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Old 03-02-10, 08:23 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - February 6th, '10

Since 2002

"It is straightforward legal blackmail." – Lord Lucas

"I find that iiNet simply can't be seen as approving infringement." – Justice Cowdroy

"If the [book] prices were lower, more people would actually be willing to pay for them." – Mikayla Astor

"Google and N.S.A. are entering into a secret agreement that could impact the privacy of millions of users of Google’s products and services around the world." – Marc Rotenberg

"I gather you have a dog in this fight?" – Mel Gibson


I’ve got some 200,000 tracks on my hard drives and have been listening to period music recently. For some reason when Joni Mitchell’s gorgeous "Down to You" rolls around I see clear images of the green hills and lawns of my old high school, and even a few specific friends. A song of carnal appetites from an artist facing narrowing opportunities, it's interesting that it has associated itself with this specific time and place.

Then there's REM's "Night Swimming." A piece so mysteriously attached to the late summer evenings we’d skinny dip at an abandoned camp you'd think it was playing in our cars, even though we’d never heard it.

They’re quite wistful actually, but also wonderful.



February 6th, 2010

uTorrent Spreads Its Wings With Falcon

In all the years it’s been available, uTorrent hasn’t changed as much as it will with the upcoming release. Codenamed Falcon, the client will have an easier, more secure and more complete web UI as well as support for streaming and remote downloading.

Developed by BitTorrent Inc., uTorrent Falcon will bring plenty of change to the BitTorrent client currently in use by more than 50 million people a month.

Most of the upcoming features of the Falcon project are still being developed, but those who download the latest Alpha release have the option to take a peak at what to expect from the future. Below we sum up some of the key features.

Access Anywhere

Allowing users to access their BitTorrent downloads from anywhere through a simple web-interface is one of the main goals of the Falcon project. Without having to configure uTorrent and home networks so that they can be accessed remotely, users can simply head over to the Falcon page and connect to their client instantly.

The easy to use web interface is as secure as it gets, a major improvement over the Web UI currently available. When logged in, it gives users all the controls they are familiar with in their regular PC client. Torrents can be added, paused and removed using an interface with a look and feel identical to that of the uTorrent application.

Those who want to try the remote access features require an invite for now. Invites are sent out regularly and those who leave their email address behind should receive one within a few days.

Download Anywhere

Aside from the added security and easy setup, accessing your torrents via the Falcon web-interface offers another advantage – remote downloading. Once a file has finished downloading you can transfer a copy of the file to a remote computer via the web-interface.

This feature is not enabled in the current version of the Falcon web-interface. However, it has been publicly announced in the uTorrent forums so we expect that it will return soon.


Another new feature of the Falcon project is the added option to stream video files while downloading. Instead of having to wait until a file has finished downloading, users can already start watching video provided that the download speed is sufficient.

“Our hope is to transform getting media using uTorrent from a ‘load-wait-watch-tomorrow’ to more of a ‘point-click-watch’ experience,” Simon Morris, BitTorrent’s VP of Product Management told TorrentFreak, commenting on the new feature.

Easy Sharing

Also new in the Falcon release is the “Send Torrent” feature. This feature is particularly useful when you want to share torrents with people who do not have a BitTorrent client installed yet.

Right clicking a torrent in uTorrent shows a “Send Torrent” option which then brings up a URL similar to this one. This is a direct link to a download of the uTorrent client with the torrent file included.

Finding Torrents

The Falcon release is expected to make it easier for users to find torrents. The uTorrent team didn’t want to comment on how this will be integrated, but Simon Morris has stated that they are working on “better ability for torrent sites to promote content or search within the client.”

When we asked if this means that uTorrent will come with a built in torrent search engine, Morris said that they are more interested in “APIs rather than bloating the uTorrent user experience.” We’ll see what this means in the months to come.

Further Improvements

The features listed above are just a few of many that will be added to the new uTorrent clients. The latest Alpha release also had a ‘minify interface’ option, for example, and the development team is also working on speed improvements, UI improvements and optional file security features.

Exciting times ahead for uTorrent users.

Usenet Indexer Prepares For MPAA High Court Battle

Newzbin – considered by many to be the Internet’s premier indexer and .NZB provider – announced it was under legal threat from the MPA, the MPAA’s worldwide big brother. On Monday next week, the copyright infringement showdown in London’s High Court begins.

Newzbin is one of the original Usenet indexing sites and the creator of the ever-popular .NZB format, which opened up simplified Usenet downloading to the masses.

After years of trouble-free operation as the MPAA focused on shutting down the growing ‘threat’ of the snowballing BitTorrent scene, in May 2008 the operator of Newzbin made an announcement.

The company which owns Newzbin had received a threatening letter from the Motion Picture Association (MPA), the MPAA’s big brother. In the letter the MPA claimed that some of the site’s editors (users who report on the location of material uploaded to the worldwide Usenet system) were listing NZBs which linked to movies on Usenet which infringed their member’s copyright.

“Newzbin has recently received two serious complaints regarding the indexing we perform, and raising doubts as to its legality. It is likely that we will in the coming weeks be presented with a court case and have to defend our rights,” said ‘Caesium’, the owner of Newzbin.

Caesium added that the site had never condoned the distribution or indexing of copyright works and insisted that site staff would act immediately to remove any items found to be infringing copyright.

Noting that Newzbin would defend itself vigorously against the complainants, Caesium said he believed that linking to content on Usenet is entirely legal and that the site’s procedures for dealing with unlawful content were appropriate.

“We believe that, or we wouldn’t still be here,” he added.

In December 2008, Newzbin confirmed that it had been removing NZB files which allegedly linked to copyright works stored on Usenet. The MPA still chose to file an injunction against the site.

Now, well over a year later, the showdown of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation & ors v Newzbin Ltd is set to begin next week before Mr Justice Kitchin in London’s High Court.

According to an announcement yesterday by Newzbin’s legal team, the case should last around a week but it’s unknown when any verdict will be handed down following its conclusion.

As we all know, the recent trial of Alan Ellis ended in an acquittal for the ex-OiNK admin and, just like Newzbin, his site hosted no copyright works and provided only meta data which linked to material hosted elsewhere.

However, Ellis’s charge was one of fraud, allegedly conducted by an individual and dealt with under criminal law, while that leveled against Newzbin is one of allowing and inducing illegal copying, i.e copyright infringement, but carried out by a bona fide company under civil law.

After Ellis’s acquittal, John Kennedy of the IFPI expressed disappointment at the “spectacular failure” of the criminal action and suggested that these type of complex cases should not be held in a crown court, but in the Chancery Division of the High Court.

This is exactly where the Newzbin case is being heard, so this is certainly one to watch. Unlike Ellis who faced possible jail time, Newzbin faces a claim for damages should it lose its case.

Pirate Bill Could 'Breach Rights'

An influential group of MPs and peers has said the government's approach to illegal file-sharing could breach the rights of internet users.

The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said the government's Digital Economy Bill needed clarification.

It said that technical measures - which include cutting off persistent pirates - were not "sufficiently specified".

In addition, it said that it was concerned that the Bill could create "over-broad powers".

"The internet is constantly creating new challenges for policy-makers but that cannot justify ill-defined or sweeping legislative responses, especially when there is the possibility of restricting freedom of expression or the privacy of individual users," said Andrew Dismore MP and chair of the Committee.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which oversees the Digital Economy Bill, said that government had "always been clear that [its] proposals to deal with unlawful file-sharing should not contravene human rights".

'Sweeping powers'

The Select Committee only examined the parts of the Bill that focus on plans to tackle illegal file-sharing as well as a controversial amendment to copyright law.

"The concern we have with this Bill is that it lacks detail," said Mr Dismore. "It has been difficult, even in the narrow area we have focussed on, to get a clear picture of the scope and impact of the provisions."

The Digital Economy Bill was outlined in the Queen's speech in November 2009.

One of the most hotly-debated elements is the so-called "three strikes rule" that would give regulator Ofcom new powers to disconnect or slow down the connections of persistent net pirates.

The Committee said it had concerns about "technical measures" like these and how they would be applied.

# Legal framework for tackling copyright infringement via education and technical measures
# Ofcom given powers to appoint and fund independently funded news consortia
# New duties for Ofcom to assess the UK's communications infrastructure every two years
# Modernising spectrum to increase investment in mobile broadband
# Framework for the move to digital radio switchover by 2015
# Updating Channel 4 functions to encompass public service content, on TV and online
# Age ratings compulsory for all boxed video games aimed at those over 12 years

For example, the government has not specified whether a whole household could be cut off if only one member of a family was identified as a persistent file-sharer.

The committee said that measures such as this have "the potential to breach internet users' rights" and had not been "sufficiently specified to allow for an assessment of proportionality".

Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group, which has campaigned against the measures, said that disconnecting alleged file-sharers was "draconian and unpredictably damaging".

A spokesperson for BIS said: "slowing down or suspending peoples broadband would only be invoked following several clear warnings".

Any technical measures would require "secondary legislation", he added.

"There will be no technical measures imposed at all if the initial measures taken are as successful as we expect."

The Committee also examined Clause 17 of the bill, which would give the government the power to amend the copyright law without passing further primary legislation.

The clause has proved controversial. In late 2009, a consortium of web companies including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and eBay wrote to the business secretary Peter Mandelson objecting to the clause.

The web firms urged MPs to remove the clause, which they said could give government "unprecedented and sweeping powers" to amend copyright laws.

The Select Committee said that it had been told that changes would be made to the clause to ensure that any amendments to copyright law would be "better scrutinised by Parliament".

"Despite this the Committee remains concerned that Clause 17 remains overly broad and that parliamentary scrutiny may remain inadequate," it said.

The BIS spokesperson said that government had already tabled "a series of amendments which aim to clarify the breadth and scope of clause 17".

The Digital Economy bill is currently being scrutinised by the House of Lords.

It was dealt a blow recently when Sion Simon, one of the MPs charged with pushing it through parliament, announced he was standing down.

House of Lords: Record Companies Have Been Harassing Innocent Users

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Lucas took aim at ACS:Law solicitors, a firm that has been used by record companies in Britain to intimidate file-sharers, and that has apparently cause an enormous number of complaints to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Of particular interest is this extract:

If people fall foul of this Bill, they will have a couple of warning letters, but after that they will get a typical ACS:Law Solicitors standard letter saying, “Pay us £500 or we will take you to court”. If they do not pay the £500, they will end up in court, there will be technical evidence against them, and they will have no ability to provide a technical defence. That is the difficulty that people faced with ACS:Law Solicitors have at the moment. There is this inequality of arms. They are in a civil court, with a 50:50 balance-of-probability judgment, and must contemplate risking thousands of pounds in mounting a defence when it is not easy to do that.

This is a recognition of one of the fundamental problems with a bill like the DEB: the consumer-grade networking equipment that is currently available and that has been being given out by ISPs in the past few years does not allow users to defend themselves.

Say, for example, that you get a letter accusing you of violating copyright and demanding that you stop. You know that you haven’t been, and you think that it was probably the tech-savvy kid from next-door breaking into your wireless. What can you do? On most consumer-grade equipment: nothing. The wireless routers that have been distributed by ISPs do not support strong enough encryption to keep him out, nor do they keep detailed enough logs to vindicate yourself. To put it simply: once the accusation has been made you cannot escape it, since the tools are not available to you to prove your innocence.

The result of this is, as Lord Lucas points out, that the record companies can accuse absolutely anyone they feel like, and the person will have no choice but to pay the fine they demand – it is legally sanctioned blackmail:

In a civil procedure on a technical matter, it amounts to blackmail; the cost of defending one of these things is reckoned to be £10,000. You can get away with asking for £500 or £1,000 and be paid on most occasions without any effort having to be made to really establish guilt. It is straightforward legal blackmail.

Virgin Media Battles Privacy Campaigners on P2P Monitoring

No one's looking at you, alright?
Chris Williams

Regulators are mulling assurances from Virgin Media that its planned trial system to monitor the level of illegal filesharing on its network will not harm customers' privacy.

"We've been engaging with all the relevant bodies, including Ofcom, the ICO and the EC, to ensure they have the information they need to make an informed judgement about our planned trial," the firm said.

A spokesman refused to confirm it was also speaking to the Home Office, which advises on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, the legislation governing interception of communications. Virgin Media wants to introduce CView, a system developed by Detica to measure music copyright infringment via peer-to-peer protocols.

The system has already been criticised by privacy camapaigners, who have complained to the European Commission about the technology.

CView relies on Deep Packet Inspection technology, looking inside BitTorrent, Gnutella and eDonkey traffic to determine if it carries unlicensed music by comparing it to a database of "acoustic fingerprints". The way it exposes the content of traffic to processing has led to comoparisons with the targeted advertising technology controversially developed by Phorm (Virgin Media was one of Phorm's prospective ISP partners before it effectively pulled out of the UK market).

Virgin Media and Detica have emphasised in submissions to regulators that CView cannot identify customers or store data, and are not proceeding with a trial until it has the all clear. The pair, who together announced their intention to trial CView in December, say no data about individual customers will be collected. Instead, they argue, it will simply enable them to accurately guage the effect of the government's Digital Economy Bill proposals to reduce the overall level of illegal filesharing.

"Once deployed, CView will only offer a non-intrusive solution to enhance the understanding of aggregate customer behaviour; it will not be used for any other purpose," Virgin Media and Detica told regulators.

"In particular, none of the traffic data collected could ever be used to identify or be attributed back to a customer and, consequently, cannot be used to take any action against a customer."

It's planned that the CView trial will mean the traffic of about 40 per cent of Virgin Media customers will be monitored for illegal music sharing, but those involved won't be told.

Privacy International, the lobby group, has said it plans a criminal complaint under RIPA once the trial begins.

BPI Unhappy with Law Firm Chasing Illegal File-Sharers
Carrie-Ann Skinner

The BPI has slammed ACS:Law for the way it has chased a number of Brits suspected of illegally downloading.

Which? revealed this week that law firms had been sending out letters on behalf of copyright holders to UK web users, claiming they have participated in illegal file-sharing and ordering them to pay £500 and sign a legal undertaking agreeing not to re-offend in the future.

Adam Liversage from the BPI, told the BBC: "We don't favour the approach taken by ACS:Law to tackle illegal file-sharing".

"Our view is that legal action is best reserved for the most persistent or serious offenders - rather than widely used as a first response."

The letters are being issued even though the Digital Economy Bill, which sets out measures by the government to tackle internet piracy, has not come into force in the UK yet.

The measures suggest a 'three strikes' rule under which potential offenders will receive warning letters and emails designed to educate them on their wrong-doing. Should they continue to offend, web users will then face disconnection from the web.

However, the letters that have been received so far appear to be less about educating web users and more about issuing a penalty.

The BPI also revealed it will not employ the same approach as ACS: Law when internet piracy measures come into force.

Meanwhile, Michael Coyle - a lawyer representing around 100 Brits that have received letters from law firm Lawdit - told the BBC he was concerned about the number of web users accused of illegally file-sharing and called for the Information Commissioner to investigate the matter.

"I suspect that many hundreds of people have been innocently accused of copyright infringement and the accusations continue without any organisation being prepared to intervene," he said.

"Ideally the Information Commissioner ought to intervene and seek to prevent the courts releasing the personal data of thousands of individuals."

Grandma Endures Wrongful ISP Piracy Suspension
Greg Sandoval

All Cathi "Cat" Paradiso knew for sure, as she learned that her Web access was being shut off, was that she was losing her struggle to stay calm.

To Paradiso, the customer-service representative from Qwest Communications on the phone with her could have been speaking Slovenian for all the sense it made. Her Internet service was suspended... Hollywood studios accused her of copyright violations... she illegally downloaded 18 films and TV shows..."Zombieland," "Harry Potter," "South Park..."

South Park? What would a 53-year-old grandmother want with "South Park" she thought to herself? But this much about what the Qwest rep said sank in: if Paradiso was accused of copyright infringement once more, her Internet service provider would have no choice but to terminate her account. Paradiso said she was also told that she would have a hard time acquiring new service as the other ISPs in the area would know her name and what she did.

"Take me off your hit list," Paradiso wrote in a January 15 e-mail plea to some of the studios who had accused her. "I have never downloaded a movie. Period... You'll need to admit you made a mistake and move on to the correct perpetrator... I am saying this once more: My computer is not a toy. My livelihood depends on my ISP's reliability. Look for the perpetrator and leave my service alone."

Paradiso, a technical recruiter who works out of her home near Pueblo, Colo., would eventually be cleared. Last week, Qwest had a technician investigate--after CNET began making inquiries--and he discovered that her network had been compromised, according to Monica Martinez, a Qwest spokeswoman. So Paradiso is off the hook, but she wants to know what would have happened had she not gone to the media. There was no independent third party to hear her complaint. There was no one to advocate for her.

If ISPs are to become copyright cops, a role that companies such as Comcast, Verizon, Cox, and others appear to be warming up to at the request of the entertainment sector, then what this case suggests is that there's a need for better safeguards to prevent people from being wrongly accused and cut off from the Web.

"This goes to show that there's a problem with due process in these kinds of situations," said Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for Internet users and technology companies. "If you're going to kick somebody off the Internet, there's a lot of procedures that need to be put in place to protect the innocent. It doesn't look like those were in place here."

An attorney who works closely with one of the studios involved and asked to remain anonymous, said these issues are being addressed. Entertainment companies and ISPs agree that there should be some kind of review process and people accused of copyright violations must also be properly informed before any service disruption takes place. One possible way is to redirect an accused customer's computer screen to a warning notice or to send warnings via certified mail.

For ISPs, protecting customers from being wrongly accused of piracy is just one of the hurdles confronting them. They have been thrust into the middle of a digital tug-of-war between people who illegally download video games, music, and films and the creators of those materials.

"I'm the last person that would steal somebody's art. I've never downloaded a movie or song in my life...I'm so paranoid now, I won't buy music or movies online ever."
--Cathi Paradiso, technical recruiter

Entertainment companies see bandwidth providers as natural gatekeepers that can easily set up road blocks against piracy. Both the film and music industries want ISPs to adopt some version of what they call a "graduated response" program. This calls for a series of warnings to be issued to people accused of infringing intellectual property. If ignored, the warnings would eventually be followed by some kind of service interruption--suspension or termination.

The idea of booting paying customers makes some ISPs very squeamish. AT&T said last year that it would never terminate service unless it received a court order. That hasn't stopped AT&T and other ISPs from issuing more and more warning letters to customers accused of copyright violations. For example, Verizon has a long history of defying the entertainment industry's attempts to draft it into antipiracy efforts. Nonetheless, Verizon began sending letters on behalf of the film industry in April and started doing it for themajor music labels in November, according to entertainment sources.

Qwest's approach

Some ISPs are more aggressive in helping copyright owners than others. Cox Communications has said it has terminated Internet access of a tiny number of customers accused of multiple copyright violations. Qwest is apparently another ISP that takes a strong stand on protecting intellectual property.

Martinez said that any customer accused of violating copyright is notified by e-mail or letter before Qwest initiates any service interruption. The company works with customers who believe they are wrongly accused and it "routinely results in good resolutions" for all, she said. "We will work with them if there is a security issue or a mistake as much as we can," Martinez said. "What we can do is sometimes limited."

Those "limitations" may be how Paradiso nearly fell through the cracks. Qwest, however, doesn't appear to have acted hastily in Paradiso's situation.

The film industry began flagging her Internet protocol address in October. Before Qwest finally suspended her service, nearly three months had passed and 18 separate claims of copyright infringement had piled up.

Martinez declined to specify exactly what occurred in Paradiso's case, citing possible litigation. Paradiso, who said she never received any e-mails or letters from Qwest notifying her of the problem, has hired Lory Lybeck, the attorney representing Tanya Andersen, a woman wrongly accused by the music industry of illegal file sharing five years ago. Lybeck told CNET he is investigating Paradiso's case.

Do the companies that tracked file sharing back to Paradiso bear any responsibility for the mix-up? Mark Ishikawa, the CEO of BayTSP, an Internet security firm, says the answer is "no." Ishikawa notified Qwest that Paradiso's IP address was being used to download "South Park" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," both owned by Viacom.

Ishikawa said that BayTSP has systems in place that do multiple checks to ensure that the people fingered for piracy are correctly identified. He added that mistakes are very rare and those wrongly accused represent only a tiny fraction of the people flagged for illegal file sharing. But he says there isn't much anyone can do when a network is unsecured. "That's like leaving your keys in your car," Ishikawa said. "She essentially became the neighborhood's ISP."

Ishikawa raises an important question: is it right to penalize someone for not being tech-savvy enough to properly secure a wireless network?

Paradiso doesn't think so. She says she did her best to lock down her network, but she acknowledges that she's not an expert. She says there are lots of people who might have made the same mistake (Qwest is working to help her prevent any more security breaches). Paradiso, an artist who has sold several paintings, says that if one of the reasons for enlisting ISPs to help fight piracy is that it generates less public animosity than suing fans, then Hollywood loses those benefits when it falsely accuses people.

"I'm the last person that would steal somebody's art," Paradiso said. "I've never downloaded a movie or song in my life. I'm against it. After going through this, I realize this is the kind of thing that could really hurt artists. I'm so paranoid now, I won't buy music or movies online ever."

Below are recent e-mail exchanges between Qwest's employees to Paradiso. More to come.

From: Cathi [mailto:REDACTED]
Sent: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 9:37 PM
To: REDACTED, Howard
Cc: Martinez, Monica
Subject: Hey Howard

Thanks for your help. Sorry I missed your call. When you say the matter is resolved, does that mean I won't be getting any more threatening letters or does it mean my DSL is working again?

Cat Paradiso


-----Original Message-----
From: Howard [mailto:REDACTED@qwest.com]
Sent: Thursday, January 28, 2010 7:54 AM
To: 'Cathi'
Cc: Martinez, Monica
Subject: RE: Hey Howard

Well, it should be both! Since you're using only wired (Ethernet) connections for your computers the wireless light on your DSL modem should be out. Since this was the source of your problem...no more threatening letters. I like to call this a "win - win" ;-)


-----Original Message-----
From: REDACTED@qwest.net [mailto:REDACTED@qwest.net]
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 10:47 AM
To: REDACTED@msn.com; Cathi Paradiso
Subject: [REDACTED] DMCA Complaints - Update

Qwest: Hello,

In response to your email: (Editor's note: Qwest included the next paragraph that was sent to them by Paradiso): "This is NOT my IP address or port.. I NEVER NEVER NEVER download movies. The IP address below is included in a range of IP addresses owned by a school district in Colorado Springs. It appears they are the culprit and not me. I would like this matter resolved."

(Qwest's response) Your user ID is dynamic, meaning the IP can change frequently. If there is a connection with the school that means you have an unprotected wireless system that is being used to download these items. It is still your responsibility to protect and secure your computer. This is just the first time that your user ID has been placed into the Qwest Consumer Protection Program, but our policy does allow for permanent deactivation at some point. Please seek outside help if necessary. The entire list of 18 items was also resent to your email address today.

Here is a list of IP that user (REDACTED) has been logged in for the last 30 days: (REDACTED).


Police Arrest Several In File-Sharing Swoop

Following investigations carried out by the IFPI, police carried out several raids across Sweden yesterday, targeting individuals sharing thousands of music tracks via Direct Connect. The alleged operator of the hub was arrested while others admitted to copyright infringement offenses.

Yet again it appears that the music industry in Sweden has used the country’s IPRED legislation to force the police to take action against illicit file-sharers.

Speaking with Swedish Radio, Lars Gustafsson, chief executive of IFPI Sweden, said that recently his group had made 20 complaints against illicit file-sharers, but only five were considered to be on a large enough scale to warrant the police taking action.

The alleged large-scale file-sharers, suspected of making available between 9,000 and 17,000 music tracks each, were raided by police yesterday.

Five different locations including Gothenburg, Docksta, Handen and Upplands Väsby were targeted, resulting in the arrest of a 28 year-old man believed to be the hub owner. According to prosecutor Frederick Ingblad, the man accepted some responsibility but denied the charges.

The others, all accused of copyright infringement offenses, had their equipment confiscated. Ingblad reports that thus far, two have admitted making music available through the hub.

“This business is still too large. There are so many new and good options there is really no reason anymore for people to steal music,” IFPI’s Lars Gustafsson told DN.

Rick Falkvinge, leader of the Swedish Party, was critical of the raids, and of the IPRED legislation which made them possible.

“When the police go in and take people’s private computers because they have shared music, it’s completely wrong,” he said.

“Record companies are running with the same argument that publishers did when libraries came into being. They warned that no one would continue to write books if it was possible to borrow them for free.”

Sweden continues to be one of the most popular countries in the world when it comes to sharing via Direct Connect. Its users are a perfect target for the IFPI, since individuals tend to share their entire music collection in one place, which makes proving large-scale infringement a breeze.

Duly noted

UMG v. Lindor Ends, No Fees, No Sanctions

The 5-year-old case of UMG Recordings v. Lindor (which we've discussed all those years) has come to a close in Brooklyn, without ever reaching the deposition and document production of MediaSentry. The District Judge denied the RIAA's motions for discovery sanctions but granted the RIAA's motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice and without attorneys fees, adopting the report and recommendation of the Magistrate Judge.

Judge Tosses EMI’s Case Against Seeqpod Founders
Paul Bonanos

A U.S. District Court judge has thrown out a complaint by record label EMI against the founders of now-defunct music search engine Seeqpod, effectively ending a year-old case that attracted special attention because it also named as a defendant a developer who had used the company’s application programming interface (API). Earlier this week, Judge Laura Taylor Swain granted Seeqpod’s founders’ motion to dismiss the case against them, citing a lack of personal jurisdiction in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York.

In the suit, EMI had alleged copyright infringement by Seeqpod CEO Kasian Franks, two co-founding investors and Favtape developer Ryan Sit, who had built a playlist-sharing service on Seeqpod’s existing service using its API. The suit differed from a 2008 Warner Music Group claim against Seeqpod in that EMI’s complaint held individual people liable as well as their companies, specifically for providing links to unlawfully shared songs wherever they might lie on the web. This week’s dismissal resolves the case against the Seeqpod founders, who were defended by law firm Duane Morris; Sit was directed by the judge to appear at a future pre-trial conference, but without a successful claim against Seeqpod, the chances of a judgment against an API user appear quite slim.

Update: I have learned that co-defendant Ryan Sit has reached a settlement with EMI. Apart from a few final formalities, the case appears over.

Warner Music’s original case against Seeqpod was regarded as potentially precedent-setting in that it would have tested how the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act applied to search engines. But when Seeqpod was driven into bankruptcy last year, the labels’ cases against the startup were steered into legal limbo, where no judgment could be made against the company. (It’s now undergoing an asset sale to an unnamed Japanese media company, and Franks has moved on to other projects.) That didn’t end EMI’s personal cases against its founders, though, which carried on until this week. And while the potential still exists for EMI to pursue California-based Seeqpod’s founders individually in another jurisdiction, EMI likely had its best shot in New York, so it’s unlikely to take further steps against them.

iiNet Wins! Film Industry's Case Torn to Shreds
Brett Winterford

The Federal Court has dismissed the film industry's case against iiNet, finding that Australia's No.3 internet provider did not authorise copyright infringement on its network.

The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft representing the film industry, has been ordered to pay iiNet's costs. iiNet chief executive Michael Malone estimated that these costs add up to around $4 million.

"I find that iiNet simply can't be seen as approving infringement," said Justice Cowdroy.

Summarising a 200 page judgement, Justice Cowdroy found iiNet users had infringed copyright by downloading films on BitTorrent, but he found that the number of infringers was far less than alleged by AFACT.

More importantly, Justice Cowdroy said that the "mere provision of access to internet is not the means to infringement".

"Copyright infringement occured as result of use of BitTorrent, not the Internet," he said. "iiNet has no control over BitTorrent system and not responsible for BitTorrent system."

The fact worldwide piracy was rife "does not necessitate or compel a finding of authorisation, just because it is felt there is something that must be done", he said.

And he found that iiNet was "entitled to safe harbour" provisions because it had a policy on infringement, even if its policy didn't stand up to AFACT's standards.

iiNet CEO Michael Malone told iTnews he was "relieved".

"We are delighted with the result and largely just relieved that it is over," he said. "We welcome the outcome. We said from the beginning we did not believe we ever authorised copyright."

Malone said the case proved that AFACT's approach had "wasted a year" and not been constructive. He intends to now attempt to negotiate with film studios and other rights holders to sell their content legitimately through the ISP's "freezone".

AFACT executive director Neil Gane said outside the court that the film industry is "very disappointed" with the judgement. He said the Federal Government cannot stand by and watch Australian's infringe copyright "unabated".

"AFACT will spend the next few days deciding whether to appeal," he said.

Anti-RIAA Site Folds
David Kravets

Provocative website p2pnet.net, the online voice of one of the world’s most blistering and perpetual attacks on the Recording Industry Association of America, is shuttering amid financial doldrums. It’s been vocal for nine years.

“I can’t claim p2pnet has been protecting the world, but I’ve done my best to unspin some of the vested interest corporate spin, and expose a few of the lies and corruption,” the site’s voice and founder Jon Newton said in his “last post” Wednesday.

The Vancouver Island, British Columbia, huckster is looking for donations or even a partnership in hopes of reviving the site that has become infamous for its mocking portrayal of the RIAA, which consists of Vivendi Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music.

While Newton mocked the Motion Picture Association of America, the site is best remembered for referring to the RIAA as the “Big 4 Organized Music Cartel,” the “Multi-Billion-Dollar Big 4 Record Companies,” “Hate Organizations,” the “U.S. Spin Organization” and the “Curiously Named Recording Industry Association of America.”

Under the umbrella of the RIAA, the group the past six years has launched tens of thousands of lawsuits against file sharing individuals. Most settled out of court for a few thousand dollars while the two who went to trial were ordered to pay $1.92 million and $675,000. Just last week, a judge reduced the $1.92 million figure to $54,000 for sharing 24 songs on Kazaa.

“They hate anything which interfered with what they see as their God-given right to control how, and by whom, music is distributed online,” Newton wrote in a recent blog post. “They even hate the people who keep them in drugs and booze and who pay their bills.”

South Australian Government Gags Internet Debate

SOUTH Australia has become one of the few states in the world to censor the internet.

The new law, which came into force on January 6, requires anyone making an online comment about next month's state election to publish their real name and postcode.

The law will affect anyone posting a comment on an election story on The Advertiser's AdelaideNow website, as well as other Australian news sites.

It could also apply to election comment made on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The law, which was pushed through last year as part of a raft of amendments to the Electoral Act and supported by the Liberal Party, also requires media organisations to keep a person's real name and full address on file for six months, and they face fines of $5000 if they do not hand over this information to the Electoral Commissioner.

'Still free speech'

Attorney-General Michael Atkinson denied that the new law was an attack on free speech.

"The AdelaideNow website is not just a sewer of criminal defamation, it is a sewer of identity theft and fraud," Mr Atkinson said.

"There is no impinging on freedom of speech, people are free to say what they wish as themselves, not as somebody else."

Mr Atkinson also said he expected The Advertiser to target him for sponsoring the law.

"I am also certain that Advertiser Newspapers and News Limited will punish me personally, viciously for being the attorney-general responsible for this law," he said.

"You will publish false stories about me, invent things about me to punish me."

The Advertiser's editor, Melvin Mansell, said: "Clearly this is censorship being implemented by a government facing an election.

"The effect of that is that many South Australians are going to be robbed of their right of freedom of speech during this election campaign.

"The sad part is that this widespread suppression is supported by the Opposition.

"Neither of these parties are representing the people for whom they have been elected to govern."

The Right to Know Coalition, made up of Australia's major media outlets including News Limited, publisher of The Advertiser and parent company of news.com.au, has called the new laws "draconian".

"This is one of the most troubling erosions of the right to free speech in Australia for many years," Right to Know spokeswoman Creina Chapman said.

