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EFFector - Volume 20, Issue 12 - Action Alert - Tell Congress to Update the Freedom of Information Act!


EFFector - Volume 20, Issue 12 - Action Alert - Tell Congress to Update the Freedom of Information Act!

EFFector Vol. 20, No. 12  March 21, 2007

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

In the 418th Issue of EFFector:
  • Action Alert - Tell Congress to Update the Freedom of Information Act!
  • DMCA Abuser Apologizes for Takedown Campaign
  • "Free Speech Ain't Free" Benefit in San Francisco on Thursday, March 22
  • EFF's Pioneer Awards and More at ETech Next Week
  • Google's New Plan to "Anonymize" Search Logs: A Good First Step, But More Is Needed
  • RIAA to Universities: Help Us Threaten Your Students
  • PATRIOT Act Apologist Site Didn't Get the Memo
  • GoDaddy, Get a Backbone and Protect Your Users' Rights!
  • Students Coders: Get Paid to Improve Tor and Protect Privacy Online!
  • At ShmooCon? Play the Hacker Arcade and Donate to EFF
  • miniLinks (11): Deutsche Telecom Ditches DRM
  • Administrivia

For more information on EFF activities & alerts:

Make a donation and become an EFF member today!

Tell a friend about EFF:

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

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* Action Alert - Tell Congress to Update the Freedom of 
Information Act!

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) helps protect the 
public's right to know, and new legislation would provide 
some much-needed updates to this crucial law. One open 
government bill has already passed the House -- make sure a 
similar one passes in the Senate:

H.R. 1309 and S. 849 give federal agencies, like the FBI 
and the FCC, greater incentive to follow the law and make 
it easier for all FOIA requesters to access government 
documents. Among other reforms, the bills will help 
government watchdogs keep track of FOIA requests they've 
sent and ensure that more journalist requesters get 
preferred treatment under the law. The bills will also 
penalize agencies that don't respond to requests within the 
time limits set by the FOIA.

Revelations about the secret NSA spying program, the FBI's 
misuse of a key PATRIOT Act power, and other privacy-
invasive initiatives clearly demonstrate the importance of 
government transparency. EFF's FOIA Litigation for 
Accountable Government (FLAG) project relies on FOIA to 
expose the government's expanding use of new technologies 
that invade Americans' privacy, and these bills would 
greatly help in our and other organizations' efforts to 
protect your rights. 

Take action now:

Line Noise, EFF's occasional podcast, is back with a new 
edition featuring David Sobel, EFF Senior Attorney and 
director of our FLAG project. He talks about uncovering the 
secrets behind National Security Letters, government data 
mining, and exactly how big the FBI's file on the CIA is. 
You can find download and RSS links here:

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* DMCA Abuser Apologizes for Takedown Campaign

Michael Crook Agrees to Stop Attacks on Free Speech

San Francisco - Michael Crook, the man behind a string of 
meritless online copyright complaints, has agreed to 
withdraw those complaints, take a copyright law course, and 
apologize for interfering with the free speech rights of 
his targets.

The agreement settles a lawsuit against Crook filed by the 
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of Jeff 
Diehl, the editor of the Internet magazine 10 Zen Monkeys. 
Diehl was forced to modify an article posted about Crook's 
behavior in a fake sex-ad scheme after Crook sent baseless 
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices, 
claiming to be the copyright holder of an image used in the 
story. In fact, the image was from a Fox News program and 
legally used as part of commentary on Crook. But Crook 
repeated his claims and then attempted to use the same 
process to get the image removed from other websites 
reporting on his takedown campaign.

"Crook's legal threats interfered with legitimate debate 
about his controversial online behavior," said EFF Staff 
Attorney Jason Schultz. "Public figures must not be allowed 
to use bogus copyright claims to squelch speech."

In addition to withdrawing current complaints against Diehl 
and every other target of his takedown campaign and taking 
a copyright law course, Crook has also agreed to limit any 
future DMCA notices to works authored or photographed by 
himself or his wife, or where the copyright was 
specifically assigned to him. All future notices must also 
include a link to EFF information on his case, as well as 
the settlement agreement. Crook has also recorded a video 
statement to apologize and publicize the dangers of abusing 
copyright law.

"We're pleased that Crook has taken responsibility for his 
egregious behavior," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne 
McSherry. "Hopefully, this will set a precedent to prevent 
future abuse of the law by those who dislike online news-
reporting and criticism."

