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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: June 2012

June 26, 2012

Abraham Sofaer Joins EFF in Fight for Return of Property

Alexandria, VA - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), assisted by retired federal judge and former State Department legal adviser Abraham D. Sofaer, will ask a federal judge Friday to order the return of data to Kyle Goodwin, a Megaupload user who lost all access to his files when the cloud storage service was shut down by the U.S. government.

Megaupload.com and related sites were seized in January as part of a copyright infringement investigation. But in addition to the alleged illegal activity by some Megaupload users, many innocent customers used the service to store legal material. The government has failed to help Goodwin and other lawful Megaupload users get access to their data, despite months of legal wrangling. In Friday's hearing, EFF and Sofaer will ask the court to establish a procedure by which innocent users will be able to reclaim their property, as is routinely required in the seizure of non-digital items.

WHAT:
Motion hearing in USA v. Dotcom

WHEN:
Friday, June 29
10 a.m.

WHERE:
Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse
401 Courthouse Square
Alexandria, VA 22314
Judge Liam O'Grady – Courtroom 700

Contacts:

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

Related Issues:
June 21, 2012

Baseless Suit Claims Online Trademark Infringement and ‘Cyber-Vandalism’

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is joining with attorney Venkat Balasubramani of the law firm Focal PLLC to represent The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman in a bizarre lawsuit targeting the online comic strip’s fundraising campaign in support of the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation.

“I have a right to express my opinion, whether Mr. Carreon likes it or not,” said Inman.  “While the lawsuit may be silly, the harm it can do is very real.”

Inman started his campaign last week as part of a protest over legal threats he received from the website FunnyJunk.  In 2011, Inman published a blogpost noting that FunnyJunk had posted many of his comics without crediting or linking back to The Oatmeal.  A year later, FunnyJunk claimed the post was defamatory and demanded $20,000 in damages.  Inman crafted a unique response, which included some comic art.  Instead of paying the baseless demand, Inman asked for donations for the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation.  The campaign raised more than $200,000 so far.  

An attorney for FunnyJunk, Charles Carreon, has now responded with a lawsuit filed on his own behalf.  Carreon’s suit names Inman, the two charities, and the online fundraising platform IndieGoGo, claiming trademark infringement and incitement to “cyber-vandalism.”

“This lawsuit is a blatant attempt to abuse the legal process to punish a critic,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry.  “We're very glad to help Mr. Inman fight back.”

June 19, 2012

Broken Patent System Needs Seven Big Fixes to Protect Inventors

San Francisco - Patents are supposed to foster innovation, but modern software patents have been weaponized against inventors. Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is launching "Defend Innovation," a new patent reform project to promote seven fixes for America's patent system.

"The software patent system is broken. Patents are supposed to help promote new inventions and ideas, but software patents are chronically misused to limit competition, quash new tools and products, and shake down companies big and small," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "It's time for Internet users, inventors, activists, and academics to team up and fix the problem."

EFF has posted seven proposals for software patent reform at Defendinnovation.org, including shortening the term for software patents from 20 years to no more than five years, allowing winning parties in litigation to recover fees and costs, and ensuring that infringers who arrive at a patented idea independently aren't held liable, for example. EFF is asking the public to sign on to the proposals and to make additional comments of their own. Additionally, we're calling on individual inventors, lawyers, and academics to give feedback, and we're asking technology companies to continue the conversation with in-person meetings with EFF staff. EFF will take the results from these comments and meetings and create a whitepaper to help educate lawmakers and others about the full reach of the problem and next steps forward to fix it.

"The U.S. Patent Office is overwhelmed and underfunded, and issues questionable patents every day – patents that hurt innovators and consumers alike," said EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman. "It's time for the technology community to work together to create a blueprint for reforming the broken software patent system."

Help EFF Defend Innovation:
https://defendinnovation.org/

Contacts:

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

Rainey Reitman
   Activism Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   rainey@eff.org

Related Issues:
June 18, 2012

Expanded International Team Brings New Breadth to Global Digital Rights Issues

San Francisco - Carolina Rossini has joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as its International Intellectual Property Director, bringing more than ten years of experience in global IP law and policy to EFF's international team.

Carolina Rossini is a Brazilian attorney focused on Internet and IP law and policy, cooperation theory, international copyright and patent negotiations, and open licensing in emerging technologies. She is a member of the IP Global Agenda Council for the World Economic Forum, a board member of the Brazilian Internet Institute, and the founder of OER-Brazil, which works with policymakers to enact open access and open educational resource polices in Brazil and beyond. Rossini previously was a Fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard University coordinating the Industrial Cooperation Project. She also worked on open innovation strategies at the University of Sao Paulo, and was an IP professor at FGV Law School and part of Creative Commons Brazil. Her first six years out of law school were spent working as an in-house transactional telecom and Internet policy lawyer for Terra Networks in Brazil and Spain. Carolina has also worked for the Wikimedia Foundation, shaping strategies to increase community engagement and foundation presence in Brazil.

"We're at a critical moment in international IP policy. People around the world have been galvanized by IP-maximalist trade agreements that threaten basic rights of Internet users," said Rossini. "EFF has always been on the front lines of the fight against these back-room deals, working hard to ensure that technology empowers consumers, creators, innovators, and citizens. I'm extraordinarily happy to join EFF's international team."

