Skip to main content

EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: November 2006

November 30, 2006

EFF Fights Huge Data-Mining Program Set for Rollout on U.S. Borders

Washington, D.C. - An invasive and unprecedented data-mining system is set to be deployed on U.S. travelers Monday, despite substantial questions about Americans' privacy. In comments sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the agency to delay the program's rollout until it makes more details available to the public and addresses critical privacy and due process concerns.

The Automated Targeting System (ATS) will create and assign "risk assessments" to tens of millions of citizens as they enter and leave the country. Individuals will have no way to access information about their "risk assessment" scores or to correct any false information about them. But once the assessment is made, the government will retain the information for 40 years -- as well as make it available to untold numbers of federal, state, local, and foreign agencies in addition to contractors, grantees, consultants, and others.

"The government is preparing to give millions of law-abiding citizens 'risk assessment' scores that will follow them throughout their lives," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "If that wasn't frightening enough, none of us will have the ability to know our own score, or to challenge it. Homeland Security needs to delay the deployment of this system and allow for an informed public debate on this dangerous proposal."

Earlier this month, EFF's FLAG Project submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to DHS seeking more details about the ATS data-mining program, but the agency has not yet disclosed the requested information.

For EFF's full comments to DHS:
http://www.eff.org/Privacy/ats/ats_comments.pdf

For the DHS Federal Register notice announcing ATS:
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/06-9026.htm

Contact:

David Sobel
Senior Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation
sobel@eff.org

Related Issues:
November 30, 2006

Landmark Forum Withdraws Subpoena for Identity of Anonymous Poster

San Francisco - A controversial self-help group has backed off its attack on an Internet critic after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) intervened in the case.

Landmark Education, known for its Landmark Forum motivational workshops, served a subpoena for the identity of an anonymous user of Google Video last month, claiming that a French documentary posted by the user infringed Landmark's copyrights. The piece, entitled "Voyage Au Pays Des Nouveaux Gourous" (Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus), is highly critical of Landmark and included hidden camera footage from inside a French Landmark Forum event along with panel discussions about the group. The piece had also been posted with English subtitles on popular U.S. video sites YouTube and the Internet Archive.

In a settlement reached Tuesday, Landmark agreed to withdraw the subpoena to Google and end its quest to pierce the anonymity of the video's poster. Landmark has also withdrawn its subpoena to the Internet Archive. EFF represents both the anonymous critic and the Internet Archive.

"We're glad that Landmark withdrew its subpoenas, and our client's right to speak anonymously was preserved," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Hopefully Landmark has learned its lesson and will cease its campaign to stifle criticism by misusing the DMCA."

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows a content owner to issue a subpoena for the identity of an alleged infringer without first filing an actual lawsuit. The provision can be used to intimidate Internet users who wish to remain anonymous online. As part of the settlement, Landmark released any and all claims it may have had against the anonymous poster, and the poster agreed not to re-post the video. The video is currently available online from other sources, including the Australian Cult Awareness & Information Centre, http://www.caic.org.au/, and bit-torrent.

"Landmark's legal threats took an emotional toll," said the anonymous poster, known as "John Doe" in the settlement. "When I found out that my identity might be revealed based on a bogus copyright claim, I was really worried that Landmark might try to retaliate against me."

The settlement is part of EFF's ongoing campaign to protect the right of anonymous speakers on the Internet. Earlier this year, EFF helped to preserve the anonymity of online embroidery fans critical of an industry group, and also protected the identities of users of an online message board discussing Oklahoma public schools.

For the letter confirming the subpoena withdrawal:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/landmark/letter_to_edmund_choy.pdf

For the full settlement agreement:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/landmark/settlement_agreement.pdf

For more on Landmark's subpoena campaign:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/landmark/

For the video:
http://www.caic.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1243&Itemid=12

Contacts:

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

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

Related Issues:
November 28, 2006

Purple Dinosaur Backs Off and Pays Up Free Speech Rights Preserved

San Francisco - The corporate owners of the popular children's television character Barney the Purple Dinosaur have agreed to withdraw their baseless legal threats against a website publisher who parodied the character and to compensate him for fees expended in defending himself.

