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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: February 2009

February 12, 2009

Meritless Copyright Claims Won't Interfere With YouTube Rodeo Critiques

Animal Welfare Advocates Settle Online Video Battle With Cowboy Group
Meritless Copyright Claims Won't Interfere With YouTube Rodeo Critiques
For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 12, 2009

San Francisco - Animal welfare advocates and the world's largest rodeo-sanctioning organization have settled their copyright battle over YouTube videos, protecting the advocates' right to publicize their critiques of animal treatment at rodeos and creating a new model for handling takedown notices.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represents the group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), a non-profit organization that videotapes and photographs rodeos in order to expose animal abuse, injuries, and deaths. SHARK posted dozens of these critical videos to YouTube throughout 2006 and 2007. When the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) falsely claimed that 13 of the videos infringed PRCA copyrights, YouTube disabled SHARK's entire account. SHARK sued the PRCA for misrepresentation, noting that, among other things, the videos could not have infringed any PRCA copyright because the rodeos themselves weren't copyrightable.

In a settlement announced today, the PRCA will pay $25,000 for the improper removals. PRCA has also agreed that any future copyright claims will be first sent to SHARK's video contact and then reviewed by the PRCA's general counsel for legal merit before any legal notices are sent to YouTube or another video service. In addition, the PRCA has agreed not to enforce a "no videotaping" provision in its ticket "contracts" against SHARK unless it enforces the same provision against others, meaning the PRCA will no longer be able to selectively enforce the provision against its critics.

"We're very pleased with this settlement," said SHARK Senior Investigator Michael Kobliska. "We have a First Amendment right to question how animals are treated at rodeos and to publicize the inhumane treatment we witness. This agreement lets SHARK continue its work without unfair interference."

This settlement is part of EFF's No Downtime for Free Speech Campaign, which works to protect online expression in the face of baseless copyright claims. EFF has seen people and organizations increasingly misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other intellectual property laws to demand that material be immediately taken down even when the material clearly does not infringe any legal rights. Service providers often comply with these requests without double-checking them, depriving groups like SHARK of a crucial mechanism for spreading their message.

"As demonstrated in our recent Presidential campaign, YouTube and other content-sharing sites have become an integral part of American discourse," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Michael Kwun. "When critical videos are unfairly removed from the public eye, free speech and debate suffers."

Co-counsel Charles Lee Mudd Jr. of Mudd Law Offices in Chicago provided substantial assistance with the case.

For the full settlement agreement:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/SHARK_v_PRCA/SHARKPRCAsettlement.pdf

For more on the No Downtime for Free Speech Campaign:
http://www.eff.org/issues/ip-and-free-speech

Contacts:

Michael Kwun
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
michael@eff.org

Michael Kobliska
SHARK Investigator
mkobliska@sharkonline.org

Related Issues:
February 9, 2009

DRM Technologies Impede Innovation and Thwart Consumers' Rights

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today to mitigate the damage that digital rights management (DRM) technologies cause consumers.

In public comments submitted to the FTC today, EFF explained how DRM, backed by the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), impedes innovation and thwarts consumers' rights to make full use of their digital music, movies, software, and videogames. EFF urged the commission to study DRM's effect on competition in the marketplace, investigate whether the effects of DRM are fully disclosed to consumers, and promote a set of "Best Practices" that, if followed, would help alleviate the burdens of DRM for consumers.

Industry leaders argue that DRM is necessary to protect sales of digital media, but DRM systems are consistently and routinely broken almost immediately upon their introduction.

"DRM does not prevent piracy," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "At this point, DRM seems intended to accomplish a very different purpose: giving some industry leaders unprecedented power to influence the pace and nature of innovation and upsetting the traditional balance between the interests of copyright owners and the interests of the public. The best way to fix the problem is to get rid of DRM on consumer products and reform the DMCA, but the steps we're suggesting will help protect technology users and future technology innovation in the meantime."

EFF's comments were filed in conjunction with the FTC's Town Hall on DRM, set for March 25 in Seattle. The Town Hall is free and open to the public.

