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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: February 2006

February 24, 2006

National Conference Call - Tuesday, 1pm EST

This Tuesday, an unlikely coalition of left and right, non-profits and small businesses, and Internet advocacy groups will hold a national telephone news conference call to announce an unprecedented combined campaign against AOL's new "pay-to-send" email proposal – which amounts to an "email tax."

To RSVP for the call, please email Alex@Fenton.com. Space is limited.

Under AOL's recently announced "certified email" proposal, large emailers willing to pay an "email tax" can bypass spam filters and get guaranteed access to people's inboxes—with their messages having a preferential high-priority designation. Charities, small businesses, civic organizing groups, and even families with mailing lists will have no guarantee that their email will be delivered unless they are willing to pay the "email tax" to AOL. AOL's proposed pay-to-send system is the first step down the slippery slope toward dividing the Internet into two classes of users—those who get preferential treatment and those who are left behind. The Internet is a force for democracy and economic innovation because it is open to all Internet users equally – AOL's "email tax" would create an unlevel playing field and harm the Internet forever.

Tuesday's 1pm EST conference call will be co-hosted by Internet free speech advocates the Electronic Frontier Foundation and media policy group Free Press. Participants will include Craig Newmark of Craiglist and representatives from the Gun Owners of America, MoveOn.org Civic Action, and the Association of Cancer Online Resources. Dozens of other concerned groups will be announced on the call as members of the coalition, and details about the campaign will be announced on the call.

WHAT: Conference call to announce campaign against AOL's "email tax"
WHO: Co-hosts: Electronic Frontier Foundation &amp Free Press
PARTICIPANTS: Craig Newmark (Craigslist), Gun Owners of America, MoveOn.org Civic Action, the Association of Cancer Online Resources
WHEN: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 – 1PM EST
RSVP: Please email Alex@Fenton.com. Space is limited.

Contacts:

Trevor Fitzgibbon or Alex Howe
Fenton Communications
alex@fenton.com

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
rebecca@eff.org

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February 16, 2006

EFF Urges Consumers to Claim Clean CDs and Extra Downloads

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging music fans who purchased Sony BMG music CDs containing flawed digital rights management (DRM) to submit their claims now for clean CDs and extra downloads as part of a class action lawsuit settlement.

"This settlement gives consumers what they thought they were buying in the first place -- clean, safe music that will play on their computers and their iPods as well as their stereo systems," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl.

Anyone who purchased Sony BMG CDs that included First4Internet XCP and SunnComm MediaMax software can receive the same music without DRM. Some will also get downloads of other Sony BMG music from several different services, including iTunes. Music fans have through the end of the year to participate in the settlement, and they should receive their compensation within six to eight weeks of submitting their claim forms. Customers can find out more about the settlement and how to submit their claims at http://www.eff.org/sony.

The problems with the Sony BMG CDs surfaced when security researchers discovered that XCP and MediaMax installed undisclosed--and in some cases, hidden--files on users' Windows computers, potentially exposing music fans to malicious attacks by third parties. The infected CDs also communicated back to Sony BMG about customers' computer use without proper notification.

In addition to compensating consumers, Sony BMG was forced to stop manufacturing CDs with both First4Internet XCP and SunnComm MediaMax software. The settlement also waives several restrictive end user license agreement (EULA) terms and commits Sony BMG to a detailed security review process prior to including any DRM on future CDs.

"This settlement got music fans a fair shake in exchange for a raw deal," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "If you were upset about this DRM debacle, submitting your claim is one way to show the entertainment industry that you want to be treated with respect and fairness."

EFF and its co-counsel--Green Welling LLP, Lerach, Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Ruchman and Robbins, and the Law Offices of Lawrence E. Feldman and Associates--along with a coalition of other plaintiffs' class action counsel, reached the settlement after negotiations with Sony BMG in December of 2005.

To submit your claim:
http://www.eff.org/sony

For litigation documents and frequently asked questions:
http://www.eff.org/IP/DRM/Sony-BMG/

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

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

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February 15, 2006

EFF Calls for Limits on Data Collection and Retention

San Francisco - As Congressional hearings about how U.S. Internet companies do business in China are set to begin, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling for the industry and government to work together to develop simple guidelines to decrease the harm done by participating in authoritarian regimes.

"Without careful thought, even well-meaning Internet companies can become the handmaidens of state repression. Internet routers can be turned into powerful wiretapping tools," said EFF Activism Coordinator Danny O'Brien. "Web servers and search engines can become honeypots of personal data, plundered by state police to identify dissidents."

In an open letter to the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations and the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, EFF says the best course of action for companies concerned about human rights violations and censorship is to avoid repressive countries all together. However, EFF believes that companies deciding to go forward can mitigate some of the harm.

"In considering how these companies might construct their services to best serve global human rights, we believe that simple guidelines, consciously followed, could significantly limit the damage caused by corporate engagement with these regimes," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn.

EFF's letter gives five courses of action for companies and the US government to consider, including restricting the collection and storage of personal data in oppressive regimes, "bearing witness" and documenting acts of state control, innovating around censorship, and offering encrypted connections to their web services by default.

The joint Subcommittee hearing, "The Internet in China: A Tool for Suppression?" begins Wednesday at 10am EST.

For EFF's open letter:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004410.php

Contacts:

Danny O'Brien
Activism Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
danny@eff.org

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

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February 14, 2006

Illegitimate Patent Locks In Artists and Threatens Innovators

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a challenge Tuesday to an illegitimate patent from Clear Channel Communications. The patent -- for a system and method of creating digital recordings of live performances -- locks musical acts into using Clear Channel technology and blocks innovations by others.

Clear Channel claims that its patent creates a monopoly on all-in-one technologies that produce post-concert live recordings on digital media and has threatened to sue anyone who makes such recordings with a different system. This has forced bands like the Pixies into using Clear Channel's proprietary technology, and it hurts investment and innovation in new systems developed by other companies.

"Clear Channel shouldn't be able to intimidate artists with bogus intellectual property," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "We hope the Patent Office will take a hard look at Clear Channel's patent and agree that it should be revoked."

The request for reexamination filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office shows that a company named Telex had in fact developed similar technology more than a year before Clear Channel filed its patent request. EFF, in conjunction with Theodore C. McCullough of the Lemaire Patent Law Firm and with the help of students at the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic at American University's Washington College of Law, wants the patent office to revoke the patent based on this and other extensive evidence.

"The patent system serves an important public purpose in our economy," said Schultz. "Keeping illegitimate patents out of that system helps up-and-coming artists and entrepreneurs succeed for all of us."

The Clear Channel patent challenge is part of EFF's Patent Busting Project, aimed at combating the chilling effects bad patents have on public and consumer interests. Illegitimate patents currently in effect could prevent you from building a hobbyist website or even streaming a wedding video to your friends. The Patent Busting Project seeks to document the threats and fight back by filing requests for reexamination against the worst offenders.

For the full reexamination request:
http://www.eff.org/patent/wanted/clearchannel/CC_reexam.pdf

For more on the evidence against Clear Channel:
http://www.eff.org/patent/wanted/patent.php?p=clearchannel

Contacts:

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

Theodore C. McCullough
Attorney
Lemaire Patent Law Firm

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February 10, 2006

Awards Recognize Leaders on the Electronic Frontier

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling for nominations for its 2006 Pioneer Awards -- the annual celebration of leaders on the electronic frontier who extend freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. Past winners have included Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torvalds, and Ed Felten.

Pioneer Awards nominations are open to individuals or organizations from any country. Nominations are reviewed by a panel of judges chosen for their knowledge of the technical, legal, and social issues associated with information technology.

This year's award ceremony will be held in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference (CFP), which takes place in early May. Persons or representatives of organizations receiving an EFF Pioneer Award will be invited to attend the ceremony at EFF's expense.

How to Nominate Someone for a 2006 Pioneer Award:

You may send as many nominations as you wish by email to pioneer@eff.org, but please use one email per nomination. We will accept nominations until March 1, 2006.

Simply tell us:
1. The name of the nominee
2. The phone number or email address or website by which the nominee can be reached, and, most importantly
3. Why you feel the nominee deserves the award.

Nominee Criteria:

There are no specific categories for the EFF Pioneer Awards, but the following guidelines apply:
1. The nominees must have contributed substantially to the health, growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications.
2. To be valid, all nominations must contain your reason, however brief, for nominating the individual or organization and a means of contacting the nominee. In addition, while anonymous nominations will be accepted, ideally we'd like to contact the nominating parties in case we need further information.
3. The contribution may be technical, social, economic, or cultural.
4. Nominations may be of individuals, systems, or organizations in the private or public sectors.
5. Nominations are open to all (other than current members of EFF's staff and executive board or this year's award judges), and you may nominate more than one recipient. You may also nominate yourself or your organization.

More on the EFF Pioneer Awards:
http://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer/

Contact:

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

February 9, 2006

Consumers Should Not Use New Google Desktop

San Francisco - Google today announced a new "feature" of its Google Desktop software that greatly increases the risk to consumer privacy. If a consumer chooses to use it, the new "Search Across Computers" feature will store copies of the user's Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text-based documents on Google's own servers, to enable searching from any one of the user's computers. EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who've obtained a user's Google password.

