EFF in the News
Sirius won a major victory in the New York Court of Appeals (an oddly named court that's actually New York state's highest court). The state's justices voted 4-2 to reverse the lower court, finding that there was no "public performance" right under New York common law. "This win is important to all the AM/FM radio stations, college radio, small webcasters in New York, and even businesses like restaurants," said Mitch Stoltz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in an interview with Ars. "They're not going to have yet another collective licensing agency knocking at their door and asking for royalties. This is policy-making done right. We can't just create new rights at the drop of a hat."
Can Americans expect more government surveillance once President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January? Simply put: Yes. "Sessions has made it clear that he is incredibly hostile to Silicon Valley, the internet in general, and the First and Fourth Amendments," the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Nate Cardozo told the Daily Dot in a phone interview. "He will be a big-government, anti-liberty attorney general."
A Minnesota lawyer who has drawn scorn for his tactics in filing porn copyright lawsuits and disability litigation has been indicted alongside a longtime partner in a multimillion-fraud and extortion conspiracy that counted as its victims hundreds of people nationwide and the court system itself. Mitch Stoltz, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that copyright-trolling suits filed in 2013 by attorneys like Steele and Hansmeier amounted to a third of all copyright infringement litigation nationwide that year.
It’s not every day you hear old-school Vermont liberal Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the conservative curmudgeon from Wisconsin, mentioned in the same sentence. Add to the conversation maverick lefty Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and tea party darling Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, and you have the definition of “strange bedfellows. But when it comes to the heated policy debate over the U.S. National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance operations, exposed by intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s tsunami-sized intelligence leak, they’re all in the same corner. And they’re working to rally support for legislation to fundamentally alter how the government spies. And as Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney with the pro-privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation puts it, “There’s some of the cache to having one of the principle authors of the Patriot Act talking about the reform of the Patriot Act.”
On Thursday, Facebook announced a plan to deal with the proliferation of fake news: Third-party fact-checkers will flag what they think are false stories, and then Facebook will decide whether or not to demote them in people's News Feeds. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has described the effort as an "early test" -- but already the move has prompted concern from critics. "Anything that provides users with more information is a good thing," Jillian York, EFF's director for international freedom of expression, tells Inc. of Facebook's move to label stories as disputed and link to a corresponding article explaining why. She adds however, "If Facebook is going to be doing something like this, then it really needs to be transparent about every element."
As a company, Facebook isn't legally obligated to protect anyone's speech, but its community standards say the site should "give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." Copyright complaints offer a tool with which postings can be removed almost immediately with little review, according to Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to digital civil liberties.
You could download Comma.ai’s new open-source Python code from Github, grab the necessary hardware, and follow the company’s instructions to add semi-autonomous capabilities to specific Acura and Honda model cars (with more vehicles to follow). Comma.ai’s CEO George Hotz told IEEE Spectrum last week that Comma.ai’s code has safety features, but what would happen if there’s a bug and your car crashes into a building, another car, or a pedestrian? Self-driving-cars are notoriously difficult to test for safety. Kit Walsh, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, writes in an email that “code is like a set of instructions, and publishing instructions generally cannot be punished consistent with the First Amendment—even if those instructions involve something dangerous like making a weapon or to try to eat a spoonful of cinnamon that will probably wind up in your lungs.”
If Twitter wanted to, it would be well within its rights to suspend Donald J. Trump’s account. “The problem is not necessarily in what he’s saying but that he’s the president saying it,” said Jillian York, a free speech advocate at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “If that sort of speech were censored for everyone, I would have a big problem with it,” she said. “It would be very much a violation of the spirit of freedom of expression to not allow me to critique a union leader or a journalist or a president.”
For the past three years, Credo, represented by the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, has been fighting in court both the constitutionality of the FBI’s request and the bureau’s demand that Credo stay silent. The fight over the legality of the request is ongoing, but earlier this year, the Federal District Court for Northern California said the FBI failed to show the need for the gag order. The government dropped its appeal of that decision, and Credo subsequently published redacted versions of the two national security letters. “It’s a totally one-off basis ― it’s the government deciding on its own, ‘OK, you can publish these,’” Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at EFF, said of the Yahoo and Google disclosures.
The Federal Communications Commission has told wireless carriers it has “serious concerns” about plans that exempt in-house services like Verizon’s Go90 or AT&T’s DirecTV Now from counting against customers’ data caps. Verizon and AT&T also have “sponsored data” programs in which video providers or other app makers can pay the companies to get their services included in free-data offers. “This current skirmish with the (Federal Communications Commission) and AT&T is basically going to send a signal of what’s going to pass muster and what isn’t,” said Corynne McSherry, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The foundation opposes zero-rated programs.