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Today, we’re happy to announce that we will be accepting Bitcoin donations through our website. You can use them to make one-time donations, set up monthly donations or get an EFF membership (which includes awesome membership swag like EFF hats and digital freedom t-shirts).
While we are accepting Bitcoin donations, EFF is not endorsing Bitcoin. EFF does not typically endorse products or services, and we certainly do not endorse any of the electronic payment methods that we currently accept (credit cards, PayPal, and now BitPay).
With respect to Bitcoin as a technology, there is clearly a lot more to be said. Currently it seems that Bitcoin, while innovative, has a number of limitations and weaknesses in its design, and might yet turn out to be just the first draft for future crypto-currencies.1 However, as an organization that supports cryptographic experimentation, we believe the best answer to Bitcoin's potential shortcomings is for others to come along and offer superior alternatives.
Along the way, we want to give our supporters as much flexibility as possible in making donations to EFF. You can click to make a donation to EFF by credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, and, in the future, hopefully many other payment systems as well.
How We Got Here
Two years ago, EFF decided to stop taking Bitcoins for a number of reasons and returned the coins to the community via the Bitcoin faucet and promised to investigate further. Since then, we’ve been watching the public debate around Bitcoins, seeing the ecosystem develop around them, and conducting our own research on the possible legal issues.
Here were some of the factors we considered when making this decision:
Censorship by payment intermediaries is an ongoing problem for free speech online – so it makes sense to start diversifying the available options. EFF has long tried to identify and fortify the weakest links for speech online, and payment processors remain a significant problem. We’ve seen payment processors with policies that ban speech that would be strongly protected under the First Amendment, that arbitrarily enforce those policies, and that offer no process at all for reinstating closed accounts, much less the sort of due process that the government would have to engage in to shut down speech. We’ve seen payment providers cave to pressure from government officials to shut down accounts. We’ve seen payment intermediaries shut off accounts to censor First Amendment-protected online content. And we’ve seen legislators propose misguided censorship legislation that would have put payment providers in the position of actively shutting down the accounts of individuals accused of copyright infringement. Because of this, we’re generally interested in ways of diversifying the market around payment options, so that a handful of big market players won’t be able to exercise such a stranglehold over online speech.
You can now give Bitcoins to EFF in the same way that you can give stock. EFF has long had a policy that converts gifts of stock and items like cars into cash immediately on receipt. We try to convert your donations into action as soon as possible. Another factor in our decision to take Bitcoins is availability of services like BitPay, which accepts donations for EFF and automatically converts those into dollars which we receive and can immediately put to use. It is akin to the way Stripe processes credit card donations on eff.org, but also akin to the way you can donate a car to EFF.
This relieves EFF of the burden of managing the Bitcoin account. It also ensures that we’re never hanging on to a large quantity of Bitcoins, which was a problem two years ago—we had enough sitting in the account that we likely could have affected the market had we dumped it all at once. The BitPay service also means that our policy and processing are consistent across different types of donations. Most importantly, it allows us to focus on what we do—protect rights online—and ensures that we don’t have a financial stake in the outcome of a digital rights issue, such as whether a particular company does well or the value of Bitcoins grows or takes a dip.
Our research and FinCEN’s guidance removed a key risk to EFF. Both our internal research and the recent report by FinCEN2 have confirmed that, as a user of Bitcoin or any virtual currency, EFF itself is likely not subject to regulation. While some have raised concerns about the FinCEN ruling, and noted that it’s not binding, it did confirm our own analysis of risk to us as a user and reduced our concerns that by accepting Bitcoins EFF risked moving away from its role as a defender of innovators and into the role as a possible defendant.
Our members keep politely asking for it. Ultimately, EFF needs to make independent decisions to do what is technically and legally best for supporting liberty online. Sometimes that means taking on positions or defending views that are unpopular—including those that are unpopular with our members. But we're pleased to be able to provide our members with something they have asked for—repeatedly and passionately—when it’s possible for us.
We already accept lots of unusual forms of donations. Right now, you can donate a car to EFF (PDF), or airline miles, or proceeds from your book, or even stock from your company. We’re happy today to add one more way for digital rights enthusiasts to support our work.
EFF at Bitcoin 2013 Also, if you're planning on attending the Bitcoin 2013 conference in San Jose this weekened, please say hello. We (Rainey and Seth) will both be at the conference, and Rainey will be speaking about financial censorship on a panel on Saturday. Check the schedule on the website for details.
To steal a line from Rep. Virginia Foxx, the gentlewoman from North Carolina: This is our shocked face.
Far be it for us to complain about Congress making noise about press freedom and improper surveillance, but c'mon—it's about darned time someone other than Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Zoe Lofgren stood up for civil liberties. It's just too bad that something like the Department of Justice's subpoenas for Associated Press phone records has to happen first before our elected leaders take notice.