The agreement settles a suit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in August on behalf of Dr. Stuart Frankel against Lyons Partnership, owners of the Barney character. Frankel received repeated, meritless cease-and-desist letters from Lyons, claiming his online parody violated copyright and trademark law. EFF's suit asked the court to declare that Frankel's parody was a noninfringing fair use protected by the First Amendment.

"We wish we hadn't had to file a lawsuit to finally get Barney's lawyers to stop harassing a man who was just expressing his opinion about a cultural phenomenon," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Hopefully Lyons Partnership has learned its lesson and will have more respect for fair use in the future."

This settlement is the latest development in EFF's ongoing campaign to protect online free speech from the chilling effects of bogus copyright claims. Earlier this month, EFF filed suit against Michael Crook -- a man who claimed copyright infringement in an effort to censor his online critics.

"Those who misuse copyright should know that they can be sued for doing so," said McSherry. "This settlement should send a message to those who want to use copyright law as a pretext for censorship."

EFF was assisted in this case by Elizabeth Rader, James d'Auguste, and Brian Carney, attorneys with the firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP, which is defending Dr. Frankel's free speech rights on a pro bono basis.

For the original complaint:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/barney/frankel_v_lyons_complaint.pdf

For more on Barney's copyright abuses:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/barney/

Contacts:

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

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

Related Issues:
November 27, 2006

Email Deserves Same Constitutional Protections as Phone Calls, Postal Mail

San Francisco - The government must have a search warrant before it can search and seize emails stored by email service providers, according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed last week by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of civil liberty groups. EFF filed the brief in support of a landmark district court decision finding that the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing secret, warrantless searches and seizures of email stored with a third party.

EFF's amicus brief was filed in Warshak vs. United States, a case brought in the Southern District of Ohio federal court by Steven Warshak to stop the government's repeated secret searches and seizures of his stored email using the SCA. The district court ruled that the government cannot use the SCA to obtain stored email without a warrant or prior notice to the email account holder. The government, which has routinely used the SCA over the past 20 years to secretly obtain stored email without a warrant, appealed the decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court is now primed to be the first circuit court ever to decide whether email users have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their stored email.

"Email users clearly expect that their inboxes are private, but the government argues the Fourth Amendment doesn't protect emails at all when they are stored with an ISP or a webmail provider like Hotmail or Gmail," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "EFF disagrees. We think that the Fourth Amendment applies online just as strongly as it does offline, and that your email should be as safe against government intrusion as your phone calls, postal mail, or the private papers you keep in your home."

The EFF brief was also signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

For the full amicus brief:
http://eff.org/legal/cases/warshak_v_usa/warshak_amicus.pdf

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
November 21, 2006

Local Voters Supported by Election Advocacy Groups Including EFF

Tallahassee, FL - Voters from Sarasota County announced today that they are filing suit in state court in Tallahassee asking for a re-vote in Florida's 13th congressional district. The suit alleges that thousands of citizens were disenfranchised when massive undervotes plagued the tight congressional race between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan. In a high-profile battle over former Rep. Katherine Harris' seat, the result was decided by 363 votes, yet over 18,000 ballots cast on Sarasota County's e-voting machines registered no vote in the race, an exceptional anomaly in the State.

The lawsuit is being filed by a group of Sarasota County voters, both Republican and Democratic. The voters are represented by election advocacy groups, including Voter Action, People For the American Way Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.

"Election officials have shown remarkable disregard for the ability of voters to actually cast a ballot," said Ralph Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation. "Casting a vote is one of our most fundamental rights, and that right was violated for thousands of Sarasota County voters. At this point holding a new election is the only appropriate option." Neas also called for statewide election reform, saying, "Florida can no longer afford to certify election results that no one trusts."

ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon noted: "For years, Gov. Jeb Bush's administration, including various Secretaries of State, has dismissed reports of problems with electronic voting machines and resisted mandating audits and other methods of ensuring that electronic voting machines are capable of performing a genuine re-count. We even had to go to court to overturn an Administrative Rule issued by the Secretary of State banning recounts in DRE Counties. Now we have mass disenfranchisement and a crisis in voter confidence in the integrity of the elections. It is likely that the faulty machines, not the voters, decided this election."

