Saturday, February 16, 2013

Electronic Frontier Foundation holds "speakeasy" in Washington DC, expresses concerns over EPCA, Aaron's Law

On Friday, February 15, 2013, Electronic Frontier Foundation hosted a “speakeasy” in Washington DC, at the “Article One Lounge”, downstairs in the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill near Union Station on New Jersey Avenue.  Some of EFF staff traveled from California for the event.
The two biggest concerns right now seem to be the willingness of Congress to play fair with the Electronic Privacy Communications Act, the current law dating to 1986 and Stored Communications Act (Wikipedia here.) There is a feeling that the Obama administration will fight hard to keep the right to review emails or other digital communications (like restricted tweets) more than 180 days old.
The other major concern is Aaron’s Law.  An attorney explained that the government was very angry at Aaron for downloading many Pacer system court documents and making them available for free.  Even though these documents would be in the public domain and not be copyrighted, the government wanted to charge for each document to pay the expense of maintaining the system.  I have tried to get court opinions (as in some of criminal cases like David Key’s from NBC Dateline) and found Pacer very clumsy to use.
 The government did not have much of a basis for prosecuting him on the Pacer issue, so it watched him like a troll until he slipped, on the JSTOR issue.  Even though JSTOR did not want to prosecute, MIT was inert and indifferent.  So the government wanted to make an example of him.
Swartz was said to have become a wealthy man from the sale of REDDIT, but had spent himself into bankruptcy defending himself from the DOJ.  It’s not clear why there wasn’t more help available.  Perhaps a DVD could have been made about his case and sold to raise funds.  (Ironically, that requires people to actually pay for content!)
I said that it is time to make a biography film of Swartz, either for PBS or HBO or the regular independent film market.  I reviewed a short film from YouTube about him on my Movies Blog on Jan. 27, 2013.
The Obama administration seems to be as aggressive in prosecuting "leaks" cases, or more so, than was Bush.  This is "Obama's War", as Bob Woodward has written. 
There didn’t seem to be any immediate concern about pressure on Section 230, despite comments made in the media in the past year, particularly on Anderson Cooper’s shows (as by Parry Aftab).
There wasn’t much concern about Amazon’s willingness to pull books or DVD’s particularly offensive to the public. 

There also wasn't much concern about the possibility of false prosecutions for illegal activity (child pornography, for example) planted by viruses, such as what happened in Arizona after an incident at the end of 2006. 

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