Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Google ordered to unmask N.Y. woman’s cyber foe

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

NEW YORK — A business consultant who wants to know who's been anonymously disparaging and fixating on her online has won a court order to force Google to tell her.

As she joined a growing number of people who have persuaded courts to unmask troublesome cyber ciphers, Carla Franklin said yesterday that she hoped her case would help others faced with similar problems.

"The Internet cannot become a safe haven for harassers and stalkers," she said in an e-mail.

Google Inc. declined to comment in time for this story. The Mountain View, Calif.-based online giant says it doesn't discuss individual cases to protect users' privacy, but it follows applicable laws.

A Manhattan trial court has given the company until Oct. 29 to provide Franklin with identity and contact information for the person or people who posted denigrating comments and unauthorized videos of her, beginning last year.

The videos, posted on Google-owned YouTube, were clips from an innocuous student film in which she had appeared years before, coupled with personal information about her to create an unsettling online shrine, she said. Franklin did some modeling and acting before becoming a consultant to nonprofit organizations.

The comments, made though another YouTube channel, ...

Adam Kissel Discusses Grambling State’s First Amendment Violations with The Pelican Institute

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The Pelican Institute, a Louisiana-based public policy research organization, recently interviewed FIRE's Adam Kissel about the ongoing violations of free speech at Grambling State University. Torch readers will remember that GSU circulated an e-mail notice to students prohibiting them from forwarding political e-mails through the gram.edu e-mail system if those e-mails "impl[y] your support" for a political candidate. GSU's initial response to FIRE's concerns revealed even more problems with GSU's e-mail restrictions, prompting a joint statement from FIRE and the ACLU of Louisiana.

The Pelican Institute's article (which has been reprinted at The Daily Caller) offers a concise rundown of the case; you can also listen to Adam's interview (roughly 11 minutes) with the Pelican Institute's Fergus Hodgson here.

As I wrote a few days ago, GSU has now promised a comprehensive review of its policies, including the troublesome e-mail policy, which was named FIRE's Speech Code of the Month for October. GSU has yet to revise this policy, however, which means that Grambling continues to violate the First Amendment rights of its own students and faculty members. In the interview, Adam notes the increasing difficulty GSU will have defending its policy as more Louisiana citizens become aware ...

When Even Disclosure Rules Fail

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

527 “Super PACs” are permitted to explicitly urge viewers to vote for or against a candidate running for office, but are required to disclose their contributors. In the case of Citizens for a Working America PAC, which can raise unlimited funds from corporations and individuals, the “Citizens” represent just one group: an organization called “New Models.”

According to its FEC filing, New Models is the PAC’s single donor. Citizens for a Working America’s lone expenditure was $250,000 for ads opposing South Carolina Democrat John Spratt, and the PAC raised $255,000 from New Models, a 501(c)4 that does not disclose its donors. Therefore, Citizens for a Working America’s only “Citizen” is not a citizen at all, but a 501(c)4 firm that claims to specialize in political communication.

The Sunlight Foundation profiles the connection between a top Republican consultant, pro-GOP political groups (including Sarah Palin’s leadership PAC), and Citizens for a Working America:

According to records kept by the Virginia Secretary of State, the president and treasurer of New Models is Tim Crawford. According to reports published earlier this year, Crawford was also involved in a shadowy political advertising campaign in Ohio. His firm was the sole funder of a ...

EFF Advises California PUC on Smart Grid Privacy Protections

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

California and other states are moving towards a "Smart Grid" -- touted by the federal government as a way to boost reliability, security, and conservation in America's electrical systems. But while a Smart Grid has great potential for consumers, there are still critical questions unanswered about the privacy and security of customers' information.

How much energy you use -- and when you use it -- can reveal surprisingly detailed information about your daily life. This wasn't true when energy usage was only measured once a month. But with shorter intervals and more frequent metering, the picture of your home life is remarkably clear. An executive with Siemens Energy recently told the Smart Grids and Cleanpower conference in Britain, "We, Siemens, have the technology to record it (energy consumption) every minute, second, microsecond, more or less live...From that we can infer how many people are in the house, what they do, whether they're upstairs, downstairs, do you have a dog, when do you habitually get up, when did you get up this morning, when do you have a shower: masses of private data." It's a virtual window into the home. The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel–Cyber Security Working Group recently issued ...

Alexi Giannoulias Makes the Case for Overturning Citizens United

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Illinois Democrat Alexi Giannoulias discussed the need to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, which he called “a dangerous decision,” in a debate with rival US Senate candidate Mark Kirk. His Republican opponent, who has a habit of distorting and lying about his record, spoke in favor of greater campaign disclosure laws. However, Kirk voted against the DISCLOSE Act, which would have made sure that political organizations disclose their donors and make their funding sources more transparent. Giannoulias, on the other hand, has signed the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy, which calls on candidates for Congress to overturn Citizens United.

Crossroads GPS, which does not disclose its donors, has spent over $3 million in ads attacking Giannoulias, and its sister “Super PAC” American Crossroads has spent over $1 million to smear Giannoulias. Two groups which do not disclose their donors and are backed by corporate entities, the New Prosperity Foundation and the US Chamber of Commerce, spent around a half-million dollars each in ads to help Mark Kirk.

Watch:

 

Mont. judge tosses out corporate campaign-finance law

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

HELENA, Mont. — A state judge has ruled that Montana's century-old ban on corporate political spending is unconstitutional, paving the way for activist groups organized as corporations to spend as much as they want this election season.

The Montana attorney general promised a quick appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena struck down the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act — a throwback to a time when the public rebelled with a voter-backed initiative against the "Copper Kings" and their hold on state politics. That law prohibited corporations from making independent political expenditures.

The state law came under fire after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last January in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The high court threw out parts of an old federal law prohibiting corporations and unions from paying to air ads for or against political candidates.

