Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Word from CBLDF’s Advisory Chair For Education & Outreach

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Hello!

I’m Betsy Rosenblatt, the new CBLDF Advisory Chair for Outreach and Education. What does that mean? It means that I’ll be volunteering for the CBLDF—and, I hope, working with some of you—to get the word about the CBLDF out to new communities: lawyers, librarians, donors,
readers, and everyone else.

Here’s a little about me: I’m a law professor and reader of comics. After graduating from Harvard Law School, I worked for nearly a decade at a large Los Angeles law firm before making the jump to academia. Now, I teach and direct the Center for Intellectual Property
Law at Whittier Law School (in Costa Mesa, California). On my comics shelves are a wide range of titles: indies, major imprints, manga…

I’m volunteering for the CBLDF because I care about comics and I care about free speech—the freedom of creators to create, the freedom of retailers to sell, and the freedom of readers to read. These freedoms should just happen naturally, but we know from experience that sometimes they don’t—they need help from organizations like the CBLDF, and I want to help. I know that there are a lot of people out there who, like me, care about the mission ...

Will Your Representative Sign the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy?

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Today, People For the American Way and Public Citizen launched a new campaign to get the ball rolling on a Constitutional Amendment to kick corporate money out of elections.

In January, the Supreme Court overturned a policy that was more than a century-old to allow corporations to spend millions of dollars from their treasuries to influence elections. To get to that decision, in the case of Citizens United v. FEC, the Court determined that corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals.

This reasoning, and the conclusion it led to, have been soundly rejected by Americans across the political spectrum. A poll we commissioned last month found that 85% of Americans disagree with the Court’s conclusion that the First Amendment allows corporations to spend whatever they like on elections, and 77% wanted to amend the Constitution to undo it.

What’s more, 74%--including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents-- said they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who pledged to work for a Constitutional Amendment to undo Citizens United.

We saw this as a clear call to action. So we joined up with Public Citizen to create www.PledgeForDemocracy.org and start making a Constitutional Amendment a reality.

Here’s how ...

More Developments at UIUC in Case of Punished Catholic Professor

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Meghan reported last week on FIRE's letter to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert A. Easter in the matter of adjunct professor Kenneth Howell, who was let go as the teacher of his UIUC courses on Catholicism after he sent his students an e-mail comparing what he described as the Catholic and the utilitarian criteria for making moral judgments about sexual behavior. According to The News-Gazette, Associate Dean Ann Mester told other UIUC staff that "the e-mails sent by Dr. Howell violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us."

This adverse employment action left Howell with no courses and no job at UIUC. Since he held his job through a contractual arrangement between the school and the independent college ministry St. John's Catholic Newman Center, the Newman Center also declined to rehire him.
But University of Illinois President Michael J. Hogan is disputing that such a decision has been made in a form letter responding to critics, as reported on Facebook:

Prof. Howell has not been dismissed from the University, as misreported on the Internet and by several media outlets. He continues to hold his ...

Greg’s ‘Stossel’ Appearance Now Available on Fox Business Channel Website

Monday, July 19th, 2010
For those who were unable to watch FIRE President Greg Lukianoff's appearance on Stossel last Thursday, the interview is now available online at the Fox Business Channel website. Watch John Stossel's interview with Greg and former Washington State University student Chris Lee, where they discuss WSU's deplorable attempts to censor Lee's satirical musical and the wider infirmity of politically correct speech codes on campus. Torch readers can also read Stossel's earlier coverage of Lee's and other FIRE cases here and here.

Fourth Circuit blasts airport’s effort to thwart newspapers

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

he Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority cannot violate the First Amendment rights of newspaper publishers and readers simply because they pose "the slightest administrative inconvenience" to airport administrators, a federal appellate judge said this week.

J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, issued a withering rebuke of RDU and its rationale for a blanket ban on newspaper vending boxes at the airport.  "It must be remembered that a newsrack ban like the one in place primarily restricts political speech and that political speech, of course, is at the core of what the First Amendment is designed to protect," Wilkinson wrote. "An informed citizenry is at the heart of this democracy, and narrowing the arteries of information in the manner sought by the Authority will only serve to impair our country’s coronary health."

