclusively broadcast on their website.
Compare Popular Live Streaming Platforms
Today, it is easy to investigate for yourself the effectiveness of each platform's copyright control policies by browsing the guides of some of the competing platforms during popular sports events in the US, Europe or South America:
* Justin.tv Most Popular Live Channels
* Ustream Most Popular Live Channels
* Livestream Most Popular Live Channels
TechCrunch also spoke on the subject:
How Serious Is Justin.tv About Fighting Live Broadcasting Piracy? (http://techcrunch.com/2009/12/15/justin-tv-piracy/)
Industry Background: Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Service providers such as Livestream and our competitors are protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Safe Harbor provision. This US law is designed to help service providers protect themselves against copyright violation by their users – as they cannot practically monitor all the content uploaded by every user. This law requires service providers to delete infringing content within 24 hours after receipt of a valid takedown notice from the rights owner. The window for live events is typically far shorter than 24 hours which is why the DMCA takedown as a sole process to prevent piracy and protect rights holders is not enough in our view.
While the DMCA is very important, at Livestream we have decided to go beyond its requirements and create policies to ensure we go as far as we can to practically reduce copyright infringement.
Read more on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital..._Copyright_Act
Industry Background: U.S. Government – House Judiciary Committee Hearing
Copyright issues related to live streaming platforms are considered serious enough to have prompted the U.S. Government to hold a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. on December 16, 2009 on the topic of “Live Sports Broadcast and Piracy.” Justin.tv’s CEO, alongside representatives from ESPN, UFC, MLB, and a University of Pennsylvania law professor, were invited to testify.
You can watch the recordings of the hearing on CSPAN’s web site:
* Video Part 1: http://www.c-spanarchives.org/program/290734-1
* Video Part 2: http://www.c-spanarchives.org/program/290734-2
Industry Background: Ustream Sued By Boxing Promoter Over Pirated Broadcast
In August 2009 TechCrunch reported that UStream.tv is being sued by a boxing promoter. No further news about the case has been made public, to our knowledge: http://techcrunch.com/2009/08/17/ust...ted-broadcast/
We hope that you will find this information helpful and we look forward to doing business with you.
Max Haot, CEO
RealNetworks Drops Fight to Sell DVD Copying Software
RealNetworks gave up Wednesday on its battle to sell RealDVD, software that allowed consumers to easily copy the content of DVDs to their computers.
Last August, a federal judge blocked the sale of the software, ruling in favor of Hollywood studios, which said RealNetworks had violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and misused its license to the vital DVD encryption software, called the Content Scramble System. RealNetworks appealed the court injunction and also pursued a related antitrust case against the movie industry.
On Wednesday, the parties settled the litigation — with RealNetworks of Seattle making all of the concessions. The company agreed to the injunction against selling the RealDVD software and said it would pay the studios $4.5 million in legal costs. RealNetworks will also refund the money paid by the approximately 2,700 existing customers of RealDVD.
“We are pleased to put this litigation behind us,” Bob Kimball, president and acting chief executive of RealNetworks, said in a statement. “This is another step toward fulfilling our commitment to simplify our company and focus on our core businesses.”
Jacob Pak, president of the DVD Copy Control Association, the industry group that controls licenses to DVD encryption technology, hailed the agreement. “Now, after months of arguments from both sides, the legal message is clear: making a DVD copier is a breach,” he said in a statement.
For Movie Stars, the Big Money Is Now Deferred
When Wolfgang Puck lays out the annual post-Oscar banquet in Hollywood on Sunday, he might want to think about doggie bags.
Movie stars, who not so long ago vied to make $20 million or even $25 million a picture, have seen their upfront salaries shrink in the last several years as DVD sales fell, star-driven vehicles stumbled at the box office and studios grew increasingly tightfisted.
How bad is it?
Most of the three-dozen or so top-billed actors in the 10 films up for best picture in this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, including blockbusters like “Up” and “Avatar,” appear to have received relatively minuscule upfront payments for their work.
When the estimated salaries of all 10 of the top acting nominees are combined, the total is only a little larger than the $20 million that went to Julia Roberts for her appearance in “Erin Brockovich,” a best-picture nominee in 2001, or to Russell Crowe for “Master and Commander,” nominated in 2004.
Peter Dekom, a film industry lawyer who co-wrote the book “Not on My Watch: Hollywood vs. the Future,” pegged the general devaluation of movie stars to a lack of interest among younger viewers.
