This morning is the Senate Judiciary Committee's meeting to amend (or "mark up") and vote on USA PATRIOT Act renewal legislation; the discussion of PATRIOT is currently ongoing and you can watch the live webcast here.
So far, not so good. The first order of business was an amendment in the form of a substitute to Committee Chairman Leahy's base bill, which was negotiated between him and Senator Feinstein who heads the Intelligence Committee; that bill is here. The amendment was accepted at the beginning of the mark-up without discussion.
Yesterday's Senate Judiciary mark-up of legislation to renew expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act was extremely disheartening--in particular because of many committee Democrats' failure to support new civil liberties reforms to PATRIOT(see our summary here). Those Senators who failed to stand foursquare behind Americans' right to privacy against government spying should be on notice that Americans who care about civil liberties are very disappointed; those that did stand up for our rights deserve our vocal thanks.
Today, EFF joined an amicus brief in Bilski v. Kappos, a closely-watched case that will be decided by the Supreme Court later this year. At stake is whether the Supreme Court will limit the patentability of "business methods."
Just over ten years ago, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals handed down State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group, opening the doors to patents for novel methods of doing business. That ruling knocked patent law loose from its historical moorings and injected patents into business areas where they were neither needed nor wanted. The results have been nothing short of disastrous: a flood of patent applications for services like arbitration, tax-planning, legal counseling, charity fundraising, and even novel-writing.
The reason this is being reported on now is because on last Thursday, the FBI also raided Mr. Madison's home in Queens, NY, followed on Friday by Mr. Madison's filing of a motion in the Eastern District of New York federal court in Brooklyn for the return of his seized property.
The ruling is bound to frustrate the copyright industries, which have struggled for years to convince courts and their customers that the only thing you “buy" when you buy software is a limited and temporary right to use that software under certain conditions. In other words, they claim buyers aren't owners.
Unfortunately, it appears that the only television news network that's been regularly covering the PATRIOT Act renewal process in Congress has been FOX News, and their coverage has seemed a lot more like pro-PATRIOT propaganda than unbiased news reporting. Fortunately, Julian Sanchez of The Cato Institute has been fact-checking them closely, in this detailed blog post and in this illuminating video:
Today EFF along with the ACLU and the privacy authors and publishers they represent, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries and the Association of College and Research Libraries, CDT, EPIC, SFLC, Professor James Grimmelman sent a joint letter to Google urging it to include privacy protections along with its reconsidered Google Book Search Settlement.
Well, it looks like most of the Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee weren't swayed by this morning's New York Times editorial, which cited this morning's Committee meeting to consider USA PATRIOT Act renewal as a "critical chance to add missing civil liberties and privacy protections, address known abuses and trim excesses that contribute nothing to making America safer." Instead, the Committee just passed a bill to renew all of the PATRIOT powers that were set to expire at the end of the year, with only a handful of the original reforms that were first proposed by Senators Feingold and Durbin's JUSTICE Act and Committee Chairman Leahy's original PATRIOT renewal bill.
A couple weeks ago we told you about a victory in our long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation for documents detailing telecommunications carriers' lobbying efforts to get off the hook for their role in the government's warrantless electronic surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. On September 24, a federal judge ordered the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Justice to turn over many of the records we requested by Friday, October 9, 2009.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published vague new advertising rules that require online writers to disclose whether they've been compensated for product endorsements. The rules are full of ambiguities and double-standards, many of which are summed up on this article in The Atlantic Wire.
Significantly, the new rules place requirements on social media from which traditional print and television media are exempt. For instance, if a blogger publishes a book review, the rules will require her to disclose whether she received a free copy of the book from the publisher. Book reviews in print media face no such restrictions.
Since 2007, Congress has been slowly considering The Free Flow Of Information Act. The bill is intended to prevent reporters from being forced to reveal the identity of anonymous sources. It was proposed in the wake of the Valerie Plame scandal, in which New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for refusing to reveal a source.
In DC, the summer doldrums have ended, and Congress has begun a flurry of activity. Legislators are in the midst of considering several important bills:
The Informed P2P User Act is the latest effort from Rep. Mary Bono Mack, who in 1998 gave us the Mickey Mouse Protection Act. The bill is ostensibly aimed at protecting users of peer-to-peer file-sharing software from accidentally sharing their private information. Unfortunately, it takes a paternalistic approach that assumes that more pop-up warnings and FTC enforcement actions will somehow stop users from misconfiguring their software. Public Knowledge has the details. The House is due to vote on it soon; let's hope they send it back to committee for refinement.
Today, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the government's emergency motion asking for a 30-day stay in today's deadline to release records relating to telecom lobbying over last year's debate over immunity for corporate participation in government spying. A district court imposed that deadline in our long running Freedom of Information Act case. The government filed another emergency motion in the district court this afternoon following the 9th Circuit decision, again asking for stay pending its decision on whether or not to appeal. You can find more background in yesterday's blog post and we'll post any more information as soon as we get it.
Free file hosting provider MediaFire seems to think that, when you follow a link to download a file from its service, it has the right to control your browser. This is yet another example of a web site owner forgetting that it's your computer, and it's none of their business how you choose to experience their web pages.
Today a federal district court denied the government's latest emergency motion asking for a 30-day stay in last Friday's deadline to release records relating to telecom lobbying over last year's debate over immunity for corporate participation in government spying. The new deadline is October 16, at 4 p.m. Pacific time. We sought the records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.
