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EFF Has Outlived Its Usefulness? 436

Posted by Zonk
from the fighting-for-your-right dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An inflammatory article runs today on The Register, with the title EFF Volunteers to Lose Sony Rootkit Suit. The article argues that the EFF's track record in court is detrimental to everyone with an interest in digital and privacy rights." From the article: "This is a very good cause. Sony installed stealth spyware on many thousands of Windows computers (although calling it a rootkit is an exaggeration), and it's crucial that the company get its bottom spanked quite painfully as a deterrent to its sister cartels in the entertainment racket. This is, in fact, such an important matter that the worst possible development would be to find the EFF arguing the case. That's because EFF will do what it always does: lose, and set a legal precedent beneficial to the entertainment pigopolists. By the time these pale vegetarians get finished, spreading musical malware will be considered a spiritual work of mercy." What do you think? Isn't it better to fight the good fight?
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EFF Has Outlived Its Usefulness?

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:06PM (#14194365)

    After reading this 'article' (and I use the term loosely), one is left wondering if this "Bonhomie Snoutintroff" has an axe to grind against EFF specifically, or if EFF was simply unfortunate enough to present an accessable target for one of "Bonhomie's" mindless rants.

    One thing is for sure...even if "Bonhomie" went by a less ludicrous pen name (honestly..."Bonhomie Snoutintroff"???), and refrained from such pejorative terms as 'pigopolists' and 'pale vegetarians', he still couldn't be taken seriously, due to his gross misrepresentation of the facts. Bonhomie cited six losses by the EFF...visit the EFF's legal victories page [eff.org], and you'll see several wins that Bonhomie conveniently failed to mention.

    This kind of vapid tripe is pathetic even for the Register's admittedly lax standards. In case there remains any doubt, I leave you with the short bio of "Bonhomie Snoutintroff", which was appended to the 'article' in question:
    Bonhomie Snoutintroff is a plain-spoken strong leader in cyberspace. He did poorly in school but his family is rich and well connected, so he's served as CEO of numerous, well-known Internet ventures that for various reasons unrelated to his forward-looking guidance no longer exist. He developed a cocaine and alcohol problem, although he refuses to dwell on the past: his mission is to bring honor and dignity to the IT profession. His keen insight as a global techno-visionary is matched only by his Christian humility.

    Why the hell isn't this in the 'humor' section....of either site?
    • by ergo98 (9391) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:10PM (#14194406) Homepage Journal
      After reading this 'article' (and I use the term loosely), one is left wondering if this "Bonhomie Snoutintroff" has an axe to grind against EFF specifically, or if EFF was simply unfortunate enough to present an accessable target for one of "Bonhomie's" mindless rants.

      Or maybe it was just a great topic to earn a Slashdot swarm? Writers often have little personally invested in the things they write about. Instead they write what people want to hear, or what they know will get them attention (see John C. Dvorak). I doubt the apparently fake guy has an "axe to grind".

      In any case, even flamebait stories like this often have a grain of truth to them, and if it does inspire some discussion it can be beneficial. For instance there is truth that precedent is extremely important, and it is critical that early cases are argued as effectively as possible.
    • humorless prigs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rodentia (102779) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:19PM (#14194488)

      Cultures not dominated by humorless prigs and literalists don't require flags to signal humor.

      This particular form is called satire and is widely used to call attention to self-importance or arrogance.

      • Re:humorless prigs (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg (230075)
        Cultures not dominated by humorless prigs and literalists don't require flags to signal humor. This particular form is called satire and is widely used to call attention to self-importance or arrogance.

        The trouble with many brits is that while they understand the basic concept of traditional dry british humor, they almost always do it badly. They mistake deadpan delivery of random combinations of weak sarcasm and patent absurdity for wit. They then claim the audience is too low-brow to catch the subtlet

        • by mellon (7048) * on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @02:26PM (#14195165) Homepage
          I dunno, mate, I thought it was pretty funny, and I'm a pale vegetarian myself.

          Well, actually, not so pale. Arizona sun and all, eh?
        • by FurryFeet (562847) <joudanx@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @02:26PM (#14195170)
          The trouble with many brits is that while they understand the basic concept of traditional dry british humor, they almost always do it badly. They mistake deadpan delivery of random combinations of weak sarcasm and patent absurdity for wit. They then claim the audience is too low-brow to catch the subtlety of the humor, when in reality it's just not particularly funny.

          The thing is, it's terribly hard to transmit subtle irony in writing. For example, I'm torn in trying to decide wheter you are rationally dissecting the flaws in British humour or you are deadpanly delivering random combinations of weak sarcasm and patent absurdity.

          I guess that if you reply and claim that I'm too lowbrow to catch the subtlety of your humor, we'll know.

    • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:22PM (#14194527) Homepage Journal
      honestly..."Bonhomie Snoutintroff"???
      Don't knock. With a name like that, Bonhomie Snoutintroff is odds on to be the next "Defense Against The Dark Arts" master at Hogwarts...
    • I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

      by paranode (671698)
      Is it better just to fight the good fight? Not if you are a poor fighter. In the legal arena, these rulings stick and we get the precedents in favor of RIAA/MPAA/Sony/etc. If the EFF has such a poor track record, maybe they should stick to lobbying and let the ACLU or state governments (like Texas and others) do the suing. It doesn't do us a whole lot of good if our battles are lost because the representation is poor, but it can do us harm.
      • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

        by delong (125205)
        It doesn't do us a whole lot of good if our battles are lost because the representation is poor, but it can do us harm

        Which is exactly the philosophy of the ACLU, btw. It should be the philosophy of any good attorney. Foolishly jumping into the fray "for the good fight" is a good way down the road to a phyric victory. Losing sets precedents, and the legal system does not give "A"s for "Effort".
      • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IAmTheDave (746256) <basenamedave-sd@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:53PM (#14194828) Homepage Journal
        Not if you are a poor fighter. This is hard to get my head around. Is the EFF bad? How many times have friend-of-the-court briefs been filed by hundreds of agencies supporting the EFF, and yet no matter how much support they have, no matter how logical their argument, the courts side with big business.