“Stars don’t resonate with the ‘what’s next’ ” crowd, theorized Mr. Dekom. “They attract an over-30 audience, which is going to the movies less in an impaired economy.”
Specific salaries and deal terms are notoriously difficult to pin down. (The estimates are based on interviews with a dozen producers, agents and executives who were briefed on the various deals but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid conflict with the actors and companies involved.)
Producers and others behind this year’s best-picture candidates uniformly declined to comment or sidestepped queries about what their actors were paid.
“Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to be of any help,” Stan Rosenfield, a spokesman for George Clooney, said in response to a query about Mr. Clooney’s pay for his work in Paramount Pictures’ “Up in the Air.”
That film was made for about $25 million. It was possible only because Mr. Clooney, according to people briefed on the film’s finances but speaking anonymously to avoid conflict with the star or Paramount, took an initial fee that was roughly a tenth of the $20 million that Leonardo DiCaprio, a frequent Oscar contender, has received in the past.
Once upon a time, the biggest stars were rewarded with deals that paid them a percentage of so-called first-dollar gross receipts; that is, they began sharing in the profits from the first ticket sale, not waiting until the studio turned a profit. Now studios often insist that even top stars forgo large advance payments in return for a share of the profits after a studio has recouped its cash investment.
The fashionable deal now is called “CB zero.” It stands for “cash-break zero,” and refers to an arrangement under which the star or filmmaker begins collecting a share of profits after the studio has reached the break-even point.
Such deals can be extremely lucrative when they give stars a substantial share in home-video revenue. So Sandra Bullock, who cut her usual $10 million fee to just $5 million for “The Blind Side,” another of this year’s nominees, will eventually make $20 million or more from the movie because it was a hit. Mr. Clooney similarly stands to make additional millions when all the revenue from “Up in the Air” is finally counted.
A rare star, in rare circumstances, can still command the kind of deal that was more prevalent five years ago. Angelina Jolie, for instance, still receives $20 million for appearing in an action film like “Salt,” set for release in July by Columbia Pictures, according to two people who were briefed on her deal.
Geyer Kosinski, who manages Ms. Jolie, and a spokesperson for Columbia Pictures both declined to comment.
In this year’s best-picture roster, the star that attracted the largest upfront fee appears to be Brad Pitt, for his work in “Inglourious Basterds.” People briefed on that film’s finances put his initial payment at $10 million, with more to come from a participation in profits.
But Mr. Pitt’s co-stars and the stars of pictures as impressive as “The Hurt Locker,” which has emerged as a front-runner in the Oscar race after winning a series of professional society and critics’ awards, or “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” another nominee, often worked at or near guild minimums.
For the most part guild minimums are set in a provision of the Screen Actors Guild contract that Hollywood cognoscenti refer to as Schedule F. It requires than an actor receive at least $65,000 for work in a feature film. Overtime is negotiable. The actor must be fed and, at some point, allowed to rest.
The pay for a number of actors in “District 9,” “A Serious Man” and “An Education” was at or close to guild minimums, as each was made on a relatively low budget. As for the ultrahigh-budget “Avatar,” the highest paid appears to have been Sigourney Weaver, though she almost certainly worked for a small fraction of the $11 million she was reported to have been paid for “Alien: Resurrection” in 1997.
Zoë Saldana and Sam Worthington, meanwhile, got fees that were more than guild minimums but less than enough to make them feel financially secure, despite having acted in a picture with over $2.5 billion in ticket sales around the world.
“Every actor fears unemployment,” Mr. Worthington said in a January interview with The Herald Sun in Australia. He has continued to work frequently in forthcoming films like “Clash of the Titans” and “The Texas Killing Fields,” said Mr. Worthington, because it “beats sitting there waiting for the phone to ring thinking, give me some work I’ve got bills to pay.”
At least Mr. Worthington wasn’t scratching for fees in the animation world.
“I was paid for sessions,” said Ed Asner, a veteran actor who provided the voice for Carl Fredricksen, an aging adventurer in “Up,” a best-picture nominees. Typically, the eight or 10 sessions required of a voice actor might pay $50,000 — but only if the actor negotiates a guarantee that boosts his pay above union minimums that could yield only a third of that.
Still, Mr. Asner, who spoke by phone last week, said he ultimately received much more because the Walt Disney Company’s Pixar unit, which produced “Up,” augmented his small front-end fee with bonuses that came with the film’s success: it took in more than $723 million in ticket sales around the world.
“If it does well, you do well,” Mr. Asner said.
