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ASCAP Shakes Down Burning Man for Music Royalties

By ewhac in Fiction
Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 01:08:21 AM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)
Music

LOS ANGELES, CA -- Officials from ASCAP today indicated they intend to pursue music royalties from the organizers of Burning Man, an artist's gathering and celebration held over the Labor Day holiday near Reno, NV. The unconventional event, held annually since 1986, has never paid fees for any of the music played at the event, says ASCAP. "We intend to pursue all available avenues to get this issue resolved," said Tony Wilcox, ASCAP spokesperson.


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ASCAP -- the American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers -- is one of the major organizations that monitors and regulates public performances of copyrighted music. Copyright law entitles composers to a royalty when their music is performed in public, whether it be on the radio, performed by a cover band, or played over loudspeakers in a supermarket or bar, or even in an elevator. Composers can register their music with ASCAP, who then administrates royalty collection. When the composer's tune is played, ASCAP collects a fee from the venue performing it and delivers it, minus administrative costs, to the composer.

For venues wishing to play copyrighted music for their visitors, ASCAP typically offers a package deal where, for an annual fee, subscribers can play as much of their members' music as they wish. The fee is scaled according to the number of people who will be present at the venue and, therefore, will be exposed to the music. "It's very reasonable," says Wilcox. "You'd probably spend more per month on heating and electricity than for one of our licenses."

Burning Man, however, has never obtained a performance license, says Wilcox. Music is one of the staples of the week-long event, with mostly electronic music playing around the clock. 25,000 people are estimated to have attended Burning Man last year alone. That size concerns Wilcox. "Sometimes we'll let smaller venues like nightclubs slide on past royalties, provided they obtain a current license. But this is just too big to ignore."

According to Wilcox, Burning Man organizers had rebuffed previous ASCAP attempts to secure a royalty agreement, claiming that the organization itself does not provide the music. All music is brought in by the visitors. Further, Burning Man is expressly non-commerical -- the use of money of any kind during the event is forbidden. However, says Wilcox, that doesn't matter. "Whether the venue itself makes any money or not, the artist's music was still used in a large venue, and he or she deserves to be paid for it. Our job is to make sure that happens."

As for whether Burning Man itself should be held responsible for its visitors's actions, Wilcox asserts that it should be Burning Man's responsibilty to set policy on the matter -- either the music should be paid for, or it shouldn't be played. However, he concedes the law leaves the event organizers' role unclear. "The recent Grokster case made the issue of contributory infringement even murkier than it was before. Naturally, we would prefer to resolve the issue amicably."

But Burning Man representatives characterized ASCAP's position as ill-conceived. "First, contributory infringement requires we actively participate or encourage the infringing activity. That is absolutely not happening," said Jeremy Eldrad, a representative for the event. "Second, most of what gets played is techno, trance, and other electronica, 95% of which is not registered with ASCAP. So ASCAP has no right to demand royalties for music that isn't even theirs."

ASCAP came under fire in 1996 for demanding performance fees from the Girl Scouts of the USA for the songs their members sing around the campfire. Public outrage caused ASCAP to backpedal on its position, but Eldrad says ASCAP's threats against Burning Man are similar in spirit. "It's absurd to expect the Girl Scouts or us or anyone to police people to make sure they're not violating some copyright."

It's also not exactly clear, says Eldrad, how Burning man would license ASCAP's music. "ASCAP has over 100 different licensing structures, depending on the venue type. Burning Man doesn't really fit into any of them." Indeed, a look at ASCAP's list of license types suggests several possibilities: Campground, exposition, festival, laser show -- even circus. Eldrad says none of these fit Burning Man's unique character.

Wilcox says that's no barrier. "We're more than happy to sit down with the organizers and hammer out an agreement that's tailored especially for their event." Wilcox was evasive when asked if Burning Man would be made to pay for past years' performances, but hinted that ASCAP's position on the issue would be shaped by how readily Burning Man came to the negotiating table. But however they choose to do it, says Wilcox, "It needs to be done. And soon."

Burning Man takes place this year from August 30 through September 6 in the Nevada desert outside Gerlach, near Reno.

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ASCAP Shakes Down Burning Man for Music Royalties | 78 comments (48 topical, 30 editorial, 0 hidden)
Fiction? (1.00 / 6) (#5)
by debacle on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 06:45:07 PM EST

Ah, +1 if I vote.

