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May 1, 2008 - 11:03am 60303

The Ninth Circuit's recent ruling (pdf) in United States v. Arnold allows border patrol agents to search your laptop or other digital device without limitation when you are entering the country. EFF and many civil liberties, travelers’ rights, immigration advocacy and professional organizations are concerned that unfettered laptop searches endanger trade secrets, attorney-client communications, and other private information. These groups have signed a letter asking Congress to hold hearings to find out what protocol, if any, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) follows in searching digital devices and copying, storing and using travelers’ data.

May 2, 2008 - 10:00am 60304
May 2, 2008 - 5:20pm 60305

Coauthored by EFF Activist Richard Esguerra

The progress Congress was making on the Patent Reform Act (S. 1145) has stalled and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pulled the bill from the floor schedule.

The lack of progress is disappointing. Despite its flaws, the proposed legislation would make important and necessary changes to the patent law. In particular, the bill would limit damages for infringement so that they bear some relationship to the actual value of the damage to the patent owner.

May 4, 2008 - 12:05am 60306
May 5, 2008 - 10:16am 60307

Unbeknownst to most software users, a lawsuit now at a critical stage could drastically expand the ability of software vendors to restrict how their customers can use their software.

Blizzard Entertainment, the company that makes the hugely popular massively multi-player online role-playing game World of Warcraft, sued Michael Donnelly, the developer of Glider, a program that helps WoW users raise their character level to 70 by “playing” for the user while the user goes to get a cup of coffee, read the paper, etc. The WoW licensing agreement ostensibly forbids using programs like Glider. Blizzard says that Donnelly illegally interfered with that agreement by selling Glider and, therefore, encouraging users to breach the license agreement by using the program.

May 5, 2008 - 1:32pm 60308

When Microsoft announced that it will no longer support former MSN Music customers who want to play their DRM disabled music on new computers, DRM-hating consumer advocates justifiably cried out, “I told you so!” But this debacle is not just another example of the dangers of DRM: its also a reminder of the danger of overreaching end user license agreements, or EULAs

Just as DRM allows unprecedented corporate control over music and movies, the EULAs that Microsoft and other content vendors force users to click through before downloading songs, shows or films help enforce and expand that control. For example, EULAs usually claim that whatever happens, you can't sue the company--even for problems that are entirely of the company’s own making. And EULAs are often used to try to limit a company’s obligation to live up to its apparent promises.

May 7, 2008 - 2:07pm 60309

Readers of my deeplink on safeguarding your laptop and digital devices from warrantless searches at the border responded with both questions and answers. Some readers wondered whether you have an obligation not to destroy information on your laptop. Others pointed out that U.S. citizens may be detained, but not turned away, at the U.S. border. Many technologists wrote to offer cryptographic solutions, or warnings about encryption schemes that are not as secure as they should be. In this post, I answer the question about destruction of information and reproduce or summarize, with permission, others' suggestions about protecting your laptop from arbitrary searches. I haven't done any independent analysis of these techniques or tools, so your mileage may vary.

May 7, 2008 - 5:51pm 60310

Our class action lawsuit against AT&T for collaborating with the National Security Agency in the massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications includes powerful evidence of a secret room in San Francisco.

But the hub of the spying program may be just outside of St. Louis, in a Missouri town called Bridgeton. A special report from local station KMOV puts the pieces together in a comprehensive and disturbing story about this dragnet surveillance, with the help of AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein. Watch the video on the KMOV site for a fresh look at a key piece of this spying puzzle.

May 8, 2008 - 3:07pm 60311

This morning, CongressDaily reported that Senator Jay Rockefeller is now privately circulating a new "compromise" proposal on surveillance legislation, only a day after it was reported that the telecoms themselves have begun shopping their own "compromise" proposals around the Hill. You may remember Sen. Rockefeller as the force behind the surveillance bill passed by the Senate in February, which included blanket retroactive immunity for phone companies like AT&T that are alleged to have participated in the National Security Agency's illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

May 8, 2008 - 3:21pm 60312

Today, the House passed the controversial PRO IP Act (H.R. 4279) 410 to 11, with 12 representatives not voting.

While Public Knowledge and other groups successfully persuaded the House to remove the most damaging provision in the bill (seemingly written solely to increase damages in the RIAA's file-sharing lawsuit campaign), the bill would nonetheless significantly expand federal enforcement of copyright law.

May 9, 2008 - 2:59pm 60313

Here's a fascinating UK legal analysis of an incident we see occurring all over the world: an over-eager rightsholder undermining Internet goodwill by pursuing their own fans for supposed IP infringements.

Andre Guadamuz, is a lecturer at the Edinburgh University school of law, and organizes the fantastic British conference on "geek law", Gikii. He was recently put in contact by the Open Rights Group with Mazzmatazz, a Dr Who fansite which posts knitting patterns of the current batch of Dr Who monsters, including those obedient servants of man, the Ood (see above).