Read more: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown/federal-judge-blasts-rdu-effort-to-thwart-newspapers#ixzz0tzsSFZCs

Court Fails to Protect Privacy of Whistleblower’s Email

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Today the Eleventh Circuit issued an unfortunate amended decision in Rehberg v. Hodges. The case arose from an egregious situation in which, among other misconduct, a prosecutor used a sham grand jury subpoena to obtain the private emails of whistleblower Charles Rehberg after he brought attention to systematic mismanagement of funds at a Georgia public hospital.

The Court held that Mr. Rehberg's privacy interest in his emails held by his ISP was not "clearly established" and therefore his claim against the prosecutors could not proceed. The Court relied on a legal doctrine called qualified immunity, which holds that lawsuits against government officials for violations of constitutional rights cannot proceed unless those rights were "clearly established" at the time. The Court declined to rule on whether individuals have a privacy interest in the content of their emails.

We're disappointed in this decision. Not only is it wrong for Mr. Rehberg, who had his emails turned over to a prosecutor based on a sham subpoena, but it's troubling for the millions of individuals in the Eleventh Circuit who have their email stored with ISPs. Our most sensitive and private thoughts, ideas and correspondence are contained in our emails. The Fourth Amendment ...

We’re Helping to Put Up a Billboard in Boehner’s Hometown. What Should It Say?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

The PFAW Voters Alliance is cosponsoring an effort by our friends at Blue America PAC to beat Republican Leader John Boehner in his own House district. Because Boehner is an unbelievably avid golfer (he golfed 119 times last year—how is that even possible?) we’ll be putting up a billboard near a golf course in Boehner’s district. And we need your help deciding what it will say.

As you cast your vote, keep in mind these fun facts about the out-of-touch, lobbyist-schmoozing, industry-loving aspiring Speaker of the House:

  • He said passage of affordable health care for all Americans would be “Armageddon” and would “ruin the country.”
  • He dismissed Wall Street’s greedy and disastrous practices as “an ant,” saying regulatory reform would be like killing the ant with a nuclear weapon.
  • He suggested that taxpayer dollars should be used to bail out BP.
  • He wants a moratorium on new federal regulations of all industries.

On top of all these indicators that Boehner would be simply disastrous in the role of Speaker of the House, if he did achieve that position it would mean several equally extreme right-wing members taking over as chair of key committees – like Joe Barton, ...

The Ethical Imperative of Immigration Reform

Friday, July 16th, 2010

One of the more interesting developments in the latest push for comprehensive immigration reform has been the split developing between conservative anti-immigrant groups who are committed to mass deportation at all costs and some right-wing evangelical leaders who have come out in favor of a compassionate and realistic approach to immigration reform.

In May, a coalition of conservative evangelical leaders announced their intention to gather support for “a just assimilation immigration policy.” Soon afterwards, of course, they made it clear that their definition of “just” does not include justice for LGBT couples.

On Wednesday, a number of those leaders spoke to the House Judiciary Committee on their support for ethical immigration reform—and its limits.

In the hearing on the Ethical Imperative for Reform of our Immigration System , immigration reform was discussed in the context of ethics and morals, and the committee heard testimonies from three religious leaders and one scholar about the problems and possible solutions for immigration reform in America.

Nobody at the hearing denied that the current immigration system is broken and untenable. Rev. Gerald Kicanas, Bishop of the Archdiocese of Tucson, contextualized immigration as a humanitarian issue with moral implications, underlining that our immigration system fails ...

FIRE Intervenes after UIUC Professor Dismissed, Highlighting Violation of Academic Freedom

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Dr. Kenneth Howell, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), was not rehired by the university after a student complained in an e-mail to the department chair that Dr. Howell was "inflammatory and downright insensitive" in his class on Catholicism. Howell had sent an e-mail to the students in his class comparing what he described as Catholic and utilitarian criteria for moral judgments about sexual conduct. The complaining student, who was not enrolled in Dr. Howell's class, stated that the e-mail was "absurd" and constituted "hate speech." Because he was let go from his university position, Dr. Howell also was let go from his position at the campus Catholic Newman Center.

