In one of his last official acts of 2007, President Bush signed into law the first major overhaul of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in more than a decade. The Open Government Act of 2007 makes much-needed changes to the FOIA process that will give Americans better access to information about their government at work, such as:
Free video hosting sites like YouTube, Yahoo! Video, and Daily Motion are enabling creators to share video instantly with millions of viewers around the world. A new report from the Center for Social Media takes a close look at these user generated sites, and finds that there is much more at stake than the SNL and Daily Show clips often referenced in the usual Viacom v. YouTube debates on copyright infringement.
Back in December 2005, we announced the beginning of the end for DRM on music. Well, two years later, we're getting close to the end of the end, with Sony-BMG announcing that it, too, will be giving up on DRM for music downloads (at least for some of its catalog). Sony-BMG is the last of the four major labels to take this step.
It's about time. As online music retailers have been pointing out for years, DRM has only held back the authorized downloading services in their efforts to compete against the unauthorized world of P2P file sharing.
- Privacy International reports standards slipping around the world
A new study finds that privacy lacks adequate protection in almost every country on Earth.
- Australia's plans to filter the Internet under fire
Privacy advocates complain that the plan to require ISPs to filter content amounts to censorship.
- Adobe in hot water for snooping on customers
Adobe's CS3 software is using a suspicious IP address to track customers' usage stats.
On January 26, 2008, the University of San Francisco School of Law Intellectual Property Law Bulletin is hosting The Toll Roads: The Legal and Political Debate Over Network Neutrality, a symposium to increase awareness about network neutrality by bringing together lawyers, academics, economists, and technologists for a balanced debate on the issue.
Is it illegal to make copies of legally purchased digital music for personal use? Millions of people do this every day when they rip a CD to their hard drive, copy audio files to their iPod, or burn a back up on CD — a practice that is well within the parameters of fair use. But as a recent Washington Post article pointed out, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) doesn’t necessarily agree.
The article noted that the RIAA case against Arizona resident Jeffrey Howell refers to copies Howell made of his legally purchased music as “unauthorized copies.” That view seems to echo statements made by Sony executive Jennifer Pariser during the trial of Jammie Thomas for filesharing in which she described the act of making a copy for personal use as “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy.’” The article quoted the RIAA’s website as follows:
On Friday, EFF filed an amicus brief in Atlantic v. Howell, an Arizona lawsuit brought as part of the RIAA's national campaign against individuals for file-sharing. Although the case has received attention recently over the issue of whether CD ripping is legal, the main event in the case is about something different: can the RIAA sue people for attempted copyright infringement?
EFF's brief (as have several courts) says no.
Tomorrow evening, join EFF in celebrating our 17th year of defending digital rights! Since 1990, EFF has been there fighting for freedom and civil liberties.
The birthday bash will be on Tuesday, January 15, 7-11 PM, at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Adrian & the Mysterious D (A+D), the DJ duo that founded the seminal mashup party "Bootie," will be dropping a shameless, genre-smashing blend of tracks, backed up by DJ sets from Bay Area copyfighters Ripley, Kid Kameleon and EFF's own J Tones and Qubitsu.
Last Friday, a House committee published a report about the launch of a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website that had egregious security vulnerabilities that "exposed thousands of American travelers to potential identity theft." The "Traveler Redress" website was intended to allow travelers erroneously listed on airline watch lists to get help from the government. The summary of security issues includes:
EFF is continuing its research into Comcast's use of forged RST packets to interfere with their customers' BitTorrent connections. (Apparently the FCC is investigating, as well.) While Comcast has remained conspicuously silent about the technical details of its activities, a few networking engineers have tried to defend Comcast by proposing technical justifications for Comcast's interference activities.
Last November, we reported on H.R. 4137, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007, which includes misguided anti-piracy requirements for universities. For the most part, the massive, nearly 800-page bill refreshes existing legislation about federal financial aid. But the bill also includes a section with a title that sounds as if it were dreamt up by an entertainment industry lobbyist: "Campus-based Digital Theft Prevention." Specifically, the bill says:
Each eligible institution participating in any program under this title shall to the extent practicable—
Congress returns to Washington DC this week, and with them returns the battle over telecom immunity. Recall that on the eve of a key vote in December 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed action on the surveillance bill until January, giving Senators additional time to hear from their constituents.
