Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Z-Bot Unplugged! (New Banned Books Week video)

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

This year ALA’s Banned Books Week PSA features a robot who has learned to think for himself… check it out!

House Democrats shelve net-neutrality proposal

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

WASHINGTON — House Democrats have shelved a last-ditch effort to broker a compromise between phone, cable and Internet companies on rules that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or degrading online traffic flowing over their networks.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., abandoned the effort late yesterday in the face of Republican opposition to his proposed “network-neutrality” rules. Those rules were intended to prevent broadband providers from becoming online gatekeepers by playing favorites with traffic.

The battle over net neutrality has pitted public interest groups and Internet companies such as Google Inc. and Skype against the nation’s big phone and cable companies, including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp.

Public interest groups and Internet companies say regulations are needed to prevent phone and cable operators from slowing or blocking Internet phone calls, online video and other Web services that compete with their core businesses. They also want rules to ensure that broadband companies cannot favor their own online traffic or the traffic of business partners that can pay for priority access.

But the phone and cable companies insist they need flexibility to manage network traffic so that high-bandwidth applications don’t hog capacity and slow down their systems. ...

Charges against Texas official who released public info thrown out

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A state judge has thrown out felony charges against a top state official indicted for giving journalists information about a suicide in a Texas jail.

Adan Munoz Jr., executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, had been indicted after releasing information about a Nueces County jail inmate who hanged himself in February.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported yesterday that state District Judge Sandra Watts threw out the charges. She said the wording in the indictments was vague and needed clarification.

Munoz had pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of misuse of official information. His attorney says Munoz broke no laws by releasing public information after receiving a public-information request.

Calif. to allow sealing of slain children’s autopsy records

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Autopsy reports of slain children could be sealed permanently under a bill signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in response to several murders of children and teenagers in California over the last year.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Matt Connelly said on Sept. 28 that the governor signed the bill to protect the privacy of victims' families and prevent more suffering for them.

The law lets family members request that autopsies and other evidence be kept private if their child was killed during a crime. The request could be made only after a conviction, under the bill by Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association, opposed the bill, S.B. 5. However, Jim Ewert, a lawyer with the association, said the measure was narrowed from a more sweeping original version that might have protected killers who murdered their own family members.

The bill was amended to prohibit a family member from asking that the records be sealed if he or she has been charged with any involvement in the child's death.

Though the records would not be subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act, they could become public if introduced as evidence during a ...

Banned Books Week Day 5: News, Views & Video

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

New Jersey librarian Dee Venuto writes about her experience with censorship at I Love Libraries today: “Taking a Stand: The Value of Going Public”

Lauren Myracle discusses engaging rather than dismissing would-be censors in a great piece for The Guardian: Building bridges with the book-banners

The Christian Science Monitor suggests “5 books almost anyone might want to burn” and wonders if intellectual freedom fighters are simply paying “lip service” to the First Amendment by defending “relatively innocuous” books (note to CSM: we aren’t!).

Other items of note:

Tomorrow is the extended deadline for the Banned Books Week Machinima contest in Second Life.  Tomorrow is also the Banned Books Week Trivia Game Show!

The Banned Books Week Facebook page reached 25,000 fans today – an uptick of over 5,000 in just two weeks!

The Syracuse New Times gives a great overview of the importance of Banned Books Week, citing the controversy around Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

And Time covers the Ellen Hopkins/Humble, TX ISD situation in Texas: If You Can’t Ban Books, Ban Authors.

Finally, here is a great video from the Dayton Metro Library (one of the recipients of the Judith Krug Fund Banned Books Week ...

Banned Books Week Display Pic of the Day

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

The Banned Books Week display pic of the day comes from Oklahoma City Community College’s Keith Leftwich Memorial Library:

Banned Books Display

Thank you all for your submissions thus far. We look forward to receiving more! Please join our group in Flickr or send your photos to

EFF Supports Microsoft in Seeking to Make it Easier to Invalidate Patents

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Today EFF, joined by Public Knowledge, the Computer & Communications Industry Association and the Apache Software Foundation, filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case in which Microsoft is trying to make it easier to invalidate an issued U.S. patent. If successful, this challenge should help in the fight against bad patents by lowering the standard required to prove that the patent is invalid to the same one required to prove infringement. It should especially help the free and open source community.

Here’s some background: In court, parties have to prove their case by some “standard of proof.” In almost all civil cases, the standard is “preponderance of the evidence” – meaning it is more likely than not that the facts are true. When the question is invalidating a patent, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided that a defendant trying to prove a patent invalid must do so by a higher standard than normal civil cases, that of “clear and convincing” evidence. “Clear and convincing” means that the facts are “highly probable,” which is a much more difficult standard to meet when trying to invalidate a patent than just a ...

