Netflix is in terrible danger. In fact, these might be its last days.
Oh, not today's Netflix. The Netflix you're using today is fine. It made it—got to do something daring and edgy, prove out its model, and become part of the establishment.
But the next Netflix—the company so cool it makes Netflix look like Blockbuster Video—that Netflix is practically dead in the water.
Nest Labs, a home automation company acquired by Google in 2014, will disable some of its customers' home automation control devices in May. This move is causing quite a stir among people who purchased the $300 Revolv Hub devices—customers who reasonably expected that the promised "lifetime" of updates would enable the hardware they paid for to actually work, only to discover the manufacturer can turn their device into a useless brick when it so chooses.
It used to be that when you bought an appliance, you owned it, and you could take it apart, repair it, and plug in whatever accessories you wanted without the manufacturer's knowledge or permission.
A federal district court in Pennsylvania recently issued a terrible joint decision in Fields v. City of Philadelphia and Geraci v. City of Philadelphia, holding for the first time that "observing and recording" police activities is not protected by the First Amendment unless an observer visibly challenges police conduct in that moment. The right to record police activities, under both the First and Fourth Amendments, is an increasingly vital digital rights issue. If allowed to stand, Fields would not only hamstring efforts to improve police accountability, but—given disturbing patterns across the U.S.—could also lead to unnecessary violence.
The Federal Communications Commission is trying to open up the closed world of TV set-top boxes, with the goal of finally killing that dust-gathering, power-sucking box altogether. They’ve proposed a new rule known as “Unlock the Box” that allows devices and apps from any manufacturer to connect with your home cable or satellite TV feeds. We think the FCC’s effort has the potential to unlock new competition, delivering cost savings and innovation.
With the goal of keeping tabs on sex offenders, the state of Illinois has veered way off course. Its offender registration statute requires individuals to report every nook and cranny of their online activities to law enforcement—or face jail time. Every Internet site they visit, every online retailer account they create, and every news story comment they post must be reported to police.
EFF and the ACLU of Illinois today asked the Illinois Supreme Court to strike down these onerous requirements of the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). The rules violate free speech rights guaranteed to all people—even unpopular people—under the Constitution.
Fight to Make Documents Public Continues
In December, 2014, EFF asked a court to allow it to intervene in a patent case so that we could formally request that certain documents in the court record be unsealed and made available to the public. Yesterday, EFF’s motion to intervene was granted. Our motion to unseal is now pending.
State lawmakers recently introduced some misguided changes to California’s Assembly Bill 1681, which would require that manufacturers and operating system providers be able to decrypt smartphones sold in the state. On first glance, the amendment to A.B. 1681 might seem to address some of EFF’s previous criticisms, but the new version actually makes an already bad bill even worse. EFF has signed on to a new letter in opposition to the bill, and you can still join our action calling on lawmakers to vote against it.
Sens. Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein recently released a draft bill forcing nearly all U.S. companies to decrypt any encrypted data they may handle. Specifically, it would place a new, sweepingly broad duty on device manufacturers, software developers, ISPs, online services and others to decrypt encrypted data or offer “such technical assistance as is necessary” if ordered to do so by any court anywhere in the country.
Publishers are seeking to expand the copyright restrictions they can impose on news platforms, in the latest example of a phenomenon known as “copyright creep.” That kind of creep happens when lawmakers lose sight of the central purpose of copyright: to ultimately grow the cultural commons by ensuring that authors and their heirs can collect compensation for specific uses of their works. In line with that purpose, copyright is not a fundamental right so much as a bundle of restrictions we allow creators to impose for limited times, subject to numerous exceptions such as fair use which are intended to ensure that those restrictions don't impede new expression and innovation. Copyright creep undermines that a delicate balance.
Trade Protection Not Troll Protection Act Would Prevent Patent Trolls from Blocking Imports
Patent trolls don’t just demand money from innovators; they can actually interfere with international trade and block imports from entering the country. There’s a new bill in Congress designed to take this powerful tactic away from the trolls’ arsenal. We hope to see it pass, but more importantly, we hope it builds momentum in Congress for more comprehensive patent reform.
The Trade Protection Not Troll Protection Act is the newest of several patent reform bills introduced in Congress this session. Introduced by Reps. Tony Cardenaz (D-CA) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX), H.R. 4829 addresses patent litigation’s lesser known forum, the United States International Trade Commission (ITC), a federal agency that investigates unfair trade practices.
Given that government officials default to withholding important details from the public regarding national security, we were pleasantly surprised to read a memo that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sent to intelligence agencies last month.
Laws are only as strong as their enforcement.
That's why last weekend more than 30 citizen watchdogs joined EFF's team to hold California law enforcement and public safety agencies accountable. Together, we combed through nearly 170 California government websites to identify privacy and usage policies for surveillance technology that must now be posted online under state law.
