Friday, June 30, 2006

Dell laptop explodes at Japanese conference

INQ reader's amazing snaps

By INQUIRER newsdesk: Wednesday 21 June 2006, 13:22

AN INQUIRER READER attending a conference in Japan was sat just feet away from a laptop computer that suddenly exploded into flames, in what could have been a deadly accident.

Gaston, our astonished reader reports: "The damn thing was on fire and produced several explosions for more than five minutes".

Should you witness such an event, his advice is, "Don't try anything courageous/stupid, stay away, away, away!"

"For the record, this is a Dell machine," notes Gaston. "It is only a matter of time until such an incident breaks out on a plane," he suggests.

Our witness managed to catch all the action in these amazing pictures.

"Fire extinguishers leave a mess on your suit and belongings; pack your stuff (if you can) and leave, leave, leave!" he advises.

We don't have any further details of the model of the computer in question. In light of the evidence, however, we'd suggest you avoid actually using a laptop on your lap. Ouch.




Boing Boing

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

P2P insurer will pay your fines if RIAA sues: $19/year!

David sez, "Apparently, a company in Sweden is offering file-sharing insurance - they'll pay your fines if you're sued by the RIAA. The /. submitter translates the link as follows: 'For a mere 140 SEK ($19 USD) per year, they will pay all your fines and give you a t-shirt if you get convicted for file sharing.'"

I have no idea if these insurers can be trusted with $19/year, but it actually sounds like a pretty plausible business model. If you count up all the file-sharers on the net, and divide it by the all the fines and settlements ever paid to the RIAA, my guess is that it's way less than $19/year, which suggests that you could make a buck (or Kronor) at this. Link (Thanks, David!)

Update: Travis sez, "This article estimates the odds of being sued by the RIAA at 1:1840. This works out to a break-even point of $34960 per lawsuit."

RIAA’s Grand Total: 10,037 - What are Your Odds?
May 2, 2005
Thomas Mennecke

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) began their lawsuit campaign against alleged music pirates in June of 2003. When the first RIAA lawsuits began rolling off the assembly line, an enormous media frenzy accompanied this event. Since that time the lawsuits have become second-rate news, as the chances of becoming another RIAA statistic is relatively low – very low.
So what exactly are your chances of being sued by the RIAA? In our news story last Wednesday, Slyck reported the number of online file-sharers was approximately 9 million users. Among other networks, this number did not account for the BitTorrent, WinMX, Manolito, Warez/Ares, Gnutella2 or SoulSeek populations. If we did include those users, we would be looking at a much larger population – perhaps as many as 15 million users. For the purposes of this article, we will split the difference and approximate there are 12 million P2P users online at any given moment.

With this number in mind, there have been 10,037 people sued by the RIAA since June of 2003. According to the web log “ RIAA Watch”, 6,523 people were sued by the RIAA in 2004. What exactly does this mean?

If we divide the total population of the P2P community (~12 million individuals), by the total number of lawsuits in 2004 (6,523), we get 1,840. In other words, your chances of being sued are 1 in 1,840 for all users (regardless of network) per year. How does that stack against all other odds of dying from an intentional or non-intentional injury? According to the National Safety Council, one’s yearly chances of dying from all external causes were 1 in 1,755 in 2002.

Basically, your chances of dying from all causes of external injuries, whether from a car accident, motorcycle accident, plane crash, murder, etc was 1 in 1,755 – fairly remote odds. Although the odds were remote, they still were not as remote as specific causes of death – such as lightening strikes, suicide, “fall on and from stairs and steps” or being electrocuted. In some cases, your chances of dying from contact with a sharp object were 1 in 2.8 million.

So let us examine the chances of being sued by the RIAA a bit further. The main focus of the RIAA lawsuits have been against the FastTrack network. The effects of this campaign has crippled FastTrack, dropping its population from ~4.5 million to ~2.5 million users. From the last capture of the proportion of networks under the RIAA’s gun in November of 2003, 150 users of FastTrack were sued, compared to 5 Blubster users. Since the RIAA cannot subpoena individuals anymore, we unfortunately cannot provide a more current proportion. However, common knowledge dictates that FastTrack remains a priority, and on November 13 of 2003 it represented ~96% of those being sued.

If we were to eliminate 96% (proportion of FastTrack users) of the 6,523 sued in 2004, the odds of being sued changes dramatically. If we consider only those using a non-FastTrack P2P network, the total number of lawsuits drops to only ~261. In other words, you then have a 1 in 45,977 chance of being sued if you do not use FastTrack. Comparatively, according to the National Safety Council, you have a better chance of being killed in a transportation or non-transportational accident, death from suicide, death from assault or death by legal intervention (such as execution or being shot by a police officer.)

However this assumes the RIAA has remained consistent in which network users are being sued from. Let's say the RIAA was more diverse in which networks they pursue. If we assume half of those sued in 2004 were using FastTrack, that leaves us with 3,261 non-FastTrack related lawsuits. You would then have a 1 in 3,679 chance of being sued. That still places you above all external cases of mortality (1 in 1,755), but below all transportational accidents (1 in 5,953.) However, you would still have a better chance of being killed in an unintentional accident (1 in 2,698), then being sued by the RIAA.

Although these numbers are hardly an exact science, they do reflect the odds of being sued are little different than the risks one takes by simply living day-to-day life. But if we were to get real specific, the odds of being sued by the RIAA for non-FastTrack users (1 in 3,679) is still much greater than death by contact with a venomous snake or lizard (1 in 95 million.) So just watch yourself.




The Devil Wears Prada
Reviewed by: Edward Douglas
Rating:
8 out of 10



Story:

Fresh from college, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) comes to New York in hopes of being a journalist. Instead, she accepts a job as a personal assistant to the demanding Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), editor in chief of the fashion magazine Runway, who forces Andy to compromise her ideals if she ever wants to make it in publishing.

