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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: December 2005

December 29, 2005

“The proposed settlement will provide significant benefits for consumers who bought the flawed CDs,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Under the terms, those consumers will get what they thought they were buying--music that will play on their computers without restriction or security risk. EFF is continuing discussions with Sony BMG, however, and believes that there is more they can do to protect music lovers in the future.”

"Sony agreed to stop production of these flawed and ineffective DRM technologies,” noted EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. “We hope that other record labels will learn from Sony’s hard experience and focus more on the carrot of quality music and less on the stick of copy protection.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) joined in this preliminary settlement agreement with Sony BMG this week to settle several class action lawsuits filed due to Sony's use of flawed and overreaching computer program in millions of music CDs sold to the public. The proposed terms of settlement have been presented to the court for preliminary approval and will likely be considered in a hearing set for January 6, 2005 in federal court in New York City.

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December 23, 2005

Raleigh, North Carolina - After a series of lawsuits led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to defend North Carolina's election integrity laws, controversial electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold Election Systems finally withdrew from the state's voting machine procurement process on Thursday.

In November, Diebold filed suit against the North Carolina Board of Elections to try to avoid a state requirement that vendors place into escrow all source code "that is relevant to functionality, setup, configuration, and operation of the voting system." Under a strong new state law, this code is to be available to the Board of Elections and the chairs of the state political parties for review so that they could look for security vulnerabilities. EFF intervened in the case on behalf of local voter integrity advocate Joyce McCloy and succeeded in convincing the judge to dismiss the case and require Diebold to comply.

Despite Diebold's open admission that it could not meet the state requirements for voting machine integrity, the Board of Elections later agreed to certify Diebold. EFF filed suit against the Board of Elections last week, arguing that the Board had violated its own obligations to perform extensive security-related tests of all of the code on all certified systems prior to certification. The court denied EFF's motion, but Diebold was nonetheless forced to withdraw from the North Carolina procurement process because it did not escrow its code.

In a letter to the Board of Elections on Thursday, Diebold indicated that it is still unwilling to comply with the law. Instead, it offered to help the state "revise" the law so that "all vendors will be able to comply with the state election law."

"The purpose of election integrity law is to ensure that votes are accurately counted, not to ensure that all equipment vendors can comply," said Matt Zimmerman, EFF's Staff Attorney specializing in electronic voting issues. "The law requires voting machine transparency for good reason. All vendors must realize that the public will not and should not accept a process that forces them to simply trust, but not verify, their votes are accurately counted."

By withdrawing from North Carolina's electronic voting contract, Diebold cedes the market to competitor ES&S. The rival company has stated that it will comply with all state escrow requirements.

Contacts:

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

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

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December 16, 2005

Opposes Prison Mail Ban on Materials Printed from Internet

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of Prison Legal News told a federal court Wednesday that Georgia state prisoners should be allowed to receive material printed from the Internet through the mail.

Although Georgia state prisons allow prisoners to receive handwritten letters in the mail, Georgia prison policy also includes a blanket ban on any incoming mail containing printouts from the Internet. Since prisoners cannot themselves access the Internet, Internet materials printed and mailed by family and friends are often the only way for them to receive valuable legal information, health advice, and religious materials. In a friend-of-the-court brief for a case filed by Georgia prisoner Danny Williams, EFF argues that this indiscriminate and arbitrary ban on Internet-generated materials violates prisoners' First Amendment rights. Several courts in other states have already ruled that mail policies like the one at issue here are unconstitutional.

"Georgia prisons are violating the rights of prisoners and those who correspond with them by senselessly allowing prisoners to receive handwritten mail but prohibiting printouts of material from the Internet," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "It makes no sense and serves no legitimate interest for a prison to prohibit a prisoner from receiving, for example, a printout of the latest issue of Prison Legal News, or information from the Internet about health issues like AIDS that can be life-or-death issues for prisoners."

Prison Legal News is a non-profit legal magazine, publishing monthly review and analyses of prisoner rights, prisoner-relevant legislation and court rulings, and news about general prison issues. The majority of Prison Legal News subscribers, as well as most of its writers, are currently incarcerated.

EFF was assisted in this case by attorney Sarah M. Shalf of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP in Atlanta, Georgia.

For the brief filed in this case:
http://eff.org/legal/cases/williams_v_donald/EFF_PLN_amicus.pdf

Contact:

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

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December 9, 2005

Online Rights Canada Launches with EFF, CIPPIC Support

Toronto - Online Rights Canada (ORC) launched in Canada Friday, giving Canadians a new voice in critical technology and information policy issues. The grassroots organization is jointly supported by the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

"Canadians are realizing in ever-greater numbers that the online world offers tremendous opportunities for learning, communicating, and innovating, but that those opportunities are at risk as a result of corporate practices, government policies and legal regimes that hinder online privacy and free speech," said Philippa Lawson, Executive Director and General Counsel of CIPPIC. "Online Rights Canada provides a home on the Internet for grassroots activism on digital issues that are important to ordinary Canadians."

"With the Canadian government preparing for a January election, all of last year's legislation is back on the drawing board. Canadians now have another chance to present a public interest perspective on issues like copyright reform and increased government surveillance," said Ren Bucholz, EFF's Policy Coordinator, Americas. "We are happy to be launching ORC at such a critical time."

One of ORC's first actions is a petition drive against unwarranted surveillance law. A bill proposed in Parliament last month would have allowed law enforcement agencies to obtain personal information without a warrant and forced communications providers to build surveillance backdoors into the hardware that routes phone calls and Internet traffic. The petition asks Canadian lawmakers to protect citizens' privacy rights when the new government convenes in 2006. Other important issues for ORC will include copyright law, access to information, and freedom from censorship.

"Today, ORC focuses on digital copyright and lawful access. But there is no reason to restrict the site to those two issues," said CIPPIC Staff Counsel David Fewer. "Our hope is that ORC will evolve into the first place to go for Canadians looking for opportunities to protect their online rights. Anyone can be an activist - Online Rights Canada will give you the tools you need."

Online Rights Canada is the latest group to join the global fight for digital rights. Digital Rights Ireland launched earlier this week, and the Open Rights Group launched in the United Kingdom last month.

For Online Rights Canada:
http://www.onlinerights.ca

Contacts:

Ren Bucholz
Policy Coordinator, Americas
Electronic Frontier Foundation
ren@eff.org

Philippa Lawson
Executive Director
Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic
plawson@uottawa.ca

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December 8, 2005

EFF Asks Court to Void Approval of Diebold and Others Without Source Code Review

Raleigh, North Carolina - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Thursday filed a complaint against the North Carolina Board of Elections and the North Carolina Office of Information Technology Services on behalf of voting integrity advocate Joyce McCloy, asking that the Superior Court void the recent illegal certification of three electronic voting systems.

North Carolina law requires the Board of Elections to rigorously review all voting system code "prior to certification." Ignoring this requirement, the Board of Elections on December 1st certified voting systems offered by Diebold Election Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Election Systems and Software without having first obtained – let alone reviewed – the system code.

"This is about the rule of law," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "The Board of Elections has simply ignored its mandatory obligations under North Carolina election law. This statute was enacted to require election officials to investigate the quality and security of voting systems before approval, and only approve those that are safe and secure. By certifying without a full review of all relevant code, the Board of Elections has now opened the door for North Carolina counties to purchase untested and potentially insecure voting equipment."

North Carolina experienced one of the most serious malfunctions of e-voting systems in the 2004 presidential election when over 4,500 ballots were lost in a voting system provided by e-voting vendor UniLect Corp. Electronic voting systems across the country have come under fire during the past several years as unexplained malfunctions combined with efforts by vendors to protect their proprietary systems from meaningful review have left voters with serious questions about the integrity of the voting process.

"North Carolina voters deserve to have their election laws enforced," said co-counsel Don Beskind of the Raleigh law firm of Twiggs, Beskind, Strickland & Rabenau, P.A. "Election transparency is a requirement, not an option. The General Assembly passed this law unanimously, and it is now time for the Board of Elections to meet their obligations."

On behalf of McCloy, EFF and Beskind intervened in – and convinced a judge to dismiss – a separate lawsuit filed last month by Diebold, which sought to be exempted from the state's transparency laws. Diebold represented to the court that it would be "unable" to comply with the code escrow requirement of the statute. Inexplicably, the Board of Elections certified Diebold despite its admitted inability to comply with the law.

A hearing in McCloy's case against the Board of Elections is set for Wednesday, December 14. EFF and Beskind have asked the Court for a temporary restraining order preventing North Carolina's 100 counties from purchasing any of the recently certified systems unless and until the Board of Elections complies with its statutory obligations.

