The Village Voice received an improbable trademark over the use of "BEST OF" in connection with lists of the best things on offer in various cities, and now they're suing Yelp for creating their own "Best of" lists. This ridiculous suit is only possible because of the US Patent and Trademark Office's bungling, terrible methods, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Corynne McSherry writes, and will only be resolved when the USPTO cleans up its act:
What is going on at the Patent and Trademark Office? For decades, folks have been complaining (with good reason) that the patent examiners need to do a better job of screening out bogus patent applications. It’s clear that the problem extends to the trademark side as well. The PTO has allowed companies and individuals to register marks in any number of obviously generic and/or descriptive terms, such as “urban homestead” (to refer to urban farms), “gaymer” (to refer to gay gamers), and “B-24” (to refer to model B-24 bombers).
Once a mark is registered, it is all too easy for the owner to become a trademark bully. And while companies like Yelp have the resources to fight back (as we expect it will), small companies and individuals may not. Just as dangerous, the trademark owner may go upstream, to intermediaries like Facebook who have little incentive to do anything other than take down an account or site that’s accused of infringement.
"Good enough for government work" isn't good enough for free speech. It’s time the PTO did its part to stop trademark bullies and tightened up the trademark application process. Fewer bogus registrations means fewer bogus threats, and more online creativity and competition. That's a win for everyone.
Stupid Lawyer Tricks (And How the PTO Could Help Stop Them)
After Arijit got thrown off of a Delta flight for wearing a TSA-mocking t-shirt I designed, a lot of people began to email, asking where they could buy one for themselves. Well, it seemed a bit weird to do a reissue and pocket a royalty for a shirt on the basis of someone else's legal hassles, so I worked with Arijit and Woot, and we've decided to reissue the shirt with all the profits being divided evenly between EFF, the ACLU, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Get yours today for a mere $15! Wear it with pride! Don't blame me if you get kicked off an airplane!
Also available in handsome tote form at $10 each.
Threat Level: Doctorow
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a comprehensive, multi-lingual guide to keeping sites that are undergoing distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks alive.
Denial of service (DoS) and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are increasingly common phenomena, used by a variety of actors—from activists to governments—to temporarily or indefinitely prevent a site from functioning efficiently. Often, the attack saturates the target with server requests designed to flood its bandwidth, leaving the server unable to respond to legitimate traffic.
Though the owners of major sites often have the resources to fend off or even prevent such attacks, smaller sites—such as those belonging to small independent media or human rights organizations—are sometimes permanently disabled due to a lack of resources or knowledge.
This guide aims to assist the owners of such websites by providing advice on choosing an appropriate webhost, as well as a guide to mirroring and backing-up their websites so that the content can be made available elsewhere even if their site is taken down by a DoS or DDoS attack.
Keeping Your Site Alive
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has joined the defense team for Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, who is one of the parties named to a bizarre lawsuit by Charles Carreon, who recently threatened Inman with a $20,000 demand on behalf of the website Funnyjunk, then sued Inman (and a host of others) when he made fun of the threat.
“This lawsuit is a blatant attempt to abuse the legal process to punish a critic,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “We're very glad to help Mr. Inman fight back.”
EFF Will Represent The Oatmeal Creator in Fight Against Bizarre Lawsuit Targeting Critical Online Speech
Hugh sez, "Today, EFF launched a new campaign against software patents. In this campaign, we outline seven proposals that we think will address some of the greatest abuses of the current software patent system, including making sure that folks who independently arrived at an invention can’t be held liable for infringing on a software patent. But our campaign isn't just about our proposals — we also want to hear, and amplify, the views of the technical community. Many engineers, researchers, and entrepreneurs have suggested that reform is not enough and that software should not be patentable, period. We want to record these views, which is why our Defend Innovation campaign is designed to solicit comments from all of the stakeholders. We'll incorporate what we learn into a formal publication that we can take to Congress that reflects the views of innovators, academics, lawyers, CEOs, VCs, and everyone else who is concerned about the software patent system."
Nominations are open for the Electronic Frontier Foundation's annual Pioneer Awards, which are given out "to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology." The nominations are open to the general public until August 6.
What does it take to be a Pioneer? There are no specific categories, but nominees must have contributed substantially to the health, growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications. Their contributions may be technical, social, legal, academic, economic or cultural. This year’s pioneers will join an esteemed group of past award winners that includes World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, security expert Bruce Schneier, open source advocate Mozilla Foundation, and privacy rights activist Beth Givens.
I was privileged to receive the Pioneer Award in 2007, an honor that remains one of my proudest.
