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May 25, 2008|Jon Healey

THE HOMEROOM

Graffiti his path to an art career

For those who have been following posts by Manual Arts High teacher Antero Garcia about using graffiti in his classroom lessons, the latest issue of the newspaper LA Youth has a story by Ramon Marcos.

"I'm more artistic now," Marcos writes about the art classes he's taking at Skillz 'N Action, a free, urban art program for teenagers.

"Before coming here I didn't even think about going to college, Marcos says. "I saw myself in the future having a lousy job that I would hate. But the Skillz 'N Action program has helped me tremendously by showing me that I can use graffiti and other types of art in a career."

--Mary MacVean

The Homeroom: Southern California schools from the inside out

For more The Homeroom,

go to latimes.com/thehomeroom

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UP TO SPEED

On seat belts, Volvo led way

The boys in blue are running a "Click It or Ticket" campaign to make sure that Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest on American roads, isn't memorable for all the wrong reasons. But when snapping your safety belt into place, regardless of the make of car, give a little thanks to Volvo, because there's a little bit of the Swedish company in virtually every modern vehicle.

Volvo is no Lars-comelately to the auto safety game. In the 1950s, the lap belt -- a safety belt anchored at two points that went across the thighs/hips -- was the contemporary technology. They held occupants in place, but were plagued by issues resulting from forces impacting on the body during a crash. Lap belts were used mostly by race car drivers at that time and were only available to the average driver as an option. Not a particularly popular one either. Given the choice between lap belts and whitewall tires, whitewalls usually won.

However, in 1958, Swedish inventor and Volvo design engineer Nils Bohlin patented what we've come to know as the three-point safety belt, the ingenious aspect being that the lap part of the belt could slip through the central anchor for greater comfort and adjustability. A year later, they were standard equipment in all Volvos.

An early British survey revealed that the three-point safety belt reduced the likelihood of death or serious injury arising from a car accident by 60%. This simple device has saved many people; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 200,000 American lives.

--Colin Ryan

Up to speed: The latest buzz in L.A.'s car culture For more Up to Speed, go to latimes.com/uptospeed

BIT PLAYER

MPAA wins more cash judgments

The MPAA announced two more verdicts in its battle against sites that provide links to unauthorized movies. This month, U.S. District Judge George Wu entered consent judgments against Cinematube and Showstash, two sites that aggregated links to video streams from other sites. Like settlement agreements, consent judgments are entered into voluntarily by both sides. In nearly identical court orders, each company was found to have engaged in "contributory copyright infringement and inducement of copyright infringement by actively searching for, identifying, collecting, posting, organizing, indexing, and posting on his website . . . links to infringing material, which has been posted on third-party websites." Cinematube was ordered to pay $1.375 million in damages for 55 pirated titles, and Showstash $2.765 million for 108 titles. That's about $25,000 per flick.

Hollywood's Encino-based enforcers have now prevailed against three of the seven links sites the MPAA has sued -- the other victory being a default judgment against the operators of youTVPC, which now appears to provide links to video streams only from licensed operators such as Hulu. Still outstanding are claims against Peekvid, videohybrid, ssupload and pullmylink.

The summary nature of the wins against Cinematube, Showstash and youTVPC don't provide much in the way of legal precedents for the studios in future battles against link sites. But then, the MPAA doesn't believe these operations raise any new legal issues. Although defenders sometimes liken such sites to search engines -- automated entities that simply locate content online -- the MPAA's lawsuits portray them as doing more to promote piracy than file-sharing networks such as Kazaa or eDonkey did.

Said Seth Oster, the MPAA's chief spokesman, in an e-mail: "The judgments against Showstash and Cinematube demonstrate that the courts are applying the principles of landmark legal decisions such as Grokster in finding that such sites such are liable for copyright infringement. And these latest rulings demonstrate that the courts will not hesitate to award damages commensurate with the harm they cause to copyright holders."

Not that the sites are likely to pay those damages. The defendants entered into confidential settlements with the studios that presumably call for less onerous payments.

--Jon Healey

Bit Player: Hollywood's lovehate relationship with technology

For more Bit Player, go to

latimes.com/bitplayer

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