April 24, 2007

EFF Challenges Bogus Patent Threatening Consumer Awareness Products

Illegitimate Patent Inhibits Innovation in Market for Mobile Information Access

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) took aim today at a bogus patent threatening innovative technologies that enhance consumer awareness, requesting a reexamination by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).

NeoMedia Technologies, Inc., claims to own rights to all systems that provide information over computer networks using database-like lookup procedures that rely on scanned inputs, such as a barcode. NeoMedia has used these claims not only to threaten and sue innovators in the mobile information space, but also to intimidate projects focused on increasing awareness among consumers about the social and environmental impact of the products they buy. For example, the Consumer Information Lab at the College of Natural Resources at the University of California at Berkeley uses such technology to examine how health, environmental, and social information affects consumers' shopping behavior and decision-making. Were NeoMedia to control the patent rights to this technology, such projects could be severely limited and potentially shut down.

"NeoMedia should not be allowed to use this bogus patent to inhibit consumer awareness, education, or research into the impact of information on consumer choice," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "This is the opposite of 'progress,' something the patent laws are supposed to promote."

EFF's reexamination request shows that the functionality covered by NeoMedia's bad patent was repeatedly included as part of prior patent applications from other companies -- demonstrating that the idea of forming a network connection from scanned items was well-known before NeoMedia made its claim. EFF, in conjunction with Paul Grewal and James Czaja of Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder, ask the PTO to revoke the patent based on this and other evidence.

"Our patent system is supposed to protect innovation, not block it. Everyone loses if the Patent Office allows these kinds of abuses to continue," said Grewal, a partner at the Day Casebeer firm.

The challenge to the NeoMedia patent is part of EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects bad patents have on public and consumer interests. So far, the project has helped kill a bogus patent covering a system and method of creating digital recordings of live performances. The PTO has also granted another EFF reexamination request for an illegitimate patent for online test-taking.

For the full NeoMedia patent reexamination request:
https://www.eff.org/patent/wanted/patent.php?p=neomedia

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

For more on Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder:
http://www.daycasebeer.com

For more information on the Consumer Information Lab at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources:
http://nature.berkeley.edu/infolab/projects/informationtoolsdevelopmentproject

Contacts:

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

Paul Grewal
Partner
Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder
pgrewal@daycasebeer.com

Posted at 07:17 AM


April 23, 2007

Viacom Admits Error -- Takes Steps to Protect Fair Use on YouTube

MoveOn.org, Brave New Films Dismiss Lawsuit Over Colbert Parody

Viacom Endorses Excerpting Video for "Creative, Newsworthy or Transformative Use"

San Francisco - Responding to Viacom's willingness to take steps to protect the free speech rights of those who post videos to YouTube and similar video sharing sites, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project (FUP) today dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of MoveOn.org Civic Action and Brave New Films (BNF).

The lawsuit was filed in federal court last month, after a parody of "The Colbert Report" was removed from YouTube following a meritless copyright complaint by Viacom. The humorous video, called "Stop the Falsiness," was created by MoveOn and BNF using clips from the Comedy Central television series. It was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Colbert's portrayal of the right-wing media and parodied MoveOn's own reputation for earnest political activism.

Viacom initially denied sending the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice that resulted in the removal of the video from YouTube, while saying it had no objection to "Stop the Falsiness." However, Viacom later conceded it was the source of the demand and admitted error in taking action against the parody.

In the course of discussions with EFF and FUP, Viacom described the steps it endorses for protecting fair use and free expression as it targets copyright infringement on Internet video sites. This includes: manual review of every video that is a potential DMCA takedown target, training reviewers to avoid issuing takedown requests for fair use, and publicly stating that it does not challenge use of Viacom materials that are "creative, newsworthy or transformative" and are "a limited excerpt for non commercial purposes."

