Thursday, December 27, 2007

8 Kick-Ass Movies You Didn't Know Were Based on Books

8 Kick-Ass Movies You Didn't Know Were Based on Books: Nobody reads books these days. After all, what's the point? There's no way some novel could ever kick as much ass as, say, watching Sylvester Stallone punch a guy's head off his shoulders. Or, could it? Believe it or not, a lot of the most kick-ass movies were adapted from kick-ass books. No, we're not just talking Lord of the Rings here. We're talking about ...

The Rambo Movies

The Film:
First Blood is a somber reflection of the hardships that faced Vietnam War veterans upon their return to their native country, in which the protagonist blows up a helicopter with a freaking rock.

The Book:
No really. There were Rambo books. Seriously. No, they weren't composed entirely of onomatopoeias meant to represent the sound of explosions.

First Blood was written by author David Morrell, who wrote a lot of books that had pictures of knives on the cover.

In the book, Rambo is not the good guy, as he basically flips out and kills a whole town because the Vietnam War drove him insane. Also, the book's ending is depressing, as Rambo stops his totally awesome rampage to be shot in the face.

That's right; Rambo dies at the end. Hollywood decided to change that, too, paving the way for three sequels. Even stranger, Morrell wrote a sequel to the book to coincide with the film, which somehow portrays Rambo as still alive, without so much as an opening chapter where a necromancer summons him from Valhalla.

For the book version of Rambo: First Blood Part II The writer had to share a co-author credit with James Cameron and Sly Stallone (who helped dream up the story for the sequel) which is kind of sad, or not, depending on how much he got paid.

The Thing

The Film:
Yes, The Thing. The one where the guy's torso grows teeth and bites another guy's arms off.

The Book:
It was actually a novella (that's where the writer didn't feel like writing a whole novel and just wrote part of one) called Who Goes There? and it was written way back in 1938 by John W. Campbell (the whole thing is online here). Yes, it even has that scene where they're poking at the blood and it comes to life and goes flying out of the dish and we poop our pants.

It's considered one of the best science fiction novellas ever written, and you can thank the writer for all those elements of paranoia and tension that made the film great. On the other hand, the movie has that scene where a guy's head turns into a crawling spider monster and you probably need to see that one to get the full effect. Also, Kurt Russell.

Gah! Did that seriously just happen?

We'll admit it, those sorta fake-looking puppets freaked us out. If you ask us, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth would be much more effective if he just screened this movie and followed it up by saying, "See that? It lives in the Arctic. If you keep driving your SUV, that thing is going to thaw. And, it's going to be pissed." Of course, the Nobel Prize Committee probably wouldn't go for that.

The Film:
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the zany story of a cartoon bunny's madcap antics as he battles a corrupt legal system that has framed him for a brutal homicide.

The Book:
Well, we asked the librarian for Roger Rabbit, and apparently, she gave us a William S. Burroughs novel instead. This thing is just plain bizarre. Seriously, when we buy a book about a cartoon rabbit, we expect a little bit more lightheartedness and a lot less "Oh, dear God, NOOOOOOO!"

The book is called Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf (whether that's his real name or cartoon name, we can't be sure). Oh, did we forget to mention that Roger Rabbit gets machine gunned to death?

No, seriously. That actually happens. Apparently, he never learned the old "rabbit season, duck season" trick. When's the last time that you saw that happen in a Disney movie? Aside from Bambi's mother. Or, the mom from Finding Nemo. Or, Mufasa from the Lion King. OK we guess Disney's sort of messed up too.

The Film:
This chilling and suspenseful tale recounts the crimes of a cross-dressing recluse who enjoys tormenting innocent people, which may or may not have been based on the life of J. Edgar Hoover.

The Book:
Remember how Hitchcock was called a genius, because of the amazing twist in the story, namely that (WARNING: 47- year-old spoiler ahead) the main character gets killed not long into the film? Yeah, he didn't come up with that. It was in the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. So, why do people remember the film and not the book? Well, mostly because of this:

In 1960, that scene scared a nation off of taking showers, which inadvertently created the hippie. We don't care how many times you write the words "stabbity, stab, stab, stab" on the page, it just doesn't have the same effect as it unfolding in front of you. No, not even if you pay an orchestra to follow you around and make the shrieking violin noises.

Bloch wrote a sequel, called Psycho II (you don't often see novelists just stick a "II" at the end of their sequels, do you?) which the studio hated and refused to adapt to film, despite its awesome cover.

