April 29, 2004

CNet’s Rundown on iTunes [7:20 am]

You can find several interesting articles at this link: A tale of two tunes

I was taken with this claim cited in the first article:

A recent Jupiter study found that 7 percent of people buying music players prefer files in Microsoft’s Windows Media format, versus less than 1 percent who prefer Advanced Audio Coding format.

If you go to the CNet article, what you actually get is:

The Jupiter Research survey also found that 20 percent of consumers said playing MP3 files is important, versus 7 percent who would prefer files in Microsoft’s WMA format and fewer than 1 percent who prefer the Advanced Audio Coding format, an open standard that was developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group and which is supported on Apple’s iTunes music store.

The power of selective quotation, IMHO

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Larry’s Digital Distribution [7:03 am]

Probably in response to some of the snotty letters that the Times review of his book got, the NYTimes has published an article showing that, as was announced at the release of the book, Larry has put his money where his mouth is: Practicing the Liberty He Preaches

Originally, Scott Moyers of Penguin, who edited the book, suggested creating a free digital version. Mr. Moyers joked that he was persuaded by the author’s thesis because he had drunk “the Lessig Kool-Aid over the years.” He edited Mr. Lessig’s 2001 book, “The Future of Ideas.”

Mr. Moyers saw an opportunity in Mr. Lessig’s connection with a network of people who share his concerns. “Larry is part of a real community of interest,” Mr. Moyers said, and by putting the book on the Internet, “we can get the word out to the first-line people who are going to help us.”

“I’m more comfortable giving away the digital file of a book like Larry’s, that unfolds as an argument,” Mr. Moyers added, as opposed to “a reference book, or a book that you could really mine for the information you need online.”

Mr. Lessig sees the positive response as support for his argument that providing free content has advantages. “What so many examples around the world demonstrate is that free content actually helps push commercial content,” he said.

He said he hoped the method would “change the way many people distribute books.” If that happens, he said, “lots more content will be available online to people around the world, even to people who can’t buy it. If we’re right, it also means the sale of more books.”

So far Penguin is also pleased with the results, Ms. Godoff said. “In terms of the hardcover book sales, I think that’s kind of justified our gamble,” she said. Penguin said the book sold out its first printing, but the company would not disclose specific numbers.

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April 28, 2004

Glad To See The Tech Cited At Slashdot [6:43 pm]

And on a topic close to all our hearts: MIT Student Grills Valenti on Fair Use, discussing Real Dialogue: The Tech interviews Jack Valenti — a look at the dialectic of copyright today

T[he ]T[ech]: Indeed, but are you doing that when you rent a movie from Blockbuster and you watch it at home? … I run Linux on my computer. There’s no product I can buy that’s licensed to watch [DVDs]. If I go to Blockbuster and rent a movie and watch it, am I a bad person? Is that bad?

J[ack ]V[alenti]: No, you’re not a bad person. But you don’t have any right.

TT: But I rented the movie. Why should it be illegal?

JV: Well then, you have to get a machine that’s licensed to show it.

TT: Here’s one of these machines; it’s just not licensed.

[Winstein shows Valenti his six-line "qrpff" DVD descrambler.] [Ed: a description]

TT: If you type that in, it’ll let you watch movies.

JV: You designed this?

TT: Yes.

JV: Un-fucking-believable.

TT: So the question is, if I just want to watch a movie–I rent it from Blockbuster–is that bad?

JV: No, that’s not bad.

TT: Then why should it be illegal?

Rich Taylor, MPAA public affairs: It’s not. … You could put it in a DVD player, you could play it on any computer licensed for it.

JV: There’s lots of machines you can play it on.

TT: None under Linux. There’s no licensed player under Linux.

JV: But you’re trying to set your own standards.

TT: No, you said four years ago that people under Linux should use one of these licensed players that would be available soon. They’re still not available — it’s been four years.

JV: Well why aren’t they available? I don’t know, because I don’t make Linux machines.

Let me put it in my simple terms. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, that’s wrong. Number two, if you design your own machine, you can’t fuss at people, because you’re one of just a few. How many Linux users are there?