The settlement with Michael Crook is part of EFF's ongoing 
campaign to protect online free speech from the chilling 
effects of bogus intellectual property claims. EFF recently 
filed suit against the man who claims to have created the 
popular line dance "The Electric Slide" for misusing 
copyright law to remove an online documentary video that 
included footage of people trying to do the dance.

For the video statement from Michael Crook:

For more on Diehl v. Crook:

For this press release:

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* "Free Speech Ain't Free" Benefit in San Francisco on 
Thursday, March 22

If you're in the Bay Area, celebrate your free speech 
rights and support EFF on Thursday, March 22, at "Free 
Speech Ain't Free." The event is being thrown at Club Six 
by, EFF's client in the now-settled suit 
against Michael Crook. More details here:

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* EFF's Pioneer Awards and More at ETech Next Week

Heading to San Diego for the O'Reilly Emerging Technology 
Conference (ETech) next week? Then join EFF in honoring 
Yochai Benkler, Cory Doctorow, and Bruce Schneier at the 
16th annual Pioneer Awards. The fundraiser will also 
feature HDNet Chairman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark 
Cuban and EFF's own Fred von Lohmann squaring off over 
copyright, YouTube, and the future of Web 2.0. 

Awarded every year since 1991, the Pioneer Awards recognize 
leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the 
electronic frontier.

This year, the Pioneer Awards ceremony will be held in 
conjunction with ETech at San Diego's Manchester Grand 
Hyatt on Tuesday March 27th, 2007. The event begins at 7:30 

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards ceremony and Mark Cuban's 
keynote address are $35. You can buy your ticket in advance

For more information about the 2007 Pioneer Awards:

The 2007 Pioneer Awards ceremony is sponsored by:

Gold sponsor Sling Media:

Silver sponsor: Three Rings

Bronze sponsors: Six Apart, JibJab, MOG, Stamen Design.

That's not all EFF will be up to at ETech. Come to our 
Birds of a Feather session, "Is That Even Legal? Tap the 
EFF," Monday, March 26, from 9:15 p.m. until 10:15 p.m. in 
room Douglas A. EFF lawyers and activists will be on hand 
to chat and take your questions about the law's impact on 
emerging technologies:
EFF will also have a booth in the exhibit hall -- stop by 
to chat and grab some schwag!

Exhibit Hall Hours:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007
10:15AM - 11:30AM
12:30PM - 2:15PM
3:30PM - 4:30PM
6:00PM - 7:30PM (Sponsor Reception)  

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
10:15AM - 11:30AM
12:30PM - 2:15PM
3:30PM - 4:30PM

About ETech and O'Reilly Media

For the past five years, the O'Reilly Emerging Technology 
Conference has found new networked innovations before they 
hit the mainstream. ETech balances pie-in-the-sky 
theorizing with practical, real-world information and 
conversation. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of 
innovators through its books, online services, magazines, 
and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly has been a chronicler 
and catalyst of leading-edge development, homing in on the 
technology trends that really matter. 

For more about ETech:

For more information about O'Reilly:

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* Google's New Plan to "Anonymize" Search Logs: A Good 
First Step, But More Is Needed

After years of criticism from EFF and other privacy 
advocates, last week Google announced a new policy on how 
it handles logs of its users' searches: after 18-24 months, 
it will delete key information in its server logs that 
could be used to link particular users to records of their 
search queries.

This is a big change from Google's previous policy, which 
was essentially to keep all of those logs forever in 
identifiable form, and we're certainly glad to see that 
Google is starting to limit its retention of such sensitive 
data. Your Google search history can paint an intimate 
portrait of your most private interests and concerns. 
Particularly in light of the disastrous AOL search terms 
disclosure, recent scandals involving government 
surveillance, and Google's own recent court fight with the 
government over a subpoena for search records, it seems 
that Google has finally realized that limiting the 
retention of such records is essential to protecting your 

Hopefully, Google's change in policy will spur other online 
service providers to consider how they can minimize the 
amount of personal data that they store, and perhaps even 
prompt competition between service providers to offer the 
most privacy-protective services. However, we hope that 
this new announcement is only Google's first step in 
changing its privacy practices, because additional changes 
would better protect user privacy and set an even better 
example for the industry:

    * Google should shorten the retention period for 
identifiable logs to six months at the outside, and ideally 
to only thirty days (which is AOL's retention limit for 
similar logs). Barring this, it should at least justify why 
it needs such records for up to two years, beyond offering 
one-sentence platitudes about how such records are used to 
improve Google's service.
    * Google should also shorten the retention of the 
"anonymized" logs, which Google apparently still intends to 
keep forever. As Google itself admits, the new policy 
changes still don't guarantee users' anonymity, and holding 
onto those records indefinitely still poses a serious 
privacy threat.
    * Therefore, Google should consider more robust 
anonymization techniques, up to and including scrubbing 
entire IP addresses rather than just the last quarter or 
"octet" of such addresses.
    * Finally, Google should expand its new anonymization 
policy to include the search records of users with Google 
Account log-ins, and to records generated by their myriad 
other services, rather than limiting the policy change to 
regular search logs.