Our friends at People for the American Way (PFAW) have engaged activists to reach Congress in a new way -- through web video. The plan for webcam-savvy activists? Record a short video (less than 60 seconds long), telling your member of Congress why they should say no to telecom immunity.
Eric Menhart may call himself a cyberlawyer, but we think he has a lot of learn about cyberlaw -- and common sense. Menhart is the author of a blog about cyberlaw issues called, logically if not innovatively, "Cyberlawg." (As he says in the top right corner, “Cyberlawg = Cyberlaw + blog.”) And he is "principal attorney" in a firm called "CyberLaw P.C." OK, OK, we get it, he practices technology law. Based on this, he’s applied for a trademark on the use of the term “cyberlaw” in connection with the practice of, um, cyberlaw. That's like a soda company claiming a trademark in the use of the word soda in connection with the sale of soda. Or an apple farmer claiming a trademark in the use of the term apple in connection with the sale of apples. Or ... well, you get the picture.
As you may recall, the European Parliament's forthcoming
href="http://www.eff.org/issues/eff-europe/bono-cult-amendments">report on the
Cultural Industries has become the latest target of lobbying by the
recording industry. First, they attempted to href="http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2007/12/music-industry-europe-filter-pressure">insert
language that advocated that European ISPs filter and block their own
users on the basis of suspected infringement. As we href="http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/effeurope/NetworkFiltering.pdf">explained
to European Members of Parliament, such policies would not only harm the
privacy and security of Net users - they would not even work to combat
infringement. Like DRM, everyone would lose, including the music industry and
artists that IFPI seeks to protect.
On January 11, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the final regulations (PDFs 1, 2) for the implementation of the REAL ID Act, the flawed plan to create a national identity card system.
The REAL ID Act was signed into law in 2005 and forces states to standardize driver's licenses in a way that turns them into a national ID. The Real ID Act will create grave dangers to privacy and impose massive financial burdens without improving national security in the least.
The internet brought us three terrific discussions about AT&T's plan to filter the internet this week.
First, over at Slate.com, Tim Wu asks: Has AT&T Lost Its Mind? pointing out that the company risks losing its immunity from copyright liability if it takes an active role in selecting which content can travel over its network. He says: "An Internet provider voluntarily giving up copyright immunity is like an astronaut on the moon taking off his space suit."
Second, filtering was discussed again in lively debate on the New York Times Bits Blog between Tim Wu again (Tim's been terrific on this issue) and Rick Cotton of NBC Universal.
Time Warner Cable has confirmed that it will be rolling out metered pricing for Internet access in Beaumont, TX. Although the exact terms have apparently not been set, packages would reportedly offer between 5 gigabytes and 40 gigabytes a month, with the top plan costing roughly the same as the company’s current highest-speed service (~$50-60/month).
The EU's CULT committee voted on the final form of its report on the Cultural Industries in Europe earlier today, and chose to listen to their constituents, not the music industry's lobbyists. Amendments proposing ISP filtering and blocking, as well as a last-minute request for an EU directive extending copyright terms, were all either voted down or withdrawn by their proposers.
With Congress back in session this week and the Presidential season in full swing, the fight to prevent the Bush administration from granting immuniy to the telecoms for illegal spying is heating up once again. Activists and bloggers alike are keeping the heat on.
First, Credo Mobile (formerly Working Assets) urged its members to write to Senators Clinton, Obama and McCain, the three presidential candidates who are still in the Senate and who have said they'd oppose immunity.
The results were tremendous: 67,000 emails were sent to the Senators.
The Melman Group, a national polling organization commissioned by the ACLU, recently published a poll finding that 57 percent of likely voters opposed immunity for the telecommunications carriers who participated in the government's warrantless surveillance program, while only a third supported letting the telecoms off the hook. The poll had a margin of error of +/-3.1%. As shown by the poll:
When the MPAA began their campaign against piracy on college campuses, they waved a study that purported to show that 44% of the film industry’s losses were the direct result of illegal downloading and filesharing by college students on US campuses. The MPAA (and others like IPI and PFF) used that number to ramp up the pressure on Congress to pass legislation that would force colleges to eavesdrop on their networks and crack down on filesharing on campus.