Attorney General Steve Bullock had argued that Montana's ban was unique and should stand despite the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.

"This isn't just about our history: Two former secretaries of state and other experts in the field testified that an influx of corporate spending will corrupt the political process and drown out the voices of everyday ...

CIA sues ex-employee for publishing book

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

WASHINGTON — The CIA has sued a former officer who published a book highly critical of the agency without completing the CIA’s lengthy review process.

The lawsuit accuses the officer of breaking his secrecy agreement with the U.S. The former CIA staffer worked under deep cover before publishing the book in July 2008 under the pseudonym “Ishmael Jones.”

The CIA says his book, The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, was submitted to the agency’s publications review board under a secrecy agreement that covers books written by former CIA officials. Jones ultimately published the book without the CIA’s official blessing.

The lawsuit, filed in July in federal court in Alexandria, Va., seeks an injunction against further violations of Jones’ secrecy obligations and recovery of proceeds from unauthorized publication.

“CIA officers are duty-bound to observe the terms of their secrecy agreement with the Agency,” Director Leon E. Panetta said yesterday in a statement. “This lawsuit clearly reinforces that message.”

In an e-mail to the Associated Press, Jones, who hasn’t revealed his identity, said he did not profit from the book and that it contained no classified information.

“CIA censors attack this book because it exposes the CIA as a ...

Litigious prisoner barred from filing new legal claims

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge is calling a halt to new legal actions by a prison inmate who has filed more than 5,000 lawsuits and targeted the famous, the infamous and even the long-dead.

Under an order issued Oct. 18 by U.S. District Judge Karl F. Forester, the Bureau of Prisons can review and reject any legal mail sent by Jonathan Lee Riches, an inmate at the federal prison in Lexington.

Forester also barred Riches from using legal mail, which is generally sent without detailed inspection by prison officials, or the names of other people to submit “frivolous, fraudulent, or malicious” documents to the federal courts and from using anyone else’s name to submit the documents to a court.

Anything deemed to be worthy of further consideration by Bureau of Prisons personnel may be forwarded to the courts, Forester ruled.

“In the present case, Riches is not only engaging in a widespread practice of harassment against different people, but also against numerous courts across the country,” Forester wrote.

Federal prosecutors requested the unusual order last month after becoming fed up with persistent filings by Riches.

Since 2006, Riches has filed legal actions in almost every jurisdiction in the country. ...

Students Protest Language Change

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
Tibetans fear further threats to their language and culture.

Transparency Activist, Public Domain Scholar, Legal Blogger, and Imprisoned E-Voting Researcher Win Pioneer Awards

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce four winners of its 2010 Pioneer Awards: transparency activist Steven Aftergood; public domain scholar James Boyle; legal blogger Pamela Jones and the website Groklaw; and e-voting researcher Hari Krishna Prasad Vemuru, who was recently released on bail after being imprisoned for his security work in India.

The award ceremony will be held at 7:30 p.m., November 8, at the 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Author, blogger, and digital rights activist Cory Doctorow will host. A VIP event with Cory and the Pioneer winners -- as well as EFF founders, board members, and other luminaries -- will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Steven Aftergood directs the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Project on Government Secrecy, which works to reduce the scope of official secrecy and to promote public access to government information. He writes and edits Secrecy News, an email newsletter and blog that reports on new developments in secrecy and disclosure policy. Secrecy News also provides direct public access to various official records that have been suppressed, withdrawn, or that are simply hard to find. In 1997, Mr. Aftergood was the plaintiff in a Freedom of Information Act ...

‘San Francisco Chronicle’ on Threat of New Federal Harassment Law

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Debra Saunders' column in today's San Francisco Chronicle reports on a puzzling and potentially dangerous development for free speech on campus: an initiative by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey to enact a new federal law aimed at harassment and cyberbullying in colleges and universities. As I will briefly explain here and in further analysis on The Torch, this is a bad idea for several reasons.

In her column, Saunders describes the development as follows:

Lautenberg hasn't written a bill yet, but his office sent out a press release announcing "a new legislative effort to ensure that colleges and universities have in place anti-harassment policies, which are not currently required by federal law." It also would require schools that receive federal funds "to recognize cyber-bullying as a form of harassment."

Lautenberg's initiative comes in the wake of the tragic death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after a roommate allegedly videotaped and broadcast, over the Internet, Clementi having an intimate encounter in their dorm room.

Clementi's story is truly a sad one, as anyone can appreciate. But the answer is not another federal regulation, and certainly not what Lautenberg seems to be interested in. As ...

Police Investigate Jokes about Human Anatomy on Whiteboards in University of Georgia Residence Halls

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

The speech police are out in full force in the dorms at the University of Georgia!

On August 21, University of Georgia (UGA) police officer David Rocklein reports:

I was dispatched to Boggs Hall in reference to an act of intolerance. I made contact with the complainant ... who stated that while making rounds at 1900 hour she noticed that a bulletin board that was supposed to have "WELCOME TO BOGGS 3RD FLOOR" had been changed to "WELCOME TO BOOBS 3RD FLOOR."

One day later, police officer Ty Vickery reports:

[A resident assistant] took us up to room [REDACTED] of Myers Hall were [sic] a picture of a males [sic] penis with flames around it that was drawn on a dry erase board. [Her] picture had the words "FIRE CROTCH" with the picture next to it.

And on August 27 police officer Rocklein reports:

I was dispatched to ... Oglethorpe House in reference to a neighborhood complaint. I made contact with the complainant [a resident assistant] ... who stated that while making rounds ... he noticed that someone had written "Dick and Sideboob" on the dry erase board on the door ... [The resident assistant] stated that he was an ...

