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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: June 2011

June 27, 2011

EFF Releases 'Know Your Digital Rights' Guide to Your Constitutional Liberties

San Francisco - Your computer, your phone, and your other digital devices hold vast amounts of personal information about you and your family. Can police officers enter your home to search your laptop? Do you have to give law enforcement officials your encryption keys or passwords? If you are pulled over when driving, can the officer search your cell phone?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has answers to these questions in our new "Know Your Digital Rights" guide, including easy-to-understand tips on interacting with police officers and other law enforcement officials.

"With smart phones, tablet computers, and laptops, we carry around with us an unprecedented amount of sensitive personal information," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "That smart phone in your pocket right now could contain email from your doctor or your kid's teacher, not to mention detailed contact information for all of your friends and family members. Your laptop probably holds even more data -- your Internet browsing history, family photo albums, and maybe even things like an electronic copy of your taxes or your employment agreement. This is sensitive data that's worth protecting from prying eyes."

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects you from unreasonable government searches and seizures, and this protection extends to your computer and portable devices. In EFF's "Know Your Digital Rights" guide, we outline various common scenarios and explain when and how the police can search the data stored on your computer or portable electronic device -- or seize it for further examination somewhere else -- and give suggestions on what you can and can't do to protect your privacy.

"In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember what your rights are and how to exercise them," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Sometimes police can search your computer whether you like it or not, but sometimes they can't. We wrote this guide to help you tell the difference and to empower you to assert your rights when the police come knocking."

For the full "Know Your Digital Rights" guide:
https://www.eff.org/wp/know-your-rights

For a one-page summary to print and post:
https://www.eff.org/files/EFF_Police_Tips_2011.pdf

Contacts:

Hanni Fakhoury
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
hanni@eff.org

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

Related Issues:
June 22, 2011

Righthaven Had No Authority to Bring Claims Against Former Prosecutor Tad DiBiase

Las Vegas - For the second time in a week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has won the dismissal of an infringement case filed by copyright troll Righthaven LLC.

EFF, along with the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and attorney Chad Bowers, represent Thomas DiBiase in Righthaven v. DiBiase. Righthaven had sued DiBiase, a former prosecutor, for a post on his blog that provides resources for prosecutors in difficult murder cases where the victim is presumed dead but no body is found. A document unearthed by EFF in a related case showed that the copyright assignment was a sham and that Righthaven was merely agreeing to undertake the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper's case at its own expense in exchange for a cut of the recovery.

Echoing his earlier decision, Judge Hunt ruled Wednesday that Righthaven did not have the legal authorization to bring a copyright lawsuit, because it never owned the copyright in the first place.

"We are pleased that the Court again saw through Righthaven's sham assignment of the copyright and dismissed its improper claim," said Kurt Opsahl, Senior Staff Attorney at EFF. "Now that the truth about its copyright ownership has been exposed, Righthaven's house of cards is falling apart."

"We are gratified by the Court's ruling and pleased that our client, Mr. DiBiase, achieved a complete victory," said Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati attorney Bart Volkmer. "His decision to fight Righthaven's misguided lawsuit has been vindicated completely."

DiBiase said, "I'm happy to get back to the job of assisting police and prosecutors with these difficult murder cases and not fighting frivolous lawsuits concocted to make a quick buck."

Just last week, the judge also dismissed Righthaven v. Democratic Underground, a similar case where EFF is representing the defendant. On Monday, Judge Phillip Pro agreed with Judge Hunt and dismissed Righthaven v. Hoehn, a case against a Vietnam war veteran.

For the full opinion in Righthaven v. DiBiase:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/righthaven_v_dib/dibiaseorder62211.pdf

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
June 21, 2011

Law Hurts Libraries, Artists, and First Amendment Rights

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a federal law that erodes the public domain and hurts libraries, artists, and others who want to exercise their First Amendment right to share and receive information in an amicus brief filed today on behalf a coalition of libraries and other digital repositories.

The law in question is Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, which takes potentially millions of works by foreign authors that were previously in the public domain and puts them back under copyright protection. Works affected by this law include Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, music by Stravinski, paintings by Picasso and drawings by M.C. Escher, and writings by George Orwell and J.R.R. Tolkien -- material that has been used and performed countless times. Now that the works are back under copyright protection, use of the works may require paying hefty license fees.

