The open access movement is a long-standing campaign in the world of research to make scholarly works freely available and reusable. One of its fundamental premises is that the progress of knowledge and culture happens scholarly works of all kinds are widely shared, not hidden in ivory towers built with paywalls and shorn by harsh legal regimes.
Representative Zoe Lofgren has posted on Reddit a modified draft of Aaron's Law, a proposal to update the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and wire fraud law in honor of our friend Aaron Swartz and to make sure that the misguided prosecution that happened to him doesn't happen to anyone else. We're very pleased with the proposal's progress and we're hopeful about the future of this important bill.
In the wake of social justice activist Aaron Swartz's tragic death, Internet users around the country are taking a hard look at the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal anti-hacking law. As we've noted, the CFAA has lots of problems. In this three-part series, we'll explain these problems in detail and why they need to be fixed. For more details about our proposal for CFAA reform, see part 2 and part 3.
Can Congress embrace and enact sensible copyright policy? Four years ago, for a brief shining moment, it seemed the answer might be yes, as various interested stakeholders rallied around long-overdue legislation that would have helped to fix the orphan works problem. Orphan works are those whose owner cannot be located. Consequently, those who would like to use and share these works may hesitate to do so out of fear that they could later be found liable for copyright infringement because they didn’t get permission. In 2008, a variety of interested parties managed to come up with a way to limit that liability. It wasn’t perfect, but it represented real progress.
In the wake of social justice activist Aaron Swartz's tragic death, Internet users around the country are taking a hard look at the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal anti-hacking law. As we've noted, the CFAA has lots of problems. In this three-part series, we'll explain these problems in detail and why they need to be fixed. For more details about our proposal for CFAA reform, see part 1 and part 3.
With every coming round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a trade agreement that carries intellectual property provisions that could have hugely harmful consequences for the Internet and our digital rights—the Office of the US Trade Representative has continually whittled away at any remaining opportunity for the public to have input into the drafting process. The TPP has been under negotiation for three years and the opaqueness has only worsened.
Another day, another patent troll. Or so it seems. The threat of the patent troll is not new—we’ve written about it time and again. But the troubling trend of suing downstream users and content providers really makes us mad. First it was the app developers, then those who scan documents to email. Now, the latest outrage: podcasters. Yes, really. And EFF wants to help organize those facing the threat so that we can gauge the size of the problem and hopefully help people find counsel and a way to work together in response.
The Washington Post boldly led a front-page story last weekend with the claim: "The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month."
Let's get one thing straight: the government is not creating its own "super WiFi network", but its plans will indeed make awesome new WiFi networks possible. Technically, what the FCC is actually trying to do is increase the amount of open spectrum that is available for WiFi networks of all sorts—and for other "unlicensed" uses. This is a very good idea. Increasing the amount of unlicensed spectrum will lead to better functioning routers, tablets, laptops, and smartphones—and to a host of other new products in the marketplace. It will enhance the quality and supply of extremely useful open wireless networks, but it will also increase the quality of (somewhat less efficient) password-locked WiFi networks as well.
Patent trolls — companies that assert patents as a business model instead of creating products — have been in the news lately. This is hardly surprising, given that troll lawsuits now make up the majority of new patent cases. And the litigation is only the tip of the iceberg: patent trolls send out hundreds of demand letters for each suit filed in court. At EFF, we have been following this issue closely and are working hard to bring reform to fix the patent mess.
The next time you allow a guest into your home for dinner, should you be worried they're secretly video recording every detail of your home for the government? In a new amicus brief filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, we've asked the court to reconsider a decision finding that allowing someone into your home means you're also placing yourself at the risk of warrantless home video surveillance.
You might be surprised to learn that the vast majority of new cars sold in the United States contain a device that continuously monitors the driver’s behavior and vehicle performance. This so-called “black box” or Event Data Recorder (EDR) records at least the last several seconds of vehicle and driver data before a crash, ostensibly for use by crash investigators. Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed rules that would mandate EDRs in all new cars and light trucks.
While we agree that EDRs can serve a valuable forensic function, we are concerned that the NHTSA’s proposed rules fail to address driver and car-owner privacy in a meaningful way.
Following the events of the 'Arab Spring,' numerous countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa have begun assessing—or reassessing—their regulation of the Internet. Last April, we criticized Iraq's attempt at legislation: a heavy-handed bill that, if passed, would impose life imprisonment for vaguely-worded "crimes" such as promoting "ideas which are disruptive to public order" and lesser sentences for a range of other offenses.
Copyright troll Righthaven LLC just doesn’t know when to stay down. Faced with six district court judges determining it didn't have the right to sue people over copyrights it didn't own, it turned to a higher power: the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Yesterday, EFF appeared before that court to argue (audio) against Righthaven on behalf of Tad DiBiase, a criminal justice blogger who provides resources for difficult-to-prosecute "no body" murder cases and was one of Righthaven’s victims.
View EFF's updated Map of Domestic Drone Authorizations in a larger window. (Clicking this link will serve content from Google.)
Score one for the space marines.