        Is this the EFF losing, or is this just corruption of the courts?
        • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dunkirk (238653)

          Is this the EFF losing, or is this just corruption of the courts?

          You have completely missed the point. The courts are upholding LAWS. Laws that have gotten passed at the behest of big business in CONGRESS. You want different outcomes on this sort of stuff (q.v. "broadcast flag"), vote for different people, lobby Congress yourself, take out some advertising, start a grassroots campaign... The options are varied depending on your commitment to change.

          Me? I just live without. But I'd be doing that anyway. I

        • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

          by einhverfr (238914) <chris.traversNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @02:52PM (#14195457) Homepage Journal
          IANAL, so take this with an appropriate amount of salt.

          Often the battles for our rights are far more subtle than they appear. These center around what evidence is admissable before the court, on what basis one can be found guilty for violating laws, and on what basis one can be found liable for damages. It is in these areas that the meat and substance of a precident lie.

          For example, in the Betamax case, the court ruled that it was insufficient to argue that because Sony knew that the Betamax VCR's could be used to violate copyrights when arguing that Sony should be held liable for damages caused by users of the product. This isn't really surprising. Just because a hardware company knows that, say, a hammer could be used for various types of illegal activity up to and including murder, one would not really consider holding them liable for wrongful death damages on that basis alone (and appeals courts have releatedly upheld the same standard for gun manufacturers too). In essence, the court said in Betamax that if a product has substantive legal uses, then knowledge of potential or actual illegal uses is insufficient to hold the manufacturer responsible.

          In Grokster, the court looked at whether a manufacturer (under Betamax) could be held liable on grounds other than those covered in Betamax. I.e. if Betamax created a shield that would allow for activities conducted in bad faith to be legally protected. SCOTUS concluded that Betamax only protected the acts of engineering, manufacturing, and distributing the technology, and that arguments could be made about whether the purpose of the company or the product was specifically to facilitate copyright infringement regardless or substantive legal uses. In other words, if you make P2P software, that doesn't make you liable, but if you advertise it saying "Download any songs you want" then that advertisement itself might make one liable. This distinction is a critical one and, in many ways, it upholds the substantive protections we have had under the Sony/Betamax precident (Breyer's concurring opinion is probably most eloquent in this regard).

          Lets take another example that is not in the domain of the EFF: Jose Padilla. This is a man who was (arguably illegally) imprisoned without trial, access to a lawyer, etc. for three years and has finally been indicted on charges that are fairly minor compared to what he has been accused of doing by our government. Now, I don't really care whether he wins or loses his case. Indeed I hope that in the end justice is served. However, I think that the Supreme Court needs to rule on the legality of Padilla's imprisonment for a number of reasons including what evidence might be allowable at trial and whether the government might have an incentive to undertake similar steps against others in the future. In essence the danger posed by someone like Padilla is far less than the danger posed by an Executive that has freed itself from judicial oversight. In other words, whether Padilla wins or loses, the rules decided in this case may be around for a while, so it is important that we reinforce the protections that we have against arbitrary imprisonment.

          In essence, I don't believe that the EFF is doing a bad job. There are a few cases that have gone badly (most notably the 2600 case) but in general, they seem to be doing a good job. I say, "Keep up the good work!"
        • by Urusai (865560) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @03:47PM (#14196070)
          Remember who controls the media and manufactures consent thereby. This is the same media that managed to make Kerry the decorated war vet look like a pansy compared to a guy who skipped out on his skipping out of Vietnam.

      • by Kevbo (3514) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @02:08PM (#14194983) Homepage
        For the most part, the EFF argues policy when they go before the judge. It is very difficult to take the stance that EFF does and say, to this effect: "Even though Eric Corley/Grokster/etc violated the statute, it does not stand to reason that this party should be at fault because the very nature of the statute is wrong." Or something to that effect.

        The EFF takes the most difficult side and tries to prevail. Even if they are not successful in the courts, they are certainly successful at raising awareness. Furthermore, there is no "public defender" for copyright cases. If you violate someone's copyright, you are paying for your own lawyer. The ACLU is not going to jump in, so your only chance at a defense is to spend out-of-pocket, or get an organization like the EFF to back you up. Even if you do pay money for a lawyer, much of his work has been done by the EFF, which results in lower fees for the client

        I do not think the EFF has outlived its usefulness.
      • Not precedent (Score:3, Informative)

        Usually rulings do not set precedent until an appeals court rules on them. But, if there is a ruling in a case, Collateral Estoppel [caught.net]applies to the parties in the case. If the EFF brings a case and wins, if it a good win.

        Even when they loose, they win. They bring the issue to light. If you don't like how they handle a case, then you take the case over or hire a lawyer to take the case over.

        This applies to doctors, lawyers, fighters, etc. If you only take easy cases, you can always win. If Mike Tyson only figh

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Um...

