interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘allegations of copyright infringement’

UBB vs. Small Business

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on June 8, 2010

No Usage Based BillingI’ve heard it said that UBB won’t have a negative impact on Canadian businesses, because businesses have business accounts, and business accounts won’t be affected by Usage Based Billing.

But Usage Based Billing will certainly have a huge impact on many small Canadian Businesses. Big corporations like Bell Canada might have “money to burn” but small businesses almost always operate on tight budgets.

Red Maple Leaf graphic

New Business

Private start-ups and “on the side” businesses are likely to enter the Internet via personal internet accounts, not business accounts. Many small businesses start out as hobbies or spare time projects with no bank loans or investors.  There is no outside capitalization; often just an idea or a dream begun as a personal project or a hobby financially supported by the entrepreneur’s “day job”. That’s exactly how almost all those eBay sellers go into business.

A good number of these businesses are created by students.  Or at-home parents. Others are begun by people re-entering the workforce after parenting or other hiatuses or perhaps after being “downsized” (before or during the recession). The clear advantage of setting up a business in this way is that a minimal cash outlay allows you to determine if there is even a market for the business you want to launch. It isn’t necessary to go into personal debt or apply for government grants or subsidies to get a business started this way.

A wide array of online services like eBay.ca, Amazon.ca, Elance, CreateSpace, Twitter, Identi.ca, MySpace, Facebook, Reverbnation, WordPress, Craigslist and Kijiji.ca have sprung up to serve the explosion of online entrepreneurs with little or no cash outlay.

But Canadians will be far less likely to embark on these small business ventures if they can’t afford to launch due to the inflationary cost of Usage Based Billing.

Red Maple Leaf graphic

Old Business

A decade ago the Internet was a luxury item; a time waster for most small businesses. That is no longer the case.

In the beginning small businesses without a computer or Internet component didn’t have to be on the Internet. If they had an owner or employee with the ability to learn how, or the budget for training, they may have put together a web page. Or spent money to hire someone to make a web page for them. Many companies started web pages or blogs, and once they were online, they remained exactly the same. Because maintaining, adding to and changing web pages is expensive.

But it is hard for a small business to justify contracting out or using employee man-hours to create web pages because most web pages don’t generate any income at all.

Big businesses like Bell Canada may have a budget for branding but small businesses usually don’t.

Many blogs and websites are undertaken by people without expectation of recompense. People create nonprofit informational or public service websites to educate and inform people about their area of expertise or subjects close to their hearts. These sites or blogs are in essence avocations or hobbies, although they often add to the reputation of the person or business behind it. They are not income creating websites. It is reasonable and even acceptable for these websites and blogs to be conducted under non-commercial accounts.

Canadian experts may think twice in future before taking on this type of web commitment once Usage Based Billing is implemented. It’s one thing to offer your expertise gratis, but something else to have to have to pay an unwarranted price for the privilege.

Canadians have led the world in embracing the Internet which means that in today’s world small Canadian businesses must have a web presence. It isn’t enough to just have a web page, it is important to continually add content of some kind in order to draw web traffic. Because if no one goes to your web page you don’t have a web presence.

If you are a photographer or an artist, you might want to show off your work.    If you’re a fine artist, you might use your website to show techniques and features of how art is made, educating your readers using your art as examples. If you’re a cake artisan, you will want to show a gallery of your creations. If you’re a card maker you’ll want to put your catalogue onlline. If you’re a musician, you’ll want to sell your music online. If you are an actor, you might undertake a project to do 100 Jobs. If you’re a geek, you might get together with other geeks and put together a website to tell people about interesting stuff.

Taking your existing business “online” may enhance your business, or maybe only allow it to hold it’s own. Not being able to will be detrimental to your business.   Small Canadian businesses running close to the bone will certainly be penalized by these sky-high Usage Based Billing price increases, and may well have to give up their attempts at establishing a web presence as a direct result.

The exorbitant cost of Usage Based Billing may well stop many small Canadian businesses from being able to compete.