TT: About two million.

JV: Well, I can’t believe there’s not any — there must be a reason for… Let me find out about that. You bring up an interesting question — I don’t know the answer to that… Well, you’re telling me a lot of things I don’t know.

And here’s the Slashdot comment that points out that the problem is that copyright control has come to mean access control — and that, as an architecture of control achieved through the exploitation of the fact that we have set up a distribution system that depends upon technologically mediated use, a new kind of copyright power is being asserted, largely on the basis of an argument based on metaphor and a peculiar concept of theft as opportunity cost:

Re:Best. Excerpt. Ever. (Score:5, Insightful)

by RedWizzard (192002) on Wednesday April 28, @04:33PM (#9000541)

Linux users do not have a God or country given right to watch American Wedding on their Linux box.

The point is that they should. A purchaser of a DVD should be able to do whatever they like with the DVD and it’s content provided they don’t break any copyright laws. They should be able to access the content however they like, they should be able to transfer that content between devices and media they own, they should be able to edit it for private viewing, and they should be able to quote small parts of it as fair use permits. You are allowed to do all these things with other media such as books and CDs, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to do the same with DVDs (or TV broadcasts). Prior to the DCMA you could, but the DCMA removes all of these rights in an underhanded way. The DCMA removed the country given right that Linux users used to have to watch American Wedding on their Linux box. That is why we hate it.

Update: Donna at CopyFight - Valenti on the Little (Engineer/Linux User) People, referring to Cory Doctorow - MIT makes Jack Valenti look like an idiot

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iTunes Updates [6:28 pm]

The iTunes updates (already downloaded here) are described here: Apple posts major iTunes upgrade — a subsequent article suggests specific motives for the upgrade — Apple misses iTunes sales target by 30%

CEO Steve Jobs had forecast sales of 100 million songs, but in the end ITMS users acquired only 70 million - still sufficient to put the store at the top of the download service chart.

[...] “iTunes has exceeded our wildest expectations during its first year,” Jobs said in statement, the infamous ‘reality distortion field’ kicking in at this point, presumably.

[...] Among the good news, Apple slipped in a little note to the effect that it is tightening its DRM policy, cutting the number of times a playlist can be burned to CD from ten to seven. The move seems unlikely to be much of hindrance to heavyweight music duplicators, leading us to suspect it’s more to do with keeping the labels happy. By way of compensation, downloaded music can now be shared among five computers rather than three.

Slashdot’s thoughts: Apple Releases Major iTunes Update

Update: Wired News’ ITunes Birthday Gift: More Songs on the pluses and minuses of the new release, and the NYTimes’s article: Apple Sells 70 Million Songs in First Year of ITunes Service

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The Register Sees A Method To The RIAA Madness [6:25 pm]

The Register raises an issue that I’ve been posing for a while: RIAA tax could add millions to education fees

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is ramping up its plan to foist costly music subscription services on universities. The move could cost colleges millions, leading to higher tuition fees.

The music-label lobby group today dropped 477 new lawsuits into an already massive litigation pile. Of this group, 69 individuals were singled out by the RIAA, in a statement, for using university networks to trade music files via peer-to-peer services. The RIAA then went one step further and outed the offensive institutions, pointing to Brown University; Emory University; Georgia Institute of Technology; Gonzaga University; Mansfield University; Michigan State University; Princeton University; Sacred Heart University; Texas A & M University; Trinity College (Conn.); Trinity University (Tex.); University of Kansas; University of Minnesota; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

[...] Last month, the RIAA used a similar tactic, when it sued 532 more people. The lobby group pointed out that 89 of the 532 individuals attended university. The RIAA could just have easily pointed out that X percent of those sued were males/females, children/adults, Virgos or churchgoers, but it took pains to put blinking lights around the students, so the press would pick up on the signal.

That’s because the RIAA can point to schools such as Penn State and the University of Rochester that have agreed to run trials of Napster’s music subscription service. These programs are part of what the RIAA calls its “effort to reach out to the university community on proactive solutions to the problem of illegal file sharing on college campuses.”

