Thursday, October 28, 2004

State of Play II | Reloaded

I'm off to the State of Play II | Reloaded conference.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Copyright Infringers for Kerry!

Here are some buttons I picked up in Union Square, NYC.

Those darn infringers are trying to corrupt our children by using cartoon characters to sell them the loose morals of the Democratic party! These pins certainly don't promote family values. GOP: If you see one of these pins on any trouble makers at a Bush rally they're outta there! If you see anyone wearing these pins at a voting station in FL or OH be sure to challenge their right to vote!

Or is it just that Spidey really knows the deal? I think he may, Spidey endorses Kerry in 2004!

Shrek and the whole ogre crew support Kerry too!

And finally a remix of a public domain work, Da Vinci's famous fresco-style painting - The Last Supper. I'm almost certain that if Da Vinci were alive and well today, he'd also support Kerry!

Judge throws in-court party for defendant, then sentences him to life!

This is sad. Judges are supposed to be among the best and most professional legal practitioners, so when they do something like this it embarrasses the entire profession. On the other hand it is pretty funny. This sort of stuff could only happen in Texas (I lived there briefly, I know).

A judge threw a party complete with balloons, streamers and a cake to welcome a former fugitive back to her court -- and sentence him to life in prison. "You just made my day when I heard you had finally come home," Criminal Courts Judge Faith Johnson told Billy Wayne Williams, who had been convicted in absentia of aggravated assault after he disappeared a year ago. "We're so excited to see you, we're throwing a party for you."
Before he was brought into the courtroom on Monday, the judge directed staff members as they placed balloons and streamers around the courtroom. A colorful cake was decorated with his name and one candle to signify the year he spent on the lam.

"It seems like everyone wants to have a party, and it's fun for you people, but not for me," Williams told reporters as he was led away in handcuffs.

Awww...poor guy. His life sentence was for choking his girlfriend unconscious so I'm assuming it was attempted murder plus a spate of other charges in addition to having some old convictions. Was this cruel and unusual punishment? Certainly the point was the mock the defendant, but I've heard of worse and stranger punishments than this.

Article here: - Judge throws party, hands down life sentence - Oct 26, 2004

Update: Judge Faith Johnson responds to charges that throwing a party upon sentencing 53-year-old Billy Wayne Williams to life in prison was questionable:
A judge who welcomed a former fugitive back to her courtroom with balloons, streamers and a cake defended her actions Wednesday, saying that getting a killer and abuser of women off the streets is reason to celebrate.
CNN article - Judge defends courtroom party for prisoner

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Induce Act Blog News

The Induce Act Blog is doing rather well these days. We are getting nearly 2000 hits a day now! Also, Google News has reviewed the blog and is going to start including it in their service, it. In addition to all this we have added a patent expert, Stephen Nipper of Invent Blog to the mix. Since the Induce Act is stalled for the moment we will be expanding our topic area.

Tech Law Advisor: Induce Act Blog News has more.

How to start/improve a blawg (or blog)

In case you are thinking about starting up a law blog (or any blog really), or have one that you'd like to improve, here are some helpful hints:

Notes from the (Legal) Underground: Turning a Blog Into Your Blawg: Fourteen Steps to Finding Your Voice in the Blawgosphere

Almost all of the info at the post is great advice (although I'm not sure that Typepad is any better than Blogger). Go check it out.

Via TechLawAdvisor.

Skip Law School, Be a Lawyer Anyway

Why the hell am I still in school and why didn't anyone ever tell me about this? I could've save a boat load of cash!

Skip Law School, Be a Lawyer Anyway - Can law school dropouts really join the bar?: "In New York...the requirement is that a prospective lawyer must have completed at least one year at an ABA-approved law school. After that, the future attorney can fulfill his educational requirements by engaging in something called 'law office study' or 'clerking for the bar' in essence, an apprenticeship at a law firm. Such apprenticeships were standard in the 19th century, before the proliferation of law schools: Neither Abraham Lincoln nor Clarence Darrow, for example, graduated from law school."

Via TechLawAdvisor.

Put the Library of Congress on the Web already!

This is old news (which means over a few days old for the blogosphere) but the idea is so cool that I have to post it.

The idea of access for all was put forward by visionary Brewster Kahle, who suggested starting by digitally scanning all 26 million books in the US Library of Congress.

