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Apple Sends Cease-and-Desist To the Hymn Project 444

Posted by kdawson
from the lawyers-code-and-money dept.
Troed writes "Tools for removing DRM from iTunes-purchased songs (myFairTunes7, QtFairUse6) have been available from the Hymn Project Web site for some time. These are legal in many countries. But on the 20th Apple sent a Cease and Desist note to Hymn's ISP, forcing the site admins to remove all download links. It is speculated that this is due to a new tool being created (Requiem) that attacks Apple's FairPlay DRM through cryptographic means instead of by copying the unprotected music from memory while it is being played. But since the tools are no longer available (after several days there are still no public mirrors), discussion around this topic has died out. Many users buy music from the iTunes store and rely on DRM removal to be able to play the content on their mobile phones. Apple may be on dangerous ground here, since those users might now start checking out competing services."
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Apple Sends Cease-and-Desist To the Hymn Project

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  • Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:18PM (#22528862)
    Now tell me how is this not evil and not unlike Microsoft?
    • Re:Evil (Score:4, Insightful)

      by din100 (847196) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:20PM (#22530584) Homepage
      apple is far worse than MS,
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nguy (1207026)
      Now tell me how is this not evil and not unlike Microsoft?

      Nor is it particularly new. Apple has a long history of this kind of thing, from deliberate incompatibilities to claiming that they invented the GUI and trying to prevent everybody else (including open source) from implementing GUIs for any kind in the 1980's. They lost on a technicality. Apple is, and has always been, evil. But they do make nice products. Think of it as the beautiful girlfriend with no morals.
  • torrents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TI-8477 (1105165) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:18PM (#22528864)
    I assume that anyone who has the original installer could upload it to the pirate bay as a torrent, right?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bigskank (748551)
      Or, you could just google it and find the current version of the software on Softpedia or any one of a dozen other download sites.
    • Re:torrents (Score:5, Interesting)

      by v1 (525388) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @05:12PM (#22529254) Homepage Journal
      A new version of itunes doesn't just come out for bug fixes and enhancements. Apple is well known for both passively and actively combating software that works against their DRM.

      I had an itunes plugin awhile ago that mounted a second ipod on your itunes list, with an important difference. You could drag music FROM the second pod to your library. Very neat hack, using apple's built-in plugin architecture for itunes. It didn't break any of the rules.

      At that time there were three itunes updates in two weeks. The first two attempted to detect and deactivate the plugin, looking for strings of code from the plugin. Each time the author quickly released a newer version that got around the checks. The third release of itunes in that run looked specifically for the plugin by name, and deactivated it. The author at that point decided he was fighting a battle he wasn't going to win, and stopped releasing updates.

      Now while I think he should have kept trying, as the mac users would not have tolerated a new itunes update every week, I see why he did it.

      The problem with the torrent isn't that it's hard to distribute an old release, it's that it's hard to keep distributing new updates every week after apple breaks it again. That's why they had a web page for updates, and that's why apple CnD'd it.

      The CnD is questionable, and it's very likely there was no legal teeth to it. The text of the CnD is usually just a formality covering up the sabor rattling of a large company that is ready to drag you into a meritless yet expensive lawsuit, to discourage your legal behavior.
  • Good old DMCA. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip DOT paradis AT palegray DOT net> on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:21PM (#22528886) Homepage Journal

    It is speculated that this is due to a new tool being created (Requiem) that attacks Apple's FairPlay DRM through cryptographic means instead of by copying the unprotected music from memory while it is being played.
    And that's where they went wrong. The message being that apparently it's okay to copy something that's already available in the clear, but you just can't go around trafficking in naughty circumvention measures. Darn those pesky programmers and their fancy code...
  • by feepness (543479) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:21PM (#22528894) Homepage
    Another draconian legal tactic by a truly evil company! I would never touch on of their prod... oh wait, Apple?

    Ooh, look over there! Shiny!
    • by El Lobo (994537) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:52PM (#22529116)
      I know you are using irony, but actually this kind of sarcasm with Apple is often not fully understood here, so don't be surprised when the "flamebait" or "troll" moderations begin to rain on you.

      back OT, back in 1999 (I think, don't remember it exactly), one at my university user was publishing some Windows XP themes created by him which gave Aquas look and feel to XP (OK a far look and feel but anyway). After a week we got 5 (F I V E !!!!) letters in 2 days from Apple's hounds trheating us with legal actions if we don't inmediatelly deleted those icons and themes from our servers.

