|By Adam Pasick |
LONDON November 6, 2004 (Reuters) - A file-sharing program called BitTorrent has become a behemoth, devouring more than a third of the Internet's bandwidth, and Hollywood's copyright cops are taking notice.
For those who know where to look, there's a wealth of content, both legal -- such as hip-hop from the Beastie Boys and video game promos -- and illicit, including a wide range of TV shows, computer games and movies.
BitTorrent star Jon Stewart
Average users are taking advantage of the software's ability to cheaply spread files around the Internet. For example, when comedian Jon Stewart made an incendiary appearance on CNN's political talk show "Crossfire," thousands used BitTorrent to share the much-discussed video segment.
Even as lawsuits from music companies have driven people away from peer-to-peer programs like KaZaa, BitTorrent has thus far avoided the ire of groups such as the Motion Picture Association of America. But as BitTorrent's popularity grows, the service could become a target for copyright lawsuits.
According to British Web analysis firm CacheLogic, BitTorrent accounts for an astounding 35 percent of all the traffic on the Internet -- more than all other peer-to-peer programs combined -- and dwarfs mainstream traffic like Web pages.
"I don't think Hollywood is willing to let it slide, but whether they're able to (stop it) is another matter," Bram Cohen, the programmer who created BitTorrent, told Reuters.
John Malcolm, director of worldwide anti-piracy operations for the MPAA, said that his group is well aware of the vast amounts of copyrighted material being traded via BitTorrent.
"It's a very efficient delivery system for large files, and it's being used and abused by a hell of a lot of people," he told Reuters. "We're studying our options, as we do with all new technologies which are abused by people to engage in theft."
FOR GOOD OR EVIL
BitTorrent, which is available for free on http://bittorrent.com, can be used to distribute legitimate content and to enable copyright infringement on a massive scale. The key is to understand how the software works.
Let's say you want to download a copy of this week's episode of "Desperate Housewives." Rather than downloading the actual digital file that contains the show, instead you would download a small file called a "torrent" onto your computer.
When you open that file on your computer, BitTorrent searches for other users that have downloaded the same "torrent."
BitTorrent's "file-swarming" software breaks the original digital file into fragments, then those fragments are shared between all of the users that have downloaded the "torrent." Then the software stitches together those fragments into a single file that a users can view on their PC.
Sites like Slovenia-based Suprnova ( http://www.suprnova.org ) offer up thousands of different torrents without storing the shows themselves.
Suprnova is a treasure trove of movies, television shows, and pirated games and software. Funded by advertising, it is run by a teen-age programmer who goes only by the name Sloncek, who did not respond to an e-mailed interview request.
Enabling users to share copyrighted material illicitly may put Suprnova and its users on shaky legal ground.
"They're doing something flagrantly illegal, but getting away with it because they're offshore," said Cohen. He is not eager to get into a battle about how his creation is used. "To me, it's all bits," he said.
But Cohen has warned that BitTorrent is ill-suited to illegal activities, a view echoed by John Malcolm of MPAA.
"People who use these systems and think they're anonymous are mistaken," Malcolm said. Asked if he thought sites like Suprnova were illegal, he said: "That's still an issue we're studying, that reasonable minds can disagree on," he said.
Future BitTorrent stars? (LucasFilm)
Meanwhile, BitTorrent is rapidly emerging as the preferred means of distributing large amounts of legitimate content such as versions of the free computer operating system Linux, and these benign uses may give it some legal protection.
"Almost any software that makes it easy to swap copyrighted files is ripe for a crackdown BitTorrent's turn at bat will definitely happen," said Harvard University associate law professor Jonathan Zittrain. "At least under U.S. law, it's a bit more difficult to find the makers liable as long as the software is capable of being used for innocent uses, which I think (BitTorrent) surely is."
Among the best legitimate sites for movies and music:
-- Legal Torrents ( http://www.legaltorrents.com/ ), which includes a wide selection of electronic music. It also has the Wired Magazine Creative Commons CD, which has songs from artists like the Beastie Boys who agreed to release some of their songs under a more permissive copyright that allows free distribution and remixing.
-- Torrentocracy ( http://torrentocracy.com/torrents/ ) has videos of the U.S. presidential debates and other political materials.
-- File Soup ( http://www.filesoup.com ) offers open-source software and freeware, music from artists whose labels don't belong to the Recording Industry Association of America trade group, and programs from public television stations like PBS or the BBC.
-- Etree ( http://bt.etree.org ) is for devotees of "trade-friendly" bands like Phish and the Dead, who encourage fans to share live recordings, usually in the form of large files that have been minimally compressed to maintain sound quality.
[And don't forget the new episode of Star Trek New Voyages, available as a free download in BitTorrent format at http://www.newvoyages.com Ed.]
No modern tropical honeybee could
have survived years in the dark and
cold without flowering plants
Bees Beat Dinosaurs!
Geological Society of America News Release
November 5, 2004 - The humble tropical honeybee may challenge the idea that a post-asteroid impact "nuclear winter" was a big player in the decimation of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Somehow the tropical honeybee, Cretotrigona prisca, survived the end-Cretaceous extinction event, despite what many researchers believe was a years-long period of darkness and frigid temperatures caused by sunlight-blocking dust and smoke from the asteroid impact at Chicxulub.
The survival of C. prisca is problematic and telling, asserts paleontology graduate student Jacqueline M. Kozisek of the University of New Orleans. Late Cretaceous tropical honeybees preserved in amber are almost identical to their modern relatives, she says.
If no modern tropical honeybee could have survived years in the dark and cold without the flowering plants they lived off of, Kozisek reasoned, something must be amiss with the nuclear winter theory.
"It couldn't have been that huge," says Kozisek of the Chicxulub-related temperature drops asserted by other researchers.
Kozisek will present her work on Monday, 8 Nov., at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Denver.
Modern tropical honeybees have an optimal temperature range of 88 to 93 degrees F (31-34°C) in order to maintain vital metabolic activities, according to entomological research, says Kozisek. That's also the range that's best for their food source: nectar-rich flowering plants.
Based on what is known about the Cretaceous climate and modern tropical honeybees, Kozisek estimates that any post-impact winter event could not have dropped temperatures more than 4 to 13 degrees F (2-7°C) without wiping out the bees. Current nuclear winter theories from the Chicxulub impact estimate drops of 13 to 22 degrees F (7-12°C) – too cold for tropical honeybees.
Tropical honeybees haven't changed
a lot in 65 million years
"I'm not trying to say an asteroid impact didn't happen," says Kozisek. "I'm just trying to narrow down the effects."
To do this, Kozisek took a novel approach for a paleontologist – instead of looking at what died out, she dug through the literature to find out what survived the massive extinction event.
"I made a list of all survivors and picked those with strict survival requirements," said Kozisek. She determined that those survival requirements were by calling on studies of the closest modern analogues -- which wasn't always easy for some species, she pointed out. There was, for instance, a very early primate that crawled out of the Cretaceous alive, but there is really no comparable small primate around today with which to reliably compare, she said.
On the other hand, a good number of tropical honeybees haven't changed a lot in 65 million years and a great deal is known about modern tropical honey bees' tolerances to heat and cold. What's more, amber-preserved specimens of the oldest tropical honey bee, Cretotrigona prisca, are almost indistinguishable from – and are probably the ancestors of – some modern tropical honeybees like Dactylurina, according to other studies cited by Kozisek.
Survival and Its Implications: Tropical Honeybees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini) and the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary Abstract may be viewed at: http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2004AM/finalprogram/abstract_80171.htm
Geological Society of America - http://www.geosociety.org
Bees Beat Arthritis?
Arthritis & Rheumatism News Release
November 4, 2004 - Since ancient times, healers have practiced apitherapy, the use of honeybee products for curative purposes. Within the last few decades, conventional doctors have joined holistic practitioners in exploring the potential of bee venom for treating a wide variety of conditions from acute tendonitis to chronic back pain to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While research has established anti-arthritic effects of bee venom, much about the way bee venom work remains a mystery.
A team of researchers in South Korea recently conducted an investigation into the molecular mechanisms behind bee venom's therapeutic impact on RA, a chronic, destructive inflammatory disease. The November 2004 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism presents their insights into melittin, a major component of bee venom and a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
To gain a better understanding of bee venom's potential benefits for RA patients, the researchers examined its action in rat treated to induce inflammatory arthritis. For rats with advanced RA, treatment with bee venom at very low doses resulted in dramatic reductions of tissue swelling and osteophyte formation on affected paws. "Although the issue for determination of an effective dose is needed for further study," observes one of the authors, Jin Tae Hong, M.D., Ph.D. "Our data show that the anti-arthritic effects of bee venom are related to the anti-inflammatory effects of bee venom."
In the next phase of their study, researchers examined the anti-inflammatory effects of bee venom on synovial cells – cells lining the joints– obtained from human RA patients. Their experiments focused on melittin, bee venom's principal peptide. They observed melittin's power to block the expression of inflammatory genes, much like COX-2 inhibitor drugs used to treat RA. Melittin effectively reduces inflammation by inhibiting the critical DNA binding activity of NF-kB (Nuclear Factor kappa B), which directly controls a number of genes involved in immune reactions. Thus, Melittin's targeted inactivation of inflammation may hold the key to the anti-arthritic effects of bee venom.
"The potency of melittin in the inhibition of the inflammatory response may be of great benefit in degenerative and inflammatory diseases such as RA," concludes Dr. Hong. "The extent of inhibitory effects of melittin in most parameters determined in the present study is similar to or greater than bee venom itself, suggesting that melittin may be a major causative component in the pharmacologic effects of bee venom."
Arthritis & Rheumatism - http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/arthritis
Joss on Serenity
Buy the Firefly Complete Series DVD set
before you see the movie...
Hollywood November 5, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed the upcoming SF movie Serenity, told SCI FI Wire that it's been a challenge adapting his low-rated Fox TV series Firefly for the big screen.
"It's incredibly hard, you know, building a story that doesn't repeat or contradict what we've already done, that satisfies the fans, and yet is really made for people who have never seen the show," Whedon said in an interview on the film's set at Universal Studios in Los Angeles last August. "[It's] incredibly tricky. There's pitfalls everywhere."
Serenity, set 500 years in the future, picks up the story of the intrepid crew of the Firefly-class transport ship Serenity. Fox canceled Firefly in the middle of its first season, but fan enthusiasm for the show and its subsequent DVD release persuaded Universal Pictures to green-light a movie adaptation. "It's the hardest story I've ever had to structure," Whedon said.
But, he added, "once I get writing these people, it's the easiest thing in the world, because I know them so well. The other thing is, a TV show is built around slow development of character. A movie ... is built around momentum. They're very different things. So ... you have to let some things drop, and you have to speed some things up, and you have to sort of know which ones are which."
Serenity also marks longtime TV veteran Whedon's feature-film directorial debut. Whedon has been critical in the past about how his movie scripts for such films as Alien: Resurrection and the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie have been realized.
Joss Whedon directing
"After Alien: Resurrection I said the next person who ruins one of my scripts is going to be me," he said, with tongue in cheek. "And I think I'm doing a fine job. Actually, I think that the director on occasion could use a little more imagination and the writer could have shut up occasionally. We fight, but we're still getting along better than I usually do."
Seriously, Whedon said, "It's been great. ... Unlike TV, I have the time to really explore what it is I'm doing and to go back and reassess every day. But the piece is so fluid, because it's a domino effect. Every time you shoot a scene, it affects 50 other scenes.
"It's not like you have eight days and you know exactly what you need, and you're out and you go on to the next one. It's constantly shifting. Hopefully not so much that it doesn't know where it's going."
Serenity, which is in post-production, opens April 22, 2005.
[A novel of the movie story will be available as a paperback in early April. Ed.]
Buy the Firefly DVD Set from Fox - http://www.foxstore.com/detail.html?item=960&u=1084853791
Sarah Michelle Gellar Makes Films for Fans
By Hugo Rifkind
Sarah Michelle in current number one box office
hit "The Grudge"
London November 5, 2004 (Times UK) - “I had a bunch of covers in the States all one week,” says Sarah Michelle Gellar, matter-of-factly. “Somebody said to me: ‘How do you go to the grocery store?’ But I’m the girl who hasn’t washed her hair, and is wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I don’t look like I do in the magazines in the supermarket. That’s not me at all.”
Obviously, this is all very humble and refreshing and down-to-earth. But, to be honest, it’s sheer nonsense.
Gellar looks exactly as she does in the magazines in the supermarket. She’s in heels, some tight brown trousers and a floaty poncho-ish thing that I can’t even name. She is a very beautiful woman. She must know this, and she’s pretending she doesn’t. It’s disarming, and it’s sneaky. The thing is, actors are paid to tell lies and pretend it’s the truth.
Gellar spent seven seasons pretending that she was an angst-wracked vampire slayer, who was pretending to be a normal schoolgirl.
Right now, she’s either being extremely friendly, chatty and forthcoming, or she is pretending that she is. I can’t figure out which.
She’s here to promote her new movie, The Grudge. It’s a remake of the Japanese horror film, Ju-on. Unusually for such a genre, it has the same Japanese director (Takashi Shimizu), a Japanese crew, and is set in Japan. It opened at the top of the US box office, taking $40 million (£22 million) on its first weekend.
I saw a screening two days ago. “What did you think?” asks the star. The way her eyes twinkle, the way she cocks her shiny blonde head, I very nearly believe that she cares.
Terrifying, I tell her, quite honestly. Properly, butt-clenchingly horrible. I’m not great at horror films, but knowing she was in it, I wasn’t too worried. Along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gellar has been in Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer and both Scooby-Doo movies. I was expecting some kind of horror-lite. I was badly mistaken.
The Grudge is an Omen, a Carrie, an Exorcist. The Japanese setting gives it an atmosphere of unsettled alienation throughout, to which the frequent use of subtitles only adds. It might not be the most original horror in the world but Gellar’s performance is polished and restrained and, notably, joke-free. Some fans are going to be in for quite a shock.
Sarah does it for the fans, not the
“It’s not Buffy,” agrees Gellar. “To leave that show was a huge step. I had everything there.”
So why leave? A desire to do other things? The fear of being irrevocably typecast?
She snorts. Albeit, not unattractively. “If I got typecast for the rest of my life as a strong heroine . . . well, there could be worse things in life to be typecast as. But as an actor, you need new challenges, because otherwise it can get old for you. And if it gets old to me, it’s got to be old to an audience.”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a good run. It began in 1997 and kept on stabbing, thumping and generally high-kicking demon butt until 2003. It was funny, sassy and just a little bit sexy. Most of all, it was a witty parody on the endless Beverly Hills 90210 US high school clones.
“It’s the metaphor version,” is how Gellar puts it. “High school is demonic and horrible, and we just brought that to life.”
Gellar branched out into movies increasingly towards the end, but the critics were rarely kind. “I don't make movies for reviewers,” retorts Gellar. “I make them for fans.”
Read the rest of this interview at http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14931-1345707,00.html
David Boreanaz Pilots for ABC
David Boreanaz, star of 'Angel' on MTV's
'TRL UK' at the MTV Studios in London's
Leicester Square, Friday, Oct. 29, 2004.
(AP Photo/ Anthony Harvey)
LOS ANGELES November 1, 2004 (Zap2it.com) "Angel" fans will probably be happy to have star David Boreanaz back on the small screen, but the actor's new ABC drama project could put a temporary stake in all of those "Angel" telefilm rumors.
After taking a one year television vacation, Boreanaz is set to star in an untitled drama from Warner Bros. TV intended for ABC. The pilot, based on the life of undercover hit man Jack Ballantine, has received a script commitment from the network.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Boreanaz will play a cop who goes undercover in the world of murder for hire. The pilot is written by Patrick Smith Kelly ("Don't Say a Word"), with Kelly set to executive produce along with Eric Tannenbaum and Kim Tannenbaum.
Ballantine, a long-time member of the Phoenix Police Department, spent years doing deep cover work as a mob hit man and motorcycle gang member among other dangerous assignments.
Boreanaz originated the part of vampire-with-soul Angel on The WB's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and the occasionally violent bloodsucker became the focus of his own show on the netlet in 1999, running through last spring. The actor won a trio of Saturn Awards for the performance, although his cult success on the small screen hasn't yielded any immediate big screen success. Boreanaz's biggest feature success thus far is the slasher dud "Valentine," while the indies "Mr. Fix It" and "The Hard Easy" are upcoming.
New Lennon Releases Include Acoustic
By Melinda Newman
Lennon in 1972 (AP)
LOS ANGELES November 6, 2004 (Billboard) - It's no coincidence that two new John Lennon albums, "Acoustic" and "Rock 'N' Roll," were released simultaneously earlier this week via Capitol.
As its name implies, "Acoustic" features 16 Lennon tracks recorded acoustically at home. "Rock 'N' Roll," originally released in 1975, captures Lennon singing tunes made famous by his idols.
"It's very dramatic to have 'Acoustic' and 'Rock 'N' Roll' together," Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, tells Billboard. "They're the totally opposite sides of John's character."
For Ono, overseeing the projects is a way of keeping Lennon's memory alive. We were partners, and then John kind of left it to me to take care of it. I feel honored about it," she says.
As Ono culled through Lennon's material for "Acoustic," she discovered that much of his piano acoustic works had been miked in a way that the piano overshadowed Lennon's voice and "there was no way to fix it," she says. Therefore, the 16 tunes on "Acoustic," seven of which are available officially for the first time, are all guitar-based.
Ono says she learned something new about her husband in the process. "I realized what an incredible acoustic guitar player he was," she says. "We're so used to listening to his electric guitar. But I thought this album has to go out because I want to encourage kids who want to learn guitar. And for the professionals, I think it will be inspiring to listen to his arrangements -- they're sometimes strange and sometimes beautiful."
Work on the "Rock 'N' Roll" reissue was in some ways more challenging, Ono says, recalling the struggles Lennon and producer Phil Spector went through during the project before Lennon finished the album on his own.
"When I first heard it again, I was crying because the power of these classic songs hits you anyway, but it's not just that," she says. "This is his wife saying it, but I think his versions are better than the originals because of the love he had for these songs."
As for the remaining material in the Lennon vault, Ono says there is not enough to make another album, but she expects that the songs will find other outlets, such as the new Las Vegas show planned by the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil or the upcoming musical based on Lennon's material.
Toons Line Up for Oscar
Ghost in the Shell 2
LOS ANGELES November 5, 2004 (AP) - Eleven films, including "Shrek 2," "Shark Tale" and the Japanese movie "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence," are eligible to be nominated for the best animated feature film Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced.
Just three of them can be nominated.
The competing movies include four that hadn't opened by Thursday, when the list of eligible films was released: "The Polar Express," "Sky Blue," "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" and "The Incredibles."
Also on the list: "Home on the Range," "Clifford's Really Big Movie," "Disney's Teacher's Pet" and "The Legend of Buddha."
Nominations for the 77th Academy Awards will be announced in January.
The Oscars will be presented Feb. 27 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
Official Oscar - http://www.oscars.org
Kill Bill's Brother Joins ESPN's Tilt
By Kimberly Speight
Michael Madsen in Kill Bill 2
LOS ANGELES November 5, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Michael Madsen has become the latest actor to join the ensemble cast of ESPN's upcoming drama series "Tilt."
The series, which debuts at 9 p.m. EST on Jan. 13, centers on the fictitious World Poker Championships in Las Vegas and examines the drama of high-stakes gambling as well as the lives of the professional gamblers away from the table.
Madsen will take the role of Don Everest, aka "the Matador," who is considered the top player and most influential man in Vegas gaming and also is the center of conflict.
Madsen joins previously announced cast members Eddie Cibrian (news) and Chris Bauer in the series.
Brian Koppelman and David Levien wrote and will direct the pilot episode of "Tilt."
Madsen recently appeared in the "Kill Bill" films. His film credits also include "Die Another Day," "Reservoir Dogs" and "Thelma and Louise."
On the TV side, Madsen recently appeared in the USA Network telefilm "Frankenstein."
Lost at Number One: New Show Ratings
By Rick Kissell
New York November 4, 2004 (Variety) - More viewers found ABC's hot drama "Lost" on the eve of the November sweep, while NBC got some encouraging returns for "The West Wing" one night after the presidential election.
"Lost" was easily the night's No. 1 program, rolling in the 8 o'clock hour among adults 18-49 (6.7 rating/17 share) and overall audience (18.73 million) -- adding 2 million viewers from last week for its largest turnout, according to Nielsen.
ABC's Lost is the surprise hit of the season (ABC)
Survival skein now ranks No. 2 among new shows this season, trailing only the same net's "Desperate Housewives."
ABC also looked good at 10 with "Wife Swap" (4.7/13 in 18-49, 10.67m), which placed second to CBS' "CSI: NY" (5.5/15, 14.71m) and for the first time moved into a tie with the crime drama in adults 18-34 (4.1/12).
At NBC, "West Wing" (4.3/10 in 18-49, 13.82m) won at 9 in both demos and total viewers, matching or hitting its best scores in about a year.
White House drama could have received a boost from the wave of interest in politics the day after the election, and may have benefited from a stronger (although still modest) lead-in from "LAX" (2.5/6, 8.01m), which was up nicely week-to-week.
Fox got off to a decent start with unscripted skein "Nanny 911" at 9 (3.8/9 in 18-49, 8.64m), which was about even with ABC's "The Bachelor" (3.9/9, 9.00m). Dating show hit fall highs but again relinquished a big chunk of its "Lost" lead-in.
Still, ABC won the night in 18-49 (5.1/13) and total viewers (12.8 million).
CBS did well at 9 with "King of Queens" (slot-leading 4.3/10 in 18-49, 11.53m) but then fell off at 9:30 with week two of "Center of the Universe" (3.6/9 in 18-49, 9.53m).
At the netlets, UPN's "America's Next Top Model" hit season highs at 8 (2.6/7 in 18-49, 5.67m), but "Kevin Hill" dipped a bit at 9 (1.6/4, 3.54m). The WB's "Jack & Bobby" (1.0/2, 2.34m) was weak following "Smallville" (2.5/4, 5.02m).
Lost Official Site - http://abc.go.com/primetime/lost
The crew of Enterprise (Paramount)
Enterprise Ratings Up
Hollywood November 5, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - The first of three Star Trek: Enterprise episodes featuring guest star Brent Spiner ranked first in ratings among men 18-49 in its premiere Oct. 29, UPN reported.
The episode, "Borderland," drew a 1.7 rating among men 18-49 and also improved ratings for UPN in the Friday 8 p.m. ET/PT timeslot among total viewers, with an audience of 3.2 million, the network reported.
The second of the three-episode arc, "Cold Station 12," airs Nov. 5. In it, Spiner's character, the criminal scientist Arik Soong, is reunited with his genetically engineered creations called Augments, who break into a medical outpost where Soong once worked to steal the embryos of hundreds more potential Augments.
The third episode, "The Augments," airs Nov. 12th
Official Star Trek - http://www.startrek.com
Teri Polo to West Wing
LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) Teri Polo, whose last TV role was a movie star, is set to play a would-be first lady in her next gig.
Polo, who starred in ABC's "I'm with Her" last season, will have a recurring part on "The West Wing" this season. She'll play the wife of Jimmy Smits' Texas congressman and presidential aspirant.
The actress is scheduled to appear in four episodes of the NBC series this season, which will introduce some of the contenders vying to succeed President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) in the White House, including Smits' character, a Democratic congressman and ex-Houston mayor, and a moderate Republican senator played by Alan Alda. Polo has an option to take a larger role next season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Aside from "I'm with Her," in which she played a movie star who falls for a schoolteacher (David Sutcliffe), Polo is best known as Ben Stiller's fiancee in "Meet the Parents." She's set to reprise that role in the sequel "Meet the Fockers," due for release in December.
Her other credits include "Northern Exposure," "The House of the Spirits" and recurring roles on "The Practice," "Felicity" and "Sports Night," which, like "The West Wing," was created by Aaron Sorkin.