|02-04-08, 08:58 AM||#1|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - April 5th, '08
"The record companies can go screw themselves." – Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg
"We’re turning the United States into fortress America. It turns everyone into an enemy. It loses us friends around the world and respect around the world." – Nigel Redden
"We're considering giving her a 100 gigabits per second connection in the summer. Then she'll be able to dry all her neighbours' laundry too." – Hafsteinn Jonsson
April 5th, 2008
Judge to RIAA: You Can't Sue Over Songs 'Made Available' Via P2P
Posted by Declan McCullagh
A federal judge in New York has dealt the Recording Industry Association of America a setback in its thousands of lawsuits over piracy on peer-to-peer networks.
In a widely anticipated decision, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas ruled Monday to reject the RIAA's claim that a Kazaa user who merely "made available" copyrighted music necessarily violated the law. Rather, he said, the RIAA would have to demonstrate that unlawful copying actually took place.
"Plaintiffs' allegations--insofar as plaintiffs wish to hold defendant liable for acts of infringement other than actual downloading and/or distribution--fail to state a claim," Karas wrote.
This is not necessarily fatal to the RIAA's lawsuit against Tenise Barker (referred to as Denise Barker in some court documents) that will continue in the Southern District of New York. That's because the music labels also have alleged that she actually did distribute copyrighted works--meaning that if they can prove that happened, which is more difficult, they can still win.
A few characteristics make this case unusual. First, New York federal judges are viewed as well-versed in copyright law, so Karas' decision is likely to be influential. Second, an unusually large number of outside groups filed briefs, including the U.S. Internet Industry Association, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, meaning the court benefited from a range of views and increasing the importance of this week's decision.
Finally, the Bush administration jumped into the case on the part of the RIAA. The Justice Department's brief calls EFF's arguments "misleading" and says that the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty--signed by the United States--covers "making available" copyrighted works.
The "making available" argument is the same legal theory that the RIAA's attorneys relied on in the Jammie Thomas case, which led to $222,000 in penalties in October. The jury instructions said that "the act of making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic distribution on a peer-to-peer network, without license from the copyright owners, violates the copyright owners' exclusive right of distribution"--meaning all they had to do was claim that Thomas left the songs in a publicly accessible directory where they could have been downloaded.
Thomas has said that her appeal to the 8th Circuit will center on whether or not "making available" copyrighted works--on the theory that they could have been downloaded--should be unlawful even if there's no evidence any transfers took place.
Other courts have considered this topic in lawsuits filed by the RIAA, but more briefly. In a pre-trial motion in UMG Recordings v. Lindor, the court ruled that: "At trial, plaintiffs will have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant did indeed infringe plaintiff's copyrights by convincing the fact-finder, based on the evidence plaintiffs have gathered, that defendant actually shared sound files belonging to plaintiffs." (Emphasis added.)
As I wrote last fall, there are some dangers if the RIAA's "making available" theory is widely adopted by courts. If my mother accidentally shares her computer's entire hard drive with the world by clicking the wrong button in an OS X setup menu, is that "making available?" Should she be held liable for $222,000 in damages, and lose her house, for accidentally making two CDs of music available to the world?
If I don't upgrade to a newer version of my operating system even though I know there's a security glitch that opens my hard drive to the Internet, does that mean I'm "making available" my music collection? Do Internet service providers "make available" access to Kazaa? Do search engines "make available" links to infringing files?
These are not all easy questions to answer, especially because intent doesn't matter much in copyright law. It's what lawyers like to call a strict liability offense--meaning that even accidental "making available" can slap you with a $222,000 penalty. This might make sense for corporate defendants, but it gets bizarre quickly when applied to hundreds of millions of Internet users.
No appeals court--that I know of, at least--has ruled on exactly this point. Now it's teed up for the 8th Circuit (the Thomas case) to consider this year, and the 2nd Circuit (the Barker case) to hear sometime later. The outcome will be worth watching.
Update 8:01 p.m. PDT: While the judge rejected the RIAA attorneys' "making available" argument, he did provide them with a road map showing a detour that might still allow them to arrive at their destination. Specifically, he ruled that an "offer to distribute" can amount to a distribution. The RIAA needs to, he wrote, "affirmatively plead that defendant made an offer to distribute, and that the offer to distribute was for the purpose of further distribution, public performance, or public display." Look for the RIAA's revised complaint--it has 30 days to resubmit it--to argue just that.
Judge Rejects RIAA "Making Available" Theory but Sustains Complaint, and Gives RIAA Chance to Replead Defective Theory in Elektra v. Barker
In Elektra v. Barker, Judge Karas rejected the RIAA's "making available" theory, and its "authorization" theory, but
-sustained the sufficiency of the allegations of "downloading" and "distributing", and
-gave the RIAA an opportunity to cure its defective pleading.
March 31, 2008, Decision of Hon. Kenneth M. Karas, Denying Motion to Dismiss Complaint and Granting Leave to Replead*
* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation
RIAA: Andersen's New Complaint Ignores Judge's Instructions
After having her first complaint dismissed, exonerated former RIAA target Tanya Andersen refiled an amended complaint in her malicious prosecution lawsuit against the record labels earlier this month at the judge's request. Instead of filing an answer to Andersen's complaint, the RIAA is asking the presiding judge to dismiss the new complaint. Should the judge choose not to dismiss the "verbose, confused and redundant complaint," the RIAA would like some additional time to file a response.
The RIAA's request was made in a filing late last week, one in which it argued that Andersen's attorney, Lory Lybeck, ignored the judge's instructions. Andersen has filed a "massive" 108-page, 353-paragraph amended complaint that the RIAA says is "long on rhetoric, hyperbole, and scandalous allegations" and does not heed the judge's direction to file a "plain and concise" complaint.
Although the record labels were willing to spend well over two years prosecuting their unsuccessful lawsuit against Andersen, they are now seeking to resolve Andersen v. Atlantic "as expeditiously as possible." One such expeditious resolution would be a dismissal of Andersen's new complaint, the RIAA argues, citing a couple of cases where refiled complaints where dismissed for not following a judge's directions. "Indeed, under very similar circumstances, complaints significantly shorter than that filed by Plaintiff have been dismissed for failure to comply with the district court’s order granting leave to amend and Rule 8."
Andersen was originally sued for copyright infringement by the RIAA in 2005. After the labels decided to dismiss the lawsuit, she fought back with her lawsuit which accuses MediaSentry, the record labels, and the RIAA of negligence. The RIAA and the Settlement Support Center that handles the settlement letters are also accused of intentional infliction of emotional distress, RICO violations, conspiracy, unlawful trade practices, and a handful of other wrongs.
In an interview just before the amended complaint was filed, Lybeck told Ars that he planned on taking advantage of the discovery process to look into agreements between the RIAA, its member companies, MediaSentry, and the Settlement Support Center. The RIAA's latest filing shows that it is poised to fight attempts at discovery tooth and nail, as the labels believe that "the vast majority" of Andersen's allegations can be addressed with "little or no discovery."
After reading through the RIAA's filing last week as well as a 68-page transcript of the February 13 hearing where Judge Anna J. Brown dismissed Andersen's first complaint, I decided to reread the "massive" 108-page amended complaint filed by Andersen (all of the documents are available on PACER; Threat Level also has a PDF available, and David Kravets covered the RIAA's filing on Friday). Part of the massiveness the RIAA objects to comes from Lybeck's attempts to adhere to the judge's instructions to explicitly lay out both the allegations and claims for release. The vast majority of Andersen's 18 claims for relief go into a fair amount of supporting detail. (The 18th claim seeks an injunction barring the RIAA from "continuing to engage in criminal investigation of private American citizens.")
Both parties would like to see this case wrapped up quickly (but obviously with different results). Given the scope of Andersen's amended complaint and the RIAA's response seeking (at the very least) additional time to respond, that appears to be an unlikely outcome.
In a docket entry made today, Judge Anna J. Brown noted her agreement with some of the RIAA's criticism's of Andersen's amended complaint. Andersen will have until April 10 to file a third amended complaint "consistent with the Court's directions during the hearing on February 11, 2008" if she desires, with a status conference scheduled a few days later.
U. Maine Law Students Trying To Shut RIAA Down
Remember those pesky student attorneys from the University of Maine School of Law's Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, who inspired the Magistrate Judge to suggest monetary fines against the RIAA lawyers? Well they're in the RIAA's face once again, and this time they're trying to shut down the RIAA's whole "discovery" machine: the lawsuits it files against "John Does" in order to find out their names and addresses.
They've gone and filed a Rule 11 motion for sanctions, seeking — among other things — an injunction against all such "John Doe" cases, arguing that the cases seek to circumvent the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act which protects student privacy rights, are brought for improper purposes of obtaining discovery, getting publicity, and intimidation, and are in flagrant violation of the joinder rules and numerous court orders.
If the injunction is granted, the RIAA will have to go back to the drawing board to find another way of finding out the identities of college students, and the ruling — depending on its reasoning — might even be applicable to the non-college cases involving commercial ISPs.
RIAA's Boston University Subpoena Quashed
As first reported by p2pnet, the motion to quash the RIAA's subpoena seeking identities of Boston University students has been granted, at least for the moment. In a 52-page opinion (pdf) the Judge concluded that she could not decide whether or not to quash until she had seen the college's "Terms of Service Agreement" for internet service. It was only then she could decide what 'expectation of privacy' the students had. She quashed the subpoena calling for the student identities, and told them they could go ahead with a subpoena just for the terms of service agreement. Interestingly the decision was issued on the very same day as the judge in Elektra v. Barker came to some of the same conclusions.
Lawyer Who Threatened File-Sharers is Banned For 6 Months
A lawyer who sent out hundreds of thousands of threatening letters demanding that alleged file-sharers pay 400 euros, has been banned from operating for 6 months. Elizabeth Martin, who had been working with Swiss anti-piracy outfit, Logistep, was condemned by the Paris Bar Council.
For anti-piracy company, Logistep, life is becoming more and more difficult by the day. They have been deemed to be operating illegally in Italy and have been slammed over privacy issues in the home country, Switzerland. Now, according to a report - and to add further insult to this growing pile of misery - a lawyer they’ve been working with in France has just found herself in an awful lot of trouble.
Lawyer Elizabeth Martin had been demanding 400 Euros from hundreds of thousands of file-sharers who Logistep say had been infringing the rights of software company Techland, on their game ‘Call of Juarez’.
In her letters she warned alleged file-sharers that should it be necessary to take anyone to court, the costs would be substantial. File-sharers were also led to believe that should they be found guilty, they would not only be responsible for their own costs, but those of the other side - with an indication that the decision against them would mount to “hundreds of thousands of euros”.
Of course, none of these letters are complete without some threats and intimidation. Elizabeth Martin - just like the UK’s Davenport Lyons - finishes up with with a threat totally disproportionate to any petty copyright offense. “If you are not able to pay the damages ordered by the court, our client will seek to gain the amount by the sale of your goods”.
This wording is very similar to other letters received all across Europe, including those received from UK lawyers Davenport Lyons, who are also working with Logistep in exactly the same manner. Their version is “In the event that you were not able to pay whatever sums the court may direct, our client would have no option but to take steps to enforce the debt against your property.”
Unfortunately for Elizabeth Martin, it’s not just the general public who are disgusted by her actions. She has been the subject of a Conseil de l’Ordre du Barreau de Paris disciplinary investigation - and subsequent condemnation - by none other than her own peers. How embarrassing.
The disciplinary board decided that “By choosing to reproduce aggressive foreign methods, intended to force payments, the interested party also violated [the code] which specifies that the lawyer cannot unfairly represent a situation or seriousness of threat.”
In addition, the lawyer also violated the code by cashing payments into a private account, not the usual dedicated litigation account, known as a ‘Carpa’. Martin also refused to reveal how many payments had been received from file-sharers.
For these serious breaches, Elizabeth Martin was ordered by the disciplinary board to suspend her activities as a lawyer for 6 months. Furthermore, she was banned from belonging to the National Council of the Bars (CNB) and other such professional associations for a period of 10 years.
ImageShack Starts Free BitTorrent Download Service
The popular media hosting website ImageShack just launched a new service that lets you download torrent files onto their servers. When the download is complete, you can download the files from ImageShack via an http link.
ImageShack’s torrent download service is still in Beta, but it works just fine. The only thing you need to do is point ImageShack to the torrent file and press start. The download will start immediately, and once it’s finished you can download the files via http onto your computer.
Services like this are not new, but up until now I haven’t seen one that doesn’t charge money. There are some limitations though. Per month you can download a maximum of 15GB to your computer, and the storage on ImageShack’s servers is also limited to 15GB.
Jack Levin, the founder of ImageShack told TorrentFreak: “We think its going to be a great service for users, especially in the light of ISPs ratelimiting torrent traffic.There is a lot of free and legal torrents out there, that people should have easy access too
to. We have the capacity to do it, and the world needs it.”
For those people who are concerned about the anonymity of the service (or think it’s a honeypot), Levin said: “We will not look at what you download and simply provide you, an account, with bandwidth and space. What you do with it is up to you. The DMCA applies, so, if we get reports from copyright owners to take down content, we will comply”
The service comes with some great features. It supports selective downloading, which means that you can deselect files from the torrent if you don’t want to download them all. This can be quite useful if you only need one album from a complete discography for example.
ImageShack also provides some basic details about the progress of the downloads. Under the “status” link they list information about the download progress, connected seeds and leechers, share ratio and more.
The status reports are not yet working perfectly, as it keeps reporting that a torrent has stopped, while it was downloading just fine. However, the torrents I have tested were downloaded very fast, and I had no problem downloading the files from ImageShack onto my computer.
A more serious point of critique is that the torrent seems to disconnect as soon as the download has finished. This basically means that you will be sharing less than you should. I hope that ImageShack will add a sharing friendly feature in the future, and will at least continue seeding until the share ratio is 100%.
Levin told us, however, that there are no plans to include such a feature. They will offer (paid) premium accounts, but this will be only for bandwidth and storage upgrades.
Overall I must say that Imageshack’s new torrent download service looks very promising, especially for a free service. Decide for yourself, we think it’s worth a try.
Policing Internet 'Not ISP's Job'
The head of one of Britain's biggest internet providers has criticised the music industry for demanding that he act against pirates.
The trade body for UK music, the BPI, asked internet service providers to disconnect people who ignore requests to stop sharing music.
But Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse, which runs the TalkTalk broadband service, is refusing.
He said it is not his job to be an internet policeman.
BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said that the music industry has been fighting a losing battle to prevent people from swapping songs for nothing on the internet.
Mr Dunstone, whose TalkTalk broadband is Britain's third biggest internet provider, said the demands are unreasonable and unworkable.
He said: "Our position is very clear. We are the conduit that gives users access to the internet. We do not control the internet, nor do we control what our users do on the internet.
"I cannot foresee any circumstances in which we would voluntarily disconnect a customer's account on the basis of a third party alleging a wrongdoing."
He added the company would fight to protect the rights of its users using the law.
The BPI denied it is asking ISPs to become internet police, saying the firms need to educate their customers not to steal music.
It also says that if they do not help with the fight against music piracy, then the government will bring in legislation to make them cooperate.
BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said: "At the heart of this issue is ensuring that creators are fairly rewarded in the digital age, and we passionately believe that working in partnership with ISPs to develop first-class, safe, legal, digital music services is the way forward.
"But such a partnership can't succeed if an ISP refuses to do anything to address the problem of illegal downloading on its network."
He added: "We believe that any socially responsible ISP should, as a core part of its business, put in place steps to help their customers avoid engaging in illegal activity, and deter those who knowingly break the law."
Sony BMG Sued for Software Theft
PointDev, an editor french, attack the record company to court for using unlicensed one of his administration tools: Ideal Migration.
The new not by lack of zest. The company continues to PointDev counterfeit Sony BMG, a major niche often climb to uphold the rights of its artists, particularly with regard to piracy on the Internet. The house record thus exploited the administration software for servers and client under Windows, Ideal Migration, contracted without the necessary licences.
Mandated by PointDev, a bailiff carried out a seizure on January 22, 2008 at the premises of the Parisian own record, revealing the illegal installation of the software on four servers. The publisher claims 300000 euros in damages from Sony BMG.
"We are not interested in an amicable settlement. It is not just a question of money but more importantly in principle, storm Agustoni Paul-Henry, CEO of PointDev. The rate of software piracy in the company is very high. "According to the Business Software Alliance, a association of the major publishers in the market, 47% of programs used in the company would be unlawfully in France ...
"We are forced to watch every week if key software pirates are not on the Internet. We are a small company of six employees. Instead of trying to protect us, we could spend this time to develop ourselves, "complains Paul-Henry Agustoni.
An investigation triggered by the request of an employee of Sony BMG
PointDev would have noticed that Sony BMG had no rights Ideal Migration, after a request for assistance sent by an employee of the record company in technical support. The account of this so-called client was not listed in the database of the company. After some research, the company realized that the key used to activate the software was pirated, and that the company that was used was none other than the major.
Questioned about the fact that this is perhaps the single act of an employee, the CEO of PointDev retorts, "I think piracy is linked to the policy of a company. If the employee has the necessary funding to buy the software they need, it will. If this is not the case, he will find alternative ways, as the work must be done in one way or another. "
Second item in the major burden according PointDev, date of the key generation, in late 2004, or even Sony BMG absorbed. "However, Ideal Migration is precisely used by businesses in the event of consolidation in computer so to allow centralized management of servers and client workstations, "says the CEO.
When contacted on this issue, Sony BMG has not been able to answer our questions so far.
This page was automatically translated from French. View original web page.
Five Men Charged with Computer Piracy Conspiracy
Federal prosecutors say five men have been indicted on charges of participating in a computer piracy scheme that involved the large-scale illegal distribution of copyrighted software.
A federal grand jury in New Haven returned a three-count indictment Tuesday charging the five with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.
The indictment names Steven Fiatarone, also known as "kidzap," 55, of Spring Hill, Fla.; Michael Uszakow, also known as "iced," 43, of Oakdale, Minn.; William Parrott, also known as "niterangr," 38, of Roanoke Rapids, N.C.; Dominic Tymorek, also known as "tcut," 53, of Woodstock, Ga.; and Robert Hardick, also known as "tcut," 57, of Getzville, N.Y.
The indictment accuses them of participating in an underground online community of people who use the Internet to engage in the large-scale, illegal distribution of copyrighted software.
In the so-called warez scene, "suppliers" are able to obtain access to copyrighted software, video games, DVD movies, and MP3 music files, often before those titles are available to the general public.
Other participants, known as "crackers," then use their technical skills to circumvent or "crack" the digital copyright protections. Others, known as "couriers," then distribute the pirated software to various file servers on the Internet for others to access, reproduce, and further distribute.
The indictment alleges tens of thousands of computer files were uploaded and downloaded, including the movie "Anger Management."
The indictment charges Tymorek and Hardick with three counts of conspiracy, Fiatarone and Uszakow with two counts of conspiracy, and Parrot with one count of conspiracy. If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
A date for their arraignment has not yet been set.
Feds Lie About Link Between Software Piracy and Terrorism
The U.S. Justice Department seems to believe that if you tell a big enough lie, people will listen. Here's the latest: Attorney General Michael Mukasey claims that terrorists sell pirated software as a way to finance their operations, without presenting a shred of evidence for his case. He's doing it to push through a controversial piece of legislation that's bad for you.
In a talk last week before at the Tech Museum of Innovation, Mukasey used his best fearmongering tactics to link software piracy to terrorists. In his speech, which you can read in its entirety here, he told the group:
Criminal syndicates, and in some cases even terrorist groups, view IP crime as a lucrative business, and see it as a low-risk way to fund other activities.
Mukasey went on to cite numerous cases in which the Justice Department has arrested those who pirate software, and in which the department has cooperated with other countries in investigations. He mentioned arrests in Florida, investigations in China, and warned about the Russian mob being involved in selling pirated software.
In not a single instance did Mukasey include a link to terrorism. Not one. You can be sure that if there were any links, Mukasey would make sure to get them on the nightly news.
So why is Mukasey trying to convince people there's a link between software piracy and terrorism, even though one doesn't exist? To force Congress to pass controversial intellectual property (IP) legislation that would increase IP penalties, increase police power, set up a new agency to investigate IP theft, and more.
Industry lobbyists have been pushing for it. And now Mukasey is trying to convince the country that the bill needs to be passed as a way to fight terrorism.
Hmmm....let's see. Our federal government tells us a lie about a terrorist link that doesn't exist, then tries to convince Congress and the country to take controversial action based on that lie. That has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it? We're still paying for believing that last lie --- let's not repeat the mistake.
The politics of dancing
New Licence for DJs to Format Shift Music
DJs are the latest targets in the war against illegal copying of published music.
ARIA the Australian Recording Industry Association has set up a new licence to let DJs format shift their music to use at gigs.
Yep, they need to pay a licence fee to copy music they already own legally to their iPods, laptops, or compilation CDs.
Criminal penalties for DJs involved in music piracy are up to sixty thousand dollars and 5 years imprisonment. There are also on-the-spot fines of over one thousand dollars.
Microsoft's Vista Blogger Quits As Redmond Exodus Builds
Nick White, Microsoft's in-house blogger who wrote about Windows Vista, is leaving to join the blog-centric marketing and public relations firm BuzzCorps.
Nick White, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT)'s in-house blogger who wrote about all things related to the Windows Vista operating system, has resigned. It's the latest in a series of key departures from the software maker.
White revealed the news in -- what else? -- a blog post. "I want to share with you the bittersweet news that I am moving on to a role outside Microsoft," White said in a post Monday.
"It's deflating to know that this constitutes my last post to the Windows Vista team blog," said White, a Vista product manager.
White is leaving Microsoft to join the blog-centric marketing and public relations firm BuzzCorps. He'll be replaced as Microsoft's lead Vista blogger by Windows communications director Christopher Flores.
Over the past several months, White's Vista blog has been a significant primary source for journalists, analysts, and other Microsoft watchers. Microsoft in many instances used the blog to announce major initiatives or product milestones.
Most recently, White trumpeted the arrival of Windows Vista Service Pack 1.
White did not provide a reason for his decision. To be sure, his position could not have been an easy one. White's posts often elicited hundreds of responses from Vista users complaining about the operating system's numerous glitches and quirks.
His departure also raises questions about Microsoft's ability to retain talent in the Web 2.0 world.
Though not a senior executive, White is the sort of young, blogosphere-savvy manager that the company needs more of if it hopes to outrun Google (NSDQ: GOOG) in the race for Web dominance. Such talent would also be required for Microsoft to successfully integrate takeover target Yahoo into its operations.
White's resignation is the latest in a string of key departures at Microsoft.
Joanne Bradford, who was chief media officer for the company's MSN Media Network, resigned last month to join advertising startup Spot Runner. Bradford had also previously served as Microsoft's VP for sales and marketing and as chief media revenue officer.
The company in January confirmed that Rob Short, corporate VP for Windows Core Technology, had quit. Short, a 19-year Microsoft veteran, led the team responsible for designing, developing, and testing core components of the Windows operating system.
Earlier this year, Microsoft Business Division president Jeff Raikes said he would retire in September, to be replaced by former Juniper Networks chief operating officer Stephen Elop.
Microsoft's merger and acquisitions chief Bruce Jaffe stepped down at the end of February.
To boot, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates will give up full-time duties at the company in July.
The departures highlight one of Microsoft's biggest challenges as a mature company: attracting and retaining Silicon Valley's top talent. In its early days, Microsoft could entice recruits with an entrepreneurial environment and stock options that eventually turned secretaries into millionaires.
In 2008, however, it's hot Web 2.0 startups like Flickr and MySpace that can offer those kinds of perks and incentives.
Senior Executive Leaving Google for EMI
Douglas Merrill, a vice president of engineering at Google, is leaving the Internet search company to become a president of digital at EMI Music, the recorded music division of EMI Group, according to an executive briefed on his move.
Mr. Merrill is the second senior executive to leave Google in two months. In March, Sheryl Sandberg, who was vice president for global sales and operations, left to become chief operating officer at Facebook.
Their departures, as well as those of several high-profile engineers and senior managers in recent months, are heightening concerns that as the company grows in size and its stock swoons, it risks losing a larger number of important employees.
“It is very difficult to preserve the same kind of culture and energy that Google had as a startup,” said Scott Kessler, an equity analyst with Standard & Poor’s. “It is increasingly difficult for Google to be able to keep all the great people it has hired over the years. These people have a wide variety of great options at their disposal and a number of those people are seizing them.”
The company dismissed concerns that it was threatened by an employee exodus.
“We have a deep bench and work hard to grow leaders within the company,” Google said in a statement. “We are attracting immensely talented people around the world, every day.”
Mr. Merrill did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment. EMI Group declined to comment.
At EMI, Mr. Merrill will assume a newly created role, the executive briefed on his move said. He is likely to report to Guy Hands, the chairman of EMI and the chief executive of Terra Firma Capital Partners, the London-based private equity firm that bought EMI in September. The company is going through the middle of a wrenching restructuring that, among other things, will put more emphasis on digital distribution.
Mr. Merrill joined Google in 2003 as senior director of information systems. He was responsible for all internal engineering efforts and was involved with several other technology projects, including initiatives related to the company’s I.P.O. and the introduction of Checkout, an online payment system.
Another senior Google executive, the chief financial officer, George Reyes, announced last August that he would retire. At the time, Google said it hoped to find a replacement for him by the end of the year but has yet to appoint a new C.F.O.
Saul Hansell contributed reporting from New York.
MySpace and Record Companies Create Music Site
Brad Stone and Jeff Leeds
In the latest effort by the ailing music industry to bolster its declining prospects, three of the four major music companies have struck a deal with MySpace to start an music Web site.
As part of the deal, MySpace will spin out its popular MySpace Music service as an independent joint venture in partnership with Universal Music, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group. EMI, the fourth major label, is not a part of the deal at this time, but people involved in the negotiations said it would probably join soon. The music companies will own minority stakes in the venture and will make their entire music catalogs available.
Chris DeWolfe, chief executive of MySpace, a division of News Corporation, described the new service, which will be introduced later this year, as a one-stop source for all music, in all its various digital incarnations.
Visitors to the site will be able to listen to free streaming music, paid for with advertising, and share customized playlists with their friends. They will also be able to download tracks to play on their mobile devices, putting the new site in competition with similar services like Apple, Amazon and eMusic.
A subscription-based music component, where users pay a monthly amount for unlimited access to downloadable tracks, is also being considered, Mr. DeWolfe said.
“This is really a mega-music experience that is transformative in a lot of ways,” he said. “It’s the first service that offers a full catalog of music to be streamed for free, with full community features, to be shared with all of your friends.”
Additional products like tickets, T-shirts, ring tones and other music merchandise will also be available. “It’s the full 360-degree revenue stream,” Mr. DeWolfe said.
Exact terms of the deal and details about the new site, like prices for downloaded music tracks, were not disclosed. But MySpace did say the site would offer songs free of digital rights management software or D.R.M., which is used to prevent illicit copying but can create technical hurdles for buyers. The songs would be playable on any portable music device, including Apple’s iPod.
The new venture will be run by an executive team that will report to a board s made up of representatives from MySpace and the major music companies.
An analyst at Pali Capital, Rich Greenfield, said MySpace was offering a big opportunity to the music companies.
“They have a huge community that wants to talk, share and learn about music,” he said. “Nobody else has that. There is music discovery happening on MySpace that is far deeper and broader than what’s going on on iTunes.”
But first MySpace will have to prove that it can actually sell music. Though the company earns $70 million a month in advertising for the News Corporation, according to estimates by Pali Capital, it has never successfully sold products on a wide scale. A download service for independent music, began in 2006 with Snocap, a music start-up, was considered a disappointment.
For the music industry, the deal is partly born of desperation. In the face of widespread, escalating online piracy, music sales dropped to $11.5 billion in 2006 from a peak in 1999 of nearly $15 billion.
That has forced the industry into a new age of experimentation. Last year, all four major record labels backed Amazon’s nascent MP3 music store, partly in an effort to counterbalance Apple’s strength in the market for music downloads. The music companies say Apple now has too much control over the distribution and pricing of digital music.
The industry is seeking revenue that does not come directly from its customers — like the ad-supported element of the MySpace service. Along those same lines, music executives have recently raised more draconian ideas, like surcharges on the sales of iPods and Internet access to compensate for rampant file sharing. The moves have been met with widespread resistance.
Universal Music sued MySpace for copyright infringement in 2006. MySpace would not say whether that suit had been dropped before Thursday’s announcement.
U2 Signs 12-Year Deal With Live Nation
Live Nation and U2 announced this morning that the Irish rockers have inked a 12-year global contract, where the concert giant will take care of merchandising, digital and branding rights and touring for the band.
Madonna signed an all-encompassing deal with Live Nation last fall, though her deal included releasing albums via Live Nation. U2 will stay put with Universal Music Group. Financial terms of the contract, which will run until 2020 (when Bono will turn 60 years old), were not disclosed and it is expected to be formally finalized in the coming months.
"U2 has created some of the greatest rock music of all time and their career has been uniquely successful," stated Michael Cohl, Chairman of the Board of Live Nation and CEO of Live Nation Artists. "It has long been our intention to consolidate and extend our relationship with U2, so this is a very exciting deal for us. The band has always been forward thinking and as one of our original and most successful artists, we are delighted to be able to work with them for many years into the future."
"We've been dating for over 20 years now, it's about time we tied the knot," added Bono. "With regards to U2.com, we feel we've got a great Web site, but we want to make it a lot better. We want a closer, more direct relationship between the band and its audience and Live Nation has pledged to help us with that."
U2 Manager Paul McGuinness said, "U2 are doing their best work right now, on record and in concert. The opportunity to integrate U2 and Live Nation's vision of the future is a great extension of our established business and of our working relationship with [Live Nation's] Arthur Fogel and Michael Cohl, which started back in 1980 at the El Mocambo in Toronto."
U2 is expected to release a new album later this year.
Jay-Z and Live Nation Alliance as New Model for Music Sales
In a move that reflects the anarchy sweeping the music business, the superstar rapper Jay-Z, who released his latest album to lukewarm sales five months ago, is on the verge of closing a deal with a concert promoter that rivals the biggest music contracts ever awarded.
Jay-Z plans to depart his longtime record label, Def Jam, for a roughly $150 million package with the concert giant Live Nation that includes financing for his own entertainment venture, in addition to recordings and tours for the next decade. The pact, expected to be finalized this week, is the most expansive deal yet from Live Nation, which has angled to compete directly with the industry’s established music labels in a scrum over the rights to distribute recordings, sell concert tickets, market merchandise and control other aspects of artists’ careers.
As CD sales plunge, an array of players — including record labels, promoters and advertisers — are racing to secure deals that cut them in on a larger share of an artist’s overall revenue. Live Nation has already struck less comprehensive pacts with Madonna and U2.
In Jay-Z, Live Nation has lined up with a longtime star who, after toiling as a self-described hustler on the streets of Brooklyn, earned acclaim as a rapper and cachet as a mogul.
Live Nation’s core business has revolved around major rock and country tours, and with Jay-Z it is making an unexpected foray into hip-hop. The company is also placing an enormous wager on a performer who, like many others, has experienced declining record sales. (Last year’s “American Gangster” sold one million copies in the United States; “The Black Album,” from 2003, sold well over three million.)
But the arrangement would also position Live Nation to participate in a range of new deals with Jay-Z, one of music’s most entrepreneurial stars, whose past ventures have included the Rocawear clothing line, which he sold last year for $204 million, and the chain of 40/40 nightclubs.
Jay-Z, 38, whose real name is Shawn Carter, owes one more studio album to Def Jam, where he was president for three years before stepping down in December after he and the label’s corporate parent, Universal Music Group, could not agree on a more lucrative contract.
His first undertaking with Live Nation is his current 28-date tour with Mary J. Blige, his biggest live outing in more than three years. After that, Live Nation envisions integrating the marketing of all Jay-Z’s entertainment endeavors, including recordings, tours and endorsements.
“I’ve turned into the Rolling Stones of hip-hop,” Jay-Z said in a recent telephone interview.
The deal answers a question that had been circling through the rap world for months: Where would Jay-Z take his next corporate role? As part of the arrangement, Live Nation would finance the start-up of a venture that would be an umbrella for his outside projects, which are expected to include his own label, music publishing, and talent consulting and managing. Live Nation is expected to contribute $5 million a year in overhead for five years, with another $25 million available to finance Jay-Z’s acquisitions or investments, according to people in the music industry briefed on the agreement. The venture, to be called Roc Nation, will split profits with Live Nation.
The overall package for Jay-Z also includes an upfront payment of $25 million, a general advance of $25 million that includes fees for his current tour, and advance payment of $10 million an album for a minimum of three albums during the deal’s 10-year term, these people said. A series of other payments adding up to about $20 million is included in exchange for certain publishing, licensing and other rights. Jay-Z said Live Nation’s consolidated approach was in sync with the emerging potential “to reach the consumer in so many different ways right now.” He added: “Everyone’s trying to figure it out. I want to be on the front lines in that fight.”
The popularity of music downloads has revolutionized how music is consumed, and widespread piracy has contributed to an industry meltdown in which traditional album sales — composed mostly of the two-decade-old CD format — have slumped by more than a third since 2000. That has further pressured record-label executives to rewrite the economics of their business and step beyond the sale of albums in an attempt to wring revenue out of everything from ring tones to artist fan clubs.
Jay-Z said that his future as an artist could involve elevating the role of live performances, long a mixed bag even for popular rap acts.
“In a way I want to operate like an indie band,” he said. “Play the music on tour instead of relying on radio. Hopefully we’ll get some hits out of there and radio will pick it up, but we won’t make it with that in mind.”
Though sales for Jay-Z’s tour with Ms. Blige have been strong since it began on March 22, with almost all the early dates resulting in sold-out arenas, it is unclear when Live Nation could carry out other aspects of the deal. (Jay-Z said that he hoped to deliver his final album for Def Jam later this year.)
Critics of Live Nation, which lost nearly $12 million last year, predict that it would be difficult to turn a profit on the arrangement, given the continuing decline in record sales and the mixed track record of artist-run ventures. Shares in the company have suffered since October when Live Nation negotiated a deal with Madonna.
Michael Cohl, Live Nation’s chairman, said he was not worried. Though he declined to discuss terms of the Jay-Z arrangement, he said it did not require an increase in record sales to be profitable. “He could be doing more tours and doing great,” Mr. Cohl said. “There could be endorsements and sponsorships.” He added, “The whole is what’s important.”
He cited Jay-Z’s forays into a host of other businesses as a model for Live Nation. “What he’s done has kind of mirrored what we want to do and where we think we’re going.”
Some executives at major record labels have privately portrayed Live Nation’s artist deals as overly expensive retirement packages for stars past their prime.
Others disagree. “I’d much rather be in the business of marketing a superstar who cost me a lot of money than taking the 1-in-10, demonstrably failing crapshoot” of signing unknown talents, said Jeffrey Light, a Los Angeles entertainment attorney, referring to the traditional record company model.
But the dimensions of the competition could change if Live Nation begins vying for the same emerging artists that the labels hope to sign. Live Nation is negotiating with a Georgia rock act, the Zac Brown Band, after apparently wooing it away from an offer by Atlantic Records, according to music executives briefed on the talks.
Jay-Z, for his part, suggested that the string of stars to exit the major-label system would also signal to younger acts how to plot their careers. He said that rising artists will be thinking: “ ‘Something must be happening. Madonna did it, she’s not slow. Jay-Z, he’s not slow either.’ ”
Video Game Addiction ' Like Being on Drugs'
As many as one in 30 computer game players have symptoms similar to those of gambling and drug addicts, psychologists claim.
A study of nearly 400 "gamers" found three per cent missed meals and went without sleep to spend more time playing.
They suffered withdrawal symptoms and were found to be more introverted, emotionally unstable and have lower self-esteem. Psychologists at the British Psychological Society conference in Dublin said gaming addicts had personality traits similar to Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism.
Dr John Charlton, of the University of Bolton, who led the study, said: "Our research supports the idea that people who are heavily involved in game playing may be nearer to autistic spectrum disorders than people who have no interest in gaming."
Woman Arrested for WoW Love Affair
She was a 31 mage, he was a 17 warrior. Unfortunately, we're talking about their ages
An Australian woman is facing child abduction charges in the US after trying to bring her 17-year-old World of Warcraft boyfriend back to Oz.
Tamara Broome, a 31-year-old university student, was arrested on June 26 after she flew from Adelaide to the boy's home in Greenville, North Carolina to pick up her internet beau.
Broome allegedly had an online relationship with the boy for more than a year, which began in the online game World of Warcraft. The two had also exchanged copious amounts of email and even discussed marriage.
The Azerothian love-affair has sent Broome to Pitt County Detention Centre where she will get a July 11 court date. Police have seized her laptop computer and charged Broome with attempting to abduct a child. If convicted she will face more than two years in a US jail. Broome is currently being held on a $2.35m bond.
(WoW equipment could not be seized by authorities, as it is soulbound.)
According to Australian news sources, Broome's relatives allege the teenager's parents set her up, even springing for the [air fare] to frame her.
But Pitt County Sheriff detectives call the allegations "ridiculous," claiming they will not discuss who fronted for the ticket "because that's part of the evidence, we can't get into that."
Authorities became involved when the parents reported the boy missing June 12. He was found later that day at Raleigh-Durham International Airport trying to catch a flight to Australia to see the woman. Investigators later discovered that Broome was coming to the US and apprehended her as she stepped of a train at Rocky Mount station in North Carolina.
Under North Carolina law, a minor is considered someone under the age of 18.
Besides, any WoW player could tell you in a 18/31 spread, the experience would be lousy anyway.
Police: Danbury Man Went to Florida for Sex with 7-Year-Old
A Danbury man who flew into Orlando International Airport Tuesday afternoon on his way to meet with whom he thought was a mother and her 7-year-old daughter for sex was charged by authorities.
Leonard Shuster, who sheriffs said is married with children, was caught while looking for what he thought was their house in Clermont, Fla., according to Sergeant John Herrell, a Public Information Officer for the Lake County Sheriff's Office in Lake County, Florida.
