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EFF Press Release Archives

EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: July 2009

July 22, 2009

Lawsuit Seeks Public Disclosure of Oversight Records Amidst New Questions About Accountability

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit today against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a half-dozen other federal agencies involved in intelligence gathering, demanding the immediate release of reports about potential misconduct. EFF filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), requesting records of intelligence agencies' reporting of activities since 2001 that might have been unlawful or contrary to presidential order.

"By executive order, federal intelligence agencies must submit concerns about potentially illegal activity to the Intelligence Oversight Board and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence," said EFF Open Government Legal Fellow Nate Cardozo. "Intelligence agencies are given a wide berth for national security reasons, but at a minimum they're required to act within the limits of the law. These records hold important details about how well the Executive Branch's internal checks operate."

The members of the Intelligence Oversight Board were appointed by the president to advise on intelligence matters. Until last year, all intelligence agencies were required to report to the board "any intelligence activities of their organizations that they have reason to believe may be unlawful or contrary to Executive order or Presidential directive." The board was tasked with reviewing those reports, summarizing them, and forwarding to the president those that it believed described violations of the law. Last year, President Bush reassigned many of these responsibilities, including reviewing agency reports, to the Director of National Intelligence.

A storm of media coverage following this month's disclosure that the CIA chose to keep Congress in the dark about a plan to train anti-terrorist assassin teams has brought the lack of transparency in intelligence reporting to a head. Lawmakers have accused the CIA of deliberately misleading Congress and are calling for an investigation into officials' conduct. The reports the agencies have provided to the Intelligence Oversight Board undoubtedly contain information that will shed some light on incidents such as this -- information that is necessary in order to provide appropriate oversight.

In addition to the CIA, EFF's lawsuit names the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice (including the FBI), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Energy, and the Department of State -- all of which failed to comply with FOIA requests seeking records and reports of concerns about intelligence activity that might have stepped over the bounds of the law.

"The CIA is not the only agency that has faced questions about the legality of its intelligence programs," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Electronic surveillance and other intelligence activities have come under increasing scrutiny during the past several years. We're seeking information that will shed light on incidents of intelligence misconduct, how often they happen, and how effective oversight is for controversial programs. The agencies must follow the law and release these records to the public."

For the full complaint:


Nate Cardozo
Open Government Legal Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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July 22, 2009

Free Speech Vindicated, EFF Dismisses Suit

San Francisco - Apple has retracted its legal threats against public wiki hosting site Bluwiki, and, in response, EFF is dismissing its lawsuit against Apple over those threats. The skirmish involved a set of anonymously authored wiki pages in which hobbyists were discussing how to "sync" media to iPods and iPhones using music library playback software other than Apple's own iTunes.

In November 2008, Apple sent a series of legal threats to the operator of Bluwiki, alleging that these hobbyist discussions about interoperability violated copyright law and constituted a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), even though the author(s) of the pages had not yet figured out how to accomplish their goal. In response to Apple's legal threats, Bluwiki took down the wiki pages in question. In April 2009, EFF and the San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest sued Apple on behalf of OdioWorks, which runs Bluwiki, asking a court to reject Apple's claims and allow Bluwiki to restore the discussions.

On July 8, 2009, Apple sent letter withdrawing its cease-and-desist demands and stating that "Apple no longer has, nor will it have in the future, any objection to the publication of the iTunesDB Pages." As a result, EFF has moved to dismiss its complaint against Apple.

"While we are glad that Apple retracted its baseless legal threats, we are disappointed that it only came after 7 months of censorship and a lawsuit," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "Because Apple continues to use technical measures to lock iPod Touch and iPhone owners into -- and Palm Pre owners out of -- using Apple's iTunes software, I wouldn't be surprised if there are more discussions among frustrated customers about reverse engineering Apple products. We hope Apple has learned its lesson here and will give those online discussions a wide berth in the future."

For more details:

For more information about OdioWorks v. Apple:


Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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July 21, 2009

EFF Releases 'Surveillance Self-Defense International' for Iranian Dissidents and Other Protestors

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released "Surveillance Self-Defense International" (SSDI) today, a practical guide to help activists from around the world use the Internet safely under repressive regimes. It is available at:

Recent political protests in Iran, China, and elsewhere have demonstrated the enormous power of the Internet for organizing protests and reporting events to the world. But governments have also used the Internet to track, harass, and undermine. SSDI urges activists to consider the risks in using various technologies and outlines strategies that can allow protestors to continue to use the Internet safely.

"The Internet remains a powerful way to give voice to repressed people around the world," said EFF Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley. "But with increasingly prevalent government censorship and surveillance, citizens seeking free expression must consider the risks and make careful decisions about how they use the Internet. Surveillance Self-Defense International can help them make those decisions well."

Individuals outside of repressive regimes can also read the guide to find ideas for remotely assisting others in circumventing censorship and speaking out anonymously on the Internet. Shortly after the contested Iranian election, many activists sought advice on using their computers to set up proxies or Tor nodes to help Iranian citizens access the web.

"Surveillance Self-Defense International isn't just about what to do when facing down surveillance and censorship in your own country," said Danny O'Brien, EFF's International Outreach Coordinator. "It's about what ordinary Net users can do to help protect others. Whoever you are, and wherever you are, you can help keep the Net safe for free speech."

SSDI is an offshoot of EFF's Surveillance Self-Defense manual, an online how-to guide for protecting private data against government spying in the U.S. SSDI reflects the fact that the best strategies to achieve privacy are very different for people in the U.S. and people living elsewhere, sometimes under authoritarian regimes.

For "Surveillance Self-Defense International":


Peter Eckersley
Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Danny O'Brien
International Outreach Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation

July 13, 2009

EFF Faces Off Against Obama Administration in Jewel v. NSA

San Francisco - On Wednesday, July 15, at 10:30 a.m., a federal judge in San Francisco will hear arguments in the government's motion to dismiss Jewel v. NSA, a case from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) challenging dragnet government surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans.

The Justice Department moved to dismiss the case in April, arguing that litigation over the warrantless wiretapping program would require the government to disclose privileged "state secrets" -- essentially repeating the arguments made by the Bush Administration in its attempts to block lawsuits over the illegal spying. The Justice Department also claims that the U.S. possesses "sovereign immunity" and cannot be held accountable for illegal surveillance under any federal statutes.

In Wednesday's hearing, EFF will argue that the lawsuit cannot be dismissed based on the government's blanket secrecy assertion, as made clear in previous court decisions concerning NSA spying and the CIA's special rendition program, and that the government is not immune against suit for violating federal wiretapping statutes.

For more information about attending the hearing, please contact

Jewel v. NSA hearing on the government's motion to dismiss

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
10:30 a.m.

450 Golden Gate Ave., Courtroom 6
San Francisco, CA 94102

For more on Jewel v NSA:


Rebecca Jeschke
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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July 2, 2009

EFF Argues Phones Ringing in Public Do Not Violate Copyright Law

New York - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court Wednesday to reject bogus copyright claims in a ringtone royalty battle that could raise costs for consumers, jeopardize consumer rights, and curtail new technological innovation.

Millions of Americans have bought musical ringtones, often clips from favorite popular songs, for their mobile phones. Mobile phone carriers pay royalties to song owners for the right to sell these snippets to their customers. But as part of a ploy to squeeze more money out of the mobile phone companies, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) has told a federal court that each time a phone rings in a public place, the phone user has violated copyright law. Therefore, ASCAP argues, phone carriers must pay additional royalties or face legal liability for contributing to what they claim is cell phone users' copyright infringement. In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, EFF points out that copyright law does not reach public performances "without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage" -- clearly the case with cell phone ringtones. If phone users are not infringing copyright law, then mobile phone service providers are not contributing to any infringement.

"This is an outlandish argument from ASCAP," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "Are the millions of people who have bought ringtones breaking the law if they forget to silence their phones in a restaurant? Under this reasoning from ASCAP, it would be a copyright violation for you to play your car radio with the window down!"

ASCAP has responded by saying that it does not plan to charge mobile phone users, just mobile phone service providers. But if ASCAP prevails, consumers could find themselves targeted by other copyright owners for "public performances." Worse, these wrongheaded legal claims cast a shadow over innovators who are building gadgets that help consumers get the most from their copyright privileges.

"Because it is legal for consumers to play music in public, it's also legal for my mobile phone carrier to sell me a ringtone and a phone to do it," said von Lohmann. "Otherwise it would be illegal to sell all kinds of technologies that help us enjoy our fair use, first sale, and other copyright privileges."

The Center for Democracy and Technology and Public Knowledge also joined the EFF brief.

For the full amicus brief:

For more on this case:


Rebecca Jeschke
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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