Wikinews/Interview of the month/January 2006 EFF

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This month we have the unexpected joy of having a second IOTM, with Internet industry/advocate/agent provocateur Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff website).

The interview with Danny O'Brien will take place on January 23rd at 2000 UTC, the day before the US Congress is scheduled to discuss the Broadcast Flag bill.


Relevant Wikipedia articles:

Potential topics[edit]


General questions[edit]

  • What do you think is good about the current IP laws?
  • What was the biggest sucess of the EFF, so far?
  • What was the biggest defeat of the EFF, so far?
  • What do you think is currently the biggest threat to Internet privacy right now?
  • Do you think that consumer rights (fair use) and corporate rights (DRM) will ever find a middle ground?
  • In light of many issues Should private citizens log their communications when it is easy to do so?
    • Do citizens have a right to log text based online communications?
    • Should thier be limits to what communications can be logged?
    • Should this be a 'legal' requirment for logging?
    • Should the same standards in regard to 'retention' of communications

be applied to corporate entites?

    • Should tighter standards be applied to governmental agencies?

  • Is it acceptable for Corporations or Governments to apply 'censorship'

of controversial topics?

    • Are there topics that should 'never' be allowed?
    • It was noted that in December that a 'tram' enthusiast site felt

it had to close it's news service over threats of legal action, How does EFF feel on the issue of SLAPP?

    • Sometimes leaked information can have consequences..
      • In protecting 'security', What should be suppressed?
      • What qulifies as 'public-interest' in relation to otherwise confidential or secret material?
      • Should governments work against digital 'secrecy'?

The anti-Fair-Use agenda has had a chilling effect on creatives who do not wish to go underground:

  • What advice do you have for presenters and artists working on public-art projects, who wish to include within them transformative works based on--or that critique or parody--copyrighted materials?

From the GNAA

  • What do you think about the TOR project?
    • Is it valid to support a project wich is being used for vandalism, flooding and hacking purpouses?

Questions on DRM[edit]

  • Do you believe the outcry over Sony's "rootkit" DRM is in any way likely to discourage content providers from employing measures that may curtail fair-use rights? (UTC)
  • Which, of the options the content providers promote do you think is better for the public? Taxes on blank media, such as those instituted in France, Canada and Belgium, or DRM?
  • Do you oppose all DRM, or are examples like that provided by Apple's iTunes acceptable as they have taken some steps to acknowledge fair use rights?
  • Sun has decided to create an open source DRM. If you can copy a CD for personal use or convert it into any format, like FLAC, in order to use it on an mp3 player, you could also distribute the copy. Does DRM, open source or not, have any kind of place in the world at all?
  • Do you think that there could be a viable alternative to DRM schemma's fromthe point of veiw of content creators? do they want an alternative? What are your thought on digital watermarking as a "transparent" alternative to DRM and what needs to be done to make that work as an option?
  • What is the EFF's stance on the proposed anti-DRM clauses in GPLv3? Wouldn't it counter-productive, as some would like free software to be able to read content encumbered with DRMs?

Questions on lobbying[edit]

  • European Organisations which have similar gooals like the EFF were not succesful in preventing Telecommunications data retention. Which conclusion does the EFF draw for their own campaigns.
  • Do you think there is large public interrest in the topics you are dealing with?
  • How do you evaluate the threat of software patents in the EU? Do you think the recent decision by the EU parliament against those is reason to be relieved?

Questions on legal cases[edit]

  • Do you believe the case of 2600 seeking to publish links to the DeCSS code should have been fought all the way to the Supreme Court?
  • How do you feel about the MGM v. Grokster case?

Questions on Broadcast flag[edit]

  • The US Congress will discuss the Broadcast Flag bill, tomorrow. Could you please summarize your main concerns in this issue.

Questions on Content[edit]

  • What are the EFF's views in reagrd to the systems used for'rating' website content (such as ICRA)?
    • Do you feel that the current systems (such as ICRA) used by websites to indicate their content are not as flexible as some people feel they need to be?
    • Some sites do not use ICRA, but use disclaimers on thier main page to mark the site as unsuitable for certain groups, Is such 'self-rating' 'appropriate, effective and meaningful"?

  • The Wikipedia Biography case raised important issues concerin privacy and accountablity on the internet,What do you feel are the limits of privacy

online currently, and is a change of attitudes needed?

