Press Releases: October 2003
Ignores Fair Uses of DVDs and CDs
Washington, DC - The Librarian of Congress today continued
to disregard consumers' rights and denied exemptions to
copyright law related to consumers' use of CDs and DVDs that
they legally purchase.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had urged the
Register of Copyrights and the Librarian of Congress to
grant exemptions to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright
Act (DMCA) ban on circumventing technological locks that
prevent consumers from fully enjoying the digital media that
they own. These digital locks, technically known as "digital
rights management" systems, limit how consumers can play and
view their CDs and DVDs.
Specifically, EFF had asked the Copyright Office to allow
- Play copy-protected audio CDs that malfunction to prevent
- View foreign region-coded DVD movies on U.S. players
- Fast-forward through unskippable commercials prior to
movies on DVDs
- Play and make full use of public domain movies on DVDs
"Consumers are the real losers in today's ruling, because
the Librarian of Congress is ignoring the rights of nearly
everyone who has purchased CDs and DVDs," said EFF Staff
Attorney Gwen Hinze. "We're disappointed that the Copyright
Office and the Librarian of Congress did not recognize the
significant impact that the DMCA is having on millions of
consumers' ability to make reasonable uses of digital
media they've purchased."
"Although the exemptions granted by the Librarian of
Congress are important, today's ruling just underscores
the need for legislative reform of the DMCA to restore
the balance in U.S. Copyright law," commented EFF Senior
Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann.
The Copyright Office did grant exemptions for the following
- Decoding lists of Web pages or directories blocked by
Internet filtering software, also known as censorware. EFF
Pioneer Award recipient Seth Finkelstein was instrumental in
lobbying for censorware exemptions to the DMCA for each U.S.
Copyright Office rulemaking period.
- Circumventing obsolete digital rights management devices
called dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or
damage. The Internet Archive requested this exemption.
- Accessing computer programs and video games distributed
in obsolete formats. The Internet Archive requested this
- Accessing ebooks for which the publisher has disabled the
read-aloud function or the ability to use screen readers to
render the text into a specialized format, such as Braille
for access by the blind. The American Foundation for the
Blind and five major library associations requested this
- Ruling of the Copyright Office
- Comments and testimony to the Copyright Office
- Unintended Consequences: Five Years under the DMCA
Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
MIT today announced an innovative solution aimed at giving students an alternative to swapping music online. Built around the existing on-campus cable television infrastructure, it relies on a blanket licensing approach that offers a possible model for solving the Internet file-sharing dilemma.
"The students get access to a broad array of music, and the copyright owners get paid. This is where we should all be heading," said Fred von Lohmann, EFF senior staff attorney. "I hope the record industry takes note and realizes this is a whole lot more promising than suing people."
The recording industry has started the second round of its campaign against American music fans by sending letters threatening them with lawsuits and offering to discuss settlement. "The record companies still aren't listening to their fans; instead of continuing their litigation crusade, the labels should give their customers the option to pay a reasonable fee to continue file-sharing," said EFF Staff
Attorney Wendy Seltzer.
EFF Defends Right to Publish Links to Electronic Voting Memos
San Francisco - Defending the right to link to controversial
information about flaws in electronic voting systems, EFF
announced today it will defend an Internet Service Provider
(ISP) and a news website publisher against claims of
indirect copyright infringement from the electronic voting
On October 10, 2003, electronic voting company Diebold,
Inc., sent a cease-and-desist letter to the nonprofit Online
Policy Group (OPG) ISP demanding that OPG remove a page of
links published on an Independent Media Center (IndyMedia)
website located on a computer server hosted by OPG.
Diebold sent out dozens of similar notices to ISPs hosting
IndyMedia and other websites linking to or publishing copies
of Diebold internal memos. OPG is the only ISP so far to
resist the takedown demand from Diebold.
"What topic could be more important to our democracy than
discussions about the mechanics and legitimacy of electronic
voting systems now being introduced nationwide?" said EFF
Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. "EFF won't stand by as
corporations like Diebold chill important online debate by
churning out legal notices to ISPs that usually just take
down legitimate content rather than face the legal risk."
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) passed by
Congress in 1998 provides a "safe harbor" as an incentive
for ISPs to take down user-posted content when they receive
cease-and-desist letters such as the ones sent by Diebold.
By removing the content, or forcing the user to do so, for a
minimum of 10 days, an ISP can take itself out of the middle
of any copyright claim. As a result, few ISPs have tested
whether they would face any liability for such user activity
in the first place. EFF has been exposing some of the ways
the safe harbor limits online speech through the Chilling
"We defend strongly the free speech right of our client
IndyMedia to publish links to Diebold memos relevant to the
public debate about electronic voting machine security,"
explained OPG Executive Director Will Doherty. "Diebold's
claim of copyright infringement from linking to information
posted elsewhere on the Web is ridiculous, and even more
silly is the claim that we as an ISP could be liable for our
client's web links."
- Cease-and-desist letter Diebold sent to OPG
- IndyMedia Web page subject to Diebold cease-and-desist
- Security researchers discover huge flaws in e-voting system
- Link to Chilling Effects on DMCA safe harbor provisions
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Online Policy Group
CD copy-protection vendor SunnComm Technologies has said that it will not sue J. Alex Halderman under the DMCA for publishing a paper that disclosed weaknesses in the company's latest MediaMax protection technology. The final concession comes after a week of off-again, on-again threats against the Princeton computer science graduate student. EFF had offered to represent Mr. Halderman if SunnComm made good on its earlier litigation threats.
