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EFF Press Release Archives

EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: August 2013

August 22, 2013

Legal Threats Dropped in Battle Over Term to Describe Gay Gamers

San Francisco - In a big win for gay gamers around the world, a blogger has surrendered his bogus trademark claim on the word 'gaymer,' freeing online forums, conventions, and others to use the descriptive term without fear of legal threats and interference.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the law firm Perkins Coie represented a group of Reddit gaymers – members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community who have an active interest in videogames – after their long-running Reddit forum called r/gaymers was the target of a cease-and-desist letter complaining about their use of the term. It turns out blogger Chris Vizzini, who started a website called in 2006, had registered a trademark on 'gaymer' even though it had been in widespread use long before Vizzini started his website. With the help of EFF and Perkins Coie, the Reddit gamers asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to cancel the trademark in January of this year. Vizzini ultimately decided to surrender the mark, which was officially revoked this week.

"Gaymer is a term that everyone can use – including Vizzini – and we're pleased that there is no legal question about that now," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "But the real tragedy is that this term was ever registered for a trademark in the first place. You shouldn't have to go through a big legal battle to use a word you've used for years. The PTO must get more vigilant about the trademarks it allows to be registered in order to protect everyone's free speech rights."

"Trademark is supposed to protect consumers from confusion, not to shut down discussion spaces and the names they have rallied around," said Zack Karlsson, the r/gaymer community's representative in the trademark challenge. "We were shocked that anyone would try to assert ownership rights in 'gaymer' and felt the term belonged to the public, not Mr. Vizzini."

"We are thrilled with this result," said Judy Jennison, lead counsel for Perkins Coie. "It's been a privilege to work with EFF and Zack to clean up the registry and support an open discussion."

Cancellation from USPTO:

For more on this case:


Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

August 22, 2013

EFF Sues Liberation Music for Forcing Harvard Professor’s Video Off YouTube

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed suit against an Australian record company for misusing copyright law to remove a lecture by Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig from YouTube. With co-counsel Jones Day, EFF is asking a federal judge in Massachusetts to rule that the video is lawful fair use, to stop Liberation Music from making further legal threats, and to award damages.

"The rise of extremist enforcement tactics makes it increasingly difficult for creators to use the freedoms copyright law gives them," Lessig said. "I have the opportunity, with the help of EFF, to challenge this particular attack. I am hopeful the precedent this case will set will help others avoid such a need to fight."

A co-founder of the nonprofit Creative Commons and author of numerous books on law and technology, Lessig has played a pivotal role in shaping the debate about copyright in the digital age. In June 2010, Lessig delivered a lecture titled "Open" at a Creative Commons conference in South Korea that included several short clips of amateur dance videos set to the song "Lisztomania" by the French band Phoenix. The lecture, which was later uploaded to YouTube, used the clips to highlight emerging styles of cultural communication on the Internet.

Copyright law allows for the fair use of works for purposes such as criticism, comment, teaching, and scholarship. Professor Lessig's use of the "Lisztomania" clips in his lecture was a classic example of fair use and was not copyright infringement.

Earlier this year, Liberation Music, which claims to own the license to the Phoenix song, began the process to block the video through YouTube's copyright infringement system. After the company submitted a DMCA takedown notice, Lessig filed a counter-notice that asserted the clips were fair use. After Liberation Music threatened to sue Lessig, he retracted the notice. But Lessig did not concede this issue. Instead, he enlisted EFF's help to take Liberation Music to court.

"There's a long and sorry history of content owners abusing copyright to take down fair uses, but this one is particularly shocking," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Based on nothing more than a few clips illustrating Internet creativity, Liberation Music took down an entire lecture by one of the leading experts in the world on copyright and fair use. This kind of abuse has to stop."

About Prof. Lessig:

Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and founder of Rootstrikers, a network of activists leading the fight against government corruption. He has authored numerous books, including Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Our Congress—and a Plan to Stop It, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Free Culture, and Remix.