Box Office: 'Alice in Wonderland' on Track to Break all March Records
Disney Studios sure chose the right date with its March premiere of Alice in Wonderland. The Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaboration debuted Friday to close to $40 million, putting its 3-day cume in the range of $110-$120 million. That far surpasses the previous March record-holder, Warner Bros.’ 300 which opened to $71 million back in 2007. Overture Films’ release of the R-rated cop drama Brooklyn’s Finest bowed in similar fashion to the R-rated films of the past few weeks, earning an estimated $4 million on Friday for a early weekend estimate of $14 million.
R-rated thriller Shutter Island looks like it will drop an average 40% its third weekend in release, for a $4 million Friday and a $13 million three-day take. Last weekend’s debut Cop Out from Kevin Smith is likely to fall 50% for its sophomore session. The Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan combo generated around $3 million on Friday, putting its weekend total in the $9 million range. And Avatar has finally fallen like a normal film after 12 astounding weekends in the release. With Alice taking the majority of 3-D screens, Avatar is likely to lose close to 40% this frame with an almost $2 million Friday and a weekend take of a bit over $8 million. Check back here tomorrow when I post the final results.
Tethering is Exhilarating
I love my iPhone. That sentiment doubled the day I followed Nat Torkington’s pointer to Ten Second iPhone Tethering. Later that month I flew to Boston and basked in the freedom of having an Internet connection at the airport and hotel without paying wifi fees.
Then it all came crashing down. iPhone 3.1 came out. I had to choose between visual voicemail and tethering or consider jailbreaking my iPhone. Tech support in my household is limited (me) so I said goodbye to tethering. I’m back to paying hotels $10 per day to use their wifi, or signing up for a day of T-Mobile Hotspot usage at Starbucks.
Then I got my Nexus One. I really like it. It’s a huge improvement over the G1 I got last year. iPhone is still my dominant phone, but I carry the Nexus One and Palm Pre with me and am spending more time on the Nexus One.
I’m gearing up for some travel so revisited the topic of tethering. I was stunned when I spoke to AT&T tech support two days ago and they told me they support tethering. How did I miss this?! Then the guy said I had to jailbreak my iPhone. It seems weird to have tech support recommend jailbreaking. I guess that’s a result of the AT&T/Apple love/hate relationship. Same story with Palm Pre – gotta jailbreak it.
My hopes rose when I found articles saying you could tether with Nexus One. I installed PdaNet. That went smoothly. It works on Mac and Windows. I’m Mac at home but when I travel I take my Windows laptop, so that’s the critical platform for tethering. I’m always wary of new installations bogging down Windows, but PdaNetPC.exe is only 17M of memory and 0% of CPU when not in use, so I’m fine with that running in the background.
I tested it last night at home, but the real test was this morning. I stopped for coffee at Peets, booted up Windows, tethered my Nexus One, opened a ssh session, and drove to work. At every stoplight I verified my ssh session session was still active. I was reading email, surfing the Web. It was exhilarating. I know that’s incredibly geeky to say, but I revel in the freedom it gives me. +1 for tethering without jailbreaking. All smartphones should do this.
What Apple vs. HTC Could Mean
The lawsuit that Apple filed on Tuesday against HTC, the mobile handset maker, opens up a lot of questions about the future of Android phones like the Nexus One and the cellphone market in general.
But it could also have an effect on consumers, specifically those who have purchased HTC Android phones.
Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School, outlines a similar case in his book “The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It.” In 2004, TiVo sued the satellite TV distributor EchoStar, accusing the company of infringing on its patent on DVR technology. After some drawn-out litigation, TiVo ended up winning the case, and a Texas judge ordered EchoStar to disable the DVR functions on most of its set-top boxes. An appeals court is reviewing the matter.
“The judge simply ordered EchoStar to connect to the DVR boxes via the Web and destroy the functionality,” Mr. Zittrain told me in an interview. “Patent law is a completely different universe online. That means if the court were to side with Apple and issue an injunction that insists HTC kill the phone, or at least some of its functionality, they easily could.”
A ruling that would call on HTC to kill the whole phone does seem highly unlikely, especially given the prominence of the companies involved.
Stephen Lieb, an intellectual property lawyer at Frommer Lawrence & Haug, said courts had recently moved away from these kinds of injunctions. Now, he said, they take into account the effect of banning a service or product on the marketplace, and on the public interest.
“Courts are going to be very careful about crafting an injunction here,” Mr. Lieb said, “but before we even see this happen, it’s pretty likely that HTC, or even Google, will file a countersuit.”