Quartzlab Ubuntu Lynx Picture disk open on an aged IBM Thinkpad running Ubuntu

Red Maple Leaf graphic

Computer Business

An unexpected movement has been happening in the computer world. It’s called FLOSS, which stands for Free Libre Open Source Software. As incredible as it may sound to those of us who grew up in the 20th Century, people whose day jobs computing devote a great deal of their spare time working with others from around the world to create and share software. For free. Both free as in speech and free as in beer.

These people often communicate and work together exclusively though the Internet. And by working together they have created such things as GNU/Linux, the operating system used by most of the world’s supercomputers (like the ones at the University of Toronto), as well as a growing number of personal computers. (I don’t know about you, but I think freeing people from the tyranny of Microsoft and Apple is a good thing.) Wikipedia is another bit of altruism that could never have come to exist were it not for people working together for the good of all. The Internet allows people to come together to accomplish these things to benefit all.

Canadians who participate in these non-commercial ventures will now be penalized by the inflationary Usage Based Billing.

The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Red Maple Leaf graphic

Cultural Business

Like Vincent Van Gogh, who was unable to make a living selling his art in his lifetime (although his paintings are worth something today), artists create their art regardless of whether or not it is profitable. A tagline on a talented Canadian singer/songwriter/musician/recording artist’s website reads:

“Why music?” “Why breathing?”

Allison Crowe website

For half a century the Canadian Music Industry was been almost entirely controlled by the CRIA, a very small handful of very powerful branch plants of American recording companies. By virtue of their exclusive control of the distribution network they were able to force Canadian artists to sign contracts that were terribly beneficial for the record companies, but more akin to indentured servitude to the recording artists, who generally had to give up some or all of the copyright to their own work in exchange to have their music recorded, promoted and distributed.

Shirley Russwurm, Stompin' Tom Connors, Lynn Russwurm, Lena Connors

Pretty much the only notable exception to this regime was Canadian troubadour Stompin’ Tom Connors. But if you read his autobiographies you will see just what was involved in becoming an Independent recording star in a world dominated by the CRIA.

For most creators just being able to get their work before an audience is the most important thing. The Internet gives Canadian creators unprecedented opportunity to be heard. For the first time in history the Internet has given Canadian creators relatively easy and affordable access to the entire world to disseminate their art and find an audience. Canadian culture is thriving in a way it hasn’t been able to since the 1950’s now that artists can distribute their music yet still retain their copyright and control over their art. Many Canadian artists who might not otherwise been able to get established are able to make a living with their art.

Some will succeed and be able to do business, and some will never become viable propositions. But at least they can take their shot, which is why 30% of the Canadian recording industry is now independent of the CRIA. The horizons of our cultural smorgasboard have expanded. But like anything else, until creators begin generating income, it is reasonable for them to use a non-commercial internet access. Yet this is precisely the type of Internet connection that will at least double if Usage Based Billing is implemented.

Under the old music business model, the best way for a recording artist to become known was through radio airplay. This was such a crucial component of success that a huge scandal erupted when it became known that representatives for the big American record companies had been engaging in “Payola” which was the fine art of bribing Disk Jockeys to play records. After all, no one was likely to go out and buy records of music they had never heard.

One of the chief marketing methods of modern Independent recording artists is to make their music available to their potential audience, by offering the opportunity to listen to it on the artist’s website or download it. Recording artists may well give away digital copies of their recordings freely under creative commons licenses. If the website is in Canada, and the website traffic increases as the music becomes well known, Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing may well put many Independent recording artists out of business — right at the point they are about to become a viable business.

Many Canadian creators may find Usage Based Billing makes access to the Internet prohibitively expensive.

canadian paper money - photo by laurelrusswurm

Coming and Going

Every private Canadian who has chosen to host their own website and paid extra for a domain name– even those who have paid a premium to be get a CIRA dotCA domain name– these Canadians who create content on their own will be hit both ways: they will be charged Usage Based Billing when they upload content to their websites as well as when others visit their site and view it.

What this means is that the more successful the site is, the more expensive it will be to host.

If you are a recording artist, it often takes a while to build a following. Being able to cover the costs of your recording session is not the same thing as being able to make a living from your art. It takes time to get established in any artistic endeavor. And now it will be more difficult as creators will need to pay Bell’s inflationary Usage Based Billing during the difficult early days.