Analysis:
Lauren Weisberger's bestseller "The Devil Wears Prada" may not have been the most critically acclaimed novel ever, but there definitely was something to its expose on the workings of the fashion industry and the tough standards set by Vogue editor Anna Wintour. (Weisberger, who worked as one of them, denies that the edit in "Prada" was based on Wintour.) Of course, it's not hard to empathize with the story of a post-graduate trying to attain her dreams but getting sidetracked into an imperfect job with a boss from hell that may help get her there faster.

Not the type of movie to waste time setting-up its premise, it jumps right into Anne Hathaway's Andy arriving at Runway Magazine where she's hoping to get a job, despite not knowing or caring much about fashion. First, she has to get through Mirada's snarky assistant Emily (Emily Blunt), more than willing to pass her more menial tasks onto Miranda's latest slave, but nothing can prepare Andy for facing Miranda Priestly, who has developed a reputation for driving her co-workers to drink. Andy also meets Stanley Tucci's Nigel, Miranda's right hand man and the only person she truly trusts. Though he also looks down his nose at Andy at first, there is a heart beating somewhere in Miranda's trusted advisor, and Nigel offers to help turn Andy into the type of fashion swan Miranda prefers around her.

Even if you haven't read the book, it's not hard to figure out where this story is going to go, as Andy has to decide between spending time with her boyfriend or being at Miranda's beck and call. Still, it ends up being a clever indictment about the pretensions of the fashion industry, and it always seems fairly truthful about an industry that has a never-ending desire for smaller and skinnier. (Andy's svelte Size 6 is declared to be "the new Size 14.") This means that a lot of the characters aren't immediately likeable, but the movie's dark and cynical nature is countered by hilarious one-liners, one has to assume screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna took directly from Weisberger's book.

Obviously, Meryl Streep's presence ups the ante for any film, and Miranda Priestly is a great addition to her arsenal, delivering each comment and order in a deadpan way that makes it clear that there's no room for discussion or questions. As easy as it is for Streep to dominate the movie, there are enough strong actors to keep things interesting even when she's not on screen. The most important is Anne Hathaway, giving a performance that has a Marlo "That Girl" Thomas element to it, keeping us on her side despite the questionable decisions she makes on her way to success. It's a great role for Hathaway, reminiscent of memorable breakouts like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" and Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl."

Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci do everything in their power to keep up with Streep in delivering their own snide one-liners, providing some of the movie's best laughs in the bargain. With a shaved head and outrageous wardrobe, Tucci plays a gay designer without ever overdoing it, though both these mean characters are given a chance to show a more human side. Miranda's chance comes during a quiet moment between Streep and Hathaway late in the film, when we learn her motivations for being so stern and hard on all of those who work for her.

The only real disappointments are Andy's two love interests: Adrian Grenier from "Entourage" plays her often-ignored boyfriend in a way that proves he doesn't have much range as an actor and Simon Baker, the hotshot New York writer who offers Andy help with other things on his mind, just comes across as too smarmy to really make you think she might fall for his pick-up attempts.

Director David Frankel, whose work on "Sex and the City" prepared him for this "estrocentric" piece, has made a really good-looking movie that flows smoothly from humor to more serious moments in such a balanced way that you never notice the change in tone or lose interest. Though it's always obvious where things will go if you've seen other movies of its ilk, "Prada" ends up being quite satisfying in the fact that it offers laughs, but never loses sight of the fact that there's a moral at the end of every fable and repercussions for every action.

The Bottom Line:
Thanks to a sharp script and four perfectly cast actors, "The Devil Wears Prada" is fun and entertaining even if you're not a fan or slave to fashion. Women should appreciate the characters and all the fashion stuff, bt it's not the type of movie that will leave guys in pain if they're dragged to see it by their wives or girlfriends.



Googler insights into product and technology news and our culture.

What have we done for you lately?



As you might imagine, we on the Google Video team use it for pretty much everything. It shouldn't be such a surprise, then, to know that the feature requests we get internally mirror those that you send to us. Namely, just like you, Googlers want to pay less and interact more. So this past week, we've been very busy rolling out changes to make this a reality.

First, more things are now free. We're doing a sponsored video test so you can watch premium videos without paying. (Perhaps we were inspired by the conversation Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett had about philanthropy with Charlie Rose).

Next, have you been itching to tell us (and the rest of the world) what you think of our videos? Now you can rate, label, and comment on them. We know you're dying to say something about this David Hasselhoff clip or the latest one about Diet Coke + Mentos.

Last, we made it easier for you to blog some of these entertaining pieces under the new "Share this video" link on the playback page. A few clicks and your current favorite is directly embedded into the most popular blogging platforms like Blogger, TypePad, MySpace and LiveJournal.

Stay tuned for another batch of features - and meanwhile, enjoy these.
Stopping the Big Giveaway
- by John Kerry

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog for SavetheInternet.com by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.):

Calling all Net Heroes

On Wednesday in the Senate Commerce Committee I warned that those of us who believe in net neutrality will block legislation that doesn’t get the job done.

It looks like that’s the fight we’re going to have.

The Commerce Committee voted on net neutrality and it failed on an 11-11 tie. This vote was a gift to cable and telephone companies, and a slap in the face of every Internet user and consumer.

It will not stand.

I voted against this lousy bill for two reasons: because net neutrality and internet build-out are crucial to building a more modern and fair Information Society, and both were pushed aside by the Republicans.

Everyone says they don’t want the new world we’re living in to be marked by the digital divide — the term is so clich├ęd it’s turned to mush — but yesterday was a test of who is willing to ask corporate America to do anything to fix it, and the Commerce Committee failed miserably. Why are United States Senators afraid to say that companies should be expected to foster growth by building out their broadband networks to increase access?

Free and open access to the internet is something all Americans should enjoy, regardless of what financial means they’re born into or where they live. It is profoundly disappointing that the Senate is going let a handful of companies hold internet access hostage by legalizing the cherry-picking of cable service providers and new entrants. That is a dynamic that would leave some communities with inferior service, higher cable rates, and even the loss of service. Not to mention inadequate internet service — in the age of the information.

