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A Bit of Bittorrent Bother 402

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the even-mainstream-media-has-trolls dept.
Lave writes "A journalist at the BBC is replying to complaints about its recent Newsnight show, where it stated that using Bittorrent to download copyrighted material is theft. It's a very frank and honest account about the perceived realities of the internet and how traditional media represents it. From the article: '[One] answer is that we're totally scared of new media, because new media is railways and we're canals, and you all just know how that's going to end. So we seek to equate the internet with all bad things to scare you off it. At some corporate Freudian level, there's some truth to that accusation.'"
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A Bit of Bittorrent Bother

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  • Encryption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:21PM (#14829244) Homepage Journal
    The talk of encryption is what worries me. Given that it's regularly used for secure remote access (SSH), used for secure communications (S/MIME and PGP), and essential to commerce over the internet (SSL), I'd expect there's quite a bit of legitimate encrypted traffic flying around already.

    Sure, it's buried amid the flood of email (80% or more of which is spam), web traffic, and P2P traffic. But encryption isn't a rare thing mostly used by bad guys, as the article suggests.

    The attitude reminds me of one of the five or so episodes of Enterprise I saw, in which T'Pol got an letter from home and the crew spent the whole episode trying to decrypt it. The theme was very anti-privacy, with one of the characters actually saying to her, "Do you know how suspicious that looked?" It made as much sense as claiming that closed curtains were a challenge to look inside.

    I'd guess that even without encrypted torrents, most encrypted traffic on the net is business traffic of one sort or another. So the bad guys using encryption are already lost in the noise.
    • That episode occurred during a time of high tension between Earth and Vulcan; T'Pol was not a member of Starfleet at that point, and the message was sent not only encrypted but disguised as noise. To add to the suspicion, the Ti'Mur had been apparently spying on Enterprise from a distance. Relations between two mismatched armed starships are hardly a comparison for businesses and governments spying upon their own users and citizens :-)
      • by Anonymous Coward
        get. a. fucking. life.
        • And you don't have anything that you're passionate about? Give me a break. People who can quote baseball statistics out of their heads are just as geeky but THEY don't get made fun of.

          Take. some. damn. tact. lessons.
          • by davez0r (717539)
            Link. me. to. hot. pics. of. T'Pol.

            wait, what? i got sidetracked.
            • Sorry, I'm not a lesbian geeky female Trek fan. Just a geeky female space enthusiast, B5 fan, and Trek fan all in one. Ask Jeeves -- oh wait, they fired him. Sorry!
              • by bhiestand (157373) *
                If you had told us you were female we would've proposed marriage instead of making fun of you. Though your lack of sexual desire for female sci-fi stars would interfere with a few of my fantasies...
          • No, no, no.

            Shatner talks like this:

            And you....don't HAVE anythingthatyou're.... passionate about? Give ME a break. People who...can...QUOTE...baseballstatisticsoutoftheir.. ..heads...are JUST as geeky... but they DON'T get made fun of.

            Take...some..damn....tactlessons.
            • I heard Shatner explain why he.. spoke in... clipped sentences on Star Trek.

              He kept forgetting his lines. He was pausing during his efforts to remember the rest of the sentences. It became a character tick; we wouldn't recognize Kirk without that panicked wait for the rest of the words.
            • OK, that was hilarious. Someone needs to write a "Shatnerification" script for the web so I can read Slashdot in Shatnerspeak and see how long it takes for my brain to melt.
          • People who can quote baseball statistics out of their heads are just as geeky but THEY don't get made fun of.

            Agreed. Somehow society has decided it's OK to set up a fantasy football league, but not to get into a debate about the Hulk vs. Superman. It's OK to paint your face blue or wear a giant piece of cheese on your head when you go to watch a game five or more times a season, but it's not OK to paint yourself blue and dress up as a Farscape character when you go to a convention to meet other science-fi
        • get. a. fucking. life

          Note that you are on Slashdot, a self professed "News for Nerds" site. So not only are you (by posting here) a nerd, you're also lousy at it. You're a wannabe of the outcasts. You're not just a nerd -- you're the idiot nerd the other nerds make fun of.

