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EFFector - Volume 20, Issue 43 - Action Alert: Telecom Immunity Still Looming in the House -- Call Your Representative Today!


EFFector - Volume 20, Issue 43 - Action Alert: Telecom Immunity Still Looming in the House -- Call Your Representative Today!

EFFector Vol. 20, No. 43  October 31, 2007

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

In the 447th Issue of EFFector:
  • Action Alert: Telecom Immunity Still Looming in the House -- Call Your Representative Today!
  • EFF Wins Reexamination of Bogus Patent
  • Newspaper Editorial Boards Oppose Telecom Immunity
  • Computer & Communications Industry Association Opposes Amnesty for Telecoms
  • Bloggers and Civil Libertarians Petition Congress
  • Comcast Needs to Come Clean
  • Report Shows that "Copyright Confusion" Obstructs Media Literacy Efforts
  • Thanks Slashdot!
  • Nominate a Pioneer for EFF's 2008 Pioneer Awards!
  • miniLinks (9): Opinion: Studs Terkel on Telecom Immunity
  • 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: Telecom Immunity Still Looming in the House
-- Call Your Representative Today!

If you haven't already done so, pick up the phone and
remind your Representative to take a stand against
procedural trickery leading to telecom immunity.

The first time the House took up the RESTORE Act, the
Administration's allies scuttled a floor vote because it
did not provide amnesty for lawbreaking telecoms. Though
the House has been quiet about the specific dates, RESTORE
will be voted upon soon, as the holiday season is just
around the corner, and Administration and telecom lobbyists
continue to press for immunity.

The latest news is that the immunity maneuver will come in
the form of a "motion to recommit," a procedural trick that
will equate opposition to telecom immunity with being "soft
on terror." Remind your Representative that you can see
right through the alarmist rhetoric -- that immunizing the
telecoms for their role in massive warrantless wiretapping
is a paramount example of corruption at work, and that
immunity for the telecoms is an issue wholly unrelated to
security. Tell your Representative to stand firm in the
face of procedural tricks -- no telecom immunity in

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* EFF Wins Reexamination of Bogus Patent

Patent Office to Take Second Look at Meritless Claims
Threatening Mobile Information Access

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
has won reexamination from the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office (PTO) of a bogus patent threatening mobile
information access. The reexamination order is the third
granted by the PTO after challenges from EFF's Patent
Busting Project.

NeoMedia Technologies, Inc., claims to own rights to all
systems that provide information over computer networks
using database-like lookup procedures that rely on scanned
inputs, such as a barcode. NeoMedia has used these claims
to threaten and sue innovators in the mobile information
space. But EFF's reexamination request, filed in
conjunction with Paul Grewal and James Czaja of Day
Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder, showed that the functionality
covered by NeoMedia's bad patent was repeatedly included as
part of prior patent applications from other companies.

"Overbroad and invalid patents threaten to chill important
innovations, especially for startups and other nascent
entrepreneurs," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Jason
Schultz. "It's important that technology in the public
domain stays there."

NeoMedia has the opportunity to file comments defending the
patent before the PTO makes its final determination.
However, the PTO has narrowed or revoked roughly 70 percent
of patents it has decided to reexamine.

"Re-examination is an essential part of the patenting
process," said Paul Grewal, a partner at Day Casebeer
Madrid & Batchelder. "We are pleased that the Patent Office
has decided to examine NeoMedia's efforts to claim for
itself what the public has long enjoyed."

The successful reexamination request for the NeoMedia
patent is the latest big victory for EFF's Patent Busting
Project, which combats the chilling effects bad patents
have on the public interest and innovation. So far, the
project has helped kill a bogus patent covering a system
and method of creating digital recordings of live
performances. The PTO has also granted another EFF
reexamination request for an illegitimate patent for online

For the full reexamination order:

For more information about the NeoMedia patent

For more on the Patent Busting Project:

For more on Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder:

For this release:

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* Newspaper Editorial Boards Oppose Telecom Immunity

When a key Senate committee voted to include retroactive
immunity for telecom lawbreakers in new legislation, they
may not have been prepared for the rising tide of criticism
coming their way. Newspaper editorial boards and legal
scholars from around the country are speaking out in
increasingly urgent terms about the threat to the rule of
law posed by the immunity provisions. If the bill becomes
law, it will let phone companies off the hook for their
participation in the NSA's massive and illegal wiretapping

Read what the national wires are saying:

For the New York Times editorial, "With Democrats Like
These...": (Registration unfortunately required.)

For the USA Today editorial, "Our view on Your Phone
Records: Immunity Demand for Telecoms Raises Questions":

For the New Jersey Star Ledger editorial, "No Immunity for

For the Philadelphia Daily News editorial, "Dems, Hold Fast
on Wiretap Law: Telecoms Need a Spine, Not Immunity From

Find out what other national newspapers siding with EFF on
this issue are saying in our complete post:

For more on EFF's class-action lawsuit against AT&T:

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* Computer & Communications Industry Association Opposes
Amnesty for Telecoms

Last week, the influential Computer & Communications
Industry Association (CCIA) sent a letter to Speaker of the
House Pelosi opposing immunity for telecommunications
companies involved in the illegal warrantless surveillance
program. CCIA encouraged Congress "to reject broad immunity
provisions in favor of a better balance between legitimate
national security interests and basic Fourth Amendment
privacy for U.S. citizens."

We applaud CCIA for taking a stand for justice and for the
privacy and security of the American people.