Voter Action, a national nonpartisan advocacy group focused on election integrity has been leading legal efforts nationally to address the problems with electronic voting. "The problems in Sarasota are not unique, "said election law attorney Lowell Finley, co-director of the organization. "Across the country we have seen how these systems lose large numbers of votes, switch voters' selections on the screen, cause high undervote rates, add votes or even count votes backwards. Our democracy is too important to continue using unreliable and untrustworthy voting equipment. The people of Sarasota are standing up for their most fundamental right no matter their political affiliation. This is about protecting democracy." The suit is being filed under provisions of Florida law that permit voters to contest an election based on misconduct by election officials or on evidence that legal votes were rejected in sufficient numbers to place in doubt the outcome of the election.

The voters' lawsuit cites misconduct of election officials, including the failure of Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent to adequately investigate, identify or report equipment malfunctions, software malfunctions or ballot layout errors in the ES&S iVotronic touch screen voting machines, even after she received numerous complaints about the machines from voters and poll-workers during the two week period of early voting.

The lawsuit also alleges that the iVotronic voting machines were improperly certified by the Florida Secretary of State in disregard of early warnings concerning the reliability and trustworthiness of e-voting systems made by ES&S systems.

On Monday, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission certified Vern Buchanan as the winner of the Congressional District 13 race by 363 votes, despite the fact that electronic ballots cast by more than 18,000 people in Sarasota County showed no vote for either candidate in a high profile congressional race. This is an undervote rate of more than 16%, compared to an undervote rate of 2.5% in the paper absentee ballots and 1% in the U.S. Senate race on the same electronic ballot.

At a public hearing hosted last Thursday by PFAWF, ACLU of Florida, Voter Action, Common Cause, and Fair Vote Florida, numerous voters in Sarasota County reported that when the summary screen appeared on the ES&S voting machines they were assigned to use, their vote had not been recorded. Some voters were able to go back and record a vote, but others believe they were never given a meaningful opportunity to cast a vote in that race.

The lawsuit notes that absentee ballots, which are cast on paper instead of the computerized touch screen voting machine, did not reflect a similar lack of votes in the congressional race in Sarasota, and that other counties in the same congressional district -- which used different voting equipment -- did not experience the same massive undercount in the congressional race.

"The voters of the 13th Congressional District deserve to know for sure who they elected," said Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Voters should not have to take the word of vendors and election officials when serious problems emerge that call into question the accuracy of the results. This suit is designed to help voters find out what really happened."

Full complaint [PDF, 758K]:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/florida/sarasota_complaint.pdf

For more on EFF's E-Voting work:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
November 21, 2006

Department of Homeland Security Dodges Records' Disclosure

Department of Homeland Security Dodges Records' Disclosure

Washington DC - The FLAG Project at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today, demanding information about a new agreement on the handling of air passenger data from flights between the European Union (EU) and the United States.

Two years ago, the U.S. and EU made a controversial deal requiring airlines to give DHS access to detailed passenger information from EU flights to and from the U.S. In May, the European Court of Justice struck down the agreement, finding it at odds with EU law. But the U.S. and EU reached a new agreement last month that will give U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies greater access to the data than the previous deal did. EFF filed its suit after DHS failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records about the handling of data under the new agreement, including how they are maintained, used, disclosed, and secured.

"Travelers may give up a lot of personal information when they make flight reservations," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Those traveling between Europe and the United States deserve to know who gets to see that data, how the information is protected, and whether those practices comply with EU law."

EFF's FLAG Project uses FOIA requests and litigation to expose the government's expanding use of technologies that invade privacy. Previous lawsuits have demanded information about the FBI's huge database of personal information, as well as records on the FBI's electronic surveillance systems.

"When federal agencies don't comply with the FOIA's requirements, they may conceal activities and programs that raise serious legal issues and put Americans' privacy at risk," said Hofmann. "The Department of Homeland Security must abide by the law and give the public information about the new passenger data agreement."