Shuster, a 46-year-old sales analysis for a beverage company in Connecticut, had actually been communicating with authorities, not with the woman and her child.
The detectives had been communicating with Shuster in an undercover capacity since early January, Herrell said.
"The communications became sexual in nature and plans were eventually made to meet in the Clermont area for the aforementioned sexual activity," Herrell said.
Bee Writer Pleads Not Guilty in Porn Case
Gilbert Chan, a business reporter at The Bee, pleaded not guilty Friday to a felony charge of possession of child pornography.
Chan, 52, of Davis was arrested after trying to conceal a camera he was using to videotape a youth cheerleading competition at UC Davis on Feb. 3, police said.
Yolo County prosecutors filed a complaint alleging a single felony count of possessing obscene matter depicting sexual conduct of a person under 18.
Chan's lawyer, Steven Sabbadini, questioned the charge. "What he did was film fully clothed cheerleaders during a public performance," he said. "The question is whether that fits the definition of child pornography."
The charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison. It also can be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Chan, who was not on duty at the time of the incident, is on administrative leave from The Bee.
11-Year-Old Takes School Network by the Horns
When Victory Baptist School, a small private school in Millbrook, Ala., was struggling to keep its computer network together last year, an 11-year-old student named Jon Penn stepped in as network manager.
Penn did it to help his mother, Paula, the school librarian who had computer support added to her workload a week before the school year started when the existing IT systems overseer suddenly departed. For Jon — who says his favorite reading material is computer trade magazines — it’s been the experience of a lifetime, even getting to select and install a gateway security appliance largely by himself.
“This is kind of a small school, and I’m known as the computer whiz,” the sixth grader says (For more offbeat networking stories, read our Wider Net archives.)
“We spent $2,158,” says young Penn, describing how he picked out the McAfee Secure Internet Gateway Appliance after evaluating it in a 30-day trial. He also looked at the Barracuda box — a tad more costly — and tried the Untangle open source product, which he said didn’t meet the school’s needs as well.
His school needed a gateway to protect against attacks, filter viruses and spam, and block inappropriate sites. Keeping costs down is important since the school is operating on a shoestring budget to keep its 60 aging computers, a donation from years ago, working for the roughly 200 students permitted to use them, along with the teachers.
The first thing Jon found as he leapt into the role of network manager was that he had to map out the network to find out what was on it. He bought some tools for this at CompUSA and realized there was an ungodly amount of computer viruses and spam, so he pressed the school to invest in filtering and antivirus protection.
“These computers are so old they don’t support all antivirus programs,” Penn says. The school took advantage of a Microsoft effort called Fresh Start that offers free software upgrades for schools with donated computers, switching from Windows 98 to Windows 2000.
One reason to do this was the hope of one day centrally managing the school’s computers so Jon doesn’t have to change them individually. To install Windows 2000, he removed obsolete network interface cards, Ethernet, video, print and sound drivers with the intent of having a better computer base by next fall.
While Jon says he spent some time evaluating antivirus products — he admires Kaspersky Lab’s software especially because it’s “lightweight running.” In the end the decision was made to get a gateway appliance to filter and block viruses and spam.
For his technical recommendations, Jon has had to present his suggestions to the school’s management for approval (“Because he’s not an adult, I’ve been hovering around,” his mother says.)
Along with school staff, the younger Penn has gotten involved in contributing to school policy on Web access. While blocking access to social networking sites such as MySpace wasn’t popular with many fellow students, he had to agree the school really didn’t need it.
Penn is now the technical support much of the time on everything from printer jams to setting up an external drive to backing up the school’s most important server. He was allowed to give a few lessons to his class about basic computers, having his classmates pull out a few components from old machines.
His father, Dave, a civil engineer, says: “I knew when Jon was three and could boot up my laptop, sign in and open Paint, that he had a knack for computers. But I never dreamed he’d be a network administrator at the age of 11.”
Penn’s parents both believe that technical people must have “integrity and character,” and should use their skills for beneficial, not malicious purposes.
Her son is precocious when it comes to computers but Paula says in the final analysis she hopes the experience with the school’s network helps him realize, “It’s his job to fight the bad guys.”
As for Jon, he says he loves testing virtualization software like VMware and wants to obtain “A+ certification” by passing the computer-technician exam by that name developed by trade group CompTIA. “Hopefully, I can do that this summer,” he says.
Social Networking Safety Plan Unveiled
Facebook set to be subject to a series of Home Office guidelines
Users of social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace could be faced with a swathe of safety information, privacy alerts and warnings about their behaviour under Home Office guidelines drawn up to promote best practice in the online industry.
The detailed guidance, due to be published tomorrow by the Home Office taskforce on child protection on the internet, will also oblige social networking sites to publish prominent links to established advice services such as anti-bullying campaigns, and have a straightforward "report abuse" process.
And in extreme cases, the phone number of the local emergency services, according to a draft of the government document seen by MediaGuardian.co.uk.
The Home Office report will propose that when registering for social networking sites users would need to verify their real age.
They will also be warned about the implications of "unacceptable behaviour" and reminded that they can be identified through their online activity by capturing the computer internet address of each visitor.
Under the Home Office proposals, a user's profile would have to show a small logo to identify whether it is publicly searchable or not, give warnings on the dangers of giving personal information that might identify their home address, and offer privacy settings that would apply to all the communication tools included on the site, such as instant messaging or video chat.
All social networking sites would have to increase protection for under-18s, ensuring that their profiles are not publicly searchable, restricting access to adult content and "using algorithms" to identify children who give a false, older age, under what would be a voluntary, self-regulated code of practice.
Some of these features have already been implemented by the major social networking sites, which have come under increasing pressure from authorities, parenting groups and advertisers to strengthen safety and privacy for their users.
Bebo, the most popular social networking site for school children, already sets profiles to private by default, and Facebook allows users to choose whether their profile can be indexed by search engines such as Google.
Other recommendations state that sites should include clear instructions on how to cancel their account and inform users how their personal data will be used - both points on which Facebook has been criticised by its users.
Bebo's chief safety officer, Rachel O'Connell, Facebook's chief safety officer, Chris Kelly, and Google's European policy manager, Patricia Moll, all contributed to the guidelines; alongside campaign groups, academics and government representatives.
O'Connell yesterday denied that social networking sites were playing lip service to concerns over safety with new privacy measures, saying there had been a sea change in industry thinking:
"It's not just about safety features - it's about educating engineers when we deploy a technical solution. For the commercial team, advertisers are very sensitive to these issues so there is a commercial imperative - that is the reality from the industry perspective," she said.
The Home Office guidance highlights potential risks and offers safety advice to parents, children and carers, dovetailing with the results of last week's Byron review into children's online safety.
The Judge, the Director and the Vagaries of Justice
The sharply argued documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” isn’t about the innocence or guilt of its title subject, who after pleading guilty in 1977 to having “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a minor flew from Los Angeles to London, never again to return to America. Neither is it about Mr. Polanski’s likability, his tragic past, morals, short stature, brilliant and bad films, the sleaze factor or your personal feelings on whether there’s anything wrong with a 43-year-old man’s having sex with a 13-year-old girl. All these elements come teasingly into view here, but really this is a movie about a very different kind of perversion.
“Wanted and Desired,” which opened on Friday without advance press screenings, was bought by HBO at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Its one-week theatrical run will make it eligible for Academy Award consideration, though given that organization’s often pitiful record when it comes to nonfiction film, it seems unlikely that a movie this subtly intelligent would make its short list. That’s especially true because the director, Marina Zenovich, refuses to wag her finger at Mr. Polanski, even when presenting the sordid and grimly pathetic details of his crime, like the Champagne and partial Quaalude he furnished the 13-year-old girl and her repeated nos.
Mr. Polanski’s guilt isn’t in doubt, arguments about the age of consent notwithstanding. In March 1977, he was arrested at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and charged with raping the girl at the home of his friend, Jack Nicholson, the star of his film “Chinatown.” (Mr. Nicholson was away.) He was released on $2,500 bail and eventually indicted on six felony charges, including child molestation and sodomy. In August, after agreeing to a plea bargain, he pleaded guilty to one felony count of illegal sex with a 13-year-old girl. Her family’s lawyer, Lawrence Silver, told the judge that his clients were not seeking a prison term for Mr. Polanski, only an admission of wrongdoing and rehabilitation. By Feb. 1, 1978, Mr. Polanski had fled.
As Ms. Zenovich forcefully explains — using talking-head interviews, a wealth of archival material and generous clips from Mr. Polanski’s films, including “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown” — he had every reason to run. The story of what happened between the initial charges and his flight has been sketchily told before, including by his victim, Samantha Geimer, who in 2003 wrote a commentary for The Los Angeles Times in which she stated that she believed that he and his most recent film at the time, “The Pianist,” should be honored on their own merits. She added, “Who wouldn’t think about running when facing a 50-year sentence from a judge who was clearly more interested in his own reputation than a fair judgment or even the well-being of the victim?”
“Wanted and Desired” answers Ms. Geimer’s bombshell question with shocks of its own, notably corroborating interviews from Douglas Dalton, Mr. Polanski’s lawyer, and Roger Gunson, the assistant district attorney who led the prosecution. Together these two former opponents pin the blame for Polanski’s flight directly on the presiding judge, Laurence J. Rittenband (who stepped down in 1989 and died in 1994). Aided and abetted by an avalanche of fluidly organized visual material, the lawyers fill in the appalling details of what was effectively a second crime, one largely perpetrated by a celebrity-dazzled judge and the equally gaga news media he courted. This crime left two victims, Mr. Polanski, who was denied a fair trial, and Ms. Geimer, who was denied justice. As she wrote, “Sometimes I feel like we both got a life sentence.”
The film’s title refers to a line tossed off by one of Mr. Polanski’s friends, who notes that while the director remains wanted in the United States he continues to be desired in Europe. That’s not fully true, of course: his autobiographically inflected Holocaust drama “The Pianist” received several Academy Awards, including best director, amid much love and acclamation. But it does get at the strong, curiously divisive reactions he has long inspired, reactions that have as much to do with the disturbing power of his best work as his own history as a victim and a survivor. Mr. Polanski survived the Holocaust and the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, in 1969 by followers of Charles Manson. It was the American legal system that almost did him in.
Wanted and Desired
Opened on Friday in Manhattan and Pasadena, Calif.
Directed by Marina Zenovich; written by Joe Bini, P. G. Morgan and Ms. Zenovich; director of photography, Tanja Koop; edited by Mr. Bini; music composed and arranged by Mark De Gli Antoni; Steven Soderbergh and Randy Wooten, executive producers; Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Lila Yacoub, producers. At the Coliseum Cinemas, 701 West 181st Street, Washington Heights, and Laemmle’s One Colorado, 42 Miller Alley, Pasadena. This film is not rated.
Witness: Pellicano Suggested Murder
Foul-mouthed taped audio conversations more reminiscent of HBO's "The Sopranos" than a courtroom were played Tuesday for the jury in the federal wiretapping and racketeering case against former celebrity sleuth Anthony Pellicano.
The recordings, made by Pellicano at his Sunset Boulevard office, were of talks between the private eye and his client Adam Sender, a New York hedge fund manager.
Pellicano and four others are on trial on charges of wiretapping and racketeering.
Sender had hired Pellicano to investigate the late producer Aaron Russo ("Trading Places"). Sender testified that he had loaned $1.1 million to Russo in 1999 to start up two joint ventures, a film production company and a dot-com to sell holistic medicine.
But Russo, who died last year of cancer, never delivered on the investment, Sender said, and so he filed suit against the producer to recover the money. Sender brought in Pellicano on the advice of his attorney, Bert Fields, after Russo managed to elude being served with court papers for a year. Sender testified that it became evident that Pellicano was wiretapping his adversary.
"I want to make this guy's life as miserable as possible," Sender told Pellicano in one profanity-laced conversation.
It was Sender's live testimony, however, that the former private eye offered to have the producer murdered that really raised eyebrows and brought snickers from a few courtroom watchers.
"If I wanted to, I could authorize to have him murdered on the way back from Las Vegas -- have someone follow him back, drive him off the road and bury his body somewhere in the desert," Sender testified Pellicano told him.
Sender testified it was the "scariest" thing that occurred during his dealings with Pellicano and that he never approved the suggestion.
But on cross-examination by Pellicano, who is representing himself, Sender admitted that perhaps the exchange between them was more a passing suggestion, since he was spending so much money on the investigation and lawsuit.
"He may have phrased it that way," said Sender, who was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.
During the course of more than a year, Sender paid Pellicano half a million dollars for his services, on top of a $300,000 legal bill with Fields' firm. Sender testified that he only met with Fields once and that his case was managed by another associate at the firm, David Moriarty. He won a $25,000 default judgment in the Russo lawsuit.
Also taking the stand Tuesday was Sandra Carradine, the ex-wife of Keith Carradine. The couple was in a child custody dispute, and she paid Pellicano to find out how much the actor was making. He also investigated the actor's girlfriend (now wife), Hayley DuMond.
Sandra Carradine has pleaded guilty to lying to a grand jury. She became emotional when she testified that she was protecting Pellicano, with whom she had an on-and-off romantic relationship for five years.
On cross-examination by Pellicano, Carradine said the former private investigator never asked her to lie for him.
The courtroom dramatics continued later in the day when Lisa Gores took the stand to talk about being followed and investigated by Pellicano.
Gores was married to entrepreneur Alec Gores, who hired Pellicano in 2000 to find out if his wife was cheating on him. She was -- with her husband's brother, Thomas Gores.
She tearfully testified how she met with Pellicano, after her husband confirmed that he was investigating her, to ask the private eye to destroy any phone conversation recordings between her and her brother-in-law/lover.
"I asked him to please destroy whatever he had because I didn't want anything out there," she said, before lowering her head and breaking down.
Shine a Light (2008)
Only Rock ’N’ Roll, but They’re Still at It
As you scrutinize the aging bodies of the Rolling Stones in Martin Scorsese’s rip-roaring concert documentary “Shine a Light,” there is ample evidence that rock ’n’ roll may hold the secret of eternal vitality, if not eternal beauty.
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, the quartet’s three skinny members, certainly look their ages. But there is nothing stodgy about them. The strenuous rock ’n’ roll life has left them sinewy and lean, like longtime marathon runners. (The staid, above-it-all drummer, Charlie Watts, is the exception.)
Mr. Jagger’s lined face, with its deflated balloon lips, suggests a double exposure of Dorian Gray and his infamous portrait, at once defiantly youthful and creepily gaunt. The simian Mr. Richards, whose upper arm flesh has shriveled, resembles an old madam chewing over her secrets. As he plays, his lips dangling a cigarette, he leans back into his snarling guitar and a joyful grin spreads across his face. He could be the world’s happiest young older man: Peter Pan as a wizened Gypsy fortuneteller.
For the Rolling Stones appear supremely alive inside their giant, self-created rock ’n’ roll machine. The sheer pleasure of making music that keens and growls like a pack of ravenous alley cats is obviously what keeps them going. Why should they ever stop? At the heart of the gizmo, Mr. Jagger whirls, leaps, struts, wiggles his tiny hips and sashays around like an androgynous tart prowling a street corner at 3 a.m.
Ultimately the movie is Mr. Jagger’s show. If his long-running circus act is ridiculous when you analyze it, conjoined to the Stones’ music, it becomes a phenomenal high-wire exhibition of agility, stamina and cheek. He was 63 when the concert was filmed over two nights at the Beacon Theater in New York in the fall of 2006. From certain angles, when the blazing lights hit his face, he suggests an agitated zombie with a full head of hair. But if you squint until your vision blurs, he is the same tireless, taunting cock of the walk that he has always been.
The film, which used 18 cameras, many operated by eminent cinematographers, is an unabashedly reverent tribute to the Stones made in the same spirit as “The Last Waltz,” Mr. Scorsese’s elegiac 1978 movie of the Band’s farewell concert, and his more recent Bob Dylan biography, “No Direction Home.” That said, it is far less ambitious, and less overtly romantic.
This is a concert film with frills that places you on the stage with the band and, with a finely trained eye, observes the musicians’ interactions with one another and with the audience. The visual rhythms and unobtrusive editing reflect the contradictory status of the Stones as a majestic rock institution and a gang of down-and-dirty bad boys thumbing their noses at propriety while scooping up all the girls.
Although there is no frantic cutting back and forth, the cameras are continually on the move. As the movie artfully shifts its gaze, it helps you see much more than you could if you actually attended the concert. The audience is largely ignored.
Mr. Scorsese is a besotted rock ’n’ roll fan who wholeheartedly embraces its mythology. Its scruffy guitar heroes and roustabout rebel-prophets are the musical equivalents of the hotheads and outlaws who populate so many of his films. Almost every shot of “Shine a Light” conveys his excitement.
Prefaced by preconcert footage and interwoven with excerpts from television interviews from the Stones’ younger days, going back to 1964, “Shine a Light” makes no attempt to explain the Stones or to tell their story. All it wants to do is to give you the best seat in the house and the best sound you could possibly hope for.
The program is a best-of selection that concentrates on Stones classics, including “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Shattered,” “Some Girls,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Start Me Up” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The only misfire is the quaint, quasi chamber-pop ballad “As Tears Go By,” a hit for Marianne Faithfull in 1964, which sounds incongruous in Mr. Jagger’s parched delivery. Otherwise, the full-tilt rock concert roars along like a steam engine. A horn section, a keyboardist (Chuck Leavell), a bass guitarist (Darryl Jones) and three backup singers augment the band.
There are three special guests: in ascending order of interest, Jack White, who trades vocals with Mr. Jagger on “Loving Cup”; Christina Aguilera, who shares the vocals on “Live With Me” and bestows demure pecks on the cheek to the musicians as she leaves the stage; and the great blues guitarist and singer Buddy Guy performing an old Muddy Waters song, “Champagne and Reefer.” (There is also the Clinton family in the audience, on hand to celebrate Bill Clinton’s 60th birthday.)
Like Muddy Waters, whom I saw in the Beacon Theater shortly before his death in 1983 at 70, Mr. Guy, 70 when “Shine a Light” was filmed, is a mighty blues
presence, one who puts the Stones in historical perspective. Muddy Waters was an ominous force of raw blues aggression. Mr. Guy, though equally imposing, is a more benign, patriarchal figure.
Beside him, Mr. Jagger and company are mischievous bohemian whippersnappers churning up variations on their elders’ musical bedrock. It is obviously a thrilling game to play into your 60s and beyond, if you’ve still got the juice. And the Stones have the juice. But it is ultimately just a game.
“Shine a Light” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned) for drug references in the songs, and smoking.
SHINE A LIGHT
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Directed by Martin Scorsese; director of photography, Robert Richardson; edited by David Tedeschi; music by the Rolling Stones; produced by Victoria Pearman, Michael Cohl, Zane Weiner and Steve Bing; released by Paramount Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 2 minutes.
Rolling Stones and YouTube Team Up for Music Channel
James "Dela" Delahunty
The world's largest video-sharing website, YouTube, has teamed up with The Rolling Stones to launch a new entertainment channel for fans. A statement from Universal Music Group and the band says that fans can upload questions to the Stones about "Shine a Light", a documentary about the band and "any other burning questions."
"By visiting www.youtube.com/livinglegends, viewers will be able to upload footage of themselves asking their questions to Mick Jagger and/or Keith Richards," the statement said. "The best questions will be personally answered, with the subsequent footage of the Rolling Stones available to watch exclusively on this new YouTube channel in a few weeks' time."
YouTube will launch the new music channel titled "YouTube Living Legends" which will invite top artists from around the world to communicate with fans using the site. The YouTube / Rolling Stones collaboration comes just after MySpace launched its new music services for artists.
Coming Soon, to Any Flat Surface Near You
TIRED of hearing other people’s cellphone conversations? It may become worse. Soon you may have to watch their favorite television shows and YouTube videos, too, as they project them onto nearby walls or commuter-train seatbacks.
Pint-size digital projectors are in the works. These devices, when plugged into cellphones and portable media players, will let consumers beam video content from their hand-held devices to the closest smooth surface — entertaining themselves, annoying their neighbors and possibly contributing to a new warning sign: No Projectors in This Area. The microprojectors, still in prototype, use light-emitting diodes, lasers or a combination of the two to cast a display of up to 50 or 60 inches, or perhaps even wider, in darkened spaces and 7 to 20 inches or so when there is ambient light.
Digital projectors were once bulky. These new models, though, are small enough to fit into the pocket of consumers who want a big-screen experience from a small-screen device. Some of the models are expected to be on the market by year-end, or sooner.
Prices have yet to be announced. Matthew S. Brennesholtz, an analyst at Insight Media, a marketing research firm in Norwalk, Conn., says he thinks the projectors will initially cost about $350, then quickly drop to less than $300.
The projectors may be particularly useful for business presentations — for example, when road warriors need to show a product video to small groups. No coordination would be needed to arrange for a screen. Instead, a patch of wall within a cubicle or restaurant could serve for an impromptu presentation. In a pinch, a manila folder — or even a napkin — would work, too.
Carolina Milanesi, a research director in London for Gartner, the research firm, says she thinks the microprojectors are most likely to appeal to business travelers who, for example, could use them to beam PowerPoint shows from their smartphones.
But Ms. Milanesi is dubious about consumers using them in public, for instance, to project documents on a train seatback because they could so easily be read by others. “I hate it even when I am on the subway and the guy next to me is reading my paper,” she said.
The projectors will first appear in free-standing, companion units to cellphones and other devices, Mr. Brennesholtz said, connected to them by standard cables. Later, the projector modules will be directly embedded in phones, as cameras are today. About 16 manufacturers are working on mini-projectors, he said.
Insight Media forecasts a substantial and fast-growing market. “We anticipate total sales of more than $2.5 billion by 2012 for the companion models,” Mr. Brennesholtz said, and $1 billion in revenue for projector modules that are integrated into cellphones and other devices.
Cellphone service providers have been a driving force behind mini-projector development, said Jinwoo Bae, business team leader for Iljin DSP, a company in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, south of Seoul, that is working on a prototype. “Revenue growth from voice service is becoming saturated,” Dr. Bae said, “so telecom service providers are looking for new revenue from video content.”
Iljin DSP’s microprojector, which will be marketed and distributed by SK Telecom, a large wireless operator in South Korea, projects images of 7 to 60 inches, depending on a room’s lighting; the device’s light source is a combination of lasers and L.E.D.’s. The lithium ion battery lasts about two hours, Dr. Bae said.
The company is also building a projector engine to be placed inside cellphones. “We need to reduce the power consumption” of the module, he said. “A stand-alone projector can have its own battery, but modules integrated into a mobile phone use the phone’s battery,” limiting the amount of power than can be drawn, he said.
A miniprojector engine is now being manufactured by 3M. It will be sold within a stand-alone projector offered by Samsung this year, said Mike O’Keefe, marketing manager for 3M’s mobile projection technology. The projector, called the Samsung MBP-100, connects to consumer devices like MP3 players that have video output.
Mr. Brennesholtz of Insight Media was shown a model of the Iljin DSP projector in a restaurant in New York when he met with executives from the company. “I’m not sure what the other diners thought about seeing a Korean sit-com projected on the ceiling of the restaurant,” Mr. Brennesholtz said.
As it turned out, there was too much ambient light for the image to look good on the ceiling.
“But on a napkin, or on the cover of a box,” he said, “it looked fine.”
In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop
They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.
A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.
Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.
Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.
Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.
To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.
The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.
“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”
“This is not sustainable,” he said.
It is unclear how many people blog for pay, but there are surely several thousand and maybe even tens of thousands.
The emergence of this class of information worker has paralleled the development of the online economy. Publishing has expanded to the Internet, and advertising has followed.
Even at established companies, the Internet has changed the nature of work, allowing people to set up virtual offices and work from anywhere at any time. That flexibility has a downside, in that workers are always a click away from the burdens of the office. For obsessive information workers, that can mean never leaving the house.
Blogging has been lucrative for some, but those on the lower rungs of the business can earn as little as $10 a post, and in some cases are paid on a sliding bonus scale that rewards success with a demand for even more work.
There are growing legions of online chroniclers, reporting on and reflecting about sports, politics, business, celebrities and every other conceivable niche. Some write for fun, but thousands write for Web publishers — as employees or as contractors — or have started their own online media outlets with profit in mind.
One of the most competitive categories is blogs about technology developments and news. They are in a vicious 24-hour competition to break company news, reveal new products and expose corporate gaffes.
To the victor go the ego points, and, potentially, the advertising. Bloggers for such sites are often paid for each post, though some are paid based on how many people read their material. They build that audience through scoops or volume or both.
Some sites, like those owned by Gawker Media, give bloggers retainers and then bonuses for hitting benchmarks, like if the pages they write are viewed 100,000 times a month. Then the goal is raised, like a sales commission: write more, earn more.
Bloggers at some of the bigger sites say most writers earn about $30,000 a year starting out, and some can make as much as $70,000. A tireless few bloggers reach six figures, and some entrepreneurs in the field have built mini-empires on the Web that are generating hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. Others who are trying to turn blogging into a career say they can end up with just $1,000 a month.
Speed can be of the essence. If a blogger is beaten by a millisecond, someone else’s post on the subject will bring in the audience, the links and the bigger share of the ad revenue.
“There’s no time ever — including when you’re sleeping — when you’re not worried about missing a story,” Mr. Arrington said.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we said no blogger or journalist could write a story between 8 p.m. Pacific time and dawn? Then we could all take a break,” he added. “But that’s never going to happen.”
All that competition puts a premium on staying awake. Matt Buchanan, 22, is the right man for the job. He works for clicks for Gizmodo, a popular Gawker Media site that publishes news about gadgets. Mr. Buchanan lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, where his bedroom doubles as his office.
He says he sleeps about five hours a night and often does not have time to eat proper meals. But he does stay fueled — by regularly consuming a protein supplement mixed into coffee.
But make no mistake: Mr. Buchanan, a recent graduate of New York University, loves his job. He said he gets paid to write (he will not say how much) while interacting with readers in a global conversation about the latest and greatest products.
“The fact I have a few thousand people a day reading what I write — that’s kind of cool,” he said. And, yes, it is exhausting. Sometimes, he said, “I just want to lie down.”
Sometimes he does rest, inadvertently, falling asleep at the computer.
“If I don’t hear from him, I’ll think: Matt’s passed out again,” said Brian Lam, the editor of Gizmodo. “It’s happened four or five times.”
Mr. Lam, who as a manager has a substantially larger income, works even harder. He is known to pull all-nighters at his own home office in San Francisco — hours spent trying to keep his site organized and competitive. He said he was well equipped for the torture; he used to be a Thai-style boxer.
“I’ve got a background getting punched in the face,” he said. “That’s why I’m good at this job.”
Mr. Lam said he has worried his blogging staff might be burning out, and he urges them to take breaks, even vacations. But he said they face tremendous pressure — external, internal and financial. He said the evolution of the “pay-per-click” economy has put the emphasis on reader traffic and financial return, not journalism.
In the case of Mr. Shaw, it is not clear what role stress played in his death. Ellen Green, who had been dating him for 13 months, said the pressure, though self-imposed, was severe. She said she and Mr. Shaw had been talking a lot about how he could create a healthier lifestyle, particularly after the death of his friend, Mr. Orchant.
“The blogger community is looking at this and saying: ‘Oh no, it happened so fast to two really vital people in the field,’ ” she said. They are wondering, “What does that have to do with me?”
For his part, Mr. Shaw did not die at his desk. He died in a hotel in San Jose, Calif., where he had flown to cover a technology conference. He had written a last e-mail dispatch to his editor at ZDNet: “Have come down with something. Resting now posts to resume later today or tomorrow.”
“Ari Emanuel called me last night with an idea for a blog,” Arianna Huffington said last week as she sipped an iced coffee in the New York offices of The Huffington Post last week.
In several ways, it was a classic Huffington statement, combining Hollywood celebrity (Mr. Emanuel, the famous movie agent), national politics (his idea was an essay on how Hillary Rodham Clinton learned, in his words, “how to manipulate words to cover up her lies”), with an imperfect grasp of new media terminology (she meant “post,” not “blog”). And of course, Ms. Huffington herself was at the center of the whole episode.
When Ms. Huffington, the 57-year-old author and former conservative pundit, announced her plans for The Huffington Post three years ago, many critics dismissed the idea as a digital dinner party for her new liberal friends. But it has grown in ways that few, except perhaps Ms. Huffington herself, expected.
In February, The Huffington Post drew 3.7 million unique visitors, according to Nielsen Online, for the first time beating out The Drudge Report, the conservative tip sheet with which The Post is often compared. On Technorati, a blog search tool, The Huffington Post is the second-most-linked-to blog, behind only the technology site TechCrunch. As Roy Sekoff, the site’s editor, said, “We’ve always wanted to be part of the national conversation.”
When Barack Obama made his first public remarks about his controversial pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., he did so in a post on the site. “It was immediately picked up everywhere,” Ms. Huffington recalled. “It helps to be bookmarked by the mainstream media.”
And The HuffPost, as it’s known, has come to symbolize a certain combination of entrepreneur and online commentator, creating a brand and a business around Ms. Huffington. But she and her co-founder, Kenneth Lerer, have broader aspirations. In the last 12 months, they have introduced new content areas devoted to subjects like entertainment and business, and they have three more — international news, sports and books — coming soon.
Ms. Huffington herself now spends less time on blog posts condemning the Bush administration (although there’s still plenty of that) and more time reimagining The Huffington Post as what she calls an “Internet newspaper.” In October, the site hired a new chief executive, Betsy Morgan, from CBS Interactive, and this summer the site will take an ambitious step by introducing its version of a metropolitan section: local versions for major cities.
Whether readers will follow the site into new areas, however, is an open — and expensive — question. The plan will put The Huffington Post into competition with existing newspapers and, arguably, with companies like Yahoo, AOL and CNN.com.
“Success on the Web is defined by spotting niches and serving them well,” said Micah L. Sifry, the editor of the blog TechPresident.com. “Will people go to The Huffington Post for great sports blogging? They’re certainly not going to go see what Arianna says about opening day,” he added.
The sheer audacity of the plan should not surprise anyone who has followed Ms. Huffington’s career. A native of Greece, she has been the president of the Cambridge University debating society; an author of books about feminism, Picasso and government waste; a panelist on radio and television shows; and a candidate in the 2003 California gubernatorial election.
“She’s had at least nine lives,” said Michael Kinsley, a co-founder of Slate and a columnist for The Washington Post. “Someone will turn it into an opera. Probably her.”
She usually works in Los Angeles by the fireplace of her mansion in the affluent Brentwood neighborhood (the site’s West Coast staff of six also works out of her home). Last week, she was in New York, meeting with staff members, sitting for an interview with the ABC newsmagazine “20/20” and speaking about online politics at New York University.
When she introduced The Huffington Post in May 2005, she combined her posts with those of celebrities. Ms. Huffington prefers to say it has “as many interesting voices as possible.”
But blogs often fade away as their creators tire of them, and many of the boldface names Ms. Huffington signed up and publicized in 2005 did not follow through. The retired anchorman Walter Cronkite and the former Bush speechwriter David Frum have each written three posts since the site started. The actress Diane Keaton and the lawyer Vernon E. Jordan Jr. have each written only two. Others, like former Senator Gary Hart, the screenwriter and producer Nora Ephron and the television host Bill Maher, continue to contribute regularly.
Those who do contribute are met with varying degrees of fame online; many of the posts receive less than 10,000 views. But, especially when the posts are linked on the front page, the site provides a megaphone and gives authors some prominence. “We’ve been very successful in selling people’s books,” Ms. Huffington remarked.
Ms. Huffington, whose title is editor in chief, said she did not have a particular traffic goal in mind but sought to “not just speak to the choir” of progressive political addicts.
When Ms. Morgan, the site’s chief executive, arrived last fall, she immediately drew attention to metrics by requesting daily traffic statistics, weekly revenue estimates and monthly goals for both figures.
The topical focuses seem to be helping. The site had 1.8 million unique visitors in December, 2.9 million in January and 3.7 million in February, according to Nielsen Online. (The Post’s internal numbers are much larger; many online publishers contend the Nielsen figures are underestimates.)
Staff members also credit much of the growth to moves that have made the site’s commentary more prominent on search engines like Google and Yahoo. More than half of traffic now comes from nonpolitical pages.
“At first, we were very narrow,” said Mr. Lerer, the co-founder. Comparing the expansion to the widening of a highway, he said the political front page was first complemented by media coverage, then by sections for living and entertainment. Mr. Lerer said he looked at the sections of a printed newspaper as a model. This year the site quietly changed its slogan to “the Internet newspaper.”
The venture was profitable in some of its early months, executives say, but most of the revenue has been reinvested to hire editors, reporters and advertising representatives. Mr. Lerer estimated that it would raise $6 million to $10 million this year, twice the amount of last year. Advertisers have included Starbucks, the Discovery Channel and Volkswagen, Mr. Lerer said.
The expansion of content areas and the hiring of a chief executive have prompted speculation that Ms. Huffington could sell the Web site after the election. In an interview, she shied away from the possibility, saying “it’s not something that we’ve discussed.”
According to one person who was briefed on discussions but was not permitted to speak for attribution, the company has at least looked at the value of the site if it were put up for sale, and a figure around $200 million was used. That would put the price at more than $50 for each visitor, a high valuation. Using the site’s internal figures, 14 million unique visitors for the most recent month, the price would be closer to $15 for each user.
In the meantime, The Post is suffering some growing pains. A number of people have ungracefully departed in the past year, a situation Mr. Lerer attributed to the difficulty in transforming “old media” employees.
The site has other challenges. Despite its number of visitors, it still has a high “bounce rate,” referring to users who visit one page and then leave the site. Drudge still records seven times the monthly page views of The Huffington Post, meaning that readers are frequently refreshing for the latest headlines.
Ms. Huffington and her colleagues reject the comparisons, saying The Post seeks to be a community, not merely a collection of links. As new topical subsites come online, especially the one for local news, the site will increasingly try to act as an Internet curator with a distinct attitude, mixing blog posts, original news and links to other sources.
“Look at Yahoo or Google or CNN. Take away the branding and just look at the headlines, and they’re very similar,” said Mr. Sekoff. “But if you take away the branding of The Huffington Post and the signage, you’d probably still recognize us.”
Out of Print
The death and life of the American newspaper.
The American newspaper has been around for approximately three hundred years. Benjamin Harris’s spirited Publick Occurrences, Both Forreign and Domestick managed just one issue, in 1690, before the Massachusetts authorities closed it down. Harris had suggested a politically incorrect hard line on Indian removal and shocked local sensibilities by reporting that the King of France had been taking liberties with the Prince’s wife.
It really was not until 1721, when the printer James Franklin launched the New England Courant, that any of Britain’s North American colonies saw what we might recognize today as a real newspaper. Franklin, Benjamin’s older brother, refused to adhere to customary licensing arrangements and constantly attacked the ruling powers of New England, thereby achieving both editorial independence and commercial success. He filled his paper with crusades (on everything from pirates to the power of Cotton and Increase Mather), literary essays by Addison and Steele, character sketches, and assorted philosophical ruminations.
Three centuries after the appearance of Franklin’s Courant, it no longer requires a dystopic imagination to wonder who will have the dubious distinction of publishing America’s last genuine newspaper. Few believe that newspapers in their current printed form will survive. Newspaper companies are losing advertisers, readers, market value, and, in some cases, their sense of mission at a pace that would have been barely imaginable just four years ago. Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, said recently in a speech in London, “At places where editors and publishers gather, the mood these days is funereal. Editors ask one another, ‘How are you?,’ in that sober tone one employs with friends who have just emerged from rehab or a messy divorce.” Keller’s speech appeared on the Web site of its sponsor, the Guardian, under the headline “NOT DEAD YET.”
Perhaps not, but trends in circulation and advertising––the rise of the Internet, which has made the daily newspaper look slow and unresponsive; the advent of Craigslist, which is wiping out classified advertising––have created a palpable sense of doom. Independent, publicly traded American newspapers have lost forty-two per cent of their market value in the past three years, according to the media entrepreneur Alan Mutter. Few corporations have been punished on Wall Street the way those who dare to invest in the newspaper business have. The McClatchy Company, which was the only company to bid on the Knight Ridder chain when, in 2005, it was put on the auction block, has surrendered more than eighty per cent of its stock value since making the $6.5-billion purchase. Lee Enterprises’ stock is down by three-quarters since it bought out the Pulitzer chain, the same year. America’s most prized journalistic possessions are suddenly looking like corporate millstones. Rather than compete in an era of merciless transformation, the families that owned the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal sold off the majority of their holdings. The New York Times Company has seen its stock decline by fifty-four per cent since the end of 2004, with much of the loss coming in the past year; in late February, an analyst at Deutsche Bank recommended that clients sell off their Times stock. The Washington Post Company has avoided a similar fate only by rebranding itself an “education and media company”; its testing and prep company, Kaplan, now brings in at least half the company’s revenue.
Until recently, newspapers were accustomed to operating as high-margin monopolies. To own the dominant, or only, newspaper in a mid-sized American city was, for many decades, a kind of license to print money. In the Internet age, however, no one has figured out how to rescue the newspaper in the United States or abroad. Newspapers have created Web sites that benefit from the growth of online advertising, but the sums are not nearly enough to replace the loss in revenue from circulation and print ads.
Most managers in the industry have reacted to the collapse of their business model with a spiral of budget cuts, bureau closings, buyouts, layoffs, and reductions in page size and column inches. Since 1990, a quarter of all American newspaper jobs have disappeared. The columnist Molly Ivins complained, shortly before her death, that the newspaper companies’ solution to their problem was to make “our product smaller and less helpful and less interesting.” That may help explain why the dwindling number of Americans who buy and read a daily paper are spending less time with it; the average is down to less than fifteen hours a month. Only nineteen per cent of Americans between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four claim even to look at a daily newspaper. The average age of the American newspaper reader is fifty-five and rising.
