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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: August 2004

August 24, 2004

EFF Believes "This Land Is Your Land" Belongs to You and Me

San Francisco - Music publisher Ludlow Music, Inc., has officially backed down on its threats against web animation studio JibJab Media Inc. over the widely circulated "This Land" animated parody lampooning President Bush and Senator Kerry. JibJab had responded to Ludlow's threats by engaging the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to file suit on its behalf in San Francisco on July 29, 2004, seeking judicial confirmation that JibJab's work was a protected "fair use" and did not infringe Ludlow's copyrights.

During the course of investigating the case, EFF learned that "This Land is Your Land," the classic Woody Guthrie song, is part of the public domain and has been for several decades.

EFF's investigation revealed that "This Land is Your Land" appears to have been in the public domain since the early 1970s. Woody Guthrie wrote his classic American song in 1940, when the copyright laws granted a copyright term of 28 years, renewable once for an additional 28. According to EFF, the initial copyright term was triggered when Guthrie sold his first versions of the song as sheet music in 1945. The copyright on the song then ran out when Ludlow failed to renew its registration in 1973. Ludlow believes its copyright -- initially filed in 1956 and renewed in 1984 -- remains valid and disputes EFF's claims.

"We believe that Guthrie's classic tune, 'This Land Is Your Land,' belongs to all of us now, just like Amazing Grace and Beethoven's symphonies" said Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney with EFF. "The idea of copyright law is that, after a time, every work comes back into the hands of the public, where it can be reused, recycled, made part of new creativity without having to pay a fee or call in the lawyers. That's a great thing, the real genius of copyright."

JibJab dismissed its suit against Ludlow today. As part of the settlement of the case, JibJab will remain free to continue distributing the "This Land" animation without further interference from Ludlow.

Contacts:

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
fred@eff.org

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August 20, 2004

EFF Protests Anti-Privacy Ruling in Appeal to the Ninth Circuit

California - US citizens may no longer have the right to travel without being searched. So says the District Court for the Northern District of California, which recently dismissed a case that questioned whether it is constitutional for airport security agents to demand identification papers from travelers. But the case, Gilmore v. Ashcroft, isn't going away. On Monday, counsel for plaintiff John Gilmore filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit, demanding that the court reverse this ruling and guarantee travelers the right to travel by air without the government requiring them to show identification papers.

On Thursday the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the plaintiff, arguing that compulsory ID checks at airports violate the Fourth Amendment. The law permits passengers to be searched only for weapons and explosives, and does not permit generalized searches as a condition for boarding commercial aircraft. Thus, forcing travelers to produce identification constitutes an illegal search and seizure. The government has failed to show a compelling reason why identity checks are necessary to prevent people from carrying weapons or explosives onto planes, or even any legal authority for demanding that passengers show identity papers.

"We are all concerned with keeping aviation safe and secure, but the Fourth Amendment does not allow screening for dangerous items to expand into a coercive demand for official identity papers," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl.

EFF friend-of-the-court brief [PDF].

Contacts:

Kurt Opsahl
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
kurt@eff.org

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August 19, 2004

Ninth Circuit Declares Grokster, Morpheus Not Liable for Infringement

California - Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made a crucial decision (PDF) in support of technology innovators by declaring that distributors of the peer-to-peer software Grokster and Morpheus cannot be held liable for the infringing activities of their users. The Electronic Frontier Foundation argued on behalf of Streamcast, the creator of the Morpheus software, in a case that pitted dozens of entertainment conglomerates against two small software companies.

The Ninth Circuit decision is based in part on the fact that P2P networks have significant non-infringing uses, and that they can help artists earn money. The ruling is similar to the Supreme Court's decision in the 1984 Betamax case, which determined that Sony was not liable for copyright violations by users of the Betamax VCR.

"Today's ruling will ultimately be viewed as a victory for copyright owners. As the court recognized today, the entertainment industry has been fighting new technologies for a century, only to learn again and again that these new technologies create new markets and opportunities," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "There is no reason to think that file sharing will be any different."

The court's decision was unanimous.

"This is a victory for innovators of all stripes," added von Lohmann. "The court's ruling makes it clear that innovators need not beg permission from record labels and Hollywood before they deploy exciting new technologies."

It is likely that the entertainment companies will appeal the Ninth Circuit's decision to the Supreme Court.

Ninth Circuit decision in MGM v. Grokster (PDF).