For EFF's full comments to the FTC:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/DRM/DRMCOMMENTS_final.pdf

For more on the FTC Town Hall on DRM:
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/12/drm.shtm

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
February 2, 2009

Site Challenges Redevelopment Efforts for NYC Landmark

New York - An activist was able to relaunch her online campaign today after claims were settled out of court for the shutting down of her website challenging redevelopment efforts in New York City's historic Union Square.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represented website creator Savitri Durkee, an activist concerned with preserving the character of Union Square and Union Square Park. A copyright lawsuit and other legal action brought by Union Square Partnership (USP), a group backing extensive redevelopment of the area, led to a nearly six-month shutdown of Durkee's site.

"I'm very pleased to have my parody back online," said Durkee. "Abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights activists, and many others have exercised their First Amendment rights in Union Square. It's important that we have uncensored debate about what comes next for this historic landmark."

As part of the settlement, Union Square Partnership agreed to dismiss its claims in exchange for Durkee's promise to transfer the original domain names, to use disclaimers, and to refrain from impersonating USP board members by name. Durkee remains free to parody USP via other domain names, as long as the new domain doesn't use the organization's name alone.

"This is a good result for our client and the people of New York who have some big decisions to make about Union Square," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "The Internet has revolutionized political activism, allowing everyone to have his or her say on a global platform. Parody is an important part of America's free speech tradition, and with her online parody Ms. Durkee brings this protected form of criticism into our digital age."

The law firms Mayer Brown LLP and Gross & Belsky LLP were co-counsel in this case.

For the new parody website:
http://www.weareunionsquare.org

For the full settlement agreement:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/usp_v_durkee/USP-Durkee-SettlementAgreement-signed.pdf

Contacts:

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

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

February 2, 2009

8200 Consumers Join EFF Campaign to Free Your Phone

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) submitted a petition to the U.S. Copyright Office today signed by more than 8200 people demanding that the office lift the legal cloud hanging over cell phone customers who modify their phones.

The petition was part of EFF's reply comment in the 2009 Copyright Office rulemaking, convened every three years to consider exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) ban on circumvention of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions. The comments follow EFF's initial exemption requests, filed with the Copyright Office in December, that are aimed freeing cell phones from the software locks that stifle competition and cripple consumers. EFF also represents The Wireless Alliance, ReCellular and FlipSwap, phone recyclers and resellers that rely on phone unlocking to keep functional devices in the hands of consumers and out of landfills.

Cell phone manufacturers and service providers routinely use software locks on mobile phones to prevent customers from connecting to new service providers or running the software of their choosing. While hundreds of thousands of cell phone owners have modified their phones so they can use their devices the way they want to, the threat of litigation under the circumvention provisions of the DMCA threatens to drive this activity underground. For example, EFF's proposed exemptions would eliminate the risk of DMCA liability for those who "unlock" or "jailbreak" their iPhones.

"The DMCA is supposed to protect copyrighted works, not reduce competition and consumer choice," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "Cell phone users need a clear message from the Copyright Office that modification is protected."

EFF also submitted a white paper explaining how Apple implements restrictions on the iPhone and T-Mobile implements restrictions on its Android G1 phone. Many of the petition signers also sent their own stories of frustration directly to the Copyright Office.

"Through our FreeYourPhone.org website, we heard a lot of stories of consumers and developers who want to innovate and create new tools for mobile phones," said EFF Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "The DMCA shouldn't be used to prevent advances in cell phone technology. Who knows what exciting new feature you might not ever get to use because of the threat of litigation?"

In addition to the cell phone submissions, EFF also requested an exemption to protect the video remix culture currently thriving on Internet sites like YouTube. The filing asks for a DMCA exemption for amateur creators who use excerpts from DVDs in order to create new, noncommercial works.

The Copyright Office will hold public hearings on the DMCA exemption requests in Washington, DC, and California in the spring, and the final rulemaking order will be issued in October.

For EFF's full comments:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/dmca_2009/EFF2009replycomment_0.pdf

For more on the DMCA rulemaking:
http://www.eff.org/cases/2009-dmca-rulemaking

Contacts:

Jennifer Stisa Granick
Civil Liberties Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jennifer@eff.org

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

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