Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Responding to Corporate Critics of Aaron’s Law, the New CFAA Reform Bill

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

After years of unnecessary expansion, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) may soon get some much-needed reform. Senator Wyden, along with Representatives Lofgren and Sensenbrenner, recently introduced Aaron's Law, which offers modest, common-sense changes to the draconian anti-hacking law and brings the statute in-line with recent court rulings limiting its scope.

Though it doesn’t go as far as we would like, Aaron's law, named after the late Internet activist and pioneer Aaron Swartz, draws from EFF's own proposal by adapting the statute to reflect modern times and protect innovation. The bill lowers some of the penalties for crimes that produce little or no harm, deletes a provision that is repeated elsewhere in the statute, and clarifies once and for all that violating terms of service agreements is not a crime.

Unfortunately, despite widespread agreement between all sides that the that the CFAA is both outdated and overboard, many corporate representatives are now claiming that fixing the CFAA will hinder companies from going after “insider threats” or employees who take allegedly confidential company information. For example, in an article arguing that Aaron's Law will "eliminate the use of the CFAA," former Justice Department attorney Jason Weinstein wrote the new ...

FTRF, ALA join efforts to protect privacy and increase transparency around surveillance

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Cross-posted to the FTRF Blog and Choose Privacy Week

The Freedom to Read Foundation and American Library Association have joined with dozens of technology firms and other civil liberty organizations in calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to increase transparency surrounding government surveillance efforts.

In a letter released this morning, FTRF, ALA, and the other groups led by the Center for Democracy and Technology demanded that technology companies be permitted to release information about the number of requests for information under the USA Patriot Act and other authorities, as well as that the government itself release its own data on surveillance.

From the letter:

“As an initial step, we request that the Department of Justice, on behalf of the relevant executive branch agencies, agree that Internet, telephone, and web-based service providers may publish specific numbers regarding government requests authorized under specific national security authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the NSL statutes. We further urge Congress to pass legislation requiring comprehensive transparency reporting by the federal government and clearly allowing for transparency reporting by companies without requiring companies to first seek permission from the government or the FISA Court.”

Today’s letter includes an appeal to the ...

‘Meese v. Keene’ Sheds Light on Danger of the ‘Blueprint’

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

In the continuing debate over the new federal “blueprint” for university sexual harassment policies, some have argued that broadly defining sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature"—including “verbal conduct”—is unproblematic because the definition is supposedly “only” for campus reporting purposes.

What this argument overlooks is that having your protected expression officially labeled by the government with such a stigmatized, pejorative term is a real harm, whether the speech is formally punished or not. Don’t just take our word for it; the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion in the case of Meese v. Keene, 481 U.S. 465 (1987).

Keene involved a First Amendment challenge to a 1938 federal statute that required certain registration, filing, and disclosure procedures for expressive materials meeting the statutory definition of “political propaganda.” The constitutionality of the actual statutory requirements for registration, etc. was not at issue; the challenge involved the labeling of expression as “political propaganda.”

Barry Keene was an attorney and California State Senator who wanted to show three Canadian films that fit the statutory definition of political propaganda, as they were distributed by the National Film Board of Canada (a foreign agency) and had the aim of influencing U.S. ...

SDCC 2013: Thursday Events with CBLDF

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Panels

CBLDF: Banned Comics!
Thursday, July 18 • 12:00pm – 1:00pm • Room 30CDE
Every year comics are banned in libraries all over the United States; learn how you can fight back! In recent years, comics that have been targeted for bans include all-ages classics like Bone by Jeff Smith and Dragonball by Akira Toriyama, as well as acclaimed books for adult readers like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and others. Learn more about what comics have been banned and challenged, why comics are banned, and how you can help by being a part of CBLDF’s efforts for Banned Books Week!

CBLDF’s Comics on Trial, Part 1-A National Disgrace: Moral Panic and the Birth of the Comics Code
Thursday, July 18 • 1:00pm – 2:00pm • Room 30CDE
CBLDF proudly debuts Comics on Trial-a new lecture series covering the history of comics censorship and the court cases that changed the medium. In part 1, witness how comics were under attack from the very beginning! Attacks in the popular media gave way to comics burnings in the 1940s. This sparked a wildfire of moral panic culminating with the ...

Technology to Protect Against Mass Surveillance (Part 1)

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

In the past several weeks, EFF has received many requests for advice about privacy tools that provide technological shields against mass surveillance. We've been interested for many years in software tools that help people protect their own privacy; we've defended your right to develop and use cryptographic software, we've supported the development of the Tor software, and written privacy software of our own.

This article is part one of a two-part series. In this part, we'll take a brief look at some of the available tools to blunt the effects of mass surveillance. In the second part, we'll discuss the big picture, reasons Internet users have been slow to adopt cryptographic software, and some limitations of existing technology's ability to defend us against government snooping.

I. The things users want to keep private

There are many different kinds of electronic surveillance and many aspects of our communicative activities we may want to keep private. The online privacy landscape can be daunting in part because each different tool addresses different kinds of monitoring and privacy threats.

For example, most web browsers now include a "private browsing mode" which limits the web history kept on your own computer, preventing others who ...

First Amendment Survey Shows Citizens Unlearning Liberty

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Yesterday the Newseum Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting First Amendment freedoms, released its 17th annual “State of the First Amendment” survey, sponsored by the First Amendment Center. The survey of more than 1000 adults across the country reveals that freedom of speech is our most cherished right. Yet one third of survey participants said the First Amendment “goes too far in protecting individual rights;” last year that figure was a mere 13%.

The report suggests that this might be a temporary spike due to the timing of the survey, but it is a troubling result nonetheless:

It is important to note that this survey was conducted in May, shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing. This jump in the percentage of individuals who think the First Amendment goes too far represents Americans’ increased willingness to give up their rights and freedoms in return for greater security when they feel threatened. An even greater increase in willingness to trade freedom for security occurred after the September 2001 terrorist attacks ....

This trade is one we make at our peril. The right to criticize the government and freely debate controversial subjects is arguably most important in times of turmoil. And constitutional ...