But, better late than never. Shock is reverberating through the halls of Congress, particularly in yesterday's Justice Department oversight hearing in the House Judicary Committee, where Attorney General Eric Holder denied knowledge of (and culpabality in) the AP leak investigation. Some of the outcry is policital, for sure, with Republicans jumping on the opportunity to pair AP subpoena revelations with news of the IRS targeting conservative groups and new information related to the Benghazi attack. We'll stow our cynicism for now and embrace the outrage where we find it, especially if it results in the passage of the newly introduced Telephone Records Protection Act.
So how much outrage is there? We used the Sunlight Foundation's handy tool, Scout, to search Congressional speeches to measure the snowballing fury at the DOJ among members of Congress. Here are some of the highlights.Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) in a floor speech titled "State Secrets vs. Freedom of the Press":
Mr. Speaker, when I went to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the Communist leaders told me that they believed in and had a free press and they also had free speech. However, I also learned that Soviet law prohibited these freedoms when they jeopardized state secrets--or national security, as we call it in America. The state-secret provision was so broad the Soviet press and speech were gagged and shackled. They certainly were not free.
Now we learn that our Department of Justice improperly seized without notice phone records of over 100 Associated Press journalists--all in the name of national security concerns.
To me, this is a clear violation of the spirit and letter of the First Amendment. These actions border on the Soviet method of legalizing these freedoms but never allowing them. So it's time to revisit U.S. law and require in all cases judicial review where these types of records are seized.
We cannot allow our government to arbitrarily abolish the First Amendment in the name of ``state secrets.''
And that's just the way it is.Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL):
Then the revelation on Monday that the Justice Department of the United States--think about that, the chief law enforcement agency of the country--had issued this blanket search of the phone records of I think the Nation's largest reporting group, the Associated Press. I understand if they were going after a leak that endangered America and security; that is one thing. We can have a debate about that. But they went much further than that. It was a blanket request of all of these phone calls, including the switchboard. Pretty outrageous.
...For example, you think about some of our most precious freedoms--the First Amendment right to free speech. Think about if you are a reporter at the Associated Press. Think about if you are a source--unrelated to national security--to the Associated Press. Think about if you are a whistleblower, someone who is blowing the whistle on government activity because you work in the government and you think what the government is doing is wrong. Think about that for a second.
Now, all of a sudden, what are you afraid of? I am not calling that reporter back because their phone might be tapped, my number might show up on their records, because the Justice Department has just shown they are willing to do that. Think about the chilling effect that sends up and down the government.
If there is wrongdoing somewhere in the government right now, people are probably afraid to blow the whistle because they are afraid they are being surveilled by the Justice Department or that the person they are talking to is being surveilled. That is how outrageous this is.Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC):
The administration's apologists are in a panic. They claim the President is not responsible for any of this wrongdoing. The President, who made a career touting government as the solution to most every problem, now solicits our understanding. It seems the leviathan is rather unwieldy and difficult to manage.
This is my shocked face.Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE):
[W]e are learning that the Department of Justice seized phone records of Associated Press reporters, including records of their personal phone lines. Now, the ability to wiretap and probe needs to be in place in narrow circumstances, but the wide-ranging nature of what happened raises a number of questions, questions that beg us to ask: How do we protect the freedom of the press?Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) in a floor speech titled "Freedom of the Press":
Mr. Speaker, it is the fashion amongst many of us to blame the press for our troubles, and that's, of course, because the press reports our troubles. At their best, the media keeps us honest, it keeps us in our constitutional lanes, and it reports our failures. It is essential for democracy. There is a reason why freedom of the press is not the Second or Fourth or 10th Amendment. It's the First Amendment.So, Mr. Speaker, I am profoundly concerned over the Department of Justice's overbroad and chilling behavior with respect to the Associated Press. Seeking records for 20 phone lines, giving the AP no notice, refusing at this point to discuss their behavior feels to me like overreach.Mr. Speaker, it's time for the Department of Justice to stand back. You can imagine that there is somebody out there today who has a failure to report who is chilled and says, I will not do that because of the approach that the Department of Justice has taken.Mr. Speaker, I am proud to serve in the very core of democracy, but this Chamber rests on foundations, and a key part of that foundation is a free and competent press.Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA):
Well, we once had a political party known as the Know-Nothings. We now have a President who wants us to believe that he knows nothing...He wants us to believe that he knows nothing about the Department of Justice subpoenaing 2 months of the Associated Press' phone records.
What has happened to the days in America when Democratic President Harry Truman proudly placed a placard on his desk that said: "The buck stops here''? Perhaps, sadly, we have returned to the days where the question to the President of the United States ought to be: What did you know and when did you know it?Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE):
Just yesterday we learned of another breach of public trust and another potential violation of our First Amendment freedom--the freedom of the press. Press reports indicate the Department of Justice secretly obtained extensive telephone records of reporters and editors for the Associated Press in what the head of the news organization called a ``massive and unprecedented intrusion'' into how news organizations gather the news. According to the Associated Press's legal counsel, the records obtained included those from reporters working out of the House of Representatives press gallery.
While it is unclear at this point how many reporters were targeted and why, the effect of this data gathering is clear: intimidation of the press and suppression of free speech.