"Coming on the heels of serious consumer concern about government snooping into Google's search logs, it's shocking that Google expects its users to now trust it with the contents of their personal computers," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "If you use the Search Across Computers feature and don't configure Google Desktop very carefully—and most people won't—Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the Desktop software can index. The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn't even be notified in time to challenge it. Other litigants—your spouse, your business partners or rivals, whoever—could also try to cut out the middleman (you) and subpoena Google for your files."

The privacy problem arises because the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, or ECPA, gives only limited privacy protection to emails and other files that are stored with online service providers—much less privacy than the legal protections for the same information when it's on your computer at home. And even that lower level of legal protection could disappear if Google uses your data for marketing purposes. Google says it is not yet scanning the files it copies from your hard drive in order to serve targeted advertising, but it hasn't ruled out the possibility, and Google's current privacy policy appears to allow it.

"This Google product highlights a key privacy problem in the digital age," said Cindy Cohn, EFF's Legal Director. "Many Internet innovations involve storing personal files on a service provider's computer, but under outdated laws, consumers who want to use these new technologies have to surrender their privacy rights. If Google wants consumers to trust it to store copies of personal computer files, emails, search histories and chat logs, and still 'not be evil,' it should stand with EFF and demand that Congress update the privacy laws to better reflect life in the wired world."

For more on Google's data collection:
http://news.com.com/FAQ+When+Google+is+not+your+friend/2100-1025_3-6034666.html?tag=nl http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/01/21/google_subpoena_roils_the_web http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2006/01/20/EDGEPGPHA61.DTL http://news.com.com/%20Bill+would+force+Web+sites+to+delete+personal+info/2100-1028_3-6036951.html

Contact:

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

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February 2, 2006

SunnComm Agrees to Terms of EFF Open Letter

San Francisco - In response to an open letter written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), SunnComm Technologies, Inc., has outlined what it has done and will do to address potential security problems caused by its MediaMax CD copy-protection software and to help protect against future vulnerabilities. Use of the software on CDs released by Sony BMG has received significant media attention, but many consumers are unaware that the software was also used by several independent music labels.

SunnComm says it will ensure that future versions of MediaMax will not install when the user declines the end user license agreement (EULA) that appears when a CD is first inserted in a computer CD or DVD drive. SunnComm has also agreed to include uninstallers in all versions of MediaMax software, to submit all future versions to an independent security-testing firm for review, and to release to the public the results of the independent security testing. SunnComm and EFF are discussing how to ensure that legitimate security researchers who have been, are, or will be working to identify security problems with MediaMax will not be accused of copyright violations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

In January, SunnComm published a complete list of all music CDs that employ the MediaMax technology and sent a letter to the independent labels using MediaMax with information about a security vulnerability in MediaMax version 5. Music label Sony BMG has separately committed to addressing security concerns arising from CDs using MediaMax.

"We are pleased to be working with EFF to ensure that consumers are notified of this potential vulnerability and our update," said acting SunnComm President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Clement. "As a software company, we are committed to developing high-quality products and promptly addressing any potential vulnerability, and we appreciate this opportunity to help lead the industry in the development of best practices for both quality and security."

"EFF applauds SunnComm's commitments to better security and privacy practices," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "While we continue to disagree with SunnComm on the wisdom of CD copy protection in general, we are pleased that it has taken important steps to notify consumers of the security vulnerability and help resolve the security and privacy issues raised by the MediaMax software."

EFF wrote the open letter to SunnComm because of its concerns about the MediaMax software, which is included with a wide variety of music from independent labels, such as Cuban Link's "Chain Reaction" by Men of Business Records, Peter Cetera's "You Just Gotta Love Christmas" by Viastar Records, and several releases on KOCH Records.

The problems with MediaMax came to light in November and December 2005, after independent security analysts discovered problems on Sony BMG CDs that included MediaMax. EFF and others subsequently brought legal actions against Sony BMG based on its distribution of the MediaMax titles, and a settlement in that case provided a remedy for music fans who bought Sony BMG MediaMax CDs. SunnComm's response to EFF's open letter commits the company to addressing the potential vulnerability for fans who bought such CDs on independent labels and to a continuing process that should help protect fans against future vulnerabilities.

EFF's open letter to SunnComm:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004245.php

SunnComm's response:
http://www.eff.org/IP/DRM/Sony-BMG/response-to-open-letter.pdf

List of CDs with SunnComm MediaMax 5:
http://www.sunncomm.com/CD/List_CD_B.html

List of CDs with SunnComm MediaMax 3:
http://www.sunncomm.com/CD/List_CD_A.html

Contact:

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

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