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How I supported the Electronic Frontier Foundation and changed the world.

How I supported the Electronic Frontier Foundation and changed the world.

The EFF urgently needs your support now. Don't just read this -- join or donate today.

After selling my company, ClariNet Communications Corp. to Individual Inc., I looked forward to a bit more free time once freed of the CEO's seat. One of the things I've done is to become chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and contribute money to it. I want to tell you why in the hope that it might convince you that, if you have money or time you intend to apply towards the promotion of goals and causes, the EFF presents an opportunity to be carefully considered.

I want it to be your decision to do this. I've always found that when I make any donation, the worst thing is to be told that it's your duty or made to think it was somebody else's idea. Giving finds its best joy when you know the giving originates inside yourself. There are loads of worthy causes and charities to help. If, like me, you now feel you have exceeded the amount of wealth or income required for your personal desires and needs, you may even be looking for something to do that will meet goals outside of yourself.

So why the EFF?

I've been supporting it in a minor way for many years, joining early on and making small contributions of news services and money. It's been doing very good work, and you should examine the resumé of that work on the EFF web site. It's my firm belief that there is no greater catalyst for the success of a society than liberty. History tells that story again and again around the world. As new aspects of society -- and whole new societies -- are built online, the EFF's mission is to protect that liberty. The payoff, if it succeeds, is tremendous. A huge (but calculable) increase in economic prosperity and an incalculable dividend of personal freedom.

I don't like hyperbole, but most people seem to agree that the dawn of the digital age is one of the unique junctures in history. One of those rare events that few generations get to see. Knowing we are present at the dawn of something provides not just exciting times, but an astounding opportunity. A little leverage today multiplies out a great deal in the future.

It's like being an early stage investor in the business world. You want to get in on the ground floor, and leverage a relatively small investment into a big social success.

If you want to change the world for the better, the EFF has been created at the exact right time in history and is working on the exact right pressure points to make those changes. I don't think there are many other places out there where a donor can have such a strong and far reaching effect. Go to the EFF home page to see our missions and our recent activities. Even if your wealth is on an "S" curve that tells you to wait until you donate, the EFF's curve may be even better.

What sort of effect? In 1997, I got a taste. I joined with with the EFF, the ACLU and 18 others as a plaintiff in a lawsuit to get the Communications Decency Act, a U.S. law regulating internet publishing, declared unconstitutional. It was a famous case, and as you probably know, we won with a unanimous decision in the supreme court.

The legislature was attempting to say that the online press were not the press mentioned in the "freedom of the press" protected in the U.S. bill of rights. That things legal in print would be illegal online. I helped, in my small way, to get the court to tell them no, and to put a stake in the ground protecting the online press into the indefinite future. Other countries paid attention. I helped change the world -- by giving support in just the right place at just the right time.

It's quite a feeling. And the EFF can be the conduit that allows you to help change the world too, if you believe in our agenda of protecting liberty and privacy in the digital age.

Now you may not have thought of helping the EFF because you thought it was well funded by Mitch Kapor, the man who was one of its primary founders after gaining his own wealth building Lotus Development. Mitch contributed enormously, but today he has moved onto other things. The ball he helped pick up is available for others to carry. Because of the decision -- spurred on by the views of the membership -- to not act as a Washington lobby group accepting donations for specific corporate political goals, the EFF also no longer solicits the support of the companies such as the telcos who were pleased it was fighting encryption-backdoor requirements the FBI wanted to place on them. That cuts the budget a lot.

The EFF's primary cost is the staff, who because they work much harder than their salaries would warrant, are themselves all donors. This staff works to get the message out and organize the fight for digital liberty, and our on-staff attorneys make the difference in court and legislative battles on all fronts.

I hope that when you're examining what you want to do with your own resources, that you will give the EFF high consideration. You will choose how much you want to donate for both compassionate causes and causes of social change. If you want us, we're here.

Visit the EFF web site and if this appeals to you, I hope you will join and offer your support.

Note: If you do donate to the EFF, be sure to make your donation by giving shares of appreciated stock, such as founder's stock or stock received by options -- or any stock that has gone up a lot and has been held for a year. If you do you get a double tax deduction. You get to deduct the full value of the stock from your income, and you don't have to pay the capital gains tax you would have paid if you sell it.

-Brad Templeton