      Knowing that I often get fired up by articles like this, I followed the link to the EFF Legal Victories page, to give them a fair chance. While I'm not saying that the cases they've won aren't important, it would be hard to characterize them as anything but slam dunks. I can't give them a whole lot of credit for successfully arguing things like:

      Intel vs. Hamidi -- Intel claims Hamidi's emails 'trespassed on their systems', causing harm.

      Felten vs. RIAA -- RIAA tries to stop scientists publishing a paper
    • due to his gross misrepresentation of the facts. Bonhomie cited six losses by the EFF...visit the EFF's legal victories page, and you'll see several wins that Bonhomie conveniently failed to mention.

      Read the EFF's victories page. They list MGM v. Grokster. Ummm, I think SCOTUS overturning the 9th Circuit's ruling qualifies as a DEFEAT! So without wasting half my day to chase down their other "victories", I believe I will trust the EFF's objectivity about as much as anyone else (not much as all).

      Even
      • That's the problem I have with the ACLU. I'm completely opposed to them on most of their favorite issues, so I would be disinclined to ask for their help on anything, even something I do think they got right. It's probably not fair to them, but I associate them with the whole range of their positions, good and bad.

        The EFF, on the other hand, stands for essentially one limited set of issues, so it's easier to make a distinction between those issues and others they may or may not agree with.

        • by mspohr (589790) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @02:23PM (#14195138)
          You're opposed to civil rights for everyone?

          The ACLU supports civil rights. The way "the system" works is that it takes away the civil rights of the most despised (terrorists, etc.) and disenfranchised (poor, underclass) first and most people support these actions since these people are "evil".

          The problem is that once "they" have established the right to take away civil rights, they can come after anyone (even you) if they don't like what you are saying or doing... it's a slippery slope.

          The result is that the ACLU often finds itself defending some pretty odious people on principle. This clearly turns off most conformist people who don't understand the basic prinicples that are being defended.

          The old saying... "I may not agree with what you are saying but I will defend (to the death) your right to say it." (attributed to Voltaire)

          Now if you are a true Republican (American Republican, not of the French Republic), you will disavow this since Voltaire was FRENCH.

          • by Rimbo (139781)
            The ACLU supports civil rights.

            In theory, yes. They should be supporting the civil rights of everyone.

            They're quick to defend the rights of an artist who has created something that some people find objectionable...provided that it's not a Christian nativity scene on someone's front lawn that non-Christians find objectionable. The ACLU is strangely silent when that happens.

            One of my civil rights as a law-abiding citizen is my right to own a gun. Why do we have the NRA? Because the ACLU doesn't defend thi
            • They're quick to defend the rights of an artist who has created something that some people find objectionable...provided that it's not a Christian nativity scene on someone's front lawn that non-Christians find objectionable.

              Actually, the ACLU have defended many Christians (and others) who have been prevented from expressing their religion. That too is a civil liberty.

              Unfortunately, you've been mislead that the ACLU is some religious hating organization -- that's patently false.

            • by ChaosDiscord (4913) * on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @06:47PM (#14197896) Homepage Journal
              They're quick to defend the rights of an artist who has created something that some people find objectionable...provided that it's not a Christian nativity scene on someone's front lawn that non-Christians find objectionable. The ACLU is strangely silent when that happens.

              Oh is it? [aclu.org] "September 20, 2005: ACLU of New Jersey joins lawsuit supporting second-grader's right to sing "Awesome God" at a talent show." "December 22, 2004: ACLU of New Jersey successfully defends right of religious expression by jurors." "November 9, 2004: ACLU of Nevada defends a Mormon student who was suspended after wearing a T-shirt with a religious message to school." "August 11, 2004: ACLU of Nebraska defends church facing eviction by the city of Lincoln." "February 21, 2003: ACLU of Massachusetts defends students punished for distributing candy canes with religious messages." "July 11, 2002: ACLU supports right of Iowa students to distribute Christian literature at school." April 17, 2002: In a victory for the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the ACLU of Virginia, a federal judge strikes down a provision of the Virginia Constitution that bans religious organizations from incorporating." "January 18, 2002: ACLU defends Christian church's right to run "anti-Santa" ads in Boston subways."

              Wow, that ACLU sure does turn a blind eye to protecting religion.

              I'm quite sure that if a city specifically shut down a nativity scene on private property that the ACLU would be all over it. (Assuming, of course, that the situation was biased. If the city shut down everything on everyone's lawns, navity scenes and garden gnomes alike, it would be stupid, but legal and fair.)

              One of my civil rights as a law-abiding citizen is my right to own a gun. Why do we have the NRA? Because the ACLU doesn't defend this right; we need another organization to pick up the slack.

              Why do we have an EFF? The ACLU already spends lots of effort fighting for the exact same causes that the EFF does. Ultimately because some peopl prefer to focus in particular areas more than the ACLU does. I suspect the NRA would exist even if the ACLU did defend gun rights.

              On that particular issue, well, yes, the ACLU has a different interpretation of the second amendment. [aclu.org] I don't actually agree with their assessment, but they're hardly hostile to gun ownership Unless you found the organization, I doubt you'll find an organization that you entirely agree with. I chose to accept that and support several organizations that work in areas I care about.

        • That's the problem I have with the ACLU. I'm completely opposed to them on most of their favorite issues, so I would be disinclined to ask for their help on anything, even something I do think they got right. It's probably not fair to them, but I associate them with the whole range of their positions, good and bad.

