In the last few days, President-elect Obama's transition team took a significant stride towards a more open government by licensing the content of Change.gov under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Using that license essentially means that the transition team is allowing others to freely share and remix what's posted there, provided that reposts are attributed to Change.gov. The move is a victory for the public and the many advocates for a more wired, participatory democracy.
It's also another reminder of the importance of Creative Commons, which affords creators an opportunity to opt for something less than Disney-style copyright restrictions. By embracing a CC license, the Obama team sets a valuable example for others in government, many of whom may have defaulted to "all rights reserved" without considering other options.
- Citizen Safeguards Struck Out in EU Council
La Quadrature Du Net analyse the latest moves in Europe's telecoms package - still a mixed bag for protecting rights online.
- Inside Italy's Net Filters
An overview of the "P-Box" - the bespoke Debian install intended to filter content at Italian ISPs.
- Google's Gatekeepers
The New York Times investigates who decides when Google is told to block content.
Yesterday, EFF filed petitions (1, 2) with the Copyright Office seeking DMCA exemptions for three categories of activities that do not violate copyright laws, but that are still jeopardized by the DMCA's ban on bypassing technical protection measures used to control access to copyrighted works (i.e, DRM). The three exemptions are for:
- Obama's Attorney General Pick: Good on Privacy?
Eric Holder has an unfortunate history of supporting schemes that broaden law enforcement powers at the cost of privacy and other civil liberties.
- Principles for an Open Transition
Leaders of the open government movement published three principles to guide President-elect Obama's transition team in fostering greater speech and participation.
- Music Blogs Face Sudden Censorship Spike
Blogger has been deleting entire posts from music bloggers' websites without warning or adequate explanation.
- ">Bush Signs Law Promoting Censorship of Kids' Programming
The Obama-Biden Transition Project took a major step to increase transparency Friday, announcing that most policy documents from meetings with outside groups will be posted on the Web site Change.gov for review and comment.
The new policy also invites the public to submit their own ideas and leave comments for the transition team.
According to a memo from project co-chair John Podesta, the transition team will publish "all policy documents and written policy recommendations from official meetings with outside organizations," as well as the date and names of the organizations attending those meetings. Podesta noted that the the policy is "a floor, not a ceiling," and strongly encouraged transition staff to post additional materials.
Yesterday's scandal over the UK Internet Watch Foundation's attempt to censor a purportedly pedophiliac Wikipedia entry raises some important questions about unintended technical consequences of Internet censorship systems. The Wikipedia article was about a 1970s hard rock album called Virgin Killer [NSFW] by the German band Scorpions.
Censorship technologies are purveyed as a way to protect us from the evils of child abuse. But they're costly systems that are unlikely to actually protect anyone or prevent any child abuse — they're more likely to interfere with the way the Internet works and hamper innovation by online communities.
Finally. The major record labels are coming around to voluntary collective licensing, as we've been urging (and predicting) since 2003. Last week, TechDirt posted a set of leaked slides suggesting that Warner Music Group has opened a discussion with several major U.S. universities about creating a collective licensing solution for on-campus music file sharing. Wired got more details, TechDirt hates it, Ars Technica is cautiously optimistic, and Portfolio urges more transparency.
As part of their commitment to transparent and open government, the Obama Transition Team is posting the lobbying agendas of the groups it meets with for public review and comment. One of the more interesting documents to be found there is the Motion Picture Association of America's "international trade" agenda.
Some of the MPAA's agenda is reasonable, such as cracking down on commercial optical disc piracy. But much of it, if adopted, would result in a substantially less free and safe internet, at little or no actual benefit to the artists and workers the MPAA claims to represent.
Of course, this may not be immediately clear when reading the document, since it's all couched in DC lobbyist-speak. Here, then, is a guide to understanding what's really being talked about.
- Obama May Keep CIA Chief
Michael Hayden, a major player in the Bush administration' wiretapping program, may stay on as head of the CIA under Obama.
- Panel to Call for Review of Wiretapping Scholar
The House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel plans to ask the NSA to open a formal investigation into whether NSA wiretaps were improperly used in the trial of Ali al-Timimi.
- Is It "Spam" or Speech?
A student government leader at Michigan State University was found guilty of "spamming" after emailing faculty to criticize school policies.
Remember how shocked you were back in December of 2005 when you learned that the government was spying on Americans' phone calls and emails without warrants? The whistleblower who apparently kicked off that New York Times investigation has come forward, and his story is a timely lesson on how important -- and frightening -- it can be to do the right thing.
