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November 21, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

Google shopping and legal markets for digital goods

Something has always confused me about the market for digital goods online. If you search for, for example, "Emili Sande download", why don't more legal results turn up in the 'Shopping' section? (If anybody knows the answer or can explain, let us know in the comments section).

I'm not talking about the 'web' results - but the specific set of results listed under shopping. If I've been looking correctly, I only seem to ever see 7Digital and Fairsharemusic, and sometimes Sainsbury's Entertainment or Shop.To. Other than that, the results tend to be for CDs. But there are plenty more legal digital services around, and I don't see them. You get lots of shopping results if you search for something like 'men's trousers' - and a select few of those results also tend to show up as a small subsection of the general web search results.

Here's what happens when you search Google shopping for 'Emili Sande download": 

emili sande google shopping


And for a film, like 'Forrest Gump download":

Forrest Gump download

(Note: I subscribe to Netflix and I don't think Forrest Gump is in its repertoire). This seems crazy. I've not really even heard this talked about. 

It's interesting to note that in the US, Google Shopping is now a paid for service - businesses are only listed if they are part of the ads scheme. This isn't yet the case in the UK.

The following is complete speculation, but here are a few thoughts about why getting more legal digital services into Google shopping doesn't seem to be on the table:

  • Google: They have their own music service, Google Play. A well functioning shopping section is basically a way of advertising competitors to that. But results for Google Play don't even turn up in the shopping results. They may also have plans to launch Google shopping as a paid for service in the UK too. So bringing this to the table now may undermine the opportunity to sell space in there, or could heighten pressure to do something about normal web search results now.
  • Copyright owners: First, they may prefer people didn't discover music through Google, or any search engine; fully curated services they exert some more control over may be more appealing, for example. Second, they may have spotted that Shopping has become a paid for service in the US - and by demanding legal services are boosted in the normal web results now, perhaps they've seen an opportunity for a free leg up before that happens.

This may be way off the mark. Perhaps it's technically difficult. Perhpas there's a banal explanation, like they haven't thought of it before. This may all be a terrible idea for a reason I haven't thought of. I don't know.

But it seems like a decent deal all round - Google provides searches for determined consumers in large volumes; copyright owners want those results, and for people to be directed to legal content; consumers will likely be accustomed to using 'shopping' as a way of finding what they want to buy. And there are quite a few legal services that could populate the list of online stores. An overview of shopping results also tend to appear pretty high up in the general web search results - which would be good news for copyright owners as they tend to worry that the first results given by search engines are to unlicensed sites. To go back to the 'men's trousers' example, the 'shopping' results appear second:

Men's trousers google shopping

Also, Ofcom's new research into copyright infingement, published yesterday, found that around 44% of responders weren't sure what's legal online.   This would, you assume, help with that. 

As an added bonus, on top of these benefits, we avoid the tricky question about who is allowed to interfere in the rankings general web search results - which is what the trade associations involved in current policy discussions with government are demanding. 

But I don't believe this has been dicussed in these ongoing DCMS roundtables (which are supposed to be focused on sorting out online copyright). DCMS are running a series of roundtables in which trade associations seem to have been given free reign to demand action from online service providers, with apparently no account of due process, in the name of 'getting things done'. More analysis of what's happening in those roundtables soon. You can see the minutes of the latest meeting here and DCMS have a page on what they're doing on copyright here

At the moment, the consumer is left with things like 'The Content Map', a new website created by copyright owners that lists services where people can find legal digital content. There's not a whole lot to be said for it, other than 'it's a start'. Although I do predict that 'Just Content Map it' won't be something people are saying as a replacement for 'look for it online' any time soon.

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November 20, 2012 | Jim Killock

ORG wins Human Rights Campaigner of the Year with 38 Degrees

On Monday evening at the 2012 Liberty Human Rights Awards ceremony, the Open Rights Group won Human Rights Campaigner of the Year Award, jointly awarded to us and 38 Degrees.

Jim Killock speaks receiving ORG / 38 Degrees award

On Monday evening at the 2012 Liberty Human Rights Awards ceremony, the Open Rights Group won Human Rights Campaigner of the Year Award, jointly awarded to us and 38 Degrees.