Philip Meyer, in his book “The Vanishing Newspaper” (2004), predicts that the final copy of the final newspaper will appear on somebody’s doorstep one day in 2043. It may be unkind to point out that all these parlous trends coincide with the opening, this spring, of the $450-million Newseum, in Washington, D.C., but, more and more, what Bill Keller calls “that lovable old-fashioned bundle of ink and cellulose” is starting to feel like an artifact ready for display under glass.
Taking its place, of course, is the Internet, which is about to pass newspapers as a source of political news for American readers. For young people, and for the most politically engaged, it has already done so. As early as May, 2004, newspapers had become the least preferred source for news among younger people. According to “Abandoning the News,” published by the Carnegie Corporation, thirty-nine per cent of respondents under the age of thirty-five told researchers that they expected to use the Internet in the future for news purposes; just eight per cent said that they would rely on a newspaper. It is a point of ironic injustice, perhaps, that when a reader surfs the Web in search of political news he frequently ends up at a site that is merely aggregating journalistic work that originated in a newspaper, but that fact is not likely to save any newspaper jobs or increase papers’ stock valuation.
Among the most significant aspects of the transition from “dead tree” newspapers to a world of digital information lies in the nature of “news” itself. The American newspaper (and the nightly newscast) is designed to appeal to a broad audience, with conflicting values and opinions, by virtue of its commitment to the goal of objectivity. Many newspapers, in their eagerness to demonstrate a sense of balance and impartiality, do not allow reporters to voice their opinions publicly, march in demonstrations, volunteer in political campaigns, wear political buttons, or attach bumper stickers to their cars.
In private conversation, reporters and editors concede that objectivity is an ideal, an unreachable horizon, but journalists belong to a remarkably thin-skinned fraternity, and few of them will publicly admit to betraying in print even a trace of bias. They discount the notion that their beliefs could interfere with their ability to report a story with perfect balance. As the venerable “dean” of the Washington press corps, David Broder, of the Post, puts it, “There just isn’t enough ideology in the average reporter to fill a thimble.”
Meanwhile, public trust in newspapers has been slipping at least as quickly as the bottom line. A recent study published by Sacred Heart University found that fewer than twenty per cent of Americans said they could believe “all or most” media reporting, a figure that has fallen from more than twenty-seven per cent just five years ago. “Less than one in five believe what they read in print,” the 2007 “State of the News Media” report, issued by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, concluded. “CNN is not really more trusted than Fox, or ABC than NBC. The local paper is not viewed much differently than the New York Times.” Vastly more Americans believe in flying saucers and 9/11 conspiracy theories than believe in the notion of balanced—much less “objective”—mainstream news media. Nearly nine in ten Americans, according to the Sacred Heart study, say that the media consciously seek to influence public policies, though they disagree about whether the bias is liberal or conservative.
No less challenging is the rapid transformation that has taken place in the public’s understanding of, and demand for, “news” itself. Rupert Murdoch, in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, in April, 2005—two years before his five-billion-dollar takeover of Dow Jones & Co. and the Wall Street Journal—warned the industry’s top editors and publishers that the days when “news and information were tightly controlled by a few editors, who deigned to tell us what we could and should know,” were over. No longer would people accept “a godlike figure from above” presenting the news as “gospel.” Today’s consumers “want news on demand, continuously updated. They want a point of view about not just what happened but why it happened. . . . And finally, they want to be able to use the information in a larger community—to talk about, to debate, to question, and even to meet people who think about the world in similar or different ways.”
One month after Murdoch’s speech, a thirty-one-year-old computer whiz, Jonah Peretti, and a former A.O.L. executive, Kenneth Lerer, joined the ubiquitous commentator-candidate-activist Arianna Huffington to launch a new Web site, which they called the Huffington Post. First envisaged as a liberal alternative to the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post started out by aggregating political news and gossip; it also organized a group blog, with writers drawn largely from Huffington’s alarmingly vast array of friends and connections. Huffington had accumulated that network during years as a writer on topics from Greek philosophy to the life of Picasso, as the spouse of a wealthy Republican congressman in California, and now, after a divorce and an ideological conversion, as a Los Angeles-based liberal commentator and failed gubernatorial candidate.
Almost by accident, however, the owners of the Huffington Post had discovered a formula that capitalized on the problems confronting newspapers in the Internet era, and they are convinced that they are ready to reinvent the American newspaper. “Early on, we saw that the key to this enterprise was not aping Drudge,” Lerer recalls. “It was taking advantage of our community. And the key was to think of what we were doing through the community’s eyes.”
On the Huffington Post, Peretti explains, news is not something handed down from above but “a shared enterprise between its producer and its consumer.” Echoing Murdoch, he says that the Internet offers editors “immediate information” about which stories interest readers, provoke comments, are shared with friends, and generate the greatest number of Web searches. An Internet-based news site, Peretti contends, is therefore “alive in a way that is impossible for paper and ink.”
Though Huffington has a news staff (it is tiny, but the hope is to expand in the future), the vast majority of the stories that it features originate elsewhere, whether in print, on television, or on someone’s video camera or cell phone. The editors link to whatever they believe to be the best story on a given topic. Then they repurpose it with a catchy, often liberal-leaning headline and provide a comment section beneath it, where readers can chime in. Surrounding the news articles are the highly opinionated posts of an apparently endless army of both celebrity (Nora Ephron, Larry David) and non-celebrity bloggers—more than eighteen hundred so far. The bloggers are not paid. The over-all effect may appear chaotic and confusing, but, Lerer argues, “this new way of thinking about, and presenting, the news, is transforming news as much as CNN did thirty years ago.” Arianna Huffington and her partners believe that their model points to where the news business is heading. “People love to talk about the death of newspapers, as if it’s a foregone conclusion. I think that’s ridiculous,” she says. “Traditional media just need to realize that the online world isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s the thing that will save them, if they fully embrace it.”
It’s an almost comically audacious ambition for an operation with only forty-six full-time employees—many of whom are barely old enough to rent a car. But, with about eleven million dollars at its disposal, the site is poised to break even on advertising revenue of somewhere between six and ten million dollars annually. What most impresses advertisers—and depresses newspaper-company executives—is the site’s growth numbers. In the past thirty days, thanks in large measure to the excitement of the Democratic primaries, the site’s “unique visitors”—that is, individual computers that clicked on one of its pages––jumped to more than eleven million, according to the company. And, according to estimates from Nielsen NetRatings and comScore, the Huffington Post is more popular than all but eight newspaper sites, rising from sixteenth place in December.
Arthur Miller once described a good newspaper as “a nation talking to itself.” If only in this respect, the Huffington Post is a great newspaper. It is not unusual for a short blog post to inspire a thousand posts from readers—posts that go off in their own directions and lead to arguments and conversations unrelated to the topic that inspired them. Occasionally, these comments present original perspectives and arguments, but many resemble the graffiti on a bathroom wall.
The notion that the Huffington Post is somehow going to compete with, much less displace, the best traditional newspapers is arguable on other grounds as well. The site’s original-reporting resources are minuscule. The site has no regular sports or book coverage, and its entertainment section is a trashy grab bag of unverified Internet gossip. And, while the Huffington Post has successfully positioned itself as the place where progressive politicians and Hollywood liberal luminaries post their anti-Bush Administration sentiments, many of the original blog posts that it publishes do not merit the effort of even a mouse click.
Additional oddities abound. Whereas a newspaper tends to stand by its story on the basis of an editorial process in which professional reporters and editors attempt to vet their sources and check their accuracy before publishing, the blogosphere relies on its readership—its community—for quality control. At the Huffington Post, Jonah Peretti explains, the editors “stand behind our front page” and do their best to insure that only trusted bloggers and reliable news sources are posted there. Most posts inside the site, however, go up before an editor sees them. Only if a post is deemed by a reader to be false, defamatory, or offensive does an editor get involved.
The Huffington Post’s editorial processes are based on what Peretti has named the “mullet strategy.” (“Business up front, party in the back” is how his trend-spotting site BuzzFeed glosses it.) “User-generated content is all the rage, but most of it totally sucks,” Peretti says. The mullet strategy invites users to “argue and vent on the secondary pages, but professional editors keep the front page looking sharp. The mullet strategy is here to stay, because the best way for Web companies to increase traffic is to let users have control, but the best way to sell advertising is a slick, pretty front page where corporate sponsors can admire their brands.”
This policy is hardly without its pitfalls. During the Hurricane Katrina crisis, the activist Randall Robinson referred, in a post, to reports from New Orleans that some people there were “eating corpses to survive.” When Arianna Huffington heard about the post, she got in touch with Robinson and found that he could not support his musings; she asked Robinson to post a retraction. The alacrity with which the correction took place was admirable, but it was not fast enough to prevent the false information from being repeated elsewhere.
The tensions between the leaders of the mainstream media and the challengers from the Web were presaged by one of the most instructive and heated intellectual debates of the American twentieth century.
Between 1920 and 1925, the young Walter Lippmann published three books investigating the theoretical relationship between democracy and the press, including “Public Opinion” (1922), which is credited with inspiring both the public-relations profession and the academic field of media studies. Lippmann identified a fundamental gap between what we naturally expect from democracy and what we know to be true about people. Democratic theory demands that citizens be knowledgeable about issues and familiar with the individuals put forward to lead them. And, while these assumptions may have been reasonable for the white, male, property-owning classes of James Franklin’s Colonial Boston, contemporary capitalist society had, in Lippmann’s view, grown too big and complex for crucial events to be mastered by the average citizen.
Journalism works well, Lippmann wrote, when “it can report the score of a game or a transatlantic flight, or the death of a monarch.” But where the situation is more complicated, “as for example, in the matter of the success of a policy, or the social conditions among a foreign people—that is to say, where the real answer is neither yes or no, but subtle, and a matter of balanced evidence,” journalism “causes no end of derangement, misunderstanding, and even misrepresentation.”
Lippmann likened the average American—or “outsider,” as he tellingly named him—to a “deaf spectator in the back row” at a sporting event: “He does not know what is happening, why it is happening, what ought to happen,” and “he lives in a world which he cannot see, does not understand and is unable to direct.” In a description that may strike a familiar chord with anyone who watches cable news or listens to talk radio today, Lippmann assumed a public that “is slow to be aroused and quickly diverted . . . and is interested only when events have been melodramatized as a conflict.” A committed élitist, Lippmann did not see why anyone should find these conclusions shocking. Average citizens are hardly expected to master particle physics or post-structuralism. Why should we expect them to understand the politics of Congress, much less that of the Middle East?
Lippmann’s preferred solution was, in essence, to junk democracy entirely. He justified this by arguing that the results were what mattered. Even “if there were a prospect” that people could become sufficiently well-informed to govern themselves wisely, he wrote, “it is extremely doubtful whether many of us would wish to be bothered.” In his first attempt to consider the issue, in “Liberty and the News” (1920), Lippmann suggested addressing the problem by raising the status of journalism to that of more respected professions. Two years later, in “Public Opinion,” he concluded that journalism could never solve the problem merely by “acting upon everybody for thirty minutes in twenty-four hours.” Instead, in one of the oddest formulations of his long career, Lippmann proposed the creation of “intelligence bureaus,” which would be given access to all the information they needed to judge the government’s actions without concerning themselves much with democratic preferences or public debate. Just what, if any, role the public would play in this process Lippmann never explained.
John Dewey termed “Public Opinion” “perhaps the most effective indictment of democracy as currently conceived ever penned,” and he spent much of the next five years countering it. The result, published in 1927, was an extremely tendentious, dense, yet important book, titled “The Public and Its Problems.” Dewey did not dispute Lippmann’s contention regarding journalism’s flaws or the public’s vulnerability to manipulation. But Dewey thought that Lippmann’s cure was worse than the disease. While Lippmann viewed public opinion as little more than the sum of the views of each individual, much like a poll, Dewey saw it more like a focus group. The foundation of democracy to Dewey was less information than conversation. Members of a democratic society needed to cultivate what the journalism scholar James W. Carey, in describing the debate, called “certain vital habits” of democracy—the ability to discuss, deliberate on, and debate various perspectives in a manner that would move it toward consensus.
Dewey also criticized Lippmann’s trust in knowledge-based élites. “A class of experts is inevitably so removed from common interests as to become a class with private interests and private knowledge,” he argued. “The man who wears the shoe knows best that it pinches and where it pinches, even if the expert shoemaker is the best judge of how the trouble is to be remedied.”
Lippmann and Dewey devoted much of the rest of their lives to addressing the problems they had diagnosed, Lippmann as the archetypal insider pundit and Dewey as the prophet of democratic education. To the degree that posterity can be said to have declared a winner in this argument, the future turned out much closer to Lippmann’s ideal. Dewey’s confidence in democracy rested in significant measure on his “faith in the capacity of human beings for intelligent judgment and action if proper conditions are furnished.” But nothing in his voluminous writings gives the impression that he believed these conditions—which he defined expansively to include democratic schools, factories, voluntary associations, and, particularly, newspapers—were ever met in his lifetime. (Dewey died in 1952, at the age of ninety-two.)
The history of the American press demonstrates a tendency toward exactly the kind of professionalization for which Lippmann initially argued. When Lippmann was writing, many newspapers remained committed to the partisan model of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American press, in which editors and publishers viewed themselves as appendages of one or another political power or patronage machine and slanted their news offerings accordingly. (Think of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton battling each other through their competing newspapers while serving in George Washington’s Cabinet.) The twentieth-century model, in which newspapers strive for political independence and attempt to act as referees between competing parties on behalf of what they perceive to be the public interest, was, in Lippmann’s time, in its infancy.
As the profession grew more sophisticated and respected, in part owing to Lippmann’s example, top reporters, anchors, and editors naturally rose in status to the point where some came to be considered the social equals of the senators, Cabinet secretaries, and C.E.O.s they reported on. Just as naturally, these same reporters and editors sometimes came to identify with their subjects, rather than with their readers, as Dewey had predicted. Aside from biennial elections featuring smaller and smaller portions of the electorate, politics increasingly became a business for professionals and a spectator sport for the great unwashed—much as Lippmann had hoped and Dewey had feared. Beyond the publication of the occasional letter to the editor, the role of the reader was defined as purely passive.
The Lippmann model received its initial challenge from the political right. Many conservatives regarded the major networks, newspapers, and newsweeklies—the mainstream media—as liberal arbiters, incapable of covering without bias the civil-rights movement in the South or Barry Goldwater’s Presidential campaign. They responded by building think tanks and media outlets designed both to challenge and to bypass the mainstream media. The Reagan revolution, which brought conservatives to power in Washington, had its roots not only in the candidate’s personal appeal as a “great communicator” but in a decades-long campaign of ideological spadework undertaken in magazines such as William F. Buckley, Jr.,’s National Review and Norman Podhoretz’s Commentary and in the pugnacious editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, edited for three decades by Robert Bartley. The rise of what has come to be known as the conservative “counter-establishment” and, later, of media phenomena such as Rush Limbaugh, on talk radio, and Bill O’Reilly, on cable television, can be viewed in terms of a Deweyan community attempting to seize the reins of democratic authority and information from a Lippmann-like élite.
A liberal version of the Deweyan community took longer to form, in part because it took liberals longer to find fault with the media. Until the late nineteen-seventies, many in the mainstream media did, in fact, exhibit the “liberal bias” with which conservatives continue to charge them, regarding their unquestioned belief both in a strong, activist government and in its moral responsibility to insure the expansion of rights to women and to ethnic and racial minorities. But a concerted effort to recruit pundits from the new conservative counter-establishment, coupled with investment by wealthy right-wing activists and businessmen in an interlocking web of counter-establishment think tanks, pressure groups, periodicals, radio stations, and television networks, operated as a kind of rightward gravitational pull on the mainstream’s reporting and helped to create a far more sympathetic context for conservative candidates than Goldwater supporters could have imagined.
Duncan Black, a former economics professor who writes a popular progressive blog under the name Atrios, explains that he, too, believed in what he calls “the myth of the liberal media.” He goes on, “But watching the press’s collective behavior during the Clinton impeachment saga, the Gore campaign, the post-9/11 era, the run-up to the Iraq war, and the Bush Administration’s absurd and dangerous claims of executive power rendered such a belief absurd. Sixty-five per cent of the American public disapproves of the Bush Administration, but that perspective, even now, has very little representation anywhere in the mainstream media.”
The birth of the liberal blogosphere, with its ability to bypass the big media institutions and conduct conversations within a like-minded community, represents a revival of the Deweyan challenge to our Lippmann-like understanding of what constitutes “news” and, in doing so, might seem to revive the philosopher’s notion of a genuinely democratic discourse. The Web provides a powerful platform that enables the creation of communities; distribution is frictionless, swift, and cheap. The old democratic model was a nation of New England towns filled with well-meaning, well-informed yeoman farmers. Thanks to the Web, we can all join in a Deweyan debate on Presidents, policies, and proposals. All that’s necessary is a decent Internet connection.
What put the Huffington Post on the map was a series of pieces during the summer and autumn of 2005, in which Arianna Huffington relentlessly attacked the military and foreign-affairs reporting of the Times’ Judith Miller. Huffington was fed by a steady stream of leaks and suggestions from Times editors and reporters, even though much of the newspaper world considered her journalistic credentials highly questionable.
The Huffington Post was hardly the first Web site to stumble on the technique of leveraging the knowledge of its readers to challenge the mainstream media narrative. For example, conservative bloggers at sites like Little Green Footballs took pleasure in helping to bring down Dan Rather after he broadcast dubious documents allegedly showing that George W. Bush had received special treatment during his service in the Texas Air National Guard.
Long before the conservatives forced out Dan Rather, a liberal freelance journalist named Joshua Micah Marshall had begun a site, called Talking Points Memo, intended to take stories well beyond where mainstream newspapers had taken them, often by relying on the voluntary research and well-timed leaks of an avid readership. His site, begun during the 2000 Florida-recount controversy, ultimately spawned several related sites, which are collectively known as TPM Media, and which are financed through a combination of reader donations and advertising. In the admiring judgment of the Columbia Journalism Review, Talking Points Memo “was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the story of the fired U.S. Attorneys to a boil,” a scandal that ultimately ended with the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and a George Polk Award for Marshall, the first ever for a blogger. Talking Points Memo also played a lead role in defeating the Bush Social Security plan and in highlighting Trent Lott’s praise for Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist Presidential campaign. Lott was eventually forced to step down as Senate Majority Leader.
According to Marshall, “the collaborative aspect” of his site “came about entirely by accident.” His original intention was merely to offer his readers “transparency,” so that his “strong viewpoint” would be distinguishable from the facts that he presented. Over time, however, he found that the enormous response that his work engendered offered access to “a huge amount of valuable information”––information that was not always available to mainstream reporters, who tended to deal largely with what Marshall terms “professional sources.” During the Katrina crisis, for example, Marshall discovered that some of his readers worked in the federal government’s climate-and-weather-tracking infrastructure. They provided him and the site with reliable reporting available nowhere else.
Marshall’s undeniable achievement notwithstanding, traditional newspaper men and women tend to be unimpressed by the style of journalism practiced at the political Web sites. Operating on the basis of a Lippmann-like reverence for inside knowledge and contempt for those who lack it, many view these sites the way serious fiction authors might view the “novels” tapped out by Japanese commuters on their cell phones. Real reporting, especially the investigative kind, is expensive, they remind us. Aggregation and opinion are cheap.
And it is true: no Web site spends anything remotely like what the best newspapers do on reporting. Even after the latest round of new cutbacks and buyouts are carried out, the Times will retain a core of more than twelve hundred newsroom employees, or approximately fifty times as many as the Huffington Post. The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times maintain between eight hundred and nine hundred editorial employees each. The Times’ Baghdad bureau alone costs around three million dollars a year to maintain. And while the Huffington Post shares the benefit of these investments, it shoulders none of the costs.
Despite the many failures at newspapers, the vast majority of reporters and editors have devoted years, even decades, to understanding the subjects of their stories. It is hard to name any bloggers who can match the professional expertise, and the reporting, of, for example, the Post ’s Barton Gellman and Dana Priest, or the Times’ Dexter Filkins and Alissa Rubin.
In October, 2005, at an advertisers’ conference in Phoenix, Bill Keller complained that bloggers merely “recycle and chew on the news,” contrasting that with the Times’ emphasis on what he called “a ‘journalism of verification,’ ” rather than mere “assertion.”
“Bloggers are not chewing on the news. They are spitting it out,” Arianna Huffington protested in a Huffington Post blog. Like most liberal bloggers, she takes exception to the assumption by so many traditional journalists that their work is superior to that of bloggers when it comes to ferreting out the truth. The ability of bloggers to find the flaws in the mainstream media’s reporting of the Iraq war “highlighted the absurdity of the knee jerk comparison of the relative credibility of the so-called MSM and the blogosphere,” she said, and went on, “In the run-up to the Iraq war, many in the mainstream media, including the New York Times, lost their veneer of unassailable trustworthiness for many readers and viewers, and it became clear that new media sources could be trusted—and indeed are often much quicker at correcting mistakes than old media sources.”
But Huffington fails to address the parasitical relationship that virtually all Internet news sites and blog commentators enjoy with newspapers. The Huffington Post made a gesture in the direction of original reporting and professionalism last year when it hired Thomas Edsall, a forty-year veteran of the Washington Post and other papers, as its political editor. At the time he was approached by the Huffington Post, Edsall said, he felt that the Post had become “increasingly driven by fear—the fear of declining readership, the fear of losing advertisers, the fear of diminishing revenues, the fear of being swamped by the Internet, the fear of irrelevance. Fear drove the paper, from top to bottom, to corrupt the entire news operation.” Joining the Huffington Post, Edsall said, was akin to “getting out of jail,” and he has written, ever since, with a sense of liberation. But such examples are rare.
And so even if one agrees with all of Huffington’s jabs at the Times, and Edsall’s critique of the Washington Post, it is impossible not to wonder what will become of not just news but democracy itself, in a world in which we can no longer depend on newspapers to invest their unmatched resources and professional pride in helping the rest of us to learn, however imperfectly, what we need to know.
In a recent episode of “The Simpsons,” a cartoon version of Dan Rather introduced a debate panel featuring “Ron Lehar, a print journalist from the Washington Post.” This inspired Bart’s nemesis Nelson to shout, “Haw haw! Your medium is dying!”
“Nelson!” Principal Skinner admonished the boy.
“But it is!” was the young man’s reply.
Nelson is right. Newspapers are dying; the evidence of diminishment in economic vitality, editorial quality, depth, personnel, and the over-all number of papers is everywhere. What this portends for the future is complicated. Three years ago, Rupert Murdoch warned newspaper editors, “Many of us have been remarkably, unaccountably complacent . . . quietly hoping that this thing called the digital revolution would just limp along.” Today, almost all serious newspapers are scrambling to adapt themselves to the technological and community-building opportunities offered by digital news delivery, including individual blogs, video reports, and “chat” opportunities for readers. Some, like the Times and the Post, will likely survive this moment of technological transformation in different form, cutting staff while increasing their depth and presence online. Others will seek to focus themselves locally. Newspaper editors now say that they “get it.” Yet traditional journalists are blinkered by their emotional investment in their Lippmann-like status as insiders. They tend to dismiss not only most blogosphere-based criticisms but also the messy democratic ferment from which these criticisms emanate. The Chicago Tribune recently felt compelled to shut down comment boards on its Web site for all political news stories. Its public editor, Timothy J. McNulty, complained, not without reason, that “the boards were beginning to read like a community of foul-mouthed bigots.”
Arianna Huffington, for her part, believes that the online and the print newspaper model are beginning to converge: “As advertising dollars continue to move online—as they slowly but certainly are—HuffPost will be adding more and more reporting and the Times and Post model will continue with the kinds of reporting they do, but they’ll do more of it originally online.” She predicts “more vigorous reporting in the future that will include distributed journalism—wisdom-of-the-crowd reporting of the kind that was responsible for the exposing of the Attorneys General firing scandal.” As for what may be lost in this transition, she is untroubled: “A lot of reporting now is just piling on the conventional wisdom—with important stories dying on the front page of the New York Times.”
The survivors among the big newspapers will not be without support from the nonprofit sector. ProPublica, funded by the liberal billionaires Herb and Marion Sandler and headed by the former Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, hopes to provide the mainstream media with the investigative reporting that so many have chosen to forgo. The Center for Independent Media, headed by David Bennahum, a former writer at Wired, recently hired Jefferson Morley, from the Washington Post, and Allison Silver, a former editor at both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, to oversee a Web site called the Washington Independent. It’s one of a family of news-blogging sites meant to pick up some of the slack left by declining staffs in local and Washington reporting, with the hope of expanding everywhere. But to imagine that philanthropy can fill all the gaps arising from journalistic cutbacks is wishful thinking.
And so we are about to enter a fractured, chaotic world of news, characterized by superior community conversation but a decidedly diminished level of first-rate journalism. The transformation of newspapers from enterprises devoted to objective reporting to a cluster of communities, each engaged in its own kind of “news”––and each with its own set of “truths” upon which to base debate and discussion––will mean the loss of a single national narrative and agreed-upon set of “facts” by which to conduct our politics. News will become increasingly “red” or “blue.” This is not utterly new. Before Adolph Ochs took over the Times, in 1896, and issued his famous “without fear or favor” declaration, the American scene was dominated by brazenly partisan newspapers. And the news cultures of many European nations long ago embraced the notion of competing narratives for different political communities, with individual newspapers reflecting the views of each faction. It may not be entirely coincidental that these nations enjoy a level of political engagement that dwarfs that of the United States.
The transformation will also engender serious losses. By providing what Bill Keller, of the Times, calls the “serendipitous encounters that are hard to replicate in the quicker, reader-driven format of a Web site”—a difference that he compares to that “between a clock and a calendar”—newspapers have helped to define the meaning of America to its citizens. To choose one date at random, on the morning of Monday, February 11th, I picked up the paper-and-ink New York Times on my doorstep, and, in addition to the stories one could have found anywhere—Obama defeating Clinton again and the Bush Administration’s decision to seek the death penalty for six Guantánamo detainees—the front page featured a unique combination of articles, stories that might disappear from our collective consciousness were there no longer any institution to generate and publish them. These included a report from Nairobi, by Jeffrey Gettleman, on the effect of Kenya’s ethnic violence on the country’s middle class; a dispatch from Doha, by Tamar Lewin, on the growth of American university campuses in Qatar; and, in a scoop that was featured on the Huffington Post’s politics page and excited much of the blogosphere that day, a story, by Michael R. Gordon, about the existence of a study by the RAND Corporation which offered a harsh critique of the Bush Administration’s performance in Iraq. The juxtaposition of these disparate topics forms both a baseline of knowledge for the paper’s readers and a picture of the world they inhabit. In “Imagined Communities” (1983), an influential book on the origins of nationalism, the political scientist Benedict Anderson recalls Hegel’s comparison of the ritual of the morning paper to that of morning prayer: “Each communicant is well aware that the ceremony he performs is being replicated simultaneously by thousands (or millions) of others of whose existence he is confident, yet of whose identity he has not the slightest notion.” It is at least partially through the “imagined community” of the daily newspaper, Anderson writes, that nations are forged.
Finally, we need to consider what will become of those people, both at home and abroad, who depend on such journalistic enterprises to keep them safe from various forms of torture, oppression, and injustice. “People do awful things to each other,” the veteran war photographer George Guthrie says in “Night and Day,” Tom Stoppard’s 1978 play about foreign correspondents. “But it’s worse in places where everybody is kept in the dark.” Ever since James Franklin’s New England Courant started coming off the presses, the daily newspaper, more than any other medium, has provided the information that the nation needed if it was to be kept out of “the dark.” Just how an Internet-based news culture can spread the kind of “light” that is necessary to prevent terrible things, without the armies of reporters and photographers that newspapers have traditionally employed, is a question that even the most ardent democrat in John Dewey’s tradition may not wish to see answered. ♦
Adobe Joins List of Companies Not Reading Own EULAs
Adobe released Photoshop Express this week, its first SaaS (Software as a Service) offering in the form of a free Web-based photo editing, organizing, and sharing service. The early reaction to this (naturally) beta program has been positive, but a few aggressive terms in its EULA have caused some to put down their color adjustment palettes. While Adobe has already stated that it is rewriting the terms in question, it has still joined the growing list of major software shops who aren't paying attention to their own EULAs.
Specifically, the Photoshop Express terms that got people's exposure sliders in a twist are on page two of the service's terms disclosure (unavailable as of this writing):
When we contacted Adobe about the policy, a reply confirmed that someone at Adobe didn't think this was a very good policy either. From Adobe's response:
Ultimately, Adobe's adventures with the Photoshop Express EULA sound like they'll have a happy ending, but we don't have to tell you twice that the EULA is becoming all the more important in a world where even more of our data and work is going digital and online.
Police Arrest Anti-War Protester, 80, At Mall
Anastasia Economides & Matthew Chayes
An 80-year-old church deacon was removed from the Smith Haven Mall yesterday in a wheelchair and arrested by police for refusing to remove a T-shirt protesting the Iraq War.
Police said that Don Zirkel, of Bethpage, was disturbing shoppers at the Lake Grove mall with his T-shirt, which had what they described as “graphic anti-war images.” Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis - 4,000 and 1 million - and the words “Dead” and “Enough.” The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.
Police said in a release last night that Zirkel was handing out anti-war pamphlets to mallgoers and that mall security told him to stop and turn his shirt inside out. Zirkel refused to turn his shirt inside out and wouldn’t leave, police said. Security placed him on “civilian arrest” and called police. When police arrived, Zirkel passively resisted attempts to bring him to a police car, the release said.
But Zirkel said he was sitting in the food court drinking coffee with his wife Marie, 77, and several others when police and mall security officers approached and demanded they remove their anti-war T-shirts.
The others complied, but Zirkel said he refused, and when he wouldn’t stand up to be removed and arrested, authorities brought over a wheelchair. “They forcibly picked me up and put me in the wheelchair,” said Zirkel, a deacon at one of the poorest Catholic parishes on Long Island, where a devastating fire recently destroyed the rectory and storage areas.
Zirkel was charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. He was released on bail. A spokeswoman for mall owner Simon Property Group did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Generally speaking, a mall has the right to control what happens on its property, said John McEntee, a Uniondale commercial litigation lawyer.
Activists with dueling opinions had gathered to support and oppose America’s five-year campaign.
As Zirkel was being wheeled to the police car, the crowd chanted “We shall not be moved!” Moments later, they moved; police and mall security had ordered them off the property. Many joined a larger anti-war crowd assembled by the mall’s entrance, off mall property, on Veterans Memorial Highway.
They were complemented nearby by protesters saying the Iraq war is vital for security.
City Subpoenas Creator of Text Messaging Code
When delegates to the Republican National Convention assembled in New York in August 2004, the streets and sidewalks near Union Square and Madison Square Garden filled with demonstrators. Police officers in helmets formed barriers by stretching orange netting across intersections. Hordes of bicyclists participated in rolling protests through nighttime streets, and helicopters hovered overhead.
These tableaus and others were described as they happened in text messages that spread from mobile phone to mobile phone in New York City and beyond. The people sending and receiving the messages were using technology, developed by an anonymous group of artists and activists called the Institute for Applied Autonomy, that allowed users to form networks and transmit messages to hundreds or thousands of telephones.
Although the service, called TXTmob, was widely used by demonstrators, reporters and possibly even police officers, little was known about its inventors. Last month, however, the New York City Law Department issued a subpoena to Tad Hirsch, a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who wrote the code that created TXTmob.
Lawyers representing the city in lawsuits filed by hundreds of people arrested during the convention asked Mr. Hirsch to hand over voluminous records revealing the content of messages exchanged on his service and identifying people who sent and received messages. Mr. Hirsch says that some of the subpoenaed material no longer exists and that he believes he has the right to keep other information secret.
“There’s a principle at stake here,” he said recently by telephone. “I think I have a moral responsibility to the people who use my service to protect their privacy.”
The subpoena, which was issued Feb. 4, instructed Mr. Hirsch, who is completing his dissertation at M.I.T., to produce a wide range of material, including all text messages sent via TXTmob during the convention, the date and time of the messages, information about people who sent and received messages, and lists of people who used the service.
In a letter to the Law Department, David B. Rankin, a lawyer for Mr. Hirsch, called the subpoena “vague” and “overbroad,” and wrote that seeking information about TXTmob users who have nothing to do with lawsuits against the city would violate their First Amendment and privacy rights.
Lawyers for the city declined to comment.
The subpoena is connected to a group of 62 lawsuits against the city that stem from arrests during the convention and have been consolidated in Federal District Court in Manhattan. About 1,800 people were arrested and charged, but 90 percent of them ultimately walked away from court without pleading guilty or being convicted.
Many people complained that they were arrested unjustly, and a State Supreme Court justice chastised the city after hundreds of people were held by the police for more than 24 hours without a hearing.
The police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, has called the convention a success for his department, which he credited with preventing major disruptions during a turbulent week. He has countered complaints about police tactics by saying that nearly a million people peacefully expressed their political opinions, while the convention and the city functioned smoothly.
Mr. Hirsch said that the idea for TXTmob evolved from conversations about how police departments were adopting strategies to counter large-scale marches that converged at a single spot.
While preparing for the 2004 political conventions in New York and Boston, some demonstrators decided to plan decentralized protests in which small, mobile groups held rallies and roamed the streets.
“The idea was to create a very dynamic, fluid environment,” Mr. Hirsch said. “We wanted to transform areas around the entire city into theaters of dissent.”
Organizers wanted to enable people in different areas to spread word of what they were seeing in each spot and to coordinate their movements. Mr. Hirsch said that he wrote the TXTmob code over about two weeks. After a trial run in Boston during the Democratic National Convention, the service was in wide use during the Republican convention in New York. Hundreds of people went to the TXTmob Web site and joined user groups at no charge.
As a result, when members of the War Resisters League were arrested after starting to march up Broadway, or when Republican delegates attended a performance of “The Lion King” on West 42nd Street, a server under a desk in Cambridge, Mass., transmitted messages detailing the action, often while scenes on the streets were still unfolding.
Messages were exchanged by self-organized first-aid volunteers, demonstrators urging each other on and even by people in far-flung cities who simply wanted to trade thoughts or opinions with those on the streets of New York. Reporters began monitoring the messages too, looking for word of breaking news and rushing to spots where mass arrests were said to be taking place.
And Mr. Hirsch said he thought it likely that police officers were among those receiving TXTmob messages on their phones.
It is difficult to know for sure who received messages, but an examination of police surveillance documents prepared in 2003 and 2004, and unsealed by a federal magistrate last year, makes it clear that the authorities were aware of TXTmob at least a month before the Republican convention began.
A document marked “N.Y.P.D. SECRET” and dated July 26, 2004, included the address of the TXTmob Web site and stated, “It is anticipated that text messaging is one of several different communications systems that will be utilized to organize the upcoming RNC protests.”
Online Chat, as Inspired by Real Chat
Compared with other forms of human interaction, online social networking is really not all that social.
People visit each other’s MySpace pages and Facebook profiles at various hours of the day, posting messages and sending e-mail back and forth across the digital void. It’s like an endless party where everybody shows up at a different time and slaps a yellow Post-it note on the refrigerator.
Now a new wave of Silicon Valley companies is bringing live socializing back into a medium that has, in the parlance of the technologists, grown overly asynchronous.
Vivaty, a start-up based in Menlo Park, Calif., is creating 3-D virtual chat rooms that people can add to the Web pages and social networking profiles on the sites where they spend most of their Internet time.
The company has been quietly working on its technology for three years and will begin a private test period on Facebook this week in advance of a wider introduction this summer. It is backed by the blue-chip venture capital firms Kleiner, Perkins Caufield & Byers and Mohr Davidow Ventures.
Vivaty turns a flat profile page into a three-dimensional live chat room. Users choose characters to represent themselves from a list of preternaturally handsome avatars — a requirement for any such service — and proceed to one of a dozen environments, like a gothic urban warehouse or seaside villa.
With videogame-like precision, they can then navigate that virtual space, which may feature their Facebook photos hanging from the walls and a YouTube video playing on a widescreen TV. Up to 15 others can choose avatars and enter the same room at the same time for text-based live socializing.
“We want to take all your content on the Web and move it to a more visually immersive, immediate experience,” said Keith McCurdy, chief executive at Vivaty and a former vice president at the big game maker Electronic Arts.
Similar online services like Second Life and games like World of Warcraft have existed for years. But they are not accessible through a Web browser. Instead they require users to install large and cumbersome programs and have plenty of Internet bandwidth for a satisfyingly immediate experience.
Vivaty chat rooms, on the other hand, will be scattered across the Web. A user can stick an existing Vivaty virtual environment, or create a unique one, wherever HTML code can be imbedded. The company plans to make money partly by allowing companies to start their own virtual rooms on their own Web sites, where they can control the décor and their marketing messages.
Vivaty’s technology and business plan may be unique, but its overall goal is not. The entrepreneurs and investors behind other “live Web” companies say that the intermittent socializing on most Web sites ignores the primal human instinct that once drove people to the town square and now brings them into real-world social groups to watch the Super Bowl or the latest episode of “Battlestar Galactica.”
“A lot of basic human communication needs have been lost in this age of siloed, one-to-one communications,” said Roelof Botha, a partner at the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. “At the end of the day, we are a social species.”
Mr. Botha, one of the original backers of YouTube, is behind live Web companies like TokBox, a year-old start-up that lets people conduct face-to-face video chats on the Web, and Meebo, a two-year-old Web messaging company that introduced a new generation of networked chat rooms to the Web last year.
Chat rooms were an integral part of the online experience for users of early services like CompuServe and America Online. Characterized by names like “Single and Looking,” they often devolved into noisy chaos.
The first wave of Web technology helped drive these unruly conversations close to extinction. The Web’s static pages made it poorly suited for rapid-fire, live communication. Live chat was relegated to separate software tools like instant messenger programs.
Newer Web programming tools provide flexibility for updates inside Web pages. But now there is a new problem: Internet users are spread thinly across millions of Web sites and blogs and various social networks.
Last year, Meebo’s chief executive, Seth Sternberg — who as a teenager was a chat-room moderator for America Online — introduced Meebo Rooms, a kind of 2-D version of Vivaty’s cartoonscape.