Instead they followed up the classic with a series of cheesy sequels in the '80s that were totally unrelated to his book. The studio reportedly didn't invite him to any of the screenings, in a great example of Hollywood "What-have you-done-for-me-lately" douche-baggery.

The Film:
Dr. Strangelove is Stanley Kubrick's darkly comedic masterpiece that uses his witty and cutting brand of satire to boldly assert that the destruction of Earth is, in fact, bad.

The Book:
Dr. Strangelove is actually based loosely on the 1958 novel Red Alert by Peter George, which differs from the film slightly in that it is not a comedy at all.

That's right, the inspiration for one of the funniest movies of all time has about as many laughs as the average Wayans brothers movie. Can you imagine a dry, mirthless and completely joke-free Strangelove? That would be like ... well, actually, it would be like about half of Dr. Strangelove. But the other half is, like, really funny.

The book doesn't end with the destruction of the world, as the rogue bomber gets shot down before it can drop its nuke on the Russians. You have to admit the film's ending is superior, because otherwise the message becomes, "Nuclear brinksmanship is a dangerous game, but it will probably turn out Ok in the end."

The Film:
This classic parable provides the audience with a moral that resonates with all of humanity: If you put monkeys in charge of society, don't be surprised when everything explodes. Meanwhile, Charlton Heston overacts, punches aliens and nails attractive women in a way that would make Capt. Kirk proud.

The Book:
The book was written by Frenchman Pierre Boulle, who also wrote The Bridge Over the River Kwai which itself became a classic war movie. His title (originally in French) actually translated to Monkey Planet, which we can all agree the studio should have kept.

If you look around, you actually find that they sell the book and DVD as a single set ... which, by the way, is sold with a cover that spoils the ending:

Above: Spoilers

The author's actual life was probably more interesting than either of those books. Boulle joined the army in French Indonesia during World War II, then became a special agent to help resistance movements fuck up the Nazis wherever they went. He got captured by Nazi loyalists and somehow this inspired him to write. Maybe the prison camp was run by armed monkeys, we're not sure.

Either way, he deserves credit for creating antagonists that were taken seriously, even though they're animals wearing people clothes. Science has conclusively proven that to be adorable.

The Film:
Charles Bronson fights a one-man war on crime by standing in dark alleys, waiting to be mugged, then shooting the muggers. One seriously must wonder why Batman never considered this approach. That would have saved him some time.

The Book:
No, the movie this was based on wasn't a Punisher comic book. There's actually a freaking Death Wish novel. The book is the same premise, with hilariously contrived justification for vigilantism and graphic depictions of the protagonist-killing scumbags. Though, to be fair, the novel only inspired the first Death Wish which sort of addressed the issues of victimhood and vengeance, and not the numerous sequels in which Charles Bronson strapped on a machine gun and killed every jaywalker within a 10-mile radius.

The author (Brian Garfield) was actually a Pulitzer nominee (not for Death Wish, though that would have been awesome). The book he wrote before Death Wish was called What of Terry Conniston?, which we're assuming taught him the importance of not giving your book a retarded title. He proved it by following up with Death Sentence, Tripwire, Fleshburn and Death Blood, only one of which we made up.

Death Sentence, by the way, was just made into movie; it's also about a mild-mannered man who goes on a rampage to avenge a terrible crime. How was it? Well, let's put it this way: They traded Charles Bronson for Kevin Bacon.

The Film:
It's Die Hard. Do we need to recap this for you? Yeah, we didn't think so.

The Book:
That's right, Die Hard, one of the least bookable films of all time, is loosely based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever, by the obviously fake-named Roderick Thorp. That book is a sequel, so you'd assume the first one was called Nothing Lasts Forev, but it was actually given the imaginative title of The Detective. It was itself adapted as a film in 1968. In that movie, the John McClane role was portrayed by ... wait for it ...

Frank Sinatra.

Go ahead. Look at Die Hard the same way again. We dare you.

Anyway, while no book in history can possibly top Die Hard (which we believe Roger Ebert described as "the cinematic equivalent of Hulk Hogan wrestling a bear. While on fire."), it does have the same premise (though all the character names were changed for some reason). A later book the guy wrote, Rainbow Drive, got turned into a 1990 movie starring Peter Weller ... the guy who played RoboCop. That movie isn't as well known, because the title made it sound like a film about a gay resort.

In some alternate universe, we like to think this connection led Mr. Thorp, Bruce Willis and Peter Weller to sit down for drinks one day. The three would walk away from this meeting in our alternate 1991 with an agreement to make Die Hard vs. RoboCop. In this alternate universe, the 1993 Academy Awards had to be canceled, because one film won every single award.