Spotlight on Censorship – The Bible

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010


The Bible
“Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much.” – Walter Lippman

In light of the recent controversy over the high-profile threat of Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida to burn the Quran to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, today the Spotlight on Censorship profiles the Bible.  This religious tome has its own intriguing history of challenges and bans, including several reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Among the most noteworthy censorship controversies concerning the Bible took place in 1624, when copies Martin Luther’s 1534 translation were burned in Germany with Papal authority.  Three centuries later, the Bible was banned when Soviet officials decreed that libraries must “contain solely anti-religious books.”  The Bible was not published again in the USSR until 1956.  Fast forwarding to 1993, the Bible was challenged in the Noel Wien Library in Fairbanks, Alaska for being “obscene and pornographic,” but was ultimately retained.

That same year, the Bible again was challenged and retained in the West Shores schools in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania amid complaints that it contains “language and satires that are inappropriate for children of any age, including tales of incest and murder.”*

Finally, a planned Bible ...

Thai Webmaster Arrested for Online Speech

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

On Friday, the Director of a popular alternative Thai news portal Prachatai was arrested by the Thai government. Chiranuch Premchaipoen — popularly known as Jiew — was charged under the intermediary liability provisions of the 2007 Computer Crime Act and for "Lèse Majesté," or defamation of the Thai royal family. She faces a 32-year prison sentence.

Jiew's crime? In 2008, Prachatai published an interview with Chotisak Onsoong, a Thai man known for refusing to stand at attention during the Thai Royal Anthem — a dangerous political act in Thailand, though not technically a crime. The interview received huge attention, drawing over 200 comments from Thai citizens. On April 28, 2008, complaints were filed against Prachatai alleging that several comments on that interview were a defamation to the Monarchy. An arrest warrant for Jiew was issued on Septemeber 8, 2009, but no summons was received by Jiew until her arrest this past Friday.

The timing of Jiew's arrest suggests that it's intended more as political intimidation than as simple law-enforcement. Jiew was arrested at Bangkok International Airport, immediately upon her return home from speaking at a pair of conferences promoting the free and open internet — The Internet at Liberty ...

University of Georgia in the News After Trying to Punish Student for Parking Complaint

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

As one might expect with a case stemming from a complaint over parking accommodations that resulted in the threat of disciplinary charges for University of Georgia (UGA) student Jacob Lovell, much of the public's reaction to UGA's behavior has been along the lines of: really? As in, UGA really thought Lovell's e-mail constituted a threat?

See Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss, who opens with:

Put this in the "what-were-they-thinking" category.

And closes with:

The case was closed. But why was it ever opened?

Similarly, Becca Nadler, blogging for Saxaspeak (a blogging arm of the Georgetown University paper The Hoya) begins:

I'm not sure I can adequately describe my reaction upon hearing about what happened to this University of Georgia student. It was probably something like "Huh?"

Indeed, it's hard to mistake UGA's charges of "disorderly conduct" and "disruption" for anything less than an almost comical overreaction to a flippant e-mail. Several point out the many, better ways UGA could have dealt with this e-mail. Little surprise, then, that UGA quickly reversed course (after FIRE publicized the case) and cleared Lovell of any charges. The Athens Banner-Herald, for instance, says that "Parking Services should have saved ...

Supreme Court to post audio of every argument online

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is broadening access to audio recordings of all of its arguments, but ending its practice of same-day release of audio in high-profile cases.

Beginning with the new term next week, the Court will post audio files of each week's arguments on its website on Fridays. The Court has for several years put the argument transcripts on the site within hours of the arguments.

Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said yesterday that the justices have decided they will no longer entertain requests from broadcasters for the same-day release of audio recordings. Last term, the justices rejected every broadcaster request.

Audio in big cases had been occasionally provided to broadcasters since the Bush v. Gore case that helped settle the 2000 presidential election.

Susan Swain — president of the C-SPAN cable network, which airs live broadcasts of congressional sessions — said she hoped the Court would move to same-day release of all the arguments "and ultimately, television coverage of its public sessions."

The Court bars reporters from carrying audio recorders and cameras into the courtroom.

Hallmark, Paris Hilton settle ‘that’s hot’ lawsuit

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hallmark Cards Inc. says a greeting card using Paris Hilton's "that's hot" catchphrase and image was meant as a parody. But the celebrity socialite apparently didn't appreciate the humor.

The Kansas City-based greeting card giant and the hotel heiress have reached a settlement in a 3-year-old lawsuit over the card, a company spokeswoman said yesterday.

The deal was sealed, and Hallmark spokeswoman Julie O'Dell declined to provide details. Hilton's lawsuit had sought a half-million dollars.

"All I can say is we did settle," O'Dell said. "We were able to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion."

Hilton's attorneys had said the company misappropriated Hilton's image and her catchphrase, which she trademarked in 2007, months before the lawsuit was filed against Hallmark.

"This was a calculated way to use Miss Hilton's actual photo, name and catchphrase by Hallmark to draw attention to Hallmark's product," Brent Blakely, Hilton's attorney, told the AP.

Blakely said the case was significant in that it gave courts direction on how to judge a case dealing with the right of free speech versus the right of someone to control and profit from their persona. A trial had been scheduled to begin in December.

"All (the) ...

Minn. court tosses law barring false accusations against police

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Court of Appeals has struck down a state law against making false statements that allege police misconduct.