First Amendment Alliance: Energy Industry Front Group

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

The First Amendment Alliance is a 527 “Super PAC” that can raise unlimited funds from corporations and individuals for independent expenditures on the election, and the group is currently smearing Democratic candidates for Senate with negative ads in competitive races. So far, the First Amendment Alliance has spent over $800,000 running attack ads against Democrats Michael Bennet of Colorado, Jack Conway of Kentucky, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Harry Reid of Nevada. 

On its website, the organization says “we communicate instances of waste, fraud, hypocrisy, and general disregard for standards of civility in society,” and its contact information only lists a mailbox in Alexandria, Virginia. Its President, Anthony Holm, works on the campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry and was tied to a GOP scheme to place a Green Party candidate on the ballot for governor in order to take away votes from Rick Perry’s Democratic opponent. But Holm is also a representative for GOP mega-fundraiser Bob Perry, who contributed $4.45 million to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004 and recently donated $2.5 million to the Republican Governors Association.

According to a review of the group's recent FEC filings, it's clear that the First Amendment Alliance is ...

‘The Student Life’ Reports on Bias-Related Incidents at Pomona College

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

The Student Life (TSL), a student newspaper at Pomona College in California, ran an article on Friday about Pomona's policy on "bias-related incidents" and about FIRE's yellow-right rating of Pomona's speech codes. College policy defines bias-related incidents as "expressions of hostility against another individual (or group) because of the other person's (or group's) race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender identity or expression and sexual orientation, or because the perpetrator perceives that the other person (or group) has one or more of these characteristics."

Pomona College is one of the five Claremont Colleges, all of which share similar definitions of bias-related incidents. Pursuant to a shared protocol for handling these incidents, students at all of the Claremont Colleges receive e-mail notifications any time a bias-related incident occurs on any of the five campuses. An editorial on this phenomenon appeared in TSL around this same time last year; the student who wrote it, Brendan Rowan, described how "As students of the 5Cs, we have become uncomfortably accustomed to the ‘bias-related incident' e-mails that we receive on, it seems, a far too frequent basis."

Indeed, Torch readers may remember some of the bias incidents that have occurred at the Claremont Colleges ...

Fifth Edition of Poetry and Songwriting Contest–Submissions Due October 25!!!

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Attention all poets and songwriters, First Amendment Writes is 5 years old!  Entries are now being accepted for the annual poetry and songwriting contest that celebrates the heights that can only be achieved when artists are free to explore any subject, theme or idea.  Deadline for entries is October 25, 2010.  Read contest rules, past winning entries, and prize details. 

Feds file legal brief in support of Tenn. mosque

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Federal attorneys yesterday jumped into a court battle over the construction of a Tennessee mosque by offering legal proof that Islam is a recognized religion entitled to constitutional protection.

U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin of Nashville said his office would not sit by while mosque opponents raised questions in court about whether Islam is a recognized religion. Martin said in a statement that to suggest otherwise “is quite simply ridiculous.”

Martin’s office filed a brief saying as much in a state lawsuit brought by mosque opponents against Rutherford County for granting permission for construction of the building.

Mosque opponents are challenging whether the county acted properly in granting the construction permit. Their complaint claims that the county failed to determine whether the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is entitled to protection under the First Amendment. They have also claimed that the county violated the state’s Open Meetings Act in the approval process.

Martin said his office was not intervening in the lawsuit itself to take sides, but attorneys felt the need to weigh in on issues raised during three days of testimony in Rutherford County Chancery Court.

“Plaintiffs’ implication that Islam is not a recognized religion by the ...

Researcher, human rights group not protected by reporters’ privilege

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

WICHITA, Kan. — A federal judge has rejected arguments by a human rights group and a former researcher who claim notes and the identities of informants used for a book on the Rwandan genocide are protected from disclosure by the First Amendment and reporters’ privilege.

Attorneys for Human Rights Watch and author Timothy Longman said yesterday they had not decided on their next move. The international human rights organization has sought unsuccessfully since April to quash subpoenas issued to it and Longman, who has written a book on the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed an estimated 500,000 to 800,000 people.

The subpoenas come in the case of Lazare Kobagaya, who is charged with fraud and unlawfully obtaining U.S. citizenship in 2006 by claiming he lived in Burundi from 1993 to 1995. Federal prosecutors allege he actually was in Rwanda in 1994 and participated in the slaughter of hundreds.

Prosecutors say his case is the first in the United States requiring proof of genocide. He faces deportation if convicted. Trial is set for April.

U.S. District Judge Monti Belot refused on Oct. 15 to overrule a magistrate judge’s decision requiring Human Rights Watch and Longman, the former director of the group’s ...

Feds: People can snap photos outside courthouses

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

NEW YORK — Federal officers who patrol the perimeters of federal courthouses across the country will be reminded that the public can shoot pictures and videos in public spaces outside the buildings, according to the terms of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by a photographer who was arrested.

The settlement announced yesterday was a victory for the First Amendment, the New York Civil Liberties Union said.

The deal calls for written notices to be distributed to Federal Protective Service officers to remind them that no general security regulations prohibit photography outside the buildings.

Federal buildings including courthouses have faced a steady stream of security enhancements as the threat of terrorism has increased over the past 17 years.

The settlement left room for officers to tighten security when necessary. The deal specified that officers may approach any individual taking photographs and ask the purpose for the pictures or the identity of the individual shooting them.

The settlement also said officers are able to take "lawful steps to ascertain whether unlawful activity, or reconnaissance for the purpose of a terrorist or unlawful act, is being undertaken."

The deal calls for the Federal Protective Service to pay $1,500 to Antonio Musumeci, a ...

In Del. debate, O’Donnell questions church-state separation

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

WILMINGTON, Del. — Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware today questioned whether the U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, appearing to disagree or not know that the First Amendment bars the government from establishing religion.

The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as O'Donnell criticized Democratic candidate Chris Coons' position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.

Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that "religious doctrine doesn't belong in our public schools."

"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked him.

When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O'Donnell asked: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"

Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.

"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.

Erin Daly, a Widener professor who specializes in constitutional law, said ...

Facebook’s Broken Promises: Facebook Apps Leaking Private Data to Advertisers and Trackers

Monday, October 18th, 2010

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today on yet another major Facebook privacy blunder. Despite Facebook's various polices and promises about users' privacy when using apps, apps have been feeding Facebook users' information to advertisers and Internet tracking companies regardless of the individual user's Facebook privacy settings.

Internet advertising networks claim to track users "anonymously," but the Facebook leak allows these web marketing snoops to associate Facebook users with the supposedly-anonymous browsing-history cookies that trackers use to see a user's movements across the web. Based on the WSJ's reporting, the leak has the potential to affect tens of millions of Facebook users, as all of the top ten Facebook apps — like Farmville and Mafia Wars — were found to be violating the Facebook app developer agreement and users' privacy by handing their personal data over to advertising and data aggregation companies.

If this outrageous episode sounds familiar, it's because earlier this year, Facebook was caught leaking the exact same data to advertisers. At the time, Facebook promised to fix the problem, but it's clear that their so-called fixes failed to apply to the more than half a million apps available on the site. EFF and other privacy advocates ...

In Jewel v. NSA Warrantless Wiretapping Appeal, Government Still Singing Same Old State Secrecy Tune

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Last Friday, in a brief filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Obama Administration continued the government's half-decade-long battle to ensure that no judge ever rules on the legality of the National Security Agency's warrantless dragnet surveillance program, a program first revealed in 2005 by the New York Times and detailed by technical documents provided by former AT&T technician Mark Klein.

The brief filed Friday is the government's response to EFF's appeal of the Jewel v. NSA case, a lawsuit brought against the government and government officials on behalf of AT&T phone and internet customers whose communications have been swept up in the mass surveillance program along with those of millions of other Americans.

In January, the district court issued an order dismissing the case based on the incorrect argument that, because so many Americans have had their communications and communications records illegally obtained by the government, no single person has legal "standing" to challenge the ongoing program of government surveillance. In other words: if everyone is being spied on, no one can sue. As EFF argued to the Ninth Circuit in its opening appellate brief, that ruling "risks creating a perverse incentive for the government ...

Steve “The Dude” Rude Visits the CBLDF!

Monday, October 18th, 2010
Today was a particularly exciting afternoon in the midtown offices of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Fan Favorite artist Steve "The Dude" Rude dropped by to produce a one-of-a-kind painting, on the premises, for the Fund. As longtime admirers of the Dude's work, it was a rare treat to watch him at work.

Celebrate 2010 National Freedom of Speech Week, October 18-24

Monday, October 18th, 2010

The Media Institute's National Freedom of Speech Week is dedicated to commemorating the rights that "define our American way of life," and it starts today. While our nation's college campuses are fraught with free speech violations, we hope students and their schools across the country will take some time to recognize and celebrate the First Amendment this week.

The National Freedom of Speech Week website boasts:

At a time when scores of worthwhile causes are remembered with special weeks or even months, the annual celebration of free speechthe cornerstone of our democracyis vital and long overdue. By celebrating freedom of speech for a full week every year, National Freedom of Speech Week will help ensure that free speech remains "The Language of America."

When students' fundamental rights are threatened on college campuses, however, those colleges are crippling students' ability to take advantage of the marketplace of ideas that most campuses claim to be.

Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is celebrating National Freedom of Speech Week tonight with a "Must See Mondays Speaker Series" titled "Freedom of Speech: Global Perspectives" at its First Amendment Forum. At Illinois College, students and faculty ...

Discriminatory Treatment of Student Organizations at DePaul University

Monday, October 18th, 2010

DePaul University is engaging in unjust and deceptive viewpoint discrimination against student organizations despite its promise to support "robust debate and exposure to differing points of view." After DePaul manipulated its student organization policy to deny equal treatment to Students for Cannabis Policy Reforma point of view the university evidently disfavorsthe group came to FIRE for help, but DePaul has refused to back down from its discriminatory policy.

As Greg said in today's press release, "DePaul University promises student groups freedom of expression, but instead delivers censorship. If DePaul wants its guarantees of free inquiry and debate to be taken seriously, it should immediately stop tilting the playing field against certain ideas."

In the spring of 2010, DePaul student Jeff Kramer and fellow students submitted an application for official recognition of their group, Students for Cannabis Policy Reform. Official recognition gives a group access to 17 different benefits including "Involvement Fair Participation," posting pre-approved flyers of certain types on designated bulletin boards, and room reservation privileges. Full "registration" grants a group two additional benefits, including access to Student Activity Fee funding.

DePaul held up Kramer's application for several months. Finally, on September 15, 2010, Director ...

Justice Department Files a Brief Confirming that Islam is a Religion

Monday, October 18th, 2010

To the litany of public safety threats resulting from anti-Muslim fear-mongering, add the fact that Justice Department officials have had to spend time writing a brief explaining that Islam is, in fact, a religion. TPM reports on the DOJ’s amicus brief supporting the expansion efforts of the Islamic Center of Mufreesboro, TN. Opponents have claimed that the Islamic Center can’t get a religious permit to build a new mosque because, they say, Islam isn’t really a religion. The Justice Department did a little research:

"To suggest that Islam is not a religion is quite simply ridiculous. Each branch of the federal government has independently recognized Islam as one of the major religions of the world," Martin said in the press release.

The brief painstakingly cites proof, from the Oxford English Dictionary, Supreme Court rulings, presidential proclamations by Clinton and George W. Bush and the writings of Thomas Jefferson, that Islam has long been recognized as a major world religion.

It also notes the definition of religion set forth by other federal courts, including that a belief system must address "fundamental and ultimate questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters" in order to be considered a religion.

