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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: November 2010

November 29, 2010

Risk of Embarrassment Pressures Defendants to Settle, Regardless of Merit

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked judges in Texas and West Virginia to block requests to unmask accused file sharers in several predatory copyright troll lawsuits involving the alleged illegal downloading of pornography.

The cases were filed by two different companies and involve different copyrighted adult material. However, the tactics are the same. In both cases, the owners of the adult movies filed mass lawsuits based on single counts of copyright infringement stemming from the downloading of a pornographic film, and improperly lump hundreds of defendants together regardless of where the IP addresses indicate the defendants live. Consistent with a recent spike in similar "copyright troll" lawsuits, the motivation behind these cases appears to be to leverage the risk of embarrassment associated with pornography to coerce settlement payments despite serious problems with the underlying claims.

"Suing hundreds or even thousands of people together en masse, in states in which the vast majority of the accused downloaders appear to have no connection, amounts to a deliberate end-run around their due process rights," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "The suits seem designed to ensure that few, if any, defendants will fight back, given the risk of shame from being publicly identified."

In the Texas case, Mick Haig Productions v. Does, EFF and Public Citizen are acting as counsel for the anonymous defendants after the court in the Northern District of Texas requested us to do so. In a brief filed Wednesday, EFF and Public Citizen opposed discovery into the Does' identities, arguing that almost all of the defendants appear to be outside the court's jurisdiction. Additionally, the case improperly joins hundreds of Does in the same case, jeopardizing their rights to individually defend themselves. Moreover, the lawsuit also flouts First Amendment protections mandating that a plaintiff demonstrate its case is viable and that defendants be given notice and opportunity to oppose efforts to reveal their identities.

"There is a real potential for embarrassment, or worse, if a pornographer mistakenly identifies an anonymous individual as having infringed its copyright by downloading one of its movies," said Paul Levy, attorney with Public Citizen Litigation Group. "To ensure justice for the individuals being accused, filmmakers claiming copyright infringement should be required to meet the same standards as defamation plaintiffs and others claiming the right to sue for anonymous speech online."

Also last week, EFF filed an amicus brief in a series of seven similar cases in the district court for the Northern District of West Virginia. In those cases, Time Warner Cable has moved to quash subpoenas seeking the identities of accused filed sharers, also arguing that the plaintiff film companies are attempting to abuse the discovery process. EFF's amicus brief -- filed Tuesday in support of Time Warner Cable -- argues that the plaintiffs should re-file their actions against each defendant individually and bring suit in courts that appear likely to be able to properly exercise personal jurisdiction.

"Some producers of adult content have apparently come to the conclusion that filing shoddy mass lawsuits under the assumption that the defendants will be too intimidated to fight back is a good business strategy," said Zimmerman. "It is our hope that courts will quickly see through these tactics and ensure that the right to a fair process is ensured for every defendant."

For the motion to quash filed in Texas:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/uscg/opposition-mickhaig.pdf

For the amicus brief filed in West Virginia:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/uscg/thirdworldmediavdoesamicus.PDF

For more on copyright trolls:
https://www.eff.org/issues/copyright-trolls

Contact:

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

November 23, 2010

HTTPS Everywhere Updates Web-Surfing Security

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has launched a new version of HTTPS Everywhere, a security tool that offers enhanced protection for Firefox browser users against "Firesheep" and other exploits of webpage security flaws.

HTTPS secures web browsing by encrypting both requests from your browser to websites and the resulting pages that are displayed. Without HTTPS, your online reading habits and activities are vulnerable to eavesdropping, and your accounts are vulnerable to hijacking.

Unfortunately, while many sites on the web offer some limited support for HTTPS, it is often difficult to use. Websites may default to using the unencrypted, and therefore vulnerable, HTTP protocol or may fill HTTPS pages with insecure HTTP references. EFF's HTTPS Everywhere tool uses carefully crafted rules to switch sites from HTTP to HTTPS.

This new version of HTTPS Everywhere responds to growing concerns about website vulnerability in the wake of Firesheep, an attack tool that could enable an eavesdropper on a network to take over another user's web accounts -- on social networking sites or webmail systems, for example -- if the browser's connection to the web application either does not use cryptography or does not use it thoroughly enough. Firesheep, which was released in October as a demonstration of a vulnerability that computer security experts have known about for years, sparked a flurry of media attention.

"These new enhancements make HTTPS Everywhere much more effective in thwarting an attack from Firesheep or a similar tool," said EFF Senior Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley. "It will go a long way towards protecting your Facebook, Twitter, or Hotmail accounts from Firesheep hacks. And, like previous releases, it shields your Google searches from eavesdroppers and safeguards your payments made through PayPal."

Other sites targeted by Firesheep that now receive protection from HTTPS Everywhere include Bit.ly, Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, and GitHub. In addition to the HTTPS Everywhere update, EFF also released a guide to help website operators implement HTTPS properly.