Ms Chapman also pointed out that newspaper blogs such as AdelaideNow were moderated and publishers and broadcasters took responsibility for the material they published.

Liberal doubts

Opposition justice spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said yesterday while the Liberal Party had supported the amendment to the Electoral Act, she believed it would be too broad to implement if it included Facebook and Twitter.

Ms Chapman said Mr Atkinson should introduce a regulation to limit its scope.

"It is clearly not the intention of what we understood that to be," she said.

The SA law - which could also apply to talkback radio - differs from federal legislation, which preserves the right of internet users to blog under a pseudonym.

The law will apply as soon as the writs for the March 20 election are issued. The writs for the election can be issued any time between now and 25 days before the election. The law will then lapse at 6pm on polling day.

Mr Atkinson said there was no intention to broaden the law to take it beyond the period of elections.

Internet Uprising Overturns Australian Censorship Law
Nate Anderson

The state of South Australia has a new election law that went into effect January 6, and its effect was shocking: anonymous political speech on the Internet was simply destroyed.

The law required anyone posting a political comment online during an election period to supply their real name and address or face a fine of up to AUS$1,250. The measure was grossly discriminatory—it applied only to bloggers and commenters, not to online "journals" (newspapers or magazine which are written by Real Journalists).

Politicians had apparently developed a thin skin to anonymous commentary, some of which no doubt did devolve into rank defamation, but Australia already has defamation laws that could be used against truly egregious material. Ending online anonymous speech was an extreme solution, one not appreciated by the targets of the law.

AdelaideNow was one of the main sites caught in the crosshairs. The site provides a forum for discussion of local affairs, and it railed in an editorial this morning about the rule, both for practical and principled reasons.

"It's hard to imagine South Australia's Electoral Commissioner will prowl the Internet day after day during the election campaign policing such a ridiculous law," said the paper. "Realistically and logically, there is no need. All blogs and comments published on AdelaideNow are moderated. Broadcasters monitor and moderate what is broadcast. All also abide by extensive laws that prevent the publication or broadcast of defamatory and other illegal material."

Then came the expected comparison to China; "It is instructive that similar laws were also enacted in China last year, a country which has yet to embrace free speech."

The law was backed by South Australia's Attorney General, Michael Atkinson. Atkinson took the radio yesterday to defend the new rule, saying that anonymity was being used by political opponents to attack him in secret.

"I'll give you an example: repeatedly in the AdelaideNow website one will see commentary from Aaron Fornarino of West Croydon. That person doesn't exist," Atkinson said on the air. "That name has been created by the Liberal Party in order to run Liberal Party commentary."

This morning, AdelaideNow took great delight in posting a picture of Fornarino posing with a Mac and his young daughter. He's a second-year law student who moved to the area last year and "lives in a flat on Port Rd, about 500m from Mr. Atkinson's electorate office."
The fine art of the "backdown"

The cries of the outraged citizenry have had an effect. While defending the new rules as recently as yesterday, Atkinson suddenly backed off from them today. He sent a statement to AdelaideNow, one remarkable for its candor.

"From the feedback we've received through AdelaideNow, the blogging generation believes that the law supported by all MPs and all political parties is unduly restrictive. I have listened. I will immediately after the election move to repeal the law retrospectively... It may be humiliating for me, but that's politics in a democracy and I'll take my lumps."

South Australia's Premier, Mike Rann, knows his way around the tweet-o-sphere, and he backed up Atkinson's comments with his own Twitter commentary.

"For many young people, and even the not so young, internet is their parliament of ideas and information," said one. Then, immediately after: "AG has listened. So no debate will be stifled. No political censorship of blogs or on-line comments whether named or anon."

So—a victory for people power? Sure. But don't let one bad law obscure the point that anonymous activity really can lead to problems (see malware, creation and distribution of). Case in point: Engadget today took the dramatic step of actually turning off its comments after they became "mean, ugly, pointless, and frankly threatening in some situations" over the last few days.

At least they left us with an awesome picture involving lasers and dinosaurs—and at least the government wasn't mandating the action.

Italy Plans to Extend TV Rules to Web Videos
Stacy Meichtry and Giada Zampano

Italy's government is forging ahead with plans to extend television-broadcasting regulations to Web sites that host videos, marking one of the most sweeping attempts by a Western government to tighten control over the use of video on the Internet.

The draft decree, expected to take effect early this month, would force sites such as Google Inc.'s YouTube to operate more like traditional TV broadcasters within Italian borders.

It seeks to "establish a principle," Paolo Romani, Italy's deputy minister of communications, said in an interview. "If you use copyrighted material, your site becomes an editorial product, a broadcaster that is placed at the same level as other broadcasters."

Under the proposed rules, sites would have to gain permission to host copyrighted videos, such as TV programs, that users often post on sites like YouTube. They would also be required to obtain broadcasting licenses from Mr. Romani's office, and would become liable for any libelous material in posted videos.

Infringements could lead to fines and lawsuits for libel and copyright infringement, according to a copy of the draft decree reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The Italian plan is the first time a European government has tried to hold Internet companies responsible for content generated by users, said Stefan Krawczyk, a spokesman for the European Digital Media Association, a trade group whose members include Google, Yahoo Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

"This is really serious, because it sets a precedent. Today it's Italy, and tomorrow it may be Latvia or Greece or Denmark," Mr. Krawczyk said, adding that the association sent a letter of complaint to Rome and to regulators in Brussels.

Mr. Romani said the decree was a response to a European Commission directive to bring national regulations in line with European Union norms aimed at lowering barriers to the sale of ads, films and TV rights.

But Internet executives said the directive states that EU norms shouldn't change the way governments regulate video Web sites.

"Any kind of legal framework which is trying to apply the same rules of traditional media to subjects like us," said Marco Pancini, Google's senior policy counsel in Italy, "would make it almost impossible to invest to develop this kind of technology." Stefano Parisi, chief executive of Internet service provider Fastweb SpA, said, the decree "is just adding more bureaucratic hurdles for companies operating in a rapidly developing market."

Last month, Google and Yahoo executives raised objections to the decree in a meeting with Mr. Romani. He said he assured them that the decree would be revised so that "individual bloggers" wouldn't fall under the regulatory framework.

The Italian move comes as Google is entangled in controversies with other governments. Google recently threatened to pull out of China after accusing the Chinese government of conducting cyberattacks on its users. In December, a Paris court convicted the company of copyright infringement for scanning books and making extracts available online. Google is appealing.

Italy, even before the proposed new rules, was already going further than most Western countries to hold Web sites accountable for content.

Google executives are on trial in Milan for defamation. Prosecutors say they failed to properly vet a video posted on a Google-run Web site showing the bullying of a disabled child that was uploaded by one of his tormentors. Google's lawyers say they can't be held liable for videos posted by users and that the Web site removed the video after being notified by authorities.

Separately, a Milan court recently ordered YouTube to take down clips from a TV program produced by Mediaset SpA. The judge in the case said that YouTube made illicit use of copyrighted programming of the broadcaster, owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Google has said it will appeal.

The decree could also spur video sites and TV broadcasters to adopt content-sharing deals—such as the one between state broadcaster RAI and YouTube. Andrea Portanti, a director in Radio Audizione Italiane's Internet division, said RAI could more easily take legal action against other Web sites posting RAI videos. "You have more opportunity to nail them," he said.

Opposition Attacks Belarus Internet Crackdown
Tatiana Kalinovskaya

Journalists and opposition figures Tuesday attacked an order signed by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko to monitor Internet use as a fatal blow for the country's last independent media.

The order, signed by Lukashenko on Monday, forces Internet providers to store data on users and the sites they view and hand it to law enforcement agencies on request.

"It's complete control of information," said Andrei Bastunets, the deputy chairman of the Belarussian Association of Journalists. "After all, apart from the Internet, Belarus practically has no free media."

Lukashenko recently set up an "analysis centre" to distribute domain names in Belarus and define what information could be made available on the Internet.

Under the new decree, service providers must block access to a website within 24 hours if asked to do so by the centre.

Natalya Radina, the administrator of the former Soviet republic's most popular opposition website charter97, criticized the decree, which allows sites to be blocked on users' requests if they "promote extremism."

"They can block access to our site 'on the request of the workers' at absolutely any moment," she told AFP.

Lukashenko will be able to use the order to curb opposition activity in the run-up to the next presidential elections in 2011, Radina said.

"In order to stop dissatisfied people joining forces and taking to the streets en masse, as happened in 2006, Lukashenko will be able to close down opposition sites."

Lukashenko was re-elected in 2006 in a much-disputed vote that sparked protests in the Belarussian capital Minsk and led to the arrests of hundreds of opposition activists.

The leader of the opposition United Civil Party, Anatoly Lebedko, also linked the crackdown to Lukashenko's upcoming campaign.

"People en masse are turning to the Internet for information, and the closer the elections, the more people will do this," Lebedko told AFP.

"I see this order as an interim stage on the way to a complete monopoly on information on the Internet."

In a December interview, Lukashenko had criticized the "dirt that flows from the Internet."

"The government needs to react to what is going on with the Internet and we will react to this," he told Belarussian journalists.

Most independent newspapers in Belarus have closed down and there are no independent television or radio stations, making the Internet a key source of information under the country's authoritarian regime.

Lukashenko -- once dubbed Europe's last dictator by the United States -- has ruled the ex-Soviet republic of 10 million people since 1994 but has now made attempts at greater openness.

He hired a western PR firm to improve his country's image and began cautious economic reforms.

The president has sought to reach out to the European Union, a switch in policy that has caused some irritation in Belarus' main economic backer Moscow.

Although he has over the last year fired a succession of barbs at Russia, analysts believe it will be impossible for Belarus to abandon its hitherto close partnership with Russia.

Rulings Leave Online Student Speech Rights Unresolved
David Kravets

Do American students have First Amendment rights beyond the schoolyard gates?

The answer is yes and no, according to two conflicting federal appellate decisions Thursday testing student speech in the online world.

“Ultimately, the Supreme Court is going to have to decide if there ever is a time students have full-fledged First Amendment rights,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of Virginia-Based Student Press Law Center. He’s one of the attorneys in the cases the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never squarely addressed the parameters of off-campus, online student speech, but might soon. So far, lower courts appear to be guided by a 1969 high court ruling saying student expression may not be suppressed unless school officials reasonably conclude that it will “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.”

In that landmark case, the Supreme Court said students had a First Amendment right to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. But that precedent, which addressed on-campus speech, is now being applied to students’ online speech four decades later.
One of the cases favoring student speech decided Thursday concerns a senior and honors student. In 2005, the Pennsylvania high school student was suspended 10 days after he created a mock MySpace profile of his principal.

The profile said the principal took drugs and kept beer at his desk. A federal judge overturned the suspension, ruling last year the fake profile was not created at school and did not create a “substantial disruption” at school.

“Public schools are vital institutions, but their reach is not unlimited,” U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry of Pennsylvania ruled. On appeal, the 3rd Circuit agreed, saying Thursday “the reach of school authorities is not without limits.”

The other case decided Thursday, by a different three-judge panel from the same circuit, went against a 14-year-old Pennsylvania junior high student. She mocked her principal with a fake MySpace profile. The 2007 profile insinuated the principal was a sex addict and pedophile.

She was suspended for 10 days. Her parents sued, citing the child’s First Amendment rights.

On appeal, the the 3rd Circuit noted that teachers complained that, among other things, the profile disrupted the classroom because students were talking about the profile rather than paying attention to class.

“We decline to say that simply because the disruption to the learning environment originates from a computer located off campus, the school should be left powerless to discipline the student,” the three-judge circuit panel wrote.

Dozens of similar cases scatter the federal courts. LoMonte, of the Student Press Law Center, said the only other appellate decision on the matter concerns a Connecticut high school junior punished for calling school officials “douchebags” in her blog.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld her punishment of being forbidden to run for a class office. The court reheard the case last month. A decision is pending.

Indiscrete Web Browsers Assist De-Anonymisation

Using the information entered by visitors, the research team hopes to find out how reliable the test really is. Vergrößern A test on browser fingerprinting by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has shown how uniquely identifiable a user's browser is on the web. What that test is unable to do is to identify individual users. This, however, is the goal of an experiment by the International Secure Systems Lab (Isec Lab). Originally founded by the Vienna University of Technology (TUV), Isec Lab is now a collaborative venture between TUV, Eurécom and the University of California in Santa Barbara. The test makes use of Xing, a platform widely-used in Europe on which many millions of users have published profiles.

The test essentially exploits the fact that many Xing users are identifiable by their membership of various groups. According to Thorsten Holz, one of the researchers who designed the experiment, there are very few people on any social network who belong to exactly the same groups. A 'group fingerprint' could thus allow websites to identify previously anonymous visitors.

However, a little spadework is required in order to access this information. The researchers have crawled as many Xing groups and their associated forums as possible in order to obtain an overview of Xing users and to collect URLs for the test proper. They have found roughly 1.8 million users organised into around 7,000 groups.

The second step is the actual test. Using special calls by the website within the browser, a website can determine whether a specific site on another server has previously been viewed by a visitor (this technique is known as history stealing). This enables the test to determine which group pages a user has visited. For each group found, the test now checks whether the current visitor is a particular member of the group (on the forum) by again checking through the previously collected URLs. The fact that social networks contain unique URLs, such as personal profile pages, should also make it possible to more or less unambiguously identify someone.

According to the report, in order to determine a user's 'group fingerprint', the test only needs to check around 92,000 URLs, which takes less than a minute. By correlating the data, it is possible to further tighten the circle so that frequently only a single user remains. Isec Labs states that initial practical tests have given good results, but notes that so far only 30 tests have been carried out. A quick test by the The H's associates at heise Security found that in two cases the experiment failed to return any results – although the users were members of Xing groups, they were either not active in the forums or had recently cleared their browser history. In one case, however, the test returned two names, one of which was the user's.

According to Holz, other large social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook could also be used for this type of test, although the shear size of these networks and the resulting data volumes would present a problem. He adds that the team has, using two computers, already found more than 40 million profiles on Facebook and that, with better equipment, it would probably be possible to crawl all of Facebook.

Gilbert Wondracek, Thorsten Holz, Engin Kirda and Christopher Kruegel describe the principles of the test in full in "A Practical Attack to De-Anonymize Social Network Users". The paper also describes practical remedies for protecting against this kind of de-anonymisation attack, all of which are aimed at hampering history stealing. On the server-side, operators could insert random tokens into URLs, making it much more difficult to probe URLs at a later date. Client-side, users can block access to browser history by, for example, visiting certain sites in incognito mode, using protective plug-ins such as NoScript for Firefox or regularly clearing their history.

The authors have also made the test publicly available. The test requires users to reveal some information on how much they use Xing and groups. After completing the test, a second form asks users to reveal whether they have been (uniquely) identified. Holz points out that none of the data collected is stored or used for other purposes, and that the group is merely interested in voluntary feedback from readers/testers.

Police Want Backdoor to Web Users' Private Data
Declan McCullagh

Anyone with an e-mail account likely knows that police can peek inside it if they have a paper search warrant.

But cybercrime investigators are frustrated by the speed of traditional methods of faxing, mailing, or e-mailing companies these documents. They're pushing for the creation of a national Web interface linking police computers with those of Internet and e-mail providers so requests can be sent and received electronically.

CNET has reviewed a survey scheduled to be released at a federal task force meeting on Thursday, which says that law enforcement agencies are virtually unanimous in calling for such an interface to be created. Eighty-nine percent of police surveyed, it says, want to be able to "exchange legal process requests and responses to legal process" through an encrypted, police-only "nationwide computer network."

The survey, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, is part of a broader push from law enforcement agencies to alter the ground rules of online investigations. Other components include renewed calls for laws requiring Internet companies to store data about their users for up to five years and increased pressure on companies to respond to police inquiries in hours instead of days.

But the most controversial element is probably the private Web interface, which raises novel security and privacy concerns, especially in the wake of a recent inspector general's report from the Justice Department. The 289-page report detailed how the FBI obtained Americans' telephone records by citing nonexistent emergencies and simply asking for the data or writing phone numbers on a sticky note rather than following procedures required by law.

Some companies already have police-only Web interfaces. Sprint Nextel operates what it calls the L-Site, also known as the "legal compliance secure Web portal." The company even has offered a course that "will teach you how to create and track legal demands through L-site. Learn to navigate and securely download requested records." Cox Communications makes its price list for complying with police requests public; a 30-day wiretap is $3,500.

The police survey is not exactly unbiased: its author is Frank Kardasz, who is scheduled to present it at a meeting of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Kardasz, a sergeant in the Phoenix police department and a project director of Arizona's Internet Crimes Against Children task force, said in an e-mail exchange on Tuesday that he is still revising the document and was unable to discuss it.

In an incendiary October 2009 essay, however, Kardasz wrote that Internet service providers that do not keep records long enough "are the unwitting facilitators of Internet crimes against children" and called for new laws to "mandate data preservation and reporting." He predicts that those companies will begin to face civil lawsuits because of their "lethargic investigative process."

"It sounds very dangerous," says Lee Tien, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, referring to the police-only Web interface. "Let's assume you set this sort of thing up. What does that mean in terms of what the law enforcement officer be able to do? Would they be able to fish through transactional information for anyone? I don't understand how you create a system like this without it."

What police see in ISPs

Kardasz's survey, based on questionnaires completed by 100 police investigators, says that 61 percent of them had their investigations harmed "because data was not retained" and only 40 percent were satisfied with the timeliness of responses from Internet providers.

It also says: "89 percent of investigators agreed that a nationwide computer network should be established for the purpose of linking ISPs with law enforcement agencies so that they may exchange legal process requests and responses to legal process. Authorized users would communicate through encrypted virtual private networks in order to maintain the security of the data."

Some of the responses to other questions: "AT&T is very prompt." "Cox Communications seems to be the worst." "Places like Yahoo can take a month for basic subscriber info which is also a problem." "AT&T Mobility does not keep a log at all." "MySpace give (sic) me the quickest response and they have been very pro-police."

Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, said in an interview with CNET on Tuesday that: "You can be very supportive of law enforcement investigations and at the same time be very cognizant and supportive of the privacy rights of our users. Every time a legal process comes in, whether it's a subpoena or a search order, we do a legal review to make sure it's appropriate."

Nigam said that MySpace accepts law enforcement requests through e-mail, fax, and postal mail, and that it has a 24-hour operations center that tries to respond to requests soon after they've been reviewed to make sure state and federal laws are being followed. MySpace does not have a police-only Web interface, he said.

Creating a national police-only network would be problematic, Nigam said. "I wish I knew the number of local police agencies in the country, or even police officers in the country," he said. "Right there that would tell you how difficult it would be to implement, even though ideally it would be a good thing."

Another obstacle to creating a nation-wide Web interface for cops--one wag has dubbed it "DragNet," and another "Porknet"--is that some of its thousands of users could be infected by viruses and other malware. Once an infected computer is hooked up to the national network, it could leak confidential information about ongoing investigations.

Jim Harper, a policy analyst at the free-market Cato Institute, says that he welcomes the idea of a police-only Web interface as long as it's designed carefully. "A system like this should have strong logins, should require that the request be documented fully, and should produce statistical information so there can be strong oversight," he says. "I think that's a good thing to have."

FBI Wants Records Kept of Web Sites Visited
Declan McCullagh

The FBI is pressing Internet service providers to record which Web sites customers visit and retain those logs for two years, a requirement that law enforcement believes could help it in investigations of child pornography and other serious crimes.

FBI Director Robert Mueller supports storing Internet users' "origin and destination information," a bureau attorney said at a federal task force meeting on Thursday.

As far back as a 2006 speech, Mueller had called for data retention on the part of Internet providers, and emphasized the point two years later when explicitly asking Congress to enact a law making it mandatory. But it had not been clear before that the FBI was asking companies to begin to keep logs of what Web sites are visited, which few if any currently do.

The FBI is not alone in renewing its push for data retention. As CNET reported earlier this week, a survey of state computer crime investigators found them to be nearly unanimous in supporting the idea. Matt Dunn, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in the Department of Homeland Security, also expressed support for the idea during the task force meeting.

Greg Motta, the chief of the FBI's digital evidence section, said that the bureau was trying to preserve its existing ability to conduct criminal investigations. Federal regulations in place since at least 1986 require phone companies that offer toll service to "retain for a period of 18 months" records including "the name, address, and telephone number of the caller, telephone number called, date, time and length of the call."

At Thursday's meeting of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, which was created by Congress and organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Motta stressed that the bureau was not asking that content data, such as the text of e-mail messages, be retained.

"The question at least for the bureau has been about non-content transactional data to be preserved: transmission records, non-content records...addressing, routing, signaling of the communication," Motta said. Director Mueller recognizes, he added "there's going to be a balance of what industry can bear...He recommends origin and destination information for non-content data."

Motta pointed to a 2006 resolution from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which called for the "retention of customer subscriber information, and source and destination information for a minimum specified reasonable period of time so that it will be available to the law enforcement community."

Recording what Web sites are visited, though, is likely to draw both practical and privacy objections.

"We're not set up to keep URL information anywhere in the network," said Drew Arena, Verizon's vice president and associate general counsel for law enforcement compliance.

And, Arena added, "if you were do to deep packet inspection to see all the URLs, you would arguably violate the Wiretap Act."

Another industry representative with knowledge of how Internet service providers work was unaware of any company keeping logs of what Web sites its customers visit.

If logs of Web sites visited began to be kept, they would be available only to local, state, and federal police with legal authorization such as a subpoena or search warrant.

What remains unclear are the details of what the FBI is proposing. The possibilities include requiring an Internet provider to log the Internet protocol (IP) address of a Web site visited, or the domain name such as cnet.com, a host name such as news.cnet.com, or the actual URL such as http://reviews.cnet.com/Music/2001-6450_7-0.html.

While the first three categories could be logged without doing deep packet inspection, the fourth category would require it. That could run up against opposition in Congress, which lambasted the concept in a series of hearings in 2008, causing the demise of a company, NebuAd, which pioneered it inside the United States.

The technical challenges also may be formidable. John Seiver, an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine who represents cable providers, said one of his clients had experience with a law enforcement request that required the logging of outbound URLs.

"Eighteen million hits an hour would have to have been logged," a staggering amount of data to sort through, Seiver said. The purpose of the FBI's request was to identify visitors to two URLs, "to try to find out...who's going to them."

A Justice Department representative said the department does not have an official position on data retention.

Disclosure: The author of this story participated in the meeting of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, though after the law enforcement representatives spoke.

President Obama Reinforces His Belief in Net Neutrality
Chris Naoum

As a follow-up to President Obama’s State of the Union Speech last week, Obama sat down with YouTube’s news and political director Steve Grove to answer questions submitted and voted on by users of YouTube, which is owned by Google. The total number of votes cast were 774,450, on 14,476 questions, from nearly 65,000 users.

The number one question in the “jobs and economy” category came from James Earlywine of Indianapolis, who asked: “An open internet is a powerful engine for economic growth and new jobs. Letting large companies block and filter online content and services would stifle needed growth. What is your commitment to keeping the Internet open and neutral in America?”

“I’m a big believer in Net Neutrality,” said Obama.

“I campaigned on this. I continue to be a strong supporter of it. My FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has indicated that he shares the view that we’ve got to keep the Internet open, that we don’t want to create a bunch of gateways that prevent somebody who doesn’t have a lot of money but has a good idea from being able to start their next YouTube or their next Google on the Internet.”

He continued, “This is something we’re committed to. We’re getting pushback, obviously, from some of the bigger carriers who would like to be able to charge more fees and extract more money from wealthier customers. But we think that runs counter to the whole spirit of openness that has made the Internet such a powerful engine for not only economic growth, but also for the generation of ideas and creativity.”

Curran Uses Clinton Speech to Criticise ACTA, s92A

Labour's ICT spokeswoman questions disconnection penalty
Stephen Bell

Opposition ICT spokesperson Clare Curran is using Hillary Clinton’s recent speech on internet freedom to renew criticism of Section 92A of New Zealand’s Copyright Act and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

Clinton, speaking in Washington in the wake of attacks allegedly by the Chinese government on the sites of major US companies and local dissidents, compared “the freedom to connect — the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other” to the basic right of freedom of assembly in the physical world.

“I’ve been writing quite a bit about this,” Curran wrote on the Labour Party’s RedAlert blog recently “and thinking about the wider issue of the right of our citizens to equitably access the internet (which implies that they shouldn’t be cut off from access).”

Section 92A, in spite of being considerably liberalised in its second draft, still retains the ultimate penalty of disconnection from the internet for six months for the offence of repeatedly trading copyright material on the internet. The draft Bill is yet to go through the Parliamentary process.

Disconnection penalties for illicit copying are also “considered by some to be included in ACTA drafts,” says Curran. The matter is discussed in some leaked documents surrounding the ACTA negotiations, but it is unclear whether they will form part of the final treaty, which, according to New Zealand’s negotiating team, is far from being settled.

The subject of ACTA is topical, with a negotiating session taking place in Guadalajara, Mexico last week, as Curran published her blog comment. The next round of negotiations, in April, will be in Wellington.

The Ministry of Economic Development this month published the slides from its brief discussion of ACTA with local interested parties late last year (Computerworld, December 16, 2009). These emphasise that New Zealand is one of the negotiating countries in favour of greater transparency in negotiations previously criticised as secretive.

Transparency is on the agenda for the last day of the Guadalajara discussion (January 29).

“At the moment it seems like many of the [negotiating] countries are saying they’re calling for more transparency, but they have to get the others to agree,” Curran says.

“The big question is, is this a tactic to make it look as though they take it seriously, or is it real?”

ACTA Progress in Mexico, But no Consensus

Calls for transparency make little headway
Stephen Bell Wellington

Only partial progress can be expected on the contentious question of penalties for digital intellectual property infringement at the upcoming Wellington meeting on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, scheduled for April.

George Wardle at the Ministry of Economic Development, one of New Zealand’s two chief negotiators, estimates that it will be six months before the “digital enforcement” section of the agreement is settled.

Parties only got “about halfway” through the draft texts on that matter at their meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico last week, he says.

“There are three different proposals on the table on matters of digital enforcement and safe harbours,” Wardle says and a fourth is in the process of formulation by one of the parties to the negotiations. They vary in substance and possible implications for participating nations, he says.

“We made some progress."

Last year an MED spokesman close to the negotiations expressed confidence that the law being formulated under Section 92A of New Zealand’s Copyright Act would answer the demands of ACTA.

“We’re mindful to ensure that the measures New Zealand is developing in s92A will not be impacted,” Wardle said today.

Even the scope of ACTA’s intellectual property coverage is not yet settled. Some are in favour of extending it beyond trademarks and copyright to include patents as well.

New Zealand’s Patents Bill is awaiting a report back from Select Committee, with open-source software lobbies in particular apprehensive about software continuing to be patentable.

More transparency in regard to the negotiations – long criticised as too secretive – was discussed at Guadalajara, but again no consensus was reached, Wardle says. Some national representatives, including NZ’s, are in favour of disclosing some of the documents from ACTA meetings and apparently they have won some ground.

“A number of parties previously opposed to sharing documents seem to have pulled back from that position,” Wardle says, but others are still insisting that the discussions be protected by non-disclosure agreements.

Between the formal meetings, parties are continuing to discuss ways of achieving more openness, Wardle says.

Which countries are taking a hard line on non-disclosure?

“I can’t tell you, because of the non-disclosure agreements,” he says.

Will Your Big-Screen Super Bowl Party Violate Copyright Law?
Nate Anderson

An offhand comment the other day by a friend caught my attention—"Did you know that you can't watch the Super Bowl on a TV screen larger than 55 inches? Yeah, it's right there in the law."

With the Colts and Saints set to do battle in Super Bowl XLIV, this seemed worth looking into as a public service. Could it be that some of those giant flat panel TV sets now finding their way into US living rooms are actually violating copyright law?

Yes, it's in the law—sort of

Copyright law has a huge range of exemptions (like face-to-face classroom teaching), limitations (like fair use), and compulsory licensing schemes (like paying songwriters when you perform a cover version of a tune). Some are well known, but most are of interest only to specialists.

US Code Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 110 is called "Limitations on exclusive rights: exemption of certain performances and displays," and it lays out 12 of these exemptions to copyright restrictions. Are 55+ inch TVs mentioned specifically? They certainly are.

TV broadcasts and movie showings can only be displayed so long as "no such audiovisual device has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches, and any audio portion of the performance or display is communicated by means of a total of not more than 6 loudspeakers." So there it is in black and white—a ban on big TVs!

Sort of. While my friend was right about what's contained in the law, it's important to put the words in context. In this case, the context is exemption number five, which deals with TVs. The exemption opens by saying that turning on a TV set in one's house does not incur any sort of "public performance" liability under copyright law. So long as you're using a set that can reasonably be described as "a single receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes," you're in the clear.

(Okay, not completely. You cannot make a "direct charge" to "see or hear the transmission," though you can apparently ask friends to cover the cost of food and drink. You also cannot further transmit the broadcast "to the public," so diverting a live video stream onto the Internet and streaming it to the world is right out. Otherwise, you're fine.)

The rest of exemption five lays out a host of limitations to the exemption (yes, it's a bit confusing), but they all apply to "an establishment"—a public gathering place, not a home. The rules get remarkably specific, apply differently to small and large venues, and come with restrictions on how many TVs or radios can be used in a place of business without running into trouble.

The "55 inch" language applies to large establishments of more than a few thousand square feet. Such places can show the big game on a TV set, but only if they don't use "more than 4 audiovisual devices, of which not more than 1 audiovisual device is located in any 1 room, and no such audiovisual device has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches, and any audio portion of the performance or display is communicated by means of a total of not more than 6 loudspeakers, of which not more than 4 loudspeakers are located in any 1 room or adjoining outdoor space."

Translation: if you want to stick a bunch of TVs in a single public room (like a sports bar) or put up massive 80 inch panels in your fraternal organization, you'll need to negotiate some sort of arrangement with the copyright holder.

It all sounds boring and academic, but the NFL famously made waves back in 2007 when it went after an Indianapolis church for hosting a Super Bowl party. Fall Creek Baptist Church planned to 1) charge admission to cover the food bill and 2) show the game on a giant projector system of more than 55 inches. Both were no-nos. In the wake of the NFL's threat, churches around the country canceled get-togethers that year.

Though it was in fact written into copyright law, the NFL's action generated such bad press that several US Senators pressured the league to change its enforcement practices, law or no law. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, now D-PA) even introduced S. 2591, a bill which singled out "professional football contests" and allowed nonprofit groups to show the games on any size screen.

The bill went nowhere, but the NFL did call an audible. In late 2008, the league announced that it was changing its ways and would no longer go after churches simply for using a 55+ inch screen.

The league is also a big fan of trademark law, which it uses to attack any company using the terms "Super Bowl," "NFL," or "Super Sunday" in its advertising. To the NFL, such commercial uses of its trademarks are an attempt to create the impression of a relationship with the league, and this can lower the value of such relationships—one which "official sponsors" pay millions of dollars a year to maintain.

The led many advertisers to promote sales and special offers tied to "the Big Game" instead. So, in 2006, the NFL also filed for a trademark on "the Big Game." It backed off when Stanford and Cal objected; the two universities had called their own annual football game "the Big Game" for a hundred years already.

After Weeks of Furor, Public Gets to See Tebow Ad

No one except a few insiders has seen it. Yet a ''Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life'' ad featuring football star Tim Tebow and paid for by a conservative Christian group is already perhaps the most hotly debated Super Bowl commercial ever.
When the 30-second ad finally airs in the first quarter of Sunday's CBS telecast -- at a cost estimated at $2.5 million -- it's expected to show the devout quarterback and his mother, Pam, sharing the story of how she gave birth to him in the Philippines in 1987 after spurning a doctor's advice to have an abortion for medical reasons.

In the past two weeks, as news of the ad spread, it has generated a vast, often passionate national discussion -- the subject of countless newspaper columns, blogs and tweets, and fodder for dozens of advocacy groups to spar over abortion, women's rights and free speech.