For the FOIA complaint filed against the Department of Homeland Security:
http://www.eff.org/flag/dhs/dhs_complaint.pdf

For more on the FLAG Project:
http://www.eff.org/flag

Contact:

Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
marcia@eff.org

Related Issues:
November 20, 2006

San Francisco - In what is a victory for free speech on the Internet, the California Supreme Court ruled today that no provider or user of an interactive computer service may be held liable for putting material on the Internet that was written by someone else. In doing so, the Court overruled an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal.

Today's ruling affirms that blogs, websites, listservs, and ISPs like Yahoo!, as well as individuals like defendant Ilena Rosenthal, are protected under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), which explicitly states that "[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

"By reaffirming that Congress intended to grant protection under Section 230 to those who provide a forum for the views of others, the Court has ensured that the Internet will remain a vibrant forum for debate and the free exchange of ideas," said Ann Brick, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. "Any other ruling would have inevitably made speech on the Internet less free."

The issue raised in Barrett v. Rosenthal was whether Section 230's protection applies to individuals who frequently use the Internet to pass on information obtained elsewhere, whether by forwarding an email written by someone else or, as was the case in Barrett, posting an email from someone else to a newsgroup. The ACLU-NC and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief in the California Supreme Court arguing that Section 230 means what it says and applies to "users" of interactive computer services as well as "providers."

"Courts have consistently interpreted Section 230 to provide broad protections for the platforms upon which free speech has flourished online," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "By reversing the Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court has brought California back in line with other jurisdictions and reaffirmed the critical rule that the soapbox is not liable for what the speaker has said."

In January 2004, in Barrett v. Rosenthal, the Court of Appeal for the First District overruled the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit filed against an activist for her re-publication on the Internet of someone else's words. The court refused to extend any protection under Section 230, which was expressly enacted "to promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services," in a manner "unfettered by Federal or State regulation."

"The Supreme Court's opinion strengthens protection for speech on the Internet" said Mark Goldowitz, director of the California Anti-SLAPP Project and counsel for Rosenthal. "Justice Corrigan's opinion protects against the 'heckler's veto' chilling speech on the Internet."

For the full decision, see EFF's website at:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/Barrett_v_Rosenthal/ruling.pdf

Contacts:

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

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


November 20, 2006

Press Conference Tuesday, November 21, 2006 by EFF, Voter Action,
People For the American Way Foundation, the ACLU of Florida

Tallahassee, FL - The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Voter
Action, People For the American Way Foundation, and the
ACLU of Florida will hold a press conference tomorrow to
announce a lawsuit calling for a re-vote in Sarasota
County's portion of Florida's 13th Congressional District.

Speakers at the event will include Reggie Mitchell of
PFAWF, Lowell Finley of Voter Action, and Larry Spalding of
ACLU-Florida. The event will also feature one of the
Sarasota voters who will be a plaintiff in the suit.

WHEN:
1 P.M. EST
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

WHERE:
Front Steps of the Leon County Courthouse (2nd Judicial Circuit)
301 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32301

WHO:
Reggie Mitchell, Florida Legal Counsel, People For the American Way Foundation
Lowell Finley, Co-Director, Voter Action
Larry Spalding, Legislative Counsel, ACLU-Florida

For more information, contact:
Matt Zimmerman
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

November 14, 2006

Judge to Consider Next Steps in Class Action Lawsuits

San Francisco - On Friday, November 17, at 10:30 a.m., a federal judge in San Francisco will consider the next steps in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) class-action lawsuit against AT&T.

EFF's suit accuses the telecom giant of collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in illegal spying on millions of ordinary Americans. Other cases recently transferred to U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's courtroom include similar allegations.

The U.S. government has intervened in EFF's case, contending that even if the NSA program is illegal, the lawsuit should be dismissed because it might expose state secrets. Last week, the U.S. government asked the judge to halt all proceedings until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on motions to dismiss the case.

Friday's case management conference will address how EFF's suit and the other class-action cases might go forward without implicating the state secrets privilege, and what discovery should proceed during the appeals process.

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

WHAT:
Hepting v. AT&T and other NSA telecommunications records lawsuits

WHEN:
Friday, November 17, 10:30 a.m.

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

For more on EFF's case against AT&T:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/att/

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
November 14, 2006

Americans Have the Right to See Laws They Must Follow

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of non-profit organizations asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to hear a case challenging a secret law governing travelers in American airports.