The Award was given for our work campaigning against the Snooper's Charter: that's your work, emailing and visiting MPs, submitting evidence to the Joint Committee and now, organising local campaigning across the country.

Liberty also highlighted the range of work we do, on copyright and censorship as well as privacy.

James Cronin, our Chair, adds:

I want, on behalf of the board and all of our supporters, to congratulate and sincerely thank Jim, our staff, our volunteers and the advisory council for all of your tremendous work, which it is truly humbling to have recognized in this way.

At the time of this email the full list of winners are not yet on their website, but you can see from the shortlist what deeply impressive company we were in.

Congratulations and thank you! I am extremely proud.

The Snooper's Charter campaign is gearing up, as the Joint Committee will shortly report. This is a great time to get involved, by coming to our local meetings, or London Conference, and joining the Open Rights Group!

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November 19, 2012 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Why your friends should join Open Rights Group

To help you with friend sign-ups we have written a guide to pitching ORG with some examples of where ORG affects every day online situations, and how funding a Legal Officer will have real world effects on your life.

Friend Sign-up Scheme Tips

As part of our ORGLawFund drive to fund a Legal Officer,  we’re offering thank you gifts of Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, Raspberry Pis and MakeyMakeys to our paying supporters who sign-up multiple friends to ORG as part of our ORGLawFund drive.

However, persuading your variety of friends to give up their cash isn’t easy, even if it is for a cause you know is worth it. We’ve put together some facts, figures and examples to help you convince your friends that they want ORG to be able to defend them.

Choose your audience

Tweeting and sharing the link is wonderful and gets our name out there, but the best way to help us increase our membership and get your sign-up rewards is to find that friend who you know should be a member of ORG. That friend who already cares about the issues ORG campaigns on. Maybe a friend who:

  • Is passionate about preserving freedom of speech for minority groups
  • Voices fears about all the data companies like Facebook know about them
  • Is worried about increased surveillance by the Government
  • Reads Wired magazine and Techdirt regularly
  • Doesn’t trust the Daily Mail’s opinion on how their children should use the internet

Do you have a friend who ticks some or all of these boxes? This is the friend you need to sign-up to ORG.

Then give them some exact specifics about what ORG has done in the past and

There are a couple of solid examples below you can give of how ORG have kept the internet a free and open place for everyone.  There are plenty of others on our website

We have consistently campaigned against default on filters of ‘adult’ content on the internet. We are the only group to produce real evidence on the effect of blocking on the internet: it blocks the wrong content, misses what should be blocked and assumes under-18s, from 5 to 17, and their parents should all have the same level of access.  David Cameron is now backing off from default filtering after a sustained campaign.

We’ve campaigned to make sure information is accessible to all. For instance ensuring that libraries have the right to do e-lending, despite pressure from the publishing industry to limit this capability.

We led a coalition of organisations and individuals engaged with the process for implementing a parody exception to copyright. Parody presents no commercial competition to rightsholders and has great cultural value. We fed this perspective into the Hargreaves review, which recognised the need for reform, and are looking forward to the Government’s proposals soon.

Tell them what it is their money would go to

Some of the specific actions our Legal Officer would enable us to do are:

  • Draft amendments to delete or replace misused powers, such as Section 127 A of the Communications Act 2003, which was used to prosecute Paul Chambers in the Twitter joke trial.
  • Prepare friend of the court briefings to explain the civil liberties consequences of web blocking injunctions.
  • Provide technical advice to the courts where proposals would be unworkable or have unforeseen circumstances.
  • Challenge Government decisions in judicial reviews.
  • This new capacity will enable us to build on the friend of the court briefing on the Digital Economy Act judicial review where we explained the impact on privacy.
  • Expand our legal panel scheme where individuals can request pro-bono legal advice on digital rights issues

Explain how would our new capacity would affect them

There are many day-to-day situations that are directly affected by the laws that ORG want to challenge:

