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August 3, 2008 - 11:45pm 60426

On Friday, the FCC voted, 3-2, to punish Comcast for its surreptitious interference with BitTorrent uploads (a practice that EFF helped uncover and document in October 2007).

August 4, 2008 - 8:05am 60427

Explorologist Ltd. and an online critic have settled their legal battle over a YouTube video challenging Uri Geller's claims about his mental powers.

EFF and Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, LLP, represent Brian Sapient, who uploaded an excerpt from a documentary that critiqued Geller's performances and abilities to YouTube. Explorologist claimed the clip infringed its copyrights. More information about the case is available here.

The agreement should allow the healthy debate about the existence of 'supernatural powers' to continue without interference. As part of the legal settlement, Explorologist has agreed to license the disputed footage under a non-commercial Creative Commons license, preempting future legal battles over the fair use of the material. A monetary settlement was also reached.

August 4, 2008 - 8:14am 60428

Last week, after months of intensive wrangling, the House and the Senate finally agreed on a final version of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Buried in this massive bill, which touches on virtually every aspect of education, is a little provision requiring campuses to develop “plans to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including through the use of a variety of technology-based deterrents.” Those deterrents include bandwidth shaping and traffic monitoring, but also use of filtering technologies such as Audible Magic. “To the extent practicable,” colleges and universities must also offer legal alternatives for file-sharing, such as music services like Ruckus.

August 4, 2008 - 2:06pm 60429

Twenty-four years ago in the Sony Betamax case, the Supreme Court declared that using a VCR to "time-shift" — to record a television program for viewing at a later time — was a fair use. Today, the Second Circuit rejected [PDF] an attempt by the content industry to change the rules of the game if your video recorder is stored "in the cloud" on the Internet.

In March 2006, Cablevision announced that it would be launching a "remote storage" DVR (RS-DVR) system that would operate much like a TiVo, except that the recordings would be stored on hard drives in Cablevision buildings rather than on a box under a consumer's television. A collection of studios and networks sued Cablevision, arguing that RS-DVRs would violate copyright.

August 6, 2008 - 11:01am 59841
August 8, 2008 - 11:50am 60431

Random, invasive laptop searches and other digital privacy violations at the U.S. border are facing increasing pressure from the public and Congress. One of the big complaints EFF and others have had is the lack of information and accountability about the intrusive examination of computer files, cell phone directories, and other private information -- and the indiscriminate copying of that data -- as Americans come back home from overseas.

August 11, 2008 - 4:45pm 60432

Students that receive notices from the RIAA accusing them of illegal filesharing don't have many options. Innocent or not, their choices are limited to either paying the $3000-$5000 settlement, or going to court — where the RIAA's deep pockets guarantee an outrageously expensive legal battle.

But universities themselves do have ways to fight the RIAA's strong arm tactics, and more and more of them are choosing to quietly fight back. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports this week that schools are growing resentful of the constant stream of pre-litigation letters from the RIAA, and the costly investigations that come with them:

August 12, 2008 - 12:48pm 60254

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority issued a statement to CNET that misrepresents the facts leading up to the MBTA's lawsuit against three MIT students. The statement said:

A week ago, the MBTA learned about the presentation to be made at the conference, and immediately contacted MIT. At a meeting last Tuesday involving all the parties, MIT staff and the students agreed to provide the MBTA with a copy of the presentation. After several days passed without getting any information from MIT, the MBTA had no choice but to seek assistance from a federal court judge on Friday. At 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, the presentation was finally provided to the MBTA. Staff is thoroughly reviewing the information to determine if there is any degree of substance to the claims being made by the students.

The MIT students would like to clarify a few facts:

August 13, 2008 - 10:41am 60434

In a victory for free speech and user-generated content, a New Jersey judge has dismissed baseless defamation claims against the operator of Wikipedia. In a recent ruling, the judge correctly found that federal law immunizes the Wikimedia Foundation from liability for statements made by its users.