      We obviously deleted them because nobody likes legal problems here for nothing, but anyway, that was overeacting: all other themes from BeOS, OS2/WARP, Super Mario, The Coke theme are still inplace and nobody reacts. Hey, that's free ads for them anyway... But hey, that's Abble for you!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SHaFT7 (612918)
        coke and super mario didn't have an OS. so yes that is free advertising. OS2/Warp is old, so who cares. Isn't BeOS free? Apple DID have an os, and one of the major 'cool' factors was the aqua interface. So when you made icons for xp that in essence makes it 'look' like a mac, apple thinks 'crap, customers will see that you can get mac os coolness on an xp, we might sell x less machines.....serve them!' now, i don't agree with the letters they sent you, but you have to understand why they did it.
      • by dissy (172727) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:33PM (#22530722)
        You remembered the date fairly close.
        And for some support for all the anal replies about the specific dates:

        XP officially came out in 2001, however there were 'liberated' versions floating around the warez groups of beta versions for a long while before the official release
        Plus, even I remember a number of XP themes released for the betas that were out years before the official release also.

        * Not to imply you were using That ;}

        I didnt even bother looking up when OS X came out, cuz it doesnt at all matter.
        The OS X hype was out YEARS before OS X was, and you would have to be living under one of slashdots many rocks at the time to have misesd it :}

  • Watch out DVD Jon! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nano2nd (205661) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:23PM (#22528906) Homepage
    I'd put money on http://www.doubletwist.com/ [doubletwist.com] being next. Given the cross platform, Zune, iTunes etc applications it covers, Doubletwist would be a pretty high profile target to hit with a C & D.
    • What Zune support? If it had that I'd be excited, but according to the FAQ the only devices it works with are several phones, the PSP, and the Kindle. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about anything that defeats DRM, but it doesn't seem like doubleTwist works with most music players out there right now, and therefore probably won't be perceived as much of at threat. Also, it doesn't even really defeat the iTunes DRM, it just uses the analog hole to produce degraded-quality transcoded files.
  • by CSMatt (1175471) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:25PM (#22528920)
    Why does anyone still shop at the iTunes Store for music if they want DRM-free songs? Just use Amazon.
    • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:30PM (#22528962) Homepage

      Why does anyone still shop at the iTunes Store for music if they want DRM-free songs? Just use Amazon

      Some of us want particular songs. iTMS has many more songs than Amazon at this point.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by STrinity (723872)

        iTMS has many more songs than Amazon at this point.
        Not only are you drinking Apple's Kool Aid, it's old Kool Aid. Amazon had deals with all the major labels now, and near as I can tell all the minors are on board too. I listen to lots of obscure bands, and while there are still a bunch that aren't available from Amazon or iTunes, it's been months since I've found anything that's exclusive to iTunes apart from the special live performances they offer.
        • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @03:59AM (#22533296) Homepage
          Amazon claims 2 million songs on their website. iTunes has a lot more than that.

          Songs don't just magically appear when an online store signs a deal with a label. Rather, they start making songs available over time, and it can take quite a while before they have them all. The last album I bought was the second album from the Urban Verbs (a sadly overlooked band--their lead singer was the brother of the Talking Heads drummer, and so people just pigeonholed them as a Heads wannabe). When I bought it a few weeks ago, it was on iTunes and not Amazon. Now it is on Amazon. At the same time, I bought a Julia Ecklar album that was on both, so I bought it from Amazon.

    • by multisync (218450) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:48PM (#22529080) Journal

      Why does anyone still shop at the iTunes Store for music if they want DRM-free songs? Just use Amazon.


      So, what part of the United States do you live in?
    • by dissy (172727) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:35PM (#22530736)

      Why does anyone still shop at the iTunes Store for music if they want DRM-free songs? Just use Amazon.
      Why does anyone still shop at the iTunes Store for music if they want DRM-free songs? Just use BitTorrent.

      There, fixed that for you.
  • Yeah, okay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DurendalMac (736637) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:27PM (#22528932)
    Apple on dangerous ground? They may lose .01% of their market! People who crack the DRM on iTunes (and their purchase hinges on that) are a tiny part of the market. I can understand both sides here (Apple kinda has to do this or the record companies, who don't like Apple enough as it is, will get even more pissed, but the crackers want fair usage of their music), but saying that Apple is on "dangerous ground" is more self-important internet crap.
    • Re:Yeah, okay (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dogtanian (588974) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:39PM (#22529020) Homepage

      Apple on dangerous ground? They may lose .01% of their market! [..] saying that Apple is on "dangerous ground" is more self-important internet crap.
      You got there before me :)

      I'm not sure if this is a geek-specific variant version of the "I'm an important customer so they should do what I want or watch out", or if it's just the less arrogant(?) but equally deluded flaw of Slashdotters to assuming that their views and behaviour are representative of more than a tiny percentage of the market. Probably a mixture- they're both facets of the same thing anyway.

