Monday, December 31, 2007

Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use

By Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writer

Despite more than 20,000 lawsuits filed against music fans in the years since they started finding free tunes online rather than buying CDs from record companies, the recording industry has utterly failed to halt the decline of the record album or the rise of digital music sharing.

Still, hardly a month goes by without a news release from the industry's lobby, the Recording Industry Association of America, touting a new wave of letters to college students and others demanding a settlement payment and threatening a legal battle.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

"I couldn't believe it when I read that," says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. "The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation."

RIAA's hard-line position seems clear. Its Web site says: "If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, you're stealing. You're breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages."

They're not kidding. In October, after a trial in Minnesota -- the first time the industry has made its case before a federal jury -- Jammie Thomas was ordered to pay $220,000 to the big record companies. That's $9,250 for each of 24 songs she was accused of sharing online.

Whether customers may copy their CDs onto their computers -- an act at the very heart of the digital revolution -- has a murky legal foundation, the RIAA argues. The industry's own Web site says that making a personal copy of a CD that you bought legitimately may not be a legal right, but it "won't usually raise concerns," as long as you don't give away the music or lend it to anyone.

Of course, that's exactly what millions of people do every day. In a Los Angeles Times poll, 69 percent of teenagers surveyed said they thought it was legal to copy a CD they own and give it to a friend. The RIAA cites a study that found that more than half of current college students download music and movies illegally.

The Howell case was not the first time the industry has argued that making a personal copy from a legally purchased CD is illegal. At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Copying a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,' " she said.

But lawyers for consumers point to a series of court rulings over the last few decades that found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording.

As technologies evolve, old media companies tend not to be the source of the innovation that allows them to survive. Even so, new technologies don't usually kill off old media: That's the good news for the recording industry, as for the TV, movie, newspaper and magazine businesses. But for those old media to survive, they must adapt, finding new business models and new, compelling content to offer.

The RIAA's legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only "created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies," Beckerman says. "Every problem they're trying to solve is worse now than when they started."

The industry "will continue to bring lawsuits" against those who "ignore years of warnings," RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said in a statement. "It's not our first choice, but it's a necessary part of the equation. There are consequences for breaking the law." And, perhaps, for firing up your computer.

Individual privacy under threat in Europe and U.S

The Associated PressPublished: December 30, 2007

LONDON: Individual privacy is under threat in the United States and across the European Union as governments introduce sweeping surveillance and information-gathering measures in the name of security and controlling borders, an international rights group has said in a report.

Greece, Romania and Canada had the best privacy records of 47 countries surveyed by Privacy International, which is based in London. Malaysia, Russia and China were ranked worst.

Both Britain and the United States fell into the lowest-performing group of "endemic surveillance societies."

"The general trend is that privacy is being extinguished in country after country," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International. "Even those countries where we expected ongoing strong privacy protection, like Germany and Canada, are sinking into the mire."

In the United States, the administration of President George W. Bush has come under fire from civil liberties groups for its domestic wiretapping program, which allows monitoring, without a warrant, of international phone calls and e-mail messages involving people suspected of having terrorist links.

"The last five years has seen a litany of surveillance initiatives," Davies said.

He said little had changed since the Democrats took control of Congress a year ago.

"We would expect the cancellation of some programs, the review of others, but this hasn't occurred," Davies said.

Britain was criticized for its plans for national identity cards, a lack of government accountability and the world's largest network of surveillance cameras.

Davies said the loss earlier this year of computer disks containing personal information and bank details on 25 million people in Britain highlighted the risks of centralizing information on huge government databases.

The report, released Saturday, said privacy protection was worsening across Western Europe, although it was improving in the former Communist states of Eastern Europe.

It said concern about terrorism, immigration and border security was driving the spread of identity and fingerprinting systems, often without regard to individual privacy.

The report said the trends had been fueled by the emergence "of a profitable surveillance industry dominated by global IT companies and the creation of numerous international treaties that frequently operate outside judicial or democratic processes."

The survey considers a range of factors, including legal protection of privacy, enforcement, data sharing, the use of biometrics and the prevalence of closed circuit TV cameras.

"People shouldn't feel despondent about the results," Davies said. "Our view is that privacy-friendly systems will emerge in coming years and that consumers will soon begin to see privacy as a political issue."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Supporting Religion

You CANNOT support a religion that teaches such barbaric traditions then turn around and say not all Muslims believe the extremist way.

