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MediaNet Sued for Licensing Unlicensed Songs

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the industry-pirates dept.

Piracy 73

New submitter duSoliel wrote in with news that another musician is complaining about a lack of royalties from streaming music services. This time, however, the musician is going after MediaNet (once known as MusicNet) which acts as an intermediary source for licensing songs to streaming music services that did not manage to gain compulsory licensing from the Copyright Royalty Board. MediaNet has a storied history riddled with lawsuits from the Harry Fox agency among others; a suit brought last year alleged that around a quarter of MediaNet's catalog was improperly licensed, but was settled privately out of court. Now, Aimee Mann is suing them for failure to properly license 120 of her songs, seeking $18 million in damages. From the article: "... she entered into a license agreement in 2003 with MediaNet (then known as MusicNet). The term of the license agreement was scheduled to end in 2006 but had automatic two-year extensions unless terminated by either party. Mann's representative is said to have sent a termination notice in 2005, but nevertheless, 'MediaNet continued after the Termination Date to transmit, perform, reproduce and distribute the Compositions as part of MediaNet's service, despite having no right or license to do so.' ... Besides suing for direct infringement, Mann is also claiming that MediaNet induced its business partners to commit copyright infringement. Mann also says she has not been paid any royalties by the company since Sept. 30, 2005 with the exception of a $20 advance this past March that was returned." The perils of not having sane compulsory licensing for Internet radio?

cancel ×

73 comments

lol (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44369713)

Or, the perils of having copyright at all?

Re:lol (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#44371563)

I'm sorry but copyrights as designed by the founding fathers was a GOOD thing, it allowed the little guy to make enough to live on while keeping the large cartels from just snatching everything that wasn't nailed down. what we have now is the exact opposite, a system which favors those very same cartels and screws the little guy, just look at the "standard record contract" which is just a damned joke its pathetic to see how badly things have been tilted towards the cartels.

So what we need is NOT to abolish it but reform it, starting with putting copyright terms back to the original 25 years so that the cartels can't lock down our history behind paywalls, remove the ability to sell your copyrights, if the cartels want to lease the rights that is fine but what has happened is the record contracts now force the artist to give away their songs just to be heard so the ability to take someone's copyrights away should be removed, and once the copyright term is up the formerly copyrighted work shall be put in a large repository on the web free for all to use to enjoy and create more art.

If we were to do this frankly copyrights wouldn't be something everybody bitched about anymore, why you'd have all the great music of the first 80 years of the twentieth century to use in new projects, the artists wouldn't be forced to sign everything away, and the cartels wouldn't have our entire recorded history locked behind paywalls, it would be great.

Sadly our system is so corrupted and ruined by big money that I truly believe that only a total collapse will bring about any chance for change so until then I say until We, The People get a seat at the negotiating table you should treat copyright laws as what they are, laws bought with bribes and therefor null and void. Does ANYBODY believe the people would have voted for 150+ year copyrights? Or that copyrights would last nearly a century after the creator of the work has died? Of course not but the people didn't get a say, the cartels, especially Disney, just broke out their checkbook and bribed their way into having the laws changed. This is why they should be ignored, as unjust laws that came to be through illegal acts are crimes and should be treated as such.

Re:lol (1)

broken_chaos (1188549) | about a year ago | (#44372957)

A massive amount of people would have voted for that, if the level of indoctrination currently is any indication. I've had to look really funny at people who answer "yes" to the question "Do you really believe that someone's great-grandchildren should be able to live off something done a century ago?" an awful lot over the past few years.

Re:lol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44372603)

More childishness from the anti-civilization crowd that dominates this site. I bet your just another greedy engineer in software who thinks you should be paid by evil profits and no one else?

What are the damages? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44369717)

$250,000 per song or something like that?

And this is willful commercial infringement, not personal use.

Payback is a bitch...

Re:What are the damages? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44369773)

$250,000 per song or something like that?

And this is willful commercial infringement, not personal use.

