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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: February 2010

February 16, 2010

Questions You Need to Ask Before Buying a Digital Book

San Francisco - What questions should consumers ask before buying a digital book or reader? Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published "Digital Books and Your Rights," a checklist for readers considering buying into the digital book marketplace.

Over the last few months, the universe of digital books has expanded dramatically, with products like Amazon's Kindle, Google Books, Internet Archive's Text Archive, Barnes and Noble's Nook, and Apple's upcoming iPad poised to revolutionize reading. But while this digital books revolution could make books more accessible than ever before, there are lingering questions about the future of reader privacy, consumers' rights, and potential censorship.

EFF's checklist outlines eight categories of questions readers should ask as they evaluate new digital book products and services, including:

*Does the service protect your privacy by limiting tracking of you and your reading?

*When you pay for a book, do you own the book, or do you just rent or license it?

*Is the service censorship resistant?

"As these new services roll out, we need to know if they will respect or hamper the traditional rights and expectations of readers. Physical books have many natural protections for readers, and other protections have been created over time by libraries and bookstores," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "These questions will help book lovers decide what they want their digital book future to look like and then vote with their feet to get to that future."

As other ebook readers and reader services develop, a federal judge is considering final approval of a settlement that would pave the way for a huge expansion of Google Books, giving Google the green light to scan and digitize millions of books and allow users to search for and read those books online. Unfortunately, Google's system monitors what books users search for, how much of the books they read, and how long they spend on various pages, and Google refuses to require a warrant before providing that information to the government. EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn will appear before the court at a hearing in New York on February 18, representing a coalition of authors including Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, and many others concerned about reader privacy.

"Our coalition is asking the court to ensure that Google's huge new digital library/bookstore maintains the strong protections for reader privacy that traditional libraries and bookstores have fought for and largely won," said Cohn.

For more information on next week's hearing, email press@eff.org.

For the full report "Digital Books and Your Rights":
https://www.eff.org/wp/digital-books-and-your-rights

For more on digital books:
http://www.eff.org/issues/digital-books

Contacts:

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

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Related Issues:
February 16, 2010

Police Gathered Suspect's Data Without a Warrant

Redwood City, Calif. - On Thursday, February 18, at 9:00 a.m., the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a judge in Redwood City, California, to suppress evidence illegally gathered from an iPhone.

Police in Daly City, California, seized the suspect's phone during his arrest. Hours later, investigators searched through the data on the device -- including contacts, called phone numbers, emails, text messages, Internet search history, and photos -- without a search warrant. Police later obtained a search warrant for the phone, based in part on information gathered during the initial illegal search.

In Thursday's hearing, EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann will ask the court to suppress the illegally gathered evidence and quash the warrant based on that improperly collected information.

For more information on attending the hearing, email press@eff.org.

WHEN:
Thursday, February 18, 2010
9:00 a.m.

WHERE:
Department 2A
San Mateo County Superior Court
400 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063

Contacts:

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

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

Related Issues:
February 11, 2010

Appeals Court Takes on First Sale Doctrine in Vernor v. Autodesk

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), joined by a coalition of public interest, consumer, and library groups, urged a federal appeals court Thursday to preserve consumers' rights and the first sale doctrine in a battle over an Internet auction of used computer software.

Timothy Vernor is an online software reseller who tried to auction four packages of Autodesk's AutoCAD software on eBay. Autodesk threatened Mr. Vernor with a copyright lawsuit, claiming that its software is only "licensed," never sold. With the assistance of the public interest litigators at Public Citizen, Vernor filed suit in Seattle against Autodesk, asking the court to clarify his right to resell the AutoCAD software packages. He prevailed before the district court in 2009, prompting Autodesk to appeal.

"For too long, software companies have tried to strip consumers of their rights as owners of software by pretending that all software is licensed, rather than sold," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "But if software companies can strip us of our rights with a license agreement, there's nothing to stop book publishers, record labels, and movie studios from using the same trick to shut down libraries, archives, used bookstores, and online auctions. For more than a century, the first sale doctrine in copyright law has stood for the principle that if you bought it, you own it, and you can resell it or give it away."

In an amicus curiae brief filed Thursday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, EFF -- joined by the Consumer Federation of America, the American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Association of College and Research Libraries, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Public Knowledge -- argued that Autodesk cannot trump the first sale doctrine with a "license agreement" included with its software.