Meebo Rooms can play host to the same crowd on more than one Web site. For instance, there are around 100 people at any given time talking in the Meebo Room for the Showtime program “Big Brother After Dark.” Half of those might enter on Showtime’s site, while the other half might join from fan’s pages on MySpace. But they all conduct one live conversation.
Mr. Sternberg asserts that the dialogue is cleaner in his new live chats than on the old AOL chats he used to patrol. “Whenever chat rooms are embedded on a site with context, and everyone is there because they are interested in the topic, the conversation is good,” he said.
Other new live services are popping up quickly. This month, Facebook said it would introduce a live chat feature. Live video streaming services, from Yahoo and start-ups like Kyte, Ustream.TV and Justin.TV, are also proliferating. Those companies include live chat features as well, so users can discuss what they are watching in real time.
Mr. McCurdy from Vivaty said he did not expect these live services to travel far across the generational divide. The younger video-game generation “has more craving for contact,” he said. “They are using their computers for emotional experiences, and a video-game experience is more emotional than looking at a blue and white Facebook page.”
How We Tweet: The Definitive List of the Top Twitter Clients
Last November we put up a guide to the most popular Twitter clients. For that post we looked at a random sample of 717 tweets from a handful of heavy Twitter users and identified 19 different ways people interacted with the service. Twitter has one of the fastest growing application ecosystems of any web service outside of Facebook. For this post, we looked at 37,248 tweets and found 142 different ways in which people interact with the Twitter service. Some of the results, which follow below, were rather surprising.
How We Gathered Data
We used the Twitter API to monitor the public feed and capture data on 37,248 tweets over a 24 hour period. We had usable data after about 2 hours, but wanted to let the program run overnight to remove any geographic biases due to timezones. It is interesting to note, though, that the top ten results basically didn't change after the first couple of hours -- though a couple of services swapped positions. That suggests that for the most part, people probably interact with Twitter in the same methods on either end of the globe.
Because we ran our script on a shared host, we limited our script to running at 60 second intervals and grabbed the 20 tweets listed in the public feed every 60 seconds. Since there many have been more than 20 tweets each minute we probably missed a handful of them (if there were less than 20, we only grabbed the new ones). Even so, our 37k is enough data to draw conclusions from.
The script that we used to do this was created for us by developer Kelli Shaver, who also compiled the data for the PDF report linked to later in this post.
Let's get right down to it. One trend that carried over from our November sampling, was that the web continues to be the #1 way in which people post to Twitter. It accounted for 56% of all tweets that we recorded. IM and txt (SMS message), which were also popular in November, remained popular, accounting for 8% and 5% of all tweets respectively.
But that's where the similarities end. Twitterific, which once ruled Twitter alone as the most popular 3rd party client, suddenly has company at the top. Twhirl now serves slightly more tweets than Twitterific, though both account for about 7% of the total. Snitter, which we found served 4% of tweets last November, has fallen out of favor and is now just the 15th most popular method of interacting with the service; it accounts for less than 1% of the tweets we recorded.
Below is the a list of the top 20 ways we saw people tweet and a graph showing the Twittersphere share of the top 10 post methods:
Web 56% (20734)
IM 8% (2975)
Twhirl 7% (2754)
Twitterrific 7% (2462)
TXT 5% (1683)
Twit 3% (1182)
TwitterFox 2% (1114)
movatwitter 2% (718)
P3:PeraPeraPrv 1% (459)
Netvibes 1% (266)
TwitBin 1% (260)
Twitter Tools 1% (222)
TwitterPod 0% (159)
TwitterIrcGateway 0% (152)
Snitter 0% (147)
BeTwittered 0% (106)
Tweetr 0% (95)
NatsuLion 0% (84)
Facebook 0% (79)
PocketTweets 0% (70)
Some of the main things we learned from this study:
• Twitter.com is good enough for the majority of Twitter users. Though clearly the API has enriched the service (142 different post services identified in 24 hours! -- and that doesn't include non-client uses of the API such as the polling startups we covered yesterday), the service is still bringing the majority of its users to its site. That potentially bodes well for some type of ad based monetization down the road.
• Twitter users are early adopters (that's not something we learned from this study, but something we already knew anecdotally), and early adopters are also often iPhone users. It's probably important to note that unless you're using an iPhone specific Twitter client like PocketTweets or iTweet from your iPhone, those tweets are counted under "web."
• For all the press that FriendFeed got last week for allowing people to post replies directly to Twitter, it was still 65th on our list and registered barely a fraction of total tweeting activity. Some analysts think FriendFeed is a threat to Twitter's existence, but remember that 56% of users still interact with Twitter on the main site, and Twitter makes up 44% of activity on FriendFeed. So which service is really more reliant on the other?
• There are a ton of Twitter clients out there. We saw 142 different ways to interact with Twitter in just 24 hours of monitoring the site's public feed. That's an amazing amount of activity on their API, and their application ecosystem is growing every day. Clearly, Twitter has struck a nerve with developers and users alike.
• We saw a large number of foreign language clients that we didn't see in November (especially from Asian countries). This is most likely due to that fact that we monitored the public feed this time around, while in November we looked at tweets from the contacts of just a handful of users -- and thus had an unavoidable language bias built in.
• We also saw a growth in posting from non-client outside sources such as Facebook, Netvibes, and yes, FriendFeed.
You can download our raw data (the full list of post methods that we logged) here (PDF).
The 101 Most Useful Websites
There are tens of millions of sites to visit. Not forgetting telegraph.co.uk, here are the only ones you actually need. Compiled by David Baker
The powerhouse of the internet and the only place many people go for information. But if you thought Google was a still a mere search engine, look again. Click on 'more' at the top of the homepage to discover the work of 'GoogleLabs' - more than 50 free tools and web pages that could change your internet life.
GoogleDocs lets you create documents, spreadsheets and presentations, store them online, share them with others and access them from wherever there's an internet connection.
Googlemail is probably the best email program - it has virtually limitless capacity and you don't need to change your email address to use it. The Google calendar is a powerful searchable diary that you can allow others to access, so family members can make appointments together.
SketchUp could be just the tool you are looking for to design that conservatory extension and see what it will look like once the builders have gone. Add to that databases for searching academic journals and books in the public domain, the powerful GoogleMaps, with its engaging satellite imagery, a finance page with live stock quotes and an easy-to-use online messaging system, and you can see why some people say Google is taking over the world - and, with GoogleMoon and GoogleMars, the rest of the galaxy, too.
Surf the web without disclosing who or where you are.
Hints, tips and troubleshooting for your iPod and associated software.
If you use just a few websites, this lets you create a home page that has links to them all. Simple, free and practical.
A suite of free business programs. From word processing and presentation software to tools for taking notes in meetings, planning projects and creating databases.
To-do lists, notes, ideas and calendar. Excellent for juggling projects and much more versatile than a ring folder.
All you need to know about keeping the net safe - protecting children, preventing spam, avoiding viruses and stopping others accessing your personal details.
More than 7,500 free fonts (for Mac and PC), so you can at last stop using Copperplate for your party invitations.
The superfast way to send large files over the web. Don't attach that family video to an email, Pando it instead.
Turn your home videos into animated flip books. Much more appealing than another DVD.
11 Digital Spy
Entertainment, media and showbiz news. Plus, a surprisingly good forum for technology-related problems - a great place to sort out your broadband.
12 BBC iPlayer
On-demand television and radio programmes from the BBC.
Events, attractions, openings and exhibitions from around the world. Enter a location and dates and the site will show listings.
14 London Theatre Guide
What's coming on and what's making an exit in London's theatre world. Especially good for seating plans, so you can see where the box office staff are putting you.
15 The Internet Movie Database
The world's biggest (and still growing) reference for actors, directors, locations, plots...
16 Rotten Tomatoes
A round-up of what the critics thought of films on general release.
The British Film Institute's definitive guide to the British film industry. Plots, features, statistics and news from the film world.
18 Good Reads
Expand your reading. Catalogue your books online and others make recommendations based on what you seem to enjoy.
19 TV Guide
News, features and listings for Britain's terrestrial and cable television. Customisable interface so your favourite channels are always at the top.
The authentic (and often tangential) voice of the Britain's 'real' football supporters.
Everything you want to know about the world of cricket.
22 Beijing Olympics
The official Olympics site, with news, scheduling, features and a countdown to the games themselves.
23 Radio Locator
From shock jocks to orchestral baroque, thousands of internet radio stations to listen to on your computer.
24 Live Plasma
Expand your music and movie tastes. Enter the name of a song, band, movie, actor or director you like and Live Plasma will return some pretty intelligent recommendations for further investigation.
A clever way of searching for video clips on the internet - from uploaded episodes of your favourite soap to comedy home-video moments.
Self-publishing made smart again. Write, design and then print your own books - though you'll still have to persuade others to buy them.
28 Wonder How To
Two great sites full of short videos showing you how to do almost anything, from the incredibly useful (exercises for diabetes sufferers, tying a Windsor knot) to the revelatory ('learn different kinds of kisses'), via the wonderfully obscure ('make a moving jaw for your werewolf mask').
DIY projects from zombie make-up to LED balloons. Excellent selection of rainy-day projects for bored children (and adults) at home.
30 Flash games
Addictive series of Flash games including the hypnotically soothing Boomshine.
News, reviews, hints and tips for virtually every console game on the market. Essential if you are still up at 2am trying to find a way into the castle on Zelda.
Online anagram machine for Scrabble players and crossword enthusiasts. Also solves Sudoku.
ADVICE AND INFORMATION
A wonderfully graphical - and customisable - display of news stories from around the world. Click on an item to see the full story.
34 The Eggcorn Database
Continually updated guide to modern-day Malapropisms, misunderstandings and other manglings of language. From 'high dungeon' to 'wreckless driving', Eggcorn names the culprits and nudges them in the right direction.
35 Arts and Letters Daily
World-class articles from intellectual and influential journals around the world. Browse the day's selections. Like The Week for eggheads.
36 Ask Philosophers
The academy comes to cyberspace. A panel of mainly American and British philosophy scholars answers questions sent in by the public. Search the database, from Abortion to War, or send in a question of your own.
37 When Is
Shows you the dates of Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and American holidays from now to 2010.
38 Rhyme Zone
For when the muse has gone, a rhyme and synonym generator to help you towards the perfect mot. You can also search for Shakespeare quotations, biblical references and other literary inspirations.
Giant but easily searchable database of statistics, maps and profiles for every country in the world.
The people's approach to news and features, Digg brings together items from across the net, ranked according to how many people have felt them worth recommending. Sometimes a little techie-heavy, but excellent for discovering what the cyberworld is getting worked up about.
41 They Work For You
A powerful way of keeping tabs on MPs and peers: attendance records, voting patterns, recent statements and more.
42 Time Bank
Volunteering opportunities for young people, sorted by region, interest, skills and need.
Controversial, democractic and sometimes error-strewn encyclopaedia that has brought Darwinism to the world of knowledge. Make it your first port of call for looking something up. Just be sure to check somewhere else that what you find makes sense.
Wikipedia's online multilingual dictionary. Immensely powerful and far less controversial than its encyclopaedic forebear.
45 Motley Fool
The original - and still the best - personal finance site on the web (the American version is at www.fool.com). For savers, borrowers, stock spotters and day traders, sound, independent advice that cuts through the jargon.
46 Martindale's 'The Reference Desk'
From the arts, business, science and technology, a dry but authoritative conglomeration of data from around the world.
Free and authoritative database of more than 17 million medical research papers. Not always easy to understand if you are not a medic, but a far better place to look for information than the random sites that come up on Google.
The internet's version of that clever uncle who always seems to know the answer to your questions. There are few subjects the site doesn't tackle, though the coverage can be superficial. A good starting point for idle research.
49 NHS Direct
Online information and advice about health and illness, run by Britain's National Health Service. The site includes a useful self-diagnosis tool that can reassure you that your hangover is not in fact meningitis.
50 Legal Services Shop
General legal advice relating to housing, family law, employment, motoring, consumer issues and personal injury, plus wills, conveyancing and divorce. Good starting point to see where you stand. Will also, for a fixed fee, answer questions and put you in touch with a solicitor.
51 How Stuff Works
Engaging encyclopaedia of the modern (and not so modern) world, with good illustrations and clear text. Can suffer sometimes from an 'it's amazing!' tone of voice..
Currency converter covering every world currency. Azerbaijan new manats to Cayman Island dollars? Just a click away.
53 Advice Guide
Find where you stand legally with the Citizens Advice Bureau's online information resource.
Advice and information for young people, including health and fitness, drugs, problems with bullying, how to study and applying for jobs.
55 Royal Horticultural Society
Advice and suggestions from the world's leading gardening organisation. A good 'how-to' section and seasonal tips for the time of year.
Automatic translation to and from most European languages and Chinese. The results are sometimes a little strange, but you will usually get your message across.
How to do just about everything, from getting stains off curtains to buying a second-hand car.
58 Eat the Seasons
Updated weekly, information, tips and recipe ideas on British seasonal food.
59 Age Concern
Website of Britain's leading charity for the elderly, packed with advice about maintaining an active life.
The queen of weather sites, with more information than you would possibly imagine you might need, from pollen counts to surf forecasts.
Spoof Wikipedia-style encyclopaedia where nothing is true, but a good deal is very funny indeed. Idle away an afternoon or, even better, hone your comedy skills by making a contribution yourself.
An easy way to lend small sums (from $25) to business projects in the developing world. Kiva keeps track of your investment, updates you on progress and repays your loan as the business grows.
63 Embarrassing problems
From bad breath and piles to cold sores and beyond, Dr Margaret Stearn dispenses invaluable advice.
HOUSE AND HOME
64 Noise Mapping England
Click on an area of the map to find out how noisy a street, or even a section of the street, is - handy for light sleepers planning a move. At the moment only London is mapped, but the rest of England will follow.
65 Prime Location
One of the best sites for finding property. It is UK-based but has a good international presence.
66 Rated People
User reviews on local tradesmen. You describe the job you need done and how quickly and suppliers contact you with quotes - with previous customers rating them.
Possibly the most dangerous site on this list, Zoopla gives sale prices of recently sold homes and - the tricky bit - estimates the value of the rest. We dare you not to look.
68 Money Saving Expert
Subtitled 'Consumer Revenge', this is where you find the discounts, tricks and tips to save money. The weekly email is essential reading for canny consumers. It caters only for Britain, but every country should have one.
Practical guide to making your home more environmentally friendly, from low-flow showerheads to 12V lighting. US-based, but many of the products are available elsewhere.
70 Design My Room
For budding Laurence Llewellyn-Bowens everywhere, it provides the ability to redecorate your home in cyberspace. Choose colours, furniture, accessories and finishes and then publish the results online.
71 Up My Street
Neighbourhood information based on postcode: schools, shopping and, juciest of all, how much the house down the road sold for recently.
72 Home For Exchange
One of many sites where you can swap homes with someone else for a period. This is less cluttered than some of the others and has a good geographical spread.
The fast way to compare utility suppliers and other services, from broadband to home insurance. Enter your postcode and the site comes back with the best deals.
74 101 Cookbooks
Enchanting recipe and foodie blog from a Californian cook who believes in good food. Subscribe to the email alert service and transform your cooking repertoire.
The most grown-up (just) of the social-networking sites that are fast taking over the world. Excellent for staying in touch with far-flung friends, though pretty good too for re-establishing contact with those you hoped you had lost.
The quickest and easiest way to create a blog of your own.
Like an online Mothers' Union meeting (though sometimes a little more risqué), Ringsurf is a chatroom where people exchange ideas about anything from politics to relationships. The quality is not always high, but users have been known to discover new (real-life) friends with interests they thought no one would share. A tribute to the information-sharing capability of the net.
Organise your thoughts by creating mindmaps online and sharing them with others.
An intelligent, intuitive and inspiring way to read entries from some of the millions of blogs that dot the internet. You can browse by subject or area of interest, read the postings that are catching the world's attention and bookmark blogs that catch your attention. And if you want to join in...
The website you graduate to once you've discovered how to put your holiday snaps on the net. Here, everyone's photos are linked by using tags, such as 'Spain', 'beach' or 'happy', which sets you off on an exploration of others' uploads.
There are plenty of great parenting forums out there - Netmums, Mumsnet - but this is still the best source of considered, authoritative, often soothing advice on everything from colic to tax credits.
82 Friction TV
YouTube for debaters. Upload a short video about an issue close to your heart and others reply in kind or by text.
Gift ideas for when you can't think what to buy someone. You enter their age, sex and interests and how much you want to pay and it scours the net for ideas.
Online shopping for (nearly) everything you might want to buy. The original auction formula is still going strong, but plenty more features have been added since it began. Take a look at non-UK sites, such as ebay.fr and ebay.de, too, for bargains others may have missed. The layout is the same even if you don't speak the language.
85 Who What Wear Daily
Fashion tips, advice and suggestions. Includes Ask a Stylist for those tricky co-ordination problems and a What Was She Wearing? inquiry service to help you track down your favourite celebrity's fashion choice.
Unabashedly straightforward classified ads site, for everything from new homes to online romance.
The Amazon of the second-hand book world. More than 13,500 booksellers selling 110 million books. If it's not here, it's not worth looking for.
There are plenty of price-comparison sites on the web, but this one seems to get it right more often than most. Type in what you want to buy and Kelkoo will come back with the cheapest prices it can find.
A (digital) finger on the pulse of the technology world. All the newest developments, discoveries, gadgets and toys - before they hit the shops.
Discover more about wine by reviewing what you've enjoyed and receiving tips and suggestions from others.
91 I Love Jeans
Find the right jeans for your fit before you even leave home. A cheeky but revealing 'body type' guide takes you straight to the brand you should be trying. Search by style, body type or brand. Women only.
92 Sky Scanner
Monitors prices and destinations for all the low-cost airlines so you just type in where you want to go and when to find the best deal.
93 The Man in Seat 61
Routes, tickets, tips and advice - the only guide you need to travelling by train from Britain to Europe and the rest of the world.
94 Walk It
Online pedestrian routefinder for London, Birmingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh that shows you the best route to walk from A to B. Includes calorie counter, CO2 savings and points of interest on the way. Other cities coming soon.
95 Transport for London Journey Planner
Indispensable and almost always spot-on guide to negotiating the capital's public transport system. You enter your starting point and destination and it gives you the best bus, tube, cycle and even boat routes to get you across town.
A hi-tech hark-back to the days of leisurely motoring. ViaMichelin gives you maps, routes and directions throughout Britain and continental Europe with added panache. The maps have a pleasant printed quality about them and, naturally enough, your route is accompanied by gastronomic highlights to be found along the way. There's also information about destinations.
97 Carbon Neutral
Information on your carbon footprint and how to cut it down. Includes an online calculator to measure your effect on the world.
Excellent all-round travel site. Use it for good prices on flights and holidays, but click on 'Destinations' for some well-researched and up-to-date travel guides.
Aircraft seating plans, showing you the prime seats, possible annoyances and seats you should avoid.
100 Airline Meals
A consumer guide to what you can expect to eat on board. There are news and features from the airline catering world, but the best part is a gallery of photos of on-board meals sent in by passengers and listed by airline.
101 World Hum
Travel writing with a twist. Click on the destination you have in mind and be prepared to be inspired. The site also offers tavelogues, news, books reviews, blogs and slideshows.
Asus Eee PC 4G-X, Windows XP Unboxing Preview
The Bundle and Setup
We're always on the lookout for Asus Eee PC updates and today we've come up with some breaking news for you relative to the Windows XP variant that is due to hit the market in April. Actually, it's more than just some breaking news; we've got one.
Though the machine isn't due out until sometime in the next few weeks, we were able to get our hands on a full retail bundle well before they hit store shelves in the US. The included operating system, software and add-in bundle is really the only thing that differentiates this Eee PC version, versus the Linux-based 4G model that we looked at for you back in November 2007. Let's take a look at the new offering Asus has in store for consumers with the Asus Eee PC 4G-X Windows XP ultraportable notebook.
The standard assortment of accoutrements is included in the bundle, along with a couple of notable upgrades. Asus took the initiative to provide an additional 4GB SD card from Adata, a healthy storage expansion for the system. In addition, an Asus-branded optical mouse was thrown in for good measure.
Configuration and Bundled Software
A full licensed version of Windows XP Home Edition is installed on this Eee PC and amazingly, it boots in about 20 seconds flat, thanks to the machine's SSD drive.
All Eee PCs today currently are powered by an Intel Celeron M processor at 900MHz. The machine is also built on Intel's 915GM Express chipset with Integrated graphics. You won't be playing Crysis on this machine boys and girls, as it's obviously targeted as an ultraportable buisness-class workhorse. Though you might be able to pull off some very low-end 3D fun with a bit of creativity and elbow grease. Finally, we'll note that Asus went with the Atheros WiFi chipset on the Eee PC, which provide excellent 802.11g/b performance. In fact, the Eee PC is one of the best machines in our lab, in terms of WiFi signal strength and performance, even versus full-sized notebooks from HP, Sony and others.
Microsoft's Windows Live messenger, photo gallery and email suite are pre-installed on the the machine for collaborative and social networking capability, in addition to Microsoft Works for word processing, spreadsheets and calendar functionality.
Quick Benchmarks and Wrap-up
Since we could actually install a select few of our standard benchmarks, we thought it might be fun to run a quick set of numbers with SiSoft's SANDRA system diagnostic and performance benchmark suite. Remember though, the Eee PC is an ultra-portable, ultra-affordable notebook, so we'd caution to keep your expectations realistic.
We performed these test runs with the system plugged into it's AC adaptor for best performance. As you can see, the Eee PC is no match for the likes of a standard Core 2-based notebook or its memory subsystem, which was to be expected. With its integrated 512MB of memory and fast Solid State Hard Drive, the Eee PC is able to run Windows XP just fine however and our first-pass experience was a relatively satisfying one.
Perhaps the one strength of the Eee PC, it's internal 4G Silicon Motion Solid State Disk, is its ability to read data at a flat 33MB/sec across its entire volume. As we see here, the drive is actually faily snappy comparatively speaking, versus a high speed 2GB SD drive from Kingston and even versus some 2.5" notebook drives, like the Hitachi TravelStar 75GB drive noted in the reference numbers above.
That about does it for our early quick-take preview of the new Asus Eee PC 4G-X ultra-portable with Windows XP. With an expected MSRP of $399, we think the Asus Eee PC is a stand-out product in the world of affordable, ultra-portable notebooks. With its included software bundle for general use and office applications, along with its 4G SD card and mouse upgrades, its actually a solid value for end users not comfortable delving into the world of Linux distros. We'll be diving deeper into Windows XP-based Eee PC performance and functionality in the weeks ahead, so stick around. In the mean time, if you're so inclined, Eee PCs with Windows XP will be hitting store shelves any day, so you can check one out for yourself.
New Bell Canada Scandal Looms
Canada’s largest ISP, Bell Canada, is powering ahead with its traffic shaping ‘traffic management’ plan.
It might have been a virtual fait accompli by now had not p2pnet’s ‘Ottawa Gal,’ and Canadian ISP TekSavvy first blown the whistle in November, 2007.
With the story now receiving widespread coverage, p2pnet has unconfirmed reports a new explosion is ready to occur, and one with even more severe implications for net neutrality.
The explosion will include a stop-sell on Bell’s current $25 Unlimited Usage Plan, says an official March 13 document seen by p2pnet.
It states >>>
The Unlimited Usage Plan will still be available in your ordering tools until further notice; however, we ask that you not sell this plan to a customer under any circumstance. All incentives/payouts related to selling this plan are being discontinued.
If a customer insists on receiving unlimited usage, please soft transfer them immediately to the SCS Usage Queue via the A2A transfer application.
Please note that the 30 GB Usage Insurance Plan @ $10/month remains available to High Speed, Ultra, Performance, Optimax & Max customers.
‘… similar traffic management for our wholesale’
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has given its Go-Ahead to a $52-billion leveraged buyout of Bell Canada parent BCE.
But uncertainty continues to cloud the deal, “amid the global credit crunch,” says the Financial Post.
With this in the background, Bell Canada is still throttling P2P file sharers claiming its ‘traffic management scheme,’ which effectively sabotages any hopes of net neutrality for Bell customers, was introduced in 2007, “for our Sympatico residential customers during peak periods of Internet usage (4:30 p.m. - 2:00 a.m.) to ensure we deliver bandwidth fairly to all customers during peak Internet usage,” says John Sweeney, senior VP, carrier services, in a letter to clients.
“[…] we initiated similar traffic management for our wholesale users as well,” he states.
Last week, “They’re now openly acknowledging that they are rolling out a full throttling process,” said TekSavvy CEO Rocky Gaudrault, going on >>>
They plan to have things fully throttled by April 7th. All BT and P2P traffic will be affected.
They claim they are allowed to do so according to their Terms and Services under the Fair Usage Policy in the tariffed contracts. We’ll be looking into this shortly.
In the meantime, we (many other ISPs) are going to prepare as well. I guess the high road is the path taken in this case.
“Spread the word one and all as this topic needs to reach every level possible,” he goes on. There’s now officially an issue and action must be taken by all if we’re to rectify things.”
Said Ottawa Gal >>>
This new Bell tactic will destroy the small wholesale competition in the Ontario & Quebec markets, leaving only Bell, Rogers and Videotron to call the shots and shape the internet a-la-AOL.
Bell wants their ball back and no one can play with it, whaaaa.
Bell claims the full out throttle affects P2P traffic only. But users are discovering that much much more than P2P is affected, while their ‘High-Speed’ internet comes to a screeching halt, and
Bell knows full well that P2P is not just affected, as reported by p2pnet here, Bell-Sympatico P2P throttling: more.
Employees already being trained
At the moment, Bell Canada users can in effect take the throttle off the caps by paying an extra $25 a month.
But that’ll stop in April, after which user fees could skyrocket.
Employees are already being trained to deal with the expected explosion, says Bell in its March 13 document >>>
If a customer expects that they will use more than what is included in our plans – move to step 3
Step #3: Offer a solution – the Usage Insurance Plan
“Mr/Mrs customer, given your downloading and uploading needs, I understand that you are concerned with the amount of Internet usage included in this plan. For only $10 a month, we can offer you a Usage Insurance Plan. This plan will allow you to upload and download an additional 30GB a month, without having to sign a contract. This would bring your total monthly available usage to [insert current usage included in plan + 30GB]. Does this sound like something you would be interested in?
Don’t forget that you can always monitor your usage online at www.bell.ca/internetusage. This tool will allow you to check how close you are to reaching the amount of usage included in your plan.”
Bell Canada will have to impose throttling on client ISPs to prevent a mass loss of users when the storm hits.
In other words, the company will have to have all resellers firmly under company control by the 7th, if indeed that is the cut-off date.
The last thing Bell Canada wants, especially with the sale of the company front and centre, is for even more users to jump ship to the likes of TekSavvy, as they’ve been doing recently, especially since the mainstream media have now picked up the story.
Ironically, with the throttling fiasco still gathering steam, congratulations are in order for Rocky Gaudrault, co-owner of TekSavvy and his brother, Marc.
Their home base is in Chatham, Ontario, and there, they’ve been named entrepreneurs of the year.
Where’s the irony
Bell Canada is the sponsor.
TekSavvy users are, meanwhile, gearing up for the Battle at the Big Barn!
Definitely stay tuned
BT Admits Misleading Customers Over Phorm Experiments
BT has admitted that it secretly used customer data to test Phorm's advertising targeting technology last summer, and that it covered it up when customers and The Register raised questions over the suspicious redirects.
The national telecoms provider now faces legal action from customers who are angry their web traffic was compromised.
Stephen Mainwaring, a BT Business customer in Weston-super-Mare, believes sensitive banking data relating to his online horse racing business was press-ganged into a trial of an unproven technology. He suffered sleepless nights after detecting the dodgy DNS requests, and said today: "It is very likely that I and others will take legal action against BT for what they did last summer."
In a statement, BT said: "We conducted a very small scale technical test of a prototype advertising platform on one exchange in June 2007. The test was specifically conducted to evaluate the functional and technical performance of the platform.
"Absolutely no personally identifiable information was processed, stored or disclosed during this trial. As with all service providers, it is important for BT to ensure that, before any potential new technologies are employed, they are robust and fit for purpose."
Speaking to El Reg on Friday, Stephen agreed: "Absolutely, new technologies should be stringently tested, but not using mine and my customers' data. If they wanted to run a trial, they should have asked. I would have told them I did not want to be part of it.
"I note the statement, 'absolutely no personally identifiable information was processed, stored or disclosed'. That means that all my information was processed, stored or disclosed but the personal bits were filtered out. Clearly that was unlawful."
Stephen has already filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office and is consulting on how to proceed through the courts with other BT subscribers who believe their connection was subject to illegal Phorm tests.
Today, he and a fellow BT customer also disputed the claim that only one exchange was involved in the covert testing.
Spike, a Reg reader based in Brighton and Hove, also noticed dodgy redirects of his web traffic last July to sysip.net, a domain owned by Phorm. He wrote about the mystery here (http://www.spikelab.org/blog/btProxyHorror.html) at the time.
Spike and Stephen urged other BT customers who believe they may have been co-opted into last summer's secret trials to speak out.
We first asked BT about its relationship with Phorm in July 2007, when it was widely known as 121Media, a firm deeply involved in spyware (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02..._advertising/). BT denied any testing and said customers whose DNS requests were being redirected must have a malware problem.
It wasn't until 14 February this year, when the deals between BT, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse to pimp customer web browsing were announced, that a cover-up was revealed. You can read the original story here (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02..._summer_2007/).
BT's belated confession that it secretly used its customers' traffic to test the safety of ad targeting technology can only add to the distrust around Phorm, whose executive team includes a former BT Retail CTO. Several security firms have confirmed (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03...rm_av_vendors/) plans to classify Phorm's cookies - both for opting in and opting out of Webwise - as adware.
BT repeated its insistence that the technology is legal, however. It said: "We are already developing an opt-out solution that would remove the need for opt-out cookies altogether. We have carried out significant due diligence in this area, and informed consent from our customers will satisfy the necessary legal requirements."
Yet some authorities on RIPA have argued that ISPs would also need permission from website owners to profile the content of their pages. BT has not responded to our questions on this point.
ISP data pimping has also invoked the ire of the Greatest Living Briton™. Today the BBC reports (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7299875.stm) that Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, has spoken out against ISP ad targeting. He summed up public opposition to the system: "It's [web traffic] mine - you can't have it. If you want to use it for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I'm getting in return."
Meanwhile, the Downing Street petition (http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ispphorm/) against Phorm has now garnered almost 5,000 signatures.
Carphone Warehouse has said it will ensure that its subscribers are opted out of Phorm and Webwise by default. BT and Virgin Media have made no such promise.
You can follow all our reporting of Phorm over the last three weeks here (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/29/phorm_roundup/).
Every Click You Make
Internet Providers Quietly Test Expanded Tracking of Web Use to Target Advertising
The online behavior of a small but growing number of computer users in the United States is monitored by their Internet service providers, who have access to every click and keystroke that comes down the line.
The companies harvest the stream of data for clues to a person's interests, making money from advertisers who use the information to target their online pitches.
The practice represents a significant expansion in the ability to track a household's Web use because it taps into Internet connections, and critics liken it to a phone company listening in on conversations. But the companies involved say customers' privacy is protected because no personally identifying details are released.
The extent of the practice is difficult to gauge because some service providers involved have declined to discuss their practices. Many Web surfers, moreover, probably have little idea they are being monitored.
But at least 100,000 U.S. customers are tracked this way, and service providers have been testing it with as many as 10 percent of U.S. customers, according to tech companies involved in the data collection.
Although common tracking systems, known as cookies, have counted a consumer's visits to a network of sites, the new monitoring, known as "deep-packet inspection," enables a far wider view -- every Web page visited, every e-mail sent and every search entered. Every bit of data is divided into packets -- like electronic envelopes -- that the system can access and analyze for content.
"You don't want the phone company tapping your phone calls, and in the same way you don't want your ISP tapping your Web traffic," said Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an advocacy group. "There's a fear here that a user's ISP is going to betray them and turn their information over to a third party."
In fact, newly proposed Federal Trade Commission guidelines for behavioral advertising have been outpaced by the technology and do not address the practice directly. Privacy advocates are preparing to present to Congress their concerns that the practice is done without consumer consent and that too little is known about whether such systems adequately protect personal information.
Meanwhile, many online publishers say the next big growth in advertising will emerge from efforts to offer ads based not on the content of a Web page, but on knowing who is looking at it. That, of course, means gathering more information about consumers.
Advocates of deep-packet inspection see it as a boon for all involved. Advertisers can better target their pitches. Consumers will see more relevant ads. Service providers who hand over consumer data can share in advertising revenues. And Web sites can make more money from online advertising, a $20 billion industry that is growing rapidly.
With the service provider involved in collecting consumer data, "there is access to a broader spectrum of the Web traffic -- it's significantly more valuable," said Derek Maxson, chief technology officer of Front Porch, a company that collects such data from millions of users in Asia and is working with a number of U.S. service providers.
Consider, say, the Boston Celtics Web site. Based on its content, it posts ads for products a Celtics fan might be interested in: Adidas, a Boston hotel and so on.
With information about users from deep-packet inspection, however, advertisers might learn that the person looking at the Celtics Web site is also a potential car customer because he recently visited the Ford site and searched in Google for "best minivans." That means car companies might be interested in sending an ad to that user at the Celtics site, too.
For all its promise, however, the service providers exploring and testing such services have largely kept quiet -- "for fear of customer revolt," according to one executive involved.
It is only through the companies that design the data collection systems -- companies such as NebuAd, Phorm and Front Porch -- that it is possible to gauge the technology's spread. Front Porch collects detailed Web-use data from more than 100,000 U.S. customers through their service providers, Maxson said. NebuAd has agreements with providers covering 10 percent of U.S. broadband customers, chief executive Bob Dykes said.
In England, Phorm is expected in the coming weeks to launch its monitoring service with BT, Britain's largest Internet broadband provider.
NebuAd and Front Porch declined to name the U.S. service providers they are working with, saying it's up to the providers to announce how they deal with consumer data.
Some service providers, such as Embarq and Wide Open West, or WOW, have altered their customer-service agreements to permit the monitoring.
Embarq describes the monitoring as a "preference advertising service." Wide Open West tells customers it is working with a third-party advertising network and names NebuAd as its partner.
Officials at WOW and Embarq declined to talk about any monitoring that has been done.
Each company allows users to opt out of the monitoring, though that permission is buried in customer service documents. The opt-out systems work by planting a "cookie," or a small file left on a user's computer. Each uses a cookie created by NebuAd.
Officials at another service provider, Knology, said it was working with NebuAd and is conducting a test of deep-packet inspection on "several hundred" customers in a service area it declined to identify.
"I don't view it as violating any privacy data at all," said Anthony Palermo, vice present of marketing at Knology. "My understanding is that all these companies go through great pains to hash out information that is specific to the consumer."
One central issue, of course, is how well the companies protect consumer data.
NebuAd promises to protect users' privacy in a couple of ways.
First, every user in the NebuAd system is identified by a number that the company assigns rather than an Internet address, which in theory could be traced to a person. The number NebuAd assigns cannot be tracked to a specific address. That way, if the company's data is stolen or leaked, no one could identify customers or the Web sites they've visited, Dykes said.
Nor does NebuAd record a user's visits to pornography or gaming sites or a user's interests in sensitive subjects -- such as bankruptcy or a medical condition such as AIDS. The company said it processes but does not look into packets of information that include e-mail or pictures.
What it does do is categorize users into dozens of targeted consumer types, such as a potential car buyer or someone interested in digital cameras.
Dykes noted that by a couple of measures, their system may protect privacy more than such well-known companies as Google. Google stores a user's Internet address along with the searches made from that address. And while Google's mail system processes e-mail and serves ads based on keywords it finds in their text, NebuAd handles e-mail packets but does not look to them for advertising leads.
Such privacy measures aside, however, consumer advocates questioned whether monitored users are properly informed about the practice.
Knology customers, for example, cull the company's 27-page customer service agreement or its terms and condition for service to find a vague reference to its tracking system.
"They're buried in agreements -- who reads them?" said David Hallerman, a senior analyst at eMarketer. "The industry is setting itself up by not being totally transparent. . . . The perception is you're being tracked and targeted."
ISPs Hog Rights in Fine Print
What's scary, funny and boring at the same time? It could be a bad horror movie. Or it could be the fine print on your Internet service provider's contract.
Those documents you agree to - usually without reading - ostensibly allow your ISP to watch how you use the Internet, read your e-mail or keep you from visiting sites it deems inappropriate. Some reserve the right to block traffic and, for any reason, cut off a service that many users now find essential.
The Associated Press reviewed the "Acceptable Use Policies" and "Terms of Service" of the nation's 10 largest ISPs - in all, 117 pages of contracts that leave few rights for subscribers.
"The network is asserting almost complete control of the users' ability to use their network as a gateway to the Internet," said Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group. "They become gatekeepers rather than gateways."
But the provisions are rarely enforced, except against obvious miscreants like spammers. Consumer outrage would have been the likely result if AT&T Inc. (ATT) took advantage of its stated right to block any activity that causes the company "to be viewed unfavorably by others."
Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, said this clause was a "piece of boilerplate that is passed around the corporate lawyers like a Christmas fruitcake.
"The idea that they would ever invoke it and point to it is nuts, especially since their terms of service already say they can cut you off for any reason and give you a refund for the balance of the month," Zittrain said.
AT&T removed the "unfavorably by others" wording in February after The Associated Press asked about the reason behind it. Subscribers, however, wouldn't know that it was gone unless they checked the contract word for word: The document still said it was last updated Oct. 8, 2007.
Most companies reserve the right to change the contracts at any time, without any notice except an update on the Web site. Verizon used to say it would notify subscribers of changes by e-mail, but the current contract just leaves that as an option for the company.
This sort of contract, where the subscriber is considered to agree by signing up for service rather than by active negotiation, is given extra scrutiny by courts, Zittrain said. Any wiggle room or ambiguity is usually resolved in favor of the consumer rather than the company.
