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EFFector - Volume 16, Issue 37 - EFF Defends Right to Own Smart Card Technology


EFFector - Volume 16, Issue 37 - EFF Defends Right to Own Smart Card Technology

EFFector       Vol. 16, No. 37       January 12, 2004

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 276th Issue of EFFector:

EFF Defends Right to Own Smart Card Technology

Files Amicus Brief On Behalf of Public in DirecTV Appeal

San Francisco - Defending the right to own and experiment with general-purpose technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed a friend-of-the court brief in an Eleventh Circuit appeals case that will determine whether satellite giant DirecTV can sue "smart card" technology owner Mike Treworgy for simply possessing hardware that enables him to program electronic smart cards.

Smart cards are computer devices that have a multitude of legitimate purposes, which can also be used illegally to intercept satellite signals. DirecTV believes that mere purchase of smart card programming hardware should constitute proof that the hardware is being used illegally.

"Computer researchers, network administrators, engineers and others are using smart card technology in ways that are perfectly legal, yet DirecTV would have the courts adopt a theory of guilt-by-purchase," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "This is not only grossly unjust, it also threatens to scare legitimate innovators away from an extremely promising branch of technology."

In the lower court ruling, U.S. District Court Judge John E. Steele agreed to dismiss DirecTV's possession claim in its lawsuit against Mr. Treworgy, finding that the company does not have the authority to decide who can legally own the technology. DirecTV appealed, making this case the first such dispute in the country to reach the appellate court level.

"DirecTV is threatening innocent researchers, hobbyists and others who have never intercepted a single minute of DirecTV's transmissions," added Schultz. "This cannot be what the law intends, and we hope the Eleventh Circuit will send a strong message to that effect."

DirecTV has sent over 150,000 letters demanding settlements of $3,500 and up from individuals who purchased smart card technology. The company has followed this up with over 15,000 lawsuits claiming that mere possession of these devices is unlawful. As a result, those caught in DirecTV's dragnet have been forced to choose between paying for a lawyer and paying for a settlement.

In response to the lawsuits, EFF has partnered with Stanford's Center for Internet and Society to establish, a website aimed at helping innocent people defend their right to own and use smart card technology.


Californians: Come to an Important E-Voting Meeting

Sacramento - On January 15, the California Voting Systems and Procedures Panel will hold a public meeting on the certification of Diebold e-voting machines. In December, a state-wide audit found that Diebold installed uncertified computer code in all 17 counties that use its machines. This practice undermines the security and accountability of our elections. Come let your government know that this isn't acceptable:

When: 10 a.m., January 15, 2004
Where: 1500 11th Street
1st Floor - Auditorium
Sacramento, CA 95814

Make sure that concerned citizens outnumber voting machine vendors at this important meeting!


EFF Secures Protection for ReplayTV Clients

Hollywood Promises Not to Sue Consumer Plaintiffs

A federal court ruled on Friday to end a case brought by five ReplayTV digital video recorder (DVR) owners after 28 entertainment companies promised not to sue them for copyright infringement for using the "commercial advance" or "send show" features of their DVRs.

"Skipping commercials is not illegal and neither is sending television shows from your home to your office, as one of our clients does," said EFF Staff Attorney Gwen Hinze. "We're pleased that we were able to protect our clients against unjustifiable copyright claims for exercising their fair use rights."

EFF had asked the court to give affirmative relief to all owners of ReplayTV DVRs with commercial skipping and "send show" features. The court declined to do so on the grounds that the entertainment companies promised not to sue here and had indicated no intention to sue any of the other owners. The court did, however, leave open the possibility of relief in the event that the entertainment companies change their position and seek to sue ReplayTV owners.


EFF Comments on Intel's Draft Policy for LaGrande "Trusted Computing" Initiative

EFF has filed comments responding to Intel's draft policy on privacy and owner choice and control issues in the company's "trusted computing" LaGrande Technology initiative. Our conclusion: LaGrande Technology has the potential to be abused to diminish computer owners' choice, control and privacy, and while the draft policy sets forth useful best practices, it cannot prevent these abuses.

"This technology exposes the public to new risks, including the possibility of undetectable spyware that couldn't exist with today's systems," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth Schoen. "What's more, Intel admits that the LaGrande privacy policy has no teeth: it's simply a recommendation that nobody is required to follow."


EFF Helps eVisa Win Ninth Circuit Appeal, Right to Use English Language

On December 22, won its appeal to the Ninth Circuit over whether its domain name dilutes Visa's trademark for credit cards, keeping the word "visa" in the dictionary (and DNS servers) for now.

"Visa is a generic word used throughout the world to describe foreign travel and was used long before it became a brand name for credit cards," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "The Court of Appeals wisely rejected Visa's attempt to monpolize use of the word 'visa' in a domain name without further proof of harm to Visa's business."


Nominate a Pioneer for EFF's 2004 Pioneer Awards

EFF established the Pioneer Awards to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. This is your opportunity to nominate a deserving individual or group to receive a Pioneer Award for 2004.

The International Pioneer Awards nominations are open both to individuals and organizations from any country.

All nominations are reviewed by a panel of judges chosen for their knowledge of the technical, legal, and social issues associated with information technology.

This year's award ceremony will be held in Berkeley, California, in conjunction with the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference (CFP), which takes place in mid-April.

How to Nominate Someone for a 2004 Pioneer Award:

You may send as many nominations as you wish, but please use one email per nomination. Please submit your entries via email to We will accept nominations until February 1, 2004.

Simply tell us:

  1. The name of the nominee,
  2. the phone number or email address at which the nominee can be reached, and, most importantly,
  3. why you feel the nominee deserves the award.

Nominee Criteria:

There are no specific categories for the EFF Pioneer Awards, but the following guidelines apply:

  1. The nominees must have contributed substantially to the health, growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications.
  2. The contribution may be technical, social, economic, or cultural.
  3. Nominations may be of individuals, systems, or organizations in the private or public sectors.
  4. Nominations are open to all (other than current members of EFF's staff and board or this year's award judges), and you may nominate more than one recipient. You may also nominate yourself or your organization.
  5. To be valid, all nominations must contain your reason, however brief, for nominating the individual or organization and a means of contacting the nominee. In addition, while anonymous nominations will be accepted, ideally we'd like to contact the nominating parties in case we need further information.
  6. Persons or representatives of organizations receiving an EFF Pioneer Award will be invited to attend the ceremony at EFF's expense.


New EFF T-shirts, Hot Off the Presses

Been meaning to join EFF? Now is a good time: we've just received a new shipment of t-shirts. Check out the cool new design and join us at the "Benefactor" level or higher. We'll send you a t-shirt to wear with pride!


Deep Links

Deep Links features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

EFF Court Docket

  • February 3 - MGM v. Grokster
    U.S. Court of Appeals
    Pasadena, CA.
    9:00 a.m.
  • February 9 - OPG v. Diebold
    U.S. District Court, Northern California
    280 South 1st street
    San Jose, CA.
    Courtroom 3
    9:00 a.m.

Staff Calendar

For a complete listing of EFF speaking engagements (with locations and times), please visit:

  • January 13 - Wendy Seltzer speaks at IDLELO First African Conference on the Digital Commons Cape Town, South Africa
    9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
  • January 22 - Fred von Lohmann speaks at "Washington in the West" Conference Long Beach, CA.
    11:40 a.m. - 12:40 p.m.


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