Apple has a bigger strategy at work here. It filed its suit with the United States District Court in Delaware, but also with the United States International Trade Commission, and it could ask the commission to halt shipments of infringing HTC phones that are coming into the United States.
So why did Apple sue HTC and not Google? Mr. Zittrain believes Apple is simply going after a less powerful company first, one with much smaller pockets than Google.
“It clearly involves some form of litigation strategy of picking off the weaker members of the herd first,” Mr Zittrain said. “They can always add Google to the suit later on.”
Many lawyers I spoke with believe this case will end up being settled out of court before it goes that far.
David H. Levitt, a partner in the Chicago law office of Hinshaw & Culbertso, points to an earlier case in which Research in Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, were sued by a patent owner and lost the case. Mr. Levitt said questions arose about whether “BlackBerry owners were going to have their phones shut down as a result of R.I.M.’s patent infringement.” In the end R.I.M. settled.
“These cases can last many years, sometimes 5 or 10, and can be extremely costly,” Mr. Levitt said. “It’s much more cost effective to settle.”
Eric Von Hippel, a professor of technological innovation at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, noted that “only 5 percent of these types of cases actually go through the judicial system.” Even for a company like Apple, he said, they are just too expensive.
Mr. Von Hippel also said that these lawsuits pointed to a bigger problem with the patent system. “It’s a bad scene right now. The social value of patents was supposed to be to encourage innovation — that’s what society gets out of it,” he said. “The net effect is that they decrease innovation, and in the end, the public loses out.”
In Favor of Software Patents
(Editor’s note: Alain Ranaud is the founder of FairSoftware. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
With all that’s going on with Apple and HTC, it may not be a popular opinion these days, but I think software patents are legitimate.
They’re just a little flawed.
The problem, you see, is their length. Seventeen years of monopoly is an eternity in Internet time. Instead, software patents should only be valid for seven years.
This would be the least disruptive change to the system, allowing companies to protect their intellectual property without overly burdening the general public with bogus patents.
Patent trolls would generally disappear, because a loophole in the current patent system allows them to wait for a technology to spread before retro-actively patenting it. If software patents were good for just seven years, these parasites would either have to claim a more recent priority date and face a lot of prior art, or keep their early filing date and be left with obsolete patents.
For instance, the patent on wireless messaging technology used to sue Apple and others was filed in 2005 - well after the invention it describes became common knowledge. However, through the continuation-in-part loophole, it pretends to have the same protection from the law as if it had been invented 10 years prior. By filing late, patent trolls can make sure that their patents cover the hot technology of the day, and later claim that they invented it. And it’s legal.
So why not get rid of software patents completely?
I don’t buy the argument that just because it’s software, it can’t be inventive. A position that aims to eliminate all patents might be more consistent, but I’d point to China, where piracy runs rampant, as an indicator of what would happen. Too many entrepreneurs have seen their design copied by their Chinese manufacturing partners.
While I’d like to reduce the duration of patents for software, I recognize there are some areas that the 15-year limit makes sense. The research investment that goes into making a software patent is small compared to, say, something in the biotech field. It makes sense for drug manufacturers have a monopoly for 15 years, for instance, since that’s how slowly that industry moves.
A more flexible patent system – one that has a range on patent lengths depending on industry – would be a huge improvement and is the most pragmatic approach to solving the patent crisis.
I like the notion that someone can get points for being extra smart once in their life. I don’t, however, like how easy it is to manipulate the current system. You can’t patent something that is obvious to someone who knows the topic well.
Patents are meant for amazing new technologies, for that brilliant idea that elegantly solves a problem people have been having for years (yet no one had solved in that manner previously). That deserves something.
Like a patent.
AT&T CEO Sees iPad Mostly Used on Wi-Fi
AT&T Inc expects users of Apple Inc's iPad to connect to the Internet mostly using short-range Wi-Fi networks rather than AT&T's cellular network, the chief executive of AT&T said on Tuesday.
While AT&T has agreed to provide wireless connections to the iPad tablet computer, Randall Stephenson said he does not expect the device to result in many new service subscriptions for AT&T as consumers will instead use Wi-Fi or prepaid services, where they do not have to sign a service contract.
"My expectation is that there's not going to be a lot of people out there looking for another subscription," he said during a webcast of an investor conference, adding that the device would be a mainly "Wi-Fi driven product."
Many consumers have their own Wi-Fi networks at home or go to coffee shops where they can avail of free Wi-Fi.
When asked about AT&T's exclusive rights to U.S. sales of Apple's iPhone, Stephenson said iPhone would be "an important part" of AT&T's phone line up "for quite some period of time."
