Our movie industry has created some memorable monsters on screen. But Hollywood, and the major music labels, also helped create a very real kind of monster - copyright trolls who coerce settlements from Internet subscribers using intimidation and our out-of-whack copyright laws. Last Friday, EFF Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen took the witness stand in AF Holdings v. Does to explain to a federal judge why BitTorrent users should be able to hold on to their constitutional rights when targeted by trolls.
It seems that the government's thirst for high tech surveillance can't be quenched. First, came the NSA's warrantless wiretap program. Then it was CISPA. Now, its warrantless video surveillance in the home. And just like we stood up against the NSA and CISPA, yesterday we told the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that invasive warrantless home video surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment.
On Monday, EFF, Public Knowledge, and the Center for Democracy and Technology asked the FCC to formally rule that the federal government will not—and that state and local governments cannot—interrupt wireless services as a matter of policy.
In the wake of the infamous Bay Area Transit Authority (BART) shutdown of cell phone service during a protest in August of last year, the FCC opened a notice of inquiry on the issue and asked for public comment last month. Since the incident in August, BART has issued its own cell phone shutdown policy, which EFF has criticized as still allowing shutdowns in situations clearly protected by the First Amendment.
Kuwait’s Information Minister, Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, announced last week that Kuwait plans to pass new laws regulating the use of social networking sites such as Twitter in order to “safeguard the cohesiveness of the population and society.” The Information Minister’s announcement reflects growing panic over comments in social media deemed to incite the mounting sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shi’ites throughout the region.
The campaign of attacks targeting Syrian opposition activists on the Internet has taken a new turn.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual Special 301 report on Monday, a review of other countries’ intellectual property laws and enforcement standards. The Report lists countries that are singled out for having “bad” intellectual property policies on a tiered set of “watch lists”: the Watch List and the Priority Watch List. The USTR uses the threat of placement on one of these Watch Lists to pressure other countries to adopt heightened copyright, trademark and patent laws that mirror or in some cases exceed U.S. law. By being placed on this list, the USTR hints at the possibility of trade law repercussions.
UPDATE: Late last week, the FBI returned the seized server to the colocation facility that May First/People Link and Riseup shared. Yesterday, May First released video footage of the server's return. As we learn more details about the situation, we'll keep you posted.
The FBI is at it again -- executing broad search warrants, disrupting legitimate Internet traffic, and getting nothing in return.
Today, governments and organizations around the globe are celebrating World Press Freedom Day, marked by the United Nations in Tunisia this year at a week-long conference. As usual, the U.S. will play a prominent role in the celebration, with the State Department sending its own delegation, and a U.S. representative delivering remarks at the opening ceremony.
But as the State Department touts its press freedom record in a press release today and encourages other countries to improve their own laws, it’s also important to critically look at the U.S.’s current approach to press freedom, in particular their statement that “the United States honors and supports media freedom at home and abroad.”
After a year-long seizure and six more months of secrecy, the court records were finally released concerning the mysterious government takedown of Dajaz1.com – a popular blog dedicated to hip hop music and culture. The records confirm that one of the key reasons the blog remained censored for so long is that the government obtained three secret extensions of time by claiming that it was waiting for “rights holders” and later, the Recording Industry Association of America, to evaluate a "sampling of allegedly infringing content" obtained from the website and respond to other “outstanding questions.”
Jason Weinstein, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's criminal division, told a panel at the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee's "State of the Mobile Net" conference yesterday that requiring a search warrant to obtain location tracking information from cell phones would "cripple" prosecutors and law enforcement officials. We couldn't disagree more.
Today, we join the Free Software Foundation in celebrating a Day Against DRM. DRM software restricts the way users can interact with content, which hits close to home for an organization like EFF. Even worse, "anti-circumvention" laws that regulate whether users can bypass DRM, like section 1201 of the DMCA, effectively give that software the force of law.
In India, a massive effort is underway to collect biometric identity information for each of the country’s 1.2 billion people. The incredible plan, dubbed the “mother of all e-governance projects” by the Economic Times, has stirred controversy in India and beyond, raising serious concerns about the privacy and security of individuals’ personal data.
UPDATE 5/29/12: Nabeel Rajab has been released on bail, three weeks after being arrested on charges of inciting protests by using social networking sites. Rajab, president of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said he paid bail of 300 dinars and is banned from traveling abroad as part of the conditions of his release.
