November 24th, 2013
“Oh no!” said the email that went round the EFF office on Friday. Could it be true that the Beastie Boys had unleashed the legal hounds to shut down a parody ad that uses the group's classic misogynistic ditty, “Girls”? Surely not. As remix pioneers, the Beastie Boys are the veterans of many legal battles against copyright maximalists. The Beastie Boys aren’t copyright bullies, they fight those bullies. Right?
Wrong, at least this time. The Beastie Boys and Universal Music have indeed accused the video's creator, toy company GoldieBlox, of copyright infringement. Happily, GoldieBlox not only refused to be intimidated, it decided to go on the offensive, filing a complaint asking a federal court to declare that the ad was a lawful fair use.
It's unclear how strong the legal threats were—they aren’t attached to the complaint—but GoldieBlox is clearly worried not just about an infringement lawsuit, but any effort to abuse the DMCA to take down the video just as the holiday shopping season gets under way.
The Beastie Boys famously object to the use of their music in any advertising. Adam Yauch explicitly mentioned it in his will. Nonetheless, GoldieBlox should win on the merits. Here’s why.
November 23rd, 2013
Journalists, bloggers and others who speak out against the powerful risk terrible repercussions for their work. Around the world, they face physical intimidation, violent attacks, and even murder for speaking out.
When such crimes are committed against those who exercise their right to free speech, the perpetrators all too often go unpunished. Those who are meant to enforce the law turn a blind eye. The oppressors can act with absolute impunity.
Every November 23rd, free speech organizations around the world draw attention to these travesties of justice in a Day To End Impunity. The number of uninvestigated crimes and unsolved murders of journalists makes for depressing reading—as does the slow but inexorable increase in victims who are targeted for their online work. Since 1993, the Committee to Protect Journalists have recorded the deaths of twenty-nine online reporters who were murdered for their work. Seventeen of those crimes went unsolved and unpunished.
But in a digital world, it's not just crimes of physical violence that can chill speech. The spread of surveillance technology means that crimes against privacy can be used to intimidate or limit the work of free speech, too.
Investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova has been a constant irritant ...
November 23rd, 2013
Civil society groups are coming out in force against the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, following Wikileaks' publication of the “Intellectual Property” chapter. The leaked chapter confirmed our worst fears that TPP carries Hollywood's wishlist of policies, including provisions to encourage ISPs to police user activities and liability for users for simply bypassing digital locks on content and devices for legal purposes. Public interest groups and advocates are making a renewed demand for transparency in negotiations and ask that negotiators ensure users' interests are fairly balanced against those of Big Content.
As part of the Fair Deal Coalition, representing Internet users, schools, libraries, people with disabilities, tech firms, and others, we have sent an open letter to TPP negotiators and government leaders asking them to reject the restrictive copyright provisions as seen in the August 2013 leaked text. As they stand, the harmful proposals—set forth mostly by the U.S. and Australia—would limit the open Internet, access to knowledge, harm future innovation, and impose some of the worst features of U.S. copyright law on other countries, without the corresponding limits. In the letter, we ask that negotiators and government representatives stand for users' interests, and respect fundamental rights like due ...
November 22nd, 2013
A court in western China’s Sichuan province has ordered a Tibetan monk jailed for four and a half years for seeking independence for Tibet and supporting self-immolation protests against Chinese rule, sources said.
Hortsang Tamdrin, a monk at Jonang monastery in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture’s Dzamthang (Rangthang) county, was sentenced by the prefecture’s Intermediate People’s Court after being held for almost a month following his detention on Oct. 24, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.
“He was sentenced for having committed actions aimed at ‘splitting the nation’ and for calling for the independence of Tibet,” Tsangyang Gyatso told RFA, citing contacts in the region.
“He was also accused of making public statements of support for self-immolation protesters and for promoting special recognition for self-immolators,” Gyatso said.
“Now he has been jailed for more than four years.”
Tamdrin’s age and the date of his sentencing were not immediately clear.
Writer, social activist
A native of Tsang village in Dzamthang county’s Barma township, Tamdrin was a writer who established a “Compassion Foundation” and frequently worked to help orphanages, centers for the handicapped, and young monks belonging to different monasteries in the area, Gyatso said.
“He also ...
November 22nd, 2013
Shi Tou, a 43-year-old Beijing-based artist born in the southwestern Chinese city of Guiyang, talks to RFA's Mandarin Service about how she came out as a lesbian on a television show, fake marriages and attitudes to her sexuality in today's China:
I met a lot of lesbians during the 1990s, and we hung out together all the time, and shared a great deal, but I still felt that we had no way to be open about it...But I thought that was an unhealthy attitude, so when the producers of this program approached me [in 2000], I wanted to speak out on everyone's behalf, so people would know about us.
I was very direct about it [on the Hunan Satellite TV show, Getting Into Homosexuality]. I thought it was best to be honest about who I am, and that I shouldn't try to hide anything. Actually, it's less stressful that way.
