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Old 04-03-09, 08:55 AM   #1
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - March 7th, '09

Since 2002

"It seems to be pretty much following a recent trend that we've been seeing -- that there is at least a qualified right to speak anonymously on the Internet." – Sam Bayard

"Clearly, if the police are able to search a person's home without anyone being present, the police will be in the position to plant evidence." – Terry O'Gorman

March 7th, 2009

Media Need Not Reveal Web Posters' Identities

Ruling Applies 1st Amendment to Internet
Aaron C. Davis

Operators of newspaper Web sites, blogs and chat rooms that allow readers to post anonymous comments using pseudonyms do not have to readily reveal the posters' identities in defamation suits, Maryland's highest court ruled yesterday, further shaping an emerging area of First Amendment law in the Internet age.

The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling and ordered that NewsZap.com, an online forum run by Independent Newspapers, does not have to disclose the identities of forum participants who engaged in an online exchange about the cleanliness of a Dunkin' Donuts shop in 2006.

Zebulon J. Brodie, an Eastern Shore businessman, had contended that the anonymous posters -- using such screen names as "CorsicaRiver" and "Born & Raised Here" -- had defamed him in comments about his Centreville restaurant.

The Appeals Court ruled that Brodie had not correctly identified the forum participants and, therefore, was not entitled to learn of their identities.

More broadly, however, the court used the case to recommend a strict, five-step process for judges to follow "to balance the First Amendment right to anonymous speech on the Internet with the opportunity on the part of the object of that speech to seek judicial redress for alleged defamation."

The process, which closely matches one set out by a New Jersey court in 2002, requires a plaintiff claiming defamation from an online comment to try to notify the anonymous poster that the person is the subject of a subpoena -- including by posting a message on the relevant online message board.

The plaintiff must then identify in court filings the exact statements purportedly made by each anonymous poster, as well as show how those comments have caused damage.

Maryland's court also went further than New Jersey's, adding that the plaintiff might have to provide specific evidence supporting each element of the defamation claim. Finally, it indicated that judges also have to balance the anonymous poster's right of free speech against the need to disclose a defendant's identity.

Sam Bayard, assistant director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School, said that, taken together, this and other recent state court cases show a convergence of law surrounding the right to online anonymity.

"It seems to be pretty much following a recent trend that we've been seeing -- that there is at least a qualified right to speak anonymously on the Internet," Bayard said. "Courts are going to require the plaintiff or others seeking identities to make a heightened showing that they have a valid cause of action."

Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group that argued the case for Independent Newspapers, agreed. "It's obviously a reaffirmation of the right to speak anonymously," he said, adding that the right is increasingly important as more people post comments online.

"The media are looking to the online world as a place to convey their information and to draw readers into participation and exchanges about what's going on because that leads to increased readership interest in their sites," Levy said.

"In a lot of cases, [the comments] are either hyperbole or just opinion," he said. "But if accusations are of something the community would regard as wrongdoing and you can show that it's false and the damage it's caused, [the court ruling] is saying you then go and proceed" with court action. The Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive and several other media organizations filed a brief in support of Independent Newspapers.

E. Sean Poltrack, a lawyer for Brodie, said in an e-mail that he had not yet read the ruling last night, so any comment would be premature.

German Court Fines Man $2,300 for SMS Message

A court in Germany fined a man 1,800 euros ($2,300) for inadvertently passing on an SMS text message which told the recipient they had just killed a Turk by opening it, his lawyer said Friday.

Shortly before Germany defeated Turkey in last year's Euro 2008 soccer tournament, the 28-year-old sent a message that in German read "by opening this SMS, you have killed a Turk."

The recipient was also urged to forward the SMS to encourage a "clean" tournament, landing the man in court charged with inciting racial hatred, his lawyer Karl Laible said Friday. About 3 percent of Germany's population are of Turkish origin.

However, the court in the southern town of Lindau dropped the charge -- which could have led to a prison sentence -- in exchange for the fine due to uncertainty about the accusation and the man's motive, he told Reuters.

The man had been forwarded the message and accidentally sent it to the name at the top of his phone's address book last June, Laible said, adding that he had done so only once.

"The only reason the SMS became known about was because the home of the man he sent it to was searched by police. His mobile was confiscated and that's when the SMS was found."

"It's a farcical story really: my client is a conscientious objector and his brother-in-law is a Turk," Laible said.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Docs Seek Gag Orders to Stop Patients' Reviews
Lindsey Tanner

The anonymous comment on the Web site RateMDs.com was unsparing: "Very unhelpful, arrogant," it said of a doctor. "Did not listen and cut me off, seemed much too happy to have power (and abuse it!) over suffering people." Such reviews are becoming more common as consumer ratings services like Zagat's and Angie's List expand beyond restaurants and plumbers to medical care, and some doctors are fighting back.

They're asking patients to agree to what amounts to a gag order that bars them from posting negative comments online.

"Consumers and patients are hungry for good information" about doctors, but Internet reviews provide just the opposite, contends Dr. Jeffrey Segal, a North Carolina neurosurgeon who has made a business of helping doctors monitor and prevent online criticism.

Some sites "are little more than tabloid journalism without much interest in constructively improving practices," and their sniping comments can unfairly ruin a doctor's reputation, Segal said.

Segal said such postings say nothing about what should really matter to patients — a doctor's medical skills — and privacy laws and medical ethics prevent leave doctors powerless to do anything it.

His company, Medical Justice, is based in Greensboro, N.C. For a fee, it provides doctors with a standardized waiver agreement. Patients who sign agree not to post online comments about the doctor, "his expertise and/or treatment."

"Published comments on Web pages, blogs and/or mass correspondence, however well intended, could severely damage physician's practice," according to suggested wording the company provides.

Segal's company advises doctors to have all patients sign the agreements. If a new patient refuses, the doctor might suggest finding another doctor. Segal said he knows of no cases where longtime patients have been turned away for not signing the waivers.
Doctors are notified when a negative rating appears on a Web site, and, if the author's name is known, physicians can use the signed waivers to get the sites to remove offending opinion.

RateMd's postings are anonymous, and the site's operators say they do not know their users' identities. The operators also won't remove negative comments.

Angie's List's operators know the identities of users and warn them when they register that the site will share names with doctors if asked.

Since Segal's company began offering its service two years ago, nearly 2,000 doctors have signed up. In several instances, he said, doctors have used signed waivers to get sites to remove negative comments.

John Swapceinski, co-founder of RateMDs.com, said that in recent months, six doctors have asked him to remove negative online comments based on patients' signed waivers. He has refused.

"They're basically forcing the patients to choose between health care and their First Amendment rights, and I really find that repulsive," Swapceinski said.

He said he's planning to post a "Wall of Shame" listing names of doctors who use patient waivers.

Segal, of Medical Justice, said the waivers are aimed more at giving doctors ammunition against Web sites than against patients. Still, the company's suggested wording warns that breaching the agreement could result in legal action against patients.

Attorney Jim Speta, a Northwestern University Internet law specialist, questioned whether such lawsuits would have much success.

"Courts might say the balance of power between doctors and patients is very uneven" and that patients should be able to give feedback on their doctors' performance, Speta said.

Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, said her company surveyed more than 1,000 of its consumer members last month, and most said they had never been presented with a waiver; 3 percent said they would sign one.

About 6,000 doctors reviewed on the Angie's List site also were asked to comment. Only 74 responded, and about a fifth of them said they would consider using them.

Lenore Janecek, who formed a Chicago-based patient-advocacy group after being wrongly diagnosed with cancer, said she opposes the waivers.

"Everyone has the right to speak up," she said.

While she's never posted comments about her doctors, she said the sites are one of the few resources patients have to evaluate physicians.

The American Medical Association has taken no position on patient waivers, but President Dr. Nancy Nielsen has said previously that online doctor ratings sites "have many shortcomings."

Online doctor reviews "should be taken with a grain of salt, and should certainly not be a patient's sole source of information when looking for a new physician," she said.

Dr. Lauren Streicher, a Chicago gynecologist, got a glowing recent review on Angie's List, but also remembers a particularly snarky rating from a patient angry about getting brisk treatment after arriving 30 minutes late to her appointment.

She said she sympathizes with doctors who ask patients to sign a waiver.

Streicher said she has seen shoddy doctors praised online who she would not trust "to deliver my mail much less my baby." Conversely, bad reviews can destroy good doctors' careers, she said.

"Are there bad doctors out there? Absolutely, but this is not a good way to figure it out," Streicher said.

Research Copyright Bill Would End Free Health Info
Megha Satyanarayana

Like many parents of children with a chronic illness, Sally Nantais of Wyandotte invests a lot of time looking into ways to help her 17-year-old son, Austin, battle Fragile X Syndrome.

That hunt often leads her to PubMed Central, a government Web site where everyone has free access to many federally-funded studies.

But a new bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., would make it tough and costly to get to those studies. The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act would reverse a National Institutes of Health policy set last year that held that the public should not have to pay to see the results of medical research funded with taxpayer dollars. The bill would prevent other agencies from making similar rules regarding free public access to published studies.

The bill, still in committee, has patient advocates, scientists, librarians and others up in arms.

"I'm concerned I'm going to lose something very vital to me to help my son," Nantais said.

Others fear that if the bill becomes law, cutting-edge information will stop moving freely among the people who create medical breakthroughs and the people who benefit from them.

The reasoning behind the bill has puzzled observers who note that Conyers is a staunch advocate of universal health care. He has a history of pushing for laws that strengthen copyright protections, too.

In more than a half dozen phone calls and e-mails this week, Conyers' office was asked for comment about the bill, but did not respond by Wednesday night.

When scientists make a discovery, once other scientists review the information, it can be published in a journal.

The journals charge subscription and reprint fees that are too expensive for small schools and libraries, said Paul Courant, dean of libraries at the University of Michigan.

Current law requires scientists to submit NIH-funded work to PubMed Central when it is accepted for publication in a journal. It's free to the public after one year.

The bill would keep studies protected under journals' copyrights, often for decades, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.

"I don't think there's a good thing to say about this bill. It's basically a corporate giveaway," said Jessica Litman, a copyright law professor at U-M. "The people own it, they shouldn't have to pay to see it again."

Copyright Challenge for Sites That Excerpt
Brian Stelter

When the popular New York business blog Silicon Alley Insider quoted a quarter of Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column in mid-February, the editor added a caveat at the end: “We thank Dow Jones in advance for allowing us to bring it to you.”

The editor added “in advance” because Dow Jones, the publisher of The Journal, had not given the blog permission to use the column. The excerpt was published with the assumption that it would be permitted under the “fair use” statute of copyright law.

Generally, the excerpts have been considered legal, and for years they have been welcomed by major media companies, which were happy to receive links and pass-along traffic from the swarm of Web sites that regurgitate their news and information.

But some media executives are growing concerned that the increasingly popular curators of the Web that are taking large pieces of the original work — a practice sometimes called scraping — are shaving away potential readers and profiting from the content.

With the Web’s advertising engine stalling just as newspapers are under pressure, some publishers are second-guessing their liberal attitude toward free content.

“A lot of news organizations are saying, ‘We’re not willing to accept the tiny fraction of a penny that we get from the page views that these links are sending in,’ ” said Joshua Benton, the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. “They think they need to defend their turf more aggressively.”

Copyright infringement lawsuits directed at bloggers and other online publishers seem to be on the rise. David Ardia, the director of the Citizen Media Law Project, said his colleagues kept track of 16 such suits in 2007. In 2004 and 2005, it monitored three such suits each year. And newspapers sometimes send cease-and-desist orders to sites that they believe have crossed the line.

Some publishers complained last week when Google News, a site that aggregates headlines from thousands of news sources, added advertising to its search results.

Last December, GateHouse Media sued The New York Times Company, alleging copyright infringement after local sites associated with The Boston Globe, a Times Company newspaper, copied the headlines and lead sentences of GateHouse’s newspaper articles. The case was settled out of court in January.

In another case, which is pending, The Associated Press sued the online news distributor All Headline News last year, saying that it had improperly copied A.P. articles.

The legal disputes are emblematic of a larger question that has emerged from the Internet’s link economy. The editors of many Web sites, including ones operated by the Times Company, post excerpts from competitors’ content from time to time. At what point does excerpting from an article become illegal copying?

Courts have not provided much of an answer. In the United States, the copyright law provides a four-point definition of fair use, which takes into consideration the purpose (commercial vs. educational) and the substantiality of the excerpt.

But editors in search of a legal word limit are sorely disappointed. Even before the Internet, lawyers lamented that the fair use factors “didn’t map well onto real life,” said Mr. Ardia, whose Citizen Media Law Project is part of the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. “New modes of creation, reuse, mixing and mash-ups made possible by digital technologies and the Internet have made it even more clear that Congress’s attempt to define fair use is woefully inadequate.”

For now, Web sites are defining it themselves. Sites like Alley Insider and The Huffington Post are ad-supported businesses that filter the Web for readers, highlighting what they deem to be the most meaningful parts of newspaper articles and TV segments.

Alley Insider, according to its editor in chief, Henry Blodget, operates under a digital golden rule: “To excerpt others the way we want to be excerpted ourselves.” The post about Ms. Noonan’s column, including five full paragraphs, had explicit credits to the author and the newspaper, three links to the source and a direct encouragement to users to read the original column.

Alley Insider doubtlessly exposed new readers to Ms. Noonan’s column, and an unknown number of users followed the links to The Journal’s Web site. But others probably did not follow the link, meaning that Alley Insider alone — and not The Journal — reaped the advertising pennies from the excerpt.

The Huffington Post, the popular news and opinion forum co-founded by the author and columnist Arianna Huffington, is perhaps the star of the excerpting debate. Ms. Huffington’s editors are especially adept at optimizing the site for search engine results, so that in a Google search, a Huffington Post summary of a Washington Post or a CNN.com report may appear ahead of the original article.

“We want to both drive traffic to ourselves and drive traffic to others,” Ms. Huffington said in a telephone interview. Adding that “we are the beginning of developing the rules of the road” online, she said the site’s editors were “constantly talking” about appropriate excerpting conduct.

To the extent that the site republishes articles produced by other organizations, “we excerpt to add value,” Ms. Huffington said, sometimes by combining articles, videos and transcripts. Much of the Web works this way, skimming quotes and photos from other sources while trying to remain within the provisions of fair use.

Ms. Huffington said that The Huffington Post, which had more than 20 million unique visitors in January, received more than 100 requests for links each weekday from reporters, editors and public relations representatives. “Everybody wants to be linked to,” she said.

That is true as long as readers follow those links. The prevailing wisdom is that content should roam widely online, but lackluster digital advertising of late has called that into question.

That has fueled a round of recent commentaries about payment models for online news. Cablevision, the owner of the Newsday newspaper, said Thursday that it would “end distribution of free Web content.” Hearst, the owner of 16 newspapers, said Friday that it would charge for some content on its Web sites.

Widespread excerpting would seem to make pay models harder to impose. Even more troubling for news organizations is blatant copying. In December, The Huffington Post’s new Chicago off-shoot was accused of copying the full contents of local publications’ concert reviews. Ms. Huffington called it a “mistake made by an intern.”

Other sites copy content from news organizations using automated syndication feeds. The sites typically display text or show ads around the excerpts to make money.

GateHouse’s suit against The New York Times Company contended that the company was “link scraping” by automatically aggregating articles from GateHouse newspapers, to be excerpted on local news sites operated by The Boston Globe.

“They felt that The Globe was benefiting too much from the work of GateHouse journalists,” said Mr. Benton of the Harvard journalism lab. The Times Company denied that it was scraping GateHouse’s site and said that its use of GateHouse content did not violate copyright laws.

It also said that GateHouse’s Web sites copied headlines and other text from Times Company sites. Last month the Times Company agreed to stop copying GateHouse’s headlines and lead paragraphs.

It remains to be seen whether excerpting standards from before the Internet age still apply. Mr. Ardia said that quoting “is often a sign of respect” online.

“The norms are developing outside — or ahead of — the law,” he said.

Alley Insider’s partial republication of Ms. Noonan’s column, for instance, was edited shortly after it was posted online. The reason, Mr. Blodget said, was that the excerpt seemed slightly too long.

Anti-Piracy Action Closes Yet More Fansub Sites

Once thought to be operating well under the radar, recent months have seen fresh efforts to silence sites that provide fan-created translations of movies and TV shows for their home countries. The latest targets for shutdown - Israel and France.

With the assistance of ALIS (Israel’s answer to the MPAA), in late 2007 raids were conducted on the homes of the admins of three sites known as ‘xvoom’, ‘MYakuza’ and ‘Donkey‘ which carried Hebrew subtitles for US movies.

ALIS reached private agreements with the admins of ‘xvoom’ and ‘MYakuza’, under which the sites would be closed and compensation paid.

“The feeling is very difficult. A website that I have put 2.5 years of work into was closed”, said the owner of ‘mYakuza’, who didn’t hire a legal team. “Links to illegal films were never available on the website but I preferred not to destroy my life and decided to shut it down completely. They have more lawyers and money. We came out lucky.”

Effi Teva, the admin of ‘Donkey’ wasn’t included in the settlement and legal procedures against him have begun.

Last Wednesday, the district court in Haifa, Israel, ordered the permanent closure of the movie and TV subtitling sites donkey.co.il and sratim.co.il.

The court decided that the sites infringed copyrights by offering links to unauthorized subtitles and Judge Gideon Ginat ruled that the defendant, Effi Teva, should pay compensation of 160,000 shekels to ALIS and various filmmakers, which includes the lawyers’ fee of 60,000 shekels.

Effi Teva didn’t give any testimony. The previous hearing in the case took place in 2007, but Teva didn’t show up then either, instead asking the plaintiff’s lawyer to request an extension.

Judge Ginat says that Teva requested postponements numerous times. “I want to make it clear”, said the judge, “that I said in the last meeting to those present that I won’t be able to keep postponing the dates of the hearing.”

Judge Ginat criticized the behavior of the defendant and his lawyer and said, “It goes without saying that the defendant and his proxy cannot dictate the hearing date in a last minute phone call.”

Lawyer Sarah Prazanti, who represents movie anti-piracy outfit ALIS said that the judge refused to accept the request to postponed the hearing, and gave the verdict. Effi Teva did not comment on the matter.

In France this week, Warner has been taking action of its own against subtitling sites. It says that such sites “make intellectual property available to the public without authorization,” such as foreign translations of Warner productions. “This,” says Warner in threats to various subtitling sites, “will affect your liability and exposes you to possible civil lawsuits.”

One site under threat is ‘Frigorifix’, which appears to be taking the threat seriously. “Never, until now have we had threats from rights holders that are as real and immediate as the ones we received yesterday.”

“Our names and addresses are listed with our registrar and web host,” said a representative of the site, “and we can not afford to undergo a judicial process.”

It is believed that members of the site will continue to translate, but no subtitles will be available from the site itself.

Earlier this month we reported on the problems faced by Brazilian sub-site Legendas.tv after anti-piracy action, but it quickly bounced back.

Thanks go to Q-subs translator ‘Godfather’

Large Pirate Topsite Raided in Sweden

Swedish police have busted one of the largest topsites in the country. Over 65 terabytes of pirated material was seized, spread across more than 10 servers. Several well known ’scene’ groups used the site. The Swedish anti-piracy bureau assisted in the investigation and says that their war on piracy will continue.

The raids were carried out two weeks ago but were only announced today. The site, which goes by the name ‘Sunnydale’, was a so-called topsite that hosted pirated movies, software and TV-shows spread out over a dozen servers. Topsites are FTP servers where ’scene’ releases are stored and archived.

There are several large topsites hosted in Sweden, some of which host hundreds of terabytes of pirated material. However, according to ’scene’ etiquette, the files on these are not supposed to leak to other (more public) file-sharing networks but eventually they all do, with most of the big releases managing this in mere minutes.

This puts these servers close to the top of the ‘Piracy Pyramid‘ and one of the priority targets of anti-piracy outfits. Two weeks ago, Pirate Bay co-founder Anakata told the court that these scene members “hate The Pirate Bay” because they prefer to keep their releases within a select group.

Henrik Pontén from Antipiratbyrån - the Swedish anti-piracy office - applauded the police and said that this was one of the largest busts ever, and the largest in Sweden. According to one of our own sources, several well known scene groups were using the servers, which means that they may have been compromised.

For now, the investigation focuses on the person who operated the server. “A person suspected of running the server has been identified and it is now up to the police to investigate this. Now, we will continue to look for similar pirate servers,” Pontén told Aftonbladet.

Pontén also claimed that the Sunnydale topsite was the source of all pirated material available on The Pirate Bay, but this was denied by Peter Sunde. “More than 800,000 people have uploaded to The Pirate Bay, so I don’t believe it’s the source of everything. But it is possible that it’s a major source,” he said.

Antipiratbyrån’s involvement in this raid is questionable. In 2005 the police conducted an similar raid at Swedish ISP Bahnhof, only to be presented with evidence that Antipiratbyrån themselves had hired someone to plant copyright material. It turned out that the infiltrator was far from a passive observer. The infiltrator had transferred 68,000 files and went as far as buying hardware for the server to increase its storage capacity.

Antipiratbyrån was later sued for illegal trespassing and harassment because of these entrapment practices which are illegal in Sweden. Now, four years on and they are again involved in a similar raid, but whether they had any help from an insider this time is unknown. The exact role Antipiratbyrån played in this raid remains unclear, but it is likely that they tipped off the police about the location and existence of ‘Sunnydale.’

Pontén said that his organization will continue its “war on piracy.”

Update: Not all Sunnydale’s servers were seized, since they are spread across Europe.

Prison Threat for Pirate Bay Four

Prosecutors in the trial against the four men who run the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay have called for a one-year prison sentence to be imposed.

Frederik Neij, Carl Lundstom, Peter Sunde and Gottfrid Warg are accused of promoting copyright infringement.

The Pirate Bay hosts thousands of links to so-called torrent files, which allow for movies, TV programmes and applications to be shared online.

No copyright material is stored directly on The Pirate Bay servers.

"I believe that the correct punishment should be one year in prison and that is what I am requesting that the district court hand down in this case," prosecutor Haakan Roswall told the court.

The four men, who deny the charge, have been charged with earning at least 1.2m kroner (104,000 euros) by facilitating copyright infringement.

The film, music and video games industries are seeking about 117m kronor (10.1m euros) in damages and interest for losses incurred from tens of millions of illegal downloads facilitated by the site.

Prosecutors will sum up in the case later on Monday, while the defence is scheduled to give its closing arguments on Tuesday. A decision in the case is expected to take a few more weeks.

Winnipeg Man Faces 52 Copyright Charges After Huge CD, DVD Pirating Bust

A man faces 52 charges under the federal Copyright Act after what has been called Canada's biggest CD and DVD pirating bust in a decade.

Rajdeep Singh Ramgotra, 32, was arrested last March after RCMP seized more than 200,000 CDs and DVDs from Winnipeg-based Audiomaxxx.com.

RCMP said the website, which allowed customers to order CDs or download music for $3.99, had a significant catalogue that included artists such as Shania Twain, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and Nelly Furtado.

Investigators believe the operation, which could produce more than 11,500 discs a day, extended beyond Canada to the Caribbean, Central America and Europe.

Ramgotra is accused of making for sale and selling infringed copies of works which were the property of various artists.

He is to appear in Winnipeg Federal Court on June 8.

Camcorder Pirates Collared by Audio Watermark

Movie industry boffins have come up with another weapon in the war against people who sneak video cameras into cinemas and make crappy copies of blockbuster movies to sell at car boot sales.

Video watermarking has been around for a while now but this technology can only reveal in which cinema a recording was made. The latest invention goes one step further and can tell investgators exactly which seat the cammer was sitting in to an accuracy of 44cm.

It's only a matter of time before cinema owners are forced by the big studios to start taking night vision snaps of movie-going audiences before every screening.

We dread to think what else they might catch going on in the dark.

MoCo Police Want More Stringent Laws for Selling on eBay

Montgomery County police want to strengthen county laws to make it harder to sell stolen goods on eBay — a move some merchants selling through online auctions said wasn’t needed.

Police and the county’s Office of Consumer Protection are supporting proposed legislation that would require eBay retailers — individuals or businesses that sell customers goods on the online auction site for a fee — to report their merchandise to police in the same way pawnbrokers do.

Under current county law, pawnbrokers have to report all their transactions to police and hold items for a certain period of time.

Police said the law, which was written in the early 1980s, has been helpful in recovering stolen items but needs to be updated to keep pace with technology.

“We are trying to catch criminals with pencils and paper instead of computers and technology and our citizens are being hurt,” Montgomery County Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger wrote to the county council.

But treating eBay sellers like licensed pawnbrokers “would force many small Internet businesses to close down” Michael Hadad, the owner of an iSold It on eBay franchise in Gaithersburg, said in a letter to the council.

Hadad said his company provides a valuable service to individuals who don’t have access to the Internet, and also puts money back into the community.

Hadad said the eBay is “safe and transparent” and “a very unlikely outlet for stolen property.” The online auction site already requires that sellers post much of the information the county currently requires from pawnbrokers, including pictures of the items, and model and serial numbers, Hadad said.

David Cohen, owner of another eBay seller, Soeztosell4u, said he sells mostly collectibles and knick-knacks and doubts thieves would try to use his services.

“I have not seen a problem whatsoever,” he said.

But Manger said that it’s “impossible” for police to know whether stolen items are being sold by eBay sellers unless they report what items they are selling.

Manger said the proposed legislation, which would also lengthen the period sellers have to hold on to items from 18 to 30 days and prohibit children from selling items, is important “given the inevitable crime-rate increases that are likely to occur because of the recent economic slowdown.”

A County Council committee is scheduled to discuss the proposed legislation March 19.

EBay, German Police Battle Fakes as Court Fights Loom
Heather Smith

German police used tips from EBay Inc. to score the biggest success in their probe of a counterfeiting ring, snaring 20 tons of knock-off La Martina dress shirts, Ed Hardy tank tops and other brands last month.

EBay, the world’s largest Internet auctioneer, is helping such investigations as part of a larger effort to rid its site of fakes the San Jose, California-based company says damage its reputation as a trusted shopping place. EBay spends $20 million a year on “trust and security,” including anti-fraud measures.

“EBay is only as good as its worst seller in the minds of its customers,” said Jeffrey Lindsay, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York.

The dangers fakes pose go beyond EBay’s reputation. Brand owners claim EBay doesn’t do all it can to ensure only genuine articles are sold. L’Oreal SA, the world’s largest cosmetics maker, is among the latest to sue over fakes, seeking damages in five European countries. A Paris court will rule in one case March 10, and a London trial opens March 9.

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA and Hermes International have already won rulings in France that EBay bears some responsibility for stopping counterfeiters. EBay was ordered to pay 40 million euros ($51 million) in damages to LVMH and 20,000 euros to Hermes. Its appeal is pending. A federal judge in New York threw out similar claims by Tiffany & Co. in July.

A German court this week found EBay had stopped sales of fake Rolex watches after being alerted by the brand owner. The ruling ended an eight-year fight with Switzerland’s Rolex Group.

EBay fell 58 cents, or 5.1 percent, to $10.87, at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading, the lowest price since April 2001.

German Raid

EBay coaches sellers and ignores the risk that they’re offering copies, L’Oreal lawyer Isabelle Leroux told the Paris court in December. The Paris-based company claims 60 percent of perfumes sold on EBay purporting to be L’Oreal products weren’t. EBay denies the claims.

Police in Wetzlar, Germany, a town of 54,000 about 60 kilometers (36 miles) north of Frankfurt, had gotten a complaint about holograms on La Martina shirts washing off, exposing them as fakes. They contacted EBay after discovering the shop that sold the shirts also sold items on the site. EBay’s counter-fraud team swung into action, providing bank- account numbers, shipping addresses and computer-tracking codes.

EBay has been “very cooperative” in the seizure of more than 150,000 items in 10 raids, said Uwe Braun, the Wetzlar prosecutors’ spokesman, in an interview.

EBay understands knock-off goods hurt customers, said Julia Goeken, of EBay’s European Rights Team in Dreilinden, Germany.

Banned Items

“If buyers don’t trust the site, it results in lower bid prices, so that hurts sellers, and it hurts EBay,” Goeken said.

The company says monitoring programs help keep fakes down to 1 percent of total listings. New postings are checked around the clock to block banned items like pornography, weapons and ivory, and to flag possible copyright or trademark infractions.

Monitors like Stefan Jugel can review 350 to 400 flagged auctions in six hours. He works off two screens, one with the proposed sale, the other a list of reasons why it might be nixed. Criteria like the absence of the word “original,” earn you one point. Others, like misspelling brand names to foil keyword searches get three, enough to take down an auction.

Complaints of misleading postings are referred to as SNADs, for “significantly not as described.” When buyers report the problem, EBay’s Web site asks them questions to determine whether items were fake and help EBay track down the seller.


Brand owners can also monitor listings with EBay’s Verified Rights Owner program, or VeRO. Participants tell EBay what to look for, get alerts if suggestions snare an item and can request a delisting.

Wolfgang Weber, EBay’s head of European law enforcement, says the rights owner program is “very useful” because the brand owner is in the best position “to tell whether the item is real or not.”

L’Oreal and other brand owners say the onus shouldn’t be on them. L’Oreal lawyer Leroux said VeRO is “a reversal of responsibilities.”

“EBay’s job is to look at listings and see that they’re authentic,” said Leroux by telephone. “They tell the brand owner to do that.”

“When we manage to signal that a listing is suspicious, most often, the cited items aren’t taken down,” said LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods maker, in an e-mailed statement.

Some of the 31,000 participants in VeRO also say the program asks too much.

Never-Ending Debate

“VeRO is very good for EBay, but for us we have other needs,” said Carole Aubert, head of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry’s Internet unit in Bienne, Switzerland, which represents 90 percent of the country’s watchmakers.

The group spent more than two months developing a database to fully cooperate and one fulltime worker monitors online sales. The work has seen results as the number of Swiss watch auctions on EBay fell to 3,000 last year from 10,000 in 2007, said Aubert.
Quilate Servicos LDA, the Portuguese owner of the La Martina brand in Europe, has worked with VeRO since 2005. Auctions of the brand are down to about 1,800 on average from 3,000 a year ago, said lawyer Thorsten Wieland, of Frankfurt firm Heuking Kuhn Luer Wojtek.

Even so, “99.9 percent of any La Martina sale is fake,” Wieland said in an interview. “I was never able to find a single authentic La Martina item on my test buys.”

Quilate is “not looking at suing EBay, but we want more aggressive measures taken,” Wieland said. He criticized privacy clauses shielding account details from brand owners and EBay’s allowing registration of multiple usernames.

The debate will never end, said Graham Robinson, managing director of London-based Farncombe International Ltd., which investigates intellectual-property violations. “Brand owners I doubt will ever be fully convinced that EBay is doing enough.”

Facing Counterfeiting Crackdown, Beijing Vendors Fight Back
Sharon LaFraniere

Any tourist who has stepped foot in this city’s famous Silk Street Market can testify that it is home to some of the wiliest, most tenacious vendors who ever tried to palm off a fake handbag on a naïve foreigner.

So when the market managers temporarily shut down 29 stalls over the past month for selling counterfeit goods, no one expected the merchants to acquiesce quietly to the loss of business.

“We expected trouble,” said Zhao Tianying, a legal consultant with IntellecPro, a Beijing firm specializing in intellectual property rights, who represents five foreign luxury-brand manufacturers that have sued the market for trademark violations. “But we never imagined this.”

The vendors have responded with the same ferocity with which they nail down a sale. Dozens of them have staged weekly protests against IntellecPro lawyers who are pursuing the trademark case, mocking them as bourgeois puppets of foreigners. The vendors confronted witnesses who provided evidence of trademark violations and filed a countersuit asserting that only the government can shutter a business.

A few characters scrawled in pencil on the wall outside IntellecPro’s office sums up the vendors’ message: “We want to eat!”

The skirmish between the crafty but mostly uneducated hawkers and five of the world’s best known producers of designer goods is part of a much bigger fight over China’s vast counterfeit industry. American movie, music and software companies alone estimate that Chinese pirated goods cost them more than $2 billion a year in sales.

Any successful product is likely to be illegally copied in China, warns the Web site of the American Embassy here. China’s government has pledged to crack down, and it faces increasing pressure to show progress. But some doubt much will change until China graduates from manufacturing goods to designing them, and has more to lose than gain.

The Silk Street Market case suggests that change is slow and painful.

It has been four years since Burberry, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Prada first sued the market’s operator, the Beijing Silk Street Company, and individual vendors for trademark violations. Only now has the legal pressure produced tangible results.

As part of a court-mediated agreement, the market’s managers agreed to punish offending vendors, shutting down six to eight at a time for up to a week. George Wang, the market’s general manager, said the manufacturers threatened to renew their suit if sales of counterfeits were not curtailed in six months.

In response, dozens of vendors descended on IntellecPro’s office on Feb. 4, occupying the reception area for hours while the police tried to mediate, said Ms. Zhao, the legal consultant. The next day, she said, they stormed past the receptionist, banged on the walls and swore at the staff. The firm’s senior partner, Hu Qi, was afraid to go home and slept in a hotel for three nights.

Last Monday, more than 50 vendors showed up for the sixth protest. They waved signs and chanted slogans outside the firm’s building while IntellecPro lawyers, with 12 hired guards on hand, had their lunch delivered.

“We are trying to run businesses here,” said one 37-year-old vendor in a red coat, a fake Dolce & Gabbana handbag on her arm. “They don’t have any proof.” She refused to give her name, saying she already faced enough scrutiny.

Asked about her handbag, she insisted: “We don’t read English. We don’t know what the letters mean. We just think it is pretty.”

Another vendor, 24, who gave her last name as He, said: “We want to be compensated for our losses. And we want a public apology.”

Mr. Wang, the market’s amiable, 43-year-old manager, said he was “stuck in a terrible position.”

“The five brands are saying, ‘You are not doing a good enough job in protecting our intellectual property rights,’ ” he said. “And the vendors are saying, ‘You are going overboard in protecting intellectual property rights.’ But hey, what can we do? We would rather be known in the world as going overboard than for not.”

There is little risk of that now. Tourist guidebooks call the Silk Street Market, a seven-story glass box near Beijing’s diplomatic quarter, one of China’s most popular spots to buy cheap, good-quality imitations. With some 1,200 stalls, it attracts 15 million shoppers a year, two-thirds of them foreigners, Mr. Wang said.

In the noisy basement, hawkers of leather goods buttonhole passing foreigners, cajoling until all hope of a sale is lost. They chat easily in broken English and can assess a copy’s quality in seconds; the best, rated “super-A,” are almost indistinguishable from genuine products.

Their shelves bulge with fake handbags bearing the designs and tags of Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Chloé and other famous companies, which, Mr. Wang said, “have not come to us with a complaint.”

Fake Gucci and Louis Vuitton bags are still offered, but are hidden inside cupboards; buyers are invited to seal the transactions outside the building. “There is too much pressure on right now,” whispered one vendor, a few yards from a stall shrouded in a gray curtain.

Xu Shengzhong, the vendors’ lawyer, tries to portray his clients as too ignorant to distinguish fake goods from real or to recognize brand names. “They have no idea this says Louis Vuitton,” he said, tapping a brown wallet with the brand’s distinctive logo.

More potent than such equivocations, though, may be the threat of social unrest. The police, saying their first priority is to maintain order, organized a meeting between some vendors and Mr. Hu, IntellecPro’s senior partner, according to the firm’s spokeswoman. It went poorly.

The merchants lectured Mr. Hu on the need for intellectuals like him to respect workers, while Mr. Hu tried to defend his patriotism, according to an audio CD made from one vendor’s clandestine cellphone recording.

“These ordinary people work for decades, to their deaths!” one vendor said. “How can you say you are patriotic?”

Mr. Wang said that while he sympathized with the vendors, “the Silk Market must fundamentally change” and shift its focus from counterfeit goods to genuine pearls, silks, homegrown brands and tailoring services.

Last year, the market began its own line of products, warning counterfeiters to stay clear.

Mr. Wang said he hoped that shoppers changed their habits, too. At present, “they want the knockoffs,” he said ruefully. “You can see it in their eyes. That is the brutal reality.”

EU Agency Backtracks on Skype Crime Claims
David Meyer

Eurojust, an EU agency that co-ordinates judicial co-operation across member states, has significally altered a statement in which it said criminals were using Skype to avoid detection by the authorities.

One week ago, Eurojust announced it planned to "play a key role in the coordination and cooperation of the investigations on the use of internet telephony systems (VoIP), such as Skype." The agency said its role would be to smooth out the technical and judicial obstacles to the interception of internet telephony systems, taking into account the various data protection rules and civil rights. Eurojust also said it had become involved at the request of the Italian anti-Mafia directorate.

"Skype's encryption system is a secret which the company refuses to share with the authorities," Eurojust's statement of last Friday read. "Investigators have become increasingly reliant on wiretaps in recent years. Customs and tax police in Milan have highlighted the Skype issue. They overheard a suspected cocaine trafficker telling an accomplice to switch to Skype in order to get details of a 2kg drug consignment."

Skype reacted strongly to that statement at the time, saying it remained "interested in working with Eurojust despite the fact that they chose not to contact us before issuing this inaccurate report".

On Wednesday, Eurojust issued an update to its original statement, which was entitled "Eurojust coordinates internet telephony investigations". The new statement, entitled "Eurojust will be requested to coordinate internet telephony investigations", makes it clear that the anti-Mafia directorate's request for judicial co-ordination has not yet been made formally.

The internet telephony-tapping probe is expected to be officially introduced at Eurojust "in the coming weeks or months", a spokesperson for the agency told ZDNet UK on Friday.

In addition, the revised statement made it clear for the first time that the initial meetings between Eurojust and the Italian judicial authorities had taken place in September 2006, and that Skype itself had been present at those discussions.

"Representatives from the company Skype S.A. were invited and present at this meeting," the revised statement reads. "There was a positive message from the Skype representatives during the meeting, showing their commitment to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities in the fight against serious, cross-border organised crime."

In the new statement, references to Skype's alleged refusal to share details of its encryption system have been excised.

Skype has welcomed the revision of the statement. "We are pleased that Eurojust has clarified their previous statement and has recognized our commitment to cooperate with law enforcement authorities, which Skype does as much as is legally and technically possible," it said in a statement on Thursday. "Skype looks forward to working more with Eurojust in the future."

Speaking to ZDNet UK, Eurojust's spokesperson said the original statement had not targeted Skype in particular. "We didn't only speak about Skype; we used Skype as the most known internet telephony company," the spokesperson said. "There are others — Truphone, instant messaging and so on."

Asked about the original statement's specific references to Skype and its encryption systems, the spokesperson said: "The first information [was included] as background based on information we got from a police officer in Milan."

ZDNet UK asked whether the removal of the references to Skype meant they had been incorrect, but Eurojust's spokesperson refused to comment.

NSW to Allow Secret Searches, Hacking

New South Wales Police are being given sweeping new powers to search people's homes and hack into their computers for up to three years without their knowledge.

The State Government admits police have already used the measures, even though the Supreme Court ruled the practices unlawful in 2006.

The Government says new legislation, to be introduced into Parliament today, will ensure police evidence collected using the practices will hold up in court.

Police Minister Tony Kelly says the reforms will allow police to collect enough evidence for a prosecution without tipping off criminals.

Mr Kelly says all applications for the covert search warrant will have to go before a Supreme Court judge.

