Legal Victories

Since its founding in 1990, EFF has consistently taken critical cases, challenged tough opponents, and achieved landmark victories. EFF has prevailed in lawsuits against the federal government, the FCC, the world's largest entertainment companies, and major electronics companies, among others. EFF has also beaten bills in Congress and pressured companies to respect your rights.

Learn more about some of EFF's key victories below. To support our continued success, consider becoming a member and donating to EFF.

Creativity & Innovation

The Supreme Court has upheld the power of the Patent Office to review and cancel issued patents.

A federal appeals court today ruled that industry groups cannot control publication of binding laws and standards. This decision protects the work of (PRO), a nonprofit organization that works to improve access to government documents.

The Library of Congress and the Copyright Office have expanded the exemptions to section 1201 of the DMCA. The expansions have added more circumstances where people can legally break digital access controls to do legal things with their own media and devices.

The new “Classics Protection and Access Act” section of MMA clears away most of the varied and uncertain state laws governing pre-1972 recordings.

A Federal court dismissed Playboy's claim that Boing Boing had infringed copyright by reporting on a historical collection of Playboy centerfolds and linking to a third-party site.

The Federal Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit) heeded EFF’s advice and rejected an attempt by Oracle to hold a company criminally liable for accessing Oracle’s website in a manner it didn’t like. The court ruled back in 2012 that merely violating a website’s terms of use is not a crime under the federal computer crime statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

In a victory for journalism and fair use, Playboy Entertainment has given up on its lawsuit against Happy Mutants, LLC, the company behind Boing Boing.

EFF, along with other nonprofit groups, filed an amicus brief urging the court to reject the plaintiffs' effort to undermine the DMCA safe harbors.

EFF filed an amicus brief arguing that adding “on a computer” to an abstract idea does not make it patentable.

Online service providers do not have to police trademarks of others

EFF filed a brief and argued in Court to stop RIAA's "making available" copyright infringement theory—if someone could have downloaded it from you, you've violated copyright, even if no one ever did.

A victory in EFF's fight to end excessive secrecy in patent cases.

EFF defended the principle that trademark holders can’t use trademark law to punish free speech just because the speaker happens to use trademarks as a necessary part of activism.

EFF invalidated Personal Audio's patents on podcasting, ensuring that everyone is free to create their own podcast on the Internet without the threat of a patent lawsuit.

Copyright can't be used to limit consumer choice.

EFF filed a brief upholding the right to engage in open discussion about words companies are trying to trademark, without the fear of being sued by the companies under trademark law.

EFF invalidated a patent on creating subdomains under a parent domain

EFF, along with allies, filed a brief explaining that allowing patent owners to write a wishlist of anti-competitive restrictions would be a disastrous expansion of patent law, hindering competition, innovation, and your freedom to tinker with and repair your own stuff.

The first sale doctrine applies to works made outside of the United States and doesn't matter where something was manufacture—if you bought it, you own it.

Rightsholders must consider fair use before sending DMCA takedowns. Additionally, fair use is a affirmative public rights and not simply a narrow defense to copyright infringement

EFF helped block “negligence” theory of copyright infringement for open wireless hosts

EFF filed a brief protecting patent first sale—once you buy a product, you own it and the patent owner generally can't interfere with your subsequent use.

EFF, alongside other organization, joined with Verizon to argue that every Internet user’s privacy was at risk if anyone claiming to be a copyright owner could, without ever appearing before a judge, force an ISP to hand over the names and addresses of its customers.

EFF argued that trademark holders can't use their trademark as a tool to censor unwanted online criticism

EFF filed an amicus brief arguing that trademark infringement requires specific knowledge.

A part of EFF's fight to end excessive secrecy in patent cases.

A copyright owner can't take away a consumer's first sale rights just by putting a labels on a CD

EFF filed several amicus brief arguing for the invalidation of the patent on showing ads before Internet content

EFF Work Icons

EFF helped Replay TV owners stand up to Hollywood to defend digital VCRs

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EFF helped preserve the legal protections for actually private websites while protecting your right to read public websites.

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EFF established that the FCC and Hollywood don't control your DVR - you do.