For the full complaint:

For Liberation Music's email to Prof. Lessig:


Corynne McSherry
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Daniel Nazer
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues:
August 21, 2013

EFF to Honor Aaron Swartz, James Love, and Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras Next Month in San Francisco Ceremony

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the distinguished winners of the 2013 Pioneer Awards: late digital rights activist Aaron Swartz, international access to knowledge advocate James Love, and Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras – the journalists behind the blockbuster stories detailing extensive spying by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

The award ceremony will be held the evening of September 19 at the Lodge at the Regency Center in San Francisco. Renowned academic, author, and activist Professor Lawrence Lessig will be the keynote speaker.

Pioneer award winners Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras brought the world clear and credible news and analysis about the massive domestic surveillance programs currently conducted by the NSA – transforming leaked documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden into riveting narrative that everyone could understand. These blockbuster stories exposed a web of convoluted, invasive spying on phone call history, email connections, and other communications data, sparking outrage across the globe and unprecedented admissions by the U.S. government about the extent of the surveillance. Greenwald worked as a constitutional and civil rights litigator before turning to journalism. He was the first recipient of the I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism and won the 2010 Online Journalism Award. Poitras is a documentary filmmaker and has won a Peabody Award for her work, as well as a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship. She has also been nominated for both an Academy Award and an Emmy Award. Greenwald and Poitras are both founding board members of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which supports and defends transparency journalism.

James Love is one of the leading champions in the international battle for access to knowledge, defending everyone's right to free speech, privacy, fair competition, and health across the globe for more than 20 years. As the director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), Love was instrumental in the adoption of a global intellectual property treaty for people with reading and visual disabilities this year. Love tirelessly fought strong resistance from the intellectual property rightsholder community, and the result enshrines fair use rights – in this case, the right to transform reading material into accessible formats – into an international treaty for the first time in history. Love has been a crucial defender of users' rights against trade agreements with restrictive copyright provisions like TPP and ACTA, and is also fighting against the content industry's efforts to expand new, copyright-like rights over content to broadcasters. Additionally, as a civil society leader in Washington, D.C., he advocates for open, transparent rulemaking.

Aaron Swartz's achievements and influence on the Internet and its activist community are profound, despite his untimely death at age 26 earlier this year. Swartz co-authored the RSS web feed format when he was 14 and was one of the early architects of Creative Commons. He was a developer of the Internet Archives' Open Library and one of the co-creators of the online news site Reddit. Swartz founded the online activism group Demand Progress, which was a critical part of the successful campaign blocking the SOPA and PIPA Internet censorship bills. Swartz was also a committed activist for the cause of open access to government and government-funded information. In 2011, Swartz was accused of downloading millions of academic articles from the online archive JSTOR, allegedly without "authorization" even though his access to JSTOR through MIT's open network was authorized by JSTOR's contract with MIT. He faced 13 felony counts of hacking and wire fraud, including some under the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). After two years of fighting the charges, Swartz tragically took his own life this past January.

"Aaron was nominated for a Pioneer Award regularly over the years, and we always thought we'd have a long time to give it to him – he had done amazing work so far, and we knew that over time he would continue to contribute to building a better future for the Internet and digital rights," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "All of EFF is heartbroken at his passing and that we didn't seize the opportunity to give Aaron this honor while he was still with us. But we'll do our best to celebrate his life and do justice to his giant body of work."

"What all of this year's Pioneer Award winners have in common is the desire to democratize the flow of information, and they have all made the world a better, fairer place through their tireless efforts," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "We are so proud to be able to honor them and their extraordinary achievements at the ceremony on September 19th."

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards are $65 for EFF members and $75 for non-members. Also available are tickets to a special advance reception featuring past and present Pioneer Award winners, special guests, and keynoter Lawrence Lessig, who spent more than a decade leading the fight for intellectual property reform and now is part of the campaign to reform computer crime law in the wake of his friend Aaron Swartz's death.

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF's Pioneer Awards recognize the leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Previous honorees include Tim Berners-Lee, the Tor Project, Limor "Ladyada" Fried, Linus Torvalds, and Tunisian blogging collective Nawaat, among many others. Sponsors of this year's Pioneer Awards include Automattic, Inc., Facebook, SaurikIT,, JibJab, and Pinterest.

To buy tickets to this Pioneer Awards:


Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

August 20, 2013

EFF, Fenwick & West, and Durie Tangri Team Up to Defend Right to Access and Share Safety Standards

San Francisco - In an ongoing effort to protect free speech and the right of the public to examine the rules and regulations that govern our society, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today announced it will defend open-government advocate Carl Malamud and the organization he founded, Public.Resource.Org, against a copyright lawsuit filed by three standards development organizations. Fenwick & West LLP, Durie Tangri LLP, and David Halperin join EFF as co-counsel.

On August 3, the National Fire Protection Association, ASTM International and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers filed a lawsuit with a federal court in Washington, D.C., alleging "massive copyright infringement" by Public.Resource.Org for publishing codes and standards that have been incorporated into law. EFF argues such standards must be treated as part of the public domain, and Public.Resource.Org has a constitutional right to ensure government accountability by making the documents publicly available.

"Standards organizations get huge benefits from having their standards adopted as mandatory by federal and state regulators," EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz said. "But those benefits don't include the right to control access to those laws."

This isn't the first time Public.Resource.Org has faced legal threats for its work. In Public.Resource.Org v. SMACNA, a standards development organization claimed that it held the copyright in federally mandated air-duct standards and that Malamud's site violated its copyright by publishing them online. EFF and co-counsel Fenwick & West and David Halperin stepped in to litigate the case, and SMACNA promptly backed down.

The stakes are even higher this time around. The standards in question are crucial to the public's interest in fire and electrical safety. Public access to such codes is important when, for example, there is an industrial accident or natural disaster, or when a homebuyer wants to double-check that a house was built to code. Public.Resource.Org publishes the codes in a user-friendly format for not only interested citizens, but reporters, researchers, and business owners.

"Private organizations shouldn't control who can read the law, or where and how they can access it," Stoltz said. "The law belongs to all of us."

With decades of experience as a transparency advocate and eight books under his belt, Malamud founded Public.Resource.Org in Sebastopol, CA, in 2007 and currently serves as the nonprofit's president. In recent years, the organization has focused on obtaining and publishing a variety of legal documents and court decisions to make the law and justice system more accessible to the public.

"Technical standards incorporated into law are some of the most important rules of our modern society," Malamud said. "In a democracy, the people must have the right to read, know, and speak about the laws by which we choose to govern ourselves."


Mitch Stoltz
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues:
August 9, 2013

Court Blocks Enforcement of Dangerous New Jersey Law

Newark, NJ - A New Jersey federal district court judge granted motions for a preliminary injunction today, blocking the enforcement of a dangerous state law that would put online service providers at risk by, among other things, creating liability based on "indirect" publication of content by speech platforms.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argued for the injunction in court on behalf of the Internet Archive, as the statute conflicts directly with federal law and threatens service providers who enable third party speech online.

"The Constitution does not permit states to pass overbroad and vague statutes that threaten protected speech. The New Jersey statute created that threat and the court was right to block it," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Similarly, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act prohibits the state from threatening to throw online providers in jail for what their users do and the statute violated that rule as well. We are grateful that the court recognized the importance of these bedrock principles to online libraries and other platforms that make the Internet the vital and robust tool it is today."

The New Jersey law at issue is an almost carbon-copy of a Washington state law successfully blocked by EFF and the Internet Archive last year. While aimed at combatting online ads for underage sex workers, it instead imposes stiff criminal penalties on ISPs, Internet cafes, and libraries that "indirectly" cause the publication or display of content that might contain even an "implicit" offer of a commercial sex act if the content includes an image of a minor. The penalties – up to 20 years in prison and steep fines – would put enormous pressure on service providers to block access to broad swaths of otherwise protected material in order to avoid the vague threat of prosecution.

"Within the past month, we've seen a coalition of state attorneys general ask Congress to gut CDA 230 to make way for harmful laws like New Jersey's," said Zimmerman. "This misguided proposal puts speech platforms at risk, which in turn threatens online speech itself. Law enforcement can and must pursue criminals vigorously, but attacking the platforms where people exercise their right to free speech is the wrong strategy." separately filed suit against this law, represented by the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, who also joined today's argument.

For more on this case:


Matt Zimmerman
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

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