He says a judge would initially authorise the search to be kept secret for up to six months but police could apply for notification to be delayed for up to 18 months, or three years in exceptional circumstances.

"For particularly anybody who's involved in crime or criminal activity, the police will now be able to undertake investigations and gather evidence before you know it," he said.

"So anybody who's involved in serious crime, the police will now be able to get on to you, even go into your computer."

Police have welcomed the new laws but Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman says they are open to abuse.

"Clearly, if the police are able to search a person's home without anyone being present, the police will be in the position to plant evidence," he said.

"That's a big worry. This particular announcement today extends police powers hugely without putting in any checks and balances against those powers being abused."

The laws will apply to offences punishable by at least seven years' jail, including drugs and firearms offences, homicide, kidnapping, assault, money laundering, hacking, organised theft and corruption.

Court: Self-Incrimination Privilege Won't Protect Password

The privilege against self-incrimination, a federal court has ruled, does not bar prosecutors from forcing a defendant in a child pornography case to decrypt his laptop hard drive—reversing a 2007 decision that found the demand to enter a password equivalent to compelled testimony.
Julian Sanchez

A federal district court in Vermont has ruled that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination does not bar the government from requiring Sebastien Boucher, who faces charges of possessing child pornography, to decrypt his laptop hard drive. A lower court had previously quashed a subpoena compelling Boucher to enter his password, reasoning that this was tantamount to requiring a defendant to testify against himself.

Boucher, a Canadian citizen who legally resides in the U.S., was stopped while returning to the country in 2006. Immigration officials searched his laptop at the border, and found thousands of image files that a border agent judged, on the basis of their file names, to be probable adult and child pornography. After viewing several images, border guards seized the laptop and shut it down—at which point Boucher's Pretty Good Privacy encryption kicked in, locking down the Z drive on which the files were contained.

Federal prosecutors initially sought a grand jury subpoena ordering Boucher to provide the password that would allow them to decrypt his hard drive. They later amended their request—presumably in hopes of avoiding Fifth Amendment concerns—clarifying that they would ask Boucher to enter the password himself in front of the grand jury. Despite this, a magistrate judge ruled in 2007 that the act of entering the password, even if the password itself was not disclosed to the government, was "testimonial" and therefore could not be compelled without offending the Fifth Amendment.

The author of the 2007 opinion, Judge Jerome Niedermeier, distinguished the order to enter the password from the superficially similar requirement that a defendant produce the key to a locked safe on the grounds that asking for the password was a demand that Boucher reveal the contents of his mind. Even though the password itself might not be incriminating, either disclosing or entering it would entail "implicit statements of fact, such as admitting that evidence exists, is authentic, or is within a suspect's control."

The government had sought to surmount Fifth Amendment barriers to its subpoena by stipulating that it would not use the fact of Boucher's knowledge of the password against him—prosecutors had ample evidence linking him to the laptop already, after all, not least his own admissions to the border guards. But Niedermeier would have none of it. Citing the 2000 case U.S. v. Hubbell, which disallowed the use of documents showing tax fraud against a defendant who had been granted immunity for the act of producing them (i.e. for demonstrating his knowledge of the documents). "The testimonial aspect of the entry of the password," wrote Niedermeier, "precludes the use of the files themselves as derivative of the compelled testimony."

Niedermeier similarly rejected the argument that the existence and location of the files—as opposed to their precise contents—was already known to the government, a "foregone conclusion." Since the files themselves are ordinary physical evidence, lacking any special protection, the privilege against self-incrimination applies only to the extent that the "testimony" of entering the password gives the government new information. "While the government has seen some of the files on drive Z, it has not viewed all or even most of them," Niedermeier reasoned. "While the government may know of the existence and location of the files it has previously viewed, it does not know of the existence of other files on drive Z that may contain incriminating material."

On February 19, however, Judge William Sessions reached a different conclusion. Though he did not directly address Niedermeier's Hubble analysis, Sessions accepted the "foregone conclusion" rationale, arguing that the lower court judge had erred in failing to distinguish between the contents of files on Boucher's Z drive and their existence and location.

The distinction here is fairly subtle, but the crucial legal point appears to be the interpretation of the "reasonable particularity" requirement that applies when government demands the "testimonial" production of evidence. Crudely put, the government can demand that you produce that bloody knife the police saw you run into the woods with, but they can't insist that you turn over any objects you may have around the house that would prove you guilty of a crime. In one case, they're just insisting that you provide the thing they intend to show the jury; in the other, you're supplying the information that helps them convict you.

Niedermeier reasoned that even if border guards had seen some of the files on the Z drive, prosecutors could not force Boucher to produce all the files on the drive. For Sessions, by contrast, the government's knowledge that it was after "the drive" constituted sufficient "particularity" that decrypting it merely gave prosecutors access to the specific contents of evidence they already knew about in reasonable detail.

It's a fuzzy enough distinction that Boucher's lawyers hope the next court up the ladder might land on the other side of it: they've already filed notice of their intention to appeal.

Students Register Delight at New Face-Fit Check-In
Jordan Day

HIGH-TECH facial recognition technology has swept aside the old-fashioned signing of the register at a school.

Sixth-formers will now have their faces scanned as they arrive in the morning at the City of Ely Community College.

It is one of the first schools in the UK to trial the new technology with its students.

Face Register uses the latest high-tech gadgets to register students in and out of school in just 1.5 seconds.

The technology works by scanning faces with an infra-red light and matching their image with key facial features stored on a secure system.

Not only a hit with the students, who enjoy signing themselves in, the system is saving a member of staff about an hour and a half each day in recording data.

Principal Richard Barker said: "With this new registration technology, we are hoping to free up our teachers' time and allow them to spend it on what they are meant to be doing, which is teaching.

"As for the students, they love the idea of taking responsibility for their own registration and using Mission Impossible-style systems."

Hugh Carr-Archer, chief executive of Aurora, the company behind the system, said Face Register is aimed at reducing administrative duties and easing the burden on teaching staff.

St Neots Community College pioneered the system in Cambridgeshire in January.

Scott Preston, vice-chairman, said: "The system is working really well - sixth-formers and staff are pleased with the efficiency of it.

"Only today (Thursday, 05 March) we had a fire alarm test and the administration staff were able to quickly and effectively print data off from the system showing who was on site.

"We feel that with the technology, we are on top of health and safety."

For more information about the new technology, which will be available nationwide in April, visit www.facerec.co.uk

Why Are We Fingerprinting Children?

Schools claim it cuts costs and time – but the civil liberties implications are vast
Yvonne Singh

As voters express concern about surveillance technology, is it becoming second nature to the Facebook generation – used to publishing intimate details of their private lives on the worldwide web – who, in later life, may be less vociferous in their opposition to such schemes?

An increasing number of today's schoolchildren are forgoing the humiliating daily name call of registration, and are instead having to "fingerswipe" in and out of class, or to give it its proper name: biometric registration. According to campaign group LeaveThemKidsAlone, schools have fingerprinted more than two million children this way, sometimes even without their parents' consent. A statement on its website claims: "It's part of an enormous softening-up exercise, targeting society's most impressionable, so they'll accept cradle-to-grave state snooping and control."

Hard-pressed schools and local councils with tight budgets are being enticed by a new generation of software that promises to cut administration costs and time. In the last 18 months, several Guardian readers have written into the paper expressing concern at this new technology being trialled on their children. Everything from "cashless catering schemes" to "kiddyprints" instead of library cards is being introduced by stealth into the nation's schools, it is claimed.

The software companies that are jostling for a stake in this lucrative market, such as VeriCool and CRB solutions, boast several testimonials on their websites, arguing that this technology not only minimises lunchtime queues and paperwork, but also tackles more serious problems such as truancy and bullying (a cashless system negates the need to be biffed for your lunch money). They even claim that their systems promote healthy eating, as pupils accrue points for eschewing sugary snacks.

Furthermore, CRB solutions is quick to reassure pupils and staff that "this wasn't the same sort of fingerprinting that the police did … in fact, parts of the 'fingerprint' are converted (using a mathematical algorithm) into digital data which can then be used for future recognition."

However, the police and security services do use coded algorithms when taking the fingerprints of a suspect, as well as taking inky fingerprints that are kept on paper file. And it is this data that they use to match fingerprints at the scene of a major crime. The implications are vast – the nation's schools aren't exactly the safest place for the storage of this sensitive data – and anyone with access to the system and a mobile SIM card can download the information from a computer, increasing the chances of identity theft. Unless the computer system is professionally purged, before this data has a chance to be leaked, it can remain in cyberspace for eternity to be retained for all sorts of dubious purposes.

It's odd that this drive towards fingerprinting children coincides with the government's keenness to expand the national DNA database – we already have one of the largest in the world – with more than four million people on file, including nearly 1.1 million children.

Odd too that VeriCool is reported to be part of Anteon, an American company that is responsible for the training of interrogators at Guantánamo and Abu Gharib.

It seems that in the blink of an eyelid (or iris scan), our children are losing the civil liberties and freedoms we are fighting so hard to preserve.

EFF Releases How-To Guide to Fight Government Spying

'Surveillance Self-Defense' Gives Practical Advice on Protecting Your Private Data

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) launched its Surveillance Self-Defense project today -- an online how-to guide for protecting your private data against government spying. You can find the project at http://ssd.eff.org.

EFF created the Surveillance Self-Defense site to educate Americans about the law and technology of communications surveillance and computer searches and seizures, and to provide the information and tools necessary to keep their private data out of the government's hands. The guide includes tips on assessing the security risks to your personal computer files and communications, strategies for interacting with law enforcement, and articles on specific defensive technologies such as encryption that can help protect the privacy of your data.

"Despite a long and troubling history in this country of the government abusing its surveillance powers, most Americans know very little about how the law protects them or about how they can take steps to protect themselves against government surveillance," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "The Surveillance Self-Defense project offers citizens a legal and technical toolkit with tips on how to defend themselves in case the government attempts to search, seize, subpoena or spy on their most private data."

Surveillance Self-Defense details what the government can legally do to spy on your computer data and communications, and what you can legally do to protect yourself against such spying. It addresses how to protect not only the data stored on your computer, but also the data you communicate over the phone or the Internet and data about your communications that are stored by third party service providers.

"You can imagine the Internet as a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking up all of the private information that you let near it. We want to show people the tools they can use to encrypt and anonymize data, protecting themselves against government surveillance," said EFF Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley. "Privacy is about mitigating risks and making tradeoffs. Every decision you make about whether to save an email, chat online, or search with or sign into Google has privacy implications. It's important to understand those implications and make informed decisions based on them, and we hope that Surveillance Self-Defense will help you do that."

Surveillance Self-Defense was created with the support of the Open Society Institute.

For Surveillance Self-Defense:

2007 Circumvention Landscape Report: Methods, Uses, and Tools
Published March 05, 2009

Authored by Hal Roberts, Ethan Zuckerman, John Palfrey


As the Internet has exploded over the past fifteen years, recently reaching over a billion users, dozens of national governments from China to Saudi Arabia have tried to control the network by filtering out content objectionable to the countries for any of a number of reasons. A large variety of different projects have developed tools that can be used to circumvent this filtering, allowing people in filtered countries access to otherwise filtered content. In this report, we describe the mechanisms of filtering and circumvention and evaluate ten projects that develop tools that can be used to circumvent filtering: Anonymizer, Ultrareach, DynaWeb Freegate, Circumventor/CGIProxy, Psiphon, Tor, JAP, Coral, and Hamachi. We evaluated these tools in 2007 -- using both tests from within filtered countries and tests within a lab environment -- for their utility, usability, security, promotion, sustainability, and openness. We find that all of the tools use the same basic mechanisms of proxying and encryption but that they differ in their models of hosting proxies. Some tools use proxies that are centrally hosted, others use proxies that are peer hosted, and others use re-routing methods that use a combination of the two. We find that, in general, the tools work in the sense that they allow users to access pages that are otherwise blocked by filtering countries but that performance of the tools is generally poor and that many tools have significant, unreported security vulnerabilities.

The report was completed in 2007 and released to a group of private sponsors. Many of the findings of the report are now out of date, but we present them now, as is, because we think that the broad conclusions of the report about these tools remain valid and because we hope that other researchers will benefit from access to the methods used to test the tools.

Responses from developers of the tools in question are included in the report.

From December

LimeWire Adds Private File Sharing
Eliot Van Buskirk

File sharing doesn't have to be about indiscriminate trading with anonymous strangers. LimeWire served up a major upgrade to its file sharing client Wednesday with a simpler interface and powerful private sharing features.

Using the new version, you could potentially share music with your friends, download NSFW videos from wherever and share photos with your family — all without anyone being the wiser.

This may sound risky, but LimeWire's new sharing features allow a level of control over what you're sharing with whom that makes it a feasible scenario. You can still use it just like the old version, to share and download from strangers, but the socially networked sharing feature could become the main way many people use the program.

The alpha version of LimeWire was made public for Windows, Mac and Linux on Wednesday at around noon. The program installs easily, importing files from your library and letting you search and download music, video, images, documents and other files from the gnutella P2P network. It can also act as your bit torrent client. But the main improvement here is the way it lets you set up easy, private file sharing networks on a file-by-file, user-by-user basis.

"I have a 65-year-old mother in Scotland, and the idea of asking her to sign up with Snapfish and to log in, and the upload process, it's still a very complicated thing for ordinary people," said LimeWire COO Kevin Bradshaw when he first told us of the plan. "Imagine a situation where she would have an installation of LimeWire ... I could just drop pictures into a folder on my hard drive and they would automatically appear on her drive."

Indeed, the free private sharing feature (instructions below) is the strongest selling point of the new LimeWire. But you can also use it as before to download stuff from strangers and share content with the gnutella network at large. But in it's default mode, LimeWire is only set to share files you downloaded from the network; all other content in the library must be intentionally shared, either with specific users or the network in general.

Here's how it works. The first thing you'll notice after you upgrade is the new, super clean interface. If you can't figure out how to search for files with this interface, you might want to get yourself checked. Note: some of these screenshots are of the private alpha version.

The search results start rolling in. As with the previous version, each search query spawns a new tab:

Double-clicking on a search result brings up the download screen. LimeWire can automatically import all downloaded music into your iTunes library:

Now we get to this new private sharing feature. After you enter your Gmail user name and password (or other Jabber log-in), your friends show up in a list to the left. LimeWire product manager said they're working to add the ability to import friends from Facebook and other sites. Friends who are online appear in a chat window so you can ask them to download and install it. Once they do, you'll be able to decide which files to share with them and view the files they're sharing with you. Names of friends have been obscured (in other examples, we cropped them out):

Again, in LimeWire's default setting, only files downloaded from LimeWire are shared, as opposed to most other file sharing clients, which share everything in your library by default. However, you can activate network-wide sharing for files by clicking the Share link next to each one or by right-clicking multiple files. Note that files can be unshared at any time:

The other way to share files in the new LimeWire is to choose a specific person in your friend list and then designate files or entire file types to be shared with them. You can do this for music, videos, images, documents, programs and other file types:

LimeWire product manager Nathan Lovejoy told us that the company intentionally left out a way to add friends from the community at large to your friend list, as one could with the original Napster (although you can download whatever they're sharing publicly). That way, he said, people really have to know those they're sharing with. Not only does this discourage RIAA snoops, but it should also result in a more personal experience when using the software, because people will actually have to know their friends. What a concept!

In addition to file-by-file private sharing, the other main way to share files with a friend is to share all of a certain type of media — audio, video, documents and/or images. To do this, you select the media type in your library and then hit the share button. In this case, I'm going to share all of my audio files with a specific friend. This feature could work great for sharing all your photos with family, while keeping your music and videos to yourself:

Then you enter the friend's name:

Click on any of your friends to see what they're sharing with you, categorized by file type:

The LimeWire music store is available within the application, so you can purchase MP3s for $1 a piece, or cheaper if you buy in bulk:

The LimeWire alpha version is already relatively stable, and already offers a solid way for users to move beyond vanilla file sharing towards a personalized social media network for friends and family. Whenever you share files on a file sharing network (with a few exceptions), you expose your IP address to other users of the network, which is how the RIAA picks people to sue. LimeWire's simple-to-use private sharing features will help file sharers avoid legal scrutiny, but they also represent a substantial, non-infringing use for the program that will be of great benefit to users. And you can forget about the file size limitations of e-mail, online file-sending services and the like. LimeWire lets you share files of any size for free, because it transfers content directly from computer to computer.

Net Campaign Urges Action Over Move to Block Websites
Ciara O'Brien

AN ONLINE campaign to protest against moves to block access to certain websites by Irish internet service providers (ISPs) gets under way tomorrow.

Blackout Ireland is encouraging Irish internet users to contact their service providers, TDs and Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan to voice their opposition to the planned restrictions which are being spearheaded by the Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma).

Internet users are also being asked to black out their profile pictures on social networking sites such as Twitter, Bebo, Facebook and MySpace for a week to show support for the campaign.

Irma, which represents EMI, Sony, Warners and Universal, has begun contacting ISPs asking them to sign up to an agreement similar to the one made with Eircom as part of an out of court settlement in a recent copyright infringement case. Under the agreement, record companies will give Eircom the IP addresses of those they say are illegally uploading or downloading copyrighted works. Eircom has agreed to warn users to cease copyright infringement, and will ultimately disconnect subscribers who ignore the warnings under a “three strikes and you’re out” policy.

Eircom also agreed not to oppose moves by the industry group to block access to websites such as The Pirate Bay, which is the subject of court action in Sweden. The Swedish website provides links to music, films and other content that can be downloaded by third parties.

Irma is trying to get other ISPs to agree to similar measures. Irma’s move has caused controversy among Ireland’s online community, with claims that it is “a serious breach of civil liberties” and amounts to censorship.

Blackout Ireland says it is a group of Irish internet users “concerned by the prospect of Ireland having a censored internet”.

“We do not think private companies should be allowed dictate what websites the Irish people are allowed to visit,” its website says.

The campaign is also gaining publicity through Twitter. No sites have yet been blocked.

It is claimed that record companies in Ireland are losing up to €14 million a year as a result of music piracy.

The campaign is inspired by a similar one in New Zealand, where users protested that a proposed copyright law would see those accused of copyright infringement disconnected from their service provider. As part of the protest, some websites shut down for half a day, replacing their sites with a “blackout” screen explaining the protest.

The law, which was due to come into force on February 28th, has now been delayed for a month as a compromise is sought. Eircom is the only ISP in Europe so far to agree to the “three strikes” rule demanded by the record labels.

An Irma spokesman was not available for comment. For more information, see www.blackoutireland.com

USocial CEO: 'We're Gaming Digg'
Mark Milian

Among Digg's and StumbleUpon's tens of millions of users, the social bookmarking sites have successfully dealt with numerous troublemakers who try to "game" the voting systems. But one company may be putting the entire organic voting approach in jeopardy.
USocial lets advertisers buy votes on popular social bookmarking sites to catapult their links to sections of Digg, StumbleUpon or AOL's Propeller services that get the most visibility.

In Digg's case, a submission that receives enough votes from its users (or with a little help from uSocial's dozen employees) will reach the coveted front page, which can drive tens of thousands of visitors in a matter of hours.

It's no wonder that a handful of organizations -- including a Darfur foundation, the U.S. Marines, the Mormon Church and ...

... the Korean Department of Tourism (the latter of which has spent more than $5,000) -- are on board.

Clients pay $105 to $200 to kick-start a Digg submission, ensuring 100 to 250 votes. Digg is by far the top target, attracting about 60% of purchases, uSocial says. StumbleUpon gets 35% and Propeller (the least trafficked but cheapest option) gets 5%.

USocial plans to expand to other social news sites in the future, including Reddit and Yahoo Buzz.

"We just finished testing with Yahoo Buzz," said uSocial founder Leon Hill. "We've been getting amazing results with that -- better results than what people are getting with Digg."

That's probably because Yahoo sometimes promotes popular links on Buzz to Yahoo.com.

But in the meantime, Digg is still a unique source for a Web traffic jolt. With Digg's prominence comes the desire to keep its operations organic. Which is why the company has gone after uSocial, trying to lock out its accounts.

Digg sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hill in December. The Brisbane, Australia, resident concedes that what his company does is against the site's terms of use, which he agreed to when signing up for his Digg account. But he plans to continue to use Digg to plow in revenue for uSocial.

"I'm not in their [Digg's] country of operation, and the people that I'm employing are scattered across the world," Hill said. For these reasons, he believes Digg won't succeed in bringing a case against him. Hill calls the letter noting more than a "scare tactic."

Digg is not taking the issue lightly, said Beth Murphy, Digg's head of marketing. In an e-mail, she wrote: "Digg is always evolving our systems and processes to combat gaming and abuse on the site. In addition to these ongoing measures, we may take additional action to ensure Digg remains a level playing field for all members of our 35 million community."

Many of Digg's users are understandably less than enamored of Hill's infiltrating their hangout.

"As you can understand, there are a lot of people out there who aren't happy with what we're doing," Hill said. "We're gaming Digg."

Digg is no stranger to users who try to abuse its service. Digg bans users who show traces of unusual activity, such as employing computer scripts to alter the website. But thanks to the software Hill developed for the company, he says, uSocial accounts are immune. Since perfecting the software three months ago, he says, he hasn't had a single account banned for misuse.

For now, Hill says, uSocial is backed up on orders. But Digg is hoping it can shut down the operation, and put the editing power back in the hands of legitimate users.

In Downturn, Americans Seek Silver-Screen Lining
Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes

Hollywood could get used to this recession thing.

While much of the economy is teetering between bust and bailout, the movie industry has been startled by a box-office surge that has little precedent in the modern era. Suddenly it seems as if everyone is going to the movies, with ticket sales this year up 17.5 percent, to $1.7 billion, according to Media by Numbers, a box-office tracking company.

And it is not just because ticket prices are higher. Attendance has also jumped, by nearly 16 percent. If that pace continues through the year, it would amount to the biggest box-office surge in at least two decades.

Americans, for the moment, just want to hide in a very dark place, said Martin Kaplan, the director of the Norman Lear Center for the study of entertainment and society at the University of Southern California.

“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “People want to forget their troubles, and they want to be with other people.”

Helping feed the surge is the mix of movies, which have been more audience-friendly in recent months as the studios have tried to adjust after the lackluster sales of more somber and serious films.

As she stood in line at the 18-screen Bridge theater complex here on Thursday to buy weekend tickets for “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience,” Angel Hernandez was not thinking much about escaping reality. Instead, Ms. Hernandez, a Los Angeles parking lot attendant and mother of four young girls, was focused on one very specific reality: her wallet.

Even with the movie carrying a premium price of $15 because of its 3-D effects — children’s tickets typically run $9 at the Bridge — Ms. Hernandez saw the experience as a bargain.

“Spending hundreds of dollars to take them to Disneyland is ridiculous right now,” she said. “For $60 and some candy money I can still be a good mom and give them a little fun.”

A lot of parents may have been thinking the same thing Friday, as “Jonas Brothers” sold out more than 800 theaters, according to MovieTickets.com, and was expected to sell a powerful $25 million or more in tickets.

Other movies kept up their blistering sales pace, too, including “Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail,” about a gun-toting grandma. Even “Taken,” a relatively low-cost thriller starring Liam Neeson, is barreling past the $100 million mark this weekend.

Historically speaking, the old saw that movies do well in hard times is not precisely true. The last time Hollywood enjoyed a double-digit jump in attendance was 1989, when the unemployment rate was at a comfortable 5.4 percent and the Gothic tone of that year’s big hit, “Batman,” seemed mostly the stuff of fantasy. That year, the number of moviegoers shot up 16.4 percent, according to Box Office Mojo, a box-office reporting service.

In 1982, theater attendance jumped 10.1 percent to about 1.18 billion (the top seller was “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”) as unemployment rose sharply past 10 percent. Then admissions fell nearly 12 percent, an unusually sharp drop, in 1985 (the “Back to the Future” year), as the economy picked up — suggesting that theater owners have sometimes found fortunes in times of distress, and distress in good times.

Academic research on the matter is scant. One often-quoted scholarly study by Michelle Pautz, of Elon University, was published by the journal Issues in Political Economy in 2002. Over all, it said, the portion of the American population that attended movies on a weekly basis dropped from around 65 percent in 1930 to about 10 percent in the 1960s, and pretty much stayed there.

The film industry appears to have had a hand in its recent good luck. Over the last year or two, studios have released movies that are happier, scarier or just less depressing than what came before. After poor results for a spate of serious dramas built around the Middle East (“The Kingdom,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Rendition”), Hollywood got back to comedies like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” a review-proof lark about an overstuffed security guard.

“A bunch of movies have come along that don’t make you think too much,” said Marc Abraham, a producer whose next film is a remake of “The Thing.”

Certainly exhibitors are looking for a profit lift in the downturn. A new report from Global Media Intelligence on Friday predicted that the fortunes of movie theater operators like Regal Entertainment and Cinemark Holdings would be “increasingly favorable against a backdrop of highly negative economic news.”

Cinematic quality has little to do with it. The recent crop of Oscar nominees has fared poorly, for the most part, at the box office. Lighter fare has drawn the crowds.

“It would take a very generous person to call these pictures anything other than middle-of-the-road, at best,” said Roger Smith, the executive editor of Global Media Intelligence.

The box-office surge started just before Christmas with the comedy “Marley & Me,” in which Jennifer Aniston was upstaged by a dog. And it has continued, weekend by weekend, with little sign of let-up, analysts say.

“Watchmen,” a dark superhero film, opens March 6 and is expected to do megawatt business. It is to be followed by “Monsters vs. Aliens,” a 3-D behemoth from DreamWorks Animation that analysts expect to have the biggest March opening ever for a nonsequel.
Movie theaters are already adding 3 a.m. screenings for “Watchmen” next week, and advance sales by online ticket companies like Fandango and MovieTickets.com have been strong.

“Fandango is experiencing the best first quarter in its history for ticket sales,” said Rick Butler, its chief operating officer. “I see no signs of a drop-off.”

Jonas Brothers Underperform Badly, Hollywood Still Cashes in at the Box Office
Brooks Barnes

The Jonas Brothers are apparently no Miley Cyrus, at least not yet.

Opening weekend results for the candy-coated rock band’s concert movie, “The Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience,” missed industry expectations by a mile, selling a soft $12.7 million in tickets at North American theaters. Hollywood box office experts had predicted the movie’s gross would be in the $25 million range, based largely on the $31.1 million opening of last year’s “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” movie.

Nevertheless, Hollywood still had another bang-up weekend, overall. Ticket sales stood at $87.7 million, up 10 percent over the same weekend in 2008, according to Media by Numbers, a box office tracking firm. “Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail” was No. 1, with $16.5 million ($64.9 million overall). Rounding out the top five were “Slumdog Millionaire,” hot off its Oscar wins, with $12.2 million ($115.1 million); the thriller “Taken” with $10 million ($108 million); and the romantic comedy “He’s Just Not That Into You” with $5.9 million ($78.5 million).

Walt Disney Pictures tried to put a positive spin on its Jonas Brothers release, noting that the picture ranked as the second highest grossing concert film of all time (behind “Hannah.”) But Chuck Viane, president of domestic distribution, said the studio’s decision to open the film in extended release – the Miley Cyrus movie was packaged as a one-week-only stunt – “probably took some of the urgency away.”

The chasm between industry expectations and reality for the Jonas Brothers film underscores the difficulty in predicting demand for children’s films. Friday results are normally extrapolated to come up with a weekend estimate, but Saturday matinees can make or break (as they did in this case) the final tally. The polling services upon which studios rely are also not allowed to directly contact minors. Mr. Viane said 65 percent of “The Jonas Brothers” audience was under 17 years old.

Africa Must Learn from Nigeria's "Microwave" Movies
Katrina Manson

In the time it takes for a lovingly crafted art house movie to emerge as winner of the top prize at Burkina Faso's pan-African FESPACO cinema festival, Nigeria's prolific producers will already have churned out another 50 films.

They might be tales of cannibalism, sorcery and jealous girlfriends who shrink their errant boyfriends into bottles, but Nigeria's $450 million home video industry is the third biggest in the world, after America's Hollywood and India's Bollywood.

By contrast, FESPACO's filmmakers -- considered the best on the continent -- rely on dwindling donations, and scrabble for private financing and poor distribution deals amid a spate of cinema closures.

"Cinema is certainly dying," said Zimbabwean director Michael Raeburn, whose Johannesburg-set film "Triomf" is competing for Africa's equivalent of an Oscar. "South Africa is all about DVD and TV, no one makes any money from cinema."

Nigeria shot its first film, "Palaver" (Trouble), in 1904, and its home movie industry has been creating it ever since.

"It's not often talked of with respect," said Nigerian-born Chike Nwoffiah, whose first feature film "Sabar," set in California, is competing in the Diaspora category at FESPACO.

"It's "microwave' filming: push the button, wait three seconds and the film is done," he said. "Some of the directors can go from script to print in two weeks. The speed with which they make these films implies something is being sacrificed."

Even so, demand is rising. Last year "Nollywood" produced more than 2,000 films, up from 662 five years ago. Most films are produced in local languages -- Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo among them -- while English accounts for more than 40 percent.

"However bad the quality, Nollywood shows there's definitely a demand for African storytelling," said South African director Zola Maseko, whose film "Drum" won the prized Etalon d'Or de Yennenga in 2005. "It shows you have a whole community of people who have a deep need to see and hear themselves -- Africa hasn't had that chance."

Quality Will Come

Nollywood also has growing audience among Africans living abroad, keen for a taste of home, whether watched in south London hairdressers or rented from Texas video stores.

"The Diaspora is just getting to know these films through horrible pirated copies and there is a real opening here. It's how Bollywood got started," said Vijay Mahajan, a marketing professor based in the United States who thinks Nollywood should chase after a greater slice of the 100 million Africans who live outside the continent.

"Bollywood has bought up more than 200 screens in 28 U.S. cities and Nigeria's industry should consider doing the same, he said.

Nigeria is also embracing modern digital technology at speed: there is already a 24-hour website for Nollywood internet downloads, for 5.99 pounds ($8.47) a month.

As Nigeria eyes a growing market, on the outskirts of hot, dusty Ouagadougou, FESPACO's International Film and Television Market (MICA) -- which is meant to help producers find buyers -- is wilting.

Weary hostesses wait at forlorn stands, and booth M43, allotted to the Nigerian Film Commission, is empty.

"They reserved a space but they didn't come and they didn't pay," said Chantal Belem, MICA secretary.

However much some of Africa's expertly trained filmmakers disdain Nigeria's commercial approach, others believe it is filling a gap which will bring dividends in the long run.

"It is creating a market for films. In South Africa people are already addicted, it's like crack cocaine. Over the years audiences will become more discerning," said Maseko. "Hollywood in the 1920s was no good; Bollywood in the 1960s was no good: Nollywood will have its day too."

(Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

ZillionTV: Another Set-Top Box, With Ads
Saul Hansell

A company called ZillionTV is pulling the covers off yet another set-top box Wednesday that will let you watch movies and other video from the Internet on your TV.

Yawn. That’s right, it’s just like boxes from Apple, Roku, Vudu, 2Wire, and so many more. It won’t even be available until the fall. And at first, it will have much the same content you can get from other places — recent and old movies and some network shows starting the day after they air.

Still, it does have an interesting take on the market that makes it an interesting experiment. Here’s what I gleaned from an interview with Mitchell Berman, the company’s chief executive:

The box is very cheap: Actually the company wanted to offer the box free, but their tests showed that consumers didn’t respond as well to free, so it will cost well under $100. The device is simple because it has no hard drive and plays video by streaming, not downloading. It costs a bit over $100 to manufacture.

There is free and pay-per-view content: For some programs, you’ll get a choice of free with ads or uninterrupted for a fee. You can also “buy” movies, which gives you the right to stream them any time you want (until ZillionTV goes away or changes business models).

The pitch to advertisers is precise targeting: To get high ad prices to pay for all this, ZillionTV will watch your viewing habits, merge them with data about you it buys elsewhere, and use all that information to target ads to certain groups of viewers. Users will also be asked to select categories of products they would like to see ads about. The ad-supported content will have half the number of commercials as broadcast television, which is still more than online services, like Hulu, have now. And you can’t skip past the commercials.

It has a nifty pointer remote: Wave the remote in the air and a pointer moves around the screen, much like a mouse pointer. This uses technology from Hillcrest Labs. It’s the nicest interface on a set-top box I’ve seen yet.

It will be distributed only by Internet service providers: Like 2Wire, the company sees that the best way into the market is to package its service with broadband service from phone companies that don’t have TV offerings. Trying to make friends in many places, the company has also taken investments from Visa and five movie studios (Warner Brothers, Sony, NBC Universal, Disney and Fox).

The company has some other ideas about buying products you see online with the remote (the Visa connection) and a points rewards program. It also claims it has deals for other content, including music and sports. I won’t even call those interesting until I see them.

Overall, there are a few tricks that may appeal to viewers here. Ad-supported old movies may provide a nice alternative to the Netflix subscription model. (The company has to prove that its targeting scheme can make add enough value for advertisers, without scaring off consumers, to pay for the content.)

And I love the pointer remote. I wish every television and TV gizmo would use this technology instead of the annoying arrow buttons.

The ties to the Internet providers and studios could also be a problem. Mr. Berman, who has worked in cable and satellite TV, says he can get more content and a faster start that way. But I wonder if the conflicts between all these parties will wind up slowing him down.

Uproar Over New Netflix Player

Anonymous said...

Netflix sold us out in favor of a deal with Microsoft. In return, we have a lower quality buggy program so we can be guinea pigs for Microsoft's attempt to dislodge Flash.

Im going to cancel along with a clear explanation as to why.

I will remind them that Ive been a good customer for years (even getting my inlaws an account) and that Netflix is the reason I will be going to an easier and better quality systemd.

It is called bit torrenting.

Make my life hard and my money will go elsewhere. In this economy, I have less patience for those that do that.

We need more open formats and standards, not locking ourselves into more dead ends.

Way to go Netflix.


Video Killed the Video Store
Ryan Singel

The Blockbuster is dead, long live the blockbuster.

At least that's what the technology omens are saying.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Blockbuster Video, whose shares are trading below $1, is seeking advice on how to file for bankruptcy. Blockbuster counters it's only trying to get help to restructure its debt.

No matter. The days of tromping to the video store to find the night's entertainment are past. Now the question is only how long will it be until walking to the mailbox to get a DVD is considered antiquarian.

Driving or walking to the video store to bring home less than a gig of data — data that may or may not even be in stock — just doesn't make much sense anymore.

At least not when compared to Netflix's easy ordering system, its recommendation engine, lack of late fees, deeper inventory and clever use of the Postal Service to have movies delivered quickly.

Blockbuster tried to keep up, with an innovative mail rental plan that let people trade in movies at the store as well, but the plan turned out to be too complicated and too late.

But even the notion of even leaving the room to get a movie, doesn't make sense if you have a fat internet connection and the willingness to explore some legal and less-legal ways to download movies to a computer.

Note that also on Tuesday, cable provider Comcast announced that it was rolling out "wideband" in the San Francisco Bay Area (including a 50 Mbps downstream offering for $140 a month) and doubled the download speed of its current basic plus service to 12 Mbps down for free. That marks the 10th urban area in the United States that the cable operator is offering real broadband.

Think YouTube, Hulu, NetFlix's streaming movies, iTunes and Amazon overpriced rentals on demand, as well as dozens of others striving — yet again — to find a way to stream Hollywood video across the internet.

On Wednesday, ZillionTV announced that by the end of the year it will sell a $50 internet-connected set-top box that will stream HD and standard movies and premium TV, letting people choose to pay for entertainment or watch ad-supported shows.

No one has created a popular computer-in-the-living room solution yet — which makes DVDs still very practical, but that's just details. Some company — or several — will and then the notion of leaving the house to get a movie to watch will seem as quaint as writing a check at the grocery store.

The only question is what will become of all those old Blockbuster video stores and their signature blue awnings? My money is on an innovative pizza delivery company with a blue logo to start up and take over where the DVD business died.

Because at least so far, the internet has not yet figured out how to deliver a pizza better than a brick-oven pizza place can.

Time Warner Goes Over the Top
Saul Hansell

Just as soon as Time Warner has divested itself from the cable business, Jeff Bewkes, its chief executive, is preparing to stab the cable industry in the back.

That’s what I read in the interview with Mr. Bewkes in Advertising Age Monday talking about a concept the company calls TV Everywhere. Most of the article positions Time Warner, a major programming supplier, in agreement with Comcast and the newly independent Time Warner Cable, over plans to let people watch cable networks on the Internet.

The idea, which I wrote about last month, is that if you pay to have access to programming by way of a cable or satellite service, you will also be able to watch the same programs on a computer connected to the Internet or maybe on a cellphone. Most cable-only networks, like CNN and ESPN, do not offer their programming free on the Web because most of their income comes out of the subscription fees charged by pay TV companies.

One paragraph in the article jumped out at me, however.

For 85 percent of American households, the added access would be, essentially, free. Mr. Bewkes said he anticipates there will be a web-only option for those who don’t have pay-TV service.

That last line has the potential to affect a lot more people than the handful of cable naysayers. Once you can buy CNN and TNT from Time Warner, it won’t be long before you can buy MTV and Comedy Central from Viacom as well as ESPN and Soapnet from Disney.

This is what is called “over the top” television, because it uses a broadband connection rather than the existing cable or satellite systems. It has been long feared in the cable business. The people at Comcast who are planning their Internet TV service have told me they expect that over-the-top video services will be available, but that they want a head start to make sure their subscribers don’t have reason to defect.

The old Time Warner might well have dragged its feet in offering over-the-top access to its networks to help protect its cable system. Now Mr. Bewkes is leading the charge.

Thomson Reuters Plans Video-on-Demand Service
Richard Pérez-Peña

Thomson Reuters will announce on Tuesday an ambitious new video-on-demand service for its financial services clients, with thousands of searchable videos and transcripts on a range of topics, hoping to become a one-stop source for business people.

The Web-based service, which will be introduced in the next few months, differs significantly from existing sources of financial news video reports. It has no television outlet and no programming schedule — each piece is viewed only on demand — and it will not be open to the general public.

“We’ve created something completely new here,” Devin Wenig, chief executive of the company’s markets division, said in an interview in his office above Times Square, where he demonstrated the service. “This is meant for the 550,000 financial professionals who have a Thomson Reuters screen on their desks.”

The hope is not to compete directly with established sources like CNBC or Bloomberg Television, but to create a new niche — and make the company’s core business of financial data and news more attractive in the competition with Bloomberg and Dow Jones Newswires. The Thomson Reuters service has features that allow especially fast access to specific pieces of video, whether produced in a studio or recorded at a conference or a hearing. Each video is accompanied on screen by a searchable transcript, with a set of key words highlighted at the top. Clicking anywhere on the transcript causes the video to jump to that point.

A user can search the entire database of videos for any that mention a particular topic, person, industry or company. And the service can compile a montage that pulls out the quick bits of relevant video on a subject and strings them together.

Mr. Wenig said that in designing the service, Thomson Reuters emphasized speed in finding and displaying videos. The Wall Street that emerges from the current economic crisis, he said, will be not only smaller, but much younger, populated by a generation accustomed to instant searches and on-demand services.

The company has built bare-bones television studios in its offices in New York City, London and Hong Kong, and is training its news staff to produce short video reports on the topics they cover. The company will not say what kind of investment went into the new service.

