Last week the Librarian of Congress issued his final decision (pdf) limiting copyright owners’ ability to sue you for making full use of the works you buy. The short version: it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, the Librarian looked to the future, broadening existing exemptions for extracting clips from DVDs to include clips from movies distributed online, as well. At the same time, the Librarian refused to expand an exemption for "jailbreaking" smartphones to include the smartphone’s cousin, the tablet, even though there is little practical difference between the two devices. Equally illogically, the Librarian refused to grant an exemption for jailbreaking video game consoles.
Now the long version.
Earlier this year, we applauded District Court Judge Alsup for getting it right and holding that, as a matter of law, one could not copyright APIs. The case, Oracle v. Google, is now on appeal to the Federal Circuit, where a three-judge panel is going to revisit Judge Alsup’s ruling.
We’ve explained before why allowing tying up APIs with copyright protection would be so dangerous. This is what we said then:
From cell phone location tracking to the use of surveillance drones, from secret interpretations of electronic surveillance law to the expanding use of biometrics, EFF has long been at the forefront of the push for greater transparency on the government’s increasingly secretive use of new technologies.
With the launch of our new Transparency Project, we’ve made the information we’ve received easier to access and added new tools to help you learn about the government and file your own requests for information.
Earlier this fall, payment provider Stripe suspended the account of the Nifty Archive Alliance, a nonprofit entity that supports the Nifty Erotic Stories Archive, a free, volunteer-supported website hosting a wide range of erotic fiction for the GLBTO (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Others) community. While the content may be NSFW, all of the erotic literature is constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment.
This week marks the first time in five years since the last Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) meeting. The board is an independent body within the President's office that is supposed to ensure privacy and civil liberties in the creation and implementation of US law and policy and executive branch actions against terrorism, but has languished for some time due to Presidential neglect.
Next Wednesday, November 7, author Rob Reid will be joining EFF in San Francisco for a special Geek Reading of his debut novel, Year Zero. Here's our review of the book — if you haven't read it yet, pick up a copy.
It's not uncommon for copyright licenses to include a bit of overblown legalese about how the contract applies "throughout the known universe." Usually that bit of sci-fi language is just meant to cover all the bases, but what if it actually gets put to the test? Year Zero, published this summer to rave reviews, explores that question, taking on draconian U.S. copyright law from an extraterrestrial perspective.
(He should know a thing or two about the intricacies and oddities of copyright law: Reid was also the founder of Listen.com, which created the Rhapsody digital music service.)
After nearly two years of non-stop social unrest and protests against the ruling monarchy, things have taken a precipitous turn for the worse for civil liberties in Bahrain this week. Martial law rules have been in effect in the tiny Gulf nation since late last year, but on Tuesday, the government took the remarkable step of declaring a ban on all public rallies and demonstrations--a move government spokesman, Fahad al-Binali claims is “temporary” and intended to “calm things down” after the recent deaths of protesters and police officers.
EFF is urging voters in California to vote no on Proposition 35 in the upcoming election. The proposition calls for new restrictions on registered sex offenders, including that they provide a list of all Internet service providers they use and a list of all their online accounts -- such as usernames, email accounts, and Twitter handles. EFF opposes this proposition because it would create new restrictions on online speech and increased government surveillance of the online accounts for a class of individuals, creating a dangerous legislative model for policing unpopular groups in the future. While we share concerns about human trafficking and want to make sure the law is as effective as possible, we believe that censorship and increased surveillance of an entire class of people is not the right legislative fix for this troubling problem.
This is a first for us in all of EFF's history of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation—Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has demanded we return records it gave us more than a year ago. The release of these documents doesn't endanger national security or create a risk to an ongoing law enforcement investigation. Instead, it seems that ICE simply wants to stymie further FOIA requests from EFF as we try to get answers about the government's electronic surveillance procedures.
For many people who care about innovation, the sign of a successful patent system is one that leaves them alone. But lately, that's become nearly impossible. Instead, it's widely understood that if you have a successful business or product, you'll get hit with a patent threat or even a lawsuit—an unfortunate tax on innovation. Since no one is immune, it's important that parties are able to protect their own best interests, both in the courts and at the patent office (PTO).
See part 1 of Privacy in Ubuntu 12.10: Amazon Ads and Data Leaks.
Full Disk Encryption (FDE) is one of the best ways you can ensure all of the private information on your laptop stays private in case it's lost, seized, stolen, or if you choose to sell or give away your computer in the future. This feature has been built-in to many GNU/Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, for many years. But until the recent release of Ubuntu 12.10, it was hidden away in the "alternate" text-mode installer of Ubuntu that many non-technical users don't even know exists.
