The Internet Archive, a project to create a digital library of the web for posterity, successfully fought a secret government Patriot Act order for records about one of its patrons and won the right to make the order public, civil liberties groups announced Wednesday morning.
On November 26, 2007, the FBI served a controversial National Security Letter .pdf on the Internet Archive’s founder Brewster Kahle, asking for records about one of the library’s registered users, asking for the user’s name, address and activity on the site.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive’s lawyers, fought the NSL, challenging its constitutionality in a December 14 complaint .pdf to a federal court in San Francisco. The FBI agreed on April 21 to withdraw the letter and unseal the court case, making some of the documents available to the public.
With GE Vice Chairman Bob Wright claiming that internet piracy is putting America’s “overall economic health at risk,” and NBC/Universal general counsel Rick Cotton saying, “…intellectual property crime runs to hundreds of billions [of dollars] a year,” the shrillness of the anti-sharing camp is now almost beyond the range of human hearing. (However, you can still read Cotton’s position in PDF form.)
But AT&T is listening. James W. Cicconi, an AT&T senior vice president, announced this week that the the nation’s largest telephone and Internet service provider would broaden its policing of customers from allegedly cooperating with a domestic spying program to include development of “anti-piracy technology that would target the most frequent offenders.”
Will customers revolt? Probably not.
From the LA Times:
AT&T’s decision surprised Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a digital rights advocacy group.
“AT&T is going to act like the copyright police, and that is going to make customers angry,” she said. “The good news for AT&T is that there’s so little competition that where else are the customers going to go?”
Also, AT&T will soon enable you to see a roller-skating dog on your phone, so why worry about all this stuff? It’s all good.
Via the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an update on the on-going dispute between spoon-bending “paranormalist” Uri Geller and online critic Brian Sapient. The case turns on the concept of fair use of copywrited material for criticism and “a legitimate discussion of [Geller’s] abilities.”
Geller’s quest to shut down Sapient’s criticism started when Sapient uploaded video to YouTube challenging Geller’s assertions about his mental powers. The 14-minute segment came from a NOVA television program, but Geller and his corporation Explorologist Ltd. claimed the video infringed its own copyrights and had the video removed from YouTube. Sapient filed a counter-notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), had the video restored to YouTube, and sued Geller for misrepresentation.
One would assume that Geller then retaliated by bending all the spoons in the EFF’s breakroom kitchen, causing the digital rights public interest group to switch to tree-killing, but mind-bending-proof wooden stir-sticks.
From the AP:
“HONG KONG – China should not punish people for expressing their political views on the Internet, Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO – news) said Monday, a day after the mother of a Chinese reporter announced she was suing the U.S. company for helping officials imprison her son.”
Yahoo is by no means alone in this predicament (although one could argue that jailed journalist Shi Tao is the one in a tough spot), and China is not the only government that uses technology to keep its citizens in check. Every techcompany (in fact every global company) will eventually have to wrestle with this issue.
At least Yahoo is finally being forced to talk the talk. If companies have to answer for their decisions in court and in public, they might put a little more thought into them beforehand.
Amnesty International has launched a campaign to bring attention to the growing threat to Internet freedom posed by governments (and acquiescent IT companies) around the world. Unfortunately, it’s a growing problem that needs more attention.
Irrepressible.info is a user-fed news aggregator documenting instances of censorship and persecution for sharing information and other threatening online activities like “reading” or “looking at” forbidden content. There’s even a place where bloggers can find html fragments of banned content to post on their blogs in order to demonstrate that information cannot be repressed.
The OpenNet Intiative released a report this week contending that at least 25 governments block or filter content for “political, social, or other reasons.”
The actual number may be higher, but the authors of the report only had the resources to look at 40 countries and the Palestinian Territories. North America and Western Europe, where surveilance is more of a concern and most filtering is done by the private sector in the name of copyright enforcement and protecting children form obscenity, were not included in the investigation. Cuba and North Korea were excluded because it was thought to be too dangerous for citizens of those countries to participate.
Interestingly, some of the world’s most threatened governments and societies (Like Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Malaysia, Nepal, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe) seemed to eschew filtering and blocking (perhaps lacking resources, political will or know-how), while other, more stable countries chose to impose their authority on the supposedly borderless Internet.
China, Burma, Syria, Tunisia, and Vietnam actively blocked more political content, while countries like Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen filtered content they felt threatened social mores. Iran blocked its fair share of both, and even South Korea was guilty of blocking North Korean sites from its citizens.
The OpenNet Initiative is a collaborative partnership of the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge, and the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University.