Rossini joins an expanded international team that brings new depth to EFF's work on global digital rights issues, including International Freedom of Expression Director Jillian York and Coordinator Eva Galperin, International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez and Coordinator Rebecca Bowe, and International IP Coordinator Maira Sutton. Gwen Hinze, EFF's former International IP Director, will continue to work with the team as a Fellow.

"In our increasingly interconnected world, protecting digital rights is a global effort," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "We're proud to welcome Carolina to EFF, and we're excited about the work we're doing to protect freedom everywhere."

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
June 15, 2012

EFF Calls Foul on Bogus 'Negligence' Claim

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal judge today to reject a porn troll's ploy to make a Wi-Fi provider responsible for the purported copyright infringement of another user.

Liberty Media Holdings (LMH) is suing two roommates in New York, alleging the illegal downloading of a pornographic film, even though LMH argues that only one made the infringing copy. Remarkably, LMH claims that the non-downloading roommate is also responsible for copyright infringement, simply because the Internet subscription is in his name and he might have known his roommate sometimes made illegal downloads.

"This theory is absurd," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "Decades of copyright law make it clear – to be guilty of infringement you have to do more than just provide an Internet connection – you have to contribute actively to the infringement. This is a ridiculous attempt at expanding copyright law so it's easier for copyright trolls to extract more money from more innocent people."

Copyright trolls attempt to game the legal process, using improper claims and procedures to pressure alleged copyright infringers into settling lawsuits against them even where they have legitimate defenses. If LMH is successful with this latest ploy, Internet users across the country would suffer. Every day, cities, cafes, libraries, schools, and individuals operate open Wi-Fi networks, sharing their connection with the public. This is a valuable public service, part of federal policy to promote universal, convenient access to the Internet, and also promotes public safety. But if Wi-Fi providers could be held responsible for users' behavior, public access to the Internet would be sharply reduced because of liability fears.

"We've all been in a spot when we needed a few quick minutes online – when we were lost, for example, or had to send an urgent email," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "More open Wi-Fi is a public good that we should support. We can't let the copyright trolls bend the law here. All of us who use the Internet throughout the day could lose out."

Thanks to Ray Beckerman for his assistance as local counsel.

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/document/amicus-brief-11

Contacts:

Mitch Stoltz
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   mitch@eff.org

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

Related Issues:
June 15, 2012

Statute Puts Online Libraries and Other Service Providers at Risk

Seattle - The Internet Archive has filed a federal challenge to a new Washington State law that intends to make online service providers criminally liable for providing access to third parties' offensive materials.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing the Internet Archive in order to block the enforcement of SB 6251, a law aimed at combatting advertisements for underage sex workers but with vague and overbroad language that is squarely in conflict with federal law. Procedurally, the Internet Archive lawsuit was filed as an intervention into a similar suit, Backpage.com v. McKenna, filed last week.

"The Internet Archive, as an online library, archives the World Wide Web and other digital materials for researchers, historians, and the general public," said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian and founder of the Internet Archive. "We strongly support law enforcement efforts to combat child sex trafficking, but this new law could endanger libraries and other entities that bring access to websites and user-generated content."

SB 6251 was passed with the hope of criminalizing the dissemination of underage sex trafficking ads and imposing a requirement to confirm the ages of individuals in such ads prior to publication. The law, however, is fraught with problems. As written, the vaguely-worded statute – making it a felony to "directly or indirectly" provide access to any material that might constitute an "explicit or implicit" commercial offer for sex – could be read to apply not only to posters but to neutral entities that provide access to online information, including ISPs, Internet cafes, and libraries. This would result in a chilling effect as such entities begin feeling pressured to censor protected online speech in order to safely stay on the right side of the unclear law.

Washington's new statute also squarely conflicts with established federal law – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – that was passed with the dual aims of protecting Internet intermediaries from liability for most of what their users do and establishing a clear, national Internet policy to avoid the development of a confusing patchwork of state laws. If allowed to stand, SB 6251 would undermine this important Congressional policy decision that directly fosters free speech, innovation, and the dissemination of knowledge online. It would also set a dangerous precedent allowing individual states to regulate the Internet as each sees fit, establishing a speech-chilling "race to the bottom" with service providers restricting speech according to the most invasive state law on the books. Indeed, in the wake of SB 6251's passage, Tennessee passed a similar bill set to go into effect in July, and New York and New Jersey are considering their own proposed legislation.

"Laws passed with the laudable goal of combatting such a pernicious practice as child sex trafficking can nonetheless inflict collateral damage on the First Amendment," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Legislatures must do more than simply identify serious social ills but also prescribe solutions that are consistent with other important values. Clear legal protections for hosts and disseminators of third party content are bedrock legal principles that allow free speech to flourish online. While well intentioned, laws like SB 6251 simply take the wrong, dangerous approach."

Thanks to Venkat Balasubramani and Focal PLLC for their assitance as local counsel.

For the full motion to intervene:
https://www.eff.org/node/71002

For the full complaint from the Internet Archive:
https://www.eff.org/node/71003

Contact:

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

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