EFF's Bloggers' Rights campaign has scored some big victories in defense of free speech and privacy rights for bloggers. Now, you can show your support for the Blogger's Rights campaign by picking up one of EFF's new Bloggers' Rights T-shirts. Buy a shirt for $25 from the EFF shop, or get it as part of your membership.
Shirts are black, available in women's or men's styles, all sizes.
As was reported back in February, an enterprising hacker unearthed and posted one of the decryption keys used by AACS to decode HD-DVD movies (other keys and exploits have been made available in the weeks since). Now the AACS-LA (the entity that licenses AACS to makers of HD-DVD players) has set its lawyers on the futile mission of trying to get every instance of at least one key (hint: it begins with 09 f9) removed from the Internet.
Despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provided a mere eight days notice about the one and only national town hall on REAL ID, the public made its opposition loud and clear. Nearly every speaker at the four hour event in Davis, CA criticized the privacy-invasive mandate, which would force states to standardize drivers' licenses and create massive, interlinked databases of your personal information.
We need to keep up the pressure. It's not too late to voice your opposition -- get your comments to DHS before the May 8 deadline.
"As currently proposed, Real ID will fail for several reasons. From a technical and implementation perspective, there are serious questions about its operational abilities both to protect citizen information and resist attempts at circumvention by adversaries. Financially, the initial unfunded $11 billion cost, forced onto the states by the federal government, is excessive. And from a sociological perspective, Real ID will increase the potential for expanded personal surveillance and lay the foundation for a new form of class segregation in the name of protecting the homeland.
- Copyrighting Religion
Pakistan court quotes American trademark law in deciding to
forbid a religious group from using Islamic epithets and
practices: "The principles involved are: do not deceive and
do not violate the property rights of others."
- IP Over-Enforcement Could Stifle Growth
Canada's Law Times ponders the dangers of maximalist IP
policies as demonstrated down south.
- Gaming the System
The National Review looks into government censorship in the
video game industry.
Learn cyberlaw without leaving cyberspace through the State of Play Academy. The Academy offers free classes through the virtual world There.com. The Spring Semester has already started, and runs through June 8.
The virtual classes will teach you the sort of fascinating stuff your real college never gets around to offering, like "Claims of Copyright Misuse based on First Amendment Interests," "The Viacom-Youtube Lawsuit," and "Election 2008 and the Remix Culture." EFF staff attorney Kevin Bankston is signed up to teach a class called "Every Move You Make: Location Tracking and the Law."
More information, including how to log on and participate in SOPA classes at: stateofplayacademy.com.
In a recent editorial, the New York Times denounced the Bush Administration?s latest attempt to radically expand spying powers and shield the NSA's domestic spying program:
The measure would not update [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA; it would gut it. It would allow the government to collect vast amounts of data at will from American citizens? e-mail and phone calls?.
This is a dishonest measure, dishonestly presented, and Congress should reject it. Before making any new laws, Congress has to get to the truth about Mr. Bush?s spying program.
When the presidential debates are aired by CNN on June 3rd and 5th, the public will be able to edit, remix, parody and publish the footage ? without worrying about copyright violation. CNN has pledged to make debate footage available to the public ?without restriction.?
CNN's decision comes on a heels of an open letter from a broad coalition of scholars, public advocates, and Internet entrepreneurs calling for the release of all debate footage under a Creative Commons license. Several major candidates have also joined the call.
Over the last week, comments have been flooding into the Department of Homeland Security in opposition to the REAL ID Act, which would force states to standardize drivers' licenses and create massive, interlinked databases of your personal information. Don't miss out on this opportunity to make your voice heard and help stop the national ID nightmare. The deadline for submitting comments is 5 PM ET, so visit our action center now and say no to REAL ID.
The Bush Administration is pushing legislation that could let telecommunications providers off the hook for illegally assisting the NSA's domestic spying program, and one of your Senators may be on the key committee that can stop it. Use our Action Center to defend your rights.
In January 2006, EFF filed suit against telco giant AT&T for violating its customers' privacy and helping the NSA spy on millions of Americans' telephone and Internet communications. Congress is now considering a bill proposed by the Administration that could threaten cases like EFF's. That proposal appears intended to not only gut current privacy safeguards but also give blanket immunity to anyone who collaborated with the government's spying.
Alongside the flood of anti-national ID comments that hit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week, there's some other good news in the fight to stop the REAL ID Act.
- The AACS Number and Human Rights Activism
Ethan Zuckerman ponders the digital civil disobedience over
the HD-DVD processing key and spreading other important
information across the censored web.
- Secret Court Wiretap Orders Up, Up, Up
Wired makes a link between the growing numbers of wiretaps
and the new moves on telco immunity.
- Mooninites, Meet the Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act
Ridiculous fallout from Boston's lite-brite bomb scare.