This bill was passed in committee over our objections. Now we need to fight to either fix it or kill it in the full Senate. Senator Wyden has already drawn a line in the sand — putting a “hold” on the bill, which prevents it from going forward for now. But there will be a day of reckoning on this legislation soon, make no mistake about it, and we need you to get engaged — pressure your Senators, follow the issue, demand net neutrality and build-out.


MSNBC.com

Despite Court ruling, file sharing still thrives

Number of people using peer-to-peer services has increased
By Alex Veiga
The Associated Press

Updated: 4:14 p.m. MT June 30, 2006

LOS ANGELES - File-swapping software seemed in peril a year ago when the U.S. Supreme Court gave the entertainment industry a legal bullet: Its ruling reopened the door for lawsuits over programs used to share music, movies and other copyright files.

The Supreme Court, reversing lower court rulings, said developers of such programs could indeed be held liable for unauthorized sharing by their users — if the technology companies were somehow encouraging customers to steal music and movies.

Andrew Lack, then chief executive at Sony BMG Music Entertainment, predicted at the time: "We will no longer have to compete with thieves in the night whose businesses are built on larceny."

Yet a year later, peer-to-peer, or P2P, sharing continues to thrive, with firms behind favorite applications such as eDonkey, LimeWire, Morpheus and Kazaa, among others, still in business.

Although the threat of litigation did force the operators of BearShare, WinMX and i2Hub to shut down, the number of people using file-sharing services has gone up.

The average number of simultaneous file-sharing users was about 9.7 million worldwide in May, with about 6.7 million from the United States, according to BigChampagne LLC, which tracks file-sharing activity. In the same period last year, BigChampagne tracked 8.6 million average users globally and 6.2 million in the United States.

'Grokster ruling' introduced liability
The Recording Industry Association of America, a lobbying group that represents the major recording companies, credits the so-called Grokster ruling with helping to clarify the legal roadmap for copyright in the Internet Age and motivating some of the file-sharing operators to close down or go legit.

Without it, or the music companies' roughly 18,000 lawsuits filed against individual file-sharers since 2003, online piracy would be even worse, said Mitch Bainwol, chairman of the Washington-based group.

"We don't suggest that (unauthorized file-sharing) has been conquered, far from it," Bainwol said. "But it's not fundamentally decapitating the legal marketplace from growing in a pretty robust fashion."

Sales from music downloads, online subscription services and mobile phone ringtones have helped boost revenues and offset declines in CD sales for some labels.

By raising the potential for liability by online file-sharing companies, the Grokster ruling served to discourage private investment in them, suggested Jonathan Potter, executive director of the Digital Media Association, which counts Apple Computer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. among its members.

"It's fair to say there's more investment and more attraction and more potential in the (licensed) download services, the online subscription services, as a result of the Grokster decision," said Potter.

Licensed P2P not evolving as expected
One slice of the online music market that didn't grow as expected was that of licensed file-sharing services. The idea was some free-for-all networks would make deals with entertainment companies to sell music downloads and limit what users could share online.

Sam Yagan, chief executive of MetaMachine Inc., told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that he would transform his firm's eDonkey software into a licensed music service rather than face the threat of litigation in the wake of Grokster.

But with 2006 nearly half gone, eDonkey remains an online free-for-all. A call to Yagan was not immediately returned.

Another licensed P2P service, Mashboxx, has yet to launch, despite suggesting it would do so as far back as early 2005. The firm didn't immediately return calls.

"The (licensed) P2P market did not evolve in the way a lot of people thought it would," said Ali Aydar, chief operating officer of San Francisco-based Snocap Inc. "A lot of the unauthorized P2P networks are still out there operating just as they were a year go."

Snocap — founded by Shawn Fanning, who had pioneered file-sharing with his creation of the original Napster — positioned itself two years ago as key to legitimate P2P services. To date, however, no one is using its technology for allowing recording labels to manage what songs could be shared on such services.

Only one service, iMesh, has made the transition. Its operators settled a copyright lawsuit in 2004 and relaunched as a licensed music service in November.

Talmon Marco, president of the New York-based iMesh, said it's been difficult competing with well-marketed music services such as the Apple's iTunes Music Store and with free, albeit illegal P2P swapping. Marco won't say how many people use iMesh.

Grokster Ltd. ultimately settled out of court and stopped distributing its software. Although users could still run copies they downloaded before, the programs are no longer supported or kept up to date, meaning users are likely to flock elsewhere.

Meanwhile, litigation continues against StreamCast Inc., which distributes Morpheus, and Sharman Networks Ltd., the firm behind Kazaa.

The case is back in federal court in Los Angeles. Ongoing attempts to settle have led to postponement of court proceedings, but a settlement has yet to be announced. The next hearing is scheduled for July 10.

Asked why the recording industry has not taken advantage of Grokster to sue additional file-sharing companies, Bainwol said the industry has concentrated on reaching out of court settlements with P2P firms to avoid further litigation — for now.

"We have been judicious and reasonable and patient," Bainwol said. "That does not mean that our patience will last forever."



MediaWeek
Vibe to be Sold to BlackBook Parent Keith Glen Media

Stephanie D. Smith

JUNE 30, 2006 -

After more than a year on the block, urban music and fashion monthly Vibe is said to have found a buyer.

Sources familiar with the deal say Keith Glen Media, the parent company of progressive fashion and culture monthly BlackBook, is expected to take over Vibe magazine, women’s quarterly Vibe Vixen and Vibe’s Internet, television and mobile offerings. Keith Glen Media is led by CEO Eric Gertler and president Ari Horowitz.

The deal is expected to close today.

A spokesperson for BlackBook Media had no comment, but official announcement is expected to be made Wednesday. A spokesperson for Vibe was not familiar with the deal.

According to sources, Vibe President Kenard Gibbs and editor in chief Mimi Valdes will likely leave the company. Additionally, layoffs, primarily on the editorial side, are also expected.