But he did not comment on timing related to the exclusivity agreement, which has helped AT&T win customers from rivals such as market leader Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.
Some analysts expect the exclusivity agreement with Apple to end this year, but others expect AT&T to do anything it takes to extend the deal because iPhone is integral to its growth.
AT&T has admitted to network problems in markets such as New York City and San Francisco where there are a large number of bandwidth hungry iPhone users.
Stephenson said the company would show considerable improvements in its network in those metropolitan areas.
"We've got a ways to go, but we think this quarter will really move the needle considerably in both of these markets," he said.
Stephenson expects changes in how the wireless industry prices its mobile data services going forward, with heavy data users being charged more. Smartphone users currently pay a monthly fee of about $30 for unlimited data.
"For the industry, we'll progressively move toward more of what I call variable pricing so the heavy (use) consumers will pay more than the lower consumers," Stephenson said.
He expects the Federal Communications Commission to focus on how to push mobile broadband further when it announces a National Broadband plan later this month.
Stephenson also said he was optimistic about how the telecom regulator would deal with the issue of net neutrality - the idea that carriers should not be able to control which Web services consumers can access.
"I'm actually fairly optimistic net neutrality will land at a reasonable place," Stephenson said.
But he questioned how the FCC would achieve its proposed goal of putting Internet connections of 100 megabits per second to U.S. homes.
"If the objectives are 100 megabits capability to every home in the United States that is going to require a lot of investment. To drive that kind of investment will require a redirecting of the subsidies that exist today," he said.
AT&T shares closed down 12 cents at $24.88 on New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew)
Opera Releases Speedy Windows Mobile Browser
Opera Mini is a popular browser among owners of what the mobile industry calls feature phones — the models that aren’t powerful smartphones. Oslo, Norway-based Opera claims 50 million users worldwide for the browser, which uses data compression techniques to reduce the size of Web page downloads. Compressing the data saves both download time and data plan costs.
Today, the company announced a custom Windows version of Opera Mini that runs “native” on Windows phones. That means instead of using the phone’s Java engine atop the Windows Mobile operating system, the program has been compiled to run directly on Windows as a standalone application, just like Microsoft’s mobile version of Internet Explorer.
The benefits are dual: The native version is faster, and it has familiar Windows UI controls rather than device-independent Java buttons and menus.
In a press release, Opera vice president of products Dag Olav Norem took a swipe at Microsoft’s Internet Explorer: “Windows Mobile deserves a mobile browser that looks better, handles better and delivers better than the default browser.”
Opera also developed a version of its browser for the iPhone, but it’s probably not actually going to be available on the popular device anytime soon.
Why DRM Doesn’t Work
Ubisoft’s New DRM Cracked in Under 24-Hours
Good morning peoples. Now that the news has spread like wildfire, Ubisoft is finally issuing a response and it is predictably vague. So vague that I am inclined to believe their statement doesn’t hold much water or truth. Is it possible some aspect of the game is missing? Sure. Is it likely? No, not given how Ubisoft designed Silent Hunter V, meaning it’s not an MMO and it’s world doesn’t exist on a 3rd-party server. If Ubisoft really wants to defeat piracy, may I suggest that your next game be called Silent Hunter Online? Problem solved.
Also know that Ubisoft basically admitted this was possible only one week ago in an interview with PC Gamer, Ubisoft was asked what would happen in the future if Ubisoft took the servers down; how would players be able to continue playing the game?
Response: “If for some reason, and this is not in the plan, but if for some reason all of the servers someday go away, then we can release a patch so that the game can be played in single-player without an online connection. But that’s if all of the servers are gone.”
Translation: If a patch can be made in the future…a patch can be made right now, by hackers.
Here’s Ubisoft’s “please believe us” statement:
“You have probably seen rumors on the web that Assassin’s Creed II and Silent Hunter 5 have been cracked. Please know that this rumor is false and while a pirated version may seem to be complete at start up, any gamer who downloads and plays a cracked version will find that their version is not complete.”
Ubisoft made serious waves when they announced a new DRM policy for all new PC titles, beginning with Silent Hunter 5 and Assassin’s Creed 2. The new scheme UbiSoft hoped would thwart piracy requires all legitimate users to have a permanent Internet connection that continuously authenticates a copy of the game. Additionally, save game files are now stored on UbiSoft servers. This new system has angered long-time fans who are rightfully pissed off that this new procedure will undermine the integrity of their game, i.e., lose Internet connection and you can’t play the game, or Ubisoft servers take a hike and you’re left holding your dick.