His idea was just one of many presented at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco that aims to give a glimpse of what the net will become.
Brewster Kahle's idea is to scan as many books as possible and put them online so everyone has access to that huge amount of knowledge. In his speech, Mr Kahle pointed out that most books are out of print most of the time and only a tiny proportion are available on bookshop shelves. Using a robotic scanner, Mr Kahle said the job of scanning the 26 million volumes in the US Library of Congress, the world's biggest library, would cost only $260m (£146m). He estimated that the scanned images would take up about a terabyte of space and cost about $60,000 (£33,000) to store. Instead of needing a huge building to hold them, the entire library could fit on a single shelf. The Web 2.0 conference was held in San Francisco from 5-7 October.

BBC NEWS Technology Visionaries outline web's future

Even if it cost four times as much as Kahle thinks it would still be worthwhile to scan the entire Library of Congress and make it available to all. This could be an incredible asset to researchers and regular people all over the globe. All government documents, both Federal and State should be scanned and posted as well in my opinion. Freedom of information is what makes a democracy work after all. There's no reason why the citizens of the US and the world should not have instant access to any information in the public domain. The only difficulty is paying for it. I'm sure that there are people out there that could somehow turn such a database into a business model though. Not only that, but such a database would increase the already dominant US/English language presence on the Web, which may be politically advantageous. I hope someone is Washington heard Kahle and is thinking about this project more closely.

Google Desktop Search tool info

Google recently released their new Google Desktop Search. I've been using the program since its release and I really like it. It indexes all the files on your computer and allows you to search the whole hard drive extremely quickly. It's really nice to be able to do internet-style quick searches for specific words in all your word docs, email, AIM conversations, and web history. Whenever you want to recall some blog post or article you've seen you can just type in a keyword and find it in seconds.

[All the quoted bits in this post are from the WaPo articles linked to at the end of the post.] Google Desktop Search -

...not only indexes the full text of e-mail messages and word processing documents, but also gives people the option of creating a searchable archive of all Web pages they visit and all instant messages they send and receive with AOL software...

Google's new product is "very, very good," said Danny Sullivan, editor of, an online newsletter that tracks the search engine industry. Sullivan said he has been testing Google's search tool and found one of its most useful features to be the way that it stored a copy of all the pages he visited online and then made that personal Web surfing history available to him.

The WaPo reviews the new service in today's paper in which they call it "another free program that fixes [a] glaring weakness of Windows: its woeful file-searching capabilities." The reviewer has had a similar experience to my own:

This indexing has yet to have any detectable effect on the performance of two PCs I've put Google Desktop on, despite its ludicrous speed. New e-mails turned up in Google Desktop's search results within six minutes of their arrival, and freshly viewed Web pages were indexed even faster, within about 10 seconds.

Since Google Desktop's index is updated so often, it also tracks changes to text and Microsoft Office files. Click a file's name in a Google Desktop window to open that file in whatever program created it; click the "cached" link to view older versions within your browser window. Only the text of them appears, which works fine for most Word and text documents; Excel and PowerPoint files, however, usually look like gibberish without their formatting and graphics.

But as usual there are some privacy concerns similar to those that were all the rage to worry about when Gmail came out -

One thing to watch for, if you share a computer with other people: Google Desktop's searches will encompass everyone's data unless you adjust its preferences to exclude it from some folders or file types. Likewise, if you see Google Desktop running on a computer you're about to borrow, you'd be wise to click its taskbar icon (a rainbow-colored swirl) and select "pause indexing" to stop it from tracking your own use.
But as usual, some people are more worried about loss of privacy than others -

...the omniscient-seeming search engine Google bested itself by announcing a service to probe for information both online and in your own machine. One company official called it a "photographic memory for your computer."

Google says no personal information will be sent back to the company. But if it feels like you can't do anything these days without someone looking over your shoulder, you're not just paranoid..."It's important," Brin said, "to remain calm."
Since this indexing/uploading of hard drive information is really the only reason to think twice about downloading the Google Desktop Search program, here's what one WaPo writer had to say about the privacy issue:

Once the Google search technology is installed for free on a personal computer, it will transmit basic data daily about usage patterns. For example, it will tell the company how often Google is being used to search personal computers, how often it is used to search the Web, and how often simultaneous searches are done. Google lets users opt out of sending some usage data, but not all of it.

However, Mayer said the data collected will be aggregated so that the company knows where to focus its efforts on upgrading the search technology. She emphasized that the daily up-loading will not transmit any personal information to Google and said it is typical for major software programs that offer voluntary upgrades and fixes for bugs to capture that sort of information as a matter of routine.

"This is the most personal information Google has ever dealt with," Mayer said of the new desktop search technology. "We take user privacy and user trust very seriously. And we have throughout the entire development of this product."

To enable users to maintain the confidentiality of files on their personal computers, or to permit them to keep their Web surfing destinations a secret, the new desktop search tool lets people block it from archiving visits to specific Internet sites, or from accessing private or confidential information stored on a P.C. In addition, there is a 15-minute snooze bar that allows a user to temporarily turn the archiving feature off if, for example, someone wants to do online shopping for a family member or friend and keep it a secret.

Gary Price, a search specialist who runs a Web reference site called, noted that the new archiving capability could raise privacy issues by making it easier for people to search and find material on other people's computers when they step away from their desks. That could be troubling in the workplace where people often leave their desks unattended, he said: "In a couple of minutes, people can search your entire computer and find anything in any one of your documents."
So the main concern appears to be people in your home or business misusing the program to snoop on you, not Google itself misusing the info. So, I guess in the end it depends how concerned you are with privacy and how little you trust the people/companies around you to snoop. For the personal home computer at least, this is an extremely useful tool.

For more information check out these WaPo articles:

Main WaPo article: Google Releases Desktop Search Tool (
WaPo product review: Google Desktop Outshines Windows' File-Search Capabilities
WaPo For the paranoid: Privacy Eroding, Bit by Byte

And others:

CNN for the paranoid.
Tons more via Google News.

And the Google Desktop Search info and download site.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Blawger Bowl week 6 memo

Here's the Week 6 Blawger Bowl memo, just in time to get us all worked up for Week 7:

It was another exciting week for us attorney and techie fantasy footballers. We may be too busy and/or lazy to actually get up and throw a real ball, but a few of us sure can shuffle our fantasy players around effectively.

Bizz Bang Buzz should know by now that attorneys like to see full on winners and losers. Yet, for a second time BBB pulls off the unlikely tie game. This week it was with The Importance Of... One of the reasons we like to have winners and losers is so there can be legitimate trash talking. But wait! We can still trash talk a bit here - Ernest would've had a sure win if only he'd played a tight end. We know, you're busy ( got some players with byes this week people).

At the top of the stack is the still undefeated Invent Blog team. Invent Blog steam rolled Actual Malice for their 6th victory in a row, with Michael Vick having another big week. Likely only because Tiki Barber had a bye week, Actual Malice came within 7, oh so close to bringing down the champ. What we all want to know: Who can stand up to the Invent Blog team and end this reign of terror? (I have a feeling it could be patently obvious.)

At the other end of the spectrum is Tim Marman's "the team formerly known as Loosely Coupled." Loosely Coupled has decided it just isn't even worth pretending that they're showing up for their games and has been renamed "Bye Week." BW was crushed by Promote the Progress thanks to good showings by Leftwich and Droughns. We'll see if PtP can maintain their roll and Promote the whipping of Actual Malice in week 7.

The big score of the week was by Patently Obvious with a whopping 148 points, dayum man! Every player but the defense of the PO team scored double digits making for a slaughter of Kevin Heller's TechLawAdvisor team. Daunte Culpepper scored a whopping 44 for PO alone. PO has been running up big numbers all season, perhaps here in Week 7 Patently Obvious will be the one to take down the big dog Invent Blog. Stayed tuned, this is a huge match up!

The Libertarians laid the smack down on Unbillable Hours with an as usual good showing by Priest Holmes. Not that a kicker would've saved UBH from defeat, but it never hurts to field a full team. The Libertarians are currently holding on to the number three spot while UBH is struggling to grab the losers crown from Bye Week.

Last but certainly not least was the matchup between my very own Inducers and Ernie the Attorney. The Inducers choked Yankee-style in the face of a team with that was missing a tight end and a running back. How could that happen you ask? Well five of the Inducers, including Q. Griffin, scored under 6 points each. For the Inducers, the defense was second in scoring only to V. Testeverde, who himself did not have a stellar week. Ernie's team, on the other hand, had a successful week with Taylor and the Washington defense each bringing in big numbers and allowing the victory despite the two missing players. In the post-game interview the Inducer coach said "how embarrassing, how did I end up drafting all these clowns?" When tracked down and awakened by reporters, Ernie the Attorney said, "Oh crap...did we field a full team? No? Did we win? Yeah? Cool! Heh heh, those loser Inducers!"

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Creative Commons

There's an article out about Creative Commons. If you don't know what CC is, go read the article and then check out the Creative Commons website. CC needs more public attention.

AP - Movement Seeks Copyright Alternatives

Note that this site, as well as many other blogs, are licensed under a Creative Commons License (see the "CC" graphic near the bottom of the column on the left). Here is my license version.

The cool thing about CC is that everyone else can see what copyright rights you are reserving and whether you are allowing commercial uses or the creation of derivitive works of the material you've made. Under regular old copyright a person who wishes to use some of your material has to assume the strongest protection of the material, which is a big incentive not to use it at all. If the creator doesn't mind if others use the material, well then, that's a shame that others just assume they can't use it. It would be great if more big time artists began using CC, as several have begun doing already, such as Gilberto Gil, David Byrne, etc. There are special CC licenses for various types of creative works such as audio, written, etc.

Go check it out and if you have a web page make it a CC page.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

It's that easy to get content removed

An interesting copyright law related project with worrisome results.

Members of the Bits of Freedom group conducted a test to see how much it would take for a service provider to take down a website hosting public domain material. They signed up with 10 providers and put online a work by Duthc author Multatuli, who died over 100 years ago. They stated that the work was in the public domain, and that it was written in 1871. They then set up a fake society to claim to be the copyright holders of the work. From a Hotmail address, they sent out complaints to all 10 of the providers. 7 out of 10 complied and removed the site, one within just 3 hours.
Boing Boing: HOWTO censor the net with a Hotmail account

Here's a link to the research findings (PDF).

Saturday, October 09, 2004

I'm Dazed and Confused by this libel claim

In the "coming of age" movie genre, Dazed and Confused (1993) is one of my favorites. Now three of the director/writer's (Richard Linklater) former highschool classmates (Bobby Wooderson, Andy Slater and Richard "Pink'' Floyd) are suing him, claiming that the characters were based on them and that they have suffered embarrassment and ridicule. The plaintiffs say the suit has been prompted by the film's 2002 release on DVD and it's growing cult popularity.

This is just sad, these plaintiffs should be ashamed of themselves for trying to scam their former friend, who it may be noted, is doing quite well in Hollywood. There is no way these plaintiffs are so embarrassed at their depiction in the film that they need to sue over 10 years after its release (that is assuming the characters were even based on them and not merely named after them).

And what are the damages here? I seriously doubt these plaintiffs can prove some sort of monetary damage. I also doubt a jury would be willing to give these guys punitive damages, it'll be tough to make the director look like a guy who deserves to be punished for his actions here. At first I couldn't even think of what theory of law this case would be based on. There's clearly no right of celebrity here because the friends are probably nobodies, and there are no apparent copyright or trademark issues. My guess was that case was based in libel, but there is typically a short statute of limitations on libel claims.

Then I saw this - "Robbins says the lawsuit was filed in Santa Fe because it has a longer statute of limitations than other states for claims of defamation and false light," and also because of a more favorable jury pool. This is disturbing since libel has First Amendment implications in that it limits or chills speech. The statute of limitations on Libel should be fairly short in order to protect speech. This suit was filed in New Mexico, I wonder what the plaintiffs connections to that jurisdiction are? They all still live in Texas, where they went to school with Linklater. I imagine that NM and TX must be within the same federal circuit, but that is ridiculous that the parties may have to litigate in a place nowhere near where either of them live.

I don't think there's much of a libel case here -
First, the plaintiffs have to show that there has been a false statement that actually harms the their reputations, as opposed to being merely insulting or offensive.
Second, the statements would have to be false statements of FACT. Statements that can be objectively proven true or false, not merely opinion or exaggeration.
Third, the plaintiffs have to show that the characters/statements were "of and concerning" them. Meaning that people in their community who see the movie know it is about them (before they actually drew all this attention to the case). Just using similar names should not be enough.
Fourth, there may need to be some element of fault on the part of the defendant. Did he purposely ignore the facts and misrepresented them?

Here are some great quotes from this article in the Albuquerque Journal:

One plaintiff, Bobby Wooderson, for example, recently checked his teenage son into Harvard University, and when the boy's classmates learned Wooderson was the basis for the pot-smoking "David Wooderson" in "Dazed and Confused," "all the kids there wanted to do was smoke pot with him," said Santa Fe attorney Bill Robins III, who filed the suit.
Linklater, who wrote and directed "Dazed and Confused," only slightly modified the three plaintiffs' names...Plaintiff Bobby Wooderson is named David Wooderson in the movie; plaintiff Andy Slater is named Ron Slater in the movie; and plaintiff Richard "Pink" Floyd is named Randall "Pink" Floyd in the movie.
"Dazed and Confused" depicts Wooderson - who was played by actor Matthew McConaughey - as an "aging high school wannabe with the bad ass car, who despite graduating years ago, can't leave his high school 'daze' behind him," reads the suit.
The Wooderson character also says in the movie, "that's what I love about these high school girls; I get older and they stay the same age." Robins said the real-life Wooderson has never said any quote of that nature.
Slater is depicted as the 'school's in-house stoner and medicine chest,' '' reads the suit.
Richard "Pink" Floyd, is depicted in "Dazed and Confused," as "the school's starting quarterback, supposedly struggling with the choice between signing a pledge to not use drugs and alcohol or hanging out with his loser friends,' '' reads the suit. [Sounds to me like the plaintiffs are now Linklater's loser former friends.]
Despite the fact that Linklater has said in interviews that "Dazed and Confused" was fairly autobiographical, there's little chance this case will go anywhere if it is based in libel, partly because no reasonable person who saw "Dazed and Confused" would assume that the depictions in it are based on actual events, it's a work of fiction, a movie. These guys are wasting everyone's money with this suit and not only that, they will actually draw national attention to the embarrassing fact that they may have been cool pot smoking rockers in the 70's that were so much fun that a movie was made based on the good times they had. Man that really is embarrassing, I feel so sorry for them!

If these guys can get past the summary judgment stage then they will be able to force a big settlement from Linklater because defamation trials cost quite a lot. Hopefully this frivolous suit gets booted out of court at the pleadings stage. Well, there's a lesson for directors/writers - don't use names that sound like people you knew even if you're basing a character on them...ever. Once you leave your friends behind in that small Texas town and move on to Hollywood, they'll be coming for your hard earned paychecks if they have any shot.

Well, I never knew the people in the movie were based on these guys, now I do. I also would've thought they were probably cool if I had known it, but now that this comes up I think they are total wankers. Way to go guys, I hope you wasted plenty hiring your lawyer.

This is a great article on the situation, CNN article here, another good one from Texas here.

Here are the most up to date news articles on "Dazed and Confused," via Google News.

More on libel at the Media Law Resource Center.

Another fantastic movie by Richard Linklater is Waking Life. It's about lucid dreaming, so it's strange. Others I either liked less or haven't seen are School of Rock (didn't see) and Slacker (although intriguing, very boring). And soon to be released is The Smoker, The Bad News Bears, and The Scanner Darkly.

I just remembered that Linklater was/is also involved in a controversy over the School of Rock movie (featuring Jack Black) because someone who started a rock music school for kids was claiming the script was based on their life. I can't find anything on that with a quick search though.

Friday, October 08, 2004

JibJab at it again with "good to be in DC"

JibJab has released their second short flash film lampooning Bush and Kerry. The new short, call Good to be in D.C., is put to the music of Dixie. The last Jib Jab release was the famous "This Land" short in which they used Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." A publisher claimed "This Land" was still under copyright and threatened to sue JibJab. Lucky for them the EFF came to their aid, demonstrated that the song was not still under copyright, and JibJab survived. I suspect that, despite all the attention the Jib Jab guys got last time because of their legal difficulties, they were a bit more careful this time around. Go check out the short here. If you want to see the "This Land" short you have to pay up. JibJab is now a CafePress empire as well, so get your "I'm a rightwing nut job" t-shirts there after watching "Good to be in D.C."

Congrats to the JibJabbers for making good on the American dream by being goofballs.

Here's a link to my former posts about the JibJib legal situation with "This Land," as linked by Lessig, The Importance of..., and Slashdot.

Here's a great ZDNet article: Political spoof a boon for JibJab business

Here's the latest on JibJab via Google News.

New US homeland security cyber security chief

This will be the fourth person to hold this position in four years. Richard Clarke, Howard Schmidt, and Amit Yoran have also held the position. There is currently a bill working its way through the House that would elevate this position to one just below Tom Ridge, which would of course give the cyber security department and its chief much more clout within the Dept. of Homeland Security.

"The post was left vacant by the sudden resignation of Amit Yoran a week ago. Reports suggested he left because his team was not given enough clout within the Department of Homeland Security. The new acting head of the National Cyber Security Division is Andy Purdy, the former deputy director. "
[His] task is to work out how to protect US networks from disruption by the viruses, worms and hack attacks that have become commonplace.
[Yoran's] sudden resignation, giving only a day's notice, led to suggestions that he felt frustrated by the lack of prominence given to cyber security in the wider homeland organisation.

BBC NEWS Technology US gets new cyber security chief

Here are recent articles on Purdy listed on Google News.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

New Intellectual Property Political Action Committee

I know this is fairly old news, but I've been getting slammed with work. Anyway, the new Intellectual Property Political Action Committee (IPAC) is a very exciting concept. IPac is working to educate politicians on IP issues and signing them on to their principles of consumer and innovation friendly IP law. Check here to see which candidates are public interest friendly when it comes to IP issues.

IP is an area of legislation where politicians can hand huge rewards to companies at the expense of the public without really getting any negative attention. People just don't know how important IP law is, don't realize they are actually the ones losing out, or don't care because IP doesn't make for a great above-the-fold story. As the copyright law has expanded so massively in the last decade, however, the public's interest in IP has really been piqued. Part of this phenomenon (both as a cause of it and because of it) has been the rise of so many IP blogs, the IP blogs have brought together many people who are particularly knowledgeable about IP issues and has provided them an outlet to provide that knowledge to the public at large (or at least the many techies and geeks who read their sites) and some of them are now looking like true journalists themselves with huge readership. The good 'ol internet is working it's magic, bringing people with common interests together to bring attention to something they care deeply about.

Concern about IP law is really going mainstream now, Wired News seems to run a story on IP at least once a week. Reporters are starting to pick up on IP stories and politicians are beginning to see it as an issue worth commenting on. With the new threat of the Induce Act damaging US technological innovation, the public is all the more concerned with IP.

It is only natural that eventually an IP PAC would pop up. It would obviously make a huge difference to the future direction of IP law if the public took such an interest in IP that politicians were forced to react, and particularly if donors other than the MPAA and the RIAA began to consider IP issues in who they supported financially. That will be a next step that may be a few years off but appears to be happening.

I will say for myself, I was very unhappy when my own Sen. Clinton signed on as a Co-sponsor to the Induce Act, a.k.a IICA. Prior to learning this I supported her completely, upon hearing the IICA news I was forced to question her loyalties - is it to Hollywood or to her constituents? Politicians count on their voters not knowing or caring about their stances on IP, hopefully it is only a matter of time before this changes. An IP PAC is the right move for getting politicans to listen up - "hey, we know what your doing with our property, and we actually care."

I'd like to congratulate everyone who was involved in bringing this idea to fruition and I wish them luck with IPac in the future.

Go, check it out - IPac.

A change of direction for WIPO?

WIPO has typically been viewed as a forum for IP maximalists such as US content producers. It has been a place where international agreements have been made that would later be used to pressure countries into accepting a US version of IP law, or even to pressure the US Senate into enacting harsher IP law. Copyfight and Cory Doctorow are very excited about some recent changes at WIPO.

"[A]t the general session of the WIPO in Geneva this weekend, the Assembly as adoped a decision to put development and the promotion of creativity front-and-center in its goals."

Much more:
Copyfight > Massive Victory for Copyfighters.

Boing Boing: Massive victory at WIPO!

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