Student wins $1500 copyright protection contest with copied entry -

A university student in central Taiwan entered a poster design competition to promote copyright protection last year and won the top prize, taking home US$1500.

But it turns out he copied the artwork he used from a Dutch artist named Dennis Sibeijn. Sibeijn's poster in Holland featured a paper plane and was titled "Truth". Guess what? Taiwan's local copycat featured the same paper airplane for his poster. Oops!

He has been ordered to return the prize money and could face a jail term of three years if the Dutch artist decides to sue him for copyright infringement.

How did this case come to light? An alert subway rider in Taipei, who had been to Holland recently and seen Sibeijn's poster, spotted the similarity of the designs. The Taiwan poster was posted in all the metropolitican subways this summer to warn the public about copyright theft.

The "theft" was duly reported to the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office, and all the posters have now been taken down.

The university student told local media that he was sorry for what he did, noting: "I needed the money!"

Teen calls for ''one year school break''

In related news, a teenager faces a possible jail term for spreading false information online during a recent typhoon.

The 14-year-old tech-savvy student copied a ''typhoon-day notice'' from a government website, changed it, and published it on his own site, but cleverly and light-heartedly changed the text to read that schools in Taiwan "will be closed for one year."

The original notice from the government spoke of a mere "one-day typhoon vacation", as they are called here.

Under police questioning, the teenage boy admitted that he had uploaded the altered web page to twft.co.cc/class.html, which he had registered in a foreign country.

After the false notice appeared on the student's website, it was copied on several blogs and other websites across Taiwan.

The teen said it was all just a prank that he did purely for fun. "I deeply regret my actions," he told local reporters. He could face a prison sentence of between one and seven years for his prank, which included forging a government website and spreading false information, according to police.

Sex From a Machine?

Across the waters in tech-savvy Japan, Taiwan's northerly Asian neighbor, there's happier news.

New high-tech vending machines in the Land of the Rising Sun make consumers' choices for them, using a camera and software that recognises a person's gender and 10-year age band with about 75 percent accuracy.

Using point-of-sale data, the vending machines can look at a person and suggest a sports drink or a cold can of espresso coffee based on its accumulated marketing wisdom.

When a middle-aged housewife tried her luck the other day with one of the trendy vending units, she put in her money and watched as the machine scrutinised her with its digital brain for a second and then recommended three drinks on its 47-inch touch-screen display, including a flavoured tea.

She of coruse told reporters that the machine guessed correctly, picking one of her favorites, adding that she would take on board the machine's suggestions again in future, especially "when I can't make a decision." She might have been a PR plant for the company that makes the machines, however.

To protect consumers' privacy, images are deleted immediately, but data on gender, age and purchasing choice is accumulated, according to JR East Water Business, which operates the machines.

"We have data on what was sold, where and when," the firm's PR office said. "On top of that, we'll get information on customer attributes, which we hope to use for a better product lineup and development."

As Japan goes, so goes the world.

JR East Water Business plans to set up 500 units of the "next-generation" vending machine over the next few months. In the future, Japan's ubiquitous vending machines -- which sell everything from fresh bananas to used teenage girls' panties -- may increase their "communications" with copnsumers, the firm says, adding: "We want customers to experience and enjoy a purchasing process that is different from simply buying from a vending machine."

Can sex be far behind?