Yet the main purpose of ISP contracts isn't to circumscribe the service for all subscribers, but rather to provide legal cover for the company if it cuts off a user who's abusing the system.
"Without the safeguards offered in these policies, customers could suffer from degradation of service and be exposed to a broad variety of malware threats," said David Deliman, spokesman at Cox Communications.
The language does matter: In a case involving a student accused of hacking, a federal appeals court held last year that subscribers should have a lower expectation of privacy if their service provider has a stated policy of monitoring traffic.
But these broadly written contracts still don't provide all the legal cover ISPs want. Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) is being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission for interfering with file sharing by its subscribers. The company has pointed to its Acceptable Use Policy, which said, in general terms, that the company had the right to manage traffic. Since the investigation began, it has updated the policy to describe its practices in greater detail, and recently said it would stop targeting file-sharing once it puts a new traffic-management system in place late this year.
The Comcast case is a rare example of the government getting into the nitty-gritty of one of these contracts.
"There really should be an onus on the regulators to see this kind of thing is done correctly," said Bob Williams, who deals with telecom and media issues at Consumers Union.
If there were more competition, market forces might straighten out the contracts, he said. But most Americans have only two choices for broadband: the cable company or the phone company.
Williams himself knows that it's tough to pay attention to the contracts. He recently had Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ)'s FiOS broadband and TV service installed in his home. Only after the installation was completed did he get the contract in the mail.
He could have read some of the terms earlier, when placing the order online, but he just clicked the "Accept" button.
"I'm a hard-nosed consumer advocate type ... I really should have examined it better than I did," he said. But, he added, he acted like most consumers, because of the lack of alternatives. "You click the 'Accept' button because it's not like you're going somewhere else."
Other common clauses of ISP contracts:
ISPs can read your e-mail
Practically all ISPs reserve the right to read your e-mails and look at the sites you visit, without a wiretap order. This reflects the open nature of the Internet - for privacy purposes, e-mails are more like postcards than letters. It's also prompted by the ISPs' need to identify and stop subscribers who use their connections to send spam e-mails.
Some ISPs, like AT&T Inc., make clear that they do not read their subscriber's traffic as a matter of course, but also that they need little or no excuse to begin doing so. Cablevision, a cable operator in the Northeast, says one of the reasons it might look at what a customer is doing online would be to help operate its service properly.
The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act protects e-mail and other Internet communications from eavesdropping, but several of its provisions can be waived by agreements between the ISP and the subscriber. Also, the law is mainly aimed at making it difficult for the government, not companies, to snoop.
Wiretapping laws may also apply, but the situation is unclear. A federal appeals court panel in 2004 dismissed charges against a company that provided e-mail services for booksellers and snooped on their Amazon.com order confirmations. The charges of illegal wiretapping were reinstated by the full appeals court the next year, but the case hasn't been tried.
ISPs can block you from Web sites
Or at least they would like to think so. In a clause typical of ISPs, Comcast reserves the right to block or remove traffic it deems "inappropriate, regardless of whether this material or its dissemination is unlawful."
The ISP sees itself as the sole judge of whether something is appropriate.
Broad enforcement of this kind of clause for business purposes other than protecting users is likely to draw attention from regulators like the FCC, as is happening in the Comcast file-sharing case.
ISPs can shut you down for using the connection too much
For cable ISPs, up to 500 households may be sharing the capacity on a single line, and a few traffic hogs can slow the whole neighborhood down. But rather than saying publicly how much traffic is too much, some cable companies keep their caps secret, and simply warn offenders individually. If that doesn't work, they're kicked off.
It's difficult to reach these secret bandwidth caps unless users are downloading large amounts of high-quality video from the Internet, but the advent of high-definition Internet video set-top boxes like the Apple TV and the Vudu could make it more common.
Oddly, some ISPs, like Cox, say it's the responsibility of subscribers to ensure that they don't hog the traffic of other subscribers, a determination that's impossible for a home broadband user. Cox, however, does make the monthly download and upload limits public on its Web site.
Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) has said it will test putting public caps on how much new subscribers in Beaumont, Texas, can download per month, and charge them more if they go over.
Digital subscriber line providers like AT&T and Verizon aren't as concerned about bandwidth hogs, because phone lines aren't shared among households.
Tech-Savvy Rally for Access to Net
Unlikely Crusader, Free Press Leader Aims AT Web Rules
Bearing video cameras, laptops and cell phones, a small army of young activists flooded into a recent federal meeting in protest.
Members of public-interest group Free Press weren't there to support a presidential candidate or decry global warming. The tech-savvy hundreds went to the Federal Communications Commission's hearing at Harvard Law School last month to push new rules for the Internet.
For the first time, Congress and the FCC are debating wide-reaching Web regulations and policies that would determine how much control cable and telecommunications companies would have over the Internet. The issue has given rise to a new political constituency raised on text messaging and social networking and relies on e-mail blasts and online video clips in its advocacy.
Although Free Press has generated buzz for its aggressive and sometimes controversial tactics online, its ringleader in Washington is an unlikely crusader. A soft-spoken 30-year-old doctoral candidate, Ben Scott has become an operator in multibillion-dollar battles involving corporate titans, regulators and consumers debating policies over who controls the media and the Internet.
"There have been policy moments in the past when the market has been shaped by decisions made in Washington - radio in the 1930s, television in the 1950s and cable in the 1980s. That moment is now for the Internet," said Scott, who runs a nine-member office.
Working mostly behind the scenes, Scott has been a driving force for "Net neutrality," a concept that in policy terms has come to mean enforcement of open access online, so cable and telecom operators cannot block or delay content that travels over their networks. In a complaint filed at the FCC in November, Scott and his staff called for action against Comcast, which admitted it slowed content over its network involving the BitTorrent file-sharing site.
Scott and the group's 500,000 members, most of whom joined online, helped sell their argument. Free Press drew together strange bedfellows, including the Christian Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Gun Owners of America, and helped set in motion a broader debate on the issue that resulted in the recent FCC hearing in Cambridge, Mass. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., also sponsored a bill to strengthen governance against Internet service providers trying to control consumers' Web access over their networks.
"Ben has exquisite political judgment and is a key player in Net neutrality and wireless issues because he represents a new, grass-roots dynamic in the battle against media concentration and the communications colossus," said Markey, chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet.
Under pressure, Comcast on Thursday said it would work with BitTorrent to improve the transfer of large files over the network.
Free Press' critics - who spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions on Net neutrality policy are ongoing - say the group often oversimplifies complex technical issues, dismissing the importance of some network management practices that block spam and pornography, for example. Free Press is also not the populist group it makes itself out to be, critics noted, joining with corporate interests when it suits its goals, as it did with Google on Net neutrality. Also, they said the group is not as boot-strapped as it may appear, with donors such as billionaire George Soros and singer Barbra Streisand.
Free Press has more than $5 million in funding, in part from major foundations such as the Soros Open Society Institute. Its annual lobbying budget is $250,000, compared with the $13.8 million spent by Verizon Communications, $17.1 million by AT&T and $8.9 million by Comcast last year.
The group, founded in 2003, was the brainchild of Scott's doctoral adviser, media history Professor Robert McChesney of the University of Illinois. Its first mandate was to fight policy changes allowing greater media consolidation between local newspapers and broadcast concerns.
Scott, who was in Washington at the time, joined soon after.
"It was the moment when core policies were being set up on the future of digital media and communications," McChesney said. "For Ben, who had studied this stuff, it was like asking a political scientist to be chief of staff to the president."
The issue also resonated with Free Press' fast-growing membership. Members regularly blasted the FCC and lawmakers with e-mails, video and online petitions. They flooded the agency's hearings on media ownership around the country to protest the rules. A Philadelphia district court eventually overturned the regulations, sending the FCC back to the drawing board.
"What we've done is organize the massive pent-up frustration that the media wasn't measuring up," Scott said.
Harnessing that is sometimes just a matter of capturing a moment and publicizing it online - such as when Free Press discovered Comcast had paid people to attend the FCC hearing at Harvard and appear supportive of the company. The video of hired stand-ins sleeping in the front rows was viewed 60,000 times on YouTube.
Free Press' approach does occasionally backfire.
On Valentine's Day, as part of an e-mail campaign, Free Press posted a fictional online video of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in a hotel room with big corporate lobbyists. Eventually Scott was forgiven, and Martin consulted him about a Net neutrality hearing scheduled for next month at Stanford University.
"There have been times I might have agreed or disagreed with the position he's taken, but his ability to mobilize at the grass-roots level and advocate and communicate effectively has certainly had an influence at the commission," Martin said of Scott.
Comcast HD Quality Reduction: Details, Screenshots
Until recently, most Comcast systems passed all HD as is from the content provider, without any added compression or quality reduction. In response to competitive pressures from DirecTV and Verizon FiOS, Comcast recently decided to sacrifice some quality to improve quantity. By early April, most Comcast systems will recompress and degrade their HD, much like DirecTV and Dish Network do on their MPEG-2 channels. This creates room for new HD channels without the need to eliminate a significant number of analog channels.
Previously, Comcast allocated a maximum of two HD channels per 38.8Mbps QAM, so each channel had the full 19.4Mbps available if needed. Now, with the addition of new channels, Comcast is squeezing three HD channels into each 38.8Mbps QAM. Furthermore, some existing QAMs with two HD channels are being recompressed in preparation for new channel additions.
But what does that mean? How much difference is there, really?
To find out, I decided to compare the quality of the same programs on Comcast and Verizon FiOS. I recorded the same program from the same channel, at the same time, on both Comcast and Verizon FiOS in N. VA. I compared the size and bitrate of each MPEG-2 recording, as well as the subjective quality with video.
Note when I tested channels late last year, there were no differences between the two providers on HD. Any differences are new.
For now at least, Comcast is not recompressing local HD channels. Quality issues with local HD channels are the fault of your local network affiliate. As of March 18, ESPN-HD, ESPN2-HD, and Comcast Sportsnet also remain at full quality.
The Comcast channels with added compression are listed as follows, grouped by QAM.
Discovery HD Theater
Extra compression was also applied to several other channels, presumably to make room for future channel additions. MHD is one such example.
All of these channels are re-compressed at the Comcast Media Center (CMC) in Denver and uplinked to the AMC18 satellite for distribution to Comcast systems around the country. If your Comcast system has all (or most) of the channels listed above, then the added compression is likely in effect on your system. Former Adelphia systems appear to be one exception to that rule; a number of former Adelphia systems are passing the original source feeds as is, and have not yet switched to the recompressed feeds from the CMC.
Average bitrates were obtained by comparing the size of each recording, in total bytes, and dividing by the total number of seconds reported by VideoRedo. Multiplied by 8 to convert MBps to Mbps.
Average Bitrates on FiOS v. Comcast
FiOS Comcast Difference
AETV HD 18.66 Mbps 14.48 Mbps -28.9%
Discovery HD 14.16 Mbps 10.43 Mbps -35.8%
Discovery HD Theater 17.45 Mbps 12.60 Mbps -38.5%
Food Network HD 14.32 Mbps 13.73 Mbps -4.3%
MHD 17.73 Mbps 13.21 Mbps -34.2%
National Geographic HD 11.39 Mbps 10.32 Mbps -10.3%
Universal HD 12.72 Mbps 11.01 Mbps -15.5%
HBO HD 8.87 Mbps 8.81 Mbps -0.7%
Cinemax HD 11.40 Mbps 10.77 Mbps -5.8%
Starz HD 11.93 Mbps 9.76 Mbps -22.2%
History HD 10.40 Mbps
SciFi HD 12.59 Mbps
USA HD 12.48 Mbps
It is obvious that the quality of the source signal plays a significant role in amount of degradation seen with Comcast's newly added compression. Sources like Discovery Channel (not Discovery Theater) and Universal HD are highly compressed to start with, and adding extra compression on top of that causes the picture to deteriorate rapidly with excessive noise and detail loss. In contrast, higher-quality sources like Discovery Theater still look very good, with the only obvious differences being some added noise and some minor loss of fine detail during motion.
For the most part, fine detail remains very good on static (non-moving) images with Comcast's added compression, but you do see reduced contrast, with more dithering artifacts (banding) between colors and objects. With some channels, it looks a bit like Comcast is taking a 24-bit image and reducing it to 18-20 bit. This tends to reduce the 'pop' effect in some images. The difference in 'pop' was quite noticeable on Food HD, despite the relatively small bitrate reduction.
The greatest differences are seen with movement. With slow movement on Comcast, the first thing you notice is added noise and a softer image, as fine detail is filtered from the picture signal. The greater the rate of movement, the more detail you lose and the more noise you see. With intense movement, you see more blocking and skipped frames. In VideoRedo, I noticed that a number of frames in the FiOS signal simply did not exist in the Comcast signal during motion intensive scenes. This may be responsible for the stutter and excessive motion blur seen with some video sequences on Comcast.
To Comcast's credit, I saw little to no difference on movie channels such as HBO, Cinemax, and Starz. I did see some blurring and reduced detail during fast movement on Starz, but the recordings from Cinemax and HBO were virtually identical, even on action movies such as 300 and Gladiator. When there was blocking on the Comcast feed of Cinemax, that blocking was also on the FiOS feed.
Comcast Plans Faster Net Speeds
Comcast Corp. will start offering faster Internet services in Minnesota's Twin Cities region on Thursday, with plans to extend that type of next-generation system to its entire service area by 2010.
The $150-a-month offering for residential customers costs about triple Comcast's priciest option to date and likely will appeal only to heavy users of online music, movies and other large Internet files.
But the nation's largest cable operator expects new Internet services down the road to demand ever-greater speeds.
''A decade ago we couldn't even conceive of ... YouTube,'' Google Inc.'s video-sharing service, said Greg Butz, Comcast's vice president for marketing and product development. ''We hope that this platform we're building will drive and create that next-level invention and drag with it a broad array of customers.''
With the faster service, a customer could download a 4 gigabyte high-definition movie in about 10 minutes, compared with about an hour at previous speeds.
Comcast's announcement comes just a week after the company reversed its stance over hampering online file-sharing by its subscribers and, under pressure from federal regulators, promised to treat all types of Internet traffic equally.
Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said the technologies being deployed in Minneapolis and St. Paul would help the company meet that promise, which followed an Associated Press investigation in October confirming user reports of interference with file-sharing traffic known as BitTorrent.
The Philadelphia-based company agreed last Thursday to collaborate with BitTorrent Inc. and develop a better system for managing congestion. Comcast has said it must clamp down on heavy users of Internet bandwidth so others won't be slowed down.
Until the new traffic-management system is fully tested and deployed, expected by year's end, Douglas said the faster Comcast service would still be subject to hampering.
''Just because we increase all the roads in Philadelphia to eight-lane highways doesn't mean we can take out all the traffic lights,'' Douglas said. ''It's going to take a little bit of time to get this new system in place.''
The new service, which Comcast has yet to name, will allow the cable operator to better compete with phone company Verizon Communications Inc., whose next-generation FiOS already offers service at up to 50 megabits per second.
Comcast will also be offering up to 50 Mbps for downloading, or receiving, files. Uploading, or sending, files will be at up to 5 Mbps. The monthly $150 price is available only to residential customers; small businesses will have to pay $200 for a package that includes additional technical support and security software.
The existing high-end tier costs $53. Maximum upload speeds for those customers will automatically increase to 2 Mbps, more than doubling the current limits. Downloads will remain at up to 8 Mbps. Maximum upload speeds for the basic, $43 tier will nearly triple to 1 Mbps, while downloads will remain capped at 6 Mbps.
Cablevision Systems Corp. already offers a 50 Mbps maximum download service -- with 50 Mbps maximum uploads -- but does not actively market it. Cablevision's fastest advertised service costs up to $65 for maximum downloads of 30 Mbps downloads and uploads of 5 Mbps.
To offer the new tier, Comcast is taking advantage of a technology called DOCSIS 3.0, which allows service providers to use four TV channels rather than just one to send data over the cables. The industry group CableLabs is nearing certification of DOCSIS 3.0 modems.
Butz said Comcast would deploy the new systems to about 20 percent of its service area by year's end, finishing by mid-2010. He refused to say which markets would get the upgrades next. The company said that although the initial offerings would cap downloads at 50 Mbps, the technology could support service three times as fast in the future.
World’s Biggest Broadband Powerline Project Advances
Velchip Sdn Bhd has formalised three major partnership arrangements in Kuala Lumpur to advance its major broadband powerline (BPL) project for 60 million users in Indonesia.
Broadband over Powerline (BPL) provider Velchip Sdn Bhd has formalised three major partnerships to advance the world’s biggest BPL project that was announced earlier this month.
Representatives of Velchip’s holding company, Masers International– Rahman and company president Wan Sarkawi Tuanku Jaapar Al-Yahya -- signed three main agreements in Kuala Lumpur, to be later witnessed by Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Ahmad Badawi.
Badawi was reported to applaud the Malaysian company’s efforts to enhance economic growth and Internet literacy in developing countries as well as improve bilateral ties between Malaysia and Indonesia.
The first agreement was with investment firm Sarz Al Yahya Corporation, which will inject project financing of US$14 billion.
Secondly, the company signed with US-based satellite infrastructure provider STM Networks Inc. who will use five satellites to provide communications services.
Thirdly, a 100-year agreement was exchanged with Nadhlatul Ulama Indonesia and Manhad Islam Hadhari, the Indonesian clients responsible for the network of mosques that will be converted during the BPL project.
According to the company’s chief executive officer Suhaimi Abdul Rahman, the US$14 billion “Smart Mosque” project will be rolled out over three years in Indonesia and will link together 400,000 mosques and serve 60 million users.
“This project will offer 60 million users unlimited high speed Internet connection of 224Mbps (megabits per second) at a cost of only around RM5 (US$1.58) per user per month, which is the fastest and cheapest in the world,” he said.
BPL modems use existing electrical power lines to deliver high speed Internet access and data transmission.
Velchip is a Pinnacle worldwide partner of the upcoming World Congress on Information Technology (www.wcit2008.org), to be held in Kuala Lumpur in May this year. Computerworld Malaysia is the official IT media for the WCIT.
Coming Soon: Superfast Internet
THE internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds.
At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, “the grid” will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.
The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that created the web, the grid could also provide the kind of power needed to transmit holographic images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call.
David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technologies could “revolutionise” society. “With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine,” he said.
The power of the grid will become apparent this summer after what scientists at Cern have termed their “red button” day - the switching-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the new particle accelerator built to probe the origin of the universe. The grid will be activated at the same time to capture the data it generates.
Cern, based near Geneva, started the grid computing project seven years ago when researchers realised the LHC would generate annual data equivalent to 56m CDs - enough to make a stack 40 miles high.
This meant that scientists at Cern - where Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web in 1989 - would no longer be able to use his creation for fear of causing a global collapse.
This is because the internet has evolved by linking together a hotchpotch of cables and routing equipment, much of which was originally designed for telephone calls and therefore lacks the capacity for high-speed data transmission.
By contrast, the grid has been built with dedicated fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data. The 55,000 servers already installed are expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years.
Professor Tony Doyle, technical director of the grid project, said: “We need so much processing power, there would even be an issue about getting enough electricity to run the computers if they were all at Cern. The only answer was a new network powerful enough to send the data instantly to research centres in other countries.”
That network, in effect a parallel internet, is now built, using fibre optic cables that run from Cern to 11 centres in the United States, Canada, the Far East, Europe and around the world.
One terminates at the Rutherford Appleton laboratory at Harwell in Oxfordshire.
From each centre, further connections radiate out to a host of other research institutions using existing high-speed academic networks.
It means Britain alone has 8,000 servers on the grid system – so that any student or academic will theoretically be able to hook up to the grid rather than the internet from this autumn.
Ian Bird, project leader for Cern’s high-speed computing project, said grid technology could make the internet so fast that people would stop using desktop computers to store information and entrust it all to the internet.
“It will lead to what’s known as cloud computing, where people keep all their information online and access it from anywhere,” he said.
Computers on the grid can also transmit data at lightning speed. This will allow researchers facing heavy processing tasks to call on the assistance of thousands of other computers around the world. The aim is to eliminate the dreaded “frozen screen” experienced by internet users who ask their machine to handle too much information.
The real goal of the grid is, however, to work with the LHC in tracking down nature’s most elusive particle, the Higgs boson. Predicted in theory but never yet found, the Higgs is supposed to be what gives matter mass.
The LHC has been designed to hunt out this particle - but even at optimum performance it will generate only a few thousand of the particles a year. Analysing the mountain of data will be such a large task that it will keep even the grid’s huge capacity busy for years to come.
Although the grid itself is unlikely to be directly available to domestic internet users, many telecoms providers and businesses are already introducing its pioneering technologies. One of the most potent is so-called dynamic switching, which creates a dedicated channel for internet users trying to download large volumes of data such as films. In theory this would give a standard desktop computer the ability to download a movie in five seconds rather than the current three hours or so.
Additionally, the grid is being made available to dozens of other academic researchers including astronomers and molecular biologists.
It has already been used to help design new drugs against malaria, the mosquito-borne disease that kills 1m people worldwide each year. Researchers used the grid to analyse 140m compounds - a task that would have taken a standard internet-linked PC 420 years.
“Projects like the grid will bring huge changes in business and society as well as science,” Doyle said.
“Holographic video conferencing is not that far away. Online gaming could evolve to include many thousands of people, and social networking could become the main way we communicate.
“The history of the internet shows you cannot predict its real impacts but we know they will be huge.”
World's Fastest Internet Connection 'Used to Dry Laundry'
Last summer a 75-year-old woman from Karlstad became the envy of internet users worldwide.
With her blistering 40 gigabits per second connection, Sigbritt Löthberg had the world's fastest internet connection - many thousands of times faster than the average residential link and the first time ever that a home user had experienced such a high speed.
So after nine months with the ability to download a full high definition DVD in just two seconds or access to 1,500 high definition HDTV channels simultaneously, how has Sigbritt's life changed?
Not much, according to Hafsteinn Jonsson, who is heading up the fibre network operation for Karlstad Stadsnät.
"She mostly used it to dry her laundry," he told The Local.
"It was a big bit of gear and it got pretty warm."
Sigbritt's son, Swedish internet legend Peter Löthberg, was behind the project, which was intended to demonstrate how a low price, high capacity fibre line could be built over long distances. Löthberg has now taken the equipment up to Luleĺ, in the north of Sweden, for further testing.
"The project was a huge success," said Hafsteinn Jonsson, who explained that his department now measures its history in terms of 'Before Sigbritt and After Sigbritt'.
"Apart from the death of Ingmar Bergman, this was the biggest story to come out of Sweden in 2007. We used to get all these detailed questions about what we're working on - now we just mention Sigbritt and everybody understands."
The secret behind the ultra-fast connection is a new modulation technique which allows data to be transferred directly between two routers up to 2,000 kilometres apart, with no intermediary transponders.
According to Karlstad Stadsnät the distance is, in theory, unlimited - there is no data loss as long as the fibre is in place.
Sigbritt may have been denied her world-beating internet link but she still has an admirable 10 gigabits per second connection. And there may be another surprise in store for her.
"We're considering giving her a 100 gigabits per second connection in the summer," said Hafsteinn Jonsson.
"Then she'll be able to dry all her neighbours' laundry too."
|02-04-08, 09:00 AM||#2|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
The Democratization of the Music Industry
As I write this, iTunes ranks as the 2nd largest seller of music in the U.S. -- only Wal-Mart's physical stores sell more. Digital revenue is real, and there is a lot of it being earned. Sales from iTunes alone can provide a band enough revenue to achieve true financial success. Don't take my word for it, just look at some of the sales by the following unsigned artists utilizing the Net for both digital distribution and marketing: Kelly sold over 500,000 songs in five months, Eric Hutchinson sold 120,000 songs in three weeks, The Medic Droid sold over 25,000 copies of a single in 45 days, Crank Squad sold over 20,000 songs in 30 days, Secondhand Serenade sold over 225,500 songs in three months, Jason Reeves sold over 20,000 songs in December 2007 and the list goes on and on. Unlike a physical store, digital stores like iTunes have unlimited shelf space allowing everything to be in stock. If the virtual shelves fill up, another hard drive is popped in to make more shelf space. In addition, inventory never runs out; the music simply replicates itself on demand each time it is bought.
After 17 years of running my record label spinART Records, I shut it down. The advent and general adoption of the Internet, digital media and hardware took control of the global music industry away from the record labels and media outlets and handed it to the masses. For the first time in history, through sites like TuneCore, all music creators can choose to be their own record label. There are no longer subjective gatekeepers controlling who gets let "in," promoted and exposed. The choice is ours. Now, anyone can be famous.
In 1991, I asked my high school friend if I could help him release an indie rock band compilation CD called "One Last Kiss," he said "yes" and spinART Records was born. For the next 17 years I co-ran the label and had the privilege of releasing many of the bands on my high school and college mix tapes (The Pixies, Camper Van Beethoven, Roddy Frame (Aztec Camera), Echo & The Bunnymen, The Church, Richard Thompson, and more) as well as a large number of other bands discovered post college (Lilys, Lotion, Clem Snide, Apples In Stereo, The Dears, Poole, etc.).
In 1996, I cold-called Ken Goes, then manager for the Pixies and Frank Black, in an attempt to convince him that our band Lotion should open for Frank Black on his upcoming national tour. While on the phone, Ken put me on hold for about two minutes. When he returned he told me the deal he had been working on with another record label to release the new Frank Black & The Catholics album had just fallen through -- Frank Black would not grant them the digital rights as they had already been assigned to another company called GoodNoise (now called eMusic). I told Ken this would not be a problem for me. spinART went on to release the next seven Frank Black & The Catholic albums, a Pixies album and a double disc called Frank Black Francis.
Soon thereafter I met the founders of eMusic and went on to work with them for the next 3 ˝ years. spinART Records became the first label in the history of the music industry to put its available catalog up for paid download as MP3s and the education I received helped set the stage to adapt to the inevitable changes about to impact the music industry. I took to the emerging digital sector the way Bush took to weapons of mass destruction.
Over the ensuing years, spinART had its peaks and valleys. By 2004, there were a lot more valleys than peaks. The label still did what it did very well, identifying bands that it believed people would like and making them famous. But there was one big change, in the "old days" the more famous an artist got, the more money the bands and spinART made by selling the music. Almost suddenly, this correlation seemed to be breaking. Necessity being the mother of invention, it got me thinking, what could I do to remain in the music industry under a model that would not rely on selling music (the exploitation model). And thus the idea for a new model was born, turn distribution into a service for a simple up front, one time flat fee.
For the past century, artists could record, manufacture, market, and, to some degree, promote their own music, but no matter if they were The Beatles, Elvis or Led Zepplin, they could not distribute it and get in placed on the shelves of the stores across the country; the required costs and infrastructure of the physical world were just too massive -- a 500,00 square foot warehouse staffed with 30 people, trucks and inventory systems, insurance, a field staff of 30 people walking to music stores leveraging, begging, pleading and paying to get the CD, album, 8-track, wax spool, etc., on the precious shelves of the retail stores -- and checking up afterwards. Distribution was out of the hands of any one person, no matter how dedicated or wealthy. Without the music available to buy, there was no way for it to sell.
Record labels made artists famous and made money off that fame by selling the music -- without the music available to buy, there was no way for it to sell. The record labels exclusively had the relationships with the distributors (and in the case of the "four major record labels" the same company owns both). Therefore, with only one means to the desired end, the goal for many artists was to get "signed" to a label.
Record labels were in a very unique position of power due to their exclusive access to distribution, they were not only the singular gatekeepers to a career for an artist by "signing" them to an exclusive contract, but they were also the subjective "deciders" as to what music was pushed out and promoted to the media outlets. With a "signing," the labels acquired exclusive rights to and from the artist. In return, the label advanced money while providing the relationships, expertise and infrastructure to record, manufacture, market, promote, distribute and sell the music. Of all the artists and music creators in the world, far less than 1% got chosen by the labels due to the risks and economics of the "brick and mortar" world. Of all the music created around the globe, even less has had the opportunity to be discovered and heard by the masses.
And then the world changed thanks to the Internet and digital media.......
For administrative reasons, most of the digital stores like iTunes don't deal directly with the artists -- frankly, customer support for millions of bands (or Uncle Larry, who insists he can do the best version of "How Much Is That Doggy In The Window") are not what the digital stores are about. The stores prefer to get the music from music industry middlemen that aggregate music and deal with the administrative headaches (a record label as one example). The way to meaningful distribution has been reduced from "access plus infrastructure" to merely "access."
With the launch of TuneCore (full disclosure here, I am the CEO and founder), for the cost of a six pack and a pizza (around $30), anyone can now literally be their own record label and have the same distribution as any "signed" artist. However, unlike a "signed" artist, this new model allows artists to keep all their rights and receive all the money from the sale of their music via a non-exclusive agreement that can be cancelled at any time, all while having infinite inventory with no up front cost or risk.
This is analogous to telling a band 15 years ago that if they paid $30, every Tower Record store (god bless its now departed soul) around the world would have their album on its shelf and never run out of stock.
Music marketing and promotion is simply giving music to media outlets in hopes that they play it, talk about it or write about it. In the old days, there were three main media outlets that provided the general population a way to discover music en masse: commercial radio, TV (i.e., MTV, VH1, BET) and print magazines like Rolling Stone.
These three media outlets created a second subjective filter as they decided which music videos to show, albums to write about or singles to play on the radio from a limited pool of artists promoted to them via the labels. If an artist was not on a label, the possibility of getting exposure from any of these three outlets was virtually impossible -- MTV in particular.
Just getting pitched to any three of these media outlets also required a label due to the costs (i.e., making a video, greasing the palms of the programming directors at commercial radio stations, hiring a publicist, etc.) and connections.
Once again, enter the digital age. The Internet has created new media outlets and given everyone global access. Commercial radio is being replaced by Internet based recommendation streaming radio stations like LastFM that let all music in for programming, not just music pushed from the labels. MTV (when they actually played music videos and nothing was being pimped out, dated or real world-ed) has been replaced by sites like YouTube. All anyone needs now is a cell phone to make their own video and broadcast to a potential Internet viewing audience of hundreds of millions. Print magazines have been replaced by MP3 blogs like Stereogum, Gorilla Vs. Bear, PitchforkMedia, My Old Kentucky Blog and many others. These, combined with social networking sites like iLike, MySpace and more, have limitless circulation and the ability to allow readers and users to form a community that listens to, shares, rates, comments on and in some cases, even buys music. Everyone can become their own commercial radio station, magazine and/or TV network, reaching tens of millions of people.
With the restrictions of the physical world removed sites like iTunes have new vehicles allowing people to discover and share free music (make sure to snag a copy of 34 Stars, a 34-artist compilation album available for free download on iTunes
Subjectivity and filters have been removed. All music can be discovered, downloaded, shared, promoted, heard and bought directly by the audience itself. It is truly the democratization of an industry.
As far as the other label functions, these are now affordable and accessible for everyone. For the cost of one day at a studio, you can go to a place like Guitar Center (disclosure again -- Guitar Center have an equity position in TuneCore) and get inexpensive high quality gear to record at home along with lots of knowledgeable experts working the floors to educate and advise. With the removal of a physical medium to deliver the music (i.e., a CD), the barriers and expenses created by physical manufacturing have been removed.
Allowing all music creators "in" is both exciting and frightening. Some argue that we need subjective gatekeepers as filters. No matter which way you feel about it, there are a few indisputable facts -- control has been taken away from the "four major labels" and the traditional media outlets. We, the "masses," now have access to create, distribute, discover, promote, share and listen to any music. Hopefully access to all of this new music will inspire us, make us think and open doors and minds to new experiences we choose, not what a corporation or media outlet decides we should want. It is then the public, not a corporation that gets to decide what is bad and good. The revolution (pun intended) has truly begun.
Apple Passes Wal-Mart, Now #1 Music Retailer in US
Over the past few years, we have watched Apple climb the music sales chart courtesy of the iTunes. Last month we learned that Apple passed Best Buy to become the number two retailer in the the US in December. Now, Apple has ascended to the top of the charts, surpassing Wal-Mart for the first time ever, according to an NPD MusicWatch Survey for the month January contained in an internal Apple e-mail which was leaked to Ars Technica but has not been officially published.
The news was announced in an e-mail sent this afternoon to some Apple employees, a copy of which was seen by Ars Technica. It includes a screenshot of an Excel file showing the top ten music retailers in the US for January 2008, and Apple is at the top of the list. The iTunes Store leads the pack with 19 percent, Wal-Mart (which includes the brick-and-mortar stores as well as its online properties) is second with 15 percent, and Best Buy is third with 13 percent. Amazon is a distant fourth at 6 percent, trailed by the likes of Borders, Circuit City, and Barnes & Noble. Rhapsody is in the tenth slot with 1 percent.
The fact that a digital-only retailer has ascended to the top of the sales charts is not unexpected, but it does demonstrate just how much the music landscape has changed since the beginning of the decade. The NPD Group has been tracking a "sharp increase" in digital downloads over the past several months as physical sales dry up. According to NPD's research, 48 percent of US teens didn't buy a single CD in 2007, compared to 38 percent in 2006.
Apple sits atop the NPD Group's list. At the request of the NPD we have removed screenshots of the documents in question
It has been a dizzying climb for Apple, which only managed to pass Amazon to become the number three music retailer in June 2007. The biggest surprise is Amazon's drop to the number four slot, which might be explained by consumers using iTunes, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy gift cards to buy music after the holiday season—and those gift cards certainly helped propel Apple to the number-one position.
For the music industry, there is a dark side to Apple's ascension to the top of the charts. Buying patterns for digital downloads are different, as customers are far more likely to cherry pick a favorite track or two from an album than purchase the whole thing. In contrast, brick-and-mortar sales are predominantly high-margin CDs. For 2007, that translated into a 10 percent decline in overall music spending according to the NPD Group, and it's a trend that's expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Overall, paid downloads accounted for almost 30 percent of all music sold in January, a number that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. With the Big Four labels throwing off the DRM shackles and experimenting with new delivery models like Last.fm's free streaming service, the future looks bright for digital music distribution.
Update: note on "debunking"
We have seen some stories this morning claiming to have debunked this report based on conjecture (no factual detail or analysis). We repeat: the document says what we said it says, and you can see it for yourself. The documents were also distributed to Apple employees, and show Apple as the number-one music retailer during the period in question. That can't be debunked, sorry. (Sure, you can claim that the data is bad, or sampled incorrectly, but there's no proof of that yet.)
Also, I already noted that the results are influenced by gift card usage, and I noted that other retailers on the list have gift cards, too—don't forget that fact. A sale is a sale, as well. We could also argue forever over whether or not gift cards sales matter, but note that no one was bothered by Apple's December results which included a great deal of gift card purchases as well (but didn't inspire any debunking that time around).
This is a monumental event for Apple, because while the company may not be guaranteed the top spot for eternity—or even the following month—it is something many thought would never happen. But in closing, rest assured that this report is accurate.
BofA Sees 3G iPhone Build in May, Predictions "Too Conservative"
Further fueling talk of a 3G-capable iPhone this spring, a research note from Bank of America claims knowledge of next-generation Apple handset production beginning in May, and warns that past sales predictions have been timid.
In his message to investors, financial analyst Scott Craig points to channel investigations which show an iPhone capable of faster, third-generation cellular Internet access produced in small numbers in May, with a larger number surfacing in June as Apple prepares a formal rollout for the new device.
"This likely implies a launch announcement in [the second calendar quarter]," Craig says.
Apple is also likely to significantly increase its iPhone production compared to its most recent full quarter. While iPhone production during the holidays totaled 2.3 million, the Bank of America researcher estimates about three million 2G and 3G iPhones made during the spring quarter and a much larger eight or more million during the summer. Each additional million units sold could add about $400 million to Apple's bottom line, Craig notes.
Simultaneous reports on Friday supported the analyst's statements., with the Taiwanese Commercial Times paper alleging that bidding is underway for 3G iPhone manufacturing while Dow Jones ventured so far as to claim that Hon Hai had already won a contract for production of an advanced model.
The investigations of the supply chain have been enough to warrant a significant rethink of longer-term predictions for 2008. As Apple may now produce the same eight million iPhones in one quarter that analysts have been predicting for the entire year, previous estimates are now "starting to look too conservative," according to Craig.
The expert maintained existing forecasts for the rest of Apple's lineup. iPod shipments are estimated to drop by several percentage points year over year for the first quarter, dipping below 10 million units, while a combination of the MacBook Air and refreshes to existing portables is tagged as a likely upside for computer sales.
Over the Line
Sometimes all it takes is one hit song to establish yourself in the music business. For Brewer and Shipley that song was "One Toke Over The Line", which was a Top Ten hit back in 1971. That song was not without controversy, but we'll let Michael Brown address that topic as well as a host of others.
Q - The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia Of Rock And Roll described Brewer and Shipley as "Folk Rockers". How accurate would you say that is?
A - I would say that's pretty accurate.
Q - Oh, they're right for a change!
A - Yeah. It's funny you should mention that because when my daughters were young, one day they came home from school and said "Dad, there's a book in the library that you're in!" (laughs) That's the one you're talking about.
Q - Brewer and Shipley formed in 1968?
A - Actually, about '67. Our first album came out in '68 titled "Down In L.A.". It was on A&M Records. That's how we got together. Tom and I were both folksingers, playing the coffee house circuit in the 60s, as solos. We both ended up in California. I had a partner before Tom and we had a band. We toured with The Byrds at the time "Eight Miles High" was their current single. The Buffalo Springfield formed in the house next door to me. In fact, that's where they got their name, off this machine right in front of my house. Anyway, Tom came to L.A. We knew each other from the Folk circuit. At this point my other partner and I had split up. I was a staff writer for one of A&M's publishing companies. Tom and I ended up co-writing a couple of tunes. I helped him get a job doing the same thing. We continued to write songs. We'd go in and demo them for the publishing company. It didn't take long for them or us to realize that we had sort of a sound and style of our own. That's how our first album came about.
Q - What did you call yourself on that Byrds tour?
A - Mastin and Brewer.
Q - Was that a nation-wide tour?
A - No. Just Southern California.
Q - So, when you signed a songwriting contract with A&M in 1965, that meant you wrote for other artists on the label?