Read CCIA's letter to Pelosi:

For this post:

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* Bloggers and Civil Libertarians Petition Congress

When it comes to putting the pressure on the Senate to
stand against retroactive immunity for telecom lawbreakers,
bloggers have taken a vital lead. They helped inspire Chris
Dodd to pledge a hold on any Senate bill that contains an
amnesty, and they prompted Barack Obama's recent
unequivocal opposition to immunity.

These key bloggers have joined together to send a letter to
Harry Reid, urging him to honor Sen. Dodd's hold and stop
the immunity legislation currently moving through the
Senate. The full letter is at:

You can add you own name to the letter there (and join EFF,
the ACLU, Working Assets and many others).

And don't forget to visit Stop The Spying to call your
representatives and urge them to use their vote to oppose
telecom immunity in Congress:

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* Comcast Needs to Come Clean

Comcast has been telling the press that its not interfering
with its users' traffic, it's just "delaying" it. Let's
examine that proposition for a moment. In previous posts to
our Deeplinks blog, we discussed Comcast's forging of TCP
RST packets to kill users' connections on BitTottent,
Gnutella and Lotus Notes. To see just how disingenuous
Comcast is being, consider the following analogy:

Alice wants to speak to Bob. Alice telephones Bob and hears
someone answer the phone in Bob's voice. That voice says,
"I'm sorry Alice, I don't want to talk to you," and hangs
up. Except, it wasn't actually Bob who answered the phone,
it was Comcast using a special device to impersonate Bob's
voice. Comcast might describe this as "delaying" Alice and
Bob's conversation on the theory that perhaps they'll keep
calling each other until some day when Comcast isn't using
its special device. Comcast may also invoke the theory that
Alice will call other people who are a lot like Bob but
aren't on Comcast's network, so her conversation will only
be delayed.

If "delaying" traffic was Comcast's private intent, it was
clearly making absurd and frequently incorrect assumptions
about the protocols it was jamming. No doubt that is how
Comcast wound up blocking Lotus Notes.

Comcast should come clean. The company should explain what
it's doing and explain in precise and detailed terms why
it's doing it. If Comcast does that, the technical
community will be able to evaluate its arguments properly,
decide whether they've got any basis at all, and (we're
just guessing here) explain to Comcast how to solve its
problem correctly and without arbitrarily jamming things.

That way, Comcast might not break the very thing it claims
to be selling access to: the Internet.

Read AP reporter Peter Svennson's article, "Comcast Admits
Delaying Some Traffic":

For background, "EFF Tests Agree with AP: Comcast Is
Forging Packets to Interfere with User Traffic":

For this post and related links:

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* Report Shows that "Copyright Confusion" Obstructs Media
Literacy Efforts

A recently completed investigation into copyright's effect
on media literacy education resulted in the following
criticism: lack of knowledge and poor policies inhibit the
teaching of critical thinking and communication skills.

The report, published by the American University Center for
Social Media is titled, "The Cost of Copyright Confusion
for Media Literacy." It's the product of extensive
interviews conducted throughout 2007 unearthing the
real-world challenges faced by teachers, librarians, and
others involved in bringing real media examples into the

Appropriately, the report recommends the development of a
comprehensive code of practice that can provide clarity on
copyright rules and fair use exceptions. This code would
help educators freely and lawfully advance media literacy
in the classroom. As the report points out, maximalist
copyright myths are hampering progress on forging an
important link between culture and citizenship.

Read the report, "The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media

Read EFF Activist Richard Esguerra's complete post:

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* Thanks Slashdot!

EFF would like to express profound thanks to Slashdot for
hosting a 10 Year Anniversary Charity Auction and donating
the proceeds to EFF! We appreciate the generous support of
everyone who participated. Items won by Slashdotters
include the tower case used to host the site in its early
years, an office swag grab bag, an "" email
alias, and a 2 (or 3) digit user ID.

Congratulations to the auction winners and to Slashdot for
10 years of community-powered news and commentary!

For Slashdot's auction wrap-up:

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* Nominate a Pioneer for EFF's 2008 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 2008.

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.

How to Nominate Someone for a 2008 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 We will accept nominations
until January 1, 2008.

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,

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

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

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 operating 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:

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* miniLinks
The week's noteworthy news, compressed.

~ Opinion: Studs Terkel on Telecom Immunity
The history of abuse of surveillance powers in the US shows
why wiretapping laws must be upheld. (Registration
unfortunately required to view.)

~ Freshman Democrats Key in Debate Over Wiretapping
The outcome of FISA reform may hinge on newly elected
freshman Democrats in the House and Senate.

~ AT&T Invents Programming Language for Mass Surveillance
An AT&T paper from 2001 using software to identify
"communities of interest."

~ Retailers Want Online Sellers to Fight Theft
Should eBay be forced to crack down on unauthorized sales
by requiring sellers to identify themselves?

~ ALA Wants Warrants for Library Searches
The American Library Association says requests for patron
records should require warrants.

~ Password Cracking Chip Causes Security Concerns
A new technique uses graphics hardware to crack computer

~ Walk on the Wired Side
A new jacket uses GPS to let parents track their children's

~ Comcast and Net Neutrality
Ed Felten on why net neutrality legislation may be harder
to write and enforce than it would seem.

~ McCain Defends Fair Use
The Senator refuses to discontinue ads that feature brief
clips of Fox News shows after Fox complains.

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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)	

Richard Esguerra, EFF Activist	

Membership & donation queries:

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Press releases and EFF announcements & articles may be 
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