A few weeks back, radio host Rush Limbaugh pushed the Sandra Fluke saga into new legal territory by firing off a bogus DMCA notice to YouTube demanding it take down a seven-minute montage of Limbaugh's "most vile smears." The creators of the video, left-leaning political site DailyKos, correctly pointed out that the video is fair use and joined us in calling on YouTube to reinstate the video. Happily, YouTube did just that.
There has been no lack of ink spilled on the legal battle between Oracle and Google surrounding Google’s use of Java APIs in its Android OS. And no wonder, what with testimony by both Larrys (Page and Ellison), claims of damages up to $1 billion, and rampant speculation that a ruling in Oracle’s favor could change the way we all use the Internet. Today, we got our first taste of where this all might be heading: the jury came back with a finding that, assuming APIs are subject to copyright, Google has infringed at least some of Oracle's. But significant outstanding questions remain, including whether copyright can in fact apply (the judge alone will decide this) and whether Google made a legal fair use of those APIs (we believe it did).
Palestinian Authority Communications Minister Resigns Over Internet Censorship
Domestic and International Drone Secrecy
As EFF reported last week, the FAA finally released the names of the government agencies which have applied for and received authorization to fly drones in the US. Previously, the FAA had kept this information secret, and the agency only released it in response to EFF’s lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.
Unfortunately, the list did not include what types of drones were authorized to fly in U.S. airspace, what they were being used for, and what type of information they were collecting. The list may be incomplete as well. The FAA has promised to release more information soon, and EFF will publish that information as soon as it becomes available.
The next round of secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations begin today in Dallas, Texas. Once again, civil society and other public stakeholder representatives will be shut out of the official meetings, despite the vast impact this international agreement will have on economies and societies around the world. A number of organizations have stakeholder events planned around the week of negotiations, but we are still denied the ability to even view the current content of the TPP, and therefore it's extremely limiting for us to address the likely impact of TPP on the millions of citizens it will affect.
Public Citizen has released this parodic video to help raise public awareness about the TPP and to demand transparency in its negotiation process.
Heads up, hackers — if you want to help support EFF’s Coders’ Rights Project and do DEF CON right, then go all in with our Third Annual D(EFF)CONtest. You could hit the jackpot with a stay at the Rio, DEF CON 20 Human Badges, passes to the exclusive Ninja Party, and so much more.
As the opaque proceedings surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) continue, a group of 32 law professors from current and potential future negotiating countries have written a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk condemning the lack of transparency. The letter comes as a new round of negotiations begins in Dallas, where the USTR has canceled full-day stakeholder presentations. Given that there has been no publicly released version of the text, the lack of a meaningful stakeholder forum means that the only private individuals not shut out of the agreement are the members of the Industry Trade Advisory Committee on IP, which is "dominated by brand name pharmaceutical manufacturers and the Hollywood entertainment industry."
As the law professors explain, this trajectory towards an even more extreme lack of transparency is the wrong course.
Every three years the U.S. Copyright Office considers granting exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition against circumventing measures that control access to digital copyrighted works. The first hearing in the 2012 DMCA rulemaking proceeding is set for this Friday, May 11, and we thought folks might want to know a bit about how the process works.
Who’s playing fast and loose with your data? The Big Brother Awards, billed as the “Oscars for data leeches” by the hackers and privacy advocates who hand out the prizes, shine a high-intensity spotlight on companies and individuals with poor privacy track records. Since 1998, Privacy International and a host of affiliated organizations have singled out the worst privacy violators in various countries including the UK, Austria, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S. The title evokes the totalitarian cult personality featured in George Orwell’s 1984, set in a dystopic world of mass surveillance.
On April 18, the Global Network Initiative (GNI) released its annual report documenting third-party assessments conducted in 2011 and 2012 for GNI’s three founding corporate participants: Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft. GNI was formed to bring major Internet companies together with human rights organizations to improve practices around human rights, privacy and freedom of expression on the Internet. In the past year, GNI expanded to include two more corporate participants—Evoca and Websense—and Facebook has recently joined the organization as an observing member. GNI has also added seven new non-corporate members—NGOs and investors from all over the world.
The U.S. content industry will try anything to preserve its profit margin and power over the creative content market at the expense of the Internet. They will use any tactic that circumvents democratic processes to make new rules for the Internet that favor their interests and not the interests of Internet users or the technical community that actually builds the Internet as we know it. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is yet another example of these tactics.
Iran Continues March Towards “Halal Internet”
This past weekend, Iran’s minister of telecommunications announced that domestic institutions including banks, telecom companies, insurance firms, and universities are now prohibited from dealing with emails that do not come from an “.ir” domain name. This means that customers who use foreign email clients such as Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail will have to switch to domestic Iranian accounts, which are subject to Iranian legal jurisdiction.