Beyond making these additional policy changes, there's one 
more thing that Google should be doing--something we think 
it actually has a duty to do as a good corporate citizen 
and as a preeminent Internet powerhouse--and that is using 
its considerable political clout to fight for better 
Internet privacy laws on Capitol Hill. Right now, there are 
significant questions as to whether or how Internet search 
logs are protected by existing federal privacy laws, and 
Google owes it to its customers to publicly advocate for 
updating those laws for the 21st century.

For this post and related links:

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* RIAA to Universities: Help Us Threaten Your Students

Not content with wasting universities' resources via their 
usual tactics -- i.e., flooding them with machine-generated 
complaints about file sharing -- the major record labels 
are now demanding that universities help them shake down 

The RIAA has asked universities and colleges to forward 
"pre-lawsuit" letters to alleged filesharers that promise a 
"discounted" settlement price if the student agrees to pay 
up immediately. Forwarding the letters saves the RIAA the 
trouble and expense of filing a lawsuit to obtain students' 
contact information -- a savings that may be redirected to 
more lawsuits.

To add insult to injury, the letters advise students to 
contact the RIAA if they have any questions. It's safe to 
say that the RIAA is unlikely to give students the full 
picture. For example, will the RIAA tell students that 
parents are generally not liable for infringements 
committed by their kids, or that the record labels 
sometimes sue the wrong people? Probably not.

We think students should seek out less biased sources of 
information -- and their institutions should assist in that 
process. Toward that end, we've put together a short FAQ to 
help students learn more about their options; we hope 
colleges and universities that forward the RIAA's threat 
letter will take the additional step of directing students 
to this FAQ as well as other neutral information sources:

The University of Wisconsin is refusing to forward the pre-
litigation letters to its students. Says Brian Rust of UW's 
IT department: "These settlement letters are an attempt to 
short circuit the legal process to rely on universities to 
be their legal agent." We couldn't have said it better 

Of course, the RIAA should not be putting universities in 
this perverse position in the first place. Let academic 
institutions stick with their real mission -- educating 
students, not helping to threaten them.

Take action now to help stop the lawsuit campaign:

For this post and related links:

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* PATRIOT Act Apologist Site Didn't Get the Memo

The Department of Justice (DoJ) Inspector General's office 
recently released a damning report documenting the FBI 
abusing its powers under the PATRIOT Act and violating the 
law to collect Americans' telephone, Internet, financial, 
credit, and other personal records without judicial 

It appears that not everyone at the DoJ got the memo. The 
DoJ's Life and Liberty website, a site dedicated to 
defending the honor of the PATRIOT Act during the re-
authorization process last spring, still reads as if 
nothing has changed. Particularly in the light of the newly 
revealed truth, many of the quotes now seem (at best) 

Under the headline of "Examining the Facts," the DoJ 
asserts that PATRIOT has a "four-year track record with no 
verified civil liberties abuses." The site quotes an op-ed 
by former House Judiciary Committee Chairman James 

"Zero. That's the number of substantiated USA PATRIOT Act 
civil liberties violations. Extensive congressional 
oversight found no violations. Six reports by the Justice 
Department's independent Inspector General, who is required 
to solicit and investigate any allegations of abuse, found 
no violations."

Wow, that sure sounds good. Unfortunately, the new report 
reveals that it is simply not true: the inspector general 
identifies dozens of instances in which extra-judicial 
demands for personal information -- known as National 
Security Letters -- may have violated laws and agency 

Read on for some more choice excerpts:

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* GoDaddy, Get a Backbone and Protect Your Users' Rights!

A few weeks back, we wrote about how domain name registrar 
GoDaddy took offline based merely on an 
informal request and without providing any meaningful 
notice to the site's operator. Unfortunately, this isn't 
the only instance in which GoDaddy has carelessly ignored 
its users' rights.

