Formation documents and mission statement for the EFF
ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION INTRODUCED IN WASHINGTON 7-10-90
10 July 90 --- Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corp.,
announced at a news conference this morning that his newly formed
Electronic Frontier Foundation is giving $275,000 to Computer Profes-
sionals for Social Responsibility to expand their program on computers and
CPSR will host a series of policy round-tables in Washington during the
next two years, to bring together lawmakers, computer users, industry
representatives, and law enforcement officials "to ensure that our civil
liberties protections are not lost amidst policy confusion about the use
of new computer technologies," according to a press release.
"CPSR also plans to develop policy papers on computer and civil liberties,
to oversee the Government's handling of computer crime investigations, and
to act as an information resource for organizations and individuals
interested in civil liberties issues."
In addition, Kapor said EFF will foot the legal costs to recover a
computer bulletin-board system seized about 4 months ago from Steve
Jackson Games of Austin, Texas. Reasons for the seizure are still
unclear, since no charges have yet been filed, and the warrant for the
seizure was sealed by the court.
During the raid the Secret Service also confiscated drafts of a role-
playing game that SJG was about to release, believing it to be a training
manual for computer crime. The game - GURPS Cyberpunk - has since been
published (with modifications), but this morning Jackson asserted that the
delay and the work needed to reconstruct the game cost his company some
"I am a horror story," he began. Picking up on metaphors used by John
Perry Barlow, who preceded him to the microphone, Jackson called himself
"one of the homesteaders on the electronic frontier... One day I came
home to find the barn burned down, the horses set loose...and the culprits
who did it weren't desperados. They were the cavalry!"
Jackson's lawyer, Harvey Silverglate, added that taking the BBS that SJG
used for customer support was analogous to seizing presses from the New
York Times. Terry Gross, a lawyer for Craig Neidorf, pressed the point
further as he told of his client's problems. Neidorf, a college student
who edits an electronic newsletter called "Phrack," has been charged with
perpetrating a "wire fraud scheme" by electronically receiving "stolen
goods" (a BellSouth internal memo describing 911 system features) and
transmitting a digest of the memo as an article in Phrack.
"This is like prosecuting the New York Times or the Washington Post for
wire fraud for publishing the Pentagon Papers," Gross argued. These
charges wouldn't have been brought if Phrack were published on paper, he
added. Some of the charges against Neidorf are specific to electronic
In thanking EFF for the grant, Marc Rotenberg, CPSR's spokesman in
Washington, said the Jackson and Neidorf cases epitomize the tough moral
and legal issues we'll be grappling with for years to come. Gross,
Silverglate and Rotenberg agreed that these early cases are especially
important because they may set precedents.
Kapor repeatedly emphasized that the Electronic Freedom Foundation isn't a
"hackers defense fund." "Unauthorized intrusion into computer systems is
improper behavior and should be illegal," he declared. EFF's purpose is
to see that First Amendment rights aren't trampled in overreaction to real
or imaginary threats posed by computer crackers.
A basic feature of today's "information society" is anxiety about our
dependence on electronic media whose workings we don't understand, Kapor
explained. Barlow added that we're on "the learning curve of Sisyphus":
technology is evolving faster than we can understand, and it always will
Kapor suggested that hackers are increasingly portrayed as threatening
sorcerers mainly because they don't share most people's anxiety and
ignorance about computer technology. He described the current anti-hacker
hysteria in terms of the sci-fi movie classic, "The Forbidden Planet":
the monsters, it turns out in the end, were all Dr. Morbius' projections.
"Hacker" used to be a term of high praise, Kapor pointed out. Hackers also
created the multi-billion dollar personal computer industry, so it is
appropriate that EFF is funded by Kapor, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak,
and a "Silicon Valley pioneer" who wishes to remain unnamed.