The site is built around a series of “vertical” channels on broad topics, each with a set of subchannels. Thomson Reuters wants its clients, like research firms, banks and investment firms, to supply video of their own people discussing financial news, and even create their own channels on the site. It says a number of companies have already signed on, though it would name only a few, like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Argus Research.

“I don’t think anyone else has deployed something like this, though no doubt they will,” said Paul G. Hayward, associate director of broadcast and digital communications at the mercantile exchange. “I’m quite excited about it.”

Most eligible Thomson Reuters clients will gain access to the service in June, but a few hundred have been already begun using a test version. Subscribers to the company’s premium service will be allowed to use it, and subscribers at lower levels will be able to buy access for an additional charge.

Why TV Lost
Paul Graham

About twenty years ago people noticed computers and TV were on a collision course and started to speculate about what they'd produce when they converged. We now know the answer: computers. It's clear now that even by using the word "convergence" we were giving TV too much credit. This won't be convergence so much as replacement. People may still watch things they call "TV shows," but they'll watch them mostly on computers.

What decided the contest for computers? Four forces, three of which one could have predicted, and one that would have been harder to.

One predictable cause of victory is that the Internet is an open platform. Anyone can build whatever they want on it, and the market picks the winners. So innovation happens at hacker speeds instead of big company speeds.

The second is Moore's Law, which has worked its usual magic on Internet bandwidth. [1]

The third reason computers won is piracy. Users prefer it not just because it's free, but because it's more convenient. Bittorrent and YouTube have already trained a new generation of viewers that the place to watch shows is on a computer screen. [2]

The somewhat more surprising force was one specific type of innovation: social applications. The average teenage kid has a pretty much infinite capacity for talking to their friends. But they can't physically be with them all the time. When I was in high school the solution was the telephone. Now it's social networks, multiplayer games, and various messaging applications. The way you reach them all is through a computer. [3] Which means every teenage kid (a) wants a computer with an Internet connection, (b) has an incentive to figure out how to use it, and (c) spends countless hours in front of it.

This was the most powerful force of all. This was what made everyone want computers. Nerds got computers because they liked them. Then gamers got them to play games on. But it was connecting to other people that got everyone else: that's what made even grandmas and 14 year old girls want computers.

After decades of running an IV drip right into their audience, people in the entertainment business had understandably come to think of them as rather passive. They thought they'd be able to dictate the way shows reached audiences. But they underestimated the force of their desire to connect with one another.

Facebook killed TV. That is wildly oversimplified, of course, but probably as close to the truth as you can get in three words.


The TV networks already seem, grudgingly, to see where things are going, and have responded by putting their stuff, grudgingly, online. But they're still dragging their heels. They still seem to wish people would watch shows on TV instead, just as newspapers that put their stories online still seem to wish people would wait till the next morning and read them printed on paper. They should both just face the fact that the Internet is the primary medium.

They'd be in a better position if they'd done that earlier. When a new medium arises that's powerful enough to make incumbents nervous, then it's probably powerful enough to win, and the best thing they can do is jump in immediately.

Whether they like it or not, big changes are coming, because the Internet dissolves the two cornerstones of broadcast media: synchronicity and locality. On the Internet, you don't have to send everyone the same signal, and you don't have to send it to them from a local source. People will watch what they want when they want it, and group themselves according to whatever shared interest they feel most strongly. Maybe their strongest shared interest will be their physical location, but I'm guessing not. Which means local TV is probably dead. It was an artifact of limitations imposed by old technology. If someone were creating an Internet-based TV company from scratch now, they might have some plan for shows aimed at specific regions, but it wouldn't be a top priority.

Synchronicity and locality are tied together. TV network affiliates care what's on at 10 because that delivers viewers for local news at 11. This connection adds more brittleness than strength, however: people don't watch what's on at 10 because they want to watch the news afterward.

TV networks will fight these trends, because they don't have sufficient flexibility to adapt to them. They're hemmed in by local affiliates in much the same way car companies are hemmed in by dealers and unions. Inevitably, the people running the networks will take the easy route and try to keep the old model running for a couple more years, just as the record labels have done.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal described how TV networks were trying to add more live shows, partly as a way to make viewers watch TV synchronously instead of watching recorded shows when it suited them. Instead of delivering what viewers want, they're trying to force them to change their habits to suit the networks' obsolete business model. That never works unless you have a monopoly or cartel to enforce it, and even then it only works temporarily.

The other reason networks like live shows is that they're cheaper to produce. There they have the right idea, but they haven't followed it to its conclusion. Live content can be way cheaper than networks realize, and the way to take advantage of dramatic decreases in cost is to increase volume. The networks are prevented from seeing this whole line of reasoning because they still think of themselves as being in the broadcast business—as sending one signal to everyone. [4]


Now would be a good time to start any company that competes with TV networks. That's what a lot of Internet startups are, though they may not have had this as an explicit goal. People only have so many leisure hours a day, and TV is premised on such long sessions (unlike Google, which prides itself on sending users on their way quickly) that anything that takes up their time is competing with it. But in addition to such indirect competitors, I think TV companies will increasingly face direct ones.

Even in cable TV, the long tail was lopped off prematurely by the threshold you had to get over to start a new channel. It will be longer on the Internet, and there will be more mobility within it. In this new world, the existing players will only have the advantages any big company has in its market.

That will change the balance of power between the networks and the people who produce shows. The networks used to be gatekeepers. They distributed your work, and sold advertising on it. Now the people who produce a show can distribute it themselves. The main value networks supply now is ad sales. Which will tend to put them in the position of service providers rather than publishers.

Shows will change even more. On the Internet there's no reason to keep their current format, or even the fact that they have a single format. Indeed, the more interesting sort of convergence that's coming is between shows and games. But on the question of what sort of entertainment gets distributed on the Internet in 20 years, I wouldn't dare to make any predictions, except that things will change a lot. We'll get whatever the most imaginative people can cook up. That's why the Internet won.


[1] Thanks to Trevor Blackwell for this point. He adds: "I remember the eyes of phone companies gleaming in the early 90s when they talked about convergence. They thought most programming would be on demand, and they would implement it and make a lot of money. It didn't work out. They assumed that their local network infrastructure would be critical to do video on-demand, because you couldn't possibly stream it from a few data centers over the internet. At the time (1992) the entire cross-country Internet bandwidth wasn't enough for one video stream. But wide-area bandwidth increased more than they expected and they were beaten by iTunes and Hulu."

[2] Copyright owners tend to focus on the aspect they see of piracy, which is the lost revenue. They therefore think what drives users to do it is the desire to get something for free. But iTunes shows that people will pay for stuff online, if you make it easy. A significant component of piracy is simply that it offers a better user experience.

[3] Or a phone that is actually a computer. I'm not making any predictions about the size of the device that will replace TV, just that it will have a browser and get data via the Internet.

[4] Emmett Shear writes: "I'd argue the long tail for sports may be even larger than the long tail for other kinds of content. Anyone can broadcast a high school football game that will be interesting to 10,000 people or so, even if the quality of production is not so good."

Thanks to Sam Altman, Trevor Blackwell, Nancy Cook, Michael Seibel. Emmett Shear, and Fred Wilson for reading drafts of this.

Steal These Federal Records — Okay, Not Literally
John Schwartz and Robert Mackey

Today on The Lede, we have a contribution from John Schwartz, who wrote in Friday’s New York Times about Pacer, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records database run by the federal government. Mr. Schwartz focused on efforts by two activists “to push the court records system into the 21st century — by simply grabbing enormous chunks of the database and giving the documents away, to the great annoyance of the government.”

Here is more on those efforts, and a look at some of the other kinds of information available through the same Web site, Public.Resource.org:

Carl Malamud has worked crazy hours to push the courts into cleaning up the privacy violations he has found in the Pacer documents he has downloaded. That saga is best told in the exchanges of e-mailed notices, some of them pretty darned testy, that he has published on his Web site.

The site is a trove of other government documents he has made accessible to the public, including an enormous database of tax returns from nonprofit groups, state and local building codes and regulations, images from the Smithsonian Institution, and earlier work he did with material from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Patent and Trademark Office. Those can all be found through links from the main page of his site, Public.Resource.org.

Also on that site are links to what Mr. Malamud calls FedFlix — a growing archive of many films originally produced by the federal government, which he’s been uploading to the Internet Archive and a YouTube channel.

The 524 films in the FedFlix catalogue so far include such gems as “Sludge Management,” “Welcome to the Bureau of Prisons!” “Foreign Lottery Scams,” “(Motorola Presents) Atomic Attack,” battle footage and training films from World War II and Vietnam, and the Cold War classic “Duck and Cover,” which is embedded here:

In the article, The Times mentions a Stanford drop-out and entrepreneur by the name of Aaron Swartz. In the technology world, Mr. Swartz is kind of a big deal, as the saying goes. At the age of 14, he had a hand in writing RSS, the now-ubiquitous software used to syndicate everything from blog posts to news headlines directly to subscribers.

Mr. Swartz came across the online manifesto that Carl Malamud published about freeing Pacer documents, in which Mr. Malamud wrote: “The law contains the rules that govern our society. We just want to be able to read our own user manual.”

In his call to action, Mr. Malamud pointed to the free trial Pacer was offering and called for a “Thumb Drive Corps” to go to libraries with small-but-capacious “thumb drives,” plug them into computers, download as many court documents as they could, and send them to Mr. Malamud so that he could translate them them into a format that Google’s search software can read and put them on line.

Mr. Malamud’s appeal evidently inspired Mr. Swartz to do it one better. (As we said, he knows his way around a keyboard.)

He approached Steve Schultze, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard who had found Pacer cumbersome to search. “The issue was just sort of a pet peeve in the back of my mind for a while,” Mr. Schultze said. He had written a small program that would crawl through the Pacer database and download documents automatically. He showed his bit of software — the code would fit on a single typewritten page — to Mr. Swartz, who set about debugging and improving it.

Then Mr. Swartz had a friend in California take a thumb drive with the “scraping” software on it to one of the free-trial libraries, sign up for an account and upload the program.

And that is how, over the course of six weeks, Mr. Swartz was able to download 780 gigabytes of data — 19,856,160 pages of text — from Pacer. The caper grabbed an estimated 20 percent of the entire PACER network, with a focus on the most recent cases from almost every circuit.

When the government abruptly shut down the free public program, Mr. Malamud saw it as a sign of possible trouble ahead. “Who shuts down a 17-site national program with no notice whatsoever?” he recalled thinking. “I immediately saw the potential for overreaction by the courts.”

Mr. Malamud told Mr. Swartz: “You need to talk to a lawyer. I need to talk to a lawyer.” Mr. Swartz recalled, “I had this vision of the Feds crashing down the door, taking everything away.”

He said he locked the deadbolt on his door, lay down on the bed for a while, and then called his mother.

But when lawyers told Mr. Malamud and Mr. Swartz that they appeared to have broken no laws, Mr. Malamud sent Mr. Swartz a message saying, “You should just lay low for a while.”

Mr. Swartz said that he waited for a couple of months, but “nobody came knocking on my door. I started breathing a little more easily.”

Putting a Bolder Face on Google
Laura M. Holson

IN late December, Marissa Mayer was vacationing in Africa when her boss, Jonathan Rosenberg, e-mailed her asking if she was leaving Google.

It wasn’t a routine query. As the gatekeeper of Google’s home page, and one of the company’s most ubiquitous and closely watched public faces, Ms. Mayer controls the look, feel and functionality of the Internet’s most heavily trafficked search engine. Rumors of her possible departure had lit up the blogosphere and offices across Silicon Valley.

None of it, she assured Mr. Rosenberg, was true. And Ms. Mayer, who is Google Employee No. 20 and the company’s first female engineer, still says she isn’t leaving; she says she has gone out of her way to inform Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as the chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, that she is staying put.

“It could not be further from the truth,” she says of gossip about her departure. “It made me realize that people don’t understand me.”

People may not understand Ms. Mayer, but as the “it girl” at one of the world’s hottest companies she is very hard to ignore. A popular guest on TV news programs and talk shows, a Google-booster often quoted in print, and a rapid-fire presence on San Francisco’s social scene, she is the rare executive who has become — at least in the sometimes cloistered world of computer geeks — a celebrity.

As such, she has invited attention — and in some cases, derision — in the last year for such actions as creating spreadsheets to find the perfect cupcake recipe, attending lavish ballet, art and fashion galas, paying $60,000 at a charity auction to have lunch with Oscar de la Renta, and hosting breezy, dying-to-get-invited-to parties at her $5 million penthouse atop the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco.

Her live-out-loud lifestyle seems so un-Silicon Valley, but at the same time, perfectly in tune with what Google is all about.

“I refuse to be stereotyped,” she says. “I think it’s very comforting for people to put me in a box. ‘Oh, she’s a fluffy girlie girl who likes clothes and cupcakes. Oh, but wait, she is spending her weekends doing hardware electronics.’ ”

Yet, despite whatever frivolity might attach itself to her, Ms. Mayer, 33, plays a pivotal, serious role at Google. Almost every new feature or design, from the wording on a Google page to the color of a Google toolbar, must pass muster with her or legions of Google users will never see it. She is one of the few Googlers with unfettered access to and influence over Mr. Brin and Mr. Page, and Valley wags wonder whether Google’s familiar white home page will even look the same if she leaves the company.

“Knowing Marissa, if she were considering leaving Google, she’d do it in an orderly way,” says Mr. Rosenberg, who is Google’s senior vice president for product management.

Others have a different view. Matt Rabinowitz, a close friend who has known Ms. Mayer since their days on the Stanford debate team in the early 1990s, says he thinks she might move on.

“Her quirkiness aligned beautifully with this moment in history when Google took over the Internet,” he says. “If she keeps growing at Google, she will stay there. There is nothing else like it now. She is in a position of leverage.”

“That said,” he adds, “I don’t think she will.”

WHEN Ms. Mayer joined Google after graduating with a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford in 1999, the company was a shoestring start-up where nobody expected to get rich quick, let alone become billionaires.

She started out writing code and overseeing small teams of engineers, carving out a niche for herself by developing and designing Google’s search offerings.

An engineer at heart, she also had something that many of her peers did not during Google’s early days: a keen sense of style and design. She adored bold blocks of color against a white background, much like the Marimekko prints that once hung in her childhood home in Wausau, Wis. Her San Francisco penthouse has a similar, but more expensive, aesthetic. It is painted in neutral shades and decorated with fanciful, multihued glass artwork by Dale Chihuly.

Google’s home page — spartan white embroidered with splashes of blue, red, yellow and green — mirrors her Wausau home and her penthouse.

“It used to be people would come over to my apartment and say, ‘Does your apartment look like Google or does Google look like your apartment?’ ” she says with a staccato laugh that has earned a following of its own in Silicon Valley. “I can’t articulate it anymore. I really love color. I’m not very knick-knacky or cluttery. My place has very clean, simple lines. There are some elements of fun and whimsy. That has always appealed to me.”

As vice president for search products and user experience, Ms. Mayer has wedded her personal tastes with an ability to manage her bosses, including a capacity to easily communicate and champion ideas with Mr. Brin and Mr. Page, both of whom are also friends.

Since joining Google, she has introduced more than 100 products and features, many of which have thrived: Google News, Gmail and Image Search, for example. Others, like Orkut, have had a harder time finding an audience in the United States.

“She is a catalyst for winning ideas,” Mr. Rosenberg says. “Marissa has been through the evolution of the Google playbook. She is part author. That is very important because she understands the design aesthetic of Google.”

In meetings with subordinates, Ms. Mayer comes across as a zealous copy editor or meticulous art teacher correcting first-semester students. With so many new recruits, she reasons, someone has to teach them how Google does things.

On a recent morning, a handful of program managers and other executives huddled around a long table in Building 43 on the Google campus here in Mountain View to review changes to products in development. Ms. Mayer was running late. The first team to present was ready, a Web page outlining their offering projected onto a large white wall.

“You are going to get comments from Marissa on that gray text,” a female colleague warns one of the waiting managers. “Be prepared for that.”

“I think the gray is unimportant,” he replies. “It looks fine.”

“I know,” the colleague says. “But you will get comments.”

Ms. Mayer enters the room a few minutes into the manager’s presentation and quickly interrupts him. “That gray-on-gray text is hard to read,” she says. “What are we going to do about that?”

“We can change it,” the manager concedes.

During a subsequent presentation, she is unimpressed by possible language for a Google Health page that would allow users to share medical information.

“I don’t like the words ‘invite’ and ‘view,’ ” she says. “Those two words are recreational. It feels too informal and lighthearted.”

“We used the word ‘invite’ because it’s an action word, so users know they have to do something,” a young product manager responds.

Ms. Mayer rolls her eyes. “It’s not a party,” she says.

She ends up giving the same or similar guidelines to managers for various Google features and products in other presentations that day. The guidelines are devised, she said, from myriad internal experiments to gauge users’ preferences. Avoid first- and second-person pronouns. Always write “Google” instead of “we.” If you want to make the design on the page simpler, take away one of these: a type of font, a color or an image. Don’t switch tenses. And steer clear of italics because they are hard to read on a computer screen.

SHE sighs when asked if she is bored with giving the same directions over and over. Clearly, that question has been on her mind. She and a team of designers are creating a style guide, she says, so she can quit repeating herself.

“The moment I don’t say something about the gray, we have a product that is inconsistent,” she says. “Once I let up, then something gets by. If we use the word ‘we,’ then users think we are picking their words for them. You have to try and make words less human and more a piece of the machinery.”

Besides, there’s a measure of protection for her in guidelines and decisions based on research, not on subjective whims. “Then it doesn’t become, ‘Who does Marissa like better?’ ” she says.

Despite such good intentions, Ms. Mayer sometimes appears to allow subjectivity — albeit temporarily — to reign as she helps steer Google along. How she navigates that divide surfaced during a recent kerfuffle over what shade of blue to use for the toolbar on Google pages.

A designer, Jamie Divine, had picked out a blue that everyone on his team liked. But a product manager tested a different color with users and found they were more likely to click on the toolbar if it was painted a greener shade.

As trivial as color choices might seem, clicks are a key part of Google’s revenue stream, and anything that enhances clicks means more money. Mr. Divine’s team resisted the greener hue, so Ms. Mayer split the difference by choosing a shade halfway between those of the two camps.

Her decision was diplomatic, but it also amounted to relying on her gut rather than research. Since then, she said, she has asked her team to test the 41 gradations between the competing blues to see which ones consumers might prefer.

More often than not, however, Ms. Mayer says she relies on charts, graphs and quantitative analysis as a foundation for a decision, particularly when it comes to evaluating people.

At a recent personnel meeting, she homes in on grade-point averages and SAT scores to narrow a list of candidates, many having graduated from Ivy League schools, whom she wanted to meet as part of a program to foster in-house talent. In essence, math is used to solve a human problem: How do you predict whether an employee has the potential for success?

A scrum of executives sit around a table, laptops in front of them, as they sort through résumés, college transcripts and quarterly reviews. The conversation is unemotional, at times a little brutal.

One candidate got a C in macroeconomics. “That’s troubling to me,” Ms. Mayer says. “Good students are good at all things.”

Another candidate looked promising with a quarterly rating from a supervisor of 3.5, out of 4, which meant she had exceeded her manager’s expectations. Ms. Mayer is suspicious, however, because her rating hasn’t changed in several quarters.

“She is looking for a way out,” Ms. Mayer says.

There are plenty of people for Ms. Mayer to keep her eye on. She oversees 200 product managers who in turn supervise 3,000 engineers, or more than 10 percent of Google’s work force. Given her longstanding relationship with Google’s founders and Mr. Schmidt, she has become something of a sounding board for other managers, a number of whom routinely gravitate to her office.

At the end of a recent day, she met with two senior executives, Joe Kraus and Sundar Pichai, to discuss the company’s social networking projects. Many executives at Google believe that social networking is important to its future. Ms. Mayer was meeting with Mr. Kraus and Mr. Pichai to help them prepare for a meeting the next day with Mr. Schmidt, Mr. Brin and Mr. Page to discuss how the company could leverage information-sharing among Google’s many services.

“It’s important you pregame Eric or it will be a disaster,” Mr. Pichai tells Ms. Mayer about the pending meeting, asking her to seek Mr. Schmidt’s support on their behalf.

“I know, I know,” she responds. “I will call him or write an e-mail. I want them to see how complicated this will be.”

Ms. Mayer e-mails Mr. Schmidt that evening. At the meeting the next day, Mr. Pichai’s and Mr. Kraus’s ideas are approved.

“Marissa is very good at driving the right conversation,” Mr. Pichai says. “If she hadn’t done that it would have been a train wreck for us.”

Still, students of Google’s culture wonder whether Ms. Mayer and her management style would flourish outside the insulated world where her tenacity and curiosity mirror the company itself. “She clearly has what it takes to be a great manager at Google, but I don’t know if that translates into being a great manager at Hasbro,” said John Battelle, author of “The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture.”

Any transition, too, could be particularly challenging, as the reputations of Ms. Mayer and others who were hired early on are so closely intertwined with the company. “You get comfortable being wealthy, getting attention, living in the bubble,” Mr. Battelle said. “It will be interesting to watch at which point they declare ‘who am I?’ by their definition, not Google’s.”

PICKING at a salad in a conference room at Google’s headquarters here, Ms. Mayer says she is vexed by how some perceive her. “I am not a girl about town,” she says. “It isn’t how I project myself. It is how other people choose to project me.”

Perhaps. But it also happens to be true that she enjoys talking about herself. Last summer, in an interview with Yelp, a Web site that tracks restaurants and other local services, she gushed over her favorite dry cleaner and shoe repair shop, and where to find the best pineapple malts in Palo Alto (the Palo Alto Creamery).

She told Yelp that she didn’t like odd numbers, had researched how to get the best deal on a San Francisco hotel room using Priceline, and noted that her gay friends demanded invitations to her women-only “Sex and the City” movie screening and birthday party.

Despite her complaints, Ms. Mayer also seems relatively carefree about her privacy. While photographs of her and her fiancé, Zachary Bogue, a private-equity executive, are instant Internet fodder, she says she rarely turns down requests for her picture from Drew Altizer, a photographer she knows and often sees on the party circuit. “Drew is trying to pay me a compliment,” she says.

Whatever Ms. Mayer chooses to reveal about herself publicly, Craig Silverstein, Google’s director of technology and a close friend, says that none of it is self-serving.

“It is not her job in talking to Yelp to get people to know her,” he says. “Marissa doesn’t care about the chattering classes. She likes shopping, fashion. And she is not going to stop just because people don’t like that.”

Besides, Ms. Mayer says, there are some things that she hasn’t previously revealed about herself and that the media have overlooked. Like her self-described athletic prowess.

“It hasn’t shown up anywhere that I am really physically active,” she says. “I ran the San Francisco half marathon this year. I did the Portland marathon. I went skiing just yesterday. I’m going to do the Birkebeiner, which is North America’s longest cross-country ski race. That just shows you how much there are gaps.”

RIAA Sued for Fraud, Abuse and Legal Sham

It’s been a rough week for the RIAA as massive layoffs are about to cost many employees their job. On top of that, the anti-piracy outfit is being sued for abusing the legal system for its war on piracy, civil conspiracy, deceptive trade practices, trespassing and computer fraud.

Covering the progress in the various RIAA cases has never been one of our top priorities here at TorrentFreak. The legalese and numerous cases seem to drag on forever, or end up in a settlement where the alleged ‘pirate’ pays the record labels a few thousand dollars.

Today’s coverage at both P2Pnet and Ray Beckerman’s blog, however, caught our eye. In what seems to be a classic David versus Goliath story, Shahanda Moursy from North Carolina has demanded a trial against three major record labels and the RIAA.

Also among the defendants is Mediasentry, the company that harvests IP-addresses of alleged copyright infringers. Previously, Mediasentry’s investigation tactics were deemed illegal in several states because it operated without the appropriate and required paperwork. This is one of the many offenses being used in the present claim.

Moursy is suing the RIAA and others for several offenses, but what really caught our eye is the description of the RIAA’s practices. According to the complaint the RIAA and record labels:

…[through] concerted efforts and cartels, control or attempt to control the channels of creation, distribution, and sale of musical works throughout the United States and the world. They are not artists, songwriters, or musicians. They did not write or record the songs. For a number of years, a group of large, multinational, multi-billion dollar record companies, including these [record labels], have been abusing the federal court judicial system for the purpose of waging a public relations and public threat campaign targeting digital file sharing activities.

To us, this indeed seems to be a fairly accurate description, but it’s only the start. As we’ve outlined before, the RIAA tends to target the weak, and aim for an early settlement of a few thousand dollars.

As part of this campaign of their sham litigation program, the [record labels] enhance the intimidation factor by actually filing suit in a number of instances with no prior warning. These suits are designed to attract media attention, and often do, as stories emerge of [record labels'] suits against the elderly, disabled, technologically clueless, and other vulnerable victims. Many of these victims have no idea how to operate a computer, let alone how to install and use peer-to-peer networking software to exchange music they would not likely be listening to anyway. But actual innocence is rarely a consideration to the [record labels].

And on top of that..

[The record labels’] litigation campaign, its preceding demands, and illegal investigations, are part of a concerted pattern of sham litigation. The [record labels'] true purpose is not to obtain the relief claimed in its sham litigation, but to intimidate, harass, and oppress the defendant targets and other users of computer networks.

To many, this will all sound very familiar and it’s good to see Mrs. Moursy’s legal representatives describing the tactics of these outfits so vividly. Over the years, tens of thousands have been harassed and threatened because they allegedly downloaded music illegally, exclusively based on shoddy evidence. Justice is calling.

Judge Orders Record Company Execs To Duluth

Lest there be any doubt that District Judge Michael J. Davis, presiding over the Duluth, Minnesota, case, Capitol Records v. Thomas, really does "get it" about the toxic effect the RIAA, its lead henchman Matthew Oppenheim, and their lawyers have had on the judicial process, all such doubt should be removed by the order he just entered. It removes control of the decision-making process from the RIAA, Oppenheim, and the lawyers. In the order Judge Davis spells out, in the clearest possible terms so that there can be no misunderstanding, that at the extraordinary 2-day settlement conference he has scheduled for later this month, each record company plaintiff is ordered to produce an "officer" of the corporation, or a "managing agent" of the corporation, who has corporate, decision-making, "power." The judge makes it clear that no one who has "settlement authority" with any limits or range attached to it will be acceptable. This means that "RIAA hitman" Matthew Oppenheim will not be able to control the settlement process as he has been permitted by the Courts to do in the past.

MediaSentry & RIAA Expert Under Attack

Jammie Thomas, the defendant in Duluth, Minnesota, RIAA case Capitol Records v. Thomas, has served her expert witness's report. The 30-page document (PDF), prepared by Prof. Yongdae Kim of the Computer Science Department of the University of Minnesota, attacks the reports and testimony of Prof. Doug Jacobson, the RIAA's expert, and the work of the RIAA's investigator, Safenet (formerly known as MediaSentry). Among other things, Dr. Kim termed MediaSentry's methods "highly suspect," debunked Dr. Jacobson's "the internet is like a post office" analogy, explained in detail how FastTrack works, explored a sampling of the types of attacks to which the defendant's computer may have been subjected, accused Jacobson of making "numerous misstatements," and concluded that "there is not one but numerous possible explanations for the evidence presented during this trial. Throughout the report I demonstrate possibilities not considered by the plaintiff's expert witness in his evaluation of the evidence..." Additionally, he concluded, "MediaSentry has a strong record of mistakes when claiming that particular IP addresses were the origins of copyright infringement. Their lack of transparency, lack of external review, and evidence of inadequate error checking procedures [put] into question the authenticity and validity of the log files and screenshots they produced."

How To Turn Customers Into Pirates

In the past we’ve given plenty of examples of how DRM hurts paying customers instead of the people it is meant for. Still, many software companies prefer to see their customers as potential ‘thieves’ but what they don’t realize, however, is that they are actually breeding pirates instead of stopping them.

Meet Mark, an IT guy at a small company who occasionally has to renew licenses for the software utilized by the business. Recently, he had to activate a copy of PaperPort, the scanning and document management software from Nuance. In order to free up another activation slot, he had to uninstall the old one first while being online. Like most activation licensed software, this doesn’t always work properly.

To resolve the issue Mark contacted Nuance’s support. To his surprise however, they didn’t want to help him straight away, instead asking him to take pictures of the CD in order to prove that the company owned a legitimate copy.

“I couldn’t believe my ears,” Mark told TorrentFreak. “After arguing with support for a while on how ridiculous it was, I still had to have the license within the day. To make a long story short I finally got them to unlock 2 licenses after 2 days of repeated calls and sending the picture of the CD multiple times.”

Upset at how he was treated by customer support, Mark decided to send an email to Nuance’s CEO Paul Ricci to inform him that alienating customers like this is not going to help him sell more products. The picture of the CDs that Mark had to supply was also sent to Ricci.

Dear Mr Ricci,

Our company has been using your product for nearly a decade. We have estimated that it is safe to say we have spent $3000 over the years on your product. We are by far not the biggest customer but in today’s economy we think every customer counts. We recently bought several PaperPort 11 licenses which we have used. We have upgraded our computers and the procedure is to uninstall paper port (While online) in order to free a license for the new computer. Sadly this did not work. My efforts at consulting with your technical support department were very time consuming, confusing, and ultimately pointless. To my surprise, they wanted me to take a PICTURE of the CDs we have. As an IT professional, I found this archaic exercise in futility to be absolutely appalling. Not only do your anti-piracy methods completely fail (There is no known anti-piracy method that works to this day, anything can be downloaded) but they cost me; the legitimate customer time and frustration. Attached is the picture I had to send in. This is to let you know that we are completely disgusted with your company’s procedures, and are no longer going to do any business with Nuance.

Just to let you know, being a computer engineer, I can guarantee you these statistics:

Pirates Stopped = 0
Legitimate Customers totally alienated = Thousands.

You may want to take a look at your stock trends of late, Mr. Ricci. Perhaps this poor customer service MIGHT explain some of that.
Ricci received the email in good order, and passed it on to the chief marketeer at Nuance, who wrote back to Mark. “I appreciate your note and will use it as a flashpoint for us to reevaluate this processes that you have correctly pointed out as archaic,” was his reply, and he offered some free copies of PaperPort, PDF and OmniPage “as a gesture of goodwill.”

Nuance has clearly recognized that they made a mistake and although it’s probably too late for some customers, we hope they’ve learned from it. Mark said that in hindsight his email to Ricci might have been a little bit over the top. But, it did make them realize that they were making a mistake, asking people to take pictures of their CDs.

“I was very upset and under a lot of pressure. My job is to solve problems in the quickest amount of time.. and taking pictures of CD’s or sticking them in a copier isn’t something anyone should ever have to do with their software,” Mark said.

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

Stop Suing Tech Investors Over Copyright!
Richard Koman

Ray Beckerman throws down the gauntlet on the music industry’s latest attack on technology and innovation - suing investors in tech companies, which if successful would cast a chill on the lifeblood of technology.

EMI and its associated companies recently sued Seeqpod and Favtape — and its management investors — in a case alleging direct, vicarious, contributory copyright infringement, as well as inducing copyright infringement. Beckerman said:

This trend the content companies are showing towards attempting to threaten the investors in technologies they feel are infringing their copyrights is alarming, especially in view of the woeful state of our economy.

The last thing this country needs is to discourage potential investment in emerging technology.

If a professional investor determines that one type of investment will put his personal assets at risk … because one of the company’s exposures happens to be in copyright infringement due to the unsettled state of copyright law in the 21st century … he or she will decide — guess what — to take a pass.

Which is exactly what the cold and calculating content cartel is hoping will happen.

What is needed is a new law to protect investors from copyright claims. Here’s his draft of proposed legislation. Anyone in Washington willing to push this agenda? How about ChangeCongress?

No person or entity can be subject to secondary liability for copyright infringement by a corporation or other business organization based in whole or in part upon (a) work he or she did in his or her capacity as a member of the board of directors or committee thereof, or (b) his or her having invested in any such corporation, including any oversight, monitoring, or due diligence activities in connection therewith.

It shall be a violation of this section to name any such person as a defendant in a claim.

Any person named as a defendant in a claim in violation of this provision, shall be entitled to his, her, or its attorneys fees, trebled.

This statute shall be applicable to pending actions, except that claimants shall be afforded thirty (30) days from its effective date, as a matter of right, to withdraw or abandon any claims which are or may be in violation of the statute.

Data on Obama's Helicopter Breached Via P2P?
Charles Cooper

An Internet security company claims that Iran has taken advantage of a computer security breach to obtain engineering and communications information about Marine One, President Barack Obama's helicopter, according to a report by WPXI, NBC's affiliate in Pittsburgh.

Tiversa, headquartered in Cranberry Township, Pa., reportedly discovered a security breach that led to the transfer of military information to an Iranian IP address, according to WPXI. The information is said to include planned engineering upgrades, avionic schematics, and computer network information.

The channel quoted the company's CEO, Bob Boback, who said Tiversa found a file containing the entire blueprints and avionics package for Marine One.

"What appears to be a defense contractor in Bethesda, Md., had a file-sharing program on one of their systems that also contained highly sensitive blueprints for Marine One," Boback told WPXI.

Tiversa makes products that monitor the sharing of files online. A representative for the company was not immediately available for comment.

Boback believes that the files probably were transferred through a peer-to-peer file-sharing network such as LimeWire or BearShare, then compromised.

Cool New Dutch Coin

Matthew Dent's new coinage for the UK was pretty great, but this Dutch commemorative coin is a fully contemporary chunk of wow.

On the front, the names of famous Dutch architects form an image of the queen while some Dutch architecture books on the back form an outline of The Netherlands. The design was done using free software running on Ubuntu/Debian.

The “Retr0brite” Project

How to deal with the “not-so-mellow yellow” of old computers and consoles

Anyone who has dug their old computer or console out of the cupboard or loft for some retro gaming will probably have noticed that it maybe hasn’t worn too well with the test of time. The plastics these machines were made of is called ABS and to make it flame retardant (just in case it catches fire after a marathon session) the plastics manufacturers added chemicals that caused the plastic turn yellow or, even worse, brown over a long period of time.

It was originally thought that the yellowing was permanent and that the only solution to this was to paint the plastic in its original colour and cover the problem up. However, a chance discovery was made in March 2008, by The CBM Museum at Wuppertal in Germany, that immersing parts in a solution of Hydrogen Peroxide could partially reverse the process. This was initially taken up by the Amiga community in Germany (http://www.a1k.org) and the idea eventually found its way to the English Amiga Board (http://eab.abime.net), where a madcap collection of chemists, plastics engineers and retro hackers managed to perfect this concept and put it on steroids, with help from other forums.

Dave from Manchester, UK, aka 'Merlin', the chemist behind the project, explains. “I came across the use of peroxide in July 2008 when Kristian95 told us about what people like AmigaGTI were doing with it over at a1k.org. I was intrigued by this, as I am a former industrial chemist. I am also a plant Safety Manager by trade and, purely by coincidence, around that time I read about a dust explosion that had occurred in the UK with a chemical called TAED, which is the booster in the ‘active oxygen’ laundry products.”

“This got me thinking, and after some really 'full-on', serious chemistry discussions with other EAB members, like Rkauer in Brazil, who is a plastics Engineer and my good friend Zetr0 from Kings Lynn, Norfolk, UK, who endured endless phone calls from me. We wrote some epic threads on English Amiga Board about the possible causes of the yellowing and eventually we arrived at the theory that it was the Bromine in the flame retardant that was the cause. We also knew that Ultra Violet light was another major factor. Having identified the culprit, the next stage was to try to develop and perfect a means of treating the plastic and reversing the yellowing without damaging the plastic. Being a former industrial chemist helped me tremendously, in understanding what was going on at the molecular level and to develop a treatment process to reverse the effect.”

“The problem was finally cracked in late July 2008 with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, a small amount of an “Oxy” laundry booster as a catalyst and a UV lamp. Proof of this concept was demonstrated on EAB by Tonyyeb from Hull, UK, Chiark from Leeds, UK and myself.

Then we took the idea to other forums, where the idea received a sceptical response at first. Lorne from Arizona and Tezza from New Zealand from the Vintage Computer Forums (http://www.vintage-computer.com) really took on the idea and helped us perfect the process between VCF and EAB. We have now proved that plastics yellowing can be completely reversed in hours using our mixture.”

“All of the initial tests were done with a liquid and we realised that for large parts this was getting expensive, so the next stage was to make a paintable “gel” version that could be brushed onto larger surfaces. This was tried in Ariziona in the sun and the UK under a UV lamp and was found to be just as effective as the liquid. We have now released this to the public domain for anyone to use as we can’t patent it and we coined the nickname “Retr0brite” for it, as it summed up what we were actually doing with it.”

“The most extreme test we have done to date was a Commodore 64, which was treated in several stages by myself over an eight-hour period, to show what could be achieved; this was a particularly impressive result”.

“We now have active threads about this at several forums across the World and we have now set up a Retr0brite support thread for those who are interested at our retro computer trading site, AmiBay ( www.amibay.com ).”

Liberty Groups Unite to Defend UK Rights

Writers, pop stars, lawyers and politicians from across the party spectrum yesterday issued a call to arms. They joined the largest ever campaign across Britain to warn of the erosion of freedoms and the emergence of surveillance techniques
Tracy McVeigh

A police cordon outside the Houses of Parliament in 2006. Liberty campaigners warn of a growing police state. Photograph: Adam Butler/AP

The government and the courts are collaborating in slicing away freedoms and pushing Britain to the brink of becoming a "database" police state, a series of sold-out conferences in eight British cities heard yesterday.

In a day of speeches and discussions, academics, politicians, lawyers, writers, journalists and pop stars joined civil liberty campaigners yesterday to issue a call to arms for Britons to defend their democratic rights.

More than 1,500 people, paying £35 a ticket, attended the Convention on Modern Liberty in Bloomsbury, central London, which was linked by video to parallel events in Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff and Cambridge. They heard from more than 80 speakers, including author Philip Pullman; musicians Brian Eno and Feargal Sharkey; journalists Fatima Bhutto, Andrew Gilligan, Nick Cohen and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger; politicians Lord Bingham and Dominic Grieve; a former director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald; and human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy.

In her speech Kennedy said she felt that fear was being used as a weapon to break down civil liberties. "There is a general feeling that in creating a climate of fear people have been writing a blank cheque to government. People feel the fear of terrorism is being used to take away a lot of rights."

She said that voters were anxious that their communities were 'being alienated' by the use of powers designed to protect national security being applied outside their original remit, and that there was now an open window of opportunity for the electorate to make their feelings known to government before the next election: "People are fearful of the general business of collecting too much information about individuals."

High on the concerns of the convention were the recent allegations against the British security services by Guantanamo Bay torture victim Binyam Mohamed, plans for ID cards, DNA collection databases and controversial surveillance powers being used by civil servants. In addition, concerns were high over Government plans to create a database of all the communciations and movements of ordinary people as well as the profileration of anti-terrorism laws including detention of suspects.

The Conservative MP David Davis, who resigned from the shadow cabinet in order to fight a byelection on a civil liberties platform, gave the final keynote speech of the day. He told the Observer that he believed the danger of a police state was a very real one and that justice secretary Jack Straw was leading a "piecemeal and casual erosion" of freedom in this country. "There has been a tide of government actions which have put expediency over justice time and time again. The British people wear their liberty like an old comfy suit, they are careless about it, but the mood is changing. Last year 80 per cent of people were in favour of ID cards, now 80 per cent are against. There's a point of reflection that we are reaching, the communications database which is planned to collect every private text and phone call and petrol station receipt will create uproar."

