Last Friday, Congress went into its pre-election recess, and, thanks to the tireless efforts of individual constituents like you, many bad bills were held in check.
The negotiations have been tough (we hear), but the 2007 WIPO General Assemblies have come to a close with two huge victories for the public interest. On the Broadcasting Treaty, while the GA agreed to convene a Diplomatic Conference in November/December 2007, we now have two welcome safeguards in place (document after the jump).
Last month, California's state legislature passed a bipartisan, groundbreaking new law that would institute tough privacy safeguards for Radio Frequency Identification RFID chips embedded in state identification cards. Unfortunately, over the weekend Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the Identity Information Protection Act and prevented Californians from gaining control over the personal information that will be broadcast by RFID-equipped drivers' licenses, library cards, and other important ID cards.
It's the latest digital media murder mystery: TiVo Series2's TiVoToGo enabled limited portability of recorded content to PCs and other devices, but the TiVo Series3 HD did not include this feature when recently released. In other words, if you want to upgrade to HD, you have to downgrade your TiVo's features.
You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to guess that this story somehow involves Hollywood, the FCC, and "digital rights management" (DRM) restrictions. EFF has opposed these restrictions every step of the way, and, in a white paper released today, we'll explain digital cable DRM's sordid history, how digital cable and satellite DRM may affect you, and what you can do to fight back.
- US Cripples Online Poker and Gaming Industry
Ordinary Americans lose access to a favorite hobby as companies' stocks tumble.
- AOL Sued for Search Data Debacle
Class action alleges violation of privacy laws.
- YouTube Strikes Deal With Warner Music
Deal will allow music videos to be distributed on site.
- News Aggregation and Copyright
Google continues fighting with Belgian court...
The Washington Post reports a cautionary tale about a financial executive's mistaken attempt to censor a blogger. Not only did it not make the story go away, the blogger posted the request from his service provider, which in turn led to the story gathering prominence throughout the Internet and then in the mainstream media.
To learn about bloggers' rights, check out our legal guide.
Today, a federal court shot down yet another attempt by the government to use "national security" as a blank check for illegal surveillance. Refusing a claim that the government could not even confirm or deny whether it had listened in on calls between attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights and their clients, the court ordered the government to provide that information to the court in secret first, then set up a process to possibly provide that information to the attorneys involved. The court confirmed: "It is a cardinal rule of litigation that one side may not eavesdrop on the other's privileged attorney-client communications."
The New York Times reports that the Department of Homeland Security is funding the development of software to keep tabs on international publications expressing unfavorable views about the United States. According to the Times:
The new software would allow much more rapid and comprehensive monitoring of the global news media, as the Homeland Security Department and, perhaps, intelligence agencies look "to identify common patterns from numerous sources of information which might be indicative of potential threats to the nation," a statement by the department said.
This kind of monitoring could affect the willingness of journalists to report negative information or controversial opinions about the United States, and otherwise chill online speech protected by the First Amendment.
Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a stay to halt the enforcement of a federal court order stopping the government's warrantless surveillance program, pending the outcome of the government's appeal of the decision declaring the program illegal and unconstitutional. The short opinion, which offered little legal analysis, is disappointing, but it's not the last word on the government's illegal spying -- this case will still be heard on appeal by the Sixth Circuit.
After a wait of nearly three years, Judge Hood in the Eastern District of Michigan finally ruled yesterday on the government's request that the court dismiss a lawsuit brought by a group of Muslim and Arab-American associations challenging the constitutionality of PATRIOT Act Section 215. As you may recall, Section 215 authorizes the government to obtain a secret order from the FISA court demanding business records or any other information that investigators think is relevant to a terrorism investigation. The court's decision? Motion denied!
Says the court:
John Batelle over at SearchBlog was kind enough to invite me to do a short interview about a variety of Google and YouTube copyright questions. Among other subjects touched on, I opine that all the hand-wringing analysts fretting about the copyright implications of GooTube may have it backwards:
So I think the YouTube acquisition may well represent a legal opportunity for Google (and the Internet industry generally), rather than a vulnerability. After all, litigation to define the copyright rules for new online services are inevitable -- better to choose your battles and plan for them, rather than fleeing the fight and letting some other company create bad precedents that will haunt you later.
Last year, TiVo users experienced glitches that auto-erased recorded content. The culprit was Macrovision DRM, and it's back and as bad as ever in TiVo Series 3 for HD. CNet documents brand new errors that prevented viewing and recording content. (Link via BoingBoing.)
Unfortunately, glitches like this are only part of Series 3 users' worries. Hollywood and cable providers have forced TiVo to remove TiVoToGo and implement a host of DRM restrictions in this device. If a program is marked as "copy never" or "copy once," your TiVo must obey -- it doesn't matter whether the copy limit was put there on purpose by the cable provider or was a technical error, as in CNet's case.