In a 2-1 ruling yesterday, a three-judge panel said the law was unconstitutional on free-speech grounds because it “criminalizes knowingly making false statements that allege police misconduct, but not knowingly making false statements to absolve police.”

That kind of discrimination, the panel said, is not allowed under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul.

“The government cannot pick and choose which falsehoods to prohibit so as to criminalize certain false statements but not others based on the content of the speech or viewpoint of the speaker,” the panel said.

The case involved a woman convicted of falsely claiming a Winona police officer forged her signature to obtain her medical records while investigating her claim she had been assaulted by another person.

Banned Books Week Day 4: News, Views & a Video

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Today, the Huffington Post ran another great slideshow — 10 Graphic Novels and the Shocking Reasons They Frequently Come Under Fire

Programming Librarian, the website of ALA’s Public Programs Office, featured a blog post by OIF Assistant Director Angela Maycock

I Love Libraries continues its week-long series of Banned Books Week feature articles, with Intellectual Freedom Committee chair Julius Jefferson’s, “The Challenge of Living in a Democracy”

Some other great Banned Books Week reads:

The Virginia Beach Public Library Recommends blog will feature banned books all week, starting with The Rabbits’ Wedding (challenged during Jim Crow for advocating miscegenation) and The Satanic Verses.

North Carolina State University enlisted many campus bigwigs to read from their favorite banned books for their excellent “Soundwave” project.

The New York Times Paper Cuts blog covers the role of Twitter in the grassroots “Speak Loudly” response to the recent Missouri challenge to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (Twitterers: remember to follow @OIF and use the #bannedbooksweek hashtag!)

And here’s a report from Florida, illustrating perfectly the need for Banned Books Week (although we find it ironic that the book the mother wants to replace Catcher in the Rye with is The Adventures of ...

An Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the Senate Judiciary Committee

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
(Update: we've added a few engineers who asked to sign on right as the letter was going out; the final count is 96 signatures)

Today, 87 prominent Internet engineers sent a joint letter the US Senate Judiciary Committee, declaring their opposition to the "Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act" (COICA). The text of the letter is below.

Readers are encouraged to themselves write the Senate Judiciary Committee and ask them to reject this bill.

We, the undersigned, have played various parts in building a network called the Internet. We wrote and debugged the software; we defined the standards and protocols that talk over that network. Many of us invented parts of it. We're just a little proud of the social and economic benefits that our project, the Internet, has brought with it.

We are writing to oppose the Committee's proposed new Internet censorship and copyright bill. If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. In exchange for this, the bill will introduce censorship ...

Banned Books Week Display Pic of the Day

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The Banned Books Week display of the day comes from K-State Libraries:

Banned Books Week 2010 005

Please continue to upload photos onto the Banned Books Week 2010 Flickr group or send your photos to

Landmark Obscenity Trial: HOWL film and discussion, Friday 9/24

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Beat-icon Allen Ginsberg is getting a resurgence of attention, 13 years after his death at the age of 70. A movie based on the story behind Ginsberg’s signature poem, HOWL, opens this Friday, September 24. It stars James Franco as the young poet embroiled in a 1957 obscenity trial over the poem, which ended in [...]

PEN American Center issues statement in support of Park51 Community Center

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
PEN American Center, a member of NCAC’s coalition, released a statement in support of the proposed Park51 Community Center project, calling First Amendment freedoms “the birthright of all and our best defense.” NCAC is grateful to PEN for expressing thoughts we share about this fear-based controversy. The statement reads: As members of the American literary [...]

Spotlight on Censorship – The American Heritage Dictionary

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010


The American Heritage Dictionary
“What is freedom of expression?  Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” – Salman Rushdie

Of all books, a dictionary of the English language should be the least likely to cause offense.  It simply contains the vocabulary of the primary language that Americans use every day in our personal, school, and professional lives.  But the American Heritage Dictionary has had one confidential and five public challenges or bans in the United States since 1976, all because of its “objectionable language.”

The roundup of challenges and bans reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom is short but not at all sweet.  Starting in 1976, the American Heritage Dictionary was removed from school libraries in Anchorage, Alaska and Cedar Lake, Indiana because of its “objectionable language.”  It was removed the following year from school libraries in Eldon, Missouri for the same reason.  1982 saw the removal from Folsom, California school libraries.  A decade later, the dictionary was challenged, removed from, but ultimately reinstated in the Churchill County (Nevada) school libraries.

The metaphysical implications of challenging and removing the dictionary from any library, let alone a school library, are almost too staggering to contemplate.  Denying readers of ...

Banned Books Week “Top 10″ video

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

As part of our Banned Books Week celebration, the Office for Intellectual Freedom has created a video illustrating the Top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2009, with information about why they were challenged. Enjoy!

Tell Your Senator: No Website Blacklists, No Internet Censorship!

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The "Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act" (COICA) is yet another attempt to squash online copyright infringement — this time using dangerous, overbroad procedures that would take huge numbers of law-abiding websites offline, censor speech and curtail Internet freedom worldwide.

