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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: October 2009

October 27, 2009

New Website Highlights Outrageous Attempts to Take Down Online Content

San Francisco - Websites like YouTube have ushered in a new era of creativity and free speech on the Internet, but not everyone is celebrating. Some of the web's most interesting content has been yanked from popular websites with bogus copyright claims or other spurious legal threats. So today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is launching its "Takedown Hall of Shame" to call attention to particularly bogus takedowns — and showcase the amazing online videos and other creative works that someone doesn't want you to see.

"Free speech in the 21st century often depends on incorporating video clips and other content from various sources," explained EFF Senior Staff Attorney and Kahle Promise Fellow Corynne McSherry. "It's what The Daily Show with Jon Stewart does every night. This is 'fair use' of copyrighted or trademarked material and protected under U.S. law. But that hasn't stopped thin-skinned corporations and others from abusing the legal system to get these new works removed from the Internet. We wanted to document this censorship for all to see."

EFF's Takedown Hall of Shame at www.eff.org/takedowns focuses on the most egregious examples of takedown abuse, including an example of a YouTube video National Public Radio tried to remove just this week that criticizes same-sex marriage. Other Hall of Shame honorees include NBC for requesting removal of an Obama campaign video and CBS for targeting a McCain campaign video in the critical months before the 2008 election. The Hall of Shame will be updated regularly, as bad takedowns continue to squash free speech rights of artists, critics, and commentators big and small.

Many of the bogus takedowns come from misuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Under the DMCA, claimants can demand that material be removed immediately without providing any proof of infringement. Service providers, fearful of monetary damages and legal hassles, often comply with these requests without double-checking them, despite the cost to free speech and individual rights.

"The DMCA encourages a 'take down first, ask questions later' approach, creating an unfair hurdle to free speech," said EFF Activist Richard Esguerra. "People who abuse this law to silence critics should be shamed publicly, and that's what we're aiming to do."

The Takedown Hall of Shame is part of EFF's No Downtime for Free Speech Campaign, which works to protect online expression in the face of baseless intellectual property claims.

For EFF's Takedown Hall of Shame:
http://www.eff.org/takedowns

For EFF's No Downtime for Free Speech Campaign:
http://www.eff.org/issues/ip-and-free-speech

Contacts:

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

Richard Esguerra
Activist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
richard@eff.org

October 22, 2009

Business Group Tries to Take Down Parody Site After Embarrassing Prank

San Francisco - Attorneys for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have issued a takedown notice in an attempt to silence a parody website that was posted in support of the Yes Men's embarrassing prank poking fun at the Chamber's stance on climate change legislation.

In a letter sent to the Chamber's attorneys today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) demands that the baseless claims be withdrawn immediately.

"We are very disappointed the Chamber of Commerce decided to respond to political criticism with legal threats," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "The site is obviously intended to highlight and parody the Chamber's controversial views, which have sparked political debate and led high-profile members to withdraw their support from the Chamber."

The effort to take down the website -- currently located at www.chamber-of-commerce.us -- comes on the heels of a Yes Men prank that made international news this week. The group put out a press release and held a spoof news conference on Monday, claiming that the Chamber of Commerce had reversed its position and would stop lobbying against a climate bill currently in the Senate. Several news outlets reported the story before determining it was a prank.

Yesterday afternoon, attorneys for the Chamber sent a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to the site's upstream provider, Hurricane Electric Internet Services, claiming that the site constituted copyright infringement and demanding that the site be shut down immediately and that the creator's service be canceled.

"Parody is a well-established right, protected under copyright law and the First Amendment," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Hopefully, the Chamber will reconsider its position and realize that such strong-arm tactics are inappropriate and counter-productive."

For the full text of the letter:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/ip_freespeech/yesmenletter.pdf

For the full text of the DMCA takedown notice:
http://www.eff.org/files/chamber-dmca-notice.pdf

For the parody site:
http://www.chamber-of-commerce.us

Contacts:

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

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

October 14, 2009

Mersenne.org Wins EFF's Cooperative Computing Award

San Francisco - A worldwide volunteer computing project called the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) has discovered a 12-million-digit prime number, netting $100,000 and a Cooperative Computing Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) for discovering a prime number of over 10 million digits.

The GIMPS PrimeNet network made the discovery on a computer at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Mathematics Department. Computing manager Edson Smith installed and maintained the GIMPS software at UCLA, and thousands of other volunteers also participated in the search process. The discovery was hailed by Time magazine as the 29th top invention of 2008.