Not bloody likely, sir!

It tastes sweet.

+1 Nice work /nt (1.14 / 7) (#6)
by thepictsie on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 06:46:55 PM EST


Look, a distraction!

Viral Marketing through the medium of 'Geek' [nt] (none / 0) (#10)
by toulouse on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 08:04:46 PM EST


--
'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki
--


Uh, No (none / 1) (#37)
by ewhac on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 08:09:24 PM EST

Truly, this interpretation never occurred to me -- that I'm flogging for Burning Man by stirring up anti-music industry buzz with a fake news story.

No, not at all. In fact, I'm not really sure what I'm doing. The idea for the story popped into my head a few days ago. Given the current political climate, it seemed disgustingly plausible, so I wrote it up. My overt goal was to highlight what a bunch of choads ASCAP and other RIAA-affiliated organizations are by illustrating their complete lack of principles other than making a buck. But I suspect, if this makes FP, the end result will be much different.

Schwab
---
Editor, A1-AAA AmeriCaptions. Priest, Internet Oracle.
[ Parent ]

Please (none / 1) (#46)
by TheGreenLantern on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 09:30:24 AM EST

Even Wired considers Burning Man passe. Do you really think there's anyone here who doesn't know what it is?

It hurts when I pee.
[ Parent ]
Solution (3.00 / 2) (#11)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 09:01:46 PM EST

Move Burning Man to Sealand or raid individual attendees for listening to pirated music.

Only the latter... (none / 0) (#44)
by Vesperto on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 07:49:24 AM EST

...since Sealand is the size of a basketbal field :) Hmm... maube they could enlarge it with funds from HavenCo and Burning Man, that would be an interesting VEgas-style venue. Naaaah.
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[ Parent ]
that almost sounds like (3.00 / 4) (#19)
by pb on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 02:35:37 AM EST

the story of SOMAFm, which was shut down for a while due to the DMCA, but is currently back and paying royalties, and is entirely listener supported.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
Rusty's involvement with Burning Man (none / 1) (#52)
by mentalfloss on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 02:34:20 PM EST

Additionally Rusty (who heads the station from what I gather) is a long time participant of Burning Man, so there's some interesting linkage there. (though not directly related to the issue)

The most sickening part of this, as BM already pointed out, is ASCAP does not represent the music played at these sorts of festivals.  They demand protection money, yet have no ability to send this back through their channels to the vast majority of artists.  If their royalties are based on random sampling of music stations, 99% of which do not play techno anyway, and 90% of techno artists _are not_ with ASCAP, then the befit to techno musicians is truly slim.

I'm sure all DJ's would be willing to make playlists if ASCAP is willing to review them and charge accordingly.  Nobody argues that the artists should get cred, but the fact is with techno music under the current system they never do.


[ Parent ]

yeah, (none / 0) (#64)
by pb on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 09:59:08 PM EST

that sounds like grounds for a lawsuit there--I don't think they can collect royalties for music they don't own.

On the other hand, I can see why one might not want to pursue that avenue...
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Spoilsports (none / 0) (#21)
by nebbish on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 06:05:56 AM EST


---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee

so... (1.33 / 6) (#23)
by eudas on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 10:21:42 AM EST

ASCAP:burning man::SCO:linux?

eudas
"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat

ah... (1.50 / 4) (#24)
by eudas on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 10:24:48 AM EST

IHBT.

eudas
"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

Stage 5. Acceptance (none / 1) (#59)
by noogie on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 03:59:40 PM EST




*** ANONYMIZED BY THE EVIL KUROFIVEHIN MILITARY JUNTA ***
[ Parent ]
nice homage (none / 0) (#70)
by Wah on Thu Aug 26, 2004 at 09:35:48 PM EST

if you didn't know.
--
umm, holding, holding...
[ Parent ]
no... (none / 0) (#47)
by G1itch on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 09:34:32 AM EST

ASCAP:music::SCO:linux

[ Parent ]
no. (none / 1) (#72)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Sat Aug 28, 2004 at 12:22:24 PM EST

Burning man censors. ASCAP:BurningMan::Baystar:SCO
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
Thank you (none / 1) (#30)
by pHatidic on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 05:23:41 PM EST

That was amazing. The only sentence that I didn't like was this one: "It's absurd to expect the Girl Scouts or us or anyone to police people to make sure they're not violating some copyright."

