Woo-hoo!

N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Is Illegal, Appeals Court Rules

A federal appeals court in New York on Thursday ruled that the once-secret National Security Agency program that is systematically collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk is illegal. The decision comes as a fight in Congress is intensifying over whether to end and replace the program, or to extend it without changes.

In a 97-page ruling, a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a provision of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, known as Section 215, cannot be legitimately interpreted to allow the bulk collection of domestic calling records.

I personally enjoy the closing components, where the Court refuses to let Congress off the hook:

We note that at the present time, §215 is scheduled to expire in just several weeks. The government vigorously contends that the program is necessary for maintaining national security, which of course is a public interest of the highest order. Allowing the program to remain in place for a few weeks while Congress decides whether and under what conditions it should continue is a lesser intrusion on appellants’ privacy than they faced at the time this litigation began. In light of the asserted national security interests at stake, we deem it prudent to pause to allow an opportunity for debate in Congress that may (or may not) profoundly alter the legal landscape.

Moreover, given the necessity of congressional action, the statutory issues on which we rest our decision could become moot (at least as far as the future of the telephone metadata program is concerned), and the constitutional issues appellants continue to press radically altered, by events that will occur in a short time frame. If Congress decides to authorize the collection of the data desired by the government under conditions identical to those now in place, the program will continue in the future under that authorization. There will be time then to address appellants’ constitutional issues, which may be significantly altered by the findings made, and conclusions reached, by the political branches, and to decide what if any relief appellants are entitled to based on our finding that the program as it has operated to date is unlawful. If Congress decides to institute a substantially modified program, the constitutional issues will certainly differ considerably from those currently raised. If Congress fails to reauthorize §215 itself, or reenacts §215 without expanding it to authorize the telephone metadata program, there will be no need for prospective relief, since the program will end, and once again there will be time to address what if any relief is required in terms of the data already acquired by the government. We believe that such issues will be best addressed in the first instance by the district court in due course.

CONCLUSION

This case serves as an example of the increasing complexity of balancing the paramount interest in protecting the security of our nation – a job in which, as the President has stated, “actions are second-guessed, success is unreported, and failure can be catastrophic,” Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence – with the privacy interests of its citizens in a world where surveillance capabilities are vast and where it is difficult if not impossible to avoid exposing a wealth of information about oneself to those surveillance mechanisms. Reconciling the clash of these values requires productive contribution from all three branches of government, each of which is uniquely suited to the task in its own way.

For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the district court erred in ruling that §215 authorizes the telephone metadata collection program, and instead hold that the telephone metadata program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized and therefore violates §215. Accordingly, we VACATE the district court’s judgment dismissing the complaint and REMAND the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Something To Learn More About

The Fair Use Index:

This Fair Use Index is a project undertaken by the Office of the Register in support of the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement of the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC). Fair use is a longstanding and vital aspect of American copyright law. The goal of the Index is to make the principles and application of fair use more accessible and understandable to the public by presenting a searchable database of court opinions, including by category and type of use (e.g., music, internet/digitization, parody).

The NYTimes Tries A Napster Wrapup

The video accompanying the NYTimes “Retro Report” on Napster,
Grappling with the ‘Culture of Free’ in Napster’s Aftermath [pdf] is pretty good, although the article text still hews to the “piracy” framing of the issue. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to embed the NYTimes video here, but it’s worth a viewing. A chance to go down memory lane…

The video, along with some interviews with artists, can also be viewed at the associated Making Music in the Digital Age webpage. Ingrid Michaelson, Amanda Palmer, David Lowery, and Tommy Emmanuel give their own takes, which can give you certain pause — particularly their own difficulties reconciling the economics of production with the production of their art. Amanda Palmer, in particular, asks a really good question, while Tommy Emmanuel and David Lowery offer opposing perspectives on the realities of the music business today. Ingrid Michaelson’s interview, more than any of the other three, illustrates the confusion that is the legacy of the peculiar dialectics of music production over the past century, and the way that the art, law, and technology have evolved to sustain the peculiar framings of “creativity.”

Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo

See American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo, Inc.. Another blow to the notion that legislated rights are strictly constructed. Scalia, in his dissent, says it best:

This case is the latest skirmish in the long-running copyright battle over the delivery of television programming. Petitioners, a collection of television networks and affiliates (Networks), broadcast copyrighted programs on the public airwaves for all to see. Aereo, respondent, operates an automated system that allows subscribers to receive, on Internet-connected devices, programs that they select, including the Networks’ copyrighted programs. The Networks sued Aereo for several forms of copyright infringement, but we are here concerned with a single claim: that Aereo violates the Networks’ “exclusive righ[t]” to “perform” their programs “publicly.” 17 U. S. C. §106(4). That claim fails at the very outset because Aereo does not “perform” at all. The Court manages to reach the opposite conclusion only by disregarding widely accepted rules for service-provider liability and adopting in their place an improvised standard (“looks-like-cable-TV”) that will sow confusion for years to come.

The Title Says It All

At Newark Airport, the Lights Are On, and They’re Watching You [pdf]

Visitors to Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport may notice the bright, clean lighting that now blankets the cavernous interior, courtesy of 171 recently installed LED fixtures. But they probably will not realize that the light fixtures are the backbone of a system that is watching them.

Using an array of sensors and eight video cameras around the terminal, the light fixtures are part of a new wireless network that collects and feeds data into software that can spot long lines, recognize license plates and even identify suspicious activity, sending alerts to the appropriate staff.

Here We Go

Federal Judge Rules Against N.S.A. Phone Data Program [pdf] [decision]

A Federal District Court judge ruled on Monday that the National Security Agency program that is systematically keeping records of all Americans’ phone calls most likely violates the Constitution, and he ordered the government to stop collecting data on two plaintiffs’ personal calls and destroy the records of their calling history.

From the Conclusion of the decision:

This case is yet the latest chapter in the Judiciary’s continuing challenge to balance the national security interests of the United States with the individual liberties of our citizens. The Government, in its understandable zeal to protect our homeland, has crafted a counterterrorism program with respect to telephone metadata that strikes the balance based in large part on a thirty-four year old Supreme Court precedent, the relevance of which has been eclipsed by technological advances and a cell phone-centric lifestyle heretofore inconceivable. In the months ahead, other Article III courts, no doubt, will wrestle to find the proper balance consistent with our constitutional system. But, in the meantime, for all the above reasons, I will grant [the] requests for an injunction and enter an order that (1) bars the Government from collecting, as part of the NSA’s Bulk Telephony Metadata Program, any telephone metadata associated with [plaintiffs’] personal Verizon accounts and (2) requires the Government to destroy any such metadata in its possession that was collected through the bulk collection program.

However, in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues, I will stay my order pending appeal….

An Unexpected Decision

Bound to be appealed: Google Books Lawsuit Defeated: Book Scanning Deemed ‘Fair Use’ – see The Authors Guild , et al. v. Google (US District Court, Southern District of New York):

CHIN, Circuit Judge

Since 2004, when it announced agreements with several major research libraries to digitally copy books in their collections, defendant Google Inc. (“Google”) has scanned more than twenty million books. It has delivered digital copies to participating libraries, created an electronic database of books, and made text available for online searching through the use of “snippets.” Many of the books scanned by Google, however, were under copyright, and Google did not obtain permission from the copyright holders for these usages of their copyrighted works. As a consequence, in 2005, plaintiffs brought this class action charging Google with copyright infringement.

Before the Court are the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment with respect to Google’s defense of fair use under § 107 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 107. For the reasons set forth below, Goggle’s motion for summary judgment is granted and plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment is
denied. Accordingly, judgment will be entered in favor of Google dismissing the case.

See also Judge Sides With Google on Book Scanning Suit

James Grimmelmann, a professor of law at the University of Maryland who has followed the case closely, called the ruling “a win for Google and a big win for libraries and researchers.”

The judge “argues that authors didn’t lose much because it’s not like they were losing sales to Google Books,” Mr. Grimmelmann said. “The Authors Guild, on the other hand, loses a lot of face from this.”

[…] “By taking eight years from the lawsuit to resolve this, book scanning has gone from an exciting novelty to part of the background of the industry,” he said. “This has been going on for so long that it’s just part of the business now. And you’re seeing how many exciting new uses that can come out of it.”

Performance Royalties for Performers on the Radio

Congressman Proposes New Rules for Music Royalties [pdf]

On Monday, Representative Melvin L. Watt, a Democrat from North Carolina, introduced the Free Market Royalty Act, a bill that would let record companies and performing artists collect royalties when their songs are played on the radio. It would also change the licensing process for both broadcast radio and online services that approximate radio, like Pandora, establishing a market for these services to negotiate rates with the rights holders.

Broadcasters in the United States pay only songwriters and music publishers; for nearly a century, they have argued that the promotional value an artist receives from having a song played on the radio is remuneration enough. Repeated efforts by the music industry have failed to establish such a royalty on the radio, and while laws in the 1990s created it online, Web services complain that they have been burdened with a cost not shared by terrestrial radio.

Mr. Watt’s bill would establish a performance right for AM and FM radio. In an ambitious move, it would also eliminate the compulsory licensing process that lets services like Pandora and Sirius XM circumvent labels by paying a rate set by federal statute. Instead, under the system proposed by Mr. Watt’s bill, radio and online outlets alike would have to negotiate for rights through a market administered by SoundExchange, a nonprofit agency, giving labels and artists the right of refusal.

[…] The National Association of Broadcasters, the radio industry’s lobbying outlet, reiterated its longstanding opposition, calling the royalty a “performance tax” and saying that 183 members of Congress had supported its preferred bill, the Local Radio Freedom Act [H.CON.RES.16], a nonbinding resolution against “any new performance fee, tax, royalty or other charge” on radio stations.

Of course, this is more important than a continuing resolution, but it’s always interesting to see when these things turn up. I’d give the Thomas link to the text of the bill, but I doubt it’ll be posted before the government shuts down tonight at 12:01.

Funny

If it weren’t so sad: In Supreme Court Opinions, Web Links That Go Nowhere [pdf]

Supreme Court opinions have come down with a bad case of link rot. According to a new study, 49 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work.

[…]

Hyperlinks are a huge and welcome convenience, of course, said Jonathan Zittrain, who teaches law and computer science at Harvard and who prepared the study with Kendra Albert, a law student there. “Things are readily accessible,” he said, “until they aren’t.”

What is lost, Professor Zittrain said, can be crucial. “Often the footnotes and citations,” he said, “are where the action is.”

Well, Of Course

Are you really surprised? It is their mission, after all. N.S.A. Foils Much Internet Encryption [pdf]

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.