Payback is a bitch...

yeah.. if the perpetrator was some dude in a basement and had sold the songs and lied about the license then that dude would be on the hook for tens of millions - in that context 18 million isn't that much, really.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44369803)

if the perpetrator was some dude in a basement and had sold the songs and lied about the license then that dude would be on the hook for tens of millions

No, they would be on the hook for the same amount. $18 million for 120 songs is $150,000 per song. $150,000 is maximum statutory damages.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

John Napkintosh (140126) | about a year ago | (#44369939)

Do damages include multiple downloads of the same song? If so, It could be into the thousands of songs.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44369977)

It's per work.

Re:What are the damages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44370239)

It's per work per incident.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44370313)

Nope. The law states no such thing.

Re:What are the damages? (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44370267)

It's per work.

it doesn't quite work out so that you can go licensing "Beat it" to the entire world for 150k.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44370281)

And I never said that.

Re:What are the damages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44370649)

So it's not per work.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44370315)

yeah.. if the perpetrator was some dude in a basement and had sold the songs and lied about the license then that dude would be on the hook for tens of millions - in that context 18 million isn't that much, really.

This newfangled American notion of "damages" seems to be quite damaged on its own if $18M is supposed to be an adequate compensation for not having payed $20 per month for a few years, for whatever reason it happened. If I stopped, for example, paying for a car, I'd be in trouble but I don't think that someone would come and say "now that you didn't pay us $5000, you owe us $1B".

Re:What are the damages? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#44369813)

$250,000 per song or something like that? And this is willful commercial infringement, not personal use.

They're not going for criminal copyright violation, just civil copyright violation so 120 songs * $150,000 = $18 million. Even the statutory minimum is 120 * $750 = $90,000 if they're found guilty which sounds quite good compared to $20/month (if that's what she'd normally be paid per the contract).

Re:What are the damages? (3, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44369843)

Here's what'll happen: MediaNet will find a way to press the case on and on beyond the plaintiff's resources, and will then settle for a bit more than the $20/month the plaintiff would've been getting, with a confidentiality agreement.

'Cause that's how law works when it's corporations versus individuals. Equal, but not egalitarian.

Re:What are the damages? (5, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44369863)

It's going to be quite hard to weasel out of the fact that they conveniently stopped paying her royalties right after date that the termination notice was sent as documented in the complaint and yet claim at the same time that they never received such a notice.

Re:What are the damages? (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44370093)

Note also they recently sent her a $20 "advance" once the *** hit the fan, which she wisely didn't cash.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about a year ago | (#44370383)

My younger brother used to play in multiple local bands, but has moved on to equipment rental, sound engineering, and booking for local bands because he wanted them to get more than $20 a gig {and it's a service not available locally}. People forget that you can have $20k+ on the stage in equipment easily and that it requires maintenance. Recently he has been angry about a bitter ex-bandmate underbidding bookings so much that the bands he is booking are paying to play.

or is it just me that finds a $20 advance to be an insult.

Re:What are the damages? (2)

Migraineman (632203) | about a year ago | (#44372607)

More than likely, the $20 "advance" was a trap. If Mann had deposited the $20 payment, her opponent could have demonstrated that the expired contract wasn't expired, as evidenced by the payment that was accepted. Returning it was the right thing to do.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44370349)

In my (admittedly pessimistic) scenario they don't have to prove anything, though, they just have to make the case run long enough that a settlement becomes preferable. Surprise witnesses, requests for extra time, copious and un-necessary filings... if they can find a judge who's willing to put up with it, they can spin the case out long enough to "win" a settlement rather than a decision against them.

Set up a donations page (1)

future assassin (639396) | about a year ago | (#44372423)

I'd be more than willing to donate $50 every few months to her continuing shit kicking. All I ask is that my name is listed as a donor ,yes I'm not afraid of being listed on a no fly or no something list.

Re:What are the damages? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44369959)

They're not going for criminal copyright violation

I don't understand why. They sold songs they didn't have legal rights to.

If any of us had done that, we'd have *AA lawyers hammering on our doors. So why in hell should a media company be given anything less than the full penalty for this?

But somehow an incompetent company who can't keep tabs on what they're licensed to sell is only going to be pursued for civil violations?

That makes no sense to me at all.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year ago | (#44370291)

They're not going for criminal copyright violation

I don't understand why. They sold songs they didn't have legal rights to.