EFF Joins 32 Civil Liberties Organizations and Companies In Issuing a Joint Letter to the President
Dozens of nonprofit organizations, companies, and academics sent a joint letter today urging President Obama to take a strong stance against backdoors and oppose legislation that would undermine security.
Last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an injunction issued by a federal district court judge last year. The injunction would have prevented Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood from enforcing his massively large and demanding administrative subpoena against Google. The injunction would also have prohibited the Attorney General from bringing civil or criminal charges against the company for making third-party content accessible to Internet users.
EFF supported the injunction as a measure necessary to nip the abusive use of a state official’s investigatory subpoena power in the bud, and we’re sorry to see the injunction overturned.
Cable TV is a welcome addition in the homes of millions of Americans, and for more than 75 years, it's been a force for radical transformation of the opportunities available to creators, performers, and audiences alike.
But these may be the last days of the cable system.
Oh, not this cable system. This cable system is fine. But for anyone who wants to invent a new cable system, to ascend to the daring heights of cable providers, the way is being blocked. Having climbed from scrappy pirates to fleet-commanding admirals, the executives of the cable world want to pull up the ladder after themselves -- and they're being given a critical assist by the World Wide Web Consortium, which once stood for open standards, competition and innovation on the Web.
The House is finally moving forward with updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), one of the main laws protecting the privacy of online communications. This year, The Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699), which updates ECPA to ensure all of our private online messages are protected by a warrant, garnered 315 cosponsors, almost three-quarters of the entire House. This impressive number of cosponsors makes a powerful statement. And it’s why Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, scheduled a committee meeting on Wednesday to advance the bill.
H.R. 2666 Could Undermine the FCC’s Authority to Protect an Open Internet
The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order was the culmination of years of net neutrality advocacy and a big step toward a free and open Internet. This week, a vote in Congress could undo a lot of that work.
H.R. 2666, the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, might sound good in theory, but in practice, it could seriously undermine the FCC’s ability to protect the open Internet.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is getting in the digital censorship game with a new policy that would punish an offender for having a social media presence, even when someone on the outside is posting updates on their behalf.
As reported by Fusion, Texas’ new offender manual [.pdf] creates a prohibition on inmates "maintaining active social media accounts for the purposes of soliciting, updating, or engaging others, through a third party or otherwise." The rule flies in the face of free expression by penalizing offenders not only for their own use of social media, but also when their friends and family on the outside maintain their social media accounts to draw attention to prisoner issues.
This week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held, in United States v. Carpenter, that we lack any privacy interest in the location information generated by our cell phones. The opinion shows a complete disregard for the sensitive and revealing nature of cell site location information (CSLI) and a misguided response to the differences between the analog technologies addressed in old cases and the data-rich technologies of today.
The California Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection has scuttled A.B. 1681, the anti-smartphone encryption bill that EFF has been fighting against for the last few months. The bill was unable to get a second in committee, so it died without a formal vote.
What We Know about the Vulnerabilities Equities Process and Government Hacking
According to a leaked internal memo of the multinational ISP Telefónica in Ecuador, the Association of Internet Providers of Ecuador (AEPROVI) collaborated with the Ecuadorian government to block their users' access to websites. The memo was obtained and published by the Associated Whistleblowing Press and the Ecuadorian whistleblowing platform, Ecuador Transparente.
The Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico (SCJN) is about to issue its decision on an injunction against a provision of the Federal Telecommunications Act (also known as Ley Telecom) that requires telephone companies and internet service providers to retain data about their users’ communications for a period of 24 months.
The U.S. White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is considering a new policy for sharing source code for software created by or for government projects. There’s a lot to love about the proposed policy: it would make it easier for people to find and reuse government software, and explicitly encourages government agencies to prioritize free and open source software options in their procurement decisions.
EFF submitted a comment on the policy through the White House’s GitHub repository (you can also download our comment as a PDF). The OMB is encouraging people to send comments through GitHub, reply to and +1 each other’s comments, and even offer direct edits to the policy via pull requests.
H.R. 2666 Would Undermine FCC’s Charge to Protect the Open Internet
In a disappointing turn of events, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 241 to 173 to pass H.R. 2666, the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, a bill that would undermine the FCC’s ability to enforce key net neutrality protections.
The Google Books case is over after a decade of litigation, leaving in its wake new guidance on the reach of the fair use doctrine and, not incidentally, protection for an extraordinary public resource for finding books and information.
Last fall, the Second Circuit issued a long-anticipated ruling soundly rejecting the Authors Guild’s claim that the Google Books Project infringes copyright. The Authors Guild asked the Supreme Court to review that ruling, and today the Supreme Court said no. That decision means the Guild has run out of options, at least in the courts.
