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EFFector - Volume 17, Issue 18 - EFF Argues That California Can Have Secure Voting by November


EFFector - Volume 17, Issue 18 - EFF Argues That California Can Have Secure Voting by November

EFFector       Vol. 17, No. 18       May 19, 2004

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 290th Issue of EFFector:

EFF Argues That California Can Have Secure Voting by November

Amicus Brief and White Paper Support Shelley's Plan for Secure, Accessible E-Voting

San Francisco, CA - EFF this week filed an amicus brief in Benavidez v. Shelley, a lawsuit brought by California's Riverside County and several disability rights groups against California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. The suit seeks to delay Shelley's order, issued April 30, that every California voter have the option to cast a paper ballot in the November presidential election. In its brief, EFF, joined by, the California Voters Foundation, and VotersUnite!, argues that the court should deny this request. "There is substantial evidence supporting Shelley's decision," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "A long list of incidents involving electronic voting machines in California and nationwide shows that Shelley's concerns about security are strongly justified."

In addition, EFF argues that the lawsuit sets up a false dichotomy between secure electronic voting machines and ones that provide access for the disabled to vote in privacy. Peter Benavidez, a partly blind man in Los Angeles, initiated the suit because he believed he wouldn't be able to vote without assistance if the state de-certified its electronic voting machines. But this isn't true. "There is technology available right now that would give the disabled access while not compromising security," said Cohn. She added that there is additional evidence showing that many of the electronic machines already in use aren't more accessible in practice than ones that produce a paper trail.

The false distinction between accessibility and security in electronic voting machines is also the subject of an EFF white paper released this week. "Accessibility and Auditability in Electronic Voting," authored primarily by EFF Activism Coordinator Ren Bucholz, demonstrates that there are many already-existing technologies that would give California voters, including the disabled, a chance to leave a paper trail when they vote in November. Bucholz offers several ways for California counties to comply with Shelley's order, using currently existing technologies, while also remaining accessible.

"Opponents of Shelley's order imply that the push toward secure, verifiable elections must pull us away from accessible elections," Bucholz said. "But accessible, federally certified machines are available today, and more are scheduled for release in the coming months."

For this release:

EFF amicus brief in Benavidez v. Shelley:
(EFF; PDF file)

EFF white paper: "Accessibility and Auditability in Electronic Voting":

EFF Announces $50,000 Grant from The Parker Family Foundation

Donation to Support Patent-Busting Project

San Francisco, CA - EFF is pleased to announce that it has received a $50,000 grant from The Parker Family Foundation of Lexington, Massachusetts, for EFF's Patent-Busting Project.

"We are concerned about the growing number of illegitimate software and Internet patents," said Glenn Parker, trustee of The Parker Family Foundation. "By investing in EFF, we know that we will be helping to protect the rights of individuals, nonprofits and others that have legitimate noncommercial uses of software and Internet technology."

EFF is disturbed by the way innovation is stymied by increasing demands for patents that are overly broad (for example, hyperlinks) or exceptionally trivial (such as patenting a piece of software based on adding a single line of code). As a result, technologies built upon prior invention can be tied up in litigation for years over patent disputes.

"We seek to attack these types of patents," said Jason Schultz, EFF staff attorney and project leader. "By doing so, we hope to clear the way for the public to enjoy the benefits of these technologies and help build the case for stronger reform to the patent system. These patents strip our right to use publicly available knowledge, disrupt ongoing research and innovation, and threaten to shut down important community-based projects."

"We'd like to thank The Parker Family Foundation for its generous contribution," added EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "EFF would not be able to take on important projects like this without the kind support of our funders."

For the full media release:

EFF's Patent-Busting Project:

EFF Invited to Attend WIPO Meeting on Broadcasting Treaty

San Francisco, CA - The World Intellectual Property Organization of the United Nations (WIPO) has accredited EFF to attend and observe the 11th session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights in Geneva on June 7-10, 2004.

The committee meeting will discuss the proposed Broadcasting Treaty, which would extend the scope and duration of rights of broadcasters, cablecasters, and, possibly, webcasters. EFF is concerned that, as currently drafted, this treaty may frustrate the free flow of information, even if that information is in the public domain. EFF will be attending with a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech), which aims to educate national delegates about the public interest concerns with the treaty's more problematic clauses.