  • On a simmilar note, should indivual contributors to sites,blogs,wikis etc be held wholly accountable for contents added? Should the sites also be held accountable (in the way a newspaper can be held accountable in additon to it's reporters)?
  • The EFF presuambly values 'freedom of speech'?
    • However 'freedom from unwarrented intrusion and harrasment' is also seen as a right by many, Does the EFF have a view on how these at times opposing rights can both be protected?

Questions on Google[edit]

  • Google refuses to turn over search records for use as evidence to the Justice Department. On the one hand the EFF appreciates Google's attitude to protect the user's privacy, on the other hand the EFF criticizes google's privacy policy. What is the problem with google's privacy policy and how can users protect themselves if they use google.
  • Why is it that Google is the only major search-engine player actively trying to protect the public from the government's attempt to get access to browsing and search data records?
  • What is google's motivation to refuse turning over their data? Do they want to protect the privacy of their useres or are they trying to avoid costs?

Prioritized questions[edit]


As I'm sure everyone is aware, we have a relatively brief time to directly question Mr. O'Brien. I am combing through these excellent question, and trying to compress the sheer number of them to precise questions on the topics which appear to be of wide interest.

Online privacy[edit]

  • Since 9/11 the US administration has been progressively violating privacy standards in online communications, including circumventing its own surveilance laws and developing—and possibly implementing—the Total Information Awareness project.
    • What is EFF's position regarding government monitoring of private communications such e-mail, instant messaging, and voice over IP?
    • Will EFF be involved in cases, even as amicus, such as the cases filed by ACLU Detroit and the Center for Constitutional Rights New York, which allege the National Security Agency violated US law prohibiting wiretaps without a warrant?
    • Google alone of the largest search engines refused the Justice Department's demands to turn over user data. The EFF is on record as criticizing Google's privacy policy. How does the EFF feel about that privacy policy now? What does EFF feel about the other search engine's behaviour—did they comply with their own privacy policies? Does this incident reflect the strength or weakness of corporate privacy policies online?

DRM/Sony/Broadcast flag[edit]

  • First, congratulations to EFF in regard to some of the successes in the Sony BMG case. There are some questions, clarifications about the case, however.
    • The settlement appears to cover the XCP and SunComm software delivered on CDs. What about OpenMG XCP, DRM used by Sony BMG's SonicStage software for Sony Connect?
    • Can you disclose the terms of the settlement regarding future use of software DRM measures? Have they promised not to alter users machines in the future?
    • This case also has some connection to copyright infringement: the XCP software included code taken from the VLC media player software, which is released under the GPL. Is EFF involved in any cases regarding this?
  • The Broadcast flag rule by the US FCC applies specifically to hardware, requiring it to actively prevent copying of video signal which contains a stream indicating the viewers rights do not include copying.
    • Because this is a rule, not a law, how does the EFF plan to approach it in the US Congress?
    • Why should the EU, or anyone outside the USA for that matter, care?
    • This is a hardware issue. Does it matter on the internet?
    • The Senate will begin hearings on this rule tomorrow. What does EFF expect to happen during this legislative process? How might this affect online communities? to get specific and personal, what does it mean to Wikinews readers and contributors?
  • The Broadcast flag is a form of Digital Rights Management, in this case implemented by the US FCC. There are other DRM issues to talk about.
    • In the French Parliament the DADVSI law, which relates to the implementation of the 2001 European Directive on Copyright in France, is under active consideration. Has the EFF had the opportunity to consider this law, and what is the opinion if so?
    • Canada and Belgium apply heavy taxes on copying medium, and the revenues from these taxes are used to support creative artists and developers, as an alternative to supporting DRM. What does EFF feel about such a method to control fair use/fair dealing?
    • There are efforts under way to develop an open standard DRM, such as a project by Sun Microsystems which is relatively fair to users. Would EFF support an open standard/open source DRM, or is the entire concept of DRM considered unacceptable in any form?


  • Not long ago EFF was supportive of the TOR anonymizing system.
    • Does EFF still support, either financially or in any other way?
    • TOR has been blocked en masse from editing on at least en.wikipedia. Without addressing the reasons why this action was taken by the Wikipedia site, do you find such actions to limit editing access, by wikipedia or any other online community, from a section of the internet troublesome? What is EFF's position regarding such blanket limitations?