April 22, 2005

EFF Responds to Apple's Arguments in Online Journalism Appeal

Santa Clara County, CA - Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) continued to support three online journalists in a fight to protect their anonymous sources. EFF, along with co-counsel Thomas Moore III and Richard Wiebe, filed a brief on behalf of the journalists, responding to Apple Computer Inc.'s opposition to the journalists' request for the California Appellate Court in Santa Clara to intervene.

Apple is suing several unnamed individuals, called "Does," who allegedly leaked information about an upcoming product code-named "Asteroid." Apple has subpoenaed Nfox, the ISP for PowerPage.org publisher Jason O'Grady, demanding that the ISP turn over the communications and unpublished materials O'Grady obtained while he was gathering information for his articles about "Asteroid." Apple has also been granted permission to issue subpoenas directly to EFF clients PowerPage and AppleInsider for similar information.

EFF appealed the trial court decision which held that if a journalist publishes information a business deems to be a trade secret, this act destroys constitutional protection for the journalist's confidential sources and unpublished materials. EFF awaits word from the California Appellate Court as to whether the appeal will be granted.

Contacts:

Kevin Bankston
Attorney, Equal Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

Kurt Opsahl
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
kurt@eff.org

Posted at 03:21 PM


April 21, 2005

Law Firm Shows Ignorance of the Law in Anonymous Emailer Case

EFF Sends Letter of Protest to Shearman & Sterling Over Subpoena to Craigslist

San Francisco, CA - When an employee of San Francisco law firm Shearman & Sterling received an email from an anonymous person who seemed to be a disgruntled subordinate, he didn't hit the delete button. Instead, his firm subpoenaed craigslist, a community bulletin board where the email first appeared as a posting, in order to discover the identity of the "Jane Doe."

The firm justified its actions by arguing that the alleged employee's email was a form of "trespass" on Shearman's computer systems. The implication of this claim is far-reaching. Contradicting binding precedent, Shearman proposes a rule that would mean anyone who sends an email faces legal liability. It would allow email recipients to track down anonymous correspondents simply to punish them for being annoying or offensive.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has written an open letter to Shearman urging it to drop the subpoena. "The Constitution does not permit subpoenas for identity just because someone was upset," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "While it is unfortunate that a Shearman employee received an offensive email message, Shearman cannot manufacture a cause of action out of thin air just so it can unmask an anonymous speaker."

In its letter, EFF reminds Shearman of the long tradition of US courts protecting anonymous speech, and argues that the law firm has demonstrated no legal cause of action because it did not show how receiving a single email message caused harm. Indeed, the California Supreme Court ruled two years ago that sending an email is not a form of trespass (see Intel v. Hamidi).

Contacts:

Kurt Opsahl
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
kurt@eff.org

Posted at 02:12 PM


April 08, 2005

News Publishers and Internet Industry Urge Reversal in Apple Case

Groups File Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Supporting Online Journalists

Santa Clara County, CA - A coalition of news publishers and two Internet industry trade associations filed friend-of-the-court briefs today in Apple v. Does, urging the California Court of Appeal to protect the confidential sources of journalists and defend email privacy. On behalf of three online journalists, EFF is appealing the California Superior Court's earlier decision in the case, which allows Apple to subpoena a journalist's email in order to discover the source of information he published about a forthcoming Apple product code-named "Asteroid."

The news publishers argued that the trial court incorrectly allowed trade secret law to trump First Amendment rights, and that Apple has failed to exhaust all other alternative sources for the information it seeks before going after journalists' sources, as required by the reporter's privilege under the First Amendment. The brief was prepared by Grant Penrod of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and signers include the Associated Press, the California First Amendment Coalition, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, Copley Press, Freedom Communications, Inc., Hearst Corp., Los Angeles Times, McClatchy Company, San Jose Mercury News, Society of Professional Journalists, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Student Press Law Center.

The US Internet Industry Association and NetCoalition, which represent Internet companies including Internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, portals, and hosting services, also filed a friend-of-the-court brief. These trade associations argued that the journalist's email messages are protected under the federal Stored Communications Act. They further contend that if the trial court decision is not reversed, it will place an undue burden on service providers and will severely compromise email users' privacy. Elizabeth Rader of the law firm Akin Gump served as pro bono counsel to the Internet trade groups.

"The coalition of newspapers and media organizations recognized that the trial court's disregard for the First Amendment would broadly chill reporting by all journalists, regardless of medium," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl.

"The Internet industry's support illustrates the widely accepted rule that email service providers are prohibited by federal law from disclosing users private email in civil disputes," added EFF Staff Attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow Kevin Bankston.

Apple is suing several unnamed individuals called "Does," who allegedly leaked information about "Asteroid." Apple has subpoenaed Nfox, the ISP for PowerPage.com publisher Jason O'Grady, demanding that it turn over the communications and unpublished materials O'Grady obtained while he was gathering information for his articles about "Asteroid." Apple has also been granted permission to issue subpoenas directly to EFF's clients for similar information.

Contacts:

Kevin Bankston
Attorney, Equal Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

Kurt Opsahl
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
kurt@eff.org

Posted at 03:47 PM


April 07, 2005

Blog Without Getting Burned

EFF Releases How-To Guide for People Who Want to Blog Safely and Anonymously

San Francisco, CA - With the privacy of bloggers and their news sources coming under fire in the court system, it's crucial that web writers know how to express themselves without risking their jobs or social lives. Yesterday the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released "How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else)," a how-to guide for bloggers worried about protecting their privacy and free speech.

The guide covers basic measures people can take to keep their blogs anonymous and explores what the law says about discussing work-related issues online. Some advice is common sense; for example, don't post a picture of yourself if you want to stay anonymous. But for bloggers who want strong guarantees of privacy, EFF suggests using technologies like Tor or Anonymizer to prevent your blog-hosting company from logging your computer's unique Internet Protocol (IP) address. Bloggers who fear they could be fired for blogging are also given an introduction to laws that prevent an employer from punishing them for speaking out online.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there about the ways people could get into trouble for blogging," said EFF Policy Analyst Annalee Newitz. "We hope advice about online anonymity and the law will help more people engage in free expression without living in fear of reprisals, legal or otherwise."

Contacts:

Annalee Newitz
Policy Analyst
Electronic Frontier Foundation
annalee@eff.org

Kurt Opsahl
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
kurt@eff.org

Posted at 04:41 PM

Electronic Frontier Foundation Announces Pioneer Award Winners

EFF to Honor Mitch Kapor, Edward Felten, and Patrick Ball at the 14th Annual Pioneer Awards Ceremony

Seattle, WA - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will hold its 14th Annual Pioneer Awards presentation at 7:00 p.m. on April 13th at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, Washington, in conjunction with the 2005 Computers, Freedom & Privacy (CFP) conference. This year's winners, nominated by the public and selected by a panel of independent judges, are entrepreneur and EFF co-founder Mitch Kapor, Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten, and human rights activist Patrick Ball.

Since 1991, the EFF Pioneer Awards have recognized individuals who have made significant and influential contributions to the development of computer-mediated communications or to the empowerment of individuals in using computers and the Internet.

The winners of this year's awards have contributed to their fields by advancing the causes of human rights and civil liberties in the area of high technology.

Dr. Patrick Ball is a leading innovator in applying scientific measurement to human rights. He directs the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) at Benetech (www.benetech.org), a nonprofit organization that combines the impact of technological solutions with the social entrepreneurship business model to help disadvantaged communities. He served as the catalyst behind two open source software tools for the human rights community, "Martus" and "Analyzer," which aid in the secure storage and analysis of data on human rights violations. He will be accepting his award from East Timor.

Edward Felten is a professor of Computer Science at Princeton University whose research interests include computer security and technology law and policy. He brings these scholarly interests to his work as an activist. In 2001, Felten and EFF sued the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Felten is also author of "Freedom to Tinker" (www.freedom-to-tinker.com), a highly regarded weblog exploring the ways government and industry attempt to limit technological innovation and what activists can do about it.

Mitch Kapor is President and Chair of the Open Source Applications Foundation (www.osafoundation.org), a nonprofit organization he founded in 2001 to promote the development and acceptance of high-quality application software developed and distributed using open source methods and licenses. He is widely known as founder of Lotus Development Corporation and the designer of Lotus 1-2-3, the "killer app" that made the personal computer ubiquitous in the business world in the 1980's. In 1990 he co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation and served as its chairman until 1994.

"I am thrilled to be able to honor Mitch, Ed, and Patrick for their incredible work," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "Each of them has made a significant, unique contribution to protecting civil liberties in this digital age, and they are all deserving of our respect and admiration."

The judges for this year's EFF Pioneer Awards were: Kim Alexander (President and Founder, California Voter Foundation); Herb Brody (Deputy Editor, Technology Review); Esther Dyson (Editor, Release 1.0, CNET Networks); Moira Gunn (Host, "Tech Nation," National Public Radio); Donna L. Hoffman (Professor of Management and Co-Director, eLab, Vanderbilt University); Peter G. Neumann (Principal Scientist, SRI Intl.; Moderator, ACM Risks Forum); Drazen Pantic (Media and Tech Director, NYU Center for War, Peach and the News Media); Barbara Simons (Founder and Co-Chair, ACM's US Public Policy Committee and Consulting Professor, Stanford); and Karen G. Schneider (Coordinator of Librarians' Index to the Internet).

Previous Pioneer Award recipients include Avi Rubin, Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torvalds, and Vinton Cerf, among many others.

Contact:

Katina Bishop
Projects Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
katina@eff.org

Posted at 12:03 PM