AP: As Governor, Mitch Daniels Targeted the Teaching of Howard Zinn

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The Associated Press reports that when serving as Governor of Indiana, current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels sought to remove historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States from Indiana classrooms and explored altering funding for an organization led by a professor critical of Daniels. 

Emails (PDF) obtained by the AP via a Freedom of Information Act request document Daniels asking aides to “assure [him] that [Zinn’s book] is not in use anywhere in Indiana” and, if the book was being taught, asking for thoughts on how to “get rid of it.” In the February 2010 email exchange, Daniels also complained about a National Endowment for the Humanities summer course for current educators that included Zinn in the curriculum, stating that “[t]his crap should not be accepted for credit by the state” and asking aides to “disqualify the propaganda.” 

In a separate April 2009 email exchange posted by the AP, former Governor Daniels appears to ask aides to explore altering funding for an organization run by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Professor Charles W. Little following Little’s public criticism of the state budget. Commenting on an email written by Little to members of the Indiana Urban Schools Association (IUSA), ...

EFF Joins Massive Coalition Calling For Patent Reform

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Today EFF joins a coalition of 50 organizations to send a letter to Congress urging the legislature to focus on finding—and passing—effective solutions to patent abuse. This letter brings together a strikingly diverse group of companies—including retailers, application developers, and financial services institutions—as well as public interest organizations like Public Knowledge and EFF. Together, we call on Congress to take immediate action to curb destructive patent troll litigation.

With trolls targeting everyone from café’s providing Wi-Fi, to podcasters, to users of standard office equipment, the movement for patent reform now extends well beyond technology companies. As today’s letter explains:

Trolls no longer only sue large tech corporations. Small and medium-sized businesses of all types, including start-ups, are now the most frequent targets. In 2012, trolls sued more non-tech companies than tech, spanning a wide range of American businesses.

These lawsuits cost the U.S. economy $80 billion in 2011, and productive companies made $29 billion in direct payouts. In the hands of patent trolls, patents are a tax on innovation.

Today’s letter to Congress is part of growing consensus for patent reform. With both the President and Congressional leaders proposing solutions, now is the time for change. ...

SDCC 2013: Everything CBLDF!

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

It’s here! Comic-Con International 2013 launches with tonight’s Preview Night, and CBLDF is joining the fun with exclusives galore at Booth #1920! We also have the best party of the show, the CBLDF Comic-Con Welcome Party and a spectacular assortment of panels and signings! Finally, don’t miss your chance to bid on fantastic original art at the CBLDF Live Art Auction!

Exclusive Premiums

QW_001_VARIANT_CBLDFAdventure time Variant

Starting tonight, you will be able to pick up Valiant’s first convention variant cover: the CBLDF Liberty Variant of Quantum and Woody #1, featuring a cover by Tony Millionaire! We will also have e will have an exclusive variant cover for Adventure Time #18, with art by the amazingly talented Chrystin Garland and created in partnership with our friends at BOOM! Studios. We will also have a limited number of copies of the retailer member exclusive CBLDF Comics Code Variant of Lazarus #1!

CBLDFPM-CVRRasingaReaderCover

For educators, librarians, and parents, we are extremely proud to have copies of Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, our new authoritative guide about manga, at Comic-Con. We will also have copies of Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read!, ...

FIRE’s Robert Shibley on the Politically Diverse Opposition to ‘Blueprint’

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

In an article for The Daily Caller today, FIRE’s Robert Shibley explains why 17 organizations across the political spectrum have signed on to FIRE’s letter asking the Departments to retract the unconstitutional demands set forth in their May 9 “blueprint” letter. In his article, Robert notes:

Commentator after commentator has remarked on how gridlocked and stalemated our politics seems these days. But when it comes to our First Amendment rights, there’s a shocking amount of common ground. Signatories to yesterday’s letter include conservative, liberal, and libertarian organizations, as well as individuals ranging from a former president of the ACLU to a former judge appointed by George W. Bush. The blueprint has also been criticized by commentators across the political spectrum and across the country, from George Will in the Washington Post to the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times.

As Robert points out, the blueprint “put[s] what speech is to be permitted on campus in the hands of the most sensitive or easily offended person,” and even allows students accused of sexual harassment to be punished before an investigation takes place. And these aren’t just temporary obstacles:

[R]emember, every single report of supposedly “harassing” speech is to be ...

Chinese Activist Held After Transparency Campaign

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

UPDATED at 12:45 p.m. EST on 2013-07-17

Police in Beijing have detained leading anti-graft campaigner Xu Zhiyong on charges of disrupting public order in a widening crackdown on activists who have called on government leaders to declare their assets, his lawyer and a rights group said on Wednesday.

Beijing-based rights activist Xu Zhiyong, a key figure in the nascent "New Citizens" anti-corruption movement, was taken away by Beijing police on Tuesday, and is currently being held in the Beijing No. 3 Detention Center, the China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said in an emailed statement.

Police also searched Xu’s residence and took away three computers, a cell phone, and other personal belongings, it said.

Shandong-based rights lawyer Liu Weiguo confirmed that he had been instructed to represent Xu by his wife.

He said police had contacted Xu, 40, three times in the last three weeks, to warn him to quit the transparency campaign.

"Xu Zhiyong refused, and now I have had interference aimed at persuading me to drop his case," Liu said. "I can say clearly right now that I won't drop this case, regardless of how much pressure [they put on me.]"

Xu's detention is the latest in a ...

FIRE at Campus Progress Conference Today

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Today, FIRE staffers Jaclyn Hall and Emily Buck are representing FIRE at the annual Campus Progress Conference in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of progressive college students from across the country are in attendance, and Emily and Jaclyn are meeting them to promote free speech and student rights on campus. If you are at this conference or any of the several conferences we attend throughout the year, be sure to stop by our table and say hi! 

If you are a college student and haven’t already signed up as a FIRE Campus Freedom Member, join now and receive a free FIRE t-shirt!

