On July 4, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Act gave weight to a principle that is fundamental to any democracy: The right of the people to know what the government is doing. Forty-one years later, FOIA remains an essential tool used by the public, public advocacy groups (including EFF?s FLAG project), and news organizations to uncover information that would otherwise remain hidden from public view.
A federal appeals court handed down a defeat for your civil liberties on Friday, ordering the dismissal of the ACLU?s case challenging the NSA?s warrantless wiretapping program. In a ">2-1 ruling, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs, attorneys and journalists who had stopped communicating with their foreign clients and sources for fear of illegal wiretapping, did not have legal standing to sue. The case was based on the President?s admissions about the warrantless wiretapping.
Judge Ronald Gilman dissented, finding the warrantless surveillance program violated the law, and rejecting the President's assertion of inherent Constitutional authority to break laws in the name of national security.
- More than 350 pages describing investigative missteps that the FBI considered disclosing to the Intelligence Oversight Board, which receives reports on intelligence gathering activities that violate guidelines, laws, or presidential orders. (See Parts 4, 5, and 6 of the FOIA documents, all PDFs.) These pages detail numerous NSL-related blunders -- most often agents making typographical errors that resulted in receipt of information about the wrong people, and ISPs handing over too much (or wrong) data to the FBI. The Bureau usually did not refer these matters to the Intelligence Oversight Board, often chalking them up to administrative errors or third-party mistakes.
There seems to be a considerable amount of interest in, and confusion about, the copyright law consequences of embedding a YouTube video in your blog. In fact, the Blog Herald just ran a story suggesting that bloggers could be on the hook for copyright infringement if they embed a video that turns out to be infringing.
Well, the news really isn't that dire. In fact, I'd say bloggers are generally pretty safe on this score, at least until someone notifies them that an embedded video is infringing.
First, it's important to understand what an embedded YouTube video is -- it's a link. Just a link. Nothing but a link. In fact, here's the entire html code needed to embed EFF's Corruptibles video into a blog:
Without fans, there would be no music industry. Most people in the music industry understand this -- certainly the artists do.
But apparently not the lawyers who work for them.
An ardent fan of the New Pornographers (a great Canadian indie rock band that includes Neko Case, among others) recently posted a copy of a forthcoming B-side to his blog page on MOG, which permits users to upload songs for streaming to others. He then received an email from Web Sheriff, an online copyright enforcer hired by the record label, Matador.
The message essentially accuses the fan of being a pirate and makes a veiled legal threat, all the while pretending to "appreciate" what it means to be a fan.
We've already started scouring newly-released documents relating to the misuse of National Security Letters to collect Americans' private information. But don't let us have all fun ? you, too, can dive into the docs and help uncover the truth about the FBI's abuse of power. All 1138 pages are freely downloadable (with searchable text) from EFF?s website, and we'll be posting a new batch every month.
- Why the iPhone Isn't Really Revolutionary
Tim Wu points out that beneath the iPhone's snazzy design
lurks a standard business model.
- The "iPhone Killer" Arrives
An open source, touch-screen, Linux-based phone that can be
used with any GSM carrier.
- Top Secret: We're Wiretapping You
The FBI accidentally gave a DC attorney proof that he was
- Judge Dismisses New York Times Lawsuit
A FOIA request on warrantless wiretapping was thrown out by
The government-set royalty rates paid by music webcasters are set to dramatically rise on July 15, posing a imminent threat to stations of all stripes. A federal appeals court today declined to temporarily stay the new rates, but Congress could still step in with a last-second reprieve. The Internet Radio Equality Act would nullify the rate increase and add some much-needed, sensible changes to the rate-setting process. SaveNetRadio.org has more details about how you can take action to support this bill now.
Earlier this week, we reported that FBI records showed that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales knew about years of chronic National Security Letter problems, even before he testified that "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse." This carefully worded government talking point has led to discussions of the definition of "abuse."
Standard definitions of abuse include "improper use," and the documents themselves admit to at least "improper" collection of information. None of the definitions require intentional conduct or flagrant problems.