In ...

Supreme Court to Hear Ashcroft Appeal

Monday, October 18th, 2010

The Supreme Court today agreed to decide if former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be personally sued for alleged abuse of his authority in the days after 9/11 attacks. According to Bloomberg News:

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider reinforcing the legal immunity of top government officials, agreeing to decide whether a man can sue former Attorney General John Ashcroft after being detained without charge for 16 days.

The justices will review a ruling that allowed a suit filed by Abdullah al-Kidd, a Muslim U.S. citizen who was arrested in 2003 and held as a material witness in a terrorism probe. Al- Kidd says the government classified him as a material witness because it lacked enough evidence to hold him as a suspect.

A panel of the Ninth Circuit held that Ashcroft was not immune from being sued personally for the illegal abuse of authority that was the subject of al-Kidd’s claim. Ashcroft, with the support of the Obama Administration, asked the Supreme Court to reverse this decision and not allow the lawsuit to go forward. In his brief urging the Supreme Court not to hear Ashcroft’s appeal, al-Kidd claims that:

The impetus for arresting [him and other] individuals ...

Targets of Predatory Lawsuits Fight Copyright Troll in Washington, D.C.

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked a judge in Washington, D.C., to dismiss copyright infringement claims against two defendants wrongfully ensnared in mass movie-downloading lawsuits.

In an amicus brief filed Friday, EFF argues that the copyright troll behind the suits -- a law firm calling itself the "U.S. Copyright Group" (USCG) -- is flouting court rules and engaging in unfounded speculation in order to pressure people into paying premature settlements. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, and Public Citizen Litigation Group joined EFF in the amicus brief.

USCG has filed these suits against approximately 16,000 defendants so far in Washington, D.C., alleging that they participated in unauthorized downloading of films including "Far Cry" and "The Hurt Locker." Two of the defendants have submitted evidence that they do not live in Washington, D.C., and since neither of the plaintiffs is located there either, the court ordered the plaintiffs to explain why D.C. is the proper place to sue those individuals. EFF and its co-amici filed Friday's brief to urge the court to dismiss those defendants and put a stop to USCG's legal gamesmanship.

"Imagine being accused of something and threatened with ...

FIRE’s Robert Shibley Takes on UNC Speech Codes in ‘Chapel Hill Herald’ Op-Ed

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Sunday's edition of the Chapel Hill (N.C.) Herald contained a sharp op-ed by FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley, who devoted his section of editorial real estate to an analysis of the problems presented by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's (UNC's) speech codes and an overview of the school's recent history with free speech on campus. 

UNC's codes currently earn a "yellow light" rating from FIRE, and Roberta new North Carolina resident as of last monthtells Herald readers one of the reasons why:

UNC has several policies that can be used to ban or excessively regulate constitutionally protected speech. Among them are vague and overly broad policies that allow "harassment" to be defined by the subjective feelings of the most easily offended people on campus rather than by the legally required objective standard of a reasonable person.

Considering the very different standards of and reasons for taking offense that could be held by a freshman from Hickory and a senior from New York City, there is good reason why the law demands a more objective standard. Why doesn't UNC?

Robert also discusses the recent rise of the "heckler's veto" at UNC:

Most notoriously, a speech ...

Americans Still Oppose Court’s Citizens United Decision

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Nearly ten months since the Supreme Court drastically expanded the ability of corporations to influence the political process, the public is still greatly troubled by the Court’s ruling in Citizens United. The majority Americans do not buy the absurd arguments of Congressional Republicans that Citizens United was as significant a step forward as the Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, as most people believe that corporations should not be allowed to spend unlimited sums from their general treasuries to fund political efforts. A Hart Research poll conducted on behalf of People For the American Way found that 77% of Americans want Citizens United to be overturned, and that corporations already have too much political power.

A recent “Constitutional Attitudes Survey” by Harvard and Columbia University professors found that while self-described liberals and conservatives all found Court decisions they agree with, Citizens United stands out as the most unpopular among all respondents:

One notable decision that stuck in respondents' respective craw, however, was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the January 2010 opinion that struck down a federal law prohibiting corporations from airing advertisements endorsing a political candidate.

Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents disagreed with the statement, ...

Don’t publish any new classified WikiLeaks info, military asks press

Monday, October 18th, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon today asked news organizations not to publish any classified war files released by the WikiLeaks Web site, as the U.S. braces for the potential disclosure of hundreds of thousands of secret Iraq war documents.

In July, WikiLeaks obtained and released nearly 77,000 classified military reports from Afghanistan. Now, the Pentagon says the group has as many as 400,000 documents from a military database on operations in Iraq.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange today downplayed expectations that a leak was imminent. In a Twitter post, Assange said such information was coming from "a single tabloid blog" that had put out a "tremendous amount" of false information about his site.

Still, the military says its 120-person task force has been on high alert. The group has been reviewing the documents for weeks to determine what information might be compromised.

Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that the military wasn't sure whether WikiLeaks had shared the Iraq war logs with any news organizations. But, he said, news media should not disseminate the "stolen" information even if it's already posted online by WikiLeaks.

"The concern is that WikiLeaks as an organization should not be made more credible ...

Supreme Court won’t open Kan. pain-Rx case files

Monday, October 18th, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has turned down a request to make public a national patient advocate's appeal in the case of a Kansas doctor linked to dozens of patient-overdose deaths.

The Court today refused to allow the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to intervene in Siobhan Reynolds' case.

The court filings and proceedings in Reynolds' case have been sealed by federal district court in Kansas and in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Reporters Committee wanted to intervene so it could ask the Court to make the papers open to the public. But the high court said only redacted copies would be made public.

The Reporters Committee said news reports had disclosed some details of the case after Reynolds spoke to the news media. The case involves "witness challenges to subpoenas issued in connection with a grand jury investigation" of pain-medicine prescriptions.

