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Podcast Episode: Fighting Enshittification

EFFector - Volume 23, Issue 2 - EFF Files Comments on Net Neutrality


EFFector - Volume 23, Issue 2 - EFF Files Comments on Net Neutrality

EFFector Vol. 23, No. 02  January 15, 2010

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

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In our 525th issue:

~ EFF Files Comments on Net Neutrality
EFF called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to close
loopholes in its proposed regulations for network neutrality --
loopholes that could let the entertainment industry and law
enforcement hinder free speech and innovation. Under the new rules,
ISPs would get a free pass to block content in pursuit of copyright
infringement or when they voluntarily adopt measures to help law

"The central goal of the net neutrality movement is to prevent ISPs
from discriminating against lawful content on the Internet," said EFF
Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "Yet the FCC's version of
net neutrality specifically allows ISPs to make those discriminations
-- opening the door to widespread Internet surveillance and censorship
in the guise of copyright protection and addressing the needs of law

For the full press release:

~ Political Parodists Strike Back Against U.S. Chamber of Commerce
A group of political activists, including members of the Yes Men and
the Action Factory, have moved to dismiss a meritless lawsuit filed by
the United States Chamber of Commerce accusing the activists of
infringing the Chamber's trademarks in the course of a political
parody highlighting the Chamber's controversial stance on climate

In the motion filed Tuesday, the activists — represented by EFF
and Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP -- argue that the Chamber's suit was
designed to punish core political speech, rather than to vindicate any
actual trademark harm, and should therefore be dismissed.

For the full press release:
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~ 12 Trends to Watch in 2010
It's the dawn of a new year. From our perch on the frontier of
electronic civil liberties, EFF has collected a list of a dozen
important trends in law, technology and business that we think will
play a significant role in shaping online rights in 2010.

For the full Deep Link:

~ Have You Been Subjected to Suspicionless Laptop Search or Seizure at
the Border?
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has implemented a program that
authorizes searches of the contents of travelers’ laptop
computers and other electronic storage devices at border crossings,
notwithstanding the absence of probable cause, reasonable suspicion or
any indicia of wrongdoing.

In U.S. vs. Arnold, EFF fought for a requirement that customs agents
must have some legally significant reason before searching your
computer. In our FOIA work on border searches, EFF has pushed the
government to reveal its policies and practices in this area.

Now, another civil rights group, the National Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers, is seeking potential plaintiffs for a lawsuit
challenging suspicionless laptop searches.

~ Gmail Takes the Lead on Email Security
Google has announced that Gmail sessions will now be fully encrypted
with https by default. This is excellent news — EFF
congratulates Google for taking this significant step to safeguard
their users' privacy and security.

Https is a protocol that encrypts email as it travels between your web
browser and your service provider's (in this case, Google's) servers.
Using https helps protect data from being snooped by third parties.

~ EMI Attacks NirGaga Mashup
EMI, the smallest of the four major record labels, has sent a cease
& desist letter to DJ Lobsterdust and Bootie SF regarding
"NirGaga,” a mashup combining Nirvana’s “Smells Like
Teen Spirit” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” The
song had appeared in Bootie SF's "best of 2009" compilation but now
has been removed. The mashup seems like a fair use to us: it's
obviously transformative, and it's hard to imagine it as a substitute
for the originals. Is this the beginning of a general crackdown on
mashups by EMI, or, we hope, just a misguided one-off?

~ Uncensoring China: Bravo Google
Google has publicly announced that that it will cease censorship of
its Chinese language website and is reviewing the
feasibility of its entire operation in that country. This follows its
detection of malicious attacks on the Gmail accounts of Chinese human
rights activists and what Google calls an "attack on their corporate
infrastructure originating from China."

When Google first launched a filtered search engine in China, EFF was
one of the first to criticize it; we'd now like to be one of the first
to commend Google for its brave and forthright declaration that it
will no longer check its values at the border.

~ More Silly Trademark Claims: Department of Energy Threatens
“Clean Coal” Spoof Site
The closing months of 2009 saw the beginning of an unfortunate legal
dispute in which a trademark owner, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ran
to court to punish political activists for using its marks in a
political parody. Sadly, less than a week into 2010, another trademark
owner, Peabody Energy, is also using legal threats to attempt to
silence criticism.

