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Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that technology firms were liable for any encouragement they might give to users bent on copyright infringement. Today, labels associated with core RIAA members EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner took advantage of this ruling by suing LimeWire. They claim that by failing to block access to copyrighted music, the Lime Group (who develops LimeWire) is in effect encouraging people to pirate and bases its very business model on piracy. Damages sought are certainly extreme: the plaintiff labels want $150,000 for every time a copyrighted song was downloaded without permission. LimeWire declined to comment when speaking to the Associated Press.
We typically think of DRM only as copy-protection meant to keep file sharers and black market factories from making it easy to get an illegal copy of a movie or album. Jerry Pierce from Universal Pictures, however, begs to differ. In a recent interview, he says that the DRM on new disc formats like Blu-Ray and HD DVD is ultimately about establishing business models, not fighting pirates. He acknowledges that buyers would rather have control over how their media is played than absolute quality, citing SACD's flop in the market compared to rougher-sounding, unrestricted MP3s. As most of us would agree, Pierce says the movie studios' challenge is to give users the flexibility they really want without compromising business.
Students often look to consolidate features to save money; that's why countless numbers of them buy laptops that double as media centers or use their game consoles for watching DVDs. Dictionary creators Merriam-Webster know this and are gambling that at least some college-goers would appreciate a "free" MP3 player at the same time as they buy an electronic dictionary. The MWD-480, made by Franklin, stores 274,000 words as well as 119 MB of music through its internal storage; there's also an SD card slot if you need more space for music than what's included. An alarm clock, a crossword puzzle solver, and five games are also part of the package. Few people might think of the 480 as their first choice for a music player, but at $80 it's less expensive (and cumbersome) than buying two separate units.
Yesterday, the US Senate ratified the Convention on Cybercrime treaty, reports the Associated Press. Initially launched in 2001 and signed by over forty nations, the treaty is meant to encourage international cooperation in fighting malware writers, sexual exploitation rings, and terrorism by making it easier for countries to collaborate on and unify their Internet-related laws. The Convention is not without its legitimate concerns, however. Organizations such as the EFF have described it as "the world's worst Internet law" because it could theoretically let nations with more oppressive laws pressure the US into identifying and extraditing people solely because they are vocal political opponents. Even so, the treaty also contains exceptions that allow countries to refuse cooperation on political offenses or in situations that would compromise sovereignty and core interests.
While it's unclear as to whether or not the service is officially sanctioned, at least one store in the Circuit City chain is offering shoppers a service that lets them transfer the content from original DVDs to formats suitable for portable media players, such as the iPod with video, the iRiver Clix, and the PSP. The pricing scheme encourages bulk transfers, letting users pay $30 for converting 5 DVDs. The move is likely to invite legal action from the MPAA and other organizations. Though fair use rights should in theory allow video copying for backup purposes, the only way to extract the video is to violate the DMCA and work around copyright protection. Movie studios have typically preferred that customers buy separate copies for each format.
One of Microsoft's more embarassing moments was its overconfident challenge to hackers to try and compromise a Windows 2000 server, the "most secure Windows ever," while it was in beta testing. Within hours, Windows had been compromised and Microsoft spun the story by claiming that the challenge helped them discover vulnerabilities before the official launch. A wiser and more hardened Microsoft arrived at the Black Hat convention with much more respect, says the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Hackers at the gathering were invited to test Windows Vista and found that while Microsoft is still slow to respond to security threats, the company is less arrogant and has made Windows Vista much more secure than past versions.
Normally, the phone market revolves around trumpeting new features and giving exotic design treatment only to the higher-end models. The low-end models that pervade the market tend to be design afterthoughts, begrudgingly released to keep first-time buyers and the developing world happy. Not so the MOTOFONE F3: journalists recently had an opportunity to try the new phone, and it's evident that Motorola lavished the unit with the same attention to detail it gave to the RAZR and SLVR. Not only is it thin and attractively designed, but the interface is designed with an accessibility that Motorola itself could learn from. There's no daunting main menu, and all main data appears in large print. The company even offers cutting-edge technology: an electrophoretic (also known as electronic paper) display replaces the usual LCD, which makes the monochrome screen perfectly readable in sunlight. At a price of $50 or less without contracts, this phone could be useful for more than just its intended developing-world market. Many parents here would undoubtedly like to give their children a first cellphone that can easily be replaced if it's lost.
Windows users are often admonished to get an antivirus program to keep their systems safe. They're told that a fully-updated virus definition list is extremely important. But a recent report by Australia's CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) says that most common antivirus software - including that of McAfee, Norton, and Trend Micro - now fails to intercept 80% of malicious code that reaches users' systems. The fault rests not in the antivirus software's quality, says Graham Ingram of AusCERT, but rather that malware writers are finding more effective ways to avoid detection by antivirus tools. Using a smaller vendor's antivirus software can help, but ultimately the best solution is to prevent malware from reaching your computer in the first place. Implement a firewall and avoid downloading files you don't know you can trust.
Though its origins in a smaller Korean company make it doubtful as to whether or not it will ever appear on this side of the planet, Playengine's EGGE player at least deserves mention for its unique (and arguably convenient) design. Its features are relatively standard, if good for the relative size of the player. There's a 1-inch OLED display whose orientation you can flip with a button. It only supports audio through MP3 files and an FM radio, but it does handle AVI, MPEG, and WMV video. Battery life is short at 10 hours, though anyone likely to buy an EGGE is more likely to use it as an exercise companion than for an epic road trip. The player is slated to ship in October for an as-yet undetermined price.
CD sales are tumbling rapidly. Whether the cause is a shift to online music sales, file sharing, or the quality of the music published, the major labels are increasingly aware that CDs alone aren't nearly as attractive as they once were. One solution has been to offer CD/DVD hybrids, where music and video coexist on opposite sides of a single disc. Warner Music wants to take things one step further, reports the Wall Street Journal. The label wants to make the DVDs albums in themselves: users could listen to music in a regular DVD player (including surround sound), watch concert footage or music videos on TV, or access ringtones and other special features from a computer. Retailers are excited by the format, though this is partly out of desperation as they seek anything which will get buyers to return to physical formats. Sources for the article even suggest that Apple is in talks to use a variant of the AAC format used in the iTunes Music Store as the model for the audio portion of these DVDs. This would be at odds with the iTunes store, however, as Apple already offers music videos and other extras with the purchase of some albums.
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