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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: April 2008

April 29, 2008

EFF Outlines Five Steps to Redress DRM Debacle

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging Microsoft Corporation to fix the problems it will cause when it shuts down the MSN Music validation servers, making it impossible for customers to transfer their music files to new computers or even upgrade their operating system.

In an open letter sent to Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer today, EFF outlines five steps Microsoft must take to make things right for MSN Music customers -- including a issuing a public apology, providing refunds or replacement music files, and launching a substantial publicity campaign to make sure all customers know their options.

"MSN Music customers trusted Microsoft when it said that this was a safe way to buy music, and that trust has been betrayed," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "If Microsoft is prepared to treat MSN Music customers like this, is there any reason to suppose that future customers won't get the same treatment?"

MSN Music sold song downloads encumbered with digital rights management (DRM), allowing the music to be played only on approved devices. If you upgraded your computer or operating system, you needed to "reauthorize" your music files with MSN Music's DRM server. But last week, Microsoft announced that it would deactivate those servers because of the complexity of maintaining the technology -- meaning that customers face losing the ability to play their purchased music if they get a new computer or if the hard drive crashes on the old one. Microsoft's only suggestion for customers so far is to export all purchases onto a CD and then recopy it back onto new computers.

"Microsoft is asking its customers to spend more time, labor, and money to make degraded copies of music that was purchased in good faith," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "This outcome was easily foreseeable from the moment Microsoft chose to wrap MSN Music files in DRM. Microsoft customers should not have to pay for Microsoft's bad business decisions."

EFF's letter also calls on Microsoft to eliminate DRM from its Zune music service now -- or at least to publicly commit to compensating future customers for the inevitable future DRM debacles.

"With MSN Music, Microsoft has admitted just how expensive, clumsy, and unfair DRM is. It's time for Microsoft to reject this sloppy technology, and for customers to demand something better," McSherry said.

For the full open letter:
http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2008/04/28/microsoft-open-letter

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
April 15, 2008

Improper NSL Issued Upon the 'Advice and Direction of FBIHQ'

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which claims that National Security Letters (NSLs) take too long and that it needs the authority to conduct surveillance without judicial oversight, delayed its own investigation of a student suspected of links to terrorism by employing an improper NSL to seek information on the suspect, at the direction of FBI Headquarters. The FBI failed to report the misuse for almost two years.

EFF's report comes as the House Judiciary Committee prepares for a Tuesday hearing on the misuse of NSLs. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold another hearing on Wednesday.

"This report raises important questions about the FBI's use of these very powerful investigative tools," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Congress should determine why FBI headquarters insisted on an improper NSL instead of using the appropriate tools, and why the FBI failed to report the misuse for almost two years."

In the report, EFF used documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request coupled with public information to detail the bizarre turns in the FBI's investigation of a former North Carolina State University student. Over the span of three days in July of 2005, FBI documents show that the bureau first obtained the educational records of the suspect with a grand jury subpoena. However, at the direction of FBI headquarters, agents returned the records and then requested them again through an improper NSL.

As expanded by the PATRIOT Act, the FBI can use NSLs to get private records about anyone's domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions without any court approval -- as long as it claims the information could be relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation. However, NSL authority does not allow the government to seek educational records, and the university refused the request. The FBI finally obtained the documents again through a second grand jury subpoena. Later in July of 2005, FBI Director Robert Mueller used the delay in gathering the records as an example of why the FBI needed administrative subpoena power instead of NSLs so investigations could move faster.

"The FBI consistently asks for more power and less outside supervision," said Opsahl. "Yet here the NSL power was misused at the direction of FBI headquarters, and only after review by FBI lawyers. Oversight and legislative reforms are necessary to ensure that these powerful tools are not abused."

Report on the Improper Use of an NSL to NC State University:
http://www.eff.org/issues/foia/report-nsl-ncstate

Key FBI documents:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/07656JDB/charlotte.pdf

For more on National Security Letters:
http://www.eff.org/issues/foia/07656JDB

Contact:

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

April 8, 2008

EFF Argues Against Dismissal of Al-Haramain v. Bush

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal judge Monday to allow an important government surveillance lawsuit to have its day in court, despite the government's attempt to bury the case using the state secrets privilege.

The case is Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Bush, which alleges that federal agents illegally wiretapped calls between the charity and its lawyers. The government has asked U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker to dismiss the case, contending that the litigation jeopardizes state secrets. But in an amicus brief filed Monday, EFF argues that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was written to allow cases like this one to proceed with appropriate security precautions.

"Federal surveillance law already provides clear procedures that allow cases like Al-Haramain v. Bush to proceed fairly and securely, and those procedures trump the Administration's claims of blanket secrecy," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "By trying to use the state secrets privilege as a shield against any litigation over the legality of its warrantless wiretapping, the administration is essentially telling the other branches 'just trust us.' But when Congress passed FISA, it entrusted judges with the responsibility of deciding the legality of the executive branch's surveillance operations."

This is the government's second attempt to dismiss the Al-Haramain case. The first motion to dismiss reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which returned the case to Judge Walker's court to consider the FISA issue.