If any of us had done that, we'd have *AA lawyers hammering on our doors. So why in hell should a media company be given anything less than the full penalty for this?

But somehow an incompetent company who can't keep tabs on what they're licensed to sell is only going to be pursued for civil violations?

That makes no sense to me at all.

because you last name isn't "incorporated".

Re:What are the damages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44370471)

the number of cases in which individuals have *SOLD* songs they dont have the rights to is so small as to be a non-sample.

the number of actual prosecutions for copyright infringement based on 'sharing' are what... 1/10,000 infringing users?

dont over-exaggerate.

Re:What are the damages? (1)

TheOnyxRocket (921830) | about a year ago | (#44370941)

They're not going for criminal copyright violation

I don't understand why. They sold songs they didn't have legal rights to.

If any of us had done that, we'd have *AA lawyers hammering on our doors. So why in hell should a media company be given anything less than the full penalty for this?

But somehow an incompetent company who can't keep tabs on what they're licensed to sell is only going to be pursued for civil violations?

That makes no sense to me at all.

The *AA lawyers would only have been able to go after you for civil copyright infringement. Criminal copyright infringement means there is the chance of going to jail and having a criminal record. Only the federal government (U.S.) can go after you for criminal copyright infringement, and they seldom do. Civil copyright infringement is where the owner of the copyright goes after you for damages (or "statutory damages"). They can't put you in jail in a civil case, but they can take your money.

Re:What are the damages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44370397)

as well it should be. if you steal somebody else's work when you should know better, you should pay. if you do it for profit, you should be heavily punished. go get em, aimee, and dont listen to those on slashdot who basically define their "philosophical" stances based on how much free stuff they might like to get.

Where is the burden of proof? (1, Insightful)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about a year ago | (#44369761)

"Mann's representative is said to have sent a termination notice in 2005"

I am assuming that Mann's representative sent the termination notice in some way that requires notarized acceptance that is recorded (in other words, someone at MediaNet had to sign to say that the notice had been received) and that the receipt notification was returned to Mann's representative, who kept the original and can produce it on demand.

If not, MediaNet will probably say "hmm, we have no record of it, looks like it got lost in the mail", with probably little or no paper/electronic trail to contradict that, aside from them collecting royalties on the playlist and not distributing that to the artist.

So it could be a copyright infringement case or a non-payment of contract issue (the latter being a distinctly smaller payout, I would guess).

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44369817)

Well, it still would have expired in 2008. Also, they'll have a very hard time convincing an unbiased judge that they happen to randomly stop paying her at the same time as the notice was sent.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44369993)

Actually no it wouldn't have expired. it has "automatic two-year extensions unless terminated by either party."

So, unless she can prove they received the termination, the contract continues uninterrupted indefinitely.

Now, you are correct that that still means they may owe her some royalties that they did not provide. The fact that the royalties stopped shortly after her termination letter definitely would seem to indicate that they received it. However, that would still need to be proven in court. Suspicion does not make it fact even though the burden of proof is much lower in a civil action than it is in criminal court.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44370155)

That depends if it was a perpetual self renewing contract, or if it is a 1 time self renewing contract. You have not pointed out where it is perpetual.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44370581)

FTS: The term of the license agreement was scheduled to end in 2006 but had automatic two-year extensions unless terminated by either party.
I read that "automatic two-year extensions", plural, as renewing more than once. Then again, the summary could be wrong.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44372059)

No, it is correct, the terms of the deal, state it it perpetually renews.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (3, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44369829)

If not, MediaNet will probably say "hmm, we have no record of it, looks like it got lost in the mail", with probably little or no paper/electronic trail to contradict that, aside from them collecting royalties on the playlist and not distributing that to the artist.

No, they have a clear paper trail of emails between them and MusicNet. It's in their complaint. Yeah, yeah. You didn't RTFA.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about a year ago | (#44369953)

No, they have a clear paper trail of emails between them and MusicNet. It's in their complaint. Yeah, yeah. You didn't RTFA.