Howell's case strikes at the core issue of academic freedom for professors and, as such, has received a lot of attention in the press. One article, "University of Illinois Instructor Fired Over Catholic Beliefs," details that an associate dean at UIUC said that Howell's e-mails "violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle [UIUC] to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with [UIUC]." This is despite a provision in UIUC's Academic Staff Handbook that recognizes that faculty "are entitled to freedom in the classroom ...

Boehner: Only Regulate in “Emergencies”

Friday, July 16th, 2010

In another stunning moment of out-of-touch kowtowing to industry lobbyists, House Republican Leader John Boehner has told reporters that he would support a moratorium on all new federal regulations…with an exemption for “emergencies.” Greg Sargent at the Washington Post contacted Boehner’s office to see if the moratorium would include a halt to new oil industry regulations:

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel gets in touch to clarify that this moratorium would not apply to new regs for the oil industry.

"Boehner said at the same press event that we need to find out what happened in the Gulf and how we can make sure it never, ever happens again," Steel said. "So it is clear that would fall under the `emergency' regulations exception he described."

Asked how this would work, Steel said the idea had first surfaced today during the much-publicized meeting with trade groups, which was streamed online. He said it was too early to go into detail on how such a moratorium would function.

To summarize: Boehner went to a meeting with industry lobbyists and came away with the idea to let those industries avoid all new government regulation…until AFTER that lack of regulation has created a disastrous situation that ...

The GOP’s Judicial Obstruction Stats

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Yesterday, Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina tried to convince the Senate to confirm two appeals court nominees from her state. The two nominees, Judges James Wynn and Albert Diaz, have no controversial baggage--each received near-unanimous bipartisan support from the Judiciary Committee.

The confirmation of Wynn and Diaz would also contribute to the Obama Administration’s effort to add diversity to a woefully un-diverse court system. Diaz would be the first Latino appointed to the Fourth Circuit, Wynn the fourth African American.

Wynn and Diaz have both been waiting 169 days—over five months— for a Senate vote.

But none other than Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor yesterday to block a vote on the two nominees. He freely admitted that his action had nothing to do with Wynn and Diaz themselves, but was rather a purely political retaliation against the president’s recess appointment of a Medicare and Medicaid administrator. That appointment was not only unrelated to Wynn and Diaz, but came after the two nominees had already been stalled for months on the Senate floor.

Watch the video of Hagan’s and McConnell’s exchange:

Using judicial nominees as political pawns—thereby leaving important vacancies in courts throughout the country and stalling ...

San Mateo D.A. Withdraws Controversial Gizmodo iPhone Warrant

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Today, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan granted an application by the San Mateo County D.A.'s office to withdraw the controversial warrant it obtained to search the house of Gizmodo.com journalist Jason Chen. Accordingly, "[a]ll items seized [from Chen's home] shall be returned forthwith to Gizmodo.com and Jason Chen..."

While the D.A.'s withdrawal of the April 23rd warrant is certainly a positive step, this likely isn't the end of the matter. As EFF repeatedly noted at the time, the warrant-backed search of Chen's home was illegal as it violated California Penal Code section 1524(g)'s prohibition against the issuance of warrants for "unpublished information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving or processing of information for communication to the public." As we pointed out, the police could (for example) attempt to subpoena the same material without running afoul of section 1524(g) and still proceed with their case.

Posters Show Smashed Ship

Friday, July 16th, 2010
North Korean propaganda posters now circulating seem to be referring to a recent attack on the South Korean vessel Cheonan, which Pyongyang has denied.

Advocates and members of Congress gather to support LGBT equality and comprehensive immigration reform

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Yesterday I joined fellow advocates and members of Congress for a press conference to support LGBT equality and comprehensive immigration reform.

