Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase the understanding of civil liberties and other legal issues in cyberspace, or what it calls the electronic frontier. Concerned with preserving the principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, EFF defends the rights of computer users, network users, and members of the online community.

Widely recognized for its expertise in legal matters related to computer networks and electronic media, EFF has become a leading resource for those seeking to better understand the complex issues associated with new communications technology. As part of its civil liberties mission, EFF seeks to ensure that the creators of electronic communications have the same political freedoms as the creators of newspapers, books, journals, and other traditional media.

EFF was founded on July 10, 1990, by Mitchell D. Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corporation and ON Technology, and John Perry Barlow, a writer and lyricist. Kapor and Barlow formed the organization after becoming alarmed by what they saw as misguided and unconstitutional actions by state and federal law enforcement officials against individual computer users. Initial funding for EFF came from Kapor, Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer, and other computer and technology entrepreneurs.

Among EFF's first efforts were the defense of several hackers, or computer enthusiasts, in cases brought by the government. EFF has continued to sponsor lawsuits when it has felt that individuals' online civil liberties have been violated. EFF also submits advisory reports, called Amicus Curiae briefs, to courts and arranges for the charitable donation of attorneys' services for individuals who cannot afford their own legal counsel.

As part of its effort to promote laws that better accommodate new technology, EFF monitors legislation and lobbies for changes in the law. It also creates and distributes legal analyses to companies, utilities, governments, and other organizations, and it maintains a free telephone hotline for use by those in the online community who have questions regarding their legal rights. EFF runs a speakers' bureau, which disseminates the organization's views to law enforcement organizations, attorneys' associations, universities, and other groups.

EFF promotes improved intellectual property laws, including patent and Copyright laws, for electronic media. It also encourages the creation of policies that will promote the distribution of electronic information by public and private providers. EFF sponsors summits and working groups that bring together people from business, government, education, and nonprofit organizations.

Specific proposals advanced by EFF include a "common carriage" approach to free speech on electronic networks. Under a common-carrier scheme, network providers must carry all speech, regardless of its content, but are not liable for the actions of users. EFF has called for an electronic freedom-of-information act to allow broader public access to information, and it has set forth specific proposals that promote wider access to computer networks such as the Internet.

EFF publishes the EFFector Online, an electronic bulletin; the EFFector, a hard-copy newsletter; and various pamphlets and books. It maintains several communications forums on the Internet, including a web site and news group forums on Usenet and on private online systems.


Computer Crime; E-Mail; Freedom of Speech.