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EFF Press Release Archives

EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: February 2014

February 27, 2014

Liberation Music Will Fix Its Copyright Policies and Pay Compensation

San Francisco - Prof. Lawrence Lessig has settled his lawsuit against an Australian record label over the use of clips of a popular song by the band Phoenix in a lecture that was later posted online. Liberation Music, which represents Phoenix in New Zealand, claimed the clips infringed copyright, demanded YouTube take down the lecture, and then threatened to sue Lessig. Represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Jones Day, Lessig fought back, asserting his fair use rights in court.

"Too often, copyright is used as an excuse to silence legitimate speech," said Lessig, who serves as the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. "I've been fighting against that kind of abuse for many years, and I knew I had to stand up for fair use here as well. Hopefully this lawsuit and this settlement will send a message to copyright owners to adopt fair takedown practices—or face the consequences."

The settlement requires Liberation Music to pay Lessig for the harm it caused. The amount is confidential under the terms of the settlement, but it will be dedicated to supporting EFF's work on open access, a cause of special importance to Lessig's friend, Aaron Swartz, a technologist and activist who took his own life in early 2013. The parties also worked together to improve Liberation Music's methodology for compliance with the requirements of the DMCA in the United States. Going forward, Liberation Music will adopt new policies that respect fair use.

Neither party concedes the claims or defenses of the other. Liberation Music included this statement in the settlement agreement:

"Liberation Music is pleased to amicably resolve its dispute with Professor Lessig. Liberation Music agrees that Professor Lessig's use of the Phoenix song 'Lisztomania' was both fair use under US law and fair dealing under Australian law. Liberation Music will amend its copyright and YouTube policy to ensure that mistakes like this will not happen again. Liberation Music is committed to a new copyright policy that protects its valid copyright interests and respects fair use and dealing."

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.

As a condition of the settlement, Liberation Music submitted a declaration explaining its takedown procedures. Liberation Music had allowed a single employee to use YouTube's automatic Content ID system to initiate the takedown process and then, when Lessig challenged the takedown, threaten a lawsuit. The employee, who did not have a legal background, did not actually review Lessig's video before issuing a threat of a lawsuit.

Liberation Music's new policy will still rely on YouTube's system, but it will ensure that no takedown notice is issued without human review, including fair use considerations. Liberation Music will also limit its copyright enforcement to jurisdictions where it actually owns or administers the copyright.

"This is the policy Liberation Music should have had from the beginning," EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry said. "Too many content owners are issuing takedowns and manipulating content filters without respect for the rights of users. This fight may be over, but the battle continues until every content owner embraces best practices that protect fair use."

For more on this case:

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 The USA is Lesterland, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Our Congress—and a Plan to Stop It, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Free Culture, and Remix.


Corynne McSherry
   Intellectual Property Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

February 27, 2014

‘Abstract Ideas’ Patents Hurt Technology Industry

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) along with Professor Pamela Samuelson of the University of California, Berkeley, urged the U.S. Supreme Court today to clean up the legal mess that is software patent law, reining in overbroad patents that are impermissibly abstract.

In front of the court is Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, a long running case about a computer system that helps with closing financial transactions by avoiding settlement risk. In its amicus brief filed today, EFF argues that allowing a patent on this system goes against previous Supreme Court rulings that ideas like these are "abstract" and aren't legally patentable.

"It wouldn't make sense to patent simple ideas like ways of running a business or prioritizing a to-do list," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Julie Samuels, who also holds the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. "That's basically what's under consideration here, with the small addition of a step that essentially implements it on a computer. Of course, since basically everything we do today is on the computer, letting patents like this exist shuts down entire business models."

The data on the U.S. technology industry bear this out. Since software patents have boomed, we've seen no corresponding boom in software growth and innovation; to the contrary, that growth maintained the steady pace that existed long before the advent of software patents. Instead, along with software patents, we've seen the rise of patent trolls – companies that don't make or sell anything, but shake down true creators through the loopholes in the law.

"In this case, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to implement a sensible system, limiting these broad and vague claims that do nothing besides fuel lawsuits," said Samuels. "A clear ruling here would limit one of the patent troll's favorite weapons—broad and vague software patents—and keep our innovation economy safe."

For the full amicus brief:

For more on abstract software patents:


Julie Samuels
   Staff Attorney and The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues:
February 18, 2014

Months of Electronic Espionage Put American Citizen and Family at Risk

Washington, D.C. - An American citizen living in Maryland sued the Ethiopian government today for infecting his computer with secret spyware, wiretapping his private Skype calls, and monitoring his entire family's every use of the computer for a period of months. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing the plaintiff in this case, who has asked the court to allow him to use the pseudonym Mr. Kidane – which he uses within the Ethiopian community – in order to protect the safety and wellbeing of his family both in the United States and in Ethiopia.

"We have clear evidence of a foreign government secretly infiltrating an American's computer in America, listening to his calls, and obtaining access to a wide swath of his private life," said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. "The current Ethiopian government has a well-documented history of human rights violations against anyone it sees as political opponents. Here, it wiretapped a United States citizen on United States soil in an apparent attempt to obtain information about members of the Ethiopian diaspora who have been critical of their former government. U.S. laws protect Americans from this type of unauthorized electronic spying, regardless of who is responsible."

A forensic examination of Mr. Kidane's computer showed that the device had been infected when he opened a Microsoft Word document that contained hidden malware. The document had been an attachment to an email message sent by agents of the Ethiopian government and forwarded to Mr. Kidane. The spyware contained in the attachment was a program called FinSpy, a suite of surveillance software marketed exclusively to governments by the Gamma Group of Companies. In the several months FinSpy was on Mr. Kidane's computer, it recorded a vast array of activities conducted by users of the machine. Traces of the spyware inadvertently left on his computer show that information – including recordings of dozens of Skype phone calls – was surreptitiously sent to a secret control server located in Ethiopia and controlled by the Ethiopian government.

The infection appears to be part of a systematic program by the Ethiopian government to spy on perceived political opponents in the Ethiopian diaspora around the world. Reports from human rights agencies and news outlets have detailed Ethiopia's campaign of international espionage, aimed at jailing opposition and undermining dissent. But Ethiopia is not alone. CitizenLab – a group of researchers based at the University of Toronto, Canada – has found evidence that governments around the world use FinSpy and other technologies to spy on human rights and democracy advocates across the globe.

"The problem of governments violating the privacy of their political opponents through digital surveillance is not isolated – it's already big and growing bigger," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Yet despite the international intrigue and genuine danger involved in this lawsuit, at bottom it's a straightforward case. An American citizen was wiretapped at his home in Maryland, and he's asking for his day in court under longstanding American laws."

In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., today, Mr. Kidane asks for a jury trial as well as damages for violations of the U.S. Wiretap Act and state privacy law. The Ethiopian Embassy in Washington received a courtesy copy of the lawsuit, and the District Court will formally serve the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry in Addis Ababa with copies of the papers in both English and Amharic.

Richard M. Martinez, Mahesha P. Subbaraman, and Samuel L. Walling of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. are assisting EFF as co-counsel on this case.

For the full complaint in Kidane v. Ethiopia:

For more on this case:


Nate Cardozo
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Cindy Cohn
   Legal Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

February 18, 2014

Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen Will Speak at Wednesday Conference

Washington, D.C. - Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen will warn attendees at a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conference Wednesday that most people don't realize the current extent of mobile device tracking and just how sensitive cell phone location data can be. The conference is set for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 17 at the FTC Conference Center.

"The ability for marketers and others to recognize where a particular device is located is actually an unintended consequence of technologies like wifi," said Schoen. "It's not a designed-in feature – it's something that people are taking advantage of, and it should be viewed as a security problem and fixed."

FTC Spring Privacy Series: Mobile Device Tracking

Wednesday, February 17
10 a.m.

FTC Conference Center
601 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen
Electronic Frontier Foundation

For the full FTC announcement:


Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues:

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