          You'd probably be surprised to know that William F. Buckley Jr. was defended by the ACLU in the 70's; and William F. Buckley Jr. is definitely not who you'd think of as your typical ACLU suppo

      • MGM v. Grokster (Score:5, Insightful)

        by einhverfr (238914) <chris.traversNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @02:14PM (#14195041) Homepage Journal
        I read the SCOTUS opinion. The EFF might have argued for the losing side, but SCOTUS did let the Betamax precident stand, and even declined to further limit it. Please take what I write with a bit of salt, for IANAL.

        What SCOTUS said was that Betamax (AKA Sony) was not a carte blanche to facilitate copyright infringement, and that actions taken outside the realm of actual.technology are legitimate targets. In other words, technology per se is off the table provided that it satisfies Sony (the precident, not the company). However, if I sell photocopiers and say "Buy my photocopiers! They are great to copy books with," then I may have stepped over the line.

        In many very important ways, the technology community won a number of important victories in the Grokster case, and the media companies were given an arguably fair system, and this is likely to help forestall the next wave of media-bought acts (for example, keeping the INDUCE act from being reintroduced).
    • Just out of curiosity, is Bonhomie Snoutintroff a known name? I've never seen it before, but I did notice that the last name looks like it would be pronounced "Snout-in-trough," which somehow seems a bit appropriate after those last couple paragraphs.
    • This is obviously a back-handed remark on the awful current occupant of the White House.

      Seriosly, if someone has this as their bio, and is writing this kind of trash about the EFF, then they're obviously trolling. Is sending several thousand hits his way via slashdot the way to reward this kind of trash?

    • "visit the EFF's legal victories page [eff.org], and you'll see several wins that Bonhomie conveniently failed to mention."

      I'm pro-EFF, but as a matter of full disclosure, it would be nice to have the EFF also maintain a page of legal spankings it took, lessons learned, that sort of thing.
  • What do you think? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by waynegoode (758645) * on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:07PM (#14194374) Homepage
    What do you think? Isn't it better to fight the good fight?

    As the article clearly states, the question is not whether to "fight the good fight", but rather, who should fight the good fight. The article isn't inflammatory. It asks the legitimate question of whether the EFF should handle the Sony DRM case.

    • Ok, then who? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by failrate (583914)
      If not the EFF, who else is willing to take up the fight?

      • Lawyers who are only in it for the money a class action lawsuit would bring them would be much more likely to win, I'd be more than willing to bet.
      • If not the EFF, who else is willing to take up the fight?

        Last I heard, state AG's for Massachussetts, Texas, and California were all lining up their own suits as well.

        Doesn't mean the EFF shouldn't also be in the crowd though. The more the better.

  • Ignore theregister (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bwd (936324)
    I don't know why slashdot posts links to this reactionary tech-tabloid. All they do is troll for hits to their outlandish articles. They rarely have any content of worth, and when they do, it's overshadowed by their poor writing style and use of reactionary language.
    • Your comment was probably noticed by the BOFH. I'd skip work for a week or two if I were you.

      Seriously, I think so much of tech journalism is led by marketing machinery it's good to have some disrespective, thoroughly sceptical writing out there. Maybe their humour just isn't your type.
    • Well said. Perhaps most importantly, editorial != news An editorial about something in a major paper from a respected author is important enough to merit coverage sometimes, because it reflects what the general public reads about technology issues, and also forms the public opinion. But this is just some guy's rantings, rantings which are crappy and rantings that /. just legitimized.
    • They rarely have any content of worth, and when they do, it's overshadowed by their poor writing style and use of reactionary language.

      ... kinda like /., huh? Gonna have to check this place out...

      -everphilski-
  • Better (Score:3, Insightful)

    by peacefinder (469349) <alan,dewitt&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:09PM (#14194394) Journal
    It's better to win the good fight.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:10PM (#14194398)
    Fight dirty and fight to win. You use any and every method at your disposal to put the other guy down and make sure he doesn't get back up. There is no honour in fighting, there is no glory. There is no good fight.

     
    • Yes, that is precisely the correct attitude for war. It is precisely the incorrect attitude for court. The whole idea of a court system is to ennoble man by removing the whole dirty fighting thing.
    • by Kenneth Stephen (1950) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:53PM (#14194833) Journal

      Not to invoke Godwin's law or anything, but if one were to indeed use any means necessary, then the Nazi's didnt really do anything repugnant with the concentration camps. The Japanese didnt do anything wrong with Pearl Harbor. And Saddam Hussein didnt do anything wrong when he gassed the Kurds. And, using your argument, there wouldnt seem to be anything wrong with the actions of the 9/11 bombers either.

      As in all things, there are limits. The ends do not always justify the means because as someone else put it "what good is it if you win the war but lose your soul?".

    • by tom's a-cold (253195) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:58PM (#14194881) Homepage
      There is no honour in fighting, there is no glory. There is no good fight.
      Reminds me of something one of my karate teachers (a wonderful old Cockney gentleman) said to us: "Always fight fair. And by fair fight I mean one in which you don't get hurt."

      With all due respect to the EFF, though, they are fighting a legal rearguard action. The problem is that the legislation they're opposing is meant to be crooked. The courts will ony go so far in opposing the will of Congress and the executive branch. The end goal needs to be repeal of the idiotic laws and regulations that throw away the fundamental rights of the majority in order to keep a dying revenue stream alive a little bit longer.

      And by the way, Snoutintrough is a satirical column.

