Congress returns from recess this week, and EFF is joining a coalition of organizations for a two week national call-in to stop the dangerous NSA spying bills. Visit our Action Center to call your members of Congress now, and spread the word to friends and family about these bills as well. Let's keep those phones ringing in the Congressional halls for two weeks straight!
Senator Arlen Specter is still rushing to pass his surveillance bill, which would help the government and the NSA continue to break the law by spying on ordinary Americans. He's planning a committee vote this Thursday, and a floor vote as early as next week. Senator Mike DeWine has also proposed a bill that would attempt to retroactively legalize the NSA dragnet surveillance.
A federal judge in Oregon today rejected [PDF] the government's attempt to block a lawsuit against the NSA's massive and illegal spying program. This is a huge victory -- like Judge Walker in our case against AT&T and Judge Diggs Taylor in the ACLU's case in Michigan, Judge King rejected the government's motion to dismiss on the basis of the "state secrets" privilege.
But some Congressmen are still trying to squash this vigorous judicial oversight. Fortunately, Specter's surveillance bill was once again stalled before it could reach a vote today. Keep your phone calls to Congress coming and stop the surveillance bills.
The Section 115 Reform Act ("S1RA") is back, and its provisions smashing Internet fair use are as bad as ever. As we wrote about in June, S1RA would sneak in some subtle, dangerous changes into copyright law. The bill implies that licenses from copyright holders are needed for every digital copy made in the transmission of digital media -- including cached copies on servers or on your hard drive, and even temporary copies in RAM.
It initially seemed like several members of Congress were committed to removing these elements of the bill, but, three months later, the bill is largely unchanged and coming up for a key vote in the House during the next two weeks.
If adopted, the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty would lockdown your digital media devices and grant to broadcasters and cablecasters broad new IP-like rights over anything they transmit. That's bad enough, but some countries at WIPO have also supported expanding the treaty to cover various Internet transmissions.
While many prominent webcasters have already spoken out about the treaty, podcasters also should make their voices heard. If you're a podcaster, read this joint statement to WIPO opposing the treaty and write to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign on.
CDT has published a white paper setting out criteria on which DRM-restricted products and services should be judged. The paper should be required reading for every product reviewer who evaluates digital media products and services, suggesting specific questions that reviewers should be asking when examining DRM-restricted offerings.
Too many product reviews fail to mention DRM restrictions (where were the reviewers when Sony-BMG's rootkit CDs showed up?), much less test and evaluate DRM-laden products against unrestricted alternatives (for example, comparing DRM-laden products like TiVo against unrestricted alternatives like MythTV).
EFF's longtime friend and sometimes client Avi Rubin has written a terrific book about his adventures in e-voting. I admit that I'm not a particularly objective reviewer, since both EFF and I personally were deeply involved in the events in the book and Avi treats us both as heros. But Brave New Ballot is a great read (or gift) for anyone looking for an enjoyable, easy way to get up to speed on this critical issue.
EFF's FLAG Project, based at EFF's new Washington, D.C. office, will use Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation to expose the government's expanding use of technologies that invade Americans' privacy.
The Freedom of Information Act is a statute that compels the government to disclose details about its activities. EFF's FOIA requests will zero in on collection and use of information about Americans, the increasing cooperation between the government and the private sector, and federal agencies' development and use of new information technologies. The FLAG Project -- for FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government -- is spearheaded by two experienced Freedom of Information specialists: Senior Counsel David Sobel and Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann.
Last month, we posted a few short tips to help you protect your online search privacy. We've now published a paper that digs deeper into the issue and has more complete instructions. They range from straightforward steps that offer a little protection to more complicated measures that offer near-complete safety. Check it out here.
The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights is meeting this week in Geneva to discuss and "finalize" the proposed Broadcasting Treaty. WIPO's goal is to get the 182 Member States to make a recommendation to the upcoming General Assembly that it should convene an early 2007 Diplomatic Conference, where the nuts and bolts of the treaty would be hammered out. Stakes are high. This will be the third time that the treaty has been put forward for a vote on holding a Diplomatic Conference. At the end of day 2, it looks like they might get their wish. The only question is at what cost?
The WIPO Broadcasting Treaty has just passed the next step on its way to a Diplomatic Conference in 2007. The meeting of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights has just recommended that the WIPO General Assembly convene a Diplomatic Conference in July 2007.
Overruling the objections of a number of WIPO Member States (including the United States), the following recommendations were grudgingly adopted under a silent procedure:
Day 3, 13 September 2006.
Meeting outcome (as adopted by silent procedure, at 5:56 p.m.):
Less than two months before the November election, Princeton researchers Ariel Feldman, Alex Halderman, and Ed Felten have released a remarkable new study demonstrating just how vulnerable Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machines are to manipulation. With clarity and in vivid detail, the study reveals glaring vulnerabilities with Diebold's technology and the simple methods an attacker could use to exploit them in order to change election results.
- A Search Engine for Government Spending
Congress passes measure to create tool that will expose where your tax dollars go.
- MS, Customers Play DRM Cat and Mouse
Engadget reports on the continuing saga of FairUse4WM, a Windows Media DRM evasion tool.
- NYT: Music Fans Turning Away From Traditional Gatekeepers
"All told, music consumers are increasingly turning away from the traditional gatekeepers and looking instead to one another -- to fellow fans, even those they've never met -- to guide their choices."
