Formation documents and mission statement for the EFF

Formation documents and mission statement for the EFF


10 July 90 --- Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corp., announced at a news conference this morning that his newly formed Electronic Frontier Foundation is giving $275,000 to Computer Profes- sionals for Social Responsibility to expand their program on computers and civil liberties.

CPSR will host a series of policy round-tables in Washington during the next two years, to bring together lawmakers, computer users, industry representatives, and law enforcement officials "to ensure that our civil liberties protections are not lost amidst policy confusion about the use of new computer technologies," according to a press release.

"CPSR also plans to develop policy papers on computer and civil liberties, to oversee the Government's handling of computer crime investigations, and to act as an information resource for organizations and individuals interested in civil liberties issues."

In addition, Kapor said EFF will foot the legal costs to recover a computer bulletin-board system seized about 4 months ago from Steve Jackson Games of Austin, Texas. Reasons for the seizure are still unclear, since no charges have yet been filed, and the warrant for the seizure was sealed by the court.

During the raid the Secret Service also confiscated drafts of a role- playing game that SJG was about to release, believing it to be a training manual for computer crime. The game - GURPS Cyberpunk - has since been published (with modifications), but this morning Jackson asserted that the delay and the work needed to reconstruct the game cost his company some $125,000. "I am a horror story," he began. Picking up on metaphors used by John Perry Barlow, who preceded him to the microphone, Jackson called himself "one of the homesteaders on the electronic frontier... One day I came home to find the barn burned down, the horses set loose...and the culprits who did it weren't desperados. They were the cavalry!" Jackson's lawyer, Harvey Silverglate, added that taking the BBS that SJG used for customer support was analogous to seizing presses from the New York Times. Terry Gross, a lawyer for Craig Neidorf, pressed the point further as he told of his client's problems. Neidorf, a college student who edits an electronic newsletter called "Phrack," has been charged with perpetrating a "wire fraud scheme" by electronically receiving "stolen goods" (a BellSouth internal memo describing 911 system features) and transmitting a digest of the memo as an article in Phrack.

"This is like prosecuting the New York Times or the Washington Post for wire fraud for publishing the Pentagon Papers," Gross argued. These charges wouldn't have been brought if Phrack were published on paper, he added. Some of the charges against Neidorf are specific to electronic transmission.

In thanking EFF for the grant, Marc Rotenberg, CPSR's spokesman in Washington, said the Jackson and Neidorf cases epitomize the tough moral and legal issues we'll be grappling with for years to come. Gross, Silverglate and Rotenberg agreed that these early cases are especially important because they may set precedents. Kapor repeatedly emphasized that the Electronic Freedom Foundation isn't a "hackers defense fund." "Unauthorized intrusion into computer systems is improper behavior and should be illegal," he declared. EFF's purpose is to see that First Amendment rights aren't trampled in overreaction to real or imaginary threats posed by computer crackers.

A basic feature of today's "information society" is anxiety about our dependence on electronic media whose workings we don't understand, Kapor explained. Barlow added that we're on "the learning curve of Sisyphus": technology is evolving faster than we can understand, and it always will be.

Kapor suggested that hackers are increasingly portrayed as threatening sorcerers mainly because they don't share most people's anxiety and ignorance about computer technology. He described the current anti-hacker hysteria in terms of the sci-fi movie classic, "The Forbidden Planet": the monsters, it turns out in the end, were all Dr. Morbius' projections.

"Hacker" used to be a term of high praise, Kapor pointed out. Hackers also created the multi-billion dollar personal computer industry, so it is appropriate that EFF is funded by Kapor, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and a "Silicon Valley pioneer" who wishes to remain unnamed.

Kapor warned that "polarization and misunderstanding" of hackers could slow public acceptance of computer networks as a valuable tool in everyday life. If we want useful nets for everyone, he said, we must make them both open AND secure - a programming feat that calls for hacker-type ingenuity.

To improve public understanding of electronic networks and the resources they provide, Kapor announced that EFF will sponsor the development of "intelligent front-ends" for UNIX e-mail, to be used on Apple/Mac and DOS machines. This software would be available at little or no cost, and so easy to use that even a "hacker's mother" won't find it intimidating. Making networks more accessible will greatly expand the market for hardware and software, he concluded.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation can be contacted at One Cambridge Center, Suite 300, Cambridge, MA 02142 (617-577-1385; fax 617-225-2347; Internet

July 10, 1990


Contact: Marc Rotenberg (202) 775-1588

Washington, D.C., July 10, 1990 -- Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), a national computing organization, announced today that it would receive a two-year grant in the amount of $275,000 for its Computing and Civil Liberties Project. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF),founded by Mitchell Kapor, made the grant to expand ongoing CPSR work on civil liberties protections for computer users.

At a press conference in Washington today, Mr. Kapor praised CPSR's work, "CPSR plays an important role in the computer community. For the last several years, it has sought to extend civil liberties protections to new information technologies. Now we want to help CPSR expand that work."