(The heads of Penn State and Rochester happen to be close friends with the RIAA’s Sherman.)

As part of the pilot agreements, students at Penn State and Rochester get free music at almost no cost at all to their schools.

Slashdot, more generally on the suits: RIAA Files 477 New Filesharing Lawsuits; Wired News with the AP Wire release: RIAA Sues 477 More People

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Alternatives To Pure Prohibition Strategies [10:17 am]

More fallout from the SpeedBumps conference: Ed Felten points out that, once one recognizes the essential contradictions in a strategy of chasing prohibition of copying, there are other strategies that can be considered: Freedom to Tinker: Stopgap Security

[M]ost people have poor intuition about how to use stopgap measures in security applications. By “stopgap measures” I mean measures that will fail in the long term, but might do some good in the short term while the adversary figures out how to work around them. For example, copyright owners use simple methods to identify the people who are offering files for upload on P2P networks. It’s only a matter of time before P2P designers deploy better methods for shielding their users’ identities so that today’s methods of identifying P2P users no longer work.

Standard security doctrine says that stopgap measures are a bad idea — that the right approach is to look for a long-term solution that the bad guys can’t defeat simply by changing their tactics. Standard doctrine doesn’t demand an impregnable mechanism, but it does insist that a good mechanism must not become utterly useless once the adversary adapts to it.

Yet sometimes, as in copyright owners’ war on P2P infringement, there is no good solution, and stopgap measures are the only option you have. Typically you’ll have many stopgaps to choose from. How should you decide which ones to adopt? I have three rules of thumb to suggest.

Ernest’s thoughts from Copyfight - The Best Defense is a Good Offense

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Ernest on Lock-in [10:12 am]

Ernest Miller shows us another example of an achitecture of control: Crippled External Hard Drive for DVRs

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How Long Will This Last? [8:06 am]

Russian site is music to the ears — Slashdot discussion: Russian Music Site Offering Legal Songs By The MB

We weren’t about to spend anything like that, but we also weren’t prepared to do anything conspicuously illegal. We bought all those songs for $US48.65, or $66 in local currency, which works out, according to our arithmetic, to 6.8 cents a track.

That’s the apparently insane price proposition that a Russian site called allofmp3.com offers its customers. You buy your music by the megabyte, at the rate of 500 MB for $US5 and you dial in the sort of encoding you want: MP3, MPEG4-AAC, OGG, MPC, WMA etc at various bit rates using different encoders _ say the LAME alt-presets. If we were prepared to pay more for the bandwidth, we could elect to have the music encoded with lossless algorithms, giving us the same quality as the original CD.

[...] There is no indication in our dealings with allofmp3.com over several weeks that this is one of those dubious enterprises so much loved by the Russian mafia. Our credit card doesn’t seem to have been abused, and while we have no legal qualifications, we can’t see that it fails to comply with the Berne Convention on copyright. According to the company, “All the materials in the MediaServices projects are available for distribution via internet, according to Licence # LS-3M-02-36 of the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society.”

It claims it pays licence fees for all material on the site, “subject to the law of the Russian Federation on copyright and related rights”. We hope that this is correct, because under the terms of use, we’ve agreed we won’t use their services “if it is in conflict with legislation of your country”.

See also MP3Search

Update: The Register: Russian ‘legal’ music site offers songs for 5¢

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Office Culture [7:57 am]

A Web of Electronic Denial

Spyware is far sneakier than we had ever imagined.

Evidently these cunning applications are now leaping off the Internet and pouncing on peoples’ computers without any assistance from the humans whose office PCs have fallen victim.

The same goes for music files, games and video clips — hardly anyone will admit to downloading, installing or using these things on their work computers, but despite protestations of innocence, somehow these time-, space- and bandwidth-wasting applications and files have infested corporate computers across America, according to the Web@Work 2004 survey of network administrators and corporate employees that was released Wednesday.

[...] “No one installs it, yet this garbage is on so many machines. Obviously the spyware fairy shows up late at night and installs the junk on their systems,” said Keith Hitchens, who maintains networks for several clients, including a Manhattan public relations firm and a magazine-publishing business.