We are pushing for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) to be included in all reform proposals. Incorporating UAFA would be a meaningful step taken toward providing equality to same-sex couples and keeping their families together. UAFA allows many same-sex partners to begin the immigration process more quickly and efficiently, and with fewer limitations. Gay men and lesbians whose partners are US citizens or legal permanent residents could apply for family-based visas and green cards.

Representative Nadler (D-NY8), UAFA’s lead sponsor in the House, laid out our demands.

As the urgency for comprehensive immigration reform increases nationally, and the debate in Washington widens, it is essential to ensure that the LGBT community is included in the reforms we propose and pass.

Representative Gutierrez (D-IL4) described the plight of the LGBT community.

Right now, too many same-sex, binational couples face an impossible choice: to live apart or to break the law to be with their partners, families, and children. That's not good for them and it is not good for the rest of us either.

Representative Polis (D-CO2) emphasized why ...

Tune in to the CFN Conference–Going on Now!

Friday, July 16th, 2010
Following last night's welcome reception and dinner featuring a lecture by scholar and FIRE Board of Directors member Daphne Patai, today's events at FIRE's third annual Campus Freedom Network conference are under way, to be capped off this evening with a keynote address by author and Brookings Institution scholar Jonathan Rauch. If you aren't attending the day's events but still want to tune in, watch the live-streaming video feed of the conference at the CFN's Ustream channel or at the CFN website. Conference attendees and FIRE staff will also be tweeting from the conference throughout the day, and you can follow the conference by using the hashtag #CFN10.

Announcing: CBLDF Presents Liberty Comics 2010!

Friday, July 16th, 2010

What do Frank Miller, Jeff Smith, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Image Comics have in common? They all support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which protects your right to make, sell and read the comics you love. Image Comics is showing its continued support for the CBLDF with the publication of CBLDF Presents: LIBERTY COMICS 2010 this October.

The CBLDF is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians and readers. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance and education in furtherance of these goals.

CBLDF Presents: LIBERTY COMICS is the annual ensemble of comic book greats, all of whom have donated their time and energy to support the CBLDF. With two issues published to date, CBLDF’s LIBERTY COMICS has raised over $50,000 for the Fund.

CBLDF’s LIBERTY COMICS 2010 will feature some of the best in the industry, including a new The Boys story by GARTH ENNIS & ROB STEEN, the first new Megaton Man adventure by DON SIMPSON in over a decade, an all-new Milk & Cheese story by EVAN DORKIN, a preview of The Contrarian by SCOTT MORSE, ...

The Right Wing Immigration Playbook Gets Scary

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

We reported earlier this year on the whisper campaign strategy we expected from the right wing in its effort to defeat comprehensive immigration reform, and since then we’ve seen exactly that--fringe extremism met with tacit acceptance by the mainstream.

We saw that strategy at work in Arizona, where an extreme-right state senator convinced the entire state government to hop on board an anti-immigrant plan that sanctioned racial profiling, hampered local law enforcement, and created a culture of fear for Latinos in the state.

But I don’t know if we expected anything as scary as we’re seeing this week.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that an anonymous group had circulated a list to media outlets and government officials containing the names, birth dates, addresses, and telephone numbers of 1,300 Utah residents who, they said, they “strongly believe are in this country illegally and should be immediately deported.” The list also included the due dates of pregnant women.

The release of the list has caused residents who are here legally as well as those without documentation to fear retaliation by self-appointed immigration enforcers.

Today, Think Progress reported a similar fear tactic in Arizona, where someone pretending to be a sheriff has ...

EU Authorities: Implementation of Net Surveillance Directive Is Unlawful

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

In a landmark announcement issued today, the data protection officials across the European Union found that the way that EU Member States have implemented the data retention obligations in the 2006 EU Data Retention Directive is unlawful. The highly controversial 2006 EU Data Retention Directive compels all ISPs and telecommunications service providers operating in Europe to retain telecom and internet traffic data about all of their customers' communications for a period of at least 6 months and up to 2 years.

European privacy officials from the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party have been reviewing how the EU Member States have implemented these obligations in their national laws.