A - Right.
Q - Who did you write for and how did you get that job?
A - Well, Mastin and I had a recording contract with Columbia. Just about the time we had a single ready to come out and we were going in to record an album, he just freaked. He couldn't take the pressure and he just split. The Buffalo Springfield and we were packing 'em in at the Whisky A Go Go. Mastin told me he met some girl and was moving in with her. He asked if I'd bring his amp to the gig, which I did and he just never showed. About three days later a mutual friend said "I just saw Tom in San Francisco." At least I knew which direction he headed. Our man at Columbia Records was leaving and going to this brand new record company just being formed by these two guys...Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. At that time A&M Records and their publishing company was literally an office with some filing cabinets. Then they went on to get the Perry Mason studios, which before that was the Charlie Chaplin studios, for their headquarters. He just kind of took me under his wing to A&M and I got the job as a staff writer.
Q - So, who did you write for?
A - Well, it's not like you specifically write songs for somebody. You just write songs. Maybe you could get somebody to cut 'em. I had tunes recorded by Glen Yarborough, Noel Harrison, Rex Harrison's son, and a group called HP Lovecraft. Then Tom and I had various songs recorded by various artists as well. Then we started doing our own. I've written songs since then that have been recorded by Stephen Stills, Don McLean, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jonathan Edwards and various Bluegrass groups.
Q - When did you first arrive in L.A.? The mid-sixties?
A - Yeah. I originally was out there for several months the first time I was out there. Actually, I went to San Francisco and lived there for a year and moved to L.A. for about two or three more years. That's when Tom came out, when I was down in L.A.
Q - That had to have been an exciting time to have been in California. If you were in the Bay Area, did you see some of the hot up and coming bands of the day?
A - Oh gosh, yeah. There was a club called The Matrix. I used to see on the same bill at the club, The Jefferson Airplane before Grace Slick and The Grateful Dead and The Quicksilver Messenger Service and golly...the list just went on and on.
Q - How about Janis and Big Brother?
A - Yeah. I did see them, but that was after. That was later.
Q - Did you catch The Doors at The Whisky?
A - Oh, sure. And there was a club called The Troubadour that aside from the regular artists that did their shows there on Monday nights...it was Hootenanny night. Open mic night. You paid your dollar to get to play. If you didn't get a chance to play, you got your dollar back. On any given Monday night, it was everybody before they were famous from Linda Ronstadt to Jackson Browne. The first time I saw him he was 17 years old. You never knew who you were gonna see. You never knew who was gonna end up being famous.
Q - This first album of yours, "Down In L.A." was actually a demo of your songs?
A - Well, actually that was our first album. The songs were basically made up of demos. That's where most of these songs came from, songs that we had written for A&M. Basically, we were writing for ourselves. In fact, when I listen to our first three albums today, they're pretty cool little time capsules actually. We didn't intend for them to be at the time, but they are. They hold up.
Q - What I was trying to get at is, the album is not made up of actual demos you recorded, is it?
A - No. We went back in and recorded everything.
Q - So, that was wrong. You didn't get mad and move to a commercial farm outside of Kansas City and switch to Kama Sutra Records?
A - (laughs) I just love the press, don't you? It never ceases to crack me up how inaccurate they are. But, it's in print and if somebody didn't know any better, you take it as gospel.
Q - That's were I come in.
A - Exactly. It wasn't made up of demos. The songs were songs we wrote for A&M that we had demoed. That's what got us a deal. It wasn't working out at all with this guy Alan Stanton, who was the guy who brought me there in the first place. He was producing us, but it was different worlds. He was old school and we were definitely new school. And this is when artists were first starting to write their own songs, much less have any control over production. Up to that point, you just went into the studio and did what you were told. We were basically producing ourselves. It just wasn't' working out. We weren't getting what we were wanting. So, we ended up doing half the album at Leon Russell's home studio. That's when he was going by his real name, Russell Bridges. He played a bunch of keyboard on that album. Jimmy Messina played bass.
Q - When did you move to that communal farm?
A - We never did. (laughs) We left L.A. 'cause we named our album "Down In L.A.", if that gives you any idea of how we felt living out there. We just figured there had to be a better way to make music and hopefully earn your living without living in L.A. or San Francisco or Nashville or New York. So, we ended up in Kansas City. We didn't plan to move to K.C. One thing led to another and we just did. We did have a little farm outside of town and lived there for several years.
Q - How did Kama Sutra enter the picture?
A - Well, basically we got out of our deal with A&M because in those days the business couldn't relate to you if you didn't live in L.A., San Francisco, Nashville or New York. The fact that we'd gone back to the Heartland meant to them that we had quit the business. We formed a management, production company in Kansas City called Good Karma Productions. We ended up going East instead of West. I can't remember how Buddha / Kama Sutra ended up being the label we signed with. I know that Neil Bogart was the King of Bubblegum at the time. This is when FM music and album music was really happening. It wasn't just all about singles. We were definitely album artists. He wanted to get into that and shatter his King of Bubblegum image. So, we were one of the first album artists he signed.
Q - How well did you do at Kama Sutra Records?
A - We did well. We did five albums for Buddha.
Q - What happened when "One Toke Over The Line" hit?
A - Well, a lot of things happened. Well, basically we were living on the road at this point anyway, trying to establish our company in Kansas City. We played virtually every high school gymnasium and college in the entire heartland. Well, all over the country for that matter. We just kept on touring. We just started playing much bigger places and got paid a lot more. (laughs) That was the main thing that happened with "One Toke". And of course it was controversial. We wrote that song one night just entertaining ourselves in the dressing room of this little coffee house in Kansas City. Little did we know that it would end up being a Classic Rock hit, still played 25 - 30 years later, not to mention the fact that at the time it was the Nixon / Agnew administration. This was when the FCC was threatening radio stations with censoring lyrics. It was just ridiculous. In fact, Spiro Agnew name us personally on national TV one night as "subversives to American youth." (laughs) We loved it! We made Nixon's enemies list! It got us more publicity than we could have paid for. But, it was very controversial. At exactly the same time, and I swear this is true, and this is an example of how a song is what ever you interpret it to be, Lawrence Welk did "One Toke Over The Line". He introduced it as a Gospel song.
Q - On his TV show?
A - Yup.
Q - I won't ask you what you meant in that song...
A - Well, I wouldn't tell you anyway. I always told everybody it's whatever you want it to be.
Q - To me, it's just a catchy Pop song.
A - Right. To this day, so many people still think it's "One Tote Over The Line". (laughs) They don't even know what the word was. It is what you want it to be.
Q - How long did it take you to write that song?
A - It was a fast one. We basically wrote it entertaining ourselves one night. We were bored in the dressing room of a coffee house between shows.
Q - Where did you debut the song in concert?
A - We played Carnegie Hall, opening for Melanie and we got an encore and we were out of songs. We had just written that. So, we did that song. Everybody just went crazy. That's when Neil Bogart came backstage and said "you've got to record that song." And we did.
Q - What keeps you busy these days?
A - We started our own company. One Toke Productions and opened our website (BrewerAndShipley.com), started doing shows again and made our own CDs. We recorded one called "Shanghai" and one called "Heartland". Actually, we have a CDs worth of songs that are literally ten years old that we wrote back during the Persian Gulf War that we really need to get into the studio and record, because it would just be so timely right now.
Justices Let Stand Ruling on Illegal F.B.I. Search
The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that the F.B.I. went too far in searching the office of Representative William J. Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat accused of using his position to promote business deals in Africa.
Without comment, the justices declined to review a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which concluded last August that agents had violated the Constitution by the methods it used in the May 2006 search.
The appeals court did not find that the raid itself was unconstitutional; rather, it found that the F.B.I. violated constitutional separation of powers by allowing agents to look freely through Congressional files for incriminating evidence.
The ruling last August told the bureau to return legislative documents to Mr. Jefferson. It did not, however, affect other items seized from his office, including computer hard drives. Nor did it affect evidence seized in a separate raid on the Congressman’s Washington-area home, including $90,000 found wrapped in aluminum foil in frozen-food containers in his kitchen freezer.
The 18-hour search of Mr. Jefferson’s office on Capitol Hill marked the first time that the F.B.I. had searched a Congressional office, and it touched off a clash between the Bush administration and lawmakers of both parties. Mr. Jefferson has been indicted on charges of bribery, racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice. He has pleaded not guilty. The Justice Department said last August that the circuit court ruling would not affect the prosecution of Mr. Jefferson.
The ruling that the Supreme Court declined to review held that the F.B.I.’s use of a “filter team” to examine the evidence from the Congressman’s office to determine what was clearly legislative, and therefore out of bounds, was not adequate to protect Congress’s constitutional right to operate without interference from the executive branch.
At issue was Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution, the “speech or debate” clause intended to protect lawmakers from being hounded by the executive branch while carrying out their legislative duties.
Two former House speakers, Thomas S. Foley, a Democrat, and Newt Gingrich, a Republican, supported Mr. Jefferson’s challenge to the raid on his office. The present speaker, Nancy Pelosi, called last August’s ruling a reaffirmation of the separation of powers and the checks and balances the Founding Fathers had in mind.
Referring to President Bush’s former political adviser, Ms. Pelosi said, “The White House wouldn’t like it if we sent the Capitol Police over there to search Karl Rove’s desk.”
ACLU Accuses Military of Skirting the Law to Get Citizens' Internet, Banking, Phone Records
The military is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans' Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, the ACLU said Tuesday.
The American Civil Liberties Union based its conclusion on a review of more than 1,000 documents turned over by the Defense Department after it sued the agency last year for documents related to national security letters. The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court.
The letters are investigative tools used to compel businesses to turn over customer information without a judge's order or grand jury subpoena.
ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman said the documents the civil rights group studied "make us incredibly concerned that the FBI and DoD might be collaborating to evade limits put on the DoD's use of NSLs."
It would be understandable if the military relied on help from the FBI on joint investigations, but not when the FBI was not involved in a probe, she said.
The FBI referred requests for comment Tuesday to the Defense Department. A request for comment from Justice Department lawyers for that agency was not immediately returned.
Goodman, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said the military is allowed to demand financial and credit records in certain instances but does not have the authority to get e-mail and phone records or lists of Web sites that people have visited. That is the kind of information that the FBI can get by using a national security letter, she said.
"That's why we're particularly concerned. The DoD may be accessing the kinds of records they are not allowed to get," she said.
Goodman also noted that legal limits are placed on the Defense Department "because the military doing domestic investigations tends to make us leery."
In other allegations, the ACLU said:
- The Navy's use of the letters to demand domestic records has increased significantly since the Sept. 11 attacks.
- The military wrongly claimed its use of the letters was limited to investigating only Defense Department employees.
- The Defense Department has not kept track of how many national security letters the military issues or what information it obtained through the orders.
- The military provided misleading information to Congress and silenced letter recipients from speaking out about the records requests.
Goodman said Congress should provide stricter guidelines and meaningful oversight of how the military and FBI make national security letter requests.
"Any government agency's ability to demand these kinds of personal, financial or Internet records in the United States is an intrusive surveillance power," she said.
Behind the Scenes of Secret Surveillance and Its Public Unmasking
The Remaking of American Justice
By Eric Lichtblau
349 pages. Pantheon. $26.95.
Eric Lichtblau is used to being cast as a hero or a villain for his reporting about the war on terror. This year Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, predicted that “some Americans are going to die” because of the public debate that resulted when Mr. Lichtblau and his New York Times colleague James Risen disclosed the existence of the Bush administration’s secret surveillance program; for the same articles Mr. Lichtblau and Mr. Risen won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
Now Mr. Lichtblau has produced a book about his experiences, “Bush’s Law.” It is a gripping account of Mr. Lichtblau’s efforts to expose various forms of secret surveillance and the Bush administration’s Nixonian efforts to retaliate against him and other critics: “All the President’s Men” for an age of terror. But this book offers much more than a journalist’s well-earned victory lap. Mr. Lichtblau also documents, with scrupulous detail, the broader costs of the Bush administration’s excesses for innocent victims and for the rule of law.
Mr. Lichtblau has especially memorable accounts of some of the 2,700 men locked up after 9/11 by American authorities; most of those men were never shown to have connections to terrorism.
There is Taj Bhatti, an elderly Pakistani doctor in Virginia whose house and computer discs were surreptitiously ransacked and who was secretly imprisoned in the county jail as a “material witness.” He was freed only after his son sent a press release to a local reporter; the federal magistrate who signed the arrest warrant (and prohibited Mr. Bhatti from talking about his imprisonment) then threatened the reporter with contempt.
There is Brandon Mayfield, the lawyer and former Army lieutenant from Kansas whose house was secretly searched and who was arrested after being linked to the Madrid bombings by an F.B.I. agent’s mistaken fingerprint match. (He got an apology and $2 million from the government.)
Mr. Lichtblau also describes the many innocent victims whose e-mail messages, phone calls and political activities were secretly surveilled. More than 180 peaceful groups opposed to the Iraq war ended up in the Pentagon’s Talon database, which was designed to collect leads that might be related to terrorism. (It included the names of people at antiwar rallies.) And by Mr. Lichtblau’s estimate “several thousand” people in the United States had their phone calls and e-mail messages secretly surveilled without warrants because of suspected ties to terrorism.
They included an Iranian-American doctor in Kentucky suspected of possibly helping Osama bin Laden with his kidney ailments simply because he was a nephrologist. Mr. Lichtblau identifies another possible victim: a teenage student at the Horace Mann School in New York who sent e-mail messages to India about parking spots in Manhattan, which led F.B.I. agents to show up at his door. (It turned out he wanted to rent the spots to out-of-towners.)
In addition to sweeping up innocent people in dragnets, the Bush administration, according to Mr. Lichtblau, was ruthless in retaliating against its critics, in and out of government. He describes the many government officials who committed “career suicide” by questioning President Bush’s policies, including James Ziglar, the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who questioned sweeps and arrests in Muslim neighborhoods in Dearborn, Mich., and an F.B.I. whistle-blower who was frozen out of government after complaining about a bungled terrorism investigation and ended up working for the American Civil Liberties Union. After reporting about the F.B.I.’s interest in antiwar demonstrators, Mr. Lichtblau himself saw his press pass canceled by the Justice Department’s director of public affairs.
That was just a warm-up for the titanic battle to come, pitting President Bush and his top advisers against the editors of The Times, as the journalists decided whether to publish the article by Mr. Lichtblau and Mr. Risen that disclosed the secret surveillance program. In a series of meetings that lasted 14 months, beginning weeks before the 2004 presidential elections, President Bush and 10 senior advisers made personal appeals to The Times not to run the article. In mid-December 2004 the editors initially decided not to run it because of concerns about national security.
But in the fall of 2005 Mr. Risen told the editors that he was thinking of including the story in his own forthcoming book, and they began to reconsider. It was now clear, Mr. Lichtblau writes, that the administration had lied to The Times in describing the scope of the program and in claiming that administration lawyers unanimously supported it. Mr. Lichtblau’s reporting revealed that there were deep divisions about the program’s legality at the highest levels of the administration. And when Mr. Lichtblau learned that administration officials had discussed seeking an injunction against The Times, just as President Richard M. Nixon had tried to enjoin the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the Nixonian tactic helped seal The Times’s decision to publish the article and to post it first on the Web, so that the presses literally couldn’t be stopped.
Mr. Lichtblau argues that the administration’s national security arguments were overblown. The government had already pledged to eavesdrop on Al Qaeda, he notes. Therefore it wasn’t news to anyone that it was making good on the pledge; the news was that it was refusing to get court orders to do so, despite President Bush’s public claims to the contrary.
Nevertheless, Jack Goldsmith, the conservative lawyer who led an internal revolt in the Bush Justice Department against the original warrantless wiretapping program, which he believed may have been illegal, has said that he agreed with President Bush that the disclosure of the program did “great harm to the nation.” More discussion of what those harms might possibly have involved would have strengthened Mr. Lichtblau’s argument that they were ultimately outweighed by the public interest in disclosure.
The public benefits are now obvious. Thanks to the reporting by Mr. Lichtblau and Mr. Risen we know that the president and his aides approved a secret eavesdropping program that many of his own top lawyers thought was illegal, lied about it to the press and the public and then attacked the journalists who disclosed it. Mr. Lichtblau also reveals that, because the program was on such shaky legal ground, administration officials feared it would taint other terrorist prosecutions. Far from disbanding the program after it was disclosed, as administration officials had initially threatened to do, they were forced instead to ask Congress to put it on sounder legal footing.
At a time when the press’s role in American democracy is being hotly contested, this book provides an inspiring example of reporters doing what they do best: checking claims of unlimited governmental power and protecting the public’s right to know.
New Bill May Speed U.S. Visas for Artists
Felicia R. Lee
When it comes to artists trying to obtain visas, notorious performers like Amy Winehouse usually get the headlines. That British soul singer’s application to come to the United States for the Grammy Awards in February was initially denied, with speculation that the refusal was because of her alleged use of illegal drugs.
But as the House of Representatives voted this week to speed up the visa approval process for some foreign artists and entertainers, the heads of arts organization said attention was finally being paid to the real problem: the time, money and complexity involved in getting visas for lower-profile artists, including dancers, singers, musicians and actors.
“It has become a huge burden,” said Nigel Redden, director of the Lincoln Center Festival, the renowned arts showcase that this summer will bring together 57 performances and events from nine countries.
“We hire someone in January whose only job is to do visas,” he said. Once, when the festival sought to bring in a cast of Chinese acrobats and soloists, a “visa wrangler” in China asked for $75,000 to smooth the way for the group to travel to the embassy and get the necessary papers in order.
“We’re turning the United States into fortress America,” Mr. Redden said. “It turns everyone into an enemy. It loses us friends around the world and respect around the world.”
Now, those seeking entry must run a bureaucratic gantlet that can include having to establish their artistic credentials, hire a lawyer, pay visa fees and visit a United States embassy or consulate.
All of that requires money and time, said Jonathan Ginsburg, an immigration lawyer in Fairfax, Va., with the firm of Fettmann, Tolchin & Majors. An entertainer from London who has an arrest record, for example, would need a report from Scotland Yard, which can cause more delays.
Once the application is made, the Homeland Security Department is supposed to act within two weeks, but recently it almost never has; in the worst cases, getting an answer takes as long as six months, arts organizations said. So-called premium processing is available to expedite an application, at a cost of $1,000 for each petitioner.
The House bill, approved on Tuesday, extends the processing time to 30 days from two weeks. If the deadline is not met, the department is required to provide free expedited processing. The bill, which applies only to visa applications made by nonprofit arts groups, still needs the Senate’s approval.
Heather Noonan, the vice president for advocacy for the League of American Orchestras, called the bill an important step.
“We’re very pleased to see Congress support opportunities for international cultural exchange this way and particularly happy to see such broad bipartisan support for the measure,” Ms. Noonan said.
Sandra Gibson, the president and chief executive of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, said: “We’ve been watching this issue for 10 years. The premium-processing fee meant the nonprofit community would not be served.”
A task force on visas was formed in 2001, she said, when premium processing began. But the Sept. 11 attacks slowed everything down. “There were delays in interviews, inability to get interviews,” Ms. Gibson said. On applications, problems like inverted birth dates and misspelled last names made problems snowball. Around the world, the embassies and consulates that were part of the process were staffed at different levels. “In China and India it can take 100 days to get an interview,” she said.
With the value of the dollar waning, more and more artists have decided to stay home, Ms. Gibson said, echoing other officials. And fewer of the presenters, she said, are willing to go through the contortions of bringing in foreign artists.
Cyril M. Ferenchak, a spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department, said in an e-mail message that the government had worked hard to make the visa application easier and more efficient.
“Over 570 new consular positions have been created to handle a growing visa demand and the added security measure in our visa adjudication process,” Mr. Ferenchak wrote, adding that embassy Web sites provide information on things like required documents to demystify the visa process.
Matthew Covey, executive director of Tamizdat, a nonprofit group that helps artists get visas, said the House bill was a step in the right direction. Emerging artists without much money or the organizational skills to get together a visa application are the ones especially hurt by the visa labyrinth.
“An awful lot of musicians don’t make a lot of money,” he said. “They are looking to break even, to promote their work. Most musicians need to expedite their visas because many clubs book six to eight weeks in advance.”
And American audiences may never know what they are missing.
U.S. Funded Health Search Engine Blocks 'Abortion'
Sarah Lai Stirland
A U.S. government-funded medical information site that bills itself as the world's largest database on reproductive health has quietly begun to block searches on the word "abortion," concealing nearly 25,000 search results.
Called Popline, the search site is run by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland. It's funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the federal office in charge of providing foreign aid, including health care funding, to developing nations.
The massive database indexes a broad range of reproductive health literature, including titles like "Previous abortion and the risk of low birth weight and preterm births," and "Abortion in the United States: Incidence and access to services, 2005."
But on Thursday, a search on "abortion" was producing only the message "No records found by latest query."
Stephen Goldstein, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins, said he wasn't aware of the censorship, and couldn't immediately comment.
Under a Reagan-era policy revived by President Bush in 2001, USAID denies funding to non-governmental organizations that perform abortions, or that "actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."
A librarian at the University of California at San Francisco noticed the new censorship on Monday, while carrying out a routine research request on behalf of academics and researchers at the university. The search term had functioned properly as of January.
Puzzled, she contacted the manager of the database, Johns Hopkins' Debbie Dickson, who replied in an April 1st e-mail that the university had recently begun blocking the search term because the database received federal funding.
"We recently made all abortion terms stop words," Dickson wrote in a note to Gloria Won, the UCSF medical center librarian making the inquiry. "As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now."
There was no notice of the change on the site.
Dickson suggested other kinds of more obscure search strategies and alternative words to get around the keyword blocking.
"In addition to the terms you're already using, you could try using 'Fertility Control, Postconception'. This is the broader term to our 'abortion' terms and most records have both in the keyword fields," she wrote.
She also suggested using a euphemistic search strategy of "unwanted w/2 pregnancy." But the workarounds don't satisfy critics of the censorship.
"The main function of their site is keyword search, and if you use a phrase that contains the word 'abortion,' it ignores it," notes Melissa Just, the library director at the cancer research institute and hospital named City of Hope in Duarte, California. Just followed the conversation on a listserv and said she was outraged when she found out about the censorship incident.
"Even if you were trying to make an argument to someone that abortion is a bad idea for them -- whether it's a health risk, or you're concerned about their mental well being, you wouldn't be able to find articles about your claim," she notes. "It's shutting off both the pro and the con access."
Freenet 0.7.0 Release Candidate 1 Released
Freenet version 0.7 Release Candidate 1 is now available for public testing.
Freenet is a global peer-to-peer network designed to allow users to publish and consume information without fear of censorship. To use it, you must download the Freenet software, available for Windows, Mac, Linux and other operating systems. Once you install and run Freenet, your computer will join a global, decentralized P2P network. You will be able to publish and consume information anonymously, either through your web browser, or through a variety of third party applications.
Freenet 0.7 is a ground-up rewrite of Freenet. The key user-facing feature in Freenet 0.7 is the ability to operate Freenet in a "darknet" mode, where your Freenet node will only talk to other Freenet users that you trust. This makes it much more difficult for an adversary to discover that you are using Freenet, let alone what you are doing with it. 0.7 also includes significant improvements to both security and performance.
Freenet 0.7 RC1 can be downloaded from:
This release would not have been possible without the release of numerous volunteers, and Matthew Toseland, Freenet's full time developer. Matthew's work is funded through donations via our website (as well as a few larger sponsors from time to time). We ask that anyone who can help us to ensure Matthew's continued employment visit our donations page and make a contribution at:
The Freenet Project is also participating in the Google Summer of Code project this year, if you are interested in joining, please see the Summer of Code site as soon as possible:
17th Mar, 2008 - Freenet accepted into Google Summer of Code 2008
Google has accepted us into their Summer of Code for the third year. The last two years have been a mixed bag, but some good code has come out of it (not least Thaw), and some good developers too. This year we will be doing fewer projects than last year because we only have two confirmed mentors, and we will be selecting candidates more carefully. If you want to get paid $4,500 by Google to work on Freenet over the summer, please have a look at the wiki page (including ideas list, although feel free to suggest a proposal that isn't there) and contact us.
Linux Declared 'Hacker Proof'
The Linux running on a Sony Vaio remained undefeated at the end of a three-way computer hacking challenge Friday at the CanSecWest conference.
Sponsors had wagered three laptops to anyone who could hack into one of the systems and run their own software. A $20,000 cash prize sweetened the deal.
The MacBook Air went first; Independent Security Evaluators' Charlie Miller took the Mac after about two minutes work on Thursday. Miller took home $10,000, courtesy of 3Com's TippingPoint division, in addition to the new laptop.
After two days of work, Shane Macaulay finally cracked the tiny Fujitsu laptop running Vista on Friday, with a little help from his friends.
Macaulay said the flaw he exploited was a cross-platform bug that took advantage of Java to circumvent Vista's security. Macaulay said he chose to work on Vista because he had done contract work for Microsoft in the past and was more familiar with its products.
TippingPoint Manager Terri Forslof said several attendees tried to crack the Linux box, but nobody could pull it off. She noted that some had found bugs in the Linux operating system but many of them didn't want to put the work into developing the exploit code that would be required to win the contest.
Inside the Black Budget
William J. Broad
Skulls. Black cats. A naked woman riding a killer whale. Grim reapers. Snakes. Swords. Occult symbols. A wizard with a staff that shoots lightning bolts. Moons. Stars. A dragon holding the Earth in its claws.
No, this is not the fantasy world of a 12-year-old boy.
It is, according to a new book, part of the hidden reality behind the Pentagon’s classified, or “black,” budget that delivers billions of dollars to stealthy armies of high-tech warriors. The book offers a glimpse of this dark world through a revealing lens — patches — the kind worn on military uniforms.
“It’s a fresh approach to secret government,” Steven Aftergood, a security expert at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said in an interview. “It shows that these secret programs have their own culture, vocabulary and even sense of humor.”
One patch shows a space alien with huge eyes holding a stealth bomber near its mouth. “To Serve Man” reads the text above, a reference to a classic “Twilight Zone” episode in which man is the entree, not the customer. “Gustatus Similis Pullus” reads the caption below, dog Latin for “Tastes Like Chicken.”
Military officials and experts said the patches are real if often unofficial efforts at building team spirit.
The classified budget of the Defense Department, concealed from the public in all but outline, has nearly doubled in the Bush years, to $32 billion. That is more than the combined budgets of the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Those billions have expanded a secret world of advanced science and technology in which military units and federal contractors push back the frontiers of warfare. In the past, such handiwork has produced some of the most advanced jets, weapons and spy satellites, as well as notorious boondoggles.
Budget documents tell little. This year, for instance, the Pentagon says Program Element 0603891c is receiving $196 million but will disclose nothing about what the project does. Private analysts say it apparently aims at developing space weapons.
Trevor Paglen, an artist and photographer finishing his Ph.D. in geography at the University of California, Berkeley, has managed to document some of this hidden world. The 75 patches he has assembled reveal a bizarre mix of high and low culture where Latin and Greek mottos frame images of spooky demons and sexy warriors, of dragons dropping bombs and skunks firing laser beams.
“Oderint Dum Metuant,” reads a patch for an Air Force program that mines spy satellite images for battlefield intelligence, according to Mr. Paglen, who identifies the saying as from Caligula, the first-century Roman emperor famed for his depravity. It translates “Let them hate so long as they fear.”
Wizards appear on several patches. The one hurling lightning bolts comes from a secret Air Force base at Groom Lake, northwest of Las Vegas in a secluded valley. Mr. Paglen identifies its five clustered stars and one separate star as a veiled reference to Area 51, where the government tests advanced aircraft and, U.F.O. buffs say, captured alien spaceships.
The book offers not only clues into the nature of the secret programs, but also a glimpse of zealous male bonding among the presumed elite of the military-industrial complex. The patches often feel like fraternity pranks gone ballistic.
The book’s title? “I Could Tell You but Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me,” published by Melville House. Mr. Paglen says the title is the Latin translation of a patch designed for the Navy Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 4, at Point Mugu, Calif. Its mission, he says, is to test strike aircraft, conventional weapons and electronic warfare equipment and to develop tactics to use the high-tech armaments in war.
“The military has patches for almost everything it does,” Mr. Paglen writes in the introduction. “Including, curiously, for programs, units and activities that are officially secret.”
He said contractors in some cases made the patches to build esprit de corps. Other times, he added, military units produced them informally, in contrast to official patches.
Mr. Paglen said he found them by touring bases, noting what personnel wore, joining alumni associations, interviewing active and former team members, talking to base historians and filing requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
A spokesman for the Pentagon, Cmdr. Bob Mehal, said it would be imprudent to comment on “which patches do or do not represent classified units.” In an e-mail message, Commander Mehal added, “It would be supposition to suggest ‘anyone’ is uncomfortable with this book.”
Each year, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a private group in Washington, publishes an update on the Pentagon’s classified budget. It says the money began to soar after the two events of Mr. Bush’s coming into office and terrorists’ 9/11 attacks.
What sparked his interest, Mr. Paglen recalled, were Vice President Dick Cheney’s remarks as the Pentagon and World Trade Center smoldered. On “Meet the Press,” he said the nation would engage its “dark side” to find the attackers and justice. “We’ve got to spend time in the shadows,” Mr. Cheney said. “It’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”
In an interview, Mr. Paglen said that remark revived memories of his childhood when his military family traveled the globe to bases often involved in secret missions. “I’d go out drinking with Special Forces guys,” he recalled. “I was 15, and they were 20, and they could never say where they where coming from or what they were doing. You were just around the stuff.”
Intrigued by Mr. Cheney’s remarks as well as his own recollections, Mr. Paglen set off to map the secret world and document its expansion. He traveled widely across the Southwest, where the military keeps many secret bases. His labors, he said, resulted in his Ph.D. thesis as well as a book, “Blank Spots on a Map,” that Dutton plans to publish next year.
The research also led to another book, “Torture Taxi,” that Melville House published in 2006. It described how spies kidnapped and detained suspected terrorists around the globe.
“Black World,” a 2006 display of his photographs at Bellwether, a gallery in Chelsea, showed “anonymous-looking buildings in parched landscapes shot through a shimmering heat haze,” Holland Cotter wrote in The New York Times, adding that the images “seem to emit a buzz of mystery as they turn military surveillance inside out: here the surveillant is surveilled.”
In this research, Mr. Paglen became fascinated by the patches and started collecting them and displaying them at talks and shows. He said a breakthrough occurred around 2004, when he visited Peter Merlin, an “aerospace archaeologist” who works in the Mojave Desert not far from a sprawling military base. Mr. Merlin argued that the lightning bolts, stars and other symbols could be substantive clues about unit numbers and operating locations, as well as the purpose of hidden programs.
“These symbols,” Mr. Paglen wrote, “were a language. If you could begin to learn its grammar, you could get a glimpse into the secret world itself.”
His book explores this idea and seeks to decode the symbols. Many patches show the Greek letter sigma, which Mr. Paglen identifies as a technical term for how well an object reflects radar waves, a crucial parameter in developing stealthy jets.
A patch from a Groom Lake unit shows the letter sigma with the “buster” slash running through it, as in the movie “Ghost Busters.” “Huge Deposit — No Return” reads its caption. Huge Deposit, Mr. Paglen writes, “indicates the bomb load deposited by the bomber on its target, while ‘No Return’ refers to the absence of a radar return, meaning the aircraft was undetectable to radar.”
In an interview, Mr. Paglen said his favorite patch was the dragon holding the Earth in its claws, its wings made of American flags and its mouth wide open, baring its fangs. He said it came from the National Reconnaissance Office, which oversees developing spy satellites. “There’s something both belligerent and weirdly self-critical about it,” he remarked. “It’s representing the U.S. as a dragon with the whole world in its clutches.”
The field is expanding. Dwayne A. Day and Roger Guillemette, military historians, wrote an article published this year in The Space Review (www.thespacereview.com/article/1033/1) on patches from secret space programs. “It’s neat stuff,” Dr. Day said in an interview. “They’re not really giving away secrets. But the patches do go farther than the organizations want to go officially.”
Mr. Paglen plans to keep mining the patches and the field of clandestine military activity. “It’s kind of remarkable,” he said. “This stuff is a huge industry, I mean a huge industry. And it’s remarkable that you can develop these projects on an industrial scale, and we don’t know what they are. It’s an astounding feat of social engineering.”
Jules Dassin, Filmmaker on Blacklist, Dies at 96
Jules Dassin, an American director, screenwriter and actor who found success making movies in Europe after he was blacklisted in the United States because of his earlier ties to the Communist Party, died Monday in Athens, where he had lived since the 1970s. He was 96.
A spokeswoman for Hygeia Hospital confirmed his death but did not give a cause, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Dassin is most widely remembered for films he made after he fled Hollywood in the 1950s, including “Never on Sunday” (1960), with the Greek actress Melina Mercouri, whom he later married; “Topkapi” (1964), with Ms. Mercouri, Peter Ustinov and Maximilian Schell; and the 1954 French thriller “Rififi.”
But before his blacklisting he had also carved out a successful Hollywood career making noir movies like “Brute Force” (1947), a prison drama starring Burt Lancaster and Hume Cronyn; “The Naked City” (1948), an influential New York City police yarn that won Academy Awards for cinematography and editing; and “Thieves’ Highway” (1949), about criminals who try to coerce truckers in California.
Mr. Dassin’s last major effort before his exile was “Night and the City” (1950), a film shot in London starring Richard Widmark (who died last Monday) as a shady but naďve wrestling promoter and Francis L. Sullivan as a predatory nightclub owner. Some critics called it Mr. Dassin’s masterpiece.
“Dassin turned Londontown into a city of busted dreams and nightmare alleys,” Michael Sragow wrote on salon.com in 2000. “He mixed the fantastic and the real with masterly ease.”
The producer Darryl F. Zanuck had assigned the film to Mr. Dassin just as Mr. Dassin was to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He never did testify, but testimony by the directors Edward Dmytryk and Frank Tuttle, who recalled Mr. Dassin’s Communist Party membership in the 1930s, was damning enough to sink his career.
Mr. Dassin left the United States for France in 1953 because, he said, he was “unemployable” in Hollywood. In Paris, unable to speak much more than restaurant French when he arrived, he encountered hard times and remained largely unemployed for five years. In need of money, he agreed to direct “Rififi,” a low-budget production about a jewelry heist. A memorable sequence is of the robbery itself, lasting about a half-hour and filmed without music or dialogue.
Mr. Dassin also acted in the movie, under the name Perlo Vita, playing an Italian safe expert. He won a best-director award for the film at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. By the time he wrote and directed “Never on Sunday,” a comedy about a good-hearted prostitute (Ms. Mercouri), the anti-Communist witch hunt in the United States had been discredited, and he had been accepted again.
Mr. Dassin also had a role in the movie, as a bookish American from — like Mr. Dassin himself — Middletown, Conn., who tries to reform the prostitute. His directing and screenwriting were nominated for Academy Awards.
The movie was a moneymaker and its title song was a hit, though some critics found the script predictable. Ms. Mercouri became Mr. Dassin’s second wife in 1966, two years after he directed her in “Topkapi,” another film about jewel thieves, the prize in this case being gems from the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul.
Jules Dassin was born in Middletown on Dec. 18, 1911, one of eight children of Samuel Dassin, an immigrant barber from Russia, and the former Berthe Vogel. Shortly after Jules was born, his father moved the family to Harlem. Jules attended Morris High School in the Bronx.
He joined the Communist Party in 1930s, a decision he recalled in 2002 in an interview with The Guardian in London. “You grow up in Harlem where there’s trouble getting fed and keeping families warm, and live very close to Fifth Avenue, which is elegant,” he told the newspaper. “You fret, you get ideas, seeing a lot of poverty around you, and it’s a very natural process.”
He left the party in 1939, he said, disillusioned after the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact with Hitler.
In the mid-1930s, Mr. Dassin studied drama in Europe before returning to New York, where he made his debut as an actor in the Yiddish Theater. He also wrote radio scripts.
He went to Hollywood shortly before World War II erupted in Europe and was hired as an apprentice to the directors Alfred Hitchcock and Garson Kanin. Soon he was directing films for MGM, including “Reunion in France,” a Joan Crawford vehicle with John Wayne in which her character comes to believe that her fiancé is a Nazi collaborator.
His later movies were often joint efforts with Ms. Mercouri. They included “He Who Must Die” (1957), about life overtaking a Passion play in a village on Crete; and “La Legge” (1959), a noirish melodrama with Gina Lollobrigida, Marcello Mastroianni and Yves Montand.
One film without Ms. Mercouri was “Up Tight!” (1968), a remake of a John Ford classic, “The Informer,” set in a poor black neighborhood, with a script by its star, Ruby Dee. It was Mr. Dassin’s first film in the United States since he had left.
The year before, Mr. Dassin had directed the Broadway musical comedy “Ilya Darling,” based on “Never on Sunday,” for which Ms. Mercouri won a Tony Award. The couple lived in Manhattan during the run.
The same year, 1967, Ms. Mercouri, an ardent anti-Facist, lost her Greek citizenship for engaging in what Greece’s rightist government called “anti-national activities.” In 1970, Mr. Dassin was accused of sponsoring a plot to overthrow the junta. The charges were later dropped.
When the regime lost power in 1974, he and Ms. Mercouri returned from exile, which had been spent mainly in Paris. Ms. Mercouri entered politics, becoming a member of Parliament and later culture minister. They had homes in Athens and on the Greek island of Spetsai. Ms. Mercouri died in 1994. They had no children.
Mr. Dassin’s first marriage, to Beatrice Launer, from 1933 to 1962, ended in divorce. Their son, Joseph, who became a popular French singer, died in 1980. Mr. Dassin is survived by two other children from his first marriage, Richelle and Julie Dassin, an actress, as well as grandchildren.
Toward the end of his life, Mr. Dassin ran the Melina Mercouri Foundation, which tried to induce the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles, sculptures taken from the Parthenon nearly 200 years ago. In September, a museum is set to open at the foot of the Acropolis displaying plaster casts of the works.