Last month, a UK game developer, Games Workshop, complained to Amazon.com that an ebook, Spots the Space Marine, infringed its trademarks in the term “space marine.” Turns out Games Workshop sells a popular game, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, and has registered marks in the term “space marine” in connection with games. But Games Workshop lost all sense of proportion and decided that it also had trademark rights to the term in books. And thus a trademark bully was born.
After it received the complaint, Amazon promptly removed the book from its virtual shelves. When the author, M.C.A Hogarth, protested, Amazon initially refused to reinstate the book and instead politely suggested she resolve the dispute directly with Games Workshop.
In an amazing victory for privacy advocates and drone activists, yesterday, Seattle’s mayor ordered the city's police agency to cease trying use surveillance drones and dismantle its drone program. The police will return the two drones they previously purchased with a Department of Homeland Security grant to the manufacturer.
EFF has been warning of the privacy dangers surveillance drones pose to US citizens for more than a year now. In May of last year, we urged concerned citizens to take their complaints to their local governments, given Congress has been slow to act on any privacy legislation. The events of Seattle proves this strategy can work and should serve as a blueprint for local activism across the country.
In the wake of social justice activist Aaron Swartz's tragic death, Internet users around the country are taking a hard look at the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal anti-hacking law. As we've noted, the CFAA has many problems. In this three-part series, we're exploring these problems in detail and giving more explanation of our suggested fixes. For more details about our proposal for CFAA reform, see part 1 and part 2.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has long treated the content industry and major pharmaceutical companies as its principal constituents, using its bully pulpit to export overbroad intellectual property (IP) enforcement practices around the world. This is evidenced in the negotiations over trade agreements like ACTA and TPP, but we can also see it in the process of developing the yearly Special 301 reports—a set of tiered “watch lists” of countries that have been singled out for having “bad” IP policies.
The following is a guest post from M.C.A. Hogarth—author, space marine enthusiast, and indie business advisor.
I'm M.C.A. Hogarth and I'd like to tell you how the EFF helped protect my work and the idea of a "space marine" from a shameless legal bully.
I wrote a web serial called Spots the Space Marine as an homage to Heinlein and the greats of science fiction. Crowdfunding allowed me to launch print and e-book editions that I made available on Amazon... until a trademark threat from Games Workshop over the term "space marine" caused Amazon to remove the ebook from its virtual shelves.
A few months ago, EFF warned of a secretive new surveillance tool, commonly referred to as a "Stingray," being used by the FBI in cases around the country. Recently, more information on the device has come to light and it makes us even more concerned than before.
This is the fourth in a series of posts mapping global surveillance challenges discussed at EFF's State Surveillance and Human Rights Camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This article has been co-written with Elonnai Hickok — Centre for Internet and Society India, and a speaker at EFF's Camp.
States around the world are faced daily with the challenge of protecting their populations from potential and real threats. To detect and respond to them, many governments surveil communication networks, physical movements, and transactional records. Though surveillance by its nature compromises individual privacy, there are exceptional situations where state surveillance is justified. Yet, if state surveillance is unnecessary or overreaching, with weak legal safeguards and a failure to follow due process, it can become disproportionate to the threat—infringing on people's privacy rights.
This weekend, the Cairo Administrative Court issued a 30-day ban order on YouTube and all other websites that host or link to content from the anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims,” which was protested worldwide after footage from the trailer was shown on Egyptian television. The court’s ruling may force the hand of the National Telecom Regulation Authority (NTRA) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), which have refrained from pursuing such a ban themselves.
A few months ago, in EFF's backyard, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office tried to sneak approval for surveillance drone funding at the county's board of supervisors without a public hearing. Worse, they told the board of supervisors it only wanted to use the drone for emergency purposes. Yet in internal documents obtained by EFF and MuckRock as part of our 2012 drone census showed the Sheriff’s Office said it wanted to use the drone for activities like spying on “suspicious persons” and “large crowd control disturbances.”
It's official: The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act was reintroduced in the House of Representatives yesterday. CISPA is the contentious bill civil liberties advocates fought last year, which would provide a poorly-defined "cybersecurity" exception to existing privacy law. CISPA offers broad immunities to companies who choose to share data with government agencies (including the private communications of users) in the name of cybersecurity. It also creates avenues for companies to share data with any federal agencies, including military intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA).
There is much wrong with software patents. But one of their worst side effects has to be the advent of the patent troll: one who makes nothing, sells nothing, and capitalizes on legal loopholes to extort money in the guise of “licenses,” oftentimes from parties who don’t even arguably infringe the patent at issue. Lately, patent trolls have behaving even worse than usual, targeting downstream users, consumers, and others who lack the resources to fight back.
In a recent blog post, Jill Lesser, Executive Director of the Center for Copyright Information, responded to widespread concerns that the copyright surveillance machine known as the Copyright Alert System—or "Six Strikes"—would cripple libraries and cafes that provided open wireless networks. The title of said post: "CAS Will Not Harm Public Wi-Fi."
