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EFFector - Volume 18, Issue 17 - Congress Considers PATRIOT Expansion Behind Closed Doors


EFFector - Volume 18, Issue 17 - Congress Considers PATRIOT Expansion Behind Closed Doors

EFFector       Vol. 18, No. 17       May 26, 2005

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 332nd Issue of EFFector:

Congress Considers PATRIOT Expansion Behind Closed Doors

EFF Supporters Fight Back

Today the Senate Intelligence Committee is considering, behind closed doors, a bill that would not only renew the USA PATRIOT Act's most dangerous provisions, but would also expand the FBI's power to secretly demand the private records of people who aren't suspected of any crime - *without* a judge's approval.

The FBI already has dangerously overbroad subpoena powers under PATRIOT. But if this bill passes without modification, the FBI could use new "administrative subpoenas" to get practically anything from anyone - Internet logs and emails from your Internet service provider, health records from your doctor, financial information from your bank, borrowing records from your library - without a judge's permission. The Justice Department has long sought this kind of unprecedented subpoena power for the FBI, but Congress has always said no - even in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Earlier this week, we sent out a special action alert asking EFF supporters in the states that have senators on the Intelligence Committee to speak out against the bill. The response was swift. Within 24 hours, you sent more than 1,600 faxes and emails to the committee. Seven of the senators received 90 or more messages; Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) received more than 680 messages. Now the figure is up to 2,050 - roughly half the number of letters typically sent over a full week's time for alerts that are not restricted to specific states.

We succeeded in attracting the senators' attention, but the battle against PATRIOT expansion has just begun. Early reports indicate that there is strong support for the bill within the Intelligence Committee, despite the public outcry. If you live in Kansas, Utah, Ohio, Missouri, Maine, Nebraska, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Michigan, California, Oregon, Indiana, Maryland, or New Jersey, and you haven't contacted your senator, it's not too late. Take action today, and stay tuned to EFFector and the EFF Action Center for the next steps - your voice counts!

Say No to New PATRIOT Spying Powers:

Court Date Set for Showdown Over BnetD Videogame Software

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has set a June 20 hearing date for arguments in Davidson v. Internet Gateway (formerly Blizzard v. BnetD), a case in which EFF is fighting to stop videogame corporation Blizzard from interfering with gamers' ability to create new products to enhance their game experience. EFF is co-counsel to the defendants, a group of open-source software programmers who created a gaming server called BneTD, which lets people play popular Blizzard titles like "Warcraft" on servers outside of Blizzard's service.

To create BnetD, the programmers reverse-engineered a protocol in, using the information to give players access to the BnetD server. Blizzard argues that this act violated a clause in its end-user license agreement (EULA) that forbids reverse-engineering. EFF argues that federal copyright law, which allows reverse-engineering in cases of fair use, trumps Blizzard's EULA. Because the BnetD programmers created a product that is interoperable with Blizzard games, their actions fall squarely within the definition of fair use. EFF also argues that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) specifically allows for fair use reverse-engineering.

If it stands, the lower court's decision would make it unlawful in most cases to reverse-engineer any commercial software program, thus making it impossible to create new programs that interoperate with older ones. This squeezes consumer choice out of the marketplace by essentially allowing companies to outlaw competitors' products that interact with their own.

Along with EFF, Paul Grewal and Richard Lin of Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder LLP are serving as pro bono co-counsel to the BnetD programmers.

More about the BnetD case:

EFF Supporters Liberate Digital TV

Lots of people were watching television at EFF's offices this past Saturday - not on television sets, but on high-definition personal video recorders (PVRs) they built themselves. EFF hosted the digital TV build-in to celebrate the courtroom victory over the FCC's Broadcast Flag.

As the Chicago Tribune put it, "Imagine a government bureaucrat sitting on top of your television set to decide if you can record a television show to watch later." That's what the Broadcast Flag rule would have done. It gave the FCC the power to veto new TV technologies, whether created by consumer electronics manufacturers or Saturday afternoon hobbyists. By beating the flag in court, we gave manufacturers and hobbyists the right to create the hardware and software they and their customers want, to watch, record, and playback TV as they choose.

Unfortunately, the Hollywood lobbyists are already back in Washington, DC, asking Congress to give the FCC the sweeping regulatory authority it needs to impose the Broadcast Flag. If they succeed, it would open the door to the government issuing blueprints for any new technology that Hollywood considers a threat. As the Tribune reminds us, these are the same people who fought tooth-and-nail against the VCR - nearly killing what's now a cash cow.

If you haven't already, now is the time to visit the EFF Action Center and tell Congress not to break your television. Ask your representative to reject the Broadcast Flag and any other government technology mandate that would kill innovation at Hollywood's behest.

Give the Broadcast Flag a TKO:

Chicago Tribune: "High Definition Interference":

For the original version of this piece online:


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

PWN3D by the Feds
EliteTorrents this week became the target of the first-ever BitTorrent criminal bust, carried out by a division of the Department of Homeland Security:,1282,67645,00.html

Movie Revenues Near $45 Billion; Piracy Somehow Not to Blame
Worldwide revenue for major Hollywood studios is up 9% from last year to $44.8 billion. Home video, which the studios tried to ban as a dangerous copying technology, gets them $21 billion, up 10%. Foreign DVD sales - horrendously damaged by home DVD copiers and weak foreign IP regimes - rose 46%. They must be really hurting: (Hollywood Reporter)

"Compatibility Is Not the Goal"
Rick Lane of the News Corporation claims that whether the Broadcast Flag breaks people's TVs is of no concern to the entertainment industry. NBC Universal's Alec French backs him up. Not a popular stance. As Ed Felten comments, "the most dangerous place in Washington is between Americans and their televisions":

A Law to Replenish the Public Domain
Zoe Lofgren has reintroduced the Eldred-inspired legislation to let abandoned works that are still restricted by copyright back into the public domain after 50 years:

Millions of Readers and Countless Scoops? Not Good Enough
Massachusetts considers a shield law for reporters - but restricts it to old media journalists: (Media Law Blog)

Creative Commons: the Silent Killer
Billboard journalist Susan Butler uncomfortably splices the Creative Commons project with the tragic story of a musician struggling with AIDS, not-so-subtly implying that CC licensing might kill you in the end. Good thing free healthcare is a perk of the average recording industry contract these days, eh?

FTC Swats at Zombies with Oversized Broomstick
Good news: the FTC sees malware-infected zombies. Bad news: it wants to solve the problem by getting ISPs to block ports and spy on customers. How about putting a little pressure on those insecure OS manufacturers? (CNET)

The MPAA's DRM Police
The story of the MPAA's tech labs, which test - and sue - hardware manufacturers who fail to comply with CSS's license: (EE Times)


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