The strategy behind the acquisition is to “step up” the Vibe brand, according to a source familiar with the deal. The deal would marry Black Book’s fashion forward approach with Vibe’s urban music and culture content and provide significant investment to grow Vibe’s global and online properties.

While Vibe has successfully grown its brand across multiple media platforms, paid circulation fell 2.8 percent to 836,611 through the second half of 2005, missing its 850,000 rate base, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Newsstand sales grew 8.1 percent. Ad pages through July, pages fell 8.2 percent to 624, reports the Mediaweek Monitor.



Press Release

MEDIA CONTACT: Roberta Moore 919-321-8246, Roberta@romopr.com


Grand Opening of the World's First KISS Coffeehouse
on Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

Myrtle Beach, SC - If you want rock and roll all night, KISS Coffeehouse will be the place to be. On Tuesday, June 27th, legendary KISS band members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons will be on hand at Myrtle Beach South Carolina's Broadway at the Beach to cut the ribbon on the most outrageous coffee and dessert shop ever constructed.

Through a deal brokered by Signatures Network, Inc., KISS's exclusive merchandising company, the KISS Coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach, SC is the first licensed coffeehouse by the band known for their incredible stage show, face paint and full throttle rock and roll.

"The idea was to take the energy and excitement of the live KISS show and bring it into a retail setting," explains long- time KISS fan and storeowner Brian Galvin. "KISS fans will not be disappointed!" pledged Galvin, who knows firsthand the high expectations loyal KISS fans will have for this concept. The coffeehouse will also serve as an official KISS Army recruiting office, exposing new fans and reminding die-hard supporters why KISS continues to be one of the most exciting bands in history.

With over twenty foot tall smoking KISS boots flanking the storefront and rare KISS memorabilia and costume pieces on display, the KISS Coffeehouse raises the bar for retail design. "This will become a major tourist attraction," states Galvin confidently. "This is truly the most exciting coffee shop on the planet!"

The KISS Coffeehouse menu will feature Signature KISS Coffee, including Demon Dark Roast and French KISS Vanilla, eight flavors of the KISS Frozen Rockuccino™, the most caffeinated and refreshing coffee beverage on the market, as well as full array of cookies, brownies and cupcakes. For more info and a complete menu list, please log on to http://www.kisscoffeehouse.com/menu.htm

According to Paul Stanley, "The KISS Coffeehouse is our way of providing everyone with the buzz of great, quality treats and coffee filled with enough sugar and caffeine to get the party started, and keep it going!"

Gene Simmons adds, "Every army needs food and drink and the KISS Army is no exception! Even the non-enlisted will find our treats and java rockin' good!"

To add to the Grand Opening festivities, KISS tribute band, KISS Army, will be performing on the Celebrity Square Stage at Broadway at the Beach from 8:00- 10:00 p.m., when a KISS- style fireworks display will light up the sky in front of the shop. Myrtle Beach's classic rock station, Wave 104.1, will promote the event and will be on site broadcasting live.

In conjunction with the opening, 1,000 bags of the KISS Army Blend will be shipped to the US Armed Forces serving in Iraq. "Anything we can do that lets our brave armed forces personnel know that they are always in our hearts and on our minds is a small token of our deep appreciation for the sacrifices they make every day for us. We pray for their safe return," said Stanley.

ABOUT KISS

KISS is famously recognized for its foot-stomping hard rock hits and the use of face-paint, elaborate costumes, and wildly over-the-top stage shows riddled with pyrotechnics. KISS has sold over 80 million albums, broken every box office record worldwide and is second to The Beatles in the number of Gold Records sold by any group in history. For more information, please visit http://www.kissonline.com.

About Galvin Group, LLC

Brian Galvin, an 18- year franchisee with Ben & Jerry's and a KISS fan since 1975, created the KISS Coffeehouse concept. Galvin, President of Galvin Group, LLC is interested in expanding KISS Coffeehouse to other entertainment driven retail properties. For more information, visit www.kisscoffeehouse.com.

About Signatures Network, Inc.

Signatures Network is the music industries premiere entertainment licensing and merchandising company, holding the merchandising and marketing rights to more than 125 top music artists and entertainment properties, including The Beatles, Madonna, U2 and Bruce Springsteen among many others. For more information, please visit www.signaturesnetwork.com.

# # #


washingtonpost.com
The Flavor of Marketing to Kids

By Joseph A. Califano Jr. and Louis W. Sullivan
Thursday, June 29, 2006; A27

Reynolds Tobacco (or RJR), the company that brought us Joe Camel, is up to its old tricks, targeting our children again.

Twenty years ago RJR created Joe Camel, who blew smoke rings over Times Square and was so heavily promoted that more children recognized this cartoon character than Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse. Only after years of complaints from public health advocates and parents, and the threat of legal action by the Federal Trade Commission, did RJR shut down its Joe Camel campaign.

All the while, RJR maintained that it did not market to children. But with the release of internal company documents years later, one of RJR's key papers, "Younger Smokers -- Ages 14-25," revealed the company's interest in marketing cigarettes to young smokers.

Now RJR is marketing the sweet smell and taste of flavored cigarettes that mask the harshness of natural tobacco, which can deter some first-time smokers, especially children. These cigarettes are packaged in shiny tins with cool new names, flashy advertising and candy flavors ranging from watermelon ("Beach Breezer") to berry ("Bayou Blast") to pineapple and coconut ("Kauai Kolada").

As Reynolds has known for decades, 90 percent of adult smokers become addicted as kids, and the younger a child begins to smoke, the likelier the child is to become a regular smoker. Moreover, the age at which kids first try cigarettes has been declining and now stands at just under 12. By masking the regular tobacco flavor and scent, flavored cigarettes make it even more appealing for a 12- or 13-year-old to take that initial puff and keep smoking until he or she gets hooked.