This is unacceptable. A free and unfettered press is vital to any democracy. Moreover, the scope of this information gathering is simply beyond the pale--and likely beyond precedent.
Update: Rep. Hank Johnson asked us to include some of the remarks he prepared for the judiciary hearing.Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA):
I strongly believe that Congress must protect the free flow of information and ideas under the First Amendment. This is why I voted for the Free Flow of information Act, a federal shield law that would have required judicial oversight over media subpoenas. This vital legislation, which was blocked by Republicans in the Senate and opposed by some of the same Members of the Committee who are shocked by the AP investigation, would likely have avoided much of the alarm caused by this investigation.
Protecting the freedom of the press also requires that we strike a careful balance in preventing national security leaks where there is a very real threat to American lives. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I am acutely aware of the threats that face our Nation and the need for confidentiality when confronting these threats.
The public outcry in response to the AP investigation also illustrates the public’s alarm with the lack of privacy protections for our everyday communications. Every day, the phone records of countless Americans are subject to criminal investigations without a warrant based on probable cause. Investigators need only a subpoena to obtain the numbers you call and receive, as well as emails and text messages that are more than 180 days old. Warrantless surveillance brings us ever-closer to the surveillance state described by George Orwell where “every sound you made was overheard,—and, except in darkness, every moment scrutinized.”
This issue demonstrates the urgent necessity to modernize laws that have been outpaced by technology and the ease of collecting massive amounts information about Americans. We need to modernize the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 by requiring a warrant for surveillance involving communications, phone records, and movements. We need to update the Espionage Act of 1917 to limit prosecutions to cases involving real harms to our national security.Related Issues: Free Speech
Today EFF joins organizations from the around the world representing a diversity of interests in launching a new coalition to ask for A Fair Deal on intellectual property (IP) in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The coalition has launched a website at www.OurFairDeal.org calling for TPP negotiators to “reject copyright proposals that restrict the open Internet, access to knowledge, economic opportunity and our fundamental rights.” The TPP meetings are taking place in Lima, Peru this week until May 25th, and EFF has been on the ground working with groups to fight those provisions and demand a seat at the table at these secretive negotiations.
The TPP is a trade agreement being negotiated by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. The changes to copyright required by the TPP would reduce access to information and restrict the ability to innovate, both on and offline.
Susan Chalmers from InternetNZ announced the coalition yesterday:
“A fair deal on copyright in the TPP takes into account the interests of internet users, libraries and archives, those with disabilities, educators and business innovators as well as creators. We’re all part of the Internet economy. The Fair Deal coalition is promoting fair copyright standards for the TPP that reflect the needs of the broadest cross-section of society.”
Negotiators are hoping the meetings will “accelerate” the closed-door process. New reports indicate copyright provisions are a “challenging” issue for those behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Between them, members of the Fair Deal coalition represent the interests of Internet users, schools, universities, artists, libraries and archives, the visually impaired, consumers, information technology firms, Internet businesses, and those who believe in the power of open source software and the open Internet as a driving force for innovation, development and socially responsible economic growth. Coalition members include industry groups, digital rights advocates, academics and human rights organizations.
The coalition hopes that TPP negotiators will consider adopting a new approach that:
Steve Anderson, Executive Director of OpenMedia.org says:
“Unrestricted access to the open internet is fundamental to participation in 21st century society. Trade agreements must not require termination of Internet access for infringement of copyright or encourage ISPs to police Internet use.”
Executive Officer for the Australian Digital Alliance, Ellen Broad, noted the need to make sure any copyright standards agreed to in the TPP could keep pace with digital change:
“Countries around the world are currently looking at their own copyright regimes and asking, ‘are these working in the digital age?’ And the answer has been no. The internet has changed so much about the way we create, disseminate and access content: it’s essential the TPP not lock in 20th century copyright standards, but focus on a healthy internet future - for both creators and consumers, distributors and innovators.”
“Copyright laws across all of the TPP countries are already strong enough” says Jeremy Malcolm, Senior Policy Officer of Consumers International. “Indeed in many of those countries, inflexible copyright rules have been identified as a straightjacket on creativity and innovation. Plans to extend copyright even further through the TPP are exactly the opposite approach to what consumers need.”
Claudio Ruiz, executive director of Chilean ONG Derechos Digitales, states “TPP is very bad news for the rights of citizen and consumers. Increased protection standards regarding copyright cause serious detriment to the access to knowledge and culture. A 'Fair Deal' should look better access for the public and not more onerous conditions to use new technologies around access to knowledge.”About the Fair Deal Coalition
Starting at first in New Zealand and then connecting with organizations and people internationally, a group of individuals from the fields of Internet policy, art, information technology and law got together to discuss a TPP campaign with a copyright focus. What resulted was the idea of a fair deal, one that opens up trade opportunities for TPP member states but doesn’t force copyright and other IP-related changes on us that could damage our future.
