EFFector Vol. 12, No. 3 Oct. 25, 1999 email@example.com
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424
IN THE 147th ISSUE OF EFFECTOR (now with over 19,000 subscribers!):
* ALERT: H.R. 10
+ Mandatory Filtering & Other Problems in Juvenile Justice Bill
+ Cybersquatting Bill Threatens Free Speech, Privacy, Fair Use,
+ WHAT YOU CAN DO
For more information on EFF activities & alerts: http://www.eff.org
Electronic Frontier Foundation ACTION ALERT:
H.R. 1501 & H.R. 3028 Threaten Online Free Speech, Privacy and Other Rights
(Issued: Oct 25, 1999 / Deadline: Nov. 10, 1999)
Mandatory Filtering & Other Problems in Juvenile Justice Bill
The bloated Juvenile Justice bill (H.R. 1501), passed by both houses
of Congress in different forms and currently in conference committee,
contains, in the House version
( http://www.eff.org/censorship1999/hr1501_1999_bill.html ), a
requirement that publicly-funded libraries (and schools) install
Internet content filters on their computers to block access to illegal
content (child porn, obscenity) for all users and to block legal but
somewhat explicit content ("material harmful to minors") for kids.
The principal problems with this legislation are:
* It is physically impossible for any software to block "illegal"
content, since only a court can deem it illegal on a case-by-case
basis. The software can't predict what is and isn't legal.
* Filtering software is notoriously imprecise, and does not perform
as advertised (or as believed by Congress) - it both fails to
block a wide range of "obscene", "indecent" or "harmful-to-minors"
material, and accidentally (or in some cases maliciously) blocks
material that is not in any way pornographic, including a wide
range of news coverage, political content and health-related
material, even sites that provide facts about filtering software
in some cases. Even conservative groups oppose this legislation,
since their own sites are frequently censored for "intolerance".
* Much of this material is First Amendment-protected, even for
minors, making the bill unconstitutional.
Institutions that do not comply with these requirements would be
stripped of vital E-Rate funding.
Additionally, the Senate version
( http://www.eff.org/censorship1999/hr1501_sp1344_1999_bill.html ) of
the Juvenile Justice bill contains a provision that will force large
Internet service providers to give filtering software to their
customers, free or at-cost. Aside from interfering in the ISP and
software market for no legitimate reason (remember, filtering simply
doesn't work the way Congress mistakenly thinks it does), this
provision really makes no sense: Some filtering software is available
for free over the Internet; any ISP, by definition, already provides
their customers with free access to filtering software.
As if all this weren't enough, the Senate version also includes a ban
on online advertising or sale of firearms or explosives, and a
provision to encourage the formation of an industry cartel to restrict
access to constitutionally protected content ("violent" material,
depictions of illegal activity, etc.)
Finally, both versions of the bill have numerous threatening
surveillance and other anti-privacy provisions.
Cybersquatting Bill Threatens Free Speech, Privacy, Fair Use, and Justice
The "Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act," H.R. 3028, is about to be
voted on in the House of Representatives and would be disastrous to
the free speech and privacy rights of domain name holders. EFF urges
you to contact your Representative today and tell him or her to vote
no on this bill. (The bill has already passed the Senate, and is
expected to be voted on any day now in the House.)
With the stated goal of preventing trademark infringement and dilution
in the Internet domain name space, the misguided "Trademark
Cyberpiracy Prevention Act" the would make domain name holders legally
liable in civil actions brought by trademark holders sharing the same
name or one that is "confusingly similar."
This bill undermines fair use and First Amendment freedoms in granting
all trademark holders new rights greatly in excess of those already
granted by existing trademark law. TCPA's provisions would enable
bad-acting trademark holders to sue satirists and critics into
The legislation is an assault on anonymous speech; it effectively
forces domain name holders to give up their privacy or have an
increased likelihood of liability (and for no real reason, since there
isn't any connection between anonymous use of the Internet and
The bill will have a chilling effect on free expression because it
effectively encourages registrars to reject the registration of any
domain name that they believe has a remote possibility of being
The TCPA bill also sets up a system whereby US-based companies would
be able to take away domain names - without notice - from foreign
companies and individuals who can't afford to travel to the US to
defend themselves (assuming they even know about the action against
them at all.)
Attacked domain name holders would have to file their own lawsuits to
prove their innocence, and do not even have affirmative defenses to
assert when sued, only factors for optional court consideration.
Domain name holders must not be treated guilty until proven innocent.
Months' worth of international cooperation could be undermined in the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), working
to come to a balanced consensus on intellectual property, domain names
and individual rights. Congress should not be second-guessing the
Commerce Dept. (which is overseeing transition to the new
administration of the Domain Naming System), nor suddenly wading into
a highly contentious area of global technology policy.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Contact your Representative and Senators, and urge them to pressure
the Juvenile Justice Bill conferees to remove the senseless and highly
controversial Net censorship provisions from the bill. SEPARATELY
contact your Representative again (one issue per call, or the message
may get confused) and ask them to vote against the "Trademark
Cyberpiracy Prevention Act".
(To find out who your legislators are and to get their contact
information, please see EFF's Contacting Congress Factsheet. You
should send a letter, fax or email, or make a phone call to the office
of, your Representative (and your two Senators, in the case of the
Juvenile Justice bill). For good measure, you may wish to send a
similar letter of opposition to the offices of the President and
Vice-President as well.)
Short sample message about the Juvenile Justice Bill for phone calls
or telegrams (faxes & letters should be more detailed):
I'm a constituent, and am contacting you to oppose controversial
and misguided provisions of the Juvenile Justice Bill currently in
conference. I urge you to pressure the conferees to delete the
* House version, Sections 1401-1403 - unconstitutional mandatory
filtering, opposed by liberals and conservatives alike
* Senate version, Section 1504 - mandatory ISP provision of filters
* Senate version, Sections 1561-1564 - unconstitutional ban on
online advertising that's legal in print;
* Senate version, 401-406 - formation of industry cartel to restrict
access to First Amendment-protected content that some find
* Both versions, various sections - anti-privacy provisions
regarding "clone pagers", increased uncontrolled sharing among
agencies of personally identifiable information about citizens,
and more surveillance.
These provisions have not been examined much less approved by both
houses of Congress, and should certainly not be passed as riders on
the Juvenile Justice Bill.
Short sample message about the "Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act"
for phone calls or telegrams (faxes should be more detailed; it is too
late for postal letters, House may vote any day now):
I'm a constitutent contacting you to oppose the antidemocratic and
misguided "Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act", H.R. 3028. I urge
Rep. [Rep.'s name here] to vote AGAINST this legislation. Some of
the flaws in the bill:
* It undermines fair use and free expression;
* grants all trademark holders vast new rights, at the expense of
every individual's rights;
* threaten online privacy with anti-anonymity provisions that
implicate First Amendment-protected anonymous speech;
* treats accused domain name holders as guilty until proven
* allows bad-acting trademark holders to steal domain names without
notice and to shut down critics' Web sites.
* effectively encourages registrars to reject any and all domain
name registrations they imagine could conceivably be infringing,
thereby chilling free expression and harming online commerce; and
* undermines the work of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers, the new non-profit created with the guidance of
the Commerce Dept. to administer the Domain Naming System).
This bill desperately needs to be examined in hearings, but is
being rushed to a vote by intellectual property interests. Passage
of this bill will thwart ongoing attempts to reach an international
consensus on intellectual property, domain names and individual
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