As we've pointed out repeatedly, poor design decisions in YouTube's "Content ID" system have resulted in over-blocking of videos that remix copyrighted materials. Today we got perhaps the most vivid example of the problem: the "silencing" of a lecture by Prof. Larry Lessig about the cultural importance of remix creativity. This is just the latest of many examples. We've been on YouTube's case for more than two years about this problem, and it's high time for YouTube to fix the Content ID system to respect the kinds of fair uses that are at the heart of remix creativity.
EFF today released Unintended Consequences: 12 Years Under the DMCA. This is the sixth update to the report, which aims to catalog all the reported instances where the DMCA's ban on tampering with DRM have been abused to stymie fair use, free speech, and competition, rather than to attack "piracy."
We often criticize DMCA takedown abuse here at EFF, but last week's Cryptome snafu highlights another facet of the problem: how a DMCA takedown for one item can result in the removal of lots of lawful material.
Last month, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of EFF at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, joined by Adam Savage, the founders of EFF and dozens of other Internet luminaries. For non-local EFF supporters, we've put the gorgeous photos that John Adams and Johnny Grace captured at the event up on our Flickr page.
The Obama Administration has been slowly ramping up its attention to intellectual property issues. Over the past few months, we've seen an IP "summit" at the White House. We've seen the successful nomination of a new cabinet-level "IP Czar" position. We've seen the announcement of a new DOJ task force for IP issues. What does it all portend?
Unfortunately, many signs suggest that the administration is paying far more attention to the interests of the entertainment industry than to the public good. At the same time, there are a few positive efforts and indications, so we're holding out hope that things could improve.
The entire family of devices built on the iPhone OS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) have been designed to run only software that is approved by Apple—a major shift from the norms of the personal computer market. Software developers who want Apple's approval must first agree to the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement.
The ebb and flow of gas and electricity into your home contains surprisingly detailed information about your daily life. Energy usage data, measured moment by moment, allows the reconstruction of a household's activities: when people wake up, when they come home, when they go on vacation, and maybe even when they take a hot bath.
California's PG&E is currently in the process of installing "smart meters" that will collect this moment by moment data—750 to 3000 data points per month per household—for every energy customer in the state. These meters are aimed at helping consumers monitor and control their energy usage, but right now, the program lacks critical privacy protections.
The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced on Monday key amendments to the regulation of United States sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Sudan.
The new provisions give a blanket license for the export of "certain services and software incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet, such as instant messaging, chat and email, social networking, sharing of photos and movies, web browsing, and blogging, provided that such services are publicly available at no cost to the user."
Last week, the German Constitutional Court issued a much-anticipated decision, striking down its data retention law as violating human rights. It was an important victory for Europe’s Freedom Not Fear movement, which was formed to oppose the EU Data Retention Directive. But it was also a reminder of the political work which remains to be done to defeat it.
When the European Union first passed the Data Retention Directive in 2006, despite a hard-fought campaign by European activists, it seemed like the beginning of the end for Internet privacy. The directive sought to require telecommunications service providers operating in Europe to retain a detailed history of each of their customers' activity for up to 2 years for possible use by law enforcement; including phone calls made and emails sent and received.
The Fox News Channel boasts that it takes a different approach to news coverage than, say, CBS, NBC, or NPR. But it appears Fox takes the same approach as its competitors when it comes to fair uses of its news coverage in political advertisements: to try to shut them down using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's rapid-fire notice and takedown process.
As the transparency community celebrates Sunshine Week, we here at EFF are reminded that most of the federal agencies we seek to monitor through our Freedom of Information Act work continue to cloak their activities in excessive secrecy. We have grown accustomed to receiving agency documents with large amounts of information blacked out — or "redacted" in the official parlance. While we often suspect that many of these deletions are made to conceal innocuous, or perhaps embarrassing, information, it is usually impossible to confirm those suspicions. But in some rare instances, we are able to learn precisely what a recalcitrant agency has improperly withheld from public view.
EFF has posted documents shedding light on how law enforcement agencies use social networking sites to gather information in investigations. The records, obtained from the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Justice Criminal Division, are the first in a series of documents that will be released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case that EFF filed with the help of the UC Berkeley Samuelson Clinic.