Among the most important findings of the Article 29 Working Party’s report are:

  • "Service providers were found to retain and hand over data in ways contrary to the provisions of the [data retention] directive."
  • "There are significant discrepancies regarding the retention periods, which vary from six months to up to ten years, which largely exceeds the allowed maximum of 24 months."
  • "More data are being retained than is allowed. The data retention directive provides a limited list of data to be retained, all relating to traffic data. The retention of data relating ...

The CBLDF wants you!

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

CBLDF Seeks Volunteers For Comic-Con!

The Fund is looking for volunteers to help us work our booth and parties.

In exchange for volunteering a shift of at least 5 hours, you’ll get free access to the CBLDF’s party, a badge for the day(s) you work and a chance to see comics’ greatest heroes at work or at play.

To volunteer, please email cheyenne.allott@cbldf.org for the volunteer application form.

Retail and/or convention experience is strongly preferred.

We look forward to working with you!

OIF releases Banned Books: Challenging our Freedom to Read

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom announces the release of Banned Books: Challenging our Freedom to Read, by Robert P. Doyle, which can be purchased through the ALA Store for $39.00. Published annually from 1983 to 2001, and every third year since then, the new edition of Banned Books details incidents of book banning from 387 B.C. to 2010.

Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read provides a framework for understanding censorship and the protections guaranteed to us through the First Amendment. Interpretations of the uniquely American notion of freedom of expression—and our freedom to read what we choose—are supplemented by straightforward, easily accessible information that will inspire further exploration.

This updated and expanded 2010 edition features a new, streamlined design that will make this an essential reference you will return to time and again. Contents include:

• Incidents—Top Ten Challenged books of 2009 and Challenged or Banned Books—more than 1800 titles listed alphabetically by author plus Title, Topical, and Geographical Indices.
• Insight—The Challenge of Censorship
• Interpretation—The First Amendment, The Freedom of Expression, and The Freedom to Read
• Information—First Amendment Timeline, Court Cases, Glossary, Bibliography, and Quotations
• Ideas—Celebration Guide for Banned Books Week and Communication ...

Campaign launches with 'extraordinary support'

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
By Eugenia Harris Hundreds of newspapers, Web sites, including USA Today and Google, feature ads, news stories, op-eds, blog posts.

Ky. judicial candidates can reveal their party affiliations

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
6th Circuit orders trial judge to consider whether candidates can offer specific positions on issues.

Senate bill would block some foreign libel suits

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Judiciary Committee approves legislation offering some protection to U.S. authors, journalists and publishers.

Coast Guard eases limits on news media covering oil spill

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
New policy allowing credentialed journalists free travel within boom safety zones replaces 65-foot buffer that news organizations said unnecessarily restricted coverage.

FCC's fleeting-expletives policy struck down

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
2nd Circuit panel says agency might be able to craft rules that don't violate the First Amendment.

Nearly naked mannequin prompts obscenity debate in Neb. town

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Beatrice police cover store window after complaint about dummy with pants around its ankles and wearing shoes but nothing else.

Lawmaker raises questions about ground-zero mosque

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Ranking Republican on House Homeland Security Committee says he favors probe of proposed mosque's funding, but NYC mayor says investigation would be un-American.

2nd Circuit strikes blow to Conn. public-financing law

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Panel tosses statute's matching-funds provision but upholds higher thresholds for third-party candidates who attempt to qualify for public funds.

China Moves on Microblogs

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Rights blogs are shut down, while Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook remain blocked.

Come to our Netroots Nation Panel: Undoing Citizens United

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Will you be in Las Vegas next week for Netroots Nation? If so, join us on Saturday for a discussion of corporate influence in elections and what we can do about it. We’ve put together a great panel of experts and activists to discuss the Citizens United decision and its aftermath—including Reps. Donna Edwards and Alan Grayson, People For’s Marge Baker, Public Citizen’s Robert Weissman, and Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy.

For details, visit the Netroots Nation page on the panel: Undoing Citizens United: A Comprehensive Plan to Prevent Corporations from Buying Elections.

And, if you’re an overachiever looking to do some background reading, take a look at our recent poll showing overwhelming opposition to the Citizens United ruling and our report on the Rise of the Corporate Court.
 

