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Congress requires publicly funded research to be publicly available

The new Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which Congress passed yesterday, contains an important -- and fantastic -- provision: it requires that scientific research funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education be placed in a free online repository within 12 months of their publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

There are some caveats (this only covers research from agencies with budgets of $100M or more) and it could have been better (immediate publication and all work placed in the pubic domain), but this is still a major stride forward. To be frank, it's well beyond what I'd hoped we'd get from Congress, who are traditionally more than willing to let private firms wall away pubic access from the research that tax-payers fund.

Here's the inside dirt from the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Adi Kamdar:

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You bought it, you own it, right?

In the latest Electronic Frontier Foundation post for Copyright Week, Corynne McSherry tackles one of the most troubling aspects of modern copyright law: the idea that even though you've bought a device or a copyrighted work to play on it, they're not really your property. Because of the anti-circumvention rules (which are supposed to backstop "copy protection"), it's illegal to discover how your technology works, to tell other people how their technology works, to add otherwise lawful features to your technology, and to make otherwise lawful uses of your media.

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Scorecard for Obama's NSA reforms


Tomorrow, Obama will announce his long-awaited reforms to the NSA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has produced a score-card (with detailed commentary) describing the minimum set of reforms that would be compatible with the rule of law and a free and fair democracy. It makes a handy crib-sheet to use while you're watching the press-conference -- you can print out one for each of your friends and discuss it around the TV during your NSA press-conference party:

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Copyright's insane penalties

Here's another important Copyright Week post from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Mitch Stoltz looks at the brutal penalties for copyright violations: "What if a single parking ticket carried a fine of up to a year's salary? What if there were no way to know consistently how much the fine would be before you got it? And what if any one of hundreds of private citizens could decide to write you a ticket?"

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Copyright week: using and losing the public domain


As Copyright Week continues, here's a pair of posts focusing on the importance of the public domain. First off, a guest editorial from Wikimedia's lawyers on the role of the public domain in the creation and maintenance of Wikipedia, one of the most amazing and important phenomena of the Internet age:

We must defend a vibrant public domain if we want collaborative projects like Wikipedia to continue to thrive. When material is removed from the public domain, it damages projects like Wikipedia and impacts Wikipedia readers and reusers at large. We are disappointed in the decision in Golan v. Holder, which removed content in the public domain by upholding the the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 19941. Given the impact of the URAA on Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation joined EFF in an amicus brief challenging the URAA a few years ago. When copyright is restored in a work, the public domain suffers. The immediate result is that Wikipedia is not as rich, because removing material from the public domain means that work previously available on Wikipedia may need to be removed.

Next, Techdirt's Mike Masnick reminds us that the public domain has been stolen from the public wholesale, through a series of economically and morally indefensible extensions of copyright that put that which rightly belongs to all of us into private hands:

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Dirty secrets of America's most notorious patent troll


MPHJ are the notorious patent trolls who claim that any business that scans documents and then emails them owes them $1,000 per employee. Their corporate structure is shrouded in mystery, hidden behind a nigh-impenetrable screen of shell companies, but thanks to a lawsuit the company has launched against the Federal Trade Commission, we're getting access to some details about their extortion racket. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Julie Samuels rounds up the most interesting tidbits including the fact that MPHJ believes that every business in America with more 100 employees owes them $1,000 per employee, no matter what industry the company is in.

MPHJ brought suit against the FTC because it claims that it has a First Amendment right to send threatening letters to small businesses.

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Copyright Week: the law shouldn't be copyrighted


The Electronic Frontier Foundation continues to publish its excellent series of Copyright Week posts (here's yesterday's installment). Today, Corynne McSherry describes the fight over copyrighted laws. Not copyright laws -- laws about copyright -- but, rather, laws that are copyrighted, and that can't be read without paying hefty fees.

This odd situation crops up often in the realm of public safety standards (the last kind of law you'd want to hide away from the public, really): lawmakers commission private standards bodies to write these standards, then write a law that reads, "In order to comply with the law, you must follow standard such-and-such." So now you've got this weird situation where the law is a secret, it is proprietary, it cannot be published, and you can't see it or know what it says unless you're willing to pay the standards body.

But that's just the beginning:

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Copyright week: take copyright back!


This week is Copyright Week, and every day this week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and its allies in the fight for a fair, balanced copyright will be posting new article explaining how to fix copyright. The week is organized around six principles: transparency, a robust public domain, open access, "you bought it, you own it," fair use and balance. They're asking for you to sign onto the principles and support the campaign. Here's the kick-off post:

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Remembering Aaron Swartz

It's been a year since Aaron Swartz killed himself. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Parker Higgins has posted a memorial to him that I found quite moving. I miss Aaron a lot.

I've been feeling pretty hopeless about the future lately, and I think a lot of it has been driven by the impending anniversary of Aaron's death. The last couple years were hard ones.

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EFF: "Everything we know about NSA spying" from 30C3

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Kurt Opsahl -- a brillliant digital civil liberties attorney who has been suing the US government and the NSA over spying since 2006 -- took to the stage at the 30th Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg this week to explain in clear and simple language the history of NSA spying. Kurt lays out the tortured legal history of American bulk surveillance, showing how an interlocking set of laws, policies, lies and half-truths have been used to paper over an obviously, grossly unconstitutional program of spying without court oversight or particular suspicion.

If you're mystified by the legal shenanigans that led up to the Snowden and Manning leaks, this is where you should start. And even if you've been following the story closely, Opsahl gives badly needed coherence to the disjointed legal struggle, connecting the dots and revealing the whole picture.

30c3: Through a PRISM, Darkly - Everything we know about NSA spying

Interactive version of EFF's NSA crossword

Here's a nice little Christmastime Creative Commons and free/open source software success story: yesterday, I posted the Electronic Frontier Foundation's NSA-themed crossword puzzle, which was CC licensed. Shortly after, TheDod posted an interactive version of the puzzle to Github, forking an interactive crossword program written by the Boston Globe's Jesse Weisbeck.

Interactive edition of EFF's Xmas 2013 NSA crossword puzzle (Thanks, Dave!)

Celebrate the crossword's centenary with EFF's NSA-themed crossword puzzle


Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the crossword puzzle, so EFF designed one to test your knowledge of NSA surveillance. EFF Global Policy Analyst Eva Galperin was able to defeat the puzzle in under 15 minutes, but a few of the questions stumped even some of our experts."


Update: Shortly after this was posted, TheDod posted an interactive version of the puzzle to Github, forking an interactive crossword program written by the Boston Globe's Jesse Weisbeck.

Crossword Puzzle: What Did We Learn About the NSA This Year? (Thanks, Dave!)

EFF's holiday wishlist

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted its annual holiday wishlist of policy initiatives, business practices, and action by individuals. It's a kind of beautiful dream, and I long for the day that we attain it. And remember: everyone falls short of their ideals, but these are the best ideals to fall short of. I've included some of the wishes after the jump, but go read the full list.

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UN adopts resolution in favor of digital privacy


The UN General Assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution called "The right to privacy in the digital age," introduced by Germany and Brazil. The resolution sets the stage for the adoption of broader privacy protection in UN treaties and resolution. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has written a set of (excellent) "People's Principles" (sign on here) for future work on digital privacy in the world.

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Project for Awesome fundraising video about EFF

Jason writes, "Every year the YouTube community gets together for the Project for Awesome. A 48 hours event to raise money for all of our favourite charities by making, watching, commenting on and sharing videos about charities. This year, I've decided to support the Electronic Frontier Foundation in my contribution to the project."

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