Founding members of the Fair Deal coalition include:
Affinity Bridge, Australian Digital Alliance, Australian Library & Information Association, Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Internet NZ, BCFIPA, The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), Consumers International, Council of Canadians, Creative Freedom, Demand Progress, Derechos Digitales, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), Fight for the Future, Gen Why Media, Hiperderecho, Library & Information Society of New Zealand, NZRise, NZOSS, OpenMedia.org, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, Scoop, Tech Liberty NZ, TechDirt, Tuanz, TradeMe.
Related Issues: Intellectual PropertyInternationalTrans Pacific Partnership Agreement
Just days after news broke that the Justice Department had secretly obtained AP journalists’ phone records as part of its ongoing crackdown on leaks, the New Yorker released a new tool — Strongbox — to enable people to safely and securely leak electronic files.
Reefwalk 2013: a group of committed people will walk from Cairns to Gladstone to highlight threats to the reef. Sat June 1: Launch at 8am, Cairns Lagoon, breakfast; 6pm Info Night, Edmonton Community Hall, bring a plate. For info contact Nicole: email@example.com, or 4031 5760.Event date: Sat, 01/06/2013 - 8:00am
YES to real whole local food & “NO to GMO”! Launching GMO free FNQ campaign. Wear red or come as bees or butterflies. Sat May 25, 1pm, Speakers Corner, City Place. March to Esplanade for GMO free picnic. For more information, visit www.sustainfnq.org.Event date: Sat, 25/05/2013 - 1:00pm
A joint Socialist Alliance-Socialist Alternative public forum.
Can the left unite? If so, on what basis? Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance are currently involved in discussion of these questions to explore the possibility of greater unity. In this public forum representatives from the two groups will outline their approach to the question of left unity, followed by a discussion.
Citiplace Community Centre (above Perth train station).
Sam 0412 751 508, Lian 0402 305 521.
Socialist Alliance meets every Wednesday at the Perth Activist Centre. This week's meeting will discuss the complex issues confronting the Syrian people today. How do leftists in Australia support democracy movements and oppose imperialism when Western imperialism is trying to hijack the Arab Spring for its own ends?
Perth Activist Centre, 15/5 Aberdeen St, Perth.
Organised by Socialist Alliance. Ph 9218 9608, 0413 976 638.Event date: Wed, 22/05/2013 - 6:00pm Event time: Wed, 22/05/2013 - 6:00pm Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 08 9218 9608, 0413 976 638
Part of a global day of action called by Occupy Monsanto, this rally will protest GMO's and GMO giant Monsanto. Take a stand for food sovereignty, farmers' and consumers' rights, environmental protection, healthy food and strict labelling, against damaging herbicides, genetically modified crops, Monsanto and the lack of action by federal and state governments.
Gather Parliament House, Harvest Tce, West Perth. March through Perth CBD to Russell Square, Northbridge.
Organised by FOOD Watch and We Say No To GMOs.Event date: Sat, 25/05/2013 - 2:00pm Event time: Sat, 25/05/2013 - 2:00pm Website: March Against Monsanto, Perth AUS
In its last term, the Barnett government introduced legislation that would curtail the rights of people with mental illness. This forum will discuss these proposals and the conditions facing people with mental illness and the services meant to support them, in WA. Speakers Sandra Boulter (Mental Health Law Centre (WA)), Sinead (Perth Inner City Youth Service), Nicole Stiles (Socialist Alliance, mental health service consumer), Sanna Andrew (Socialist Alliance, community mental health worker).
Activist Centre, 15/5 Aberdeen St, Perth (next to McIver train station).Event date: Wed, 12/06/2013 - 6:00pm Event time: Sat, 12/01/2013 - 6:00pm Email: email@example.com Phone: 08 9218 9608
An expanded edition of EFFector, EFF's almost-weekly newsletter.
I’m Danny O’Brien, EFF’s new International Director. Five years ago, I worked on the EFF team that identified the threat of ACTA, a secret global intellectual property treaty we discovered was being used to smuggle Internet control provisions into the laws of over thirty countries. Together with an amazing worldwide coalition of activists from Europe to South Korea, we beat back that threat.
I’m writing to you today to explain what's happening with the new ACTA: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). TPP has been around since the Bush administration, but recently the pace has picked up, with governments saying they want to get the agreement signed and done by the end of this year.
Global activism can stop TPP, but preventing the endless merry-go-round of new IP treaties means tackling the problem at its roots. I'd like to describe what we're doing on both those fronts, and how you can help. But first, I'd like you to meet this gentleman:Meet Michael Froman: The Most Important Man in Global Copyright
This is Michael Froman, and barring a scandal, he's about to be the new United States Trade Representative (USTR). The U.S. Trade Representative negotiates international trade agreements on behalf of the United States. Congress has one opportunity to ask him questions at his nomination hearing.
They should take full advantage of it. Right now, the only reason the public knows anything about what the USTR is doing on IP is that whistleblowers participating in the treaty process have leaked what they can. (Congressman Darrell Issa re-published the leaks on his own office site, over the USTR's objections).