In the amicus brief, EFF argues that this law creates dangerous uncertainty about copyright policy, posing a significant threat to libraries, digital repositories, and others that promote access to knowledge.

"Libraries and digital repositories are using new technologies to make our cultural commons more accessible than ever, but they need a robust and stable public domain to be able to do that crucial work," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "Section 514 has up-ended a basic tenet of copyright law: once a work enters the public domain, it stays in the public domain."

"The public domain helps make sure the copyright monopoly serves its purpose: to promote the progress of science and the useful arts," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Congress should not have put a small potential benefit to some authors ahead of the public interest."

EFF represents the Internet Archive and the University of Michigan Dean of Libraries. Joining the brief are the Wikimedia Foundation, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries.

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/golan_v_holder/236590_Brief.pdf

For more on this case:
https://www.eff.org/cases/golan-v-holder

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Julie Samuels
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
julie@eff.org

June 21, 2011

EFF Challenges Flawed Anti-Infringement Campaign in Amicus Brief

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court to return two domain names seized in the U.S. government's fundamentally flawed anti-infringement campaign in an amicus brief filed Monday.

"This misguided intellectual property enforcement effort is causing serious collateral damage to free speech rights," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "These domain seizures should cease unless and until the government can fix the First Amendment flaws inherent in the program."

EFF's brief was filed in support of a petition from Puerto 80, the Spanish company behind popular sports streaming sites Rojadirecta.com and Rojadirecta.org, which were both seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this year, even though a Spanish court found they did not violate copyright law. Puerto 80 tried to work with ICE and other U.S. government authorities to resolve the matter without court involvement, but its efforts were unsuccessful.

ICE began seizing domain names last year as part of "Operation in Our Sites," a government initiative to crack down on Internet piracy. ICE has seized 125 domains and redirects visitors of those sites to a banner notifying them that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.

"Neither the government nor rightsholders should fear a copyright enforcement process that complies with the rule of law," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Valid claims of copyright infringement can be pursued in a manner that allows the accused parties to defend themselves. The unilateral seizure of domain names without a court ruling -- which obstructs access to all of a website's content -- is improper and should be strongly opposed by free speech advocates everywhere."

The Center for Democracy and Technology and Public Knowledge joined EFF's amicus brief. Jeffrey Neu and Luc Ulmet of the law firm Kuzas Neu serve as local counsel.

For the full amicus brief: https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/puerto80_v_US/2011-06-20-rojadirecta.pdf

For more on this case: https://www.eff.org/cases/puerto-80-v-us

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

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

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June 17, 2011

EFF Urges Court to Respect Judge's Ruling on Reasonable Bounds

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU Vermont, urged the Vermont Supreme Court today to reject prosecutors' demands to override a judge's instructions and allow a limitless warrant for a computer search.

During the investigation into an alleged identity theft last year, a detective from the Burlington Police Department applied for a wide-ranging search warrant, which included any computers, compact discs, cell phones, or mobile devices in the home, despite noting it was possible that some of the equipment might be owned by people not suspected in a crime. A judge granted the warrant application after putting reasonable bounds on the search, as well as including basic privacy protections for information and data not connected to the identity theft under investigation.

In response, prosecutors filed a petition for extraordinary relief with the Vermont Supreme Court, asking that the original overbroad warrant be approved. In an amicus brief filed today, EFF argues that the judge was following the law when he limited the search warrant in order to protect basic privacy rights.

"Our personal computers contain a unprecedented amount of highly sensitive personal information -- things like medical histories, financial status, political affiliation, and more," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "If the state of Vermont has its way, all of this data can be collected and retained without any privacy protections. It's completely reasonable for a judge to act to protect privacy in this case."

The amicus brief urges the Vermont Supreme Court to reject the state's petition for extraordinary relief and uphold the limitations placed on the search warrant.

"Judges are charged with upholding constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. That's what the judge in this case did," said Fakhoury. "There's no reason to block basic privacy protections that don't interfere with law enforcement investigations."

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/vermontsearch/vermontamicus61711.pdf

Contact:

Hanni Fakhoury
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
hanni@eff.org

Related Issues:
June 16, 2011

EFF Urges Court to Block Misuse of Copyright Law

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court Wednesday to block Microsoft Corporation's attempt to misuse copyright law to thwart a competitor offering memory cards for the Xbox gaming system.