If you like this article, check out Rick's The 10 Best Animated Movies for (Traumatizing) Kids.

Or you could...

Spread some holiday cheer with this e-card from and IFC's Whitest Kids You Know.

Libraries Continue to lure teens

by Blake

This One From Last Week caught my eye. Why must we "lure teens" into the library? Doesn't it make us sound creepy? A quick search of some newspaper archives shows me we've been doing it for years! Do reporters do this on purpose? Some other goofy headlines:

USC library's lure: Modernized facility attracts By: Hammond, James T.. State
Warren library branch lures teen readers with style and clothing show By: Dunn, Andrew. Herald-Sun Books aren't the hook when libraries lure kids to video-game events By: Newman, Heather. Detroit Free Press Books aren't the hook: Video game events lure young people -- especially boys -- to local libraries By: Newman, Heather. Detroit Free Press
Library is 'more of a cool place' now: Video games, once shunned, are being used to lure teens By: James, Douane D.. Sun-Sentinel Library lures girls to books with looks: Beauty tips focus of event for teens By: Cuniff, Meghann M.. Spokesman-Review

8 bold predictions on Google's next moves

There's little doubt that Google Inc. is indeed king of online media. In August 2007 alone, Google captured 57% of worldwide market share among search engines, with more than 37 billion search inquiries, according to analyst firm comScore Inc. in Reston, Va. Add to that a mind-boggling stock price of $711 per share on Nov. 5. Not surprisingly, this dominance has led to endless rumors about where Google is headed next.

To live with books, perchance to read them

An apology may be in order. How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, the slim French bestseller which has become a sleeper hit in English translation this fall, may have a fantastic but faulty title. That's because unlike, say, the news summary magazine The Week, or the chic advice guide In the Know: The Classic Guide to Being Cultured and Cool, How to Talk... is not intended to help you cheat at life by appearing more sophisticated or educated than you really are. Indeed, the author Pierre Bayard has a sheepish admission to make. Has The Review/Interview.

Project to produce comprehensive digital archive of 60 million pages of federal government documents

Public.Resource.Org, the Internet Archive, and the Boston Public Library announced the commencement of phase 1 of a project that aims to create a comprehensive digital archive of 60 million pages of government documents over the next two years.

Phase 1 of the project will produce a minimum of 2.5 million pages of digital text using a scanning and optical character recognition (OCR) technology suite developed by the Internet Archive. The Boston Public Library is the first Contributing Library in the program, and has agreed to lend a 50-year run of Congressional Hearings from 1936–1986, as well as a complete copy of the Catalog of Copyright Entries. Scanning will take place at the Boston Library Consortium's Northeast Regional Scanning Center.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

OLA: The First 100 Days

ALA’s newest office, the Office for Library Advocacy (OLA), became official at the start of ALA’s fiscal year, September 1, 2007. Its existence is a direct response to ALA member needs identified through a number of surveys over the last several years. Advocacy is one of six goal areas in the ALA Ahead to 2010 strategic plan.

The purpose of OLA is to support the efforts of library advocates at the local, state and national level. The office works to create resources, training and peer-to-peer networks to help local advocates fulfill their local advocacy goals for the improvement of libraries of all types. It provides tools to help local advocates make the case for increased library funding, new and expanded buildings, getting bonds and referenda passed, and fighting library budget reductions and closures. Working with the Chapter Relations Office, the new office will help support statewide advocacy efforts, and will work with the Washington Office to strengthen grass roots advocacy at the national level. The office will also work closely with the Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA), Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA), and with other ALA groups advocating for specific types of libraries and/or library issues. The Office has grown out of the advocacy function within the Public Information Office will continue many initiatives begun there.

Under the direction of interim director Marci Merola, the office has hit the ground running!

  •, an advocacy website launched in June 2007, continues to develop. On average, the site receives over 60,000 page views monthly–and in September, ilovelibraries drove more traffic to Booklist Online than Google™ searches!

    As a result of efforts by the Chapter Relations Office and the Chapter Relations Committee, 25 state chapters are now using Capwiz advocacy software, which allows viewers (members and the general public) to contact state and national legislators via Special 2010 funding will allow the remaining chapters to use this software. Further discussion among Chapter Relations, Washington Office and OLA will address incorporating more library issues into the site and seamless use of Capwiz for both state and national issues. has begun promoting the Youth Media Awards, which will be presented during the Midwinter Meeting (Monday morning, January 14). (Use as your bookmark!). YALSA partnered with to promote Teen Read Week.

