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EFFector - Volume 20, Issue 17 - Government Feels the Heat at National ID Town Hall


EFFector - Volume 20, Issue 17 - Government Feels the Heat at National ID Town Hall

EFFector Vol. 20, No. 17  May 3, 2007

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

In the 422nd Issue of EFFector:
  • Government Feels the Heat at National ID Town Hall
  • Bush Admin. Pushes Spying Bill at Key Senate Hearing
  • Proposed Bill Aims to Save Music Webcasters
  • Anti-Consumer European Directive Slips Through, Fight to Continue
  • Another Misguided Spyware Bill Moves Forward
  • HD-DVD Key Cease-and-Desist Campaign: A Legal Primer
  • Putting Presidential Debates in the Creative Commons
  • The Great Firewall of Utah (and Banning Open Wi-Fi)
  • Ohio University Restricts All P2P File Sharing Software
  • "Google Government" Movement Spreads to the States
  • Support EFF: New Bloggers' Rights Shirts Now Available
  • EFF at Maker Faire, May 19-20
  • miniLinks (10): Copyrighting Religion
  • Administrivia

For more information on EFF activities & alerts:

Make a donation and become an EFF member today!

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 Government Feels the Heat at National ID Town Hall

Despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security 
(DHS) provided a mere eight days notice about the one and 
only national town hall on REAL ID, the public made its 
opposition loud and clear. Nearly every speaker at the four 
hour event on Tuesday in Davis, CA, criticized the privacy-
invasive mandate, which would force states to standardize 
drivers' licenses and create massive, interlinked databases 
of your personal information.

We need to keep up the pressure. It's not too late to voice 
your opposition -- get your comments to DHS before the May 
8 deadline:

DHS still hasn't gotten the message that REAL ID is 
fundamentally flawed. Time and again during the meeting, 
officials defended REAL ID by saying it was necessary for 
national security. But participants at the meeting weren't 
buying it. As one computer science Ph.D. student pointed 
out in his comment, REAL ID "solves the wrong problem," 
because IDs do nothing to stop those who haven't already 
been identified as threats. REAL ID also won't prevent 
wrongdoers from creating fake documents. As the Cato 
Institute's Jim Harper explained in recent testimony before 
Congress, a basic analysis using even very generous 
assumptions shows that the benefit of REAL ID doesn't even 
come close to the cost:

And we're not just talking about the more than 23 billion 
dollars that states and individuals will be forced to pay. 
REAL ID will also cost you your privacy. Once the IDs and 
databases are created, their uses will inevitably expand to 
facilitate a wide range of surveillance activities. Private 
entities will be able to collect and exploit data on the 
cards. States will have to collect and maintain vast 
amounts of personally identifying information, including 
birth certificates, documents containing Social Security 
numbers, and potentially utility bills and tax records. 
Your private information will have to be made available to 
all other states as well.

How does DHS say your privacy will be protected? DHS' 
proposed regulations generally call for the states to 
develop "comprehensive security plans" but do not set, 
define or specify any security standards. Nor do they 
establish or define a governance structure for the 

Meanwhile, DHS painted a fairly rosy picture at the meeting 
regarding the readiness of technologies to implement REAL 
ID, including systems to verify data provided by applicants 
in order to get an ID. In reality, REAL ID depends on 
vaporware systems that haven't been built or tested. Only 
one of the verification databases is fully operational, and 
even this system does not yet accommodate REAL ID's 
demands. The system for sharing data between the states 
also doesn't exist, and DHS has punted on how it will be 
constructed. In short, the cart has been put way ahead of 
the horse -- it's unclear how or if REAL ID's systems are 
actually going to work, yet the states are being forced to 
expend significant resources and billions of dollars to put 
it in place.

