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 (SpinCycle) 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!
As early voting has started in states across the country, electronic voting machine problems are already being widely reported. For instance, machines in apparently Arkansas, Florida, and Texas have flipped votes; voters attempted to select a particular candidate, but the machine incorrectly indicated a vote for the opponent.
The Department of Homeland Security today published a notice in the Federal Register disclosing the existence of a "new system of records" -- the Automated Targeting System (ATS) -- that assigns "risk assessments" to millions of U.S. citizens who seek "to enter or exit the United States" or whose work involves international trade. The system appears to involve the data-mining of massive amounts of information derived from a wide variety of sources, including Passenger Name Record (PNR) data obtained from commercial air carriers.
Since our recent post about the fast-tracking of the new Copyright Amendment Bill through Australian Parliament, we've had requests from Australian EFF members for an example letter upon which they can base their own message to MPs and Senators. We've now posted a sample on our Copyright Amendment Bill action page, together with fax and phone numbers for key Senators.
Time is short, so please call or fax your message this weekend, and let your fellow Australians know what's at stake.
As America goes to the polls, EFF's own podcast, Line Noise, returns with an interview with Representative Rush Holt, the politician behind the "gold standard" of e-voting reforms - a plan to introduce voter-verified paper records, public source releases, and random audits to all US electronic voting machines.
In collaboration with the Center for Citizen Media, the Stanford Center for Internet Society has published an excellent election day law FAQ, including information on taking photos or videos at polling places. Check it out here and here, and stay tuned to that blog for more answers to your questions.
AP has a round-up of some early election activity:
"About a third of voters were using new equipment, and problems in several states were reported right out of the gate. The government deployed a record number of poll watchers to the many competitive races across the country.
"Glitches delayed balloting in dozens of Indiana and Ohio precincts, and Illinois officials were swamped with calls from voters complaining that poll workers did not know how to operate new electronic equipment.
"In Delaware County, Indiana, officials planned to seek a court order to extend voting after an apparent computer error prevented voters from casting ballots in 75 precincts.
E-voting machines in Broward County, Florida failed to start on time this morning, significantly delaying voting. The Election Protection Coalition (which includes EFF) is talking to the governor about keeping the polling places open longer. The Coalition is also considering legal action to that end. We will update this post with further information later.
Six years after the 2000 election debacle in Florida, election day horror stories like this persist. But the problems aren't limited to that state; as we noted earlier, many other cities are also experiencing machine malfunctions.
The Denver Post has more details here. In particular, it notes that "Widespread computer problems were reported, some shutting down entire voting centers...."
As expected, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the petition to appeal Judge Walker's Order Denying the Government and AT&T's Motions to Dismiss in our case against AT&T for its illegal cooperation and collaboration with the government's spying program. Granting the petition allows the parties to brief the legal issues, but does not reach the merits.
We are looking forward to defending Walker's decision to deny the motions to dismiss before the appeals court, while pushing forward with our claims in the District Court at the November 17 Case Management Conference.
Reports from New Jersey suggest that voters have had trouble casting votes for Republican candidate for Senate Tom Kean Jr. "The state's Republican Committee says some of the machines were either preset for Democratic candidate Bob Menendez or were inoperable when people tried to cast votes for the challenger Tom Kean Jr."
Of course, similar malfunctions around the country have been reported by voters selecting Democratic candidates, too. We've said it many times before, but it's worth repeating: e-voting is a nonpartisan issue. Machine malfunctions harm all voters.
Many Virginians were among the millions of voters nationwide that cast their votes on electronic voting machines which lack paper trails. Voters thus could not verify that their votes were accurately recorded, and election officials will not be able to conduct a full and thorough recount.
That's bad enough, and with the close margin in Virginia's Senate race and the U.S. Senate at stake, it is especially tragic for the entire country, regardless of who is ultimately declared the winner. Simple precautions could have been taken to prevent this and myriad other e-voting problems. Indeed, Montana fortunately requires a paper trail, which could aid a recount in its tight Senate race.
A detailed report in Wednesday's Sarasota Herald-Tribune raises some important questions about touchscreen voting and a congressional race there that could be missing votes.
The paper reports that as of Wednesday morning, Republican Vern Buchanan had a lead of a few hundred votes over Democrat Christine Jennings in the battle for Florida's 13th Congressional District. But in about 13% of the ballots cast, there was no vote in the congressional race at all. So while 87,797 in Sarasota County voted in the Florida senate race, only 76,549 made a choice in the congressional race. That's also about 3,000 fewer people than voted in the local hospital board election, according to the report.
The U.S. government has asked for a stay in our case against AT&T for collaborating with the NSA in illegal spying on its customers. The government also wants to halt proceedings in the other class action cases against other telecommunication companies until the U.S. 9th Circuit hears an appeal of Judge Vaughn Walkers order denying the motions to dismiss.
