Apple gets China copyright fine

Customers entering an Apple store in ChinaChina is one of the fastest growing markets for Apple’s products

A court in China has ordered Apple to pay compensation to eight Chinese writers and two companies for violating their copyrights.

They had claimed that unlicensed electronic versions of their books had been sold on Apple’s online store.

The court ordered Apple to pay them 1.03m yuan ($165,000; £100,000) in compensation, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

This is the second time Apple has been fined for copyright violation in China.

In September, a Chinese court ordered Apple to pay compensation of 520,000 yuan to a Chinese encyclopaedia publisher for alleged copyright violation. The US technology firm has appealed against that decision.

Carolyn Wu, a spokeswoman for Apple said the company takes “copyright infringement complaints very seriously”.

“We’re always updating our service to better assist content owners in protecting their rights,” she added.

Legal troubles

Apple has had other legal issues in China as well.

Earlier this year, it faced a lawsuit from a Chinese firm Proview, which claimed that it owned the rights to the “iPad” name in the Chinese market after registering it in 2000.

Apple said it had bought the global rights to the “iPad” from Proview’s Taiwanese affiliate for $55,000 (£35,000).

However, the Chinese firm had argued that its affiliate did not have the rights to sell the iPad name rights for China, which is one of the fastest-growing markets for Apple’s products.

The dispute between the two firms resulted in Apple’s iPads being pulled off the shelves in some parts of China.

In July, Apple agreed to pay $60m to Proview to settle the dispute.

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China tightens rules on internet

File photo of free internet service at Beijing airportHundreds of millions of people in China use the internet, although its content is closely monitored by the authorities

China has tightened its rules on internet usage to enforce a previous requirement that users fully identify themselves to service providers.

The move is part of a package of measures which state-run Xinhua news agency said would protect personal information.

But critics believe the government is trying to limit freedom of speech.

The announcement will be seen as evidence China’s new leadership views the internet as a threat.

The Chinese authorities closely monitor internet content that crosses its borders and regularly block sensitive stories through use of what is known as the Great Firewall of China.

However, it has not stopped hundreds of millions of Chinese using the internet, many of them using micro-blogging sites to expose, debate and campaign on issues of national interest.

In recent months, the internet and social media have been used to orchestrate mass protests and a number of corrupt Communist Party officials have been exposed by individuals posting criticisms on the internet.

The new measures come a month after a new leadership, led by Xi Jinping, was installed by the ruling Communist Party.

The new man in charge of the internet, Liu Qibao, has a reputation for taking a hard line on media control. He recently called for “more research on how to strengthen the construction, operation and management of the Internet and promote mainstream online themes”.


The new measures now formally require anyone signing agreements to access the internet, fixed-line telephone and mobile devices to provide network service operators with “genuine identification information”, known as real-name registration, Xinhua reports.

Real-name registration was supposed to be have been implemented in 2011 but was not widely enforced.

China’s biggest internet firm, Sina Corp, warned earlier this year in a public document that such a move would “severely reduce” traffic to its hugely-successful micro-blogging site Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter with more than 300 million users.

Under the new rules, network service providers will also be required to “instantly stop the transmission of illegal information once it is spotted” by deleting the posts and saving the records “before reporting to supervisory authorities”.

The measures are designed to “ensure internet information security, safeguard the lawful rights and interests of citizens… and safeguard national security and social public interests”, and were approved by China’s top legislature at the closing session of a five-day meeting on Friday, Xinhua reports.

The calls for tighter controls of the internet have been led by state media, which said that rumours spread on the web could harm the public and sow chaos and confusion.

The government has said officially that it welcomes the exposure of official abuses, but a new generation of ever bolder bloggers and commentators pose a threat that the leadership seems determined to counter, the BBC’s Charles Scanlon reports.

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Microsoft research boss steps down

Craig MundieMr Mundie is one of the longest serving executives at Microsoft

Microsoft’s research boss Craig Mundie is stepping down ahead of his retirement in 2014.

A 20-year veteran of the company Mr Mundie has overseen the work of Microsoft’s security programme and RD.

He was picked for the role by Bill Gates in 2008 when the Microsoft co-founder ended his day-to-day involvement with the firm.

Prior to retirement Mr Mundie will act as a senior adviser to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Team talk

Since 2008 Mr Mundie ran Microsoft Research, its Trustworthy Computing programme and its technology policy group. These roles let him decide where Microsoft spent its sizeable research budget and how it improved software security.

Responsibility for these roles has now passed to Eric Rudder, formerly Microsoft’s chief technical strategy officer.

As an advisor to Mr Ballmer, Mr Mundie will work on “key strategic projects” within Microsoft and liaise with government and businesses “on technology policy, regulation and standards” according to his updated biography on the Microsoft website.

The Seattle Times reported that the move was part of efforts by Mr Ballmer to install a team that could help Microsoft cope with an increasingly mobile and web-centred industry.

Mr Mundie is the second senior executive to step down at the firm in less than a month.

In November Steven Sinofsky, then head of Microsoft’s Windows division, left unexpectedly. His departure came only weeks after he choreographed the launch of Windows 8, the most recent version of its flagship operating system.

As the public face of Windows 8, Mr Sinofsky was expected to stay and oversee the continued development of the software and future versions of Windows.

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Wikipedia’s most searched revealed

Facebook screenshotAn article about Facebook was the most popular page on the English language version of Wikipedia

A study of 2012′s most read Wikipedia articles reveals striking differences in what proved popular across the different language versions of the online encyclopaedia.

Facebook topped the English edition while an entry for adult video actresses did best in Japan.

Hua Shan – a Chinese mountain featuring “the world’s deadliest hiking trail” – topped the Dutch list.

By contrast, cul-de-sacs were the German site’s most clicked entry.

The data was published by a Swedish software engineer Johan Gunnarsson as part of the Wikitrends project. His home land’s most viewed article was a page dedicated to Sweden itself.

Sex and vampires

Lower entries on the lists also proved revealing.

While articles about Iran, its capital city Tehran and the country’s New Year celebrations topped the Persian list, entries about sex, female circumcision and homosexuality also made its top 10.

An overview of Egypt topped the Arabic language version and was followed by a history of Muhammad Ali Pasha – the Ottoman army commander who became the country’s ruler in 1805. He is viewed by many as the founder of the “modern” nation.

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English language most viewed

1. Facebook

2. Wiki

3. Deaths in 2012

4. One Direction

5. The Avengers

6. Fifty Shades of Grey

7. 2012 phenomenon

8. The Dark Knight Rises

9. Google

10. The Hunger Games

Sport featured prominently in the Indonesian edition with football, volleyball and basketball all coming within the top seven articles.

Italy appeared more obsessed with US television. Grey’s Anatomy came out on top, and Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries followed shortly after.

The Russian version was led by an article about the country followed by one about YouTube. But entries for “porn site” and “unemployment” may provide greater insight into local users’ lives.

Unusual results included the @ symbol making it into second place in the Spanish language edition, a type of Japanese holly topping the French list, and The European Regional Development Fund coming in third in Poland.

Canadian pop star Justin Bieber managed to make both the Danish and Norwegian top 10s, but was trumped by British boy band One Direction who appeared in the English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish and Danish lists.

Thailand snaps

Elsewhere, Facebook’s photo sharing service Instagram – which did not make any of Wikipedia’s top 10s – has published its own round-up of 2012.

The firm has focused on locations rather than themes.

Suvarnabhumi AirportThailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport topped Instagram’s list of most photographed locations

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport came out on top with more than 100,000 photos taken there, followed by the city’s Siam Paragon shopping mall.

Thailand only recently held an auction to award 3G mobile network licences, and has instead focused on providing free wi-fi connectivity. It already has more than 200,000 hotspots and the government has announced a target of covering 80% of the country by May.

The Next Web tech blog suggests local habits had also aided Instagram’s local popularity.

“Many mobile internet users in the region didn’t spend much-time (or any time at all) using PCs, so their mobile or tablet is their single portal to the web and always-on web access is something new to them,” wrote Jon Russell.

The US took the next seven of the top 10 spots thanks to snaps taken at California’s Disneyland, New York’s Times Square; San Francisco’s ATT Park; and Los Angeles’ International Airport, Dodger stadium, Staples Center and Santa Monica Pier.

