EFF in the News
These two women are just two examples of what attorney Mitch Stoltz calls victims of "copyright trolls." Stoltz is a staff attorney specializing copyright and intellectual property law for the San Francisco- based Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"They don’t really care who they’re targeting; they don’t really care whether people have actually infringed their clients’ copyrights or not," Stoltz said. He says the so-called "trolls" use special software to identify IP addresses they suspect of stealing copyrighted materials. Then they file mass lawsuits against thousands of “John Does” threatening to sue unless the defendant agrees to settle for a few thousand dollars.
"A lot of times they’ll say 'pay us and we’ll go away,'" said Stoltz.
The Oatmeal creator Inman did not file this latest lawsuit, said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney with San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, who represented Inman in Carreon’s suit.
"This is somebody who is trying to get some notoriety by pretending to be Inman and they should really drop the lawsuit and find another way to entertain themselves," he said Friday.
Yet those policies and processes are kept classified by NATO and America’s Defence Department. Jennifer Lynch, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group based in San Francisco that keeps a watch on how digital technology encroaches on civil freedoms, also questions the quality of the data. She fears that scans done quickly in the field, or by inexperienced technicians, could lead to cases of mistaken identity.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also lent its support to the campaign, calling Khartabil's detainment "especially alarming" in light of a recent Human Rights Watch report documenting the use of torture in Syrian security facilities.
"EFF joins Bassel’s friends, family, and colleagues in calling for his release and condemns the Syrian government, which has held him for almost four months without charges or a trial," the organization said in a blog post.
Mozilla Foundation and other activist groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have called for the release of Bassel Khartabil, an open-source developer who was detained on March 15 in the Mazzeh district of Damascus in a wave of arrests.
The San Francisco digital legal advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation shares those concerns. Jennifer Lynch, attorney with the foundation, said the code is ambitious but limited.
It "does not go far enough to recognize the very real threat to privacy posed by surveillance drones flying in the U.S. and makes no actual and enforceable commitments to protect individuals' civil liberties and privacy rights," she said.
EFF's Kurt Opsahl broke down the situation in a blog post, describing Carreon's initial legal threat — the one which inspired the charity fundraiser — "baseless" before proceeding to explain just how "outrageous" the attorney's latest legal demand was. At this point, the EFF teamed up with Inman's attorney Venkat Balasubramani to fight Carreon's lawsuit.
On Tuesday evening, a blog post on EFF's website explained that Carreon dropped his "bogus" lawsuit against Inman.
"Matthew Inman spoke out against Carreon's threat of a frivolous lawsuit, in a very popular and very public way," the post quoted Opsahl as saying. "This was nothing more than a meritless attempt to punish Inman for calling attention to his legal bullying. We called him out on this in our briefs, so it's no surprise that Carreon was left with no choice but to dismiss."
"We're very pleased that Carreon has seen that his lawsuit had no merit, and hope that this is the end of his abuse of the legal system," EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry was quoted as adding.
Ars also contacted Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl, part of Inman's legal counsel from the EFF, who said, "I think he [Carreon] recognized that the lawsuit was not going anywhere, we filed a brief that outlined in tremendous detail why he was on the wrong side of the law." From Inman's right to practice free speech to the argument that Inman would not be considered (as Carreon claimed) a "commercial fundraiser" under California law, the EFF rebutted many of the claims that Carreon has made over the past few weeks.
”Inman said from the beginning that he was going to donate the money to charity, and he did donate the money to charity,” Opsahl said over the phone Tuesday evening. “The real reason for the lawsuit was to use a legal attack against a critic.”
When asked whether the EFF would pursue compensation for legal fees and attorney costs, Opsahl stopped short of saying the dismissal of charges would bring an end to the whole debacle. “I'd have to talk to my client. [I] can't make an absolute statement on what our next step would be.”
That's likely because governments are increasingly catching on that social networks store a great deal of information about their users that could be useful to law enforcement, said Eva Galperin, international freedom of expression coordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The information sometimes includes physical location and political and social affiliations.
"It's really up to the companies to decide whether or not they're going to comply with requests for information, so they become these extremely powerful arbiters that are capable of de facto censorship," Galperin said.
For starters, they fear it could chill free speech if cops only need a subpoena to read everything you've ever put on social media. Plus, it means you're dependent on the company that owns your data to fight to protect your privacy. Hanni Fakhoury is with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"With all of this data being stored by these technology companies, the majority of them being here in the Bay Area, are they willing to stand up and defend their users' privacy and users' rights in court? The record is not so good," said Fakhoury.
He says in the New York case, Twitter did step up to the plate. But it lost the argument that its users have an expectation of privacy. The judge says posting a tweet is as public as screaming from a window.