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EFFector - Volume 21, Issue 11 - Comcast Reduces Protocol Discrimination, Plans to End It Altogether

EFFector Vol. 21, No. 11  March 28, 2008

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

In the 464th Issue of EFFector:
* Comcast Reduces Protocol Discrimination, Plans to End It
* Letters to the Editor: People Speak Out on Surveillance
* Search, But with Privacy
* Hollywood's Record Year Shows MPAA's Piracy Folly
* Monetizing File-Sharing: Collective Licensing Good, ISP
Tax Bad
* Computers, Freedom, Privacy - and Policy
* EFF at the LugRadio Live Exhibition in San Francisco!
* Visit the EFF Booth at the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Expo in San
* miniLinks (7): NY Times Wiretapping Coverage -- The
Inside Story
* 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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* Comcast Reduces Protocol Discrimination, Plans to End It

Last month, shortly before the FCC held its first hearing
in an investigation of Comcast's interference with
BitTorrent and other P2P protocols, we noticed that Comcast
was no longer injecting forged TCP RST packets in the
simple tests we had been running on its cable network. Some
sources with access to larger datasets informed us that the
cable ISP was nonetheless still using RST packets against
some BitTorrent sessions, just not the simple uses of BT
and Gnutella that we had been testing. The status quo:
Comcast is still interfering with P2P, but they are being
more subtle about it.

This week, Comcast has announced that it will phase out its
discrimination against P2P protocols entirely by the end of
the year. According to the WSJ's coverage, the cable
company is considering switching to non-discriminatory
dynamic traffic shaping, which -- as we've previously
argued -- is a much more responsible way of coping with
network congestion. We're also pleased that Comcast is
collaborating with the BitTorrent developers; we've been
urging them to collaborate with the wider technical
community for some time.

This is a big victory for common sense and a big victory
for an Internet based on open standards, not the whims of
major ISPs. But there's still more work to do. In
particular, the Internet community clearly needs to do more
testing to validate the practices of the many of ISPs
around the planet.

For more about packet forging by Comcast:

For the release by Comcast announcing future collaboration
with BitTorrent:

For this complete post by EFF Staff Technologist Peter

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* Letters To The Editor: People Speak Out on Surveillance

With Congress in recess, surveillance issues have receded
from the front pages. But look a few pages further, and
you'll find signs that the issues are very much on the
minds of ordinary Americans. From Vermont to Arizona,
citizens are writing to local papers, thanking members of
the House that stood against telecom immunity. Recognizing
also that the battle will likely continue all the way to
the President's desk, the letters argue for our legislators
to stand firm to protect the Constitution and our rights.

For this complete post by EFF Activism & Technology Manager
Tim Jones:

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* Search, but with Privacy

One small search engine is experimenting with ways to be an
aide, rather than a threat, to privacy. PrivacyFinder is a
research project at the CMU Usable Privacy and Security
Laboratory (full disclosure: Lorrie Cranor, who heads the
lab, is also on the EFF Board). It offers an interface to
Yahoo! and Google, but with two notable improvements: an
excellent logging/data retention policy and a feature that
shows the user information about sites' privacy policies
along with the search results. That way, if two sites offer
the same service but one of them is better from a privacy
point of view, the user will see that quickly.

PrivacyFinder seems to be making productive use of P3P, an
old privacy standard that has, in many other respects,
fallen short of expectations. If you run a search on the
site, you can quickly see when one result matches your
privacy standards and others don't.

Privacyfinder's logging policy is among the best in the
industry. (Ixquick is also first-rate.) Privacyfinder only
keeps search records for a week, unless the user explicitly
opts in to being tracked. Because the CMU Laboratory wants
to do research on the use of search engines, it's offering
prizes for people who are willing to be tracked for
research purposes. That's the way we like to see it done.

For some measures you can take to protect your search

For the PrivacyFinder search page:

For this complete post by EFF Staff Technologist Peter

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* Hollywood's Record Year Shows MPAA's Piracy Folly

To hear the MPAA tell it, Hollywood faces a mortal threat
from something vaguely defined as "piracy." The danger is
supposedly so great that the MPAA has been lobbying
Congress for help -- all the while inflating their numbers
to exaggerate the amount of filesharing on college

But recent news reports show the movie industry has just
had a record-breaking year. The box office brought in $9.63
billion, a 5.4% increase over last year. And that's only
box office -- if 2006 numbers are any indication, sales
from theatrical showings will amount to just 20% or so of
overall revenue.

It seems that the threat of piracy isn't so great after
all. As Ars Technica put it: "If piracy is killing the
movie business, it's doing so in exactly the same way that
home taping killed the music business in the 1980s."

So why the constant panic messages from the MPAA? Paying
customers are forced to watch absurd PSAs bemoaning the
evils of piracy before enjoying a legally bought or rented
film. And the MPAA continues to lobby Congress for

The film industry is doing well because it has given the
public what it wants -- inexpensive movies available in a
variety of forms. The industry would do well lay off the
heavy-handed rhetoric and enjoy its ever-increasing revenue

For the MPAA report touting record-breaking revenues:

For this complete post by EFF Designer/Activist Hugh

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* Monetizing File-Sharing: Collective Licensing Good, ISP
Tax Bad

Last week at SXSW, music industry veteran Jim Griffin
broached the idea that file sharers pay a small fee through
their ISPs in exchange for unlimited file sharing. There
are many reasons to recommend an idea like this (as we've
been saying since 2004), but there's a right way and a
wrong way to go about it.