Reynolds and her organization, the Pain Relief Network, are the subject of the investigation because of her involvement with Linda and Dr. Stephen Schneider. The Schneiders have been convicted of conspiring to profit by illegally prescribing painkillers to dozens of patients, who later died.

Concerning the sealed court records, the Reporters Committee said, ...

7th Circuit: Ill. moment-of-silence law is constitutional

Monday, October 18th, 2010

CHICAGO — A federal appeals court ruled late last week that the Illinois law requiring a moment of silence in public schools is constitutional because it doesn’t specify prayer.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 15 ruled that legislators who supported the bill said the moment of reflection had a secular and practical purpose in settling down students at the start of the school day. The three-judge panel also determined that the law was “not unconstitutionally vague in all of its operations.”

The 2-1 ruling came in a lawsuit that sought to bar schools from enforcing the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. It was filed by talk-show host Rob Sherman, an outspoken atheist, and his daughter Dawn, a student at Buffalo Grove High School in suburban Chicago.

In filing the lawsuit, Sherman said the law indicated an “intent to force the introduction of the concept of prayer into the schools.”

The appeals panel majority, however, found that the law “serves a secular purpose and does not have the principal or primary effect of promoting religion.”

Judge Ann Claire Williams dissented, saying she believed the law made “an unnecessary reference to prayer, signaling a predominantly religious ...

Idaho GOP makes case for scrapping state’s open primary

Friday, October 15th, 2010

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Republican Party finally got its chance this week to make a case for scrapping the state’s open primary, which they say allows Democratic voters to unfairly influence GOP politics and results at the ballot box.

The job of defending Idaho’s 37-year-old system has put Secretary of State Ben Ysursa at odds with his own party’s wishes. But in a state already dominated by the GOP, Ysursa questioned the merits of tinkering with a system that’s reaping Republican benefits.

Republicans already hold significant majorities in the Idaho House and Senate, as well as the state’s top elected posts and three of four congressional seats.

“It may seem strange at times, but I think we’re all managing to disagree in a civil manner,” joked Ysursa, who at one point was seated on a courtroom bench next to Jonathan Parker, the party’s executive director.

“My point is that Republicans in Idaho have been quite successful, and I don’t really know what’s broken that needs fixing,” he said.

Currently, Idaho has an open primary, meaning voters can cast a ballot in any party they choose, a system similar to nonpartisan primaries in 20 other states.

Two years ago, members ...

Mass. town to close schools for Muslim holiday

Friday, October 15th, 2010

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Cambridge will close its schools for one Muslim holiday each year beginning next year.

The school will close for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, or Eid al-Adha, which celebrates the end of the hajj, or annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Muslims follow a lunar calendar, so the dates of holidays change each year. School administrators say they will close school on whichever holiday falls within the academic year.

If both days fall within the school calendar, the district will close for one of the days.

Cambridge School Committee member Marc McGovern, who advocated for the policy, argued that Cambridge schools close for some Christian and Jewish holidays and Muslims should be treated the same.

Reporting on religion in the post-9/11 world

Friday, October 15th, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum and the McCormick Foundation Civics Program are sponsoring a discussion on “Covering Religion in the post-9/11 World” at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.

Recent events in the United States — from anti-mosque protests to threats of Quran burning — are stark reminders that, particularly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, religion matters. For journalists, covering domestic and world events requires taking religion seriously. But how well do journalists report the religious dimension of the news? Do the news media help or hurt as Americans struggle to understand the complex and contentious issues surrounding the role of religion in politics and society?

Join leading experts in journalism, religion and public affairs for a timely discussion of news coverage of religion in our perilous times. Panelists for the program include:

  • Phil Bennett, professor of the practice of journalism and public policy, Duke University, and former managing editor of The Washington Post.
  • Stephen Burgard, director, School of Journalism at Northeastern University.
  • Benjamin J. Hubbard, professor emeritus, California State University, Fullerton.
  • Debra L. Mason, director, Center on Religion ...

St. Louis suburb lifts ban on funeral protests

Friday, October 15th, 2010

ST. PETERS, Mo. — A St. Louis suburb has lifted its ban on protests near funerals.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the St. Peters Board of Aldermen voted last night to lift the ban.

The St. Louis suburb’s ordinance was similar to a state measure that was struck down by a federal judge earlier this year.

The board lifted the ban after receiving a letter from the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, which opposed the ban on behalf of members of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan.

Tommy Roberts said he, like four other aldermen, was voting for the repeal only because of the money that the city would have to spend to defend the ordinance.

"I'm opposed to this, but we don't have the money to fight the ACLU on this,” Roberts was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “I am going to have to vote in favor of this for the sake of the taxpayers."

Westboro church members protest at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, saying troop deaths are God’s punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the case Snyder v. Phelps, which will determine whether the church can be ...

New FOIA Documents Reveal DHS Social Media Monitoring During Obama Inauguration

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

As noted in our first post, EFF recently received new documents via our FOIA lawsuit on social network surveillance, filed with the help of UC Berkeley’s Samuelson Clinic, that reveal two ways the government has been tracking people online: Citizenship and Immigration’s surveillance of social networks to investigate citizenship petitions and the DHS’s use of a “Social Networking Monitoring Center” to collect and analyze online public communication during President Obama’s inauguration. This is the second of two posts describing these documents and some of their implications.

In addition to learning about surveillance of citizenship petitioners, EFF also learned that leading up to President Obama’s January 2009 inauguration, DHS established a Social Networking Monitoring Center (SNMC) to monitor social networking sites for “items of interest.” In a set of slides [PDF] outlining the effort, DHS discusses both the massive collection and use of social network information as well as the privacy principles it sought to employ when doing so.

While it is laudable to see DHS discussing the Fair Information Practice Principles [PDF] as part of the design for such a project, the breadth of sites targeted is concerning. For example, among the key “Candidates for Analysis” were ...

Search Engines Protect Privacy with Outbound HTTPS Links

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

One great trend for Internet users' privacy and security has been that search engines — among other popular sites — are making their services available in a secure HTTPS form.

But users can still run into a privacy problem when they click on search results: the destination page could be unencrypted, potentially revealing lots of information to eavesdroppers about a user's interests and activities. For instance, suppose you search for [coronary artery disease] on a search engine, and you click on the search engine's outbound result link to Wikipedia's page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronary_artery_disease. Even if your connection to the search engine was protected by HTTPS, your connection to Wikipedia won't be!

But it could have been protected — after all, Wikipedia has a partially HTTPS-protected version at the alternative address https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Coronary_artery_disease. The search engine would just have to know to send you to that link instead of the insecure link. (Or you could use EFF's HTTPS Everywhere software to rewrite the link inside your browser; but currently it's only available for Firefox and doesn't come with browsers by default.) Wouldn't it be great if search engines results preferred the secure form of web sites?

This week the developer of ...

Judge Allows Trial of CFAA Claim Against Wiseguys

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

While noting that it took seriously the concerns raised by EFF and others in an amicus brief, a federal judge in New Jersey in the case of U.S. v. Lowson yesterday decided to delay a decision on the thorny question of whether the government can use the Ticketmaster website's terms of use to smack ticket resellers with criminal charges. The Court allowed a federal indictment under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) of online ticket vendors to go to trial in order to develop a more complete factual record.

EFF, along with the Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys of New Jersey, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and several law professors had argued that CFAA liability should not be based on violations of terms of use. US v. Lowson is one of a rash of cases in which a website's terms of use — the long, one-sided, rarely read documents that users must click "agree" to — are being inappropriately used as the basis for criminal prosecution. The court noted:

The Court notes and must take seriously the argument advanced by the defendants, as well as those made by Amici, regarding whether the unauthorized access alleged here amounts ...

N.Y. newspaper wins $8 million in suit against Yonkers mayor

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

NEW YORK — A federal jury has awarded a newspaper in the suburbs north of New York City $8 million in its lawsuit against the mayor of Yonkers, who the paper claims wrongly confiscated copies after it ran articles critical of him.

The jury yesterday also found that The Westchester Guardian did not defame Mayor Philip Amicone when it reported on the eve of the 2007 mayoral election that he visited strip clubs.

Amicone’s spokesman, David Simpson, told The Journal News the mayor was disappointed with the verdict. He said Amicone had never been to a strip club.

The club is owned by the weekly paper’s publisher, Sam Zherka.

The lawsuit said news racks and copies of the paper were illegally seized by city employees.

The paper hailed the verdict as a victory for First Amendment rights.

Federal judge suspends Pittsburgh ban on leafleting cars

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

PITTSBURGH — A federal judge has handed two anti-abortion activists a victory by ordering a temporary halt to enforcement of a Pittsburgh ordinance that bans leafleting of parked cars.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge David Cercone halted enforcement of the ordinance pending a Nov. 12 hearing. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cercone found the plaintiffs had "a reasonable probability of success" at trial and would have been “irreparably harmed by having their free speech restricted.”

Pittsburgh officials said the 2008 ordinance was aimed at curbing litter.

But Kathleen Ramsey, of Ross Township, and Albert Brunn, of Pittsburgh, filed suit saying the ordinance was vague and stifled free speech.

Attorney Edward White of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented Ramsey and Brunn, argued that any litter was caused by drivers who threw the leaflets away. After the injunction was issued, White told the newspaper: "Today the court acted to protect one of the most fundamental rights of all Americans, the right to freedom of speech."

Assistant city solicitor Michael Kennedy said political speech was not targeted and the activists were free to hand literature to people.

First Amendment Center Online staff contributed to this report.

5th Circuit rejects parents’ challenge of Texas pledge

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

DALLAS — A federal appeals court has rejected a bid by Dallas-area parents to have "under God" removed from the Texas pledge of allegiance that is recited every day by public schoolchildren.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said yesterday's ruling in Croft v. Perry was a victory for the constitutionally protected rights and freedoms of all Texans.

The words "under God" were added to the pledge in 2007 by the Texas Legislature.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade ruled in 2009 that the Texas pledge can reference God because several other state pledges and the national pledge reference God or divine grace.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld Kinkeade’s dismissal of David and Shannon Croft’s lawsuit. The appeals court rejected the argument brought by the Crofts and two other unidentified parents that the phrase violated the separation of church and state.

Judge E. Grady Jolly, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, said: “We conclude that the use of ‘under God’ acknowledges but does not endorse religious belief.”

Jolly added, “Despite the challenged ‘under God’ amendment, the pledge’s effect remains patriotic; its religious component is minimal and, when contextualized, clearly understandable as an acknowledgment of the state’s religious heritage.”

Justices turn away appeal over college admissions

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from two Christian high schools in Southern California that wanted the University of California to grant college-prep credit for courses with religious viewpoints.

The justices, without comment, denied a hearing to the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Association of Christian Schools International, which accused the university of violating freedom of speech and religion for refusing to honor some Christian high school courses when considering UC admissions eligibility.

Last January, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Los Angeles federal judge's ruling that the university did not discriminate against Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta and Calvary Baptist School in La Verne.

In 2008, U.S. District Judge S. James Ortero said the schools had failed to prove that religious intolerance, rather than academic merit, led to rejection of Christian course credit.

9th Circuit upholds Wash. campaign-disclosure laws

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A federal appeals court upheld Washington state’s campaign-disclosure laws yesterday, saying the requirements don’t violate the First Amendment rights of a group that didn’t want to reveal its donors in a 2008 opposition campaign to an assisted-suicide ballot measure.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that rejected Human Life of Washington’s contention that the state’s disclosure requirements for political committees, independent expenditures and political advertising were unconstitutional.