Read ‘Em and Weep: Quotes from a Real, Live Book Censorship Debate over Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The following may inspire tears of pride and/or rage, depending on your disposition. They are Change.org quotes from two petitions: one on each side of a debate over the use of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and other texts in Adams County, Colorado.

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Bailey Cross, a student at Legacy High School, is combatting censorship in her district in Colorado

A group of Concerned Parents started their petition to remove this and other “bad” books, as part of their latest appeal to the school board. Few if any of the complainants have read the book in its entirety. This week, Legacy High School student Bailey Cross created a counter-petition after hearing about the censorship issue. (Though it had been going on for months, little to nothing was known about it.) In just a week, the petition has gotten 1000 signatures, most of them local.

The Bluest Eye was being used in Legacy High School’s Advanced Placement (you know, college-level) English Classes. It was on the District’s approved list of texts. You may have heard of Toni Morrison, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Nobel Prize laureate. Her books are taught in upper high school grades and college classrooms across the country.  

A notice ...

DIY IP Enforcement: Why We Should Be Wary of Web Ad Network “Best Practices”

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

In yet another step down what could be a slippery slope toward an elaborate extralegal IP enforcement regime, several major Internet advertising networks announced an agreement this week on how they will treat "pirate sites." The good news: the "best practices" could be much much worse.  The bad news: once again, Internet users weren't given a seat at the negotiating table.

Ad networks are brokers that connect those who want to advertise online with websites hoping to earn revenue by showing those ads. Though the ad networks are almost invisible to a person browsing the Web, they are a key source of revenue for large parts of the web, such as blogs and news sites. Major media companies and their mouthpieces have been clamoring for ad networks to keep websites that they consider to be "rogue sites" or "pirate sites" from earning ad revenue. The Internet blacklist bills SOPA and PIPA, which were defeated in Congress after massive protests last year, would have created several new methods to choke off that revenue. With the demise of Internet blacklist legislation in Congress, IP owners are turning to private agreements. No law requires ad networks to set up a process like this, ...

EFF Calls For Court Sanctions For Copyright Troll’s Public Humiliation Tactic

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

EFF fought back against a particularly nasty copyright troll tactic this week. Lawyers representing the adult film producer Malibu Media, LLC file long lists of movie titles on the public record, accusing an Internet subscriber of copying those movies illegally. Among the titles on that list are many adult films with very embarrassing titles. The lawyers then send a copy of the court filing to the subscriber along with a demand for money. The threat is obvious - either pay up, point a finger at a friend or family member, or be named in a public lawsuit as a habitual user of hard-core porn. Faced with these threats, many people pay thousands to the lawyers to make the threat go away - whether they were responsible for illegal downloading or not. But more and more judges are catching on to copyright trolls' abuses of the justice system.

Malibu Media, which runs the site "x-art," files civil complaints in courts around the country. Each complaint accuses an anonymous Internet user of illegally downloading and sharing one or more of Malibu's movies. But the complaint goes further: Malibu attaches a list of other movies and files that Malibu accuses the user of ...

Schools Should Realize That ‘Davis’ Is the Solution

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

As most Torch readers and FIRE followers know, on May 9 the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education (ED) entered into a settlement agreement, which they referred to as a “blueprint,” with the University of Montana. Today, FIRE and a broad coalition of organizations and distinguished civil libertarians, attorneys, and academics sent DOJ and ED a letter urging the Departments to retract the blueprint immediately. 

In the blueprint, “sexual harassment” is problematically defined as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct.” The blueprint explicitly rejects the use of an objective, “reasonable person” standard in evaluating whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment. Without the objective component, speech protected by the First Amendment may constitute sexual harassment if a listener is offended, however unreasonably. 

Today’s coalition letter addresses how that broad definition of sexual harassment could be applied to many forms of protected speech. The letter explains:

Under the blueprint’s mandate, sexual or gender-based speech that is offensive to only the most unreasonable student constitutes “sexual harassment” prohibited by Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—despite being protected by the First Amendment. The threat to free expression and academic freedom ...

‘Mallard Fillmore’ Illustrates Abuse of Speech Codes

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

In four Mallard Fillmore strips last week, comic strip writer and illustrator Bruce Tinsley focused on a subject very familiar to Torch readers: universities’ use of speech codes to censor and punish expression protected by the First Amendment. As we’ve said before, this strategy is not new; unconstitutional speech codes have remained common among universities since the 1980s despite having been consistently struck down by federal courts.

Tinsley’s depiction of the implementation of speech codes, though satirical, is uncomfortably close to reality. Check out his comics at thecomicstrips.com!

On Feds’ ‘Blueprint,’ ‘Savannah Morning News’ Opinion Is Appropriately Snarky

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

An opinion piece posted on Savannah Morning News’ website Friday laid out some of the ways in which the Departments of Education and Justice’s May 9 “blueprint” letter makes the old problem of overzealous “university campus speech police” even worse. 

On the Departments’ definition of sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including speech, the article says: 

What constitutes “unwelcome?” Arguably — and the letter provides no assurances to the contrary — just about anything anyone finds offensive.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue. But we discourage meaningful action to prevent it when we trivialize the issue.

That’s what happens when we try to outlaw any snark-tinged remark with even a tangential tie to a topic of a sexual nature.

As Torch readers know, the problems don’t end there:

[T]he letter’s “blueprint” condones punishing alleged offenders even before their degree of culpability — if any — has been determined.

The University is directed to take “immediate steps to protect the complainant” from further harassment, possibly including “disciplinary action” against the alleged offender prior to adjudication. So much for due process.

Of course, no snarky commentary would be complete without this note:

Reacting to criticisms of ...

Unitarian Church, Gun Groups Join EFF to Sue NSA Over Illegal Surveillance

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
Broad Coalition of Organizations Team Up for Freedom of Association Lawsuit

San Francisco - Nineteen organizations including Unitarian church groups, gun ownership advocates, and a broad coalition of membership and political advocacy organizations filed suit against the National Security Agency (NSA) today for violating their First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting their call records. The coalition is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group with years of experience fighting illegal government surveillance in the courts.