- Exporting IP
A Senate companion to the "Internet Radio Equality Act" has now been introduced and could help save music webcasting. Due to a recent ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board, the government-set rates that most Net radio providers pay to license sound recordings will radically increase. This ruling threatens small and non-commercial webcasters as well as commercial services like Pandora, and it could take away the broad diversity of stations that exists online but never has been available through traditional broadcasters. If passed, the "Internet Radio Equality Act" would nullify the royalty ruling and bring some sensible changes to the standards used to set rates in the future. The House version was introduced last month.
While other states are courageously standing up to Congress' misguided national ID mandate, California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is giving his constituents a rather indifferent message.
In response to a constituent's letter (sent through our Action Center) urging California to reject implementation of the REAL ID Act, the Governor's office simply replied: "The issue you have written about is federal in nature and not under state jurisdiction. We suggest that you contact your United States Senator?."
REAL ID is a federal mandate, but states and ultimately each state's residents bear the burden of putting this privacy-invasive system into place, including its more than 23 billion dollar price tag. REAL ID forces states to standardize drivers licenses and create massive, interlinked databases of your personal information.
Last night, the House passed legislation aimed at preventing illegal government spying. Attached as an amendment [PDF] to the intelligence budget authorization bill, the legislation reaffirms that the NSA's domestic surveillance program must comply with Congress' laws.
Meanwhile, the House did not pass a Bush Administration proposal that would radically expand the government's ability to spy without warrants while also threatening to let telecom providers off the hook for assisting in the illegal NSA program.
Aggressive Congressional action to stop the illegal spying is long overdue, and this is an important first step in the right direction. Your letters and phone calls to Congress have been invaluable in getting this far, and we need your help to make yesterday's victory stick.
On Tuesday night, PBS?s Frontline will air a new documentary on the expansion of government surveillance powers, called ?Spying on the Home Front.? From the "Total Information Awareness" project to the president's massive domestic spying program and beyond, the documentary explores the many ways in which innocent Americans' rights are at risk. EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn also appears in the documentary, discussing EFF?s ongoing case against AT&T for its illegal collaboration with the NSA.
The AP reports:
"President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program was so questionable that a top Justice Department official refused for a time to reauthorize it, sparking a battle with top White House officials at the bedside of an ailing attorney general, a Senate panel was told Tuesday.
"Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he refused to recertify the program because Attorney General John Ashcroft had reservations about its legality just before falling ill with pancreatitis in March 2004."
On January 1, 2006, the NY Times recounted a similar set of events, though Mr. Comey declined to comment on the story.
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, and have filed a pending request on the NeoMedia patent. Now we need your help to assist a private law firm in busting one more.
A company called Acacia has claimed a patent on an ?information distribution system? that amounts to the idea of shipping a CD-ROM that contains hyperlinks to online resources. (EFF is currently working on busting another Acacia patent that covers streaming audio and video over the Internet.)
To help bust this overly broad patent, we are looking for prior art that shows the use of this technology before 1994. Specifically, we are seeking the following items:
Once again, the Department of Justice is pushing for legislation that would expand the scope of, and stiffen the penalties for, criminal copyright infringement. Its draft bill [PDF] is just as outrageous as a similar proposal floated last year and criticized by us here. Public Knowledge rightly slammed the bill earlier today.
Among other things, the bill would make attempted copyright infringement a criminal offense. Turning ordinary fans into potential copyright criminals is senseless, and this bill is an unfortunate distraction from meaningful copyright reforms that Congress ought to be focusing on.
A bipartisan bill requiring paper trails for electronic voting machines just cleared a major hurdle and could be taken up by the House of Representatives next week. Defend your right to vote and support H.R. 811, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007.
E-voting machines have wreaked havoc and undermined confidence in our election system. Despite demonstrated technical failures -- including the loss of thousands of votes -- nearly half of all states still do not require a voter-verified paper ballot. Most of the voting machines in operation today haven't been sufficiently reviewed for security, and pollworkers frequently do not receive adequate training to deal with machine problems.
In light of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's testimony before the Senate yesterday, four senators pressed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for more answers about the NSA spying program:
"Specifically, Mr. Comey testified that you and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card went to Mr. Ashcroft's bedside at George Washington Hospital, where he was in intensive care, in an effort to get him to agree to certify the legality of a classified program that he and Mr. Comey, who was serving as acting Attorney General at the time, had concluded should not be so certified. Mr. Comey stated that when the Administration decided to go forward with reauthorizing this classified program without that certification, he and several other Justice Department officials, including possibly Attorney General Ashcroft himself, were ready to tender their resignations.
