Earlier this week, we sued AT&T over its collaboration in the government domestic spying program, subjecting the communications of millions of ordinary Americans to government surveillance. The domestic spying program alleged in our complaint is larger than that admitted to by the government, and numerous news reports have also described a far wider program. Instead of coming clean about the extent of its domestic surveillance, the government continued its cagey defense at today's Senate hearing.
Late last year, the tide in Congress began to turn against the PATRIOT Act's sunsetting provisions, as legislators refused to grant a long-term extension. Despite President Bush's call for extension in Tuesday's State of Union, Congress once again put off taking any final action today, only approving a second five-week extension.
My latest piece for Law.com, entitled "Could Future Subpoenas Tie You to 'Britney Spears Nude'?" (their title, not mine), discusses all the information about you being stored by Google, Yahoo, AOL and other Internet intermediaries. Google, for example, has confirmed that if given an IP address, it can produce a list of every Google search query ever sent from it.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings Monday on the NSA's illegal domestic spying program. Though the questioning of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed few details, news reports continue to shed light on the program's scope. The Washington Post confirmed that the NSA is indeed using "computer-controlled systems [that] collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls," mining the communications of myriad ordinary Americans.
The French government recently started to consider legalizing file sharing and supporting alternative ways to ensure artists get paid. Today, a French court gave another push in the right direction, absolving a file sharer of criminal charges. According to a press release [PDF] from the Association of Audionauts, the court concluded that uploading and downloading on P2P qualifies as legal "private copying."
Let's hope some of this refreshing thinking makes its way across the Atlantic.
Remember the famous email rumor that made the rounds in the 1990s: "Congress is trying to tax your Internet connection, write in now!"
Well what wasn't true in the 1990s is apparently coming true in 2006, only the beneficiaries won't be Uncle Sam -- it will be Yahoo, AOL, and a company ironically called Goodmail. Yahoo and AOL have announced that they will guarantee access to your email inbox for email senders who pay $.0025 per message. They will override their own spam filters and webbug-strippers, and deliver the mail directly with a "certified" notice. In the process, they will treat more of your email as spam, and email you're expecting won't be delivered.
Tthe Authors' Guild and Association of American Publishers' (AAP) have raised a fuss and filed lawsuits over Google's scanning universities' libraries. But, as University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman rightly pointed out in a speech [PDF] before the AAP, focusing on the legal issues [PDF] of Google Book Search misses the point: "[The digitization project] transcends debates about snippets, and copyright, and who owns what when, and rises to the very ideal of a university -- particularly a great public university like Michigan."
Coleman described how preserving the knowledge and information in Michigan's library is an essential public good that cannot be fulfilled without Google's help:
Today Senators Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin wrote to the CEOs of AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc., asking if the telecommunications giants collaborated with the government's domestic spying program, as has been reported in USA Today and many other news outlets.
Citing data security concerns, the TSA on Thursday informed a Senate committee that its controversial Secure Flight program would be delayed indefinitely. In written testimony, the Government Accountability Office also noted that Secure Flight "may not be adequately protected against unauthorized access and use or disruption."
H.Res.643 is a "resolution of inquiry" that calls for the Attorney General to hand over to the House of Representatives all documents "relating to warrantless electronic surveillance of telephone conversations and electronic communications of persons in the United States conducted by the National Security Agency." We're asking EFF supporters whose representatives are on this key committee (find out if you are one) to call him or her, and vote to uncover what's going on at the NSA.
Today, the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations is holding hearings on the topic "The Internet in China: A Tool for Suppression?" Representatives of Google, Yahoo, Cisco, and Microsoft will all be in attendence.
Our open letter to the Committee follows after the cut.
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations
The Committee on International Relations
2170 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
February 15, 2005
Dear Representative Smith, Representative Leach, members of the Committee on International Relations, Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations and Asia and the Pacific,
It is no secret that the entertainment oligopolists are not happy about space-shifting and format-shifting. But surely ripping your own CDs to your own iPod passes muster, right? In fact, didn't they admit as much in front of the Supreme Court during the MGM v. Grokster argument last year?