That people had paid £35 a ticket to attend such an event was a real sign that people were waking up and getting irritated by the threat, he said. "We are getting on the way to becoming a police state and the surest thing I do know is that by the time we are sure we are, then it will be too late."

Britain's judiciary came under fire from many speakers. The courts were accused of helping quash free speech by a panel of leading journalists who agreed that libel law was being manipulated by "dodgy characters" from all over the world who sought legal redress against valid investigative journalism in UK courts.

"Most of this is hidden from public view," said Alan Rusbridger who complained that British lawyers fees were 140 times as expensive as in the rest of Europe, creating impossible dilemas for journalists on newspapers already suffering from dropping sales and advertising revenues.

London Evening Standard journalist Andrew Gilligan said the planned database would bring an end to privacy and with it "an end of journalism". He pointed out that in the whole case around the illegal shooting to death by police of Brazilian student Jean Charles de Menezes, the only arrest was that of a journalist who revealed that police statements of the event were untrue.

The Observer and Vanity Fair writer Henry Porter, who co-organised the conference, said he felt tremendously moved by the support shown by everyone who had attended the event or agreed to speak. "I had been feeling like the lone lunatic wandering around Oxford Street with a placard and it's tremendously moving for me to see how many people share my concerns. The number of tickets, I'm told, could have been sold two or three times over. That has to show people really are thinking about these frightening issues quite seriously."

The Convention on Modern Liberty, sponsored by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, openDemocracy, Liberty, NO2ID and the Guardian, was launched as an umbrella campaign last month under the statement of purpose: "A call to all concerned with attacks on our fundamental rights and freedoms under pressure from counter-terrorism, financial breakdown and the database state."

Yesterday's gathering was by far the largest civil liberties convention ever held in Britain and it was held a day after a leading UN human rights investigator attacked Britain for "undermining" the rights of its citizens. In an advance copy of a report to the UN Human Rights Council, Martin Scheinin said so-called 'data mining' blurred the boundary between the targeted observation of suspects and mass surveillance.

Scheinin, the UN's independent investigator on human rights in the fight against terrorism, also questioned the use of spy software that analyses people's internet postings to create profiles of terrorists.

Mary Printz, an Ear for the Famous, Dies at 82
Margalit Fox

A long, long time ago, before the BlackBerry, before the fax machine, even before the answering machine, busy people relied on answering services to get messages from family, friends and clients. In rooms all over America, rows of women — for they were nearly always women — sat day and night at blinking, buzzing switchboards and plugging in, speaking up and writing everything down by hand.

At one switchboard, on the East Side of Manhattan, sat a young woman named Mary Printz. The name of the answering service has long since lost to time, but in the mid-1950s, when Mrs. Printz worked there, it catered to some of the biggest personalities in the city’s theatrical and business worlds.

Like her colleagues, Mrs. Printz gave her clients polite and impeccable service. But she did something more.

To Mrs. Printz, clients were not merely disembodied voices: they were flesh-and-blood people with whom she became indispensably, if often invisibly, intertwined. If they needed it, she would walk their dogs, water their plants, pick up their laundry, listen to their troubles and, when those troubles were especially bad, run right over with consolation in a bottle. In the process, she came to know every aspect of her clients’ lives, from professional successes and failures to affairs of the heart.

If the long, helpful career of Mrs. Printz, who died on Feb. 21 at 85, sounds a great deal like that of the Judy Holliday character in the hit Broadway musical “Bells Are Ringing,” it is no accident. One of Mrs. Printz’s clients was Adolph Green, who, inspired by her extraordinary ministrations, wrote the show’s book and lyrics with his frequent collaborator, Betty Comden. (The music is by Jule Styne.)

“Bells Are Ringing,” which ran on Broadway from 1956 to 1959, starred Miss Holliday as Ella Peterson, a delightfully dizzy answering service operator who turns her clients’ lives upside down and back again. Some of the show’s songs became standards, among them “The Party’s Over.”

Miss Holliday won a Tony Award for her performance, as did Sydney Chaplin, who played Jeff Moss, the client who falls in love with her. (A revival of the musical, starring Faith Prince, played briefly on Broadway in 2001.)

“Bells Are Ringing” was made into a movie, released in 1960. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, it starred Miss Holliday and Dean Martin.

In 1956, the year the musical opened, Mrs. Printz struck out on her own, founding the Belles Celebrity Answering Service.

The first message she took there was for the actress Hermione Gingold; other clients over the years included Candice Bergen, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Brooke Shields, Liz Smith, Spencer Tracy, Kathleen Turner, Tennessee Williams and members of the rock band Kiss.

Mrs. Printz ran the service until she died. Her death, at her home in Tappan, N.Y., was of congestive heart failure, a result of post-polio syndrome, her family said.

Every morning for decades, Mrs. Printz rose at 4 a.m. to drive to the Belles office, originally on East 53rd Street. She was at the switchboard in time to place the first round of wake-up calls. (“Good morning, Mr. Pacino; it’s 5 a.m.”)

When clients dialed PLaza 2-2232, the agency’s number for many years, they knew they could count on discretion and, when required, innovation. Some messages were routine — at least in the world in which Mrs. Printz’s clients moved — involving little more than having the service tell the chauffeur to be at such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time.

Others required quick thinking. There was the time, for instance, that Mrs. Printz took a frantic call from Noël Coward, recalled her husband, Bob Printz, in a telephone interview on Friday:

“Mary,” Mr. Coward cried, “Marlene has just had a bottle of Scotch and is finished with it, and it’s Sunday; I don’t have any more. What’ll I do?”

Mrs. Printz dispatched her husband to see a bartender he knew, and then to meet Mr. Coward at the back door of his building. Crisis averted.

At its height in the late 1970s and early ’80s, the Belles service had almost 600 clients, with nearly two dozen operators working six switchboards. The company did not advertise; new clients were accepted by referral only. (Mr. Printz said his wife once picked up the phone to hear: “This is Lenny. Adolph asked me to call you,” and, later, after the hopeful caller had been admitted to her fold, “Be sure it’s ‘bern-STYNE.’ ”)

If “Celebrities and millionaires only” was not actually the official company slogan, it was certainly the unofficial watchword, Mr. Printz said. “No doctors and no TV repairmen,” he recalled his wife saying. “It’s too much trouble for the girls.”

Mary Selina Horn was born on April 8, 1923, in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and reared in Hampton, Va. Her father, Bill Horn, was an executive with a pleasure-boat company and a well-known speedboat racer. At 5, Mary contracted polio and was told by doctors she would never walk again. She walked, then ran, then danced.

After a year of college and a marriage that ended in divorce, she settled in New York. In 1953, she married Mr. Printz, a cocktail pianist, and looked for a night job so her hours would conform to his. She was hired by the answering service the next year, at 90 cents an hour.

Besides her husband, Mrs. Printz is survived by their two sons, William Horn Printz and Joe Printz, and a granddaughter.

The proliferation of answering machines in the 1980s and afterward curtailed Mrs. Printz’s business.

Today, the Belles Celebrity Answering Service, now on East 56th Street, tends a modest clientele of about 90 holdouts, among them, Mr. Printz said, Stephen Sondheim, Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen.

Of all the switchboard operators Mrs. Printz trained, few were better than Miss Holliday herself, who reported for instruction after she was cast in “Bells Are Ringing.”

Miss Holliday became so proficient, People magazine reported in 1979, that Mrs. Printz offered her a job.

Car Crashes to Please Mother Nature
Leslie Kaufman

When a dark-colored S.U.V. raced through the streets of Washington, flipped over and burst into flames on Fox’s fast-paced action show “24” last week, viewers probably were not calculating how much carbon dioxide the explosion produced.

But executives at Fox have been paying close attention.

On Monday the network will announce that “24” is going green, becoming the first “carbon neutral” television series.

Among other things, Fox says, it has hired consultants to measure the carbon-dioxide output from the production, started using 20 percent biodiesel fuel in trucks and generators, installed motion monitors in bathrooms and kitchens to make the lights more efficient and paid the higher fees that help California utilities buy wind and solar power.

Car crashes posed a bigger problem; even hybrid vehicles emit carbon dioxide when blown up. To achieve true carbon neutrality the scripts would have to avoid shooting on location and staging chase scenes, something likely to disappoint even the greenest viewers.

So the producers decided to settle for buying carbon offsets, which in theory make up for emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, by paying other people to generate enough clean energy to compensate — in this case wind-power plants in India. The producers said they bought enough credits to offset 1,291 tons of carbon dioxide, just over a half-season’s worth of emissions.

“If we’ve needed a car chase, we’ve had a car chase,” said Howard Gordon, executive producer of “24.” “Our obligation is first and foremost to the fans. If we have budget cuts and need to save money, then we’ll have fewer car crashes.”

Rupert Murdoch, spurred by a presentation by former Vice President Al Gore, said last year that he intended to make News Corporation, Fox’s parent, carbon neutral by 2010, and the network’s campaign, the producers say, is part of that effort. Still, the green fervor is an interesting turn for a show known more for playing out terrorist themes pioneered by the Bush administration and for graphic portrayals of torture in prime time.

Mr. Gordon said that he knew more skeptical viewers might see the effort as a way to rehabilitate the show’s reputation among liberals, but he insisted that there was no connection.

“People continue to ascribe political agendas to the show, so they may see this cynically, but, no, absolutely, one has nothing to do with the other,” he said.

Fox is not the first network to tout its devotion to the planet. In November NBC Universal committed to “greening” three shows, including the “Nightly News With Brian Williams” and “Saturday Night Live,” by using alternative fuels and increasing recycling and composting. Warner Brothers and Disney also have environmental divisions.

Still, Fox executives said that they were the first to make a series carbon neutral and that they hoped “24” would be a model for other shows and inspire a higher level of environmental consciousness in viewers. On Monday the network will begin broadcasting announcements in which the stars of “24” — including Kiefer Sutherland, who plays Agent Jack Bauer — encourage viewers to take steps themselves.

“No one is kidding themselves that viewers want to see Jack Bauer stop in the middle of an action scene and deliver some line about the environment,” said Dana Walden, a chairwoman of 20th Century Fox Television, who was the force behind the carbon-neutral scheme. But, she added, Fox hoped that the result would be “a more gratifying viewing experience, even if it is at a more subconscious level.”

Figuring out how to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions on a show that often shoots on location and is known for explosion-enhanced action was not easy.

The first step was to evaluate how much of the greenhouse gas was produced, examining everything from the cars used to ferry scripts across the Los Angeles area to flights taken by actors and executives. Two categories accounted for 95 percent of emissions: fuel for on-site generators, transportation and special effects; and the electricity used for sets and offices.

The cast, crew and contractors all made substantial adjustments. They shared scripts electronically and drove around in hybrid vehicles, eliminating the use of 1,300 gallons of gasoline, according to the network.

Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz.com, which advises businesses and evaluates the effectiveness of environmental measures, said he was impressed with the show’s efforts.

“These are not just feel-good measures,” Mr. Makower said. “They did their homework.”

Still, by the show’s own accounting, the realities of production often limited what could be done. Although 1,300 gallons of gas represents about 10 cross-country car trips, Fox said, it is not much for a show that goes through at least 1,000 gallons a week. (For other series Fox said it was experimenting with hybrid five-ton semi trucks.)

The effect of carbon offsets is hard to evaluate. It can be difficult to track whether the clean energy that is supposed to make up the debt is actually produced. And although it is possible to replace the hot, energy-consuming floodlights that studios use with lights using compact-fluorescent technology, the quality of the light “is not yet up to exacting production standards,” said Mike Posey, Fox’s associate director in charge of the green initiative.

Mr. Gordon said there was still reason to try. “We are arguably the worst possible offender, which is why, in a way, it made sense to start with us,” he said. “If we can do it, anyone can.”

Dish Network 4Q Profit Rises, but Subscribers Fall

Dish Network Corp. on Monday said its fourth-quarter profit rose 24 percent, but the satellite-TV provider lost more than 100,000 subscribers and its results fell just short of Wall Street forecasts.

Englewood, Colo.-based Dish Network earned $217 million, or 48 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31, up from $175 million, or 39 cents per share, a year earlier. Sales rose 1 percent to $2.92 billion from $2.89 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected profit of 49 cents per share on sales of $2.96 billion.

During the quarter, the company says it lost 102,000 subscribers, leaving the company with 13.68 million subscribers as of Dec. 31. This is a drop of almost 1 percent from the 13.78 million customers it had at the end of 2007.

In its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Dish Network cited a number of factors for the drop, including the economy, aggressive promotional moves by competitors to get and keep subscribers, competitive marketing and the rise of fiber-based and Internet-based video companies.

For the full year, Dish Network earned $902.9 million, or $1.98 per share, compared with $756.1 million, or $1.68 per share, in 2007.

Revenue rose 5 percent to $11.62 billion.

Flexible Screens Get Touchy-Feely

The first bendable, touch-screen display will be used by the military.
Duncan Graham-Rowe

Researchers have developed the first computer display that is both flexible and touch sensitive. They say that the breakthrough could lead to more practical and easier-to-use portable devices.

Over the past few years, there has been a drive to develop displays that more closely mimic the properties of paper.

E Ink, based in Cambridge, MA, already supplies displays that are easy to read in direct sunlight and require little power for both the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader, compared to LCDs and plasma screens. E Ink's technology uses a layer of microcapsules filled with submicrometer black and white particles to create a low-power, reflective screen.

Ultimately, though, the goal is to make displays that are not only flexible, but that also respond to touch. The first flexible electronic-paper product, the Readius, is due to launch later this year. This electronic reader features a roll-out E Ink display made by Polymer Vision, based in the Netherlands.

Sri Peruvemba, VP of marketing at E Ink, says that adding touch sensing to this kind of display presents a whole new set of challenges. There are a number of ways to make screens touch sensitive, he says, but most are designed to work with a rigid screen.

Resistive touch screens--such as those used in the Nintendo DS games console--rely on points of contact being made between two separate conducting layers. Flexing these layers can lead to false inputs, says Jann Kaminski, display engineer at the Flexible Display Center (FDC), at Arizona State University, which codeveloped the new display with E Ink. "For resistive, you have an air gap that has to be maintained," he says.

Similarly, capacitive touch screens--for instance, the one used in the iPhone--rely on conductive transparent films made out of indium tin oxide (ITO), a material that doesn't like to be flexed. "It is a brittle, ceramic-like material," says Kaminski.

Touch screens that detect changes in light or vibrations across a screen as it is touched fare no better when flexed because the signals used become distorted, says Kaminski.

The only approach left, he says, is inductive touch-screen technology, although this is not without its challenges. Inductive screens typically use magnetized styluses to induce a field in a sensing layer at the back of the display. This kind of layer is not inherently sensitive to flexing, and some are already commercially available. But most flexible displays feature a very thin stainless-steel backplane that allows the display to flex while maintaining enough rigidity to protect it from damage. And these metallic backplanes act as a barrier to the electromagnetic fields that make inductive touch screens work.

To get around this, the FDC team uses an alternative backplane material: a thin-film plastic material made by DuPont called Teonex polyethylene napthalate (PEN). This material is already widely used in thin-film transistor manufacturing. It provides support for the display while allowing the inductive touch layer to work, says Kaminski.

Peruvemba adds that the approach doesn't degrade the quality of the image because the sensing is carried out behind the display. This is particularly important because E Ink products rely on the reflection of ambient light rather than on an energy-sapping backlight.

Prototypes have undergone rigorous testing (watch a video of the testing), and the first place that the displays are likely to be used is in the military, says Shawn O'Rourke, director of engineering at the FDC. The military interest comes from the need for portable displays that do not shatter, he says. Most displays are built on a glass backplane, so there is a real need to have something more robust. "They want thin, lightweight displays that are rugged and low powered," says O'Rourke.

Reading the New York Times on Kindle 2
Jeff Reifman

I've been eagerly awaiting the Kindle 2 to try to migrate my New York Times reading habit away from paper delivery. Home delivery prices had increased twice last year and I wanted to enjoy The Times in a more eco-friendly way. This post is for people who might be wondering what the switch to e-newspaper reading on the Kindle 2 is like.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Times on the Kindle. I don't think Amazon did as good a job with assessing the usability of their device for news subscriptions as they did for books. However, I think with some software updates, they could make vast improvements to the device. I hope they don't leave it as is to work on the third generation hardware.

Kindle Display Scratches and Poor Amazon Customer Service

That said, this story ends poorly. Despite careful handling, my Kindle scratched the day after I received it. I had placed it in a soft bag - carried it a short distance from my car to a coffee house. When I pulled the Kindle out, a tiny piece of plastic on the center of the screen had been carved off at the edge of a 3/8 inch scratch. I think the plastic edge of a snack bar wrapper caused the damage but I am not sure. I made two calls to Amazon customer support. The first took 33 minutes. While not accusing me of lying, they told me their Kindle 2's are robust and don't scratch easily. My experience differs. These devices scratch more easily than the first generation iPod Nano's. Amazon showed no curiosity to see whether this particular device might be defective - Apple later settled a class action related to scratched nanos for $22.5 million.

Despite my long term loyalty as a customer to Amazon, the fact that my device scratched so easily less than 24 hours after delivery was either incredulous to them or something they chose to ignore for business reasons. Instead, they offered me a $100 discount on a new Kindle or to sell me the two year extended warranty which they said I could use to have the screen repaired.

I felt I deserved the benefit of the doubt about whether or not this particular Kindle screen was defective given that the fact that the device scratched so easily in the first 24 hours. I quizzed the Amazon supervisor at length about what the disconnect was between us - I think he must have felt that I'd been reckless with my Kindle but he didn't want to accuse me of this outright.

I called again because I was disappointed with their response - a very helpful support person spent 50 minutes calling the internal Kindle support manager to try to resolve the issue. She said she agreed that I should be given the benefit of the doubt so soon after the product delivery. Ultimately, in the end - they did not budge. I am returning my Kindle on Monday - despite Amazon's repeated threat that the return might not be honored.

Buyer beware: If you buy a Kindle 2, buy a case - and be super careful. I thought I was being very careful.

[Note: I continued using my Kindle after this happened so I could complete this review.]

Subscribing to The Times from your Kindle

Within five minutes, I'd managed to turn on my Kindle and subscribe to The Times. The process couldn't be easier. In most cases, Amazon ships the device to you pre-configured with your Amazon billing account. The download was fast and seamless.

Reading The Times on the Kindle

So how does reading The Times compare? Well, I hadn't even recovered from the shock of discovering the screen's scratch before two people interrupted me to ask about it. One of them said, "Cool but I just like paper." Annoyed, I said, "Then stick with paper." (and stop asking me about my Kindle - I'm trying to read). Rid of them, I dug in.

There are three basic areas of The Times on the Kindle: the front page, the section article lists and the individual story pages. Here is a short video walk through - but you may get more from viewing the hi-res pics below:
The front page is a menu of the day's sections, each linked with a number beside it indicating the number of stories inside. Note: when I use the term click below, I mean press down on the Kindle 5-way joystick.

Clicking on the section name takes you to the first story page inside that section. Clicking on the number takes you to the article list for that section. I prefer browsing with the article list. Unfortunately, this requires an extra joystick movement each time I switch sections.

The Kindle makes me switch from the joystick control to the Next Page buttons too often and for no obvious reason. This is something Amazon could improve with a software update.

Reading The Times on the Kindle gets it closest to elegant when you navigate to the first section article list, then use the Next Page button to "scroll" through all the stories in that section - and then on to the next section. Once you get used to this, you can browse The Times in a way that is more graceful than paper and more enjoyable than an RSS feed reader. However, for some reason, Amazon doesn't make joystick right do the same thing as the Next Page button here. The random need to switch between the Next Page button and the Joystick directions is annoying and difficult to get used to.

However, once within a favorite section, browsing through the first page of each story with the joystick right button is also graceful. Just click Next Page when you want to read more deeply, joystick right when you want to skip to the next article.

Story pages are easy to read. At the default text size, you only see a few paragraphs per page - I found this frustrating. Dropping down to the smallest text size is a bit harder to read but provides more of the traditional newspaper-like column reading experience.

By far, the most confusing thing getting used to the Kindle is wanting to scroll down on a device that is designed to encourage me to click Next Page for books. Using the Web so much has trained me to want to scroll. Scrolling on the iPhone with gestures and software acceleration is a breeze. But the Kindle is designed for books and incremental page turning. For some very annoying reason, joystick down doesn't "scroll down" to the next page. This too could be improved with a software update.

Without ads, The Times is surprisingly compact and browsable - might also be those newsroom cutbacks .

I also tried out the Wall Street Journal subscription and it's navigation works pretty similarly.

For news subscriptions, the Kindle needs something like the Apple iPhone Home button and perhaps a Section Home button. Or, the software needs be changed to make its existing buttons work better for newspaper subscriptions. For example, the redundant Previous Page and Next Page buttons on the left could be made to work better for reading news subscriptions. When reading news, Kindle Back button sometimes gets me back to where I want - but it's not as determistic as a Home and Section Home button would be.

I really enjoy holding the Kindle. It's easier to grasp and lighter than a book. There's no flapping, unwieldy news pages - and I'm unlikely to set a restaurant on fire reading too close to the candlelight (which I started to do once).

I enjoy reading The Times on the Kindle and it provides some additional break from reading news at my laptop. I have to spend so much time on my laptop these days that any chance to read about current events from a healthier postural position (or just a different postural position) is welcome.

Kindle has several features for clipping content to text files and taking notes. Clipping takes 3 clicks, when I want it to take only one. Furthermore, I'd like to clip the URL and abstract of stories - then have an RSS feed on my computer that I can read my clips from. Ideally, I'd like to be able to post clips to NewsCloud, Del.icio.us or other bookmarking services directly from my Kindle; the Net Newswire iPhone application allows this. Unfortunately, the clip feature doesn't seem to work like this at this time. I hope they improve this in future software updates.

It seems with some slight software enhancements, you could create a list of email addresses of friends at Amazon.com that the Kindle could then allow you to email article links to quite easily. Good luck typing a note to them though...

The keyboard on the Kindle is terrible and I wasn't very comfortable making notations. The interface for this seemed awkward. My sense is that trying to overload these features into the joystick button controls has made the interface more confusing and more difficult than it needs to be. Amazon would have benefited with Apple's less is more approach, leaving out the keyboard but putting in better navigation buttons.

In the absence of better hardware keys, it would be fantastic if Amazon provided the ability to customize the behavior of the standard keys when reading The Times and other news subscriptions on the Kindle. Perhaps doing this through Amazon.com's Web site (like the Logitech Harmony Remote) would be easier than building this into the device. I've placed some suggested key mappings at the end of this post.

The text to speech capability is decent. I could imagine letting the Kindle read The Times to me while I drive - but I think I'd want the ability to navigate with my voice e.g. skip (article), home, sports, next (article), next section, etc. Kindle has a male and female voice.

The Kindle Display

The gray scale quality of the photographs is just fine for me. Zoomed photographs look great. Wall Street Journal readers will feel pleasantly surprised. When you turn the Kindle off, it loads a photo of famous authors from memory and is quite attractive left on a coffee table. I'd really like to be able to upload some of my travel photos to the Kindle for its sleep mode - not sure if I can do this with jpgs that I download to Kindle.

I love the visual quality of the display and found the text quite readable. For The Times, I prefer seeing more of the story on a single page - so that requires minimizing the text size. At the smallest text size, readability isn't quite as good. When you change pages, the electronic paper display does flash a bit. Occasionally, especially behind photos, you can see remnants of text from the previous page. Mostly, this is a very minor issue.

How delicate is the Kindle 2's screen? Sadly, it makes the legendary scratchable first generation iPod Nano surface seem hardy. I had no sooner pulled the Kindle 2 out of a soft bag (carried a short distance from my car) for my first reading as I noticed a 3/8th inch permanent scratch in the center of the display. I hadn't had the Kindle for 24 hours. I hadn't used it for more than 30 minutes. I've asked Amazon for a replacement. Word to the wise: buy a case and be very careful with yours. I thought I was being careful and I scratched it. It is so easy to scratch this screen that I am surprised Amazon doesn't more clearly inform people of this on the packaging.

Writing and publishing for the Kindle

Because reading the "paper" on the Kindle is such a different experience, my habits are different. I noticed that I only read the first graphs that fit on the display - and often clicked ahead to the next article if the reporter couldn't capture my interest. So, writing the first few paragraphs well becomes even more essential on the Kindle than on the Web.

Web site publishers should seriously consider providing Kindle friendly content. As the Kindle 2's web browsing software improves, this may be increasingly valuable to building your audience.

I'm not sold on Amazon's blog subscription fee. I do like reading blogs on the Kindle, but it seems a bit pricey given that there are easy ways to get the same content for free e.g. the Web, KindleFeeder.com. I guess you could say the same thing about The Times. Perhaps that's remnants of my MSM-bias coming out. However, the lack of ad space on the Kindle requires that blogs earn revenue somehow. $1.99 per month for some blogs seems a bit high.

Comparing the Costs

Once your promotion expires, seven day home delivery of the New York Times costs $58.06 per month or $697 annually. A Kindle 2 sells for $359. The New York Times via Kindle costs just $13.99 per month or $168. You can buy a Kindle 2 with a one year subscription to The Times for only $527. Then, you can use the $169 savings to take your friend out to a very nice dinner - the one whose sister has the dogs who get their waste dumped in your blue plastic Times delivery bags (I guess I'll find out soon if she reads my blog when she asks about that dinner).

BusinessInsider mused that it costs The Times twice as much money each year to provide home delivery than it would to buy every subscriber a Kindle: "What we're trying to say is that as a technology for delivering the news, newsprint isn't just expensive and inefficient; it's laughably so."

Having been startled awake by the thud of the Sunday Times on my porch a number of times at 3 am, I have to say I'm looking forward to the future with my Kindle.

I was awake writing this blog post and the Sunday Times arrived on my kindle (silently) shortly after 2 a.m.


I think switching to The Times on the Kindle 2 is a fantastic way to lessen your impact on the environment, reducing tremendous waste from paper, print, delivery and plastic bags. Perhaps saving a forest. However, it's not for everyone. You'll need to be willing to commit to the form factor and accept changes in the reading experience.

Overall, I give the Kindle 2 with the New York Times a B to B+. If Amazon makes the software updates I mentioned above, this would raise the experience to an A-.

I love my iPhone and I've used both the NetNewswire application and the New York Times application on it - but reading The Times on the Kindle is better in enough ways to make me carry both...before even considering the Kindle's blog and book reading capabilities.

I'm impressed with the Kindle as a device but surprised that Amazon didn't do a slightly better job with the interface. Perhaps they optimized too much for books and didn't think so much about news. With software updates and Web configuration, they could greatly improve the Kindle 2 - and make me a much more satisfied user. Making software and Web improvements to the clipping features would also be a great improvement.

Kindle 2 won't be for everyone, but the Kindle 3 could prove to be a game changer.

I fully expect to see multiple form factors in the future including a clipboard size which allows students to read textbooks and take notes. While Jeff Bezos said that electronic paper won't permit a touch sensitive screen for a while, a larger Kindle would provide space for a pen and touch sensitive track pad where you could make your notes below the display (kind of like an old Palm Pilot). A touch pad might also allow for gestures for scrolling and section navigation.

I'm very disappointed in Amazon's customer service and the fragility of these displays. I'm curious to see if other users end up with similar problems.

Related Info and Links

I highly recommend reading The Seattle Times' interview with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos after the Kindle 2 launch.

Some people have complained that Amazon charges ten cents per document you email to your Kindle for reading. This is they say because you aren't paying for the 3G wireless connection. The user guide explains that you can email your kindle address with the subdomain free e.g. jeff@free.kindle.com and this bypasses the fee - but you have to sync your Kindle vs. USB. Nice alternative if you're sensitive to this.

Here are some nice related tips on Kindle PDF conversion in case you want to read your own documents more easily on the Kindle. The same site has a great list of Kindle 2 "hacks".

I've played with the web browser and mobile gmail on the device and it's very difficult to use. Amazon calls this feature experimental - and I would say that is generous.

Suggest Key Mappings for Amazon

Here are some suggested key maps for news reading:

Home key maps to Front Page. Home key double-click goes to Kindle Home. Joystick click on section name should default to article list (like the # of stories does). Because joystick navigation is used pervasively when reading The Times, joystick left and joystick right should mimic Previous page and Next page. e.g. On a section article list, joystick left and right should also map to Previous and Next page. On the last page of a section article list, joystick right should map to next section article list (like Next page does). This would make browsing through sections faster and more intuitive. Always having to switch these controls is annoying, seemingly unneccessary and hard to get used to.

Amazon to Sell E-Books for Apple Devices
Brad Stone

Shaking up the nascent market for electronic books for the second time in two months, Amazon.com will begin selling e-books for reading on Apple’s popular iPhone and iPod Touch.

Starting Wednesday, owners of these Apple devices can download a free application, Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch, from Apple’s App Store. The software will give them full access to the 240,000 e-books for sale on Amazon.com, which include a majority of best sellers.

The move comes a week after Amazon started shipping the updated version of its Kindle reading device. It signals that the company may be more interested in becoming the pre-eminent retailer of e-books than in being the top manufacturer of reading devices.
But Amazon said that it sees its Kindle reader and devices like the iPhone as complementary, and that people will use their mobile phones to read books only for short periods, such as while waiting in grocery store lines.

“We think the iPhone can be a great companion device for customers who are caught without their Kindle,” said Ian Freed, Amazon’s vice president in charge of the Kindle.

Mr. Freed said people would still turn to stand-alone reading devices like the $359 Kindle when they want to read digital books for hours at a time. He also said that the experience of using the new iPhone application might persuade people to buy a Kindle, which has much longer battery life than the iPhone and a screen better suited for reading.

Amazon also said its recently unveiled Whispersync function would work for people who own a Kindle and one of the Apple devices. They can access their library of previously purchased e-books on all of their devices at no additional cost. Amazon will also create automatic bookmarks, so that a user can stop reading a book on one device and pick it up on another device at the same spot in the text.

The move by Amazon tangles competitive dynamics in the growing e-book industry. Many analysts thought pocket-size versatile smartphones could eventually eat into the small but growing market for stand-alone book readers that do little else and still do not have color screens or full-featured Web browsers. With the announcement, Amazon appears to be hedging its bets.

Analysts had also thought Amazon was closely following the template Apple had created with the iPod and trying to dominate the market with a ubiquitous, must-have consumer electronics device. Now it appears Amazon is more interested in selling as many e-books as possible on its site, and collecting the royalties, while strengthening its ties with customers, many of whom will buy other products from Amazon if they start buying e-books.

“A couple months ago a lot of people thought Amazon was slavishly imitating the Apple model,” said Bill Rosenblatt, president of the consulting business GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies. “It turns out they have a different model than Apple. They are smarter than everyone thought.”

The developments also suggest that, true to his word, Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, has little interest in the market for digital books. Mr. Jobs once dismissed the Kindle by saying “the whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Unlike other forms of media like music and video, which Apple sells itself to iPhone owners through its iTunes store, Apple appears to be ceding the e-books market to Amazon and other companies that offer e-book applications.

“Apple is consciously skipping the e-book market,” said Evan R. Schnittman, vice president for business development and rights at Oxford University Press. “I think it’s pretty significant.”

All of Fiction Costs $125 Million
Miracle Jones

As we all know, Google recently bought all out-of-copyright fiction from the "Author's Guild" for $125 million dollars. This laughable, ludicrously small price is the kind of price that somebody would only offer for something that they didn't actually own.

You know, like Napoleon selling Louisiana to America in order to pay for his war in Europe. And then America sends Louis and Clark out to explore, and it turns out there are all these dirty fucking NATIVES there. Luckily, they need blankets.

Anyway, Gawker recently leaked the memo that the "Author's Guild" sent out to writers and publishers who will be receiving the payments that the "Author's Guild" negotiated on their behalf.

Note: writers and publishers will be receiving $45 million of the settlement, which is (I'm not a mathematician) less than half of the agreed-upon $125 million dollar payout. The rest of the money will be going to lawyers and (I guess) the "Authors Guild" to help fund their next act of heroism.

The "Author's Guild" memo contains instructions for "claiming your book" from Google. Here is instruction number one:

"1. If you file your claim by January 5, 2010, and a book in which you have a copyright interest [THAT YOU WROTE] is scanned by Google before May 5, 2009, you will be entitled to a small share (at least $60 per book, but up to $300, depending on the number of claims [DON'T GET GREEDY])"

So, the verdict is in, and the settlement to writers is that they will each receive less than $300 bucks for their stolen books. Here's a short history: writers got mad that GOOGLE WAS STEALING THEIR BOOKS BY SCANNING THEM WITHOUT ASKING AND MAKING THEM AVAILABLE ONLINE, writers appealed to the "Author's Guild" for help, the "Author's Guild" settled with Google for $125 million instead of taking the claim to trial and declaring Google's practice illegal, and now each writer gets almost enough money to buy a handgun at Wal-Mart in order blow their brains out.

Here's Robert Darnton writing about "Google and the Future of Books" for the "New York Review of Books":

"As an unintended consequence, Google will enjoy what can only be called a monopoly -- a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of access to information. Google has no serious competitors. Microsoft dropped its major program to digitize books several months ago, and other enterprises like the Open Knowledge Commons (formerly the Open Content Alliance) and the Internet Archive are minute and ineffective in comparison with Google. Google alone has the wealth to digitize on a massive scale. And having settled with the authors and publishers, it can exploit its financial power from within a protective legal barrier; for the class action suit covers the entire class of authors and publishers. No new entrepreneurs will be able to digitize books within that fenced-off territory, even if they could afford it, because they would have to fight the copyright battles all over again. If the settlement is upheld by the court, only Google will be protected from copyright liability.

"Google's record suggests that it will not abuse its double-barreled fiscal-legal power. But what will happen if its current leaders sell the company or retire? The public will discover the answer from the prices that the future Google charges, especially the price of the institutional subscription licenses. The settlement leaves Google free to negotiate deals with each of its clients, although it announces two guiding principles: "(1) the realization of revenue at market rates for each Book and license on behalf of the Rightsholders and (2) the realization of broad access to the Books by the public, including institutions of higher education."

"Apart from Wikipedia, Google already controls the means of access to information online for most Americans, whether they want to find out about people, goods, places, or almost anything. In addition to the original "Big Google," we have Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Images, Google Labs, Google Finance, Google Arts, Google Food, Google Sports, Google Health, Google Checkout, Google Alerts, and many more Google enterprises on the way. Now Google Book Search promises to create the largest library and the largest book business that have ever existed.

"Whether or not I have understood the settlement correctly, its terms are locked together so tightly that they cannot be pried apart. At this point, neither Google, nor the authors, nor the publishers, nor the district court is likely to modify the settlement substantially. Yet this is also a tipping point in the development of what we call the information society. If we get the balance wrong at this moment, private interests may outweigh the public good for the foreseeable future, and the Enlightenment dream may be as elusive as ever."

I'm not as paranoid as Darnton. What Google can steal from writers, hackers can steal from Google.

But how to make it pay? How to make it good? How to keep fiction writers fed?

Scanning text and making it available online does not sell fiction or add value to stories. I believe that the future "publishers" are coders, video game developers, and zine punks who know the value of layout, DIY, and clear, brilliant images.

I believe that in the hands of the right people -- people sufficiently lubricated with investment cash -- ebooks could be beautiful. So beautiful that people would pay to read them. So beautiful that people would pay to collect them, even though they could read them for free someplace else.

Let Google be today's modern, private mercantile library system. Soon they will be competing with the first nation-state (China? Sweden?) to steal everything from Google, nationalize it, and let the world drink it for free.

And then will come the monks to illuminate the electronic texts. Forever, gloriously, without end.

A Google Search of a Distinctly Retro Kind
Noam Cohen

Last month an e-mail message washed up at the offices of The Cook Islands News in the South Pacific. It was a request to place a half-page advertisement in the newspaper, which has a circulation of 2,500. The cost was $370.

“We were amazed — it came from out of nowhere,” the newspaper’s editor, John Woods, said in a telephone interview. “We are very skeptical of ads like that.”

Even more surprising was who was paying for it: Google.

Google, the online giant, had been sued in federal court by a large group of authors and publishers who claimed that its plan to scan all the books in the world violated their copyrights.

As part of the class-action settlement, Google will pay $125 million to create a system under which customers will be charged for reading a copyrighted book, with the copyright holder and Google both taking percentages; copyright holders will also receive a flat fee for the initial scanning, and can opt out of the whole system if they wish.

But first they must be found.

Since the copyright holders can be anywhere and not necessarily online — given how many books are old or out of print — it became obvious that what was needed was a huge push in that relic of the pre-Internet age: print.

So while there is a large direct-mail effort, a dedicated Web site about the settlement in 36 languages (googlebooksettlement.com/r/home) and an online strategy of the kind you would expect from Google, the bulk of the legal notice spending — about $7 million of a total of $8 million — is going to newspapers, magazines, even poetry journals, with at least one ad in each country. These efforts make this among the largest print legal-notice campaigns in history.

That Google is in the position of paying for so many print ads “is hilarious — it is the ultimate irony,” said Robert Klonoff, dean of Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., and the author of a recent law review article titled “Making Class Actions Work: The Untapped Potential of the Internet.”

So far, more than 200 advertisements have run in more than 70 languages: in highbrow periodicals like The New York Review of Books and The Poetry Review in Britain; in general-interest publications like Parade and USA Today; in obscure foreign trade journals like China Copyright and Svensk Bokhandel; and in newspapers in places like Fiji, Greenland, the Falkland Islands, and the Micronesian island of Niue (the name is roughly translated as Behold the Coconut!), which has one newspaper.

The almost comically sweeping attempt to reach the world’s entire literate population is a reflection of the ambitions of the Google Book Search project, in which the company hopes to digitize every book — famous or not, in any language, published anywhere on earth — found in the world’s libraries.

Under the proposed settlement, reached on Oct. 28 and still subject to court approval, there must be an effort the court finds “reasonable and practicable” to find authors and publishers — especially copyright holders of so-called orphan books, which are still in copyright but long out of print. So the task means placing at least one advertisement in every country in the world.

One reason courts have required such heroic efforts to reach the people covered by a settlement is that unless parties opt out of the settlement, they are automatically opting in. The least that must be done, the argument goes, is let those affected know about it.

But as it turns out, authors and publishers are hard to track down. More than members of most settlement classes, said Kathy Kinsella of Kinsella Media in Washington, which is directing the ad campaign, these are a particularly diffuse group.

“We looked at how many books were published in various areas,” she said, “and we knew from the plaintiffs and Google that 30 percent were published in the U.S., 30 percent in industrialized countries. The rest of the world is the rest.”

“We had some choices,” she added. “We thought it made sense that in order to meet the due-process standard that we were as broad-based as possible.”

So, using United Nations data, her company created a list of countries and territories. Some nations, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, were excluded because they do not agree to international copyright terms. In others, like Cuba, North Korea and Myanmar, her company is prohibited from buying ads because of United States trade embargos, Ms. Kinsella said.

Kinsella Media also hired a company to run the telephone line that takes calls, which, Ms. Kinsella said, raised its own questions: “How do you handle calls in 80-some languages around the world? How do you staff that? Is it worth having someone in French all the time?”