Contact:

Wendy Seltzer
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
wendy@eff.org


Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
fred@eff.org

August 13, 2004

Agrees to Postpone Closed Voting Examiner Meetings in Face of ACLU Lawsuit

Austin, TX - The Texas Secretary of State today agreed to indefinitely postpone a meeting of the state's voting examiners following the filing of a lawsuit by the ACLU of Texas and a Texas voter. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is serving as co-counsel in the case. The lawsuit challenged the practice of holding closed meetings in violation of the state's Open Meetings Act.

Today, the parties decided to postpone an upcoming voting examiner meeting that had been set for August 18, 2004. As a result of the Secretary of State's decision, the emergency hearing in the case set for Monday, August 16 has been cancelled. Under the agreement, the Secretary of State and voting examiners are required to notify the plaintiffs at least 14 days before any subsequent meeting is held. The underlying lawsuit seeking to open the voting examiner meetings to public scrutiny is not affected and will proceed as planned.

"We are pleased that the voting examiners will not hold their August 18th closed meeting," said Adina Levin of ACLU-Texas. "However, we need to ensure that this will become a permanent solution instead of just a temporary one. We will proceed with this lawsuit until the public is guaranteed that the certification process of voting technology will be an open and transparent one."

Levin noted that it is unclear whether the Secretary of State's decision to postpone the upcoming meeting meant that future meetings would be open to the public. "We hope this is a sign that the Secretary of State is taking the time to ensure that future meetings comply with Open Meetings Act requirements, and not an attempt to find another way to keep Texas election systems meetings closed," said Levin. "We have not received any promise to that effect, and the Secretary of State has made no other indication that that will happen."

You can find more information at Texas Safe Voting.

Contacts:

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Adina Levin
Director, Cyberliberties Project
ACLU-Texas
alevin@aclutx.org

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August 12, 2004

Organization Grows with Addition of Attorneys, Technical, and Membership Staff

San Francisco, CA - Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced the addition of four new staff members. Kurt Opsahl and Matt Zimmerman join the legal team as staff attorneys, while systems administrator Matt Peterson brings expertise to the technical team and membership coordinator Kyle Pedersen will work on EFF membership development.

Kurt Opsahl graduated from the Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and comes to EFF from law firm Perkins Coie, where he was an associate. There he represented technology clients on intellectual property, privacy, defamation, and other online liability matters, including working on Kelly v. Arribasoft, MGM v. Grokster and CoStar v. LoopNet. For his work responding to government subpoenas, Opsahl is proud to have been called a "rabid dog" by the Department of Justice. As staff attorney at EFF, he will work on privacy, surveillance and other constitutional issues.

Matt Zimmerman earned his J.D. from Columbia University. Prior to joining EFF, he worked as the Privacy Fellow at the public interest law firm The First Amendment Project, where he specialized in privacy and open government issues previously, he worked at law firm Morrison &amp Foerster, where he focused on commercial litigation matters, including patent and technology licensing disputes. At EFF, Zimmerman will be the first staff attorney to dedicate himself entirely to electronic voting issues.

Matt Peterson, EFF's systems administrator, comes to the organization from Surf and Sip, a wireless networking company. He is one of the founders of the Bay Area Wireless User Group (BAWUG), and has spent several years working with nonprofit organizations in Asia to set up wireless networks for regions with little or no Internet access.

New membership coordinator Kyle Pedersen comes to EFF from the Urban Justice Center in New York, where he worked as an activist on mental health issues. He has also been active in tenant's rights causes. At EFF, he will be in charge of servicing our existing members and getting individuals excited about our work so they decide to join.

"EFF continues to attract some amazing talent," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "Kurt and Matt are both experienced attorneys who are already up to speed on our issues. And Matt and Kyle are both young and enthusiastic, as well as well-suited to serve in their current roles."

With these new hires, EFF brings its lawyer total up to nine. This is an unprecedented number for the organization. "We have found that our legal expertise is needed on so many fronts," added Steele. "We're ready to continue to make a difference as law develops in the digital world."

Contact:

Shari Steele
Executive Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
ssteele@eff.org

August 12, 2004

California - In a ruling the Electronic Frontier Foundation hailed as a step forward, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ruled today that Visa and several other credit card companies would not be held liable for the copyright infringements of its business customers.

