Apple and EMI announced today that the iTunes Music Store will begin offering DRM-free downloads from EMI's catalog.
EFF welcomes this development wholeheartedly. Of course, we've been saying for years that DRM is bad for consumers, innovators, and artists. DRM on music does nothing to prevent "Internet piracy" and is single-handedly responsible for all the interoperability problems surrounding digital music today. We're glad that both major labels and service providers are gradually coming to their senses.
Unfortunately, the industry is still giving consumers a raw deal. EMI will be charging fans a 30% premium to avoid DRM ($1.29 instead of 99 cents per track, or 30 cents to upgrade an old download) -- effectively a surcharge to buy back your rights [*].
Last week, a California Superior Court judge ruled that Kaleidescape did not violate its contract with the DVD DRM licensing authority by distributing a home media server that rips and plays DVDs. This is an important victory for consumers, but it's also a sad reminder of how your ability to make personal use of digital media is under attack.
EFF?s Patent Busting Project fights back against bogus patents by filing requests for reexamination against the worst offenders. We've successfully pushed the Patent and Trademark Office to reexamine patents held by Clear Channel and Test.com. Now we need your help to bust one more.
A company called Acceris claims patents on processes that implement voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) using analog phones as endpoints. Put simply, these patents cover telephone calls over the Internet.
Specifically, the claims describe a system that connects two parties where the receiving party does not need to have a computer or an Internet connection, but the call is routed in part through the Internet or any other ?public computer network?. The calls must also be ?full duplex?, meaning that both parties can listen and talk at the same time, like in an ordinary phone call.
Does the increased use of social networking sites by children lead to increased risk? Concern about online predators and pornography has led some politicians and law enforcement officials to call for unreasonable restrictions on public access to these sites.
But is the perception of increased risk accurate? How much of the public discussion of these trends is myth, and how much is fact? Two recent studies suggest that many fears are overblown.
The Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire recently released a study that found that unwanted online solicitations are down from 19% in 1999 to 13% today — a decline that is taking place despite the rising popularity of social networking sites.
Of the unwanted solicitations that were received, a significant number (43%) came from other minors, not from adults.
A few years ago, EFF debunked an anti-P2P packet filtering technology sold by Audible Magic. Twice. The notion that universities can just buy a piece of software to end file sharing on their networks forever is false. But it keeps coming back.
The latest product of this sort is from a company called SafeMedia. Its website is covered in dramatic marketing newspeak and includes a weird appeal to the Congress to install its software in "every public and private institution receiving Federal funds". So what are they selling, really?
Remember the Hewlett-Packard pretexting scandal of last year? Private investigators hired by HP obtained phone records of journalists and its own board members by pretending to be the individuals themselves. The scandal was the catalyst for a congressional investigation, and some California lawmakers decided consumers needed more protection from these privacy violations. State Sen. Ellen Corbett introduced SB 328, a bill that would ban the use of false statements and other misleading practices to get personal information.
* Mark Cuban debates EFF's Fred von Lohmann's on YouTube and the future of copyright:
* Bruce Schneier accepts his award:
* Fred von Lohmann introduces award winner Yochai Benkler:
* Cory Doctorow accepts his award:
On April 24th, the European Parliament will vote on IPRED2, the Second Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive. With one stroke, they risk turning thousands of innocent EU citizens and businesses into copycriminals.
If IPRED2 passes in its current form, "aiding, abetting, or inciting" copyright infringement "on a commercial scale" in the EU will become a crime.
The entertainment industry has made it clear that it sees sites like YouTube, P2P software, and even ISPs as "inciting" infringement. With IPRED2, the industry is pressuring governments in Europe to use taxpayers' money to enforce these prohibitive ideas of intellectual property. If IPRED2 were to become law, entertainment companies would even be able assist police in an official role as part of transnational "joint investigation teams."
A Pennsylvania judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the controversial website DontDateHimGirl.com, ruling that he did not have jurisdiction over the Florida-based site.
As everyone knows, the AACS encryption scheme that restricts Blu-ray and HD DVD discs was thoroughly cracked several months ago. These vulnerabilities had their roots in several software players, including Corel's InterVideo WinDVD. Now Corel is doing what the AACS regime requires them to do -- revoking the existing keys, fixing the vulnerabilities, and requiring existing users to upgrade or be disabled when they insert a new disc that "blacklists" their existing software.
A ruling in the Indiana Court of Appeals this week gave a middle school student her free speech rights back.
The girl, who is called "A.B." in the court record, had posted comments on a MySpace page criticizing her school's policy on body piercings. The post was full of expletives, which a judge ruled ""obscene" despite any sexual content. The girl was found to be a "delinquent child" and was put on probation for nine months.
However, the girl appealed the ruling, arguing that her post was protected political speech. A three-judge panel agreed: "While we have little regard for A.B.'s use of vulgar epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech." The judges threw out the "delinquent child" finding, calling the lower court's conclusion "contravened her right to speak."
