March 22, 2007

Free Speech Battle Over Online Parody of 'Colbert Report'

MoveOn, Brave New Films Sue Viacom For Illegal Takedown of YouTube Video

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked a federal court today to protect the free speech rights of MoveOn.org Civic Action and Brave New Films after their satirical send-up of "The Colbert Report" was removed from YouTube following a baseless copyright complaint from media giant Viacom.

The video, called "Stop the Falsiness," was created by MoveOn and Brave New Films as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Colbert's portrayal of the right-wing media and parodying MoveOn's own reputation for earnest political activism. The short film, uploaded to YouTube in August 2006, includes clips from "The Colbert Report" as well as humorous original interviews about show host Stephen Colbert. In March of this year, Viacom -- the parent company of Comedy Central -- demanded that YouTube take "Stop the Falsiness" down, claiming the video infringed its copyrights.

"Our clients' video is an act of free speech and a fair use of 'Colbert Report' clips," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Viacom knows this -- it's the same kind of fair use that 'The Colbert Report' and 'The Daily Show' rely upon every night as they parody other channels' news coverage."

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a mere allegation of copyright infringement on the Internet can result in content removal, silencing a creator before any misuse is proven. This "shoot first, ask questions later" system can silence online artists and critics, creating unfair hurdles to free speech.

"Online sites like YouTube have revolutionized political expression and can give the little guy an audience of millions for a political point of view. An entertainment powerhouse like Viacom must not be allowed to muzzle independent video creators and their free speech," said Eli Pariser, Executive Director of MoveOn.org Civic Action. "Copyright owners need to double-check their claims and think about free speech rights before erasing political content from sites like YouTube and misusing the DMCA."

The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment that "Stop the Falsiness" does not infringe any Viacom copyright, as well as damages and injunctive relief restraining Viacom from bringing any more copyright claims in connection with the video. EFF is working with Stanford's Center for Internet and Society in this case.

For more on the lawsuit:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/moveon_v_viacom

To watch "Stop the Falsiness":
http://falsiness.org/

Contacts:

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

Trevor Fitzgibbon or Alex Howe
Fenton Communications
alex@fenton.com

Posted at 06:00 AM


March 20, 2007

Join EFF at 16th Annual Pioneer Awards at ETech

Ceremony in San Diego Features Debate Between Mark Cuban, Fred von Lohmann

San Diego - Please join the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) for the 16th Annual Pioneer Awards, presented in conjunction with the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego. The ceremony will be held at 7:30pm, March 27th, in the Douglas Room of the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

The 2007 winners of EFF's Pioneer Awards are Professor Yochai Benkler of Yale Law School, writer and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow, and security technologist Bruce Schneier. Mark Cuban, HDNet Chairman and NBA Dallas Mavericks owner, and EFF's Fred von Lohmann will debate copyright, YouTube, and the future of Web 2.0 at the award ceremony.

To get on the press list for this event, email press@eff.org.

WHAT:
16th Annual Pioneer Awards

WHEN:
7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 27

WHERE:
Manchester Grand Hyatt
Douglas Room
1 Market Place
San Diego, CA

For more on EFF's Pioneer Awards:
http://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer

Contact:

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

Posted at 07:09 AM


March 14, 2007

DMCA Abuser Apologizes for Takedown Campaign

Michael Crook Agrees to Stop Attacks on Free Speech

San Francisco - Michael Crook, the man behind a string of meritless online copyright complaints, has agreed to withdraw those complaints, take a copyright law course, and apologize for interfering with the free speech rights of his targets.

The agreement settles a lawsuit against Crook filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of Jeff Diehl, the editor of the Internet magazine 10 Zen Monkeys. Diehl was forced to modify an article posted about Crook's behavior in a fake sex-ad scheme after Crook sent baseless Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices, claiming to be the copyright holder of an image used in the story. In fact, the image was from a Fox News program and legally used as part of commentary on Crook. But Crook repeated his claims and then attempted to use the same process to get the image removed from other websites reporting on his takedown campaign.

"Crook's legal threats interfered with legitimate debate about his controversial online behavior," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "Public figures must not be allowed to use bogus copyright claims to squelch speech."