          Sucks to be you.

          --
          Evan "IHBT. I enjoyed it. F@11."

        • get. a. fucking. life. ...Says the one who's trolling Slashdot with AC comments.

          Now that's irony!
    • The question I have is: How do you even know that traffic is encrypted if you snoop it in transit?

      It's just data. It looks like randomness. Compressed data (which I imagine makes up the bulk of torrent traffic) looks like randomness too. It's not like there's an actual flag in the packet saying "I'm encrypted. Try to crack me!"

      So really, this makes it harder for the automatic shaping tools to snoop on the control traffic and shape the torrent flows while leaving the rest of the traffic alone. What will
    • Virtually every application I write sends and stores encrypted data. Given that storing the data in my environment is a gimmie, why would I store it any other way.
  • Why Bittorrent (Score:4, Insightful)

    by teklob (650327) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:26PM (#14829308)
    Why attack bittorrent for supposedly encouraging piracy when it has decidedly legitimate user as well, and there are many, many technologies out there being developed that are solely for the purposes of piracy, spam & exploitation. These technophobes should do a little more homework before selecting their targets, in my humble opinion.
    • It would explain why I couldn't download a Debian DVD ISO torrent last night. My first attempt to use BitTorrent for a few months and none of the clients would work. Perhaps my ISP has already started to block torrents?

      Anyway I've started an HTTP transfer instead. Should be finished by tomorrow morning.
    • Visit your average bittorrent web site. How many of those downloads are LEGAL??? The article focused on bittorrent because it's the piracy technology of choice. The valid, legal use of bittorrent probably accounts for less than 1% of the total traffic.
  • Sounds more like BitterTorrent.
  • Journalism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jordan Catalano (915885) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:27PM (#14829321) Homepage
    "If you ask the security services and the police why they monitor the internet, [pedophiles and terrorists] are the bogeymen they claim to be chasing.

    In a four minute piece, we're sort of obliged to take that at face value"


    No. As a journalist, you're obliged to think critically.
    • Not in a 4 minute piece. I'm sure if he had half an hour he'd love to do that for you. And I'd love to see him do it.

      When you have 4 minutes, and the topic is BT encryption, you don't go off on a tangent about whether or not the authorities are doing what they're say they're doing for the reasons they're specifying. It's called "sticking to your topic".

      Besides, 4 minutes is hardly enough time to give anything the critical analysis it deserves. Maybe next time, on a bigger time slot, with a differe
      • Re:Journalism (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Danse (1026)

        Not in a 4 minute piece. I'm sure if he had half an hour he'd love to do that for you. And I'd love to see him do it.

        If you can't do an accurate piece in the allotted time, then pick another topic. Don't do some half-assed job that just spreads misinformation and FUD.

      • When you have 4 minutes, and the topic is BT encryption, you don't go off on a tangent about whether or not the authorities are doing what they're say they're doing for the reasons they're specifying.

        And that, coupled with the fact that all news pieces are 4 minutes long now, is why we're in Iraq...

      • Or maybe you just change your wording. Instead of saying that's what they're after, say that they said that's what they're after. Problem solved. It's called Journalism, buddy, and it's seriously lacking these days. My feeling on the news is that they should be accurate, or shut the fuck up. It's one thing if they're reporting the "facts" as they are understood. It's another thing when they're just too lazy to word things properly.
        • Journalists became reporters, then reporters became advertising sales people. It may be that the only true jounalists remaining are ethical scientists.
    • No. As a journalist, you're obliged to think critically.

      Everything has it's place. A four-minute piece is not a fucking expose. Sometimes to get anything done you have to take people on their word.

      That isn't to say I agree with everything he had to say. However, I don't think there is anything wrong with "monitoring" the internet. That is, internet protocols are built so that much of the traffic is public. Especially when you get down to the simple hubs. While I'm not so ok with governments grab
      • Everything has it's place. A four-minute piece is not a fucking expose. Sometimes to get anything done you have to take people on their word.

        And to be a reputable journalist, you have to present their word, not "fact". As posted above, it's not too hard to rephrase the report so they report on what the police said, instead of stating the "fact" of what is happening.

