EFFector Vol. 18, No. 44 Dec 16, 2005
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424
In the 359thIssue of EFFector:
- PATRIOT Act Renewal Blocked in Senate!
- Huge E-voting Victory in Volusia County, Florida
- Evidentiary Hearing Set for North Carolina E-Voting Certification
- EFF Defends Prisoners' First Amendment Rights
- Good News for Music/Lyrics Fans After All?
- Help EFF Fight for Your International Digital Rights!
- Summer Legal Internships at EFF
- miniLinks (6): Who Owns Your CD/DVD Collection?
- Staff Calendar
PATRIOT Act Renewal Blocked in Senate!
It's the best holiday gift any civil libertarian could hope for: a bipartisan coalition of Senators has refused to end a filibuster that is blocking renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act. The group of Democrats and Republicans are rightly concerned that the PATRIOT renewal bill lacks meaningful checks and balances to protect civil liberties from roving wiretaps, secret search warrants, super-secret demands for private records, and the many other broad police powers that Congress granted in haste immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Many of those PATRIOT powers are set to expire on December 31st--but Congress is set to adjourn for the holidays today. If the filibuster holds, and the Administration won't accept a compromise--a short renewal of all the powers in order to give Congress a few more months to consider the issue--it appears that all of those provisions will "sunset" on schedule.
Today's Senate vote comes on the heels of a shocking story in the New York Times, which reports that President Bush allowed the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and email messages of people inside the U.S. without getting a warrant -- all in the name of fighting terrorism. There was no confirmation from the Bush administration, but congressional leaders have already condemned the warrantless surveillance, with Republican Senator Arlen Spector calling for hearings after reading the report.
The irony of this shocking revelation is that while the Administration has been arguing in the PATRIOT renewal debate against reforms to the foreign intelligence surveillance process -- a process that is severely lacking in meaningful checks and balances -- it has in fact already been bypassing that process and getting the NSA to do its dirty work with no checks and balances at all.
Now that the protection of our civil liberties is the focus of some very public scrutiny, it's time to tell your representatives in Washington how you feel -- especially as senators on both sides of the aisle say they are interested in a compromise to keep parts of the PATRIOT Act alive. Check the roll call and find out how your senators voted today. If your senators said "nay" to ending the filibuster, please write to them via our action center to give your thanks, and encourage their continued opposition to the PATRIOT renewal bill. Remind them to stay vigilant about civil liberties in any maneuvering for a last-minute deal. The fight isn't over yet, and your lawmakers should know how you feel about your civil liberties.
Check the roll call vote:
Visit our Action Center:
Huge E-voting Victory in Volusia County, Florida
Displaying political courage too rarely seen, the Volusia County Council today voted to reject Diebold's proposal for a paperless e-voting system and instead adopt a more expensive contract with competitor ES&S. This contract will eventually lead to the use of a ballot marking system that will ensure an auditable, voter-verified process.
The County Council had been subject to powerful pressure from Diebold, the National Federation of the Blind, and the state of Florida -- including threats of criminal sanctions -- to adopt Diebold's system. In July, the NFB filed suit against the Council, demanding that the County adopt the NFB's favored system even though federal accessibility requirements do not kick in until January 1st.
EFF, on behalf of several voting rights groups including the Handicapped Adults of Volusia County, filed a series of friend-of-the-court briefs opposing the NFB's suit and supporting the County's right to pursue the best possible voting system. A federal district court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the County and EFF's amicus coalition and refused to force the County to comply with the NFB's demands. In the end, after careful deliberation, the County entered into a creative contract with ES&S that will allow the County to purchase ES&S's e-voting system and trade in its paperless touchscreen machines for the Automark ballot marking system when the Automark is certified by the state of Florida.
"This is a huge victory for Volusia County," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Council chairman Frank Bruno and the other council members who voted for this contract deserve an enormous amount of credit and thanks. Volusia County voters will soon enjoy the added protection of a fully auditable voting system and not be forced to trust the reliability of paperless voting machines."
Zimmerman encouraged supporters to express their gratitude to the Council members who voted for the new contract at the emails below.
