EFFector Online 09.08 - June 12, 1996 - Federal Co
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EFFector Online Volume 09 No. 08 June 12 1996 email@example.com
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424
IN THIS ISSUE:
Federal Court Rules Communications Decency Act Unconstitutional
Security and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Forum, July 1 (Stanford)
Quote of the Day
What YOU Can Do
* See http://www.eff.org/Alerts/ or ftp.eff.org, /pub/Alerts/ for more
information on current EFF activities and online activism alerts! *
Subject: Federal Court Rules Communications Decency Act Unconstitutional
Groups challenging the law prepare for government appeal to the Supreme Court
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Contacts: Stanton McCandlish, Online Activist, +1 415 436 9333
Mike Godwin, Staff Counsel, +1 510 548 3290
Shari Steele, Staff Counsel, +1 301 375 8856
Philadelphia -- "Just as the strength of the Internet is chaos, so the
strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos and cacophony of the
unfettered speech the First Amendment protects."
With these ringing words, a Philadelphia federal court has struck down a law
today that would have criminalized constitutionally protected speech on the
Internet and other online forums.
In what civil libertarians are hailing as a victory for everyone who uses
computer communications, a three-judge panel in Philadelphia's federal
court ruled in a unanimous decision that the controversial
"Communications Decency Act" (CDA) violates the U.S. constitutional
guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press.
"First of all, we are pleased to see the court vindicate our vision of
the Net as a medium protected by the First Amendment," said Lori Fena,
executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a watchdog
group established to protect civil liberties, and promote responsibility, in
computer communications. "Secondly, we are delighted that the court has gone
beyond striking down the law, and has stated positively what constitutional
principles must govern any attempt to regulate the most democratic mass
medium the world has ever seen."
Said EFF Chairman Esther Dyson: "This is a day for individual citizens, for
families, and for public and private organizations online to celebrate."
"The judges recognized that CDA was a wholly inappropriate exercise of
governmental power under the Constitution," said Mike Godwin, EFF staff
counsel. "The law would have abridged one of the freedoms that Americans
treasure most, and a freedom that is central to any democratic society," he
Godwin applauded the members of the coalition that challenged the law in
federal court. "We and the other plaintiffs persuaded them that the
government cannot constitutionally impose this sort of overreaching, and
duplicative regulation of content in the online world," Godwin said.
Dyson stated that the decision stands for one of EFF's principal positions
regarding free speech online: "We believe in free speech at the source -- and
in the empowerment of any audience for that speech to control what they see.
"This decision takes the responsibility for controlling and accessing speech
on the Net out of the hands of government and puts it back in the hands of
parents and other individuals where it belongs," she said. "Individuals
already have the technical means to make their own choices about what they
and their children read and see," Dyson said.
Godwin noted that existing anti-obscenity laws, together with low-cost
technological solutions, offer a more efficient, less intrusive answer to
questions about protecting children in the online world.
"The government kept saying that this was a crisis that required harsher
censorship in the online world than in any other communications medium,"
Godwin said. "In fact, we showed that it's possible to promote both freedom
of speech and family values -- that the two goals don't oppose each other."
While the plaintiffs are pleased with the victory, Fena said, "it's no time
to be complacent." A collection of poorly drafted state laws has followed in
the wake of the passage of the CDA, and the issues these statutes raise must
be addressed as well, she said.
"What's as compelling as the language of this decision," Godwin said, "is the
breadth of the opposition to this legislation," He noted that two large
groups of plaintiffs, including EFF, the American Civil Liberties Union, the
Electronic Privacy Information Center, People for the American Way, the
American Library Association, Microsoft, and Apple Computer, had challenged
the recently passed law in Philadelphia's federal court. Even Administration
officials have privately and publicly voiced their concerns. The plaintiffs
must now prepare for the government's planned appeal to the United States
Supreme Court, Godwin said, citing a provision of the Telecommunications
Reform Act of 1996, which prescribes such a direct appeal when a provision of
the telecom act is found unconstitutional in a lower court..