"Thousands of people and organizations all over the world are part of GIMPS, and discovering this prime number shows how just powerful cooperative computing can be," said PrimeNet's creator, Scott Kurowski.

"We're grateful to the UCLA Mathematics Department for providing its computational resources to the project," said GIMPS founder George Woltman.

The $100,000 prize will be awarded during EFF's Pioneer Awards ceremony on October 22nd at the Westin San Francisco in conjunction with the Web 2.0 Summit, co-produced by O'Reilly and TechWeb.

The winning number is the 45th known Mersenne prime, written shorthand as 2 to the power of 43,112,609, minus 1. A Mersenne number is a positive integer that is one less than a power of two. The GIMPS discovery was announced in the Fibonacci Quarterly journal in August of this year; it is the largest prime number ever discovered.

"Computers sit idle much of the time, waiting for their users do something," said Landon Curt Noll, a mathematician, astronomer, and Cisco employee who serves as the Chair of the EFF Cooperative Computing Award advisory panel. "With EFF's Cooperative Computing Awards, we aim to encourage researchers to pool their computing over the Internet and work together to share resources to solve important problems, fostering new technologies and opportunities for everyone."

GIMPS says it will give $50,000 of the award to the UCLA Mathematics Department and donate $25,000 to charity. The remainder will fund its ongoing research and awards for participants discovering new Mersenne primes.

EFF's first Cooperative Computing Award, given for a prime number of at least a million digits, was awarded nearly 10 years ago, also to a GIMPS participant. Two Cooperative Computing Awards are still up for grabs: EFF will award $150,000 to the first individual or group who discovers a prime with at least 100 million digits, and $250,000 for a prime with at least a billion digits. Prize money comes from a special donation from an individual EFF supporter, earmarked specifically for the project.

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards ceremony are $60 through Friday, October 16, and $80 afterwards. Advance tickets are available at http://action.eff.org/pioneerfundraiser. Members of the media interested in attending should email press@eff.org.

For more on the Cooperative Computing Awards:
http://www.eff.org/awards/coop

For more on the Pioneer Awards:
http://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer

For more on the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search:
http://www.mersenne.org/

Contacts:

Seth Schoen
Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Landon Curt Noll
Chair
EFF Cooperative Computing Awards Advisory Panel

Scott Kurowski
Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search

[E-mail addresses have been removed from this copy of the press release. For current information on contacting us about the Cooperative Computing Awards, please see the Cooperative Computing Awards rules.]

October 14, 2009

Illegitimate Patent Could Cripple Adoption of Voice-Over-Internet Technologies

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging a dangerous patent on voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) that could cripple the adoption of new VoIP technologies.

A communications company named Acceris was awarded this illegitimate patent for hardware, software, and processes for implementing VoIP using analog telephones as endpoints -- covering many telephone calls made over the Internet. But in a reexamination request filed today with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), EFF and the law firm Fenwick & West LLP show that a prior patent as well as published reference material both describe the underlying technology well before Acceris made its claim.

"Bogus patents like this one highlight the problems with our current patent system," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Patenting technology that is an obvious combination of well understood technological conventions opens the door to lawsuits against legitimate innovators who are creating new VoIP products in good faith."

"The overly broad claims in Acceris's patent are stifling innovation and creating uncertainty in the important field of Internet telephony," said Nikhil Iyengar of Fenwick &West. "We are confident that the Patent Office will carefully review the arguments we have presented in our reexamination request."

The challenge to the Acceris patent is part of EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects of bad patents on the public and consumer interests. So far, seven patents targeted by EFF have been busted, invalidated, narrowed, or had a reexamination granted by the Patent Office.

For the full reexamination request:
https://www.eff.org/files/13487_Ex_Parte_reexamination_request_c.pdf

Contacts:

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

Nikhil Iyengar
Fenwick & West LLP
niyengar@fenwick.com

Related Issues:
October 13, 2009

Baseless Legal Threats Squash Free Speech, Innovation

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warned Texas Instruments (TI) today not to pursue its baseless legal threats against calculator hobbyists who blogged about potential modifications to the company's programmable graphing calculators.

TI's calculators perform a "signature check" that allows only approved operating systems to be loaded onto the hardware. But researchers were able to reverse-engineer signing keys, allowing tinkers to install custom operating systems and unlock new functionality in the calculators' hardware. In response to this discovery, TI unleashed a torrent of demand letters claiming that the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) required the hobbyists to take down commentary about and links to the keys. EFF represents three men who received such letters.