      The latter case is something like when people say "I [or 'people'] would be more likely to buy the PSP if they removed the DRM restrictions etc. and let me do what I liked with it". Sorry, but a guaranteed sale to 1, or 5 or 500 people is going to be vastly outweighed by the profits Sony thinks (or hoped) it'll make by tying down the machine and selling people content or applications instead of letting them add their own.

      I mean, personally I'd have been far more likely to buy a PSP if it had been more hackable or at least an open development environment, but I'm under no delusions as to my importance in the market, or to what Sony actually want.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 7Prime (871679)
        Bingo. Also, I should mention that Apple DRM is unimportant anyway, since they already sell non-DRM version of most (all?) of their iTMS material. So why are we still fighting DRM? Oh, that's right, because we want everything to cost us nothing.

        Basically, people had some kind of ethical case for fighting DRM back when Apple was DRM-only... but now that Apple has given in, it's just complaining that they want music for free. I have to draw the line there. Or are you suggesting that all media should be inhere
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DJCacophony (832334)
      The notion that Apple has to do this because the record companies force them to is patently untrue. If the record companies did not want DRM-free music, then they would not have agreed to let Apple sell DRM-free music.

      The fact of the matter is that Apple likes the vendor lock-in they established between their ipod hardware and itunes software; it is a huge money-maker for them, and they will not willingly give up money anytime soon.

      That they can simply blame somebody else for their actions ("B-b-but he ma
      • by STrinity (723872)

        If the record companies did not want DRM-free music, then they would not have agreed to let Apple sell DRM-free music.
        Only one record label's done that, last I checked. They've all let Amazon sell DRM-free music, but that's pretty clearly an attempt to undermine iTunes market dominance.
    • by SEE (7681)
      Right. Apple wouldn't be taking steps to maintain its highly profitable closed iTMS/iPod ecosystem if it wasn't being forced to by the very record companies who consider that closed ecosystem a threat.
  • Beating the Bully (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:30PM (#22528958) Homepage Journal
    If someone gets a Cease & Desist letter threatening them with harm if they don't c&d, then fights it in court and shows the C&D was invalid, the court should treat the sender of the C&D letter like any other bully making threats. Fine them, count a strike against the attorney who wrote it (and start disciplining/disbarring them after some number of strikes in some period of time). And find damages to cover the time the recipient had to spend to straighten this out when they weren't wrong.

    And when the C&D sender loses such a case, every other recipient of such a letter should be able to file to get the same results applied to their own case, if they can prove it was the same circumstances (which should be cheap, easy and quick if they were indeed the same). That should load up the fines and strikes on the sender and their lawyers.

    Which in turn will deter lots of these C&D letters, especially when they're just bluffing (and they know it). Why should a law license and a retainer let these bullies litter the land with their C&D letters that get enforced with just the threat of intimidation, but which don't have a legal leg to stand on (or ever have to demonstrate they do)? They should have to face some consequences for abuse themselves.
    • Re:Beating the Bully (Score:4, Informative)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:59PM (#22529168)
      Why should a law license and a retainer let these bullies litter the land with their C&D letters that get enforced with just the threat of intimidation, but which don't have a legal leg to stand on (or ever have to demonstrate they do)?

      The problem is, in the United States they often do have a legal leg to stand on, in the form of the DMCA. That doesn't make it right, or just, or even good business ... but there it is.
    • by jimicus (737525)
      Which in turn will deter lots of these C&D letters, especially when they're just bluffing (and they know it).

      But not this one. IANAL and I haven't read the letter, but I'll put money on it it uses the DMCA's clause regarding "circumventing an effective technological measure".

      In other words, in the eyes of the law the C&D is perfectly acceptable, even if you don't like it.
    • Re:Beating the Bully (Score:5, Informative)

      by mstone (8523) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @06:04PM (#22529652)
      You know precisely squat about the American legal system, don't you?

      In point of fact, there is exactly one way for any party to ask the courts to give their opinion of what's legal and what isn't: filing a lawsuit. And in this case, Apple hasn't even gone that far. All they've done so far is send a letter to Harmony saying, "we think what you're doing infringes our rights, and if you keep doing it we're willing to take the matter in front of a judge."

      By itself, that letter holds little or no legal value. It certainly hasn't been endorsed by any court. About all it does is prevent a defendant from saying, "I was ambushed.. if they'd only asked me to stop, I would have," when the matter actually does appear in front of a judge. And since there's absolutely no legal force behind this kind of C&D letter -- not even an immediate threat of a lawsuit -- the courts don't give a flying shit what they say.

