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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: February 2005

February 25, 2005

Discussion with Defendants and Friends-of-the-Court on the Day Briefs Are Filed

Washington, DC - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Washington, DC-based Public Knowledge will host a press conference on Tuesday, March 1 to discuss briefs filed by defendants and friends-of-the-court that day in MGM v. Grokster. The case, which will be argued before the US Supreme Court on March 29, concerns whether manufacturers of peer-to-peer file-sharing software Grokster and StreamCast (makers of Morpheus) should be held liable for the copyright infringements of their users.

Media professionals attending this event will hear from the defendants in the case, attorneys, and representatives from several groups that have filed friend-of-the-court (amicus) briefs. Amici supporting the defendants include venture capitalists, consumer electronics companies, law professors, consumer groups, economists, and technology researchers.

The press conference will take place Tuesday, March 1, at 2:00 p.m. EST. Journalists are invited to attend the live event at the offices of Public Knowledge (1875 Conn. Ave, NW #650, Washington, DC) or phone in via teleconference.

Confirmed attendees include:

* Fred von Lohmann, Electronic Frontier Foundation, counsel for Streamcast, one of the peer-to-peer companies being sued
* Mike Weiss, CEO of Streamcast
* Michael Page, attorney for Grokster
* Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge
* Mark Cooper, Consumer Federation of America
* Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association
* Ed Black, president of Computer and Communications Industry Association

Contacts:

Art Brodsky
Communications Director
Public Knowledge
abrodsky@publicknowledge.org

Annalee Newitz
Policy Analyst / Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
annalee@eff.org

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February 23, 2005

EFF Asks Court to Protect Academic and Competitive Studies

Washington, DC - Three consumer advocacy groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the Supreme Court today to protect scientific researchers from patent-based legal threats. The case, Merck v. Integra, deals specifically with information researchers submitted to the Food and Drug Administration regarding a potential cure for cancer. But it raises broader questions about whether patent owners can stop academic researchers and inventors from studying patented inventions in order to research or improve upon them.

In their friend-of-the-court brief, EFF, Public Knowledge, and the Consumer Project on Technology argued that patent law allows researchers the freedom to make and use patented products for the purpose of furthering academic study. They also argued that experimentation on patented items for the purpose of creating new inventions is also allowed -- as long the patented products aren't sold by the researchers.

"Patent law was created to help spread knowledge and spur innovation," said Jason Schultz, staff attorney at EFF. "Allowing patent owners to shut down important scientific research flies in the face of that purpose."

"The Court has the opportunity here to do tremendous good for society, by making clear that scientists have always been and remain free to perform research -- and competitors to innovate -- without being subject to the threat of patent infringement litigation or the tax of patent licenses," noted Joshua Sarnoff of American University's Glushko–Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, counsel of record on the brief.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case this spring, likely in April, and issue a decision by mid-summer.

Contact:

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

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February 23, 2005

Apple Agrees to Delay Subpoenas Until March 4 Hearing

San Jose - After negotiations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Apple agreed on Friday to extend the deadline on a subpoena it issued to an online journalist's Internet service provider (ISP) until after a hearing that will determine whether the subpoena is legal under the First Amendment and California's reporter's shield law. The subpoena seeks information about the journalist's confidential sources and unpublished notes for an article about a future Apple product.

On March 4, EFF will meet Apple's attorneys in Santa Clara County Superior Court to argue that the subpoena and others like it are unlawful because online journalists are protected by the same "reporter's privilege" laws that shield print journalists from having to reveal their confidential sources and unpublished notes. EFF will ask that the court issue a protective order making it official that journalists for AppleInsider and PowerPage do not have to respond to subpoenas seeking confidential news sources.

Apple is currently suing several "John Does" for allegedly leaking trade secrets about a product code-named "Asteroid" to the online journalists. After initially threatening to subpoena reporters directly, Apple sent subpoenas to Nfox.com, the email provider for PowerPage publisher Jason O'Grady. By forcing Nfox to hand over O'Grady's email, Apple hopes to find the person who told the journalist about "Asteroid."