Godwin also commented that "this may be the most rapidly distributed federal
court opinion in American history." Sites all over the over the Net would be
carrying the full text of the opinion almost as soon as the judges hand it
down, he said, noting that the court is providing copies of the opinion on
computer diskettes as well as through more traditional means.
The constitutional challenge to the Communications Decency Act has been
grounded in four basic arguments -- that the law is unconstitutionally
overbroad (criminalizing protected speech), that it is unconstitutionally
vague (making it difficult for individuals and organizations to comply),
that it fails what the judiciary calls the "least restrictive means" test for
speech regulation, and that there is no basic constitutional authority under
the First Amendment to engage in this type of content regulation in any
"We are confident the Supreme Court will uphold the Philadelphia court's
decision," Godwin said.
To reach EFF board chairman Esther Dyson or executive director Lori Fena,
please contact EFF's main office at +1 415 436 9333.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation
1550 Bryant St., Suite 725
San Francisco CA 94103 USA
+1 415 436 9333 (voice)
+1 415 436 9993 (fax)
* Security and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Forum, July 1 (Stanford)
Security and Freedom Through Encryption Forum
July 1, 1996
Making the Case for a Pro-Commerce, Pro-Privacy National Encryption Policy
A National Public Education Campaign
Current U.S. export controls and other limits on encryption are
stifling electronic commerce on the Internet, preventing computer
users from protecting their privacy, and handicapping U.S.
industry in the global marketplace. Congress must eliminate
barriers to electronic commerce by removing these Cold
War-era regulations of vital information technology.
Further encourage policy makers to relax export controls, by
raising public awareness of encryption's importance to U.S.
competitiveness, individual privacy, the economic future of the
computer industry, and ultimately jobs in America.
The Security and Freedom Through Encryption (SAFE) Forum in
Northern California, hosted by Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
and Tom Campbell (R-CA), with members of Congress,
prominent industry leaders, and computer security experts.
Location: Kresge Auditorium at Stanford University,
Date: July 1, 1996
Audience: National and local press, California
constituents, members of Congress.
Published proceedings in book form (MIT Press proposal pending).
Simultaneous smaller events will be held by local organizers in cities
across the nation.
Event will include panel discussions, keynote presentations, and a
Speakers and sponsors still needed - contact Daniel Weitzner or Alan
Davidson at the Center for Democracy and Technology, +1 (202) 637-9800.
Please register and get a ticket reserved ASAP. There is only room for
500 to attend. To register or get more info, see the event web site at:
This schedule lists EFF events, and those we feel might be of interest to
our members. EFF events (those sponsored by us or featuring an EFF speaker)
are marked with a "*" instead of a "-" after the date. Simlarly, government
events (such as deadlines for comments on reports or testimony submission,
or conferences at which government representatives are speaking) are marked
with "!" in place of the "-" ("!?" means a govt. speaker may appear, but
we don't know for certain yet.) And likewise, "+" in place of "-"
indicates a non-USA event. If it's a foreign EFF event with govt. people,
it'll be "*!+" instead of "-". You get the idea.
The latest version of the full EFF calendar is available from:
ftp: ftp.eff.org, /pub/EFF/calendar.eff
gopher: gopher.eff.org, 1/EFF, calendar.eff
See also our new Now-Up-to-Date HTML calendar at:
June 15 - Open discussion of the lack of computer industry philanthropy.
$10 dollar donation includes dinner and drinks. ($5-children);
4pm - midnight, Fred and Sylvia's CyberSalon West, 630 San
Miguel Way, Berkeley, CA.
Contact: +1 510 526 5555
20 - Society and the Future of Computing; Snowbird, UT.
18 - Practicing Law Institute's 16th Annual Institute on Computer
Law: Understanding the Business and Legal Aspects of the Internet;
San Francisco, CA
Contact: +1 800 477 0300
18 * Venture Market Europe - presentation and discussion of private
technology company CEOs' international business plans and ideas;
London, England. Speakers will include EFF Board of Directors
Chairperson, Esther Dyson.