Here are some of the highlights. Today's decision reversed the lower court's holding [PDF] that Google's thumbnails were not a fair use, following and bolstering an earlier image search engine precedent, Kelly v. Arriba Soft [PDF]. The court rightly took into account the important public benefit that search engines provide -- not simply the impact on the particular parties in this case -- and what would serve copyright's fundamental goal of promoting access to creative works. While Google's transformative use of the image provided a very real public benefit, Perfect 10's potential loss of thumbnail licensing revenue was highly speculative.
Four senators pressed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales this week to come clean about the relationship between the NSA spying program and former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's dramatic testimony about a controversial classified program. The Department of Justice declined to change its previous testimony, but Congress isn't backing off.
Now House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler have written to Gonzales demanding more information about the still-shadowy NSA program. Along with asking for information related to Comey's testimony, they stated:
Can the government keep track of your whereabouts through your cell phone? Do they need a warrant or not? Location tracking by law enforcement is already becoming routine, and EFF has been fighting to make sure your privacy is protected.
This week, EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston will be addressing these and other issues in a free online course offered through the State of Play Academy (SOPA), a virtual space for conversations about law and technology located in the virtual community There.com.
Every Move You Make: Location Tracking and the Law
Wednesday, 23 May (4:00 PM ? 5:00 PM)
More information, including how to log on and participate in SOPA classes at: stateofplayacademy.com.
On the heels of a letter from House Judiciary Committee leaders, Senate Judiciary Committee's heads Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter wrote to the Attorney General demanding information about the illegal NSA domestic spying program:
"The Committee on the Judiciary is charged with overseeing and legislating on constitutional protections, civil and criminal justice, civil liberties, and the Judiciary, all subjects that this matter impacts. We intend to do our job.
Responding to Congressional pressure, the major label-backed licensing authority SoundExchange has offered small webcasters a temporary reprieve from the Copyright Royalty Board's outrageous royalty rate increase. This is a step in the right direction, but it still doesn't solve any of the underlying problems with the current licensing system. Music webcasting's future still hangs in the balance.
The offer announced today would essentially extend the much more reasonable statutory licensing terms that small webcasters have relied on for the last five years. But commercial services like Pandora and Live365 are still in deep trouble, as are small webcasters that may want to expand their business over time. And when SoundExchange's offer expires in 2010, small webcasters may once again be threatened with extinction.
- State Censorship of the Net Is Growing
Out of 41 countries surveyed by the Open Net Initiative, 25
showed evidence of content filtering.
- Register of Copyrights Says: Limit Betamax
Claims that the Betamax doctrine should only apply to
"free, over-the-air television for time-shifting."
- David Weinberger Says: Limit Copyright Abuse
Wants statutory damages if rights holders block free
Should ordinary Americans face jail time for attempted copyright infringement? Should the sort of property forfeiture penalties applied in drug busts also threaten P2P users, mixtape makers, and mash-up artists? Of course not, but the Department of Justice (DoJ) has drafted [PDF] an outrageous legislative proposal that applies these severe penalties and much more. Take action now to stop it.
In recent weeks a community of enthusiasts has developed a useful, and impressive, set of unauthorized enhancements to the Apple TV. These enhancements make this product work better for end users, and they exist in a great tradition of user innovation in which users who care about a product (and understand their own needs and desires) figure out how to make that product do something more. (The same kind of activity thrives around game console systems, and, of course, the TiVo -- sometimes to the chagrin of TiVo, Inc.)
There was some Slashdot buzz earlier this week about Microsoft Windows Media Center users suddenly facing restrictions forbidding playback of recorded analog cable TV content. Was DRM smuggled along with an "update" into unsuspecting users' machines?
Today, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes announced [PDF] plans for hearings on the NSA spying program. Investigations of this still-shadowy surveillance are long overdue, and we're hopeful that this is only the beginning of vigorous Congressional oversight.
In particular, Reyes' stated intention to dig into the telecommunications companies' role is encouraging. EFF has been fighting hard in the courts to hold AT&T accountable for violating its customers privacy and the law, and Congress must fulfill its duty to help uncover the truth about the telcos' collaboration with the government
We've been watching with concern the latest turns in the long-running battle between Keith Henson and the Church of Scientology, arising in part due to online criticism of the Scientologists by Henson and others on the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup.
As it stands now, Henson, an engineer, programmer and long time Church of Scientology critic, is being held in a Prescott, Arizona, county jail awaiting extradition to Riverside, California. Henson was convicted in 2001 of misdemeanor "interfering with a religion" for picketing in front of a Scientology "base" in Hemet, CA. The ruling was roundly criticized as inconsistent with Henson's First Amendment rights to criticize Scientology: Henson was not permitted by the judge to offer an explanation of why he was picketing, for example, and one part of the evidence used against him appears to be based on an online joke made on Usenet about actor Tom Cruise and "cruise missiles."
Today, a landmark bill that would require tough privacy and security safeguards for Radio Frequency Identification tags in state-issued IDs sailed through the California Senate on a 33-2 bipartisan vote.
