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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: January 2013

January 23, 2013

EFF and Perkins Coie File Petition to Cancel Registration of 'Gaymer' Trademark

San Francisco - A group of Reddit "gaymers" are fighting to protect the name of their online forum after a website operator managed to register the term as a trademark and then claimed the group's Reddit forum infringed his trademark rights. In a petition filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today, the group asks the USPTO to cancel the "gaymer" trademark registration so that people around the world can continue to use the word without interference.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the law firm Perkins Coie represent the Reddit gaymers – members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community who have an active interest in video games. The group was spurred into action after blogger Chris Vizzini – who registered the trademark after creating a website targeting the gaymer community at gaymer.org – sent a cease-and-desist letter complaining about the long-running subreddit group called r/gaymers.

"This registration should never have been granted," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Gaymer is a common term that refers to members of this vibrant gaming community, and we are happy to help them fight back and make sure the term goes back to the public domain where it belongs."

As today's petition notes, the term "gaymer" had been in widespread use for years before Vizzini applied for a trademark. In fact, there's even a GaymerCon conference.

"Trademarks have one primary purpose: to protect consumers from confusion about the source of goods or services," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "This registration isn't being used to protect consumers – it's being used to threaten free speech."

For the full petition to cancel:
https://www.eff.org/document/petition

For more from r/gaymers:
http://www.reddit.com/r/gaymers/comments/174ooy/update_rgaymers_is_fighting_back_the_trademark/

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
   Intellectual Property Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   corynne@eff.org

Julie Samuels
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   julie@eff.org

January 22, 2013

When Law Enforcement Tracks Cars, Both Passengers and Drivers Deserve Privacy Protections

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the high court of Massachusetts today to protect the rights of passengers in cars that law enforcement are tracking with GPS surveillance technology, arguing that both the driver and the passenger of a car have legal standing to challenge the collection of sensitive location data gathered by the GPS devices.

In Commonwealth v. Rousseau, police obtained a search warrant to install a GPS device on a car owned by a suspect in a number of arsons throughout the state. Ultimately, the owner of the car and his frequent passenger – Rousseau – were charged with a number of crimes, but both moved to challenge the search warrant. They argued that the police had made material misrepresentations in obtaining the search warrant, and as a result the GPS evidence should be excluded from the trial.

Although the trial court agreed that police had misrepresented the facts in order to get the search warrant, it upheld it anyway. Additionally, the court found that Rousseau had no legal ability – or standing – to challenge the GPS evidence because he was merely a passenger. But in an amicus brief filed today, EFF argues that critical privacy questions affect everyone who is traveling in a tracked vehicle, and they should all have the opportunity to protect themselves and their location data, whether they are a driver or passenger in the car.

"Location data communicates a huge amount of personal information to law enforcement," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "Where you go throughout the day could point to your religious affiliation, who your family and friends are, your medical conditions, and your political leanings. It's only fair that everyone who is caught up in this extraordinarily invasive surveillance has the right to contest its gathering and use, particularly when that evidence is used by the state to try and throw someone into jail for decades."

Police are increasingly employing persistent locational tracking – through GPS, cell phone records, or other, more aggressive tools like cell tower dumps and "stingrays" – as part of routine criminal investigations. As this kind of evidence-gathering becomes more widespread, it's important to ensure that individuals who are targets of the data-collection dragnet have the legal right to challenge whether the surveillance has been done properly.

"The idea that you lose your right to challenge the use of invasive technology designed to track your location simply because you were in the passenger seat of a car rather than the driver's seat is ludicrous," said Fakhoury. "Giving police this sort of windfall based solely on which car seat a person is in ignores the reality that everyone has an expectation of privacy in their movements, and it only encourages police to aggressively gather a digital dossier of someone's movements. Proper court oversight is necessary to protect the Fourth Amendment, and that's all we're asking for here."

Thanks to Kit Walsh at the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society for assistance with writing and filing the brief.

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/document/amicus-brief-15

Related Issues:
January 18, 2013

AP Argues for Dangerously Narrow View of Fair Use in Battle Over News-Tracking Service

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal judge today to protect fair use of news coverage and reject the Associated Press' (AP's) dangerously narrow view of what is "transformative" in a copyright court battle over a news-tracking service.

In Associated Press v. Meltwater, AP claims its copyrights are infringed when Meltwater, an electronic news clipping service, includes excerpts of AP stories in search results for its clients seeking reports of news coverage based on particular keywords. In its argument, AP asks the court to accept an extraordinarily narrow view of fair use – the doctrine that allows for the use of copyrighted material for purposes of commentary, criticism, or other transformative uses – by claiming that Meltwater's use of copyrighted excerpts cannot be "transformative" fair use unless they are also "expressive." In an amicus brief filed today, EFF argues that AP's theory would restrict the use and development of services that allow users to find, organize, and share public information.

"There are lots of examples of important fair uses that wouldn't fit under AP's cramped definition of a 'transformative' use," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Time-shifting – like what you do when you record something on your DVR to watch later – isn't 'expressive,' but courts have found it a clear fair use. Because fair use plays such an essential role in facilitating online innovation and expression, we're asking the court to follow the law and reject this flawed theory from AP."

The Stanford Fair Use Project served as counsel for EFF in filing today's brief, which was also joined by Public Knowledge.

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/document/amicus-brief-14

Contact:

Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   press@eff.org

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