Well, Ubisoft’s master plan has collapsed in under 24-hours, as infamous cracker group Skid-Row has tackled the new DRM and rendered it useless, meaning the only people now suffering with this ridiculous DRM are legitimate owners.
Silent Hunter NFO:
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Üþ Þ² ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÛÛÜ ± Û
Û ÜÛß Û ² Û
ßßß ° Û The Skid Rowdies are looking new blood to fill up the ranks. Û Û
± Û We're a professional team of dedicated sceners with big mark Û Û
Û Û under sceners. We believe on the ground idealism of the root Û Û
Û Û of the real old school scene. We do all this for fun and Û Û
Û Û nothing else. We don't earn anything on our hobby, as we do Û Û
Û Û this for the competition and the heart of what got the scene Û Û
Û Û started in the mid eighties. Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û If you think you got something to offer, then don't hold back Û Û
Û Û on contacting us as soon as possible. Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û _______ __ ___ _____ /__ Û Û
Û Û / |/ /_/_| _ / /_ / / Û Û
Û Û / /| / / //| | //_// / / / / / / Û Û
Û Û / | / | |_ / / / /_/ / /// / Û Û
Û Û ____/|_|___/|___/ / /_/_/__/_/____/ Û Û
Û Û twice the fun / double the trouble Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û ÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄ ÄÄ Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û On with the game release information: Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û Silent Hunter 5 hails the return of the number one submarine Û Û
Û Û simulation. For the first time the player will be able to play Û Û
Û Û & feel as U-boat captain leading his crew from a first person Û Û
Û Û view in a true dynamic campaign. Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û Operate against Allied shipping on a vast area all across the Û Û
Û Û Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea and participate in famous Û Û
Û Û encounters with strong enemy warships. Can you do better than Û Û
Û Û the best U-boat aces? Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û Silent Hunter 5 raises the levels of interactivity and Û Û
Û Û immersion inside the U-boat and outside Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û For the first time the player will walk through highly Û Û
Û Û detailed submarines in FPS view and be able to access every Û Û
Û Û inside & outside part of the U-boot Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û With the help of an advanced order system the player will Û Û
Û Û interact with the submarine crew, watch them doing their daily Û Û
Û Û jobs and experience the tension & fear inside the U-boot. Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û Player actions will impact the outcome of battles and the Û Û
Û Û scenario evolution in campaign. Depending on his approach the Û Û
Û Û player can open new locations with upgrade and resupply Û Û
Û Û possibilities, while the Allied response adjusts dynamically Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û ° Û °
ßÛ²ßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßÛÛßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßß ßßßßßßßß ßßß ß
ßÛÝ Install Notes: ßÛÜ ° Û
Üþ Þ² ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÛÛÜ ± Û
Û ÜÛß Û ² Û
ßßß ° Û 1. Unpack release Û Û
± Û 2. Mount image or burn it Û Û
Û Û 3. Install Û Û
Û Û 4. Copy the content from the SKIDROW folder on the DVD to your Û Û
Û Û installation directory and overwrite Û Û
Û Û 5. Play the game Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û Additinal Notes: Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û Don't install/use Ubisoft launcher, or simply block any Û Û
Û Û connection to internet. Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û Install game and copy crack, it's that simple! Û Û
Û Û Û Û
Û Û Support the companies, which software you actually enjoy! Û Û
Google Wants U.S. to Weigh WTO Challenge to China Censorship
The Obama administration is weighing the merits of taking China’s censorship of Google Inc. to the World Trade Organization as an unfair barrier to trade.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office is reviewing legal arguments advanced by two groups with links to Google, spokeswoman Carol Guthrie said. The Computer & Communications Industry Association and the First Amendment Coalition say China’s restrictions on Web access and content discriminate against U.S. Internet companies and online commerce.
Going to the WTO is “well worth consideration,” Nicole Wong, deputy general counsel of Google, operator of the most popular Internet search site, told reporters after a congressional hearing in Washington yesterday. Using censorship “in a manner that favors domestic Internet companies goes against basic international trade principles,” Wong told lawmakers.
Google will stop censoring results as required by the government in China, the company said Jan. 12 after what it called an infiltration of its technology and the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
The Obama administration sided with Mountain View, California-based Google. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Jan. 20 that China is among countries “walling themselves off” from progress by restricting Web access.
“‘We are looking at that,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in an interview with Bloomberg Radio on Feb. 23, when asked about the proposal to take a case against China to the WTO, the Geneva-based trade arbiter. “It’s less of a trade issue than it is a freedom of information issue.”