Frank Bruno: firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Giles: email@example.com
Carl Persis: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dwight Lewis: email@example.com
Evidentiary Hearing Set for North Carolina E-Voting Certification
As you may know, EFF filed suit last week on behalf of voting integrity advocate Joyce McCloy, arguing that the North Carolina Board of Elections ignored its obligation to test all electronic voting system source code before certifying those systems for use in the state. Wednesday, the judge in the case asked for further briefing on the issue and additional oral argument in a hearing set for Dec. 21.
At issue is North Carolina's tough election transparency law, which requires the Board of Elections to review all e-voting code "prior to certification." However, on Dec. 1, the board certified voting systems from Diebold Election Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Election Systems and Software without having first obtained -- let alone reviewed -- the system code.
North Carolina voters like McCloy have reason to be worried. The state suffered a serious e-voting malfunction in the 2004 presidential election, when over 4500 ballots were lost in a system provided by UniLect Corp. Meanwhile, e-voting vendors continue to hide their proprietary systems from meaningful review. So we appreciate that the judge recognized the seriousness of the issue, and we're looking forward to the hearing Wednesday.
EFF's full complaint:
EFF Defends Prisoners' First Amendment Rights
Opposes Prison Mail Ban on Materials Printed from Internet
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of Prison Legal News told a federal court Wednesday that Georgia state prisoners should be allowed to receive material printed from the Internet through the mail.
Although Georgia state prisons allow prisoners to receive handwritten letters in the mail, Georgia prison policy also includes a blanket ban on any incoming mail containing printouts from the Internet. Since prisoners cannot themselves access the Internet, Internet materials printed and mailed by family and friends are often the only way for them to receive valuable legal information, health advice, and religious materials. In a friend-of-the-court brief for a case filed by Georgia prisoner Danny Williams, EFF argues that this indiscriminate and arbitrary ban on Internet-generated materials violates prisoners' First Amendment rights. Several courts in other states have already ruled that mail policies like the one at issue here are unconstitutional.
"Georgia prisons are violating the rights of prisoners and those who correspond with them by senselessly allowing prisoners to receive handwritten mail but prohibiting printouts of material from the Internet," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "It makes no sense and serves no legitimate interest for a prison to prohibit a prisoner from receiving, for example, a printout of the latest issue of Prison Legal News, or information from the Internet about health issues like AIDS that can be life-or-death issues for prisoners."
Prison Legal News is a non-profit legal magazine, publishing monthly review and analyses of prisoner rights, prisoner-relevant legislation and court rulings, and news about general prison issues. The majority of Prison Legal News subscribers, as well as most of its writers, are currently incarcerated.
EFF was assisted in this case by attorney Sarah M. Shalf of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP in Atlanta, Georgia.
For the brief filed in this case:
For this release:
"Good News for Music/Lyrics Fans After All?"
That's the question that pearLyrics is asking on its homepage. But the cautious optimism from developer Walter Ritter comes after a rough week.
pearLyrics is software that automates the process of adding lyrics to iTunes tracks. As EFF's Fred von Lohmann outlined in his blog post Tuesday, Ritter recently received a cease & desist letter from Warner/Chappell Music. The letter claimed that Ritter was liable for copyright infringement, because he developed a tool that "enable[s] the reproduction and downloading" of song lyrics. Fred fired off a open letter in response, pointing out that while the software does not violate U.S. copyright law, if Warner/Chappell went through with its threats, it could end up in its own legal trouble.
But according to pearLyrics, the chairman and CEO of Warner/Chappell called Ritter Thursday to talk about the situation. They published a joint statement, saying they "were committed to working together to provide consumers a convenient, legal way to find accurate song lyrics."
We're looking forward to seeing what the details are, and we were glad that Fred could be of help. To quote Ritter again: "I think his open letter to Warner/Chappell was very important to clarify the legal situation."
Open letter to Warner Chappell:
Help EFF Fight for Your International Digital Rights!