In addition to withdrawing current complaints against Diehl and every other target of his takedown campaign and taking a copyright law course, Crook has also agreed to limit any future DMCA notices to works authored or photographed by himself or his wife, or where the copyright was specifically assigned to him. All future notices must also include a link to EFF information on his case, as well as the settlement agreement. Crook has also recorded a video statement to apologize and publicize the dangers of abusing copyright law.

"We're pleased that Crook has taken responsibility for his egregious behavior," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Hopefully, this will set a precedent to prevent future abuse of the law by those who dislike online news-reporting and criticism."

The settlement with Michael Crook is part of EFF's ongoing campaign to protect online free speech from the chilling effects of bogus intellectual property claims. EFF recently filed suit against the man who claims to have created the popular line dance "The Electric Slide" for misusing copyright law to remove an online documentary video that included footage of people trying to do the dance.

For the video statement from Michael Crook:
http://blip.tv/file/169553

For more on Diehl v. Crook:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/diehl_v_crook/

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

Posted at 11:50 AM


March 13, 2007

American Studios' Secret Plan to Lock Down European TV Devices

EFF Exposes Standards Jeopardizing Innovation and Consumer Rights

San Francisco - An international consortium of television and technology companies is devising draconian anti-consumer restrictions for the next generation of TVs in Europe and beyond, at the behest of American entertainment giants.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the only public interest group to have gained entrance into the secretive meetings of the Digital Video Broadcasting Project (DVB), a group that creates the television and video specifications used in Europe, Australia, and much of Asia and Africa. In a report released today, EFF shows how U.S. movie and television companies have convinced DVB to create new technical specifications that would build digital rights management technologies into televisions. These specifications are likely to take away consumers' rights, which will subsequently be sold back to them piecemeal -- so entertainment fans will have to pay again and again for legitimate uses of lawfully acquired digital television content.

"DVB is abetting a massive power grab by the content industry, and many of the world's largest technology companies are simply watching," said Ren Bucholz, EFF Policy Coordinator, Americas. "This regime was concocted without input from consumer rights organizations or public interest groups, and it shows."

Despite recent record profits, American movie and television studios insist that new technologies could ruin their industry. In past battles against innovation, these same studios sued to block the sale of the VCR and the first mass-marketed digital video recorder in the U.S. Having failed in those efforts, they have now turned to creating technical standards that, when backed by law, are likely to restrict consumers' existing rights and threaten the future of technological innovation.

With DVB, the plan begun by entertainment companies in the U.S. has now gone global. EFF's report is aimed at alerting European consumer groups and consumers about the dangers posed by the proposed standards and providing informational resources for European regulators.

"DVB members' active indifference, even hostility, to user rights is shameful," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth Schoen. "When American studios ask for regulatory support for restrictions pushed through the DVB Project, public officials must stand up for consumer rights, sustain competition and innovation, and tell Hollywood to back off."

For the full report:
http://www.eff.org/IP/DVB/dvb_briefing_paper.php

EFF's 2005 Submission to the U.K. Department of Media, Sports and Culture:
http://www.eff.org/IP/DVB/dvb_critique.php

Contacts:

Ren Bucholz
Policy Coordinator, Americas
Electronic Frontier Foundation
ren@eff.org

Seth Schoen
Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
seth@eff.org

Posted at 06:58 AM

EFF Kills Bogus Clear Channel/Live Nation Patent

Patent Busting Project Wins Victory for Artists and Innovators

San Francisco - The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has announced it will revoke an illegitimate patent held by Clear Channel Communications after a campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The patent -- owned by Instant Live, a company formerly owned by Clear Channel, and now owned by Live Nation -- covered a system and method of creating digital recordings of live performances. Clear Channel claimed the bogus patent created a monopoly on all-in-one technologies that produce post-concert digital recordings and threatened to sue those who made such recordings. This locked musical acts into using Clear Channel technology and blocked innovations by others.

However, EFF's investigation found that a company named Telex had in fact developed similar technology more than a year before Clear Channel filed its patent request. EFF -- in conjunction with patent attorney Theodore C. McCullough and with the help of Lori President and Ashley Bollinger, students at the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic at American University's Washington College of Law -- asked the PTO to revoke the patent based on this and other extensive evidence.

"Bogus patents like this one are good examples of what's wrong with the current patent system," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "We're glad that the Patent Office was willing to help artists and innovators out from under its shadow."