"The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA's mass, untargeted collection of Americans' phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information – especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time – violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years."

At the heart of First Unitarian Church ...

KC Johnson on Burden of Proof, Administrators, and Gender Discrimination in Sexual Assault Cases

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Brooklyn College professor KC Johnson wrote for Minding the Campus on Friday to note three key issues implicated by former St. Joseph’s University student Brian Harris’s Title IX suit against the university. Johnson briefly discusses the roles that the low burden of proof (mandated by the Department of Education in 2011), the attitude of administrators, and the possibility of gender discrimination play in the lawsuit’s claims, and labels this as “a case to watch.”

Head over to Minding the Campus to read Johnson’s assessment of this important case.

Infographic Reveals the Reasons Comics Are Challenged

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Designer Tim Leong — who will be joining CBLDF throughout Comic-Con for signings of his new book Super Graphic — has assembled an amazing new infographic that reveals the reasons why comic books and graphic novels are challenged and banned in libraries.

The reasons for challenging comic books run the gamut from anti-family to unsuited to age group, and the infographic reveals the biggest reason comics are challenged: sexual content, which has been used to challenged books as diverse as Amazing Spiderman: Revelations, Pride of Baghdad, Stuck in the Middle, and more. Let’s take a look:

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CBLDF will have a print of the infographic available at booth #1920 throughout Comic-Con international. If you want to get your copy signed, Leong will be signing at the booth at 5:00 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.

Joined by a Broad Coalition, FIRE Urges Departments of Education and Justice to Protect Campus Speech, Retract Controversial ‘Blueprint’

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Here’s today’s press release:

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2013—In an open letter sent today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and a broad coalition of organizations and individuals urged the Department of Education (ED) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to retract a controversial “blueprint” for campus sexual harassment policies that threatens student and faculty rights. 

FIRE has led national criticism of the May 9 settlement reached by ED and DOJ with the University of Montana (UMT), a settlement that was proclaimed by the Departments to be a “blueprint” for how colleges across the country must handle sexual misconduct allegations.

The blueprint mandates a shockingly broad definition of sexual harassment—“any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct”—and rejects the inclusion of a “reasonable person” standard, endangering academic freedom and freedom of expression on campus. The blueprint also requires university employees to report protected speech for mandatory investigation, allows for punishment before the completion of an investigation, and instructs UMT to keep records of the names of all students and faculty accused of “sexual harassment,” even if no wrongdoing is found.

FIRE is joined in signing today’s letter by 16 organizations and 11 distinguished civil libertarians, attorneys, and ...

2013 Storyline Project Concludes With Creation of Mural on Community Chalkboard

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

IMG_8485IMG_5192IMG_3527IMG_7730 IMG_7976IMG_8699

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Read more about this year’s project here:

http://www.nbc29.com/story/22812471/charlottesville-campers-create-mural-on-free-speech-wall

http://www.dailyprogress.com/entertainment/this-year-s-storyline-project-students-will-explore-creativity-on/article_e791cef2-e438-11e2-a5c0-0019bb30f31a.html

http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/slideshow-storyline/collection_dd637440-ea54-11e2-aaae-0019bb30f31a.html

EFF Boards a Balkan Battleship: SHARE’s Croatia Workshop on Fighting Surveillance

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and SHARE Defense are organizing a three day workshop on state surveillance and human rights (SSHR) in Rijeka, Croatia on 18 - 20 July. It’s part of an amazing array of festivals taking place simultaneously in the city, including the Share Cyberpunk Academy and Republika Festival. EFF’s Katitza Rodriguez and Jillian York will be joining Djordje Krivokapic from SHARE Defense to explore the new technologies of surveillance, how to protect your privacy against the growing powers of the surveillance state -- and most importantly, how to fight back with better laws and greater oversight.

We’re delighted to be doing this with SHARE Defense and other groups and individuals from around the region. Despite the dispiriting headlines about the breadth of unlawful and unchecked spying being conducted across the global Internet, now is a great moment for activists to campaign for strong legal safeguards in their own countries. It’s clear that local laws everywhere have to be updated (and better respected) to protect international human rights in the digital age. With the help of their own informed citizens, we hope the Balkan states could be the first to rally for a new standard for digital privacy ...

The Times Profiles a Patent Troll

Monday, July 15th, 2013

This weekend, the New York Times published a fascinating portrait of Erich Spangenberg of IPNav, who has been called one of "one of the most notorious patent trolls in America." In the past five years, IPNav has sued 1,638 companies.

While the Times' profile includes many colorful details (such as the time Spangenberg purchased so much wine at a Christie's auction that it had to be delivered by an 18 wheel truck), this is not the important part of the story. What is far more important is the evidence that IPNav's business, and patent trolling more generally, is a huge tax on innovation.

Thanks to trolls like IPNav, the Times explains, U.S. companies are forced to spend upwards of $30 billion every year on patent litigation. Most of that money goes to troll profits and legal expenses, with less than 25 percent flowing to inventors. Even Spangenberg concedes that his business uses “the courts as a marketplace, and the courts are horribly inefficient and horribly expensive as a market.” Patent trolls like IPNav are a symptom of a fundamentally broken system.

In a follow up article, the Times tells the story of Peter Braxton and his app Jump ...

The EFF Guide to San Diego Comic-Con

Monday, July 15th, 2013

With the arrival of summer at EFF, you can hear the excitement in the stuffing of luggage and locking of office doors as our team prepares for some of the most important conventions in the world. Black Hat starts on July 27, with DEF CON immediately after. But before those two kick off, there's San Diego Comic-Con, the largest celebration of the popular arts. For the first time, an EFF staffer will be pounding the plush conference carpet (and maneuvering around cosplayers) to take the pulse of the entertainment industry and catch up with some of our friends and fans.

After all, the geeks and nerds and fan-kids at Comic-Con are our peeps. In preparation, we threw together this quick guide to the panels that are bound to engage anyone following our issues, whether that's surveillance, free speech, or intellectual property.

If you're a creator with a booth at Comic-Con, drop me an email at dm@eff.org, and I'll swing by with some swag (as long as it lasts). If you're doing something EFF-friendly, maybe we'll even feature your work on our Deeplinks blog.

