Tim Lee over at Ars Technica has an update on latest chapter in the MDY v. Blizzard case, which pits the maker of World of Warcraft against the maker of Glider, software that lets your computer play WoW on auto-pilot for you. We reported on an earlier stage of the lawsuit in June 2008, but MDY recently suffered another defeat that threatens user rights more generally:
We posted our initial thoughts about the proposed Google Book Search settlement when it was announced in October 2008. Since that time, the official notice to members of the class has been approved by the court (available online here). This is still probably the best introduction to the 130+ page settlement for those who own a copyright in a book and are wondering what this settlement will mean for his or her copyrights.
But most of us are probably more interested in what this proposed settlement will mean for the future of books, generally. And make no mistake, that is what's at stake here: the relationship between future generations and all the books ever written by previous generations. For those who are concerned about this question, there are two recent articles that you should read.
Google's Privacy Exec Charged in Italy over YouTube Video
Google's Peter Fleischer was served with the summons when attending a Turin conference.
Google Paying out for Trademark Keywords
Google pays 350,000 euro for selling ads on searches that include the trademarks of competitors.
Phorm and Your Rights
Becky Hogge gives a civil liberties overview of UK's Phorm controversy.
Privacy in Germany 2008
A great summary by Ralf Bendrath of the last year -- written to mark International Data Protection Day.
- Google Executives Face Jail Time for Italian Video
Italian prosecutors are holding Google executives accountable for the posting of an objectionable video.
- AP Alleges Copyright Infringement Over Obama Image
The Associated Press says artist Shepard Fairey's remix of an AP photo is copyright infringement -- but Stanford's Fair Use project thinks otherwise.
- "Managed" Copies?
New software enables users to make copies from DVDs -- but manages those copies with DRM.
- Is the NSA Building HAL?
On a recent afternoon, security researcher Chris Paget was able to capture the passport card information of several unsuspecting individuals while driving through San Francisco, using a device he built in his spare time for a total of $250. A video released by Paget shows just how easy it is to clone RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags with this relatively simple technology.
A California appeals court issued a good decision [PDF] this afternoon in County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court of Santa Clara Country, a case raising unusual open government, homeland security, and copyright questions.
In this case, the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) sued Santa Clara County under the California Public Records Act for a copy of the county's geographic information system basemap, which shows parcel boundaries, addresses, and other property data. Even though the county sells the basemap to customers for a stiff fee, it refused to provide the information in response to CFAC's request.
A committee of privacy advisers has recommended that the government add vital privacy protections to two high profile and controversial homeland security efforts.
The Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee made a host of recommendations to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary and acting privacy officer in a February 2 draft letter February 5 final letter, which has been posted on the DHS web site. [UPDATE: the February 2 draft letter has been removed from the DHS web site, but is available here.] Among the issues flagged for improvement, the committee highlighted the implementation of the REAL ID Act and handling of travelers' digital information during border searches.
The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that the Authors Guild is up in arms over a feature of the new Amazon Kindle 2 that reads e-books aloud using a text-to-speech algorithm. According to Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken, "They don't have the right to read a book out loud." Why not? According to Aiken, when a book is read aloud by a Kindle 2, that creates an unlawful derivative work. Parents everywhere should be on the look out for legal papers haling them into court for reading to their kids.
Today Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California federal court asked for further briefing on a key constitutional question in the litigations brought against AT&T and the other telecommunications carriers for their involvement in the NSA's warrantless wiretapping. The Court noted that the FISA Amendments Act, the law passed by Congress last summer that allows the Attorney General to seek retroactive and prospective immunity for the telecommunications carriers, appears to contain "literally no guidance for the exercise of discretion" by the Attorney General in invoking the immunity provisions. This issue was raised by EFF and the other attorneys representing the customers of the major telecommunications companies in attacking the statute as unconstitutional. The Constitution forbids Congress from writing laws that grant unlimited discretion to the Executive Branch.
The massive stimulus bill being wrangled through Congress has been making headlines for days. Unfortunately, many have sought to make additions to the bill that raise serious concerns for privacy and free speech online. Because the final text has not yet been made public, we can't be certain what was and wasn't included. But there are two elements in particular we're keeping an eye on:
First: Public Knowledge led the charge against a Hollywood-backed provision that sought to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to inspect internet communications for copyright violations. This filtering technology is deeply problematic on many levels, and would be ripe for abuse by the content industry. EFF outlined these problems in detail in a 2007 letter to the European Parliament [PDF].