The bill would allow the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to break the Internet one domain at a time — by requiring ISPs, domain registrars, DNS providers, and others to block Internet users from reaching certain websites. Chillingly, the bill also allows the Justice Department to create a de facto blacklist of sites "dedicated to infringing activities" that ISPs and others will be encouraged to block.

And there is a serious danger that COICA could damage Internet freedom worldwide. In the past, the United States has tried to convince other countries to respect citizens' fundamental right to free speech. But with this bill, the United States risks telling countries throughout the world, "Unilateral censorship of websites that the government doesn't like is okay — and this is how you do it."

Reports say that the Senate is moving fast and may try to pass this bill by Wednesday, September 29. It's crucial to act now and let ...

FIRE at Michigan State This Wednesday

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

This Wednesday, September 29, the Center for Inquiry at Michigan State University (MSU) will host Azhar Majeed, FIRE's Associate Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, on the second leg of his Midwest speaking tour. His lecture will focus on the dangers of campus censorship, including the recent case of Kara Spencer, who was unjustly sanctioned by MSU for "spamming." The restrictive e-mail policy used to punish Spencer earned MSU a spot on FIRE's Red Alert List of the worst violators of free speech on campuses in the United States. Peter Bonilla brought this policy to the attention of MSU's student groups last week; read his e-mail about the situation here.

The lecture will take place at 7:30 pm in the Erickson Kiva (103 Erickson Hall).

Check the FIRE Calendar of Events or the FIRE Speakers Bureau 2010-2011 Google map for up-to-date information on all upcoming events, and be sure to stop by if you are in the area! To invite a FIRE speaker to your school, click here.

FIRE at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Today

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Azhar Majeed, FIRE's Associate Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, begins his Midwest speaking tour today with a stop at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). As part of a panel hosted by the Illini Secular Student Alliance, Azhar will discuss UIUC's two red-light speech policies, as well as FIRE's involvement in the 2008 case where the University of Illinois attempted to restrict faculty political speech during the election season. The panel will also feature Dr. Kenneth Howell, a professor of Catholic thought at UIUC and the subject of a recent FIRE case. Edward Clint, leader of the student group Atheists, Agnostics, & Freethinkers will also be on the panel.

The panel will be held at 6:00 pm in the Digital Computing Lab, Room 1320.

Check the FIRE Calendar of Events or the FIRE Speakers Bureau 2010-2011 Google map for up-to-date information on all upcoming events, and be sure to stop by if you are in the area! To invite a FIRE speaker to your school, click here.

A Field Guide to Copyright Trolls

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

With all of this talk about copyright trolls and spamigation, it is easy to get confused. Who is suing over copies of Far Cry and The Hurt Locker? Who is suing bloggers? Who is trying to protect their anonymity? Who is defending fair use? What do newspapers have to do with any of this? In order to cut through the confusion, here’s a concise guide to copyright trolls currently in the wild, with status updates.

Leading the pack for sheer numbers is a Washington, D.C., law firm calling itself the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG), that has filed several "John Doe" lawsuits in D.C., implicating well over 14,000 individuals. This firm has learned one lesson from the RIAA suits: the only group whose bottom line benefits from this kind of mass litigation is the lawyers. As we reported last week, several of the Does in these cases are fighting back in earnest, albeit with mixed results: on the one hand the judge in two of the cases has rejected various efforts to protect the anonymity of the Does, insisting that they cannot file papers anonymously. However, the same judge has issued orders requiring USCG to justify suing two of the Does ...

Political Forum Fights Back Against Righthaven Copyright Troll Suit

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Las Vegas - The online political discussion forum Democratic Underground is fighting back against a lawsuit filed by copyright troll Righthaven LLC, arguing in court documents filed Monday that the short excerpt of a news article at issue in the suit is a clear case of fair use.

Democratic Underground -- represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Winston & Strawn LLP, and attorney Chad Bowers -- was sued by Righthaven on August 10 for a five-sentence excerpt of a Las Vegas Review-Journal news story that a user posted on the forum, with a link back to the Review-Journal website. Righthaven has brought over 130 lawsuits in Nevada federal court claiming copyright infringement, even though they do not create, produce or distribute any content. Instead, they create lawsuits by scouring the Internet for content from Review-Journal stories posted on blogs and online forums, acquiring the copyright to that particular story from Stephens Media LLC (the Review-Journal's publisher), and then suing the poster for infringement.

As part of its lawsuit business model, Righthaven claims damages of up to $150,000 under the Copyright Act's statutory damages provisions and uses that threat to attempt to push defendants into a quick settlement. In the ...

High court takes case on corporate privacy

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is getting involved in an unusual freedom-of-information dispute over whether corporations may assert personal privacy interests to prevent the government from releasing documents about them.

The Court today agreed to a request from the Obama administration to take up a case involving claims made by telecommunications giant AT&T to keep secret the information gathered by the Federal Communications Commission during an investigation.

The administration wants the high court to rule that corporations may not claim a personal privacy exception contained in the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The exception may be used only by individuals, the administration said in a brief signed by Elena Kagan, the newest justice who served in the Justice Department until last month.

Kagan will not take part in the case, which will be argued early next year.

