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EFFector - Volume 20, Issue 21 - Novell and EFF Team Up to Reform Software Patents


EFFector - Volume 20, Issue 21 - Novell and EFF Team Up to Reform Software Patents

EFFector Vol. 20, No. 21  May 30, 2007

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

In the 425th Issue of EFFector:
  • Novell and EFF Team Up to Reform Software Patents
  • House Intel Committee to Investigate NSA Spying
  • California Senate Clears Groundbreaking RFID Bill
  • Music Webcasting Still in Danger After Small Stations Get Temporary Reprieve
  • "Effective Technological Measures": It Means What it Says, Declares Finnish Court
  • Windows Media Center DRM -- Now With More Bugs!
  • Neuros: We Work for You, Not for Hollywood
  • miniLinks (11): Ask an RIAA Lobbyist
  • Administrivia

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

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* Novell and EFF Team Up to Reform Software Patents

Organizations Will Jointly Lobby Governments and 
International Organizations

Novell to Support EFF 'Patent Busting' Initiative

San Francisco - Novell and the Electronic Frontier 
Foundation (EFF) announced last week that they are teaming 
up to work on reforms to software patents worldwide.

"It is increasingly obvious that software patents are not a 
meaningful measure of innovation," said Jeff Jaffe, 
executive vice president and chief technology officer at 
Novell. "As a long-time innovator in the industry and a 
holder of many significant patents, we understand the 
rationale behind the patent system in general. But we 
believe that software patent system reform is necessary to 
promote software innovation going forward."

Novell and EFF will work to lobby governments and national 
and international organizations to develop legislation and 
policies around patents designed to promote innovation. A 
key area of focus will be the World Intellectual Property 
Organization (WIPO), where member governments of the United 
Nations meet to coordinate positions on intellectual 
property issues. Given the ease with which software ideas 
and code cross borders, a global approach to the issue is 

In addition, Novell will contribute significant resources 
to EFF's ongoing "Patent Busting" project. Launched in 
2004, the project is designed to attack patents that impose 
particularly heavy burdens on software developers and 
Internet users by identifying prior art that can be used to 
invalidate those patents and by pursuing invalidation of 
those patents through re-examination efforts.

"EFF has long been at the forefront in addressing the key 
challenges of the digital age, including worldwide 
intellectual property issues," said EFF Executive Director 
Shari Steele. "The support of Novell -- a company founded 
on the proprietary software development model but now 
strongly embracing the open source approach -- will be a 
great boon to our efforts to rid the industry of 
innovation-killing patents. We hope Novell's example 
encourages other software vendors to join the effort."

An early innovator in networking, word processing and 
messaging technologies, Novell holds more than 500 patents, 
many of which are fundamental to technologies in the market 
today. Having shifted its business to focus more on open 
source and open standards-based solutions, Novell 
recognizes the new model for innovation is open source, and 
the existing patent system is detrimental to open source 
development. Novell has already taken several steps to 
promote the use of patents to protect open source, 
including a 2004 pledge to use its own patents to defend 
against patent attacks on open source, and the contribution 
of patents and significant financial resources to Open 
Invention Network, an intellectual property company Novell 
co-founded in 2005 to promote Linux by using patents to 
create a collaborative environment.

"Today's announcement is a logical next step for Novell in 
its efforts to make patents a non-issue for the software 
community," said Nat Friedman, chief strategy and 
technology officer for open source at Novell. "Software 
patents hobble open standards and interoperability, impede 
innovation and progress, threaten the development of free 
and open source software, and have a chilling effect on 
software development. Our partnership with EFF is about 
creating a world where software developers and users do not 
to have to worry about patents."

For more on EFF's Patent Busting project:

For this release:

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* House Intel Committee to Investigate NSA Spying

Last week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre 
Reyes announced plans for hearings on the NSA spying 
program. Investigations of this still-shadowy surveillance 
are long overdue, and we're hopeful that these hearings are 
only the beginning of vigorous Congressional oversight.

In particular, Reyes' stated intention to dig into the 
telecommunications carriers' role is encouraging. EFF has 
been fighting hard in the courts to hold AT&T accountable 
for violating its customers' privacy and the law, and 
Congress must fulfill its duty to help uncover the truth 
about the telcos' collaboration with the government

But a threat still looms to judicial and Congressional 
scrutiny of the program. As we've previously reported, the 
Bush Administration has been pushing legislation that, 
among other things, appears intended to let the telcos off 
the hook. Telecommunications carriers' adherence to the law 
is the biggest practical check that we have against illegal 
government surveillance, and EFF strongly opposes any 
legislation that would deprive Americans of the remedies to 
which they are entitled. It would be especially 
irresponsible for Congress to pass any legislation before 
thoroughly investigating the program.

