Copyright warnings -- like those "FBI Warnings" on DVDs, stickers on CDs, and warnings flashed during NFL broadcasts -- are becoming increasingly common. Trouble is, most of these warnings are blatantly misleading (and, in the case of DVDs, unskippable), claiming that any and all unauthorized uses are forbidden by law. Of course, copyright has always allowed lots of unauthorized uses, including fair uses.
Today, CCIA filed a complaint with the FTC, asking the Commission to take a number of major corporations to task for their misleading and intimidating copyright warnings. Targets include: the NFL, Major League Baseball, DreamWorks, Morgan Creek (producers of "The Good Shepherd"), and the book publishers, Harcourt and Penguin.
Back in January, the Administration wasn't shy about announcing that a FISA Court judge had authorized part of the NSA's warrantless surveillance activities. But it turns out that they spoke too soon: four or five months ago, a second FISA Court judge disagreed and refused to authorize those same activities. According to the MSNBC/Newsweek and other reports, this rejection is the reason behind the Administration's recent push for FISA "modernization."
Use a digital camera in a movie theater — even for only a few seconds — and you may be dragged from the theater, arrested, and charged with a serious criminal offense. That?s what happened to Jhannet Sejas on her 19th birthday, when two police officers interrupted the showing of Transformers she was enjoying and placed her under arrest.
Sejas says she had no intention of selling or distributing a pirated copy of the film. Her aim was simply to share a few seconds of the Transformers movie with her younger brother to get him excited about seeing the film. (Her camera had recorded a miniscule 20 seconds of the film when she was arrested.) Like any fan, Sejas was a paying customer who only wanted to share her enthusiasm.
The final reports of California's "Top to Bottom Review" of its voting systems are in, and the results aren't pretty. Yesterday, the other shoe dropped. Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who as a candidate promised to radically overhaul California's election technology and related procedures, did just that. In a statement made literally at the 11th hour -- minutes before an impending statutory deadline expired -- Bowen announced that all of the voting equipment analyzed in the Top to Bottom Review would be prohibited from further use in the state unless dramatically improved security requirements were met. EFF applauds Secretary of State Bowen's courageous decision. We sincerely hope that other jurisdictions will promptly follow California's lead.
Update 7:21 PM: Congress has now passed the Administration's spying bill and landed a huge blow to all Americans' privacy. Thanks to everyone who took action to voice their opposition, and shame on the members of Congress who bowed to the Administration's scaremongering and disregarded the rights and interests of the American people. This is obviously an incredibly disappointing turn in the fight to stop the government's abuse of spying powers, but this is by no means the end of the road.
The day before adjourning for August recess, the Senate unanimously approved S.849, the OPEN Government Act, a bipartisan bill that is the first significant update to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in more than a decade. When Congress is back in session, a conference will reconcile the differences between this bill and similar legislation passed by the House of Representatives in March.
Among other things, the legislation will strike a blow to government secrecy by:
Op-ed pages and blogs around the country are bleeding with palpable outrage, as the country wakes up to exactly what happened when Congress radically expanded surveillance powers. Most are asking the same question: faced with this atrocious legislation, how could its many opponents shrink from the moment and let it pass?
Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post has an excellent round-up of editorials and news reporting since the weekend. Here are a few choice bits from opinion pieces around the Web:
- Zimbabwe's New Spying Laws
Mugabe grants his government the right to intercept phone,
mail and Internet traffic.
- House Panel Approves Legal Shield for Bloggers
The Free Flow of Information Act would protect journalists
and bloggers alike.
- Congress to Investigate Yahoo's Role in Chinese Rights
What did Yahoo know about dissident Shi Tao when they
handed information to the Chinese government?
- File-sharing, a "Petty Offense" in Germany
Once upon a time, nearly eighty years ago, AT&T fought at the Supreme Court to stop the government's warrantless surveillance of Americans' private communications.
How times have changed.
Since its participation in the president's illegal wiretapping program came to light in late 2005, AT&T has desperately tried to avoid accountability and has sided with the government's claims that no one should be able to sue to stop the dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans.
A little noticed federal appeals court ruling may have broader consequences for the Administration's attempt to shield its illegal spying program from judicial scrutiny.
The "first sale" doctrine expresses one of the most important limitations on the reach of copyright law. The idea, set out in Section 109 of the Copyright Act, is simple: once you've acquired a lawfully-made CD or book or DVD, you can lend, sell, or give it away without having to get permission from the copyright owner. In simpler terms, "you bought it, you own it" (and because first sale also applies to gifts, "they gave it to you, you own it" is also true).
Seems obvious, right? After all, without the "first sale" doctrine, libraries would be illegal, as would used bookstores, used record stores, and video rental shops (and their modern variants, like LaLa and other CD-swapping communities).
It?s amazing how fast things can change. In April, a transpartisan coalition spearheaded by Stanford Law Professor and EFF Board Member Lawrence Lessig called for the release of presidential debate footage into the public domain. The coalition of Internet luminaries, free speech advocates, conservative and progressive activists and others asked the broadcasters behind the debates to make all footage available to the public for remixing, blogging, commentary, analysis, and parody.
In May, CNN was the first to make footage available to the public and acknowledge the ever-growing number of citizens that are already making use of new forums like YouTube to engage in political debate.
- A Gateway for Hackers
Susan Landau says wiretapping may create a security
nightmare by tempting hackers.
- China Enacting a High-Tech Plan to Track People
The Chinese government plans to use new ID cards to track
all 12.4 million people in Shenzhen.