I know the style is making fun of the way these people talk when the get angry. However for some reason I find it hard to read the part "to expect the Girl Scouts or us or anyone to police people to make..." This sort of naturally breaks down into 6 or 7 little units that I have to read two or three times before it strings together properly in my brain. There is probably a word I'm missing here to describe this. :)

Grammar? nt (none / 0) (#33)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 06:02:07 PM EST


"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Just missing a comma (none / 0) (#50)
by Vaevictis666 on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 01:45:37 PM EST

Try this on for size:

"It's absurd to expect the Girl Scouts or us or anyone to police people, to make sure they're not violating some copyright."

[ Parent ]

+1FP (1.30 / 10) (#32)
by sllort on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 06:01:13 PM EST

I truly, truly, truly hope that this gets picked up by all major news outlets, and also Slashdot.

I am proud to have voted this to the fiction section, for great hippy irritation.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.

My Burning Man Photos & Obligatory Whoring (1.75 / 4) (#39)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 10:41:24 PM EST

I've been to Burning Man three times. The first year it was quite nice, there weren't too many people there yet. Later on the police & news helicopters always hovering overhead got quite annoying.

Anyway, I have a couple nice photos of Burning Man on my Burning Man page. Click on the pictures for enlargements! Do not miss this as there is a quite striking panoramic photo that I am very proud of. Maid Marian, one of the organizers, asked me for a high-res file so they could print and frame it for their office in San Francisco, although I'm afraid I haven't got it together to give it to her yet.

There is also another nice photo here. Just these three pictures so far but I have about a hundred on photo CD so maybe I'll get it together to finally throw some more up on the site.

As for the whoring, allow me to again point out my article Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads, especially starting at the section Change the Law. Follow the advice therein and ASCAP won't be a problem anymore.

The copy of the article on my own website has been Google's #1 hit for the query legal music downloads for an entire year now, with K5's copy being #2 or #3 for most of that time.

Maybe I'll drop Maid Marian a line...


--

Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy


airplanes land at burning man (none / 0) (#54)
by MichaelCrawford on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 03:24:06 PM EST

It happens that the playa of the Black Rock Desert where burning man is held is the largest flat spot in north america.

People show up with airplanes every year, typically a dozen. they just designate a landing strip, land there, and cruise up to camp.

One year some friends of mine who are skydivers showed up. They did a lot of dives, and one time they took me up in the plane and I watches as they all jumped out.

For safety I wore a parachute and was told how to use it, but not being trained I didn't jump. I got some great aerial photos of the camp though, I'll see if I can put one up on my site.


--

Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy


[ Parent ]

I'm a numbskull (none / 0) (#55)
by MichaelCrawford on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 03:25:29 PM EST

I saw that this was in fiction but somehow I figured the author did that as some kind of joke, and not because the article was actually fiction.

Sometimes I just don't get the joke.


--

Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy


[ Parent ]

I think this was a mistake (none / 0) (#43)
by bento on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 03:26:46 AM EST

Now you pulled on ASCAP's chain and they probably will come down on Burning Man. I don't pay attention to the categories, so I didn't notice it was fiction at first. Hence, you may have just spawned an urban legend, one with unpredictable consequences. I like the idea of ASCAP and BMI, and they seems to work reasonably well; I hope the copyright wars don't wreck this whole system.

Very nice. (none / 1) (#45)
by Vesperto on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 07:55:52 AM EST

I did notice this was fiction but i'm curious to see how many don't. It's a plausible and sad article. I've drooled over the Burning Man website in the past but the expense of going there is just too much. Maybe when i become a filthy rich site admin i'll be able to cruise in my yacth to the US.
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Not a Premium User.
I didn't. (none / 0) (#51)
by PhilHibbs on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 02:16:55 PM EST

Thanks for pointing it out. This is so plausable as to be considered deceitful.

[ Parent ]
Importance (none / 0) (#76)
by Kadin2048 on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 03:11:44 PM EST

I just think the importance of the article is how many people (myself included) believed it on first reading. That's the commentary -- not even the article itself, but people's reactions to it.