        Encryption should never be criminalized by any society that values privacy. Granted, this is a BBC piece and privacy is less valued in the

  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:27PM (#14829324)
    It's nice to hear that some "old media" organizations are slowly getting it. It may require all the old employees to retire or die off, but most huge cultural changes seem to require it. It was also refreshing to see that he admitted to downloading television shows via P2P, along with a "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" that it was for research purposes only.

    It's interesting times we live in.
  • Auntie Beeb usually has better standards than this. The response column at least admits they put their collective foot in it, and asks the question whether we've embarked on a digital arms race between the ISPs trying to ration bandwidth and the techs' traditional "censorship=blockage, route around it".

    I think the ISPs are going to have to deal with their own success and open the spigots a bit wider; we *are* paying for our bandwidth, let us get to it.
    • I think the ISPs are going to have to deal with their own success and open the spigots a bit wider; we *are* paying for our bandwidth, let us get to it.

      Ya, or they should just grow up and use a sane scheme of metering/bandwidth caps. I don't think we'd ever have gone to "unlimited" service in the first place if AOL and friends hadn't charged huge prices per hour for dialup.

      April 21: AOL lowers prices from $7.95 for two hours a month plus $6 for each additional hour to $9.95 for five hours a month and $3 fo

  • Assumptions... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JetScootr (319545) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:31PM (#14829362) Journal
    The article assumed that it's ok for for security services to "manage" by monitoring, breaking decryption, and reading internet traffic.
    The assumption here is that spying on the innocent is OK. I disagree. "Probable cause" in the US (used to) mean that the cops kept their noses out of situations until they had reason to believe that a criminal was involved in the situation.
    "Reasonable suspicion" in the US used to mean that the cops did not hassle (or spy on) *anyone* that wasn't doing something suspicious, even when the person was in public. This meant that cops were not supposed to collar someone walking down the street and start asking them where they got the CDs for their walkman: Doing so presumes a crime was committed, and unless the cop had a genuine reason to think so, the cop was supposed to leave the citizenry alone.
    The assumption that "it's ok to decrypt every frickin packet we can slurp up" throws out all of that, and privacy with it.
    • "Reasonable suspicion" in the US used to mean that the cops did not hassle (or spy on) *anyone* that wasn't doing something suspicious, even when the person was in public.

      Does it?
      Cops have always patrolled some areas. Driving around in a car, listening and looking. When they see something suspicious (like, three young males kicking on something that looks like a human body), they look harder and intervene if it turns out to be a crime.
      They did not, however, stopped you & searched your pockets. They did

  • I am not sure, maybe we can ask Bram Cohen to find out.
    I do know that it is written in Python, and it uses GTK for its GUI. [bittorrent.com]
  • by chinton (151403) <`chinton001-slashdot' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:31PM (#14829367) Journal
    It is true that downloading copyrighted material using bittorrent is illegal... As is downloading it using FTP, or HTTP, or Carrier Pigeon, or any other means...
    • Yep. But it's not technically theft, either. IP theft at best, but really just copyright infringement. Your illegal download in no way prevents someone else from buying the product in question, unlike if you had just lifted a copy of whatever $$$$ software at your local software emporium. It's really all just scare mongering and FUD. Stupid, really, as digitial distribution is definately the way forward, and Bit-torrent (or a similar P2P protocol) is the best way to accomplish it as far as costs go. I
      • But it's not technically theft, either. IP theft at best, but really just copyright infringement.

        Really, they're both a violation of one party's rights. You may say "just" copyright infringement, but that's probably because you have never exercised your copyright over anything you've created.

        Your illegal download in no way prevents someone else from buying the product in question

        You misunderstand the reason why theft itself is a bad thing. The point is that it is done without the permission of the rightfu
      • Yep. But it's not technically theft, either. IP theft at best, but really just copyright infringement. Your illegal download in no way prevents someone else from buying the product in question, unlike if you had just lifted a copy of whatever $$$$ software at your local software emporium. It's really all just scare mongering and FUD.