At the March 4 hearing EFF will argue that the reporter's privilege extends to information stored by third parties such as a reporter's email provider. It will urge the court to reject Apple's attempt do an "end run" around the reporters privilege by subpoenaing the journalist's ISP rather than the journalist himself.

"The reporter's privilege against disclosing confidential sources protects web publishers like AppleInsider and PowerPage just as it protects newspapers and TV networks," said EFF Attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow Kevin Bankston. "If the reporter's privilege is to continue to protect the free flow of information in the digital age, it must apply to reporters' confidential communications even when they are held by third-party Internet service providers."

Contact:

Kevin Bankston
Attorney, Equal Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

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February 23, 2005

Public Comment Welcome at Feb. 28 Meeting About E-voting Machines

Texas - The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently won a preliminary injunction in their lawsuit against the state of Texas concerning whether the Texas Open Meetings Act applies to voting technology certification meetings of the state's election examiners. As part of this victory, Texas will hold its first-ever public meeting discussing proposed voting systems. Any vendor who wants to sell a system in Texas, or even ship an upgrade to its existing software, is required to go through the Texas certification process.

The public meeting will be held on Monday morning, February 28, from 8:30 a.m. until noon, in the 2nd floor conference room of the Rusk Building (208 E. 10th St., Austin). Products from three vendors will be discussed: Diebold, ES&S, and AccuPoll. The proposed AccuPoll system includes a ballot printer. If certified, it would be the first "voter-verifiable paper ballot" electronic voting system available in Texas.

Following each vendor's presentation there will be a public comment period. Members of the public may speak for five minutes, including asking questions of the vendors or examiners. The meeting will focus on how the examiners determine whether or not any vendor's product meets state requirements.

"We're hoping that this meeting will open the door to more public access to the voting systems selection process in Texas, and will support reform efforts being made in the Texas legislature," said Dan Wallach, a professor of computer science at Rice University and expert in voting system security issues.

"Elections need to become more transparent across the board," added Matt Zimmerman, staff attorney for EFF. "Not only does election technology need to permit voters to verify their votes, the process for selecting that technology needs to be open to public scrutiny. While this is a small step forward, and much work remains to be done, it is nevertheless an important step for the voters of Texas."

Check here for more information about E-voting.

Contact:

Matt Zimmerman
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

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February 22, 2005

EFF Releases HD PVR Cookbook and Build-In Kit

San Francisco - Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced the next stage in its challenge to the Federal Communications Commission's "Broadcast Flag" technology mandate. The organization released a step-by-step guide, the "HD PVR Cookbook," that teaches people how to build a high-definition digital television (HDTV) recorder unaffected by the technological constraints of the Broadcast Flag. In addition, EFF is encouraging people to protest the FCC rule by holding Build-Ins -- gatherings around the country to build unfettered HDTV recorders and experience first-hand the kind of innovation stifled by the government mandate.

The Broadcast Flag, which places copy controls on DTV signals, is aimed at stopping people from making digitally perfect copies of television shows and redistributing them. Yet it also stops people from making perfectly legitimate personal copies of broadcasts. More disturbing, the Broadcast Flag will outlaw the manufacture and import of a whole host of TiVo-like devices that send DTV signals into a computer for backup, editing, and playback. After the Broadcast Flag regulations go into effect, all personal video recorder (PVR) technologies must be Broadcast Flag-compliant and "robust" against user modification -- and that means, once again, that the entertainment industry is trying to tell you what you can do with your own machines.

Now individuals can fight back by hosting a Build-In before the Broadcast Flag goes into effect on July 1, 2005. EFF held the first Build-In at its offices in late January, inviting a number of local programmers, TV fans, and bloggers to try out the Cookbook and test-bake their own HDTV recorders using standard computers equipped with HD tuner cards. The results were smashing: the dozen attendees created five working PVRs over the course of the day, using the KnoppMyth distribution of the open-source MythTV software package. Groups who want to host their own Build-Ins can contact EFF for a "Throw Your Own Build-In" kit, which includes a hard copy of the HD PVR Cookbook, a KnoppMyth CD-ROM, and (of course!) free EFF t-shirts and stickers.