Hitchens’ spyware fairy is evidently one busy little pixie, visiting firms across the country on a regular basis. Forty percent of the systems administrators who responded to the survey said the number of spyware-infected computers at their organizations has significantly increased in the past year.

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Music Biz [7:34 am]

Neither the Boston Globe nor the NYTimes had been delivered (or put into vending machines) when I left the house this morning, so I was stuck with USA Today over my morning bagel. But I got to read this interesting article — Jackson’s finances are solid, adviser says. The interesting part to me is the sidebar:

Michael Jackson’s net worth is estimated at $350 million. The bulk of his wealth comes from his 50% stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which holds the publishing rights to about 4,000 popular songs and generates an estimated $80 million in annual revenue. Among the catalog’s artists:

  • The Beatles (virtually every song written by the Fab Four)

  • Elvis Presley

  • Willie Nelson

  • Destiny’s Child (acquired under Sony’s purchase of EMI’s catalog)

  • The Pointer Sisters

  • Stevie Nicks

  • Sly and the Family Stone

  • Conway Twitty

  • Pearl Jam

  • Acuff-Rose Music Publishing, a big country catalog that includes songs by Roy Acuff, Fred Rose, Hank Williams and Roy Orbison

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The NRC On the Patent System [7:28 am]

Wired News writes about a new NRC study, A Patent System for the 21st Century (2004) (online prepublication version), in :New Study Urges Patent Upgrade

The key recommendations:

  • Preserve an open-ended, unitary, flexible patent system

  • Reinvigorate the non-obviousness standard

  • Institute an Open Review procedure

  • Strengthen USPTO capabilities

  • Shield some research uses of patented inventions from liability for infringement (e.g., academic research)

  • Modify or remove the subjective elements of litigation [Ed: good luck on the latter!]

  • Reduce redundancies and inconsistencies among national patent systems

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NRC2000: The Digital Dilemma [7:18 am]

While hunting up another NRC report, I came across this one from 2000, which I have apparently never cited here - The Digital Dilemma.

From the report’s Executive Summary:

This deceptively simple problem illustrates the combination of promise and peril that make up the digital dilemma. The information infrastructure–by which we mean information in digital form, computer networks, and the World Wide Web–has arrived accompanied by contradictory powers and promises. For intellectual property in particular it promises more–more quantity, quality, and access–while imperiling one means of rewarding those who create and publish. It is at once a remarkably powerful medium for publishing and distributing information, and the world’s largest reproduction facility. It is a technology that can enormously improve access to information, yet can inhibit access in ways that were never before practical. It has the potential to be a vast leveler, bringing access to the world’s information resources to millions who had little or no prior access, and the potential to be a stratifier, deepening the division between the information “haves” and “have-nots.”

The information infrastructure has as well the potential to demolish a careful balancing of public good and private interest that has emerged from the evolution of U.S. intellectual property law over the past 200 years. The public good is the betterment of society that results from the constitutional mandate to promote the “progress of science and the useful arts”; the private interest is served by the time-limited monopoly (a copyright or patent) given to one who has made a contribution to that progress. The challenge is in striking and maintaining the balance, offering enough control to motivate authors, inventors, and publishers, but not so much control as to threaten important public policy goals (e.g., preservation of the cultural heritage of the nation, broad access to information, promotion of education and scholarship). As usual, the devil is in the details, and by and large the past 200 years of intellectual property history have seen a successful, albeit evolving, balancing of those details. But the evolving information infrastructure presents a leap in technology that may well upset the current balance, forcing a rethinking of many of the fundamental premises and practices associated with intellectual property.

[...] The Committee on Intellectual Property Rights and the Emerging Information Infrastructure believes that fundamental change is afoot. As a society we need to ask whether the existing mechanisms still work, and if not, what should be done. What options exist for accomplishing the important goals of intellectual property law and policy in the digital age? Test cases are now the stuff of daily news, as for example the upheaval in music publishing and distribution caused by digital recording and the MP3 format. The committee believes that society needs to look further out than today’s crisis, try to understand the nature of the changes taking place, and determine as best it can what their consequences might be, what it would wish them to be, and how it might steer toward fulfilling the promise and avoiding the perils. Stimulating that longer-range exploration is the purpose of this report.

