Cross-section of America's electronic freedom campaigners

Forbes's Carol Pinchefsky profiles "4 Public Interest Groups Who Are Fighting for Your Digital Freedom" including EFF, Public Knowledge, TechFreedom and the Center for Democracy and Technology. It's a great cross-section of the different approaches that activist groups take to technology and freedom (but I would lobby for the inclusion of some of the newer groups, like and, who were so key to the SOPA/PIPA fight). This is part one, focusing on Public Knowledge and EFF.

Cohn said, “We continue to battle the warrantless wiretapping that was started by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration. The administration has been trying to avoid a court looking at what they’re doing by hiding behind the state’s secrets privilege, so we’ve had to have a lot of fights around that.”

Among other battles, the EFF is fighting copyright trolls, people who “use copyright claims to try to shake down people. The business model is not about the lawsuit, it’s about the strategy of extracting money.” For example, Camelot Distribution Group blanketed the users of a peer-to-peer downloading site with threatening letters, claiming that the users illegally downloaded the “nunsploitation” movie, Nude Nuns with Big Guns.

According to Cohn, Camelot Distribution Group told users, “You can pay us a thousand dollars and this whole thing will go away.” She said, “People feel intimidated by this, whether or not they did it, because even if they fight this and they’re exonerated, they’re going to be forever linked to Nude Nuns with Big Guns.”

Worse, the lawsuits are usually created in locations that are geographically undesirable for the defendants, which makes it hard for them to defend themselves. Cohn said, “We’ve been filing amicus briefs and getting appointed by courts across the country to defend these people and to develop some processes that is more fair than the trolls want to do it.”

4 Public Interest Groups Who Are Fighting for Your Digital Freedom (part 1) (Thanks, Carol!)


  1. Give these people your money! Mine goes to the EFF but, by all means, pick one that suits you. Internet freedom is one of the biggest issues of our times.

  2. These organizations used to be more grassrootsy, but now they’re big astroturfers for Google and the other Silicon Valley organizations that need to steamroll over copyright to get what they want. If you hate copyright– and there are some downloaders here who do– go ahead, love these guys. 

    But if you’re an artist or a writer or a creator and you want to make your own decisions about your work, forget about these guys. They’re not fighting for your rights, they’re fighting for the rights of the big, big corporations that pay their bills. They’ll call you a “troll” if you want to keep your rights. They’re full-fledged creator haters now because smart, empowered artists are the bane of search engines and other Internet firms that require plenty of unpaid worker drones to create the stuff.

    Take a look at who funds the EFF. Google’s founders give hundreds of thousands through charity. Soon after, EFF comes out against SOPA. The EFF is constantly protesting the way the government invades our privacy, but they rarely say anything about their benefactors. And why would they? That’s the golden rule. Whoever has the gold, makes the rules. 

    1. Hi,

      I’m an artist (musician). I support the EFF because I believe that the Internet has deeply  changed, and will continue to change, the way people make, discover and consume cultural items (songs, films, videogames, whatever). The EFF is the only big organisation I know that fights to protect my access to a free, open Internet which is central to how I organize my musical career.Also, I really don’t understand this sentence: “smart, empowered artists are the bane of search engines and other Internet firms that require plenty of unpaid worker drones to create the stuff.”. Care to explain it a little bit ?

      1. Many of the Silicon Valley firms that support the EFF are built on the model that the masses will do the work and the central computer system will contribute a bit of intelligence. Fine. But who gets the rewards? Naturally the companies creating the central computer system want to keep it all for themselves. That’s how they became billionaires and that’s why they want to  keep it that way.

        All of these engines want to make sure that you don’t demand for any cut of the pie and that means demonizing anyone who wants to ask for a slice. 

        These rights organizations are funded by people want free and open access to the content you provide. They want to put ads next to your work and they want to make sure you can’t ask for any slice of that. They’re mainly interested in keeping the web free and open for their benefactors. If your vision corresponds with theirs, you’re in luck.

        But let’s look at how your vision for your music corresponds to their vision. If you want to give it away and ask nothing from anyone, they’ll call you cool and pat you on the back. But let’s say you would like to be cut in on the money they’re making? Alarm bells ring. Suddenly you’re a troll. 

        That’s why I laugh everytime these so-called “rights organizations” claim they’re fighting for my rights. Nope. They hate copyright and any power it gives me. 

        Yes, I know that some of the penalties are stupid, copyright is tricky and I’m perfectly happy with some amount of sharing and fair user, but these so-called rights organizations want to brand me as a troll if I ever exert any of my copyright.

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