In the Koran it talks about KILLING and MURDERING ANYONE who does not want to believe with a special emphasis on Christians.

I was raised a Christian, and to this day, I am not a Christian anymore. Even though I was raised in the religion, once I was able to make my own mind up, I got away from it, b/c I cannot support a religion with so many contradictions in it's own book plus what those who claim to be Christians have done in Gods name. ie: Crusades.....

If you ask me, we should ban worldwide any irrational religion that promotes violence, hate, or that divides us on the planet. Which would be every religion on the planet.

My problem is religions see "their" followers as the chosen people. The saved ones. It creates false boundaries in our mind that separates us from each other. This side believes it's the chosen ones.....the others are just heathens!

It only creates this madness we now experience. People want so badly to believe that all this pain and suffering is for something bigger. Some of us are willing to kill what God supposedly created so that we can get an express lane to heaven. None of us can except that we are mortal and that lives are nothing more than experiences through time.

Just my opinion.................

My God is the World & Universe and she is sad at how you treat each other.......


Monday, December 24, 2007

Xmas Myths

Not trying to bum your spirit of the holiday. I just hope you celebrate the holiday for the right reasons and take what you feel into the new year, for the entire year...

Below is great Myths of Xmas!

Winter Solstice, or Yule, is held on or around December 22nd. It marks the shortest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere) and is an important holiday to those who follow the old ways.

To the ancients, it appeared as if the Sun and Moon stopped in their flight across the sky—this is the longest night of the year and was a time of both anticipation and rejoicing at the Sun's rebirth out of the Goddess.

The Sun's representation as the male divinity, or celestial ruler, predates Christianity. As with other rituals and celebrations, the Church felt that by assimilating this holiday into the Christian beliefs, it would help convert those who still followed the Olde Way.

Definition of Solstice - Solstice derives from an ancient Latin word meaning "stop," or "to stand still." According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, it refers to one of two points when the sun is furthest from the celestial equator.

Relationship to Christmas
The selection of December 25th as a Christian holiday was first recorded in scholarly texts dating to 325 A.D., although the actual practice was first decreed in 274 A.D. by the Emperor Aurelian. Since the non-Christians viewed this time as the rebirth of the sun, it made sense for the Church to also mark this period as the celebration of the nativity of Christ. Curiously, the selection of the day appears arbitrary although mankind had long known how to calculate the solstices. One can only guess that, rather than shift the celebration each year, a regularly scheduled event was preferable—the old Roman desire for order never quite left the new faith.

The Winter Solstice marks a crucial part of the natural cycle. In a real sense, the sun begins anew its journey toward longer days, times of new growth and renewal of the world once again. In a spiritual sense, it is a reminder that in order for a new path to begin, the old one must end and that spring will come again.

Some Myths on Xmas:
The Bible does not supply concrete information on exactly when Christ was born. No astrological indicators exist that point to December 25. The earliest record comes from a 354 A.D. calendar description of a holiday in which Romans lit candles to celebrate the sun's birthday.

The Bible tells of three wise men who travelled from afar on camels to visit the infant Jesus as he lay in the manger.(Mathew 2:1 tells us: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem . . . ". That is the extent of it. There is no mention of THREE wisemen and no mention of camel! Also, Matt 2:11 states "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him . . . ". Note that it mentions a child in a house, rather than a baby in a manger... so this is a postbirth event.)

The "Immaculate Conception" refers to the birth of Jesus. (The Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with either the birth of Jesus or any virgin birth. It is a specific dogma of Roman Catholicism which decrees that the Virgin Mary was preserved free from original sin by divine grace from the moment of her conception. Although this dogma had been argued since the 12th century, it was not made official Pope Pius X did so in 1854. Since then December 8 has been observed as a Roman Catholic feast in commemoration of the Immaculate Conception.)

Church officials, "impressed with the ritual's symbolic bringing back of light into the world," claimed the date of December 25. Roman Emperor Constantine officially recognized it as the celebration of Jesus' birth in the 4th century A.D.

The Middle Ages marked the origin of many traditional Christmas symbols such as the Yule log, holly, and caroling. The burning Yule log (Yule comes from the Scandinavian jol or jul which means "jolly") symbolized the time in which bonfires raged to "beckon the reappearance of winter's holy light."