  • The Cream Gang (Score:5, Interesting)

    by minginqunt (225413) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:10PM (#14194400) Homepage Journal
    A friend, with my cajoling, [The 'Cream Gang'] recently wrote an article similar to this recently, regarding attending an abortive and mostly useless launch of the UK's EFF equivalent, the Open Rights Group.

    Our findings, here:

    Open Rights Group Launch [cream.org]

    Open Rights Shites

    This evening, Coxall, Levine and I attended an open meeting of the Open Rights Group, a new UK organisation set in the mould of the EFF. I wasn't expecting the earth to move for me: we've attended too many of these little geek/numeeja run yack-shacks to hope for anything particularly productive to emerge. This evening did its least to confound me.

    It was held in a basement in Soho named Zero-One. I say basement, but, naturally, one is encouraged to term it a "creative space". Said "creative space" was filled with geeks and numeedjas, as well as a scattering of lawyer-types and Earnest Young Men. Overwhelmingly men, of course, the few women who were there either freaks, sociologists or serving the free cheese and wine. Hey - don't shoot the messenger. A few chairs encircled the basement, but the main floor was bare, to encourage crouching and cross-legged encampment. Oh dear. This was all going to be "inclusive and discursive", wasn't it?

    Oh dear, indeed: the manageress of the "creative space" started proceedings. Her introduction was little more than an ad for her basement. She then brought on an ex hack, who spouted some trivial nonsense or other, and was excited by the prospect of setting up ever more "wikis" and "blogs". She, in turn, brought on a jargon-clappy professional "meeting facilitator/consultant". This was going to be "fun".

    The evening was to commence with a little talk from some Oxford chap or other, followed by a free-fall clustered discussion, in which each cluster was to be provided with its own sticky wall-covering on which to paste their mindstormingly written postcards.

    The Oxford nonentity informed us that the Internet was somewhat marvellous, and, gosh, lots of interesting things might become of it soon, what ho, and it's not just paedophilia and terrorists. The poor fellow seemed trapped in 1994.

    The Management Consultant Facilitator then spouted some jargon, and asked the floor for ideas for the discussion clusters. The Earnest Young Men pontificated their banalities. The geeks obsessed about some yawnful minutia. And Coxall suggested we discuss how to win over the "unhosed stupid masses". Yes, that is the phrase he used and, yes, the reaction from this righton bunch of whitebread nonces was predictable. "Maybe if you stopped patronising them like that..." was the immediate response from one of the Earnest Young Men on the floor.

    Thence began the multiple clustering. Levine, Coxall and I have attended so many of these nascent talking shops now that we decided to skip with the usual niceties and begin some good old Trotskyite agitation. We argued that trying to interest people in the potential problems of overreaching anti-privacy legislation, or draconian Intellectual Property laws and the restrictive technologies therefor, was a lost cause. The "unhosed masses" wouldn't care about these philosophical crampings until they felt the constrictive banding themselves, in their every day lives. We argued for the inculcation of popular anger: to that end, a little DRM here, a little copyright overextension there wasn't enough. We decided that, rather than allow creative society to die the death by a thousand cuts that is its inevitable fate in a world dominated by multi-billion dollar "content" oligarchies, we should use these monoliths' huge power and budgets to subvert themselves from within, to the point where their overreaching hubris could lead to genuine polltax-riot intensity anger, and Berlin-wall-sized dismantlement.

    Rather than fiddle with legislation to make it slightly less bad, then, or to try to temper corporate excesses with the few thrown crumbs of compromise, a smartly utilitarian organisati
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @02:23PM (#14195142) Journal
      Congratulations. You've just given us a graphic demonstration of why Trotskites suck.

      Promote more of the very thing you hate in order to make the people hurt enough to drive them into revolt? Look at what happened with your own example, prohibition.

      The temperance movement got a ban on liquor - a recreational drug with significant downsides. Net effect was to make it more popular and fund the development of organized crime, the BATF, and self-defense bans in the US.

      After a decade of horrendous body counts and far larger counts of people injured by adulterated product and gang violence, public pressure finally got the law repealed. But the dead were still dead, the crippled were still crippled, and organized crime is still with us - along with the out of control bureaucracies, which were converted to drug (starting with marijuana) and firearms law enforcement rather than disbanded.

      The harm continues, and escalates, to this day, with urban drug gangs and violence, RICOing of drug users' assets, and such debacles as Waco and Ruby Ridge.

      All this over the freedom to have a little drink when you party.

      Yet you advocate repeating this DELIBERATELY as your solution to restrictions on information technology? A decade of war - or more, since that technology is the main tool of resistance?

      Then there's the other thing such groups do: Disrupt any tyranny-resistance organization that isn't doing things THEIR way, in order to take it over if it can be, destroy it if not. Here we have the first meeting of such an organization, and (as is usual for first meetings) it has a lot of disorganization and a heavy sprinkling of well-meaning flakes among the activists. These things generally get sorted out quickly, if proceedings aren't disrupted. So what do you do? When they don't instantly do things your way, you disrupt them.

      Congratulations. Maybe you killed it. Maybe you just made it less responsive to popular input. But you certainly aren't getting the problem solved.

      Unless the problem is Trotskyites - and other, similar, communist/socialist factions.

      That problem you're putting right in people's faces, so they can see what you are.

      Back in the '60s we had a saying: "Trots are a case of the slow runs." Thanks for showing us it's true in the naughties as well.
    • Re:The Cream Gang (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Omnifarious (11933) *

      While I tend to agree with the person who started their post "Nice, another word-wanker.", I also agree with the general point of yours. Personally, I wouldn't have started in your camp in that meeting, but I would've ended up there because I think you're right.

