EFF in the News
Civil liberties groups started a legal challenge Friday to the new federal law designed to dismiss their wiretapping suits against telecommunications companies, saying the statute violates phone customers' constitutional rights and tramples on judicial authority...
In papers filed with Walker, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation attacked the secrecy requirements and argued that Congress and President Bush lack authority to order courts to whitewash constitutional violations.
"If Congress can give the executive the power to exclude the judiciary from considering the constitutional claims of millions of Americans ... then the judiciary will no longer be functioning as a coequal branch of government," Cindy Cohn, the foundation's legal director, said in court papers.
So you guys remember that whole NSA wiretapping, eavesdropping fiasco? You know, that whole fantastic saga about how our tax dollars were being used to spy on our Internet traffic? That that was a fun one. Then, the story got even better earlier this year, when Congress approved a measure to give immunity to the major telecoms that were behind this "patriotic" move...
However, late Thursday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a brief formally challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendements Act in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a constitutional challenge of a law that gave legal immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush administration's domestic wiretapping program.
The brief filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco argues that the FISA Amendments Act denies telecom customers their rights without due process of law, since they're subjected to warrantless surveillance. To get approval for the wiretapping, the government only needs to certify to the court in private that the surveillance is legal or authorized by the president, the EFF said. U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey filed that classified certification with the court last month.
President George W. Bush signed into law on Monday a controversial bill that would stiffen penalties for movie and music piracy at the federal level.
The law creates an intellectual property czar who will report directly to the president on how to better protect copyrights both domestically and internationally. The Justice Department had argued that the creation of this position would undermine its authority.
Richard Esguerra, spokesman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he was relieved to see lawmakers had stripped out a measure to have the Justice Department file civil lawsuits against pirates, which would have made the attorneys "pro bono personal lawyers for the content industry."
With the Nov. 4 presidential election less than four weeks away, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is gearing up its IT systems to handle an expected 150,000 Election Day telephone calls on voting-related issues to its toll-free hot line.
The Lawyers' Committee is the lead group for more than 100 local, state and national organizations that are part of the national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, which also includes the People for the American Way, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Verified Voting Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Our Faith Our Vote.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) this week posted a thought-provoking paper by lawyer Jonathan Band lauding the recent decision by Judge Robert Patterson, who ruled in the high-profile “Harry Potter case” that school librarian Steven Vander Ark’s Harry Potter Lexicon infringed author J. K. Rowling’s copyright. “Although J. K. Rowling prevailed in the litigation,” Band writes, “the big winner actually was fair use.” The loser of course, was Vanderark and his Michigan-based publisher RDR, which was enjoined from publishing its encyclopedia. ARL officials said they found Patterson’s decision so thoughtful, they asked Band to write about its merits for librarians.
Fortunately for the Lexicon’s publisher, the Fair Use Project of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society participated in its defense,” he adds. “Public interest ‘law firms’ such as the Fair Use Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation play a critical role in leveling the copyright-litigation playing field to ensure that courts have the ability to consider the merits of assertions of the fair-use privilege.”
RealNetworks this weekend suspended selling its RealDVD software in response to the request of a judge who needed time to review the legal issues involving the software, the company confirmed today.
"Irreparable Harm ... Not," argues Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who in a blog post takes apart the claims that RealDVD injures the copyright holders. But at AllThingsD, John Paczkowski says that RealDVD "users are on the honor system," which isn't exactly Hollywood's idea of copyright protection.
The FCC stood up and did its job recently. It's the first time that the FCC has gone to such lengths to assert users' right to an open Internet. In a landmark ruling against internet giant Comcast, approved by a bipartisan FCC majority, the FCC ordered that Comcast must stop blocking internet access to its customers by year's end.
Comcast tried to hide the truth with tactics that vary from flat out lies to playing down its interference with customers' internet bandwidth and services. The company initially claimed that it only did this during peak traffic times and tried to use that as justification of its practices. Then it tried to say that they were not responsible for their customers' internet problems. After tests were conducted by the AP and Electronic Frontier Foundation that suggested that Comcast was in fact interfering with customers' attempts to share peer to peer file sharing applications, Comcast then changed their story and admitted that it did in fact target peer to peer traffic.
In a new report released Wednesday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation wonders aloud about the RIAA's litigation conflagration with questions like "Has the arbitrary singling out of nearly 30,000 random American families helped promote public respect for copyright law?" and "Have the lawsuits put the P2P genie back in the bottle or restored the record industry to its 1997 revenues?"
Unless the EFF has been infiltrated by a race of pod people and the current "Fred von Lohmann" is actually a soulless alien grown in some sort of spiny cocoon, the answer is guaranteed to be "no." Scratch that—according to the report, the answer is actually a "resounding" no.
Today (September 30) Yahoo is shutting down the DRM servers used in the Yahoo Music store. In a stand up move, the company is offering coupons or refunds to customers who find their songs unplayable after the shutdown. The action was praised by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which was lobbying the company to delay the DRM shutdown.
In a statement, the EFF says: "Yahoo's decision sets a good precedent for when this problem inevitably arises again, vendors that sold DRM-crippled music must either continue supporting tech neither they or their customers like - as MSN Music chose to do - or take Yahoo's path and fairly compensate consumers with refunds."