Paris’s Eiffel Tower was the only European location to make the list.

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Bug reveals ‘erased’ Snapchat videos

iPhone taking a photoUnwatched videos sent to iPhones via Snapchat can be kept forever

Videos sent via smartphone app Snapchat – which should disappear after a few seconds – can be preserved with easy to find tools.

Snapchat has proved popular as it deletes sensitive or risque photos and videos after a short delay.

But tech news site Buzzfeed has found that videos sent to iPhones can be stored using a workaround.

Snapchat said such “reverse engineering” was always going to be possible.

Media browser

Using a widely available file-browsing computer program Katie Notopoulos, a staff reporter at Buzzfeed, found that Snapchat and its Facebook equivalent Poke could be used to copy videos temporarily stored on handsets before the apps have been used to view them.

The ability to send video via Snapchat was introduced on 14 December.

When videos were loaded but not opened Ms Notopoulos discovered it was possible to get at and view these copies when users connected their iPhone to a computer and used a file browser to look through its internal memory.

If videos were not viewed, she found, they were stored in a folder called “tmp” by Snapchat or “mediacard” on Facebook’s Poke. Copying the files in these folders to a hard drive stopped them being automatically deleted.

Snapchat is also available on Google Android phones. Ms Notopoulos did not try to find out if videos were preserved in the same way on such smartphones. However, earlier in December Snapchat did issue a patch for a bug that put permanent versions of unwatched videos into the media gallery on Android phones.

Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel told Ms Notopoulos that those who enjoyed the service the most would not go to such lengths to view videos.

“There will always be ways to reverse engineer technology products – but that spoils the fun!” he wrote.

Facebook later added that: “While Pokes disappear after they are read, there are still ways that people can potentially save them… because of this, people should think about what they are sending, and share responsibly.”

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Tech visionaries make honours List

Ian LivingstoneMr Livingstone put pressure on the government to teach children computer programming skills

Video games legend Ian Livingstone, co-founder Martha Lane Fox and Imagination Technologies’ boss Hossein Yassaie all feature in the New Year Honours List.

Mr Livingstone, life president of Eidos and co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy books, is being made a CBE.

Ms Lane Fox – who now acts as the prime minister’s digital champion – receives the same recognition.

Sir Hossein is being knighted “for services to technology and innovation”.

Over the past two decades he has helped build up his computer chip-designing company from about 40 employees to 1,300 and a market valuation of over £1bn.

Video game campaigner

News of Ian Livingstone’s honour coincides with his 63rd birthday.

It also comes just over 30 years on from The Warlock of Firetop Mountain’s release – the first in a series of role-playing game (RPG) books which he helped write. Readers were asked to make choices or roll dice to determine which page they would turn to next, creating the storyline.

The format influenced many video game makers, and Mr Livingstone himself went on to found Eidos Interactive – publisher of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex games.

Blood of the Zombies coverIan Livingstone released a new Fighting Fantasy book in August

“I’m genuinely humbled to get something,” he told the BBC.

“My life has been all about games, and I think we learn an awful lot through play.

“Writing Fighting Fantasy books with Steve Jackson in the 1980s seemed to have got a whole generation of children reading again. And I’m delighted that what we created not just manifested itself in interactive books but it’s actually inspired people to join the computer games industry.”

Mr Livingstone takes a back seat at Eidos these days – it is now controlled by Japanese gaming giant Square Enix – but he continues to wield influence.

Earlier this year he co-authored “Next Gen” – a report highlighting the “poor quality of computer teaching” in the UK’s schools.

It helped convince UK Education Secretary Michael Gove to order an overhaul of information and communications technology (ICT) classes in England to give a key role to programming.

“It’s so much better to teach children to create technology rather than just being passive users of it,” said Mr Livingstone.

“At the moment ICT does nothing more than simply teach children what are effectively office skills. We teach them effectively how to read but not how to write.

“If we get them to code that’s brilliant – it’s not just about writing games. It’s fighting cybercrime, and about creating the next jet propulsion engine.”

