The White House has recently unveiled its Official White House Photostream on Flickr, posting dozens of stunning photos by official photographer Pete Souza. In posting the photos, the White House chose the least restrictive license available, a Creative Commons Attribution license — which means the public is free to download, copy, and re-mix freely, so long as the original photographer is credited.
If we had tried to invent a scenario that would illustrate some of the reasons why we need DMCA exemptions for cell phone "jailbreaking," we could not have come up with a better story than Trent Reznor's recent troubles with Apple's iPhone app store.
Reznor, front man for the band Nine Inch Nails and an innovator in the world of digital music, had the latest version of his Nine Inch Nails-themed application for the iPhone rejected by Apple on the grounds that it contained "objectionable content" — the content in this case being a streaming version of the song "The Downward Spiral," which includes Reznor's usual strong language.
Reznor posted a message about the snafu on a NIN message board:
Here we go again. On Tuesday, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster notified craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster that unless craigslist removes its erotic services section within 10 days, "craigslist management may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution." McMaster's threat comes on the heels of increasingly bellicose rhetoric in recent weeks from other AGs such as Rhode Island AG Patrick Lynch, Illinois AG Lisa Madigan, and Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal.
About a week ago, blogger Perez Hilton issued a DMCA takedown notice, asking YouTube to remove a video created by the National Organization of Marriage (NOM). The video used a clip from Hilton's blog in which he strongly criticized Miss California USA Carrie Prejean, in response to comments she made criticizing gay marriage.
- Justice Department Finds Flaws in FBI Terror List
Surprise! The exponential growth the terror watch list has led to errors — including 24,000 names included on the basis of outdated or irrelevant information.
- Libraries Raise Concerns About Google Books
Librarians submitted a letter to the court considering the Google Book Settlement raising concerns about how Google's plans for digital books will affect privacy and censorship.
- CAIR Defends Savage
If you are a vidder, a movie trailer mashup creator, YouTube movie critic, or anyone else who needs to take clips from DVDs in order to make an original remix video, you might be interested in the hearings held last week before the U.S. Copyright Office, where EFF and the Organization for Transformative Works squared off against the MPAA and DVD-CCA.
The MPAA says that ripping from a DVD is always illegal under the DMCA, even if it's done for the purpose of fair use. Since the Copyright Office is empowered to grant three-year exemptions to the DMCA, EFF has proposed a DMCA exemption for noncommercial remix creators.
The photos by official White House photographer Pete Souza are now available to the public on the White House Flickr stream under a new arrangement: in place of the Creative Commons Attribution license used previously, the photos are now identified as "United States Government Works," along with a link to the U.S. Copyright Office page quoting Title 17 of the United States Code:
§ 105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works
Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.
Today brings great news for location privacy, especially if you live in New York. The highest court for that state ruled today in People v. Weaver that police may not use a GPS device to track the movements of your vehicle without first getting a warrant. (Opinion here.) In Weaver, state police placed a GPS tracking device on the defendant’s car and tracked it for 65 days for no apparent reason. GPS devices are sophisticated tracking devices that give officers extremely detailed, round-the-clock information about the movements of a vehicle or tagged suspect. As the Court recognized, the GPS unit will disclose trips of an indisputably private nature from which the government can infer not simply where we go, but our political, religious and amorous associations.
Two more interesting applications have been blocked by Apple in its quixotic quest to police what users can think and do while using their iPhones.
First, we have Me So Holy, an iPhone app that takes a snapshot of the user and cleverly pastes it over the faces of holy religious figures such as Jesus Christ and the Dalai Lama. Well, it appears that Apple would prefer iPhone users to be a bit more pious — they've blocked the application from the iPhone app store as "objectionable."
Blasphemy, however, has been around for a few centuries, and even Steve Jobs is unlikely to have more success eradicating it than past inquisitors. P2P filesharing, on the other hand, is a relatively new idea, and from the perspective of Mr. Jobs and company, even more dangerous and heretical.
Disappointing news today out of San Francisco that craigslist has given in to pressure from law enforcement officials and agreed to remove the "erotic services" section from its site, establishing a rather dangerous incentive for law enforcement officials to bully website operators with baseless threats. As we noted last week, craigslist was at no legal risk -- none -- because federal law immunizes them from state criminal liability based on material posted by their users. However, the ongoing pressure, especially in light of craigslist's previous willingness to try to accommodate the concerns of law enforcement, finally proved too much.
In the tradition of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," EFF board member and Princeton Computer Science Prof. Ed Felten has written an essay in response to the recently passed "3 strikes" legislation in France:
Yesterday the French parliament adopted a proposal to create a "three-strikes" system that would kick people off the Internet if they are accused of copyright infringement three times.
This is such a good idea that it should be applied to other media as well. Here is my modest proposal to extend three-strikes to the medium of print, that is, to words on paper.
