ASSOCIATES (2005, November, v. 12, no. 2) -

*Our Digital Rights*

website review

Michael D. Brooks
Saint Joseph’s University
Francis A. Drexel Library
Philadelphia, PA

Everyday all of us will eventually sit down at a computer in our homes, in our schools, at our jobs, at the beach, at a park, or maybe even a cybercafé and either work, play, or do both. We will turn on our TVs, VCRs, or DVD players and watch our favorite movies and television shows. Some of us will pull out our CD or MP3 players and listen to our favorite tunes, and spend time talking on our cell phones. We don’t generally give much thought to the software developers, the hardware developers, communication protocols and standards, the programmers, the laws and lawmakers. These are pretty much the people who invent, develop, improve, maintain, repair, and govern how we use all of this stuff.

If any thought is given at all, it’s usually to technical support (or the lack thereof), copyright protection, viruses, hackers, crackers, worms, spam, spyware, adware, hoaxes, scams, porn, or (if you’re American) the Patriot Act. But a lot more goes on behind the scenes than most of us realize. There’s more to the cyberworld than simply the day-to-day annoyances and conveniences of our modern society.

The aforementioned examples barely scratch the surface. There is an army of legal strategists as well as political and social activists out there dedicated to protecting our “digital rights” and technological freedom. Their efforts help keep us informed about the electronic world around us. To get an idea of some of the battles being waged in cyberspace and real space, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation website at

Before exploring the site, first visit the Our Mission [] page under the "What Is EFF?" section, then click the About EFF link []. It’s a full page of who they are and what they are all about. From here, you can find out who is on the Board of Directors, the Advisory Board, and who the Staff are. If you want to volunteer, provide support or apply for a job (at the time of this writing, there were no job openings), you can do that too. Just pick one of the links in the Contact and Staff Information box.

There is a wealth of information on this site that is more than anyone could ever digest. But you are welcome to try. The Site Map page [] is a bullet list of subjects ranging from artificial intelligence to terrorism; from censorship to virtual reality. For the lawyers and lawyers-in-training, click the Cases [] link to reach the Legal Cases Archive page. It is a library of legal cases involving all aspects of litigation regarding electronic communications.

The right column contains a Contents section of links to more in-depth articles and resources (sort of like the TOC in a journal). There is an opportunity to subscribe to the free newsletter, the EFFector, which appears to be published weekly every seven or eight days. The EFFector Newsletter Archive page [] contains links to articles appearing in the current issue and a hyperlinked list of all its back issues going as far back as the first online issue of December 10, 1990.

Additionally, there is a Topics section. It is an alphabetical list of general topics ranging from anonymity to the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) []. Basically, the WIPO is an international copyright protection organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland working in conjunction with the United Nations.

For all of you Bloggers out there, the Legal Guide for Bloggers page [] has information to help you navigate the pitfalls of maintaining a weblog. The Deep Links page [] has news articles and weblog posts about events that are shaping the digital world. If censorship or copyright laws are your cups of tea or coffee, click the appropriate Topics link within the column along the right side of the Home or Site Map pages. Want to learn something about privacy laws? (Libraries and library staff are sensitive to this issue more today than ever before.) Simply click the link for that topic.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, type it in the Search Box. The search engine is Google-driven so your results will be based upon Google search parameters. The hit list will bring up EFF site-based information. If you’re on the Deep Link page, the search box results are quite different. Search terms will bring up a list of archived articles or weblog sites relative to your search keyword. I found a couple of articles describing how the entertainment industry has lobbied to prevent new technologies from becoming reality until they figured out how to use it to their advantage and cash in on the product’s usefulness. Remember Napster? Remember the controversy about the legalities of recording TV shows and movies with a VCR? TiVo? Consider how consumers pay for cable service, spend money to purchase cable-ready devices, then they have to spend more money to purchase cable boxes so they can watch the cable shows they already pay for. Quite a few of the articles are PDF files. So you’ll need Adobe Acrobat to read them.

Aside from the intriguing articles, another interesting site feature is the date, which appears at the top right of every page. It’s hypertext. It’s a link to a calendar of events. Events of special interest are listed and hyperlinked within the calendar or at the bottom of the page. Clicking on a link will open a window on your desktop with a synopsis of the featured guest speaker or event accompanied by a corresponding URL for more information, whether it is a conference or convention. The calendar is customizable and downloadable.

Perhaps the best way to describe the Electronic Frontier Foundation site is to say that it’s an eclectic mix of news and information about the digital world that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else all in one place.

First Serial Rights Only. ©2005 by Michael D. Brooks

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