Reyes isn't the only representative turning up the heat on 
the Administration, and that goes to show that your letters 
and phone calls demanding investigations are getting 
through. Keep up the pressure through our Action Center:

For this post and related links:

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* California Senate Clears Groundbreaking RFID Bill

A landmark bill that would require tough privacy and 
security safeguards for Radio Frequency Identification tags 
in state-issued IDs sailed through the California Senate 
last week on a 33-2 bipartisan vote.

Without proper protections, RFIDs in IDs can broadcast your 
private information to anyone and leave you vulnerable to 
tracking and identity theft. That's why EFF, the ACLU, the 
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and other groups have been 
working hard to get the Identity Information Protection Act 
(SB 30) passed.

Last year, California's legislature passed a similar 
version of this bill, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger 
issued a shortsighted veto. By passing SB 30, the Senate 
sent a clear message that the Governor should not forgo 
another opportunity to give Californians control over the 
personal information on their own drivers' licenses, 
library cards, and other important ID cards.

For this post and related links:

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* Music Webcasting Still in Danger After Small Stations Get 
Temporary Reprieve

Responding to Congressional pressure, the major label-
backed licensing authority SoundExchange has offered small 
webcasters a temporary reprieve from the Copyright Royalty 
Board's outrageous royalty rate increase. This is a step in 
the right direction, but it still doesn't solve any of the 
underlying problems with the current licensing system. 
Music webcasting's future still hangs in the balance.

SoundExchange's offer would essentially extend the much 
more reasonable statutory licensing terms that small 
webcasters have relied on for the last five years. But 
commercial services like Pandora and Live365 are still in 
deep trouble, as are small webcasters that may want to 
expand their businesses over time. And when SoundExchange's 
offer expires in 2010, small webcasters may once again be 
threatened with extinction.

The Internet Radio Equality Act would help sustain music 
webcasting and fix the statutory licensing process on which 
most nonsubscription, noninteractive music webcasters rely. 
For more on this bill and SoundExchange's offer, check out

For this post and related links:

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* "Effective Technological Measures": It Means What it 
Says, Declares Finnish Court

. Under both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 
and Europe's equivalent, the European Copyright Directive 
(EUCD), it's illegal to circumvent "effective technological 
measures" that restrict access to copyrighted works.

But what happens when the measures aren't really effective? 
Part of the irony of the DMCA in the United States has been 
that generous court interpretations of "effective" has led 
DRM designers to craft the flimsiest of programs to control 
access. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the 
DMCA would extend to simple ciphers, such as ROT13! 

In Finland, that absurdity has been challenged. Activists 
running a site offering DVD decryption code who were 
prosecuted under Finland's implementation of the EUCD 
defended themselves by arguing that the DVD encryption was 
an ineffective protection.

The district court in Helsinki agreed, saying:

    "...since a Norwegian hacker succeeded in circumventing 
CSS protection used in DVDs in 1999, end-users have been 
able to obtain with ease tens of similar circumventing 
software from the Internet even free of charge. Some 
operating systems come with this kind of software pre-
installed. CSS protection can no longer be held 'effective' 
as defined in law." 

It's a refreshing example of how the practical realities of 
digital rights management (DRM) restrictions can be 
accepted by a court. If an access control is so vulnerable 
that it can be broken by a few lines of easily conveyed 
code, or by pressing the shift key when rebooting, or by 
obtaining a key that is on thousands of sites across the 
globe, should the legal system be required to protect the 

For this post and related links:

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* Windows Media Center DRM -- Now With More Bugs!

There was some Slashdot buzz last week about Windows Media 
Center users suddenly facing restrictions forbidding 
playback of recorded analog cable TV content. Was DRM 
smuggled along with an "update" into unsuspecting users' 

In fact, Windows Media Center has always obeyed CGMS-A, a 
DRM system that TV stations can use. Pay-per-view, VOD, and 
premium channels like HBO can (and do) mark programming as 
"Copy Once" or "Copy Never." Tech creators are free to 
build DVRs and other devices that ignore CGMS-A signals and 
create restriction-free recordings, but Microsoft opted to 
kowtow to content providers and infect Media Centers with 
the DRM anyway. (You may recall that TiVo decided to 
cripple its DVRs so that they recognize a similar DRM flag 
developed by Macrovision.)

As if the deliberate use restrictions weren't bad enough, 
obeying CGMS-A has also caused technical errors and 
haphazard incompatibilities. Remember Windows' "blue screen 
of death," signaling an unexpected failure? DRM creates 
more ways for your system to fail -- your Media Center may 
work reliably today, but a software or hardware change 
could create unpredictable limitations.