      This isn't a fight where a comprimise will leave anybody in a good position. This is one where we have to win in the long run. I think your strategy is the only viable one I've heard that has a chance of accomplishing that.

  • Is it better to stand and fight or curl up and die? I really hoped this article was a satire piece, but nope, I think the "author" is serious.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:11PM (#14194409)
    Be sure to read about the author at the end of the second page. Makes me want to go check my calendar. Awful cold outside for April.
  • Actually I agree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:12PM (#14194416) Homepage
    I have been saying this for years, and each time I am flamed to a crisp for even daring to question the EEF. They are a very well-meaning group, and I commend their attempts to take on big corporations and touchy suits... but the fact remains that if precedents are being set here and against us due to young/inexperienced lawyers we are just shooting ourselves in the foot.

    I think an organization LIKE the EEF is a good thing but needs to be structured in a different way, with more specialized and successful lawyers backing it.
    • Precidents like... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall (25149) * on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:22PM (#14194529)
      ...but the fact remains that if precedents are being set here...

      You mean Precidents like These [eff.org]? Or lobbying efforts like getting rid of the broadcast flag?

      Should any organization be required to win 100% of its legal battles (on behalf of the public I might add) in order to gain support? I don't think setting an impossible standard is a helpful guide for deciding what organizations to support.

      The EFF has been fairly effective in legal matters, and even more effective in educational areas like lobbying. AS that is the key to a better future (better to never have a bad law passed than to fight it latre through the courts) it is important to support the EFF as they are pretty much the ONLY group that understands the deep technological chasms laws can veer into. Are you honestly going to trust the ACLU to handle stuff like P2P?

      For those who see the value in having an organization fighting for technical rights, you can donate to the EFF here [eff.org]. I donate every year and really all of us in the technical field should feel ashamed if we are not supporting the people that brought down things like the broadcast flag.
    • Re:Actually I agree (Score:3, Informative)

      by terrymr (316118)
      Trial court verdicts don't establish precedent ... only a reported appeals court case does that.

  • by kahei (466208) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:15PM (#14194440) Homepage
    ...is what I thought this might be. I thought it might be a deep and timely inquiry into how the legal battles of the new era can be fought effectively when it falls to amateurs and part-timers to fight them.

    But then I noticed it was in The Register! Haw! You guys got me good!

  • I do think it's important for litigious lobbying organizations to pick their battles, so if it's true that they lose more than they win, creating bad case law in so doing, that's pretty damning.

    What cases have they won?

    • by meisenst (104896) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:22PM (#14194522) Homepage

      See the EFF's legal victories page [eff.org].

      There are some fairly important legal victories on that page. It is simply a case, it seems, of harping on the EFF for their failures without recognizing that they're human, and they lose cases. They also win cases.

      • It is simply a case, it seems, of harping on the EFF for their failures without recognizing that they're human, and they lose cases.

        These cases of the EFF's aren't like a football league where they've signed up to play every week and they consequently have to play every opponent. In choosing which cases to defend (and put their imprimateur on) they are in position to research the facts, the law and the judicial record of the panel they'll be arguing before. With all that info, one would expect their record

        • That's utter nonsense.

          First, though the EFF can choose who they defend, the opposition can choose who they prosecute.

          Second, the legislation they're trying to fight against is often pernicious, but since it is the law of the land, the only way to fight it is to argue it on constitutional grounds. The courts aren't usually eager to overrule Congress unless they've clearly overreached. So the EFF needs to present a slam-dunk case to a sympathetic judge just to have a chance.

          Any decent lawyer could easily ra
        • Or unless they are fighting the hard cases that no one else would touch. You don't pick only the cases that are easy to win; you pick the ones that are worth figthing for.

          Also, you seem to imply that researching the facts will give you a good idea of how the court will lean. That's not the case. You have arguments and the other side often has also good arguments. It's a coin toss in a lot of cases, and not because the EFF didn't do its job, but because such is the nature of courts.
  • Well, first whatever the guy says at least its stated on the website as an opinion and not as a hard fact.I do not agree with everything he says nor am I in a position to comment because I for one do not have all the facts.
    But coming to the matter at hand, yes its right that its better not fight if you lose everytime and make a mockery of the matter and everyone else supporting you.
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:17PM (#14194471) Homepage Journal
    I have it on good authority that EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow hunts elk with a obsidian spear, and eats the livers of his prey while still warm and dripping in blood.

    Cory Doctorow is said to stalk, kill, and eat emus during his frequent, clandestine trips to Australia.

    The only vegetables served in the cafeterias of the EFF Tower -- formerly the Transamerica Pyramid -- are potatoes and a bit of parsely, and only to accompany great the rare steaks favored by the employees.

    "Pale vegetarians?" Fah!
  • by karl.auerbach (157250) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:18PM (#14194479) Homepage

    I've worked with EFF's legal folks and they are very, very good.

    And when we went to court [eff.org], we won.

    • by chip rosenthal (74184) <chip@unicom.com> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:50PM (#14194794) Homepage

      When I was threatened by a reverse domain hijacking [unicom.com], the EFF provided reference to a lawyer who helped with my case. We won, and I've been told my case has established precedent. As a result of my case, a company cannot try to steal a domain by filing a lawsuit in a distant state.

      I'm grateful for the support of the EFF.

  • by hahiss (696716)

    So, what, all the IANAL-posters on slashdot should now do this work?