Now that the election is over, Congress can get back to work doing the people’s business. And if that work is going to affect online expression, innovation, and/or privacy, it should start with a simple proposition: bring in the nerds (aka experts) and Internet users who care deeply about protecting their digital rights.
Censorship circumvention software is about to become very popular in Egypt. On Wednesday, the country’s Prosecutor General, Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, ordered government ministries to enforce a ban on pornographic websites, based on a three-year old ruling by Egypt’s administrative court, which declared that “freedom of expression and public rights should be restricted by maintaining the fundamentals of religion, morality and patriotism” and denounced pornographic content as “venomous and vile.”
An anonymous government official claims that the order was a response to the ultraconservative Salafi “Pure Net” campaign, which staged a demonstration in front of the Cairo’s High Court on Wednesday, calling for an enforcement of the ban on Internet pornography on the grounds that such sites “violate Egyptian customs and values.”
Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies are repeatedly pushing the idea that they’ve been rendered helpless by the explosion of new communications technologies. The argument that wiretapping laws should undergo “modernization” to match today’s communications technologies has been used to justify a package of legislative amendments that would broaden online surveillance powers. The most controversial aspect of this proposal is a mandatory data retention framework, which would require blanket storage of all Australians’ communications data for up to two full years.
Despite the oft-repeated narrative that there is an urgent need for this new set of wiretapping capabilities, a recently published official overview points out that the government has offered very little in the way of concrete evidence to back up this claim.
A few hours after EFF and the ACLU of Northern California filed a class action lawsuit in San Francisco federal court challenging California's recently enacted Proposition 35, the court issued a temporary restraining order, blocking implementation of the initiative due to the existence of "serious questions" about whether it violated the First Amendment.
Twice each year we invite you to join us for drinks and conversation at a secret location in the Bay Area, and this time we're bringing the party to the East Bay! Raise a glass with us to celebrate over 22 years of EFF members helping to protect digital innovation, privacy, and free expression. Learn more about the continuing fight to defend your freedom online with the EFF activists, lawyers, and technologists working in the trenches. That evening EFF will join forces with Aspiration to welcome guests of the 2012 Nonprofit Software Development Summit!
As 2012 comes to a close, I've been reflecting on the relentless series of campaigns, publications, and cases in which the dedicated lawyers, technologists, and activists of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have engaged in service of a better, freer digital future. With help from supporters like you, we've been able to accomplish so much.
The year started off perilously as we fought back a pair of dangerous Internet censorship bills (popularly known as SOPA and PIPA) backed by copyright maximalists. EFF played a critical role during the day-long website blackout protest by Google, Wikipedia, and others, as millions of Internet users were referred to EFF's website for an explanation of the dangers and an opportunity to take action. Nearly two million emails were sent through EFF's action center to let Congress know how you felt, and together we were able to successfully de-rail the legislation.
Internet service providers (ISPs) are the conduits of free expression on the Internet. However, many international and national law and policy proposals, including trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) and others, attempt to make Internet intermediaries the sole arbiter and enforcer of the law instead of courts and judges. ISPs should not be Internet cops. Not only are they not equipped to make such decisions, proposals to make them liable for Internet content end up promoting law enforcement methods that purposefully skirt due process rights.
The unfolding scandal that led to the resignation of Gen. David Petraeus, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, started with some purportedly harassing emails sent from pseudonymous email accounts to Jill Kelley. After the FBI kicked its investigation into high gear, it identified the sender as Paula Broadwell and, ultimately, read massive amounts of private email messages that uncovered an affair between Broadwell and Petraeus (and now, the investigation has expanded to include Gen. John Allen's emails with Kelley). We've received a lot of questions about how this works—what legal process the FBI needs to conduct its email investigation. The short answer? It's complicated.
With your help last summer we helped defeat Senator Lieberman's Cybersecurity Act. But for some reason, Senate Majority Leader Reid decided to call for another vote on the bill in the lame duck session today. After an hour's debate, the full Senate voted 51 to 47 against cloture for the Cybersecurity Act, meaning it can't move forward for a vote.
The "Copyright Alert System" – an elaborate combination of surveillance, warnings, punishments, and "education" directed at customers of most major U.S. Internet service providers – is poised to launch in the next few weeks, as has been widely reported. The problems with it are legion. Big media companies are launching a massive peer-to-peer surveillance scheme to snoop on subscribers. Based on the results of that snooping, ISPs will be serving as Hollywood’s private enforcement arm, without the checks and balances public enforcement requires. Once a subscriber is accused, she must prove her innocence, without many of the legal defenses she’d have in a courtroom.