I just hope that everyone realizes that the bit about ASCAP suing the Girl Scouts for their campfire songs is NOT fiction. Because of the bad PR which resulted, ASCAP ended up settling with the Girl Scouts, giving them some sort of unlimited license for all their camps and activities, for $1 a year. But the point was...they didn't drop the claim for royalties, and the Girl Scouts paid the $1. So it was still a victory for ASCAP in principle.

Frankly, I'm surprised that they haven't gone after Burning Man yet. I'm sure it's crossed their minds, they must just have decided that there wasn't a deep enough pocket to go after, to make it worth the lawyer's fees.

[ Parent ]

What's the point of this? (2.80 / 10) (#48)
by Run4YourLives on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 10:48:04 AM EST

So now we're publishing fully plausible fabircations and hiding behind a "fiction" tag?

What is it exactly that you're trying to demonstrate with this? K5's voting stupidity? ASCAP stupidity? A free ad for Burning Man?

This site is out of control.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

What should we do, then? (3.00 / 2) (#53)
by b1t r0t on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 03:19:14 PM EST

Add an "advocacy.org" tag or section?

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.
[ Parent ]
The point is easy.. (none / 1) (#63)
by SlashDread on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 08:09:57 PM EST

Its a good social hack, AND a free ad... A free ad for the one cultural happening in the united states that is actually -interesting- at that. "/Dread"

[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 1) (#66)
by RegularFry on Thu Aug 26, 2004 at 06:16:29 AM EST

If I'd ever thought it was in control I'd never have signed up.

And I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this qualifies as satire, for which the fiction section is an admirable choice.

Just MHO...

There may be troubles ahead, But while there's moonlight and music...
[ Parent ]

wow, that was fiction? (none / 0) (#56)
by ethereal on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 03:43:49 PM EST

I didn't notice 'til I got to the comments. Good job writing the News that Will Be :) .

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State

And your point is? (2.00 / 2) (#57)
by cdguru on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 03:45:34 PM EST

If it is "Copyright is stupid", I guess you have exposed yourself as such as believer. Not that this is a terribly intelligent position to take.

If you are trying to say "Money-grubbing ASCAP tries to grab fees undeservedly", you might want to check some facts before spouting off. If there are some facts, why post as fiction? If you have no facts, this is silly. I might as well write an article that says J. F. Kerry eats homeless children for dinner every night and has cages of them under his mansion. Oh, I guess I'd have to use the name Karl Rove and everyone would believe me.

The Law Exists to Serve Society, Not Vice-Versa (3.00 / 5) (#61)
by ewhac on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 04:32:11 PM EST

If it is "Copyright is stupid", I guess you have exposed yourself as such as believer. Not that this is a terribly intelligent position to take. [emphasis mine]

On the contrary. It's the only logical conclusion you can reach if you want to retain a just society.

Copyright, as currently defined, constrains copying, granting that right exclusively to a single entity for (effectively) all time. Since all forms of communication involve copying data, all forms of communication can be used to potentially infringe a copyright. Therefore, the current regime leads inexorably toward a total police state, with monitoring everywhere, in every computing and communications component, all in the name of combating, "theft."

I contend such an outcome is not a good thing. Therefore, copyright must be fundamentally re-examined and re-defined.

Schwab
---
Editor, A1-AAA AmeriCaptions. Priest, Internet Oracle.
[ Parent ]

I think the point is (none / 0) (#69)
by epepke on Thu Aug 26, 2004 at 05:24:56 PM EST

The RIAA is quite reasonble and fair. Otherwise, why would I have to make up stupid fiction to criticize them?


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Eldrad MUST live! (nt) (none / 0) (#58)
by the hermit on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 03:47:06 PM EST



"Hail Eldrad, King... Of Nothing." (none / 0) (#60)
by ewhac on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 04:13:15 PM EST

I'm pleased to see someone else caught that hopelessly obscure reference, even though it's of no significance whatsoever.

I originally set aside the name, thinking, "Nah, can't use it, it was character's name in Dr. Who." Three minutes later, when I hadn't come up with anything better, I thought, "What the hell..."

Schwab
---
Editor, A1-AAA AmeriCaptions. Priest, Internet Oracle.
[ Parent ]

I loved that episode (nt) (none / 0) (#62)
by geigertube on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 04:49:06 PM EST



[ Parent ]
I would have voted -1 (none / 1) (#67)
by CodeWright on Thu Aug 26, 2004 at 08:31:14 AM EST

Except it's fiction. So +2 VP

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

I would have never known... (none / 1) (#68)
by BuddasEvilTwin on Thu Aug 26, 2004 at 10:23:00 AM EST

...had I not read the comments.

