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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: July 2007

July 24, 2007

Home Video of Dancing Toddler Yanked From YouTube After Bogus Claim

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit today against Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), asking a federal court to protect the fair use and free speech rights of a mother who posted a short video of her toddler son dancing to a Prince song on the Internet.

Stephanie Lenz's 29-second recording shows her son bouncing along to the Prince song "Let's Go Crazy," which is heard playing in the background. Lenz uploaded the home video to YouTube in February to share it with her family and friends.

But last month, YouTube informed Lenz that it had removed the video from its website after Universal claimed that the recording infringed a copyright controlled by the music company. Under federal copyright law, a mere allegation of copyright infringement can result in the removal of content from the Internet.

"I was really surprised and angry when I learned my video was removed," said Lenz. "Universal should not be using legal threats to try to prevent people from sharing home videos of their kids with family and friends."

"Universal's takedown notice doesn't even pass the laugh test," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Copyright holders should be held accountable when they undermine non-infringing, fair uses like this video."

Last May, UMPG's parent company, Universal Music Group, sent a baseless copyright takedown demand to YouTube for a video podcast by political blogger Michelle Malkin. That video was quickly reposted after Malkin fought back.

"Copyright abuse can shut down online artists, political analysts, or -- as in this case -- ordinary families who simply want to share snippets of their day-to-day lives," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Universal must stop making groundless infringement claims that trample on fair use and free speech."

The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment that Lenz's home video does not infringe any Universal copyright, as well as damages and injunctive relief restraining Universal from bringing further copyright claims in connection with the video.

This lawsuit is part of EFF's ongoing work to protect online free speech in the face of bogus copyright claims. EFF is currently working with Stanford's Fair Use Project to develop a set of "best practices" for proper takedowns under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

For the video (since reposted):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1KfJHFWlhQ

For the full complaint:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/lenz_v_universal/lenz_complaint_final.pdf

For more on DMCA abuse and free speech:
http://www.eff.org/IP/freespeech/

Contacts:

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

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

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

Related Issues:
July 23, 2007

Justice Department Withholds Records on Electronic Surveillance

Washington, D.C. - On Thursday, July 26, at 11 a.m., the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will argue for the release of court orders that supposedly authorize the government's highly controversial electronic domestic surveillance program that intercepts and analyzes millions of Americans' communications.

The White House first acknowledged the surveillance program's existence in 2005, claiming that it could be conducted without warrants or judicial authorization of any kind. But in January of this year, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) had authorized collection of some communications and that the surveillance program would now operate under its approval. EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Department of Justice (DOJ) for the FISC orders and other records concerning the purported changes in the program, but when the DOJ did not comply, EFF filed suit in federal court.

Thursday's hearing, before Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, will include oral arguments from both EFF and the DOJ.

WHAT:
EFF v. Department of Justice

WHEN:
11 a.m.
Thursday, July 26

WHERE:
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Courtroom 25A
333 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

For more on EFF's lawsuit:
http://www.eff.org/flag/07403TFH

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
July 16, 2007

EFF Urges Appeals Court to Protect Innovation

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a brief urging the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a recent ruling that endangers features like search customization and user feedback on interactive web services.

The ruling came in a housing discrimination lawsuit against Roommate.com, which runs Internet forum where users can search for potential roommates. A three-judge panel held that Roommate.com could be held liable for the activity of its users because it "suggested, encouraged, or solicited" and then sorted and categorized content that may have violated fair housing law. But this reasoning threatens both current and future Internet innovators with potentially insurmountable liability problems -- impacting everything from search engine functionality to the ability to tag content on media sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr -- and is directly contrary to federal law. As EFF argued Friday in its amicus brief in support of appeal, Roommate.com is immune to liability for its users' activities under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which specifically protects hosts of interactive computer services.

"Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was passed specifically to help the Internet continue to grow without being tied down by regulation," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "If service providers have to worry about potentially crushing liability, it will strongly discourage the development of new tools for online users. In fact, many of the tools we use already would be impacted by this ruling, potentially crippling innovations in search and customization."

Search engines, for example, are designed to categorize and sort content, features potentially at risk under the Ninth Circuit's ruling. Sites that solicit user feedback and opinions and allow searching by user ranking could also run afoul of the new ruling.

"Courts across the country have recognized the critical role that Section 230 plays in Internet innovation," said Zimmerman. "The 9th Circuit should take this appeal and clarify that its strong protections remain in full force."

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/roomate.com/EFFroommateamicus.pdf

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/roommate.com

Contact:

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

July 12, 2007

Friday Hearing to Finalize Sanctions, Revote in Contested Election

Oakland, Calif. - On Friday, July 13, at 9:30 a.m., a California judge will rule on sanctions against Alameda County for botching its response to a contested race conducted on Diebold electronic voting machines. In a tentative ruling issued Thursday, Judge Winifred Y. Smith said that the election results in the race were "nullified" and ordered a revote.

Americans for Safe Access and voters in the city of Berkeley brought a legal challenge seeking a recount after Measure R, an initiative addressing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, lost by fewer than 200 votes in the 2004 election. While the lawsuit was ongoing, election officials returned the voting machines to supplier Diebold Election Systems, and 96% of the election data was destroyed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) helped analyze the remaining data, but too many questions remained.