- Feds Consider Lowering Passenger Data Requirements
Under a new plan, airlines would provide less data on
travelers to the TSA.
- Delete This!
Last week, we told you about how, nearly eighty years ago, AT&T fought at the Supreme Court to stop the government's warrantless surveillance of Americans' private communications. In its brief in Olmstead v. USA, Ma Bell argued that wiretapping could be far more oppressive than searches conducted by King George that directly motivated the crafting of the Fourth Amendment. For more on King George's "hated writs," check out this excellent article written by former EFF Legal Intern David Snyder. (An adapted version of this article also ran in yesterday's Daily Journal, unfortunately behind a paywall.)
In the wake of Congress approving a dramatic expansion of U.S. warrantless wiretapping powers, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the future of two critical lawsuits over illegal surveillance of Americans. The hearing is set for August 15, at 2 p.m. in San Francisco.
The government is fighting to get the cases thrown out of court, contending that the litigation jeopardizes state secrets. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, which accuses the telecom giant of collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in illegal electronic surveillance of millions of AT&T's customers. The court will also hear the arguments on the future of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Bush, a case alleging that the government illegally wiretapped calls between the charity and its lawyers.
Today, EFF will go to court to defend your Fourth Amendment rights and urge the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to let our class-action lawsuit against AT&T go forward. The case demands that AT&T stop illegally assisting the National Security Agency (NSA) to snoop on its customers' telephone and Internet communications.
There's much more at stake than stopping the Bush Administration's illegal spying and holding the telco giant accountable, though. The President is arguing that thin claims of "state secrets" can trump the courts' constitutional duty to uphold the rule of law.
In a packed San Francisco courtroom yesterday, EFF urged the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow AT&T customers to continue to fight against illegal spying on their telephone and Internet communications.
A ruling probably won't come out for months, but at the hearing the judges were certainly asking the right questions about the serious constitutional issues at stake. The government is trying to get the case thrown out, arguing that thin claims of "state secrets" can trump the courts' constitutional duty to uphold the rule of law. All three judges grilled the government's attorney on this point and appeared worried that granting its motion to dismiss would amount to an abdication of authority. Judge Harry Pregerson asked the government's attorney, "Are you saying the courts are to rubber-stamp the determination of the executive of what's a state secret? What's our job?"
The AWRAC was originally created in 2002 to keep tabs on .mil websites, but its mission expanded in 2005 to include blogs with information relevant to the Army. This change appears to have been controversial. According to an email [PDF] sent late last year by one Army official to another, "My suspicion . . . is that the AWRAC's attention is being diverted by the new mission of reviewing all the Army blogs. In the past they did a good job of detecting and correcting [web site policy compliance] violations, but that is currently not the case."
Solider bloggers play a vital role in educating the public about life with the military, a reality that many of us never experience firsthand. In May, President Bush applauded milbloggers' efforts to share their stories with the public.
EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) work has helped to prompt the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask for an investigation into whether the attorney general has lied to Congress.
In a letter to the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General, Senator Patrick Leahy asked the agency watchdog to probe "potentially false or misleading testimony given by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during his appearances before various congressional committees."
The evidence cited by Leahy includes documents that EFF obtained through a FOIA lawsuit against the Justice Department for records related to the FBI's misuse of National Security Letters. As the letter notes:
Yesterday, the White House once again flouted Congress' authority and failed to comply with Senate subpoenas regarding the NSA's illegal domestic spying. In response, Senator Patrick Leahy threatened contempt proceedings, and stated that the compliance deadline, which was already delayed twice, would not be pushed back again.
That's certainly welcome news, but Congress can't let this turn into yet another set of empty threats. Tough talk is not enough -- after all, Congress has already made numerous requests for critical information about the spying program and let the President dodge them again and again. Instead of forcing his hand, it practically rewarded his evasiveness by capitulating to the Administration's outrageous demands and radically expanding domestic spying powers earlier this month.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act that reveal the inner workings of the FBI's Digital Collection System Network (DCSNet), a software suite that allows the Bureau to conduct surveillance on a wide variety of digital devices.
As Ryan Singel writes in his extensive report for Wired News:
Many of the details of the system and its full capabilities were redacted from the documents acquired by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but they show that DCSNet includes at least three collection components, each running on Windows-based computers.
As students return to school, many colleges are ratcheting up their penalties and restrictions on P2P use. MTV News has a nice round-up, and here are some of the lowlights:
- The Freedom to Read Online in Jeopardy
EFF joins in amicus appeal of United States v. Forrester ruling.
- iPhone Freed From AT&T
Your hardware delivered - back into your control.
- California Judge Decides Perl's "Artistic License" Is a Contract
Free software advocates (in this case) would prefer copyright law.
- Geeks <3 Human Rights
Tim Lee ponder's the techie love of civil liberties.
Well, now that a high-school senior has done it, everyone wants to know: is it legal to unlock your iPhone?
The answer, as we lawyers like to say, is complicated. And, for that complicated answer, there is no one better qualified than Jennifer Granick, the Stanford Law School professor who obtained the DMCA exemption in 2006 for cell phone unlocking.
Rather than give the full exposition, I'll just encourage you to read her recent explanation at WIRED.
The big news in the machinima world this week has been Microsoft's new "Game Content Usage Rules," which is a license that explicitly authorizes the creation of machinima (and other derivative works) using Microsoft game content. As far as I know, this is the first time a major commercial game vendor has created a "machinima license" to facilitate this exciting new genre. (Check out This Spartan Life's interview of Malcolm McLaren for an example of the amazing things machinima creators are doing using Halo.)