EFF in the News
Lenz then teamed with online free-speech advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation to get a judge to declare that her video was a "fair use" of the song. She then sought damages against Universal, the world's biggest record company, for sending a meritless takedown request.
"This isn't about who won the Olympic gold yesterday; this is for sharing what happened to me as well," said Michael Barclay, a California patent attorney and a fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"That is pretty broad. I would not be surprised if someone had been doing just what is in this patent before 2006."
The National Coalition Against Censorship and the Electronic Frontier Foundation both chimed in this week in support of Greenfield.
"If a user community video is flagged as inappropriate, YouTube should at least have an appeals process to allow an artist to explain the artistic merit," EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl wrote on the organization's blog. "While we understand YouTube's desire to keep pornography off its servers, it must also understand that not all nude art is pornographic."
This and other intelligence-activity disclosures appear in heavily redacted documents that were released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They came in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act project the organization is conducting to obtain oversight information from intelligence agencies.
EFF received more than 800 pages from intelligence oversight reports created by the Defense Department inspector general that examine actions, conducted by various branches of the department, that are believed to be illegal.
"There are physical and economic safety risks when you're publicizing to the world where you are," says Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's obviously a treasure trove of information for criminals. PleaseRobMe is a good demonstration of how easy it is."
Regardless, Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who focuses on privacy, said the message of Please Rob Me is still important.
"There is clearly a privacy issue here _ one they are trying to shed light on," he said.
"It absolutely is a threat," said Danny O'Brien, international outreach coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation of San Francisco.
"If intermediaries like Google or the person who hosts your Web site can be thrown in jail in any country for the acts of other people and suddenly have a legal obligation to prescreen everything anyone says on their Web site before putting it online, the tools for free speech that everyone uses on the Net would grind to a halt."
Eddan Katz, international affairs director of San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued that the incident itself might have gone unreported if not for the video. That supposition was supported by a statement made to authorities by the autistic teen's father, who expressed anguish at seeing on the video how his son had suffered but hadn't had the courage to tell his family.
Thanks to the footage and Google's co-operation, the four bullies were identified and sentenced by a juvenile court to community service.
Exposing wrongdoing and abuse, Katz said, is a strong argument against placing limits on the Web.
"The implication would be that those videos exposing wrongdoing on the part of government, corruption, or organized crime would not be aired. How do we differentiate between the positive exposure of that kind of information, and the negative?"
Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a call today, "We find it troubling that copyright law is being invoked here. Microsoft doesn't sell this manual. There's no market for this work. It's not a copyright issue. John's copying of it is fair use. We don't do this anywhere else in speech law."
For example, in cases involving libel or trade secrets, said Cohn, "You go to court, you make a case and you get an injunction. You don't just file a form. DMCA makes censorship easy."
Attorney Lee Tien of the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation shares Harris’ concern for online rights.
“The threat to internet free speech from nations around the world that don’t have the same laws and attitudes about free speech is absolutely a constant problem and is getting worse,” Tien said.