Last week, Washington passed legislation rejecting implementation of the costly, privacy-invasive the REAL ID Act. REAL ID essentially forces states to create a national ID, requiring standardization of drivers licenses and the creation of a vast national database linking all of the ID records together. Thankfully, there's a growing chorus of opposition to this misguided federal mandate -- Washington is the fourth state to reject its implementation, and Congress is considering repealing it.
The illegal NSA spying program remains shrouded in secrecy over five years since it first began, and more privacy invasions continue to come to light. Yet the Bush Administration is reportedly pushing Congress once again to legislate in the dark and expand spying powers.
With the Senate Intelligence Committee taking up this topic next week, it's critical that you tell your representatives to support thorough investigations into the domestic spying program as well as other abuses of power.
Make your voice heard now by visiting StopIllegalSpying.org.
Legislation that would help protect the public's right to know is one step closer to passing. Today the Senate Judiciary Committee marked up the OPEN Government Act, which would provide some much needed updates to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill now heads to the Senate floor, and a similar bill has already passed in the House.
Keep up the momentum and tell your representatives to pass this bill now.
- Students Accuse Anti-Plagiarism Site of Copying
Some high school students sue to stop commercial site from
taking their essays and looking over their shoulders.
- Copyright Utopia?
EFF's Fred von Lohmann keynotes at the University of
Maryland's conference on alternate IP futures.
- YouTube: They're Not Watching You; They're Watching Each
YouTube's most popular videos are created by its users, not
Now we've heard everything. Utah State Senator Dan Eastman -- who quietly ushered a ban on online comparative advertising through the state senate -- has taken to calling sponsored links to such advertising "identity theft." But as Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Eric Goldman puts it: "Identity theft occurs when someone makes a false representation, but this law bans competitive keyword advertising that is completely truthful and does not confuse anyone." Deceptive advertisers, of course, can already be held liable under trademark and consumer protection law.
Tomorrow, the Bush Administration will go before the Senate Intelligence Committee to push a dangerous new spying bill [PDF]. Among other things, the bill could threaten cases like EFF's against AT&T.
We're glad to hear that Senators are already pushing back against this proposal. As the NY Times reports:
"[Senator Arlen] Specter said he opposed the proposed immunity for telecommunications companies because the White House had never provided Congress with enough information about the role of the companies in the program.
The REAL ID rebellion is growing. On Tuesday, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer signed into law Montana?s rejection of the Real ID Act, saying "the best way for Montana to deal with the federal government on this issue and many others is to say 'No. Nope. No way and hell no.'"
And on Wednesday, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed a similar bill, prohibiting state implementation of the act unless certain conditions are met. Three other states have already passed anti-Real ID resolutions: Maine, Idaho and Arkansas. Congress is considering repealing the act.
Sony, one of the companies that brought you the Sony-BMG "rootkit" copy protection system for CDs, has once again used DRM to inflict inconvenience on its legitimate customers.
New Sony DVD releases like ?Stranger Than Fiction? and ?Casino Royale? come with copy protection technologies that makes the movies unplayable on some DVD players ? including reportedly at least one Sony machine!
Along with the DRM locks typically used on DVDs, Sony is using a system called ARccOS that is supposed to make copying more difficult by hiding corrupted data on the disc. But while plenty of DVD copying software is sophisticated enough to bypass the corrupt data, many players are not.
Public Knowledge has posted a great summary of the new Patent Reform Act of 2007, introduced in both the House and Senate this week. The bill is going to be one of the key intellectual property issues in Congress this year, and, though this bill doesn't fix all current problems with the patent system, it is a good step in the right direction. Among other things, the bill would reduce certain excessive patent infringement damages, allow third parties to file patent defeating documents before patents are issued, and create a new system for challenging bad patents.
EFF has been fighting bad patents by filing petitions for re-examination. Learn more about our Patent Busting Project and stay tuned for more news and analysis regarding this bill.
This week, EFF Europe, in coalition with the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC), the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA) and Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) drafted a set of amendments to IPRED2 that would soften the sting of the EU Commission's attempts to criminalize all EU IP infringement. In our open letter to MEPs, we expressed our belief that IPRED2, if it passed at all, should be restricted to genuinely commercial trademark counterfeiting and copyright infringement: the sort of organized fraud that the Commission says it wants to target.
Today, EFF and Stanford's Fair Use Project dismissed a lawsuit brought last month on behalf of MoveOn and Brave New Films against Viacom for the improper removal of a YouTube video that included clips from The Colbert Report.
We dismissed the case because Viacom acknowledged their mistake, told us about the policies it has put in place to protect fair use on YouTube, and agreed to introduce improvements to those policies. In the end, we were impressed by Viacom's willingness to give plenty of breathing room to the noncommercial, transformative creativity that has flowered on video sharing sites like YouTube.
Wouldn't it be great if keeping tabs on government spending were as easy as searching the Internet? Imagine a site you could visit that would enable you to search by legislation name, or the name of a particular contractor, or by government agency ? a way to Google the government.
