Earlier this week, the motion picture industry sued RealNetworks over its RealDVD software. The MPAA companies also asked for an immediate temporary restraining order (TRO) to block Real from distributing the product, which allows consumers to copy their DVDs onto their personal computers for later playback.
There are many obvious reasons why this is a short-sighted and futile gesture by the studios (as Jon Healey of the L.A. Times points out), but let's focus just on the fatal flaws in their legal theory. (We've posted the key legal documents, including TRO briefs, for those who want to read them and form their own opinions.)
A glowing review of Cory Doctorow's latest book on EFF's Deeplinks should come as no surprise. Not only is Cory is one of the loudest and most prominent promoters of EFF, tirelessly promoting the cause of digital freedom in his blog, his opinion pieces and even his novels, but Cory is also — full disclosure — a former employee, current Fellow and generous supporter of EFF.
That said, this is one fine collection of essays. ©ontent: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future collects Cory's thoughts on issues as diverse as the conflict between copyright and free speech, the evils of DRM, the importance of fanfic, and how EULA's threaten civilization. The book is more than just insightful, brilliant, and to the point — it's also funny and fun to read.
But don't take our word for it. Here are some choice bits from ©ontent:
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday signed Assembly Bill 2433 and filled a significant gap in protection for anonymous speech online. Authored by Assemblymember Paul Krekorian and co-sponsored by EFF, the California Anti-SLAPP Project and the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the new law allows speakers who successfully oppose the use of bogus out-of-state litigation to obtain their identities to recover attorneys' fees. Assemblymembers Sally Lieber and Anthony Portantino co-authored the bill.
This Wednesday, Information Warfare Monitor published damning evidence showing that TOM-Skype, the version of the voice and chat program distributed in China not only blocks keywords from chat conversations, but also spies on and remotely reports the contents of Skype users' private text conversations. This directly contradicts Skype's previous assurances that "full end-to-end security is preserved and there is no compromise of people’s privacy", even on the customized Chinese client.
- Passport Hack Resurrects Elvis
A hacker was able to access the personal data on an RFID passport, inserting the identity of Elvis Aaron Presley.
- House Limits Constituent Emails
A massive influx of public input on the bailout bill has led the House to limit emails in an attempt to prevent websites from crashing.
- Schneier Covers Privacy and the Presidential Election
The artist Joe Alterio has just announced a fantastic benefit that we heartily support. He is re-launching his project, Robots and Monsters: A Charitable Menagerie, trading original, custom-made art for donations to EFF!
Here's how it works: visit Joe's site, give him $50 along with three words or phrases to work from, and he'll send you an original work of art. EFF gets the proceeds, and Joe's adds a copy of the creation to his ever-growing menagerie of amazing creatures for everyone to enjoy.
Joe launched Robots and Monsters last year as a benefit for the SF AIDS Foundation. With the help of other artists, that project was so successful that it raised over $10,000. Now Joe is ready to support a new cause:
Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged President Bush to sign the PRO-IP Act, claiming that "counterfeiting and piracy of [intellectual property] is a growing problem that costs U.S. businesses nearly $250 billion in revenue each year [and] has already caused the loss of an estimated 750,000 American jobs..." Both figures, $250 billion and 750,000 jobs, are cartoonishly large and have activated the investigatory instincts of some smart reporters. What have they found?
Wired blogger David Kravets' investigation led to nowhere -- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claimed that the jobs figure comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Commerce claimed that the measurement was provided by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (Thanks to the government's ignorance, Kravets became stuck in an infinite loop and needed to be rebooted.)
Freedom Not Fear is the world's ongoing demonstration against the encroachment of civil liberties by anti-terrorist laws -- particularly in the online world. This year the protests take place this Saturday, October 11th in nearly thirty countries, including the very first events in the Americas.
The origin of the campaign comes from Europeans' anger at the EU's 2006 data retention directive, a pan-European law that requires ISPs to log email and web traffic data for a minimum of six months, and often more. Terabytes of personal data on millions of innocent Europeans are now being collated, paid for by customers and taxpayers, and open for access by any criminal or civil investigation, no matter how trivial.
This has been a bad week for President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. First, a government study reported that data-mining is actually a hindrance in the fight against terrorism. And now, two new whistleblowers have come forward with firsthand accounts of how innocent Americans' communications have been swept up in the NSA's dragnet.