This week, the FTC released a report about municipal wireless broadband projects. Rather than taking a particular stance on the matter, "[i]t sets forth a framework that recognizes that the relevance of arguments for and against municipal involvement may vary depending on the particular factual circumstances." As Harold Feld points out on Public Knowledge's blog, the paper's overall perspective has an important upshot -- it suggests that there is no one-size-fits-all WiFi policy for every locality.
Learn about attempts to pass statewide bans on muni WiFi here.
Bloggers in California have scored another victory against baseless legal threats intended to chill free speech. In Tendler v. Does, Mordecai Tendler had tried and failed to unmask several anonymous bloggers who had written about his alleged sexual misconduct. Yesterday, a California State Superior Court judge ruled that he must now pay for the bloggers' attorneys fees incurred during the bogus lawsuit.
Rabbi Tendler was expelled from the Rabbinical Council of America in March 2005 after several women that he professionally counseled accused him of sexual abuse and harassment. One of his accusers sued him in December 2005, and his congregation dismissed him from his post earlier this year.
- DVD Region Coding -- Now in HD!
In case you hoped your next-generation video media would be less crippled than DVDs.
- Swedish Appeals Court Acquits Accused Filesharer
IP address insufficient identification.
- Please Present Passport, 34 Pieces of Personal Information
U.S. and EU reach deal to share passenger data.
- Norwegian ISP De-Neutralizes Network
And re-neutralizes it in response to customer outcry.
Today Judge Walker issued an order in our case against AT&T setting a case management conference on November 14, 2006. The case management conference is an important step towards opening up discovery and moving the litigation forward. Previously, Judge Walker had placed the case on hold. Case management statements from the parties will be filed by November 7. We are still awaiting the Ninth Circuit's decision on whether or not it will hear the government's appeal.
Lost in the GooTube shuffle last week was some even bigger news for the scores of YouTube users who already enjoyed lip syncing (and hip shaking) to their favorite songs and posting home videos to the site. Deals worked out with Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner Music suggest that fans will be able to freely remix and share popular sound recordings from those major record labels' catalogs. When a remix video gets viewed, YouTube will share a cut of the advertising revenue with the rights holder.
In a Reuters article published yesterday, Yahoo Music general manager David Goldberg offers this choice quote:
"The notion that a track I buy in DRM is protected and one without DRM isn't is a fallacy.... It's all nonsense. Music is never going to be protected, and anybody who tells you that is not being honest.... [Y]ou're just making it hard for people who want to do the right thing to get the music they legitimately purchased on the devices and services that they want."
A recent report from the House Committee on Government Reform shows that sloppy handling of personal data is rampant across the federal government, with 19 agencies self-reporting at least one leak of personally identifiable information since 2003. According to the report:
Today, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IPFI), which represents record labels around the world, announced 8,000 lawsuits against P2P users in 17 countries. Over 31,000 lawsuits have now been filed worldwide against P2P users, including over 18,000 in the US. The Center for Technology and Society at FGV Law School in Brazil posted this petition against the P2P lawsuits there, which were the first filed in that country.
Today, Universal Music Group sued Grouper and Bolt.com for hosting copyrighted music videos uploaded by individual users. According to Reuters, Universal "made clear that ... [it] retain[ed] the right to add" to the lawsuit Sony Pictures, which recently bought Grouper.
And thus the record industry lawsuits roll on, even as certain major labels cut deals with YouTube. To learn more about the protections that copyright law might offer these video sharing sites, check out this recent article by EFF's Fred von Lohmann.
Engadget (via BoingBoing) reports yet another digital media device "upgrade" that actually downgrades certain features. Creative Labs' latest firmware update to the Zen MicroPhoto and Zen Vision:M portable media players removes the ability to record FM radio.
None of Creative's customers asked for this misfeature, though certain copyright holders might have. Today radio recording restrictions are not mandatory, but if the major record labels get their way, that won't be the case -- take action now to block digital radio restrictions bills currently in Congress.
Calabash Music is a leading online distributor of music from around the world, providing its entire catalog in MP3 format and splitting sales revenue 50-50 with artists. Local DJ and Calabash Music General Counsel Jim Sowers will be spinning African, Caribbean, and Latin music all night long. Part of the proceeds from the cover charge ($5) will go to EFF, and EFF staff members will be there to chat (and dance, if you're lucky).
We hope to see you there, and spread the word!
- New DRM Adds Unwanted Unfeature Shock
New DVDs designed to not play on computers.
- Innovative New Internet Tax
In India a fiber connection is not a service; it's selling
taxable "light energy."