    Insert obligatory Lionel Hutz quotes .

    I mean, this is clearly one of those places where those who don't like the EFF could step up and, you know, hire some lawyers (presumably ones they think are good) and fight the good fight.

    But, of course, that takes more energy than posting nasty things on Slashdot . . . .

    Player haters, one and all.
  • Total garbage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Calibax (151875) * on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:19PM (#14194496)
    It's difficult to take seriously any article written under the byline "Bonhomie Snoutintroff".

    The Register is a British publication, and it's very likely the author is British also - the author's bio doesn't state his nationality. I guess this Brit feels he (or she) is a really good judge of American lawyers and the American legal system, and this places him in a good position to comment meaningfully on the merits of the actions taken by the EFF. (How many American journalists have an intimate understanding of the British courts, sufficient to write about British legal practice?)

    The author also seems to be privy to the inner workings of the EFF and feels qualified to judge the merits of each case cited in the article. Or possibly he has some sort of axe to grind. It's hard to know where to start correcting his comments, and frankly it isn't worth it taking the time.

    The article is a piece of garbage and fully worthy of being published in the Register.


  • And it appears they are right....

    Also note.. Sarcasm is NOT the same as irony, and irony is NOT like "goldy" or "silvery".
  • .... Tell Him So [theregister.co.uk]

    Of course, RTFA before you do. Not that he'll probably be able to tell ;)

    However, I'm unsure of how/why this is news for us exactly. Great discussion question, perhaps, but do we really want a guy by the name of Bonhomie Snoutintroff to be the one creating ripples in the tech community ;) .
  • by David Price (1200) * on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:24PM (#14194550)
    Disclaimer: I am a former EFF intern.

    I won't try to argue here, but I will suggest, in the interest of balance, that you check out EFF's list of legal victories [eff.org].

  • by zerblat (785) <jonas.skubic@se> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:25PM (#14194562) Homepage
    Seriously. While they've always been a bit sensationalistic and required quite a few grains of salt, they used to be at least semi-interesting, and occationally at least somewhat funny.

    Nowadays, all their articles seem to be written by brainless trolls.

  • by hcg50a (690062) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:25PM (#14194568) Journal
    The "article" cited by the paranoiac submitter is an opinion piece, and it is rife with humor, starting with the author's name. The submitter (and a lot of readers here) are taking this opinion piece way too seriously.
  • We suines are much less offensive than entertainment industry executives. We do not snort massive quantities of cocaine, we do not pay ourselves vast sums of money to hand out brown envelopes to opinion formers, and we do not pay talentless bands ridiculous amounts of money to shut up and keep miming to pap. If record industry execs were replaced with pigs, the world would be a better place
  • Your Rights Online: EFF Has Outlived Its Usefulness?

    That's complete BS. We need more organizations like the EFF and more funding to support them. The internet should be become the greatest interactive public library in history, not a logjammed pollbooth laden series of checkpoints and chokestops.
    • "That's complete BS. We need more organizations like the EFF and more funding to support them. The internet should be become the greatest interactive public library in history, not a logjammed pollbooth laden series of checkpoints and chokestops."

      And more baseball teams like the Cubs. Or more movies like Battlefield Earth.
  • Anagram (Score:2, Funny)

    by UESMark (678941)
    I really don't have the energy to pore through the results of an anagram finder, but Bonhomie Snoutintroff seems to me to be an obvious anagram with "eff" in it. --mark
  • by YouHaveSnail (202852) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:33PM (#14194647)
    ...maybe we should all actually do something to help. There are lots of ways to help. Groklaw [groklaw.net] is a pretty good model for how to get the word out in a clear way and really motivate people.

    It wouldn't hurt to help the EFF [eff.org] out with a donation in this holiday giving season. If the EFF is losing cases that it ought to be winning, I don't imagine that it's for lack of a clue. It's probably just outgunned by the huge, deep-pocketted corporations and industry associations that it takes on. EFF and ACLU seem like the two best organized outfits that are standing up for our rights, so search your sofa for loose change and help 'em both out.

    And although it sounds tired, it never hurts to let your elected representatives know what you think. If they hear from enough of us, they really will do something about it.

    • I don't think the problem is that they're losing cases they ought to be winning, but rather that they're taking (too many?) cases that they are going to lose.

      The ACLU has the same problem. Maybe they want to be seen as filers of frivolous baseless suits, but to many of us, many of the suits both groups pursue seem to have this flavor - pie in the sky...

      If they just took a few less unrealistic positions, I think they'd convince a lot more people that they're trying to do the right thing rather than just the
  • April 1st already? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:34PM (#14194657) Journal
    although calling it a rootkit is an exaggeration

    Exaggeration? It modifies the behavior of the OS at the lowest level possible for anyone outside Microsoft, for the purpose of hiding files and processes performing whatever Sony wants. It allows activity below the level of any user environment, thus allowing for what amounts to the ultimate in "privelage escalation". What do you call a rootkit, if not that?


    beneficial to the entertainment pigopolists

    Puh-lease. I loathe the RIAA et al as much as the next geek, but save the name-calling for the discussion. FPs should at least pretend to have some objectivity. If I still believed in Slashdot Editors (you know, like Santa and the Tooth Fairy), I would say they should never have let this one through.
  • I don't know about everyone else, but looking through the list of cases they show that the EFF has lost, I don't think any of them were winnable. They all seem to be cases where they have challenged a law or prior judicial ruling and went in knowing the chances of winning the case were slim. I'm just glad that there are people out there who will take on the big companies even if it is hopeless.
  • by StevenMaurer (115071) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:38PM (#14194691) Homepage
    A failure of many people in the European left is that they try to use politically motivated judges and commissions when they lose in the court of public opinion. Americans don't think highly of the practice, because it is essentially anti-democratic. US judges don't think much of the practice because they know that their only inherent power comes from the respect of the people - a power they'd quickly lose if they became viewed as politicans in judicial robes. Of course, this has already happened in Europe and the UN, which is why they're dominated by toothless judges and commissions that everyone but their political allies ignore.