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EFF, together with Durie Tangri LLP, defended a photo hobbyist against an outrageous patent suit from a company that claims to hold the rights to online competitions on social networks where users vote for the winner.

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EFF and others filed a brief arguing that copyright law was not the proper avenue for Ms. Garcia to disassociate herself with the controversial video, and that the initial order was a prior restraint of speech.

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EFF backed Internet service providers (ISPs) in an effort to quash subpoenas to more than a thousand unnamed Internet users issued in a predatory lawsuit over alleged copyright infringement resulting from illegal downloading of adult material.

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Book Scanning is fair use

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Newspaper excerpts are protected fair use.

Copyright Troll

EFF defended a criminal justice blog that provides resources for difficult-to-prosecute murder cases in fighting bogus infringement claims from copyright troll Righthaven LLC.

Free Speech

Online free speech protects criticism by the Oatmeal

CDA 230 protects Wikipedia

Stopping libel tourism

EFF filed an amicus brief in D.C. Court of Appeals arguing that the First Amendment does not allow gag orders that'd prevent Facebook from informing its users that the government had obtained their data, given that the government was seeking the data in connection with users' political speech.

Defended the right of anonymous critics to express their views online without fear of arbitrary disclosure of their identity

The Internet is a place of free speech

EFF extended free speech protections online, successfully challenging the constitutionality of Internet censorship laws.

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EFF defended online journalists and their rights to protect the confidentiality of sources as offline reporters do.


EFF filed an amicus brief arguing that the government’s collection of smart meter data is a search, and thus subject to Fourth Amendment protections. The Seventh Circuit agreed, recognizing that because smart meters record thousands of usage readings per month, they implicate the Fourth Amendment in ways that traditional meters do not.

After years of pressure, Facebook has updated its policy regarding law enforcement using fake profiles on the platform. They outwardly warned agencies that such profiles are contrary to the rules on misrepresentation and will be removed.

Police may not use a GPS device to track the movements of your vehicle without first getting a warrant

Service providers violate the Wiretap Act when they monitor users’ content without their consent

EFF, along with Earth Rights International, represented activists, attorneys, journalists and others in fighting back against subpoenas issued by Chevron to email providers demanding information that would have provided a broad window into the movements as well as personal and political associations of our clients.

The Supreme Court cited EFF's amicus brief in this landmark ruling declaring that law enforcement needs to get a warrant before obtaining cell phone location information


EFF defended security researchers' right to publicly discuss security flaws


The Federal Circuit has changed its policies to give the public immediate access to briefs.EFF wrote a letter asking the court to make briefs available as soon as they are filed. The court will now allow immediate access to submitted briefs.

Fairfax County (Virginia) Police will be required to purge its database of ALPR data that isn’t linked to a criminal investigation and stop using ALPRs to passively collect data on people who aren’t suspected of criminal activity.

Federal prosecutors and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington clerk’s office have agreed to begin tracking and docketing various forms of warrantless surveillance requests and next year will issue reports every six months detailing the cases.

This decision helps the public learn more about how law enforcement use privacy invasive biometric technology. Law enforcement agencies are required to provide records of how this technology is used and this decision confirmed that the agency cannot refuse to supply email records, even if they find it 'burdensome'.

EFF sued the DoJ to release FISC rulings that said that some NSA surveillance was unconstitutional

EFF lawsuit shedding light on how government used Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect phone records

EFF and ACLU won a ruling that the government must turn over information from criminal prosecutions in which federal law enforcement agencies obtained cell-site location information without a warrant.

California Supreme Court ruled that the license plate data of millions of law-abiding drivers, collected indiscriminately by police across the state, are not “investigative records” that law enforcement can keep secret

EFF filed an amicus arguing for the release of geographic mapping data under the California Public Records Act

In EFF's lawsuit, a judge ordered the government to release previously withheld documents about intelligence agency misconduct.

Court ordered the Department of Justice to hand over documents in our FOIA lawsuit to obtain information that the government may be using to justify an expansion of a law that aids federal wiretapping


EFF represented Human Rights Watch in bringing transparency and privacy in DEA collected telephone records