Cisco custom-built the so-called “Great Firewall of China,” also known as the “Golden Shield.” This system enables the Chinese government to conduct Internet surveillance and censorship against its citizens. As if that weren’t bad enough, company documents also revealed that, as part of its marketing pitch to China and in an effort to meet its customers needs, Cisco built a special Falun Gong module into the Golden Shield that helped the Chinese authorities identify, locate, and ultimately persecute practitioners of that religion by, for example, creating profiles of them that could be used during interrogations and forced conversions (i.e., torture).
Fair use is one of the biggest undelivered promises of a report of the Australian Law Reform Commission to the Australian government two years ago, which recommended improvements to Australian copyright law. Instead of delivering a fair use exception, the government slapped users with onerous new enforcement provisions such as SOPA-style web blocking and data retention, along with a now-shelved attempt at a graduated response code for penalizing users suspected of infringement.
Last month, EFF moved to intervene in a patent case in order to unseal records we believe have been improperly kept from the public. Yesterday, the court granted EFF’s motion to intervene, and in doing so, rejected a troubling argument being put forth by the patent owner.
The case is Blue Spike v. Audible Magic. As we noted in our blog post last month, numerous documents, including at least three court opinions, have been completely withheld from the public. The sealed documents are highly substantive, and from what we can gather, would help the public better understand what, exactly, Blue Spike claims to have invented.
Tech experts and industry representatives squared off against law enforcement officials in two sessions of lively testimony today in front of the House Energy and Commerce committee. Today's hearing is the latest in the ongoing battle in the courts and legislature commonly called the second “Crypto Wars,” after a similar national debate in the 1990s.
As networked computers disappear into our bodies, working their way into hearing aids, pacemakers, and prostheses, information security has never been more urgent -- or personal. A networked body needs its computers to work well, and fail even better.
Graceful failure is the design goal of all critical systems. Nothing will ever work perfectly, so when things go wrong, you want to be sure that the damage is contained, and that the public has a chance to learn from past mistakes.
That's why EFF has just filed comments with the FDA in an open docket on cyber-security guidelines for medical systems, letting the agency know about the obstacles that a species of copyright law -- yes, copyright law! -- has put in the way of medical safety.
Close Comparison Reveals Negotiators Repeating TPP's Mistakes
A secretive trade agreement currently being negotiated behind closed doors could lay down new, inflexible copyright standards across the Asia-Pacific region. If you are thinking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), think again—we're talking about the lesser-known Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). While RCEP doesn't include the United States, it does include the two biggest Asian giants that the TPP omits—China and India. So while you won't read about it in the mainstream U.S. press, it's a very big deal indeed, and will assume even more importance should the TPP fail to pass Congress.
Together with Public Knowledge and R Street, EFF filed an amicus brief today asking the Supreme Court to consider and overturn a troubling decision from the Federal Circuit. If allowed to stand, the lower court’s decision could undermine the right to use, resell, tinker with, and analyze the devices you own.
The federal district court in San Francisco in EFF’s National Security Letter (NSL) cases has unsealed its order from last month, which denies our clients’ long-running First Amendment challenges to the NSL statute.
This is the first public decision interpreting the NSL statute since it was amended last year by the USA FREEDOM Act, and unfortunately, it’s a disappointing one. Although the court previously found the statute unconstitutional, it held that Congress successfully addressed these problems by passing USA FREEDOM.
EFF and our clients disagree with this ruling, and we will be appealing it to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
How Did We Get Here?
The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies is about to vote on seven bills that were introduced as part of a report by the Brazilian Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on Cybercrimes (CPICIBER). Collectively, these bills would be disastrous for privacy and freedom of expression in Brazil. That's why EFF is joining a coalition of Brazilian civil society groups in opposing the bills. As the vote takes place on April 27, it's crucial that we voice our concerns to CPICIBER members now.
Defenders of the NSA's mass spying have lost an important talking point: that the erosion of our privacy and associational rights is justified given the focus of surveillance efforts on combating terrorism and protecting the national security. That argument has always been dubious for a number of reasons. But after a November 2015 ruling [.pdf] by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was unsealed this week, it's lost another chunk of its credibility. The ruling confirms that NSA's warrantless spying has been formally approved for use in general criminal investigations. The national security justification has been entirely blown.
The Let's Encrypt certificate authority issued its two millionth certificate on Thursday, less than two months after the millionth certificate. As we noted when the millionth certificate was issued, each certificate can cover several web sites, so the certificates Let's Encrypt has issued are already protecting millions and millions of sites.
Thanks to EFF and the ACLU, the government has finally admitted it secretly used a Stingray to locate a defendant in a Wisconsin criminal case, United States v. Damian Patrick. Amazingly, the government didn’t disclose this fact to the defendant—or the court—until we raised it in an amicus brief we filed in the case. In the government’s brief, filed late last week, it not only fails to acknowledge the impact of hiding this fact from the defendant but also claims its warrantless real-time location tracking didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment.