  • When the teasing joke to a friend on Facebook gets the police knocking on your door.
  • When the forum you frequent is accused of libel because of one angry thread, and the owners shut the whole community down in fear of a court case. ORG wants to preserve your freedom of speech online.
  • When you are pregnant and want to get some information on breastfeeding, but maternity sites are blocked for containing for sexual images. ORG have campaigned vigorously against default ‘on’ Internet filters.
  • When the parody video of Buffy killing Edward from Twilight is blocked for copyright reasons. ORG have campaigned for an exception to parody and want to be able to provide pro-bono advice to artists in these situations.
  • When copyright holders demand that whole families are disconnected from the internet because of allegations of copyright infringment. ORG wants this removed from the statue books because it is an expensive and disproportionate law.
  • When the government puts you under surveillance without suspicion. ORG have led the campaign against the Communications Data Bill and its worrying snooping powers.  

Then reiterate why they should sign up

ORG are a small organisation. We’ve achieved a great deal with the resources that we have, but without expanding our staff we won’t be able to expand our remit and achieve all of the above.

We need to be able to hire a legal staff member to give ORG the legal expertise to be your point of call when technology is being used to threaten your civil liberties.

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November 17, 2012 | Jim Killock

Victory in sight: government signals climb down from "default" filtering?

According to reports this Saturday in the Daily Mail and Telegraph, David Cameron will be asking ISPs to ask customers if they have children, and if so, help them install filtering technology.

While the Daily Mail cite this as a "victory" for their campaign to switch porn off in every household, and allow people to "opt in to porn", in fact it would be a humiliating climb down.

Very many ORG supporters and others wrote individual responses to the consultation, which caused the Department of Education to spend several extra months processing their response to the evidence. In total the DfE received about 3,600 responses.

Assuming the Mail is correct, you will deserve a big thank you from the British public.

As the Mail says, experts warned them that adults needed to think about the age of their children, and what kind of filtering might be appropriate. In other words, the campaign from the Mail, Claire Perry and Christian groups would actually have endangered children by implementing a ham-fisted Nanny State filtering policy.

Essentially, the “new” proposals sound very similar to the kind of "active choice" ISPs have been proposing from this time last year. These proposals were repeatedly rejected by the Mail and Perry as being too little.

Cameron must ask is whether his proposal needs legislation at all. Given that ISPs want to run "active choice" for new customers, does the UK really need legislation, which takes Parliamentary time and fixes things in law? This is an evolving field, and is probably best left to the market to figure out.

The default filtering solution pushed by the Mail and Perry was supposedly targeted at a small number of parents who neglect their children (and thus it it was argued need to be given default filters). When policies have wide effects but are justified on the basis of a tiny number of difficult cases, you know it is going to run into trouble, sooner or later.

ORG exposed the incorrect use of statistics repeated by Claire Perry and others. We recently wrote to Claire Perry about these – but have not received a response.

ORG are the only group to have produced real evidence about the effect of blocking on the Internet. Thanks to submissions from members of the public last year, we found dozens of incorrectly blocked sites on mobile networks, that use "default" filtering today. We exposed the problems with getting blocks changed and even identified. We found customer services very poor at helping people to deal with these problems.

These problems of mobile blocking are still with us, and disrupting all kinds of sites. You – ORG supporters – alerted the DfE to these problems and the need for proper parenting. While we still need to see the proposals, it seems that the proposals are likely to be a lot saner than the Mail and others would have liked.

Our work won't stop here however. Once we have seen the proposals, we may have more work to do, and we can expect continued pressure from MPs that have been wound up by pro-filtering campaigners. We will resist legislation, which would be pure window dressing, if the reports are correct about Cameron’s intentions. We will resist calls for mandatory network filtering.

ORG will continue to fight for your online rights: we need you to join so we can fight harder, and win more victories. We're asking you to fund a new legal officer: please join today.

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November 15, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

ORG applies to intervene in Golden Eye case - and we need your help

We want to do more to promote digital rights like privacy through interventions in relevant court cases.

As part of that ambition, we have applied for permission to intervene in the appeal of the Golden Eye International v Telefonica UK decision. And we need your help to take this important case.