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Media Formats and Ideological Compromise [7:07 am]

Linux seller licenses Windows Media technology

Historically, open-source advocates have tried to sidestep Microsoft technology or provide compatibility through reverse-engineering, or deducing, the inner workings of Microsoft’s software. Providing compatibility with Microsoft technology is a double-edged sword for its rivals–it makes it easier to dovetail with the dominant force in desktop computer software, but it also reinforces its power.

“It obviously helps us for interoperability, (but) I still wish the standards were open,” said Miguel de Icaza, a longtime desktop Linux developer and now a Novell technology executive. “That’s the biggest the problem we have now for Linux adoption. Microsoft keeps coming up with new protocols and file formats and APIs (application programming interfaces)…and maybe they license the technology, maybe they don’t.”

Jennings said Turbolinux worked for about six months with Microsoft in Japan and Redmond, Wash., to sign several contracts permitting use of the Windows Media 9 codecs–the coding-decoding engines used to process the media files. However, Turbolinux doesn’t support Microsoft’s encryption technologies, he said.

Slashdot: Turbolinux Licenses Windows Media 9

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Finally, A Media Outlet Takes The Plunge [7:02 am]

For those of us who remember the “days in captivity” count that got Nightline started (and certainly didn’t do Jimmy Carter any good), it’s about time we saw them take up a similar duty in the current conflict: ‘Nightline’ to Read Off Iraq War Dead

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April 27, 2004

Congress Giveth and Congress Taketh Away [11:33 am]

It’s not all copyright, y’ know — sweeping language can get written into all sorts of legislation.

Congress Threatens Live Music, Fans And Music Industry Fight Back

Congress is considering two bills that would hold bands, DJs, bartenders, promoters, venue owners, radio stations and others liable if a patron uses drugs at a nightclub or concert. Legal experts and business owners warn the legislation would devastate the music industry and could spell the end of live music, especially large music festivals like South by Southwest and Burning Man. Music fans, bar and nightclub owners, and music promoters are launching a national campaign to defeat the legislation.

[...] The Ecstasy Awareness Act (H.R. 2962) would throw anyone in jail who “profits monetarily from a rave or similar electronic dance event knowing or having reason to know” some event-goers may use drugs at the event. Similarly, Section 305 of the CLEAN-UP Act (H.R. 834) makes it a federal crime - punishable by up to nine years in prison - to promote “any rave, dance, music, or other entertainment event, that takes place under circumstances where the promoter knows or reasonably ought to know that a controlled substance will be used or distributed.”

[...] In response to both bills, the Drug Policy Alliance declared April 24th a “Day and Night of Outrage” over the legislation and launched a website, www.protectlivemusic.org, to coordinate the work of thousands of concerns music fans and business owners. [...]

“The government can’t even keep drugs out of its own schools and prisons, yet it is seeking to punish business owners that can’t stop their patrons from using drugs,” said Bill Piper. “If these bills become law, innocent business owners could go to jail and music fans may be unable to see their favorite artist live. That’s why business owners and music fans are organizing to protect live music.”

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There Should Be Quite A Back-Story On This Release [11:31 am]

Like — how record companies use P2P data to target CD sales, maybe? ARIA Board Defends Freeloading Practice (who picked this title?) (See below — I thought I had seen this before!)

Recent attempts to try and link illegal downloading and file sharing with the legal distribution of CDs in the record industry are absurd.

Given the role and activities of ARIA, It is necessary for its management to be across music releases and in this regard the CEO of ARIA is provided from time to time with CDs from member companies. ARIA rejects any attempt to cast a shadow over the ARIA management for receiving promotional CDs in the course of their work at ARIA which includes the production of the ARIA Awards and weekly music charts.

It is noteworthy that this attack is occurring at a time - when major litigation in Australia is taking place over music file sharing and illegal downloading, as well as a review of the digital agenda provisions of the Copyright Act is being conducted.