Michael Boni, a lawyer representing the Authors Guild, one of the parties that sued Google, acknowledged there was an aspect of “belts and suspenders” in using print and the Internet to spread the word about the settlement, but he added that “the Internet is not used to the same extent outside the U.S.”

“I have been doing class-actions for over 20 years, and I don’t think there is a notice program as comprehensive as this notice program,” he said.

For centuries, legal notices have been a reliable source of income for newspapers and, more recently, trade publications and television. Class-action notifications constitute a significant chunk of this revenue, with an estimated $50 million to $75 million spent a year, the bulk going to print advertising, according to Todd B. Hilsee, a communications expert in Philadelphia who advises courts on the issue.

Fran Biggs, the office manager at the weekly Penguin News in the Falkland Islands, said she was surprised by the Google settlement ad in her paper: “I suppose it did seem a bit odd, but if people are paying for it, why not?” She added that the advertising climate there is not as dire as it is in the rest of the world. “We never have any problems filling up pages,” she said. “We have a bunch of big stores.”

At The Cook Islands News, the advertisement led to a follow-up article the next week that quoted a prominent resident author, Ron Crocombe, who praised the convenience of the currently available Google Book Search (books.google.com), which publishes excerpts and tables of contents. He said it was useful “especially for us in small places like Rarotonga, where there are no big libraries or big bookshops.”

It turns out, however, that in the Google matter, the advertising side of the newspaper bent its rule of insisting on payment in advance. That led to a few nervous moments when the paper had not received its money. By the week’s end, however, the editor, Mr. Woods, reported that he had received a credit card authorization.

Weekly Papers Returning To Their Local Roots
Lynn Doan

In the beginning, virtually all weekly community newspapers were locally founded, locally owned and locally produced.

They were tiny operations that quenched the thirst for community news, reporting bake sales and school field trips.

In the '70s, these hyper-local tabloids formed into chains wrapped around cities, and businesses realized they could pierce close-knit communities by pouring advertising money into them.

This trend caught the eye of larger media companies, which began snatching up and "corporatizing" these weeklies in the '80s.

It was a mass acquisition that would last for decades. Now, suddenly, the old model of ownership is exploding back onto the scene.

Facing mounting debt and shrinking credit, the larger companies are now shedding the weeklies they once hungrily collected. In December, The Journal Register Co. began closing and selling scores of them across Connecticut, including the Avon Post, the Windsor Journal, the East Hartford Gazette and the Newington Town Crier.

Many politicians and readers thought the papers would just shut down and die. They haven't.

Instead, a newspaper veteran from Long Island moved to Bristol to buy up three of them, along with the struggling New Britain Herald and Bristol Press. The longtime editor of the East Hartford Gazette raised it from the ashes and began publishing his own version — without missing a week.

The publisher of the former Herald and Press is now heading a weekly to replace the shuttered Farmington Valley ones.

Together, these revivals mark a fresh start for Connecticut's weeklies, some say. They are a new, yet familiar face — a gradual return to local roots.

"To some extent, this is not yet a major change in ownership," said John Morton, a newspaper analyst in Silver Spring, Md. "But to some extent, it is the beginning of a reversal."

'Mascot Of Town'

Bill Doak described it as "the devolution" — a slow, industrywide move to break the chains of weeklies and release them back into the hands of the communities they serve.

Doak, editor of the East Hartford Gazette for the past 21 years, has been publishing his own version of the weekly, called simply The Gazette, since Journal Register shut down the operation in January. The key to keeping the Gazette and the state's dying weeklies afloat, he said, lies in local ownership.

Doak, who lives in town, has become an icon in East Hartford. Stories of him putting down his reporter's notebook and speaking his mind at town council meetings have become folklore — he, to this day, denies ever doing that.

Residents say they might not always agree with Doak, but they recognize his love for East Hartford, which he describes as "a microcosm for the rest of the world and the nation," paraphrasing the title of a history of the town.

"He's the mascot of the town," said John Karas, a longtime free-lance reporter for the Gazette.

Doak's reputation is the kind that local publishers are striving to build to keep their new enterprises alive — and quite possibly the only card they have left to play, with tight credit and shrinking advertising.

"The local publisher can join the Kiwanis Club. He can show up at the local athletic games. He can make the donations to charity that are meaningful to the community," said Richard Hanley, director of the graduate journalism program at Quinnipiac University. Unlike an "expatriate owner," Hanley added, "he can become an extension of the community."

Edward Gunderson, who was publisher of the New Britain Herald and Bristol Press, said his new weekly, The Valley Press, will depend on building this local presence. The Press delivers 30,000 copies of the free paper to single-family homes in Avon, Burlington, Canton, Farmington and Simsbury.

"That's what advertisers need," he said. "They need penetration."

The first copies of the Valley Press, delivered on Feb. 5, were funded by Stephen Friedman, the father of Melissa Marinan, a Simsbury woman who sold advertising for Journal Register's Imprint chain of weeklies for 18 years. Gunderson joined the Press as publisher in early February and said the paper is now being funded with the personal savings of two investors, whom he declined to identify.

So far, Gunderson said, he's been encouraged. People stop by the Press office in Simsbury every day just to say hello. The office, a 1,000-square-foot section of a historic house, stands as a symbol of Gunderson's departure from corporate life — a time when he divided his time among four offices to manage Journal Register's Connecticut assets.

"I had more space in all four of my offices combined than we have here," Gunderson said, sitting in his sparse, freshly painted and carpeted Simsbury quarters. "But I need this presence."

Unlike Doak, Gunderson, who is commuting from Massachusetts, didn't go into this out of love for the Farmington Valley. He said he saw potential in Journal Register's failure. "They alienated the readership," Gunderson said. "They're so big that these papers lose their focus. They start to lose what they are."

Journal Register officials have not returned calls seeking comment about the weeklies the company has sold or closed.

He likened the large chains' acquisition of weekly papers to Home Depot's trumping the local hardware stores — except, he said, the Home Depots of the newspaper world are the ones getting trumped.

"I think we've seen that the Home Depot approach doesn't work here," he said.

No Promises

Since buying the Bristol Press, New Britain Herald, Wethersfield Post, Newington Town Crier and Rocky Hill Post from Journal Register in January, Michael Schroeder has reminded employees that he isn't here to save the papers. He's here, he said, to give the community a chance to save the papers themselves.

Because of this, he was initially skeptical of making any significant investments in his three new weeklies.

"We didn't really, when I first started, understand how much the communities were really tied into weeklies," he said.

After realizing their advertising value, Schroeder hired an executive editor to manage the weeklies. Then he dedicated a sports reporter, a production editor and an advertising executive to them.

"These weeklies still have substantial circulation," he said. "We think there's growth."

Newspaper analysts say these community weeklies, unlike dailies, can survive and be profitable on local advertising alone. But there's no promise of anything panning out in a brutal advertising recession.

Other outlets for local news remain as competitors, including larger, daily newspapers that have expanded their online presence; and online search engines deliver a wide range of local material.

"It's going to be very challenging for them," said Roger Desmond, journalism professor at the University of Hartford. "They're going to have to fight a dragon they've never fought before."

Seattle Paper May Shift to Online-Only: Reports

Hearst Corp, one of the largest U.S. publishers, has offered some of its Seattle Post-Intelligencer (P-I) staff work in an online-only version of the paper, amidst speculation that the newspaper's print edition may be shutting down, according to media reports.

Two reporters said they received "provisional offers" and were told that they will be given formal offers if the website gets the go-ahead from Hearst's senior management, P-I reported on its website late on Thursday.

Hector Castro, a general assignment reporter, told P-I that he turned down the offer.

According to Castro, Hearst executive Ken Riddick said the publisher plans to start the site the day after the paper quits publishing. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times also reported that the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper is advancing plans to turn into an online-only publication.

It is unclear how many employees would remain if the paper becomes a standalone website, the Journal said.

No one at Hearst was immediately available for comment.

Hearst said on January 9 that it would try to sell P-I and might shut down the newspaper or pursue other options, including publishing the newspaper only on the Internet, if it could not find a buyer in 60 days.

No buyer has emerged and an announcement is expected next week, the New York Times said.

A number of high-profile U.S. newspaper chains have filed for bankruptcy or taken steps to preserve their bottom lines by cutting costs.

Last week, media conglomerate EW Scripps Co closed the Rocky Mountain News after failing to lure qualified buyers.

(Reporting by Ajay Kamalakaran in Bangalore; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Elgan: Why Global is the New 'Local'

The real reason newspapers and radio stations are hurting -- and how they can thrive
Mike Elgan

If you have an iPhone, tap the App Store button, and search for "radio." Choose "iHeart radio" and then click on the Clear Channel Broadcasting app called "iHeart radio." Install it.

There you go! Now you can listen to local radio stations based in cities across the country. There are many similar apps (for example, Public Radio Tuner gives you nearly all local public radio stations) and comparable software for other phones.

Cars now have a jack for you to plug in your phone to listen over the car radio.

It's a vastly superior way to listen to radio. You can sort by city, genre, or radio "personalities." The iHeart radio app even includes a "Shake It" feature that spins two wheels -- genre and city -- like a slot machine and then lets you click for a random result. It's a great way to discover new stations.

The majority of radio listeners still do it the old fashioned way: They turn on the radio in the car, for example, and just listen to whatever is playing locally. But over time, more people will discover and use cell-phone-streamed radio. And the cars themselves will grow that capability.

All of this raises a serious question: When Joe in Nashville is listening to New York City's Z100, when Carla in New York is listening to Miami's MEGA 94.9, and when Paul in Miami is listening to Nashville's Big 98 WSIX, what does the "local" in "local radio" mean?

"Local" radio stations are going national, and even international. That sounds like an opportunity for the stations -- they can now reach a larger potential audience for advertisers. But in reality, it's a problem. The whole radio business model is built around pandering to local community groups, small businesses, area schools and, above all, local listeners. So how do you pander to the old audience without alienating the new one?

The "death of local" problem is even more immediate with newspapers.

Why newspapers are dying

The conventional wisdom holds that newspapers are being forced into layoffs, cutbacks and closures because people are getting their news for free on the Internet. But that's at best a naive oversimplification, and it completely misses the real dynamic behind the crisis in the newspaper industry.

One of the unusual things about the U.S. has been that each major city, minor city, even small town has its own newspaper, or several newspapers, and people tend to read that local paper -- or they used to.

A typical local newspaper leads with local news, followed by county, state, national and international news. This was a sensible arrangement before the Internet. It meant that you could subscribe to the local paper to get all your news.

In addition to learning what international figures, such as the president, the pope and the queen of England were up to, you could also learn how the local high school did in a game last week, when the Kiwanis club's pancake breakfast is scheduled, and how the city council voted on the new parking lot proposal. And local advertising has been affordable.

In the past, you couldn't learn about local news without physically driving to the town and buying the local paper. Of course, those days are gone.

Now you can get local news anywhere. Look, for example, at Lodi, Calif., a medium-size city of about 63,000 people. (You may recall the town from a 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival song.)

Search Google News for "Lodi" and there it is: more than 4,000 news stories, organized roughly by importance. Getting Lodi news on Google is faster, cheaper, more comprehensive and, well, better than the local Lodi paper. You can get Lodi news even if you're in Timbuktu. And, of course, you can get county, state, national and international news everywhere. Even if you're stuck in Lodi.

So what does "local" mean when you talk about "local newspapers"?

The real problem

What's really going on is that the Internet is punishing inefficiency. Looking at our Lodi links, the top story about a man who attacked a judge in court and was killed by police had 781 articles at my deadline for filing this column. It's really a story of national interest that happened to go down in Lodi. Many of those are wire service stories, or repurposed, and some cover multiple angles. But roughly speaking, dozens or hundreds of writers, plus hundreds of editors and other journalist types, are being paid to essentially write three or four stories. It's newspaper business as usual: massive waste.

Meanwhile, a truly local story in the Lodi News-Sentinel -- the local swim club held a crab dinner fundraiser -- was covered efficiently. Only one newspaper covered it.

The problem with newspapers is that they're stuck on the old model, where every newspaper covers everything. And the more important the story, the less efficiently it gets covered.

The driver behind this process is hubris. Newspapers delude themselves into thinking that readers read nothing else. The assumption is that it's not news until we cover it. So every newspaper covers the same story, wasting billions of dollars per year in duplicated effort industrywide.

And, for that matter, a related form of bigotry has always driven the whole "local" model for local radio and newspaper coverage. The model is based on pandering where the constantly reinforced message is that local people are better than people who aren't local, and local businesses, organizations, schools, churches and resources are better, too. Local radio and newspapers take an us vs. them attitude toward the world, and that's largely the business model.

Now that the Internet has killed "local," the survival adjustment that radio and newspaper companies must make is to cover local events for a global audience. Radio stations and newspapers must now consider the larger, newer audience, and stop the bigoted pandering. And they must also stop covering the larger world.

Local media must focus all resources on the coverage of local events. People in Lodi don't want to pay the local paper for the coverage of national news also covered in thousands of stories available on their cell phones and Internet-connected PCs.

It's time the so-called local media opened its eyes to the new reality: Nothing is local anymore. And it's a huge opportunity. The new mantra should be: Cover local events exclusively, but for a global audience.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I'm going to go listen to one of Houston's classic rock stations, 93.7 The Arrow, on my iPhone. Maybe they'll play Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi."

Independent Bands, Writers Perceived Differently
Eric R. Danton

New York indie-rock act Clap Your Hands Say Yeah built a considerable fan base without help from a record company.

There's a curious divide in the pop arts world over the do-it-yourself ethic and the different, and opposite, ways it applies to books and to music.

In music, DIY is a source of credibility for acts that take pride in circumventing the music machine and the compromises often required to release an album through a record company, especially one of the major labels. With books, by contrast, do-it-yourselfers are usually regarded with skepticism, if not outright derision, when they pay to publish their own work through what is disdainfully referred to as a "vanity press."

"In the book world, it's so fragmented, with so many publishing houses out there, that somebody doing something on their own has more of a stigma because it suggests that everybody else passed on it," says Josh Jackson, editor in chief of Paste magazine, which covers music, film and books.

There are signs, though, that the stigma is lessening slightly. This is due to a combination of technology that is democratizing the way would-be writers produce and distribute their work, and a deepening economic recession that has induced dramatic cutbacks at publishing houses, including Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and Random House.

Popular music has a long independent streak, dating at least as far back as Sun Records and Stax in Memphis, and Motown Records in Detroit. Motown was an unusually successful example of the DIY ethic, releasing 110 top-10 singles between 1961-71, but the basic idea has held sway ever since. Since the '60s, rock bands have operated outside the major-label system, recording and releasing their own records. By the '80s, the American underground rock scene was large enough for musicians, and some fans, to build an independent-music infrastructure, thus birthing indie labels such as Sub Pop, Homestead, SST, Touch and Go and Dischord.

By the '00s, thanks to the Internet and the increasing affordability of recording gear, bands attracted an audience for their music even without the help of independent labels. A few such groups, including the New England jam band Dispatch and New York indie-rock act Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, built considerable fan bases without help from a record company.

"Nobody's going to tell me what to do from a creative standpoint. If you're not involved, then what the hell sort of authority is there that would make somebody imagine that they could suggest certain things?" Clap Your Hands singer Alec Ounsworth said in a 2006 interview, just before the band self-released its second album. "We're not making albums for the record label or anybody, really. We're just making albums."

Things work differently in the literary world.

The Blog Factor

Bands have the comparative luxury of writing songs and then performing them before they ever record them, which helps hard-working (and lucky) groups build audiences for the albums that may eventually follow.

Writers have traditionally relied on finished products, like books, to build their audiences, though that's starting to change as more post their writing on blogs.

"Maybe that's where the parallel is," Jackson says. "You have bands going out and playing live shows, and you, as an author, can congregate an audience through a blog. Bloggers are getting book deals all the time these days, but I think it'll be interesting to see if bloggers start self-publishing."

Hartford blogger Joel Fried has.

Fried, 51, writes "Random Thoughts of an Overactive Mind" at travelpoet1122.blogspot.com. That's also the subtitle of his first book, "Bursts," a collection of humorous essays he self-published in 2005. He's also planning to release a collection of poetry the same way. Fried says he's not bothered by the usual perceptions of self-published books, most of which he describes as "not good."

"Yes, it would be much more wonderful if my book of poetry, or this book I put out online, were picked up by Penguin, which is a real publishing company. But once somebody meets you, once the book gets into their hands, they don't care who the publisher is," Fried says.

The on-demand publisher Fried chose, BookSurge, sells a package that includes placement on Amazon.com (which subsequently bought the service). That, along with occasional readings and "half-assed" promotion on his blog, has helped Fried sell around 1,000 copies of "Bursts."

"If I had a publisher, I think I would have sold a tremendous amount of books, far more than I have sold, just because I would have showed up," he says. "They would say, you have to go out and promote your book."

Books released through publishing houses also have a perceived measure of legitimacy that can help attract attention from reviewers, who tend to avoid self-published works.

"If the author isn't already established, and there's no organization that it's attached to, it's really hard to break through all the noise out there of so many books getting published," says Jackson, whose magazine recently published a book of its own, "An Indie-Rock Alphabet Book."

Distribution Key

Besides the sense of legitimacy they project as gatekeepers, publishing houses have a logistical advantage by taking care of distribution, which is crucial for an author who wants the widest possible readership.

"I want to get my book between covers and onto the shelves of as many good bookstores and good libraries as I can, hoping that in time maybe that will translate into it being on the shelves of lots of good readers, and I find the big houses give you the best shot at that," says Avon resident Stewart O'Nan, 48, author of 12 novels, including 2007's "Last Night at the Lobster" (set in New Britain), and several works of non-fiction, including "The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy," about the July, 1944 fire in Hartford that killed 167 people.

O'Nan and other established writers also are making use of the Internet. Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho has been posting chapters of his 2008 book, "The Winner Stands Alone," on his blog (paulocoelhoblog.com), and O'Nan has a repository of otherwise unpublished work on his website (www.stewart-onan.com). "Any way you can get your writing out there is valid," O'Nan says.

XL Center Engineer Has Sound Strategy
Matt Eagan

The only people you see in the XL Center an hour before the puck drops on a Wednesday night Wolf Pack game are ushers in their purple sweaters and a few maintenance workers tending to the ice.

High above them, invisible to those on the ground, tucked away in a tiny booth wedged in the rafters above Section 220, Jim Patterson is getting ready to rumble. He has been in the arena for hours preparing, and when the clock strikes 6 he taps his computer screen. Frank Sinatra begins crooning through the nearly empty building. He's got you under his skin, which is where Patterson hopes he will be with the crowd by the time the game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers reaches the third period.

"I'm looking to create intensity and keep it," he says.

Down in Section 104, an usher hears the words "deep in the heart of me" and checks his watch.

"I always start with Frank Sinatra," Patterson said. "When the people in the building hear Frank they know where they are supposed to be. From here I'll start to build little by little. I'm always building to something."

Patterson has been the head sound engineer at the XL Center since it was called the Civic Center and the hockey team was the Whalers. Somewhere in the storage units of his computer he has "Brass Bonanza" and all the other Whalers sound effects.

"Those are never going away," he says.

But Patterson is not stuck in the past. He adds new songs to his mix every week. His job on this night is to inspire and entertain a crowd of about 3,000 people, not as easy as stirring a capacity UConn crowd, but not impossible.

For 40 minutes, as fans slowly trickle in, Patterson builds from Sinatra to a few contemporary mellow pop hits. When it gets close to ice time he starts to hit the crowd with new AC/DC and something loud and nasty from Guns N' Roses.

"You're not going to hear any Minnie Riperton during this segment," he says.

The pregame segment is the most programmed. Once the action on the ice starts, Patterson must adjust to the game. He watches from his crow's nest perch and chatters with promotional directors and scoreboard operators so that he knows what is coming next. At the next stoppage a promo. At the one after that, music. At the one after that, a fan of the game.

"We talk to each other all night," Patterson said.

When Sean Avery gets off a first-period shot, Patterson's thumb moves in the direction that will sound the foghorn three times before melting into sufficiently celebratory music. But the shot goes wide and the thumb moves away from the horn. It will not return.

Midway through the period Bridgeport commits a penalty. The call is made and within seconds the arena is filled with Patty Smyth's voice.

"Goodbye to you," she sings.

During a skirmish later in the period, Patterson pulls out Pink. She wants to start a fight. The crowd sounds as if it wouldn't mind one either but instead there's a Bridgeport goal.

Patterson wastes no time. He taps the screen and here come The Veronicas with their cover of "We're Not Gonna Take It." This fades into "Start Me Up," and Mick and the boys do just that. For the first time, the crowd sounds as if it has ill intention on its mind. Patterson nods with approval. He has them united.

There are easier ways to do this. A few taps of the screen will lead to "Y.M.C.A." which, for some reason, still inspires a crowd to unite, but Patterson is aware that some people come to every home game.

"I try not to overuse it," he said.

As the 1-0 game becomes heated, so does Patterson. The Wolf Pack, outclassed most of the night, start to generate shots on goal. Patterson starts to crank up the intensity. Hinder. Metallica. 3 Doors Down. The crowd picks up the vibe but the team does not deliver a tying goal. The game ends 1-0.

The crowd grabs its coats and begins to head for the exits, another Rat Pack staple serenading them out the door. Soon the arena is empty save for a few ushers in purple sweaters and a the maintenance crew tending to the ice.

And, somewhere up in the rafters, Patterson is already preparing for the next game.

In Search of the Click Track
Paul Lamere

Sometime in the last 10 or 20 years, rock drumming has changed. Many drummers will now don headphones in the studio (and sometimes even for live performances) and synchronize their playing to an electronic metronome - the click track. This allows for easier digital editing of the recording. Since all of the measures are of equal duration, it is easy to move measures or phrases around without worry that the timing may be off. The click track has a down side - some say that songs recorded against a click track sound sterile, that the missing tempo deviations added life to a song.

I’ve always been curious about which drummers use a click track and which don’t, so I thought it might be fun to try to build a click track detector using the Echo Nest remix SDK ( remix is a Python library that allows you to analyze and manipulate music). In my first attempt, I used remix to analyze a track and then I just printed out the duration of each beat in a song and used gnuplot to plot the data. The results weren’t so good - the plot was rather noisy. It turns out there’s quite a bit of variation from beat to beat. In my second attempt I averaged the beat durations over a short window, and the resulting plot was quite good.

Now to see if we can use the plots as a click track detector. I started with a track where I knew the drummer didn’t use a click track. I’m pretty sure that Ringo never used one - so I started with the old Beatle’s track - Dizzy Miss Lizzie. Here’s the resulting plot:

This plot shows the beat duration variation (in seconds) from the average beat duration over the course of about two minutes of the song (I trimmed off the first 10 seconds, since many songs take a few seconds to get going). In this plot you can clearly see the beat duration vary over time. The 3 dips at about 90, 110 and 130 correspond to the end of a 12 bar verse, where Ringo would slightly speed up.

Now lets compare this to a computer generated drum track. I created a track in GarageBand with a looping drum and ran the same analysis. Here’s the resulting plot:

Tempo deviations for a computer generated track

The difference is quite obvious, and stark. The computer gives a nice steady, sterile beat, compared to Ringo’s.

Now let’s try some real music that we suspect is recorded to a click track. It seems that most pop music nowadays is overproduced, so my suspicion is that an artist like Britney Spears will record against a click track. I ran the analysis on “Hit me baby one more time” (believe it or not, the song was not in my collection, so I had to go and find it on the internet, did you know that it is pretty easy to find music on the internet?). Here’s the plot:

Britney is as flat as a computer

I think it is pretty clear from the plot that “Hit me baby one more time” was recorded with a click track. And it is pretty clear that these plots make a pretty good click track detector. Flat lines correspond to tracks with little variation in beat duration. So lets explore some artists to see if they use click tracks.

First up: Weezer:

Troublemaker by weezer

Nope, no click track for Weezer. This was a bit of a surprise for me.

How about Green Day?

Yep - clearly a click track there. How about Metallica?

No click track for Lars! Nickeback?

update: fixed nickleback plot labels (thanks tedder)

No surprise there - Nickleback uses a click track. Another numetal band (one that I rather like alot) is Breaking Benjamin:

It is clear that they use a click track too - but what is interesting here is that you can see the bridge - the hump that starts at about 130 seconds into the song.

Of course John Bonham never used a click track - but lets check for fun:

So there you have it, using the Echo Nest remix SDK, gnuplot and some human analysis of the generated plots it is pretty easy to see which tracks are recorded against a click track. To make it really clear, I’ve overlayed a few of the plots:

One final plot … the venerable stairway to heaven is noted for its gradual increase in intensity - part of that is from the volume and part comes from in increase in tempo. Jimmy Page stated that the song “speeds up like an adrenaline flow”. Let’s see if we can see this:

The steady downward slope shows shorter beat durations over the course of the song (meaning a faster song). That’s something you just can’t do with a click track. Update - as a number of commenters have pointed out, yes you can do this with a click track.

The code to generate the data for the plots is very simple:

def main(inputFile):
    audiofile = audio.LocalAudioFile(inputFile)
    beats = audiofile.analysis.beats
    avgList = []
    time = 0;
    output = []
    sum = 0
    for beat in beats:
        time += beat.duration
        avg = runningAverage(avgList, beat.duration)
        sum += avg
        output.append((time, avg))
    base = sum / len(output)
    for d in output:
        print d[0], d[1] - base

def runningAverage(list, dur):
   max = 16
   if len(list) > max:
   return sum(list) / len(list)
I’m still a poor python programmer, so no doubt there are better Pythonic ways to do things - so let me know how to improve my Python code.

If any readers are particularly curious about whether an artist uses a click track let me know and I’ll generate the plots - or better yet, just get your own API key and run the code for yourself.

Update: If you live in the NYC area, and want to see/hear some more about remix, you might want to attend dorkbot-nyc tomorrow (Wednesday, March 4) where Brian will be talking about and demoing remix.

Update - Sten wondered (in the comments) how his band Hungry Fathers would plot given that their drummer uses a click track. Here’s an analysis of their crowd pleaser “A day without orange juice” that seems to indicate that they do indeed use a click track:

User Info Stolen from Music Site

The music streaming service Spotify has been targeted by hackers.

The Swedish company says people's personal details, including e-mail addresses, dates of birth and addresses, were all stolen.

However, it is thought credit-card details, which were handled by a third party, have remained secure.

Spotify has apologised for the security lapse and advised users who registered on the site before 19 December 2008 to change their passwords.

It is thought hackers gained access to user data at the end of 2008, although the security breach only came to light at the end of last week.

In the dark

Spotify's communications manager, Jim Butcher, told BBC News the company had only become aware of the attack after receiving a message from the hackers.

"We haven't had direct contact, it's all via third-party sources, so we don't know who they are and we don't know where they are from.

"This wasn't some kid playing on a computer, someone has spent hundreds of hours looking to hack into our system."

"We're still trying to find out the reasons they actually hacked our site, so it's difficult for me to say what they want at the present time."

Launched in 2006, Spotify has more than one million registered users.

Instead of receiving a pay-per-download service, users can access the music for free, with tunes interrupted by advertising, or they can pay £10 a month for an ad-free service.

It is thought there are more than 250,000 users registered in the UK, but Spotify stressed that the number of compromised accounts was small.

"We think about 10,000 accounts [could be] at risk, although we are 95% sure it is a fraction of that," said Mr Butcher.

In a blog posting, the company explained how the hack actually took place.

"The information that may have been exposed when our protocols were compromised is the password hashes [codes].

"As stated, we never store passwords, and they have never been sent over the internet unencrypted, but the combination of the bug and the group's reverse-engineering of our encrypted streaming protocol may have given outsiders access to individual hashes."

The company has apologised for the security lapse and promised users that it was making efforts to ensure the hack was not repeated.

Brooklyn Band Busts Sarkozy for Copyright Infringement

French President Nicolas Sarkozy may be a law-and-order type of guy, but he may have run afoul of copyright law.

Brooklyn-based musical duo MGMT have threatened to sue Sarkozy and his conservative UMP party over misuse of the band's electro-hippie anthem "Kids" at a party rally in January, as well as on two videos available on the party's Web site.

"Control yourself/Take only what you need from it," goes the ridiculously catchy song's chorus, and apparently the UMP didn't heed that refrain.

The party said it paid about $70 to the French music-licensing organization to use the song at the rally, but MGMT's lawyer says that didn't cover the online usage.

So as additional compensation, the UMP offered the Gallic equivalent of a middle finger — one euro, or about $1.30.

"This offer is disrespectful of the rights of artists and authors. It is insulting," MGMT's attorney Isabelle Wekstein told Agence France-Presse. "We are dealing with acts of counterfeiting, an infringement of intellectual property."

The UMP now says it will explore other ways of compensating the hairy hipsters.

Ironically, Sarkozy's government is pushing a bill through the French parliament that would mandate tougher punishment for online file-sharers, including possibly cutting off Internet access for repeat offenders.

Sarkozy may have a special affection for MGMT, as some of their lyrics parallel his recent life.

"Time to Pretend," another MGMT hit (well, they're hits overseas), mentions a desire to "move to Paris" and "find some models for wives."

Band Says Beijing Canceled Concert Over Tibet
Edward Wong

The popular British rock band Oasis has said that the Chinese government canceled the band’s scheduled debut concerts in China because a band member appeared at a Free Tibet concert in New York in 1997.

The band said in a posting on its Web site this week that the government told the band on Feb. 28 that officials were revoking a performance license already issued for the band, and that two shows scheduled for early April in Beijing and Shanghai were being canceled.

The band said the sudden decision by the government left the band and its promoters “bewildered.”

Oasis said that promoters had told the band that officials within the Chinese Ministry of Culture only recently discovered that Noel Gallagher, a guitarist and singer in the band, appeared in 1997 at a Free Tibet benefit concert on Randall’s Island in New York. The officials then judged that the band was “unsuitable to perform to their fans in the Chinese Republic,” the band said. Members are now “extremely disappointed,” it said.

Oasis said it would continue with the rest of its Asian performances on an international tour to promote its new album, “Dig Out Your Soul.” The band emphasized on its Web site that it would perform in Hong Kong on April 7. Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule from British colonial governance in 1997 and maintains separate political and economic systems from the mainland.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a news conference on Tuesday that organizers of the concert had informed Chinese officials that the concerts were canceled “because of economic reasons in their business operations.”

“Competent Chinese cultural authorities have asked the company to provide further details,” said the spokesman, Qin Gang.

The Chinese government gained full control of Tibet in 1951 after a military invasion. Eight years later, the military crushed a widespread rebellion, and the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama, fled to India. Following an uprising last March, the Chinese government accused the Dalai Lama of advocating separatist violence, but the Dalai Lama says he supports genuine autonomy for the vast Tibetan region, not secession.

Because this month is the 50th anniversary of the failed revolt, the Chinese government is especially anxious over any signs of trouble. It has deployed thousands of soldiers and paramilitary police officers into Tibetan towns to suppress dissent, and closed off large parts of the Tibetan region to foreigners.

The Tibetan independence cause has drawn the support of many actors and musicians in the West, including the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins and U2. The Chinese government became especially vigilant about musicians after Bjork, the pixie-like Icelandic singer, shouted “Tibet! Tibet!” during a concert last March in Shanghai. She had just finished performing a song called “Declare Independence” from “Volta,” her 2007 album.

The outburst drew sharp criticism from Chinese Internet users and praise from Tibetans and foreign supporters of an independent Tibet. The Culture Ministry said that Bjork “broke Chinese law and hurt Chinese people’s feelings.”

In July, one month before the Summer Olympics, the Chinese Ministry of Culture posted new rules on its Web site saying that foreign entertainers who have taken part in activities that China deemed a threat to its sovereignty would not be allowed to perform in China.

The rules said that the backgrounds of performers from foreign countries, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan would be scrutinized. “Those who used to take part in activities that harm our nation’s sovereignty are firmly not allowed to perform in China,” the rules said.

They also called for barring performers who promote ethnic hatred or “advocate obscenity or feudalism and superstition.”

Music Fans Protest WPLR's Canceling Of 'Local Bands Show' After 21 Years
Eric R. Danton

Local music advocates are rallying supporters to protest the end of "The Local Bands Show," which aired for the last time Sunday on WPLR-FM (99.1) after 21 years.

Co-host Rick Allison characterized the cancellation as WPLR choosing to "further isolate itself from the community it is supposed to serve." Allison had hosted the show with New Haven rocker James Velvet, who fronts the Ivory Bills.

Scott Laudani, program director of the New Haven-area station, called it a "programming decision." "I canceled the program and I don't really don't want to get into it too much in the press," Laudani said Monday afternoon.

Allison produced the half-hour show off-site, at no cost to WPLR or its parent company, Cox Radio. Laudani said he hasn't determined what will replace "The Local Bands Show."

The cancellation follows the station's decision a couple years ago to end Jim Koplik's phone-in "Concert Show," which often resulted in exclusive news about upcoming shows and concert-ticket giveaways.

Although the station offered to post "The Local Bands Show" on its website as a podcast, Allison declined.

"That gets into the vengeful, spiteful side," he said. "I don't want to be part of any club that won't let me in the big house."

Still, he doesn't blame Laudani, who came to PLR three weeks ago from Providence station WHJY-FM (94.1). The problem, Allison says, is micromanagement from Cox's corporate headquarters in Atlanta.

"It's just kind of tragic that the station has chosen to do this thing," Allison says. "It cost them nothing to continue, but I think it cost them a great deal in terms of how the public sees them."

The end of the show is a serious loss for the local music scene, said Rob DeRosa, who hosts his own local-band show, "Homegrown," on WESU-FM (88.1)

"For years 'Local Bands' has been a Sunday night oasis in the middle of the desert wasteland that is commercial radio," DeRosa said. "When I got the opportunity to host my own local music show on WESU, my main hope was to be able to cop some of their coolness and bring it to our airwaves."

The "Local Bands Show" website asks supporters to address "lucid complaints" to Laudani and WPLR's general manager, Kimberly Guthrie, at 440 Wheelers Farms Road, Suite 302; Milford, CT 06461.

The last show ended with a fitting trio of songs by local bands: "Open Casket Material," "I'm Done" and "The Show is Over."

Conn.-Based Broadcasting School Shuts Down

A private Connecticut-based broadcasting school with campuses in more than a dozen states abruptly shut down this week and said Thursday it will seek bankruptcy protection.

The Connecticut School of Broadcasting blamed its financial woes on a tightening of the private student loan market. Tuition for 16-week courses is as much as $12,000.

''I am extremely disappointed that, after 44 years of operations, CSB will not be able to fulfill its mission of providing a quality education to students interested in working in the broadcast industry,'' school president David Banner said. ''I am also disappointed that the actions of our lender precipitated this sudden disruption in the lives and careers of our students and employees.''

The school, which has 26 locations in 16 states, was founded in Farmington in 1964 by Hartford broadcaster Dick Robinson.

Robinson, who hosts a radio show from his yacht in Palm Beach County, Fla., said he learned of the closures Wednesday night and was crushed by the news, saying the school ''is like a beloved child to me.''

''Everything as far as I knew was going wonderfully there, and then last night people began to call me and said 'You can't believe this,' and I said, 'I can't, you're right,''' he said Thursday.

The school's current owners said it had to shut down when its lender, Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial, seized control of the school's accounts and froze them as it was attempting to find other ways to fund the business.

In a statement, the school said it would ''promptly seek protection under applicable insolvency laws.''

PNC spokesman Fred Solomon said the company does not discuss its customers or their accounts because of bank confidentiality rules.

PNC recently acquired Cleveland's troubled National City Corp. and last week slashed its quarterly dividend by 85 percent. Its stock was down more than 12 percent Thursday, trading under its 52-week low $20.33.

At the school's Farmington location, students say they found out by text message Wednesday night while others showing up for class found the doors locked.

Tracy Miller, a January graduate, said she was upset about losing the lifetime job placement help and studio privileges that the school agreed to in the contract she signed. She also was angry because radio demos she recorded for potential employers were on computers inside the locked school.

''I just want some answers. I'm in the dark right now,'' said Miller, 22, of Plainville.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Thursday his office was looking into the closure, including whether school officials kept taking money from students when they knew it would be shut down.

The office will seek tuition refunds for students if it finds any violations of law, Blumenthal said.

The state Department of Higher Education was also seeking refunds and options for students to complete their studies.

Robinson, the 70-year-old founder, said Thursday that his family wants to reopen a new broadcast school, to be called the Robinson Media Institute, in Farmington. He said cannot participate because a five-year noncompete clause remains in effect from his 2006 sale of the school, but that his daughters have contacted state officials about letting students complete their studies at no cost.

''I can't be involved -- only from the heart -- but the girls are in there, they graduated from there, they want to rehire all of the staff,'' he said. ''The biggest thing is these kids. It's unconscionable to leave the students hanging, because they really want to do this and have a passion for broadcasting.''


Associated Press writer Stephanie Reitz in Hartford contributed to this report.

Paul Harvey, Talk-Radio Pioneer, Is Dead at 90

Paul Harvey, the news commentator and talk-radio pioneer whose staccato style made him one of the nation’s most familiar voices, died Saturday in Arizona, according to ABC Radio Networks. He was 90.

Mr. Harvey died surrounded by family at a hospital in Phoenix, where he had a winter home, said Louis Adams, a spokesman for ABC Radio Networks, where Mr. Harvey worked for more than 50 years. No cause of death was immediately available.

Mr. Harvey had been forced off the air for several months in 2001 because of a virus that weakened a vocal cord. But he returned to work in Chicago and was still active as he passed his 90th birthday. His death comes less than a year after that of his wife and longtime producer, Lynne.

“My father and mother created from thin air what one day became radio and television news,” their only child, Paul Harvey Jr., said in a statement. “So in the past year, an industry has lost its godparents, and today millions have lost a friend.”

Known for his resonant voice and his trademark radio feature called “The Rest of the Story,” Mr. Harvey had been heard nationally since 1951, when he began his “News and Comment” feature for ABC Radio Networks.

He became a heartland icon, delivering news and commentary with a distinctive Midwestern flavor. “Stand by for news!” he would tell listeners.

“Paul Harvey was one of the most gifted and beloved broadcasters in our nation’s history,” James M. Robinson, president of ABC Radio Networks, said in a statement. “We will miss our dear friend tremendously and are grateful for the many years we were so fortunate to have known him.”

In 2005, Mr. Harvey was one of 14 people chosen to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, as was his wife.

He composed his twice-daily news commentaries from an office in downtown Chicago.

At the peak of his career, Mr. Harvey reached more than 24 million listeners on more than 1,200 radio stations and charged $30,000 to give a speech. His syndicated column was carried by 300 newspapers.

His fans identified with his plain-spoken political commentary, but critics called him out of touch. He was an early supporter of the late Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and was a longtime backer of the Vietnam War.

Perhaps Mr. Harvey’s most famous broadcast was in 1970, when he abandoned that support, announcing his opposition to President Richard M. Nixon’s expansion of the war and urging him to withdraw American forces.

“Mr. President, I love you, but you’re wrong,” Mr. Harvey said, shocking his listeners and drawing a barrage of letters and phone calls, including one from the White House.

In 1976, Mr. Harvey began broadcasting “The Rest of the Story,” his anecdotal descriptions of the lives of famous people. The segments started chronologically, with the person’s identity revealed at the end. The stories were an attempt to capture “the heartbeats behind the headlines.”