Intervening in these sort of cases is expensive. But we also think it's really important that we try to represent the interests of Internet users in these situations. If the decision goes our way, we believe one consequence will be a more robust process for considering the data protection rights of those who pay the bill for an Internet connection.

It would be harder for firms like Golden Eye to represent large numbers of copyright owners. So it would, we believe, be much more difficult for firms to send very high numbers of letters accusing people of copyright infringement and asking for a disproportionate compensation under threat of a court action.

Previous schemes by solicitiors, based on similar revenue sharing arrangements, have been called 'speculative invoicing' campaigns – you may have heard of ACS:Law, for example. We believe this would be a further blow against such schemes.

If we are granted permission to intervene, we will be involved in the hearing in early December. That's why we would like to ask for your donations now to help us to raise the £5000 that will pay for various court fees and the top notch legal team working on our behalf on this case.

Why is this happening?

Here's the background. Last year, Golden Eye requested details relating to 9,142 O2 IP addresses through which copyright infringement is alleged to have occurred. Consumer Focus explain what happened next:

Golden Eye International Ltd and 13 producers of pornographic films sought a “Norwich Pharmacal Order” (NPO) against Telefonica UK, trading as O2...An NPO is a disclosure order which compels an innocent third party (such as an ISP) to provide information identifying an individual in relation to alleged unlawful conduct, so that legal action can be taken against the individual.

Golden Eye applied for a NPO against O2 in September 2011. O2 decided to not challenge the application, so the application was referred to the High Court. Consumer Focus intervened in the application on behalf of those consumers whose personal data would be released if the order was granted. Following a hearing, the High Court granted the disclosure order to Golden Eye and Ben Dover Productions, provided that changes were made to the order and the letters.

In March, the High Court granted an order that compelled O2 to provide the personal details (names and postal addresses) relating to 2,845 IP addresses alleged to have been used to infringe copyright by peer-to-peer file-sharing (see our previous write up and the Consumer Focus press release). You can read the judgment online.

What is this appeal about?

However, the High Court refused Golden Eye a Norwich Pharmacal Order in relation 12 of the 13 pornographic film producers. That meant O2 would not be ordered to hand over details relating to about 6000 IP addresses.

The Court considered whether it “is appropriate, when balancing the competing interests, to make an order which endorses an arrangement under which the Other Claimants surrender total control of the litigation to Golden Eye and Golden Eye receives about 75% of the revenues in return.” The Court concluded:

that would be tantamount to the court sanctioning the sale of the intended Defendants' privacy and data protection rights to the highest bidder. Accordingly, in my judgment, to make such an order would not proportionately and fairly balance the interests of the Other Claimants with the Intended Defendents' interests.

Golden Eye were representing these 12 rights holders on the basis of an 'enforcement only' licence, which means Golden Eye have to pay the 'Licensor' only around 25% of revenue recovered through settlement sums or damages awarded in court.

It is that relationship that the Court was concerned about. Golden Eye is appealing that aspect of the refusal.

Consumer Focus deserve enormous credit for intervening in the High Court on behalf of O2 customers, and ensuring that Golden Eye can not send “pay up or else” letters to the O2 customers whose personal data will be handed over to Golden Eye and Ben Dover. The High Court judgement can be found online. We've written before about why we thought this was important.

But Consumer Focus is now handing over its work on copyright enforcement to us. And so ORG is now applying to intervene on behalf of consumers in the Court of Appeal.

That's why we need your help.

What's at stake?

The appeal relates only to the refusal to grant the Norwich Pharmacal Order in relation to the 12 pornographic film producers. We believe the High Court was right in its original decision here.

If we are successful, O2 will not be forced to hand over the personal data it retains relating to just over 6,000 IP addresses. If the Court of Appeal upholds the High Court’s decision to refuse disclosure orders to companies who enter “enforcement only” licences with copyright owners many more Internet users will in the future be protected from copyright enforcement revenue sharing schemes like this.