Dear Effector readers,
Last week, I highlighted 15 things EFF has done over the past
year in the United States to fight for your rights. This
week, I'd like to highlight a few of the things we've been
doing on the international front:
1. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is drafting a treaty that would give broadcasters, cablecasters and webcasters broad new exclusive rights over the material they transmit even if it's in the public domain, not copyrightable, or Creative Commons licensed. EFF presented a letter from 20 webcasters opposing the treaty, produced white papers on the dangers of the proposals, blogged WIPO meeting discussions, and spearheaded a campaign to raise awareness within the U.S.
2. Having failed to convince the nations of the world to sign on to two 1996 WIPO treaties, the U.S. government is now using free trade agreements to entrench overbroad intellectual property regimes across the globe. The last eight U.S. bilateral and regional free trade agreements have included DMCA-style provisions, 70 year plus life copyright terms, and ISP liability provisions modeled on U.S. law. EFF has produced white papers analyzing the impact of these developments, implementation recommendations for trading partners that seek to protect consumers and technology innovation, and briefs for U.S. congressional members. We've also partnered with local organizations in countries currently negotiating free trade agreements to produce country-specific briefing papers in the local language and to publicize the likely detrimental impacts of these provisions.
3. Canada has been considering the world's most consumer- friendly implementation of the WIPO Internet Treaties, and EFF's work there is bent on protecting and expanding those advances. To that end, we recently launched a joint activism project with the Canadian Internet and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) called Online Rights Canada (ORC, http://OnlineRights.ca ). ORC is one of the only online activism initiatives in Canada, and it will provide EFF action center-like functionality for its users.
4. Behind the closed doors of the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) forum, an inter-industry consortium is crafting a new Digital Rights Management (DRM) standard for digital television technologies that will apply across Europe, Latin America and Australia. The DVB's Content Protection and Copy Management (CPCM) specification will be even broader than the failed U.S. Broadcast Flag, and correspondingly more dangerous both to consumers' non-infringing uses of lawfully- acquired television programming and to the future of digital television technology. EFF has fought hard for the interests of consumers and technology innovators in these standards meetings over the last 18 months. We've also filed a submission about the dangers posed by the CPCM specification with the U.K. government committee that is looking into the digital television transition.
5. Developing countries are being encouraged in many different fora to embrace DRM as the way to gain access to developed countries' information goods. EFF worked with the International Federation of Library Associations to produce a briefing paper on the dangers of DRM for developing countries that has been submitted to the International Telecommunications Union working group on DRM and has publicized these issues through library workshops in Africa.
For more information about the Electronic Frontier Foundation and all of the important work that we do, see http://www.eff.org . EFF needs your financial contributions to keep fighting for critical digital rights, so please join us at http://www.eff.org/support . We're a 501(c)(3), so your donation is tax-deductible. We sincerely appreciate your support.
Happy holidays from all of us at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Shari Steele Executive Director
Summer Legal Internships at EFF
EFF invites outstanding law students to apply for summer internship positions at our high-energy office in San Francisco. Interns assist in all aspects of litigation and advocacy, including legal research, factual investigation, and drafting of memoranda and briefs, while also helping with policy research, client counselling, and the development of public education materials. EFF's docket ranges across the technological and legal landscape, from file-sharing to electronic voting to the USA PATRIOT Act.
Summer internships are full time and last 10-12 weeks. First and second-year law students are encouraged to apply, including students enrolled in non-US schools.
miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.
Telcos Lobby for Two-Tiered Internet
Plan to swap out net neutrality for faster links, better quality-of-service, infinite power.
SF: The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction
The San Francisco media group Artists' Television Access hold a benefit with EFF alumna Annalee Newitz, PowerPoint presentation art, and neighborhood public radio.
Does Sharing Tastes Leads to a Bigger Market?
Derek Slater looks at how taste-sharing technologies can do the media's marketing work for them.
The Cultural Commons as Pic-A-Nick Basket
The New York Times (out of Furdlog) notes how Hanna Barbera remixed popular culture to create Yogi Bear.
UK Building a Database of Its Own Kids
Britain is planning a $400 million centralized database to hold details of every child in England and Wales.
Who Owns Your CD/DVD Collection?
Pulitzer-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik takes on Hollywood's attempt to control content use.
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