Digital crusader

Martha Lane Fox launched in 1998 with her business partner Brent Hoberman.

Martha Lane FoxMartha Lane Fox has served under two Prime Ministers

Running the holiday, entertainment and gift site proved a bumpy ride.

Its stock market listing was quickly followed by the dot com crash. But Ms Lane Fox remained managing director until 2003, only resigning after her firm had reported its first year’s full profit.

She said she wanted a new challenge.

This involved becoming patron of several charities, and in 2009 her appointment as the Labour government’s “digital inclusion champion”. The brief was to make the public more “tech savvy” and help people get online.

The following year the new coalition government expanded and rebranded the role, making her the UK digital champion.

Ms Lane Fox went onto to spearhead October’s introduction of – a single domain collecting together various government websites. Its aim is to make it easier for the public to access services while saving the country millions of pounds in running costs.

The honours list says she is recognised for voluntary services to the UK Digital Economy and to charity.

“I am so lucky to have been working as digital champion for the last three years,” she told the BBC.

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Other Honours List awards

Sir David Payne (Knighthood) – helped develop an optical amplifier which lets the internet transmit data at high speeds.

Sir Kenneth Grange (Knighthood) – industrial designer responsible for the Kodak Instamatic camera, the Kenwood mini mixer and the Intercity 125 train.

David Cleevely (CBE) – telecoms expert who advised regulator Ofcom about how to mange the radio spectrum.

Barry Cox (CBE) - chairman of Digital UK, which led the UK’s digital TV switchover that will allow the launch of new 4G mobile data services.

Prof Peter Fraenkel (MBE) – co-founded Marine Current Turbines, a Bristol-based firm working to use the sea’s tides as a renewable energy source.

Michael Terrett (CBE) – chief operating office at Rolls Royce who played a key role in developing its Trent aircraft engines.

“Spreading digital skills is vital for the UK and I am delighted that our work has led to the creation of both the government digital service within the Cabinet Office and the charity Go On UK.”

Graphics powerhouse

Sir Hossein moved from Iran to the UK in 1976.

Wanting to go to university he was frustrated to discover he needed A-Levels first – a problem he overcame by completing his courses and exams in just six months.

After studying at Birmingham University he worked on chip architectures in Bristol before joining Hertfordshire-based Imagination Technologies in 1992.

Six years later he became the firm’s chief executive and has helped it grow into a FTSE 250 company.

The firm licenses, rather than manufactures, most of its inventions.

It may not be a household name but some of the products that use its PowerVR GPU (graphics processing unit) designs are Apple’s iPhones and iPads; various Samsung Galaxy handsets and tablets; and a range of devices from Sony and LG.

Sir Hossein YassaieSir Hossein said his success was aided by the support of his work colleagues and business partners

Sir Hossein says that over one billion products have shipped with his firm’s technologies inside, 300 million of those in the last year alone.

“Clearly the UK is not a strong place for ‘brand’ companies,” he told the BBC.

“A lot of top brands out there are either American, or Japanese or Korean. But what the UK is very good at is creating technologies and know-how that is needed for these products.

“I certainly hope that going forward the country can do better in other parts of the food chain. But certainly in underlying technologies I think the UK is the leading country in terms of providing intellectual property and technology for a lot of the new things that are happening around us.”

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EA forced to remove gun shop links

Screenshot from Medal of HonorMedal of Honor has been a major title since 1999

Links to browse and buy real weapons featured in popular war-based video game Medal of Honor have been removed from the title’s website.

It followed pressure from groups suggesting that video games were responsible for inciting real-world violence.

A representative for publisher EA said: “We felt it was inappropriate and took the links down.”

Company logos, and descriptions of the weapons, remain on the game’s website.

In the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, video game makers were criticised by influential US lobby group the National Rifle Association.

“There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people,” said NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre at a press conference last week.

A special panel led by US vice president Joe Biden is currently examining potential ways to curb gun violence in the country.

Among proposals under consideration is a study into any possible links between children’s exposure to video games and violence.

‘Unfair advantage!’

On the website for Medal of Honor, which has for years been a major seller for EA since the first title’s release in 1999, news updates on the latest title discuss “partnerships” with weapons manufacturers.