The Administration has been in a full-court press to bully Congress into making horrible permanent changes to FISA -- including immunity for telecommunications carriers like AT&T -- based on the argument that critical surveillance of terrorists will be cut short or degraded if the Protect America Act (PAA) expires on January 31, 2008.
But no surveillance started by the PAA will end when the PAA expires. All of the spying done under the PAA will continue until at least July 31, 2008 even if the law goes to the dustbin of history on January 31, as it should.
Let's show our elected representatives that We the People
-- concerned American voters from across the country
-- oppose telecom immunity and want them to stop the spying.
Visit StopTheSpying.org for details on making photos and videos to drive the point home: no immunity for lawbreaking telecoms!
The Senate has begun discussing telecom immunity and the FISA Amendments Act on the Senate floor, and by many indications a vote is imminent. After that, we'll need the House to stand strong in rejecting amnesty for telecom lawbreakers. The amnesty apologists are pushing to finish the bill by February 1.
Congress needs to hear from citizens like you!
Visit StopTheSpying.org now to speak out against telecom immunity!
For the campaign's Flickr page featuring submitted photos:
The Senate is poised to make its most critical vote yet on illegal government surveillance this afternoon at 4:30pm ET. There are still a few hours left to phone your Senator and tell them to stand up for your rights. Our allies in DC tell us this vote really could go in either direction, so your call will make a real difference.
Meanwhile, here's a roundup of recent discussion of FISA here, on the blogs and in the media:
When you type a word like "Chevrolet" into an Internet search engine, you aren't necessarily looking for the nearest dealership. You might be looking for independent information about Chevy's business practices, quality, compliance with emissions standards, or even information about how Chevrolets match up against their competitors. One of the best ways for competitors, critics and others to get that information to you is to place ads that use Chevrolet's trademarks as keywords, so that this information pops up when you run the search. That's why EFF has worked hard to stop efforts to use trademark law to impede keyword advertising.
EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties today, using EFF's case against AT&T as an example of the misuse of the State Secrets Privilege by the Administration. The hearing was the Oversight Hearing on Reform of the State Secrets Privilege.
Barracuda Networks Inc. today announced that it plans "to defend itself, the open source community and the free and open source Clam AntiVirus software from a patent by Trend Micro."
The patent at issue in the litigation is U.S. Patent Number 5,623,600 and is directed generally to virus detection and removal apparatus for computer networks.
Sherwin Siy, staff attorney with Public Knowledge, has posted an insightful first-person account of a recent "roundtable" held by the U.S. Copyright Office about the increase in statutory damages proposed in Section 104 of the recently-introduced PRO-IP Act.
As we reported when the measure came out, there is precious little reason to think that copyright's statutory damages regime is too lenient (with individuals being held liable for $220,000 for sharing 24 songs, the evidence indicates the opposite). Having convened an all-day roundtable of "stakeholders," it sounds like the Copyright Office may be coming to the same conclusion:
Can a rightsholder force an ISP to hand over a subscriber's identity in a civil copyright infringement lawsuit? In the U.S., the answer is a clear yes - as evidenced by the music industry's more than 20,000 lawsuits against alleged individual filesharers. In Spain (and perhaps other EU countries) the answer is no, at least for now.
Tuesday morning, Congress passed a 15 day extension to the Protect America Act. While it would have been better if Congress had called Bush's bluff on the so-called "surveillance blackout" and allowed the act to expire altogether, we are glad and relieved that they're at least taking time to consider further compromises and amendments, rather than caving and passing the draconian Intelligence Committee bill. Massive thanks to all of you who phoned your Senators over the weekend and helped make it happen.
This week, along with our co-counsel, EFF filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings asking a U.S. District Court judge to throw out a copyright infringement suit brought by talk show host Michael Savage against the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Savage sued CAIR in December, alleging that CAIR infringed the copyright in his show when it posted on its web site brief excerpts from Savage's radio program in order to criticize Savage's remarks. Savage also added a federal racketeering claim stemming from that alleged copyright infringement.