I don't think [lesbians] are visible enough, because they're not present in our education, nor in the media. And when they are, it's always in a negative light, with no deep feeling portrayed. Most people don't really have an understanding of homosexuality because of the sort of discussions that take ...
November 22nd, 2013
Neil Gaiman made a recent visit to the CBLDF to fulfill the holiday wishes of our supporters and his fans by signing a bounty of items in time for the season of giving! Visit the CBLDF’s Donation Center now to get your hands on books, prints and comics signed by Neil, including a very limited number of copies of CBLDF’s exclusive edition of The Sandman: Overture #1!
Mr. Gaiman is one of the CBLDF’s most active supporters. He served on the Fund’s Board of Directors for more than a decade and is the founding co-chair of our Advisory Board. Thanks to the support of the Gaiman Foundation, CBLDF has expanded our education program, which this year has brought the publications Raising A Reader! and CBLDF Protects Manga, as well as the news and resources you’ve come to look for on CBLDF.org and in our weekly email newsletter.
Neil’s items support the CBLDF’s Spirit of Giving drive running now. When you make a donation during this campaign, The Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation will make a contribution of $2 for every donation and gift order placed on the CBLDF’s website. In addition, they will contribute $10 for ...
November 22nd, 2013
This week, the Index on Censorship, an international organization that advocates for free expression around the world, opened up nominations for the 2014 Index Freedom of Expression Awards. Until December 6, you have an opportunity draw “attention to international champions of free expression and their causes…”
Cartoonists are some of the most influential and visible voices in political revolution, which frequently makes them the targets of censors and oppressive regimes. CBLDF has covered the struggles of several cartoonists over the past year, including Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, Palestitian cartoonist Fabi Abou Hassan, Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew, Toronto cartoonist Shahid Mahmood, Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, Egyptian cartoonist Doaa el Adl, and many more.
The Index on Censorship includes artists among the categories for which you can nominate a free speech champion. From the official press release:
The Index on Censorship Awards recognise original voices who are bravely and creatively challenging censorship today. Previous winners include education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and Belarus Free Theatre. The four categories are:
Journalist: Recognising courageous, determined, high impact investigative journalism.
Digital Activist: Recognising ground-breaking digital work, defending free expression online.
Advocate/Campaigner: Recognising those who have changed legislation, political climates ...
November 22nd, 2013
In March, student organization Students for Life at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) enlisted Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF’s) help in suing the school after it denied the group funding based on its “political or ideological” views. ADF announced yesterday that EMU settled the case late last month, agreeing to fund all groups—including Students for Life—without consideration of the groups’ viewpoints.
ADF describes the lawsuit’s origins on its website:
In February, Students for Life at Eastern Michigan University applied for student fee funding to host a pro-life display on campus called the Genocide Awareness Project, a traveling photo-mural exhibit... . EMU denied the request because they deemed the photos of the aborted babies and the event as too controversial, biased, and one-sided.
As ADF notes in its complaint, EMU policy “prohibit[s] student fee funding for ‘political or ideological’ activities of student organizations.” According to the complaint, this policy was created in response to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Southworth v. Grebe (7th Cir. 1998), which the school interpreted as prohibiting the use of mandatory student activity fees for “political or ideological activities.” But in Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin v. Southworth (2000)...
November 21st, 2013
Big news in patent reform: the Innovation Act, our favorite troll-killing bill, has cleared its first major political hurdle. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee resoundingly voted 33-5 to send the bill to the floor. Better yet, the amendment process added back in two pieces we worried were missing—demand letter reform and covered businessed method patent (CBM) review.
First, the good news: this bill is the best shot we've had at meaningful patent reform yet. Specifically, the Innovation Act is designed to target the patent troll problem, something Congress chose to entirely ignore the last time it addressed patents. It includes a provision that would, in certain circumstances, shift fees away to winning parties from the troll who brought the suit and lost. It would also require that trolls present the basic facts about their case the outset, such as who owns the patent and what products allegedly infringe it. It would allow consumers facing trolls to put litigation on hold while the suppliers and manufacturers of products and services at issue fight the fight at hand.
We believe simple common-sense reforms like these would go a long way toward restoring fairness in the system by giving defendants ...
November 21st, 2013
A new infographic from PEN, an international NGO that aids writers threatened with arrest, prosecution, or violence, shows that government repression of speech is increasingly focused online. PEN found 92 writers around the world currently imprisoned or in detention for something they published digitally — a figure that has more than doubled since 2008. But as anyone who follows CBLDF’s international coverage knows, it’s not just writers who face threats from authoritarian governments; it’s also artists, particularly political cartoonists.
While the Internet has enabled both artists and writers to share politically provocative work directly with audiences worldwide, authorities in many countries have caught on and instituted extensive monitoring of social media, as well as personal blogs and websites. In many cases, authorities can’t delete the offending content altogether because it is hosted outside the country, but they can block it locally and punish or intimidate the creator. Just last week, for example, Malaysian cartoonist Zunar lost an appeal of his 2010 arrest on suspicion of sedition. Even though most of his books are officially banned in his country, he manages to sell them online and also shares more timely cartoons via social media.
Here are some more ...