Kapor warned that "polarization and misunderstanding" of hackers could
slow public acceptance of computer networks as a valuable tool in everyday
life. If we want useful nets for everyone, he said, we must make them
both open AND secure - a programming feat that calls for hacker-type
To improve public understanding of electronic networks and the resources
they provide, Kapor announced that EFF will sponsor the development of
"intelligent front-ends" for UNIX e-mail, to be used on Apple/Mac and DOS
machines. This software would be available at little or no cost, and so
easy to use that even a "hacker's mother" won't find it intimidating.
Making networks more accessible will greatly expand the market for
hardware and software, he concluded.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation can be contacted at One Cambridge
Center, Suite 300, Cambridge, MA 02142 (617-577-1385; fax 617-225-2347;
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 10, 1990
CPSR TO UNDERTAKE EXPANDED CIVIL LIBERTIES PROGRAM
Contact: Marc Rotenberg (202) 775-1588
Washington, D.C., July 10, 1990 -- Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility (CPSR), a national computing organization, announced
today that it would receive a two-year grant in the amount of $275,000
for its Computing and Civil Liberties Project. The Electronic Frontier
Foundation (EFF),founded by Mitchell Kapor, made the grant to expand
ongoing CPSR work on civil liberties protections for computer users.
At a press conference in Washington today, Mr. Kapor praised CPSR's
work, "CPSR plays an important role in the computer community. For the
last several years, it has sought to extend civil liberties protections
to new information technologies. Now we want to help CPSR expand that
Marc Rotenberg, director of the CPSR Washington Office said, "We are
obviously very happy about the grant from the EFF. There is a lot of
work that needs to be done to ensure that our civil liberties
protections are not lost amidst policy confusion about the use of new
CPSR said that it will host a series of policy round tables in
Washington, DC, during the next two years with lawmakers, computer
users, including (hackers), the FBI, industry representatives, and
members of the computer security community. Mr. Rotenberg said that the
purpose of the meetings will be to "begin a dialogue about the new uses
of electronic media and the protection of the public interest."
CPSR also plans to develop policy papers on computers and civil
liberties, to oversee the Government's handling of computer crime
investigations, and to act as an information resource for organizations
and individuals interested in civil liberties issues.
The CPSR Computing and Civil Liberties project began in 1985 after
President Reagan attempted to restrict access to government computer
systems through the creation of new classification authority. In 1988,
CPSR prepared a report on the proposed expansion of the FBI's computer
system, the National Crime Information Center. The report found serious
threats to privacy and civil liberties. Shortly after the report was
issued, the FBI announced that it would drop a proposed computer feature
to track the movements of people across the country who had not been
charged with any crime.
"We need to build bridges between the technical community and the policy
community," said Dr. Eric Roberts, CPSR president and a research
scientist at Digital Equipment Corporation in Palo Alto, California.
"There is simply too much misinformation about how computer networks
operate. This could produce terribly misguided public policy."
CPSR representatives have testified several times before Congressional
committees on matters involving civil liberties and computer policy.
Last year CPSR urged a House Committee to avoid poorly conceived
computer activity. "In the rush to criminalize the malicious acts of
the few we may discourage the beneficial acts of the many," warned
CPSR. A House subcommittee recently followed CPSR's recommendations on
computer crime amendments.
Dr. Ronni Rosenberg, an expert on the role of computer scientists and
public policy, praised the new initiative. She said, "It's clear that
there is an information gap that needs to be filled. This is an
important opportunity for computer scientists to help fill the gap."
CPSR is a national membership organization of computer professionals,
based in Palo Alto, California. CPSR has over 20,000 members and 21
chapters across the country. In addition to the civil liberties project,
CPSR conducts research, advises policy makers and educates the public
about computers in the workplace, computer risk and reliability, and
For more information contact:
CPSR Washington Office
1025 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1015
Washington, DC 20036 202/775-1588
CPSR National Office
P.O. Box 717
Palo Alto, CA 94302
ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION - MISSION STATEMENT July 10, 1990
A new world is arising in the vast web of digital, electronic media
which connect us. Computer-based communication media like electronic
mail and computer conferencing are becoming the basis of new forms of
community. These communities without a single, fixed geographical
location comprise the first settlements on an electronic frontier.