      Now, if Apple had actually filed a bogus lawsuit simply to harass the defendant, that is illegal: It's called barratry. [wikipedia.org] And the courts have no problem slapping down plaintiffs who can be proved to have engaged in that ... and their attorneys ... and the attorney's legal firm.

      Whether you like it or not, though, Apple is on the side of the angels here, at least in terms of legal fitness. Stripping the DRM off a purchased song when you already hold a legitimate key is a legal grey area, and Apple hasn't pushed too hard on that question. Cryptographic attacks that make it possible for someone to unlock a track even if they don't hold a legitimate key are gonna be pretty hard to defend in court. So there's a legitimate question as to whether the tools are legal at all. Apple has contracts with the labels which require Apple to watch out for this kind of thing, and Apple faces contract penalties or harder negotiations on future contracts if the labels decide Apple isn't working hard enough to guard the barn door. So Apple stands to be injured if the tools are illegal and the distributor keeps handing them out. That means Apple has 'standing' to sue.

      So when Apple's lawyers wrap those two facts up in a letter and say, "the fastest and easiest way for you not to hurt us in a way that would lead to us suing for damages is to stop distributing the tools," that's frickin' polite.

      When you finally grow out of thinking C&D letters are a form of extortion, you'll see that they're a proper and necessary part of a legal system with many players who hold diverse interests. It isn't Harmony's responsibility to check every possible law and every possible player in the market and bulletproof themselves against any suggestion of stepping on someone's before deciding what to do next. They're free to do their thing, and if Apple sees a legal issue, it's Apple's responsibility to A) discover the problem and B) let Harmony know that there might be a problem.

      The proper response to such a letter is to have your own lawyer talk to Apple's lawyers and work out a solution that makes everyone happy. The C&D letter is a request to start a conversation about legal matters where both parties have an interest, and to work out a compromise where both sides can move forward with as many of their own legitimate interests intact as possible.

      For all we know, Apple's lawyers might tell Harmony, "according to our engineers, changing these bits of the program right here would put you completely in the clear.. of course we're not allowed to say that in public for fear of reprisals from the record labels. But legal conversations are privileged and you'd be able to subpoena the information from us if we went to court anyway, so what the heck." That's unlikely, but at least give Apple the chance to have a conversation before pumping bricks out your ass over how they're such big mean stinky poopyheads.

  • by ikarous (1230832) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:32PM (#22528980)
    I will have be forced to stop using the iTunes store if the Hymn project disappears. I don't own an iPod—I don't *want* an iPod—but I do want to play my music on the Linux-powered media box in my living room. Is that really too much to ask?
    • by SeaFox (739806) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @05:08PM (#22529220)

      but I do want to play my music on the Linux-powered media box in my living room. Is that really too much to ask?

      Yes, because Apple isn't trying to sell music to Linux users, they're trying to sell iPods. Maybe there was a big need for Hymn back when the iTMS was the only store around with major recording artists (I mean ones you heard on top-40 stations, not college rock stations), but with Amazon's store seemingly redundant with Apple's catalog, why don't you just start using them instead?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by vrt3 (62368)

        ... with Amazon's store seemingly redundant with Apple's catalog, why don't you just start using them instead?

        Because I don't live in the United States, so Amazon's mp3 store is not available to me.
        And also because I like music from local artists over here, and Amazon doesn't offer that while iTunes has pretty good coverage.
    • by bwalling (195998)
      No, it's not too much to ask, but if that's what you want to do, then you're shopping at the wrong store. Don't blame the store - blame yourself for buying the wrong product.
  • by Protonk (599901) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:54PM (#22529136) Homepage
    The only dangerous ground apple is in is with record companies if they don't aggressively pursue DRM faults/breaks/violations. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that apple has clauses in their contracts with these companies that force them to maintain their DRM updated, track offenders and litigate where necessary.

    This is not to say that apple is blameless. They aren't. Apple, at this point, has had the chance to shame record labels (at least them. It appears we are doomed to repeat this nonsense with video) into changing their contracts. They took the opportunity to sound like a white knight in copyleft circles for a few weeks and did nothing. Maybe this was because companies were intransigent in negotiation. Maybe it is because apple's commitment to DRM free media was less than sincere. Probably both.

    Part of what is allowing this silliness to happen is the dMCA itself. These folks can be send a CnD because they might be cryptographically breaking DRM, but regular old listening and rerecording is ok. The anti-circumvention clause allows companies to litigate in the absence of real infringement. That is the problem.
    • by peragrin (659227)
      what percentage of itunes tracks are available as drm free MP4's? I have only 3-4 songs left that are protected as i went in and found out most of mine were DRM less.

      indeed with Amazon selling DRMless mp3's it is only a matter of time. Then again Apple's catalog is larger, and more current than Amazon's.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GarfBond (565331)

      The only dangerous ground apple is in is with record companies if they don't aggressively pursue DRM faults/breaks/violations. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that apple has clauses in their contracts with these companies that force them to maintain their DRM updated, track offenders and litigate where necessary.

      Oh, you mean something like this? [apple.com]

      However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devi

  • Many? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by STrinity (723872) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @04:58PM (#22529160) Homepage
    Let's be realistic here -- the number of people who hate DRM is pretty small to begin with, and the number of them who continue to buy from iTunes (especially now that Amazon has just about everything DRM-free) is even smaller still.
  • So he bashes DRM http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/ [apple.com] and then turns around and has his company issue a take down for anti-DRM software? That's awfully two-faced.
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @05:07PM (#22529204)

      So he bashes DRM http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/ [apple.com] and then turns around and has his company issue a take down for anti-DRM software? That's awfully two-faced.

      I don't think that is two-faced. Jobs position has always been that DRM on music is counter productive and a flawed concept. His position has also been, that it is a necessary evil if you want to do business with the RIAA cartel which controls the music distribution in the US. First he pushed for the most user friendly and unrestrictive DRM of any company reselling RIAA music. Then he pushed to get them to sell some music with no DRM, for a slightly higher price.

      Sometimes you can not agree with something, but still have to put up with it to do business.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by everphilski (877346)
        Except for companies like Amazon, who have deals with the major music labels and no DRM. For the same price. No, I'd have to agree, Steve is pretty two-faced (or a crappy negotiator, and locked himself into a long-term deal he now can't get out of ... which sucks for him, again, given the market position Amazon is now in)
  • more rubbish (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pbjones (315127) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @05:04PM (#22529194)
    Apple is not under threat, they still sell bulk music, people still durn their own CDs etc. The difference here is that cracking DRM via an attack on the cryptography is illegal in most countries, while other, simpler methods, are in a grey area.
  • by Tiger4 (840741) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @05:04PM (#22529196)
    A C&D letter [wikipedia.org] is no more than a nasty letter from a lawyer asking (no matter how it is worded) you to quit doing something his client doesn't like. In other words, really expensive toilet paper.

    A C&D ORDER on the other hand, comes from a court and you'd better do what it says or risk pissing off the judge. Almost always a bad idea.

    In any case, a C&D Letter can be responded to by a letter of your own back to the sender requesting "clarification", setting off a torrent ( :-) ) of correspondence that could level a forest while consuming time as you continue to do as you please. Or you could just use it to pre-emptively go to court and threaten the sender with attempting to interfere with your business/life/whatever by harassing you. And you will have the letter/evidence in hand, signed by the sender.

    And of course, in the greatest of Slashdot Traditions, IANAL.

    • by aiken_d (127097)
      Also, if you have money or a pet lawyer, another possible response to a C&D letter is to file for a declaratory judgment in your local jurisdiction. Assuming you're not in the immediate vicinity of the original letter writer, this forces them to put up or shut up.
  • by EvilMagnus (32878) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @05:45PM (#22529504)
    I used to use Hymn to make copies of my legally purchased iTunes songs. It was only because I *could* make m4a files out of iTunes downloads that I purchased music from Apple in the first place.

    Now that Amazon is in the mp3 business I've been buying all my music from them. I've bought more music from Amazon in the last two months than I did in the last year from iTMS. iTunes was great when there was no other legal way to get a large selection of artists. That's changed now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2008 @05:56PM (#22529582)
    I suppose this is a reasonable point to make one thing clear about myself:

        I don't hate Apple.

    In fact, I rather like them. They make good stuff - both hardware and software - and I enjoy using it.

    For what it's worth, Apple is entirely within their rights to request that I cease distribution and development of this software. The WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act (a component of the DMCA), 103, says that "manufacturing" and distributing software (i.e, ffh) to circumvent a protection system (i.e, Fairplay) is illegal. While I don't agree with this law, I don't really have much of a choice but to follow it.

    If you disagree with this as well, good. Tell your senator as much. Apple isn't to blame, though.

    It's also probably worth considering that Apple is probably bound to pursue any violations. Although I'm certainly not privy to the details of their agreements with record labels, I strongly suspect that one of the terms of those agreements is that Apple must maintain the integrity of the Fairplay system (or - I imagine - risk dire penalties, either in terms of cash penalties or in companies breaking off music licensing contracts). I certainly can't fault them for doing what they've got to do.

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