Mr. Dassin ended his directing career in his late 60s on a disheartened note, when his film “Circle of Two” (1980) — about an aging artist (Richard Burton) who is infatuated with a teenage student (Tatum O’Neal) — did poorly at the box office. Mr. Dassin never made another film.
He had always been demanding of himself and often critical of his own work. In 1962, with his best films largely behind him, Mr. Dassin told Cue magazine: “Of my own films, there’s only one I’ve really liked — ‘He Who Must Die.’ That is, I like what it had to say. But that doesn’t mean I’m completely satisfied with it. I’d do it all over again, if I could.”
An Online Game So Mysterious Its Famous Sponsor Is Hidden
NOT known for its dark marketing, McDonald’s is more a try-our-new-salad, get-your-Shrek-action-figure, look-at-our-dollar-menu sort of place.
For that reason, gamers were surprised to learn that McDonald’s was the sponsor of an enigmatic Olympic-themed online game called The Lost Ring, introduced last month. Nothing about the game was branded McDonald’s, and the game’s Web sites — mysterious and hip, like “Lost” mixed with “The Blair Witch Project”— were a far cry from the golden arches.
“The Olympics in Beijing are a very big event for us, and we have a lot of different types of activation, with The Lost Ring being the most creative,” said Mary Dillon, McDonald’s global chief marketing officer. “Our goal is really about strengthening our bond with the global youth culture.”
The Lost Ring is part of a gaming genre called alternate-reality games that blend online and offline clues and rely on players collaborating to solve the puzzles.
While corporate sponsorship of these games is common — a popular one called The Beast was created by Microsoft for the Warner Brothers film “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” — this is McDonald’s first foray into the genre.
The game began with 50 bloggers receiving packages with an Olympic-themed poster and a clue pointing them to TheLostRing.com. The site presented a dramatic trailer, replete with sci-fi lighting and a narrator with a British-accented baritone speaking over scenes of a woman waking up in a field with “Trovu la ringon perditan” — an Esperanto phrase — tattooed on her arm.
Within a day or two, as players searched for clues, they found the terms of service on the Web site, which revealed that McDonald’s, in partnership with the International Olympic Committee, was behind the game.
“I think finding out that it was McDonald’s was kind of a big shock for everyone,” said Geoff May, a player in Ontario who founded a Web site (olympics.wikibruce.com) on the game. “Obviously it’s McDonald’s, and not everyone likes them,” he said. “Personally, I don’t mind as long as we don’t get products forced down our throat. If we’re getting McDonald’s meals sold by characters, it’s going to be hard to suspend our disbelief.”
That’s part of the reason McDonald’s has remained behind the curtain thus far. A successful alternate-reality game relies on the players’ continuing interest.
“If an A.R.G. is too clearly corporate or commercial, the gamers will not want to engage,” said Tracy Tuten, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, who studies new-media marketing tools. “It’s very important that the game be written in a way where the branding is not obvious.”
McDonald’s has been careful to reflect that, Ms. Dillon said. “Above all, we want to be credible, authentic and respectful to this new audience,” she said.
With that in mind, development of the game was given to AKQA, a San Francisco marketing agency, and Jane McGonigal, a game developer.
When released in early March, the game was available in seven languages. Ten characters provide clues via YouTube videos, blogs, Flickr photos and Twitter updates. Online clues are supplemented by offline ones: last week, players found documents in a Tokyo mailbox and a bookstore fireplace in Johannesburg.
The clues have helped players deduce the outline of the game, which centers on a lost Olympic sport that one plays blindfolded. Soon, Ms. McGonigal said, players will be asked to participate in the sport in the real world.
The game is scheduled to run through Aug. 24, the Olympics closing ceremony. “I think the players will be very happy to discover that around the closing ceremonies, there is a real-world payoff to their alternate-reality heroics,” Ms. McGonigal said. She was, in keeping with the game’s spirit, cryptic about what that payoff would be, though she hinted that the city of Beijing might be involved.
McDonald’s would not disclose the cost of the campaign, though Ms. Dillon said that “in the context of the total Olympics, it’s just a fraction of what we’re doing.” As for measuring the return on the company’s investment, Ms. Dillon said she saw it as more of a learning experience. “You can’t put an R.O.I. on this,” she said.
McDonald’s said the game had attracted 150,000 players so far, with 70 percent of traffic from outside the United States.
Both the quiet sponsorship and the game itself are unusual for McDonald’s. But the company does aim for the youth market, which overlaps neatly with the fan base for alternate-reality games. If those gamers develop new respect for McDonald’s, it would be a marketing coup.
“The players appreciate that they got this good experience for free,” said Sean C. Stacey, the founder of the gaming fan site Unfiction. “That tends to create a stronger bond between the player and the brand than having a straight advertisement.”
Now on the Endangered Species List: Movie Critics in Print
The continual drumbeat of news that film critics are being laid off at daily and weekly newspapers across the country has kicked up some quotable reviews.
“A dire situation!” Scott Rudin, independent film producer.
“A terrible loss!” Tom Bernard, Sony Pictures Classics.
“Puts serious movies at risk!” Mark Urman, ThinkFilm.
Those men were not actually speaking in exclamation points — the blurb genre engenders a certain license — but they were upset by the departures of movie critics. Nathan Lee, one of The Village Voice’s two full-time critics, was laid off last week by Village Voice Media, a large chain of alternative weeklies that has been cutting down the number of critics it employs across the country.
The week before, two longtime critics at Newsday — Jan Stuart and Gene Seymour — took buyouts, along with their editor. And at Newsweek, David Ansen is among 111 staff members taking buyouts, according to a report in Radar.
They join critics at more than a dozen daily newspapers (including those in Denver, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale) and several alternative weeklies who have been laid off, reassigned or bought out in the past few years, deemed expendable at a time when revenues at print publications are declining, under pressure from Web alternatives and a growing recession in media spending.
Given that movie blogs are strewn about the Web like popcorn on a theater floor, there are those who say that movie criticism is not going away, it’s just appearing on a different platform. And no one would argue that fewer critics and the adjectives they hurl would imperil the opening of “Iron Man” in May. But for a certain kind of movie, critical accolades can mean the difference between relevance and obscurity, not to mention box office success or failure.
“For those of us who are making work that requires a kind of intellectual conversation, we rely on that talk to do the work of getting people interested,” said Mr. Rudin, who produced “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood,” two Oscar-nominated and critically championed films last year. “All of the talk about ‘No Country,’ all of the argument about the ending, kept that film in the forefront of the conversation” and helped it win the best picture Oscar.
Despite Samuel Butler’s long ago suggestion that critics arrive at their occupation because of their general unfitness for anything else, they can be a cultural good, championing films that lack crowd-pleasing content or the financial wherewithal to muscle their way into public consciousness. Mr. Lee, for example, named “Southland Tales” the best film of last year. Never heard of the postnuclear, semi-futuristic portrait of Los Angeles directed by Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”)? That’s very much the point. “Criticism is treated as a kind of product, and that is inevitably going to favor bigger national releases,” said Owen Gleiberman, a critic at Entertainment Weekly. “That The Village Voice doesn’t want to pay for two staff movie critics is a joke,” he added. “There is so much to cover.”
Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media, said in an e-mail message that the company, which owns 17 newspapers, continues to have a serious commitment to covering film.
“Whether a recession or a depression, papers are making decisions based upon the economy, clearly, but our coverage of film remains strong despite the departure of the smart and acerbic Nathan Lee,” he wrote. “When we took over The Village Voice we had essentially one full time writer covering film, Jim Hoberman. He is still with us. We will expand the work of talented New York freelance critics to insure local coverage of the scene specific to Manhattan.” (Mr. Lee, who has been a freelance writer for The New York Times, declined to comment when contacted.)
Mr. Lacey added that the chain still has five full-time film critics and that worrying about whether each city had its own critic seemed silly at a time when major metropolitan dailies can’t afford to cover the presidential race. (The loss of a critic in New York, where some films see their only light of day, would seem to be more problematic.)
Mr. Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics, whose current movies include “The Band’s Visit,” “Married Life” and “The Counterfeiters,” suggested that losing some local critical firepower is troubling for both readers and distributors.
“In each city there is a mosaic of voices,” he said, “with each reflecting the personality of the town and the readership. For us a movie like ‘The Lives of Others,’ ” — the German-language winner of the 2006 foreign film Oscar — “was dragged along by critics until people realized that it was one of the best movies of the year.”
But are print critics really so all-important and sacrosanct with the Web full of debates about all manner of film in places like indiewire.com, cinematical.com and blog.spout.com?
“Honestly, I think that a lot of the viewers of serious films have already migrated to the Web,” said S. T. VanAirsdale, a senior editor at defamer.com and the founder of thereeler.com, a site devoted to coverage of the New York film world. “Serious movies can always be helped by a boost from anywhere, but almost anyone who is interested can find plenty of information about a film before it even opens because of all the coverage in the blogs about festivals and screenings.”
And David Poland, head of the Movie City News Web site (moviecitynews.com), said he likes reading serious printed criticism as much as the next movie fanatic, but films intended for adults have far bigger problems — namely, too many movies on too few screens — than the number of people teasing them apart. “Losing critics for serious film is like taking away the padding on the crutches of a very sick man with two broken legs and one working eye,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “It’s not going to keep it from limping along, but yeah, it hurts like hell.”
How to Hack an Airwick Battery-Operated Air Freshener
Yeah, you read that right. Lame, huh? I mean, lame that you'd even have to.
See, a while back, the air freshener companies made these neat little pressurized cartridge things that you could press to release a puff of something flowery to cover the unholy reek every time you poop:
But in their infinite wisdom, they seem to have discontinued these. I imagine the board-room discussion went something like this:
"People like this product, but we think they're not pooping enough because we're not selling enough refill cartridges."
"I have an idea! Let's switch to a battery-operated design so that we can AUTOMATICALLY freshen the air every few minutes! Even when nobody's around to smell it! Even when nobody's pooping!"
"Brilliant Jenkins! And let's give them no way to turn that off so that a cartridge goes dead in 2 weeks, and so do the 3 AA batteries inside!"
"Splendid thinking, Farnsworth!"
So they did. And the AirWick Battery-Operated Air Freshener with patented Money-Waster(tm) technology was born. And they pulled all the manual models from the market:
So here we are, finding a need to do something nobody in history has ever needed to do before: Hack the air freshener so it doesn't automatically puff constantly, wasting money.
Remove the batteries
Remove the 2 screws holding the package together (One is inside the battery compartment).
Use a regular screwdriver to pry the package open. This will take some effort as it's quite well built. Be careful:
Remove the 2 screws holding the control board in place.
Here's the board. There's a control chip underneath the black epoxy bump. In the middle of the board, above the alligator clip holding it, there's 4 solder pads arranged in a square. Those are the contacts for the spray button:
Cut traces where the two red lines are shown. A small file works well for this. This will lobotomize the automated functions and remove all power from the rest of the circuit so that it doesn't waste electricity. 5 traces will be cut in total:
Solder 2 wires as shown. One is going from the battery's ground to one side of the pushbutton, and the other is going from the pushbutton to the control lead of the solenoid's power transistor:
Here's the board with all the changes made:
screw the control board back into the case:
Snap the case closed again. You can put the screws holding it together back if you want, or if your prying-open efforts damaged the tabs too much for it to hold itself together well.
And that's it! Now the air freshener will only spritz when you want it to, not when AirWick corporation wants it to. (As a side, note, the device will now keep spraying for as long as you have the button down, instead of a quick spritz)
Fuck you, AirWick corporation.
Record Companies Sue Pirate Bay Four
Record companies are demanding that the four individuals responsible for operating the file sharing site The Pirate Bay pay €1.6 million (15 million kronor/$2.5 million) in compensatory damages.
"The record companies can go screw themselves," said Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg to The Local.
The compensation claim was presented to Stockholm District Court on Monday.
In addition to Svartholm Warg, fellow Pirate Bay founders Fredrik Neij, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundström have been indicted for being accessories to breaking copyright law.
The indictment covers 24 music albums, nine films, and four computer games.
"As usual, we're not too concerned," said Svartholm Warg of the new demand for damages.
He's already been in touch with the others accused in the case, all of whom found the claim rather amusing.
"We mostly laughed at it," he said.
In calculating the damages claim, record companies counted the number times the 24 albums were illegally downloaded, according to a preliminary investigation. On top of that, the companies are demanding general compensation because the copyright owners didn’t give permission for the downloading.
“This damages now being demanded are based on the albums which the prosecutor has included in his indictment. The injury to the record companies, the artists, and the copyright holders caused by The Pirate Bay’s illegal activity is many times greater,” said Lars Gustafsson, head of the Swedish chapter of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (Ifpi).
But Svartholm Warg didn't have much faith in the record companies' calculations, which he claimed were based on multiplying the retail price for the album by the number of times it was downloaded.
"Their numbers are pure fantasy," he said.
Svartholm Warg was also flummoxed as to why the record companies announced the damages claim at this stage of the case.
"It doesn't appear if the record companies have much of a strategy at all," he said.
The four accused in the record company suit were indicted in January on criminal charges of being accessories to breaking copyright law. A trial date is still pending.
Lee Abrams To Exit XM, Join Tribune Co.
XM Satellite Radio's chief creative officer, Lee Abrams, resigned from the company today in order to accept a position as Chief Innovation Officer for Tribune Company. He will begin his new job on April 1.
"It is with mixed emotions that I announce to the company that Lee Abrams has resigned," wrote EVP of Programming Eric Logan in a letter to employees. "Lee's impact on XM and the entire satellite radio industry would be impossible to capture in an e-mail. However, everyone in our company knows that Lee's vision and creative force is a key reason why XM is as successful as we are today. Lee's mark on our medium will be remembered forever and we are grateful to have had Lee as one of our founding programmers and architect of our programming philosophy."
In his new position, Abrams will be responsible for innovation across Tribune's publishing, broadcasting and interactive divisions. "There is a remarkable opportunity for Tribune to design the future of American media with passion, intellect, and imagination that meets the spirit of the 21st century," he commented. "We have the resources to pioneer a new age of information and entertainment that re-invents and enlightens-and that is exactly what we are going to do!"
"Lee is the most formidable creative thinker in the media business today," added Randy Michaels, Tribune's President of broadcasting and interactive. "He invented the modern FM radio format, got satellite radio off the ground when no one gave it a chance, and managed to advise on the redesign of Rolling Stone magazine and the launch of TNT Cable Network in his spare time. Lee's going to pump new life into our content, re-energize our brands, and get people thinking and working together like they never have before."
F.C.C. Chairman Rejects Skype Petition
The Federal Communications Commission should reject a petition by eBay Inc.'s Skype division to require wireless operators to allow any device on their networks, the agency's chairman said Tuesday.
To applause, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told an audience at the CTIA Wireless trade show that the industry's recent push toward openness makes such a rule unnecessary.
Skype, which provides free voice calls and videoconferencing over Internet connections, asked the commission in February 2007 to apply the 1968 Carterfone decision to wireless networks. The decision opened AT&T's wireline network to phones not made by the monopoly phone company.
Martin cited Verizon Wireless' decision to open its network to any device or application by the end of this year, and the participation by T-Mobile USA and Sprint Nextel Corp. in Google Inc.'s Open Handset Alliance, which is developing new software for phones.
''In light of the industry's embrace of this more open approach, I think it's premature for the commission to place any other requirements on these networks,'' Martin said. ''Today I'm going to circulate to my fellow commissioners an order dismissing the petition by Skype that would apply Carterfone requirements to existing wireless networks.''
EBay said it was disappointed in Martin's statement.
Recent industry changes were positive, but incomplete, the company said Tuesday. The petition was meant to protect consumers' rights ''to use any application and any device on a wireless network,'' eBay said in a statement.
''While we are cautiously optimistic that the carriers will deliver greater openness, unfortunately, if the FCC acts on the chairman's recommendation, it will have given up the tools to protect consumers if they do not,'' said Christopher Libertelli, a director of government affairs for Skype.
Martin's order would need the support of two other commissioners to take effect, support that's likely to come from the two Republican appointees.
Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps criticized the chairman's move.
''This is not the time for the FCC to declare victory and withdraw from the fight for open wireless networks,'' Copps said in a statement. ''While we are all encouraged by preliminary commitments from some of the major carriers, we haven't seen the details yet on how they are going to proceed -- and the devil is always in the details, isn't it?''
The FCC did apply open-access requirements to a segment of the 700 megahertz spectrum it recently auctioned for a total of $19.6 billion. Verizon Wireless bought most of the airwaves set off for open access.
Military Report: Secretly 'Recruit or Hire Bloggers'
A study, written for U.S. Special Operations Command, suggested "clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers."
Since the start of the Iraq war, there's been a raucous debate in military circles over how to handle blogs -- and the servicemembers who want to keep them. One faction sees blogs as security risks, and a collective waste of troops' time. The other (which includes top officers, like Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. William Caldwell) considers blogs to be a valuable source of information, and a way for ordinary troops to shape opinions, both at home and abroad.
This 2006 report for the Joint Special Operations University, "Blogs and Military Information Strategy," offers a third approach -- co-opting bloggers, or even putting them on the payroll. "Hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering," write the report's co-authors, James Kinniburgh and Dororthy Denning.
Lt. Commander Marc Boyd, a U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman, says the report was merely an academic exercise. "The comments are not 'actionable', merely thought provoking," he tells Danger Room. "The views expressed in the article publication are entirely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, policy or position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, USSOCOM [Special Operations Command], or the Joint Special Operations University."
Denning, a professor at Naval Postgraduate School, adds in an e-mail, "I got some positive feedback from people who read the article, but I don't know if it led to anything."
The report introduces the military audience to the "blogging phenomenon," and lays out a number of ways in which the armed forces -- specifically, the military's public affairs, information operations, and psychological operations units -- might use the sites to their advantage.
In her 2006 paper, Denning warns that blogs can and will be used by America's enemies. These sites, she argues, can also be used to serve U.S. government interests.
Is Peer-To-Peer Downloading Just Digital Gluttony?
On a message board for the group People With An Absurdly Large Music Collection on last.fm, a user with the handle AndretheDark boasts of his hoard of 30,281 songs. It would take him 94 days to listen to each one. With a catalogue of more than 75,000, Pale_Court has him beat. She writes that her music pile takes up 368 gigabytes of space, and counting.
In the era of hard drives measured in terabytes, anything less than 10,000 songs is modest. Eric Garland, CEO of BigChampagne, says larger hard drives are pushing the number of illegal downloads worldwide past the 15-billion-song mark, and some are gorging at the trough with insatiable appetites.
"There's a really significant population who are downloading hundreds of songs a month - more than you could listen to if all you did is listen to them," says Garland, whose online media metrics company was among the first to chart the popularity of illegal downloads. "Are these people who are feeding at the all-you-can eat buffet of free music greedy? The answer, by the numbers, is absolutely. They eat till they make themselves sick. People hoard music that they never even listen to."
The music industry is so worried that the Canadian Association of Songwriters has proposed slapping a $5 levy on every Internet subscription, with the money to be distributed to musicians. Even prince of darkness Ozzy Osbourne has complained that sales of his latest album, Black Rain, have been "suffering terribly" because people are helping themselves to left-click discounts.
On the face of it, hoarding tens of thousands of digital music files for which one has paid nothing looks like greed, plain and simple. Economists, however, are accustomed to soberly examining human beings' acquistive tendencies while declining to moralize. For analysts of digital downloading trends, the question is often not whether music piracy is wrong: It's whether the greed (or rather, self-interest) of digital packrats can create positive externalities (that is, benefits) for others.
"We do not use the term ‘greed.' We never try to put that label on it. You want to find out why this phenomenon is happening," says Sudip Bhattacharjee, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut's school of business. "We always try to understand the ‘why' of it. We look at it from an economic perspective."
Bhattacharjee has spent much of this decade studying the behaviour and motives of digital pirates and their effect on music sales. His research has indicated that chronic downloaders' collecting is often as much about sharing as it is about owning music for themselves.
"Almost all college students are on Facebook, and the reason is they want to know about others and let others know about themselves," he says. "Music is a great way of letting other people know about themselves: This is what my taste is, these are my favourite artists."
Mega-collections then become music libraries for others. Keiran Reilly's collection of 4,477 songs (about 12˝ days' worth) looks puny by comparison to some of the libraries on last.fm, but it's as much as he can possibly store. "The biggest thing that's keeping me from getting more music is that I've run out of space on my computer," says the 29-year-old Torontonian. He has 1˝ gigabytes of hard drive space left, "which is barely enough to run the computer." He estimates around 75%-80% of his stockpile was downloaded without paying via a peer-to-peer application called Azureus.
Reilly (his name has been changed) is a connoisseur of genres some people have never heard of. His playlists of late have been built around Calle 13, Alexis y Fido and Daddy Yankee - Puerto Rican stars of reggaetón, which he describes as "salsa-infused Latin hip-hop." He's proof of the idea that the larger and more varied one's shared music collection becomes, the more one is doing musicians' marketing for them. You don't even need to be linked to Reilly's collection online to benefit from his collection of reggaetón. You just need to be in his car.
"If anything, having a larger library allows me to share more," Reilly says. "With the recent fad of reggaetón in my life, it's funny how many people have been in my car and said, ‘Wow, what is this? Where can I get more of this?
"That's totally exposing them to more music. The fact that I have more music available to me and I can easily create a high-quality copy means I'm sharing stuff to other people that they otherwise wouldn't be exposed to at all."
Research backs up the idea that free downloading gives breaks to smaller artists. In a 2002 paper titled Stardom, Peer-to-Peer and the Socially Optimal Distribution of Music, M.X. Zhang of the Sloan School of Management at MIT argued that marginal and up-and-coming musicians benefit from the way file sharing disseminates their music from hard drive to hard drive. In a 2003 review of the economics literature about digital piracy for the German economics institute CESifo, researchers Martin Peitz and Patrick Waelbroeck summarized Zhang's findings: With the help of peer-to-peer networks, "marginal artists can gain from the exposure effect ... in an asymmetric world (with stars and niche performers), the current techonology [i.e., CDs] favours the promotion of stars. With digital copies, niche performers can more easily access consumers."
As well as the star system, illegal downloading discourages another strategy from the CD era that was designed to maximize record companies' profits by reaching deeper into customers' pockets: the packaging of songs into albums. Economists refer to this kind of sales strategy as "bundling."
"For example, we see bundling going on when we see a toothbrush sold with toothpaste," Bhattacharjee says. "What is an album? It is basically a bundle of songs. Some of them are good, some of them are not so good. A lot of consumers have indicated they do not like bundling."
Garland recalls that prior to the advent of CDs in the 1980s, the music industry generally divided its sales between singles and LPs. "In the days of vinyl, a song was pretty cheap." Then, he says, "The industry got greedy."
In the era of the compact disc, the single all but disappeared. Consumers were forced to spend $15 or more on an album, buying 10 songs they didn't want in order to get the one song they did.
The result? "Oh my God, they minted money," Garland says. "The torrential downpour of cash from the late '80s through the middle '90s was unprecedented. If you talk to the executives and the artists who were there during this gold rush and they talk about it like Camelot, as a time when all you had to do was show up in the morning and you got rich."
Through interviews and focus group sessions with digital packrats, Bhattacharjee and Garland have both concluded that many people are motivated to download songs for free in retaliation for what they perceive as the greed of the recording industry.
"One of the drivers in the customers' greed is vengeance. People feel that they were exploited by the music industry for years," Garland says. "People justified downloading music for free by saying, ‘The music industry stole from me and my parents, and now it's our turn.' "
Today the big four record companies are back to where they were in the 1970s and prior: Having to sell each song individually, even to the customers willing to pay full price. Sounds like a victory for the listener.
The economic arguments in favour of file sharing should not be interpreted to suggest you shouldn't pay. In fact, there's never been a better time to buy music legitimately, and it could be argued that the average, conscientious consumer has greed to thank for it. If not for the popularity of the original, all-free version of Napster around the turn of the century, Garland says, legitimate music download sites - such as iTunes, Canada's Puretracks and the contemporary, for-pay version of Napster - might never have developed in the first place.
At the very least, competition from illegal downloading motivates for-pay sites to offer the customer the best deal possible. Fortunately for the recording industry, it is possible to offer a better deal than free. As economists observe, "cost" does not merely refer to money.
"Going to an illegal site has its costs," Bhattacharjee says. "The time you spend searching and the time you spend downloading. When you download something illegally there's a very high chance there will be a virus in that, so you are killing your own machine. And the whole idea that you are doing an illegal activity and you may be caught. When you download an illegal file, very often it is not of high quality. These are all things that deter you from going the illegal way."
Given the pains of piracy, it's not surprising that more and more consumers are choosing to spend a dollar a song instead. "It is a much more satisfying experience than going to an illegal site," Bhattacharjee says.
Techonology may have changed the game, in other words, but the recording industry could still win it. If greed got them into this mess, greed can get them out.
But even if the recording industry triumphs in the battle for some hard drives, the consumer has already won the war. Thanks to innovations forced on the industry by illegal downloading, Garland says the 21st-century model would favour the little guy even if everyone started paying for every track tomorrow.
"As it turns out, iTunes and their ilk are almost as bad for big music as people downloading songs for free. It's devastated the business," he says. Garland has explained to record company executives, " ‘If you guys could obliterate piracy and replace it with people buying songs a buck at a time ... people are spending [a dollar] instead of $18.' You're arguing about the difference between losing 100% of your gross and losing 90%-plus."
Either way, the listener wins, and not because anyone is deliberately arranging for it to be so. For it is not from the benevolence of the record company, nor the artist, nor Apple - nor indeed of the digital packrat - that we expect to be able to download a track from iTunes for 99˘ with little or no hassle. It is from their regard to their own self-interest. Adam Smith might have liked the sound of that.
CBS Moves Ahead With Layoffs in News
News operations at CBS stations in several cities started a series of job cuts this week even as the CBS News network moved ahead with plans to lay off about 1 percent of its nearly 1,200 employees.
Over the last several days, layoffs were ordered at local stations that CBS owns, including ones in New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. Dana McClintock, a spokesman for CBS, said the actions at the network and the local stations were not related.
“This is not the result of any corporate mandate,” Mr. McClintock said. The moves are the latest in a wave of cuts at news operations in both television and print organizations.
The cuts at the local stations owned by CBS were related to the financial performance of the station group in the first quarter of 2008, a CBS station executive said. The executive, who requested anonymity because the company was restricting comment on the moves, said that CBS had not issued a corporate order to cut jobs but that the stations “had to deal with their budget numbers.”
The executive added, “It looks big and ugly, but it’s not something that was ordered from on high.”
CBS revenues declined 14.6 percent in the fourth quarter. Like most media stocks, the share price has also been in decline, down almost 20 percent for the year.
At the network news division, the cuts will not include any on-air staff members, CBS executives said, and are concentrated mainly on technical and support personnel. The “Evening News” program will not be affected, CBS said.
But the cuts will be felt at “The Early Show,” which is losing five employees. Those layoffs come on top of an exodus in the last several months of more than 20 people during an upheaval that brought in a new executive producer, Shelley Ross, who was fired six months later. Some of the jobs now vacant will be retained, CBS executives said, but others will be eliminated.
If the numbers remain as announced, job cuts at CBS News will be less than those at its news counterparts at ABC and NBC. Sandy Genelius, the spokeswoman for CBS News, said some jobs were being redefined and others would be open to be filled by others.
ABC News announced last week that it was eliminating about 20 jobs (though an ABC spokesman said other positions will be added, keeping the overall job loss to less than 10 positions). The division president, David Westin, has said he intends to cut about 30 jobs by next year.
NBC News ordered a series of job cutbacks two years ago as part of a companywide initiative called NBC 2.0, which set a goal of cutting 700 positions by the end of this year. About 30 of those cuts have come from inside NBC’s news operation, which is much larger than CBS’s because it includes a separate cable news channel, MSNBC.
The NBC initiative did involve cuts in the news operations of the stations it owns in cities including New York, Los Angeles and Washington.
Not all the 29 CBS stations enacted cuts this week, but most of the biggest ones did.
The cuts have generally been from 3 percent to 5 percent of each station’s staff, with WBZ in Boston apparently making the biggest reduction, paring about 20 positions. WBBM in Chicago cut about 17 jobs; KPIX in San Francisco dropped 14 positions; KYW in Philadelphia cut 12; KDKA in Pittsburgh and KOVR in Sacramento each dropped 10 and KCNC in Denver, 6. In addition, stations in Los Angeles, Dallas and Minneapolis cut an undisclosed number of positions.
In all those cases, on-air staff members were dropped, including many reporters long familiar to viewers. That was the case at WCBS in New York. Those cut there included two longtime reporters, Andrew Kirtzman and Scott Weinberger.
Spy My Ride: Somebody May be Tracking Your Vehicle and You Don't Know About it!
New technologies always come with privacy issues
There is no shortage of articles discussing privacy issues introduced by new technologies. ReadID, passports, chips in currency bills, and other engineering marvels designed for purposes of tracking and monitoring, always come with a bouquet of questions and privacy concerns. On the other hand, technologies not specifically designed for monitoring can sometimes be used for this very purpose and privacy problems introduced by them are often overlooked. Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) is one of those technologies.
What is TPMS?
TPMS lets on-board vehicle computers measure air pressure in the tires. If you purchased a new vehicle in the last 2 years, it is very likely that it came with TPMS. If you live in the Unites States, your next vehicle will contain TPMS whether you like or not -- in April 2005, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rule requiring automakers to install TPMS sensors in all new passenger cars and trucks starting in September 2007.
The first passenger vehicle to adopt TPMS was the Porshe 959 (1986); it measured tire pressure indirectly, and it did not use radio frequency (RF) to transmit information. Battery-powered wireless TPMS that directly measure air pressure in the tires appeared in the late 90's. Within a decade, the technology substantially advanced and was adopted by many auto-manufacturers. More high-level information about TPMS history can be found on this Wikipedia page
How does TPMS work?
In a typical TPMS, each wheel of the vehicle contains a device (TPMS sensor) - usually attached to the inflation valve - that measures air pressure and, optionally, temperature, vehicle state (moving or not), and the health of the sensor's battery. Each sensor transmits this information (either periodically or upon request) to the on-board computer in the vehicle. To differentiate between its own wheels and wheels of the vehicle in the next lane, each TPMS sensor contains a unique id. The receiver is "paired" to the sensors very much as a Bluetooth device. The vast majority of TPMS sensors transmit information in clear text using one of the assigned radio frequencies (typically, 315MHz or 433MHz).
TPMS transmits data that uniquely identifies your car!
Here is where privacy problems become obvious: Each wheel of the vehicle transmits a unique ID, easily readable using off-the-shelf receiver. Although the transmitter’s power is very low, the signal is still readable from a fair distance using a good directional antenna.
Remember the paper that discussed how Bluetooth radios in cell phones can be used to track their owners? The problem with TPMS is incomparably bigger, because the lifespan of a typical cell phone is around 2 years and you can turn the Bluetooth radio off in most of them. On the contrary, TPMS cannot be turned off. It comes with a built-in battery that lasts 7 to 10 years, and the battery-less TPMS sensors are ready to hit the market in 2010. It does not matter how long you own the vehicle – transportation authorities keep up-to-date information about vehicle ownership.
Why is this a problem?
What problems exactly does the TPMS introduce? If you live in the United States, chances are, you have heard about the “traffic-improving” ideas where transportation authorities looked for the possibility to track all vehicles in nearly real time in order to issue speeding tickets or impose mileage-adjusted taxes. Those ideas caused a flood of privacy debates, but fortunately, it turned out that it was not technically of financially feasible to implement such a system within the next 5-10 years, so the hype quickly died out.
Guess what? With minor limitations, TPMS can be used for the very purpose of tracking your vehicle in real time with no substantial investments! TPMS can also be used to measure the speed of your vehicle. Similarly to highway/freeway speed sensors that measure traffic speed, TPMS readers can be installed in pairs to measure how quick your vehicle goes over a predefined distance. Technically, it is even plausible to use existing speed sensors to read TPMS data!
Note that unlike traffic sensors that measure speed anonymously, TPMS can be used to measure speed of each individual vehicle because car manufacturers know serial numbers of every part in your vehicle, including unique IDs of TPMS sensors.
Now, no article is complete unless it mentions terrorists. Bad news, everyone (terrorists of all levels of badness -- rejoice)! It is now super easy to blow up someone's car. There's no need to fix the explosive to the vehicle. No more wires and buttons. No human factor. A high-school kid with passion for electronics can assemble a device that will trigger the detonator when the right vehicle passes by. (Movie directors, beware - I will go after you if I see this in the next blockbuster).
Aren't we being tracked already?
Yes, many vehicles already come with advanced tracking technologies, like OnStar, but they usually offered as options, so if you do not appreciate the possibility for OnStar support people to eavesdrop on the conversations in your vehicle (yes, they can do that), you can say "no, thank you" to the dealer, or, as the last resort, disable the evil device by cutting its power supply. TPMS cannot be easily disabled: you need to take the tire off the wheel to access the device.
As every other tracking technology, the TPMS was introduced as a safety feature “for your protection”. One might wonder why NTHSA (a government agency) would care so much about a small number of accidents related to under-pressurized tires. And why would it choose to mandate TPMS and not run-flat technology? Are we being tracked already? I hope not.
Can this problem be solved?
Yes, if it gets enough attention. Many chip manufacturers produce TPMS IC sets (for sensors and receivers). If they add functionality to encrypt the communication channel, the problem will go away. Note the similarity to the keyless entry remote controllers. Initially, the remote controllers did not use any encryption, but when carjackers started to sniff communications and replay them to unlock vehicles, a complex rolling code and encryption functionalities were implemented. Similar solutions can be adopted for TPMS.
Intel Makes a Push Into Pocket-Size Internet Devices
Intel plans to proclaim Wednesday in Shanghai that the next big thing in consumer gadgets will be the “Internet in your pocket.”
The challenge for the giant chip maker will be to prove that it is not too late to a market that has rapidly become the hottest spot in the consumer electronics business in a post-PC era.
At a developer event in China, the company, based in Santa Clara, Calif., will display a range of wireless Internet devices that Intel believes will fill a gap between smartphones and laptops. The company is hoping to capitalize on the success that Apple has had with its iPhone, which is one of the most popular mobile Web smartphones.
Intel is calling the new computers Mobile Internet Devices, or MIDs, and claims that it will have a significant advantage over makers of chips for cellphones because the Intel version will be highly compatible with the company’s laptop and desktop processors for which most Web software is written today.
The first generation of Intel’s MID technology will be aimed at data, not voice communications, leaving the company out of the market for smartphones. That has not damped the enthusiasm of Intel executives who foresee a proliferation of devices ranging from advanced ultracompact laptops to small, tablet-size devices that will be used for browsing the Web, navigation and Internet chat, rather than voice communications.
“What enables the innovation is the ability to bring over all the existing PC applications,” said Anand Chandrasekher, general manager of the company’s Ultra Mobility Group.
The weak link in the Intel strategy is that voice communication remains a significant factor for consumers choosing to buy hand-held devices.
Intel backed out of the cellphone market two years ago when it sold its Xscale microprocessor business to the Marvell Technology Group. Intel then set out on an ambitious redesign project for ultralow-power versions of its PC-oriented X86 chips. The current system requires two chips, one for the processor and one for peripherals. It will take the company another technology generation to place everything on a single chip.
That leads some analysts to believe that the company’s real breakthrough will not come until 2009 or 2010, when a new processor, now code-named Moorestown, arrives.
“We’re pretty bullish on it with some qualifications,” said Van L. Baker, a research vice president at the Gartner Group, a market research firm. “We don’t believe they get there in a significant way until the next generation of technology.”
Meanwhile, Intel’s strategy is moving the company toward a direct confrontation with Qualcomm, the San Diego-based chip maker that is also trying to deliver the wireless Internet on hand-held devices. The company, which refers to its strategy as “pocketable computing,” is offering a competing chip that offers lower power consumption and which is aimed for devices that blend voice and Internet data.
“We need to deliver an Internet experience that is like the desktop,” said Sanjay Jha, Qualcomm’s chief operating officer. “People are used to the Internet, and you can’t shortchange them.”
The new Intel mobile Internet strategy takes advantage of the company’s Atom microprocessor, which was announced in early March. The Atom will have performance roughly equivalent to laptop computers introduced four years ago, but will use little more than a half-a-watt to two-and-a-half watts of battery power. That is significantly lower than the 35 watts of power consumed by the company’s state-of-the-art microprocessors in today’s laptops.
The new MIDs, which are scheduled to begin showing up in consumer electronics outlets in June, are the clearest evidence to date of the effort that Intel has made since its chief executive, Paul Otellini, set the company on a low-power strategy in 2005. In interviews, Intel executives said that the company was slightly ahead of the commitment Mr. Otellini made to bring out a line of lower-power processors before the end of the decade.
Complicating life for Intel is the fact that the chip maker is locked out of the low-power cellphone and smartphone marketplace, which today is entirely based on microprocessor chips made by designs licensed from the British design firm ARM Ltd. to companies like Qualcomm.
More than 10 billion ARM chips have been sold by more than 200 licensees, and ARM now says that more than eight million chips a day are being used in cellphones, smartphones and a wide range of hand-held consumer products.
Until recently, early efforts by the PC industry to create so-called palmtop PCs, such as the Microsoft-inspired Ultra-Mobile PCs, have failed to find a broad consumer audience. Indeed, the entire P.D.A., or personal digital assistant, market is all but dead as many of its functions were overtaken by the smartphone.
However, the category showed renewed signs of life last year when Asus, a Taiwanese equipment maker, made a name for itself by introducing the Eee PC, a two-pound Linux-based laptop that sells for $400.
Now many of the mainstream PC makers are rushing to introduce similar laptops that fall well below the traditional PC laptop price, but allow Web surfing and many basic computing tasks. There is also renewed interest among consumer electronics makers in devices that are neither laptops or cellphones.
Introducing products at the Intel event in Shanghai will be Asus, BenQ, Clarion, Fujitsu, Gigabyte, Lenovo, LG-E, NEC, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba, WiBrain and Usi. Intel has also distanced itself from its traditionally close relationship with Microsoft and Windows by striking up a new partnership with Ubuntu and Red Flag, two distributors of Linux software for consumer markets.