    The EFF's weakness isn't that they lose. It's that they fight cases they shouldn't. You want to structure things so that even if you lose in the court because the law's wrong, the publicity is positive so that you can go to the people to make the law right. Never take a case that detracts from your credibility.

    Case in point: Mr. "Bonhomie Snoutintroff" whines that the EFF won't be able to get a US judge to rule that anonymous travel on eminently hijackable aircraft is a fundamental right. Well, duh. In the face of worldwide terrorism, NO ONE could do that. It's settled law that aircraft travel is not treated the same as walking down the street (which is why the government can legally search you prior to boarding). The real question is why did the EFF take this up at all? Is there no better place to spend their energies?

    Pick your fights, EFF. Pick your fights.

  • by bakreule (95098) <bkreulen@y[ ]o.com ['aho' in gap]> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:43PM (#14194736) Homepage
    They also defended 2600 publisher Eric Corely, who was barred from posting or linking to the DeCSS DVD descrambling utility of "DVD Jon" fame, and they lost.

    Umm, please correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the case eventually get thrown out? Or, to put it more precisely, didn't the MPAA give up because they knew the cat was out of the bag? Isn't he know free, and writing lots of other interesting stuff?

    Indeed, there is no good reason why anyone should not be permitted to travel incognito, and many good reasons why one should. This is a case that can, and should, be won. Surely, only an EFF principal could blow this one, yet blow it he did.

    What? This is the absolute worst environment to be trying this kind of case. We have a "war on terror", and this guy thinks a case involving NOT identifying oneself while boarding a plane is a good idea that "should" be won? This guy is nuts...

    I have no idea about the EFF's track record, but this guy seems to be wildly off....

    • Well, if you read farther in the article, he suggests that incongito travellers *should* be searched thouroughly (and their baggage) to ensure they aren't a threat. As long as you know they aren't a threat, the reasoning goes, why do you care who they are?

      This is one of those things that I, personally, could go either way on. Does it really hurt public safety if unidentified passengers are on a flight? Maybe - I don't know, I'm not an expert in this kind of thing. But it does seem like, if someone is willin
    • Umm, please correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the case eventually get thrown out? Or, to put it more precisely, didn't the MPAA give up because they knew the cat was out of the bag?

      OK. You're wrong. Corely lost all the way up to the 2nd District Court of Appeals, the last step before the Supreme Court. He did not appeal to SCOTUS, the EFF even has a press release on their site announcing they gave up.
      At least the PLAINTIFF knew when he was beaten, unlike the EFF.

  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@NOSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:44PM (#14194740) Homepage Journal
    well meaning idealism doesn't work in the real world

    pragmatism does, and you don't have to sacrifice any of your ideals to be pragmatic about how to work them. in other words, you don't sacrifice your principles by playing them correctly, it's an unfounded fear that by playing it any other way except straight you are somehow sacrificing your ideals. this is not a cynical observation, it's a tactical one

    the ivory tower approach to life may well make you feel smug and superior in life, but it doesn't help with a messy struggle in the mud. you don't lose when you go the idealistic route, you just wind up not playing the game, and becoming irrelevant to the causes you care about
  • by eggboard (315140) * on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @01:49PM (#14194776) Homepage
    First, EFF doesn't always lose. That's a gross mischaracterization of their efforts.

    Second, sometimes losing is the only way to cast in stark relief deep efforts by companies to hide what they're doing. This will (eventually) produce a change only if citizens want their rights back and elect folks who campaign (however cynically) on that matter. It's not important to constituents on the whole yet. Hollywood's contributions are laughably small in the scale of things.

    Third, the Newmark v. lawsuit that I was part of to preserve consumer rights in the ReplayTV lawsuit, established a precedent even though we didn't "win." The suit was eventually settled by ReplayTV's buyer (the company that bought the product line out of bankruptcy of the parent firm), but the judge in the case allowed us as consumers to join a lawsuit in which consumer rights were threatened. Thank you, EFF.
  • by Bun (34387) on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @02:56PM (#14195507)
    From the article: "Finally, EFF co-founder and board member John Gilmore has independently taken up one of the more important civil-liberties causes of recent years, attempting to sue for the right to travel by air within the USA without having to show identification. This is a very important case, and it's up for appeal later this week, so let's dwell on it a bit.
    Indeed, there is no good reason why anyone should not be permitted to travel incognito, and many good reasons why one should. This is a case that can, and should, be won. Surely, only an EFF principal could blow this one, yet blow it he did. The combination of Gilmore's preposterous and inflammatory libertarian rhetoric and his unreasonable demand that he not be subject to any security measures, like a bag search and a pat down, mean that his appeal, scheduled for 8 December, will almost certainly go down the tubes with his original attempt.
    "

    I'm grateful that the man is willing to volunteer his time to defend citizens' rights in the courts, but deliberately lumping elements that will surely be defeated into a winnable case makes you wonder who's side he's really on.

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken

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