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Tech bits

LED bulbs take over on Ann Arbor streets

How many Ann Arbor city workers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Soon, none.

Instead, they will be installing light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, to replace about 1,400 street lights.

The ecofriendly city about 30 miles west of Detroit says it will be the nation’s first to convert all downtown street lights to LED technology, which uses less than half the energy of traditional bulbs and could save the community $100,000 a year.

“LEDs pay for themselves in four years,” said Mayor John Hieftje, who announced the city’s plans last month as it joined Raleigh, N.C., and Toronto in the LED City initiative, an industry-government group working to evaluate, deploy and promote LED lighting.

“They provide the same light, but they last 10 years. We had to replace the old ones every two years.”

LEDs, small chips usually encased in a glass dome, have been used in electronics for decades.

Lighting consumes 22 percent of the electricity produced in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and widespread use of LED technology could cut consumption in half.

Music industry targets Usenet

The recording industry is going after an old-fashioned online bulletin board system called Usenet, filing a lawsuit against one provider on grounds it allows users to illegally distribute copyright-protected music.

Music companies, represented by the trade group Recording Industry Association of America, said Internet users have been turning to Usenet and other alternatives after the entertainment industry’s legal actions forced several online file-sharing services to close or transform into legal music distributors.

Usenet has its roots in the late 1970s and, unlike the scores of Web-based bulletin boards that followed, it runs over a dispersed collection of computer servers worldwide with no one company or individual in control.

Federal copyright law offers online providers some immunity from copyright lawsuits over their users’ activities. But the recording industry might still prevail if it can prove the service provider encourages illegal activity through its advertising or promotional materials, said Wendy Seltzer, a fellow with Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She described the distinction as “a fine line.”

Usenet’s use has been in relative decline, but it remains popular for trading images, songs and other multimedia files.

The lawsuit cites the company’s Web site, which reads in part, “Today’s hottest way of sharing MP3 files over the Internet is Usenet.”

– Associated Press