Rumor has it that working for EFF is a spectacularly cool gig. The secret's out: It really is. EFF works the way it does because it doesn't merely tolerate but actively embraces, cultivates -- even demands -- a sense of wonder at the technological world and a burning desire to fight the good fight, sprinkled with a leavening dose of quirkiness to help you roll with the punches.
(Read on for more after the jump.)
I hope you're not reading this blog entry using somebody's open wireless network. It could get you arrested for trespassing. Earlier this month, a Florida man was arrested for sitting outside somebody's house in his car and using their open wifi network. What the hell? The network was open, people. But as Engadget reports, another guy was arrested for the same thing in the UK, and was found guilty last week of "dishonestly obtaining an electronic communications service." Law enforcement in both instances claimed that the problem with accessing an open wifi network is that it allows people to commit crimes anonymously.
Stanford CIS Excecutive Director Jennifer Granick is the talented criminal law attorney who has been helping Michael Lynn sort out what to do in the face of legal threats over his BlackHat conference presentation exploring problems with Cisco's security. In the second post in a series on "Ciscogate," Granick picks through the grab bag of legal claims in the Cisco/ISS complaint [PDF], giving her take on the legitimacy of each claim. The result is an educational look at a range of legal tools that can be leveraged to silence people: copyright law, trade secret law, and end user license agreements (EULAs).
Here, Granick makes short work of the copyright claims:
We're close to victory in the battle to keep radio frequency identification (RFID) tags out of California IDs, but we need your help to go the rest of the way.
RFID tags broadcast your personal information indiscriminately to anyone with a compatible RFID reader, allowing you to "shed" data without your knowledge or consent. California bill SB 682 would prohibit RFIDs in ID cards you use every day -- including your driver's license and library card -- until there safeguards in place to protect your privacy. It would also require rigorous security precautions for putting RFIDs in most other state IDs. This sensible bill has already passed the California Senate, and, with your help, we can persuade the California Assembly and Governor Schwarzenegger to make this bill law.
Last week the US continued to bully the world into adopting the very worst aspects of American intellectual property and Internet law, with the House of Representatives approving the US-Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement (a.k.a. "CAFTA"). The agreement obligates countries to enact dangerous policies that go far beyond their obligations under international agreements, including WTO-TRIPS.
In a move endorsed by Hollywood and special-interest software lobbyists, the treaty requires countries to enact laws modeled after the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That means that the signatories will suffer the same harm to innovation and consumer rights that the US has suffered.
Last Friday night, the Senate unexpectedly and unanimously passed a bill renewing the parts of the USA PATRIOT Act set to expire at the end of the year. The House already passed a similar bill on July 21st, so the only step left is a conference for the House and Senate to resolve any differences. The President is then expected to sign the bill into law on September 11, 2005.
Here's where you come in. With PATRIOT renewal now a certainty, the priority is to make sure the final bill looks more like the Senate than the House version -- that is, to ensure that it contains as many checks and balances to protect your privacy and civil liberties as possible.
Edward Felten has an extraordinary post detailing how Microsoft is giving Hollywood explicit veto power over the functionality of the upcoming Windows Vista operating system (formerly known as Longhorn). How explicit? Check out this excerpt from the Microsoft white paper:
"Other companies are free to invent their own [encryption for outputting video content] ... but security considerations mean that there is a high bar to meet before a new cipher can be approved for use....
The evidence must be presented to Hollywood and other content owners, and they must agree that it provides the required level of security. Written proof from at least three of the major Hollywood studios is required."
Never afraid to reach new heights on the unintentional comedy scale, Microsoft UK debuted its Thought Thieves film competition in May. Microsoft called for original videos "about people stealing the ideas in your head" and "intellectual property theft."
To counter this misleading campaign, a few good souls "stole" the idea and started the Thought Thieve$ film competition "about big companies stealing and profiting from the knowledge commons."
"Think about it: how would you feel if you saw your cultural traditions, collective creativity, thousands-year-old seed strains, indigenous medicinal knowledge, or even your very genetic code being passed off as the property of some multinational corporation? What would you do?
Thanks to your contributions, EFF's 15th Anniversary Blog-a-thon was a stunning success.
You might be asking yourself that question, if you've been following our series on Microsoft's trusted computing and DRM strategies. No Microsoft customer wants DRM-crippled operating systems, hardware, and video content.
Hollywood, on the other hand, wants ubiquitous DRM. And, wielding DRM and the DMCA, major movie studios can shut Microsoft out of the lucrative digital video market if it doesn't play ball. In that game, consumers will inevitably lose.
Hollywood is saying, loudly and to anyone who will listen, "unless we get content protection that satisfies us, our next-gen high-definition video will not be on your platform." Since there are only a handful of major studios who control 90%+ of commercially important film and TV content, this kind of cartel threat is relatively credible.
