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EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 4 - Action Alert: Stop Congress from Mandating Secret Technology!

EFFector       Vol. 19, No. 4       January 27, 2006

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 365th Issue of EFFector:


Action Alert: Stop Congress from Mandating Secret Technology!

The Digital Transition Content Security Act (H.R.4569) - or Analog Hole bill - would force every video player or recorder with an analog output in America to watch for and obey a proprietary signal embedded in video broadcasts called a VEIL watermark. But how would such a detector work? What would be its cost? And how secure is the watermark? Security researchers don't know - because the company behind VEIL won't let them look at the technology without first obtaining a "license." A license to examine the VEIL specification costs $10,000 and requires signing a non-disclosure agreement that forbids revealing the details of the technology to others. Congress is choosing a technology that must be built into your systems, and it's not giving non-entertainment industry experts the opportunity to check out the technology first to make sure it doesn't break your systems, or, even worse, leave those systems vulnerable to attack.

A technology that is a basic component in almost every audio- visual device, from camcorders to VCRs to TV cards - analog- to-digital (A/D) converters - is about to be encumbered with mysterious and proprietary black box watermark technology. Congress is highly unqualified to mandate specific technologies for us; tech mandates like this are even more dangerous when there's no chance for independent review.

Oversight is impossible when third parties hold the keys to the law. Write to your Representative now, and demand that Congress reject outright this bill with its undisclosed, proprietary provisions.

Visit our Action Center now:
http://action.eff.org/site/Advocacy?id=207

Full text of the bill:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:h4569:

Ed Felten's attempts to examine VEIL:
http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=958


Supreme Court Tackles Dangerous Patent Ruling

EFF Asks Justices to Consider Critical Free-Speech Implications

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court Thursday, asking justices to overturn a court ruling in a patent case with dangerous implications for free speech and consumers' rights. The Public Patent Foundation, the American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, and the Special Library Association joined EFF on the brief.

At issue is a case involving online auctioneer eBay and a company called MercExchange. Last year, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that eBay violated MercExchange's online auction patents and that eBay could be permanently enjoined, or prohibited, from using the patented technology. But as part of the ruling, the court came to a perilous conclusion, holding that patentees who prove their case have a right to permanent injunctions under all but "exceptional circumstances," like a major public health crisis. This radical rule created an "automatic injunction" standard that ignored the traditional balancing and discretion used by judges to consider how such a decision might affect other public interests--including free speech online.

"As more and more people use software and Internet technology to express themselves online, the battle over software patents has grave implications for online speech," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Courts must work harder than ever to ensure that technologies like blogs, email, online video, and instant messaging remain free and available to the public."

The lower court's ruling stems in part from a misperception that patents are just like other forms of property, with the same rights and remedies. However, Supreme Court rulings have repeatedly emphasized that patents are a unique form of property, designed to achieve a specific public purpose: the promotion of scientific and industrial progress.

"Part of the court's duty in patent cases is to make sure that the system helps the public's right to free speech instead of hurting it," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "If this ruling is allowed to stand, courts won't be able to do what's right."

For the full brief:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/ebay_v_mercexchange/eff_amicus_brief.pdf

For more on patents and how bad law can hurt the public:
http://www.eff.org/patent

For this release:
http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2006_01.php#004346


Nevada Court Rules Google Cache Is Fair Use

Important Milestone for Digital Copyright Law

San Francisco - A federal district court in Nevada has ruled that Google does not violate copyright law when it copies websites, stores the copies, and transmits them to Internet users as part of its Google Cache feature. The ruling clarifies the legal status of several common search engine practices and could influence future court cases, including the lawsuits brought by book publishers against the Google Library Project. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was not involved in the case but applauds last week's ruling for clarifying that fair use covers new digital uses of copyrighted materials.

Blake Field, an author and attorney, brought the copyright infringement lawsuit against Google after the search engine automatically copied and cached a story he posted on his website. Google responded that its Google Cache feature, which allows Google users to link to an archival copy of websites indexed by Google, does not violate copyright law. The court agreed, holding that the Cache qualifies as a fair use of copyrighted material.

"This ruling makes it clear that the Google Cache is legal and clears away copyright questions that have troubled the entire search engine industry," said Fred von Lohmann, EFF senior staff attorney. "The ruling should also help Google in defending against the lawsuit brought by book publishers over its Google Library Project, as well as assisting organizations like the Internet Archive that rely on caching."

Field v. Google ruling:
http://www.eff.org/IP/blake_v_google/google_nevada_order.pdf

For this release:
http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2006_01.php#004345


MPAA: Copying Movies OK for Our Families, Not Yours

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) made unauthorized copies of a new documentary, This Film Not Yet Rated, that is critical of the organization.