While well-established legal principles and cultural norms give
structure and coherence to uses of conventional media like newspapers,
books, and telephones, the new digital media do not so easily fit into
existing frameworks. Conflicts come about as the law struggles to
define its application in a context where fundamental notions of speech,
property, and place take profoundly new forms. People sense both the
promise and the threat inherent in new computer and communications
technologies, even as they struggle to master or simply cope with them
in the workplace and the home.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been established to help civilize
the electronic frontier; to make it truly useful and beneficial not just
to a technical elite, but to everyone; and to do this in a way which is
in keeping with our society's highest traditions of the free and open
flow of information and communication.
To that end, the Electronic Frontier Foundation will:
1. Engage in and support educational activities which increase
popular understanding of the opportunities and challenges posed by
developments in computing and telecommunications.
2. Develop among policy-makers a better understanding of the issues
underlying free and open telecommunications, and support the creation of
legal and structural approaches which will ease the assimilation of
these new technologies by society.
3. Raise public awareness about civil liberties issues arising from
the rapid advancement in the area of new computer-based communications
media. Support litigation in the public interest to preserve, protect,
and extend First Amendment rights within the realm of computing and
4. Encourage and support the development of new tools which will
endow non-technical users with full and easy access to computer-based
The Electronic Frontier Foundation
One Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
ACROSS THE ELECTRONIC FRONTIER
by: Mitchell Kapor and John Perry Barlow
Electronic Frontier Foundation
July 10, 1990
Over the last 50 years, the people of the developed world have begun to
cross into a landscape unlike any which humanity has experienced before.
It is a region without physical shape or form. It exists, like a
standing wave, in the vast web of our electronic communication systems.
It consists of electron states, microwaves, magnetic fields, light
pulses and thought itself.
It is familiar to most people as the "place" in which a long-distance
telephone conversation takes place. But it is also the repository for
all digital or electronically transferred information, and, as such, it
is the venue for most of what is now commerce, industry, and broad-scale
human interaction. William Gibson called this Platonic realm
"Cyberspace," a name which has some currency among its present
Whatever it is eventually called, it is the homeland of the Information
Age, the place where the future is destined to dwell.
In its present condition, Cyberspace is a frontier region, populated by
the few hardy technologists who can tolerate the austerity of its savage
computer interfaces, incompatible communications protocols, proprietary
barricades, cultural and legal ambiguities, and general lack of useful
maps or metaphors.
Certainly, the old concepts of property, expression, identity, movement,
and context, based as they are on physical manifestation, do not apply
succinctly in a world where there can be none.
Sovereignty over this new world is also not well defined. Large
institutions already lay claim to large fiefdoms, but most of the actual
natives are solitary and independent, sometimes to the point of
sociopathy. It is, therefore, a perfect breeding ground for both
outlaws and vigilantes. Most of society has chosen to ignore the
existence of this arising domain. Every day millions of people use
ATM's and credit cards, place telephone calls, make travel reservations,
and access information of limitless variety. . . all without any
perception of the digital machinations behind these transactions.
Our financial, legal, and even physical lives are increasingly dependent
on realities of which we have only dimmest awareness. We have entrusted
the basic functions of modern existence to institutions we cannot name,
using tools we've never heard of and could not operate if we had.
As communications and data technology continues to change and develop at
a pace many times that of society, the inevitable conflicts have begun
to occur on the border between Cyberspace and the physical world.
These are taking a wide variety of forms, including (but hardly limited
to) the following:
I. Legal and Constitutional Questions
What is free speech and what is merely data? What is a free press
without paper and ink? What is a "place" in a world without tangible
dimensions? How does one protect property which has no physical form
and can be infinitely and easily reproduced? Can the history of one's
personal business affairs properly belong to someone else? Can anyone
morally claim to own knowledge itself?
These are just a few of the questions for which neither law nor custom
can provide concrete answers. In their absence, law enforcement
agencies like the Secret Service and FBI, acting at the disposal of
large information corporations, are seeking to create legal precedents
which would radically limit Constitutional application to digital
The excesses of Operation Sun Devil are only the beginning of what
threatens to become a long, difficult, and philosophically obscure
struggle between institutional control and individual liberty.