A partners page displays 14 logos of companies producing combat equipment – but no longer link directly to the firms’ individual sites.

In a separate news item on EA’s main website, Medal of Honor’s executive producer Greg Goodrich writes: “So head over to the Magpul website and gain an unfair advantage!”. It refers to a Colorado-based firearms firm.

A promotional video showing the Magpul equipment was also released by the companies.

Real-world weapons are commonplace in video games which, like other entertainment forms, strive for accuracy and authenticity.

Earlier this year, CBS News reported that seven US Navy Seals were reprimanded after allegedly sharing classified material with games designers working on Medal of Honor.

One of the Seals took part in the raid which resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden.

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Africa gets ‘homegrown’ smartphone

Vérone MankouVerone Mankou insists his devices are designed and engineered in Africa

A smartphone and tablet said to be the first designed by an African company have beenlaunched.

The products, designed by Congolese entrepreneur Verone Mankou, are manufactured in China.

His company VMK’s devices run Google’s Android software. They will retail at $170 (£105) for the smartphone and $300 (£185) for the tablet.

“Only Africans can know what Africa needs,” said Mr Mankou at the Tech4Africa conference in Johannesburg.

“Apple is huge in the US, Samsung is huge in Asia, and we want VMK to be huge in Africa.”

Technology blog Smartplanet reports that the tablet offers wi-fi connectivity and four gigabytes of internal storage. Its name, Way-C, means “the light of the stars” in the local Lingala language.

The smartphone has rear and forward facing cameras and a 3.5in (8.9cm) screen.

There are plans to sell the devices across 10 other West African countries as well as Belgium, France and India.

Mr Mankou said he hoped to launch a cheaper tablet for students next year.


The devices will come up against several already well-established and popular brands.

Most notably, Blackberry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) has a significant presence on the continent, despite flagging sales in the western market.

VMK tabletThe tablet is similar in size to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab

Popular too are handsets from Nokia which is working closely with Facebook to grow African’s interest in both mobile communication and social networking.

However, there is an increasing desire among African communities to support homegrown products, spurred on by fledgling technology scenes in various cities across the region.


Attempts to be seen as African have caused some firms to be accused of dishonesty. Companies were highly criticised after they were deemed to be marketing products that were made offshore but simply branded locally.

VMK insisted that while the product was manufactured in China for cost reasons, the design and engineering was entirely African.

A page on the company’s website stressed that statement, saying: “We are somewhat offended by the disregard of those who persist in denying the authentication of our products, despite evidence.

“Most of those critics are either Afro-pessimistic (who argue that ‘nothing good can come from Africa’), or just (future) competitors.”

The company added that unlike previous “African” smartphones and tablets, there were no products matching the VMK devices in other countries under different branding.

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Porn producer to widen piracy blitz

Models pose for camerasMr Becker says he now intends to chase users suspected of illegally sharing US pornography

A pornographic film-maker has revealed plans to chase more internet users for compensation for pirating others’ adult movies.

The move follows a Court of Appeal ruling which overturned a previous block on Golden Eye offering its services to other rights holders.

It keeps about 75% of all payments.

Spokesman Julian Becker – who funded the case – said he now planned to travel to the US to offer to enforce local firms’ copyrights in the UK.

“I look forward to travelling to adult conferences in Los Angeles and Vegas in early January to offer Golden Eye’s services to other producers,” he told the BBC.

Piracy payments

The court ruling brings to an end a legal dispute between Golden Eye and the Open Rights Group (ORG).

The digital rights campaign group had challenged the company’s right to make internet service provider (ISP) O2 reveal the names of thousands of suspected copyright infringers.

An initial ruling went in ORG’s favour saying that while Golden Eye could see the details of about 2,800 people suspected of illegally downloading its own movies, it had no grounds to pursue individuals who had accessed other production companies’ material – despite its business arrangement with them.

The judge said that to permit such an agreement “would be tantamount to the court sanctioning the sale of the intended defendants’ privacy and data protection rights to the highest bidder”.

He added that if the other film makers wanted “redress” they would have to pursue the suspected pirates themselves.