Contact: +1 415 865 2277 x210 (voice), +1 415 865 0453 (fax)
22 - World Conference on Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia,
ED-MEDIA 96; Boston, MA. Submission deadline: Oct. 20, 1995.
Contact: +1 804 973 3987
Fax: +1 804 978 7449
22 - ISTAS 96, International Symposium on Technology and Society;
Princeton Univeristy, Princeton, NJ. Abstract submission
deadline: Dec. 15, 1995.
Fax: +1 609 258 1985
22 - "Personal Information - Security, Engineering and Ethics,"
sponsored by the Britsish Medical Association; Isaac Newton
Institute, Cambridge, MA. Deadline for submissions: May 10.
Contact: Dr. Ross Anderson, Isaac Newton Institute, 20 Clarkson
Road, Cambridge CB3 0EH, England
26 + Australasian Conference on Information Security and Privacy;
New South Wales, Australia.
28 + INET 96, The 6th Annual Conference of the Internet Society: "The
Internet: Transforming Our Society Now"; Montreal Canada. Deadline
for abstracts: Jan. 15.
Contact: Carol Gray, International Secretariat
12020 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 210
Reston, VA 22091
Voice: +1 703 648 9888
Fax: +1 703 648 9887
28 - MIT seminar, "Converging Networks: Business and the
Telecommunications Act of 1996."
Subject: Quote of the Day
"We are in danger of getting government by the clueless, over a place
they've never been, using means they don't possess"
- John Perry Barlow, EFF co-founder, 1995
Find yourself wondering if your privacy and freedom of speech are safe
when bills to censor the Internet are swimming about in a sea of of
surveillance legislation and anti-terrorism hysteria? Worried that in
the rush to make us secure from ourselves that our government
representatives may deprive us of our essential civil liberties?
Concerned that legislative efforts nominally to "protect children" will
actually censor all communications down to only content suitable for
the playground? Alarmed by commercial and religious organizations abusing
the judicial and legislative processes to stifle satire, dissent and
http://www.eff.org/EFFdocs/join_eff.html (or send any message to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Even if you don't live in the U.S., the anti-Internet hysteria will soon
be visiting a legislative body near you. If it hasn't already.
Subject: What YOU Can Do
* The Communications Decency Act & Other Censorship Legislation
The Communications Decency Act and similar legislation pose serious
threats to freedom of expression online, and to the livelihoods of system
operators. The legislation also undermines several crucial privacy
protections. June 12, 1996 a 3-judge Federal court in Philadelphia
ruled the CDA unconstitutional, and enjoined enforcement. Action next
moves to the US Supreme Court. But in the mean time, numerous states
have passed or are still considering Internet censorship laws, almost all
of which are unconstitutional and pose severe legal threats for all Internet
access and service providers, as well as content providers, including
anyone who uses mailing list forums or newsgroups or who has a web page.
Business/industry persons concerned should alert their corporate govt.
affairs office and/or legal counsel. Everyone should write to their own
Representatives and Senators, letting them know that such abuses of
public trust will not be tolerated, that legislators who vote against
your free speech rights will be voted against by you in the next elections.
Join in the Blue Ribbon Campaign - see http://www.eff.org/blueribbon.html
PARTICIPATE IN BLUE RIBBON ACTIVISM EFFORTS:
Support the EFF Cyberspace Legal Defense Fund:
For more information on what you can do to help stop this and other
dangerous legislation, see:
If you do not have full internet access (e.g. WWW), send your request
for information to email@example.com.
IMPORTANT! KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR LOCAL LEGISLATURE. All kinds of wacky
censorious legislation is turning up at the US state and non-US
national levels. Don't let it sneak by you - or by the online activism
community. Without locals on the look out, it's very difficult for the
Net civil liberties community to keep track of what's happening locally
as well as globally.
* New Crypto-Privacy Legislation
Urge your Represenatitives to support the Pro-CODE crypto export bill
(and to fix the few remaining bugs in it).
For years US export controls on encryption have hampered the development
of secure communications online. This technology is vital for online
commerce, for national security, and for YOUR electronic privacy.
The new Pro-CODE legislation will go a long way to rectifying the situation.