In Obscenity Case, Washington Courtroom is Silent

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Judge Richard Leon of federal district court in Washington had a warning: anybody under 18 had to leave the courtroom immediately. Several court security officers checked IDs. Outside the courtroom, on the sixth floor of the trial court in downtown, there was a cadre of officers guarding the door.

Today marked the opening of the government’s obscenity case against adult film producer John Stagliano and two of his companies, including Evil Angel Productions Inc. Stagliano was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2008 on charges of producing two films that prosecutors allege have no artistic and scientific value.

The prosecution, the first obscenity case in Washington in more than 20 years, according to DOJ statistics, drew a crowd that included at least one adult movie director and one actress, Aurora Snow, who is writing about the case from a performer’s perspective. Law clerks and interns made up a portion of the audience.

Read more.

EFF Urges Court to Block Dragnet Subpoenas Targeting Online Commenters

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

New York - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) this week served a motion to quash dragnet subpoenas that put privacy and anonymity at risk for the operators of dozens of Internet blogs and potentially hundreds of commenters.

The subpoenas stem from a state lawsuit filed by New York residents Miriam and Michael Hersh alleging a conspiracy to interfere with their business interests. Issued to Google and Yahoo, the subpoenas demand the identities of users of ten email accounts, operators of 30 blogs and a website that had featured discussions of the plaintiffs among other matters, and the identities of everyone who had ever commented on those sites.

"The First Amendment protects individuals' right to speak anonymously and forces litigants to justify any attempts to unmask anonymous critics," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Litigants cannot forcibly identify entire communities of online speakers -- which include many speakers who no one would claim did anything wrong -- simply because the litigants are curious."

In the motion served on Monday, EFF urged the Supreme Court for Kings County, New York, to quash the subpoenas for failing to satisfy the requirements imposed by the First Amendment, as well as the requirements imposed ...

John Stossel on Over-Regulation and FIRE’s Case at IUPUI

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Do you remember the case of the young girl who put a single french fry in her mouth as she entered the Washington, DC, Metro, and found herself handcuffed and arrested? Here's the story as told by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit:
Ansche had stopped at a fast-food restaurant on the way and ordered a bag of french fries—to go. While waiting for her companion to purchase a fare-card, Ansche removed and ate a french fry from the take-out bag she was holding. After proceeding through the fare-gate, Ansche was stopped by a plainclothed Metro Transit Police officer, who identified himself and informed her that he was arresting her for eating in the Metrorail station. The officer then handcuffed Ansche behind her back while another officer searched her and her backpack. ... Ansche was transported to the District of Columbia's Juvenile Processing Center some distance away, where she was fingerprinted and processed before being released into the custody of her mother three hours later.

Ansche sued but lost her case. This story and more are featured in the new book One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. ...

FTC: Don’t Sell or Use Customer Information of Gay Youth

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

The Federal Trade Commission has some strong words for the former publishers of a defunct magazine and website for gay youth: don't sell or use personal information provided by your customers. It's probably illegal.

The warning came during a contentious bankruptcy proceeding filed by the publisher of XY Magazine, which was a widely circulated magazine for gay teens published from 1996 to 2007. The publisher also operated XY.com, a dating website for gay youth that at one point had as many as a million users. XY's privacy policies promised customers that their personal information would not be given or sold to anybody.

Now the publisher and his former business partners are fighting over who owns the customer information, which includes names, street addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, email addresses, personal stories submitted by readers, online profiles, contact lists, and photos, among other data.

In a letter (pdf) to the publisher's former business partners, the Federal Trade Commission said that any sale or transfer of the customer information would violate XY's privacy promises and likely the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive acts and practices.

The FTC also suggested that any continued use of the information ...

Second Circuit Strikes Down FCC’s Indecency Rules

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Few people could have imagined that Bono’s utterance of a single expletive during a 2003 awards show would have such a massive impact seven years later. Today, in Fox v. FCC, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the FCC’s unclear rules regarding fleeting vulgar language are unconstitutional. From the Wall Street Journal, the court said that:

…the FCC's indecency policies were "unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here."

The 32-page ruling was laced with many of the words FCC policy said broadcasters could not allow to be spoken on air. It sets up the possibility that the Supreme Court could be asked to revisit rulings that have formed the basis for government curbs on "indecent" broadcast speech, including a 1978 decision that allowed the FCC to fine the Pacifica Foundation for broadcasting a monologue on dirty words by the late comedian George Carlin.

This decision will almost certainly lead to an appeal, but it remains unclear to what extent the Obama administration will fight it. Keep in mind that the current FCC regulations date back to George W. Bush’s time in the White House. In any case, ...

CBLDF Joins Challenge to Massachusetts Internet Censorship Law

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund joined a coalition of organizations and local booksellers today in filing suit to block a broad Massachusetts censorship law that bans constitutionally protected speech on the Internet for topics including contraception and pregnancy, sexual health, literature, and art.

Signed in April by Governor Patrick and effective yesterday, the law, Chapter 74 of the Acts of 2010, imposes severe restrictions on the distribution of constitutionally protected speech on the Internet. The law could make anyone who operates a website or communicates through a listserv criminally liable for nudity or sexually related material, if the material can be considered “harmful to minors” under the law’s definition. In effect, it bans from the Internet anything that may be “harmful to minors,” including material adults have a First Amendment right to view. Violators can be fined $10,000 or sentenced to up to five years in prison, or both.

“The Internet is the new gallery, the new museum,” said Glenn Ruga, executive director of the Photographic Resource Center in Boston. “This law infringes on our right to present images that we feel are vital to free expression and within bounds of socially acceptable imagery, yet someone with no particular legal ...

University at Buffalo Revises Unconstitutional Speech Code

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
In January 2009, FIRE named the University at Buffalo (also known as SUNY Buffalo) our Speech Code of the Month for a residence hall "Statement of Civility" which provided that

Students are expected to act with civility. To be civil means to be courteous and polite or, simply put, to be mannerly.  Acts of incivility whether verbal, written, or physical will not be tolerated by the Residential Life community.

Shortly after FIRE's announcement, FIRE supporter Lee Brink wrote to Buffalo's president John Simpson asking, "What is the penalty for someone who ‘breaks' this statement, and how does it reconcile with the First Amendment which New York State, of which SUNY is a part, is required to respect and recognize?" The university responded by clarifying that the civility statement was aspirational and could not be used to punish student speech, and by stating that "the language will be clarified in the future to ensure that this is fully understood."

I am happy to report that this promised policy change has occurred. The updated Statement of Civility (see p. 37 of the PDF) now clearly sets forth the fact that

This civility statement is a declaration of the values and ...

The Internet Responds to ASCAP’s Deceptive Claims

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

We were disappointed to read of deceptive comments made last month about EFF by ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Writing to its members, ASCAP claimed that EFF, Creative Commons and Public Knowledge are "influencing Congress against the interests of music creators." If these efforts are succesful, ASCAP warns, "we all know what will happen next: the music will dry up." The letter asks ASCAP's members to help fight this dire threat by making a donation to a "Legislative Fund for the Arts" which will be used to lobby Congress.

ASCAP's attacks were echoed a few days later by David Israelite, President of the National Association of Music Publishers (NMPA). In a talk to music publishers, Israelite called EFF "the new face of our enemy," and spoke of an "extremist, radical anti-copyright agenda."

Fortunately, the claims were laughable to anyone who's actually been paying attention to our work. In the wake of ASCAP's and Israelite's comments, blogs across the Internet have been quick to point out their flaws in detail. Particularly worth reading are responses from Wired's Threat Level, Create Digital Music, TechDirt, Creative Commons and Public Knowledge.

Interestingly, ASCAP's own members ...

FCC indecency rule struck down by appeals court

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down the government’s longstanding prohibition against indecency on broadcast television and radio, ruling that the policy was "unconstitutionally vague" and created a "chilling effect" that violated the 1st Amendment protection of free speech.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York is a major victory for the broadcast TV networks, which jointly sued the Federal Communications Commission in 2006 in the wake of a tougher crackdown on indecency over the airwaves.