The judges wrote that disclosure requirements “have become an important part of our First Amendment tradition.”

“There is a substantial relationship between Washington State’s interest in informing the electorate and the definitions and disclosure requirements it employs to advance that interest,” the ruling said.

Phone and e-mail messages left with Human Life and with James Bopp Jr., a noted campaign-finance attorney who represented the group, were not returned in time for this story.

Human Life had argued that it shouldn’t have to register with the state as a political action committee, because it wanted to sponsor ads about the issue of assisted suicide, not ads explicitly about Initiative 1000, the “Death with Dignity” initiative that was on the November 2008 ...

Federal judge: Military can’t enforce ‘don’t ask’ policy

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

SAN DIEGO — A federal judge ordered the military yesterday to immediately stop enforcing its ban on openly gay troops, bringing the 17-year "don't ask, don't tell" policy closer than it has ever been to being abolished.

Justice Department attorneys have 60 days to appeal the injunction but did not say what their next step would be.

President Barack Obama has backed a Democratic effort in Congress to repeal the law, rather than in an executive order or in court.

But U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' injunction leaves the administration with a choice: Continue defending a law it opposes with an appeal, or do nothing, let the policy be overturned, and add an explosive issue to a midterm election with Republicans poised to make major gains.

Phillips, based in Riverside, Calif., issued a landmark ruling on Sept. 9, declaring the policy unconstitutional and asking both sides to give her input about an injunction. The judge said the policy violates due-process rights, freedom of speech and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Department of Justice and Pentagon officials said they were reviewing the judge's decision and had no immediate comment. Pentagon spokesman ...

Commentary: A Stimulus Plan, Disguised as Censorship

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

 

I’VE been thinking a lot lately about “Operation Dark Heart.”

It is an Afghan war memoir by Anthony A. Shaffer, a former officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency. And it’s also the name of my secret plan to revive the floundering economy. Bear with me on this.

This is the book that the Pentagon made into a best seller. The manuscript passed muster by Army reviewers with some redactions, and made its way toward publication at the end of August. But late in the game, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other espionage agencies cried whoa — the book still had more than 200 passages that, officials said, could harm national security.

Faced with a serious problem, the government came up with a truly bold solution: rounding up the books and destroying them. The Pentagon paid the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, $47,300 for 10,000 copies of the first run that were still in the warehouse. Redacted copies have been printed since.

Here’s why this is visionary and not simply stupid.

Read the rest of John Schwartz’s commentary.

Josh Neufeld Named As Ambassador of Free Expression by U.S. State Department

Monday, October 11th, 2010
The Washington Post reports that Josh Neufeld, author of A.D.: New Orleans After The Deluge is being sent on a three week tour of North Africa and the Middle East as an ambassador of Free Expression by the U.S. State Department. Neufeld is known for chronicling his experience as a volunteer for the Red Cross following Hurricane Katrina. Neufeld told The Post:
The State Department invited me "specifically because of the Katrina book, which is blatantly so critical of the government," Neufeld tells Comic Riffs of his comics reportage. "The program brings in cultural figures who disseminate [this message] -- the State Department is proud of that freedom of expression. ... They bring me over as a statement of how our civil society welcomes voices of dissent in all forms."
The CBLDF congratulates Josh for being appointed to perform this important work!

S.C. jail’s Bible-only policy prompts lawsuit

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a South Carolina jail's policy that bars inmates from having any reading material other than the Bible.

On Oct. 6, the ACLU filed the federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the policy on behalf of Prison Legal News, a monthly journal on prison law. The 16-page complaint says officials at the Berkeley County Jail in Moncks Corner, about 100 miles southeast of Columbia, are violating several of the magazine's and inmates' constitutional rights including freedom of speech and religion and the right to due process.

Since 2008, the publishers of Prison Legal News have tried to send magazines, letters and self-help books about prison life to several inmates at the jail, the complaint states. Some of the materials were sent back, and in July a jail official wrote an e-mail to the publishers referencing the jail's policy.

"Our inmates are only allowed to receive soft back bibles in the mail directly from the publisher," First Sergeant K. Habersham noted in the e-mail. "They are not allowed to have magazines, newspapers, or any other type of books."

The jail confirmed on Oct. 6 that it doesn't have a ...

Controversial artwork vandalized in Colorado

Friday, October 8th, 2010
What began as a heated protest over Enrique Chagoya’s artwork at the Loveland Museum in Colorado has ended in vandalism.  A disgruntled woman ripped into Chagoya’s controversial lithograph “The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals” after she busted the artwork’s plexiglass case with a crowbar. City council members, religious groups and individuals had hoped that the [...]

Copyright Abuse in Ohio Governor Election

Friday, October 8th, 2010

With just weeks to go before Ohio votes on its next governor, the contest has devolved into a copyright squabble that is keeping a political video off YouTube on the basis of a bogus copyright claim.

A couple of days ago, Congressman John Kasich put out a commercial that featured a man dressed as a steelworker discussing Governor Ted Strickland’s record. It turns out that the steelworker depicted in the commercial wasn't an actual steelworker, but paid actor Chip Redden.

In response, the Ohio Democratic Party promptly published a YouTube video capitalizing on this, illustrating its point with short clips from Redden's acting career. One of the clips came from a film by Arginate Studios, LLC, which then used the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to send a take down demand to YouTube. YouTube removed the video. Under the DMCA, the political video would be unavailable on YouTube for at least 10 days (a significant portion of the time remaining before the election), though the video remains available on Vimeo:

Untitled from Jeremy Froughlin on Vimeo.

While the use of copyright to take down political speech in the weeks before an election is hardly new (CDT just ...