After suing media-hosting and social networking site iMeem for copyright infringement, Warner Music has now dropped its claims and licensed free streaming of its catalog in exchange for a cut of ad revenue. Though several other labels had already granted such licenses, Warner is the first major label to do so. We don't know the specifics of the deal, but it appears that users of the site can now keep sharing, playlisting, and listening to Warner songs, iMeem gets to keep providing innovative ways for them to do so, artists get paid -- and no one gets sued in the process.
The Ninth Circuit recently held [PDF] in US v. Forrester that the Fourth Amendment does not protect against government surveillance of the to/from addresses of one's email messages, the IP addresses of websites one has visited, and the total volume of information transmitted to or from one's ISP account.
Yesterday, major label-backed licensing authority SoundExchange gave small and non-commercial music webcasters a temporary reprieve, stating that they would continue negotiations and not immediately enforce the ridiculous statutory royalty rate increase. SoundExchange is also negotiating a lower rate for large commercial stations like Pandora.
However, Net radio isn't in the clear yet. In fact, it appears that such negotiated lower royalty rates may come at a very steep price: taking away DRM-free streaming and your ability to lawfully record music radio.
Contrary to Google's statements yesterday, the company's new policy for issuing cookies won't meaningfully help protect users' privacy.
After more than three years of litigation, a single mom who was improperly swept up in the RIAA's P2P litigation "driftnet" has finally been vindicated. An Oklahoma court has ordered the RIAA to pay nearly seventy thousand dollars in fees and costs to defendant Debra Foster. EFF, Public Citizen, the ACLU, and the American Association of Law Libraries filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting Foster's motion for fees.
Soon after the RIAA brought suit against Foster in 2004, it became clear that the the recording industry was pursuing the wrong person. But the RIAA not only refused to dismiss the case, it brought additional, unsupported claims of secondary infringement. Finally, two years after filing suit, the RIAA dropped the claims and attempted to walk away scot?free.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has now issued subpoenas for documents related to the NSA spying program, and the deadline for the Administration to respond is tomorrow. What?s going to happen next? Can the Executive branch ignore these committee subpoenas?
It certainly can try, and a showdown between Congress and the Executive may lie ahead. Having shrouded the program in secrecy for over five years and fought oversight in the traditional court system, the Administration is likely to keep trying to avoid meaningful Congressional oversight as well.
With your help, we've made significant progress in pressuring Congress to scrutinize the NSA spying program. But the fight is far from over -- in fact, the the chairmen of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees are reportedly considering proposals that could let telco giants like AT&T off the hook for their role in the surveillance. Take action now and help stop the illegal spying.
As we reported last week, the major label-backed licensing authority SoundExchange conditioned lower royalty rates for large commercial webcasters on implementing DRM. This issue is proving quite contentious, and it looks like the webcasters have refused the offer -- the LA Times' Jon Healey and Wired's Listening Post have more.
Where we last left off with the REAL ID Act, members of Congress tried and failed to expand the reach of its privacy-invasive national ID mandate. Now Congress is set to consider yet another desperate attempt to lock-in this awful law, with Senator Lamar Alexander proposing 300 million dollars in additional federal funding as an amendment attached to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.
This measly sum won't put a dent in the estimated 23 billion dollar burden that states and taxpayers will have to bear. And it doesn't do anything to fix the fundamental flaws in the policy itself: standardizing drivers licenses' into a national ID will do little to improve national security, but it will imperil your privacy by exposing you to a wide range of tracking and surveillance activities.
A few weeks ago, NBC submitted comments to the FCC asking it to adopt new rules declaring that "broadband service providers have an obligation to use readily available means" to stop copyright infringement. Basically, NBC wants the FCC to force ISPs to police their users and play copyright cop.