Fifty leading U.S. legal scholars cast fresh doubt on the constitutionality of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in an open letter to the Senate Finance Committee today. (Press Release). At issue is whether the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) had authority to enter into the controversial IP enforcement agreement on behalf of the United States when the Deputy U.S. Trade Ambassador signed ACTA in October 2011.
Under a new policy announced today, Twitter will be suggesting accounts for Twitter users to follow based on data collected from an individual’s browsing habits on websites that have embedded Twitter buttons. While this is sure to garner scrutiny from the press and public, Twitter is also taking a pioneering step toward respecting users’ privacy choices: it has committed to respecting Do Not Track -- a simple browser setting users can turn on to tell website they don’t want to be tracked. Often framed as a signal from users to behavioral advertisers, Do Not Track isn’t actually about ads we see online; it’s about user control over tracking of our web usage that could be used to build an intimate portrait of our online lives.
Civil Society Seeks Access to Planning Documents for Secret Negotiations Around Internet Regulation
An upcoming treaty renegotiation process could prove to have dire implications for digital civil rights. As we have explained, the World Conference on International Telecommunications – "WCIT" for short, pronounced “wicket” by insiders – will be held in Dubai this coming December, and preparations for this important treaty-writing conference are in full swing. The forum is being organized by a secretive United Nations agency called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
A series of events in the last two weeks have set the stage for how surveillance drones will be operated by local law enforcement in the United States and how citizens can demand privacy protections as domestic use escalates.
As EFF has previously reported, Congress passed a bill in February mandating the FAA must open national airspace to drones, despite the extensive and unprecedented civil liberties dangers they pose to every American. The FAA, in new rules announced on Monday, made the authorization procedure easier, stating they have “streamlined the process” for “public agencies”—which includes local law enforcement—to legally operate drones in U.S. skies.
According to a recent investigation by the Swedish news show Uppdrag Granskning, Sweden’s telecommunications giant Teliasonera is the latest Western company revealed to be colluding with authoritarian regimes by selling them high-tech surveillance gear to spy on its citizens. Teliasonera has allegedly enabled the governments of Belarus, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Kazakhstan to spy on journalists, union leaders, and members of the political opposition. One Teliasonera whistle-blower told the reporters, “The Arab Spring prompted the regimes to tighten their surveillance. ... There’s no limit to how much wiretapping is done, none at all.”
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will hold the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in December in Dubai, an all-important treaty-writing event where ITU Member States will discuss the proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR). The ITU is a United Nations agency responsible for international telecom regulation, a bureaucratic, slow-moving, closed regulatory organization that issues treaty-level provisions for international telecommunication networks and services.
New legislation in the Netherlands makes it the first country in Europe to establish a legal framework supporting net neutrality. In addition to the net neutrality provisions, the law contains language that restricts when ISPs can wiretap their users, and limits the circumstances under which ISPs can cut off a subscriber's Internet access altogether.
In the ongoing effort to bring you cool things that support important civil liberties issues, EFF is happy to unveil our third annual DEF CON hacker conference t-shirt featuring the dangerous, and yet cuddly Script Kitty. He hacks, he glows, and he demands coders' rights.
Our spokeskitten shows that, if you own a killer robot, you have the right to pwn it. The front of the shirt features our EFF-DEF CON logo mashup in a subtle homage to our mutual support (as well as a shout-out to EFF's advocacy for remix culture and fair use). And watch the front and back glow acid green under cover of darkness!
EFF is proud to participate in World IPv6 Launch Day on June 6, 2012.
This week, the Supreme Court put to rest any doubt that when it invalidated a patent that added nothing novel to an otherwise unpatentable idea back in March, it was talking about software patents, too. In that case, Mayo v. Prometheus, the Court reviewed the three types of inventions that cannot be patented: laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas and held that the patent at issue there—one covering diagnostic testing—represented nothing more than a law of nature, with “conventional steps, specified at a high level of generality,” appended. At the time, we commented that this ruling should likewise apply to software patents, so that merely adding a "conventional step" to an otherwise abstract idea would not make that abstract idea patentable (which is exactly what happened in the Ultramercial v. Hulu case).