May 9, 2008 - 4:08pm 60314

As 2008 began, the international music industry was proudly predicting the dawning of a new age of co-operation between rightsholders, Internet companies and governments. The dynamic new President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, together with Denis Olivennes, the head of France's largest consumer electronics and media retailer, had announced a new policy of "graduated response" for the French Net. Users accused of repeated copyright infringement online would be first warned, then suspended from the online world, and finally banned for a year if they did not tow the line. Music industry representatives heralded it as a model that should be imitated across the globe: in IFPI's 2008 report, its CEO John Kennedy said this was the year that "ISP responsibility" for protecting the music industry "becomes a reality".

May 10, 2008 - 10:08pm 60315
May 15, 2008 - 1:53pm 60316

EFF is making some changes to the site's RSS feeds. If you subscribe to with RSS, you've probably been using either our Blog Feed or our Press Release Feed or our Action Alert Feed or some combination of those three. To simplify things, we've consolidated them into one place: The EFF Updates Feed.

We've also just relaunched the long-dormant Line Noise Podcast. Line Noise has two feeds for your favorite podcast aggregator, depending on your audio-codec of choice: MP3 and Ogg Vorbis. Check out our latest episode, in which EFF designer Hugh D'Andrade speaks with Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry about The Lost Art of Orphan Works.

May 15, 2008 - 3:47pm 60317

Reports are coming in of digital video recording systems refusing to record NBC programs - both on digital cable and over-the-air transmissions.

We're still investigating whether these involved over-the-air digital TV, which would mean that NBC was the first broadcaster to attempt to revive the abandoned ATSC "broadcast flag" (as opposed to cable and analog copy control signals like CGMS-A which have been used before).

May 16, 2008 - 12:16pm 60319

Orphan works legislation has returned to Congress, and the controversy surrounding the bill is just as heated as it was the last time around, in 2006. While a broad coalition of libraries, museums, independent filmmakers, public interest groups, and commercial arts organizations such as the RIAA and the MPAA back the bill, several prominent visual artists’ organizations have been rallying their members in opposition. (For a discussion about orphan works, listen to the latest episode of EFF's Line Noise Podcast.)

May 16, 2008 - 3:01pm 60321

Yesterday saw two important court decisions in the file-sharing wars, both favoring defendants. First, Tanya Andersen, a single mother on a disability pension who successfully fought off allegations of illegal file-sharing, was awarded almost $110,000 in fees and costs. Andersen had insisted she had done nothing illegal, and demanded that the RIAA produce evidence linking her to the alleged infringement. The RIAA couldn't, and dropped the case instead--but not soon enough to avoid being hit with a fee award.

May 16, 2008 - 3:35pm 60320

A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter (pdf) to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III this week demanding answers about an illegitimate National Security Letter (NSL) served on the Internet Archive last fall. The Archive joined with EFF and the ACLU to fend off the NSL, which sought information about an Archive patron that the FBI had no authority to gather. After extensive negotiations, the FBI agreed last month to withdraw the letter and lift an accompanying gag order that had been imposed on the Archive, EFF, and ACLU.

May 16, 2008 - 4:54pm 60318

After further investigation of reports of Vista refusing to record NBC, we have found at least one case where a user receiving digital TV over-the-air has been blocked from recording TV shows. Justin Sanders, who took this screenshot, says he was recording Raleigh's HDTV channel WNCN-DT1 on his Vista machine when a popup stating that "restrictions set by the broadcaster ... prohibit recording of this program" appeared.

This is significant: this is the first case we've heard of equipment voluntarily obeying broadcast flag-like restrictions on TV content digitally broadcast over-the-air.

May 19, 2008 - 10:53am 60322

While its customers are still puzzling over why Vista Media Center
is suddenly refusing to record over-the-air NBC digital TV, Microsoft has come out
with an astounding admission, courtesy of Greg Sandoval at CNet News:

"Microsoft included technologies in Windows based on rules set forth by the (Federal Communications Commission)," a Microsoft spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail to CNET "As part of these regulations, Windows Media Center fully adheres to the flags used by broadcasters and content owners to determine how their content is distributed and consumed."

May 20, 2008 - 1:33pm 60323

Chris Frates at the Politico reveals how Republican Leader John Boehner is seeking wiretap protection for himself, but not for ordinary Americans:

When a federal judge ordered Rep. Jim McDermott to pay House Minority Leader John A. Boehner and his attorneys more than $1 million in damages and legal fees for leaking an illegally taped phone call to the media, Boehner said he pursued the case because “no one — including members of Congress — is above the law.”

Why, then, is the Ohio Republican trying to squash similar lawsuits against telecommunications companies who cooperated with the government in warrantless electronic surveillance, ask the attorneys behind the class action suits.

The blatant hypocrisy on display here is stunning.

May 20, 2008 - 9:50pm 60324

The Associated Press is reporting that AT&T, the defendant in EFF's NSA surveillance litigation, "spent $5.2 million in the first quarter to lobby on domestic spying legislation and other issues." To put this into perspective, AT&T's spending for three months on lobbying alone is significantly more than the entire EFF budget for a whole year, from attorneys to sysadmins, pencils to bandwidth. For 2007, AT&T spent over $16 million on lobbying.

May 21, 2008 - 10:48am 60325
May 21, 2008 - 12:05pm 60326

As we pointed out in our deeplink and podcast on the issue, the Orphan Works legislation currently before Congress is stirring up all sorts of passions (and plenty of FUD). The debate continues this week-- with new contributions from two stalwart allies in the fight to reform copyright law.

Free Culture champion (and former EFF-board member) Larry Lessig has penned an op-ed for the New York Times opposing the bill. (log-in may be required) While he supports the principles behind the bill, he says it will create undue burden on copyright holders:

May 21, 2008 - 1:38pm 60327

Breaking with President Bush and GOP Congressional leadership, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain said today through one of his representatives that he did not believe that Congress should immunize phone companies from liability for their participation in the NSA's warrantless wiretapping — at least not until Congress has held hearings to find out exactly what conduct was being immunized, and not until the phone companies admit to and apologize for their lawbreaking.

Threat Level's Ryan Singel reports from the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference:

May 21, 2008 - 11:35pm 60328

Last month we told you about Lockheed Martin's effort to use trademark infringement claims to cause the removal of digital images of classic military aircraft from TurboSquid, a stock images site. The central mark at issue was the term “B-24,” which Lockheed managed to register as a trademark for use in connection with scale models of airplanes. We sent an open letter to Lockheed’s licensing agency, demanding that they withdraw their improper objections. We're pleased to report that Lockheed has decided to withdraw its claim, and TurboSquid is putting the images back up forthwith.

May 22, 2008 - 2:13pm 60330

In a major victory for consumers' rights, a federal district judge has firmly rejected software vendor AutoDesk's claim that its license agreement restricts its customers from re-selling the software they lawfully owned.

May 23, 2008 - 4:12pm 60329

On Wednesday, a McCain campaign spokesperson outlined a surprisingly reasonable position on whether to hold telcos accountable for illegally spying on millions of Americans. EFF applauded his position at the time.

But earlier today, the McCain campaign claimed that they had made a mistake, saying the report "incorrectly represented" his position, which now is that "companies who assist the government" should be granted amnesty in the pending FISA legislation.

The revised position is difficult to reconcile with McCain's previous positions on the NSA warrantless wiretapping program.

May 27, 2008 - 12:10pm 60332
May 27, 2008 - 10:10pm 60331

In the absence of NBC or Microsoft coming clean about what they've done -
what flags NBC sent, and what flags Microsoft obeys, we've been doing some detective
work of our own -- and we'd like your help.

NBC have already said that their activation of their copy-control system was
a "mistake". But when the next mistake occurs is the best chance to uncover what
copy-protection Vista obeys on digital, over-the-air TV.

We're looking to obtain raw data dumps of the ATSC stream next time your
copy of Vista chokes on an over-the-air digital TV feed.

May 30, 2008 - 1:01pm 60333

Have you ever wanted to test whether an e-commerce website is keeping your data secure? The federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- and state statutes modeled on that law -- are so overbroad and vague that your curiosity could get you in deep legal water. When you access your account with an online retailer, the URL often contains a series of numbers. What if those numbers, instead of being randomly generated, appear to be unencrypted personal information, like the last four digits of your credit card, or your California Bar number. What would happen if you edited the URL to contain a different credit card or Bar number? Perhaps it would give you access to someone else's account. That's something you'd want to know because it means your information is also unsecured and the company has something important to fix.

May 30, 2008 - 10:50pm 60334

This weekend, marches and meetings across Germany will protest the overreaction of countries to the threat of terrorism, and the re-emergence of a surveillance state in that country. "Freedom Not Fear" is not a small event: over 20,000 people demonstrated in the last protest in September, and over thirty cities will be taking part in this weekend's demonstrations. The organizers hope to expand across Europe for an even larger protest on September 20th of this year [Update: the date has been changed to October 11th].

What has prompted such a fierce reaction? The core of the protest is anger at the European Union's passing of the Directive on Mandatory Retention of Communications Traffic Data, an EU regulation that mandates all European ISPs and phone providers to keep records on every landline, cell and Internet phone call, every email sent, and every Internet connection session, for as long as two years.

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