EFFector Vol. 17, No. 25 July 7, 2004
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424
In the 297th Issue of EFFector:
- Action Alert - Call for PATRIOT Review, Not Expansion
- Federal Court Rules in Favor of Paper Trail Reform in E-Voting
- The Digital Television Liberation Project Starts Its Engines
- EFF Announces Ten Most-Wanted Patents
- Supreme Court Upholds Free Speech Rights in COPA Decision
- Online Privacy "Eviscerated" by First Circuit Decision
- Join EFF for Freedom Fest 2004 on August 4th - LinuxWorld Attendees Invited!
- MiniLinks (11): The Law v. Email Privacy
- Staff Calendar: 07.09.04 - 07.11.04 - Annalee Newitz and Wendy Seltzer speak at HOPE, New York, NY; 07.30.04 - 08.01.04
Action Alert - Call for PATRIOT Review, Not Expansion
The USA PATRIOT Act is under more scrutiny than ever, but a few congressmen are itching to expand some of its most troubling provisions. The Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Tools Improvement Act (H.R. 3179) would strengthen the government's already overbroad authority to gain secret access to your personal info - including your phone, Internet, and financial records. It would also allow law enforcement to target domestic suspects with no ties to any foreign government or terrorist group - extending the reach of powerful surveillance laws originally intended only for spies and other "agents of a foreign power."
Expanding PATRIOT now, without the Department of Justice demonstrating that it is clearly justified, unnecessarily threatens our most fundamental rights as U.S. citizens. Congress shouldn't hand the DoJ any new investigative tools until it has conducted a comprehensive and public review of whether the current PATRIOT powers have been both effective and adequately protective of our civil liberties. Ask your representative to oppose H.R. 3179 and support PATRIOT review today!
Make your voice heard:
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Federal Court Rules in Favor of Paper Trail Reform in E-Voting
Los Angeles, CA - A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's requirements to ensure the security of electronic voting machines do not violate federal or state law. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, California Voter Foundation, VerifiedVoting.org, and Voters Unite! submitted a friend-of-the-court brief and a surreply in support of Secretary Shelley. The case is Benavidez v. Shelley.
"This decision is a landmark," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The court said - in clear, unambiguous terms - that requiring a paper trail for e-voting machines is consistent with the 'obligation to assure the accuracy of election results.' That's an enormous victory for secure elections."
The court determined that the "defendant's decision to decertify touch-screen voting machines and to withhold further certification until he is satisfied that manufacturers have complied with specified conditions is a reasonable one. It is based on studies conducted and information gathered which convinced him that the voting public's right to vote is not adequately protected by the systems currently in place."
This ruling is particularly significant because Secretary Shelley's e-voting reforms are setting the tone for national debate on this issue. He was the first state election official to issue a blanket requirement for voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPAT) for e-voting machines, though Nevada later followed suit. On April 30, after further review and a scandal with embattled voting machine vendor Diebold Election Systems, Shelley decertified all of the state's e-voting machines until additional safeguards could be implemented. His responsiveness to the growing evidence of problems in e-voting systems has led to pressure in states like Maryland and Ohio, where similar evidence has been downplayed.
"California is at the forefront of the nationwide movement for e-voting reform," said California Voter Foundation President Kim Alexander. "Today's court decision reinforces the leadership California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley is bringing to this critical issue."
The suit was brought by disability rights advocates and four California counties (Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern, and Plumas) that oppose Secretary Shelley's voter-verified paper trail requirement and decertification orders.
The ruling concerned the plaintiffs' requests for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order to prevent Shelley's orders from taking effect.
For this press release:
The Digital Television Liberation Project Starts Its Engines
San Francisco, CA - Just under a year from now, on July 1, 2005, an FCC regulation known as the Broadcast Flag will lock up your digital television signals. But EFF's "Digital Television Liberation Project" aims to help the public keep over-the-air programming free.
The Broadcast Flag, which places copy controls on DTV signals, is aimed at stopping people from making digitally perfect copies of television shows and redistributing them. But it also stops people from making perfectly legitimate personal copies of broadcasts. More disturbing, the Broadcast Flag regulations will outlaw the import and manufacture of a host of personal video recorders (PVRs), TiVo-like devices that send DTV signals into a computer for backup, editing, and playback. After the Broadcast Flag regulations go into effect, all PVR technologies must be Flag-compliant and "robust" against user modification - and that means, once again, that the entertainment industry is trying to tell you what you can do with your own machines.
It's not too late for consumers to get their hands on Broadcast Flag-resistant PVRs. For the next year, DTV tuners can still be manufactured that make digitally perfect recordings of broadcasts; these tuners will continue to work even after the FCC's regulation takes effect. To help people get these endangered devices before it's too late, EFF has launched the Digital Television Liberation Project. The Project aims to create a "cookbook" that teaches technically minded (and not-so-technically minded) people how they can whip up their own fully capable DTV devices. "We want to open the high-definition revolution to everyone, preserving the abilities to time shift and manipulate media that we've come to expect," said Wendy Seltzer, EFF staff attorney and leader of the DTV Liberation Project.
The DTV Liberation Project will use these PC-based PVRs as benchmarks, comparing the capabilities of the general-purpose computer to the limited subset of viewing options Broadcast Flag-compliant devices can offer. "When people see how many more features today's PVR has than next year's, we think they'll be as puzzled as we are by the FCC's choices to 'advance the DTV transition'," Seltzer said.
The Project, which is currently seeking donations of hardware, money, and volunteers to help develop the cookbook, has already built an HD-PVR using MythTV's free software package. Seltzer will be demonstrating that machine at the DefCon conference in late July.
For this full press release:
The Digital Television Liberation Project:
EFF Announces Ten Most-Wanted Patents
San Francisco, CA - Start forming your patent-busting posses! EFF's Patent Busting Project last week announced which patents the organization will target first in its campaign to rid the world of frivolous patent infringement lawsuits. After sifting through dozens of software and Internet-related patents submitted to its patent busting contest, EFF targeted ten whose crimes have made them enemies of the public domain.
Target number one is Acacia, a company that has litigated relentlessly against small businesses to enforce patents that it claims cover a broad array of technologies used to send and receive streaming media online. Victims of Acacia's legal threats include websites that host home videos and several "mom-and-pop" adult media companies.
Other offenders include Acceris, which claims that its patents cover any technologies (such as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) that allow people to make phone calls over the Internet, and ClearChannel, which has been threatening artists and small CD companies that record live concerts and burn them to CDs for fans at the end of a show. Another target is Test.com, which has a patent on a method for taking and scoring tests online.
"Patents are meant to protect companies against giant competitors, not to help them prey on folks who can barely afford a lawyer," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz, who leads the Patent Busting Project. "We hope our project will not only assist the victims of these abusive patents but also help make the case for global reform of the patent system."
For the full press release:
The Ten Most-Wanted Patents:
Supreme Court Upholds Free Speech Rights in COPA Decision
EFF applauds the Supreme Court's decision last week to uphold a preliminary injunction prohibiting the government from enforcing the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). Passed in 1998, the law criminalizes publishing sexually explicit material online that a jury could find "harmful to minors" when the publisher has failed to use expensive and ineffective age-verification screens to prevent access by minors. Such a requirement would unnecessarily chill publishers and readers from engaging in constitutionally protected online speech about adult topics, while doing little to protect children.
In the opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court emphasized that the government failed to demonstrate that there are no "less restrictive alternatives" to COPA. Justice Kennedy referred to parents' use of filtering and blocking software as an example of how to prevent minors' access to harmful materials in a manner that does not unnecessarily restrict free speech rights. The Court also noted that COPA's criminal penalties, which include steep fines and even imprisonment, are a potentially "repressive force" in a free society.
"The Supreme Court rightly recognized that there are ways of protecting our children from harmful material on the Internet that are much less restrictive and less damaging to First Amendment principles than COPA," said Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney and Bruce J. Ennis/Equal Justice Works fellow.
Added EFF Policy Analyst Annalee Newitz, "We are pleased that Justice Kennedy's opinion recommended solutions that would give people the choice to block harmful content on their home PCs, rather than chilling free speech at its source by threatening Internet speakers with criminal prosecution."
The Supreme Court decision sends COPA back to the District Court for full trial.
For this press advisory:
For the decision:
Online Privacy "Eviscerated" by First Circuit Decision
The First Circuit Court of Appeals in Massachusetts dealt a grave blow to the privacy of Internet communications with its decision last week in the case of U.S. v. Councilman. The court held that it was *not* a violation of criminal wiretap laws for the provider of an email service to monitor the content of users' incoming messages without their consent. The defendant in the case is a bookseller who also offered email service to his customers. Without notifying the customers, he configured the mail-processing software so that he received a copy of any email messages they received from the competition - Amazon.com. Despite the implications for privacy, the court ruled for the defendant, while admitting that "it may well be that the protections of the Wiretap Act have been eviscerated as technology advances."