One of the most interesting files is a 2009 training course that describes how IRS employees may use various Internet tools -- including social networking sites and Google Street View -- to investigate taxpayers.
Here's a movie pitch: One lone telecommunications technician, going about his ordinary daily work in San Francisco, begins to realize things aren't quite what they seem. There's a "secret room" downstairs, and ordinary employees aren't allowed to enter it. Coworkers — almost casually! — remark that a government spy agency is involved, that similar facilities are being built across the country, that some of them are stamped with the government's ominous eye-and-pyramid "Total Information Awareness" logo.
Soon, the plot thickens. Mundane technical procedures produce startling revelations. He stumbles on a document that suggests the room contains a supercomputer designed to data-mine phone calls and Internet traffic. And, indeed, he soon realizes that the room is sucking up copies of electronic communications from millions of random Americans.
In February, we published "Digital Books and Your Rights," a checklist for readers considering buying into the digital book marketplace. The folks behind the Ibis Reader ebook service have gone ahead and posted thoughtful answers to each question, inviting their users into an honest discussion about the features, policies, and practices around its software.
Worried about plans for California's "smart grid"? We are too. Energy usage data, with new hyper-close monitoring provided by the "smart grid", allows intimate reconstruction of your household activities -- like when you wake up, when you come home, and when you go on vacation.
HTTPS is the backbone of web security. The protocol, which is also commonly known as the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), is what guarantees we can use the web to transmit sensitive information — financial, medical, or other — with relative confidence that it won't be intercepted or stolen. EFF has been arguing for years that best practices demand that all sensitive data be sent exclusively over SSL.
Unfortunately, most major providers of web-based email and other sensitive web-based services do not even give their users the option of using SSL, let alone turn it on by default. As a result, countless terabytes of sensitive data are transmitted over the Internet insecurely every day, greatly contributing to online fraud, data-theft and surveillance by authoritarian regimes.
Today, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed a state court of appeals ruling blocking an attempt by the Commonwealth of Kentucky to seize 141 domain names allegedly tied to illegal gambling. The Kentucky Supreme Court held that while many of the arguments presented in opposition to the seizure order were "compelling" and that they "may have merit," the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) and the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) lacked standing to bring the challenge because it was not clear that they represented any party actually affected by the order. The Supreme Court explicitly noted that "[i]f a party that can properly establish standing comes forward, the writ petition giving rise to these proceedings could be re-filed with the Court of Appeals."
Today, EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel testified in a congressional hearing on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Obama administration. David's testimony outlined the disconnect between the White House's strong message on open government and the bureaucratic resistance to transparency in general.
The Obama administration marked a sea-change in official statements of policy about the FOIA, with the president directing agencies to have a "presumption of openness." But while the president and other top officials have said the right things, government agencies are still withholding wide swaths of information, and government attorneys are reflexively defending the practice when we are forced to take our FOIA cases to court.
Today, after three years of litigation, the Viacom v. YouTube combatants finally publicly released their briefs (Viacom's; YouTube's; Class Action Plaintiffs') in what most expect to be the main event in the case, namely, cross-motions for summary judgment (for the non-lawyers: a summary judgment motion asks the court to rule that the case is such a slam dunk in your favor that no trial is necessary).
EFF today filed its appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals of the dismissal of Jewel v. NSA, the case EFF brought against the U.S. government and government officials on behalf of AT&T customers to stop the National Security Agency's illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing mass surveillance of their communications and communications records. The case arises from the still growing stacks of evidence confirming the surveillance, including the technical documents presented by former AT&T employee Mark Klein that describe the NSA's secret mass wiretapping facility in San Francisco.
I've just recently finished reading Property Outlaws: How Squatters, Pirates and Protesters Improve the Law of Ownership, by Eduardo Moisés Peñalver and Sonia Katyal. Written by two legal scholars, one an expert in real property law, the other in intellectual property law, the book is a thoughtful rebuttal to the notion that property is absolute and trespassers are always "thieves."
The book starts with a hypothetical question:
Last Friday, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) outlined a proposal for immigration reform. At the top of their immigration reform agenda? A national, biometric identification card for all workers, citizen or immigrant. From the article:
Technology design can maximize or decimate our basic rights to free speech, privacy, property ownership, and creative thought. Earlier this month, EFF board members discussed these societal impacts in a panel at Carnegie Mellon: "Architecture is Policy."