Those are just some of the major problems with this 
national ID system, and the bottom line is that REAL ID 
needs to be scrapped entirely. Take action and tell DHS to 
withdraw its proposed regulations now:

Learn more about REAL ID:

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 Bush Admin. Pushes Spying Bill at Key Senate Hearing

We recently reported on a new spying bill that could, among 
other things, threaten cases like EFF's against AT&T by 
giving blanket immunity to companies for illegally 
assisting the NSA spying program. After an initial delay, 
the Senate Intelligence Committee's held a hearing on the 
bill on May 1 with a completely one-sided panel -- only 
Bush Administration officials were allowed to testify.

That means it's even more important for you to make your 
voice heard. Congress needs to know that you oppose this 
legislation and demand immediate investigations into the 
warrantless spying program:

Fortunately, civil liberties groups including EFF were 
allowed to submit written comments for the record -- you 
can read EFF's statement here:

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 Proposed Bill Aims to Save Music Webcasters

A new bill in Congress could help save music webcasting. 
Due to a recent ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board, the 
government-set rates that most Net radio providers pay to 
license sound recordings will radically increase. This 
ruling threatens small and non-commercial webcasters as 
well as commercial services like Pandora, and it could take 
away the broad diversity of stations that exists online but 
never has been available through traditional broadcasters. 
If passed, the "Internet Radio Equality Act" would nullify 
the royalty ruling and bring some sensible changes to the 
standards used to set rates in the future.

This bill's introduction has been driven by the massive 
grassroots outrage among webcasters and listeners, and you 
can help keep that momentum going. is 
among the many great sites that have helped spearhead this 
activism -- go there to learn more and take action now:

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 Anti-Consumer European Directive Slips Through, Fight to 

The European Parliament has voted to pass the Intellectual 
Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED2) without 
substantive amendment, despite growing public opposition 
from across the European Union. The final vote of 374 to 
278 with 17 abstentions points to a margin of Parliamentary 
support that has been narrowing ever since the Directive 
left subcommittee. While we are disappointed that IPRED2 
was not defeated at this stage, we can see clearly the 
impact of the efforts of the over 8,000 Europeans who've 
taken action against the Directive. We were told by the two 
largest political parties that they felt that the Directive 
had not been given enough time to be properly discussed, 
and that our campaign had definitely contributed to the 

The fight now moves to the Council of the European Union, 
where it will be considered by representatives of the 
national governments of all EU Member States. Several 
states have started to mount resistance to IPRED2 in recent 
weeks, with the United Kingdom and Holland leading the 
charge. Europeans worried about their right to innovate and 
their ability to live under clear, fair criminal laws must 
now turn to their own national governments to ensure that 
IPRED2 doesn't set a terrible precedent for copyright law 
and the EU legal process. If the Council disagrees with 
European Parliament's action -- which we believe is 
possible -- IPRED2 would be returned for a second reading. 
We will be tracking these developments and providing 
opportunities to act at

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 Another Misguided Spyware Bill Moves Forward

A subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and 
Commerce reported out H.R. 964, a.k.a. the "Securely 
Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act" or "SPY Act." 
This bill is the latest incarnation of misguided 
legislative language that has been resurfacing since 2003. 
(In 2005, it passed the House as H.R. 29.)

Although badware (i.e., spyware, malware, and deceptive 
adware) is a serious problem for computer users, H.R. 964 
is not likely to help. In fact, having been massaged by 
lobbyists for the software and adware industries, the bill 
would actually make things worse, insulating adware vendors 
from more stringent state laws and private lawsuits.

Read on for more:

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 HD-DVD Key Cease-and-Desist Campaign: A Legal Primer

As was reported back in February, an enterprising hacker 
unearthed and posted one of the decryption keys used by 
AACS to decode HD-DVD movies. (Other keys and exploits have 
been made available in the weeks since.) Now the AACS-LA 
(the entity that licenses AACS to makers of HD-DVD players) 
has set its lawyers on the futile mission of trying to get 
every instance of at least one key (hint: it begins with 09 
f9) removed from the Internet.

