Last month, EFF got an email from software developer Duane Fields of Exact Magic, asking if he could use our logo on an iPhone application that exclusively displays content from EFF's RSS feed. Sounded like a great idea to us, as long as it was clear that the app wasn't an EFF-sponsored product.
Last week, after months of work, EFF launched Teaching Copyright, a balanced, fact-based curriculum for high school educators looking to discuss copyright issues in the classroom. We decided the time was right to unveil the project after the debut of the Copyright Alliance Education Foundation (CAEF), which is offering a variety of educational materials assembled by the film, music and software industries. After reviewing those materials, we thought it was crucial that educators have a real alternative.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, here's one that vividly illustrates why putting DRM on e-books is short-sighted, futile, and doomed. If you must have words, here are a few explaining this photo. And here are a few more wherein Microsoft security engineers explain in their 2002 "Darknet" paper why all DRM like this is doomed to fail. (Photo reproduced under CC license courtesy of bkrpr, original here.)
- Craigslist Censorship Causes Uptick for Newspapers
After Craigslist stopped accepting erotic ads due to pressure from law enforcement, newspapers are reporting significant gains in adult classified ad sales.
- Travel Documents Now Required to Exit U.S.
Federal regulations effective June 1, 2009 require government-issued travel documents, frequently featuring RFIDs, for exit as well as entry to the U.S.
- Cybersecurity Plans Could Threaten Anonymity
"Identity Management" plans suggested by Obama echo a long history of efforts to curb flexibility of identity online.
Recently, EFF filed comments with the FCC in connection with the Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007, which requires the FCC to conduct a study of V-chip-like blocking technologies that might apply to media other than television – such as Internet access, perhaps. The law requires the FCC to study these "advanced blocking technologies" and report back to Congress, which might then take some further legislative action based on the report's contents. Our comments emphasized First Amendment issues, but there turns out to be a copyright angle lurking here too (which we'll discuss in a separate blog post).
The Chinese Ministry of Industry and IT's announcement that all PCs sold in China must include government-approved filtering software is a profoundly worrying development for online privacy and free speech in that country. While the application, "Green Dam Youth Escort", claims to only block pornographic sites, the access to a home computer such filtering software requires means that it could also have the power to conduct all sorts of other surveillance and control — far more than China's current monitoring and blocking systems at the ISP level permits.
As Blu-ray.com reports, the AACS licensing authority has released the "Final Adopter Agreement" it plans to enforce against consumer electronics companies that make BluRay players (and any other AACS devices that come along). Buried inside that 188 page document is a plan to eliminate analog video... forever. BluRay device makers will have to restrict analog outputs to low resolution first:
22.214.171.124 Analog Sunset – 2010. With the exception of Existing Models,
any Licensed Player manufactured after December 31, 2010 shall
limit analog video outputs for Decrypted AACS Content to SD
Interlace Modes [composite video, s-video, 480i component video and 576i video] only.
On the last day of 2013, analog outputs will be banned on BluRay players:
Before legislation becomes law in France, it must pass the muster of the Conseil Constitutionnel: a group of jurists who determine whether each new law is consistent with the principles and rules of France's constitution.
For the passage of Sarkozy's unpopular "three strikes" HADOPI legislation, the approval of the Conseil was the final hurdle to cross. If the council had approved the law, rightsholders in France would have been able to cast French citizens off the Internet with no judicial oversight, simply by alleging to the new HADOPI administrative body that they were repeat copyright infringers. These citizens would then have their names added to a national Internet blacklist for up to a year, and ISPs would be subject to financial penalties if they gave these exiles access to the Internet.
There is mounting concern in some quarters that the Google Book Search settlement (see previous posts here, here, and here) could have anticompetitive effects. Everyone (including Google) seems to agree that, all else being equal, we shouldn't want a world where Google is the only entity that is scanning and providing online access to books, particularly the majority of out-of-print books whose owners can't be found (i.e., "orphan works").
After discussions with EFF, YouTube has implemented additional privacy protections for visitors to Whitehouse.gov viewing embedded videos hosted by YouTube.
Today (June 12, 2009) marks the completion of the U.S. transition to digital television, as TV stations switch off their analog transmitters.
Just a few years ago, some broadcasters and movie studios argued that this transition couldn't happen without a DRM mandate -- a legal requirement for devices to obey the broadcast flag and apply DRM restrictions to free, over-the-air broadcasts. And they said they would hold up and obstruct this transition unless they got their way.
In September of last year, Congress amended the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) as part of a larger bill dealing with identity theft.
Unfortunately, the amendments broaden the already extensive reach of the law, and fail to clarify the most vexing question about the statute, the definition of “unauthorized access”. However, they do shed some light on the issue of what constitutes the necessary element of “damage”, showing that several cases holding that mere unauthorized viewing of data is sufficient for a CFAA claim were wrongly decided. As a result, the new amendments may give internet innovators, researchers and speakers some arguments that could keep search engines, vulnerability reporting and other legitimate uses of computer systems legal.