Passed by the House in July 2006, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) would require public schools and libraries to block access to social networking sites and other communication tools as a condition for receiving certain government funding. Protecting children online is important, but letting federal bureaucrats arbitrarily censor legitimate speech is the wrong way to go. Take action now and tell your Senators to oppose DOPA.
WIPO's proposed Broadcasting Treaty lurched forward another step on Wednesday. In a tense and acrimonious meeting, the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights adopted a recommendation that WIPO's General Assembly should convene a 2007 Diplomatic Conference to finalize the treaty. The 183 WIPO Member States must now decide whether to accept that and convene the Conference, when the General Assembly meets on September 25 - October 3. It's not at all clear whether they will do so, but EFF will be at WIPO to report on events as they unfold.
There has been quite a bit of discussion (BoingBoing, Medialoper, Slyck) about whether Microsoft's new Zune portable media player will end up violating Creative Commons licenses with its DRM-laden wireless sharing feature. For a careful examination of the question, check out this post at LawMeme from New York Law School Adjunct Professor and former EFF legal intern, James Grimmelman:
Two months ago, Sony released the new Jessica Simpson single in MP3 through Yahoo! Music. This week, Variety (via PaidContent) reports that Disney-owned Hollywood Records will release Jesse McCartney's full album in MP3. It seems that some major record label execs may finally be coming to their senses:
"We're trying to be realistic," said Ken Bunt, senior VP of marketing at Hollywood Records. "Jesse's single is already online and we haven't put it out. Piracy happens regardless of what we do. So we're going to see how Jesse's album goes (as an MP3) and then decide on others going forward."
Just as Sen. Specter's surveillance bill appeared headed for the Senate floor this week, it has once again been delayed. Nearly two months since it was first announced, the bill unfortunately passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. But the Washington Post reports today that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist "referred the warrantless surveillance matter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for further review and would not bring it up for Senate consideration until next week."
Today is OneWebDay, a day to "celebrate the Web and what it means to us as individuals, organizations, and communities." Founded by cyberlaw professor Susan Crawford and spearheaded by volunteers around the globe, the initiative has planned events in major cities. The goal is to get people to take a moment and reflect on the beneficial role the Web already plays in our lives -- and how important it is to take action to protect its development in the future. Visit the OneWebDay site to learn more, and check the wiki for information on in-person events.
For the last two months, your phone calls and letters have helped hold back the dangerous NSA spying bills in Congress. But in the last week before the pre-election recess, the White House and several Congressional leaders are trying to sneak these bills through and effect the single greatest expansion of government surveillance ever. Take action now to stop the illegal surveillance, before it's too late.
As widely reported, Apple is continuing its quest to police all uses of the term "pod," whether or not any consumer could possibly imagine that Apple was sponsoring the use in question. Apple's effort to forbid "unauthorized" use of such terms as "podcast ready" is just one more example of a company losing sight of the fundamental purpose of trademarks: to improve consumer access to accurate information about goods and services. Trademarks are just shorthand terms that designate the origin or sponsorship of a product. Given the ubiquity of the term "podcast," Apple's contention that consumers will imagine that the company endorses or sponsors every use of that term is hubris at best, and a dangerous pretext for an effort to control language at worst.
Today, three key Senators who had previously stood against Senator Specter's surveillance bill and caved to the White House's wishes regarding NSA spying legislation. Like Specter himself, these representatives agreed to a sham "compromise." The amendments do not change the simple fact that this bill remains just as dangerous as ever and in many respects is even worse.
EFF is back in Geneva to report on the 2006 General Assemblies of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This is the large annual meeting where progress is measured and paths are charted for the coming year. We're here to cover two issues in particular: the WIPO Development Agenda and the proposed broadcasting treaty. At issue are how discussions on the Development Agenda will proceed in 2007, and whether to approve a recent subcommittee recommendation to convene a diplomatic conference (what the cool kids call a "dipcon") in 2007. The goal of the treaty is to provide broadcasters with protection against those who would re-broadcast their signals without permission. The two dominant approaches to achieving this goal are 1) rights-based, creating new copyright-like rights for broadcasters over recordings and retransmissions, and 2) signal-based, creating penalties for the unauthorized interception and redistribution of a broadcast signal.
The district court in the MGM v. Grokster case issued its ruling yesterday, granting summary judgment in favor of the entertainment industry plaintiffs against StreamCast Networks (the other defendants, Grokster and Sharman Networks, have settled). This comes 15 months after the Supreme Court ruling that sent the case back down for consideration of the newly-minted "inducement" theory.
EFF represented StreamCast from the beginning of the case through the Supreme Court proceedings. After the Supreme Court's ruling, we predicted that the new inducement theory would have a chilling effect on innovators. Yesterday's ruling bears out that fear.
In finding StreamCast liable for inducement, the court said:
[Update, September 30: You did it! The Senate adjourned last night without passing NSA wiretapping legislation. Congress is now in recess until after the November election.]
Against strong opposition, the House last night passed Rep. Wilson's dangerous surveillance bill. The fight isn't over, though -- we can still stop these dangerous surveillance bills in the Senate before the October recess in a short 24 hours. Please keep your calls to the Senate coming.
And now some of your representatives are trying to sneak a dangerous amendment into the Port Security Bill -- the text is below the fold, and it's so bad it speaks for itself. If your representative is on the list below, call them IMMEDIATELY with the following message: