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RIAA Lobbyist Becomes Federal Judge, Rules On File-Sharing Cases 333

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-call-it-a-new-strategy dept.
suraj.sun writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica: "Last week, Washington, DC federal judge Beryl Howell ruled on three mass file-sharing lawsuits. Judges in Texas, West Virginia, and Illinois had all ruled recently that such lawsuits were defective in various ways, but Howell gave her cases the green light; attorneys could use the federal courts to sue thousands of people at once and then issue mass subpoenas to Internet providers. Beryl Howell isn't the only judge to believe this, but her important ruling is especially interesting because of Howell's previous work: lobbying for the recording industry during the time period when the RIAA was engaged in its own campaign of mass lawsuits against individuals. The news, first reported in a piece at TorrentFreak, nicely illustrates the revolving door between government and industry."
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RIAA Lobbyist Becomes Federal Judge, Rules On File-Sharing Cases

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  • Payroll (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:40PM (#35659012)

    maybe the RIAA has forgotten to take her off the payroll.

    • Re:Payroll (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jhoegl (638955) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:36PM (#35660536)
      Isnt this a conflict of interest and grounds for appeal?

      WTF?
      • Re:Payroll (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:49PM (#35661202) Homepage Journal

        It is 100% a conflict of interest, and the judge should automatically be recused from ALL file-sharing lawsuits as a result.

        All rulings made should be immediately and retroactively reversed.

        Then the judge herself needs to pay a HEAVY fine for such inexcusable behavior. The kind of fine that will BREAK HER POCKETBOOK and give incentive for other judges to behave.

        It is time our judicial system got a dose of accountability.

        • Impeachment would be my suggestion.
        • Re:Payroll (Score:5, Insightful)

          by darkpixel2k (623900) <aaron@heyaaron.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @10:06PM (#35661834) Homepage

          It is 100% a conflict of interest, and the judge should automatically be recused from ALL file-sharing lawsuits as a result.

          All rulings made should be immediately and retroactively reversed.

          Then the judge herself needs to pay a HEAVY fine for such inexcusable behavior. The kind of fine that will BREAK HER POCKETBOOK and give incentive for other judges to behave.

          It is time our judicial system got a dose of accountability.

          But who would hold a judge accountable? Another judge? Surely you jest. There's a reason the second amendment is a part of the united States Constitution...

          • Re:Payroll (Score:4, Insightful)

            by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @12:55AM (#35663100)

            "Surely you jest. There's a reason the second amendment is a part of the united States Constitution..."

            We are well past hope of peaceful change, but still far too comfortable for the masses to act.

          • Re:Payroll (Score:4, Informative)

            by TheWizardTim (599546) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @02:03AM (#35663428) Journal

            We don't need to make threats of violence, we have Article 3 Section 1:

            "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office."

            This is not good Behavior, and thus is grounds for impeachment.

        • by Nyder (754090)

          It is 100% a conflict of interest, and the judge should automatically be recused from ALL file-sharing lawsuits as a result.

          All rulings made should be immediately and retroactively reversed.

          Then the judge herself needs to pay a HEAVY fine for such inexcusable behavior. The kind of fine that will BREAK HER POCKETBOOK and give incentive for other judges to behave.

          It is time our judicial system got a dose of accountability.

          Can't we, the tax payers, do something about this? Class action lawsuit? Sue the government? Protest in the streets?

          I'm tired of hearing of crap like this, but no solution on how to fix it.

          • by dsanfte (443781)

            There's no single enemy. It's not like Egypt or Libya where the regime is mostly at fault, it's all of us. We vote these fucktards in because they promise us wealth. It's like playing the lottery, and we keep doing it, because we believe someday we'll be rich too. Except it doesn't happen.

            The shared delusion, the American dream.

        • Next up, Republicans will disqualify any former medical malpractice plaintiff's attorneys from hearing a civil suit for a hospital. After all, they're likely biased against the hospital.

          Then Democats will disqualify all former corporate counsel from hearing civil suits involving corporations. After all, they're likely biased towards the corporation.

          Then Republicans will disqualify former union lawyers from hearing suits against employers. Biased towards workers.

          Then Democrats will disqualify any former pros

          • ...we'll have to grab twelve random schmoes off the street to decide cases for us.

          • by shentino (1139071)

            Which wouldn't really be all that bad of an idea.

            We could have judges on the bench before corporate influences have an opportunity to corrupt them.