II. Future Shock
Information workers, forced to keep pace with rapidly changing
technology, are stuck on "the learning curve of Sisyphus."
Increasingly, they find their hard-acquired skills to be obsolete even
before they've been fully mastered. To a lesser extent, the same applies
to ordinary citizens who correctly feel a lack of control over their own
lives and identities.
One result of this is a neo-Luddite resentment of digital technology
from which little good can come. Another is a decrease in worker
productivity ironically coupled to tools designed to enhance it.
Finally, there is a spreading sense of alienation, dislocation, and
helplessness in the general presence of which no society can expect to
III. The "Knows" and the "Know-Nots"
Modern economies are increasingly divided between those who are
comfortable and proficient with digital technology and those who neither
understand nor trust it. In essence, this development disenfranchises
the latter group, denying them any possibility of citizenship in
Cyberspace and, thus, participation in the future.
Furthermore, as policy-makers and elected officials remain relatively
ignorant of computers and their uses, they unknowingly abdicate most of
their authority to corporate technocrats whose jobs do not include
general social responsibility. Elected government is thus replaced by
institutions with little real interest beyond their own quarterly
We are founding the Electronic Frontier Foundation to deal with these
and related challenges. While our agenda is ambitious to the point of
audacity, we don't see much that these issues are being given the broad
social attention they deserve. We were forced to ask, "If not us, then
In fact, our original objectives were more modest. When we first heard
about Operation Sun Devil and other official adventures into the digital
realm, we thought that remedy could be derived by simply unleashing a
few highly competent Constitutional lawyers upon the Government. In
essence, we were prepared to fight a few civil libertarian brush fires
and go on about our private work.
However, examination of the issues surrounding these government actions
revealed that we were dealing with the symptoms of a much larger malady,
the collision between Society and Cyberspace.
We have concluded that a cure can lie only in bringing civilization to
Cyberspace. Unless a successful effort is made to render that harsh and
mysterious terrain suitable for ordinary inhabitants, friction between
the two worlds will worsen. Constitutional protections, indeed the
perceived legitimacy of representative government itself, might
We could not allow this to happen unchallenged, and so arises the
Electronic Frontier Foundation. In addition to our legal interventions
on behalf of those whose rights are threatened, we will:
- Engage in and support efforts to educate both the general public
and policymakers about the opportunities and challenges posed by
developments in computing and telecommunications.
- Encourage communication between the developers of technology,
government, corporate officials, and the general public in which we
might define the appropriate metaphors and legal concepts for life in
- And, finally, foster the development of new tools which will endow
non-technical users with full and easy access to computer-based
One of us, Mitch Kapor, had already been a vocal advocate of more
accessible software design and had given considerable thought to some of
the challenges we now intend to meet.
The other, John Perry Barlow, is a relative newcomer to the world of
computing (though not to the world of politics) and is therefore
well-equipped to act as an emissary between the magicians of technology
and the wary populace who must incorporate this magic into their daily
While we expect the Electronic Frontier Foundation to be a creation of
some longevity, we hope to avoid the sclerosis which organizations
usually develop in their efforts to exist over time. For this reason we
will endeavor to remain light and flexible, marshalling intellectual and
financial resources to meet specific purposes rather than finding
purposes to match our resources. As is appropriate, we will communicate
between ourselves and with our constituents largely over the electronic
Net, trusting self-distribution and self-organization to a much greater
extent than would be possible for a more traditional organization.
We readily admit that we have our work cut out for us. However, we are
greatly encouraged by the overwhelming and positive response which we
have received so far. We hope the Electronic Frontier Foundation can
function as a focal point for the many people of good will who wish to
settle in a future as abundant and free as the present.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation
One Cambridge Center, Suite 300
Cambridge, MA 02142
Steve Jackson Games | SJ Games vs. the Secret Service