EFFector Vol. 19, No. 10 March 10, 2006
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424
In the 371st Issue of EFFector:
- Action Alert: Stop the RIAA's Radio Interference!
- DearAOL.com Coalition Grows From 50 Organizations to 500 in One Week
- Help EFF Spread the Word About the Sony BMG Settlement
- PATRIOT Renewal Rubber Stamped, NSA Spying May Be Next
- Consumer Alert: AdviceBox.com Isn't Anonymous Email
- Update on the WIPO Development Agenda Meetings
- Support EFF: Buy Special Superman Comics Signed by Tech Podcasters
- Bloggers' Rights Campaign -- Top Ten Winners Announced
- Come See EFF at SXSW, March 12-14
- miniLinks (9): Be More Aware!
Action Alert: Stop the RIAA's Radio Interference!
Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) has introduced a bill which, if passed, would hog-tie digital radio forever. It's called the "Audio Broadcast Flag Licensing Act of 2006," H.R. 4861, and it demands that new radio designs obey a remarkably limited, backward-looking vision of the future.
The Audio Broadcast Flag would force innovators to work to the RIAA's specifications, putting in government-mandated locks and DRM to prevent any possible "unauthorized" copying on their new digital radio sets. That's not merely banning copying that is already unlawful. The new bill would ban any use that copyright holders don't explicitly authorize beforehand.
So what would "authorized" home radio recording look like? Previous drafts and RIAA comments to the FCC give an idea. There would be no automatic recording in the RIAA's world -- recordings could only be made if a human presses the button or sets the set to record at a specific time. No broadcast could be recorded for less than 30 minutes (that's right, your manual record button would jam in the "on" position until half an hour has passed in order to assure that you're not recording single songs). You wouldn't be able to fast- forward with sound or skip directly to particular songs either.
This will send radio backwards in time, at just the moment when it was about to enter a new age. You can forget about a radio TiVo ever happening. The RIAA would ban any such innovation. It would be radio their way.
The RIAA has no right to dictate to the American people what the future of broadcasting and technological innovation should be. And the FCC is there to protect us from radio interference, not to become a tool of the RIAA's interference with our home recording rights. Tell your lawmakers to stop the audio flag.
Write to your representatives now:
For EFF's initial analysis of the bill:
Learn more about the proposed audio flag:
DearAOL.com Coalition Grows From 50 Organizations to 500 in One Week
30,000 Email Users Sign Open Letter
The DearAOL.com Coalition announced Monday it had grown tenfold from 50 organizations to more than 500 as it fights AOL's controversial plan to create a two-tiered Internet -- allowing large mass-emailers to pay to bypass AOL's spam filters.
Last week, AOL's proposed "email tax" came under fire from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of groups, including the political left and right, businesses and non-profits, charities, and Internet advocacy organizations. Less than a week later, the DearAOL.com Coalition grew to include everything from babysitting co-ops to pony clubs, from farmers' markets to biker dailies, from Hawaiian skateboard makers to church groups -- demonstrating that small, large, ordinary and extraordinary groups depend on free email delivery.
In response to the coalition's growing momentum, AOL last Friday tried to repackage its already existing "Enhanced Whitelist" as if it were a new program for nonprofits. It also tried to divide the coalition with an offer to give special email privileges to some "qualified" nonprofits while leaving other nonprofits, charities, small businesses, and even neighbors with community mailing lists behind.
Neither of these addresses the core of the problem: AOL's increased financial incentive to downgrade ordinary email delivery.
"I don't take bribes," said Gilles Frydman, Executive Director of the Association of Cancer Online Resources, a free nonprofit online service for cancer patients. "The solution is not AOL offering a few of us service for free in exchange for our silence -- the solution is preserving equal access to the free and open Internet for everyone."
"By offering to move a few of the little guys from the losers circle to the winners circle, AOL conceded the broader point of our coalition -- that AOL would create a two-tiered Internet that leaves many behind with inferior service," said Adam Green, a spokesperson for MoveOn.org Civic Action.
"Perversely, AOL's pay-to-send system would actually reward AOL financially for degrading free email for regular customers as they attempt to push people into paid-mail," said EFF Activism Coordinator Danny O'Brien. "AOL should be working to ensure its spam filters don't block legitimate mail, not charging protection money to bypass those filters and offering band-aids to allow some select nonprofits to bypass them as well."