A quick note in advance on information safety: It's easy to lapse into the comfort ...

Bills Introduced by Congress Fail to Fix Unconstitutional NSA Spying

Monday, July 15th, 2013

In the past two weeks Congress has introduced a slew of bills responding to the Guardian's publication of a top secret court order using Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to demand that Verizon Business Network Services give the National Security Agency (NSA) a record of every customer's call history for three months. The order was confirmed by officials like President Obama and Senator Feinstein, who said it was a "routine" 90 day reauthorization of a program started in 2007.

Currently, four bills have been introduced to fix the problem: one by Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, Senators Udall and Wyden, and Rep. Conyers. The well-intentioned bills try to address the Justice Department's (DOJ) abusive interpretations of Section 215 (more formally, 50 USC § 1861) apparently approved by the reclusive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) in secret legal opinions.

Sadly, all of them fail to fix the problem of unconstitutional domestic spying—not only because they ignore the PRISM program, which uses Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and collects Americans' emails and phone calls—but because the legislators simply don't have key information about how the government interprets and uses the ...

Four Key Points About Free Speech and the Feds’ ‘Blueprint’

Monday, July 15th, 2013

It’s been more than two months since FIRE and the higher ed community were shocked by a letter issued jointly by the Departments of Education and Justice to the University of Montana. FIRE staff have blogged extensively about the Departments’ “blueprint” for campus sexual harassment in the last 10 weeks, but there are four crucial points that I believe bear special emphasis. 

1. Overbroad and vague harassment rationales have been the primary justification and legal theory behind campus speech codes since the 1980s. 

In one sense, the attempt to stretch the definition of harassment beyond all recognition is nothing new. Speech codes came into vogue on campuses in the 1980s and 1990s, and many of them (and ALL of the speech codes that were initially struck down by courts) were based on expansive definitions of harassment. Starting in 1989 with Doe v. University of Michigan and continuing through successful challenges at my alma mater, Stanford University, and most recently at the University of the Virgin Islands, harassment-based speech codes have suffered a series of well-deserved defeats in court over the past 25 years.

In fact, the abuse of harassment rationales by universities became so widespread that ...

EFF Addresses Protesters at San Francisco’s “Restore the Fourth” Protest

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Hundreds of protesters gathered in San Francisco and thousands more in cities around the United States earlier this month in support of "Restore the Fourth," a grassroots and non-partisan campaign dedicated to defending the Fourth Amendment. The protests took aim in particular at the National Security Agency's unconstitutional dragnet surveillance programs, details of which have emerged in leaked documents over the past month.

"Restore the Fourth" isn't officially affiliated with any formal organizations, but given our shared goal of ending illegal spying on Americans, EFF had the opportunity to speak to the crowd. Below, you'll find a short video of some highlights from that speech, and the full text as prepared.

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Privacy info. This embed will serve content from youtube.com

Hello everybody, and thank you for coming out here today to stand up for all of our Fourth Amendment rights. At EFF, we've been engaged in lawsuits about these secret and unconstitutional NSA programs for the better part of a decade, and we need the government to see that the American people are outraged.

Because nearly 250 years ago today, our founding fathers refused to live under tyranny and declared independence from their ruling government. The king, they wrote ...

‘Tuscaloosa News’ Dings U of Alabama for Censorship of Pro-Choice Speech

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Administrators at the University of Alabama (UA) are doing the seemingly impossible: bringing pro-choice and pro-life forces together to agree with one another. Unfortunately for the university, what both sides agree upon is that UA administrators are completely in the wrong when it comes to free speech. 

UA’s decision to order the pro-choice Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice (AASRJ) student group to stop passing out flyers in response to a pro-life display on campus has been roundly bashed, even by the sponsors of the pro-life display, Bama Students for Life. On Sunday, the editors of UA’s hometown newspaper, The Tuscaloosa News, editorialized in favor of the right of pro-choice students to speak out despite their disagreement with AASRJ’s message, saying,

What the group calls “reproductive justice” we would call an unjust taking of life. Abortions are wrong and far too easy to obtain. Elbein and other members of the group would disagree. And we believe that they should have a right to disagree and make their disagreement heard.

[...]

If everyone who merely wishes to stand in a public place at the university and distribute literature needs to fill out applications for permits, we have a ...

Yahoo’s Fight for its Users in Secret Court Earns the Company Special Recognition in Who Has Your Back Survey

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Each year, EFF’s Who Has Your Back campaign assesses the policies and practices of major Internet companies as a way to encourage and incentivize those companies to take a stand for their users in the face of government demands for data. Normally, when a company demonstrates it has a policy or practice that advances user privacy, like fighting for its users in courts, we award the company a gold star. Sometimes, even when companies stand up for their users, they're forbidden from telling us about it because of unduly restrictive secrecy laws or court orders prohibiting them from doing so.

Which, for the past six years, is exactly what happened to Yahoo. In honor and appreciation of the company’s silent battle for user privacy in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), EFF is proud to award Yahoo with a star of special distinction in our Who Has Your Back survey for fighting for its users in (secret) courts.

In 2007, Yahoo received an order to produce user data under the Protect America Act (the predecessor statute to the FISA Amendments Act, the law on which the NSA’s recently disclosed Prism program relies). Instead ...

Private Universities and the Conflict Between Mission and Speech

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Madeline Gootman is a FIRE summer intern.

When private universities send out their shiny pamphlets to high school seniors, they highlight their commitment to all things politically correct and otherwise acceptable in academia. However, these commitments to civility, respect, and social comfort are often at odds with the broad promises of free speech that universities make to their incoming students. Unfortunately for students, too many private universities want to have it both ways, promising students the right to free speech and then violating that right when someone’s speech proves too unpopular or controversial.

Vanderbilt University’s packet for recently admitted students (PDF) (which, awkwardly, bears my face) proudly displays a quote from a rising senior within its pages that exclaims:

Your college experience is what you make of it. No matter how big your ambitions are, how far you are willing to go, how high you want to climb, nobody will ever tell you that what you want to do is impossible; here, the impossible is expected.