In a welcome turn of events, President Barack Obama spoke directly to the patent troll problem and the need for more comprehensive patent reform yesterday in a "Fireside Hangout" — a live question and answer session hosted in a Google+ hangout. The President was responding to a question by the prominent electrical engineer and entrepreneur Limor "Ladyada" Fried, who in 2009 won an EFF Pioneer Award for her work with free software and open-source hardware.
EFF is extraordinarily pleased to officially announce a new addition to our Board of Directors: entrepreneur and technologist Brian Behlendorf.
We have long been a fan of Brian and his tireless work in the open source community – ranging from software development in the early days of the Web to open source advocacy at the highest levels of government.
As the Web was in the midst of its first big growth spurt, Brian co-founded the Apache Group (later the Apache Software Foundation), helping to build and give away the popular Apache HTTP Server. He also launched CollabNet, which brought the principles and tools used by the open source software community to large enterprises.
Internet users around the world got a Valentine's Day present yesterday in the form of new legislation that requires U.S. government agencies to improve public access to federally funded research.
The proposed mandate, called the Fair Access to Science & Technology Research Act, or FASTR (PDF), is simple. Agencies like the National Science Foundation, which invests millions of taxpayer dollars in scientific research every year, must design and implement a plan to facilitate public access to—and robust reuse of—the results of that investment. The contours of the plans are equally simple: researchers who receive funding from most federal agencies must submit a copy of any resulting journal articles to the funding agency, which will then make that research freely available to the world within six months.
The domain name registrar Namecheap is running an awareness campaign against CISPA, the dangerous cybersecurity bill—and they're donating $1 to EFF for each tweet (#CISPAalert), Facebook share, and domain name bought using the code CISPAalert. Namecheap, a staunch opponent of SOPA last year, is now taking charge of spreading the word about CISPA's threats to your privacy.
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the FAA has issued 1,428 permits to domestic drone operators since 2007 and noted this was “far more than were previously known.”
This new number points out again how difficult it is to answer the most common questions EFF gets from reporters about drones — just how many agencies have applied for drone licenses? How many licenses has the FAA issued since it started issuing licenses (which was earlier than 2007)? And how much has domestic drone use increased over the years?
Last week, the Obama Administration released an Executive Order on network and Internet security, also known as "cybersecurity," for critical infrastructure and other companies. The order shows how largely unnecessary CISPA is and should encourage users to oppose the privacy-invasive cybersecurity bill.
Today, the White House released a memorandum (PDF) in support of a more robust policy for public access to research, making the results of billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded research freely available online. The memorandum gives government agencies six months to detail plans to ensure the public can read and analyze both research and data, without charge. Both open access and open data are key to promoting innovation, government transparency, and scientific progress.
As put by Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:
It’s been a long time coming, but the copyright surveillance machine known as the Copyright Alert System (CAS) is finally launching. CAS is an agreement between Big Content and large Internet Service Providers to monitor peer to peer networks for copyright infringement and target subscribers who are alleged to infringe—via everything from from “educational” alerts to throttling Internet speeds.
As part of the launch, the Center for Copyright Information, which administers the program, has revamped its website. The website is supposed to help educate subscribers about the system and copyright. Unfortunately, it’s chock full of warning signs that this whole campaign is not going to go well.
For example, on the process for targeting subscribers, the site explains that:
EFF is pleased to see the Indiegogo campaign page of Internet startup CentUp has returned after the page was briefly taken down in response to a complaint by a patent troll. We hope this takedown is not the start of a trend of patent trolls sabotaging startups by complaining to online intermediaries. And we applaud Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform crucial for financing many startups and projects, for doing the right thing and restoring the campaign.
UPDATE (4/22/13): The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has passed the House of Representatives with amendments. This FAQ reflects the bill prior to the amendments. We will be updating this post as we review the bill. In the meantime, please refer to the version of the bill (PDF) that passed the House.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court sadly dismissed the ACLU’s case, Clapper v. Amnesty International, which challenged the FISA Amendments Act (FAA)—the unconstitutional law that allows the government to wiretap Americans communcating with people overseas. Under the FAA, the government can conduct this surveillance without naming individuals and without a traditional probable cause warrant, as the Fourth Amendment requires.
This week brings promising news in the fight against patent trolls. We have written before about how a broken patent system has led to an explosion of lawsuits by patent trolls (companies that assert patents as a business model instead of creating products). In the hands of trolls, patents become a tax on innovation.
by Sophia Elson
Earlier today, there was a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on whether all employers nationwide should be required to use the employment verification system E-Verify to investigate the backgrounds of each new employee they hire.
The hearing was erroneously titled "How E-Verify Works and How it Benefits American Employers and Workers." As it turns out, mandatory implementation of E-Verify would be disastrous for both of those groups, forcing employers to navigate a costly and time-intensive bureaucratic system and threatening the security of highly sensitive employee data.
Beloved podcasts like the Adam Carolla Show and HowStuffWorks are under attack. They and other podcasts are getting sued for, well, podcasting. And they're not the only victims—developers are being targeted for building mobile apps, and offices around the nation are being attacked for using ordinary networked scanners. These creators are only a few of the thousands of victims of one of the biggest threats to innovation: patent trolls.