Predictably, this legal effort has backfired, resulting in 
eternal Internet fame for the key in question. In addition 
to having been posted on hundreds of thousands of web sites 
(and resulting in the temporary shutdown of, the 
key has already spawned a song, a quiz, a domain name, and 
numerous T-shirts.

So now might be a good time to review a few of the basic 
legal issues raised by the posting of the keys. Read on for 
our analysis:

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 Putting Presidential Debates in the Creative Commons

With presidential debates right around the corner, it goes 
without saying that many people will want to use debate 
footage to comment on, remix, and parody the politics of 
our time. But there's an unnecessary barrier standing in 
the way: copyright law.

Television networks have traditionally retained exclusive 
rights to all footage of the presidential debates. While 
many re-uses for videos on YouTube and other sites would 
clearly be legally protected as fair uses, the law's 
uncertainty can chill individuals' ability to participate 
in our democratic processes in this way.

To remedy this problem, a transpartisan alliance of leading 
technologists, public advocates, progressive and 
conservative organizations and Internet entrepreneurs is 
calling on the Democratic and Republican parties to ensure 
that all debate footage is put into the public domain or 
provided under a Creative Commons Attribution license for 
re-use. Spearheaded by Stanford Law Professor and EFF Board 
member Lawrence Lessig, the open letters to the parties 
were signed by former Federal Election Commission Chair 
Brad Smith, Craig Newmark of Craiglist, Arianna Huffington, 
EFF Executive Director Shari Steele and EFF Senior Staff 
Attorney Fred Von Lohmann, as well as many others.

You can help this cause by calling the Republican National 
Committee and Democratic National Committee in support -- 
learn more at Lessig's blog:

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 The Great Firewall of Utah (and Banning Open Wi-Fi)

The Utah legislature has been considering a proposal that 
would require the state's ISPs to ensure that minors are 
unable to access explicit material on the Internet. The 
scheme would also make open wireless networks illegal (!) 
unless they are restricted to only allow connections on 
certain, censored, "community ports."

Giving ISPs the responsibility and incentives to censor a 
particular subset of the web is precisely the same 
architecture that the Chinese Communist Party uses for 
their "Great Firewall of China." China uses it to filter 
news and political information as well as porn, but in 
neither case is it particularly effective. Users who are 
either knowledgeable or motivated quickly learn that there 
are easy ways around these filters.

The absurd Utah proposal has been pushed by the CP80 
Foundation, which pedals fantasies of a world where certain 
TCP ports (80, for instance) are free of any material that 
they consider "indecent." The group is fronted by SCO 
Chairman Ralph Yarro -- yes, the same SCO that went after 
IBM and others for allegedly using its code in Linux 

The chance that a state or even federal statute could 
(practically or constitutionally) prevent sexually explicit 
content from being transmitted through port 80 is 
approximately zero point zero zero zero percent. The chance 
that politicians could pass foolish laws that cause 
needless headaches and court battles for ISPs and users, 
however, is significantly higher.

For this post and related links:

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 Ohio University Restricts All P2P File Sharing Software

Citing the burdens of responding to the RIAA's flood of 
pre-litigation letters, Ohio University has decided to 
monitor its network in order to block all use of P2P file 
sharing software. Students caught using the software will 
have their network access disabled.

This policy may temporarily relieve the IT department, but 
it doesn't get us any closer to a long-term solution to 
deal with file sharing. It won't stop "piracy," as students 
will simply migrate towards other readily-accessible 
sharing tools, and it certainly doesn't put any more money 
in artists' pockets.

But this policy -- like related schemes implemented by 
other colleges -- does create yet more collateral damage to 
academic freedom. Want to use P2P to distribute your own 
writing or to acquire public domain works for class? Too 
bad. Meanwhile, computer science students will need to ask 
permission first to tinker with and study P2P software. 
Ohio University says it's targeting a few applications, but 
it's unclear whether the policy might extend to a variety 
of tools. For instance, there are lots of new "personal 
server" applications being developed for private sharing of 
movies, photos, and other data -- how exactly will the 
university draw the line?