  However, I'm curious at to what are some of the objectives in fabricating a very plausible story.  I would especially like to hear from this author.

Oh. Fiction. Rats. I was hoping .... (3.00 / 2) (#71)
by ankh on Fri Aug 27, 2004 at 11:37:22 AM EST

Heck, for a moment I thought I might convince ASCAP to chase down the big-boombox-cars that plague the streets here playing music (well, only the base line usually) so loud it rattles windows a block away.

But, no ....

No problem.... (none / 0) (#75)
by Kadin2048 on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 03:03:31 PM EST

...we could do that.

Best way to start would be to threaten car-stereo shops into releasing their sales records of 1,000+ watt systems, and then just let the lawyers loose.

You'd probably also want to begin a simultaneous PR campaign about how these high powered stereos really have no use other than to publicly perform music and steal from honest, hardworking, starving musicians, and therefore everyone with one needs to get a license ... but after the first round of suits make the nightly news, this would backfire horribly, turn into a PR disaster, and people with stereos would drive around playing 100Hz test tones out of their speakers, just for spite.

The next step would be to sue radio stations for broadcasting their content to unlicensed "public performance capable" receivers, which would result in a disclaimer being broadcast every ten minutes on every station warning everyone to turn their radios down to a "private" level.

In six months, Sony would come out with a stereo where in order to turn the volume up to more than 80dB, you would have to insert a smart card containing your ASCAP license. ASCAP and Sony would lobby Congress to make these receivers mandatory, and make amplifiers that would plug into an old-style receiver illegal. It would be passed, but only when rolled into a new piece of anti-terrorism legislation.

A month after that, the smart card format would be reverse-engineered by some college student in Northern Europe and posted on the internet, and a black market of "hacked" radios would emerge. Despite intense enforcement efforts, the cat would be out of the bag, and pretty soon the corporation created by Sony to sell the smart cards would go out of business, and all the unhacked car receivers (all five or six of them) would become useless.

Sony would admit the idea was doomed from the beginning and blame the rest of the electronics industry, ASCAP would go back to suing the Girl Scouts, Congress would go back to finding new and different ways to make overly-tan foreigners uncomfortable, and all the lawyers would lie back in their floating lounge chairs in their pools, sip their Daquaris, and laugh.

Sounds like a brilliant idea. Who wants to file the first lawsuit?

[ Parent ]

Good, these God-insulting pagans (1.75 / 4) (#73)
by sellison on Sun Aug 29, 2004 at 03:43:31 AM EST

need to be taken down a notch.

Good old Christian Capitalism will stop this pagan insult to Christian America, where appeals to reason and sanctity could not!

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush

Meh (3.00 / 2) (#74)
by adrianbaugh on Sun Aug 29, 2004 at 07:23:32 PM EST

I used to be able to distinguish between fiction and reality without needing to check the story's classification....
"'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.'"
-
JRR Tolkien.
Another ASCAP Nugget (none / 0) (#77)
by Kadin2048 on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 03:30:42 PM EST

I just found this and thought it was interesting.... excuse me if it's a bit OT.

Apparently ASCAP owns the copyright to "Happy Birthday to You," and it's the most often-played song in their database (index number 380008955). If you sing it in public, you are required to pay the royalty; same goes for broadcasting it.

I think this is why most chain restaurants don't sing the usual "Happy Birthday" song when they drag all the waitstaff to your table to embarrass you ... it would be illegal, unless they've paid the royalty, and I suppose they figure they have deep enough pockets to make themselves a juicy target for a lawsuit.

It was originally copyrighted sometime in the 1930s, and from what I understand the copyright term is 75 years, so it should be public domain in the next few years. (Assuming our friends at Disney don't decide to push it out even further.)

xixi (none / 1) (#78)
by soart on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:41:15 PM EST

Burning Man, however, has never obtained a performance license, says Wilcox. Music is one of the staples of the week-long event, with mostly electronic music playing around the clock. 25,000 people are estimated to have attended Burning Man last year alone.
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ASCAP Shakes Down Burning Man for Music Royalties | 78 comments (48 topical, 30 editorial, 0 hidden)
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