EFF in the News
Every three years, individuals and organizations are able to submit comments to the US Copyright Office and the Library of Congress explaining why they believe exemptions should be granted to the sweeping Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “It’s an administrative process, but it’s sort of structured like a lawsuit,” says Mitch Stoltz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The EFF is outspoken in its opposition to the DMCA. “It’s a badly written law that bans the circumvention of access controls on copyrighted works, even for a purpose that’s legal,” says Stoltz. The EFF submitted a lengthy comment advocating game-related exemptions that included supporting statements from several modders and game archivists. (Meanwhile, the Entertainment Software Association and several game publishers spoke out in favor of maintaining the DMCA as is.)
But while the new plan may prevent a few overage fees on a customer's phone bill, companies just shouldn't involve themselves in privileging certain traffic in any way, argues the Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal director, Corynne McSherry.
"We have an Internet and a whole digital economy that was built around the notion that there weren't gatekeepers," McSherry told NBC News. "ISPs are supposed to be common carriers: 'We'll carry the data, whatever it is.' Whenever we have a program like T-Mobile's, you're moving away from that model."
“The formative experiences of new internet users may have long-term influences on their behaviour online,” according to Jeremy Malcolm, Senior Global Policy Analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“There is a risk that free access to predominantly foreign internet services will limit the interaction of new users in local online communities, will stifle
access to local innovative sites and services, and provide an unbalanced perspective of online life that may be unduly influenced by big content companies and advertisers.”
“Without actual transparency from Facebook, there's no way of knowing,” Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Motherboard. “This highlights a major problem with Facebook's transparency report; without more granularity, we can't really say much about the numbers.”
Cardozo said that, perhaps, most of these wiretaps came from a single “out-of-control” US attorney, but there’s obviously no way to know. Earlier this week, USA Today revealed that a single state state court judge in Riverside County, California was responsible for 624 wiretap orders in 2014, five times as many as any other judge in the country.
While the response from civil society has been noticeable in English-speaking countries, those of East Asia have been comparatively quiet. Indeed, it is mainly Anglophone countries that are leading the charge in responding to indiscriminate monitoring by intelligence organizations. In June, the US Senate passed the USA Freedom Act, which prohibits the bulk collection of communication records without court permission. Katitza Rodriguez of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a US group working for information protection, described the act in an email to the Hankyoreh as the first example in the last thirty years of Congress placing practical limitations on indiscriminate monitoring by the NSA.
"If you find yourself in the situation that you want to use a service or an app, but you don't agree with the terms of service, you don't really have to have a choice," said for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff Technologist, Noah Swartz. "It is all or nothing."
Every three years, the Copyright Office publishes a notice to consider exemptions to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Signed into law in 1998, the DMCA was an attempt to prevent digital piracy by criminalizing the production and dissemination of copyrighted technology and by making a crime to circumvent digital security measures even if it doesn’t infringe on copyright – think Napster. At the time, explains Kit Walsh, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, technology advocates and civil liberties advocates protested that the law was too broad. Congress compromised by requiring the Copyright Office to do periodic rulemakings to consider petitions for exemptions.
In September 2014, the U.S. Copyright Office published a notice in the Federal Register calling for exemption petitions. It garnered 40 requests, which it grouped into 27 exemption categories, ranging from audiovisual works for educational purposes to jail-breaking wireless phones to the software for networked medical devices. The EFF submitted six petitions, two relating the automotive software: vehicle software for repair, diagnosis or modification and vehicle software for safety and security research.
It argued that vehicle owners have a right to tinker and otherwise modify their vehicles. Indeed, a billion-dollar aftermarket industry relies on this activity, along with independent repair shops.
“With automobiles, there is a century of history of independent tinkering, leading to the invention of the catalytic converter, the retractable safety belt and a variety of now-standard equipment,” Walsh says. “It’s easy to make the case that tinkering is good for the public. An unintended consequence of the DMCA is that traditional tinkering activities now take place under a cloud of legal liability.”
"Those numbers — the totals, and just the size of some of those wiretaps — are huge red flags for us," said Dave Maass, an investigative researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "When there's this amount of secrecy it starts to raise serious concerns about accountability for electronic interceptions."
“The FCC left a window open for zero-rating to make it a case-by-case scenario,” says Electronic Frontier Foundation legal director Corynne McSherry. “That’s nominally better, but as a practical matter, an ISP [internet service provider] will end up picking who loses and wins.”
"You have public functions being conducted by private companies without public oversight or transparency, with vast implications for constitutional rights," Shahid Buttar, a constitutional lawyer and director of grassroots advocacy for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Mic. "That's a loss for transparency, and it's a loss for people impacted by models that paint them with suspicion based on group characteristics."