NASA's successful landing on Mars of an SUV-sized nuclear rover from a rocket-skycrane should have marked a high point in collaborative accomplishments between humans and robots. But here on Earth the situation was a bit more tense. That's because, just hours after the celebrated touchdown, Vice Magazine's Motherboard blog broke the news that one of NASA's official clips from the mission had been pulled from YouTube, replaced with a notice from the video site indicating that the "video contains content from Scripps Local News, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."
Last week, news outlets reported that Facebook was rejecting ads by advocacy groups working on marijuana policy reform. Several versions of the Facebook ads were submitted by Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Just Say Now, but were initially rejected. After EFF and the ACLU of Northern California reached out to Facebook about the issue, Facebook did the right thing and restored the ads.
Earlier this summer, we applauded Google for releasing detailed stats about content removal requests from copyright holders. Now that we know how they are going to use that data, we are less enthusiastic. Google had announced that it would use copyright takedown notices made under the DMCA as what it calls a "signal" on search results. Specifically, those "signals" will demote certain websites in search results.
The U.S. Senate is currently debating a dangerous bill that, if passed, would have broad consequences for press freedom and the public's right to know. EFF asks senators to stand up for government transparency and the First Amendment and vote it down. The bill's provisions, buried in the annual Intelligence Authorization Act, are intended to stop leaks of classified information to reporters—a premise worrying in itself -- but it is written so sloppily it will also severely impair government transparency and prevent the media from reporting on national security issues.
A judge in Flava Works v. myVidster wholly rejected the premise that embedding, linking to, or watching infringing videos constitutes copyright infringement itself. In this case, Flava Works, a video company that makes full-length videos available only behind a paywall, sued MyVidster, a social video bookmarking site that allows users to save videos to a profile and share pages containing embedded videos with other users. The Court held people who download Flava Works videos and then re-upload them to another server (thereby making a copy of the video) may be infringers, but neither myVidster nor the users who watch videos embedded on its site are engaging in or contributing to infringement.
EFF has previously written about various troubling provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that is being negotiated under wraps. One other major concern is that TPP seeks to propagate the excessive copyright terms currently found in American copyright legislation. These terms are detrimental to creativity and innovation and only serve to benefit the major record and movie production companies who lobbied for them in the U.S. Now starting with the Pacific region, these exorbitant counterproductive terms could be imposed on countries with more progressive copyright laws through the force of the TPP.
LendInk, an innovative site dedicated to helping readers share their legally purchased ebooks with one another, has chosen to shut down in the face of legal intimidation. Despite the fact that the site was apparently operating within the terms of service of the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook, its hosting company was targeted with "hundreds of threats," including cease-and-desist letters.
In a welcome course correction, craigslist has removed its short-lived provision that required users to grant it an exclusive license to every post -- in other words granting them ownership. We were unhappily surprised to see this click-through demand, but are glad to see that craigslist has promptly removed it.
The idea behind copyright is simple -- it is supposed to be a balance in the service of the public interest. There's a trade-off: for accepting a restriction on certain speech, the public benefits from the production of more new creative works each year. But in fact, copyright policies almost universally lack the serious cost-benefit analysis that must precede any evidence-based proposal. And indeed, while the unintended costs are clear to anybody who has observed abuse of, say, the DMCA takedown system, the evidence that these policies create incentives -- or even prevent harm -- is less forthcoming.
As we noted last June, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Broadcast Treaty -- a restrictive copyright treaty that aims to create and extend rights to signals of broadcasters and webcasters, and possibly creates serious problems for freedom of expression -- is back. Although it has been revamped, it still incorporates the two most controversial proposals from the original treaty text.
EFF believes that it is vitally important that fair use and exceptions and limitations to copyright be protected in international trade agreements. But the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is putting Fair Use at risk with restrictive language in the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP).
Should the police be allowed to warrantlessly collect and index the DNA of people merely arrested for a crime, while they are still cloaked in the presumption of innocence and have not been found guilty of anything? Over and over again, we've warned courts throughout the country the answer is no, and it now looks like judges are taking notice, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Recently-released documents show that the FBI has been working since late 2011 with four states -- Michigan, Hawaii, Maryland, and possibly Oregon -- to ramp up the Next Generation Identification (NGI) Facial Recognition Program. When the program is fully deployed in 2014, the FBI expects its facial recognition database will contain at least 12 million "searchable frontal photos."