August 13, 2008 - 2:53pm 60435

It’s never OK to use improper copyright claims to take down legitimate, non-infringing content, but such takedowns are particularly galling when they are timed to directly interfere with the impact of a political message. That’s what happened this week to the Free Tibet movement, and the situation illustrates the risks of a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to copyright policing.

The 2008 Olympic Games have been marked by controversy relating to the human rights record of its host, China. Two days ago, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) added to the debate by demanding that YouTube block a video of a protest by Students For A Free Tibet. The demand appeared to be based on a bogus copyright infringement claim: the protesters had projected various images on the wall of the Chinese consulate in New York, and the video of the protest was titled “Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony.”

August 13, 2008 - 5:11pm 60436

Imagine that you write some code, and offer it to the public under an open source license that requires that if someone distributes modified versions of the code, the modified versions also be open sourced. Now assume someone distributes modified versions of your code, but fails to open source the modified code.

Do you have a claim for breach of contract? Or for copyright infringement? Or both? And why should anyone other than a law professor care?

Copyright law and contract law are very different. The things you need to prove to win a case are different. Copyright law is federal, while contract claims fall under state law, which varies from state to state. Copyright damages will often be more expansive than contract damages. The standards for injunctive relief are different. The prevailing party in a copyright case can seek attorneys' fees, while the general rule in contract cases is that both sides bear their own attorneys' fees.

August 14, 2008 - 10:33am 60438
August 14, 2008 - 6:03pm 60439

A federal court judge in Boston Thursday refused to lift an unconstitutional gag order against three students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who uncovered vulnerabilities in Boston's transit fare payment system. In an editorial today, the Boston Globe wrote that Judge O'Toole "ought to lift it." Instead, the judge continued the hearing until Tuesday, and left the temporary restraining order in place.

August 15, 2008 - 5:09pm 60440

Today, Richard Sullivan, a Sergeant Detective in the Transit Police of the Massachusetts Bay
Transportation Authority (and the liaison to the FBI), filed a Supplemental Declaration. In his declaration, Det. Sullivan said:

the MIT Undergrads reiterated that they did not exploit the supposed vulnerabilities that they had identified in the MBTA's computer system, they promised that they would not do so in the future, and they promised that they would not teach others how to.

Earlier the MBTA had asserted that "At a meeting last Tuesday involving all the parties, MIT staff and the students agreed to provide the MBTA with a copy of the presentation."

Det. Sullivan, however, says that at the meeting:

August 15, 2008 - 6:21pm 60433

Yet another nail has been driven into DRM's coffin, this time for streaming audio (PCPro has a nice overview of the state of DRM for digital music).

Two of the leading on-demand streaming music sites, iMeem and LaLa, are not using DRM on their audio streams, instead sending the music as MP3s dusted with a dash of obfuscation. This is significant because both sites have been licensed by all the major record labels -- the very same record labels that were just last year pushing Congress to require DRM on all noninteractive webcasts. So it looks like the RIAA companies have changed their minds, dropping DRM requirements for the on-demand streaming music services.

August 18, 2008 - 2:04pm 60437

The news recently has been full of reports that Amazon's e-book reader, the Kindle, is doing better than expected. Analyst Mark Mahaney from Citibank says Amazon is on track to sell about 380,000 Kindles this year, and says the Kindle "is becoming the iPod of the book world," with sales expected to hit $1 billion by 2010.

For it's part, Amazon remains coy about releasing the actual numbers, so it might be best to take these predictions with a grain of salt — and sales of the Kindle haven't come close to the numbers for the iPod. But Amazon has reported that, of titles carried in both paper and electronic form, the e-books comprise 10% of sales, a percentage that is likely to grow.

August 18, 2008 - 11:42pm 60441

As regular Deeplinks readers know, EFF's Coders' Rights Project is defending the rights of three MIT students who were prevented from presenting their research on security vulnerabilities in Boston's transit fare payment system. The students were hit with a temporary restraining order that silenced their planned presentation at DEFCON.