AT&T wants the FCC to keep secret all the information it gathered from the company during an investigation into the corporation’s participation in the federal E-Rate program, which helps schools and libraries get Internet access.

The FCC had released some of the information under an open-records request, but withheld some, citing FOIA exemptions that cover trade secrets and individuals' right to privacy.

A ...

W.Va. high court orders release of petition signatures

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Jefferson County’s clerk must release signatures sought by a newspaper from an Eastern Panhandle ballot petition, a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled last week.

The justices on Sept. 23 concluded that a referendum petition is a public record when filed with a public body. They also held that West Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act covers such records, “even though the writing was not prepared by, on behalf of, or at the request of, the public body.”

The opinion makes both those findings legal precedents for West Virginia courts to follow in future cases.

The petition had put an unsuccessful referendum on the 2009 ballot to replace Jefferson County’s zoning ordinance. Before the vote, The Observer of Shepherdstown had a filed a FOIA request for the petition and signatures. County Clerk Jennifer Maghan refused to release the signatures, arguing that they were not a public record because they had not been written by a public body.

Last week’s decision reverses a 2009 ruling by Circuit Judge David Sanders dismissing the newspaper’s subsequent lawsuit. Embracing Maghan’s argument, Sanders also said that disclosing the signatures would violate the signers’ privacy and chill the ability of citizens to petition government.

Rejecting ...

Defense Dept. oversees destruction of classified war memoir

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department says it has paid $47,000 to destroy 9,500 copies of a former Army intelligence officer's war memoir that the Pentagon contends threatened national security.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Sept. 27 that military officials last week watched as St. Martin's Press pulped the books to be recycled.

The publisher had planned to release on Aug. 31 Anthony Shaffer's book, Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan — and the Path to Victory. Shaffer's lawyer, Mark Zaid, says the Army Reserve cleared the manuscript beforehand but the Defense Department later rescinded the approval, claiming the text contained classified information.
Shaffer and the publisher agreed to redact the material.

"After consulting with our author, we agreed to incorporate some of the government’s changes into a revised edition of his book while redacting other text he was told was classified," St. Martin's Press said in a statement. "The newly revised book keeps our national interests secure, but this highly qualified warrior's story is still intact. Shaffer's assessment of successes and failures in Afghanistan remains dramatic, shocking, and crucial reading for anyone concerned about the outcome of the war."

St. Martin's Press quoted ...

Pa. court tosses union’s bid to keep teachers’ addresses private

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania appeals court has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the state’s largest teachers union that sought to prevent public disclosure of public school employees’ home addresses.

Commonwealth Court on Sept. 24 ruled against the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which sued the state Office of Open Records to keep it from ordering the release of the addresses under the state’s Right-to-Know Law.

Five of seven judges joined a majority opinion that said the union did not have the right to sue the agency, but instead would have to sue school districts to pursue the matter. A sixth judge said the addresses should be public, and the seventh would have kept the case alive but wanted additional facts and oral argument.

The ruling can be appealed to the state Supreme Court, but union spokeswoman Barb Brady said that decision had not been made. She said the union was disappointed by the ruling and was studying its options.

Office of Open Records director Terry Mutchler hailed the ruling as a significant step toward open government, and said the Legislature clearly meant to make accessible most government employees’ addresses.

“We’re beyond pleased with the court’s ruling and what that ...

Banned Books Week Display Pic of the Day

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Our Banned Books Week display of the day is from Fredricksen Library, Camp Hill, PA:


Please join the Banned Books Week 2010 group in Flickr to add some of your Banned Books Week display/event photos. If you would prefer not to join Flickr, please send your pictures to

Hamilton Requires First-Year Men to Attend Presentation on Campus ‘Rape Culture’; Female Applicants Not Forewarned of Dangers of Attending Hamilton

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Tonight at 7 p.m., first-year men at Hamilton College will be attending a mandatory presentation of "She Fears You," a program at which they will be pressed to acknowledge their personal complicity in a "rape culture" on Hamilton's campus and to change their "rape-supportive" beliefs and attitudes. First-year men were informed via e-mail that attendance was required and that they needed to bring their ID cards. "She Fears You" will be presented by Keith Edwards, "a national speaker and trainer on diversity and social justice and college men's issues."

"She Fears You" is based on the theory that men need a "combined cognitive and emotional intervention" in order to change their "rape-supportive beliefs." Attendees will be told that when they

make this an environment where it is no longer acceptable in any way to objectify women or define masculinity as sexual conquest, or subordinate women's intelligence, capability, and humanity, or allow issues of racism, classism, and homophobia to go unabated, then this campus will be a better place for all of us to be.

Preventing rape is a noble goal and is indeed of critical importance. Students should be informed of the laws on alcohol and consent ...

Banned Books Week Day 3: News and Videos

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Banned Books Week is in full swing!  Check out some of the coverage on other blogs/websites:

I Love Libraries will have articles all week on Banned Books Week.  They open the week with an article by OIF Director Barbara Jones, “Banned Books Week: It’s Local, It’s Global!”