Broadcasting and marketing experts say it's the first politically tinged advocacy ad ever with a national buy on a Super Bowl. The audience is projected at 100 million viewers.

The idea for ad originated last year with a staff member at Focus on the Family, an evangelical Christian organization based in Colorado Springs, Colo., that provides advice on marriage and parenting, and also has campaigned vigorously against abortion, same-sex marriage and comprehensive sex-education.

Focus found willing partners in Pam Tebow, a missionary and evangelist, and her youngest son, Tim, whose Heisman Trophy-winning career at Florida was interspersed with missionary outreach of his own.

Only on Jan. 15 did plans for the ad become public, when Focus issued a press release about it. Initially, Focus was coy about the ad's precise message, but president and CEO Jim Daly was more explicit in a video posted online Thursday.

''Over 50 million children have lost their lives due to abortion,'' Daly said. ''We simply want to ask people the question: Can we do better? I think we can.''

The controversy over the ad was slow to build but ignited on Jan. 25 when the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other liberal women's groups launched a protest campaign aimed at pressuring CBS to scrap the ad. Abortion-rights advocates joined in.

''We support every woman's ability to make the decisions that are best for her and her family,'' said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. ''But Focus on the Family wants to take options away from women.''

Anti-abortion groups and other conservative activists swiftly mounted a counterattack, denouncing the campaign against the ad as a clumsy attempt to squelch free speech. But the ensuing back-and-forth did not break down neatly along ideological lines.

The New York Times, for example, supports abortion rights in its editorials, but disagreed with those calling for the ad to be withdrawn.

''Viewers can watch and judge for themselves,'' the Times said. ''Or they can get up from the couch and get a sandwich.''

Other examples of how the controversy has played out:

-- In Michigan, a Republican congressional candidate, former NFL player Jay Riemersma, plans to host a pre-Super Bowl rally Sunday in support of the ad.

-- Planned Parenthood, which supports abortion rights and often spars with Focus on the Family, produced an online video response to the Tebow ad. It features former NFL player Sean James and Olympic Gold medal winner Al Joyner talking about the importance of women being able to make their own health decisions without government interference.

-- The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, launched a Web site called blockhardfortebow.com, and said more than 50,000 people submitted comments in support of Tebow and the TV ad.

All along, CBS stuck by its decision to air the ad, while announcing that it would be receptive to other ''responsibly produced'' advocacy ads -- a shift from a past policy that kept Super Bowl commercial time free from political and ideological messages.
''CBS is potentially going to revolutionize network advertising for big events with this,'' said Charles Taylor, professor of marketing at Villanova School of Business. ''I'd hate to see an event like the Super Bowl become partly an advocacy contest.''

In the future, Taylor said, Super Bowl broadcasters might face demands for air time from opposing sides on divisive issues.

There have been plenty of past controversies over Super Bowl ads, but generally it's been a question of taste, or lack of it

The Go Daddy Group Inc., for example, welcomes debate over its risque ads. This year, it has made available online a provocative spot that was rejected by CBS -- featuring a fictional ex-NFL player savoring his new career as an effeminate lingerie designer.

After the 2007 Super Bowl, the General Motors Corp. drew criticism from a suicide prevention group for showing a robot jumping off a bridge in a dream sequence after messing up on the job.

According to a Marist poll released Friday, Americans are conflicted about some of the issues raised by the ad brouhaha.

Asked about advocacy ads during the Super Bowl, 49 percent of the poll respondents said they were inappropriate and 44 percent said they were acceptable. But 60 percent supported the decision by CBS to air the Tebow ad.

Like the ad or not, it will appear Sunday evening, along with pitches for beer and soft drinks, cars and candy bars, Denny's restaurants and the new ''Dante's Inferno'' video game. Among the many Americans who annually watch partly because of the ads, there's been some notes of regret.

''The Super Bowl is a time for football and idiotic, lighthearted commercials,'' wrote freshman Lauren Hadley in the University of South Carolina's student paper. ''It's not the appropriate time to preach ethics and morals to America.''

To Combat Piracy, UCLA Reaches for the Clicker
Jon Healey

One of the lessons I've learned from talking to college students is that file-sharing is a habit, not a religion. When presented with a better alternative, students will often embrace it -- even if it's (gasp!) completely legal. Provided that it's free, of course. The trick is to make sure the alternative fits as well into their daily routine as the sources they're using today, whether they be file-sharing networks or bootleg streaming sites.

UCLA has apparently come to the same conclusion. On Tuesday, the university is unveiling a new feature for its My UCLA portal: a customized version of Clicker's program guide for online video. The guide will help students find or browse through countless hours of TV episodes, featurettes and movies that the studios and networks have made available on the Net. It will also indicate when something is not available legitimately, which will help students define the boundary between right and wrong -- or maybe just tell them when they have to look elsewhere for a title.

Jonathan Curtiss, manager of technology development for UCLA student and campus life, said the My UCLA portal is "likely to be one of the most visited campus sites." Students go there to order books, search for classes, seek financial aid, network with other students, check the day's events on campus, look up the menu at their dining hall.... The list goes on and on. Putting Clicker on the home page of the portal "provides them with a kind of in-your-face opportunity" to see professional quality, legal online video, Curtiss said.

UCLA on Clicker, My UCLA, Clicker.com, campus piracy, BitTorrent, file-sharingClicker doesn't host any video on its own site, but rather indexes hundreds of thousands of videos stored on such sites as Hulu and YouTube. It suffers from the same limitations that the studios and networks impose on their online partners; for example, it may link to only the last few episodes of a series currently on the air. But users can count on accurate, working links and high-quality streams, which makes Clicker significantly more reliable and easier to use than your garden variety BitTorrent site.

To integrate Clicker more quickly into students' routines, the university will add many of the videos produced on campus to Clicker's index. These will include recordings of lectures, faculty interviews, sports press conferences and promotional clips. The school already has a channel on YouTube and two collections of videos at the Office of Instructional Development's website, but Clicker could conceivably become a gateway to much of that material. One type of video that Clicker won't handle, at least not initially, is content submitted by students. That's because the university is concerned about respecting copyrights and "fairly representing the campus," Curtiss said, adding, "How do we vet the content students give us? We don't have a mechanism to do that."

Online Book Pirating Sparks Outcry
Tim Jones

In an attempt to fight against the illegal pirating of textbooks and study guides online, a group of publishers has taken action against sites that provide unauthorized file-sharing among peers.

The Association of American Publishers, the national trade association of the American book publishing industry, has created a committee that, over the past few months has drafted a set of recommendations they believe that file-sharing websites should abide by.

The recommendations are still being revised and have not yet been shared to the public. However, certain highlights of the draft are mentioned in the most recent newsletter from the group.

The Chronicle of Higher Education said that the group urges websites to, “install filters to block copyrighted material from being posted, send warning notices to users who post copyrighted material, telling them such activity is illegal and create and enforce policies that disable the accounts of users who repeatedly post copyrighted material.”

Other recommendations include alternatives that suggest the site “provide links to sites that offer legal methods of buying electronic books and to give publishers lists of books that have been blocked or removed from their site.”

One such website, Scribd, has already met with the publishing group twice, but it has not received any of the new recommendations.

Attributor, a company whose FairShare Guardian service tracks the Internet for illegally posted content, has estimated that more than nine million books were downloaded from the 25 sites it traced. Publishers could be losing around $3 billion in revenue.
Peer-to-peer file sharing is a criminal offense on campus. The Office of Information Technologies can trace whether or not a user is misusing the campus’ Internet network for illegal file sharing.

Examples of file-sharing websites include LimeWire, as well as anything supported by BitTorrent.

Even with the high prices of textbooks, many students are against the act of pirating.

“It’s wrong in every aspect to illegally download a book,” said undeclared freshman Ryan Galvin.

Brandon Tower, a senator for the Student Government Association, agreed.

“Without question, action has to be taken, and we’re working on that, but it has to be done legitimately,” he said.

Tower has taken an initiative to deal with the high prices of books on campus. He created a Facebook group, entitled “UMass WILL lower its TEXTBOOK PRICES; WE the students DEMAND IT,” which has over 2,000 members.

Tower is currently putting together a model for a possible student-run co-op which would provide textbooks to students at a reasonable price through the process of renting.

A clause in the current contract prevents the opening of any business that could possibly threaten the sales of the Textbook Annex. The contract is set to end at the end of this semester, and the student-formed group plans to ask for revisions to be made.

Tower insists that the group does not want to cause any problems for any business.

“I want to be clear, we’re not trying to put the [Textbook] Annex out of business,” he said. “This is the students’ university, and our policy is students first.”

“We want to take responsibility for our own education, and that should be our right,” he added.

Some professors currently order books through Amherst Books or Food for Thought Books to help the students with the overall cost.

Other websites, such as eBooks, provide various publications online for sale, most of which are usually cheaper than a printed copy.

Students agree that something must be done about textbook costs.

“Prices of books are typically ridiculous,” said freshman resource economics major Mikayla Astor. “I went to the store and used all of my cash.”

“If the prices were lower, more people would actually be willing to pay for them,” she added.

UGA Employee Accused of Extortion
Alexis Stevens

A UGA employee is accused of trying to bilk money from students in exchange for covering up alleged computer violations, according to university police.

Dorin Lucian Dehelean, 37, was arrested Monday evening and charged with theft by extortion, according to police.

In January, a female student reported that Dehelean had accused her of violating copyright laws while using a university computer. The student said Dehelean asked for money in order to clear her name, according to campus police.

Dehelean was employed in IT security support, according to police. He reportedly was in charge of monitoring illegal music downloads on university computers. Dehelean's position paid nearly $50,000, according to state records.

Any other students or faculty members who may have been approached by Dehelean are asked to contact UGA police.

UCLA Professors Banned from Posting Videos Online

After accusations of copyright infringement, professors must rely on Instructional Media Lab
Parisa Mahdad

As of winter quarter 2010, teachers are no longer permitted to post videos on their course Web sites.

The Association for Information Media and Equipment, a trade organization, has accused UCLA of infringing on copyright laws.

On Nov. 30, 2009, Patricia O’Donnell, manager of Instructional Media Collections and Services, distributed a letter notifying professors that beginning winter quarter 2010, they were no longer allowed to post videos to their course Web sites using such video streaming systems as Video Furnace, which allowed teachers to manage and distribute videos online to their students.

“While Instructional Media and Collections Services exercised a good-faith belief that its uses were consistent with the exemptions for face-to-face teaching and fair use, (the Association for Information Media and Equipment)claims that the uses are not exempt and violate copyright,” the letter stated.

During the five years UCLA allowed professors to post videos online using Video Furnace, the university was under the impression that it was exempt from specific provisions under the Copyright Act. However, the Association for Information Media and Equipment claims that UCLA has infringed on copyright laws.

“UCLA disagrees with the litigation threat. ... We stand behind the service, and we are exploring options to resolve the litigation threats made by the trade organization,” said UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton.

Due to this ban on video posting, professors and students must resort to UCLA’s Instructional Media Lab, which has recently reduced its viewing hours in light of this year’s budget cuts. The lab is now also closed on the weekends.

“There has been a considerable upswing in the amount of students who come to the Instructional Media Lab,” said Daniel Kim, a fourth-year economics student who works at the Instructional Media Lab.

According to Kim, the reduction in lab hours has initiated complaints, especially from graduate students and visiting professors whose research depends on films.

“I feel guilty to assign movies especially when the Media Lab hours fall between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. When do (students) have a gap of two hours to watch a movie in between class?” said Christiane Meyer, a molecular, cell and developmental biology professor.
Meyer, who normally assigned three movies for her MCD Bio 40 class called “AIDS and Oher Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” will now drop a movie from the course material in light of the recent limitations on video accessibility.

“I’m not blaming anyone, but it certainly will impact the class. It takes up valuable instruction time to show a movie in class and for one of my TAs to do a movie screening on a Friday evening. It’s more work for my TA and more work for me to arrange for a room and equipment,” Meyer said.

Eric Gans, a French cinema professor, has also been impacted by the video ban. Because his class falls on Mondays and Wednesdays, Mondays are usually designated to watch the movies that they discuss on Wednesdays. However, two weeks this quarter, due to the national holidays that fall on Mondays, Gans’ 40 students will have to individually watch the one copy of the movie held at reserve in the Media Lab.

“If we want students to write a paper on the film over the weekend, it’s more convenient for the student to rewatch the movie online over the weekend. (The ban) makes teaching cinema more difficult (because) Video Furnace was extremely useful,” Gans said. “I very much hope (the university) will reach some kind of agreement.”

The ban has undoubtedly affected students financially as well. John Nguyen, a fourth-year political science student, had to buy eight DVDs as part of a requirement for his Politics, Theory and Film class.

“There are two ways to look at it. Most of these films are really good films that you want to have in your collection, but, at the same time, it’s very uneconomical,” he said.

According to Nguyen, who estimates his DVD purchases cost more than $100, the online streaming ban has also taken away from the course. Because one of the movies was only available on VHS, his professor, Joshua Dienstag, had to change the film.

Recognizing the financial burden that the price of eight DVDs would have on his students, Dienstag did not require a course reader.

“I think it’s too bad for the students, ... (but) with just one physical copy at the reserve for all my students, it’s not possible,” he said.

Although the university is uncertain as to how long this suspension of video Web access will last, it is working to reinstate such video posting.

“The university is trying to resolve this problem as soon as possible, because it recognizes that the burden falls mostly on students and instructors,” Hampton said.

Yahoo and AP Make a New Licensing Deal

The Associated Press and Yahoo have come to a new content licensing deal.

The Associated Press has signed a licensing deal with Yahoo Inc. that gives the news cooperative a steady stream of revenue at a time less money is flowing in from newspapers and broadcasters. The announcement by both companies Monday didn’t disclose the financial terms of the agreement, which allows Yahoo to continue posting AP content on its site. The AP says it is still negotiating to renew its online licensing agreements with two other companies with far deeper pockets, Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. Google stopped posting fresh AP content on its Web site in late December.

Stung by the AP’s first downturn in revenue in years, AP’s management has said the cooperative needs to make more money from the online rights to its stories, photographs and video as more people flock to the Web for information and entertainment. It’s unclear whether the AP achieved its financial objectives in the Yahoo deal.

Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., described the AP as an important part of its efforts to keep its nearly 600 million worldwide users informed. “We look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with AP for many years to come,” the company said in a statement.

The duration of the new contract wasn’t disclosed. Yahoo has been posting AP content on its site since 1998. Its Web site also relies on other services, including AP rival Reuters, as well as reporters that it employs. The formula has worked well for Yahoo, even as it has struggled in other key areas, such as Internet search and social networking. Yahoo pulls in the biggest U.S. Internet audiences in news, sports and finance, according to the research firm comScore Inc.

The not-for-profit AP finds itself at a critical juncture in its 164-year history because the Internet’s popularity is draining advertising revenue from U.S. print publication and broadcasters, which have been the AP’s traditional funding sources and still account for about 40 percent of the cooperative’s revenue combined.

The ad slump’s ripple effects have prompted the AP to reduce its fees from those outlets and cut its payroll costs by about 10 percent. The concessions to newspapers and broadcasters cost the AP $30 million in revenue last year and a projected $45 million this year. The AP’s 2009 financial statement, which hasn’t been released yet, is expected to show a revenue decline of about 6 percent to roughly $700 million.

Besides pumping Internet companies for more money, the AP also wants more cooperation in its effort to ensure its material isn’t appearing on unauthorized sites. As part of its crackdown, the AP is testing a system that tracks where its stories are being read. Yahoo pledged to enforce “the strictest standards” to protect the AP’s content. Leading up to Yahoo agreement, AP CEO Tom Curley said the cooperative was considering whether to separate its online content into different tiers so exclusive stories might cost more than breaking news reports widely available elsewhere on the Web.

The Yahoo deal doesn’t include such a tiering provision, according to a person familiar with the agreement, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a nondisclosure clause in the new contract. In a statement, New York-based AP said Yahoo “has always recognized the value and importance of original, authoritative news. We are pleased Yahoo and AP will continue that valued relationship.”

Yahoo also has formed a business bond with the U.S. newspapers that own the AP. More than 800 U.S. newspapers have joined forces with Yahoo to sell more advertising on their Web sites.

By contrast, many publishers believe Google has profited unfairly from their newspapers by drawing upon snippets of their stories to attract more traffic to its dominant search engine so it can sell more of the ads that generate most of its income. And the AP bickered with the Google over how its stories were summarized for several years before finally striking a licensing agreement in 2006.

Google says it helps drive more traffic to newspaper sites and honors any request from a publisher that doesn’t want to be included in its search engine. The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., has said it believes U.S. law allowed it to excerpt AP stories even before it obtained licensing rights.

Some News Outlets Ready to Try Charging Online Readers
Richard Pérez-Peña

Extracting payment from online readers has been called everything from the next great folly of print journalism to its salvation, but to get a glimpse of how it really looks, head to Lancaster, Pa.

Specifically, head to the offices of The Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era , one of the first handful of news outlets to acknowledge in interviews that it intends, in the next few months, to start using a software system developed by the entrepreneurs Steven Brill, L. Gordon Crovitz and their partners, which they are calling Press+. Others interested include The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina and Global Post, an Internet site based in Boston.

A very small number of news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and Newsday, already charge online readers, each with a system developed largely in-house, and The New York Times announced recently that it planned to do the same. But with advertising plummeting, many other publishers eager for a new source of revenue are considering making the switch, despite the risk of losing audience and advertising.

Last year, Mr. Brill and company seized on that interest, founding their operation, Journalism Online, with the aim of developing a highly flexible system that would become the industry standard, and keeping 20 percent of their client’s online revenue as their fee.

They say they have worked with potential clients from around the world, most of whom they will not name, who operate more than 1,300 news sites. The News Corporation, owner of The Wall Street Journal, is also marketing an online pay system to publishers, but industry executives say that it has made little headway.

So if it turns out that Lancaster is in the vanguard of a mass movement — and there are plenty of skeptics who say that charging could be a short-lived experiment — then Press+, if it works well, could be the movement’s chief organizer.

But in their first extended interview in months, Mr. Crovitz and Mr. Brill, while offering a look at how the system works, also cautioned against high expectations and said they had urged their clients to take small steps. It will take years before charging Internet users significantly changes the economics of a deeply troubled industry, they said.

As newsprint becomes a smaller part of the business, “you want to establish the notion that it’s worth something online,” Mr. Brill said. “What we have convinced people of is they don’t have to make a drastic decision. You can experiment.”

For those who have signed on, such lowered expectations are part of the appeal.

“We’re starting small, so if this really turns people off, we’re not playing with a huge chunk of our readership,” said Ernest J. Schreiber, editor of the Lancaster paper’s Web site, LancasterOnline.com. The site has been using and adapting the Press+ software for some time, and he said it would go into effect in a month or two.

At the outset, the paper, owned by a local company, Steinman Enterprises, will charge only readers outside its immediate area and only for reading obituaries, with a little green Press+ logo next to each headline covered by the system. It will allow a reader to see a certain number of obituaries free before a box pops onto the screen demanding a flat fee to keep reading, but the paper has not yet decided what that number will be, or how much it will charge.

“We have news that no one else has, like these obituaries,” Mr. Schreiber said. “We would eventually take other sections of our online content into the system. I’m thinking local sports, perhaps.”

The system may generate only a few hundred thousand dollars a year in revenue, he said, but “that’s enough to pay for a few reporters.”

Philip S. Balboni, president and chief executive of GlobalPost, a year-old site that focuses on international news, said it would take a different approach to using Press+. Frequent users will see messages urging them to join and pay, but it will be voluntary; there will be levels of membership with different prices, and those who do pay will be able to suggest topics for articles and have access to premium content. Those who do not join will continue to have access to most of the site.

“We anticipate rolling it out by the end of March,” and hope to have tens of thousands of paying readers by year’s end, he said. “By Year 2, it would become a very significant contributor to our total funding, but advertising I anticipate would still be No. 1.”

Mr. Crovitz is a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw the use of its online pay system, and began to develop a new version of that system.

Mr. Brill has a long record of starting ventures in untested waters, some more successful than others. He founded The American Lawyer magazine and the Court TV channel, which succeeded, and Brill’s Content, a magazine about media, which did not. He also founded Verified Identity Pass, whose system, called Clear, allowed frequent travelers to speed through airport security, but he severed ties with the company before it ceased operation last year.

Their partners in Journalism Online include Leo Hindery Jr., a former top executive at Tele-Communications Inc. and the YES Network, and Ken Ficara, who helped develop and run The Journal’s Web site.

“We are quite a ways from widespread adoption of paid content, so it’s too soon to tell how successful they’ll be,” said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. But most publishers will not want to develop their own software systems, he said, and assuming Press+ works well, its chances of catching on “look pretty good.”

“The way they have set it up, letting the publishers mix and match and design their own system, I think that’s a good fit because we’re in a period where newspapers are going to begin to experiment with all sorts of approaches,” Mr. Edmonds said.

A move to charge for content means not a single decision, but dozens. Sites can let nonpaying readers see the top of an article, while only paying readers see the whole thing; they can allow unlimited reading of certain articles, while charging for others; they can charge by the month or by the click; they can limit free reading to a certain number of articles a month; they can treat readers differently depending on their location; they can charge a single price or have a tiered system; they can give print subscribers free access or charge them, too.

Press+ is meant to accommodate all approaches, collect data on how they work and share the results with clients. As with e-commerce systems like PayPal, a consumer who already has a Press+ account will be able to use it to gain access to additional sites without re-entering a credit card number.

“One of the things they’re paying for is convenience and certainty,” Mr. Crovitz said.

Mr. Schreiber said he and his colleagues in Lancaster have no fear of playing guinea pig. If charging online turns out to be a mistake, the paper will just move on to the next experiment.

Given the industry’s troubles, “doing nothing is not an option,” he said. “The sooner we can do it, the sooner we can find something that works.”

DOJ Not Pleased with Latest Google Book Agreement
Elinor Mills

Although the amended settlement agreement for Google's Book Search addressed some concerns the U.S. Justice Department had, it still could give the company anticompetitive advantages in the digital book marketplace, the agency said on Thursday.

The Department of Justice advised the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that "class certification, copyright, and antitrust issues remain" in a court filing.

The settlement--reached between Google and the Authors Guild and Association of America Publishers--would allow Google to partially display in-copyright but out-of-print books alongside books authorized by publishers and public domain works in Google Books. It was weeks away from being approved by the court when the Justice Department intervened in September, citing a host of concerns.

The agency suggested that the agreement should impose limitations on the most open-ended provisions for future licensing so it would eliminate potential conflicts among authors and publishers, provide additional protections for unidentified rights holders, address concerns voiced by foreign authors and publishers, eliminate the joint-pricing mechanisms among publishers and authors, and provide a way for Google rivals to gain comparable access to the digital works.

The sides offered up an amended agreement in November, which still drew complaints from critics.

Now the Justice Department has weighed in again, concluding that the modified agreement still faces the same core problem as the original agreement did: "it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation."

"The proposed amended settlement agreement eliminates certain open-ended provisions that would have allowed Google to engage in certain unspecified future uses, appoints a fiduciary to protect rights holders of unclaimed works, reduces the number of foreign works in the settlement class, and eliminates the most-favored nation provision that would have guaranteed Google optimal license terms into the future," the agency said.

However, the amended settlement agreement "still confers significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages on Google as a single entity, thereby enabling the company to be the only competitor in the digital marketplace with the rights to distribute and otherwise exploit a vast array of works in multiple formats," the agency added.

The agreement retains Google's ability to sell full access to books in a variety of ways, which grants Google "sweeping control over the digital commercialization of millions and millions of books," the filing said.

The amended agreement gives Google defacto exclusivity to rights to the digital books because the company has a huge lead over competing efforts at Amazon and the Internet Archive, who in order to catch up would have to scan books without permission from rights holders, as Google has been doing, the agency said in its filing.

The exclusive access to the books that Google will get is likely to benefit Google's existing online search business and further entrench its dominance in that market, according to the filing.

Meanwhile, by requiring that rights holders opt out of the program, the amended agreement seeks what would be an exception to normal rules under the Copyright Act that rights holders must affirmatively grant permission for uses of their work, the document said.

If an opt-out provision is maintained, the court should require a waiting period before Google can commercially exploit out-of-print works without getting rights holder permission, such as two years from the time the book is publicly listed in the online registry to be created under the agreement, the filing suggests.

The Justice Department said it is still committed to working with Google and the Authors Guild on the settlement agreement, particularly to "develop solutions through which copyright holders could allow for digital use of their works by Google and others, whether through legislative or market-based activities."

The agency said it believes that a "properly structured" agreement could provide "important societal benefits."

A Google spokesperson provided this comment: "The Department of Justice's filing recognizes the progress made with the revised settlement, and it once again reinforces the value the agreement can provide in unlocking access to millions of books in the U.S. We look forward to Judge Chin's review of the statement of interest from the Department and the comments from the many supporters who have filed submissions with the court in the last months. If approved by the court, the settlement will significantly expand online access to works through Google Books, while giving authors and publishers new ways to distribute their works."

The nonprofit advocacy group Consumer Watchdog praised the Justice Department's stance.

"The settlement still abuses the class-action mechanism and purports to enroll absent class members automatically into new business 'opportunities,' in violation of current copyright laws," Consumer Watchdog reiterated from its friend-of-the-court brief opposing the agreement as modified. "This scheme acts to the disadvantage of absent class members and would result in unfair competitive advantages to Google in the search engine, electronic book sales, and other markets, to the detriment of the public interest. Along the way, the settlement raises significant international law and privacy concerns."

Authors Guild: ‘To RIAA or Not to RIAA’
David Kravets

There’s equal reason to support or object to the proposed Google Books settlement.

Creating a digital catalog of the worlds’ words might be the Holy Grail of intellectual empowerment.

Yet building that library in the clouds would be allowed without the rights-holders’ consent — which the Justice Department and others contend is a complete and fundamental alteration of copyright law.

The Authors Guild is backing the settlement in hopes of creating a new and legitimate book-selling venue. In a message to members Friday, it supported the development of a digital marketplace for the world’s words as a counter to digital piracy.

What’s more, the group noted it didn’t want to be like the Recording Industry Association of America. The labels’ lobbying and litigation arm has sued thousands of individuals and music-trading sites — lawsuits that have not dented the illegal, pirated-music marketplace.

“Our settlement negotiations went on with full knowledge of what happened to the music industry. The RIAA won victory after victory, defeating Napster and Grokster with groundbreaking legal rulings. The RIAA also went after countless individuals, chasing down infringement wherever they could track it down,” the guild said in a blog post Friday.

“It didn’t work,” the guild added. “The infringement just moved elsewhere, in unpredictable ways.”

The group said it was settling even though it did not believe that unauthorized scans of books amounted to fair use under copyright law, as Google maintains. The guild said the outcome of litigation is never certain.

“One could fill a good-sized law school classroom with copyright professors who believe that Google’s scanning of your books is a fair use,” the group wrote.

Swedish Crime Writer Denies Plagiarism Allegations

The Swedish publisher of Liza Marklund and US author James Patterson's crime novel Postcard Killers has denied that the book was inspired by Klas Östergren's The Last Cigarette.

"The allegations lack any factual basis. The writers Liza Marklund and James Patterson have naturally not had any knowledge of the contents of Klas Östergren's novel The Last Cigarette. All similarities are purely coincidental," Ann-Marie Skarp, CEO at Piratförlaget (Pirate Publishing) said in a statement released on Thursday.

The publisher of Klas Östergren's The Last Cigarette, Albert Bonniers Förlag, has hired lawyers to investigate whether the similarities between the two books occurred as a result of plagiarism.

The similarities centre around the use of Swedish artist Nils von Dardel's painting The Dying Dandy. The books both feature an artist character who photographs bodies in order to recreate von Dardel's celebrated piece.

"The first time I heard that the The Dying Dandy is also featured in Östergren's book was in fact yesterday evening. I spoke with Klas Östergren about it this morning and we both had a chuckle," Liza Marklund said.

"It is one of Sweden's most famous paintings," she pointed out.

Postcard Killers is co-authored by Marklund and US crime writer James Pattersson. According to the publisher, the final manuscript was completed in May 2009. The book was published on January 27th 2010 in Sweden.

Klas Östergren's book The Last Cigarette was published by Albert Bonniers Förlag on October 16th 2009.

Liza Marklund is one of Sweden's bestselling popular authors and a co-owner of Piratförlaget, alongside Jan Guilou, Sigge Sigridsson and Ann-Marie Skarp.

In 2008 Marklund found herself at the heart of a controversy over her "documentary-novel" Gömda (Buried Alive) which she initially claimed was a true story but later conceded should have been described as "based on a true story."

Everybody Forgets The Readers When They Bash News Aggregators
Michael Arrington

I remember way back before the Internet when I got most of my daily news via the San Francisco Chronicle and CNN. If it wasn’t reported by either of those outlets, there was a good chance I wouldn’t hear that news at all.

Those days are over.

The problem is that most of the people running legacy news sites today are way older than I am, and still can’t get their arms around the fact that the world has fundamentally and irreversibly changed. Today I get my non tech news via scores of sources. I’m led there via social sites like Twitter and Facebook, and from aggregators like Google News and Memeorandum. Most of my tech news comes, of course, via my phone and email inbox.

It’s ok that the legacy guys don’t understand that, because when they erect paywalls it just stokes TechCrunch, which isn’t behind a paywall. Live and let live, I say. Far be it from me to talk them off the ledge. Paywalls kill social links and aggregators unless they are specially designed to allow them via a set number of free views. But even then there’s enough friction that most people won’t bother.

But when Mark Cuban starts saying aggregators are bad, that’s something new. He’s one of the guys that gets it. He’s not supposed to be on the losing team:

Outspoken billionaire cum provocateur Mark Cuban charged Google and other content aggregators Tuesday of being freeloaders — or worse. “The word that comes to mind is vampires,” he said. “When you think about vampires, they just suck on your blood.”
Telling the world that you don’t want them to do you the favor of visiting your site is just ridiculous.

Let me repeat that. When someone visits your site they are doing you a favor. Not the other way around.

And when an aggregator puts up a link to your site, they are doing you a favor by sending you traffic. Not the other way around.

As I’ve written before, “We throw a party when someone “steals” our content and links back to us. High fives all around the office. At least there’s some small nod in our direction.”

The real problem out there today for news sites are the guys that just take stories and rewrite them on the cheap without any links or attribution at all. When you erect a paywall, you’re just encouraging this behavior. It’s less anyone will notice.

What About The Users?

But forget all that navel gazing for a minute while I jump back up to my first paragraph. Aggregators are popular because they help users find the news they’re interested in. They serve a very real purpose and add value to the system. Without aggregators and social links users would be forced to choose which news sites they want to pay for, and trust that they’ll get everything they need from those sites.

I don’t want to jump back to 1993. I want to live in the present where each piece of news lives and dies by its own merit as it spreads virally around the Internet. That means I spend less time finding better content.

Mark Cuban knows all this, and he agrees. Which is why I don’t understand his lash out against aggregators. If news sites block aggregators, as Cuban urges, they lose and the users lose. No one wins. Except the sites that remain free. And those sites are here to stay.

Wikileaks Temporarily Shuts Down Due to Lack of Funds

Whistleblowing website says it cannot continue without public donations and has appealed for cash
Matthew Weaver

Wikileaks said it could not continue operations until its costs were covered.

The whistleblowing website Wikileaks has temporarily shut down because of a lack of funds.

The site, which has been a major irritant to governments and big businesses since it launched in 2007, says it cannot keep going without more public donations.

Wikileaks' organisers announced the suspension in a statement on its site. "To concentrate on raising the funds necessary to keep us alive into 2010, we have reluctantly suspended all other operations, but will be back soon," it says.

Pleading for more cash, it explained that publishing hundreds of thousands of previously secret documents each year costs money.

