EFF defended the free speech rights of a website publisher who had repeatedly received baseless threats from the corporate owners of Barney the Dinosaur. The Lyons Partnership wrongly claimed that Dr. Stuart Frankel's online parody of Barney violated copyright and trademark laws. EFF filed suit on Dr. Frankel's behalf, forcing Lyons Partnership to withdraw their threats and compensate Dr. Frankel for the cost of his legal fees.
EFF successfully blocked a brazen attempt to unmask the identities of anonymous members of an online discussion group for embroidery fans. The online group was created to share information about a long-running campaign to threaten purchasers of embroidery designs and software with copyright infringement lawsuits. The Embroidery Software Protection Coalition (ESPC), a purported coalition of embroidery pattern design companies, is behind the heavy-handed campaign. ESPC filed defamation claims against some members of the group and then issued a subpoena for detailed personal information about every single person who joined the discussion group--whether or not they had ever posted a single message.
EFF helped protect free speech rights of users who provide online forums for the views of others. In this case, a breast implant awareness activist was sued for defamation in part for re-posting an article written by someone else. On November 20, 2006, the California Supreme Court upheld the strong protections of Section 230 of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, reversing an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeals. Agreeing with EFF's position, the court held that the 1996 law protects individuals from civil liability for posting to an Internet newsgroup a statement created by another.
EFF protected anonymous speech and fought off a controversial self-help group's abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA's subpoena process is ripe for abuse, because it lets content owners unmask an alleged infringer without first filing an actual lawsuit. Landmark Education sent subpoenas to Google and the Internet Archive to unmask whoever had posted a documentary criticizing the organization, even though the use did not infringe any of Landmark's copyrights. EFF defended the anonymous Google poster and the Internet Archive, and Landmark quickly backed down.
This Song Belongs to You and Me
Standing up for the public's right to make legal, fair uses of copyrighted material, EFF successfully defended the creators of a parody flash animation piece using Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" - and uncovered evidence that the classic folk song is in fact already part of the public domain.
EFF protected online speakers by bringing the first successful suit against abusive copyright claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
When internal memos exposing flaws in Diebold Election Systems' electronic voting machines leaked onto the Internet, Diebold used bogus copyright threats to silence its critics. EFF fought back on behalf of an ISP, winning an award of damages, costs, and attorneys' fees. Equally important, the case set a precedent that will allow other Internet users and their ISPs to fight back against improper copyright threats.
EFF defended the free speech and fair use rights of an online newsletter publisher after the world's third largest pharmaceutical company that accused him of trademark infringement and cybersquatting. Since March 2004, AcompliaReport.com has published original news and commentary about clinical trials of Acomplia, a new medication. Drug maker Sanofi-Aventis asked an international arbitrator to transfer the domain name, claiming that the use of the drug's name created a "risk of confusion." With EFF's assistance, the site's publisher asked a U.S. district court to declare that his use of the drug name was a fair use, made in good faith. The parties subsequently entered into a settlement that protected the publisher's right to the site's address.
Code == Speech: Defending Publishers of DVD Descrambling Code
The DVD Copy Control Association (DVD-CCA), a mouthpiece of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), sued dozens of people in venues across the country and around the world for publishing DeCSS, software code that decrypts the data on commercial DVDs. EFF represented Andrew Bunner and Mathew Pavlovich to defend First Amendment rights in technically oriented speech, to fight the misuse of trade secret law, and to clarify the rules on jurisdiction. In the Bunner case, a California appeals court agreed with EFF and overturned as unconstitutional a 1999 trade secret injunction prohibiting Bunner from publishing the code. In the Pavlovich case, the California Supreme Court also found for the defendant, ruling that Texas resident Pavlovich could not be forced to stand trial in California.
Email Is Free Speech, Not Trespass
When former Intel employee Ken Hamidi sent email messages to Intel employees complaining about the company's allegedly unfair labor practices, Intel brought suit. The company won an injunction on a "trespass to chattels" theory, arguing that Hamidi's emails had harmed Intel's computers. EFF stepped in to protect Hamidi's First Amendment rights, arguing in a friend-of-the-court brief that there was no evidence to suggest that his email had threatened the integrity of Intel's systems. The California Supreme Court agreed, ruling that the tort of trespass to chattels does not encompass, and should not be extended to encompass, email communications.
The English Language Belongs to Everyone
Fighting the over-reach of trademark law, EFF signed on as co-counsel to a small travel services company, JSL, after credit card giant Visa convinced a federal court in Las Vegas to prevent the company from using the domain name "evisa.com." In December of 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with EFF that JSL's use of the generic term "visa" does not threaten or "dilute" Visa's trademark for credit cards, keeping the word in the dictionary (and domain name system servers) for now.