In our 628th issue:
As 2012 came to a close, the Senate shamefully approved a five-year extension to the FISA Amendments Act, an unconsitutional law that openly allows for warrantless surveillance of Americans' overseas communications. Despite a powerful speech by Senator Ron Wyden explaining the privacy dangers and the lack of oversight in the extended law, the Senate rejected all the proposed amendments that would have brought a modicum of transparency and oversight to the government's activities.
Senator Jeff Merkley urges his colleagues to reject secret laws during the 2012 FISA Amendments Act debate.
The San Francisco District Attorney was recently forced to cut short a Twitter "fishing expedition." The office had issued a pair of subpoenas issued to Twitter, seeking tweets, photos, and a trove of other information related to the accounts of two activists charged with a number of offenses stemming from a Columbus Day anti-capitalist protest. After EFF and ACLU got involved, the DA wisely cut bait.
Though 2012 brought us some much needed movement toward patent reform, it is clear that 2013 promises to provide many of the same patent troll follies of which we've already grown tired. For example, Ars Technica has profiled a particularly atrocious group of patent trolls who are demanding payments from small businesses for committing the egregious, shameful act of... scanning documents to email.
Year in Review: 2012 in Digital Rights
These articles are selections from our annual year-end review series, covering topics as they developed over the preceding year. For the whole list of topics we reviewed this year, see our full wrap-up post.
First Sale Under Siege -- If You Bought It, You Should Own It
The "first sale" doctrine expresses one of the most important limitations on the reach of copyright law. The idea is simple: once you've acquired a lawfully-made CD or book or DVD, you can lend, sell, or give it away without having to get permission from the copyright owner. But the copyright industries have never liked first sale, since it creates competition for their titles (you could borrow the book from a friend, pick it up at a library, or buy it from a used book seller on Amazon). Two legal cases now pending could determine the future of the doctrine.
Steps in the Right Direction for Email Privacy
After years of complaining that our email privacy laws were hopelessly outdated, 2012 saw a promising beacon of light peek out from the unlikeliest of places: a sex scandal. The e-mail evidence of former CIA director David Petraeus' extra-marital affair drew attention to areas of insufficient legal protection.
Suits Against Personal TV Technology and the Right to Innovate Without Permission
This year's fights against Internet TV startup Aereo and the commercial-skipping DVR created by Dish Network are part of a sordid tradition of using copyright suits to squelch disruptive innovation. Fortunately, the innovators have won the first round in both of these cases, with the courts refusing to shut down these new technologies ahead of a trial. Both of those preliminary victories are now on appeal — and EFF will be there.
Blackout Protests Against Blacklist Bills
Coming into 2012, the Internet community was looking down the barrel of very dangerous legislation that would have silenced legitimate speech in the name of curbing online "piracy." The House bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), had been debated, amended, and looked to be on the fast track for legislative approval. That all changed on January 18.
Encrypting the Web with HTTPS
Given the alarming expansion of state-sponsored surveillance, it can be hard to find reasons to be optimistic about individuals' ability to avoid being watched on the web. Yet the continued rise of HTTPS is a beacon of hope for thwarting many types of surveillance.
Secrecy of memo on drone killing Is upheld
A federal judge in Manhattan refused to require the Justice Department to disclose a memorandum providing the legal justification for the targeted killing of a United States citizen, who died in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
Kuwait jails second tweeter for "insulting emir"
Head of Kuwait Society for Human Rights has announced that an opposition member has been delivered a two-year jail sentence after "insulting the emir."
Still smarting from SOPA, Congress to shy away from copyright in 2013
After landmark protests against legislative proposals in 2012, the RIAA and MPAA admit copyright enforcement are not on the agenda for the new Congress.
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Parker Higgins, Activist
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