(The Thomas Jefferson Center  and The Media Institute filed an amici curiae brief challenging the policy.)

Read more.

The Next Frontier in Undoing Campaign Finance Reform

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Since the Supreme Court decided earlier this year that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend however much they like to influence elections, groups have been attempting to use that decision to hack away at the core of federal and state campaign finance laws.

Last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the federal ban on soft money (unlimited contributions to political parties), a centerpiece of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign reform bill. Though that case was cut short, at least one other challenge to the law is in the works.

Now, groups at the state level are trying to use the Citizens United decision as leverage to do away with bans not only on independent expenditures by corporations, but also on corporate contributions directly to candidates’ bank accounts. 22 states, like the federal government, prohibit corporations from contributing directly to campaign committees. After Citizens United, business groups in Montana were the first out of the gates, filing suit to get rid of Montana’s 98-year old ban on both independent campaign expenditures by corporations (the spending that Citizens United allowed on the federal level) and direct corporate contributions to campaigns (which Citizens United didn’t touch).

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The Substance of the Kagan Hearings

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Many viewed it as a foregone conclusion that Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings would lack any real discussion of law and the Constitution. In fact, People For’s Marge Baker argues in a new memo, Kagan’s hearings were more substantial than any in recent memory. Kagan politely but decisively refused to buy into empty conservative rhetoric, and laid out a strong view of the limited, but not simple, role of the courts in a democracy:

Kagan said a great deal about how judges should approach Congressional statutes and argued for significant deference to legislators and reluctance to strike down federal law. Even when invited to take on straw men (like Senator Coburn’s fruits-and-vegetables line of questioning) she went to great lengths to describe the latitude that Congress should be allowed, even pointing to Justice Holmes, approvingly noting that he “hated a lot of the legislation that was being enacted during those years, but insisted that if the people wanted it, it was their right to go hang themselves.”

In applying laws passed by Congress, she emphasized looking at Congressional intent and examining the Congressional record—approaches very much at issue in cases like Ledbetter and Citizens United. Her testimony made ...

CFN Conference Begins This Week!

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
FIRE's third annual Campus Freedom Network (CFN) Student Conference is only a few days away! The conference, which will be held at Bryn Mawr College just outside of Philadelphia, will begin with dinner on Thursday evening, followed by a day and a half of lectures and panels. Students will hear from leading experts on First Amendment rights on campus and take part in workshops in which they will learn how they can defend core constitutional freedoms at their own colleges and universities.

We will provide details on what students will be learning at this important conference all this week. Stay tuned!    

Federal court puts Neb. flag law on hold

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Saying state's flag-mutilation ban is 'almost certainly unconstitutional,' judge grants Westboro Baptist Church member's request to temporarily block its enforcement.

Fla. appeals court KOs Don King’s defamation claim

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
By David L. Hudson Jr. Boxing promoter failed to show actual malice on the part of ESPN when it broadcast an unflattering portrayal of him.

Pa. judge rescinds order directing newspapers to delete archived stories

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Move overturns command that Centre Daily Times, Penn State's Daily Collegian expunge three defendants' records; order covering two others is still pending.

Public TV station turns over material from unaired show

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
UNC-TV decides not to fight subpoena from state lawmakers because it is public agency and may not fall under North Carolina's reporter shield law.

Gates tightens rules for interviews with military brass

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Defense secretary, fed up with leaks, wants top generals, officials to notify Pentagon press office before talking to reporters.

Wis. high court deadlocks on justice's ethics case

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Issuing unprecedented dueling opinions, justices split 3-3 on whether colleague violated judicial code of conduct when he ran potentially misleading and race-baiting campaign ad in 2008.

Nev. high court: Governor's gun-permit records should be released

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Justices say lower court judge erred when she refused to release documents concerning improper handling of Jim Gibbons' permit.

Infomercial pitchman slams McCain for campaign ad

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
TV announcer who hawks 'free money from the government' says Arizona senator used his image in a political video without permission.