Why does Hollywood hate RealDVD so much? Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with piracy and everything to do with controlling innovation.
Earlier this week, a district court in San Francisco extended the temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking RealNetworks' distribution of its RealDVD software, at least until a full-dress preliminary injunction hearing can be held sometime in late November. Although reporters have done a good job reporting on the hearing, they have not answered a more basic question: why does Hollywood care so much about RealDVD in the first place?
- A Contentious Meeting with New Zealand's Copyright Minister
Colin Jackson hits a brick wall when he and others talk to New Zealand ministers about the new copyright act.
- Former Pink Floyd Manager: End the P2P Lawsuits
Peter Jenner continues to advocate for collective licensing, this time in Berlin.
- EuroISPA on the Recent "Three Strikes" EU Battle
The ISP association attempts to unpick what Sarkozy thinks he's doing in the EU.
- The Third COMMUNIA Workshop in Amsterdam, Oct 20-21
European workshop on fair dealing, fair use and its global equivalents.
Yesterday, the McCain-Palin campaign sent a letter to YouTube describing the troubles it has been having with bogus DMCA takedowns targeting its videos:
[O]verreaching copyright claims have resulted in the removal of non-infringing campaign videos from YouTube, thus silencing political speech. Numerous times during the course of the campaign, our advertisements or web videos have been the subject of DMCA takedown notices regarding uses that are clearly privileged under the fair use doctrine. The uses at issue have been the inclusion of fewer than ten seconds of footage from news broadcasts in campaign ads or videos, as a basis for commentary on the issues presented in the news reports, or on the reports themselves. These are paradigmatic examples of fair use...
- NSA Spying Overseas: Legal or Not?
Marty Lederman asks whether NSA spying on Americans abroad — as described by new whistleblowers — is a violation of FISA or the 4th Amendment.
- Savage Sued for Takedown
Stanford's Fair Use Project says the radio host sent a bogus takedown notice to YouTube.
- Police Put Activists on Terror List
Maryland police illegally entered the names of law-abiding political activists into federal databases that track terrorism.
- Flash Cookies: The Silent Privacy Killer
Yesterday, we wrote about the McCain-Palin campaign's letter to YouTube, highlighting how DMCA takedown notices can make online speech disappear from the Internet, even when the claims of infringement plainly lack any merit.
Today, we bring you YouTube's response. YouTube's response points out, much like we did yesterday, that the McCain-Palin campaign's proposed solution (human review of DMCA takedown notices targeting videos posted by political candidates and campaigns) favors speech from one particular class of users. YouTube says that it "tri[es] to be careful not to favor one category of content on [its] site over others, and to treat all of [its] users fairly, regardless of whether they are an individual, a large corporation, or a candidate for public office."
In his Word of the Day commentary yesterday, Stephen Colbert put forward a ringing defense of the NSA's spying program. Responding to reports that NSA employees are routinely listening in on the personal calls of US soldiers and aid workers stationed abroad, Colbert reminds viewers that "it's a lot easier to listen to Americans, they speak English."
Every three years, the U.S. Copyright Office undertakes a rule-making to consider whether the DMCA's ban on circumventing technological protection measures (e.g., DRM and other "access control" restrictions) is interfering with noninfringing uses of copyrighted materials. The Copyright Office has announced that those interested in requesting a DMCA exemption for the period 2009-2012 must submit their proposals to the Copyright Office by December 2, 2008 (there will be an opportunity in February to support or oppose the proposals, but the proposals have to be made in December).
On Monday, President Bushed signed a controversial intellectual property enforcement bill into law. This set of proposals for heightened intellectual property enforcement first appeared at the end of 2007 in the House's original PRO IP Act. The winding history of the bill not only sheds light on the agenda of the entertainment industry, but leads to an instructive conclusion -- that the vigilance of public interest groups and involved citizens is having a positive impact on copyright policy.
Many elements of the entertainment industry's wish list for this session of Congress went unfulfilled, largely thanks to the efforts of Public Knowledge. Some of the provisions stripped from the bill since last year include:
Last Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin spoke in favor of opening up "white spaces" at a press conference while the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) published its much-anticipated report on white space technology trials. The Commissioners also announced plans to vote on white spaces at their next meeting, November 4th, although predictably, white space opponents have requested a delay of the vote.