Each year, Google receives thousands of demands from governments around the world seeking information about its users. People who use any of the search engine giant’s free online services – such as Gmail, YouTube, Google+ or Blogger – leave digital footprints behind, and information relating to their accounts is increasingly sought out by law enforcement agencies. To raise awareness about this, Google publishes a Transparency Report every six months documenting how many requests it received for user data, and from which countries. The practice was recently emulated by Twitter.
The United States Demands User Data More Often Than Any Other Country
Days ago the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) launched Operation Pillar of Defense, its latest military operation against Hamas in Gaza, firing over one hundred rockets into the Gaza Strip in response to rockets targeting Israel. The attacks prompted two retaliatory rockets launched from Gaza, targeting Tel Aviv and its suburbs. While the rockets fly and casualties pile up, a parallel conflict is taking place on the Internet and social media.
On Wednesday, the IDF posted a video of what they claimed was the assassination of a senior Hamas Operative and followed it up with a Tweet from the @IDFSpokesperson account:
We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.
The next round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations will take place from December 3-12 in Auckland, New Zealand, and it will be done with the same level of secrecy as the last 14 rounds. And like all of the previous rounds of talks, it will take place in a luxury venue, only this time in a high-end casino, that itself is embroiled in its own controversy over corrupt dealings.
This week, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is hosting the 25th Session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR/25). The agenda is focused, as it should be, on finalizing a longstanding discussion: the need for an international instrument to protect the rights of visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities. Copyright protections create barriers for people with disabilities, yet big publishers continue to block efforts to create exceptions to remedy the problem even as hundreds of millions of people would stand to benefit worldwide.
UPDATE November 22, 2012: According to news reports this morning, Eskinder Nega's appeal has been postponed until December 19th. A lawyer for another defendant noted: "As they [the Court] scrutinized our ground of appeal they found so many legal and factual irregularities." Judge Dagne Melaku has stated that the Court needs several weeks to review the "bulky" case file of evidence.
Despite renewed criticism from both parties in Congress that domestic drones pose a privacy danger to US citizens—and a report from its own Inspector General recommending to stop buying them—the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has indicated it wants to more than double its fleet of Predator drones used to fly surveillance missions inside the United States.
Some things change, but others stay the same. While the types of threats facing Internet users worldwide have diversified over the past few years, from targeted malware to distributed denial of service attacks, one thing has remained constant: governments seeking to exert control over their populations still remain the biggest threat to the open Internet.
Just a few days ago, an unusual thing happened in the halls of Congress: somebody made a case for a copyright policy grounded in reality. The Republican Study Committee (RSC) — an organization that represents more than two-thirds of all GOP Congressmembers — issued a report challenging longstanding copyright myths and offering ideas for potential reforms.
When the Supreme Court said in United States v. Jones that planting a GPS device on a vehicle is a physical intrusion that amounts to a Fourth Amendment "search," the government should have gotten the memo: the police have to get a probable cause warrant issued by a neutral magistrate before installing one of those devices on a car to track a person's location. Amazingly, that hasn't stopped the government from coming up with new ways to argue that it can use GPS devices to track people's movements without a warrant. So we teamed up with the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in an amicus brief filed last week urging a federal appeals court to reject these arguments.
Currently, the Department of Justice argues it can read your private electronic messages, like emails and private Facebook messages, older than 180 days without a warrant due to an archaic distinction in the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Senator Leahy wants to change this and has scheduled a markup hearing next week. Months ago, he offered language clarifying that the government must obtain a warrant for all private messages; however, recently released bill language keeps the 180-day requirement for civil regulatory agencies like the FTC, SEC, and others.
November 23rd marks the 3rd anniversary of the Amptaun massacre, the day on which 58 people, including 32 media workers, were murdered in the Philippines while traveling in a convoy with the family and supporters of a local politician—the deadliest incident for journalists in recent history. In the last ten years, over 600 journalists have been killed worldwide, while still more have been intimidated, harassed, imprisoned, or tortured for exercising their fundamental right to free expression. In nine out of ten cases in which a journalist has been murdered, the killer has gone free.
EFF ha estado luchando contra el capítulo de la propiedad intelectual propuesto para el Acuerdo Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) por varios años. Este acuerdo representa un gran riesgo para las libertades de los usuarios y el acceso a la información en una escala global.
Hemos creado este infográfico para captar los aspectos más problemáticos del TPP, y para ayudar a los usuarios, los defensores y los innovadores de todo el mundo a comprender como este acuerdo afectará a ellos y a sus sociedades.
Agradecemos Consulting Lumin por trabajar con nosotros en este proyecto y a Hiperderecho por la traducción al Español.