For me personally, this statement has been accurate; all of my liberal, pro-choice, gay-friendly plans for college were fulfilled. However, my experience at Vanderbilt is not the only one that matters or deserves validation. ...

Independent Game Developers: The Latest Targets of a Bad Patent Troll

Friday, July 12th, 2013

A growing number of independent game developers have received demand letters from Treehouse Avatar Technologies for allegedly violating patent 8,180,858, a "Method and system for presenting data over a network based on network user choices and collecting real-time data related to said choices." Essentially, this patent covers creating a character online, and having the game log how many times a particular character trait was chosen.

In other words, an unbelievably basic data analytics method was somehow approved to become a patent.

The patent troll, Treehouse, has surfaced before. Back in October 2012, the company sued Turbine, developer of Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online.

This is a textbook patent troll case. Treehouse owns a very broad software patent but doesn't, it seems, make or manufacture anything itself. They simply send demands around or, in some cases, sue alleged infringers. And developers—most recently, independent game developers—lose out by being subject to lawyer fees, licensing fees, litigation costs, or the fear of implementing what seems to be a very basic, obvious feature to their product.

When trolls attack, innovation is stifled. For more on everything EFF is doing to change this reality, visit our patent issue ...

What’s the Harm in the Government Spreading Fear About Video Games? A Lot, Actually!

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Since our op-ed on New Jersey Senate Bill 2715 landed in the Times of Trenton, and our subsequent letter to Gov. Chris Christie was picked up by video game journalists, we’ve seen a couple questions pop up in comments and emails.

To recap, Senate Bill 2715 would require the New Jersey Department of Education to publish pamphlets, websites and other materials telling parents about scientific research indicating that media portrayals of violence can cause a host of ills in young people, ranging from insomnia to actual violent behavior.

The materials, created at taxpayers’ expense, will presumably not include research that reaches different conclusions or information that similar findings have been found to be flawed and unpersuasive to many courts, including the United States Supreme Court, in cases involving efforts to regulate violence in media.

So what’s the harm in a pamphlet? Aren’t you attempting to censor something, here?

We hear this counter-argument most often. The logic being that the initiative will simply make more information available to parents. Of course, the government is “free” to say whatever it chooses, but its speech is also subject to public scrutiny and criticism of the sort we have expressed. In this ...

July 12: Call on Congress to Restore the Fourth Amendment

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Over July 4th, thousands of people in cities across the United States rallied in defense of the Fourth Amendment.

Tomorrow, Restore the Fourth – the grassroots, nonpartisan movement supporting the Fourth Amendment and opposing NSA spying – is taking the battle to the phones.  A number of Restore the Fourth chapters will be hosting a “Restore the Phone” event. They will be encouraging concerned citizens to call their members of Congress and demand transparency and reform of America’s domestic spying practices.

According to their blog post, Restore the Fourth intends to use Friday to draw the attention of Congress. They provide a suggested script  (Google doc) for callers which includes strong language against the NSA spying program:

This type of blanket data collection by the government erodes essential and constitutionally protected American values. Furthermore, the body of secret surveillance law that has developed in an attempt to justify this type of domestic surveillance is antithetical to democracy. The NSA’s domestic spying program is not the American way. 

We think that phone calls are among the most effective ways to make Washington hear the concerns of constituents. We’re proud to support this initiative, and urge our ...

Jailed for a Facebook post: 19-Year-Old Justin Carter, State Sensitivity and the Half-Million-Dollar Bail

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Image

Justin Carter, 19, was jailed for a Facebook comment

Have you ever lost your temper and said something in the heat of the moment you later came to regret? Did you end up waiting 5 months in jail for a trial because your family couldn’t make your half million dollar bail?

That’s exactly what Justin Carter’s family and attorney claim is happening right now in a Comal County, Texas jail, and his defenders allege that he is suffering badly and unnecessarily as a result of his incarceration.

Carter is in jail awaiting trial for what court documents have called the “terroristic threat” he made on his facebook page. It read:

“I’m fucked in the head alright / I think I’ma shoot up a kindergarten / and watch the blood of the innocent rain down / and eat the beating heart of one of them.”

Was it a threat, or a bit of tasteless, violent humor without intent to threaten or disrupt?

Carter’s father and attorneys have taken care to frame the comment in what they believe is its proper context. The statement, they explain, was the result of a gaming feud between Justin and another player of the popular online ...

NCAC Talks to the Man Behind Pico v. Board of Ed

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
pico

Steven Pico in 1981

Steven Pico may not be a household name. But for those who champion the freedom to read, he’s a big deal. Back in 1976, Pico and four other teens sued their school district in Long Island, NY, for banning 11 books from their classrooms and school libraries.

The six-year battle to defend the constitutional rights of these students made history. The case landed in the Supreme Court, and the Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico became the first school library book-banning case to ever reach the high court.

Pico has spent more than 30 years as an editor, and he’s also a painter and sculptor who exhibits his works in France, Portugal, and the U.S. We caught up with him on the 31st anniversary of the landmark June 25, 1982 decision to talk about why he did it, the impact it’s had on his life, and whether he thinks kids today are as passionate about free speech as he was.   

It’s been over 30 years since the Supreme Court ruling. Are you surprised that so many books are still being challenged and banned in schools and libraries nationwide?

Changes in constitutional law ...

‘Missoulian’ Response Illustrates Potential Repercussions of May 9 ‘Blueprint’

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Cindy Weese and Kelsen Young wrote in a June 25 column for the Missoulian that, contrary to George Will’s arguments in his May 28 column, the Departments of Education and Justice’s May 9 “blueprint” for campus sexual harassment policies does not pose any danger to speech protected by the First Amendment. On Wednesday, reader Jeffrey Rentz wrote a thoughtful letter to the Missoulian in response, explaining how the blueprint could be used to censor professors who teach literature with sexual themes:

[Y]ears ago one of our English Literature professors used a zucchini creatively to illustrate the bawdy nature of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It was, needless to say, hilarious. But if it is unwelcome for one student, it falls within the DOJ definition. When professors are teaching materials at the margin, they have three choices. Plunge ahead and take the risk; seek permission (which means that the University administration takes the risk) or the easiest path — self-censorship. Self-censorship is safe and easy and the language of the DOJ agreement that encourages self-censorship violates free speech.