Google rose $8.37, or 1.6 percent, to $541.06 yesterday in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading and has dropped 13 percent this year.
While going to the WTO would put a spotlight on China’s Internet policies, it wouldn’t be likely to provide a speedy resolution. Trade disputes before the WTO can take two years or more to litigate and appeal.
“It’s a shrewd strategy,” said Susan Aaronson, a professor of trade policy at George Washington University in Washington. “Yes, it’s slower, but you force them to defend this in a public setting, and China is going to look bad.”
China is the world’s biggest Internet market, with 384 million Web users at the end of 2009, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, a government agency that registers online domain names.
Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, didn’t return a telephone message. The Chinese government has said it doesn’t engage in cyber attacks and is itself a victim of breaches of Internet security.
Must Cite Rule
The U.S. trade office has asked the First Amendment Coalition to provide more information on a paper it submitted in January outlining legal precedents for attacking China’s Internet curbs at the WTO, Gilbert Kaplan, the group’s lawyer, said in an interview. Google’s Wong is on the group’s board of directors, and referred to its filing when asked about a potential WTO complaint.
The trade case may not be an easy one to make, said Warren Maruyama, the former general counsel of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
“Censorship per se is not a violation of the WTO,” said Maruyama, a partner at Hogan & Hartson LLP in Washington. “You would have to show the violation of some specific WTO rule.”
Authorities in China censor online content deemed critical of the government by shutting domestic Web sites and blocking access to ones based overseas, including those of Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. It also forces search engines to limit results for terms such as Tiananmen Square, the Beijing landmark where government troops clashed with protestors in 1989.
The two industry groups are arguing to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office that the Chinese restrictions on the Internet discriminate against U.S. companies while favoring domestic businesses, in violation of commitments China made when it joined the WTO in 2001. China’s Web filtering and firewall rules act as administrative barriers to compete, and aren’t applied in a uniform and impartial way, the groups say.
“Chinese censorship and blockage accomplished with the use of this wall prevents freedom of access guaranteed by the WTO,” the First Amendment Coalition, based in San Rafael, California, said in a filing to the trade office in January. That “forces U.S. and other foreign companies to put their hardware and servers in China or face degraded performance, making their sites unusable.”
The First Amendment Coalition, which has lawyers and journalists on its board, provides consultations to reporters, litigates free-speech cases, advocates for access to government information and pushes for open access to information worldwide.
Among members of the Computer & Communications Industry Association are Google, Microsoft Corp., eBay Inc. and Red Hat Inc. The Washington-based group pushes for open computer networks in both domestic and international markets.
A ruling by a WTO panel in a case brought by the U.S. against Chinese trading and distribution services for books and recordings would help bolster the case against China, the groups said.
Public and private pressures could be exerted on China instead of going to the WTO or while a case is pending, said James Lewis, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former U.S. diplomat. The U.S. could name Chinese companies it believes are tied to breaking into computer systems and urge U.S. companies not to do business with them, he said.
“We have been timid in responding to cyber-espionage,” Lewis, a former U.S. official working on these issues, said in an interview. “But first you have to make up your mind that you are going to go after them. It’s a point they know they are vulnerable on.”
Internet Cafe Ban Call Draws Chinese Hacker Wrath
One woman taking part in China's annual parliamentary meetings has learned that law-making has its drawbacks -- especially when you provoke savvy web users.
After Yan Qi, a member of China's legislative advisory body, said she would propose a nationwide ban on private Internet cafes, hackers paralysed the website of her restaurant chain, state media reported Thursday.
Yan, whose business is based in the southwest city of Chongqing, had blamed Internet cafes for social ills ranging from school truancy and petty theft to video game addiction, the Global Times newspaper reported.
"Many serious problems are linked to Internet cafes and businesspeople usually ignore their social responsibilities," Yan was quoted as saying.
"Desperate diseases must have drastic cures, which is to ban them all."
Yan was to propose the ban at the annual gathering of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which began Wednesday, suggesting that state-run cybercafes should be set up.
Chinese hackers vented their anger by repeatedly hacking into the website of her restaurant chain, Taoranju, changing the home page and removing links.
An employee told the newspaper the website had "become a target for everyone" and despite repeated attempts to repair it, the attacks were expected to continue until the controversy dies down.
The restaurateur is one of 2,374 hand-picked members of the CPPCC that includes athletes, billionaires, film stars and farmers. Former Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang and director Zhang Yimou are among the delegates.
The body has no real legislative power, but in theory advises China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People?s Congress.
