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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: August 2007

August 29, 2007

EFF Releases Comprehensive Report on Recording Industry's Litigation Campaign

San Francisco - As college students across the country head back to class this fall, they need to worry about more than keeping up on their schoolwork. The Recording Industry of America (RIAA) continues to target college campuses for hundreds of new lawsuits each month. Meanwhile, under pressure from the recording industry, universities are instituting draconian punishments for students suspected of sharing music files. At the same time, the RIAA continues to sue file sharers off campus, with a total tally now exceeding 20,000.

In a report released today, "RIAA v. The People: Four Years Later," the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) provides the only comprehensive look at the four-year litigation campaign waged by the RIAA against music fans. The report traces the RIAA campaign from its beginnings in 2003 against a handful of students at Princeton, Rensselaer Polytechnic, and Michigan Tech to the current spate of "pre-litigation settlement" letters being sent to universities nationwide.

"Despite the RIAA's legal campaign, file-sharing is more popular than ever," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "History will treat this as a shameful chapter in the history of the music industry, when record companies singled out random music fans for disproportionate penalties. Artists must be compensated, but these lawsuits aren't putting money in any creator's pocket."

The crackdown on Internet file-sharing has already driven music fans to technologies that are harder to monitor -- for example, burning and exchanging CDs among friends and sharing on members-only "darknets." EFF calls on universities to help artists get paid for their creative work while protecting their students from costly legal problems. Universities should insist on a blanket license for their students, collecting a reasonable regular payment -- for example, $5 a month -- in exchange for the right to keep sharing music with their classmates.

"This is about money, not morality," said von Lohmann. "With a blanket licensing solution, the RIAA can call off the lawyers and the lobbyists, and universities can get back to education instead of copyright enforcement."

For the full report "RIAA v. The People: Four Years Later":
http://www.eff.org/IP/P2P/riaa_at_four.pdf

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

FAQ for students faced with "pre-litigation letters":
http://www.eff.org/IP/P2P/RIAA_v_ThePeople/college_faq.php

Contact:

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

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August 22, 2007

Illegitimate Patent Used to Threaten Website Hosting Companies

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging a bogus patent on Internet subdomains that has been used to threaten small businesses and innovators.

Ideaflood, a self-proclaimed "intellectual property holding company," used this illegitimate patent to demand payment from website hosting companies that offer virtual, personalized subdomains -- like "action.eff.org" for the parent domain "eff.org." But in a reexamination request filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) today, EFF and Rick Mc Leod of Klarquist Sparkman, LLP show that the method Ideaflood claims to have invented was well known before the patent was issued. In fact, website developers were having public discussions about how to create these virtual subdomains on an Apache developer mailing list for more than a year before Ideaflood made its patent claim.

"This illustrates how an open-source project can establish a public record of technology development and thwart invalid patents," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "The public discussions on the Apache and other mailing lists have shown that Ideaflood's patent claims were without merit and that the patent should be revoked before it causes any more damage to innovation on the Internet."

The companies that Ideaflood threatened include Freehomepage.com, T35 Hosting, and LiveJournal, a social networking site where each of its three million users have their own subdomain. The patent has since been reassigned to a company called Hoshiko, LLC.

"Our patent system is intended to encourage innovation, not damage it by encroaching on the public domain," said Rick Mc Leod, who drafted EFF's petition. "Unfortunately, in recent years the PTO has been deluged with applications, making it difficult to determine whether many patents should be issued or rejected. When a 'bad' patent targets something as ephemeral as the Internet, it can be even more difficult to get that patent invalidated. Fortunately, a diligent, prior art searcher sent us a key reference."

The challenge to the Ideaflood patent is part of EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects that bad patents have on public and consumer interests. So far, the project has killed one bogus patent and requested the reexamination of two others.

For the full reexamination request:
http://www.eff.org/patent/wanted/ideaflood/reexam/ReqReexam_746.pdf

For more on EFF's Patent Busting Project:
http://www.eff.org/patent

Contacts:

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

Rick Mc Leod
Klarquist Sparkman, LLP
rick.mcleod@klarquist.com

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August 15, 2007

NSA Surveillance Comes Under Fire Today in Appeals Court Battle

San Francisco - In a packed San Francisco courtroom today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow AT&T customers to continue to fight against illegal spying on their telephone and Internet communications.

EFF is representing the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the giant telco of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in domestic surveillance. The U.S. government is fighting to get the class-action lawsuit thrown out of court, contending that the litigation jeopardizes state secrets.

"The courts cannot permit the government to evade responsibility for unconstitutional activities with thin claims of 'state secrets.' Without judicial review, there is no way to stop abuses of power," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The courts are well equipped to protect state secrets while determining whether the spying is illegal and if so, to put a stop to it."

