Electronic Frontier Foundation

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The EFF uses the blue ribbon as symbolism for their Free Speech defense.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a non-profit advocacy and legal organization with the stated purpose of being dedicated to preserving First Amendment rights in the context of today's digital age. Its stated main goal is to "...educate the press, policymakers and the general public about civil liberties issues related to technology; and to act as a defender of those liberties." It is a membership organization supported by donations and is based in San Francisco.

EFF has taken action in several ways:

  • providing or funding legal defense in court
  • defending the individual and new technologies from the chilling effects of what it considers baseless or misdirected legal threats
  • providing guidance to the government and courts
  • organizing political action and mass mailings
  • supporting new technologies which it believes preserve personal freedoms
  • maintaining a database and web sites of related news and information
  • monitoring and challenging potential legislation that it believes would infringe on personal liberties and erode fair use
  • soliciting a list of what it considers patent abuses with intentions to defeat those that it considers without merit


The Electronic Frontier Foundation was founded in July 1990 by Mitch Kapor, John Gilmore and John Perry Barlow.

The creation of the organization was motivated by the raid on Steve Jackson Games by the United States Secret Service as part of Operation Sundevil. Its second big case was Bernstein v. United States, where programmer and professor Daniel Bernstein sued the government for permission to publish his encryption software, Snuffle, and a paper describing it. More recently the organization has been involved in defending Edward Felten, Jon Johansen and Dmitry Sklyarov.

Major supporters


Some feel the EFF prioritizes wholesale changes to law (such as legalizing the unauthorized trading of copyrighted files over peer-to-peer networks, implying some change of the copyright laws) over stopping abuses of the law (such as stopping abusive patents and DMCA complaints). However, EFF's successes in its defense of Skylink and OPG against DMCA abuse as well as its Patent Busting project demonstrate real efforts to limit abuses of existing law.

Some feel the EFF prioritizes consumer rights at the expense of artists' rights.

Some in the anti-spam community criticize the EFF for officially opposing anti-spam techniques that do not deliver all wanted messages to the end-user. The EFF argues that the decision as to what is spam and what is not resides with the recipient, not intermediaries such as ISPs.

Prior to the EFF's defense of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly magazine in 2001, the hacker community criticized EFF as "missing in action" with regards to their legal troubles.

Milestones and accomplishments

  • 1990: Founded the organization and successfully represented Steve Jackson Games (SJG) in a Federal court case to prosecute the United States Secret Service for unlawfully raiding their offices and seizing computers.
  • In 1998, the EFF built Deep Crack, a machine that decrypted a DES-encrypted message after only 56 hours of work, winning RSA Security's DES Challenge II-2.
  • Professor Edward Felten: DMCA used to censor his research to break Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI)
  • 2600 Magazine: defense against application of DMCA to publishing the DeCSS code and links
  • Fighting for electronic voting reform
  • Fighting for online privacy
  • Supports the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse efforts to organize a database of IP law abuse and educate potential victims
  • December 2003: RIAA v. Verizon, D.C. Cir. EFF supported Verizon in a successful challenge to a lower court ruling holding that the company must reveal the identity of a Verizon customer accused of copyright infringement using the peer-to-peer file-sharing software KaZaA. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Verizon and EFF that the special subpoena provisions in the DMCA apply to potentially infringing material stored on an ISP server, not material stored on an individual's own computer.
  • 2004: DirecTV v. Treworgy, 11th Circuit. EFF helped defend "smart card" technology owner Mike Treworgy after DirecTV sued him based on the fact that he purchased hardware that could be used to intercept the company's satellite TV signals. Treworgy prevailed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that DirecTV cannot sue individuals for "mere possession" of smart-card technology. In separate negotiations with DirecTV, EFF succeeded in getting the company to drop its "guilt-by-purchase" litigation strategy altogether.
  • April 19, 2004: Initiated the Patent Busting Project to challenge "illegitimate patents that suppress non-commercial and small business innovation or limit free expression online"
  • May 2004 Doe v. Ashcroft. Filed amicus supporting ACLU's challenge to the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. 2709, which authorizes the FBI to compel the production of subscriber and communications records in the possession of a broad range of ISPs, potentially covering billions of records from tens of thousands of entities. These demands, known as National Security Letters, were issued without judicial oversight of any kind, yet allowed the FBI to obtain a vast amount of constitutionally protected information. In September 2004, Judge Victor Marrero of the Southern District of New York issued a landmark decision striking down the NSL statute and the associated gag provision.
  • As of May 23, 2005: Has emailed 332 issues of the EFFector newsletter, keeping members and subscribers informed of current issues, urging action through Action Alert, and providing a variety of background information and links.
  • August 2004: Chamberlain v. Skylink. EFF helped Skylink score an important victory in the Federal Circuit that puts much-needed limits on the controversial "anti-circumvention" provision of the DMCA. Chamberlain, the manufacturer of garage doors, invoked the provision to stop Skylink from selling a "universal" remote control that works with Chamberlain garage doors. The court rejected Chamberlain's claims, noting that if it adopted the company's interpretation of the DMCA, it would threaten many legitimate uses of software within electronic and computer products—something the law aims to protect.
  • August 19, 2004: victory (http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2004_08.php#001833) in the MGM vs. Grokster (http://www.eff.org/IP/P2P/MGM_v_Grokster/) appeal. Fred von Lohmann of EFF as lead council representing Streamcast Networks. EFF prevailed before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with a decision affirming the "Betamax doctrine"—the rule following the Supreme Court's 1984 holding that a company that creates a technology cannot be held liable for copyright violations by users if the technology has substantial legal uses. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that neither were liable for infringements by people using their software to distribute copyrighted works. The case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • October 6, 2004: In cooperation with 8 other public interest organizations, submitted a brief (http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2004_10.php#001968) challenging the FCC's authority to impose the broadcast flag mandate, which goes into effect in July 2005.
  • October 15, 2004: Successfully represented the nonprofit ISP Online Policy Group (OPG) and two Swarthmore College students who published security flaws in Diebold voting machines. From the press release: "Diebold is the first company to be held liable for violating section 512(f) of the DMCA. which makes it unlawful to use DMCA takedown threats when the copyright holder knows that infringement has not actually occurred."
  • 2004: JibJab Media v. Ludlow Music, N.D. Cal. EFF successfully defended JibJab, the creators of a parody flash animation piece using Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land"—and uncovered evidence that the classic folk song is in fact already part of the public domain.
  • November 2004: Filed brief opposing the FCC's proposal to expand CALEA to broadband Internet access providers and VOIP systems.
  • December 2004: Started promoting and supporting Tor, a second generation Onion Routing network that allows people to communicate anonymously, through tor.eff.org
  • June 2005: Issued a Legal Guide for Bloggers (http://www.eff.org/bloggers/lg/), designed to be a basic roadmap to the legal issues one may confront as a blogger, to let bloggers know their rights.

See also

External links

fr:Electronic frontier foundation pl:Electronic Frontier Foundation


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