        And pretty much everything you've just said is REJ (Rationalizations, Excuses, and Justifications) for why copyright infringement is supposedly harmless. It's just FUD with

        • I'm in no way saying copyright infringement is harmless. I'm just saying that it's less damaging than physical theft. Even if they're not going to sell for the downloader (and I could certainly go on some REJ on that one), the product still can be sold to someone else. If I steal a CD, the store and everyone else has lost money. If I download a CD, someone else can still buy that CD. The so-called REJ would be my saying that of the two CDs I've purchased in the last quite some time, I've downloaded bot
    • Carrier pigeons are legal because no copy is made. That's just one of the ways they're superior to smoke signals.
    • But it's not theft. And that's the word the reporter used in his story. Ironically enough, available via BitTorrent here [mininova.org].

    • IANAL
      Yes, except the penalities and procedures are different than "theft". Copyright Infringement(TM) is a moving target, based on locale, time, content and method. None of the details have been worked out, althogh you'll see them asked now and again.

      One Simple Example:
      "Can I take content I've bought for one platform and copy it to another? (CD to MP3 player)"

      US: "Historic Use" (a legal new term lately) says no. "Fair Use" (the historic standard) says yes. Got that? Fair Use is the curr
      • So the "historic use" isn't the historic standard?

        My brain hurts...
        • No, it's a load of crap that got made up recently. It's as though the horse and buggy association wanted to limit people to historic speeds on the nation's roads, because they didn't like cars.
        • No, historic use is that 25 years ago NO ONE tried to rip CDs to mp3 to use their mp3 players, there is therefore no reason to allow people to do it now.

          (whut? audio cassettes? they don't exist, now shut up and pay)

      • What is Historic Use? I've never heard that term before, but it sounds deliberately misleading and designed to mess with the whole copyright debate. (a quick google reveals something by the EFF about it here [eff.org])

        As a community of individuals who believe in freedom, we should be very careful about furthering such terms (ie: making use of them) since it only lends them power.

        I'd much rather see this thing die now than have to sit down at the dinner table a year from now and discuss the relative merits of "Histo
    • by Eccles (932)
      Really. Then I guess I'm going to jail for these Linux, firefox, etc. downloads I've done recently.

      Unauthorized downloading of copyright material outside the the parameters of fair use is illegal.
    • It is true that downloading copyrighted material using bittorrent is illegal...

      You're downloading lots of copyrighted material by visiting slashdot.org

      You better turn yourself in to the police, and maybe they'll go easy on you.
    • It is true that downloading copyrighted material using bittorrent is illegal

      Nope, not necessarily. It may be, but there is copyrighted material that is legal to download, as the holder has given permission, for example. I'm sure there is also public domain material that's illegal to download.

      The BBC have also made incorrect blanket statement regarding copy protected CD's. They often state that the protection is designed to "stop illegal copies". I have pointed out that it's designed to "stop any copies, l

    • Illegal and theft are two independent ideas. Theft is illegal, but that which is illegal may not be theft, and furthermore the copying of copyrighted material (legal or not) is not theft:

      1 a : the act of stealing; specifically : the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it b : an unlawful taking (as by embezzlement or burglary) of property

      • Right, so if I'm selling MP3s of a song for $2 (and I'm the rightful owner), and you copy the MP3 without paying, you've intentionally deprived me of $2. How is this not theft again?
    • Not illegal so much as actionable -- presuming you don't have license to the content.

      Quite a bit of BitTorrent traffic is non-infringing transfer of copyrighted material (Linux distro RPMs, datasets, demo software, etc.).
  • by thewiz (24994) * on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:36PM (#14829426)
    [One] answer is that we're totally scared of new media, because new media is railways and we're canals, and you all just know how that's going to end. So we seek to equate the internet with all bad things to scare you off it. At some corporate Freudian level, there's some truth to that accusation.

    Picture what is happening today with the RIAA/MPAA, publishers, writers, etc. vs. the Internet, BitTorrent, iTunes, etc. as what happened when the printing press first appeared. It used to be the church that controlled knowledge and only gave a few "educated" people access. Then the printing press comes along and the clergy called it Satan's tool because it was something they couldn't control. Well, the corporations are going to do the same FUD spreading to squash what they perceive as a threat.
  • Note that he's still saying that filesharing is copyright infringement. First he says:

    "File sharing is not theft."