Marc Rotenberg, director of the CPSR Washington Office said, "We are obviously very happy about the grant from the EFF. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure that our civil liberties protections are not lost amidst policy confusion about the use of new computer technologies."

CPSR said that it will host a series of policy round tables in Washington, DC, during the next two years with lawmakers, computer users, including (hackers), the FBI, industry representatives, and members of the computer security community. Mr. Rotenberg said that the purpose of the meetings will be to "begin a dialogue about the new uses of electronic media and the protection of the public interest."

CPSR also plans to develop policy papers on computers and civil liberties, to oversee the Government's handling of computer crime investigations, and to act as an information resource for organizations and individuals interested in civil liberties issues.

The CPSR Computing and Civil Liberties project began in 1985 after President Reagan attempted to restrict access to government computer systems through the creation of new classification authority. In 1988, CPSR prepared a report on the proposed expansion of the FBI's computer system, the National Crime Information Center. The report found serious threats to privacy and civil liberties. Shortly after the report was issued, the FBI announced that it would drop a proposed computer feature to track the movements of people across the country who had not been charged with any crime.

"We need to build bridges between the technical community and the policy community," said Dr. Eric Roberts, CPSR president and a research scientist at Digital Equipment Corporation in Palo Alto, California. "There is simply too much misinformation about how computer networks operate. This could produce terribly misguided public policy."

CPSR representatives have testified several times before Congressional committees on matters involving civil liberties and computer policy. Last year CPSR urged a House Committee to avoid poorly conceived computer activity. "In the rush to criminalize the malicious acts of the few we may discourage the beneficial acts of the many," warned CPSR. A House subcommittee recently followed CPSR's recommendations on computer crime amendments.

Dr. Ronni Rosenberg, an expert on the role of computer scientists and public policy, praised the new initiative. She said, "It's clear that there is an information gap that needs to be filled. This is an important opportunity for computer scientists to help fill the gap."

CPSR is a national membership organization of computer professionals, based in Palo Alto, California. CPSR has over 20,000 members and 21 chapters across the country. In addition to the civil liberties project, CPSR conducts research, advises policy makers and educates the public about computers in the workplace, computer risk and reliability, and international security.

For more information contact:

Marc Rotenberg
CPSR Washington Office
1025 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1015
Washington, DC 20036 202/775-1588

Gary Chapman
CPSR National Office
P.O. Box 717
Palo Alto, CA 94302

July 10, 1990

A new world is arising in the vast web of digital, electronic media which connect us. Computer-based communication media like electronic mail and computer conferencing are becoming the basis of new forms of community. These communities without a single, fixed geographical location comprise the first settlements on an electronic frontier.

While well-established legal principles and cultural norms give structure and coherence to uses of conventional media like newspapers, books, and telephones, the new digital media do not so easily fit into existing frameworks. Conflicts come about as the law struggles to define its application in a context where fundamental notions of speech, property, and place take profoundly new forms. People sense both the promise and the threat inherent in new computer and communications technologies, even as they struggle to master or simply cope with them in the workplace and the home.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been established to help civilize the electronic frontier; to make it truly useful and beneficial not just to a technical elite, but to everyone; and to do this in a way which is in keeping with our society's highest traditions of the free and open flow of information and communication.

To that end, the Electronic Frontier Foundation will:

  1. Engage in and support educational activities which increase popular understanding of the opportunities and challenges posed by developments in computing and telecommunications.
  2. Develop among policy-makers a better understanding of the issues underlying free and open telecommunications, and support the creation of legal and structural approaches which will ease the assimilation of these new technologies by society.
  3. Raise public awareness about civil liberties issues arising from the rapid advancement in the area of new computer-based communications media. Support litigation in the public interest to preserve, protect, and extend First Amendment rights within the realm of computing and telecommunications technology.
  4. Encourage and support the development of new tools which will endow non-technical users with full and easy access to computer-based telecommunications.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
One Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
(617) 577-1385


Mitchell Kapor and John Perry Barlow
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Washington, D.C.
July 10, 1990

Over the last 50 years, the people of the developed world have begun to cross into a landscape unlike any which humanity has experienced before. It is a region without physical shape or form. It exists, like a standing wave, in the vast web of our electronic communication systems. It consists of electron states, microwaves, magnetic fields, light pulses and thought itself.

It is familiar to most people as the "place" in which a long-distance telephone conversation takes place. But it is also the repository for all digital or electronically transferred information, and, as such, it is the venue for most of what is now commerce, industry, and broad-scale human interaction. William Gibson called this Platonic realm "Cyberspace," a name which has some currency among its present inhabitants.

Whatever it is eventually called, it is the homeland of the Information Age, the place where the future is destined to dwell.

In its present condition, Cyberspace is a frontier region, populated by the few hardy technologists who can tolerate the austerity of its savage computer interfaces, incompatible communications protocols, proprietary barricades, cultural and legal ambiguities, and general lack of useful maps or metaphors.