EFF releases its technological challenge to the Broadcast Flag on the same day that the organization and other civil liberties groups challenge the FCC in the courtroom. In ALA v. FCC, the groups -- including the American Library Association and Public Knowledge -- argue that the FCC has overstepped its authority in mandating the Broadcast Flag and that the rule should be struck down.

"Even as we're suing the FCC to stop this interference with technological innovation, we're also helping television watchers to get off the couch and build their own fully capable PVRs," said EFF Special Projects Coordinator Wendy Seltzer, who organized the Build-In. "Every MythTV built helps demonstrate the creative development that may be cut off by bad regulation."

Contacts:

Annalee Newitz
Policy Analyst
Electronic Frontier Foundation
annalee@eff.org

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

February 17, 2005

New White Paper Outlines How Click-Through Agreements Erode Privacy, Fundamental Liberties

San Francisco - Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a white paper warning consumers about how they can be harmed by end user license agreements (EULAs) for consumer electronics and online services. Many EULAs contain terms that damage consumer interests, including invitations for vendors to snoop on users' computers, prohibitions on publicly criticizing the product in question, and bans on customizing or even repairing purchased devices.

"Overbroad EULAs are one of the greatest threats to consumer rights in the high tech industry," said Annalee Newitz, EFF policy analyst and author of the white paper. "Few people realize that simply visiting a website or downloading a software update may constitute 'agreeing' to a EULA that permits third parties to monitor your communications or allows a vendor to dictate what you can or cannot do with the product you've bought. Clicking the 'I Agree' button may mean clicking away your privacy, freedom of speech, or other rights."

EULAs, often called "click-through agreements," have become ubiquitous in the technology industry. While they are supposed to bind consumers to strict terms dictated by vendors, consumers don't negotiate them, don't sign them, and in many cases can't even read them until after they've bought the product, taken it home, and opened up the package.

EFF's white paper, "Dangerous Terms – A User's Guide to EULAs," comes at a key juncture in the case of Davidson (commonly known as Blizzard) v. Internet Gateway, a lawsuit that tests whether EULAs can override public protections under federal copyright law such as the fair use doctrine. Tomorrow, lawyers for Blizzard will file an appeal brief arguing that three open source programmers violated Blizzard Entertainment's EULA by creating bnetd, a free game server whose creation was a fair use under copyright law. EFF is co-counsel to the defendants in the case, which is currently on appeal in the Eighth Circuit.

EFF is also in the process of devising legal strategies to challenge EULAs. This white paper is intended to educate the public, but also to serve as a call to arms for consumers who want to fight unfair terms in EULAs. EFF invites people who have been harmed by EULA terms, or who have been threatened with lawsuits for violating terms in EULAs, to contact EFF with their stories.

Consumers harmed by EULAs can contact EFF at: EULAharm@eff.org

Contact:

Annalee Newitz
Policy Analyst
Electronic Frontier Foundation
annalee@eff.org

February 17, 2005

Victory for Students, Parents and Civil Liberties Groups

NOTE: This is a press release from the ACLU of Northern California that EFF is passing along for your information.

San Francisco - The Sutter-based company InCom announced last night, at a packed special school district meeting, that it would end its pilot program that required students to wear radio frequency identification badges that tracked the students' movements. The company pulled out when parents and civil liberties groups mobilized to end the program. On February 7, the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter to the school district urging the school officials to end the program after being contacted by the parents.

"We are pleased that InCom is pulling out -our children never should have been tagged like pieces of inventory or cattle," said Michele Tatro, one of the parents that fought to end the tracking program. "The RFID tags violated the students' privacy, they were demeaning, and it put them in danger."

"Monitoring children with RFID tags is a very bad idea. It treats children like livestock or shipment pallets, thereby breaching their right to dignity and privacy they have as human beings. Any small gain in administrative efficiency and security is not worth the money spent and the privacy and dignity lost," said Cédric Laurant, Policy Counsel with EPIC.

Dawn Cantrall, parent of a 7th grader added: "We are proud that we stopped it here in Sutter and we will continue to fight to make sure that no child is ever forced to have an RFID badge. As parents, it is our duty to keep our children safe and it is not safe to have tracking devices in student badges."