Peabody is one of a group of coal companies that has formed a
Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization (CCCU) with Washington
University, to research “clean coal” methods -- much to
the consternation of students and environmental activists who view
“clean coal” as an oxymoron. One of those activists, Brian
DeSmet, created a website spoofing CCCU’s official site.

Peabody was not amused and sent an after-hours cease and desist letter
demanding that DeSmet shut the site down by the next morning. Peabody
claimed that DeSmet's use of logos and references to Peabody amounted
to trademark infringement and dilution, as well as defamation, product
disparagement, and even unfair competition. Hoping to put a quick end
to the threat, DeSmet voluntarily removed the logos and added a
disclaimer, but Peabody continues to insist that it has veto power
over the look and feel of the parody website.

~ Putting the “Public” in Publicly-Funded Research
Sometimes an idea is so blindingly, obviously good that you have to
wonder why it hasn’t already been implemented.

A few years ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had an idea
like that. Why not create a free, public, online archive of findings
from academic research studies that were funded by Americans' tax
dollars? That way, members of the public could keep up-to-date on the
latest health findings by reading about discoveries that they paid for
and would otherwise be unable to access. To ensure they could publish
results first in traditional print journals, scientists could wait 12
months before making the research available to the public - but no
more. The policy was voluntary at first, then made mandatory.

Now the Obama Administration (specifically, the Office of Science and
Technology Policy, or OSTP) is considering extending the policy to
other federal agencies that fund academic research. If the fruits of
research were publicly accessible online, the taxpayers who actually
paid for it could read and use it in new and interesting ways, just as
patients and their families have used the NIH-sponsored medical
studies to help make informed medical decisions. Scholars and
entrepreneurs could also access the research, promoting innovation in
science and technology. Your tax dollars paid for this research; you
should have a chance to actually see those dollars at work.

~ Order to Shut Down Websites Critical of Apex Technology Dangerous
and Wrong
Over the holidays, a New Jersey court issued an order requiring
upstream providers to shut down three anti-H1-B websites that has
troubling implications for free speech. In order to remove allegedly
defamatory statements made on these sites, the court ordered the
websites to remove all postings about Apex Technology Group or its
President, Sarvesh Kumar Dharayan, until further order of the court.
The court also ordered the sites’ ISPs/domain name registrars
(DiscountASP.NET,, Domains By Proxy and Network Solutions)
to stop hosting and “immediately shut down and disable”
the websites. Finally, the order required the ISPs to provide identity
information about their customers.

By restricting access to entire websites, this order places a prior
restraint on all of the speech on the websites, even if that speech is
unrelated to Apex or Mr. Dharayan. Imagine if a court could order or shut down because of a disparaging review of a
single product!

~ Et tu, U2? Bono, Net Surveillance, and the Developing World
We feel compelled to add our comments about Bono's New York Times
column in which he appeared to express a strange hope that ISPs would
start spying on their users in the name of protecting America's
intellectual property. "We know," says Bono, "from America's noble
effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China's ignoble
effort to suppress online dissent, that it's perfectly possible to
track content." He continues by hoping that "movie moguls will succeed
where musicians and their moguls have failed so far, and rally America
to defend the most creative economy in the world, where music, film,
TV and video games help to account for nearly 4 percent of gross
domestic product."

But Bono's new-found embrace of tracking Internet activity is in
direct conflict with his own positions (expressed in the same article)
about global freedom and equity.
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~ Chinese Net Activists Supporting Iranian Net Activists
A group of Chinese "netizens" have started a website and Twitter hash
tag to support the work of Iranian dissidents.

~ The Backfiring of the Surveillance State
Salon's Glenn Greenwald explains why increased surveillance can end
up making us less safe, not more safe.

~ Apple's Love Affair With DRM
ArsTechnica takes a look at Apple's embrace of DRM and consumer

~ A Blogger's Guide to New FTC Rules
The Berkman Center's Citizen Media Law Project released a guide to
making sense of the often vague regulations.

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