Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement of a new U.S. policy on global Internet Freedom included a bold new statement about the responsibilities of American technology companies:
...We are urging U.S. media companies to take a proactive role in challenging foreign governments' demands for censorship and surveillance. The private sector has a shared responsibility to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what’s right, not simply what’s a quick profit.
We couldn't agree more.
UPDATE: Downloadable wallpaper now available.
As part of our Terms of (Ab)use project, we pay close attention to the fine print of online agreements for provisions that are potentially dangerous to consumers. We've noticed a troubling change in the way event planners restrict the rights of individuals who attend their shows. Where once these limitations had to fit on the back of a ticket, increasingly event organizers have moved their fine print online, where they are able to use even more contract law to avoid the limits of trademark and copyright law and actively control what ticket holders can say or do even after the event is over.
Google's ad during yesterday's Superbowl explained in less than a minute how the story of someone's life can be pieced together from their search queries. Using only the search terms and user's clicks of the search results, Google told the story of a user who seeks love while studying abroad in Paris, finds it, moves to Paris, marries and has a child.
Our cell phones aren't just for calls anymore. They hold our address books, our calendars, our emails, and our grocery lists. They may even include things like a list of questions to ask your doctor, pictures of your girlfriend, or URLs of web sites you've visited. When can police search your phone and look at all this information?
That's the question that EFF is asking a court in California to consider. Police in Daly City, California seized a suspect's iPhone during his arrest. Hours later, investigators bypassed the password and searched through the data on the device without a search warrant. After the officers realized that the information was too extensive to write down, they finally obtained a warrant to search the phone.
In early 2000, after a tumultuous period in the EFF’s history, and
the staff down to just a handful, I was elected chair of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
I had been on the board for just a few years, but had been close to the
organization since it was founded, including participating with it as
a plaintiff in the landmark supreme court case which struck down the
Communications Decency Act in 1996.
You bought it, you own it.
That's a concept we've been fighting to defend for years against erosion at the hands of patent and copyright owners, in contexts as diverse as printer cartridges, promo CDs, and software. The answer should be simple—if you bought it, a copyright or patent owner shouldn't be able to use federal intellectual property law to dictate whether you can resell it, simply by pointing to boilerplate in a license agreement or label. That's thanks to the "first sale doctrine" (also known as "exhaustion").
Who needs a jetpack when you have a digital freedom-fighting robotic exoskeleton? Check out EFF's 20th Anniversary commemorative t-shirt and poster designed by EFF staff designer Hugh D'Andrade! The artwork features the EFF Liberty Mecha warrior lighting the way and kicking down walls for your online rights.
Pick up the 20th anniversary poster! This is a high quality offset litho print suitable for framing. The image measures 13" X 19" on 18" X 24" heavy stock. It's just the thing to spruce up that server room.
Google's new social networking service, Buzz has upset a lot of people who have inadvertently posted the list of the people they email and chat with most frequently on their profile. If you took the default options and didn't opt-out or edit this list during profile creation, the list becomes part of your profile. Since who you email with frequently can often be private information (reporters and sources, doctors and patients, former significant others, etc), making this list public can create serious problems.
ACLU National, ACLU of Wisconsin, and EFF have filed an amicus brief in the Wisconsin Supreme Court arguing that the law of that state prohibits police from installing a GPS device on you or your car without first getting a warrant from a judge. A growing number of state high courts have decided that their citizens should be protected from suspicionless GPS tracking, recognizing that uninterrupted around-the-clock surveillance is qualitatively different from ordinary police observations of a suspect. In the Wisconsin case, People v. Sveum, we ask the court to follow the example of Washington, New York, and Massachusetts and find that GPS tracking is a search that requires a warrant.
Imagine you're a music journalist who maintains a blog. You've just found a great, new, virtually-unknown artist that you want to tell the world about. How can you do so, in a way that is simple and convenient for your readers, but does not place you or your blog's host at risk of being sued?
Thanks to the increasingly aggressive copyright-enforcement tactics of the music industry, this has become a startlingly complicated question with no good answer.
Over the weekend, Google announced significant changes to its new social networking service, Buzz. Responding to criticism (including EFF's), Google moved away from the system in which Buzz automatically sets you up to follow the people you email and chat with most. Instead, Google has adopted an auto-suggest model, in which you are shown the friend list with an option to de-select people before publishing the list. While a full opt-in model would be less likely to result in inadvertent disclosures of private information, this is a significant step forward.
As we've explained before, a number of Hollywood movie studios have been on the war path against Redbox, the kiosk-based DVD rental operation, because Redbox offers DVD new releases for rent at 99 cents per night. Thanks to the first sale doctrine in copyright law, Redbox's business is completely legal—the company buys legitimate DVDs to stock their kiosks. Great for consumers, and a great alternative for those who might otherwise opt for an unauthorized alternative online.
In the wake of yesterday's fairness hearing on the Google Book Search settlement, this might be a good time, while Judge Chin is deliberating, to take a moment to update some of the numbers about the settlement. These numbers were culled from settlement documents (thanks to Prof. James Grimmelmann for much of that), Google's presentation at the fairness hearing, and congressional testimony.
[Note: these are Google's numbers and it wouldn't be surprising if others disputed them.]
In our last post, we set out some of Google's numbers for the total number of books that would fall under the amended settlement agreement. Now let’s look at how many and what sorts of rightsholders have come forward as a result of the oft-criticized notice program conducted by Google and the plaintiffs. For starters:
Number of Books Google Says are Subject to the Settlement: About 10 million
Let's say you are a blogger who writes about music regularly and includes links to music in your posts. How do you avoid having your blog censored off the Internet by "DMCA takedown notices" sent out by music industry lawyers (as happened last week to several blogs hosted by Blogger)?
The Department of Defense has released more than 800 heavily-redacted pages of intelligence oversight reports, detailing activities that its Inspector General has “reason to believe are unlawful.” The reports are the latest in an ongoing document release by more than a half-dozen intelligence agencies in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by EFF in July 2009.
Update: YouTube responded to the letter from EFF and the National Coalition Against Censorship by doing just what we asked. They state: "We have re-reviewed your videos and have reinstated them with an age gate." This is good news, and YouTube is to be commended for correcting its error. Amy Greenfield's channel now has her videos.
Still, the fact that it took two nationally known groups to bring this matter to YouTube's attention is troubling. It demonstrates that YouTube still has work to do to create a viable appeals process. In addition, as we noted below, YouTube should still change its policy to expressly allow artistic works that contain nudity, and give individual artists the same freedom it reserves for professional television and film.
Yesterday, Microsoft used a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to demand that a copy of the "Microsoft® Online Services Global Criminal Compliance Handbook" (the Compliance Manual) be removed from Cryptome, a security website. As a result, Network Solutions felt obliged to takedown the entire Cryptome.org domain, a repository for thousands of important and controversial documents.
As is often the case, the ensuing uproar simply called more attention to the document in question. Yesterday evening, Microsoft wrote to Network Solutions and withdrew its takedown demand, while insisting that its copyright concern was nevertheless legitimate.
This week, an Italian magistrate convicted three Google employees for an Internet video that none of them had produced, uploaded, or even seen. The case arose from an Italian video that was uploaded in 2006 to Google Video, which showed a disabled child being bullied by other schoolchildren. An advocacy organization and the boy's father in Milan pushed for a criminal prosecution; a local prosecutor decided to pursue a case against four individual Google employees. In the decision, a defamation charge was dropped, but three of the named executives were found guilty of a charge related to Italy's privacy laws, and each sentenced to a six month suspended sentences.