Last Friday, the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) 185 country-members concluded another round of negotiations on exceptions and limitations for the blind and persons with printing disabilities. However, they did not reach a consensus on many of its most contentious issues, such as allowing exports of adapted works across borders and circumventing technological protection measures to enable accessibility. People with hearing disabilities were also written out of the draft. In addition, US negotiators were able to block exceptions and limitations for audiovisual works, under the pressure of MPAA. Who loses? All of us, but especially the 285 million visually impaired people in the world.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced today that it appointed Prof. Peter Swire of Ohio State University’s Moritz School of Law as a new co-chair of its Tracking Protection Working Group (TPWG), which is working on the Do Not Track (DNT) standard. Swire is no newcomer to the DNT debate, and criticized current online behavioral advertising industry self-regulation this summer.
Swire will join current TPWG co-chair Matthias Schunter, who will focus on the Do Not Track protocol specification. Swire will lead the TPWG's work on DNT compliance, replacing Aleecia M. McDonald, a well-known privacy researcher and Resident Fellow at the Stanford Center for Information & Society.
Everyone hates going to the DMV. But even worse than having to wait in line for hours on end, is to learn that the personal information you provide to the DMV is being used for marketing purposes without your consent. So this month, we told the Supreme Court in an amicus brief that the release of this information needs to be strictly narrowed.
Next week, the 15th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) negotiations will begin in Auckland, New Zealand. Hundreds of delegates and private representatives from the now 11 participating nations will gather at a luxury casino to discuss this multi-faceted trade agreement. EFF, KEI, and the Stop the Trap coalition will also join dozens of other public interest groups to sound the alarm over the TPP's intellectual property (IP) chapter that could likely prompt countries to enact restrictive copyright enforcement laws that would have huge ramifications for users' access to digital content and information.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is marking up a bill that would amend the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) in ways we think are unnecessary and potentially bad for users, giving companies new rights to share your video rental history after they get your “consent” just once. It undermines one of the strongest consumer privacy protections we now enjoy. But there is a silver lining: Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is attaching an amendment to the bill requiring that the government get a search warrant before reading our emails.
Tomorrow, as the Senate Judiciary Committee considers reforming the decades-old federal email privacy law, the personal Inboxes and love lives of senior military and intelligence figures may be on that august body's mind. When the FBI pored through the personal lives of CIA Director David Petraeus, Paula Broadwell, Jill Kelly and General John Allen, citizens across the land began to wonder how the FBI could get that kind of information, both legally and technically.
Something is amiss in Central Asia. Just last Friday, Kazakh news site Tengri News reported that officials from Kazakhstan's General Prosecutor's office were refuting earlier claims that prosecutors had filed lawsuits against Google, Facebook, and Twitter and that the lawsuits were, in fact, against local newspapers Respublika and Vzglyad.
For years, NASA has been collecting information on the intimate lives of their contract employees over the objections of civil liberties groups. Now a major data breach may have compromised the sensitive personal data of thousands of employees. Yesterday, employees of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge called for a congressional investigation into the data breach resulting from the theft of an employee’s laptop holding unencrypted data about thousands of NASA contract workers collected as a result of invasive background checks. The lesson here is clear: NASA should never have collected deeply intimate data about low-security contract employees when it couldn’t even properly protect the data.
Over the course of the past year, there have been numerous reports of localized telecommunications outages throughout Syria, however, today marks the first confirmed widespread shutdown. The shutdown, which has already been reported on by the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and Slate (among others) appears to affect the vast majority of consumers in Syria.
ECPA Reform Moves Forward to Require a Warrant for Your Email; Amendment to Weaken Video Privacy Protections Reined In
Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would require the government to get a warrant before accessing our private electronic communications, like emails and Facebook messages. The bill could now proceed to the Senate Floor for a vote.
Can law enforcement enter your house and use a secret video camera to record the intimate details inside? On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unfortunately answered that question with "yes."
The holiday shopping season is upon us, and once again e-book readers promise to be a very popular gift. Last year's holiday season saw ownership of a dedicated e-reader device spike to nearly 1 in 5 Americans, and that number is poised to go even higher. But if you're in the market for an e-reader this year, or for e-books to read on one that you already own, you might want to know who's keeping an eye on your searching, shopping, and reading habits.
UPDATE 12-1-12: As of 14:32:10 UTC, Renesys reports that Syria is back online
Information coming out of Syria has slowed to a trickle in the wake of Thursday’s country-wide communications shutdown, which included nearly all Internet traffic and intermittent cellular network and landline outages. Earlier today, Renesys reported that the last five networks that had survived the initial outage were off the air. In the meantime, experts have cast a skeptical eye on the Syrian Ministry of Information’s claims that the outage is the result of sabotage by “terrorists,” a term that the Assad regime has frequently used to describe the opposition. Matthew Prince speculates on the Cloudflare blog: