Electronic Frontier Foundation
Okay, so I’m probably never going to be a world class blogger, but some of you might keep this up. With that in mind and the end of class upon us, I wanted to share a few sites about the legal concerns of blogging, whether you end up authoring Dorf-like blawgs or just blogging daily about your cute pet hamster.
First, if you just want a quick overview of what laws might apply to your blog posts, check out 12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs to Know or 20 Law-Related Questions Every Blogger Should Know or The Bloggers’ Legal Guide at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://www.eff.org) is the self-proclaimed “leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the digital world.” It’s a nonprofit organization that was founded way back in 1990 (almost before Al Gore even invented the internet) and uses the expertise of lawyers, policy analysts, activists, and technologists to “fight for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations.” As a nonprofit engaged in costly litigation, EFF happily takes donations or lets you buy from the EFF shop. But as far as sites go, this is easily one of the most transparent – it provides its last three annual reports for public viewing and has pictures and bios of all of its staff and directors (including lots of staff attorneys and legal fellows). It also thanks other groups that have helped make it possible like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – definitely a legit enterprise. EFF’s history page is really interesting, describing how the organization started with a lawsuit against the Secret Service. It was actually the case that decided that the government needs a warrant to read emails the same as intercepting phone calls – something that we take for granted today. Read the history and all of the cool cases EFF has been a part of – it’s totally the stuff of movies.
EFF also has a tab of “Our Work” which allows you to click on their legal victories. Besides just giving you a brief summary of the case and the holding, EFF also gives you PDFs of pretty much all of their court documents – complaints, motions, briefs, transcripts, tables of authorities, exhibits, and the court’s decision – as well as links to press and blog coverings of the issue. That was surprisingly much more information than I anticipated from their gloat page. Sure, it’s not searchable, but other than that it’s amazing and would definitely be the first place I would look if I had a digital freedom-type case to look up. Why go to PACER or Westlaw when all of this is in one place for you?
Besides just the victories in the “Our Work” area, the site also gives a list of all EFF litigation. And again, it’s surprisingly better than what I expected. It’s not just a list – it’s sorted by topics (anonymity, bloggers’ rights, CyberSLAPP, etc.) so it’s pretty useful if you’re looking for authority on a particular electronic topic. Even though these are older cases than those highlighted in their more current victories, they still provide helpful summaries of the cases (for instance, in addition to the Doe v. Cahill summary is this tidbit – “This is the first state supreme court to rule on a “John Doe” subpoena or to address bloggers’ rights”) and PDFs of the court documents. The “Our Work” section also includes links to the issues that EFF addresses and something called “Whitepapers” which “reflect the results of EFF’s clear thinking on issues at the cutting-edge of law and technology.” I read through one called Digital Books and Your Rights: A Checklist for Readers and it was very well researched (and footnoted), thorough, and thoughtful.
The site also has “Deeplinks,” which seem to be EFF’s version of blog posts – “noteworthy news from around the internet” written by staff – and “Press Releases” detailing EFF’s current projects and headlines. Lastly (besides the joining, shopping, and donating areas), is an “Action Center” where EFF lets you easily send emails to your representatives, or a particular senator, or even the Google CEO to urge them to take or not take certain actions relating to privacy or digital freedom. And unlike a lot of sites that write your political letters for you, EFF still gives you a link for more info on the subject so you can read up and educate yourself before sending if you want.
[Completely random side note – they have an “Opportunities” section on the left sidebar for job openings, internships, and volunteer positions. It denied me access to the jobs page, but looking at the fun-looking people currently working there and the fact that they accept law student interns and do such interesting stuff, it looks like a great place to work…]
This field is currently such an ever-changing one that it was really nice to have stumbled upon such a well-run and informative website keeping tabs on all of it for us. Not only keeping tabs on it, but actively playing a role in helping to shape and protect the legal realm of the internet. Not to gush but even a technophobe like me thinks that this is really a great site and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this line of work. And anyone not interested should at least buy a roll of this Fourth Amendment packing tape!