            More importantly, they won't have any corporate payrolls on their history to contaminate their objectivity.

            Let this slippery slope roll, because it lands at an oasis.

      • Re:Payroll (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @10:05PM (#35661826)

        It sure is, just look at all the copyright legislation she has helped write.

        http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/03/riaa-lobbyist-becomes-federal-judge-rules-on-file-sharing-cases.ars

        "She then moved to the Senate, where she served as general counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee under Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has close ties to the copyright industries (Leahy is one of the big backers of the COICA Web censorship law that he guarantees will be passed later this year.)

        There, Howell helped to write CALEA (the law extending wiretap powers to the Internet) along with the No Electronic Theft Act (providing tougher penalties for online copyright crimes), the DMCA (making it illegal to break or bypass DRM, even if you want to rip a movie from a DVD you own to your iPod), and the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Deterrence Act.

        She then moved into private life at Stroz Friedberg, where she began lobbying for the RIAA, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Between 2004-2009, Howell was the only listed lobbyist at the firm; the RIAA was her exclusive lobbying client for most of that time. A lobbyist disclosure form describes her as working on "legislation concerning copyright laws as applied to digital music"—which she would be well-placed to do, having previously helped to write such laws."

        She was also paid quite well by the RIAA up until 2009.

        http://static.arstechnica.com/03-28-2011/friedberg_lobbying-1.png

  • Enjoy! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:44PM (#35659058)

    Enjoy your Corporate States of America!

    • Re:Enjoy! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tsiangkun (746511) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:59PM (#35659290) Homepage
      Fascism, with its merging of corporate, political, and military power, is almost complete in America. Too much 'rah rah USA, we so free, we so great, god just loves United States !', from a young age. Brainwashed people don't see it coming. Those who do go crazy trying to get others to see it. Even today, people who own a car, or a home, or even a business think they are part of the ownership class. They cheer the corporations on as if they will benefit. They believe they are part of the people who own enough wealth to create international policy, national policy, and military support of that policy. Silly people, they think they are part of the rich, when all they make is hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. If you aren't making governments bend to your desire, you are not part of the ownership class.
      • Re:Enjoy! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ckeo (220727) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:18PM (#35659520)

        If something can be taken away from you, then you truly do not own it. Thus, we own nothing it is just in our possession.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Dear citizen,

        Your comments are un-american and un-patriotic. I can only guess you're a pirate. You personally are stealing money from thousands of starving artists. Piracy is theft and funds terrorism. The government's first priority should be to track down people like you and make you pay. Your life should be ruined and the lives of your children for going against what we tell you is right.

        Yours sincerely

        RIAA/Your government.

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:44PM (#35659060) Homepage
    The alternative to the "revolving door between government and industry" seems to mostly be regulators who don't know anything about what they're regulating. Fun stuff either way! :)
    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:47PM (#35659110) Homepage Journal

      That's a false duality. There is no reason that regulators can't listen to the industries they regulate as long as the industries aren't buying them trips, cars, vacations, etc...

      • by PSandusky (740962)

        That's a false duality. There is no reason that regulators can't listen to the industries they regulate as long as the industries aren't buying them trips, cars, vacations, etc...

        In terms of avoiding legal messes of the bribery kind, sure. In terms of objectively judging whether or not an industrial operation should or should not be doing something? Um... no. Industry does not tend to be more ethical with its information than it is with its money.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's a false duality. There is no reason that regulators can't listen to the industries they regulate as long as the industries aren't buying them trips, cars, vacations, etc...

        your attorney is fucking your spoiuse. I'm sure you'd agree that your divorce will be equitably handled so long as they no longer have sex....

      • Yes, those who work in an industry logically tend to have valuable information on it.
        Of course, bias concerns stemming from that are just as logical.

        Another example is how repair personnel who often have the best grasp on what you need fixed are also the ones selling you the parts and labor to get it fixed.

      • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:25PM (#35660446) Homepage Journal

        If Congress truly wanted to prove themselves to the American people to be above it all they would ban any contribution of any kind from K-Street to any member of Congress or their families. Further more, they would forbid the same from ever working for such organizations. However I doubt this will come, it will take influence outside of the Democrat or Republican parties.

        Yet both are deft at playing people off each other, getting people to focus on the other party, which thereby keeps them in power. When groups rise up outside of their control you can tell as the media will line up and protect their investment, along with all the powers on Wall Street. The American public are only allowed to rise when commanded and when they dare do so on their own the entire establishment comes down in force. Unfortunately too many buy into it and side with the very people keeping them under the thumb of two political parties corrupt beyond repair.