The Clear Channel patent challenge was part of EFF's Patent Busting Project, aimed at combating the chilling effects bad patents have on public and consumer interests. The Patent Busting Project seeks to document the threats and fight back by filing requests for reexamination against the worst offenders.

"The patent system plays a critical role in business and the economy," said McCullough. "Everyone loses if we allow overreaching patent claims to restrict the tremendous benefits of new software and technology development."

For the notice from the Patent Office:
http://www.eff.org/patent/wanted/clearchannel/notice_of_intent_to_cancel.pdf

For more on EFF's Patent Busting Project:
http://www.eff.org/patent

Contacts:

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

Theodore C. McCullough
Registered Patent Attorney
theo702000@yahoo.com

[Updated: 3/13/07]

Posted at 12:02 AM


March 09, 2007

EFF Calls For Aggressive Congressional Hearings on National Security Letter Misuse

Report Says FBI Stepped Over the Legal Line in Searches for Personal Information

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling for Congress to hold aggressive hearings on the FBI's domestic intelligence authority after the release of a Justice Department report showing the Bureau abusing its power to collect telephone, Internet, financial, credit, and other personal records about Americans without judicial approval.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vermont, has said the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings into the report's findings. But the widespread abuse detailed in the report requires more than just a cursory examination.

"The Bureau's misuse of its intelligence authority is an ongoing critical problem," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Congress must use its investigative power to find out what's really going on at the FBI -- and then rein in the Bureau's investigative authority to where is was before the USA PATRIOT Act."

In the report, the Justice Department's inspector general identifies four dozen instances in which demands for personal information -- known as National Security Letters -- may have violated laws and agency regulations. The report also found that the Bureau lied to Congress about its use of the letters.

The FBI has had limited authority to issue National Security Letters for many years. However, a controversial provision of the PATRIOT Act greatly expanded the Bureau's ability to use them to gather information about anyone, as long as the agency believes the information could be relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation.

Today's report follows the inspector general's findings last year that the Bureau had disclosed more than 100 instances of possible intelligence misconduct to the Intelligence Oversight Board in the preceding two years, a number of which were "significant."

In 2005, EFF argued in a friend of the court brief that the FBI's "unfettered authority" to issue National Security Letters "is ripe for abuse." The danger of such abuse has now been documented.

"This is not simply about errors in 'oversight,'" said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "This is about disregard for the law. For example, FBI terrorism investigators ignored their own lawyers' advice to stop using so-called 'exigent' letters for about two years."

For the full report from the Justice Department:
http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/s0703b/final.pdf

For more on National Security Letters:
http://www.eff.org/patriot/sunset/505.php

Contacts:

Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
marcia@eff.org

David Sobel
Senior Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation
sobel@eff.org

Lee Tien
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
tien@eff.org

Posted at 09:47 AM


March 08, 2007

Yochai Benkler, Cory Doctorow, and Bruce Schneier Win EFF Pioneer Awards

Mark Cuban, Fred von Lohmann to Square Off at Award Ceremony in San Diego

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2007 Pioneer Awards: Professor Yochai Benkler of Yale Law School, writer and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow, and security technologist Bruce Schneier. Mark Cuban -- HDNet Chairman and NBA Dallas Mavericks owner -- and EFF's Fred von Lohmann will debate copyright, YouTube and the future of Web 2.0 at the award ceremony.

The 16th annual Pioneer Awards will be held at 7:30pm, March 27th at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego in conjunction with the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.

Professor Yochai Benkler of Yale Law School researches the effects of laws on information, knowledge, and culture in the digital world. Benkler's important contributions include a theoretical explanation of how the Internet has allowed decentralized groups to produce things like technologies and bodies of knowledge more efficiently than any centrally organized corporation or trade-based marketplace could. After the publication of Benkler's most recent book, "The Wealth of Networks," Lawrence Lessig called him "the leading intellectual of the information age."

Cory Doctorow is an activist, writer, blogger, and public speaker about copyright, digital rights management, and electronic freedom. As a co-editor of the Boing Boing blog, he highlights critical technology issues for more than a million readers a day. Doctorow has lectured around the globe and has been nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards for his science fiction. Doctorow is currently the Canadian Fulbright Chair at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. He was EFF's European Affairs Coordinator until December of 2005.