IN GENERAL: SUMMARY OF THE 2008 AMENDMENTS
For the past few days, Iranians have been taking advantage of US-hosted communication services like Twitter and Facebook to communicate with each other about their contested election, uncover and compare facts, and convey their experiences to the rest of the world. They've done that despite apparent attempts to block these sites by the Iranian authorities.
For those watching and listening, it's been a bracing demonstration of the power of the Internet — and the latest Web 2.0 services — to enhance free speech, wherever you live.
Following up on their report in April detailing the National Security Agency's systemic and significant "overcollection" — that is, illegal interception — of Americans' domestic communications, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times have just published a new story with even more detail about the NSA's ongoing warrantless wiretapping and the concerns it is raising in Congress.
Thankfully, it appears that the NYT's confirmation in April that the NSA has been exceeding its legal authority and "overcollecting" masses of Americans' communications has spurred some closed-door investigations on Capitol Hill. Today's story focuses on this renewed concern from Congress over the wiretapping program, and what Congress' latest closed-door inquiries have revealed about the ongoing spying:
Earlier this week, privacy and security researchers urged Google to improve the security of Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar by enabling the more secure HTTPS encryption by default. As it stands, all users currently log in to Google services over HTTPS. However, most conduct the remaining bulk of their online business with Google -- reading and sending email, editing spreadsheets, and recording appointments -- over HTTP, an unsecure method that gives unfettered access to attackers interested looking at your communications.
Responding to repeated reports that the National Security Agency's surveillance dragnet is continuing to intercept Americans' purely domestic communications in the millions, the New York Times editorial board is calling on Congress to repeal the deeply-flawed FISA Amendments Act (FAA), which broadly expanded the government's spying powers while immunizing the phone companies that illegally cooperated with the NSA program. Here's an excerpt of the editorial, entitled "The Eavesdropping Continues", but we encourage you to visit the Times' site to read the whole thing:
The jury in the retrial of Ms. Jammie Thomas-Rasset deliberated only a few hours today before concluding that she had willfully infringed the copyrights of 24 songs and awarding $1.92 million in statutory damages ($80,000 per recording) to the record label plaintiffs. The verdict represents a huge increase over the $220,000 award in the original trial, which was overturned by the judge based on a faulty jury instruction pushed by the record labels. Ms.
- REAL ID Revival Bill Is Another Attempt at a National ID
A new "PASS ID" bill seeks to create a privacy-invasive national ID, just like its antecedent, REAL ID.
- IP Colloquium Podcast Tackles Patent Damages Reform
UCLA Law Professor Doug Lichtman and his guests explore the contentious issues around patent reform, including the difficulty of calculating damages and considering the many possible reforms.
- Copyright in the Rye
J.D. Salinger has filed a copyright infringement complaint against the writer of a novel attempting to chronicle the later years of a character from "The Catcher in the Rye."
ASCAP (the same folks who went after Girl Scouts for singing around a campfire) appears to believe that every time your musical ringtone rings in public, you're violating copyright law by "publicly performing" it without a license. At least that's the import of a brief [2.5mb PDF] it filed in ASCAP's court battle with mobile phone giant AT&T.
This will doubtless come as a shock to the millions of Americans who have legitimately purchased musical ringtones, contributing millions to the music industry's bottom line. Are we each liable for statutory damages (say, $80,000) if we forget to silence our phones in a restaurant?
Just a few days ago, we pointed out that ASCAP is arguing in federal court that every time your musical ringtone rings in public, you're violating copyright law by "publicly performing" it without a license. Now ASCAP has fired up its spin control machinery and issued a statement to Billboard, including this talking point, doubtless meant to be reassuring:
To be completely clear, ASCAP’s approach has always been to license these businesses – not to charge listeners/end-users.
Three simple facts about Google and HTTPS:
One: as we posted last week, we're very pleased to hear that Google is trialling full HTTPS encryption of all Gmail pages.
- Surveillance in Iran vs. Surveillance in the US
Iran has an Internet monitoring center built by Nokia and Siemens AG -- what kind of domestic spying is happening in the US?
- Data Shows Music Fans Are Willing to Buy
TopSpin and Nettwerk have experimented with premium discs, free albums, and free shows, and have found that fans are still more than willing to pay.
- Panasonic Blocking Use of Third-Party Batteries
A firmware update to some Pansonic cameras is preventing consumers from using their choice of battery, forcing users to buy only "genuine" Panasonic batteries.
As turmoil over the disputed election in Iran continues, many techs are trying to find ways to help Iranian citizens safely communicate and receive information despite the barriers being established by Iranian authorities. One tactic that even moderately tech-savvy Internet users can employ is to set up a Tor relay or a Tor bridge.