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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: January 2017

January 31, 2017

Foreign Governments Must Be Held Accountable for Wiretapping Americans in the U.S.

Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, February 2, at 9:30 am, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the law firms of Jones Day and Robins Kaplan will urge an appeals court to let an American continue his suit against the Ethiopian government for infecting his computer with custom spyware and monitoring his communications for weeks on end.

With the help of EFF and the Citizen Lab, the plaintiff in this case found Ethiopian government spyware on his personal computer in Maryland several years ago. Our investigation concluded that it was part of a systemic campaign by the Ethiopian government to spy on perceived opponents.

The plaintiff uses the pseudonym of Mr. Kidane in order to protect the safety and wellbeing of his family both in the United States and in Ethiopia. Kidane is a critic of the Ethiopian government, and came to the U.S. over 20 years ago, obtaining asylum and eventually citizenship. He currently lives with his family in Maryland.

Kidane first brought suit against Ethiopia in 2014, but the federal court held that no foreign government could be held accountable for wiretapping an American citizen in his own home, so Kidane appealed to the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Jones Day partner Richard Martinez will argue Thursday that foreign governments should not be allowed to spy on Americans in America with impunity.  

WHAT:
Kidane v. Ethiopia

WHEN:
Thursday, February 2
9:30 am

WHERE:
E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse
333 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, D.C.  20001
D.C. Circuit Courtroom 31

For more on Kidane v. Ethiopia:
https://www.eff.org/cases/kidane-v-ethiopia

Contact:

Nate
Cardozo
Senior Staff Attorney
January 23, 2017

EFF Urges Justices to Protect Important ‘Patent Exhaustion’ Doctrine

San Francisco - When you buy a printer cartridge, is it yours? Or can the company control what you do with it, even after you pay your bill and take it home? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the U.S. Supreme Court today to protect consumers’ property rights in a court case centering on the important “patent exhaustion” doctrine.

In Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International Inc., printer company Lexmark sold printer cartridges with restrictions on refilling and resale. Impression Products acquired used Lexmark ink cartridges and then refilled and resold them, sparking a lawsuit from Lexmark claiming infringement. The Federal Circuit decided in Lexmark’s favor, ruling that a customer’s use of a product can be “restricted” by the patent owner with something as simple as a notice on disposable packaging.

In the amicus brief filed today, EFF—joined by Public Knowledge, AARP and the AARP Foundation, Mozilla, and R Street—argued that “conditional sales” like the ones attempted by Lexmark cannot impose arbitrary conditions on a customer’s use of a product. The Federal Circuit’s incorrect ruling to the contrary goes against the doctrine of “patent exhaustion,” which says that once a patent owner sells a product, it cannot later claim the product’s use or sale is infringing.

“If allowed to stand, the lower court’s decision could block your right to reuse, resell, and tinker with the devices you own,” said EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer, who is also the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. “Under this theory, consumers could be held liable for infringement for using products purchased legally, and that the patent owner has already been paid for.”

Patent exhaustion has been part of centuries of law upholding the right of individuals to use and resell their possessions. If patent owners can control goods after sale, then all sorts of activities—like security research, reverse engineering, and device modification—would be threatened.

“This trick is straight out of some companies’ wishlists for restricting user rights,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kit Walsh. “They have tried a variety of legal tactics to restrict your ability to repair or resell the things you buy, and to prevent experts from investigating how they work. That includes experts who want to figure out if your devices are secure and respecting your privacy, or who want to build products that can plug in to your devices and make them do new and useful things. We urge the Supreme Court to reaffirm the patent exhaustion doctrine, and protect people’s rights to own and understand the products they’ve purchased.”

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/document/supreme-court-merits-brief

Related Issues:

Contact:

Daniel
Nazer
Senior Staff Attorney and Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents

Kit
Walsh
Staff Attorney
January 17, 2017

Plaintiffs Don’t Automatically Get to Unmask Anonymous Blogger

Cincinnati—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal appeals court to uphold a judge’s ruling that the identity of an anonymous blogger found to have infringed copyright should remain secret, arguing that courts must balance litigants’ needs to unmask online speakers against the First Amendment protections afforded to those relying on anonymity.

Maintaining one’s anonymity online may be warranted even in cases—like this one—where a court ruled that a blogger infringed a copyright, EFF said in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit. The balancing test required by the First Amendment to protect speakers who choose to mask their identity must be applied at every stage of a lawsuit, including after a court finds an anonymous speaker violated the law, EFF said.

EFF believes Signature Management Team LLC v. John Doe marks the first case to consider whether speakers can remain anonymous even after a court rules that they broke the law.

“Plaintiffs don’t get to unmask anonymous bloggers just because they prove liability. The First Amendment requires that judges balance the need for anonymity against the needs of litigants at every stage of a lawsuit,” said Aaron Mackey, EFF Frank Stanton Legal Fellow. “Being able to speak online anonymously allows citizens to air dissenting views without fear of retaliation. Unmasking anonymous bloggers without proper justification can discourage people from speaking out or commenting online, which chills the free speech rights of all Americans.”

The plaintiff is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company that won a judgment against the owner of Amthrax.com, a website and blog that criticizes Amway and other MLM companies. The owner is a former Amway marketer who blogs anonymously. Signature Management sued John Doe for infringing the copyright of its book, which was posted on Amthrax.com.

After a judge ruled its copyright had been infringed, Signature Management sought a court order revealing the identity of John Doe, who feared he would face a slew of abusive comments and threats once his identity was known. The trial judge refused. In doing so, the judge correctly balanced the needs of the plaintiff with the First Amendment protections of the blogger.

For the brief:

https://www.eff.org/document/smt-v-doe-amicus-brief

Contact:

Aaron
Mackey
Staff Attorney
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