"This is a tremendous victory for the students and families of Sutter," said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU-NC. "However, this is not just an issue affecting school children. The potential use of RFIDs in other identity documents, such as driver's licenses and medical cards, should be of concern to all Californians. RFIDs in identity documents is an issue that requires a statewide response and we plan to encourage legislative action on this front," she added.

"We're happy for the kids in Sutter, and grateful to those parents who stood up for family privacy and security. We hope it will be a wake-up call to parents and kids across the nation," said Lee Tien of EFF.

The tracking program was introduced on January 18th without any notification to the parents. Students in the small farm town of Sutter were required to wear ID cards around their necks with their picture, name, grade, school name, class year and four-digit school ID number and the RFID tags. Parents only found out about the program when their children came home wearing the tracking devices.

Here is more information about RFIDs.

Contacts:

Annalee Newitz
Media Coordinator/Policy Analyst
Electronic Frontier Foundation
annalee@eff.org

Stella Richardson
Media Relations Director
ACLU of Northern California
srichardson@aclunc.org

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February 16, 2005

BayFF Event to Feature Cool Gizmo Demos, Discussion of Legal Threats to Inventors

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) invites the public to join EFF staff members next week in a discussion and celebration of high-tech innovation. The event is part of EFF's BayFF series and will feature product demos of cutting-edge digital media gadgets from San Francisco Bay Area companies Elgato Systems, Slim Devices, and Sling Media. There will also be a panel discussion with EFF experts about how the public can join the fight to protect the pro-innovation environment that makes these high-tech inventions possible.

For the past 20 years, the "Betamax doctrine" has protected innovators from lawsuits and encouraged them to create exciting new applications for older technologies. But with the Supreme Court hearing of MGM v. Grokster at the end of March, we may see big changes in the law, with potentially dire consequences for innovation. How do we ensure that technologists keep the freedom necessary to create the next-generation iPods and TiVos?

This BayFF gathering will be held on Tuesday, February 22, from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m., at 111 Minna, a gallery/nightclub in downtown San Francisco. The evening will also include refreshments and a cash bar. Come to learn, mingle, and meet the EFF staff and friends. This event is free and open to the public. Because 111 Minna serves alcohol, attendees must be over 21.

Contact:

Katina Bishop
Projects Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
katina@eff.org

February 14, 2005

Seeks to Stop Apple From Undermining Reporter's Privilege

Santa Clara County, CA - Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked a California Superior Court for a protective order that would prevent Apple Computer from forcing three online journalists to identify their confidential sources and hand over unpublished materials. EFF, serving as co-counsel for the journalists, argues that online journalists are protected by the same "reporter's privilege" laws that shield print journalists from having to reveal the names of anonymous sources.

The case began in December 2004, when Apple obtained a court order allowing the company to issue subpoenas aimed at discovering the identities of 20 "Does" who allegedly leaked information about upcoming Apple products to AppleInsider.com and PowerPage.org. After initially threatening to subpoena reporters directly, Apple sent subpoenas to Nfox.com, the email provider for PowerPage publisher Jason O'Grady. By forcing Nfox to hand over O'Grady's email, Apple hopes to find out who told the journalist about an upcoming product code-named "Asteroid."

"Rather than confronting the issue of reporter's privilege head-on, Apple is going to this journalist's ISP for his emails," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "This undermines a fundamental, First Amendment right that protects all reporters. If the court lets Apple get away with this, and exposes the confidences gained by these reporters, potential confidential sources will be deterred from providing information to the media, and the public will lose a vital outlet for independent news, analysis, and commentary."

Supporting EFF in this argument are Professor Tom Goldstein, Director of the Mass Communication Program and former Dean of the Journalism School at the University of California at Berkeley, and Dan Gillmor, noted Silicon Valley journalist and founder of Grassroots Media Inc., both of whom filed declarations stating their expert opinion that the writers for PowerPage and Apple Insider are journalists just like the writers for traditional newspapers and magazines. Acting as co-counsel with EFF are Thomas Moore III of Tomlinson Zisko LLP and Richard Wiebe of the Law Office of Richard Wiebe.

In its request for the protective order, EFF points out that reporter's privileges protect the anonymity of sources regardless of whether third parties hold a journalist's records.