Today, the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals gave another setback to the Bush Administration's claims for sweeping new Executive powers. The court found the National Security Letter (NSL) statute's gag provision unconstitutional in Doe v. Mukasey. The NSL law allows the government to seek your electronic communications transactional records from your ISP without obtaining a court order. The gag provisions required the recipient of a NSL to stay quiet as long as the government desired, with only a fig leaf of judicial review.
We'd like to share this animated holiday greeting titled the 12 Days of EFF to celebrate the season and thank our friends and supporters for a good year in the fight for digital rights.
Thanks and happy holidays!
Today, Yahoo upped the ante when it comes to protecting search engine users' privacy, announcing a new data retention policy providing for anonymization of search queries — as well as page views, page clicks, ad views and ad clicks — after 90 days. This announcement comes on the heels of Google's announcement in September that it would be anonymizing its logs after 9 months.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) and ten other civil liberties organizations today sent an open letter today to Michigan State University (MSU) President Lou Anna K. Simon in defense of MSU student government leader Kara Spencer. Ms. Spencer was formally warned by MSU and labeled a "spammer" for sending e-mails to 391 faculty members raising concerns about a controversial change in the university's calendar.
Over the weekend, Newsweek revealed Thomas M. Tamm as the man who first blew the whistle on the Bush Administration's illegal warrantless wiretapping program. Last night, Mr. Tamm gave his first public interview on The Rachel Maddow Show:
Earlier today, Yahoo! announced a new data retention policy providing for anonymization of search queries — as well as page views, page clicks, ad views and ad clicks — after 90 days.
Google takes privacy very seriously and we aim to strike the appropriate balance between protecting our users' privacy and offering them benefits of data retention, such as better security measures and new innovations. Earlier this year, we already committed to anonymizing IP addresses in our server logs after nine months, significantly shorter than our previous 18 month retention policy. When we make changes to our policies, they are dependent on what will be best for our users both in terms of the services we provide and the respect of their privacy. It is a balance that we are continually evaluating.
The lawsuits are ending. It's about time.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the recording industry has halted its mass litigation campaign against music fans for Internet file-sharing, a campaign that has targeted more than 35,000 Americans over more than 5 years (for a complete history of the lawsuits, see our RIAA v. The People white paper).
Ending the lawsuit campaign is long overdue. The campaign has been, by any measure, a failure. The lawsuits have not reduced unauthorized file-sharing and have not gotten a single artist paid.
Two months ago, in In re Bilski, the Federal Circuit rejected the notion that anything that produces a "useful, concrete, and tangible result" is potentially patentable. Instead, to be patent-eligible, an idea must be "tied to a particular machine or apparatus," or it must "transform a particular article into a different state or thing." (To qualify for a patent, it also has to meet various other requirements, such as being novel.)
As to transformation, the court noted that not just any transformation will do. The transformation "must be central to the purpose of the claimed process," and the "articles" transformed must either be "physical objects or substances" or "representative of physical objects or substances."
- Obama's Total Information Awareness
The New Republic says no campaign in history has ever compiled more information on its supporters.
- FBI Turning Cell Phones Into Eavesdropping Devices
By remotely activating the microphone in mobile phones, the FBI has been able to eavesdrop on suspects.
- Analysis of the 2nd Circuit Decision on NSLs
Eugene Volokh goes deep inside the 2nd Circuits decision to ask whether the ruling is good for free speech.
- RIAA President Speaks
The well-known Scientology protester Keith Henson has filed an appeal to the Appellate Division of the Riverside County Superior Court of his criminal conviction in 2001 of misdemeanor "interfering with a religion" for picketing in front of a Scientology "base" in Hemet, CA. The ruling was roundly criticized as inconsistent with Henson's First Amendment rights to criticize Scientology: much of the evidence used against him consisted of general statements he made online that were very critical of Scientology but fell far short of the sort of "true threat" required to overcome his First Amendment rights. The trial court also limited his ability to explain his actions or present contrary evidence. The Court of Appeal should take a hard look at the case and reverse the conviction.
On Wednesday the 7th, EFF will be celebrating our 18th year of defending digital rights with our biggest bash yet!
Party with us from 8 p.m. until late. We'll be asking for a $25 donation at the door to fund our work defending your digital freedom, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. 21+ only, cash bar. The first 400 people through the door will receive a free mix CD from DJ Spooky.