File swappers lose a big one

Canada’s days as an upload/download-free zone are numbered. Not only is the federal government working on a new law that would make it illegal to swap copyrighted material through peer to peer file sharing networks, the Canadian Recording Industry Association also won a key legal victory last week forcing ISPs to divulge the identities of P2P users.

The CRIA had appealed an earlier judgment that maintained downloaders and uploaders were in fact protected by data privacy laws.

Following the example set in the U.S. the CRIA plans to use their appeal ruling to file lawsuits against 29 individuals they say are sharing files illegally.

The damage amounts claimed in the U.S. lawsuits are often significant, but typically the recording industry has settled out of court with swappers for smaller sums, typically in the low thousands. The objective hasn’t been to recoup money lost to downloading but rather to make an example of swappers to discourage others from downloading music.

So far the music industry has filed suit against a thousand downloaders, with an almost perfect success rate. A few are fighting the suits in court, but most have agreed to settle.

While lawsuits against swappers are destined to make front page news in Canada and will likely curb our downloading habits, most swappers that have been following the issue in this country would probably agree that the end is nearing anyway – once the federal government passes a law against illegal swapping, Internet Service Providers from coast to coast would be legally bound to report infractions and help prosecutors and the police go after individuals. A new law would also add the threat of prison, massive fines, criminal records and probationary conditions such as computer bans on top of the constant threat of lawsuits.

Whatever your reasons for downloading illegally – record companies rip off consumers, Metallica are rich enough already, the music store in town closed down, you use P2P sharing services to discover new bands ignored by commercial radio, you’re only replacing the music from your scratched CDs – you might want to rethink them before the risks finally outweigh the benefits.

Getting into the Star Wars Universe

Most people are familiar with the legacy of the Skywalker family from Annakin through Luke and Leia, and the cast of characters from the two trilogies. You’ve probably also seen the Revenge of the Sith, helping it to break audience records around the world.

But how many people are as familiar with the series of books? The video games? The role playing games? The fan films that make up the wider "Star Wars Universe"?

I confess, I’m a bit of a geek in this department. When I was a kid I had Star Wars curtains on my window, Star Wars sheets on my bed, Star Wars posters on my walls, Star Wars shoes on my feet, and Star Wars toys piled high on my floor. I even ate the cereal, collected the trading cards, and begged for my parents to buy every product that came in the shape of a Star Wars figure, like C3PO shampoo and R2D2 candy. For Halloween I went dressed as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in successive years. A few years ago I even won a Star Wars trivia contest because I was the only contestant to have read any of the spin-off book series or read the novels adapted from the films.

Even now I’m always looking for new Star Wars stuff on the web – like the steadily growing collection of fan films.

Some of those films are actually pretty good – not Revenge of the Sith good, but entertaining nonetheless. If the third and final installment of the prequel has you in a Jedi state of mind, you might want to check out a few of these neat sites:

iFilm ( ) has a huge collection of fan films from Star Wars – some are funny, some are serious, but all are generally good enough to warrant the use of a little bandwidth. Some of my favourites include Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s appearance in a Star Wars Attack of the Clones lineup ; the very serious and visually impressive Duality and Revelations; an old SNL skit where Kevin Spacey pretends to be Christopher Walken auditioning for the part of Han Solo; the Glengarry Glen Darth cartoon; Lego Troopers; and Chewie’s Holiday Special.

There’s another funny spoof, created by organic farmers, called Grocery Store Wars that’s at .

Everything you need to know about Star Wars video games, and there are about 10 titles released in the last two years, can be found at .

If you’re into Star Wars fiction, video games, fan films, comic books, trivia, art, humour and so on, the best place to start is . The Force also has one of the largest collections of Star Wars trivia you’ll find anywhere, as well as links to other quality Star Wars fan sites.

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