The case centers on the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) requirement that travelers show identification before boarding commercial aircraft. So far, the TSA has refused to disclose the terms of the identification requirement to the public, claiming that they are "sensitive security information." In the amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to hear Gilmore v. Gonzales, EFF demonstrates that Congress never intended agencies to have unfettered discretion to impose requirements upon the public without allowing the public to review them.

"The TSA is allowed to withhold some information from the public, but only in cases where transportation security is at risk," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Simply showing Americans the rules they must follow can't possibly compromise security. The real danger here is meaningless secrecy, which can hide security flaws, frustrate the justice system, create confusion, and undermine government accountability."

The Constitution and laws like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) prohibit the government from imposing secret laws on the public. But if the lower court decision permitting the secrecy is allowed to stand, it opens the door to other government agencies creating undisclosed rules and regulations without oversight.

"'Security' shouldn't be a magic password allowing the government to escape accountability," said Hofmann. "The Supreme Court should hear this case and review why the TSA insists on keeping this basic information secret."

The amicus brief was also signed by the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Center for Democracy and Technology, National Security Archive, Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists, and Special Libraries Association.

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/gilmore_v_gonzales/gilmore_amicus.pdf

Contact:

Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
marcia@eff.org

November 7, 2006

Delays Mean Long Lines for Voters in Florida, Utah, and Other States

San Francisco - Problems with electronic voting machine failures kept some polls from opening, created long lines, and left many voters puzzled about whether their votes were counted in Tuesday's high stakes election.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) joined a nationwide team of technology lawyers and other experts staffing nationwide call centers and legal command posts on Election Day. The volunteers chronicled election problems, assisted voters, and worked with election officials to pull malfunctioning machines wherever possible. By 8:00 pm ET on Tuesday, over 17,000 incidents, including machine-related problems, had been reported to the Election Protection Coalition's 866-OUR-VOTE hotline.

The types of machine problems reported to EFF volunteers were wide-ranging in both size and scope. Polls opened late for machine-related reasons in polling places throughout the country, including Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Utah, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, and California. In Broward County, Florida, voting machines failed to start up at one polling place, leaving some citizens unable to cast votes for hours. EFF and the Election Protection Coalition sought to keep the polling place open late to accommodate voters frustrated by the delays, but the officials refused. In Utah County, Utah, more than 100 precincts opened one to two hours late on Tuesday due to problems with machines. Both county and state election officials refused to keep polling stations open longer to make up for the lost time, and a judge also turned down a voter's plea for extended hours brought by EFF.

"If election officials insist on depending on this unreliable technology, they should be prepared to react appropriately when things go wrong," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Voters should not have to bear the brunt of this poor planning. We are very disappointed that the court did not recognize that."

"Jumping vote" problems -- touchscreen machines displaying selections not intended by voters -- once again appeared across the country and across machine models. Some voters again encountered difficulty making or changing selections on touchscreen machines, resulting in long lines and frustrated voters leaving polling places. Optical scan machines also broke down in many places, most prominently in Cook County, Illinois, but also in Los Angeles, California, also leading to long delays for voters.

The national monitoring campaign was developed after many states hastily implemented flawed electronic voting machines and related election procedures. Twenty-three states still do not require a paper record of all votes, despite the demonstrated technical failures of e-voting machines in the 2004 presidential election. Without a record, voters cannot verify that the e-voting machines are recording their votes as intended, and election officials cannot conduct recounts. In addition, most of these machines use "black box" software that hasn't been publicly reviewed for security.

But poorly designed systems are not the only problem. Most election workers remain woefully under-trained regarding potential e-voting problems. Vendor technicians frequently have unsupervised access to voting equipment, and local election officials routinely deny attempts to examine e-voting audit data.

Along with supporting local election reform, EFF has helped Congressional Rep. Rush Holt's Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act garner immense, bipartisan support. The bill contains several critically important election reforms, including the requirement of a paper trail for all electronic voting machines, random audits, and public availability of all code used in elections.

"Voters deserve these practical election reforms -- not long lines and unverifiable results," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman.