Pioneer Award Nominations Are Now Open
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Open Rights Group will co-host a speakeasy event -- a kind of pub night -- in east London on June 14. I'll be there, with several ORG employees, supporters and volunteers, and so will Cindy Cohn, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal director and veteran of many of the Internet's most important legal skirmishes (she's the one who argued the Bernstein case, legalizing civilian use of strong cryptography -- among many other accomplishments).
Speakeasy events are free, informal meetups that give you a chance to mingle with local online rights supporters and speak with the people leading the charge to protect digital civil liberties. It is also our chance to thank you, the supporters who make it possible. For this round, we are pleased to welcome EFF members as well as all friends and guests. REGISTER HERE!
June 14th, 2012 6:00 PM through 8:00 PM
The Reliance (upstairs)
336 Old Street
London, EC1V 9DR
Speakeasy: London with the Open Rights Group
Joanna from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes:
If you plan on being in or around San Francisco May 30, come join
EFF for a Geek Reading with Barbara Simons. An expert on electronic voting, Simons co-authored Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? As Simons told us recently 'The way we run our voting system in this country is really a scandal,and it's a scandal that no one talks about.' Lots of people will be talking about it at EFF's upcoming Geek Reading, though, and you're invited to join in the discussion.
EFF Geek Readings bring Internet users, bloggers, free speech advocates, and other interested folks together to hear from prominent writers and thinkers, meet like-minded community members, and exchange ideas.
Geek Reading: The Broken E-Voting System with Barbara Simons
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Maira Sutton has a long, engrossing account of the popular protest at the Dallas session of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive treaty negotiation that includes a set of copyright rules that leave SOPA and ACTA in the dust. TPP's organizers -- especially in the USA -- have been hostile to any public participation or transparency. They even ordered a hotel to cancel the reservation made by activists who wanted to host their own parallel information session and then lied about it. Undaunted, activists, civil society groups, copyfighters, and other interested parties continue to dog TPP's heels. The Dallas meeting saw the notorious Yes Men "Corporate Power Tool" award ceremony. Even better, the hotel's bathrooms had their toilet paper replaced with TPP TP, custom-printed rolls that explained the problems with TPP.
Since the official planned event was scarcely sufficient to make a significant impact, Public Knowledge and American University’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property co-hosted a side event for negotiators to learn about the threats of harsh copyright enforcement. The panel included EFF’s International IP Director, Gwen Hinze, who spoke about the unbalanced outcomes non-U.S. Internet users and innovators would face if the current version of the IP chapter were passed. While the event was well-attended, civil society were ultimately forced to bear all the costs to put on this event.
Last week, 32 legal scholars sent a letter to the office of the USTR demanding transparency in the process. Including the release of the text and demand for real participation from civil society, they demanded the immediate release of “reports on US positions and proposals on intellectual property matters that are currently given only to Industry Trade Advisory Committee members under confidentiality agreements.” This is key because there is nothing that could justify the withholding of such reports that simply outline the U.S. position on intellectual property from the public. This is especially true given the fact that the U.S. government’s proposals could impede Congress from engaging in domestic legal reform of legislation regulating IP.
The USTR sent them a preliminary response the following day. Ambassador Kirk essentially blew them off, claiming that they have taken “extraordinary efforts” to have the whole negotiation process inclusive of civil society and the public. In the letter, he compared the level of transparency to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) meetings, which indeed have always been top secret and therefore offer a laughably low bar of comparison.
TPP: Internet Freedom Activists Protest Secret Trade Agreement Being Negotiated This Week
Running for office? Embarrassed by YouTube videos that make fun of you or show you looking like an ass? YouTube will give you up to 14 days' worth of censorship for free
-- all you need to do is pretend that the video infringes your copyright and invoke the DMCA. EFF wants to change that.
Remember the seizure of Dajaz1.com, a hiphop blog that posted all kinds of music clips that record company promoters (and even CEOs) begged them to post? The one that was shut down for a year on a trumped-up copyright charge that was quietly dropped without explanation? Now we have an explanation.
Rebecca from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "After a year-long seizure and six more months of secrecy, the court records were finally released concerning the mysterious government takedown of Dajaz1.com -- a popular blog dedicated to hip hop music and culture. The records confirm that one of the key reasons the blog remained censored for so long is that the government obtained three secret extensions of time by claiming that it was waiting for 'rights holders' and later, the Recording Industry Association of America, to evaluate a 'sampling of allegedly infringing content' obtained from the website and respond to other 'outstanding questions.'"
