EFFector Vol. 18, No. 14 May 5, 2005
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424
In the 330th Issue of EFFector:
- Action Alert - Support DMCA Reform - Help Pass HR 1201!
- EFF Editorial: The Right Way to Fight Spyware
- EFF Announces New Activism Coordinator
- BayFF Event: Explore the World of Anonymous Online Communication, May 10
- MiniLinks (10): Sensenbrenner Tells EU Not to Put RFIDs in Passports
Support DMCA Reform - Help Pass HR 1201!
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been wreaking havoc on consumers' fair use rights for the past seven years. Now Congress is considering the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA, HR 1201), a bill that would reform part of the DMCA and formally protect the "Betamax defense" relied on by so many innovators.
HR 1201 would give citizens the right to circumvent copy-protection measures as long as what they're doing is otherwise legal. For example, it would make sure that when you buy a CD, whether it is copy-protected or not, you can record it onto your computer and move the songs to an MP3 player. It would also protect a computer science professor who needs to bypass copy-protection to evaluate encryption technology.
In addition, the bill would codify the Betamax defense, which has been under attack by the entertainment industry through the "Induce Act" last year and the MGM v. Grokster case currently before the Supreme Court. This kind of sanity would be a welcome change to our copyright law.
Last year we sent 30,000+ letters of support for the DMCRA, and the bill got a hearing on Capitol Hill. It's time to double that number - take action at the link below, then urge your friends and family to support HR 1201, too!
Make your voice heard with the EFF Action Center:
EFF Editorial: "The Right Way to Fight Spyware"
By Wendy Seltzer
EFF Special Projects Coordinator
Last week, the New York State Attorney General's office filed suit against Intermix Media for deceiving people into installing and using spyware. The lawsuit is a step forward for users' rights to control their own computers. It also demonstrates the right way to address the spyware problem: with lawsuits, not new laws.
The New York complaint runs through a veritable catalogue of deceptive acts and practices: interception of web requests; installation of hidden programs, unrequested toolbars, mechanisms that report user activity back to Intermix and display advertising, etc. All of this was done with minimal notice and no genuine consent from users.
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer charges Intermix with violating New York state's prohibitions on "deceptive acts or practices" and "false advertising," provisions common to state and federal law. He also charges the company with "trespass to chattels" for interfering with the use of personal computers onto which the software was downloaded.
The complaint is only the beginning of a lawsuit, of course, but the screenshots and descriptions leave little doubt that promoting spyware in the guise of a screensaver or game is indeed a "deceptive act." If the company doesn't agree to stop on its own, it's quite likely a judge will put an end to these practices - using existing law.
The lawsuit comes as Congress and many state governments consider anti-spyware legislation. Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate providing detailed lists of prohibited activities, such as "modifying settings relating to the use of the computer or to the computer's access to or use of the Internet, including ... altering the default Web page that initially appears when a user of the computer launches an Internet browser" (S. 687).
While the Congressional efforts may be well-meaning, such specific legislation is bound to be both too narrow and too broad. A law that targets web browser bookmarks and start pages says nothing about instant messenger traffic. And what about a portable device that connects to the Internet but offers no way to accept or reject the terms of a useful new feature?
New tech-specific laws will look outdated as soon as the technology changes, while creating a welter of regulations that hinder software development. Moreover, some of the federal proposals would preempt state law, blocking the very laws that may be most effective against malware.
No one likes invasive spyware. As Spitzer's complaint shows, however, older, more general laws already prohibit these deceptive practices. Rather than rushing to regulate a field that's still changing, with laws that could have unintended consequences for legitimate software development, we should focus on enforcement of these existing laws. Kudos to the New York State Attorney General for doing just that.
For the original version of this piece online:
EFF Announces New Activism Coordinator
Writer Danny O'Brien Will Join Staff and Lead Grassroots Campaigns
San Francisco, CA - EFF is pleased to announce that Danny O'Brien will be joining the organization as its new Activism Coordinator. Current Activism Coordinator Ren Bucholz will be moving to Canada later this month and will work on international issues for EFF from his home base there.
O'Brien is a British writer with a long track record of campaigning on digital rights issues in the UK. He was a co-founder of STAND (http://www.stand.org.uk) , a UK grassroots network that helped successfully fight private key escrow in Britain, inspired a rare government apology for surveillance power excesses, and helped postpone a proposed national identity card scheme. He also helped devise FaxYourMP.com and TheyWorkForYou.com, two award-winning parliamentary oversight websites. He has lived in the United States since 2000.
