Earlier today, 47 state attorneys general asked Congress to severely undermine the most important law protecting free speech on the Internet. In a letter to Congressional leaders, the AGs asked Congress to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- which protects online service providers from liability for the vast majority of what their users do -- to carve all state criminal laws from the statute's protection.
The Congressional subcommittee that addresses copyright heard testimony today from five witnesses about the role of "the copyright sector" in the U.S. economy. As we described yesterday, there were some glaring omissions in the witness list: no representatives of the public interest, no librarians or archivists, none of the innumerable creators who depend on fair use or a balanced copyright regime. The resulting testimony and question-and-answer session were about what you'd expect from a panel made up of the executive director of a copyright expansion group and four representatives from the content industry.
Shambling along the mobbed exhibition hall floor at San Diego Comic-Con, I spotted a familiar t-shirt at a booth. Wearing it was Patrick Race, an Alaskan computer-science major who founded the web-comic and short-film outfit, Alaska Robotics. What struck me, like Thor’s hammer to the noggin, was that while so many Comic-Con fans spend hours crafting intricate superhero costumes or picking out witty T-shirts riffing on entertainment franchises, Patrick was proclaiming his passion for digital civil liberties and supporting the organization that fights to protect them.
Earlier today, Pinterest received national attention by announcing its new board suggestion program, which suggests Pinterest boards for users to follow based on websites they’ve visited outside of Pinterest. In rolling out this program, Pinterest took several important steps to respect the privacy of users:
In the ongoing effort to encrypt the entire web, news sites are an area of special importance. After all, the articles you choose to read can say a lot about you: how close you're following a political race, for example, can indicate where you stand on sensitive issues, or give clues about personal connections to the people or organizations being covered.
While a few news sites offer their content over secure HTTPS (e.g., partial support by the New York Times), far too many do not, much less by default. Our own Deeplinks blog is an exception. Readers can browse through our site without leaving a trail of which pages they viewed that can be easily picked up and stored by other people on the same wireless network or the reader's ISP—which could then be compelled to hand over that information to law enforcement or intelligence agencies like the NSA.
This is the fourth part in a series of posts about the importance of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230). CDA 230 limits the liability of a number of Internet services that host user-generated content.
Wikipedia is a perfect example of a site that relies on the immunities afforded by CDA 230. The website—the seventh most popular site in the world—is a completely user-generated online encyclopedia that is freely available in hundreds of different languages.
"Like many in the community of cryptographers and security engineers, I’m sad that we haven’t better informed the public about the inherent dangers and questionable utility of mass surveillance. And like many American citizens I’m ashamed we’ve let our politicians sneak the country down this path." -- Bonneau
EFF is heading to fabulous Las Vegas this week for the summer security conferences: Black Hat USA, Security B-Sides Las Vegas and DEF CON. We're excited to see everyone there!
Come by the EFF booth to learn about our latest work, renew your membership, check out the new t-shirts or just to say hello.
- Black Hat Briefings (Caesar's Palace): Open Wednesday, July 31 to Thursday, August 1.
- BSidesLV (Tuscany): Open Wednesday, July 31 to Thursday, Aug 1.
- DEF CON (Rio): Two booth locations (vendor area and contests!) open Friday, August 2 to Sunday, August 4.
Bradley Manning was convicted (PDF) on 19 counts today, including charges under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for leaking approximately 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks. While it was a relief that he was not convicted of the worst charge “aiding the enemy,” the verdict remains deeply troubling and could potentially result in a sentence of life in prison. The sentencing phase starts tomorrow, and a fuller legal opinion from the judge should also come soon.
We will likely have a deeper analysis of the verdict later, but two things stand out as particularly relevant to—and especially frightening for—folks who love the Internet and use digital tools.
A Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling this week will make it easier for police to track your movements through your cell phone after the court decided police aren't required to obtain a search warrant to track you.
Update/Retraction: Upon further reflection, we have determined that portions of this blog post are not correct. We regret the error and are withdrawing the post in its entirety.
Specifically, the post suggested that Manning was double charged for access to classified material under the CFAA as well as under Section 793(e) of Espionage act. In fact, Manning was charged with two CFAA violations for access to particular sets of material that were not separately charged in the six Espionage act counts.
In the midst of a tidal wave of momentum in the fight against patent trolls, we're proud to launch Trolling Effects (trollingeffects.org), a resource to empower would-be victims of patent trolls through a crowdsourced database of patent demand letters and a clearinghouse for information on the troll epidemic. The site allows demand letter recipients to post the documents online, find letters received by others, and research who is really behind such threats.
Update 7/31: After a week's delay and some additional minor amendments, the bill has now passed out of committee. We'll keep you posted as the legislation continues to wend its way through Congress.
Original post July 23, 2013:
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a markup session today for HR 1123, Chairman Bob Goodlatte's "Unlocking Consumer Choice" bill addressing the current (and wildly unpopular) ban on phone unlocking. Unfortunately, although Chairman Goodlatte has introduced a manager's amendment [pdf] that somewhat improves bill, this legislation still doesn't go far enough in bringing about sorely needed reform to a fundamentally broken section of copyright law.
In January, our friend Aaron Swartz killed himself. Aaron was unable to carry on against an overzealous government prosecution enforcing a grossly unfair and outdated law. We, and millions of others around the world, were saddened beyond words. Aaron was prosecuted for using legendary academic institution Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s open network to download articles from JSTOR, the digital library that sells scholarly articles, largely funded by public tax dollars, back to the public at something like $5-12 per article. Academic institutions like MIT, however, don't pay for each article but instead pay subscription fees that give access to everyone within their communities, including visitors like Aaron.
This Sunday August 4th, rallies are being held in cities across the country to protest unconstitutional surveillance. Known as 1984 Day, the events are planned on 08/4 to emphasize how the themes of unchecked state surveillance fictionalized in George Orwell’s classic 1984 have creepy real-life parallels with the current dragnet surveillance of our digital communications. The nonpartisan, reddit-driven, grassroots movement that organized the Restore the Fourth rallies on July 4th are planning these events in order to harness the growing public discomfort with the NSA’s newly-confirmed spying programs. Currently, sixteen different rallies are planned in locations across the country. You can find the closest rally by visiting the 1984 Day website.
Should a minor celebrity's right to wring every drop he can from his fame trump the right to create a realistic work? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals put its thumb on the scales today, issuing a terrible decision holding that a celebrity’s right of publicity is more important than any First Amendment right to depict real people in a video game. This ruling follows closely on the heels of a similar decision from the Third Circuit and threatens a wide range of speech—such as biographies and documentaries—which seeks to realistically depict famous people.