Eurovision Song Contest Sets Stage for Online Protest
Last Thursday, Azeri hackers calling themselves Cyberwarriors for Freedom temporarily took down four different websites for the Eurovision Song Contest, which is being hosted by Azerbaijan this week. Hackers replaced the home pages with an Azeri-language message demanding that President Ilham Aliyev cancel the event. While they condemned the destruction of homes to make way for the Eurovision arena and the silencing of independent journalists, the hackers’ message also included homophobic language, calling the contest a “gay parade.”
CIA Still Claims Its Drone Program is "Secret"
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported the Obama Administration may finally lift the legal veil of secrecy surrounding the CIA’s covert drone program. The ACLU has been involved in a lawsuit over the US government’s constitutional authority to target American citizens with strikes overseas with its supposedly covert CIA drone program. On Monday, however, the CIA decided to continue to claim the program is a state secret and that they should not have to admit or deny it exists.
Senator Ron Wyden yesterday introduced a bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate demanding access to draft texts of international trade agreements under negotiation by the Office of the United States Trade Representative such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that carry provisions that could severely choke off users' rights on the Internet around the world. This is a great positive step in the right direction.
The proposed bill, titled the "Congressional Oversight Over Trade Negotiations Act", calls for all Members of Congress, together with all of their staff with proper security clearance, to be given access to "documents, including classified materials, relating to negotiations for a trade agreement to which the United States may be a party and policies advanced by the Trade Representative in such negotiations."
UK Data Breaches Were an Inside Job
Privacy advocates in the United Kingdom got the unfortunate opportunity to say “we told you so” last week, following revelations that nearly 1,000 civil servants working at the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions had been disciplined for accessing citizens’ private and confidential data, including criminal records, employment histories and social security details. More than 150 of those data breaches occurred at the Department for Health, an agency tasked with providing health services – and maintaining all UK medical records.
The unsettling news came to light after reporters with an investigative television broadcast series filed Freedom of Information requests and published their findings.
Today, Google expanded its transparency reports program today by releasing a detailed report of content removal requests from copyright holders. The new copyright report joins its semi-annual government takedown transparency report, and covers more than 95% of the copyright takedown requests it has received for Search results since July 2011.
You may remember that EFF’s client, Kyle Goodwin, asked the court to return the legal files he lost when Megaupload was seized last January. Since then, we’ve been to court, both for a hearing and a mediation, and nothing has changed. The key problem: the government has failed to help third parties like Kyle get access to their data. So we have no choice but to go back to court.
EFF and an array of civil liberties organizations are engaged in a pitched battle against the privacy-invasive legislation Congress is pushing under the guise of promoting “cyber security.” Everyone agrees that network security is important, but a thinly disguised mass surveillance bill won’t help address the needs of our country in defending our networks. Even when faced with wide-ranging opposition from security experts and the Obama Administration, the House of Representatives managed to ram through CISPA, a bill widely decried as empowering the military to collect the Internet records of Americans’ everyday Internet use.
Lino and Mario Bocchini, creators of the Brazilian parody website Falha de São Paulo, are currently appealing a court order that froze their domain two years ago. In September 2010, Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo filed a lawsuit against the Falha seeking financial compensation for mimicking their layout and copy-editing, and also for “moral damages” to its reputation as a news organization. While the financial indemnities were dropped, Falha’s domain remains frozen for unauthorized use of Folha’s intellectual property.
Television networks are having a busy month trying to stamp out new TV-watching technology, including telling a court that skipping a commercial while watching a recorded show is illegal. Yesterday, Fox, NBC, and CBS all sued Dish Network over its digital video recorder with automatic commercial-skipping.
Two weeks ago, Steve Wozniak made a public call for Apple to open its platforms for those who wish to tinker, tweak and innovate with their internals.
EFF supports Wozniak's position: while Apple's products have many virtues, they are marred by an ugly set of restrictions on what users and programmers can do with them. This is most especially true of iOS, though other Apple products sometimes suffer in the same way. In this article we will delve into the kinds of restrictions that Apple, phone companies, and Microsoft have been imposing on mobile computers; the excuses these companies make when they impose these restrictions; the dangers this is creating for open innovation; why Apple in particular should lead the way in fixing this mess. We also propose a bill of rights that need to be secured for people who are purchasing smartphones and other pocket computers.
ACLU loses FOIA Case Asking For Torture Evidence
In a disappointing ruling for government transparency advocates, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held the government could keep secret “cables describing waterboarding; a photograph of a detainee, Abu Zubaydah, taken around the time that he was subjected to the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’; and a short phrase that appears in several Justice Department memos referring to a ‘source of authority.’” This suit came on the heels of revelations that tapes allegedly showing waterboarding were destroyed by a CIA officer.