Rentz’s point is an important one—restrictions on speech must be narrowly and clearly defined so that they do not chill protected expression. Otherwise, the ...

LSU Ends ‘Free Speech Alley’

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Last November, FIRE’s Azhar Majeed reported on a Louisiana State University (LSU) policy that restricted student expression to a 1,000 square foot area on campus called “Free Speech Alley.” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit, Candler v. Jenkins, over the rights of a student to hand out pro-life literature in areas of campus outside of Free Speech Alley, and, indeed, without prior approval from school administrators. Thankfully, LSU has now reaffirmed those rights and revised its policies in order to protect students’ speech.

As Torch readers know, restrictive speech codes like this one are nothing new; FIRE has dealt with unconstitutional speech codes from schools all over the country. In 2012, FIRE successfully coordinated a legal challenge to a code similar to LSU’s at the University of Cincinnati, where student expression was limited to just 0.1 percent of the university's 137-acre West Campus. In considering LSU’s policy, Azhar noted that other “memorably named zones all failed under the weight of public pressure or litigation” and he predicted that LSU’s “Free Speech Alley” would share the same fate.

LifeNews.com reported on Wednesday that Azhar’s prediction was correct; LSU has adopted a new speech policy that neither limits student ...

Defending ‘Blueprint’? Better Read the Actual Text

Friday, July 5th, 2013


Blueprints - Shutterstock

In New York Magazine’s “The Cut” Wednesday, Kat Stoeffel reassured readers who might be concerned about problems with the Departments of Education (ED) and Justice’s (DOJ’s) May 9 “blueprint” letter. Unfortunately, her reassurances are based on incorrect information, making arguments contradicted by the text of the letter itself. 

Stoeffel writes:

For reporting purposes, the agreement defined sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” an expansion from the separate, legal standard for sexual harassment under Title IX: harassment “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.” 

The good news? Stoeffel cites the correct legal standard for sexual harassment in the educational context; the language she quotes is from the Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999). The bad news? The blueprint rejects this standard entirely! There’s not a single mention of Davis’ “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” standard in the blueprint, let alone any reference to it as a “separate, legal standard for sexual harassment under Title IX.” (The blueprint dismisses Davis in a footnote, and misquotes it while doing so.)

In fact, the ...

CFN Conference Attendee Shares His Experience and Why You Should Attend

Friday, July 5th, 2013

With FIRE’s annual Campus Freedom Network (CFN) Conference just two weeks away, we asked Luke Wachob, a recent graduate of James Madison University and a 2012 FIRE intern, to share his experience attending last summer’s conference. While we certainly don’t think Luke is “weird” for caring “too much” about individual rights, we agree with his endorsement of our conference!  

On his experience attending last summer’s conference, Luke writes: 

I was that weird guy that cared too much about individual rights. When I learned about FIRE as a freshman, I excitedly visited thefire.org and started searching for schools: my schools, the schools my friends had gone to, nearby schools, famous schools, etc. If you’ve ever done that, you know what comes next: a crushing sea of “red lights.” Everywhere you look, schools are violating students’ First Amendment rights.

This can be a terribly depressing realization. I already felt alone in my passion for free speech, now I felt like the entire academic world was against me too. Sitting in my dorm, it didn’t seem like I had the knowledge or the support to stand up for my rights.

If there was ever one place and one moment to ...

Jailed Rights Lawyer’s Parole Request Refused

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Authorities in the Chinese capital have turned down a formal request for medical parole for a jailed disabled rights lawyer who is plagued by thyroid disorders, her relatives said this week, vowing to appeal the decision.

Wheelchair-bound eviction activist Ni Yulan, 52, was sentenced in April 2012 to a two-year prison term following her conviction on charges of “fraud” and “causing a disturbance” by the Xicheng District People’s Court. The sentence was later reduced by two months.

Her husband, former schoolteacher Dong Jiqin, was also convicted of creating a disturbance and was handed a two-year term.

Beijing authorities had earlier revoked Ni’s business license because of her legal advocacy work on behalf of the capital's residents evicted to make way for development linked to the 2008 Olympic Games.

Ni's daughter Dong Xuan said the family had applied for medical parole after Ni was told by prison authorities in October that there were no adequate medical facilities to treat a growth in her thyroid gland.

"The tumor in her thyroid is now as large as an egg, and it keeps growing," Dong said in an interview on Wednesday. "My mother ... can't sleep at night, and I am concerned that the ...

I Know Not What Course Others May Take, but As for Me…

Thursday, July 4th, 2013
Patrick Henry

In honor of Independence Day, The Torch has invited noted statesman Patrick Henry to contribute an entry: 

MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of ...

Sonoma State University Incident Serves as Reminder of Freedom to Display Faith (Or Lack Thereof)

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Aaron Coven is a FIRE summer intern. 

While some may find it hard to believe, religious discrimination still occurs on our nation’s college and university campuses. Just last week, Audrey Jarvis, a 19-year-old Sonoma State University student, was first instructed by a university employee to remove, and later told to hide, a two-inch cross from her neck so as not to offend other students. Within only a short matter of time, however, the university apologized, and has acted to rectify the situation.

Jarvis, who was working at a freshman orientation event when the incident occurred, stated in an interview: “I believe … it is my prerogative to display my faith any way I like so long as it is not harming anyone else. I … felt as if the university’s mission statement — which includes tolerance and inclusivity to all — was violated.” Jarvis is being represented by the Liberty Institute, a Christian-oriented group, and her lawyer, Hiram Sasser, noted the following: “It’s amazing in this day of diversity and tolerance on university campuses that a university official would engage in this type of obvious religious discrimination.” Sasser also said that “state employees may wear crosses while ...