Reynolds introduced these cigarettes in 1999, slipping a pellet into the cigarette filters to give the smoke a candy flavor. But flavored cigarette sales really exploded in 2004, thanks to eye-catching advertisements in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone -- all popular reading material for boys and girls. In mid-2005, under pressure from states such as California and from federal legislators, Reynolds began pulling these advertisements. But the company continues to sell its candy-flavored smokes.

Reynolds's claim that it flavors cigarettes to give adults an alternative to traditional smokes is belied by the findings of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. That research institute found that, compared with adult smokers over 25, more than three times as many teens who smoke light up flavored cigarettes.

Reynolds now sells five Camel Exotic Blend flavors: Dark Mint, Mandarin Mint, Twist, Izmir Stinger and Crema. In addition, RJR has marketed 15 Limited Edition Camel Exotic Blends over the past five years, including Winter Mochamint, Midnight Madness and Twista Lime.

This isn't the first time the company has targeted members of a specific group, hoping to hook them as lifetime smokers. Reynolds blatantly aimed its "Uptown" mentholated, nonfiltered cigarettes at African American consumers with plans to inaugurate the brand as part of celebrations during Black History Month in 1990. One of us (Louis Sullivan), then secretary of health and human services, denounced the marketing of Uptown cigarettes -- the first time a Cabinet member had spoken out against a specific brand. As opposition rose among African Americans, Reynolds quickly backed down.

Buoyed by its success in pushing candy-flavored cigarettes, Reynolds has now introduced alcohol-flavored smokes. To make them appealing to our kids, Reynolds has marketed them with names based on gambling lingo as well: ScrewDriver Slots, BlackJack Gin, Snake Eyes Scotch and Back Alley Blend (a bourbon-flavored cigarette).

Despite the prevalence of national and state anti-smoking campaigns, 4,000 kids under 18 will try their first cigarette today, and more than 1,500 other children and teens will become addicted. These are the replacement smokers Reynolds and other tobacco merchants need to fill the shoes of adults who have been killed or crippled by smoking, or who have quit.

The disturbing reality is that we may be starting to slip back after years of progress in reducing smoking among our children. From 1997 through 2004 the number of children who smoke went down as court cases and public outrage curbed tobacco advertising to children. But in 2005 the youth smoking rate increased. Is it just a coincidence that our success in persuading kids to stay away from tobacco is slowing just as the marketing of flavored cigarettes is picking up?

To us, hawking candy-flavored cigarettes is child abuse. It's time for the public, parents, and state and federal officials to demand an end to it.

Joseph A. Califano Jr. is president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. He was secretary of health, education and welfare in the Carter administration. Louis W. Sullivan is president emeritus of the Morehouse School of Medicine. He was secretary of health and human services under President George H.W. Bush.


Ailes Cracks Whip as Fox News Slips

By Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/26/2006 8:59:00 AM

Slackers at Fox News Channel, you’re on notice! Your boss is not pleased. Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes is on the warpath following his network’s recent ratings slump, and he won’t hesitate to clean house to turn things around.

So far during the second quarter, the No. 1 cable news channel’s primetime schedule has dropped 22% in its core 25-54 demo and 8% in total viewers. The first quarter was even worse.

Chief rival CNN has also dipped in recent weeks, but less dramatically, off 18% in the demo and 2% in total viewers.

Insiders say that, even though Fox News remains No. 1, Ailes is fuming over the complacency he senses among staffers.

Production values are slipping, and bookers aren’t competitive enough, relying too heavily on the same pool of faces and settling for authors or actors after they’ve already been on CNN or … gasp … MSNBC.

A full-page "Now Hiring" ad that ran recently in a trade magazine asked, "Can you make the cut?" Says one Fox staffer, that question was not addressed to outside applicants: "That was aimed inside."

Commenting through a spokesman last week, Ailes left no doubt: "Anyone who displays launch-type intensity will continue to have a job at Fox News. Those who don’t will not. And that includes talent."

Thursday, June 29, 2006


washingtonpost.com
As FCC Digs Into Ownership, Big Media No Longer Cares

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 29, 2006; D01

When the government's attempt to relax media ownership rules was defeated in court two years ago, some hailed it as a victory against putting too much power in the hands of too few media lords.

Now, the government is taking up the issue again, but the media landscape is radically different.

Since 2003, the media giants have greatly expanded their presence on the Internet, buying successful Web sites or redoubling their own efforts. The continued rollout of high-speed Internet, the improvement in online content and an explosion of handheld devices have combined to give Big Media much greater reach and potentially greater influence than it would have had, were companies allowed to buy a few more television stations each.

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to re-tackle the sticky issue of media ownership. This time, the agency plans to loosen some rules, allowing big media companies to expand. For instance, a newspaper will -- for the first time since 1975 -- probably be allowed to buy the most popular television station in the same city.

But the times, technology and media marketplace have changed so much since the FCC began its ownership review last time, in 2002, that some of the same media giants that lobbied for changes before -- such as Tribune Co. -- may take little advantage of changes this time.

In 2002, the media giants had already been burned by the Internet. The newly merged AOL Time Warner Inc. took a $10 billion write-down, thanks to bad deals and falling revenue at America Online. Walt Disney Co. lost millions on its Go.com Internet portal.

IPods were still on the drawing board at Apple Computer Inc. Almost all Internet users had dial-up connections, which made online video about as watchable as the Zapruder film. Yahoo Inc. was not the multimedia powerhouse it is today. YouTube and its vault of 70 million videos did not exist. Neither did MySpace and its global community of users. And Google was merely the Internet's most popular search engine, not yet the revenue-generating monster whose advertising model is being emulated by everyone in traditional media.

In May 2003, Mel Karmazin told a Senate panel that his Viacom Inc. -- then the parent of CBS -- absolutely, positively had to be allowed to buy more television stations. It was essential to the company's future, he said.

Karmazin's pleas came to nothing. While the FCC relaxed ownership rules that year, the court struck those down in 2004, and Congress passed a law preventing CBS from buying any more stations.