We entrust our most sensitive, private, and personal information to the companies which provide us access to the Internet. Collectively, these companies are privy to the online conversations, behavior, and even the location of almost every Internet user. As this reality increasingly penetrates the Brazilian public consciousness, Brazilian Internet users are justifiably concerned about which companies are willing to take a stand for their privacy and protection of personal data. That is why InternetLab, one of the leading independent research centers on Internet policy in Brazil, has evaluated key Brazilian telecommunications companies’ policies to assess their commitment to user privacy when the government comes calling for their users' personal data.
A proposal to rewrite parts of copyright law being pushed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would create new restrictions for filmmakers, journalists, and others using recordings of audiovisual performances. Against the background of the the Next Great Copyright Act lurching forward and the Copyright Office convening a new series of roundtables on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, few have noticed the USPTO push happening now. But these proposals are a classic instance of copyright creep and are dangerous for users, creators, and service providers alike.
House of Representatives Agrees That 30 Years Is Long Enough, Pushes Much-Needed Email Privacy Reform Bill to the Senate
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699) today, which would require the government to get a probable cause warrant from a judge before obtaining private communications and documents stored online with companies such as Google, Facebook, and Dropbox.
The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) had its first opportunity to review a government request for telephone call records since the enactment in June 2015 of the USA FREEDOM Act, which placed some restrictions and oversight on the NSA’s surveillance powers. Unfortunately the results of this first post-USA FREEDOM FISC review are not pretty, and remind us all that there is still much work to be done.
New EFF Report Maps Legal Threats to Free Expression in the Arab World
Freedom of expression is a universal right, but the specific threats to it vary widely from country to country and region to region. As activists fighting for free speech worldwide, it is essential that we better understand the specific legal and procedural mechanisms that governments use to silence it. When you begin to untangle the array of laws that are used to prosecute speech in a given country, you get a much clearer picture of the state of digital rights in that country.
Every year at around this time the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issues a Special 301 Report in which it chastises other countries for not submitting to its unilateral demands (often lacking any legal basis) as to how they should be enforcing copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets in their countries. And just like last year, this gives us the opportunity again to point out how unbalanced these demands are, missing the real harms of strict copyright and patent enforcement and failing to acknowledge the benefits of a more flexible, user-centered approach.
Digital rights activists across Brazil held their breath yesterday, as the country’s Parliamentary Commission on Cybercrime (CPICIBER) debated whether to send its report to the full lower house of Congress for committee assignment and debate. In the end, the vote was postponed, and rescheduled for Tuesday, May 3rd. A postponement does not fix the problems with the commission’s proposals — but it may show a growing realization of the negative attention the report is gathering from Brazil’s Internet users.
In a disappointing but unsurprising ruling, the Federal Circuit confirmed today that patent owners essentially have free rein to file suit in any tiny corner of the country, regardless of its minimal connection to the patent owner, the alleged infringer, or the technology involved.
The case is In re TC Heartland. The alleged infringer, TC Heartland, was sued by Kraft in Delaware. TC Heartland asked the Federal Circuit, through a petition for writ of mandamus, to find that the case couldn’t be heard there, according to laws regarding “venue.”
Last week, after over a year of fighting in court, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood withdrew a burdensome, 79-page investigatory subpoena issued to Google back in October 2014. Documents from the 2014 Sony hack implied the subpoena was part of a Hollywood plot against the search giant, with the Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”) pushing the Attorney General to aggressively investigate and smear the company.
This month, a company called Voice2Text Innovations filed patent infringement lawsuits against two voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) services, Phone.com and Vitelity. Voice2Text has no website or any other information online; its sole asset appears to be US Patent No. 8,914,003—unsurprisingly, a patent on using voice recognition to convert a voicemail into a text message. Equally unsurprisingly, it’s filed those suits in the Eastern District of Texas, whose patent-troll-friendly practices we’ve thoroughly documented on this blog. The Voice2Text patent is so absurd that we had to honor it with our Stupid Patent of the Month award.
Here’s the Voice2Text patent’s first claim:
1. A system, comprising:
When setting out on a recent speaking tour in the wake of launching the Electronic Frontier Alliance (EFA) earlier this spring, I expected to encounter supporters of digital rights from all walks of life and backgrounds. My expectations, however, were vastly exceeded by what I witnessed in the nine cities that EFF visited over the course of this month.
From coast to coast, in communities large and small, Americans from across the political spectrum are coming together to champion the EFA's uniting principles: privacy, creativity, free expression, security, and access to the intellectual commons.
In some cities, EFA member groups will be hosting teach-ins, workshops, discussions, and other public education events. In others, they'll be pursuing grassroots campaigns, or developing open source software projects.