Vietnamese Authorities Raid Temple of ‘Unofficial’ Cao Dai Group

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Local authorities in southern Vietnam violently broke into the temple of an unofficial branch of the indigenous Cao Dai minority religious group on Wednesday, detaining a leader and several members of the sect, sources said.

The raid on the Long Binh temple of the Cao Dai church in Tien Giang province in the Mekong Delta region came a week after a police raid on a temple belonging to an unsanctioned branch of another group, the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, in southwestern Vietnam.

Wednesday’s raid on Long Binh was launched at 7:30 a.m. by security officers of local authorities and administrators of the government-approved Tien Giang provincial Cao Dai church dressed not in religious garb but in “plain clothes,” temple leader Le Van Ngoc Diep told RFA’s Vietnamese Service while under detention on Wednesday.

“They, along with local security people, broke our door to get in and attacked us,” said Diep. “Some of us fainted, and some were injured.”

“They used a big truck to break the main gate. There were about 60 people inside the temple. They took away six people, including me.”

“They came to order us to hand over the temple,” said another church member, who was also ...

Inaccurate ‘ThinkProgress’ Coverage of Blueprint Disappoints … Again

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

In a blog entry published this morning, ThinkProgress argues that the “blueprint” announced this past May by the Departments of Justice and Education doesn’t present a threat to student and faculty speech because it’s simply intended to encourage student reporting of sexual harassment.

Sound familiar? It should. ThinkProgress made this same argument last month. 

My colleague Joe Cohn and I offered a thorough response to ThinkProgress’ initial post. Joe and I explained in detail how the blueprint violates student and faculty First Amendment rights, offered examples of students and faculty punished for protected speech incorrectly labeled “harassment,” and pointed out that much campus speech that ThinkProgress would presumably support constitutes “sexual harassment” under the federal government’s broad blueprint. 

Disappointingly, ThinkProgress’ Kumar Ramanathan—the author of both posts—ignored our substantive reply, choosing instead to rehash the same discredited argument. So I hope you’ll excuse me for quoting our initial response at some length here. Once again: 

Of course, students can and should be able to report conduct that makes them uncomfortable—but if the offending conduct is solely speech protected by the First Amendment, it cannot be labeled as "sexual harassment" by order of the federal government. Labeling protected ...

FIRE’s Azhar Majeed on Utah Valley’s Speech Codes

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

FIRE Associate Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Azhar Majeed spoke earlier this week with Alex Sousa of the UVU Review, Utah Valley University’s student newspaper, about the public institution’s two “red light” speech codes—policies that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech.

As Sousa’s article notes, both red light policies deal with sexual harassment, an issue of particular concern to FIRE and other free speech advocates after the Departments of Education and Justice’s May 9 “blueprint” letter mandating overbroad sexual harassment policies on campuses across the country. One of UVU’s speech codes prohibits, among other things, “any ... unwelcome verbal or physical sexual activity, including the support or assistance of such activities.”

Azhar explained why this policy is troublesome:

“When you leave [a policy] that broad and that open-ended, it essentially leaves it open to interpretation, and—in any given case—in the hands of the wrong administrator or in the hands of the wrong student you can end up claiming sexual harassment against somebody for an innocuous kind of speech,” said Majeed.

Particularly when there is no requirement that speech be objectively offensive, administrators could easily punish a student for speech protected by the First Amendment.

UVU’s “yellow light” ...

Speech Code of the Month: University of Central Arkansas

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2013: the University of Central Arkansas (UCA).

If you are applying to UCA, you had better make sure to brush up on your social skills, because UCA’s list of “Offenses Subject to Disciplinary Action” (PDF) includes “annoying” another person. This policy is overly broad because nearly all “annoying” speech is fully protected by the First Amendment. Indeed, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly said as much in Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1, 4 (1949), when it held that “freedom of speech, though not absolute, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest” (emphasis added).

Moreover, students have no way to know what might be punishable since the policy conditions the permissibility of speech entirely upon the subjective reaction of the listener. What might seem like a lively debate to one person could be extremely annoying to another person. (Just ask my husband!)

UCA digs itself a deeper First Amendment hole when it provides examples ...

Students for Life, ADF Sue U at Buffalo for Content-Based Security Fees

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Christian Andzel and Matthew Ramsey, students at the State University of New York’s University at Buffalo (UB), have filed a lawsuit (PDF) against UB administrators after the student group Students for Life was charged almost $650 in security fees because its event was deemed “controversial.” Andzel and Ramsey, the presidents of UB Students for Life, filed the complaint on June 28 with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

According to ADF:

UB Students for Life, an officially recognized student organization at the University at Buffalo, reserved space for a debate in April on the topic of abortion. The university required the group to pay for campus security officers at the event because school officials anticipated the event would be “controversial.” At the same time and in the same building as the debate, another campus organization was hosting a debate between a Christian and an atheist; however, the university did not levy security fees for that event.

As readers might suspect from the apparent disparate treatment of Students for Life’s event and a similar debate event that same night, UB administrators exercise broad discretion in determining what events are controversial enough to require security measures. According to the complaint ...

N.J. Proposal Calls for Distribution of Suspect Research on Video Games

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
(Source: Kotaku)

(Source: Kotaku)

Last December’s massacre at Sandy Hook elementary was a grim reminder that gun violence is an all too real issue that we are plagued with today. In addition to targeting gun control itself, both legislators and concerned citizens are constantly looking for other avenues to place blame. New Jersey, for example, is choosing to point the finger at video games to explain these ever increasing tragedies.

Recently, the New Jersey Legislature passed a proposal that would require the Department of Education to distribute “research and statistics on how violent behavior increases after exposure to violent [media]” and “scientific findings that show children who play violent games are more likely to be involved in physical altercations.” These claims have been specifically rejected by the Supreme Court and lower courts, but New Jersey is attempting to get around this by picking and choosing the information to include in the document. It seems as though these lawmakers have already made up their minds about the adverse effects of these violent games; they are not necessarily concerned with reporting scientifically accurate information to the public, but to support their agenda in censoring video games.

Additionally, in proposing a law that ...