"If staff are paid, our yearly budget is $600,000 [£372,000]," it said.

The site, which is part of the not-for-profit group Sunshine Press, adds: "We have raised just over $130,000 for this year but cannot meaningfully continue operations until costs are covered. These amount to just under $200,000pa."

Wikileaks refuses to accept corporate or government funding for fear of compromising its integrity.

Described by the Guardian as the "brown paper envelope for the digital age", it rose to prominence last year by hosting the Minton report on the activities of the oil trader Trafigura while the firm's lawyers were trying to prevent the press from revealing its contents.

Last year it also published a membership list of the British National party and it told the unfolding secret story of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon by releasing 500,000 intercepted pager messages.

Wikileaks's appeal for cash has prompted widespread support on the web. A Facebook group called Save Wikileaks has been formed and there are numerous supportive messages on Twitter.

Blogging for the Spectator Martin Bright, the former political editor of the New Statesman, wrote: "I know money is tight, but I urge anyone who cares about liberty to visit the site and donate."

Wikileaks Raises Enough to Keep the Lights On
Mathew Ingram

Wikileaks, a non-profit agency that exposes government and corporate secrets by publishing documents through its web site, said on Twitter that it’s managed to raise enough money to continue operating, but not enough to pay its staff. The site suspended operations recently, saying it didn’t have enough funding to pay its expenses. It also asked for donations, claiming it required at least $200,000 just to pay its costs, and as much as $600,000 if it were to begin paying its volunteer staff. At last check, the note was still on the Wikileaks site, but the Twitter message said the minimum amount had been raised.

Wikileaks, which is run by a non-profit entity called The Sunshine Press, has been described by The Guardian as “the brown paper envelope for the digital age.” In one recent case, the service published documents relating to the Trafigura scandal in Britain, documents that a corporation involved in the scandal tried to prevent newspapers from publishing. It also recently released 500,000 pager messages relating to the 9/11 attacks in New York.

The site says it has defended itself against over 100 legal attacks to date. In 2008, a California judge forced the site to remove itself from DNS records due to a complaint by a Cayman Islands-base corporation. Although the founders of the site kept their identities secret for some time after Wikileaks was founded in 2006, it is known that they include Australian hacker Julian Assange and Australian broadcaster Phillip Adams.

The Wikileaks Twitter stream says that the organization is working on a proposal to “transform Iceland into world centre for investigative media,” in part because awareness of government corruption and incompetence has been heightened by the recent meltdown of the country’s banking industry. In the video embedded below, from the 26th Chaos Communications Congress, an annual hacker conference in Berlin, two members of Wikileaks discuss their proposal to create an information “data haven” in Iceland, or what they call a “Switzerland of bits”:

Blogger Must Pay €100,000 for Libel
John Burns

A blogger has agreed a €100,000 settlement after libelling Niall Ó Donnchú, a senior civil servant, and his girlfriend Laura Barnes. It is the first time in Ireland that defamatory material on a blog has resulted in a pay-out.

Barnes, an American book dealer, made a profit of up to €800,000 in 2005 from selling a cache of James Joyce papers to the state. One year later she began a relationship with Ó Donnchú, an assistant secretary in the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism.

In December 1, 2006, a blogger who styles himself as Ardmayle posted a comment about the couple and the sale of the Joycean manuscripts under the headline “Barnes and Noble”. Following a legal complaint, he took down the blog and in February 2007 he posted an apology which had been supplied by Ó Donnchú’s and Barnes’ lawyer, Ivor Fitzpatrick solicitors.

“I subsequently discovered that these remarks were inaccurate,” Ardmayle said. “I unreservedly apologise to both Laura Barnes and Niall Ó Donnchú in respect of this post.”

However, the pair subsequently issued separate proceedings. It is understood that the €100,000 settlement was agreed shortly before the case was due before the High Court. A full defamation trial before a jury can cost €700,000-€800,000 in legal costs for both parties.

The blog, still active at http://ardmayle.blogspot.com/, is in the form of a personal diary with observations on the arts, literature and sport. The author is not identified, and the litigants may have got his details through his internet server provider (ISP).

The settlement was subject to a confidentiality agreement, which forbids the blogger from speaking about it publicly. Neither Ó Donnchú nor Barnes responded to invitations to comment.

Barnes had previously said that the libel suit was “not about money [but] about people being held to account”.

It is understood that the blogger has paid only a small proportion of the €100,000 damages, and was recently made redundant from his job. In addition to the settlement, he must pay his own legal costs.

The case is likely to have a chilling effect on the Irish blogosphere, which generally takes a casual attitude to defamation and people’s reputations. The Ardmayle action was settled before a new Defamation Act came into effect on January 1.

In 2008, members of the Committee of Public Accounts accused the National Library of Ireland of being “stung” in the Joycean papers deal. The library could have bought the papers from a Parisian bookseller for €400,000 in 2004. They eventually paid €1.17m to Barnes.

Ó Donnchú was cleared of wrongdoing by an internal inquiry in the Department of Arts in 2007. It concluded that the department’s interests were not compromised by his relationship with Barnes, and that the official had “dealt appropriately” with his responsibilities under ethics legislation.

Tinkerer’s Sunset

When DVD Jon was arrested after breaking the CSS encryption algorithm, he was charged with “unauthorized computer trespassing.” That led his lawyers to ask the obvious question, “On whose computer did he trespass?” The prosecutor’s answer: “his own.”

If that doesn’t make your heart skip a beat, you can stop reading now.

When I was growing up, “trespassing” was something you could only do to other people’s computers. But let’s set that aside and come back to it.

My father was a college professor for much of his adult life. One year, he took a sabbatical to write a book. He had saved up enough money to buy a computer and a newfangled thing called a word processing program. And he wrote, and he edited, and he wrote some more. It was so obviously better than working on a typewriter that he never questioned that it was money well spent.

As it happens, this computer came with the BASIC programming language pre-installed. You didn’t even need to boot a disk operating system. You could turn on the computer and press Ctrl-Reset and you’d get a prompt. And at this prompt, you could type in an entire program, and then type RUN, and it would motherfucking run.

I was 10. That was 27 years ago, but I still remember what it felt like when I realized that you — that I — could get this computer to do anything by typing the right words in the right order and telling it to RUN and it would motherfucking run.

That computer was an Apple ][e.

By age 12, I was writing BASIC programs so complex that the computer was running out of memory to hold them. By age 13, I was writing programs in Pascal. By age 14, I was writing programs in assembly language. By age 17, I was competing in the Programming event in the National Science Olympiad (and winning). By age 22, I was employed as a computer programmer.

Today I am a programmer, a technical writer, and a hacker in the Hackers and Painters sense of the word. But you don’t become a hacker by programming; you become a hacker by tinkering. It’s the tinkering that provides that sense of wonder. You have to jump out of the system, tear down the safety gates, peel away the layers of abstraction that the computer provides for the vast majority of people who don’t want to know how it all works. It’s about using the Copy ][+ sector editor to learn how the disk operating system boots, then modifying it so the computer makes a sound every time it reads a sector from the disk. Or displaying a graphical splash screen on startup before it lists the disk catalog and takes you to that BASIC prompt. Or copying a myriad of wondrous commands from the Beagle Bros. Peeks & Pokes Chart and trying to figure out what the fuck I had just done. Just for the hell of it. Because it was fun. Because it scared my parents. Because I absolutely had to know how it all worked.

Later, there was an Apple IIgs. And later still, a Mac IIci. MacsBug. ResEdit. Norton Disk Editor. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.

Apple made the machines that made me who I am. I became who I am by tinkering.

This post’s title is stolen from Alex Payne’s “On the iPad,” which I shall now quote at great length.

The iPad is an attractive, thoughtfully designed, deeply cynical thing. It is a digital consumption machine. As Tim Bray and Peter Kirn have pointed out, it’s a device that does little to enable creativity...

The tragedy of the iPad is that it truly seems to offer a better model of computing for many people — perhaps the majority of people. Gone are the confusing concepts and metaphors of the last thirty years of computing. Gone is the ability to endlessly tweak and twiddle towards no particular gain. The iPad is simple, straightforward, maintenance-free...

The thing that bothers me most about the iPad is this: if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, I’d never be a programmer today. I’d never have had the ability to run whatever stupid, potentially harmful, hugely educational programs I could download or write. I wouldn’t have been able to fire up ResEdit and edit out the Mac startup sound so I could tinker on the computer at all hours without waking my parents.
Now, I am aware that you will be able to develop your own programs for the iPad, the same way you can develop for the iPhone today. Anyone can develop! All you need is a Mac, XCode, an iPhone “simulator,” and $99 for an auto-expiring developer certificate. The “developer certificate” is really a cryptographic key that (temporarily) allows you (slightly) elevated access to... your own computer. And that’s fine — or at least workable — for the developers of today, because they already know that they’re developers. But the developers of tomorrow don’t know it yet. And without the freedom to tinker, some of them never will.

(As a side note, I was wrong and Fredrik was right, and Chrome OS devices will have a switch for developers to run their own local code. I don’t know the specifics of what it will look like, whether it will be a hardware button or switch or whatever. But it will be there, an officially supported mode for the developers of today and, more importantly, the developers of tomorrow.)

And I know, I know, I know you can “jailbreak” your iPhone, (re)gain root access, and run anything that can motherfucking run. And I have no doubt that someone will figure out how to “jailbreak” the iPad, too. But I don’t want to live in a world where you have to break into your own computer before you can start tinkering. And I certainly don’t want to live in a world where tinkering with your own computer is illegal. (DVD Jon was acquitted, by the way. The prosecutor appealed, and he was acquitted again. But who needs the law when you have public key cryptography on your side?)

Once upon a time, Apple made the machines that made me who I am. I became who I am by tinkering. Now it seems they’re doing everything in their power to stop my kids from finding that sense of wonder. Apple has declared war on the tinkerers of the world. With every software update, the previous generation of “jailbreaks” stop working, and people have to find new ways to break into their own computers. There won’t ever be a MacsBug for the iPad. There won’t be a ResEdit, or a Copy ][+ sector editor, or an iPad Peeks & Pokes Chart. And that’s a real loss. Maybe not to you, but to somebody who doesn’t even know it yet.

The iPad’s Closed System: Sometimes I Hate Being Right
Tom Conlon

Remember that groundbreaking Apple Super Bowl ad from 1984? The one where the woman throws a hammer at Big Brother, signifying a new era of freedom that would be ushered in with Macintosh? My, how times have changed. Here we are more than 25 years later and the despotic, all-knowing face up there on that giant screen now belongs to Steve Jobs—and Big Brother Steve is holding an iPad.

Six months ago, I warned of the dystopian future that could be kicked off by the then rumored Apple tablet, and now my biggest fears are being realized. Please don’t underestimate the gravity of the situation. The unveiling of the Apple iPad could be the opening phase in a transition that could change the face of personal computing as we know it.

Now, before I go any further, let me say this: After my last post about the Apple tablet, I was accused of being a Windows sympathizer who’d never used a Mac. Some even suggested that I was on Microsoft’s payroll. In reality, I’m a fairly die-hard Mac fan. In my opinion, no one makes a better computer or operating system. I love Macintosh—I just don’t love Apple.

My problem with the iPad isn’t the lack of a camera, OLED screen or Flash (although that kind of sucks). It isn’t even the terrible name—hey, we eventually warmed up to “Wii,” didn’t we? No, it’s the fact that Apple is using the iPad to push its locked-down, heavily restrictive iPhone OS. Ask yourself why the iPad isn’t running OS X. Yes, performance is certainly a factor. After all, it’s easier to say you’re faster and better than a netbook when you only allow the user to perform one task at a time. But the real reason is that OS X is too open. You can download and install any program you want. You can watch TV shows and movies from a variety or sources. You can purchase and listen to music however you prefer. Heck, you can poke around a file system. But you can’t do any of this on the iPhone OS, and thus the iPad.

You can do on the iPad only what Apple allows. And if you are allowed to do something, you have to go through iTunes or MobileMe to do it. Apple makes a nice chunk of change on everything you do, but more importantly it gets to play gatekeeper. In OS X, Apple can’t block you from using apps it doesn’t like or competes with. But it famously blocks you from doing so on the iPhone and now presumably on the iPad, which is connected to the same App Store. How long before it blocks movies, TV shows, songs, books and even web sites? Scoff now, but don’t be so naïve as to believe that this isn’t possible.

So, the iPhone OS has made the leap onto a device that is much more computer-like. You’re no longer just using it to communicate or be entertained—you’re now using it to write documents, prepare presentations and do other tasks traditionally performed on a computer. And this is where things get dangerous. The iPad is not a personal computer in the sense that we currently understand. Once we replace the personal computer with a closed-platform device such as the iPad, we replace freedom, choice and the free market with oppression, censorship and monopoly. Imagine what life would be like if your personal computer functioned like the iPhone. You’d have to buy all your programs through Apple, and if Apple didn’t want you using something like, say, Google Voice, Abobe Flash or Microsoft Word, then you’d be out of luck. Oh, and multitasking would be a thing of the past. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

I’m scared that Apple is grooming iPhone OS as the eventual successor to OS X, at least for the significant portion of Apple customers who use their machines for basic tasks like Web surfing, email and the like. I think it would make the swap today if it thought it could get away with it. Instead, though, Apple is cleverly getting us trained on its closed platform little by little. First on the phone, then on our personal media players and now on a tablet.

App Store proponents will proffer certain rebuttals, sure, and some of them are not without their merits--like the fact that software developers are more likely to be compensated for their work in the App Store than in the freeware-heavy OS X software market, or that a more casual computing device designed like the iPad is served just fine by the App Store's needs and would be overly complex running OS X. But it's hard to argue with the merits of an open system vs. one that's closed, especially when the Web is involved.

I like being right as much as the next guy, but I don’t want to be right about this. Twenty years from now, I don’t want to look back and say, “I told you so.” I don’t want to bore children with wild tales of the old days when we had things like file systems and we could run two programs at once. So let’s be careful with the iPad. Don't trash your laptops for one just yet.

Researcher Warns of Risks from Rogue iPhone Apps
Elinor Mills

Lax security screening at Apple's App Store and a design flaw are putting iPhone users at risk of downloading malicious applications that could steal data and spy on them, a Swiss researcher warns.

Apple's iPhone app review process is inadequate to stop malicious apps from getting distributed to millions of users, according to Nicolas Seriot, a software engineer and scientific collaborator at the Swiss University of Applied Sciences (HEIG-VD). Once they are downloaded, iPhone apps have unfettered access to a wide range of privacy-invasive information about the user's device, location, activities, interests, and friends, he said in an interview Tuesday.

In a talk scheduled for Wednesday at the Black Hat DC security conference, Seriot will explain how an innocent-looking app could be designed to harvest personal data and send it to a remote server without the user knowing it.

The rogue app could be hidden within an innocent-looking app, such as a game. Low-hanging fruit for rogue apps includes the mobile-phone number, address book data, and a notes section of the address book, where some people store bank account and other sensitive information, he said.

"It turns out that the full Address Book is readable without the user's knowledge or consent," Seriot wrote in a white paper on the subject.

In addition, a sandboxing technique limits access to other applications' data but leaves exposed data in the iPhone file system, including some personal information, he said.

To make his point, Seriot has created open-source proof-of-concept spyware dubbed "SpyPhone" that can access the 20 most recent Safari searches, YouTube history, and e-mail account parameters like username, e-mail address, host, and login, as well as detailed information on the phone itself that can be used to track users, even when they change devices.

SpyPhone can be used to track the user's whereabouts and activities. It offers access to the keyboard cache, which contains all the words ever typed on the keyboard, except for words entered in password fields, effectively acting as a keylogger, he said. It accesses photos, which can be tagged with the date and location via the GPS coordinates. And a log showing the device's Wi-Fi connections also is accessible.

"Safari recent searches, YouTube history, and your keyboard cache give clues about your current interests," he writes. "These interests are linked with your name and your e-mail addresses, your phone number, and your area. Harvested from large numbers of users, such data have a huge value in the underground market of personal data, and it must be assumed that Trojans are, in fact, exploiting this on the App Store."

It's not difficult to get iPhone apps approved, Seriot said. To get an app distributed through Apple's App Store, developers need to be enrolled in the iPhone Developer Program and provide an executable file, but not the source code, to Apple for vetting. The approval process mainly looks for user interface inconsistencies, but also undocumented function calls and malware, he said.

But with Apple having to scrutinize as many as 10,000 binaries that are submitted each week, some malware is bound to sneak in, Seriot said. He acknowledged that he doesn't know exactly what process Apple uses to review apps but said it likely uses common static and dynamic analysis, both of which can be circumvented with the right programming tricks, he said.

The threat is not theoretical. Several iPhone apps have been pulled from the App Store after being found to be harvesting user data, intentionally or unintentionally. A game called Aurora Feint was uploading all the user contacts to the developer's server, and salespeople from Swiss road traffic information app MogoRoad were calling customers who downloaded the app. Game app Storm8 was sued last fall for allegedly harvesting customer phone numbers without permission, but it later stopped that practice. And users also complained that Pinch Media, an analytics framework used by developers, was collecting data about customer phones.

"Consumers should be aware that iPhone security is far from perfect and that a piece of software downloaded from the App Store may still be harmful," Seriot wrote. "As a basic precaution, users should regularly clean the browser's recent searches and the keyboard cache in Settings. They should also change or delete the declared phone number, also in Settings."

Meanwhile, professional users should avoid running untrusted applications, especially if they are required by law to protect data confidentiality," he wrote. This includes groups such as bankers, attorneys, medical staffers, law enforcement officers, and so on. Also, legal departments should be aware that confidential data may already have leaked."

Seriot said he thought Apple might address the issue in its latest security update, released on Tuesday, but that it didn't.

"This is one more piece of evidence that the issues are more like a design flaw than simple bugs which could be fixed in a minor security update," he said.

Seriot said he contacted Apple about the issues more than a year ago, and it subsequently issued a partial fix.

Apple representatives did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.

iPhones Vulnerable to New Remote Attack
Dennis Fisher

There are several flaws in the way that the iPhone handles digital certificates which could lead to an attacker being able to create his own trusted certificate and entice users into downloading malicious files onto their iPhones. The attack is the end result of a number of different problems with the way that the iPhone handles over-the-air provisioning, trusted root certificates and configuration files. But the result of the attack is that a remote hacker may be able to change some settings on the iPhone and force all of the user's Web traffic to run through any server he chose and also to change the root certificate on the phone, enabling him to man-in-the-middle SSL traffic from the iPhone.

The chain of vulnerabilities and the attack was outlined in an anonymous blog post on the iPhone flaws on Friday. Charlie Miller, an Apple security researcher at Independent Security Evaluators, said that the attack works, although it would not lead to remote code execution on the iPhone.

"It definitely works. I downloaded the file and ran it and it worked," Miller said. "The only thing is that it warns you that the file will change your phone, but it also says that the certificate is from Apple and it's been verified."

The problems start with the fact that the iPhone signs its own credentials using a certificate signed by Apple when it is requesting a configuration file from a remote server during the provisioning process. The only way to establish the validity of the Apple certificate is to verify each of the certificates that leads to the Apple root certificate authority, and that can only be done by getting the data from a jailbroken iPhone.

Interestingly, the Apple root CA on top of the iPhone chain is not the same as the one published on the Apple web site. Fetching the root certificate published on Apple’s web site shows:

Serial Number: 2 (0x2)
CN=Apple Root CA
keyid=2B:D0:69:47:94:76:09:FE:F4:6B:8D:2E:40:A6:F7:47:4D:7F: 08:5E

Different name (CN), different serial numbers (1 vs 2) but the same key id. It looks like somebody reused the same keyset to generate a second certificate. Hard to tell whether this is an oversight or intentional, but the fact is: you cannot technically relate an iPhone signature to the Apple root CA certificate published on their web site. Even with the same keyset, verification will fail because Subject and Serial are different.

The iPhone by default will trust configuration files that it receives over the air or while connected to a PC, as long as the file is signed by a trusted implementation of the iPhone Configuration Utility, a desktop application used to create config files for iPhones. However, the iPhone also will accept a file that is signed by a signature-only certificate, which can be obtained fairly easily without any credentials.

Apple has a list of 224 root certificates that it trusts. As part of the attack, the anonymous researchers obtained a signature certificate from VeriSign for a company named Apple Computer. They backed the certificate up to disk, then used iPCU to create a mobilconfig file called "Security Update," and attributed it to Apple Computer. They then exported it to disk without a signature as an XML file. They then signed the file and its CA trust chain and uploaded it to a Web server.

Opening the file with Safari on an iPhone results in the phone trusting the configuration file.

"To be successful, profile installation needs to be validated by the end-user. Unless they know about this flaw it is quite likely that a default end-user would trust an update that claims to be issued by Apple and indicated as trusted by the device. A bit of social engineering is needed to both get the user to click on the link and accept the profile installation," the researchers wrote.

The mobileconfig file has the authority to change a number of things on the iPhone, including the default HTTP proxy and the root certificate. Miller was unable to verify that the file could change the iPhone's proxy settings.

A real-world attack might involve the attacker enticing the user into clicking on a malicious URL either in an email or on a site, leading them to the site to download the configuration file. The user would see a dialogue box asking him whether he's sure he wants to install the file. If he accepts, the file downloads and takes whatever action is contained in the configuration profile.

The attacker would not have the ability to run code on the iPhone, but he could take any number of other actions, Miller said.

"You can make any part of the phone not work. You definitely don't get to run code, but there's lots of nasty things you can do. You can make applications not work, make it so that you can't remove this config file. At the very least, you can make someone's day miserable."

From the Patent Litigation Weekly: PwC Study Shows Patent Trolls Are Thriving
Susan Beck

This week, our colleague Joe Mullin, who writes the Patent Litigation Weekly for IP Law and Business, guides readers through a new PricewaterhouseCoopers study on patent litigation. What grabbed Mullins's attention was the significant role played by "non-practicing entities," the polite term for patent trolls. (Patent trolls are entities that bring or threaten litigation to enforce patent rights, without any intention of making or marketing the product at issue.) "Patent trolls aren't just surviving, they're thriving," Mullin observes. "Patent-holders are starting to delve into previously untouched economic sectors, suing small retailers and even photographers."

The PwC study looked at more than 1,400 patent cases that reached a decision by a judge or jury. Depending on the district, between 15 and 45 percent of those disputes were brought by non-practicing entities. In fact, Mullin thinks PWC is undercounting these suits because it takes a conservative view of what constitutes an NPE. Mullin, for example, would count litigation brought by Alcatel-Lucent against Microsoft, since A-L was trying to monetize the patent portfolio it inherited from Bell Labs, not compete with Microsoft.

As Mullin points out, the study shows that non-practicing entities have consistently won larger damage awards than operating companies since 2002. Of the top ten patent judgments reached between 2005 and 2008, seven went to companies or individuals that aren't competitors in the relevant market.

"So what's going on here?" Mullin asks. "It's possible that a split is emerging, with a small, select group of industries--including medical device, pharmaceutical, and chemical companies--using patents as tools to fight over market share, while across a broader swath of the economy, patents are used mainly (or even solely) to generate revenue for those who hold them. Falling into the latter category are classic "patent trolls," but also research universities and big companies with standalone patent-licensing operations."

Here's another surprising tidbit that Mullin highlights from the PwC study: The district with the highest rate of NPE litigation isn't the Eastern District of Texas, as you might expect. It's Washington, D.C., which had 46 percent of the identified decisions from NPEs.

Medical Groups Assail Patenting of Human Genes
Elizabeth Weise

In a case that could have far-reaching implications for medical research and health care based on genetics, groups representing thousands of doctors, scientists and patients went to court Tuesday to argue that no one should be able to patent human genes, a question that has long been controversial in scientific circles.

The case involves a Utah company, Myriad Genetics, and the University of Utah Research Foundation, which in 1994 isolated the DNA sequence for the BRCA1 and later the BRCA2 genes, mutations of which can greatly increase a woman's chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad sells a test for the genes.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Cardozo School of Law in New York, argued before federal district court Judge Robert Sweet that patents on genes are unconstitutional.

The U.S. Patent Office allows genes to be patented as soon as someone isolates the DNA by removing it from the cell, says ACLU attorney Sandra Park. "We're arguing that isolating it does not make it patentable. It's a natural phenomenon, and the Supreme Court has always said natural phenomena are not patentable."

The suit also argues that because every human has these genes, the patents infringe on First Amendment rights of freedom of scientific inquiry and the free exchange of ideas, as well as undermining bodily integrity and a person's right to know about his or her genetic makeup.

The suit is supported by groups such as the American Medical Association, the March of Dimes and the American Society for Human Genetics. It also argues that gene patents make research into tests and cures for cancer more difficult by requiring researchers to obtain licenses from the patent holder.

Myriad strongly disagrees. "Without the patents, there wouldn't have been the financial incentive" to create the tests, says company general counsel Rick Marsh.

The question is whether gene patents stymie research or promote it by making it financially worthwhile.

It really comes down to a question of practicality, says Jonathan Moreno, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. "Is the current intellectual property system the best arrangement between striking the balance between good science, public health and efficiency?"

The suit, filed May 12, is being heard at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The Museum Is Naked, and the Emperors Talk Progress
Holland Cotter

If you’ve ever wanted to see the interior of the Guggenheim Museum in its pristine state, now’s the time. For the solo show of the young European artist Tino Sehgal, the great spiraling rotunda, recently ablaze with Kandinskys, has been cleared out. There isn’t a painting in sight.

Yet the space isn’t empty. On the rotunda’s ground floor, a man and woman entwine in a changing, slow-motion amorous embrace. On the ramps above, people walk and talk in pairs or clusters at a leisurely pace, with new participants periodically joining conversations as others drop away.

Mr. Sehgal’s art is made up almost entirely of such balletic tableaus and social encounters. His work has features of theater and dance — he trained as a dancer — but is made for museums, galleries and art fairs, places that depend for their existence on a proliferation of valuable things.

Things are a problem for Mr. Sehgal, who lives in Berlin and studied political economy before he studied dance. He thinks the world has too many of them, that production is ceaseless and technology destructive. His art is a response to these perceived realities as they play out microcosmically in the context of the art industry. His goal is to create a counter-model: to make something (a situation) from virtually nothing (actions, words) and then let that something disappear, leaving no potentially marketable physical trace.

Arranging for disappearance isn’t easy in an age of omnipresent recording devices, which explains why the first thing you see at the Guggenheim is a sign forbidding the taking of photographs. This is standard Sehgal practice. But unless you know why, the prohibition comes across as calculatedly tantalizing.

His rule may be unenforceable in this day and age. Still, it turns the museum into a zone of sort-of secrecy. It piques both the voyeur and the skeptic in us. It amps up the star-power mystique surrounding artists, which in Mr. Sehgal’s case is considerable. Now 34, he has been having solo shows since his mid-20s and has become a fixture on the international biennial circuit.

When you arrive, though, tensions and doubts tend to dissipate. For one thing, there’s practically nothing to see, much less to catch on film. The sensuous pas de deux, titled “Kiss,” is in progress. As choreography it will hold no surprises for anyone familiar with contemporary dance. Taken as living sculpture, it has amusing moments: every so often, the performers strike erotic poses derived from Courbet, Rodin, Brancusi and Jeff Koons.

Far more interesting is the element of duration.

Through the run of the show, “Kiss” will be performed every day in the same spot during regular museum hours, from the time the doors open in the morning till they close at night. Each pair of performers — professional dancers rehearsed by Mr. Sehgal — will appear in roughly three-hour shifts, then be seamlessly replaced by another pair. Like a static sculpture, the piece is continually visible, but also constantly moving and changing. When the show ends, it will evaporate.

Mr. Sehgal created “Kiss” and other sculptural pieces like it in the early 2000s. He then moved on to work that makes viewers part of the action. The second of the two Guggenheim pieces, “This Progress,” which originated in 2006, is one of these. It is visually far less concentrated than “Kiss” — it is even in some sense invisible — but more embracing and filling.

It begins when you walk a short way up the rotunda ramp. A child comes over to greet you. My greeter, a girl of 9 or 10, introduced herself as Giuliana and stated matter-of-factly, “This is a piece by Tino Sehgal.” She invited me to follow her and asked if she could ask me a question. “What is progress?” I gave a broad answer, then at her request, a clarifying example. We went further up the ramp.

Soon we were joined by a young man, a teenager, who said his name was Will. Giuliana carefully and accurately paraphrased for him my response to her question and slipped away. I walked on with Will, who commented on my comments on progress, which prompted me to try to refine my initial thoughts.

About halfway up the rotunda, Will was replaced by Tom, whom I took to be in his mid-30s and who introduced a new topic.

He had read a scientific report that morning saying that dinosaurs, long envisioned as drab-gray and green, might have been brightly colored, even gaudily striped. We had both, we said, been fascinated by dinosaurs as kids, as was his young son today. And now everyone would have to reimagine them, though artists already had done that. So Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” turns out to be natural history. Art beats science to the punch.

As we neared the last stretch of the ramp, Tom handed me over to Bob, who was, like me, in late middle age and who broached another topic. He had just returned from Bulgaria where he had talked with a range of people over 20 about their feelings about the state of their country and lives. He found, he said, a pervasive nostalgia for life under Communism, a yearning for a society that promised to take care of everyone.

As we talked the idea of progress became increasingly complicated, ambiguous in value, simultaneously positive and negative. Is a sensitivity to ambiguity in general more prevalent now, we wondered, than in the 1960s when Bob and I were young? Bob said for his son, who is in his 30s, ambiguity is the rule. Where we had moral heroes, he can find none. I was about to press on with this when Bob stopped and said gently, as if on cue, “The piece is called ‘This Progress,’ ” and walked off.

As I made my way alone back down Frank Lloyd Wright’s loopy, utopian ramp I passed other visitors and their guides (or interpreters, to use Mr. Sehgal’s preferred term) in conversation. I later learned that a few verbal elements — Bob’s closing line and Giuliana’s opening questions — were scripted.

Everything else was extemporaneous. The interpreters had rehearsed timing with Mr. Sehgal, but otherwise, like the visitors, operated without instructions. No two conversations would ever be the same. The only traces that would remain — I deliberately made no notes until later — would be remembered ideas.

A similarly material-free version of art was, of course, espoused by 1960s Conceptualism, though as Mr. Sehgal has pointed out, it was rarely achieved. Certain early Conceptualists reduced art to the bare minimum — gestures, empty spaces — ostensibly in resistance to a voracious market. But they also documented that work in drawings, photographs and videos, which became market fodder.

Mr. Seghal’s scrupulous avoidance of documentation is meant as a corrective to that dynamic. And he takes the argument further by questioning the political premise on which such Conceptualism was founded.

Resisting the market, he insists, is misguided, always was. After all, artists have to make a living. He contends that the overproduction of material things is the crucial issue, the root source of bad ecology, bad economics and bad values.

For his part he is happy to market his physically impermanent art. He sells the pieces, for prices that reach into six figures, as editions; the sales agreements are oral; only the cash paid in is tangible. He stipulates that he or someone associated with him must oversee the execution of a sold piece.

If unauthorized changes are made, the result will be considered inauthentic, a fake. The edition of “Kiss” at the Guggenheim belongs to the Museum of Modern Art, which means MoMA alone has the right to execute or loan it. The Guggenheim, which has borrowed it, does not yet own a Sehgal.

To his detractors he is the perfect artist for the present profit-addled art industry. On the one hand, he pontificates about the perils of material production; on the other, he helps keep the money flowing into the market’s object-spewing system. And how innovative is his work? It stands on the shoulders of a constellation of influences, from Allan Kaprow, Fluxus and the Judson Dance Theater in the 1960s and ’70s to Andrea Fraser and Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the 1980s and ’90s. (Mr. Sehgal is young; so is much of his audience, which is unlikely to recognize when new is recycled old. The one form of transience the art industry depends on is the transience of memory.)

I understand those reservations. But against them I set my encounter with the show, organized by Nancy Spector, the museum’s deputy director and chief curator; Nat Trotman, associate curator; and Katherine Brinson, assistant curator. I like “Kiss,” but just O.K. It’s sexy, driven, complete, but radiates a familiar chic.

By contrast “This Progress” was awkward, rambling, indeterminate, peppered with doubt and ambiguity. (Why, I began to wonder as I walked and talked and listened, had I answered Giuliana’s question as I did? What would I say if I were asked again?)

Still, at the end, after Bob had disappeared, I felt stirred up, but light and refreshed, the way I sometimes — but not that often — do when I feel that I’ve met art in some very bare-bones way. It really is about life. It really is about communication. It really does have no answers. And it really is addictive. I was primed to go back for more.

News Photos, on the Move, Make News
Randy Kennedy

In the middle of December two trailer trucks left New York City bound for Austin, Tex., packed with a precious and unusual cargo: the entire collection of pictures amassed over more than half a century by the Magnum photo cooperative, whose members have been among the world’s most distinguished photojournalists.

It is one of the most important photography archives of the 20th century, consisting of more than 180,000 images known as press prints, the kind of prints once made by the collective to circulate to magazines and newspapers. They are marked on their reverse sides with decades of historical impasto — stamps, stickers and writing chronicling their publication histories — that speaks to their role in helping to create the collective photo bank of modern culture.

“The trucks had GPS, and I was so nervous, I was tracking every single second of the trip,” Mark Lubell, Magnum’s director, said.

Since Magnum’s founding in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, David Seymour and William Vandivert, the prints have always been kept at the agency’s headquarters, which has moved around Manhattan. But like many other photo agencies Magnum began digitally scanning its archive many years ago, and in 2006, the cooperative’s membership voted to begin exploring a sale, whose proceeds would be used to help reinvent Magnum for a new age.

Then last year, after discussions between Mr. Lubell and various scholarly institutions around the country, the archive was quietly sold to MSD Capital, the private investment firm for the family of Michael S. Dell, the computer tycoon. And the new owners have reached an agreement with the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin to place it there, for study and exhibition, for at least the next five years. It will be the first time that the archive, which for the last several years had been crowded onto shelves at Magnum’s modest offices on West 25th Street, will be accessible to scholars and the public.

Thomas F. Staley, the director of the Ransom Center — which has become well known for its collections of the papers of writers like Edgar Allan Poe, James Joyce and Don DeLillo — said that it planned to scan every image (Magnum itself has scanned fewer than half), to begin historical research and to organize exhibitions centered on portions of the archive.

“It catches so many of the world’s great photojournalists in one fell swoop,” Mr. Staley said. “These were the best of the best in their field. We want to make it a research collection. We want to bring scholars in to work in it, time and time again.”

Neither Magnum nor MSD — made up of Mr. Dell and two managing partners, Glenn R. Fuhrman and John C. Phelan, both well-known art collectors — would comment about the price of the sale, which included only the prints. (The image rights will be retained by the collective’s photographers and their estates.) But a person with knowledge of the transaction, who was not authorized to discuss it and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Ransom Center had insured the collection for more than $100 million.

The Magnum archive joins a parade of other collections of vintage photographic prints, including those of The New York Times and the National Geographic Society, that have changed hands in the past few years, as publications and photo agencies, moving aggressively to digitization, have realized they are sitting on valuable historical property.

Like other photo agencies, Magnum has seen its fortunes decline in recent years, along with those of the magazines and newspapers that once published the work of its photographers more regularly. The best known of these pictures went on to have long financial afterlives, thanks to licensing agreements that placed them everywhere from television to books and Web sites. But in a world of camera-phone images, bloggers and inexpensive photojournalism flooding the Internet, the cooperative’s finances have suffered.

“You could see the handwriting on the wall,” said Mr. Lubell, who took over as director six years ago, “and the handwriting was shrinking and shrinking.” With the proceeds from the sale the agency — which represents the work of 13 estates and 51 current members, including well-known photographers like Bruce Davidson, Eve Arnold, Susan Meiselas, Martin Parr and Alec Soth — will try to recreate itself as a media entity on the Web, relying less on publications and more on its ability to tell its own stories of world events and trends.

The earliest pictures in the archive date from before Magnum’s founding, to the work of photographers like Capa during the Spanish Civil War. The latest are from 1998, when the cooperative stopped using press prints as a way to circulate its images. In between those years are images that make it seem as if a Magnum photographer was present at almost every significant world event — D-Day, the civil rights movement, the rise of Fidel Castro — and also around to capture almost every celebrity and newsmaker: Gandhi, Monroe, Sinatra, Kennedy, Ali.

“For prints that worked this hard and traveled this much, they’re really in quite good condition,” Mr. Lubell said.

And they are relics from an age of photography that has now almost fully passed. “Given the technical changes that have taken place in the world of photography, including the digitization of images,” Mr. Fuhrman of MSD Capital, said in a statement, “a collection of prints like these will never exist again.”

Leaked "Lost" Episode Spurs Surprising Fan Reaction
James Hibberd

The first hour of the final season of ABC's "Lost" has leaked online, and the reaction is not what industry insiders expected.

Though preview content for heavily serialized dramas such as "Lost" are typically and frantically consumed online by fans, the sixth season of the ABC hit has managed to build such an epic level of anticipation that many fans are doing the unthinkable: refusing to watch the leaks.

When the opening scene from the premiere popped up online after a fan promotion Friday, users of one popular social network site voted to "bury" the video.

"Why spoil it now?" wrote one fan with the moniker MyWhiteNoise. "I'd rather watch it in hi-def and surround sound than ruin the surprise and watch some (low-quality) video."

To TV executives, such statements are like something from an alternative universe, the polar-bear opposite of how young, Web-savvy viewers typically respond to content. Fans usually embrace any short cut that skips the linear TV and advertiser-supported experience.

"We never had a show like 'Lost' before that had these kind of fans that love it so much that they don't want to know what happens before the premiere," said Michael Benson, co-executive vice president of marketing at ABC. "Fans feel like they own this thing, just like we do."

On Monday, fan commitment was given an even greater test when the entire premiere episode appeared on YouTube. The video was taken from hand-held cameras discretely shooting during a fan screening on Oahu. The Hawaii event itself was a revelation -- can any other TV drama rally 12,000 fans to an island in the South Pacific? Some flew in just to see the 44 minutes of video that ABC will air Tuesday night.

Not Interested

Yet when the inevitable YouTube copies appeared Sunday, many videos received only a few hundred hits as online fans registered their lack of interest in crummy bootlegs. "Are people so impatient that they would rather watch a cell phone camera version of the 'Lost' premiere than wait one day?" Kyool wrote on Twitter.

The lavishly shot "Lost" is the original Must-See HD drama. Yet for its final bow, ABC's marketing effort has shown no new footage, which producers wanted to keep under wraps. Until last week, all trailers used material from previous seasons, which the ABC marketing team tried to turn into an advantage.

"We wanted to go back and retell the stories of the characters and the larger situation that they're in," said Marla Provencio, co-executive vice president of marketing at ABC.

Catching up viewers on the complicated drama has always been a big part of the network's strategy with "Lost," but never more so than this year. After a serialized drama peaks, its ratings usually fall in a downward trajectory as infrequent viewers perceive themselves to be further and further behind the story. Ratings for the season premiere of "Lost" have fallen each year since Season Two. Reversing that trend is a major challenge, and ABC has aired repeats (complete with on-screen pop-up information) and has circulated various forms of recap videos online.

Though viewers tend to tune in for a show's last episode, the final season as a whole typically isn't as fortunate. Industry estimates have "Lost" tracking about the same as last year, which would be a victory if the show manages to maintain its previous rating. But -- as with the online reaction to the video leaks -- ABC is hopeful that "Lost" will surprise.

"'Lost' is like 'American Idol,' it's not your everyday show," Benson said. "From the buzz we're seeing right now, there's an obsession with this show. So who knows?"

How Do You Convert a Flat Movie Into 3-D?

With a trained artist and a fast computer.
Brian Palmer

Following the success of the 3-D release of James Cameron's Avatar, which recently surpassed Cameron's Titanic to become the highest-grossing movie of all time (not correcting for inflation), many producers are converting previously filmed features to 3-D prior to release. The next two Harry Potter movies will be in 3-D, and the opening of a Clash of the Titans remake has been delayed to allow for the conversion. How do you convert a movie to 3-D after it has already been shot?

Draw a map of each shot and let a computer do the rest. 3-D movies are normally filmed using two slightly offset cameras. Both images are projected onto the viewing screen, with those cheap plastic glasses feeding one image into your left eye and the other into your right. Without the benefit of the second camera during filming, producers have to generate the two offset images based on the single flat picture that they have. The first step is to separate the shot into somewhere between two and eight layers of depth. Take, for example, an image of a man standing in front of a brick wall, with a blue sky behind the wall. The graphic artist might separate the shot into three layers: the man, the wall, and the sky. Then, he would take each layer and draw contour lines around any object that appeared there. He'd start by marking depth lines on the man using a computer, turning the image into a sort of topographical map. He'd repeat the process for any objects in the other layers. (If there were a bird in the sky, he'd draw lines there, too.)

Once this is done, the computer takes over. Software creates a new, offset image of the man by moving the various regions of the contour map to the left or right and smoothing everything out. The closer bits—the tip of the man's nose, for example—would be moved the farthest, while the more distant parts—the back of his shoulder—would be displaced a bit less. Then the process would be repeated for the other two layers of the image: the wall and the sky. (The former would move only slightly; the latter hardly at all.) Broadly speaking, this process must be completed for every object in every shot of the whole movie—an undertaking that might take months, even with a team of 30 or more artists. (The workload depends in part on the amount of chaotic motion in a scene. If an object is relatively still, the artist can map out a few representative frames and let the computer interpolate the rest. Otherwise, he might have to work frame-by-frame.)

So how does a converted 3-D film compare to one that was shot with a genuine 3-D camera? It's not as good, but you probably wouldn't notice anything amiss unless you'd seen a lot of 3-D flicks. During the conversion process, the artists and the software have to fill in a lot of blanks. Consider the example above, where the image of the man is shifted against a background of a brick wall. That displacement will leave a blank space in the image—the portion of the wall behind him that wasn't in the original picture. At that point the artist has to cut a piece of the background from elsewhere in the frame and paste it into the man-shaped hole. If this cut-and-paste job isn't done perfectly, even an untrained viewer will get a sense that something isn't right. Another problem arises from the fact that the shot has been converted into three, four, or eight layers of depth, sort of like the way digital music is a series of snapshots rather than a continuous wave of sound. A stereoscopic camera shoots an infinite number of layers—so it produces an image that more closely resembles what the human eye sees.

Still, some directors of 3-D movies choose to convert after the fact, rather than shooting with stereo cameras. One reason is cost. Top stereographers charge millions dollars for feature films. A full conversion from 2-D to 3-D usually costs somewhat less, although it can run into seven figures. (Some conversion companies are now saving money by outsourcing the work to Asia.) Another reason to convert is unfamiliarity. Shooting a film in 3-D requires some careful decision-making so as to maximize the depth effect while minimizing potential eyestrain. Directors may feel constrained by these limitations. In any case, not every 3-D director agrees that conversion works just as well. James Cameron, for one, has criticized Tim Burton for using this approach in his upcoming feature, Alice in Wonderland: "It doesn't make any sense to shoot in 2-D and convert to 3-D," he said.

Explainer thanks Paul Judkins of Tony Ascroft Productions, Eric Robinson of Mr. X Inc., Daniel Symmes of the 3-D Film Preservation Fund, and Ray Zone of Ray 3D Zone.

Film Studio Blames Money Woes on Economy, Tech
Greg Sandoval

Some of the same technological forces that have consumed large portions of the music sector appear to be eating away at the film industry.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, one of the six biggest Hollywood film studios, told employees Monday that in March the company will lay off 450 workers, the equivalent of 6.5 percent of its global workforce, according to a story in The Los Angeles Times.

"Our industry is affected by two things: It's affected by the economy, of course, and it's affected by technology," Amy Pascal, the studio's co-chairman, said in a video message to employees. "Over the last two years, it's changed people's DVD-buying habits, which has had a huge effect on our company and the industry at large."

Sony Pictures, which has produced such recent films as "2012," "This is it," and "District 9," saw an earlier round of layoffs less than a year ago. In March 2009, the studio cut 250 jobs.

Pascal's reference to changes in DVD-buying habits is easy to trace. In a down economy, people have sought to cut costs and one of the ways they do it is by logging on at illegal download or video-streaming sites. Video codecs and compression technologies have improved and downloading large digital film files has never been easier.

Internet entertainment continues to grow. Netflix subscribers more and more are opting to watch videos via the company's Web-streaming service instead of waiting for physical discs to be delivered. Apple's iTunes rents and sells films to millions of iTunes users. Hulu, YouTube, and Sony's own Crackle.com offer ad-supported video films and TV shows to consumers free of charge.

Part of the problem is that movie theaters and TV networks have much more competition now. Where once we had to choose among watching four TV channels, visiting the neighborhood movie house, or throwing an album on the turntable, we now have cable, video games, user-generated video, social networking, and Pandora.

This all appears to be adding up to one important problem for Hollywood: the decline of the cash cow that once was the home viewing market. According to the Times, DVD and Blu-ray sales have plunged more than 13 percent in the U.S. over the last year.

If DVD revenue continues to fall, expect fewer films and possibly a shakeout among the largest studios. This is being predicted by some top filmmakers and studio power brokers.

Francis Ford Coppola, "The Godfather" director, said at the Beirut Film Festival last year that he expected some of the studios would go out of business.

"The cinema as we know it," Coppola said, "is falling apart."

Sony Quarterly Profit Surges to $861 Million
Tomoko A. Hosaka

Sony expects a smaller annual loss after blockbuster movie releases, cost cuts and robust holiday gadget sales boosted quarterly earnings more than sevenfold.

The Japanese manufacturing icon, known for products like the PlayStation 3 game console, Thursday said its net profit for the October-December quarter jumped to 79.2 billion yen ($861 million) from 10.4 billion yen a year earlier.

Robust revenue from movies, personal computers and financial services lifted revenue by 4 percent to 2.24 trillion yen.

Sony said it benefited from strong worldwide theater releases such as "2012" and "Michael Jackson's This is It," as well as home DVD sales of titles like "Angels & Demons."

Since taking over in 2005, Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer has been trying to unite the company's sprawling business, improve efficiency and rein in costs.

The Tokyo-based company's latest results suggest the Welsh-born CEO's initiatives are paying off, pushing Sony toward a recovery next year with a helping hand from the global economic recovery.

"I don't expect a very rapid recovery of the economy," said Nobuyuki Oneda, Sony's chief financial officer. "But it looks to have bottomed out, and I think we should be able to manage."

The maker of Bravia TVs and Cyber-shot cameras credited ongoing restructuring and better currency exchange rates for turning its consumer products and devices division profitable again.

The company has cut 20,000 jobs and aims to shave 330 billion yen in costs this year. It will have closed 12 factories by May.

As a result, Sony swung to an operating profit, which some analysts see as the best indication of a company's pure business performance, of 146.1 billion yen. The Tokyo-based company booked an operating loss of 18 billion yen a year earlier.

The company's PC business also did well, in large part due to higher sales of Vaio computers.

Gaming consoles declined mainly due to lower sales of the PlayStation 2 and PSP portable device. But PlayStation 3 sales jumped more than 40 percent to 6.5 million units during the quarter, Sony said.

Sales of the PlayStation 3 surged to U.S. record in December after a 25 percent price cut ahead of the key holiday shopping season. Until the cut, the console lagged behind its rivals in large part because it came with a bigger price tag.

Sony trimmed its forecast of losses for the fiscal year ending March 2010.

It now expects a net loss of 70 billion yen, a 22 percent improvement from its previous loss forecast of 95 billion yen. It predicts an operating loss of 30 billion yen instead of a 60 billion yen loss it forecast in October.

Stringer has said Sony aims to be profitable in gaming and flat-panel TVs in the year ending March 2011, and is pushing 3-D technology as a key strategy. Sony has new 3-D TVs in the works and is targeting sales of more than 1 trillion yen in 3-D products by the fiscal year through March 2013.

But the same rivals that Sony has struggled against in recent years, such as South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co., are certain to make a similar push in 3-D and other technologies. This would only increase pressure on Stringer to deliver on his promise of "synergy" to fully exploit Sony's strength in entertainment to boost profit for its core electronics business.

Sony is also hoping to jump into the tablet computer market, which Oneda described as a growth area now that Apple has introduced the iPad.

The company does not expect the iPad to significantly shrink demand for its well-received e-readers. Instead, the iPad represents a new player that straddles a world between smart phones and netbooks, he said.

"We are confident we have the skills and technologies to create such products," Oneda said, without mentioning specific product plans.

"Timewise, we are a little behind the iPad, but that is definitely a space in which we would like to be an active player."

Kota Ezawa, an analyst at Citigroup Global Markets Japan, said Sony's brand and global marketing prowess are "trump cards" that could fuel future growth against rivals like Samsung and Apple Inc.

"Earnings are recovering more quickly than we expected," he said in a recent report. "If Sony executes on decisive restructuring measures, we think it should be able to maintain the competitiveness that will make an improved profit outlook possible."

In trading Thursday, Sony shares fell 2.2 percent to 3,075 yen, while the Nikkei 225 stock index lost 0.5 percent.

Sony reports earnings based on Japanese accounting standards.

United States Box Office

Issued Tue Jan 26, 2010
Title/Distributor Wknd. Gross Total Gross # Theaters Last Wk. Days Released
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX $34944081 $551741499 3141 1 38
SONY PICTURES $17501625 $17501625 2476 0 3
WARNER BROS. $15732463 $60735686 3111 2 10
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX $14010409 $14010409 3344 0 3
PARAMOUNT $8418192 $31242633 2571 3 45
WARNER BROS. $6628069 $191076852 2670 6 31
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX $6403504 $204140348 2973 4 33
CBS FILMS $6012594 $6012594 2545 0 3
UNIVERSAL $5810025 $98270085 2301 7 31
LIONSGATE $4584524 $18544639 2924 5 10
WARNER BROS. $4166136 $233678402 1932 9 66
PARAMOUNT $3902190 $69245716 1707 10 52
UNIVERSAL $2889110 $22855295 1939 8 17
LIONSGATE $1551703 $28096998 1523 11 17
IDP/SAMUEL GOLDWYN FILMS $1513955 $1513955 441 0 3


Sundance: Snow and Stars vs. Twitter and Google Alerts
Brooks Barnes

An uncomfortable question surfaced at this year’s Sundance Film Festival: In the digital age, is trekking to this mountain town each January becoming less necessary?

Many fans and festival organizers, in particular Robert Redford, who founded the Sundance Institute in 1981, say no. Part of the enduring success of the event, which wrapped up its 11-day run on Sunday, involves the familial hub it provides for independent filmmakers and cinephiles — a nuts-and-bolts industry convention disguised as a party.

Even so, attendance has been falling since 2006, when about 53,000 people turned out. Last year the official count was 40,291. Festival organizers are still tabulating ticket reports for this year’s installment but say numbers from the first week show a 1 percent uptick over last year.

Mr. Redford says a quieter festival is a blessing in disguise. “The recession happened, and suddenly a lot of people around the edges — ambush marketers and such — didn’t show, and that’s fine with me,” he said. “This place was bursting at the seams. You couldn’t get around anymore.”

The recession has definitely taken a toll. But Mr. Redford and his team of programmers are battling other realities that could be affecting the festival’s drawing power: the increasing availability of Sundance films on the Internet and on-demand cable services; a changing movie business; and competition from other festivals like South by Southwest in Texas.

“The spirit of Sundance is still there, but film festivals over all are becoming less crucial,” said J. C. Spink, a partner at Benderspink, a Los Angeles management and production company. “You can have a festival every night in your house online.”

Mr. Spink used to make the pilgrimage to Park City every year. But he stayed home this time. “You can now attend Sundance from afar,” he said.

Between Google alerts and Twitter, he can get immediate feedback on his iPhone about what films and performances are generating buzz. More films than ever are quietly traded on DVD in Los Angeles before or during the festival, or screened outright for distributors in Hollywood .

Stars have long been part of Sundance’s allure, but even some of the bold-face names who had films screening at this year’s festival were absent. Natalie Portman starred in “Hesher,” which is also her producing debut, but introduced the film via video from New York, saying she couldn’t break away from work. Ryan Gosling appeared to promote “Blue Valentine,” co-starring Michelle Williams. But his decision to interact with fans through the movie’s Twitter account after he left might have created the bigger stir.

More and more, Sundance is racing to leverage technology to make the films that screen here more available to fans. “Opening new vistas” is how Mr. Redford describes it, noting that he has always championed the broadest distribution possible of Sundance selections. In 1996 he helped created the Sundance Channel on cable, which has become so successful that it is now being introduced in other countries like France and South Korea.

The question is whether the escalating availability of Sundance films in your living room, in some cases simultaneous with their premieres in Park City, will weaken the heart — the festival — of this enterprise, with its grants, working labs and dramaturge program. YouTube introduced its long-awaited movie rental option at this year’s festival by offering five Sundance films as soon as they had their premieres.

And for the first time, Sundance made movies available in about 40 million homes through cable and satellite on-demand services simultaneously with premieres. The program, Sundance Selects, includes “Daddy Longlegs,” a lighthearted drama about being torn between adulthood and childhood, and “The Shock Doctrine,” a documentary about the exploitation of moments of crisis in vulnerable countries by governments and big business.

“We now have opportunities to reach people in ways that we didn’t have before, and I think we absolutely need to take advantage of them — risk or not,” Mr. Redford said. When it comes to new technology, he said his position was, “How can you make a contribution and move it forward?”

To make itself more relevant, Sundance is increasing efforts to get content to people who do not attend the festival, including introducing a new program called Sundance Film Festival USA, in which eight of the most high-profile movies from this year’s line-up were screened in far-flung locations.

“Howl” (about the early life of Allen Ginsberg), “The Company Men” (starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper) and “The Runaways” (starring Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett) were among the pictures that screened in places like Ann Arbor, Mich.; Nashville; and Brookline, Mass. And festival organizers made sure directors were on hand to participate in question-and-answer sessions afterward.

Still, Sundance seems aware of the need to protect its base. The selections for Sundance Film Festival USA and Sundance Selects might have been high-profile but were largely small films or films playing out of competition and were not among the winners of the festival’s big prizes. The grand jury prize in the United States dramatic competition was given to “Winter’s Bone,” about a girl in the Ozarks looking for her drug-dealing father, while “Restrepo,” about the fighting in Afghanistan, won the grand jury prize for an American documentary.

Web downloads and video-on-demand services are great, but they will never replace the powerful experience of sitting in a darkened theater with a group of strangers and then chattering about what you’ve seen at the after-party, said Kevin Iwashina, a founder of Parlay Media, a film sales and production company.

“I think Sundance is smart to expand its footprint because it will help to increase the overall appetite for independent film,” said Mr. Iwashina, who was shopping several movies at this year’s festival, including “Life 2.0,” a documentary about the Second Life, a virtual online world. “Attending the festival is a life experience, and there is no substitute.”

Mel Gibson: 'A-hole' Remark Directed at Publicist, Not Reporter

Mel Gibson says an on-air insult this week was directed at his publicist, not a WGN reporter.

In a text message to KTLA's Sam Rubin Wednesday, Gibson said his publicist was making faces at him off-camera, and the actor didn't realize he was still on air when he called him an "a**hole."

The flub was caught on camera during an interview between Gibson and WGN reporter Dean Richards about the actor's new movie "Edge of Darnkness."

Richards, like many other reporters, asked Gibson whether his audience will forgive him for his 2006 drunken outburst and anti-semitic remarks. Gibson was visibly displeased and responded with, "That's almost four years ago, dude. I mean, I've moved on. I guess you haven't."

Gibson then requested Richards to move on, which he did and quickly wrapped up the interview. Gibson can then be heard saying, "a**hole" after sipping his coffee.

It was a situation eerily similar to a recent interview between Gibson and KTLA's Sam Rubin.

The interview took a turn for the worse when Sam suggested some fans may be reluctant to welcome Gibson back to the big screen.

"I gather you have a dog in this fight?," Gibson asked Sam, who is Jewish, regarding his anti-semitic remarks years ago.

The uncomfortable interview ended, and Gibson later apologized profusely to Sam during a private, off-camera meeting.

Lawmakers Grill Execs Over Comcast-NBC Deal
Marguerite Reardon

Comcast and NBC Universal executives went to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to answer lawmakers' questions about the proposed deal for Comcast to buy a controlling stake in the media and network TV giant.

In separate subcommittee hearings, lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate questioned Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker. Specifically, they asked how the $37 billion proposed merger between the nation's largest cable company and the TV network and movie studio would affect consumers' cable prices, the budding online TV business, and the distribution of cable and broadcast TV content.

Sparks flew during the Senate subcommittee hearing on antitrust issues when Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said he didn't trust his former bosses at NBC to live up to their promises. Franken, a former comedian, worked for several years on NBC's Saturday Night Live, and he even had a short-lived sitcom on NBC in the early 1990s called "Lateline."

"I worked for NBC for many years," he said. "And what I know from my previous career has given me reason to be concerned--let me rephrase that, very concerned--about the potential merger of Comcast and NBC Universal."

Franken said he was most concerned about Comcast withholding NBC content from competitors, or prioritizing its TV shows and movies over those of other content providers.

He pointed to promises made and broken by NBC in the early 1990s, when it promised government regulators that allowing networks to own more of their own programming content would not hurt independent producers. What actually happened, Franken said, is that the networks came to own the majority of the programming they air, demanding ownership in any independently produced shows that come to them.

"Today, if an independent producer wants to get its show on a network's schedule, it's a routine practice for the network to demand at least part ownership of the show," he said. "This is completely contrary to what NBC and the other networks said they would do when they were trying to get fin-syn (Financial Interest and Syndication Rules) rescinded. So while I commend NBCU and Comcast for making voluntary commitments as part of this merger, you'll have to excuse me if I don't just trust their promises."

Comcast and NBC have proposed their own conditions on the merger to ensure that they protect the public interest and preserve competition. Executives from the companies say they don't believe the FCC or other government regulators need to add more conditions to the merger.

But public-interest watchdogs say the merger should be rejected without more conditions to protect the public from higher prices and fewer choices.

During the House hearing, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) expressed fears that the deal would stifle competition and end up costing consumers.

Colleen Abdoulah, chief executive of small Midwest cable provider WideOpenWest, or WOW, offered the House subcommittee a few suggestions for conditions that could help prevent this. She suggested that regulators require Comcast and NBC to offer sports and entertainment programming to all of its competitors, including those online.

The Federal Communications Commission recently shut the "terrestrial loophole," a special provision in regulation that required cable operators to share only programming that gets transmitted via satellite. The loophole had enabled the cable companies to prevent many competitors, such as phone companies and satellite providers, from offering programming of local sports events controlled by cable operators. Cable companies have said they will appeal the decision.

Also during the House hearing, NBC's affiliate stations voiced concern that Comcast would move its most valuable sports and entertainment programming to its cable stations. They are concerned about Comcast putting NBC content on the Web and bypassing local transmission.

Comcast's Roberts tried to allay fears that a combined Comcast and NBC would be anticompetitive by pointing out growing competition for TV content online. He said that together, Comcast and NBC would result in "a more creative and innovative company."

NBC's Zucker told the House subcommittee that the deal with Comcast would help save TV broadcasting, which he said is currently under a certain amount of duress.

The FCC and Department of Justice have just begun reviewing the merger and are expected to reach a final decision on the outcome in the fourth quarter of this year.

FCC Approves FM Digital Power Increase

The FCC's Media Bureau has adopted a new rule that permits FM radio stations to voluntarily increase digital power levels up to 10 percent of their analog power levels. This establishes interference mitigation and procedures to resolve complaints of interference to analog stations. "These rule changes will substantially boost digital signal coverage while safeguarding analog reception against interference from higher power digital transmissions," reads a notice on FCC.gov. The power hike had been sought by broadcasters who complained that their HD Radio signals didn't cover as much ground as their analog signals. Currently, stations are permitted to transmit digitally at only one percent of analog power.

The new order will permit most FM stations to immediately increase digital power by 6 dB, a four-fold power increase, and it will limit power increases for stations currently licensed in excess of class maximums to protect analog radio service from interference. It also will establish application procedures for power increases up to 10 dB; Establish interference remediation procedures that require the Media Bureau to resolve each bona fide dispute or impose tiered power reductions within 90 days; and reserve the right to revisit the issue of digital power levels if significant interference results to analog reception.

"Today's ruling will result in greatly improved indoor reception for HD Radio listeners and greater service reliability for portable HD Radio devices," stated NAB EVP Dennis Wharton. "Broadcasters salute the FCC for taking this important step, which will allow free and local radio stations to better serve communities across America."

Taylor Swift and Beyonce Make Grammy History
Dean Goodman

Country-pop starlet Taylor Swift, who rocketed to stardom with ballads of teen love that she wrote on her bedroom floor, Sunday became the youngest artist to win the coveted Grammy for album of the year.

Swift, who turned 20 in December, took home four awards after being nominated eight times. She had never previously won any Grammys. Her second album, "Fearless," was the most popular release in the United States last year. U.S. sales to date stand at 5.4 million copies.

The fresh-faced singer, known for her blonde curly mane, had been expected to dominate the music industry's top awards. But she was overshadowed by R&B singer Beyonce, who won six awards including song of the year -- the most won by a female artist at a single event.

Both were eclipsed for record of the year by Tennessee rock band Kings of Leon, who were the surprise honorees for their pop-radio hit "Use Somebody."

In winning album of the year, Swift broke a record held since 1996 by Alanis Morissette, who was 21 when she won for "Jagged Little Pill," an album with decidedly more adult content.

Swift also was the first solo female country winner ever of the award, and the first female pop winner since Celine Dion won in 1997 for "Falling Into You."

"I just hope that you know how much this means to me ... that we get to take this back to Nashville," said Swift.

She also won the Grammy for best country album, and a pair of awards for her song "White Horse," female country vocal performance and best country song.

Backstage, Swift told reporters that despite her crossover success in the pop field, she still considered country music her first love.

"Country music is absolutely going to be my home because of the stories that are told within country music," she said.

She was planning to catch a flight straight after the event to Australia where she is set to play a sold-out arena tour. Her album has been certified gold or platinum in 16 international markets, her spokeswoman said.

'Amazing Night' For Beyonce

Beyonce won song of the year -- a songwriters' award for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." The anthemic hit also yielded Grammys for R&B song and female vocal performance, and Beyonce was additionally honored for contemporary R&B album with "I Am ... Sasha Fierce," traditional R&B vocal performance for her cover of "At Last" and female pop vocal performance with "Halo."

"This has been such an amazing night for me," she said after picking up the latter award.

Beyonce would have won seven awards if her husband Jay-Z had not beaten her in the rap/sung category. He ended up with three Grammys overall, taking his career haul to 10. Beyonce's career tally rose to 16, including three with her former group Destiny's Child.

Kings of Leon, long more popular internationally, finally achieved mainstream success in the United States last year with "Use Somebody." Brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill and their cousin Matthew Followill also won a pair of Grammys in the rock field for the song, taking their career haul to four.

Country combo the Zac Brown Band was named best new artist as expected. The Atlanta-based group becomes the first band to win the award since 2005.

The popular concert draw released its debut album in 2004, but did not achieve national prominence until 2008 when it released its major-label debut "The Foundation," which peaked at No. 17 on the U.S. pop chart.

The televised ceremony was packed with diverse performances, since 100 of the 109 categories were announced during a low-profile ceremony earlier in the day.

Mary J. Blige and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli earned a standing ovation for their version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," performed as a fundraising tribute to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The song was scheduled to go on sale at iTunes immediately afterwards.

Swift dueted with Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks for a version of the band's "Rhiannon." Two-time winner Lady Gaga performed with the almost-as-flamboyant Elton John.