The only way to avoid being penalized for our success will be to make the painful but economically sound decision to put our primary content on commercial sites. A trade-off of exclusive control of our own creations in order to be able to participate on the Internet.

What does that mean exactly?

Canadian paper money, photo by laurelrusswurm

Certainly everyone is aware of the Facebook privacy issues. When Facebook first began their default privacy settings offered users a very high level of privacy, and over the years they have summarily changed them, leaving the onus on their users to scramble to understand and try to re-protect their private information. So that’s the first thing: when your content is hosted on someone else’s site, they can change the rules without your consent.

Another issue is that most of these sites are physically housed in the USA. and so fall under the terms of American law, not Canadian. The United States has had the DMCA for twelve years now, and under this law it only takes is an allegation of copyright infringement before your content would be taken down by American hosts like YouTube. This is an allegation understand, facts don’t have to enter into it. Brit Rocker Edwyn Collins had his own music to which he was the rights holder pulled from his MySpace page after his former label alleged he was infringing copyright. So when Canadians put our content on American web pages we are placing it under the jurisdiction of American Law, in particular the DMCA, even before our own Bill C-32 is passed. That’s something else to consider.

But economic constraints may in fact force Canadian creators to place their own content under the control of others and outside Canadian legal jurisdiction because of extortionate Usage Based Billing costs.

Usage Based Billing will punish Canadian creators for their very success.

The Flip Side

The CRTC accepted Bell Canada’s application to apply Usage Based Billing to the customers of the Independent ISPs as a means of “traffic management”. The intent is to force Canadians to use the Internet less.

This will impact not just on small businesses but big businesses too, because Canadians will use the Internet less because using it the way we do today will cost us more. Since most of us don’t have the first idea of how much bandwidth we are actually using, we will simply cut back on anything non-essential. Instead of casually using the Internet for everything at the drop of a hat as we do now, Canadian Internet traffic will go down. It isn’t just small businesses that will feel this crunch. We are still in a recession after all.

Usage Based Billing will mean that all Canadian Internet traffic to all Canadian businesses will go down.

The first time we met Cody.

#1 Cody on the Deck...Original Size 18.5KB

Bell Canada’s Bandwidth Estimator?

Clearly Canadians don’t know how much bandwidth we are using. Most us us don’t understand what Bandwidth is.

That this estimator is even necessary is a good indication why Usage Based Billing is an incredibly bad idea.

If we don’t understand what our usage is, how can we be expected to budget for it?

Or pay for it?

As far as we know. they will be making it up as they go along. Certainly without understanding how our bandwidth consumption is even being measured we will be unable to effectively budget our usage.

Because I’ve been taking digital photographs for quite a while, let’s take a look at measuring digital photographs.

On the Bell Canada’s Estimator virtual gauge I’ll select 40 photographs as my monthly usage. The Bell estimator tells me that this would be an Estimated Total Monthly Usage of 0.30 GB

I have spent most of my life as a mathphobe. That said, even I can see a serious problem with the Bell Estimator page which is supposed to tell Canadians how much bandwidth what we do online will consume. It’s quite simple really.

All photos are not created equal.

Cody in a Field original size 141KB

#2 Cody in a Field original size 141KB

This is the part that doesn’t make sense. To demonstrate, let’s look at this sequence of photos of my dog Cody.

#1. Cody on the Deck: This image was 18.5 kilobytes. To use 40 photos this size would be = 740 kilobytes

#2. Cody in the Field: This image was 141 kilobytes. 40 photos this size would be = 5,640 kilobytes

#3. Cody on the Beach: This image was 1918 kilobytes. 40 photos this size would be = 76,720 kilobytes

#4. Cody at Soccer: This image of him was 4241 kilobytes. To use 40 photos this size would be = 169,640 kilobytes

Because my photo sizes are in kilobytes, first I’ll convert 0.30 GB which would be 300,000 kilobytes.

Forty copies of my smallest images adds up to a mere seven hundred and forty kilobytes.

Two hundred times that amount would give you a mere one hundred and forty eight thousand kilobytes, again half of the three hundred thousand kilobytes that Bell estimates would be the bandwidth needed for 40 photos.

The largest of my images is Cody at Soccer.