Huffington Post today has a slideshow: 15 iconic movies based on banned books (also check out ALA president Roberta Stevens’ HuffPo piece from Saturday)

StorySnoops brings us a fabulous interview with Judy Blume including some insightful comments on book ratings systems (they’ll be posting Banned Books Week interview on their blog all week)

Booklist’s Book Group Buzz blog: If you ban it, they will read and talk about it

American Libraries has coverage of Saturday’s Read-Out!, including photos and a video of Chris Crutcher describing his first encounter with censorship, plus a video featuring Roberta Stevens’ introduction (see below):


@ Your Library
has a list of “Top ten far-fetched reasons to challenge a book”, plus another video from Saturday’s Read-Out!

If you know of more articles, please send them to!

Surprise, Surprise: Wisconsin Voter Caging Stems Back to Koch Brothers’ Corporate Agenda

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Last week, we wrote about a voter suppression plan concocted by GOP and Tea Party-affiliated groups in Wisconsin meant to keep young and minority voters from the polls this November.

Think Progress dug further into the issue, and traced much of the plan—both the sinking of a proposed Wisconsin law that would have prevented voter caging efforts like this, and the coordinated caging effort itself—back to the network of the billionaire Koch brothers, who have provided the money behind much of the Tea Party movement. (The Kochs are also the main funder of Americans For Prosperity, one of the groups cited in the voter caging plan):

[I] appears that a network of Koch-backed groups killed a proposed Wisconsin law to protect voters, which then cleared the way for an overlapping set of Koch-backed groups to move with an alleged voter suppression plan. What’s more, Koch-funded AFP is currently attempting to further influence the outcome of the election by airing millions of dollars in attack ads targeting Democratic U.S. House and Senate members in Wisconsin and other states.

Laurence Lewis at Daily Kos reminds us of the motivation behind the Kochs’ generous political spending:

The Koch machine also is a leading ...

Government Seeks Back Door Into All Our Communications

Monday, September 27th, 2010

The New York Times reported this morning on a Federal government plan to put government-mandated back doors in all communications systems, including all encryption software. The Times said the Obama administration is drafting a law that would impose a new "mandate" that all communications services be "able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages" — including ordering "[d]evelopers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication [to] redesign their service to allow interception".

Throughout the 1990s, EFF and others fought the "crypto wars" to ensure that the public would have the right to strong encryption tools that protect our privacy and security — with no back doors and no intentional weaknesses. We fought in court and in Congress to protect privacy rights and challenge restrictions on encryption, and to make sure the public could use encryption to protect itself. In a 1999 decision in the EFF-led Bernstein case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals observed that

[w]hether we are surveilled by our government, by criminals, or by our neighbors, it is fair to say that never has our ability to shield our affairs from prying eyes been at such a low ebb. The availability and use of secure encryption may offer ...

Spotlight on Censorship – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Monday, September 27th, 2010


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” – attributed to Mark Twain

Today’s Spotlight on Censorship profiles National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, which has caused quite a stir this year in Stockton, Missouri.  Back in April, it was removed from the school curriculum when one elementary school parent complained about the book’s content.  The Stockton School District Board then held an open forum for concerned local parents and citizens to discuss whether the book should be returned, with restrictions, to the high school library.

The board’s April decision inspired local protests against the ban and captured the attention of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free ExpressionNational Council of Teachers of English, and National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC).  NCAC and OIF united with allied groups and sent two letters to the board, arguing that “[n]o educational rationale has been advanced for removing the book, nor could one be plausibly made,” to no avail.  In a ...

New FIRE Video ‘Portraits of Terror’ Takes on Censorship of Art Examining Palestinian Terrorism

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Today FIRE unveils the second video in our series examining censorship of hot-button issues on college campuses. Our new video, Portraits of Terror, tells the story of artist Joshua Stulman, whose exhibit of the same name was censored at Penn State University in 2006 by two professors who claimed that the art violated Penn State's policy against "hate speech."

What was the focus of the exhibit, you might wonder?

The exhibit "Portraits of Terror," the entirety of which may be seen here, explores the promotion of terrorism and anti-Semitism in the Palestinian territories. Stulman, who is Jewish, focuses on the origins of anti-Israeli terrorism, and in a previous project had focused on the "appropriation" of Nazi imagery by Hamas and Hezbollah. For this, according to a lawsuit later filed by Stulman against Penn State University and the two professors who censored him, he was called into a meeting with his art professor, Robert Yarber, where he was told that he was a racist, that his art was racist, that it promoted Islamophobia, and that he "was calling all Arabs murderers and deliberately misleading uninformed university students to promote the idea that all Arabs are terrorists." Perhaps in order ...

Attorney: Feds trying to quiet anti-war activists

Monday, September 27th, 2010

CHICAGO — FBI agents in Chicago took a laptop and documents from the home of a Palestinian-American anti-war activist in an attempt to silence his advocacy, an attorney said yesterday.

The FBI on Sept. 24 searched eight addresses in Minneapolis and Chicago, including the home of Hatem Abudayyeh, who is the executive director of the Arab American Action Network, attorney Jim Fennerty told the Associated Press.