According to PC World, this sort of technical problem 
probably led to the complaints featured on Slashdot. You 
can bet that this won't be the last time customers bump up 
against such problems both with CGMS-A and other DRM.

It's worth noting that the DRM can get even worse when it 
comes to digital cable. Media Center users can look forward 
to even more limits on streaming throughout their houses, 
copying to portable devices, and other legitimate uses.

Just because Microsoft decided to obey CGMS-A doesn't mean 
you have to. You can look to PC DVR alternatives, and you 
can make DRM-free, analog-to-digital conversions of TV 
content using tools like the Neuros recorder that don't 
recognize CGMS-A.

For this post and related links:

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* Neuros: We Work for You, Not for Hollywood

We've been impressed by a recent essay written by Neuros 
Technology about where their loyalties lie and why we 
should care. Neuros discusses these issues in the course of 
inviting Apple TV hackers to try their hand at hacking 
Neuros products.

In recent weeks, a community of enthusiasts has developed a 
useful, and impressive, set of unauthorized enhancements to 
the Apple TV. These enhancements make this product work 
better for end users, and they exist in a great tradition 
of user innovation in which users who care about a product 
(and understand their own needs and desires) figure out how 
to make that product do something more. (The same kind of 
activity thrives around game console systems, and, of 
course, the TiVo -- sometimes to the chagrin of TiVo, Inc.)

Unfortunately, in today's digital media environment, users' 
improvements to products are often not welcomed by the 
manufacturers whose products are made more valuable. 
Instead of thanks, tinkerers often receive threats of 
litigation. Sometimes, the manufacturers spend hours of 
engineering effort to counteract and undo the users' 
improvements -- to break the new features that the users 
achieved and return the product to its original 
functionality. This may be a result of business strategy 
and a desire to avoid upsetting copyright holders. You may 
be the customer, but you may not have the last word if a 
copyright "partner" doesn't like what you've figured out 
how to do.

It's a bit disheartening, not to mention wasteful, to have 
all of your creative effort annulled by a "product upgrade" 
(or to be threatened with litigation if you continue to 
share it with others). That's why lots of people are 
excited about open systems that put the user in charge: 
when you add value to an open system, it's harder for 
someone to show up and take it away from you. (That's one 
reason we've been excited about MythTV, the software that 
can turn your PC into a personal video recorder that you 
control, and why we're also excited to see what happens 
with the forthcoming open cell phone from OpenMoko.)

This point was recently emphasized in a nice essay by 
Neuros Technology, the company behind the MPEG recorder 
that uses the "analog hole" to cut through licensing and 
DMCA thickets to let you watch commercial video on a wide 
variety of portable devices -- today, not years from now 
after some consortium negotiates a complicated DRM deal. 
Neuros is also promoting an open media center; they publish 
schematics and code and invite the community to figure out 
how to make the product better. That's a refreshing 
contrast to the attitude of many other electronics 

For this post and related links:

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* miniLinks
The week's noteworthy news, compressed.

~ Ask an RIAA Lobbyist
In the bright digital future, RIAA's Mitch Glazier predicts 
that EFF "will start running the creative commons" instead 
of using the RIAA as a "punching bag." He seems a bit 
confused about who's been doing the punching!

~ Mexico to Boost Tapping of Phones and E-mail With U.S. 
If you break civil liberties at home, that's all you can 
export elsewhere.,0,7011563.story?coll=la-home-center

~ Bent Copyright
Uri Geller, Spoons, Skeptics and Copyright: Wendy Grossman 
connects the dots.

~ A Chinese Lawsuit Against China's Censorship
Chinese citizen sues to access his own website.

~ In Polish Prison for Adding Value
Polish fan subtitlers held for questioning under copyright 

~ Montana on REAL ID: "Hell no!"
Or more specifically: "No, nope, no way, hell no," says 
Montana's governor.

~ Giles Slade: DRM for Dummies (Like Me) 
Huffington Post's resident technology skeptic knows a bad 
deal when he sees it.

~ Japan Bans Camcording in Cinemas
An unnecessary extra law, closing a private use "loophole."

~ Time Writer Admits to Copyright Civil Disobedience
"Almost everybody owns a little stolen music. But a little 
piracy can be a good thing.",9171,1625209,00.html

~ Liberating the Smithsonian Collection
A public access group challenges the Smithsonian's 
statement that "even in the absence of copyright, [it] 
reserves all rights to images."

~ An FBI Target Puts His Whole Life Online
"I flood the market," says Hasan Elahi, who is putting his 
whole life online after FBI agents detained him at an 

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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	

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