As we explained in our report, "DMCA Triennial Rulemaking: Failing the Digital Consumer," the DMCA's triennial rulemaking process has been a conspicuous failure when it comes to addressing the legitimate concerns of American digital consumers. The rulemaking was created by Congress as a "safety valve" to craft exceptions to the DMCA to permit noninfringing uses of DRMd media. (The latest rulemaking is going on right now before the Copyright Office, with a final report due in October.)
This bill would require that all future digital radios (both terrestrial, like HD Radio, and satellite, like XM and Sirius) "include prohibitions on unauthorized copying and redistribution of transmitted content." The FCC would be tasked with working out the details.
EFF is warning the public about a so-called anonymous email service located at Advicebox.com. Advicebox.com's tagline is "Anonymous email made easy" but this service does not provide real anonymity -- it's a trap for the unwary and should not be used by battered spouses, whistleblowers and others who need real protection.
We were alerted to AdviceBox.com trap when we were approached by an anonymous critic who believed the tagline, paid the fee and used the service to send an "anonymous" extremely critical email about a former employer. The employer ran to court, and AdviceBox.com handed the critic's name over to the former employer giving our critic less than a three days notice -- not nearly enough time to find an attorney and make a motion to protect his identity. He has lost his current job as a result.
On the heels of Google's setting up shop in China, EFF has called on Internet companies operating abroad to implement services that better protect human rights. According to ComputerWorld, Google has taken a step in the right direction and decided to store their massive data logs outside of China. That way, the logs can't become a dangerous honeypot of personal information for the oppressive regime, helping it monitor citizens' Internet activities and crack down on disfavored behavior.
Much more can still be done to protect Chinese citizens, but this decision is laudable. Yahoo!, MSN, and others should follow Google's lead and limit their data collection and retention.
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... superpodcasters!
Adventures of Superman issue #648 featured characters wearing clothing with logos of three popular tech podcasts, This Week in Tech (TWiT), commandN, and Hak.5. Eight copies of the comic signed by the podcasters are now being auctioned off on eBay, and all proceeds go to support EFF. The top three bidders also get some TWiT gear, including a pocket protector signed by the show's hosts and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.
Thanks to G4's Call for Help for putting together this fundraiser.
The USACM (U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery) has recently issued a set of policy recommendations regarding DRM. They are sensible and make for good reading.
It's good to see an association made up of technical professionals take a stance on the DRM-related issues pending in Congress, including the broadcast flag, analog hole, digital radio flag and DMCA reform. When it comes to these issues, Congress could use more sensible advice from engineers, rather than Hollywood lobbyists.
Here are the USACM principles:
A proposed New Jersey bill would eliminate online anonymous speech by requiring every Internet service provider, blog, and website that allows reader comments or provides open forums to demand user identification from every participant. Assemblyman Peter Biondi's A1327 would also require that service providers record your "legal name," and reveal your identity to anyone claiming to have been defamed, on pain of crippling liability. A similar bill, A2623, sponsored by Assemblymen Wilfredo Caraballo and Upendra J.
It's time for music fans who bought Sony BMG CDs loaded with harmful XCP or MediaMax copy protection to claim their settlement benefits: clean versions of the music, plus (in many cases) additional downloads and cash. Submitting a claim not only gets fans music that will play on their computers without restriction or security risk, it lets Sony BMG know that consumers care about this issue. And for those who have not yet protected their computers, it's long past time to download the uninstallers that will sweep that DRM off of systems and eliminate its dangerous security risks.
News.com reports that American Airlines has subpoenaed Google and YouTube, demanding the name of someone who posted an airline training video online. This is yet another abuse of DMCA 512(h), which allows copyright holders to unmask an Internet user's identity based on a mere allegation of infringement without any due process.
You might recall that EFF helped Verizon limit the scope of this dangerous statute when the RIAA attempted to attain the identities of P2P file sharing users. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the provision doesn't apply to content residing on individuals' own computers.
Despite the best efforts of EFF, other civil liberties organizations, and their supporters, Americans' privacy rights took some serious body-blows from Congress this week. For more on the PATRIOT Act: The USA PATRIOT Act was renewed without meaningful reform, and key Congressmen backed away from a full investigation of the NSA's domestic spying program, instead making a deal with the White House to legalize it.
Whether because of election year fears or White House pressures, Republican Senators who had been holding out for significant new checks on the PATRIOT Act dropped the fight when offered a few sham reforms. The renewal bill was then quickly approved by the Senate and, this week, approved by the House and signed by the President.
We recently criticized two New Jersey bills that would eliminate online anonymous speech by requiring every Internet service provider, blog, and website that allows reader comments or provides open forums to demand user identification from every participant. Today, a diverse coalition of companies, public interest organizations, and legal scholars, including EFF, craigslist, Public Citizen, the US Internet Industry Association (USIIA), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and Professors Lyrissa C. Barnett Lidsky and Jennifer M. Urban, sent an open letter today to the bills' authors, urging them to withdraw their support.
The letter can be found here [PDF].