- Spyware for Swiss Cops
Swiss law enforcement gives nod to backdooring software that
will "indetectably" redirect VoIP packets, turning on mics
- One Laptop per Libyan Child
Negroponte's project provides 1.2 million computers to
The Xinhua news agency reports (via AP) that the Chinese government's Internet Society of China will "require bloggers register with authorities under their real names."
It is well-settled in the United States that the First Amendment shelters the right to blog anonymously. The US Supreme Court has found that anonymity is necessary for free speech because forced "identification and fear of reprisal might deter perfectly peaceful discussions of public matters of importance." The Chinese move appears to be designed exactly to deter such peaceful discussions.
A Copyright Office ruling last week may lower the price of ringtones, and, interestingly, you have the RIAA and its support for compulsory licensing to thank.
For a record label to distribute a CD or iTunes to sell a downloadable song, they need to secure the rights to the underlying musical composition, which is typically held by a music publisher or the song's composer. The Copyright Act compels composition rights holders to license these types of uses at rates set by Copyright Royalty Judges. At the request of the RIAA, the Copyright Office ruled that this compulsory "mechanical" license also applies to using compositions to create ringtones.
Yesterday, the New York Times published a troubling article about remotely-readable credit cards using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology:
"[I]n tests on 20 cards from Visa, MasterCard and American Express, the researchers here found that the cardholder's name and other data was being transmitted without encryption and in plain text. They could skim and store the information from a card with a device the size of a couple of paperback books, which they cobbled together from readily available computer and radio components for $150.
"They say they could probably make another one even smaller and cheaper: about the size of a pack of gum for less than $50."
Before clicking the "I Agree" button that accompanies software products' dense End User License Agreements (EULA), it's always best to check with Infoworld's Ed Foster first. He is unrelenting in his careful criticisms of EULAs, and, this week, he takes on a section of Microsoft Vista's EULA that aims to stifle the speech of product reviewers and critics. He writes:
"[I]f Microsoft has the right to put even the mildest of restrictions on a consumer's rights to comment on their products, why can't a carmaker or an appliance manufacturer have a censorship clause hidden somewhere on their website? There is nothing is copyright law that gives software publishers the right to restrict the rights of their customers to criticize their products."
"Digital technology enables literally anyone and everyone to be a creator, an innovator or an artist -- to produce music, to create cutting-edge videos and photos, and to share their creative work. Digital technology empowers individuals to enjoy these new works when, where, and how they want, and to participate in the artistic process. These are basic freedoms that must be protected and nurtured.
- Free Speech Pays
The Knight Foundation is dispensing $5 million to cyberjournalism projects
- Data-Mine Californian Politicians
Monitor campaign contributions to Californian politicos.
- Squeezebox Picked Up by Logitech
EFF-supporter Slim Devices remotely transferred to the PC peripheral giant.
- Internet Governance Forum in Athens: Free Speech
Sponsored by EFF and many others.
EFF has updated the Legal Guide for Bloggers to include a new section on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the federal open government law. The FAQ explains how bloggers can use the FOIA to ask for government records, get processing fees waived, and what to do if an agency denies a request. It also shows online journalists how to take advantage of the FOIA's special treatment for news media requesters.
For more information about EFF's FOIA work, check out the FLAG Project.
Learn what you can do to support bloggers' rights here.
Statisticians are trained experts in data collection, so it's worth paying special attention to the American Statistical Association President's timely letter [PDF] about accurately counting votes in the upcoming national election. President Sallie Keller-McNulty warns that, "[W]e can expect between five to twenty federal elections and dozens of local elections to be ... too close to call." "To resolve close elections" and make sure every vote is accurately counted, election officials must be ready to do "real recounts (cross-checking paper records against official tabulations), not just rereading machine totals" and perform "random audits in all localities."
The much maligned Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows a copyright holders to unmask an Internet user's identity based on a mere allegation of infringement without filing an actual lawsuit or providing the user any due process. DMCA 512(h) is troubling enough when used in cases of actual infringement, but even more troubling when used to stifle critical speech -- and far worse when the content at issue is about the subpoena-seekers, not by them.
As a result of a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the U.S. that came into force in 2005, Australia is required to rewrite its current, relatively flexible, technological protection measure law by 1 January 2007, to make it more like the DMCA. A serious policy debate on how to frame a DRM law that does the least damage to consumers, scientific research, technological innovation and competition has been underway in Australia for several years. In February, a landmark Australian parliamentary committee report with consumer and technology-friendly recommendations for Australia's rewrite process also pointed the way for other countries seeking a sensible response to the U.S. effort to export its unbalanced DMCA regime through recent free trade agreements.
Hoping for a quiet, orderly election day? Dream on. In recent days -- a full week before most Americans go to the polls -- election observers have already reported problems with electronic voting machines: