12th > September > 2000 Archive

Hollywood pushes violent movies, games on kids – FTC

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accuses the entertainment industry of targeting children with adverts for every manner of sleazy movie and bloody computer game, in a scathing report released Monday. "Companies in the entertainment industry routinely undercut their own rating restrictions by target marketing violent films, records, and video games to young audiences," FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky said in a Washington press conference Monday. The report revealed marketing plans and other industry materials which specifically advocate marketing to children under seventeen. Producers advertise violent games and movies on television programming which runs during after-school hours, during programmes popular among children such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and in print media such as Teen, Jump, DC Comics and Marvel Comics, and in school newspapers. The FTC found that Hollywood studios also market-tested eight R-rated films on 12-year-olds and, in at least one case, ten-year-olds. The report found that 83 of 118 'mature' video games were marketed to children ages 16 and younger, despite ratings indicating that they were suitable only for 17 year old and older buyers. Of the 11 video game producers contacted by the FTC, ten released documents to the agency indicating that boys younger than 17 were the primary target audiences for mature-rated blood-fest games like Quake. "It's hard to say that just a few bad actors are giving the industry a bad name here," Pitofsky observed. The objectionable marketing practices, he said, are both "pervasive and aggressive." Meanwhile, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) President Jack Valenti trumpeted Hollywood's restraint in marketing entertainment meant for mature viewers. "For almost 32 years, this industry has been the only segment of our national marketplace that voluntarily turns away revenues at the box office to redeem the pledge that we have made to parents," he warbled. The FTC report followed a year-long investigation requested by US President Bill Clinton in a knee-jerk response to the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado last Summer. Political Manna from Heaven President Clinton, New York Senate candidate Hillary Clinton, and Presidential candidate Al Gore all scrambled to exploit the political capital of an endangered generation of innocents, and all were surprisingly well prepared. Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman said they would propose legislation or regulatory authority over the entertainment industry if it does not stop marketing violent material to children. The report's release just happened to coincide with Gore's scheduled appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where he spent some quality time pandering to women. "Tipper started 20 years ago educating me about why parents need more help, and she was successful in convincing the recording industry in giving warnings to parents when material is inappropriate. Now Joe Lieberman and I are following up on that, to try to persuade all the companies in that industry to abide by what they said they would do," the Veep told Winfrey. Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush said that parents must play stronger roles in protecting their children, and observed that opponent Gore has received a great deal of campaign money from Hollywood supporters. He stopped short of questioning the timing of the report's release, and the exceptional preparation of the Clintonites in using it as campaign material. The Senate Commerce Committee will hold hearings Wednesday on the FTC's findings. Numerous threats of legislative action will be made, to inspire the industry to regulate itself better. But as the entertainment industry is a prodigious contributor to political campaigns on both sides of the aisle, the chance that Congress might actually follow through is remote at best. ®
Thomas C Greene, 12 Sep 2000

Rambus asks feds to stop Hyundai

Just when you thought it was all over bar the legal cases in the Rambus wars, the intellectual property (IP) company has asked a US federal body to investigate Hyundai for alleged unlawful imports. (Actually, you knew it wasn't all over, you were just waiting for the next paradigm shift, really.) Rambus is invoking Section 337 of the 1930 Tariff Act and wants the ITC to "remedy" alleged unlawful importation of Hyundai chips related to patents it claims belongs to it. These relate to US patents 5,953,263 as well as 6,034,918 and 6,038,195. Rambus has asked the ITC to investigate any memories imported into the country by the Korean chaebol, and wants the outfit to stop imports and sales of products which could contravene the patent. In Germany and France, Rambus also took action against Hyundai for alleged patent infringements. Negotiations have broken down, and Rambus wants the court to issue a ticket for Hyundai not to ride over patents covered by EP 0525 068. It's all getting so, so familiar. Back in March, as reported here, Rambus filed a similar case against Hitachi. Hitachi finally settled, although we have no way of knowing what the ITC had to do with it. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Sep 2000

Saudi Prince doubles stake in e-bid biz to $100m

Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal plans to throw his money around in Web shares again. The royal investor - nephew to Saudi Arabia's King Fahd - has agreed to plough another $50 million into e-bidding company priceline.com - bringing his total investment in the company to $100 million. Under the deal, the prince will get a forward contract to buy two million shares at $25 each from Priceline founder Jay Walker. But he won't get his hands on the shares until between 8 September 2001 and the same date in 2002. The Saudi businessman will also be able to buy an unspecified stake in Walker Digital Corp - the company that makes the software used by Priceline. According to a company statement, this is to compensate for the illiquidity of the investment. This is his second investment in Princeline - which takes online bids for items such as flights and hotel rooms. In May he bought $50 million of shares in the company, which has seven million customers. The prince is a keen investor in cyberstocks, and currently has a $1 billion stake in US ISP AOL. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Sep 2000

IBM launches slim jim ThinkPad X

IBM has launched a fresh range of skinny notebooks. Aimed at the mobile professional, the ThinkPad X Series machines weigh just 3.1 pounds and are less than an inch thick. Available from today, prices range from $2,199 to $3,099. The range uses Intel chips - either Pentium III 600MHz or Mobile Celerons at 500MHz, and machines comes with 12.1 inch TFT screen with either Windows 98 or 2000 operating systems. For wireless LAN, there is an optional 802.11b LAN PC card available. Bluetooth options - including a PC card - will also be on offer from next month. The announcement rounds off Big Blue's revamp of its ThinkPads, and adds to the T Series, A Series and i Series launches. reg; Related Stories IBM not selling 1.1GHz boxes in US IBM shows off wireless ThinkPads
Linda Harrison, 12 Sep 2000

Official: Microsoft's C# is Cool

When Microsoft rolled out its new programming language, C#, in June, a team of spin-paramedics was on hand to point out that no way, never ever was this anything to do with Microsoft's allegedly mythological "Project Cool". However, we spotted in the documentation for C# an extended attribute created by language spec co-author Scott Wiltamuth that read 'Owner=scottwil Team=VC Feature=Cool'. By your extended-attribute-tags shall ye know them, we thought, although we couldn't quite rule out the possibility that the witty language authors had inserted the reference as a tease. We even tried to out these fine folk with the naked enducement of a Register label badge, but the buggers wouldn't bite. But it's all over now. Thanks to eagle-eyed Register reader Larry Smith, we've learned that C# is indeed Cool. Or if it isn't, it's chocca with references to it. Take for example the C# file samples\quickstart\aspplus\samples\webforms\intro\acme.cs which contains the giveaway comment: "//TodoHack 'needed because COOL doesn't support array initializers yet'." Then Larry discovered that the original C# compiler was called coolc (duh...) subsequently renamed as csc.exec. Elsewhere, sample C# code has the HTML tag