"I think she proved her point tonight that she's not just a costume freak," veteran shock-rocker Alice Cooper, one of Lady Gaga's sartorial inspirations, told reporters.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman.)

The Pirate’s Guide To Paying For Music
Alex Wilhelm

There is no need to rehash the endless discussion over what the effects of peer-to-peer music transfer are. It does however have one inextricable problem for those engaging in the sharing of music files, how do you support the artists that you love?

So for the pirate looking for a way to keep the flexibility of downloading discographies of music while keeping the price low and supporting the band, this is the pirate’s guide to paying for music.

We are going to look at three different services: Zune, Spotify, Play.me, and MOG in detail. Each has a different feature set, and a different plan for how to interact with music. After, we’ll get into what else is out there

Each was selected under the following criteria:

* Must have a library in the millions of tracks which included mainstream labels.
* Must have a subscription option for simple payment.
* Must allow for unlimited listing.

Of course, there are a host of other music options, but we wanted to present you with a concise list of the star players. We are not including iTunes because it requires individual album/track purchases. It and Amazon have similar models. If you just want to buy a single track, those are good options. The selected options are tailored for an experience similar to torrent music: get quite a lot at once for a low, low price.


The Pirates Guide To Paying For Music

Quick facts: costs $14.99 monthly, you get some music forever, only in the US.

When Zune launched its devices and software, both were panned from the get go. While the devices have never found a serious audience, the software has excelled its hardware brother and become something to respect. I use Zune to manage my (annoyingly) massive library, you can read about the software itself here.

The Zune Pass costs $14.99 a month, and has two important points. First, you can download as much music as you want. If you keep paying the fifteen dollars monthly, those tracks are good to go. Stop paying, and they go dark. Also as part of the deal, is ten songs a month that you get to keep forever. Once you get used to a Zune Pass, it becomes quite intoxicating to download songs by the hundred, legally.

Of course, if you want, Zune sells tracks for a buck a piece or so, but you have to use Microsoft Points, so avoid it.

Problems: If you are not in the 50 States of Puerto Rico, you can get lost.


2 The Pirates Guide To Paying For Music

Quick facts: streaming service that costs either nothing or €9.99 monthly.

Spotify has two flavors, free and premium. If you are a free user, you can listen to music, with advertisements, as much as you like. If you want to pay, for just ten euro you can be a premium user. This means no audio advertisement interruptions, higher sound quality, and no branding of the player.

Spotify, as does everyone it seems, sells songs for around a pound a piece.

The service has over six million tracks, and even integrates with Last.fm. For just ten euro, you get a heck of a lot: access without interruption to all the music you want instantly, no potential guilt.

Problems: If you do not live in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France or Spain, you are out of luck.


The Pirates Guide To Paying For Music

Quick facts: simple streaming service, low price, keep some songs.

Play.me is a completely browser-based service, except when they let you download .mp3’s. A newcomer, Play.me is more similar to Spotify then Zune. It lets you stream 2.5 million songs on its website, and gives you some free tracks to keep at the end of the month.

The free service is just ten hours a month, but oddly gives you a free download. For $9.99 you get unlimited streaming and five .mp3s monthly. Not a bad deal for just ten bucks. Also, you can save playlists and put them onto your iPhone via an application, meaning that you can make your streams good for the go.

Problems: Their library is smaller, US only.


4 The Pirates Guide To Paying For Music

Quick Facts: MOG is a big streaming service with millions and millions of tracks, cheap.

MOG is like Play.me, but cheaper, and with a better user interface. You can stream a a larger library than Play.me has, but their monthly plan does not include any .mp3’s that you keep. That might be a problem if you place a high value on what you have rights over.

At $5 a month, MOG All Access is ad free music nirvana. The service has received rave reviews for its construction, something that we cannot say about all music startups. It may have an odd name, but MOG is a cheap option if you like streaming.

Problems: US only, no keeping of tracks in the monthly plan.

The Rest

As we said up top, there are myriad music services. There is LaLa which allows for ten-cent song purchases if you keep the tracks online, and boasts an eight million track library. We would have included LaLa above, but given that they were purchased by Apple, we are not sure what the future of the service is, we felt ill at east recommending it.

There is also eMusic which sells music at $0.5 a track and also sells subscriptions where you only get music that you keep. And of course, there is the forthcoming MusicStation by HP that will coming soon to compete with Spotify.

This list is in flux, but you can be sure of one thing: competition wins for the consumer, you.

So what is the best service? It depends on where you live and what you want. I use Zune already, so if I was to pick, I would use Zune. If I was living in Europe, Spotify is the easy choice. If I just want to use my browser (perhaps on my ChromeOS tablet?) then Play.me is the best fit. It’s up to you.

There are good options for listening to a lot of music for not that much money. We can all afford these. So, if you want to support the artists you love, you can.

Despite Anthrax, Beat Goes On for Drum Circle Fans
Holly Ramer

For drum circle devotees, the beat goes on.

The case of a young New Hampshire women who contracted a rare form of anthrax at a drum circle in December has done little to deter fans of the gatherings, which range from informal outdoor jam sessions to professionally run sessions in corporate conference rooms. Some focus on the music of specific cultures, while others promote spirituality, healing or a sense of community.

''I would never give it up,'' said Lois Emond, a registered nurse from Hooksett who drums as part of a women's chorus group. ''I've been drumming for over 25 years and nothing's ever happened.''

The Dec. 4 drum circle held at a campus ministry center in Durham was a monthly event advertised as ''Good food! Fun music! Excellent company!'' About 60 participants -- most of them University of New Hampshire students -- filled up on a pasta dinner then cleared away the tables in the center's great room to enjoy drumming games, music and dancing.

The woman who later became ill wasn't drumming that night. Instead, she was the first one to get up and dance, said Julie Corey, a drum circle facilitator hired to lead the session.

''I remember thanking her for that at the end of the night, because when she got up to dance, it inspired the other students,'' Corey said. ''I know she was having a great time. We all were.''

The woman became ill a few days later and by Christmas, had been diagnosed with gastrointestinal anthrax, an extremely rare form of the potentially fatal bacterial disease. Her condition has improved from critical, and as of this week, she was able to speak to state health officials.

Those conversations bolstered the theory that she likely swallowed anthrax spores propelled into the air by vigorous drumming, deputy state epidemiologist Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom said Wednesday. Tests have confirmed that anthrax spores found on two of the center's drums and elsewhere in the building were the same strain that infected the woman.

Though there have been several recent U.S. anthrax cases linked to naturally occurring anthrax on animal hide-covered drums, this case is unusual because the spores didn't enter through the skin or lungs but through the woman's digestive system. And the other cases -- in New York and Connecticut -- involved people who made drums and had extensive exposure to the hides.

Corey, who sells drums, gives drumming lessons and leads drum circles in a variety of settings, said she doesn't worry about getting anthrax and hopes others won't either.

''We're living in a fear-based society right now. We've got the flu and terrorism ... it's just one more thing to shut down people's energy systems,'' she said.

''My intention is to just continue to support the positive aspects of drums and drumming.''

Though drum circles have a reputation as hippie hangouts, they are becoming increasingly popular with other groups, said Jonathan Murray, president of the Drum Circle Facilitators Guild, which started with three members in 2003 and now has about 130. He said drum circles have expanded exponentially in the last decade and are used everywhere from prisons to cancer survivor support groups.

''It's a really fun, accessible activity, and anybody can do it. If you can bring your hand down on something, you can play a drum or a percussion instrument,'' he said.

In the corporate world, he said, drum circles can help illustrate the importance of communication, diversity and anticipating change. In schools, drums can promote awareness of other cultures.

''We tend to think of (music) as entertainment, but its roots go far beyond that, and its applications are much broader,'' Murray said.

A drum circle Corey recently organized to raise money earthquake victims in Haiti attracted about 50 people, including Emond, who said she had worried that the anthrax case would keep people away. The crowd ranged from a bearded man banging a tambourine on his knee to a 4-year-old girl twirling around the room with a teddy bear tucked under her arm. Corey later taught the group a Haitian drum rhythm, carefully explaining the different parts for shakers, bells and drums. At times, she resembled an orchestra conductor, gesturing to one section of drummers to increase their volume or tempo.

Mark Colby, 50, of Brentwood, said the experience was more than he had expected.

''You just kind of feel your soul open up,'' he said, characterizing the intense drumming as both tiring and energizing.

Paula MacLeod of Hampton said she was left feeling more connected to the world. Like Colby, she dismissed fears of anthrax.

''People can get hit by a bus,'' she said. ''Joggers are out jogging and die of a heart attack. It's just life,'' she said.

Rev. Larry Brickner-Wood is the pastor at United Campus Ministry, where the Dec. 4 drum circle took place. He wasn't drumming that night, but one of the drums that tested positive for anthrax was one he often used. Even so, he wasn't alarmed.

''It's the kind of thing that comes through your mind, and you let it go,'' he said.

''I don't want to stop drumming. It's a wonderful thing.''

But he has canceled his scheduled appearance at a United Church of Christ conference next month where he had planned to give a workshop on how to organize a drum circle, partly because he has a family wedding to attend but also because of the anthrax scare.

''I look forward to the day, though, when I can drum again and also to leading some circles at some point in the future,'' he said.

House Passes Cybersecurity Bill
Janie Lorber

The House today overwhelmingly passed a bill aimed at building up the United States’ cybersecurity army and expertise, amid growing alarm over the country’s vulnerability online.

The bill, which passed 422-5, requires the Obama administration to conduct an agency-by-agency assessment of cybersecurity workforce skills and establishes a scholarship program for undergraduate and graduate students who agree to work as cybersecurity specialists for the government after graduation.

As officials puzzle over how to defend the nation from enemies that are often impossible to pinpoint, the lawmakers behind the bill said education and recruitment are crucial.

“Investing in cybersecurity is the Manhattan Project of our generation,” Representative Michael Arcuri, Democrat of New York, a sponsor of the bill said on the House floor Wednesday. “But this time around we are facing far greater threat. Nearly every high school hacker has the potential to hamper our unfettered access to the Internet. Just imagine what a rogue state could do.”

Mr. Arcuri said that the federal government will need to hire between 500 and 1,000 more “cyber warriors” each year to keep up with potential enemies. Troops online “are every bit as important to our security as a soldier in our field,” he said.

The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, H.R. 4061, a major information security bill, closely follows a warning by Dennis Blair, the director of National Intelligence, who told lawmakers this week that computer-related attacks were becoming increasingly malicious.

The government’s four-year review of Defense Department strategies, also issued this week, stated that large-scale cyberattacks could massively disable or hurt international financial, commercial and physical infrastructure.

Mr. Obama has said cybersecurity is one of his top priorities and between the fallout from the attack on Google’s computers in January and the more modest hacking of Web sites of 49 House members and committees last week, the risk is felt acutely in Washington.

Still, the budget proposal the administration delivered to Congress Monday cut funding for the Homeland Security Department’s cybersecurity division.

There is no companion bill in the Senate, but senators are working on several unrelated information security bills.

The bill is based on a review of Mr. Obama’s review of cyberspace policies across the federal government in May, 2009. It authorizes one single entity, the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to represent the government in negotiations over international standards and orders the White House office of technology to convene a cybersecurity university-industry task force to guide the direction of future research.

It also directs the National Science Foundation to research the social and behavioral aspects of cybersecurity, like how people interact with their computers and manage their online identities, in order to establish a new, more accessible awareness and education campaign.

US Military Responsibilities to Expand
Daniel Dombey and Jeremy Lemer

The US will take on a broader range of military responsibilities, including defending space and cyberspace, in spite of growing pressure on budgets, a long-awaited administration report is set to conclude on Monday.

Robert Gates, US defence secretary, is due to unveil the Obama administration’s Quadrennial Defense Rev#iew, which shifts emphasis from the post-cold war doctrine that the US is able to fight two “major regional conflicts” at one time.

According to a December draft, the US military will restructure its forces to “prevail in today’s wars” and buy more of the helicopters and unmanned drones that have proved their worth in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the draft also highlights “a multiplicity of threats”, including cyber#attacks and anti-satellite weapons, as well as terrorist groups and the prospect of more nuclear weapon states.

“It is no longer appropriate to speak of ‘major regional conflicts’ as the sole or even the primary template for sizing, shaping and evaluating US forces,” the draft says. “Rather, US forces must be prepared to conduct a wide variety of missions under a range of different circumstances.”

In an apparent nod to Iran, it says that within the next decade the US’s adversaries could include “regional powers armed with modest numbers of nuclear weapons, as well as larger more powerful states”. Despite President Barack Obama’s emphasis on beginning a drawdown in Afghanistan in July 2011, the draft also envisages 75,000 US troops will remain in the country for the “near and mid-term future”.

The prospect of increased demands on the military comes as the administration releases its 2011 budget proposals on Monday, which analysts expect will underline growing strains on defence spending.

While Mr Obama has exempted national security spending from his freeze on discretionary spending, many experts forecast modest real-term increases in the core budget next year before spending flattens out in the medium term.

In practice that means substantially less money for equipment and research.

Some Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, have called for the spending freeze to apply to the overall defence budget, which totals more than $660bn (€476bn, £413bn) for 2010, because of the burgeoning US budget deficit.

“It seems to me inevitable there will be a reduced defence budget, whether it is in two years from now or four years from now,” said Martin Indyk, director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank. “The writing is on the wall.”

In mid-January the Defense Business Board, which advises the Pentagon on industrial issues, said declining budgets could lead to a substantial re#organisation of the US industrial base. A report by the Congressional Budget Office released last week suggested that the Pentagon’s spending plans were already underfunded. “The force remains small, it is going to get smaller, the age of weapons systems is going to increase and new weapons systems are going to be brought in more slowly than under previous plans,” said Thomas Donnelly at the American Enterprise Institute.

Mr Gates has pushed to rebalance spending and cut expensive cold war weapons systems in favour of kit designed for current operations - something that the QDR is set to continue.

Intelligence Chief: Attacks on Google "Wake-Up Call"

Recent cyber attacks on Google are a "wake-up call" and neither the U.S. government nor the private sector can fully protect the American cyber infrastructure, the director of U.S. national intelligence said on Tuesday.

"Malicious cyber activity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication," Dennis Blair said in prepared testimony for a Senate intelligence committee hearing.

Google, the world's top Internet search engine, said last month it would not abide by Beijing-mandated censorship of its Chinese-language search engine and might quit the Chinese market entirely because of cyber attacks from China.

Blair said the Chinese military's "aggressive cyber activities" pose challenges to neighbors.

In another section of his remarks, Blair said that "financial contagion risks are falling but have not disappeared."

Most emerging market countries had weathered the crisis, international private investment flows were recovering, and the International Monetary Fund has the resources to intervene when necessary, Blair said.

"Nonetheless, the economies of several countries remain at risk despite the improving global environment," he said, pointing to Pakistan and Ukraine.

"Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania remain fragile and the breaking of euro pegs in the region would put new strains on European banks," Blair said.

(Reporting by Adam Entous, Writing by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Eric Beech)

Google Asks Spy Agency for Help With Inquiry Into Cyberattacks
John Markoff

Google has turned to the National Security Agency for technical assistance to learn more about the computer network attackers who breached the company’s cybersecurity defenses last year, a person with direct knowledge of the agreement said Thursday.

The collaboration between Google, the world’s largest search engine company, and the federal agency in charge of global electronic surveillance raises both civil liberties issues and new questions about how much Google knew about the electronic thefts it experienced when it stated last month that it might end its business operations in China, where it said the attacks originated. The agreement was first reported on Wednesday evening by The Washington Post.

By turning to the N.S.A., which has no statutory authority to investigate domestic criminal acts, instead of the Department of Homeland Security, which does have such authority, Google is clearly seeking to avoid having its search engine, e-mail and other Web services regulated as part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure.”

The United States government has become increasingly concerned about the computer risks confronting energy and water distribution systems and financial and communications networks. Systems designated as critical infrastructure are increasingly being held to tighter regulatory standards.

On Jan. 12, Google announced a “new approach to China,” stating that the attacks were “highly sophisticated” and came from China. At the time, it gave few details about the attacks other than to say that a theft of its intellectual property had occurred and that a primary goal of the attackers had been to gain access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

In reaching out to the N.S.A., which has extensive abilities to monitor global Internet traffic, the company may have been hoping to gain more certainty about the identity of the attackers. A number of computer security consultants who worked with other companies that experienced attacks similar to those of Google have stated that the surveillance system was controlled from a series of compromised server computers based in Taiwan. It is not clear how Google determined that the attacks originated in China.

A Google spokeswoman said the company was declining to comment on the case beyond what it published last month. An N.S.A. spokeswoman said, “N.S.A. is not able to comment on specific relationships we may or may not have with U.S. companies,” but added, the agency worked with “a broad range of commercial partners” to ensure security of information systems.

The agency’s responsibility to secure the government’s computer networks almost certainly was another reason Google turned to it, said a former federal computer security specialist.

“This is the other side of N.S.A. — this is the security service that does defensive measures,” said the specialist, James A. Lewis, a director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s not unusual for people to go to N.S.A. and say ‘please take a look at my code.’ ”

The agreement will not permit the agency to have access to information belonging to Google users, but it still reopens long-standing questions about the role of the agency.

“Google and N.S.A. are entering into a secret agreement that could impact the privacy of millions of users of Google’s products and services around the world,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based policy group. On Thursday, the organization filed a lawsuit against the N.S.A., calling for the release of information about the agency’s role as it was set out in National Security Presidential Directive 54/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 , a classified 2008 order issued by President George W. Bush dealing with cybersecurity and surveillance.

Concerns about the nation’s cybersecurity have greatly increased in the past two years. On Tuesday, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, began his annual threat testimony before Congress by saying that the threat of a crippling attack on telecommunications and other computer networks was growing, as an increasingly sophisticated group of enemies had “severely threatened” the sometimes fragile systems behind the country’s information infrastructure.

“Malicious cyberactivity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication,” he told the committee.

The relationship that the N.S.A. has struck with Google is known as a cooperative research and development agreement, according to a person briefed on the relationship. These were created as part of the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 and are essentially a written agreement between a private company and a government agency to work together on a specific project. They are intended to help accelerate the commercialization of government-developed technology.

In addition to the N.S.A., Google has been working with the F.B.I. on the attack inquiry, but the bureau has so far declined to comment publicly or to share information about the intrusions with Congress.

UK Government Enlists Public to Spot Terror Web Sites

Web sites will be taken down if their intent is to provide information to terrorists
Jeremy Kirk

The U.K. public can report terrorism-related Web sites to authorities for removal from the Internet under a new program launched by the British government.

The program is a way in which the government is seeking to enforce the Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006, which make it illegal to have or share information that's intended to be useful to terrorists and bans glorifying terrorism or urging people to commit terrorism.

People can report Web sites on Direct.co.uk by filling out a Web-based form. The form includes categories to describe what's on the Web site, such as "terrorist training material" or "hate crimes."

Content deemed illegal by the U.K. includes videos of beheadings, messages that encourage racial or terrorist violence and chat forums revolving around hate crimes, according to information on Direct.co.uk.

The reports are anonymous and are then reviewed by police officers who are part of the new Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, run by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). A Home Office spokeswoman said that unit would be responsible for determining the intent of the content posted, which would determine whether it is in fact illegal.

But it begs the question of how, for example, chemistry textbooks published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- which have information on poison and explosives -- could be viewed, said Wendy M. Grossman, a member of the Open Rights Group advisory council and a freelance technology writer.

"I suppose the key is 'intended to be useful to terrorists,' and what they're trying to get at is networks of terrorists who educate each other and their recruits," Grossman said. "Bottom line is I don't believe this effort is going to make us any safer, though it may well turn up a few idiots who get prosecuted for, basically, saying stupid things."

Police should review submitted sites fairly quickly, said an ACPO spokeswoman. If the Web site is hosted in the U.K., police would ask the hosting provider to take the site offline. If a site is hosted overseas, then police would engage private industry and other law enforcement agencies, she said.

The reporting Web site is a sensible idea, but it's unlikely that many people will know it even exists if they come across the type of material the government aims to stop, said Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer at Pinsent Masons.

"I don't think the police anticipate a huge number of submissions," Robertson said.

In October 2007, British police arrested a 17-year-old for possessing a copy of the "The Anarchist Cookbook," a 1970s-era book featuring instructions on homemade bomb-making and other destructive tips.

Last month, a 38-year-old man pleaded not guilty to 12 terrorism-related charges, including four counts of owning information useful to terrorism, according to a BBC news story. One of the counts was for possessing "The Anarchist Cookbook," which is still sold today on Amazon.co.uk.

'No Scan, No Flight' Rules Begin

Some passengers at Heathrow and Manchester airports will have to go through full body scanners before boarding their flights under new rules.

It is now compulsory for people selected for a scan to take part, or they will not be allowed to fly.

The new security rules have been introduced following the attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day.

There have been concerns the scanners breach passengers' rights to privacy.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said in the immediate future only a small proportion of airline passengers would be selected for scanning.

In a written statement to the House of Commons, he said: "If a passenger is selected for scanning, and declines, they will not be permitted to fly."

The scanners were introduced at the two airports on Monday and will be installed at Birmingham later in the month.

Privacy protection

The machine has been used at Manchester Airport's Terminal 2 since October, with additional scanners planned for Terminals 1 and 3 by the end of February.

The Department of Transport has published an interim code of practice covering privacy, health and safety, data protection and equality issues.

"The code will require airports to undertake scanning sensitively, having regard to the rights of passengers," Lord Adonis said.

Manchester Airport said it had put strict procedures in place to protect the privacy of passengers.

Its head of customer experience, Sarah Barrett, said: "It will enhance security for everyone, which can only be a good thing, without compromising people's privacy.

"The image generated by the body scanner cannot be stored or captured nor can security officers viewing the images recognise people."

The equipment does not allow security staff to see passengers naked, she added.

A rule which meant under 18s were not allowed to participate in the body scanner trial has been overturned by the government.

The introduction of body scanners has sparked a wide debate, and even the home secretary has admitted it will not be a "magic bullet".

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to detonate a bomb on a flight from Amsterdam as it was about to land in Detroit.

Hacking for Fun and Profit in China’s Underworld
David Barboza

With a few quick keystrokes, a computer hacker who goes by the code name Majia calls up a screen displaying his latest victims.

“Here’s a list of the people who’ve been infected with my Trojan horse,” he says, working from a dingy apartment on the outskirts of this city in central China. “They don’t even know what’s happened.”

As he explains it, an online “trapdoor” he created just over a week ago has already lured 2,000 people from China and overseas — people who clicked on something they should not have, inadvertently spreading a virus that allows him to take control of their computers and steal bank account passwords.

Majia, a soft-spoken college graduate in his early 20s, is a cyberthief.

He operates secretly and illegally, as part of a community of hackers who exploit flaws in computer software to break into Web sites, steal valuable data and sell it for a profit.

Internet security experts say China has legions of hackers just like Majia, and that they are behind an escalating number of global attacks to steal credit card numbers, commit corporate espionage and even wage online warfare on other nations, which in some cases have been traced back to China.

Three weeks ago, Google blamed hackers that it connected to China for a series of sophisticated attacks that led to the theft of the company’s valuable source code. Google also said hackers had infiltrated the private Gmail accounts of human rights activists, suggesting the effort might have been more than just mischief.

In addition to independent criminals like Majia, computer security specialists say there are so-called patriotic hackers who focus their attacks on political targets. Then there are the intelligence-oriented hackers inside the People’s Liberation Army, as well as more shadowy groups that are believed to work with the state government.

Indeed, in China — as in parts of Eastern Europe and Russia — computer hacking has become something of a national sport, and a lucrative one. There are hacker conferences, hacker training academies and magazines with names like Hacker X Files and Hacker Defense, which offer tips on how to break into computers or build a Trojan horse, step by step.

For less than $6, one can even purchase the “Hacker’s Penetration Manual.” (Books on hacking are also sold, to a lesser extent, in the United States and elsewhere.)

And with 380 million Web users in China and a sizzling online gaming market, analysts say it is no wonder Chinese youths are so skilled at hacking. Many Chinese hackers interviewed over the last few weeks describe a loosely defined community of computer devotees working independently, but also selling services to corporations and even the military. Because it is difficult to trace hackers, exactly who is behind any specific attack and how and where they operate remains to a large extent a mystery, technology experts say.

And that is just the way Majia, the young Chinese hacker, wants it. On condition that he not be identified by his real name, Majia agreed two weeks ago to allow a reporter to visit his modest home in a poor town outside Changsha, and watch him work.

Slim and smartly dressed in black, Majia seemed eager to tell his story; like many hackers, he wants recognition for his hacking skills even as he prizes anonymity to avoid detection. The New York Times found him through another well-known hacker who belongs to a hacker group and vouched that Majia was skilled at what he did.

While Majia’s claims, of course, cannot be verified, he is happy to demonstrate his hacking skills. He met a journalist at a cafe one night just over a week ago, and then invited him to his home, where he showed how he hacked into the Web site of a Chinese company. Once the Web site popped up on his screen, he created additional pages and typed the word “hacked” onto one of them.

Majia says he fell in love with hacking in college, after friends showed him how to break into computer systems during his freshman year.

After earning a degree in engineering, he took a job with a government agency, largely to please his parents. But every night after work, he turns to his passion: hacking.

He is consumed by the challenges it presents. He reads hacker magazines, swaps information with a small circle of hackers and writes malicious code. He uses Trojan horses to sneak into people’s computers and infect them, so he can take control.

“Most hackers are lazy,” he says, seated in front of a computer in his spare bedroom, which overlooks a dilapidated apartment complex. “Only a few of us can actually write code. That’s the hard part.”

Computer hacking is illegal in China. Last year, Beijing revised and stiffened a law that makes hacking a crime, with punishments of up to seven years in prison. Majia seems to disregard the law, largely because it is not strictly enforced. But he does take care to cover his tracks.

Partly, he admits, the lure is money. Many hackers make a lot of money, he says, and he seems to be plotting his own path. Exactly how much he has earned, he won’t say. But he does admit to selling malicious code to others; and boasts of being able to tap into people’s bank accounts by remotely operating their computers.

Financial incentives motivate many young Chinese hackers like Majia, experts say. Scott J. Henderson, author of “The Dark Visitor: Inside the World of Chinese Hackers,” said he had spent years tracking Chinese hackers, sometimes with financial help from the United States government. One Chinese hacker who broke into a United States government site later lectured on hacking at a leading university, Mr. Henderson said, and worked for China’s security ministry. But recently, many have been seeking to profit from stealing data from big corporations, he said, or teaching others how to hijack computers.

“They make a lot of money selling viruses and Trojan horses to infect other people’s computers,” Mr. Henderson said in a telephone interview. “They also break into online gaming accounts, and sell the virtual characters. It’s big money.”

Majia lives with his parents, and his bedroom has little more than a desktop computer, a high-speed Internet connection and a large closet. The walls are bare.

Most of his socializing occurs online, where he works from about 6:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., starting every evening by perusing computer Web sites like cnBeta.com.

Asked why he doesn’t work for a major Chinese technology company, he sneers at the suggestion, saying that it would restrain his freedom.

He even claims to know details of the Google attack. “That Trojan horse on Google was created by a foreign hacker,” he says, indicating that the virus was then altered in China. “A few weeks before Google was hijacked, there was a similar virus. If you opened a particular page on Google, you were infected.”

Oddly, Majia said his parents did not know that he was hacking at night. But at one point, he explained the intricacies of computer hacking and stealing data while his mother stood nearby, listening silently, while offering a guest oranges and candy.

Majia and his fellow hackers keep secret their knowledge of certain so-called zero-day vulnerabilities — software flaws — for future use, he says.

“Microsoft and Adobe have a lot of zero days,” he said, while scanning Web sites at home. “But we don’t publish them. We want to save them so that some day we can use them.”

When asked whether hackers work for the government, or the military, he says “yes.”

Does he? No comment, he says.

Bao Beibei contributed research from Shanghai, and John Markoff contributed reporting from San Francisco.

China Works to Toughen Hacking Laws
Owen Fletcher

Chinese police and judicial officials are formulating new measures that govern how hacking crimes are handled by courts, the country's latest step to strengthen its cyber laws, state media reported.

China's police are working with the country's highest investigative organ and the Supreme People's Court to release a judicial interpretation on hacking crimes, according to the People's Daily, the official paper of the Communist Party, citing a Chinese police representative. The report gave no details, but such documents are used to direct lower-level Chinese courts on how to apply laws.

The move would be the latest of China's efforts to strengthen laws against cybercrime, which have come alongside a growing number of reported arrests and court sentences for hacking in the country in the last year.

The report comes after Google last month drew global attention to hacking in China by saying it had been hit by cyberattacks from the country. Google cited the attacks, which resulted in the loss of intellectual property, as one reason it plans to stop censoring its China-based search engine, even if the move forces it to shut down its China offices.

China's national political advisory body has also called for changes to a law on online information safety and other measures intended to reduce cybercrime, according to the state-run China News Service.

China late last year released a tort law that touches on privacy issues and requires Internet service providers to take action when an individual is using the network to violate someone's civil rights. The providers should take steps including deletion and blocking when they receive a complaint about infringement of a victim's rights, according to the law.

Chinese media saw the law partly as a move against China's "human flesh searches," in which a mass of Internet users dig up and post online information about a victim, sometimes after stealing the information. Such searches are often directed against people seen to have committed an immoral act such as cheating on a spouse.

Earlier last year , China passed its first regulations protecting the public from cyber data theft. It later issued a set of regulations that called for measures by the country's telecom network operators and other bodies to fight problems including botnets and false information used to register domain names.

China has often been blamed for cyberattacks worldwide, though it is difficult to trace hacking activity within the country and attackers in other countries could also launch attacks from a Chinese IP (Internet Protocol) address.

Crimes like data theft through computer malware and attacks meant to paralyze a victim's servers are also a problem in China itself. One cyberattack last year ended up taking down Internet access for several hours in certain Chinese provinces.

Can You Trust Chinese Computer Equipment?

As you surely know, Google has accused China of hacking into its systems and is considering pulling out of China altogether. The U.S. government is taking this seriously, and Google has partnered with the NSA (National Security Agency) to get to the bottom of this. What you may not know is that the United Kingdom's MI5 -- Americans can think of this as a combination of the FBI and CIA -- has reported that the Chinese government has been giving UK executives electronics with built-in security holes.

According to the Sunday Times, "A leaked MI5 document says that undercover intelligence officers from the People's Liberation Army and the Ministry of Public Security have also approached UK businessmen at trade fairs and exhibitions with the offer of 'gifts' and 'lavish hospitality.' The gifts -- cameras and memory sticks -- have been found to contain electronic Trojan bugs which provide the Chinese with remote access to users' computers."

That's bad. But why, if these stories are true, should the Chinese government stop there? U.S. and British citizens buy billions of dollars every year of Chinese-made USB memory sticks, computers, hard drives, and cameras. Why not just add security holes as a matter of course to the firmware of all of them?

It's not hard. Heck. It's trivial.

Backdoors, systems with a deliberate security hole that allows its creator full access to a system, have been around for ages. Indeed, back in 1983, Ken Thompson, one the creators of Unix, admitted that he had included a backdoor in early Unix versions. Thompson's backdoor gave him access to every Unix system then in existence.

If China's government really is hell-bent on keeping an eye on American and European businesses, why not just incorporate 21st century backdoors into their products? Then, you could just have them automatically call home to do a data dump of documents. If there's anything interesting in the files, it can be set to monitor its user on a regular basis.

There's nothing difficult about doing this. Not only are backdoors easy to create, running an automatic check for words of interest, even in terabytes of documents, just requires some servers. After all, Google does it every day with far more data than such a plot could ever uncover.

Best of all, if I'm a government snoop, once my broken machines are in place, it doesn't matter how good its users are about PC security. The malware is already on the equipment and ready to go.