A few weeks back, we produced a new graphic to accompany our new case against the government, Jewel v. NSA, challenging the Bush administration's illegal spying program. The graphic is a retooling of the NSA's logo, featuring a glowering eagle using his talons to illegally plug into the nation's telecommunications system — with the help of telecom giant AT&T.
By popular demand, we are now offering t-shirts featuring our NSA logo in an exclusive offer to members only. With a donation of $65 or more you can help us continue the fight against illegal spying and receive a shirt (as well as other premiums) in return. Your support makes our work possible! Thank you!
Since late 2004, EFF has been warning the public about "printer dots" -- tiny yellow dots that appear on documents produced by many color laser printers and copiers. These yellow dots form a coded pattern on every page the printer produces and can be used to identify specific details about a document; for example, the brand, model, and serial number of the device that printed it and when it was printed. In short, the printer dots are a surveillance tool that can link each printed page to the printer that printed it.
To help individuals learn more about printer dots and how to find them, EFF posted a video and tutorial to Instructables, titled, "Yellow Dots of Mystery: Is Your Printer Spying on You?". You can also watch the video here:
- Hollywood (Unintentionally) Agrees with EFF
The MPAA's response to an EFF blog post unwittingly validates our point -- that the MPAA's legal attack on RealDVD is about controlling innovation.
- Record Label 'Infringes' Own Copyright
A donation-based record label that distributes its music for free had its site taken down for copyright "infringement."
- Interim Spying Report Kept Secret
Why did the NSA mark a "public" report on wiretaps as "classified" instead?
- NSA Spy Boss: We'll Investigate
The idea couldn't be simpler, or the innovation more pro-consumer: Redbox makes DVD rental kiosks that rent authentic, Hollywood DVDs. It's just like Blockbuster, only without the trappings of the store, which means kiosk vendors can do it cheaper, quicker, and in more places. Simple $1 per night DVD rentals. Brilliant.
Today is the tenth anniversary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998. EFF is marking the occasion with the release of a 19-page report that focuses on the most notorious part of the law: the ban on "circumventing" digital rights management (DRM) and other "technological protection measures." The report, entitled Unintended Consequences: Ten Years Under the DMCA, collects reported cases where the DMCA was used not against copyright infringers, but instead against consumers, scientists and legitimate competitors.
The collected stories are like a trip down memory lane for those who have followed digital freedom issues over the past decade. Here are a few examples of DMCA abuse in the report that you might remember:
Today, Google announced a settlement with authors and publishers in the class action lawsuits over Google Book Search. The settlement still needs to be approved by a New York federal court, but under the plan, Google will:
- pay authors and publishers $125 million, part of which will be used to create a Book Rights Registry allowing copyright owners to register their works and receive a share of subscriptions, book sales and ad revenues;
- allow users to purchase full books, saved to an "electronic bookshelf;"
- will offer institutional subscriptions, including a free online portal for public libraries;
- will point users to locations to buy or borrow searched books.
The settlement also says that authors and publishers will be able to activate "preview" and "purchase" modes for books that are in-print and copyrighted, as well as monetize out-of-print books that are digitized by Google.
For almost two years, EFF has been a participant in negotiations between human rights groups, investors, academics and Internet companies -- including Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft -- aimed at improving how those businesses deal with free expression and privacy issues around the world.
The blogosphere is doing a great job examining the legacy of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was enacted into law ten years ago this week. But people frequently ask me where they can turn for a more in-depth analysis of the DMCA, DRM, and their impact on digital culture. For them, there are two books I recommend first and foremost.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit yesterday issued a decision that imposes firm limits on business method patents. The ruling effectively overturns a key part of the court’s decision in State Street Bank and Trust v. Signature Financial Group, which opened the door to an explosion of patents on "methods" of doing business so long as the methods involved use of a computer and produced a "useful, concrete, and tangible result."
UPDATE (Aug. 2009): If you are an author, head over to our Google Books page.
UPDATE (Jan. 2009): The official class notice has now been published. Anyone who owns a copyright and has questions about the settlement should start there. Also, I strongly recommend Prof. James Grimmelmann's analysis of the settlement.