Join in the Golden Key Campaign - see http://www.eff.org/goldkey.html
PARTICIPATE IN GOLDEN KEY ACTIVISM EFFORTS:
Support the EFF Cyberspace Legal Defense Fund:
for more info.
* Digital Telephony/Comms. Assistance to Law Enforcement Act
The FBI has been seeking both funding for the DT/CALEA wiretapping
provisions, and preparing to require that staggering numbers of citizens be
To oppose the funding, write to your own Senators and Representatives
urging them to vote against any appropriations for wiretapping.
We are aware of no major action on this threat at present, but keep your
eyes peeled. It will be back.
See http://www.eff.org/pub/Privacy/Surveillance/ for more info.
* Anti-Terrorism Bills
Several bills threatening your privacy and free speech have been introduced
recently. One passed, but none of the rest of them are close to passage at
this very moment - however, this status may change. Urge your
Congresspersons to oppose these unconstitutional and Big-Brotherish
bills, which threaten freedom of association, free press, free speech,
and privacy. One such bill passed a few weeks ago, stripped of some of the
more onerous provisions. It could have been worse, and could yet still
Keep up the pressure. Write to your legislators: No
secret trials and deportations, no expansion of wiretapping scope or
authority, no national or "smart-card" ID systems!
For more information on some of this legislation, see
* The Anti-Electronic Racketeering Act
This bill is unlikely to pass in any form, being very poorly drafted, and
without much support. However, the CDA is just as bad and passed with
flying colors [the jolly roger?] in Congress. It's better to be safe
than sorry. If you have a few moments to spare, writing to, faxing, or
calling your Congresspersons to urge opposition to this bill is a good
* Medical Privacy Legislation
Several bills relating to medical privacy issues are floating in Congress
right now. Urge your legislators to support only proposals that *truly*
enhance the medical privacy of citizens.
More information on this legislation will be available at
http://www.eff.org/pub/Privacy/Medical/ soon. Bug firstname.lastname@example.org to make
it appear there faster. :)
* Child Privacy Legislation
A new bill to protect children from unethical marketing practices (e.g.
tricking kids into revealing personal information by offering prizes or
games) has been introduced. EFF and other civil liberties organizations
like, and dislike, various points in this bill. The legislators
sponsoring the bill appear interested in resolving the problems in the
statutory language they have proposed. More information on this will be
* Find Out Who Your Congresspersons Are
Writing letters to, faxing, and phoning your representatives in Congress
is one very important strategy of activism, and an essential way of
making sure YOUR voice is heard on vital issues.
EFF has lists of the Senate and House with contact information, as well
as lists of Congressional committees. These lists are available at:
The full Senate and House lists are senate.list and hr.list, respectively.
Those not in the U.S. should seek out similar information about their
own legislative bodies. EFF will be happy to archive any such
information provided to us, so pass it on!
If you are having difficulty determining who your US legislators are,
try contacting your local League of Women Voters, who maintain a great
deal of legislator information, or consult the free ZIPPER service
that matches Zip Codes to Congressional districts with about 85%
Computer Currents Interactive has provided Congress contact info, sorted
by who voted for and against the Communcations Decency Act:
* Join EFF!
You *know* privacy, freedom of speech and ability to make your voice heard
in government are important. You have probably participated in our online
campaigns and forums. Have you become a member of EFF yet? The best way to
protect your online rights is to be fully informed and to make your
opinions heard. EFF members are informed and are making a difference. Join
For EFF membership info, send queries to email@example.com, or send any
message to firstname.lastname@example.org for basic EFF info, and a membership form.
EFFector Online is published by:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation
1550 Bryant St., Suite 725
San Francisco CA 94103 USA
+1 415 436 9333 (voice)
+1 415 436 9993 (fax)
Membership & donations: email@example.com
Legal services: firstname.lastname@example.org
General EFF, legal, policy or online resources queries: email@example.com
Editor: Stanton McCandlish, Online Activist, Webmaster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This newsletter is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
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End of EFFector Online v09 #08 Digest