Without proper protections, RFIDs in IDs can broadcast your private information to anyone and leave you vulnerable to tracking and identity theft. That's why EFF, the ACLU, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and other groups have been working hard to get the Identity Information Protection Act (SB 30) passed.
Effective Technological Measures: It Means What It Says, Says Finnish
It's the phrase that rules over both the DMCA and Europe's equivalent, the European Copyright Directive EUCD. Under both it's illegal to circumvent "effective technological measures" used by rightsholders to restrict access to their works.
We've all heard about the Slingbox, the innovative product that lets you enjoy the TV you've paid for from where ever you might be. Well, here's what Michael Mellis, senior VP and general counsel for Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), had to say about the Slingbox in this week's issue of The Hollywood Reporter Esq. [sorry, subscribers only], a weekly for entertainment industry legal eagles:
"Of course, what they are doing is not legal," he said. We and other leagues have formed a group to study the issue and plan our response. A lot depends on ongoing discussions. Plus, there's no guarantee that Slingbox will be around next year. It's a startup."
South Korea has just signed a bilateral free trade agreement with the US that will put severe restrictions on its ability to innovate. This is exactly the kind of arrangement that James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds, wrote about in the May 14 issue of the New Yorker magazine.
Recent US trade agreements with the developing world, says Surowiecki, do more than regulate trade and tariffs—they export stringent US copyright and patent laws as well:
Check out Jacob Loeb's excellent editorial railing against the RIAA's misguided student shakedown campaign. A student at the University of Maine and a drummer in a local band, Loeb does a great job of articulating the problem and suggesting solutions.
Google can already collect and store a staggering amount of personal information - search queries, email records, copies of hard drives' contents, personal calendars, and much more. Collecting these records alone can paint a vivid picture of a user's most private interests and concerns, but apparently Google's just getting started.
In a recent interview, CEO Eric Schmidt stated that "We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don?t know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google?s expansion." It's no secret that Google -- and, in fact, other search engines as well -- are interested in expanding the private data they collect, but this article puts the company's plans in especially plain terms.
Fresh off announcing hearings on the NSA spying program, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes authored this Washington Post editorial criticizing the Administration and rebutting its call for expanded surveillance powers.
"The congressional testimony this month by former deputy attorney general James Comey called into question the accuracy of everything I had heard before about the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program. According to Comey, in the spring of 2004 President Bush authorized a program of domestic surveillance even though his acting attorney general was so concerned about the surveillance that he could not in good faith "certify its legality."
The NPD Group's latest music stats provide yet another reason that the RIAA's war on college students is misguided:
"The 'social' ripping and burning of CDs among friends ? which takes place offline and almost entirely out of reach of industry policing efforts ? accounted for 37 percent of all music consumption, more than file-sharing, NPD said."
This data suggests offline sharing is growing, and that's to be expected. Along with burning CDs and DVDs for each other, fans can swap hard drives, share USB drives, and use many other technologies to share music without hopping online or installing P2P software. It's only going to get easier to share mass volumes of music in this way -- these tools are increasingly ubiquitous, with ever growing capacity and ever diminishing price.
A couple of recent posts on Ars Technica and TUAW pointed out that Apple is embedding personal information, such as the name and email address of the purchaser, in all of their AAC files (including the DRM-free ones). We got curious, and wondered whether Apple might also be watermarking the underlying audio data in these tracks.
We've found that there isn't a watermark in the compressed audio signal itself, but there are surprisingly huge differences in the encoded files. Much bigger differences than just different tags, or even different signed/encrypted tags.
A bill designed to combat government secrecy won?t be coming to a vote on the Senate floor any time soon. An anonymous Senator who apparently thinks the government isn?t secretive enough has placed a secret hold on the bill.
The Open Government Act of 2007 (pdf), sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by reducing delays in release of government records. FOIA is a crucial tool used by all kinds of public interest organizations, including EFF, to compel the release of documents and information that are of urgent interest to the public.
An "orphan work" is something currently protected by copyright, but whose owner can't be found even with diligent searching. Currently, if someone wants to make a copy of an orphan work (say, for archiving or republication), or use it to create a derivative work (like a compilation or montage) they risk huge statutory damages if the actual owner ever appears and exercises their rights. Unsurprisingly, many choose not to take that gamble, and works with potential useful value are left to languish.
Adding to previous revelations about the latest version of Apple's iTunes software, Playlist is reporting that the iTunes 7.2 (necessary for the so-called DRM-free iTunes Plus tracks) has broken the "buy-burn-rip-to-MP3" procedure that iTunes users have long relied on to convert the FairPlay-restricted songs they buy from the iTunes Store into unrestricted MP3s. Apparently, after the iTunes 7.2 "upgrade," MP3s created in this way will no longer play on your iPod!