For this release:
The DearAOL.com Coalition:
San Jose Mercury News editorial about pay-to-send email:
Help EFF Spread the Word About the Sony BMG Settlement
It's time for music fans who bought Sony BMG CDs loaded with harmful XCP or MediaMax copy protection to claim their settlement benefits: clean versions of the music, plus (in many cases) additional downloads and cash. Submitting a claim not only gets fans music that will play on their computers without restriction or security risk, it lets Sony BMG know that consumers care about this issue. And for those who have not yet protected their computers, it's long past time to download the uninstallers that will sweep that DRM off of systems and eliminate its dangerous security risks.
But Sony BMG won't be held accountable if music fans don't have an easy way to learn about the flawed software, the settlement, and how to submit claims. That's where EFF needs your help. Along with creating an easy link to the Sony BMG Settlement site, we've created several banners that also link to the site. By posting a banner on your website or blog, you can help music fans protect themselves and get what they deserve.
To get the banners:
To submit your Sony BMG settlement claim:
For litigation documents and frequently asked questions:
PATRIOT Renewal Rubber Stamped, NSA Spying May Be Next
Despite the best efforts of EFF, other civil liberties organizations, and their supporters, Americans' privacy rights took some serious body-blows from Congress this week. The USA PATRIOT Act was renewed without meaningful reform, and key Congressmen backed away from a full investigation of the NSA's domestic spying program, instead making a deal with the White House to legalize it.
Whether because of election year fears or White House pressures, Republican Senators who had been holding out for significant new checks on the PATRIOT Act dropped the fight when offered a few sham reforms. The renewal bill was then quickly approved by the Senate and, this week, approved by the House and signed by the President.
Why are the "compromise" bill's three reforms worthless? Let's take each in turn.
The bill provides a procedure for recipients of super-secret National Security Letters (NSLs) to challenge the never- ending gag orders that accompany these FBI-issued subpoenas. But the ACLU (with help from EFF) already demonstrated that these gag orders could be successfully challenged in court without a change to the law. This new "reform" actually makes things worse: under the new law, these gag orders can't be challenged at all within a year of being issued, and if the government simply tells the court that lifting the gag order will hurt national security, the government wins. We think this procedure is just as unconstitutional as the original law.
The bill didn't include a requirement that NSL recipients seeking legal advice disclose their lawyer's name to the FBI. But this "reform" simply removed something bad from one of the renewal bill's earlier versions; it didn't change the original PATRIOT Act at all.
Finally, the bill clarified that NSLs can't be served on libraries that don't provide electronic communication services. But NSLs already can't be served on libraries lacking those services.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. Senate Republicans this week stated that they had reached a deal with the White House to legalize the NSA's domestic spying program. The agreement allows government investigators to conduct warrantless wiretaps for up to 45 days before having to go to a court, even in non-emergency situations. Currently, the law only allows such surveillance without a warrant for 72 hours in emergencies and for 15 days by the Executive when war is declared. Because of this deal, an in-depth Congressional investigation of the NSA program -- what it actually involves and whether it broke the law -- has been deflected for now.
Nevertheless, this week's events shouldn't be taken as final defeats. Members of Congress who were dissatisfied with the PATRIOT bill -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- are already proposing new non-sham reforms, while the plan to legalize the NSA Program still has opponents on both sides of the aisle. EFF believes that the spying program did in fact break the law and violate the Constitution, as we have alleged in our lawsuit against AT&T for helping the NSA with this massive fishing expedition into Americans' private communications. As always, EFF will stay on the front lines and fight hard to ensure that your civil liberties are protected.
New York Times, "G.O.P. Plan Would Allow Spying Without
AP, "Bush to Sign Patriot Act Renewal":
For more on the NSA domestic spying program:
For more on EFF's suit against AT&T:
For more on the PATRIOT Act:
Consumer Alert: AdviceBox.com Isn't Anonymous Email
EFF is warning the public about a so-called anonymous email service located at Advicebox.com. Advicebox.com's tagline is "Anonymous email made easy" but this service does not provide real anonymity -- it's a trap for the unwary and should not be used by battered spouses, whistleblowers and others who need real protection.
We were alerted to the AdviceBox.com trap by someone who believed the tagline and paid to send an "anonymous," extremely critical email about a former employer. After the employer ran to court, AdviceBox.com handed the critic's name over and gave our critic less than a three days notice -- not nearly enough time to find an attorney and make a motion to protect his identity. He has lost his current job as a result.
So has AdviceBox.com violated its promise? Certainly if you look at the way this service is marketed. The Website is filled with stuff like "Send your anonymous email here!" and "What is anonymous email? The ability to send email without revealing your identity to the recipient."