  • Three Advocacy Institutes took place, with a fourth planned for January 11, just prior to the Midwinter Meeting. There are still a few places left!

    A bit of history: In May of 2005, the Ford Foundation awarded ALA $80,000 to be used towards advocacy efforts. Counting the hree Advocacy Institutes presented during the fall of 2007, a total of 17 were presented under the grant. Although the Ford Foundation grant ends December 31, 2007, the Advocacy Institutes will continue using funds budgeted to the Office for Library Advocacy, both at the national and regional level.The Advocacy Institute Task Force (AITF) of the Public Awareness Committee (PAC) was created to oversee the Ford Foundation Grant and to help institutionalize the Advocacy Institutes into the work of the Library Advocacy Now! (LAN!) Subcommittee of PAC. This Task Force will continue to oversee the Advocacy Institute, looking for ways to increase collaboration and looking for new funding streams. Three Final Advocacy Institutes took place under the Ford Foundation grant in fall of 2007.

  • Work has begun on Advocacy University (Advocacy U), an online resource to help advocates at the local level. The ultimate goal of this project is two-fold: to have a variety of resources and tools available on each topic and to provide increased trainings at the local level throughout the country. Content for Advocacy U will most likely be divided into these sections: a bibliography of articles, websites, case studies; a tutorial on how to use outcome measurement; a syllabus for teaching others about advocacy; and a network of experts in this area that can be called upon for help, or to come and speak in local libraries or communities.

  • The Office for Library Advocacy worked with the Office for Research and Statistics (ORS), the Washington Office (WO), and three divisions, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) to create the Advocacy Statistics for Youth Project. The impetus for this project is that there many reports “out there” containing relevant statistics to help make the case for school libraries, but they are often difficult for an advocate or member in need to access quickly. The Advocacy Statistics for Youth initiative, funded by special 2010 funds, will allow partners to hire a researcher to pull statistics from these lengthy reports and create a web-based tool for members and advocates to use. It will be categorized under headings such as early literacy, closing the learning gap, relationships between school libraries and academic success, and relevancy of 2.0 tools. This will be positioned on the Advocacy University resource, but can be multipurposed as needed. It will serve as a template for similar projects through ORS and for Advocacy University. The goal is for it to launch in time for ALA’s 2008 National Library Legislative Day.

  • Finally, the Office coordinated ALA’s participation in the National Book Festival on September 29, 2007, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The booth was located in the Pavilion of the States, along with state libraries from around the country, D.C. and U.S. Territories. With a focus on the general public audience, the ALA booth featured, Book and Media Awards, Banned Books Week and Teen Read Week. Volunteers for the event included Pat May and Mark Bard of the ALA Washington Office, as well as YALSA members Pam Spencer Holley, Priscille Dando, Debbie Clifford and Kathy Fitch. OLA was grateful to the ALA Washington Office, PIO, OIF, YALSA, ALSC, and ALA Publishing for their assistance and donation of materials.


A Librarian's Worst Nightmare

Yahoo! Answers, where 120 million users can be wrong.

By Jacob Leibenluft
When it does battle on the Web, Google rarely loses. Last year's closure of Google Answers, however, marked a rare setback for the search giant. An even bigger shock is that Yahoo! succeeded where Google failed. Yahoo! Answers—a site where anyone can post a question in plain English, including queries that can't be answered by a traditional search engine—now draws 120 million users worldwide, according to Yahoo!'s internal stats. The site has compiled 400 million answers, all searchable in its archives. According to the Web tracking company Hitwise, Yahoo! Answers is the second-most-visited education/reference site on the Internet after Wikipedia.

The blockbuster success of Yahoo! Answers is all the more surprising once you spend a few days using the site. While Answers is a valuable window into how people look for information online, it looks like a complete disaster as a traditional reference tool. It encourages bad research habits, rewards people who post things that aren't true, and frequently labels factual errors as correct information. It's every middle-school teacher's worst nightmare about the Web.

The site's home page, which offers a real-time snapshot of the dozens of questions posted every minute, provides a good sense of users' favorite topics: relationships, computers, homework, pregnancy. These queries reveal why something like Yahoo! Answers might draw so many visitors. The questions—"Why does the stomach make funny noises when it's hungry?" and "How do stoplights sense a car?" for instanceare difficult to answer with a traditional Web search. If you're looking for advice on your new haircut or help on the third question on your precalculus problem set, Yahoo! Answers might be your best option. Most strikingly, Answers draws a large enough crowd that you're likely to get an answer almost instantaneously. Post a semicoherent question and the responses will come within minutes, if not seconds.

For educators fretting that the Internet is creating a generation of "intellectual sluggards," the problem isn't just that Yahoo!'s site helps ninth-graders cheat on their homework. It's that a lot of the time, it doesn't help them cheat all that well.

Take a popular question asking about common customs and beliefs among Native Americans. In theory, this is the kind of query Yahoo! Answers is made for. It's more easily asked in the form of a complete sentence rather than in a series of search terms, and it has a factual answer some users might know.

How did Yahoo! Answers do? On the plus side, the question received an impressive 97 different answers, including a few knowledgeable responses and helpful references. But several of the postings were misleading, confused, or just plain wrong. If you started off uncertain, it's hard to imagine you would read the responses and feel any more confident. To top it off, the answer eventually chosen as the "best" was, enigmatically, "American pie."

In some academic areas—physics is one I've noticed—the Answers community consistently does an impressive job of providing accurate answers and a clear explanation of how to get them. But in other disciplines, the site's record as an educational tool is, to put it charitably, unreliable. A recent question about dual citizenship attracted 12 answers in just two hours; some of the responses were nearly accurate, many partially true, and others entirely false ("yes it is true they outlawed dual citizenship in 2001 due to people going to canada and the uk for free health care while they were not paying taxes in that country"). Another thread on the relationship between Iran, Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden offered a few insightful responses about Sunni-Shiite politics surrounded by enough noise—"No one really cares except for people like yourself!"—to confuse or annoy anyone who might pose the question earnestly.

Some people might look at this mixed record and think that Yahoo! Answers is just like Wikipedia. But the differences between the two sites say a lot—about why Wikipedia has been such a success, why the Web's leading reference site is so hard to replicate, and how Yahoo! Answers has become so popular despite its flaws.

Like Yahoo! Answers, Wikipedia isn't perfect. But for savvy browsers who know how to use it, Wikipedia is an invaluable source of factual information. In the last two years, there's been a heated debate over whether Wikipedia is as trustworthy as Encyclopedia Britannica. This obscures a crucial point: Wikipedia is at least reliable enough that such a question can be asked. Take my word for it—no one is going to make any such claims about Yahoo! Answers any time soon.

Wikipedia's greatest virtue is that it is self-editing and self-correcting. The site's draconian efforts to consolidate pages and remove entries that aren't deemed important have a crucial side effect: They focus users' energy on revision rather than addition. By contrast, Yahoo! Answers is more devoted to quantity than quality. It struggles to prevent repeat questions from appearing over and over again. And unlike Wikipedia, the Yahoo! community expends far less energy trying to hide dubious or just plain incorrect contributions, despite a community rating system designed to flag them. Often, a correct answer will be hiding somewhere on an Answers page, only to be obscured by a tide of wrong or off-topic material that never gets erased. Wikipedia pages are subject to constant revision. If a vandal screws with an entry, one of the site's busy janitors cleans it up. If new information becomes available or a new user devotes energy to making improvements, then a Wikipedia article will get better even years after it's first posted. Yahoo!, by contrast, "closes" questions to new answers after a week, although users occasionally post comments afterward. While the site's answers live forever on the Web, each question attracts only seven days' worth of collective wisdom.

The small, almost obsessive community that built Wikipedia created a culture of reliability. For contributors to see their writing on the site, they must submit information that's clear and accurate enough to survive the scrutiny of other users. Yahoo! Answers has created a more formal, yet far less successful, reward structure to identify top users. Every time you post an answer, you earn two points. If you win a "best answer" distinction, you get 10 points. (The person who asked the question gets the opportunity to select the best answer; if they choose not to, it is selected by community vote.) This system highlights the site's greatest strength and its greatest weakness: Everyone gets credit for answering, but there's not a huge push to make sure the answers are right.

As its devotees would point out, Yahoo! Answers allows you to ask questions Wikipedia would never touch. Many of the site's users are simply looking for advice, local knowledge (like a restaurant recommendation), or an opportunity to start a discussion. But for these questions, too, the quality of the responses varies widely, and users can be stuck struggling to separate the good answers from the bad.