Datel Holdings is a British company that sells memory cards that compete with Microsoft's own memory card product for the Xbox, and Microsoft and Datel are in the middle of court battle over the legality of the product. As part of the case, Microsoft claims that Xbox users violate U.S. federal law -- the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) -- if they use third-party cards. In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, EFF explains that the DMCA was aimed at preventing access to copyrighted material by non-paying customers, not at blocking competitors or policing users' behavior in regards to their own property.

"Letting Xbox owners use a third-party memory card does not put Microsoft at risk of copyright infringement," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Microsoft is misusing the law in order to sell more accessories and control customers' use of the Xbox. The DMCA is supposed to be a shield against piracy, not a weapon to smash competition and consumer choice."

If Microsoft were to prevail on this point, it could give the software giant the ability to use the DMCA to prevent competitors from selling Xbox-compatible accessories, like memory cards, controllers, and headsets. Such a ruling would have wide-ranging ramifications for hundreds of other consumer products where content such as computer code or users' game play progress is involved.

"Congress did not intend to grant manufacturers the power to eliminate competition for replacement parts, accessories, or repair services," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Abigail Phillips. "That's bad for consumers and bad for innovation."

Jason Schultz of the Samuelson Law Technology & Public Policy Clinic and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, working with clinic students Joby Martin, Sam Edwards, and Kevin Krisiloff, was co-counsel on the brief. Public Knowledge also joined Wednesday's filing.

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/datel_v_microsof/datelamicus61511.pdf

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Abigail Phillips
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
abigail@eff.org

June 14, 2011

Court Finds Righthaven Had No Authority to Bring Claims Against Political Forum

San Francisco - In a decision with likely wide-ranging impact, a judge in Las Vegas today dismissed as a sham an infringement case filed by copyright troll Righthaven LLC. The judge ruled that Righthaven did not have the legal authorization to bring a copyright lawsuit against the political forum Democratic Underground, because it had never owned the copyright in the first place. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Fenwick & West LLP, and Las Vegas attorney Chad Bowers are defending Democratic Underground.

"We are pleased that the Court saw through Righthaven's sham assignment of the copyright and dismissed its improper claim," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Today's decision shows that Righthaven's copyright litigation business model is fatally flawed, and we expect the decision to have wide effect on the over 270 other cases Righthaven has brought."

Righthaven sued Democratic Underground last fall over an excerpt of a Las Vegas Review Journal news story that a user posted on the forum, claiming that the newspaper had transferred copyright to Righthaven before it filed the suit. However, a document unearthed in this litigation showed that the copyright assignment was a sham and that Righthaven was merely agreeing to undertake the newspaper's case at its own expense in exchange for a cut of the recovery.

"In dismissing Righthaven's claim in its entirety, Chief Judge Hunt's ruling decisively rejected the Righthaven business model of conveying rights to sue, alone, as a means to enforce copyrights," said Laurence Pulgram, head of copyright litigation at Fenwick & West in San Francisco. "The ruling speaks for itself. The court rejected Righthaven's claim that it owned sufficient rights in the copyright, stating that claim was 'flagrantly false--to the point that the claim is disingenuous if not outright deceitful.'"

Judge Hunt also noted that "Righthaven has made multiple inaccurate and likely dishonest statements to the Court" and rejected Righthaven's efforts to fix things after the fact with a May 9, 2011, amendment to the original assignment agreement. The judge expressed "doubt that these seemingly cosmetic adjustments change the nature and practical effect" of the invalid assignment.

As part of his ruling today, the judge ordered Righthaven to show why it should not be sanctioned for misrepresentations to the court. The Court permitted Democratic Underground's counterclaim to continue against Stephens Media -- the publisher of the Review Journal -- allowing Democratic Underground to show that it did nothing wrong in allowing a user to post a five-sentence excerpt of a 50-sentence article.

"This kind of copyright trolling from Righthaven and Stephens Media has undermined free and open discussion on the Internet, scaring people out of sharing information and discussing the news of the day," said Opsahl. "We hope this is the beginning of the end of this shameful litigation campaign."

"To Righthaven and Stephens Media, the Court has issued a stinging rebuke," added Pulgram. "For those desiring to resist the bullying of claims brought by pseudo-claimants of copyright interests, the ruling today represents a dramatic and far reaching victory."

For the judge's full order:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/righthaven_v_dem/order6-14-11.pdf

Contact:

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

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