The rights and abilities that you have with a particular technology depends on how it's built. That's why EFF worked with concerned authors to intervene in the Google Books settlement. The way Google's massive digital library/bookstore is built will affect how everyone uses digital books in the future. Other topics tackled by the panel in "Architecture is Policy" include the ad-hoc early days of the Internet, and the difficult privacy implications of mobile computing.
Making good on its promise to stop censoring results of its Chinese language website earlier this year, Google announced on Monday that its uncensored search services are now live. Chinese Internet users searching at google.cn are now redirected to google.com.hk, where its Chinese language results are delivered through its servers in Hong Kong. Google is also cleverly keeping public track of the availability of its services in China.
Today two computer security researchers, Christopher Soghoian and Sid Stamm, released a draft of a forthcoming research paper in which they present evidence that certificate authorities (CAs) may be cooperating with government agencies to help them spy undetected on "secure" encrypted communications. (EFF sometimes advises Soghoian on responsible disclosure issues, including for this paper.) More details and reporting are available at Wired today.
In comments filed today, EFF, Public Knowledge, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Medical Library Association, the Special Libraries Association and U.S. PIRG urged the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), Victoria Espinel, to pay careful attention to the various costs and benefits of different enforcement mechanisms and objectives, and spend public funds on IP enforcement only where the alleged violations will cause significant economic harm under clearly settled legal rules.
We are a bookish crowd here at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, so we figured it might be interesting to share a list of some of our favorite books. Choosing categories was a contentious process, but we ultimately decided to split up the list into the following rough categories:
While researching a story for Wired Magazine about people who fake their own deaths, journalist Evan Ratliff began to wonder: How hard would it be to disappear in today's digital world? Email, online banking, mobile phones and other ubiquitous technologies leave traces of ourselves that can be easily tracked. If you wanted to disappear while using these tools, could you?
To find out the answer, he went underground himself, and issued a challenge to his readers: find Evan and win $5000. While continuing to use the Internet, mobile phones — and a variety of disguises — Evan managed to stay on the run for a total of 25 days before obsessive fans tracked him down in New Orleans. The whole story is documented in the fascinating piece he published in the December 2009 issue of Wired.
Yesterday, EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston testified before Congress, urging that the federal wiretapping law be updated to protect Americans against secret video surveillance just as it protects against covert electronic eavesdropping.
The American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and its Copyright Advisory Subcommittee issues the award to recognize work done in support of fair use and the public domain. The award is named after the late L. Ray Patterson, a copyright scholar and historian that left a lasting impression on the law of copyright, the public domain, and fair use.
Chair of the OITP Copyright Advisory Subcommittee Patrick Newell said, "Fred is a tireless advocate for openness of information and seeking the proper balance between intellectual property protection and the public interest in fair use, expression and innovation."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a group known as the "U.S. Copyright Group" has quietly targeted 20,000 Bit Torrent users for legal action in federal court in Washington, DC. The targets are accused of having downloaded independent films, including "Steam Experiment," "Far Cry," "Uncross the Stars," "Gray Man" and "Call of the Wild 3D," without authorization. The group plans to target 30,000 more individuals for legal action in the coming months.
This time, the lawyers involved are being explicit about their motivations: it's all about the money. "We're creating a revenue stream and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel," said one of the attorneys involved. The cases are taken on a contingency basis, designed so that quick settlements will prove lucrative for both the firm and the copyright owners involved.
If the messages in EFF's inbox today are anything to go by, a lot of people are upset and angry — with good reason — over Sony's announcement that it is going to disable a feature that allows people to run GNU/Linux and other operating systems on their PlayStation 3 consoles.
Today, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the federal district court in San Francisco found that the government illegally wiretapped an Islamic charity's phone calls in 2004, granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs in Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama. The court held the government liable for violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Today's order is the first decision since ACLU v. NSA to hold that warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency was illegal. The decision in ACLU v. NSA was overturned on other grounds in 2007, and the focus of the government's litigation strategy since then has been to avoid having any court rule on the merits of the issue.