China is home to the world's largest web population, with 384 million people online. The country has more than 81,000 Internet cafes with 4.7 million computers.
Comcast’s BitTorrent Settlement Excludes Pirates
A few weeks ago Comcast decided to settle one of the class action lawsuits brought against the ISP in response to its BitTorrent throttling actions. Affected users can now claim their part of the $16 million fund that was setup, but only if they state under penalty of perjury that BitTorrent was never used to download copyrighted content.
After more than two years, Comcast’s BitTorrent throttling practices and their implications for Net Neutrality are still making the headlines. The company still refuses to admit its wrongdoings and prefers to make its own rules for how the Internet should be regulated.
Their decision to prevent BitTorrent users from sharing content over their network has sparked the Net Neutrality debate, resulting in an FCC investigation and various lawsuits. One of these suits was settled last month.
Comcast agreed to put $16m into a fund to pay BitTorrent users that were affected by the ‘network management’ which made it impossible for them to share files after their downloads had completed.
Each of the affected users can now claim their $16 in damages, but those who do are required to state to the Court, under penalty of perjury, that their use of BitTorrent “was for lawful purpose consistent with applicable copyright and other laws.” This required statement came as an unpleasant surprise to many affected Comcast users.
“Am I supposed to be able to remember everything I downloaded during that period, and be cognizant of the copyright status of those items not only then, but now?” one worried Comcast user told TorrentFreak. “I certainly do not think that sixteen dollars is enough incentive to possibly suffer the penalties of committing unwitting federal perjury.”
Other Comcast users will have to agree with this assessment, simply because it is often not clear when one is violating copyright law. For example, there is still a large portion of BitTorrent users who think that downloading a TV-show that they could have watched for free on TV, is not a crime.
It wouldn’t surprise us if a large portion of the $16 million fund is left unclaimed because of this required statement, saving Comcast a significant amount of money.
That leads us to the question why was included in the first place. It somehow suggests that Comcast was attempting to stop copyright infringement with their throttling practices, aside from the network management purpose it served. Maybe they just want to hang on to their money.
Whatever the motivation to include this option, it is completely irrelevant to the case itself. Comcast has never used copyright infringement as a justification for stopping BitTorrent traffic, so the lawfulness of the traffic should not be an issue.
First Web Copyright Crackdown Coming
A coalition of traditional and digital publishers this month will launch the first-ever concerted crackdown on copyright pirates on the web, initially targeting violators who use large numbers of intact articles.
Details of the crackdown were provided by Jim Pitkow, the chief executive of Attributor, a Silicon Valley start-up that has been selected as the agent for several publishers who want to be compensated by websites that are using their content without paying licensing fees.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Pitkow declined to identify the individual publishers in his coalition, but said they include “about a dozen” organizations representing wire services, traditional print publishers and “top-tier blog networks.”
The first offending sites to be targeted will be those using 80% or more of copyrighted stories more than 10 times per month.
In the first stage of a multi-step process aimed at encouraging copyright compliance instead of punishing scofflaws, Pitkow said online publishers identified by his company will be sent a letter informing them of the violations and urging them to enter into license agreements with the publishers whose content appears on their sites.
If copyright pirates refuse to pay, Attributor will request the major search engines to remove offending pages from search results and will ask banner services to stop serving ads to pages containing unauthorized content. The search engines and ad services are required to immediately honor such requests by the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
If the above efforts fail, Attributor will ask hosting services to take down pirate sites. Because hosting services face legal liability under the DCMA if they do not comply, they will act quickly, said Pitkow.
“We are not going after past damages” from sites running unauthorized content said Pitkow. The emphasis, he said is “to engage with publishers to bring them into compliance” by getting them to agree to pay license fees to copyright holders in the future.
License fees, which are set by each of the individual organizations producing content, may range from token sums for a small publisher to several hundred dollars for yearlong rights to a piece from a major publisher, said Pitkow.
Attributor identifies copyright violators by scraping the web to find copyrighted content on unauthorized sites. A team of investigators will contact violators in an effort to bring them into compliance or, alternatively, begin taking action under DMCA.
Offshore sites will not be immune from the crackdown, said Pitkow, because almost all of them depend on banner ads served by U.S.-based services. Because the DMCA requires the ad service to act against any violator, Attributor says it can interdict the revenue lifeline at any offending site in the world.
Attributor already has been engaged by several major book publishers to get unauthorized eBooks off unauthorized sites. “And we have 99% success rate,” he said.
Until next week,
Current Week In Review
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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.
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