"We're glad that cooler heads prevailed at SunnComm," said Fred von Lohmann, EFF senior staff attorney. "But this is just the latest example of the chill that the DMCA has injected into the computer security research community. These irresponsible legal threats imperil not only First Amendment values, but also scare future generations of researchers away from important computer security investigations."
Another Error in Record Companies' Legal Crusade
Los Angeles, California - EFF today announced that it will
defend Ross Plank of Playa Del Rey, California, against a
wrongly filed complaint, among the 261 copyright
infringement lawsuits the recording industry has filed
The federal lawsuit filed against Plank in Los Angeles
accuses him of making hundreds of Latin songs available
using KaZaA filesharing software earlier this summer. Plank
does not speak Spanish and does not listen to Latin music.
More importantly, his computer did not even have KaZaA
installed during the period when the investigation occurred.
EFF has offered to accept service of the complaint on
Plank's behalf, the first step to defending the lawsuit.
Plank is a website consultant who operates his business,
Sitenurturing.com, from his home. "I need my computer and
Internet connection to run my business," said Plank. "I
shouldn't have to feel my business and future are at risk
because the RIAA has somehow linked my name to a set of
Comcast, Plank's ISP, notified him that they received a
subpoena from the recording industry seeking his identity,
but Plank disregarded the notice because he didn't didn't
use KaZaA and didn't even recognize the song titles. Plank's
records from the time at which the RIAA issued its subpoena
indicate that he was not even using the network address for
which the recording industry had sought the user's identity.
"Whether the error was made by Comcast or the RIAA, the
issuance of a federal complaint on such slim evidence
demonstrates the serious flaws in the Recording Industry's
litigation campaign," said Wendy Seltzer, an EFF staff
attorney representing Plank. "It's not fair to hold people
like Mr. Plank as collateral damage in the RIAA dragnet. If
the labels don't dismiss the complaint, we'll look forward
to discovery into how they made this misidentification in
the first place."
"The recording industry's 'sue first and ask questions
later,' policy caused this problem," added EFF Legal
Director Cindy Cohn. "The RIAA recently told Congress that
its members will contact individuals in the future before
suing them -- but better yet would be to ensure that they
cannot violate the privacy of people like Ross Plank in the
first place until they have demonstrated to a judge that
they have their facts straight."
EFF has urged the recording industry to accept filesharing
by embracing new ways of ensuring that copyright holders and
artists are compensated. "Radio stations pay a blanket fee
and get to 'share' any music that they like," noted EFF
Executive Director Shari Steele. "The record companies could
ensure that artists are paid for music shared using the
filesharing networks if they offered individuals a similar
deal and paid a portion of the funds directly to artists."
- Recording Industry's withdraws lawsuit in Sarah Ward case
- EFF's Let the Music Play Campaign
- RIAA's College Lawsuits a Wrong Answer
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Ross R. Plank
Defendant in RIAA Case
CD copy-protection vendor, SunnComm Technologies Inc., today threatened to sue Princeton graduate student J. Alex Halderman for publishing a paper that reveals that simply holding down the shift key can defeat its latest copy-protection technology.
"What more proof do you need that the DMCA is chilling legitimate research?" asked EFF senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann. "In America today, scientists shouldn't have to fear legal action for publishing the truth. Based on the apparent weakness of its technology, perhaps SunnComm should be hiring more Princeton computer scientists, instead of threatening to sue them."
For a compendium of other incidents involving the use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to squelch legitimate research, see EFF's recently revised report, "Unintended Consequences: Five Years Under the DMCA".
Princeton computer science student Alex Halderman has released a paper describing a one-click method to bypass the "copy protection" on the recently released Anthony Hamilton CD from BMG. "Halderman's paper illustrates exactly who's hurt by copy protections: the ordinary user, who can't move tracks to his iPod without going to KaZaA to get the music he has already paid for," said EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. "These so-called speed bumps haven't kept songs off the peer-to-peer networks, they've only made it more difficult for the public to make fair use of music from authorized sources."
EFF welcomed the suspension of VeriSign's SiteFinder service today,
after a formal request from ICANN. "We're pleased that ICANN has
finally found the will to stand up for the clear interests of
Internet users, to stop VeriSign's interference with their network
traffic," said Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. Staff Technologist Seth
Schoen adds "VeriSign complains ICANN gave it no hearing -- yet
VeriSign gave no hearing to the Internet community before adopting
Site Finder, and still seems deaf to public concerns."
EFF today released its analysis of Trusted Computing, supporting some of the security proposals while criticizing those that take control away from computer owners. "Helping computer owners defend their computers against attacks is progress in computer security, but treating computer owners themselves as the bad guys is not," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth Schoen. "Security architectures must be designed to put the computer owner's interests first, not to lock the owner into the plans of others."
At Congressional hearings yesterday, the RIAA announced that it was ceasing its campaign of "sue first and ask questions later" in its crusade against American filesharers and would begin to write letters first before launching litigation.
"It's too bad that it took episodes like the mistaken lawsuit against the 65-year-old grandmother Sarah Ward and a Congressional inquiry to bring the RIAA to follow the basic practice of contacting a potential defendant and attempting to resolve matters informally before suing," noted EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Now that they've taken this first step, the RIAA should take a second and more important one that could end this entire matter tomorrow -- offer all Americans the opportunity to continue filesharing by paying a monthly fee."