As it turned out, CBS not only survived but became the top-rated network. The company sees its future not in owning more television stations but in expanding a revenue stream that was an afterthought in 2003: the Internet and its various iterations of digital downloading and streaming, channels that give CBS a far bigger footprint than local television stations.

"CBS's challenge is how to monetize its content, and since we are precluded from doing that through buying more stations, we're doing it in other ways," said Martin D. Franks, CBS Corp.'s executive vice president of government relations. "We have had to adapt to what the regulatory regime has dealt us."

To help spread out the enormous cost of the network's contract with the NCAA to carry the men's college basketball tournament each March ($6 billion over 11 years), CBS this year bought CSTV Networks Inc., which broadcasts live sports on the Internet and on cable television. The Web site averages more than 8 million monthly users, and the cable network is in more than 15 million households -- far more than any metropolitan television station reaches.

This month, CBS began selling episodes of its top-rated "CSI," "Survivor" and other shows via Apple's iTunes, following ABC's lead, for $1.99 each. Also, the network launched the ad-supported Web site ShowBuzz, with celebrity and entertainment news.

Circumstances have also changed for Tribune Co. In 2003, Tribune was a 13-newspaper, 26-television-station chain that wanted to buy more television stations in cities where it owned newspapers, in hopes of reaping big advertising rewards.

Now, the company is selling off television stations, is facing a shareholder revolt over its direction and is unable to figure out how to combine local television and newspaper advertising to its advantage.

Tribune owns a stake in CareerBuilder, the Internet job site, and is working to expand the online impact of its newspapers. If the FCC lifts the newspaper-television cross-ownership ban, Tribune probably will not purchase additional television stations, according to a source knowledgeable about the company who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the ongoing shareholder struggle.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was one of the first media giants to change tack after the last rules were tossed out in 2004.

News Corp. had strived to create "duopolies" -- two-station television groups -- in as many cities as it could. In Washington, for instance, News Corp. owns WTTG (Channel 5) and WDCA (Channel 20). Such duopolies combine resources to save costs and make station ownership an even better moneymaker than it already is: Typically, a television station returns annual profit margins of 25 to 50 percent.

But duopolies were permitted in only the largest cities. The 2003 FCC rules would have allowed them in smaller cities and created the possibility of three-station groups, or "triopolies," in the largest cities, which interested News Corp.

But when the hope of triopolies died in 2004, News Corp. looked to the Internet.

In July, News Corp. formed Fox Interactive Media, an umbrella for the company's many Web sites, such as FoxSports.com. Days later, it announced the $580 million purchase of MySpace, the Web's most popular social-networking site. Users post profiles, find dates, listen to music, watch video and click on ads that send revenue to News Corp. At the time of the purchase, MySpace had about 16 million monthly users.

That number is up to 85 million around the globe and growing. It takes Fox 35 television stations to reach 134 million viewers in the United States.

Further, News Corp. is looking to unload some of its stations. The company and Liberty Media Corp. Chairman John C. Malone are close to a deal in which News Corp. would buy back Malone's voting stake in News Corp. in exchange for some of the company's mid-market television stations.

Likewise, radio giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. changed direction after the 2004 defeat of the media rules and "expanded its horizons," said Andy Levin, executive vice president for the company's government affairs.

Clear Channel grew by massive acquisitions in the late 1990s to become the nation's largest radio chain. In 2003, the company sought to raise limits on how many stations it could own in many cities. Thwarted, the company turned to the Internet.

Clear Channel hired Evan Harrison, head of America Online's music and radio unit, in 2004 to spearhead the radio giant's online forays. Under his leadership, the digital music division has become Clear Channel's fastest-growing segment. Clear-Channel-produced podcasts outsell all others on iTunes.

"This is radio today, as we see it," Harrison wrote, via BlackBerry. "We have to work every day to create better programming than MTV, VH-1 to build our audience. The notion that a radio company would be competing with a cable network just didn't exist six years ago."

And though Clear Channel would like radio ownership limits raised in the largest cities, the company's acquisition ambitions are not what they were three years ago, mirroring the media industry in general.

"I'm not sure there is pent-up demand for more consolidation," said Mark Fratrik, vice president of BIA Financial Network Inc. media researchers. "I think in 2006 . . . the media environment is much more crowded, much more competitive. Radio groups are looking for opportunities where they can bring added value, not just get big for bigness sake."

XM Recording Is Easy; Issue Is Difficult

David Colker
Technopolis

June 29, 2006

You wouldn't know it by talking to mild-mannered accountant Mark Desimone, but he has a wild side.

When a song by the raucous Van Halen starts playing on his new portable XM satellite radio, Desimone can record it and store it for free — all with the press of a button on his Pioneer Inno.

"Now, I have 'Jump,' 'Panama' and other songs I can play whenever I want," he said. It's great for Desimone, who likes to rock out when he's not working on spreadsheets.

But not so great in the view of the recording industry, which believes that it's not being fairly compensated for how the Inno can use music.

Last month the Recording Industry Assn. of America sued XM Satellite Radio Inc., alleging that it's violating copyright laws.

Inno is one of the most expensive and sophisticated models of portable radios that XM offers to hear its programming. Competitor Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. is expected to offer a similar unit this summer.

It's not the device's ability to simply record satellite radio that has the recording industry upset. Other XM units do that.

But users of the Inno have the ability — while on the go — to save individual songs that can be later mixed with downloaded tracks from a user's personal collection. It can also record whole shows off the satellite that can be made part of a mix for later listening.

Think of it as a combined TiVo and iPod for satellite radio.

And in this way it's one of the most innovative — if not flawless — portable entertainment devices to arrive on the scene.

Innovation doesn't come cheap. The cellphone-sized device sells for nearly $400, plus $12.95 a month for the satellite service. Pricing is the same for a similar XM unit, the Samsung Helix. Both radios came out in April.

For the most part, the Inno is easy to use. Its controls for listening to and recording satellite radio are especially intuitive — you almost don't need the manual for these functions.