Judge Walker is also the presiding judge in Hepting v. AT&T -- EFF's class-action lawsuit accusing the telecommunications company of violating customers' rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in widespread domestic surveillance.

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/att/alharamainamicus1806.pdf

For more on Al-Haramain v. Bush:
http://www.eff.org/cases/al-haramain

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
April 8, 2008

EFF Argues That Labels Don't Trump Right to Resell

Los Angeles - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest filed briefs in federal court Monday on behalf of eBay seller Troy Augusto, defending his right to resell promotional CDs ("promo" CDs) that he buys from secondhand stores in the Los Angeles area.

Augusto, who does business as "Roast Beast Music" on eBay, was sued in May 2007 by Universal Music Group (UMG), the largest record company in the world, for 26 eBay auction listings involving UMG promo CDs. At issue is whether the "promotional use only, not for resale" labels on these CDs can trump a consumer's right to resell copyrighted materials that they own, guaranteed by copyright law's "first sale" doctrine.

For decades, major labels have distributed promo CDs for free to tastemakers and music industry insiders in an effort to create buzz for upcoming releases. These promo CDs often make their way into secondhand stores, where Augusto purchases them for resale on eBay. UMG stamps its promo CDs with labels declaring that the CDs may not be resold and remain the property of UMG. The "first sale" doctrine in copyright law, however, makes it clear that once the copyright owner sells or gives away a CD, DVD, or book, the recipient is entitled to resell it without needing further permission. The summary judgment brief filed Monday argues that UMG gives up ownership of these promo CDs when it mails them unsolicited to thousands of people without any intention of their return. Accordingly, the first sale doctrine permits purchasers to resell these CDs.

"If UMG is able to stop resale of CDs just by putting 'not for resale' labels on them, then there is nothing to stop other restrictive labels from appearing on CDs, books, and DVDs," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "Record companies are not entitled to strip consumers of their first sale rights simply by putting labels on their products."

A hearing on the motion for summary judgment is expected in early May 2008.

For the full brief filed Monday:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/umg_v_augusto/AugustoMSJBrief.pdf

For more on UMG v. Augusto:
http://www.eff.org/cases/umg-v-augusto

Contacts:

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

Joseph C. Gratz
Attorney
Keker & Van Nest, LLP
jgratz@kvn.com

Related Issues:
April 7, 2008

Judge Orders Government to Provide Documents in 17 Days

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won another battle against the government Friday over the release of information about a campaign to change federal surveillance law.

A federal judge ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to provide to EFF by April 21, 2008, records about telecom industry lobbying of their offices.

Congress is currently considering granting immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in unlawful electronic surveillance on millions of ordinary Americans as part of changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Officials at the DOJ and ODNI have been vocal supporters of the immunity proposal. Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), EFF asked the DOJ and ODNI for any documents reflecting telecom carriers' efforts to avoid legal responsibility for their role in the government's surveillance operations, but the agencies failed to comply with EFF's requests.

"We went to court over the release of these documents because they could play a critical role in the national debate over telecom immunity. Denying Americans access to this information is not only unconscionable, but also illegal," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "We're pleased the judge recognized that time is of the essence here and ordered these agencies to follow the law."

In November, another federal judge ordered ODNI to comply with a similar EFF request. Documents released as a result of that case detailed high-level battles over changes to FISA, featuring key members of Congress and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

EFF also represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the telecommunications company of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in widespread domestic surveillance. There are nearly 40 legal cases that have arisen from the warrantless surveillance currently pending in the Northern District of California courts.

For the judge's full order:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/foia_C0705278/040408_order.pdf

For more on EFF v. ODNI and DOJ:
http://www.eff.org/issues/foia/cases/C-07-05278

For more on Hepting v. AT&T:
http://www.eff.org/nsa

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
April 1, 2008

Agencies Fail to Release Records on Telecom Lobbying Activity

San Francisco - On Friday, April 4, at 9 a.m., the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal judge to speed the government's release of information about a campaign to change federal surveillance law to benefit telecommunications companies.

Congress is currently considering granting immunity to telecoms that participated in unlawful electronic surveillance on millions of ordinary Americans. But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents reflecting telecom carriers' efforts to avoid legal responsibility for their role in the government's surveillance operations.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White has already issued a tentative ruling granting EFF's request for a preliminary injunction against the government. In November, another federal judge ordered ODNI to comply with a similar EFF request.

EFF also represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the telecommunications company of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in widespread domestic surveillance.

WHAT:
EFF v. ODNI and DOJ

WHEN:
9 a.m.
Friday, April 4

WHERE:
U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
Courtroom 2, 17th Floor
450 Golden Gate Ave.
San Francisco CA

For the judge's tentative ruling:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/foia_C0705278/033108_tentative_ruling.pdf

For more on EFF v. ODNI and DOJ:
http://www.eff.org/issues/foia/cases/C-07-05278

For more on Hepting v. AT&T:
http://www.eff.org/nsa

Contacts:

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

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

Related Issues:
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