"Big entertainment companies are present in force at these meetings, and it's high time that public-interest groups took a seat at the table to explore a range of balanced approaches," said Cory Doctorow, EFF European Affairs Director.

"We welcome the opportunity to participate in this important discussion and look forward to working together with the delegates in future meetings," added EFF staff attorney Gwen Hinze.

For this breaking news item:

The DMCA on Trial at Caltech

The California Institute of Technology and Loyola Law School will present a mock trial this Friday, May 21st, to play out a scenario in which a student creates a distributed computing application to crack digital rights management (DRM) systems, leading to the criminal prosecution of everyone involved under the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The trial will have many realistic touches: a real federal judge will hear it, the prosecution will be advised by federal prosecutors, and the defense by EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. Brad Hunt of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will provide expert testimony for the prosecution, while EFF Staff Technologist Seth Schoen will provide expert testimony for the defense.

This event is free and open to the public; complete details are below.


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

Good Idea Alert: Warrants for Data Mining
A panel convened by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recommends a sweeping policy overhaul to protect people from privacy abuses:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Michigan State to Hand Over Student Names in P2P Case
A judge ordered the school to identify nine students to the recording industry:

More on Jailed Japanese Programmer
The author of the file-sharing app Winny remains in police custody, but his lawyer is speaking out:

DMCA Reform Gains Traction on Capitol Hill
The hearing on HR 107 went better than we expected - the scoop here:
(Registration unfortunately required.) EFF's Fred von Lohmann attended the hearing; here's his list of fair use-friendly Congressmen who need your support:

House Orders E-Voting Probe
Thirteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking an investigation into the security problems with electronic voting:

Blind Voters Pan E-Voting
Electronic voting terminals are supposed to be a panacea for disabled voters, but this article shows that some of the technology has a long way to go before it delivers on its promise:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Opinion: What NY Needs in Voting Machines
The New York Times with an excellent editorial on how the state should approach voting machine upgrades:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

L.L. Bean Gets Pop-Uppity
The purveyor of fine khaki and duck boots sued four companies for creating pop-ads that appear when people visit the L.L. Bean site:

Anti-Patent Vibe in the EU
Groklaw offers several translated snippets demonstrating the anti-software patent vibe in Europe:

ACLU Forced to Redact Press Release in National Security Letter
Case The redacted portions included a description of the law in question and a briefing schedule:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Raw Deals Writ Small
Ed Foster with a round-up of the nastiest end-user license agreements out there:

Record Companies Cook the Books to Show Losses?
Yet another piece arguing that the recording industry's piracy claims don't add up:

Napster Tries to Silence University Critics
Ohio University posted a survey asking whether $3/student/month is a bad deal for Napster's service; the company responded by ordering the university to take it down and clam up about the price:

Verizon Warns Australia of DMCA Down Under
Sarah Deutsch told policymakers about the thousands of notice- and-takedown letters that Australian ISPs can expect if DMCA-like laws are adopted there:
(Australian IT)

Apple Bites PlayFair (Again)
PlayFair allows iTunes customers to strip the DRM from lawfully purchased songs, but leaves the unique IDs intact. The results are unfit for P2P trading, unless you like the taste of subpoenas. Sounds good to us:
(The Hindu Business Line)

The Patent-Busting Gene
The USPTO recently granted the Public Patent Foundation's request for reexamination of a DNA-insertion patent held by Columbia University. This is how it's done, and we'll soon follow suit in EFF's new patent-busting campaign:

Iraqi Prisoner Photos in a Connected World
Observes the NYT: "We owe their circulation and perhaps their existence to the popular technology of our day, to digital cameras and JPEG files and email. Photographs can now be disseminated as quickly and widely as rumors." Food for thought:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

The BBC on EFF
The Beeb with a story on EFF's IP work and our man-about-London, Cory Doctorow:

ILAW Field Notes
MIT's Frank Field with a comprehensive collection of weblog notes and commentary from last week's Internet Law Program by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School:

Staff Calendar

For a complete listing of EFF speaking engagements (with locations and times), please visit the full calendar.

  • May 20 -
    Cindy Cohn speaks before the Michigan Bar Association at the Computer Law Section Spring Networking Luncheon
    Livonia Marriot
    12:00 - 2:00 p.m.
    Livonia, MI
  • June 10-12 -
    Lawrence Lessig and Wendy Seltzer speak at "Wizards of OS 3: The Future of the Digital Commons"
    Berlin, Germany


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