For the full complaint:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/EFF_Mandamus_Complaint_TRO_20051208140945.pdf

Contact:

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

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December 7, 2005

EFF Urges New York Judge to Reject Latest Surveillance Request

New York - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked a federal magistrate judge in New York City to reject a Department of Justice (DOJ) request to track a cell phone user without first showing probable cause of a crime. In a brief filed in New York on Tuesday, EFF and the Federal Defenders of New York argue that no law authorizes the government's request, and that granting the order would threaten Americans' Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches.

This latest briefing comes after a decision last week in Maryland denying a similar order, which combined with two recent denials published by federal courts in New York and Texas, represents an unprecedented judicial rebuke to the DOJ's surveillance practices. The DOJ's apparently routine practice of asking for and receiving cell-tracking orders without probable cause only recently came to light as a result of these newly published decisions typically, such requests are made and granted in secret, without any public accounting.

"Even though three federal courts have now completely rejected the Justice Department's arguments for tracking a cell phone without probable cause, it is still asking other judges for these plainly illegal surveillance orders," said Kevin Bankston, EFF Staff Attorney. "How many public denials is it going to take before the Justice Department either stops seeking such orders altogether, or is willing to appeal one of these decisions and subject its baseless arguments to scrutiny by higher courts?"

The DOJ, despite claims that its cell phone tracking requests are routine, necessary, and perfectly legal, has so far chosen not to appeal any of the recent decisions.

For this brief:
http://eff.org/legal/cases/USA_v_PenRegister/EFF_FDNY_reply_brief.pdf

For more on cell phone tracking:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/USA_v_PenRegister/

Contact:

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

December 6, 2005

Click here for more on the issues with the software patch.

SunnComm Makes Security Update Available To Address Recently Discovered Vulnerability On Its MediaMax Version 5 Content Protection Software, Which Is Included On Certain SONY BMG CDs

San Francisco, CA and New York, NY - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and SONY BMG Music Entertainment (SONY BMG) said today that SunnComm is making available a software update to address a security vulnerability with its MediaMax Version 5 content protection software on certain SONY BMG compact discs (CDs). The vulnerability was discovered by the security firm iSEC Partners after EFF requested an examination of the SunnComm software.

"We're pleased that SONY BMG responded quickly and responsibly when we drew their attention to this security problem," said EFF staff attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Consumers should take immediate steps to protect their computers."

"We're grateful to EFF and iSEC for bringing this to our attention," said Thomas Hesse, president, Global Digital Business, SONY BMG. "We believe that the availability of the update coupled with our campaign to notify customers will appropriately address the CDs with MediaMax Version 5 in the market."

SunnComm as well as independent software security firm NGS Software have determined that the security vulnerability is fully addressed by the update. NGS Director Robert Horton said, "After carefully researching the security vulnerability presented to us by SONY BMG, we have determined that it is not uncommon and, importantly, it is easily fixed by applying a software update."

The security vulnerability on SunnComm MediaMax Version 5 software differs from that reported in early November on First4Internet XCP software contained on certain SONY BMG CDs. A full list of the 27 U.S. SunnComm MediaMax Version 5 titles is included in the link below. Consumers can download the software update that is designed to address this security vulnerability from SunnComm's and Sony BMG's websites at http://www.sunncomm.com/support/updates/update.asp and http://www.sonybmg.com/mediamax.

The security issue involves a file folder installed on users' computers by the MediaMax software that could allow malicious third parties who have localized, lower-privilege access to gain control over a consumer's computer running the Windows operating system.

SONY BMG will notify consumers about this vulnerability and the update through the banner functionality included on the player, as well as through an Internet-based advertising campaign. The update is also being provided to major software and Internet security companies. EFF and SONY BMG urge all consumers who receive notice to download and install the patch immediately. In accordance with standard information security practices, EFF and iSEC delayed public disclosure of the details of the exploit to provide SunnComm the opportunity to develop an update.

Full list of titles affected:
http://www.sonybmg.com/mediamax/titles.html

Links to patch:
http://www.sunncomm.com/support/updates/update.asp
http://www.sonybmg.com/mediamax

iSEC Partners Report on the Vulnerability:
http://www.eff.org/IP/DRM/Sony-BMG/MediaMaxVulnerabilityReport.pdf

iSEC Partners:
http://www.isecpartners.com

NGS:
http://www.ngssoftware.com

Contacts:

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

Cory Shields
Sony BMG
212-833-4647

John McKay
Sony BMG
212-833-5520

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December 2, 2005

Board of Elections Ignores Rules to Escrow Code, Identify Programmers

Raleigh, North Carolina - The North Carolina Board of Elections certified Diebold Election Systems to sell electronic voting equipment in the state yesterday, despite Diebold's repeated admission that it could not comply with North Carolina's tough election law. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) believes that this raises important questions about the Board of Elections' procedures as well as the integrity of Diebold's bid for certification.