“Think of it as, ‘honey I shrunk the PC,’ ” said Richard Doherty, president of Envisioneering, a consumer electronics market research and consulting firm. “Intel is betting that this will be a win in China, which already has the world’s largest mobile phone market and therefore influences the rest of the world market.”
Gartner: Open Source Will Quietly Take Over
Open source will soon be in every organisation predicts a Gartner report, although IT managers may not be aware it is happening
In a few years' time, almost all businesses will use open source, according to Gartner; even though IT managers may be unaware of it, and prefer to talk about fashions such as software as a service.
Open-source promoters have welcomed the endorsement by what is seen as a conservative commentator, but predict the changes will go further than Gartner assumes.
"By 2012, more than 90 percent of enterprises will use open source in direct or embedded forms," predicts a Gartner report, The State of Open Source 2008, which sees a "stealth" impact for the technology in embedded form: "Users who reject open source for technical, legal or business reasons might find themselves unintentionally using open source despite their opposition."
However, Gartner argues that at the operating-system level, Linux deployments are showing smaller benefits in total cost of ownership (TCO) as it is applied to more demanding projects, because of the technical skills required to use it: "Much of the availability, management and DBMS licensing costs will remain proprietary," says the report, and "version control and incompatibilities will continue to plague open-source OSs and associated middleware".
"Gartner has woefully underestimated the penetration of open source," said Mark Taylor, president of promotion group the Open Source Consortium. "Everyone uses [open source] on a daily basis in services like Google."
However, he welcomed the analyst's prediction that open source would disappear from view: "Open source has been promoted since 1998. If it fades from view now, because it is embedded in the mainstream, that is exactly what we wanted."
Gartner has also underestimated the benefits of Linux, said Taylor: "There are a range of open-source business models, from a completely proprietary version where open source is used as a sprinkling of magic pixie dust, to a full-on, services-based deployment using a free Linux distribution. Gartner assumes that the pseudo-open proposition will hold sway, but companies change. They may initially need the reassurance of a proprietarised version of Linux but, in our experience, they are then increasingly happy to go to a services model, using a distribution like Debian."
Gartner misses the point that a free licence does more than cut the cost of ownership, said Taylor, pointing out that it provides other benefits. "Licensing is only a slice of the total cost, but historically, companies have only bought as many licences as they can afford. If you remove the licence cost, you may only remove three percent of the of total cost of the existing project, but you also remove the brakes — you massively expand the numbers that project can be rolled out to at no extra cost.
"Open source gives massive scalability at no transaction cost, for whatever you are doing," he said.
IT managers who simply want to cut costs will look to software as a service (SaaS) rather than open source, says the Gartner report. "More technically adventurous IT projects will often prefer the direct use of open source and on-premises software development, but the mainstream IT organisation looking to reduce the IT cost burden will tend to choose SaaS where it is available."
This is nothing more than marketing-speak, said Taylor: "It's a very superficial analysis," he said. "The two will become almost indistinguishable as 98 to 99 percent of SaaS will be open source." And Gartner agrees that, by 2011, open source will dominate software infrastructure for cloud-based providers.
Microsoft Extends XP Through 2010 for Ultra-Low-Cost Laptops
Microsoft confirmed Thursday that it will extend the sales of Windows XP Home to OEMs beyond the current deadline of June 30, 2008, to accommodate a new class of ultra-low-cost PCs (ULCPCs) that are just beginning to pepper the market.
Windows XP Home will be available for OEMs to install on ULCPCs either until June 30, 2010, or one year after the availability of the next client version of Windows, code-named Windows 7 -- whichever date comes later. The IDG News Service previously reported that Microsoft would extend XP's life for these machines.
Though Microsoft has not yet revealed when it expects Windows 7 to be released, it's safe to say the OS either will be available before June 30, 2010, or Microsoft at least will have an idea by then of when it will be released.
"That is not an unreasonable presumption to make," said Kevin Kutz, director of Windows Client for Microsoft. The company has said it will release Windows 7 by the end of 2009 or early 2010, but has been vague about specific details or an exact release date.
Kutz stopped short of saying Microsoft is willing to extend the availability of a seven-year-old OS because it doesn't want to concede the ULCPC market to Linux, which many feel is the reason for the move. Instead, he said it's customers and partners who are driving the extension. "The feedback we've gotten from customers and partners is they want Windows on those devices," Kutz said.
At the same time he acknowledged that Microsoft, too, wants to see Windows on ULCPCs, and wants "to provide the best possible Windows experience for the device."
Still, if Microsoft is willing to allow OEMs to put a version of Windows on devices up to nine years past its release date when there will be not just one but two XP successors on the market, it's apparent the company recognizes a threat from Linux in that market. Linux is the OS running the current poster child for the low-cost laptop -- Asustek Computer's US$249 Eee PC, which was released in October and runs the Xandros distribution of Linux.
Linux also was supposed to be the OS for a forthcoming line of ULCPCs based on new Intel Atom processors that are due out later this year, laptops Intel is calling Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). In the past, Intel had said the MIDs would run Linux and established an effort, called Moblin.org, to develop a version of the open-source software for the devices.
However, Intel's Gary Willihnganz, director of marketing for its Ultra Mobility Group, said this week that both Windows XP and Vista also will run on the Atom-based MIDs in addition to Linux. He even suggested that the devices will be designed with support for Vista in mind, by saying the new platform will "be enabled" for both XP and Vista.
Since Intel's MIDs are not expected to be available until after XP's current June 30, 2008 deadline, this likely inspired Microsoft to change its XP availability policy. On the ULCPCs that are currently available for the market, Vista is not an option because of its memory and hard-drive requirements. Kutz said Thursday that Microsoft has no plans to change Vista to make it more suitable for ULCPCs, and hinted that forthcoming ULCPCs will evolve to the point that they can run Vista.
"It depends on what an ULCPC becomes over time," he said. "Right now we're enabling as much flexibility and choice as possible."
Gates: Windows 7 May Come 'in the Next Year'
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Friday indicated that Windows 7, the next major version of Windows, could come within the next year, far ahead of the development schedule previously indicated by the software maker.
In response to a question about Windows Vista, Gates, speaking before the Inter-American Development Bank here, said: "Sometime in the next year or so we will have a new version." Referring to Windows 7, the code name for the next full release of Windows client software, Gates said: "I'm super-enthused about what it will do in lots of ways."
Most of Gates' speech was devoted to topics closer to home for the crowd, such as how Latin America can be more competitive.
Windows 7 and its intended feature list have been the topic of speculation since Microsoft discussed some details of the new software last summer.
At that time, Microsoft said little except that Windows 7 will ship in consumer and business versions, and in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The company also confirmed that it is considering a subscription model to complement Windows, but did not provide specifics or a time frame.
Less than 24 hours ago, a Microsoft representative told CNET News.com that the company expects to ship the successor to Vista roughly three years from Vista's January 2007 debut.
Unclear is whether Gates was referring to early testing of Windows 7 coming within the year, as opposed to a widespread release or debut. An early test geared toward developers would be conceivable. The company has repeatedly said that it will accelerate the development of new Windows versions, largely as a response to Vista's roughly five year gestation period.
Microsoft on Thursday declined to extend a lifeline for Windows XP, saying that only a limited number of specialized machines will be sold with the operating system after June.
The company said it will continue to allow Windows XP Home edition to be sold for a class of computers it calls "ultra-low-cost PCs."
Vista, the current version of Windows, has sold well, according to Microsoft. But the operating system's debut was marred by repeated delays and shifting feature lists. Last week, Microsoft stepped up efforts to drive adoption of Vista by businesses.
CNET News.com's Mike Ricciuti contributed to this report.
Office Open XML Officially Approved As International Standard
The much-debated open document standard Office Open XML (OOXML) has been approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), according to a document obtained by Intellectual Property Watch.
The result of the voting showed 24 supporting votes by participating national standards bodies allowed to vote, known as “p-members,” versus eight opposing votes. This translates to a 75 percent approval rating among bodies which cast a vote, greater than the two-thirds approval required for approval by ISO. However, nine national standards bodies who abstained from voting were not included in this calculation.
The Microsoft document standard, which is a 6,000 page set of specifications, has been hotly contested, culminating in two parallel meetings in Geneva this February (IPW, Access to Knowledge, 27 February 2008): one, the Ballot Resolution Meeting meant to resolve technical issues with the specification before approval as a standard and the other, called OpenForum Europe, in which free software and rival Open Document Format supporters called for the rejection of OOXML.
Though the public announcement has not been made, Ecma, an industry standards-making body that had approved OOXML previously, has released a press statement welcoming the approval, with secretary general Istvan Sebestyen calling it “an important milestone.” Microsoft’s statement hailed the appearance of “extremely broad support” for the standard at the end of the ISO voting process.
Opponents of the OOXML standard disagree about the support, and accused Microsoft of irregularities during the voting process (IPW, Access to Knowledge, 29 February 2008). Knowledge Ecology International released an early statement saying it was “disappointed” about the likely approval and that “Microsoft’s control over document formats has destroyed competition on the desktop.”
Several other sources have raised questions about apparent last-minute vote changes, with several countries changing their votes from disapproval or abstention to approval in the eleventh hour, they said. Most notable of these is Norway, whose reportedly last-minute “yes” vote has raised questions about legitimacy, according to a Norwegian IT blog.
The ISO is a 157-member network of national standards bodies based in Geneva.
XP RFID Encryption Cracked
The Chaos Computer Club (Hamburg, Germany) has cracked the encryption scheme of NXPs popular Mifare Classic RFID chip. The device is used in many contactless smartcard applications including fare collection, loyalty cards or access control cards. NXP downplays the significance of the hack.
According to a report in Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Chaos Computer Club (CCC) experts along with colleagues from the University of Virginia cracked the encoding scheme with little effort. The achievement allows the crackers to read out data, recharge payment cards, copy RFID cards or generate "new" users.
The Mifare Classic family is sold in large volumes. Its memory sports a capacity of 1 to 4 kByte, explained a spokesperson in NXPs Austrian RFID competence center. Since it is in the market since the mid-nineties, the proprietary 48-bit encoding scheme is not necessarily up to today's requirements. Nevertheless, NXP sees no necessity to modify the encryption.
The spokesperson pointed out that the company also offers other RFID chips with higher security up to Triple DES or AES. "We will inform our customers about the incident", the spokesperson said. But it is the decision of the system integrator or customer if he will continue to rely on the Mifare Classic. "There are certainly applications for which the Classic can be used. We have not plans to withdraw the product from the market."
The spokesperson also pointed out that the Mifare Classic is not used in security-critical applications such as passports or electronic health cards.
The Chaos Computer Club was not available for comment.
Europe Debates Cybercrime Law Enforcement in NATO, Council of Europe Meetings
Two groups working separately to boost Europe's defenses against online crime will present proposals this week, almost a year after most of the nation of Estonia's links to the Internet were disrupted for days or weeks.
At a two-day conference starting Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, the Council of Europe will to review implementation of the international Convention on Cybercrime and discuss ways to improve international cooperation.
Cyber defense also will be on the agenda when heads of state from NATO's 26 member nations gather in Bucharest Wednesday for three days. The leaders are expected to debate new guidelines for coordinating cyber defense.
The Convention on Cybercrime, a binding treaty ratified by most members of the 47-nation Council of Europe, provide guidelines to protect computer users against hackers and Internet fraud.
The controversial agreement also covers electronic evidence used in prosecution of such offenses as child sexual exploitation, organized crime and terrorism. At this week's conference, the council will discuss guidelines to bolster the convention to improve cooperation between investigators and Internet providers, according to the council's Web site.
Participants and speakers at the conference - including police officials and representatives of technology companies such as Microsoft Corp., eBay Inc., McAfee Inc. and Symantec Inc. - also will address training.
NATO's three-day summit, which is to focus on enlarging the treaty organization and on its operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan, will include a special briefing on cyber defense, according to the treaty organization's Web site.
Some cybercrime experts are casting current Internet security challenges in terms of terrorism, while others remain focused on data loss, identity theft and fraud.
Marco Gercke, lecturer in computer law at University of Cologne in Germany, said cybercrime poses new law enforcement challenges because data can now be exchanged very fast over vast international reaches.
"Compared to regular terror attacks, it is much easier for the offenders to hide their identity. There are at least 10 unique challenges that make it very difficult to fight computer-related crime," said Gercke, one of the conference participants. "The success rate of cybercrime is very high."
Privacy advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union and others are concerned that the Cybercrime Convention presses businesses and individuals to aid law enforcement in new ways and subjects them to surveillance that violates the U.S. Constitution.
President Bush signed the treaty in 2003 and the U.S. Senate ratified it in 2006. The convention has been ratified by 21 other nations.
The type of assault Estonian Internet service providers suffered - which included denial-of-service attacks, where criminals flood a server with so many requests for connections that it is overwhelmed - is particularly difficult to block because servers can't easily distinguish between legitimate and bogus requests for access, experts have said.
Estonian officials initially blamed the attacks on the Russian government but later acknowledged they had no proof of government involvement, though they said most of the computers launching the attacks were in Russia.
Estonia has set up a center to tackle computer-related crime and wants a global treaty on combatting cyber attacks because laws in many countries are inadequate or conflict, which can make prosecution of cyber criminals difficult.
The tiny Baltic state, which has one of the world's highest rates of Internet use, has said the attacks damaged its economy because it depends heavily on the Internet.
Russian officials deny any involvement in the cyber onslaught which erupted during violent protests by ethnic Russians against moving a Soviet-era monument out of the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
Web sites run by media outlets, government institutions and banks denied access to users outside Estonia. Among other impacts, Estonians traveling abroad couldn't get at their bank accounts.
The attack also included e-mail spam.
On the Net:
NZ Teen Convicted of Cyber Crime
A New Zealand teenager accused of being the ringleader of an international cyber-crime network has been convicted.
Owen Thor Walker, 18, admitted six charges of using computers for illegal purposes and will be sentenced in May.
Police allege the group infiltrated more than one million computers and used them to skim at least $20.4m (Ł10.3m) from private bank accounts.
He was detained last November as part of an FBI investigation into global botnets - networks of hijacked PCs.
A botnet can be controlled over the internet by a single computer.
It installs malicious software on PCs around the world to collect information such as login names, bank account details and credit card numbers.
Walker pleaded guilty to charges of accessing a computer for dishonest purposes, interfering with computer systems, possession of software for committing crime and accessing computer systems without authorisation, the New Zealand Press Association said.
New Zealand police said he had begun committing the crimes at school, and had designed an encrypted virus that was undetectable by anti-virus software.
It allowed him access to usernames and passwords as well as credit card details, and was used by others to commit the frauds.
Walker faces up to five years in prison for several of the charges, but Judge Arthur Tompkins indicated he was not considering a custodial sentence.
Walker was detained in New Zealand's North Island city of Hamilton and is reported to have Asperger's syndrome - a neurobiological disorder which can result in deficiencies in social skills.
Although patients have normal intelligence, some may have exceptional talent in a specific area.
Virgin Media in Talks to Trial Three Strikes Regime Against P2P
Second time lucky for the BPI?
Virgin Media could soon become the second major ISP to attempt to implement a "three strikes" system against illegal filesharers in partnership with the record industry.
The cable company is in talks with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) to trial a system of warnings, followed by disconnection, for the most persistent copyright infringers.
It's the same scheme that Tiscali briefly put in place last summer. That led to 4 customers being disconnected after allegedly ignoring the warnings, but relations between Tiscali and the BPI collapsed in a row over how the costs should be shared.
In a statement today, Virgin Media said: "We have been in discussions with rights holders organisations about how a voluntary scheme could work. We are taking this problem seriously and would favour a sensible voluntary solution."
A spokesman promised that customers will be told when any trial begins, but couldn't say when that will be.
Under the proposed three strikes rules, BPI enforcement agents will detect IP numbers participating in copyright-infringing peer to peer networks. They will alert the ISP, which will voluntarily send out warnings to stop or face disconnection from the net.
ISPs are under huge government pressure to agree to the scheme, or face legislation.
Similar moves are afoot in France and Japan.
New Details Revealed of Music Industry Plan to OK P2P
Details of a controversial plan to make money from music piracy are beginning to emerge.
Spearheaded by Warner Music Group, the plan aims to get internet service providers to pay a few dollars per user per month into a fund that would then be divided among rights holders. The scheme would essentially give P2P users a get-out-of-jail-free card for file sharing activity.
Wired.com has learned that industry consultant Jim Griffin, hired by Warner to implement the idea, has already set up an independent company to act as a digital-rights clearinghouse. Griffin's company would be like an ASCAP for the internet, collecting fees from ISPs and divvying them up among rights holders.
In addition, BigChampagne, a company that measures digital-media consumption, would be one of the major sources supplying the necessary data to track file sharing activity.
The hoped-for result: a truce in the music wars.
"The music industry has no choice," says Bob Kohn, a music-licensing expert and CEO of RoyaltyShare, which manages digital revenues for both majors and indies. "It's significantly weaker than it was in 2000. And the longer this drags on, the more difficult it will be to succeed."
In the last 10 years, sales of CDs have plummeted as digital downloads have exploded, and the U.S. music business has shrunk from about $15 billion to $10 billion.
The idea of charging a flat fee for 'all-you-can-eat' downloads is beginning to take off.
Apple is reportedly in talks to offer unlimited access to the iTunes library in return for a premium on the iPod. Nokia and Omnifone, a British wireless carrier, will later this year offer free music plans with cellphone contracts.
On Monday, the leading telco in Denmark, TDC, went live with a variant of Griffin's plan -- an unlimited-download offering from Warner, EMI, Sony BMG and a number of indie labels. Subscribers pay nothing extra; but the downloads expire if their contract isn't renewed. Other Scandinavian network operators are said to be interested in similar arrangements.
Discussions are also under way with North American universities. Both sides have ample reason to cut a deal. As a perceived file sharing hotbed, colleges are already facing -- and in some cases fighting -- demands to hand over students suspected of piracy. And for all their tough talk in public, the major labels would probably rather not start a fight with high-profile institutions.
So far, the rights organization Griffin heads has but one employee -- Griffin himself. Most of the details, including such basic issues as how much money the ISPs will be asked to cough up per user, are still to be determined.
"What remains to be sorted out," a senior executive at Warner says, "is basically everything."
Griffin did not return calls seeking comment.
To the extent that the Warner plan has been defined at all, it is essentially a covenant not to sue. Users would be free to download music from any site they like -- including Limewire, which has been sued by the music industry. ISPs would not be pressured to install expensive filtering mechanisms that might (or might not) be able to intercept illegitimate P2P traffic.
The question of whether internet providers should cover the music industry's losses from P2P has been a hot-button issue at least since Wired.com reported in mid-March that music labels were beginning to consider such a scheme. Now, news that Warner has hired Griffin to implement the idea -- an open secret in the industry for months -- is causing the controversy to boil over.
To many, the notion that internet service providers should pay money to rights holders -- music labels, artists, songwriters and publishers -- makes inherent sense. It's how songwriters and performers have long been reimbursed for radio airplay and the like, and how musicians and labels are paid for digital transmission via satellite or internet radio.
But to critics, among them influential bloggers like Michael Arrington of TechCruch, the idea smacks of a protection racket. Pay up, the music industry is telling users and ISPs, or be liable for legal action over P2P.
In fact, it's a classic example of collective licensing: Copyright holders grant a blanket license allowing use of their works in exchange for a fee. Its origins go back to 1847, when a composer named Ernest Bourget objected to his music being played for free at Les Ambassadeurs, a popular cafe in Paris. The litigation that followed led to the creation of SACEM, the first performing-rights organization and the model for ASCAP, which was established in the United States in 1914.
Complicating the issue are widespread misperceptions about what Griffin is trying to do. He is not, for example, heading a government initiative. No one anticipates laws forcing either music companies or ISPs to participate. And far from being initiated by the major labels, the idea is winning acceptance only after they resisted it for years as tantamount to legitimizing piracy.
Some wonder whether the moment has already passed. "People were excited about this idea in the last days of Napster," says Eric Garland, CEO of BigChampagne. "But the music companies were not only not receptive to it, they considered it treasonous. Now the music companies are desperate -- and people are saying, 'No, we had that conversation, and you said we'll see you in court.'"
Obviously, fees that are collected from businesses tend to get passed on to consumers. Thanks to Bourget, everyone who spends money at a restaurant or a store has to pay for the background music, like it or not. Most people never notice the bite. "When you pay the tab at a restaurant, there's no line item that says this is your licensed-music fee," Garland says. "But you'd better believe that every time you eat out, you're paying for it."
Then there's the question of who gets reimbursed and how—another sure source of controversy for Griffin.
Though Griffin's outfit is being incubated and funded by Warner, it's set up an independent company -- one that may ultimately be owned by rights holders collectively, as ASCAP and Broadcast Music are. Yet rather than pay artists and songwriters directly, the plan envisions the money going to music labels and publishers, which in turn will divvy up the proceeds.
This raises big questions for artists. Still to be determined, for example, is whether a download should be treated as a purchase, in which case the artists would get at most 10 percent of the proceeds, or as an audio stream, in which case they would get closer to 50 percent.
"That's a huge row that's coming up," says Peter Jenner, a longtime Griffin colleague who manages Billy Bragg and heads the International Music Managers Forum. "If we don't get our shit together soon, we'll get screwed by the record companies. I think everyone should stop whining and get on with making sure we don't get shafted like we did on the old business model."
Even if artists don't get screwed by the labels, they could still get shortchanged. How the pool of money from ISPs gets divvied up among them depends on how accurately file sharing gets reported. The long tail of all the world's recorded music is close to infinite, and that suggests that less-popular artists will almost surely get shortchanged.
Not so, Garland says. CDs have a habit of falling off trucks or coming in the back door. But online music -- whether it's delivered by file sharing, streaming or legal downloads -- can be tracked with precision, Garland says, because every packet carries unique identifiers. "I've seen information about bands that even I performed in," he claims. "They must have been downloaded by my ex-wife."
Peter Jenner has his doubts. What about bootlegs? Who owns the rights to them? "But we're trying to get money from places where nothing has been coming in," he says. "It's never going to be perfect -- but to say you shouldn't do it is a really stupid thing."
Lawsuit Claim: Students' Lecture Notes Infringe on Professor's Copyright
University of Florida professor Michael Moulton thinks copyright law protects the lectures he gives to his students, and he's headed to court to prove it.
Moulton and his e-textbook publisher are suing Thomas Bean, who runs a company that repackages and sells student notes, arguing that the business is illegal since notes taken during college lectures violate the professor's copyright.
Faulkner Press filed suit in a Florida court Tuesday against the the owner of Einstein's Notes, which sells "study kits" for classes, including Professor Michael Moulton's course on "Wildlife Issues in the New Millennium."
Those notes are illegal, Faulkner and Moulton contend, since they are derivative works of the professor's copyrighted lectures.
If successful, the suit could put an end to a lucrative, but ethically murky businesses that have grown up around large universities to profit from students who don't always want to go to the classes they are paying for.
The suit could also have ramifications for more longstanding businesses such as Cliffs Notes, which summarize copyrighted novels.
Faulkner Press publishes two e-textbooks that Moulton wrote and uses in his classes, and sells its own set of class notes for the course.
But James Sullivan, Faulkner Press' attorney, says the suit isn't about money for the professors, it's about protecting its intellectual property.
"Students are buying a particular note packet to do well on a particular exam by a particular professor," Sullivan said. "The commercial appeal of the product is that it is a copy or close derivative work of that professor's intellectual property."
But if a professor's lectures are copyrighted, aren't students already infringing just by taking the notes in the first place?
Yes, Sullivan answers, student notes do infringe, but they are protected infringement.
"That's absolutely fair use," Sullivan said.
What if a student took notes, but didn't copy anything verbatim from a professor's lecture, and then decided to publish the notes online or sell them?
"While that may not be slavish copy, the notes would be a derivative work and a copyright holder has the exclusive right to create derivative notes," Sullivan said.
Sullivan says his case is more solid than a similar 1996 Florida lawsuit against a company called A-Plus Notes, which was rejected by the courts. Moulton has registered his copyrights, cleared them with the university and recorded his lectures.
"Professor Moulton used an overhead projector in class and would write out the high points of the lecture and that's what Einstein's Notes' note-taker would write down," says Sullivan. Moulton's writing on the transparency fixes the copyright, and the words can easily be compared to the student notes, he adds.
Einstein's Notes, which operates online as HowIgotAnA.com, pays students to write down what professors say in class so that the notes can be re-sold to other students in advance of exams, Sullivan claims.
He also notes that Einstein's Notes puts a copyright notice on the cheat sheets and prints its material with black ink on dark green paper in an attempt to thwart photocopying.
A less exotic copyright claim in the lawsuit alleges that Einstein's Notes also copied and reprinted hundreds of test prep questions included in the professor's text book and in his course software.
The lawsuit seeks any profits made off of the Moulton study guides.
Neither Einstein's Note's owner nor Professor Moulton responded to requests for comment.
Crabby Apple Bites Big Apple Over TM
Apple Computer says New York’s GreeNYC logo will confuse customers.
New York City, universally known as The Big Apple, is facing a lawsuit from Steve Jobs’ Apple Computer Inc. for, of all things, copyright infringement.
The suit stems from New York’s environmental awareness campaign, GreeNYC, and its logo, which uses the outline of an apple, complete with a little leaf on top. Filed in September, the suit had gone unnoticed until this week. The California computer giant claims the drawing is too similar to its ubiquitous trademark.
The city’s response? Bite my apple.
New York City Corp. Counsel Michael Cardozo quickly filed a counterclaim to have Apple’s case thrown out, citing differences between both logos, and the fact that Apple Computer does not sell mugs, caps or other items, making confusion unlikely. He added that NYC & Company, the non-profit city marketing organization behind the logo, is dedicated to increasing tourism to New York and all of its sites—including the various Apple stores—ultimately benefiting the computer company.
As a concession, the city agreed to eliminate beer steins from its retail catalog because Apple Computer had previously filed for that particular use of its logo.
At the center of the controversy is the city program’s icon, a free-form sketch of Eve’s favorite fruit. In recent weeks that logo has started sprouting up on local bus shelters and on fashionable grocery sacs sold at Whole Foods Markets. The city plans to print it on T-shirts, caps, mugs and various other items throughout the Mayor Bloomberg-created campaign.
But according to the maker of Mac’s, that is not what the doctor ordered.
“[GreeNYC’s logo] so closely resembles Apple’s [logo] that its use is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception in the minds of consumers,” wrote Apple Computer’s lawyers in their September filing with the Trademark Trial and Appeal board objecting to the logo.
The company cited its New York flagship store, the giant glass cube on 5th Avenue, as a tourist attraction, and claimed people walking around carrying bags, wearing caps or drinking out of bottles emblazoned with GreeNYC apples would “likely cause dilution of the distinctiveness of [Apple Computer’s brand], resulting in damage and injury to the company.”
Creative Climbs Down Over Home Brew Vista Drivers
Daniel-K slams 'arrogant and sarcastic' company
A Brazilian developer threatened with legal action by Creative for making its soundcards work better with Vista has had his work reinstated on the company's website.
Daniel Kawakami, better known by the moniker Daniel_K, modified a range of Creative's drivers to make the company's soundcards work smoothly with Windows Vista.
Without his modifications, users argue, Vista machines with Creative soundcards crash and features fail to work.
Posting a forum message on its website last weekend, Creative threatened Daniel_K with legal action, accusing him of infringing its intellectual property. The company removed forum posts from the developer containing links to his work.
The move backfired big time, generating a media firestorm and howls of protests from outraged users on technology forums across the web.
Guess what, Creative has reinstated Daniel_K's posts.
Creative declined to speak to The Register on the matter, but sent us this statement instead.
He told us that Creative contacted him on a chat session. "They were sarcastic, ironic and asked me if I wanted something from them, as if I were expecting something," he wrote. "It was my protest against them and would like to see how far it would go."
He acknowledges that Creative has a case regarding intellectual property, but is furious about the company's strategy. "I'd say they are stealing [from] their own customers by disabling features based on technologies they own (so they did it on purpose) and by charging for a software that requires an improved driver that they refuse to provide."
"At least they are getting flamed all over the web and they are certainly mad about it. That is enough reward for my hard work," he wrote.
Daniel_K's modified drivers have proved immensely popular, with 100,000 downloads in total, according to the developer.
Users had complained that, without them, Vista machines based on Creative's soundcards crashed and features failed.
Some forum posters have already suggested that, given Daniel_K's success in modifying its drivers, the company should offer him a job.
So The Register asked him if he would accept a job if offered by Creative.
The Rec.humor.funny Ban
It all started in late 1988. rec.humor.funny had been running for around 17 months, and was doing very well. I had set up a system so that I could deposit accepted jokes into a queue directory, and once or twice a day, the computer would automatically select a random joke from the directory and post it to the net.
On November 9, 1988, the computer picked the following joke to post
The joke that made RHF infamous
firstname.lastname@example.org (Brian Glendenning)
Radio Astronomy, University of Toronto
( rec.humor, rec_humor_cull, racist (mildly), chuckle)
(Relayed From prabhu@mitisft)
A Scotsman and a Jew went to a restaurant. After a hearty meal, the waitress came by with the inevitable check. To the amazement of all, the Scotsman was heard to say, "I'll pay it!" and he actually did.
The next morning's newspaper carried the news item:
"JEWISH VENTRILOQUIST FOUND MURDERED IN BLIND ALLEY."
Now this joke has some mildly racist overtones, and so I made a minor mistake in forgetting to follow my usual policy on such jokes, namely to encode the joke in what is known as rot13 encoding.
Our policy here has always been to not judge jokes based on their politics, only on their comedy. This means that jokes like the above can make the cut.
The bad news was that November 9, 1988 was the 50th anniversary of Krystallnacht, the horrible night when the Nazis burned and smashed the property and temples of German Jews, considered by some to be the start of the worst of the holocaust.
This coincidence of dates proved to be too much for Jonathan E. D. Richmond, a graduate student at M.I.T. at the time. Richmond took serious offence and started a campaign against me on the net. That sort of thing (an offended person starting a posting campaign against something that offended them) happens all the time on the net, and by and large most people weren't offended at all. He called for me to be "replaced" as moderator, or barred from the net. He didn't realize that those things don't happen on the net, that it's an anarchy, and each person who builds something gets to run it and has no boss who can replace him or her.
Richmond was disturbed to find that just 4 other posters agreed with him. Just about everybody else laughed at his efforts -- or generally disagreed with the idea of anybody being censored for a politically incorrect joke or other posting. During the debate, in fact, a far nastier joke indirectly critical of Richmond appeared that ended up getting me in a bunch of trouble.
Usually, when would-be banners get derided, they go away, but Richmond was not to falter. First he called my company, hoping to get me fired. I do wish I had had the quickness to realize this and pretended to be my boss, so that I could assure Richmond that I would be fired, but alas I just told him that I owned the company.
He hunted around for a while and eventually called the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, the 85,000 circulation daily newspaper in the town in which I was living. At the Record, he found Louisa D'Amato, an Italian-Jewish reporter who was quite sympathetic to his complaint. I gave D'Amato a nice interview on the matter, since she pretended to be sympathetic to my view when she called me. (I've learned since then...)
Back in 1988, "Internet" was a new word and much of USENET flowed over plain old modem links via a protocol called UUCP. Usually one big site in a town would make the long distance call to bring in the news, and send out the few local articles that were generated, and other sites would talk to that site with local calls. So it was with my site and the University of Waterloo (my alma mater), which acted as hub for the area.
Richmond convinced D'Amato to write a very negative story on the idea of a joke forum where politically incorrect jokes could and did appear, and in particular on the idea that the University, acting as an ordinary USENET hub (like thousands of other universities around the world at the time) was facilitating all this.
The story she wrote appeared on the front page of the paper on December 1, 1988. I got permission from the Record to post it to the net.
This story surprised me, and upped the stakes. Over the next week, stories appeared almost every day, either on the front page or on the front page of the local section. The citizens of the town actually took no notice of it, and in spite of D'Amato's thought that they would, but the University did. It had to be seen to act, or felt it did. It shut off my link, and said I could have it back if I agreed not to send jokes that were offensive or "in bad taste."
I said I would, and asked for the University's official guide to taste, but they never provided it.
The moment the word got out I had been banned from the University's computers, at least a dozen sites offered to call me directly to allow the feed of rec.humor.funny to go out to the world. So it was never off the air.
In the meantime, I decided to have fun with the University. I still did a feed to them, as well as the uncensored feed to the real world. But for the U's feed, any joke that was even mildly offensive was replaced with a message that had the same headers and title, but the body was replaced by a notice stating that the University had asked that jokes in bad taste not be sent to it. Sort of like the South African newspapers with the blank spots where censored stories used to be.
The rest of the world also covered the event, and Richmond also talked to reporters at his local Boston Herald. Whoops. They did a page 2 story on it which wasn't all that kind to Richmond. I can only assume that he realized the press was a dangerous tool. Getting me banned had not made him a popular figure at MIT or on the net, and he got hassled apparently as he walked around the campus, though nothing physical was done. At any rate, he never talked to the press again after that.
While stories were also done in the Toronto papers, it was odd that nobody noted the original joke was submitted by somebody at the University of Toronto.
I got pretty scared by the press over-attention, and did the smart thing and declined to talk to reporters. Since then I have never had anything but sympathy for those people whom Mike Wallace says, in a dour and critical voice, "refused to talk to 60 minutes."
The ban was in place, and hundreds of letters were written to the K-W Record (more than they got on any other issue that year -- that's the power of the net, even then) and to the University, but it seemed it was all settling down.
I only got one letter from the general public in this case. A big packet of apparently hand-typed-for-me notes from a Nazi living in Sarnia, Ontario. Not a neo-Nazi, but an "I fought for the Fuhrer in the war" Nazi, saying how great it was that people were telling Jewish jokes on the computer. One of the scariest things I ever got.
Good thing, I guess, that D'Amato failed to mention one minor detail in her story about me as leader of the network of anti-semitic computer nazis. I'm Jewish enough myself that had I lived there, Hitler might have put me and my family in the camps.
Of course, other than providing a harrowing week, being banned was great for business. I had just released the first jokebook based on rec.humor.funny, and had put "Banned at the University of Waterloo" stickers on them. I'm sure I sold a lot more books due to the ban. And rec.humor.funny quickly surged to become the most widely read thing on the net. That fame helped me start ClariNet, the largest circulation electronic newspaper on the Internet. Today our number of paying subscribers is more than 14 times that of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. This is a lesson for those who want to ban things -- in the end you only help the people you want to ban.
Is it over yet?
Early in 1989, when we thought the story was long gone, June Genis, a programmer at Stanford University, noted to her boss in passing that there had been this silly flap over politically incorrect jokes in rec.humor.funny. June's a libertarian, about as much against censorship as you can get, so she was shocked when her boss, hearing that another University had banned the group, decided that Stanford should ban it as well.
So they did, shutting off the group entirely. They argued that since rec.humor.funny was moderated, there was no place to complain. The kept the unmoderated rec.humor because people could counter the jokes there.
To this day nobody understood that logic or knows the real reason for the ban, but Stanford students and faculty got up in arms over the idea of the computer center deciding what was fit to read and what wasn't.
This time the press coverage was all anti-ban. Stanford's a bit more famous than the U. of Waterloo, so we saw stories and editorials in not just the major dailies of the S.F. Bay Area, but also in magazines like Fortune (see the Keeping Up column in the 1989 Fortune 500 issue), the New Scientist, Communications of the A.C.M. and others.
Stanford's administration found themselves looking like fools. John McCarthy, better known to many as the originator of the LISP computer language, called me up to say he would be leading the fight at Stanford to reverse the ban. Pressure by him and others caused the faculty senate to have the matter referred to the library committee. Anybody knows what a library committee is going to say about administrative bans of unpopular material. They reversed the ban, though it took a few months.
Stanford also at the time was having some controversy over other censorious policies, such as a "fighting words" doctrine and several others. These were also later overturned in a victory for academic freedom. I'm proud to have played a small part in helping this victory.
Waterloo, years later.
During the later years, UW played with banning other groups as well. So did other schools. A popular target are the alt.sex groups, and when they banned those it finally got the swell of popular opinion against group banning. John McCarthy also came up to give a talk in support of the anti-ban efforts. In late 1991, UW finally reversed the ban, much to my personal satisfaction, even though I left the city of Waterloo that year.
Lessons and Conclusions
It should be noted that I never challenged the right of UW or Stanford to ban my publication. As private institutions, they have the legal right to decide what is done with their computers. I, and many others, however, argued that it was a violation of the strong principles of academic freedom. A University, we feel, should not attempt to protect its students, and certainly not its faculty, from the offensive forms of expression in the real world. In fact, even if you wanted to argue that some things should be banned out in the world at large, Universities have a special history of being the exception.
It's sad that this has changed at some schools these days, and many people have vowed to continue to fight it.
• Racism is a nasty accusation. If you're accused of it, don't even bother answering, you can't give the right answer. Avoid talking to the press, even if you are innocent, unless you really know what you are doing.
• On the other hand, being banned can do wonders for your visibility if the people who really count know you and know the truth. It can make you a lot of money.
• Censors will never win. As my friend John Gilmore has often been quoted as saying, "the net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." That's an apt description of what happened both places it was banned, with tons of new paths being used to get the same data.
• Censors will do a lot of damage trying to win. The week of front-page coverage was very nerve-wracking. I'm thicker skinned now but for a while I thought the story was going to go seriously national, and people would say, "so this is what those computer nets are for." The story did go national years later, as the porn-on-the-net recurring story. I'm glad it wasn't me as the computer nazi showing up on a Time magazine cover.
Until next week,
Current Week In Review
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Jack Spratts' Week In Review is published every Friday. Submit letters, articles, press releases, comments, questions etc. in plain text English to jackspratts (at) lycos (dot) com. Submission deadlines are Thursdays @ 1400 UTC. Please include contact info. The right to publish all remarks is reserved.
"The First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public." - Hugo Black
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