For the latest election news:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/

For more on EFF's e-voting efforts:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/

Contacts:

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

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

Related Issues:
November 7, 2006

EFF Battles Effort to Dismiss Surveillance Lawsuit

San Francisco - The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced today that it will hear the U.S. government's and AT&T's appeal of a district court's decision allowing the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) case against AT&T to go forward. The lawsuit alleges that AT&T collaborated in the National Security Agency's (NSA's) illegal spying program. The 9th Circuit did not rule on the merits of the appeal.

By this appeal, the U.S. government and AT&T are asserting that the so-called "state secret privilege" prevents the federal judiciary from determining whether the spying program is legal or not. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Judge Walker ruled that the case could continue, noting that "The compromise between liberty and security remains a difficult one. But dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security."

"It remains the province and the duty of the courts to determine whether the spying program broke the law, and the courts are quite capable of proceeding while respecting both liberty and security," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "We are looking forward to litigating before the 9th Circuit on this important matter."

EFF filed the class-action suit against AT&T in January, alleging that the company has given the NSA secret, direct access to the telephone calls and emails going over its network. In a separate case, a federal judge in Detroit ruled in August that the entire program was unconstitutional.

Judge Walker has set a case management conference for November 17th to consider how EFF's lawsuit and other suits against telecommunications companies can go forward. The hearing will start at 10:30am at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

For the full order from the 9th Circuit:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/att/appealgranted.pdf

For more on the class-action lawsuit against AT&T:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/att/

Contacts:

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

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

Related Issues:
November 1, 2006

Baseless Copyright Claims Used to Shut Down Debate Over Privacy Controversy

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit today against the man behind "craigslist-perverts.org" -- a website that publicized responses to fake personal advertisements posted on Craigslist.org -- on behalf of an online journalist who criticized the controversial outing campaign and received legal threats in return.

Michael Crook posted the fake ads earlier this year, claiming to be a young woman seeking a casual sexual encounter. Crook then displayed many of the replies on his craigslist-perverts.org website, including information such as the responders' names, photographs, phone numbers, and where they worked. Jeff Diehl, the editor of Internet magazine 10 Zen Monkeys, published an article in September critical of Crook's behavior and used an image of Crook being interviewed by Fox News to highlight how controversial a figure he was.

Instead of responding to the criticism with words, Crook sent a legal notice to the magazine's online service provider, claiming to be the copyright holder of the image and demanding that it be removed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Such actions violate the DMCA's requirements that only the copyright holder or someone authorized by her can send such notices.

"This is yet another case of someone intentionally misusing copyright law to try to shut down legitimate debate on an issue of public interest," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "Crook certainly doesn't own the copyright to the news footage -- Fox News does. Furthermore, a still shot of that footage, used as part of a commentary on the controversy surrounding him, is clearly a fair use. It's hypocritical for such an outspoken figure like Crook to attack other speakers just because they disagree with him."

Because of Crook's misuse of the DMCA, Diehl was forced to switch web-hosting companies in order to continue publish the photo. But even then, Crook sent another bogus DMCA notice to the new hosting company, and Diehl had to remove the photo for a second time. In the lawsuit filed today, EFF asks that Diehl be compensated for the financial and personal expenses associated with responding to the meritless claims and switching web hosts -- as well as for the infringement to his free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

This lawsuit is part of EFF's ongoing work to protect online free speech in the face of bogus copyright claims. Last week, EFF filed an objection to a subpoena from Landmark Education, a group that claimed copyright infringement in a video uploaded to the Internet Archive.

"The Internet is home to passionate debate on countless important issues. It is too bad that some people find the robust exercise of free speech so frightening that they use intimidation to try to silence it," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "EFF is grateful that people like Jeffrey Diehl and the Internet Archive are fighting back."

For more on the lawsuit against Michael Crook:
http://eff.org/legal/cases/diehl_v_crook

For more on the Internet Magazine 10 Zen Monkeys:
http://10zenmonkeys.com/2006/11/01/eff-crook-dmca-lawsuit/

For more on the Landmark Education's subpoena campaign:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/landmark/

Contacts:

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

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

Jeff Diehl
Editor
10 Zen Monkeys
stupendous@gmail.com

Related Issues:
JavaScript license information