These revenue sharing agreements were the root of “speculative invoicing” schemes previously run by Davenport Lyons and ACS:Law. But because Golden Eye International is a limited company it is beyond the reach of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which has suspended Dave Gore, Brian Miller and Andrew Crossley for sending intimidating letters.

To be clear, copyright holders and their exclusive licensees would still be able to enforce their copyright. This is about limited companies acting on behalf of large numbers of copyright owners on 'enforcement only' arrangements.

Help us promote privacy in the courts!

To make this application, and if granted the intervention, ORG needs £5000 to pay court fees and our crack legal team. We are currently funded by donations from our wonderful supporters, which is boosted by grants from organisations such as Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Open Society Foundation and Sigrid Rausing Trust. But this covers our current projects and activity. We don't yet have a pot of cash to run this sort of legal intervention. That's why to make this step, we need to ask for your help.

Please donate now!

If we are not granted permission to intervene, we will reimburse those who have donated.

We are also running an ongoing Org Law Fund campaign. We have a target of increasing the number of paying ORG supporters so that we can recruit a full time legal officer. That is a crucial step to helping us take on more cases like this and promote digital rights in the courts. You can learn more here, or head straight over to the join page

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November 14, 2012 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

ORG Law Fund campaign update

On 2nd November we launched a new campaign to fund a legal project. Today we are 25% of the way there! Read about why we are doing it and how you can help.

We launched our campaign to fund a new legal position for ORG on the 2nd November with two main goals:

Goal 1: 150 new supporters

This will allow us to launch our legal project and hire a part-time Legal Officer to work in ORG’s office

Goal 2: 300 new supporters

This will allow us to fund a Legal Officer full-time

We are now 25% of the way towards Goal 1!

Thank you for sharing the campaign with your friends and getting involved, but there is still a long way to go. Please join if you haven’t already.  

We’re asking for new supporters right now because it has become clear that we must be able to defend digital rights on a legal front, not just by way of thorough policy work and active campaigning. Just this week we saw yet another case of an arrest made for an offensive image online. The term offensive is being tied up into harassment and other laws. The cluster of these arrests shows how important it is to be able to fight these cases - like Paul Chambers and the Twitter joke trial, like Atos shutting down a forum for hundreds of disabled people - and challenge the validity of the arrests, accusations and of the laws themselves.

Unfortunately we don’t have the capacity yet to take these cases on. We need to expand to hire a legal officer who has the expertise to lead on legal work. This is why we are asking for you to take this opportunity to join ORG, if you have any concerns about the erosion of your civil liberties online.

As part of the ORGLawFund drive we’re also organising many other projects across November.

We’ll be running Stop the Snoopers’ Charter’: an event co-hosted with Index on Censorship to explore the Communications Data Bill and plan joint campaign actions with civil liberties groups. Cory Doctorow will be presenting the headline speech explaining the Bill. There’ll be further presentations from civil liberties groups and technical experts, followed by workshops and group discussions. It’s a great opportunity to get involved directly in ORG’s work and learn more about the details of Government proposals for mass surveillance of the nation.

Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Hugh Hancock, Becky Hogge and others have agreed to talk to ORG about their personal interest in digital rights. In a series of videos that will be released soon they encourage others to think about how your rights online are central to life. The internet is where everything takes place, dating, shopping, social interactions - and not just techies or digital rights campaigners should care about defending it.


What you can do:

Please do share, encourage others to join and even sign-up yourself if you haven’t already.

  • Persuade a friend to join ORG and we will give you a free gift
  • Join ORG, if you haven’t already! As part of ORG Law Fund we are offering a free copy of Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross’ Rapture of the Nerds as a thank you.

  •  Make a video about why you support ORG and join in the discussion


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November 14, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

Come to our Snooper's Charter campaign event!

On Saturday 24th November we're running a big campaigning event on the Snooper's Charter, jointly with Index on Censorship. We're delighted that Cory Doctorow and a host of the best privacy experts will be there sharing their insights and opinions. You can get your free tickets here.

We'll be covering what's happening with proposal, why it's such a bad idea, and what we can all do about it. You'll come away with top notch, bang up to date knowledge and a bag full of ideas about how to help stop this worrying proposal becoming law.