Furthermore, in reaction to the MoveOn/BNF suit, Viacom moved the ball forward for Internet users' rights. In order to address any similarly erroneous takedown notices in the future, Viacom has agreed to set up a website and email "hotline," promising a review of any complaint within one business day and a reinstatement if the takedown request was in error.

In light of these disclosures and commitments -- designed to protect the fair use and free speech rights of Internet users who rely on video sharing sites like YouTube -- MoveOn and BNF have dismissed their claims against Viacom.

"If copyright owners are going to be sending hundreds of thousands of DMCA takedown notices, they also have a responsibility to protect the legitimate free speech rights of the citizen creators who rely on platforms like YouTube," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "By choosing to respect newsworthy and transformative uses of their materials -- and establishing a simple process that lets improperly targeted users get their material back up quickly -- Viacom has taken important steps toward meeting that responsibility. We hope other media companies will follow Viacom's lead."

"This new endorsement of Internet users' rights is a victory for the little guy," said Eli Pariser, Executive Director of MoveOn.org Civic Action. "Online sites like YouTube have revolutionized political expression and can give the little guy an audience of millions for a political point of view. A corporate powerhouse like Viacom must not be allowed to erase political content or muzzle political expression."

"Following these practices will not curb all DMCA copyright abuse," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "But they are several much-needed steps in the right direction. If a major content owner like Viacom can recognize this, other content owners should be able to do the same."

For Viacom's letters outlining its policies:
https://www.eff.org/legal/cases/moveon_v_viacom/falsiness_letter_032707.pdf
https://www.eff.org/legal/cases/moveon_v_viacom/0411_letter_fvl.pdf"
https://www.eff.org/legal/cases/moveon_v_viacom/0417_letter_fvl.pdf

Contacts:

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

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
fred@eff.org

Anthony Falzone
Executive Director, Fair Use Project
Stanford Law School
anthony.falzone@stanford.edu

Adam Green
MoveOn.org Civic Action
adamgreen@moveon.org

Posted at 10:25 AM


April 18, 2007

Consumers, Librarians, and Innovators Tell EU 'We're Not Criminals'

Coalition Submits Fixes to European Parliament to Prevent Vague New Copyright Crimes

Brussels - The Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) European Office today announced a broad coalition aimed at fixing a poorly drafted intellectual property enforcement proposal that could make criminals of thousands of people in the European Union.

The Second Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED2) -- set for vote in the European Parliament early next week -- makes "aiding, abetting, or inciting" intellectual property infringement on a "commercial scale" a criminal offence. However, IPRED2 defines criminal offences so vaguely that creators of legitimate websites, Internet service providers, and even librarians could be investigated by the police and face criminal records as well as fines of hundreds of thousands of euros.

The coalition battling against IPRED2 includes the Brussels-based European Consumers Organisation (BEUC), the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA), the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), and the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII). The group sent an open letter to the European Parliament today, urging members to support amendments that would protect consumers, innovators, and researchers.

"Criminal law needs to be clear to be fair. IPRED2 as it is currently drafted is neither," said Erik Josefsson, European Affairs Coordinator for EFF. "These amendments clarify that criminal sanctions should be saved for true trademark counterfeiters."

IPRED2 also proposes allowing entertainment company representatives to join police in investigating businesses that they claim infringe -- or even "incite" infringement -- of their intellectual property.

"Such secondary liability is a major threat for software developers and Internet service providers," said Ante Wessels of FFII.

"The current draft of IPRED2 creates legal uncertainty and confusion, which will act as a barrier for libraries and archives in their efforts to digitize and bring digital information to end users," said Andrew Cranfield, Director of EBLIDA.

The next vote on IPRED2 is scheduled for April 25 in Strasbourg, France.