Bruce Schneier is an internationally renowned security technologist acclaimed for his criticism and commentary on everything from network security to national security. His books -- including the highly influential "Secrets and Lies" and "Applied Cryptography" -- his monthly newsletter, and his security blog have reached hundreds of thousands of people with candid and lucid analysis of security issues. Schneier has often testified before Congress on security policy.

"This year's award winners have all provided important analysis and criticism of our digital world, educating the public on how electronic systems really work and what it means to us and our future," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "I'm thrilled to honor Yochai, Cory, and Bruce. They are truly pioneers of the electronic frontier."

Since 1991, the EFF Pioneer Awards have recognized individuals and organizations that have made significant and influential contributions to the development of computer-mediated communications and to the empowerment of individuals in using computers and the Internet. Past winners include World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Linux creator Linus Torvalds, science fiction writer Bruce Sterling, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, among many others.

Benkler, Doctorow, and Schneier were nominated by the public and then chosen by a panel of judges. This year's panel includes Kim Alexander (President and founder, California Voter Foundation), Esther Dyson (Internet court jester and blogger, Release 0.9; founding chairman of ICANN; former chairman of EFF), Mitch Kapor (Chair, Open Source Applications Foundation; co-founder and former chairman EFF), Drazen Pantic (Co-director, Location One), Barbara Simons (IBM Research [Retired] and former president ACM), James Tyre, (Co-founder, The Censorware Project; EFF policy fellow) and Jimmy Wales, (Founder, Wikipedia; co-founder, Wikia; chair emeritus of the Wikimedia Foundation).

The Pioneer Awards are sponsored by Sling Media, the world's leading digital lifestyle company offering consumer services and products. Sling Media's product family includes the internationally acclaimed Slingbox that allows consumers to watch and control their living room television at any time, from any location, using PCs, Macs, PDAs and smartphones. For more information on Sling Media or the Slingbox, visit www.slingmedia.com.

The Pioneer Awards are also sponsored by bronze sponsors JibJab, (www.jibjab.com) MOG, (www.mog.com) and Six Apart (www.sixapart.com)

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards ceremony and Mark Cuban's keynote address are $35. If you plan to attend, RSVP to events@eff.org. You can also pay for your tickets in advance at http://secure.eff.org/pioneerfundraiser. Members of the media interested in attending the event should email press@eff.org.

For more on attending the Pioneer Awards:
http://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer

Contact:

Katina Bishop
Associate Director of Development
Electronic Frontier Foundation
katina@eff.org

About EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at http://www.eff.org/

About ETech and O'Reilly Media

For the past five years, the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference has found new networked innovations before they hit the mainstream. ETech balances pie-in-the-sky theorizing with practical, real-world information and conversation. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly has been a chronicler and catalyst of leading-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter. For more information: http://www.oreilly.com.

Posted at 07:57 AM


March 01, 2007

'Electric Slide' Creator Steps on Fair Use

EFF Lawsuit Battles Bogus Copyright Claims

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit today against the man who claims to have created the popular line dance "The Electric Slide," asking the court to protect the free speech rights of a videographer who captured a few steps of the dance in a documentary video he posted to the Internet.

EFF's client, Kyle Machulis, shot the video at a concert last month. In one ten-second segment, a group of fans in the audience attempts to dance part of the Electric Slide. Machulis later uploaded the video to YouTube. Within just a few days, Richard Silver, owner of www.the-electricslidedance.com, filed a takedown demand under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Silver claimed he owned the copyright to the Electric Slide and that Machulis' video infringed his rights. The removal appears to be part of a broad campaign by Silver to misuse copyright allegations to prevent dancers from performing the dance "incorrectly."

"Silver's claim of copyright infringement is absurd and is a classic example of the kind of DMCA abuse that can chill Internet speech," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Even if Silver had a valid copyright in the dance--which is not at all clear--this is a fair use and not infringing."

EFF's complaint asks that the judge immediately rule that the video does not infringe any copyright owned by Silver, and that Silver cease his meritless claims towards Machulis.

"We spend a lot of time fighting the misuse of copyright law on the Internet, but this situation is particularly outrageous," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "With thousands of videos being uploaded to sites like YouTube every day, free speech is on the line and needs to be protected."

For the full complaint:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/electricslide/complaint.pdf

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

Posted at 12:41 PM