“The government’s trying to quiet activists,” Fennerty said. “This case is really scary.”

More than half a dozen agents went to Abudayyeh’s home on Sept. 24 and took any documents containing the word “Palestine,” Fennerty said.

Abudayyeh, a U.S. citizen whose parents emigrated from Palestine, wasn’t home at the time of the raid because he was at a hospital with his mother who is battling liver cancer, Fennerty said.

A message left for an FBI spokesman in Chicago wasn’t returned in time for this story. The FBI has declined to give details on the searches, saying the agency was investigating criminal activity not protected by the First Amendment.

Warrants suggested agents were looking for links between anti-war activists and terrorist groups in Colombia and the Middle East.

Fennerty said Abudayyeh has done nothing wrong ...

Jury acquits Christian missionaries arrested at Arab festival

Monday, September 27th, 2010

DEARBORN, Mich. — A jury in the heavily Arab Detroit suburb of Dearborn on Sept. 24 acquitted four Christian missionaries of charges of disorderly conduct at an Arab cultural festival.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Nabeel Qureshi of Virginia, Negeen Mayel of California and Paul Rezkalla and David Wood, both of New York, are members of a Christian group called Acts 17 Apologetics, which maintains that Islam is a false religion and inherently violent.

The four were accused of videotaping themselves preaching to Muslims at the Dearborn Arab International Festival in June. Police Chief Ron Haddad told The Detroit News the evangelists were arrested to ensure they did not provoke violence from the crowd.

Defense attorneys argued the missionaries were trying to engage Muslims in a peaceful dialogue about their faith. Robert Muise, an attorney for the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center who defended the evangelists, said their First Amendment right to free speech was violated and they did not harass anyone.

The four were charged in July after police said they received a complaint from a Christian festival volunteer who said he was harassed by the group.

Jurors did find Mayel guilty of failure to obey a ...

White House drafting rules to make it easier to eavesdrop online

Monday, September 27th, 2010

WASHINGTON — Broad new regulations being drafted by the Obama administration would make it easier for law enforcement and national security officials to eavesdrop on Internet and e-mail communications like social-networking websites and BlackBerrys, The New York Times reported today.

The newspaper reports that the White House plans to submit a bill next year that would require all online services that enable communications to be technically equipped to comply with a wiretap order. That would include providers of encrypted e-mail, such as BlackBerry, networking sites like Facebook and direct communication services like Skype.

Federal law enforcement and national security officials say new the regulations are needed because terrorists and criminals are increasingly giving up their phones to communicate online.

"We're talking about lawfully authorized intercepts," said FBI lawyer Valerie E. Caproni. "We're not talking about expanding authority. We're talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."

The White House plans to submit the proposed legislation to Congress next year.

The new regulations would raise new questions about protecting people's privacy while balancing national security concerns.

James Dempsey, the vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an ...

Texas Board of Ed. wants less Islam in textbooks

Monday, September 27th, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas State Board of Education has adopted a resolution that seeks to curtail references to Islam in Texas textbooks, as socially conservative board members warned of what they describe as a creeping Middle Eastern influence in the nation's publishing industry.

The board approved the one-page nonbinding resolution, which urges textbook publishers to limit what they print about Islam in world history books, by a 7-5 vote on Sept. 24.

Critics say it's another example of the ideological board trying to politicize public education in the Lone Star State. Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates for religious freedom, questioned why the resolution came at a time when "anti-Muslim rhetoric in this country has reached fever pitch."

"It's hard not to conclude that the misleading claims in this resolution are either based on ignorance of what's in the textbooks or, on the other hand, are an example of fear-mongering and playing politics," Miller said.

Future boards that will choose the state's next generation of social studies texts will not be bound by the resolution.

"This is an expression of the board's opinion, so it does not have an effect on any particular textbook," said ...

Banned Books Week Display Pic of the Day

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Our featured photo of the day is from Fulton High School, in Knoxville, TN:

Fulton High School

Check out more Banned Books Week photos on Flickr!

Spotlight on Censorship: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Sunday, September 26th, 2010


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
“Fear of corrupting the mind of the younger generation is the loftiest form of cowardice.”– Holbrook Jackson

Because the display of Maya Angelou’s autobiographical I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in miniature prison cell at the American Booksellers Association 1982 annual convention catalyzed the advent of Banned Books Week, it is a fitting first profile for the Spotlight on Censorship series.

According to the new edition of Banned Books Resource Guide, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has had thirty-nine public challenges or bans since 1983.  The majority of complaints were from parents who objected to the book’s depiction of sexually explicit scenes, including the rape and molestation suffered by the author as an eight-year-old, but it also has been challenged for being “anti-white” and encouraging homosexuality.  The Office for Intellectual Freedom has received significantly more confidential reports of challenges to this iconic book in the past three decades.

In a victory for the freedom to read, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has often been retained despite challenges and attempted removals.  In one case, the book remained in the curriculum for sophomores at ...

Banned Books Week in Second Life Begins Today!