Those documents show that the American proposals for the Trans-Pacific Partnership would export the worst of modern U.S. copyright law, and thwart other countries' ability to create laws that best meet their domestic needs:
Treaties like this also help to fossilize existing U.S. law and force other countries to sign up for American missteps. Momentum in D.C. for rolling back copyright terms and DRM law is growing, but opponents of those changes have argued that lawmakers can't undo their own mistakes—because, they say, we've already signed onto IP trade agreements that we supposedly can't undo.What We're Doing
We're asking U.S. senators to use the nomination process to grill Froman about the USTR’s IP plans, and we’re petitioning him directly to adopt meaningful transparency and stop using trade agreements to push aggressive IP programs worldwide.
Could Froman really reform U.S. trade agreement strategies? Yes, but only if he and the Administration face coordinated pressure from American politicians and citizens plus resistance from other countries pushing back against American demands.
Which brings us to why EFF's Maira Sutton and Katitza Rodriguez are remotely working right now—from Lima, the capital of Peru.Yara TPP!
Starting today, the U.S. Trade Rep and negotiators from 10 other countries are meeting in Lima to take part in the latest round of negotiations for TPP.
We beat them there. Kat is our International Rights Director. She's also Peruvian. She's spent the last month in Lima working with fellow Peruvian technologists, makers and artists, highlighting how TPP will affect them. She has been working with the other groups fighting TPP on the ground, including Hiperderecho, Peru's own digital rights activism group.
The result? An explosion in information and public debate in Peru about TPP. Kat has written Spanish language editorials, met with Peruvian politicians, journalists, students, free software advocates and filmmakers. Lima's hackerspace, Escuelab, hosted a two-day hackathon that produced memes and microsites that explain TPP to fellow Peruvians and the world. There's even the inevitable Peruvian TPP Downfall video. Other hackerspaces took part around the world, producing sites with titles like http://whytheheckshouldicareaboutthetpp.com/.
The slogan and hashtag of Peruvians' digital rights activists is "#yaratpp", a slang term which means (roughly) "Warning! TPP!". Peruvians have joined the fight at Nonegociable.pe, asking their President to set clear non-negotiable lines to ensure that Peruvians' fundamental freedoms are respected in the TPP negotiations.Help Us Stop the TPP – and the IP Treaty Tarpit
The TPP negotiators are on deadline in Lima. They've already said TPP's IP chapter is one of the "more challenging issues that remain." It's more challenging still when the host country is demanding to know why this trade agreement would undermine local entrepreneurs and artists. Meanwhile, politicians back in the U.S. are demanding a closer look at their head negotiator's IP stance.
Like battling ACTA, stopping the TPP and its descendants is going to be a long-term fight that will take a worldwide effort. But you can help us today by taking advantage of the Froman nomination to speak truth to power.
Sign our petition demanding that Froman usher in a new age of transparency as the next US Trade Representative:
If you’re in the U.S., please also send a message to your representative to demand an end to these secret backdoor negotiations:
And if you're in Peru, join Hiperderecho and tell the Peruvian president that our rights over the Internet are non-negotiable:
Stay tuned to the Deeplinks blog for more updates on the fight for sensible global copyright policy.Related Issues: InternationalTrans Pacific Partnership Agreement
Last week’s big decision in CLS Bank v. Alice saw a divided Federal Circuit tackle the patentability of software. Five judges voted to strike down patent claims to a “computer system” programmed to implement a financial transaction. But five judges would have upheld the claims. With the case seemingly headed to the Supreme Court, what’s at stake?
The key question in CLS Bank was whether an abstract idea (such as using an escrow agent as part of a financial transaction) can be patented if, instead of claiming the idea itself, the applicant claims a computer system that implements the idea. (Of course, the law precludes patent protection for laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas.) In a thoughtful opinion by Judge Lourie, five members of the Federal Circuit held that merely “appending generic computer functionality” to an otherwise abstract concept is not enough to make it non-abstract, or somehow patentable.
The other members of the court reacted to this suggestion with alarm. Warning of a “free fall of the patent system,” Judge Moore wrote:
Let’s be clear: if all of these claims, including the system claims, are not patent-eligible, this case is the death of hundreds of thousands of patents, including all business method, financial system, and software patents as well as many computer implemented and telecommunications patents.
Perhaps more significantly, Judge Moore claimed that this “would decimate the electronics and software industries.” These are dramatic claims. But will the sky fall if we get rid of abstract software patents?
It is important to realize that software patents and the software industry are not the same thing. As Judge Moore’s own scholarship shows, patent issuance is “a poor measure of innovation value.” And there are straightforward economic reasons why patents and software are a bad fit. Far from being an incentive, software patents tend to operate as a barrier to entry and a tax on innovation. As Bill Gates wrote back in 1991: “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”
Recent events in New Zealand confirm that the software industry does not need patents. With the strong backing of its IT community, the NZ government is clarifying its law to ensure that software is not patentable. It will add the following language to its patent act:
(1) A computer program is not an invention and not a manner of manufacture for the purposes of this Act.(2) Subsection (1) prevents anything from being an invention or a manner of manufacture for the purposes of this Act only to the extent that a claim in a patent or an application relates to a computer program as such.(3) A claim in a patent or an application relates to a computer program as such if the actual contribution made by the alleged invention lies solely in it being a computer program.
