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EFFector - Volume 17, Issue 32 - Action Alert: Stop Government Blacklists!


EFFector - Volume 17, Issue 32 - Action Alert: Stop Government Blacklists!

EFFector       Vol. 17, No. 32       September 2, 2004

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 304th Issue of EFFector:

Action Alert: Stop Government Blacklists!

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) enables federal employees to contribute easily to their favorite charities through automatic payroll deductions. In 2003, there were over 2,000 charities that participated in the campaign, receiving donations of $250 million from the federal employees who chose to participate. In 2004, the government decided to change the rules and require charities to enforce government blacklists against their own employees in order to be able to participate in the campaign. Charities should not have to investigate their own employees in order to receive these personal funds from government workers. Tell the program's administrators that the generosity of federal employees shouldn't be limited to groups that agree to violate their employees' privacy.

If you're a federal employee, take action here:

If you're not a federal employee, take action here:

Join EFF today:

Skylink Wins Appeal in Garage Door Opener Case

Court Rules Copyright Law Cannot Be Used to Stifle Competition

Washington, DC - A federal appeals court in Washington, DC, this week upheld a lower court ruling that allows the marketing of "universal" remote controls for garage door openers, an important decision that helps pave the way for competition and lower prices in the after-market and replacement parts arena.

"Competition in after-market and replacement parts, such as remote garage door controls, helps create lower prices and better products," said Kenneth DeGraff, a researcher for Consumers Union. "Allowing one company to control those markets and the prices they charge hurts consumers."

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in 1998 to stop mass copyright infringement on the Internet, but some companies have gone beyond this purpose and invoked its controversial "anti-circumvention" clause to stave off the competition. The Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at Boalt Hall School of Law, UC Berkeley, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) co-authored the Consumers Union brief to help stand up for consumer rights and the right to create new after-market technologies capable of interoperating with legitimately purchased products.

Jennifer M. Urban, the lead attorney on the case at the Samuelson Clinic, said, "The court recognized that copyright law grants rights to consumers as well as copyright holders and held that the DMCA did not wipe those rights away."

"Chamberlain's lawsuit sought to stifle competition by misusing the DMCA," said Deirdre K. Mulligan, Director of the Samuelson Clinic. "Congress warned of such abuses, and we're pleased that the court rejected this view to avoid harming consumers."

"When consumers buy a garage door opener, they have the right to use whatever remote they want with it, even one from another company," said Jason Schultz, EFF Staff Attorney and a co-author of the brief. "In Chamberlain's view, it's their remote or no remote. Thanks to this decision, they've now been shown that the law views it differently."

Skylink won decisions in the lower court and at the International Trade Commission, but Chamberlain appealed, claiming that Skylink's remote control device circumvents access controls to a computer program in its garage door opener. In its decision, the Court of Appeals rejected Chamberlain's claims, further noting that if the court adopted Chamberlain's interpretation of the DMCA, it would threaten many legitimate uses of software within electronic and computer products - something the law aims to protect.

"[Chamberlain's interpretation] would...allow any copyright owner, through a combination of contractual terms and technological measures, to repeal the fair use doctrine with respect to an individual copyrighted work - or even selected copies of that copyrighted work," wrote the court. "Copyright law itself authorizes the public to make certain uses of copyrighted materials. Consumers who purchase a product containing a copy of embedded software have the inherent legal right to use that copy of the software. What the law authorizes, Chamberlain cannot revoke."

For the full press release:

For the decision:
(EFF, PDF file)

Consumers Union brief:
(EFF, PDF file)

For more information about the case:

CAPPS II Returns from Summer Vacation as "Secure Flight"

Back in early July, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge publicly announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had finally put a stake in the heart of the controversial CAPPS II air passenger screening program. But last week the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officially confirmed what we already suspected: CAPPS II didn't die. Instead, it spent its summer vacation getting a makeover. And like most makeovers, the changes are only skin-deep:

  • TSA has replaced the dreary acronym, "CAPPS II," with a much more spinnable name: "Secure Flight." It has also abandoned the idea of assigning you a color according to your perceived threat-level, which was a public relations disaster. Of course, "CAPPS III" will still sort you into a risk category - it simply won't assign you a color.
  • TSA says it won't (for now) dig through commercial databases to confirm your identity before a flight. However, it will require that the airlines share your "Passenger Name Record" (name, address, itinerary, credit card information, etc.) with TSA - much more personal information than the government would have gotten under CAPPS II. And TSA admits that it will "examine the possibility" of eventually using commercial databases.
  • TSA claims that "CAPPS III" will not screen for garden-variety criminals like CAPPS II would have, nor will it include "predictive" data mining and analysis to guess who might be a terrorist - but we imagine TSA will also "examine the possibility" of doing so in the future.
  • TSA says that instead of data mining, the linchpin of the new CAPPS II will be the government's secret watch list of known or suspected terrorists - a list so inaccurate that it even prevented Senator Ted Kennedy from flying. (For more on the efficacy - or rather, inefficacy - of the list for fighting terrorism, see Bruce Schneier's recent editorial:
  • TSA claims that there will be a clear procedure by which those who are mistakenly placed on the watch list can have their names removed. However, the government's been promising such a redress procedure for the past three years, and it still took Senator Kennedy several weeks and several personal calls to the Director of Homeland Security to prove to TSA that he's not a terrorist.

