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EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 32 - Action Alert - Stop Senator Stevens' Digital Restrictions Bill!


EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 32 - Action Alert - Stop Senator Stevens' Digital Restrictions Bill!

EFFector Vol. 19, No. 32; August 30, 2006

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424

In the 393rd Issue of EFFector:

effector: n, Computer Sci. A device for producing a desired change.

Action Alert - Stop Senator Stevens' Digital Restrictions Bill!

You may know Ted Stevens as the 82-year old Senator who infamously explained that the Internet "isn't a truck.... It's a series of tubes." Unfortunately, the latest version of his telecom reform bill is even worse than his talent for metaphor. Hollywood and Net censors have larded his proposal with severe restrictions on your digital freedoms. Stevens is pushing to get the votes to take his bill through the Senate before the November elections. Tell your Senator to stand against it now:

Hollywood has slipped its long-desired broadcast and audio flag government mandates into the bill, giving it and federal bureaucrats a veto over new digital media devices. By doing so, the entertainment industry hope to take away your ability to make lawful uses of audio and video content. Meanwhile, in an attempt to limit access to "sexually explicit" material, Net censors have sneaked in a dangerous provision that would allow the imprisonment of webmasters who don't litter their sites with burdensome, inappropriate warning labels.

Even worse, these provisions won't meaningfully serve any legitimate purposes. The flags won't stop "Internet piracy," no matter how crippled TVs and radios get. And the web labeling provisions won't impact the majority of adult websites because they are hosted outside the United States and won't stop anyone from accessing pornography.

Write to your Senator now and tell them to get these damaging provisions out of the bill, and stop Senator Stevens' restricting your digital freedoms. Take action now:

For more on the bill:

EFF Sues Barney the Dinosaur to Defend Online Free Speech

Lawsuit Fights Baseless Copyright, Trademark Threats

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked a federal court last week to protect the free speech rights of a website publisher who has suffered years of baseless legal threats over his parody of the Barney and Friends television show.

Since 2002, the Lyons Partnership has repeatedly sent meritless cease-and-desist letters to Stuart Frankel because his website pokes fun at Barney the purple dinosaur, the well-known children's television character. Dr. Frankel, assisted by EFF, responded to these letters in 2002 and 2005, but Barney's lawyers have continued to harass him. The lawsuit filed by Dr. Frankel asks the court to finally resolve the matter by declaring that his parody does not infringe Barney's copyright or trademark rights.

"Barney's lawyers are sending out intimidating lawyer letters to parody websites that are clearly protected by the First Amendment and fair use," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "It's time for Barney to call off his lawyer armies and get back to entertaining children."

Barney's lawyers have a history of using copyright and trademark laws as a pretext for censorship. In fact, EFF itself received such a warning in 2001 after archiving a copy of a different Barney parody on its site.

"The misuse of intimidating cease-and-desist letters for censorship is a growing problem online," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "We hope this lawsuit sends a message to Barney's owners and other corporations to think twice before sending baseless threat letters."

EFF has long defended digital artists' rights to build upon other creative works. During the 2004 election campaign, EFF helped protect JibJab Media, Inc., and its animation "This Land" after Ludlow Music claimed the work infringed the copyright of Woody Guthrie's song "This Land Is Your Land."

EFF is being assisted in this case by Elizabeth Rader, an attorney with the San Francisco office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP, which is defending Dr. Frankel's free speech rights on a pro bono basis.

For the full complaint:

For more on Barney's copyright abuses:

For this release:

Microsoft DRM Hack Surfaces

Last week, a tool called FairUse4WM for evading Windows Media DRM has been made widely-available online. Perhaps at the major record labels' behest, Microsoft has reportedly responded with a patch, frustrating customers who want to make legitimate use of music acquired through Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music Unlimited, and other subscription "rental" services.

That obviously harms music fans, but how does it impact those online music businesses? In an open letter to Microsoft, tech site Engadget makes the case for why the services should celebrate FairUse4WM:

"We're big fans of the subscription services [which currently use Microsoft DRM] ... but let's face facts: the damn things don't work very well. It's pretty easy to download tracks, but it's a serious pain in the ass to successfully transfer them to a portable device.... [W]e get tons of emails from consumers complaining about how hard it is to get Napster, Rhapsody, Yahoo Music Unlimited, etc. tracks on to their players, or, god forbid, Macs.

"Are a lot of people going to pay $15 to sign up for a subscription service, download a ton of music, and then cancel a month later? Absolutely, but that's not a big deal. Those people were never, ever going to sign up for a service that offers locked down music anyway, so be happy that you squeezed any money out of them at all. (Yeah, this does make it tougher to offer free, unlimited trials, but that's not the end of the world.) Could those same people then put all the music they've just downloaded up on the P2P networks? Sure, but all that music is available there anyway, so it shouldn't make a bit of difference in the grand scheme of things."

Well said -- the DRM doesn't do anything to stop music "pirates," but it does discourage potential customers from ever using licensed music services. Yahoo! Unlimited has openly stated that they want to do away with DRM -- let's hope the major record labels get a clue and make it so.

For the Engadget open letter:

For this post:


The week's noteworthy news, compressed.

AOL Goes From Badware to Worseware
As AOL's servers give out your search terms, its client takes control of your computer without permission. What's not to like?

Barney's Last Gasp
New York Times sees our case as the final straw for the purple dinosaur.

Boomtime for Biometrics Manufacturers
Tech companies eye $8 billion in government ID contracts.

IGF IP workshop
IP Justice, EFF, and CPTech, eFIL, ask the Internet Governance Forum to look at impact of overbroad IP on the Internet.

Preemptive Cease and Desists bad for ... Lawyers?
American Lawyer looks at the media outrage that bad publicity blanket C&D letters gather.

Free Wi-Fi - Just No Free Speech
Culver City, home of the film studios, starts filtering its free muni wi-fi

Or Constitutional Rights
... while its terms of service declare you've waived your First Amendment rights.

Press Here to Waste Police Time
MSN Messenger apps will have a one-click "report sex offender" button in the UK.

Give us Your Poor, Your Huddled Personal Information
Michael Chertoff asks our "European allies" to hand over their citizens' personal data to the US.


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Derek Slater, Activist

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