For the open letter to the European Parliament:
http://www.copycrime.eu/files/openletter-ipred.pdf

For more on IPRED2:
http://www.copycrime.eu

To take action and tell your MEP to support these amendments:
http://www.copycrime.eu/petition

For more on EFF Europe:
https://www.eff.org/global/europe

Contacts:

Erik Josefsson
European Affairs Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
erik@eff.org

Danny O'Brien
International Outreach Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
danny@eff.org

Posted at 03:09 PM


April 11, 2007

EFF Sues Justice Department for Immediate Release of NSL Abuse Records

Public Needs Critical Information About FBI's Abuse of Surveillance Power

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked a judge to issue an emergency order requiring the FBI to immediately release agency records about its abuse of National Security Letters (NSLs) to collect Americans' personal information.

Congressional hearings and a storm of media coverage followed a recent Justice Department report detailing the FBI's extensive misuse of NSLs -- requests through which federal agents may collect telephone, Internet, financial, credit, and other personal records about Americans without judicial approval. The report and the ensuing uproar also sparked the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives to curb the Bureau's NSL authority. In a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), EFF demands that the FBI release all information about NSL abuse without delay, so that the records can be part of the national debate about domestic surveillance.

"Congress has already dedicated several hearings to the FBI's abuse of investigative power and is thinking about how to prevent such abuses in the future," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "But if there is going to be meaningful debate about this issue, we need more information than what the Administration chooses to make public, and we need it now."

The Department of Justice has already agreed that the records should be disclosed quickly due to the exceptional media attention and the questions the NSL report has raised about the government's integrity. However, despite this recognition, the Bureau has failed to meet the 20-day time limit that Congress set for requests that do not merit fast processing.

EFF's FOIA request asks for all FBI records discussing or reporting violations of current law, guidelines, or policies, as well as any communications discussing various potential interpretations of current federal investigative power. EFF also demands copies of the contracts between the FBI and three telephone companies, which were intended to allow the FBI to get rapid access to telephone records.

"There are a lot of questions right now about the government's integrity when it comes to domestic surveillance. The FBI must follow the law and release these records to the public," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel.

For the FOIA complaint:
https://www.eff.org/flag/nsl/nsl_complaint.pdf

For the motion for a preliminary injunction:
https://www.eff.org/flag/nsl/pi_final.pdf

For more on EFF's FLAG Project:
https://www.eff.org/flag/

Contacts:

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

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

Posted at 12:05 AM

Recording Industry Target Deserves Day in Court

RIAA Must Face Consequences of Meritless File-Sharing Lawsuits

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a brief with a New York district court, urging a judge to allow the target of a recording industry lawsuit to fight back with counterclaims of his own.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has already moved to dismiss copyright infringement claims against Rolando Amurao. However, Amurao alleges that the RIAA's case is meritless and intended to harass him, so he has countersued for a declaration of non-infringement and a finding of RIAA copyright misuse. In its amicus brief, EFF argues that giving Amurao his day in court increases RIAA accountability in the industry's broad lawsuit campaign against file-sharing.

"If Amurao's allegations are true, then he has the right to clear his name," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "It's simply unfair to shield copyright owners from the consequences of careless lawsuits. Counterclaims like Amurao's help make sure that the RIAA can't simply dismiss its case and walk away when an innocent target fights back."

The RIAA has sued thousands of individuals for allegedly sharing music over the Internet since its campaign began in 2003. But sloppy investigative methods have left innocent people entangled in expensive and draining legal proceedings. When the RIAA threatens someone with a lawsuit, it offers to settle the case for a carefully chosen sum that is smaller than the legal fees required to fight the accusations. Faced with this choice, some innocent people settle simply because it's the most affordable option. However, a few individuals like Amurao have decided to battle the RIAA in court. In one Oklahoma case, EFF provided amicus support to an innocent target of a file-sharing lawsuit who is fighting to have the RIAA reimburse her attorneys' fees.

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/legal/cases/lava_v_amurao/lava_amicus.pdf

For more on the RIAA's lawsuit campaign:
https://www.eff.org/IP/P2P/riaa-v-thepeople.php

Contacts:

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

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

Posted at 12:01 AM