"What's at stake in this case is the ability of consumers actually to own the things they pay for. We can't let the fine print used by the copyright holder gain complete control over every aspect of a work's use," said Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director for Public Knowledge. "If that happens, then everything becomes a potential copyright infringement. The simple things we take for granted, like buying and selling used books or CDs, or even software, would disappear under the threat of massive fines or possible criminal charges."

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/vernor_v_autodes/VernorAmicus.pdf

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
February 9, 2010

Panel Rules Law Does Not Protect Identities of Lobbyists

San Francisco - Today a federal appeals court rejected a government claim of "lobbyist privacy" to hide the identities of individuals who pressured Congress to grant immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the government's warrantless electronic surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. As the court observed, "There is a clear public interest in public knowledge of the methods through which well-connected corporate lobbyists wield their influence."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been seeking records detailing the telecoms' campaign for retroactive legal immunity under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Telecom immunity was enacted as part of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

"Today's ruling is an important one for government and corporate accountability," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "The court recognized that paid lobbyists trying to influence the government to advance their clients' interests can't hide behind privacy claims to keep their efforts secret."

This decision is the latest setback for the government in its long-running attempt to delay disclosure of the documents EFF seeks. So far, EFF has obtained thousands of pages of records through this litigation.

"AT&T, Verizon and Sprint expended millions of dollars to lobby the government and get an unconstitutional grant of retroactive immunity for their illegal spying on American citizens," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "The public deserves to know how our rights were sold out by and for telecom lobbyists."

The appeals court sent part of the case back down to the district court for further consideration, including whether disclosure of the lobbyists' identities would reveal intelligence sources and methods and whether communications between the agencies and the White House can be withheld under the presidential communications privilege or other grounds.

For the full opinion:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/foia_C0705278/opinion2909.pdf

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/issues/foia/cases/C-07-05278

Contacts:

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

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

Nate Cardozo
Open Government Legal Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation
nate@eff.org

Related Issues:
February 8, 2010

Government Should Come Back With a Warrant If It Wants Location Information

UPDATE: The hearing has been moved to Friday, February 12, at 9:30am.

Philadelphia - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will be arguing this Friday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia, urging the court to block a government attempt to seize telephone company records detailing a cell phone user's past locations without first getting a search warrant.

EFF is serving as a friend of the court or "amicus," joined by co-amici the ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the Center for Democracy & Technology. Professor Susan Freiwald of the University of San Francisco, who submitted a separate amicus brief to the panel, will be joining EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston in arguing on Thursday that federal privacy statutes in combination with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protect the privacy of cell phone users and require the government to show probable cause before obtaining cell phone location information.

WHAT:
Oral argument In the Matter of the Application of the United States of America for an Order Directing a Provider of Electronic Communication Service to Disclose Records to the Government

WHEN:
Friday, February 12th
9:30am

WHERE:
Albert Branson Maris Courtroom (19th floor)
U.S. Courthouse
601 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106

For more information on attending Thursday's hearing, contact press@eff.org.

For the full EFF amicus brief to the Third Circuit:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/celltracking/Filed%20Cell%20Tracking%20Brief.pdf

For more on the issue of cell phone tracking:
http://www.eff.org/issues/cell-tracking

Contacts:

Kevin Bankston
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

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

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

Related Issues:
February 5, 2010

Another Big Win for EFF's Patent Busting Project

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has won reexamination of an illegitimate patent on voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) that could cripple the adoption of new VoIP technologies.

A company named Acceris Communications Technologies, now C2 Communications Technologies, was awarded the bogus patent for hardware, software, and processes for implementing VoIP using analog telephones as endpoints -- covering many telephone calls made over the Internet. EFF and the law firm Fenwick & West LLP filed a reexamination request showing that both a prior patent and published reference materials described the underlying technology long before Acceris made its claim. Today the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted EFF's reexamination request, ruling that there were substantial new questions of patentability.

"Our American patent system is meant to encourage invention and innovation," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Undeserved patents instead serve to quash competition and hurt business and consumers."

"We are pleased that the USPTO agrees with the substantial new questions of patentability raised in EFF's request, and we look forward to the USPTO's ultimate decision on this patent," said Nikhil Iyengar of Fenwick &West.

The challenge to this 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 eight patents targeted by EFF have been busted, invalidated, narrowed, or had a reexamination granted by the Patent Office.

For more on EFF's Patent Busting Project:
http://www.eff.org/patent/

Contacts:

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Nikhil Iyengar
Fenwick & West LLP
niyengar@fenwick.com

Related Issues:
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