But AdviceBox.com doesn't really provide anonymous email -- the small print in the terms of service make this clear. AdviceBox.com won't protect you if anyone "claims that any content violates the rights of third parties." And what critical speech isn't vulnerable to claims that it violates the rights of people being criticized? Advicebox.com will respond to "legal process" like subpoenas, but we've long seen that legal process is used to silence criticism. It's difficult to see how Advicebox.com's service is any more protective of your identity than simply choosing the name email@example.com. Most ISPs don't go around handing out their customer's identities either.
People who need real anonymity would be much better off setting up a free webmail account without giving identifying information and using Tor to hide their IP address. This will not only give them better protection, it will save them the $4.95 per month that AdviceBox.com charges.
For this post:
To learn more about Tor:
To learn more about anonymity online:
Update on the WIPO Development Agenda Meetings
For the last year, EFF has joined a group of developing nations, scholars, and public interest groups in asking the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to change the way it works. Specifically, we've been participating in meetings to establish a "Development Agenda" -- an initiative to require WIPO to consider how its work impacts development and public-interest goals. This is a vital issue for citizens across the globe, because intellectual property rules affect access to medicine and to knowledge needed for economic development. Though initially held back by several developed countries' procedural stalling, the WIPO General Assembly in late 2005 voted to continue talks in a new provisional committee and required it to produce a set of concrete recommendations by September 2006.
The committee's first meeting took place just over a week ago. The good news: unlike last year's meetings, there was serious discussion about the substance of the proposals. For instance, Chile thoughtfully suggested a study on the benefits of protecting a rich public domain and consideration of alternative incentive systems that complement intellectual property regimes, such as free and open source software development.
Now comes the hard part. The meeting ended with a comprehensive listing of the 111 proposals on the table, grouped under six headings. Between now and the next meetings on June 26-30, informal discussions between member countries will take place to try to find common ground. The next meeting must come up with specific recommendations to the WIPO General Assembly in five short days.
Though the meetings ended amidst some rancor, they featured more goodwill than in the past. Let's hope diplomacy carries over into the next round.
The Chair's summary and list of 111 proposals:
For reports and notes from the meetings:
To learn more about the WIPO Development Agenda:
Support EFF: Buy Special Superman Comics Signed by Tech Podcasters
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... superpodcasters!
Adventures of Superman issue #648 featured characters wearing clothing with logos of three popular tech podcasts, This Week in Tech (TWiT), commandN, and Hak.5. Eight copies of the comic signed by the podcasters are now being auctioned off on eBay, and all proceeds go to support EFF. The top three bidders also get some TWiT gear, including a pocket protector signed by the show's hosts and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.
Thanks to G4's Call for Help for putting together this fundraiser.
For the auction:
Bloggers' Rights Campaign -- Top Ten Winners Announced
EFF would like to thank ten very special blogs that helped us launch our Bloggers' Rights Campaign: Boing Boing, Crooked Timber, Daily Kos, Dashes, Eschaton, Gripelog, Life Hacker, LiveJournal, Scott Rosenberg's Links and Comment, and Slashdot.
These blogs helped raised the most money for EFF by posting our Bloggers' Rights button in a permanent place on their blogs, writing about the launch of our campaign, and encouraging others to get involved and support EFF.
Bloggers everywhere can still support EFF's Bloggers' Rights
Campaign by posting a badge. Find our more information as
well as the links to all of the winning blogs here:
Come See EFF at SXSW, March 12-14
miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.
Be More Aware!
This was Copyright Awareness Week, as if tech consumers aren't being made aware of the hard edges of copyright every day.
U.S. Grants Patent for AJAX
Will Web 2.0 grow successful enough to attract patent trolls?
How to Put Your DVDs on Your iPod
Wired magazine bravely tells you how to circumvent a technological protection measure.
The Economics of Freeloading on Wireless Networks
Is it bad for the Wi-Fi owner? Is it bad for ISPs? What should be done?
Startup Trades on First Sale Doctrine
Renting CDs isn't allowed under U.S. law -- but can you enable the trading of used CDs?
ABC News: "Congress Renews Patriot Act; Bush to Sign"
Nail-biting to the end: two more votes against would have killed it.
You're not Allowed to Photograph That
EFF reveals our non-disclosure agreement to the technologists at this year's Emerging Technology conference.
"Another Lousy DRMed Product"
Tim Lee deconstructs the problems behind the famously bad New Yorker CD DRM.
Broadcast Flag -- Not This Year?
The chair of the House Commerce Committee says he doesn't expect a flag law to appear in 2006.
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