As part of the on-going DMCA rule-making proceedings, the RIAA and other copyright industry associations submitted a filing that included this gem as part of their argument that space-shifting and format-shifting do not count as noninfringing uses, even when you are talking about making copies of your own CDs:
In the wake of the scandals regarding the XCP and MediaMax CD copy protection mechanisms used by Sony-BMG and several independent labels, EFF asked EMI if it would allow security researchers to examine the Macrovision copy protection technologies that it uses. The goal would be to verify that Macrovision's CD copy protection software does not create security vulnerabilities for music fans. Although EMI and Macrovision claim confidence in the security of the technology, there's nothing like independent testing to verify such claims.
If you were upset about Sony BMG's dangerous digital rights management (DRM) released in millions of CDs last year, now is the time show that you care. The settlement process has begun in EFF's class action lawsuit against the entertainment giant. Music fans who bought the affected CDs can submit claims for clean CDs. Some customers are also eligible for extra downloads.
Here we go again, another example of the DMCA being used to block competition in secondary markets. First we had the lawsuit to block refilling of Lexmark toner cartridges. Then the lawsuit to block interoperable clickers for garage door openers. Then the lawsuit to block independent service vendors from servicing enterprise data storage systems.
This new contest challenges artists to mix tracks under 4 minutes and use provided voice samples from Ben Franzen and Kembrew McLeod's forthcoming film, "Copyright Criminals." Samples from the film include voiceovers from George Clinton, De La Soul, DJ Qbert, members of Public Enemy, Matmos, Coldcut, members of Negativland, and others. The best overall winner will be included prominently in the film and the top 11 other entries are to be included on a companion CD.
You've got till March 14 to get your entries in.
The first meeting of the newly-created WIPO Provisional Committee for Proposals Related to a Development Agenda (PCDA) started yesterday, and runs until February 24. The PCDA is tasked with reviewing the 50 or so proposals put forward by WIPO member countries and coming up with concrete action proposals for the September 2006 General Assembly. No easy task indeed.
And then there's the politically-charged atmosphere. The meeting began almost three hours late after intense negotiations to elect a Chair that was acceptable to all countries. But when talks finally got underway in the afternoon, and countries presented their new proposals, the real issue at stake here - how to create intellectual property laws that protect human rights like access to knowledge and medicine - took center stage.
In the afternoon of Day 2 of the WIPO Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a Development Agenda we finally got down to business: discussing Chile's thoughtful proposal on the Public Domain. Chile had actually put forward three suggestions, but it was the proposal for WIPO to undertake a study of the value of "a rich and accessible public domain" that drew comments from a slew of Member States, the Committee Chair and public interest non-governmental organizations. And rightly so. As Chile's proposal notes, the public domain is essential for ensuring access to knowledge, and provides the foundation for technological innovation.
The first meeting of WIPO's Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a Development Agenda (PCDA) has just ended, amidst a last-minute flurry of activity. The question on everyone's mind is where to from here? The answer is not so clear.
After four days of discussions about interesting proposals from Chile, the Africa Group, Colombia, the United States of America and the 15 countries in the Group of Friends of Development, late yesterday the Chair asked countries to "cluster" the 50-or-so proposals currently on the table under five headings, with the goal of shaping discussions at the next PCDA meeting on June 26-30. That meeting must produce recommendations on a Development Agenda for the WIPO General Assembly.
In the interests of expanding its big brand advertising base, Yahoo! has turned its back on consumers. SearchEngineWatch reports that Yahoo is sending emails to all advertisers warning that, as of March 1, Yahoo will forbid them from bidding on keywords with competitive trademarks. In other words, Coke can no longer bid to use "Pepsi." Yahoo! insists that the purpose of the policy is to "more easily deliver quality user experiences when users search on terms that are trademarks."
Last week, EFF filed an amicus brief on behalf of Tenise Barker, one of the more than 19,000 Americans who have been sued by the record labels for file sharing. Ms. Barker, represented by Ray Beckerman, is fighting back in court.
EFF's brief makes one narrow but important point: P2P file sharing does not infringe a copyright owner's "distribution right."
The major record labels have been suing file-sharers for infringing both the reproduction right (for downloading) and the distribution right (for uploading). Because most of these lawsuits settle or go undefended, simply alleging infringing copying should be enough. So why sue on both grounds?