Tickets are free! You can get them at our Eventbrite page. The event will run from 2pm until 6pm on Saturday 24th November at the Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3GA.

What is the Snooper's Charter?

The draft Communications Data Bill was introduced in the Queen's Speech in May 2012. It involves plans to require communications service providers (everyone from ISPs to social networks) to intercept and collect everybody’s communications data just in case it's needed later in an investigation.

The Bill would mean a substantial increase in the powers the state has to order any communications provider – whether it is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like BT or an Internet company like Google – to collect, store and provide access to our information about our emails, online conversations and texts.

We are concerned about the way that the data is gathered and the rules governing who can access it and why. The draft Bill is problematic on both counts; we believe too much information will be collected and that there will be inadequate safeguards around access to it. That's why we've dubbed it the Snooper's Charter.

You can download our short briefing (pdf), or see our longer response to the Joint Committee call for evidence for more detail.

What's happening now?

For the past few months the Bill has been scrutinised by a Joint Committee of MPs and peers. This has involved oral evidence sessions (in two of these ORG Executive Director Jim Killock gave evidence) and a call for written evidence. Transcripts of the oral evidence and the written submissions are available at the Joint Committee's website.

They are due to report back in a couple of weeks. This will go a long way to determining whether the Bill proceeds as it is, is modified or is dropped. Whatever they report back about the current Bill, the Government will no doubt be keen to continue to try to pass new surveillance laws in some form.

So it's important to keep working on what's wrong with the Snooper's Charter now and what we need to do in the future. So come along to our free event and help us take action! 

ORG depends on its paying supporters. If you want to help us keep fighting for digital rights, join now - for a limited time, new supporters donating at least £5 per month by direct debit will receive a free copy of Rapture of the Nerds co-authored by Cory Doctorow, a member of our Advisory Council and Charles Stross, one of ORG's founding members.

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November 02, 2012 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

ORG is ready for legal action

Today ORG have launched a new campaign to fund a legal project which will allow us to create new case law and lead on bringing digital rights issues to the courts.

Today ORG have launched a new campaign to fund a legal project which will allow us to create new case law and lead on bringing digital rights issues to the courts.

We have seen huge changes in the digital rights agenda in the last few months. Matthew Woods and Azhar Ahmed were prosecuted and sentenced for free speech on social media. BPI are increasing the number of web blocking injunctions with insufficient transparency about what will be blocked and without processes in place to remove material that no longer needs to be blocked. The pornography company Goldeneye still wish to send alleged file-sharers copyright complaints on behalf of other companies with the intention of extracting payment without a court case, a case we are preparing to contest.  All of these are issues where ORG needs to be able to prepare legal briefs and intervene in the courts.

Some of the things our Legal Officer would enable us to do are:

  • Prepare friend of the court briefings to explain the civil liberties consequences of web blocking injuctions

  • Provide technical advice to the courts where proposals would be unworkable or have unforseen circumstances

  • Draft amendments to delete or replace misused powers, such as Section 127 A, which was used to prosecute Paul Chambers in the Twitter joke trial.

  • Challenge Government decisions in judicial reviews

  • This new capacity will enable us to build on the amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefing on the Digital Economy Act jucidical review where we explained the impact on privacy.

  • Expand our legal panel scheme where individuals can request pro-bono legal advice on digital rights issues

We are running our ORG Law Fund campaign across November to achieve two goals:

Goal 1: 150 new supporters

This will allow us to launch our legal project and hire a part-time Legal Officer to work in ORG’s office

Goal 2: 300 new supporters

We can hire a permanent full time Legal Officer

You can help ORG take a stand

There are lots of ways you can get involved and help. If you want more support in fundraising or have ideas do get in touch with me about them (

  • Tell your friends about ORG. We want to thank our paying supporters for all that they do, so we are offering a series of rewards for those of you who are helping to recruit your friends.
  • Make a video about why you support ORG. Across November we will be releasing a series of videos by ORG supports talking about their personal key concerns for digital rights. Watch this space!

Thank you very much for helping ORG take the next step as an organisation.

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