When President Obama, in one of his first official acts, issued directives committing his new administration to creating “an unprecedented level of openness in Government,” we joined with other transparency advocates in welcoming the announcement of a new direction. After eight long years of the most secretive administration in modern times, the President’s action was a breath of fresh air that seemed poised to bring the change he had promised to the critical realm of government information policy. While we continue to be optimistic, we believe that public interest organizations like EFF must remain aggressive in our pursuit of transparency to ensure that the reality matches the rhetoric.
To that end, we have taken several actions that are likely to provide early glimpses into the Obama Administration’s approach to open government issues.
It has been almost four years since EFF first published our Legal Guide for Bloggers to help bloggers understand their rights and, when necessary, defend their freedom of expression. In that time, blogging has become more widespread, and more and more people need a better understanding of the laws surrounding blogging. Not a day goes by in which we do not help someone with a reference to the Legal Guide.
Beware, iPhone unlockers who defected from AT&T to T-Mobile, because America's wireless phone giants think you're a copyright infringer, a DMCA circumventor, a contract breacher, and a trademark violator. You committed all these offenses simply because you want to use your phone (yes, the one you own) on another network or with other software applications.
That's what CTIA - The Wireless Association, speaking for America's largest wireless carriers, told the Copyright Office in its February 2 filing opposing the DMCA exemptions that EFF and phone recyclers like The Wireless Alliance proposed in the latest DMCA triennial rulemaking.
- An Influx of Big Content Lawyers at DoJ: Cause for Concern?
Julian Sanchez takes a look at the IP backgrounds of Obama appointees to the Department of Justice.
- Judge to UMG: No, You Cannot Sue Veoh's Investors
The judge in Universal Music Group's case against Veoh ruled that UMG could not include Veoh's investors as part of the copyright infringement lawsuit.
- Warner Music Group Removes Warner Music Group Videos
Warner recording artist Emiliana Torrini had her videos removed from YouTube -- by Warner.
Fans of the Sci Fi channel's "reimagined" version of Battlestar Galactica (BSG) all know that the only reason the human warship Galactica survived the initial attack by the Cylons was that it was an old ship using old technology. The Cylon attack crippled the modern systems of the rest of the colonial fleet, leaving them helpless. Galactica survived, and has defended the few humans who survived the Cylon attack ever since. (Good thing, too, because otherwise there wouldn't be much of a television show.)
Jailbreaking an iPhone constitutes copyright infringement and a DMCA violation, says Apple in comments filed with the Copyright Office as part of the 2009 DMCA triennial rulemaking. This marks the first formal public statement by Apple about its legal stance on iPhone jailbreaking.
Apple's iPhone, now the best-selling cellular phone in the U.S., has been designed with restrictions that prevent owners from running applications obtained from sources other than Apple's own iTunes App Store. "Jailbreaking" is the term used for removing these restrictions, thereby liberating your phone from Apple's software "jail." Estimates put the number of iPhone owners who have jailbroken their phones in the hundreds of thousands.
A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that a clear majority of Americans favor at least some kind of investigation into whether Bush administration officials and policies violated the law.
Respondents were asked about whether there should be a criminal investigation, an investigation by independent panel — or neither — into questions of politicization of the Justice Department, torture and warrantless wiretapping.
On the question of wiretapping, 63% support investigation of some kind. (38% prefer a criminal investigation, while 25% want investigation by an independent panel.)
In its filing with the Copyright Office a few days ago, Apple argued that restricting the iPhone to run only software from the iTunes App Store is great for application creators. Apparently, they didn't mean the creators of South Park, whose app has been rejected multiple times:
We first announced our iPhone App back in October, after we submitted the Application to Apple for approval. After a couple of attempts to get the application approved, we are sad to say that our app has been rejected. According to Apple, the content was "potentially offensive." But Apple did admit that the standards would evolve, citing that when iTunes first launched it didn't sell any music with explicit lyrics. At this point, we are sad to say, the app is dead in the water. Sorry, South Park fans.
Last week, we told you about our efforts to ensure the White House makes good on its commitment to a more transparent government. Among other things, we've asked courts to postpone or “stay” several of our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases until the Attorney General releases guidelines to implement a new presumption of disclosure in FOIA decisions, as required by the President on his first full day in office. As we said a few days ago:
Whether you're following a New Zealander on Twitter, or have friended a Kiwi on Facebook, you will not have missed Net users from that country protesting Section 92A in NZ's new Copyright Act. Thousands are turning their sites and their icons black to mourn the coming enforcement of the provision, which passed last year over the protests of ISPs and technology experts and activists.
The language of New Zealand's new copyright law is flawed for the country's Net users; but how it is being interpreted is also bad news for other countries, whose lawmakers might be influenced by the extreme position NZ's politicians and ISPs have wandered into.
Section 92A comes into force on February 28th, and states:
A David and Goliath-type battle erupted this weekend when the public realized that Facebook had changed the rules governing their use of the popular social networking site. In the end, the users prevailed in a victory that reflects the power of social networking as a tool for change.
Since EFF was founded in 1990, we've seen digital technologies become increasingly central to our lives as citizens, consumers, creators, innovators and social beings. And over those nearly 19 years, EFF has been at the forefront of the fight to ensure that these new tools are used to enhance and extend our freedoms, rather than to restrict them.
And for the past 18 years, we have kept our members and supporters informed of our work with an electronic newsletter delivered directly to their inbox every week or two — a novel idea in 1990. The first issue of EFFector was sent out on December 10, 1990 to a little more than 200 people. Today, we have just delivered the 500th issue to the inboxes of over 43,000 people.
Read on for a few highlights of our work that have been covered in EFFector:
In April 2007, as part of our Patent Busting Project, we asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to revisit its decision to grant NeoMedia a patent that broadly claimed to cover database lookups using things like barcodes. In October 2007, the PTO agreed to take another look, and last July, it issued an initial opinion that all 95 claims of the NeoMedia patent were invalid.
Italian Government to Research Skype Interception
Growing attempt by governments seeking to understand and perhaps undermine encrypted VOIP.
Rightsholders Scold Canada, China & Sweden for Internet Piracy
Latest report by media industries to US government highlighting their top targets for new copyright legislation.
Technical Aspects of the Censoring of Archive.org
How the filtering practices of the UK Internet Watch Foundation interacted with Archive.org's caching system to block British access to innocent pages.
- As Data Collecting Grows, Privacy Erodes
Third party data collection is growing, making real privacy more and more elusive.
- NSA Offers Billions for Skype Hack
The NSA has a bundle of cash for anyone that can design software that will allow eavesdropping on Skype communications.
- YouTube Tests Download and CC Licensing
Under a new plan, creators could allow others to download and remix their work on Creative Commons licenses.
- YouTube Kills Download Tool
YouTube is the place to find remix culture. But they don't want you actually remixing stuff you find on YouTube.
Scientists who receive funding from the National Institutes of Health are required to make their research publicly available within 12 months after the research is published. This "open access" policy not only promotes free scientific communication and innovation, it strikes many as fundamentally fair. After all, shouldn't taxpayers have direct access to the extraordinary wealth of essential research they fund? Moreover, as copyright professor James Boyle points out, the open availability of health research can have the laudable effect of giving patients the information they need to make important medical decisions.
Last month we reported that Warner Music Group was using YouTube’s Content I.D. (aka Video I.D.) tool to effectively censor myriad fair uses. We asked people to contact us if they needed legal help and put up a YouTube removal primer to give folks information about their options. As a result we’ve seen beautiful film montages set to music, videos to assist the hearing impaired, and many other examples of amazing artistic talent that have been censored by Warner Music.
We've made two amazing additions to our staff with a new Systems Administrator and a new Membership Coordinator. Here's a quick introduction to our two newest staff members!
Aaron Jue comes to us from the New England Aquarium, where he gained experience working as membership coordinator, and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, where the history of internment of Japanese citizens during WWII got him interested in civil liberties. As it turns out, Aaron's resume said nothing about the fact that he possesses an incredible talent for baking — and sculpting — unusual cakes. To bid farewell to outgoing membership director Nicole Nguyen, he crafted a cake designed to look uncannily like a New Zealand sheep's head (thus endearing himself to the cake-mad EFF staff).
Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the government's appeal of Chief Judge Vaughn Walker's January 5, 2009, decision in Al-Haramain v. Obama (formerly known as Al-Haramain v. Bush - The case title changed automatically after the inauguration). The government had also filed an emergency motion to stay the case pending the appeal.
Circuit Judges Pregerson, Hawkins and McKeown issued a one paragraph order:
We agree with the district court that the January 5, 2009 order is not appropriate for interlocutory appeal. The government’s appeal is DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction. The government’s motion for a stay is DENIED as moot.
This ruling is good news because it means that the warrantless wiretapping case can proceed.
We've brought you several posts explaining Warner's unfortunate crusade to censor its music from YouTube videos, even when those activities would clearly qualify as fair use. Here's a concrete example: a YouTube creator that goes by the moniker Dust Films has pioneered a new parody video genre, the "literal video." The idea is to change the lyrics to famous music videos to describe what is actually going on in the video itself. The results are hilarious.