Actually, I did read the article. And the actual complaint. At no point in those readings did I find anything to suggest that there had been any communication from MediaNet to Aimee Mann or her representatives.
If I missed a paragraph, I am sure you would be willing to point out that specific point.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (3, Informative)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44369987)

There were multiple pages of back-and-forth communication in the complaint. You clearly didn't read it all.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44370221)

That exchange does not say she wanted to cancel the contract, but that she did not want to pursue something unless more money was involved.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44370343)

Yes that was the notice. Again you didn't read the complaint fully.

Quoting from page 5:

Plaintiff's representstion ... sent to MeriaNet written notice of Plaintiff's intention to terminate the License agreement on February 10, 2005 (the "Termination Notice"). (A true and correct copy of the Termination is attched hereto as Exhibit C and incorporated herein by reference).

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44370497)

Did you actually read exhibit C? I did, and it does not say they would like to terminate, it says

From musicNet : Hope youre well...

Its been a while since we last spoke, but I wanted to circle back on the licensing of the Aimee Mann catalog. Are you till overseeing that iniiative, and if not could you please direct me to whoever might be.

From Leslie Wallake : I still have a handle and ill put the file to see where we left off. It may be that the client does not want legal time spent on this if too little money involved. Was Music net offering an advance of any kind

Music net: no advance..benefits..kiss butt no advance

Leslie : The client has advised that we do not want to pursue an agreement with MusicNet at this time

Please point out the termination...

No where does it say it would like to cancel the previous agreement (which is required by the contract). You can say that was their intent, but that is not what they did.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44370633)

Yes I did. The termination is the very last email dated February 10, 2005 from Exhibit C as pointed out in the quote I posted. It seems you're either intentionally being dense or stupid since it's quite clear what they were refering to. MediaNet seemed to have understood as well anise they stopped paying royalties after it was sent.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44370645)

Anise = since. Stupid phone autocorrect...

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44371917)

Dude, You are the one being dense. What I stated came DIRECTLY from exhibit C. The proof is on them to prove that it was clear to medianet that that is what they meant. At best it is ambiguous.

The client has advised that we do not want to pursue an agreement with MusicNet at this time

That is in no way a clear termination of an existing agreement.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#44372821)

"The client has advised that we do not want to pursue an agreement with MusicNet at this time"

You must not spend much time doing contracts - that's a clear termination notice.

That automatically nullifies any and all contractual agreements made prior, and puts an end to auto-renewal.

Who's the dense one, here?

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44373037)

Maybe it is clear in legalize, but it is not clear in basic English.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#44373301)

No, it's clear in basic English as well as legalese.

Not wishing to pursue an agreement means that anything else in place is null and void, otherwise there would be an agreement to pursue.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44373569)

In what way? What agreement are they speaking of? How do we know they were not negotiating some other contract at the time? Pursue to many people in English is something forward looking not backwards looking.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#44372919)

Thaylin has the right point of this argument. The emails do not say "Terminate the contract". I don't even know if email is officially recognized as a legal notice of intent to terminate. I don't accept it as legally binding. In the contracts I have with customers, the termination clause specifies either a printed-on-paper notice or face-to-face meeting. Nothing fancy -- a single sentence with proper signature, or a five second verbal exchange would suffice (and has sufficed).

But an email in 2005 saying that the customer "does not want to pursue an agreement" does not terminate an agreement that is already in effect, and not due to expire for another year, in 2006.

Show me a letter that was typed, printed, and mailed to MediaNet saying "Terminate Amy Mann's contract please", and I will agree that that is a termination letter. Sorry for being a stickler, but they aren't hollywood celebrities breaking up with someone over Twitter. They are businesses and lawyers discussing legal matters. "But I thought..." doesn't cut it.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44370691)

Also you even quote from the first email asking about the licensing contract with respect to her music. How can you be confused that the email chain was about the licensing agreement? Again, you're either extraordinarily dense or dumb since it's plain English what was under discussion.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44371933)

Again, it is not clear that she wants to stop the current contract. they may be wanting to do another deal, with another agreement. You dont know, you are making logical leaps that require way more evidence than in those emails.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44369847)

Even if this was the case (it isn't, RTFA), then they would have a hard time explaining why they stopped paying royalties after the date of the notice of termination ;)

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44369853)

You give the GP too much credit. They were karma whoring not actually trying to post anything of worth. The fact that it got modded up is just a sign of how far Slashdot has sunk in quality.