The head of NZ’s largest software company welcomed the move, explaining that “software patents are counter-productive, often used obstructively and get in the way of innovation."
Almost 20 years ago, in a case called In Re Alappat, the Federal Circuit held that an algorithm implemented in a general-purpose computer is patentable. That case opened the floodgates to software patents, which, in turn, have led to the rise of the patent troll. Software patents by their nature are vague and often broad, giving trolls a powerful tool to use to threaten lawsuits and demand licensing fees. More often than not, these trolls neither make nor sell anything, but are quite successful at shaking down creators and creating a chilling effect on innovation. There’s great momentum lately to fix the troll problem, but, to be sure, the root of that problem is software patents themselves.
Ultimately, we hope the United States Supreme Court will decide that Section 101 of the Patent Act does not allow for abstract ideas to become patentable simply by implementing these ideas in a general purpose computer or on the Internet. There is no reason to fear that such a ruling would decimate the software industry. To the contrary, it would more likely remove a barrier to innovation.Related Issues: Patents
Today, trade negotiators from 11 countries meet again to secretively draft the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). The TPP is a sprawling multinational trade agreement that includes expansive and unfair copyright provisions. If signed, the TPP will entrench these digital enforcement measures as a global standard, leading to harsh regulations that would be disastrous for Internet users worldwide.
EFF is on the ground in Lima, Peru for the 17th round of negotiations. As with all the previous TPP talks, the public is completely excluded from the process. We're here to educate and call attention to this secretive agreement until they make these negotiations transparent and democratic. As long as they continue to shut out digital rights groups, it will be impossible for them design pragmatic innovation policy that addresses our users' concerns.
As during the ACTA negotiations, Hollywood and other Big Content industries have a stronghold over international policymakers. As a result, U.S. trade delegates are pushing forth provisions that, if enforced, would have huge chilling effects on everyone including innovators, hackers, makers, students, researchers, and people with reading and learning disabilities. These provisions are designed to limit how anyone can share and interact with digital content so they will impact everyone.Privacy info. This embed will serve content from youtube-nocookie.com
Wherever you are, sign this letter to demand that USTR nominee Michael Froman usher in a new age of transparency as the next US Trade Representative.
If you’re in the U.S., take our action to send a message to your representative to demand an end to these secret backroom negotiations.
If you're in Peru, join Hiperderecho and tell the Peruvian president that our rights on the Internet are non-negotiable.Spread the Word
This week, we launched a new tool to help you spread the word. It’s called “Why the Heck Should I Care About the TPP?” and it lays out some of the worst consequences that would result if this agreement were to pass.
var mytubes = new Array(4); mytubes = '%3Ciframe src=%22https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/EoegFtuOG70?autoplay=1%22 allowfullscreen=%22%22 frameborder=%220%22 height=%22360%22 width=%22640%22%3E%3C/iframe%3E'; mytubes = '%3Ciframe src=%22http://www.youtube.com/embed/-YWVeERMJMs??autoplay=1%22 allowfullscreen=%22%22 frameborder=%220%22 height=%22360%22 width=%22640%22%3E%3C/iframe%3E'; mytubes = '%3Ciframe src=%22https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/IlUuDFWAsZw?autoplay=1%22 allowfullscreen=%22%22 frameborder=%220%22 height=%22360%22 width=%22640%22%3E%3C/iframe%3E'; mytubes = '%3Ciframe src=%22https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/s990PAkYLXc?autoplay=1%22 allowfullscreen=%22%22 frameborder=%220%22 height=%22360%22 width=%22640%22%3E%3C/iframe%3E'; Related Issues: Intellectual PropertyInternationalTrans Pacific Partnership Agreement
This article has been written by Miguel Morachimo, Executive Director, Hiperderecho and Katitza Rodriguez, EFF International Rights Director
Hoy día nuestro gobierno se reunirá en Lima con los representantes de Estados Unidos y otros diez estados para discutir el Acuerdo de Asociación Transpacífico (TPP). Este es un nuevo acuerdo comercial en negociación entre los países del Asía Pacífico muy poco discutido en nuestro país. Sin embargo, en países como Japón, Chile o Nueva Zelanda es objeto de intenso debate porque su texto no sólo habla de libre comercio sino también regula temas tan delicados como acceso a medicamentos, libertad de expresión e innovación en entornos digitales.
El texto del acuerdo es secreto aunque hace dos años se filtró el capítulo de Propiedad Intelectual propuesto por Estados Unidos, que contenía disposiciones alarmantes para los derechos fundamentales, la innovación tecnológica y la Internet. Para muchos académicos y usuarios de Internet, esta propuesta remite al polémico proyecto de ley SOPA o al tratado ACTA, ambos rechazados mayoritariamente por afectar libertades y derechos en línea. Con el TPP, Estados Unidos regresa sobre la misma estrategia y plantea exportar algunos de los peores aspectos de su ley de derechos de autor.