O2 signThousands of O2 customers are set to receive letters from Golden Eye next year

Golden Eye appealed the judgement, and last Friday the Court of Appeals ruled in its favour.

“It was both illogical and inconsistent for the judge to deny the self-same relief to the other claimants merely because they have chosen to pursue their claims with the assistance of Golden Eye under arrangements which the judge had previously found to be both lawful and not part of a speculative invoicing scheme,” wrote Lord Justice Patten.

Legal letters

Mr Becker said he now intended to contact alleged infringers – identified by internet addresses linked to file-sharing activities – in the New Year.

Recipients will be told they are suspected of accessing one or several adult films via peer-to-peer networks and will be invited to negotiate a lump sum payment.

Golden Eye had originally indicated it wanted to demand a £700 penalty, however this was blocked on the grounds that the sum was “excessive”.

The Open Rights Group expressed concern at the appeal’s verdict.

“Such a decision effectively means that someone who themselves has no interest in a claim can acquire personal details to obtain large sums of money,” it said.

“In this case Golden Eye are not a firm of solicitors, and thus are not regulated in the same way solicitors are.”

However, Mr Becker suggested that opposition to his actions might be based on the distaste some had for the pornographic industry,

“Adult content is legal in the UK and should be given the same rights as mainstream films,” he told the BBC.

“However, in reality, I believe there is always going to be a bias against this genre of film production.

“85% of computers exhibit porn history, although 90% of users will preach against it. This makes me wonder, if Golden Eye represented the interests of mainstream producers, would there have ever been a necessity of such a long and expensive legal process?”

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Queen’s message hails Olympic stars

The Queen

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In her Christmas message, the Queen praises the ”skill, dedication, training and teamwork” of the Olympic athletes

The Queen is to pay tribute to the nation’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes in her Christmas broadcast.

She will hail the “splendid summer of sport” and highlight how the sportsmen and women allowed spectators to feel part of the “excitement and drama”.

For the first time the address will be broadcast in 3D.

On Sunday, the Queen missed church as she was recovering from a cold, Buckingham Palace said. But she is expected to attend on Christmas Day.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the speech, which will be broadcast in full on Christmas Day, would focus on “service, achievement and the spirit of togetherness”.

During the address the Queen will say: “As London hosted a splendid summer of sport, all those who saw the achievement and courage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games were further inspired by the skill, dedication, training and teamwork of our athletes.

The Queen with producer John McAndrew and director John Bennett Behind-the-scenes footage shows the Queen viewing the broadcast with 3D glasses.

“In pursuing their own sporting goals, they gave the rest of us the opportunity to share something of the excitement and drama.”

The Queen had her own starring role in the London Olympics, declaring them officially open after appearing to parachute into the stadium with James Bond.

It has been an eventful year for the royal family, with the Queen celebrating her Diamond Jubilee in June, marked with UK-wide celebrations.

She also became the first British monarch to reach a 65th wedding anniversary.

But there were health scares, with Prince Philip, 91, forced to miss some key events during the Jubilee celebrations after being taken to hospital with a bladder infection.

‘Absolutely lovely’

Earlier this month, her grandson Prince William announced that his wife the Duchess of Cambridge was expecting a baby.

Behind-the-scenes footage of the Christmas message, made on 7 December, has been released, showing the Queen meeting senior staff from Sky News which produced the broadcast this year.

In other footage she wears 3D glasses as she watches part of the broadcast.

The message was recorded in Buckingham Palace’s white drawing room with the Queen wearing a fine silk tulle gown by Angela Kelly.

The Christmas address is written by the Queen and usually has a strong religious framework, reflects current issues and draws on her own experiences over the past year.

Her use of 3D technology comes 80 years after George V first broadcast a Christmas speech on the radio and started the 25 December tradition.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the monarch thought the broadcast was “absolutely lovely”.

She added: “We wanted to do something a bit different and special in this Jubilee year, so doing it for the first time in 3D seemed a good thing, technology-wise, to do.”

The message will be transmitted on both television and radio at 15:00 GMT on Christmas Day.

It will be available on the Royal Channel on the YouTube website and will also be shown in Commonwealth countries.

The broadcast will also be screened in standard and high definition.

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