In the Name of Freedom…

Can you be so zealous in defense of freedom that you behave like the despots you deplore? This question plagues us when we consider the activities of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The EFF is a donor-funded nonprofit organization purporting to be a staunch defender of our civil liberties. Among those liberties are the rights of file-sharers to upload books.

Its website is filled with advice and offers of assistance to those receiving takedown notices from copyright owners or their designated representatives, whom EFF calls copyright trolls. This counsel is provided by a board of advisors packing heavy legal heat. They seem dedicated to making it as hard as possible for aggrieved authors to protect their property. Among the copyright trolls displayed on their “Takedown Hall of Shame” are such abusers of freedom of speech as National Public Radio, CBS News, Warner Music Group and Yahoo!

You can read on the EFF website how
* EFF has created a list of subpoena defense resources for those targeted by file sharing suits.
* EFF helped establish legal protections for privacy online, including the privacy of P2P users.
* EFF has assisted Internet users mistakenly caught in the industry’s dragnet.
* EFF has helped P2P users sued by the RIAA and MPAA find legal counsel.

A recent example of EFF’s zeal is an attack on a company designated to collect fees for unauthorized use of copyrighted material:

Dear Friend of Digital Freedom,
Here’s your chance to help EFF topple a troll! Over the past two weeks, EFF has won the dismissal of two bogus infringement lawsuits filed by notorious “copyright troll” Righthaven LLC. In the first case, a federal judge ruled that Righthaven had no standing to sue an online political forum for a five-sentence excerpt of a news story posted by a user, because EFF sleuthing revealed that Righthaven did not own the copyright. Last week, the court relied on the evidence presented in the first case and dismissed Righthaven’s lawsuit against a non-commercial blog that provides prosecutor resources for difficult to prosecute “no body” homicide cases.

These victories are sweet, but Righthaven and copyright trolls like them have filed thousands of additional lawsuits across the country, using the threat of massive damages available under copyright law to pressure defendants into quick settlements. One copyright troll is attempting to subpoena the identities of thousands of BitTorrent users and sue them collectively to minimize their own court costs, while another is targeting alleged adult film downloaders with hopes of exploiting the additional threat of embarrassment associated with porn. We need your financial support to bring an end to this awful business model.

EFF’s hard work has provided the facts and precedents needed to dismiss even more lawsuits. Please support EFF today, and help us topple a troll!

A prominent “EFF Fellow” is Cory Doctorow, a highly regarded author and outspoken advocate of free speech described on the EFF site as “A former EFF staff member and recipient of EFF’s 2007 Pioneer Award.” His name and picture are displayed on the organization’s page soliciting funds for the EFF.

Some time ago, in covering an organization that partnered with the EFF we ruminated:”We’re sure they’re well meaning and have done their homework in the letter of the law, but the spirit seems to have eluded them, and we have to wonder if they’re familiar with the definition of a liberal as someone who’s never had his pocket picked.” (see Is This Watchdog Guarding the Bad Guys?)

On this 4th of July as we exercise our hard-won freedoms and the Constitutional amendments that endow us with the right to speak freely, it is not unreasonable to ask whether efforts to frustrate the legitimate claims of victims of copyright theft exemplify the very abuses that organizations such as this were created to protect us from.

Richard Curtis

For a complete archive of E-Reads articles about piracy, visit Pirate Central.

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2 Responses to In the Name of Freedom…

  1. Caron says:

    “[…]it is legitimate to ask whether efforts to frustrate the legitimate claims of victims of copyright theft exemplify the very abuses that organizations such as this were created to protect us from.”

    This is not the case when it comes to “copyright trolls”, such as Righthaven and others, which modus operandi consists in sueing and trying to settle before court, some times regarding content they have not any rights on.

    Righthaven, for instance, has a really gorgeous business model: they look for some newspaper content posted or quoted without permission, then BUY the copyright for that content and inmediately file a lawsuit (http://www.teleread.com/copy-right/colorado-judge-unimpressed-by-business-model-of-copyright-troll-righthaven/).

    You might want to visit telereads.com and do a search on this subject to get a hint of some misbehaviours of these companies. They are not really the big copyright heroes people think… they are just another kind of business.

  2. Stacey says:

    “* EFF has assisted Internet users mistakenly caught in the industry’s dragnet.”

    I think that’s great, and hope EFF keeps it up!

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