Instead of doing searches like ?furniture, vintage, 1950s?, you could do searches like this: ?Halliburton, contracts, 2007?.
Just such a site was mandated by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, and signed into law in 2006. By early 2008, the public should be able to track the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal disbursements at www.federalspending.gov.
The rebellion against the REAL ID Act keeps growing -- last week, Montana became the fifth state to push back against the federal government's unfunded national ID mandate. Don't miss out on these critical opportunities to make a difference and help stop this privacy-invasive policy:
You?ve just started a podcast, and you want to include a musical interlude from your favorite klezmer band. But how do you do that without violating copyright laws? Now you can learn the answers to these and other questions by tuning in to Colette Vogele's podcast, Rules for the Revolution.
Every few days, Colette posts a new show covering everything you were afraid to ask about copyright, new media, and podcasting. Past shows have covered fair use, licensing, Creative Commons, defamation, and all the legal issues facing podcasters. Better yet, her interview subjects have included EFF experts like Jason Schultz and Kurt Opsahl.
- French E-Voting Is a "Catastrophe"
Widespread complaints after the first use of electronic
voting machines in the country's presidential election.
- Pandora Chief Mourns Loss of Internet Radio
Copyright royalty board is out-of-touch and has destroyed
90% of Internet radio without understanding what it is,
says Joe Kennedy, CEO of pandora.com
- Chinese Dissident, Wife Sue Yahoo for Complicity
Foreign tort act suit alleges that Yahoo voluntarily
allowed Chinese government to track and arrest 57-year-old
The European Parliament has just voted to pass the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED2) without substantive amendment, despite growing public opposition from across the European Union. The final vote of 374 to 278 with 17 abstentions points to a margin of Parliamentary support that has been narrowing ever since the Directive left subcommittee. While we are disappointed that IPRED2 was not defeated at this stage, we can see clearly the impact of the efforts of the over 8,000 Europeans who've taken action against the Directive. We were told by the two largest political parties that they felt that the Directive had not been given enough time to be properly discussed, and that our campaign had definitely contributed to the discussion.
With presidential debates right around the corner, it goes without saying that many people will want to use debate footage to comment on, remix, and parody the politics of our time. But there's an unnecessary barrier standing in the way: copyright.
Television networks have traditionally retained exclusive rights to all footage of the presidential debates. While many re-uses for videos on YouTube and other sites would clearly be legally protected as fair uses, the law's uncertainty can chill individuals' ability to participate in our democratic processes in this way.
Citing the burdens of responding to the RIAA's flood of pre-litigation letters, Ohio University has decided to monitor its network in order to block all use of P2P file sharing software. Students caught using the software will have their network access disabled.
This policy may temporarily relieve the IT department, but it doesn't get us any closer to a long-term solution to deal with file sharing. It won't stop "piracy," as students will simply migrate towards other readily-accessible sharing tools, and it certainly doesn't put any more money in artists' pockets.
The recent Copyright Royalty Board's webcasting ruling provoked an immediate backlash from webcasters and listeners, who feared that the new rate hike would crush online music radio stations. Now a new bill in Congress would reverse the ruling and change how the Board sets the royalty rates.
The Utah legislature has been considering a proposal that would require the state's ISPs to ensure that minors are unable to access explicit material on the Internet  . The scheme would also make open wireless networks illegal (!) unless they are restricted to only allow connections on certain, censored, "community ports".
Giving ISPs the responsibility and incentives to censor a paricular subset of the web is precisely the same architecture that the Chinese Communist Party uses for their "Great Fireall of China". The communists use it to filter news and political information as well as porn — but in neither case is it particularly effective. Users who are either knowledgeable or motivated quickly learn that there are easy ways around these filters.
Last week a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce reported out H.R. 964, a.k.a. the "Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act" or "SPY Act." This bill is the latest incarnation of misguided legislative language that has been resurfacing since 2003 (in 2005, it passed the House as H.R. 29).
Although badware (i.e., spyware, malware, and deceptive adware) is a serious problem for computer users, H.R. 964 is not likely to help. In fact, having been massaged by lobbyists for the software and adware industries, the bill would actually make things worse, insulating adware vendors from more stringent state laws and private lawsuits.
We recently reported on a new spying bill [PDF] that could, among other things, threaten cases like EFF's against AT&T. After an initial delay, the Senate Intelligence Committee's hearing on the bill is now set for tomorrow and only the Administration will be allowed to testify.
That makes it is even more important that the public makes its voice heard loud and clear. Congress needs to know that you oppose this legislation and demand immediate investigations into the warrantless spying program.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is holding a REAL ID national "town hall" meeting tomorrow. Don't let DHS and legislators pretend that the public is unconcerned by a national ID and the massive privacy invasions that it will enable; if we can make a strong stand at the meeting, that will make a huge difference in pushing state representatives and Congress to do away with this unfunded federal mandate.