Even though Yahoo! Answers is so frequently sloppy and inaccurate, it's still the juggernaut in its field. Despite a rapid proliferation of answer-giving sites—'s recently inaugurated Askville just joined a crowded field that includes Answerbag, WikiAnswers, AnswerBank, and Ask Metafilter—Yahoo!'s is still by far the most popular. And in the question-answering game, size matters. While the others have a few clever features (like Answerbag's efforts to separate "educational" and "conversational" questions) or a more specialized community, the sheer magnitude of Yahoo!'s community gives it the upper hand.

After all, while Yahoo! Answers and its peers are classified as reference tools, what they actually provide is social networking. The thrill of Yahoo! Answers comes in the instant interaction: the scores of questions, the immediate back-and-forth discussions, the opportunity to feel like an expert, and, eventually, the promise a query will be labeled a "Resolved Question" no matter how difficult.

For a passive reader, this has the same value as listening to two random guys at a bar talk about what to do if you are driving during a tornado. You may not learn very much by eavesdropping—and you certainly shouldn't trust what you hear if disaster strikes—but that isn't really the purpose. The lesson Yahoo! Answers teaches is that, for millions of people on the Web, it's less important to get a good answer than to get someone to listen to your question in the first place.

Jacob Leibenluft is a writer from Washington, D.C.

Article URL: Puts a Bet on Privacy

by Blake

The folks over at continue to do some good work, and get very little notice. The NY Times took notice of AskEraser, which allows users to make their searches more private. and other major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft typically keep track of search terms typed by users and link them to a computer’s Internet address, and sometimes to the user. However, when AskEraser is turned on, discards all that information, the company said.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Books Go High-Tech

by Blake

Books go high-tech is a nice summary of all the high-tech challenges to the humble paper book. Audiobooks and E-books may just now finally be making some gains. Is this the beginning of the end for the printed book? Not yet. With $24.2 billion in sales in 2006, according to the Association of American Publishers, the traditional book industry still dwarfs audiobook and e-book sales. But if you are simply seeking to engage with the content of books, regardless of format, technology is providing alternatives.

As the different formats evolve, we're getting closer to knowing how we will "read" on future commutes. But the turf wars, you might say, are to be continued.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Congress Rushes Through Law To Protect The Children... And Make Open WiFi A Huge Liability

From the congress-folks-at-work dept

Congress was apparently busy on Wednesday moving forward with incredibly bad laws that are designed to look good to certain constituents, but are highly questionable in real terms. We already discussed the new PRO IP bill, but the House also rushed through approval of the SAFE Act, which is one of those ridiculous bills that everyone feels compelled to vote for to "protect the children." Only two Representatives voted against the bill (and, yes, for his fans, one of them was Ron Paul). As Declan McCullough's report makes clear, the backers of this bill rushed it through Congress for no clear reason. They used a procedural trick normally reserved for non-controversial laws -- and made significant changes from an earlier version, never making the new version available for public review prior to the vote.

So what's so awful about the law? Well, like most "protect the children" legislation, it goes way overboard in terms of what people are expected to do, and like most legislation having to do with technology, seems utterly clueless about how technology works. The bill would require anyone providing an "electronic communication service" or a "remote computing service" to record and report information any time they "learn" that their network was used for certain broadly defined illegal activities concerning obscene images. That's double trouble, as both the illegal activities and the classification of who counts as a service provider are so broadly defined. McCullough notes that anyone providing an open WiFi network, a social network, a domain registry or even a webmail service probably qualify under the law. Glenn Fleishman describes what the law could mean in practice, points out that anyone who runs an open WiFi network for the public is now basically required to snitch on anyone they think may be doing anything deemed "illegal" in this act, including viewing or transmitting certain obscene drawings, cartoons, sculptures, or paintings. As Fleishman notes, it "sounds like viewing an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog could qualify." Even worse, part of the snitching is that beyond sending a report and the images to the gov't, you're supposed to retain the "illegal" image yourself -- which would seem to open you up to charges of possession as well if you somehow screw up (if you follow everything exactly to the letter of the law, you are granted immunity).

If you don't snitch on anyone suspected of viewing or transmitting these images, then you, as the network "operator" are suddenly liable for huge fines. Honestly, the liability is so big that anyone offering WiFi is probably better off no longer doing so. This is one of those laws that politicians love to pass, because they think it makes them look like they're protecting children -- when all they're really doing is creating a huge and unnecessary headache for all kinds of service providers, from open WiFi operators to social networking sites to webmail offerings. But, of course, it moves forward -- with no public scrutiny and no discussion -- because almost no politician wants to allow a politician to accuse him or her of voting "against" protecting the children.