Mr. Harvey also blended news with advertising, a line he said he crossed only for products he trusted.

In 2000, at age 82, he signed a 10-year contract with ABC Radio Networks.

Paul Harvey Aurandt was born in Tulsa, Okla. His father, a police officer, was killed when he was a toddler. A high school teacher took note of his distinctive voice and started him on a broadcast career.

While working at KXOK radio in St. Louis, he met Lynne Cooper, a graduate student at Washington University. He proposed on their first date (she said no) and always called her “Angel.” They were married in 1940.

Depeche Mode Debuts Season-Pass Model on iTunes

iTunes has long been a double-edged sword for the music industry -- on one hand, it provided a model for selling digital music. On the other, the dominance of singles sales over album sales leaves a revenue gap that labels are still trying to close.

So some relief is greeting Apple's introduction of the new iTunes Pass model with veteran band Depeche Mode, which records on the EMI label. Similar to the Season Pass model iTunes implemented in March 2006 for TV show downloads, the iTunes Pass lets artists sell a range of products for one flat price and deliver them throughout a given period of time.

As the first act to take advantage of the program, Depeche Mode is offering two exclusive singles to fans who sign up for the $19 bundle, which includes a pre-order for the album. The new album, "Sounds of the Universe," will automatically appear in fans' iTunes library when it comes out April 21, as will a number of other new music and video titles between now and then, with additional content coming afterward.

It's a version of the album subscription model, which several artists have offered on their own for the past year. Rather than simply releasing a single album, artists are experimenting with upselling higher-priced bundles to loyal fans that they can pay for at the outset, and subsequently letting content trickle out for weeks, months or even a year. Those offering subscriptions include Metallica, the Dandy Warhols, Kristin Hersh and Josh Rouse.

"If you're a fan of any band, you want to get new content, you want to keep seeing something from the band," said EMI senior vice president of sales and commercial development Darren Stupak. "You're giving them something every two weeks. It's great because you're engaging the fan with content that's ongoing rather than having them search it out."

So far, the model has shown promise. A recent bundle of the Beastie Boys' reissue of "Paul's Boutique," in conjunction with EMI and the technology platform Topspin, carried a range of options, from a digital album for $12 to a $120 package that included a boxed set and download.

According to Topspin, only 16 percent of the resulting sales were for the cheapest option, and the average revenue per transaction topped $50. Bringing the model to iTunes is a significant step, as other subscription offers are generally limited to artists' Web sites, where only the most hardcore fan discovers them.

Sources said there are at least two to three other acts ready to participate in the Season Pass program in the coming months.

"It's about being creative and testing new products," Stupak said. "The consumer decides what configurations they want. We've been an industry that had two or three configurations. Now we have different ways to offer consumers products. We're not telling them how to buy Depeche Mode. We're offering them different opportunities."

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

YouTube and Universal Music Are Said to Discuss Deal
Miguel Helft

Google’s YouTube and the Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music label, are in advanced discussions over a licensing agreement that could lead to the creation of a premium site for music videos, according a person briefed on the talks.

The discussions remain fluid and the terms of the agreement, which could not be learned, are still being negotiated. A final deal could still be weeks away, and its terms may be different from those being discussed currently, the person said.

The proposed agreement represent the latest effort by YouTube, the online video service, to attract premium content that might lure higher-priced advertisements. Music videos are among the most popular content on YouTube, but they have failed to produce significant revenue for YouTube or the music labels.

YouTube declined to comment on the talks, but in an e-mail statement it said: “We are always working with our partners to find creative ways to connect music, musicians and fans.”

A spokesman for Universal Music Group, which is owned by Vivendi, could not be reached for comment.

All the major labels have tried to renegotiate licensing agreements with YouTube that were signed in 2006 and 2007.

Music companies have been disappointed with those agreements, which have included a small fee for every video watched and a share of the advertising revenue.

Recently, YouTube added buttons next to some of its videos that fans can click on to buy songs from iTunes or Amazon.com, with a portion of the revenue going to the music labels.

Sony Music Entertainment reached a new agreement with YouTube this year. But discussions with other labels, including Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and EMI, have dragged on.

In December, Warner Music Group removed its music videos from YouTube saying it “simply cannot accept terms that fail to appropriately and fairly compensate recording artists, songwriters, labels and publishers for the value they provide.”

The proposed agreement between YouTube and Universal Music Group is more sweeping than existing deals and could include the creation of a site that showcases not only music videos, but also other content related to musicians and bands, according to the person briefed on the discussions.

Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, alluded to the challenges in hammering out deals with the labels at an investor conference on Tuesday. He said the two sides had disagreed over “how to compensate the music industry for the use of their music in things which are promotional.” Mr. Schmidt said he did not know how the disagreement would be resolved.

Supreme Court Enters the YouTube Era
Adam Liptak

The Supreme Court is entering the YouTube era.

The first citation in a petition filed with the court last month, for instance, was not to an affidavit or legal precedent but rather to a video link. The video shows what is either appalling police brutality or a measured response to an arrested man’s intransigence — you be the judge.

Such evidence verité has the potential to unsettle the way appellate judges do their work, according to a new study in The Harvard Law Review. If Supreme Court justices can see for themselves what happened in a case, the study suggests, they may be less inclined to defer to the factual findings of jurors and to the conclusions of lower-court judges.

In 2007, for instance, the Supreme Court considered the case of a Georgia man who was paralyzed when his car was rammed by the police during a high-speed chase. The chase was recorded by a camera on the squad car’s dashboard, and that video dominated the court’s analysis.

The federal appeals court in Atlanta had ruled for the driver, Victor Harris, at a preliminary stage in the case, saying a jury should decide whether his driving warranted the aggressive measures taken by the police.

“Harris remained in control of his vehicle, slowed for turns and intersections and typically used indicators for turns,” the appeals court said of the video.

But that is not how most of the justices saw it.

Justice Antonin Scalia said at the argument that the video showed “the scariest chase I ever saw since ‘The French Connection.’ ”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said he was not sure how to think about the appeals court’s interpretation. “I end up with Chico Marx’s old question,” Justice Breyer said. “Who do you believe — me or your own eyes?”

When the decision in the case, Scott v. Harris, was handed down, only Justice John Paul Stevens dissented. With understated sarcasm, he highlighted the new role his colleagues had taken on.

“Eight of the jurors on this court,” Justice Stevens said, “reach a verdict that differs from the views of the judges on both the district court and the court of appeals who are surely more familiar with the hazards of driving on Georgia roads than we are.”

The court posted the video on its Web site. “I suggest that the interested reader take advantage of the link in the court’s opinion and watch it,” Justice Breyer said in a concurrence.

Three law professors accepted that invitation and made it the basis of an interesting study published in January in The Harvard Law Review. They showed the video to 1,350 people, who mostly saw things as the justices did. Three-quarters of them thought the use of potentially deadly force by the police was justified by the risk Mr. Harris’s driving posed.

But African-Americans, liberals, Democrats, people who don’t make much money and those who live in the Northeast were, the study found, “much more likely to see the police, rather than Harris, as the source of the danger posed by the flight and to find the deliberate ramming of Harris’s vehicle unnecessary to avert risk to the public.”

Video creates a danger, the study said, of “decision-making hubris” by judges.

Many judges do not seem to understand, said Jessica Silbey, a law professor at Suffolk University in Boston, that video is not categorical or irrefutable proof like DNA but only a partial, volatile and dangerously persuasive account of what happened.

But video can also bring an encounter to life in a way a paper transcript never will.

Consider the video at the heart of the petition filed last month asking the court to hear another case about what may have been excessive force by the police.

This one, also recorded by a patrol car’s dashboard camera, shows Jesse D. Buckley just after he was stopped for speeding on a rural Florida road. Being pulled over is no one’s favorite experience, but it completely undid Mr. Buckley, who said in an interview that the prospect of paying a $175 ticket was just too much given his personal and money troubles at the time.

“I just cried,” he said. “I needed to cry. I just couldn’t stop crying.”

He refused to sign the traffic citation, and he was arrested. Hands cuffed behind his back, he sat down on the ground by his car, sobbing.

Jonathan Rackard, a sheriff’s deputy, tried to lift Mr. Buckley to move him into the patrol car, but he failed. Then he threatened to use a Taser stun gun.

“I don’t care any more,” Mr. Buckley responded, disconsolate. “Tase me.”

So Deputy Buckley applied, over the course of a couple of minutes, three five-second-long 50,000-volt electrical shocks from the Taser. Between the second and third shocks, he walked to his patrol car and called for backup. Mr. Buckley stayed where he was.

A second officer soon arrived, and the two officers placed Mr. Buckley into the patrol car.

Mr. Buckley pleaded guilty, paid the ticket and sued over the episode. “I still have scars on my back and some on my chest,” he said the other day.

Deputy Rackard’s lawyers, in an appeals court brief last year, said the use of “moderate non-deadly force in the face of spirited, though non-violent, resistance was a reasonably proportionate response.”

“Deputy Rackard should not have to struggle to lift a heavy object like Buckley,” the brief added, “and run the risk of a work-related injury.”

Mr. Buckley’s lawyers say there are more than 100 federal court decisions on the use of Tasers and that the lower courts need guidance from the Supreme Court.

Michael R. Masinter, a lawyer for Mr. Buckley, said that “video evidence is inherently more compelling than recorded testimony.” But he did not claim that it is always better evidence, only that it works on the brain in a different way.

“It’s less a question of law,” he said, “and more one of how we have evolved as a species.”

Microsoft Mapping Course to a Jetsons-Style Future
Ashlee Vance

Meet Laura, the virtual personal assistant for those of us who cannot afford a human one.

Built by researchers at Microsoft, Laura appears as a talking head on a screen. You can speak to her and ask her to handle basic tasks like booking appointments for meetings or scheduling a flight.

More compelling, however, is Laura’s ability to make sophisticated decisions about the people in front of her, judging things like their attire, whether they seem impatient, their importance and their preferred times for appointments.

Instead of being a relatively dumb terminal, Laura represents a nuanced attempt to recreate the finer aspects of a relationship that can develop between an executive and an assistant over the course of many years.

“What we’re after is common sense about etiquette and what people want,” said Eric Horvitz, a researcher at Microsoft who specializes in machine learning.

Microsoft wants to put a Laura on the desk of every person who has ever dreamed of having a personal aide. Laura and other devices like her stand as Microsoft’s potential path for diversifying beyond the personal computer, sales of which are stagnating.

Microsoft and its longtime partner, Intel, have accelerated their exploration of new computing fields. Last week at its headquarters near Seattle, Microsoft showed off a host of software systems built to power futuristic games, medical devices, teaching tools and even smart elevators. And this week, Intel, the world’s largest chip maker, will elaborate on plans to extend its low-power Atom chip from laptops to cars, robots and home security systems.

Such a shift is only natural as people show that they want less, not more, from their computers.

Workers and consumers have moved away from zippy desktops over the last few years, and now even their interest in expensive laptops has started to wane.

The fastest-selling products in the PC market are netbooks, a flavor of cheap, compact laptops meant to handle the basic tasks like checking e-mail and perusing the Internet that dominate most people’s computing time.

Of course, Microsoft and Intel will remain married to the PC market for the foreseeable future. The vast majority of Microsoft’s $60 billion and Intel’s $38 billion in annual revenue stems from the sale of traditional computer products — a franchise so powerful that it is known in the industry by the nickname Wintel.

But with consumers no longer chasing after ever-faster PCs, the two companies have opted to redefine what the latest and greatest computer might look like.

“The PC is still very healthy, but it is not showing the type of growth that comes through these exciting new areas,” said Patrick P. Gelsinger, a senior vice president at Intel.

Whether the companies can really turn prototypes like Laura into real products remains to be seen. Microsoft and Intel both have a habit of talking up fantastic and ambitious visions of the future. In 2003, Microsoft famously predicted that we would soon all be wearing wristwatch computers known as Spot watches. Last year, the company quietly ended the project.

This time around, however, the underlying silicon technology may have caught up to where both companies hope to take computing.

For example, Laura requires a top-of-the-line chip with eight processor cores to handle all of the artificial intelligence and graphics work needed to give the system a somewhat lifelike appearance and function. Such a chip would normally sit inside a server in a company’s data center.

Intel is working to bring similar levels of processing power down to tiny chips that can fit into just about any device. Craig Mundie, the chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft, expects to see computing systems that are about 50 to 100 times more powerful than today’s systems by 2013.

Most important, the new chips will consume about the same power as current chips, making possible things like a virtual assistant with voice- and facial-recognition skills that are embedded into an office door.

“We think that in five years’ time, people will be able to use computers to do things that today are just not accessible to them,” Mr. Mundie said during a speech last week. “You might find essentially a medical doctor in a box, so to speak, in the form of your computer that could help you with basic, nonacute care, medical problems that today you can get no medical support for.”

With such technology in hand, Microsoft predicts a future filled with a vast array of devices much better equipped to deal with speech, artificial intelligence and the processing of huge databases.

To that point, Microsoft has developed a projection system that lets people manipulate large video images with their hands. Using this technology, Microsoft’s researchers projected an image of the known universe onto a homemade cardboard dome and then pinched and pulled at the picture to expand the Milky Way or traverse Jupiter’s surface.

“You could hook this up to your Xbox and have your own crazy gaming projection system,” said Andrew D. Wilson, a senior researcher at Microsoft. Teachers could use this type of technology as well to breathe new life into their subjects.

The technology behind Laura could cross over into a variety of fields. Mr. Horvitz predicted an elevator that senses when you are in the midst of a conversation and keeps its doors open until you are done talking.

As for Intel, the company has confirmed that more than 1,000 products are being designed for its coming Atom chip, which is aimed at nontraditional computing systems. Intel views this as a $10 billion potential market that will give rise to 15 billion brainy devices by 2015, Mr. Gelsinger said.

The fortunes that Microsoft and Intel have amassed from their PC businesses afford them the rare opportunity to explore such a wide range of future products. And if their wildest dreams turn into realities, it is possible that consumers will one day associate the Wintel moniker more with brainy elevators than desktops.

UK Government Backs Open Source

The UK government has said it will accelerate the use of open source software in public services.

Tom Watson MP, minister for digital engagement, said open source software would be on a level playing field with proprietary software such as Windows.

Open source software will be adopted "when it delivers best value for money", the government said.

It added that public services should where possible avoid being "locked into proprietary software".

Licences for the use of open source software are generally free of charge and embrace open standards, and the code that powers the programs can be modified without fear of trampling on intellectual property or copyright.

According to some in the open source industry, the shift from proprietary standards could save the government £600m a year.

Simon Phipps, chief open source officer for Sun Microsystems, said the UK government's stance was part of a "global wave" of take up for open source in governments.

"We waste a fortune on proprietary computer software because of paying for licences and promises up front and not demanding value," he said.

Mr Phipps said schools, government departments and public services would have a "crucial freedom" because of the choice of whether to pay for support and training when using open source software.

The government's action plan could see a wave of open source software being deployed in areas such as office applications (word processing and spreadsheets), document management and database infrastructure, the backbone of many large-scale IT systems.

'More teeth'

Steve Shine, European vice president of Ingres, an open source support vendor, said the government's action plan had "more teeth" than policies being adopted in other countries because the plan was tied into policies regarding how IT managers procure new software.

He said the move had partly been driven by a series of high-profile IT failures in recent years that had relied on proprietary software.

He said: "Open source can help avoid many of the hidden costs of proprietary software such as making organisations re-pay for licences if they want to shift use of a particular piece of software from one place to another.

"This is irrelevant in the open source world."

Announcing an open source and open standards action plan, the government said it would:

• ensure that the government adopts open standards and uses these to communicate with the citizens and businesses that have adopted open source solutions
• ensure that open source solutions are considered properly and, where they deliver best value for money are selected for government business solutions
• strengthen the skills, experience and capabilities within government and in its suppliers to use open source to greatest advantage
• embed an open source culture of sharing, re-use and collaborative development across government and its suppliers
• ensure that systems integrators and proprietary software suppliers demonstrate the same flexibility and ability to re-use their solutions and products as is inherent in open source.

Government departments will be required to adopt open source software when "there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products" because of its "inherent flexibility".

Expected backlash

Mr Phipps and Mr Shine said they expected a backlash from proprietary software firms.

"I am absolutely certain there have been communications extremely high-up in proprietary vendors with management high up in government," said Mr Shine.

Mr Phipps added: "Measured over the short term traditional vendors will cut prices back, end load contacts and do everything to appear cheaper.

"But the real value with open source comes from giving users a new flexibility."

He said the widespread adoption of open source software in public services could also have a knock on effect to the ordinary consumer.

"It's already happening to significant extent in the UK. Lots of homes are using Firefox and OpenOffice.org.

"It is becoming acceptable and expected."

Tempers Flare as Recession Creeps into Tech Industry

Putting fuel in my truck was the last place I expected to get into a confrontation.

Especially concerning Free Open Source Software. I mean, come on...

It was one of "those vans".

You know, the brightly colored ones that promises to propel a computer tech or two as it goes down the road? The one that pulls up in front of houses with people who have broken their computers?

You know the ones...

I suppose what surprises me most is how fast it happened...and how it was good that it stopped when it did.

I was pumping gas into my vehicle when the guy next to me looked over and commented on the number of computers in the back of my SUV. I of course, mentioned that I owned a business in the tech industry. I explained to him that I was also a Director of a charity that provided computers to disadvantaged kids. He seemed truly interested and while I didn't have any business cards with me, I gave him our website and blog address. I excused myself as I walked toward the store to pick up some other things before leaving the station. I fully expected him and his van to be gone when I returned.

He wasn't. It wasn't.

As I approached my vehicle from the store, I had a new perspective on the area. I could now see through the windshield of the van at the pump and there was another person sitting in the passenger seat...a person I had not seen earlier. The guy I talked to was behind the steering wheel and he rotated between jabbing his finger in my direction and then turning his head sharply back toward the other person in the van as he spoke. It did not seem to be a tranquil conversation. As I came within ten steps of my Rodeo, the driver got out of his van and approached me.

It wasn't a friendly approach.

We made contact just under the edge of the canopy. I say "we" made contact...the initial contact was his right index finger stabbing into my chest.

"It's _____ ________ hippy freaks like you that are costing us our jobs. You got any idea how many people are getting pink slips because of your b_________? Every time you put that ____ on someone's computer, some guy trying to feed his family has to go home and tell his wife that he lost his job. How about I snatch that silly little ponytail and give you a tour of the parking lot?"

The veins in his temples were at critical mass and he physically spit as he screamed at me in front of his van. This is where the narrative is going to stop, and it's going to stop for two reasons. First, there's no good way to tell the rest of the story. Second, it's because that's when any verbal communication between him and I stopped. He made first hostile contact and I didn't do anything but react. In the end it was no big deal...but of the two of us...

I am the only one of the two that did not involuntarily leave his feet that day.

Besides, that "silly little ponytail" represents all the hair I have left. Just protectin' the real estate.

The guy in the passenger seat came streaking out of the van with a laptop in one hand and a cell phone in the other. A small crowd had semi-gathered to watch the show but it was over as quickly as it began.

As I spoke with the other guy, it turned out that he was the crew chief of that team and a salaried member of that company's Field Management. The driver had used the truck laptop to go to our website and blog. It didn't take him long to figure out I am an Open Source/Linux Advocate. From talking with the supervisor, I found out that their store location had taken a beating from November of last year until the present. "Memos" had been circulated amongst the management teams, giving advice and training on how best to deal with the "Open Source Threat."

And are you curious as to the machine that is creaming their laptop AND desktop sales?

The Dell Mini 9. It's killin' 'em.

Also I didn't know, the fewer machines they sell with Windows, the fewer positions in the field they can justify. And he said it so I didn't have to.

"We schedule a technician visit for six months in the future with every home visit. Both they and we know their registries and computers will be messed up again by then."

That I did not know.

So what I learned is that "Microsoft Technicians" from this company actually help the particular store project sales and profit in six month blocks, for their "call-out" business that is.


That lead me to think about an entire nation of computer techs. Do they "project" their profits based on the duality between the customer's computer ignorance and the product's inherent insecurity and instability? Do they project their frustration and anger at self-serve gas stations? Geez...how many of them do you imagine there are?

Hey...just thinking allowed.

It did make me a bit more aware of who I tell about my business.

Not that it's going to alter any behavior...just stuff to think about.

All-Righty Then

Software System’s Fans Gather to Talk Code
Colin Moynihan

There were people who were proud to call themselves tech geeks and a few who admitted being near-Luddites, and there was at least one person who called herself a radical technologist. They joined book publishers, librarians and computer consultants, some of whom had come from as far as Ireland and Brazil, at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Downtown Brooklyn on Saturday for something akin to a happening for the Internet age — Drupal Camp.

Drupal is free software used to run Web sites, and participants at the event said they were drawn there, despite differences in backgrounds and ideologies, by a belief in an almost utopian form of technological cooperation.

“We’re throwing out the idea of software as a commodity and replacing it with the idea of labor and participation being valued more than ownership,” Eric Goldhagen, a software consultant and developer from the East Village and a primary organizer of the event, told the gathering.

Drupal was developed by Dries Buytaert, a Belgian programmer, and nearly 10 years ago he made the Drupal code public, giving up formal control of his creation and letting people use it without charge with the stipulation that they share modifications and improvements with one another.

In keeping with that decentralized spirit, after Mr. Goldhagen’s introductory address the participants put the conference schedule to a vote, then scattered to take part in workshops and discussions.

“This is a very social event,” said Cary Gordon, president of a software development company in Los Angeles. “The users and the developers are one and the same and there’s a certain amount of esprit de corps that goes along with that.”

Dozens of Drupal Camps are held around the world annually, yet Mr. Goldhagen said the first was held in New York in 2006, when Drupal was a relatively obscure system, used mainly by nonprofit organizations and small businesses.

Many of those initial users turned to Drupal to avoid licensing fees charged by companies like Microsoft. But other users liked Drupal because they were free to change it themselves by writing new code, or because they were drawn to the sense of community formed when users began to communicate with one another about how to resolve technical snags and how to shape the software’s future.

In recent years Drupal (the name, according to its Web site, is derived from druppel, the Dutch word used to describe a drop of water) has become more popular. Large companies like Sony use it, as do organizations like Human Rights Watch and the Pulitzer Prizes. The federal Web site recovery.gov, a clearinghouse of information on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, recently signed into law by President Obama, is run on Drupal.

Chris Ridder, a residential fellow at the Center for the Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, said that there was an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of free and open-source software, but added that such software has recently become more widely used, in part because of its flexibility.

As might be expected, the conference itself was free. Sponsors donated food and drinks, and instructors volunteered their time.

So, 50 beginners gathered in Room 204, illuminated only by the glow of laptop screens and a beam from an overhead projector as one of those volunteers, Peter Dowling, 43, of Stamford, Conn., led them though the steps of installing Drupal on their computers.

Down the hall, in Room 200, about 20 advanced users listened to David Burns, a consultant from Philadelphia, describe ways to speed up a sluggish Web site. The audience clapped, and Mr. Burns, 27, announced that he could be found later at a nearby bar, the Zombie Hut.

Some of the participants said that they were motivated to use Drupal mainly by a sense of pragmatism. Others cited principle.

The radical technologist, Mallory Knodel, 25, of the Lower East Side, writes code to help further leftist causes. She said Drupal had been helpful for her group, May First/People Link, a network that includes trade unions and political pranksters who oppose globalization.

And Andy Thornton, 36, a programmer from Astoria, Queens, who works at the United Nations, said the egalitarian nature of Drupal was “almost the epitome of what the Web promised at the beginning. This is very much a democracy. It doesn’t have a top-down authority.”

Microsoft's New System Easier for Browser Switch

Microsoft Corp is developing a feature in its new operating system that allows users to turn off Internet Explorer and other key Microsoft programs.

The new feature is a major step for the world's largest software company, which has been accused by competitors and regulators of forcing consumers to run its own software, squeezing rivals' offerings out of the marketplace.

"In addition to the features that were already available to turn on or off in Windows Vista, we've added the following features to the list in Windows 7," said a Microsoft blog published on Friday, listing Internet Explorer 8, Windows Media Player and a host of other Microsoft programs.

The publicly available blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/e7/archive/2009/03/06/beta-to-rc-changes-

turning-windows-features-on-or-off.aspx) was written by Jack May o, a manager in the team developing Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system, which will replace the unpopular Vista early next year.

The new design will make it easier for users to remove any traces of Internet Explorer from their desktop, although the software will remain installed on the computer, and allow them to run other browsers more smoothly.

Last month Google Inc, which recently launched its own Chrome browser, joined the Mozilla foundation, producer of the Firefox Web browser, and Norway's Opera, in protesting Microsoft's dominance in the browser market.

In January, European regulators brought formal charges against Microsoft for abusing its dominant market position by bundling its Internet Explorer Web browser with its Windows operating system, which is used in 95 percent of the world's personal computers.

In the past decade, Microsoft has fallen afoul of both U.S. and European antitrust regulators for bundling key programs with its operating system.

(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Clarence Fernandez.)

Browser Battle: Nine Browsers of Today and Tomorrow Compared
Paul Lilly

Anyone who may have thought the death of Netscape would signal the end of the browser wars, boy were they mistaken. In fact, it could be argued that it was at that point it all began. It didn't take long for Mozilla's Firefox to emerge from Netscape Navigator's ashes, and over time, Firefox would win over enthusiasts with a potent combination of speed, security, and an unprecedented level of customization.

But what started as a two-man battle is quickly growing into all-out warfare. Prepare to be overwhelmed by an onslaught of new browser releases in the coming months as Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple, Opera Software, and Google all vie to provide your vehicle for navigating the web. Each one brings something new to the table, whether it be blazing fast performance or a unique feature-set. Don't worry if you haven't been paying attention - we jump in the trenches with whole lot of them and get to know each one on a personal basis.

Stable Releases

Internet Explorer 7

Feeling the pressure from Mozilla's popular Firefox browser, Microsoft ended a five year hiatus after burying Netscape in the ground and finally jumped back into the browser game with a long overdue update. The IE team went back to the drawing board and totally reworked the browser's rendering engine, also adding tabbed browsing and add-ons to the mix, and then finished it off with a facelift.

Firefox 3

Just how popular has Firefox become? Enough so that when Mozilla announced it would be releasing Firefox 3, power users lined up to download the new version, promptly setting a Guinness World Record for most number of software downloads in 24 hours. And rightly so. Better memory management, improved security, an aptly named AwesomeBar, and several other improvements made the best browser on the market even better.

Opera 9.6

Diehard Opera fans might take exception to referring to Opera as an alternative browser, and with the release of 9.6, they have a point. Several speed enhancements made the already fast browser even snappier, but our favorite feature is the new magazine-style RSS feeds.

Safari 3

Apple's DNA is evident in its Safari browser right from the get-go. Hardly surprising given that it began life on the Mac OS X operating system in early 2003. In the summer of 2007, Safari shed its Mac-only shackles and surfed over to Windows with claims of performing up to twice as fast as the competition. Soon to be old news, Apple is gearing up to replace Safari 3 with a significantly faster fourth version.

Upcoming Releases

Firefox 3.1 Beta 2

Initially intended as a 'fast-track' update to Firefox 3.0, lingering bugs in 3.1's new JavaScript engine, called TraceMonkey, likely means IE8 will ship first. And that's okay with Mozilla, who contends that its much more concerned with getting the new browser right than it is with beating Microsoft to the punch.

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2

There's a good chance Microsoft will release IE8 later this month and some wonder whether or not the web will promptly be broken. That's because Microsoft is putting a much greater focus on becoming web standards-compliant. The downside? All those sites specifically coded for IE, including Microsoft.com, fall under IE's incompatibility list. D'oh!

Chrome 1.0

Google surprised everyone when its Chrome browser showed up on the web unannounced, and while there's clearly much work to be done, it's hard not to get excited over better tab management. Chrome treats each tab as its own process, so if there's a bug in a website's code that causes a crash, you only lose a single tab and not the entire browser. Bodacious!

Opera 10 Alpha

The only browser of the bunch to be in a pre-beta state, we include it here because it's one of the first browsers to fully comply with the Acid3 test with a 100 percent pass rate (Safari 4 being the other). If the new build can live up to its promise of a 30 percent performance boost, Opera may finally find its way onto more mainstream machines.

Safari 4 Beta

Apple says its new Safari 4 browser is up to 4 times faster than the previous version, and according to its own testing, it destroys the competition when it comes to JavaScript performance. A redesigned UI and a smorgasbord of added features makes Safari 4 Apple's most ambitious browser to date.

Start Your Rendering Engines

IE7 (Trident V and JScript 5.7)

Microsoft has been using the closed-source Trident framework dating all the way back to IE4 (Trident I). Since that time, Trident has been tweaked for each new version of Internet Explorer, receiving significant changes starting with IE7 (Trident V). A greater focus was put on standards compliance, and at long last, IE finally brought support for transparent PNG images. Trident's main advantage is IE's marketshare, so even though other rendering engines are far more compliant with web standards, the overwhelming majority of users are surfing the net with Trident. Anyone else suddenly craving some gum?

IE8 (Trident 4.0 and JScript 5.8)

Another IE release means another version of Microsoft's core layout engine. Now in version 4.0, the latest Trident iteration finally manages to pass the Acid2 test, but still scores low on the updated Acid3 test. But even more concerning for Microsoft is that this newest version just might 'break the web'. There has been so much tweaking under the hood that thousands of popular websites (2,400 and climbing) that formerly ran fine on IE no longer render correctly with IE8. Even Microsoft.com appears on MS's Compatibility View list, which is a list of websites known to render improperly on IE8 and are automatically rendered in IE7 compatibility mode. But what about the rest? A 'Compatibility View' button promptly 'fixes' borked sites that haven't been identified as such.

JavaScript is still handled by the JScript engine in IE8, now in version 5.8. Performance has been cited as a the number one goal for optimizations made to JScript, one of which includes the introduction of native JavaScript Object Notation (JSON).

Firefox 3 (Gecko 1.9.0 and SpiderMonkey)

Netscape may have died an untimely death at the hands of Microsoft, but its soul lives on. We're talking about the open-source Gecko rendering engine, which started life at Netscape in 1997 and has been used with every version of Firefox. Gecko's main advantage is that it was built specifically to support open internet standards, but is also adept at rendering most web pages built for IE. The cross-platform engine also boasts support for a wide range of operating systems.

Also starting life at Netscape is Firefox's SpiderMonkey Javascript engine written in C. It's the same engine Yahoo uses for its Widgets, and can also be found in various other applications.

Firefox 3.1 (Gecko 1.9.1 and TraceMonkey)

This latest version of Firefox upgrades the Gecko engine from 1.9.0 to 1.9.1, bringing with it a few key changes that bely the incremental naming scheme. As expected, compliance with web standards is improved, but the update also ushers in support for border images, a private browsing mode, and enhancements to the AwesomeBar.

Garnering a lot of attention on the web is Mozilla's new TraceMonkey JavaScript engine. Mozilla essentially supercharged SpiderMonkey by adding native-code compilation and optimizations called "Trace Trees" (PDF). In TraceMonkey, frequenly executed code is traced and compiled, and the next time that same code is called upon, the compiled version is used. This tracing technique has already shown impressive performance gains and it looks to get even better over time.

Opera 9.6 (Presto 2.1.1 and Futhark)

The second youngest of all the major rendering engines, Opera 9.6 continues to use the closed-source Presto platform first released in November 2002. Because it's not freely distributed, Opera is the only desktop browser to use the Presto engine, although it can also be found on a number of licensed third-party apps and devices, most notably the Nintendo DS and DSi, Wii Internet Channel, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX and above, and Adobe CS2 and above.

Both Opera 9.6 and 10 also use an ECMAScript/JavaScript engine called Futhark. Futhark balances speed with memory usage, which has allowed other next-gen browsers to catch up and leap ahead in terms of raw performance. However, the Opera team is already working on a new JavaScript engine called Carakan (pronounced Tsharakan). Citing internal testing, Opera Software claims the new engine is already two and a half times faster than Futhark, and has the potential to be 50 times as fast.

Opera 10 (Presto 2.2 and Futhark)

The next version of Opera sees an upgrade from Presto 2.1.1 to 2.2, and with it a claimed 30 percent performance boost on the web over the previous version. But it gets even better. Presto has always done exceptionally well with web standards, and the Presto 2.2 engine is one of the first ever to score a perfect 100/100 on the unforgiving Acid3 test (Apple claims it beat Opera to the punch, but we're content to call it a tie).

Chrome 1.0 (WebKit and V8)

The future looks bright for WebKit, the open-source rendering engined used by Google's Chrome browser. The WebKit platform has already found a home on Google's mobille platform Android, Palm webOS, and Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. There's even been talk of both Microsoft and Mozilla switching to WebKit in future versions of IE and Firefox, respectively. While not as standards compliant as Presto, the WebKit framework is considered fast and highly versatile.

For JavaScript duties, Google developed the open-source V8 engine written in C++. Not only has V8 been tuned for speed, but according to Google, the JavaScript engine handles resource management exceptionally well by reclaiming memory used by objects that are no longer required in a process.

Safari 3 (WebKit and JavaScriptCore)

Many PC users never even heard of Safari until 2007, even though the browser had been in existence since 2003. That's because up until just two years ago, Safari was only available on the Mac, and only people with cooties own Macs. A series of security threats and vulnerabilities immediately following Safari's Windows debut meant PC users were at a high risk of getting cooties too.

Safari 4 (WebKit and Nitro)
Apple's newest browser is built aroud the WebKit platform, but to lay claim as the fastest browser on the planet, Apple also developed a new JavaScript engined called Nitro, which is Apple's version of WebKit's Squirrelfish engine. According to Apple, this helps Safari execute JavaScript code up to 30 times faster than IE7 and more than three times as fast as Firefox 3. A new look and a bevy of features has given Safari a new outlook in life.

User Interface

Internet Explorer 8

Unlike the jump from IE6 to IE7, there isn't too much terribly different about IE8's UI compared to the previous version. Microsoft seems content to stick with the browser's redesigned layout, even if end users don't feel the same way. A new Favorites bar finds its way onto IE8, as does a new Safety menu option, and the Read Mail button now shows up on the toolbar by default. The rest of the layout remains virtually unchanged, including Microsoft's decision to move the Home, Refresh, and Stop buttons to the opposite side of the Back and Forward buttons.

It didn't take long for Microsoft to emulate Mozilla's recently introduced AwesomeBar. Microsoft calls it the Smart Location Bar in IE8, and as you type in URLs, IE8 sifts through your bookmarks and recently visited sites to try and guess your destination. But unlike Firefox, IE8 groups your search results, searches through RSS feeds, and lets you delete entries to prevent them from showing up in the future. Advantage: IE8.

Has Maximum PC gone toxic? No! Those green tabs are part of IE8's new tab grouping feature called Groups. Opening new tabs from within an existing one places them all next to each other in a color-coded group. You can then ungroup individual tabs, close out an entire group, or move tabs from one group to another.

Also notice that only newegg.com appears in black in the address bar, while the rest of the URL is grayed out. This is by design and intended to make it easier to identify what domain you're visiting. This also serves to help end users from being fleeced by spoof sites.

Firefox 3.1

Like Microsoft, Mozilla made only subtle changes to its latest browser's layout, none of which are evident at a glance. But after a little digging, we did manage to uncover some differences in the UI. One such change is that when you now drag a tab, a semi-transparent thumbnail appears under the cursor. Should you drop the tab anywhere other than the tab bar, the page will instantaneously appear in a new browser window without having to reload. Pretty groovy, eh?

Firefox's awesome AwesomeBar gets even more, er, awesome in 3.1. The core functionality remains the same, only now you can customize the search results using different tags. If you start a search with ^, Firefox will only look through your history. Other tags include * (bookmarks), + (tagged pages), @ (URLS), and # (page titles only). Awesome!

Chrome 1.0

Given the buzz that surrounds Google, we'd venture to guess you've already played around with Chrome. And if you're like us, you retired the minimalistic browser after the geek factor wore off. When we say 'minimalistic,' we're not referring to Chrome's feature-set, but the sparse UI, even more so than either IE7 or IE8. All the navigation tabs -- Back, Forward, Refresh, and Home -- sit to the left of the Address bar. Almost all other controls lay buried beneath a pair of icons to the right. It's the perfect layout for neat freaks and anyone whose mantra is 'less is more.'

Google still has some work to do with how Chrome handles an over-abundance of tabs. Once the tab bar is filled up, Chrome will squish new tabs to make them fit instead of creating a new row or making the overflow accessible via a pull-down menu. After awhile, tabs become so small that even the favicon is no longer visible, creating a fun game of 'find the hidden tab.'

Andrew Orlowski of The Register referred to Chrome as Google's "Trojan Horse for bundling Google's Gears onto your PC." Regardless of whether or not that was the intention, integrating Gears into Chrome comes in handy even if you decide not to use Chrome as your primary browser. What this does is create application shortcuts for websites that open in standalone windows, and not in a traditional browser window. Creating a Gmail shortcut, for example, gives you quick access to check your mail without opening up a browser.

Opera 10

Opera fans who attended the browser's Ninth Act will feel right at home in Act Ten. That's because the entire layout remains exactly the same, at least at this early stage (remember Opera 10 is still in Alpha). Navigation buttons appear comfortably to the left of the Address bar, with a Tab bar sitting above.

Out of the box, no other browser sports the same level of customization as Opera. Several toolbars and panels are at your disposal, and little nuances like the little camera icon in the lower right-hand corner add to Opera's appeal. By clicking on the camera, you can choose to disable all images, which could come in handy if your internet is on the fritz or you still roll with dial-up (*shudder*).

There's also a fit-to-width button, which squishes an entire page into your browser's frame to eliminate horizontal scrolling. This can come in particularly handy not only on smaller displays, but when some inconsiderate cretin posts an obsecenely long link in a forum thread (you know who you are) breaking the tables. Likewise, Opera's integrated zoom lets you shrink or expand web pages from 30 to 1000 percent the original size.

Safari 4

Put Safari 4 side by side with its predecessor and you'd think the two were completey different browsers. And they really are. Safari 4 sheds its Max OS X digs for a brand new look that appears far less out of place on a Windows desktop. Gone are the bubbly vertical and horizontal scroll bars, now replaced with the clunky looking bars familiar to any longtime Windows user.

Safari 4 also simplifies its navitation layout. The Refresh button has been integrated into the Address bar, and the Menu bar has been completely removed. Those options now appear in a pair of buttons in the upper right corner. The UI is very similar to Google's Chrome browser, just not quite as slimmed down. Tabs extend to the top, just like in Chrome, affording end-users a little more real-estate for those sexy full-page hardware spreads. Safari 4 makes better use of the Bookmarks toolbar, allowing you to not only add individual bookmarks, but category folders as well. A pull-down menu gives you quick access to any of your favorites contained inside.

We really dig the Top Sites feature, which shows the most often visited sites arranged in rows of thumbnails whenever you open the browser. Alternately, a button in the left-hand corner brings them within view if you've changed your homepage or navigated away.

iTunes users will feel right at home navigating through bookmarks and website history via Safari 4's Cover Flow interface. Safari displays a thumbnail preview as you scroll through your favorites and recently visited websites. Whether or not it adds to your browsing experience is up for debate, but it sure looks slick.