On September 24, Judge Jeffrey White had ordered the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Justice to turn over many of the records we requested by Friday, October 9, 2009. Last week, the agencies asked him to postpone his order while the government decided whether or not to appeal, which EFF opposed. Judge White denied the motion.
On Thursday, October 22, EFF hosts the 2009 Pioneer Awards in conjunction with the Web 2.0 Summit, and keynote speaker Reid Hoffman will be answering pre-submitted questions from EFF supporters. Wanna know how he came up with the idea for LinkedIn? Curious about what he thinks the Next Big Thing will be? Here's your chance to ask!
Reid Hoffman is the Executive Chairman and co-founder of LinkedIn, the business-oriented social networking site. Before LinkedIn, Reid was Executive Vice President of PayPal and has also held management roles at Fujitsu Software Corporation and Apple. Reid serves on the Board of Directors for SixApart, Kiva.org, and the Mozilla Corporation.
As we reported in June, ASCAP believes that when your cell phone's musical ringtone sounds in a public place, you're infringing copyright. A federal court yesterday firmly rejected that argument, ruling that "when a ringtone plays on a cellular telephone, even when that occurs in public, the user is exempt from copyright liability, and [the cellular carrier] is not liable either secondarily or directly." This is exactly the outcome urged by EFF, Public Knowledge, and the Center for Democracy & Technology in an amicus brief filed in the case.
Our friends at Public Knowledge have been doing a great job in Washington, D.C., fighting against the MPAA's efforts to selectively disable the high-definition analog (i.e., "component" video) outputs on your cable box. In essence, Hollywood is telling the FCC that it won't give Americans early access to blockbuster movies unless the FCC lets it kill your analog outputs.
Public Knowledge has an update today, letting us know that Hollywood is back at the FCC pushing for this anti-consumer, anti-innovation change in the FCC rules:
This evening, the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice filed yet another emergency motion with the Ninth Circuit, asking for a stay of the deadline to release telecom immunity lobbying documents, less than 24 hours before the documents are due to be released to the public.
Almost simultaneously, a report appeared on Politico.com, claiming that the government will be releasing some documents, while fighting in court to hide the remainder. Despite this report, the government's motion seeks to delay disclosure of all the documents, and no new documents have been released just yet.
This afternoon, leaders in the House of Representatives introduced their own USA PATRIOT Act reform bill, responding to the disappointing PATRIOT renewal bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee two weeks ago. The new bill — the USA Patriot Amendments Act of 2009 (HR 3845) — was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr.; Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler; and Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott.
UPDATE (9/4/14): The net neutrality landscape has changed in the last few years, and not for the better. Here's a discussion about EFF's updated stance and here's our issue page, with links to our most recent blog posts.
On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski is expected to unveil draft rules aimed at imposing network neutrality obligations on Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In the excitement surrounding the announcement, however, many have overlooked the fact that the this rulemaking is built on a shoddy and dangerous foundation – the idea that the FCC has unlimited authority to regulate the Internet.
Yesterday, a federal court tossed a lawsuit against craigslist over erotic advertisements. In March, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart alleged that craigslist was liable for the illegal ads posted by its users in its "erotic services" (now "adult services") category.
Today the Ninth Circuit postponed a court-ordered deadline for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice to turn over documents concerning a legislative push to give telecom carriers legal immunity for their participation in the government's warrantless surveillance program.
The order comes after three unsuccessful attempts by the government to delay disclosure of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) pending the Solicitor General's decision whether or not to appeal.
EFF today led a coalition of authors, publishers, companies and nonprofit organizations in sending a letter to the judge overseeing the Google Book Search settlement urging the Court to ensure that those concerned about the settlement receive adequate notice of, and have sufficient time to study and comment on, any amended settlement agreement that Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers present.
As the deadline nears for a decision from the Copyright Office on EFF's request for a renewal of the 2006 exemption from DMCA liability for handset unlocking, prepaid phone companies have opened a new front in the war on consumer choice with a bill called the Wireless Prepaid Access Device Enforcement Act of 2009. If passed, this legislation would make it a crime to purchase or "handle" a prepaid handset for the purpose of modifying the software that ties it to the network, or to sell the handset outside the U.S.
- CIA Invests In Social Network Monitoring
Watch what you tweet! Intelligence agencies are investing in new tech to monitor and archive public activity on blogs and social networks.
- NYT Op-Ed: A Win For Free Speech
The Times Editorial Board on why the Craigslist win in federal court matters.
- UK's MI5 Opposes 3 Strikes
British intelligence is against cutting off internet access for accused pirates -- because might encourage people to use crypto.
- Resisting Corporate Bullying On the Net
EFF Fellow Cory Doctorow on how and why to stand up to bogus DMCA takedowns and other forms of censorship.
- The French Disconnection
The arbitrary termination of Internet access for repeated accusations of copyright infringement -- "three strikes" -- is as profoundly unpopular in the UK as it is elsewhere. National experts have generally come out against the idea, from government civil servants who previously omitted it from a public consultation document as too drastic, to the counter-intelligence MI5 unit, who apparently fear it will encourage an encrypted and unpoliceable darknet, to many of the artists it is supposed to protect.
Texas Instruments (TI) ultimately failed to stand behind their misguided claim that calculator hobbyists violated copyright law by having public, online discussions about techniques to get more functionality from TI calculators. Yet the company continues to dig itself into new holes by issuing more improper take-down letters.