The case was brought by Perfect 10, an adult website that accused several credit card companies of copyright infringement because they were providing financial transaction services for sites containing allegedly infringing images. Rather than suing the alleged infringers, Perfect 10 sued their financial service providers for contributory infringement. Judge James Ware dismissed the case, citing the companies' inability to control the content of the sites with which they do business.

"This ruling suggests that courts aren't eager to extend contributory and vicarious copyright infringement to reach people only remotely connected to alleged infringers," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "Of course, if Senator Hatch passes his Inducement to Infringe Copyright Act, that throws everything into uncertainty again."

EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz added, "Without the protections acknowledged by this ruling, any copyright owner could drag dozens of general service companies into court -- from the gas company to the electric company. This decision imposes important limits on overzealous copyright owners."

Perfect 10 brought a similar suit against financial transactions companies and age verification services in the Central District of California earlier this year. Most of the claims in that suit were dismissed, as well.

Contacts:

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
fred@eff.org

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August 10, 2004

Lawsuit Attacks Secrecy of Meetings Where E-voting Machines Are Evaluated

Austin, TX - The ACLU of Texas and a Texas voter today filed a lawsuit demanding that the meetings of the state's voting examiners be held in public.

The voting examiners are responsible for studying electronic voting machines and other voting technologies and recommending to the Secretary of State which systems should be certified for use in Texas. In the past few years, the Secretary of State has routinely adopted the recommendations of the panel, yet he has rebuffed efforts by the public to observe the proceedings, claiming that the panel is not subject to Texas' Open Meetings Act.

Recently, the Texas Safe Voting Coalition obtained videotapes of previous meetings, including one involving Diebold, that suggest a lack of rigor and failure to properly address security and certification compliance issues.

"Texans deserve secure, reliable voting machines, and they deserve to see that the officials charged with certifying those machines are conducting a rigorous evaluation to ensure the systems are secure and effective," said Adina Levin of theTexas ACLU. "All aspects of the voting process in a democracy should be open and transparent, to give citizens confidence in their vote. The evaluation process should not be hidden behind closed doors."

The case, which will be handled by lead counsel Renea Hicks, seeks a ruling opening up the meetings prior to the upcoming August meeting of the examiners. The lawsuit comes on the heels of a letter filed with the Attorney General in July by Consumers Union that also argued that these closed meetings violate the Texas Open Meetings Act. "The public's interest in the state's certification of electronic voting equipment is high," noted Kathy Mitchell, Open Government Policy Analyst for Consumers Union. "The meetings of the examiners represent the critical point of deliberation during which key issues of interest to the public are discussed and debated."

"The country is beginning to look under the rug of election certifications and testing processes, and the scene is not pretty," added Cindy Cohn, Legal Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is serving as co-counsel in the case. "Opening up Texas certification processes should send a signal to testing and certification authorities nationwide that they must perform rigorous, public review of the systems that count our votes."

The Complaint is available here.

Texas Safe Voting Coalition (including clips of a January, 2004 examiner meeting).

Contacts:

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Adina Levin
Director, Cyberliberties Project
ACLU-Texas
alevin@aclutx.org

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August 9, 2004

EFF and National Voter Rights Organizations Support Appeal to State's Highest Court

Maryland - Lawyers representing eight Maryland citizens today filed a petition with the state supreme court seeking to decertify or fix Diebold voting machines that computer security experts have deemed insecure. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), working with over a dozen organizations concerned with voting integrity, has filed a friend of the court brief supporting the suit. Groups signing on to the brief include People for the American Way, Common Cause, Center for Constitutional Rights, America's Families United, and the Verified Voting Foundation.

In Schade v. Lamone, the plaintiffs ask that the state of Maryland address widely publicized security and reliability concerns with the Diebold machines and implement a voter verified paper ballot as required by state law. In the short term, the voters are seeking an injunction that would require the state to take steps to address these concerns before the November 2004 elections, including decertifying the machines altogether. The interim steps the lawsuit asks the state to take include implementing the same 23 basic security standards that California is now implementing, and offering Maryland voters the alternative of a paper ballot if they do not wish to have their vote counted by the Diebold machines.

EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said, "The Maryland court has the opportunity to make a more secure and accurate election in November."

If the Maryland supreme court agrees to hear the case, it would be the highest court in the country to consider this issue.

Friend of the court brief:

http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/20040809_MD_Amicus.pdf

Documents in Schade v. Lamone:

http://www.truevotemd.org/petition.pdf
http://www.truevotemd.org/mandamus.pdf

Contact:

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

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