The bottom line: "Secure Flight" is CAPPS II by another name, and we believe that any of the more controversial features of CAPPS II not included in the current program can - and likely will - be added eventually. In the meantime, TSA intends to collect your personal information and begin testing "Secure Flight" within the next month or two, and it will implement the system as soon as possible after that.

So what can we do about this? Before TSA can start the program, it must issue a legal notice about the system for the public to comment on. EFF will help you share your concerns about "Secure Flight" with TSA. Check out the links below to learn more, and in the coming weeks, keep your eyes on EFFector and EFF's Action Center.

For an earlier version of this piece online:

"Ted Kennedy Stopped Five Times Boarding Planes Because of Terrorism Watch List":

EFF CAPPS II archive:

Only 61 Days Until the Election - Register to Vote Now!

The election is only 61 days away. Are you sure your name appears on the voter rolls? If you are not registered to vote or need to update your voter registration information, click on the link below:

If you are already registered to vote, do your friends a favor and forward them this URL!

Every vote will be vital in determining the course that America takes in the future, but you can't vote if you're not properly registered. This year, millions of new voters are being registered nationwide. EFF has partnered with Working Assets to register voters for the upcoming election. Don't wait until the last minute to register - if you do, you may arrive at the poll on election day only to find that your name is not on the list! Click here to register to vote or update your registration now:

It's easy, it's quick, and when you register to vote or update your registration, Working Assets will make a donation to EFF. Thank you for all of your support and for taking a moment to help increase civic participation!


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

XM Pulls Plug on PC Radio
...because the satellite radio company's PCR could be used in conjunction with third-party software called Time Trax to download music:

Bush Forms Civil Liberties Board
But who will watch the watchers?,1848,64784,00.html

FL Judge Rules Recounts Legal. Phew.
A Florida rule barred 15 counties with e-voting machines from conducting manual recounts, but not anymore. Unfortunately, election officials have said that they will not allow any recounts for races run on DREs during the Tuesday primary and instead will appeal the ruling:,2645,64760,00.html

MD Judge Rules Paperless Diebold Machines Legal. Yikes.
The judge rejected a challenge to the state's paperless voting machines, asserting that they're more accurate than the paper ballots that the plaintiffs seek to make optional in the November elections. The plaintiffs will appeal:
(Washington Post; registration unfortunately required.)

For Election Integrity, Give Voters "Paper or Plastic"
The California Voter Foundation recommends that voters be given the option to vote on paper wherever non-auditable voting technologies are used. We couldn't agree more:
(California Voter Foundation)

Chamberlain v. Skylink - the Scoop
Ernest Miller provides an exhaustive collection of links to commentary and analysis of the Skylink victory:

Microsoft Ordered to Pull Anti-Linux Ad
It seems that the software giant has been telling a few falsehoods in its anti-Linux ad campaign:

25 Nobel Prize Winners Want Information to Be Free
If it's publicly funded scientific research, that is:
(USA Today)

Engadget Interviews Valenti
The retiring president of the MPAA provides his unique perspective on things like fair use, which he likes to claim has no backing in the law. 17 USC 107, anyone?

NYT Groks Grokster
A nice take on the larger issues in the fight over P2P:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

You Never Have to Ask "What Are You Wearing?" Again!
'Cuz RFID-embedded garments will tell you:
(USA Today)

French Feds Investigate Hobbled CDs
EMI France and retailer Fnac (say it out loud - it's fun!) are being investigated after numerous reports of malfunctions in copy-protected discs:

Army Okays Computer Spying
JetBlue ignited a huge privacy scandal when the news broke that the airline secretly provided more than 5 million passenger records to Torch Concepts, a military contractor. Yet the Army says JetBlue didn't violate the Privacy Act. The reason: Torch never looked up individuals by name, but instead used a *computer* to dig through and analyze their private information:,1283,64647,00.html
Redacted Army report obtained by Wired under the Freedom of Information Act:
(Ryan Singel's Secondary Screening)

Uncle Sam Goes Shopping for Big Brother
Unsurprisingly, the Department of Homeland Security has given notice that it's interested in commercially available data-mining software:

Things Google Knows About You
Thing #1: You google yourself, like, 20 times a week:

Duke Shuns Napster 2.0, Distributes iPods
An official says the school isn't a "content editor" and doesn't want to "restrict student use of computers by reviewing their content." Bravo:
(The Chronicle, Duke)


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