The attempt to link the subject matter of that court action with lawful distribution of CDs, in this case to the ARIA office, is flawed.

Source: ARIA Board


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Taking the PC Out Of Content Distribution [11:21 am]

All together now: "closed architecture" — Japanese CE firms launch Any Music

f music devices are going to have to become intelligent in order to run a DRM protection scheme, then they might just as well run a communications stack and browser and communicate directly with music web sites. Why put music through a PC every time?

And that’s just what Sony, Sharp, Kenwood, Pioneer, Onkyo, D&M Holdings, JVC and Yamaha think. This makes a lot of sense for companies that do not want to cede control over music to PC-oriented companies like Microsoft and Intel.

So in February all these companies got together to work out the technical issues involved and formed a company called Any Music. They plan to launch their services on 20 May and announced their plans this week. They have already formulated a set of common specifications for them all to manufacture to.

The Any Music site is all in Japanese, but see this Sharp press release: Establishment of “Any Music Inc.” - Operational Company for Music Distribution Service which Starts from May 20, 2004; MI2N’s copy

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IBM’s DRM Proposal [11:16 am]

IBM makes late DRM bid

xCP is a one-way process for dropping not one, but multiple layers of encryption keys onto intelligent media playing devices in the home, be they set-tops, TiVos or other DVRs, Windows machines, MP3 players, digital TVs or DVD players. If the devices have a disk drive then they act as servers for the encryption keys and control the rights of the other, tethered devices.

The devices don’t get a say in which encryption key they sign up for, so this is a much easier scheme to bring into a home than previous PKI systems that have segregated public and private keys and which require a two way communication process to set them up. Now when a piece of film or music is copied from a commercial server, the keys can be automatically calculated and set working. When the content is copied, the keys are copied, until the content runs out of allocated rights.

There is one encryption key for all the devices to talk to each other and make content copies to one another, and another encryption key for every piece of media that can be used across all of the devices on the network. The second encryption key is decoded by the first and used to play music or film.

There is complex algorithmic calculation, which can be regularly re-calibrated when the network changes, and none of the keys, those protecting the media or those used for the devices to talk to each other, ever need to be known by a content purchaser, who just needs to what rights they have bought.

A November 2004 ACM paper: eXtensible Content Protection by Florian Pestoni and Clemens Drews

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Xbox mods OK in Spain - for now [10:43 am]

Spanish judge rules X-Box mods ‘legal’

A Spanish judge has ruled that modifications to games consoles to allow them to play DVDs and games from other countries “are not illegal”.

[...] The judge noted that such modifications “might constitute a crime against the intellectual property of the equipment manufacturers”, but he concluded that there is a legal loophole in the “Ley de Propiedad Intelectual” (Intellectual Property Law) which means that they are, by default, legal.

The loophole exists in article 270 of the penal code, which mentions “the manufacture, distribution or possession of means to crack computer programme security codes”. It does not, however, cover “components of video games players nor, in general, equipment designed to run image or sound software”.

See also: Xbox 2 innards laid bare on web

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Plus ça change…. [9:52 am]

Once again, technology is not the complete solution: Maujempur Journal: On New Voting Machine, the Same Old Fraud

In less than 30 minutes on Monday morning, workers from a local political party, which political analysts say has kept Bihar’s 100 million people mired in poverty, seized control of the voting machine. An old India abruptly reappeared, one that shows that the country still faces pitfalls as it pursues its dream of becoming a global economic and political power.

In what appeared to be a carefully planned series of events, two small bombs exploded near the polling place and party workers threatened the five policemen guarding the booth and then brazenly took control of it. As poll workers and policemen averted their eyes, young party workers pushed the button for their party on the electronic voting machine over and over again, casting vote after fraudulent vote.

The men had carried out a new version of a storied Indian electoral trick: “booth capturing,” in which armed thugs hired by political parties seize control of a polling place and stuff ballot boxes. The events on Monday suggest that like the rest of India, the country’s political operatives are becoming more businesslike and more technologically savvy.

“Now they don’t say it is booth capturing,” said Saadat Hasan Mintu, Bihar’s assistant chief electoral officer. “It is booth management.”

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