The copies were apparently made when the film was submitted for an MPAA rating. The film got an NC-17, a somewhat ironic outcome for a film that exposes the unfairness of the MPAA ratings system.

The MPAA made the copies because they "were concerned about the raters and their families," according to Kori Bernards, the MPAA's vice president for corporate communications. The identities of the MPAA ratings board have been a closely guarded secret, at least until This Film Not Yet Rated did some amateur detective work to sniff them out. Now that the word is out, the MPAA apparently is afraid for "their families"?

So copying movies is OK when it's done to protect the families of the MPAA ratings board, but not OK when it's done to protect the families of movie fans. After all, the MPAA and its members have said it's "theft" and "piracy" for you to copy your own DVDs -- whether to make a back-up copy to protect your DVDs from being scratched by your toddler; or to edit out the annoying, unskippable commercials that open many DVDs; or to skip strong language, nudity, and violence that you think is inappropriate for your family.

Complete Los Angeles Times story:
http://www.latimes.com/business/custom/cotown/cl-et-mpaa24jan24,0,2188275.story


Nominate a Pioneer for EFF's 2006 Pioneer Awards!

EFF established the Pioneer Awards to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. This is your opportunity to nominate a deserving individual or group to receive a Pioneer Award for 2006.

The International Pioneer Awards nominations are open both to individuals and organizations from any country. Nominations are reviewed by a panel of judges chosen for their knowledge of the technical, legal, and social issues associated with information technology.

This year's award ceremony will be held in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference (CFP), which takes place in early May.

How to Nominate Someone for a 2006 Pioneer Award:

You may send as many nominations as you wish, but please use one email per nomination. Please submit your entries via email to pioneer@eff.org. We will accept nominations until February 1, 2006.

Simply tell us:
1. The name of the nominee; 2. The phone number or email address or website by which the nominee can be reached, and, most importantly; and 3. Why you feel the nominee deserves the award.

Nominee Criteria:

There are no specific categories for the EFF Pioneer Awards, but the following guidelines apply:

  1. The nominees must have contributed substantially to the health, growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications.
  2. To be valid, all nominations must contain your reason, however brief, for nominating the individual or organization and a means of contacting the nominee. In addition, while anonymous nominations will be accepted, ideally we'd like to contact the nominating parties in case we need further information.
  3. The contribution may be technical, social, economic, or cultural.
  4. Nominations may be of individuals, systems, or organizations in the private or public sectors.
  5. Nominations are open to all (other than current members of EFF's staff and executive board or this year's award judges), and you may nominate more than one recipient. You may also nominate yourself or your organization.
  6. Persons or representatives of organizations receiving an EFF Pioneer Award will be invited to attend the ceremony at EFF's expense.

More on the EFF Pioneer Awards:
http://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer/


Staff Calendar

For a complete listing of EFF speaking engagements (with locations and times), please visit the full calendar:
http://www.eff.org/calendar/

February 1
Ren Bucholz speaking at Hamilton Linux Users Group in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada at 7pm
http://hamilton.linux.ca/viewtopic.php?p=232

February 2
Ren Bucholz speaking at Social Tech Brewing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 6pm
http://www.socialinnovation.ca/space/


miniLinks

miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

NSA Watch
The ACLU relaunches its informational surveillance network mini-site.
http://www.nsawatch.org/

Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists
How to data-mine with a few scripts and a lot of publicly available data.
http://www.applefritter.com/bannedbooks

Reality Mining
MIT data-mining experiment shows just how much you can learn from a sprinkling of traffic data.
http://reality.media.mit.edu/

Berlind, Neuros Fight Against Analog Hole Plugging
The ZDNet editor and CEO of consumer tech company point out how any new legislation would kill tech innovation and raise prices.
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=2321

L.A. Times on the Analog Hole Law
"As Sony BMG learned ... unanticipated glitches can inflict more than enough pain to offset any reduction in illegal copying."
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-analog30dec30,0,5786724.story?coll=la-home-oped

Our Tunes
The Guardian on how UK indy music makers are using the net to bypass the labels and make money for themselves.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/filmandmusic/story/0,16373,1672793,00.html

Canadian Copygraft Scandal Grows
Michael Geist continues the investigation into money paid to MP Sam Bulte, Canada's strong copyright advocate in parliament.
http://www.michaelgeist.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1058


Administrivia

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Editor:
Rebecca Jeschke, Media Coordinator
rebecca@eff.org

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