The Farmer's Almanac also got its start in the Middle Ages during the 12 days of Christmas. People used these days to predict weather by recording sunny and snowy days in a system that became the precursor of the modern day Farmer's Almanac.

In the early 19th century, German and Dutch Protestant immigrants resurrected the Christmas holiday to its original status. St. Nicholas also gained prominence during the Victorian era.

Originally Santa Claus was not regarded as the rotund gift bearer in an airborne sled that we all know today. It was Clement Clark Moore's 1822 poem that first promoted this image.

Santa's Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sprang from a commercial endeavor in 1939. A Montgomery Ward employee wrote the original story as part of a promotional "giveaway" program. The song gained prominence in the late 1940s.

'Xmas' is a modern, disrespectful abbreviation of the word 'Christmas'. (X is a substitute for the Greek, Chi, which was an early church representation of Christ. It has been around for a long time and had no meaning of disrespect.)

Spread Truth!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pro Life or just Pro New Born?

We can't kill embryos for stem cell research, but we can allow a child to be born in poverty, struggle just to live, then when they get a gun and kill many, we all stand around look at each other and question why it happened.....

It seems that if you want people to have kids, maybe you should be responsible for those kids. And not just while they are kids, but all the way to adulthood. Instead they force mothers to have children, making it criminal if you choose not to have the child in some places but they cut programs for young mothers, they stop welfare, they cut funding to public schools and healthcare costs thousands of dollars if not more. Seems to me if you want to protect life, you should do it from the moment it is born to the moment it dies....but we don't do that, now do we?
I also find it disturbing that once these children who were saved by the Pro Life movement hit the young teen to adult years, we seem to forget all about them. We shove them in homes, mental institutions, jails & prisons, thinking locking them up like wild animals will change them. When in reality we only make them more bitter than they were. Once they are 18, most parents tell the kids they brought in the world to get out and survive on their own. The best part is they never prepare the child for the "real world".

We need to become more clear in the areas we ignore...we need more grey though in those areas we are too absolute. It could change our lives, our country. It could stop things like this from happening.....

When will we learn that it is meant to be quality, not quantity. So what we have 7 billion people on this planet....80 percent of us is suffering....

Profile of a killer: Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins was a depressed teenager who believed he had endured a terrible fortnight when he snapped, took a rifle, and killed eight Christmas shoppers before shooting himself.

Two weeks ago his long-term girlfriend dumped him. Last week he was sacked by McDonalds over a missing $17. He was also awaiting a court case due later this month for underage possession of alcohol.

The 19-year-old lived with a family in the middle-class town of Bellevue, Nebraska. The small town, which is sandwiched between the city of Omaha and a US military base, proudly boasts of its tight-knit community.

Hawkins moved into the suburban home of Debora Maruca-Kovac after becoming friends with her two sons, aged 17 and 19.

Mrs Maruca-Kovac said her family had taken him in after he had fallen out with his stepmother. Court records show that at least once he was termed a ward of the state meaning he had been legally removed him from his parents’ custody - possibly to be held in a juvenile detention centre.

“When he first came in the house, he was introverted, a troubled young man who was like a lost pound puppy that nobody wanted,” Mrs Maruca-Kovac said.

Hawkins had dropped out of Papillion-La Vista High School without qualifications and a criminal record that included one drug conviction and several misdemeanour cases. His most recent arrest for underage possession of alcohol came 11 days before his shooting spree.

Since leaving school he had got a steady job, passed his driving test and earned a high school equivalency degree. Mrs Maruca-Kovac thought he was improving.

“He was depressed, and he had always been depressed,” she said. “But he looked like he was getting better.”

Mrs Maruca-Kovac is a medical nurse and she explained that Hawkins had been treated for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression but was not taking any medication. She said he also had a drinking problem and would occasionally smoke marijuana in his bedroom.

She spoke to Hawkins just before his shooting attack and found the suicide note he had left. “I was fearful that he was going to try to commit suicide but I had no idea that he would involve so many other families,” she said.

Mrs Maruca-Kovac described the note in which he said “he was sorry for everything, that he didn’t want to be a burden to anybody, he loved his family, he loved all of his friends. He was a piece of shit all of his life and now he’ll be famous."

By the time the nurse had discovered the truth she had already seen many of Hawkins's victims, who had been rushed into the medical centre where she works.