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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: June 2006

June 30, 2006

EFF Defends Web Host and 'John Doe' Critic of School Superintendent

Tulsa, Oklahoma - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) yesterday filed to block an Oklahoma school superintendent's attempt to unmask the identities of a local website's operator and all registered users.

The superintendent has sued Internet users who criticized him on the website's message board. In its motion to quash, EFF argues that the plaintiff's overbroad subpoena seeking to identify the site's operator and users violates First Amendment protections for anonymous speech and association.

"Anonymity is critical to public discourse and fundamental to a free society, allowing speakers to offer diverse views without fear of undue reprisal," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "There is now clear judicial consensus that subpoenas to identify anonymous speakers must be carefully scrutinized."

In recent months, EFF lawyers have represented or provided amicus support in anonymity cases in California, Colorado, and Delaware. In the latter case, Doe v. Cahill, EFF helped successfully defend a Delaware blogger who had criticized a member of the town council. The case resulted in the first state supreme court decision confirming the First Amendment right to remain anonymous until a litigant can demonstrate a legitimate claim.

"Litigants must not be permitted to abuse the judicial process to identity anonymous individuals who have simply created a forum for critical comments or made statements a plaintiff dislikes," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Speech critical of public officials -- made anonymously or not -- enjoys an extremely high level of legal protection."

Oral argument on EFF's motion to quash is scheduled for July 20th.

For EFF's motion to quash:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/Burd_v_Cole/Mtn-to-Quash.pdf

Contacts:

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

Derek Slater
Acting Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
derek@eff.org

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June 23, 2006

Judge Hears Arguments on 'State Secrets Privilege' and Customer Privacy

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told a federal judge today that the government should not be allowed to use the "state secrets privilege" to preempt the class-action lawsuit against AT&ampT.

EFF's suit accuses AT&ampT of collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in illegally spying on millions of Americans -- handing over customers' telephone and Internet records and communications without any legal authority. Department of Justice lawyers argued today that even if the NSA program is illegal, pursuing the case might expose "state secrets." However, EFF attorneys asked the judge to allow the case to proceed, considering the privilege in regards to specific evidence and situations instead of derailing the suit all together.

"We have shown that AT&ampT is diverting traffic wholesale to the NSA," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "It is not a secret, and it is no reason to deny AT&ampT customers the opportunity to show the court that this dragnet surveillance program violates the law and their privacy rights."

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker also heard motions to dismiss from AT&ampT Inc. and AT&ampT Corp. Additionally, Walker heard requests from media groups to intervene and unseal critical evidence filed in the lawsuit.

"We can be safe, secure, and keep within the rule of law," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Our legal system demands that the court decide whether this wholesale surveillance program is proper."

For more on the AT&ampT lawsuit:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/att/

Contact:

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

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June 20, 2006

Friday Hearing Over Motions to Dismiss AT&ampT Surveillance Case

San Francisco - On Friday, June 23, at 9:30 a.m., a federal judge in San Francisco will hear oral arguments on the U.S. government's motion to dismiss the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) class-action lawsuit against AT&ampT.

EFF's suit accuses the telecom giant of collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in illegal spying on millions of ordinary Americans. The government contends that even if the NSA program is illegal, the lawsuit should not go forward because it might expose state secrets.

The judge will also consider AT&ampT's motions to dismiss the case in Friday's hearing. Additionally, he will hear requests from media organizations to intervene and unseal critical evidence filed in the lawsuit.

For more information about attending the hearing, please contact press@eff.org.

WHAT:
Hepting v. AT&ampT

WHEN:
June 23, 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:
450 Golden Gate Ave., Courtroom 6
San Francisco, CA 94102

For more on EFF's case against AT&ampT:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/att/

Contact:

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

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June 20, 2006

EFF Argues Against Broad Subpoena for User Identities

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argued Tuesday that a battle between Internet real estate services over copyrighted images should not threaten the rights of users to surf web pages and send emails anonymously.

The case began when CoStar, a real estate information database, subpoenaed LoopNet, an online real estate forum, over copyrighted photographs that appeared on LoopNet's service. However, CoStar demanded not only the identification of the uploaders of the offending images, but also identification of "downloaders" -- using a dangerously broad definition that includes both those who simply view the photos online and those who merely email links to the photos to others.

"If upheld, this subpoena would pierce the anonymity of virtually anyone who has ever received, forwarded, or clicked on a link to a webpage that happened at one time to contain a thumbnail of a photograph to which CoStar owns the copyright," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry.

"Courts have long recognized that the right to engage in anonymous communication is fundamental to a free society," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "CoStar wants to strip Internet users of that anonymity just because they clicked on a link."

The next hearing in CoStar v. LoopNet is set for August 2.

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/Costar_v_Loopnet/EFF_amicus_costar_v_loopnet.pdf

Contacts:

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

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

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June 1, 2006

Judges Agree with EFF Brief in DirecTV Case

San Francisco - The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has corrected a dangerous lower court ruling that threatened Internet privacy. In doing so, it preserved the privacy of password-protected websites as well as the right to read public sites. The decision followed the arguments made in an amicus brief filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

"A real privacy disaster was averted today," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston, who authored the brief. "The court affirmed important legal protections for truly private websites, and also protected your right to read public content on the Internet without getting sued."

The case began when Michael Snow, the publisher of an anti-DirecTV website, sued the company for unauthorized access under the Stored Communications Act (SCA). Snow's site had a banner and purported Terms of Service forbidding DirecTV representatives from entering the site or using its message board, but it was configured such that anyone in the public could do so.

A lower court had rightly dismissed the case, but for the wrong reasons -- holding that the SCA did not protect websites at all, even if they were configured to be private. However, the 11th Circuit clarified that websites are protected by the SCA, except when they are designed to be readily accessible to the general public.

"Through the World Wide Web, individuals can easily and readily access websites hosted throughout the world. Given the Web's ubiquitous and public nature, it becomes increasingly important in cases concerning electronic communications available through the Web for a plaintiff to demonstrate that those communications are not readily accessible," the opinion reads. "If by simply clicking a hypertext link, after ignoring an express warning, on an otherwise publicly accessible webpage, one is liable under the SCA, then the floodgates of litigation would open and the merely curious would be prosecuted. We find no intent by Congress to so permit."

For the full opinion:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/Snow_v_DirecTV/200513687.pdf

For EFF's brief:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/Snow_v_DirecTV/EFF_amicus.pdf

Contact:

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

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