The momentum against AOL's misguided pay-to-send email scheme continues to grow. Our DearAOL coalition has grown to over 500 organizations and more than 300,000 email users have signed petitions opposing the plan. A California state senator is scheduling hearings, and many prominent consumer protection groups have joined in raising their concerns.
Wow, documentary filmmakers suddenly find themselves with some of the very best resources explaining fair use that have ever been assembled for non-lawyers. First came the Center for Social Media's project to bring together documentarians to distill a Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. This is fantastic because it is short, free, written for non-lawyers, and grew out of discussions inside the documentary film community. Best of all, courts can look to this kind of "best practices" document when deciding fair use cases. So, with any luck, the documentary community is effectively making their own fair use law here, rather than waiting for Congress or the courts to resolve the questions. Bravo!
The content industry likes to say that opposing the DMCA means opposing the free market. The libertarian Cato Institute, whose mission includes limiting government intrusion into the free market, released an excellent paper today taking aim at this faulty economic reasoning. In "Circumventing Competition: The Perverse Consequences of the DMCA," policy analyst and blogger Tim Lee writes:
"The DMCA is anti-competitive. It gives copyright holders—and the technology companies that distribute their content—the legal power to create closed technology platforms and exclude competitors from interoperating with them. Worst of all, DRM technologies are clumsy and ineffective; they inconvenience legitimate users but do little to stop pirates."
Does your organization know its rights when it comes to government surveillance? Do you and your colleagues have the technical knowledge necessary to secure your organization's sensitive data and communications against government intrusion?
Many of the legal protections against government searches and surveillance have been removed since 9/11 and the USA PATRIOT Act, so EFF has developed STOP -- a free, five-hour security training for non-profits that will give you the legal and technical information that you need to protect the privacy of your organization and its clients.
The next STOP is in Los Angeles, and it's right around the corner. RSVP by March 27th to join in this important training on March 30th!
On Thursday, the Copyright Office held the first in a series of hearings on its triennial DMCA Anti-Circumvention Rulemaking in Palo Alto, CA. Every three years, the Copyright Office solicits proposals to exempt specified classes of works from the DMCA's prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. Seventy-four such proposals were submitted in the current proceeding, two of which were discussed at yesterday's hearing.
On Monday, the Federal Election Commission voted unanimously to adopt new regulations [PDF] that would leave Internet-related activities largely untouched by campaign finance rules. Monday's vote marked the culmination of a series of events put into motion in September 2004 when a federal district court ruled that the FEC couldn't categorically exempt the Internet from federal campaign finance rules and forced the agency to draw up new rules accordingly.
On April 20, a California Court of Appeal will hear arguments in Apple v. Does, a case with broad implications for all journalists. EFF is fighting to ensure that bloggers and other online writers get the same rights as offline journalists and can protect the confidentiality of their sources.
As you may recall, Apple is suing several unnamed individuals, called "Does," who allegedly leaked information about an upcoming product code-named "Asteroid." Apple has subpoenaed Nfox, the ISP for PowerPage publisher Jason O'Grady, demanding that the ISP turn over the communications and unpublished materials O'Grady obtained while he was gathering information for his articles about "Asteroid." Apple has also been granted permission to issue subpoenas directly to EFF clients PowerPage and AppleInsider for similar information.
In a terrific article at DesignTecnica, audio editor of Home Theater and the author of Practical Home Theater Mark Fleischmann has a stark warning for fellow "gadget lovers" looking forward to the newest crop of audio and video devices:
"What was once legal and "fair use" of existing gear is being redefined, criminalized, and copy-protected out of existence under new laws and regulations. Your existing gear, including your HDTV and your PC, is also being directly sabotaged by software. And gear you buy in the future may not have the functionality you've always taken for granted."
In light of AOL's adopting a "certified" email system, EFF is hosting a debate on the future of email. With distinguished entrepreneur Mitch Kapor moderating, EFF Activist Coordinator Danny O'Brien and renowned tech expert Esther Dyson will discuss the potential consequences if people have to pay to send email. Would the Internet deteriorate as a platform for free speech? Would spam or phishing decline?
Thursday, April 20th, 2006
7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
"Email - Should the Sender Pay?"
A Debate Between Danny O'Brien and Esther Dyson, Moderated by Mitch Kapor
Sponsored by Adaptive Path
EFF filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in its class-action lawsuit against AT&T today. However, much of the evidence that was to be included in the motion—as well as the legal arguments based on that evidence—was held back temporarily at the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ). While the government is not a party to the case, DOJ attorneys told EFF that even providing the evidence under seal to the court—a well-established procedure that prohibits public access and permits only the judge and the litigants to see the evidence—might not be sufficient security.
A prediction: the world of copyright law is about to collide with the world of digital indexing and search, and the collision will be among the most important digital copyright issues of the next several years.
A few weeks ago, the major movie studios filed a lawsuit against the operators of TorrentSpy. Although the TorrentSpy suit has been characterized as just the latest chapter in the MPAA's attack on Bit Torrent file sharing, on closer examination it looks more like a wholesale attack against Internet indexing generally.