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44370419)

This guy didn't read the complaint and isn't going to admit he was wrong. He claims to have read the complaint yet makes claims that are directly contradicted by what is in the complaint itself

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (2)

Guybrush_T (980074) | about a year ago | (#44369891)

Mann also says she has not been paid any royalties by the company since Sept. 30, 2005

Looks like the company did receive the termination notice. But likely a *software bug* in the streaming software missed the removal ...

Re:Where is the burden of proof? (1)

Jerslan (1088525) | about a year ago | (#44372087)

Even if that were the case, MediaNet would still be responsible for damages. "There was a bug in the software" is a pretty flimsy excuse...

Aimee Will Have To Wait (2)

some old guy (674482) | about a year ago | (#44369793)

Till Tuesday.

Re:Aimee Will Have To Wait (2)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | about a year ago | (#44370077)

Hush, Hush, voices carry.

Re:Aimee Will Have To Wait (0)

Minwee (522556) | about a year ago | (#44370209)

He said shut up! He said shut up!

Oh God can't you keep it down?

You had one job (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#44369985)

Wow, so a small company has one single job. They handle licensing acquisition and expiration and that's it and they managed to screw that up. That's pretty bad.

Re:You had one job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44370505)

Wow, so a small company has one single job. They handle licensing acquisition and expiration and that's it and they managed to screw that up. That's pretty bad.

Um... since when is that their job? Their single job is to control ALL the medias.

Re:You had one job (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44372241)

Well if you look at the "termination letter" it is not very clear they want to terminate.

Re: You had one job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44372619)

It was clear enough that they stopped paying her.

I think the pertinent question is... (1, Funny)

axl917 (1542205) | about a year ago | (#44370179)

...who listens to Aimee Mann?

Re:I think the pertinent question is... (3, Informative)

Hub_City (106665) | about a year ago | (#44370285)

Fred and Carrie, of course.

http://gawker.com/5754009/portlandia-sorry-about-the-music-industrys-downfall-aimee-mann-and-sarah-mclachlan

Re:I think the pertinent question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44370307)

Yeah, we get it. You're so F'in cool.

Re:I think the pertinent question is... (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44370385)

...who listens to Aimee Mann?

Probably more than twice as many people as did before this hit the news....

Re:I think the pertinent question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44370961)

...who listens to Aimee Mann?

Probably more than twice as many people as did before this hit the news....

So 5?

Correctly rephrased (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44371195)

Who the fuck is Aimee Mann?

Re:Correctly rephrased (1)

Jerslan (1088525) | about a year ago | (#44372125)

She was big in the '90s and early 2000's. She was even in an episode of Buffy (IIRC it was Season 6 or 7 and she was the performer at some club).

Re:I think the pertinent question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44373593)

She was also on that Rush song, "Time Stands Still".

I Can Get You A Toe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44371093)

Yes, this is that Aimee Mann [ugo.com] .

Wait a second (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44371617)

Was this a SERIOUS attempt by Aimee Mann to end her contract with Medianet? Correspondence gets lost all the time. Did Mann get feedback acknowledging her termination request? Did she check in 2006 to ensure the contract was ended?

Mistakes happen. Both parties to a contract have a duty to be 'on the ball'. If the contract continued by mistake, involved little revenue, and did her no real commercial damage, she's wasting her time. If commercial damage WAS happening, wouldn't she have immediately noticed, and got back in contact with Medianet to ensure they actually received and activated the termination request?

MediaNet may well be scumbags, but this has 'ambulance chasing' lawyer written all over it. Courts are well aware of the scam created by a person who 'tries' feebly to end a contract, and then sues years later because the contract continued.

Re:Wait a second (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#44372565)

There was no acknowledgement, according to the email chain, and it was very ambiguous, atleast according to the same chain. It was :

The client has advised that we do not want to pursue an agreement with MusicNet at this time

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