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

BBW Robot Avatar for Second Life

Banned Books Week events will take place in Second Life starting today at 4:00 PM SLT (PDT) with a concert featuring Trowzer Boa-Jazz Sax & the Robot Band.  The event will take place on ALA Island.

For more information on events occuring in Second Life during the week, including information on how to get your Banned Books Week robot (featured above), click here.

Nev. high court sides with newspaper in records case

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Nevada Supreme Court says a Reno judge erred when he denied a newspaper’s public-records petition against Washoe County health officials without requiring them to show why the records sought were confidential.

The Reno Gazette-Journal filed a petition after the Washoe County Health Department in 2009 reported its first human case of swine flu.

Officials identified the victim as a 2-year-old girl who attended a daycare center. They would not disclose the name of the child-care facility.

Washoe District Judge Steven Elliott rejected the newspaper’s petition, and the paper appealed.

On Sept. 23, justices unanimously sided with the newspaper, saying Elliott should have required health officials to answer the petition and provide evidence why the information sought was confidential.

Banned Books Week Display Pic of the Day

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Today marks the first day of Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of the freedom to read. Thousands of libraries and bookstores across the country will celebrate their First Amendment freedoms by hosting events and book displays.  Each day this week, we will feature photos of book displays or events.  Today’s display of the day is from the Tobin Library at Oakwell branch of the San Antonio Public Library:

SAPL Banned Books 2

Check out our Banned Books Week 2010 group in Flickr for more Banned Books Week photos! To find out about an event or display in your area, click here.

Spotlight on Censorship

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

The OIF Blog is proud to introduce Katherine Chamberlain, a library school student who will be blogging throughout Banned Books Week and beyond on various censorship topics.  This week, Katherine will bring her spotlight to some of the books that are frequently challenged.  Why are they being challenged, where, and by whom?  Visit OIF Blog all week for her posts, plus our daily “Banned Books Week Display of the Week” and much more!

Welcome to Banned Books Week 2010!  This annual event celebrates the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Starting tomorrow on the OIF Blog, I will profile banned books from years past, detailing the history of challenges to the books and, when known, the outcome of the challenges.  Understanding the challenges of the past will help educate and inspire today’s intellectual freedom fighters in our ongoing battle to protect the freedom to read and the freedom of expression.

But first, a very brief history of Banned Books Week.  At its 1982 annual convention, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) displayed three books in miniature prison cells to call attention to the practice of book banning.  Each book was uniquely objectionable: I Know Why the ...

Nebraska high court backs sender of angry e-mails

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Supreme Court supports the sender of profanity-laced e-mails, saying the First Amendment protects his angry words.

Darren J. Drahota was convicted of disturbing the peace and fined $250 for e-mails he sent in 2006 to former political science professor Bill Avery. Avery was running for a Nebraska Legislature seat, which he won, and Drahota was a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The messages accused Avery of treason, among other things.

In June last year, the state Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentence.

In a ruling issued yesterday, the Nebraska Supreme Court disagreed with the lower courts, saying the messages had constitutional protections. The high court reversed Drahota's conviction and ordered that the case be dismissed.

Judge Finds Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Dismissal Unconstitutional

Friday, September 24th, 2010

A district court judge has ruled that the Air Force violated Maj. Margaret Witt’s constitutional rights when it fired her for being a lesbian.

In 2008, a federal appeals court panel ruled in her case that the military can't discharge people for being gay unless it proves their firing furthered military goals.

After a six-day trial, the judge said testimony proved that Witt was an outstanding nurse and that her reinstatement would do nothing to hurt unit morale.

Two weeks ago, a federal judge in California found the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy unconstitutional and ordered that the Obama Administration stop enforcing the policy. The Justice Department, which has to enforce the laws that are on the books, has objected and is pushing forward in the case to keep DADT.

At this point, the GOP’s refusal to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell seems not only embarrassing, but futile. After Senate Republicans blocked DADT repeal earlier this week, I compiled a list of the prominent arguments for and against repeal. I’ll add the Constitution to the “for” column. Again.

Banned Tibetan Singer Disappears

Friday, September 24th, 2010
Chinese authorities crack down on expressions of Tibetan religious and national identity.

FIRE to Student Groups at Michigan State University: Help Fight for First Amendment Rights

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Today, FIRE sent the following e-mail to the leadership of Michigan State University's student groups, asking for their help in reforming MSU's unconstitutional e-mail policy. We wrote:

To the student leaders of Michigan State University:

This year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE; purchased a full-page advertisement in U.S. News & World Report's annual "America's Best Colleges" issue, calling attention to the worst violators of free speech on college campuses. As you might be aware, Michigan State University is one of just six schools on this "worst of the worst" list. We call it FIRE's Red Alert list because we are actively warning prospective students to think twice before attending MSU. We are asking for your help in getting MSU off of the list.

It didn't have to be this way. In the fall of 2008, ASMSU officer Kara Spencer was sanctioned by MSU for contacting MSU faculty members through the university's e-mail system. Spencer was concerned about planned changes to MSU's academic calendar that affected every faculty member and student on campus. MSU had offered only a very short time for public comment. To enlist the aid of MSU's faculty on short notice, she carefully ...