Certainly, the old concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context, based as they are on physical manifestation, do not apply succinctly in a world where there can be none.

Sovereignty over this new world is also not well defined. Large institutions already lay claim to large fiefdoms, but most of the actual natives are solitary and independent, sometimes to the point of sociopathy. It is, therefore, a perfect breeding ground for both outlaws and vigilantes. Most of society has chosen to ignore the existence of this arising domain. Every day millions of people use ATM's and credit cards, place telephone calls, make travel reservations, and access information of limitless variety. . . all without any perception of the digital machinations behind these transactions.

Our financial, legal, and even physical lives are increasingly dependent on realities of which we have only dimmest awareness. We have entrusted the basic functions of modern existence to institutions we cannot name, using tools we've never heard of and could not operate if we had.

As communications and data technology continues to change and develop at a pace many times that of society, the inevitable conflicts have begun to occur on the border between Cyberspace and the physical world.

These are taking a wide variety of forms, including (but hardly limited to) the following:

I. Legal and Constitutional Questions

What is free speech and what is merely data? What is a free press without paper and ink? What is a "place" in a world without tangible dimensions? How does one protect property which has no physical form and can be infinitely and easily reproduced? Can the history of one's personal business affairs properly belong to someone else? Can anyone morally claim to own knowledge itself?

These are just a few of the questions for which neither law nor custom can provide concrete answers. In their absence, law enforcement agencies like the Secret Service and FBI, acting at the disposal of large information corporations, are seeking to create legal precedents which would radically limit Constitutional application to digital media.

The excesses of Operation Sun Devil are only the beginning of what threatens to become a long, difficult, and philosophically obscure struggle between institutional control and individual liberty.

II. Future Shock

Information workers, forced to keep pace with rapidly changing technology, are stuck on "the learning curve of Sisyphus." Increasingly, they find their hard-acquired skills to be obsolete even before they've been fully mastered. To a lesser extent, the same applies to ordinary citizens who correctly feel a lack of control over their own lives and identities.

One result of this is a neo-Luddite resentment of digital technology from which little good can come. Another is a decrease in worker productivity ironically coupled to tools designed to enhance it. Finally, there is a spreading sense of alienation, dislocation, and helplessness in the general presence of which no society can expect to remain healthy.

III. The "Knows" and the "Know-Nots"

Modern economies are increasingly divided between those who are comfortable and proficient with digital technology and those who neither understand nor trust it. In essence, this development disenfranchises the latter group, denying them any possibility of citizenship in Cyberspace and, thus, participation in the future.

Furthermore, as policy-makers and elected officials remain relatively ignorant of computers and their uses, they unknowingly abdicate most of their authority to corporate technocrats whose jobs do not include general social responsibility. Elected government is thus replaced by institutions with little real interest beyond their own quarterly profits.

We are founding the Electronic Frontier Foundation to deal with these and related challenges. While our agenda is ambitious to the point of audacity, we don't see much that these issues are being given the broad social attention they deserve. We were forced to ask, "If not us, then who?"

In fact, our original objectives were more modest. When we first heard about Operation Sun Devil and other official adventures into the digital realm, we thought that remedy could be derived by simply unleashing a few highly competent Constitutional lawyers upon the Government. In essence, we were prepared to fight a few civil libertarian brush fires and go on about our private work.

However, examination of the issues surrounding these government actions revealed that we were dealing with the symptoms of a much larger malady, the collision between Society and Cyberspace.

We have concluded that a cure can lie only in bringing civilization to Cyberspace. Unless a successful effort is made to render that harsh and mysterious terrain suitable for ordinary inhabitants, friction between the two worlds will worsen. Constitutional protections, indeed the perceived legitimacy of representative government itself, might gradually disappear.

We could not allow this to happen unchallenged, and so arises the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In addition to our legal interventions on behalf of those whose rights are threatened, we will:

One of us, Mitch Kapor, had already been a vocal advocate of more accessible software design and had given considerable thought to some of the challenges we now intend to meet.

The other, John Perry Barlow, is a relative newcomer to the world of computing (though not to the world of politics) and is therefore well-equipped to act as an emissary between the magicians of technology and the wary populace who must incorporate this magic into their daily lives.

While we expect the Electronic Frontier Foundation to be a creation of some longevity, we hope to avoid the sclerosis which organizations usually develop in their efforts to exist over time. For this reason we will endeavor to remain light and flexible, marshalling intellectual and financial resources to meet specific purposes rather than finding purposes to match our resources. As is appropriate, we will communicate between ourselves and with our constituents largely over the electronic Net, trusting self-distribution and self-organization to a much greater extent than would be possible for a more traditional organization.

We readily admit that we have our work cut out for us. However, we are greatly encouraged by the overwhelming and positive response which we have received so far. We hope the Electronic Frontier Foundation can function as a focal point for the many people of good will who wish to settle in a future as abundant and free as the present.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
One Cambridge Center, Suite 300
Cambridge, MA 02142

(617) 577-1385