We are big fans of a collective licensing solution for the
music file-sharing dilemma: music fans pay a few dollars
each month in exchange for a blanket license to share and
download whatever they like; collecting societies collect
the money and divvy it up between their member artists and
rightsholders. It's not a radical idea -- that's roughly
how we pay songwriters for radio play, concert hall
performances, and the music playing in your favorite

But this should not turn into, as some have called it, an
"ISP tax." Any collective licensing solution should be
voluntary for fans, artists, and ISPs alike. We don't have
a compulsory "restaurant tax" for songwriters -- there's no
reason to have a compulsory "Internet tax" for file
sharing. It should give fans what they want, rather than
trying to withhold things from them -- after all,
artificial scarcity is what got us into this mess. And it
must give artists the freedom to choose among competing
collecting societies, which is the only mechanism that will
guarantee the kind of transparency and efficiency that much
of the current music industry lacks.

For Wired's coverage of Jim Griffin and collective

For EFF's Voluntary Collective Licensing Proposal:

For this complete post by EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred
von Lohmann, including a quick reference guide to help
distinguish a good collective licensing plan from a bad
"ISP tax":

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* Computers, Freedom, Privacy - and Policy

For the first time, U.S. technology policy has taken a
front-row seat in this election year. If you had the
candidates' ears, what would you tell them to do in regards
to our digital world?

Computers, Freedom and Privacy (CFP) is a conference with
interests that have tracked those of EFF for almost a
decade. This year, the 18th annual CFP will focus on what
constitutes technology policy -- and organizers are asking
for your help.

CFP: Technology Policy '08 is an opportunity to help shape
public debate on those issues being made into law,
regulations, and infrastructure. The direction of our
technology policy impacts the choices we make about our
national defense, our civil liberties during wartime, the
future of American education, our national healthcare
systems, and many other realms of policy discussed more
prominently on the election trail. Open participation is
invited for proposals on panels, tutorials, speaker
suggestions, and birds of a feather sessions through the
CFP: Technology Policy '08 submission system.

At CFP, policies ranging from data mining and wiretapping,
to file-sharing and open access, and e-voting to electronic
medical records will be addressed by expert panels of
technologists, policymakers, business leaders, and

Our decisions about technology policy are being made at a
time when the architectures of our information and
communication technologies are still being built. Debate
about these issues needs to be better-informed in order for
us to make policy choices in the public interest. Join in
the discussion by submitting an idea to CFP.

Registration is available online. You can also take part in
the discussion and information-sharing about technology
policy at the CFP '08 Blog, the CFP '08 Wiki, and CFP
groups at LinkedIn and Facebook.

For the CFP '08 Blog:

For the CFP '08 Wiki:

For more information about funding for journalists wishing
to attend CFP:

For the CFP '08 online registration page:

For this complete post by EFF International Affairs
Director Eddan Katz:

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* EFF at the LugRadio Live Exhibition in San Francisco!

Come visit EFF at the Metreon Theater in San Francisco on
April 12 and 13 during LugRadio Live, a unique conference
powered by LugRadio, the long-running British web radio
show on Linux and open source. The conference will feature
talks from developers and entrepreneurs involved in
projects across the board -- from Banshee to Wine and
everything in between. Check out the conference schedule
for more information.

For the LugRadio Live speaker and session schedule:

For the LugRadio Live registration page:

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* Visit the EFF Booth at the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Expo in San

The Web 2.0 Expo takes place April 22 to 25 at the Moscone
Center in San Francisco, and EFF will be there! The Web 2.0
Expo "takes the pulse of the Web ecosystem and looks to its
future, training a spotlight across the Web 2.0 universe to
illuminate how the Internet Revolution is being created and
delivered." The sessions focus on vital issues facing web
innovators and entrepreneurs today: development, user
experience, open platforms, financing, and more.

Stop by the booth between sessions to chat and support EFF!

For more about the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco:

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* miniLinks
The week's noteworthy news, compressed.

~ NY Times Wiretapping Coverage -- The Inside Story
An excerpt from NY Times author Eric Lichtblau's new book
on warrantless wiretapping.

~ Fee for All -- Music as Service from ISPs
Warner is developing proposals that would make access to
music a service charged by ISPs.

~ Charging Schools Instead of Suing Students
A new proposal from major labels would charge schools a fee
to allow students to share music legally.

~ CBC Uses BitTorrent for Prime Time Release
A high-resolution version of a series finale was released
without copy protection over P2P networks for more
efficient distribution.

~ DHS Blinks -- New Hampshire Joins Montana in Real ID
Two out of four hold-out states have been receiving
unrequested extensions on Real ID requirements.

~ Big City Muni Wi-Fi is Dead, Urban Wireless Isn't
Plans to blanket cities with free wi-fi aren't panning out
-- but free urban hotspots are spreading.

~ Rock Against Telecom Immunity!
A song for telecom companies that broke the law when they
handed their customer's data to the NSA without a warrant.

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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

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