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The copyright boomerang
By Peter Wayner
A new copyright law bans tools that "circumvent" copy protections -- is cutting and pasting illegal?


Court puts new Net censorship rules on hold -- for now
By Janelle Brown
First ruling in "CDA II" case goes the way of law's opponents

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Notebook computers: Which are the best? What features are must-haves? Give advice in the Digital Culture area of Table Talk

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21st log: Brief reports and tidbits from the info-sphere

"Star Wars" trailer: The bootleggers strike back

As we reported yesterday, Lucasfilm released the trailer for the "Star Wars" prequel "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" on the Web earlier this week. But there's more to the story than that.

It turns out that the trailer was pre-released on 220 screens in movie theaters across America on Tuesday night. An enterprising fan called "Scorpio" visited the Coronet theater in San Francisco with a digital camcorder, and within hours posted a grainy, askew version of the trailer -- complete with the sound of the audience cheering Yoda's appearance -- on the Web at Ain't-It-Cool-News.

Lucasfilm quickly released its trailer in full QuickTime glory Wednesday morning. But spokeswoman Karen Rose asserts that the company had already planned to post the trailer on the Web Wednesday (as "a special treat for the fans who had faithfully been logging on the Web site") and that the bootleg had no impact on the official online release date.

Online fans are crowing otherwise, maintaining that the posting of the bootleg trailer forced Lucasfilm to release the official version early. The lo-res, applause-filled version can be found next to the official trailer on a number of swamped mirror sites. Or you could just watch it on "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood" Thursday evening -- or look for it in a movie theater this weekend.
-- Janelle Brown

SALON | Nov. 20, 1998

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"Star Wars" trailer sneaks online

The producers of "Star Wars" know where to find its fans. In a nod to the online buzz about the upcoming prequels, Lucasfilm on Tuesday released the trailer for "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" on the Web, a full three days before the trailer hits movie theaters. Not surprisingly, the Lucas server already seems to be overloaded; also not surprisingly, Slashdot has posted a cornucopia of Web sites that are currently mirroring the trailer.

Clocking in at 2:20, the trailer is available in a variety of formats (ranging from a lengthy 25 MB download to a RealVideo streaming version). What does it reveal? Not much plot, but lots of strange landscapes and beautifully rendered creatures, exotic chinoiserie and gigantic explosions -- enough, perhaps, to placate "Star Wars" fanatics until the movie is released next spring.
-- Janelle Brown

SALON | Nov. 19, 1998

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A Monica-free impeachment Web site

As the world's agog with the release of the Lewinsky-Tripp tapes and the unraveling Clinton impeachment proceedings, this might be a good time for a little historical background. Look no further than HarpWeek -- an online archive of Harper's Weekly, the 19th century periodical -- which recently launched the documentary site The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, for those who can't recall History 101, was the Democratic president from 1865-69 who succeeded Abe Lincoln after his assassination. Johnson also just happens to be the only chief executive in U.S. history to be impeached by the House and tried in the Senate. It seems partisan politics fueled the impeachment back then, too: Johnson's conciliatory approach to post-Civil War reconstruction was unpopular with the Republican-dominated Congress. Still, the Senate failed to convict him by one vote.

The 19th century pundits were nearly as vociferous as those today, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson Web site chronicles the hundreds of editorials, news stories, political cartoons and satires -- pro- and anti-Johnson -- that were published in Harper's Weekly during the period. (For those who find impeachment baffling, the site also includes tutorials and games.) It's a fascinating blow-by-blow examination of our political precedents -- though it's almost as painful to muddle through the Civil War prose as it is to endure the tapes of Monica Lewinsky's confessions.
-- Janelle Brown
SALON | Nov. 18, 1998

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A patent from secretive Transmeta launches a buzz

The computer news trade press, along with open source software fans, was abuzz Friday at news that Transmeta, the supersecretive Silicon Valley startup, had received a patent for an innovative microprocessor design. Excited analysts of the patent suggested that it proved Transmeta is planning to build a chip that will run multiple operating systems and associated software applications really, really fast. If true, such an innovation could stem the Microsoft/Intel tide.

Transmeta employs Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system, so anything Transmeta-related is sure to get free software groupies talking. But Transmeta is also intriguing simply because of the company's closed-mouthedness: Few Silicon Valley companies have kept their lips as tightly sealed for as long.

Now everyone is acting as if the dam has broken. But Transmeta-watchers would do well to note that this patent was applied for way back in August 1996. When Salon ran its story on Transmeta back in May, CEO Dave Ditzel's only comment was that "we had a major change in direction a few months ago, and that has slowed us down a bit."

Are the details of the old patent relevant to the new direction? As usual with Transmeta, no one is talking.
-- Andrew Leonard
SALON | Nov. 16, 1998

L A S T _ W E E K .|.HotWired advertiser sponsors a blackout; Scientologists lose a round in copyright fight


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