EFF in the News
Jeremy Malcolm, senior global policy analyst for digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, believes that this kind of legislation could open the door to the kinds of severe internet censorship seen in countries like China.
“The MPA is arguing on the false premise that any content that violates national laws has to be blocked at the [internet service provider] level.” Malcolm told me. “This is the same argument that has created a ‘walled garden’ Internet in China, and has seen entire platforms such as Facebook and Twitter blocked from time to time, including Pakistan and Turkey just to name two countries where this has happened.”
One of the biggest winners if TPP goes through with the draft provisions would be Hollywood film studios. The consistent U.S. position—expanded control globally for copyright holders, including longer terms and even more draconian penalties for infringement (and even some security research)—amounts to a Hollywood wish list. Unfortunately for the rest of us, if enacted as drafted, the TPP would have "extensive negative ramifications for users' freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate," according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy rights group based in San Francisco, said that Comey and others haven't been able to point to any crimes that have gone unsolved because of the encryption software.
The blueprints appear to describe, in a rather broad manner, the distribution of a podcast series. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which challenged Personal Audio's '504 patent, argues it is not a particularly new or novel idea. The foundation has pointed to the CNN Newsroom website, built way back in 1994, that made copies of news segments available online as an example of prior art.
Personal Audio has been threatening the podcast world for a while -- the longtime patent troll claims that it invented the concept of podcasting, and has insisted that some bigger productions (such as Adam Carolla's) either cough up licensing money or face lawsuits. You may not have to worry about your favorite series going off the air in the future, though. US patent officials have nixed some of the core claims of Personal Audio's "podcasting patent" after the Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out podcast-like shows that were running before the patent even existed. Some aspects of episodic online audio are just too obvious to be patentable, according to the finding.
The decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office represents a victory for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which in 2013 filed a petition to have elements of the so-called podcasting patent invalidated.
That gives drug investigators both the mandate and the incentives to constantly advance their surveillance techniques. To be clear, the DEA and local drug-fighting cops likely aren’t pushing the technological limits of surveillance as much as the NSA, intercepting router shipments to plant bugs, or secretly rewriting the hard drive firmware of their spying targets. But drug-related surveillance, which is far more domestic in its focus, does push the legal limits of that spying. Again and again, says Electronic Frontier Foundation defense attorney Hanni Fakhoury, it’s drug investigations that cross into the realm of unconstitutional search and seizure, and it’s these cases that result in the judicial system setting new legal precedents for Americans’ privacy protections—both for the better and for the worse. “If you go back and look at just about every major Fourth Amendment case in the last 30 years, it’s been a drug case,” says Fakhoury.
A year-and-a-half after the Electronic Frontier Foundation created a crowd-funded challenge to a patent being used to threaten podcasters, the patent has been invalidated.
In late 2013, after small podcasters started getting threat letters from Personal Audio LLC, the EFF filed what's called an "inter partes review," or IPR, which allows anyone to challenge a patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Today's Patent Trial and Appeal Board decision comes after the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2013 petitioned for a review of Personal Audio's U.S. Patent No. 8,112,504 for a "System for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence," which basically describes technology for generalized subscriber-based digital audio distribution.
"We’re glad the Patent Office recognized what we all knew: ‘podcasting’ had been around for many years and this company does not own it," said Daniel Nazer, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called for the patent's invalidation.