Sure, if a company or government agency uses top network security they may spot the illegal activity, but how many actually have crack security analysts? Far fewer than you might think. It's easier to just put down any problem to some more mundane malware infection than to consider that the computers themselves were designed to be working for an enemy.

Do I think this is happening? I honestly don't know. I have no proof. What I do know though is that it's easy to do, hard to detect, and the Chinese government appears to be engaging in a massive IT espionage. That's a worrisome combination.

If I were in charge of any enterprise where I thought I had any reason to think that these Chinese authorities might be interested in what I was doing, I'd stop buying Chinese computer products today. Until this issue of Chinese cyber-espionage has been cleared up and cleaned up, I simply couldn't justify buying or using hardware that might be working against me. If you consider it for a minute, I think you'll agree.

File-Sharing Scam Targets Twitter

Twitter has identified a scheme that uses compromised file-sharing sites to steal the log on information of users.

The service said it had discovered a number of compromised "torrent" sites that had been set up specifically to skim usernames and passwords.

Torrent sites acts as indexes of links to TV, film and music files.

Scammers were then able to use the data to gain access to Twitter and other sites because many people use the same logon for multiple services.

The firm has reset the accounts of affected users, it said.

"The takeaway from this is that people are continuing to use the same email address and password (or a variant) on multiple sites," the firm said in a blog post.

"We strongly suggest that you use different passwords for each service you sign up for."

The conclusion is echoed by security researchers who say it is a particular problem for banking websites.

A survey of millions of people conducted by the security firm Trusteer, suggests that 73% of people share the passwords which they use for online banking, with at least one nonfinancial website.

Around 47% of users share both their user ID and password with at least one nonfinancial website, it found.

"Consumers are not aware, or are choosing to ignore, the security implications of reusing their banking credentials on multiple websites," said Amit Klein of the firm.

'Riskiest network'

Twitter said that it had discovered the scam after seeing unusual activity on the site.

After "doing some digging" the firm found a network of compromised torrent sites that had been set up with the sole aim of stealing logon information.

"It appears that for a number of years, a person has been creating torrent sites that require a login and password as well as creating forums set up for torrent site usage and then selling these purportedly well-crafted sites and forums to other people innocently looking to start a download site of their very own," said the firm.

The sites also contained security exploits allowing the person to steal usernames and passwords.

"This person then waited for the forums and sites to get popular and then used those exploits to get access to the username, e-mail address, and password of every person who had signed up."

Twitter said that it hadn't identified all of the affected torrent sites but had reset the passwords of compromised accounts.

The information comes as security firm Sophos launched its annual report.

One of its findings that spam and attacks on social networks - such as Twitter and Facebook - had risen 70% in the last year.

Facebook was branded the "riskiest" network, although the firm also pointed out that it was also the largest and would therefore attract the most attention form cybercriminals.

Image Searchers Snared By Malware
Bennett Haselton

A friend of mine recently e-mailed a discussion list with an interesting query. Stonewall Ballard had searched on "tradingbloxlogo" on Google Images, which led to the results on this page. Clicking on the first result, an image from the tradingblox.com site, took him to this page, with the Google information header at the top, and loading the http://www.tradingblox.com/tradingblox/courses.htm page in a frame in the bottom half of the browser window. When that page was loaded in that bottom frame, Internet Explorer and Firefox would both flash warnings about the page being infected with malware. But if you loaded the http://www.tradingblox.com/tradingblox/courses.htm page in a normal Web browser window by itself, the browser would not display any warning, and checking the site using Google's malware query form returned a result saying the site was not suspicious. Why the differing results?

It turned out that the tradingblox.com had been hacked, and pages had been installed onto the server that would serve malware in an unusual way: If the page was being viewed in a frame loaded from Google Images, or as as result of a click through from Google Images, then the page would serve content that attempted to infect the user's computer with malware. On the other hand, if the page was viewed normally (as a result of typing the page into your browser), the malware-loading code would not be served. That means if you were to telnet to port 80 on the www.tradingblox.com server, and request a page as follows:

GET /tradingblox/courses.htm HTTP/1.1 Host: www.tradingblox.com

then the normal page would be returned. But if you entered these commands:

GET /tradingblox/courses.htm HTTP/1.1 Host: www.tradingblox.com Referer: http://images.google.com/

then you would get the malware-infected page. (The webmaster has since fixed the problem, so that the latter request will no longer get the malware code.) The webserver would only serve the infected content if "images.google.com" was sent specifically as the referer; "www.google.com" by itself would not trigger the result.

(For the uninitiated, when you click a link from one page to another, for example if you were reading an article on CNN.com which had a link to http://www.google.com/support/ and you clicked on that link, then when your browser requested the file "/support/" from the www.google.com server, it would send the request as follows:

GET /support/ HTTP/1.1 Host: www.google.com Referer: http://www.cnn.com/article.url.goes.here/

So the webmasters of www.google.com can see what links people are clicking from other websites to reach the www.google.com site. Many sites use this to track which links from other pages, including advertisements that they've bought on other sites, are sending them the most traffic.)

Denis Sinegubko, owner of the website malware-infection checking site UnmaskParasites.com, says that he had seen pages before which would serve infected content if www.google.com itself were listed in the Referer: field. However, this was the first instance he'd seen where the content was only served if images.google.com was specifically listed as the Referer. Since no malware distributor would manually break into just one website to compromise it in this exact manner, it's extremely likely that there are many more sites that are infected in the same way. Stonewall Ballard noted that the Google Safe Browsing lookup for the hosting company where tradingblox.com is hosted, showed a high number of other sites on the same network that had been infected recently. (And those are only the infected sites that Google knows about -- recall that Google didn't even know that tradingblox.com was infected.)

Obviously, from the malware author's point of view, the point of serving malware content only some of the time rather than all of the time, is to make it harder for webmasters to pinpoint the problem. Someone gets the malware warning after following a link or loading a page via Google Images, and sends the webmaster an e-mail saying, "I got infected by your webpage, here is the link." The webmaster views the link and says, "I don't know what you're talking about, there's no malware code on that page." It also makes it harder for automated site-checking tools to detect the infection. Google's Safe Browsing lookup tool reported the site as uninfected, and Sinegubko's site-checking tool on UnmaskParasites.com also reported no malware infections on tradingblox.com, even while the site was still infected. (Sinegubko said he would possibly modify his site-checking script so that in addition to the other checks it performs, it will attempt to request a page sending "http://images.google.com/" in the "Referer:" field, to see if that results in different content being served. Google's Safe Browsing spider should do the same.)

Sinegubko said he's also seen instances where hacked sites would cover their tracks even further, by refusing to display infected content if the Referer: link from Google contained "inurl:domainname.com" or "site:domainname.com". This is because webmasters would sometimes check if their site was serving infected content in response to a click from Google, by doing a Google search on their own domainname.com, and following the link back to their site. By not serving the infected content in that case, the malware infection becomes even harder to detect.

This also makes it harder to report the exploits to the hosting companies that host infected websites. In case the webmaster of the infected site doesn't respond to complaints that their site is infected, sometimes you have to contact the hosting company and ask them to forcibly take the website offline until the problem is fixed. And I have been hosted by several companies where the tech support and abuse departments were (just barely) competent enough that if I called them up and said, "Your customer is hosting a malware-infected webpage, go to this page and view the source code, and you can see the malicious code", they would have known what to do. But if I'd had to tell them to follow the steps above -- "telnet to port 80" on the infected website, and type a few lines to mimic the process of a browser sending HTTP request headers to the website -- I probably would have lost them at "telnet". (Recall an experiment wherein I e-mailed some hosting companies from a Hotmail account, asking them to change the nameservers for a domain that I had hosted with them, and about half of the hosting companies agreed to switch the domain nameservers -- essentially, transferring the entire website to an unknown third party -- without ever authenticating that it was really me writing from that Hotmail account. Which means anybody could have taken over those websites simply by sending an e-mail. Front-end tech support at cheap hosting companies is often not very smart.)

Fortunately, Tim Arnold, the webmaster of the tradingblox.com site, did respond to the original report about the malware-infected pages, and found that an intruder had hacked the site on November 30th and inserted these lines into an .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine On RewriteOptions inherit RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} .*images.google.*$ [NC,OR] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} .*images.search.yahoo.*$ [NC] RewriteRule .* http://search-box.in/in.cgi?4&parameter=u [R,L] <Files 403.shtml> order allow,deny allow from all </Files>

which resulted in the infected pages being served whenever a user loaded the site via Google Images. (So if you found this article because you think your own site might be infected by malware that serves pages conditionally on the Referer: field, that's the first place to look to fix the problem!)

It's uncertain how Arnold's site got infected in the first place, but Sinegubko had earlier said that almost 90% of breakins in 2009 that occurred on Linux-hosted sites, were caused by malware installed surreptitiously on people's Windows PCs and stealing the passwords that people used to administer their sites. Or the site could have been compromised via a WordPress exploit such as this one. As I always tell anyone who will listen, if you want to keep your Linux-hosted website from being broken into, one of the most frequently overlooked precautions that you need to take is to keep your Windows PC free of spyware.

But the larger point is that as malware becomes more aggressive, it's not just going to become harder to keep your PC and websites uninfected. It's also going to become harder for site owners and for hosting company abuse departments to verify that a site has been hacked, as the hacks use more sophisticated techniques to prevent the infection from being discovered. Abuse report handlers will have to be trained to understand what it means that a website is only showing infected content as a result of a "Referer:" header, and ideally should know enough about networking and command-line tools, to be able to mimic the "telnet" instructions above. (Most expensive dedicated hosting companies like RackSpace, do have technical staff who are at least that knowledgeable. But cheap shared hosting companies -- the kind where you can get your domain transferred to another company by sending an e-mail from an unauthenticated Hotmail account -- will have to train their abuse staff better.) Automated site-checking tools like Google's Safe Browsing spider and UnmaskParasites.com's site checker will have to start taking these attacks into account when checking a site for infection.

And as always, keeping your PC free of spyware, shouldn't be viewed just as a convenience to yourself, but as an obligation to your neighbors as well. (A case of the positive/negative externalities problem in economics.) You wouldn't send your kid to school with the flu, so why did you get your Mom on the Internet without buying her some anti-virus software?

How Wi-Fi Attackers are Poisoning Web Browsers

Black Hat presenter describes latest public Wi-Fi security threat
Ellen Messmer

Public Wi-Fi networks such as those in coffee shops and airports present a bigger security threat than ever to computer users because attackers can intercede over wireless to "poison" users' browser caches in order to present fake Web pages or even steal data at a later time.That's according to security researcher Mike Kershaw, developer of the Kismet wireless network detector and intrusion-detection system, who spoke at the Black Hat conference.

He said it's simple for an attacker over an 802.11 wireless network to take control of a Web browser cache by hijacking a common JavaScript file, for example.

"Once you've left Starbucks, you're owned. I own your cache-control header," he said. "You're still loading the cache JavaScript when you go back to work.

"Open networks have no client protection," said Kershaw, who also uses the handle Dragorn. "Nothing stops us from spoofing the [wireless access point] and talking directly to the client," the user's Wi-Fi-enabled device.

Knowledge gained from researchers over the past year, he said, is showing that browser-cache poisoning over Wi-Fi can be kept in a persistent state unless the user knows how to effectively empty the cache.

"Once the cache is poisoned, it's going to stay there," Kershaw said. This means that an attacker can intercede to "poison the URL" of the victim so that he will see a fake Web page when they try to visit a specific Web site or try to insert a "shim" that could "ship your internal pages off to a remote server once you're in a VPN."

The few defenses Kershaw suggested were continuously manually clearing the cache, or using private-browser mode. "Who knows how to clear the browser cache in an iPhone?" he asked.

Kershaw acknowledged he doesn’t know how widely attacks based on poisoning the browser cache via 802.11 actually are. But the potential for trouble is so evident he said he'd advise corporate security professionals to try to "forbid users from taking laptops onto open networks," though he admitted, "Your users may lynch you." He said some vendors, including Verizon, are looking at solving this problem with a custom client that is tied to specific operating systems.

IE Flaw Gives Hackers Access to User Files, Microsoft Says

Microsoft security advisory says IE's Protected Mode will protect users, if it's enabled
Sumner Lemon

Microsoft warned on Wednesday that a flaw in its Internet Explorer browser gives attackers access to files stored on a PC under certain conditions.

"Our investigation so far has shown that if a user is using a version of Internet Explorer that is not running in Protected Mode an attacker may be able to access files with an already known filename and location," Microsoft said in a security advisory.

The vulnerability requires that an attacker knows the name of the file they want to access, it said.

The disclosure is the latest security problem to affect IE. Last month, an undisclosed vulnerability in IE 6 was used in attacks that targeted more than 20 U.S. companies, including Google, which blamed China. The vulnerability has since been fixed by Microsoft.

The attacks led Google to announce last week that it would phase out support for IE 6, starting with Google Apps and Google Sites in March.

The IE vulnerability disclosed on Wednesday, which is caused by incorrectly rendering local files in the browser, affects several versions, including Internet Explorer 5.01 and IE 6 on Windows 2000; IE 6 on Windows 2000 Service Pack 4; and IE6, IE 7, and IE 8 on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, Microsoft said.

"Protected Mode prevents exploitation of this vulnerability and is running by default for versions of Internet Explorer on Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008," it said.

Microsoft hasn't seen any attacks that exploit the flaw and has yet to decide whether to repair the flaw through its monthly security patch release cycle or an urgent, out-of-cycle update.

Microsoft Looking Into Windows 7 Battery Life Failures
Emil Protalinski

Microsoft says it is investigating reports of notebooks with poor battery life with Windows 7, as first reported by users on Microsoft TechNet. These users claim their batteries were working just fine under Windows XP and/or Windows Vista, and others are saying it occurs on their new Windows 7 PCs. Under Microsoft's latest operating system though, certain machines aren't doing so well, as Windows 7 spits out the following warning message: "Consider replacing your battery. There is a problem with your battery, so your computer might shut down suddenly." The warning is normally issued after using the computer's basic input output system (BIOS) to determine whether a battery needs replacement, but in this case it appears the operating system and not the battery is the problem. These customers say their PC's battery life is noticeably lower, with some going as far as saying that it has become completely unusable after a few weeks of use. To make matters worse, others are reporting that downgrading back to an earlier version of Windows won't fix the problem.

The thread has managed to garner some 350 posts over the last eight months, about half of which were posted over the last month or so. The only official answer was posted and approved by a Microsoft moderator in June: "Windows 7 has had issues identifying certain batteries, as you can easily see searching the forum," wrote Adam M, Microsoft Certified Professional. "Due to such prevalence, it is safe to say the issue will be addressed. Thank you for reporting your troubles on the forums."

We contacted Microsoft to see if the company had made any headway. "We are investigating this issue in conjunction with our hardware partners," a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars. "The warning received in Windows 7 uses firmware information to determine if battery replacement is needed. We are working with our partners to determine the root cause and will update with information and guidance as it becomes available."

Brian Ehlert, a Microsoft MVP, posted eight times in the thread, having begun to experience the issue as well. He went from having three hours of battery life on beta and RC builds of Windows 7 to about 20 minutes on Windows 7 RTM (and from eight hours to 15 minutes on another computer). He also responded to a workaround for disabling Windows 7 from shutting down on battery issues saying that this may result in the operating system shutting down later, but saying that it doesn't fix the root cause of the problem. Another fix that worked for some, but not for Ehlert, was letting the battery drain completely outside of the operating system so that it is recalibrated. Ehlert's last response in the thread was that he went out to buy a new battery, though he has yet to report back if this fixed the problem or if the second battery is following the first one to an early grave.

The battery life issue on Windows 7 actually dates back to June 2009, according to the forum thread. At the time, Windows 7 wasn't yet released, but the issue was apparently in both the beta and Release Candidate builds. Apparently the problem wasn't widespread enough for Microsoft's quality control team to fix it in time for the RTM build compiled in July 2009, though some users say they've only started to notice the issue with the RTM build and that beta builds worked just fine.

Windows 7 was supposed to extend battery life on notebooks, and in almost every case it certainly has. Nevertheless, there are always a few users who have issues. Microsoft's stance is that the root cause of the issue is related to specific system firmware, meaning it only affects machines with certain BIOS releases. Judging from the forum thread, however, customers disagree with Microsoft's explanation since the problem appears to affect notebooks from more than just one OEM, and some claim their vendors have informed them that it's a Microsoft problem. The phrase "class action lawsuit" is mentioned by three different posters so far; users are getting impatient with the software giant as it fails to give a timely official response. Microsoft has sold more than 60 million copies of Windows 7, and it's not clear what fraction of those owners are having problems with battery life.

ARM: Our Netbooks Will Fly With or Without Windows
Barry Collins

ARM chief executive Warren East has claimed that netbooks could swallow 90% of the PC market, in an exclusive interview with PC Pro.

The British chip design firm, which is the biggest rival to Intel's dominant Atom processors in the netbook space, claims the low-budget laptops could transform the PC market. And East says the chip firm will succeed "with our without" Windows support for its processors.

"Although netbooks are small today – maybe 10% of the PC market at most – we believe over the next several years that could completely change around and that could be 90% of the PC market," said East. "We see those products as an area for a lot of innovation and we want that innovation to be happening around the ARM architecture."

East claims ARM already has several processors inside the typical netbook, but it wants the final piece of the jigsaw - the CPU. "Let’s say you go and buy a laptop today. You’ll find the application processor is an Intel device or an AMD device. Typically you’ll also be buying two or three ARM microprocessors," East claimed.

"Chances are it’s an ARM in the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. More often than not there’s an ARM in the hard disk drive and sometimes there’s an ARM in the integrated camera as well. Not to mention the ARM that’s in the printer that you may or may not have bought to go with it."

"Right now there’s only one microprocessor in the PC that probably isn’t ARM and that’s the applications processor. Certainly what we’re talking about over the next few years – particularly with netbooks, not with PCs – is the opportunity for those to be ARM."

No point in chasing Windows

One significant barrier to ARM CPUs in netbooks is Windows' lack of support for the company's processors. East admits it's a problem. "If we were to wake up tomorrow and find Windows support for ARM it would certainly accelerate ARM penetration in that space," he said.

"What’s holding it back is people’s love of the Microsoft operating system and that fact that it’s familiar and so on. But actually the trajectory of progress in the Linux world is very, very impressive. I think it’s only a matter of time for ARM to gain market share with or without Microsoft."

And the ARM boss claims he's not pestering Microsoft to broaden Windows' processor support. "There’s not really a huge amount of point in us knocking on Microsoft’s door," he said. "Microsoft knows us very well, it’s worked with us for the past 12 years, all its mobile products are based on ARM.

"It’s really an operational decision for Microsoft to make. I don’t think there’s any major technical barriers. Microsoft’s well aware of the technical support we can provide to them, but it is an operational challenge for them, and one that only they can work out. We can’t really help them with it."

Asked whether he felt Microsoft's long-term ally, Intel, would be applying pressure on the software giant to withhold support for ARM, East said: "Maybe they would, but Microsoft has to run Microsoft, not Intel."

Lenovo Quarterly Profit Rebounds on Strong Sales
Joe McDonald

Lenovo Group, the fourth-largest personal computer maker, reported its second straight quarterly profit Thursday as strong sales in China drove its recovery from an industrywide global downturn.

Profit for the three months ending Dec. 31 was $80 million, or 0.86 cents per share, compared with a $97 million loss for the same period of 2008, said Lenovo, based in Beijing and in Morrisville, North Carolina. Global sales rose 33 percent to $4.8 billion, driven by a 45 percent increase in China, where Lenovo is the market leader.

Lenovo was hit hard by the global economic crisis, which prompted its core corporate customers to slash purchases. The company suffered three losing quarters before rebounding to earn $53 million in the three months ending Sept. 30.

The company, which acquired IBM Corp.'s PC unit in 2005, said its global market share expanded to 9 percent, its highest to date.

"Our growth was driven by gains in almost all regions of the world, particularly China and other emerging markets," CEO Yang Yuanqing said in a conference call.

Still, Yang cautioned that corporate spending was not expected to revive until at least the second half of 2010, which could weigh on revenues. He said Lenovo also faces pressure from rising component costs.

Yang said Lenovo plans to expand aggressively in mobile Internet after launching a netbook and a Web-enabled smart phone last month. The company paid $200 million in November to buy back mobile phone assets that it sold earlier to focus on PCs.

"We believe Lenovo's mobile Internet products have high potential," Yang said. "We will continue to invest heavily in emerging markets and in consumer businesses — especially mobile Internet — to achieve sustainable growth."

Lenovo said its quarterly sales in China rose to $2.3 billion, accounting for 47 percent of the worldwide total.

The company said its China market share rose 2.8 percentage points to 33.5 percent despite competition from industry leaders Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., which are trying to expand sales to both prosperous cities and the poorer countryside.

In mature markets such as the United States and Western Europe, sales rose 13 percent from a year earlier to $1.7 billion, the company said. In India and other emerging markets, sales rose 52 percent to $857 million.

Displax Film Could Turn Nearly Any Surface Into Touchscreen, Make Your Keyboard Irate
Darren Murph

Light Blue Optics already blew our minds up with its touchscreen-creating projector, but it looks like Displax will be the one to really turn the touchpanel into a modern day commodity. The Portugal-based company is trumpeting a new polymer film that can be stuck onto or just under glass, plastic or wood in order to transform a vanilla surface into one that responds to touch and airflow. Furthermore, the tech can be overlayed on curved panels, and it also plays nice with opaque and transparent surfaces. As the story goes, an array of nanowires embedded in the film recognizes your digits or pointed breath, and it then passes the information along to a microcontroller and software suite that transforms the inputs into reactions on your system. In its current form, the solution can detect up to 16 touch points on a 50-inch screen, and if all goes well, the first Displax-enabled wares will start shipping this July. Huzzah!

The Dozens of Computers That Make Modern Cars Go (and Stop)
Jim Motavalli

The electronic systems in modern cars and trucks — under new scrutiny as regulators continue to raise concerns about Toyota vehicles — are packed with up to 100 million lines of computer code, more than in some jet fighters.

“It would be easy to say the modern car is a computer on wheels, but it’s more like 30 or more computers on wheels,” said Bruce Emaus, the chairman of SAE International’s embedded software standards committee.

Even basic vehicles have at least 30 of these microprocessor-controlled devices, known as electronic control units, and some luxury cars have as many as 100.

These electronic brains control dozens of functions, including brake and cruise control and entertainment systems. Software in each unit is also made to work with others. So, for example, when a driver pushes a button on a key fob to unlock the doors, a module in the trunk might rouse separate computers to unlock all four doors.

The evolution of automotive control electronics has been rapid. IEEE Spectrum, an American technical publication, reported that electronics, as a percentage of vehicle costs, climbed to 15 percent in 2005 from 5 percent in the late 1970s — and would be higher today.

The 1977 Oldsmobile Toronado had a very simple computer unit that was used for spark-plug timing, and the next year the Cadillac Seville offered an optional trip computer that used a Motorola chip.

According to Bob Hrtanek, a spokesman for the auto supplier Delphi Powertrain Systems, the first Delphi units were introduced around 1980 to improve emissions systems.

Throttle-by-wire technology, also known as electronic throttle control, replaced cables or mechanical connections. In modern systems, when the driver pushes on the accelerator, a sensor in the pedal sends a signal to a control unit, which analyzes several factors (including engine and vehicle speed) and then relays a command to the throttle body. Among other things, throttle by wire makes it easier for carmakers to add advanced cruise and traction control features.

These systems are engineered to protect against the kind of false signals or electronic interference that could cause sudden acceleration.

Mr. Emaus says that cars are engineered with “defensive programming” to counter erroneous signals. “There is a tremendous engineering effort, and testing and validation, to guard against problems,” he said. “But given the complexity of the car, can they test against every eventuality? Probably not.”

Mr. Emaus said that perhaps one in 100 new microprocessor designs had “an issue” and might need reprogramming or replacing, usually before it reached customers.

And he identified the metal-to-metal connections between electronic control units and wiring harnesses as a potential weak point.

Stanford's Robotic Audi to Brave Pikes Peak Without a Driver

The Center for Automotive Research at Stanford has developed a new contender for the Pikes Peak course: a robotic car that drives itself.
Christine Blackman

When the Pikes Peak race of Colorado Springs began in 1916, drivers ascended the dusty switchbacks hoping their car would not overheat or fall apart before reaching the 14,000-foot summit. This September, a new kind of car faces the peak: one without a driver.

A team of researchers at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) has filled the trunk of an Audi TTS with computers and GPS receivers, transforming it into a vehicle that drives itself. The car will attempt Pikes Peak without a driver at race speeds, something that's never been done.

The Stanford Racing Team won its first autonomous race in 2005 with Stanley, a car developed for the Grand Challenge held in the Mojave Desert by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Their second car, Junior, took second place in DARPA'S 2007 Urban Challenge.

The Audi that will attempt Pikes Peak is named Shelley after Michèle Mouton, the first female driver to win the uphill climb. Unlike Stanley and Junior, who sense the road with radars and cameras, Shelley will follow a GPS trail from start to finish. The trick will be to stay on the road at race speeds while sliding around the corners.

Though not afraid of the engine overheating, Shelley's team, like the racers of the early 1900s, hopes their autonomous car will make it around the turns and up the mountain in one piece.

"Our first goal is to go up Pikes Peak at speeds resembling race speeds, keep the car stable around the corners and have everything work the way we want it to," said Chris Gerdes, program director of CARS and leader of the graduate research team. "We're not going to put it on the mountain until we can do it safely."

Shelley has reached speeds of 130 miles per hour without a driver on testing grounds at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. At first glance, the car seems like a normal Audi, but a closer look reveals advanced computers, GPS antennae and a missing driver.

How the car drives herself

Shelley knows exactly where she is on the road by using a differential GPS. Unlike a standard GPS system, hers corrects for interference in the atmosphere, showing the car's position on the Earth with an accuracy of about 2 centimeters. Shelley measures her speed and acceleration with wheel-speed sensors and an accelerometer, and gets her bearings from gyroscopes, which control equilibrium and direction.

"The computer puts all this information together and then compares it to a digital map to figure out how close the car is to the path that we want it to take up Pikes Peak," Gerdes said.

Many control features already exist on the stock Audi. For example, the computers in Shelley's trunk will plug into the car's existing electric steering system. The car moves into action with stock automatic gear shifting and brakes with an active vacuum booster, a feature that normal cars use for emergency braking.

The researchers have programmed Shelley to handle like a racecar by using a set of computer calculations called algorithms. For example, as the car approaches a turn, it calculates a best guess on steering and acceleration. Audi's steering system normally responds to the steering wheel, but since there is no driver, it responds to algorithms that combine information such as the GPS path and inertial movement picked up from its sensors.

As the car approaches a corner, another set of calculations corrects the handling through the turn and prepares for what might happen next.

High-speed hill climb

Other autonomous cars have crossed the finish line of the Rocky Mountain road, but only at about 25 miles per hour. The 12.4-mile paved and gravel track has 156 turns and a climb of 4,720 feet. An official contest for human drivers will take place in June this year, but Shelley will attempt a timed race in September, when she can get the track to herself.

"Our goal is to show that we can do this," Gerdes said. "There are some sheer drops at Pikes Peak in which any sort of self-preservation kicks in and you slow down a bit. We want to go up at the speed that few normal drivers would ever think of attempting."

The team has developed almost all of the algorithms needed to climb the hill successfully and will test them before trials at Pikes Peak. They have gathered data from the course with a similar car and have tested Shelley on comparable terrain, but not yet on large hills. If anything goes wrong on the summit, someone on the team can flip the "kill switch," Shelley's only remote control feature.

In addition to high-tech racing, research at Gerdes' Dynamic Design Lab may lead to safer cars that respond to human error. "We hope this project demonstrates that the technologies of stabilizing the car and helping the car stay in its lane will work with each other all the way up to the very limits of the vehicle."

CARS is funded by Volkswagen, Bosch, Honda, Toyota and Nissan.

At Long Last, A Small Justice

When grisly images of their daughter's death went viral on the Web, the Catsouras family fought back. Two years later, a court rules in their favor.
Jessica Bennett

They say losing a child is the worst thing a parent can endure. But for Christos and Lesli Catsouras, whose 18-year-old daughter, Nikki, was killed in a devastating car crash in 2006, there was something much, much worse. Two weeks after their daughter's death, on Halloween day, Christos got a phone call from a friend. "Have you seen the photos?" he asked, hesitantly. Nine color close-ups of Nikki's mangled remains, still strapped into her father's crushed car, had been circulating around town by e-mail. Within days, the images went viral, popping up on hundreds of sites. Now a California court has handed the family an important legal victory.

Nikki's parents found out about the accident, which took place on a toll road near their Orange County, Calif., home, just moments after it happened. But they were forbidden by the coroner from identifying their daughter's body—it was simply too terrible for a parent to see. So you can imagine their horror when, a few days later, Nikki's mother came across the images as she searched for an article about the crash. Soon after, Christos opened an e-mail he thought was from his office that had the images pasted into the body of the text. "Woohoo Daddy!" the message read. "Hey Daddy, I'm still alive." They discovered a fake MySpace page set up in Nikki's name, where commenters proclaimed she "deserved it," and the images posted on sadistic blogs devoted to pornography and death. In the worst of the photos, Nikki's nearly severed head is shown through the shattered window of her father's Porsche.

The Catsouras family hired a lawyer, Keith Bremer, and a tech company called Reputation Defender, which works to remove malicious content from the Web. Together, they determined that the photos had come from two dispatchers with the California Highway Patrol: 19-year-veteran Thomas O'Donnell, who still works at the agency, and Aaron Reich, who quit soon after the incident. The dispatchers had allegedly e-mailed the photos, while on duty, to relatives and friends—in an attempt, their lawyers have said, to warn others of the dangers of the road. "It was a cautionary tale," Jon Schlueter, Reich's attorney, told NEWSWEEK last year. Nikki had been driving at close to 100 mph when she clipped another vehicle, tumbled over the median and across three lanes, smashing into a concrete toll booth and landing upside down. The other driver walked away from the accident unharmed.

The Catsouras family, of course, didn't see the aftermath of their daughter's story as a tale of caution—and they sued the CHP for negligence, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional harm, among other charges. But in March 2008, their suit was dismissed after a trial judge ruled that the dispatchers' conduct, though "utterly reprehensible," hadn't violated the law. "It's an unfortunate situation, and our heart goes out to the family," R. Rex Parris, the attorney representing O'Donnell, has told NEWSWEEK. "But this is America, and there's a freedom of information."

Nearly two years later, a California appeals court has made clear that freedom of information is not the only issue at hand. On Jan. 29, it issued a unanimous opinion reversing the superior court's ruling, paving the way for a jury trial (or perhaps more likely, say legal experts, an out-of-court settlement between the Catsouras family and the CHP). In its 64-page published opinion,the three-justice court panel chastised the dispatchers' behavior as "morally deficient," stating that they'd violated the family's right to privacy and caused them emotional distress for the mere purpose of "vulgar spectacle." They continued: "It was perfectly foreseeable that the public dissemination, via the Internet, of…the decapitated remains of a teenage girl would cause devastating trauma to the [family.]"

It's a big victory for a family that has waited, for years now, for some semblance of justice. The Catsouras family has had to take out a second mortgage on their home to cover the cost of their legal fees. They've forbidden their daughters from using social-networking sites like MySpace, and took two of Nikki's younger sisters out of school, for fear the adolescent rumor mill would be too much. Their second-oldest daughter, Christiana, is now a junior at the local high school, but memories of her sister pop up when she least expects it: last year, a firefighter came to her class to lecture on driver safety. Not knowing Christiana was in the classroom, he mentioned Nikki, and Christiana fled the room crying, petrified he would show the images, which seem never to go away. Google still delivers 148,000 results for "Catsouras," and there are multiple Web sites devoted solely to the awful photos. "It's the simple things you never expect," says Christos. "We live in fear of the pictures. And our kids will never Google their name without the risk of seeing them."

A spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol told NEWSWEEK that the agency cannot comment on pending litigation but that "the CHP feel[s] for [the Catsouras family's] tragic loss." She also says the agency has initiated "corrective measures" for the action of the employees, and updated its photo-handling policy. "The CHP is a professional law enforcement agency and demands its employees conduct themselves appropriately at all times," the agency said in a statement. "As it did in this instance, the Department takes allegations of misconduct seriously."

Nevertheless, the challenge remains: what can the Catsouras family do about the remaining photos, ever present on the Web? Many of the bloggers who post such images are anonymous, and it's impossible, on a legal level, to hold every Web host accountable for the speech of each individual user. Moreover, posting damaging pictures may be traumatic, but it's not libelous—which means it's hard to bring legal action. One tactic, says privacy-law expert Daniel Solove, a professor at George Washington University, would be for the family to prove in court that the photos were not obtained via public record and were not of legitimate concern to the public. Another, says Michael Fertik of Reputation Defender, would be for the CHP to copyright the images, so that anyone who posts them would be liable for infringement. But perhaps most likely, says the family's lawyer, would be for the CHP to cooperate with the family and give them ownership of the images, which would allow them go after anybody who was posting them without permission. "It's going to be hard to get them off the net," says Solove, author of The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet. "But it's not impossible."

Bremer, the family's lawyer, says it's likely the CHP will appeal this latest decision with the California Supreme Court—but he's confident that his clients will prevail. And though no legal action will bring their daughter back, Lesli and Christos Catsouras take solace in the fact that the seemingly endless nightmare they've had to endure may finally be over. "In a perfect world, I would push a button and delete every one of the images," says Lesli. "But it feels good knowing that at least now, at least in California, our case will [help] prevent this from happening to anybody else." For the moment, it's the best possible outcome to any parent's worst nightmare.

Desiree Jennings – The Plot Thickens
Steven Novella

As promised, I watched the Inside Edition segment last night following up on the Desiree Jennings case. If you remember, she is the 25 year old woman who claimed to have a neurological disorder called dystonia following a seasonal flu vaccine. Her story never added up, and the video of her disorder that was made public (and disseminated, of course, on YouTube) did not show dystonia. Every neurologist who viewed the video and commented publicly, including me, were of the opinion that her symptoms were psychogenic.

The question at hand is whether or not she has a neurological disorder and whether it can plausibly be connected to the flu vaccine. I have made a strong case that her symptoms are not neurological but psychological (and to be clear, neither I nor any physician commenting on her case has accused her of lying or hoaxing her symptoms). Despite this, the anti-vaccine movement was quick to jump on the case and exploit Ms. Jennings for their own propaganda purposes. They were also quick to criticize me and others for commenting on her case, and in fact they grossly distorted the opinions we expressed.

Ms. Jennings eventually found her way to Dr. Buttar, who has been criticized by the North Carolina Medical Board for charging patients exorbitant fees for unproven and ineffective treatments. These complaints are still under investigation. Buttar diagnosed Ms. Jennings with both a viral encephalitis and mercury toxicity – when it would be impossible for her to have been exposed to both mercury and a live virus from the same vaccine. He treated her with chelation therapy and a few stints in the hyperbaric chamber, and then claimed a dramatic cure. In fact, I predicted this would happen and further predicted that an improvement in her symptoms that was too quick for any biological cause would confirm the diagnosis of a psychogenic disorder.

The story then faded, and my colleagues and I noticed that the anti-vaccine websites were strangely quiet about the case. Maybe they just had bigger fish to fry, but it always seemed that they were conflicted about this case, maybe sensing that this was not a good case for them. Although that did not stop them from proclaiming this case as a genuine vaccine injury (without any evidence) and from attacking me and others for discussing the case.

Another angle to this case was the mainstream media coverage. The story was made national primarily by an Inside Edition segment in which they took her claims of being horribly injured by the flu vaccine at face value. They did throw in a caveat that doctors say the story should not dissuade the public from the vaccine (the “not” was incredibly and deceptively edited out in the YouTube version of the story). But generally it was among the worst science reporting of 2009.

So I was a bit surprised when I was contacted by a producer from Inside Edition about a possible follow up segment on the story. He had read my blog posts on Ms. Jennings and realized they got the story entirely wrong. To his credit he wanted to do follow up (unfortunately rare in mainstream journalism) and tell the real story. This resulted in the segment that aired last night.

I have to say, at this point, that primarily I feel sorry for Ms. Jennings. She is mostly a victim in this case. In my opinion, she has a psychogenic disorder, and while this is a real disorder, it is psychological and therefore difficult for the public to understand. In a perfect world the media that first encountered the story would have done a bit of due diligence, contacted a doctor (preferably a neurologist or movement disorder specialist), found out that the story was fishy and then just not air it. Instead they got the story horribly wrong. This led to Jennings being exploited in my opinion by the anti-vaccine movement and Dr. Buttar.

And now her story is being exploited again. She is being shown to the world as having a socially embarrassing disorder. (I do not think it should be embarrassing, but mental disorders have an undeserved and unfortunate stigma – a topic for another time.)

Unfortunately, I do think the follow up is necessary. Ms. Jennings inserted herself and her medical story into the public debate about the safety of vaccines. If she wanted privacy, she should never have made her story public. Now that it is public, it is necessary to set the record straight so that people will not be wrongly scared away from a safe and effective vaccine.

So what is the follow up revealed by Inside Edition? Well, first of all Ms. Jennings appears to be walking, talking, and even driving without any difficulty. So the hysterical claims of her being “permanently neurologically injured” were of course untrue. However, when confronted, she says that she still has intermittent symptoms.

Her current symptoms seem to be speaking in a British sounding accent. It should be noted that her speech symptoms have changed and evolved considerably since her symptoms began. They were initially stuttering, then garbled, then spastic, and now accented. There really is no way to explain these various manifestations as neurological injury. I was asked about “foreign accent syndrome” – it is described in the literature as a rare reaction to brain injury. However, patients with this syndrome don’t really speak with a foreign accent – it only may sound that way to the untrained ear. What happens is that damage to the language center causes changes to the pronunciation of speech. In rare cases these changes may sound reminiscent of an accent different than the patient’s native accent. However, when carefully examined it is clear they are not speaking in a foreign accent but merely have neurologically impaired speech.

Another interesting revelation of the Inside Edition story relates to the VAERS report of Ms. Jennings’ alleged vaccine reaction. A report matching her story was found, and in the official report it says that her neurologist at Johns Hopkins felt that her condition was strongly psychogenic. This contradicts Ms. Jennings’ report (repeated uncritically by anti-vaccinationists) that her doctors diagnosed her with dystonia. Jennings has now confirmed to Inside Edition that the VAERS report is in fact hers.

This highlights one criticism that I have for Ms. Jennings – she cannot both make her medical story public, but then expect privacy for the actual relevant information. She should either put her records in the public domain, or she should have never made her story public in the first place. This is the specific issue at hand – what was her diagnosis. She claims it was dystonia, which was hard to believe. But now, because of the VAERS report and her admission, we know that her diagnosis was a psychogenic disorder.

Not that it really matters – the video evidence (which is now abundant) is sufficient to conclude she does not have dystonia and as more video is made public it only further supports the psychogenic diagnosis. I will add that Jennings gave Inside Edition a report from a new neurologist, who did conclude that she has a vaccine injury. I, of course, disagree with that opinion, and will point out that the opinion is based on the history being told, not elements of the exam to which I was not previously privy. I would further point out that being a treating physician often puts doctors in a difficult position, and the therapeutic relationship may require not being confrontational with patients.

We further learn from Inside Edition that Ms. Jennings is no longer seeing Dr. Buttar, and is somewhat upset at the large bill he gave her for his dubious services.


This is a sad case that should never, in my opinion, have become a national story. I think responsible journalism demands not showcasing a person who may be deluded. And further, the story raised scares about a public health measure, the flu vaccine, without vetting the story to see if it was even legitimate.

Everything that followed was damage control, and was unfortunately necessary.

The story also showcases, in my opinion, the callous disregard for truth of the anti-vaccine movement and some of its prominent players, such as Dr. Buttar. I do think they have egg on their face from this one.

And finally (if you will forgive the self-serving observation) the story highlights the new power of the science-blogging community. The Inside Edition follow up segment was entirely due to the science bloggers who covered the story – and told the real story behind the media sensationalism. We are influencing the media cycle in a good way. At the very least we are making ourselves a valuable resource to the mainstream media, and hopefully raising the quality of science journalism in general.

U.S. Teens Lose Interest in Blogging: Study
Dan Whitcomb

Blogging by teenagers and young adults has dropped by half over the past three years as they turn instead to texting and social networking sites such as Facebook, a new study shows.

The study released this week by the Pew Internet and American Life project also found that fewer than one in 10 teens were using Twitter, a surprising finding given overall popularity of the micro-blogging site.

According to the report, only 14 percent of teenagers who use the Internet say they kept an online journal or blog, compared with a peak of 28 percent in 2006 -- and only 8 percent were using Twitter.

"It was a little bit surprising, although there are definitely explanations given the state of the technological landscape," Pew researcher Aaron Smith told Reuters.

Smith said the report's authors attributed the decline in blogging to the explosion of social networking sites such as Facebook, which emphasize short status updates over personal journals.

According to the study, 73 percent of teens who were online used social networking sites.

He also cited the ubiquity of cell phones. Much of the communication between young people now takes place on mobile devices, which don't lend themselves to long-form writing.

He said teens may be shying away from Twitter because they see it as designed for celebrities, and because of reluctance to put their thoughts on such a public forum when they can post them to their Facebook page instead.

"It was somewhat interesting in the sense that teens tend to be the early adopters," Smith said. "They were the first to use social networking and texting. Its certainly unusual compared to what we've seen with other technology."

Blogging among adults has held steady since 2005, Pew found, but it has dropped among Internet users between the age of 18 and 29 -- while rising in those over 30.

"Older people are becoming more comfortable with the online environment and young people in the meantime have moved on to social networking and text messaging," Smith said.

The teen portion of the study was based on a telephone survey of 800 people, aged 12 to 17, that was conducted from June to September of 2009.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

Internet Rape Case Jolts Wyoming City

Authorities say a Casper woman was assaulted at her front door, raped at knifepoint in her living room and left bound on the floor, and they say one of the men charged in the brutal attack claimed that he thought it was invited.

Two men are accused in the crime. One is charged with carrying out the rape. The other, the woman's ex-boyfriend, stands accused of posing as the victim online and claiming she harbored a rape fantasy and wanted to be assaulted.

The case in the central Wyoming city of Casper, population 54,000, illustrates that middle America isn't immune to the dangers of Internet anonymity and predators who target victims through online ads that hint at sex and prostitution.

Prosecutor Mike Blonigen, the Natrona County district attorney, declined to comment on the specifics of the ongoing rape case. But he said Internet cases generally pose a challenge to law enforcement.

''Tracking down who's involved is relatively difficult,'' Blonigen said. ''It's pretty easy to set up a false identity in cyberspace, so that's always an issue. And of course, they have to make some overt act to actually accomplish any of these things. We're not the thought police.''

In the Casper case, Blonigen's office has charged Ty Oliver McDowell, 26, of Bar Nunn, a Casper suburb, with three counts of first-degree sexual assault, one count of kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary. Jebidiah James Stipe, 27, a Marine based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., is charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual assault.

Lawyers representing McDowell and Stipe declined comment.

A few days before the Casper woman was raped, she had complained to the Natrona County Sheriff's Department that someone had made a false Craigslist posting about her, including photographs and personal information. The ad read, ''Need a real aggressive man with no concern for women,'' authorities said.

Craigslist took the advertisement down when the woman complained. Yet prosecutors say it was posted long enough to catch the attention of McDowell, a medical technologist.

According to a statement filed in court by Natrona County Sheriff's Deputy Todd Sexton, McDowell waived his right to remain silent and talked to deputies investigating the case.

''McDowell admitted to going to the victim's residence ... and having sexual contact with (the woman) to fulfill a 'rape fantasy' for her,'' Sexton wrote.

McDowell told investigators that he had corresponded with a person he thought was the woman at an e-mail address featured on the advertisement, Sexton wrote.

However, prosecutors charge that McDowell was actually communicating by e-mail with Stipe, the woman's former boyfriend. They say Stipe posted the ad to set the woman up for the attack without her knowledge.

The San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sheriff's Department on Dec. 16 arrested Stipe, a private first-class in the U.S. Marine Corps then stationed at Twentynine Palms. A spokeswoman for the Marine Corps said Stipe enlisted in July 2001 and, ''was being processed for administrative separation as a result of a pattern of misconduct at the time of his arrest.''

The Casper case is one of several sex crimes to grab headlines recently in which the Internet linked perpetrators and victims. Law enforcement officials around the country also have in the past accused Craigslist of promoting prostitution.

Scrutiny of Craigslist increased significantly when prosecutors in Boston last year charged that former medical student Philip Markoff used Craigslist to arrange a meeting with masseuse Julissa Brisman. He's accused of shooting her to death last April and of attacking other women he met through the site.

In 2008, Craigslist agreed to tighten its adult services advertisements as part of an agreement with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and with the attorneys general for 43 states and territories, including Wyoming.

Under the agreement, Craigslist started requiring a working telephone number and charging a small credit card fee for each such ad.

''Requiring credit card verification and charging a fee to post in this category raises accountability to a point where we expect few illicit ads will remain,'' Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said in November 2008 in a joint statement with the state prosecutors and the children's center.

Craigslist didn't respond to an e-mail sent to their San Francisco headquarters seeking comment on the Wyoming rape case, although a company phone message requests that press inquiries be made by e-mail.

Blonigen, the Casper prosecutor, said Craigslist was cooperative with Wyoming investigators.

''I would prefer that they maybe not run these ads,'' Blonigen said. ''You know somebody's going to do it even if they don't.''

Wyoming State Sen. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, is a criminal defense attorney and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the state Legislature. He said the committee may have to consider whether state law is up to the challenge of dealing with sexual predators who prowl the Internet.

''The world is changing so rapidly here, particularly with regard to Internet, cyber crimes, and things like that, that we're going to see a whole new evolution of law, it seems to me,'' Ross said.

One in Four Children Sent Pornography, Says Survey

One in four children have sent or been sent inappropriate material including pornography via email, according to a survey.
Urmee Khan

The research also found that one in 20 children, aged between six and 15, had communicated with a stranger via webcam and one in 50 have actually met a stranger they first contacted online.

The report, which surveyed 500 children, found that many children are getting away with behaviour online that they wouldn’t get away with in the real world, largely because of their parents’ lack of understanding and awareness of their internet habits and of safety precautions.

More than six out of 10 children (62 per cent) said they lie to parents about what they have been looking at online and over half (53 per cent) delete the history on their web browser so their parents can’t see what they have been looking at.

The survey, by TalkTalk, the broadband provider, also found that and one in nine (11 per cent) have either bullied someone online or been bullied online themselves.

In December, the Government announced that every primary schoolchild in the country will be taught about the dangers of the internet and how to safely surf online.

The “Click Clever, Click Safe’ campaign comes in response to a report by Prof Tanya Byron, the child psychologist and broadcaster, who was asked by the Government to consider how to protect children online.

Prof Tanya Byron, who oversaw the TalkTalk research, said: “It’s crucial that parents educate themselves about what’s going on online and what their kids are doing there.”

Pornography, and an Issue of Restitution
John Schwartz

When Amy was a little girl, her uncle made her famous in the worst way: as a star in the netherworld of child pornography. Photographs and videos known as “the Misty series” depicting her abuse have circulated on the Internet for more than 10 years, and often turn up in the collections of those arrested for possession of illegal images.

Now, with the help of an inventive lawyer, the young woman known as Amy — her real name has been withheld in court to prevent harassment — is fighting back.

She is demanding that everyone convicted of possessing even a single Misty image pay her damages until her total claim of $3.4 million has been met.

Some experts argue that forcing payment from people who do not produce such images but only possess them goes too far.

In February, when the first judge arranged payment to Amy in a case in Connecticut, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, called the decision “highly questionable” on his blog and said it “stretches personal accountability to the breaking point.”

The judge in the case acknowledged, “We’re dealing with a frontier here.”

The issue is part of a larger debate over fairness in sentencing sex offenders. For years, lawmakers (and some voters) have reasoned that virtually no punishment was too severe for such criminals; even statutory limits on sentencing were often exceeded.

Now some courts have begun to push back, saying these heavy sentences are improper, and a new emphasis has arisen on making sex offenders pay monetary damages for their crimes. If such damages become widespread, experts say, it may make it easier to reach a consensus on measured sentencing.

Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University and an expert on sentencing, said the rise in monetary damages might curb “a troublesome modern tendency of many legislators and judges to respond to all perceived crime problems with longer and longer terms of imprisonment.”

Those longer terms and conditions are already under fire.

On Thursday, the California Supreme Court ruled 5 to 2 that a state ballot initiative allowing the indefinite extension of sentences for sexually violent predators might violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection; the court ordered a new hearing to explore the issues.

On Monday, the court also asked for more study on a law that prohibits sexual predators from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park after their release from prison. The law, called Jessica’s law, was approved by voters in 2006.

Corey Rayburn Yung, an expert in sex crimes at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, said that while “it’s hard to be too sympathetic” toward those who possess images of child pornography, “there is such a thing as going too far.” The harm to child pornography victims from those who possess the images, he said, is less direct than that caused by those who abused the children.

The most novel approach is being taken by Amy’s lawyer, James R. Marsh, whose practice focuses on child exploitation cases. Mr. Marsh’s arguments are the fruits of a national movement granting greater rights to crime victims and shifting the financial burden of crimes to criminals, said Paul G. Cassell, a former federal judge and professor of law at the University of Utah, who advised Mr. Marsh and wrote a brief supporting his position in a Texas case.

Amy’s uncle is now in prison, but she is regularly reminded of his abuse whenever the government notifies her that her photos have turned up in yet another prosecution. More than 800 of the notices, mandated by the Crime Victims Rights Act and sent out by the federal victim notification system, have arrived at Amy’s home since 2005.

Those notices disturb Amy when they arrive, but Mr. Marsh, looking at the same pieces of paper, saw an opportunity: he could intervene in the federal prosecutions and demand restitution. He had Amy write a victim-impact statement and hired a psychologist to evaluate her. Economists developed a tally of damages that included counseling, diminished wages and lawyer fees. The total came to $3,367,854.

Mr. Marsh contends that every defendant should be ordered to pay the full amount, under the doctrine of joint and several liability. According to that doctrine, the recipient would stop collecting money once the full damages are paid, and those held responsible for the amount could then sue others who are found culpable for contributions. But the doctrine, which developed in civil law, does not apply as easily in criminal law, especially with an indeterminate population of defendants.

Amy’s first restitution award came in February in the Connecticut case; it involved Alan Hesketh, a British executive at the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, who paid $130,000. Since then, Mr. Marsh has automated the process and e-mailed Amy’s filings to United States Attorneys in 350 cases. “I’m able to leverage the power of the Internet to get restitution for a victim of the Internet,” he said.

Mr. Marsh has, in effect, expanded his small New York law firm by hundreds of federal prosecutors. Some of them decline to file for restitution — a judge in Minnesota ordered prosecutors to explain why — but many have. Judges’ reactions have varied, with some declining to order restitution, including one in Texas and another in Maine, usually saying that the link between possession and the harm done is too tenuous to reach the level of “proximate harm” generally required under the law for restitution.

Yet in two Florida cases, judges have ordered defendants to pay nearly the full amount requested and even more. Many judges who have considered the issues award a few thousand dollars. Even though many of the defendants have no way to pay even the smallest fine, Mr. Marsh’s efforts in the first year have earned $170,000 for Amy.

“This is a lawyer’s dream,” he said.

The federal government has struggled with how to best approach the wave of new cases, and those to come. Another victim, known as Vicky, has begun making similar claims in court, and still more victims could come forward. Professor Berman suggested Congress would have to sort out the issue, perhaps with a victim compensation fund.

A memorandum last summer from a lawyer in the Administrative Office of the Courts, the federal agency that runs the judicial branch, stated that the law did not support restitution for “mere possession.” But Lanny A. Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the criminal division at the Justice Department, issued a letter in October stating “we do not agree that restitution is not available to victims of the possession of child pornography as a matter of law.”

Mr. Breuer urged judges not to let “practical and administrative challenges” to the restitution issue “drive a policy position that directly or indirectly suggests that possession of child pornography is a victimless crime.”

Damsels in Distress, Bozos in Heat
Neil Genzlinger

THE television landscape is a universe of opposites. The Travel network (get up and go someplace!) is the opposite of HSN (sit on your couch and buy stuff!). Syfy (fantastical things that haven’t happened yet) is the opposite of History (moderately interesting things that have already happened). The Golf Channel (sedentary activity watched by sedentary old duffers) is the opposite of Nick Jr. (frenetic activity watched by frenetic young children).

But one pair is more striking, more revelatory, than all the rest: Spike versus Lifetime. Guys versus Gals. XY versus XX. And with each channel offering new fare this month — Spike introduced the gross-out comedy “Blue Mountain State”; Lifetime fired up a new season of “Project Runway” — it seems a good time to compare and contrast these two cable franchises. What do their programs tell us about the sexes? What deep-seated yearnings drive the male of the species? What hopes and fears motivate the female? Is one smarter than the other, and if so, by how much?

Spike, part of MTV Networks, used to call itself “the first network for men.” Lifetime, owned by the A&E Networks, once used the tag “television for women.” Neither is quite so blatant now, but spend a few minutes with either one’s original programming (as opposed to the avalanche of repurposed shows from other sources that both use to fill air time), and there’s no mistaking which viewers are being trolled for. Back in 2005 Spike even shoved out Albie Hecht as president because he had attracted too many female viewers. Or so the news was played at the time.

No, there’s no getting around it: Spike (average prime-time viewership: 1.05 million, according to the Nielsen Company) is Guy Land; Lifetime (1.1 million) is Gal Land. And here is what can be learned by studying them.


Lifetime is big on original movies (it recently started a separate, movies-only channel), but a large proportion of those films work one basic plotline: a woman (sometimes with spouse and/or children) is in danger; is she intrepid enough to save herself? Description of “The Accidental Witness”: “A murderer goes after a female attorney when he thinks that she has witnessed one of his killings.” And “Break-In”: “What begins as a leisurely romantic honeymoon in a tropical paradise quickly turns into a tension-filled crisis as intruders break in during the middle of the night and take the honeymooners hostage.” You get the idea: In Gal Land you are never, ever safe.

You are never, ever safe in Guy Land either, but only because you’re not very bright. We learn this from one of Spike’s original shows, “1,000 Ways to Die,” which was introduced in spring 2008 and is still around. The title says it all: Each episode features dramatizations of real-life fatalities that were odd almost beyond imagining. A man driving drunk leans out the window to vomit just as the car is passing a mailbox; head and mailbox collide; head ends up on the ground. A drunk man in Honolulu tries to join in one of those twirling torch dances staged for tourists; he catches fire and burns to death as people applaud, thinking it’s part of the show.


By “things” here we mean, basically, “women.” Spike’s shows are full of women who could easily be in Playboy and probably have been: gorgeous in that hourglass way, hair full and perfect. On Lifetime there is “Sherri,” a sitcom introduced last fall starring Sherri Shepherd, who is what is generally called full-figured. There is also “Drop Dead Diva,” in which a thin model who dies young gets sent back to earth but is placed in the body of a large-ish woman played by Brooke Elliott.

Plump women are almost never seen on Spike, and hotties are almost never seen on Lifetime. It’s a tough call as to which is the more cynical ploy: brazenly playing to a female audience that probably could stand to lose a few pounds or shamelessly playing to a male audience that likes to fantasize about women more gorgeous than actually exist in real life.

But if women weigh more on Lifetime, so do their brains. The title character in “Sherri,” for instance, is smart, and the show is witty enough that it could play in network prime time. The women on Spike are roughly as bright as the ones in “Jersey Shore,” and the shows are often written for men whose sense of humor never made it out of junior high.


When “Project Runway” moved to Lifetime from Bravo last year, it was a tacit admission: Once the novelty of this reality show had worn off, and it was down to the hard-core fans, it was a women’s show.

Why? Because “Project Runway,” in which fledgling designers compete to please a panel of judges, isn’t really about the designers or the judges. It’s about the garments. And heterosexual men, as has been well documented, aren’t generally smart enough to dress themselves. It is women who thrive on the intricacies of wardrobe and thus are going to care about which designer’s gown is the most hideous and unwearable.

Spike, on the other hand, used to have a show called “Stripperella,” and removing clothes is never far from anyone’s mind on the network. The second episode of “Blue Mountain State,” a comedy about a college football team, featured a plotline in which the star running back, who had been given a promise ring by his girlfriend, loses it in a strip club. (Where exactly he lost it is beyond printable, as is much of what is on the show.)

If the point needed further elaboration, which it probably doesn’t, the online games section of Lifetime’s Web site offers one game called Fashion Solitaire and another called Hostile Makeover: A Fashion Murder Mystery Game. In contrast Spike’s site has Babe Hunt, in which you hunt for the differences in two almost identical pictures of nearly naked women.


This month Lifetime offered a new movie called “The Pregnancy Pact,” an earnest film inspired by a spate of pregnancies among high school girls in Gloucester, Mass., in 2008. The movie, which stars Thora Birch, takes a forthright look at serious issues like peer pressure, the lack of opportunities for young people and the role schools should play in providing sex education and birth control. It is a commendable effort to educate about and generate discussion of a subject with far-reaching implications for teenagers and society as a whole.

The Spike version of this semi-public-service programming is a show called “Manswers.” It too seeks to educate about and generate discussion of certain subjects, but those subjects have no far-reaching implications for anyone. Each episode answers (in a voice-over that is screamed like a used-car commercial) a half-dozen or so questions that probably didn’t need asking. These, for instance:

¶What is the biggest strip club — strippers again! — in the world? (Answer: Some joint in Las Vegas.)

¶How many nonalcoholic beers (which have a smidgen of alcohol in them) would you have to drink to get legally drunk? (About 40.)

¶Is a rayon, lambskin or cotton cloth best for drying a car? The research on this one was done by three buxom women in halter tops — one top made out of each material — who rubbed their breasts over a wet car, then wrung out the halter tops to see how much water they had absorbed. Winner: Cotton.


We can, from these observations, construct the perfect day as imagined by a gal and by a guy.

In the gal’s perfect day she is kidnapped on the way back from putting the kids on the school bus but vanquishes the kidnappers in time to go for a fattening lunch with her single-mom pals, at which they lament their lack of dates before donning designer gowns to go to a school board meeting where they successfully address all major educational problems.

In the guy’s perfect day he awakes and, still sleepy, sticks his hand down a running garbage disposal trying to retrieve the bottle opener he has dropped in it; an ambulance crew made up entirely of strippers rushes him to the Hospital for Advanced Trauma Care and Stripping, where naked but highly trained female surgeons sew his hand back on, then take him home and wash his entire house as well as his car with their breasts while answering questions like: Does being spanked make a woman want to have sex?

So, clearly, members of one sex are living in a sad, unrealistic fantasy world, trying in vain to compensate for the drabness of their day-to-day lives. Members of the other are living a rich life of the imagination, at peace with their self-image and excited by what the future might hold. Which is which goes without saying.

Saved from the Ice by a Web Cam

A tourist walking on Germany's frozen North Sea coast was hoping for some stunning winter photos. Instead, he became disoriented as night fell and no longer knew how to get back to the beach. Luckily, help was just a click away.

When it comes to natural beauty, the North Sea coast near the small town of St. Peter-Ording is one of Germany's national treasures. The stretch of coastline is known for its beautiful beaches and unique tidal flats. And this winter, with temperatures having remained stubbornly below zero for much of January, the scene is all the more idyllic as the beach has become one with the sea under the ice and snow.

But that beauty almost became a deadly trap for one German tourist who was visiting the area late last week.

All he wanted to do was take a few nice pictures of the stunning ice sheet which currently stretches into the sea. In his efforts at photographic posterity, however, he quickly lost his orientation. Before long, with darkness falling, visibility low and nothing but ice and snow all around, the man, who is about 40 years old, no longer knew which direction to walk for the safety of the shore.

Web Cam Saviour

"He didn't know where to go. He stopped because he was afraid," police spokeswoman Kristen Stielow told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "With the unbroken snow and ice, you can't tell where the shore ends and the sea begins."

Help came from an unlikely place. A woman sitting in front of her computer hundreds of kilometers away in the town of Westerwald was taking a look at the frozen beach via one of the many Web cams set up around St. Peter-Ording. In the grainy image on her computer screen, she noticed a shadowy figure on the ice signalling with a flashlight. Immediately, she called the local police station to report the man.

Police were quickly able to locate the man and used car headlights to lead the man to shore. After giving him a lecture about the dangers of walking on the ice, the police let the tourist go back to his hotel. His Web-surfing saviour declined to identify herself to the police.

Internet Among Nobel Peace Prize Nominees
Ian MacDougall

OSLO—Candidates for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize include a Russian human rights group, a Chinese dissident and an inanimate object: the Internet, people who made the nominations said Tuesday.

As the submission deadline for the coveted award closed, the Nobel Committee maintained its tradition of giving no hints -- the contenders are kept secret for 50 years. But some nominations were announced by those who made them.

Those with nomination rights include former peace laureates, members of national governments and legislatures, selected university professors and others.

Erna Solberg, the head of Norway's Conservative Party, put forth Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina and Memorial, a prominent rights group she works with.

Gannushkina heads the Civic Assistance Committee, which works under the auspices of Memorial primarily for the rights of migrant workers. Memorial, a frequent critic of the Kremlin, says the high-profile murder of Memorial rights activist Natalya Estemirova in July 2009 and the December 2008 raid of its St. Petersburg office by Russian authorities are among the many injustices it's faced because of its dogged activism.

"These are people who are at the forefront of human rights and are putting their lives at risk for their work," Solberg told The Associated Press.

Gannushkina told the AP in Moscow she felt "embarrassed" to be mentioned in the same breath as other great rights activists.

As for Memorial, "this is the acknowledgment of Russia's human rights workers, and this is well deserved," she said.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of the PEN American Center and a Princeton philosophy professor, said in a statement that he had nominated Liu Xiaobo, a recently jailed Chinese dissident, for his "distinguished and principled leadership in the area of human and political rights and freedom of expression." The Chinese government urged the jury to disregard the submission.

"It would be completely wrong for the Nobel Prize committee to award the prize to such a person," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Tuesday when asked about Liu's nomination in Beijing.

Former Illinois Governor George Ryan -- now imprisoned after being convicted of federal corruption charges -- was nominated by Francis A. Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, for his campaign to abolish the death penalty.
The Internet was proposed by the Italian version of Wired magazine, which cited its use as a tool to advance "dialogue, debate and consensus through communication" and to promote democracy. Organizers said signatories to its petition backing the nomination include 2003 peace laureate and exiled Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi -- which would make it a legitimate entry.


Associated Press Writers Christopher Bodeen in Beijing and David Nowak in Moscow contributed to this report.

Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 Newspad
Rob Beschizza

Steven Sande of TUAW remembers a passage from 2001: A Space Odyssey:

When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug his foolscap-sized Newspad into the ship's information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers ... Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him. ... the postage-stamp-sized rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination.

Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man's quest for perfect communications. Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word "newspaper," of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics.) The text was updated automatically on every hour; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the ever-changing flow of information from the news satellites.

It was hard to imagine how the system could be improved or made more convenient. But sooner or later, Floyd guessed, it would pass away, to be replaced by something as unimaginable as the Newspad itself would have been to Caxton or Gutenberg.
There's actually a history of stories which tie a current gadget to this particular device. Three years ago, it was Sony's Reader graced with the comparison. In 2001 itself, however, Transmeta-powered Tablet PCs got the buzz. Now, of course, it's Apple's turn.

Until next week,

- js.

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