Start typing in a URL and Safari will try to guess where it is you're wanting to go based on your bookmarks and previously visited sites. Yes, this is the same as Firefox's AwesomeBar, only here it's called Smart Address and Smart Search. And yes, it's just as snazzy in Safari as it is in Firefox.

Setting the Standard(s Support)

Internet Explorer

Microsoft not only set out to improve standards support with IE8, but because so much of the web has been coded with previous versions of IE in mind, Microsoft also had to focus on backwards compatibility. No easy task, IE8 does finally pass the Acid2 test, which is a test designed by The Web Standards Project (WaSP) to expose any flaws in how a browser renders properly coded webpages, but scores only a 20 out of a possible 100 on the newer, and much more stringent, Acid3 test.

By comparison, IE7's Acid2 results look like a bad acid trip gone even badder (to pass the test, a browser must properly render a smiley face graphic), and scores a miserable 12 out of 100 on the Acid3 exam. In this respect, IE8 signifies a huge improvement over IE7 in standards compliance, but it still lags behind every other major browser on the market.

Putting IE8's struggles with Acid3 aside, Microsoft made enough changes under the hood to essentially 'break the web.' In other words, existing websites developed with legacy IE behavior in mind might have trouble rendering properly on a more standards-compliant browser. To combat this, Microsoft built a Compatibility View feature into IE8. For popular websites Microsoft has already identified as being coded for previous versions of IE (including Microsoft.com), Compatibility View kicks in without any user intervention. For all other sites, the end-user can click the Compatibility View button located on the toolbar to manually force IE8 to emulate IE7. While this may seem like a kludge, the alternative was to let the web fend for itself, a sticky proposition given IE's dominant market share.


One of Firefox's claims to fame is that it has always been much more standards compliant than Internet Explorer. HTML, XML, XHTML, SVG 1.1, CSS, ECMAScript, DOM, PNG images with transparency, and several other web standards have been implemented in Firefox, and support has gotten even better in version 3.1. The latest build scores 93/100 on the Acid3 test, putting it far ahead of IE8, but still trailing Opera and now Safari as well.

Perhaps deserving of more buzz than its getting is Firefox 3.1's support for the CSS @font-face rule. With this ability, web developers have the option of specifying web fonts that must be downloaded for their website to appear as they intended. To prevent any delays from occurring, Firefox will first render the web page using available fonts, and then update the display as soon as the missing fonts are downloaded.


One of the first browsers to support Cascading Style Sheets, the Opera browser has since added a plethora of open and published standards to its repertoire. Opera was also the first Windows browser to pass the Acid2 test, and if that weren't enough, Opera was one of the first to score a perfect 100 on the Acid3 test (a case could be made that Safari 4 beat Opera to the punch, but we're content to call it a draw).

Like Firefox 3.1, Opera 10 adds web font support. The latest version also boasts improved HTML5 support and a host of other developer-friendly additions, which so far appears to be the major focus of Opera 10.


In theory, Google's Chrome browser should have an advantage right out of the gate. Google says that within 20-30 minutes of each new browser build, it can be tested on tens of thousands of different web pages because of Google's massive web crawling infrastructure. In reality, Chrome really is a fairly standards compliant browser, scoring a 79/100 on Acid3 test, enough to come out on top of IE7 and Firefox 3.


Given that Apple gave birth to the WebKit rendering engine, it would make sense the company knows best how to rev it up. Not only in terms of speed, but also in following the rules of the road. So it shouldn't be too surprising to see Safari 4 surf through the Acid3 test with a perfect 100/100, whereas Google's WebKit-based Chrome trails behind.

Like Firefox 3.1, Safari 4 implements support for HTML 5 media tags. This paves the way for web developers to offer audio and video content right inside the browser without requiring plugins.

Security and Privacy

Internet Explorer
As the most targeted browser on the planet, the onus falls on Microsoft to ensure IE doesn't leave millions of users as sitting ducks. IE7 ushered in a defensive mindset that hadn't been attributed to previous versions, and for the first time, browsing on IE felt secure. Active X controls no longer ran by default, users are protected from an attack called cross-domain scripting, and a new phishing fliter warns users who are about to visit a malicious website attempting to harvest personal information.

In IE8, even more safety guards are put in place. Phishing and malware protection has been revamped with a new SmartScreen Filter. When visiting a known phishing site, not only does the Address bar turn red, but the entire browser window as well. To click through to the questionable site anyway, users must first click on 'More information' before the option to 'Disregard and continue appears.' Even then, the Address bar remains red for as long as you stay on the unsafe site.

In addition to anti-phishing measures, the SmartScreen filter hones in on sites and servers known to distribute malware. Should you attempt to download from one of these locations, a dialog box appears letting you know you may be in for more than you bargained for.

One of the most talked about features in IE8 is the new InPrivate browsing mode, or more candidly referred to on the web as 'porn mode.' InPrivate browsing leaves no traces of your browsing session behind, such as cookies, cached files, browser history, or other incriminating evidence. This isn't just helpful for hiding your tracks when looking up Katie Morgan's latest acting role, but is also useful for gift shopping during the holidays or birthdays. Other possible uses include looking up banking information on a shared computer, researching health issues, and anything else you want kept private.


With its continued rise in popularity, Mozilla no longer has the luxury of resting on its laurels when it comes to Firefox's security. Building a secure browser has always been at the forefront of Mozilla's goals anyhow, only now Firefox has grown into a worthwhile target for hackers.

As an incremental upgrade, much of the same core security components in Firefox 3.0 find their way into 3.1. Phishing attempts are still thwarted with a less than subtle warning, and clicking a website's favicon brings up a security report. Clicking the 'More Information' button reveals whether or not the site is storing cookies on your PC, if you've saved any passwords for the site, and how many times you've visited that web page in the past.

Sites like Playboy.com, MacLife.com, and DetroitLions.com should all see an increase in hits once the next generation of browsers roll out, because nearly all of them include some form of privacy browsing to cover your tracks. In Firefox 3.1, you can initiate Private Browsing mode from the Tools menu. Only the files you choose to download and bookmarks you create are saved, everything else vanishes as if the session never took place. Kind of like the Detroit Lions' 2009 season.


Because of its low market share, Opera doesn't often find itself the center of security attacks. Nevertheless, the Opera team has generally been lightening quick to plug up security holes and vulnerabilities.

There hasn't been a whole lot said about the security in Opera 10, but one change forthcoming is that widgets no longer have network access turned on by default. In theory, this new security model should should help prevent hackers from exploiting errors in widgets.

Neither Opera 9.6 or the new Alpha build offer a true privacy browsing mode, though that could change as development continues on Opera 10. For the time being, users can cover their tracks by clicking on 'Delete Private Data' in the Tools menu. The downside is that all data will be released, not just the cache from the current browsing session, making it an all or nothing affair.


Google's Chromium team approached security from the standpoint that no matter what you do, eventually your browser will be compromised. That would normally spell doom for an otherwise healthy system, but in Chrome, running processes in a permissions-based sandbox keeps malware isolated from the OS. In this multi-process architecture, each tab is a treated as a separate process, none of which are given rights to write files to the hard drive or pluck information from sensitive areas. An added benefit to this approach is that if poorly written web code causes a crash, it only affects the individual tab it was loaded in, not the entire browser.

The downside to Chrome's sandboxing approach is that it depends on Windows for its security, making it susceptible to vulnerabilities in the OS. In addition, legacy file systems, like FAT32, don't support security descriptors, preventing some USB keys and other devices from being protected by the sandbox.

Maybe you're a Miley Cyrus fan but don't want the whole world to know it, or at the very least, your immediate family. With Chrome's incognito option, you can surf wherever you want on the web in a new browser window that runs in read-only mode. Once you close the window, all traces of your activity are wiped out.


If Apple added (or plans to add) any underlying security enhancements to Safari 4, it isn't saying what they are. The same security and privacy features present on version 3.2 are also present on version 4, only now they're being more actively marketed (note that none of Safari 4's security features are listed as 'new').

While there doesn't appear to be much new in version 4, Safari already boasts some modern security measures, including phishing protection, pop-up blocking, antivirus integration, and a Private Browsing mode. There's also a 'Reset Safari' option to erase all traces of your browsing with a single mouse click.

Add-Ons and Themes

Internet Explorer

Both IE7 and IE8 support third-party add-ons, a feature Microsoft seems interested in pushing more aggressively in IE8. In the latest beta build, Microsoft includes an ieaddons.com bookmark on the Favorites Bar, while also adding two new IE8-only features called Accelerators and Web Slices.

Accelerators make routine tasks a cinch without having to navigate away from the page you're viewing. Just highlight text from any website and a blue Accelerator icon appears above the selection allowing you to look up driving directions, find items with an Ebay search, translate text, define words, and a handful of other tasks depending on which Accelerators you have installed.

Web Slices offer a similar convenience as Accelerators, but in a different way. If a Web Slice is available on a page -- an Ebay auction, for example -- a green icon appears. Click it to add the Web Slice to the Favorites Bar, and whenever you want to quickly check the status of the auction (or sports scores, stock quotes, Digg updates, and so forth), click the newly added Web Slice to bring up a preview of the site.


Simply put, no other browser boasts the same level of versatility and customization options as Firefox. To date there are over 6,000 add-ons available and more than 600 themes to choose from.

Browser updates sometime ruin compatibility with certain add-ons, however the most popular extensions usually see very little, if any, downtime. And as for Firefox 3.1, Mozilla says that of the 906 add-ons that make up 95 percent of add-on usage, 35 percent are currently considered compatible


Instead of integrating into the browser like Firefox's add-ons do, Opera's catalog of Widgets run outside of the browser as a separate Window. Once installed, Widgets are accessible by clicking on (*drum roll*) 'Widgets' in the Menu bar.

While you can't customize Opera's core functionality, you can change its skin. There are roughly 1,000 skins to choose from, which can be narrowed down based on editor's picks, top rated, new skins, and the most popular (as determined by the number of downloads).


What do Chrome add-ons and the Tooth Fairy have in common? Both offer the promise of big rewards, but neither one exists. However, this won't always be the case. In a design document, Mozilla developers outlined plans to add extensions to Chrome sometime in the future, and if Chrome is to compete with Firefox, it will need to follow through with that promise.

Sticking to its minimalistic guns, Chrome doesn't offer any themes or skins either, at least not out of the box. User-created themes are available, but they require replacing a hidden DLL file or using a third-party themes manager like XChrome.

Here again is another browser without an official extension architecture. And unlike Opera, which boasts several extensible features out of the box, mouse gestures and other features power users have come to rely on aren't built into the browser.

The situation is even worse for Windows users. Sites like PimpMySafari.com offer several user-created plug-ins for Safari on Mac OS X, but no such luck for the rest of us who own and operate a real PC. Not unless you can get excited about Real Player, Adobe Reader, and a small handful of other ho-hum plug-ins.


SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark

According to Apple, Safari 4's new Nitro engine lives up to its name by running JavaScript up to 30 times faster than IE7 and three times as fast as Firefox 3. We put these claims to the test with the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, which benchmarks only the core JavaScript language. When the dust settled, Safari 4 certainly lived up to the hype, but the situation turned much more competitive when throwing Firefox 3.1 and Chrome into the mix.

Celtic Kane JavaScript Benchmark

In addition to JavaScript performance, Celtic Kane's benchmark also sprinkles in a litte bit of DOM and rendering testing. and here again Apple's Safari 4 leads the pack, though the gap it put between itself and IE7 isn't as dramatic this time around. You might wonder why, at least according to this test, Safari 4 performs 50 percent better than Chrome when both are WebKit-based browsers. At least part of the difference can be attributed to using different JavaScript engines (V8=Chrome, Nitro=Safari 4).

V8 Benchmark Suite

Built by the V8 team (as in, Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine), take this one with a pound of salt. The V8 Benchmark Suite purports to test pure JavaScript performance while simulating other web application tasks a browser may have to contend with. We could have called this one from the outset, but Chrome comes out on top, however just barely edging out Safari 4.

Our Real World Impression

Running web benchmarks only tell a part of the story. So many variables are involved that it's impossible to come up with a completely reliable performance yardstick. Will your web browsing experience really be improved threefold (or more) on Safari 4 than IE7?

In our testing, the answer is no. However, we did notice a difference among browsers, just not as pronounced as the benchmarks indicate. Safari 4 and, to our surprise, Internet Explorer 8 felt the snappiest, though neither version of Firefox ever felt slow by comparison.
http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/browser_brouhaha_your_maximum_guide_browsers_today_and_tomor row

Websites Playing Timing Roulette

For a couple of days in November, the New York Times looked serenely white in Opera:

You might think that nothing newsworthy was happening on the planet. Unfortunately it was not the start of a new and peaceful world order, it was merely their JavaScript playing timing roulette:

if (typeof callback == 'function') { 
if (document.addEventListener) { 
    document.write('<script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8">(' + callback.toString() + ')();<\/script>'); 
  }, 0) 
What is that doing? This code says "have a 0 millisecond break, then add this SCRIPT tag to the document". (By "0 millisecond" it sort of means "as soon as you get around to it".) The problem with that is that if the browser happens to complete loading the document before running that document.write() statement it will replace the current document with a single, invisible SCRIPT tag.

Opera, doing its best at trying to show you the page as soon as possible did finish loading the document before getting back to the timeout - so the page was overwritten and disappeared.

Now, by the above it sounds like it is a drawback to be fast (again?). Wait until you see an extract of some code that broke image upload on Orkut:

<script>setTimeout( function(){ document.body.appendChild(el) }, 0 )</script>
<script>/*other stuff here*/</script>
In this case, if the timeout runs before we've seen the BODY tag - it will break, because no document.body exists yet. Wait, at New York Times parsing quickly was a mistake and here..we're punished because we didn't get to BODY yet when running the timeout?? So we're simultaneously too fast for NYTimes and too slow for Orkut..

This is JavaScript timing roulette - such things happen when websites are written according to the timing of specific browsers, or even the speed of the network connection the web site developer uses! What would happen if you're visiting Orkut on a really slow connection and the network has a small hiccup-pause between HEAD and BODY? By Orkut's code I would not be surprised if certain network delays - only a few milliseconds - would break the site entirely.

And it gets worse. AOL sites often try to launch slideshows in popup windows. In Opera that doesn't go very well:

AOL is another gambler addicted to playing the timing roulette. Bear with me, because this gets complex - but they have something like

<SCRIPT src="http://www.aolcdn.com/ke/swfobject/ke_kit_popup_includes.js" type="text/javascript" language="javascript" charset="utf-8"></SCRIPT> 
    <DIV id="gallery-holder"> 
       <DIV id="news-news_popup_foobar">
The popup_includes.js contains code that appends external scripts to HEAD. The final external scripts (ke_kit_refresh.js) contains further inline code that calls rederPopupPage() which calls a method in the opener window that eventually calls the embedswf() method which starts looking for the element with the ID "news-news_popup_foobar" (where 'foobar' is actually the short name for the article).

Since loading scripts block parsing, we have not yet reached the DIV when the slideshow is supposed to be inserted. So when the script asks "do you have the element news-news_popup_foobar?" Opera responds "no, not yet anyway" and the script just gives up.
So, apparently we're supposed to keep parsing forward while we're running scripts dynamically added earlier in the DOM?! The W3C never told us that, I think. It's the web's dark matter striking again.

Last Year's Pwn2Own Winner Says Safari Will be First to Fall

Confident hacker and last year's Pwn2Own winner Charlie Miller thinks Safari and OS X will be an easy target in this year's contest, though he also plans to go after the mobile sector this time around.
Chris Foresman

Security researcher Charlie Miller, who last year won $10,000 for hacking into a MacBook Air via Safari in just two minutes, says he thinks Safari will be the first browser to fall at this year's Pwn2Own contest. "It might be because I'm biased about the things I'm good at, but it's the easiest browser [to hack]," Miller told Computerworld this week.

The Pwn2Own contest this year will pit hackers against a MacBook running Mac OS X with Safari and Firefox installed, as well as a Sony Vaio P running Windows 7 and IE8, Firefox, and Chrome installed. The browsers are intended to be the target vector to launch exploit code that will "pwn" the machines and earn $5,000 for each browser that is exploited.

"Apple's products are really friendly to users, and Safari is designed to handle anything, including all kinds of file formats," said Miller. "With a lot of functionality comes the increased chance of bugs. The more complex software is, the less secure it is."

Miller believes that the other browsers won't be hacked, based on his experience. "They make it so hard that, for me, $5,000 isn't motivation enough to try to break one of those guys," he said. We doubt that five grand is so unappealing to others that are more familiar with those browsers, but if Miller's prediction proves true, I can only hope Apple has plans to strengthen security in Snow Leopard.

Miller also plans to attempt to hack into the mobile platforms, which are also offered as bait to hackers at this year's contest—and offering a sweeter pot of $10,000 each. He didn't specify if he was going after the iPhone specifically, but he was one of the first to discover a vulnerability in Mobile Safari shortly after the iPhone was launched in 2007.

From (& To) Russia, With Love
Brian Krebs

If you ask security experts why more cyber criminals aren't brought to justice, the answer you will probably hear is that U.S. authorities simply aren't getting the cooperation they need from law enforcement officials in Russia and other Eastern European nations, where some of the world's most active cyber criminal gangs are thought to operate with impunity.

But I wonder whether authorities in those countries would be any more willing to pursue cyber crooks in their own countries if they were forced to confront just how deeply those groups have penetrated key government and private computer networks in those regions?

As Security Fix documented in When Cyber Criminals Eat Their Own, a common misconception about hacker groups in Russia and the former Soviet nations is that they avoid targeting their own people. On the contrary, aggregate statistics from recent attacks and outbreaks strongly suggest that perception no longer matches reality.

One gradual but notable shift on this front has been the increasing willingness of Russian and Eastern European cyber gangs to target companies in their home countries in virtual shakedowns known as distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, according to exclusive data provided by cyber security research firm Team Cymru (pronounced kum-ree).

In DDoS assaults, cyber gangsters demand tens of thousands of dollars in protection money from businesses. If the businesses refuse to pay, the criminals order hundreds or thousands of compromised computers that they control to flood the Web sites with meaningless traffic, crippling the businesses and preventing legitimate visitors from transacting with the sites.

This video animation, provided by Team Cymru, depicts the targets of DDoS attacks between Jan. 1 and Mar. 1, 2009.

While it's difficult to tell from the video, over the 60-day period depicted here, Team Cymru counted some 45 distinct DDoS incidents in which Russian Internet addresses were the target of the attack (an enlargeable version of this movie can be seen here).

Team Cymru's Steve Santorelli said firms in China and Russia are no more insulated from DDoS attacks than their Western counterparts.

"It's clear from our monitoring that Chinese and Russian victims are much more common now than they were a few years ago," Santorelli said. "There are several possible reasons for that but it's a definite trend that many other in the security community have also noticed."

There also is evidence that cyber crooks have deeply compromised some key Russian and Eastern European government agencies and corporations, as well as top officials at those entities.

Some of the more granular data to support that comes from TrustedSource, which is McAfee's global intelligence system that assigns reputation to networks based on activity it sees coming from them. The following data sets show that TrustedSource recently has observed virus e-mail and spam originating from a variety of government agencies and banking institutions in Russia.

According to McAfee, compromised Russian banks include:

Rusfinance Bank
OGO Bank
Link Capital Investment Bank
The Maritime Bank
Vladivostok Alfa Bank
Bank Eurotreid
Bank Voronezh
Enisey's United Bank
Inter-Svayz Bank

McAfee's data suggests that computer systems in the following Russian government offices also are controlled by cyber gangs:

Ministry of Taxation, Nazran region
Russian State Internet Network
Regional Finance & Economy Institute
Joint Institute for Nuclear Research
Medical Center of Russian Federation President's Department
Pension Fund of the Russian Federation
Personal Network for the Russian Federation Justice
JSC Chechen Cellular Communication

Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee's vice president of threat research, said online criminals are largely indiscriminate about their targets and will attack any organization of financial or other interest to them.

"This data disputes the prevalent myth that's been popular in the cyber security community that online criminals, of which a significant number are believed to reside in Eastern Europe, prefer to focus on targets in Western countries and tend to shy away from attacking people or companies in their local jurisdiction," Alperovitch said. "Clearly, the Internet knows no geographical boundaries and it is now apparent that cyber criminals will attack any target of opportunity presented to them."

As Security Fix showed in January, some of the largest collections of victims with data-stealing malicious software installed on their PCs are in Russia. This too, may be a factor of the indiscriminate malware economy: Many of the most common data-stealing keylogger programs - such as Zeus and Limbo - are sold as plug-and-play kits that will just as happily infect an American PC as they will Russian computers.

Just a few minutes of digging through more than 30 gigabytes of keylogged data intercepted by security researchers yielded some interesting results, and more than a few important victims in Russia and Eastern Europe had their corporate Microsoft Outlook e-mail credentials stolen, along with other user names and passwords. Among them was Vladimir Novikov, head of the corporate management department for Gazprom Neft, one of the largest oil-producing companies in Russia. Mr. Novikov did not return e-mails seeking comment.

Porn in the USA: Conservatives are Biggest Consumers
Ewen Callaway

Americans may paint themselves in increasingly bright shades of red and blue, but new research finds one thing that varies little across the nation: the liking for online pornography.

A new nationwide study of anonymised credit-card receipts from a major online adult entertainment provider finds little variation in consumption between states.

"When it comes to adult entertainment, it seems people are more the same than different," says Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School.

However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

"Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by," Edelman says.

Political divide

Edelman spends part of his time helping companies such as Microsoft and AOL detect advertising fraud. Another consulting client runs dozens of adult websites, though he says he is not at liberty to identify the firm.

That company did, however, provide Edelman with roughly two years of credit card data from 2006 to 2008 that included a purchase date and each customer's postal code.

After controlling for differences in broadband internet access between states – online porn tends to be a bandwidth hog – and adjusting for population, he found a relatively small difference between states with the most adult purchases and those with the fewest.

The biggest consumer, Utah, averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users; Montana bought the least with 1.92 per 1000. "The differences here are not so stark," Edelman says.

Number 10 on the list was West Virginia at 2.94 subscriptions per 1000, while number 41, Michigan, averaged 2.32.

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year's presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.

Old-fashioned values

Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays – a 1% increase in a postal code's religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds.

Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don't explicitly restrict gay marriage.

To get a better handle on other associations between social attitudes and pornography consumption, Edelman melded his data with a previous study on public attitudes toward religion.

States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage," bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behaviour."

"One natural hypothesis is something like repression: if you're told you can't have this, then you want it more," Edelman says.

Journal reference: Journal of Economic Perspectives vol 23, p 209 (pdf)

Internet Seen a Growing Weapon in Asian Radicalization
Michael Perry

Extremist groups in Southeast Asia are increasingly using the internet and social networking to radicalize the youth of the region, said a new security report released Friday.

Internet usage in Southeast Asia has exploded since 2000 and extremist groups have developed a sophisticated online presence, including professional media units.

"For extremist groups in our region, the internet is an increasingly important tool for recruitment to violence," said the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

"Importantly, they aren't attacking only the West, but are drawing on their narrative to attack the governance arrangements of regional states," said the report titled "Countering internet radicalization in Southeast Asia" (www.aspi.org.au/).

The report said online extremism first appeared in Southeast Asia in early 2000, particularly in the Bahasa Indonesia and Malay language cyber-environment.

Since then internet usage in the region has exploded and so too have extremist websites, chat rooms and blogs.

The number of radical and extremist websites in Bahasa and Malay rose from 15 in 2007 to 117 in 2008. Of those, sympathetic websites rose from 10 to 16 and sympathetic blogs and social networking rose from zero to 82.

Between 2006 and July 2007, radical regional websites have disseminated al-Qaeda and Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiah propaganda videos, pictures and statements, it said.

In Indonesia, which has battled extremist Muslim groups responsible for bombings, internet usage rose from 2 million in 2000 to 20 million in January 2008.

The country now represents 80 to 90 percent of visitors to 10 radical and extremist websites in the region, said the report.

The Philippines, which has a Muslim insurgency, has seen internet usage rise to 14 million from 2 million in 2000, Malaysia 14.9 million from 3.7 million and Thailand 8.5 million from 2.3 million in the same period.

"The Bahasa and Malay language websites include sites manned by radical and extremist groups, Islamic boarding schools (pesantrens), and groups of individuals who sympathize with and support the ideology of violent jihad," said the report.

Media Savvy

One of the first appearances of a "tradecraft manual" was in August 2007 in the then forum, Jihad al-Firdaus. The forum had a section on electronic jihad, including several hacking manuals. In 2008 the region's first sophisticated bomb-making manual and bomb-making video were posted on the Forum Al-Tawbah, which is registered in Shah Alam, Selangor and Malaysia, said the report.

But it said there had been no serious attempt to plan militant operations in these forums, adding further details of their activities were in private messages or personal emails.

Extremists were using a variety of technology to spread their message. "Blogs and personal social networking accounts provided more than half of the increase in 2008," said the report.

Militant groups have also become internet media savvy.

The Mujahidin Syura Council, an extremist group that claims to operate in southern Thailand, launched an official media wing in July 2008 as a blog on Google, said the report.

The Khattab Media Publication's blog is mainly written in Malay and was used to announce the start of a new military campaign, codenamed Operation Tawbah (Operation Repentance).

Another group, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, often produces high-quality videos of its activities and uploads them onto YouTube. Many of the videos focus on the failings of the Indonesian government and the need to implement sharia law and establish an Islamic caliphate, said the report.

"Extremist groups without access to mainstream media place great value on having online media units to boost their reputations and recruit people via the internet," it said.

The report said that regional governments had done little to stop the rise of online radicalization, partly because attempts to regulate cyberspace have been a political minefield.

It said while websites inciting violence are subject to criminal laws in some countries, there are often no specific regulations covering the internet.

"Some governments don't want to appear un-Islamic by coming down hard on Islamist groups, and some don't want to appear undemocratic by seeming to rein in freedom of expression in cyberspace," it said.

"The problem of online radicalization crosses national borders and will require a concerted international response."

(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Memos Reveal Scope of the Power Bush Sought
Neil A. Lewis

The secret legal opinions issued by Bush administration lawyers after the Sept. 11 attacks included assertions that the president could use the nation’s military within the United States to combat terrorism suspects and to conduct raids without obtaining search warrants.

That opinion was among nine that were disclosed publicly for the first time Monday by the Justice Department, in what the Obama administration portrayed as a step toward greater transparency.

The opinions reflected a broad interpretation of presidential authority, asserting as well that the president could unilaterally abrogate foreign treaties, ignore any guidance from Congress in dealing with detainees suspected of terrorism, and conduct a program of domestic eavesdropping without warrants.

Some of the positions had previously become known from statements of Bush administration officials in response to court challenges and Congressional inquiries. But taken together, the opinions disclosed Monday were the clearest illustration to date of the broad definition of presidential power approved by government lawyers in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a memorandum dated this Jan. 15, five days before President George W. Bush left office, a top Justice Department official wrote that those opinions had not been relied on since 2003. But the official, Steven G. Bradbury, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel, said it was important to acknowledge in writing “the doubtful nature of these propositions,” and he used the memo to repudiate them formally.

Mr. Bradbury said in his memo that the earlier ones had been a product of lawyers’ confronting “novel and complex questions in a time of great danger and under extraordinary time pressure.”

The opinion authorizing the military to operate domestically was dated Oct. 23, 2001, and written by John C. Yoo, at the time a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, and Robert J. Delahunty, a special counsel in the office. It was directed to Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, who had asked whether Mr. Bush could use the military to combat terrorist activities inside the United States.

The use of the military envisioned in the Yoo-Delahunty reply appears to transcend by far the stationing of troops to keep watch at streets and airports, a familiar sight in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The memorandum discussed the use of military forces to carry out “raids on terrorist cells” and even seize property.

“The law has recognized that force (including deadly force) may be legitimately used in self-defense,” Mr. Yoo and Mr. Delahunty wrote to Mr. Gonzales. Therefore any objections based on the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches are swept away, they said, since any possible privacy offense resulting from such a search is a lesser matter than any injury from deadly force.

The Oct. 23 memorandum also said that “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.” It added that “the current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically.”

Mr. Yoo and Mr. Delahunty said that in addition, the Posse Comitatus Act, which generally bars the military from domestic law enforcement operations, would pose no obstacle to the use of troops in a domestic fight against terrorism suspects. They reasoned that the troops would be acting in a national security function, not as law enforcers.

In another of the opinions, Mr. Yoo argued in a memorandum dated Sept. 25, 2001, that judicial precedents approving deadly force in self-defense could be extended to allow for eavesdropping without warrants.

Still another memo, issued in March 2002, suggested that Congress lacked any power to limit a president’s authority to transfer detainees to other countries, a practice known as rendition that was widely used by Mr. Bush.

Other memorandums said Congress had no right to intervene in the president’s determination of the treatment of detainees, a proposition that has since been invalidated by the Supreme Court.

The Jan. 15 memo by Mr. Bradbury repudiating these views said that it was “not sustainable” to argue that the president’s power as commander in chief “precludes Congress from enacting any legislation concerning the detention, interrogation, prosecution and transfer of enemy combatants.”

Mr. Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is widely known as the principal author of a 2002 memorandum, separate from those made public Monday, that critics have characterized as authorizing torture. That memorandum, signed by Jay S. Bybee, a predecessor of Mr. Bradbury as head of the Office of Legal Counsel, was repudiated in 2004.

The memorandum issued by Mr. Bradbury this January appears to have been the Bush lawyers’ last effort to reconcile their views with the wide rejection by legal scholars and some Supreme Court opinions of the sweeping assertions of presidential authority made earlier by the Justice Department.

Walter Dellinger, who led the Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration and is now a law professor at Duke University, said in an interview that Mr. Bradbury’s memo “disclaiming the opinions of earlier Bush lawyers sets out in blunt detail how irresponsible those earlier opinions were.”

Mr. Dellinger said it was important that it was now widely recognized that the earlier assertions “that Congress had absolutely no role in these national security issues was contrary to constitutional text, historical practice and judicial precedent.”

In a speech a few hours before the documents were disclosed Monday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said: “Too often over the past decade, the fight against terrorism has been viewed as a zero-sum battle with our civil liberties. Not only is that thought misguided, I fear that in actuality it does more harm than good.”

Mr. Holder said that the memorandums were being released in light of a substantial public interest in the issue.

George Riddick — the One-Man RIAA of Clip Art

Pages at ireport.com and extortionletterinfo.com have been documenting and researching the activities of George P. Riddick III, previously known for his lawsuits against IMSI and Xoom at the turn of the century. In 2007 he issued a largely-ignored press release claiming the majority of clip art online infringes a copyright and has ranted about how Microsoft and Google are stealing from him. In recent months, he's apparently made a business model of going after web site operators who were using clip art they believed to be legally licensed or public domain, telling them they're infringing clip art collections he hasn't offered commercially in years and making outrageous settlement demands. He seems to have tested the waters on this some years back, but emboldened by the passage of the PRO-IP act, he's gone aggro with it. A few dodgy anonyblogs had popped up to "out" him as a copyright abuser, but these recent ireport.com and extortionletterinfo.com reports go much deeper in documenting and researching Riddick's recent one-man campaign to be the RIAA of clip art.

Patent Bill to be Reintroduced in Congress this Week
Stephanie Condon

Members of the U.S. Congress plan to introduce a pair of patent reform bills on Tuesday, lending stronger support to a complicated political topic that has failed to win congressional approval in previous years.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and former chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), along with House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and ranking minority member Lamar Smith (R-Texas), will discuss the reforms they see as necessary at a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday.

The Patent Reform Act of 2007, a bill that would have introduced sweeping changes to the U.S. patent system, passed in the House but never made it to the Senate floor. An earlier version of the bill introduced in 2005 never made it through congressional committees.

"I've always believed this legislation would be a multi-Congress process," Hatch, one of the legislators who helped bring bipartisan support for the bill in 2007, wrote in an e-mail to CNET News last month. "We are in the third, and I believe, final round of fine-tuning the bill. Of course, there are some remaining issues that need to be dealt with before full Senate consideration."

While some likely provisions in the anticipated legislation, such as reforms to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, could easily garner widespread support, other potential provisions have had major companies and patent coalitions scrambling for the attention of key congressional offices for months.

The debate over damages

One of the most controversial measures of previous versions of the legislation has been a provision to limit the damages patent holders can collect in infringement cases to the value of the specific infringing technology, rather than the entire product.

In anticipation of the legislation's reintroduction this year, the technology sector, along with other industries, has responded with stepped-up lobbying efforts. Representatives from major companies have been meeting with key congressmen and committees this year to discuss the legislation, forming new lobbying groups, and commissioning studies to provide evidence for reform that suits their interests.

"We are constantly receiving language and proposals to improve last year's bill, and we review all of the good ideas that come to us," Hatch said.

Hatch said he has an "open door policy" for all interested parties. Taking advantage of that policy is the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, which is composed of about 40 large companies such as 3M, Caterpillar, Eli Lilly, Motorola, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, and Texas Instruments.

The coalition met with Hatch and other members of the House and Senate judiciary committees last year. This year, the group has met with Leahy and Conyers, as well as some committee staff members like the legislative directors, according to Bill Mashek, a spokesman for the coalition. The coalition is pressing for Congress to introduce a more tailored bill focused simply on reforming the PTO.

"The last two times it has been the whole ball of wax, and the legislation did not advance," Mashek said. "Perhaps with a fresh look at the system, you could see a different type of bill advancing."

The damages provision should stay out of the bill, the coalition argues, because the issue is being addressed by the courts. In Microsoft v. AT&T, they point out, the Supreme Court limited offshore infringement liability.

"They've held up their poster boy cases and found out those were overturned," Mashek said in reference to proponents of damages limitations.

The potential economic impact

Groups in favor of broader legislation agree that recent court rulings have altered the debate, but members of the Coalition for Patent Fairness, including the Business Software Alliance, Apple, Symantec, and Google, say there is still plenty of room for clarification in the courts in the area of damages.

"There have been a number (of court decisions) since April, but none of them dramatically change our perceptions," said BSA counselor Emery Simon. "Under current law, juries are given very little guidance."

Both the BSA and Google have also been in communication with key congressmen and congressional committees. Google has faced an onslaught of patent litigation lawsuits that are driven by the potential for large damages to be awarded, said Michelle Lee, Google's head of patents and patent strategy.

"Especially in this environment where we're looking for innovation to bring us out" of a recession, Lee said, "the incentives to innovate have to be tied to the underlying reality of the contribution."

Some of the companies represented by the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform are also taking an economic approach to their argument. The like-minded Manufacturers Alliance on Patent Policy represents some of the same companies as the Coalition for 21st Century Reform, such as Dow Corning, DuPont, and Texas Instruments. Members of MAPP met with key legislators this year to discuss a report it commissioned to show the potential economic effects of a damages provision.

The analysis, released January 14 by Case Western Reserve economics professor Scott Shane, concludes that limiting patent infringement damages could reduce patent value by between $34.4 billion and $85.3 billion. That lowered value would supposedly lead to a decrease in the value of U.S. public companies by $38.4 billion to $225.4 billion, which would supposedly jeopardize 51,000 to 298,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs. (On the other hand, the market value of companies that might want to use patents owned by someone else might increase.)

"There's been a lot of interest on the Hill and around Washington in trying to quantify what the results would be" of limiting infringement damages, said Stan Fendley, director of legislative and regulatory policy for Corning."Until now the whole debate has been anecdotal, and we are hoping policy makers will take a closer look."

Linksys Silent Over WPA Interoperability Flaws
David M Williams

Like a lot of people I assumed Linksys would be a top-notch consumer-level networking equipment brand, being a subsidiary of industry heavyweight Cisco. I found out how wrong I was when it came to WPA – a security protocol for WiFi networks. Worse, the company refused to comment.

If you’re reading iTWire chances are you’re pretty wired (or, perhaps, the term should now be wireless!) I’m sure my setup isn’t unique although, thanks to my occupation, I do have maybe more devices connected than the average Joe. I originally stopped that sentence after “unique” but when I began counting I realised I am somewhat on the excessive end.

I have a home network that consists of an ADSL internet connection, some devices like my desktop computer and an Xbox 360 connected via Ethernet cable and then a WiFi network for laptops, a Nintendo Wii, a Chumby, iPhones, netbooks, all sorts of gadgets coming through.

I have a small working area in my garage with various machines I experiment with and rebuild along with a couple of printers. I don’t want to dig up the ground to run cable to the garage so I harness the wireless network. Obviously, not all (in fact none) of this equipment have wireless adapters but they do have Ethernet ports. So, a WiFi to Ethernet bridge was a must here.

Additionally, I tried out Microsoft Windows Media Centre (with the caveat that a duelling buddy tried out MythBuntu) and to get the proper experience I also tried a Windows Media Centre extender in my bedroom.

This all sounds pretty complex but it’s actually quite simple. Besides the computers and various gadgets themselves, the network side reduces to just three single components.

First, there is a combination ADSL modem, router, wireless access point and network switch. For this I used a Linksys WAG325N.

Secondly, there’s a wireless to Ethernet bridge in the garage. I used a Linksys WET54G for this.

Thirdly, for the Windows Media Centre extender in the master bedroom I opted to go with the Linksys DMA2200.

And here’s where things just went wrong. All these components – the Linksys WAG325N, WET54G and DMA2200 – do talk to each other over 802.11g WiFi, so that’s a positive start. Mind you, the WET54G – the WiFI to Ethernet bridge – does go to sleep and the only rectification appears to be to power it off and on again.

I can even use WEP security. However, WEP isn’t recommended. Ok, WEP is better than having a totally open network because it at least stops leeching from every random person in the area who stumbles across your network. However WEP is breakable by those with volition and the right tools.

So, I opted for WPA security which provides a higher degree of security and protection. All three devices from Linksys purport to support WPA so this should have been a no-brainer.

Setting the WAG325N to WPA security was straightforward. Yet, neither the WET54G nor DMA2200 will use it properly.

Firstly, the WET54G absolutely disappeared off the face of the network. WPA is one of the security options listed on its config page. When I scanned for wireless networks it found my SSID, it asked me for the WPA key and allowed me to enter it. Yet, saving and applying and rebooting the unit caused it to just totally vanish.

I couldn’t ping it, my networks weren’t bridged, the unit just did nothing and was completely inaccessible.

The only resolution I could find was to perform a factory reset and try to set it up again. Repeating the process over and over proved there was no typo or problem on my part. Reading the Linksys forums reveals many others saying the same thing.

Some forum posters say their testing suggests the WET54G actually crashes at the point where it authenticates against a WPA network. Some say they have had mixed success by reverting back to an older firmware, yet Linksys only provide firmware downloads for the v1.0 and v3.0 models and mine was a v3.1.

The DMA2200 was marginally better. Once again, it would find my wireless SSID and allow me to specify security details. If I used WEP or didn’t use any security then the DMA2200 is fairly reliable and connects to the media centre and operates.

If I used WPA the device is a right royal pain in the rear. Unlike the WET54G the DMA2200 actually authenticated against the network and got an IP address. Yet, it wouldn’t connect to the media centre on subsequent power ups. It failed, and insisted on being set up again, totally losing its previous association.

I couldn’t ping the DMA2200, and the media centre reported no extenders available. The only solution I could find was to flush DHCP on the WAG325N, reboot both the media centre and the DMA2200, hold my tongue in the right position, ensure all the planets were aligned, and then the DMA2200 finally deigned to make itself visible.