Contacts:

Kevin Bankston
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

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

Related Issues:
February 7, 2005

Parents and Civil Liberties Groups Urge School District to Terminate Use of Tracking Devices

NOTE: This is a press release from the ACLU of Northern California that EFF is recirculating for your information.

San Francisco - Parents in a northern California public school district and civil liberties groups are urging a school district to terminate the mandatory use of Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFIDs) by students. Several civil liberties groups, including the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter today expressing alarm at the Brittan School District's use of mandatory ID badges that include a RFID device that tracks the students' movements. The device transmits private information to a computer on campus whenever a student passes under one of the scanners. The ID badges also include the student's name, photo, grade, school name, class year and the four-digit school ID number. Students are required to prominently display the badges by wearing them around the neck at all times.

"Forcing my child to be tracked with a RFID device – without our consent or knowledge – is a complete invasion of our privacy," said Michael and Dawn Cantrall. "Our 7th grader came home wearing the ID badge prominently displayed around her neck– if a predator wanted to target my child, the mandatory school ID card has just made that task easier." The Cantralls filed a formal complaint against the Brittan Elementary School Board in Sutter, California on January 30th after meeting with several school officials.

In a letter dated February 7, sent to the Brittan Board of Trustees, the civil liberties groups "urge the school board to recognize the serious safety and civil liberties implications" and call the for the School Board to "terminate this ill-advised test immediately."

"We are sending the letter today because a School Board meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night and we want to make sure that the District reconsiders the issue," said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU-NC. "RFID technology is inappropriate for use in schools. The badges jeopardize the safety and security of children by broadcasting identity and location information to anyone with a chip reader and subjects students to demeaning tracking of their movements."

"The monitoring of children with RFID tags is comparable to the tracking of cattle, shipment pallets, or very dangerous criminals in high-security prisons. Compelling children to be constantly tracked with RFID-trackable identity badges breaches their right to privacy and dignity as human beings. Forcing children to wear badges around their necks displaying such sensitive information as their name, picture, grade and school exposes them to potential discrimination since the name of their school may disclose their religious beliefs or social class," said Cédric Laurant, Policy Counsel with EPIC.

Jeffrey and Michele Tatro, parents of a thirteen-year-old student at Brittan Elementary School, added: "It is our goal that no child in the United States be tagged or tracked. We want it to be stopped here, in Sutter California, and we don't want any child to be tracked anywhere. Our children are not pieces of inventory."

"It is dehumanizing to force these children to wear RFIDs, and their parents are rightfully outraged," said Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Lee Tien. "We are doing everything we can to support the parents in this fight to protect student privacy."

Get more information about RFIDs in schools.

Contacts:

Stella Richardson
Media Relations Director
ACLU of Northern California
srichardson@aclunc.org

Annalee Newitz
Media Coordinator/Policy Analyst
Electronic Frontier Foundation
annalee@eff.org

Related Issues:
February 7, 2005

Logfinder Helps Eliminate Unwanted Logging of Personal Data

San Francisco, CA - Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released logfinder, a software tool to help people reduce the unnecessary collection of personal information about computer users. Often computer network servers automatically log information about who has visited a website and when, or who has sent and received email. Such data tells a lot about a user's browsing and email habits and could be used in privacy-invasive ways. Moreover, log data must be turned over to government entities with court orders and can be subpoenaed by opposing sides in court cases.

By finding unwanted log files, logfinder informs system administrators when their servers are collecting personal data and gives them the opportunity to turn logging off if it isn't gathering information necessary for administering the system.

Logfinder was conceived by security consultant Ben Laurie and written by EFF Staff Technologist Seth Schoen. It's intended to complement EFF's recent white paper, "Best Practices for Online Service Providers," in which the organization argues that administrators should remove as many logs as possible and delete all personally identifying data from them.

"People who choose to follow our recommendations in the white paper might not know what kinds of logs they have," said Schoen. "Logfinder is an example of one way a system administrator could become aware of the presence of logs, as well as discover sensitive information being collected in known logs."

Download logfinder.

Contacts:

Seth Schoen
Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
seth@eff.org

Chris Palmer
Technology Manager
Electronic Frontier Foundation
chris@eff.org

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