A year ago this week, responding to planned protests throughout the BART system, the transit authority cut off cell phone service in four stations in downtown San Francisco. We were among many to draw the connection between BART and Hosni Mubarak, former president of Egypt, who was in the midst of disabling communication networks to quell protests around the same time.
Citing extraordinary costs and scant results, a high-level French official has announced intentions to defund Hadopi, the government agency charged with shutting off Internet access of individuals accused of repeat copyright infringement. Under the French three strikes law, Internet subscribers whose connection is repeatedly used to share copyrighted material may be disconnected from the Internet and may even have to continue paying for the service. Defunding Hadopi may mean that France won't be focusing on enforcing its three strikes law anymore, but that's not enough. France needs to repeal the three strikes law altogether.
In nearly every country there exists a contingent of people that wish for a censored Internet, but the Jordanian government has not heeded their calls -- that is, until recently. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology stated publicly that it was working with an unnamed Australian company to develop a system for filtering pornographic websites. Though, to their credit, the Ministry responded to calls for censorship by offering free filtering software on its website -- an excellent alternative to mandating national filtering -- the action undertaken by the TRC is cause for alarm.
There is a chronic lack of material in formats accessible to the world's visually impaired and print disabled citizens. Visually impaired people face a "book famine" in which 95% of books published in rich countries and 99% in poorer countries are never converted into accessible formats such as audio, large print or braille. The fastest way to address this famine is to change the copyright law: create exceptions and limitations that permit shifting of content into formats accessible to the blind, and allow cross-border exchange of content in accessible formats.
We've seen many ridiculous lawsuits filed in recent years aimed at improperly unmasking anonymous online speakers; however, an action filed in the Northern District of California last month stands out given its unusually high number of abusive elements (even for a "John Doe" case).
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Professor Colleen Chien of Santa Clara University School of Law launched a survey on the impact of patent demands, especially on small businesses and entrepreneurs. Scholarship on this matter is crucial when it comes to fixing a broken patent system.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate defeated the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, a bill that would have given companies new rights to monitor our private communications and pass that data to the government. This is a victory for Internet freedom advocates everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of voices were heard loud and clear in the halls of Congress. EFF extends our heartfelt thanks to everyone who fought with us on this issue.
EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman will discuss how civil liberties online are under attack and how we can defend them at Campus Party in Berlin. Rainey will be speaking at three events at Campus Party: "Defending the Free and Uncensored Internet" on the Free Software Stage, a roundtable discussion on privacy, and a workshop on "How to Change the World Through Your Blog." August 21-26, 2012
CONSENT is a collaborative project that seeks to examine how consumer behavior and commercial practices are changing the role of consent in the processing of personal data. Rainey Reitman, EFF Activism Director, will be keynoting the conference. September 6-7, 2012
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are all-too-common in today's Internet landscape and are an escalating global problem. This program will address the motives behind and targets of DDoS attacks. It will also explore the various ways attacks are carried out, as well as mitigation techniques and the risks of "unintended consequences." The goal is to foster a discussion and provide a platform for developing a framework of best practices to mitigate DDoS attacks. EFF for International Freedom of Expression, Jillian York, will be speaking at this event, which is at 10 a.m. at New York's AMA Conference Centers. September 19, 2012
New York, NY
EFF established the Pioneer Awards in 1992 to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. This year's pioneers will join an esteemed group of past award winners that includes World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, security expert Bruce Schneier, open source advocate Mozilla Foundation, and privacy rights activist Beth Givens. The event will be held at the Project One Gallery in San Francisco at 7 p.m. September 20, 2012
San Francisco, CA
In response to an article about TPP's expansion of copyright terms, user Frank Bryan posted on our Facebook page: "100 some odd years is ridiculous and certainly not the 'limited times' the founders envisioned. Props for stepping up! Much respect in all that you guys/gals do! Thank you!" You're welcome, Frank.