Senate Republicans Vote To Gut Internet Privacy
Hamza Shaban, writing for BuzzFeed:
The Senate voted Thursday to make it easier for internet service providers to share sensitive information about their customers, a first step in overturning landmark privacy rules that consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers view as crucial protections in the digital age. The vote was passed along party lines, 50-48, with all but two Republicans voting in favor of the repeal and every Democrat voting against it. Two Republican Senators did not vote.
Disgusting. This is what buying policy looks like, folks. Kate Tummarello of the Electronic Frontier Foundation also did a write-up, and included a particularly scary piece of information:
Republicans in the Senate just voted 50-48 (with two absent votes) to approve a Congressional Review Action resolution from Sen. Jeff Flake which—if it makes it through the House—would not only roll back the FCC’s rules but also prevent the FCC from writing similar rules in the future.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it very much is, especially in an age where ISPs and the data brokers to whom they sell your information are frequently hacked.
More shameful behavior from Senate Republicans whose retirement can’t possibly come soon enough.
Democracy.io – Contact your Members of Congress
Great stuff from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Failure to effectively reach members of Congress has disastrous consequences. Studies show that politicians fundamentally misconceive their constituents’ views, making it harder for them to represent us in the lawmaking process.
That’s why we built Democracy.io: a new tool to put you in touch with your members of Congress—with as few clicks as possible.
How the DMCA criminalized DIY farm equipment repair
Kyle Wiens, writing at Wired:
Manufacturers have every legal right to put a password or an encryption over the tECU. Owners, on the other hand, don’t have the legal right to break the digital lock over their own equipment. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act—a 1998 copyright law designed to prevent digital piracy—classifies breaking a technological protection measure over a device’s programming as a breach of copyright. So, it’s entirely possible that changing the engine timing on his own tractor makes a farmer a criminal.
It’s not just “entirely possible,” if he’s circumventing “a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under” copyright law1, he’s committing a crime.
And those folks trading information or even hardware meant to help one another get around the manufacturers’ security measures, they’re criminals, too. The law says:
No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that [enables or encourages its use in circumvention].2
The DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions were poorly drafted, are overbroad, and reflect a lack of understanding by Congress of the specific problems caused by digital copyright infringement and more appropriate solutions. If you’re interested in learning more about the problems caused by the DMCA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has done some great work toward reforming, if not the DMCA itself (yet), its interpretation and implementation.
EFF Wins Battle Over Secret Legal Opinions on Government Spying
The EFF said in a press release yesterday:
The U.S. Department of Justice today filed a motion to dismiss its appeal of a ruling over legal opinions about Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the controversial provision of law relied on by the NSA to collect the call records of millions of Americans. As a result of the dismissal, the Justice Department will be forced to release a previously undisclosed opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) concerning access by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to census data under Section 215.
That’s good news. Census has historically been analyzed only in the aggregate, with individual records held by the United States Census Bureau for 72 years before public release. I’m interested in reading the OLC opinion when it’s finally released.
Houston, We Have A Public Domain Problem
Parker Higgins of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, lamenting the recent removal of a public domain NASA clip he posted on the audio sharing site SoundCloud:
The real goofy bit is that before I started at EFF, I worked at SoundCloud. I actually uploaded this Apollo 13 clip, along with sounds from Apollo 11 and others, as part of a project to attract more historic and archival audio and really celebrate the public domain as a rich source of sounds.
Copyright law has been trending in favor of rights holders for a long time. That’s precisely why unlawful claims of copyright over public domain works are so despicable.
EFF’s Legal Guide for Bloggers
This is useful. If you have delayed starting your own blog because you’re nervous about the legal issues, give this a read and reconsider.
Legislative failure to define essential terms
The definition of terms essential to the application of a law is the most basic requirement for competent lawmaking.
Sometimes one or more terms are appropriately defined in an open way, to provide flexibility in the application of a law. This is not one of one laws. The shield law is meant to protect reporters, so defining what exactly a reporter is should be done wi surgical precision.
I am open to arguing how broad or narrow the definition of journalist should be in a shield law, but that conversation but result in a specific outcome that is codified in the new law.
It is impossible to have that discussion and achieve that specific codification when legislators shirk their fundamental responsibility.
As Morgan Weiland of the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains in the article linked above, Senators Feinstein and Durbin, and all the legislators who contributed to the poorly-drafted law, have failed in their duty to their constituents and the rest of our country. Hopefully a competent legislator will step in to correct their shortcomings as the law progresses.
EFF will represent targets of copyright troll Prenda Law
Copyright trolls sue lots of people to extract settlements from those who can’t afford to litigate in the face of potentially massive statutory damages. Their claims are often facially lacking in merit and instead leverage intimidation and poorly-constructed federal copyright damages provisions to bankrupt people for profit.
I’m impressed by WordPress’ parent company, Automattic, who refused to respond to the troll’s fishing expedition. And it’s good to see EFF lend a hand here in the form of representation, but eventually Congress needs to step in and fix the statutory damages provisions that incentivize copyright trolls to this vile abuse of our legal system in the first place.
For some great background and reporting on trolls and those who fight them, read this Ars Technica piece by Timothy B. Lee.
EFF’s pre-emptive prior art defense of 3D printing
It’s a great idea, and I hope it yields some useful results.