"In trying to shut down this case, the government is hoping to avoid accountability for spying on millions of AT&T customers," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Our system of checks and balances is supposed to thwart abuses of power. The White House is trying to wiggle out of those checks by taking the courts out of the picture."

Also Wednesday, the court heard arguments on the future of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Bush, a case alleging that the federal agents illegally wiretapped calls between the charity and its lawyers. The government also wants this case dismissed on state secrets grounds.

"The President is trying to hide behind a veil of false secrecy to evade a judicial determination that he broke the law. We're asking the court to see through that ploy," said Jon B. Eisenberg of Eisenberg and Hancock, LLP, attorney for the Al-Haramain plaintiffs.

C-SPAN television recorded today's hearing and said it would air later in the day.

The appeals court did not make a ruling Wednesday. The decision will be released at a later date.

Contacts:

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

Jon B. Eisenberg
Attorney for the Al-Haramain plaintiffs
Eisenberg and Hancock, LLP
jon@eandhlaw.com

Ashlee Albies
Attorney for the Al-Haramain plaintiffs
ashlee@albieslaw.com

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August 9, 2007

Government Aims to Block Accountability for Illegal Spying on Americans

San Francisco - In the wake of Congress approving a dramatic expansion of U.S. warrantless wiretapping powers, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the future of two critical lawsuits over illegal surveillance of Americans. The hearing is set for August 15, at 2 p.m. in San Francisco.

The government is fighting to get the cases thrown out of court, contending that the litigation jeopardizes state secrets. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, which accuses the telecom giant of collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in illegal electronic surveillance of millions of AT&T's customers. The court will also hear the arguments on the future of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Bush, a case alleging that the government illegally wiretapped calls between the charity and its lawyers.

"At issue here is whether the courts have any meaningful role to play in protecting Americans' privacy from Executive branch abuses of its surveillance powers," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "If the claim of 'state secrets' is allowed to shut down litigation, then the courts will never be able to exercise their Constitutional duty to hold the White House accountable for illegal and even unconstitutional abuses of power."

The court has scheduled one hour of arguments for Hepting v. AT&T, and 40 minutes for Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Bush. Because of the large number of attendees expected at Wednesday's hearing, the court will provide an overflow room with audio and video of the proceedings for spectators who cannot get a seat in the courtroom itself.

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

WHAT:
Hepting v. AT&T
Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Bush

WHEN:
2 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15

WHERE:
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Courtroom 1, 3rd Floor
95 Seventh Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

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

Contacts:

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

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

Lisa Jaskol
Attorney for the Al-Haramain plaintiffs
ljaskol@earthlink.net

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August 6, 2007

Record Industry Takes Aim at Right of 'First Sale'

San Francisco - An eBay seller is taking on Universal Music Group (UMG) in court after the record industry giant targeted his online music sales with false claims of copyright infringement.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the San Francisco law firm of Keker & Van Nest LLP are representing Troy Augusto, whose online auctions included sales of promotional CDs distributed by Universal. Augusto does business on eBay under the name Roast Beast Music and specializes in sales of rare and collectible music.

Copyright law's "first sale" doctrine makes it clear that the owner of a CD is entitled to resell it without the permission of the copyright holder. Nevertheless, Universal demanded that eBay take down Augusto's auctions, claiming that CDs marked as "promotional use only" remain the property of Universal and thus can never be resold.

"When a consumer buys a CD, he gets certain rights, including the right to resell it. Universal is mistaken if it thinks that it can trump these rights simply by putting a label on a CD," said Fred von Lohmann, EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney. "Universal is trying to unilaterally rewrite copyright law to the detriment of Augusto's legitimate business and the public. Unless this effort is blocked, it could jeopardize not only sales of used CDs, but also libraries, used bookstores, and businesses that rent movies and video games."

In May, Universal filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Augusto. Today, EFF filed papers with the federal court in Los Angeles answering Universal's claims and counter-suing the company for sending bogus "takedown notices" to eBay that resulted in the unwarranted suspension of Augusto's auctions.

This is not the first instance of Universal and its affiliated companies abusing copyright law. Last month, EFF filed suit against Universal Music Publishing Group on behalf of a mom who had a home video yanked from YouTube because a snippet of a Prince song could be heard in the background. In May, UMG made baseless copyright complaints about a video podcast by political blogger Michelle Malkin.

EFF has also fought other efforts to override the first sale doctrine, arguing in 2004 that Lexmark should not be permitted to use a "label license" to prohibit the resale of laser printer toner cartridges.

For the answer and counterclaim:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/umg_v_augusto/20070806_augusto_answer.pdf

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

Contacts:

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

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

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