I needed to reconnect the extender to the media centre, running downstairs, entering the eight-digit code, waiting for media folders to be added, and so on. This happened each and every time I turned the extender off and back on again. Now, I may be a lardy lad full of cheese pizza and as much as I probably need to run continually between my house and garage and up and down the stairs turning things off and on and entering eight-digit codes, it’s all a bit counter-productive to any claims of a seamless technology lifestyle.

Even the Linksys WAG325N isn’t flawless. Periodically the wireless network would just die. The unit was still operating, my cabled units were fine, but I had to power it off and on again to get the wireless network back up – just like the WET54G.

Additionally, the WAG325N doesn’t let you reserve addresses in DHCP, and its menu option to view connected wireless devices doesn’t work. If you click this menu option nothing is listed ever.

You would think it reasonable to expect quality from Linksys, being affiliated with standards leader Cisco. You would also think it reasonable that Linksys products should work together. You would even consider it fair to assume if the products allege to support WPA that they in fact do so.

Not so. The products all suck. Linksys – who ought to be on the forefront of network tech – essentially forced me to diminish my network security to appease their crummy implementations. Thus, I issued my network with the SSID of “LINKSYSSUCK” proclaiming to all in my neighbourhood my view.

I wrote to Linksys via the address anzsupport@linksys.com advertised on their web site, on October 22nd. I received a response right away saying

“Thank you for contacting Linksys Technical Support.

Your question has been received. A member of our Product Support Team will respond within one business day.

We appreciate your patience.

Thank you for choosing Linksys.”

Nobody replied. I wrote again on November 5th. Apart from the system response promising a reply within one business day I’ve still heard nothing back, four months later.

So, I stopped using Linksys products. I scrapped the DMA2200 media centre extender altogether and set up a MythTV box upstairs. I scrapped the WAG325N and went with a D-Link DSL-G604T which has operated flawlessly (and which does have a DHCP that permits reservations.)

I also dumped the sleeping-when-it’s-not-crashing WET54G WiFi to Ethernet bridge, although I will concede I upgraded to another Linksys product, the WET200G. This is designed for the same purpose but has two major enhancements over the 54G. For one, it includes four Ethernet ports, not just one.

Secondly, and more importantly, it works. It handles WPA and it doesn’t drop off after periods of inactivity. There aren't any upgrades for the WAG325N or DMA2200 though. And it's a bit ridiculous for the solution to a flawed product to be "buy a better one."

That’s my story. This isn’t a review as such, but a genuine story of a genuine tech practitioner using ordinary consumer-grade products to solve a commonplace home networking situation.

Linksys totally tarnished my pre-conceived opinion of their products, as well as the sincerity of their word given the promise to “respond within one business day.”

My SSID is no longer called LINKSYSSUCK but I still think it.

The PDF hack

Quickpost: /JBIG2Decode Trigger Trio
Didier Stevens

Sometimes a piece of malware can execute without even opening the file. As this is the case with the /JBIG2Decode vulnerability in PDF documents, I took the time to produce a short video showing 3 ways the vulnerability can trigger without even opening the PDF document.

The first 2 demos use a “classic” /JBIG2Decode PDF exploit, the third demo uses a new PoC /JBIG2Decode PDF exploit I developed. This PDF document has a malformed /JBIG2Decode stream object in the metadata instead of the page. All PDF documents used have just a malformed /JBIG2Decode stream object, they don’t include a payload (shellcode), neither a JavaScript heap spray.

So how is it possible to exploit this vulnerability in a PDF document without having the user open this document? The answer lies in Windows Explorer Shell Extensions. Have you noticed that when you install a program like WinZip, an entry is added to the right-click menu to help you compress and extract files? This is done with a special program (a shell extension) installed by the WinZIp setup program.

When you install Adobe Acrobat Reader, a Column Handler Shell Extension is installed. A column handler is a special program (a COM object) that will provide Windows Explorer with additional data to display (in extra columns) for the file types the column handler supports. The PDF column handler adds a few extra columns, like the Title. When a PDF document is listed in a Windows Explorer windows, the PDF column handler shell extension will be called by Windows Explorer when it needs the additional column info. The PDF column handler will read the PDF document to extract the necessary info, like the Title, Author, …

This explains how the PDF vulnerability can be exploited without you opening the PDF document. Under the right circumstances, a Windows Explorer Shell Extension will read the PDF document to provide extra information, and in doing so, it will execute the buggy code and trigger the vulnerability. Just like it would when you would explicitly open the document. In fact, we could say that the document is opened implictly, because of your actions with Windows Explorer.

So let me demo 3 circumstances under which a PDF Shell Extension will act and thereby trigger the vulnerability. One important detail before I do this: when the exception occurs in the Adobe Acrobat code, it is trapped by Windows Explorer without any alert. That’s why in the demos, I attached a debugger (ODBG) to Windows Explorer to intercept and visualize this exception. So each time the vulnerability triggers, the view switches to the debugger to display the exception.

In the first demo, I just select the PDF document with one click. This is enough to exploit the vulnerability, because the PDF document is implicitly read to gather extra information.

In the second demo, I change the view to Thumbnails view. In a thumbnail view, the first page of a PDF document is rendered to be displayed in a thumbnail. Rendering the first page implies reading the PDF document, and hence triggering the vulnerability.

In the third demo, I use my special PDF document with the malformed stream object in the metadata. When I hover with the mouse cursor over the document (I don’t click), a tooltip will appear with the file properties and metadata. But with my specially crafted PDF document, the vulnerability is triggered because the metadata is read to display the tooltip…

So be very careful when you handle malicious files. You could execute it inadvertently, even without double-clicking the file. That’s why I always change the extension of malware (trojan.exe becomes trojan.exe.virus) and handle them in an isolated virus lab. Outside of that lab, I encrypt the malware.

Microsoft: No Patch for Excel Zero-Day Flaw Next Week

Plans to deliver three updates for Windows, including one 'critical'
Gregg Keizer

Microsoft Corp. today said it will deliver three security updates on Tuesday, one of them ranked as "critical," but will not fix an Excel flaw that attackers are now exploiting.

All three updates spelled out in today's notice will tackle vulnerabilities in Windows, but as is its practice, Microsoft did not drill any deeper than to specify which versions will be affected.

"It's pretty nebulous," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security Inc. "They could be any number of a billion of things."

The critical update will affect all still-supported editions of the operating system, starting with Windows 2000 and running through XP, Server 2003, Vista and Server 2008. By Microsoft's definition, "critical" means that unpatched PCs can be hijacked without any action by the user.

Both remaining updates were labeled "important," Microsoft's second-highest ranking in its four-step system, and were also described as "spoofing" bugs, a term that typically indicates they could be used trick users into divulging confidential information.

One of the spoofing patches will update all supported versions of Windows, while the second targets only Server 2000, Server 2003 and Server 2008 systems.

"It doesn't look like we're going to see patches for any open Microsoft security advisories," said Storms, pointing to three that have not yet been closed. Those include two advisories issued last year -- one from April 2008, and another from December -- and the alert published just last week about a vulnerability in Excel that attackers are already exploiting.

Last week, Microsoft downplayed that threat, saying that the company's security experts had seen only a small number of attacks. According to researchers at Symantec Corp., the vulnerability is a file format bug in all supported versions, including the latest -- Excel 2007 on Windows and Excel 2008 for the Mac.

"I'm not really surprised that the Excel vulnerability won't be patched, what with the timeline," said Storms, "but the others have been open for a long time."

Today's notice also warned users that all three updates will require rebooting. "Let's just call it Reboot Tuesday," Storms quipped.

Microsoft will release March's three updates at approximately 1 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

Obama Picks Net Neutrality Backer as FCC Chief
Declan McCullagh

President Obama on Tuesday nominated Julius Genachowski as the nation's top telecommunications regulator, picking a campaign advisor who has divided his career between Washington, D.C., political jobs and working as an Internet executive.

Genachowski had been mentioned as a likely candidate for the Federal Communications Commission post, in part because he participated in the Obama campaign's Internet efforts and previously worked as chief counsel to Democratic FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.

"He will bring to the job diverse and unparalleled experience in communications and technology, with two decades of accomplishment in the private sector and public service," Obama said in a statement.

Genachowski is likely to continue the Democratic push for more Net neutrality regulations, which are opposed by some conservatives and telecommunications providers. He was a top Obama technology advisor and aided in crafting a technology platform that supported Net neutrality rules.

The FCC's first official Net neutrality ruling--an earlier one resulted in a settlement--came last summer when the agency narrowly voted by a 3-2 margin that Comcast's throttling of BitTorrent was unlawful. That case is now before a federal appeals court.

Genachowski was a Harvard classmate of Obama's and previously worked for Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. He's currently a co-founder of LaunchBox Digital and Rock Creek Ventures, and held executive posts including general counsel at IAC/InterActiveCorp, which owns a list of Web properties including Ask.com, Match.com, Gifts.com, Reference.com, Evite, Citysearch, and Excite.

IAC is a member of a coalition that supports more Net neutrality regulations and which also includes Amazon, eBay, and Google.

Genachowski doesn't take over the post officially until his nomination is confirmed, as expected, by the Senate.

Broadcasters Challenge White Space Directive
Richard Koman

Two broadcasters’ associations have sued the FCC over its recent approval of white spaces (the unused spectrum between broadcast frequency) for Internet.

Broadcasters, wireless mic makers and musicians (both country and rock) vigorously opposed the proposal, driven in large part by Google.

According to Ars Technica, the National Association of Broadcasters and Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) have quietly filed in the D.C. Circuit Court a petition for review of the FCC decsion.

[White spaces] “will allow harmful interference with … broadcast signals.

Legally speaking, the broadcasters assert the FCC decision was “abritrary, capricious and otherwise not in accordance with law.”

For the other side we turn to Jake Ward of the Wireless Innovation Alliance:

For decades, [the broadcasters'] policy has been to stifle innovation at all costs and ask questions later and this is no different. White Space technology works, it is safe, and the Federal Communications Commission knows better than anyone the steps that must be taken to ensure that continues to be the case. A legal challenge to the process and the Commission’s expertise in this area is just another in a long list of ill advised and futile delay tactics.

Google, Amazon ask CRTC to Stop Internet Traffic Shaping
Kathleen Lau

In a submission Monday to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), a coalition including Google, Amazon and Skype demand that carriers and ISPs be banned from traffic-shaping. But an industry observer thinks the submission needs a narrower focus

A submission to the Canada Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) this week from a coalition of companies including Google, Skype and Amazon, demanding that carriers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) be banned from traffic-shaping, is perhaps too broad in its focus, according to one industry expert.

In the submission on Monday, Open Internet Coalition, consisting of more than 70 member companies, said certain traffic management practices by “Canadian carrier Internet service providers threaten the open and neutral design of the Internet.” That “discourages investment in broadband networks, diminishes consumer choice, interferes with users’ freedom of expression, and inhibits innovation.”

The submission, along with others, were in response to the CRTC’s request for comments in advance of a July investigation into Internet traffic management.

“I think that’s a bit of a broad swipe,” said Michael Rozender, principal of Grimsby, Ont.-based Rozender Consultants International.

While Rozender does believe that carriers should provide unfettered net neutrality, he thinks the Open Internet Coalition’s submission needs to narrow its focus. “Let’s get specific here on what’s happening and why it’s happening and really what needs to be done,” he said.

The issue is that the CRTC should demand that the carriers (Rozender stresses the difference between carriers and the ISPs — the latter have no choice but to follow the Internet traffic-shaping practices of the former) “build out broadband capabilities to provision unfettered net neutrality, no traffic-shaped services and we well all benefit from it.”

The carriers, Bell Canada Enterprise Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., must “get with the program” and catch up to the rest of the world in terms of Internet service, he said, especially considering bandwidth customer utilization is not what it used to be.

There is no question, said Rozender, that Bell Canada and Rogers have delayed upgrading their backbone and capabilities to the latest standard, DOCSIS 3.0, which can theoretically support speeds and feeds well into the hundreds of megabits per second per user. “It needs a big pipeline to feed that throughput. And they don’t have it.”

While many organizations globally, in the past couple of years, have already rolled out DOCSIS 3.0, “Rogers is basically twiddling their thumbs.”

Instead of making that much-needed investment in the backbone, Rozender said Bell Canada and Rogers are choosing to spend money on throttling high-throughput users and performing deep packet inspection on content.

The truth is, noted Rozender, that traffic-shaping doesn’t just affect the peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing site users. Many of his clients, who are users of high-end videoconferencing for their businesses, experience throttling and “in some case the performance gets affected quite dramatically.”

P2P usage is most characterized by asymmetrical traffic as in downloading movies (unless a user is accessing another’s hard drive), whereas videoconferencing is very much symmetrical, explained Rozender. Other carriers, like Telus, he said have been “aggressively” provisioning fibre backbone to provide unfettered service, he said.

The upcoming July investigation of the matter by the CRTC results from complaints by Ottawa-based Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) that Bell Canada is shaping traffic from P2P sites.

In an e-mail to ComputerWorld Canada, CAIP chairman Tom Copeland said that in principle, the association supports the Open Internet Coalition’s submission. “We agree that unrestricted traffic-shaping on an ongoing and what appears to be a permanent basis, as we're seeing in Ontario and Quebec, discourages investment in infrastructure and innovation by impeding the delivery of content,” Copeland wrote.

However, he added that CAIP believes there is a time and place for such traffic management practices as when “temporarily managing problematic portions of a network or specific users causing problems on the network.”

The congestion claimed by some Canadian carriers is caused by “a small number of users,” Copeland continued. “When a carrier manages a user's activity in a fair and equitable manner they do not need to unfairly impede the activities of others.”

While Rozender thinks the Open Internet Coalition’s submission is too broad, he does acknowledge that the backing of recognized names like Google, Amazon and Skype might help the CRTC – which has been perceived as “an antiquity, head-in-the-sand, protectionist organization that just doesn’t get it” – realize this is very much a global issue.

Mininova Hit By Massive DDoS Attack

Mininova, one of the leading BitTorrent sites, has been suffering from a massive DDoS attack over the past few days. Originating from a botnet spanning three continents, the attacks vary in strength and are causing the site to be completely inaccessible at times. The Mininova team is working on a solution.

DDoS attacks are not an unusual event for BitTorrent sites, with smaller sites suffering the effects more often than they’d like. However, to take out one of the big players requires some serious power, and that is exactly what Mininova is up against right now.

Mininova co-founder Niek confirmed to TorrentFreak that they have been suffering from a DDoS attack over the past few days. The site is currently being pounded by a botnet of hundreds of computers which is slowing the site down significantly and at times making it completely inaccessible.

Niek said that he has no idea who’s behind the attack or why they chose to target Mininova. This is not the first time the site has had to deal with a Denial of Service attack, but they haven’t witnessed one of this magnitude before.

It started on Thursday originating from three different continents, but seemed to wear off in the hours that followed. Today it’s back in full force. Mininova is used to serving millions of visitors a day, but even they are not equipped to handle an attack like this.

Today’s attack originates from Germany and Argentina and is 2 Gbit strong. The DDoS attack is maxing out the entire uplink and is hard to filter since it uses UDP connections.

Niek told TorrentFreak that they are working on a solution at the moment, and he hopes things will be back to normal soon.

Telenor Refuses to Block Pirate Bay Access

Norwegian telecom group Telenor will not block access to the Swedish file-sharing website The Pirate Bay, despite demands from representatives of the entertainment industry, Telenor said on Monday.

Telenor said that a demand from international and Norwegian music and film industry associations to block access to The Pirate Bay had no legal grounds and Internet service providers (ISPs) could not be held liable for actions by Internet users.

Sites like The Pirate Bay allow people to download songs, movies and computer games without paying.

"Asking an ISP to control and assess what Internet users can and cannot download is just as wrong as asking the post office to open and read letters and decide what should and should not be delivered," Telenor said in a statement.

The entertainment industry is suing for damages in Sweden where four men linked to The Pirate Bay were charged last year by prosecutors for conspiracy to break copyright law.

The Pirate Bay enables Internet users to find files available for swapping, and the case in Sweden is being watched as a test of the entertainment industry's ability to protect copyright against file sharing by Internet users.

It pits entertainment industry giants such as Warner Bros, MGM, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sony BMG, Universal and EMI against a tiny group created in 2003, which says it is not responsible for what material is exchanged.

Telenor said it saw "no legal basis" for the demand for ISPs to control or assess the content that users download.

"At the same time, Telenor does not condone pirating of material and illegal file sharing," Telenor said in the statement.

"We comply with all relevant laws and regulations and can see no legal basis for any ISP to act in the interests of digital intellectual property rights holders by blocking individual websites," Ragnar Kaarhus, head of Telenor Norway, said in the statement.

In February, a Danish court ordered Telenor's Denmark-based ISP Tele2 to shut its customers' access to Pirate Bay.

Lawyers for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the Norwegian videogram association Norsk Videogramforening and the Norwegian Film Distributors Association have demanded Telenor block access in Norway, Telenor said.

"The problem is not the ISPs, rather the rights holders themselves," Telenor said, noting that there had been successful efforts to protect downloadable content for sale, such as mobile phone ringtones and games.

Telenor shares traded down 3.56 percent at 35.20 crowns by 1516 GMT, slightly underperforming a weak Oslo bourse.

The Pirate Bay Trial Day 10: Calls for Jail Time

As we enter the final days of The Pirate Bay trial, today the prosecution has been giving the court its closing arguments. Håkan Roswall, Peter Danowsky, Henrik Pontén and Monique Wadsted all appeared, with Roswall calling on the judge to jail all four of the defendants.

Today, members of the prosecution and representatives for the music and movie industries presented their closing statements to the court. Prosecutor Håkan Roswall stepped up first, followed by Peter Danowsky of the IFPI, Henrik Pontén from Antipiratbyrån and Monique Wadsted for the movie companies.

Håkan Roswall

Roswall began his statement by saying that Swedish law covers the alleged offenses because The Pirate Bay’s servers were located in Sweden at the time. He also said that people accessing TPB from other countries were breaking the law in Sweden too. As for TPB being classed as a ’service provider’ to get ‘common carrier’ status, Roswall doesn’t believe that it should and therefore there is no need to seek the opinion of the European Court of Justice on the matter. The defense disagreed.

Roswall said he is not asking the court to rule on the legality of BitTorrent itself, but rather what the defendants did with the technology. Turning to the TPB’s tracker, Roswall said that it was a vital part of the infrastructure. He said that the Supreme Court already previously ruled that someone running a BBS (Bulletin Board) could be found guilty of assisting copyright infringement and that TPB should be viewed in this light.

Turning to the defendants, Roswall said that Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm already admitted their part in the running of TPB. He said Fredrik’s role was technical and he also registered the TPB domain name, while Gottfrid also handled technical issues including the programming of the tracker and some billing duties.

Roswall doesn’t believe Peter Sunde’s line that he is just the site’s spokesman. He said that Peter is deeply involved with the site, referring to claims Peter configured load balancers for the site and noted that advertiser Daniel Oded communicated with Fredrik and Gottfrid through Peter. Roswall said that this was a sign Peter was co-ordinating some operations. He also said that Peter helped to design and develop the site and had contact with some advertisers.

Roswall referred to Carl Lundström as the financier of the site and pointed to various emails where Lundström communicated with the others about the legality of the operation. While the defense said this was a good thing - that the site wanted to remain within the law - the prosecution are using this to say that Lundström was behind everything. Roswall also said that the claims that Fredrik worked for free in order to get services for TPB from Lundström was simply made up to help their case.

Next the site’s finances were discussed by Roswall. Damages are easy to calculate he said, by simply referring to the site’s own download statistics. In an attempt to quantify how much money TPB made, he used his own best guesses based on how much he thought the ads on the site cost multiplied by an estimated number of impressions. He came to the conclusion that TPB turned over some 11.6 million kroner. After a few more calculations, Roswall declared the site made at least 5 million kroner, and probably more like 10 million, to which Gottfrid responded, “Where is my ten million, please, I want it, where is it?”

Earlier in the case, the defense asked why the Prosecution did not try to track down the actual infringers/seeders of the works mentioned in the trial. Roswall notes that this was impossible since their identities were protected under Swedish law. However, now that IPRED has been passed, tracking people will be much easier in future.

Roswall called for a confiscation of TPB hardware, noting that the chances of the site infringing again are high. He based this on the fact that TPB was up and running just 3 days after the original police raids. He finished by demanding jail for all four defendants.

“I believe that the correct punishment is a year in prison and that is what I ask from the judge in this case,” he said. Gottfrid responded dryly, “I was surprised that the nasty old man did not ask for more, I expected he would require two years in prison but he asked for only one!”

Gottfrid Swartholm comments

During one of the cigarette breaks, defendant Gottfrid Swartholm didn’t seem to be impressed by the prosecutor’s claim. “I’m surprised that the crazy old man didn’t exaggerate more! I’d counted on him demanding two years in prison but it only was one!”

Gottfrid went on to comment on the millions in ad revenue TPB had made according to the prosecutor. “Where are my 10 million, please I want them, where are they!?” he shouted.

Peter Danowsky for the IFPI

Next up to make his closing statement was Peter Danowsky of the IFPI. He began by saying that the trial is not about file-sharing technology, but about how it is used to infringe copyright. The goal is to find out whether or not the defendants have broken the law, and if so, what their punishment should be. Danowsky said he knew that there are other sites that engage in similar practices, but said that these are irrelevant to this case.

Comparing TPB to Google doesn’t make any sense according to Danowsky, because Google is working with the rights holders to prevent piracy. TPB on the other hand constantly mocks rights holders. Danowsky further added that the number of [torrent files linking to] copyrighted works on TPB is much greater than the prosecutor decided to bring in as evidence.

Danowsky went on to state that TPB offers a service that is very similar to that offered by legal online music stores. However, TPB doesn’t charge for the music and keeps the advertizing revenue to themselves instead of compensating the rights holders. Neij, Svartholm, Sunde and Lundström have contributed to copyright infringement according to Danowsky, and the record labels have to be compensated for the losses they have caused - in sales and in goodwill.

The testimony of media Professor Roger Wallis, who stated that the entertainment industry doesn’t suffer any losses from piracy, is debatable Danowsky said. Instead, he puts more trust in the record company executives he consulted in the past. “Wallis’ 30 percent guest professorship at KTH provides about as much credibility as something on par with a newspaper editorial,” said Danowsky.

He further said that physical piracy is exactly the same as illicit file-sharing according to the music industry lawyer, it is simply utilizing newer technology.

Danowsky went on to note that TPB was founded by the Pirate Bureau, an organization that has only one purpose: “Not to respect copyright.” Next, Danowsky stressed that TPB is a commercial operation and he mentioned some previous court rulings related to file sharing, including the Finreactor case. After that the court took a lunch break.

Henrik Pontén from Antipiratbyrån

After the lunch break Henrik Pontén makes his final plea, which is short compared to Danowsky. Pontén claims that the defendants clearly knew that what they were doing was illegal, and that they could have expected prison sentences. He further said that TPB clearly operates as a business, making money from advertising revenue.

The damages claim should cover the loss in revenue for the entertainment industry, as well as the damage in goodwill that the site has caused, Pontén noted. He continued saying that imprisonment is needed in order to stop TPB from operating, and said that a conviction will deter others from infringing copyright.

The police can’t possibly go after all TPB’s users and the defendants are therefore responsible for the whole damage claim, he argued, adding that they are free to claim money from their users. “It’s easy to come in contact with the users by leaving a message in the comments field,” Pontén said ending his closing statement. http://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-b...l-time-090302/

Day 11

There was a lot of noise on the internet over the last 24 hours caused by TPB slowing down and eventually falling over. There was plenty of talk of a denial of service attack, or that the page had been closed down. Neither is true, Fredrik (alias TiAMO) fixed the page early this morning from inside of the courtroom and it is now back to its jolly old self.

Today we got to the closing statements from the defendants. The 4 lawyers (1 lawyer per defendant) each had their say. Each lawyer defended their individual client.

Essentially the stance of the defense went like this:

1. It has not been proven that the bulk of the content on TPB is illegal, nor did the prosecution even try to prove it.
2. There is no evidence as to who actually uploaded the illegal files the prosecution are claiming damages on, and they never attempted to find out.
3. The prosecution’s calculation of the advertising revenue of the page was based on the page having a huge 64 adverts per page. In reality there are 4.
4. The prosecution collected absolutely no independent evidence throughout the trial.
5. The Pirate Bay operates as a completely legal enterprise.
6. The prosecution has not accused individuals with crimes as is required in a criminal law case, they have accused ‘The Pirate Bay’ in the majority of instances.

It really did feel like they covered all of the bases, and none of it was a real surprise. Today was potentially the very last day of the trial, with a verdict due on April 17

More information on the last day of the trial here at TorrentFreak

Here is a very interesting excerpt from the trial (reported via TorrentFreak)

Echoing comments by Peter Althin, Samuelson said that when new technology appears it can be difficult to “see the wood for the trees”. He said that just because something may have been used by people for illicit purposes, should that mean that there should be an attack on the infrastructure as a result? It’s like taking legal action against car manufacturers for the problems experienced on the roads, he said.

I think that is a very good point really. It is clear that anti-piracy agencies have a lot of trouble chasing ‘mum and dad’ criminals (downloaders) over the internet because of the anonymous nature of the beast. What they can attack are large organizations who they see to be promoting the problem.

Having said that, there was great effort put into trying to pass the Copyright Amendment Act (Section 92) very recently in this country. You can bet your bottom dollar it was at the request of anti-piracy.

Do you have trouble believing that? I give you Judith Tizard (The instigator of the guilty upon accusation amendment), from the Dominion Post

Ms Tizard says New Zealand music makers have been losing out because of piracy. “What we were worried about in particular was peer-to-peer file sharing. New Zealanders who make music and films can lose everything almost overnight if their work is illegally posted. One of the big recording studios told me that whereas a couple of years ago they were fully booked and when they were giving time away it was at 4am, now they are only about 60 per cent booked.”

Wow, Judith. A recording studio told you that did they. How lovely of you to believe them. Clearly the caliber of this minister is beyond all question.

Take it easy guys, I hope you enjoyed the eSport coverage of this trial and that my own personal nattering on the side have not become an annoyance! http://www.esport.co.nz/news/2009/03...te-bay-day-11/

The Final Day of The Pirate Bay Trial

Today, The Pirate Bay trial will probably come to an end, but not before the defendants’ lawyers have their final say. All four lawyers call for their clients to be acquitted on various grounds, while offering caution to the court to ignore the politic aspects of the trial.

As The Pirate Bay returns after being offline all night, the lawyers of defendants Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Swartholm, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundström present their closing statements to the court.

Apparently, Fredrik (TiAMO) got the site back up from inside the courtroom. “I fixed the Pirate Bay from inside the courtroom just minutes ago. The site is back online,” he told blogger Oscar Swartz.

First to appear is Fredrik Neij’s lawyer, Jonas Nilsson. He said that the technology behind TPB is completely legal and Fredrik never had the intention to violate anyones copyrights - his main interest was the technology at the site and he was a technician there.

Nilsson went on to say that it has not been established that the bulk of the material accessible via TPB is copyrighted and it has not been shown that any of the material has been exploited commercially. Nilsson says there are grounds to dismiss the indictment. These are i) the operations of TPB are permissible under the law, ii) there is a certain amount of uncertainty as to the technical aspects of the case against TPB and iii) there are serious shortcomings in the investigation against the four.

Nilsson again argued that TPB operates legally in every sense. The site is open in nature and it is the the site’s users that decide what content TPB tracks and this is not a decision made by the operators. Every site in the world could link to copyright material, he argued. This is not a TPB problem, this is a worldwide Internet problem, he noted.

Neither has it been shown that Fredrik made any money from the site argued Nilsson. There was some advertising revenue generated by the site, he said, but this went to cover the site’s operating costs.

Turning to the accusations that the staff of TPB had an attitude problem, Nilsson says that everyone has a right to their own opinion and just because the site is named the way it is, it does not indicate anything in particular. The site, he said, offers only a passive search function.

Nilsson believes that the indictment against Fredrik Neij should be dismissed because he knew nothing about any of the torrent files referenced in the case against him. Furthermore, he says there is no evidence that Neij encouraged anyone to commit a crime.

Going on to attack the technical evidence against his client, Nilsson said that it doesn’t hold up. It is not clear that Fredrik made any of the works available, there is no evidence which indicates any time for the alleged offenses and there is no proof that TPB’s trackers were used for such - the screenshots just aren’t enough.

There is no evidence indicating who did any uploading and it has not been shown that the individuals doing so had even committed any offense in their own jurisdictions. Furthermore, the Prosecution has not shown how any of the individuals are connected to TPB, and he mostly talks about ‘The Pirate Bay’ as a whole - which isn’t sufficient in a criminal trial as individuals must be referenced.

Turning to the damages brought against his client, Nilsson said the recording industry has simply calculated itself what it believes the damages should be, and at no point has any independent or objective data been presented to the court. Furthermore, since they have not proven that Fredrik was connected to any of the copyright works, the damages claim against him should be dismissed.

The court then took a short break.

Next to make his arguments was Ola Salomonsson, representing Gottfrid Svartholm. He said that he has seen no proof that TPB indexes mostly copyright content and it seems that the only person who bothered to collect such data was Peter Sunde, and he reported 80% of indexed material as non-copyrighted. The Prosecution didn’t bother to collect any data on this issue, he said, and therefore cannot claim the opposite to be true.

Salomonsson said that the Prosecution never tried to contact any of the seeders on the site, who the Prosecution allege that the four must have had contact with. There is no proof that TPB’s tracker was used in any of the infringements highlighted in the case, he added.

Going on, Salomonsson spoke about Gottfrid’s comments yesterday when he called the Roswall “a crazy bastard” for the way he calculated the damages. This comment was because the Prosecutor has his sums wrong, he said, noting that while the Prosecutor claims there are 64 adverts on TPB, there are really just 4. Salomonsson said the revenue is closer 700,000 kroner rather than the millions claimed. Furthermore, he says that the advert deal shown to the court many times never actually came about, so therefore it should not be accepted as evidence.

Salomonsson said Gottfrid always believed that TPB operates legally. He said the site had never been issued with any injunctions ordering it to stop its activities.

Referring to the testimony of Roger Wallis, he said it had embarrassed the plaintiffs and put a big question mark over the massive damages they are claiming from the defendants and that common sense says that any claim must be drastically reduced. Speaking of a possible jail sentence, Salmonsson said that such a result does not feel right at all.

The court took a short break and returned with Peter Althin, Peter Sunde’s lawyer. He opened by saying that this has been a difficult trial for everyone involved and that when there are developments in technology, the establishment reacts against them.

Turning to the huge claimed damages, Althin said there is no proven link between material being downloaded from the Internet and any lost sales, so therefore calls for all the damages claims to be dismissed. Furthermore, he said that all of the ‘evidence’ produced by the Prosecution in respect of the damages claim was not collated independently and therefore wasn’t an objective assessment. He went on to say that since Peter had committed no crimes, there should be no claims for damages against his client.

As for the way the Prosecution dealt with witness Roger Wallis, Althin said it was at the least highly insulting. Instead of attacking Wallis’ arguments, he said the Prosecution chose to launch personal attacks against him. Calling the attacks against Wallis “pathetic”, Althin said he would do everything he could to restore Wallis’ reputation.

Althin told the court that Peter Sunde is just the spokesman of TPB and did not hold the position in the site that the Prosecution claim. Althin said that the Prosecution skipped quickly over talk about Peter at the summing up yesterday for this very reason, indicating a lack of confidence in their own claims.

Althin said that just because Peter knows the other defendants, it does not follow that he committed any crime and just because he gave some advice as to the running of the site, the same stands. “If I call Saab [motor company] and tell them to paint their cars green so they sell more, I have no responsibility for Saab,” he said.

Referring to the contested advertising agreement, Althin said that references were made to Founder 1 (Fredrik) and Founder 2 (Gottfrid). There is no reference to Peter. He added that Peter was not even originally a suspect in the case and his client has never made any money from being on the site. He called for the case against his client to be dismissed.

The court then took a short break and returned with Per E Samuelson, lawyer for Carl Lundström. Samuelson opened by saying that during the case the Prosecution missed the main key point - Is The Pirate Bay legal or not? He said that all four defendants should be acquitted since the Prosecution failed to issue individual charges as is required in a criminal case. Everything the Prosecution has described has been about the operations of TPB as a whole, not the individuals.

He went on to say that TPB was not unique and it has a lot in common with many other sites, which makes the judgment in this case very important, maybe of entire EU significance. Samuelson said the service provided by TPB is a legal one but due to the ‘blind’ nature of the site, it can be open to misuse and any such activity is carried out by the site’s users, not the defendants.

Echoing comments by Peter Althin, Samuelson said that when new technology appears it can be difficult to “see the wood for the trees”. He said that just because something may have been used by people for illicit purposes, should that mean that there should be an attack on the infrastructure as a result? It’s like taking legal action against car manufacturers for the problems experienced on the roads, he said.

While stressing that operations at TPB are entirely legal, Samuelson said that there had been a lot of politics involved in the trial and he urged everyone in the Court to try to ignore these aspects.

Turning to the allegations that his defendant assisted others in committing crimes, Samuelson said that there had to be a recorded major crime in the first instance. He said it seems that no-one is aware of when any alleged offenses were committed and furthermore, no-one knows who committed them. There can be no charge of aiding and abetting when the accused have had no contact and do not even know the person who committed an offense. Samuelson used some information from previous cases to prove his point.

Samuelsson went on saying that he didn’t really understand all the technology that is involved when he first started on the case, but that it is essential to this case. It is a case against an infrastructure that is used to share files, many of which are legal, he argued. He hoped the judge would realize this.

Without mentioning King Kong Samuelsson told that the accused have to be aware of the main crimes in order to be convicted, referring to the 33 copyrighted files that the defendants allegedly helped to make available. However, witness Kristoffer Schollin stated last week that the accused can’t possibly be aware of every download on the site.

According to Samuelsson the prosecutor was pressured to take action against TPB by the music and movie industry.

Next, Samuelsson goes on to describe his client as a businessman who is only vaguely connected to TPB. One of his customers (PRQ) hosted the site, but his client didn’t own the site, nor was he involved in maintaining or coding it. That the prosecutor want to hold Lundstom accountable for the 33 downloads seems to be far fetched according to the lawyer. Moreover, Carl Lundstrom stopped doing business with TPB when his lawyer warned him that the activities may be illegal.

After a short break all the lawyers and defendants went through their expense claims. Fredrik Neij claimed compensation for a plane ticket to Thailand which he couldn’t cancel and thus will cost more for him to book now. The others claimed their expenses as well.

The court further announced that the verdict is due on April 17 and ended the trial. http://torrentfreak.com/final-day-of...-trial-090303/

Pirate Bay Day 11: Trial Ends, Verdict Awaited

Today, the defence lawyers summed up. It was a short trial and not a particularly merry one, but it could have far-reaching effects

Today was the last scheduled in the Pirate Bay trial, and the four defence lawyers made their closing statements. They all presented much the same points, the main ones being that the Pirate Bay site didn't hold any copyright films or music -- it merely acted as a search engine -- and that no copyrighted content passed through it anyway. The prosecution had failed to produce any uploaders or downloaders, and had not shown their actions were illegal where they happened to live.

Fredrik Neij's lawyer, Jonas Nilsson, said that the prosecution had not established that most of the links on the Pirate Bay were to copyright material, but linking to copyright material wasn't specific to Pirate Bay, it was an internet-wide problem.

Then there were the financial issues. The prosecution appears to have an exaggerated view of how much money the site made (millions!), and an even more generous view of how much had been lost in the cases presented in evidence (more millions).

Gottfrid Svartholm's lawyer, Ola Salomonsson, said there were only four adverts on Pirate Bay, not the 64 the prosecution claimed, so the revenue was closer to 725,000 kronor (£55,846, €62,510, $78,655). That was less than the site's running costs of 800,000 kronor.

As for damages of 117 million kronor (£9m, €10.1m, $12.7m), witness Roger Wallis had testified that the content industries benefited from file-sharing. Peter Sunde's lawyer, Peter Althin, said he personal attacks on Wallis were "pathetic". As or Sunde, he was just a spokesman for the site and hadn't done anything illegal.

Carl Lundström's lawyer, Per E Samuelson, said (to quote TorrentFreak's summary) that

when new technology appears it can be difficult to "see the wood for the trees". He said that just because something may have been used by people for illicit purposes, should that mean that there should be an attack on the infrastructure as a result? It's like taking legal action against car manufacturers for the problems experienced on the roads, he said.

As for Lundström, he "didn't own the site, nor was he involved in maintaining or coding it." He was just a "businessman who is only vaguely connected to TPB [via] one of his customers (PRQ)," TorrentFreak reported.

The prosecution didn't enhance its reputation during the case, but as Wired pointed out in an editorial, perhaps the defendants didn't, either. Their previous "swagger evaporated like salt water on a beached schooner once The Pirate Bay landed on the witness stand." Wired said:

In the courtroom, the defendants quickly abandoned their revolutionary, free-culture ideals in favor of the simpler philosophy embraced by criminal defendants since time immemorial: I'm Not Responsible.

Outside the courtroom, "Peter Sunde expressed confidence that The Pirate Bay would win the case," reports Ars Technica. "A guilty verdict would 'be a huge mistake for the future of the Internet,' he said. 'It's quite obvious which side is the good side'."
It's equally obvious to the record industry, of course, which sees sites like Pirate Bay destroying the commercial music business. In its report, Billboard quotes Kjell-Åke Hamrén, chairman of SMFF, the Swedish Music Publishers Association:

"Without compensation the creators' livelihood is unsustainable. It is therefore of utmost importance that licensing schemes and new legal services can emerge in the digital environment, while at the same time legislation says firmly no to grand scale businesses that are built on copyright infringement."

The verdict is due on April 17


Pirate Bay Defendant Restarts Server Remotely During Trial
Jesper Berg

Fredrik Neij - one of the accused in the trial against thepiratebay.org - took some time to manage the website remotely in the middle of the closing argument.

- A server was down and I restarted it, Neij tells expressen.se. He is one of the four founders of The Pirate Bay that stand accused of “complicity to making copyrighted material accessible” (yes, that’s the charge). That didn’t stop him from taking care of a server mishap in the middle of the trial’s closing argument.

Thepiratebay.org was down during the best part of Monday, which had a good deal of file-sharing folks worried that the website might be down for good this time. Thankfully for them, he had his trusty laptop at hand and could restart the server remotely, so that eager fileswappers could get back inside.

-We have Internet access [in the court room] so it was no problem, Neij told Expressen today (Tuesday);

-Besides, I’m keeping up with the coverage of the trial.

The farcical battle between a sadly incompetent prosecution vs. knowledgeable and sometimes loud-mouthed defendants is almost at an end, and the fact that Neij manages thepiratebay.org’s servers remotely during the trial is just one of several examples that point out the huge gap in technical know-how that the sides have exhibited.

Already during the second day, the prosecution had to change its original charges - on the grounds that it was finally starting to grasp how BitTorrent technology actually works. A part that mentioned production [of copyrighted material] had to be removed, and all that was left was “complicity to making [copyrighted material] available”.

Both sides are now well into the closing arguments, and none of them have brought any surprises to the table. The side of the prosecution calls for jail time while the defense claims that no crime has ever been committed, and that users are individually responsible for the torrent files they upload.

Until next week,

- js.

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