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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: May 2009

May 27, 2009

New Curriculum Gives Students the Facts About Their Digital Rights and Responsibilities

San Francisco - As the entertainment industry promotes its new anti-copying educational program to the nation's teachers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today launched its own "Teaching Copyright" curriculum and website to help educators give students the real story about their digital rights and responsibilities on the Internet and beyond.

The Copyright Alliance -- backed by the recording, broadcast, and software industries -- has given its curriculum the ominous title "Think First, Copy Later." This is just the latest example of copyright-focused educational materials portraying the use of new technology as a high-risk behavior. For example, industry materials have routinely compared downloading music to stealing a bicycle, even though many downloads are lawful, and making videos using short clips from other sources is treated as probably illegal even though many such videos are also lawful. EFF created Teaching Copyright as a balanced curriculum encouraging students to make full and fair use of technology that is revolutionizing learning and the exchange of information.

"Today's tech-savvy teens will grow into the artists and innovators of tomorrow," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "They need to understand their digital rights and responsibilities in order to create, critique, and comment on their culture. This curriculum fills an educational void, introducing critical questions of digital citizenship into the classroom without misinformation that scares kids from expressing themselves in the modern world."

The Teaching Copyright curriculum is a detailed, customizable plan that connects students to contemporary issues related to the Internet and technology. Teaching Copyright invites discussion about how creativity is enabled by new technologies, what digital rights and responsibilities exist or should exist, and what roles students play as users of technology. The website at includes guides to copyright law, including fair use and the public domain.

"Kids are bombarded with messages that using new technology is illegal," said EFF Activist Richard Esguerra. "Instead of approaching the issues from a position of fear, Teaching Copyright encourages inquiry and greater understanding. This is a balanced curriculum, asking students to think about their role in the online world and to make informed choices about their behavior."

The Teaching Copyright curriculum was developed with the input of educators from across the U.S. and has been designed to satisfy components of standards from the International Society for Technology in Education and the California State Board of Education.

Learn more about Teaching Copyright:


Richard Esguerra
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Corynne McSherry
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

May 22, 2009

Student's Computers Were Seized Under Baseless Theory of Computer Hacking

Boston - A justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ordered police to return a laptop and other property seized from a Boston College computer science student's dorm room after finding there was no probable cause to search the room in the first place. The police were investigating whether the student sent hoax emails about another student.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Boston law firm Fish and Richardson are representing the computer science student, who was forced to complete much of the final month of the semester without his computer and phone. Boston College also shut off the student's network access in the wake of the now-rejected search.

"The judge correctly found that there was no legitimate reason to search and seize this student's property," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "Our client was targeted because law enforcement was improperly suspicious of our client's computer skills and misunderstood computer crime laws. We're grateful that the court was able to see through the commonwealth's smokescreen and rectify this mistake."

In her order Thursday, Justice Margot Botsford rejected the commonwealth's theory that sending a hoax email might be unlawful under a Massachusetts computer crime statute barring the "unauthorized access" to a computer, concluding that there could be no violation of what was only a "hypothetical internet use policy." Thursday's decision now stands as the highest state court opinion to reject the dangerous theory that terms of service violations constitute computer "hacking" crimes. Justice Botsford further found that details offered by police as corroboration of other alleged offenses were insufficient and did not establish probable cause for the search.

"No one should be subjected to a search like this based on such flimsy theories and evidence," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "The Fourth Amendment flatly bars such fishing expeditions. Computer expertise is not a crime, and it was inappropriate for the commonwealth to employ such transparent scare tactics in an attempt to hide the fact that they had no case."

EFF had appealed the case to the Massachusetts Supreme Court with Fish & Richardson attorneys Adam Kessel, Lawrence Kolodney, and Tom Brown.

For the full order from Judge Botsford:

For more on this case:


Jennifer Stisa Granick
Civil Liberties Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Matt Zimmerman
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues:
May 6, 2009

Broken Promises from the Obama Administration Keep Americans in the Dark About ACTA

Washington, D.C. - Two public interest groups today called on the government to stop blocking the release of information about a secret intellectual property trade agreement with broad implications for privacy and innovation around the world.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge said that the April 30th release of 36 pages of material by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) was the second time the government had the opportunity to provide some public insight into the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), but declined to do so. More than a thousand pages of material about ACTA are still being withheld, despite the Obama administration's promises to run a more open government.

"We are very disappointed with the USTR's decision to continue to withhold these documents," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "The president promised an open and transparent administration. But in this case and others we are litigating at EFF, we've found that the new guidelines liberalizing implementation of the Freedom of Information Act haven't changed a thing."

EFF and Public Knowledge filed suit in September of 2008, demanding that background documents on ACTA be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Initially, USTR released 159 pages of information about ACTA and withheld more than 1300 additional pages, claiming they implicate national security or reveal the USTR's "deliberative process." After reconsidering the release under the Obama administration's new transparency policies, the USTR disclosed the additional pages last week, most of which contain no substantive information.

However, one of the documents implies that treaty negotiators are zeroing in on Internet regulation. A discussion of the challenges for the pact includes "the speed and ease of digital reproductions" and "the growing importance of the Internet as a means of distribution."

Other publicly available information shows that the treaty could establish far-reaching customs regulations over Internet traffic in the guise of anti-counterfeiting measures. Additionally, multi-national IP industry companies have publicly requested that ISPs be required to engage in filtering of their customers' Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material, force mandatory disclosure of personal information about alleged copyright infringers, and adopt "Three Strikes" policies requiring ISPs to automatically terminate customers' Internet access upon a repeat allegation of copyright infringement.

"What we've seen tends to confirm that the substance of ACTA remains a grave concern," said Public Knowledge Staff Attorney Sherwin Siy. "The agreement increasingly looks like an attempt by Hollywood and the content industries to perform an end-run around national legislatures and public international forums to advance an aggressive, radical change in the way that copyright and trademark laws are enforced."

"The USTR's official summary of the process, released last month, recognized the lack of transparency so far while doing nothing to broaden stakeholder input or engage public debate," said International Affairs Director Eddan Katz. "The radical proposals being considered under the Internet provisions deserve a more transparent process with greater public participation."

Litigation in the case will now continue, with USTR asking U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer to uphold its decision to conceal virtually all of the information that EFF and PK seek concerning the ACTA negotiations.

For the documents released so far:

For more on ACTA:


Rebecca Jeschke
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Art Brodsky
Communications Director
Public Knowledge

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