"By interpreting the Wiretap Act's privacy protections very narrowly, this court has effectively given Internet communications providers free rein to invade the privacy of their users for any reason and at any time," said Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney and Bruce J. Ennis/Equal Justice Works fellow. "This decision makes clear that the law has failed to adapt to the realities of Internet communications and must be updated to protect online privacy."
For this press advisory:
For the decision:
Join EFF for Freedom Fest 2004 on August 4th - LinuxWorld Attendees Invited!
Join EFF and three Bay Area bands for an afternoon of live music and outdoor fun at EFF's Freedom Fest 2004, generously sponsored by Red Hat. The free outdoor concert will be held at Yerba Buena Gardens on Wednesday, August 4th, 2004 from 5-8 p.m. just across the street from the LinuxWorld Conference at Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco. Featured artists are Austin Willacy, Josh Fix and the Furious Force, and Megan Slankard Band.
miniLinksminiLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.
The Induce Act: Meet the Opposition
USA Today reports that Google, Yahoo, Intel, Verizon, eBay, CNET, and MCI are among the 42 companies and groups that sent a letter Tuesday to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to oppose the Induce Act:
The letter itself:
EFF's action alert on the bill:
Middle School to Use Biometric Roll-Call
A Florida middle school is planning to use biometric hand-scanners to take attendance and track who gets on and off the school bus:
The Law v. Email Privacy
The New York Times weighs in on a recent court ruling demonstrating the vulnerability of our email privacy:
(Registration unfortunately required.)
More on the Law v. Email Privacy
Wired on the Councilman decision, Gmail, and the laws that impact email privacy:
KaZaA's Aussie Trial Gets a Date
The court also dismissed a motion claiming that evidence was improperly seized by the record companies in SWAT-style raids:
China to Filter Billions of Text Messages
Chinese citizens use "texting" to spread forbidden information on issues like SARS and democracy, so the government is setting up a system to sanitize billions of messages per day:
EFF Patent Busting in the NY Times
A short but sweet profile of our new patent busting project:
(Registration unfortunately required.)
Meanwhile, in Holland...
The Dutch Parliament wisely voted to pull its support for the EU Directive on Software Patents:
Officials from a number of European countries are complaining that the votes cast on the directive do not reflect the positions of their respective governments:
Bidding Record Labels Goodbye
Some artists are doing it right now, and their Internet-enabled approach to selling records could be the harbinger of good things to come:
(Registration unfortunately required.)
Comcast Now Serves 35% Less Spam
They had to block port 25 for all users, but it seems to be working. Until, of course, the spammers figure out that they should use a *different* port. Anyone care to guess how long that will take? Nobody?
Steve Winwood and Access Hollywood Use P2P for Promotion
The odd couple is using free P2P systems like KaZaA and Gnutella to promote Winwood's new project:
Canadian ISPs Not Responsible for Music Royalties
Record companies were rebuked in Canada when they tried to extract royalties from ISPs:
California Re-Certifies Some E-Voting Machines
The machines will be deployed with heightened security, so several counties will now be able to use them in the November elections:
A DRM Forest and the Beastie Boys' Tree
International debate rages over the trio's latest CD:
Picketing the UK iTunes Music Store?
British fans are angry about the lack of independent labels in the recently launched UK version of the downloading service. In protest, they're making community playlists with pleas to add more labels - and then voting the labels to the top of the iTunes charts:
An "Obsessive" Reply to the Induce Act
Don't worry - it only *looks* crazy. Ernest Miller has crafted an exceedingly detailed rebuttal to some of the nonsense spouted by Senator Hatch when he introduced the Induce Act:
For a complete listing of EFF speaking engagements (with locations and times), please visit the full calendar.
July 9 - July 11 -
Annalee Newitz and Wendy Seltzer speak at HOPE, New York, NY
July 30 - August 1 -
Kevin Bankston, Annalee Newitz, Seth Schoen, and Wendy Seltzer speak at Defcon 12, Las Vegas, NV
August 4 -
EFF holds Freedom Fest 2004
5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Yerba Buena Gardens
San Francisco, CA
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