    Then in the next paragraph he states:

    "If copyright infringement was theft then..."

    The implication is that File Sharing == Copyright Infringement. What about public domain files? What about the Creative Commons? His apology is half-hearted at most.

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:39PM (#14829466) Journal
    "using Bittorrent to download copyrighted material is theft"
    Most of what I use bittorrent for is for downloading of copyrighted material.

    However, most of what I use bittorrent for is for downloading copyrighted material that the copyright holder has already given permission for other people to distribute.

    So here I am, using bittorrent to download copyrighted material... not only am I not stealing, but I'm not even doing anything remotely illegal.

    Putting the misuse of the word theft aside for the moment, I think what they really outta be doing is putting some effort into qualifying statements such as these with the provision that it is being distributed without the copyright holder's consent. Because there's plenty of freely available material out there that has copyrights on it that are just as binding as the copyrights found on works that are not so free.

    • I agree with you, but there have been several articles that have had quotes from teh MPAA/RIAA that dispute the argument that if you have a copy at home you can download a copy from the net.

      Their argument being that what you are downloading from the net is NOT from the copy you own and is therefore illegal.
      • Yeah, and they also say that I can't copy the one I have at home onto other media, either.

        Fortunately, they're just a bunch of greedy slimeballs shooting off their mouths. They aren't the judge or the jury.
  • by Adult film producer (866485) <van@i2pmail.org> on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:47PM (#14829553)
    without a torrent, here you go

    Bittorrent on Newsnight - BBC2 [demonoid.com]

    or try this one on mininova, no reg required.

    BBC Newsnight Bittorent clip 2006 02 26 [mininova.org]
  • So we've discovered, or they've admitted, that the mass media spins and lies?

    Like this is news?

  • Glad to see this (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordSnooty (853791) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @03:52PM (#14829606)
    I'm glad to see this apology, I saw the original report and I was shouting at the television. Not only was there the "theft" line, but they also wheeled on a "former CIA security agent" yada yada. He said, and I quote, "the majority of crimes in the US and the UK are solved by the use of telephone intercepts". Which I didn't believe for one minute. He used that line as a justification for banning or severely restricting VoIP. Did people cry upon the invention of the telephone, claiming that it'd be so much harder to catch criminals now that they can't intercept their post? If by telephone intercepts he means "referral to telephone call records", well the statement might be true, although the 7-year data retention rules for ISPs should help in that regard.

    Adam Livingstone, the author of TFA isn't the person responsible for the original report. That dubious honour falls on Justin Rowlatt [bbc.co.uk], who in a fit of irony is also currently running a series of reports where he tries to live as an "Ethical Man" - first up, Justin, try checking the definition of 'theft' in the dictionary. Then stop spreading lies about legal technology.
  • While the article makes some guesses (which may or may not be accurate) as to why ISPs are attacking BT traffic, the why really isn't too relevant.

    The simple fact is that ISPs must do something to block or throttle BT, or it will simply take over their networks completely. The legality of the content is secondary. They simply can't afford the strain that this traffic is putting on their pipes. And adding more capacity isn't a solution, because BT will soak up as much bandwidth as you can throw at it.

    • yes, they can throttly me at the speed it states in my contract.

      "A few $200.00 internet bills will have people re-thinking how much they need to download the latest "Survivor" episode."
      Yes, and they will think about going to an ISP that doesn't charge per bit.
      Possibly even go back to dial up and just have email.

      Here is one, don't sell more bandwidth then you have. Pretty much stops the problem now, doesn't it?
      • yes, they can throttly me at the speed it states in my contract.

        Well, my contract says I'm entitled to 60G per month, which is a lot of ISOs.

        Here is one, don't sell more bandwidth then you have. Pretty much stops the problem now, doesn't it?

        Sure. And and a 5M up/down dedicated pipe (which would work out to about a 1000G per month of total transfer) would cost how much? $200 - $300?

