Digital Video Recorders, once considered a mortal threat by the entertainment industry, have now become its new best friend. It's just the latest example of how the industry's constant warnings of the dangers of "piracy" frequently turn out to be baseless hysteria.
Remember 2001? Digital Video Recorders ("DVRs") like TiVo and ReplayTV were poised to win mainstream adoption, allowing consumers to fast-forward past advertisements more easily than before. In response, the entertainment industry behaved predictably — it freaked out and filed a bunch of lawsuits.
Last week, two new district court opinions took opposing views on the question of whether the Fourth Amendment protects stored email. One of the cases easily adopted the prevailing view that the Constitution protects electronic communications, while the other ignored existing U.S. Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent to find consumers have no expectation of privacy in messages stored with third parties. EFF will be watching these developments closely as we continue to press for email privacy rights in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Warshak and in other matters.
In a Court filing late Friday night, the Obama Administration attempted to dress up in new clothes its embrace of one of the worst Bush Administration positions — that courts cannot be allowed to review the National Security Agency's massive, well-documented program of warrantless surveillance. In doing so it demonstrated that it will not willingly set limits on its own power and reinforced the need for Congress to step in and reform the so-called 'state secrets' privilege. The House Judiciary Committee will be taking the first step toward such reform when it begins to consider the State Secret Protection Act of 2009 (HR 984) this Wednesday, so please visit our action center now to voice your support!
Update: The leaked European Commission memo is now online.
The House Judiciary Committee has recessed its meeting to "mark-up" Chairman Conyers' PATRIOT renewal and reform bill, the USA Patriot Amendments Act of 2009 (HR 3845), so that the committee members can attend a vote on the House floor. We don't know when they'll be back — we'll try to tweet via @EFF if and when they do return — but in the meantime, here are the major developments that you missed if you weren't watching the live webcast. Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute also has a great blow-by-blow with characteristic snark via @Normative.
After an eventful day yesterday, the first day of the House Judiciary Committee's "mark-up" of Chairman Conyers' PATRIOT reform bill (HR 3845), the Committee is starting its second day of PATRIOT debate at 11 AM EST this morning. State secrets reform is also still on the Committee's schedule, so it's looking to be a big day.
After a long two days of legislative battle, the House Judiciary Committee just finished its second day of debate on Chairman Conyers' PATRIOT reform bill, HR 3845 (see our wrap-up of the first day). Thanks in no small part to those of you who used our action alert, the Committee rejected almost all amendments that would have weakened the bill's reforms and voted to recommend the bill to the House floor by a vote of 16 to 10.
EFF has big news in our long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) battle over telecom lobbying documents: the government will finally release some additional records this week.
This case started back in 2007, as Congress debated granting immunity to the telecommunications companies that participated in illegal government electronic surveillance. News reports detailed an extensive and expensive lobbying strategy in support of the controversial immunity proposals, and EFF wanted to know more. So we used the FOIA to ask for information about the behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Congress, and telecom lobbyists.
Can the U.S. government secretly subpoena the IP address of every visitor to a political website? No, but that didn't stop it from trying.
In a report released today, EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston tells the story of a bogus federal subpoena issued to independent news site Indymedia.us, and how the site fought back with EFF’s help. Declan McCullagh at CBSNews.com also has the story.
Last week saw the latest round of secret negotiations on ACTA, on criminal enforcement of IP, enforcement in the digital environment, and, according to one of the few public documents on the negotiations, ACTA's own "transparency". It's hard to imagine a more controversial set of IP topics -- and underlying them all is the distinct lack of transparency attached to the entire process.
In 1990, Bavarian actor Walter Sedlmayr was brutally murdered. Two of his business associates were convicted, imprisoned for the crime, and recently paroled. Who killed Sedlmayr? It's a matter of public record, but if one of the men and his German law firm gets their way, Wikipedia (and EFF) will not be allowed to tell you. A few days ago, the online encyclopedia received a cease and desist letter from one of the convicts—represented by the aptly named German law firm Stopp and Stopp—demanding that the perpetrator's name be taken off of the Sedlmayr article page.
If you're a student or researcher who is passionate about improving technology policy and you're interested in working with EFF, consider applying for the Google Policy Fellowship — a 10-week, summer program that gives students the chance to work alongside a public interest organization on topics of Internet and technology policy.
Marcel Leonardi, last year's Google Policy Fellow at EFF, was a pleasure to work with and enjoyed his experience with us: "It was a complete privilege to work with such smart, passionate and fun people; to be able to participate in important debates with several organizations, and to do research with full academic freedom. I am proud of being a Google Policy Fellow."
As we watch Congress wrangle with much-needed reforms to the PATRIOT Act -- particularly attempts to address the misuse of National Security Letters -- it's clear that there are important voices missing from the fray. One notable void stems from the empty Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Alongside a coalition of civil liberties groups, EFF yesterday called on President Obama to prioritize the nomination of board members so that the PCLOB can contribute to ongoing debates over government surveillance, cybersecurity, and more.
