EFFector Online Newsletter

EFFector       Vol. 15, No. 35       November 8, 2002     ren@eff.org

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 234th Issue of EFFector:

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As the legislative season ends, it is vitally important to gather support for legislation that will be center-stage in the next session. This is an opportunity to ask your representative to take a stand for your rights. Ask her/him to co-sponsor the DMCRA today!

Representatives Rick Boucher and John Doolittle recently introduced the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA, H.R. 5544), which would require labelling on usage-impaired "copy-protected" compact discs and would make several several amendments to 1998's infamous Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Take action here:

Join EFF! For membership information see:

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Don't be fooled by Senator Biden's "Anticounterfeiting Amendments of 2002" (S. 2395, also known as "the Biden Bill"). It started as an attempt to stop organized crime from forging holograms and counterfeiting money, but its scope has been greatly expanded to include digital watermarks on copyrighted material. This is a sneaky power-grab that would greatly diminish the rights of the public in copyrighted works while expanding the power of copyright owners. It goes well beyond the scope of current copyright law and could:

~ Prevent universities, libraries, and consumers from enjoying the exceptions to the Copyright Act adopted by Congress. S. 2935 could prohibit the use of interface information essential for software interoperability and competition

~ Impose new responsibilities on Internet service providers and could also require consumer electronics and computer manufacturers to reconfigure their products.

~ Impose more severe criminal and civil penalties than permitted by the Copyright Act for identical behavior

This "anticounterfeiting" bill is a decoy; stand up for your rights today! Subscribe to the EFF Action Center and send your member of Congress an email, letter or fax. You can take action by going to:


Join EFF! For membership information see:

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EFF has been involved in several cases involving overreaching trademark claims on the Internet. Recently we have learned about a Canadian lawsuit over the website www.lawsnet.com, a nonprofit legal information website focusing on the laws of Canada and China that seem especially egregious.

Lawsnet.com is a free legal information website that has been published since 1998. Last year, Lawsnet.com's owner Ling Xia was sued by Quicklaw, a subsidiary of global publishing giant LexisNexus Group. Quicklaw claims that Lawsnet.com violates its rights in the name LAW/NET. However, LAW/NET does not have a public Internet website under that domain name. The name appears on a subsidiary webpage of the Quicklaw.com website that offers public "teasers" in the form of summaries of recent Canadian cases, with the full text only available through the private, proprietary paid Quicklaw service for Canadian lawyers. It seems clear that the two names are substantially different, are used in different places (one as a teaser for a closed computer service and the other for information freely available on the public internet) and are not causing any consumer confusion. Even more problematic, Quicklaw does not even have a Canadian trademark in the term LAW/NET -- it applied for one in 1997 but has repeatedly filed requests for extensions of time with the Canadian trademark authorities. In contrast, Ms. Xia is in the final stages of having a Canadian trademark issued for "lawsnet."

Regardless of its weak case, Quicklaw has managed to drag Ms. Xia through over a year of litigation and recently succeeded in securing a court order requiring her to undergo an extensive "discovery" process that threatens to drive her under. Although she has had some free legal assistance in the past, this next phase will require significantly more legal resources than her volunteer attorneys can muster. Quicklaw is represented by a large Toronto firm, Borden Ladner and Gervais, LLP.

Abuse of trademark law (even here, when no official trademark has even been granted) is a growing problem on the Internet, and it is unfortunately becoming an international problem. EFF urges Quicklaw, and its US-based parent company, to stop beating up on this free and useful website. While trademark law is important when misuse of a mark is causing consumer confusion, it does not -- and should not -- grant ownership in words, especially descriptive words like "laws" and "net" when describing an online legal information service. Trademark law should also not be a license for large corporations who sell legal information (or any other nonproprietary information) to stop individuals who want to use the power of the Internet to provide free legal information to the public.

For those who wish to help Ms. Xia directly, local Toronto lawyer and part-time law professor Gil Lan has agreed to act as trustee for a legal defence fund to be established for Ms. Xia. If you wish to help, please contact:

Mr. Gil Lan
Barrister & Solicitor
393 University Avenue
Suite 2000
Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1E6

or by email at:

or Ling Xia at:

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EFF has signed up with ShopsThatGive.com, a portal site for dozens of online shops that donates a portion of their referral fees to a charity of your choice. If you shop online at any of the websites available through ShopsThatGive, including Alibris, buy.com, Disney Store, eBay, eToys, Half.com, Lens Express, McAfee, Office Depot, Palm, Petsmart, REI, Rail Europe, and Verizon Wireless, part of your purchase can be donated back to EFF. From the main ShopsThatGive page, simply select EFF as your designated cause, select a merchant or category, and you're all set. It won't cost you anything extra and it would help us out a lot. Please keep this giving opportunity in mind, especially throughout the upcoming holiday season.


Complete List of Participating Merchants:

Buy EFF-related books through Amazon or Barnes&Noble:

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EFF-Austin, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's first and only chapter, has been revived and is looking for volunteers to work with the organization to inform and educate the public and policymakers about issues of society, culture, and technology. No longer an EFF chapter, EFF-Austin is establishing its own initiatives and formal membership criteria. Interested people in the Austin, Texas, vicinity are invited to join the group.

Learn more about EFF-Austin's activities at:

To subscribe to the organization's email list, send a blank email to:

Email questions or comments can be sent to:

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Deep Links
Deep Links features noteworthy news items, victories, and threats from around the Internet.

Security Technologies Could Backfire Against Consumers
Robert Lemos at news.com with a balanced piece on trusted computing.

Barbie's Kinky Rival Wins First Court Battle
Mattel loses first round in intellectual property battle over S&M doll with Barbie head.

In the digital age, the quaint cassette is sent reeling into history's dustbin.

The Meaning and Importance of the TEACH Act
The American Library Association on the latest amendment to US copyright law.

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EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
454 Shotwell Street
San Francisco CA 94110-1914 USA
+1 415 436 9333 (voice)
+1 415 436 9993 (fax)

Ren Bucholz, Activist

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