        So by the contract, I'm getting about 1/16th the bandwidth for 1/6th the price. That doesn't seem totally unreasonab

  • So I miss a couple of episodes of Veronica Mars. I grab them out of the ether using Tomato Torrent. It's a beautiful picture - better than my TV, and no commercials. The networks don't want that. But the alternative (when their prime money-making fare is episodic, either fiction or reality) is that I lose interest in the story arc altogether and never bother to turn the program on again. So take your pick, suits. Either tolerate my catching up or say goodbye to my eyeballs.

  • As of last weekend the three biggest torrent programs carry automatic encryption and Plusnet and friends are looking at a big hole in their metaphorical dyke.
    I just chuckled some mountain dew up my nose.
  • "Some internet service providers aren't very pleased about that, because although they sell their internet connections as unlimited usage, if people actually take them up on the offer then they can't actually cope with demand." :)
  • by bynary (827120) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @04:38PM (#14830037) Homepage
    ...because new media is railways and we're canals...

    More like "new media is the Internet and we're TV and Radio, and we all know how that's going to turn out". The only parties that decry new media are those that don't understand the Internet. Apple understands it. That's why iTunes is so successful. Microsoft understands it. That's why Xbox Live is so successful. Most other companies just don't understand it.
    • Apple understands internet? Maybe. I'd say they've also fully understood that at the moment their customers do not understand and exploits that as fast as it can. The fact that people accept (without any thought) the kind of vertical iLock-in that Apple sells proves it.
  • The BBC poseur appears to accept the bobbies boast: tame the internet, and crime will stop. That is too laughable for comment.

    Law enforcement _never_ has been able to stop crime, and at best has been able to catch stupid crooks. This give the illusion of enforcement and really does provide an effective deterrant.

    More specifically, there's lots of legit crypto traffic out ther: HTTPS you might want to use with your bank is probably the biggest. Streaming video is mostly MPEG2 or MPEG4 and is indisting

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @04:52PM (#14830141) Journal
    The BBC is well known for its tv classics. Two of them, Doctor Who and Dad's army have been going on for a long time. In fact they are so old there first episodes are from the days when filming was done on magnetic tape wich was very expensive but apparently saved a lot of costs because you could re-use them.

    Yup, all over the world early tv was recorded, edited and then erased because who on the world would want ever to see it again eh?

    Oh there are other reasons as well but the simple result is that the early seasons of some of the best shows have holes in them.

    Just in the last decade both shows I mentioned however have had lost episodes recovered. How? Because somewhere in england somebody had enough money to have the earliest VCR style equipment and made home recordings of them. Badly eroded and of course not exactly made with broadcast level equipment and recorded from a for consumer source it isn't exactly WOW! Except they are the only copies around.

    So the BBC took those tapes, thanked the family that offered them and put them through some magic and then aired the lost episodes. TV history came back to life.

    Of course nowadays we are smarter and everything is archived BUT the fact remains, home recordings were used by a gratefull BBC to make up for its screwups.

    Ah but homerecording wasn't actually illegal? Well not for want of trying and what certainly is illegal is to make a homerecording for anything but private use. Giving it back to the original content owner IS NOT private use. Yeah I know it is in "normal" terms but not in lawyer speak.

    Frankly the entire problem with the media is one that this guy touches upon but doesn't seem to realize. It is the whole 4 minute idea to get a point across. If an issue is complex and can't be made in 4 minutes THEN USE MORE MINUTES!

    This is not the first time the BBC and newsnight spouted the ??AA crap without fact checking. If they added all those crap 4 minutes segments together they could have made a evening filling in depth report on a changing world.

    But no, that doesn't sell.

    Frankly all this article tells me is what I know has been true of the BBC for a long time. Only intrested in selling copy in short flashes to keep the punters happy. For in depth, look elsewhere. The net for instance. What exactly stopped the canal owners from investing in rail networks?

    The same thing that stopped the ??AA from investing in the digital music stores when they had the chance.

    Oh well, at least one person seems to realize that the BBC is old and obsolete. Pity he seems unable to then take the next step and so do something about it.

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