"Firesheep works because many websites fail to use HTTPS," said EFF Technology Director Chris Palmer. "Our hope is to make it easier for web applications to do the right thing by their users and keep us all safer from identity theft, security threats, viruses, and other bad things that can happen through insecure HTTP. Taking a little bit of care to protect your users is a reasonable thing for web application providers to do and is a good thing for users to demand."

The first beta of HTTPS Everywhere was released last June. Since then, the tool has been downloaded more than half a million times.

To download HTTPS Everywhere for Firefox:
https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere

For more on implementing HTTPS in websites:
https://www.eff.org/pages/how-deploy-https-correctly

Contacts:

Peter Eckersley
Senior Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
pde@eff.org

Chris Palmer
Technology Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
chris@eff.org

Related Issues:
November 16, 2010

EFF, Public Knowledge, and Other Groups Urge Court to Protect Innovation in EMI v. MP3Tunes

New York - In a legal battle over Internet music storage that could impact innovation and free expression on the Internet, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Public Knowledge, and other public interest groups asked a federal judge in an amicus brief Tuesday to protect the "safe harbor" rules for online content in EMI v. MP3Tunes.

MP3Tunes offers a locker service where users can sync their personal digital music and video up to "the cloud" to access from any web browser or many mobile and home entertainment devices. Recording giant EMI claims that MP3Tunes should be held responsible for infringing content stored in the lockers of some of its users. MP3Tunes contends that it is immune from liability because it does not engage in, encourage or benefit from copyright infringement and it quickly removes material identified in a copyright holder's complaint against its users, as required by the "safe harbor" provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In the amicus brief filed Tuesday, EFF and its co-amici argue that EMI is trying to rewrite the "safe harbor" provisions and hold service providers liable for the actions of their users.

"The DMCA safe harbors were designed to encourage the growth of new Internet innovations and expression by helping service providers manage their legal exposure, and they've been an extraordinary success," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Without the safe harbor provisions, companies like YouTube, Facebook, and many others could have been shut down before they got off the ground. That's not what Congress intended."

The Consumer Electronics Association and the Home Recording Rights Coalition also joined the amicus brief. Local counsel Edward Hernstadt, of Hernstadt Atlas LLP, assisted with the filing.

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/emi_v_mp3tunes/07civ9931WHP-AmicusBrief.pdf

Contacts:

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

Art Brodsky
Communications Director
Public Knowledge
abrodsky@publicknowledge.org

November 1, 2010

Bogus Copyright Claim Used to Threaten Information Resource for 'No Body' Murder Cases

Las Vegas - A criminal justice blog that provides resources for difficult-to-prosecute murder cases is fighting bogus infringement claims from copyright troll Righthaven LLC and asked a Las Vegas judge Friday to dismiss Righthaven's baseless attempt to seize his domain name.

"Righthaven's efforts to restrict what information is available to help police, prosecutors, and grieving families catch murderers is not only unlawful and an affront to the First Amendment, it's just shameful," said Thomas DiBiase, the former prosecutor and web publisher who was wrongly targeted in this case.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Colleen Bal and Bart Volkmer from the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and attorney Chad Bowers are representing DiBiase, an attorney who consults with law enforcement across the country on "no body" cases -- where the victim is missing and presumed dead, but no body has been found. DiBiase runs a website at www.nobodycases.com to gather information on these complex investigations in order to help other prosecutors as well as family and friends of "no body" murder victims.

Righthaven has brought over 150 lawsuits in Nevada federal court claiming copyright infringement, even though it does not create, produce or distribute any content. Instead, Righthaven creates lawsuits by scouring the Internet for content from Las Vegas Review-Journal stories posted on blogs and online forums, acquiring the copyright to those particular stories from Stephens Media LLC (the Review-Journal's publisher), and then suing the posters for infringement. DiBiase was sued by Righthaven for copyright infringement of a Review-Journal news story about a "no body" case, with Righthaven demanding control of the No Body Murder Cases website as well as $75,000 in damages. In court documents filed today, EFF argues that DiBiase's use of the Review-Journal piece was a fair use of the material and protected under the law.

"The No Body Murder Case site is a non-commercial, informational forum aimed squarely at the public interest: seeing justice done in terrible crimes," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Righthaven's misguided legal campaign works against free and open discussion on the Internet and could wrongly hobble important online information archives like the one Mr. DiBiase has created."

"Righthaven is throwing around baseless threats in an attempt to seize an important resource and try to extract a windfall profit," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "We're asking the judge to put a stop to this heavy-handed copyright troll and let Mr. DiBiase get back to his important work."

For the full answer and counterclaim:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/righthaven_v_dib/DiBiase-Answer-Counterclaim.pdf

For the motion to dismiss:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/righthaven_v_dib/DiBiase-MotionDismiss.pdf

For more on this case:
https://www.eff.org/cases/righthaven-v-dibiase

Contacts:

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

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

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