The approximately 170 XM radio channels are displayed on a bright screen on the unit, five channels at a time. To make it easier to find a type of programming, they can also be presented by genre, such as rock, Latin, kids, classical and news. You can also build a personal "favorites" list of channels.

Like other satellite radio portables, the Inno doesn't work well indoors, although I sometimes got reception by holding it near a window. For more regular use indoors, it can be parked in an included dock that uses an external, plug-in antenna.

To record a song, you can press the record button even after it has begun. That's because the Inno is always recording whatever channel is on, with a 10-minute buffer.

This doesn't work if you are channel-surfing and happen to come upon a song in progress. The radio has to be tuned to the channel playing the song from its beginning to capture it all.

Still, the Inno's timing is not quite right. On several songs I recorded, the saved tracks had the first and/or last few notes cut off. This led to some disruptive listening — disappointing, to say the least, for a device this expensive. I hope the problem will be fixed down the line.

The record function can also be set to run continuously, and XM says there is enough room on the Inno's 1-gigabyte memory for 50 hours of programming.

Any radio content saved on the device can be heard as long as the user's subscription stays in force. Let your subscription expire, and the Inno is simply a very expensive MP3 player. In comparison, you can get a 1-gigabyte iPod for $149.

Organizing recorded tracks into customized playlists is fairly easy. Using the buttons on the unit and a virtual keyboard on the screen, you can put together songs for listening while at the gym, during a romantic dinner or for other occasions.

Matters get more complicated when downloading tracks from a PC. (The device can't download from a Macintosh computer.) It took me a couple of hours to set up and use the required software that incorporates Napster, an online downloading service. I'm sure I'd get better at this in time, but the process is too complicated.

The legal battle over the Inno will possibly be a long one. XM's position is that using the device's record function is no different from the days when we taped broadcast radio on cassette recorders. (Remember them?) The XM portables, company spokesman David Butler said, "simply allow people to do what has been allowed and protected by the law for decades."

The recording industry association counters that the ability to record an individual song and put it into a playlist changes things.

"That makes it a digital jukebox," association President Cary Sherman said, "and that needs to be licensed."

Congress might get into the act too. A pending bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would restrict use of taped satellite radio content.

In the meantime, Desimone can enjoy his Van Halen tracks. "On weekends," he said in a near monotone, "I put my Inno on my Harley."

The Bakersfield resident might seem mild-mannered, but I wouldn't want to try to take away his Inno.


Fader magazine releases issue on iTunes


Jun 28, 6:02 PM EDT
By JAKE COYLE
AP Entertainment Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Just as easily as you can download a single to listen to, you can now download a magazine to read. Fader magazine has made its entire summer music issue available for download on iTunes, in what it says is a publishing first. The full issue is free to download as a PDF file, which offers a digital copy of every page - article and ads - in the magazine.

It's accompanied by a 47-minute podcast featuring music covered by the magazine.

The leap off the page and into an area of the Web typically reserved for audio files, is one considered natural by Fader, which has covered emerging music since 1998.

Rob Stone, co-founding publisher of the magazine, hopes the effect to be similar to how free downloads help build buzz - and eventually sold records - for Eminem years ago, or the Arctic Monkeys more recently.

"This is going to help expand our audience, as opposed to cannibalize our newsstand sales," Stone said Wednesday.

Stone, who began his career at Arista Records, recalls the resistance the music industry initially showed to the Internet and new digital technologies.

"I've always been of the belief that you need to embrace it and see where this thing can take us," he said. "It just opens endless possibilities of building a connection."

The print version will still be Fader's focus, but Stone believes the days of magazines existing purely on paper are over. For a brand like Fader that often writes about new, potentially hard-to-find music, a podcast helps readers get their ears to it.

In the future, Stone expects advertisements to be linked to the product's home Web sites, or a story to link to a related interview. That, of course, isn't much different than what your standard Web site provides, but it still offers a newly direct relationship between a magazine's print copy and its digital version.

Stone isn't sure if Fader will continue to be free to download, adding: "We're figuring that out. I think we're in uncharted territory in that regard."



RIAA Shifts Lawsuit Strategy


June 28, 2006

by Thomas Mennecke

June 26, 2003, marked the day the Recording Industry Association of America began collecting evidence and preparing lawsuits against individual file-sharers. At the time, the effort was the main spearhead in a multifaceted campaign to stem the unchecked growth of file-sharing.

Anticipation of the lawsuits had been growing for over a year, as early attempts to hold P2P developers responsible for copyright infringement proved difficult. In 2003, Presiding Justice Steven Wilson disagreed with the entertainment industry’s assertion that StreamCast Networks and Grokster were responsible for the unlawful activities of their users.

"Defendants distribute and support software, the users of which can and do choose to employ it for both lawful and unlawful ends," Wilson wrote in his opinion. "Grokster and StreamCast are not significantly different from companies that sell home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights."

The entertainment industry’s appeal in 2004 faired little better. The panel of three judges confirmed the lower court’s ruling, and maintained neither party qualified for secondary copyright infringement.

"This appeal presents the question of whether distributors of peer-to-peer file-sharing computer networking software may be held contributory or vicariously liable for copyright infringements by users. Under the circumstances presented by this case, we conclude that the defendants are not liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement and affirm the district court’s partial grant of summary judgment."

The entertainment industry, represented by the RIAA and MPAA, immediately appealed this decision to the United States Supreme Court. Unlike the two previous rulings, the entertainment industry finally received the decision they so desperately sought. In a unanimous 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower courts, stating StreamCast Networks and Grokster could be sued for violating federal copyright laws.

“We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties,” Justice David H. Souter wrote in court’s decision.

While all three rulings varied in their success for the entertainment industry, the common denominator maintained that users are responsible for their own actions. This gave the RIAA and MPAA the ammunition they needed to continue pursuing individuals who distribute copious amounts of files online. Yet three years and over 18,000 lawsuits later, the strategy of launching a continuous barrage of monthly lawsuits aimed at approximately 750 individuals is being retooled.