Now, a coalition of public interest groups ? including EFF ? has made a response (PDF), pointing out that a policy of this sort would be bad for free speech, bad for innovation, and would be wildly outside the FCC's mandate:
We've often regretted that the most popular search engines have been keeping a dossier of everything you search for -- forever. It's easy to forget just how intrusive this kind of record can be until something like the AOL search history leak occurs and confronts users with even a portion of the search logs that track their everyday on-line activities. These logs are a tempting target for subpoenas (although most search companies refuse to reveal how often they receive subpoenas or how much data they disclose); they imply an on-going risk that this sensitive data may be stolen or leaked.
A few days before Friday's release of Harry Potter and the Deathly
Hallows, someone leaked a (genuine) copy of the book widely
using file-sharing networks and photo-sharing web sites -- photographing
every single page with a digital camera. The quality isn't
great -- the leaker evidently didn't have a nifty Internet Archive Scribe station -- but the text is legible.
Major copyright holders are backing a legislative proposal [PDF] to make colleges do their dirty work. The Higher Education Reauthorization Act is supposed to make going to college more affordable, but, under a last-minute amendment, certain schools would risk losing federal funding for student aid if they don't divert funds away from education and toward policing corporate copyrighted content on their campus networks. Twenty-five schools will annually be singled out, required to police their students with "technology-based deterrents" (read: network surveillance technologies), and forced to provide evidence to the Secretary of Education about their efforts to stop file sharing.
News.com reports that Sen. Harry Reid has withdrawn a dangerous proposal that threatened to make universities do the entertainment industry's dirty work and use ineffective, burdensome copyright filtering tools on their networks. The Higher Education Reauthorization Act has now passed the Senate without that language. Thanks to everyone who took the time to call their Senators over the last day.
Yesterday the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held an interesting hearing on the inadvertent sharing of sensitive information over P2P networks. Some users misconfigure their P2P software and end up sharing far more than they bargained for, including credit card numbers, tax returns, medical records. The issue becomes even more serious when the user happens to be a government contractor who has brought home classified or sensitive national security documents.
The good news is that, while everyone took this problem seriously, many of the witnesses and members of the committee clearly understood that P2P is a useful technology and is likely to become even more critical to the Internet in years to come.
There are countless web hosting services that will help you get your site on the Internet. But do you know what to expect if someone decides to dispute your speech with a nastygram to your web host?
Jimmy Atkinson's first post to the Dedicated Hosting Guide may be a good place to start looking for answers. Titled "Free Speech Hosting: 11 Web Hosts That Won't Dump You at the First Sign of Controversy," Atkinson lists a few hosts that advertise defense of free speech as an important part of their business plan.
Two months ago, the Justice Department floated draft legislation to expand the scope of, and stiffen the penalties for, criminal copyright infringement, and now a related bill has been introduced in the House. This isn't the first time that Congress has taken up the DoJ's copycrime wishlist, and, for all the reasons we listed in a blog post about a proposal offered up last year, H.R. 3155 is an awful idea.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly suggested that Congress may take action this week on a bill that could rubberstamp the NSA's spying program. The Bush Administration is trying to sell its latest proposal as a serious compromise, but don't be fooled -- it represents an unprecedented power grab that endangers the checks and balances that define our democracy. Please call your representatives now before it's too late.
Contrary to the Administration's characterizations, its "FISA Modernization" bill is not about "updating" the law and allowing surveillance of foreign-to-foreign communications. Instead, it could radically expand the government's ability to spy on Americans without a warrant.
- Mining of Data Prompted Fight Over U.S. Spying
Data mining was the reason Bush administration officials
were ready to resign in 2004.
- NSA Wiretapping Investigations to Continue
A federal judge ruled that states may continue their suits
- FBI Program Would Circumvent the Law, Say Experts
The FBI would like to pay private firms to store phone and
- Are Files Stored on Password-Protected Sites Covered by
the Fourth Amendment?
The REAL ID Act took another blow in the Senate last week, hopefully putting legislators one step closer to ditching the national ID mandate.
An amendment tacked onto the Homeland Security appropriations bill would have given $300 million in federal funds to implement the Act. This measly sum would have done nothing to make up for the $23 billion burden states and taxpayers will be forced to bear.