La respuesta del gobierno peruano hasta ahora ha sido asegurar que el TPP no es distinto del Tratado de Libre Comercio (TLC) suscrito con Estados Unidos en el 2007. Sin embargo, nada respalda esta declaración ya que no conocemos el texto real del tratado y el capítulo de propiedad intelectual filtrado hace dos años, aunque similar en estructura, va más allá que nuestro TLC con Estados Unidos en varios aspectos. Peor aún, todo lo que conocemos tiene dos años de antigüedad y fue solo la propuesta inicial de Estados Unidos. Nos preocupa el espacio que pueden tener los países dominantes en la negociación luego de que muchos países como Perú han anticipado su entusiasmo por firmar el TPP a toda costa.
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La propuesta de Estados Unidos amplía todavía más los plazos y supuestos de protección, reduce excepciones que favorecen al público en general y plantea endurecer aún más varias de las ya estrictas medidas de aplicación de los derechos de autor del TLC. Así, por ejemplo, obliga que los intermediarios en Internet (como las empresas prestadoras de servicio o las propias páginas web) colaboren con los titulares de contenidos protegidos por derechos de autor retirando, bloqueando e identificando a los usuarios que comentan infracciones en sus redes. La negativa a formar parte de este sistema de privado de justicia puede conllevar responsabilidad por parte de las empresas intermediarias. Este es un tema que ya estaba en nuestro TLC, que todavía no hemos implementado localmente, y que Estados Unidos podría intentar llevar más allá, en vista de sus recientes proyectos legislativos sobre el tema (ej. SOPA, PIPA, ACTA). Un sistema privado de justicia no sólo ponen en riesgo la libertad de expresión y la privacidad de los usuarios de Internet sino que también significan una carga excesiva para la mayoría de empresas intermediarias en Internet, lo que aumenta los costos para cualquier emprendedor empresa local nueva o start up que desea hacer negocios por Internet.
De la misma manera, se establece una prohibición amplia de romper las cerraduras digitales o medidas de protección tecnológica que se colocan en los soportes o archivos que contienen obras (e.g. software, libros y videos). Esta disposición crea un nuevo derecho de acceso a una obra digital, una protección que está por encima de la protección del derechos de autor. La norma responsabiliza a quien rompa un candado digital que controla el acceso a las obras protegidas incluso si aquel acceso no está asociado a una infracción a los derechos de autor (e.g. copiar y pegar un extracto de un libro electrónico o ripear un DVD de música y pasarlo a tu iPod), salvo un número sumamente limitado de excepciones. Una aplicación estricta de esta norma colocaría a discapacitados visuales, investigadores, usuarios de software libre y desarrolladores informáticos en la ilegalidad. Si bien estas disposiciones tienen el propósito legítimo de proteger a los titulares de derechos de autor contra el uso no autorizado de sus obras digitales, disposiciones similares en los Estados Unidos han demostrado ser demasiado amplias, y en los últimos 15 años se han utilizado para muchos fines diferentes a los previstos por el Congreso de EE.UU. que no tienen nada que ver con el uso de obras no autorizadas por los derechos de autor.
Pero los acuerdos internacionales de derechos de autor como el TPP no solo afectan a usuarios y empresas locales de Internet. También significan un obstáculo para las reformas tan necesarias a la ley de derecho de autor en Perú, donde no existen suficiente excepciones para el uso legítimo de obras en el entorno digital ni siquiera para que las bibliotecas públicas o privadas presten películas. Sin embargo, sí tenemos una excepción escrita que permite que las tiendas que venden televisores puedan exhibir series o películas al público. Asumir obligaciones internacionales también asfixian nuestra libertad para crear y mejorar nuestras propias leyes haciéndose más difícil cambiar nuestras leyes locales al atarse a un estándar legal que no elegimos democráticamente y que no se adapta a nuestras necesidades locales. Incluso si esas obligaciones internacionales no se trasladan a las normas locales inmediatamente, estarán a disposición de grupos de presión y lobbystas para que obliguen a nuestro Congreso y autoridades a adoptarlas o detener reformas positivas y modernas bajo pena de sanciones internacionales.
No nos oponemos al libre comercio ni a la apertura de mercados. Nos oponemos a que los tratados de libre comercio regulen libremente nuestros derechos y libertades esenciales de espaldas al público en general. Creemos que medidas de ese tipo pueden tener un efecto negativo en la inversión local, nuestra economía y nuestros derechos fundamentales. Si tú también crees que el Estado debe de fijar límites no negociables en el TPP, te pedimos que te unas a la petición en línea propuesta por un grupo de organizaciones de la sociedad civil ingresando a http://www.nonegociable.pe/. Con el TPP, Todos Podemos Perder.Más información
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Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal appeals court today to stop a copyright troll's shakedown scheme in a case linked to the notorious Prenda Law firm.