Blocking P2P is bad not only for the university and its 
students, but also for innovation more generally. Today's 
computer science students are tomorrow's technology 
leaders, creating tools that can empower millions. 
Remember, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and myriad other online 
technologies were created by students at universities, and 
innovations like Skype, Joost and BitTorrent are built on 
basic P2P technologies.

The University's policy is misguided, but the bottom line 
is that educational institutions shouldn't be put in the 
position of wasting resources on the RIAA's copyright 
nastygrams in the first place. The record labels need to 
get out of the business of intimidating schools and figure 
out how fans can keep sharing in a way that gets artists 

For this post and related links:

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 "Google Government" Movement Spreads to the States

Wouldn't it be great if keeping tabs on government spending 
were as easy as searching the Internet? Imagine a site you 
could visit that would enable you to search by legislation 
name, or the name of a particular contractor, or by 
government agency -- a way to Google the government.

Instead of doing searches like "furniture, vintage, 1950s," 
you could do searches like this: "Halliburton, contracts, 

Just such a site was mandated by the Federal Funding 
Accountability and Transparency Act, which was signed into 
law in 2006. By early 2008, the public should be able to 
track the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars in 
federal disbursements:

Now, a coalition of public advocacy groups is pushing to 
replicate this victory at the state level. The Show Me the 
Spending Coalition is demanding legislation that will bring 
user-friendly databases of grant and contract spending to 
the states, providing model legislation, and encouraging 
the public to contact their representatives through their 
website at:
For this post and related links:

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 Support EFF: New Bloggers' Rights Shirts Now Available

EFF's Bloggers' Rights Campaign has scored some big 
victories, and now you can show your support by picking up 
one of EFF's new bloggers' rights T-shirts. Shirts are 
black, available in women's and men's styles, and come in 
all sizes. Buy a shirt for $25 from the EFF shop, or get it 
as part of your membership:

Learn more about the Bloggers' Rights Campaign:

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 EFF at Maker Faire, May 19-20

If you're going to O'Reilly's Maker Faire on May 19-20 in 
San Mateo, California, be sure to stop by EFF's booth. Grab 
some schwag and chat with us about all things digital 
rights -- we look forward to seeing you!

For more on the Maker Faire:

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The week's noteworthy news, compressed.

~ Copyrighting Religion
Pakistan court quotes American trademark law in deciding to 
forbid a religious group from using Islamic epithets and 
practices: "The principles involved are: do not deceive and 
do not violate the property rights of others."

~ IP Over-Enforcement Could Stifle Growth
Canada's Law Times ponders the dangers of maximalist IP 
policies as demonstrated down south.

~ Gaming the System
The National Review looks into government censorship in the 
video game industry.

~ Who Killed Cryptome?
Wired's Ryan Singel documents the shutting down of one of 
the Net's most fearless document archives.

~ Politicians Like Blogger Codes of Conduct
Unsurprisingly, a UK minister would prefer a quieter Net 

~ The 301 Report: US Still Unhappy with Neighbors
China, Thailand, Russia top culprits in not obeying 
America's IP law; Canada, Brazil and Poland looking very 

~ FLOSSworld International Workshop
Open source adoption across the world: a conference from 
May 11-12 in Brussels.

~ America's War on Tourists
The unintended consequences of security theater.

~ Criminalizing the Consumer
The Economist summarizes the move away from DRM in content 
industry and asks the obvious question: "Why couldn't 
[they] have thought of that in the beginning?"

~ Cell Phones in Africa: Tracking and Computing
Promise and threats of cell phone technology that could 
bring general-purpose computers and/or mass surveillance, 
as seen by MIT Media Lab's Nathan Eagle. 

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