Update: Mel from Dajaz1.com in the comments asks me to remind you that the site is back. It deserves your attention.
Now that the full court records are out, this seizure raises critical questions about the government’s use of its new powers to shut down lawful speech in the form of domain seizures for alleged copyright infringements. It also demonstrates the basic unfairness of the processes and secrecy invoked here and possibly in hundreds of other domain name seizures across the country. For nearly a year, the government muzzled Dajaz1.com – denying the blog’s author the right to speak and the public’s right to read what was published there – and then compounded matters by claiming extreme secrecy and blocking the Dajaz1 and the public’s access to information about the case.
Equally troubling, the records confirm what was already suggested by the initial affidavit used to obtain the seizure order: that ICE, and its attorneys, are effectively acting as the hired gun of the content industry at taxpayers' expense. Instead of relying on rightsholders to determine whether a seizure was appropriate, the government should have been conducting its own thorough investigation. If it had acted in anything like good faith, it could have determined that the site wasn't a proper target even before the seizure, or at least could have discovered and rectified the mistake before a year had passed.
Unsealed Court Records Confirm that RIAA Delays Were Behind Year-Long Seizure of Hip Hop Music Blog
Aestetix sez, "For the past month, the Hackers On Planet Earth conference by 2600 Magazine has been raising money for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The internet would be a scary place without them around, so HOPE is donating 10% of the entire ticket sales for the month of April to the EFF. It's been a fantastic month, and yet it's almost over, so if you want to be part of this awesome effort, buy your ticket before Monday.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched its Coders' Rights List, a new mailing list for hackery subjects:
Sign up today to get the latest news on computer security law, upcoming events with EFF lawyers, discounts on infosec conferences like BlackHat, SOURCE, HOPE, and open source software events, and even get a jump on EFF's third annual D(EFF)CONtest coming in May! Your information is never sold, swapped, or shared.
A coalition of US civil liberties organizations have declared this to be Stop Cyber Spying Week, with the goal of scuttling CISPA, the Internet spying bill that promotes web-censorship, bulk surveillance, and warrantless wiretapping by government and Internet companies, while turning over spying governance to the unaccountable, secretive NSA.
CISPA's supporters, notably CISPA sponsor Rep Mike Rogers (R-MI), have pooh-poohed the Internet's concerns, and say that the bill is a lock, and nothing we say can change Congress's mind (apparently, they've forgotten the lesson of SOPA). Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation replies with specific, Internet-breaking, out-of-control surveillance scenarios CISPA would create:
One of the scariest parts of CISPA is that the bill goes above and beyond information sharing. Its definitions allow for countermeasures to be taken by private entities, and we think these provisions are ripe for abuse. Indeed, the bill defines "cybersecurity purpose" as any threat related to safeguarding or protecting a network. As long as companies act in "good faith" for a cybersecurity purpose, they have leeway to protect against “efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy [a] system or network.” This opens the door for ISPs and other companies to perform aggressive countermeasures like dropping or altering packets, so long as this is used as part of scheme to identify cybersecurity threats. These countermeasures could put free speech in peril, and jeopardize the ordinary functioning of the Internet. This could also mean blocking websites, or disrupting privacy-enhancing technologies such as Tor. These countermeasures could even serve as a back door to enact policies unrelated to cybersecurity, such as disrupting p2p traffic.
Yes, CISPA Could Allow Companies to Filter or Block Internet Traffic
Emmanuel Goldstein writes, "The coordinators of this year's Hackers On Planet Earth conference in New York have joined forces with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and have designated April as the month where 10 percent of all ticket sales will be donated to EFF. The net would be a much more dangerous place without the EFF being around to help fight the many battles currently taking place. This is a way to help them out and be part of a really cool conference at the same time."
H.O.P.E. stands for Hackers On Planet Earth, one of the most creative and diverse hacker events in the world. HOPE Number Nine will be taking place on July 13, 14, and 15, 2012 at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. If you haven't been before, this is the year to attend. For every ticket purchased in the month of April, conference organizers 2600: The Hacker Quarterly are donating 10% of the proceeds to EFF--so buy your tickets today!
For three full days and nights you can explore hackerspace villages, film festivals, art installations, vintage computers, electronic workshops, savor the country's biggest supply of Club-Mate, and attend the host of provocative talks that HOPE has become well-known for offering. Join thousands of hackers to hear this year's keynote on hacking corporations by famous troublemakers and EFF clients The Yes Men, as well as these exciting talks from EFF staffers...
Buy Your HOPE 9 Tickets in April and 10% of Proceeds Go to EFF (Thanks, Emmanuel!)