Electronic Frontier Foundation

Advocacy, General Interest, Intellectual Freedom Issues

by Dustin Fife

This week I’m writing about non-library intellectual freedom advocates. Groups that can help in the fight, or even lead the fight, for intellectual freedom. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is one of the most important civil liberties organizations around. Their motto is, “Defending Your Rights In The Digital World.” I want you to read the first paragraph from their about page and try to tell me that they are not kindred spirits!

“The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. We work to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.”

This organization fights surveillance world-wide, pleads for transparency in government, helps to create an open society, and protects free speech and intellectual freedom. Those links are just a few of the things that EFF is working on lately. They have historically supported and worked on many of the same issues as the American Library Association; for example, EFF’s unfettered support of Net Neutrality.

EFF supports as many critical digital issues as they can. One of my favorite issues that they have been supporting recently is the right to preserve and play abandoned video games.

“When you buy a book, a record, or a movie, you can expect to be able to enjoy it, on your own terms, for as long as you want. But the same cannot always be said about video games. Over the past several years, video game publishers have increasingly required connection with one of their own servers in order to “unlock” core functionality for gameplay. Publishers often take those servers offline once they stop being economical to run, leaving a typical gamer unable to play her lawfully purchased games. And this affects not just video game players, but archivists and researchers who want to preserve and study the history of games as cultural artifacts.”

Some of us reread the same book every single year. Some of us still re-watch a videocassette that we got from McDonald’s in the 80’s (guilty). With the current configuration of the DMCA and the use of DRM, video game enthusiasts do not have the same rights. More importantly though, EFF is supporting the right for groups and individuals to preserve digital culture, history, and gameplay. This information is essential for understanding society.

“As archivists can attest, there are a number of ways in which digital media in general are more fragile than physical media. The law should not be exacerbating that problem. But with video games in particular, legal restrictions on preserving and maintaining functionality threatens to wipe out communities of players that participate in competitive or collaborative play.”

This article is about an organization that I love particularly, however, the principle I am writing about applies to each of us in all of our intellectual freedom battles. Find partners who are fighting the same battles. Share information and resources. Support common causes and build strong coalitions. This will help whether you are fighting government surveillance, stopping institutional prejudice, or just trying to keep a book on your shelf.


Dustin Fife is the Outreach and Patron Services Librarian at Utah Valley University Library. Prior to coming to UVU Library, Dustin spent six years as a public library director for San Juan County, Utah. Dustin is currently the President of the Utah Library Association. He can be reached at dustin.fife@uvu.edu.

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