        If you voting for a party your voting for your loss of freedom

      • by mjwx (966435)

        That's a false duality. There is no reason that regulators can't listen to the industries they regulate as long as the industries aren't buying them trips, cars, vacations, etc...

        This points out what most Americans and all Libertarians fail to understand about regulation.

        Regulation is not "the man" tying the hands of the "free market(TM)". Regulation is supposed to ensure that an industry can run properly, produce products as well as being profitable and competitive.

        Proper regulation brings in more competition and allows for better products or lower prices. Part of this is listening to the industry, who have a list of their problems and wants, part of this is listening to the

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Even if that weren't a false dichotomy I'd prefer a meddlesome regulator who follows the laws to the letter because he didn't "know anything about what he was regulating" to the lazy one that "knows which regulations don't need to be followed".

      Red tape may be annoying, but it's often there for a reason.

    • by metlin (258108) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:53PM (#35660042) Journal

      Welcome to fascism. Benito would be proud.

      Those that do not learn from history...

  • by Red_Chaos1 (95148) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:44PM (#35659066)

    but this is ridiculous. I honestly don't think that cases of this nature should be allowed to come before, or be judged by someone who has spent so much time fighting on one side of a cause like that.

    That's like asking an ice cream man to preside over a case or cases where someone is suing an ice cream company for them being fat or something (probably not the best analogy, but as close as i could think of). In short, this is retarded, and that judge shouldn't have been allowed to have anything to do with this stuff.

    • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:46PM (#35659094)
      Yes, I am pretty sure it would be grounds for appeal.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:57PM (#35659252)

        Yes, I am pretty sure it would be grounds for appeal.

        Like it would do any good

        I have given up. America is no longer free - political nor economically free. We're at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Western countries.

        We're no longer egalitarian nor is there any upward mobility anymore. Really there isn't.

        We're a class based society and there's no way out of it.

        For those of you who believe that there is, prove it - with yourself. Don't point out someone who made it big 40 years ago or someone who used his Harvard contacts to make it big, point out someone from East Butt-Fuck Idaho who went to Butt-Fuck State who made it big - show me him. No contacts. Someone with imagination, hard work, and intelligence - that's all.

        Nope. Right?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Bruha (412869)

          I agree with you, but there is still upward mobility. I came from a poor family, spent 5 years in the military working on network gear, and now make 6 figures as a network engineer and I still dont have a college degree. While I do not have a business card that says I'm CEO Bitch, I did bring myself out of the small pissant town I grew up in oklahoma and live outside denver with a great view of the mountains.

          Though on the flip side, I do not have it as good as in other foreign countries where my masters d

        • by Darinbob (1142669) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:13PM (#35660886)

          Hmm, how about Obama? He certainly wasn't raised in an upper class environment and yet he's got the top job. He had all the wrong stuff in his upbringing to be president anyway - raised by single mom and grandparents, moving around a lot, not a lot of money, etc. Similar story with Clinton, raised by poor single mom as well. There are similar cases if you look around, it's easy to point to lawyers and judges like this.

          Of course they didn't go to Generic State University, but you can get into prestigious universities without being a member of the prestigious classes, and you can get into prestigious post-graduate programs (law school, med school, grad school) even if you did not go to prestigious undergraduate universities.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Lord_Jeremy (1612839)

            Lawyers and judges. I think it's notable that it seems only those with skill in manipulating others are exhibiting upward mobility. What about the poor texas kid who's got a great mind for algorithms and math but can't go to college because of . In some parts of the country there is decent public education and a whole slew of leg-ups (scholarships, competitions, etc) for students to make their way forward, but it is still really hard to achieve more than the "average" quality of life through application of

      • by Kjella (173770)

        You know, I think the judge recruitment pool would be rather low if you didn't allow those that have either stood as plaintiffs or defendants as lawyers. Because if they're biased then so is the EFF lawyer too, right? Or is that just the lawyers on the side you don't like.

        Any good lawyer will - within reason - argue in the way his role demands. I don't think any lawyer could swear that he thought the client was telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth or that his side's legal theories or

        • by undercanopy (565001) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:31PM (#35659704)

          You know, I think the judge recruitment pool would be rather low if you didn't allow those that have either stood as plaintiffs or defendants as lawyers. Because if they're biased then so is the EFF lawyer too, right? Or is that just the lawyers on the side you don't like.

          we're not talking about a lawyer being biased, we're talking about a judge being biased. Judes recusing themselves from cases where there is, or even could be, a conflict of interest is not unusual. Her having been a RIAA lawyer creates a worthy argument for recusal, but i could argue the other way as you have. Being a lobbyist, though? That's a lot more conflict-y than just a lawyer trying to properly represent their client.