The plaintiff in this case, AF Holdings, is seeking the identity of more than 1,000 Internet users that it claims are linked to the illegal downloading of a copyrighted pornographic film. Over the protest of the Internet service providers who received subpoenas for those identities, a lower court approved the disclosure of the names. The ISPs appealed, and today EFF filed a brief in support of that appeal. EFF is asking the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to help keep the legal process fair and balanced by requiring AF Holdings to simply show that it has a good faith basis for going after these defendants.
The case is one of hundreds being pursued around the country that follow the same pattern: a copyright troll looks for IP addresses that allegedly downloaded adult films via BitTorrent, files a lawsuit against thousands of Does based on those IP addresses, seeks to subpoena the ISP for the contact information of the account holder associated with that IP address, and threatens to name the alleged infringer in a copyright lawsuit, right next to the embarrassing title of a pornographic film. The Doe is then offered a chance to settle before the lawsuit is filed, usually for a few thousand dollars. The key to the business model is flouting legal procedure by suing thousands of unrelated people—located all over the country—in a single lawsuit. For the price of a $400 filing fee and some stamps, the troll can extract thousands of dollars in settlements.
"Once AF Holdings gets the names it's looking for, then it already has what it needs to put its shakedown scheme in motion," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "For the defendants, it will come down to risking being named in a lawsuit over a pornographic movie, or settling for less than the cost of hiring an attorney. As a matter of law and basic fairness, AF Holdings needs to prove that its case is on solid ground before putting more than 1,000 of Internet users in that kind of bind."
AF Holdings is one of a number of holding companies linked to Prenda Law, a firm that is facing serious questions about its use of stolen identities and fictitious signatures on key legal documents, and making other false statements to the courts. Earlier this month, a federal judge issued sanctions of more than $81,000 against Prenda and its attorneys and referred the matter to federal prosecutors.
"We're glad that judges are catching on to this abuse of the court system," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "But while the legal system tries to find answers about Prenda Law, AF Holdings, and other copyright trolls, it's important to remember that there are real people still being victimized by these unfair lawsuits in the meantime. We hope the appellate court will recognize that copyright owners have to follow the same rules as everyone else."
Also joining EFF's amicus brief are the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, Public Citizen, and Public Knowledge.
For the full amicus brief:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The public lost another battle in the U.S. v. Aaron Swartz case, this one over transparency. On May 13, 2013, the U.S. District Court judge handling the prosecution sided with the government, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and JSTOR and refused to make public any information in the case that any of these three entities wished to keep under seal. The ruling effectively grants the Department of Justice, MIT and JSTOR a veto over what the public gets to know about the investigation.
The decision stems from the government's controversial prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the brilliant activist and Internet pioneer, who died in January. The government brought a myriad of charges against Swartz, most notably under the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). After his tragic death, there were widespread calls for an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct and reform of the CFAA, and in response, Swartz's lawyers had asked the court to unseal the vast majority of evidence in the case since all charges have been dismissed for months.
The specific information at issue is identifying information for JSTOR, MIT and certain law enforcement personnel, along with any information "identifying and sentitive network information." As Swartz's attorneys have noted, the proposed redactions includes job titles and other information needed to understand who was talking to whom in the voluminous email traffic, and it's impossible to follow what happened in the course of the prosecution without it. This information is vital in understanding how involved MIT was in the prosecution and at what level in the institution, when and how JSTOR was involved and whether the Justice Department's repeated public assertions that everything in the prosecution proceeded normally were accurate.
The Court gave short shrift to the great public interest here, dismissing it as significantly less important than the vague and largely unspecified "incidents of harassment and retaliation" claimed by the government, MIT and JSTOR. The judge used these alleged incidents as justification for removing nearly all identifying information of those involved—regardless of how likely they were to be actual targets for retaliation. It is difficult to believe that this case posed a bigger threat of retaliation than other federal cases involving violent offenses or organized crime, such that broad witness secrecy is required even after the case has ended.
Similarly, it seems unlikely that in a prosecution say, for a burglary, the victim would be able to prevent public access to any facts about how the incident occurred (was a crowbar used? a fake key?). Yet, here the court allowed MIT and JSTOR to prevent any information from being released about the broad term "sensitive network information."
The big losers in this case are the countless number of Americans of who have raised legitimate and serious concerns about the prosecution of Aaron Swartz and who have urged Congress to reform the CFAA. With the facts and identities locked away, and only selectively revealed to Congress by the three entities most interested in defending the prosecution, how can those of us pushing for reform lawmakers determine what changes are needed? How can we respond to the government's repeated claims that nothing went awry here? The result of this decision excuses accountability by denying the public access to the facts it needs to engage in the democratic process and fix the law.
The Court did note that if Congress wishes to know more, it can ask JSTOR, MIT or the government "on a case by case basis." We hope that members of Congress, who just received a secret briefing from the DOJ, will take the court up on this offer and, to the extent they are thwarted, go back to the court for further relief.Files: Swartz Motion to Modify Protective Order Swartz Order Modifying Protective Order in PartRelated Issues: Computer Fraud And Abuse Act ReformTransparency