Here’s a story we hear a lot at EFF: You think BadCo, Inc. is a bad actor and you’ve developed a really cool site to tell the world why. Maybe just by griping about them or maybe through a bit of parody. Fast forward two weeks: you’re basking in the pleasure of calling BadCo out when bam! You find out your site’s been shut down. You call your internet service provider to find out what’s going on. After way too much time climbing phone trees and sitting on hold you get an answer—Badco has claimed that your site violates its intellectual property rights.
Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster today posted a strongly-worded response to South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster's ongoing legally-baseless threats to bring criminal charges against him and founder Craig Newmark, culminating in a request for a long-overdue apology. Buckmaster is exactly right.
For decades, recording artists have lived in fear of their albums ending up in limbo if a record label refused to release it. But no more? Danger Mouse, who broke into the public consciousness with his remarkable Grey Album remixing Jay-Z and The Beatles and went on to form Gnarls Barkley, is apparently counting on the fact that it's the fans, not record labels like EMI, who have the upper hand in the digital age.
Danger Mouse has been working on a collection called "Dark Night of the Soul." Apparently, relations with EMI on the project have broken down, resulting in Danger Mouse issuing this statement:
It's not often that you get former presidential candidates from the Green Party and the Libertarian Party to agree on legislation, but Bob Barr and Ralph Nader have done just that -- jointly supporting the Right-To-Repair Act of 2009 (H.R. 2057):
This aptly named bill would allow independent repair shops to compete for the business now guaranteed only to dealer-controlled establishments. This is important because car manufacturers now severely limit the number of repair shops that are allowed to have the tools, diagnostic codes and updated repair information essential to being able to repair late-model cars (which are heavily dependent on computers for performance and repair).
The Obama Administration has launched several websites to further its commitment on the first full day of Obama's presidency to improving transparency and encouraging citizen participation in government.
Today, United States District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker took the government to task for failing to obey his prior orders in Al-Haramain v. Obama (formerly known as Al-Haramain v. Bush), asking the government to explain why he should not sanction the government by holding that the plaintiffs win the warrantless wiretapping lawsuit.
On January 5, Chief Judge Walker had denied the government's third motion to dismiss the Al-Haramain litigation and set up a process to allow the Al Haramain plaintiffs to prosecute the case while protecting classified information. On February 28, 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the government's appeal of that order. The government did not seek an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Eucalyptus is the name of an e-book reader app for the iPhone. It allows you to read public domain books that have been digitized by the volunteers at Project Gutenberg. Apple has rejected Eucalyptus for inclusion in the iTunes App Store because one of the books archived at Project Gutenberg, and thus readable in Eucalyptus, is a Victorian-era translation (just text!) of the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian compendium of practical information about sex. Since Apple takes technical measures to prevent iPhone owners from running any software not "approved" by Apple, all iPhone owners are denied the benefit of Eucalyptus simply because a prudish Apple reviewer is scandalized by the words "lingam" and "yoni."
On May 21, 2009, Justice Botsford of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts granted our client Riccardo Calixte's motion to quash the illegal search warrant with which it seized Calixte's computers, phones, ipods, camera and other personal property. Not only is this an enormous victory for Calixte himself, but the ruling is also the highest state court opinion to repudiate the nascent law enforcement "trend" of charging internet users who violate websites' terms of service as criminals. (Case page with background documents here.)
- The FCC's Warrantless Searches
Wired's Threat Level reports that the FCC claims the right to enter and inspect any wireless device.
- IBM Unveils Real-Time Datamining Software
The new software does "stream processing," allowing researchers to combine data from various sources to find patterns.
- Protect Newspapers — By Destroying the Internet?
A recent Washington Post opinion piece argued that the searching and indexing of newspaper articles amounts to copyright infringement. Art Brodsky begs to differ.
We at EFF have long lamented that, too often, incumbent industry leaders use law as a weapon to quell disruptive innovators, to the detriment of competition, innovation, and the public. Here's how Larry Downes puts it in a recent Forbes interview about his forthcoming book due out in October, The Laws of Disruption:
For years, it's been a notoriously popular internet meme to remix the "bunker scene" from the 2004 film "Downfall." In the original scene, actor Bruno Ganz portrays Adolf Hitler's ranting breakdown in the final days of the Third Reich. In the hands of internet remixers, the scene's English-language subtitles have been modified to transform it into commentary on everything from the subprime mortage crisis to breakfast theft. There've even been meta-commentaries on the meme itself.
- Sotomayor's Cyberlaw Record
President Obama's nomination to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, is the first nominee with a cyberlaw record.
- FCC's New Deal for Rural Internet
ArsTechnica reviews the FCC's Rooseveltian proposal for how to deliver broadband to the rural public.
- Honolulu's Internet Vote
The nation's first all-digital election successfully took place in Honolulu, where voters made their choices for neighborhood council online and via phone.
National commitment to cybersecurity is welcome, but government control of the internet is not. This morning's White House-issued cybersecurity proposals seem to recognize this distinction and are therefore vastly preferable to the Rockefeller-Snowe Cybersecurity Act introduced into Congress last month.