        • by Entrope (68843)

          The principle is called recusal. Look it up if you are curious. It is a serious and frequent enough question that there are pretty good guidelines for judges about when they must recuse themselves from a case and when they should (but are not required to) recuse themselves. For example, new appointees to the Supreme Court often have to sit out cases that came up through the circuit where they served before, because they were involved in that particular case before being appointed to the Court.

          (To answer

        • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:07PM (#35660828)

          You know, I think the judge recruitment pool would be rather low if you didn't allow those that have either stood as plaintiffs or defendants as lawyers. Because if they're biased then so is the EFF lawyer too, right?

          Do you really not see the shift you just made? You go from talking about the "judge recruitment tool" in a frankly ridiculous way, then somehow shift to lawyers to take a shot at the EFF.

          Of course the EFF lawyers are biased. So are the lawyers they're going up against. That's not a failing of the system, that's the point. These lawyers are their clients' advocates, and we have an adversarial system. They should both be as biased as humanly possible.

          A judge, on the other hand, is supposed to be not only capable of making an impartial decision, but to do so in ways and cases that remove even the potential appearance of an improper or biased decision. A former RIAA lawyer ruling on whether or not you can file against thousands of John Does is hardly impartial. It may be one of the gray areas where she technically does not have to recuse herself from the case, but should have, or it may be outright misconduct. In either event, she should not have been the judge ruling on this case.

          No, that does not mean the "judge recruitment pool" shrinks nor does it mean that she can't be a judge and can't rule on other federal cases. The same goes for those EFF lawyers you brought up. Nobody has a problem with them being judges, but they probably shouldn't be making any rulings on file sharing cases.

          It's like a fencing match and there's no such thing as unsportsmanlike [. . .] if your client won then you did your job.

          This is tangential to the point, but that's actually only partially true.

          Yes, if you know the law better than your opponent you're simply a better lawyer. But as a lawyer, you also have an obligation to the court and the legal system and there are quite a lot of things you cannot do.

    • by nomadic (141991)
      That's like asking an ice cream man to preside over a case or cases where someone is suing an ice cream company for them being fat or something (probably not the best analogy, but as close as i could think of). In short, this is retarded, and that judge shouldn't have been allowed to have anything to do with this stuff.

      Or like having a judge rule on a contract case where they once were an attorney representing someone during a breach of contract case? Or having a judge who used to be a prosecutor or def
    • by crhylove (205956)

      What do you mean? He's lobbying solely on one side BECAUSE he's an expert! Anybody who disagrees clearly does not understand the topic and is not an expert!

      LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

  • Just an observation (Score:5, Informative)

    by U8MyData (1281010) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:45PM (#35659076)
    Increasingly, our country is appears to be more like the Corporate States of America. Sad. Can I have my bill of rights, consumer rights, and right to privacy back please? Or is that now subject to subscription services? (plenty of sarcasm intended).
    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:50PM (#35659162) Homepage Journal

      It's because we say corporations are "people." When they have the "same" rights as people they essentially have more rights than people since they can amass so much power.

      They shouldn't have the same right as people because they aren't people. Giving the the exact same set of rights means the rights of real living, breathing people are lessened.

      • by Hooya (518216) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:17PM (#35659500) Homepage

        When they were given the "rights", they should have also been given the same liabilities as people:

        - lifespan of 80 years.
        - incarceration (everyone in the company gets locked up) for wrongdoing.

        (i know it doesn't work. just pointing out HOW corporations aren't people and therefore shouldn't have rights as such).

        Right now, it's much better to be an incorporated entity than it is to be an individual. They get all the rights, and get to enjoy it for far longer than any person and without the possibility of incarceration if the entity starts enjoying it's "rights" a little too much by violating the rights of others.

        • by Locke2005 (849178)
          Corporations were originally conceived so that volunteers working for charities could be shielded from liability for the actions of the charity. If they'd left it at that, it would be perfectly ok.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Seumas (6865)

      This isn't possible. President Obama said that the era of revolving doors at the white house (corporations hiring away whitehouse appointees and whitehouse appointees with conflicting interests being hired away from private industry) was over. Yet, that's all I've seen here. From a company hiring out nearly the entire IRS to help it pay zero taxes to a guy with no history or experience or knowledge in anything becoming the country's "CTO" to . . . this.

      I can only surmise that this has somehow slipped under

  • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:49PM (#35659126)

    How can any judge with even a sliver of a conscience not recuse themselves from this case?

  • if isCrony(judge){
        if isRepublicanAppointee(judge)
              blame(Repuplicans);
        if isDemocratAppointee(judge)
              blame(RevolvingDoors);
    }

    • Nice timing, you got in immediately prior to the person who posted the "Blame Obama" comment.
    • Republicans are blamed if the crony judge rules according to republican political or economic interests. Both republicans and democrats seem to be on the RIAA's side. You *could* blame democrats, but there's not much point unless you think that republicans are going to stand up for the little guy against the major corporation. In this particular case, I was not aware of who appointed the judge, and I'd find it believable either way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:53PM (#35659204)
    And confirmed by a Democrat Senate (in the lame duck session, right before the Dems lost some Senate seats in January):

    Beryl A. Howell (born 1956) is a federal District Court judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. She was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 14, 2010 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 27, 2010. (Wikipedia)

    Well, all you YRO types who voted for Obama, this is what you get.

    Too bad I had to post anon due to predictable mod abuse, because I am serious about this topic, not trolling.
    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:12PM (#35659438)

      You think a republican majority would not have done the same?

      They are all bought and paid for.

    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:14PM (#35659466) Homepage
      Well, all you YRO types who voted for Obama, this is what you get.

      It was pretty obvious Obama was not going to be particularly progressive where it counted. McCain, however, after his rightward lurch during the election would probably have gone to war with Iran, would have appointed right-wing nutjobs to the EPA, Department of the Interior, etc., and would have emboldened the Republican party for generations --"look how much we screwed the country up with Bush, and we still got re-elected, we can do anything!" So he was still worth voting for.
  • This is a bought and paid for judge. Not a doubt in my mind. Music war is on I guess. Pirate everything, leave them nothing.
    • Hell, there are whole classes of artists who are doing an end-run around the RIAA's megalopy. Pretty soon, they won't have much of anything to pirate that isn't already 20 years old.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Don't use you retarded view of the legal system as an excuse to break the law.

  • yet another (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jodka (520060) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:55PM (#35659230)

    She is an Obama appointee [wikipedia.org]. And not his first. [google.com]

    • Yes. We do know now that Obama is a corpratist.

      But you have to admit it simply makes the tea party's positions MORE laughable, not less.

      Socialist indeed...

      • Any more than a fraud = a contract. True conservatives want the crony capitalism cut off, because capitalism means taking risk, risk to fail, not be bailed out by Big Nanny. The Tea Partiers, while just casual, often first-time political participants, do understand this. No bailouts or special deals for cronies, like Obama's UAW peeps. This is what they ran on and why they won. To suggest Obama's corruption of the judiciary somehow lessens that message takes some seriously contorted reasoning.

        I'm not say
    • She is an Obama appointee [wikipedia.org]. And not his first. [google.com]

      I like a lot of Obama's campaign promises.

      His execution... not so much.

  • I'm certainly no legal expert, but shouldn't a judge with such an obvious conflict of interest recuse themselves from such cases? I was under the impression that's what a judge is supposed to do if the judge can't adjudicate impartially?
    • If she has no current financial arrangement then she may not be _required_ to recuse herself but she most certainly should recuse herself. Caesar's wife and all that. Complaints should be made to the relevant bar associations and her acaedemic institutions. See where it goes from there.
  • Is there a way to do something like impeachment or something to such a biased judge?
    • Depends on whether "reeking so badly of corruption as to blanket a mile radius with the stench" constitutes bad Behaviour on the part of a Federal judge (U.S. Const. Art. III Sec. 1) and whether two-thirds of the Senate agrees with the proposition. (Art. I Sec. 3 cl. 6). Yeah, that's... not gonna happen anytime soon.

  • A large number of posters seem to be confusing bias (pre-determined unjustified favoritism towards one side or the other) with a Conflict of Interest. A Conflict of Interest is indeed a serious matter, and not disclosing them can lead to censure, having a caseload pulled, etc. However, a Conflict of Interest would require a *current* financial or personal incentive to rule for one side or the other. Merely having worked for one side or the other at some point in the past is NOT a Conflict of Interest. J

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