"The DMCA should not be abused to censor online discussion by people who are behaving perfectly legally," said Tom Cross, who blogs at memestreams.net. "It's legal to engage in reverse engineering, and its legal to talk about reverse engineering."

In fact, the DMCA explicitly allows reverse engineering to create interoperable custom software like the programs the hobbyists are using. Additionally, TI makes its software freely available on its website, so there is no connection between the use of the keys and unauthorized distribution of the code.

"This is not about copyright infringement. This is about running your own software on your own device -- a calculator you legally bought," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "Yet TI still issued empty legal threats in an attempt to shut down discussion of this legitimate tinkering. Hobbyists are taking their own tools and making them better, in the best tradition of American innovation."

For the full letters sent to Texas Instruments by EFF on behalf of their clients:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/coders/TI%20Claim%20Ltr%20101309.pdf

Contact:

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

October 6, 2009

EFF to Honor Limor "Ladyada" Fried, Harri Hursti, and Carl Malamud at San Francisco Ceremony

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2009 Pioneer Awards: hardware hacker Limor "Ladyada" Fried, e-voting security researcher Harri Hursti, and public domain advocate Carl Malamud.

The award ceremony will be held at 7 p.m., October 22nd, at the Westin San Francisco in conjunction with the Web 2.0 Summit, co-produced by O'Reilly and TechWeb. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffmann will keynote the event.

Limor "Ladyada" Fried is a pioneer in the field of open-source hardware and software hacking, helping the general public to engineer and adapt consumer electronics to better suit their needs. Her do-it-yourself ethic is founded on the idea that consumer electronics are best modified for use by customers, not corporations. Fried runs her own company, Adafruit Industries, which sells unique and fun do-it-yourself kits to help consumers make gadgets such as backup iPod chargers, green power monitors, and programmable displays for bicycle wheels. She also hosts an Internet video program called "Citizen Engineer" that provides step-by-step instructions to help consumers build and alter their own home devices.

Harri Hursti discovered gaping vulnerabilities in the widely used optical scan voting machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems in 2005, in collaboration with the Leon County, Florida, Supervisor of Elections and elections watchdog group BBV. The "Hursti Hack," as his breakthrough became known, brought about far-reaching scrutiny of voting machine hardware and software. Research conducted in other states confirmed numerous systematic flaws and led to the decertification of thousands of faulty voting machines. Hursti is currently Chief Technical Officer of the Clear Ballot Group, a Boston company that builds tools to rigorously and transparently verify election results.

Carl Malamud is a technologist, author, and public domain advocate, currently known for his foundation, public.resource.org. As founder of the Internet Multicasting Service, Malamud was responsible for creating the first Internet radio station, for putting the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database on-line, and for creating the Internet 1996 World Exposition. Malamud is the author of eight books, including "Exploring the Internet" and "A World's Fair." He was a visiting professor at the MIT Media Laboratory and is the former chairman of the Internet Software Consortium.

"The Pioneer Award winners this year have empowered all of us as consumers, voters, and citizens, making sure that advances in technology enhance our lives instead of hemming us in," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "We're proud to honor Limor, Harri, and Carl for the invaluable contributions they have made to our digital world."

Awarded every year since 1992, the Pioneer Awards recognize leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Past honorees include World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Linux creator Linus Torvalds, and the Mozilla Foundation and its chairman Mitchell Baker, among many others.

Each year, candidates are nominated by the public with winners chosen by a panel of judges. This year's panel includes Kim Alexander (President and founder, California Voter Foundation), Cory Doctorow (award-winning author and activist), Mitch Kapor (President, Kapor Enterprises and co-founder and former chairman of EFF), Drazen Pantic (Co-director, Location One), Barbara Simons (IBM Research [Retired] and former president ACM), and James Tyre (Co-founder, The Censorware Project and EFF policy fellow).

Pioneer Awards keynoter Reid Hoffman is Executive Chairman and a co-founder of LinkedIn. Previously, Hoffman was Executive Vice President of PayPal and has also held management roles at Fujitsu Software Corporation and Apple. Hoffman serves on the Board of Directors for SixApart, Kiva.org, and the Mozilla Corporation. Sponsors of the Pioneer Awards ceremony include MetroPCS, eBay, Microsoft, SaurikIT and Facebook.

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards ceremony are $60 through Friday October 16, and $80 afterwards. You can buy your tickets in advance at http://action.eff.org/pioneerfundraiser. Members of the media interested in attending should email press@eff.org.

For more information about the Pioneer Awards:
http://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer

Contacts:

Katina Bishop
Development Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
katina@eff.org

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

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