In February, EFF was contacted by an anonymous owner of a 
parody and criticism website forum that allegedly exposes 
the financial corruption and domestic scandal of a local 
politician in Birmingham, Alabama. As part of a civil case 
in family court, an attorney representing the politician's 
girlfriend issued a subpoena to GoDaddy seeking the 
identity of the website owner, who was not a party to the 

With the website owner's right to anonymous speech on the 
line, what did GoDaddy do? It caved without any apparent 
hesitation, providing its customer with a mere three days 
to find a lawyer and decide whether to file a challenge. 
GoDaddy also refused to provide a copy of the subpoena, 
which included essential information to determine whether 
and how to respond.

GoDaddy promises in its privacy policy to turn over 
customers' information only if required by law, but its 
lawyers didn't give this subpoena even a shred of scrutiny. 
Had they done so, they could have seen it was clearly 
invalid -- GoDaddy is located in Arizona and Alabama state 
law doesn't permit a subpoena to be issued on someone out 
of state. That was the ultimate conclusion of the state 
judge who eventually quashed the subpoena, no thanks to 

Even putting aside this aspect of GoDaddy's casual 
disregard for its customer's interests, the company's 
behavior is shameful. The First Amendment limits the 
ability of litigants to pierce a speaker's anonymity, 
particularly when that person isn't even being sued. 
GoDaddy owes its customers meaningful notice, time, and 
information so that they can fight back and protect their 

With the help of lawyer Lewis Page, the anonymous website 
operator did manage to move to quash before it was too 
late. But GoDaddy's sloppy practices still put an unfair 
burden on this user and continue to threaten all of its 
customers' rights.

For what online service providers ought to do to protect 
their users, check out our best practice guide:

For this post and related links:

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* Students Coders: Get Paid to Improve Tor and Protect 
Privacy Online!

Are you a student who knows how to write code or find 
security holes?  Want to get paid to spend a summer working 
to defend anonymity online? Thanks to Google's Summer of 
Code, the Tor Project, in collaboration with EFF, has 
positions for several students as full-time developers for 
the summer of 2007. Apply for your spot before March 24, 
and help improve this anonymous Internet communication 
tool! More details at:

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* At ShmooCon? Play the Hacker Arcade and Donate to EFF

ShmooCon is an annual East Coast hacker convention, and if 
you're heading there next week, check out the Hacker 
Arcade. It's arcade games just you remember them: play 
modded consoles, receive cryptographically secure tokens, 
and obtain prizes. And all proceeds go to EFF.

For more details:

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* miniLinks
The week's noteworthy news, compressed.

~ Deutsche Telecom Ditches DRM
Musicload, its European music download site says it is in 
negotiations to develop alternatives to copy restrictions 
because a whopping 75% of user complaints come from DRM!

~ Lessig: "Make Way for Copyright Chaos"
Is the judiciary taking too central a role in copyright 

~ The Case Against YouTube, by a Viacom Lawyer
"And, above all, copyright law can welcome only those with 
pure motives," says a lawyer for the infamously pure 
entertainment industry.,0,7632194.story

~ Is the Internet Killing the Piracy Business?
Physical pirates suffer challenges to their business model 
from non-commercial infringers.

~ FBI Had Phone Contracts With AT&T, Verizon and MCI
FBI paid the telcos to harvest phone records from American 

~ Europe's Broadcast Flag: Will it Get Government Support?
Ars Technica analyzes our report on copy controls in the 
European digital video standards.

~ Data Retention Begins its Feature Creep
UK plans to check stored phone records after accidents to 
detect illegal cell phone use while driving.

~ Asus Puts the "Analog Hole" to Good Use
Its new sound-card will play PC sound internally, and re-
record it instantaneously.

~ Sony Exec: DRM Should Be "Invisible"
Like the rootkit was invisible to its unsuspecting hosts?

~ The Smart Card Alliance Thinks Privacy Is Bunk
"Privacy concerns are all perception and hype and no 
substance," says spokesman in response to REAL ID worries. 
Nice to see industry taking the problems so seriously.

~ Consumer Electronics Association: DRM Is Not the Answer 
to Piracy
The CEA's Gary Shapiro tells SXSW that "innovation is a 
tide that raises all boats."

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* Administrivia

EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
454 Shotwell Street
San Francisco CA 94110-1914 USA
+1 415 436 9333 (voice)
+1 415 436 9993 (fax)	

Derek Slater, Activism Coordinator	

Membership & donation queries:

General EFF, legal, policy, or online resources queries:

Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is 
encouraged. Signed articles do not necessarily represent 
the views of EFF. To reproduce signed articles 
individually, please contact the authors for their express 
Press releases and EFF announcements & articles may be 
reproduced individually at will.

Current and back issues of EFFector are available via the 
Web at:

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