Last week, EFF announced that it was fighting against Landmark Education's campaign to identify individuals who posted a French documentary, entitled Voyage Au Pays Des Nouveaux Gourous (Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus), that was critical of the Landmark program, and included hidden camera footage from inside a Landmark Forum event in France.
EFF is currently talking with Landmark in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution about Landmark's DMCA subpoena to Google. In the hope that we can resolve this without need of litigation, EFF has held off on filing its motion to quash that subpoena.
Down over 7,000 votes to Democratic challenger Jim Webb, Virginia Senator George Allen today conceded. "It is with deep respect for the people of Virginia," Allen said, "that I do not wish to cause more rancor by protracted litigation which would in my judgment not alter the results."
With all due respect to Sen. Allen, how could he know for sure?
Variety's Multichannel News reports that the telecommunications reform bill hangs in limbo after last week's election and is unlikely to be at the forefront in the next Congress. The Senate's version had been home to the broadcast and audio flag DRM mandates, so Hollywood and the recording industry may have to seek new ways to sneak through restrictions on your digital television and radio devices next year.
Yesterday, Sun Microsystems announced that it is releasing the Java source code under the GPL free software license, meaning anyone is free to copy, redistribute, modify, and make many other uses of the code. Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman hailed the release as one of the most significant software contributions by any company to the free software community. ZDNet and Sun's site have more details.
On Election Day, Americans fired many members of Congress who wanted to rubberstamp the NSA's illegal surveillance program. But before newly-elected representatives can take office and defend your rights, the president wants to sneak through spying legislation -- including a proposal that could threaten cases like EFF's lawsuit against AT&T. Your help is urgently needed to stop these dangerous proposals.
Lawsuits against the telephone providers may provide the best chance to stop the spying program, and no one should be let off the hook for such blatant violation of the law. Yet members of Congress are now pushing legislation that purports to immunize telephone companies and other corporations that illegally collaborated with the government's spying program.
Tuesday, a district court judge ruled that craigslist cannot be held liable for the content of housing ads users post on the site. The result is an important win for online forums like craigslist, who would be unable to provide online housing ads without this protection. The reasoning, however, is troubling, and might be used to undercut the strong legal protections upon which our vibrant online communities rely.
For the last several months, Senator Arlen Specter has pushed for legislation that could threaten vigorous judicial oversight of the NSA spying program by sweeping cases into the shadowy FISA court system. We have urged Specter to let cases proceed through the traditional court system, and, after several judicial decisions including Judge Walker's in our case against AT&T, it seems Specter might be changing his tune:
The RIAA's Cary Sherman recently published a bogus editorial criticizing the Digital Freedom campaign, an effort launched by a broad coalition of groups including the Consumer Electronics Association, EFF, and Public Knowledge. Public Knowledge's Gigi Sohn has written an excellent response and highlights a key point in a related blog post:
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips are being used in new US passports and may be part of new standards for state-issued drivers licenses', among other government issued IDs. But a report from none other than the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) might prevent inappropriate implementations of this privacy-leaking technology -- and you can help make sure that DHS' criticisms are made loud and clear.
Recently, the chorus of RFID critics was joined by DHS in this draft report:
- Universal CEO: Pirates Are to Pirate Ships, as Fans Are to iPods
"These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and
they all know it," Doug Morris says.
- RIAA Explodes at Claim That It's Unfriendly to Fair Use
Cary Sherman claims consumer electronics industry is
- Europe-based Legal Advice for Free Software Developers
New "Freedom Task Force" will be based in Zurich,
Switzerland, advising and enforcing the GPL.
Despite complaints from privacy advocates and parents, schools in states across the country are considering using fingerprint scans to track students. Kids at Sandlapper Elementary in Columbia, South Carolina have their fingerprints scanned to pay for their breakfast and check out library books, while officials at the Hope Elementary School District in Santa Barbara, CA have just announced similar plans to use finger scans to charge students for their lunches. You can read more about these programs here and here.
The MPAA studios are at it again, snatching away our fair use rights, so they can sell them back to us for an "additional fee."
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, Paramount Pictures v. Load 'N Go Video, the MPAA member companies have sued a small business for loading DVDs onto personal media players (e.g., iPod Video) on behalf of customers.
According to the suit, Load 'N Go sells both DVDs and iPods and loads the former onto the latter for customers who purchase both. The company then sends the iPod and the original DVDs to the customer. So the customer has purchased every DVD, and Load 'N Go just saves them the trouble of ripping the DVD. The movie studios' suit claims that this is illegal, because ripping a DVD (i.e., decrypting it and making a copy) is illegal under the DMCA. The suit also claims that this constitutes copyright infringement.
According to a recent release from the Australian Digital Alliance (a coalition of Australian universities, software companies, libraries, schools, museums, galleries and individuals), the Copyright Amendment Bill being rushed through the Australian legislature will be bad news not just for consumers, but also for innovators Down Under:
Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu identifies an emerging threat to sample-based creativity in hip hop, the "sample troll":
The rise of rap presented a golden opportunity for Bridgeport. After years of demanding fees, in 2001, Bridgeport launched nearly 500 counts of copyright infringement against more than 800 artists and labels. The company, suing in Nashville, Tenn., located every sample of [George] Clinton or other owned copyrights it could find. It took the legal position that any sampling of a sound recording, no matter how minimal or unnoticeable, is still a violation of federal law. Imagine that the copyright owner of The Lord of the Rings had sued every fantasy book or magazine that dared used the words elf, orc, or troll. That gives you an idea of the magnitude of Bridgeport's campaign.
There is a video that international self-help group the Landmark Forum really does not want anyone anywhere in the world to see, and it's misusing copyright law to make sure that happens. The latest target is Australia's Cult Awareness & Information Centre.
It all started in France, where French public television broadcast a documentary film entitled Voyage Au Pays Des Nouveaux Gourous (Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus), about the activities of Landmark Education, also known as the Landmark Forum or The Forum, in France.
Today the California Supreme Court reversed the dangerous Court of Appeals ruling in the Barrett v. Rosenthal case, upholding the strong protections of Section 230 of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. Section 230 protects Internet publishers from being held liable for allegedly harmful comments written by others. Prior attempts to eliminate the protections created by Section 230 had almost universally been rejected, until a California Court of Appeals radically reinterpreted the statute to allow lawsuits against non-authors. The Supreme Court reversed:
Back in April 2006, it came to light that the Smithsonian Institution had signed an exclusive 30-year deal with Showtime to create a new cable channel. The catch? It effectively would give Showtime exclusive access to the Smithsonian collections for certain uses. Read our previous posts (1, 2, 3) for more about why this represents a serious threat to the public domain materials contained in the priceless Smithsonian collections.
New passports issued in the UK contain Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips, supposedly for purposes of increased security. But a report in the British newspaper The Guardian found the passports surprisingly easy to read and copy. Using a device purchased for £250, a Guardian reporter was able to view and copy information from several of the new passports.
Although the new passports use a strong crypto algorithm to protect their biometric data, the encryption key is easy to steal. As the ICAO's website reveals, the key consists of the passport number, the holder's date of birth, and the expiration date.
The Copyright Office/Library of Congress today issued its determination in the latest triennial DMCA exemption rule-making. Six exemptions were granted, the largest number so far.
Persons making noninfringing uses of the following six classes of works will not be subject to the prohibition against circumventing access controls (17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)) during the next three years.
1. Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university's film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors.
Source Gift Guide is an eye-opening collection of the products and services
that aid your freedom to tinker, share, improve and learn seriously. Some of
the goods offered are more aspirational than practical holiday gifts: you'll be hard
put to track down the OpenMako unrestricted
GSM phone, or Chumby, Bunnie
Huang and co's prototype hackable alarm clock, in time for Christmas. But popular open
href= "http://magnatune.com/">Magnatune's DRM-free FLAC audio, the open
source MediaPortal Windows media
- Justice Department Watchdog to Probe its Role in Warrantless Surveillance
"After conducting initial inquiries into the program, we
have decided to open a program review that will examine the
department's controls and use of information related to the
- Browser Caches Aren't Possession, Says Ninth Circuit
If you don't know an image is there, you can't possess it.
- Second Life, Copybot, and the Takedown Gun
Ed Felten proposes a unique solution to copying problems in
the virtual world: a gun that shoots law, not bullets.
San Francisco's public video surveillance program has expanded from two cameras to over 100 in just over a year. This program may spy on even more places that ordinary people live, work, and walk every day -- unless city residents make their voices heard now and oppose this ineffective, expensive, and privacy-invasive program.
Next week, the city will hold two public meetings regarding new cameras at 16th and Mission Sts:
"Apparently, Hollywood believes that you should have to re-purchase all your DVD movies a second time if you want to watch them on your iPod." That's what I said last week, commenting on the Paramount v. Load-N-Go lawsuit, in which Hollywood studios claimed that it is illegal to rip a DVD to put on a personal video player (PVP), even if you own the DVD.
Well, this week the other shoe dropped. According to an article in the New York Times:
Customers who buy the physical DVD of Warner Brothers' "Superman Returns" in a Wal-Mart store will have the option of downloading a digital copy of the film to their portable devices for $1.97, personal computer for $2.97, or both for $3.97.
Last week, digital freedom fighter Peter Junger passed away. Peter was a truly pioneering legal thinker on digital issues, and his impact was felt far outside the walls of academia. In particular, we all owe him a debt of gratitude for challenging the government's draconian restrictions on encryption and helping to establish that code is speech protected by the First Amendment.
After another election with flawed touch-screen electronic voting machines, Cuyahoga County, Ohio may say enough is enough. The AP reports:
"The commissioners of the state's most populous county are considering getting rid of touch-screen voting machines and putting in a new system for the presidential election in 2008.
"Cuyahoga County spent $14 million on the Nov. 7 election and cannot afford to spend that much every time voters go to the polls, especially the high volume that a presidential race generates, commissioners Tim Hagan and Jimmy Dimora said."