4241 kilobytes is quite a large photograph, yet forty images this size falls short of 300,000 kilobytes, only makes one hundred and sixty nine thousand six hundred and forty kilobytes. Yet Bell says I will be using three hundred thousand kilobytes, or almost twice as many kilobytes as forty copies of my large images would add up to.

Cody at the Beach original size 1918KB

#3 Cody at the Beach original size 1918KB

What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the measurement of download speed, measured in how many bits per second you can download.
Bandwidth has also come to refer to the transfer cap being placed on Canadian internet users, which is measured in gigabytes.

Put another way, bandwidth is a data transfer measurement of
(a) how fast you can go at any given time – your rate of speed, or
(b) how how far you can go in any given month – your allowed capacity.”

Usage Based Billing: A Glossary

Since we are talking here about allowed capacity, I can’t begin to imagine what the measurement of usage is based on if not on the physical size of the photograph.

Then if we look at the difference in the size if the large and small images. Forty copies of the largest photo are much bigger than the smaller images. More than two hundred times greater in size. Yet Bell’s Estimator makes no such distinction. Bell says Forty pictures = .30GB = 300,000 kilobytes

Cody at Soccer Original size 4241KB

#4. Cody at Soccer Original size 4241KB

But in my world Forty pictures = (size 4) 4241 kilobytes = (size 3) 169,640 kilobytes = (size 2) 76,720 kilobytes = size (2) 740 kilobytes.

That’s quite a size range.

The kilobytes sizes I’m talking about are the physical size of my digital images. But even forty of the largest images only adds up to half the number the estimator says are necessary for 40 photos. How can that be? What is the bandwidth Bell is talking about?

I’ve also read somewhere that there was a considerable difference of opinion between Bell Canada and the Independent Internet Service Providers in respect of bandwidth measurement. As much as 800% discrepancy. So how will these usage figures to be determined? Will Bell Canada pulling figures out of a hat?

If Bell’s photo guideline is so vague as to be useless, even nonsensical, how can Canadians possibly be expected to keep track of our usage?

At least back in the days when AOL charged by the minute, Canadians could budget our internet use accordingly. We understood minutes.

Red Maple Leaf graphic

Cut to the Chase

Start-ups and trial sites ventured on personal web accounts will be less likely to use the internet as much or as freely — if at all — when Usage Based Billing is added to the cost. Doubling (or more) the cost to slow down Internet use will work. Canadians will be less inclined to use the Internet.

This will be bad for all Canadian business.

Bell Canada Logo

Oh wait: there is ONE Canadian Business that this won’t be bad for: Bell Canada.

Unlike businesses that have to function in a free market, Bell doesn’t have to trouble itself with reinvestment to improve the aging infrastructure.

Bell now has CRTC permission to charge whatever it likes, not only for their own customers, but for their competitors. I have no doubt that Bell Canada is happy that they will be able to double their rates without even having to improve the service. Sounds like a dream business plan to me.

Any corporation trying such a thing in a free market would shortly find themselves out of business. That really doesn’t sound very healthy for Canada’s economic future.



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10848 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.

Because Usage Based Billing will harm both Canadians and our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



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A.C.T.A. is still BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 11, 2009

No Usage Based BillingIn my previous two A.C.T.A. posts, A.C.T.A. is BAD and errata: A.C.T.A. is BAD, I passed along the sad tale of the 22 year old Chicago woman who made the terrible mistake of attending her sister’s birthday party at a screening of the movie New Moon.

Maybe ten or fifteen years ago I first noticed movie theatres promoting the idea of holding birthday or other parties at the movies.   Many of them offer special deals and party facilities. Just like MUVICO, the theatre where this incident took place.   And many people have unofficial birthday parties at the movies too.   Even though I haven’t, I have taken my camera to movie theatres and taken photographs of family members gathered to watch a movie inside the theatre on more than one special occasion.

Samantha Tumpach’s crime was taking home video of her sister’s 29th birthday party.   Less than four minutes of footage on her camera showed the movie screen. Maybe I empathize so very much because I am the photo nut in my family.   It might have been me dragged off in handcuffs.

TorrentFreak reports that the charges have now been dropped, and she is free again.   This young woman should not have had to spend two nights in jail for going to a movie theatre birthday party.

Pint sized Zorro poses in the Galaxy Theatre

My Zorro "En Garde"

I’ve made plenty of amazing Hallowe’en costumes for my son over the years, many based on movie characters.   The year my son decided he wanted to be Zorro for Hallowe’en was the year that The Legend of Zorro was released theatrically.   So naturally my small Zorro wanted to see the new movie in his awesome (Don Alejandro) Zorro costume.

Small boy dressed as Zorro sits in the movie theatre seat.

My Zorro waits for the movie to start.

So of course I took the camera to the theatre and took lots of photos of my Zorro.

And of course I was using my very first digital camera which had video capabilities.

Had I not been enjoying the movie, I could easily have taken photos or video of my little Zorro watching the big Zorro onscreen.

I wasn’t detained by theatre staff or arrested.   Seems I was lucky.

It doesn’t matter if the staff actually believes the MPAA copyright propaganda, or whether they acted out of fear of MPAA, the result is the same.

The movie industry put a patron in jail.

Kudos to New Moon director Chris Weitz, who contacted the Samantha Tumpach and offered his support.

The three minutes of footage she shot inside the theater, Tumpach said, also included film previews and ads, along with short segments of the film — and her talking about the camera and the movie.

“It was never my intention to record the movie,” Tumpach said. “You can hear me talking the whole time.”

Chicago Sun-Times:’New Moon’ director defends woman accused of piracy

Most people working in the movie business probably don’t support the draconian copyright laws the MPAA is lobbying for.   But they need to make a living, and so I can understand why feel they can’t speak out against MPAA lobbying or A.C.T.A.   Most are probably just as much in the dark about A.C.T.A. as the rest of the world, since most elected representatives in the countries negotiating A.C.T.A. appear to be uninformed.   This would be why A.C.T.A. has already sprung so many leaks.   Since President Obama has labelled A.C.T.A. a national security issue, it is probably far too dangerous for Americans to risk leaking further documents.   Yet being an international treaty there are many parties to the negotiations so I expect leaks will continue to be provided by people of conscience.

Stories like this reflect very badly on the movie industry.

More and more consumers are coming to realize that the media industry has effectively declared war on us.   Which is precisely why the major media companies are lobbying so hard to have governments around the world enact A.C.T.A.   The want the government to be the “bad guy”.

It is the real reason why A.C.T.A. is secret: so that no one will be accountable for drafting or implementing the draconian copyright laws that will necessarily result from ratification.

Yet if A.C.T.A. was in place NOW, there is a very strong probability that Samantha Tumpach would not have been released after a mere two nights in jail.

Tumpach dared to infringe copyright, even though it clearly was not for the purpose of “bootlegging”. Under the laws that A.C.T.A. is seeking, innocuous personal use “infringements” like this one will be treated the same as “for profit infringements”.   Even in the face of contrary evidence, MPAA and other A.C.T.A. lobbyists claim that file sharing damages their business.

Whether this is because the MPAA is actually so ignorant of what is happening that they don’t understand the phenomenon, or if this position is assumed to convince their shareholders that they are doing something to combat bootlegging doesn’t really matter.   Not only will laws like this fail to prevent criminals from continuing to profit from bootlegging, but the result will be uniformly bad for consumers and citizens.

Although A.C.T.A. means “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” it seems clear that the name is a product of doublespeak since it actually seeks to criminalize personal use “copyright infringements”..   They have tried to change the way people think by including anti-piracy commercials in theatres and on DVDs.   Since that has not worked, they’re playing hardball.

Why Secrecy is So Essential

The copyright lobby believes hiding behind A.C.T.A. secrecy will keep us from knowing that they are responsible for having our young people locked up for sharing.

  • They think that we will instead blame the lawmakers.   After all, they will have made the laws.
  • And the law enforcement officials.   They will be the ones investigating, arresting, prosecuting and jailing these copyright infringers.

The politicians also believe hiding behind A.C.T.A. secrecy will absolve them from blame. They think they will be able to escape blame by saying:

“But you can’t blame us for this… all the other governments did it so we had to do it too”.

Every parent knows the classic parry to the “Everybody’s doing it” argument: “If everybody else was jumping off a cliff would you do it too?”

jumping off a cliff at Tobermory

If everyone jumped off a cliff...


Since we don’t buy that excuse from our children, why would they think we’d accept such a feeble excuse from our government?

Do they think we’re stupid?

Because we will know who to blame.

Maybe I am just not subtle enough for this. Maybe I think too much in terms of black and white. After all, in the “mom” game, you quickly learn to skip over the shades of gray. You teach your two year old, “people are not for hitting”, because a two year old doesn’t have the life experience to be able to judge when hitting can be justified (as self defense, say).

Cut to the chase: right and wrong.

But then again, what do I know?

I thought part of being a mother was teaching kids the value of sharing.

Something else parent need to consider is possible consequences. So I began wondering what the consequences of A.C.T.A. might be.

A.C.T.A. Introduces a New Criminal Class

The special interest group behind A.C.T.A. believes that they will be held blameless for the fallout.

They think that once people know file sharing would will send them to jail, they’ll stop.   And that will frighten other people so they won’t do it anymore either.   Right.

It seems to me that now the people who are prepared to go to jail for copyright infringement are the criminal bootleggers. Like the alcohol bootleggers before them there are enormous profits to be made.   They feel it is worth the risk to make such enormous profits.

The people who are file sharing don’t believe they are doing anything wrong.   They believe that they can share music and movies they’ve bought with their friends.   I doubt any of them expect to go to jail.   (After all… everybody is doing it…)

But once A.C.T.A. passes and the laws of all our lands change, I think that many of the young people who feel so strongly about this will start expecting to go to jail.   I rather think that A.C.T.A. will increase filesharing.   I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the evolution of an A.C.T.A. underground resistance movement.   A war could well be fought between the forces of idealism and the forces of greed.   Sooner or later the young people who believe that file sharing is a good thing will be in charge.

Insult and Injury

Of course the ways to bring these nasty file sharing criminals to justice would certainly involve “3 Strikes” laws, where allegations of copyright infringement can result in websites being taken off the internet.   Even without A.C.T.A. currently the U.K. is looking at doing this with only 2 strikes, and huge fines.   This is being challenged by the British ISP talktalk who have launched a petition in an effort to prevent this bad law from being passed.

Every example I have heard of this type of law includes making the Internet Service Providers spy on our internet activity.   None of these laws seem to require mundane things like search warrants or evidence.   The accused is guilty until proven innocent.

Who will pay for this?

The jails are full.   In a world where murderers rarely serve as many as ten years, my question is, where are they going to put this new criminal class? It will cost as much to incarcerate a personal use copyright infringer as it will to incarcerate a rapist.   It costs a lot of money to keep people in jails.   Because the criminal justice system is so expensive, plea bargains are already putting dangerous offenders back on the streets too quickly.   What about the overextended law enforcement agencies?   Where will the money come from to pay for the police man hours and court overheads?

Who will pay to draft and enforce these laws?   Governments will have to foot the bill.
For the MPAA and the Canadian Recording Industry Association this is an excellent reason to put personal use copying under criminal law rather civil because that puts the onus for investigating and prosecuting (and just as importantly, paying for investigating and prosecuting personal use copyright infringements on to the government.

And since government money really comes from the citizens, the reality is that we will be paying for this.

In order for ISPs to spy on our internet connections and computers, they will need large outlays of cash pay for the specialized equipment and personnel to run it and correlate the huge quantities of data required.   Who will pay for this? The ISPs.   Of course they will have to pass along the cost so…the reality is that we will be paying for this.

Who will pay for this erosion of civil liberties and human rights?
The reality is that we will all be paying for this… especially our children.

Bootlegging

Bootlegging is wrong.   Videotaping a movie in a theatre or duplicating a DVD you purchased in order to press your own counterfeit copies to sell is theft.   As a law abiding citizen, I do not purchase bootleg merchandise from flea market stalls or retail stores.   If the vendor was aware that the merchandise was bootleg, I might even be inclined to complain.

But it seems that Hollywood isn’t even bothering about professional bootleggers.   So why should we?

Hooray for Hollywood

In the 1950’s Hollywood lived in fear of government witch hunts.

In the 21st century will we all have to live in fear of Hollywood?

STOP Usage Based Billing

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