Why this is Important

At first glance, the issues at play may appear obscure, and of interest only to technical researchers and lawyers. But as we noted in a post last week, the right to publish without pre-publication review is part of the purpose of the 1st amendment, and one of the reasons Americans fought the Revolutionary War. (The MBTA's stance is all the more ironic, considering Boston's role in that war.)

August 19, 2008 - 10:41am 60442

Today, Judge George O'Toole lifted the gag order on three MIT students who were sued by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for discovering a security vulnerability in the MBTA's fare payment system. The Court found that the MBTA was not likely to prevail on the merits of its claim under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. MBTA had argued that the CFAA, which prohibits the transmission of a program that causes damage to a computer, also covers "verbal transmission," such as talking to people at conferences. Judge O'Toole, however, looked closely at the statute, and held that the CFAA does not apply to security researchers like the students talking to people. More details to follow.

August 20, 2008 - 2:37pm 60430

Earlier this month, Internet users welcomed the FCC's ruling against Comcast for interfering with BitTorrent uploads, celebrating the action as a victory for net neutrality. Reigning in Comcast's dishonest behavior was the right thing to do in this case, but many observers are worried that the FCC is establishing a dangerous habit of interfering with the Internet, especially since the FCC has a spotty history when it comes to serving the public.

August 20, 2008 - 6:23pm 60443

A judge's ruling today is a major victory for free speech and fair use on the Internet, and will help protect everyone who creates content for the Web. In Lenz v. Universal (aka the "dancing baby" case), Judge Jeremy Fogel held that content owners must consider fair use before sending takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA").

August 21, 2008 - 8:41am 60444

The FCC has finally published its order (adopted on August 1) directing Comcast to stop blocking BitTorrent traffic. The 34-page ruling makes for surprisingly enjoyable reading, at least as FCC publications go. The order follows the basic outline that was explained by Chairman Martin in his statement on August 1, 2008. But there are some interesting additional tidbits:

August 21, 2008 - 2:11pm 60446

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit returned the Hepting v. AT&T case to the District Court. In a two sentence order, the court wrote:

In light of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-261, we remand this case to the district court. We retain jurisdiction over any further appeals.

The government and AT&T had appealed Judge Vaughn Walker's June 2006 decision rejecting the argument that the state secrets privilege prevented millions of ordinary American from having their day in court. Oral argument was held August 2007.

August 21, 2008 - 3:37pm 60447
August 22, 2008 - 3:57pm 60448

I was asked recently to create a mural-sized political cartoon (and to paint it live!) at a show of experimental drawings and cartoons at the Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco. I chose as my subject the NSA's "secret room" at AT&T's Folsom Street facility. As part of the Bush administration's massive and illegal spying program, the communications of millions of ordinary Americans are illegally intercepted and copied via fiber-optic splitter, and diverted into this secret room, which is controlled by the NSA.

What exactly goes on inside that room? Here's a time-lapse video of my fanciful answer to that question:

August 25, 2008 - 10:00am 60445

Coauthored by ACLU of Northern California Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director Nicole A. Ozer

August 28, 2008 - 8:03am 60357

In an important ruling handed down yesterday, a federal district court threw out a copyright infringement suit brought by adult video producer Io Group against Veoh, concluding that the video hosting site qualifies for the DMCA safe harbor. The ruling should be required reading for the executives of every "Web 2.0" business that relies on "user-generated content."

August 28, 2008 - 3:54pm 60450

In comments filed today, EFF joined with other public interest and consumer groups in urging the Copyright Office to clarify the process for licensing digital music services, but to steer clear of larger digital copyright controversies. The comments were filed in a rulemaking involving the Section 115 compulsory license for "digital phonorecord deliveries" (DPDs) that has been dragging on since 2001 (read the July 16, 2008 "notice of proposed rulemaking" for a summary of the tortured history of the proceeding).

August 28, 2008 - 4:14pm 60451

Yesterday, the FBI, UC Berkeley police, and Alameda County Sheriff's deputies conducted a raid on the Long Haul Infoshop, a community space that is home to a number of leftist and anarchist groups, including a newspaper and a radio station. Armed with a warrant (PDF), authorities entered and quickly removed every computer in the Long Haul space.

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