We spend a lot of our time at EFF trying to spot new proposals in copyright across the world, and understanding whether they're good or bad for civil liberties. We're not the only ones: our understanding depends on the work of hundreds of researchers worldwide who are constantly sifting through new drafts and consolidating older reforms in hundreds of nations.
UPDATE: Macworld reports that Apple has changed its mind and approved the "Bobble Rep" app, which is now available in the App Store.
Apple's ridiculous iPhone app approval process has hit a new low, with rejections for “ridiculing public figures" and using Apple's own APIs to access Apple icons. These are just the latest reasons why the U.S. Copyright Office should approve EFF's effort to legalize jailbreaking of the iPhone—customers and developers shouldn't need Apple's approval before using the software they want.
Late Friday night the parties to the Google Book Search class action submitted a revised settlement agreement to the federal court in New York that is hearing the case.
This is the first in a series of posts evaluating the proposed Google Book Search settlement.
When it announced its Book Search project in 2004, Google set for itself an inspiring and noble goal. In the words of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, "Imagine yourself at your computer and, in less than a second, searching the full text of every book ever written." What started as a dream of universal book search, however, has become something much broader: a class action lawsuit and proposed settlement that hopes to let Americans read, as well as search, millions of books online.
This is the second in a series of posts about the proposed Google Book Search settlement.
The Potential Upside: Enhanced Public Access
From the public's point of view, unprecedented public access to books is the chief benefit promised by the revised proposed settlement (aka Settlement 2.0) of the Google Book Search litigation. That's the "upside" against which all the possible "down-sides" will be measured. And when it comes to enhancing public access, the proposed settlement holds great promise. Whether that promise will actually come to pass, however, is harder to predict.
Here's what we know about Google's book scanning efforts so far [revised in light of updated numbers sent by Google Nov. 19]:
We're excited to share the news that our friends at the ACLU of Northern California have just launched their dotRights privacy campaign, an impressive effort to spread the word about how online services collect and share reams of personal information about internet users. The entertaining and informative dotRights introductory video summarizes the issue, covering how companies can collect data about you and share that information with data brokers and the government, and how the laws meant to protect the privacy of your internet activities are woefully outdated.
The ACTA juggernaut continues to roll ahead, despite public indignation about an agreement supposedly about counterfeiting that has turned into a regime for global Internet regulation. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has already announced that the next round of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations will take place in January — with the aim of concluding the deal "as soon as possible in 2010."
Patenting podcasting? You've got to be kidding. Yet a company called Volomedia just got the Patent Office to grant them such exclusive rights.
EFF and the law firm of Howrey, LLP aren’t willing to just sit by and watch. This patent could threaten the vibrant community of podcasters and millions of podcast listeners. We want to put a stop to it, but we need your help.
Copyright law involves a delicate balance, made all the more fragile by the number of people who now find their every day actions affected by it. Some people benefit, others find ordinary behaviors made illegal. Reforming copyright in the face of new technology is a vital process, but it needs to be performed carefully, with all affected parties considered in the debate.
In the UK, the Labour administration's impatience to pass its "Digital Economy" agenda, risks throwing that balance utterly out the window.
This is the third in a series of posts about the proposed Google Book Search settlement.
Now that we've described the proposed settlement agreement's biggest potential upside for the public—expanded online access to books, particularly out-of-print books—that benefit must be weighed against the potential down-sides. On that score, the settlement's potential impact on competition in the online book market has loomed large. Critics of the settlement have emphasized two principal dangers:
- The potential for a Google monopoly over orphan and unclaimed books.
- The potential for monopolistic pricing of the Institutional Subscription Database, particularly for higher education.
The revised Settlement 2.0 made little or no effort to address these concerns, leaving it to Congress or antitrust authorities to fix later.
This is the fourth in a series of posts about the proposed Google Book Search settlement.
I've published an op-ed over at The Wrap, a leading blog for Hollywood insiders. It makes the point that Hollywood's attacks on DVD innovators (RealDVD, Kaleidescape, Redbox) amount to an attack on legitimate DVD customers who are trying to pay for content that they could almost as easily download for free from unauthorized sources. So, when Hollywood complains about "piracy," some of that is a self-inflicted wound:
One cannot go online today without eventually being asked to accept a set of so-called Terms of Service (or TOS). Such TOS agreements have become ubiquitous to websites and other online services in the same way End User License Agreements (EULAs) have become the mainstay of the software industry. Yet while we are often aware that such Terms of Service exist, very few of us know and understand what they actually say.
Alerted in part by your letters and calls, Senators have begun to express concern over the secrecy and content of ACTA, while the MPAA, RIAA and other established groups rush to reassure them that ACTA — while of course they know nothing of its actual content — will be good for business and that "transparency is a distraction".
"Your console has been banned." For many gaming enthusiasts, perhaps nothing is more unnerving than the prospect of losing the ability to duel with friends and strangers over the Internet for hours on end. Yet earlier this month, this fear became a reality for many Xbox owners when Microsoft banned a large number of consoles from its Xbox Live service. The move effectively prevents the machines from playing games online, and according to reports so far, the ban allegedly only affects consoles that have been modified by users in order to play pirated games.