Did you know that President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act mandates that public high schools turn over private student contact information to local military recruiters or risk losing federal education funding? Not only that, but the Pentagon has compiled a database of more than 30 million young people, including 16- and 17-year-olds, for the purpose of military recruitment?
Don't miss the current blogalogue over at the Picker MobBlog, starring EFF's Fred von Lohmann and his recent paper, "Measuring the DMCA Against the Darknet" [PDF]. Joining Fred to discuss the paper are computer scientist Ed Felten, DRM expert Bill Rosenblatt, copyright scholar Jessica Litman, and many other luminaries.
As has been widely reported, Google decided last week to hit the pause button on its ambitious Google Print library project to allow publishers to opt-out of scanning. The decision has sparked considerable debate, both about the copyright questions the project raises and Google's strategy for dealing with them.
There are a number of collateral consequences to the FCC's order, said Perkins Coie's Gidari, counsel to education, library and other associations that opposed the FCC's decision.
Earlier this week, EFF joined a bunch of other groups -- the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, and Pulver.com -- in filing comments [PDF] before the FCC about how the agency should handle making Emergency 911 (E911) features available on next-generation IP phones. In its request for comment, the FCC asked a number of questions, including which new technologies should absolutely guarantee access to emergency services, where and how "automatic location technologies" should be deployed, and finally how users' privacy should be protected.
When seamstress Laura Flores first heard about a software product called Dress Shop that would help her make and print dress patterns, she was thrilled. At last, she could customize classic dress designs on her computer -- and, according to the ads, it would be "fast, fun and easy." At $400, Dress Shop wasn't cheap -- but it would be money well spent if the software lived up to the hype.
It didn't. Printing out the patterns in typing paper-sized sections and piecing them together was more trouble than it was worth. Fed up, Flores decided to cut her losses and put her copy of Dress Shop up for sale on eBay, including the key codes that allow the user to print out the patterns. She figured it would be easy enough, since she saw that someone else had already auctioned off their copy.
Yesterday, Sun Microsystems announced its new "Open Media Commons," with a goal of "[s]pecify[ing] open, royalty-free digital rights management and codec standards" to "ensur[e] intellectual property protection." The problem with this approach is that making DRM "open" and "royalty-free" doesn't make it any less damaging and counter-productive.
People have the legal right to make fair uses of content. They have the legal right to use materials in the public domain. They have the legal right to use publicly owned works, such as government-gathered facts. Any software system, open or not, that blocks us from making these legal uses of our digital content is bad, especially when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal for us to circumvent the copyright protection to make these legal uses.
Yesterday, our colleagues at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) published recommendations [PDF] for Congress should it choose to reinstate the broadcast flag, which EFF and a coalition of organizations defeated in court. While we admire CDT's tortured attempt to make the broadcast flag seem reasonable, its suggestions are flawed. That was inevitable--the broadcast flag is fundamentally flawed policy and should be scrapped entirely.
Not long ago we told you about our new "Cooperating Techs" listserv to help connect technologists with attorneys working on cases that are core to EFF's mission but beyond what we can handle in-house. After a couple of weeks with only a few responses, we realized we made a technical mistake with the email alias for signing up!
Now that we've recognized our error -- as well as the irony -- we've corrected the problem. If you're a technologist who'd like to apply your skills to the fight for digital civil liberties, please send -- or re-send - an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We promise that this time, your request will get through -- and you'll even get a confirmation notice to prove it!
For more information about how the list will work, check out the original announcement.
Time recently published a very brief -- even glib -- article [subscription required] on the FBI's push to expand the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to some Internet communications. The article is remarkably uncritical of law enforcement's claims, so we wrote a letter to the editor to give readers the whole story:
Your account of FBI efforts to embed wiretapping into the design of new Internet communication technologies ("Psst! The FBI is Having Trouble on the Line," Notebook, August 15) is in error.
You claim that police "can't tap into [Internet] conversations or identify the location of callers, even with court orders."
The FCC is set to expand CALEA and force VoIP and broadband providers to make their networks wiretap-"friendly." Along with curbing technological innovation and passing along the costs to service providers and their customers, this casual expansion of surveillance powers poses a substantial privacy threat. If we want to see where the slippery slope leads, we need look no further than Italy.
According to a recent LA Times story, wiretaps in Italy are so easy to do that they're used routinely to snoop on millions of innocent people:
"Surreptitious listening is now so common in Italy that people with little or no connection to criminal cases have found themselves recorded and their private utterings made public in newspapers....
Q. What does the Motion Picture Association (MPA) have in common with the pre-revolutionary colonial British?
A. They get to use general warrants.
General search warrants are part of what caused the American Revolution. Now it's the legal tool of choice for the movie industry in its war against copyright infringement -- or at least, the tool of choice in Delhi, India.
According to this press release from the international arm of the more familiar Motion Picture Association of America, the MPA "has obtained a general search and seizure warrants order covering the entire city. The order permits police to search any premises suspected of containing pirated products, and permits officers to open locked premises without delay."