In all, three companies were certified for e-voting in North Carolina: Diebold, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Election Systems & Software. However, Keith Long, an advisor to the Board of Elections who was formerly employed by both Diebold and Sequoia, has said that "none of them" could meet the statutory requirement to place their system code in escrow. Instead of rejecting all applications and issuing a new call for bids as required by law, the Board chose to approve all of the applicants.

"The Board of Elections has simply flouted the law," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "In August, the state passed tough new rules designed to ensure transparency in the election process, and the Board simply decided to take it upon itself to overrule the legislature. The Board's job is to protect voters, not corporations who want to obtain multi-million dollar contracts with the state."

Last month, Diebold obtained a broad temporary restraining order that allowed it to evade key transparency requirements without criminal or civil liability. The law requires escrow of the source code for all voting systems to be certified in the state and identification of programmers. Diebold claimed that it could not comply because of its reliance on third-party software.

Monday, responding to EFF's arguments, a judge dismissed Diebold's request for broad exemptions to the law and told Diebold that if it wanted to continue in its certification bid, it must follow the law or face liability. Diebold had told the court that it would likely withdraw from the bidding process if it was not granted liability protection. But instead, Diebold went forward with the certification bid.

Diebold's certification now means it is permitted to sell e-voting equipment in North Carolina. But Zimmerman says that any county that buys from Diebold is taking a risk.

"If Diebold's certification is revoked, counties using their equipment could be left holding a very expensive bag," Zimmerman said.

Despite Long's assertion, at least one Diebold competitor -- Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software -- has publicly stated that it is capable of meeting the escrow requirement for the code used it its system.

For more on the judge's decision Monday:
http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2005_11.php#004203

Contact:

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

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December 1, 2005

EFF Bows Out of Broken Process

EFF Bows Out of Broken Process

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today released a report entitled "DMCA Triennial Rulemaking: Failing the Digital Consumer," describing why the third triennial DMCA rulemaking, currently underway before the U.S. Copyright Office, does not effectively address the concerns of American digital media consumers. In light of the shortcomings of the DMCA rulemaking procedure, EFF will not propose any DMCA exemptions for the 2006-2009 triennial rulemaking period.

Digital media consumers are finding themselves increasingly hemmed in by "digital rights management" (DRM) restrictions on digital music, movies, video games, and software. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) generally prohibits consumers from circumventing DRM mechanisms that control access to DVDs, CDs, and other digital media products. In an effort to ensure that these DRM mechanisms would not impede lawful uses of copyrighted works, however, Congress included what it described as a "fail-safe" mechanism in the DMCA rulemaking proceeding to be held every three years by the Copyright Office. The law delegates to the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress the power to grant three-year exemptions to the DMCA's prohibition on circumventing DRM restrictions where the restrictions would otherwise encroach on lawful uses of copyrighted works.

Today is the last day to submit proposals for DMCA exemptions to the Copyright Office as part of the latest triennial rulemaking. EFF has participated in each of the two prior rulemakings in 2000 and 2003, each time asking the Copyright Office to create exemptions for perfectly lawful consumer uses for digital media that are encumbered by DRM. The Copyright Office has rejected all of EFF's previous proposals.

Based on its prior experience with the rulemaking procedure, as well as the increasing pervasiveness of DRM restrictions on digital media products, EFF has concluded that the triennial rulemaking does not effectively address the concerns of digital media consumers. Instead, EFF's report calls on Congress to take legislative action to reform and repair the DMCA rulemaking process.

"When the Copyright Office is unwilling to grant a DMCA exemption that would allow consumers to play copy-protected CDs on their computers, you know the rulemaking process is failing digital media consumers," said Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney with EFF. "In the wake of the Sony BMG DRM debacle, it's time for Congress get involved on behalf of American consumers."

"DMCA Triennial Rulemaking: Failing Consumers Completely":
http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/copyrightoffice/DMCA_rulemaking_broken.pdf

For more on why EFF won't participate:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004212.php

For more on DMCA rulemaking:
http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/copyrightoffice/

Contact:

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

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