EFF in the News
The EFF said the legal tactic amounted to an abuse of the legal system.
'The intent of these lawsuits is to get peoples' identifying information and attempt to extort settlements out of them,' said Corynne McSherry, EFF's intellectual property director.
"Will the criminal case help them? Absolutely," says Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who's a former federal public defender. "They're going to learn a lot more about what happened."
But critics, led by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, say the industry is abusing the court system by casting a wide net that ends with menacing letters to embarrassed targets who'd rather cut a check than fight back and be identified in court as someone who may have downloaded porn.
Well, certainly now that the BART officials have tipped their hand and shown a willingness to engage in this kind of censorship, protesters can come prepared with ways to circumvent it, but at the time it simply hadn’t occurred to anybody that they would do that.
The one thing that really caught my attention was in response to a question about PROTECT IP asked by EFF lawyer Michael Barclay. Goodlatte noted, correctly, that the current PROTECT IP bill being discussed is the one in the Senate, and that the House has yet to introduce its version, but will in the next few weeks.
Jillian York: 'While these things did happen on very different scales, the intent was the same, to shut down speech in light of protests. We are looking at this as precedent, as a slippery slope. And I, I do fear that this is something we're going to be seeing a lot more often.'
...in the world of First Amendment law or free speech law, that's called a prior restraint. And it's the most - it's the gravest and most serious encroachment on speech rights, worse than, say, punishing speech after the fact.
"If you have to pay $12.5 billion dollars to play, you can sense why maybe an individual who has a great idea would feel discouraged," said Julie Samuels, a patent lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology-oriented civil liberties group. "It affects the whole economy."
But the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)'s Rebecca Jeschke tells Fast Company that, "It's a First Amendment problem when a government agency takes it upon itself to prevent people from being able to speak. This was a broad prior restraint on the communications of BART riders. It didn't just affect demonstrators--it affected everyone."
Shutting down cellphone service to combat protests — a tactic seen in Iran during 2009 election protests and in Egypt earlier this year during protests that eventually ousted president Hosni Mubarak— is not normally done in the USA, says Rebecca Jeschke of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit advocacy group for digital and electronic rights. BART officials called the tactic a legal way to ensure a safe commute.