"Without examining the redundant data, audit logs, and chain-of-custody records, no one can confirm whether any of the reported malfunctions were ever resolved or whether vote data was manipulated or lost," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "As a result, no one can ever confirm whether the vote result announced by the county was correct."

Smith's tentative ruling orders the county to place Measure R on the ballot in the next general election, as well as to pay the costs for the incomplete recount. That ruling is likely to be finalized after Friday's hearing.

What:
Americans for Safe Access vs. County of Alameda

When:
9:30 a.m.
Friday, July 13, 2007

Where:
Wiley Manuel Courthouse
Department 114
661 Washington Street
Oakland, CA

Contacts:

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

Gregory G. Luke
Attorney
Strumwasser &amp Woocher LLP
gluke@strumwooch.com

Rebecca Saltzman
Chief of Staff
Americans for Safe Access
rebecca@safeaccessnow.org

Caleb Dardick
CDA Strategies
caleb@cdastrategies.com

Related Issues:
July 10, 2007

EFF Lawsuit Uncovers History of Surveillance Mistakes

Washington, D.C. - Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) show years of chronic problems with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's use of National Security Letters (NSLs) to collect Americans' personal information and that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has long been aware of these problems.

The documents were disclosed after EFF sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) earlier this year for records related to a scathing Justice Department critique of FBI NSL activity. The records detail more than 40 instances of improper, unauthorized collection of information about individuals, including unlawful access to phone records and email. The records show that Gonzales himself was sent several of these problem reports, including one less than a week before he told a congressional committee that no civil liberties abuses have resulted from the USA PATRIOT Act. He also voiced surprise when the Justice Department report on NSL misuse was made public earlier this year.

"These chronic privacy problems have long been known within the Justice Department but still were kept secret from those who really needed to know -- members of the American public, including those who were surveilled," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "The FBI can't be trusted to police its own agents. It's time for Congress to provide oversight to protect American citizens."

The FBI's use of NSLs was expanded under the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, allowing federal agents to gather private records about anyone's domestic phone calls, emails, and financial transactions without any court approval -- as long as an FBI agent claims that the information could be related to a terrorism or espionage investigation. EFF submitted a FOIA request about the reported misuse of NSLs in March, and when no documents were forthcoming, EFF sued the FBI for their immediate release. Last month, a judge held that the FBI was required to release records related to the inspector general's report beginning on July 5, with more documents to be disclosed every 30 days. In all, 1138 pages of NSL records were released to EFF late last week in the first batch of documents complying with the court's order.

"This is by no means the whole story on NSL abuse," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "We're looking forward to receiving the rest of the documents. Americans deserve the whole story on the FBI's deeply flawed program to issue NSLs."

For the complete FBI documents and more analysis:
http://www.eff.org/flag/07656JDB/

Contacts:

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

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

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

Related Issues:
July 6, 2007

Innocent Target of File-Sharing Lawsuit Racked Up Legal Fees Fighting Baseless Charges

Seattle - The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) should pay for a single mom's two-year legal ordeal fighting a baseless file-sharing lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told Washington state court in an amicus brief filed Thursday.

The nightmare began for Dawnell Leadbetter in January of 2005, when she received a letter from the RIAA that accused her of illegally downloading copyrighted music and claiming she owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Leadbetter contacted the RIAA to deny the baseless claims, and refused to pay any settlement monies. In response, the RIAA sued Leadbetter, and Leadbetter hired an attorney to fight the charges. After months of legal wrangling, the RIAA finally dropped the case in December of 2006. But in the meantime, Leadbetter had incurred significant attorney's fees.

"Ms. Leadbetter isn't the only innocent Internet user that has been ensnared by the RIAA's litigation dragnet. But she is one of the few who have fought back, resisting RIAA pressure to pay settlement monies for something she did not do," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "The RIAA's settlement offers are usually less that what it would cost to defend yourself, so it's a big commitment to hire a lawyer to clear your name. Reimbursing Ms. Leadbetter's attorney's fees could encourage other innocent lawsuit targets to stand up for themselves."

Since 2003, the RIAA has sued over 20,000 people for allegedly sharing music over the Internet. The industry uses questionable investigative methods tactics to find its targets, and then often employs erroneous legal theories in its quest for settlement monies. In Ms. Leadbetter's case, the suit against her included accusations of "secondary liability" -- putting her on the hook for anything that happened on her Internet account, whether she knew about it or not.

"The RIAA knows that this legal theory is wrong. But if innocent victims are too scared to hire an attorney and fight back, the public could suffer under the misconception that these bogus theories are legitimate," Schultz said. "Awarding attorney's fees to Ms. Leadbetter helps protect everyone's rights under copyright law."

The amicus brief was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle in conjunction with attorney Derek Newman of Newman &amp Newman LLP.

For the full amicus brief:
http://eff.org/legal/cases/interscope_v_leadbetter

For more on the RIAA lawsuit campaign:
http://www.eff.org/IP/P2P/?f=riaa-v-thepeople.html

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
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