The problem with the current barrage of lawsuits is equivalent to being hit with a fire hose of information. With so many individuals being hit at once, it becomes counterproductive to the entertainment industry’s effort to educate the file-sharing populace. The growing perception over the years has developed into complacency. Who are these people? Do they live near me? Why should I care if some nameless, faceless individual on the other side of the continent was sued for sharing 5,000 songs on the FastTrack network?

This lack of focus is apparent when alleged file-sharing pirates come forward to the media and plead ignorance in the face of a $3,000.00 settlement. Often times such individuals are completely befuddled, unaware their actions were unlawful.

Realizing this, the RIAA has shifted their strategy away from once a month, en masse lawsuits. Replacing the old strategy is one that still focuses on individuals; however the number is spread out over the course of a month rather than an immediate date. In addition, the weekly lawsuits focus on specific geographic locations, working with local media outlets to catch the attention of the surrounding populace.

“We are currently filing lawsuits throughout the month in batches, in order to maximize efficiencies and expand the geographic reach,” an RIAA spokesperson told Slyck.com. “We are always looking for ways to make the program as effective, smart and targeted as possible. We need to be flexible in how we manage these litigations in order to handle them efficiently. The lawsuits are and will continue to be an essential part of a larger effort to encourage fans to enjoy music legally.”

This new strategy is already taking shape. Quite noticeably, there has been a lack of RIAA press releases articulating the usual monthly, en masse round of lawsuits. Conversely, there’s been an increase of local and specific news articles describing potential lawsuits against alleged P2P pirates. For example, the Palm Beach Post recently reported that local Boynton Beach resident Dorothy O'Connell (and several others) was sued for sharing files online. It’s a similar story in Evansville, Indiana, where the Evansville Courier Gazette published an article this week describing two local residents currently facing potential RIAA lawsuits.

The aim of the new RIAA strategy is to give a name and face to a previously ho-hum lawsuit campaign. It’s designed to summon a reaction that invokes a sense of relevance and vulnerability, not one that’s perceived as something happening in a far off land. There’s little question the previous RIAA strategy is far from the worldly success hoped for. Three years and 18,000 lawsuits later, more people are populating P2P and file-sharing networks than ever before. This new campaign will certainly bring more localized attention to the issues surrounding the great file-sharing debate, however which direction the local populace focuses this attention will only be realized with time.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

CNET News.com

Senate deals blow to Net neutrality

By Declan McCullagh
Story last modified Wed Jun 28 19:41:11 PDT 2006

WASHINGTON--A U.S. Senate panel narrowly rejected strict Net neutrality rules on Wednesday, dealing a grave setback to companies like eBay, Google and Amazon.com that had made enacting them a top political priority this year.

By an 11-11 tie, the Senate Commerce Committee failed to approve a Democrat-backed amendment that would have ensured all Internet traffic is treated the same no matter what its "source" or "destination" might be. A majority was needed for the amendment to succeed.

This vote complicates Internet companies' efforts to convince Congress of the desirability of extensive new regulations, especially after the House of Representatives definitively rejected the concept in a 269-152 vote on June 8.

Republican committee members attacked the idea of inserting Net neutrality regulations in a massive telecommunications bill, echoing comments from broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon, which warned the rules were premature and unnecessary. Alaska's Ted Stevens, the committee chairman, accused his colleagues of "imposing a heavy-handed regulation before there's a demonstrated need."

What's more, Republicans warned, adding the regulations would imperil the final passage of the broader telecommunications bill, which is the most extensive set of changes since 1996. "This is absolutely a poison pill," said Nevada Republican John Ensign.

Democrats had rallied behind an amendment, adapted from a standalone bill they offered in May, which would have barred network operators from discriminating "in the carriage and treatment of Internet traffic based on the source, destination or ownership of such traffic." That could have prevented Verizon from inking deals to offer high-definition video and prioritizing that on its network, for instance.

Without new rules prohibiting such practices, "we're giving two entities, the Bells and cable, the power to be able to cut deals, and that will change the relationship of entrepreneurs to the Internet and to the financial marketplace," said John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat.

The concept of network neutrality, which generally means that all Internet sites must be treated equally, has drawn a list of high-profile backers, from actress Alyssa Milano to Vint Cerf, one of the technical pioneers of the Internet. It's also led to a political rift between big Internet companies such as Google and Yahoo that back it--and telecom companies that oppose what they view as onerous new federal regulations.

By a 12-10 vote, senators also rejected a second amendment that was broader. The amendment, proposed by Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye, included not just Net neutrality anti-discrimination language but also addressed topics such as video franchising and universal service.

Then, by a 15-7 vote, senators voted to send the broader telecommunications bill--called the Communications, Consumer's Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act--to the full Senate for a vote. Its fate there is hardly assured, though a Net neutrality amendment is likely to be offered in any floor vote.

In a statement after the votes, Verizon urged the Senate to act swiftly on the bill, claiming that delays in boosting video competition will cost consumers billions of dollars a year in higher cable bills.

But Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said Wednesday that he would seek to prevent a floor vote on the telecommunications bill because it did not include extensive Net neutrality regulations. "I will object to any further action on this telecommunications bill until it includes a strong net neutrality provisions that will truly benefit consumers and small business," Wyden said, a promise that has teeth because the Senate often works through unanimous consent.

The Republican-backed bill does include some Net neutrality regulations. It would, for instance, create an "Internet consumer bill of rights" to be policed by the Federal Communications Commission. That would permit punishment of network operators who interfere with their subscribers' ability to access and post any lawful content they please, to use any Web page, search engine or application (including voice and video programs), and to connect legal devices to the network.

Stevens defended those rules against Democrats who charged they were not extensive enough. If companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon got their way, Stevens warned, "our costs for individual access to the (Internet) will double."

All the Republican committee members except Olympia Snowe of Maine voted against the more regulatory Net neutrality amendment. All the Democrats voted for it. The amendment was sponsored by Snowe and Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota.