Courtroom Drama: Hollywood Sues Megaupload
Today in international tech news: Six Hollywood studios are banding together to sue Megaupload, once ground zero for online file-sharing. Also: North Korea's smartphone is indeed from China; the UK and the Netherlands are paying millions to Microsoft to keep using Windows XP; and Samsung expects another weak quarter. Plus: Congress will look at a covert, possibly illegal "Cuban Twitter" plan; the U.S. tells Europe not to proceed with its EU-only network idea; an inept citizen journalism project in Singapore inspires a petition; and Dutch doctors use a 3D-printed skull.
Six Hollywood studios have banded together in a copyright infringement lawsuit against Megaupload, the wildly popular (although now shuttered) site that, in its heyday, was ground zero for file-sharing.
The suit doesn't specify an amount of damages, but does say that the studios should be entitled to US$150,000 per copyright infringement, as well as profits earned by Megaupload.
U.S. authorities claim Megaupload facilitated $500 million worth of copyright infringement, and that the website and its kingpin, Kim Dotcom, generated about $175 million. Dotcom, a German national, is currently in New Zealand, where he's battling extradition to the U.S.
At its apex, Megaupload is believed to have been among the 15 most-visited websites in the world.
The six studios participating in the suit are Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures, Universal City Studios, Columbia Pictures Industries, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film.
[Source: The Wall Street Journal]
UK, Dutch Governments Pay Microsoft to Support Windows XP
The governments of the UK and the Netherlands struck pricy deals with Microsoft to extend support for Windows XP. Microsoft ended regular support on Tuesday.
The UK coughed up more than $9 million for a one-year extension before public-sectors users will be forced to adopt newer software next April. The exact amount of the Dutch agreement was not announced, but it reportedly is a multimillion-euro deal.
The UK is heavily dependent on XP. For instance, more than 80 percent of the PCs used by the National Health Service, the nation's healthcare system, were running on XP as of last September.
China, too, is facing a headache as Microsoft turns out the lights on Windows XP. More than a quarter of the Middle Kingdom's computers run on XP, prompting a handful of Chinese companies to join forces to offer support even after Microsoft doesn't.
[Source: The Guardian]
Yep, North Korean Phone From China
As hypothesized by any number of Asia-savvy watchers, North Korea's homegrown smartphone -- which the country claimed was made from "indigenous technology" -- is actually made in China.
Last August, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was photographed touring a factory that purportedly produced the phones, which were, in theory, a sign of the country's technological innovation.
Well, the phones are actually a sign of Chinese innovation. A Japanese blogger obtained one of the North Korean phones and reported that North Korea's "Airiang AS1201" is a twin of the China-made Uniscope U1201. Both phones have a 960x540-pixel screen; a 1 GHz Spreadtrum processor; 4 GB of storage; on and on.
Samsung Profits Expected to Be Soft
Samsung Electronics Co. expects a second straight quarter of weak operating income.
The company on Monday announced that its operating income would be about $8 billion for the quarter from January to March, a 4 percent dip from a year before. Compared with the previous quarter, sales dropped 11 percent, and operating income was up but 1 percent.
One culprit could be cheaper smartphones: The average price of a Samsung smartphone is expected to be about $275 this year, down nearly 10 percent from 2013, according to an analyst at Nomura Financial Investment.
[Source: The Associated Press]
Congress to Look at 'Dumb, Dumb, Dumb' Cuban Twitter Plan
Rajiv Shah, the head of a government agency that secretly created a so-called Cuban Twitter communications network, is expected to testify Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations State Department.
Democrat Patrick Leahy, who will be among those grilling Shah, called the scheme "dumb, dumb, dumb."
The hearing figures to unearth dirt about the program -- dubbed "ZunZuneo" -- including whether or not the White House adequately informed lawmakers about what, exactly, was going on.
Administration officials last week defended the program, which they claimed was "debated" in Congress and wasn't a covert operation requiring White House approval.
However, a pair of senior Democrats, who seemingly would have been part of Congressional debates, said they don't know anything about the program. Law requires the president to given written authorization of covert action, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he was unaware of anyone in the White House who knew anything about the program.
The network -- hatched by the U.S. Agency for International Development, overseen by the State Department -- reportedly was built using "secret shell companies and financed through a foreign bank," according to The Associated Press. The project lasted more than two years and lured tens of thousands of subscribers; the goal was to push said subscribers toward dissent.
American contractors reportedly also were scooping data about users, which they hoped to use for political purposes.
[Source: The Associated Press]
US Warns Europe Not to Proceed With EU-Only Network Services
The U.S. Trade Representative warned against Europe hatching an EU-only electronics network.
The idea of a Europe-based network gained steam in February, as EU leaders -- including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose phone the National Security Agency reportedly tapped -- grew ever more wary of U.S. surveillance. European citizens' communications should not have to cross the Atlantic, Merkel said -- especially when the journey could expose emails and the like to the NSA.
The USTR didn't invoke security or antiterror measures, but did say that an EU-only communications network "could potentially lead to effective exclusion or discrimination against foreign service suppliers that are directly offering network services, or dependent on them."
[Source: The Register]
'Citizen Journalism' Website Falls Out of Favor
A petition is making the rounds calling for the end of STOMP, a website run by Singapore's largest newspaper, The Straits Times.
STOMP presents itself as a "citizen journalism" site. A pair of recent events, however, appear to have abused whatever slack citizen journalists are given. One incident involved an article accusing an army conscript of not forfeiting his seat to an elderly woman (the scenario was revealed to be bogus), and the other purported to show a public transit train moving with its doors open (also fake).
[Source: Tech In Asia]
Doctors Use 3D-Printed Skull in Operation
In the Netherlands, doctors used an artificial skull created by a 3D printer to replace part of a woman's head.
The women, 22, suffered from a rare condition that caused her skull to grow thicker; it was almost two inches thick, causing severe headaches and making her lose her vision.
The lead surgeon, Bon Verweij, works with the University Medical Center in Utrecht. The operation, which took place last month, lasted 23 hours and required doctors to saw off the affected bone and replace it with the artificial, 3D-printed skull.
The material itself was fabricated by Australian firm Anatomics, which also provides software to enable doctors to model an implant based on CT or MRI scans.
The woman whose skull was replaced is reportedly back at work and again has her vision.
[Source: The Globe and Mail]