"I've always been a great admirer of EFF's achievements," said O'Brien. "I'm looking forward to working not only with EFF's own incredible activist network, but also the many other groups that make up the growing movement for digital rights around the world."
O'Brien joins EFF's growing team of analysts with a background in powerful writing, including science fiction author Cory Doctorow, syndicated "Techsploitation" columnist Annalee Newitz, and Donna Wentworth, founding editor of the website, "Copyfight: The Politics of IP."
"EFF has a tradition of attracting some of the brightest, most talented minds in the technology world," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "Danny will make a great addition to our team as we work to protect civil liberties in the electronic age."
For this release:
BayFF Event: Explore the World of Anonymous Online Communication, May 10
Join EFF at 111 Minna Gallery to Hear Stories From the Trenches About the Creation of Tor, an Anonymous Internet Communication System
Tuesday, May 10, 2005, 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Tor - A Brief History of the Most Important Privacy Software Since PGP
Tor is a free/open source software project to create an anonymous communication system on the Internet. Tor runs on all major platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux/UNIX).
Roger Dingledine - Tor Project - tor.eff.org Roger Dingledine is the chief researcher and developer of Tor and has worked on anonymity and security software at MIT, Reputation Technologies, and his own Freehaven Project. Roger will share his personal experiences about the creation of Tor.
Chris Palmer - EFF - www.eff.org Chris Palmer is EFF's Technology Manager. He will discuss EFF's goals and reasons for supporting the Tor Project.
111 Minna Gallery
111 Minna Street San Francisco, CA 94105 Tel: (415) 974-1719
This event is free and open to the general public. You must be 21+. Refreshments will be served. Free t-shirts for people currently running Tor nodes. (Bring your IP address.) To learn how to set up a Tor node, see http://tor.eff.org/cvs/tor/doc/tor-doc.html#server
RSVP to (415) 436-9333 x129 or email@example.com
111 Minna Gallery is accessible via BART. Get off at the Montgomery station and exit at 2nd and Market. Walk south on 2nd Street for a block and a half, and take a right down the Minna Street Alley. 111 Minna Street is located between Mission and Howard.
miniLinksminiLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.
Australia Contemplates Codifying Fair Use
The Attorney General has released an issues paper to solicit comments on whether Australians should have a fair use defense if they to do things like time-shift, format-shift, and make back-up copies of their CDs:
http://www.eff.org/cgi/tiny?urlID=465 (Australian Government Attorney General's Department)
Software Patents in Four Minutes
Bill Gates and Richard Stallman - together at last! - in Gavin Hill's snappy animated guide to the problems of software patents:
Fortifying Free Culture
Fort Culture is Downhill Battle's new cache of mini-articles explaining current issues in copyright and strategies for defending the cultural commons:
Who Needs Products When You've Got Rents?
The New York Times reports on Blackberry manufacturer RIM's $450 million payout to NTP, a company that produces nothing but patent suits:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/02/technology/02patent.html (Registration unfortunately required.)
Cliffs Notes for the Future of Telecom Law
Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn gave a talk at Harvard on the forthcoming Telecommunications Act; here are the crib notes:
Sensenbrenner Tells EU Not to Put RFIDs in Passports
Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) told EU diplomats not to put RFIDs in passports, pointing out that using the unproven, expensive technology would lead to "regrettable" consequences. So who's going to tell the US? http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,67418,00.html
Suspected Terrorists vs. Known Capricorns
Airline passengers soon will be asked to provide their full names and birth dates when they buy tickets, "to make it less likely they'll be confused with known or suspected terrorists." Spot the exploit: http://www.eff.org/cgi/tiny?urlID=464 (AP)
Which Rules Rule VoIP?
The ongoing wrangle among the FCC, the DoJ, and the courts about the legal status of Net telephone service providers takes another twist, with a Texas bankruptcy court finding that Voice over IP (VoIP) is more like an information service than a telecommunications service:
Life Without Electronic Free Speech
Michael Geist gives a first-person account of Web censorship behind the Great Firewall of China:
Film Industry Lobbies to Make EU ISPs Copy Cops
On "Europe Day" at the coming Cannes Film Festival, the European Commission will hold a talk on "how to establish an online film market in Europe" - and according to some observers, may also push the film industry agenda of making European ISPs bear the burden of copyright enforcement:
http://www.eff.org/cgi/tiny?urlID=463 (CoCo Blog)
Kids Tagged Like Cattle?
Scientific American with an editorial on the disturbing prospect of RFIDs for people-tracking:
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