The Federal District Court for the Central District of California today released a ruling declaring unconstitutional a provision of the USA PATRIOT Act that made it a crime to advise or assist an organization designated as 'terrorist' by the U.S. government, even when that support is solely intended to promote lawful, non-violent activities. The Court decided that the provision, Section 805 of the USA PATRIOT Act, is unconstitutionally vague and violates the First and Fifth Amendments.
"Under PATRIOT, it would've been illegal to provide humanitarian or political advocacy training to the anti-apartheid African National Congress, which was a designated 'terrorist' organization before apartheid was defeated," said Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow. "This decision ensures that Americans can exercise their First Amendment right to engage in non-violent political activism without being branded as terrorists-by-association."
In a surprising retreat today, the consortium of entertainment and technology companies known as DVD CCA has attempted to summarily dismiss a lawsuit against Andrew Bunner, a republisher of a computer program that was created to allow movie lovers to play their DVDs on computers that run the Linux operating system. The program is called DeCSS. DVDCCA effectively gave up a multi-year effort to have the republication of the program declared a violation of trade secret laws.
"DeCSS has been available on hundreds if not thousands of websites for 4 years, now" said Cindy Cohn, EFF's Legal Director. "We're pleased that the DVD CCA has finally stopped attempting to deny the obvious: DeCSS is not a secret."
The case reached the California Supreme Court last year and was the subject of ruling that held that computer programs could be preliminarily restrained from publication only in very narrow circumstances. Mr. Bunner was one of hundreds of people sued, including some T-shirt manufacturers.
EFF's Case Archive: DVD-CCA v. Bunner
"While it's an improvement that the record indsutry now has to play by the same rules as everyone else who goes into court, they are still heading in the wrong direction" noted Cindy Cohn, EFF's Legal Director. "There is a better way. The recording industry should be giving America's millions of filesharers the same deal that radio stations have had for decades: pay a fair fee, play whatever you want on whatever software works best for you."
Continuing its crusade against its own customers, the record industry today announced that it would begin filing "John Doe" lawsuits against more than 500 individuals accused of illegal filesharing. This should mean an increase in the privacy protections for individuals, since we expect that the judges overseeing these Doe suits will apply procedural protections similar to those developed in other Doe suits. The targets should get notice of the demand for their identities and an opportunity to be heard in challenging the demand. At the same time record labels will have to prove that they did a "reasonable investigation" before filing suit. The labels can no longer use a subpoena rubber-stamped by a court clerk, which is what the D.C. Circuit outlawed in late December.
The Norwegian authorities have decided not to appeal the aquittal of Jon Johansen to the Norwegian Supreme Court. Johansen was prosecuted for his role in the creation of DeCSS software that decrypts DVDs so that they can be played on computers running the Linux operating system. "The prosecution of Johansen for 'breaking into' DVDs that he already owned was wrong from the beginning," noted EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "We hope this decision will serve as a model for protecting consumer rights elsewhere."
The Pew Internet and American Life Project today issued a report suggesting that use of peer-to-peer networks for downloading music has fallen in the wake of the recording industry's lawsuit campaign.
"While the RIAA's crusade may have discouraged some downloaders, today's Pew study shows that 1 in every 7 American Internet users continues to use software like Kazaa," noted EFF senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann. "Every day that the record labels continue to subpoena and sue, they are losing customers and alienating music fans of all ages. It's hard to see a future in that plan."
"The music industry should give us a chance to pay a reasonable fee and make file sharing legal," said EFF staff attorney Jason Schultz. "After all, that's the same deal that radio stations have had for decades -- pay a blanket fee and play whatever you like on whatever equipment you like."